Always Give Me Bread

Dealing with disappointment can be extremely tough. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been praying about where God wants me to be in the next season of my life and became extremely anxious about it. I kept thinking, “Ok, He’s going to give me the answer…NOW…okay not now…but NOW.” 

But the answer didn’t come and I had to face the reality that I was disappointed. I became angry, bitter, sad, and depressed. I refused to be comforted, wanting only what I wanted which was the answer I had been praying for. 

And so that joy I had recently discovered and wrote about was shriveling fast, like weeds choking out flowers.

Before going to bed last night, “randomly” a friend called me and I told her what had been going on and she prayed for me. In her prayer, she suggested I lay it all out before God. I felt like that’s what God was asking me to do.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Psalm 55:22

So I did just that after we hung up, saying exactly what was on my mind and heart to Jesus, then turned out the light and went to sleep. 

The next morning (which was this morning), I woke up feeling led to spend some quiet time with Him before heading to church. As soon I sat down in my favorite spot, God, in His great mercy and graciousness, hit me with revelation. 

He gave me a picture of me standing on the border of the Promised Land. The Promised Land offers complete peace and rest as I trusted in Him for everything. It was His promise to the Israelites if they trusted in Him. 

But I was still on the border looking in because I was refusing to let go and surrender to His perfect love. I trusted in myself instead. I looked to my left and right, and there I saw all of humanity who hadn’t entered either because they, too, were busy bothering with the things of this world and not the things of God. And I was completely a part of this group. 

For me, my future plans consumed my thoughts, and I could no longer see God through them. But that was just the idol of this week. Everyday different subtle addictions and idols wrestle for my thoughts that keep me from the promise of perfect peace in God.

What the vision mainly conveyed was my own humanness. I was humbled.

It was not God condemning me and making me feel bad about myself though. He just wanted to reveal it to me so that I could repent and be healed. I was filled with joy and peace as a result rather than guilt and pain since it came from God. I once heard D.C. missionary and YWAM leader Jason Hershey say that we must “repent from thinking that the word ‘repent’ is a negative thing.” With repentance comes sweet freedom from our idols and addictions that imprison us.

And with this vision God has caused me to repent from thinking I’m something I’m not, freeing me to walk in who He created me to be:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment

Romans 12:3

How refreshingly sobering this judgment was because it was God giving me identity! I saw myself for who I really was: a human who really REALLY needs God! And I saw God for who He was: a God whose love is all that we ever really wanted and needed. And that led me to repent for a second thing: thinking God wasn’t enough.

I want to cling to what I think brings me joy and life. The saying that goes, “whatever consumes your thoughts reveals your idols” is so true. My worries and desires and fantasies that I keep separate from God causes me to refuse the joy Jesus offers every minute of the day. 

I suddenly could empathize with those stubborn Israelites who refused to believe in God’s provision: 

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.

Exodus 32:9

What’s so funny to me about this verse is that just a couple of weeks ago during worship, I felt as though the Spirit caused my head to feel so heavy that it literally fell all the way back resulting in mild whiplash. This happened to me twice, and I know it was God, in his funny way, releasing the stiffness of my neck so that I’d look up. 

Today after all this revelation occurred, my mom told me that she had heard someone on the radio say that “God sometimes doesn’t answer prayers so that we are forced to stop and focus on Him instead of whatever we are focused on in prayer.” And that’s exactly what had happened to me!

But in my stubbornness, I had been refusing to look up and refocus – refusing to be comforted by the gifts He graced me with each day. Refusing to accept that His love, which includes guidance, wisdom, healing, fulfilled destiny, freedom, and joy, is truly all that I ever wanted and needed. I’ve been just like the Israelites refusing to accept the manna of love, complaining instead:

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.  But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Numbers 11:4-6

 

And just so you know, because God was so angry with their complaining, He gave them their desires for meat and as a result the Israelites who ate the meat died. Therefore may we thank God for His mercy in unanswered prayers! 

Fortunately for us, instead of manna, Jesus has come so that we can eat of Him, the eternal bread that keeps on giving:

So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?  Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

 

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

 

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6:30-35

I love that part: “Sir, always give us this bread.” It reflects our human need for constant refilling. And Jesus says this need is completely fulfilled in Him, if we will have it, if we stop refusing to believe it what’s we actually want and need.

…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 

2 Chron 7:14

Wicked ways are not just drunken debauchery we tend to think of. It’s wrong thinking. It’s thinking we have to figure things out by worrying about them. It’s thinking that God’s love isn’t enough and it’s not what we want or need. God wants to heal me of all my wicked ways, heal me of my “off” thinking, and make my paths straight. 

Although I’ve made significant steps forward in my walk with Him today, I know my human tendency is to forget and stumble a bit and return to old ways a few times. But I can trust God to always steer me back and use those times of stumbling to refine my faith and make it even stronger. I know without a doubt that I am a new person even since this past Friday, and I will be renewed all over again tomorrow as I go from glory to glory.

