A Fresh Glimpse Is All You Need

I’ve realized more and more over the past two years that far too many of my decisions in life are motivated by fear. Fearful of what might happen, fearful that something might go wrong, fearful of commitment to something/someone, fearful of what people will think… Fear paralyzes the faithful life that God has called you to.

For me, I want to be somebody who is impactful. I want to help people get where they need to be. I want to love people in a way that stirs their affections for God and others. Sadly I’ve already had many opportunities to do these things but I have let fear control my hand and have decided to fold instead of stay in there.

 

I think one of the most depressing things that I can think of is me being at the end of my life with a list of things that God had given me an opportunity to explore, but I let fear excuse me from the room. I picture a sorrowful regret in where I see so much of what I had to offer, but I didn’t trust God enough to follow through. I envision all these people that I used to care way too much about, and as a result of caring more about what THEY thought than what GOD thought, I have to remind myself everyday how stupid I was for giving people all that power. I don’t want that to become a reality for me and I don’t think you want that to happen to you either.

 

But there is this thing called life, and when we are in it for a while, things get complicated. Our life experiences always have a way of justifying themselves. From there, we end up 10 steps behind where we should be with a yellow legal pad of excuses to justify our disobedience.

The problem is that we have forgotten who God is. We’ve forgotten that He is sweeter than anything we have every tasted, more satisfying than anything that we can put into words, and unshakable when He is opposed by anything. This is God. The One who tore down the walls of Jericho, the One who loves us perfectly, and the One who has always accomplished everything that He has set out to do. Every single thing that you and I think is filtered through how true we believe God to be. I think that a reason we are so fearful is that we have come to conclusions in the circumstances of life that are filtered NOT through who God really is, but who we have compressed God to be.

 

The theme of the entire Old Testament still rings true to this day; remember who God is and don’t be afraid. NOT because life is easy, NOT because you have to toughen up, NOT because what you experience isn’t legitimate affliction.. But because God is over all of those things. Because the enemy literally has to ask for God’s permission to do anything. Because the future isn’t a place that God knows about, it’s a place that He is currently at.

 

You and I are at points in our lives where we can’t afford to forget who God is any longer. He is perfectly holy, intensely motivated to do something unexplainable through your life, and fiercely focused in bringing His name to the ends of the earth. He’s your only hope. You don’t have to operate out of fear anymore. You don’t have to cross your fingers all day and hope that everything in your life gets better. You can have a deep confidence that God is going to do something in and through your life that is so amazing that it isn’t possible to logically verbalize.

So spend time with God. Look for Him, talk to Him, try and create and opportunity to see a fresh glimpse of who He is. Because a fresh glimpse of the God of the universe can make all the difference. A fresh glimpse of who He really is can change everything!

 

Redefining the Goodness of God

Have you ever had something go terribly wrong, and then it turned out to actually be a good thing? When I was in 4th grade, this happened to me! I was playing little league; pitched with an ERA of probably 85.2 and struck out more times than the number of outbreaks at a Donald Trump rally. One day in practice, I was up to bat and was particularly frustrated that I was one of the worst hitters on the team. Determined to make up for it, I stepped up to the plate ready to turn on an inside pitch and show my coach I good for more than just being the first kid to make it to the concession stand after the game for free popsicles. Here game the pitch… and BAM! A single? A double? Nope, I got DRILLED right in the face! I have pictures, but just imagine a stocky blonde weirdo (so basically me now), with a black eye.

I was ticked, but the next game our team played against the best pitcher in the league. We got smoked, our team had to run after the game, and I was just kicking my feet up in the dugout spitting sunflower seeds. I wasn’t jealous at all!

Kinda funny story, but the point is that something good things come in ways that are not preferable. This is true for you too. You and I have a tendency to have a skewed view of the goodness of God. Here are three things to consider about God’s goodness.

1.) God is good.

I didn’t say you or I are good, I said God is good. Such a deep and profound statement to claim that we make far too often, not even realizing exactly what we are saying. We are good because HE is good and has made us good. We only understand the goodness of God if we acknowledge our separation of true goodness apart from Him. The depth of God’s goodness doesn’t gain any ground in our hearts if we can’t be honest about how disobedient, lost, and hopeless we are without Him. This also means that when trial comes (wait for it, it’s coming if it hasn’t already.), we don’t get to choose what is good and what is not. We don’t. Because God is good, and we are not. He calls the shots. He holds the whole universe in His hands. He knew you would make the mistake of  (fill in the blank). He knew you would make the mistake of  (fill in the blank x’s 89,000, because we make the same mistakes over and over again). We don’t call the shots, we submit. We don’t do good, He produces and reveals His goodness through us. The reality is that this is true whether we believe it or not; God’s goodness isn’t subject to our understanding of it. He is good…period!

