The beautiful grounds at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Being held to a higher standard

Have you ever been in a situation where you were held to a higher standard than someone else? Take a public official or a government leader for example. If someone in a position like that lies or breaks a rule, it’s a big deal (or at least it used to be).

People lie and break rules all the time, but as a public figure, especially as an elected official, you are judged much more harshly than a “normal person.”

Did you realize that concept holds true in the Bible too? The Bible says that there is a certain group of people who will be held accountable for what they say, more so than any other group. Know who they are?

The beautiful grounds at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

The beautiful grounds at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are James 3:1-2.

Dear brothers and sisters,not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

That’s right. Teachers.

Think about it. Who do you go to for help? A teacher can be anyone. A pastor. A Bible study leader. A Sunday School teacher. Anyone who takes it upon themselves to teach other people about God and the Bible. And those people who have chosen that path will be held accountable for what they teach–whether it’s true or not. Because those people have taken the responsibility on themselves to teach others.

Check out verse 1 in the Amplified Version:

Not many [of you] should become teachers (self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation].

Did you catch that? Teachers “assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation.”


Granted, if you are a Christ follower, you can never be condemned. But in this instance, I think James is making a point. If you are a teacher–if you have taken it upon yourself to be someone who leads others–you are putting yourself in a place of responsibility that will be judged very harshly by God.

So here’s the deal. If you’re a teacher, if you’re someone who is in a position of leadership, you have a responsibility to share God’s truth with people. Not your opinions. Not your preferences. Now, you can and should make your opinions and preferences known. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the moment your opinions and preferences go from being yours to being God’s, you have a problem.

This concerns me. A lot. Because the longer I live, the more I seem to end up in positions of leadership. And I keep ending up in situations where I am being given more and more responsibility. And the last thing I want to do is to teach something as God’s truth when it’s really just my own personal sentiment.

Kind of like I posted yesterday, as someone who was raised in a godly home, I have a responsibility to share God’s word with others. But as a teacher, I have a responsibility to make sure what I’m sharing actually lines up with God’s Word.

Otherwise I’m just blowing smoke. I’m misleading people. I’m defeating my own purpose, simply because I can’t get myself out of the way.

So how do I do that? How do I make sure what I’m teaching is actually helping people instead of confusing them or leading them away from God? Well, first off, you need to know what you’re teaching. You need to know the Bible if you’re going to teach it. That means you have to read it. And if you’re going to teach it effectively, what I’ve discovered is that you have to go beyond reading it. You have to love it.

I’m leaving on vacation tonight, and one of the main things I plan to do while I’m gone is to sit in a quiet place and have a conversation with God about this very topic. I want to make sure God and I are on the same page. It’s just been so long since I’ve had time to sit and talk to God, and I miss it. We have a lot to talk about, and I’m looking forward to it.

I can’t guarantee that there will be a blog post tomorrow. Or Monday either.  Sometimes getting alone with God means putting everything else to the side.

Teachers have a responsibility to lead others. And because they will be held accountable for what they teach, it’s important they know what they’re teaching.

Aspen leaves at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Even God’s family has responsibilities

Have you ever thought about your responsibilities as a Christ follower? Because we do have responsibilities. I don’t know if anybody really talks about it, but those responsibilities do exist.

I think it’s really easy to forget that God has a plan for each of our lives, especially because people don’t really talk about what He expects from us very often. And some of that may be fear of confusing salvation by works with salvation by grace through faith, but just because we’re afraid of confusing people with a topic isn’t reason enough to avoid talking about it.

In every family, each member has a responsibility. Sort of like in a body, where every part has something it’s designed to do.  When I was little and my family would go camping, each one of us had an assigned job at the campsite, and it was our responsibility to do our part, otherwise things just didn’t get done. So when we choose to join the family of God, why do we think it’s any different?

Aspen leaves at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Aspen leaves at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Luke 12:48.

When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

This is a verse I grew up with, but in thinking about it this morning, it took on new meaning to me. Every American Christian has been given much, whether you are the wealthiest person in the United States or the poorest. Americans have freedom and opportunity, and if we’re willing to work hard, we can better ourselves. That’s not the case in other countries.

So regardless of how you grew up or when you came to know Christ, as a Christian in America, you have a responsibility to use your resources to help others come to know God through Jesus too. You have a responsibility to love people.

But I want to narrow in on a certain group of Christians out there, one that I have a particular burden for. Because I’m one of them. We’re the Christians who started going to church in a baby carrier. We’re the Christians who grew up with the Bible in our homes and, in some cases, in our schools. We’re the ones who’ve known Jesus since we were children.

