A deep-down ache — made for more

“I . . . think . . . we all have a deep-down ache that we were made for more.  We yearn to be whole. . . . “- Ann Swindell

“You who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”- Colossians 2:13-14 (ESV)

Ann Swindell concludes Chapter 4 of Still Waiting as she notes one identifying mark of Christians.  That mark? – admitting our inability to achieve wholeness on our own.  Yet, like Ann, we may struggle to experience that reality in our heart as well as our mind.

Furthermore, we walk a slippery slope when we start letting our weaknesses identify us.  When they name, mark, and brand us, Ann states, “they slither into our worth and value.”  As a result, we fall prey to Satan’s lies.

In Colossians 3:1-3, Ms. Swindell believes, Paul deliberately paired his words about true identity with his charge to “set you minds on things that are above.”  That’s because we find it so easy to let the world, our flesh, and the devil speak identity over us.  The truth? – Jesus gave us our true name and identity.  We are His beloved.  Therefore, Ann offers these words of encouragement:

“God looks at you through the eyes of compassion and sees what he has already given you: a new name, a new identity. . . .  Ask him to give you spiritual eyes — eyes that allow you to see and identify yourself not by your brokenness but rather by his love and power.”

In conclusion, through the power of the Holy Spirit, allow God to change the eyes of your heart so that Who loves you defines you.  Jesus Himself.  Don’t allow what you lack to define you.

Today’s question: What Bible verses bring relief to your deep-down ache?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The deepest spiritual lessons”

Do the next right thing – knowing what you ought to do

“Do the next right thing  you know you ought to do. . . . Nothing will drive you into the Kingdom of God like trying to do the next thing that is right. . . because you will need help, and you will get it, because that’s where God is (emphasis author’s).”- Dallas Willard

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 7 of I’d Like You More . . .  as he cites political theorist Hannah Arendt.  Writing in The Human Condition (1958), Hannah states that the very commitments we fear restrict us end up defining us:

” Without being bound to the fulfillment of our promises, we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each [person’s] lonely heart.”

Thus, even when we blow a commitment, God keeps His vow to us.  At the cost of the cross where Jesus died, God gives us His grace.  Even when we fail and fall down.

As Dallas Willard once said in conversation with Pastor Ortberg, do the next right thing.  In addition, the beauty of doing the next right thing centers on the fact that often we’re unable to do it.  As a result, that realization drives us to seek God.  And, rest assured, we will find Him.  However, we first need an honest approach to our intentions.

In conclusion, G. K. Chesterton encourages us to be all in with Jesus.  As he ends his essay ” A Defence of Rash Vows,” G. K. states:

“All around us is the city of small sins, abounding in backways and retreats, but surely, sooner of later, the towering flame will arise from the harbor announcing that the reign of the cowards is over, and a man is burning his ships.”

Today’s question: How’s God helping you to do the next right thing?  Please share.

Coming Monday:  the new Christmas Short Meditation, “Mighty Lord of all Creation”

Tomorrow’s blog: “People need a sense of belonging”

Let your faith change your circumstances

“Don’t let your circumstances change your faith; let your faith change your circumstances.  Remember, visions make leaders passionate, but thorns keep them authentic.”- Os Hillman

Today Os Hillman concludes Chapter 11 of The Joseph Calling.  First, he stresses that, at some point, everyone comes to a place where they know and experience what they believe.  This experience elicits one of two reactions:

  1. a launching pad for a deeper faith experience; advancement toward their larger story
  2. a crossroads for a shipwreck faith; victims, rather than victors, to their crisis and unforgiveness; focus on what God isn’t doing versus what God is doing

Thus, Oswald Chambers notes the importance of attending the funeral of your own independence.  Mr. Chamber writes:

“Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence.  The natural life is not spiritual, and it can only be made spiritual by sacrifice.  If we do not resolutely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural for us.”

Therefore, Os emphasizes, it’s important to stay the course as we walk out the Christian life.  In other words, at time we need to fight through times of the cross.  Specifically, Oswald Chambers reminds us that “when God puts the dark of ‘nothing’ into your experience, it is the most positive something He can give you.  As Mr. Hillman puts it, sometimes God subtracts before He adds, dismantles before He remantles.

In conclusion, Os states that if someone in your life attempts to put the third nail into your death process, under no circumstances fight it.  Allow God to finish the process.

Today’s question: Does your faith change your circumstances, or vice versa?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “When Satan throws bricks at you”

If you don’t pick up your cross

“If you don’t pick up your cross, you will be crushed by it.”- Jim Caviezal, actor, Passion of the Christ

In Chapter 11 (“Stage Four: The Cross”) of The Joseph Calling, Os Hillman asserts that every leader must experience the cross through betrayal.  Specifically, Os refers to betrayal as God’s graduate course for leaders.  Yet, many who mature in their faith journey need help to get to that maturity.  Mr. Hillman explains:

“Even the best of saints are unable to crucify the flesh by themselves.  We might be able to put two nails into our own cross, but it always takes someone else to drive in the third one.”

