God’s Purpose in Disappointment

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“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”

–Psalm 42:5-6a

It’s easy to feel defeated in the midst of life’s disappointments. To feel broken. Confused. Hopeless. Sad. Empty.

But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can discover God’s purpose even in the deepest of disappointments.

I’m finding that some of our deepest disappointments in life can actually be blessings… propelling us into a deeper peace and resiliency in the Lord as we seek the Lord’s wholeness instead of that tendency to feel empty.

It’s difficult.

But the Lord can heal our hearts if we seek Him.

I want to encourage you that it’s in this tender place of working through our disappointments with the Lord that we find a greater love with our Savior than ever before.

“As a deer pants for flowing streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirst for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

–Psalm 42:1-2

I love the longing of the psalmist in these two verses of Psalm 42. The writer, who scholars credit to the Sons of Korah, don’t stop at declaring that they are thirsty for God. They go on to ask… When shall I come and appear before God?

They have an insatiable desire for the Lord that will not be satisfied until they see Him.

An unrivaled love.

A permanent longing.

How much longer till I can see God? I just want to see Him! I need to see Him! My whole existence needs to be with You Lord right now! The writer wants God more than anything. He compares it to the basic need for water: something a human cannot live without for survival. Thus, the writer affirms He cannot live without God for survival either. He needs Him. He needs God for survival.

Such zealous longing for the Lord and satisfaction in that longing is what I believe God wants for all of us.

God wants us to be in love with Him.

More than we love anything else.

Sometimes, this necessitates difficult trials in our lives such as disappointments that force us to re-prioritize other longings of our hearts, affirming the Lord as our #1 desire.

Wrestling with a deep disappointment in my own life, I’m starting to come full circle recognizing the good this has done in my heart. God has been using my disappointment to dig a deeper anchor of hope and love for my Savior. But it’s taken time and waiting on the Lord to do in my soul what I cannot do for myself.

As I work through my own disappointments with the Lord, I’m seeing how this lack of what I wanted is forcing me to seek the Lord in a brand new way.

A way I’ve never had to do before because I had never been disappointed like this.

I always sought the Lord because He was the best thing to me. The Lord has always been my love and my safe place and had never been rivaled before by any kind of stronger hope in my heart.

But once God saw that my heart started to want something more than Him, He had no other choice but to woo me back…

…And that called for disappointment.

Yes, disappointment.

Sometimes, God lets painful things happen to you to strengthen you and make your faith deeper rooted in Him.

I know that God let me be disappointed.

And my heart is now thankful. No longer resentful.

God needed me to experience the devastation that occurs when a heart wants something more than Him.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t want good things, relationships, blessings and so on… But it does mean that if I want those things more than I want God, I will never be healthy in love with the Lord the way I was designed to be.

When we hope in something to fill us and it doesn’t work out how we thought it would, we get disappointed.

And there’s an emptiness in that moment that beckons us for “more.”

And that “more” can only be found in Jesus.

My heart finally understands that God is worthy of possessing and keeping the top spot in my heart.

We can love others better when God has the top spot in our hearts…. because a healthy love relationship with the Lord teaches us what love is. And everyone around us will benefit from our healthy relationship with the Lord.

Learning by experience was the only way I could learn this lesson.

Hearing “Love God first,” and reading in the bible to “Love God first” was not going to make this resolute in my heart.

Something had to test my love for the Lord.

I had to wrestle with it in my own heart.

Experiencing what it feels like to not love God first and get hurt has trained me to never do this again because it’s too painful.

Now, I want to love God first.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of hosts. I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.”

– Psalm 84:1-2

I have experienced the pain of loving something more than the Lord. And I now I have experienced the fullness of what it feels like to want God more.

God is very past-present-future-minded in how He uses such a devastating emotion like disappointment to actually propel us into a sustainable joy. God could easily let His hurt for how we’re hurting in the moment of our disappointment make Him call off the whole experience. And make it stop. He could hear our cries for deliverance and cries for healing and put an end to our journey of peace-through-disappointment. And make it stop. But He doesn’t. God looks into the future and sees how this hurt is only temporary; and how the peace, joy and rest we will obtain at the end of it will be worth all the pain of the disappointment.

Additionally, my love for God would never have been tested if I had never been exposed to something more desirable. Anyone can love God first when nothing else is rivaling that love. But once something comes along that makes you want it more than you want God, then your love for God is put to the test. This is what happened in my life.

God wants to test our love for Him. And test our faith in Him. To make it stronger!

 “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold –though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. S0 when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

1 Peter 1:7

Thanks be to God that He has grace on us through this refining process. So while we look away to something we see as more desirable, God waits on us while we navigate this unfamiliar terrain and is still there when we decide to return to the Lord who fills us.

“The Lord appeared to him from far away saying, I have love you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued to extend faithful love to you.”

Jeremiah 31:3

Friends, disappointment in your life is not a curse. It’s a blessing!

God has a purpose for your disappointment.

He has a purpose!

God did not allow a disappointment in your life to hurt you. God appointed that disappointment so that you may come to discover a deeper love with your Savior.

You may not see it yet.

But keep praying.

Keep pushing through the uncomfortableness.

