Better Days Ahead

By: Arianna N. (age 15)

It’s easy to compare ourselves to our past. To see how much we have grown, and progressed. It’s not easy, though, to move on from the past whether it’s negative or positive. What do I mean? Sometimes we can look back on how bad life was and can’t move on. Sometimes we can also look back on how great life was and can’t move on. Here’s an example: when I was in middle school I used to workout a lot–about 4 times a week. When I got into high school I would barely workout, maybe just once every 2 weeks. I felt like I had no time, more responsibilities and couldn’t achieve as much as I did before, but I would really try my best. We all should. From that I started to realize that God just wants the best in us. Life doesn’t get easier, it gets harder. We need to plan our day and try to make time in our day. I also learned that our best days are ahead of us. In Isaiah 41:10 it says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God is with us, let’s start looking into his eyes so that he can guide us into the life destined for us and not get stuck looking back. Remember God is with you through the whole process; with him your best days are ahead of you!

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23

Remembrance

Samara Catherine Noyola 

Down memory Lane


He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Luke 22:19

I had been wearing a chic new knit cape for a couple of weeks when I noticed a tiny button on the very bottom of a corner of the cape. I thought it odd, but knew if couldn’t be random. I carefully inspected every inch of the cape to see where this button connected to. I found the hole in the corner at the neck, diagonally across from the button. The cape is meant to be worn crossed over the shoulder! It was dashing before, but now it’s on another level of stylish. How advantageous it is to use something to its fullest potential.

This makes me think of Jesus during his last meal with his disciples before the crucifixion. Jesus demonstrates with the breaking of the bread (representing his body) and wine (as his blood)the sacrifice and promise he made for humanity’s redemption.

He instructs his disciples that they too should break bread and have wine in remembrance of him.  Aside from being obedient in fulfilling this sacrament of our Christian faith, do we know the utility of this remembrance? Do we use it to its full potential?

What happens when we remember the Lord?

Let’s look at Psalms 77, we find the author in deep distress. He is feeling unheard by God. He’s an emotional wreck.He reminisces about the good old days–how protected and loved he once felt by God. Things are different now. His joy is gone and he feels that God has turned against him. However, amid his melt down, he pauses, collects himself and begins“remembering God”. He recalls the wonderful and mighty things the Lord has done. The authors focus shifted from himself and onto God’s goodness.

Difficult seasons in our lives can leave us anxious, lonely and distressed. If we make the situation or our feelings the object of our attention, we unintentionally cause them to increase in magnitude, leaving us overwhelmed and vulnerable.

In a similar way, when we use the gift of remembrance to its fullest potential, by focusing on Jesus, we make God greater than the situation.  

What does it look like when we remember Jesus?

Remembering Jesus is recalling the ways you’ve seen him come through for you. It’s bringing to memory and believing the words and promises he’s spoken. For example, when I am feeling alone, I remember Jesus said He will always be with me even to the end of the age. (Matt 28:20). When I focus on this and the times when I know without doubt that he was there with me, I can trust that although I don’t feel Him right now,He’s there.

or

When I pray and don’t see the answers right away, I remember that he’s a way maker and that Jesus said that His Father is always working and so is He (John 5:17). Remembering this truth gives me hope that he is working on my behalf.

or

When I mess up and feel that I cannot approach God, I remember that there is nothing that can separate me from His love. (Romans 8:38-39).

When we use our remembrance of God’s track record as a point of reference in our situations, we have reason to hope and believe that He will see us through again.

Dear God, thank you for all you have done and will do for me. Thank you for the gift of remembrance and its power to provide me the hope and faith that I need to get through rough times. Thank you for the Holy Spirit whose job it is to bring to remembrance all that Jesus has taught.Teach me to write your words on my heart that I may hold near to your promises.In Jesus’s name. Amen.

My Moment: Is there a challenge that you are currently facing where you are more focused on the problem than on God? Can you remember times that has God seen you through other difficult situations?

Comment: God has been calling me to share his message in ways in which I am inexperienced and feel completely unqualified for(writing and speaking). Although I know he’s put a message in my heart, I have been more consumed by my insecurity and self-doubt than on the beautiful message he’s crafted in my heart.  If I’m honest though, I remember the times when I have taken the leap and decided to obey his leading in things that scare me. He’s always proven himself faithful to see me through and I know that I can trust God.