And usually, the author notes, that third nail involves some sort of betrayal.  Most importantly, through betrayal you come to know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.  You acquaint yourself with His grief.  Also, you won’t be crushed by the cross.

Thus, Os states, often God uses our pain to “bring us to the point of the cross.”  Furthermore, we must experience our own personal cross to experience the depths of God.  Through seasons of the cross, God prepares you for His calling in your life.  As a result, these times of darkness are necessary.

However, Os adds that these dark times don’t represent roadblocks to your journey.  He exhorts:

“These times of darkness do not slow you down in your journey toward him; they may seem to, but in fact they hasten you toward the final point of your journey.”

Without a resurrection of your life in Christ, there’s no victory that propels you to impact the world around you.

Today’s question: How has Jesus strengthened you to pick up your cross to avoid your cross crushing you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “True forgiveness of those who wrong us”

A personal encounter with the cross

“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross.  And the cross always entails loss.”- Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes, 1998

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place . . . And who know but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”- Esther 4:13-14

In Chapter 15 of The Broken Way, which focuses on Esther 4:13-14, Ann Voskamp explains her topic with a quote from Chuck Colson.  Mr. Colson states:

“Christians who understand biblical truth and have the courage to live it out can indeed redeem a culture, or even create one.”

Therefore, Ann believes, if we only understood the specific fire(s) others face, we wouldn’t hesitate to fight that fire with the heat of a greater love.  As a result, Ann stresses, when experience a personal encounter with the cross, we need to “defend the image of God in the world’s broken.”

Furthermore, Ann exhorts us to give our gifts, lest they become our idols or identity.  Use the life God’s given you to give others life.  In other words, desire holiness rather than hollowness.  Also, defy cynical indifference as you make a critical difference.

In conclusion, Ms. Voskamp cites Timothy Keller (Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just– 2012).  Pastor Keller defines what it means to ‘do justice’:

” . . . to go to places where the fabric of shalom has broken down, where the weaker members of societies are falling though the fabric, and to repair it.”

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, when have you experienced a personal encounter with the cross?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The thread of your life”

Grace waits in broken places

“Grace waits in broken places. . . . Grace seeps through the broken places and seeps into the lowest places, a balm for wounds.”- Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp concludes Chapter 14 of The Broken Way by observing that some wounds so twist and form us.  In the process, they become much more painful and deeper than scars.  Specifically, some wounds become who we actually believe we are.

However, Ms. Voskamp counters, the crossbeam supporting an abundant life in Christ consists of living as one truly loved and cherished by God.  Ann explains:

“Belovedness is the center of being, the only real identity, God’s only name for you, the only identity He gives you.  And you won’t ever feel like you belong anywhere until . . . you let yourself feel the truth of that — the truth your hear has always known because He who made it wrote your name right here.”

Yet, the serpent tries to make you feel alone and on trial- with you as the chief prosecutor.  Satan endlessly poisons you with self-lies.  Therefore, Ann posits that until we believe God loves us this minute more than we could ever dream of loving ourselves, we really don’t have enough faith.

In conclusion, Ann describes the role of grace in this process:

“Grace . . . gives us what we’d never ask for but always needed, and moves us to become what we always wanted.  But hardly ever the way we wanted (emphasis Ann’s).”

Perhaps, Ann encourages, we need to believe less in ourselves, and what Jesus says about us more.   The cross of Jesus can be a weapon in our hands we take into our hearts to break us free.  And cut the head off a lying snake.

Today’s question: How has God’s grace waited for you in broken places?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A personal encounter with the cross”

Pick up your cross

“Pick up your cross.  It’s the only way you or anyone else can know a resurrection.”- Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp complete Chapter 10 of The Broken Way by stating that suffering’s present around every corner.  Furthermore, suffering lurks in every act of love.  As a result, in order to bear love out into the world, you must bear ingratitude from the world.  In addition, Ann notes, until you know how Christ’s love made Him suffer for you, you’re less willing to suffer for love.

Therefore, Ann stresses the necessity for you to pick up your cross.  The author explains:

“Carry your cross so this carrying of pain makes love.  It is never a cross you carry, but your resistance to the cross, that makes it a burden (emphasis mine).  Absorb pain with a greater love. . . .   Let yourself be worn down to love.  Let your joints grow loose with love so your hands swing easy enough to give, to break and give your struggling-to-be-willing self away.  . . . make every situation, every suffering, every single moment into a way to lead you into closer communion with Christ.  A broken way.”

Consequently, Ann urges us to join Christ and embrace suffering rather than fight it.  In this world, it’s impossible to avoid pain and suffering.  The broken way = the only way.

In conclusion, Ann advises not to look for perfection in your life as a means to attain  wholeness.  Instead, embrace brokenness as a part of your life.  Then you’ll find wholeness!

Trust God in all your brokenness.  It is a gift (emphasis Ann’s).

Today’s question: How have you know a resurrection as you pick up your cross?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “After a rain of tears”

How long, O Lord?