Jesus, my prayer is that you teach me how to follow You and live completely in Your peace as my thoughts are consumed of You alone. May I cast up my burdens and not dwell on them but dwell in You instead. May I truly learn, through experience, the wonders of this passage reflecting the Promised Land:

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You
in perfect peace,
for it is trusting in You.

Isaiah 26:3

 

Crumbs on My Pillow

Pillow talk is the best. Sometimes I can be laying down trying to fall asleep when Jesus speaks softly into my spirit. Other times, He awakens me during my sleep to speak to me, or just as I’m rising.

I have been pondering over the past few weeks or so about God’s love. I’ve been asking Jesus to reveal more of His love to me.

So one night this past week as I lay down to fall asleep, I got some more of that sweet pillow talk from Jesus. He brought up the story of the woman He commended in the gospels:

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word.

So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. ”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30

This story never made full sense to me until Jesus unlocked the mystery for me. The Canaanites and Jews had a bad history and basically hated each other. The woman knew Jesus was a Jew. But despite the hatred between the two ethnicity groups, she believed that Jesus was the Messiah. He came to deliver, to save, and to heal, and he would not turn away anyone who came to Him. She was convinced of His heart toward her. 

Then, later that day (or maybe that week, I can’t remember) Jesus started speaking to me about prayer. Sometime back in February of this year, someone encouraged me to pray in tongues every single day. I had been slacking on praying in tongues and was convicted through this person’s exhortation. I committed to praying in tongues every day for thirty minutes to an hour.

Pray without ceasing

1 Thess 5:17

I can’t believe how much God has grown me in just a few months of being home, and I know without a doubt a lot of my growth has come from this daily praying.

So then I began to think…why? Why does God respond so readily to prayer?  And then another light bulb went off! It’s all connected to faith! God is pleased with those that are fully convinced that He wants to give to us!

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

But if that’s so easy, then why isn’t everyone healed? Why am I not a millionaire over night if I just pray for it?

I think we must ask God what’s in His heart before we pray so that we are always praying according to His will (which is always perfect). And we must be fully convinced that He wants to reveal His will, and then pray for exactly what He revealed, being fully convinced that He wants to answer us. I’ll never forget a guest speaker from last year at our church saying, “I don’t ask God for guidance as much as I ask Him what to believe for.”

Then, during another pillow talk session I had recently, Jesus just said one line: You must learn to receive.

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Matthew 21:22

There’s that word again: “ask.” I have to ask first before I can receive anything. If I have to ask, I have to be fully convinced, like the Canaanite woman, that God wants to give. And when those two things happen, when I ask in faith and God gives it to me, Jesus says my joy becomes complete!

But for me to even go to Him and ask Him what to pray and believe for, I had to know that He wanted to reveal those things to me! I had to be convinced of His heart toward me, just like the Canaanite woman! And all of the sudden I realized I was believing this lie about Him that He was choosing to withhold His plans and His thoughts from me because He is a big God and He wants me to learn to give Him full control. But I realized this isn’t God’s heart toward His sons and daughters!

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

Psalm 84:11

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.

Amos 3:7

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

Jeremiah 33:3

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD.

Isaiah 1:18

I feel like I’ve taken one step further into my true identity as a daughter of God. I no longer believe the lie that was first whispered in the garden of Eden that God is holding back on me because He’s a big bad controlling authority figure. And I believe a majority of people who say they don’t believe in God actually believe in His existence, but don’t believe that He wants to be personal and relationalwho wants to talk to them, and wants only good for them.

So to sum everything up, what God’s been teaching me through all of this is that love and faith are tightly linked. The more I decide to trust God and go to Him for all areas of my life, the more I experience His love, that it’s nothing but good and glorious. My hearts begins to realize, “Oh wait, God doesn’t want to harm me? He’s for me and on my side? He doesn’t want to criticize me or constantly rebuke me? He wants to fulfill my desires? He wants to reveal His will and other secrets to me?”

Learning to actually trust God, and not just in theory, is a process. And slowly, fear starts to fade as I realize there’s nothing to fear in Him as I experience His love personally. And the more of His love I experience, the more my faith and trust in Him grows, and so on.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18

In my last blog post, I mentioned life isn’t worth living without joy. Jesus says in Matthew 21:22 that my joy will be complete when I learn to receive from God out of a perfectly trusting relationship with my Father.

Jesus, my prayer is that you make me like the Canaanite woman, who is fully convinced of Your true identity. Lead me even deeper into the Father’s heart. Increase my knowledge of His love that my faith increases with it. And since this is why you came to this earth, I know I have received what I asked for. So thank you and amen!

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

A.W. Tozer

Discovering Joy

Honestly, without joy, life isn’t worth living.

In 2011 when I came home from my first exploit with YWAM, I found it quite hard returning to “normal” life. Work, traffic, familiar faces. Familiar headaches. My life felt dry, whereas in YWAM, new faces, new adventures and new experiences kept me stimulated.

But all the newness and excitement of YWAM just covered up what my soul’s state was really in: dry, thirsty, lifeless. Don’t give me wrong, God called me to YWAM and I grew so much through it. But though I knew Jesus, and He was living in me, I still had yet to really tap into that water source He provides, that well inside each believer that when tapped, releases life abundance from within.

