Saturday, August 30, 2014


One of the greatest lies that has perpetuated the world is this:  You have to do it all yourself.  You have to struggle to fundamentally change yourself to become a better person.  It's up to you to be the best worker/friend/spouse that you can be, and if you fail then it is all your fault.  You were not good enough.  Guess what: You're in good company.  None of us are very good on our own.

You've heard it all before I know, but this is the truth:  God loves you just as you are, today, right now.  No matter how good or bad you are, you cannot change that.  This is where you need to find your identity, as a follower of God.  Your identity itself - finding the deep joy, security, and peace you need in life, all of that comes from getting to know Him better.  And only from that!  It's not based on you, it's not based on your friends or family or situations in your life.  All these can and will let you down.  That's why you can't rely on them completely.  Once you have a strong foundation in knowing that you are God's special creation created for a purpose and that he is with you every step of the way, then all the rest just falls into place.

Ok, so that all sounds good and all but what does it mean, how can I actually do that?  First - get to a spot where you are truly lost.  You have no idea what to do.  You have run out of steam on your own.  This is a great place to be!  Now - talk to God.  Not some recited prayer that doesn't mean anything personal to you.  Just talk to him like you would anyone else.  Explain your frustrations.  Yell and scream if you want to.  And most importantly - give up!  All this stress, these big decisions, whatever.  Let Him worry about it.  If you leave it up to him then at the right time you will suddenly know exactly what you need to do and have total peace about it.  He will lead you along and help you grow in just the spots you need at just the right time.

Here's just a few examples from my own life, there's dozens more: 
One of the biggest things that the Lord changed in my life:  Back when I was a teenager I was all into watching some videos I shouldn't have been.  You know what I am talking about.  One day I bored with it.  I thought, is this all there is?  At that moment I could feel God just standing there waiting for me.  He let me see how wrong it all was for the first time.  Then came the hard part.  Over the course of about a year I went from not being able to help but look at any girl I saw, to being unable to pick out a girl my friends were trying to point out.  All I had to do was try my best to obey God.  Turn away when I saw something I shouldn't.  Do what I could to stay away from things I shouldn't even be near.  I failed many many times, but during that ordeal God was changing me from the inside out.  My desire itself was vastly changed for the better. 

Decision time.  I had been talking to Sharon for a while before we got together and I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to be with her or not.  I liked her but had some serious doubts.  Then she gave me an ultimatum - are we going to be together or not?  It was a reasonable request, but I still just had no idea.  Stress!  I prayed hard for several hours as her and I talked.  Finally I got an answer:  go be with her.  I was still afraid but I trusted God at that point and to this day I know I am with the right person.  Because it wasn't my choice!  So freeing!  Of course, I am very happy with the choice too.  There simply couldn't be any better one.

There's more great examples from work, friends, and family chronicled here:

Sounds stupid and like it couldn't really work, I know.  But once you surrender that part of your life the stress of what to do is out of your hands, and you are freed from it.  All you have to do is follow and obey.  The more you do this the more you see how He can help you.  The more you start to trust.  The more you feel his strength and power in your life.  And you know, not just head knowledge but deep inside, you will be ok no matter what happens.  From this comes your identity and security.  He knows what you want and what you need far more than you do!  So let him take over.  Seriously.  It works.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Karma.  There's an interesting thought.  Do "good" people get good things in their lives and "bad" people get bad things?  Clearly it's not a hard and fast rule.  I'm sure everyone can think of examples where it doesn't appear to be the case.  But on the grand scheme of things... is it something we can hope for?  When that guy cuts us off in traffic and we want to scream at him, should we hope he gets some painful indigestion at lunchtime?  I would say no.

First off, we don't know his circumstances.  Maybe he truly didn't see you coming.  Maybe he was in a frantic scramble to get to work on time so he didn't get fired.  We don't know what was going on in his head.

But let's pretend we do.  Or at least we know some of the situation.  Some people are just continuously selfish and mean to others.  Do they get punished for it?  Sometimes people do stupid things as a pattern.  Eventually, the odds are that something bad will happen to them, not because some cosmic force declared that it should be so, but just because they were doing stupid things and eventually got into a big mess because of it.

Sometimes though, things are more insidious.  Sometimes people are mean, but they are smart about it.  They deceive others, and even seen to get ahead in life.  They are doing even better than you, even when you try to follow the rules - most of the time anyway.  Does that make you angry? 

Turn your gaze inward for a second.  Are there things you do that make people upset?  Are there things you do that you know are wrong, but you have a million excuses for?  Of course you do.  Everyone does. 

