You can build on the truth

Life is nuts. Or is it just me? Maybe I only spend time with super busy people, but it feels like everyones’ lives are spinning out of control in the chaos that is our world. We have less time to produce, less time to rest, less time for family, less time for friends, less time for everything in our lives, yet somehow, in spite of working harder and longer than any other civilization in history, we get less done.

The American Dream? Right. It’s a Ferris wheel, spinning around and around and going nowhere. That’s how life feels most days. I don’t mean to be a downer, but can anyone else identify with this feeling?

Chaos. Futility. Constant exhaustion and the overwhelming certainty that you’ll amount to nothing but failure at the end of your life, regardless of how hard you work.

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

When I find myself sinking into that mindset, it’s time for a walk. I need to get away from my computer, get out of my own head, and go somewhere else, a place where I can recognize what’s really true and what really isn’t. For me, that’s outside on our patio with a kitten in my lap. For you, it may look different (although you should never discount how soothing the interaction with an animal can be).

Regardless, you have to stop moving. You have to stop thinking. You have to be still. Only when you’re still can you truly let your brain process, otherwise it’ll keep running in the background.

Once I’m still, then I can think. Then, I have to go back to basics.

What do I know for sure?

So much of what I worry about and stress over are unknowns. They’re the things I can’t control, the outcomes I can’t manipulate, the opinions I can’t change. No, none of that is my responsibility, but that doesn’t stop me from freaking out about it. And once I start thinking about all those things, I wind myself up into a ball of nerves and frustration, and before I know it, I’m snapping at people and just feeling generally angry. Then, whatever productivity I might have had goes out the window.

If you can’t identify things you are sure of, there might be something else going on. But I’m willing to bet that everyone knows the grass is green. Everyone knows the sky looks blue. Everyone knows gravity is constant, or at least constant enough to keep us from being flung off this spinning dirtball into the void.

Basics.

The sun will set tonight. It will rise tomorrow. And you can’t do anything to stop it either way. In one minute, sixty seconds will have passed. You need to drink water, or you’ll end up dehydrated. You need to eat, or you’ll starve. And everyone needs hugs, even people who don’t think they do.

What are the basics you know?

ps46-1-3I also know that God is in control. I know God is good. I know He has never promised to leave me. He’s promised to work all the crap in my life out for good, to bring glory to His name and to provide a beautiful future for me. I know He has my best interests in mind and that He’s the only one big enough to weave all the disjointed strings of my life into a masterpiece.

Maybe you don’t know all that. And that’s okay. But I do. There’s no promise that God has made to me that He hasn’t kept. He’s always there. He always keeps me on track. And everything I do, I want to do for Him, because He’s the only one who can make everything work out.

Those are my basics. Those are my certainties. That’s bedrock, where I start building again. Life and the world and people and circumstances can knock down everything I’ve built (and they have), but nothing can touch that foundation. Lord willing, nothing will.

There are several times in the Bible where God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” He says it so many times, and I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget. But if we can just remember to be still—to stop moving and thinking and running ahead—and remind ourselves who God is and what He’s promised, life won’t feel so chaotic anymore.

Because once you know one truth, you can build on it. Because rock is solid, storms won’t move it. Because storms won’t move it, you can build on it. Because you can build on it, you can restore what you lost.

Because God is God, we can trust Him. Think about what you can build on that truth.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Psalm 46:1-3

Life is nuts, but God is good. And even if it doesn’t feel like it, He’s got it all under control. So stop chasing your tail. Take a minute. Remember who He is, and if you don’t know who He is, learn. Then, ask Him for help. He won’t turn you away, and He won’t ignore you, not if you truly come to Him for help. He may not give you the answer you want, but if you really trust Him, you’ll do what He says.

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Following Jesus isn’t about emotional exhaustion

I’m a fairly emotional person, but I decided at a young age that I didn’t trust them. So I always try to make decisions based on what I know rather than what I feel, and that has served me pretty well over the years. There are some biblical precedents for living that way too. But what do you do with all your emotions? Because we all have them, even if we’d like to deny it.

God created us with emotions for a reason, and maybe we can’t always trust the way they make us feel, but they’re a part of our lives, for better or worse. The problem I run into is that I don’t take care of my emotions. I ignore them. I push them down and cover them up. And that might work for a limited amount of time, but eventually they’ll get out of hand. When my emotional batteries drain down to zero, that’s when I implode, and I usually take a few people down with me.

