Why God isn’t giving you what your heart desires.

 

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Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

This would be a cruel verse if it was taken as many want to take it, that God is a type of limitlessly rich uncle that will give you what you want if you just buddy up to Him enough. 

Think about it in light of Psalm 16:4-5, “Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips. Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.”

Timothy Keller says it well.  Unlike ancient societies, “we may not believe in literal divine god-beings of beauty, wealth, pleasure, or fertility. But we must all live for something, and if we live and love anything more than God himself, we are trapped.

When we aim the deepest hungers in our hearts towards things that can run out, become lost, taken away, divorced, or even grow old we trap ourselves in the long run. It is to our harm to give our limitlessly hungry hearts to limited, expendable, or decaying things.  

God works to mature our desires before He fulfills them. 

The Psalms are not a picture of God giving a spoiled child whatever he or she wants if they would only suck up to Him. No, this is a maturing of the believer into the place where their desires align with God’s will. He literally gives us the right desires as we mature.  

Right desires are a much greater gift than mere perishable things. 

Moreover, I don’t believe God mutes or dulls our desires, I think God is always turning our desires up so high that only He can satisfy them. This isn’t to make us miserable; it’s to point the way to the true and limitless fountain. Can you see it? Over time the hunger for intimacy grows so high that no mere physical or sexual action in and of itself can fulfill it. Our desire for security grows so high that no walls or wealth can actually put our hearts at ease. Our desire to be known and loved grows so high that no amount of fame can satisfy. Lesser joys always leave us hungry for more. This is the gift of God, a growing desire for the fountain itself.  The truest of loves is “the only food the universe can grow on.”  -C.S. Lewis 

God will not give you the desires of your heart, no, He gives your heart right desires when you lean into Him. 

References: Timothy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Want More?

Let’s take a methodical look at what pleasure actually is and how to find it.

Lastly, don’t forget to follow the sermon podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/trinity-church-sermons/id890096830?mt=2

Reflections for Ringing in 2020

By Leslie Colaw

I love the feeling of a fresh start, a new beginning.  This is why I love the New Year holiday.  It feels like an opportunity to leave the old behind and embrace the new.  I love the beginning of each month, I even love Mondays!  The dawn of each morning reminds us daily of “the new” happening.  I think it’s God’s gift to us that the ability to start fresh is built right into the calendar, nature’s liturgy that continually reminds us of the opportunity for the new.  It’s like he’s inviting us to remember his promise, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

As we enter a New Year it’s time for making resolutions.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly great at keeping mine.  According to Forbes.com, apparently neither are most people:

“The statistics on how many people actually follow through and accomplish their New Year’s resolutions are rather grim. Studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them.”

Some of you may know people who are part of the 8% who accomplish their resolutions.  You know, those people who don’t even really need to make New Year’s resolutions because they’re disciplined all of the time.  If they make a goal, they stick to it.  It’s quite admirable.  (And sometimes annoying because I wish I was more like that!)  But not all of us are this internally motivated.

Rather than becoming discouraged by my past or future failed resolutions, I’ve chosen to approach the New Year in a different way.  For me it is a reminder of God’s faithfulness, not the lack of my own.

 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

The hope found in this verse is that we don’t have to wait a year for another fresh start.  His steadfast love for us NEVER ceases!!  His mercies are new EVERY morning!  What a wonderful promise.

Years ago we started a New Year’s Day family tradition with a prayer jar, a gift from my wonderful mother-in-law.  We write different things we want to see God do on little slips of paper, put them in the jar, and pray over it.  Then the next year we pull it back out and see how God has answered.  It’s been pretty amazing to see the ways God has answered prayers for our family over the years.  We keep the ones that are answered separate from the ones that we are still believing for.  They all go back in the jar as a way to remind us what God has done and what we are still waiting for him to do.  The words on the front of the jar from Ephesians 3:20 remind us to dream big and to never give up praying, “I can do more than you can imagine.  Love, God.”

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Let the New Year be a reminder of the God whose mercies never cease, who desires to do more than we could ask or imagine, and who made the sun to rise each day as a way to remind us of the infinite opportunities to start fresh.