Keep seeking Him in the weariness of how it feels to be disappointed.

God is the only one who can fix it.

God is the only One who can turn your sorrow into joy.

You cannot make it happen on your own.

But I guarantee He will do it!

As Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices pleasing to God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

All you need is a broken and surrendered spirit put in the hands of the Lord and He will restore your soul as you seek Him and patiently wait on Him to do it.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

If we recall the greatest disappointment the world could ever know was when the Savior of the world was nailed to a cross. Killed. Dead. His mother, disciples and followers thought things were hopeless. Their Messiah was gone. Their hope lost. But then…they discovered their disappointment was only intended to endure for 3 days…for the Savior of the world had risen! He was alive! Their hope restored again! By the power of God. And they would live to tell of His works and miracles.

Disappointment turned to joy.

God had a purpose.

May your disappointments turn to joy and peace in the powerful working hands of the Lord. May He strengthen you in the time of waiting for your situation to be redeemed. I pray you would be refreshed by His spirit. And dependent on Him to heal your soul. Praise the Lord who woos us deeper in love with Him. And shows us the purpose in our disappointments. How amazing the lovingkindness of the Lord. Hallelujah.

 

“I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 31:13b-14

 

Questions for Today:

  • What has disappointed me?
  • Do I want God to reveal His purpose to me regarding this disappointment?
  • How can I see God’s purpose in this disappointment as a means to draw me into deeper love with Him?
  • Why is important that I patiently wait on the Lord to redeem my disappointment?
  • Why does the Lord send difficult trials into our lives?
  • What is one step God is asking me to take in my relationship with Jesus today?

“Behold (Then Sings My Soul)” by Hillsong Worship

 

 

 

The Illusion of No Progress

beautiful-roots

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

-Habakkuk 3:17-18

For many of us, there’s a situation in your life that shows no signs of progress, no signs of life, no signs of fruit on the tree. No indication of anything good resulting from your prayers, your obedience, your investment, your effort, your faith.

It’s easy to wonder if your prayers are working, if your obedience is worth it, if your faith is enough.

Why, God, is nothing happening though I’ve been sowing seed and watering for so long now?

These kinds of seasons will enter our lives to prompt our waiting… and require our trust.

To prepare us for what’s next.

Still, it’s easy to look at what’s not happening and assume nothing is working.

These less than favorable seasons in our lives can drag on and on, as days turn to months and months turn to years.

It’s hard enough to navigate this uncomfortable terrain, much more difficult to adapt to the monotony of the made-permanent conditions of a waiting zone. The illusion of no progress is a constant reminder. And disappointment a nagging temptation.

When God has you in a waiting zone where He is working out things you cannot see, it’s easy to assume no progress is being made.

That nothing has changed.

That God has abandoned you.

That you are getting nowhere.

But maybe there’s more progress taking place than we realize.

What if there is unseen progress underlying the barren tree? Underlying roots growing deep into the foundation of God’s promise about to bloom?

We have to look into the illusion of no progress with eyes of faith and a heart of confidence in God’s handiwork, believing that God is creating something beautiful about to bloom.

It just takes time.

But it will happen.

We must remind ourselves of what God promised, even when what we see doesn’t match up.

Abraham was a man familiar with the illusion of no progress.

Abraham was in the waiting zone every day of his life after the Word of the Lord came to Him promising him a son and descendants as numerous as the stars.

“And He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then He said to him, So shall your offspring be.”

Genesis 15:5

God promised Abraham a son.

Yet nothing happened, immediately.

“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” he says to God in Genesis 17:17.

No son.

An illusion of no progress.

Them God came to Abraham again in Genesis 18:10 declaring the same promise, “The Lord said, “I will certainly come back to you in about a year’s time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him.”

More waiting.

Still no son.

An illusion of no progress.

Altogether Abraham and Sarah would wait 25 years until this promise would become a reality.

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.”

Genesis 21:1-2

Illusion of no progress shattered.

His son was born.

God fulfilled what He had promised.

Paul writes of Abraham in Romans 4:18, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abraham is praised for his faith.

Even though he and Sarah doubted they could have a son.

This is quite interesting.

Abraham and Sarah doubted they could have a son and took matters into their own hands to have a son. Hagar, the maidservant, became their hope for having a son instead of God.

“Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said.”

-Genesis 16:2

What’s remarkable about this is that Sarah and Abraham tried to have a son through Hagar before God ever promised them a son through Sarah. Yes, God promised Abraham in Genesis 15 the that he would have an heir. But in this culture, the man having children through a maidservant or other wife was normal. Sarah wasn’t trying to disobey God as much as she was just trying to be logical and operate out of her cultural framework. And when a lady of her age could not have children to give her husband an heir, going to her maidservant for an heir woukd have been the standard next step. So Sarah took a good look at reality and said, well if I can’t have a son I’ll just have one through Hagar.

Sarah had given up.

She didn’t even have the comprehension to know that God would be kind enough to give her a son.

Sarah was just at her wits end and trying to do the best she could with the life and body she had. So she gave up and gave in to the only option she thought she had left: having a son through Hagar.

But God wanted more for Sarah.

