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

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

Don’t be Mad at God

Sonnenuntergang

Lately I’ve felt mad at God. And in feeling guilty about it, I figured I should forgive…because I’m usually of the mindset that if I am mad at someone then I should forgive them. Easier said than done sometimes, I know. But I know it makes me feel better.

But then I thought… What the heck. I can’t forgive God! God has never done anything wrong! Oh wow…I cannot believe I actually just considered forgiving God.

I laughed.

And then I felt incredibly embarrassed before the Lord.

I hope you didn’t hear that, God.

But, I know He did. Thankfully, God is gracious and He won’t hold it against me. And though, at the time, I still wasn’t able to get over being mad at the Lord, today He’s been showing me why. And I hope this helps somebody who may also be wrestling with this not-so-unique problem of feeling mad at God.

I don’t know what you’re going through. But I do know that if you’re a living, breathing human being, there are times when you wonder why God would allow pain in your life.

There will be times you’re tempted to be mad at God.

Times you assume He’s out to get you.

Times you’re confused.

Times you feel hurt.

I want you to know that you don’t have to be mad at God.

He is NOT the one causing you pain.

Let me repeat…God is NOT the one causing you pain.

God is the One coming to rescue you into eternity, safety, beauty, love and glory.

But in the midst of real life, I keep wondering over and over why God would allow pain. And I get mad. I get in a mindset where I believe that because God is sovereign and He allows everything to come to pass in our lives, that my pain passes through His hands because He doesn’t care to stop it. As if the bad things happening to any one of us are travelling through a security checkpoint, then making it through and travelling on to meet its destination: you and I. Why would God let pain pass through the security checkpoint? Why would He allow it? Why won’t He stop it?

We can ask these questions all day long.

But it’s not going to get us anywhere.

God is not the one causing us pain.

Satan is. Evil is. Sin is.

If we want answers to why pain and suffering exist, we need to look at what God is doing with Genesis 3 and Revelation 20-22.

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are dwelling in a beautiful garden hand-crafted by God for their enjoyment. Lush greenery, velvet grass, sweet-smelling flowers, luscious fruits. But Satan comes along and tells them about a tree: a tree that will make them like God, knowing good and evil. Adam and Eve know God told them not to eat from that tree. But they disobey God and eat the fruit. This act generated the entry of the knowledge/awareness of good and evil into the world.

The point of Genesis 3 is not that Adam and Eve disobeyed. Nor that they should be punished and thus God lets pain and suffering exist. No. That’s not the point. The point I’m trying to illuminate is all about Satan.

Satan is the one who initiated the idea for Adam and Eve to disobey.

This is incredibly significant, as we see the relationship between God and Satan throughout the Bible, or the tension between good and evil, play out.

If you look at everything as a power struggle between God and Satan (even though we know God always wins), you can take the pressure off of Adam, Eve and the whole human race as the ones to blame.

You are not to blame, beloved.

God has a purpose.

That doesn’t mean we are off the hook…but then again, we ARE off the hook!!!

Why?

Because God – the One who gets to make all the executive decisions in the universe – decided that you and I were off the hook for what happened in the garden. He sent Jesus to pay for all that (John 3:16). That’s pretty freaking good news if you ask me!

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more,” says Isaiah 43:25.

God let Satan tempt them.

God let Genesis 3 happen.

He needed it to happen.

Why?

This is an instance where I would be mad at God for letting something bad happen.

Why did you let the serpent tempt us God? I’d be thinking if I were Eve.

But God had a reason.

And it’s bigger than their one sin to eat the fruit.

It’s about something much bigger.

God is doing something in this whole power-struggle between good and evil, Him and Satan, where God’s end goal is to destroy evil and destroy Satan for good. And He just had to do it this way with us involved in the story. He needs to filter us through this world of good and evil too. God also lets this be a means by which humans choose if they will believe in God and follow Him or not.

Then in Revelation 20-22, God will complete the work He started in Genesis 3.

He will deal with the problem of evil.

God is going to destroy evil and Satan, and create the New Heaven and New Earth where no more pain and no more suffering will exist ever again:

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever… Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.” –Revelation 20:10 & 14

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea…

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” –Revelation 21:1 & 4-6

But there is a gap of time between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20-22.

 

Satan gets to have some power during this time.

Before He is destroyed.

Thus, bad things happen.

Nobody is exempt.

Not even Christians.

In fact, Christians usually experience more bad things because Satan likes to attack the ones who believe in God, the One he hates. We shouldn’t be surprised. Yet it seems that I am always surprised when bad things happen to me. So I need to remind myself of this just as much as anybody.

When I remember this…the reality of Genesis 3 and Revelation 20-22, I am comforted in the midst of bad things happening to me and all around me.

But is this my default?

I wish.

I wish I could say immediately in the middle of a bad thing, thank you Lord that despite the brokenness allowed by Genesis 3, I can have hope in the promise of Revelation 20-22 and then go on my merry way.

But that is not my default.

