To neglect communion with God

“Some things may be neglected with but little loss to the spiritual life, but to neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it.”- A. W. Tozer

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”- Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)

In John Eldredge’s foreword to Susie Larson’s book  Your Powerful Prayers, he compares giving up on prayer to a solder laying down his arms in the midst of a firefight.  Prayer, Mr. Eldredge adds, “is something you grow into, something you mature in and get better at over time.”  In addition, John adds that prayer’s far more like learning to drive than sneezing.

Thus, as Ms. Larson notes in her introduction, Jesus wants us to be comfortable with, as well as undone by His great love for us. As a result, God’s love and acceptance of us has everything to do with prayer.  Furthermore, Jesus invites us to:

  • know Him more intimately
  • walk with Him more profoundly
  • trust in His Word more confidently

Most importantly, Ms. Larson exhorts, as we get to know God’s love, our life spills with grace, insight, and power.  The author explains:

“If we want to be powerful in prayer, we must spend our lives learning to accept and embrace how fiercely God loves us.  We must continually stand in awe of the fact that Jesus defeated death and sin for us.  And then from there, live our whole lives in response to what Jesus has already accomplished for us.  This is what it means to stop striving and to know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).”

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, what circumstances cause(d) you to neglect communion with God?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, ”

Tomorrow’s blog: “That place where joy and faith collide”

Dangerously noncompliant in a broken world

“The Spirit wants to make you dangerously noncompliant in a broken world.  Ask God for a mountain.”- John Ortberg

John Ortberg concludes The Me I Want to Be with Chapter 22 (“Ask God for a Mountain”).  He first observes that yearning for a problem-free life results in death by boredom.  Thus, as you work to solve problems and overcome challenges, you transform into the person God wants you to be.

Therefore, Pastor Ortberg exhorts, ask God to give you a burden for a challenge greater than yourself, a challenge that:

  • makes a difference in the world
  • requires the best you have to give it
  • (and) leaves some space for God besides
  • keeps you learning, growing, uncomfortable, and hungry

As a result, the Holy Spirit lead us into adventure in a dangerous world.  The Spirit wants to make you dangerously noncompliant so that you threaten all the forces of injustice, apathy, and complacency.  Those forces keep our world from flourishing.

Life’s about asking God for another mountain, not comfort.  Furthermore, we especially flourish, John states, “when we face challenges for a cause greater than ourselves.  Know this for sure: God has a mountain with your name on it (emphasis John’s).”

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg describes your deepest longing as:

” . . . to be alive with God, to become the person God made you to be, and to be used to help God’s world flourish.  This is the life available to you every moment . . . no matter what your situation.  God is at work in this hour, and his purpose is to shape you to be not only his servant, but his friend.  Out of your belly flow rivers of living water.  Blessed are you.  Ask for a mountain.”

Today’s question: What makes you dangerously noncompliant in a broken world?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the annotated bibliography of The Me I Want to Be

Love — the resetting of broken bones

“As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones.”- John Ortberg

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 21 of The Me I Want to Be as he talks about the final three ways post-traumatic growth occurs.

2.  Adversity can deepen relationships.  Pastor Ortberg states suffering uniquely softens hearts and deepens friendships.  Also, people experiencing deep grief develop a deeper appreciation for other people.  They wake up to how much other people matter.  John explains the relationship of love and hope to grief.  He writes:

“Love is not simply something to be recovered from.  Hope does not mean returning to happiness as soon as possible.  God comes to us in our grief and shares it.  In that shared grief, we find love.”

When God comes to us in our grief and shares that grief, it starts to mingle ever so slightly with hope.

3.  Adversity can change your priorities about what really matters.  Suffering accentuates the folly of chasing after temporal gods.  As a result, the sufferer vows not to return to their previous way of life once things return to normal.  However, the key to accomplishing change involves an active response to the Spirit’s work.

4.  Adversity points us to the Hope beyond ourselves.  When circumstances look bleak, Pastor Ortberg notes, it’s likely we’ll wonder if anything’s going up.  Yes, John answers, the:

  • chance to trust God in difficult circumstances
  • prospect for modeling hope for a hope-needy world
  • possibility of cultivating a storm-proof faith, because Biblical truths remain unchanged

In conclusion, John notes, God remains in the redemption business.  Therefore, God “specializes in bringing something very, very good out of something very, very bad.”

today’s question: What broken bones has love reset for you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Dangerously noncompliant in a broken world”

The best version of you – a hoper

“The best version of you is a hoper, because the Spirit of life is a Spirit of hope.  The Spirit never leads us to despair, and there is always hope — which is not based on circumstances, but rather is an inner disposition.”- John Ortberg

In Chapter 21 (“You Have to go Through Exile Before You Come Back Home”), John Ortberg states three options exist for you to view your future’s ups and downs.  Philosopher Robert Roberts lists those attitudes: hope, despair, and resignation.  However, a hoper represents the best version of you.