Managing emotions isn’t about ignoring what we feel. That’s just asking for trouble. Instead, it’s learning to recognize what is worth investing in emotionally, and it’s taking the proper time to rest after you’ve been through an emotionally draining experience.

6T45YAK7M1Today’s verses are Matthew 11:28-30.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

This passage has a couple of different meanings, all of which are probably relevant to the average 21st Century Christian’s life. Jesus is mostly talking about the weight of religion and religious rituals that cause stress and exhaustion. Following Jesus isn’t religion. It’s not jumping through hoops or putting on a show so that God will be pleased with your performance. Jesus just asks you to come as you are and follow Him, believe in Him, trust Him, and live like He did. And it’s not a matter of performing or getting a perfect score or wearing the right clothes or knowing all the answers. None of that stuff matters.

Trying to do everything right all the time is exhausting. Trying to keep up appearances all the time wears you out. It’s a never-ending dance that you will keep trying to do for the rest of your life, and you’ll never succeed. That’s not the life Jesus has called us to.

But the meaning of this passage goes beyond just freedom from religion. In the Amplified Version, where it says that “you’ll find rest for your souls” it actually means “renewal and blessed quiet.” Following Jesus means that your soul will be refreshed. You’ll find peace in following Jesus, far beyond what any perfect performance can bring.

Jesus knows that we’re emotional creatures. We were created that way, and it’s not wrong to feel. Yes, our emotions can get the better of us when we stop focusing on what God says is true, but as long as we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, we can manage our feelings with wisdom. But even then, you’re going to wear yourself out. The emotional stress of the day is going to take it’s toll, whether it’s a good day or a bad day, and if you don’t take the time to recharge your batteries, you’re going to be running on empty when the sun rises tomorrow.

It’s okay to feel. It’s not wrong. Just be sure that what you’re feeling aligns with God’s Word, and if it doesn’t, take steps to make it right. If what you’re feeling doesn’t match up with what God says is right, shut it out. Don’t think about it. Don’t focus on it. Do what you can to change the way you think, and you will change the way you feel.

Following Jesus isn’t about emotional exhaustion. Jesus never asks us to work ourselves to death. That’s the farthest thing from what He wants. Yes, there are hard choices to make. Yes, following Jesus sometimes means you’ll go through dark times. But you can go through darkness and challenging circumstances and still be emotionally healthy.

So are you feeling rundown today? Run to Jesus. Go tell Him what you’re feeling and let Him take that heavy burden off your shoulders. He’ll replace it with one that’s a lot lighter, and He’ll show you how to find rest and peace in Him.

Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

Remember who your enemy is

This is war. I get caught up in everyday life pretty easily, and I forget that while we are living life daily, we are also waging war daily too. Our lives are a war, and every day is a battle where you either win and take ground or lose and give up ground.

But this is a strange war in that we aren’t fighting people we can see. We aren’t fight anyone around us. We aren’t fighting the people who we think we’re fighting. When it comes to this war, we’re fighting the unseen.

Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

Glen Eyrie Castle – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

We have an enemy out there. If you are a Christ follower, you have an enemy who wants nothing more than to see you suffer. Satan won’t stop until he can bring all of us down, wreck our lives, destroy our testimony, and drag us through the dirt until we have convinced ourselves that God doesn’t love us anymore.

He can’t keep us out of heaven. If you believe in Christ, that’s where you’re going no matter how you live. But Satan will do all he can to keep you from reaching other people with the truth.

For the next two weeks, my church will be putting on an outreach drama that God uses to rock our city every year. He’s been rocking our city with it for twelve years so far, and I’m confident that year 13 won’t be any different. Why? Because we have no idea what we’re doing.

Satan throws everything he’s got in our path during this time of year. It’s crazy. Ridiculous even. To the point of being hilarious. Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, he throw something else awful at you. And there’s no other explanation for it — for why it had to happen just at this very moment — other than the fact that he’s trying to distract us.

Why? Because there’s something about the truth of Scripture that people can’t ignore. And there’s something about presenting the Gospel clearly that they can’t argue with. And when 500 people praying specifically for one thing — that God would work in hearts — God honors it. And Satan doesn’t want that. So he tries everything he can to get us to trip up. To fight with each other.

It’s an old tactic. Make your opponents lose focus. Force them to fight with each other rather than focusing on the real battle. Satan has been doing this for years. And the irony is that we don’t have to let him win. We don’t have to fight with each other. We just need to remember who our enemy is and why we’re doing what we’re doing. We need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the goal, and we need to remember that this is a war.

