Risk – the only way forward

“There are so many unknowns. . . . Risk is the only way forward.”- John Piper, Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It (Crossway, 2013)

In Chapter 8 (“When Waiting Is Risky”) of Still Waiting, Ann Swindell notes the consequences of her failure to risk.  First, Ann’s fear coerced he into the false belief she needed a lot of social currency with another before taking the risk of revealing her condition.  Next, she’d circumvented questions about her trich in some form for most of her life.  Thus, Ann tried to wriggle out of explaining trichotillomania.

Therefore, the author asserts, we take a risk in telling others about our brokenness.  It’s risky because we can’t control what others do with our confession.  Yet, Ann underscores, “risk is inexorably bound up in faith.”  Time and time again she’s found that risk seem important to God.

Furthermore, biblical people of faith – Abraham, Daniel, the Virgin Mary, for example – trusted that the rewards of their faith greatly outweighed the risks facing them.  And the Bleeding Woman, already bereft of social standing, jeopardized her last thread to dignity to encounter Jesus.  After exhausting almost all her choices, only risking remained.  If we’re honest, Ann states, that’s the only choice we have left as well.

Most noteworthy, no one sees our internal risks that we take with God.  You take risks when you choose to keep your spirit open and vulnerable.  Even when your prayers go unanswered in the way you with and know God can!  The author summarizes:

“This is the real, hard work of faith for most of us — not jumping off cliffs or swimming in shark-infested waters, but being willing to lay our hearts and souls bare before God without protection or pretense.  It’s risky to open our hearts to the Lord when our dreams and desires don’t line up with reality.”

Today’s question: How do you embrace riskiness as the only way forward?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Staying tender and needy before God”

The genuine pain and sorrow in every heart

“Jesus knows the suffering that each of us carries, and he knows the genuine pain and sorrow in every heart.”- Ann Swindell

“You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.”- Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

In Chapter 7 (“When Waiting Feels Like Suffering”) of Still Waiting, Ann Swindell references the suffering of the Bleeding Woman.  Ann states that the hardest kind of suffering comes not from the body, but from the spirit.  While physical suffering is hard enough, the weight around one’s soul feels impossible to carry.  Such suffering renews itself every sunrise.

Furthermore, the waiting itself feels like suffering.  In response, the author asks, should you put on your big girl or big boy pants, acting if no problem exists?  Ann doesn’t think that’s what Jesus is asking of us.

Therefore, Ms. Swindell believes, Jesus doesn’t minimize our suffering or suggest that we toughen up.  Rather, Jesus validates our pain and acknowledges our suffering.  Ann explains as she compares Jesus’ response to the Bleeding Woman’s suffering with His response to the death of Jairus’ daughter.  The author writes:

“But.  But her [Bleeding Woman] suffering was significant to Jesus.  He understood that her waiting had been part of her suffering — that the waiting itself had caused her suffering.  And that suffering mattered to him. . . .  Jesus validated her suffering by stopping for her, by seeking her out. . . .  In the face of another person’s death, in fact, he affirmed her search for healing and her faith in his ability to do so.  Only Jesus can hold things like this in tandem.”

Thus, regardless of how the word ranks pain, only Jesus sees all pain as real and valid.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you see that Jesus validates the genuine pain and sorrow in your heart?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Jesus deeply affirms our suffering”

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”

Your Powerful Prayers – Reaching the Heart of God with a Bold and Humble Faith

Your Powerful Prayers (Bethany House, 2016)

Susie Larson – radio talk show host, national speaker, and author- wrote Your Powerful Prayers: Reaching the Heart of God with a Bold and Humble Faith in 2016.  At the outset, Ms. Larson stresses that Jesus wants you to be comfortable with, yet undone by, His great love.  For God’s love and acceptance form an essential connection with prayer.  As a result, God invites you into a back-and-forth dialogue and an adventure of faith and obedience.  Therefore, what you say and pray about your disappointments deeply matters.  Because your words reflect what you believe to be true about God and about yourself.

In addition, the author notes, heartaches and unfulfilled desires often skew our perception.  Thus, we keep our thinking small.  Most importantly, it matters deeply how we steward our perspective, especially when God delays giving us what our heart’s desires.  So Ms. Larson encourages us to remember this important, immovable truth: we’re heirs and children of God; He deeply loves and profoundly cares for us.  As a result, when we find ourselves praying and pleading from underneath our circumstances, it’s time to remind our souls of His love.  And we must develop a lifestyle of listening to God so that we know our next steps.

