faith Hannah Bryant
Have you ever really thought about how much God loves you? Sure, God has said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV). You know that he loves you and that his love will last forever. But what does that really mean? A lot of the time, we hear those phrases and then don’t think twice about them. So ask yourself: do you really have any idea how much he loves you? I guess the real question here is whether you’ve ever thought about how insignificant you really are. That sounds strange, but let me explain…
Imagine yourself. Odds are, your mass is probably somewhere around 54-83 kg (that’s not definitive – you might be smaller or larger, but the outcome of this illustration is still the same!). Now imagine Earth. Earth’s mass is 5.9736 * 10^24 kg. Written out, that’s 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg. That means that it would take about 87,205,839,416,058,394,160,584 of you to equal the mass of Earth. Yeah, you read that right. (Can you even say that number? I can’t!) Makes you feel tiny, doesn’t it?
Want to feel even smaller? Think about the sun in comparison to Earth. Again, Earth’s mass is 5.9736 * 10^24. The sun’s mass is 1,989,100 * 10^24. Mass-wise, the sun is about 300 times bigger. Three. Hundred. Times. Think about how tiny you are in comparison to Earth. Then think about how tiny Earth is in comparison to the sun! And guess what? The sun is NOT the biggest thing in the universe. Ever heard of a little star called Antares? Now that’s something to write home about! Antares is about 15-18 times bigger than our sun is. If you’re looking at a picture of Antares in comparison to the sun (which I would advise you to Google!), Earth is entirely invisible.
Now how small do you feel? Exactly. Earth is NOTHING compared in size to the rest of the universe. (And think about how you fare in size comparison with Earth…) Yet even though we are teeny-tiny, Psalm 139 reassures us that God knows exactly when we stand up, when we sit down, and what we’re going to say before we say it. It also tells us that he knew us before we were even conceived. Before we were even a thought in our parents’ minds, God knew everything about us – what we were going to look like, what our interests would be, where our talents would lie, everything! Psalm 139:18 tells us that if we wanted to count the number of thoughts God has about us, “they would outnumber the grains of sand” (NIV). Matthew 10:30 says that even our hairs are numbered on our heads. (If we’re tiny in comparison to Earth, and Earth is tiny compared to everything else, how tiny is a hair in comparison to you?!)
So think about this: God loves you so much – you, on this tiny, little planet called Earth, which is really insignificant compared to the rest of the universe – that he sent his son to die for you. He cares enough about you to know everything about you and desire a personal relationship with you. The one who made everything – including Antares, Arcturus, Sirius, the sun, Jupiter, and everything else that absolutely dwarfs Earth – wants YOU so much that he died for you! You have his full attention at all times. He has counted the hairs on your head, and he knows exactly when one falls out or a new one comes in. He knows each and every single one of your thoughts. He has plans for you – good ones (Jeremiah 29:11)! He has adopted you (Romans 8:15). He made you in his image (Genesis 1:27). He has promised to always be by your side no matter what happens (Hebrews 13:5). You are wanted, and you are loved. The creator of the entire universe has said to you, “Come to me” (Matthew 11:28)!
THAT’S how much God loves you. He, who is even bigger than the biggest thing in the universe, spends his time thinking about you and planning good things for you. So don’t you dare ever feel unloved or unwanted. You are loved more than you could ever possibly know. So run to the one who loves you! Take your comfort, your joy, your strength, and your rest in him. You are never alone. There is always somebody who loves you more than you can imagine.
You are worth so much to him.
faith Hannah Bryant Lifestyle
It would be so much easier if I could text God. An email, maybe? Come on, I’d even take a burning bush. It worked for Moses, after all. The Bible says that God talked to him face-to-face (Exodus 33:11)! How is that fair? I wish God would talk to me like that. I feel like I can’t ever hear him. Or maybe he just doesn’t talk to me at all.
Does that sound like you? Do you ever catch yourself complaining that you can’t hear God’s voice? It’s so common for us in our busy lives not to hear the Lord speaking to us. We might even think that he’s being silent. Have you ever considered, though, that you’re listening for him in all the wrong places?
We tend to think that God will speak to us in an extremely obvious way. And sometimes he does. But I’ve found that a lot of the time, God’s voice is a lot quieter and simpler than we expect it to be. Maybe that’s why we sometimes don’t hear it. We are waiting for the clap of thunder and miss the whisper.
Let’s look at part of the prophet Elijah’s story. Elijah was a prophet of the Lord during the reign of King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. Elijah spoke very boldly against the worship of Baal. He eventually issued a public challenge to the priests of Baal: Let’s see whose God is the real thing. On top of Mt. Carmel, 450 pagan priests set up an altar to Baal, and Elijah set up an altar to Yahweh, the true God. The challenge was to see which God would prove his power by lighting a prepared sacrifice with fire from heaven. The priests of Baal prayed for hours and hours, cutting themselves to add their own blood to the sacrifice, doing dances, trying everything they could think of to get their “god” to listen. Eventually, Elijah decided to up the ante a little and dump water on his altar three times so that it was soaking wet. Then he prayed to God, who lit the entire thing on fire, proving that he was the true God over Baal. Then Elijah ordered the deaths of all the pagan priests. Unfortunately for him, though, Jezebel was an avid Baal-worshipper, and she was not very happy when Elijah had all her priests killed. She had people sent to kill him, and he was forced to hide in a cave on Mt. Horeb. This is where we’re picking up the story:
“And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’
The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”
You can read the rest of Elijah’s story in 1 Kings, but that’s where we’re going to leave off. God showed Elijah (and us!) a massive truth in this passage. He caused an earthquake, a fire, and a wind, essentially a tornado. All of these things are natural disasters that we would associate with power and force. They are unstoppable. What can you do to stop an earthquake? Nothing. It will shake what it wants to shake, destroy what it wants to destroy, and crumble what it wants to crumble. An earthquake is beyond powerful and entirely out of our control.
