Do not meditate on the mess

“Do not meditate on the mess.  You gain nothing by setting your eyes on your problem.  You gain everything by setting your eyes on the Lord.”- Max Lucado

“God . . . is the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters.”- 1 Timothy 6:25 (Phillips)

Max Lucado continues Chapter 11 of Anxious for Nothing as he delves into his acronym C. A. L. M.  In today’s blog, Pastor Lucado covers the letters C and A.

1.  Celebrate God’s goodness.  First, turn your attention away from the problem.  Then, for a few minutes, celebrate God.  For the more you obsess on your trouble, the more you stare at it, the bigger your problem grows.  In contrast, the more you look to God, your problem quickly reduces to the proper size.

Therefore, don’t meditate on the mess.  Fixing your eyes on the problem gains you nothing.  However, you gain everything when you set your eyes on the Lord.  If, like Peter, you’re sinking because your gazed at the wind and the waves, you’re looking in the wrong direction.

Since God sustains and controls all, He possesses authority over the situation you face.  And in His mercy, God’s grace envelops your sin.  As a result, rejoice in the Lord.  But don’t hurry past this first step.  Before you face your problem, face God.  That, in turn, readies you to ask God for help.

2.  Ask God for help.  Since, Max states, “fear triggers either despair or prayer,” the author cautions us to choose wisely.  Consequently, when anxiety knocks on your door, Pastor Lucado urges, ask if Jesus would mind answering the door!

In addition, reduce your request to a single statement.  Furthermore, engage in specific and promise-based prayer.

Today’s question: Under what circumstances do you tend to meditate on the mess?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the annotated bibliography of Anxious for Nothing

Tomorrow’s blog: “Life still gives lemons”

When northeasters bear down

“Northeasters bear down on the best of us.  Contrary winds.  Crashing waves.  They come.  But Jesus still catches his children.  He still extends his arms. . . . still sends his angels.  Because you belong to him, you can have peace in the midst of the storm.”- Max Lucado

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 8 of Anxious for Nothing as he talks about the third promise that fosters peace in the middle of a storm.

3.  You are in the Lord’s service.  While we may not receive a clear message like the apostle Paul, we still have God’s assurance that we won’t live one day less that we’re supposed to live.  Thus, as long as God has work to do, He’ll keep you alive to do it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean no problems exist in your future.  Just as Paul’s problems continued, so will yours.  Yet, it’s still not easy to lose your ship, as the sailors did in Acts 27.  Your boat – marriage, business, job, body, etc. – kept you afloat.  But without your boat, you’re convinced you will sink.  And for a while, that’s reality.  Waves seep over you.  Fears suck you under.

Hence, Pastor Lucado underscores, “You can lose it all, only to discover that you haven’t.  God has been there all along.”

For example, in 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faced a triple challenge as the Moabites formed a great and powerful confederacy with two other nations.  However, in response the king sought the Lord, proclaimed a fast in all Judah, and cried out to God in prayer.  Most noteworthy, Jehoshaphat  so totally believed in God that he remarkably decided that singers lead the army into battle.  For the king knew the real battle was spiritual.

In conclusion, Max exhorts us to learn a lesson from the king:

“Lead with worship.  Go first to your Father in prayer and praise.  Confess to him your fears.  Gather with his people.  Set your face toward God.  Admit your weakness.  Then, once God moves, you move too.  Expect to see the God of ages fight for you.  He is near, as near as your next breath.”

Today’s question: How does the Holy Spirit take the wind out of your northeasters?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Healing from anxiety, healthy thinking”

Casting anxiety in the direction of Christ

“Casting is an intentional act to relocate an object. . . .  Let this ‘throwing’ be your first response to bad news.  As you sense anxiety welling up inside you, cast it in the direction of Christ.  Do so specifically and immediately.”- Max Lucado

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”- 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

As Max Lucado concludes Chapter 6 of Anxious for Nothing, he encourages you to take your problem to the One who knows how to solve it.  Take your problem to Christ.  Ask for His help.

Pastor Lucado notes that God told the prophet Isaiah, “Put Me in remembrance; let us contend together” (Isaiah 43:26).  Thus, prayer paves the pathway to peace.  And, Max states, there’s “less consternation, more supplication.  Fewer anxious thoughts, more prayer-filled thoughts.”

