Beach chair overlooking the waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

The one thing you have that God wants

God expects a lot from those who have chosen to follow Christ. There’s a verse in Luke that says that people who have been given much have a responsibility to accomplish much, and as Christians we’ve been given a precious gift. Salvation is priceless and a relationship with God through Jesus is something we can never earn or buy.

We know about loving God and loving people. We know we’re supposed to do the right thing. We know we’re supposed to show mercy. We know we’re supposed to live humble lives. We know all those things because the Bible talks about them over and over, although it’s easy to talk about them and much harder to live them. But have you ever wondered what you can do to make God happy? In a way, all of those other things (loving people, living humbly, doing right, showing mercy, etc) all stem from this one concept, and this one thing you can do will please God because it’s the one thing we have that we can give Him.

Beach chair overlooking the waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Beach chair overlooking the waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Matthew 8:5-13.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”

Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”

But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour.

If you want to make God happy, you have to trust Him. The one thing we have that we can give God is our trust–our faith. Faith isn’t something God will just take for granted. It’s not something He’ll ignore. Faith matters to God on a level that supersedes anything else. This story about the Centurion is just one of many stories throughout Scripture showing how God rewards faith. There are other stories of healing, stories of salvation, and there’s even a story about how the faith of four friends saved another friend. Faith is a powerful thing, and it’s the one thing that Jesus pointed out over and over and over again as something God wanted.

Some days it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around the idea that God doesn’t need anything from me. I feel like I need to do something. I feel like I have to earn His love or perform in order to show Him that I’m truly devoted. But that’s my pride talking.

Why is faith so important? Yes, the most important commands are to love God and love people. Yes, it matters to God that we do the right thing, that we love mercy, and that we live humble lives. But how do you expect to accomplish any of those things without faith? Faith is the foundation of the Christian life. You can love God, but first you have to believe He’s there. You can love people, but if you aren’t loving people for God what’s the point? And you can’t love people for God until you believe He’s called you to do it. Same with everything else. Faith comes first.

I’m at a place in my life right now where I’m so stressed out I hardly even know how to function. I don’t want to admit that, but it’s the truth. I knew all of these things I’m dealing with were coming. I’ve been expecting it, and none of it’s bad. It’s all good. And on one hand, I’m so excited to see how God is going to use it all–but on the other hand, I’m just so tired I want to quit. But in those moments when I feel like quitting, I just need to remember what matters. I need to go back to basics.

Faith is as basic as you can get. And it’s the simple truths that sustain me when life gets too complicated to keep track of anymore.

I believe Jesus. He’s my best friend. He wants the best for me, and He has wonderful plans for me. And even though I live in a broken world with broken people and broken circumstances, He can use all of those broken pieces to make something beautiful from my life. I haven’t seen it yet. I have no idea what it’s going to look like. But it’s going to be good.

None of my plans are worth holding on to because they’re not big enough and they’re not complete. God’s plan is better.

Is it easy? No. Letting go of what you want is never easy, especially if (like me) you’re prone to taking things back after you’ve let them go. But once you let go and continue to let go, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. Maybe it’s hard to release it, but the relief is sweet. And when you’re not weighed down with worry, you’re free to focus on other things that matter.

 

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Mountain stream at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Craving an upright lifestyle

What matters to God? What makes Him happy? What makes Him sad? If He had a top ten list of things He’s cared about, what would be on it? I think a lot of people spend a lot of time searching for God’s will when the answer to finding it is right in front of them. If we want to know what God expects from us, He’s told us. The Bible is full of instruction on how to live and what God expects. And we need to start living the way He says before we can begin to question His will.

And one of those things He expects is living right. It’s everywhere in Scripture. God expects us to do the right thing. We’re supposed to live righteous, justly, set apart, holy, peculiar lives. We’re supposed to be different, but, like everything else in our lives, it starts with attitude.

Mountain stream at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Mountain stream at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:6.

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.

That word justice there really means righteousness or uprightness or right standing with God, according to the Amplified Version. I wanted to clarify that because you could read this verse and instantly think that we’re supposed to desire justice like a vigilante. If our lives were to be devoted to justice, that would change a lot of things, but that’s not what this verse means. We don’t understand justice–not really, because none of us are truly just. So how can we be devoted to an ideal that we don’t understand?

So Jesus isn’t telling us to run out and kill others in His name, whether you think you need to kill an individual or shoot up an abortion clinic. We are supposed to desire righteousness and desiring righteousness is personal. It’s an attitude. It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle.

We need to love doing the right thing so much that we crave it.

It’s harder and harder to do the right thing, though. And this statement goes beyond just doing right; we’re supposed to think right too. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to surround yourself with people who love Christ and follow Him. It’s difficult enough to do the right thing in a group of believers; it’s so much harder to do the right thing in a group of people who don’t understand your worldview.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t associate with people who believe differently. Not at all. That’s the opposite of how we’re supposed to live. Shutting ourselves away from the world is wrong. But when it comes to those close, influential friendships in your life, if you want to continue to follow Christ, you need to choose friends who will draw you closer to Him. If you allow people who believe differently into that close inner circle, you’ll fall away from God. Maybe you tell yourself you won’t, but it’s inevitable. Why? Because it’s much more difficult to hunger and thirst for righteousness when you are hungering and thirsting for something else.

