You can’t walk right with two different shoes on

live-walk-shoes-wisdom_1170x350

I went on a walk a few days ago. It was such a beautiful day outside, so I didn’t want to do my two miles on the treadmill. I wanted to be out in the sunshine. And it was beautiful. Blue skies. Puffy clouds. Whispering wheat. But something wasn’t quite right. I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

Yup. Crocs. Just like these. ... Not.

Yup. Crocs. Just like these. … Not.

One mile into my walk, I realized that my right toe was rubbing on the front of my shoe. Now, you avid walkers will probably be cross with me, but I usually wear Crocs when I’m out on my walks. They’re comfortable, and while they don’t really provide any ankle support, I’m not running.

But that morning, my right foot seemed to have grown several sizes. My left foot was fine. But my right toes were rubbing the front of my right shoe, and my right heel was hanging off the end. I was puzzled. But, stubborn as usual, I finished my two miles. And when I got back to the house, I pulled my Crocs off and compared them.

Yep. The right Croc was about three sizes smaller than the left.

The rest of the story? My mom and I both have a pair of tan-colored Crocs, but Mom usually keeps hers in her closet. Well, she’d left her pair out on the porch a few days earlier. When she took them back to her closet, she took one of hers and one of mine.

You guys may laugh at me, but one of the first thoughts that came to me was Ephesians 5:15, which says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.” That word live actually communicates the concept of walking. So basically, it’s saying that a Christ-follower should be careful how he/she walks through life.

Life is full of traps and tricks and enemies just waiting for the opportunity to ensnare us. It’s full of awesome things too, but as a Christ-follower, we need to have the wisdom to know the difference. And that’s great to say. Be wise. Live wisely. Make the wise choice. But what does that mean practically?

Frankly, it means you need to make sure your shoes are the same size. Wearing two different-sized shoes can make you walk funny, which might hurt your ankles or knees, which will hurt your legs, which hurt your back, which hurt your shoulders. You get the point. You also run the risk of tripping because your steps aren’t consistent.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Our own path is our security blanket, so that when God lets us down, we still have a backup.[/su_pullquote]

Maybe that’s a silly example, but think about how we live. With one foot, we stay on the path that God has laid out for us. With the other foot, we break our own ground because even though we say we trust God, we’re really trusting ourselves instead. Our own path is our security blanket, so that when God lets us down, we still have a backup. But your walk isn’t consistent.

So check your shoes today. Are they the same size? Are you limping and stumbling down the road trying to do it God’s way and your way at the same time? Well, stop it. It doesn’t work, and it only causes more trouble for you down the road.

Be wise about how you walk through life. You can’t rely on yourself and rely on God at the same time. You’ve got to choose one.

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Knowledge is learning, but wisdom is using it

The other night, I was out late and hadn’t eaten dinner. So I swung by McDonald’s for a chicken sandwich, and I got a kick out of the Schwann’s truck in the parking lot. Ironic. A Schwann’s truck full of food, and the driver is stopping to eat a Big Mac or something. But of course the poor guy had to stop. It’s not like he could eat any of the food in his truck. It’s all frozen.

Sometimes my life is like that. I’ve got a great big brain full of lots of information and random bits of nonsense, but I can’t use it for anything. I mean, some of what I know is useful. Some of what I know can be used to help others, and I do my best to live that way. But do we ever stop to think about education and learning from that perspective? It’s not bad to learn. It’s not bad to be educated. But I do believe there’s a place in life where you can be too educated.

S059QDGBOG (1)Today’s verses are James 1:22-25.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Knowledge and Wisdom are two important parts of following Jesus, and both of them are gifts. But knowledge, in my mind, is theoretical. Knowledge is knowing every Bible verse, being able to quote Scripture cover to cover, knowing every reference. And that’s not bad. Good grief, if you have that knowledge, that’s amazing.

But there’s a massive difference between having knowledge and acting on it.

You can know that a piece of cheese is rotten before you eat it, but just knowing it’s rotten won’t make any difference in your life unless you make a choice whether or not to eat it. Maybe that’s a bad example, but think about the Scwann’s man. The dude (or dudette) had a whole truck full of tasty entrees and desserts, just ready to be eaten, but they would just continue to sit in the back of the truck because he didn’t what he needed to actually use them. Schwann’s food has to be thawed or baked before you can eat it (unless you got fudge bars). But you get the point.

