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.

The Houses of Parliament, London, England

Sometimes love is a better teacher than justice

Have you ever been driving and someone behind you is riding your bumper and acting like an absolute idiot? I’m usually okay at controlling what I say, but when it comes to bad drivers, a lot of my inhibitions fly out the window. Bad drivers upset me worse than almost any other person, mainly because in their irresponsibility they not only endanger their own lives but the lives of other people around them.

So after the guy who was riding your bumper needlessly for the last three miles zooms around you and disappears down the road at 90 mph, how do you feel? Relieved? Or vindictive? I hate to admit it, but a major part of me leans more toward the vindictive side. Then, suppose you encounter this driver again a little ways down the road, stuck on the shoulder with a flat tire or an empty gas tank. How do you feel then?

I wish I were a good enough Christian to tell you that I would pull over and have compassion on the poor idiot, but I’m not. Just being honest, I’d probably drive on and feel justified. After all, he’s getting the least of what he deserves. A flat tire or an empty gas tank isn’t a big deal, and it’s the least punishment he deserves for his reckless behavior.

On first blush, that’s probably the reaction everyone would have. That’s probably what any other driver would do. If the weather is okay and a gas station is close at hand, why not? Today’s verse tells us why not and reminds me that we’re not supposed to react like everyone else. As a Christ-follower, we are supposed to love.

The Houses of Parliament, London, England

The Houses of Parliament, London, England

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 13:6.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

The word it in this verse is love, but not just regular love. This is agape love, the word for the kind of love that only comes from God. It’s the kind of love that allows us to love people who hurt us, who use us, who betray us, and it’s how we–as Christ followers–are supposed to live.

The way I see it, this is different from a speeder being pulled over or a drunk driver being arrested. To me, it’s good to see justice done. It’s good to see that people will be held accountable for their actions, but that is something that a law enforcement officer has to do. It’s not my job to determine crime and punishment for people just like me. Rather, it’s my job to love others no matter what they’ve done to me.

It’s easy for me to rejoice when someone else receives what I think is owed them. It’s not as easy to love that person in spite of how they hurt me or how they offended me or how they inconvenienced me.

Yes, my gut instinct is to leave a bad driver on the side of the road. Maybe he’ll think about his carelessness as he’s waiting for someone to come along and help him. But as Christ followers we’re not supposed to live by gut instinct. We’re supposed to live as Christ lived. We’re supposed to do things the way Christ would have done them. And what would Christ do in this situation? He’d stop and help the person in His path, no matter whether He thought they deserved their life lesson or not. Why? Because that’s love. And love is a far better teacher than vindictive self-righteousness any day.

So who is that person who drives you crazy? What are the circumstances that make you angry? And when do you want to sit back and watch as someone gets their just desserts? Try thinking about it from a different perspective. Try thinking about that person with the love that comes from God. Do they look any different to you now?

God is in charge of justice and revenge. God is in charge of doling out punishment. That’s not our arena, unless you’re a law enforcement officer or a member of the courts who are charged with upholding the law in our society. I don’t fit into one of those categories. I’m just an average Christ follower with a shamefully powerful tendency toward road rage. My job is to love people no matter what they’ve done to me.

You never know how God is going to use you. Sometimes love can teach lessons better than justice. Who knows? Maybe that person you stop to help would listen to you much sooner than they would listen to an authority. Maybe your one act of love helps save that person’s life as well as the lives of other drivers around him.

Delusion, indolence, and the American Way

I don’t want to go to work today. So, I am going to stay home and watch DVDs of Batman: The Animated Series. And I’m going to believe that my boss won’t care if I don’t show up today. After all, she’s just another person working at the company, and she doesn’t have any real authority over me. Boss is just a title, and it doesn’t mean anything. And it’s not like they can fire me. Right?

What would you think if I said something like that? And what would you think if I said something like this:

  • “My seatbelt rubs my neck raw and it’s more trouble than it’s worth, so I don’t wear it anymore. People are just exaggerating about how it can save your life in a wreck.”

Or what about this:

  • “All the stuff people say about smoking cigarettes is so overrated. People just make a big deal out of it because they can. Maybe it’ll increase my chances for cancer, but they won’t kill me. And it’s my choice to smoke or not and it makes me feel better, so I’ll smoke if I want to.”

So . . . are you paying attention yet? If I were to say any of those things, I think people would believe I’ve finally had that nervous breakdown my brain has been threatening. But these statements are fairly common in our culture, don’t you think? I don’t know about you but I hear things like this all the time.

I don’t care who you are. If you think smoking won’t hurt you, you’re an idiot. I’m sorry to be so brutal . . . . well, no, I take it back. I did a post a little while ago about saying you’re sorry when you really aren’t . . . . so, I won’t apologize. I’m sorry if you get your feelings hurt, but I need to be honest here and I’ll do my best to speak the truth in love.

When you smoke, you’re inhaling chemicals into your lungs and you’re holding them there. That just doesn’t sound healthy to me. People die of smoke inhalation in fires all the time, and we still have this concept that smoking is okay?

The interesting thing about smoking, though, is that people who smoke oftentimes know the risks involved and they just don’t care. I don’t know if they think they’re like Superman — that the consequences of smoking don’t apply to them? Or maybe they need the drugs in the cigarettes more than they care about living. I don’t know.

And what about wearing your seatbelt? I’d say it’s pretty obvious that seatbelts save lives. I’m not a paramedic, but common sense suggests that seatbelt prevent people from getting hurt worse in an accident that could claim their lives. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt when I had my wreck. I probably would have been splattered all over the pavement.

Again, if straightforward communication about this offends you, don’t take it personally. I’m just trying to get people to think.