So what? What difference does that make? What difference does it make if you’ve known Christ since you were 7 versus 47?

If you’ve been given a lot, a lot will be required of you. But if you’ve been entrusted with a lot, even more will be required. The Amplified Version says: “required and demanded of you.”

If you’re a Christian who was raised in a godly home, who had access to a Bible from the earliest days of your youth, who had parents who taught you to respect God and love Him, who had a church that encouraged you to grow in maturity, you haven’t just been given much. You’ve been entrusted with much. And there’s a big difference.

Do you think it was an accident you were born in a Christian home with a Christian family? No. That was part of God’s plan (just like it was part of God’s plan if you weren’t born in a Christian home with a Christian family). There are no accidents. There are no coincidences.

So what are you going to do with that? I’ve known too many Christians who were raised in families that loved God–not perfect families but what family is perfect?–who decided the God-thing wasn’t for them. Too many people who came to know Christ at a young age are just sitting back and doing nothing with the opportunities God has given them.

That’s why long-time Christians find new believers so refreshing. Their faith is so new, so exciting, so alive. Well, guess what, Long-Time Christian? Your faith can be new, exciting, and alive too. You just have to work at it. You just have to keep testing it, keep pushing it, keep expecting God to do amazing things. And He will.

But you can’t sit back and just wait for it to happen. You have to get up. You have to get moving. You have a responsibility to use the knowledge and experience and the life that God has given you to help others.

Imagine what our churches would look like if the experienced Christians actually stood up and did something instead of expecting to be served. What I’m seeing is that the new Christians are the ones jumping up to participate in ministry, and that’s spectacular! That’s the best way to keep growing in faith. But what about the folks who have grown up with their faith? What about the people who’ve known Christ for 20, 30, 40, 50 years? Where are they? What are they doing for Christ today?

I don’t want to pick on anyone. I just want to ask the questions. And I want to hold myself to the same standard. If I’m not doing anything for Christ today, then I’m wasting the life He gave me. I’m wasting the knowledge of the Bible that He gave me. I’m wasting the relationship He gave me. And I’m missing out on a HUGE opportunity to witness the impossible.

Maybe you grew up in a Christian home and you think this God-thing isn’t for you. Can I respectfully urge you to reconsider? You don’t have to have your parents’ faith for God to be real in your life. Actually, you can’t have your parents’ faith. You have to have your own.

No, you can’t lose your salvation. No, God will never reject you. But I can pretty much guarantee you that He won’t be happy with you if you treat His gifts like they aren’t important.

If you grew up in a Christian home, if you’ve known Christ since you were a child, and you aren’t actively involved in serving others today, you’re in trouble. Because you’re part of a family. You’re part of God’s family. And you have a responsibility to that family. You’ve been entrusted with the greatest responsibility there is–loving people, helping people meet Christ–and if you throw it away or ignore it because it makes you uncomfortable or because it’s too much work, God is going to have something to say about that.

The old schoolhouse in the blowing snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Chasing the wind is hard work

I’ve always been told I’m a responsible person. Even from a very young age, adults always told me I was responsible, and that’s great. I guess I am. But sometimes being responsible is a pain in the neck. Why? Maybe you’ve never experienced this, but being responsible means you get things done. Being responsible means you perform above and beyond expectations. Being responsible means you never let people down. Being responsible means you run yourself into the ground trying to do too many things at once, and before you know it, you’ve said yes to so many people that you’ve become irresponsible on account of having too many responsibilities. How messed up is that?

Being responsible is a good thing. But having too many responsibilities (coupled with a natural control freak propensities) is a recipe for nervous breakdown.

The old schoolhouse in the blowing snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The old schoolhouse in the blowing snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ecclesiastes 4:6.

“Better to have one handful with quietness
    than two handfuls with hard work
    and chasing the wind.”

Before I go too deep into this, I just want to mention that Ecclesiastes is a really strange book. It’s a wonderful book, full of great wisdom and really painful truths, but you have to be careful not to pull verses out of context. Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s ruminations about the meaning of life, and sometimes I think he gets a little sarcastic in there. Ecclesiastes is a book you kind of have to take as a whole, not just a piece at a time. But this verse stood out to me because I’ve come to appreciate how true it is.

I like being busy, but more than that, I like being useful. I crave usefulness. And in my desperate need to be useful, I often take on too much. And at the end of the day, all of those responsibilities and things that I say yes to don’t really add up to much. I’ve spent a lot of time working on projects and doing things that haven’t mattered, that haven’t made a difference, that haven’t left one bit of legacy.

