Our need for constant connection with God

“Pain brings deepest brokenness, and a hurting child always wants to run into the consoling, safe arms of a loving parent.  Feeling our pain doesn’t prove that we lack faith — it proves our need for constant connection with God.”- Christa Black Gifford

“The Spirit of the LORD GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”- Isaiah 61:1 (ESV)

In Chapter 9 of Heart Made Whole, Christa Black Gifford notes the need to receive comfort and release.  That must come from the True Source.  Otherwise, we’re forced to run what Christa calls a counterfeit affection.  And God’s much better at His job than any of those affections.

Furthermore, Ms. Gifford advises that we keep our eye open to the acceptance of two realities – trauma and relationship.  As we do so, we experience the paradox of deepest sorrow and overflowing joy at the same time.  Therefore, one never negates the other.  And as we accept our wounded and broken state, Jesus meets us right here in our pain.  He begins to heal us with His love.  To find joy in every situation, your heart simply makes the choice to engage Jesus, over and over again.  Consequently, miracles happen as Jesus digs deep into our roots of pain.  He draws each broken place back into His loving arms.

In conclusion, Christa exhorts:

“No heart is beyond repair.  No heart is too hard to soften . . . too far gone to piece back together.  Notice in this Scripture (Ezekiel 11:19) that it’s God who makes the heart whole and puts the new spirit in, removing the hardness and making things soft.   All He needs is a willing participant – and the choice to engage in this beautiful journey of transformation is entirely up to you.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses sustain your need for constant connection with God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the annotated bibliography of Heart Made Whole

Accumulate experiences

“Don’t accumulate possessions; accumulate experiences.”- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson begins Chapter 12 (“Run to the Roar”) of Chase the Lion with a question.  Mark wonders: “Are you living your life in a way that is worth talking about?”

Sadly, the author notes, most people spend their lives accumulating possessions.  Hence, when earthly goods become your objective, you end up being possessed by those possessions.  As Mark adds, a world of difference exists between making a living and making a life.

Therefore, in making a life, Pastor Batterson urges you to aim high.  Even if you miss, that’s better than aiming low and hitting your target:

“Don’t settle for good.  Seek God.  And when you do, don’t be surprised when God does immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine.”

However, a concept called hindsight bias prevents us from accepting God’s providence.  The author defines hindsight bias as the tendency to see a past event as having been predictable, even probable.  As a result, we find it hard to imagine any outcome other than the actual one.

That especially rings true with familiar Bible stories we’ve heard hundreds of times.  Rather than experiencing shock and awe, we assume the outcome.  Thus, we tend to take miracles for granted.

Thus, the key challenge in your dream journey becomes discovering the voice of God.  Mark explains how to do this:

“It starts with the word of God.  If you want to get a word from God, get into the Word of God.  . . . And when the Spirit of God quickens the Word of God, it’s like hearing the voice of God in Dolby surround sound.”

In conclusion, Mark cautions to get the facts before you take a step of faith.  Due diligence honors God.  Do your homework.  Finally, Mark describes the role of faith:

“Faith  . . . confronts the brutal facts with unwavering faith.  It carefully counts the cost, then it adds almighty God into the final equation.”

Today’s question: How do you prioritize your life to accumulate experiences rather than possessions?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Cure for the fear of failure”

Long and boring

“Praying through is long and boring, but it is the price you pay for miracles.”- Mark Batterson

In Chapter 123 (“Long and Boring”) of The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson states that, in the Bible, few people prayed with more consistency or intensity than Daniel.  Daniel had the ability to pray urgently about things that weren’t urgent- an important dimension of thinking long.

Pastor Batterson notes that when you feel like you’ve been drawing prayer circles forever and are extremely frustrated by God’s deafening silence, the solution is to stop, drop, and pray.  The only viable option is to pray through.

Although we all need an occasional no-agenda day with nothing to do, Mark emphasizes that type of day won’t be one we celebrate at the end of our lives. We won’t even recall such days.  We’ll remember the days when we persevered or overcame.  Similarly, the ancient truths of the Bible should not be arrived at easily.  Mark explains:

“What we’ll remember are the days when we had everything to do, and with God’s help, we did it.  We’ll remember the things that came hard.  We’ll remember the miracles on the far side of ‘long and boring.’ ”

Mark offers the encouragement that if we pray through and think long, God will give us some exciting answers, although  we don’t know how or when God will answer our prayers.  If we persistently pray through, a miracle is waiting on the other side.

Today’s question: What Bible verses sustain your consistency and intensity in prayer?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Scriptural prayer postures”


Arguments with God

“Here is what I learned about arguments with God: If you win the argument you actually lose, and if you lose the argument you actually win.”- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson continues Chapter 5 of The Circle Maker by conceding that circling the promises of God often seems risky.  However, he adds, circling the promises of God isn’t nearly as risky as not circling God’s promises.  We forfeit the miracles God wants to perform when we don’t circle His promises.

