Season 1 | EPISODE 12

How to Experience the Pleasure of God

58:15 · May 23, 2023

Join Jim and Marc Davis in this thought-provoking episode as they challenge the common belief that God is disappointed in us. Through personal narratives, they explore how life’s moments, both significant and seemingly small, shape our self-perception and our idea of God’s opinion. Discover how God’s unwavering love enables us to embrace our weaknesses and strengths as part of our unique package, repent, find freedom from shame, and regain confidence to walk in His love.

Join Jim and Marc Davis in this thought-provoking episode as they challenge the common belief that God is disappointed in us. Through personal narratives, they explore how life’s moments, both significant and seemingly small, shape our self-perception and our idea of God’s opinion. Discover how God’s unwavering love enables us to embrace our weaknesses and strengths as part of our unique package, repent, find freedom from shame, and regain confidence to walk in His love.

In this episode, they discuss...

  • How our personal narratives shape our relationship with Jesus [06:47]
  • The desire to please the Lord and its connection to love [12:05]
  • Exploring the belief in God’s disappointment  [19:29]
  • How ‘little things’ can disrupt our personal narratives [23:15]
  • Jesus’ kindness amid our desperation [29:45] 
  • How God’s grace invites us to repent and believe [41:14]
  • Breaking free from self-condemnation and embracing God’s goodness [47:50]
  • Finding joy in living in God’s pleasure  [54:19]

Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!

Referenced in the episode...


Our guest for this episode was Marc Davis, a program leader on Serge’s Renewal team. This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen, Aaron Gray, and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy

𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.

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Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at podcast@serge.org



Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His Kingdom.


Jim Lovelady 00:24 Hello, beloved! Welcome to Episode 12 of Grace at the Fray. This is the last episode of our first season. And if you’re just tuning in now, you have 11 other episodes to hang out with or listen to again over the summer. 

So if you’ve been a Christian since maybe the 80s or so, you might know the famous Evangelism Explosion questions; the first is this: Do you know for sure that you will go to heaven one day? And the second goes something like this: If God were to ask you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” what would you say? Well, these are really amazing questions for spiritual conversation. 

But we at Serge like to add another question to this: If God were to look at you right now, what word would you use to describe the expression on His face? And go with your gut reaction here. As I’ve asked this question over years of pastoral ministry, one word keeps showing up when people pause to answer at a gut level. Disappointed. Or, put another way, Christians know that God loves them, but all too often, they feel like God doesn’t really like them. They feel like God is disappointed in them—in particular ways, but often just in general. 

So that’s what I want to talk about today with my friend, Marc Davis. He’s a pastor who has served with Serge since 2019 on the Renewal team as the Global Learning Program Leader. And that’s a cool title that just means that he helps pastors, missionaries, and others involved in ministry live out the gospel as he teaches and develops curriculum like our Discipleship Lab cohorts that help ministry leaders become better disciples. Oh, and he’s also one of the speakers at this year’s Sonship Week in October. So go book your flight to Hollywood, Florida, for Sonship Week in October. 

But today’s conversation… I think it’s fascinating because Marc reframes the idea of God’s disappointment as he talks about living in the pleasure of God. It reminds me of another set of questions that I want to put into your mind as we begin. These questions come from a quote from the founder of Serge, Jack Miller, from his book called Saving Grace. And it’s a wonderful little devotional book with little chunks of spiritual meat that you can chew on all day. 

And here’s a pro tip: when you read this in the morning, it’s just one little page. Take a photo of it, keep it on your phone, and you can come back to it throughout the day. Now, this excerpt comes from the September 12 devotional, and it goes like this: Ask yourself this: Have I ever done a single thing because I love Jesus? Or reverse it: Have I ever stopped doing a single thing because I love Jesus? That reframes everything around the pleasure of God. And now, with all of these things in your mind, join me with Marc as we wrestle with this question: Is God disappointed in me?

Jim Lovelady 03:47 Hey, welcome. 

Marc Davis 03:49 Hi, Jim. Thank you.

Jim Lovelady 03:51 So yeah. You are the last interview of the season.

Marc Davis 03:57 Right. I’m feeling the pressure. We talked about the need for a cliffhanger at the end of the episode.

Jim Lovelady 04:05 Yeah. So if you just walk right out in the middle of the interview, that’ll be a good cliffhanger.

Marc Davis 04:10 If one of us were to die suddenly, would that be a good cliffhanger?

Jim Lovelady 04:13 Yeah. Or just keel over. “What happened to him? You’ll find out next season.” So I asked you yesterday, are you an emoji guy?

Marc Davis 04:27 You texted me this question, and I never really got context or explanation for…

Jim Lovelady 04:31 It was my cliffhanger for you. Okay, pop quiz. A good friend of mine, who is a pastor, did this with his youth group. What are your frequently used emojis? Do you know what yours are?

Marc Davis 04:48 Yeah. So this is kind of revelatory, probably. It’s the smiley face that’s not like a broad grin. It’s the one that sort of, kind of… 

Jim Lovelady 04:58 The smiley face on the side? 

Marc Davis 05:00 No, it’s not. It’s symmetrical, but it’s sort of, just kind of a subtle sort of, kind of…

Jim Lovelady 05:08 You just did it! 