Worth His Wait

 “But when Jesus heard about it he said, ‘Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.’ So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. Finally, he said to his disciples, ‘Let’s go back to Judea.’” John 11:4-7 NLT (emphasis added)

I’m a pretty patient person…at least like to think so, but one thing about me is I really like a quick response. Whether it’s a text, an email or a prayer, I like to know it’s been received and I like acknowledgement—preferably in the form of a speedy response. Basically, that means that I’m a refresh-every-five-minutes, obsessive-package-tracking, online shopper. Whether it’s a book that I’ve found at a discount on Amazon or a birthday gift that I’ve been saving up for, once I place that two-day shipping order, I keep checking for delivery info and tracking it until it reaches my front door! Oftentimes, I find that in other areas of my life, my desire for a quick turnaround looks a lot like this, too. That miracle? I want it immediately. That provision? I’d like it now, please. The trouble is, sometimes things don’t come as soon as we order them. Sometimes, instead of “showing up” right away, Jesus waits.

In this passage, we see Mary and Martha in desperate need of a miracle for their brother and they needed it quick, fast and in a hurry, but the Bible says that Jesus stayed where he was. More than that, it says, “although he loved them,” he waited.

As I read these verses, I’m struck by the idea of Jesus waiting or staying although he loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. I think about my own life and the things I’ve been praying for. Things that I’ve cried out to God about, hoping for him to show up in it quickly. How many times do those things reach what seems like the breaking point or the point of no return? That moment when we know the thing that we love, the thing that we so desperately wanted healing for reaches the point of certain and definitive death.

I have moments like that every now and again. When things don’t quite go as planned and I feel like the dream is dying right before my eyes. Moments when the things God has spoken over my life and some of the things in my heart seem so far away. Being in my early thirties, there’s still so much that hasn’t yet happened. I remember on one occasion telling God how I felt about it. I know he loves me, but why hasn’t he shown up yet? Though I didn’t say it out loud, my innermost thought was, God is holding out on me. Mid-prayer/pity-party, God interrupts me to say, “I’m not holding out on you. I make everything beautiful in my time.” I recall verse 15 of this chapter, when Jesus says that he’s glad for the sake of the disciples that he didn’t get to Lazarus sooner, so that they would believe. You see, Jesus was using what seemed like a delay as a teaching moment—as a faith-growing moment.

Sometimes we get caught up in our own plans, thinking that our timing is best. When things don’t go according to our schedules, it hurts, we grieve. Often, we look for the “why” in our pain. Why didn’t God do the thing we “needed” him to do? Why hasn’t he shown up yet? Doesn’t he know we need him, now? We forget that even though sometimes things don’t go as planned, that doesn’t mean they went wrong. In verse 21 of this passage, Martha tells Jesus, “If only you would have been here, my brother would not have died.” But Jesus says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Friends, I believe Jesus waited because he had a bigger plan and there was a greater purpose to come out of the situation and this required him to stay and wait. His timing was perfect, even though to Mary, Martha and Lazarus, it seemed late. Much too late. However, his timing provided the platform for one of the most memorable miracles ever and it grew the faith of those who heard and saw. At the end of this story, many saw what Jesus had done and were saved—very likely, many more than if Jesus had shown up and healed Lazarus sooner.

I just want to encourage you to know and hold fast to the fact that God loves us; when it seems like he’s waiting and when he’s staying his hand in those moments where we want him to act now, even then, the waiting is done with love and purpose. God doesn’t want to see us in pain–he’s our Father, but because he sees the bigger picture, his timing is always perfect. No tear is wasted, no heartache will go unredeemed. There’s no dead thing he can’t bring back to life. He will reach more people in his timing through your story than you could ever imagine. Trust that the wait is worth it, the growth in your faith is worth it and trust that in the end, it will be beautiful.


Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

What are some areas in your life that you’ve prayed for God to show up in that you are still waiting on a miracle for? Take some time this week to pray over one or two of those areas in your life and ask the Holy Spirit to help you release them and to help grow your faith through the waiting process—trusting that regardless of what it looks like now, his timing will be perfect.