 

2.) Goodness doesn’t always feel good.

Yeah, a shot to the face with a baseball didn’t feel too great! But you probably got my point, right? God, oftentimes, instills goodness in our lives by breaking our lives. And we shouldn’t be surprised by this, because Jesus NEVER promised that following Him would be easy, but He did always say that it would be good. From my experience, the experience that breaks us isn’t always good, but it’s what God produces in those moments that make it good.

You don’t need another blog post telling you to try harder. You don’t need another person not understanding the level of brokenness that you experience every single day. How you miss that person, how hard it is to be ran over by sin and guilt, and how you wake up searching to see how you have any value. They don’t know how much you think about it and the fervency by which your brokenness attacks and wages war against you. I don’t know that either! But here’s what I know; God’s goodness will never be something we can fully grasp. His goodness truly is TOO GOOD! It’s better than we can imagine. But if we aren’t strong in God’s Word, emotionalism will completely rob us of the value and satisfaction that is the goodness of God.

It might not feel good, and it’s probably not supposed to. What if God knew that? What if He is shaking you up so that He can show you Himself? So that years from now when you look back, staying faithful in the trial, you will be able to see that God was better. His goodness isn’t subject to our understanding of it, He is good! Do you really believe that?

 

God is okay with you not thinking He is good

Before you call the heresy police, hear me out. There are times where you wake up and you can’t honestly, with every fiber in your being, see how in the world God is producing anything “good” in your circumstances. I get that, I’m the same way. Sometimes our lives are so contrary to the “joy” that we are supposed to experience as we are told when we read God’s Word. How can this divorce be good? How is it good that a close family member or friend dies when they were just the best person? How can extended loneliness and depression be good?

I doubt God’s goodness every single day, and I think that you probably do too. In response to all of these feelings; I think that it is permissible, and even wise, to lament. Biblical lament is a church word that essentially just means prayer out of pain. You don’t think your life is fair, tell God! If we go throughout many of our days thinking, believing, and having questions about God’s goodness; how could it be wrong to verbalize those feelings through prayer? If everything in else in our lives is geared towards those feelings, verbalizing them to God won’t be how He finds out we feel this way; WE are actually the ones who will be transformed through lament. God can handle whatever you think He can’t handle. Healthy lament; lament that is honest but also includes the truth of the gospel in regards to the circumstance, is very good. There are multiple cases in the Bible where godly people lamented, even Jesus. We don’t serve a High Priest who is unable to sympathize. Tell Him what’s wrong, even though He knows. But then, be ready to hear God’s response. Lament involves complaining, but it is not ONLY complaining; await the response of God and respond accordingly.

 

‘What is good?’ is a question that would get a lot of different responses. How would you answer it? What would you say? May we answer that question humbly, pointing to the God who exemplifies goodness and has modeled it for us in every single thing that He has ever done.

 

Persevering Through Pressure

As a general rule, the end of the semester in school is the hardest part of the courses you enroll in. I know for me, I put things off time and time again and the end of the semester is just a pile of things that need to get done! Don’t you have that? Maybe at work or in something that you are responsible for the brings with it the anxiety of getting it done and getting it done well. In that moment, there’s lots of pressure, isn’t there?

I remember back in high school when I, for a very short time, ran cross country. I totally hated it and was horrible. I can remember being exhausted in the warm up! Well, while I would run (which really wasn’t running, it was kind of like a quick shuffle), I would always want to stop. I would always tell myself, “Just take a quick break” or “Just stop for a couple seconds”. Right when the pressure came, I wanted to stop. And there were times where I convinced myself to stop my “quick shuffle”.

 

The truth is that when life happens, we want to go off course. We are drawn to an alternative and compromising choice, one different than the one that God has called us to. And it’s all bound up in the lie that our “quick stop” will be but only for a moment. Now I have to be honest with you, when I would stop running in practice (I’m going to start referring to it as running now so that I don’t embarrass myself anymore than I already have), I would tell myself that I would just stop for a few seconds, but those few seconds turned into minutes.

 

We believe the same lie when pressure is present in our own lives. We take a break or pursue an alternate course for a while, and spend much more time there when we initially decided to. Sometimes we stop and get back on track, but lots of time we keep going. We stay stopped, or we go somewhere else. Sometimes we are off track for so long that we don’t know how to get back.

 

We must, as Hosea says, “…return to the Lord”. (6:1)

 

Pressure has a way of paralyzing what God wants you to do. Pressure puts stress on our judgement, allowing things to get foggy. All of the sudden, taking a break or pulling an unexpected left turn doesn’t seem so bad anymore. Christians need to be better at this. Because the mark of sincerity in one’s faith can be seen by what they decide to do when the pressure is on. Just like in sports, an athlete’s legitimacy is in a greater check when there is a high pressured moment.