Furthermore, as Pastor Lucado reminds us, Jesus asked the blind man (Luke 18:41) what he wanted Jesus to do for him.   Because Jesus wanted to hear the blind man articulate his specific requests.  In addition, Max lists three reasons why it matters to be specific:

  1. A specific prayer is a serious prayer.  When you offer specific requests, God knows the sincerity of your petition.
  2. Specific prayer is an opportunity for us to see God at work.  Our faith grows as we see God respond in specific ways to specific requests.  For example, when Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac, the servant: (a) prayed about it; (b) asked for success in his endeavor; (c) envisioned an exact dialogue; and (d) stepped forward in faith.
  3. Specific prayer creates a lighter load.  Anxieties threaten when they’re ill-defined and vague.  Therefore, we bring anxiety down to size when we distill the challenge into a phrase.  Hence, we reduce the problem to a prayer-sized challenge.

In conclusion, the peace of God guards your heart and mind as you pray.  And, in the end, Max asks, what could be better?

Today’s question: What Bible verses support you in casting your anxiety in Christ’s direction?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the Easter Short Meditation, “The loudest voice in your life”

A child of the King – the front of the line

“As a child of the King, you are at the front of the line.  You, at any moment, can turn to God.”- Max Lucado

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”- Philippians 4:6

In Chapter 6 (“Prayer, Not  Despair”) of Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado notes that when people pray, peace happens.  Next, Pastor Lucdo cites The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-6) – a parable of contrast, not comparison.  Thus, this parable doesn’t depict prayer as a matter of pestering God until He breaks down and gives us what we want.

Rather, although the judge growled, complained, and murmured, in the end he rendered a just decision.  Therefore, God certainly gives justice to His chosen people, who cry out to Him day and night.  Also, the parable placed the widow at the bottom of the pecking order.  However, as a child of the King, you stand at the front of the line.  At any given moment, you can turn to God.

Thus, in Philippians 4:6, the apostle Paul calls us to take action against anxiety.  Up to this point, he’d been reassuring us of God’s character – His sovereignty, mercy, and presence.  Now, we need to affirm this belief as we choose prayer over despair.  For when people pray, peace happens.

Furthermore, Pastor Lucado calls our attention to the terms prayer, supplication, and requests.  While the terms possess similar connotations, they’re not identical.  Max explains:

  • prayer – a general devotion that includes worship and adoration
  • supplication – suggest humility; supplicants make no demands, simply offer humble requests
  • request – a specific petition; you pray the particulars of your problems

Today’s question: What Bible verses remind you that you’re a child of the King?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Casting anxiety in the direction of Christ”

Appreciative inquiry – replicate what’s right

“There is a theory in organizational development called appreciative inquiry . . . Instead of  exclusively focusing on what is wrong and trying to fix it, you identify what’s right and try to replicate it.  Appreciative inquiry is playing to people’s strengths.”-  Mark Batterson

“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”- Genesis 1:2 (ESV)

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 2 of Whisper, he states that although God convicts us of our sin, He also pulls our potential out of us.  In other words, God speaks to our strengths.  Thankfully, Pastor Batterson adds, God’s big enough to speak to each of us in a language we understand.  In fact, one translation of Psalm 29:4 describes the voice of the Lord as “fitted to the strength.”

Most noteworthy, Mark reminds each of us of this simple truth: “You are the answer to someone else’s prayer.”  Yet, we often react as if our gospel is too small.  Perhaps, the author observes, that also applies to our understanding of God’s voice.

Thus, Pastor Batterson shares one fundamental conviction: God is big enough.  He’s big enough to speak through doors, dreams, and people. And, He’s also close enough to speak through desires, promptings, and pain.

Furthermore, the Hebrew word paniym describes God’s proximity.  Regarding time, paniym refers to the split second before and the split second after.  Similarly, in regard to space, paniym refers to the place right in front and right in back.  Writing in The Attributes of God, A. W. Tozer pictures paniym this way:

“God is above, but He’s not pushed up.  He’s beneath, but He’s not pressed down.  He’s outside, but He’s not excluded. . . . inside, but He’s not confined.  God is above all things presiding, beneath all things sustaining, outside of all things embracing and inside of all things filling.”