Sarah never even knew that this would be possible.

Wow this is so powerful seeing this in the scriptures. I am overwhelmed thinking about how even after Sarah gave up that God cared enough about her to step in and give back to her what she had just given up.

God saw that Sarah gave up.

And THAT was the very point in time that God stepped in and gave her a promise of a blessing of a son who they would call Isaac (Genesis 17:19).

God is so gracious to fulfill what He promises even when we doubt. Even when we don’t see a way. Even when we give up.

Maybe God’s waiting on you to give up so He can step in and give what only He can give.

Maybe you need to humble yourself and recognize your inability to produce the progress you desire. And let God step in and produce the progress for you.

Many of us need to give up and let God intervene so He can provide His promise.

Others of us may have already received a promise from God and need to keep trusting in the waiting zone while He brings you into the Promised Land. 

The Israelites had already received their promise from God.

They were on their way to the Promised Land.

Unlike Sarah who gave up before she received her promise from God, the Israelites wanted to give up after they received their promise from God.

How ironic.

“The Israelites said to Moses: “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” in Exodus 14:11.

Again in Numbers 20:5: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

And again in Numbers 21:5: “And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

This is shocking.

Then again, maybe not so shocking.

Have you ever let the uncertainty of your circumstances and a paralyzing illusion of no progress deplete your appreciation for the promise God gave you?

Are you getting frustrated with the waiting?

I’m not getting anywhere so why keep going? kinds of thoughts can plague our minds like poison.

I’ve been there.

I’ve been so frustrated and disappointed in the waiting that I almost forget the hope of the promise God gave me. And that’s just what the enemy wants. For you to get so discouraged by the preparation journey that you want to give up on it altogether.

If only we knew how close we were!

“The enemy always sends a terrorist alert right when we get close to what God has promised us,” says Steven Furtick.

The enemy’s goal is to destroy you. And if he can’t, he’ll do everything he can to make you feel like God is torturing you instead of taking you to the Promised Land. Then you will want to give up.

The Israelites didn’t realize how close they were!

They were on the outskirts of the Promised Land!

Right on the very edge of it!

Yet discouraged…

…because they were presently in a waiting zone…

…looking straight into an illusion of no progress…

So they wanted to turn back.

And it made them wander around in the wilderness for 40 years.

The enemy wants us to wander around in the wilderness like the Israelites and miss out on God’s promise. We can’t let that happen.

It’s crucial we hold onto the promise and yield to the Lord in the uncomfortableness of the journey.

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

I have to believe that God cares about me and that this difficult path is an inevitable step of my journey towards where He is taking me ultimately.

I know don’t want to wander around in the wilderness for even one second longer than God planned for me to.

God knows what He’s doing.

His direction is purposeful.

His leading, although confusing to me, is perfect to Him.

It takes us giving up our rationality to trust in His command and do what He says without telling God, “but what if…”.

We can’t give up on where God is taking us out of discouragement for being in a drought that precedes the Promised Land.

A drought always precedes the Promised Land.

Because God is calling you out of what is mediocre into what is a surplus.

Thus, there will be a contrast of environments.

It’s natural for there to be hardships, struggles, testing, trials and drought right before you come into the Promised Land because God is preparing you to be able to handle the blessing He wants to give you.

God will not give you a blessing that you would take for granted and not appreciate.

Thus, He lets you go through the lows of the drought so you will appreciate the highs of the Promised Land.

God lets you endure the pain of the human experience so that you will give glory to Him as you enter into the blessings of a divine inheritance.

It’s in this process that God becomes great and we become not the focus anymore.

He must become greater; I must become less.”

John 3:30

While we are in the illusion of no progress, we know that there is indeed progress. There is.

There are roots growing deep into the foundation of the promise God is growing in your life.

We may not see any progress yet but if we were to glimpse all the progress that is being made in unseen places we would be astounded at all God is doing!

Praise be to God who is creating beautiful things in our lives and restoring hearts. Praise be to the God who is constantly working for our good. There is always progress taking place in our lives, even in the unseen places.

I pray you would cling to His promises. I pray you would let Him redeem the broken places in your life that have given up hope. God sees you and He’s on the way to give you a promise. Seek Him. Though the journey may be weary, His spirit will strengthen you as God leads you into what He’s promised. Hallelujah. Thank you Jesus for never giving up on us.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

– 2 Corinthians 4:18

 

Questions for Today:

  • What situation in your life seems to show no progress?
  • Am I in the position of Sarah, who needs to give up so God can give me His promise? Or am I in the position of the Israelites who have already received a promise from God and need to keep yielding to God in the waiting of the journey?
  • What is my response in what I see as an illusion of no progress?
  • How can I be thankful for God preparing me even in the waiting?
  • How can I remind myself daily that God always fulfills His promises?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“Love of God,” by NCU Worship LIVE

Your Achilles Heel is God’s Secret Weapon

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I’m finding that God uses the very thing in our lives that makes us feel like a failure to help us recognize His power to accomplish things and not our own means. The same thing you see as a weakness to you is actually the very thing God will use to make you strong for His kingdom. He created you and I that way for a reason.

