The imperfect person God speaks through

“It’s amazing how many times we dismiss the voice of God because we don’t like the imperfect person He is speaking through. We have to be able to hear people, even when they’re not completely correct and may come with the wrong attitude.”- Banning Liebscher

Banning Liebscher continues Chapter 12 of Rooted as he notes that none of us knows how to communicate perfectly.  Since we’re all imperfect people, humility is an essential requirement of community.  In addition, we must possess the ability to listen well.

Yet, speaking personally, Pastor Liebscher admits a past bias.  That bias – God speaks only through people Banning deemed duly qualified for the task.  In other words, the ideal speaker needed to demonstrate perfect character, great attitudes, outstanding communication skills, and all the right information.

Therefore, when the Lord speaks through people we deem unqualified, we face two options:

  1. humble ourselves and hear His voice through other people
  2. dismiss everything because we dislike the messenger

Furthermore, Banning stresses, it’s critical to our growth to humbly receive feedback and correction.  For the moment we stop receiving feedback, we begin to stagnate and die. Also, Pastor Liebscher offers these words of caution:

“If your first reaction to feedback is defensive, dismissive, or diminishing, you need to stop for a second.  Resistance to feedback means there’s  a good chance you’re not aware of, much less checking, your blind spots.”

Because God didn’t create us with a 360-degree view of our lives, we all have blind spots.  And it’s not only God who reveals these areas we need to see.  Community also sees our blind spots.  Thus, when people tell us what they see, we need to humbly listen.

In conclusion, people you listen to on a regular basis should be trustworthy.  Not every person in your life gains that level of access entitling them to bring you correction or input.

Today’s question: What imperfect person has God used to speak to you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Discouragement – a key battle Christians face”

Called to make decisions in community

“We are called to make decisions in community.  The challenge with making decisions in community, however, is that it requires humility and submission.”- Banning Liebscher (emphasis author’s)

“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”- Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV)

In Chapter 12 (“It’s Messy, but It Works”), the concluding chapter of Rooted, Banning Liebscher reminds us that we find strength in community.  Not isolation.  Speaking personally, Pastor Liebscher attests that any fruit or healthy area of his life has the best of others poured into it.  As a result, Banning explains:

“When we walk with those who are wise, we gain the strength of wisdom that is in their lives.  We’re not supposed to figure things out on our own. When we end up over our heads — which will happen all the time in God’s process of growth in our lives — we need to know that the strength, wisdom, and grace God want to give us are most likely going to come when we humble ourselves and reach out to our community.”

Thus, the wise counsel of our community helps us navigate the deep end.  Furthermore, Pastor Liebscher notes, in the book of Proverbs Solomon reiterates that we find safety when we access the wisdom of community.  Decisions made outside of community are unsafe.  Thus, God calls us to make decisions within it.  However, the challenge with making decisions in community centers around humility and submission.

In conclusion, Banning observes, you need humility to ask other people for counsel.  And, the author posits, humility comes harder as you age and feel pressure to be an expert on things.

So, when you find yourself in over your head, seek the Lord.  Next, immediately call on someone further along the faith journey than you.  Ask for their wisdom and strength.

Today’s question: What decisions have you made in community?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The imperfect person God speaks through”

Exalting ourselves – the destructive effect

“Exalting ourselves is destructive because we’re trying to do what only God an do.”- Banning Liebscher

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”- 1 Peter 5:5-6 (NKJV)

Banning Liebscher concludes Chapter 10 of Rooted as he contrasts our job with God’s job.  First, Pastor Liebscher notes that serving humbly positions us for what the Bible calls “being exalted.”  In addition, Banning defines exalted as “receiving honor and promotion (the fourth reward of serving) to greater levels of authority, responsibility, and influence.”

