God is who He is regardless of where we are

God-with-us-adventure-go_1170x350

I love the idea of spontaneity. I love being free. But spontaneity can be scary sometimes, especially if you’re someone who likes stability and control and predictability. And it’s nice because God is a God of order. God doesn’t do chaos. You can trust that God will alway be who He is, where He is, everywhere, all the time.

But because God is always in one place, does that mean we have to be too?

One of the things I’m learning about God is that even though I may move around, He moves with me. God is the only person in the entire history of the universe who can both stay here and go with me at the same time. So when God says clearly, GO!, you don’t have to go alone.

Like the Bible says in Deuteronomy 31:8, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Maybe your situation has been the same for a while. Maybe your life is stagnant. Maybe it’s comfortable, but nobody plants a flower and expects it to stay a seed. Even if it stays in one place, it’s still growing. It grows up into the unknown. It grows down into the unknown. But all the time, it stays rooted in one place, even though it’s ever-expanding.

[su_pullquote]We’re rooted in truth that can move with us.[/su_pullquote]

-I cannot fail. Trusting the God who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will be well.-I think that’s how our lives are supposed to be. We’re rooted in God. We have our foundation in His truth, His love, His presence, His Word. But that doesn’t mean we stop expanding our horizons. It doesn’t mean we can’t just drop everything and push out into the world, because unlike a tree, we’re not rooted in place. We’re rooted in truth that can move with us.

So where is God telling you to go today? Are you scared? Are you uncertain? Are you reluctant because it sounds crazy?

Ask yourself, who matters more, your peers or your God? Because if God is telling you to go do something, you’d better go do it, regardless of what people think. If you know it’s from God, don’t hesitate. Just go. Just do it.

God will never tell you to do something that goes against His Word. He’ll never contradict Himself. He’ll never tell you to behave in a manner that isn’t consistent with His teachings. So if what He’s telling you meets those criteria, what are you waiting for?

Don’t worry if it sounds crazy. Don’t worry if it feels responsible (you performance-driven perfectionists, you). Don’t worry period.

Because God is constant, we don’t have to stay still. God is who He is regardless of where we are, and that won’t change no matter where you go.

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I dare you to keep your mouth shut

I have a bad habit of rambling when I get on certain topics. There are just some things I love talking about. My family. My church. Writing and telling stories. Missions. A particularly beautiful and brilliant little girl with crazy curly blond hair.

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to stop talking about someone or something you love? It’s not easy. When you’re passionate about something, you can’t shut up about it. When your life revolves around a person or a purpose, you just can’t help yourself.

How many of us can say that the person or purpose in our lives that we can’t shut up about is Jesus Christ, though?

FA746BB4CDToday’s verses are Acts 4:16-20.

“What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

I think Acts gets overlooked sometimes because it’s such a detailed book focused on so much history, but the Book of Acts (or the Acts of the Apostles) is an active book, full of excitement and new beginnings and extraordinary events. It’s the start of the Church. It’s the story of how a handful of men turned the entire world on its head in the name of Jesus Christ.

Acts is a big deal.

What amazes me is to see the transformation in the disciples. They went from these timid, frightened cowards to these bold, powerful heroes who were willing to lay down their lives without question for what they believed. That doesn’t just happen. These men saw something, experienced something. And when they shared what they believed with the rest of the world, the world itself changed.

And the keepers of the old guard? The old religious elite? Well, they weren’t happy, as usual (some things never change). And they told the apostles that they needed to be quiet. They needed to stop being so loud. They were upsetting people. But I love what Peter and John said in return. They just couldn’t help themselves.

I want to love Jesus like that. I want to be the person who is so in love with Jesus that I can’t stop talking about Him even when people get tired of hearing it. I’m such a people pleaser that I tend to back off if I upset someone, and, I mean, of course I don’t want to be rude. But my goodness, do you know what Jesus has done for me?

When you see Jesus everywhere, of course, He’s going to pop up in every conversation. And that may make some people uncomfortable. Heck, it will make people uncomfortable. There’s no may about it. But if we’re following Jesus the way we should, He’ll be in every conversation we’ll have. And even if we try to stop talking about Him, we won’t be able to.

Believe me, I dislike obnoxious people as much as the next person. And I never ever want to be like that. I don’t ever want to turn people off because I’m rude about what I believe. But by that same token, my Jesus has done so much for me. He’s forgiven me. He’s given me a new life. He gave me breath this morning, and He answered my prayers yesterday. He never leaves me. He never fails me. And He gives me a reason to keep pressing onward.

If anyone else had done that much for me, you’d understand if I wanted to be loud about it. So why is it any different with Jesus?

