The quest for significance – a delicate dance”

“But the quest for significance is a delicate dance.  If I do it by myself for myself, it’s death.  If I do it with God for others, it’s life, because whatever I do with God for others does not go back in the box.”- John Ortberg

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything. . .”- Matthew 5:13 (NIV)

As John Ortberg concludes Chapter 14 of When the Game is Over, he stresses that God’s plan for you involves a mission and a destiny.  Starting here and now.  Most noteworthy, that mission and destiny doesn’t center on building your own little kingdom.  Rather, it focuses on becoming rich toward God.

When God presented Moses with his mission, one question God asked Moses was, “What is that in your hand?”  For Moses, his staff represented his livelihood, resources, and security.

Today God still asks that question of us.  Your God-given gifts, temperament, experience, education, etc. all help determine your mission.  Martin Seligman refers to these gifts as “signature strengths.”  In addition, these human abilities fall into certain categories, including wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, and justice.  Thus, the ones that resonate most with you constitute your signature strengths.

Yet, sometimes people think their weaknesses rob them of any chance of having a significant mission in life.  In fact, the opposite rings true.  God never wastes a human hurt.  Also, struggle makes a human life most powerful.  Therefore, your greatest burden often becomes your greatest gift.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg exhorts, spend some time feeding your divine discontent.  As a result, a sense of mission will burn brightly in you.  Frederick Buechner (Beyond Words) writes that generally God calls you to work:

“(a) that you need to do and (b) that the world needs to have done. . . .  The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures inspire your quest for significance?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our God-assigned mission, or a shadow mission?”

Still predictably unpredictable

“When I survey Scripture, I see God showing up in strange place, at strange times, in strange ways.  And I don’t think anything has changed.  God certainly won’t contradict Himself, but He is still predictably unpredictable.”- Mark Batterson

In Chapter 3 (“The Whispering Spot”) of Whisper, Mark Batterson wants us to be clear about one thing.  God possesses the ability to show up anywhere, anytime, anyhow.  Therefore, we must not confine God to a chronological day or geographical location.  For that entails putting God in a box.  Rather, we need to sensitize ourselves to God’s whispering spots.

Consequently, Pastor Batterson underscores, he lives by one simple maxim.  If you do what people like Abraham or David did in the Bible, God will do what He did in the Bible.  He still speaks, delivers, whispers.

Most noteworthy, Mark notes, Jesus repeats the following words six times in the Gospels and eight times in the book of Revelation: “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”  While Jesus’ statement seems simplistic, these words contain exponential implications.  Pastor Batterson believes your destiny depends on Jesus’ urgent exhortation.

Finally, Mark observes that Jewish ears hearing Jesus’ declaration would have heard hints of Psalm 40:5 – “My ears have you opened.”  The Hebrew word for opened means “to excavate” or “dig through dense material.”  Mark believes the way we truly hear Jesus comes as we listen with our inner ears.

However, the word for “opened” also translates as “to pierce.”  Many scholars believe this refers to an ancient ritual outlined at Mt. Sinai.  After serving a six-year term, a Hebrew slave was set free in year seven.  But, if the servant chose not to opt out, they pierced his ear.  Thus, Mark asks if:

  • your spiritual ear’s been pierced
  • you inner ear’s consecrated to Christ
  • God’s still small voice remains the loudest voice in your life

Today’s question: Describe how God’s predictably unpredictable in your life.  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Give God a second hearing”

Obey the whisper – see what God does

“When you take your cues from the Holy Spirit, you’ll do some things that will make people think you’re crazy.  So be it.  Obey the whisper and see what God does.”- Mark Batterson

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”- Ephesians 3:20

As Mark Batterson continues Chapter 1 of Whisper, he states that during what he dubbed his “summer of seeking,” he got serious about rising for early morning prayer.  Because Mark desperately wanted to hear God’s voice, perhaps that’s why he finally did.

One morning between his freshman and sophomore years of college, Mark took a long prayer walk.  At one point, he veered off road through a cow pasture.  There Mark heard what he describes as “the inaudible yet unmistakable voice of God.”  That voice felt more like a sense of calling than words- a calling to full-time ministry.

