A vow of praise- in the midst of uncertainty

“A vow of praise can happen right in the midst of uncertainty.  This is an announcement of faith.  It’s an ‘I’m not giving up on God just yet’ plan. . . . We need a vow of praise to help us hold out for better days.”- Esther Fleece

“I remain confident in this; I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.”- Psalm 27:13

As Esther Fleece continues Chapter 11 of No More Faking Fine, she reminds us we omit God from the equation when we withhold emotions out of fear.  We withhold them because we fear we can’t control where our emotions lead us.  Hence, we must remember that as we lament, God draws near to meet us in our pain.

Therefore, in giving up the illusion of control, we surrender to pain’s inevitability.  Furthermore, we learn to trust God’s mercy in the midst of it.  As a result of this knowledge, we rest assured that no season of lament lasts forever or is designed to take us out.  Thus, we can surrender to seasons of lament in faith, knowing that someday joy will come.

Clinging to a “fine” and comfortable life compromises authentic relationships with God and others.  Also, it’s helpful to view distress as a blessing, for it’s an entry point for God.  And even when our circumstances don’t seem to change, a vow of praise helps us hold out for and onto hope.

In conclusion, while all of us endure seasons of disappointment, loss, and sorrow, we’re loved by a God who makes all things new.

Today’s question: In the midst of uncertainty, have you reached the point of speaking a vow of praise?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Hearing a new song of praise”

Cast off one’s chains

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”- Dr. Tony Evans

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”- James 1:27 (ESV)

In the Conclusion to Detours, Dr. Tony Evans encourages us not to lose heart.  God’s sovereign, providential hand uses all our experiences to usher us to our destiny.  The length of your detour correlates with the size of your God.  Dr. Evans explains:

“As long as you choose to live with a small god in your perspective, the circumstances of life will dictate your detours.  But the moment you expand the meaning of God to this all-encompassing sovereign deity, where nothing gets to you unless it passes through His fingers first, you will see Him move.”

Also, Dr. Evans exhorts you to remember that your destiny always involves ministering to other’s beyond yourself.  It’s not just about you.  In addition, this ties into how you view blessings from God.

All Christians want God to bless them.  But the true definition of blessing runs deeper.  Dr. Evans defines a blessing as:

” . . . experiencing, enjoying, and extending the goodness of God in your life. . . . not merely something God does to you but also something He does through you.”

Keep your eyes wide open as God ushers you to your destiny- suddenly (emphasis author’s).

Today’s question: What Scriptures offer encouragement to “cast off one’s chains?”  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the Annotated Bibliography of Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny

Where you experienced the pain the most

“God has a way of blessing you exactly where you experienced the pain the most.”- Dr. Tony Evans

Tony Evans concludes Chapter 10 of Detours as he provides three ways to know you’ve truly forgiven someone.

1.  You don’t bring other people into the situation that have nothing to do with the sin.  Dr. Evans asserts you always can tell when a person speaks words of forgiveness, yet their actions tell a different story.  Therefore, such people will:

  • gossip
  • involve people in the problem or knowledge of the problem who have nothing to do with that problem
  • include people who can’t even fix the problem

These people seek revenge, not forgiveness.  In addition, they promote the sin of gossip.

2.  You seek to make the offender feel at ease with you.  In Genesis 25, we read that Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.”  True forgiveness creates a space where the penitent offender freely comes and feels safe.

3.  You try to help the offender forgive himself or herself as well.  Joseph refused to pile more guilt on top of the guilt his brothers already felt.  Hence, when you believe God can use your adversity to take you to your destiny, that belief enables you to help guilty people forgive themselves.  In the process, that protects them from further pain and shame.

While Joseph never forgot what his brothers did to him, he forgot the pain.  As a result, Joseph no longer lived under the pain.  In fact, Dr. Evans stresses, “God has a way of blessing you exactly where you experienced the pain the most.”

Today’s question: How has God blessed you exactly where you experienced the pain the most?   Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God’s sovereign control and arrangement of life”

God’s unrivaled goodness

“God’s unrivaled goodness undergirds everything else we can say about prayer.”- Max Lucado

“Before you face the world, face your Father.”- Max Lucado

In Chapter 3 (“You Are Good”) of Before Amen, Max Lucado tells of a recent flight he took the encountered extreme turbulence.  However, Max remained calm because he knew the pilot- a close, personal friend.  And Max knew his flying skillset.

Pastor Lucado reminds us it’s a stormy world out there.  Yet, the Bible reminds us we have a good Pilot!  The Lord’s authority extends over the world- and over your world.  Yet, we often suffer from narrow thoughts, as Max explains:

“Most people suffer from small thoughts about God.  In an effort to see him as our friend, we have lost his immensity.  In our desire to understand him, we have sought to contain him.  The God of the Bible cannot be contained.”

Hence, Pastor Lucado emphasizes, “God’s unrivaled goodness undergirds everything else we can say about prayer.”  As a result, at any moment we’re only a prayer away from help.

