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”

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”

God meets us where we are

“God meets us where we are and not where we pretend to be.”- Esther Fleece

Esther Fleece recently published No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending to explain and apply the ancient biblical language of lament.  In the Foreword, Louie and Shelley Giglio (Passion City Church, Atlanta) describe the beautiful  nature of lament.  They write:

“The beautiful nature of lament is that it has a beginning and an end.  No one is meant to live forever in grief and sorrow, yet without it, our life loses all meaning and our sense of immeasurable joy that is intended for our journey.  Without lament, there is no joy.”

Next, Ms. Fleece follows the Foreword with a letter to her readers.  In the letter, she notes the desperate nature of her own circumstances- with no relief in sight.  In addition, Esther wondered if this moment pushed people to give up on God.  Yet, in the midst of a dying will and hurting heart, a lament began to surface.

However, this surfacing lament produced a deep, authentic, worth everything (emphasis Esther’s) faith.  But this type of faith comes with a cost.  Esther observes that lament was:

  • giving her a language for relating to God, her Creator
  • saving her faith
  • the only thing that enabled her to keep the line open to God in her moment of greatest need

Although  we experience pain, Esther exhorts us not “to settle for heartache without comfort.”  God cares for us too much to leave us alone.

In conclusion, Ms. Fleece provides some thought for the hurting, restless, disappointed, stuck, faithless- and even the faithful.  She writes that we’re all in this together:

“All of us need lament.  All of us long to be rescued from pain. . . . Pain will not be forever, but pain will be present in this life, and so I pray for you.  I pray for us.  That God will meet us in our distress, and that we will end the pretend, together.”

Today’s question: Following your vocation loss, provide examples of how “God meets us where we are.”  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Get out of pain as quickly as possible”

Learning to wait well- living as a child of God

“Learning to wait well involves learning how to put into practice the everyday-ness of living as a child of God.”- Dr. Tony Evans

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes. wait for the LORD.”- Psalm 27:13-14 (NASB)

Dr. Tony Evans concludes Chapter 15 of Detours as he states there’s no one specific method for learning to wait well.  However, generally speaking, waiting on the Lord means you don’t go outside of God to fix your issue.  Dr. Evans compares waiting on the Lord to a farmer waiting for rain.  The author writes:

“Just as a farmer must wait for the rains and the soil to produce the growth of a seed, we must also wait for the Lord to produce within us and through us the purpose He intends.”

In contrast, Dr. Evans notes, there’s one surefire way to know you still need to perfect the art of waiting.  That indicator- when you exhibit a complaining spirit.  Tony explains:

“A person who had a complaining spirit — someone who has a pattern of whining about a situation or about God — is not waiting well.”

Complaining reveals a lack of faith, a heart seeking a solution more than the lesson on the journey to the solution.

In conclusion, delays don’t always require intervention.  Often God uses delays as teaching points or to first receive something from Him.  Therefore, we also wait in obedience.  For even though God seems silent, He’s not still.

Today’s question: What Bible verses support you in learning to wait well?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Negative potential in your experience”

The worst kind of waiting there is

“But really the worst kind of waiting there is comes when you or I have to wait on God.”- Dr. Tony Evans

“How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear.”- Habakkuk 1:2 (NASB)

In Chapter 15 (“The Patience of Detours”) of Detours , Dr. Tony Evans states that, although patience is a virtue, we find it difficult to come by.  Yet, while all kinds of earthly waiting inconvenience us, the worst kind of waiting comes when we wait on God.

Dr. Evans describes what happens when, despite our prayers and worship, nothing seems to change.  We still feel empty and stuck.  Thus, Tony gives voice to our feelings:

“Sometimes it seems that God takes so long that you can begin to wonder if believing in Him is even reasonable.  You begin to wonder if it’s even worth the effort.  What’s the upside to this thing called faith, God? . . . After a while you begin to feel that the relationship is too one-sided.  Then, when things get even worse, you may even consider pulling back.  Withholding worship, prayer, devotion — because it just doesn’t make sense anymore.”