Furthermore, the author underscores, the Bible clearly informs us that it’s God’s job to exalt.  Pastor Liebscher explains:

“Our job is to humble ourselves, to take the low road.  God’s job is to exalt us, to expand our position of visibility and influence; and it’s a job He wants to do.  He tells us we are the light of the world and He wants to add grace to our lives so we can shine brightly.  He tells us how to do our job so He can do His.”

Most noteworthy, Banning observes that your serving must go beyond random acts of generosity and humilty.  You need to faithfully steward what belongs to someone else.  This, in turn, positions us to handle the responsibility of sharing Jesus’ power and authority.

In conclusion, Pastor Liebscher underscores that God’s calling on our lives extends beyond this life into eternity.  With that thought in mind, any worldly measures of success and happiness fade into nothing.  The author summaries:

“The soil of serving is one of the richest places to grow your roots.  It is there they can grow deep and wide and can get the nutrients they need to bear lasting, impactful fruit.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures help you minimize the destructive effect of exalting yourself?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “Building the wall in front of you”

A posture of humility releases grace

“When you position your life to serve, you take a posture of humility, and humility releases grace into your life.”- Banning Liebscher

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”- Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV)

In Chapter 10 (“The Divine Exchange”) of Rooted, Banning Liebscher explores four rewards of serving.  Throughout this chapter, Pastor Liebscher discusses grace, joy, safety, and promotion.  Today the author begins with grace.

As James 4:6 states, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  However, Banning observes, many people mistakenly believe that humble service means that you neglect your own interests or needs.  As a result, those people burn out on serving.  That’s because they fail to take care of themselves or set healthy limits.  And when you struggle to value yourself, you look for your identity and value through serving.

In addition, Pastor Liebscher asserts, devaluing your life creates a false humility.  Thus, you’re not in position to receive the grace of God.  However, Jesus’ humility represents the type of humility that attracts God’s grace into our lives.  And deeming others as better than ourselves requires maintaining a frame of mind that life isn’t about us.  Humble service, then, connects us to the kingdom and the body of Christ.  To play a vital part, it’s crucial that, Banning states, we “keep our destiny and call in the context of outward focus, the context of serving.”

Otherwise, we very easily turn inward without even realizing it.  Then our life, call, passion, destiny, and dreams quickly lose their outward focus.

Today’s question: What Scriptures help you maintain a posture of humility?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The joy of Jesus remains”

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “Building the wall in front of you”

Greatness looks different than you think

“You are called to greatness.  But greatness looks different than you think.  If you really want to be great, here’s how you do it: become the least.”- Banning Liebscher

”  . . . whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His live as a ransom for many.”- Matthew 20:26-28 (NKJV)

In Chapter 9 (“An Unlikely Marriage”) of Rooted, Banning Liebscher stresses that since we are in Christ, we share His identity and position.  Therefore, we must apply this knowledge and carry ourselves as Jesus does.  Also, the following two revelations must continually grow together in our lives:

  1. who Christ is
  2. who we are in Him

Furthermore, Pastor Liebscher states, Jesus forever married the concepts of greatness with humility, leadership with love, and royalty with service.  As a result, these three upside-down concepts reveal who Jesus is as well as who we are in Him.  In addition, Banning exhorts:

“As we step into the revelation of who we are in Him, we must cling to His example and never resort to the world’s version of greatness, leadership, and royalty, which turn humility into pride, authority into domination, and love into self-serving.”

In conclusion, Pastor Banning notes, Jesus demonstrated what it means to lay down one’s life in two ways: (a) His death on the Cross and (b) daily sacrificial service.  Not only did Jesus serve everybody, but He served them in ways that truly revealed His love for them.  Consequently, Banning advocates:

Love looks like serving.  If we want to abide in Jesus’ love, we must embrace His lifestyle of serving people.”

