Are you bold enough to follow God when no one else will?

Something incredibly revealing happened at the WSU vs. KU game last Sunday, and it had very little to do with sports. I don’t talk about politics very often, mostly because my opinions and beliefs usually vary from everyone I know.

The last thing I want to do is offend anyone. The last thing I want to do is start up a huge ugly conversation about topics nobody has researched enough to truly understand. But what happened at the game stunned me, and what happened afterward made me really sad.

Governor Brownback was sitting in the stands, watching the game. And the moment the camera focused on him, the whole stadium started booing. It was obvious. It wasn’t just one or two people. The noise was so loud, the announcers had shout to hear over it.

I’m not going to sit here and say that Governor Brownback is perfect. I’m not even going to sit here and tell you I agree with all of his decisions. But what I will tell you is that he is the current Governor of Kansas, and that didn’t happen by accident. And you’d think that a Christian would know that.

Obviously, the stadium wasn’t full of Christians, but after it happened? Christians and non-Christians alike were all over social media rejoicing. “Wasn’t it great how we all booed the governor?” and “That was the best part of the night!”

Is that how Christians are supposed to act?

Maybe you don’t like him. Maybe you don’t like his politics. Maybe you don’t like the choices he’s made, but you know what? If you’re a Christ-follower, you have been commanded to respect our elected officials, whether you like them or not, whether you voted for them or not.

More than just respect, though. And more than simply not disrespecting them too. Christ-followers are supposed to pray for our leaders.

brownbackToday’s verse is 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

This isn’t the only verse in the Bible about respecting our elected officials. There are lots more where that came from.

You did realize you’re supposed to be praying for our leaders, right? Not just the leaders in your church. Not just your boss. But the governor and the senator and the representatives and the president. Americans don’t have kings really (although some people might disagree), but we do have governmental leaders. And that’s what this verse is about–praying for those people.

When was the last time you prayed for Governor Brownback? Maybe you’re bold enough to stand up in a stadium and boo him and act disrespectful because it’s the popular thing to do. But are you bold enough to stand up and exclaim that you don’t agree with him but that you will pray for him because he is the one God allowed to win the election?

It’s easy to go along with the crowd, but are you a Christian or not? If you’re a Christian, why don’t you do what God has told you to do?

It’s not easy. It’s hard. You have to give up things you want. You have to let go of dreams sometimes. And, yes, you have to submit to elected officials you don’t like. But would you rather bear up and trust that God has control of everything? Or do you find it better to be childish and throw a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way?

It’s time to grow up, Christians. Dark days are coming. Darker days than any of us have ever seen before, and we need to get our eyes on what matters.

God has told us what He expects of us, and I’m pretty sure “behaving like spoiled brats” didn’t make His list.

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Cheer for ones who screw it up because you’re not perfect either

I actually sat down and watched a basketball game on television on purpose last night. In the last three years, this has happened on more than one occasion, mostly because my college, Wichita State University, has a pretty awesome basketball team.

Both teams did a fantastic job, and while I was definitely rooting for the Shockers, I was impressed by the Jayhawks too. The game was great, but something happened that really broke my heart.

It was in the final minute of the game. WSU was going to win. It was unavoidable by that point, but the Jayhawks were still trying to get a basket. And someone on the court (I don’t know who) got in a last-second three-pointer. It was a beautiful shot!

And nobody cheered.

Maybe a few did. But the vast majority of the KU fan base that was in the crowd didn’t cheer at all. Or if they did, I didn’t hear it.

Seriously? One of guys on their team scored a three-pointer at the last second and nobody cheered? Sure, it didn’t win the game. Sure it wasn’t going to help them win the game. But it was still a really impressive shot. Don’t they deserve recognition and encouragement for that?

Maybe it didn’t bother anyone else. But it bothered me. Because I see the same thing happen in our own lives over and over again.

NCAA2015_vanvleet_greeneToday’s verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

It’s easy to give up on people, isn’t it? It’s so easy to just write people off, because the less you get your hopes up, the less you risk being hurt. And while there is wisdom in distancing yourself from truly foolish people who never learn, God never calls us to give up on anyone.

Just because you think you have it all together doesn’t give you the right to point out the failures in someone else’s life. But for the grace of God, you might be in the same place.

Following Jesus is a process. Yes, when you make the choice to follow Him, your sins are forgiven fully and immediately. That happens all at once. But learning to live for Him? Learning to turn away from your old life and cling to the new one? That takes time. And, unfortunately, it takes falling down frequently.

Maybe you know someone who has screwed up their life. Maybe you know a Christian who has screwed up their life. That doesn’t make them not a Christian anymore. Even the Prodigal Son got screwed up in Luke 15 because He had his eyes on something His Father hadn’t intended for him, but that didn’t mean he was no longer a son. He started in the Father’s family, and when he came to his senses, the Father was waiting for him.

Christians are going to screw up. We’re going to fall flat on our faces because we’re human and we’re not perfect. When that happens, it’s our responsibility to repent. We need to change our thinking and recognize that what we’ve done is wrong and not what God wants for us. That’s part of being a Christian. But the last thing a Christian who’s stumbled needs is another Christian refusing to support them because they’ve messed up.