Marc Davis 05:11 The grin is more sparingly used, but it’s sort of an “I’m happy to respond.”

Jim Lovelady 05:18 Do you do the thumbs up?

Marc Davis 05:19 I do the thumbs up.

Jim Lovelady 05:20 I do the hang loose. Thumbs up with the tilted-back pinky? 

Marc Davis 05:25 No, I don’t do that. 

Jim Lovelady 05:26 That’s the one I normally do.

Marc Davis 05:27 With my kids or something, I’ll throw in a stalk of celery or…

Jim Lovelady 05:35 Something random. My daughter’s embarrassed that I’ll throw emojis into texts with her. My top three, my top one is the eye roll. It’s a little bit convicting when I look at it. My most frequently used emoji is the eye roll. And then it’s the guy that’s like, “I don’t know.” 

Marc Davis 05:58 Yeah, I use that with some. 

Jim Lovelady 06:00 I do that one, which is another ambiguous one. And then the other one is the face slap. That’s my number three. Those are my top three.

Marc Davis 06:08 Yeah, I don’t know. In my emoji use, I’m constantly trying not to be a cynical, jaded Gen X-er. 

Jim Lovelady 06:24 Well, that’s what mine just showed me. 

Marc Davis 06:25 And I’m just trying to push back against that. And, be a little more hopeful than my natural bent of my heart, which is kind of an Eeyore sort of umbrella emoji… 

Jim Lovelady 06:44 An Eeyore emoji would be amazing. 

Marc Davis 06:46 …to be a little more kind of thumbs up.

Jim Lovelady 06:47 Right. So, my pastor friend, he did this with his youth group. Genius. He said, “Okay. If God were texting you, what emoji would He use toward you?”

Marc Davis 07:00 Well, you know, so if it were the eye-roll, that would be one thing.

Jim Lovelady 07:06 I wouldn’t want to get an eye roll from God. Of all the most frequently used ones—the “I don’t know,” I wouldn’t want to get the eye-roll from God. 

Marc Davis 07:18 What does that mean, Lord? 

Jim Lovelady 07:19 Yeah. And then our heart’s answer… it’s very similar to the question we commonly ask in Sonship and Discipleship Lab. If God were to pause from His ruling the universe and look directly toward you, describe in one word what His face would look like as He looks at you at any given moment. What’s the word that so many people use? 

Marc Davis 07:49 Disappointed. 

Jim Lovelady 07:51 When I’ve asked that, very rarely have I gotten anything other than “disappointed.” So you did a webinar a while back for Serge. 

Marc Davis 08:00 A couple of years ago. 

Jim Lovelady 08:01 And we have all these webinars that we do that have amazing content. And what I found very interesting was that you did one entitled, Is God Disappointed with Me? And that resonated with folks. There was a significant response.

Marc Davis 08:17 Yeah. I mean, I think it’s this sense of a little bit of embarrassment, a little bit of shame, a little bit of a sense of, in one way or another, “I feel lacking and exposed.” So, as you’re talking about that, stopping, pausing, and looking right at me, for me, part of the challenge is, “Can I return eye contact?” When I was growing up, every day, like really, every day, on my way out the door to go to school, my mom would say to me, “Look people in the eye when you talk to them.” 

Jim Lovelady 09:03 Every day? 

Marc Davis 09:04 Pretty much. Because I didn’t, right? And my mom was trying to help me to grow into a person who made eye contact. It’s hard enough to return the gaze of a human being, right? But God is looking at me, and can I return His gaze? And you know, of course, there’s the appropriate Isaiah 6 kind of “Woe is me,” that I am not… (Isaiah 6:5) I’m not on a level with God to look Him in the eye. Who am I to do that? But still, He’s a God Who seeks relationship, desires relationship and looks at us. It’s the Aaronic blessing, right? I think you use this for the podcast: May He look on you with favor and His face shine on you.

Jim Lovelady 10:03 Yeah. And I’ve made it my own. Sorry, Aaron. Make His face to smile on you because I like that. And it’s the same concept. This is why Sonship and Discipleship Lab are so wonderful. We know in our head the theology, “God loves you. God loves you. Of course, God loves me.” But then, when you pause and go, “Well, what does He think about you right now? What does He think about you in general? What does He think about what you’re doing? What does He think about what you just did? Uh…He’s probably disappointed.” Yeah. 

So unpack that. You’ve spent a lot of time with Serge unpacking for people this question. And that’s why they asked you to do that webinar. A lot of the work that we do is Sonship. And you head up Discipleship Lab. That’s why I keep mentioning it. Discipling people means helping them see God in a certain way. But I love the way that you take the question, “Is God disappointed with me?” And, when we were talking about this last week, you were like, “Here’s how I approach this. Here’s how I come at this.” And it was kind of surprising to me that you go, “Okay, well, let me look at what’s going on in my own heart. And let’s kind of dig into what’s going on in my own heart.” And so talk a little bit about that.