I have one little boy in my classroom who can be a challenge at times. And I’m beginning to see how this is a good thing.  How it reveals his strengths. Even in his weakness to be talkative and disruptive in my classroom.

One day he decided to stand up on the chair and start coyote howling in class. It wasn’t before long that everyone else followed his lead.

Yet, I see a lot in this student.

Even in his weakness.

I see how the same weakness that inspires Sebastian to confidently communicate and gain everyone’s attention to start coyote howling in the middle of my lesson is actually a strength that will make him a confident leader one day. He’s just got to learn how to harness this strength and use it in the proper place and time. And he will.

It’s easy to feel like the thing that makes us weak is going to be our Achilles heel our whole life. But what if it’s not?

What if your Achilles heel is actually God’s great secret weapon?

God let you be weak in that area so that you could learn how to seek God to find real strength in that area.

He’s making you strong.

But He lets you be weak.

Lest you forget that He’s the one who has the power to make all things happen. Like Paul, your thorn in your flesh will be covered by his grace (2 Corinthians 12:7) . And you will be strong because of the Lord. What a comfort to know it’s God who makes us strong and not ourselves.

“In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation.”

-1 Peter 5:10

If we did not have an Achilles heel or a weak area, we would think we were the ones who accomplished everything.

And God does not want that.

God does not want us to assume we are the powerful ones who accomplished everything on our own.

So maybe, our Achilles heel is God’s secret weapon to keep us close to Him.

Where we can be strengthened by the real source of strength.

Comforted by the real comforter.

Find power from the real power source.

Be great through the only One who is truly great: God.

We must turn to Him in the midst of our weaknesses or else our weakness will remain weakness. If want to find strength in the Lord we must seek Him. It involves repentance, humility, surrender and a desire to want to do things God’s way and not our own.

Seeking Him will never leave us drained.

It will refresh us and calm the anxiety that accompanies an undealt with Achilles Heel. But dealing with it through seeking the Lord will heal our hearts and renew strength we need.

Let God encourage your heart with the wonder of His power making us stronger through even our weakest places. Hallelujah.

“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? – the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me on the heights.”

-Psalm 18:32-33

Questions for Today:

  • What are weaknesses?
  • Why did God let me be weak?
  • How can the Lord convert my weakness into strength?
  • Why is my Achilles heel God’s secret weapon?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

Loving Jesus for Jesus: Dwelling With the Lord in Love Strengthens You

 
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Love beckons a lover to come and dwell.

To come and sit.

To come and rest.

To come and be.

Did you know that Jesus Himself beckons you?

That’s right.

The King of the world…

The Maker of the stars…

The Artist of the heavens…

Jesus.

God incarnate.

Jesus.

He beckons you!

Jesus beckons you to come and dwell with Him. To sit quiet with Him. To talk to Him.

To love God.

Because you love Him.

For Him.

Not just for what He can do.

Dwelling with God in love will strengthen you.

It will make you come alive again.

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

-Psalm 63:3

But it’s hard sometimes to maintain this love for God. That’s why it must be cultivated.

It’s easy to love Jesus when we see His hand at work, isn’t it?

It’s easy to love Jesus when we’re hopeful for what He’s going to do.

It’s easy to love Jesus when we think about all He has done.

But is it easy to love Jesus when things go wrong?

Is it easy to love Jesus when He allows difficulties that hurt a lot?

Is it easy to love Jesus when what we expected is just not happening?

I’m finding that a lot of the unhealed hurt in my heart has remained unhealed because of my misunderstanding of just how much God loves me.

I keep waiting for God to do something, and all along He has been waiting for me to stop looking ahead and just look at Him.

To look at Jesus.

And stop.

Stop worrying about all that I’m worrying about.

Stop wallowing in disappointment that I can’t control.

And dwell.

Dwell with Jesus in the secret place.

Our secret place.

Where I can be made whole again.

Where I can be made new again.

Where I am loved.

Where I am held.

And our love relationship strengthens me.

“I have asked one thing from the Lord, it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple.”

Psalm 27:4

A psalm of David

King David loved the Lord.

I can feel it so strongly in His psalms.

Yet He wrestled with so many difficulties in His life!

Psalm after psalm in the Bible unveils David’s struggles: fear, despair, discouragement, betrayal, depression, anxiety…

Can you relate?

I can.

No matter how old you are or young you are, you’re going to experience some difficult things in your life.

Maybe even some devastating and life-crushing things.

And it will be natural to ask, Why God? Where are you? Don’t you see my pain? Will you not move in my situation?

Confusion over why God is remaining silent in the midst of our most difficult seasons can lead to enormous despair. I have experienced this in many ways while being at seminary ironically. In a place I never expected to face so much spiritual attack. And it has been very hard to believe that God cares about me. Consequently, there have been days I’ve doubted His love altogether. And assumed that I would only get to experience it when I’m in heaven but not while I’m here. I haven’t felt taken care of by the Lord like I always have. And I’m starting to see that it’s because God has been trying to grow me and strengthen me. To wean me off of His constant protection and transition me into a place where I can stand strong and resilient in the face of trials. To mature me in areas I needed maturing. To teach me how to handle difficulties in the future.