Let’s get loud about what Jesus has done for us today. And you don’t even have to do anything different than you normally would. Just take a moment and think about everything He’s given you, everything He’s done, the mercy He’s extended, the grace He’s offered so freely, and the joy and purpose your life has since you accepted Him.

Spend a little time thinking about that and what it really means, and I dare you to keep your mouth shut.

How can you achieve success in God’s eyes?

Success is an ironic means of measuring your self-worth, mainly because success looks different to each individual. Most of the time, you have to define success for yourself because it doesn’t mean the same thing to different people. Maybe this is a bad example, but I considered myself a successful writer long before my first book was published. I had defined success for myself very early in life, judging that I would be successful when I could say for certain that someone had accepted Christ because of something I wrote. That happened in 2006 or so. Every other success I’ve had in writing since then has been gravy.

Yet even though the definition of success changes from person to person, we’d all pretty much agree that we’d love to hear God say we were successful. Right? Wouldn’t God’s definition of success trump everyone else’s? It does in my book. So what does a person have to do to achieve success in God’s eyes?

landscape-mountains-nature-man_1555x1037Today’s verse is 2 Chronicles 31:21.

In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.

Hezekiah was the king of Judah during the period of history when the nation of Israel was divided. He ruled over the southern kingdom for 29 years and took the throne when he was only 25 years old. And the Bible says he was a good king because he obeyed God. If you read his story, you’ll find that it’s true. He reopened the temple and rededicated it. He re-instituted the celebration of Passover, and he led his kingdom to destroy all their false gods and idols. He was the king whose life God extended.

I love this particular verse because it’s very simple. Much of the Bible is. Hezekiah did everything with his whole heart focused on God, and because his focus was in the right place, God made him successful.

Keep reading his life story and eventually you’ll find that he takes his eyes off God and becomes proud. It’s then that things start falling apart. But as long as he remained dedicated to the Lord, God took care of everything else.

It’s easy to be afraid when God tells you to do something, especially if it’s something you’ve never done before, or if it’s something you’re uncomfortable doing. We’re usually afraid of the unknown, even if we say we aren’t. But God has never wanted our lives to be dominated by fear.

Don’t get me wrong. Some fear is good for us. Fear can tell us that we’re about to make a really stupid decision. It can warn us that what we’re doing needs to stop. But sometimes we take fear too far and we let it control us, and that’s not what God ever intended. The fear that paralyzes us in the face of God’s plan doesn’t come from Him; it comes from our enemy.

If you’re seeking God with your whole heart, you shouldn’t have room for that kind of fear. That’s a difficult place to reach, though. I’m not there yet. I still feel fear at the most inopportune moments.

God’s plan often will push us far outside our comfort zones, but those are the times when we need to fight through the fear and keep moving forward. God’s plans are never bad, and they’re always for our good, even if we don’t understand them all the time. And when we experience irrational fear while we know we’re doing what God has called us to do, we need to ask for the strength to persevere. Focus on seeking God with all your heart. Don’t give the fear that comes from the enemy a foothold in your heart.

That’s what it takes to be successful. That doesn’t mean you won’t experience fear. No, you’ll probably encounter more fear than the average Joe on the street if you’re dedicated to doing what God has called you to do, but God will give you the courage to face it and win. You won’t face it alone either.

Choosing to be faithful when you don’t understand

Have you ever obeyed a rule when you didn’t understand it? Personally, I’m not one for blind obedience. I like to know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I like to understand the ins and outs, the possible repercussions, the potential for success, before I commit to doing anything. But sometimes we don’t get that luxury. Sometimes as Christ-followers, all we know is that God said it so we have to do it. And we do it because God is good.

Ever been there? You’re faced with this choice between doing something the world says is nuts or doing what God says is wrong. Those are your choices. The world will tell you that God’s ways are outdated, irrelevant, and will leave you vulnerable. But God comes along and tells you to do what He says is right, regardless of the outcome. How are you supposed to handle that?

EPRUD1TPG0Today’s verses are Psalm 119:25-32.

I lie in the dust;
revive me by your word.
I told you my plans, and you answered.
Now teach me your decrees.
Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.
I weep with sorrow;
encourage me by your word.
Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.
I have chosen to be faithful;
I have determined to live by your regulations.
I cling to your laws.
Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!
I will pursue your commands,
for you expand my understanding.

That last line always stops me short. How does pursuing a command expand understanding? I mean, what does it even mean to pursue a command? Think about it. It doesn’t say obeying God’s commands helps our understanding grow. It says that our understanding will increase if we pursue God’s commands.

That means chasing them down. That means reading the Bible, looking for God’s commands, and learning how to apply them in everyday life. The more we look for the ways God asks us to obey Him, the better we’ll understand why.

The longer I follow God, the more I understand why He asks us to do things that don’t make sense to the world. That doesn’t mean I always understand. And it certainly doesn’t mean I always obey. But He’s let me fall on my face often enough that I don’t take Him for granted as much as I used to.

