things break every day

roses falling down

 

there’s a story I heard

it’s hard to remember

her mind

is losing it

misery infusing it

bruising it

confusing it

with what she thinks is real

and the rose grows against the gray

things break

every day

 

There’s something you love.

God’s gonna let it break your heart.

 

shattered glass

is falling

from

the window seal

the sky

wanted in

now the wind

sings

whispers

shrieks

 

from outside

it seems

desire and passion

await

beyond the glass

it seems

ghosts

were dancing

all day

 

shattered glass

still remains

things break

every day

 

It’s a good thing you know.

A broken heart.

 

blood concealed

entrapped

stuck in shields

never healed

until its flowing in disarray

things break

every day

 

I wish I could see

how

a rose

grows

from a tree unkind

 

hidden

blind

closed in and confined

its blossom died

 

then grew again

 

what’s drawing near?

a touch unfamiliar

gentle

soft

kindness

somehow saw her

 

petals

breaking

from the stem

petals

falling

from the wind

 

then blew again

 

goodbye tree unkind

goodbye rose branch divine

kindness

invites

her in

 

will things break

today?

 

petals

lavish

the King’s floor

 

and stay

 

today

what’s breaking is

a heart bound in chains

 

petals

falling…

falling…

falling…

 

Sky

rejoicing

Life

restoring

Beauty

no longer

in mourning

 

The chains were shattered.

 

things break

every day

 

 

 

 

 

Did God Tell Me That?: Discerning God’s Voice

 hearing God voice pic

How do I know if God is the One speaking to me?

Is it His voice I’m hearing?

Or others?

Or just my own?

How do I know the difference?

There are many instances I’ve struggled to know if I’m hearing from God or not.

There are times when I am confident in what the Lord is telling me and I know it is Him….

But there have been times when I’ve questioned if it’s really His voice…

And I get confused. My mind is bombarded with too many thoughts.

I know I’m not the only one.

I’ve talked to countless people who also wrestle with discerning the difference between God’s voice and their own…God’s voice and other voices…God’s voice and people’s voices.

So this is an important topic to address.

We can’t always silence the other influences in our lives: friends, family, media, readings, church, the world, etc.

But we can change the volume on these voices.

My prayer is that God’s voice would be the loudest voice you hear. 

May we give God full attention and the highest volume to speak to us.

Reading through Romans 8 we can see how the duality of the spirit and the flesh plays a part in our ability to hear from God.

For if we desire to hear from God, we can only hear Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit that lives within us, sent by Jesus after He left the earth.

We cannot hear from God through our flesh.

It’s not possible.

So I want us to look at this passage and embrace what it means to live by the Spirit and not the flesh, so that we can live in the sweet spot of discerning God’s voice.

 

“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according the Spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.”

Romans 8:1-9

 

Look at the contrasting terms “Spirit” and “flesh.”

Throughout this passage, Paul declares that the flesh leads to death and the spirit leads to life. Yet He also declares that through Christ, we no longer live according to our flesh. Now, we live according to the Spirit. And the Spirit gives us life and peace. It leads us. It guides us.

And if we are in Christ, we possess the Holy Spirit!

We have way more assurance than we realize when it comes to hearing God’s voice.

Why?

Because hearing God’s voice requires the Holy Spirit.

And anyone following Jesus has the Holy Spirit living within! The Holy Spirit overpowers the flesh, so that we operate according to how the Spirit of Christ leads us not the flesh.

In verse 7, Paul says that a mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. The flesh does not want to hear from God.

A mind that is hostile to God is never seeking to hear God’s voice.

That’s just not a priority of the flesh.

My flesh wants what I want not what God wants.

Recognizing this is important!

Because… if I desire to hear God’s voice, then I know I’m not operating according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Thus… if I am operating according to the Spirit in seeking to hear from God, then I can be sure that God will speak to me through His Spirit in return.

But what if I am seeking by the Spirit to hear from God but then my own thoughts get in the way and I confuse my own thoughts as God’s voice?

Throughout my years following the Lord and seeking to hear His voice, though I still struggle, what I am learning is there are CONSISTENT INDICATORS in 1) hearing God’s voice or 2) misinterpreting another voice for God’s that is not God.

→ If you’re unsure if the Lord is truly speaking to you in any way, filter it through this list of indicators to discern if it in fact lines up with indicators of God’s voice:

If it’s another voice (flesh) and not God’s voice, here are some possible indicators:

Convenient for me

It all makes sense

Doesn’t stretch my faith

Something I would normally think or do

Beneficial for me and no one else

May or may not contradict scripture

Seeks my own interest

Absence of fear

Absence of passion

Grants dissatisfaction and leaves you feeling empty

 

If it’s God’s voice (Spirit), here are some possible indicators:

Challenging for me

May be convicting

Beneficial to others besides myself

An opportunity to bless

Seeks others interests above my own

May be inconvenient for me

Grows me spiritually

Lines up with scripture

May seem odd

Requires more faith

Contradicts the way I would have done it

Evokes fear

Stirs passion

Grants peace and fulfilment at the moment of obedience

 

*And when in doubt: God’s voice always seeks to make us more like Christ.

 

GOOD NEWS: If you are following Jesus, your mind will be set on things of the Spirit! Romans 8:9 declares this!

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.” –Romans 8:9

Romans 8 promises us this!

This is an indicator to you and I that we are doing better than we think we are.

You can hear God’s voice.

