God Is My ATM, No Matter How Offensive That Sounds

Double blessings over Tuscany, Sept 2017

I believe God wants us to have the things we are longing for—relationally, creatively and materially.

Let me say that again.

I believe God wants us to have the things we are longing for—relationally, creatively and materially.

If that sounds like I believe God is my ATM, ready to dole out relationships, artistic projects and cash when I need them …. no, you’re not crazy. And yes I do believe that.

I say “God is my ATM” frequently, and people have a visceral reaction to it. Many have told me they’re offended when I say that, because it implies God is some kind of genie ready to fulfill my desires.

I would have had that same reaction once upon a time … and today, I believe that response indicates more about the state of our hearts than the soundness of our theology.

So I’m gonna say it again:

God wants us to have the things we are longing for …. and He’s ready to send them, just like cash out of an ATM.

Before you click away, convinced I must have either lost my marbles, or decided to fashion God in my own image, hear me out. If the above statement is true, then the way we’re going about asking for what we want is not just wrong. It’s pushing us in the opposite direction of what we truly want.

Think about it. As a Christian woman, I used to approach my desires with a considerable amount of fear and suspicion. God might want me to have what I was asking for. He might not. I couched every prayer carefully to ensure I would demonstrate an openness both to receiving and not receiving, according to His will. I did my best to wrestle down my feelings of longing for the outcome I was seeking. In a sense, I tried my best to deny the desire.

Is it any wonder I rarely got what I was seeking … or wanting?

Because I wasn’t entirely convinced God wanted me to have what I desired, deep down, I would reluctantly enter into situations that didn’t reflect my desire or even drew me in the opposite direction. Surrender, I thought, demanded I be willing to do this.

If truth be told, I often ran straight into those situations as some kind of punishment, to keep me from desiring what I desired too much. Especially because it never seemed to come to fruition, no matter how hard I prayed. So God couldn’t possibly want it. Right?

I can’t count the number of times I heard preaching on Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (KJV) This teaching reinforced my doubt of the desires deep in my heart and made praying for them an experience that was one part blind hope, one part wishful thinking and one part pure anxiety.

Rarely did I hear anyone preach on Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Honestly, most of the theology I grew up with was far more focused on loss than receiving.

All that changed one day in July of 2016, when God spoke to me audibly for the first time in my life, launching my journey as a prophet. The first message He spoke to me was:

“You do not know how to receive love.”

I’ll write the details of that day some other day, but the general gist of the story is this. For the next three years, God began to show me how much He did want to give me. And that the desires of my heart—the deepest ones—weren’t purely selfish. He had put them there from the time I was a small girl. And He intended to fulfill them, if (and only if) I would come to a place where I truly opened myself to receiving them and allowed Him to give.

This was progress. Real progress. I saw new window of Heaven open and pour out things I’d desired for years (emotional healing, weight loss, more loving/connected friendships, my dream apartment, world travel, courage to speak my truth).

But the biggest things—a healthy, Kingdom-focused marriage; children; a wide audience of women in need of ministry; a large and gracious home to show hospitality and use as a base for ministry; financial overflow at the highest levels—still remained elusive.

I still prayed for them, and did so with a little more faith and a little less anxiety than before. But they persisted in remaining absent from my life. Which caused me to waver in my belief that these thins were God’s will.

Maybe it was His will to send me friends, apartments and trips to Europe … but God-fearing husbands and a passel of children belonged to a much higher category?

In reality, I realize now that what I had done was expand the limits of my allowed happiness and blessing enough that I could receive some of what I want. But receiving all of what I wanted would require me to expand those limits even further. And, I realize now, it would require me to actually believe God wanted to bless me with exactly wha I was asking for.

Does that statement strike fear in your heart the way it used to mine? Or at least make you uncomfortable enough that you’re tempted to squirm in your seat, or immediately register a comeback about how “God is not a genie in a bottle” or “He’s more interested in our happiness than our holiness”?

There’s something about the possibility of getting what we want that terrifies us.

The thought that God the good, good father who is excited to bless us with our sincerest, deep-down desires (which are not simply rooted in selfishness) is one of the most fear-inducing thoughts I know.

That little tickle of fear in your gut is the ceiling I’m talking about.

That’s doubt.

Today, I believe that we have not because we ask not—not really—because we’re asking in doubt. And a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Such a person cannot expect anything from God. (Matthew 6, James 1:5-8)

I was getting warmer at this point. I began praying with more faith. But I still wasn’t sure I could trust that God actually wanted to give me Everything I was asking for. My prayers still sounded more like cajoling, begging or passionate requests undercut with, “but if it’s not Your Will, then don’t give it to me.”

Thank God He’s merciful enough not to send fire from heaven down on such faithlessness.

He’s also merciful to send us the answers we seek.

Recently, I was enjoying a post on prayer that dropped into my inbox via the Elijah List newsletter, which shares prophetic words on a daily basis. This day was like any other, and I expected the newsletter to be like any other. But what I read actually stopped me in my tracks.

The prophet of the day, John Burton, shared how he had been asking God for many of his deepest desires—like a larger space for his church to meet and the ability to quit his job to focus on ministry. Yet those prayers went unanswered, until one day God interrupted the middle of his prayer session …. to tell him he was praying completely wrong, and ought to stop now!

According to Burton, God said to him, “You are praying as if I’m resisting you. Don’t you realize I put those desires in your heart? Why are you begging Me for a desire that I initiated? I gave you the desire in the first place!”

Wow.

Just … wow.

Burton was as shocked when he heard that, as I as reading it. Because it described my prayer life for years: I was praying to God as if He were inherently resistant to my requests …. which, deep down, revealed that ceiling or limit I mentioned earlier. On the one hand, I was willing to pray for what I wanted. But on the other hand, I truly didn’t believe He could possibly want to give me those things.

