Faithfulness to build the wall

“Faithfulness to build the wall is not giving up on your dream; it’s trusting God with your dream.”- Banning Liebscher

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”- Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)

Banning Liebscher continues Chapter 2 of Rooted as he observes why many people find it hard to focus on the task in front of them.  Because the test in front of us bears no resemblance to the promise, dream, or vision in our hearts.  Thus, Pastor Liebscher underscores, it takes faith and commitment to trust God.  For God gave us both the dream and our current assignment.

Therefore, Banning exhorts, you must realize that getting you to your dream is God’s job.  Your job, in contrast, consists of the wall in front of you.  Yes, Pastor Liebscher explains, he wholeheartedly believes that you should embrace and pursue the passion in your heart.  However, ultimately, you’re called to be passionate about Jesus and His cause on earth, not your dream.

As a result, the author cautions, if you simply follow your passion you won’t accomplish things for God.  You must show faithfulness and obedience to what God has placed in front of you.  In addition, this will be tested in your life.  Banning asks: Are you more passionate about pursuing a dream or following Jesus?

Pastor Liebscher reminds us – God first develops our root systems.  And He does that through putting our hands to the assignment in front of us.  But, a problem results with making your passion the thing that guides you.  For passion can trick you into avoiding tasks you deem boring.  Yet, these tasks are absolutely vital to get you to where God wants you.

In conclusion, Banning encourages:

” It’s amazing how many believers disqualify themselves and stunt their growth because they don’t just do what’s in front of them.  Do what’s in front of you and do it well.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses sustain faithfulnes to build the wall in front of you? Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Trying to get you off assignment”

God – as near as our next breath

“We can calmly take our concerns to God because he is as near as our next breath.”- Max Lucado

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”- Psalm 118:6 (NIV)

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 5 of Anxious for Nothing as he reinforces Paul’s point in Philippians 4:5-6.  Because the Lord is near, we need be anxious for nothing.  Also, Pastor Lucado reminds us, Paul wrote Philippians as a letter.  And letters don’t contain chapter and verse numbers.  Therefore, Paul intended that we read this passage in one fell swoop.  As Max points out, two early commentators saw this:

  1. John Chrysostom: “The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety.”
  2. Theodoret of Cyrus: “The Lord is near.  Have no worries.”

In addition, Pastor Lucado believes, we learn this reassuring lesson from the miracle of the bread and fish.  While Jesus desired to feed the entire crow, the disciples wanted to get rid of everyone.  In fact, Max detects anxiety, aggravation, and frustration in their response to Jesus.  The disciples don’t call Him “Master” or offer a suggestion.  Rather, they approach Jesus en masse and tell Him what to do.

Although the disciples felt unsettled, they had every reason to be at peace.  For they witnessed Jesus perform many miracles.  Yet, they failed to pause long enough to think or to ask Jesus for help.

So, on the one hand, a problem exists in your life.  On the other hand, you possess a limited quantity of wisdom, energy, patience, or time- nowhere near what you need.  As a result, Max exhorts:

“This time, instead of starting with what you have, start with Jesus.  Start with his wealth, his resources, and his strength.  Before you open the ledger, open your heart. . . .  count the number of times Jesus has helped you face the impossible.  Before you lash out in fear, look up in faith.  Take a moment.  Turn to your Father for help.”

Today’s question: What makes you aware that God’s as near as your next breath?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the Easter Short Meditation, “The loudest voice in your life”

Tomorrow’s blog: “A child of the King – the front of the line”

Contending – harder than conceding

“Contending for what you believe in is harder than conceding to what you’re afraid of, but it’s the only option if you want to live by faith.”- Mark Batterson

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”- Psalm 32:7 (NIV)

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 11 of Whisper, he exhorts you to contend for what you believe. Hence, when adversity strikes, you have choices to make.  Thus, Pastor Batterson stresses that you can:

  • stand down – or – stand on the promises of God
  • give up as you give in to guilt, fear or anger – or – contend through prayer as though it depends completely on God, yet work as if it depends completely on you

According to the psalmist, God continuously sings songs of deliverance around us.  As a result, Mark observes, God provides three lines of defense

  1. First line of defense = God’s surround-sound songs
  2. Second line of defense = the intercession of the Holy Spirit
  3. Third line of defense = Jesus seated at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf

Therefore, Pastor Batterson exhorts us to quit living as if Jesus is still nailed to the cross.  Consequently, the author considers three words in Psalm 5:1 among the most comforting in all Scripture: “Consider my sighing.”  God’s so intimately tuned to us He hears our wordless sighs in our most profound pain.

In conclusion, Mark states, we must give God the sacrifice of praise to make it through the tough times.   Mark shares a mantra often repeated at National Community Church – don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshipping what’s right with God.

Finally, Mark offers three thoughts about worship:

  1. The hardest praise is the highest praise.   When you learn to praise God in really tough times, the best is yet to come.  You’re God’s joy.  Is He yours?
  2. Whatever you don’t turn into praise turns into pain.  Verbalize your pain to the Lord.  Sing over and through your pain.
  3. Sing like you believe it.  If you truly believe what you’re singing, notify your face.  Then add your hands and feet.  And don’t just sing it.  Declare it!

Today’s question: Are you contending for what you believe or conceding to your fears?  Please share.

Coming Monday, March 12th: the annotated bibliography of Whisper

Tomorrow’s blog: “Part Chicken Little, part Eeyore”

All a work in progress – exercise your gifts

“I’m a work in progress, and so are you.  But don’t let inexperience keep you from exercising your gifts.  Don’t let doubt keep you from exercising your faith.  And don’t let the fear of people keep you from speaking into their lives, as God leads.”- Mark Batterson

Today in Chapter 9 of Whisper, Mark Batterson shares some hard-earned advice about common misuse and abuse of the fifth love language – people.  While God speaks through people, they’re as imperfect as we are.  Therefore, Pastor Batterson offers a good rule of thumb: consider the source, the character, of the person speaking to you.

In addition, Mark believes that it’s an earned right to speak the truth in love.  It’s the by-product of relationship.  So, the stronger the relationship, the more weight that person’s words carry.  Also, make sure those words pass through the filter of Scripture.

Furthermore, Pastor Batterson observes, if you’re dealing with the Holy Spirit’s still small voice, moments occur when God gives you a word to speak into someone else’s life.  Mark asserts that “if you cultivate a prophetic voice, God will give you a prophetic voice.”  However, there’s a right time for the right word, or it might actually produce the wrong effect.

Pastor Batterson also reminds us that the Bible doesn’t depict prophets as oracles that predict the future.  In fact, Mark describes a prophetic word as:

  • more forthtelling than foretelling
  • strengthening, encouraging, and comforting
  • always redemptive, even when confrontational
  • delivered with a gentle spirit
  • edifying, not insulting
  • endowing hopefulness, not helplessness
  • bolding believing that the best is yet to come

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how would you describe yourselves as a work in progress?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Your Soulprint – the truest thing about you”

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”