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What do you do when you feel out of your depth? This week, a familiar story will show that using what you do have in the present moment is what really counts.Read More
“You don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong” – James 4:2-3 NLT
There it was, in black and white – the reason I had been making much slower progress in certain areas of my life than I should have (or none at all). After some thought, it became clear that I had some reservations with prayer which stopped me from connecting with God. It seems that other people share some of these reservations about praying, so let’s tackle a couple.
1) When you don’t feel ‘good enough’ to talk to God
Sometimes it feels like you shouldn't/can't pray because you've been away from God or you’ve done something ‘bad’. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While we sometimes have to ‘earn’ our position with people around us, our relationship with Jesus is not based on performance, it is based on His love. He doesn’t keep score of what we’ve done wrong. If God wanted us to be perfect before we could even speak to him, then Jesus’ entire life, death and resurrection would have been pointless.
An example of this is the story of Cain, who had just killed his own brother, Abel out of jealousy. Naturally, there was a consequence for Cain’s actions: being exiled from his home country. But even in his punishment, Cain asked God to go slightly easier on Him, and not only did God hear, He listened:
Cain said to God, “My punishment is too much. I can’t take it! You’ve thrown me off the land and I can never again face you. I’m a homeless wanderer on Earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”
God told him, “No. Anyone who kills Cain will pay for it seven times over.” God put a mark on Cain to protect him so that no one who met him would kill him.
– Genesis 4:13-15 (MSG)
If God can do this for Cain, He is more than willing to listen to you as well. No matter what you’ve done. Simple as that.
In another part of the Bible, God says:
I looked for someone to […] take a stand for me and stand in the gap to protect this land so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. I couldn’t find anyone. Not one. – Ezekiel 22:30 (MSG)
Two things jump out here: 1) God looked simply for ‘someone’, not a good or perfect person, just a person. 2) While God doesn’t necessarily need us to make decisions, He actively invites and seeks people who are bold enough to put up their hand, open their mouths and join Him on this journey of life. We can either play an active or passive part – it’s our choice.
It’s that clear that our behaviour doesn't push God away from us, but sometimes we feel more distant, maybe because of guilt or condemnation from ourselves and others. But remember that there’s no condemnation in Jesus, so whenever you’re ready, He will be there listening.
To be clear, this doesn't mean that we should live a reckless life. But our primary focus shouldn’t be ‘being good’, but knowing Jesus. From this relationship our lives, and as a result our behaviour, changes. Our relationship with God is not earned, it is a free gift, whether we choose to accept it our not. The first way to build this relationship is by chatting to God, and getting to know Him through is Word, the Bible.
2) When you feel like you can’t find the right things to say
You are free to try (and maybe, get it wrong sometimes).
Sometimes I am focused on getting things 100% right, so much that it prevents me from even trying in the first place. This perfectionist tendency can sometimes show itself in our prayer lives (or lack thereof). It’s easy to be worried about getting prayer wrong ‘because your motives [desires] are all wrong’.
While that is a risk and reality, we have just learned that God isn’t looking for perfection, He is looking for you. So if your motives are off, He can easily guide you back on track, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Think about it like this: when drafting an essay, or a report, it’s rare to get to the final version without sharing a ‘draft’ with someone, and getting some feedback. It's similar with God, everything is a process.
I’ve put this into practice by being very intentional with prayer. I've written down things I want to talk to God about, and asked Him to refine my motives and show me what I should really focusing on. Then I've prayed by talking and asking questions out loud about the things I've written down (speaking out loud is so important, just try it you've got nothing to lose).
If you’re looking for a bit more structure than that – it’s always good to start with what Jesus recommends in Luke 11. You can also try what UCB recommends. Also, look at what Paul tells the Philippians:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition [asking, requesting], with thanksgiving [thankfulness], present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:6-7
So, feel free to ask, feel free to experiment and grow in this area which is so fundamental to your walk with God. You’ll get there. Finally, all of this is contingent upon the fact that we are speaking to God in faith. Faith is:
“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd” – Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)
In this week’s subscriber email, we’ll be learning more about the importance of faith. Thanks for reading again everyone, speak to you next week :)
“If it seems slow in coming, wait. It's on its way. It will come right on time.” – Habakkuk 2:3
Sometimes it feels like things are just taking too long. 'Things' could be getting the right job, starting a new project, finding a life partner... and the list goes on. We can feel rushed, like time is running out and we are slowly falling behind our peers. It’s all too easy to become frustrated, anxious or desperate seize any opportunity that emerges. After all, life is a ‘hustle’ and we all compete in the rat race. Right?