It could be simple things, like missing your quiet time for several mornings in a row and knowing this morning is the day to start again.  Or perhaps you’ve started eating junk again after making a commitment to better health, or missed a few days or a whole week of making it to the gym.  Today is a new day.

It might be big things, like that struggle or addiction you’ve prayed for deliverance for, and maybe you were really on track and then slipped up.  Or maybe there’s a friend or family member who is far away from the Lord and you’ve been praying for them for years and it seems to make no difference and you want to give up.  His steadfast love never ceases…great is his faithfulness.

Let this new year, this new decade serve as a reminder to you that God is always in the business of doing a new thing, and that work of his is never complete.  The old has gone, and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The enthusiasm for our resolutions may wane, but his faithfulness and mercies never do.

Happy New Year!!

Being the mom I am, instead of the mom I wish I was

By Leslie Colaw

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mom.  I played house as a girl, had cabbage patch dolls, and ALWAYS loved babies (still do), especially my younger cousins.  As I approached college and needed to choose a major, I began to pray about what God wanted me to do with my life.  In my heart began to grow an even stronger desire for motherhood, and I knew that was my number one calling.  I still went to college to pursue a degree in Psychology, but my sights were set on a stay-at-home mom life.

I couldn’t wait.  The women who mentored me as a young girl were stay-at-home moms, and I admired them so much.  They were amazing, loving moms and in my mind, it was gonna be a sweet life.

So, got married, we moved to Iowa, and my husband and I began our ministry.  I worked a few jobs to save money as we began this life together, but the baby fever eventually won out and we ended up pregnant with our first child.  Oh, I was so excited!  I couldn’t wait to be a mom!  It was all I really wanted to do with my life and I couldn’t wait to get started.

The day finally arrived.  I won’t go into detail, but the birth of our first child, our son Noah, was slightly traumatic.  He ended up being delivered by C-section after a long labor.  I wasn’t even conscious when he made his entrance into the world.  The first time I laid eyes on him, we were in the recovery room when I regained consciousness and looked to my right to see him cradled in his Daddy’s arms.  He was perfect.

But reality hit fast.  Recovering from a C-section was difficult and he had a bad case of jaundice.  Our hospital stay ended up being almost a week and I was more than ready to take him home, but things didn’t improve much.  I ended up in a really bad place, crying all the time, struggling with overwhelming feelings of despair.  After a visit to the doctor I realized I was struggling with post-partum depression.   And on top of that there were the usual challenges: sleepless nights, learning how to breastfeed, constantly changing diapers.

Here I was, finally living out my dream vocation, and it wasn’t at all what I thought it would be.  In many ways, that’s how I’d describe motherhood…not what I thought it would be.  And I think I speak for a lot of moms when I say that it wasn’t so much motherhood itself that was a disappointment.  I was disappointed with myself.

I wanted to be my ideal version of mom, but as is often true in life, ideal and actual don’t line up.

As a mom there are all these “shoulds.”  I should be completely thrilled to have these babies.  I should love spending every moment with them.  I should find joy in teaching them things.  I should be able to meet their every need.  I should be consistent.  I should be patient.

And then there are all the “shouldn’ts.”  I shouldn’t yell.  I shouldn’t let them watch TV.  I shouldn’t let them eat junk food.  I shouldn’t feel resentful.  I shouldn’t feel like this is boring and monotonous work.  I shouldn’t get them in trouble for just being kids.  I shouldn’t grow weary of their endless questions.

The truth is, it isn’t how I thought it would be.  I’M not the mom I thought I would be.  I thought I would love it so much more than I often do.  I didn’t know how exhausting and overwhelming it could be.

I wish that I loved having them cook in the kitchen with me.  But the truth is, I just want to get it done as quickly as possible.

I wish that I loved doing arts and crafts with them.  But the truth is, I’d rather not deal with the mess.

I wish that I loved cuddling in bed with them at night.  But the truth is, I usually just want to get them in bed so I can have some alone time.

I wish that I was easygoing and relaxed about things, but I get irritated a lot more often than I care to admit.

Slowly, I’m learning to accept myself as the mom that I am, not the mom I wish I was.  I’m not the home schooling, chicken raising, gardening, Pinterest-crafting mom that soaks up every moment with her kids and responds to all their childish mistakes with kindness and gentleness. (Does this type of mom exist?  The kind that joyfully “does it all”?  If you’re out there…you want to do some stuff for me?)

