Spending an entire day alone with God

“Spending an entire day alone with God may sound scary or difficult to pull off.  But think of not doing it.  Imagine reaching the age of seventy, having received more than 25,000 days as a gift from God, and not having given a single one back to him because you were ‘too busy.’ “- John Ortberg

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”- Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

In Chapter 11 (“Fill Each Square with What Matters Most”) of When the Game is Over, John Ortberg notes it’s challenging to juggle the “have-tos” of life.  Yet, Pastor Ortberg asserts, it’s necessary to engage in four activities to pursue life in God’s kingdom.  John covers the first three today.

1.  God – not one priority among many, but the priority.  Thus, the author stresses our need to do certain things to remember God.  Because we don’t want to “skim” God or get to the end of life and not really know Him.  Also, we don’t want to begin every prayer with the word “Help!”

As a result, this means we must take time to withdraw from human contact as well as life’s noise and busyness.  We need space to be alone with God.

2.  People – here Pastor Ortberg notes one striking aspect of Jesus’ life.  Jesus paid attention to whomever He was with.  Although life placed many demands on Jesus, He never acted distracted or preoccupied.  However, have-tos often squeeze out any time for people.   Most noteworthy, every human life is a miracle.  To develop a compassionate heart, we must not allow have-tos to crowd people out of our schedule (daily squares).

3.  Calling – John exhorts us to use our God-given talents and gifts to do His work in the world.  Hence, as the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.  Do not neglect your gift.” (1 Timothy 4:13-14)

Today’s question:  Have you ever spent an entire day alone with God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Honoring your deepest commitments”

Narrow framing

“One of the archenemies of what if is narrow framing.”- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson discusses the concept of narrow farming in Chapter 18 of If.  Pastor Batterson defines narrow framing as a decision-making villain characterized by:

” . . . defining our choices too narrowly.  It’s only considering two options when there might be a third.  It’s taking a thin slice of facts into consideration while ignoring the preponderance of the evidence.”

Mark further observes that we overestimate our ability to predict the future because we are under the impression that we know more than we know.  Because we operate under that assumption, we think we control more than we control.  Control, Pastor Batterson states, is an illusion.

Referencing the book Decisive by authors and brothers Chip and Dan Heath, Mark adapts their methods of counteracting narrow framing while using a biblical perspective.  We can use the Bible to:

  • reality-test our assumptions against the truth
  • attain distance before deciding by getting a God’s-eye view
  • widen our options with the promises of God

The religious assumptions of the Sadducees and the Pharisees created a narrow framing that left them unable to see the miracles Jesus performed right in front of them.  Nor could they imagine that the Messiah would be born in a stable, heal on the Sabbath, or eat with tax collectors.

Mark describes how to properly steward a miracle:

“The way you steward a miracle is by believing God for the next miracle- an even bigger and bolder miracle.  In other words, each miracle becomes a high leverage point for what if.  So as we grow older, our faith gains more and more leverage. . . . So the world doesn’t get smaller but gets infinitely larger until all things are possible.”

Today’s question: How have you used the Bible to counteract narrow framing?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Two-dimensional understanding”

More than a conqueror

“The reality is this; you’re a sinner in need of a Savior.  But you are also more than a conqueror.”- Mark Batterson

“No, in all these things were are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”- Romans 8:37

In Chapter 10 (“The Power of Suggestion”) of If, Mark Batterson asserts that as if is so full of potential because the mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined.  Pastor Batterson adds that acting as if is easier said than done- yet it is the definition of faith.  Mark asks, do you believe in what God says about you or not?  Are you more than a conqueror?

The author states it is helpful to think of Scripture as a script.  When the reality of our circumstances makes us feel like life is off-script, we need to take our cue from God’s Word.  Live as if you are God says you are.

The crux of Christianity is the empty tomb.  Mark underscores our need to live the truth of as if:

“The resurrection isn’t something we celebrate on day a year.  It’s something we celebrate every day in every way.  It informs every reality.  It validates as if.”

God loves you unconditionally, eternally.  He couldn’t love you any more or any less.  We simply need to live as His beloved.  Albert Einstein once said: “There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as if nothing is a miracle.  The other is as if everything is.”

No matter what choice you make, you live as if.  Living as if everything is a miracle enables you to discover that miracles are all around you- all the time.  Mark concludes:

As if is the seed that every success is born of.  The key is alignment.  If those as ifs don’t line up with the truth of Scripture, it’s a house of cards.  But if they do, you can move mountains.”