But God didn’t use the powerful, obvious things to speak to Elijah. He did not manifest himself in any of the ways that we might expect the Almighty to appear. It wasn’t about the appearance, the obvious, the bravado. God spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice.
Who would have expected that? God showed Elijah his power through his control over natural disasters. But his presence wasn’t in them. It was in the whisper that followed them. Do you think you would have heard it?
How often do you think we miss God’s still, small voice because we are waiting for him in the earthquake? This is not to say that God doesn’t ever speak to us through our earthquakes. But more often than not, a nudge in your spirit or a thought you know wasn’t your own will pop up. And that’s God’s still, small voice. You’ll miss it or write it off as nothing if you’re not waiting expectantly for it. Do you think Elijah would have heard the whisper if God hadn’t told him explicitly that he was about to pass by? He might have assumed that God had spoken through one of the natural disasters and that he just missed it. But God had told him that he was about to pass by, so Elijah wasn’t prepared to miss that. He was waiting in expectation. That’s what we need to be doing.
Look for God in the less-than-obvious places. Don’t try to put limits on how or when he can speak to you. He is God. Almighty, all-powerful, able to do anything. He may choose to speak to you in an obvious way… But don’t be surprised if you get a still, small voice rather than an earthquake.
Beauty faith Hannah Bryant
Can I be honest with you for a minute? I kinda like getting compliments. I love to give compliments MORE but, there is not much that boosts my confidence more than when someone tells me “You look great!” or “I love that outfit!” or “Your hair is so pretty!”. Admittedly though, I’m not the greatest at responding to compliments about my looks. One of the first instances I can think of is when I was about eight years old and I met my mom’s boyfriend’s mother for the first time and she said “She is so beautiful!” and I mumbled “Ugh. No I’m not.” My mom quickly chastised me and said ” You say thank you!” but I didn’t want to. I didn’t believe what the woman had said to me. I was at such an awkward stage in my growth, I was probably 4’10 and maybe 80 pounds sopping wet and even less coordinated than I am now (those of you who know the true goofy me are laughing I’m sure.) I couldn’t see what this lady, or my mom, or anyone saw when they looked at me, and I certainly couldn’t understand why they would define it as ‘beauty.’
Looking back, I realize that I was just mimicking what my mother did. That’s not to say that she’s at fault here, but my mom didn’t have the best self-esteem. This was a result of her coming late in life for her parents and growing up believing that she was a mistake. My mother is a beautiful woman by any definition, but to this day I tell her she needs to learn to take a compliment. Turns out I need to take my own advice. My husband says I fish for compliments, asking if I look okay or if he notices the different :insert makeup/hair/perfume/clothing/skin: that I’ve used. And when he inevitably responds with “You look great babe!” I still do the “Ugh! No I don’t.” Somewhere along the way, I have forgotten who made me. I didn’t do it intentionally, and I never realized how much I overlooked it, but how insulting must that feel to the God who loves me and has woven me together so intricately? I say this to myself, but also to you who are reading this. HE MAKES NO MISTAKES. That nose you hate; those thin lips; the big eyes that you were picked on for when you were 12; the four head that you refer to as a seven head; the double or triple chin you swear you’d love to have sliced off; those chubby rosy cheeks; the wrinkly jawline; that big ole zit that just popped up this morning.
He knows every single part of each and every one of us because He created it. And He said it was good. Let that sink in today. I know I need to. The flesh of me wants to focus on the imperfections, but My God says there is no flaw in me.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” -Ecclesiastes 3:11
faith Hannah Bryant
“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” – C.H. Spurgeon
PSALM 57 (ESV)
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
2 I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3 He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
4 My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
6They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
8 Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
9I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
Okay, let’s be real here. Jesus literally guarantees that we’re going to have troubles as Christians in John 16:33. In the midst of those trials, it is so easy (and logical by human standards) to fall into the trap of self-pity and hopelessness. But that isn’t the response that God desires from us. Are you letting troubles pull you away from God, or are you allowing them to bring you closer to him? In Psalm 57, David cries out to God for help. He is in dire straits – Saul has been chasing him with the intent of taking his life, and he’s hiding in a cave in order to escape Saul’s anger. He pens Psalm 57 while in that cave. There’s a lot to learn from this psalm about suffering and the correct response to it.
The reason Saul has been trying to kill David is that God promised that David would be the next king. Saul felt threatened by David because of this and tried to override God’s plan by murdering David. In the midst of being pursued by Saul, David probably couldn’t see how God was intending to keep that promise. Humans are pretty short-sighted — we’re not great at seeing past the obstacles right in front of us. As a result of that shortsightedness, it’s so easy for us to try to “help” God and make these things happen in our own power. (Look at Abram, Sarai, and Hagar!) But David doesn’t do that. He simply trusts that the Lord will bring his will to pass (verse 2). He doesn’t abandon all hope because he can’t see how it’s going to work out. He doesn’t try to take matters into his own hands and launch an attack against Saul to save himself. He just trusts.