My default in the middle of a “bad thing” is to get angry at God for letting it happen to me.

Out of human emotional impulse, I lack recollection of the reality of the Genesis 3/Revelation 20-22 plan of God.

I forget that bad things are inevitable and I must wait for God to wipe out everything that causes us pain here in the world.

What catalyzed all of this thought today is THIS troublesome realization:

When I think about God, I imagine Him in 2 different ways depending on how I feel: loved or unloved.

THIS IS WHY I struggle so much to trust God sometimes.

There’s 1) the God I imagine in Heaven and with in Heaven, who I know loves me and I feel loved by, and then there’s 2) the God I don’t understand, seems unrelatable, who I fear wants to hurt me and doesn’t love me.

This is contradictory.

I know.

Because God is the same always (Hebrews 13:8).

So He can’t be both.

Most of the time, the first description is who I imagine God as.

But when I am fearful and mad at God, it’s always the second description that I imagine God as.

Interesting.

I realized today, I’ve been imagining and talking to 2 versions of God…

2 very different versions of God who cannot coexist…

This is how God showed me this today…

Today I was really angry and confused. More than I think I’ve ever been. And I just felt like God was deceiving me and tricking me. Confusing me and using me for His benefit and my pain. I was talking to God as if He was out to get me. As if I didn’t trust Him. Then all the sudden… I stopped. I started to imagine me being with Him for real in heaven. And I stopped being mad. I just wanted to be with Him in Heaven. And I started imagining me and God together. As I did, I started talking to Him differently. When I imagine me talking to God as if I were in heaven right there with Him, there is no doubt in my mind that God loves me. I feel it. It’s real to me. More real than any other love I feel from anyone. It’s in that moment that I know for sure God loves me way too much to hurt me. The God I am with in Heaven could never ever hurt me or make me angry. It’s not possible. Then all the anger I was feeling several minutes prior started to fade away. I realized my reasons for my anger were not God’s fault at all.

Then I thought…that’s it! That’s my problem! This is why I’m struggling to trust God right now. I see Him in 2 completely different ways! It’s as if He exists as 2 different Gods in my mind. And that is not possible!

There’s the God who loves me.

But then there’s the God who wants me to suffer.

There’s the God I’m with in Heaven.

But then there’s the God roaming throughout the earth causing me pain.

There’s the God who desires me.

But then there’s the God who’s annoyed with me.

There’s the God who wants to do good things for me.

But then there’s the God who hurts me.

The God I love.

But then the God I’m angry with.

The God I trust to help me.

But then the God I don’t trust with anything.

2 different Gods.

Both fighting to be the same in my mind.

This is scary.

I’m getting goosebumps.

The “But then…” God is not God.

It’s a lie.

It’s Satan.

“And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light,” declares the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:14.

Wow, no wonder I’ve been seeing God in 2 different ways.

All along, the devil is the one who’s been acting as a fake version of God in my mind, trying to make me be mad at the God I love! He’s been making me think God didn’t love me! What a schemer he is! But he will not win. No sir. The devil has been found out and he has no more authority in my mind nor yours!

Satan will attack you and try to make you be mad at God.

Don’t let him.

Satan will deceive you and try to make you think God is orchestrating your suffering.

Don’t believe it.

Satan will whisper tantalizing lies to you that you should forget God’s way.

Don’t fall for it.

Satan is a liar!

Jesus said so in John 8:44 when he was talking of those who would not believe in God:

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (emphasis mine).

And Satan’s power will NOT LAST forever! Revelation 20 is coming. And by chapter 22, we will all be with God forever free from Satan and his lies.

Choose to believe that God is not responsible for your pain. The devil is. Evil is. Sin is.

But this is not an excuse to be vengeful!

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord,” in Romans 12:19.

Let God take care of the devil, evil and sin.

Revelation 20-22 is coming.

Therefore, we have no reason to be mad at God.

We must also take responsibility for our own flesh.

Not everything bad that happens is Satan’s fault.

Some of it is our fault too.

Sometimes, I get mad or distrusting of God just because I am a sinful human being. May we rely heavily on the Spirit to cleanse ourselves of sin that inhibits us from seeing God clearly and experiencing intimacy with Him.

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” – Romans 8:6

God is more than willing to help us along the way.

His grace is overflowing.

Romans 8:31-32 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

God is for us.

Not against us.

God is not double-minded.

Before, I was seeing God as 2 different Gods…now I see that evil was tricking me.

I could choose to believe that God is the one who’s given me pain, but that won’t get me anywhere but further from Him. That’s what the devil wants. For us to distance ourselves from God and be bitter.

God won’t hurt you.

God won’t confuse you

God won’t be mean to you.

But Satan will. Evil will. Sin will.

Don’t be mad at God.

Don’t be mad at anyone else.

Rest in the truth that God loves you.

Love never hurts you. Never.

Thank Him.

Let God know how thankful you are that He is your God, your love, your safe place.

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:11-13.