So many Christians are just walking encyclopedias. We’re full of information. We’re full of the Bible. We’re full of Church language. But all we do is carry it around, and it’s not changing our lives or the lives of people around us because we don’t use it. We have to stop at the McDonald’s for a meal because what we’re carrying around with us isn’t nourishing.

You can read, learn, understand, and accept every verse in the entire Bible, but until you DO it, it means nothing. There’s a big step between mentally accepting that the Bible is true and believing it strongly enough that you change the way you live because of it. You can say you believe the Bible, but that won’t do anything. That won’t make any chance in your life or in the lives of people around you.

But if you pay attention, if you do what the Bible says, if you listen to what you’ve heard and obey, your life will turn inside out. God will show up in ways you can’t ignore. And you’ll be so full of blessings you can’t contain them. But that first step is yours to take.

So learn, yes. Learn all you can. But don’t learn just because you’re afraid of what comes after learning. That’s the point of going to school, to move on to the next step. Don’t let fear hold you back. Learn all you can, and move on. Learn all you can, and let God use what you’ve learned to do what He wants you to do.

Getting knowledge is a great idea, but turning your knowledge into something that gives God glory? That’s wisdom. And you really ought to go after both of them.

Stress is my comfort zone

When you’re carrying a heavy bag, it’s a bad time to try climbing a mountain. Even if you’re in great shape, hauling a heavy backpack around when you’re trying to find good footholds and solid rocks to step on is difficult. It’s slow going. And it’s exhausting. So why do we expect mental stress to affect us differently?

I do. Because, I mean, I’m just thinking. Or I’m just organizing. Or I’m sorting through emotions and expectations and deadlines. It’s not “real” work, so it shouldn’t make me tired. It shouldn’t exhaust me. Well, that’s not true. Mental exhaustion is a real thing, and it’s something people need to take seriously (especially creatives… you know who you are).

I always end up there. Always. It doesn’t matter what job I’m working or where I’m living, eventually I end up in the place where I’m stressed out and exhausted and still pushing forward even though I’ve got nothing left. And frankly, I’m tired of it.

sky-ditch-eye-holeToday’s verse is Proverbs 12:25.

Worry weighs a person down;
    an encouraging word cheers a person up.

Anxiety is heavy. It weighs you down much more than you think, but it’s also one of those burdens that’s really difficult to drop. I don’t know why that is. My worry and my anxiety are the burdens I despise yet can’t seem to let go of.

My anxiety and my worry are actually the reasons why I end up over-stressed and over-worked, because I fall back into my same old habits of performing. Because if I perform above expectations, God will bless me above expectations. But I take it to the next level and run myself into the ground and then despair because my situation hasn’t changed. Some take that as a sign that God isn’t listening. I take it as a sign I’m not working hard enough.

So guess what I do? That’s right. I work even harder.

God is teaching me–yet again, seriously because this is the same lesson He’s been trying to teach me for 20 years–that I have convinced myself I need to feel stretched thin. I yearn for that stressed-out, busy feeling to make me feel like I’m accomplishing something, to help me feel like I’m doing something important. And that’s just foolish. God never intended for us to live that way. It’s not healthy, physically or mentally. And it’s not the best for us. Maybe we feel better, but it’s not actually better.

Stress is my comfort zone, my own personal ditch where I can fall down and stay put. And while I worry and fret until my hair turns gray and my insides twist all up, I convince myself that I’m doing good work. I must be. Because I’m so stressed out!

All my life I’ve been told God doesn’t want us in a comfort zone. He doesn’t want us comfortable. He wants us obedient. So those of us who are hiding in our stressed-out ruts, lying to ourselves and everyone else, we’re not doing what God says to do. God says get up. God says get out. And trust Him. Don’t just talk like you trust Him. Actually trust Him.