When life just kind of stinks, there are two options that most of us take: 1. Pretend everything is just peachy. No, there’s nothing bothering me. Nothing’s wrong. Everything is great! Problem? What problem? Oh, I’m just hoping that it’ll go away if I ignore it. Let’s not bring it up again, okay? or 2. Slip into a permanent pity-party. Why is this happening? This is so unfair. I don’t deserve this. I’m not going to do anything ministry- or church-related now. I mean, if God really wanted me to be doing things for him, he wouldn’t let this happen to me. David makes no secret of the fact that although he does trust the Lord, he is still suffering. He talks about how he is being pursued by enemies who are trying to kill him. But his response to that is not the same one that many of us often have. He doesn’t negate the bad experience he’s having or pretend that everything is okay. He also doesn’t dwell on how horrible life is and how unfair the whole thing is. He responds to this sticky situation in such an unexpected way (and one that sets a great example for us): He acknowledges that yes, there is a problem, but then continues on to praise God. Even while he’s hiding out in a dark, cold, and damp cave, he doesn’t complain; instead, the King James Version says in verse 7 that his heart remains “fixed” on giving glory to God. He is determined – no matter the circumstances – to glorify the Lord. He thanks God in advance for deliverance. That is exactly what we should do! Be realistic about the problem. Acknowledge its existence. But don’t allow it to become something that gets in the way of your relationship with God.
Another common response to troubles in our lives is to wonder why it’s happening and become angry with God for allowing it. In human terms, David would have every right to do that very thing. He’s done everything right. He’s followed the Lord faithfully. He hasn’t done anything to hurt Saul. The situation he is in truly is undeserved and unfair. Instead of becoming sullen and withdrawn, though, David draws closer to the Lord. He proclaims his goodness and power and resolves to “awake the dawn” with praises. He recognizes that the only way he’ll make it out on the other side is by clinging to the One who can overcome anything. He chooses to cling steadfastly to the Rock of Ages rather than diving off and trying his luck on his own.
When we go through tough situations, we have to make the right choices. We can choose to let things get to us. We can choose to ignore them. We can let things become infinitely worse by letting them fester in one way or another. Or we can choose to “kiss the wave that throws [us] against the Rock of Ages.” What choice are you going to make today?
Daily Devotion Hannah Bryant
Insecurity. Jealousy. Thinking that you don’t measure up and aren’t good enough. We’ve all felt these things at one time or another, haven’t we? In a world where we’re constantly surrounded by beauty “ideals,” playing dirty to get ahead is encouraged and rewarded, and whoever has the most money wins, it’s really hard not to feel them! We see someone we think is beautiful and think, “Why can’t I look like her? I’m so fat/ugly/whatever else.” We get passed over for a promotion and harbor bitterness toward the person who got the position we wanted. Everything shouts at us to feel bad about ourselves and be discontent. From a worldly perspective, feeling these things is totally normal and should be a motivator for making yourself “better.” But the truth about that is… Well, you’re never going to feel “better.” You might for a while, but eventually, something else will come along and make you feel bad about yourself all over again, and the cycle keeps going. That’s why it’s important to stop it before it starts. Falling into the trap of jealousy, low self-worth, and bitterness is all too easy unless you start seeing yourself as already good enough. And in Christ, you are! Isn’t that amazing? I mean, do you really even know who you are in Christ?
You are greatly loved. John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world, which is why Jesus died. That’s comforting, but it’s tempting to exclude yourself from general statements sometimes. I have a tendency to think, “That applies to everyone except me,” sometimes when I hear things like that. So I’d like you to check out John 16:27: “the Father himself loves you” (ESV). There’s no way around that one! No exceptions, no exclusions. God specifically loves YOU!
You are delighted in. Especially with family members, it’s definitely possible to love someone but not always like them, isn’t it? I don’t always get along with everyone my family, but I always love them. You know what’s awesome, though? God doesn’t feel that way about you. Not only does he love you, he likes you. He loves spending time with you. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love, he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing” (NIV). He can’t contain his joy when he sees you… In fact, he bursts out in song about how much he loves you because he’s so excited. Doesn’t that blow your mind? It does mine!
You are important. We’ve all had moments where we felt unimportant and uncared for. But in God’s eyes, each and every one of us – including you – is important. In Luke 12, Jesus tells us not to worry because God will take care of us. He mentions that everything from flowers to birds are taken care of and provided for by God. He says one sentence that I absolutely love: “You are far more valuable to him than any birds” (NLT)! I’m absolutely sure that God loves birds. He designs each and every one down to each feather it has… And think about how many birds are in the world! Now realize this: God also designed you right down to how many hairs you have on your head (Luke 12:7). As much time as he spent on designing birds and as much as he loves them, he spends all the more time on you and loves you all the more.
The list could go on forever. I would highly encourage you to look up passages that tell you who you are in Christ. A really great place to start is Psalm 139. Whenever I’m feeling down or alone, that’s the first chapter I turn to. In fact, reading that chapter is your homework assignment for this week! Read it and think about what it really means. Allow yourself to believe that you are desired and valued by the Creator. When you realize how much you are loved and how important you are in God’s plans, who needs to be jealous of anyone else? You are the apple of God’s eye. He is proud of you. He delights in you. You are not a letdown. You are not a disappointment. You are not a mistake. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Walk in that truth this week.
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Hannah Bryant is a worship-leading, cat-loving, pizza-eating redhead who doesn’t take much seriously apart from her relationship with Jesus. She is currently finishing up her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Education at Southern Oregon University. You can finder her blogging at Redwood Seed, her personal blog. redwoodseed.com.
Daily Devotion Hannah Bryant
‘Tis the season… For spring break mission trips! It seems like almost all of my friends have headed down to Mexico for this week to minister in different ways. One group is going to build a house, and another is working at an orphanage. And here I am, sitting at home. While everyone was leaving, I was really bummed that I couldn’t join them. I was able to go down to that orphanage a few years ago, and I would love to go back. Last year, I didn’t go with the house-building group, and I remember feeling really left out when everyone came home and had bonded and made new inside jokes that I didn’t get. Overall, this spring break was not looking very fun for me: sitting at home alone because all my friends are gone and then feeling even worse when they all get back. But then I got to thinking about it… What is it about mission trips that is so special? Is it the scenery? Maybe. The friendships formed? That’s part of it. But the real thing that makes mission trips so awesome is something that we don’t have to go to another country to do: share Jesus!