As a result, we cry out to the Lord like Habakkuk.  However, over and over again, the Bible instructs us to wait on the Lord:

“I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.  My soul waits for the LORD more than the watchmen watch for the morning.  Indeed, more than the watchmen watch for the morning.”- Psalm 130:5-6 (NASB)

In conclusion, to dissipate doubt and dissolve despair, Dr. Evans states that we need to wait with:

  • anticipation
  • hope
  • longing
  • expectation
  • desire
  • faith and obedience

Today’s question: For you, what defines the worst kind of waiting?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Learning to wait well- living as a child of God”

Faith – the hallmark of providence

“It is impossible to please God apart from faith because faith is the hallmark of providence.”- Dr. Tony Evans

Dr. Tony Evans concludes Chapter 10 of Detours as he compares sovereignty and providence.  Dr. Evans explains:

Providence . . . expresses one of the key ways God demonstrates His sovereignty in connection with His intentional arrangement of people, circumstances, and events to achieve His sovereign purposes.  Sovereignty is God’s rule.  Providence is how God uses that rule to integrate, connect, attach, detach, arrange, and hook things up to facilitate His purposes.”

Therefore, sovereignty and luck cannot simultaneously exist.  As a result, one excludes the other.  If we opted to use the concept of luck to describe Joseph’s life, we’d say he rode a roller coaster of great and bad luck.  However, understanding the concept of providence assures us God put all things in place to work together for good in Joseph’s life.

Thus, when you attain understanding of providence- the subset of sovereignty- you begin to view life in a new way.  Dr. Evans writes:

“You . . . begin to rest when you used to fret . . . breathe easily when you used to worry . . . give thanks when you used to be filled with bitterness and regret.  To fully live out the victorious Christian life and experience the abundance Jesus Christ died to provide, you must live and look at the events of your life through the lens of providence.”

In conclusion, these specific aspects of God’s character provide a solid foundation.  With it, you can properly solve the complexities you encounter in life.  Furthermore, what shocks you never shocks God.  Finally, don’t express surprise when God doesn’t make sense. He’s not supposed to.  That’s why we need faith as we follow God.

Today’s question: How does your faith serve as a hallmark of providence?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Using the negative to produce a positive”

God’s sovereign control and arrangement of life

“The word we use when we refer to God’s sovereign control and arrangement of life is . . . a word punctuated by truth and postulated by accuracy.  that word is providence.”- Dr. Tony Evans

” . . .. which He will bring about at the proper time — He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”- 1 Timothy 6:15

In Chapter 11 (“The Providence of Detours”) of Detours, Dr. Tony Evans stresses that we need to avoid the concept of luck.  The word luck has infiltrated our vocabulary.  Unfortunately, the term’s found its way into our mentality.  Hence, we begin to view things, Tony notes, from the vantage point of luck rather than divine providence.

As a result, we desire to have this force we can’t grab, hold on to, count on, or actually embrace.  When this happens, luck dominates much of our thinking.  Thus, luck becomes an idol Satan uses to move our faith, hope, and trust away from God.

Nor does positive thinking provide a solution.  Dr. Evans explains:

“Now positive thinking encourages the mind and the spirit, and it is a healthy thing to do. But when you put your faith in the basket of your mind’s power to work out your destiny, you’ve set yourself up as an idol as well.

When we read the Genesis account of Joseph’s time in jail, we find the account focuses more on God than it does on Joseph.  In fact, Tony believes, providence = one of the most important things you need to know in your Christian experience.  The gospel, of course, remains the most important thing.

Today’s question: What evidence do you see of God’s sovereign control in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Faith- the hallmark of providence”

Never mistake the hand of God

“When you are going through a test, never mistake the hand of God for the hand of man.”- Dr. Tony Evans

“God left him [Hezekiah] to himself, in order to test him and see what was really in his heart.”- 2 Chronicles 32:31

In Chapter 3 (“The Pain of Detours”) of Detours, Dr. Tony Evans notes that sometimes we gain the wisdom to choose our own detours.  Most of the time, however, we get caught up just trying to push through our own problem.  As a result, we fail to recognize how a detour actually takes us farther, faster.

