There are only two sides you can be on

What is it about human nature that compels us to take sides against each other? Throughout history, you can see evidence of how groups of people eventually split apart over some disagreement, which then led them to either take up arms against each other or run away to do their own thing.

Groups with opposing ideologies are always at each others’ throats. Democrats versus Republicans. Christians versus Muslims. Batman versus Superman. We have an opinion, and when we find people who share our opinion, we like ganging up on others who disagree.

And, to be perfectly honest, sometimes, taking a side is good. You have to stand for something, right? But how do you know which side is right? That’s the hard part. If you take a side, that means you have to stand against the other side. And if there’s nothing else I’ve learned in my life, it’s that every story has more than one side. So if you’re using somebody’s story to decide which side you’re going to support, you might want to make sure you have considered all the angles. Otherwise, if the side you’re supporting turns out to be full of it, you’re going to be a part of hurting a lot of innocent people.

So how can you know what side to be on? Can you choose a side that you can always know will be the right one?

pound_britishToday’s verses are Joshua 24:14-15.

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

This is Joshua talking. Joshua took over leading the Children of Israel when Moses was finished. And this is at the end of Joshua’s life, where he’s reminding the people around him of the choices they had. They could choose to follow God, or they could choose not to follow God.

Funny enough, those are the same two choices we have today. Not much has changed.

In our lives, in our families, we have two choices. We can either live the way God has told us to live, or we can choose not to. Now, that looks different from person to person. Maybe you have a wonderful family, but just because you have a great life doesn’t mean you’re following God.

And, granted, following God looks different from person to person, but the number one characteristic you’ll see in the life of someone who is pursuing God with his/her whole heart is a singular focus on pleasing God.

So the next time someone asks you whose side you’re on, think about it. There are really only two sides you can be on. God’s Side or Not God’s Side. It’s not about the democrats and the republicans. It’s not about the liberals and the conservatives. It’s not about the air-in-the-tires Amish and the no-air-in-the-tires Amish (no, I’m not making that up). Are you on God’s side or aren’t you?

When God says trust Him, do you trust Him? When God says to love Him, do you love Him? When God says to love people, do you love people? Or are you buried so deep in your own self-importance that all you can see and hear is what you want for yourself?

The attitude of the heart directs our actions. What’s in our hearts that comes out of our mouths. Why matters more than What. Granted, some “whats” are always a bad idea, regardless of the why, but you understand what I’m saying.

It’s easy to support someone who is hurting because there’s something in us that wants to stand up for the little guy. We all cheer for the underdogs. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But are you sure your underdog is really telling the truth? Or are you letting blind loyalty direct your choices rather than God?

If taking a side means that you have to hurt someone else, physically or emotionally, I don’t think that’s what God wants or asks. So count the cost before you take a side, and make sure you’re on the side that is truly blameless. That’s the only side that will keep you blameless too.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for something impossible

When was the last time you asked God for something impossible? I’m not talking about asking for a million dollars or asking for a dream vacation. I’m talking about something out-of-this-world extraordinary. Something no person on Earth has the capability to achieve. Like the restoration of a broken relationship, the redemption of a lost soul, or the healing of a broken body.

We get so caught up in our material wealth in this country that we lose sight of what is truly impossible. We live buried in debt that we can’t get out of, so our idea of impossible is being independently wealthy. But what about the things that really matter? The people we care about, the lives around us, the hurting hearts?

When was the last time you asked for something truly impossible?

Nothing-is-IMPOSSIBLEToday’s verses are Jeremiah 33:2-3.

This is what the Lord says—the Lord who made the earth, who formed and established it, whose name is the Lord: Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.

Yes, this is God inviting you to ask. Throughout the Bible, God invites His people to talk to Him, to get to know Him, to have a conversation with Him, and in every instance in Scripture when someone gets closer to God, they change from the inside out.

Can you imagine what it’s like to encounter God like Moses did? Or like Joshua? Or even like the prophets Elijah and Jeremiah, who heard God’s voice clearly? After you’ve experienced God like that, how could you ever doubt Him?

Granted, they all had their bad days, when the struggles of life overwhelmed them, and then God had to remind them who He is. And, fortunately for them, they listened.

But what about us? What great God experience do we get? Well, I guess that depends on how closely you’re paying attention. No, we don’t get to see oceans parting and or city walls collapsing, but we do experience divine appointments–those moments that only God could have coordinated. We get to witness Him working in our lives and in other people’s lives. We get to see the miracles of nature that God has created.

Everything is a miracle.

And just because we don’t see crazy ridiculous “miraculous” events here in this country doesn’t mean they aren’t happening elsewhere. There are all sorts of reports of impossible things happening around the world–the dead being raised, impossible prayers being answered, God intervening in ways that are obvious.

Just because it’s not happening in America doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in other countries. Sorry to burst your bubbles, friends, but America isn’t the bastion of hope and light that we used to be.

But that doesn’t mean God won’t do the impossible if we ask. I’ve seen Him do impossible things, just in my own life, and I can think of several impossible things that I’d like to see Him do right now. I bet you can think of some too.

