Discerning the will of God – knowing His heart

“Discerning the will of God is about so much more than doing His will.  Discerning His will is about knowing His heart, and that happens only when you get close enough to hear Him whisper.”- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson continues Chapter 7 of Whisper as he defines faith as “taking the first step before God reveals the second step.”  Sometimes, though, that first step results in failure.  The door slams shut – sometimes with our fingers still in the doorjamb.

Yet,  through failed attempts God gets us where we need to be.  Failure’s nothing short of His grace.  Thus, we can show gratefulness for closed as well as open doors.  Generally, Pastor Batterson observes, closed doors lead to open doors.

When it comes to discerning the will of God, Mark sometimes wishes we could just cast lots.  Like the disciples did when choosing Judas’ replacement.  However, that “option” takes intimacy out of the equation.  And intimacy = the end goal.  Furthermore, discerning the will of God consists of much more than doing His will.  It’s about knowing His heart.  And for that to happen, you must be close enough to hear God whisper.

Therefore, Pastor Batterson describes five tests he employs when discerning the will of God, the voice of God.  Mark discusses the first test today.

1.  The Goose Bump Test.  Mark notes an intriguing name Celtic Christians had for the Holy Spirit.  Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit An Geadh-Glas, meaning “the Wild Goose.”  In fact, Pastor Batterson has written a book on this topic called Wild Goose Chase.

Mark loves the imagery and implications of the name, as it reflects an element of unpredictability about the Holy Spirit and what He does.  Even though we’re on a Wild Goose chase most of the time, we’ll get where God wants us to go as long as we’re in step with the Spirit.

In conclusion, when you pursue a God-sized dream or God-ordained calling, you should feel goose bumps now and then.  And like a game of hot and cold, your desires get hotter and hotter the closer you get to God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Today’s question: How have you experienced a Wild Goose chase as you live a Spirit-led life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The peace of Christ – peace in the perfect storm”

We interpret signs via Scripture

“Let me remind you that we don’t interpret Scripture via signs; we interpret signs via Scripture.  And generally speaking, God uses signs to confirm His Word, His will.”- Mark Batterson

“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up to heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.  And they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.”- Mark 16:19-20 (KJV)

In Chapter 7 (“The Door to Bithynia”) of Whisper, Mark Batterson notes that, as Christians, we speak the language of the Holy Spirit.  And door comprise one of His dialects: open doors and closed doors.  Yes, in John 4:48, Jesus warned against signs and wonders as a litmus test of faith.  However, when it comes to navigating the will of God, that doesn’t negate their value.

Furthermore, ignoring signs equates to ignoring the God who speaks through them.  Also, Pastor Batterson cautions, signs are subject to interpretation.  In other words, there’s a very fine line between reading signs and reading into them.  Therefore, we must learn to read signs the same way we read Scripture – with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Mark exhorts us to make no mistake about it: God speaks through circumstances.  Although Scripture provides direct evidence, circumstantial evidence also exists.

Most noteworthy, Mark observes, the language of doors requires the gift of discernment.  The author defines discernment as “the ability to appraise a situation with supernatural insight.  It’s prophetic perception that sees past problems and envisions possibilities.  Simply put, it’s picking up what God is throwing down.”

In conclusion, Pastor Batterson reminds us that we interpret signs via Scripture, not vice versa.  And the words with which Mark closes his gospel set a precedent: “signs following.”

Today’s question: How do you interpret signs via Scripture?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the latest Short Meditation, “My God – the strength of my soul”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Discerning the will of God – knowing His heart”

Get into God’s Word – so His Word gets into you

“One way or another, get into God’s Word so His Word gets into you.  Then the Holy Spirit can quicken it when and where and how He wants.”- Mark Batterson

“My soul cleaveth unto the dust; quicken thou me according to they word.”- Psalm 119:25 (KJV)

As Mark Batterson continues Chapter 5 of Whisper, he discusses a transitive property at play in God’s promises.  Just as God transferred a promise He originally made to Moses to Joshua, Mark asserts, God transfers His promises to us.  Pastor Batterson maintains:

” . . . remember what 2 Corinthians 1:20 says: ‘No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”  If you’re in Christ, all God’s promises belong to  you.  Each one has your name on it, and the Spirit will quicken different promises at different times.  It’s one of the ways God whispers.”