It’s easy to feel left out or feel like you’re making less of an impact than other people when they get to go to another country and serve, and you’re stuck at home. But you know what? That is simply not the case. Jesus never told us that we have to go to a country that we’re not from in order to shine his light. He just told us to go into all the world (Mark 16:15). Guess what? Where you’re from is part of the world, and he wants you to evangelize there, too! That’s not a perspective I think of often. Especially if you live in a small town like me, it’s easy to think that there’s no way for you to make an impact. But that’s not true either! There are more people than you might think out there who really have never heard the gospel. Maybe they’ve heard of Jesus, but they haven’t all heard the real good news or why Jesus is even important. And how are they ever going to know unless we tell them? My pastor has told us that he grew up in a big city with lots of people, went to public schools all his life, and never even heard the gospel until he was seventeen years old, and his friend in his computers class told him about Jesus. Isn’t that crazy to think about? We get in our bubble sometimes, I think. It’s easy to assume that the people who aren’t Christians are all just people who have heard the gospel and rejected it. But the truth is that while that may be the case for some people, there are still people out there in this world – even where you live! – who have never, ever heard about it. It’s up to us to tell them! The mission field isn’t limited to foreign countries. The mission field is wherever you are.
I’ve heard the phrase, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” I don’t think I agree with that entirely because a lifestyle in and of itself with no explanation given for it can’t present the gospel to people. But I do think it makes a good point. How we live our lives and what we put on display for the world are the things that are going to make people want to know what we have that they don’t. Our lifestyles themselves don’t preach the gospel, but they can draw people to us, which allows us to preach the gospel to them. In Philippians 2:15, Paul calls us “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world” (ESV). That’s encouraging in one way, but it’s also a call to action! We have to live our lives in that blameless way that Paul talks about. People judge Christ based on the Christians they know. If they see someone who says she’s a Christian but doesn’t live like a Christian, people will assume that all Christians are hypocrites. You see how that works? We have to actively make an effort to live our lives in ways that will push people toward Christ, not away from him.
Even if you are stuck at home alone while all of your friends are away on a mission trip, don’t feel like you can’t have the same impact they do! Your mission field isn’t just a foreign country. Your mission field is wherever you are. Get out there and shine brightly!
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Author: Hannah Bryant
Hannah Bryant is a worship-leading, cat-loving, pizza-eating redhead who doesn’t take much seriously apart from her relationship with Jesus. She is currently finishing up her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Education at Southern Oregon University. You can finder her blogging at Redwood Seed, her personal blog. redwoodseed.com.
Daily Devotion Hannah Bryant
I have to confess that I’m a Taco Bell addict. I have no problem passing up most other fast food places without a second thought, but Taco Bell is my weakness! It’s a habit I’ve really tried to cut down on because even though I like it, I know it’s not good for me. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” A person who eats a lot of fruits and vegetables is going to be healthier than a person who only eats junk food. Have you ever thought about soul junk food? Our souls require nourishment. We can fill them up in a number of ways, but not all of those ways are healthy. We need a healthy spiritual diet just as badly, if not more so, than we need a healthy physical diet.
What we fill ourselves up with is important. It may seem like anything that fills up our soul hunger is good because it accomplishes the same purpose. However, a person who eats a healthy dinner and a person who eats an unhealthy dinner are both going to be full afterwards, but only one of them is going to be better off because of what she ate. I’ve heard it said that we are all born with a God-shaped hole inside of us, and we all try to fill it. Some people turn to God, who fills the hole perfectly. Some people turn to other things that may fill up parts of the hole but can never take care of the whole thing. I always thought that phrase was just talking about how some people become Christians and some don’t, but lately, God has been showing me that it’s not just about that. Some Christians still choose not to fill their God-shaped holes with God.
Where do you find your satisfaction and wholeness? You can be a Christian who loves the Lord but still doesn’t fill up her soul with the right things. I know I’ve been there. There’s never been a time when I’ve walked away from my faith, but there have been times where I’ve been looking to all the wrong things to fill up the hunger in my soul even though God is right there with me. I’ve eaten my fair share of soul junk food, and it’s shown. My spiritual health declines. As I look to other things to bring me the things that only God can truly bring me, my soul gets lazy. I spend less time with God because I’m getting temporarily filled with other things. I don’t think I need him because something else is giving me what I think I need. Unfortunately, the satisfaction that comes from things other than God never lasts. It’s only temporary.
There are lots of things that we look to instead of God for our satisfaction and wholeness. Some people turn to harmful things like alcohol, drugs, abusive relationships, porn, and the list goes on. If you are caught in the trap of those things, let me encourage you that it is not too late, and you are not too far gone for Jesus to restore and redeem you! Turn to him entirely, and please seek the physical help you need, especially if you are in a dangerous situation. If you are not involved in things that are blatantly dangerous or wrong, don’t judge those who are. We all make mistakes. If you do an honest heart-check, I bet you can find at least one area in your life where you’re looking to something other than God to give you satisfaction. A problem for me when I was growing up (and that still likes to rear its ugly head every now in then) was gossip. I found my satisfaction in being the one who was “in the know” and had the dirt on anything and everything. Gossip may seem harmless at first, but truthfully, it’s just as bad as the obvious vices we just talked about.
