A penny I dropped in the Epic Center parking garage two weeks ago, Wichita, KS

Find a penny, leave it there?

I dropped a penny in the parking garage two weeks ago. And it’s still there. What does that tell you? That I didn’t care enough to pick it up? That nobody else cared enough to pick it up? I think it’s a little bit of both.

Pennies aren’t worth much. At least, not to an American.

Isn’t it funny what we put value on? Because that’s really how money or other items of value work. That show everyone loves, Antiques Road Show, is only interesting because people find old junk in their attics that turns out to be worth a fortune. Why? Because someone is willing to pay a fortune for it.

Something is only worth as much as the value people place on it. And when you look at worth in those terms, it might change your opinion on the value of a lot of things—and people—in your life.
How much is your car worth? How much are your clothes worth? How much is your relationship with your best friend worth? How much is your peace of mind worth?

How much do you value those things, those people in your life?

Worth is a tricky subject because it’s different for everyone. We all place a different value on different objects and people. To someone who’s used to living in a city, a dishwasher is probably worth a lot. To me, who’s been fine without a dishwasher for years, they don’t matter a whole lot.

But if a random person sees a Trixie Belden book at a garage sale, they probably wouldn’t even stop to look at it. Me? I’d pay a good price to buy a Trixie Belden book I don’t already have. Because it’s worth something to me, even if it’s not worth anything to anybody else.

Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

A penny I dropped in the Epic Center parking garage two weeks ago, Wichita, KS

A penny I dropped in the Epic Center parking garage two weeks ago, Wichita, KS

Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

We should be very cautious about how we establish or decide what something or someone is worth. So much of it depends on your perspective. This is one of the ways that Christ-followers really stand out from people who follow the world’s philosophy.

People in the world place high value on money, on fame, on self, on happiness, on doing what feels good. But that’s not the kind of life Christ-followers are called to live. That’s not to say that obtaining money and notoriety and happiness is wrong. But what are those things worth to you?
Are they worth more than your soul? Are they worth more than the people around you? Are they worth more than peace with God?

God has a different perspective, and we are called to look at our lives and our world through His eyes. So what matters to God? What has value to God? The example in the verses is mostly symbolic because generally you aren’t going to build a building using materials like gold and silver. But if you’re going to build anything, you want to use materials that will last. And that’s the point.

If you think about it, the things that are worth the most to God are the things you can’t quantify. Love. Faith. Peace. Trust. Obedience. Humility. Can you even put value to any of those? I don’t think you can.

Money is a tool as far as God is concerned, but it’s not something of great value. Think about it. The streets of heaven are paved with gold. Why would we need money in eternity when we’re going to be walking on gold and precious jewels? It doesn’t matter there. It’s not worth anything there.

The same is true of fame. What good is fame going to do you in eternity? Even if you’re the most famous person in the world, you can’t compare to the Famous One. Jesus Christ. God Himself. Your fame will mean nothing in eternity.

You see what I’m getting at. The things that the world tells us are important and valuable and essential to obtain during our lifetimes really aren’t. You can’t take it with you when you go. You realize that, right? So no matter how much notoriety and money and possessions you stockpile, you don’t get to take a trailer with you when you die.

So you’d better stockpile the things God says are valuable. If you’re a Christ-follower, your physical needs will be met in eternity. So it’s the other parts of your life that you need to cultivate—the relationships, the emotional wellbeing, the spiritual health—if you want to have something to say for yourself in the life to come.

The point, friends, is to put value on what God says is valuable. Don’t waste your time chasing what the world says matters because those goals will ultimately pass away. Pursue what God says is important, and it will pay dividends that will never run out.

That’s what true worth really looks like.

Blooming iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Tomorrow will come whether you worry about it or not

Does our worrying matter to God? I think it does. When we worry we pretty much tell God that He doesn’t know what He’s doing, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be guilty of that.

I wouldn’t call myself a worrier. I’m usually too busy to spend any time worrying about things, but sometimes anxieties creep up on me silently and spring a trap when I’m not paying attention. And before I know what I’m doing, I’m stressing out about things I can’t control.

