Fear and striving exponentially increase pressure

“A lot of people. .. step into the will of the flesh only to find that fear and striving beget more fear and striving.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, which means that instead of relieving the pressure in their lives, they exponentially increase it.”- Banning Liebscher

“How did your new life begin?  Was it by working your heads off to please God?  Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness?  For only crazy people think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.”- Galatians 3:23 (MSG)

Today Banning Liebscher continues his discussion of the consequences of fear and striving (Chapter 4, Rooted).  Pastor Liebscher underscores that we act foolishly when we give in to pressure to take control of the building of our house.  Rather than recognize that only God can make something happen, we lapse into a cycle of fear and striving.  Banning explains why this exponentially increases the pressure:

“Because when they [people operating in the flesh] are building the house, they are also responsible for maintaining it.  If you open the door, it’s your responsibility to keep the door open.  But if God builds the house, He’s the One who maintains it.  If He opens the door, He will be the One who keeps it open.”

Therefore, there’s only one answer when pressure mounts, convincing us to go into ungodly fear and striving.  When we try adding to what God’s already done and continues to do, we need to come back to our foundation- Jesus.  Because we didn’t build our ministry or calling, we don’t need to:

  • feel any pressure to stay somewhere God brought us to in the first place
  • keep open a door that He opened

In conclusion, Banning stresses, it’s our responsibility to follow Jesus wherever He leads.  And rest in the boundaries of that assignment.

Today’s question: How do fear and striving increase pressure in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Develop a strong root system”

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?”


Disqualified to be chosen

In Chapter 7 (“Disqualified to Be Chosen”) of The End of Me, Kyle Idleman postulates that most of us want to experience serving God in some way (or serving Him anew) and probably even have some ideas how that ministry would move forward.  However, we may feel we’re disqualified to serve either due to something we lack or by circumstances in our life.

Pastor Idleman asks us to take a look at the resume of the apostle Paul, who first appears in Acts 7 as Saul.  Saul is present at the stoning of Stephen- and Acts is clear about where Saul’s sentiments lie.  Acts 8 states Saul now is a mob leader.  Saul “began to destroy the church.  Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison” (8:3).  Chapter 9 finds Saul “breathing murderous threats” against the Christians (v.1).

Then, on what Kyle refers to as “the long and blinding road” to Damascus, God goes well beyond knocking Saul off his (high) horse:

“He [God] takes Saul and reinvents him as the leader of the Christian movement, the first evangelist to those outside the Jewish faith, and the first great theologian of Christianity.  If anyone was disqualified for leadership, shouldn’t it have been a man who murdered believers and organized search and destroy missions against the church?”

Pastor Idleman says it’s not that Jesus needed Paul.  God was sending a message to Paul- and to us.  Kyle next takes a look at five reasons we feel disqualified to be chosen and how God’s message counters our misbeliefs.

Today’s question (from Kyle): If money and time were no issue, what would you want God to use you for?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the Christmas Short Meditation- “Arise, shine!”

Jesus has walked our streets

“Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”- Romans 8:34 (NASB)

In the Conclusion to Next Door Savior, Max Lucado mentions the time when he was among the religious leaders invited to come to the White House and pray with President George W. Bush (following 9/11).   In the course of Max’s conversation with the President, the President said he had walked the streets of Max’s hometown.

While Pastor Lucado says it’s nice to know that the President had walked the streets of his Texas hometown, it’s much nicer to know the same about God.  Even though Jesus is in heaven, He’s running the show.  He’s still our next door Savior.  There’s no need for us to panic.  Jesus knows our name and Jesus has walked our streets.

The author notes that his illustration of his talk with President Bush falls short.  Even if Max had George W. Bush’s phone number, the President would be too busy to talk with Max.  But we can call on God at any time.  He’s’ never too busy for us.  Max offers these words of encouragement:

“The fact that we can’t imagine how he hears a million requests as if they were only one doesn’t mean he can’t or doesn’t.  For he can and he does.  And among the requests he hears and heeds is yours.  For even though he is in heaven, he never left the neighborhood.”

