When we live in disconnectedness

“Not only do we suffer when we live in disconnectedness, but then other people whom God place around us get cheated out of the love God intended us to give them (emphasis author’s).”- John Ortberg

“Anyone who does not love remains in death.”- 1 John 3:14

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 16 of The Me I Want to Be as he stresses that God designed us to live in connectedness.  Therefore, to help us avoid slipping into disconnectedness, John takes a look at five gifts connectedness brings.

1.  The Gift of Delighting.  Love involves action more than it involves feeing.  Hence, servanthood marks the circle of connection.  In Galatians 5:13, the apostle Paul urges us to “serve on another humbly in love.”  Thus, we give life to the people we notice- and vice versa.  Also, in that process of self-forgetfulness, our own soul flourishes.

2.  The Gift of Commitment.  Too often, Pastor Ortberg notes, the people most in need of cheers get them the least.  Everyone needs the gift of commitment.  Encouragement requires work.  It doesn’t just happen.  But, connectedness reaps incredible rewards!

3.  The Gift of Love. As of today, name one person in your life who just needs you to look them in the eye and say: I love you.  The Holy Spirit constantly works in us to prompt such expressions of love.  Hence, every moment provides an opportunity to practice a gesture of love.

4.  The Gift of Joy.  Pastor Ortberg observes that, while we know love we joy, we often forget the power contained in joy.  Joy:

  • gives us strength to resist temptation
  • brings the ability to persevere
  • is the Velcro that makes relationships stick
  • gives us energy to love

5.  The Gift of Belonging.  Simply stated, belonging – God’s gift to us.

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, what sufferings resulted from living in disconnectedness?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Step into openness – stop pretending”

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”

When life seems overwhelming

“Isn’t this our first reaction when life seems overwhelming — we start lightening the load, dumping cargo overboard so we don’t drown?  The problem is, we can dump the wrong things overboard.  We think nothing of tossing over joy while hanging on to the very things that overwhelm us.”- John Eldredge

John Eldredge concludes the Spring section of Walking with God as he discusses seeking guidance from God.  When clarity from God isn’t immediately forthcoming, John states, our first step involves paying attention to our own posture toward God.  In other words, our posture affects our ability to hear God or colors what we do hear.

Especially when giving up some joy seems inevitable, it’s essential that we stop to ask God.  For God often desires that we run against life’s prevailing current.  Thus, this guidance often feels counterintuitive.

Most importantly, John advises, notice your reaction as you start to close in on what you believe God’s saying to you.  If your reaction produces joy, the author states, you’re onto something.  But if that reaction produces sorrow, fear, or discouragement, you need to stop and ask why.

In conclusion, John stresses that he’s not advocating a senseless or hopeless approach to life.  In fact, Oswald Chambers once said that the existence of God provides the only explanation for a Christian’s life.  Otherwise, life makes no sense.

Therefore, wisdom and revelation go hand in hand- and come from the Holy Spirit.  John adds: “We need them both to walk with God, need them in generous doses to navigate the dangerous waters of this world.”

And when healing or a breakthrough seems illusive, as Christ followers we possess a gospel of resurrection.  Despite what losses come our way, they don’t signal the end of the story.  Jesus came so that we might have life.

Today’s question: What Bible verses sustain you when life seems overwhelming?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “The three laws of relationship”

Please note: the annotation of Walking with God will post Thursday, June 8th

Realign yourself with Christ

“To come to Christ and realign yourself with him at the end of your day when you are utterly spent and don’t want to pray has a deeply sanctifying effect.”- John Eldredge

In the Winter section of Walking with God, John Eldredge discusses the importance of bedtime prayers.  Specifically, John presents four aspects of bedtime prayers.

1.  Restore and renew yourself in Jesus.  John believes most of us find it difficult to abide in Christ all day long.  Therefore, the author recommends, offer yourself to Jesus once more at the end of the day.  Furthermore, come back under His authority and covering.  Because, it’s the only safe place to be.

2.  Bring the full work of Christ between you and those you’ve connected with that day.  Due to your interaction with others, the warfare in which they have engaged may infiltrate you without your knowing it.  Most importantly, you need a restful night’s sleep

3.  Bring the work of Christ against any foul spirits assaulting you.  Common negative spirits include fear and discouragement.  In addition, show no intention of yielding to those spirits.  Consequently, you must take specific and direct action.