Today’s question: What enables you to live as if everything is a miracle?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The ultimate as if”


Get your feet wet

“We say to God, ‘Why don’t you part this river?  And God says to us, ‘Why don’t you get your feet wet?’ “- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 10 of The Circle Maker by expanding on this statement: “God is great, not just because nothing is too big for Him; God is great because nothing is to small for Him.”  If we would learn to obey God’s promptings, especially regarding small things, we’d find ourselves in the middle of miracles far more often.

Pastor Batterson adds that we need to be looking and listening for miracles.  Talking is the easy part of prayer.  Listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit is much harder.  When the Israelites were standing on the bank of the Jordan River- the Promised Land on the other side- God gave this command to the priests (Joshua 3:8): “Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go stand in the river.’ ”

Mark admits he’d much rather have God part the river so then he would step into the miracle.  If God goes first, you don’t have to get your feet wet.  You need to take a step of faith, perhaps in an area where you feel most self-assured.  Mark offers this prompting:

“Now let me ask you a question.  Where do you feel like you need God least?  Where are you most proficient, most sufficient?  Maybe that is precisely where God wants you to trust Him to do something beyond your ability. . . . And it is God’s strange and mysterious ways that renew our awe, our trust, and our dependence.”

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, where do you need to get your feet wet?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The litmus test of trust”

The by-products of answered prayer

Mark Batterson begins Chapter 9 (“The Favor of Him Who Dwells in the Burning Bush”) of The Circle Maker with a discussion of the by-products of answered prayer.  Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse, a community outreach ministry of National Community Church, is the result of eight years of praying hard and circling.  God miraculously made it possible for NCC to purchase a former crack house and transform its prime location.

The rooftop of the coffeehouse is Mark’s favorite place to pray because he feels like he’s praying on top of a miracle.  Mark writes:

“. . . the faith to pray hard . . . is one of the by-products of answered prayer.  It gives us the faith to believe God for bigger and better miracles.”

With each answered prayer, we draw bigger prayer circles.  With each act of faithfulness, our faith increases.  With each promise kept, our persistence quotient grows.

The process of persistently praying hard stretches your faith.  When you have to pray for a long time, there is no temptation to take a miracle for granted.  As Mark commonsensically notes, if it doesn’t take a miracle, it isn’t a miracle.

Pastor Batterson cites Matthew 18:18- Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.”  The word bind means “to place a contract on something.”  Mark notes that is precisely what happens when we pray.  If you are praying in accordance with the will of God, when you pray for something in the earthly realm God will bind it in the heavenly realm.  God loves to keep His promises.  He is actively waiting and watching for us to take Him at His word.

“The Lord is watching over His word.”- Jeremiah 1:12 (ESV)

Today’s questions (from Mark): Do you have a favorite place to pray?  A place where your mind is more focused?  A place where you have more faith?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The greatest moments in life”

Lessons about unanswered prayers

In Chapter 6 (“You Can’t Never Always Sometimes Tell”) of The Circle Maker,  Mark Batterson discusses valuable lessons about unanswered prayers that he has learned.  The learning began when Pastor Batterson almost said no to a miracle.

A married couple, new members of National Community Church, wanted to talk to Mark about church government.  Pastor Batterson was reluctant because he had little margin in his schedule.  After ninety minutes of questions, Mark finally was able to passionately share his vision for NCC.  The couple said they wanted to invest, but gave no dollar amount.

During a phone call appointment a few weeks later, they pledged $3 million dollars because Mark had vision beyond his resources.  Several years earlier, however, when Mark had tried to manufacture a miracle, that human effort resulted in personal financial loss.  As Mark states, “When God doesn’t answer our prayer right away, we try to answer it for Him.”

Pastor Batterson then shares three valuable lessons about unanswered prayer:

1.  Our prayers are often misguided simply because we’re not omniscient.  If we were absolutely honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit the main objective of most of our prayers is personal comfort, not God’s glory.  Such prayers actually would short-circuit God’s purposes in our lives.

2.  No doesn’t always mean no; sometimes it means not yet.  Our deadline may not fit God’s timeline.  Maybe “no” simply is a divine delay.

3.  We shouldn’t seek answers a much as we should seek God.  Once we’ve prayed through, we need to let go and let God.  God will answer when we’re ready for it.

Today’s question: Which of Mark’s three valuable lessons about unanswered prayers resonate most with you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Predictably unpredictable”


A landscape of joy

“Anyone who can be in a landscape of joy while maintaining immunity to it hasn’t come to the end of himself.”- Kyle Idleman

Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 6 of The End of Me by observing that the miracle of the paralyzed man’s healing should have a happy ending.  The Pharisees, however, make sure this miracle story ends on a sour note.