Maybe not. Psalm 37 says;
“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. .
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this.
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn” Psalm 37:3-6
Throughout this Psalm we're encouraged to “wait on”, “trust”, “commit to” and “be still before” God, even when it seems like everyone else is progressing by any means necessary. Why would the Bible, which is supposed to be the ultimate guide to life, encourage us to stand still in a world where everything moves so fast?
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes [in Me] will not be in haste.’” - Isaiah 28:16
Like many people going through life, I have been confused and unsure about the pace of specific things, for example, my career. But these sayings gave me a lot of peace; because if I believe in and lean on Jesus there should be no need to rush and race others, because he has made ‘everything beautiful in it’s time’. And yes, while God can accelerate processes, most of the time we will find our patience being stretched. Learning to wait gives us space to mature, strengthen our faith and fully rely on God by trusting that He is working it all out for our benefit (as the Bible says). Waiting isn’t always easy, but with God it’s always worth it.
An example of this is in the life Jesus himself. After feeding 5,000 people with very little food, everyone was amazed at what he had done. “Knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, [Jesus] withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” – John 6:15 (emphasis added)
The prospect of being crowned king isn’t such a bad idea. If I was there with Jesus, I probably would have said something along the lines of 'definitely go for it, isn’t this why you said you were coming in the first place? The crowd loves you and being King is definitely an upgrade on your current job as a carpenter/roaming preacher. Seize the opportunity to develop your career’. It would have been strange to see Jesus withdraw from the crowds of people to be by himself – where was his ambition? His tenacity? Some things I learned from this were:
1) 'Good opportunities' may not be right for you at this point in your life. But it’s very difficult to tell in the midst of all the general busyness of our daily lives. Most times, true clarity comes when it’s just God and us. When we take a breather. Taking the time to stop and think brings clarity to situations, as even the most attractive opportunity may lead us down the wrong path (Proverbs 14:12). This is what it means to distinguish between a 'good thing' and something which is from God (more on 'Good or God' at the end of this post). We should never feel pressured to go at the pace society expects us to
2) Waiting on and trusting God is a habit. It's interesting to see that Jesus withdrew “again” to a mountain. On various occasions we see him separate himself from the hustle and bustle of life as to get clarity (Mark 1, Luke 6). Patience and waiting, like most important things in life, needs to be practiced regularly to have an impact in our lives
This is what will keep us focused on our own personal journey, the Right Path. Taking time with God reminds us of the specific promises and plans he has for each of us, both individually and collectively. He always finishes what he starts (Isaiah 55:11), you can trust that without obsessing over the pace.
Some questions that came up while I was writing this post:
Q: How do I hear from God while I’m waiting?
A: Primarily through God's spoken Word – the Bible. Also, by praying and ‘doing life’ with other people who are on their own journey with Jesus. I’ve found these three things, in that order, bring clarity and direction to life when things get a bit frantic. God also speaks in a number of other ways to different people, for example some people have a strong feeling while others might have dreams. You’ll discover the way(s) in which God speaks to you as you grow in your relationship with Jesus. Like all things on this journey, none of us are 100% there yet, so don’t be daunted, just start somewhere
Q: Does this mean I should be passive or take a back seat in the things I’m passionate about?
A: Definitely not. Waiting on God helps find the healthy balance between living a passive, inactive life and frantically running from opportunity to opportunity trying to fill our lives with meaning. God expects us to step up and make the most of God-given opportunities and dreams. But if you're feeling rushed and desperate to progress your life prematurely, it's worth pausing for a moment...
Q: I think I’ve acted a bit too quickly in a certain area of my life and now I don’t know what to do…
A: In short, with God it's never too late to reroute. He will make up for lost time, nothing is wasted with Him
Sidenote: I’m currently doing a YouVersion reading plan on distinguishing between whether an opportunity is a “Good or God” opportunity. It’s also based on this book by John Bevere, which is on my reading list. Enjoy!
