God’s Dreams Are Better Than My Dreams

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I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately.

Not the kind of dreams you have when you’re sleeping, but the kind you have when you’re awake. The kind of dreams that actually keep you from sleeping. The dream of starting a business. The dream of having kids. The dream of getting married. The dream of signing a record deal. The dream of publishing a book. The dream of having a large house. The dream of becoming a missionary.

My generation has been told that if we dream it, we can have it. You want to be President? You can do it. You want to be a teacher? You can do it? You want to be a famous actor? You can do it. With enough hard work, you can make all your dreams come true. It’s sort of like Field of Dreams – if you build it, they will come. If you dream it, it will happen.

I’ll be honest: there have been times when I’ve bought into the dream machine propaganda. I’ve bought the books and read the blog posts and listened to the podcasts. I’ve written out “life plans” for myself, in which I sketch out all the things I want to accomplish over the next five years. I’ve purchased goal-setting apps for my iPhone (yes, I know I’m a nerd).

But in recent months I’ve come to realize something very important: God isn’t in the dream fulfilling business. 

Actually, God does fulfill dreams, just not my dreams. God is in the business of fulfilling his dreams.

This theme runs through all of scripture. God has a plan, a dream if you will, for each person, and he always fulfills that dream. Abraham and Sarah dreamed of having lots of kids together. God dreamed of them having one son together, who would, along with Abraham, be an instrumental part of an incredible covenant between God and God’s people. Moses dreamed of growing up in Pharaoh’s palace. God dreamed of sending Moses into the desert for forty years, then using Moses to lead God’s people out of Egypt. Hannah dreamed of having a large family. God dreamed of her having a son, Samuel, who would be dedicated to the Lord’s service.

The people of Israel dreamed of a Messiah who would come in power and destroy all the enemies of Israel. God dreamed of a Messiah who would come in weakness and humility and be crucified upon a Roman cross.

The moral of the story? God’s dreams for me are better than my dreams for me, and God will always fulfill his dreams.

Deferred, deterred, and destroyed dreams can make your heart feel sick. They can make you question God. Why God? Why am I still single? Why am I stuck in this job? Why is my church still so small? Why can’t I have kids? Why am I still struggling in my marriage? Why am I still battling these health problems?

To which God would reply (without minimizing your pain one bit):

You can trust me. Your dreams aren’t working out, but mine are. You are mine, and I have a plan for you. I will make it happen.

There’s a fascinating phrase in Acts 13:36. Paul says, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption…” God had a very specific purpose for David, and he ensured that David fulfilled that purpose. Once David fulfilled that purpose, he died and went to be with the Lord.

God has a very specific, good, wonderful purpose for you and me. He will fulfill that purpose. My dreams may not come true, but God’s dreams for me will come true. And the good news is: God’s dreams are always much better than mine.

NOTE: I wrote another post on this theme over at the Desiring God blog.

Ever Wish You Could Grow Wings And Just Fly Away?

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Ever feel like David and just wish you could fly away?

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness PS 55:6-7

There have been times I’ve felt like that. I’ve wished I could sprout wings and fly far away. I’ve wished I could move to some distant town where nobody knew me, change my name, and start a new life. I’ve wished I could escape from problems and pain and sadness and dealing with people and hole up in a cabin in the woods somewhere.

But there’s really no escaping sadness and pain in this life. There have been times I’ve felt like quitting. Felt like giving up my faith in Jesus. But every time I have, Jesus’ question to Peter and Peter’s answer comes ringing in my ears:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69

Where else would I go? Jesus has the words of eternal life. And I have come to know that he is the Messiah, the Savior, the Way the Truth and the Life. Where else am I going to go? Back to the bars? Back to my life of sin? Back to the world – that broken empty well that promises happiness but never delivers? Am I going to go to some other religion? I can’t do that. I know the truth. Where else am I going to go? I know that Jesus is my only hope. As much pain as I might be in at the moment, I know that he is my only refuge.

It’s easy to have faith when things are going great. It’s easy to praise God and be thankful when all is going our way. But to trust and praise him in the midst of affliction brings him so much glory. When we suffer, especially in the midst of tragedy and intense pain, we can feel like doing what Job’s wife suggested: “Curse God and die.” Or we can respond like Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I praise him.”