Last year when I returned to Sydney to staff the YWAM base, I remember reading 1 Thess 5:19 that says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” This is right after the command to give thanks in all circumstances. I realized that a grateful heart is what leads to a Spirit-filled life, which brings joy. I prayed, “God, give me a grateful heart.” I prayed that several times throughout the year. 

When I was in Tahiti at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, I came face to face with the dryness of my soul. It was an amazing trip no doubt, but it was also the most challenging. I finally acknowledged my need for God in finding joy. When I made my decision to go home, I knew God was inviting me not only to new surroundings, but to discover joy.

Upon coming home in February 2013, my sister, being the ever-encouraging voice that she is, suggested we read a book by Ann Voskamp called One Thousand Gifts.

Image

I have so much to owe to this author. I’ve read a lot of books, but I can say this one, in terms of the most impacting, is in the top five.

In her book, Voskamp describes the drag of life weighing down on her soul. She had been blessed with six healthy children and a good husband. But like most people, it’s hard to relish in that blessing in the midst of endless chores and mundane routine.

From reading Voskamp’s book, I realized my problem, which is probably common to most of us, was pride.

I had expectations of what “should” be, and when they were not met, I could not find joy. I would sulk and complain to God. In fact, “complaining” is the outward evidence of a heart not trusting in God, which blocks the flow of joy and life. It’s what pride is, not trusting God.

Lamenting is different. God wants us to cry out to Him in our distress, but trusting Him that He will come through for us. He knows that when we trust, we are filled with joy, hope and peace. Trust is the distinguishing factor between complaint and lament.

Voskamp discovered that gratitude, along with trusting God in each moment, is essential in finding joy. This reminded me of the discovery I made last year in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. Gratitude releases the joy of the Spirit, while ungratefulness quenches it.

But I knew that even with the moment by moment practice of gratitude and trust, in the beginning, I wouldn’t necessarily feel joy. I just had to trust God that gratefulness and trust was His way, and only way, of finding joy.

So for the past few months since I’ve been home, I started to practice gratitude. I thanked God in each moment, in each circumstance, especially the hard ones. Like when my car broke down at the gas station after a long, terrible day of work: Thank you God that I’m safe and You are with me. 

Or worse, when I’m experiencing a moment of complete boredom and all this fear rushes into my life whispering thoughts like, You are wasting your life right now. Instead, I choose to trust God and say, Thank you God that you are in control of my life and I have nothing to fear. I trust you in this moment. I thank you that you have a marvelous plan for me and that Your love is with me in this moment. 

Trust and gratitude then. Trust and gratitude.

Trust that God is in control and that He loves me ridiculously and doesn’t miss out on a single detail of my life. Gratitude for every small thing in every small moment of life that He gives.

Sometimes, I would catch myself looking forward. I’m looking forward to dinner. I’m looking forward to when work is over and I can go home and rest. I’m looking forward to when I finally start my big career and/or ministry. But I realized these devilish, forward-looking thoughts were stealing my joy.

Instead of forward, God just wants me to look up toward Him, in grateful praise and in communion.

Rejoice always;pray without ceasing;in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thess 5:16-18

If someone had told me just earlier this year while I was in Tahiti that this was the answer to joy, I would have scoffed and rejected it. Really? Praise and constant prayer is the secret to joy? Get away from me. It’s that nasty pride in me that doesn’t want to accept God’s solution.

If we’re always looking forward to something in life that we think will bring us joy, whether in the short term future (like, later that day) or longer term, we are living in a state of unbelief, which steals our joy. God wants to give us good things, but He just wants us to look up toward him, with our hands cupped open (see image above) ready to receive anything that He wants to bless us with, not with what we want.

Joy is not found in anything external: money, people, achievements, marriage etc. It is all internal. Jesus alludes to this fact when he interacts with the Samaritan woman.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again ; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst ; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.

John 4:13-14

Jesus promises that we will thirst again if we look for our joy from anywhere but from Him alone. No one or nothing else can give us joy. Jesus is saying that it’s impossible. He is saying that our joy is our own business with Him.

Just last night, which inspired me to write this post, I was at home and had these thoughts that had been normal to my life whisper: You are wasting your life. You are unhappy.

But I caught myself. Immediately, my next thought was: wait, no. Actually, I’m joyful. And it wasn’t a statement of faith I was making to battle negative thoughts or anything like that. It was just what I truly felt inside. And I laughed out loud! I was literally surprised by my joy. Oh my gosh, I’m truly joyful. I have found it. I am finding it. I will be finding it. Forever. In and with Jesus.

My moment by moment practice of gratitude and trust is paying off. I’m actually now beginning to feel joy. But it’s not a human emotion. It’s in my spirit, something you just have to experience for yourself.

The hymn has been playing over and over in my head for the past week:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Horatio Spafford

Those negative thoughts that have led me to believe something is wrong with my life (or with the present moment, or with me) can no longer phase me. His grace has set me free to trust in Him. He’s answered my earnest prayers for a grateful heart. He’s led me with “cords of human kindness” in this journey for joy.