Of course, when Christ returns, the Spirit of God quickens our bodies.  But, Pastor Batterson reminds us, the Spirit also quickens in other ways.  Sometimes it’s:

  • a thought that fires across our synapses
  • a prompting to step up, step in , or step out in faith
  • speaking the right word at the right time
  • a verse of Scripture that jumps off the page and into our spirits

In addition, Mark likens the quickening of the Holy Spirit to a truth bomb implanted in your heart, mind, and spirit.  As a result, when you hide God’s Word in your heart, you never know when the Holy Spirit might ignite it.  And, Mark encourages, that’s a good thing!

Therefore, whatever method you choose, get into God’s Word. Hence, in the process, His Word gets into you.

Today’s question:  What’s your favorite way to get into Scripture?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The Bible – a spiritual sonogram”

Surrender your will to Jesus

“If a crisis has come to you on any front, then let me encourage you to surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.”- Os Hillman

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”- Philippians 1:21 (ESV)

Os Hillman concludes Chapter 8 of The Joseph Calling as he explains why a crisis must develop in our lives before we follow God’s will.  Os writes:

“Before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives.  This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges.  He brings us to the place where he asks us to be our utmost for him, and so we begin to debate.  He then providentially produces a crisis where we must decide for or against.  That moment becomes a great crossroads.”

Yes, Mr. Hillman observes, it seems strange that God uses incredible adversity to prepare His servants for greater service.  Yet, God often chooses to operate this way.  Because He’s well aware that the human heart possesses no capability to voluntarily step into situations where it must venture beyond its comfort zone.

Indeed, Os notes, at times the recruitment process leads to death- for example, a job, business, or relationship loss.  This may lead us to believe there’s nothing left in our earthly world worth living for.  However, Os exhorts:

“In the natural, it appears that everything is against us, and we may even believe God has abandoned us.  But this is not the truth. as we know that God never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).  During those times, God is doing his deepest behind-the-scenes work.  He is performing a deeper work in each of us, a work that cannot be seen.”

Today’s question: Through the power of the Holy Spirit, what Scriptures help you surrender your will to Jesus?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “The silence of contemplation”

A God-implanted desire in us

“God’s plan is that every time we experience an authentic desire — a God-implanted desire in us — we come to understand more deeply what a good God he is.  We learn how God has wired us and what he wants us to do.”- John Ortberg

“Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of all lights who satisfies the desires of those who fear him.”- James 1:17

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 7 of The Me I Want to Be as he states part of trying softer involves allowing what we naturally desire to lead us back to God.  God takes pleasure when people enjoy His creation.  Hence, Lewis Smedes explains:

“God is so great that he does not need to be our only joy.  There is an earthly joy, a joy of the outer as well as the inner self, the joy of dancing as well as kneeling, the joy of playing as well as praying.”

However, we must say no to any desires that interrupt the flow of the Holy Spirit.  In doing so, we sacrifice a lesser desire for the sake of living a greater life in the Spirit.  Therefore, as we understand God’s goodness more deeply, we find ourselves loving God more and more.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg discusses four categories of desire that impact living in the flow of the Spirit.

  1. Material Desires – put beauty in your environment that speaks to your soul.  As you see that beauty, John urges, embrace the God-given joy that accompanies it.
  2. Achievement Desires – because God created us to have dominion, we desire to achieve things.  Ecclesiastes 9:10- “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
  3. Relational Desires – to build a friendship or deep relationship requires overcoming unbelievable barriers, as Jonathan did with David.  Such friendships don’t just fall into your lap.
  4. Physical Desires – appetites, desires, and delights can help us remember God’s goodness and become more joyful people.  As John states, “You learn to connect the gift — which you already love — to the Giver, whom you want to love more.”

