Ruining your life in 2015

A new year is usually the best time for reflection on the old. Do you want to make the same choices this year as you did last year? Are you happy where you are, or do you want to change? Do you think you have more to offer the universe in general than your current circumstances allow?

Those aren’t unusual thoughts at the beginning of a year. They aren’t even bad questions to ask in general. But how do you go about making changes in your life? How do you know changing your life won’t get you into more trouble than just doing it the way you’ve always done it?

Maybe you’re not happy where you are right now, but you probably have all your needs met. But is that the way God really calls us to live?

1269427_74889200Today’s verses are Matthew 16:24-25.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

Have you noticed that the lifestyles Jesus talks about are often contrary to what the world says works? Sometimes they’re even contrary to what makes common sense.

To us, it make sense to take care of our lives, but in this verse Jesus is saying that if you want to find your life, you have to be willing to give it up. Now, I always thought this verse was talking about being willing to die for your faith, and I’m sure it’s true in that connotation as well. But that’s not the only connotation.

So does that mean you have to be willing to destroy your life for God’s sake? Well, what’s your definition of destroy? Do you define your life as living in a huge house, making a large paycheck, eating expensive food, wearing extravagant clothing? If you gave it all away, or if you were willing to sacrifice it all for God’s sake, would you call that destroying your life? Some people would.

This verse isn’t about taking a vow of poverty. I’m not saying that at all. But it does call us to look at our lives and our possessions and our status the way God sees them.

What do you have in your life that you won’t let go of? What do you have in your life that you are hanging on to with all of your strength? Is it a job? A person? A possession? The harder you hang on to that person, place, or thing, the more likely it is that you’ll lose it. Why? Not just because Jesus says so (although that should be more than enough reason.)

Think about it from God’s perspective. If we would start placing value on what God says is valuable, our entire lives might turn around. God places no value on money or possessions or wealth. God uses gold on the streets of heaven, so how could He want more of it? The things that mean so much to us down here–all those things we think we can control–are meaningless in eternity.

Being willing to give up your life–to sacrifice what the world tells you is important–is the key to finding what God’s purpose for your life is, even if other people around you say you’ve lost your mind, even if it looks like you’re making a terrible financial decision.

You can’t hold on to your life and save it at the same time. That’s not how life following God works.

What do we actually need out of life? Do we need fast cars and closets full of shoes and phones that are smarter than we are? If you woke up one morning and found that God had taken all of that away, would you still be content to follow Him? Would you rejoice because none of it belonged to you anyway?

If you want to be a true follower of Christ, that’s going to take some sacrifice. It’s going to take some discomfort. That’s what taking up your cross means. And if you want to save your life, you have to be willing to give it up. Not living. Not your actually physical life, but a life of comfort that so easily blinds us to God’s call.

Nobody starts a new year with the desire to ruin their lives, but maybe we should. If we are willing to ruin our lives for Jesus, maybe it’s worth it.

A lamp post at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Uncharted territory is rarely predictable

The beginning of a new year is always an interesting time because everyone is thinking about the future. Everyone is making plans for how this year will be different than last year or how they’re going to improve themselves or their lives. And it’s absolutely a good thing for people to look into how to better themselves. Resolutions are great things, especially if you can keep them. But have you ever been in a position where God is leading you to do something you’ve never done before?

We all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a new year, the making of resolutions, the struggle to keep our resolutions, the disappointment when we drop our resolutions. Everyone has experienced that. But what about God? Not that God makes new year’s resolutions, but if He did, what would they look like?

A lamp post at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

A lamp post at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Today’s verse is Isaiah 43:19.

For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

One thing I love about God is that He’s always up to something. He’s always got something going on. Life with God is never ever boring, and those of us who truly follow Christ understand what the Bible means when Jesus tells us that He came to bring us life more abundant. Life following Christ is always exciting.

What God is referencing in this verse through the Prophet Isaiah is the coming of Christ to save His people. That was something that had never happened before. That was something people had never seen before. And the way He promised to send Christ was impossible, but He explained how it was going to happen centuries and centuries before Christ was born. He gave people a head’s up so they could get on board with what God had planned before it happened.

I think God does that for us today. I think sometimes He hollers down at us and is just waiting for someone to pay attention long enough to see Him waving. God has plans. He has lots and lots of plans, and He’s just looking for someone to step up and offer to do what needs doing. His plans don’t always make sense to us, and even when He makes “paths in the wilderness” for us to follow, they don’t always seem like they go anywhere. But if you’re one of the people who agreed to do what God asked and you find yourself feeling lost, remember that God may be doing something new in your life.