This is more the mom that I am…

I need alone time.  And if I give myself freedom to have it, I’m a better mom.

I love to read.  I always have.  So I read to my kids because that’s an activity we can enjoy together.  I love to read the books they’re reading so we can talk about it and share something together. (Not all of my kids love reading as much as I do, but I hold onto hope…and keep nagging a little.)

As my kids get older, I’m finding we have more things to talk about, and it’s fun developing friendships with them.  I’m a good listener and advice-giver and they come to me to talk about what’s bothering them.

I’m a woman who’s passionate about her relationship with the Lord, and while I am far from perfect, I certainly hope I am modeling for them a life that is defined by a love for God and his people.

I’m learning to embrace the mom I am instead of feeling disappointed in not being the mom I wish I was.  I’m learning to lean into my strengths instead of focus on my weaknesses.  The truth is, in spite of my failings, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my kids.  I want their absolute best, and the fact that I sometimes fail them doesn’t diminish that.  I seek their forgiveness when I let them down, and in doing so teach them about humility, and they teach me about grace with their sweet, quick-to-forgive spirits.

I’m also learning to become a better version of the mom that I am.  I’m learning to relax about the mess in the kitchen because of the value of that time spent together.  I’m learning to push past my exhaustion late at night because those are opportune times for important conversations.  I’m even learning that it’s not worth it to get so irritated about little things like spilt milk and a coat on the floor instead of hanging on the hook where it belongs.  I’m learning that the best mom for my kids isn’t the ideal mom, but a better version of the mom they have.

There will probably always be moments and days where I wrestle with this disappointment with myself and this feeling that I don’t measure up to my own expectations.  But when my teenage son gives me a hug in the parking lot of the grocery store he works at for all the world to see, or when my daughter tells me I’m the “best mom ever” even though I lose my patience with her frequently…I guess if they love me as the mom I am, I don’t need to be the mom I wish I was.

 

Attracting and keeping young leaders in your organization. (And an idol that died in me.)

We have been so blessed at Trinity (http://www.encountertrinity.com) when it comes to staff. We have men, women, and even a little diversity. Could we do better? Absolutely yes. Yet, with all the areas modern organizations try to represent with their staff, there is one that seems to elude many of them: young leaders. Don’t hear me wrong. Young leaders take jobs, they just don’t stay, and often leave very unsatisfied.

In this video a couple of our amazing younger leaders talk:Attracting and keeping young leaders (1)
1)What are young leaders looking for? Heads up! It’s different than previous generations.
2)What are young leaders getting right?
3)What are young leaders getting wrong?
4)A word from them for colleges.
5)A word from them to their future bosses.
6)A word from them to their peers.

What had to die, and is still dying, in me?
As the head of the organization I had to lay before God my platform and take up a mission of building a foundation for the next generation.  I had to embrace legacy over fame.

Andy, Marcus – you all are awesome. Thanks for leading your generation well! I love that I get to work with you.

 

New Wine

By Leslie Colaw

 

Are you familiar with the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 1?  There’s not a lot about her in the Bible, just one chapter and a little bit of a second, but her story is one worth mentioning.

Hannah was a woman who desperately wanted a child.  In her time, as a woman, bearing children was everything.  And for whatever reason, she couldn’t.  Can you relate?  Any pressing desire in your heart, a hunger for something that will not cease, no matter how much you try to reason with yourself?

It’s a hard place to be when you have a deep persistent desire that doesn’t line up with your reality, and you don’t know if it ever will.

This must be how Hannah felt.  Her desire for a child was at the point of desperation.  To make Hannah’s situation worse, verse 6 tells us that her rival, the other wife to her husband Elkanah, provoked her greatly, harassing her over the fact that she had the ability to bear children and Hannah didn’t.  (Sounds like a sweetheart, doesn’t she?)  This happened until Hannah “wept and would not eat.”  Her husband, who loved her and actually favored her over his other wife (the mystery of why she’d provoke Hannah suddenly becomes less mysterious) says, “Why are you downhearted?  Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”  Have you been there?  When you are overwhelmed with heartache and people around you try to talk you out of it?  Doesn’t do much good does it?

