Floundering between offered and answered prayer

“Have your prayers been met with a silent sky?  Have you prayed and heard nothing?  Are you floundering in the land between an offered and an answered prayer? . . . .  If so, I beg you, don’t give up. . . .  You have been heard in heaven.”- Max Lucado

“Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before God, your words were heard.”- Daniel 10:12 (NIV)

As Max Lucado continues Chapter 8 of Anxious for Nothing, he notes that the story of Paul’s final recorded voyage (Acts 27) contains three promises.  These three promises foster peace in the middle of a storm.  Max discusses the first two promises today.

1.  Heaven has helpers to help you.  As the apostle Paul stood on the deck of a sinking ship during a raging storm, and angel came.  The angle stood beside Paul.  And, Pastor Lucado underscores, angels still come and help us.

In addition, Max notes, the prophet Daniel experienced assistance from angels.  As we read in Daniel 10, the prophet, troubled, resolved to pray.  After three weeks of praying, Daniel saw an angel standing before him.  Next, the angel explained that heaven heard Daniel’s voice the first day he prayed.  However, demonic forces blocked delivery of the answer.  The archangel Michael needed to intervene.  With the standoff ended, Daniel received the answer to his prayer.

Thus, angels can protect you, walk you out of your bondage.  Indeed, heaven has helpers for you.

2.  Heaven has a place for you.  When, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you gave your life to God, He took responsibility for you.  Because you belong to God, you can have peace in the middle of the storm.

Today’s question: What Bible verses or Christian hymns/songs keep you from floundering in the land between an offered and an answered prayer?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “When northeasters bear down”

How your anxiety decreases

“Your anxiety decreases as your understanding of your [heavenly] father increases.”- Max Lucado

“For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,/ Which spreads out its roots by the river,/ And will not fear when heat comes;/ But its leaf will be green,/ And will not be anxious in the year of drought.”- Jeremiah 17:7-8

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 2 of Anxious for Nothing as he shares his thought that our biggest fears seem like sprained ankles to God.  In other words, God solely knows how to put our problems in the proper perspective.  Yet, Pastor Lucado posits, unnecessary anxiety over temporary limps controls the lives of many people.

Therefore, Max exhorts, the next time you fear the future, choose to rejoice:

  • in the Lord’s sovereignty
  • in what God has accomplished
  • that He’s able to do what you cannot do
  • and fill your mind with thoughts of God

Furthermore, God’s sovereignty provides the saint with the inside track to peace.  When others see the problems of the world and wring their hands, we respond to those same problems as we bend our knees.

In conclusion, Pastor Lucado offers these words of encouragement:

“Lift up your eyes.  Don’t get lost in your troubles.  Dare to believe that good things will happen.  Dare to believe that God was speaking to you when he said, ‘In everything God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28, New Century Version).  The mind cannot at the same time be full of God and full of fear.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you understand how you anxiety decreases?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A concrete block of guilt in the soul”

Peace is within reach- rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty

“Peace is within reach, not for lack of problems, but because of the presence of a sovereign Lord.  Rather than rehearse the chaos of the world, rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty, as Paul did.”- Max Lucado

“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.”- Proverbs 21:30 (NIV)

As Max Lucado continues Chapter 2 of Anxious for Nothing, he reminds us it’s impossible for us to take control.  Because control’s not ours to take in the first place!  Therefore, we need a better idea.  And the Bible provides it.  Instead of seeking total control, we must relinquish it.  While we can’t run the world, we can entrust the world to God.

Therefore, Pastor Lucado underscores, the apostle Paul entrusted even his miserable prison conditions to God’s sovereignty.  Thus, Max exhorts us to apply Paul’s words to our lives.  Max writes:

“To read Paul is to read the words of a man who, in the innermost part of his being, believed in the steady hand of a good God.  He was protected by God’s strength, preserved by God’s love.  He lived beneath the shadow of God’s wings.  Do you?  Stabilize your soul with the sovereignty of God.  He reigns supreme over every detail of the universe.”