At the age of fifteen, Max inherited a Rambler station wagon from his big brother.  When time came to change the oil, Max’s father- a trained mechanic- offered to help.  Full of pride, Max declined.  After two hours of groping and wrestling , Max ‘completed’ the oil change- or so he thought.  Unfortunately, Max’s father called his attention to the river of clean oil running down the driveway.  Max forgot one thing- the oil pan plug.

Therefore, Max suggests, begin each day with prayer.  Most noteworthy, don’t ignore this opportunity and blessing from God:

“Don’t underestimate the power of this moment.  You just opened the door to God and welcomed truth to enter your heart.  Faith sneaked in while despair was dozing.  Who knows, you might start to worship.”

Today’s question: What evidence of God’s unrivaled goodness have you seen during your desert, transition time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Some assembly required”

The black hole of hopelessness

“When we focus on the here and now- and especially on all the pain life has handed us- the black hole of hopelessness sucks us in and surrounds us.”- Wayne Stiles

In Chapter 10 (“The Hope of Dying with Unfulfilled Dreams”) of Waiting on God, Dr. Wayne Stiles writes that after a series of stabbing disappointments, we may arrive at the place where we expect little else.  Therefore, to avoid disappointment, we opt to hope for nothing.

Furthermore, Dr. Stiles urges us to quit assigning hopelessness to the agony we feel in any given circumstance or moment.  We become deceived when we tend to equate the sharpness of our pain with permanence.  As we wait on God, so often He turns pain on its head and provides blessings instead.  Wayne expands this concept:

“Maybe God requires us to wait on him in our struggles so that his solution can prove bigger than our expectations could ever imagine.  He may choose to provide blessings that correspond with his ability rather than with our understanding.

We may think we know the most generous and spectacular solution God could provide for us- usually an immediate one.  But  he knows the resolution that will astound and bless not only us but others also.”

Figuring our God’s plans becomes an exercise in futility.  In fact, Dr. Stiles notes, God often crosses his arms.  He does the polar opposite of what we expect or desire.  Jennifer Rothschild (God Is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, 2014) puts it this way:

“We will experience greater peace when we love and trust a God we may not understand than when we constantly try to conform him into an image we have created in our imagination.”

Today’s question: How has perseverance in waiting on God kept you from being sucked into the black hole of hopelessness?  Please share.

Coming Tuesday: the new Short Meditation, “Our Christian colors”

Tomorrow’s blog: “The path of obedience”

The hard facts of life-a means of God’s grace

“The hard facts of life, which knock some of the nonsense out of us, are God’s facts and his appointed school of character; they are not alternatives to His grace, but a means of it.”- Derek Kidner, Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary

And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin.  All this has come against me.”- Genesis 42:36 (ESV)

Dr. Wayne Stiles continues Chapter 7 of Waiting on God by noting that some of the pain we experience simply comes as part of living in a fallen world.  Quite often, however, God allows painful tests in our lives as warnings that something needs to change.  Usually, Wayne states,  “that something is us.”

Joseph’s father Jacob certainly needed to change.  Most noteworthy, take a look at Jacob’s explosive response to the Egyptian prime minister’s request for Benjamin’s presence.  Jacob moaned,  “All this has come against me.”   God set the stage for wrenching from Jacob the potential loss of his entire family.  Only then did Jacob concede and surrender to God’s sovereignty.

Therefore, our trust in God must be the thing we hold most dear.  As a result, Dr. Stiles stresses, “God requires more from us after he give us what we waited for.”

Specifically, God waits to see if we’ll be willing to give that blessing back.  In the New Testament, the original Greek utilizes two words for test:

  • dokimaizo– a test for the purpose of approval
  • peirazo– a test to show weakness of a point of failure; also translated ‘temptation’

Although occasions occur when it’s tough to discern the difference between a test and a temptation, Dr. Stiles counsels that our response should always- always- be consistent: obey God.

Today’s question: How have the hard facts of life been a means of God’s grace to you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Preparation through pain”

 

 

Prosperity’s greatest temptation

“Moses warned his nation (Deuteronomy 6:10-12) of prosperity’s greatest temptation: to forget God, who redeemed them from slavery.”- Wayne Stiles

As Wayne Stiles continues Chapter 6 of Waiting on God, he notes that Joseph made no personal requests when he stood before Pharaoh.  Most noteworthy, Joseph said nothing of the injustices he’d endured.  Furthermore, he asked for no personal favors- like a quick trip home.

In all his years of waiting, Joseph learned to trust God’s timing and God’s ways.  Yet, Joseph’s new-found success provided the basis for another refining test.  Would Joseph give up on his ultimate dream?

Similarly, Wayne observes, abundant prosperity and blessings tempt us to neglect God.  We must be intentional in keeping our focus on God through incremental growth.  Bible study and prayer sink our faith roots deep.

