A new phone and God’s faithfulness

I had to buy a new phone recently because my old Nexus 5x shuffled off this mortal coil in quite a spectacular fashion (I wrote a review about it if you’re interested). And that left me with a conundrum. In a world of unlocked phones, how do I pick which one to purchase next?

I’m not made of money, so Apple products were out of the question. And reviews on some of the more reliable Android brands all pretty much said the same thing. In spite of utterly despising their brand campaigns, I ended up with a Moto G5 Plus.

How did I come to a decision?

Well, frankly, it had more to do with who was actually selling the phone than its actual brand. I got a special deal through Amazon. And now that I’ve had the phone for about a week, I’m actually enjoying it quite a bit (although the first thing I did was to turn off the sound for the activation screen because if I were going to have to hear “Hello, Moto” every time it restarted, I was going to throw it against a wall).

As a company and an organization, I trust Amazon. They’re reliable, and they provide options for returning items that are damaged or not what you expected. So while I initially looked at the phone because of its price, I decided to purchase because of who was selling it.

This post isn’t about a phone

Psalm 138:2-3 AlwaysPeachyI promise. This topic is just fresh on my mind, and when I was reading my Psalms the other day, this one particular verse stood out to me:

“Your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.”
Psalm 138:2

I bought my phone from Amazon because I trusted their quality of service, timely delivery, and customer benefits. That’s the brand that Amazon has built their name around. So have you ever thought about God’s brand?

God has a brand, and He spent several thousand years writing a guidebook about it, using 40+ authors. On top of that, we’ve got like 8,000 years of testimonials that speak to who He is. So when God says He’s going to do something, we can trust it because all of His promises are backed by His brand.

God’s brand is faithfulness

Instagram New PhoneGod has never failed His people once. He’s never broken a promise, and He’s always come through right on time, exactly when He’s needed. It may feel like everything is out of control in our lives, but God has all the pieces and knows exactly how they fit together.

Even when life is on its head and everything is going wrong and we’re surrounded by people and circumstances that seem bent on destroying our hope, God is who He is. (Psalm 138:7)

So don’t give up.

When life feels like it’s crashing down around your ears, stay the course. Hang on to God’s promises with all your strength, because His promises are good, just like He is. You can trust them, because you can trust Him.

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Looking for the light when all you see is darkness

Everyone knows that one person who always sees the bright side. They’re sickening, aren’t they? The ones who pipe up in the dark moments with the obscure silver lining that’s absolutely true and positively irritating? I know, because I’m one of those people. Practically Pollyannish, people have called me. Unfailingly cheerful to the point of living in denial.

It’s true that those overly positive people can make you want to claw your eyeballs out or plug your ears (or at least stuff a sock in their mouths), but the reason they’re so irritating is that we know they’re right. Especially if you’re a Christ-follower, you know there’s always a bright side. Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad. That doesn’t mean we should grieve. But it does mean that grief and sorrow shouldn’t ever get the better of us, because God is stronger.

We don’t have to live in darkness, because if you follow Jesus, you can always look for the light.

Today’s verses are Micah 7:7-8.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me.
Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.

What is light anyway? It’s all well and good to talk about light and darkness in symbolic terms. It’s very poetic, but I’m practical. What does it even mean?

All throughout the Bible, God calls Himself the Light. Jesus calls Himself the Light. The Word is called the Light. What do all those things have in common? Well, one major thing is that They’re all 100% true. God can’t lie. Neither does Jesus, neither does the Bible. God’s truth is light that shines in the darkest moments of our lives.

Even when we’re surrounded by the darkness of fear and uncertainty or loneliness or sorrow or pain, what we need to remember is that all those things will lie to us. Fear and uncertainty tell us we’ll never be good enough. Loneliness and sorrow and pain tell us that this life is all there is. And that’s not true.

In those moments when the darkness threatens to overwhelm you with its lies, remember the truth. Let God’s light in. Stop hunkering in the shadows, letting our enemy whisper his devious lies to you to break you, to stop you, to scare you. That’s what he’s doing. Don’t let him.

Instead, get up and look for the light. Look at your situation and try to see God in it. If you’re a Christ-follower, He’s there somewhere. He may not be obvious, but He’s present. He probably won’t be where you expect Him to be, but He’s there. But you don’t have to acknowledge Him for Him to work. He’ll do His part without your knowledge, but if you can see Him, it makes life a lot easier.

On one hand, it’s irritating to be around people who always see God working. They just have this effusive cheerfulness that nothing seems to touch. And in some cases, that’s bad, because humans need to feel. We all experience sorrow and sadness, but if we don’t allow ourselves to feel it–to admit to feeling it–and to learn to manage it, we’ll run ourselves into the ground.