4.  Ask God to send His angels to protect your home and family – as Martin Luther petitioned in his Evening Prayer.

Next, John observes that we tend to use busyness to create distance between ourselves and the longings in our souls.  Therefore, freedom from pain or assault winds up taking precedence over joy.  That, in turn, leads to a willingness to endure.  In Endure, John notes, there’s:

  • little room for joy
  • underlying unbelief
  • idolizing a quality or strength that helps us cope
  • turning to our idol for security
  • creating a blind spot no one tampers with- not even God

As a result, as the day ends, realign yourself with Christ.

Today’s question: How do you realign yourself with Christ?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The whole question of genuine goodness”

Behavior modification versus lasting change

“God is not just after behavior modification (as in, stop it), but real and deep and lasting change.”- John Eldredge

“How blessed is God!  And what a blessing he is!  He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him.  Long before he laid down the earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.”- Ephesians 1:3-4 (MSG)

Today’s blog, from the Summer section of John Eldredge’s Walking with God, focuses on the words whole and holy.  However, John stresses, when you’re following God things may not unfold the way you expect.  Because God’s after both our transformation and our joy.  One hangs upon the other.

In addition, true holiness- real, deep and lasting change- requires the healing of our souls.  Thus, John explains how whole and holy go hand in hand:

“Whole and holy.  The two go hand in hand.  Oh, how important this is.  You can’t find the holiness you want without deep wholeness.  And you can’t find the wholeness you want without deep holiness.”

Another integral part of wholeness and holiness consists of a joyful heart.  Yet, Mr. Eldredge states, joy as a category sometimes seems irrelevant- nice, but unessential.  It often appears that life’s about surviving- and getting a little pleasure.

However, subtle agreements we make erode encounters with joy.  John defines these agreements as:

  • subtle convictions we come to, assent to, give way to, or are raised to assume are true
  • happening deep in our souls where our real beliefs about life form
  • accepting as “truth” what someone tells us simple because it seems so reasonable

Perhaps we settle for relief and don’t even consider joy.  But, as John concludes, joy is the point (emphasis author’s).

Today’s question: Do you seek behavior modification or real, deep, and lasting change?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The bedrock for everything else”

God meets us where we are

“God meets us where we are and not where we pretend to be.”- Esther Fleece

Esther Fleece recently published No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending to explain and apply the ancient biblical language of lament.  In the Foreword, Louie and Shelley Giglio (Passion City Church, Atlanta) describe the beautiful  nature of lament.  They write:

“The beautiful nature of lament is that it has a beginning and an end.  No one is meant to live forever in grief and sorrow, yet without it, our life loses all meaning and our sense of immeasurable joy that is intended for our journey.  Without lament, there is no joy.”

Next, Ms. Fleece follows the Foreword with a letter to her readers.  In the letter, she notes the desperate nature of her own circumstances- with no relief in sight.  In addition, Esther wondered if this moment pushed people to give up on God.  Yet, in the midst of a dying will and hurting heart, a lament began to surface.

However, this surfacing lament produced a deep, authentic, worth everything (emphasis Esther’s) faith.  But this type of faith comes with a cost.  Esther observes that lament was:

  • giving her a language for relating to God, her Creator
  • saving her faith
  • the only thing that enabled her to keep the line open to God in her moment of greatest need

Although  we experience pain, Esther exhorts us not “to settle for heartache without comfort.”  God cares for us too much to leave us alone.

In conclusion, Ms. Fleece provides some thought for the hurting, restless, disappointed, stuck, faithless- and even the faithful.  She writes that we’re all in this together:

“All of us need lament.  All of us long to be rescued from pain. . . . Pain will not be forever, but pain will be present in this life, and so I pray for you.  I pray for us.  That God will meet us in our distress, and that we will end the pretend, together.”

Today’s question: Following your vocation loss, provide examples of how “God meets us where we are.”  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Get out of pain as quickly as possible”

My daily conduct

“There must be nothing, absolutely nothing, in my daily conduct that, copied by another, could lead that one into unholiness.”- Missionary surgeon Helen Roseveare

“You have love righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”- Hebrews 1:9

As Nancy DeMoss concludes Chapter 1 of Holiness, she states that we cultivate true holiness in the context of a relationship with God.  Yet, God doesn’t ask us for a cold, rigid, dutiful responses to His standard of holiness.  Nor do we resolve to live up to that standard through sheer grit or will power.  Rather, holiness is:

  • a warm, joyous loving response to a loving God, who created us to enjoy intimate fellowship with Him
  • the overflow of a deeply grateful heart redeemed by God from sin
  • empowered by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us

As a result, Nancy stresses, true holiness starts on the inside- those deepest parts of our heart only God sees.  When tempted to view holiness as a burden, the author asks us to ponder this idea.  Holiness and joy are entwined partners.