 

I wouldn’t stop in our cross country practices just because I felt like it, I did it because I was tired! And I say that because I realize the pressure in your life is way more difficult than this post is giving it justice. I realize that important things are on the line. I know that’s the case for me; I have more pressure in my life right now than I have ever had. Life is fast, ministry is crazy, school is cruising by, and I’m still trying to figure things out. But it’s in these moments, the ones that are particularly pressing, that really matter. Our call to be faithful isn’t contractional to a circumstance of our choosing, it’s a consistent command throughout all seasons of life.

 

So don’t stop… don’t turn another direction… but keep going. God’s promises don’t adapt to circumstance, they are always true! In fact, that verse in Hosea goes on to say that when we return to the Lord, He will revive us, raise us, live with us, and bind us up. The Person delivering these promises are what make the promises so sacred and incredible. So use your current pressure to press into Jesus, and wait and see how His promises unfold, because they surely will.

 

 

Doing Better by Thinking Better

Well with the new year underway, my guess is that you have been influenced, to some degree, by the obligatory theme of new years resolutions. I would argue that the way and process by which we see these resolutions and hopes for the new year are undermined. For me personally, it was an extremely hard year. I was tested in ways that I have never been tested, and it never seemed to stop. I had times where I felt completely by myself without anybody understanding what I was going through. I had multiple seasons where dust gathered on my Bible and I tried to do it my own way, which resulted in me hurting even more than when I started. (I don’t recommend doing that, by the way) Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t ALL bad and awful; I had great moments of victory, incredible revelations from the Lord of where He wants me, and believe that I was more faithful to Him this year than last year. But that doesn’t mean that it was an easy year.. It was really hard and it hurt a lot, most of the time because of myself and not listening or truly trusting God.

Did you have a year like that? Times where it was just you and you felt like there was no bridge to hope from where you were and where God wanted you to be? Feeling like you were unqualified and stupid. Maybe you had a year where you were walking away from God even when you didn’t know you were doing it, only to feel the pain later. Regardless of what year you had, you experienced a level of discomfort. And with the new year coming, we all have a tendency to plan out all these changes that we are going to do in the new year so that we have a better year than last year. Don’t get me wrong, that’s what we should do, but we should make sure we do it the right way lest we have the same painful seasons as last year.

 

I want to say that what you DO this year is a secondary issue. You’re probably like, “Um, what?! I have to do something different or I’ll have the same year as last, caught in the same sin, etc.” Yes, there is truth to your concern. But I would argue that you have made those promises of action to yourself in the past and they have failed.. Here is why: you were DOING things differently, but you weren’t THINKING differently. The joy that you experience this year in the what you DO is influenced by what you THINK before you do something.

Our thoughts have incredible power. I would argue that every single thing we do is done AFTER we have thought about it. Now, if you’re like me, you’ve had a time where you did something stupid and said, “I can’t believe I did that, I wasn’t even thinking!” Well this is wrong in either one or two ways. Yes we were thinking we just either: a.) We didn’t think very hard and let shallow thoughts instruct a deep action or b.) We didn’t think very long about our decision, letting our impatient, impulsive rationale get the best of us. Do you see the difference? We are always thinking, we just have the tendency to think poorly.

 

What if you whole year; all your dreams, hopes, desires, longings, happiness, peace, and faithfulness is contingent NOT by what you do, but by how you think before you do what you do. I believe that’s true. The sin of performed sexual immorality didn’t start as an impure action, it started as an impure thought that was pursued. The mistake of spending your money on something stupid didn’t start with the action, it started with convincing yourself that your purchase was worth it and would satisfy you. If we thought rightly, desiring things of God, that mindset would influence our decisions, giving us a better chance at being faithful.

I’m NOT saying that our actions don’t matter. They obviously do. Jesus tells us to shine them in front of all people so that they will glorify our Father in heaven.(Matthew 5:16)  But Jesus also tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Luke 10:27) We are to love God first internally, so that our external actions by which we claim to love God will be legitimate. If we don’t love God from the inside, we can’t love Him from the outside. Our actions are developed by our thoughts. So maybe it’s time to not correct our actions from last year by replacing them with new actions, but maybe we should correct it by starting with thinking rightly and working from there. Our hopes for the year will still be the same, but the difference will be that this time we mean it. This time we aren’t doing things differently so that we don’t have a bad year again, but instead are doing it out of a sincere and serious love for God. Wouldn’t you agree that there’s a huge difference. They look similar initially, but the motivation driving our actions will catch up to us in the long run. And if we aren’t careful we will just be caught again, maybe not in the same exact situation as last year, but one that is equally as painful, maybe even more painful.

 

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can have an amazing year and it all starts with how you think. Here are 3 questions to ask yourself to make you a better thinker:

1.) What do you want this year to look like?

