Learn to love the cave – rooted in faithfulness

“You have to learn to love the cave. . . .  In the cave, you become rooted in faithfulness and obedience to God above all else, and you uproot the weeds of man pleasing and the fear of man.”- Banning Liebscher

“He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.”- Isaiah 49:2 (NIV)

Banning Liebscher concludes Chapter 2 of Rooted as he notes that many people fail to thrive in their current circumstances.  They fail to thrive where God has placed them because they feel God left them behind.  However, rushing to catch up pulls you off base.  In addition, Pastor Liebscher asserts, it’s harmful to rush.  Thus, slowing down is critical to the root-building process.

Similarly, when you plant a garden, there’s little you can do to speed up plant growth.  For example, in most cases overwatering kills plants.  Hence, on a daily basis, plants only absorb a specific amount of water and nutrients.  Also, there’s only so much plants can grow in one day.  And, Banning observes, that holds true for us as well.  When we try to rush our growth, we end up destroying it.  As a result, the author encourages:

“Trust God to get you there in His time.  God will get you to where He wants you, when He wants you, and how He wants to get you there.  If you’re not there, it’s because He doesn’t want you there yet. . . .  But no one can make a God promise happen.  The One who promises is the One who fulfills.

In conclusion, Banning presents the last key to thriving in the root-building process – embrace being hidden.  Furthermore, Banning explains that being hidden means:

  • that we’re not seeking a visible platform for our calling
  • we don’t force open any doors that God has not opened
  • waiting for God to put us in front of others at the right time

Today’s question: What Scriptures enable you to learn to love the cave?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Places of weakness and vulnerability”

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”

Cling to Christ, abide in Him

“Make it your aim to cling to Christ.  Abide in him.  Is he not true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise?”- Max Lucado

“Fix your thoughts on whaat is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirble.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (New Living Translation)

In Chapter 10 (“Cling to Christ”) of Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado exhorts that we must focus on God in order to bear fruit.  However, Pastor Lucado notes, too many of us model the phrase “fruitless and fretfilled.”  Since we don’t desire to do this, we long to follow Paul’s admonition in Philippaians 4:8.

Perhaps we determine to fulfill  Paul’s advice with a grimace and a fresh resolve.  When this happens, Paul’s call to peace easily becomes a list of requirements or musts.  In fact, Max admits, he finds it hard to remember the eight virtues, let alone filter his thoughts through them.

Most noteworthy, a simpler way exists.  We must make it our aim to cling to Christ and abide in Him.  For God’s our vine keeper.  He loves to coax the best out of His vines as He pampers, prunes, and blesses us.

In conclusion, as the Father tends, Jesus nourishes.  And when people see God’s love, peace, and grace in your life, they want to know the source.  Thus, God is honored.  So, Max adds, bearing fruit matters to God.  But, it also matters to you:

“You grow weary of unrest . . . ready to be done with sleepless nights.  You long to be ‘anxious for nothing’  . . . for the fruit of the Spirit.  But how do you bear this fruit?  Try harder?  No, hang tighter.  Our assignment is not fruitfulness, but faithfulness.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you cling to Christ and abide in Him?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The secret to fruit-bearing”

Great blessing out of difficulty

“God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.”- Peter Marshall

Os Hillman applies the Joseph calling to the larger stories of Jacob, Moses, and Paul, respectively, in Chapters 14-16 of The Joseph Calling.  Next, in Chapter 17 (“Experiencing Your Larger Story”), Os reminds us how those six stages usher you into the larger story of your life.  Hence, Os defines that larger story as ” a life . . . filled with the activity of God and the manifest presence of his life being lived through you.”

In 1990, the author notes, Henry Blockaby developed a popular Bible study series titled Experiencing God.  The very first principle established that God’s always at work around us.  Thus, our responsibility involves joining in what God’s already doing.  Os explains:

“We are not to think up things to do for God; we are to join him in what he wants to do and what he is already doing on earth today.”

Furthermore, Mr. Hillman observes, one kingdom principle requires faithfulness in small areas before God entrusts us with larger ones. In the process God causes fruit to be born from our obedience.  Not from our sweat and toil.

In conclusion, Os offers these words of hope:

“I want to encourage you to be more aware of where God is working around you.  Ask God to give you more opportunities to share his love with those with whom you come in contact.  One of the easiest ways to minister to people is to ask to pray for them when you hear of a need they have in their life.”