However, it’s not just “bad” things that draw our attention away from God. Even things that are good and fun and enjoyable are still not God, and putting them in his place is wrong. I know that I have a tendency to find my satisfaction in relationships with people instead of God. When I feel like people disapprove of me or don’t like me, I am completely unsatisfied, and I do everything in my power to change their minds. When I feel like I’m loved and appreciated by other people, I feel satisfied. Having relationships with people is not wrong in and of itself, but it’s wrong when I make my relationships my source of satisfaction. If you can’t think of an area in your life where you’re having this problem, ask God to show you anything you might be missing.
So how do we know when we’re finding our satisfaction in God and when we’re not? Sometimes it’s hard to tell! There are a few “tests” you can do, though, to find out where your satisfaction is coming from.
First, ask God! Psalm 139 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible because it really shows how loved and wanted we are. It concludes with a prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (verses 23-24 ESV). Ask God to search you and help you identify areas where you’re not finding your satisfaction entirely in him.
Secondly, watch what you say. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (ESV). One way to figure out what’s in your heart is to listen to what you say. What’s the first thing that comes out of your mouth when someone makes you angry or frustrated? Is it one of the fruits of the spirit, or is it something hurtful?
Thirdly, evaluate your level of satisfaction. Is it fluctuating? Are you happy for a little while and then quickly need to search out another thing to provide satisfaction? If your level of satisfaction wavers, it is not coming from God. The satisfaction he provides is constant. The satisfaction other things provide is temporary. In Philippians 4, Paul talks about how he is able to be satisfied no matter what his life situation is because his satisfaction comes from God and not outside things. Whether his circumstances are great or terrible, he is satisfied in God.
Finding satisfaction in God looks different for everyone because everyone has different desires and needs, so I can’t give you a cut-and-dried way to do it. Once you identify places in your life where your satisfaction is coming from things that aren’t God, ask him to show you how to redirect your attention. He longs to be your satisfaction, and he’ll help you figure out how to get there. So make a resolution to cut out the spiritual junk food in your diet and trust in God to be your personal nutrition expert. He’ll help you figure out what to keep and what to let go of. He might ask you to let go of things that you’re clinging onto really tightly, and it might hurt to do so. Trust that he wouldn’t ask you to do it if it wasn’t going to be for your good.
Getting physically healthy takes a lot of work sometimes, and so does getting spiritually healthy. This process might be hard, but it will be worth it! The satisfaction God provides will never fail or run out. Rest assured that all the work you put in to become spiritually healthy is going to benefit you so much in the long run. God is right there waiting for you to turn to him, so don’t wait!
Daily Devotion Hannah Bryant
One of my favorite hymns is “Be Thou My Vision”. It has such a beautiful melody. Alison Krauss does a wonderful rendition of it that I’ve listened to countless times, and I’ve even led it at church myself. The music is just so lovely! As I was listening to it recently, though, I started really thinking about what the words really mean, and it made me love it all the more. The first verse goes like this: “Be thou my vision, oh, Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me save that thou art. Thou my best thought by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.” Listening to it got me thinking… Do I really make the Lord my vision? And what does that even mean?
What is your vision for your life? What are your dreams? I guess another way to ask that is what do you want to become? That’s the definition we’re going to be using for your vision here. For me, it’s being a teacher. That’s my vision for myself. I work toward it by going to school and taking the necessary steps to get into the program I need. I read books for classes. I do homework. I get practical experience in the field. You see, just having a vision isn’t enough. There has to be forward motion involved, too.
It’s great to have physical goals for your life, but we can’t forget that there has to be an overarching spiritual goal, as well. Whatever your practical, tangible vision for your life is, apply that to the Lord being your vision. We’ve defined your vision as what you want to become. In John 3:30, John the Baptist defines his vision very clearly: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (ESV). That should be our vision, too. Paul tells us that we should be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1). Making Christ your vision means striving to become like him. It means seeing him as the pinnacle of everything we’re working to be. He is the goal, both in what we want our lives to be like and what we’ll reach when we eventually finish our races.
The second line of “Be Thou My Vision” says, “Naught be all else to me save that thou art.” Basically, that’s both a prayer and declaration: don’t let anything else be my everything besides you, God! That’s something we should be praying, too. It’s so easy to let other things get in the way of what’s truly important. Imagine you’re driving a car. What you see through the windshield is your vision. If a tarp flies out of the back of a truck in front of you and hits your windshield, it becomes all you can see. It’s dangerous. You can’t get to your destination because you can’t see where you’re going! You have to address the problem first before you can make progress toward your goal. How many times do we let “tarps” obstruct our vision and then carry on like nothing is wrong anyway? We are so easily distracted and sometimes don’t even see the tarp on our windshields before we’re crashed on the side of the road. Be on the lookout for tarps, whatever they may be. Secret sin, a friendship or relationship, a job… Anything, even things that aren’t “bad” in and of themselves, can be a tarp if it becomes more important to you than your relationship with God. Part of the Lord being your vision is that you have to be able to see him! Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. Keep your windshield clear. Focus on him.
In order to be a teacher, I have to go to school. I do a lot of reading and homework. There are practical steps that I have to take in order to get there. In the same way, there are practical steps for us to take if we want to reach our vision of Jesus. Of course, we can’t do them alone… And thankfully, we’re not expected to. Just like I have teachers in school, we have a teacher and helper in God. So what are some steps we can take in reaching our vision of becoming like Jesus?
Bible reading. This is so fundamental. The Bible tells us more about God’s character. How can we become like someone if we don’t know what they’re like in the first place? In order to be imitators of God, we have to know what he’s like. We can’t neglect this one. 2 Timothy 3:16 lets us know that all scripture is God-breathed. The Bible is literally a message from God to us. He wants us to know him. This is a good place to start.