So why don’t we ask? Are we afraid He’ll say no? Are we afraid He’ll tell us that He can’t do it or that He won’t do it?

Don’t be afraid.

You know who God is, right? God is good. Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, God is inherently God. He’s the only one who is. So whatever God does is good.

Maybe it doesn’t seem good to us right now, but that’s because we don’t understand it. That’s where trust comes in. Maybe He’s withholding something that’s good right now in order to provide us with something better later on down the road. You just don’t know.

He won’t strike you down for asking. The Bible is full of examples of people who asked God questions we might think are impertinent, and Jesus never rebuked them. If it were an honest question from a heart genuinely seeking, Jesus never turned anyone away. And God is the same.

What is that impossible thing in your life that you desperately wish would happen? Who is that one person you think will never change? What is that relationship you’re afraid is doomed to fail?

Don’t be afraid to ask for the impossible. God is in the business of the impossible, and there is nothing beyond His reach. That doesn’t mean He’ll always do what you ask Him to do, and there are uncountable reasons why He might say no. But we should always remember that if God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want, that just means He’s going to answer them in a better way later on.

God never ignores us. Not ever.

So ask already.

I know what I’m asking for. How about you?

Accept who God made you and stop making such a mess

I rarely used to state my opinion out loud. Sure, I’d think it to myself frequently, but I’d never say anything that could come back to bite me. I never wanted to upset anyone. I never wanted to reveal any sort of weakness.

Not a very good way to get to know people. Not a good way to be a witness for Christ either.

I was afraid to speak out, for fear that I would be wrong or that people wouldn’t like what I had to say. So it was just easier to stay silent. But in recent years, I’ve come to grips with who God made me and why He made me. Now, I can sit and have a conversation with someone and share openly about my life–my successes and my failures, without fearing judgment or condescension. Doesn’t mean I don’t experience it, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.

I had to come to grips with who God made me as a person and what His plans for me look like. When I did that, I didn’t have to be afraid of who I was anymore.

A-Bull-in-a-China-Shop-57223Today’s verses are Psalm 139:14-16.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

Now, some people will barrel through life like bulls in China shops, hooting and hollering and being loud, and they’ll just tell people they were born loud. God made them loud. So that gives them an excuse to run over people.

Sorry, folks. That’s not the case. God never made anyone with the purpose of running other people down. Sure, some of us have a bigger set of lungs than others, but that doesn’t give us the right to disturb someone else’s peace or say things about others that are untrue.

God made you for a purpose. He created you for a reason. But until you accept that purpose and reason for your life, you’ll just be a bull in a China shop, breaking things and making trouble for others. Or you’ll be the quiet one in the corner with a brain full of knowledge but not enough courage to speak out when you need to.

It comes down to how you see yourself, how you see others, and how you see God. Your perspective on those three subjects will determine how you behave.

If you think you’re all that matters, that’s how you’ll live. You’ll make decisions that only benefit you, regardless of how you hurt those around you. Other people won’t matter. And you’ll have the ability to twist God’s words into permission for you to get what you want out of life.

But if you’re focused on God, you’ll have life straight. Maybe it won’t feel like it all the time. Maybe most of the time it’ll feel like life is slipping through your fingers. But you’ll have your priorities correct.

You don’t have to be loud for people to hear you. You don’t have to make noise to get people’s attention. You sure don’t need it to get God’s attention. You already have it, and He’s been trying to talk to you forever. You just aren’t listening.

So knock it off. Quiet down and listen to Him for a change.

And for you quiet folks, don’t be afraid of your opinions. If you’ve got your eyes on God and you’re following Him, He will tell you things in His Word that He might not reveal to other people. Seriously, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for because they’re quiet enough to listen to God when He’s speaking.

Be open. Be honest. But speak the truth in love. God never reveals truth so that we can use it as a sledgehammer. He reveals truth so that we understand how much He loves us and how desperately we need Him.

Some people hide behind loudness and noise. Other people hide behind silence and curtains. But everybody hides, usually because they think they aren’t good enough.

But God made you who you are, with your foibles and quirks and eccentricities. He knew you’d have your strange propensities before you were even born, and He thinks they’re wonderful. So if God isn’t ashamed of them, why are you?

Don’t shoot rabbits from a motorboat

Ever hear a law that someone had to come up with when they were smoking something? Spend a little time on www.dumblaws.com and you’ll wonder. There’s actually a Kansas law about not shooting rabbits from a motorboat.

Seriously? Does it have to be in the water when you shoot? Because if the boat’s in the water, I doubt a rabbit is going to be out in the water with you. There are tons of these crazy laws out there, and it makes me wonder why they exist. Because there had to be a reason for creating them.

Spend enough time searching through Kansas laws on this website, and you’ll see what I mean. Because Overland Park, Kansas has a law against picketing funerals. For anyone living outside of Kansas, that sounds dumb. Who would picket a funeral? But if you live in Kansas, you know there’s a horrible group of people in Topeka who used to protest at soldier funerals, and this law in Overland Park was designed to protect families.