Today’s question: What great blessing do you see rising out of your difficulty?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “What God calls us to – simply be His friend”

True forgiveness of those who wrong us

“True forgiveness of those who wrong us demonstrates more than anything else whether or not you are serious about walking with God on a deeper level.”- Os Hillman

As Os Hillman continues Chapter 11 of The Joseph Calling, he underscores that times exist when people must do things out of pure obedience.  In other words, pure obedience operates independently of good feelings.

Thus, Os reveals the bottom line for people who hold on to bitterness and refuse to forgive.  Such people make themselves out to be victims.  Hence, as victims, they fail to see the wickedness of their own sin before the cross.  Writing in My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers describes the sin of self-pity:

“No sin is worse than the sin of self-pity, because it obliterates God and puts self-interest upon the throne.  It opens our mouths to spit our murmurings and our lives become craving spiritual sponges.”

Most importantly, Os exhorts, God’s able to heal the sting of betrayal.  Our job involves taking the first step toward forgiveness.  That first step happens as we accept and admit our own need for mercy.

Furthermore, offering undeserved love incredibly impacts the one who betrayed you.  In fact, the author defines the true gospel as “faithfulness expressed in the face of unfaithfulness.”  Therefore, Os states, people must develop their theology based on what the Bible teaches, rather than the level of pain-avoidance and lifestyle they desire.

In conclusion, the author looks at what happens when we’re forced into a battle we didn’t choose:

“When we are forced into a battle we did not choose, it is the place of initiation to live for a cause greater than ourselves.  It is in this battle where we learn the reality of our faith and whether the God we intellectually believe in can be trusted with the outcome of our lives.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you show true forgiveness to those involved in the loss of your calling?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Let your faith change your circumstances”

Cure for the fear of failure

“The cure for the fear of failure is failure in small enough doses that we build up an immunity to it.”- Mark Batterson

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”- 1 John 4:18

Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 12 of Chase the Lion by offering his definition of faith:

  • half of faith = learning what we don’t know
  • the other half = unlearning irrational fears and false assumptions

In addition, Pastor Batterson notes, psychologists tell us we’re born with two fears- the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.  Therefore, we learn every other fear.  And that means every other fear can be unlearned.  Faith, then, is the process of unlearning those fears.

Since true love leads to fearlessness, it’s God’s love that sets us free from the spirit of fear.  Often God accomplishes this by bringing us face to face with our worst fears.  Mark explains:

“He [God] graciously brings us back to the place of failure, and then He not only helps us pick up the broken pieces but He also put them back together again.”

As a result, lion chasers run toward the roar.  Rather than seeking safety, Mark observes, lion chasers seek “situations that scare them to life.”

At National Community Church, they’ve inverted an old axiom: “Go. Set. Ready.”  That’s because no one’s ever ready.  Hence, the issues becomes willingness, not readiness.

In conclusion, Pastor Batterson outlines the role of faithfulness in this process:

“Faithfulness isn’t holding down the fort until Jesus returns.  Faithfulness is taking back enemy territory by shining light in dark places.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures have helped you overcome the fear of failure?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The theory of compensation”

 

Our greatest shortcoming

“I think our greatest shortcoming is not feeling good enough about what God has done right.  When we undercelebrate, we fall short of the glory of God.”- Mark Batterson

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 7 of Chase the Lion, he notes that after an upset Israelite victory over the Philistines, Samuel built an altar.  Next, Samuel named that altar ‘Ebenezer.’   Ebenezer means “hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”  Similarly, Ebenezer moments occur in every dream journey.  Hence, we celebrate those milestones by building altars.

In the process, we surround ourselves with life symbols.  That’s so we don’t forget what God wants us to remember.  In addition, Pastor Batterson explains the significance of altar-building:

“An altar reminds us that the God who did it before can do it again.  It’s not just a token of God’s faithfulness.  It’s a statement of faith: the God who got us here will get us there, and the God who did this will do that.”

Therefore, Mark encourages, we not only need to celebrate more; we need to celebrate better.  For example, the initials SFSG appear on the coffee sleeves at Ebenezers Coffeehouse- a ministry of National Community Church.  Those initials stand for “So Far So God.”  As Pastor Batterson quips, NCC “took good out of the equation and added God.”

In conclusion, Mark subscribes to a two-fold litmus test in discerning the will of God: “You have to be released from and called to.”  As a result, if God has released you, you need to let it go- and not look back.

Rather, focus on how God’s calling you to resurrect your dream.