Journaling is a huge tool. They say that people think better when they write things out because it empties space in our head for clearer thoughts. Makes sense to me! For me, I need to write down what I want this year. Not just “I want a good year”. That’s too simple. You and I have a problem with being specific and honest and that’s a huge problem. We are shooting ourselves in the foot because we can’t even be honest with ourselves. So write down what you want this year. Write down what the ideal year would look like for you. It doesn’t matter if it sounds selfish, it doesn’t matter if it’s sinful. Yes, I did say that. You’ll see why in a second, but it’s important to write what you want or hope for this year.

2.) Why do you want it that way?

Why do you want those things? This is maybe the most important part to our thinking, we have to fish out WHY we want what we want. Is it for a selfish gain or ego that you are trying to build? Is it for dependent security on something else? Is it so that you can have more stuff? My point is that when we are finally able to see why we do what we do. Our motivation is the conveyor belt that delivers our thoughts into action. And if we want to have a year faithful to the Lord, we need to figure out exactly what is motivating our desires.

3.) Does God want it that way?

Here is where we make the transition from our way of thinking to God’s way of thinking. Earlier I referenced our good works to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5. Notice that he completely values our works, but He is ultimately pleased in whether they glorify Him or not. You and I do a pretty good job of acting like we mean what we do when we really don’t do them for the right reasons. That’s why it doesn’t matter so much WHAT we do this year but WHY we do what we do this year. Is it glorifying to God? Are you satisfied by Him through the process, or is the process itself security for you? That is my tendency. I find satisfaction in DOING something, and it’s dangerous because I can do lots of stuff and still have NONE of it glorify God. Even if it looks like it is good and faithful, God knows my heart. He knows why I’m doing it, just as He knows why you do what you do.

It’s okay to desire; we were made that way. It’s okay to have money. It’s okay to have attraction. But we have to see, hopefully through the process of writing and asking these questions, whether or not our desires are ultimately for ourselves of if they are for God. Our actions will follow, but we have to do some homework first before we DO anything. How do you think? What do you fantasize about? What do you want? I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to come to this year and semester with a completely different approach than years past. If I think well, I am confident that my year will be marked by faithful obedience and a growing desire for God. You might not get the money you would have hoped to get this year, you might not get the grades you wanted, you might not have that girlfriend or boyfriend that you want, and you might not end up exactly where you want to be. But if our thoughts are linked to making much of Jesus, then friends, you are going to have an incredible year growing in relationship with Him. And that’s more special than anything we could come up with.

Be a question-asker, not just a statement-maker

One of my favorite parts about being involved at Redemption Bible Church is getting to teach in the children ministry. They are loads of fun, and if you aren’t serving in a church, I would recommend serving in kid’s ministry (I think that you would feel sometimes that you learn more from them than you feel like they are learning from you). But while I love doing this, there’s for sure frustrations.. The one most fresh in my head is somebody that I call the “why kid”… The why kid is the kid in the group who asks the question “Why?” to every single thing that comes out of my mouth. I’m thinking about making  a limit so this kid is only allowed to ask 75 questions per Sunday, which would probably cut his normal quota of questions in half!

But as I was thinking about the innocence of the child asking questions, it gave me joy. The kid just wants to understand what’s going on. Now, does the kid do it to be cute and annoying? I’m sure he does, and that’s part of serving in a kids ministry. But my point is that he didn’t bottle his curiosity in his head, he asks questions. I think we need to spend more time playing 20 questions instead of exclusively playing show and tell.

 

I think a problem that Christians are currently making is that make more statements motivated by prideful recognition, rather than asking questions out of sincere curiosity, in an aim to grow closer to the Lord. When you make a statement, people think you know something. When you ask a question, you’re putting yourself out there and letting people know that you don’t know something. Clearly, asking questions is a lot scarier than making statements. But from my experience, asking questions gives more growth than making statements. I’m not saying that statements shouldn’t be made, but I am saying that we should look at our statement making/question asking ratio. My guess is that you make more statements than questions you ask.

 

Here are 3 qualities that will grow in you if you become an question-asker…

1.) Humility– When you are asking questions, you’re being honest about not knowing something. You’re growing in humility while you do that. And I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that the church today is lacking humble people. We are lacking humble pastors who never reveal their weaknesses on the stage. We are lacking humble dads who tell their kids that they aren’t perfect. We are lacking humility from Bible students who think that since they took a systematic theology course that they have mastered Christian dogmatics. My point is that we are lacking humility, and a way to strive towards humility would be asking more questions. And I don’t mean questions that are crafted in a way where we are making statements, I mean saying “Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on here. What do I do? What does this mean? I don’t understand…” If you aren’t saying some variation of those things every single day, then you probably aren’t as humble as you think, and you don’t know as much as you think you do. It’s okay not to know something, you know that, right? You do know that you aren’t required to know everything, right? It’s okay to ask questions.

