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”

Bestowing his favor all around us

“The funny thing is God is constantly bestowing his favor all around us — changing minds and hearts all around us — and all we need is the ‘eyes to see’ and ‘ears to hear,’ as Jesus said, to notice what is happening around us.”- Brian Jones

Brian Jones concludes Chapter 7 of Finding Favor as he discusses the difference between praying and asking for God’s favor.  Hence, Pastor Jones thinks there’s one similarity and two differences between the concepts. On the similar side, both prayer and praying for favor can be single cause- effect events.  For example, in 2 Kings 13:4-5, King Jehoahaz sought God’s favor as he prayed for deliverance from the king of Aram.  In response, God raised up a deliverer.

Next, Brian presents two other instances of clear differences between praying and asking for God’s favor.

  1.  Favor often refers to seeking help without a specific answer in mind.  More often than not, the author observes, we seek God’s favor when we don’t know exactly what we need.  Thus, while Jacob wanted God to rescue him from Esau, in reality he needed much more than that.  Jacob needed reconciliation and healing.
  2. Favor often refers to a continual state of blessing.  Therefore, we end up favored when we seek and find God’s favor.  Pastor Jones explains: “We experience a continual state of receiving God’s blessings without needing to stop and think about what we need and ask for them.  They keep coming, whether we pray or not.”

In conclusion, Brian asserts his confidence in one thing.  No matter what you’re facing right now, when you’re blessed by God’s favor, He changes people’s minds.  Perhaps you’ll walk right into someone’s Daniel 1:9 moment!

Today’s question: What calls your attention to the fact that God’s constantly bestowing His favor all around you? Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Acquiring a great deal of money?”

Paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer

“I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to effect, and all the consequences of those prayers down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives.”- Peter Kreeft, Angels and Demons

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel . . .”-Daniel 1:8-9 (NIV)

In Chapter 7 (Interpersonal Intervention”) of Finding Favor, Brian Jones defines a Daniel 1:9 moment.  That’s when God changes a person’s mind about something.  For example, the beginning of the book of Daniel outlines the Babylonian king’s strategy for young Israelite leaders.  Hence, the king divested them of their identities by giving them new names.  Also, the young Israelites learned Babylonian literature as well as the language.  Finally, their diet consisted of the royal food and wine.

Of course, Pastor Jones notes, the chief official had no intention of accommodating Daniel’s request.  However, because God intervened at that moment and changed the official’s mind, he granted Daniel’s plea.  Furthermore, writing in The Highest Good, Oswald Chambers explains what bolstered Daniel’s death-defying appeal:

“The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

In conclusion, in the next post Pastor Jones explains the difference between praying and asking for God’s favor.

Today’s question: have you ever found yourself paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Bestowing his favor all around us”

Firmly anchored in Scripture, the final authority

“Scripture is the final authority, and our ability to hear God speaking to us is connected to our roots being firmly anchored in Scripture.  God is not speaking in a way that supersedes His written word or that adds to it, but He is speaking to us in a variety of ways.”- Banning Liebscher

Banning Liebscher continues Chapter 8 of Rooted as he observes that many people desire a word from the Lord.  But, Pastor Liebscher underscores, they don’t need a word from the Lord.  Rather, they need knowledge to carry the word they already possess.

Thus, Banning discusses four practical ways for us to carry the word and let it abide in our lives.  Today, the author presents, the first two ways.  Hence, you carry the word of the Lord by:

1.  Praying it.  When the Lord speaks, Pastor Liebscher exhorts, we must carry what He’s saying in prayer.  So, don’t lay down the word.  For the word of the Lord fuels your prayer life.  In addition, Banning posits, we need to do more than simply pray over things.  He believes we should use both what Christ’s said – and is saying – about what we pray over.

2.  Changing the way you talk.  Our language must align with God’s language.  Therefore, Banning emphasizes, when God speaks, we no longer have permission to speak our feelings.  Instead, we must talk in accordance with His message.  Furthermore, the author stresses:

“The Bible is very clear about what God thinks of us and the plans He has for us.  But for many of us, it does not change the way we talk.  We still allow our feelings to be what we speak from rather than what God has said.”

In conclusion, Banning reminds us, while our “feelings can be inconsistent, God’s Word never is.”

Today’s question: What keeps you firmly anchored in Scripture? Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Kick into preparation mode”

Pregnant with a word from the Lord

“When you’re pregnant with a word from the Lord, it might be months, years, or decades before the word comes full term and you can deliver it, but you have a responsibility to carry that word until then.  How you carry that word matters greatly.”- Banning Liebscher

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman who is deeply troubled . . . . I have been praying here out of my anguish and grief.”  Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”- 1 Samuel 1:15-17 (NIV)

In Chapter 8 (“What to Do When You’re Expecting”) of Rooted, Banning Liebscher states you’ll encounter the Lord speaking to you when you plant yourself in the inner room of prayer.  Therefore, when you’re pregnant with a word from the Lord, it’s time to start preparation for His word to come to pass.