His voice is not trying to trick you into thinking it’s your own voice.

He wants to speak to you and help you know for sure that it’s Him.

I get so doubtful of myself and my ability to hear God but I forget that I really am trying to do so and my desire is to hear Him above all else.

Therefore, if that really is my desire, I can trust that God will set my mind on things of the Spirit and He will speak to me.

I way more have assurance than I realize.

So do you.

If you really do want to hear from God, He will speak to you and you will hear His voice.

Why would the God who gave us the Holy Spirit to indwell us not want you to hear from Him? It’s absolutely certain that He will. But you must fertilize and grow your own relationship with the Lord, because as you get to know Him better you learn how to hear from Him and His voice becomes more familiar. It’s just like any other relationship. It requires time, commitment and learning about the other.

I do believe though that when we are in the New Heaven and New Earth with Jesus that we will get to see how God was leading us and speaking to us way more than we ever realized. Looking back at our lives, we will be able to see clearly how powerful God’s voice was to guide us along the journeys of life He planned for each of us. There is so much here on earth that we cannot see and cannot comprehend.

But while we are here, I know God wants to lead us by His voice.

However, another potential struggle might arise when you have heard clearly from God but over time you start to doubt the actual content of what He told you.

Have you ever become discouraged about something God told you because it’s not happening?

Or confused because it seems crazy?

For me, it’s extremely difficult when things I’ve heard from the Lord and am confident about start to become questionable. Possibly out of lack of fruition of what God spoke, not seeming ideal for me, things not looking the way I thought they should look, not turning out how I thought it would, etc. I’ll think, Did You really tell me that Lord? I thought You did…and You really are leading me in this direction…but now with the way things are looking in my life, I’m not so sure. Maybe it wasn’t You. Maybe it was just my own thoughts. And discouragement layers on top of confusion.

When this happens…

you must STOP thinking and asking questions.

RETURN to what God FIRST told you.

FILTER what He told you through the list I mentioned above on how to tell if it’s God’s voice or not.

And if it LINES UP with the characteristics of God’s voice, then you know what you do?

You keep MOVING FORWRD in FAITH.

It’s not going to be easy. But most of the time, the things God speaks never are easy. It’s called SPIRITUALLY CHALLENGING for a reason.

ELIMINATE your EXPECTATIONS that you are going to be able to understand it all.

DECIDE if you want to OBEY the Word that you know God has spoken to you.

ONLY YOU can decide.

LOOK at JESUS, not your circumstances.

TRUST the Lord.

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” –Hebrews 11:6

Still, you can hear from God, be certain that you have heard from Him and thus obey, and you still will wrestle with questions and confusion at times while navigating this whole journey of life with God.

Hearing from the Lord is a constant dialogue not a final answer.

We do not go to God to just get a yes or no.

We go to Him to talk to Him and communicate with Him, to be led by Him and walk with Him, and to grow closer to Him like we would in any real relationship with another person.

God wants to lead us step by step not leave us with an answer key to everything for our lives.

He wants to be involved.

And we grow more this way.

Going back to Romans 8, we know that there is a war between the flesh and the Spirit.

So this constant dialogue if often interrupted by other voices such as ourselves, other people, pop culture, temptation and so on.

But Jesus is stronger.

With Christ’s indwelling Spirit living within us, we always have power to live a life in the sweet spot of discerning God’s voice.

I pray for you and I that we would know how to recognize God’s voice and His leading. I pray that we would let Him lead us every single day. I pray we would be in constant communication with Him. I pray we would believe God’s voice even when it stretches our faith. A life following Christ often costs more than we bargain for. But we will discover riches far greater than anything we could ever even fathom if we just trust Him! One day we will reign forever with Jesus and every struggle on this earth will be worth it. May faith abound to you. May trust increase in your heart. May peace overflow. May fulfillment overflow. May we yield to God through His Holy Spirit in all that we do. Thank You, Jesus, for wanting to speak to us.

May God’s voice be the loudest voice you hear.

 

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.” – John 16:13

 

 

Questions for Today:

  • What are the indicators that what I’m hearing is God’s voice?
  • What are the indicators that what I’m hearing is not God’s voice?
  • How do the Spirit and the flesh impact my ability to hear from God?
  • Why does God want to lead us step by step?
  • When I doubt what God told me, what should I do?
  • Am I in constant dialogue with God? What can I do to be in better communication with the Lord?

 

“Never Alone” by Hillsong Young and Free

The Relief of Release: Nothing Messes Up God’s Will

butterflies flying away out of jar

If there’s a burden you’re carrying.

You don’t have to carry it anymore.

It’s not up to you to carry it.

Release it.

The Lord can handle it.

“Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken,” says Psalm 55:22.

The worry that keeps you from sleep at night…the fear that halts you from moving forward…the stress over feeling like you have to do this and that to ensure God’s plan…whatever burden you’re overwhelmed with….…let God have it…He’s competent enough to take it from you and do something with it that will actually help you out.

But it’s hard to do sometimes.

Sometimes I like carrying around my burdens and worries.

They’re like pretty butterflies in a jar, not like chains. I forget that they’re actually the things weighing me down.

But I can’t release it out of fear that what I’m worried about will be lost forever if I stop worrying. I don’t want to let go and God never give me what I want because He assumes I’m fine now and not worried. So I keep my worries, burdens, and stress to myself, hoping it will get better. But it never does.

Yet, I fear that if I let go then I will for sure miss out.