In Psalm 27:3, David writes,

Though an army encamps against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise against me, yet I will be confident.” (emphasis mine)

I’m so encouraged by this.

David learned the antidote to his difficulties. David always ran to God first about his struggles and let God saturate His mind with hope. David loved God for God. And his intimacy with the Lord strengthened Him because of this love.

We need to be strengthened if we’re going to make it through this life.

Did you know that?

You need to be strengthened.

I need to be strengthened.

There are powers at war in the spiritual realm fighting for the destiny of God’s chosen. And we cannot let the enemy snatch away our calling.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against all of the schemes of the devil.”

Ephesians 6:11

Loving Jesus for Jesus is the way.

The only way.

Jesus is the only One who can strengthen us and we can only be strengthened if we are in a love relationship with Him.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:26

One of the biggest barriers to loving Jesus for Jesus and loving God for God is when you put conditions on your relationship with Him.

Expecting God to do what you want Him to do is called a condition.

Withdrawing love from God because you feel hurt is called a condition.

Spending time with Him when He does something for you is called a condition.

I’m learning that if I love Jesus, I can’t place conditions on my relationship with Him. Love doesn’t place conditions on a relationship.

But why, God, won’t You come through on your promise? Why, God, won’t You do something about all I’m facing? Why won’t You help me?

All those questions are conditional.

Conditions, that if God were to answer if my favor, I would love Him more. And that’s a problem. I’m so glad God has revealed this to me. If Jesus doesn’t answer any of those questions, I still love Him because He is my God and my love. And He is more to me than what He can do for me.

Is God more to you than what He can do for you?

I encourage you to spend some time with the Lord talking to Him about this. I want this for you because it has drastically transformed the way that I look at the difficulties in my life. It has helped me to find peace and joy again in the love of God. A love that is much richer and much stronger than any trial standing against us.

He goes on in Psalm 27 verses 13-14 to conclude,

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Dwelling with the Lord in love strengthens us.

This kind of strength sees…

…courage in the midst of fear.

…belief in the midst of doubt.

…hope in the midst of disappointment.

…loving God as the antidote to life’s difficulties.

I want the Lord to know everything about me and me know everything about Him. I want that intimacy. I’ve experienced that this kind of relationship with God is far richer than even the most exciting adventure of seeing God’s hand at work. Knowing Him is far better.

Seeing God’s hand at work is great. But knowing Him is far better. It’s more intimate.

If our conversations with God are centered on requests and expectations more than they are centered on getting to know Him and loving Him, we are missing out on intimacy with the Lord.

We must talk to God for God.

Talk to God because we love Him.

Not just for what prayers we want answered.

This kind of interaction with the Lord is more fulfilling than any other relationship we can have. And it it’s not healthy, it will negatively affect other areas of life.

We must seek Jesus for Jesus.

Seek Jesus because we love Him.

Not just for what we want to see Him do.

Love Jesus for Jesus.

He wants to be loved for who He is.

And He wants to dwell with you one on one.

Dwelling with the Lord in love will strengthen you.

I pray for you that would run to Jesus even though a million other things are beckoning you. Run to Jesus first. Without Him you won’t be able to withstand the pressures of life. I’ve learned this the hard way. And I’m finding that my love with God is the only thing that can make me whole.

The greatest love in the world is beckoning you. His name is Jesus. Whose desire is to dwell with you in return. Seek Him today. And may you find strength dwelling with the Lord in love.

“How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
 My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.

-Psalm 84:1-2

 

Questions for Today:

  • How does dwelling with the Lord strengthen me?
  • How does placing conditions on my love relationship with the Lord put a barrier between me and Him?
  • How can I redirect my focus on Jesus and away from my negative circumstances?
  • Do I love Jesus for who He is or just for what He can do?
  • What next step is Jesus telling me take in my relationship with Him today?

 

“What A Beautiful Name” by Hillsong Worship

 

The Peace of Paul: “What has happened… has actually resulted in…”

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“And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” –Philippians 1:9-11

As we dive into the letter to the Philippians, we find the apostle Paul writing to the church at Philippi.

In the above verses, Paul is praying for the welfare of the church at Philippi. Interceding for them. Encouraging them. At first read, this seems ordinary and normal considering this is the Bible after all. And Paul is a great man of God. Of course Paul would be praying for the Philippians. What else would he be doing!

But did you know that the apostle Paul was actually in a jail cell when he wrote this?

That’s right.

A jail cell.

Paul had been imprisoned by Rome for preaching the words of Christ. For doing what God had instructed him to do. For doing the right thing.

So it seems that Paul would be upset, right!?

Wouldn’t he be angry at God for orchestrating his landing at a Roman jail?

Especially considering he had been appointed by God to carry out the mission of God. Wouldn’t God have wanted Paul to not be captured and keep preaching and ministering? Couldn’t God rescue him? Couldn’t God have stopped him from being captured and imprisoned by the Romans?

Surely God could have.

God could have prevented Paul from going to prison unjustly. But He didn’t.

Why?

To Paul, the answer is clear:

“Now I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advancement of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is for Christ.” –Philippians 1:12-13

Wow.

Paul isn’t angry.

