New 2 Faith: “God Wants to Hear from You”

One of the many reasons prayer is viewed as a last resort when we face challenges is that we have an inaccurate perception of God. We sometimes mistakenly think that God has only a distant, impersonal level of interest in our lives. However, the fact is that God is intimately interested in your life. He created you for His pleasure, and wants to work in you and through you!

Prayer is simply defined as communication with God. Think about a close friendship you have. Sure, that person is there for you when you need them, but you talk to them all the time, don’t you? You share your lives, don’t you? Well, God wants to be your best friend. You can tell Him everything and anything, you can laugh with Him, you can talk about your day with Him, you can be honest with Him, you can express the desires of your heart with Him. The bottom line is He wants to hear it all! God greatly desires that you have intimate, personal communication with Him.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20

Jesus is knocking at the door of our hearts, desiring a precious time of fellowship on a personal level. Simply opening that door to Jesus’ gentle request for fellowship is the beginning of a successful, effective and rewarding prayer life filled with God’s blessings.

God is the true source of refuge in life, and He wants to show us His faithfulness and love – no challenge is ever too big for Him – He simply wants to hear from you.

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Matthew Curious: McDonaldization

For most of my life, I thought waiting was about killing time. A passive way to spend the interim between here and there. Twiddling thumbs in the line at the post office. Rocking in a chair on the porch ‘til a waitress calls your name for a table at Cracker Barrel. Those things frustrate me, though. It’s just delaying my preferred outcome.

I read a book for a sociology class once in college called the McDonaldization of Society. It was about how our culture has basically trained us to expect efficiency to the point that it robs us of experience. The emergence of fast-food restaurants has taught us to replace tradition, values, and emotions. We sacrifice interaction with calculated outcomes for behavior. In the midst of all of this, we have trained ourselves to operate impatiently.

Over time, we have taught ourselves that waiting is bad.

But as it turns out, waiting with God is something else entirely.

Waiting is courageous. Waiting is brave. Waiting is active. Waiting is full of experience along the way. It’s not a void that we’re stuck in until something new happens. It doesn’t make us victims of circumstances we can’t change. Waiting is growing, and is pursuit. Waiting cultivates strength and rich experience.

Waiting can be hard but waiting can be joyful.

And waiting can only be joyful when my heart is filled with thanks.

And thankfulness multiplies when I chronicle the goodness of the Father in my life. When I notice it. When I write it down. When I look for all the blessings all around me.

Time can feel so slow when I’m waiting for answers and outcomes. When all I can see is a certain end in mind, will I trust that what God has for me in between is good? Will I believe that He really does desire to bring me a hope and a future?

Can we look outside of our plans enough to find thankfulness and gratitude in the wait? That thankfulness will produce a new joy, which converts to strength that we are going to need if we are to be courageous and wait. To wait on the Lord is to renew it all. Soak in His goodness, and know that the hope I carry is rooted in the truth of heaven, not the fruition of earthly hopes. Are we willing to be curious enough while we wait to wonder what God may be up to? Curious enough to wonder what He may be preparing us for?

Waiting is not a delay of the thing we have in our mind’s eye. It is about being present in the now, and placing a longing hope in God. It is the space in which we root ourselves in truth and learn to want God more than our own desires.

Matthew Curious: Zig Zag or Rat Race?

Do you always take the same route home? Or do you switch it up? Are you so afraid of getting lost, or taking longer to get where you’re going, that you’re unwilling to see what could be in store for you along the way? I wonder how often we get stuck in the same ruts because of our unwillingness to trust God enough to walk into the unknown. How often does our need to control rob us of delights that God desires us to experience? I bet a whole lot of the time, we miss out on seeing ways He longs to shepherd us in as we explore life.

Why don’t we trust Him when he says, You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).

When He says, that He leads the humble in what is right, and reaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies (Ps. 25:9-10).

On the other hand, a whole lot of the time, instead of zigging and zagging to explore new pathways, we get caught up in what feels like a rat race. One minute we may be fine meandering this way and that in life, trusting God at each turn, but then maybe we catch a glimpse of where we think He might be taking us. Suddenly, we are hardly following God anymore as we are focused on what lies at the end of the journey. We become practically obsessed with obtaining what appears to lie within our reach that we veer off of the lovely backroads of life where God wants to reveal the peaceful landscape to us. Before we even know what’s happening, we are speeding up an on-ramp to a busy interstate and find ourselves stuck in endless traffic jamming up our purpose and plan. The goal appears to lie ahead, but the journey to get there becomes more about safely navigating the insanity around us than it does enjoying the route. We try to control the journey to get where we are going the most direct and expedient way, and so often miss out on the gifts that God wants to reveal to us when we zig and zag and follow Him.

How often do we turn our eyes from following God, and instead follow other people? Instead of journeying the road that God has for us, we focus on someone else’s destination and find ourselves on a pathway we were never meant to travel?