Hannah went to the house of the Lord to pray.  Verse 10 says, “In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.”  Oddly, I really like this part of the story.  It reminds me where I can take my deep anguish.  When it seems no one else understands or truly sees the depth of my heartache, God sees.  He listens, he knows my pain.  My bitter tears do not shock or unnerve him.  There is no better or capable place to bring my sorrow.

But sorrow is not the end of the story.

She continues praying to the Lord and the priest, Eli, happens upon her.  He actually mistakenly assumes she is drunk (again, another example of when people JUST don’t get it) and tells her to lay off the wine.  She tells him of her deep trouble, that she has been pouring out her soul to God.  He says to her, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

This was good enough for her.  She goes away, eats something, and her face was no longer downcast.  She takes the word of the priest as a promise from God, and sure enough, Hannah ends up pregnant with Samuel, one of the great prophets of the Old Testament.

Something about her story really strikes me.  Verse 6 tells us that “the Lord had closed her womb.”  God closed her womb, prevented her from conceiving a child.  So essentially, God broke her heart.  Hard pill to swallow, isn’t it?  It seems so harsh and unfair.  Doesn’t seem like something a kind and loving God would do.  And yet we have to admit that is what it says, we have to accept the reality that sometimes the breaking and crushing of our heart is part of God’s journey for us.

Why doesn’t he just grant her heart’s desire?  And of course we ask, why doesn’t he grant ME my heart’s desire?  We know he can, so why doesn’t he?

When Hannah goes to the temple to pray, she tells God that if he will give her a son, she will give him back to God.   Because of her anguish, because of the low point she has been brought to, it drives her to God in complete surrender.

You hear that?  Her anguish, her heartbreak, drives her to God in complete surrender. 

She has been brought so low, her heartbreak so complete, she has nothing left but her faith in God.  In her emptiness, she turns to God in total trust.

It was the breaking and crushing that purified her heart and prepared her to be the vessel God needed to accomplish his purpose.  This is often what separates the faithful from those who turn away…a willingness to accept the task God has for them, however painful.  A choice to blame God in anger, or yield to him in complete trust.

God had closed her womb.  That’s how the story reads.  But as we will see, it wasn’t for nothing.  If God shuts us out from what our hearts most desire, it is for a greater purpose, and we will be able to look back and be glad, to see that it was worth it.  There is always a bigger picture.

We see the same with Job.  This guy gets one piece of bad news after another.  He lost it all – his livestock, his servants, his house, his children – and what did he come up with as far as how to make sense of it?  “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).  That’s it.  It doesn’t feel like much, but sometimes that’s all we have to hold onto…and it can be hard to hold on.

But what we see with these examples is the things that were developed in them.  Greater strength, perseverance, character, and faith.  The process of these things being developed is often apparently fairly unpleasant.  But from their stories, we hope and trust that it will be worth it.  “For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

Perhaps one of the hardest things is to do what Job did, praise the name of God in the face of complete loss.  But it must be done. Because it is our purpose and because he is worthy.  And perhaps if we worship him in the loss it will make our worship of him in the good times all that much sweeter.

We don’t know how long Hannah waited for God to give her the son she was waiting for.  The Bible simply says, “in due time Hannah conceived.”  In due time…isn’t that just like God?  But God kept good on his promise, and so did she.  When Samuel was born, she gave him back to God.  “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27-28).

God had closed her womb…and he opened it when it was time, when she was ready to give all back to him, when she could fully recognize that all she had was never hers to begin with.

If it hadn’t been such a struggle for Hannah to have children, would she have recognized that Samuel belonged to the Lord?  If things hadn’t played out for her the way they did, would she have been willing to give her son back to God?

Samuel was instrumental in God’s story, and therefore I think so was Hannah’s heartbreak.

But heartbreak wasn’t the end of her story.  It was never meant to be.  She goes on to worship the Lord in chapter two, “My heart exults in the Lord, my horn is exalted in the Lord…The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.”