In my forty years as a Christian, I’ve seen believers respond to tragedy and tough times both ways. I’ve seen some become bitter, lose their faith, and stop following Jesus, saying how could a good God allow this? How could a loving God allow me to go through such pain? God didn’t answer my prayers. I believed in him but he didn’t come through.

I’ve also seen believers go through horrific tragedies and yet despite unimaginable sadness, yet through their tears, still lift their voices to Jesus in praise and declare that Jesus is sovereign, wise, loving and good. What glory they bring to God as they lift their hands in worship, even as tears stream down their cheeks. How they honor the Lord! I can’t wait to see the day when Jesus wipes every tear from their eyes and crowns them with glory. And if an angel standing by asks “Why didn’t you give up on Jesus? Why did you keep praising and trusting him?” they’ll answer “Where else would I have gone? Jesus has the words of eternal life. He is the Holy One of God, my Lord, my King. He was my only hope.”

Where else are you going to go?

Jesus is the fountain of life. Every other “fountain” is an empty well. Every other road is a dead end. Pour out your grief to Jesus. Pour out your complaint to him. Ask him your questions. Ask him why you have to go through what you have to go through. Yet resolve to say, “Where else would I go, Jesus? You have the words of eternal life. You are my only hope.” Ask Jesus for comfort and peace. Ask him to bear your sadness. And ask him for grace to praise him in the midst of your affliction.

There’s nowhere else to go. So cling to the one whose everlasting arms of love are upholding you. Run to the one who truly knows your pain and longs to comfort you. Run to the one who is your refuge and strength, your very present help in trouble. Run to the one who has the words of eternal life.

Asking God For Too Much? Maybe You’re Asking For Too Little.

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Believers regularly ask God to do great things.  Things that seem impossible.  Like saving certain people who seem light years away from the kingdom.  Or providing when we can’t see any possible way. Most of us even pray for miracles at times.

The only thing is, we often ask for too little.  We should ask God for great things, especially if they will bring him glory.

In Psalm 81:10 God says:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

God says to his people, “Don’t forget who I am – the LORD – the Creator and Ruler of heaven and earth. I own all things and command all things. Whatever I say, goes. I speak and it happens.

Then he says, “I am…your God.” And you are the sheep of my pasture.  I’ve made a covenant with you to be your God. I have a personal interest in you.

Not only am I the LORD and your God, I brought you up out of the land of Egypt. I redeemed you.  Bought you.  I did the impossible to save you.  Broke the back of the most powerful nation on earth and freed you from the cruel grip of Pharaoh. I saved you, parted the Red Sea when there was no way of escape, wiped out your enemies, kept you safe, and provided for you in the desert. And I brought yo inuto a land flowing with milk and honey.

SO….OPEN YOUR MOUTH WIDE, AND I WILL FILL IT. Ask me for big things. Open your mouth as wide as you can – I can handle that. Remember I am your God who redeemed you. If I gave my Son for you do you think I’ll hold back lesser things? You’re not asking for things that are too big. You’re asking for things that are too small.

A mom in our church recently told me her son is doing a summer internship with a company a few hours away, and every single intern had already booked apartments and hooked up with roommates. An apartment came available, but her son couldn’t possibly afford it alone, and there were no more interns to ask to share it. The mom requested prayer that God would provide a roommate. A young lady in our church got back to her and said, “I’m going to pray that God would provide a CHRISTIAN roommate.” The mom told me she was convicted by the young lady’s faith. The mom hadn’t even thought to ask for a Christian roommate. The landscape for roommates had been so bleak she was just hoping for ANY roommate.

You know what’s coming, right? Someone – yes, a previously unlisted intern – posted in the company Facebook page: “I need a roommate and a place to worship.” God answered the young lady’s prayer! He provided not just a roommate, but a Christian roommate. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it!

Our God is rich and generous. He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20).  So ask him for great things. And when you think your request is as big as you can ask, make it even bigger. Open your mouth even wider. We can’t ask too much from the one who redeemed us by the blood of his Son. We can ask too little, but never too much.

