The Way Life Should Be

My wife and I are on a mission. Our goal is to, eventually, make a visit to all 50 states. We have been incredibly blessed to stop by, and subsequently get a magnet from, a decent portion of the 50 states in our great Union already. (Quick poll: if we have been to a state but forgot to get a magnet can we just buy a magnet on Amazon, or do we have to go back in order for it to “count.”)

Anyway, one of my favorites, if not the favorite, state so far would be Maine. (Fun fact: Maine is the only state whose name is only one syllable. Go ahead say all the states in your head, it’s true!)

I fell in love with Maine in a matter of minutes, literally. Now, I know that the short time I spent there does not necessarily offer a complete and fully accurate picture of what life in Maine might be like. But, with that being said, what I did see and experience was absolutely breath-taking.

I was debating of whether or not to share a bunch of pictures here and I decided to just go with the one. (Taken by my awesome wife, by the way.) The reason I am not showing more is that, even though the pictures we took turned out really well, they still do so little justice to just how beautiful it truly was.

God is such an awesome and incredibly creative creator. This world that He has made is so beautiful. (Read more about that HERE.)

Maine was awesome. The coast was my favorite. I could sit there on a rock and stare off into the ocean for hours. The blueberries were heavenly. The lobster was in mac n’ cheese. The donuts were exceptional. The trees were tall and skinny, just the way they should be. (Oh, also trees make up 90% of the land in Maine…so that’s neat!) The people were down-to-earth and friendly. And did I mention the coast?!

While we were driving we saw a sign that stuck with me. It read, “MAINE: The Way Life Should Be.”

I remember smiling and saying out loud, “yea, that’s about right.” I mean, if there is a way that life should be lived it probably is: on the edge of a forest-on the top of a cliff-next to a lighthouse-overlooking the ocean-eating fresh blueberry pancakes. Now, that’s living.

I kept thinking about that sign for the next few days and even weeks. The phrase itself makes my mind run to Genesis 2. Back to the Garden. Back to the way life should be.

That one chapter in the Bible where all was as it should be. Man and woman walking and talking and living and enjoying life together next to God. Together with God.

If you look around you today, you won’t find a picture-perfect garden paradise. Instead, you will see brokenness, pain, hurt, despair, sin, and death. This is not the way life should be.

That is important for us to remember. This new normal for mankind is so “not the way life should be” that God did something about it. He sent Jesus.

Jesus died on the cross so that we could experience life, abundant life. (John 10:10)

Jesus came to show us the way, and the way that life should be. (John 14:6)

And, God promises, for those who put their trust in Jesus, to take away all the things that stand in the way of “life being the way it should be.” (Revelation 21:1-8)

You may be reading this and be thinking, “that’s great! I have already trusted Jesus, but how do I navigate life today?”

That’s a great question. Proverbs 3:5-6 gives a great answer. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Trusting in Jesus today and tomorrow and the next day and the next…that is how we, not just survive, but thrive in this life.

Trust in Jesus.

That is the way life should really be.

God is Good.

Can I just start off this post by stating an obvious and simple, yet jam-packed phrase?

God is good. Like, really really good.

I typed “good” into the Google machine looking for some synonyms and got the following.

Excellent. Exceptional. Favorable. Great. Marvelous. Satisfying. Wonderful. Superior. Ace. Boss. (Those last two make me chuckle, but they are still so true.)

The point is, God is so good, so amazing, and so incredibly other-worldly that all of these words, both, perfectly describe Him, and at the same time fall incredibly short.

The depth of God’s goodness has absolutely no end. He is wholly perfect and perfectly holy.

So, you might be wondering what happened? Why am I spending all this time praising God for His goodness? What big news do I have? What awesome thing happened to me lately that I am responding to and writing in such a way?

Nothing…and Everything.

Nothing- in the sense of what most people might think warrants praise and adoration. My life looks pretty much the same as it did last week. I don’t have any awesome or exciting news. I have often heard people say (and I am sure I have said it before as well) something along the line of, “God is so good…here is what happened.” It is almost as if “God is good” is the introduction to some bigger and better news that we have. Now, it’s necessary and appropriate to give God the glory for the things He has done in our life.