We all know that worrying is a choice, but sometimes I think we make that choice without thinking about it. And I don’t know why worrying makes us feel like we have some semblance of control over life, because worrying stems from the fact that we have no control.

Blooming iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Blooming iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:34.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

It’s easy to worry about tomorrow. It’s easy to worry about the things we don’t understand. It’s easy to worry about the parts of life that we don’t get to change. But worrying doesn’t accomplish anything. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that. Worry only accomplishes turning you into someone you’re not.

It’s like anger. Just like anger turns you into a different person, so does worry. And both worry and anger will ruin relationships and damage opportunities.

So how do you live without worry? How do you make that choice to not stress about tomorrow when tomorrow is all you can think about? Is there a magic word? Is there a key? Is there a book to read or a program to follow?

What’s nice about this verse is that it comes on the heels of a larger passage dedicated to telling people why they shouldn’t worry.

Matthew 6:25-33

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Here’s the thing about worry. For me, worry comes from the fact that I like to be in control of my life. I like to make decisions. I like to be independent and self-sufficient. But my life is too much for me to handle alone. There are some things I can’t accomplish on my own. There are parts of my life where I need help, and it’s those parts of my life where I need help that I worry about because I can’t do it myself. I have to rely on someone else to help me.

And I’m not good at relying on people to help me. I worry. I worry that I haven’t explained a situation well enough. I worry that I haven’t provided the necessary instruction or tools. I worry that I left something out. I worry that the whole thing is going to go down the drain and it will have been my fault because I didn’t plan well enough.

But here’s the deal: What’s going to happen will happen whether I worry about it or not.

Surprising? No, probably not, but true. Just because we sit around and worry about an upcoming event doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Conversely, just because we sit around and worry about something that might happen doesn’t mean it will happen. That’s tomorrow. And worrying about it doesn’t do you or the people around you any good.

In those instances where you have to rely on God for things you can’t control, you just have to trust Him. Like the verses say above, He already knows what we need. And He’ll give us what we need to make it through. Either way, worrying about just makes you unpleasant.

So if you’re worrying about something today, stop. I mean, don’t ignore the problem. Recognize it. Prepare for it as best you can. But then let it go because worrying about it will only hurt you. God has it under control and He’s going to work everything out. It may not work out today. It may not work out tomorrow. It may not work out in a month or a year. But you can believe that it will work out because that’s the way God is. Whatever is happening in our lives has a purpose, and He will use it for our good and His glory.

Otter playing in the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Choosing to love when you won’t be loved back

When somebody does something mean to me, my first inclination is to do something mean back. I tend to hold to the Golden Rule. I treat other people the way I want to be treated, but there’s a part of me that wants to treat other people the way they treat me. I want people to understand that there are consequences for their actions. If somebody hurts me, I want them to hurt too. Not out of a malicious spirit necessarily (unless we’re talking about bad drivers, and then I just get mad) but because I want them to understand that actions have consequences, which is a lesson our world doesn’t seem to teach anymore.

But whose job is it to teach that lesson? It’s certainly not my job. I’m not responsible for someone else’s behavior. And if I weigh myself down focusing on how other people treat me, I’m going to lose focus of the things in my life that actually are my responsibility.

Otter playing in the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Otter playing in the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:38-41.

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.”

This set of verses is still from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is talking about the way His followers should live. It started with the Beatitudes, which were (and still are) a revolutionary approach to living. What was so shocking about these statements that Jesus made was that in the past it was just the actions that caused the issue. There was only a problem if you did something, but what Christ is saying is that even if you think it, it’s as good as doing it. Because what you think affects what you do.

Likewise, He goes on to say that revenge isn’t something that we need to pursue. If somebody hurts us, we shouldn’t hurt them back. You’ve heard the old saying about turning the other cheek? Well, this verse is where that comes from.

True, some people take this to extremes. And I’m not one of those ones who believes that we shouldn’t go to war if we’re attacked. Nation versus nation is a very different concept than person versus person, and this statement is talking about our relationships with each other. So I don’t see that this applies to a government standpoint. Government as an entity has a different set of things to focus on. But I’m not involved in the government. I’m just me. Just a regular person and what I’m supposed to focus on in my life is my relationship with God and my relationship with people.