Prayer. Once we start learning who God is, we see what we need to be like, too. However, we simply can’t do it by ourselves. For example, God is holy. How can we imitate that? We can’t be holy on our own, but 1 Peter 1:16 tells us that we need to be holy, just like God is holy. The only way to bridge that gap is through prayer. God enables us to become the things that he wants us to be. He allows us to put on the robe of righteousness and calls us holy (Isaiah 61:10, 1 Peter 2:9). Isn’t that awesome?
Be specific. Let’s be honest, “be like Jesus” is a really broad thing. If that’s what we settle on, it’s easy to give up because there’s too much to cover. Goal-setting needs to be specific. Find one characteristic of God that you need to work on. Maybe you have a habit of lying. 2 Samuel 7:28 declares that all of God’s words are true; he is entirely honest. So instead of just saying, “This week, I’m going to be more like Jesus,” hone in on that one thing. Say instead, “This week, I’m going to pray about my habit of lying and make an effort not to do it anymore. I need God’s help to break this sinful habit, and I have to break it if I want to be more like him.” One thing at a time! One note though: don’t get discouraged if you mess up. We all blow it sometimes! Don’t let one mistake stop you entirely. Just keep at it. While we’re on the subject, don’t wait until you’re perfect at one characteristic before trying to work on another one because it will never happen! But it will get easier over time, and mistakes will happen less frequently. I promise!
Making Jesus our vision isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s really hard! Things get in the way and obstruct our view. Sometimes doing the wrong thing and sinning would be much easier and more convenient than doing the right thing. But is working for your physical dreams always easy? No! If your dream is to be a teacher, you work hard at it. If your dream is to own your own business, you work hard at it. If your dream is to be a writer, you work hard at it. Just because these dreams require effort doesn’t mean that we should give up on them. Just because making Jesus your vision requires effort doesn’t mean you should give up on that. You have the Holy Spirit inside of you (Ephesians 4:30). Remember that you have the ultimate helper on your side who wants to see you succeed. He isn’t willing to give up on you, so don’t give up on your goal of being more like him, either. Alone, you could never achieve this goal. But with God, you can’t fail. Make him your vision!
Daily Devotion Hannah Bryant
A few ladies in my college group and I have been going through Beth Moore’s study Breaking Free recently. We’re about halfway through, and it’s been a really great experience of getting to know each other better and helping each other overcome tough things in our lives. When we met for discussion this week, one theme emerged: forgiveness. I think it’s one that gets mentioned but still often gets overlooked when it comes down to it. We know that Jesus forgave us, but we don’t really think about forgiving or being forgiven by others. It’s easier to just brush it off and pretend nothing happened. Why is that? There are lots of reasons that forgiveness might be hard for us. Maybe the hurt caused was so deep that we can’t seem to let it go. Maybe the person in question has done the same thing to us over and over. The reason is probably different in every case, but I do know one thing that applies across the board… If you don’t forgive and don’t allow yourself to be forgiven, you will never find satisfaction.
When someone hurts you, it can be hard to move past it. It’s easy to start seeing him or her as a “bad person” because of what happened, isn’t it? The temptation is always to hate the other person involved. Forgiveness seems like weakness in a way. But that’s the complete opposite of the truth! It’s easy to just become hateful and bitter. Forgiveness is the hardest option, and it takes a great deal of strength to choose it. First, we have to remember that forgiveness is not the same as excusing someone’s behavior. Forgiveness does not mean continuing to trust or go back to someone who repeatedly hurts you. Forgiveness simply means that you no longer hold a grudge or harbor bitterness toward that person. You can let go of your anger and hate, but that doesn’t mean you have to be friends with or even see the person who hurt you if you don’t want to. Still, we can’t let ourselves get away with hating people. Jesus says in John 13:35 that people will be able to tell we are his disciples by the love we have for others. The way we treat others is one of our biggest witnesses. You may have a coworker, friend, or family member who only knows one Christian: you. If we treat others harshly, hold grudges, and constantly badmouth people who have hurt us, we’re not giving an accurate representation of Jesus to those around us who don’t know him. What did Jesus say when he was on the cross, after all? “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). We need to be willing to forgive others like that, too. Treating other people with love regardless of how many times they’ve hurt or betrayed us is such a good way to show others the love of Christ.
The other side of the coin is also kind of tough sometimes. Being forgiven by others can be difficult! It sounds weird because being forgiven should be relieving, but sometimes it’s hard to accept that the person really has forgiven you, especially if you haven’t forgiven yourself yet. We blow it sometimes, and we make people angry. That’s just a fact. We aren’t perfect, and sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we deliberately hurt others. After we do that, the Holy Spirit convicts us. Let me tell you, I always feel horrible after I know I’ve messed up and hurt someone. It becomes so easy to try to hide or deny what we’ve done because we feel ashamed. It’s so hard to go to the person we’ve hurt and ask for forgiveness because we don’t want to acknowledge or own up to what we did. Then, even if we do get the courage to ask for forgiveness, it’s hard to believe it when the person we’ve hurt says, “I forgive you.” There are two reasons why we need to ask for and then accept forgiveness, though. Firstly, beating ourselves up isn’t productive or helpful. It only makes us feel worse and hinders our kingdom work. It doesn’t accomplish anything! This process also encompasses forgiving ourselves for what we’ve done. We have to admit that we made a mistake and learn from it, but we can’t hold it against ourselves. Our sins have already been forgiven by Jesus. We need to live in that freedom and not allow sin that’s already been taken care of to control us. Secondly, not allowing someone to forgive us robs that person of the chance to break free from bitterness and anger. Think about how good it feels when you finally forgive someone who’s hurt you. That’s how it feels for someone to forgive you, too. It’s selfish to deny him or her of that. In fact, enabling that person to practice unforgiveness toward you hurts his or her relationship with Christ. I know I don’t want to be the cause of that, and I’m sure you don’t, either.