Being A Doubter, Skeptic, Or Questioner, Doesn’t Make You Awesome

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These days, it’s considered cool for a Christian to be a questioner, a doubter, and a skeptic. We’re not going to accept the canned faith of our parents! We’re not going to accept anything at face value! We’re going to ask all the hard questions. Our parents simply accepted what they were told from the pulpit. Not us. We’re courageous in the face of doubt. We’re going to question everything from sexuality to evolution to conservative politics to gay rights to abortion to the inerrancy of the Bible. We’ve got new information, and this information changes everything!

You get my point.

And don’t get me wrong: there is an appropriate time and place to ask hard questions. Every Christian needs to honestly wrestle through the various issues that they face.

But I think it’s important to remember that in scripture, God doesn’t give any special honor to the questioner. God isn’t impressed by the skeptic. He doesn’t think it’s particularly courageous to constantly question his word. In fact, God actively honors faith and actively resists unbelief and skepticism.

Rather, God is impressed by the man or woman who wholeheartedly embraces the word of God, even when the circumstances seem to contradict God’s word.

  • When the bleeding woman touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, he said to her, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (Matthew 9:22).
  • When the centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant from afar, Jesus responded by saying, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9)
  • When Abraham saw Sarah getting older and older, he didn’t waver in his faith in God’s promise of a son: “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20).

God doesn’t take kindly to constant doubt, questioning, and skepticism. God delights in the man who totally embraces the Bible, with no wavering or hesitation. Who trusts the promises of God without constantly questioning. Who resists cynicism and skepticism and constant doubt.

Let’s ask questions. But let’s ask them while maintaining the constant attitude of faith.

How To Grow Strong In Your Faith

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In Romans 4, Paul tells us Abraham “grew strong in his faith” and urges us to walk in Abraham’s footsteps. To believe like he believed. How do we do this?

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18-21)

Look to God’s promise not your circumstances.

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations (18)

Abraham’s situation looked bleak. God promised him multitudes of descendants, but the only problem was he was well past child producing. “He considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old).” He also considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. Not only was Abraham almost 100 years old, but Sarah his wife was very old and she had never been able to have children her whole life. How are they going to have children? If Abraham had based his hope on his circumstances he would have given up. But In hope he believed against hope – God’s promise gave him hope in his hopeless situation. He put his hope in God’s promise, not his circumstances.

We may feel hopelessly unrighteous. We may feel like God could never forgive us for the sins we have committed, that he would never accept us. But we must not look at ourselves, just like Abraham didn’t look at himself, but like Abraham, we must believe God’s promise of grace. He counts me righteous in Christ!

Our teenager may seem hopelessly lost. Our finances may be out of control. We may lack direction for our lives. Our marriage might be frustrating or our church might be a mess.  Look to Jesus Christ! Don’t look to yourself. Look to the promise of the gospel – everyone who believes in him shall be saved. Look to his promises to draw near to those who draw near to him. Promises to hear and answer our prayers.

Give glory to God

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (20-21)

Abraham strengthened his faith.  Here’s how: “He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Begin to give glory to God – start thanking and praising him for his every promise. Thank him for saving you and declaring you righteous in him.  He has promised to be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through fire. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He has promised that nothing will be able to separate us from his love. He has promised to give us everything we truly need to glorify him. He has promised that we can do all things he requires through Christ who loves us.  Praise him for these things!

We can look to our circumstances – it may not LOOK like God is being faithful. It may not FEEL like God is with us in these waters. It may FEEL like he has abandoned or forsaken us. We may not SENSE his love. But WE MUST NOT WAVER CONCERNING THE PROMISE OF GOD! Rather, we grow strong in our faith as we GIVE GLORY TO GOD, as we are fully convinced that God is able to do what he had promised.

In Ps 43 the Psalmist says “Why are you cast down O my soul? Hope in God for I shall yet praise him.” Keep thanking God, keep praising him in faith in the midst of your hard times. Say, “Jesus thank you that you are with me. Thank you have promised that your steadfast love never ceases. Praise you that your mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

Growing stronger in our faith is not complicated.  Look to God’s promise and glorify him.  So what are you going to believe today – God’s word or your circumstances? God’s promises or your feelings? God’s bedrock pledge of faithfulness or your wavering emotions? Walk in the footsteps of Abraham and strengthen your faith.