I fear that releasing my worries to the Lord will ensure my permanent loss of what I hope for.

I fear that peace will replace my angst, and that in losing my angst, the hope, of which produced the angst, will be forever lost.

I don’t want to lose hope.

And as long as I have some angst, I have some hope.

But if I feel like all my angst is gone, I have nothing to hope in. Hope produces angst because I become restless in what I’m hoping in: thus, the angst.

So, what if I hope in something but want to eliminate my angst?

Is it possible?

Can I both hope and be at peace simultaneously?

I don’t know how to.

But I want to. This is my great predicament right now.

How do I be at peace while hoping in something? Hope makes me excited, on edge, restless, eager….not peaceful…

Because I’m anxiously awaiting that which I hope for…

But having no hope at all makes me discouraged, depressed, purposeless, weary…not peaceful.

So eliminating hope itself is not the answer to eliminating my angst. Eliminating hope is not the answer to peace.

But if hope causes me stress then what do I do?

What is the answer?

I couldn’t finish this part of the blog. Not until today.I haven’t been able to figure out the answer until God spoke to me through an Uber driver.

Yes, I said Uber.

On my way to the airport, I was talking to the Uber driver and she told me something.

She said, “If God wills for something to be in your life, ain’t nobody can stop it.”

I heard it, but I didn’t really hear it.

I didn’t really believe her. I just nodded my head. I’ve heard it before. And usually I’ve believed that too. But right then, I just didn’t believe it. Too many things in the way for me to believe that God could still accomplish His will.

But she kept going on about it.

“…ain’t nobody who can open a door that God shuts… ain’t nobody who can shut a door that God opens. Nothing gets in God’s way. He’s God.”

I started to think about what she said.

And questions wrestled in my mind…

Then why did that happen? If nothing can get in Your way, God, then why did this get messed up like this? Why do I feel like it’s up to me? Why do I feel like if I don’t do enough I won’t receive what You’ve willed? Why do I feel so much pressure to do everything myself? Why does everything get messed up even when I try to do the right thing?

Life, sin, my disobedience, others’ disobedience, the fallen world, unfavorable circumstances… all these things get in the way don’t they?

At least that’s what I’ve been believing.

I’ve been believing that there’s so many factors that hinder God’s will in my life and I’m terrified of doing anything that will mess up God’s will. I feel like I’ve already failed.

God’s will seems impossible to me.

Deep down, no matter how powerful I believe God to be, I also believe that I or someone else has the potential to mess up His plan. Thus, I feel like it’s up to me to make sure I don’t do that. And thus, the angst over what I’m hoping for.

This is the problem.

My burdens and worries are rooted in fear that God’s will is only possible if I do enough to make it happen. But I can never do enough. And it stresses me out more and more. 

But maybe, it’s not up to me. Maybe God really is more powerful than all of this. Maybe He can still accomplish His will even without me.

The Uber driver was right.

Nothing and nobody can get in the way of God.

Nothing and nobody can stop God from doing what He wants to do in my and your life.

Nothing and nobody will shut the door on His will.

Not even me.

Not even you.

Job knew this was true when he saw the faithfulness of God and the blessings that came after his time of being assaulted by the devil.

Job says this in Job 42:2,

“I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours can be thwarted.”

Talk about confidence!

Yet Job questioned God a lot though his season of hardship.

And Job constantly went to other people asking then about why all the bad things were happening to him in His life. Nobody could give him an answer. It only made him more confused and more stressed out. Yet at the end of his life and in the last chapter recorded in the book of Job, we see that Job has shifted from angst to peace. He finally believes what the Uber driver believes and so told me: that nothing can stop God’s plan.

In Job 42:3b, Job goes on to say this when talking to God: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

Job finally knew who He was talking to.

God.

Not somebody up in the sky distant from his life and pain.

Job finally understood that his angst, stress and burdens surrounding his hardship was fueled by his misunderstanding of God.

The same reason I was hesitant to believe my Uber driver when she told me nothing can get in the way of God’s plan is the same reason Job was questioning God. I was speaking and thinking of things I did not understand…I was seeing everything in my life as dependent on my ability, not God’s ability. I did not understand God. I did not fully understand His power.

The problem is that I thought God’s power was contingent on my activity.

But this is incorrect.

God’s power is contingent on my heart posture, not my activity.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by grace not by activities or works. So if we are saved by grace, aren’t we sustained by grace too? 1 Corinthians 1:8 says Jesus Christ will sustain us until the end. And if we are sustained to the end by God Himself and not by our own selves, then why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve God’s will by works?

It’s not about works or activity.

It’s about seeking Jesus with our hearts.

“You will seek me and find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart,”

Jeremiah 29:13

We have to ask ourselves individually: How is my heart postured towards God?

→Does my heart seek Jesus Christ and long to follow His leading no matter what?

→Or is my heart cold and indifferent to Jesus, not caring to follow His leading?

This is the only thing that matters when it comes to God’s will.

Does your heart want God? Or not?

If you do, then God will lead you into His will.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

A heart postured towards God, seeking Him and following Him, will never be able to thwart God’s will.

So… I am finding my solution: hope + peace simultaneously.

What a relief.

When I believe 100% that God’s plan for my life cannot be stopped, I can have peace in the midst of what I hope for.

I can release my angst, and trust that God will take care of what I hope for without my help.