Even though the Pharisees had just witnessed a miraculous cure, their shortsightedness causes them to nitpick the fact that the man lifted his mat on a day of rest.  As Kyle quips, “the Pharisees wanted to make a citizen’s arrest for unauthorized use of a bedroll.”

Pastor Idleman encourages us to experience how good the good news really is.  He states we:

“. . . should see that someone else’s victory over hopelessness is our own victory, because Christ has brought the same liberation to every single one of us willing to say yes, to stand, to walk.”

God’s favorite time for us to ask for help is . . . now!  God not only has no time limits, He has no limits at all.  No matter how long our desert, land between time, God’s favorite time is now.  Kyle concludes:

“It’s not too late and never has been.  And there’s never been a better time, a more perfect time, than the present moment.  That’s always the one in which he wants to meet you.”

Today’s question (from Kyle): What are your thoughts on the idea that the more helpless you are, the better?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Disqualified to be chosen”





Irreversible moments

“If you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”- John 11:21-22

In Chapter 22 (“The Grave Robber”) of his book The Grave Robber, Mark Batterson begins his discussion of Jesus’ seventh miracle recorded in the gospel of John- Jesus raises Lazarus.  Pastor Batterson observes that there are those irreversible moments in life that leave a hole in our heart forever.  Our  ministry downsizing or vocation loss would be a prime example.  We wish we could turn back the hands of time.

Mary and Martha thought life as they knew it was over.  Yet, as Jesus demonstrated in raising Lazarus from the dead, it’s not over until God says it’s over!  Jesus went toe-to-toe with death itself, and death lost. Raising Lazarus didn’t just foreshadow Jesus’ resurrection, it foreshadows ours.  It’s a snapshot of what Jesus wants to do in our lives in this present moment.  Jesus is calling us out of our tomb.

Lazarus got a second chance, a second life.  Mark states that Jesus wants to do the same for us:

“And The Grave Robber wants to do for you what He did for Lazarus.  But He doesn’t just want to give back the life that sin and Satan have stolen.  He came that you might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).”

Today’s question: From what tomb is Jesus calling you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Holding pattern”

Climbing out on a limb

“Faith is climbing out on a limb, cutting it off, and watching the tree fall.”- Anonymous

In Chapter 18 (“Cut the Cable”) of The Grave Robber, Mark Batterson states that modern skyscrapers are possible as a result of Elisha Otis’ invention of an elevator braking system that ensured the elevator’s safety.  With this braking system, the sky literally was the limit.

To convince people to purchase his elevators, Otis conducted a demonstration at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1854.  As Otis stood on a platform governed by his braking system, he gave the command to an axman to cut the cable.  The braking system halted his freefall.

Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on water notes that Peter took a water walk as well.  Pastor Batterson believes that Peter felt the mixed emotions of fear-faith, yet he got out of the boat.  As Mark explains, the logical mind doesn’t consider all options:

“The logical mind can see only two options when stepping out of a boat in the middle of a lake- sink or swim.  That’s why most people stay within the comfortable confines of the boat.  That’s also why most people never walk on water.”

Mark concludes that miracles are glimpses of God’s providential care: “They are intersections where power and compassion parade God’s glory.”

Today’s question: In what area(s) of your life do you feel God’s prompting to step out of the boat?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Beaten by the waves”

Less is more

“Give us this day our daily bread.”- Matthew 6:11

“When God gives a vision, He makes provision.”- Mark Batterson

Commenting on the above petition from the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of Chapter 14 (“Lord Algebra”) of The Grave Robber, Mark Batterson wryly observes that we really wish the word daily was replaced with weekly, monthly, or yearly.  However, depending on God on a daily basis has us right where He wants us.  Mark then comments on what does not define spiritual maturity:

“Spiritual maturity is not self-sufficiency.  In fact, our desire for self-sufficiency is a subtle expression of our sinful nature.  It’s a desire to get to a place where we don’t need God.  We want God to provide more so we need Him less.”

As Mark reminds us, while everyone wants a miracle, no one wants to be in a situation that necessitates one.  Yet, God is gracious to put us in situations where enough isn’t enough.  In other words, less is more.

The book of Numbers tells us that when God miraculously provided manna for the Israelites, He provided just enough.  Daily manna was a reminder of their daily dependence on God.  Mark concludes:

“So while we may want a one-year supply of God’s mercy, His mercies are new every morning. If God provided too much too soon, we’d lose our raw dependence upon God, our raw hunger for God.  So God usually provides enough, just in time.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses, Christian books, or Christian songs remind you of your raw hunger and dependence on God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The Giving Game”