Today’s question (from the Study Guide): Does it help to think of Jesus as a next door Savior?  Explain.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God’s masterpiece”

Untying life’s knots

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”- 2 Corinthians 3:18

Author and pastor Max Lucado begins Next Door Savior with the statement that Jesus is near enough to touch and strong enough to trust. Jesus is our next door Savior:

“The cache of Christianity is Christ. . . . Fellowship with him.  Walking with him.  Pondering him.  Exploring him.  The heart-stopping realization that in him you are part of something ancient, endless, unstoppable, and unfathomable.”

As we behold Jesus, Max adds, we become like him.  Pastor Lucado tells of the time an opera singer came to his church and sat in the pew behind Max.  While the man’s appearance didn’t give him away, his voice did.  And when he sang, Pastor Lucado was emboldened to sing his best.

There’s no person Jesus won’t touch.  A friend of Pastor Lucado’s (Ray) was sitting on a park bench as a young boy struggled to board the bus, unable to tie his shoe.  As the school bus left without him, he turned to Ray and said, “Do you untie knots?”

Max concludes that Jesus loves untying life’s knots:

“Jesus loves that request.  Life gets tangled.  People mess up.  You never outgrow the urge to look up and say ‘Help!’  Jesus has a way of appearing at such moments.”

Today’s question: What knots have you asked Jesus to untie following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Part of His family”

Nothing but the truth

“A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.”- Jonah 3:5

As Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 8 of AHA, he states that when Jonah confronted the people of Nineveh with nothing but the truth, they responded with brutal honesty.  Everyone in Nineveh, a great Assyrian city of about 120,000 people, fasted and put on sackcloth- even the king.  The people of Nineveh did not minimize their sin.  Instead, they responded to the truth with confession, repentance, and brokenness.

The Prodigal Son also told himself nothing but the truth about himself.  He was honest in assessing the consequences he deserved, counting the cost of his choices.  He recognized the full weight of the relational damage he had caused with his father.  The Prodigal Son walked away from his older brother, parents, and community.

Pastor Idleman exhorts us to be brutally honest with ourselves as well.  We must acknowledge the truth regarding our response to our ministry downsizing or vocation loss:

“Like the Prodigal Son, we’ve robbed honor from our Father.  We have scorned his provision and fled from His house. . . .  We’ve lived in ways that prove our distrust and belief in Him.”

Yet, the author notes, in the fullness of our sin, “God responded with the fullness of His grace through Jesus Christ.”

Today’s question: Who or what has helped you face the truth about your response to your vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation. “I can just be me”

A conversation with Jesus

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”- Revelation 3:20

In Chapter 11 (“How Not to Miss Jesus”) , the concluding chapter of Missing Jesus, authors Charles and Janet Morris discuss the subject of prayer.  They observe that sometimes we think of prayer as a monologue that we must initiate.  Furthermore, we may not be sure that God actually is listening.  We also might believe that we have to get into a spiritual frame of mind and say what we think Jesus wants us to say.

Yet, as John tells us in Revelation, Jesus wants to have a conversation with us, where we talk together intimately like friends at a meal.  Jesus, the authors add, wants to enter our world and hear our specific thoughts so He can bring them into the light of His good news:

“Jesus . . . goes right to the heart of people, sometimes asking hard questions that do radical surgery on our status quo.  He wants to expose the roots of our fears and unbelief, to bring us out of the dark world of our erroneous thoughts into the light of his wondrously good news- because that’s how he re-creates us.”

Today’s question:  During your desert, land between time, what hard questions would be asked in your conversation with Jesus?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Come just as you are”

All In

All InAll In (Zondervan, 2013)

Prior to the September, 2014 publication of The Grave Robber, All In was Pastor Mark Batterson’s most recent book.  From the start, the author boldly asserts that “Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe.  He died to make us dangerous.”  In other words, we cannot live as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.  We are called to consecrate ourselves to Jesus, to be all in.  When we’re full of ourselves, God can’t fill us with His Holy Spirit.  The essential question is: Are we following Jesus or is Jesus following us?