Now that is a faith in Christ that cannot be shaken.

What has happened…has actually resulted in…

Hmmmm…

It seems Paul is starting to think about how this can be used for God’s glory…

Hmmm….

It seems Paul is starting to see how others can hear about Jesus by him being there in the prison…

Hmm…

It seems Paul is finding joy in jail…

It seems Paul is seeing God at work…

It seems Paul trusts God’s hand in his life in any and every situation he goes through…

Wow…

What has happened…has actually resulted in…

Plug in your situation… has actually resulted in…

Being in jail…is actually helping others hear about Christ.

Being persecuted by others… is helping me fellowship with Christ in His sufferings.

Experiencing conflict… is actually growing stagnant areas in my life.

Not having what I think I need… is actually elevating my trust in God as my provider.

Feeling unloved… is actually drawing me nearer to the Lord who loves me extravagantly. 

Remaining in a difficult situation… is actually shaping me into the person God wants me to be.

Whatever has happened…God will use to result in something beneficial! For you and for His glory!

“No one takes up the case for your sores.

You have nothing that can heal you.

But I will bring you health

and will heal you of your wounds…” –Jeremiah 30:13 & 17a

Remember: love seeks the welfare of others. And God is love. So God seeks our welfare. No matter the situation, God seeks our welfare in that. Aren’t you glad to know you have one person on your side in this life seeking your welfare? And not just anyone! But God! The God of the universe is seeking your welfare!!! And He’s never gonna stop.

Paul may be limited to a jail cell.

But God is not limited.

God is still seeking the welfare of Paul.

Even in the jail cell.

God is using Paul’s situation to do exactly what He intended all along.

And in the middle of it, Paul also starts to reflect the love of God by seeking others welfare as well. Paul starts to pray for others even in the midst of his own suffering.

Do we?

Are we seeking the welfare of others when we are in pain? When we are upset? When we feel ignored, rejected and passed over?

Paul did.

Paul demonstrates the purity of love by praying for others and seeking their welfare, instead of dwelling on his own unfavorable circumstances.

In verse 10 of the first chapter, Paul says something very meaningful that particular sticks out to me: “so that you can determine what really matters…”

What really matters.

What really matters.

Paul discovered what really matters.

Paul found that what has happened… is actually helping him to discover what really matters. 

→ Saying yes to God at all costs.

That really matters.

“For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain,” (1:21).

So whether Paul is alive: he says yes to Jesus.

And whether Paul is dead: he sees Jesus.

Either way, he says yes to Jesus.

He follows Him.

Are you?

“So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” –Philippians 2:12

Are you following Jesus at all costs? Am I following Jesus at all costs?

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the songs I listen to that talk about my faith in God.

Songs that say, “take it all…”, “you can have it all, Lord…every part of my world…”, “I surrender all…”, “should this life hold nothing but my Savior, I will praise you always…”… And to me, these words are very serious words. These are not just songs on the radio to sing along to. They are serious vows. Serious vows to the Lord.

When I sing “You can have it all, Lord…” do I really mean it?

If so, why am I surprised when God takes it all??

When we sing “I surrender…” do we really mean it?

If so, why do we try to take control over God and do things our way??

What we commit to in our relationship with Jesus is very serious. It’s not to be said whimsically. If I say to the Lord that he can have it all, I better expect for Him to take it all and I subsequently find joy in that. Just like the apostle Paul did.

Paul meant what he said when he said “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Paul walked what he talked.

Paul sang praises to Jesus while chained in a jail cell!

Paul found joy in God taking everything from him. And I just can’t get over it. It helps me so much to learn from Paul’s contentment in the Lord when his situation could have been incredibly miserable. From Paul’s humble submission to let God do anything to him, no matter how much it hurt. From Paul’s willful obedience to follow the Lord even unto death. To choose Jesus over every other thing he could have. His whole life revolved around Jesus.

Paul would go on to be executed by the Romans.

For him, saying “to die is gain” would be a quick reality.

And Paul was ready.

Paul was willing.

Paul was joyful.

Paul was glad to give his life for Jesus.

Are we?

I pray we would think about what really matters. And that our inclination during a difficulty would be to say “what has happened…has actually resulted in…” for the glory of God.

→ Just like the picture above after a forest fire, the flames were hot and the devastation discouraging. But the forest will regrow. And look at what you can see now. Beauty is just along the horizon. What has happened… has actually resulted in… 

May our confidence in the Lord blur every over worry, discouragement, stressor, anxiety and assailant of our joy. God is fighting for you and He’s on your side. Let us recall the posture of Paul’s heart when we go through what seems like hopeless situations in our lives. For surely, God it doing something glorious.

 

“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.”

–Philippians 3:20-21

 

Questions for Today:

  • What did Paul say that redirected his potential misery into peace?
  • How can I learn to be thankful in the midst of unfavorable circumstances?
  • How can I fill in this sentence to reflect my own response to my current situation? → “what has happened…has actually resulted in…”
  • What next step can I take in my relationship with the Lord today?

 

“Fullness” (Acoustic) by Elevation Worship

Stress and Frustration: The Accompaniments of Greatness

 

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David was deemed “a man after God’s own heart” in 1 Samuel 13:14.

