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.

Seagull flying - Galveston, TX

Obeying God’s rules sets you free

I like doing my own thing. I don’t like to be bossed around. I’d much rather be on my own and accomplish my own goals and make my own mistakes and get credit for my own victories. Not to say I like the spotlight. I don’t. At all. But when it comes to living, my default is to follow my gut.

But the longer I live and the more I get to know the Lord, the better I understand that my gut–my own reasoning and my heart–aren’t always right. That is to say, my default isn’t to make choices that glorify God. My default is to make choices that make life easier for me.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s not unique to me or to you or to anyone else on Earth. It’s not even unique to this culture or this period of time. It’s born into us, and it’s something God has been dealing with since Mankind decided to take life into their own hands.

Seagull flying - Galveston, TX

Seagull flying – Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Psalm 81:8-14.

“Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings.
O Israel, if you would only listen to me!
You must never have a foreign god;
you must not bow down before a false god.
For it was I, the Lord your God,
who rescued you from the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.
“But no, my people wouldn’t listen.
Israel did not want me around.
So I let them follow their own stubborn desires,
living according to their own ideas.
Oh, that my people would listen to me!
Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths!
How quickly I would then subdue their enemies!
How soon my hands would be upon their foes!

It’s really easy to see God as this big fun-squasher in the sky. The eternal babysitter who’s only interested in reinforcing our bedtime or making sure we eat all our vegetables. But that’s a childish way to see God.

I mean, after all, as a grown up, you learn to recognize the benefits of a bedtime and eating your vegetables, don’t you? As children, they seemed like unfair rules, but as adults we recognize that those rules were for our good.

Christians, don’t you think it’s time we grew up?

The history of Israel and its relationship with God is written down in the Bible so that we could see just how faithful God is. If He hasn’t given up on Israel after all this time, He won’t give up on anyone. But the story is also there for us to understand what happens when we try to live life on our own terms.

You may be smart and respected and moral and kind. You can be all those things and still not know what’s good for you. You can be the best person in the world and still make choices that go against what God says is right.

God’s been very plain with us. He’s gone out of His way to help us understand what He says is right and what He says is wrong. It’s written down in plain language for everyone to see and read. And if you’re a Christ-follower, if you say you follow Jesus, then surely you’ve read the Bible. Surely you’ve made an attempt to understand what God says is right. And so surely when the moments come for you to obey, you obey. Right?

I can’t say I always have. I wish I could, but I’d be lying. It’s so much easier to just do what I want to do. That’s what I tell myself. That’s how I rationalize it. I tell myself that I’m not hurting anyone or that my choices won’t affect anybody else but me. But that’s not true. I don’t know the future. I don’t know what’s coming. My choices today could have a huge impact on my future and anyone else I know. I can’t know that. But God does. So when God tells me to do something–or when He tells me not to do something–I should listen.

God won’t bless me if I live a life opposed to what He says is right. He won’t rush to my rescue when I’ve fallen into the pit I’ve dug for myself. Yes, He’ll hear me, and if I turn back to Him, He’ll come for me.

My own ideas and my stubborn desires have gotten me into more trouble than I care to admit, and it’s only in turning away from them and turning to God and to God’s rules that I’ve found true freedom. Funny how obeying the rules can set you free, while following your gut leaves you in chains to the consequences of your choices.

God hasn’t given us rules to keep us from having fun. He’s laid down His expectations so that we can live free.

What to do when your God-calling feels stuck

What is something that God directed you to do in your life? Take a moment and think about it. Maybe it was a business decision. Maybe it was a relationship decision. Whatever it was, you felt God calling you to do it, and you did it. What happened?

Did it turn out for the better? Or has it turned out yet at all? Maybe all it’s done is make life more difficult for you.

I feel like that’s where I am right now, where I’ve said yes to what God was calling me to do and all it’s done is make more work for me. There’s so much to do and no time to do it in, and on the days I’ve got the time, I’m so exhausted from everything else that’s happening, I don’t have the energy. And in those moments you’ve got to ask yourself how sure you are that God called you to do what you’re doing. Because there’s always the chance you’re getting frustrated because you’re trying to force your way down a path that isn’t meant for you.

But if you’re confident? If you’re certain? If you know without a shadow of doubt that you’re doing what God would have you do, how do you manage? How do you keep hoping that what you’re doing for God is going to be successful when you can barely manage to get your everyday tasks done, let alone the ones God’s called you to?

Today’s verses are Haggai 2:3-5.

437922_60330474_heapofstones‘Does anyone remember this house—this Temple—in its former splendor? How, in comparison, does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all! But now the Lord says: Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.’

Haggai is one of those little minor prophet books hidden at the back of the Old Testament, so not a lot of people have heard of it. In that portion of the Old Testament, reading the Bible isn’t very much fun. I mean, reading the Bible is always wonderful, but sometimes the content is depressing. And for me, minor prophets are depressing. Because it seems all they do is warn of judgment coming. Over and over and over.

