The 3 Ways Jesus Sifts Our Desires

siftThis one might lose me a few followers.

Desires. Dreams. Prayers. Goals.

Whatever you want to call them, they are fire to Christians – powerful, vital, destructive when handled wrong. We must be careful with desires these days. There is such bad teaching out there about God and desires, so much energy mischanneled into pursuing your dreams without a thought as to God’s dreams, that we must handle the subject gingerly.

My testimony involves the sanctification of my desires. I found over the years that viewing God as annoyed, threatened, or dismissive of my desires did not bring me closer to him. Of course, nor did clinging to them ahead of his will and love. Neither view is flattering to God, nor entirely Biblical.

Jesus ran into a lot of deep desires in the course of his ministry. Healing, justice, provision, greatness, life. His responses to these pleadings contain surprises for everyone. He granted some, denied some, but most importantly there seemed to be a sifting. He didn’t always heal/feed/deliver immediately; he’d ask a question first, or deny a desire flat-out, in order to get at the heart of the person. Whatever the desire, Jesus was determined to sanctify it, to make it holy.

Interestingly, his denials seem to undergo three distinct tests: faith, paradox, or eternity.

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Can You Be a Realist and Still Have Faith?

Public domain image from www.public-domain-image.comI saw a friend ask this question on my Facebook feed recently.

We all desire. Victory, deliverance, breakthrough, blessing, healing, hearts’ desires. It’s a tricky high-wire, for no matter what some say, the Christian life is not all about these things. George Herbert wrote,

To be in both worlds full
Is more than God was, who was hungry here.

Is a servant is greater than his master? The Bible doesn’t stutter: not every prayer will be granted in this life. And that is both curse and privilege. We simply must start there. If you can’t accept that word, your life will be a shattering staccato of foiled expectations.

However.

I’ve also learned not to put limits on God’s generosity. He is scandalously generous. Sometimes the church, in frustration with the masses grasping for “prosperity” and deaf to all else, races to the other extreme and throws cold water on blessing of any kind. You’ve probably absorbed this yourself. Just observe your reaction if I write the phrase “bold prayer”. You instantly pull up and worry: Is this right? Respectful? Scriptural? It’s understandable hesitation.

But God does answer prayer. The Bible speaks of many such times, holds them out  rather excitedly. God reveals himself through “yes” as well as “no”.

So…where is this generosity? Our experiences don’t match up to that awesome power  – yet. “This is reality,” we want to say. “God doesn’t do that stuff anymore.”

I certainly want to believe. What is reality if God is your God?

But regardless of how many stories we hear about provisions and breakthroughs, something in our hearts has a hard time with faith. Some of us are fed up with hope; others are just down-to-earth by nature. We feel stuck between reality and faith, between hope and surrender. “If I’m going to undertake a long season of prayer,” we say, “then I want to know I’m grounded in reality.”

You could have been friends with Abraham.

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The Real Story of Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

tunnelSuch a comforting verse. We trot out Jeremiah 29:11 like a “break glass in case of fear” extinguisher. When our lives seem to devolve into chaos, when we’re confronted with a fork in a murky road, or when we just need reminding that God’s in control, we turn to this verse. And why not? What could be more reassuring that our God is both completely in control and completely for us?

A friend was deciding what college to attend. The choice before her was either a state university or a trendy private Christian one. Being the ambitious and spiritual type, she wanted the Christian one. I probably would, too. As so many high school graduates do, when the choice seemed to swell and get too big in her mind, she would invoke Jeremiah 29:11 (amongst other verses) in order to find peace as she sought God’s will.

Although she was not demanding one choice from God, she – and I watching her, and many others before and since – was about to glean the true lesson of Jeremiah 29:11.

It’s not what you think.

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