Good, Good Father #BreadNotStones

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:7-11 (ESV)


I’ve had what I’d call a “recurring theme” in my heart over these past few months. I’ve been thinking about all the ways that it can be difficult sometimes for us as Christians to trust that the will of God for us is better than our own will for ourselves. I don’t think we do it consciously or for lack of faith, nor do I think that it necessarily has to do with rebellion or wanting our own way. Nonetheless, it’s something that I think can be pretty common if we’re not careful.

As I’ve been going over this recurring theme and as it’s been taking shape in my heart, I’ve realized how I, in some ways, have this underlying and oftentimes disguised distrust of the will of God for certain areas of my life. This sounds weird, but hear me out, I think it’s more common than we realize. In fact, I can think of two recent conversations that can be traced back to this fear, albeit on opposite ends of the spectrum. A couple of months ago, at Evening College, someone asked about knowing how to discern that what we pray for isn’t going against the will of God. Just a few weeks ago, a wonderful friend of mine asked me if I believe in the Law of Attraction or speaking the things we desire into existence. Both these questions are valid, but I think that the underlying common denominator that may not be so obvious, is fear of praying: “not my will, but yours be done.” In the first, we pray and hope that our prayers don’t somehow fly past the mark of what God is willing for us and in the second, we skip the prayer/surrender and asking part altogether and depend on a sort of forceful, cosmic, wishful thinking to propel our dreams into reality.

Not long ago, I woke up with this verse in mind about the child asking his father for bread and I thought about how so often we are afraid to ask not our will but God’s will be done because somewhere deep down in our minds and in our hearts we fear that our Heavenly Father may just be the kind of father who when asked for bread gives a stone. We know he loves us and we’ve experienced him come through for us in ways we never could have even imagined, but somehow this fear creeps up in us that his will for us is in some way less than our wills for ourselves; that somehow in the great exchange of our will for his, we’ll get the short end of the stick. We get scared of surrendering our will or saying, “Here’s what’s in my heart, Father, but do as you will.” We fear losing out–afraid that trusting or surrendering the desires of our heart to God will leave us empty-handed or disappointed. We fear that his will may just cost us too much.

Afraid to let go

I’m reminded of the rich man in Mark 10:17-31 who comes to Jesus and asks what he needs to do to be saved. Jesus tells him to obey the commandments and afterwards he also tells him to sell all he has and give it to the poor and to come follow Jesus. The man, unable to fathom giving up what he had in exchange for what Jesus said, went away dejected. This passage teaches us about the things that have a grip on our hearts and we usually look at it in the context of the love of money, but I’ve found that there are other things that we have in our hearts and in our hands that we are just as afraid to give up as this man was with his possessions and money. What the man unfortunately didn’t understand was that what Jesus was telling him to give up paled in comparison (by far) to what Jesus was actually offering him. What he didn’t understand, and what we all can miss sometimes, is that a trade with Jesus is never a downgrade…ever! With him we always get more than we bargained for. How much more? Let’s look at Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think. Exceedingly. Abundantly. Above. All. That sounds like a pretty good deal when we think about it, hey?! We have to remember when it comes to Jesus, our trade-in is always a trade-up. And who doesn’t like an upgrade?! He wants us to ask, he wants us to aim high and dream big, because he’s ready and able to exceed our biggest ask and our greatest dream!

I love this verse and I find myself clinging to it very often, but I think it’s worth mentioning that the verse says something else besides the part we frequently emphasize…it says he is “able to do”. Are you wondering to yourself, What are you getting at, Karen? I’ll tell you. God is able to do more than we ask or think, but I think that sometimes we get stuck on what we want and how we want it. We pray our prayers and hope that Father gives us exactly the bread we ask for, exactly as we want it and hope to  not get a stone. But here’s the thing: we focus so much on what to us may seem good (and is good) that we don’t always get to the place where we trust enough to release it to God to do the “exceedingly, abundantly above” part. The part that he’s actually wanting to do and able to do! Guess what? His bread is better than what we ask for! He can blow our minds–it’s what he does! It’s what he’s always done! But somehow, we can forget how good he is, how kind he is, how generous and gracious he is and desires to be towards us, his children. His is always the better thing and he can always do more with our lives than we could even think up on our own.