Consequently, when troubled times come, God always supplies the same answer: He occupies the throne in heaven.  In the Old Testament, God gave that message to the prophet Isaiah.  After fifty-five years of relative peace, King Uzziah died.  That gave Isaiah ample cause for worry.  Yet, just like Isaiah, God has a message for us when calamity strikes.

Although Uzziah’s reign ended with his death, God’s reign continued.  Death silences Uzziah’s voice, but God’s voice remained strong.  In addition, since God’s alive and on the throne, He’s worthy of worship.

Today’s question: What Bible verses place peace within your reach?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “How your anxiety decreases”

 

The peace of Christ – peace in the perfect storm

“It’s [the peace of Christ] not just peace in the midst of the storm; it’s peace in the perfect storm.  Instead of being scared out of your wits, you have a holy confidence against all odds.”- Mark Batterson

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.”- Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

In today’s blog, Mark Batterson concludes his discussion of five tests he employs  when discerning God’s will and voice.

2.  The Peace Test.  When the apostle Paul said to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” Pastor Batterson notes, that doesn’t mean you won’t feel scared or stressed.  It simply means you know in your heart of hearts what you’ve discerned as God’s will is the right thing to do.

3.  The Wise Counsel Test.  As Mark observes, you don’t discern God’s will all by your lonesome.  Because solo efforts usually result in losing your way.  As a result, Pastor Batterson advises you to surround yourself with people who have:

  • experience discerning God’s will
  • the ability to bring out the best in you
  • permission to speak the truth in love

Seeking wise counsel creates an important check and balance, since we possess an infinite ability to deceive ourselves.

4.  The Crazy Test.  Pastor Batterson defines a God-sized dream as always beyond our abilities, logic, and resources.  Plainly states, it’s impossible to do without God’s help.  And often, in the author’s experience, God ideas often seem like crazy ideas.

In addition, Mark states, faith consists of the willingness to look foolish.  So when your desire’s the will of God, “crazy turns into crazy awesome.”

5.  The Released-from and Called-to Test.  Mark compares the will of God to a lock with two pins, called-to and released-from.  Sometimes you get released from a current responsibility.  However, you feel unsure of God’s next calling.   You detect a spiritual no-man’s land.  Therefore, until God gives further instructions, Mark advises doing what you last heard Him say.

Today’s question: How does Jesus give you peace in the perfect storm?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “My God – the strength of my soul”

Finding a lake with no storms

“Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms.  It comes from having Jesus in the boat.”- John Ortberg

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”- John 14:27 (NIV)

In Chapter 10 (“Never Worry Alone”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg states that God wants us to live with bold confidence in His power.  Therefore, with Jesus in the boat, we rest in His non-anxious presence.  Yet, we don’t experience true peace if we fail to venture outside our comfort zones when God calls.

Most importantly, Pastor Ortberg explains, we frequently see this pattern in the Bible.  John writes:

“In the Bible we see a pattern in which God rarely sends people into situations where their comfort level is high.  Rather, He promises to be with them in their fear.  It is God’s presence — not comfortable circumstances — that brings people to the best version of themselves.”

Thus, the peace of Jesus sustains the settled conviction that all things are in God’s hands.  Jesus’ peace runs much deeper than self-help techniques or anxiety reduction.  Also, the Holy Spirit desires to be a non-anxious presence in every life (emphasis John’s).

Furthermore, living in the flow of the Spirit allows God’s perfect love to wash over us until our fear begins to leave.  As the apostle John reminds us in 1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love casts out fear.”

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg offers a picture of the mind directed by the Holy Spirit:

” . . . for God does not give us a spirit of timidity.  He gives us a mind of life and peace. . . calls himself our Comforter, and he will be our refuge, our rock, our fortress, and our safety.  He longs to watch over us.  Perfect love casts out fear.”

Today’s question: Do you focus on finding a lake with no storms or sitting with Jesus in the boat?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Never worry alone – defeating toxic anxiety”

Forgiveness- a beautiful word?