What does it mean to do something new? It means that it’s nothing anyone has ever seen before. So if it’s nothing anyone has ever seen, if it’s a path that no one has ever traveled before, why do you expect to know where you’re going? How can you think you will know what to expect? It’s uncharted territory. The only person who really knows what’s coming is God. He’s the map maker, after all.

So if you’re one of those people who has decided to chase after God wholeheartedly, to live for Him, to “sacrifice” everything else you could be doing with your life, remember in the dark moments that you’re not going to be able to see the end of your road all the time. Navigating God’s plan isn’t like navigating in Kansas, where you can see 20 miles in front of you. It’s more like trying to get around in London or Edinburgh or one of those ancient cities where you’re fortunate to be able to see your next step because the roads are so narrow and the buildings are so close. And because you can’t always see where you’re going, that just means you have to trust your navigation system.

What’s great about God is that He doesn’t leave us to navigate alone. We have the Bible. We have the Holy Spirit. And if you’ve decided to follow the path God has marked out for you, you have everything you need to find your way. You may not be able to see where you’re going, but sight has never been essential when it comes to following God.

It’s not that far into 2014 yet, and some people may already be ready to give up on their resolutions because change feels impossible or too uncontrollable. Be encouraged this morning. Don’t give up, especially if it’s something you know God has called you to do. You won’t always be able to see your next step, but if it’s something God has called you to do, He won’t let you fall.

The New Year’s Resolution Wagon keeps losing people . . . .

How’s everybody doing on your New Year’s Resolutions? It’s just over halfway through January. Is everyone still chugging right along? Or have your good intentions fallen by the wayside?

I’m actually kind of surprised that I’m still blogging every morning. I figured I would probably accidentally sleep in one morning or throw my alarm across the room and go back to sleep (actually, I can’t do that anyway because I have to get up to reach my alarm; I did that on purpose). But it actually feels nice to still be doing what I said I would do at the beginning of the year, and I’m praying that I have the discipline to continue. 

It’s good for me to communicate like this, and I know it certainly keeps my focus where it should be for the whole day. It’s funny to me because so many of you have told me that what I write on here helps you too, and that’s awesome!! But I am totally talking to myself most of the time. I was telling a friend yesterday (Shout out to Ethan!) that if anything I write at this time in the morning actually makes sense, it has to be God because I am the farthest thing from a morning person in the universe.

I’m honestly not very good at New Year’s Resolutions. I think I said that when I started. I don’t usually make them because I usually can’t keep them. And I don’t like making promises I can’t (or won’t) keep. But I guess that’s something people do a lot. As much as I don’t like it, I know I still do it. Our word just doesn’t mean as much as it used to because so few people keep it and so few people actually mean what they say.

I was reading the verse of the day this morning and the only thing I could think about was what would it be like if God didn’t keep His promises? Wouldn’t that be awful? Think about all the promises that He’s made to us and what would happen if He decided one day that it was too much trouble? I’m so thankful–so very thankful–that God isn’t like that. I’m so glad that when He says He’ll do something, we can have no doubt that He will do it.

The verse this morning is 1 Corinthians 10:13.

13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

 This is another verse Bible-thumpers will get all riled up about, all usually focusing on the last part of the verse. That God never allows us to be tempted beyond what we can stand. But very few ever see the middle of the verse. God is faithful.

One of the best messages my pastor ever brought was on this one verse. Ironically, he preached it the Sunday before September 11, 2001. And to this day, one truth out of that message still follows me everywhere: “When we are less than we should be, God cannot be less than He is. He is faithful.”

It’s who God is. Faithfulness is one of God’s defining characteristics. He is faithful. He is trustworthy. If you trust Him with something, He’ll take care of it because that’s what He does. And you shouldn’t worry that it won’t get done because God has it under control. God can’t deny Himself.

Now, that’s not anything like saying God can create a rock He can’t lift; that’s stupid. What that means is that God isn’t limited by our human weakness. The word can’t has no meaning to Him because there’s nothing He can’t do; He is who He is and He has no reason or need to be anything else. The ability to do things or say things that contradict what is right and true isn’t a strength; it is a weakness, a flaw brought on by our fallen natures. We hear that God can’t do something and instantly we think that He’s limited in someway and therefore can’t be God, but the truth is that we are the ones who are weak. If we were strong — if we were perfect — we would never do wrong.

It encourages me because I know that no matter where I go or what I do or what I get into, God will always be there. And He will always be faithful to forgive me when I screw up. And, boy, do I screw up. It happens more than I would care to admit.

So if you’ve fallen off your New Year’s Resolution wagon, what the hey? Get back on it. Be faithful to it. If you’ve said you’ll do it, do it. Imitate God by keeping your promises. And when you screw up, God will forgive you. Because He promised He would and He always will.

He is faithful. And that makes me want to be faithful to Him.