In Burton’s experience, God went on to tell him that the real person resisting his desires was Satan. And that if Burton wanted to experience breakthrough, He needed to break the demonic bonds holding back his blessings.

By praying in this way, Burton crossed the line from facing God as an adversary, to joining hands with him as team members in bringing these God-given desires to pass.

Within a month, his fledgling church of 35 people received $75,000 in checks in the offering. Burton quit his day job to focus on ministry—and the church moved into a 27,000 square-foot meeting space.

This story completely overhauled how I think about praying for my biggest desires. Because for years, I prayed as if God were my “enemy” (in a loose sense, though I wouldn’t have seen it that way) keeping me from having what I wanted.

Now I understand that Satan is the enemy. As long as I am begging God for what He already wants to give—instead of standing in authority against Satan and warring for the release of my blessing—nothing will change.

So does God want to give us our deepest heart’s desires? I 100% believe He does—and the parts of our lives that bring us the most grief are a direct reflection of moments when we chose what we thought we could get rather than warring for the blessing we really wanted.

I often say “God is my ATM,” and people get mad, or accuse me of treating God like He’s at my beck and call.

He’s certainly not my slave. Not at all. But I HAVE chosen to partner with Him in this walk of faith—and as He changes me into His image and deepens certain desires in my heart—even physical and material ones—I can only choose to believe that He intends to fulfill those.

Desire, my friends. Desire hard, and war for your blessing. Desire is not the problem; our lack of faith and Satan’s crafty schemes are the issue.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. But you’ve got to clear out the unbelief inside of you, make space to receive those blessings and war for them.

When you take God at His Word, He really is like an ATM. Not perhaps for your every whim, but for everything you desire deep down, everything holy thing your spirit craves and everything you need.

And yes, many times He really does want to send the things you desire. Things that really don’t exist other than just to delight you.

He’s good like. Really good. Take Him at His word–and confront your adversary the devil.

The contents of your spiritual bank account are far greater than you could ever draw upon in 100 lifetimes.

Dreams Are Overrated but Who Admits It?

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Dreams. We all have them. Desires and plans and goals. But for as many dreams as we can create for ourselves, it’s funny how rarely reality matches them. Or maybe I’m the only woman on the planet who feels that way?

If I had my dream right now, I would be the supportive wife of a godly Christian husband, probably working in ministry somewhere an raising 3.25 joyful children (because statisticians seem to enjoy splitting that last one about as much as Solomon would). I would be a published author by now and a veteran of the speaking circuit, signing books while I nurse my babies and sign three new contracts a week in my private creative consulting agency.

If I had my way over the situation, I would not be living out of a suitcase and traveling house to house in glitzy Dubai, trolling job boards daily and trotting off to Oman each month to renew my tourist visa while I wait for a job to open.

But that is my current reality. And it’s also the adventure I’m chronicling on this blog.

But that’s where a little perspective shift can go a long way toward fixing our dream-induced malaise.

Because what if the dreams we’re so hyped up about now are actually getting in the way of the ones God wants to give us?

Whenever I get stuck on how much I still don’t have, I find myself in need of a serious perspective shift. If we’re being technical, I am actually not really without a home, a job, possessions or a country. It’s just that what I DO have is not exactly visible to the naked eye. Mostly because everything I have comes from God.

God is my secure and certain dwelling. Serving Him is my Number One Job. Knowing Him is my most important treasure. And He says I belong to His country, which is (according to Hebrews 11) not of this world. But it took me a long time, and the loss of everything I had, to realize these comforting facts.

It also required me prying both of my tight little fists off the dreams I had for my life.

Think about it: how often are our dreams based on an infinitesimal understand of the possible realities God could bring about?

We have barely scratched the surface on who we are, what makes us “tick,” and what it would take for us to feel truly fulfilled in our purpose. Yet we cling to the belief that we know the answers to these questions. As a result, we often resist what God wants to bring into our lives because deep inside we do not believe He could possibly know us better than we know ourselves.

Do I still hope for the husband, the children (hopefully all in one piece, thank you), the home, and the sense of deep belonging in a Christian family unit? Absolutely.

But am I also constantly amazed how God knows me so much better than I could know myself? Am I shocked almost daily at the surprises He has planned for me that I could never have known to even want?

Absolutely.

This is why the concept of getting clear on our desires and goals—while valuable—isn’t really a fool-proof guide to our purpose.

I don’t want my dreams anymore if they keep me from receiving the amazing plans God has for me. And remaining in that place of surrender is the safest and fastest way I know to see miracles come about.

I’ll take miracles over my pre-planned ideas, thank you very much. My desires may be predictable, but God is always full of surprises.

There’s no greater dream than to receive exactly what He has planned.

That’s why, right before I went to Dubai, I started praying the Surrender Prayer of Betty Scott Stam for the first time in many years.

I’ll warn you, this powerful prayer can be a dangerous one. After all, if you tell God you’ll give up all your own desires and hopes … He just might take you up on it!

There are several different versions of this prayer floating around on the internet. I borrowed mine from this fellow blogger.

The prayer goes like this:

“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Your will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to You to be Yours forever. Fill me and seal me with Your Holy Spirit. Use me as You want, send me where You want, work out Your whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.”

You see what I mean about how dangerous that is? But Jesus DID say that in order to find our lives, we must lose them. Recognizing that your own desires may be given by God—but might also be a stumblingblock to receiving our greatest joy and purpose—is the most effective way I know to let go of them.

Dreams are great. Plans are useful. But only God can bring the Impossible to life, in us and for us.

What more beautiful dream could there be, than seeing that?