“Forgiveness is a beautiful word when you need it.  It is an ugly word when you have to give it.”- Dr. Tony Evans

As Dr. Tony Evans concludes Chapter 9 of Detours, he notes that forgiveness operates on two levels: unilateral and transactional.  In this chapter, Tony explains unilateral forgiveness.  Unilateral forgiveness:

  • occurs when you forgive someone even though the person hasn’t asked for or requested it, nor repented of what they did to you
  • gives you a new level of access to God, a more intimate relationship with Jesus
  • gives you hope in the harm, peace in the problems

So, Tony asks, what if you still feel the pain after you forgive someone?  That doesn’t seem fair, right?  Tony’s answer? – “It may not be fair, but it will set you free.”  The author illustrates.

In years gone by, the bells in the bell towers of English churches hung on a rope.  Therefore, to ring the bells, someone climbed to the top of the bell tower, grabbed the rope, and began to swing it.  However, when the person finally let go of the rope, the bells kept ringing.  The momentum of past swings kept the bells ringing.  Eventually, the past movements and motions slowed down, then stilled.

In conclusion, Dr. Evans applies ringing bells to forgiveness:

“Forgiveness doesn’t stop the bell from ringing . . . the pain from showing up.  But what it does do is allow you to let go of the rope.  It allows you to distance yourself from the offense enough for the natural momentum of life and emotions to finally slow down and eventually be at peace.”

Today’s question: Is forgiveness a beautiful word to you, or an ugly word?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Transactional forgiveness- reboot the relationship”

Inner tranquility

“We equate external control with inner tranquility.”- Judah Smith

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence is your strength.”- Isaiah 30:5 (NLT)

In Chapter 6 (“A Quiet Soul”) of How’s Your Soul?, Judah Smith notes we live in a loud culture- inundated on a daily basis by noise, activity, and information.  As a result, Judah states, life lived at high intensity produces “extraordinary internal angst.”  Hence, this angst creates anxiety, fear, and an overall sense of desperation.  To enjoy each moment life offers, we must strive for inner peace and rest.

The second king of Israel, David, epitomized the quiet soul.  Specifically, Pastor Smith writes, Psalm 131 gives us insight into King David’s ability to maintain a quiet soul.  Yet, David faced constant stress and pressure. Therefore, Judah examines each of the psalm’s three verses.  He discusses the first part of verse one today.

1.  “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high.”  Judah observes that, to a certain degree, everyone struggles with a God-complex.  Hence, we view ourselves as  God in our own lives.  However, Pastor Smith describes a different principle at work in this verse:

“If you want to have a calm, quiet souls, you have to recognize that you are not in control.  That realization is fundamental to being healthy and peaceful on the inside.”

In contrast, we tend to view this perspective as counterintuitive- assuming that more personal control provides rest and peace.  However, ultimately our efforts guarantee nothing.  Only God possesses that ability.

In conclusion, our culture tends to deify ambition.  The biblical view, in contrast, states that God calls, designs, and wires us for service in His kingdom.  Unless we tether ambition to God’s calling, that ambition takes on a life of its own.  As Judah humorously notes, let God do His job as God.  He’s really good at it!

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you live in inner tranquility?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: A God-category in your life”

Our health and wellness

“Our health and wellness don’t move from the outside in, but from the inside out.”- Judah Smith

As Judah Smith continues Chapter 1 of How’s Your Soul?, he notes that our physical bodies, bank accounts, vehicles, and families get regular attention.  However, we rarely, if ever, focus on our souls.  Routine soul checkups?- almost nonexistent.

Yet, Pastor Smith writes, deep inside we’re looking for things to go well with our souls:

“We have an innate, intuitive sense that we were designed to be at peace both inside and out.  Somehow we sense that happiness, satisfaction, joy, rest, and love are supposed to be the natural state of the human race.”

But reality often lags behind that ideal.  Pain surrounds our inner chaos.  Inside we feel out of alignment.  We’re unsure how to set ourselves straight.