Furthermore, Pastor Ortberg notes, there’s good news about hope.  Hope can be learned.  And when a crisis interrupts “normal life,” it challenges our set of assumptions.  At this point, “post-traumatic”growth occurs- if we allow God to grow us in adversity.

Thus, John presents and modifies Jonathan Haidt’s descriptors of ways such growth occurs.  Pastor Ortberg discusses the first way today.

1.  Rising to a challenge reveals abilities hidden within you (and beyond you!) that would otherwise have remained dormant.  Until we must cope, we don’t know our capabilities.  Specifically, God uses trials to bring people closer to Himself and to produce perseverance, character, and hope.  For example, when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph lost everything but God.  Yet, in the process, Joseph found out that God’s enough.  Pastor Ortberg applies that concept to us:

“God isn’t at work producing the circumstances you want.  God is at work in bad circumstances producing the you he wants (emphasis John’s).”

Perhaps you’re’ in a situation that’s not what you wanted.  But when you show up and offer your best, John states that the something good happening inside you far outweighs the adversity outside you.

Today’s question: How close do you feel to the best version of you – a hoper?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Love — the resetting of broken bones”

If Jesus were your direct supervisor

“If Jesus were your direct supervisor, would you have done your work any differently than you did?  How would you have done repairs, answered phones, typed documents, or taught classes if Jesus were checking your work?”- John Ortberg

As John Ortberg concludes Chapter 20 of The Me I Want to Be, he emphasizes your work represents perhaps the primary place where you live out your calling.  Sociologist Robert Bellah (Habits of the Heart) describes three possible orientations people take toward their work.

1.  Treat your work as a job.  In this approach, your focus on your job as a way to get money and pay bills.  However, when you primarily focus on what you receive from your work, most likely you’ll come to resent your job.

2.  Approach your work as a career.  Although this focus reflects a higher motivation, advancement and prestige receive the emphasis.   Thus, this approach ties feelings to success.  If your career falters, you may feel that your worth is on the line.

3.  Look at your work as a calling.  Calling finds its roots in the life of faith.  Because someone – namely God – calls you, doing just anything you want isn’t an option.  As John points out, you’re the call-ee, not the call-er.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg states that servanthood characterizes Jesus’ kingdom- not status, climbing ladders, or getting attention.  John writes:

“The best you is built by serving, and God’s kingdom is one of those kingdoms where if you don’t want to serve, you won’t really want to be there.  Sometimes God will interrupt us in our work, not to give us a chance to show off our giftedness, but simply to give us a chance to serve.”

Today’s question: Do you consider Jesus your direct supervisor?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The best version of you – a hoper”

Experience the Spirit in your work

“If I cannot experience the Spirit in the work I am doing today, then I can’t experience the Spirit today at all.”- John Ortberg

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”- Ecclesiastes 9:10

John Ortberg begins Chapter 20 (“Let Your Work Honor God”) of The Me I Want to Be as he stresses only God himself can bless you in your circumstances today.  As a result, John states, we must abandon the romanticized idea we’ll find “job love at first sight.”

Passion for our work, Pastor Ortberg observes, cannot be compared to a subterranean volcano waiting to erupt.  Rather, passion for our work is :

  • a plant that needs cultivation
  • a muscle we strengthen a little each day as we complete our tasks
  • doing what’s expected of us, and then some

It’s usually only after the fact that we get to know the full significance of what we do or don’t accomplish in our work.  Therefore, John suggests, pray to ask God to make your work successful.  However, if you find yourself making success an idol, you need to find a way to dethrone it.  Generally speaking, though, if you find it hard to pray for the success of what you’re doing, John urges, start doing something else!

In conclusion, John describes what happens when we put everything together:

“When we discover the gifts God has given us and the passions that engage us, and we put them to work in the service of values we deeply believe in – in conscious dependence on God – then we are working in the Spirit.  Then our work is helping each of us to create the me I want to be.  We are the ones who make our work significant — not the other way around.”

Today’s question: How do you experience the Spirit in your work?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “If Jesus were your direct supervisor”

When you discover your strengths

“When you discover your strengths, you are learning an indispensable part of what it means to be made in the image of God.”- John Ortberg

In Chapter 19 (“Let God Flow in Your Work”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg discusses finding God in your work.  Also, John points out how you allow your work to move you toward the person God wants you to become.

Thus, you must first discover your strengths.  The “strengths movement,” associated with Marcus Buckingham, calls people to stop focusing on improving weaknesses.  Rather, people need to name and develop their strengths.  This reflects God’s design.  Pastor Ortberg explains:

“Each of us has certain strengths.  We were born with them, they will always be our strengths, and we delight in them.  Work happens best when we discover these strengths, put them to use, and focus on developing them.  Trying to improve our weaknesses is like trying to teach a rabbit to swim or a snail to race.  God’s design for work is best when it goes from ‘strength to strength.’ ”

Therefore, activities that thrill and challenge you enable you to study the handiwork of God.  In addition, totally immersing yourself in a significant, challenging task matching your highest abilities puts you in the flow.