Before, I thought it was up to me to “do enough” to help God’s plan happen in my life. I thought I needed to help Him out.

You see, I’m a very get-things-done, proactive, work-for-what-you-want kind of person and this has been hemorrhaging into my relationship with the Lord. I assume that if God wants something for me or I want something for me, I partner with Him to get it done. I feel like I have a responsibility as a human being to put my hands to the plow and be actively involved in what God is doing in my life. I can’t just sit back and do nothing. But I have gotten to the extreme of thinking that it’s all up to me. And that if I don’t do a certain thing – that I believe God could have used and multiplied in His way of orchestrating things – then I think I have messed up everything and delayed or even ruined what God wanted to do in my life. Thus, I feel incredibly stressed out, overwhelmed, burdened and anxious trying to make sure I do enough for God to have something to work with and that I don’t do anything stupid to mess up what He is doing. This has been causing me so much stress if you can imagine.

But now, I’m releasing this.

I’m releasing my belief that it all is up to me to achieve God’s will.

I cannot achieve God’s will.

Neither can you.

God’ will is a gift.

I call it a gift.

I call it a gift because whatever is wrapped up in “God’s will” for your life is the best thing you would have never even known to ask for. And if I would have never known to ask for it, then I also would have never known to work for it or help God achieve that which I didn’t even know existed. Thus, I can take the pressure off of myself. It’s not up to me anymore. It’s up to God.

Wow how this is so freaking freeing!!!!

I feel so light right now I cannot even describe.

Coming to this realization was like climbing Mount Everest for me.

I want you to see it and believe it too…

You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to achieve God’s will. If you are truly seeking the Lord, He will naturally guide you into it.

“I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel,” says the Lord in Psalm 32:8.

God gets more glory anyways when it’s only Him doing it.

And God likes getting all the glory.

He alone deserves it.

“Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to Your Name give glory because of Your faithful love, because of Your truth.” – Psalm 115:1

And also know… if God wants you to do something, He will tell you. If you are seeking the Lord, you know that there is a BIG difference between doing something because you think it is right and doing something because the Holy Spirit nudged you (Prov 3:5-6; John 14:26, 16:13; James 1:5-6; 1 John 4:1; Isaiah 58:11). This is helpful for me and anyone else who likes to be able to do something, while recognizing that it’s important to yield that autonomy to the Lord and let Him be the lead in our decisions and activities.

Relief rests in release.

Don’t feel like it’s a failure to release everything to Jesus.

It’s not.

But if you’re like me, you may feel that way. I don’t like to release something and let someone else be in charge. Then I don’t feel like I have any power.

However, we need to understand that it’s not healthy for us to have all the power.

It’s only healthy if God has all the power first. And then we let Him assign power, influence and authority that He wants us to have for specific reasons and giftings for His glory not ours.

Whatever you’re hoping to receive from the Lord, thank Him for that gift of hope.

Whatever you’re anxious about hoping for, release that to Jesus and know for certain that God can accomplish it in His own.

Whenever you feel like you’re out of control, release that to the Lord and find comfort in God knowing exactly what to do.

Whatever you feel like you’ve messed up His will, release that to Jesus and know that God is actually powerful enough to use it to your advantage as You seek Him.

Whatever you’re confused about, release that to Jesus and let Him guide you to the answer in due time.

Release…

Relief.

Release…

Relief.

Release…

Relief.

That burden you’re carrying… that hope that’s becoming too heavy… that striving after what you want the Lord to do………let Jesus have it.

Release it.

Give it to Him.

And let the peace of the Lord give you relief.

I pray for you that you would believe God is powerful enough to accomplish His will in your life. Even without your help. For if you are seeking Him, He will guide you there. God is not waiting on you to “do enough” so that you can be the one to achieve His will. God’s will is not something you achieve. It’s a gift. I pray you would believe it and receive peace. I pray blessings upon you and the Spirit of the Lord to be strong in you so that you will know His voice above all others. Thank you, Jesus for your patience and faithful love.

 

“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the One who helps you.”

–Isaiah 41:13 –

 

Questions for Today:

  • What is burdening me right now?
  • Why can’t I release it to the Lord?
  • Do I fear I will lose something?
  • Do I want control?
  • Can anything mess up God’s will?
  • How can I have peace amidst what I hope for?

 

“Call Upon the Lord” by Elevation Worship

Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 13

IMG_20160521_235011 (1)

Continuing on in Matthew’s gospel, we arrive in chapter 13 where Jesus is making His way to the Sea of Galilee.

If you are now joining this study, you can read Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 1 here.

We just left off in chapter 12 where Jesus encountered conflict with the Pharisees and continued to perform healings and miracles. Now in chapter 13 we will read a series of parables from Jesus describing what the kingdom of heaven is like.

From the outset, crowds of people gather around Jesus as His reputation is spreading and people desire to know more about this man Jesus: the one healing, preaching and performing miracles. Jesus becomes enveloped by so many people that He decides to find a boat He can float in by the seashore, so that everyone can see and hear him teach.

Then Jesus begins to teach via parables.

7 parables to be exact.

4 of the parables are focused towards the crowds of people. 3 of the parables are focused towards Jesus’ disciples when He is alone with them.

Parables are short stories, allegorical and symbolic in nature, meant to convey a deeper meaning. We have seen Jesus employ this teaching methodology earlier in chapter 5:14-16, chapter 7:24-27, chapter 9:16-17, all of which are short parables.