God’s rules and laws and commands aren’t just lists of good ideas and bad ideas. I mean, you can treat them that way if you want, but if you do, you’re missing the point. God’s laws, God’s Word, brings life.

You need to understand why Christ-followers are supposed to do what God says is right. Don’t just accept it because your parents did or your teachers did. You have to understand it for yourself. But realize that sometimes life is just not going to make sense. And sometimes neither with God. And it’s in those time when you have to cling to His Word, to His promises, because then there’s only one thing you need to know.

God is good. All the time. And regardless if we understand or not, we are to do what God says is right, because we aren’t responsible for the outcome. We’re only responsible to obey. He’s the one who works out the details.

Jesus cares about what God says is right

Who is Jesus? It’s a vital question that we don’t ask often enough I think. We’ve put Him in a box, frozen Him in a portrait as a kind-faced Caucasian man with long brown hair and a blue sash across His white robe. And who knows? Maybe He did dress that way, but I can guarantee you He didn’t look Caucasian.

Jesus feels like this distant figure in the past who said a bunch of great and useful things, who loved the unlovable, and started a faith system that has changed the world, but Jesus is more than that. Jesus is the Son of God, and He is God Himself (don’t try to understand or explain that one). He is God who chose to put on skin and walk the dirt of the world He made, alongside the people who wrecked it all. He is God who chose to die for a lost people because He didn’t believe in lost causes.

But even then, He seems unreachable, unknowable, beyond someone I could just run into on the street. But that’s not true. Jesus is as real today as He was in the past, and He’s the same Person now as He was then. And getting to know Him better helps me see myself more clearly.

So how do you get to know someone? You pay attention to what they say, what they do, and how they live.

OXYGEN VOLUME 13Today’s verses are Matthew 3:13-17.

Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

John the Baptist is high up on my list of people I want to meet when I get to heaven. The man was just wild, and I’ll bet he has some crazy stories that would be a hoot to hear from his own lips. God put him in a specific place with a specific purpose–to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming. But John got to baptize Jesus. He didn’t want to, stating that it was Jesus who should be the one baptizing. I love what Jesus says: “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.”

Think about that.

Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, though I believe Jesus’ ministry officially began after His baptism. Baptism doesn’t save you. It’s just a picture, a symbol, that you’ve chosen to follow Jesus and He’s washed away your sin.

God wanted Jesus to be baptized so that others would see the importance of this symbol and follow in His footsteps. It’s a strange thing, choosing to be dunked in a pool of water and lifted out again, but I can point to that moment in my life when I made the decision to actively begin following Jesus. I had been saved for years, but my baptism marked the day I truly began to understand what Jesus had done for me.

You realize Jesus didn’t have to go along with this, right? John even gave Him a way out, pointing out that Jesus should have been the one dunking people. But Jesus humbly agreed to do what God has asked Him to do.

I know people like that. Do you? They’re the ones who do what needs to be done humbly and quietly and cheerfully, even if it’s not their responsibility or if they’ve already got too much on their plate. Know what? I like those people. They’re easy to be around. They’re easy to talk to. And generally they bring others a lot of joy.

Jesus cares about what God says is right. That’s who Jesus is. He’s God, but He’s also a man who chooses to obey even though He doesn’t have to. He’s willing to inconvenience Himself to set an example for the people around Him. Sounds like a guy you’d want on your team, right? 

I know this: If a guy like Jesus is willing to die for someone like me, I must be worth a whole lot to Him. I don’t understand that, but it’s the truth. Jesus is perfect, and I’m so not, but He still chose to die for me. And that tells me there’s nothing I can do to earn His love because I already have it, and He already thought I was worth it.

The difference between knowing truth and doing truth

I was in a really bad car wreck a number of years ago, but miraculously I walked away from it. Looking back, I should have let the ambulance take me to the hospital, but I was too stubborn and didn’t think I was badly injured. And, truthfully, I wasn’t badly injured. I did find out later that my left shoulder had indeed separated, and because of the delay in treatment I ended up in physical therapy.

That’s where I learned a very important lesson in life. See, I could go to my physical therapy appointments and meet with the doctor, but my shoulder didn’t get any better until I started doing the exercises he prescribed for me at home. I didn’t want to do them. They were uncomfortable and time-consuming, and I just sort of let them slide until I had to go back to my therapy appointment. Surely just meeting with the doctor and letting him poke my shoulder was enough. I didn’t have to do the exercises at home, right?

Right.

Anyone else ever been there? Where you think that you can get away with just doing half of what you’re supposed to do? And you wonder why things never change? I’m sure all of us have been there before, and that’s probably why we think we can get away with just listening to God’s Word instead of actually integrating it into our lives.

first_wreckToday’s verses are John 8:31-32.