In conclusion, John believes this picture of flow illustrates the true meaning of the word dominion.  John states that dominion means we are to:

  • invest our abilities to create value on earth
  • build, plant, write, organize, heal, and invest in ways that bless people and make the earth flourish

When flow’s present, the author states, “something happens in our spirit as we connect with a reality beyond ourselves and partner with God.”

Today’s question: Who or what has provided the greatest help for you to discover your strengths?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Experience the Spirit in your work”

Difficult people in our life – become the best version of you

“We all have difficult people in our life, but hear this: God can use them to help you become the best version of you — maybe even more than the people you like.”- John Ortberg

In Chapter 18 (“Find a Few Difficult People to Help You Grow”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg observes that other people don’t create your spirit.  In fact, if God desires to grow some quality in you, He may bring someone into your life who tempts you to behave the opposite way.

Although we always hope God plans on giving us a life without difficult people, God used difficult people to mold many great Biblical characters.  For example, Moses had Pharaoh and David had Saul.  Pastor Ortberg explains:

“If God loves you and wants to shape you, he will send some difficult people your way.  But take heart.  You are the difficult person he is sending to shape somebody else.  If we can learn to have rivers of living water still flowing through us in these relationships, we will be unstoppable.”

Furthermore, John notes, people impact our lives in one of two ways.  The either energize us or drain us.  Life-bringers:

  • increase our energy
  • deepen our hope
  • add to our joy
  • call out the best in us

In contrast, life-drainers (a) add to our anxiety and (b) invite us to cynicism.  As a result, we find ourselves becoming defensive, depressed, or exasperated.

Since only God can touch the deepest place of another’s soul, prayer provides the only way to influence people at their deepest level.  In prayer, John states, we go with God into another person’s soul.  The space between you and your enemy = the space where love grows.  And love is the only way to live.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg tells us there’s a quarter-second gap between when an impulse takes place in your brain and when that action takes place in your body.  That’s enough time for the Holy Spirit to take control.  Remember, every difficult person is a real person with their own story.

Today’s question: Do you surround yourself with life-energizers or life-drainers?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “When you discover your strengths”

Step into openness – stop pretending

“When you can step into openness and stop pretending, you find yourself coming alive.  Hiddenness and pretense are always the enemy of flourishing.”- John Ortberg

In Chapter 17 (“Be Human”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg notes our own need to look better than we are contributes to a culture of superficiality.  Thus, if you want anyone to love the real you, you need to work at getting real.  And since relationships grow deep when people present their real selves, it’s essential to speak honestly about the sin common to us all.

Therefore, your acceptance from people who know you deeply and fully accept you provides the healing touch through which God’s Spirit flows.  Henri Nouwen once described a friend who cares in The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey (1990).  Mr. Nouwen wrote:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives meant the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share out pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. . . . who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness . . .”

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg notes something remarkable about the inspired writers of Scripture.  Those writers never did what churches so often attempt to do- put people on a pedestal.  As a result, those who need help the most receive it the least.  Because that would mean leaving the pedestal.  John adds: “In a community gathered around a cross, there is no room for pedestals.”

So, step into openness – and stop pretending.

Today’s question: What treasured Christian friends help you step into openness?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Difficult people in our life”

When we live in disconnectedness

“Not only do we suffer when we live in disconnectedness, but then other people whom God place around us get cheated out of the love God intended us to give them (emphasis author’s).”- John Ortberg

“Anyone who does not love remains in death.”- 1 John 3:14

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 16 of The Me I Want to Be as he stresses that God designed us to live in connectedness.  Therefore, to help us avoid slipping into disconnectedness, John takes a look at five gifts connectedness brings.

1.  The Gift of Delighting.  Love involves action more than it involves feeing.  Hence, servanthood marks the circle of connection.  In Galatians 5:13, the apostle Paul urges us to “serve on another humbly in love.”  Thus, we give life to the people we notice- and vice versa.  Also, in that process of self-forgetfulness, our own soul flourishes.

2.  The Gift of Commitment.  Too often, Pastor Ortberg notes, the people most in need of cheers get them the least.  Everyone needs the gift of commitment.  Encouragement requires work.  It doesn’t just happen.  But, connectedness reaps incredible rewards!

3.  The Gift of Love. As of today, name one person in your life who just needs you to look them in the eye and say: I love you.  The Holy Spirit constantly works in us to prompt such expressions of love.  Hence, every moment provides an opportunity to practice a gesture of love.

4.  The Gift of Joy.  Pastor Ortberg observes that, while we know love we joy, we often forget the power contained in joy.  Joy:

  • gives us strength to resist temptation
  • brings the ability to persevere
  • is the Velcro that makes relationships stick
  • gives us energy to love

5.  The Gift of Belonging.  Simply stated, belonging – God’s gift to us.

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, what sufferings resulted from living in disconnectedness?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Step into openness – stop pretending”