I pray that you would believe God is good in every possible way. So all those negative thoughts circulating in your mind…may God cast them out in Jesus’ name!

We will be safe and loved with the Lord for all eternity. And this love is here now. There’s no differentiation between God’s love for us now and His future love for us. It’s constant and strong always. May we believe that God never wishes harm on anyone. But luckily, He knows how to make something really beautiful even from the most horrible circumstances. Genesis 3 will turn into Revelation 22. Hallelujah!

“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

Questions for Today:

  • What is the hope of Revelation 20-22 in light of Genesis 3?
  • Am I angry at God? If so, why?
  • Do I recognize the devil’s schemes in wanting me to be angry at God?
  • Why should I believe that God does not want to harm me?
  • How does the way I see God impact my attitude towards Him?
  • Why is it important to rely on the Holy Spirit and not the flesh?

 

“It Is Well” by Tommy Walker feat. Kesha Shantrell, Leon McCrary,  Sean Beck & CBC Choir

God Loves to Make You Smile!

Smiles Collage

Someone needs to hear this today.

Please know it…God loves to make you smile!

He loves you.

A lot.

A lot a lot!!!

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” –Isaiah 42:1

Did you know that God Himself delights?

Isaiah 42:1 says He does.

God delights.

Delights!

Delight is a powerful emotion.

It’s an emotion of ecstatic happiness or joy directed towards something outside one’s self that in turn fuels ecstatic happiness or joy within one’s self as well.

It’s expressed outwardly and experienced internally.

Consequently, because of the duality of how a person feels this emotion both inwardly and outwardly, it’s an intensified version of anything resembling happiness, joy or pleasure. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines delight as “a high degree of gratification or extreme satisfaction.”

Isaiah using this word to describe God’s emotion towards His Son is incredible to me. It tells us how deeply God loves.

I forget often…

How deeply God loves.

It’s easy to believe God is great.

It’s easy to believe God is powerful.

It’s easy to believe God is good too.

But at times, I struggle to believe that God loves me or that He cares about me.

Sometimes I just don’t feel like God delights in me.

I don’t feel like He cares about me.

I don’t feel like His love is enough to actually make me feel loved.

Yet slowly… these lies are being broken in my mind.

The past several days, I’ve wanted to write and felt stuck… My heart feels so full and with so much I didn’t quite know where to start. I was talking to the Lord about things and He reminded me of something I haven’t really grasped before…

God said, Natalie, I love to make you smile.

I love to make you smile.

Wow…

You love to make me smile, Lord? I asked.

Hmmm… I started to think about all that God has done to make me smile. Every moment of joy. All the things I never expect. Any reason I ever have to smile.

Wow, You do, don’t You!? Why didn’t I ever see this before?

Why did I doubt You cared for me?

I think the devil likes to make us forget things…

The devil likes to make us forget all the many reasons we have to believe God loves us, to believe God cares for us, to believe God delights in us, to believe God wants to bless us, to believe God loves to see us happy…the devil doesn’t like for us to believe any of that…so he tries to get us confused and mad at God…

…all the while, God is doing everything He can to woo us and show us how much He loves us.

So I want to tell you that God loves to make you smile.

God loves to bless you.

It makes Him happy to get to do that for you, just as it makes you happy to get to give to the person you love.

“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” says Matthew 7:9-11.

For anyone who is struggling to believe this, I want you to know that God really is a loving God who cares about you.

God cares about your heart.

God cares about you interests.

God cares about your passions.

God cares about your desires.

Too often in Christianity, we think that denying ourselves happiness makes us better Christians.

But that’s not what God wants!

If we go back to Isaiah 42:1, the verse indicates that God Himself delights.

Thus, since we are made in His image, it’s only natural that we should delight too.

Think about the things that you delight in… certain people, hobbies, nature, animals, friends, family…

That’s natural…

You delighting in those things is natural just like God delighting in His Son and His people is natural.

God delights.

You delight.

I delight.

All because of love.

Love makes it possible than you and I can delight.

God’s love makes it possible.

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him,” says 1 John 4:16.

“Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy,” says Zephaniah 3:17.

“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots,” says Hosea 14:4-5.

“See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are,” says 1 John 3:1.

God loves you!

A lot!

He wants to make you smile.

Because He loves you.

And He smiles on you too.

Because He loves you.

I believe it and by gosh I’m declaring in Jesus’ name that the devil have no more power in our lives to make us believe that God doesn’t care about us!

I’ve been down that road and I’m not going back!

May we declare God is love and so delight in the life He has given us!

For anyone who is struggling to believe God loves you, I know how you feel.

Please know that God DOES LOVE YOU!

Please know it!

“O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” –Psalm 10:17-18

As David ends this psalm, he reaffirms his trust in the Lord.

He starts off in confusion and uncertainty in the beginning verses as he wonders where God is at. David probably assumed that God didn’t care about him since he writes that God seemed far away. But what I love about David is that he always goes to God when He’s burdened with emotions. And as he closes this psalm, he’s taken times to process his feelings and remember that God is still faithful.