She comes to a place where she recognizes her heartbreak, her season of barrenness as a gift, and it becomes an instrument for singing praise.  But it happened with a perspective shift, it came after complete surrender, and ultimately she stayed in that place of surrender, recognizing the gift of her child as something that belonged to the Lord before his conception.

Her heart exulted not in her son, but in the Lord…the only thing that brings true, lasting joy, that nothing and no one can take away.

In the pressing, crushing, breaking, and rending of the heart, God is producing something good.  We cannot usually see it in the midst of our suffering because our pain blocks all else from view.  And so we put our faith in a promise, in what is hoped for and not yet seen.  We trust that in all things, God’s vocation is redemption.  If God is who he says he is, our heartbreak points to hope.

“In the pressing, in the crushing, you are making new wine
In the soil I now surrender, you are breaking new ground
And so I yield to you and to your careful hand
When I trust you I don’t need to understand
Make me a vessel
Make me an offering
Make me whatever you want me to be
I came here with nothing
Than all you have given me
Jesus bring new wine out of me.”
(New Wine by Hillsong)

A big reason us leaders keep failing you. Too many of us have fans, not friends.

 

One of the big reasons we as Christian leaders keep failing you is simply because too many have fans, not friends.

Let’s break this down with a few questions.

How did this happen?

It’s a complex set of circumstances that can cause one to build fans rather than friendships. It’s partially the posture the leader takes towards the people, partially the posture the people take towards their leader, and even current cultural expectations play into this. I don’t want to spend my time extrapolating this current complexity other than to say I believe we have made church into entertainment centers with entertainers and there are some dangerous things that have come out of this. Back to the thought at hand.

What’s the difference between a fan and a friend?

You can bring good friends in close. You can “let down” around them. Friends can push back and the relationship isn’t easily in jeopardy. Good friends help someone feel like they aren’t alone. Friendship requires that people are transparent, real, and yet still loved and safe. Friends love you, fans love what you can do. Friends love you through your hard places, fans love you until it gets hard. 

Fans are different. They can sing your praise, but the praise is fragile. Fans need the object (I choose the word object on purpose) of their affection to constantly give them what they want, to always perform. If you miss a cue you could lose a fan. Everyone knows this deep down and it can cause incredible loneliness. Fans, even when they like you, don’t bring security and wholeness. Fans drain a leader because the leader needs to keep entertaining and impressing while they are around. 

What does this mean for the church world?

As the church has let go of its familial roots and embraced the rock star production driven ways of the modern world, we traded the pursuit of what is transparent, real and a little messy for the pursuit of a perfectly produced show. This puts church leaders in an interesting spot. They are now primarily called to become “actors” who are relatable rather than having real relationships. Being relatable to your congregation and having a real relationship with them are two very different things.

This begs a great question…

How can you help your church leaders have friends and be a friend?

Let me ask it in a more poignant way. How do you help your leader step out of the lonely modern production machines they are becoming?

I honestly wouldn’t have been able to see this unless Trinity (the church I serve in) was filled with incredible people. Your pastor will move more into a friend based on how you respond to the ways they display their humanity. Meaning, do you leave the church when your pastor accidentally cusses, or when the worship leader misses a cue or sings off key? Can he/she be human? The more you help them see that you choose to love them and not only what they produce, the more they will feel safe enough to grow in friendship. Don’t just be a fan, be a friend. Remember, just like you need a real church, a real Jesus and real Christian community to love the real you, so do they. At Trinity I have some great friends, yet even in my church some of my biggest current fans I know I am not “safe” around. One leadership mistake and they would be gone. This brings up a great question.

What about the weight of leadership and if a spiritual leader is actually in sin?

This doesn’t mean you ignore sin. It means you help them feel loved all while you deal with it. Just like you would a real friend. I am not saying you ignore their messy parts. There are a lot of wonderful Biblically centered groups that help restore people. I could be fired from my position and I truly do think my friends here would still grab coffee and love me. Some would even help me find a job. Fans flee, friends restore. This is why I love our church, not because of the organizational growth and my fans, but because of my friends. I can be truly known and still loved by them.

What about your context?