Marc Davis 11:41 Yeah. For all of us, personal narrative and personal story will come into how we engage in a relationship with Jesus. How do I think He’s looking at me? Am I able to return that gaze? Am I able to walk in that confidence? And yeah, I didn’t really intend to talk about this. But I think even in that story I told you about, “look people in the eye when you talk to them….” One of the arcs of the story in my life has been, can I grow into standing up straight, unembarrassed, engaging people with love? And not being withdrawn, self-conscious, and insecure? Can I be self-forgetful? And so you’ve got that sort of insecure, self-conscious, but then you’ve got this other sort of very positive kind of related theme here around this: Is God disappointed in me?

So college for me was a time of marked growth in my love for Christ. And one of the verses that really kind of became a formative verse for me – this would be around the end of my second year of college, which is also around the time that I began to believe that God was calling me into ministry in some way, shape or form, some time or another, somewhere – but anyway, the verse is 2 Corinthians 5:9. And just the simplicity of it, it says, “So we make it our goal to please Him.” And there’s context, of course, but that little fragment… When I encountered that verse, I remember talking about it with a friend of mine. When I encountered it, my heart resonated with it. I wanted to live into it. So you hear that verse, and if you’re a Serge grace boy, as I know you are…

Jim Lovelady 14:03 I’m a Serge grace boy.

Marc Davis 14:04I think sometimes the first instinct is, “Oh, you don’t have to worry about pleasing God.” So why did that resonate with me? It came not as an aspiration of “maybe someday.” It’s a verse that’s supposed to be understood within the context of God’s love for you. Right? But why is my heart warmed in love for Him? Why would I want to please Him? Why would I want to bring Him glory? Why would I want to praise Him? Because He’s been so kind to me, right? Because He loves me so much. And so my heart was responding through that verse in love for my Jesus who just says, “Lord, I want to live for You. I want to do it for You. I want my life to be an offering of praise.” That desire to please the Lord is actually very different. I mean, it’s sort of related, you know, it’s in related language. If we’re talking about this anxiety that says, “I don’t measure up.” He’s doing one of these…

Jim Lovelady 15:28 Faceplant [facepalm] emoji or whatever it’s called.

Marc Davis 15:31 …you know, I think that’s an anxiety that’s very much an inward sort of folding-in-on-yourself anxiety rather than an outward, “I love you, Jesus, and I want to serve you.” Junior year math class. You probably did some. Mr. Swedberg, at the beginning of math class, every class started the same way. He would call on people to put the problems from the previous night’s homework up on the board, and there were blackboards all over the classroom. And you’d be called up. And the trick was if you were me and had done the first five problems of the 20 assigned problems…

Jim Lovelady 16:21 Raise your hand quickly.

Marc Davis 16:22 Raise your hand quickly, right? And sometimes that worked. And sometimes he’s calling you for number six, you know? And sometimes you just kind of shrink down and think, “Please don’t call on me.” And the anxiety of these questions has something to do with… it’s a related anxiety like, “Oh, don’t look at me. Don’t call on me. Don’t look at me. Don’t make me stand up and do something in front of you. Because I’m embarrassed.” I’m embarrassed on a variety of levels. But I could be embarrassed because of my sin. That’s a whole… 

Jim Lovelady 17:00 That’s a thing. 

Marc Davis 17:01 That’s a whole thing. But I’m also embarrassed because I feel like such a schlub. I’m embarrassed because I didn’t do my math homework or because I’m feeling unprepared and stupid.

Jim Lovelady 17:16 Yeah. Or even if you did your math homework, maybe it wasn’t right or good.

Marc Davis 17:20 Yeah, yeah. I’m afraid my math teacher did have a way of… he kind of let you squirm a little bit up there. 

Jim Lovelady 17:27 Oh, he was intimidating. 

Marc Davis 17:29 He would ask questions like, “Why did you do this?” And it’s like, “I don’t know. Let me sit down.”

Jim Lovelady 17:38 Stop asking me. Just fail me. Just don’t talk to me.

Marc Davis 17:44 Right. So there’s an embarrassment that is not about sin. But that is about—I just feel weak. I just don’t feel very smart. I don’t feel very accomplished. I don’t feel like I’m very productive or have a lot to show for myself. That last one is the one that kicks in for people around milestone birthdays, high school and college reunions, and things like that. And it’s like, “Oh, shoot. Now I’m 40. Now I’m 50. And, what have I got?”

Jim Lovelady 18:25 What do I have to show for myself? 

Marc Davis 18:27 When the other people show up at the reunion, and they have things to talk about, am I going to feel kind of sheepish and embarrassed?

Jim Lovelady 18:36 So when I say, “Hey, if God paused from ruling the universe,” even that part is silly because it’s not like He’s ignoring us. But you know, for the sake of… the effect of the question is: Please don’t call on me. Please don’t bring those things up because it’s embarrassing. It’s intimidating. It’s all sorts of shame that just kind of bubbles to the surface when you ask what… you know, your math teacher is intimidating. If your math teacher is intimidating, then…

Marc Davis 19:16 He would have been less intimidating if I had done my homework, but…

Jim Lovelady 19:23 But then, we’re talking about the Lord of the universe here. We’re talking about… if you want to talk about Isaiah 6, holy apprehension, then “Woe is me. I’m undone. I didn’t do my math.” And so when we ask the question, “Is God disappointed with me?” our immediate sense of shame just kind of comes to the surface. It bubbles to the surface, and how hard it is to make eye contact in that situation is a thing.