But I’m practical. It’s one thing to know you’ve got a problem. It’s something else to work out a way to solve it. That’s where those encouraging friends come in. If you haven’t got them, you need them. Go to church. Or go to a friend’s house, someone you know is close to God, and be brave enough to be honest about where you are. Because the longer you stay in your stress pit, the lower you’re going get. And the lower you get, the harder it is to climb out.

Listen to wisdom. Do wisdom. That’s one way you can tell the difference between wisdom and knowledge. Wisdom is active and real. It’s something you can take with you and use everyday. So don’t just hear words someone says to you. If they’re wise, listen and do it.

It’s not easy. But you don’t have to do it alone. You have a lot of people around you who love you. Maybe you don’t feel like it, but at times like that, don’t trust what you feel. Trust what you know. Ask for help. Then get up and do something about it. And don’t worry what people will think. People will always think something. The people who matter won’t care.

Make a list. Make a schedule. Decide what you’re going to do and do it and then stop. Find someone to keep you accountable if you have to. Just stop killing yourself to please God. That’s not what He wants. And you know that. Running yourself into the ground to please Him is only to make you feel better. It’s not for Him.

What God wants from you is faith. Faith that what He asks you to do is enough, regardless of how you feel about it.

The wise get wiser, even if it means re-learning

God teaches me random things on a regular basis. Sometimes they’re lessons I already knew and had just forgotten. Other times it’s a new application of a Bible concept that I’d never thought of before. But every day, God reveals something to me that I need to know. But sometimes I don’t like talking about it because–well–what I learn often seems like common sense or like something I shouldn’t have to be taught.

Some of the most powerful lessons God has taught me are things that can be difficult for a “mature” Christ-follower to admit struggling with. Like forgiveness. Humility. Honesty. Those are all things a long-time Christ-follower should have down. No review necessary to take a pop quiz, right?

Yeah. Not so much.

animals-birds-owl-faunaToday’s verse is Proverbs 9:9.

Instruct the wise,
    and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous,
    and they will learn even more.

We should never stop learning. The moment we think we know it all, we’ll be in trouble because God will have to remind us how little we actually know.

The hallmark of a truly wise person is that he or she continues to learn. They seek instruction and grow wiser than they were before. That’s not an accident. Wisdom is a lifestyle, and once you have wisdom, you constantly desire to have more of it. Not so you can brag about how wise you are, but so that you can know and identify the things that really matter in life.

I’ve been writing for years. It’s just a part of my life and a part of who I am. And sometimes I write something that God uses to touch another person. Most of the time, it’s one of these random blog posts, but most recently it was a scene out of a novel I wrote years ago. Somehow the context of this scene was relevant to a conversation about following God. It blows my mind how God could use a scene from a novel to make a difference in someone else’s life.

But see, I know that. I know God does that. He does it every day. And still I forget it. I type my fingers off in my office, hammering away at my keyboard at all hours of the day and night, and in the back of my brain, my silly old insecure sin nature tells me that it’s all a waste of time. That I gave up a profitable career to chase a dream that will end in disappointment. That nothing I write will ever help anyone meet Jesus.

It takes a story like the one I heard yesterday to remind me that God can use anyone and anything to bless and encourage someone else. He can even use something I’ve written that I never expected anyone else to read. Wisdom spoken by a friend that I needed to hear. It was a lesson I already knew, but I needed to learn it again.

I want to be that wise person who keeps getting wiser every day, and I don’t want to be afraid to talk about what I’ve learned, even if it’s something I should have already known. Who knows? Maybe being honest about how often I have to re-learn what God has taught me will encourage someone else.

Has God had to teach you something you already knew again? Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Embrace it. If you’re wise, you’ll just get wiser.

I’m like a little child who doesn’t know the way

I have to be creative when I work. It’s in my job description. Part of being a writer (some people would call it being an artist) is making stuff up. You have to be really good at creating imaginary scenarios with imaginary people, which is all just in your head but real enough that others would believe it’s true if you told them.

The downside at being really good at making stuff up is that sometimes people think you really know what you’re doing. And to a certain extent, it’s true. You use experiences you’ve learned from other people and other situations, and you apply it to your current circumstance. It’s not rocket science. But what happens when you run into a situation that you can’t fabricate an answer for? What happens when you barrel headlong into something you don’t know how to get out of? What happens when you’re so buried in life’s troubles that you can’t even pretend you know what to do anymore?