You can’t change how your leader will respond or what is currently going on in their heart, but you can take a posture of friendship. My guess is the more you show yourself as friend and not merely a fan, the more your overly polished pseudo “perfect” leader will feel safe enough to be real in turn. It won’t happen at once. Especially if the system has taught him or her that there is no room for anything but the relatable actor. It will take time, like any friendship. Maybe in this case your leader needs you to lead them. Let me say that differently. I can almost guarantee this is an area the laity needs to lead in. Why? I have coached a number of pastors over the years and I promise many think you want the spiritual “showman” and the moment they can’t put on an amazing show, you’re gone. I can’t overemphasize the weight this assumption puts on them. Modern church families feel really fragile and divorce is not only an option but a constant threat. 

I know my friends have saved my ministry multiple times over and I am grateful beyond words for ministry friends, the ones who hold me accountable and still stand by my side. It makes me want to stand by theirs too. When my ministry fans wear me out, I remember my ministry friends. I owe them more than I could ever state in a blog. Let me encourage you, as a front line lead pastor, hold your leaders accountable, speak your mind and keep standing by their side in a God honoring way. It’s those loyal people that have won my heart. It’s those people I listen closely to. It’s those people I can vent on. It’s those people who I really feel are my…friends. They know me too well to be my fans. 😉

Our lack of self awareness is killing us and driving others crazy. 

Our lack of self awareness is killing us and driving others crazy.
A maxim used by the ancient Greeks γνῶθι σεαυτόν translated is “know thyself.”  In numerous ancient writings the phrase carries the idea that without knowing who you truly are and what strengths and weaknesses you actually have, you place yourself and others in great danger. Even in the Catholic tradition they have the discipline of mortification, in which the purpose is a greater self-awareness along with seeking help and guidance so that you can pursue a right and true life before God. Dr. Timothy Keller believes that this healthy self-awareness has nearly been abandoned in modern Christianity. Think about it. Even in church we look for our truth without weighing it through the lens of other believers. The infamous phrase, “God is calling me…” has become the trump card to brush off all other spiritual wisdom and blindly move forward. The first step in “knowing yourself” is listening. Not to the echo chamber of your own will and desires played over and over again in your mind, but to others. Without real honest feedback you will work to build a world that blindly supports your blind heart. This will ultimately hurt others. Here is the question we must all ask:  Who has the right to say to us, “Nope, you’re wrong and I don’t think that is actually from God”? Who actually has the right to question your motives and cause you to pause before taking action? Who can call out your blind spots and, perhaps most importantly, who will you allow to speak into your blind spots? The first step in γνῶθι σεαυτόν is to listen with true humility. If you don’t, and the ancients are right, your blind spots pose a real danger.

Study the book of Ruth

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The book of Ruth is one of the most unique stories offered in the Bible. Why? Because God isn’t mentioned all that often and His actions are indirect. God works through others. God is uniquely “shy” in this book.  Let’s jump into the historical and contextual work that will display the unique beauty that is the book of Ruth.

Below you will find four sessions with full notes, study references, audio and video and even an option to see the whole service, including dramatic readings of the Bible and the music we selected to accompany the Scripture. I also attached a link to a 12 day devotional that accompanies the series and explores in even more depth how the ancient world speaks to our modern context.

First: The Devotional

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Click HERE or the picture to go to the Amazon.com page for the devotional: Unpack the deep meaning and symbolism found in the book of Ruth. I’ll pull together some of the best concepts from top scholars into a simple 12 day devotional.

Second: The Series

Session 1: Let’s unpack the history and attributes that make Ruth unique.  Click the link below for the video, audio and .pdf notes. You also have the option to watch the entire service including worship music selected and dramatic reading of the scriptures.

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Session 2: My wife joins me as we do a character study of the major players in this beautiful historical drama.  Click the link below for the video, audio and .pdf notes. You also have the option to watch the entire service including worship music selected and dramatic reading of the scriptures.

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Session 3: Let’s examine the life rhythms that made these people unique.  Click the link below for the video, audio and .pdf notes. You also have the option to watch the entire service including worship music selected and dramatic reading of the scriptures.

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Session 4: From total loss to beautiful fulfillment. God works in ways we often can’t see. There is a powerful key to finding wholeness… Click the link below for the video, audio and .pdf notes. You also have the option to watch the entire service including worship music selected and dramatic reading of the scriptures.