Marc Davis 19:59 And I think for a lot of folks, the assumption is… it’s not even necessarily an examined idea. It’s just sort of…

Jim Lovelady 20:11 It’s in us. 

Marc Davis 20:12 It’s just off the top of your head. No doubt, it’s the legacy of our first parents hiding in the garden. They didn’t want to get called on, either. But that sense of, “Can I ever graduate from that?” to a sense of “When He looks at me, I can lift my head and look at Him. And I can see that He’s smiling at me, and I can smile back.” Can that ever be a thing?

Jim Lovelady 20:46 Yeah. There’s a level at which we engage with this, and it’s the level of shame. The level of—this is where my sin is; this is what I know about myself. The evidence is clear. Anybody who would observe my life can see that there’s plenty to be ashamed of. I could hide from that. I could mask it over and say, “You’re only human,” or whatever. But still, you can’t get away from the fact that that’s the source of the holy apprehension, the “Woe is me” kind of thing. But the deeper level, going back to the 2 Corinthians 5 passage, there’s something, it’s like CS Lewis, you know, there’s a deeper thing going on. Where is that? The deeper magic…

Marc Davis 21:32The Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time (from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Jim Lovelady 21:35 So the “Deeper Magic Before the Dawn of Time” is we make it our goal to please Him because He loves us. And He is beautiful. And I belong to Him. And it is guaranteed that I am to become like Him. That’s the deeper reality that when we hear the question, “Is God disappointed with me?” we don’t go there first. We go to: “Well, there’s a lot of evidence that would say that….” I mean, I’m kind of disappointed in myself, so…

Marc Davis 22:05 Right. Well, that’s right. I think it does start with: “Do I feel good about myself? Do I feel good about my effort or my overall… how am I doing in all these different categories?” And, maybe sometimes a little bit, but overall, I think for many of us, in one category or another, or many categories, we are disappointed with ourselves. I’m embarrassed, not just before the scrutiny of other people or before God, but I’m sort of embarrassed before my own scrutiny. And yeah, and sometimes we do disappoint other people. We do. You could do a real trite job with this and kind of come alongside and say, “Oh, come on. No, no. We’re not disappointed. Nobody’s disappointed in you.” But no, actually, yep. Sometimes, people are disappointed. 

Jim Lovelady 23:10 Yeah. I like how in the webinar, you said there’s data in the universe.

Marc Davis 23:15 Yeah. That’s right. So this is tiny, right? This is tiny. And maybe people who are listening are going to say, “Come on. But why is that a big deal?” But I think again that it fits into a bigger narrative so that a tiny thing is not just one data point. It’s like the latest in a long line of data points. 

So a few weeks ago, we bought a television. And it’s the biggest television we’ve ever had. Maybe not as big as some people’s, but still. And it’s the kind of TV you need to hang on the wall. So you buy the whole anchor and bolts. And I am good at some things and less good at other things. And so the whole realm of practical things that men are supposed to be good at, I’m often not good at. But I can often concentrate and work really hard, and maybe almost do an okay job on some of these things. But we bought this television. 

Jim Lovelady 24:30 There’s a moment where you realized that you were going to have to hang this on the wall.

Marc Davis 24:32 Well, you know, initially, Susan, my wife, actually asked her dad whether he might want to stop by and help us hang this television. Because he is the sort of person who’s good at these things, and I forget but he was going to come but then he couldn’t. Anyway, it was around, and we wanted to get it up. But I think she turned to him out of instinct, like, “Well, who knows how to do this well? He will.” And so, in the meantime, I decided, “Well, we can do this.” This is something that I can accomplish. And so I recruited our 19-year-old son, and he and I set out to tackle this. And there’s a whole thing, you know, if you’re us, you’ve got to really concentrate and walk through step by step. And, you’ve got to find the studs in the wall and drill your holes. And there were a few obstacles along the way that we had to overcome. At one point, we did actually phone my father-in-law. 

Jim Lovelady 25:36 Oh, nice. 

Marc Davis 25:37 And we discussed it with him. But in the end, we get the thing up. And it was the end of the day, and my son and I both needed to get up early in the morning. 

Jim Lovelady 25:46 You’ve been about this way too long. 

Marc Davis 25:47 And so it’s up. And then you stand back. And it’s crooked. 

Jim Lovelady 25:56 Argh.

Marc Davis 25:57 And, Susan saw that it was crooked. And you could just see she wasn’t being mean. She’s trying really hard not to, but you could just see the chagrin look on her face. It’s just like, “Oh, my gosh. This is not what we’re after.” 

Jim Lovelady 26:26 It’s totally crooked. 

Marc Davis 26:28 Just enough to be distracting, enough to be noticeable. 

Jim Lovelady And when it’s the thing that you look at… 

Marc Davis It’s a television, right?

Jim Lovelady 26:39 Oh, no.

Marc Davis 26:40 But it’s the end of the day; we’re shot. We need to get up in the morning; we need to go to bed. And I get up in the morning and come downstairs, and there it is. 

Jim Lovelady 26:53 Laughing at you. 

