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?”

God is still pursuing you – to love you

“God is still pursuing you after you’ve placed your faith in Him — not to burden you with more tasks on the to-do list or to whip you into shape, but to love you.  He pursues you with an intensity that can breathe life into you.”- Jud Wilhite

In Chapter 1 (“Dare to Pray Like You’re Loved”) of Your Powerful Prayers, Susie Larson states that, through the gift of prayer, God invites you into a two-way conversation.  Furthermore, it’s unutterably sweet to know that our Heavenly Father knows us completely.

Writing in The Knowledge of the Holy (1961), A. W. Tozer explains that our Heavenly Father:

” . . . knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us. . . . His only-begotten Son, when He walked among us, felt our pains in their naked intensity of anguish.  His knowledge of our afflictions and adversities is more than theoretic; it’s personal, warm, and compassionate.  Whatever my befall us, God knows and cares as no one else can.”

As a result, understanding God wired us to partner with Him in a way that fits our unique style mobilizes us.  And so we pray.  Specifically, Ms. Larson exhorts us to pray like there’s a God in heaven who hears our prayers and answers when we call.  Because our God truly does all those things!

In conclusion, Susie reminds us, prayer functions as much more than just a vehicle to get what we want from God.  Prayer:

  • (first and foremost) connects us to the One who loves our soul
  • links us in fellowship with the Most High God
  • fosters intimacy with His purposes here on earth

Today’s question: How is God still pursuing you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “When we see the rainbow, the shower’s over”

To neglect communion with God

“Some things may be neglected with but little loss to the spiritual life, but to neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it.”- A. W. Tozer

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”- Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)

In John Eldredge’s foreword to Susie Larson’s book  Your Powerful Prayers, he compares giving up on prayer to a solder laying down his arms in the midst of a firefight.  Prayer, Mr. Eldredge adds, “is something you grow into, something you mature in and get better at over time.”  In addition, John adds that prayer’s far more like learning to drive than sneezing.

Thus, as Ms. Larson notes in her introduction, Jesus wants us to be comfortable with, as well as undone by His great love for us. As a result, God’s love and acceptance of us has everything to do with prayer.  Furthermore, Jesus invites us to:

  • know Him more intimately
  • walk with Him more profoundly
  • trust in His Word more confidently

Most importantly, Ms. Larson exhorts, as we get to know God’s love, our life spills with grace, insight, and power.  The author explains:

“If we want to be powerful in prayer, we must spend our lives learning to accept and embrace how fiercely God loves us.  We must continually stand in awe of the fact that Jesus defeated death and sin for us.  And then from there, live our whole lives in response to what Jesus has already accomplished for us.  This is what it means to stop striving and to know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).”

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, what circumstances cause(d) you to neglect communion with God?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, ”

Tomorrow’s blog: “That place where joy and faith collide”

Difficult people in our life – become the best version of you

“We all have difficult people in our life, but hear this: God can use them to help you become the best version of you — maybe even more than the people you like.”- John Ortberg

In Chapter 18 (“Find a Few Difficult People to Help You Grow”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg observes that other people don’t create your spirit.  In fact, if God desires to grow some quality in you, He may bring someone into your life who tempts you to behave the opposite way.

Although we always hope God plans on giving us a life without difficult people, God used difficult people to mold many great Biblical characters.  For example, Moses had Pharaoh and David had Saul.  Pastor Ortberg explains:

“If God loves you and wants to shape you, he will send some difficult people your way.  But take heart.  You are the difficult person he is sending to shape somebody else.  If we can learn to have rivers of living water still flowing through us in these relationships, we will be unstoppable.”

Furthermore, John notes, people impact our lives in one of two ways.  The either energize us or drain us.  Life-bringers:

  • increase our energy
  • deepen our hope
  • add to our joy
  • call out the best in us

In contrast, life-drainers (a) add to our anxiety and (b) invite us to cynicism.  As a result, we find ourselves becoming defensive, depressed, or exasperated.

Since only God can touch the deepest place of another’s soul, prayer provides the only way to influence people at their deepest level.  In prayer, John states, we go with God into another person’s soul.  The space between you and your enemy = the space where love grows.  And love is the only way to live.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg tells us there’s a quarter-second gap between when an impulse takes place in your brain and when that action takes place in your body.  That’s enough time for the Holy Spirit to take control.  Remember, every difficult person is a real person with their own story.

Today’s question: Do you surround yourself with life-energizers or life-drainers?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “When you discover your strengths”

Being alone with God – fully yourself

“Being alone with God, you can fully be yourself.”- John Ortberg

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”- Matthew 6:6

In Chapter 15 of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg states God wants to give us sanctuary.  Yet, we all prefer a unique way to experience God’s presence when we’re alone.

Commenting on Matthew 6:6, Pastor Ortberg suggests the room Jesus refers to might be a supply room- certainly not a private bedroom.  The supply room held food and tools or a few small animals. Thus, the supply room = the most humble room in a humble house.

When Jesus was baptized, Luke tells us, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus as He prayed.  Hence, John notes, the flow of the Spirit connects closely to prayer.  Consequently, Jesus desired to pray when He:

  • felt crowded and drained by life
  • faced important choices
  • felt sad or frightened
  • needed strength for His work
  • worried about people He loved
  • faced an insurmountable problem

Therefore, when we desire to pray much, or deeply, we must move from what we think we should do toward what we want to do.