Since that calling meant giving up a full-ride scholarship to the University of Chicago to attend a Bible college, more than a few people second-guessed Mark’s decision.  But, often God’s whisper works that way.  And that whisper contains the power to change your life.  Thus, your ability to hear God’s still small voice possess great influence on your destiny.  That’s how, Pastor Batterson states:

  • you discern the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God
  • you see and seize divine appointments
  • God-sized dreams are birthed
  • miracles happen

Thus, the author realized, “the genesis of every blessing, every breakthrough is the breath of God.  It started out as nothing more than a still small voice.”

Today’s question: As you reflect on your life, what opportunities has God presented for you to obey the whisper?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Think tank of the soul”

The drive to significance – the creative impulse of God

“Unlike egotism, the drive to significance is a simple extension of the creative impulse of God that gave us being. . . . We were built to count, as water is made to run downhill.  We are placed in a specific context to count in ways that no one else does.  That is our destiny.”- Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (1998)

In Chapter 2  (“Seen and Celebrated: Discovering Who We Are Apart From What We Do”) of Unseen, Sara Hagerty states God designed us to be seen and celebrated.  Thus, God’s creative impulse instilled in us this craving to be known and realize that we matter.  Most importantly, God never stops thinking about us.  And He sees us at all times.  As Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “God saw us when we could not be seen, and he wrote about us when there was nothing to write about.”

However, Ms. Hagerty notes, when we crave the opinions and accolades of others, we break our gaze with God’s eyes.  And only God’s eyes ever truly see us.  Hence, we still hunger to be seen, known, celebrate, and participate in something larger than ourselves.  Sara continues:

“But too often we settle for lesser things.  It seems easier to get a like online than it does to get quiet with God, to seek His face and listen for His whispers.  Especially if we’re not sure what the expression on His face might be, or if His whispers will be kind.  We wonder if God could ever like what He sees in us when no one is looking.  And we forget is was in the same hiddenness that our selves took shape in the first place.”

Today’s question: What fuels your drive to significance?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “How to rest in the safety of God’s arms”

Shattered dreams – unexpected doorways to destiny

“Shattered dreams often become the unexpected doorways to a destiny we could never appreciate without them.  God has an amazing ability to turn our sin into something that will be used to build his kingdom when we turn completely away from our sin.”- Os Hillman

In Chapter 9 (“Stage 2:Character Building”) of The Joseph Calling, Os Hillman states God develops His servants through a series of character tests.  Specifically, at times God places you in situations where you have no natural gifting.  As Mr. Hillman notes, God places you there to experience His power.  In response, you accomplish your tasks.  This provides a vital step in character building.

Yet, Os underscores one thing he’s learned over the years about sin:

“You cannot take territory from the devil if he still has territory in you.  Yielding to sin will always overcome you.”

Thus, you cannot bring about a spiritual end via using any area of the flesh.  But God turns all things to good when we  (a) give our lives to Him and (b) allow Him to deal with our past.

Yet, as with Jesus in the wilderness, a test always follows a victory.  As a result, Os describes three core areas in which Satan tempted Jesus.  We also experience testing in these areas.

  1. Identity.  Satan wants us to find our identity in our work, money, or status rather than God.
  2. Authority.  Instead of placing our dependence on God, Satan tempts us to use our own power to achieve whatever we want.
  3. Source of provision.  Satan wants us to believe we acquire our provision through our own sweat and toil.  We must remember God is the source of all our provision.

Today’s question: How have your shattered dreams functioned as unexpected doorways to your destiny?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Failure – the stepping stone to greater victory’

Reconcile adversity and crisis with destiny and purpose

“I want to help readers reconcile adversity and crisis with destiny and purpose. . . . When we understand God’s processes, we’re more likely to embrace his truths, and subsequently desire a deeper relationship with him.” – Os Hillman

In his brief foreword to Os Hillman’s latest book, The Joseph Calling, Gunnar Olson states Mr. Hillman’s book differentiates between the attributed righteousness received through faith in Jesus and the righteousness that comes from walking in obedience to God.  This process involves the glorious experiences of God’s power.  However, it also involves the sharing of death to self, so that Christ’s revealed in us.  This is a difficult and painful, but necessary, process.