Despite his uncertainty, David still has a reason to smile.

May we learn from his example.

The devil would love nothing more than to make you think God doesn’t care about you. Because then, you will withdraw from the Lord and then you will lose your strength to fight. The enemy will attack you and it will get worse and worse. But the good news is… God is fighting for you, and eventually, He will rescue you and bring you back to Himself. He won’t let you remain in a place of disbelief and discouragement forever. He will come and do what it takes to show you just how much He cares about you! Pray! Pray! Pray! Even when you doubt God’s heart for you…pray still…talk to God about how you are feeling, and tell Him that you need Him to show you His love…He will. He will show you. He will remind you how much He loves you. It takes time. But Jesus always comes through.

Know I am praying for you as I ask the Lord to rescue every single person who may be wrestling with despair, anxiety, disbelief, discouragement…The Lord is not limited and He can rescue every single person. devil, we declare you powerless in Jesus’ name! Powerless! Get the heck out of here! For the Lord our God, Jesus Christ is stronger!

May we believe that God really does love us and because of this, loves to make us smile! May we cherish the privilege to delight and be delighted in.

I pray that you will know how wild and unimaginable Christ’s love is for you and that He is not looking to make you hurt or experience pain. In suffering, we draw nearer to Christ as we fellowship with His sufferings and we learn how to comfort others. And it means that much more to experience all the delightful moments in which God makes us smile. Thank you, Jesus for loving us.

Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great King over all the earth.” 

-Psalm 47:1-2 –

“First and Only” by Elevation Worship

It’s been a Bad Day…So that…

Team of climbers in danger.

The apostle Paul knew what it was like to have a bad day.

Shipwrecked, thrown in prison, flogged, beaten, stoned, in danger from people, in danger from nature, hungry, thirsty, cold, weak…

You can read about his perils in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33.

Paul learned something about his perils. His most profound statement in all of the epistles rests in the next chapter following the documentation of his harsh circumstances. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 says this:

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When I am weak, then I am strong, he says.

Hmmmm.

Keep this in mind as we progress.

This wasn’t new for Paul. He writes of his perils in 1 Corinthians as well. Paul really knew what it was like to have a bad day. And again, he gives God glory. He declares that his perils taught him how to rely on God more.

 “For we do not want you to be unaware brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despised of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.

But that was to make ourselves rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again.” – 1 Corinthians 1:8-10

Even though Paul had a bad day – a lot of them actually – he always sees the good God is doing.

Seeing the good God is doing on your bad day can seem quite daunting at times.

I know it is for me.

Confusion, despair, self-pity, anger, can be some of the perspectives I absorb on a bad day. It’s easy to be that way too. And the devil capitalizes on that. The devil wants us to settle into a negative state of mind on a bad day. We can’t see the good God is doing in our midst through the clouds of negativity.

Seeing that Paul demonstrates an increasingly encouraging response to his bad days as we read through the New Testament epistles, always finding the good God is doing in his midst, I think we need to learn a little more about what Paul is doing.

Let’s take a look at Philippians… a letter the apostle Paul wrote while in prison.

Talk about a bad day! Or a bad sequence of days really. A bad season of life. But the reader would never say that’s the case while reading Philippians.

Ironically, Paul is extremely joyful and positive in every word he writes in this epistle.

Paul expresses a tone of rejoicing, thankfulness, excitement, love, compassion for others…such unusual characteristics from someone thrown in prison unjustly and unfairly.

Remember Paul’s idea of when I am weak, then I am strong – this idea permeates Philippians as we read about how Paul sees every single that happens to Him as a part of God’s purposes.

Paul starts off Philippians with thankfulness in chapter 1 verse 3: “I thank my God in every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy…”

Joy!?

Paul talks about praying with joy here… I just don’t get it.

He’s stuck in prison and the very first thing he writes is about praying with joy?

Maybe praying with confusion would sound a little more reasonable…praying with anger…bitterness…a chip on his shoulder…regret…loneliness…frustration…

But Paul prays with joy. It’s one of the first phrases penned.

Paul goes on to explain in chapter 1 verse 12-13 how his imprisonment is serving to “advance the gospel so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”

Wow he is so optimistic and faithful to the Lord that he sees his suffering through the lens of God’s purpose. Shouldn’t he be angered and resentful towards the hand he has been dealt? The unfair circumstances? The unjust treatment? The Lord allowing it? Not helping him at all? But Paul just overflows with a tone of happiness throughout this entire book! It’s just mind-blowing to me!

It seems that Paul’s previous perils spoken of in 1st and 2nd Corinthians have developed his trust in God despite his circumstances so that his experience in prison now recorded in Philippians is nothing new to Paul – rather it’s just another useful tool in that hands of God to bring him closer to Christ and see others saved.

What I’m finding is that Paul had a “so that” mentality.

In everything he writes.

In everything he experiences.