Today’s question: What’s your most significant God-implanted desire?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “There will always be a Jezebel”

In the flow of the Spirit – sin looks bad

“When I am in the flow of the Spirit, sin looks bad and God looks good.  When I experience gratitude, contentment, and satisfaction deep in my soul, there is a good chance it is the Spirit flowing within.”- John Ortberg

“Do not quench the Spirit.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (ESV)

As John Ortberg concludes Chapter 3 of The Me I Want to Be, he notes that when we’re in the flow of the Spirit, we’re increasingly filled with the fruit of the Spirit.  In addition, that fruit continues to grow.  John explains how to make ourselves available:

“The Spirit is available to whisper to us thoughts of love and joy and peace and patience every moment of our life.  Right now.  All we have to do is stop, ask, and listen (emphasis John’s).”

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit never just flows in us.  The Holy Spirit also flows through us.  Through that process, others flourish as well.  Writing in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, the apostle Paul issues a simple command.  In a sense, John observes, that’s all we need to do: “Do not quench the Spirit.”  Stated another way, our only job involves staying out of the Holy Spirit’s way.

Therefore, as we live out life, we either (1) do things that open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s influence or (2) do things that close ourselves off to the Spirit.

Thus, the more we form our habits around resentment, anxiety, greed, or superiority, the more often we quench the Spirit.  To re-form habits takes time and patience.  But, the Holy Spirit remains tenacious.  John concludes:

“All that is needed in any moment is a sincere desire to be submitted to the Spirit’s response; a sincere heart never needs to fear that God is upset.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses keep you in the flow of the Spirit?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “You are not God’s appliance, but His masterpiece”

Battle between a flourishing self and a languishing self

“Inside your soul there is a battle between a flourishing self — the person you were created to be — and a languishing self.”- John Ortberg

As John Ortberg concludes Chapter 1 of The Me I Want to Be, he notes it’s humbling you can’t be anything you want.  In humility, accept yourself as God’s gift to you.  Also, accept the task God sets before you to become that person.  Yet, within your soul, your flourishing self and languishing self battle.  Thus, John’s book center on this battle as it “moves from deep inside you to a world waiting on God’s redemption.”

Next, Pastor Ortberg describes five steps on this journey, or movement.

1.  Spirit.  The journey begins here as your spirit becomes empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Flourishing- defined as connecting with the Spirit of God-  is available 24/7.  When your spirit flourishes, you feel most fully alive, filled with purpose for living, and drawn to put on virtue and cast off sin.

2.  Mind.  Joy and peace mark the mental life of your flourishing self.  In addition, you demonstrate curiosity and a love of learning.  Consequently, when negative emotions rise, you take them as your cues to act.

In contrast, unease and discontent mark the languishing self.  Because bad habits anesthetize pain, you’re drawn to them.  Furthermore, your thoughts drift to fear or anger and you spend lots of time thinking about yourself.

3.  Time.  Flourishing also transforms your time.  You greet each morning with a sense of expectancy.  Also, you receive each moment as a God-filled gift.

4.  Relationships.  You find others to be a source of wonder and you listen deeply.  In addition, others often bring you energy.  On the other hand, your languishing self often is troubled.  You’re undisciplined in what you say.  And you isolate, dominate, attack, or withdraw.

5.  Experiences.  God changes your experiences as He grows you.  He desires to use you in His plan to redeem the world.  As a result, you live with a sense of calling and show resilience in suffering.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you win the battle between your flourishing self and your languishing self?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the annotated bibliography of Walking with God: How to Hear His Voice

Holiness: The Heart God Purifies

Holiness: The Heart God Purifies (Moody Publishers, 2004)

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth published Holiness: The Heart God Purifies in 2004.  The author rightly states that holiness and sin both matter to God.  As a result, the message of repentance and holiness needs to transform the way we think and live.  Thus, Nancy’s goal in writing this book focuses on issuing an earnest appeal to God’s people to pursue holiness.  We should consider sin, rather than holiness, burdensome.  Also, the word holy comes from a root that means “to cut, to separate.”  If follows, then, that we’re set apart by God and for God.  This calling is a priceless privilege.