You want fair.  God has said he will judge everyone fairly in the end.  Don't doubt it for a minute.  That person you don't like will get judged and punishment extended onto them.  Have no fear about that.  But - that same thing will happen to you.  And you also will fall short.  All of us are miserable failures in the end.  That's why we need grace.  We need grace on judgment day, and also grace here on earth when we do stupid things.

Clinging to that hope that others will have bad things happen to them - it's just poisoning you.  You have to let it go and forgive.  Every day, every minute if you need to.  This grace you extend is not just for them.  It's mainly for you.  So you can finally be free of worrying about it all and just live your own life!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Slavery and Freedom

Freedom!  It's our right.  It's our rallying cry.  But what does it really mean? 

Most people think of freedom generally as the ability to do whatever they want to do.  Maybe if you press they will add "within reason".  I couldn't disagree with this definition more.

Make no mistake, I do want to be free.  I want to be free from any constraints that keep me from being the best I can possibly be.  Unfortunately, limiting myself to "what I want" as my cry of freedom is the most limiting thing there is.

I know myself pretty well.  Sometimes I am good, sometimes I am not.  I know full well I want plenty of things that are bad for me.  Even some things deep down that I would never tell anyone about.  Can't you see that this is what's holding you back?  Relying on yourself - trying to muddle through life, well intentioned or not, with this huge anchor deep inside that you can never get away from is a path to defeat.  The more you try to resist and be good, the more you realize just how strong it fights back.  It has you trapped.  You are a slave to your own desires.

Sometimes people even give up entirely and just assume that whatever is inside them is the ultimate goal.  They do not constrain themselves.  Whatever they want, they do their best to get.  Unfortunately that way lies emptiness and an unending thirst for more.  For these desires inside are never satisfied. 

So you're tired of fighting.  You want out.  You want away... from yourself.  You may have heard the expression "Freedom in Christ", that's what it is talking about.  The whole point, the whole crux of Christianity is learning to let go of yourself and let God replace that part of you with something better.  He will align your desires with His own.  He will give you the power to fight back successfully.  You stop becoming a slave to your own desires and start becoming truly free to do great things.

It's one of the strange paradoxes of life that the more you let go, the more free you really are. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Be Careful when Doing Good

I was about to leave work when I saw a co-worker walking around trying to find someone to give their car a jump.  I'm no car mechanic, but I did have some cables, and had used them before.  So we go outside and I drive my car over.  I looked at the instructions for a minute, then proceed to successfully jump their car out in the pouring rain. 

It felt good.  Very good.  I'm glad I could help them out.  It was kinda fun actually.  I was thankful that I had the chance to do this before and that I had been taught at least a little bit about cars. 

But after a while I realized something.  There was a bit of a temptation to congratulate myself too much.  "Great job, you did it!"  "You are awesome!"  I recognized this for what it was.  Sin. 

Of course you will feel good, and maybe you really did do a good job of going above and beyond.  There's no harm in feeling good about doing that.  But - the second you switch your focus from being thankful you could help others to praising yourself, inflating yourself with pride, even thankful that you alone were able to do it - that's where you start to fall down spiritually. 

Always keeping your focus on God and others keeps this problem at bay nicely - although that's easier said than done. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Unconditional Love

Sometimes people are frustrating.  People, even people that you thought were your friends, just don't always respond the way you want them to.  They do something that just makes no sense to you, or maybe they just run away.  Maybe they told you they were going to do something for you and just never do.  Maybe they are too busy and just don't have time for you.  Whatever the case may be:  you feel hurt.  Confused.  Disappointed.

Sometimes you start to wonder... is this worth it?  Why would I want these people in my life if they just do stuff like this.  Well, the truth of it is:  you're about to put a condition on being friends with them.  You're loving them conditionally.  "As long as they don't do X again, we're cool."  Aren't we supposed to love unconditionally?  What's that even look like?

It means looking out for their interests first.  It means at times loving people in spite of themselves, instead of because they are doing something lovable.  Do they need some space?  Fine, give them space.  Do they just need to vent?  Let them vent.  Are they about to do something stupid?  Do your best to stop them, but don't give up if they don't listen.

In fact, don't be at all concerned with what you are feeling.  Let God give you the strength to persevere.  He will give you everything you need to help.  Instead of being offended by what they are doing, try to ask questions and see the deeper reason why they did that.  And then if there is some deeper issue, try to help them resolve that.  Put your focus on helping them and you won't have room for your own feelings of insecurity anymore.

There's another part to this as well.  It's still important to let people know if they are hurting you somehow.  But here's something I learned from one of my friends a long time ago:  Just tell them once.  And move on.  If they listen, great.  If not, well, you did what you could.  You planted a seed, hopefully it will grow one day.  But don't bring it back up.  Forgive them.  Help them work through it.  Help them be the best they can be.