That law sounds dumb until you understand why it exists. That’s the tricky part about laws. Sometimes at first blush, you don’t think they make any sense, but once you understand why they’re there, it changes your perspective.

No rabbits and not a motorboat ... but you get the idea

No rabbits and not a motorboat … but you get the idea

Today’s verse is Psalm 119:144.

Your laws are always right;
    help me to understand them so I may live.

No, that’s not a typo up there. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, coming in at 176 verses. But it’s an easy read. If you’ve got time, you should check it out some morning. It’s a beautiful chapter.

The central theme you’ll see repeated over and over in Psalm 119 is God’s laws and how keeping God’s laws brings life and joy and blessing. What I love about this verse is that the writer is asking God’s help to understand His laws.

Human beings are just all screwed up. We’re turned around every which way, upside down and inside out. If left to our own devices, we live life backwards. We place value on things that don’t matter in the end. We focus on things that don’t last.

That’s why God’s commandments seem confusing if we look at them through the world’s eyes, because the world is backward.

God has given us rules and laws for a reason. Not to squash our fun. Not to prevent us from achieving our goals. But because He knows what’s best for us. He knows the troubles that we’re facing, and He wants to help us succeed and thrive in this life. But we have to do it His way.

If we try to do it our own way, we’ll end up lost and confused. Because that’s what we are without Him.

So if you run across one of God’s rules that you don’t understand, ask Him to help you understand it. That’s one of the great things about God. He wants to hear from us. He wants us to talk to Him, and part of getting to know Him better is learning to understand why He asks us to live according to His rules.

The rules that don’t make sense are usually related to the cultural differences between modern day America and ancient Israel. But what God said back then is just as relevant in today’s world. You just have to understand His reasoning and His purpose behind it.

So when you’re struggling to understand, just ask. God has a habit of revealing answers to you in ways you won’t be able to ignore.

And, make a note to yourself. If you’re ever passing through Kansas on a motorboat, don’t shoot any rabbits.

Relying on our insecurities will never make us strong

Everyone in insecure about something. Some people are insecure about getting up in front of people. Other people are insecure when they deal with numbers. Others are insecure about dealing with people.

You can be the most talented person in the world, but when you are faced with the one topic you are insecure about, you’ll shut down.

Regardless of what you’re insecure about, when you’re thinking about it calmly, you recognize that your insecurity is a weakness. It’s an area where you need to be stronger. You know that. But in the heat of the moment, when you are faced with a situation that frightens you or when you have to make a snap decision, it’s easy to fall back on what we know, and the one thing we all know is our own insecurities.

But insecurities make us feel not secure. That’s why they’re called insecurities! And maybe it’s comfortable to fall back on them, but what if you had something stronger to hold on to instead? Wouldn’t that be a better idea?

InsecureTurtleToday’s verses are 2 Peter 1:3-4.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

God has given us all a list of promises miles and miles long. God has made so many promises that we don’t have time to talk about them all. And, what’s awesome, is that He’s kept all of the promises that He’s made.

He always keeps His promises. That’s who He is.

So instead of falling back on your insecurities, what about trying to fall back on God’s promises instead? It sounds like it should be easy to do, but it’s a difficult habit to get into, especially when you’re accustomed to relying on your own strength.

How do you live by God’s promises? Or, as the Bible says in the next verse after these, respond to God’s promises? That part is easy in theory. It means you put weight to what God’s said. It means you put your money where your mouth is. It means you take God at His Word.

Example? God has promised that if you give to His work (i.e. tithe) that He will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings so numerous you won’t be able to contain them all (Malachi 3:10). This is a promise. And to take God at His Word, that would mean you would start giving to God, whether you think you have the finances to give or not. And then you just trust that God will provide for you.

That’s all there is to it. You live life trusting that God will do what He says He’ll do. You make decisions based on what God has promised to do for you.

I don’t like speaking in front of people. I despise getting up and talking in front of crowds. But it’s part of this career path God has me on right now. I don’t like it because I can’t always think of the right things to say, and I’m terrified that I will come off looking like a fool. I get so scared that I will be a poor representation of Christ because I babble like an idiot. But God has promised before that He will give His children the words they need to say when they need them.

So when it comes down to the choice of speaking in front of a group or not, what do I do? If I’m going to fall back on what’s familiar, I’ll lean on my insecurities. Those insecurities tell me I’m a horrible speaker, that I’ll say stupid things, that I’ll make mistakes and confuse people. Those are my insecurities. And they’re not helpful.

But if I choose to believe God’s promise, I’ll get up in front of people and God will help me. He’ll give me the strength to face my fears, and He’ll give me the words to speak when I need them.

See the difference?

So what decision are you facing today? Are you leaning on what your insecurities are telling you about yourself? Or are you thinking about what God has promised you instead? If you’re cowering in fear, I guarantee, it’s not God you’re listening to.

Hold on to God’s promises. He always keeps them. Trusting your insecurities will only leave you insecure and unfulfilled. Which choice do you think is better?