We aren’t fighting this war with our fists or heavy weaponry. We’re fighting with prayer. With faith. With the truth in Scripture. With love that only the Holy Spirit can give us to share with other people.

So whether you’re participating in this gigantic outreach at NewSpring Church in Wichita, KS, or whether you’re going to work or school or a family gathering, don’t forget that you’re fighting a battle today. So in the thick of the fight, keep your eyes on the real enemy and remember that he’s only fighting so viciously because he’s already lost. And as long as we remember what side we’re on, he won’t take anybody else down with him.

The manger as an offensive weapon?

Christmas time is coming. It’s going to get here much sooner than we think, and in some ways I’m glad. It’s been a crazy year, and I’m looking forward to a break.

Christmas is such an interesting season because it’s the time in America when the whole country has an identity crisis. Everybody celebrates just about (except for some “Christians,” strangely enough) but nobody seems to remember what they are celebrating for. Most of the traditions are intact — the gift giving, the tree decorating, the house lights, the generosity, the songs — but nobody really thinks about why.

Probably because the why is offensive.

That all being said, I’m not one of those militant Merry-Christmasers who scorns people who choose to say “Happy Holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!” I do tend to shy away from Season’s Greetings because no holiday is about the solstice, but that’s my personal take on it. (I find it ironic that “Happy Holidays” is acceptable even though the etymology of the word holiday stems from the phrase “holy day” and was used to identify days devoted to God.)

People get offended about everything nowadays. So I don’t really understand why we all have to scramble to avoid it. People who are going to take offense to something and make a big stink about it will do it whether others try not to offend them or not. Some people thrive on being offended.  

And during this really strange time of year, it’s very interesting to me that the main source of offense in our culture is a little baby in a manger. Granted, here in the Wichita area, we don’t see as much trouble with it. Many folks display a nativity scene out of tradition without knowing what it means. And many folks don’t have a problem with it. Wichita is a very “tolerant” city for the most part. And everyone is fine with everyone else believing what they want to believe — until they start forcing their “truth” on everyone else.

Christmas Carols haven’t been outlawed yet, so that’s something. I get the sense that it’s coming, though. How much longer will the general public allow us to sing about worshipping Christ in their faces?

Honestly, though, the manger isn’t that scary anymore. Mainly because Christians themselves don’t really take it seriously. The only threat from a manger is if someone throws it at your head.

And while I don’t believe that Christians should be militant about these things, I do think we need to have some backbone. And I’m as guilty about this as anyone because I tend to be a people pleaser. But let’s get real, folks. Christmas is about Christ. We wouldn’t have Christmas without Christ. Without Christ, there would be the winter solstice and that’s it. And the only thing to celebrate there is that the days start getting longer again on the long trek to the vernal equinox.

And if people take offense to the little baby in the manger, how will they react to Jesus the God-Man? Because He isn’t a baby in a manger anymore. Many of us Christians want to keep Him there because as offensive as He was as an infant, as a Man who was also God, His offensiveness increased exponentially.

The baby in the manger has been reduced to a Precious Moments figurine set. But that baby in the manger grew up to communicate today’s verse in John 14:16.

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Jesus — the only way to heaven, the only truth, the only life.

That is truly offensive to people who think they’re good enough already. Or to people who trust in men or men’s religions to get to heaven. Jesus rips the rug out from underneath them.

And while I don’t believe in militantly shoving this down people’s throats, this is the truth. Because the Bible — and history, if you really study it — will demonstrate that Jesus is who He said. Because no one else in history has made the claims that He made, which makes Him a lunatic or a liar otherwise. He was neither of those, so the only explanation is that He’s Lord.

But you can’t make people believe that. I can tell you all day long that my brother is the smartest person you’ve ever met, but until you meet him in person, you won’t really believe me. It’s the same with Christ. And if we really want people to know Jesus, Christians, we have to present Him as someone they want to know. But I’m not convinced that most people who say they believe in Christ really know him. Many Christians keep Him in the manger because as a baby, He’s not a threat.

As the God-Man, Jesus threatens people who say they believe in Him. He forces us outside what we are comfortable believing. He forces us beyond what we can wrap our heads around. He forces us to look Him in the face and really consider how we are living our lives because most of us are so caught up in the world, we don’t know what really matters. But in the end, even though we are forced to face the truth, it’s still our choice to believe it and it’s still our choice to live it.

So this Christmas season, what are you going to do with Jesus? Are you going to leave Him in the manger? Or are you going to accept the truth of what He says and Who He is?