Even negative emotions have a purpose, and you should never ignore them. Just don’t try to face them without God’s help. You won’t get through life without falling. Everyone falls, but you don’t have to stay there. Get up. Look for God’s light. And don’t stop until you find it.

So don’t let the darkness slow you down. Don’t let the lies break your spirit. God has plans for you, friend. He’s seen them, and they’re good.

 

Fresh-picked peaches in a basket

Fix your thoughts on what’s going right

I don’t mean to eavesdrop. I really don’t. Sometimes people’s conversations just pop out at me. And I generally try not to pay attention because you can’t generalize. You can’t (well, you shouldn’t) judge a situation based on a small exchange you overhear between two people.

But some conversations strike you as so strange you can’t ignore them. That’s what I heard yesterday morning.

“What was the worst part of your week?”

That question wouldn’t normally stop me. It’s not that unusual of a question. But when it’s coming from a motherly figure to her little girl, I had to take a moment to process.

Why would a mother ask her child that as they’re walking out of church? First off, I might be wrong. It might be an aunt. It might even be a grandmother for all I saw of the woman’s face. But either way, coming out of Kidzworld at NewSpring Church, why would you steer the conversation that direction?

If you aren’t from Kansas, you probably don’t know about Kidzworld. So let me be the one to tell you it’s a children’s ministry that makes you want to be a child again. Let’s be honest, grown ups, there aren’t many things that can do that. Kidzworld makes me wish I was a kid again. Children come out of this crazy ministry with life lessons and examples of how to use them in their schools and in their homes, and if you ask them, they’ll tell you exactly what they learned. It’s ridiculous!

And, honestly, that’s what I thought this mom was asking. And that’s why I stopped to listen because there’s nothing more exhilarating to be able to hear a  little kid explain a biblical principle in his or her own words.

What was the best thing you learned today? Or what was the lesson about today? Or what did you learn in Kidzworld today?

But no. That wasn’t the question.

“What was the worst part of your week?”

Again, I’m trying not to be judgmental. I could be jumping to a wrong conclusion. There could be a perfectly rational and logical and reasonable explanation.

What I think upsets me more than anything is the question of whether or not that’s my reaction to life. When I talk to someone, older or younger or peer, is my first thought to ask them what made their week rotten? Am I quick to jump to the negative? Do I direct the conversation to what’s wrong in life instead of what’s going right?

Fresh-picked peaches in a basket

Fresh-picked peaches in a basket

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:8.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

How often do you fix your thoughts on what God is doing in the world? And when I say fix your thoughts, I mean focus on it. I mean take a moment to sit back and think about all the amazing, miraculous, incredible things God is doing around the world and in your own life.

When was the last time you did that? I wish I could tell you I did it more often, but I don’t. I get too busy with life. I get so crazy running around trying to get so many things accomplished on time that I don’t take the time I need to reflect on what God is doing. And as a result, I stop seeing what He’s doing in my life and instead start seeing all the things He’s not doing that I wanted.

People have called Philippians 4:8 a filter for your mind. It’s the verse you’re supposed to use when you’re thinking about anything. Run your thoughts and your conversations through the filter of Philippians 4:8 and see if they hold up.

I’m not saying that we should live in denial. We can’t ignore the fact that the world is broken. We can’t ignore the fact that our lives aren’t what they should be or that we make mistakes. That’s true. All of those things are true.

But there are other true things.

God loves you enough to sacrifice for you. God wants a relationship with you. God cares about what happens in your life. He cares about the choices you make.

All of those things are true too. So why don’t we focus on those things instead of how broken the world is? Why don’t see how much God loves us instead of how flawed other people are? Why don’t we start a conversation by asking what’s the best thing God did for you this week… instead of what’s the worst part of it?

It’s more than a filter. Philippians 4:8 is a lifestyle, and it’s not as simple as seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty. It’s not about optimists and pessimists.

It’s about making the choice to fix your thoughts on the parts of your life that make God happy and leading others–your friends, your coworkers, your children–to do the same. It won’t make the broken parts go away, but you’ll realize that the broken pieces aren’t as much of an obstacle in your path as you think because all you’ll see is how big God is in comparison.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Would you die for a paperweight?

Know how libraries have banned book months? Where some books just have content that’s too extreme to be allowed?  I worked in a library all through high school and college, and the banned books events always fascinated me–mostly because I thought it was ironic that libraries seem to boast about how many banned books they keep in their catalog.

Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of it being banned? Always made me smile.