Yeah… a “SO THAT” mentality.

Paul says this phrase over and over again in Philippians.

We saw “so that” in the verse above (1:13).

“So that” is used in this epistle 6 times by Paul, “that you may” is used 2 times, and “that I may” is used 2 times.

10 times, Paul uses this transitory/explanatory phrasing to point towards the purpose of either an occurrence or an action. Paul will make a statement concerning 1) reality (what is happening) and then utilize a 2) transitory/explanatory phrase of “so that/that I may/that you may” (why its’ happening) in order to 3) point towards God’s purpose (what God wants to happen). In other words, This is happening so that this will happen according to God’s will is the model of his verbal explanation. And it makes so much sense!

For example, let’s take a look at Philippians 3:8-11:

*The initial statement concerning reality will be bolded.

*The transitory/explanatory phrase will be bolded and italicized.

*God’s purpose through it will be bolded, italicized and underlined.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

No wonder Paul is so joyful amidst persecution!

Dang!

I want you to notice how many bolded phrases there are in comparison to the italicized/bolded and bolded, italicized, underlined phrases in Phillipians 3:8-11.

How many bolded phrases did you find?

One.

Yes, one!

Paul has 1 statement concerning reality. Yet 4 transitory/explanatory phrases pointing towards 6 phrases concerning God’s purpose in it!!!

Paul has 6 times more reasons to be joyful than his 1 suffering!

His suffering is pretty large, considering he has “suffered the loss” of all things. All things is a lot! Paul could have listed all the things he had lost to make it more dramatic and look greater than his reasons for joy. But Paul would never do that because he is a “so that” person.

Paul cares more about the “so that” than the reality of his circumstances.

Paul lists all the many purposes that God is revealing to him through his 1 suffering because he gives more weight to God’s purpose than to His own suffering. And this is extremely encouraging and inspiring to me.

What would happen if we gave more weight to God’s purposes than our own circumstances?

I guarantee we would absorb joy and so overflow with it.

I guarantee it would brighten our bad days.

Paul sees his bad days and bad circumstances as ingredients for what God’s creating in the earth to accomplish salvation and redemption. So he remains joyful. I love this.

Again, remember what he said in 2 Corinthians 12 – when I am weak, then I am strong – I think Paul is really onto something here.

We need a “so that” mentality.

Like Paul.

A “so that” mentality.

We need a “so that” mentality that turns our worst days into reasons to glorify God.

Our weakness makes us strong.

Strong in the Lord.

We experience pain.

So that we may empathize with others.

Weakness turns into strength.

We fail.

So that we may rely wholly upon the Lord.

Weakness turns into strength.

We get hurt.

So that we may experience the afflictions of Christ and have fellowship with Him in His sufferings.

Weakness turns into strength.

We lose.

So that Christ can be victorious in us.

Weakness turns into strength.

We have a bad day.

So that Christ’s sufficiency can be made real in our soul.

Weakness turns into strength.

Weakness turns into strength.

Weakness turns into strength.

Yes.

Weakness turns into strength.

Let your bad day be fuel that catalyzes your weakness turning into strength!!!

However, we need to understand this correctly…It’s not that God makes bad things happen to you so that this weakness-into-strength-conversion can take place.

No!!

That’s the wrong perspective.

God is not trying to harm you. Look at it conversely…

Something bad happens to you. Period. It’s done. And now, you can learn to say “so that…” after-the-fact. You can let this already inevitable weakness be turned into strength after-the-fact.

You and I having a bad day is inevitable.

It’s going to happen eventually, 100% guaranteed.

You can’t avoid bad things or bad days in this broken world. You just can’t. And that’s okay.

So…are you going to let those bad days and/or bad things become useful in God’s hand so that He can make something good come out of it? Or aren’t you?

Are you going to let him convert your weakness into strength? Or aren’t you?

Many bad days have already come and gone in your life. How are you going to handle a bad day from here on out?

It’s your decision.

Your perspective.

Your mentality.

Your peace to choose.

Your joy to fight for.

Don’t give up!

Don’t let a bad day fuel despair…

I’ve done that before. I’ve let 1 bad day turn into a whole bad week… and it doesn’t lead you anywhere but into more despair.

Learn to say “so that” to your bad day…to your bad circumstance.

Fight for joy!

Fight for peace!

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice,” says Paul in Philippians 4:4.

Let your bad day be offered up to the God who knows how to make beautiful things from even the most hopeless circumstances.

So that you may be filled with joy!

So that you may be content in Christ!

So that you may be a light to someone else who needs it!

So that

So that

May we never run out of “so that” reasons to praise God’s power and purposes.

I pray that you and I would learn to say “so that” to every bad day. I pray that you and I would let God have our weaknesses so that He can convert them into strength by His power, mercy and grace. I pray we would find joy in this! Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus. May we learn to say “so that” to our bad days, knowing there is a purposeful reason on the other side. And You will redeem us from every war waged against us. You are surely working for the good of those who love you. We praise You.

