A boat on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Galveston, Galveston, TX

God’s truth is our anchor in life

Why do ships need anchors? I’m not a boating expert at all, but I would assume everyone knows why. When a ship wants to stop and not move any further along its course, it has to drop its anchor so the water won’t carry it away.

Water never stops moving, and it’s teeming with all sorts of invisible currents. The water you touch at one moment is completely different from the water you touch the next. It’s always moving and shifting, and it carries everything that isn’t weighed down along for the ride. So if a ship doesn’t want to move, it has to drop an anchor that will keep it in place.

Have you ever thought that life is a little like that? Life never stops moving. It’s full of invisible forces you don’t always understand that are pulling you along whether you want to go or not, and if you don’t have something to hold you down, you’ll be swept away.

A boat on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Galveston, Galveston, TX

A boat on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Galveston, Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Hebrews 2:1.

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.

I don’t know why people struggle with truth so much. Maybe it’s because we really can’t wrap our minds around the concept of an absolute. We really can’t. We are eternal beings, but since we haven’t experienced an absolute eternity yet, we can’t understand what it will be like. So when it comes to absolutes like truth, we can try our hardest but I’m not sure we’ll actually understand it like we understand other things. Like the way language works or like the way an engine works.

But even if we can’t understand truth on the same level that God does, we can still recognize it. You know the truth when you hear it, especially if you are a Christ-follower and you have the Holy Spirit whispering in your heart. The Bible is true, and God gave it to us so we’d know how to live.

So why is it so difficult?

Well, how good a listener are you? I’m not as good as I could be. Did you ever take those standardized tests that measured your listening as a child? I don’t remember what my score was, but those tests were hard. You couldn’t necessarily trust what you saw on the page, and you had to listen to what the teacher said if you wanted a passing grade.

Funny how similar life can be to tests, isn’t it?

Just because you see something or hear something that you think is a good idea doesn’t make it right or true. You have to compare it to what God says, because what God says is always right and true. We have to remember. We have to pay attention. We have to listen.

God’s way, the right and true way, will act like an anchor in our lives. When this broken world and all its problems try to sweep us away, the truth will help us stand.

So know what God says. Listen to what He says. And do it. If you don’t, the storms of life will blow you down. Sure, the storms of life may still beat you up a bit, but when they blow themselves out you’ll still be standing.

 

A cow in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Don’t wait for tomorrow

Procrastinators of the world, unite tomorrow! Have you heard that phrase? I saw it in a meme or something some time ago, and it made me laugh. I hate to admit this, but I’ve got a procrastinating streak in me. Not a wide one. But it’s there. And the busier I get and the more I have to accomplish, the stronger the urge to shove it all off and do something unrelated becomes. It’s not that I’m lazy; I think I just get to the point that I have so much to process, it’s easier to live in denial until the last minute.

But is that a wise way to live? No. I don’t even have to read the Bible to know that a lifestyle of procrastination isn’t healthy. It’s detrimental to your mental health and, in some instances, your physical health too.

But what does the Bible have to say about it?

A cow in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A cow in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Ephesians 5:15-17.

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

What is the hallmark of a procrastinator? I said it above. Living in denial. A procrastinator can ignore the deadlines and responsibilities weighing them down and waste time on something completely unreleated. Why? Because they don’t want to think.

That’s what I do. When I have too much going on, I don’t want to think about it. Thinking about everything I have to do is overwhelming, and it’s easier not to face it. At least, it’s easier not to face it at the beginning. In the end, I’m wishing I’d started thinking about it sooner.

You guys realize that the times we’re living in truly are evil, don’t you? Maybe that sounds harsh, but what is the definition of evil? In the Bible, it’s everything that goes against God. There’s no distinction between “just bad” and “pure evil.” Evil is the absence of perfection.

We live in evil days. So when you get the chance to do something for God that might make a difference in the world, why do we hesitate? Why do we put it off?

I tend toward procrastination, especially when I’m busy or when I’m sure the issue isn’t important or that my interference won’t matter. But what do I know? I had the opportunity to interfere in a situation last week, and I decided not to. Why? Well, just being honest here, I didn’t want to mess with it. I have so many other things going on, I didn’t feel like investing the time on this one issue would be worth it.

I’m not going to go into details, but a situation that developed as a result of this issue blew up last week. Now, I’m still not convinced that I could have changed anything, but at least I would have the peace of mind knowing I had tried to help stop it. As it is, I have to live with the fact that I knew about a problem and didn’t do anything to prevent it. As it is, I’ll never know if I could have helped or not.