Have you ever read a banned book? There are lists all over the place, some comprehensive and others not so much.

Well, the Bible is the ultimate banned book. People have died for this book, and that can’t be said of Huckleberry Finn or The Color Purple. Both great stories, but nobody died because they owned a copy.

So why are people afraid of the Bible? What is it about the Bible that scares people so much?

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Ephesians 5:8-14.

For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible.

The Bible calls itself the Word of God over and over again. All throughout Scripture, the Bible is called light because it is Truth. And the problem with Truth (and Light) is that it reveals what’s hidden in darkness, and revealing what’s done in the dark makes people uncomfortable. It demonstrates that we’re not as good as we think we are, that we need a Savior, that we are not the final decision maker in our own lives, that our lives (in fact) don’t belong to us anyway.

Christ-followers don’t talk about the Bible as much as we should. Maybe that’s because it intimidates us. Maybe that’s because we don’t think it’s relevant. Maybe we’ve never tried. But the fact is, Christ followers know what we know about God from the Bible.

So why don’t more Christians know what’s in the Bible? Honestly, I meet more Christians who know more about reality TV than they do about Scripture. And, believe me, I like entertainment, but the life lessons (worth keeping)that  you can pick up on TV didn’t begin on TV. They started in Scripture.

The Bible can be intimidating, that’s for sure, especially if you’ve never tried to read it. But there’s something about the Bible that might make it more interesting, if you think about it.

Whether you believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God or not, you have to recognize how many people have given up their lives or their freedom simply by owning a copy and refusing to give it up.

Regardless of what is written in it, first take into account how it has changed the course of human history, how it has changed the lives of people who read it, and how it seems to terrify governments everywhere. Have you ever thought of that?

Without even mentioning that there exists more evidence to the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible than any other historical manuscript in the world, how it changes people should get you interested in what it’s about. Irrelevant books don’t change people.

(And, yes, the change in people’s lives comes from the power of the Holy Spirit, but you know what I mean.)

If you’re looking for an undeniable source of truth to base your life on, realize how many others have chosen the Bible. Again, I’m not saying you should believe the Bible is truth just because so many others have. But I’m saying you ought to take it seriously. And, if nothing else, it ought to make you realize that reading the Bible isn’t as impossible as people seem to think it is.

Uncounted Christ-followers in the age of the Early Church were murdered for their faith. That hasn’t changed either. More people are killed for their faith today than in ancient times.

I’m not talking about dying for their faith. I’m talking about being murdered for their faith. There’s a big difference there.

People don’t die for coffee table paperweights. These are real people, with real lives, real choices–and they are willing to give up their lives (often in brutal or sadistic ways) rather than give up their faith.

So whether you’re ready to accept what the Bible is or not, at least recognize that it’s more than fairytale. Be willing to really consider it. Be open to researching what it really is and where it came from, who believed it and who died for it, and I think you might surprised.

Blooming poppy at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it

The truth can be hard to take sometimes. It’s hard to tell the truth too, but if you don’t, you can get into a world of hurt. Honesty really is the best policy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to say or hear.

We get used to thinking that we’re right about everything. Our choices. Our lifestyle. Our beliefs. But we aren’t right because we think we are. We’re right because we agree with God and what the Bible says, and it’s frighteningly easy to get off that path. That’s when we need someone to come alongside us and help us find the right way again.

But depending on how that person “helps” us, we may get straightened out or we may twist off even further.

Blooming poppy at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Blooming poppy at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:15.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

Have you ever been in a situation where you know the person you’re talking to is messing up their life but you’re too scared to say anything about it? I’ve been there many many times, and only a handful of times have I had the courage to speak up about it. It’s not easy.

But whenever you end up in those situations, you should never hesitate to speak the truth. The truth being what God says in the Bible. But you need to take care in how you speak it.

You know you have control over your voice, right? You know you can control your tone and your volume? Maybe some people don’t realize that and they think they just have to sound angry all the time.  Or maybe they think people won’t take them seriously if they don’t sound angry.

Have you ever seen comments on Facebook or on news pages? Which comments do you take more seriously? The vicious, biting angry ones? Or the calm, rational ones? Honestly, the angrier someone sounds, the less likely I am to listen to them.

And if you take the truth and bludgeon people into submission, I’m not sure how effective that is either. Sure, maybe it works for a little while. You might be able to convince someone to do what’s right by using the truth like a hammer, but from what I’ve learned, that creates a temporary change in behavior. Not a permanent change of heart.

Truth is powerful enough to change people’s hearts on its own. It doesn’t need our help. There’s no strategy or plan of attack when you’re telling the truth. We just need to let Truth do the work, and we just need to get out of the way.