Marc Davis 26:54 Laughing at me. Yes. It’s like you’re going to be standing up in front of the math class for however long it takes to fix this. Just sort of feeling this sentence of death, right? I don’t want to be dramatic, but I was really depressed. It was a negative message about me; I was very discouraged.

Jim Lovelady 27:23 You started this story by saying this is kind of a small thing. No, actually, there are no small things. Because all these small things lead to these large realities of how we see ourselves in the universe; how we experience life around us. This TV is laughing at you. And it’s saying, “You’re a failure.” You were depressed because this thing was bringing out all sorts of shame.

Marc Davis 27:58 Yeah. Do you want to hear the end of the story? 

Jim Lovelady 28:00 What did you do? 

Marc Davis 28:01 So I’m looking at this television on the wall first thing the next morning and really discouraged. I’m trying to get the courage together to get the dog and take him for a walk and do all the things to carry on with the day. But I’m talking to Jesus for a minute about the television because it was a burden. And as I’m talking with the Lord about the TV, I’m just walking over to it, and I say out loud to the Lord, “Lord, if it would just be possible, could we just kind of just move it.….” And it moved. I wasn’t really expecting it to!

Jim Lovelady 28:58 You were just wishing it was right here. 

Marc Davis 29:01 I was like, “Boy, if I could just….” 

Jim Lovelady 29:05 And it moved! 

Marc Davis 29:06 And it moved. And I was standing back, and “Oh my gosh, it moved.” And I took the dog for a walk. And later in the morning, I was up and out before Susan got up, and I got a text from her that said, “Did you fiddle with the TV?”

Jim Lovelady 29:32 Nice. I love this. I love this.

Marc Davis 29:36 I replied, “Yes. It’s better, right?” “Definitely,” she said.

Jim Lovelady 29:45 Oh my. Win. Wins all around. That’s amazing. You started the story with, “Here’s a little story.” No, that is a miracle. It is a miracle. You had the same kind of desperation as the people who ran to Jesus in the New Testament. It’s like the woman who bled for 12 years. “Maybe if I just touch the edge of the TV a little bit. And Jesus is like, “Who touched Me? The power came out from Me.” Or the people were like, “I’m going to cry out, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’” It’s not a little thing when we’re in this place of desperation. And I love that you woke up the next morning and brought your chagrin to Jesus. That’s beautiful to me. I think I’ve lived so much of my Christian life going, “Ugh…I’m an idiot,” and stopped there. But what you’re doing is you’re going, “I’m a failure,” but you’re going, “Jesus, I’m really upset about this.” This is one of a thousand reasons to be ashamed of myself, not to like myself, or to be self-critical. But you’re going like, “Blah… here’s this, Jesus,” and in His mercy, He goes, “I know. I know. Go. Go give the TV….” I love it. He’s like, “Hey, where do you think the TV should be?” “I think I would love it if it were just right there. Oh, it’s right there.” I love it because it is the kindness of God in the little things. How beautiful of a Savior that He cares about the TV being straighter, you know?

Marc Davis 31:47 Well, in this sense of the objectivity of how disappointing I am, there’s this sense that it’s not just subjective. It’s not just, “Oh, I don’t know, I think it’s okay.” 

Jim Lovelady 32:02 We can make it work. 

Marc Davis 32:03 It’s like, “No, yeah, clearly, it’s off.” And the accumulation of multiple objective data points, the cosmic Yelp review…

Jim Lovelady 32:15 That’s right. You’re right. 

Marc Davis 32:17 You can pull me up on Yelp, and there—it’s two stars, one word: disappointing. It’s just, “There it is!” It’s not just that I have low self-esteem. It’s “No…”

Jim Lovelady 32:35 It’s crooked. 

Marc Davis 32:36 It’s just, yeah, it’s crooked. And it’s just like “disappointing” is written across my forehead. And I think what can happen is that as people feel the weight of that sort of objective, “I am not what I could be,” that can translate to and morph into a sense that this is God’s opinion. This is God’s judgment on me. And I think the Lord has worked in me enough over the years that I don’t really believe that. Even when I struggle, and I do, with a narrative of my own patheticness, I think I have learned not to ascribe that to the personal God who made me in His image and loved me in Christ. And God is not an ethereal force that makes cosmic Yelp reviews. He’s a capital “P, three-in-one Person who looks at me and invites me to look at Him. 

So back to making it my goal to please Him, it’s taking a package of who I am and being that person for the Lord. So this is ridiculous. But as long as I’m being ridiculous on the internet! So at Christmas time, there’s all the cheesy Christmas music on the radio. So one that always gets me, and I’m always embarrassed that it gets me, is The Little Drummer Boy.

Jim Lovelady 34:37 That one hits you somewhere?

Marc Davis 34:39 Yeah, it chokes me up. 

Jim Lovelady 34:41 Because all he’s got is his little snare. That’s all he can give.

Marc Davis 34:46 But he wants to play a song for baby Jesus. And he does it! And I’m in tears because it’s akin to “I love Him. And I want to do this for Him.” 

Jim Lovelady 35:07 And this is what I have. This is what I’ve been given.

Marc Davis 35:10 Yeah, I know how to play the drum. Could I play the drum for baby Jesus?