Now in chapter 13, Jesus resumes this style of teaching in a series of many parables all working together to describe one idea: the kingdom of heaven.

Using parables to describe such a lofty place and idea as the kingdom of heaven causes Jesus’ listeners to think and process what He’s saying, while also acting as a filtering mechanism by which Jesus speaks to those who will believe and those will not believe. We will talk more about this when we arrive at verses 10-17.

In verse 3, Jesus begins His first parable in this particular set of parables.

In verses 3-9, Jesus tells the crowds of people a parable about a man planting seeds on different kinds of soils.

There are:

1) seeds that the birds came and ate, 2) seeds on rocky ground that immediately sprang up but have no deep roots and withered, 3) seeds growing beside thorns and got choked by the thorns, and 4) seeds on good soil, producing grain in various measures.

Remember: Jesus’ audience is comprised of Jewish people who had been following Him for quite some time now.

They have heard His words, seen His miracles, witnessed His healings.

Now it’s time to see what it’s producing in them.

Matthew is brilliant to highlight this parable right here at the beginning of Jesus’ series of parables, since this parable in itself is like a mini summary telling the reader the whole point of parables in the first place: to filter those who will believe in Jesus and those who will not.

This is why Jesus teaches in parables.

Because there are different kinds of soils, or different kinds of responses from people.

And only the ones who truly want Jesus and believe in Him will produce well and grow.

In verses 10-16, Jesus pauses to explain why He teaches in parables since His disciples are confused why Jesus is teaching this way.

Their confusion regarding the parables is understandable considering the disciples don’t yet know what Jesus is doing here with His sermon strategy.

We as modern day studiers of the Bible see have had time to look at Jesus’ rhetoric here and see His purpose in it, but the disciples had no such luxury. They didn’t know what to think about it in the moment. They hadn’t even known Him for very long. They were probably thinking…why don’t you just tell them what you want them to know Jesus? Why are you talking so metaphorically about truths as lofty and mysterious as the kingdom of heaven?

But Jesus has a reason.

Parables prepare the unbelieving heart to start processing truths from God that require the Holy Spirit for clarity.

Jesus plants the seed (parables) and the Holy Spirit waters (understanding).

Therefore, no one will be able to hear what He is saying without God’s help.

If Jesus were to tell them about God directly, the Holy Spirit would not have as much room to work and give understanding, because the people would not be looking for understanding when they already think they understand it. Parables increase the Holy Spirit’s power to work in their hearts.

In other words, if someone hears a parable and doesn’t understand it, then telling him directly will not profit him….because he doesn’t truly understand it by God’s spirit, only by his own earthly mind. Hearing something directly is easy for anyone to understand. But if the Holy Spirit is involved, then one can both understand it directly and through a parable. So God tells the parables first.

It’s a filtering mechanism by which Jesus sifts through the people who will believe in Him and those who will not.

The ones on God’s side and those who are not.

The 2 opposing forces we established back in chapter 2 and have seen at work throughout Matthew’s gospel.

The reality of the kingdom of heaven has been concealed by God for this long and now Jesus has come to reveal it, as He tells us later in verse 35.

But this revelation is in process.

Jesus reveals it slowly in a way that makes His listeners slow down to process it and really think about it. This is what forces them to choose: do I want to know more about this or don’t I? It’s sparks curiosity. It makes room for the Holy Spirit of God to draw them to faith in Jesus. And it filters out the ones who are not genuine.

Thus, parables are actually good for the ones who don’t yet believe in Jesus.

By forcing their contemplation, Jesus is actually trying to soften their hearts and set them up for spiritual regeneration through Him and His Spirit.

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand,” in verse 13.

It’s not that Jesus doesn’t want the crowds of people to know about the kingdom of heaven and is denying them knowledge. But most of the people in the crowds are just not open to Jesus right now. And thus they would not even hear it if it were spoken to them.

Only the ones chosen by Jesus so far and who have reciprocated this choice by choosing Him back (His disciples) have the gift of immediately understanding what Jesus is saying.

So when the disciples ask Jesus why He is telling the other people parables, He says this in verse 11,

“And He answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (emphasis mine).

The disciples already chose Jesus.

They want Him.

They believe in Him.

Thus, they were given the gift of knowing the secrets about heaven and God that others are not fully given yet. Until they also choose.

But Jesus is kind and actually continues to explain this parable to the crowds of people.

In verses 18-23, Jesus resumes His teaching and takes time to explain this particular parable to the crowds of people.

Reading through this, I’m wondering…why does Jesus explain this parable?

As He goes on, He doesn’t explain any other parables that He tells the crowds in this chapter. He will go on to explain one parable to the disciples in private but not to the crowds. So the explanation to this particular parable must be important. Jesus wants them to know what it means.

Going back to what we talked about earlier regarding this parable of the seeds and soils being a mini summary of the purpose for all parables (a filtering mechanism), Jesus also wants to make this clear to the crowds of people. That each one of them is like one of these kinds of soil.

Jesus explains each kind of soil and how it correlates to a person hearing Jesus’ words and following Him or not.

This is certainly a call to action.

Jesus wants His followers to understand that following Him from place to place is not enough.

They need to decide.

Are they going to believe Jesus’ words or not?

Not everyone in the crowd would have gotten this however.

Only the ones who wanted Jesus would be able to feel conviction, a desire to believe Jesus’ words and the ability to understand it:

“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understand it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty,” in verse 23.