For more posts, resources and thoughts for your journey, subscribe by clicking the box below:© Copyright Noterie, 2015
Joyce Meyer - Colour Conference 2015
What do we do when someone else has what we have? Can we keep a good attitude? Does this mean God loves them more than us?
Firstly, we need to understand that 'before God does anything for us, he needs to do something in us' (Joyce) - be it strengthen, mature us or develop our faith. And 'if we don't get the lesson God is teaching us then he touches our circumstances' (Joyce) which happen through either successes or challenges. Typically 'we live life forwards, but we only understand it backwards' (Joyce) - in hindsight. I hope this post sheds some light on your past experiences and gives you hope that God does love you very much and has a plan for your life. Everything is on track as long as you keep believing, even if your immediate circumstances may not reflect what you want, or what you have believed looks like a 'godly life'. Let's compare two examples of people loved by God but who experienced the signs of His promises in very different ways:
1) Noah builds an ark
After God cleansed the World in the flood, God sent Noah a rainbow (Genesis 9:12-16), as the sign of a covenant that this would never happen again. This was the first rainbow ever, so Noah was pretty lucky to receive such a beautiful symbol in nature
It must have taken great faith and obedience to do this; to leave behind your 'normal life' and start building an ark when there was no rain, and no one else is doing it (Genesis 5).
This was also an incredibly lengthy task, it took c.100 years for Noah to complete (compare Genesis 5:32 and 7:6).
Are we willing to wait through the long-haul? Do we trust God enough?
If Noah had held on to everything he had, he wouldn't have built the Ark and he would have been washed away in the flood just like everyone else. If we truly believe God is who he says he is, and he loves us like he says he does then anything he asks us to do is infinitely better than what he's asked us to leave behind, even if we can't see clearly what the future holds. Sometimes why we haven't experienced our 'rainbow' season is because we're not willing to let go of what we have now, we're not willing to subvert the status quo and prepare for something something 'crazy' that God is calling us to do. Other times, we don't experience the rainbow because we aren't as willing to put the time and effort in for it.
Following God's teachings will never leave us swept up in a sea of opinions and competitors, He will keep us afloat no matter what the rest of the world is going through - just as He kept Noah's family safe and secure.
Navigating this gap between leaving the known and stepping into the unknown is made easier by our faith and so, we need to 'level-up' faith to access the next stage of God's plan for our lives.
2) Now we fast forward to the life of Abraham
Abraham is hailed throughout the Bible as a great man of faith, who loved God and was ultimately the father of Israel. Just like Noah, God cut a covenant with Abraham as well, God told him that he would become the father of many nations, he would be exceedingly fruitful and be given land for himself (Genesis 17:6-9). And as a sign of this great promise Abraham was required to have a circumcision (Genesis 17:10-11).
Let's consider the facts for a moment - Abraham loved God, and God had told him all these great things. I'm sure Abraham would have heard about Noah's story and the rainbow which was passed down through generations. If I was Abraham, I would have been getting ready to turn to the sky and look for some other beautiful symbol of God's promise. instead, it turns out, that all Abraham got was a circumcision. How anti-climatic.
If I was Abraham or his family, I would have been incredibly confused, I would have said - wait, aren't you God's favourite? Why are you being cut in an intimate place and having to experience pain when Noah got a rainbow? Are you sure you're serving the same God?