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

It’s one thing to know the truth, but it’s something else entirely to do the truth. Knowing and Doing are two very separate, very different things. Everybody knows that your car will run out of gas unless you fill it up, but just knowing that fact won’t stop you from running out of gas. You have to stop, pay too much money, and put gas into your car if you want it to keep running. Just knowing doesn’t make a difference. Just knowing won’t change anything.

It’s true that knowledge is power, but it’s only powerful if you put it to use. Otherwise it sits on a dusty shelf like that ancient book in the second hand shop that nobody wants. And all it’s good for is a paperweight.

God’s Word is the same way.

You can know a thousand Bible verses and still not live by them. You can know Jesus died for your sins without giving Him your heart. You can know that God exists without offering your life for His service. You can know that adultery, lying, stealing, is wrong and still do all of the above. You can know everything, but it won’t change your life until you do it.

As Christ-followers, we are called to do truth. Truth is a tool, just like God’s Word. The Bible calls itself a two-edged sword, but even a sword isn’t good for anything if all it does is sit around.

So what does that mean for you and me? Don’t just know God’s commands, do them. Don’t just know what God says is right, do it.

Want God to change your life? Want to see a difference in your world? It won’t happen if you just sit on what you know. You won’t see any difference at all just by osmosis. Doing truth is an active process, and it’s something you have to work at every day, a conscious decision you make every morning when you get up.

Stop resting on your blessed assurance, Christians. Get up and start doing what God says.

The difference between being Christian and being Christ-like

Imagine, one day you meet someone who says he or she is a writer. That’s awesome, right? So you ask them what they write, and they respond: “Well, I’m not really writing anything now. But I will soon.” Are they really a writer?

Let’s try another job description. One that’s not artsy. How about an engineer? If someone tells you they are an engineer, generally you ask what they build or what they design. But what if the engineer you’re talking to has never built anything or designed anything?

There’s a big discrepancy in both of those situations. You can claim to be a writer all day long and never act like a writer. You can know everything you need to know to be an engineer but never act like an engineer. So why do we think it’s different with our faith?

roads-divergingToday’s verses are Deuteronomy 30:19-20.

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

My Bible study group recently finished a section on the Book of Deuteronomy, which is Moses’ instructions to the Children of Israel before they are about to go into the Land of Canaan.

God is really straightforward with them, and He repeats Himself a lot. Basically what He says is that if they obey Him, they’ll be blessed, and if they disobey Him, they’ll be cursed. Pretty simple, right? If you’ve read the book, you know how that story goes.

And, yes, God is speaking directly to the Children of Israel in this particular verse, but what He’s saying relates to our lives today as well.

We all face choices every day. We can choose to take God at His Word and obey Him, regardless of whether it’s fun or not. Or we can choose to live life on our own terms. Those are the only choices we have. You choose life or death, blessings or curses. Just like the Children of Israel did.

And just like the Children of Israel, if you want to be obedient to God, you need to love Him and commit yourself to Him. That means doing what He says is right. That means living your life in a way that would please Him. That means making choices that honor God. That means living a Christ-like life.

But how many of us know it’s true that you can call yourself a Christian all day long but not be Christ-like?

Just like a writer who doesn’t write or an engineer who doesn’t design, a Christian isn’t automatically Christ-like. That’s a choice you have to make every hour of every day.

I know a particularly troublesome Christian who is sometimes the least Christ-like person you’ll ever meet. I saw her in the mirror this morning. 😉

I’m stubborn. I want my own way. I think I know best. And I don’t want to do it God’s way because He’ll take me down a road that won’t be fun, and I just want to have fun. And believe me, I’ve lived through the consequences of those choices, and I can tell you from experience that it’s better to listen to God. But I’m a work in progress. Every Christian is.

You’re a Christian the moment you trust Christ for your salvation, but becoming Christ-like is a process.

If you want to call yourself a Christian, fine. Carry a Bible. Memorize Scripture. Go to church. Do the Christian thing. But what difference will a title make in your life if you don’t do what a Christian is supposed to do? A Christian is supposed to be Christ-like, and that doesn’t happen just because you install a Bible app on your smartphone.

Learning to follow God is more than just going to church or memorizing Bible verses or going to a Bible study. You follow God in the little things. Following God happens in the small moments–or at least, they may be small moments to you. They’re the moments when you refuse to participate in office gossip. They’re the moments when you decide to bite your tongue instead of saying something rude. They’re the moments when you do something kind instead of something mean. They’re the moments when you choose to love someone you don’t think deserves it.

In those moments, you choose to do those things for no other reason than God told you to. Those are the moments when you are Christ-like, and that’s far more important than being a Christian any day.