Jim Lovelady 35:13 You know, I’ll do anything. Jesus, if You ask me, I’ll do that.

Marc Davis 35:18 That’s right. And we do. There are all kinds of things that we are called to do that we don’t do particularly well. But we can do them. 

Jim Lovelady 35:29 But this is what I have, and what I’m good at. I’m a little drummer boy. Can I play You a song?

Marc Davis 35:37 And where you really excel at something, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I want to do that for Him.”

Jim Lovelady 35:45 It’s interesting that you’re taking the question, “Is God disappointed with me?” and saying, “Well, here’s another question to consider while we consider that. Can I become comfortable in my own skin?” And putting those two things together is really interesting because there is this level of shame that we have to contend with. We have to go through that level of shame, to the deeper magic, to the deeper reality of Who we belong to and what Christ has done for us. And in how the shame is covered so that we don’t have to… whatever it is that makes us feel ashamed, Jesus is inviting us out of that. He wants to liberate us from that. So it’s really interesting to me this connection between the idea that “Is God disappointed with me?” well, actually, “Am I disappointed with me?” In the presupposition of the question, as you said earlier—God looking at me—I wonder how much of it is me projecting my own shame onto God. 

Marc Davis 36:54 He made me. And to some degree, as I think about even some of the things that make me feel foolish because I’m not good at them, He made me that way. And I think the freedom of knowing my weakness, but knowing my strength, and also being unapologetic about that, that you can actually… Just as I’ve got all these objective data points over here, I’ve actually got some objective data points over here as well of things that I’m good at. And I can be that. I can do that without apology. But anyway, so there’s that whole kind of, “Can I come to terms with myself in my creatureliness? In my limitations? Can I be okay with myself in my humanity, being somebody who is not good at everything—who makes mistakes, who gets things wrong, who forgets things?” The package of who I am includes that sort of fallibility—that kind of weakness. It also, by the way, includes areas of intelligence, aptitude, skill, and giftedness. And this is true of each of us that the package is this and this.

Jim Lovelady 38:38 Yeah, it’s interesting. I’m not ashamed of how bad of a lawyer I am, right? Like, I don’t care. I’m not a lawyer. And I don’t care to be a lawyer. But for someone who is a lawyer and thinks of themselves as a good lawyer, if the data comes out that they’re not a good lawyer, that’s going to be crushing. And so the shame that comes from these places that we go, “Oh, this is very important to me,” but to be free from that, to be comfortable with, “Oh, you know what? I’m starting to be okay with the fact that I’m not good at putting TVs up on walls.” And it’s okay.

Marc Davis 39:16 Right. There’s this struggle with… there are some things that I feel like I should be able to do. Other people seem to be able to do this. And this is really hard for me, and I feel really stupid. And we all have these things. And, of course, they’re important things like being a good parent, right? Whatever that means. Like, I should be a better parent than this, but this is actually really hard for me in whatever way—and there are a bunch of different ways that you parent.

Jim Lovelady 39:54 So, that’s one aspect of it. There is another aspect of it. And so much of life is that we don’t want to please Him. And we much prefer to follow the idols we worship and the sin patterns continuously bringing us down. And so that’s a question as well, right? Because… just ask my wife and kids if Jim is a sinner, and they’ll nod. And so there is objective data that Jim is a jerk. There are objective data that Jim has a bad attitude.

Marc Davis 40:33 And sometimes we sin, and we’re pretty oblivious. Like, we’re not actually embarrassed or particularly ashamed. But, sometimes, we are. So, I know when my kids were small, there were times that I lost my temper and spoke harshly to them. I would just be filled with shame. I would feel terrible. And of course, you know, is there something good about that? Sure. You know, the grieving, “Crap, I spoke to my little girl this way,” and I’m ready to cry. 

Jim Lovelady 41:13 We’re not supposed to like that. 

Marc Davis 41:14 No, we’re not supposed to like that.

Jim Lovelady 41:14 It’s good that we lament over that—sorrow for sin.

Marc Davis 41:19 And, you know, godly grief leads to repentance. And that’s good. But it can also be something that I could really just feel rotten for hours, if not days, about that and those things that cause us to feel ashamed before myself, other people, and God. And so I feel like, and surely, some people are listening and thinking, “Well, but surely He’s disappointed there. If I speak harshly to my child, He’s disappointed with me.” So I think what we need to do is to try to hold together multiple biblical things at once. So the reality—the objective reality—is that anyone who is in Christ is fully loved and accepted and approved. 

Jim Lovelady 42:18 That is the deeper magic. 

Marc Davis 42:20 That is the deeper magic, and I live my whole life from that time forward under the dome—under the big umbrella—of God’s grace, and I cannot get out from under it. 

Jim Lovelady 42:34 Yeah, that’s huge. 

Marc Davis 42:35 And it’s not just sort of grace as in, “Well, we’re going to kind of fudge the numbers on the arithmetic….”

Jim Lovelady 42:44 And we tend to do that for everything, right? Like, it’s not that bad that you can’t do the TV thing. It’s not that bad that you’ve yelled at your kids. It’s not that bad. We will fudge the numbers.