What if the greatest story of your life is waiting to happen on a zig zag outside of your control? Are you curious enough? Do you trust Him enough to believe that the road He leads you on doesn’t end where sand meets water, but instead makes a way where there wouldn’t have been one without Him?

Matthew Curious: The Value of a Masterpiece

Recently, I came across a Dove soap video produced in France that reduced me to tears. In the clip, women had been asked to record all of the thoughts that they had heard about themselves throughout the day in a journal. Dove then turned the women’s thoughts into a dialogue that played out in a street café within earshot of several other tables, including the original women who wrote the words in the journals.

“You have a big chest and short legs. Some women can make that work. But, you … you’ve got no charm. You’re just fat and ordinary. Every time you smile, those baby teeth you have, they make you look like a mouse. Sit straight up so your belly doesn’t look so big.”

People overhearing the conversation were horrified to hear the way that the women spoke to one another.

“That’s so violent, what you’re saying to her! You should stop. Your words are so unkind.” Strangers interrupted the horrendous exchange.

Upon the realization that the words being played out were their own, the women who had journaled the original thoughts were mortified.

“It’s so horrifying. I hope my daughter never speaks to herself like that,” one woman marveled.

I cried my way through the video, realizing that it wasn’t just those women, I do it too. So many of us do.Over and over we devalue ourselves. But, we cannot walk into our full potential in Christ when we believe that who He created us to be falls woefully short.

But we forget! How often do we all forget our value?! How often do we believe the lies of the world instead of the words of our Creator about us? We set aside the truth that Jesus came and lived and died to prove to us our value to the God of the Heavens. Even Dove soap sees our value. Our value lies inherent in a renowned creator. Yet still, call ugly what God calls a “masterpiece.” And then, we operate out of belief of those lies and lose capacity to follow curiously.

How we minimize that ultimate price paid when we insist that more is still due to redeem our messy lives. We make Satan’s job so simple. He plants one tiny lie somewhere along the way, and we take it from there all the way to our own crippling self destruction.

We all have them; the lies we believe. Yet we try to replace them with new ideas or things that we think will cover them. But, eventually, the new thing’s façade cracks and the old lie is still there … still digging deep into our beliefs about everything. Instead of moving forward in curiosity after God, we get stuck on lies about ourselves. It matters so much that we learn to uncover the lies. Let’s name them. Let’s call them out … Let’s just STOP believing them, and replace them instead with the truth of Christ.

Matthew Undecided: Parallels

Parallels

God can see out across all of time like waves on the horizon of Heaven. He sees you — every version of you. He sees the selfish and selfless, wise and foolish. He sees your darkest shame and proudest joy. He sees you in the present and the past just as clearly as he sees you in the future.

In fact, he sees every possible version of your future — all the alternate versions of what you might become with different choices and circumstances. He knows your greatest potential and the greatest threats to your destiny. God exists outside of time and has the amazing ability to see all these versions of you at once. The good and bad — the past, present and future — are all intertwined in his eyes.

We’re accustomed to seeing ourselves as we are today. We assume God sees us the same way, but God’s feelings for you are like the light from stars. When you appreciate the beauty of a starry night, it can feel as if that moment were arranged just for you. But the light from the most distant of those stars has been traveling for thousands of years just to meet your eyes as you glance up.

Meanwhile, the nearest stars only had to shine their beams for a few years to reach you at that same time. They’re all part of an ancient symphony God choreographed to reach you at that exact moment. It may seem haphazard, but God tapped his baton to start the concert long before your great grandparents were conceived.

Imagine living for another hundred years, and you’re lying on your back looking up at the sky watching the constellations take shape early in the evening. That future celestial concert has already been written, and it’s speeding toward that future moment with you in the backyard of a home you don’t even own yet on a cloudless night at that exact moment you will walk outside.

God’s feelings for you are just as choreographed. Long before you gasped for your first breath of earth air, and before you ever read your first passages from the Bible, and long before you did anything to deserve approval or punishment from God — he was writing the symphony of his love for you — all of you.

That’s why when God’s angel spoke to a frightened impotent Gideon hiding in the winepress, he said “the Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior.” It wasn’t a pep talk. He wasn’t trying to psych Gideon up so he would act boldly. God saw every version of Gideon, including the future warrior who would soon destroy the ungodly idols of his father and lead a bold charge with an underdog army to dispel the evil that had plagued Israel.

If you ever intend to have a deeper relationship with God than you do right now, you will have to learn to accept his unconditional love. Don’t bring your guilty presumptions. Jesus saw all of your sins before he carried them on the cross, and he suffered in spite of it all because his love for you was established long ago.

Prayer

God, help me to understand the depth and complexity of your love. You know more about me than I can comprehend, and you still love me. Open my eyes so that I recognize the little moments you choreographed just for me.