Chasing the wind is hard work. If you’ve never tried, you might not know, but it is. It’s exhausting because you can never really keep up, and you never know where it’s going to blow next. Oh, you may have some success. You may get promoted. You may get more responsibility and more respect and more fame. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that. But aren’t there some times when you long for quiet? You can have both hands full of busyness, chasing your tail, chasing your dream, chasing the wind, pulled in so many directions you don’t know which way is up anymore. And is that enough? Does that satisfy you?

I’m not saying we’re supposed to settle. I’m a dreamer, remember? And I dream big. And I’m going to keep dreaming.

But before you act on your dreams, you’d better make sure those dreams are coming from something bigger than you. You can chase your dreams all day long with both hands full of responsibility, and you’ll never catch them. Even if you catch up, you won’t have a hand free to grab them with.

Be true to your word. Be responsible. But be responsible enough to know when you’ve had enough. And don’t let your control freak perfectionist mentality take over your common sense either. If you’ve got work in front of you that needs to be done, do it. God will honor it.

If you’re going to chase the wind, chase it with one hand free. Don’t grab hold of so many things that they slow you down. If you can chase your dreams with one hand open, maybe you can actually catch them.

Dirty dishes in the kitchen of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Being honest with God

Some days I get tired of responsibility. I’ve always been a responsible, mature person. Even when I was a child, somehow I still ended up as the adult in the room. The grownups always looked to me to keep things in order, to keep the other kids in line, to be the one who took care of things. As an adult, it’s the same way. Responsibility just tends to gravitate toward me, and most of the time I’m fine with it. But I have some days when I just want to shirk all of it.

I think maybe that’s why I hate doing dishes. It’s my own way of rebelling against being a mature, responsible adult. I just leave the dishes rotting in the sink and go watch a movie.

Responsibility is exhausting. But if you look at my responsibilities versus the responsibilities of people in history, I really don’t have that much. I mean, it’s not like I’m leading a country or a nation. When I think about responsibility, the first person who comes to mind is Moses. Now that was stress.

Dirty dishes in the kitchen of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dirty dishes in the kitchen of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Deuteronomy 34:10-12.

There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. The Lord sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land. With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.

Moses was responsible for leading the nation of Israel out of captivity. How many million people? I can’t remember. But it was a lot. And they were difficult. But if you read Moses’ story, you’ll see how God helped him.

What I find ironic about Moses is that he didn’t consider himself leadership material. He looked at himself and his abilities and told God there was no way he could be of use, but God saw something else in him. And through God Moses became one of the most successful leaders in history. Even the secular world will admit to that. It’s not every day that one man can lead a nation across a desert for 40 years. That takes a special leader–and a special God.

I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for Moses to have to undertake that level of responsibility. I’m sure it exceeded anything he ever thought he’d have to deal with, and maybe he thought it would be done in his lifetime. But it wasn’t. Even so, he never gave up. Granted, he wasn’t perfect; nobody is. But even to this day, if you want to know about leadership, Moses is a good person to study.

But what do you do when you’re so weighed down with responsibility that you can’t focus? How did Moses handle those days when he was exhausted by the weight of the responsibilities he had to carry? I haven’t studied this like I should, but I do know that Moses got frustrated frequently. And I don’t blame him for that. The people of Israel were frustrating people. But I’m not sure they’re more frustrating than people we work with or live with or deal with on a daily basis. People are people, no matter where you are or when you are.

What I love about Moses is that he was never fake with God. He struggled. He sinned. He fell on his face, and God helped him back up again. Moses told God exactly what he thought, and God listened. God never gave up on him, never stopped helping him, never turned His back. And that’s what I struggle with the most–being real about my failings. I’m a perfectionist. I want to do everything exactly right, and I don’t like it when people know I make mistakes. And there’s something in me that says if I don’t tell anyone about how frustrated I am, those frustrations will just go away.

The irony? God knows it all. He knows already. If you’re frustrated with the responsibility you have, He knows it. Don’t try to hide it from Him. Hiding it will make it worse. Just tell Him how you feel. There’s something awesome in the freedom to vent to God, knowing that He knows your heart better than anyone else.

Want to know how to endure responsibility? Don’t hide it. Don’t hide the frustrations you feel, not from God. Maybe you don’t need to share your frustrations with the people you’re responsible for; they probably won’t understand. But you don’t have to hide from God. It’s actually a bad idea to hide from God. It’s actually stupid. So don’t even try it.

Be honest with Him. Be honest about what you think you can’t do, and you will be shocked what happens. Because when you start being honest with Him, you’ll feel peace. It’s happened to me before, where I’m ranting and raving to God about the things He’s gotten me into and all of a sudden, I just feel better about everything and He gives me the answer I need to deal with whatever situation I’m facing.