And that means when some one does me wrong that I’m not to reciprocate. I’m to love them. When someone hurts me, I’m supposed to do something kind for them. When someone steals from me, I’m supposed to give more to them. When someone takes advantage of me, I’m supposed to apply myself cheerfully.

Granted, I think we need to communicate. I think we need to make sure they know they’ve hurt us or that they know what they’re doing is wrong, but then we need to communicate why we’re showing them kindness when they deserve to be shown something else. Otherwise they won’t understand. People who don’t follow Christ don’t understand love. Half the time, people who do follow Christ don’t understand it either. But that’s the point here.

Loving people. It all comes back to that. If you want to know what matters to God, that’s one theme that is repeated over and over and over throughout Scripture. Love people. Love people. Love people. And let God take care of everything else.

We aren’t going to prove to the world that we’re different by how many Bible verses we know or how much money we give to the church or how well-behaved our children are. None of that matters to them. What will show them that we are different is when we love them when they don’t love us back. That kind of love takes a power greater than all of us, and that’s the kind of love that God gives us when we choose to follow Christ.

So if you’re walking into a circumstance today where you know you’re going to be hurt or you know someone is going to take advantage of you, be honest about it. Don’t lie to yourself about it. See, that’s my tendency. I live in denial half the time because I don’t like conflict and it’s easier for me to shrink away from it than to face it. But denying circumstances doesn’t do anyone any good. Be honest. If someone is treating you wrong, recognize it. And make a conscious effort to treat them kindly in return. And when people ask you why (and they will), tell them. You’re choosing to love people who don’t love you because that’s what Christ said to do. And that will make more difference than you know, not only to the people who are watching but also in your own heart.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Angry thoughts make an angry life

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown more careless about what I say. When I was younger, I guarded my tongue 24/7. I never said what I thought. I was afraid to even raise my hand to answer questions in Sunday School because I didn’t want to get an answer wrong. But something happened as the years passed and the careful watch over what I say has begun to fade. No, I don’t go around just spouting off, but I certainly will tell you what I’m thinking now.

And that’s good and bad. Both. Yes, it’s good to be confident enough to speak your mind, but speaking your mind isn’t always wise. Sometimes it’s better to remain silent. Everyone knows that we can get in trouble for the things we say out loud, but there’s never been a muzzle for our minds. Maybe there should be, because that was one of the things Christ talked about in the Sermon on the Mount.

How do you think? Are your thoughts full of selfishness? Are your thoughts full of anger and pride? Maybe you’re a master of keeping your thoughts to yourself, but eventually what you think is going to affect the way you live.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:21-22.

“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

This statement was revolutionary, and it still is. Of course, killing someone is wrong, but just being angry at someone? And I should clarify. The Amplified Version is a little more specific on this. This is today’s passage in the Amplified Version:

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court. But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, You cursed fool! [You empty-headed idiot!] shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire.

The anger this verse is talking about refers to a consistent state of anger or the act of harboring malice against someone. Anger on its own isn’t bad or wrong, but what anger forces you to do in many instances is. The Bible does say it’s all right to be angry, but it doesn’t say that doing something wrong is right–ever.

Notice it doesn’t say that harboring anger against someone is all right if they deserve it. Believe me, I know a lot of people who deserve my anger, but the Bible doesn’t say I can be angry at them if they deserve it. It says not to be continuously angry at all. Well, I guess it doesn’t say not to be angry. But it does say that if you are, you’ll face consequences.

Why? Well, how you think has a huge effect on how you live. Eventually your outside life is going to match your inside perspective, so you’d better make sure that your heart is straight so the rest of you will be too.

I just came off four very long days. I had to be in downtown Wichita starting this past Sunday at 2:30 p.m. I didn’t get a chance to take a breath until last night at 9:00 p.m. when I walked in the door of my house. My company’s national sales meeting is a big deal every year. It’s one of the biggest things we do as a marketing department, and this year it was even crazier because our department was in charge of a breakout session (that I somehow ended up responsible for). So I logged about 7 hours on Sunday, and then on Monday I worked 14 hours. Tuesday, I worked 17 hours. Wednesday I worked 12 hours. And on Thursday, I was really hoping to be able to catch up with everything that had stacked up while I was out, but I didn’t get to. Why? Well–let’s just say, a project popped up that demanded my attention whether I wanted to give it or not.