 

 

2.) Knowledge– It’s ironic that question-askers actually gain more knowledge in the long run than statement-makers. Statement makers aren’t growing in their knowledge because they think that they have peaked. They wouldn’t admit that, but their lack of asking questions proves that they think they know how things work and don’t need to ask questions. If God’s thoughts aren’t our thoughts, if His ways are loftier than ours, and He is outside of time; why would we be so prideful to think that the knowledge we currently possess is sufficient? I think rather than growing in our knowledge of God, we have this tendency to want to grow in our knowledge of information. And the reason that we stop asking questions is because there is know call to holiness when possessing knowledge is the purpose for study. We strive for information rather than transformation while information requires little of us, transformation requires all of us. And though it might be hard, God still needs to be the primary motivation of our knowledge, and that should be evident by asking lots of questions, no matter how old we are or how much information we take in along the way. When you are innocently curious and unapologetic in our sincere questions, you have a greater knowledge of who God is. And in that, you are pressed to know more and repeat the process all over again. When you know something about God and aren’t pressed to know more, you don’t know what you think you do. All that God reveals for us to know gives us a deeper hunger to know more. I wouldn’t gauge how much somebody knows based off of their credentials, I would gauge how much somebody knows by how many questions they ask on a consistent basis.

 

3.) Confidence– It may sound strange, but when you are more open about what you don’t know, you tend to be more confident in what you do know. When you address a lack of knowledge attributed to God and ask questions, you realize that not only can He handle those questions, but He will walk through those questions with you. Will you find answers? Not always, but sometimes yes. If you do find answers, don’t just stop asking questions, ask more! If you get to a point where you think all your questions are answered, then you’ve deceived yourself into thinking that you understand the answers God gave you. If God doesn’t completely answer your question, confidence is still produced because in your journey in walking and wrestling through questions with Him, He reveals Himself to you. The Holy Spirit assures you that while you might not know, He does. And though that might be confusing, that is a beautiful place… It takes pressure off of you to know everything, and allows you to be at peace and confident in an Almighty God who does know everything.

 

 

So start asking questions. Ask them to God, ask them to your pastors, ask them to people in your small group. Not just new Christians, but even the person who’s been a Christian for decades. And don’t ask questions that you craft with the motivation of making a point afterwards (nobody likes that guy). Be okay with saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand”. Don’t hide the fact that you don’t know, because that makes Christians around you feel inferior for knowing less than you, even though what’s really happening is they are just more innocent and open about expressing their questions than you are.

I’ve always felt the Holy Spirit remind me of the importance of asking questions, as well as Him reminding me the danger of being a statement oriented person. I’m worried about you, mature Christian, who doesn’t ask questions. I’m worried that you are seeing God through a small lens. I’m worried that you aren’t being honest about your sin. I’m worried that you labor to make sure people know that you know something, out of fear that they might find out that you aren’t as smart as you want them to think you are. And I worry about you because this is my tendency as well. Let’s swallow some pride and stop this.

Make it your goal to ask two questions a day. And in those questions, walk with Jesus and see what He reveals to you in the process. Listen to me, I’m not saying that you aren’t to make statements, because you absolutely are. Don’t be passive in your statement making, but don’t be somebody who doesn’t have time to ask questions because you’re always so busy making statements.

There aren’t many things that have made my relationship with Jesus more deeper and intimate than exploring questions with Him. I pray that will happen for you too, and that you will be quicker to ask questions than to make statements.

 

A Drought Caused by Distinction

The other night we had our end of the year party for our high school students a couple’s house that have been faithful in serving our church. It was a blast! The couple have nice land outside of town for yard games and grilling out, and even have a pasture for riding dirt bikes and four-wheelers.

I was talking to a student who I noticed hadn’t gone on the dirt bikes yet, and I asked him why. He responded loudly, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!” I’m pretty sure if there were subtitles to our conversation, that’s how it would have looked. He was SO scared! I tried telling him about how we have helmets, we have other smaller dirt bikes that are safer to ride, and even offered to walk next to the dirt bike with him as he went slowly. This kid wasn’t going to budge.

Why? Why wouldn’t he do it? Okay yes I know he said he didn’t want to die, but lets unpack that a little bit… He wasn’t just simply scared he was going to die, he was fearful of the outcome in general. He didn’t want to go all in with what everybody else was doing because he wasn’t exactly sure what would happen. He analyzed possible outcomes, thought about ones that would be painful, didn’t want to take the chance of hurting himself, so he didn’t do it.