 

 

“holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

-Philippians 2:16-

Questions for Today:

  • Why is Paul so joyful on really bad days?
  • What does Paul mean by when I am weak, then I am strong?
  • How many times does Paul use the phrase “so that/that I may/that you may” in the letter to the Philippians?
  • How does this point to God’s purposes?
  • What is a “so that” mentality?
  • Why do I need a “so that” mentality to experience joy on a bad day?

“For A Moment” by Elevation Worship

God is Satisfied in You

IMG_20160311_195823

Do you ever feel like you just can’t live up to the life God has called you to?

Do you ever feel like you don’t measure up?

Have you ever felt like you’re just not enough?

If you’ve ever felt inadequate or incapable… insufficient or invisible… a disappointment or a failure… I know how you feel. This post is for you.

I want you to know that God sees you as so precious and fully enough, no matter how empty and inadequate you may feel!

You are always enough to Him!

God is satisfied in you.

The Lord has been reminding me of this truth today, in a season of life where every day I feel like I don’t measure up.

I feel inadequate.

I feel like there is something I’m supposed to live up to and I just can’t cut it. I can’t live up to it. I feel overwhelming pressure to measure up to everything and prove that I am good enough. But all it does is make me feel worse about the fact that I can’t ever prove that I am. I never feel good enough. It makes me want to give up. Too many things I fail. Too many things I mess up. I never feel like I am capable to live whatever life God wants for me. All these thoughts are like repeat in my head. It keeps whispering and whispering. And I know that it is the enemy trying to mess me up and make me give up. He wants me to fall apart.

I know the enemy does not want me to be confident whatsoever in anything of God.

So he attacks me with lies over and over again.

The problem is I can believe them.

I can believe the lies and become so paralyzed by fear that it may actually be true, and I shut down. I don’t know how to overcome the anxiety in that moment.

Until God begins to whisper His truth a little louder…and a little louder… And I am reminded that God is STRONGER than any fear I may be distracted by.

I love the verse Psalm 56:3. I used to say it when I was little. And my dad reminded me of it last week. It says, “When I am afraid I will trust in You. In God, whose Word I praise…”

God is strong enough to ease your fears!

God is strong enough to fight for you when you are weak!

God is strong enough to destroy the enemy when He tries to whisper lies to you!

God is strong enough to lead you when you don’t know which way to go!

God is strong enough to protect you!

“No weapon that is fashioned against you will succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises up against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication is from Me, declares the Lord.” – Isaiah 54:17.

May God be praised!

He will protect us.

“The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” – Nahum 1:7.

I’ve never been more confident in this than I am now that God is strong enough to help me. If He weren’t I would fall apart. Because I need Him so bad right now!

You know why God chooses to protect you?

Because you are VALUABLE to Him!

1 Corinthians 3:17 says this,

“If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is HOLY, and that is what YOU are.” (emphasis mine).

God sees you as priceless and so worthy of His own love. His love! How crazy is it that the God who created the universe and everything in it would choose to love a mere human?

Because you are far from inadequate.

You are far from invisible.

You are far from unworthy.

You are far from not-good-enough.

God chooses you, beloved.

He chooses you!

He fights for you!

You are so valuable that God was going to do whatever it took to be able to have you live with Him in His Holy dwelling forever. He came and lived a really hard life, knowing all along the plan was to be murdered by His own people – just so He could pay what it would cost to have you be His forever. He wasn’t about to lose you. No sir. He went after you! He wants you that much! You are that valuable to Him.

You are far from incapable.

For you, precious son and daughter are made in the very image of the most high God.

His very image!

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). I can’t believe that God would choose to make us like Him. He wanted children who would reflect His glory and beauty.

And let me tell you…God is radiantly glorious and beautiful…and so naturally that is what YOU are!

Radiantly glorious.

Radiantly beautiful.

Every hue of your skin, every shade of your hair, every glimmer in your eyes, every creative idea in your mind, every desire in your heart, everything about you… it comes from God by His own expertise to design you. And what He designs is always breathtaking.

Psalm 139:13-16 speaks of God designing you,

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

For anyone who doubts their ability to live up to God’s standard, I know how you feel.

I’ve been there. And in many ways I still am. So I want to encourage your heart today that you don’t have to measure up to anything!

Jesus Christ measures up to God’s standard and He stands in Your place reconciling you to God. It’s not your job to measure up anymore. That’s Jesus’ job. And it’s already been done. You can receive Him.

Jesus Christ covers you.

Therefore, God is satisfied in you.

Let that sink in.

God is satisfied in you.

I want you to know it!

God is satisfied in you…

The real you.

Not the “achievement” you.

Not the “hard worker” you.

Not the “educated” you.

Not the “all-done-up” you.

Not the “successful” you.

Not the “all-put-together” you.

No.

God is satisfied in you just how you are…

“You” on a bad day.

“You” when you mess up.

“You” when you cry.

“You” when you fail.

“You” when you sin.