And what about your boss and your job? I don’t know about you, but if I suddenly decided that I didn’t feel like going to work and decided to stay home (especially without notifying anyone), I’d be in deep trouble. And my boss wouldn’t care that I’ve had a horrible week. I have responsibilities, and I can’t just drop everything and do what I want to do. They hired me for a reason. And they absolutely can fire me if they want to. Telling myself anything different is moronic.

And that’s the point I’m getting to this morning.

Any thinking person can take these three examples and see immediately what the right thing to do is. Any person who is thinking can see the truth here.

Smoking will kill you. Not wearing your seatbelt is inviting danger. Shirking your responsibilities at work will get you fired. It doesn’t matter what you tell yourself to rationalize your actions in these situations. This is the truth.

Someone once told me that a statement becomes truth when you believe it.

That’s a load of balogna. (It’s actually a load of something else, but I won’t say that here.)

Truth by its very nature is exclusive, and it doesn’t matter how much you deny it, if something is true, it’s true whether you believe it or not. And you deciding that you don’t want to believe it is like a child having a temper tantrum because they want to believe a red balloon is blue.

This is today’s verse:

Psalm 14:1

1 Only fools say in their hearts,
      “There is no God.”
   They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
      not one of them does good!

I know people who say that there is no God. Most of the time, they’re like people who say the things listed above. The know the truth. But accepting the truth means they have to be accountable to Someone who knows more than they do. So it’s easier to deny the truth and make up some other story to believe.

The Bible says those people are fools.

The sky is red. The grass is purple. Drinking doesn’t hurt you. Having sex before marriage is a good way to know if you’re compatible with someone else. A baby is just a wad of tissue until it’s fully born. The terrorists on September 11 had every right to attack the U.S. because they were doing what was right for them.

Evidence of God’s existence is everywhere. People who say they don’t believe in Him are lying to themselves because they want to live in a way that is contrary to what God has declared is right. It’s the same as knowing that smoking will kill you and doing it anyway. It’s the same as driving around without wearing a seatbelt. It’s the same as not going to work when you know your boss will be angry.

But it is your choice. Absolutely. But Newton was right in more ways than one. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You push something, and it will push back at you. Every choice you make has consequences. And you might not experience those consequences until you’re a grandmother or a grandfather. But they will come.

You can lie to yourself all you want, but it doesn’t change what’s true.

I’ve been staring at my computer for 15 minutes

Maybe I’m foggy today. Maybe I’m feeling too much and thinking too much and trying to understand too many things at once. But I feel somewhat like a dry well this morning, like if you reached in for a cool drink of water all anyone is going to get is a bucket of mud. I guess there’s just a lot going on.

The verse for today is a great one.

John 4:24

24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

 And it certainly is a good thing to remember. God is Spirit.

Knowing who (or what) someone is usually determines how we respond or act toward it. I mean, knowing someone is a king means you shouldn’t run up and try to hug them or chew with your mouth open in front of them. Stuff like that.

I think about all the idols people worshipped in the past (although people worship just as many idols today). They did all sorts of ridiculous things for gods made of rock and wood and metal. Horrific things. Ghastly things that make me feel sick and wonder how people could ever do anything like it for any reason whatsoever.

It’s amazing to me that all God asks from us is trust. If you really get down to it, that’s all He asks. Trust Him. Trust Him when He says He’ll bless you, protect you, never abandon you.

It’s odd. And it’s different than any religion in the world (maybe I should say any other religion in the world, but that would imply that God is attached to a religious system; He’s not).

So it makes sense that worshipping Him might be a little different too. So many people have so many ideas about what worship is. Some people think it only happens in church. Some people think that if you haven’t got your hands up in the air, it isn’t real. Some people think that there needs to be fainting and healing and shouting for it to be real.

I’m not an expert on this, but worship is an attitude. It’s more than something you say or do. It’s how you live. It’s what you think about. It’s the reason you do anything you do, say anything you say.

My incredible friend Lance Cummins once said that worship is telling God how much He means to us. It’s giving Him the glory and the credit for everything in our lives and thanking Him for everything we have and don’t have. It’s not just singing. It’s not just doing good deed. You can worship God when you’re standing still. You can worship God when you’re singing or when you’re dancing or when you’re playing an instrument. You can worship God at church, but you can also worship in your home, in your place of work, in your relationship with other people.

You can worship when you’re having a great day. And you can worship when the day is long and cold and dark and depressing and it feels like there’s no end to it. You can worship Him when you’re sad. When you feel discouraged. When you feel alone. When you make mistakes. (I’m so glad we can worship Him when we make mistakes; if we couldn’t, how could we ever worship Him? We make mistakes all the time.)

Worship is an attitude. Worship is a lifestyle. And it’s not getting all emotional and teary at the drop of a hat. It’s not jumping up and down and hooting and hollering and screaming and falling down. It’s not chaos.

Worship is the purposeful act of directing your thoughts toward God when you don’t feel like it. Worship is trusting that God forgives you even when you make an unforgiveable mistake. Worship is giving Him the credit for the work you think you have done all by yourself. Worship is living a life for Him and not hiding it.

Worship is so much more than anyone ever thinks it is. And what you worship will give you something in return. It will either give you peace or it will eventually take it away.

So to me it’s better to trust God, knowing that He is able to make the circumstances of our lives all work together for our good and His glory, than to trust in anything else, whether it’s my job or my finances or my family or my church or my pastor or my friends or my insurance company or the government. I won’t have my job forever. I won’t be secure in my finances forever. My family won’t be around forever and neither will my church or my pastor or my friends.

God is Spirit. Worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Worship Him with everything He made you to be. Trust Him. He really does know what He’s doing, and what’s wonderful about God is that He can see the entire picture of our lives, every little detail, and He knows exactly how everything is going to work out. And it’s going to be good.