Hence, Dr. Stiles describes how to maintain our walk with God:

” . . . before we know it, we can replace devotion to the Lord with devotion to his blessings. . . . Our walk with God is not an appointment we keep each day- and then move on- like climbing the rungs of a ladder.  Instead, our time with him forms the foundation that supports all we do.  We build on it.  We don’t climb past it.”

Even in success, Joseph remembered God.  Pharaoh gave Joseph a pagan wife, Asenath.  Since Asenath had no effect on Joseph’s faith, Dr. Stiles surmises that Joseph likely affected hers.  Both sons born to them were given Hebrew names.  Both names gave glory to God.

Today’s question: What Scriptures enable you to resist prosperity’s greatest temptation, thereby trusting God’s timing and God’s ways?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Slammed doors”

Blessing and cursing

“The Scriptures take blessing and cursing very seriously; they are considered real and actual forces, with real and lasting effects.”- John Eldredge

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”- Romans 12:14

John Eldredge turns to a  form of prayer that often brings the most dramatic and immediate results- prayer that banishes the enemy- in Chapter 14 of Moving Mountains.  Typically, it is a simple and effective form of prayer.  While it is not always simple, it always is effective.  It’s called Warfare Prayer.

Mr. Eldredge makes it clear that Satan always tries to keep you from praying against him.  Once we learn to do what Jesus taught us, Satan knows the gig is up.  Yet, the author notes, while we readily accept Jesus as a model for forgiving others or caring for the poor, we don’t accept Jesus’ model for dealing with Satan.

John reminds us that there is a way things work in the spiritual realm.  Blessing and cursing work.  Blessing and cursing have powerful effects for good and evil.  Most of the world understands this type of warfare.  John points out that it is only in our “enlightened” Western world that the power of this spiritual warfare either has been forgotten or dismissed.

The author distinguishes between cursing and judgment.  Cursing is done with purposeful intent and with malice.  While judgments are far more common, they are no less destructive.  Judgments are low-grade curses that bring harm upon our lives, health, churches, and ministries.

Warfare Prayer is not Plan B when Plan A fails, nor is it a specialty prayer reserved for the uniquely called or gifted.  All of us are called to preach the gospel and called to resist the enemy.  Our daily lives are lived out in the context of war.

Today’s question: What spiritual warfare are you engaged in following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Heart and soul”

 

The greatest moments in life

“The greatest moments in life are the moments when God intervenes on our behalf and blesses us way beyond what we expect or deserve.”- Mark Batterson

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 9 of The Circle Maker, he reminds us there is nothing God loves more than keeping His promises.  Praying hard is standing on God’s promises.  Pastor Batterson emphasizes that “when we stand on His word, God stands by His word.  His word is His bond.”

Mark observes that we experience problems when we doubt ourselves, which in turn leads to doubting God.  We don’t ask God to extend His hand to us because we don’t know or don’t trust His heart.  Pastor Batterson states God wants to bless us far more than we want to be blessed.  Mark describes the heart of our heavenly Father:

“He can hardly wait to keep His promises.  He can hardly wait to perform His word.  He can hardly wait to answer our prayers.  And when we simply take Him at His word, He can hardly contain His joy.”

Pastor Batterson cites his favorite verse in the twenty-third psalm (Psalm 23:6)- “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”  He notes that follow isn’t a strong enough translation.  The word follow is a hunting term in Hebrew.  The psalmist is saying that God is hunting us down to bless us.

Mark writes that he prays for the favor of God more than anything else.  He defines God’s favor as “what God does for you that you cannot do for yourself.”  When God blesses us beyond what we expect or deserve, it’s a humble reminder of His sovereignty.

Today’s question: Describe the greatest moments in your life and how they help you to stand on God’s promises.  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “He makes provision”

 

Joint heirs with Christ

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”- Romans 8:16-17

As Max Lucado continues Chapter 2 of Glory Days, he notes that the word inheritance appears nearly sixty times in the book of Joshua. Joshua 24:28 describes the great accomplishment of the Hebrew people: “So Joshua let the people depart, each to his own inheritance.”

Pastor Lucado reminds us we have an inheritance as well.  If, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you have given your heart to Christ, God has given Canaan to you.  You already have “everything you need to be everything God desires.”

Conversion, Max adds, is not just the removal of sin.  It’s a deposit of power.  Glory Days signal a paradigm shift:

“In Canaan you do not fight for victory.  You fight from victory.  In the wilderness you strive.  In Canaan you trust.”

In the apostle Paul’s time, it was traditional for the firstborn son to receive a double portion of the inheritance, with the remaining siblings dividing up the rest. But with God, Christ’s portion is our portion.  However, even though God promises to meet all our needs, still we worry and fret.

Pastor Lucado believes there are two reasons for this: either (1) we don’t know about our inheritance or (2) we don’t believe in our inheritance.  Max encourages us:

“You are embedded with the presence of God.  Don’t measure your life by your ability; measure it by God’s. . . . And since you have access to every blessing of heaven, you, in time, will find strength.”

Today’s question (from the study guide): What parts of your inheritance do you still struggle with?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Strong and very courageous”