All we need to do is to remember why we’re intervening. Are you getting involved in someone else’s business because you feel responsible or obligated? Or are you doing it because you love them? If you love them, make sure they know it. If you love them, your tone and your voice and your words will express it. If you love them, you aren’t going to beat them down with your words. You’ll build them up.

No, the truth isn’t easy to speak, but you can speak it in love if you love the person you’re talking to.

So do it. Tell them the Truth. Tell them you love them. And then let it go. If they are going to listen, they will. If they won’t, they’ll do their own thing, and that is their choice. But one day, down the road when they come to their senses, they’ll remember.

But they probably won’t remember what you said. They’ll just remember how you said it.

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.

 

The One O'clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Agree to disagree

I don’t drink. That is a conviction in my life, something I have decided that doesn’t belong in my relationship with God. I take no issue with other people drinking (as long as getting drunk isn’t involved), and I have tried a sip or two of wine. But I will not drink on any sort of regular basis. For me, that isn’t a preference. It’s something I feel could become a major stumbling block in my life, so I have chosen not to do it.

I hate skirts, and I don’t particularly care for shorts. I like pants. I like jeans. But sometimes I have to wear a dress for work. Sometimes it’s appropriate to wear a skirt for business reasons. I’m not against it. Choosing to do it won’t place a stumbling block in my personal relationship with Christ. I’ll be uncomfortable (and I’ll probably grumble), but I can cope.

Coping with other people’s preferences isn’t that difficult. Coping with other people’s convictions can often be extraordinarily frustrating. I have many, many friends who have different preferences than I do. And I have even more friends who have different convictions than I do. And that’s absolutely fine. That’s awesome. Having a variety of friends from different backgrounds and in different age groups and life experiences and religions is a valuable gift.

Disagreeing on preferences is normal. Everyone likes or prefers different things. Coffee or tea? Winter or summer? Action movie or chick flick? Oxford comma or AP comma? Right? Disagreeing over preferences isn’t a big deal. Sometimes we make it a big deal, but if one person is willing to back off, usually the conflict can be resolved rather quickly. But the big problem comes when people clash over convictions. So what happens when you get to that point? What do you do when people disagree with your faith?

The One O'clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

The One O’clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Today’s verse is Romans 12:18.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

s choices? How do you handle that? We’re supposed to do everything in our power to live at peace with others, like-minded believers and others included. If you are the sort of person who likes to call people out on what they believe, more power to you. But let me just say that if you intend to challenge someone’s faith, you’d better be completely sure about what’s true and what’s not, and you’d better be able to back it up.

I’ve had many conversations with people who’ve told me my faith is worthless because the Bible is a pack of lies. But when I challenge them in return, they tell me they’ve never read the Bible. So I won’t discuss it with them after that. I shut the conversation down because if they are going to challenge my faith without even bothering to understand what I believe and why, it’s not a discussion worth having.

Not trying to be harsh. Just being honest.

Generally speaking, I don’t challenge people’s faith or convictions. I figure people believe what they want to believe, and that choice is 100% entirely up to them. I’ll only speak up when my own faith is challenged or if someone is genuinely asking questions about it. I decided long ago not to be the sort of person who walks around with a bullhorn and a King James Version Bible looking for opportunities to beat sinners into submission. I’ve known too many people like that, and they aren’t high on my list of favorite people.

I would much rather be the person people come to over their own volition for advice and counsel and share my faith with them that way. And if you end up in that position, don’t be afraid to be open and honest about your faith. That person came to you for a reason. That means they saw something in you that was likeable and wise. So don’t screw it up by trying to sound uber-spiritual. Just be yourself. Tell them what you’ve learned about God. Most of all, just love them, but don’t compromise truth for love. That’s the worst mistake you can make.

You get truth from the Bible. You get truth from God. That’s where your convictions should come from, and, honestly, that’s where your preferences should come from too.

Is everyone going to agree with you? No way. I wish I could say they will, but they won’t. But if you strive to be honest and respectful and loving in everything you say, people will understand where you’re coming from. People aren’t always as closed minded as we think. Most of the time, if you really are a genuine Christ follower who tries to live like Jesus would, people who don’t live that way are inordinately curious. True Christ followers are puzzles to people who don’t know Him.

So be the kind of person who people want to approach. Let them ask their questions. Invite them. And then answer them truthfully with as much love as you can muster and a little bit extra that comes from the Holy Spirit and see what God does.

Don’t compromise the truth. It’s not written anywhere that compromise is required for peace between people. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is the best option. The only requirement for real peace between people is love.