Today’s question: How do you define greatness your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “It’s not all about you — it’s all about Jesus”

In the beginning – exquisite vulnerability

“In the beginning, in Eden, human vulnerability was exquisite.  Then came the Fall, and hiding, and shame.  And it became excruciating.  Then Jesus entered into our vulnerability, so that one day it might become exquisite again.  That is our hope.”- John Ortberg

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 9 of I’d Like You More . . . as he observes we can’t get to exquisite without feeling vulnerable in the process.  Most noteworthy, as Henry Cloud points out, God deliberately placed tear ducts in our eyes.  Because, Henry states, God wants our tears front and center.  Right where we don’t want them, but right where other people can see them.

However, Pastor Ortberg notes, this reflects a strange truth.  Although we admire vulnerability in others, we dislike it in ourselves.  Writing in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (1995), Madeleine L’Engle states:

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would not longer be vulnerable.  But to grow up is to accept vulnerability . . . .  To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

Yet, John adds, early on we learn to lie, pretend, and misrepresent inner thoughts and feelings.  But for us to achieve intimacy, we must show willingness to expose our weaknesses, insecurities, and true selves.  That entails humility as well as vulnerability to others.  Many people express no interest in this, as Kent Dunnington (Addiction and Virtue, 2011) describes:

“”We are afraid that if we confessed our sins, other people might make their claims on our lives by insisting on praying for us and asking us how we are doing.  Most of us are not sure we want the church to be that involved.”

Therefore, exquisite vulnerability = our only hope.

Today’s question: How does Jesus give you hope for exquisite vulnerability?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Shattering the illusion of self-mastery”

Impatience – confusion about control

“At its root, impatience is confusion about control.  Impatience is the rotten fruit of self-sovereignty.”- Jared C. Wilson

Today, Jared Wilson covers Nine Irrefutable Laws of Followship #4-6, as found in Chapter 7 of The Imperfect Disciple.

4.  Be Ye Patient.  Our impatience, Pastor Wilson states, grows from our belief that people and circumstances must operate as if we’re the center of the universe.  Also, even with this belief, people who treat us well test our patience.  As Jared quips, there’s “no holiness so fickle as the false holiness of the self-righteous.”

Conversely, the gospel cultivates patience in us with a humbling that brings us down to ground level at the foot of the cross.  There we learn to regard others with more thoughtfulness – and more patience.  As we mature in Jesus, we see more of our inadequacy, not less.  Furthermore, our subsequent humility results in patience with God.

5.  Be Ye Kind.  Jared notes our need to be grateful for the big and little reminders helping us not take God’s grace lightly.  The gospel, then, provides the exclamation point.  As we experience God’s kindness in and through our repentance, we find more kindness to afford others.  Pastor Wilson stresses the importance of acts of kindness:

“To be unkind to others, in fact, is to disbelieve God’s kindness and to spit on it.  For a follower of Jesus to be unkind is to depict Jesus as unkind.  But indeed, because almighty God has provided us with his inexhaustible kindness, we find an ever-deepening well of kindness for others.”

6.  Be Ye Good.  In Mark 10:18, Jesus tells a man who ran up to him that “no one is good except God alone.”  Thus, we call Jesus good only because we call Him God.

Therefore, if we’re to receive the goodness that comes from the Holy Spirit, it’s because the Holy Spirit connects us to the very goodness of Jesus.  We’re justified by faith through Christ.

Today’s question: What Bible verses, Christian books or songs help quell your impatience – confusion about control?  Please share.

tomorrow’s blog: “If we are faithless, he (Christ) remains faithful”

Where we place our hope and trust

“Our daily life communicates where our hope and trust is placed; we are actually ‘praying’ with our words and deeds every day.”- Jared C. Wilson

As Jared Wilson concludes Chapter 5 of The Imperfect Disciple, he describes prayer as “spilling your guts.”  Therefore, prayer doesn’t have to be pretty, tidy, particularly eloquent, or even particularly intelligent.  God speaks to us in the Bible and we speak to Him in prayer.  Also, spilling our guts in prayer enables us to process God’s Word.  In response, we interact with our friend Jesus through prayer.