Jesus is now at the point in chapter 13 where time has passed and He’s challenging the people to consider: which kind of soil are you?

They’ve been following Jesus for this long. Are they going to let Jesus’ words take root in their souls or not?

In verses 24-30, Jesus tells the crowds of people a parable about a man who planted good seeds in his field but then found that his enemy had come in the middle of the night to plant weeds in that field.

I think Jesus follows up with this parable to encourage and equip the ones who are starting to believe in Jesus.

It’s likely there are those in the crowd who are really understanding what Jesus is teaching and thus saying, “Yes, I want Jesus and I believe in Him!”

Now, Jesus is now preparing them for what will happen when they start to follow Him. The struggles. The obstacles. The attacks. The assault from the devil.

“ ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ ” Jesus says in verse 27 while telling the parable.

Jesus wants them to be ready when the enemy comes and tries to contaminate what God has planted. But the enemy will not prevail.

Jesus provides an eschatological answer to this problem in verse 30, promising that God will have his reapers, or angels, gather up the weeds and burn them but gather the grain from the good seed into His barn, or His kingdom. Jesus doesn’t say that He will eliminate the weeds when they spring up. Because then, it would uproot the wheat. Thus, bad things happen for the sake of sustaining all of our existence. Until Jesus comes back and God wipes away evil.

In verses 31-32, Jesus tells the crowds of people a parable about a small mustard seed being planted and it growing into the largest tree of all the plants.

Again, Jesus is describing the kingdom of heaven here.

This seems odd, because the kingdom of heaven seems pretty magnificent!

Why compare it to a mustard seed?

Jesus wants to convey that anything they can comprehend about God and heaven is only a small taste of what it really is. A mustard seed. And what it will be when we are with Jesus one day is greater than anything we can see now.

Additionally, to a Jewish audience who may be confused by Jesus’ teaching and understanding of “kingdom of heaven,” this parable likely speaks to their expectations of the Messiah coming to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Most Jews were waiting for the Messiah to arrive and stop their oppression under the Romans and establish God’s kingdom on earth. But this is not what’s happening.

Jesus is not there to establish His own kingdom.

He is there to tell of the kingdom to come.

A “mustard seed” is all they can see of the kingdom of heaven right now.

But one day, they will see the “tree.”

Revelation 22:1-3 says, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, nut the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His people will worship Him.”

When I read this, I see this parable working to convey to His audience that they may not see a lot happening now… but one day, they will indeed see the kingdom of heaven and it will be more beautiful and greater than anything they’ve ever known or seen.

Just because you don’t see anything happening doesn’t mean the fruit isn’t on the way.

It’s coming.

To me, this passage is always applicable.

In every situation, we trust in God to grow what He planted.

To complete what He started.

It’s what faith is all about.

Jesus tells the crowds another parable in verses 33 about a woman waiting for leaven to rise.

These back-to-back parables about the mustard seed and the leaven both reinforce the other…that the kingdom of heaven is something we must wait for. And it will come. Then the waiting will be over. We will receive the blessing.

Matthew inserts authorial narration in verses 34-35, informing the reader that everything Jesus is saying at this point in time is via parables.

Then Matthew connects Jesus’ use of parables to a prophecy found in Psalm 78:2:

“I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Remember, Matthew writes with a Jewish audience in mind.

Thus, he includes scriptures from the Old Testament that prophesy of Jesus to make it more clear to the reader that Jesus really is the Jewish Messiah that the Old Testament has been prophesying about. Matthew has included Old Testament prophetic scriptures before as we have been reading along in his gospel and he will continue.

At this point in verse 36, Jesus leaves the crowds of people and goes back into the house that He exited at the beginning of the chapter.

Jesus’ disciples come to Him.

They want to know the meaning of the parable about the seeds growing with the weeds.

In verse 36, Jesus teaching shifts from teaching the crowds to teaching His disciples. Thus, the parable He tells in verses 3-35 are different in purpose and focus than the parables He tells in verses 36-58.

We’ve already discussed this parable in its content and why Jesus may have included it in His teaching, so now we will look at what Jesus is doing as He explains this parable to His disciples.

Jesus sees that His disciples are curious and a little confused.

However, we will see by verse 51 that the disciples understand more than they realize!

I love that Jesus takes time to talk with His disciples privately about what He is teaching. He always prioritizes them and appreciates them as His ministry partners.

In verse 43, Jesus says again “…He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

We’ve seen Jesus say this phrase before to the people when He’s teaching, but I’m a little confused at why He is saying this to the disciples. Sure, He wants to make sure the people are hearing what He’s saying. But it seems that the disciples are already hearing fully what Jesus is saying because they have chosen to follow Him. So doesn’t Jesus already know that the disciples do hear and do understand? Why would He exhort them like this?

But if we keep reading, we see that this is not so much an exhortation as it is an affirmation.

In verse 51, Jesus asks them, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.”

Jesus wants them to notice out loud that they do indeed understand.

This is so significant!

Seeing this in this passage is my favorite thing about this chapter!!!! I want you to see it too!!!

And it’s this:

→Jesus notices that the disciples are confused and uncertain if they understand all that Jesus is saying. Jesus doesn’t reject their feelings. He doesn’t say, why of course you understand! No. He cares about the fear underneath their doubt about being able to understand. He puts them in a scenario where that fear is tested (the fear of not being able to understand His parables)…thus, Jesus tells them a few parables just by theirselves, without the uncertainty of the crowds rubbing off on them. And then He asks them “Do you understand?” And they reply “yes!”. What!!??!?! I totally was surprised when I was reading this because I expected them to say “No.” Because they seem to not think they have the ability to understand.