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The Potter Knows Best

-By Leslie Colaw-

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting close to 40 and finally beginning to learn this lesson, but lately I’ve realized that I have spent most of my life trying to be a certain something, a person that I have deemed good or ideal, rather than seeking to be the best version of myself.  I have wanted to hand pick certain personality traits and make them fit me, unsuccessfully of course.  A square peg never fits in a round hole.  We can try and jam it in, but it will always fit loosely or uncomfortably.

A lot of my intentions in this have been good.  Part of my effort to do this has come from my desire to better help and serve others, and I sort of decided in my mind how I should be in order to help others or, less nobly, be liked by others.  There were people I admired that I sought to emulate (not all bad – I had some pretty good role models), and of course, there are certain traits we should all aspire to make part of who we are that do not always come naturally, like patience or generosity.  It’s more about the WAY in which I exercise these good things.  Am I allowing God to use me the way he crafted me, or am I trying to be like someone else, trying to live up to the ideal my mind has created?

If it’s the latter, I’m beginning to see how this might actually cause me to be less helpful because I am imposing a false self on others in a frantic need to be liked, admired, or useful. If I can learn to be my best self, to not impose it on others but instead withdraw in order to create space for them, it gives us both freedom and space to be ourselves.  I love how Henri Nouwen words it in “The Wounded Healer,” that I can help others be free because I am free, “free to let others enter into the space created for them and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song, and speak their own language without fear.  Then our presence is no longer threatening and demanding but inviting and liberating.”  I am better able to do this if I have learned to “dance my own dance.”

So how does one do this, exactly?  Learn to be the best version of oneself, or even get in touch with their authentic self? Well, I’m definitely still on that journey, and imagine it’s a lifelong one, but for me it’s been a process of self-examination (the Enneagram has played a huge part in this for me, but that’s for another blog), and the willingness to “enter into” myself, especially the places I most fear, the places of pain and, well, dysfunction.  The process of accepting ourselves means facing all of it, including the places we are ashamed of.   We all have those places, and if I have had the courage to go there myself, I can help others do so as well.  When we go there with Christ, we need not fear, because he meets us there with tender love and compassion.  We can face who we are when we know there is already one who fully knows us and deeply loves us.  If he already dwells in my innermost being, I need not fear entering it.  I can try to hide it or hide from it, like Adam and Eve in the garden, but it is not hidden from him.  Here, at the intersection of his love and my broken self, my true identity can begin to emerge.

Why is it so hard to accept who we are?  We all have things we don’t like about ourselves, weaknesses or flaws we’d give anything to be rid of.  Isaiah 45:9 says, “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’”  God has created us each so uniquely and purposefully. We aren’t meant to be the same as any other pot.  If he has chosen to make me a certain way, or allows certain things to happen to me, so be it.  It is better to yield to the Potter’s hands, accepting the way he made me and allowing him to continue shaping me however he sees fit.  His artistic style is perfect…he does not make mistakes and always produces something good and beautiful.

If I live my life from this perspective then I can begin to face who I am, the measure of myself that has been crafted through personality, experiences, hurts, victories, relationships. Once I face it, I can begin to work on accepting it and living into it more fully and authentically, and even grow beyond it.  I might as well.  Trying to be something other than who I am doesn’t really work, or can only take me so far. I can be of more service to this world and the people around me if I learn to be and do and live from my authentic self.

Let me give an example. As a Christian, I am called to extend hospitality to others.  I used to see good hospitality as being someone who loves to have people over to my house, spending hours making a delicious meal with a perfectly set table, ready to entertain with sparkling conversation and a smile on my face throughout the entire process.  If I haven’t done this, then I’ve failed at hospitality.  Well, I know people for whom this does seem to be their authentic expression of hospitality (at least it seems that way), and God bless ‘em, they bless me in their doing!  But that is not me.  I can try and force that, but frankly I’ll be miserable and a ball of stress (just ask my husband).  I’ve begun to realize that for me, expressing hospitality looks more like being a good listener, being fully present and comfortable with someone who is hurting or in pain, giving my time and full attention.  That is what comes naturally for me.  I can and certainly should practice other methods of hospitality.  I believe it’s good to stretch myself, and I do open my home to others in my own more relaxed version of entertaining.  But I want to be able to uncover what my natural strengths are, operating primarily out of those to most benefit others.