But in reality, “God is good” is the best and most important thing that we say. That phrase shouldn’t only be an introduction of good news to come, it is the good news.

God is good. Period. It doesn’t matter if we have good news to share or not. It doesn’t matter if we are in the midst of a good situation or bad. God is good regardless of our perspective.

So, in that line of thinking, no, nothing extraordinary happened to me. God just simply being God is more than enough for me to exclaim, “God is good!”

But, at the same time…everything has happened. I woke up this morning. As I write I am enjoying the comfort of one of God’s many gifts to mankind-coffee. I have an awesome, beautiful, adventurous, and brings-happy-tears-to-my-eyes-when-I-think-about-her wife. I have a wonderful church family. I have a wonderful family. I have the coolest job ever. And I have hope for eternity.

So, yeah. God has given me every reason to stand up and shout, “God is good!”

But, once again, God’s goodness isn’t dependent on my situation. Even if all those things I listed above were, in one moment, taken away from me…God would still be good. He would still be worthy to be praised. Because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways and thoughts are so much higher and more incredible than ours. (Paraphrasing Isaiah 55:8-9)

Psalm 34:1-3 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”

Did you catch that? “at all times.” God deserves to be praised because He is good. Time, situation, and feelings shouldn’t get in the way of that.

What about you? Can you shout out loud that God is good? Today, will you, regardless of what the rest of the day looks like, recognize that there is a great, big, awesome, and good God who is worthy of being praised, and will you praise Him?

Today, even though it’s just another average day, I have every reason to say, “God is good!”

St. Patrick’s Day: You’re Doing It Wrong

Step away from the corned beef, put down that Shamrock Shake, and drop the phony accents. None of these things are what Patrick, the real-life Patrick would have wanted.

Well, maybe he would have been cool with the corned beef and shakes, but for sure not the fake accents. Those are silly.

This coming Saturday is a day that a whole lot of Americans seem to collectively lose their minds. My city dyes the river green, people drink waaay too much, you get pinched for not wearing green, and everyone claims to be just a “wee bit” Irish.

But none of this has anything to do with the man for whom this holiday gets its name. If we really want to be honoring this man’s legacy, we should go to our enemies and the people who have wronged us most in life and share a message of hope and love with them. That’s what Patrick did. And he did it because he loved Jesus.

When Patrick, who wasn’t Irish by the way, was about 16 years old his village was ransacked, and he was kidnapped and forced to become a slave. He was taken away from his home and family and was brought to Ireland. It was during his time as a slave that he put his faith in Jesus, whom he had heard about as a child but chose to ignore. It was Patrick’s relationship with Jesus that helped him to survive slavery. During his 6 years of captivity, his prayer life grew tremendously. Eventually, he escaped and returned home and was educated.

Now, there are a lot of different legends surrounding this man and his life, but what I would like to focus on today is the facts. The facts are that Patrick was transformed by God, loved God, and allowed himself to be used by God so that many other’s lives could be transformed as well.

Patrick devoted his life to sharing the Good News of Jesus’ love. His devotion to the Gospel eventually led him right back to Ireland and his former master.

Why would Patrick return to a place where horrible things happened to him, and to people that had, at one point, been his worst enemies and greatest oppressors? The answer is simple. The Good News of God’s love is really really good news.

Patrick knew that the Gospel is something that we cannot afford to keep to ourselves.

Patrick traveled all across the island explaining the good news of salvation in Jesus’ name to any and everyone who would listen to him. He cared for and loved the people of Ireland enough to share with them a life-giving message.

It wasn’t always easy, he was often met with resistance and persecution. But Patrick continued to speak about freedom in Christ Jesus in a place where he once was a slave. A whole lot of people put their trust in Jesus because of Patrick’s efforts and faithfulness.

So, if we really want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day I say that we go to those who have done us wrong and forgive them and show them love. I say that we share the good news of Jesus’ love with them.

Imagine what would happen if we went to our worst enemies and showed them this kind of ground-breaking, earth-shattering, barrier-breaking, life-changing love.

You don’t have to be Irish to do that. Patrick wasn’t.