Forgiveness isn’t easy, don’t get me wrong. It’s not instantaneous. It may not even be a one-time thing. Sometimes we have to forgive someone for something over and over before it finally “sets.” It’s entirely possible to forgive someone and truly mean it one day and then find little roots of bitterness or hatred coming back the next day. The important thing is not giving up. Keep forgiving that person over and over, as many times as it takes. In Matthew 18, Jesus says that we have to forgive people seventy times seven times. He didn’t mean that to be taken literally – don’t keep a tally of how many times you’ve forgiven someone and then stop doing it after you reach that number! He meant that we need to do it limitless times. As many times as he’s forgiven us, we need to forgive others (Colossians 3:13). The point is that forgiveness is not an event, it’s a process. And we can’t do it alone. In our own human strength, forgiveness is impossible. But think about how much forgiving power Jesus has; he forgives every single sin of every single person who asks him to. There is nothing too big for him to forgive, is there? And just think, that power is living inside of you! His strength will enable you to forgive even the unforgivable.
I have a friend who often says that when you allow someone to make you angry or bitter, you’re giving that person too much control over you. I completely agree. Don’t allow someone to take away the joy that comes from Christ. There is a saying I’ve heard that goes, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” So true. Holding on to resentment and hatred only hurts you in the end. Forgiveness is for your own good when it comes down to it. I know it’s difficult. I know so many of us have been hurt in ways that seem impossible to ever get over. With Jesus, though, nothing is impossible. Remember that you are redeemed. Remember that God is the Great Physician who can heal your hurts. Remember that he is the ultimate forgiver who can empower you to forgive in the same way. My challenge for you this week is to memorize Ephesians 4:30 and remind yourself of it every time you’re tempted to be bitter or to hurt someone else: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as in Christ, God forgave you” (ESV). We can let people who have hurt us make us bitter through resentment or better through forgiveness. Let’s choose better.
Daily Devotion Hannah Bryant
A church in my area does morning worship every day from 6:30 AM to 7:30 AM. I don’t go very often because – let’s face it – I’m a senior in college, which basically equates to “not a morning person.” When I do go, though, I never regret it. That was the case this past Thursday. I got up at 5:30 AM and joined three friends, all of us holding mugs of coffee, in making the half-hour drive out to the church. Morning worship is a great way to start your day with Jesus. Usually when I go, I spend time praying, singing along to the songs I know, and reading my Bible. Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s word is living and active. I’ve found that to be very true; I get something new each time even out of passages that I’ve read over and over. This Thursday, I asked God to show me something he wanted me to learn, and I ended up learning more about a passage that I thought I already knew backward and forward: John 15.
John 15 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. It starts out with a word picture that I absolutely love. Jesus says that he is the vine, and we are the branches. There are two parts to the analogy he draws: pruning and bearing. We go through seasons of both in our lives, and they’re both important for us to be spiritually happy and healthy. So let’s take a look at what each of those things entails and how we are meant to respond to them.
In John 15:1-2, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser. Every branch that is in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (ESV). I don’t know very much about gardening, so I had to look up what the purpose of pruning is. Pruning is when old or excess branches are cut away in order to make room for more fruit. A grapevine with too many branches would have an excess amount of grapes and not be able to make them very ripe because it wouldn’t have enough nutrients to go around. In order for the vine to produce the maximum amount of ripe, good fruit, it has to be pruned. The same thing must happen with us.
One thing I’ve learned is that when I try to do too much, nothing really gets done well. I am a “doer” and always have been. It’s hard for me to say no, and I can be something of a control freak. I always think I can do a job better than anyone else, so I take on extra responsibilities to make sure that things get done “the right way” (MY way) the first time. But when I take on so many things, I get overwhelmed and either give up or finish halfheartedly and with minimum effort. When we take on too many things – have too many branches – we have to be pruned. Sometimes God will take something away from us in order to prune us. It might hurt. Cutting off branches that have the potential to be fruitful isn’t an easy process. It’s hard to let go of things that we think we can still make work. If we want to produce the maximum amount of ripe fruit, though, we have to let God do it. Maybe God is asking you to hand over to someone else a ministry that is very close to your heart. He’s done that with me, and it did hurt. It was hard. But in the end, we have to realize that there are lots of good things out there, but not all of them are good for us specifically to be doing. Sometimes you have to hand the reins to someone else and focus your energy on the tasks that God has set apart specifically for you to do.
Vinedressers also prune away old branches. A branch that is two years old or older isn’t fruitful. It’s great to keep in mind and learn from our past experiences with God, but we need to have fresh ones, too. An experience you had with the Lord ten years ago is probably not enough to sustain you with him today. He wants you to have new experiences. He wants to keep showing you more about who he is and keep supplying you with strength. If you water a plant once and then don’t do it again for six months because you already watered it once, you wouldn’t expect it to live. So how do you expect yourself to thrive if you don’t keep coming back to the source of strength, the living water? We have to keep our relationships with God fresh and not allow them to be stagnant.
The second part of the analogy Jesus draws in John 15 is bearing fruit. In verse 5, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is who bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing” (ESV). This is the part that amazes me. Think about this: Jesus has good works set apart for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). He has things in mind specifically for you. You are an important part of his plan! But he doesn’t expect you to go it alone or accomplish these things in your own strength. You have to abide in him first. Imagine you’re walking by a grapevine. You see that the vine has some branches growing from it, but there are also some branches that are lying on the ground. Which branches are you going to expect to start growing grapes? Just like you wouldn’t expect the branches that were lying dead on the ground to start producing fruit, you can’t expect yourself to produce fruit if you’re not in the vine. We have to draw our strength entirely from Jesus if we want to bear good fruit.