For Jesus, prayer energized, rather than drained, Him.  As we see God’s face shining on us, the same holds true for our prayer life.  Just as you gain energy when you meet with your best earthly friend, God wants to meet with us in the same way.

As Pastor Ortberg reminds us, prayer, more than any other single activity, places us in the flow of the Spirit.

Today’s question: What prayer ‘room’ fosters your ability to be alone with God – fully yourself?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our capacity for connectedness”

God – the constant gracious listener

“God is the constant gracious listener to our every thought, and prayer begins when we bring what we most naturally think about before God.”- John Ortberg

“But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”- Philippians 4:6 (ESV)

As John Ortberg concludes Chapter 11 of The Me I Want to Be, he explains the goal of prayer.  But first, he stresses that the goal of prayer is not to:

  • get good at praying, as many people think
  • try to set new records for how much time one spends praying

Rather, Pastor Ortberg underscores, “the goal of prayer is to live all of my life and speak all of my words in joyful awareness of the presence of God (italics author’s).”

For example, John observes, Jesus lived His everyday life constantly aware of His Father.  As a result, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,  He began by ‘looking up to pray (John 11:41, paraphrased).”  Unlike today, when many people close their eyes to pray, people in Jesus’ day commonly prayed with their eyes open.

In conclusion Pastor Ortberg notes his personal prayer tendency.  Although John ends up praying for things he thinks he should pray about, his mind wanders toward the stuff he genuinely cares about.  Thus, the way to let talking flow into praying involves praying what is in you.  John explains that praying what’s in you is and “in everything” kind of prayer.  Therefore, he doesn’t:

  • first clean up his motives
  • present a false spirituality
  • pray what ought to be in him

Today’s question: How’s Jesus proven Himself the constant gracious listener in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Real freedom = internal freedom”

A ‘stained-glass’ image of prayer

“Countless people . . . have such a ‘stained-glass’ image of prayer that they fail to recognize what they are experiencing as prayer and so condemn themselves for not praying.”- Richard Foster, Prayer (1992)

In  Chapter 11 (“Let Your Talking Flow Into Praying”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg asks, “How is your prayer life?”  Hence, John wonders if you measure the state of your prayer life by how:

  • long you pray or how often
  • many people you’re praying for
  • much faith you’re praying with
  • many prayers get answered

Yet, Pastor Ortberg asserts, your belief in God means you’ve already entered into dialogue (prayer) with Him.  Because, when you believe in God, you believe He’s always present and listening to what you say.

However, Pastor Ortberg observes, we often hide our real heart when speaking to someone or in front of someone.  As John describes, there’s a dynamic at work in your body that manages what you say in the light of that person’s presence.

In contrast, the reality of God’s presence means we never speak or act in His absence.  Furthermore, at times God allows us to feel as if we’re apart from Him.  John offers his thinking on why God allows this:

” . . . God doesn’t want forced compliance.  God is so immense that if he were ‘too visible,’ people would give forced compliance without expressing their heart.  So God makes it possible, in enormous love, for us to live as if he were not there.”

That, in turn, allows us to shift away from a ‘stained-glass’ image of prayer.

Today’s question:  Have you ever envisioned a ‘stained-glass’ image of prayer?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God – the constant gracious listener”

Listening to God on behalf of another

“Listening to God on behalf of another may be one of the greatest gifts we can offer each other in the body of Christ.”- John Eldredge

In the Fall section of Walking with God, John Eldredge states a really, really helpful place to begin prayer involves asking God what to pray.  Too many times, John adds, we just jump in and start praying.  However, making prayer speeches to God has little effect.  If we do this for a while, John notes, we’ll get the impression that:

  • prayer doesn’t really work
  • God isn’t in it

But, the author stresses, prayer works and God’s in it- when we pray effectively.  When we pray according to God’s will, He promise to hear us (1 John 5:14-15).  And God answers our prayers.

Sometimes, though, we react in a way that’s way out of proportion to a given situation.  As a result, our overreaction makes it difficult to hear the voice of God.  Yet, it’s an important sign that other factors play into the situation.  Those factors include:

  1. God’s possibly using the situation to surface deeper issues we need to process
  2. Satan’s up to something
  3. Both

Therefore, when helping another human being, we must treat the cause rather than the symptoms.  Most importantly, as you keep an eye out for what’s going on in a hurting person’s heart, use your radar to alert you of Enemy activity.  Satan wants to prevent help from coming.

In conclusion, John cautions, when you intervene on behalf of another, be on guard not to make the same agreements as the person you’re helping.  For you will (emphasis John’s) be tempted to make those same agreements.

As a result, we return to holiness.  Mr. Eldredge provides the reason to pursue holiness.  He writes:

“This gives us a new reason to pursue holiness — we might not always be able to rouse ourselves to fight the battle on our own behalf, but we may find deeper resolve when it comes to loving others.  Don’t give way, don’t surrender.  You are needed.”

Today’s question: When have you had the chance to be listening to God on behalf of others?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Called up to the real thing”