That’s the price of procrastination. You miss opportunities. You lose the chance to make a difference. Can you always make a difference? Of course not. But isn’t it better to try and fail than to spend the rest of your life wondering?

Whatever God is telling you to do, do it today. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t wait until you feel ready. Just do it. Do it now because you’re not promised another day. You woke up breathing for a reason today; maybe this is your last chance to really do something great for God, whether it’s helping someone carry in groceries or just smiling at a stranger in the store. Maybe that doesn’t sound great to you, but the person you helped probably feels differently.

Put off procrastination. If you have the chance to do something good in these evil days, make the most of it. Seize the opportunity before you miss it. Either that or spend tomorrow wondering and regretting what might have been if you had.

Typo the kitten looking mischievous at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Guard your heart and watch the cats

Does anyone else think our culture suffers from extreme ADD, just in general? Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not poking fun at ADD. It’s certainly a real condition and it has a huge effect on people who have it. But if you had to describe our American culture, I really think ADD would be high on the list of descriptors. We can’t focus on anything for more than a moment. The issues that should be a big deal are only around briefly, and even the issues that aren’t a big deal rise to popularity and then fade like the tail of a shooting star.

We’re all so busy, and I’m talking about myself here, though I’m pretty sure everyone feels the same way. We have so much going on that we have to focus on more than one thing or we’ll never get to the bottom of our to-do list. And pretty soon, we form the habit of focusing on several things at once, so when we get the chance to slow down, we’re used to being busy and we can’t function in silence anymore.

Have you ever thought that all the things we give our attention to are just distractions? Have you ever considered that all the things taking up your time are really just taking time away from the things in life that really matter?

Typo the kitten looking mischievous at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Typo the kitten looking mischievous at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 4:23.

Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.

This past weekend I had some of my closest friends out to my house for a baking adventure. We had planned for more people to be able to come but sickness and general life issues sort of got in the way, which is fine because we’ll just reschedule. But two of the ladies who came out actually spent the night. I was so excited. And we had such an awesome time. There’s nothing like getting to spend a few uninterrupted days with people you can just be yourself with.

Well, when they pulled up and started unloading their car, it was around 7:00 p.m. Now that means it’s pitch black dark out here. I have a yard light, but it doesn’t do much to illuminate with any sort of detail. So my friends got all their stuff in the house, and we all tucked ourselves in for a fun evening of sister time.

The thought occurred to me (briefly) that when they were carrying stuff inside, they should have been tripping over cats. I have four cats now, which I’ve posted about on my writing blog like the crazy cat lady I’m trying not to be, and they are fierce when they want attention. But they were nowhere in sight that evening. But it was windy and cold, so I figured they had taken shelter in the barn or the culver or some other place they inhabit.

We chatted until all hours of the evening. We slept. We woke and had breakfast and baked and frosted cookies, and it was just marvelous….until they got their stuff together to go. They opened their car door and not one, not two, not even three–all four cats jumped out of the car. All four cats had spent the night in the vehicle, doing all the lovely things that barn cats do in their spare time. Needless to say, I was mortified.

It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The mess was easily cleaned, but I was rather put out with my feline tenants.

And as I got to thinking about the devotional today, I couldn’t get away from this crazy story. How often do we take our attention off of something that matters to deal with something that isn’t so important? I do it a lot. There are many things in my life that I should focus on, but I’m too busy doing other things that I think are important, even though they really aren’t. It’s like taking your eyes off the cats when your car door is open. You’re just asking for them to jump inside and make a mess of things.

Maybe I’m overly sensitive to idiom because of my friendship with non-English speakers, but when I see a phrase like guard your heart, my first thought is: what does that actually mean? I checked my other translations (Amplified and Message) and both of them pretty much say the same thing. Guard your heart. Guard your heart. So to me, it means exactly what it says.

Be careful what you invest your life in. Pay attention to what you give your focus to. Don’t just jump into something because it feels right. Don’t just commit to an action because everyone else is doing it or because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t. Think. Consider the consequences. Don’t open your heart for the first person or cause you encounter, because they may lead you down a path that doesn’t matter. And before long you’ll be so invested in distractions that you won’t know how to think or feel anymore, and you’ll think that God has abandoned you.