The disciples were not confident in their ability to understand Jesus’ parables and thus they thought they couldn’t.

But really…they could!!!

They just needed Jesus to help them see that they already knew! what they already possessed! who they already were!

Wow I just love this!!!

What an extra bonus this passage produces in showing us just how much we need Jesus to be who we are called to be and to be who we already are in Him! So glad Matthew wrote it this way. Freaking genius if you ask me : )

We see that Jesus awakens our potential and affirms our aptitude.

This is what He did for the disciples.

I love this connection in this passage!

In verse 52, Jesus goes on to affirm the disciples’ identity:

“And He said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like an owner of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

This is significant because the disciples were not actual scribes trained in the Jewish way.Yet, Jesus deems them scribes. And not just any scribe. But scribes trained for the kingdom of heaven. What an honor!

Jesus entrusts His disciples with responsibility and leadership.

It’s a blessing He bestows upon them.

And it’s not based on their qualifications, but on Jesus’ own choice to choose them and train them.

Going back to verses 44-46 specifically, Jesus tells His disciples 2 short parables that illustrate 2 scenarios of someone giving everything they have for the new treasure they have found.

The kingdom of heaven is this treasure.

Jesus wants the disciples to see that everything they have given their life for is worth it. It is far more valuable than the life they would have had. And what they will experience when they are in this “kingdom of heaven” for real will be worth everything they are doing right now with Jesus.

Jesus continuously points them towards an eschatological hope which is found in Him.

In verses 47-50 specifically, Jesus tells His disciples one last parable.

Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a net being thrown into the sea catching an assortment of fish, which will be sorted out by fishermen. He goes on to explain how this represents the angels separating out the evil and the righteous at the end of times when Jesus comes back and eradicates evil and Satan for good.

Jesus will continue to tell His disciples insider-knowledge, if you will, about what is going to happen in the future.

Luckily, for us as readers, we can follow this as recorded in Matthew’s gospel and see the progression of Jesus’ words come to fruition, especially in His prediction of His own death and resurrection after 3 days. Just proves even more that Jesus is the Messiah. And this helps Jewish readers to see the prophetic evidence of Jesus’ divinity.

In verses 53-58, Jesus and His disciples leave and travel to Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, where they encounter a much different reception than they had received in other places.

Jesus and His disciples arrive in Nazareth and Jesus goes to a synagogue to preach.

After preaching in the synagogue there in Nazareth, all the people are astonished.

But it’s not because they want to know more. It’s because they are skeptical of Him and how He has become who He is. Everyone is questioning His identity, wisdom, insight and power.

They all remember Jesus just as the little boy that used to live in Nazareth.

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And are not His brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all His sisters with us?” it says in verse 55-56.

The hometown people of Nazareth think they know Jesus.

But they don’t. They don’t respect Him for who He truly is.

Jesus says in verse 57, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”

Again, this highlights the 2 opposing forces at work in Matthew’s gospel that we have witnessed ever since chapter 2: the ones on God’s side and those who are not. The ones who believe in Jesus and those who do not.

Chapter 13 ends with Matthew telling the reader that Jesus “did not do many works there because of their unbelief” in verse 58.

Ending this study of Matthew chapter 13, we see how Jesus desires to soften the hearts of the people in Galilee who are following Him and curious about Him. Thus He teaches in parables to help them stop and think about what He is saying regarding the kingdom of heaven and faith in God.

By now at the end of chapter 13, Jesus has finished a longer set of teachings via parables.

As we progress into chapter 14, Jesus will transition to performing miracles.

But first, we will change scenery to find out what is going on with John the Baptist, who is in prison under Herod’s rule in the beginning verses of chapter 14.

Until then, may God richly bless you as you dive into the gospel of Matthew, learning more about the life of our beautiful, strong Savior Jesus Christ. Let His words soothe your heart and His life inspire your love.

 

Summary of Matthew 13

Jesus exits His family’s house and goes to the sea (of Galilee); Jesus gets into a boat to teach to the people who are now surrounding Him; Jesus begins to teach via parables; Jesus tells the crowds a parable about a sower; Jesus explains the parable of the sower; Jesus tells the crowds a parable of good seeds and weeds in a field; Jesus tells the crowds a parable of a mustard seed; Jesus tells the crowds a parable of leaven rising; Jesus leaves the crowds; Jesus explains to the disciples the parable of the good seeds and weeds in the field; Jesus tells His disciples a parable of hidden treasure; Jesus tells His disciples a parable of a valuable pearl; Jesus tells His disciples a parable of a net catching fish; Jesus affirms His disciples understanding of the parables; Jesus leaves and goes to Nazareth; Jesus is rejected by the people in His hometown; Jesus does not perform many miracles or healings in Nazareth.