When we compare Abraham and Noah's stories we see that God operates in our lives in different ways. As Joyce said, 'everyone gets something and everyone doesn't get something else'. By the end of our lives we would have experienced a wide range of both 'circumcisions' and 'rainbows' - ups and downs but the fact is that all of it is part of God's wider plan for us individually. Regardless of how we expect a 'godly' and 'blessed' life to look, He will give us the type of situation that will mature us for the next stage in life. Therefore it is pointless to compare a snapshot of your life with someone else's because we are all on our own separate journey. We know that in the end, Abraham did become the father of many nations, he had a child at age 100 and he and finally, his family were so wealthy, the land could not contain it (Genesis 13:2). Abraham's life was littered with rainbow-moments, but if he had given up on God during his circumcision and compared himself to Noah he would have never given himself the chance to experience everything else God had to offer
Sometimes, this is why we give up
We give up on relationships, families, businesses and ultimately our walk with God. Because we look around us and see rainbows, which are beautiful and visible to everyone who can see. By contrast circumcisions are painful, intimate and not seen by the general public. Therefore, don't be disheartened when you see other people's 'rainbows' because 'circumcisions' are happening all over the place as well, we just can't see them. Both rainbows and circumcisions are from God, and our experience of 'good' and 'bad' situations doesn't change the fact that God is using it all for our benefit. Difficult situations where we feel at rock bottom, can drive us to lean on God and increase our faith in Him. As the Message translation puts it so eloquently:
"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule" - Matthew 5:3
Tough situations can also be a sign of maturity in your walk with God; before the rainbow sometimes we need a circumcision, a removal of an old layers in our lives or our character, that might be limiting us from going to the next level of knowing God.
This is reflected through Jesus' teaching to Peter
In John 21:18, Jesus tells Peter that when he is young in the faith, he did whatever he wanted, but as he matures God will bring him to situations that don't look as conventionally attractive. Of course, this was a difficult truth for Peter to accept, and he asked, whether the same thing would happen to John who was close behind (verse 21). Jesus' simply replied "what's it to you?" (verse 22). Sometimes we like to see someone else experiencing challenges as well in order to console ourselves but what Jesus is saying here is: focus on yourself. Our eyes should be fixed on who God is and developing our relationship with Him because when we use other people's experiences as a barometer for our 'progress' in life we will end up being either:
1) Self-inflated and feeling better than, (which is always short-lived);
2) Jealous, demotivated and/or outside of God's love
Finally, let's consider another 'hero' of the Bible as a further example
King David. Arguably one of the most important and praised King's in the Bible, he also wrote many of the Psalms and was an excellent leader. As a young man he was selected out of all of his brothers to be King over Israel - that's a huge rainbow moment, however he did not actually assume kingship until 20 years later. During those 20 years:
The King who first mentored David, Saul became jealous and spent countless times chasing him across the Middle East trying to kill him
His son Amnon raped his daughter, Tamar (Amnon's half sister)
Tamar's brother Absalom killed Amnon in revenge then tried to steal the throne from his father David
One of his children died as a baby (due to David's own sin) despite David pleading, praying and fasting to God to save the child's life
These are all incredibly difficult circumcision-like moments. But when we hear about King David, the first thing that springs to mind are all his rainbow moments, all the glamorous parts. Again, we only hear of the rainbows, not the circumcisions - however it is during these tough situations where David developed his leadership skills, won the loyalty of key people and learned how to be merciful to his enemies (for example, on multiple occasions he had to opportunity to kill Saul and he never did). During these challenges, David could have abandoned God or given up on the fact he would ever become King, but his "slow burn" faith and confidence in who God is sustained him. All of his experiences contributed to what made him the great leader that we hear of today, and they shouldn't be overlooked.
What we can learn from the lives of Abraham, Noah, David and many others in the Bible is to embrace the ups and downs of life. Embrace your rainbows and your circumcisions because, ultimately we can have confidence in the fact that:
"In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" - Romans 8:28
© Noterie, 2015
Dawn Chere Wilkerson, Colour Conference 2015
This the first of a series of posts related to Colour Conference London 2015 and before I go any further, I have to say it was a truly life-changing experience. Despite buying my ticket with immense hesitation, wondering why an (in my mind) elongated church service worth my time and money - I was genuinely blown away. Nothing I can really say here will truly reflect how amazing it actually was, I would simply encourage all women to register for 2016 here.
The reason I'm saying all this is because I personally feel like the experience of the messages preached by our inspirational speakers can never be replicated in my writing. Swiftly moving on...
Our story starts with Hebrews 11, also known as 'The Hall of Faith'. This chapter documents how the faith of the people mentioned had a lasting impact on their lives and the lives of others - one of which was Sarah the wife of Abraham. Sarah had what Dawn Chere calls a 'Slow Burn' type of faith. This faith is like dynamite - it may lie waiting quietly for a while, but when the time is right it has the power to change everything. This is the type of faith we need in our lives, faith that lasts, no matter what the situation is, no matter how long the journey may be. This faith is immoveable and constant because it reflects a God who is immovable and constant, who always does what He says He will do (Numbers 23:19).