However, Pastor Liebscher observes, many times we press in for things.  Yet, the Lord doesn’t give us what we desire at first.  Rather, He give us a word.  Many people, though, find themselves tripping up in this process. Because they don’t know how to carry God’s spoken words to them.  And when Hannah received words of comfort from Eli, she rose and shifted her focus.  While Hannah had yet to receive a child, she did receive a word.  Physically, nothing changed.  But, Hannah heard Eli’s words of compassion.  She craved affirmation.

In addition, looking at the original Greek of John 15:7, Banning notes that the word translated “words,” rhema, refers to something uttered by a living voice.  Thus, the author states, Jesus’ words include what He has said and what He is saying.  Also, the word “abide,” the Greek word men o, means “to be held, kept continually.”

Putting the two terms together, Pastor Liebscher observes, we find we first access the realm of faith as we draw close to Jesus and hear Him.  That includes what He spoke in Scripture as well as through what He speaks to us today.

In conclusion, we must do more than simply hear Jesus’s words.  As we hold and keep His words at all times, they abide in us.

Today’s question: What word from the Lord to you long to deliver?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Firmly anchored in Scripture”

The inner room – birthing your root system

“It’s in the inner room where you encounter His love for you, where your love for Him is ignited, and where a root system of love for God is born.”- Banning Liebscher

Banning Liebscher continues Chapter 7 of Rooted as he underscores that finding God is paramount.  Because abiding with God represents the first call on our lives.  Most noteworthy, before Jesus ever sent out His disciples, Pastor Liebscher notes, He first called them to be with Him.  Furthermore, it’s only through encountering the presence of God that you find satisfaction and experience why He called you.

Thus, the real question doesn’t center on your passion at corporate worship.  Rather, you must ask whether or not your heart’s alive with love for Christ when you’re alone.  Therefore, Banning explains the value of the inner room:

“When you stop living from your secret place, the temptation to be motivated by other things besides love for Jesus creeps in.  Encountering His love for you in the secret place is what keeps your heart burnig for your first love and keeps in place the priority of His  presence.  Be intentional about making sure your foundation is a life lived in the secret place with Jesus.”

As a result, Pastor Liebscher exhorts, plant your life in the secret place with God.  It’s the most strategic thing you can do.  For God doesn’t simply call us to work for Him.  In addition, He calls us to love Him with everything within us.  So, establish your life in the inner room of prayer.  In the process, through the Holy Spirit’s power, allow the Lord to meet you in your secret place.  There He develops your roots in hiding.  And, Banning states, it’s essential to have a hidden history with the Lord that no one else witnesses.

The author concludes:

“God reserves certain things to be found only in the secret place alone with Him.  If you want to receive them, you have to separate yourself to the inner room of prayer.”

Today’s question: How do you encounter God in your inner room?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God wants to ignite a mandate on your life:

Building a secret-place lifestyle

“Building a secret-place lifestyle like David’s is critical in our process with the Lord, because it is in our secret place that God meets with us and establishes the root system, the foundational elements, for the fruit that lasts.”-Banning Liebscher

“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father, who is in the secret place.”- Matthew 6:6 (NKJV)

In Chapter 7 (“Finding God”) of Rooted, Banning Liebscher discusses the first soil that develops trust and truth – the soil of intimacy.  Hence, he recounts his teenage attempt to make his mom’s chocolate chip cookies from scratch.  Since mom’s recipe seemed fairly basic, Banning anticipated no problems.  However, the finished product yielded dark brown, flat, big, and crunchy cookies. The problem? – Banning used baking soda instead of flour.

Consequently, Pastor Liebscher concludes, the foundation matters greatly:

“Whatever goes in at the beginning — the foundation — matters greatly because it affects the outcome.  God wants to build your foundation with the right ingredients and in the right order.  Your root-building system, your inner world, is a personal relationship with Him marked by intimacy, dependence, faith, and rest.  Where do you find those ingredients?  You find them in the secret place of prayer.”

Furthermore, God meets with us and establishes the foundational elements of our root system in our secret place.  In addition, as we draw near to God in prayer, our root system develops two vital things:

  1. the priority of love becomes the motivation of our life
  2. God reveals to us the story He’s unfolding on earth and anoints us for the part we’ll play in His plan

In conclusion, Banning recaps, finding God in the secret place is the first reason to develop a secret-place lifestyle.  After all, He’s waiting there for us!

Today’s question: What Bible verses assist you in building a secret-place lifestyle?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The inner room – birthing your love for God root system”

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”