Guard your heart. The course of your life depends on your investments, and if you’re so busy investing in distractions, you’re going to miss the trouble in your path. And it’s not that trouble will destroy you. Shoot, it may be easy to clean up. But either way you look at it, it’s a hassle, and it’s something you might have avoided if you would have just kept your eyes on what matters.

Rooster strutting at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Man up

Sometimes the Bible shocks me with its bluntness, and then I remember how hard-headed I am and wonder that Scripture is polite at all. Because it’s usually directness that gets through to me.

Rooster strutting at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.

Short, choppy statements are how God, through the pen of Paul, chooses to end His first epistle to the Church at Corinth. If you read 1 Corinthians, I’m not sure if there’s a more direct and to-the-point Book out there, especially not in dealing with the things that were going on in the Church.

As I was reading over these verses this morning, they just got me thinking about what exactly God was trying to communicate to these people. I’m sure they were good people, but they had really gotten off on a bad road, and they were dragging others down with them. I got to thinking that these verses represent a process, a method of thinking and response.

Be on guard. If you’re going to make it as a Christ-follower in our culture, you can’t shut your brain off. Our culture is full of messages that sound like good ideas but are contrary to what Scripture says. And if you’re not paying attention, you’ll sign your name to the wrong contract. Granted, that decision won’t remove you from God’s house, but it could make life very difficult. So we have to keep our eyes open. And when you start watching and listening and really paying attention, you’ll see the errors. You’ll see the parts of our culture that run against the grain of what God says is best. And when you encounter the chance to make a choice, you proceed to the next step.

Stand firm. Our culture rewards mediocrity and compromise. Backing down when it comes to faith-based beliefs is considered politically correct. But if something is right, it’s right. And if you are on guard when it comes to living in the world, you’re going to encounter a lot of resistance because this world isn’t our home. Life here isn’t supposed to be easy for us. And the world hated Jesus, who came before we did, so why should they treat us any differently? And that’s why you need the next step.

Be courageous. Pay attention to what’s happening so you know when you need to stand up for what you believe and when that time comes, even though you’re scared, do it anyway. I’m a people pleaser, so this one is difficult for me. I don’t want people to dislike me. I want everyone to think well of me. But every Christ follower is rapidly approaching a time when we will need to stand up and be counted, and I’m of the opinion that it takes more courage to keep standing than it does to stand up in the first place. And that’s why you need the next step.

Be strong (or, according to the Amplified Version, “Be men.”) In the Message, it paraphrases this as “be resolute.” Basically, as I read it, it means to be unyielding. Don’t waver. Don’t be wishy-washy. Once you make up your mind to follow Christ, do it. Don’t falter. Don’t hesitate. Don’t second guess. If you know it’s in the Bible and you know it’s what God has called you to do, do it. Man up. Or Woman up, as my Pastor says. This quality isn’t exclusive to one gender or another; it’s a choice. True strength isn’t thought of well in our world because true strength is humility, kindness and morality. True strength is treated as weakness in our world, but that’s because the world mixes everything up. And we need to remember that. People who don’t follow Christ have been brought up in a culture that defies God’s existence, and that is absolutely their prerogative. It’s not our job to be their Holy Spirit. That’s between them and God, but if we take the world’s version of strength and attack them with Scripture, that’s not a good representation of who God is. God never forces Himself on anyone; so why are we forcing Him on people who’ve already chosen not to follow? Instead of berating, instead of protesting, instead of ranting and raving about the injustices of our world, proceed to the next step.

Do everything with love. Want to make a difference to people? Love them. Be thoughtful. Be considerate. Be genuine. Be interested in their lives. If you’ve tried to introduce them to Christ and they’re not interested, fine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t show them who Christ is in every conversation you have. Live your life in a way that demonstrates who God is, and if they want to know, they’ll ask.

This is how God through Paul chose to end the first letter to the Church of Corinth, that was so screwed up they didn’t know which end was up. And something sank in, because the second letter to them shows how much they changed.

The Church in America is a lot like the Church of Corinth. We’re letting things in our doors that have no business playing a role in the leadership of the Church. Selfishness. Pride. Gluttony. And we need to start paying attention and addressing these issues, or it won’t be long and we’ll be in the same boat as the Church of Corinth (if we aren’t there already).

[Note: I’m talking about the state of the Church in general and not my church. My church is pretty awesome, and I’m SO thankful!]

But if we’re going to make a difference, we can’t chill on the sidelines. We can’t agree with everyone, and we can’t make everyone happy. So pay attention. Don’t waver. And choose to act even when you’re scared. Man up.