If you want to see stars, get away from the distractions

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You can see the universe from the front yard of Safe Haven Farm. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not far from the truth. Out in the country, the Milky Way stretches out across the sky in all its hazy glory, and even the Pleiades is easy to spot.

I’ve always loved stars. Maybe it was the influence of Star Trek so early in my life, or maybe I’ve just always been a nerd, but I love studying the constellations and the names of stars and who discovered them. I love studying the planets and their moons. I’m so nerdy that I even follow NASA and read about new discoveries and the ongoing programs trying to get to Mars.

To me, stars represent entire worlds that I’ll never see, aspects of creation that are so much bigger than I am, reminding me that I’m just a tiny piece in the overall puzzle of God’s great masterpiece.

It makes me think about how Christ-followers are supposed to live. Not distant and mysterious–but like little pieces of God’s big plan, the evidence of a life beyond, proof that there’s something more amazing out there than what we have on our little old planet Earth.

In Paul’s amazing letter to the Church at Philippi, he talks about how Christ-followers can shine in a world covered in darkness. In Philippians 2:14-15, he writes, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]There are just as many stars in the sky in the city as there are in the country. It’s just that in the city too many things get in the way.[/su_pullquote]

Isn’t it interesting that Christ-followers can lose their shine just like stars? And it’s not that they aren’t Christ-followers. It’s just that other things get in the way. We complain. We argue. We stumble and fall. And before you know it, any light we had is muddied, and we look exactly like the people around us.

Living out in a rural area, you cut out all the distractions that the noise of the city throws into the sky. The pollution and the big buildings and the trees and the bright lights all take away from the beauty of the heavens. It’s not that the stars aren’t there.

There are just as many stars in the sky in the city as there are in the country. It’s just that in the city too many things get in the way, and they block out the stars that can be seen with other things.

I want to shine for Jesus. I want to be a light in the dark that points people to Him, because He’s done amazing things in my life, and I didn’t do anything to deserve any of it.

Christ-followers aren’t called to complain or criticize or argue with each other. We’re called to points of light in a world of darkness, showing people that there’s more to life than this broken existence.

If you want to see the stars, you have to get away from the things that distract from them. If you want to make a difference for Jesus, you need to get away from the things that steal your light.

So don’t complain. Don’t argue. Hold on to your faith and your trust in God, and let the world see you do it. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to believe.

 

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A bad attitude makes you miss out on God’s best

Our attitude directs our actions. Maybe that’s a generalization, but I think it’s a pretty true one. Your attitude about a situation or a person or an event usually determines how you respond to it.

My attitude is usually pretty good, but generally speaking, my life rocks along without too many bumps. Sure, I have struggles and issues like everybody else, but my plans usually work out the way I want. I’m a planner, remember? I like to control everything, so I make a habit of thinking far ahead and knowing every step I can take to make something happen or to prevent something from happening.

But all of that changed recently with two little words: jury duty.

Yes, my civic duty as an American citizen. My opportunity to participate in the American legal system. And, honestly, something I’ve wanted to do since my freshman year of high school when my government teacher talked about it.

But here’s the deal: This is the worst week it could have come up. There are so many things happening, so many things to deal with, so many things to handle, I just don’t have the time to go to jury duty. And it’s really, really tempting to start feeling sour about the whole thing.

dare_to_complainToday’s verses are Philippians 2:14-15.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

Ouch.

Does the Bible ever step on your toes? Yeah, it does that to me too. I think I’m doing all right, and then wham! I read a verse that makes me stop in my tracks.

Even when I complain, I don’t intend to. And here’s the kicker, I usually only complain when my attitude needs adjusting.

I’m exactly where I need to be. God has provided for me in so many ways, and when something comes along that I didn’t expect–something I don’t want to do–what’s my first reaction? I grumble. I complain. I groan.

Sure, maybe it’ll be a headache. Maybe it’s not what I had planned for tomorrow. But what’s more important in my life? Doing what I had planned? Or doing what God has planned?

Yeah. Rhetorical question.

I started this adventure because I felt God calling me to step out on faith and trust Him. Since then, lots of things have happened that I didn’t expect, most that I didn’t plan for. This is no different.