 

The student was still at the party and we were excited to have him there! He participated in other games, ate food, and still had a great time. But he didn’t really get the FULL experience of the party because he didn’t want to ride the dirt bikes. Now, my point isn’t making fun of the kid and making him out to be a chump because he didn’t ride. My point is that you and I let fear tell us what to do. We make a distinction between what we will do and what we don’t, and we let fear make that distinction. But what we don’t always realize is that the division between what we will and won’t do is usually a slave to the master of fear. I’m willing to bet that a fear of some kind probably dictates most of the decisions you make. The student was scared of getting hurt, but in a broad sense, he was just scared of an unknown outcome. It’s really no different with us.

 

We have an opportunity to fully invest in a situation. Maybe it’s giving financially. Maybe it’s getting in a small group for the first time. Maybe it’s breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe it’s trusting that God is sufficient when we are lonely. Maybe it’s starting to workout. Maybe it’s going to church on a consistent basis. Maybe it’s being honest about something you did that you know you need to come clean about.

Whatever it is, we are all given opportunities like these and they are all in place to give us good and glory to God. But we don’t always get that feeling when push comes to shove do we? Why? Because fear has caused there to be a drought in our hearts. We are dry in our purpose, numb in our passion, and confused in our placement. The direction and purpose of our lives have taken a wrong turn and we don’t have motivation to get back on track. In that, we have confused our placement in proportion to God. That’s why our purpose isn’t what it ought to be. That’s we don’t have any passion in the tank anymore. Because we don’t see God rightly anymore. And we don’t see God rightly, we don’t see ourselves rightly. And when we don’t see God or ourselves rightly, we feel legitimate reason to fear.

 

The Lord rebukes some offerings that the priests gave him in Malachai 1-2, and the priests don’t understand. Isn’t sacrificing and offering to the Lord a good thing? Yes it is, but not when it doesn’t cost you anything. A sacrifice that doesn’t hurt isn’t a sacrifice, it’s a painless donation. And that’s what the priests did; they sacrificed offerings to the Lord, but they could have given an offering that costed them more. The point is that God isn’t pleased with us just having one foot in and one foot out. You might say, “Well at least I have one foot in! Isn’t that good? Isn’t it better than having no feet in?” The fact that we try to defend ourselves in asking those types of questions give evidence to the fact that we don’t really understand what following Jesus is all about.

 

Following Jesus is about surrendering to Him. Not just some things. All things. “Do I need to sell my house, eat kale all my life and be miserable?” No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that nothing you have is yours. We are owners of nothing, we are just stewards of some things. If we could truly understand that for what it really means, that would change so much.

 

So why aren’t you going all out? Why are you showing partiality in giving some of yourself but not all of yourself? Are you scared? I know that’s me most of the time. But why do I need to be scared? Do I know the outcome of what might happen? No, I really don’t . But I do know that I should never make a decision out of fear. And neither should you. Where fear exists, faith doesn’t. Maybe you don’t have faith in God because your fear has overgrown and over powered it.

 

Go all out. Don’t hold back. I mean why would we? Is Jesus not good enough anymore? Of course He is. He’s always been good enough, even in our wandering. Is it going to be hard to make adjustments? Yes. Is it going be uncomfortable? Probably. Is it going to cost us something? It always does. But listen, it’s worth it. It’s so worth it. God is able to immeasurably great things in your life, so why would we let fear of an outcome get in the way of that?

 

The ultimate outcome is that Jesus wins, He’s coming back for the last time, and everything will be okay. So just go for it. Go all out. God isn’t pleased with half-hearted effort. If you give it your all and you still mess up, guess what? He is so proud of you. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being faithful. And fear and faith don’t go well together.

 

Do what you need to do, kill the fear, and love Jesus.

 

Who Are You?

I’ve maybe stated this before in an earlier blog, but up until about the age of 14, I was fully convinced that I was going to be a player for the Green Bay Packers. This was no joke to me growing up! I watched every single game. I wore so much gear to school that my teachers would ask me if I have any other clothes! I would play outside with our neighbors and try to throw like Brett Favre, run like Ahman Green, catch like Donald Driver, and tackle like Reggie White. When it was cold outside, I insisted to not wear a coat so that my body would be able to adapt well the the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in a December playoff game.

I knew who I wanted to be, and every decision I made, even down to what I wore, was a made to the end of becoming a professional football player for the Green Bay Packers. And as stupid as it sounds, you process things the same way I did (and still do).

 

Who are you? Have you ever really asked yourself that? I mean more than just simply knowing your name and your favorite color, I mean who are you really? What are your desires? What do you enjoy and not enjoy? What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of mother do you want to be to your kids? What kind of spouse do you want to marry?