Righteousness isn’t our default.

Craving an upright lifestyle isn’t natural to us. Maybe it was supposed to be before Adam and Eve sinned. I don’t know. But now we’re born with an innate desire to do wrong, and we have to teach ourselves and build healthy habits to seek God and live the way He wants us to. You don’t have to teach a child to do wrong; they just do it anyway.

I’m so thankful for Christ. That’s why the verse can say we will be satisfied if we desire righteousness because through Christ we have right standing with God. Through Christ, we are justified. Through Christ, we are considered righteous. So there’s nothing we can do that will take that righteousness away from us if we’ve accepted it–even if we don’t live like it. But if you don’t live like it, you’re not going to be satisfied.

Right living matters to God. If it didn’t, He wouldn’t talk about it all the time. Doing the right thing, making wise choices, living the way the Bible says in every area, matters to God–whether it’s your thought life or your friendships or marriage or work or church. Whatever. The Bible is our guide to right living, and if we do what it says, we’ll be satisfied. God doesn’t forget and He doesn’t ignore. If it feels like a sacrifice to do the right thing, do it anyway because God will make it worth it. Maybe you don’t feel He will, but He will.

So if you know what the Bible says, do it. If you don’t know what the Bible says, find out and then do it. And the more you do the right thing, the easier it will be, because God will prove Himself to you. You just have to let Him and you have to open your eyes long enough to see it.

Pink roses in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

It’s the quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for

I get tired of taking things sitting down, you know? There are some days when I want to stand up and fight. I want to argue. I want to lash out at all these people who have taken the important things in life and dragged them through the mud. But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that people don’t usually respond well to strong opinions, especially if they don’t agree with you anyway.

In any situation, a loud answer rarely satisfies the question and usually only draws more loud opinions. And it just gets worse and worse until someone backs down.

Don’t misunderstand. There are some things definitely worth fighting for, but how are we supposed to fight?

Pink roses in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Pink roses in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:5.

God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.

So what does humility have to do with fighting, you may ask? Well for that answer, we need to check the Amplified Version. It will clear this up a bit:

Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the meek (the mild, patient, long-suffering), for they shall inherit the earth!

In the Amplified Version, the word is actually meek rather than humble. And while humility and fighting are somewhat related, meekness and fighting go hand in hand–or at least they should for a Christ-follower.

Meekness is another form humility can take. Meekness has best been described as quiet strength. It’s confidence and surety so certain that you don’t need to bluster or brag. Jesus was meek. He had every right to show off and demonstrate His power and knowledge, but He didn’t. In fact, the only time He even showed any form of aggression was chasing the money changers out of the temple (Matthew 21:12-17).

Some people portray meekness as weakness. We have this idea that meekness means we need to be pansies, and that’s the opposite of it. Meekness is strength used at the appropriate time. It’s speaking softly and carrying a big stick, to quote Teddy Roosevelt.

If you’re the kind of person who goes off at the drop of a hat, I’m sorry to say that’s not meekness. If you’re the kind of person who gets angry and confrontational about everything, that’s not meekness either. If you’re defensive, if you’re demanding, if you’re difficult–there’s no meekness there. And while the world may consider you a strong person who’s going somewhere, God’s opinion is the opposite.

Meekness matters to God. And according to this verse, it’s not the loud confrontational fighters who are going to be successful in the end. It’s the quiet ones in the back. It’s the soft-spoken ones.

Granted, it’s the soft-spoken people who know where they stand and never compromise. But you don’t have to be a loud-mouthed bully to communicate that. People will know who you are and what you stand for well enough by how you live, by how you treat others, by the choices you make.

Our world reveres people who say what they want to say, no matter how it affects other people. Why do you think “reality” TV is so popular? Our culture idolizes conflict. We set people who tear each other down on pedestals. And the louder you can be about your radical opinions, the more attention you’ll get.

But that’s not how we’re supposed to live. And if you talk to anyone–really talk to them–there is something deep inside them that recognizes the bravado and bluster for what it is: a show. And the moment they really need someone to depend on, they aren’t going to go for the loud-mouthed show offs. They’re going to turn to the rock-solid quiet person who has always been there for them.

Maybe you don’t think that being quiet makes a difference to people, but you’re wrong. Meekness shouts louder than shouting any day, and if you truly focus on maintaining a lifestyle of quiet strength, people will notice. It’s often the things you don’t say that make the most difference. People aren’t stupid. They pick up on more than you realize.

So what does this mean for us today? My life is so busy. And sometimes I feel like I have to shout over the noise in order to be heard. I feel like I have to step up my game and push people out of the way to accomplish the things I want. But that’s not the way I’m supposed to live.

I’m supposed to be meek–to live a life of quiet strength. I’m supposed to be patient. I’m supposed to wait and trust God and if He really has put me where He wants me, He will orchestrate events in His time.

So if you feel the urge to push people around today, even if it’s from a heart with pure intentions, don’t do it. Wait patiently and see what happens. I know it’s a scary thought because the world tells us we’ll be run over if we stand still, and maybe you will. But when has doing what the world says ever been a good idea?

Be quiet today. Not weak. But quiet. Just because you have the strength to do something doesn’t mean you’re supposed to do it.