It can be nice to be the person in the room with the answers, sure. But there’s a certain amount of freedom in being able to admit that you haven’t got a clue.

C52A64EA10_1505x1004Today’s verses are 1 Kings 3:7-9.

Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?

Solomon, the son of David, is one of the best-known kings of Israel. Israel experienced an unprecedented time of wealth and prosperity during Solomon’s reign. But that didn’t happen because Solomon was a great businessman. No, early on in his kingship, Solomon and God had a chat, and God gave Solomon the choice between material possessions and wisdom. And this was Solomon’s response.

We lose something from the original language. There’s always something lost in translation. That phrase, “I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around” is what I want to key into this morning.

This was Solomon. The King of Israel. The Son of David. He was rich and powerful and successful, yet in speaking to God, Solomon had no problem admitting he didn’t know jack. That’s what that means, you understand. Solomon was calling himself a baby. In some translations, it says Solomon compared himself to an infant that didn’t even know how to enter a room.

Compared to God, Solomon knew he knew nothing. And by demonstrating this kind of humility, God blessed him immeasurably.

When life get tough and surrounds me with trouble, my first response is to shake it off. I don’t want people worrying about me or fussing over me. I usually just want to be left alone so that I can puzzle through the situation on my own. I’ve heard enough stories, I know enough Scripture, and I’ve had enough wise council in my life to get me through just about anything–or so I thought.

God likes to keep me humble. So He’ll let things come at me that I have no idea how to handle. And I flail around ridiculously for a while until I finally break down and ask for help, like I should have done first. But I don’t like admitting I have no answers. I don’t like being the person who stares blankly at a hurting friend’s face and has nothing helpful to say. I may not like it, but it’s the truth. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t always know what to say.

You’d think that by now, after all these years following the Lord, I wouldn’t need Him as much. You’d think I could stand on my own by now. But that’s not the case. I need Him more now than I did as a child, because I’ve come to understand just how big the world is and just how little I really know about any of it.

Are you feeling lost today, trapped in a situation you can’t find answers for? Are you flailing around trying to fix an impossible circumstance, doing the best you can with what you have and utterly failing? Have you hurt someone else? Have you screwed up big time? Join the club.

Just know you aren’t supposed to have all the answers. That’s God’s job. Your job is to ask God for help, to listen to His answers, and put them into practice.

You don’t have to know everything. Isn’t that a relief? Isn’t that a weight off your shoulders? You simply can’t have the answers to all of life’s problems. It’s too big for you. But it’s not too big for God, and if you believe in Jesus, you have free access to God’s ear, to God’s wisdom, and to God’s strength.

Even righteous anger isn’t always wise

I don’t get angry very often, but it usually happens when I’m driving. Bad drivers make me angry. Aggressive drivers make me angry. And when I get angry, I tend to be a little more aggressive in my driving than normal. Of course, I’m ashamed to admit it. I’d much rather let people think that I never lose my cool, but that’s not the case.

The difficult thing about anger is that it’s subversive. It can make you think it’s useful because it gets you off your backside and makes you engage in conversations or events taking place around you, but if you let anger become your only motivation, you’ll end up hurting people, whether you mean to or not.

anger_steamToday’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.”

Jesus understood the danger of anger, and it can be dangerous. Anger by itself isn’t sinful, but it’s what you do when you’re angry that matters. There are stories in history of reformers who saw the inequality in our society and got angry about it, but they didn’t stay angry. They were angry about the injustice, and then they got busy doing good things to fix the problem. But they were too busy to be angry.

What’s important to note here, though, is that the intention of your anger is just as important as what you do with it. Jesus says you don’t have to have killed someone to be guilty of murder. In your mind, if you hate someone enough to kill them, you’re guilty. If the act is wrong, so is the intention.

In our world right now, everyone is angry. Everyone. And we’re all staying angry, and it’s not helping anybody.