Our highest privilege, Pastor Batterson states, is to carry the cross of Jesus.  The key to true fulfillment is self-denial.  Without a test, there is no testimony.  It is when we exercise our faith that God reveals His faithfulness.  Yet, if we desire that God change our circumstances, we need to change as well.  We must press on and follow God beyond the point of inconvenience.  God will be found in uncomfortable places and at inconvenient times.  Although the first step always is the longest, hardest, and scariest, it is pivotal that we go all in and all out for God.  Either fear or faith will be our dictator.

Pastor Batterson explains the difference between fear and faith.  Fear is holding out on God, while faith is going all out for God.  Faith must be experiential and transformational.  Faith is acting as if God already has answered.  If we let go and let God, He’ll use our gifts beyond our wildest imagination.  God is looking for availability and teachability: “Here am I.”  We need to come to the realization that no other person can glorify God like us or for us.  Furthermore, when we truly understand the life-giving truth that we’re worth dying for, we become fearless even when we’re defenseless.  The author concludes:

“There never has been and never will be anyone like you, but that isn’t a testament to you.  It’s a testament to the God who created you. . . . You are absolutely irreplaceable in God’s grand scheme.”

Going all in and all out is the baseline.  God will settle for nothing less.

Godly integrity

“If you don’t find your identity and security in what Christ has accomplished for you on the cross, you will try to hide your insecurities behind your hypocrisies.”- Mark Batterson

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 14 of All In, he states that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not defend themselves against King Nebuchadnezzar’s order.  They simply chose to act on their convictions, trusting God for the outcome.  Not only did they refuse to bow down to what was wrong, they stood up for what was right!

Pastor Batterson cautions, however, that we shouldn’t be too quick to point a finger at Nebuchadnezzar.  While we don’t erect humongous statues to ourselves, we do get upset when people don’t bow down to our wishes.  Although we don’t throw anyone into a fiery furnace, we burn with anger when we don’t get our way.  Manipulation truly is exhausting.  The author notes:

“There is a fine line between Thy kingdom come and my kingdom come.  If you cross the line, your relationship with God is self-serving.  You aren’t serving God.  You are using God.”

Those moments when we take a stand define our integrity.  Integrity is an all-or-nothing proposition.  Pastor Batterson points out that integrity is the only thing that doesn’t depreciate over time.  A godly reputation takes a long time to build.  It must be celebrated and protected at all cost.

Today’s question: How have you been intentional in fostering godly integrity during your desert, transitional time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Supernatural self-control”

Our Advocate

Chapter 14 (“Take a Stand”) of All In is based on the Old Testament account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3), specifically their refusal to bow down to the ninety-foot-tall statue of King Nebuchadnezzar.  As author Mark Batterson notes, near-death experiences, especially in a literal fiery furnace, “often become defining moments in our lives.”

Pastor Batterson admits that if he had been in the sandals of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he could have come up with any number of rationalizations to justify bowing down, in effect becoming his own advocate:

1.  “I’m bowing on the outside, but I’m not bowing on the inside.”

2.  “I’ll ask for forgiveness right after I get back up.”

3.  “I’m only breaking one of the Ten Commandments.”

4.  “What good am I to God if I’m dead?”

When it comes to rationalizations, Mark adds, we’re infinitely creative.  But those rationalizations often annul God’s revelations.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have compromised their integrity by bowing down to the statue, thereby avoiding the fiery furnace.  But Nebuchadnezzar would have been their deliverer, not God.  And the three men would have been saved from the fiery furnace, not through it!

Pastor Batterson concludes:

“When we violate our conscience by compromising our integrity . . . we also become our own advocate because we step outside the boundaries of God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Today’s question: How have you been intentional in maintaining your integrity following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Protective Instinct”