Marc Davis 42:54 Yeah, where the reality is, “No, that’s pretty bad.” But if you are in Christ, this deep magic of union with Christ through faith, that the Father who says of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” says that about you. And so, this is the dome, and my failure does not kick me out from under that dome. Are there other things we can talk about from the New Testament? Sure. Which do we hold in tension a little bit? Sure. And I think, even something like, “I make it my goal to please Him,” there are things that I do that please Him and things that I do that displease Him. And it’s just biblical. So in 2 Samuel 11, at the end of the David and Bathsheba story, the last verse in the chapter, “But what David had done displeased the Lord.” (2 Samuel 11:27) Of course it did. He had a man put in the line of fire and effectively murdered him and took his wife, and of course, it displeased the Lord. So there’s that. That stuff happens even under the dome, right? That I’m working out, I’m learning how to please the Lord. So Ephesians 5, I think, says, “Find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:10) Right? Which I love. Find out what pleases the Lord.

Jim Lovelady 44:35 Yeah. That goes really well with 2 Corinthians 5. Make it your goal. And go explore.

Marc Davis 44:41 Yeah, find out what pleases the Lord and then grow into those things. Learn how to actually make that lived experience, like the stuff going on in Ephesians 5: stop lying and start telling the truth. Stop stealing and start working for a living. It’s like, “I don’t know. This is kind of new territory. I’m not sure how to do this.” And God says, “Come on, let me show you. Find out. Find out what it is like to live this way.” And so I think, even as we, Serge grace boys, want to bang the drum loudly of the grace of God, the big dome, of course, we affirm what the Scriptures say about working out, pleasing the Lord, in the details of how you live and the choices you make day by day, even while knowing my sin problem is bigger than the choices I make. There’s kind of a whole swirl of stuff going on in here. And most of the time, at my best, I am living in love for Jesus, desiring to please Him, while at the same time having this undercurrent of “Oh, and I hope other people see this too.” 

Jim Lovelady 46:00 I love how you say this all the time. It’s actually way easier than we realize. You just repent and believe. What if I find myself in this place where I am caught in my sin and transgression? I love it. You’re just like, “Repent.” It’s that easy.

Marc Davis 46:15 Yeah, great. It’s like, and it can have the sense that we got to blow it up and start over.

Jim Lovelady 46:23 My self-pity always says that. “Yep. Blow it up and start over.” 

Marc Davis 46:27 It’s like, “No, no, no. You didn’t blow it up. Don’t do that. The Lord has His hand on you. You have the favor of God. And under that favor, repent and believe.” And, I think that coming to terms with who I am, there’s the “I’m good at this. I’m not good at this.” There’s that stuff. There’s also an appropriate kind of coming to terms with the reality that I’m a sinner. And frankly, that’s not going anywhere until glory. That is going to be part of my lived experience. Do I make light of that? No. Do I agree with that? Yeah, I do. But it’s not surprising. It’s not shattering. It doesn’t mean that we have to blow it up and start over, or that we need to go do two weeks of penance before we get to pray again, or anything like that. It’s kind of the freedom to be able to recognize, “Oh, I need to repent, don’t I?” And, you know, we often say around here that—I think this is a Millerism (from Jack Miller)—that sanctification means you repent faster. It’s not so much that you’re repenting less, but you’re repenting more quickly. 

Jim Lovelady 47:59 It’s so easy for self-pity to take over. And I’ll catch it when I go, “Jim, you’re better than that. You know better. Oh, you’re doing that again? There you go again.” And it’s this self-condemnation, self-pity thing. I’m essentially surprised by my sin. Wait a second. What? Why am I surprised that I’m a sinner? “Oh, it’s because you thought you weren’t. Oh, you were functioning as if you were amazing.” I don’t know. And then here’s the reality. The moment I turn to Jesus, I’m going to see a smiley face. I’m going to see joy. I’m going to see the Father running out with the ring and the robe, ready to throw a party for me because of my genuine desire just to want to go back to Jesus. Jesus, I want to go back to You. And it’s because I think I love You. And there it is again, just that simple “I want to please You.” You know, what pleases the Lord? When we repent and turn to Him.

Marc Davis 49:14 And I think, if I’m honest, when I reflect on those times when my kids were small, and I was harsh with them, part of why it was so devastating was because I thought I was a good father. Because it was something that I took pride in as being a kind, gentle, funny daddy. And to have that blown up—I mean truthfully, it wasn’t just, “Oh, I’ve hurt these dear children.” It was, “Oh shoot. My identity just went out the window.” Because I was proud and trying to carve out an area of competency for myself. This is all a bigger story, right? But when my children were small, it was a time when I was at a total dead end vocationally. And doors were not opening for me, and I felt pretty crappy over here about what wasn’t happening. But I thought over here, anyway, is a place where I am good at this. And it’s like, “Nope.” 

Jim Lovelady 50:26 Can’t I be good at anything?

Marc Davis 50:28 Exactly. And then you’re off to the races in despair. 

Jim Lovelady 50:31 There’s the shame again.

Marc Davis 50:33 And for the Lord to come to you with kindness and grace in the midst of it. And He says, “Well, if there’s something we’ve got to blow up, we’re going to blow up your idea that you’re such a good daddy. We’re going to blow that up. But we’re not going to blow you up. We’re going to heal and build.”