“You” when you cuss.

“You” when you lie.

“You” at your lowest.

“You” when you get back from the gym all sweaty.

“You” when you have road rage (or maybe I should speak for myself : ) )

“You” when you feel like you’ve let everybody down.

“You” when you feel you just don’t measure up.

God is satisfied with that “you.”

That’s the “you” He chooses.

That’s the “you” He’s satisfied in.

Know it, my precious friends. Know it. God is satisfied in you just the way you are. And so are the ones who love you.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” –Romans 8:38-39

I pray boldly as coming to the throne room of the Lord that you would believe God is satisfied with you the way you are. I pray this for my heart too. May you overflow with joy as you ponder the magnitude of what it means for Christ to choose you. May you smile at the thought of God looking at you with a grin on His face and love in His eyes…for you beloved, for you. May your heart be free today knowing that God is satisfied with the real you. Thank You, Jesus for how You love.

 

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by My name, you are Mine.

when you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk though fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the LORD your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

Isaiah 43:1b-3a

 

Questions for Today:

  • Do I believe that God is satisfied with the real me? me at my lowest?
  • If not, what keeps me from believing this truth?
  • Why does God see me as valuable?
  • Why did God make me in His own image?
  • Why is it crucial that I believe that God is satisfied with the real me?

 

“Resurrecting” by Elevation Worship

 

 

Why Love God?

One-True-Love

Why love God?

Why want Him?

Is He really worth our devotion? Worth our very lives?

In effort to love God, I find that I fail every day. So why even keep trying to love Him?

Should I give up and stop trying? Surely not.

Should I abandon Him? Surely not.

For quite some time, I’ve been in a very difficult place in my emotions, well-being and trust in the Lord. I finally feel a release in my spirit. But it’s taken me a while to get here. I’ve been stuck in this disbelief that God would still care about me. God , why are You doing this? God, why is this not happening? God, do You not care about me? God, don’t You love me? I thought You said You loved me but… And I base my relationship with the Lord on what I see and what I don’t see.

God is asking me now, Natalie, do you love me? OR do you just love what I can do?

Dang…that’s a harsh question.

And ultimately, God is saying, You’re not loving Me the way you were designed to love Me. Your love for Me is broken. It has ulterior motives.

But I debated with God on this.

Surely, God, I don’t love You just for what You can do! You know I really want You! Just come back now! If I could choose for You to come back for me right now, I would say yes. I really do want You.

But God said to look at where my heart has been over the past year in terms of what I love most.

And He said my love for Him has not been enough.

Not enough, God? What do You mean!? It will never be enough! You know I cannot love You how You deserve! I wish I could but I fail too much! What do You want from me?

God is saying, I don’t want you to love Me for what I can do. That’s not enough. That’s not even what I want from you, Natalie. I want you to love Me for Me.

Love Me for Me.

Wow.

God is right.

I haven’t been loving Him for Him.

My heart is really breaking over this.

God is showing me that my love for Him over the past year now has been primarily tied to what He is either doing for me or not doing for me. And it’s been fluctuating up and down because of that.

What God wants from me is to love Him the same no matter what…

…To love Him as if He were to never do another thing for me.

…To love Him as if I had never seen Him do anything.

…To love Him for Himself.

…To love Him for His character.

…To love Him because I love Him.

Not because of anything He can do for me.

Many times in my life I’ve gone through a season where I have seen God do crazy things or awe-inspiring things and it makes me “love” God more. Because I think, Wow, God is so cool! I can’t believe He can do that! OR seasons of blessing, and I think, Wow, God you are so good! Thank You thank You thank You! I love You so much! OR seasons of change in me and I think, Wow, God You are so powerful to do that! I love how You can do that!

And honestly, it really breaks my heart that I’ve been “loving” God like this… “loving” Him for what I’ve seen Him do and for what I hope He will do in the future.

That’s not love.

That’s admiration. That’s wonder. That’s awe. And yes, we need to marvel at God for what He can do and be astounded at His power. But it’s not love. It’s not love. We need to esteem God for what He can do, yes, but way more, we need to love Him for who He is!

This has been such a powerful realization for me.

Think of it this way…

…nobody wants to be loved for what they have done, or for what they do, or what they can do. Nobody does. Nobody wants to be loved for their accomplishments, their job, their status, their potential, their looks…nobody wants to be loved for those things. We ALL want to be loved for who we are as a person. Deep down, I want somebody to love me for me. Good and bad. Mess and all. I want somebody to love me for me. Not for what I do or don’t do.

Everyone wants to be loved for who they are at their core. And God wants that too.

God’s not interested in being loved for His mighty power.

God’s not interested in being loved for His miraculous wonders.

God’s not interested in being loved because of how He gives.

God’s not interested in being loved because of how He heals.

God is much more than all that.

God wants to be loved for who He is.

He wants us to love Him for Him.

For Him.

The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end.