Therefore, true holiness- cultivated in the context of a relationship with God- starts on the inside and reflects God’s purpose for your life.  In addition, you must be intentional about pursuing holiness.  For sin needs to be eradicated and put to death- not tamed or controlled.  Furthermore, sin disappoints, dominates, and destroys.  Also, ignoring or cherishing sin in your heart keeps you from intimacy with God.  This transformation, powered through the indwelling Holy Spirit, develops on the inside and works its way out.

To assist us in the process of putting on holiness, God provides avenues of His grace.  These avenues of grace include the Word of God, confession, the Lord’s Supper, and the body of Christ.  As we put on the heart of Christ, we minister to others as we call the world to accommodate to Christ- rather than accommodate to the world.  In fact, Nancy stresses, the power of a church’s testimony is directly proportional to its holiness.  Therefore, the church cannot become a safe place to sin- overlooking “respectable” forms of sin.

In conclusion, the author exhorts us to look forward to the day when we face our Beloved Bridegroom with joy- radiant and unashamed.  Nancy urges us to cast off sin, through God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit:

“Nothing, nothing, nothing could be more important.  Nothing could bring Him greater glory in our world, and nothing could bring you greater joy — both now and throughout eternity.”

Holiness and sin both matter

“Holiness and sin both matter — more than we can imagine.  They matter to God, and the more we comprehend their true nature, the more they will matter to us.”- Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV)

In the Introduction to her book Holiness: The Heart God Purifies (Moody Publishers, 2004), Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth relates how the Holy Spirit worked on her as she wrote this book.  Specifically, Nancy faced the fact that others’ failures bothered her more than her own shortcomings.  Applying that to ourselves, that means we tend to minimize or rationalize certain personal offenses that disturb us when we see them in others.

Therefore, the author notes, repentance and holiness need to be taken seriously.  Nancy writes:

“The message of repentance and holiness . . . must become more than a theological tenet that we politely nod agreement to; it needs to transform the way we think and the way we live.”

As a result, Nancy’s stated goal in writing Holiness involves an appeal to God’s people to preserve radical holiness.   The author states true holiness is:

  • the pathway to fullness of life and joy
  • total satisfaction with Christ
  • a reflection of our holy Lord’s beauty and splendor in this dark world
  • fulfilling and experiencing all that God had in mind when He created you

Today’s question: How do holiness and sin both matter in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The common fallacy that holiness is dull”

The size of your dream

“The size of your dream may be the most accurate measure of the size of your God.”- 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, to him be glory . . .”- Ephesians 3:20-21

As Mark Batterson begins Chapter 2 (“A Dream Within a Dream”) of Chase the Lion, he emphasizes that this book calls people to repent of their small dreams and equally small God.  In addition, Chase the Lion dares Christians to go after a dream bigger than they are.

Although we categorize finites as big/small, easy/difficult, or possible/impossible, our infinite God sees all finites as equal.  Therefore, Jesus’ resurrection on the third day deleted the word impossible from our dictionary.  Hence, Pastor Batterson encourages:

” . . . quit focusing on the five-hundred-pound lion.  Fix your eyes on the Lion of the tribe of Judah.”

Furthermore, Mark asserts, impossibility now becomes a temporary problem.  Thus, you must do more than simply read Chase the Lion.  You must believe in the possibility of your dream!

Edgar Allen Poe published the poem “A Dream Within a Dream” in 1849.  The last stanza poses this question: “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?”

Pastor Batterson answers that question with a  ‘yes’.  God gifted imagination to the dreamers He created.  Your gift back to God is your dream.

In conclusion, Mark describes the work of the Holy Spirit in this process:

“The Holy Spirit . . . implants dreams deep within the human spirit. . . . He also extracts dreams that have been dead and buried for decades, bringing them back to life.  And He can do it in a thousand different ways.”

Today’s question: Does the size of your dream accurately measure the size of your God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Criticize by creating”