No, don’t deny the sin. Call it what it is. And don’t make excuses for their choices. They had a choice, and they made it. But if they’ve turned away from it, if they’ve changed their mind about that behavior, don’t keep rubbing it in their face. God has forgiven them. Why can’t you?

Instead, encourage them. Remind them how much God loves them. Remind them what it means to cling to God’s grace. Tell them what God has done in your own life, and love them unconditionally–the same way Jesus loves you. And when they make a choice that will bring glory and praise to God, cheer them on.

No, one good choice can’t make up for all the bad stuff they’ve done in the past. But the same is true for you, Christ-follower. Maybe they lost the battle, but that doesn’t mean they should give up. Just like you shouldn’t give up on them.

Do you know someone who’s struggling? Do you know a Christian who has completely screwed up his or her life? Are they doing all they can to follow God? Cheer them on.

They might have lost a battle, but the war isn’t theirs to win anyway. And it’s not yours either.

WuShock playing drums with the band

Disappointment can make you stronger

I don’t do sports. I’ve never been into them. But then, I’d never had a team I cared about make it to a place where I could cheer them on until this year. I’m a proud alum of Wichita State University, so even though I don’t really care about sports, I still pay attention when our sports teams accomplish great things. And when our basketball team started their crazy undefeated rush to the NCAA tournament, I started getting excited.

I remember last year. For the first time in a long time, Wichita was getting noticed–and in a good way. Most people don’t even know where we are, let alone who we are. Last year, everyone made fun of our mascot–our beloved WuShock (he’s a shock of wheat, folks; not a stalk of celery or a pencil). This year, people were taking us seriously, and it was nice. Really nice. And this year I thought we could do it. I really thought we could go all the way. Especially when we won our 35th game in a row on Friday. No team ever made it to the tournament with a 35-0 record.

And then–last night happened. The Shockers faced off with Kentucky, and both sides played their hearts out. And the Shockers lost by 2. Just like that, we were done. Along with the other two Kansas teams. The tournament will go on without us.

Sports has disappointments like that all the time, and while it can be difficult to deal with, in the end, it’s still just a game. Life has bigger disappointments than sports ever does. So how do you deal with the disappointments that life hands you?

WuShock playing drums with the band

WuShock playing drums with the band

Today’s verses are Psalm 73:1-5.

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
For I envied the proud
when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
They seem to live such painless lives;
their bodies are so healthy and strong.
They don’t have troubles like other people;
they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.

I love the honesty of the Psalms. That’s one of the reasons I think reading them on bad days helps me get my focus back. No matter who writes them, the Psalms generally start off with a genuine summary of how life just sucks, and then they end up with the writer coming back to his senses and realizing that God is good.

That’s how Psalm 73 works. If you have a chance, pop over and read the whole thing. It’s not long, and it’s totally worth it. But the basic idea is that the writer is getting frustrated with God because he’s living the way he’s supposed to, and all the people around him (the ones who don’t follow God) are better off.

At one point in the Psalm, the writer even asks God what the point of keeping his heart clean was? What’s the point of following God if all you’re going to get is trouble in return? But instead of giving up on God, the writer went to a quiet place and God revealed the truth to him.

You’re going to face disappointments in life. Just expect it. The world is broken, and nobody is perfect. People hurt people. Things you think will happen don’t. Dreams don’t always come true, and even though you work your butt off to accomplish something, you may not receive the reward for it right away.

Decide now how you’re going to deal with it. Make up your mind now about how you’re going to face disappointment, so when the time comes you aren’t swept away by the emotional letdown.

Am I disappointed that the Shockers lost? Absolutely. But I can tell you what they’re not going to do. They aren’t going to go home and give up playing basketball. They’re going to work twice as hard next year and try again.

I’ve got a couple of major projects in the works right now, projects that I’m counting on to be successful. Am I hoping that they’re going to work? That they’re going to be successful? You’d better believe it. But will I give up if they aren’t? Am I going to stop believing that God is good if my life doesn’t turn out the way I think it should?

No.

Seriously, go read Psalm 73. Life is all about perspective. You really do win some and lose some, and on the days that you lose, you have to pick yourself up and keep moving forward. Don’t give up. Don’t look back. And keep trying until you make it.

And whatever else you do, don’t blame God. He’s got a plan, and He’s working things out. The only thing blaming God does is turn you into someone you don’t want to be.

Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
    and I was all torn up inside.
I was so foolish and ignorant—
    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
Yet I still belong to you;
    you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.

Disappointment isn’t wrong. It isn’t even bad, if you can face it in a way that makes you better in the end. Disappointment makes us stronger if you look at it as a chance to improve yourself. Disappointment can increase our faith if we remember that God has a  better plan than what we concocted.

So when disappointment comes, grieve. Sure, it’s difficult to see a dream die. But dreams never stay dead. Don’t give up. Try again. Keep believing. If God isn’t going to give up, you shouldn’t either.