And then…once we love Him for Him…we praise Him for all He can do. There’s a difference between love and praise. Both go together. But love precedes praise. Always! You can’t praise God with a right heart if you don’t first love Him for Him…otherwise, it would just be admiration of a good thing. But if you love God for God, then your praise to Him turns into something real and it truly honors Him.

I love this passage in John chapter 6 where Jesus’ disciples are at a relational crossroads with this new teacher they have been following. It relates so much to how we love God.

These disciples have to decide, do they love Jesus enough to keep following Him? OR is this all too much for them?

We pick it up in verse 53:

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

60 Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?

61 Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some among you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who would not believe and the one who would betray Him.) 65 He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”

66 From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. 67 Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?

68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!” (emphasis mine).

Jesus makes it clear that following Him means doing just that: following HIM. His flesh. His blood. Himself. He in Himself is the way to life. Jesus wants them to love Him for Him. Not for what He can do.

All of the ones following Jesus up until this point saw His miracles.

Jesus just fed 5000 men, likely 15,000 including women and children earlier in chapter 6. Jesus healed a man in chapter 5. Jesus turned water into really good wine at a wedding party in chapter 2. They saw Jesus do things they had never seen before. They saw what He could do.

But when it came time to decide if they wanted Jesus or not, some just didn’t want Him.

Verse 66 says that “many of His disciples turned back…”

Only 12 remained.

But those 12 were loyal to Jesus Himself. Not just His miracles. Not just His healings. Not just His charisma and following. No. Now, they know what this whole deal is really about…it’s about following this man Jesus. And they decide that they really do want Him.

“Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life.”

I just love Simon Peter’s humble and beautiful response. He wanted Jesus. He knew that there was something special about Jesus.

What stands out to me about Simon Peter is that he loved Jesus for His identity as “the Holy One” instead of loving Him for all the miracles and healings He had performed.

And we can see how Peter falls in love with this man Jesus over the course of John’s gospel. He affirms it in chapter 21:15-19. But it all started with the initial decision to follow Jesus Himself. Jesus the Messiah. Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus, God in the flesh.

May we learn from Simon Peter’s response.

You may push back and say, but why should I love God? What’s in it for me?

Let’s think about that…

Well, I think anyone who’s ever been in love knows how good it feels. That person you love all the sudden becomes more important and you long for that person to be whole in every way possible. You don’t even think about yourself. You think about that person. You stop worrying over your own happiness. You just want that person to be happy. You don’t really care if you hurt. You just want that person you love to not hurt. You don’t really care what it costs you. You just want to give to that person. That person’s well-being becomes priority to you… and you lose yourself in a sense, when you’re in love with that person. And because you lose yourself, you feel good all the time because you’re not worried about satisfying yourself. Ironically, satisfying the other person ends up satisfying you. Selfless love always benefits the giver. So it is with the way we love God. It always benefits us to love God.

Because as we truly love God and fall more and more in love with Him, it fills us with joy, much more than any love relationship on earth ever will. And it makes us feel good to get to love God back. Even in the feeble way that exists in our human capacity to love.

So why love God?

Love God because…

1) He wants to be loved

2) He deserves to be loved

3) Loving Him teaches me how to love others

4) My soul satisfaction depends on me loving Him.

We know that God doesn’t need our love to exist. But He wants to be loved and He wants to impart His love to us.

The same disciple who wrote the gospel passage we just read also wrote this letter. He says this about love in 1 John 4:7-19:

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.

13 This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because He first loved us.” (emphasis mine).

If we can only love because God first loved us, then I need to ask God to love me more. You need to ask God to love you more. Or really…I need to learn how to receive His love more. You need to learn how to receive His love more. Because God’s love is already poured out to me and to you in full. Why? Because as God loves us, we can love Him back. And then we can love others more.

It’s a cyclical kind of love.

God loves me → I love God → God loves me → I love others. And again and again…

Love is from God.

It’s a gift.

And each of us gets the privilege of receiving this precious gift.

There’s nothing more valuable than God’s love being imparted to us and channeled through us.

Without this love, our world would be misery.

We all experience love in a plethora of ways because of God’s kindness that He even gave it to begin with. And my prayer is that we would absorb this love and pour it out in the world. For we will find that we are most free when we are in cyclical love with the Lord. Because it empties our hearts of ourselves and we are consumed by a love so much greater.

Loving the Lord gives purpose.

Loving the Lord breathes life.

And we can only experience this if we first receive His love for us.

Ask Him to love you. And receive it.

Don’t worry anymore about all the things you want God to do.

Don’t let your love for Him depend on that.

Let your heart be free today.

Love God for who He is.

Love God for God.

And He will take care of the rest.

 

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

–John 15:13–

 

 

Questions for Today:

  • How is it that love even exists?
  • Do I receive the love that the Lord has for me?
  • Am I loving God for who He is or only for what He can do?
  • How does loving God change my heart?
  • Why should I love God?
  • What can we learn from Simon Peter in John 6:53-69?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

 

“Never See The End” by Amanda Cook, Bethel Music