When we live in obedience to God, we place ourselves in position to receive God’s blessing.  This happened to the Israelites when they were parked in the Desert of Paran, a region fifty miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea and fifty miles southwest of the Dead Sea.  Quail usually live by the water and don’t fly long distances.  But a supernatural wind blew them into the Israelites’ camp.

Quail covered an area ten times the size of Washington, DC, and were piled three feet deep!  All this happened because Moses took the risk and circled God’s promise.  Mark explains that when you circle God’s promise, you never know how He will provide:

“Your job is not to crunch numbers and make sure the will of God adds up.  After all, the will of God is not a zero-sum game.  When God enters the equation, His output always exceeds your input.  Your only job is to draw circles in the sand.  And if you do the geometry, God will multiply the miracles in your life.”

Today’s question: Describe a specific situation involving your arguments with God.  What was the outcome?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Lessons about unanswered prayers”


Praise through

“After you pray through, you need to praise through.”- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 14 of The Circle Maker with the bold statement that we should praise God for disappointment because it drives us to our knees in prayer.  Responding to disappointment in a God-pleasing way can restore our prayer rhythm and resurrect our desires.

Such faith can seem like a denial or reality.  Pastor Batterson states the reason is the reality we are holding onto by praying through is more real than the reality we perceive with our senses.  However, Mark writes, when you have prayed through the next step is to praise through:

“True faith doesn’t just celebrate ex post facto, after the miracle has already happened; true faith celebrates before the miracle happens, as if the miracle has already happened, because you know that God is going to deliver on His promise.”

Mark explains that prayer is asking God to do something, future tense, while praise is believing God already has performed the miracle, past tense.  It is important to emphasize that this isn’t a “name it, claim it” scheme.  The sole purpose God does miracles is to spell His glory.

Although it is most difficult to praise God when He doesn’t answer the way we want, that’s when our praise is most pure and pleasing to God.

Today’s question: Describe a time when you made a deliberate choice to praise through a situation.  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Dream big”


Define your dream

“Define your dream.  Claim your promise.  Spell your miracle.”- Mark Batterson

As Mark Batterson continues Chapter 3 of The Circle Maker, he references Matthew’s account of “Jesus Heals Two Blind Men” (Matthew 20:29-34).   When two blind men sitting on the roadside outside of Jericho hailed Jesus, the disciples saw it as human interruption.  Jesus, however, viewed it as a divine appointment.

The key to Jesus’ encounter with the two blind men is the pointed question Jesus asked them: “What do you want me to do for you?”  Mark states Jesus was forcing the men to define precisely what they wanted from Him- to verbalize their desire.  That is where drawing prayer circles begins.  You have to know what to circle.

What, Pastor Batterson wonders, if Jesus were to ask you that exact question: What do you want me to do for you?  Could you define your dream?  Mark describes the crux of the problem: “So while God is for us, most of us have no idea what we want God to do for us.”

The answer to Jesus’ question changes over time.  Different seasons of life require different miracles.  Rather than simply reading the Bible, Mark emphasizes that we need to start circling the promises.  Rather than compiling a wish list, compose a list of God-glorifying life goals.

Today’s question: What concrete steps do you need to take to define your dream?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Nuanced prayers”

Bold prayers

“Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers.”- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D. C., wrote The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears in 2011.  Max draws and shares powerful insights from the true legend of Honi the circle maker.  Honi, a first-century BC Jewish sage, stood inside the circle he had drawn and boldly, yet humbly, prayed for God to end a year-long drought.  Rain fell and a generation was saved.

God, Pastor Batterson underscores, still is looking for circle makers.  Bold prayers require divine intervention.  Mark writes that the bigger the circle we draw the better, because God gets the glory:

“The great moments in life are the miraculous moments when human impotence and divine omnipotence intersect- and they intersect when we draw a circle around the impossible situations in our lives and invite God to intervene.”

Mark emphasizes it is absolutely imperative to come to terms with this simple but life-changing truth: “God is for you.”  Failure to believe this truth results in timid prayer.  Believing this truth means you will pray audacious prayers.  Either way, Mark states, “who you become is determined by how you pray.”  Pastor Batterson also clearly defines what drawing prayer circles is and is not:

“Drawing prayer circles isn’t some sort of magic trick to get what you want from God.  God is not a genie in a bottle, and your wish is not His command.  His command better be your wish.  If it’s not, you won’t be drawing prayer circles, you’ll end up walking in circles. . . . getting what you want isn’t the goal; the goal is glorifying God by drawing circles around the promises, miracles, and dreams He wants for you.”