That’s not all they do, but that’s what it feels like.

It’s a broken record. The prophets warn of danger. The people ignore them. God sends judgment. The people beg for help. Over and over and over again. And it’s just so much like America right now, it’s only uplifting for the fact that we’ve got to be close to the end, which means we’re one step closer to going home.

But Haggai was a prophet during the time that a dude named Zerubbabel was trying to rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. I posted some time ago about a guy named Nehemiah, who was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Zerubbabel was his predecessor. And Haggai came to Zerubbabel and Jeshua, his partner in crime, many times with messages from God. That’s what today’s verses are. A message from God to two men trying their best to fulfill their calling.

Think about the path these men agreed to follow. Rebuilding the Jewish temple after it had been annihilated. I’m not going to take the time to go into its dimensions, but the temple was HUGE. It was a massive, intricate structure with so much national significance. It was an enormous responsibility, not only to the people of Israel but also because God had called Zerubbabel to do it.

Take a pile of rocks and turn it into God’s holy temple again.

It wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t going to be fast. Not everyone was going to work their hardest, and not everyone even wanted it to happen in the first place.

In our soft American culture, we get this crazy idea from somewhere that when God calls you to do something, it’s going to be easy. And, folks, that’s just not true. If it were easy, anyone would do it. If it were easy, anyone could do it. But God called a Christ-follower to do it so He could give you His power–God’s supernatural power to overcome all obstacles. If God’s going to help you overcome the obstacles, that means the road won’t be smooth.

No, following your God calling isn’t easy. And it doesn’t happen overnight. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the temple wasn’t finished in a day. It took a lot of days, long days with hard labor and the impending threat of failure, to complete the work. And that hasn’t changed just because it’s AD 2014 and not 520 BC.

But God’s Word hasn’t changed either. And His instructions are as clear as ever. If you’re sure of your calling, if you know you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, be strong and get to work, because God is with us.

Whatever you’re doing for God doesn’t depend on your strength. It depends on His. You just have to keep working. You don’t have to be afraid because God is right by your side cheering you on with every step. You know what you need to do. So just do it.

You won’t succeed overnight. You’ re going to have days when you work really hard but you see no noticeable improvement. And in those moments when you’re threatened to despair, remember what God said. Be strong and get to work. He’s with us, so we don’t have to be afraid of failure as long as we follow Him.

White rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Don’t give up on God

I’m ridiculous. Do you ever feel that way? Like even when you have it all together, you’ll never have it all together?

I know the truth. I know what God says. I know what’s right according to the Bible. And I really, honestly believe it with all my heart. But I still want my own way.

I want to do things my way. I want to live the way I want to live. I want to use my resources the way I want to use them. And I can get downright stubborn about it.

I cling to my childish understanding of the world and my own life, and I refuse to let go. Maybe it’s comforting because I can wrap my head around it. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to let go, because if I can control it, I feel better. But it’s a lie. I don’t control anything.

White rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

White rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Jeremiah 10:23.

I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own.
    We are not able to plan our own course.

The prophet Jeremiah understood it. He grasped the concept that God is in control. But what I find ironic is that Jeremiah understood this at one of the darkest times in Israel’s history.

Nothing was going right for Israel at this moment. They were under siege. They were miserable. And Jeremiah himself wasn’t doing so hot either. Imagine being God’s messenger at a time when your country is being chastised for its behavior.

Yeah. Lots of messenger shooting going on.

But even in the midst of all that, Jeremiah could step back and accept the truth. We’re not in control. We never have been. We never will be. We’re not big enough to control our lives, and if you think you can,  just wait a while and something will happen that’s too big for you to handle. And when life spins out of control that wildly, you’ll wish you knew someone big enough to handle it for you.

It’s hard to trust God sometimes, especially when it feels like He’s taken something away from us. But let’s be honest here. Who is God anyway? In the good times, we don’t have trouble believing in Him or believing that He knows what He’s doing. It’s only in the bad times because our trust is shaken.

We have this idea that if we do what God tells us to do we won’t ever have to face troubles in life, and that’s just not true. Even the best, most righteous Christ-follower in the world has to go through trials and struggles and days that just don’t seem fair. But just because what we’re going through sucks right now doesn’t make God any less who He is. Just because we’ve hit a rough spot in life doesn’t change who God is. If it did, He wouldn’t be God.

So whatever trouble you’re facing today? Whatever heartache or frustration or sadness or darkness, don’t give up on God just because you can’t see the end of the road. If you can’t see the end, it’s just one more reason why you need hold on to Him tighter.

Because you can’t control your life. You can’t plan your life. Our lives don’t even belong to us. They belong to Him.

So doesn’t it make sense to let Him have His way?