Jim Lovelady 50:48 And the beautiful irony is the Lord, being a good Father in the way that He calls you to that kind of repentance, He shows you the data and says, “This is how you’ve been getting your identity. And this is how that identity has been blown up. I’m showing this to you. You’re welcome. And I love you. Come be like Me. Come follow Me. Come practice being the kind of Father I am with your kids.” And then, we wrestle through that—just always fumbling through. And it’s beautiful. I love this conversation because of the way that it shifts the question from “Is God disappointed in me?” From now on, my answer is going to be, “Well, I make it my goal to please God.” It feels like a non sequitur in so many ways. But it’s like, no, this is where my heart is bent. The “Is God disappointed at me?” is this level of shame… The “I make it my goal to please Him” is from the core of my identity, where the Spirit has kindled a fire. That’s where that desire comes from. My fear that there’s an almighty hammer that’s going to come down on me, or my fear that my shame and guilt are going to be exposed. All those things are… that’s this level, “I will hide in the shadow of His wings.” Here in His love is where I go, “My deepest longings are moving forward in tandem with the Spirit, as the Spirit kindles this love for me.” We love because He first loved us. And wherever there is condemnation… when our heart condemns us—this is one of my favorite verses—when our heart condemns us, there’s Someone greater than our hearts. He knows all things. (1 John 3:20, NRSV) I love it.

Marc Davis 52:57 That’s right. “Is God disappointed in me?” is a question that kind of folds in on yourself. It’s a sort of very self-concerned posture—I’m hiding under the bed, and the Lord is the kind of God who’s ready to expose me and say words of judgment over me. And really, you know, the pivot is to move toward, “No, no. He has lavished His love on you in Christ. So come out from under the bed, and begin to come alive to the glory and goodness of God. And don’t you want to be swept up in the glory of God? Don’t you want to be swept up in the Kingdom of God and find yourself standing up straight, looking people in the eye, returning God’s smile with your own smile, and living to please Him?”

Jim Lovelady 54:05 And that’s the joy of life. That’s the joy of following Him. It is so good.

Jim Lovelady 54:19 The question of whether or not God is disappointed with me is actually a question about shame. And the beauty of the gospel is that God’s grace abounds, especially in the face of our deepest shame. 1 John 3:20-22 says it this way: “When your heart condemns you, there is someone greater than your heart, and He knows all things. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from Him whatever we ask, because we obey Him and do what pleases Him.” There it is. That’s the deeper magic. So move through the question, “Is God disappointed with me?” by allowing God to address the thing that you’re most ashamed about—whether it be a sin or just the frailty of being a mere mortal. And then, in that repentance and humility, allow Jesus to respond with this truth. Your sins, past, present, and future, are forgiven in Christ. Your shame is covered, and His resurrection ensures that He is making all things new. Look to Jesus in repentance and faith, and you will always find a God who delights in you. And that’s the beautiful gospel of our beautiful Savior. 

But before I sign off for the summer, there are a number of people that I want to thank. The first season of the podcast has been amazing, and it would not have happened without the help of these friends. Anna Madsen, she’s the executive producer. Sunny Chi, she’s the administrator and transcriber. Brooke Herron, she’s the web designer. Ashlie Kodsy, she’s the social media guru. And Tommy Leahy, he is the musician behind all the music. And a special thank you to Andrew Ward for accompanying me to England. And to all the guests that joined me in the first season. It has been such a pleasure. Everyone is so fascinating because everyone has a story about God who wants to meet us at the frayed edges of life. 

And I want to thank you. Thank you for listening to the first season, and look for a couple of bonus episodes this summer. But we’ll pick it back up with our weekly episodes in September. 

In the meantime, I’d love to hear topics that pique your interest. What are your stories of how God has met you at the frayed edges of life? Email me at podcast@serge.org

But for now, go tell someone about this podcast. Share it with your friends and family. Pray for us. Visit serge.org/give and support a missionary. Visit serge.org/go and start the process of becoming a missionary. You know what? Just go to serge.org and explore the entire website. We have lots of resources for how to live out God’s grace at the frayed edges of life. 

So now, because you live under the cosmic umbrella of God’s love, go find out what pleases Him. And as you go, receive the Lord’s blessing. May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to smile down on you. May the Lord be gracious to you, turn His bright eyes to you, and give you His peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One God, life everlasting. Amen.

Marc Davis 57:56 We still need a cliffhanger.

Jim Lovelady 57:58 Maybe you should just walk out. Maybe I should just end it.

Marc Davis 58:01 What did you put in Jim’s espresso glass? Of course, there is nothing in Jim’s espresso glass.

Jim Lovelady 58:06 Because I drank whatever poison you gave me.

Marc Davis 58:10 What was that all about? Stay tuned.

Marc Davis

Marc Davis serves as the Global Learning Program Leader on Serge's Renewal team. In the years prior to coming to Serge, he served twelve years as a pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church, Glenside, PA, taught church leaders in Northern India, and led a short-term team in support of Serge’s work in Southern Spain. God used those opportunities to call him into a broader service to His kingdom in many places.


Jim Lovelady

Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.

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