Yet reading through the psalms, we get to know David as a man who knew much frustration. Much agony. Much stress.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning? My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest.” –Psalm 22:1-2

How interesting that one of the most powerful men in all of the land at this time, – David, the King of Israel – would be crying out to the Lord in such despair.

A couple weeks ago my kindergarten students took their first standardized math test.

Halfway through I started to hear sniffling then crying then bawling. One of my best students was very upset that he didn’t think his answer was correct and he wanted to quit the test. I couldn’t tell him that he actually clicked the right answer! All I could do was remind him he could do it and was doing an awesome job.

Have you ever been there?

Have you ever been so upset while striving towards a goal or calling that you want to quit before you accomplish it?

I can relate.

It’s so easy to doubt yourself.
To doubt your ability.
To doubt your competence.
To doubt your worth.

To struggle with the pressure of trying to be perfect.

The pressure that intensifies at very benchmark of success.

 

This student went on to score the highest score of all my students. Yet he was the only one displaying signs of stress and frustration, and wanting to quit.

Much like King David.

Much like so many men and women of God, both now and throughout history.

Yet this remains relevant to each one of us!

God has placed greatness and exponential potential inside of you. But the closer you get to reaching your goal, the more pressure you will experience.

Greatness is accompanied by heavy stress and frustration.

But ultimately, victory is just around the corner.

Peace is just around the corner.

Rest is just around the corner.

Recall the agony of David:

“Lord, how long will you continually forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me?” –Psalm 13:1-2

Yet David learned to redirect his thoughts toward the God bigger than His agony.

The God bigger than his anxiety.

The God bigger than his stress.

The God bigger than his frustration.

By the end of the same psalm, David goes on to declare with confidence, “But I have trusted in Your faithful love; my heart will sing to the Lord because He has treated me generously.” –Psalm 13:5-6

And David kept going.

David did not give up.

Will you?

 

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

-James 1:2-4

 

Questions for Today:

  • Will you embrace the stress and frustration that accompanies greatness?
  • What is one thing you can do to redirect your focus on the Lord and off of your stress and frustration?
  • What next step can I take in my relationship with the Lord today?

 

“Every Line” by Newspring Worship

God Did Not Create Us to Hate Each Other

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The recent events surrounding unjust killings along with the steady escalation of racial tension in America are grieving to witness. This isn’t what we were created for. This is not who we are. No one wins in this.

God created us to be like Him.

To reflect His goodness.

To demonstrate His grace.

To show His Kindness.

To be different.

God created humans in the form of a beautiful tapestry of humanity to enjoy one another, complement one another, love one another and sharpen one another.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” –1 John 1:7

We possess a God-designed identity for humanity’s family on earth.

A family that was meant to be holy and set apart for God.

God did not create us to hate each other.

He created us for each other.

We’re meant to be a blessing to each other.

 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” –1 John 4:11

“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

 “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” – Romans 12:4-5

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” -Colossians 3:14

Sin tries to ruin our God-designed identity as humanity’s family.

Sin tries to put enmity between us.

Sin tries to divide us.

This is nothing new.

It’s been happening ever since Genesis 3.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

“Did God really say…” says the devil.

“Did God really say…” whispers our flesh.

The devil wanted to make Eve question God.

The devil wanted to plant division within the human heart.

Enmity.

Division.

“The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” (Genesis 3:2-3)

Eve knew what God said.

That wasn’t the problem.

The problem was that what she knew was about to be threatened.

And this had never happened before.

Eve was not prepared for truth to be attacked. Eve all the sudden had an invasion of normalcy. Unity with God as it was intended to remain was about to be assaulted by the one who has been scheming against God from the very beginning. Satan. Eve did not know who she was up against.

And soon, humanity would never be the same.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Satan’s determination to break the design anointed on God’s humanity was wrapped up in a promise of eternal life.

How ironic.

Eve didn’t need his promise. She was already designed for eternity. But that’s how evil does.

Evil always makes a counterfeit promise.

And it never comes through.

It tricks every time.

Eternal death was Satan’s hidden agenda and turning her against the one who created her was just what he needed to complete his mission.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:6-7)

This is where everything changed for Adam and Eve.

No more watering the flowers in luscious Garden of Eden bliss…

No more singing with the bluebirds in the sun…

No more dancing with the bunnies of the forest…

No more peace…

No more calm.

Satan was about to damage humanity forever. All with one lie. And creation was sabotaged. Our design for unity hacked and rewired.

Hatred spewed in like the breaking of the Hoover Dam.

It was never meant to leak in.

But it did.

Thankfully, Jesus has come to save the day. And He will come again to rescue us into the real eternal life that only He can promise and fulfill.

But we’re still here in this broken, grieved earth. The same earth assaulted by Satan in Genesis 3.

Now Satan along with sin continues his assault….whispering lies in our ears causing misunderstanding… skepticism… disunity… prejudice… bitterness… and on and on…

Lies that break our original design for harmony.

Lies that cause us to assume the worse about others.

Lies that cause us to doubt each other.

Lies that plant animosity and hatred within humanity’s family on earth.