God rarely takes us directly from our current location to His planned destiny for us.  Dr. Evans explains:

“God rarely take us from where we are to where He wants us to go.  More often than not, He disrupts the normal flow and directs us down a beaten path made of unexpected curves, clefts, and challenges.  And most often He does this without our consent.”

Detours always include the unexpected.  Yet, Dr. Evans observes, patterns routinely show up as well.  In the next chapters, the author discusses a couple of predictable scenarios.  The first scenario- detours always include a test.

1.  Detours and testing.  Dr. Evans begins with a definition of test from a biblical context.  In this context, a test or trial can be defined as:

“An adverse circumstance either created or allowed by God in order to reveal to us the pathway of development in preparation for His purpose.”

One reason God uses testing is to reveal what’s in our hearts.  Therefore, Tony adds, “trials call your faith to the witness stand to testify to the condition of your soul.”  You must know the truth so you can address it, learn from it, and grow.  Test reveal an accurate heart diagnosis.

But, as Dr. Evans continues next, “never mistake the hand of God for the hand of man” when going through a test.

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, have you mistaken the hand of God for the hand of man?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The hot iron of His molding grace”

A reflection of what God is like

“What others most need to see in you is a reflection of what God is like.”- Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”- Psalm 24:3-4

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth concludes Chapter 2 of Holiness with a discussion of the last three biblical motivations for holy living.

5.  Because our intimacy with God depends on it.  Nancy firmly points out that Psalm 24:4 reminds us that only those with holy hearts and lives can draw near to God.  As long as anyone ignores or cherishes sin in their heart, no amount of praise or worship moves them one step closer to God.

6.  Because we are going to live eternally in a holy city.  The author asserts you’d give careful though to how you packed if you moved to another part of the world.  Yet, Nancy questions, how much though have you given to your ultimate destination?  Furthermore, what must you do to prepare for that move?

As Nancy reminds us: “This world is just a dressing room- a staging area- for eternity.”

7.  Because the well-being of others depends on it.  The greatest need of those around you centers not on the verbal witness of your faith.  The greatest need centers in others witnessing in you a reflection of God’s nature and the gospel’s transforming power.  The author emphasizes:

Other believers are affected by our choices.  And, to a significant degree, the lost world determines its view of God based on the live of those who profess to know Him.”

Today’s question: How does your life evidence a reflection of what God is like?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A certain level of sin”

A posture of servanthood

“God won’t put you in a position of leadership until you take a posture of servanthood.”- Mark Batterson

In Chapters 19 (“The Thirteenth Virtue”) and 20 (“A Hundred Years from Now”) of Chase the Lion, Mark Batterson discusses servanthood germinating seeds of faith.  The author notes that many of Scripture’s greatest leaders started out as understudies.

Therefore, Mark advises not to rush to begin the next chapter of your life.  Rather, ace the lessons you need to learn during your current life chapter.

As a result, when the time is right, seeds of faith germinate as we plant and water them.  However, God gives the increase.  In addition, He determines when, where, and how.  Finally, God works in spite of us, not just because of us.

Next, Pastor Batterson encourages us to develop patience:

“Every dream, no matter how big, starts out as a seed.  And like a seed, it often goes underground for a season.  That’s when we get discouraged because we don’t see any physical evidence of the dream’s progress.  But it has to take root before it can bear fruit.”

At the end of the day, Mark observes, we’ll only regret the time, talent, and treasure we withheld from God.  And as hard as we try to run away from God, He never leaves us.  God stands right behind us with arms open wide, ready to embrace us.

In conclusion, Mark closes with this benediction- adapted from and inspired by Dr. Richard Halverson, former U. S. Senate chaplain:

“When you leave this place you don’t leave the presence of God.  You take the presence of God with you wherever you go.”

Today’s question: How do you maintain a posture of servanthood during your desert, land between time?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “One step away from coming home”

Tomorrow’s blog: the latest addition to the Annotated Bibliography, Chase the Lion