So what if I don’t get to do what I wanted tomorrow? God has something better for me. He always does.

Wherever you are today, don’t let your attitude lead you to ignore God’s best just because it might inconvenience you. Maybe the next step He’s putting in front of you isn’t what you wanted, but if it’s what He’s directing you to do, it’ll work out better in the end anyway.

Branches of the old apricot tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Complaining is normal–but it’s not helpful

What is it about complaining that makes us feel better? Is it something inside us that yearns to focus on a negative? Is it something about people that longs to get everyone to say negative things about other people, about situations, about our jobs? I don’t know, but there is something about complaining that satisfies (temporarily) a darkness inside me. And it’s so much easier to complain about the difficult aspects of life than it is to look on the bright side.

But complaining doesn’t really fix anything. And it doesn’t actually satisfy either. Maybe it makes you feel better for a little while, but it doesn’t last because nothing changes. You don’t change. Your situation won’t chance. Your perspective won’t change. And so neither will your attitude. Complaining doesn’t change anything; it just allows you to sink deeper into depression, and usually you end up taking other people with you.

But what does the Bible say about complaining?

Branches of the old apricot tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Branches of the old apricot tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 2:14-15.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

Ouch. Notice it doesn’t say live for Christ without complaining. It doesn’t say work without complaining. It doesn’t say serve without complaining. It says everything. Whatever you do, wherever you go, whatever you’re dealing with, do it without either complaining or arguing.

Double ouch.

Oh, and it gets worse. Wait til you read it in the Amplified Version:

Do all things without grumbling and fault-finding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world,

Did you catch that at the beginning? Two points:

  1. Do all things without grumbling and fault-finding and complaining against God.
  2. Do all things without questioning and doubting among yourselves.

Whoa. Let’s stop right there for a moment because I always thought this verse only referred to our relationship with other people and not our relationship with God.

I mean, who grumbles and finds fault and complains against God? I mean, God knows best, doesn’t He? When He gives us tasks to do, don’t we do them immediately? When He tells us how we’re supposed to live, don’t we obey? When He allows us to go through difficult times, we all realize it’s going to work out for the best, right?

Anyone else not there? Because that’s me.

I mean, in my head I know that God knows best and that He’s working everything out and that His way is best. I know it. But knowing it and living like I believe it are two separate things. And it’s the living like I believe it part that trips me up. Because if I really believe it, I would do what God asks without grumbling about it. I wouldn’t hesitate. I wouldn’t point out all the ways that God’s plan could go wrong.

And after I spend all my time poking holes in God’s plan, I’m too scared to move forward because I’ve convinced myself that I’m not the one God can use and that He wouldn’t really want me anyway. And guess where that leads?

Unhappiness. Discontentment. Because if God is calling you to do something, you won’t be happy until you do it.

But what we also have to realize is that nothing in this world is easy. And even if we agree to do what God has called us to do, it won’t be simple. Life won’t give us a break because we tell God yes. Actually, our enemy will come charging after us like a raging bull when we say yes to God. And we have to be prepared for that, otherwise our attitude will falter. And even if we’re doing what God has called us to do, we will fall back into our habit of complaining and griping and fault-finding with God and with each other. And before you know it, even if you’re living your dream, you’ll be unhappy again.

It’s normal to complain. It’s normal to blame God for your problems. It’s normal to argue with people. But as Christ-followers, we aren’t called to be normal. We are called to be different. We’re supposed to stand out. We’re supposed to be obvious, shining like stars against the black backdrop of the empty void of space.

You’d be surprised how easy it is to be different among people who don’t believe. And the easiest way is to not complain. The easiest way to point people to Christ is to not point fingers at each other. The easiest way to be happy is to stop complaining, stop focusing on what’s wrong and start looking at what’s right.

If you do that, you’ll bring light to the people around you. If you do that, you’ll be a breath of fresh air to your office, to your home, to your school, and even to your church.

So stop complaining. Stop blaming God. Stop arguing with other people. Focus on what you’re called to do and be thankful that God has a use for you, and while you wait for further instruction, praise God for who He is and what He’s done. I guarantee you won’t be able to complain when you’re thanking God for what you have. And a thankful person is a lot more pleasant to be around than one who complains all the time.