Afraid to lose out

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13

Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing. Psalm 34:10

I am a firm believer that as Christ-followers, God gives us the desires of our hearts in more ways than one. I believe he gives us the desires of our hearts when we delight in him (i.e. he grants them to us), but I also believe that he places those God-desires in us. Not our tainted, selfish ambitions or vain desires to chase after fleeting things, but those things in our heart that stem from a place of pure desire to honor and please him. Those God-dreams that you just can’t shake. The passion that burns in our heart. The ideas and flow of creativity that is so much greater than us. Those things in us that point to our creative, compassionate and wise Father in whose image we were made. Oftentimes, though, we treat those things like they are ours and like they must be protected like a coveted toy on the playground—fearing that God, like the big playground bully, will take it from us leaving us empty-handed. We may think that giving him what’s in our hand will leave us losing out, but just the opposite is true: trusting in God and not in our own strength never leaves us with less, it makes room for more. Our surrender and our trust in him makes room for the supernatural, because what he’s wanted all along is for us to be lacking no good thing.

He wants to do amazing things in and through our lives; he’s put those desires in us and he wants us to trust him with them. He wants us to delight in him as he outworks his will in our lives in ways we couldn’t even imagine and in ways we couldn’t do ourselves, but that comes with surrendering our will to him and trusting him with our most intimate and precious dreams. That comes with trusting that everything we have, we’ve been given by him and for him and there’s no greater place for our will and desires to be than surrendered to the hands of the one who grants them to us. It comes with seeking first the kingdom of God, seeking his righteousness, his ways and knowing he’ll grant and add on the rest.

James 1:16-17 says:

Do not be deceived my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

We’re not going to lose out and he’s not going to disappoint us. Every good and perfect gift comes from him. His thoughts towards us are good. His plans for us are good. His will is perfect. We don’t have to be afraid that we’ll lose out–with him we lack nothing!

I’d be remiss to say this is all some easy exchange. Living a “not my will, but your will be done”  life never comes without a cost. We see it best in our greatest example: Jesus. On the night of his betrayal before his arrest, through tears and sweat, he prayed those words. His cost was suffering, pain, death, but the reward he saw (Hebrews 12:2) was greater: the power of sin and death defeated once and for all, humanity reconciled to the Father, the future of the world changed forever. The process from our will to his costs us to stretch, it costs us obedience, it costs our pride, it costs our faith. The good news is there is no cost that he hasn’t graced us for. There’s no stretch he won’t see us through. We have the empowerment of God within us, pushing us forward into what he’s already actually prepared for us. Things that are greater than anything we could plan for ourselves.

So, friends, my questions for us to think on this week are these: What have we been afraid to ask for? Not realizing that we’re never going to lose out. What things in our hearts and in our hands have we been afraid to release to God? Not realizing that surrender is the best position to be in for God to do something great. Are there any areas of our lives that we have been afraid that God just won’t show up in–areas that perhaps we’ve been fearful of receiving stones instead of bread? Friends, can I just encourage you that whether or not our plans for us look like his plan for us, we can rest assured that whatever he’s got for us will always be the better thing. There is nothing we can’t trust our Father with. There’s no area we can out-dream him in. His dreams are bigger, fuller and more far reaching. There’s nothing we can out-plan him in. His plans are more perfect, more wise, more creative, more impactful. We can ask and we can surrender, because he’s ready to do exceedingly, abundantly above our wildest dreams. So, surrender that dream. Ask for that thing. Don’t be afraid. Our Father never gives out stones for bread.

 

 

Passion for Your Purpose: Go Where it’s Deeper

Hey Friends,

As we wrap up the the theme of passion for your purpose, this week’s blog is all about moving forward and trying again in the wake of failure and disappointment. We’ve all experienced before, but what do we do when we feel nudged by God to give it another go?

I hope you enjoy this post and most of all, I hope it’s as encouraging to you as it has been to me.

x KC


One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. Luke 5:1-9 (NLT)

Go out where it is deeper and let down your nets…

Have you ever hit a wall in your pursuit of a dream? Have you ever experienced disappointment when going after the things you know you were meant to do, things that you know to do well? I have. In the passage above, we can see that Peter and this group of fishermen definitely did.  Jesus meets Simon Peter and his crew as they were washing their nets after a long and unproductive night fishing. This group of knowledgeable, seasoned fishermen–doing what they knew well to do–had come back empty-handed when Jesus met them on the sea that day. They were probably tired, disappointed and feeling like they’d wasted their time. I’m sure most of us can relate because, let’s be honest, doesn’t life feel just like this sometimes? Especially in moments when, like these fishermen, we do the things we know how to do well–moments when we are operating in our gifts and talents, doing the things we know that we were purposed for–and still somehow after all that fishing, we come back with nothing? I love that this story opens with Jesus coming across them washing their nets because many times I’ve been found washing my nets feeling like giving up, disappointed after trying hard and seemingly having caught nothing.