 

Jesus in Matthew 13

Jesus exit’s the house where his family was at (v. 1)

Jesus goes to sit beside the sea (v. 1)

Jesus draws many people to Him (v. 2)

Jesus is captivating (v. 2)

Jesus gets into a boat and sits since there were so many people around Him (v. 2)

Jesus goes to where everyone will be able to see and hear Him (v. 2)

Jesus is pragmatic (v. 2)

Jesus cares about everyone (v. 2)

Jesus begins to tell them parables (v. 3)

Jesus tells parables about what the kingdom of heaven is like (v. 3-52)

Jesus tells a parable of a sower sowing seeds on different kinds of soils (v. 3-9)

Jesus exhorts them to hear what He is saying (v. 9)

Jesus’ parables confuse His disciples (v. 10)

Jesus explains (v. 10)

Jesus tells the disciples that they are able to understand the secrets of God but others cannot (v.11)

Jesus tells parables to help the crowds of people understand, not confuse them (v. 11)

Jesus tells parables because they will not listen to Him if he tells them directly (v. 13)

Jesus supports this with a prophecy from Isaiah 6:9-10 regarding those who hear but don’t understand, and see but don’t see (v. 14-15)

Jesus calls the disciples eyes blessed (v. 16)

Jesus calls the disciples ears blessed (v. 16)

Jesus calls them blessed because they see (v. 16)

Jesus calls them blessed because they hear (v. 16)

Jesus declares that many prophets and righteous people longed to see what they see and hear what they hear, but never did (v. 17)

Jesus is the One they longed to see (v. 17)

Jesus is the One they longed to hear (v. 17)

Jesus is who everyone has been waiting for (v. 17)

Jesus explains the parable about the seed and the sower to the crowds (v. 18-23)

Jesus tells the crowds another parable about a man planting seed in a field and his enemy planting weeds in the same field (v. 24-30)

Jesus tells the crowds another parable about a man planting a mustard seed and it growing into a large tree (v. 31-32)

Jesus tells the crowds another parable about a woman waiting on leaven to rise (v. 33)

Jesus teaches the crowds about God and the kingdom of heaven through parables (v. 34)

Jesus fulfills the prophecy found in Psalm 78:2 (v. 35)

Jesus leaves the crowds (v. 36)

Jesus goes back into the house (v. 36)

Jesus’ disciples now ask Him to explain the parable of the weeds to them (v. 36)

Jesus now shifts to teaching His disciples (v. 36)

Jesus proceeds to tell them what everything in the parable represents (v. 37-39)

Jesus tells His disciples the one sowing seed is the Son of Man (v. 37)

Jesus is the Son of Man (v. 37)

Jesus tells His disciples the field is the world (v. 38)

Jesus tells His disciples the good seed is the sons of the kingdom (v. 38)

Jesus tells His disciples the weeds are the sons of the evil one (v. 38)

Jesus tells His disciples the enemy is the devil (v. 39)

Jesus tells His disciples the harvest is the end of the age (v. 39)

Jesus tells His disciples the reapers are the angels (v. 39)

Jesus says that the weeds burned with fire is what will happen at the end of the age (v. 40)

Jesus will send His angels to gather all sin and all the ones who don’t follow Him and throw them into the fiery furnace (v. 41-42)

Jesus says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in the fiery furnace (v. 42)

Jesus says the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father (v. 43)

Jesus exhorts them to hear what He is saying (v. 43)

Jesus wants all to hear and listen (v. 43)

Jesus will not force anyone to hear (v. 43)

Jesus tells the disciples a parable about a man finding a treasure in a field and selling everything he has to buy that field (v. 44)

Jesus tells the disciples a parable about a man finding a very valuable pearl, who goes and sells all he has to buy it (v. 45-46)

Jesus tells the disciples a parable about a net catching many fish and men sorting through it (v. 47-48)

Jesus explains this, saying at the end of the age the angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous (v. 49)

Jesus talks about the fiery furnace again (v. 49-50)

Jesus says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (v. 50)

Jesus asks his disciples if they understand (v. 51)

Jesus’ disciples says “yes” (v. 51)

Jesus disciples’ understand (v. 51)

Jesus cares about His disciples’ comprehension of what He is saying (v. 51)

Jesus doesn’t merely talk at them (v. 51)

Jesus declares responsibility upon His disciples because of the insight He is telling them (v. 52)

Jesus tells them they are like scribes being trained for the kingdom of heaven (v. 52)

Jesus tells them that they are to glean from both the new and old teaching, as leaders in the kingdom of heaven (v. 52)

Jesus finishes telling His parables (v. 53)

Jesus leaves (v. 53)

Jesus goes to Nazareth, His hometown (v. 54)

Jesus teaches in the synagogue in Nazareth (v. 54)

Jesus astonishes the people (v. 54)

Jesus astonishes them with His wisdom and insight (v. 54)

Jesus is questioned by the people in his hometown (v. 55-56)

Jesus is doubted by the people in his hometown (v. 55-56)

Jesus is disrespected by the ones in his hometown (v. 55-56)

Jesus is seen as the boy they always knew, not the Messiah he truly is (v. 55-56)

Jesus declares that a prophet is always dishonored in his hometown (v. 57)

Jesus declares that a prophet is always dishonored in his own household (v. 57)

Jesus could not do many mighty works in Nazareth because of the people’s unbelief (v. 58)

Jesus will not do mighty works for those who don’t believe Him (v. 58)

 

 

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

-Matthew 13:45-46-

 

Questions for Today:

  • What are parables?
  • Why does Jesus tell parables as a form of teaching?
  • How does Jesus awaken the disciples’ potential and affirm their aptitude?
  • How does Jesus show honor to His disciples?
  • Why is Jesus not respected in his hometown?
  • What stood out to me about Jesus in Matthew chapter 13?

 

“Great Things (Worth it All)” 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