In conclusion, Pastor Batterson states, some Hebrew scholars believe the name of God, Yahweh, equates to the sound of a breath.  On one hand, Yahweh is too sacred to pronounce.  On the other hand, Yahweh’s whispered with each and every breath we take.

And when the Holy Spirit shows up, God’s not speaking any louder than before.  It’s just that you’re listening a little closer.  A little better.

Today’s question: What does appreciative inquiry reveal about your strengths?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Still predictably unpredictable”

Lean into hiddenness with God

“The ones who lean into hiddenness begin to see that conversation with God has more to do with a growing connectedness to His heart and less to do with getting the answer we want.”- Sara Hagerty

Sara Hagerty concludes Chapter 12 of Unseen as she talks about what true growth in God requires.  Ms. Hagerty states:

“Yet true growth in God requires that our perspective of Him grow with us.  Progressively, prayer becomes less about relating to Him as we’re certain He must be and more about seeing His bigness in the light of how small and limited we are. . . . It’s in this growth that we gladly exchange familiarity with God for the unknown and its surprises.”

Wrinkles and gray hair reflect physical maturity.  And they occur without our own effort.  However, Sara underscores, our hearts won’t mature deep into God by default.  Therefore, we must desire more and more of God.

Hence, the author notes, prayer (conversation with God):

  • is how we sink our roots into what is real and everlasting
  • fights against the vaporlike quality of a life rooted solely in what others see
  • laces our hearts to the unseen, mysterious God
  • tethers us to the truest, never-changing reality – God’s

In conclusion, Sara voices her desire to prayer her way through God’s nature – not simply read about it in the Bible.  As a result, prayer positioned her to notice the wink of God:

“The wink of God.  It comes when we believe He is capable of reaching tenderly and knowingly into our story.  It comes when we believe He wants to intertwined His story with ours and tell our story back to us.  His way.”

Furthermore, God stays right there in the secret, hidden places with us.  It’s there where we grow, deep.

Today’s question: How do you lean into hiddenness with God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “An understanding friend in God”

Conversations with God – tethered

“For Jesus, conversations with God began with desire, not discipline.  He stayed close to God.  Tethered.”- Sara Hagerty

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”- Luke 5:16 (NIV)

Today Sara Hagerty discusses thoughts three and four of ways to grow toward friendship with God (Chapter 8, Unseen).

3.  Follow Jesus’ example of being tethered to God.  Sara observes that often we approach prayer as mere discipline.  Yes, approaching prayer as  discipline provides a starting point for conversations with God.  Also, discipline functions as a tool for those in need of structure.  However, structure wasn’t Jesus’ foundation for talking with God.

Furthermore,  we can chase the work of God, in and through us, with such fury we miss countless opportunities for friendship.  For example, conversing with God on our journey.  Also, we fail to allow for stillness in order to hear God’s whispers as we work.

Yet, God remains faithful.  He continues to bring us back to friendship with Himself.  In the process, He layers our understanding of the moments behind our pursuits.

4.  Speak the Word of God.  Out loud.  When you being to speak the Word of God, Sara exhorts, your relationship to Scripture changes as well as deepens.  Hence, you realize the words of Scripture as “living Truth, loving Truth, the Truth (emphasis Sara’s).

Therefore, God’s Word nourishes our roots in God’s love as it provides life-giving food.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, “The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.”

In conclusion, Sara underscores, God’s Word contains the only Truth enabling us to see beyond the limitations -sometimes even lies – of our circumstances.  One minute at a time, we’re able to replace those limitations and lies with the spoken truth.  Sara encourages:

“Win back your day one minute at a time with the truth of God’s Word, . . . and watch what happens to your heart as His truth begins to speak louder than all the other noise of the day.”

Today’s question: Are you tethered to God through discipline or desire?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The crazy, transforming power of adoration”

Turning conviction into action

“It is certainly unnecessary to say that turning conviction into action requires great sacrifice. . . . Therefore the person who will ultimately soar like an eagle to the heights of the cloudless day and live in the sunshine of God must be content to live a relatively lonely life.”- L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert

As Os Hillman concludes Chapter 10 of The Joseph Calling, he states that no birds live in solitude like eagles.  And a life dedicated to God knows divine fellowship (emphasis author’s), even though human friendships may have to be forfeited along the way.