Today’s question; Do you pray timid or bold prayers?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Identifying your Jericho”

The smallest step

“With God the smallest step of faith can activate the mightiest of miracles.”- Max Lucado

“By this [crossing] you shall know that the living God is among you.”- Joshua 3:10

Max Lucado opens Chapter 5 (Unpack Your Bags”) of Glory Days with the story of country singer Jimmy Wayne.  According to Jimmy, at the age of thirteen his often-imprisoned mother and her troublemaker boyfriend dumped Jimmy in a bus station parking lot and drove off.  Homeless, Jimmy eventually found work mowing grass for an older couple and soon was invited to live in their home.  Still, it took a long time for Jimmy to unpack his bag and accept his new home.

After our ministry downsizing or vocation loss we feel turned out- and may wonder if God will do the same as our former employer.  Pastor Lucado states God answered this question at the cross.  We are God’s children.  Max continues:

“Promised Land people believe this.  They trust God’s hold on them more than their hold on God.  They place their trust in the finished work of Christ.”

The followers of Joshua looked not to Calvary but to the Jordan River.  The miraculous crossing was convincing evidence of God’s presence.  Even so, when the priests got to the Jordan, they didn’t plunge right in.  They dipped their feet.  The smallest step activated the mightiest of miracles.

Pastor Lucado asks if we’re deeply convinced that we’ve been dramatically delivered.  While life has many questions, God’s ability to save shouldn’t be one of them.  Like Jimmy Wayne, our best days will begin when we unpack our bags.

Today’s question (study guide):  What do you need to embrace about God’s character in order to unpack your bags?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Don’t forget to remember”

The Grave Robber

GraveRobberThe Grave Robber (Baker Books, 2014)

Mark Batterson’s most recent book is titled The Grave Robber: How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible.  The book is based on seven miracles of Jesus reported in the gospel of John.  Each miracle represents a different dimension of Jesus’ power.  The prerequisite for a miracle is a problem, which then provides the perfect opportunity for God to reveal His glory.  The miracles in the gospel of John don’t just reveal what Jesus did, but what He wants to do in your life.  One of the truest tests of spiritual maturity is seeing miracles in the monotonous.  Pastor Batterson states that we would crack the joy code if we’d recognize the moment-by-moment miracles that surround us.

Whatever situation we’re in, God has us exactly where He wants us, even if that situation is not where we’d choose to be.  Mark notes that there are no accidents, only divine appointments.  Miracles and divine appointments happen at God Speed.  They never are early or late, but always right on time.  Only one assumption is true: God is able.  We need to keep taking steps of faith, what Eugene Peterson refers to as “obedience in the right direction.”  Rather than doing things differently, we need to see things differently- for God can take a little and make a lot.

God wants to stretch our faith so that someday our biggest dreams will seem incredibly small.  Paradoxically, the more we give, the more we enjoy what we keep.  While God’s blessings amplify joy, miracles fortify our faith.  Miracles are found on the other side of fear.  At some point in our life journey, we need to take a radical step of faith.  That moment will define every moment that follows.  No mater what we might think, when Jesus gets involved it’s never too little, never too late.

The ultimate goal of any miracle is not the miracle itself, but the glory of God.  Jesus is calling us out of our tomb, to resurrect what has died.  As Pastor Batterson concludes:

“He will give you your smile back.

He will give you your laugh back.

He will give you your life back.

Do you believe this?

If you do, He will make the impossible possible.”



Remember the resurrection

“Lord . . . 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

Mark Batterson states in Chapter 23 of The Grave Robber that many Christians only remember Christ’s resurrection at Easter.  The other 364 days they live as if Jesus still is nailed to the cross.

If we feel as if our dream is dead and buried, we have forgotten about the resurrection.  Yet God has us right where He wants us.  Pastor Batterson notes that the litmus test of a dream is its death and resurrection:

“If it’s not from God, it’ll stay dead.  If it is, it will rise again.  But you need to pray through until you get a breakthrough.”

Mark emphasizes that while most miracles take longer than we want to wait for them, the longer we wait the greater our appreciation of those miracles: “Miracles happen when we’re good and ready, and not a moment sooner.”

Martha’s statement in John 11:21-22, Mark observes, reveals two types of faith:

1.  Preventative faith– believes God can prevent adverse things from happening.

2.  Resurrection faith– believes God actually can undo what’s been done.  It puts commas, rather than periods, at the end of disappointments.

Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead demonstrates that when God takes something away from us, it doesn’t always mean permanently.  God often takes things away with the specific purpose of giving them back.  When He does, we see the miracle for the blessing it is.

Today’s question: What Bible verse enable you to remember the resurrection every day?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Six words”