Also, it’s harmful to view holiness as an austere duty or burden.  Rather, the word holy means to be clean and free from sin’s burden.  The author explains:

“To resist holiness or to be half-hearted about its pursuit is to forfeit true joy and to settle for something less than that God-intoxication for which we were created.  Sooner or later, sin will strip and rob you of everything that is truly beautiful and desirable.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses prepare your daily conduct to reflect our holy God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The serene beauty of a holy life”

The smallest of beginnings

“It takes great trust to believe in the smallest of beginnings.”- Ann Voskamp

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”- Isaiah 58:10 (ESV)

Ann Voskamp concludes Chapter 5 of The Broken Way by noting that “first steps always seem like not enough.”  Yet, first steps = the bravest steps.  They initiate the journey to where you want to go.

Therefore, it takes great courage, in your brokenness, to step out of your comfort zone and give.  As a result, Ms. Voskamp extends her thoughts on comfort.  She states:

“Maybe — maybe there’s a Comforter who holds us gently in our brokenness . . . which is very different from a comfort zone that’s a death trap to break us.  And the art of really living may just involve figuring out that difference.  There is a time to be comforted . . . and a time to come and die into a greater kind of comfort.”

In addition, spending (pouring out) yourself enables you to pay attention to joy.  And in the process, you multiply that joy!

Furthermore, joy multiplies as, through the Holy Spirit’s power,  you hand over your whole self to Christ.  In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote of the difficulty in doing this:

“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self– all your wishes and precautions — to Christ.  But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. . . to remain what we call ‘ourselves’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time to be ‘good’ . . . If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface.  I must be ploughed up and re-sown.”

Today’s question:  Following your vocation loss, what “smallest of beginnings” have you attempted?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Cruciform self-giving”

Learning the art of living

“Learning the art of living is learning the art of giving.”- Ann Voskamp

“Do you hesitate, man, to go this way, when this is the way that God came to you?”- Saint Augustine of Hippo, “Exposition 11, Sermon 1 on Psalm 30”

In Chapter 5 (“Becoming the Gift the World Needs and You Need”) of The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp quotes a Mr. Bender.  Mr. Bender, who lives in the town nursing home and prays daily for Ann’s boys, once told Ann:

“Never live for battles won or for the end of your run.  What matters is how you live ‘the along.’ . . . people care more what you share with them than what you say to them.”

Therefore, Ann encourages, on hard days of wrestling with time and the broken pieces of your past, be intentional in reaching out your hand.  Just turn on the light.

Quoting John 3:16, Ms. Voskamp believes no more powerful word exists than the word giving — “ThanksgivingForgivingCare-givingLife-giving.  Everything that matters in living comes down to giving.”

Consequently, Ann asserts, there’s an ache in us that needs the love God always gives.  God’s love always breaks itself and gives- joy.  In addition, that ache provides the beginning, and the way, to something more than enough.

Furthermore, Ann encourages, “God is most glorified in us when we are most enjoying Him — and giving others the joy of Him.”  Also, you possess abundantly enough to enable you to generously give enough.  Without Christ’s presence, no gifts exist in the world- given or received.

Today’s question: How have you learned the art of living during your desert, land between time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The blessedness of possessing nothing”

Pain demands to be felt

“This is always the choice: pain demands to be felt — or it will demand you feel nothing at all.”- Ann Voskamp

In Chapter 2 (“Re-Membering Your Broken Pieces”) of The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp observes that we never stop hoping for the best.  Hence, we wait for the best in life like it got lost in the mail.  Yet, the contagion of hurt creates chronic soul amnesia.

As a result, we need to hear great stories again and again.  Those great stories call us to find wholeness in ourselves again.

Ann once received an unexpected gift from a friend, an earthen and primitive clay sculpture of The Last Supper.  The Great Story.  Furthermore, the timely gift reminded Ann of the word eucharisteo.  Ms. Voskamp extensively explored this word in One Thousand Gifts.

Consequently, the author offers this review.  Charis, the root word of eucharisteo, means “grace.”  In addition, eucharisteo, or thanksgiving, also holds the Greek, word chara, meaning “joy.”

Therefore, Ann reasons, joy always is possible as long as thanks is possible.  Thus, the holy grail of joy remains within reach:

“The holy grail of joy was not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience.  The joy wonder could be here, in the messy, piercing ache of now.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it.  Therefore, thanksgiving precedes the miracle of knowing all is enough.  As Ann emphasizes, “the miracle happens in the breaking.”

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, have you opted for feeling your pain?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The temptation to self-protect”