Furthermore, Ms. Larson exhorts, you’re most powerful when you pray and most influential when you’re in step with God Almighty.  Hence, walking step by step with the Holy Spirit enable His desires to be your desires.  Also, God’s promises remain as potent and powerful as ever.  Thus, you pray with passion, boldness, humility, and faith.  This posture, in turn, keeps Satan from turning lies into truth, no matter how high he gets in the face of your fears.  As heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, you’re gifted with the privileges of His presence, promises, and power.  Perhaps, Susie suggests, it’s time to reframe your promises in the light of God’s power.  Rather than react to angst, respond to the Lord’s direction.

In conclusion, Ms. Larson underscores that we must recognize the difference between expectation and expectancy.  Briefly, Susie equates expectation with premeditated disappointment.  In contrast, she defines expectancy as the tenacious belief that your powerful prayers matter.  Jesus wants us in His presence expectant and full of faith.  And persevering prayer involves the gritty and supernatural- grabbing hold of promises that defy our circumstances.  Ms. Larson offers these words of hope:

“May we . . . walk the narrow road of holiness, humility, perseverance, and expectancy, because we know that our posture, our perspective, and  . . . prayers make all the difference in the world.”

Surrounded by accusers with rocks in hand

“When you feel surrounded by accusers with rocks in hand, you can be certain that God is not one of tem.  Our good, compassionate God lavishes mercy instead of anger on all who ask.”- Bo Stern, The God Who Fights for You

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”- Romans 12:12

Susie Larson talks about the issue of shame in Chapter 11 (“Dare to Knock”) of Your Powerful Prayers.  Ms. Larson states shame often keeps us from boldly running into the arms of our Father after we’ve blown it.  In addition, shame keeps us from daring to ask for things we’d never earn, deserve, or acquire on our own.

Furthermore, as Curt Thompson writes in The Soul of Shame, shame’s both a “source and result of evil’s active assault on creation.”  Curt explains:

“Shame is not just a consequence of something our first parents did in the Garden of Eden.  It is the emotional weapon that evil uses to (1) corrupt our relationships with God and each other, and (2) disintegrate any and all gifts of vocational vision and creativity. . . . Shame is the primary means to prevent us from using the gifts we have been given.  And those gifts enable us to flourish as a light-bearing community of Jesus followers . . .”

In conclusion, Ms. Larson admits that she uses to think the word shameless brought forth negative connotations only.  For example, a shameless person shows no fear of God or concern for others.  However, Susie now believes shameless reflects positive attributes as well: unconcealed, undisguised, transparent, unashamed.

As the author states, Jesus “wants us in His presence, full and free, healed and whole, expectant and full of faith.

Today’s question: During and/or following your vocation loss, when have you felt surrounded by accusers with rocks in hand?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “So walk on, child of God”

The ground for answered prayer

“The ground for answered prayer is God’s forgiving love.  When God’s love and forgiveness have taken possession of our hearts, we will pray in faith and we will live in love.”- Andrew Murray, Believing Prayer

Susie Larson concludes Chapter 9 of Your Powerful Prayers as she states we must humble ourselves before the Lord as the first step in getting back in rank.  As we surrender our hearts, agendas, and toxic attitudes with the Spirit’s power, Jesus rises up on our behalf.  First, Jesus helps us win the inner soul battle.  Then, He teaches us to stand in His authority.

A. W. Tozer summarizes this concept, offering this powerful insight:

“Strange as it may seem, we often win over our enemies only after we have first been soundly defeated by the Lord Himself.  God often conquers our enemies by conquering us. . . . After that, everything is easy.  We have put ourselves in a position where God can fight for us, and in a situation like that, the outcome is decided from eternity.”

Therefore, we must view spiritual warfare as serious business.  When we harbor sin and toxic attitudes in our hearts, Satan interprets this as a green light.   He conspires to wreck our lives at the right time.  However, when we walk in step with the Holy Spirit, God’s desires are one with our desires.

In conclusion, Andrew Murray (Believing Prayer) provides encouragement to persevere in prayer:

“The greatest danger in this school of delayed answers is the temptation to think that it may not be God’s will to give us what we ask.  But if our prayer is according to God’s Word and under the leading of the spirit, we must not give in to such fear. . . . He will lead us from faith to vision; we shall see the glory of God.”

Today’s question: How does God’s forgiving love provide the ground for answered prayer?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The most challenging prayer requests”

Time to reframe our disappointments

“It’s time to reframe our disappointments in light of God’s promises.  It’s time to face our battles with courage in light of God’s power.”- Susie Larson

In Chapter 8 (“Dare to Pray From Victory”) of Your Powerful Prayers, Susie Larson asserts that our gaze often pulls to the object of our fears.  As we listen to Satan’s taunts, we freeze in our tracks.  Next, the fears we stare at in front of us actually get in us.  However, we become downright dangerous when we rise up in Christ’s authority and entrust ourselves to His care.