As a result, when we find problems on the inside, our typical fix consists of redoubling our efforts on the outside.  Thinking that internal happiness comes from external success, we throw ourselves into the chase.  Judah describes two common outcomes to this approach.

  1. Try as hard as possible to fix specific circumstances messing with your happiness.  Eventually you discover the futility of this attempt.  So you throw in the towel, resigned to a reality you’d rather avoid.  Next, you devise ways to escape.  As Pastor Smith observes, “you live for moments of happiness that punctuate an otherwise frustrating existence.”
  2. Actually achieve your goals.  Judah emphasizes that this outcome potentially is worse than the first.  Because you get what you always desired, only to discover success doesn’t make you feel any better.  Now your only hope at achieving satisfaction has vaporized.

In conclusion, Judah stresses that God designed life for more than simply surviving.  He encourages:

“This life . . . is meant to be amazing . . . because our souls have found their homes in God.  Fulfillment comes from having a healthy soul.”

Today’s question: Does your health and wellness come from the outside or the inside out?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “All that is within me”

At peace with yourself

“Be at peace with yourself and then you will be able to bring peace to others.”- Thomas A Kempis

In Chapter 12 (“I’m Angry at Myself”) of Anger, Dr. Gary Chapman begins by listing reason you may not be at peace with yourself.  When we experience anger at ourselves, it is because we:

  • perceive ourselves guilty of wrongdoing, unkindness, injustice, or carelessness
  • fall short of our own expectations
  • violate our own strongly held values (perhaps the area of greatest anger)

Most importantly, Gary emphasizes that “anger and guild should lead to repentance and refreshing forgiveness.”  Therefore, he suggests a positive, five-step approach to processing anger toward yourself in a healthy way.  Consequently, Dr. Chapman discusses the first three steps today.

1.  Admit your anger.  First of all, verbally admit that you are experiencing anger toward yourself.  Furthermore, Dr. Chapman encourages you to admit other thoughts and feelings that accompany your anger.  Those thoughts and feeling include disappointment, stupidity, letting people (including yourself and God) down, and irresponsibility.  In conclusion, say them in prayer to God.

2.  Examine your anger.  Most of all, vast differences exist between definitive and distorted anger.  Hence, violating moral principles requires much greater constructive processing than carelessly hitting your thumb with a hammer.

3.  Confess wrongdoing to God and accept His forgiveness.  Finally, Gary stresses that only one appropriate way exists to process anger toward oneself arising from one’s own sin.  In addition, 1 John 1:9 presents this clear Scriptural message:

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you to be at peace with yourself?  Please share.

Please note: new addition to Crown Jewels- “Practice, practice, practice”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Self-forgiveness”

Steadfast anchor

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.”- Hebrews 6:19 (ESV)

In Chapter 9 (“The Anchoring Effect”) of If, Mark Batterson discusses what psychologists refer to as the “anchoring effect”- our tendency to rely too heavily on the first fact or first impression.  Once we are anchored to a fact or impression, it becomes the baseline for our decision making.

Referencing Hebrews 6:19, Pastor Batterson notes that the writer speaks of hope as an anchor- a powerful as if.  A ship’s anchor isn’t used just to keep the ship from drifting.  When an anchor is thrown in front of a ship, it enables the ship to navigate through treacherous channels.  The nautical term for this is kedging– the picture painted by the writer of Hebrews.

For better or worse, where you drop anchor determines the outcome.  Mark states that fear gives weight to things that don’t deserve it.  Faith, on the other hand, is being sure of what we hope for (Hebrews 11:1).  Pastor Batterson adds:

“If gratitude is thanking God for things after they happen, then faith is thanking God for things before they happen.”

Anchoring your emotions to your circumstances creates a yoyo effect- up and down, up and down.  When your emotions are anchored to the cross. the cross becomes your fixed point of peace- a steadfast anchor.  Mark summarizes:

“If you want the peace that passes understanding to guard your heart and mind (Philippians 4:7), you’ve got to stay anchored to the right things.”

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how has Christ been your steadfast anchor?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Response-ability”