Therefore, God seeks “eagle people.”  Without learning to walk alone with God, no one ever comes to fully realize the best things of God in his/her spiritual life.  As a result, through the experience of isolation the Lord develops an independence of life and faith.  Through this development, the soul no longer needs to depend on the continual help, prayer, faith, and care of others.

While assistance and support from others provides necessary stability, at times those things actually hinder one’s faith and welfare.  So, when God takes you into a time of isolation, Os exhorts, embrace it.  Use isolation to receive revelation from God you’d never have received without this time in your life.

In conclusion, Os summarizes:

“Perhaps God has place you in your own desert period.  Perhaps you cannot make sense of the situation in which you find yourself.  If you press into God during this time, he will reveal the purpose he has for you.  The key is pressing into him.  Seek him with your whole heart and he will be found.”

Today’s question: How has God provided you a foundation for turning conviction into action?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “If you don’t pick up your cross”

Holy grit and God’s abundant grace

“Standing strong and praying through those times in-between calls for holy grit and God’s abundant grace.”- Susie Larson

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”- Hebrews 10:23 (ESV)

Susie Larson concludes Chapter 7 of Your Powerful Prayers as she talks about contending for some of the things God puts on your heart.  For in the other corner, Satan works to steal your joy, kill your dreams, and destroy your sense of purpose.  Consequently, you must stand on God’s Word, even when it doesn’t feel true.  But this battle makes you a fiercer prayer warrior.  So, the battle’s worth it!

Thus, Susie observes, prayer requires:

  • perseverance and perspective
  • sensitivity to the Holy Spirit
  • strategy from God’s Word
  • holy grit
  • God’s abundant grace

As Ms. Larson summarizes, we’re most powerful when we pray.  In addition, we’re most influential when we walk in step with Almighty God.  It’s impossible for God to fail us.  However, it’s completely possible and plausible for God to delay giving us what we want.  Such times test and prove our faith.

In conclusion, Susie cites Jon Bloom, from his book Things Not Seen (2015):

“How things appear to us, and how they actually are, are rarely the same.  Sometimes it looks and feels like the Almighty is dealing ‘very bitterly’ with us, when all the while he is doing us and many others more good than we can imagine.  God’s purposes in the lives of his children are always gracious.  Always.  If they don’t look like it, don’t trust your perceptions.  Trust God’s promises.  He is always filling His promises (emphasis Susie’s).”

Today’s question: How has holy grit and God’s abundant grace strengthened your prayer life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Time to reframe our disappointments”

God wraps His glory in hard circumstances

“Sometimes God wraps His glory in hard circumstances or ugly obstacles or painful difficulties, and it just never occurs to us that within those life-shaking events is a fresh revelation from Him.”- Anne Graham Lotz, Expecting to See Jesus

In Chapter 2 (“Dare to Pray for Perspective”) of Your Powerful Prayers, Susie Larson reminds us we’re part of a bigger story.  Thus, if you’re in the midst of a not-yet season, involving heartbreak or disappointment, it’s most important to keep perspective.  You need to remember who you are and  hang onto God’s promises.  Even when they don’t feel true.

Therefore, what we say and pray (emphasis Susie’s) about our disappointments deeply matters.  For our statements and prayers reflect what we believe to be true about God and about ourselves.

So, Ms. Larson asks, how do we handle the disappointments of life that wallop us, leaving us breathless.  Do we:

  • stop praying altogether?
  • change our view of God?
  • turn our back on Him?
  • pray begging-pleading kinds of prayers?

At the outset of loss or pain, Susie notes, our souls instinctively cry out how or why questions.  However, the author stresses, such questions steal, rather than clarify, our perspective.  As a result, we must ask different questions.  Those questions compel us to look up, remember God is good, His promises ring true, and He always makes a way for us.

Thus, adversity signals a time for earnest, fervent prayer.  Most importantly, we must see ourselves and our personal needs in the greater story God’s writing.  It’s counterproductive to grab a self-serving solution that meets a short-term need at a long-term cost.

In conclusion, Ms. Larson observes we so often fail to remember that:

“God uses us not only through the blessings He’s entrusted to us, but also through the needs He allows in our lives . . . intended to compel us to pray bigger prayers that we’d typically pray.”

Today’s question: How has God wrapped His glory in your hard circumstances?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Destructive disappointment or divine appointments?”