I also love that the story doesn’t end there.

I’ve been looking at this passage for a while now and there’s just so much there that it’s been hard for me to find a place to start. But in these past few months in my life where I find myself feeling like I’ve been fishing all night to no avail, what sticks out to me is Simon Peter’s response to Jesus’s instructions; he essentially says, I’ve been there. We’ve done it already. I already tried. We already gave it all we had. BUT, If you say so, I will. “If you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.”

Sure a story like this can sound like a good example of the importance of persistence and perseverance, but what happens when even after we persist and persevere, we come up with nothing? I could rattle off a laundry list of things that I have at some point tried and been persistent and hopeful about, only to feel the sting of disappointment. You know, those shoulda happened by now types of things. Those, I’m doing everything I should, but this isn’t working type of things. Those, no matter how hard I try, this still hasn’t happened type of things.

These guys fished all night. They were hustling. They were grinding–they put in the work. I think they had the persistence game in the bag, but persistence didn’t get them the big catch–obedience did. Peter’s “If you say so, I will,” posture of obedience put him in the right place for the haul that God had already prepared for him, but he had to go out and cast his net again. Our obedience puts us in the right position for receiving the promise. The haul is His to position, but the net is ours to cast. 

My Pastor says something that I think about often in moments when I’m feeling defeated. He says, “Sometimes a set-back is just a set-up for a miracle.” Peter didn’t have a “reason” to follow Jesus’s directions about going back out where it was deeper and casting his nets again. Their experience told them there was nothing to be caught that day, but Peter didn’t let his experience dictate his obedience to Jesus’s instruction. If they would have left based on their experience, they would have never received the bounty that they did.

So, in light of this, I look at my own life and I encourage you to look at yours. Think about those areas where God has been calling us to go deeper. Think about where God is telling us to get back in the boat and cast our nets again. Even now, there are things that we need to choose obedience over discouragement and persistent faith over fear where it may cost us a bit more because we’re tired and already washing our nets in disappointment.

Where can we go deeper?

Where can we cast our nets again?

I want to encourage you, friend. Cast again in obedience. Cast again in faith. Cast again in surrender. Cast again even if it costs.

Peter’s obedience to go out where it was deeper and cast again didn’t just benefit or bless him; both boats were filled to the brink of sinking. What’s more, I think it’s fair to assume that the guys in the other boat didn’t even go out and try again as Jesus directed. The passage tells us that those in Peter’s boat had to call out for help from the other boat when they made their big catch, which likely means that they had stayed behind. But isn’t it like God to do a lot with a little? In fact, Peter tells Jesus, “Leave me, I’m too much of a sinner,” because he was so amazed at what Jesus could do. But Jesus goes on to tell him, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will fish for people.” Friends, God always wants to do more with our lives than what we expect. Peter caught the haul of his life because Jesus allowed him to, but beyond that, Jesus invited him into something even greater. Something that would last longer. God wants to bless us where we’re at and our obedience will be the catalyst for it, but believe that he has even more in store for us than we can imagine. He is inviting us into building his church, into being fishers of men in our workplaces, in our communities, in our schools, in our families, in our homes, but it requires us to go deeper, it requires us to obediently cast our nets again in the things he’s called us to–even when it makes no sense and even if others won’t come along with us.

So I ask again, where is God calling us to go where its deeper? Where is he directing you to cast your net again? Maybe you tried on your own already. Maybe you did everything you knew to do. But go where its deeper, cast again, try again, let out your net again, dream again, pray again, get into the Word again, take a chance on that business again, have faith again, believe again, engage in relationship again, forgive again, create again, get healthy again, do what you’ve been called you to do again, because guys, there’s a haul that he’s set up that’s too big for just you or for me, there are others who’s lives will will be changed by our obedience as well.