I think this word picture is so beautiful. It’s such a great reminder that we have to keep it fresh with God. We have to allow him to either give to or take away from us depending on what’s in our best interest without pouting or fighting him. We’re also expected to bear fruit, but we don’t have to strain to do it ourselves; he is the source of the fruit and helps us to bear it. So how do we abide in the vine? The word “abide” means to dwell or stay in a certain place. In other words, we simply need to stay in close connection with Jesus. We draw our strength from Jesus in our quiet time with him, then we pour that strength out in his service, then we do it all over and over again. That’s what we need to be doing in order to abide.
I would encourage you to keep the word “abide” in mind as you go through your day-to-day life. Remember that Jesus is the source of your strength, and nothing that comes your way is too hard for his strength to handle. He thought up all sorts of great things specifically for you to do. Imagine that! When God was thinking up good deeds, he set aside some with your name on them. Isn’t that amazing? He wants to help you accomplish the things that he’s put on your heart. Keep abiding in the vine, and you will bear much fruit. You might get pruned sometimes, but it’s always for the best (Hebrews 12:11). I want to leave you with my very favorite verse in this passage, John 15:9: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (ESV). Live in the knowledge of how loved you are by God. Abide in the vine.
Daily Devotion Hannah Bryant
This weekend, I took a trip with three close friends to a little place called Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast. One of the places where I feel closest to God is when I’m near the ocean. I don’t know what it is, but something about being near it makes me realize how big God is and how small I am. Sitting on the sandy, rocky coast of Oregon and watching the tide come in and out always makes me feel connected to the Lord in a special way. I think that’s why I love Hillsong United’s song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” so much. It reminds me that life is like an ocean. Sometimes it’s calm, and sometimes it’s stormy… And sometimes Jesus will call us out to walk on it anyway. “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” was inspired by the story of Peter walking on the water, which is a story that I think is really awesome. Pause reading this for a minute and go refresh your memory in Matthew 14:22-33. It’s worth reading again no matter how many times you’ve heard it, in my opinion.
A quick recap is that Jesus has just gotten done teaching a crowd, and he goes to be alone and pray. He tells the disciples to go on ahead of him, but a storm takes their boat far from the shore. When Jesus is done praying, he walks on the stormy water to get to the disciples. They’re all afraid because they think they’re seeing a ghost, but Jesus tells them not to be scared. Peter says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus does, and Peter walks on the water to him. However, Peter gets scared and begins to sink. Jesus saves him immediately, though, and they get back on the boat. All of the disciples are amazed and worship Jesus after this. There are several things in this story that I think are absolutely amazing and useful for our lives, so I wanted to share some of them with you.
The first thing I’ve noticed in this story is that when Jesus is present, fear is out of place. The disciples are being tossed around on a stormy sea. They are afraid for their lives, and they are even more afraid when they think a ghost is coming toward them. The circumstance they are in says that they have every right to be afraid. The first thing that Jesus says to them, though, is, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (ESV). Notice that he doesn’t say, “Take heart; I’m going to calm the storm. Do not be afraid,” or “Take heart; you’re all going to be fine. Do not be afraid.” He simply says, “Take heart; it is I.” In other words, he doesn’t tell them that they don’t have to be afraid because he’s going to save them. He tells them not to be afraid simply because he is there. The disciples were expected to find strength and peace in the presence of Jesus, and so are we. 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear. In the presence of Jesus’s perfect love, there is no need for us to be afraid. He doesn’t have to tell us his methods or promise that the storm is going to calm down right away, and we shouldn’t demand him to do so before complying with what he says. His presence alone should be enough for us to not be afraid and trust that things will turn out okay.
Secondly, Jesus sometimes calls us to do things that make no earthly sense. Think about it. Peter stepping out of that boat didn’t make any earthly sense at all, did it? Everything pointed to him stepping out and sinking like a stone. But he had an idea – he wanted to walk to Jesus. Sometimes God places desires on our hearts that don’t make any earthly sense, either. All human signs point to us failing miserably if we take the leap. You may be afraid of the things you feel God pressing on your heart to do. You may think that they’re impossible, that you could never accomplish them. Trust me, we all feel like that sometimes! If we’ve been called, though, we have to have enough faith to take the step out anyway.
Lastly, when the Lord calls us to do the impossible, he empowers us to do the impossible. I think when people talk about the story of Peter walking on water, they usually focus on the fact that he doubted and sank. But you know what? I just think it’s amazing that he walked on the water at all! How many of us can say we’ve been able to do that? The desire was on Peter’s heart to walk out to Jesus on the water. He called out to Jesus for confirmation and received it. Jesus called him. So when Peter stepped out of the boat, he was able to walk on the water. He made sure that he was really being called before he did anything, which is important for us to do, as well. As soon as he received that affirmation, he stepped out and was successful. Isn’t that encouraging? I don’t know what desires God has placed on your heart, but I do know that they might seem impossible and scary. Let me reassure you, though, that if God has called you to do something, he will make it possible for you to do. There’s a saying that I’ve heard and love: God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.
I would encourage you today to listen to Hillsong United’s song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” and remind yourself of this story whenever you feel you’re being called to something. If Jesus has called you, you will never fail by obeying him. He will never call you into something unless he is going to make it possible for you to accomplish it. Be encouraged that you are an important part of God’s plan, and he has things in mind for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). Don’t miss an opportunity to advance God’s kingdom because you’re too scared to get out of the boat. With Jesus, you won’t fail. Take the step out. Walk on the water.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters.
Your sovereign hand will be my guide where feet may fail and fear surrounds me.
You’ve never failed, and you won’t start now.
So I will call upon your name and keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace, for I am yours, and you are mine.
Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.
Hillsong United, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”