“How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?”- Psalm 13:1

Dr. Wayne Stiles continues Chapter 2 of Waiting on God by noting that the psalmist’s question sounds almost heretical- except it came from King David.  Furthermore, Dr. Stiles stresses, “this is how David felt, but it isn’t what he believed.”

We often feel this way as well.  We experience the tension of putting our faith in front of our feelings.  Like Jacob, Joseph, and David, we struggle to reconcile reality with truth.  As a result, Wayne explains, we feel spiritually dysfunctional waiting on God:

“Waiting on God feels like living a dysfunctional spiritual life. . . . Because we have promises from God he seems to have forgotten, we feel like we’re losers in a waiting game played with One who has infinite patience.  But waiting on God is not dysfunctional.  It is normal.”

When we refuse to reconcile reality with truth, we shift our focus to how the Christian life “ought” to be.  Although we physically hear the whole truth of God, listening to the “disagreeable” parts becomes an entirely different issue.  Selective hearing reigns.  However, Dr. Stiles emphasizes, the tough parts of the Christian life list as required courses, not electives.

Dr. Stiles encourages that God wants to give us so much more than answers to third-grade questions.  Sometimes God demonstrates His great love for us by saying no to our requests, as the author explains:

“He sees the blind spots in our character- those areas we don’t even know to pray for.  So he shapes our situation to unearth the defects burned deeply beneath the layers of immature jealousies, lusts, and longings for relief.”

To experience God’s faithfulness through the cross, we must become free of our fear of that cross.  Our personal cross bridges the gap between the God we want and the God who is.  Every day we must take up our cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).

Today’s question: In what ways has expressing King David’s words- “How long, O Lord?”- enabled you to reconcile reality with truth?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Compulsory journeys”



Scripture’s Rosetta Stone

Mark Batterson continues his discussion of Romans 8:28 in Chapter 21 of If by referring to that verse as Scripture’s Rosetta Stone:

“The twenty-eighth verse of the eighth chapter of Romans is the Rosetta stone of Scripture.  Without it, much of life makes no sense whatsoever.  With it, we’re able to decipher our experiences.”

In 1799, Pierre-Francois Bouchard was overseeing the demolition of a wall in the ancient Egyptian city of Rosetta.  There he uncovered a 1,676 pound slab of black granite stone with ancient writing on it.  Enter fellow countryman Jean-Francois Champollion, linguistic locksmith who spoke twelve languages.  Champollion took two years to break the code, thereby unlocking the ancient civilization of Egypt.

Because the puzzle pieces of our lives don’t seem to fit together and we aren’t able to view the completed puzzle picture, many of us feel helpless and hopeless at times.  We can’t see God’s vision for the whole of our lives.  Romans 8:28, Scripture’s Rosetta Stone:

  • promises God will fit every piece of your life together in the most efficient, effective, and beautiful way possible
  • unlocks many of the mysteries of life and promises to recycle, redeem, and use your betrayal or injustice for your good and God’s glory

Pastor Batterson encourages you to remember that whatever road you have traveled always starts with the agony Christ endured on the cross.  Your salvation story starts with history’s greatest injustice.  The ancient symbol of torturous death became humankind’s symbol of eternal hope.  Mark concludes:

“And if God can do that with the cross, He can redeem your pain, your failures, your fears, and your doubts.  The cross is the missing piece in the middle of every puzzle.  Without it, we’re helpless and hopeless.  With it, the puzzle is solved.”

Today’s question: How has Scripture’s Rosetta Stone recycled, redeemed, and used your vocation loss for your good and God’s glory?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The 8:28 guarantee”

A new creation

“You are a new creation, but sometimes it takes time for your new nature to become second nature.”- Mark Batterson

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 3 of If, he offers encouragement that it is never too late for you to be what you might have been.  God still can roll away your if only regrets.  One way to break the sin habit is to establish a prayer habit.  That way you can leave the past in its place- the past.  Pastor Batterson adds:
“He crucified our sin by nailing it to a cross.  Don’t resurrect it!”

We appreciate the grace of God by fully acknowledging our sinfulness, rather than underestimating it.  We also appreciate and reflect God’s grace by not labeling others by their sins.  There is no gradation of sin.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 8:23).

In order to step into what if, we have to get past if only.  The cross of Christ, the crossroad, “turns if only regrets into what if possibilities.”

Mark believes that when we focus just on the penalty Jesus paid for us at Calvary, which is wonderful beyond words, that’s only half the gospel.  Pastor Batterson refers to this partial focus as the glass-half-empty gospel.  Since Christ’s righteousness has been credited to your account, your glass is full of the righteousness of Christ.  Mark elaborates:

“This half-empty mindset causes us to focus on forgiveness, but Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to forgive you. . . . He died to change you.  And He didn’t die on the cross just to keep you safe.  He died to make you dangerous- a threat to the enemy.  He died so you could make a difference for all eternity.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you see yourself as a new creation in Christ?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The emergency exit”