I’m not going to go into details because it’s not important. What matters is that I was angry about it. Oh boy, was I angry. And most of that anger stemmed from the fact that I was exhausted and overwhelmed and frustrated. I would have been better served just going home, but I had too much to do. So I stayed and kept getting more and more frustrated and more and more angry. And I couldn’t even finish it because I ended up needing input from someone who wouldn’t answer their phone. (And that’s when my director intervened and told me to go home because I looked exhausted. Thank God for bosses who notice those things.)

But even as I left, I was still angry. Almost at the verge of tears because now not only did I have to do this stupid project that didn’t matter, I couldn’t even do it without help. And for a performance-driven perfectionist like myself that’s the last straw.

So I did what any other single, self-sufficient, independent-minded, 21st Century working woman would do in these circumstances … I went to my parents’ house and took a nap.

And I woke up and felt much better. But I was still angry.

I was driving home in the dark last night just thinking about my anger and where it was coming from and why I couldn’t let it go. And so much of it came from my own frustration and my irritation at the whole situation. And, yes, there are some issues that need to be addressed, but being angry about it doesn’t help. And I’m not an angry person by nature, so anger turns me into someone that I’m not. And it’s someone that I don’t like.

So as I was drifting off to sleep (deep, wonderful, blissful sleep in my very own bed in my very own room) last night, I let it go. When compared to everything else that’s going on in my life right now, this whole situation is minor. It’s small. It’s not worth the effort of holding on to it. And I woke up this morning feeling like a new person, ready to go in and face this situation with a clear head and a calm spirit.

Am I going to get angry again? Well … if you know me and you know the situation I’m dealing with, you’ll understand when I say: Probably. But I’m going to try not to. And I’m not going to hold on to it. I’m going to let it go. Because if my thoughts are angry, my actions will be too. And that’s not right. It’s not fair to people around me, and it’s not a very good way to show how much Christ loves people.

Yes, anger has its place, and yes, anger is useful in some instances for motivating people. But it’s not the life we’re supposed to live. And it’s not the way we’re supposed to think.

So if you’re angry today or if you’re facing a circumstance that is probably going to make you angry, let it go. Be angry, recognize that you’re angry, and stop. Tell God about it. Even if you can’t tell the people around you about it, tell God. Yes, He already knows, but talking about it always helps me. And once you’ve got it off your chest, release it and don’t take it up again. Don’t let it penetrate your thoughts because your thoughts have an impact on how you live. And Christ-followers are called to live differently.

Big blue bird at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

What good does worrying do?

I want to make God happy. I want Him to look at my life and my choices and be pleased with me. And as a result of that desire, I usually end up agreeing to do a lot. But I’m a doer. It’s part of my make up. I’m not good at just sitting around.

But the unfortunate side effects of being a doer is that I wear myself out. Over and over and over again. And the more responsibility I take on, the more prone I am to worrying about whether or not I’m going to do well.

I want to know that the things I’m focusing on are the things that matter to God, and one way to identify what matters to God is knowing what not to do.

Big blue bird at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Big blue bird at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 12:22-32.

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

I don’t usually put so much Scripture up at one time, but Jesus just says this so well. And it’s something I really need to hear this morning, especially where I am at the moment.

I’m composing this post in a hotel room getting ready to run the PowerPoint presentations at my company’s national sales meeting. This event is the biggest thing we do, so it has to be flawless. It’s a huge responsibility. There are so many aspects to keep straight. And I worry. And I stress. And I drive myself crazy thinking about everything that could go wrong.

Isn’t that ridiculous?

So I’m focusing on what Jesus says here. We’re not supposed to worry. We’re not supposed to focus on those things that He provides for us. And while maybe Christ hasn’t provided these PowerPoint slides for me to work with today, He’s given me everything I need to deal with them. I’ve done my best to prepare, and now all I can do is the best I can and trust Him with the rest.