Today’s question: How would you describe your greatest shortcoming during your desert, transition time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “God is in control”

Our impossible situations

“God never asks us to figure out a solution to our impossible situations.  Instead, he calls us to trust him.”- Dr. Wayne Stiles

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”- Mark 10:27 (ESV)

Dr. Wayne Stiles concludes Chapter 8 of Waiting on God by affirming that we find impossible situations frustrating.  On the other hand, Wayne states, “God intends those unreasonable and often unbearable circumstances to encourage us to the next round. . . . We connect what we learn about God’s faithfulness in one area of life to all other areas of life.”

Therefore, if we consistently flee from the pain faithfulness demands of us, we won’t experience the joy of God’s power.  As Wayne emphasizes, “God’s miracles require impossible contexts.”  Furthermore, a lengthy period of waiting and faithfulness witnesses that only God provides blessings, success, and goodness in our lives.

As Jacob journeyed to Egypt with his sons to reunite with Joseph, God graciously encouraged Jacob to follow the Lord’s leading.  Dr. Stiles reminds us that those promises remain true for us as well:

“Like Jacob, we receive few specifics from God when he initiates change, but he gives us everything we need to take the next few steps.  His Word, like a lamp, show us only our next few steps.  (Sometimes this means waiting.)  And like Jacob, we have the assurance of God’s presence with us . . .”

Yet, sometimes we don’t even recognize that we’re waiting on God for blessings He alone knows He’ll give us.

Today’s question: During your desert, transformational time after your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how have you trusted God in yur impossible situations?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Joy only God can give”

Slammed doors

“Slammed doors do more than bend your nose; they keep your heart pliable, sensitive, and available to God’s leading.”-Wayne Stiles

Dr. Wayne Stiles concludes Chapter 6 of Waiting on God by observing that “circumstances always change our minds about God.”  Circumstances either (a) tempt us to doubt God’s promises or (b) draw us closer to Him.

Therefore, we must remember that our goal in our struggles lies well outside of attempting to understand God’s plan.  Conversely, God desires our trust in Him through simple daily obedience in little things.  Furthermore, Wayne states, “little things begin in little places.”

As we make our way up the ladder, it’s easy to let go of the previous rung.  Once we reach our goal, however, it becomes much harder to release that rung- especially if God requires us to give it back or we experience slammed doors.

Just like Joseph, we musts grow to understand that God views faithfulness– on any level- as success.   Otherwise, we may be tempted to ask, Why isn’t God using me like I want to be used? (emphasis author’s)

Dr. Stiles explains:

“You may fail to recognize God using you significantly because you define God ‘using you’ in terms of what you consider significant results.  But God often defines results in terms of character.  Words like productivity and efficiency remain conspicuously absent from the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:22-23).  These results of God working in your life all reflect character- his character.  Character alone produces godly results.”

When your heart feels a tug toward big things, remember the Lord takes delight in little things He alone sees.  For little things reveal the heart.

Today’s question: During your desert, transition time, how have slammed doors turned out to be blessings?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “Strong enough?”

Demonstrate faith

“Joseph saw what seemed to contradict God’s promise as an opportunity to demonstrate faith- not a reason to doubt or abandon it.”- Wayne Stiles

Dr. Wayne Stiles continues Chapter 6 of Waiting on God by empathizing that there will be days in life where you truly believe you can’t hold out.  As the author poignantly states, “The weight of disappointment feels far heavier and more real than the promise of God that lies beyond it.”

With the exception of an abusive situation, Dr. Stiles advises, take it one day at a time.  Then, one day you’ll wake up and realize you’ve endured a difficult situation for months or years.  While others scoff and call your faith stance crazy or a waste of life, God calls it perseverance.

Standing up to a heavy load glorifies God.  In addition, Dr. Stiles reminds us, the victorious Christian life presupposes a battle:

“The victory in the Christian life comes as a victory of choice in the midst of a life that suffers.  The quality of life rests in our attitude, not in our circumstances.  To realize something is to consider it to be real.  And when you realize endurance finds favor with God, it can bring peace and joy to any troubled situation.”

Therefore, we glorify God just as much through our waiting for Him as by serving Him in a fulfilling vocation or ministry.  These situations provide a marvelous opportunity to demonstrate faith.

Waiting on God keeps us humble.  Over the passing of time, we come to understand that it’s all about God.  In conclusion, Wayne states that we find our fulfillment in God’s glory:

“When we choose to find our fulfillment in his glory, then we can wait on him to open the doors of greater influence in his time.  That’s really his business entirely.  Ours is to live faithfully wherever he puts us now.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses enable you to demonstrate faith following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Does God have a deaf ear?”