Responsibility is exhausting, but God is greater than any responsibility that’s on your plate. He’s waiting to help you face it. You just have to ask Him for help, and you have to be willing to listen to what He’s trying to tell you and do it. But whatever you do, keep up the conversation. Moses knew God face-to-face, and while none of us have that, we do have God’s Spirit in us.

Be honest. Be grateful. And He’ll help.

Lounging giant tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Some people juggle geese

Do you ever get so tired of running that you just want to give up? I do. I’ve heard it said that life is a race, like a marathon, and we’re running toward the finish. But I don’t think that’s accurate. I think life is a series of races. We’re not necessarily competing against others, though in some cases we are, but most of the time we’re just trying to reach the finish line. And when we finish one, we end up starting another. Or some of us are running multiple races at once.

Maybe a better example is a juggler. Everyone juggles. Some people juggle two balls. Some people juggle six. We juggle our career, our family, our hobbies, our dreams, our responsibilities, and our unpleasant tasks (According to Wash on Firefly, “Some people juggle geese.”), and the entire purpose in juggling is to be able to accomplish more at one time. Like running two races at the same time. If you can do more, you should. But the more you try to do, the more difficult it becomes. You have to run longer and harder; you have to have more balance or coordination.

And if that’s the path you chosen (or if that’s the path that’s chosen you), who says you can’t just stop? Why can’t you just quit juggling? Why can’t you just stop running? You can, can’t you?

Lounging giant tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Lounging giant tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Hebrews 10:36.

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

Why do we run a race in the first place? And this can be metaphorical, because I don’t run. I’m not built for it. Even in an emergency, the best I can muster is a brisk jog. But why do we set out to accomplish something great in any situation?

Well, I believe we want to challenge ourselves; we want to grow, build our skills, increase our experience. Or we want to help other people. Usually there’s a goal when you set out to run a race or when you decide to take on another item to juggle. Running the race of life itself or just juggling life itself (your own life; not someone else’s) is difficult enough.

But then you get married. Then you have kids. Then your parents need help. Then your friends need help. Then your job gets stressful. Then your dreams start requiring more of you than they did before if you ever want to see them become a reality. Then ministry gets tough. Just name a complication, and I guarantee you will face it at some point in your life. It will be another race you need to run. It will be another ball you need juggle. That’s just the way it is.

It’s never easy. And I’m not a “good enough” Christian to say that I’ve never wanted to stop. Sometimes there are so many things going in my life, sometimes I have so many balls in the air or so many races to keep track of that I don’t even remember why I’m doing it. And if you’re at that point, maybe it’s time to step back and reassess, because if you’ve forgotten your purpose, it’s a good chance you’ll say yes to anything. And we aren’t called to juggle ten balls for no reason.

But if you’ve got six balls (or waterfowl) and you know why you’re juggling and who you’re juggling for, is it okay to drop them? If you’ve got six races you’re running at the same time, is it okay to stop running? You know I’m speaking in metaphor here. If you have so many things going on in your life that you’re doing for God, is it okay to stop doing them?

Well, of course, it’s okay. God isn’t waiting around the corner with a sledgehammer eagerly anticipating the moment when you let down so He can smash you. That’s not the God I know.

It’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to be exhausted. It’s okay to be worn out. But before you give up and walk away from all of it, take a moment to rest and remember why.

Why are doing the things you’re doing? Why are you juggling the responsibilities that are on your plate? Who gave them to you? Did you accept them out of guilt? Or did you genuinely feel God calling you to take them up in the first place? There’s a big difference there.

If you accepted something to juggle or a race to run because you felt guilty about not doing it, most likely, that was your own pride speaking. Because God doesn’t work through guilt. Yes, guilt is an important aspect of coming to know Christ. You have to recognize it and understand that you are guilty, but once you come to Christ and ask Him to cleanse you, you aren’t guilty anymore. And God isn’t going to use guilt to pressure you into something you’re not ready for.

Remember also that you won’t juggle forever. You won’t run forever. Races have an end. And, yes, there may be another race waiting as soon as you finish one, but if you’re at the end of a race, why stop just short of finishing? Finish strong. It’s difficult, but it’s worth it.

What the writer of Hebrews is saying here is that God can be trusted to keep His promises. And there are many promises God has made that we will experience just by believing in Him, but there are a lot of other promises out there–promises that require us to run our races the best we can and not give up.

If you’re tired today, that’s okay. Everybody gets tired, and it’s okay to take a rest. It’s good to re-examine your purpose. But whatever you do, don’t give up. God has great plans for you, and He’s made you awesome promises. And if you walk away from the finish line when it’s in sight, you might be forfeiting more than just the race.