Next, in his introduction, “A God-Sized Assignment,” Os Hillman stresses that God designed a purpose and destiny for each of us.  In other words, God’s created a God-sized assignment for each of us to fulfill on earth.  Most importantly, adversity provides one of the key catalysts for moving people into their specific calling.

Speaking about people in the Bible, as well as people in modern life, Mr. Hillman states:

“More often than not, the people God used were simply responding to a crisis event in their lives rather than initiating a vision that came from their own hearts.”

Although, the author notes, not all people work through the unique six-step process of the Joseph calling, history attests to this calling.  God takes people through this process to achieve a higher purpose in their lives.  Furthermore, God has plans for every stage of your life, regardless of age.

In conclusion, Mr. Hillman exhorts:

“God wants to reveal to you your purpose, why he made you, and why he sent you into this world.  He wants you to know his unique assignment for you – and only you- to fulfill on planet Earth.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses speak to you as you reconcile adversity and crisis with destiny and purpose?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “Each day holds a surprise — only if we expect it”

Tomorrow’s blog: “First discover your purpose”

Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny

Detours (B & H Books, 2017)

Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny is the most recent book from Dr. Evans, founding and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas.  The word detour implies there’s  a destination, or destiny.  Specifically, destiny involves bringing glory to God as “people come into contact with Him through our words, spirit, emotions, or actions.”  And it’s a normative reality that a life of faith includes detours.  In fact, Dr. Evans notes, detours are God’s modus operandi- His default mode for guiding us.  Furthermore, whether we like it or not, God designed detours for our good.  That realization enables us to take trusting steps of faith.

Yet, breaking us of our own ambitions and independence signals a painful process.  However, we need to praise God in our pain, even if that praise consists of a faint word falling off our parched lips.  For God uses tests to reveal and accurately diagnose the condition of our heart.  As a result, a test always brings truth to the surface.  Thus, that allows growth to occur in a spirit of honesty.  God loves us too much to let us keep walking down the wrong path or in the wrong direction.  The key, then, to making it through testing = intimacy with the Lord.

When your preparation meets God’s purpose, you’re ready to move from detour to destiny.  In addition, once God’s prepared and developed you – even broken you- God’s providence comes out of nowhere- suddenly!  Dr. Evans describes God’s providence as a “word punctuated by truth and postulated by accuracy.”  Consequently, looking through the lens of providence enables you to experience the victorious Christian life and abundance Christ died to provide.  But, you never see all there is to see when dealing with the providence of God.  And the things you do see often don’t connect.

Even so, God brings harmony to discord and turns disappointment into destiny.  Maintaining the right perspective keeps you going despite life’s circumstances.  Then, when evil inevitably shows up, we need to place God in the equation for good to come out of it.  Also, as Dr. Evans points out, God doesn’t just work around negative things, God works in the negative thing.  Furthermore, sometimes you need negative potential in your life experiences to take your further than you’d go on your own.  Dr. Evans concludes with these final comments on your unpredictable path:

“Your destiny and kingdom purpose often involve both a hookup and a hope to people beyond yourself.  Look for both as God guides you.  Pray for both as you wait patiently.  Sharpen your faith, hone your skills, seek His face, and He will move you from detour to destiny.  Keep your eyes wide open . . .”

Negative potential in your experience

“Sometimes you need some negative potential in your experience to take you further than you would go on your own.”- Dr. Tony Evans

In Chapter 16 (“The Path of Detours”) of Detours, Dr. Tony Evans observes that while everyone appears to want a blessing, few want development.  Yet, for Joseph to fulfill his role as second-in-command in Egypt, God first needed to take him deeper and develop him.