Lies that causes some people to carry out their evil desires and hurt others.

Lies that kill.

We have become estranged it seems.

Throughout the Bible and throughout all of history, we have witnessed story after story of division within humanity’s family and how that division attempts to ruin our identity.

You don’t even have to pick up a book to confirm this.

Many stories are already imprinted into the fabric of our memories and ancestral histories.

And it hurts.

Sometimes, it hurts so much that even we are who God’s people are tempted to rebel against our God-designed identities as well and let these negative feelings overtake us. Sin continues to stir negative emotions within the human heart that lead to anger, rage, division, prejudice, pride, and selfishness. And it can be hard to push aside.

I myself have difficulties experiencing some of these emotions at times.

The devil hates us.

And he wants nothing more than to make us to hate each other and wreck our God-designed destiny for humanity’s family here on earth.

It’s working isn’t it?

The devil seems to be winning.

Seems.

It seems humanity does hate one another.

War after war. Violence after violence. Killing after killing. Prejudice after prejudice. Rudeness after rudeness. Belittling after belittling. Sin after sin.

What’s problematic is that so many forms of hatred are masked by human rationality.

Human nature causes us to find a “reason” to hurt one another.

Just like Satan did.

Satan had a “reason” for why Eve should disobey God.

Sin always has a “reason” for why it’s okay to do the wrong thing.                         

A “reason” that’s always disturbing.

Hitler wanted to kill Jews out of a communal-unity-purity “reason,” ISIS kills out of a religious-ideological “reason,” thieves steal out of a lack-need “reason,” slavery existed out of a financial-greed-economic “reason,” I sin against God out of self-preservation “reasons.”

“Reasons” that hurt other people and/or ourselves are never okay!…”

Reasons saturated by sin are an abomination to the brain-functioning capabilities.

It’s freaking messed up what humanity capable of!

“Reasons.”

Too many reasons.

Why did you do [that]? asks the judge every time.

“Well, because…”

There’s always a “because…”

A reason.

A disturbing reason.

A disturbing reason for doing the wrong thing.

Sin always persuades you with a reason.

Don’t fall for it.

It hurts.

Satan has contaminated our identities and he’s trying to make us act like him when we were created to act like Jesus. Too often we fall for it. How grateful I am for Jesus’ grace.

It’s human nature to try and justify a wrongdoing according to what we think is good for us.

And that’s a problem!

Because it causes innocent people to get hurt. Even killed.

My hearts hurts for the families of… Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, the 5 Dallas police officers, the now 3 Baton Rouge police officers and so many countless billions of others recently and throughout history who have been harmed and/or murdered unjustly.

My heart grieves at the animosity boiling in our country between black and white.

My heart is unsettled over the fact that so many are hurting and unheard and misunderstood.

Battling each other will never solve anything.

I’m not here to offer up the perfect solution.

I don’t have one.

I wish I did.

But I do know we need to seek to learn how to love each other better, understand one another, and feel what others are feeling.

Feeling what others are feeling and cultivating empathy is incredibly important.

Empathy is one of the strongest cultivators of love.

Why?

Because what you feel drives how you: think, respond, and act.

And that’s what Jesus did to draw us to Himself.

Jesus came down to be like us so He could feel what we feel.

Empathy.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him… Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” –1 John 4:9, 11-12

We need to go out of our way to do whatever it takes to understand each other’s pain so that we can share in empathy with each other.

Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:15 to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

We must start with ourselves when it comes to each of our individual roles in this whole family of humanity and the sin that divides us. We are all living here on earth. We are all involved. We are all contributors, whether by action or inaction. We must each analyze our hearts and recognize the sin that is cultivating any kind of division within humanity’s family, and change it, so that we may seek the welfare of one another.

I have to examine my own heart and discover the wickedness within me before I can expect anybody else to change.

What I am encouraged by is this: there is a lot more good than evil.

I am encouraged but what I have witnessed so far in Dallas surrounding the police officer shootings, with people coming together and seeking to better understand one another, acknowledge that we have not done our best to love each other well, create dialogue and conversation regarding the escalating tensions surrounding race, and seek healing together.

This is an opportunity to show the devil who we are in Christ!

To show who we as humanity were created to be!

The good news is, 1 Peter 2:9 declares WHO WE REALLY ARE!

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (emphasis mine) – 1 Peter 2:9

God has called us out of darkness.

Into His light.

We were not created to hate each other.

We were created to display the beauty of God together: every race, every culture, & every color. It’s beautiful just like God created it to be!

We were created to love one another no matter how much it costs us.

We were created to mourn with those who mourn no matter how uncomfortable it is.

We were created to pursue justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God no matter how inconvenient it is.

For we are God’s chosen people!

This is who we are.

May we take back our God-designed identity as humanity’s family.

May we be known by our love.

 

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselvesnot looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Philippians 2:1-4

 

Questions for Today:

  • What role have I played in the injustices of our world?
  • Is there any hostility, prejudice, anger, pride, or other negative emotion remaining undealt with in my heart?
  • How can I better understand and empathize with my fellow brothers and sisters?
  • What is my posture towards racial injustice and racial reconciliation and what am I doing for the cause of Christ to make a positive impact?