The anger Jesus talks about here is “seething, brooding bitterness” that eventually leads to hatred and violence and emotional stress. It’s dangerous to feel this kind of anger, and it can make us do things we will regret if not kept in check. People will write off their anger as righteous indignation and in some cases that’s true, but righteous anger never leads to hurting anyone.

There are many, many things in our world to be angry about. I can think of five or six just from this past week that got my blood boiling, and that initial anger at people flipping God off may have helped me make some decisions about what I’m going to do with my life. But I didn’t let my anger continue. And I didn’t let it turn into something I couldn’t release.

If you hold on to your anger, regardless of who it’s focused on, you’ll eventually lose control, and you’ll do something horrible that will hurt someone else and that will hurt you and the people you love. Anger is dangerous.

So don’t be angry. I know it isn’t always that simple, but start by recognizing that anger isn’t a solution. It’s a reaction that can get you moving, but when you make a decision, you shouldn’t make it because you’re angry. Anger may be righteous sometimes, but I’m not sure it’s always wise.

If you’re angry, choose to stop. Let it go and trust that God is going to resolve the situation in His time. Sure, there may be something you can do about it in the interim, but I guarantee you aren’t going to see it as long as you’re seeing red.

Nobody is a lost cause

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in this life alone? Like you know that God is there, but He seems content to watch you struggle through frustration after frustration just so that you’ll learn something? I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve been there before. Deep in my heart I know that it’s not true and God will always take care of me, but in the dark moments when I’ve had enough, I’ve definitely felt abandoned. Or even targeted.

But is that really who God–and by extension Jesus–is? Is He really the distant, unfeeling deity in the clouds who would subject His followers to challenges and obstacles and stand back and watch them stumble and fall without interceding? Wouldn’t it be nice if He’d just offer some means of figuring out why you have to go through all this crap? Wouldn’t it be awesome if He’d just show you what you need to learn?

Guess what? He has.

Hanging-off-a-cliff-edgeToday’s verses are Matthew 4:18-20.

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.

When I was little, I thought it was really odd that these grown men would just leave their jobs and follow after this random guy who called out to them. It didn’t seem very practical to me. After all, if they didn’t know the guy, they couldn’t know if he were leading them into some kind of trap … you know, like where they’d be knocked out and have their kidneys stolen or something.

But Jesus wasn’t just some guy. And Peter and Andrew had already heard of Him (honestly I think there were few in the area who hadn’t heard of Him). But Andrew, Peter’s brother, had already met Jesus and decided that He was indeed the Messiah. So they knew who Jesus was and what He was up to when He called them out.

This passage tells us a lot about Peter and Andrew, but it also tells us a lot about Jesus. Jesus called the disciples by telling them He had something to teach them–something different than the trade they already knew. How to fish for people–how to lead others to know God.

It’s not that they were joining a super secret club where only the elite have access. You realize what these men did for a living right? They were blue collar workers, to put it mildly. The Bible actually calls them “unlearned, ignorant men.” Jesus wasn’t calling the brilliant. He was calling the everyday people, and He still is, because we still have a lot to learn. And fortunately He has a lot to teach. And everyone is invited.

He wanted to teach these men how to live life with Him, how to see God in the everyday moments, how to trust God in the tough times, and how to seek God first with everything in their hearts. And we have an example of how to live and what to believe through what these men learned in following Jesus. We have the Bible, God’s own Word handed down to us through the generations.

The truth is that we aren’t alone, and God isn’t just lounging around in heaven watching our struggles like Earth is one giant reality TV show. Neither is Jesus. And neither is the Holy Spirit. All three of Them are active and alive, vivid participants in our world and our universe.

The thing about Jesus is that He never changes, and if He wasn’t exclusive back then, He’s not exclusive now. He doesn’t play favorites, and He won’t ever turn anyone away who comes to Him. Jesus was open to those who were seeking, to those who wanted answers, to those willing to hear the truth. He doesn’t see status, wealth or education. He just sees a willing heart.

That means no matter where you’ve come from or what you’ve done, Jesus wants to hear from you. No matter how you’ve screwed up or how many people you’ve heart or how many times you’ve let people down, you can’t commit a sin too deep that Jesus blood can’t wash away.

That means nobody is a lost cause.