Loving people is hard sometimes.  But as you learn to refocus on God and neighbor instead of yourself, you get new strength from it.  You start to see the world through God's eyes a little bit.  See what's really important.  You realize that just doing what you can really is enough.  You don't need to be burdened by that anymore.  Love people the best you can, God will take care of the rest.  And He will help you continue to grow and fill your life with even an greater love.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Embracing difficulties

I've been questioning something lately.  There was a difficulty of sorts that I was facing a while ago.  I very much wanted something that I could not ever have.  So, I did everything I could to just run away.  Bury the desire down so far that I barely admitted it to myself.  Clearly it was there, I was fully aware of it, but I didn't want it.  It scared me.  I somehow felt that even admitting it to myself was sin. 

I prayed constantly for the desire to be taken away from me.  After a very long time, it slowly faded away.  It seemed... anticlimactic in a way.  The thing is, I relied on my own power to get away from it.  Though I did ask God to take it away, I never actually prayed for actual help to overcome this.  I never saw it as an opportunity of sorts.  Not once did it cross my mind that maybe this was in my life to teach me something.  Not once did I stop and say "Ok God, why is this suddenly an issue for me?  What can I learn from this?  What are you trying to teach me here?  Help me understand!"

Furthermore, I now understand that asking for a trial to be taken away is really pretty selfish.  Of course, we do it because we don't want to be tempted and possibly fall into sinning in some way.  That is good.  But we are completely missing the point on why the trial is there in the first place. 

Imagine God wants you to learn some new skill, say swimming.  When you draw near to the pool, you don't want to jump in the water, because, well, swimming might be hard.  You might go through some pain and struggling to get good at it.  Maybe you're afraid you won't even like swimming.  So, maybe it's for the best if you just give up and not jump in at all.  Sounds pretty silly and childish right?  Yet that's exactly what we are doing when we ask God to take our trials away.  Sometimes He pushes us in.  Asking him to help you out of the pool won't get you anywhere.  You'll never learn how to swim that way!

These hardships we have are used by God to great effect in our lives - we learn to rely on him more, we grow in our faith, we find new strength we never thought we had, all sorts of good things happen.  If we just run away, we are just missing out on some of the blessings he wants to share with us.  Sounds strange, I know. 

Lastly, and most importantly, we are being selfish when we do this.  We are called to glorify God first and foremost in our lives.  Overcoming trials and temptations with His strength is a phenomenal way of doing this.  If we run, we are choosing ourselves first.  Jesus didn't run from his great difficulty, thank God for that! 

We need to follow His example.  Asking for the hardship to be removed is fine, but we have to also accept it if God does not take it away.  He usually does not remove it, because he loves us that much.  He wants to shower blessings on us, and unfortunately sometimes we are only made ready for those blessings by going through something painful.

So the next time you are facing a new difficulty, consider praying this:  I will trust you to lead me through this.  I know you will give me more than enough strength to handle this.  Use this to deepen my faith and understanding.  Above all, I want to bring glory to you.  Show me how to overcome this.  Amen!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Let It Shine

Remember singing these songs in church?  "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!"  "Go, tell it on the Mountain!  Over the hills and everywhere!"

And yet some of the same people who love singing these songs say "As for my relationship with God, well, that's personal."

What gives here?   Why the dissonance? 

Sure, I get it.  You're afraid.  You don't know how people will react.  You aren't sure of yourself.

Too bad.  Time to get over it!

You are called to be the light of the world.  You have the answers people are longing for.  You can point them in the only direction that matters.  You share everything else about your life, funny or embarrassing things that happened with you, what games you are playing, what you are doing with your job or hobbies.  Why is there a wall against the most important thing you could possibly share?  You have to break it down if you want to truly help people!

There's any number of reasons not to.  But the benefits of doing so are enormous.  I've found that telling people about what God has done in my life is one of the most rewarding things in this world.  Telling people the small miracles I've seen.  Sharing the story that God is unfolding in my life.  In fact, I had so much to say I had to start a blog!

Faith is such a big part of life.  If you share that part of yourself it really helps people to get to know you better.  Perhaps that's yet another reason not to share:  you don't want people to see that intimate part of you.  But how else are you going to get people to truly understand you?  How else can you show people why you have great peace, love, and joy in your life?  How else are people going to be able to see you as you truly are so they can help you as well? 

How are you going to be a light to the world?  Lift off the cover of selfishness (yes, it is pure selfishness) and acknowledge the one that shines through us.  It's the only way.