Therefore, where God’s currently placed you is part of God’s purpose and plan for you.  In addition, part of that purpose and plan involves perfecting the art of waiting.  As a result, Dr. Evans lists three signs from God that you’re waiting well:

  1. God comes out of nowhere.  He brings something into your life that catches you just when you were ready to throw in the towel.  While God doesn’t change your situation, He lets you know He’s there.
  2. God gives you the strength to keep going in your situation.
  3. God changes you in your situation, although that situation remains the same.  As Tony puts it, “He [God] doesn’t give you a second wind, but He keeps you from getting weary when you walk.”

In conclusion, as Dorothy realized at the end of The Wizard of Oz, sometimes where you currently find yourself is as good as where you’re trying to go.  Dr. Evans notes the importance of this lesson.  He writes:

“When you truly come to realize this — along with the value of who you are and the worth of those around you — you discover your destiny.  In recognizing how your life sovereignly merges and intersects with others at God’s divinely right time — each day, every day — you not only bring Him glory, but you also bring benefit, purpose, and joy to all.”

Today’s question:  What negative potential in your experience propelled you during your desert, land between time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Cast off one’s chains”

The key to your spiritual success

“The key to your spiritual success is focus (emphasis author’s).”- Dr. Tony Evans

As Dr. Tony Evans concludes Chapter 13 of Detours, he reminds you of the need to maintain focus on the right perspective as you meander though detours to your destiny.  Even though you quite possibly feel removed from purpose, passion, and peace, you may be only a step away from your destiny.

For example, Dr. Evans notes, every time we see Joseph, we see God with him as well- without fail.  God allowed, approved, and made Himself visible within everything that happened in Joseph’s life.  The author applies this to us:

“If you take God seriously, you can never be a victim to your circumstances because your circumstances wouldn’t be your circumstances without God allowing it to be used to take you to your destiny. . . . If Satan can keep God out of the equation of your understanding, you will lose perspective on the treadmill of life and only see the sweat of the uphill climb.”

As a result, Joseph always kept God in the equation.  Therefore, when Joseph confronted his brothers to calm their fears about their sinful actions, He invoked God’s name five times.  As with Joseph, opening your heart to God opens your eyes as well.

Life stripped Joseph of everything one imagines losing.  Except one thing- his destiny.  Like Joseph, your destiny sits securely in the hand of God.

In conclusion, align your perspective with the Lord’s.  God loves to surprise, as Dr. Evans describes:

“God loves to flip things on a dime.  He loves to operate in the surprise of ‘suddenlies.’  Because when He does, He is the only One who can get the credit and the glory.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures make focus the key to your spiritual success?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Success is Who you have”

Using the negative to produce a positive

“Providence includes using the negative to produce a positive.”- Dr. Tony Evans

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”- Genesis 50:20 (NASB)

In Chapter 12 (“The Perfection of Detours”) of Detours, Dr. Tony Evans concentrates on the word meant.  The past participle of “to mean,” meant can be defined as “to intend for a particular purpose and destination.”

Joseph’s brothers meant evil toward him,  However, as Genesis 50:20 indicates, God meant something entirely different.  But God– two very powerful words.  As Dr. Evans notes, we need to pay attention when we come across “but God” in Scripture.  For what comes next usually changes the entire situation.  Especially when “meant” gets added.

Therefore, when we think about God working things out for our good, that includes working directly in the negative thing.  Dr. Evans explains:

“He redeems the bad intentions of someone who may have hurt you on purpose by intervening in you to twist that thing to work for your good.”  Dr. Evans continues, “He can even use someone who means you harm to take you, mold you, develop you, strengthen you, or redirect you to your purpose and destiny.”

God brings harmony to discord and turns a disappointment into a destiny.  Yet, God cares about more than our circumstantial deliverance.  He’s concerned about our spiritual development.

In conclusion, Dr. Evans describes what happens when you understand providence:

” . . . you start looking to see what God is doing. . . . opening your eyes to see where He is moving.  You start operating on a different level of understanding when you observe the patterns of God’s providential maneuvering.”

Today’s question: How is God using the negative to produce a positive in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “I didn’t sign up for this”