 

We all have answers in mind for those questions and other ones alike, but what we don’t always realize is that those answers are inspired by a spark of who we believe ourselves to be. And that spark can be great, giving us motivation and clarity for who we are and where we are going. Or… The spark can be destructive, tearing down our dreams, magnifying our weaknesses, and discouraging us from being who God created us to be. Something to be cautious of is that in order to answer those questions above rightly, we need to know rightly who we really are. Because if I’m honest, I don’t think you probably know who you are as much as you think you do. You know who you WANT to be. You know what you want people to see you as. But you don’t, at your core, know where your identity rests. Thankfully, God tells us who we are.

 

One of my biggest struggles is thinking rightly about myself. Abraham Heschel says this in his book ‘Who Is Man’, “We become what we think of ourselves… What determines one’s being is the image one adopts.”

For me, I think myself far too often as unqualified and unable to do what God wants me to do. So since we become what we think, guess who I become when I think that way? I become narrow-minded, faithless, and dry. Why? Because I’ve believed a lie about myself. How about you? If you get quiet with yourself and are honest, what do you think of yourself? Maybe it’s unlovable. Maybe it’s messy and stupid. Maybe its being proud. Maybe you see yourself as inferior because somebody is better at something than you. Maybe you think that you have the answer to everything. Whatever it is, we make decisions and yield to that disposition. And the problem with that is that as Christians, we don’t always think of ourselves as God thinks of us.

 

God says that you are clean. He says that you are pure and blameless. God says that since you have Him, you have no bounds for what you can and can’t do. God says that He will use you, even in the existence of your flaws. God says that you are loved and forgiven beyond comprehension, and that you are lavished in a never ending grace. This isn’t just simply what God THINKS is true of you, it’s what He KNOWS is true of you. So both extremes of having a false humility and insecurity and having prideful arrogance in thinking too highly of yourself are both wrong and problematic.

How differently would we live if we thought of ourselves as God thinks of us?

 

Your best thinking has gotten you where you are today, and that can be a good thing or a bad thing. For most of us, we have thought a certain way about ourselves that we don’t think twice about it. But until you think differently about yourself and adhere to who God says you are, you will never know yourself for who you really are. You will be a spin-off. You will be average, subpar, and nothing special.

 

Before you talk, before you write an idea off, before you open the Bible, before you choose sin; remember who God says you are. Amazing things are in store for you and me, we just need to keep working harder in reminding ourselves who we are. What we do from there works itself out.

But before we ask ourselves big questions of where we want to go, what we want to do, and who we want to be with, we must first ask ourselves this question, “Who am I?” And from that question we should respond from the state of our TRUE identity, beloved children of God.

Dealing With Difficulty

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely a problem fixer. I guess I should rephrase that, if it’s something I care about, I’m a problem fixer! I just hate it when things aren’t the way I want them to be. Do you get that ever? If something is off, you have to do all that you can do to make it right. And hear me out, this isn’t always a bad thing at all! It reveals that you care about what is wrong, but being a “fixer” when things are wrong can definitely be a bad thing.

This past semester I took Greek. Easily the most frustrating and difficult course I have ever taken in my life. I was constantly confused, frustrated, and at times disappointed in myself. I wasn’t always understanding everything, and even when I would try and study hard, there would still be so much that I didn’t fully comprehend. It’s like I could never win and it would never end!

But don’t we get like that? We are in a season where life is difficult, we try and fix it, and even after putting in our best effort we are frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, and sometimes even shameful. Here me out, sometimes we need to get out of our seat and fix some things, but if our only indication to fix a situation is that it isn’t ideal, that doesn’t mean we should necessarily try and fix it. Greek is hard. No matter how hard I tried, it is really really hard. Does that mean I let up and be lazy? No, of course not. But I had to understand that Greek is supposed to be hard. It’s not seen as some simple thing you pick up! But since it was unsettling to me and it was hard, I thought I could make it easy. Bottom line: Greek is hard because it’s supposed to be hard.

Maybe life is hard for you right now. You don’t have any clue what God wants you to do. You’re scared about making a decision because you don’t know what will happen. You don’t know what else you can do. You’ve don’t everything you could have done and things still aren’t where you want them to be.

My point is that trying to fix it might not help. I’m not sure what it is for you, but your hard situation could be completely out of your control. Adversity doesn’t always indicate that you need to act. We need to understand that some things are supposed to be difficult. And sometimes our response to fix what is difficult actually makes the situation even more difficult.

Now maybe you’re life is difficult, but it’s difficult because of something obvious that you did. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about difficult seasons in life that are out of our control but we have convinced ourselves that we can do something about it. You can’t. It’s supposed to be hard, God wants it to be hard for you right now. And you trying to make it less hard on yourself is you not trusting that God can get you through it. I know we like to justify things and show how we think we are helping, but we have to take a step back. You aren’t helping anything, you’re hurting everything. It’s not our job to ease the fatigue, we aren’t qualified to do that.