If we could all wrap our heads around that concept, I think our lives would be a lot less stressful. Like Jesus said, why do we worry about what we are going to eat or what we are going to drink or what we are going to wear? He provides for the least of His creation; so why wouldn’t He provide for us?

True, His provision usually means that we have to submit to what He wants us to do, and what He wants us to do doesn’t always match up with what we want to do. But that choice is up to us.

So if you’re facing something stressful today, stop worrying about it. Whatever it is, let it go. In our pursuit to focus on the things that really matter, let’s remember that worrying isn’t something that matters. It’s not even a blip on God’s radar. It’s not something we’re supposed to be anywhere close to.

Do what you can, and leave it alone. God will work it out. And even if it doesn’t feel like He’s working it out, He is. Because that’s who He is and that’s what He does.

So don’t stress. And I’m talking to myself, here. There are more important things in your life that need your attention and your focus than whatever it is you’re worrying about.

Oil rig lit up before sunrise in the Gulf of Mexico from Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Living like salt and light is a calling

Have you noticed that if you start living the way the Bible says to live that people kind of look at you funny? I mean, it’s one thing to tell people that you’re a Christian. It’s another thing to live like one because people who don’t believe (or people who believe but don’t follow) don’t understand.

If we start living our lives focusing on the things that matter to God, we’re going to stand out. That’s just the way it is because the way God-followers live is different from the way other people live. And that is the point.

Oil rig lit up before sunrise in the Gulf of Mexico from Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Oil rig lit up before sunrise in the Gulf of Mexico from Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:13-16.

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Christians are often called salt and light. If you’ve spent any time in the church, you’ve probably heard that statement–that we are called to be salt and light. And as a child, I used to wonder what on earth that meant. I just knew it was in the Bible so it was important, but I didn’t really get how it was supposed to happen.

But here’s what I’ve learned about things we are “called” to do: We can’t do them on our own.

Yes, we can prepare for them. Yes, we can expect them. Yes, we can hope for them. But as far as accomplishing our calling, I don’t think we have the power or the ability or the foresight or the strength to make it happen on our own. We can know what we’re called to do, and we can be ready for when it’s time to move. But we have no control over when that starter pistol goes off. That’s up to God. We just have to be prepared for when those marching orders come.

An example? I’m called to be a writer. I have been since I was young. I have always had a gift with words and communication, and it’s always been my dream to use my gifts to help other people get to know who God is, whether they believe in Him or not. But being a writer is a difficult task. Anyone can write, but being a writer takes a lot of practice and a lot of rejection and a lot of time. A lot of time, which means it also requires a lot of patience.

I prepared to be a writer as much as I could. I learned how to write. I learned what to do and what not to do and when I can do the things I’m not supposed to do (that’s the trick with writing because there are no hard and fast rules). And I expect and hope that one of these days I will get to use my writing on a greater scale than just a blog or three-minute sketches at church. That’s my calling, but I have no control over when that’s going to happen. All I can do is be ready.

And I might be wrong, but I think it’s that way with any calling. I don’t think God is going to call us to accomplish something that we can do in our own strength. Otherwise, what’s the point?

If you believe in Christ, you are salt. If you believe in Christ, you are light. What does that mean?

That means, Christ in you is like salt to the world. A preservative and an irritant. Salt both preserves things and irritates things, though usually that irritation comes when salt is cleansing a wound. And the part about being a light? It’s the same thing. Christ in you is like light to the world–shining in darkness, obvious and beautiful, and revealing. But it’s not you or me who is the salt. It’s not you or me who is the light. It’s Christ in us.

We are called to be salt and light, but we can’t do that without Christ. We are called to live different, but we can’t do it without Christ. But if we focus on the things that matter to God, if we live the way the Bible says to live, our lives will be different naturally. If you love God, love people, do right, love mercy, walk humbly, and keep believing, your life can’t help but look different. And being different matters to God? Why?

Because the more like salt you are, the more like light you are, the less likely people who don’t believe yet will be able to ignore you.

So live like the Bible says today. Live according to the things that matter, and your life will be different. You will be happy, and the people around you will wonder what you have that they don’t. And then you can tell them.

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.