The Bible illustrates this truth in talking about the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, how we are all many parts of one body, each given different gifts for the good of the whole body.  Vs. 15-16 says, If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.”  Here again we have an example of those who resist the way they’re crafted, the gifts they’ve been given, wishing instead to be made differently than they are.

There’s another almost opposing side to this idea.  God loves and accepts us as we are, yes, but he doesn’t leave us as we are.  Sometimes the shaping process can lead to doing things that at first feel unnatural or foreign.  Let me be really clear: when I talk about being your authentic self, I don’t mean follow your heart, or do what feels right, or be who you want to be.  It goes way beyond that.  The pot has to yield to the potter.  While this does mean accepting and operating in the way he’s made us, another important part of this process involves letting go and allowing him to shape us, and this is often not pretty or pleasant.  It can be downright painful.  It may mean letting go of something that feels precious or even sacred.  It may mean losing something that feels like part of your identity.  When we follow Christ, we are called to put off the old and put on the new, to die to the old self and find a new identity in Christ. Keeping with the analogy of a pot and potter, think of what clay goes through before it becomes a beautiful pot! There is pounding, kneading, shaping, cutting, firing, grinding.  But the end result is beautiful and worth it.  It is simply a matter of the clay trusting and yielding to the very capable and loving hands of the potter.

The great paradox in Christ is that when we fully give ourselves up to him and yield to his shaping hands, he takes who we are and makes it more, makes us better.  We may even see new gifts and strengths come to life.  One of the most amazing things he does is bring good from our pain, if we’re willing to trust him with it.   He came to give us life to the full and he does not make mistakes.  Every scar, every blemish he artfully adds to the masterpiece of each life with it’s own unique design.  Because of this hope-filled truth, I can more readily accept who I am, trusting him with the process of being made new.

Why don’t we see revival and miracles like they do in other countries? An Interview with a foreign church planter.

Why don’t we see revival and miracles like they do in other countries?

Let’s ask a church planter from one of those countries, one who has seen miracles and moves of God most of us only dream of. One who has now lived in the United States nearly two years and believes he can see the difference.

I have the honor of working in a fairly diverse ministry.

Could we do better? Yes, always, but we are moving in a good direction.

One of the benefits of diversity is increased perspective. With every conversation the world gets a little smaller as my understanding of Christianity around the word grows bigger. There are some amazing moves of God happening, especially in countries that are closed to Christianity.

One of the big questions I have had bouncing around in my head over the last few years is simply this. “Why not revival and miracles in America?”*

Well one benefit of a diverse ministry and staff is I can ask people who have experienced true miracles firsthand, as well as revival and church planting around the world. Our conversation was so good and personally challenging I decided to record it.

I’ll sum it up, but you absolutely should watch the 5 minute clip I pulled out of the interview below.

Deep within our noble and right value of freedom the enemy has placed the dangerous “Trojan Horse” of individualism and superiority.

We are all now an army of Martin Luthers all constantly proclaiming our own version of the “95 theses” against the church and other Christians, thus creating an ethos of constant rebellion, or if you are the one fired up, constant purification. It’s not that you (or I) are always wrong, but the cowboy, draw a line in the sand, put your dukes up way we approach our differences just might be. Every discovered imperfection is now an insurmountable barrier to unity.

Even church leaders are guilty of this.

Many new ministries and churches planted are not really passionate moves of God, they are rebellious actions against something disliked or someone really wanting to be known and famous. They are really doing something new because they want to stand out. What if God knew motive? What if God actually blessed motive? Let me say that again. God knows motive. Real revival (not manufactured or marketed exaggeration) comes to actual humility before God and love for His people. I confess! I am guilty of this at times. My relationships with our global pastors is helping save my soul.

This amazing underground church planter who has seen revival, healings and moves of God says the answer is… you won’t like it…. I didn’t either… submission. A heart of unity and charitable love is desperately needed in the church.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” -Jesus (John 13:35 KJV)

*There have been research projects supporting these claims made by missionaries. One of the best summaries of them is Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Miracles.