 

It’s not like Jesus didn’t know the disciples were in a life threatening situation when they were in the boat in the middle of the storm. I’m pretty sure God knew and understood the hardship of David when he was literally running for his life as King Saul wanted to kill him. God certainly understood the hardship, pain, and suffering that Jesus endured on the cross. He saw exactly how they were suffering and did not stop it. Why? Because He had purpose in those suffering moments, even as innocent people who didn’t do anything to deserve being in the situations they were in. If there was an alternative plan with a greater purpose, God would choose it. But you going through what you’re going through is evidence that God is taking you on route to what is the best.

 

God is fully aware of the situation you are in right now. He cares for you so much that He’s putting you through it because you wouldn’t be all that He wants you to be if He would just make it easy. Never ask God for life to be easier, ask God to help you trust Him more. He hasn’t EVER made any decision that wasn’t for your fullest joy. Ever. It’s going to be okay.

When God’s Promises Aren’t Enough

Whether you are a Christian or not, I’m sure you’ve heard a couple of these phrases thrown around:

“God has a plan for you”

“God is always with you”

“God loves you”

 

Something like that right? And those things aren’t bad by any means, but if we are honest, they get old to hear don’t they? Some of you are like, “Man if somebody tells me that God knows what’s best for me one more time, I’m going to flip out!”.

 

Trust me, I know that feeling. Is it true that God has a perfect plan for you? Of course it is! But if it is, why doesn’t that encouragement always feel encouraging? Is it true that God is always with you and loves you? Yes it’s completely true. But if it’s true, why do those words go right past us like they don’t mean anything? These promises that God gives us SHOULD change everything we do, but the truth is that sometimes they don’t hardly change anything.

 

I’m completely guilty of this. I would say that all people are guilty of it in particular seasons. But why? Why are these precious promises leaving us disappointed and hopeless when they are supposed to be the strength and motivation for us to push through? Well I think there are lots of things to be said, but it’s all narrowed down to one thing: We forget WHO is giving us these promises.

 

 

The God who promises to satisfy you is the same God who is invested, interested, and included in every decision you make.

The God who promises to be with you is the same God is the same God who’s heart is inclined to the groaning of our hearts when we are speechless and don’t know what to do.

The God who promises to be for our joy is actively working to accomplish that through His work in our lives, even when circumstances don’t maybe reflect that.

The God who promises that He loves you is the same God who sent His entirely perfect Son to die for us so that we could be in His family.

 

 

It’s not just the promises that gets us through, it’s the Person delivering the promises. And we have never had a reason to not believe and put our complete trust in the promises of God. The Person of God is what makes the promises of God plausible.

 

So when they don’t feel these promises don’t feel true… they are.

…when you feel alone… you aren’t

…when you think something else will help… it won’t

…when you feel like you are exempt from these promises because of your sin… you aren’t

 

 

These promises aren’t just true, they are enough. Why? Because of the Person behind them.

Hope For Your Hurt

I think it’s safe to say that life rarely makes sense. Do you gain wisdom and insight over the years? Yeah sure, sometimes. But I still have lots of questions. I still wonder why certain things are in my life and why certain things aren’t.

 

Do you ever feel this way?

…What are you doing God?

How is this good?

…Is this a punishment for something I did?

…When am I going to find somebody?

…When am I going stop struggling with this?

…Why haven’t you saved ____ after all my prayers?

 

First of all, these questions are completely natural. I also don’t think that they are wrong to ask, however, I do think that we should find answers from God and not run to conclusions on our own.

“…though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…” –1Peter 1:6-7

Your situation may be legitamately tough. Feelings may be hurt, relationships may be on the rocks, anxiety may be through the roof… whatever it is, I want to acknowledge that what you’re going through is an incredibly difficult thing. So difficult that you probably can’t get through it on your own. But in the midst of all the doubt, frustration, and chaos, we can’t forget the purposefulness of God.

Like Peter says, He does what He does and puts you what He puts you through because He claims it is necessary. “Well how does God have the right to say what’s necessary in my life?” Because He’s God! He is omniscient. He is the author and perfector of our faith. He is over all, through all, and in all things. So why would we, in our finiteness, give ourselves the glory and power to be able to think that God is being unnecessarily in what He’s putting us through?  It doesn’t matter how angry we are about our hurt. It doesn’t matter how impatient we are getting. You could never come up with a better plan for your life, even with all the hurt that’s currently in it. Your plan would actually hurt worse.

 

I know it stings. I know it doesn’t make sense. I know it doesn’t seem like things will get better. I know it looks impossible to fix. But in the midst of all that, somehow, it is necessary. Because our God is thoroughly purposeful and perfectly holy. He knows no wrong. He does nothing that wouldn’t be for your greatest good and fullest joy.

Everything is going to be okay.