Yet, God never checks His watch when you’re talking to Him – although, Jared suggests, you might!  In fact, Pastor Wilson stresses, God’s more eager to listen to you than you are to speak.  And God’s not distant, but, as John Ortberg puts it, closer than you think.  Jared explains:

“We are constantly moving away, and he’s constantly following.  He is a much better chaser of us than we are of him. And he’s a much better listener.  He picks up everything.”

Hence, you find the rhythm of God’s kingdom in a consumer culture as you seek humility.  That humility comes as you reject independence, admit dependence, and confidently embrace God’s acceptance of you through Jesus Christ.

In addition, since we acknowledge our helplessness (spilling our guts) through prayer, the more we pray the more we:

  • abide in God’s strength and love
  • surrender thoughts of our own glory
  • unbusy ourselves with the enterprise of our own glory
  • lay down our bricks and trowels and let God knock down our Babel Towers
  • get off the treadmill of routine religion and find the rhythms of the kingdom

Today’s question: In your daily life, how do you communicate where you place your hope and trust?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Bringers of the gospel”

Intent on reaching resolution

” . . . we risk missing out on knowing God when we are intent on reaching resolution rather than appreciating the relationship.  When we are too focused on outcomes, we. . . despise lament sessions and begin to question God’s heart toward us.”- Esther Fleece

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”- Hebrews 13:8

Esther Fleece continues Chapter 7 of No More Faking Fine as she describes a first date she recently experienced.  Although Esther hadn’t dated in ten years, she decided to be open and try again.  However, the moment she got in her date’s car, the interview process began.  Her date remained fixated on his end goal.  As a result, he failed to see the beauty in developing a relationship over time.

Similarly, Ms. Fleece believes, we tend to do this same thing to God over time.  Speaking personally, Esther writes:

“I want to know God’s plans for me.  I am often impatient . . . and many times I complain about how hard my life is . . . instead of seeing myself in a committed relationship with Him — for better, or for worse.”

Therefore, Esther states, we must trust in the character of God while we await His response.  Thus, lament is a process that:

  • may not yield immediate results
  • is deeply relational
  • requires our hands and minds to take on a posture of humility and anticipation of deepening our relationship with our unchanging God
  • includes sanctification
  • can be hard, but also beautiful

In the next blog, Ms. Fleece focuses on the Book of Habakkuk.  Reading Habakkuk showed Esther the wisdom of embracing the process of lament and how lament transforms us.

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, are you intent on reaching resolution or developing a relationship with God?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the Easter Short Meditation, “Hope comes in two flavors”

Tomorrow’s blog: “When we have unanswered questions”

Where no one has gone before

Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 3 of The End of Me with four ideas he has found helpful in enabling us to take ownership of our humility.

1.  To humble myself, I voluntarily confess sin.  Pastor Idleman states God promises to exalt those who, like the tax collector, voluntarily confess their sins.  If we confess because we’ve been caught or confronted, we may be humbled.  But we are not humbling ourselves.

2.  To humble myself, I give sacrificially and anonymously.  Kyle states sacrificial giving is a “real way of saying the kingdom of God is more important than me.”

3.  To humble myself, I treat others better than myself.  In today’s society, we’re taught to rely on ourselves and look out for numero uno.  The apostle Paul turns this philosophy on its ear in Philippians 2:3- “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.”

4.  To humble myself, I ask for help.  Kyle emphasizes that every time he humbles himself and asks for help, that act opens a new door to some type of blessing.

Pastor Idleman concludes there is a vast frontier of strategies out there for humbling ourselves:

“Everywhere you look, every situation you’re in, is a laboratory for self-humbling, an opportunity to exalt Christ and put pride on the cross.  You can boldly- or humbly- go where no one has gone before.”

Today’s question: Which of Kyle’s four ideas resonate most with you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “False advertising”