Let's consider Sarah's story in more detail
We learn that when God tells she and Abraham that she will have a child, despite being past the age where she could have children. The concept was so ridiculous that Sarah "laughed to herself" (Genesis 18:12) because her "womb was dead" (Romans 4:19) the level of faith that she was expected to have in this situation was beyond all scientific and situational probability. Nevertheless the Bible tells us that "by faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised." (Hebrews 11:11). In the end, God did keep his promise, as she then gave birth to Isaac and Abraham became the "father of many nations" just like God had said in Genesis 17:4-5
Looking to our own lives, how do we develop the slow burn faith that Sarah had?
Remembering who God is will sustain strengthen your faith, as the author of Psalm 119:59 (MSG) writes "When I took a long, careful look at [God's] ways, I got my feet back on the trail [He] blazed" - we have have proof all around us of God's power to turn around a seemingly dead situation around and when we remind ourselves of this we will also receive the strength that Sarah received. God reminded Sarah herself that "is anything to hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14). If we truly believe God is who he says He is, then the answer will always be no, nothing is too hard, no situation is too bleak for him to restore.
Keeping your eyes fixed on what Jesus has done, is doing and will do will sustain your faith until the end. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Feel encouraged that regardless of how we feel, the fact remains that God who started this work of faith in you will definitely complete it (Philippians 1:6)
Don't focus on your limits and inabilities, because God's abilities are limitless. Where is does our confidence truly come from? Is it in our achievements, our connections and our accolades or is it firmly based on the One who has done incredible things in our lives, even when we didn't ask for it and when we didn't want to engage him? When we start to believe Him more (see point 2.), instead of focusing on what we have or don't have our faith will go from strength to strength.
While you're waiting your prayer to be answered, be encouraged that:
There is faith in your frustration. Even when you feel hurt and upset by the wait, by holding on to what you believe your faith is being continually built up - although it may not feel like that and you may not feel like you're doing it right.
Faith isn't always attractive or smooth sailing, sometimes situations get gritty and tough, we feel we're in a battle and that's okay, it's not always going to feel nice and easy, but the that fact remains is that God will answer you.
After all those years of waiting for the child Isaac, Abraham is sent to take him away to be killed. Yet when Isaac and Abraham are on the mountain - God provides a lamb for the sacrifice and Isaac doesn't have to die. In the same vein, as you're waiting, don't ever think your dream or promise has died, God is providing the solution, sometimes we just have to wait longer than we expect.
You don't need to wait until we get what we want in order to have your 'testimony'. Your testimony is in the fact that you have lasted this long, waiting on God to come through: He has sustained you throughout. So be encouraged, and remember that for every trial we face our faith becomes stronger than ever.
"Like pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine" - 1 Peter 1:7
© Noterie, 2015
Before going to the cross, Jesus prayed so 'earnestly' that blood began to drip from his face (Luke 22:39-44).
Elijah prayed 'earnestly' to stop the rain, and it didn't rain for 3.5 years (James 5:13-18).
There was something about the repetition of earnest in the Word that got me thinking... why is being earnest so important and what does it even mean?
To do something earnestly means "resulting from or showing sincere and intense conviction." (thanks,Google). This description is fitting for some of the deepest prayers at the most focal points in the Word. So how does this translate to my prayer life?
Constant, passionate and bold prayer is the key to living this abundant life - being sincere and convicted that whatever we are praying for will come to pass. This doesn't necessarily mean praying the same thing over and over again, although that sometimes helps when we face resistance (Luke 11:5-13), it's more about being sincere and honest with God.
This shameless audacity and confidence when talking to our Father, is seen in Philippians 4:6 where we are encouraged to "be anxious for nothing but pray about everything! By prayer, petition and thanksgiving present your requests unto God".
Finally, Paul demonstrates how earnest prayer for spiritual gifts will ultimately lead us to the "more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love]", the life God has prepared for us. As we all know, if we ask it will be given, if we seek we will surely find and when we knock the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-11). God doesn't say we 'may' find, God says we WILL find - he guarantees it, so what are you waiting for?