Furthermore, no matter how big Satan gets in the face of our fears, he can’t turn a lie into the truth.  Ms. Larson summarizes:

“There’s something powerful about rising up in the strength of the Lord and declaring to your soul and to your enemy that Jesus is your strong tower, your shelter against the foe, your defender, deliverer, and mighty God.  His strength and power inhabits your soul!  You have Him!  You have His power.  And you have His promises.”

In reality, Ms. Larson underscores, here’s the truth.  As heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, we possess certain privileges.  We have Christ’s:

  1. presence – where we find fullness of joy
  2. promises – Christ’s faithful, true promises change everything for Christ-followers
  3. power – the same power that raised Christ from the dead

In conclusion, Susie exhorts, now’s the time to “reframe our disappointments in light of God’s promises.”  Writing in Risky Gospel, Owen Strachan states:

“God doesn’t want His people to be fearful, but faithful.  He’s not trying to cool us down, but heat us up.  Yet, biblical faith isn’t reckless or careless.  It is trusting, confident, and fearless because it’s grounded in Almighty God.”

Today’s question: What favorite Bible verse helps your reframe your disappointments in light of God’s love?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Often we thwart God’s interventions”

A lifestyle of listening to God

“We have to be people who develop a lifestyle of listening to God so we know what our next steps should be.”- Susie Larson, citing author and pastor Adonis Lenzy

In Chapter 7 (“Dare to Pray God’s Promises”) of Your Powerful Prayers, Susie Larson relates a conversation she had with Adonis Lenzy.  The interview covered the importance of taking the next steps God has for us.  Often, Pastor Lenzy observes, we think we’re waiting on God.  In reality, God’s actually the one waiting on us.  Yet, we must develop a lifestyle of listening to God in order to know where to take our next steps.

However, sometimes others question whether or not we’ve really heard from God.  Hence, Ms. Larson offers her perspective:

“Though it’s important to be open to counsel and feedback from our friends and loved ones, sometimes God’s words to us will defy logic.  Sometimes God invites us to a faith that calls us to seemingly stand alone.  But we’re never alone.  We’re always anchored to Him.  It’s especially during such times that we must trust God with everything in us and take only the next steps He lays out for us.”

Therefore, Susie stresses, you get more familiar with God’s voice the more you read His Word and seek His face.  In addition, the more you clearly hear God and recognize His direction, the more boldly you ask Him to accomplish things only He can accomplish.  As a result, you rely less on the limited view of your own perspective.

In conclusion, Ms. Larson states that God’s involvement and call for your engagement reveal how deeply He wants to partner with you to accomplish His earthly purposes.  But His answers take time.  Because He works through people.  And quite often we’re the ones with the slow response.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you develop a lifestyle of listening to God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Holy grit and God’s abundant grace”

That place where joy and faith collide

“The place of power, the sweet spot in our faith walk, is that place where joy and faith collide.”- Susie Larson

Susie Larson concludes her Introduction to Your Powerful Prayers as she reminds us that our lifelines consist of the Word of God and our prayer life.  Thus, praying without reading the Word compares to a ship without a sail.  In that case, the winds determine your path.  And if you read the Word without engaging in prayer,  that’s comparable to a sail without a ship.  Although the wind fills your sails, it’s impossible to get anywhere.

And though Jesus answers our prayers and grants some of our heart’s deepest desires, He remains our greatest treasure.  In Believing Prayer (1980, 2004), Andrew Murray wrote:

“When the name of Jesus has become the power that rules my life, power in prayer with God will be evident as well.  Everything depends on the name; the power it has on my life is the power it will have in my prayers (emphasis Ms. Larson’s).”

Furthermore, Susie stresses, prayer:

  • links us in fellowship with the star-breathing God
  • strengthens our faith
  • encourages our hearts
  • changes our circumstances and/or perspective
  • impacts our story as we dialogue with God about what we see in the world

In conclusion, Susie explains the intersection of hilarious joy and tenacious faith.  Joy, the author explains, must be viewed as a discipline and a fruit.  This happens when we choose joy even though God’s not giving us what we want at the moment.  On the other hand, Ms. Larson describes tenacious faith as “our substance, our spiritual traction . . . evidence of our trust in a faithful God.”

Therefore, consistently juxtaposing hilarious joy and fierce faith in your life:

  1. cultivates a perpetual heart of gratitude and thanksgiving
  2. strengthens your prayer life and firms you grip on God’s promises

Today’s question: Where do joy and faith collide in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God is still pursuing you – to love you”

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”