The case for God’s dependability

“From the first chapter of Scripture, the Bible makes a case for the dependability of God.   Nine times the text reiterates ‘God said.’  And without exception when God spoke, something happened.  Something wonderful happened. . . .  The reader is left with one conclusion: God’s word is sure.  What he says happens.”- Max Lucado

“Let the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.  For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”- Psalm 33:8-9 (NIV)

As Max Lucado continues Chapter 1 of Unshakable Hope, he comments on Matthew’s account of The Faith of the Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13).  Therefore,  Pastor Lucado notes that Jesus applauded the faith of the centurion.  Why?  Because the man believed in Jesus’ power to keep His word.  In fact, Max asserts, Matthew’s account gives us Jesus’ definition of faith: faith is the deeply held belief that God will keep his promises.

Consequently, the Roman soldier understood the simple truth that God not only won’t, but cannot break His promises.  Also, God writes His irrevocable promises in granite because He is:

  • unchanging– the unexpected never catches God off guard.  He never makes midcourse corrections.  As we read in James 11:17 (NLT)- “He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”
  • faithful– we can trust God to keep His promises.
  • strong – as Max states, God does not “overpromise and underdeliver.”
  • unable to lie – Hebrews 6:18 tells us that it’s impossible for God to lie.  Not unlikely or improbable.  Impossible!  Hence, Scripture’s quite forthright on this subject.

In conclusion, Pastor Lucado reasons that if good people are serious about keeping their word, how much more serious is our good God?  Thus, the question isn’t whether God will keep His promises.  Rather, will we build our lives upon them?

Today’s question: For you, what Bible verses make the case for God’s dependability?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Ponder, pray, and proclaim God’s promises”

Get into God’s Word – so His Word gets into you

“One way or another, get into God’s Word so His Word gets into you.  Then the Holy Spirit can quicken it when and where and how He wants.”- Mark Batterson

“My soul cleaveth unto the dust; quicken thou me according to they word.”- Psalm 119:25 (KJV)

As Mark Batterson continues Chapter 5 of Whisper, he discusses a transitive property at play in God’s promises.  Just as God transferred a promise He originally made to Moses to Joshua, Mark asserts, God transfers His promises to us.  Pastor Batterson maintains:

” . . . remember what 2 Corinthians 1:20 says: ‘No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”  If you’re in Christ, all God’s promises belong to  you.  Each one has your name on it, and the Spirit will quicken different promises at different times.  It’s one of the ways God whispers.”

Of course, when Christ returns, the Spirit of God quickens our bodies.  But, Pastor Batterson reminds us, the Spirit also quickens in other ways.  Sometimes it’s:

  • a thought that fires across our synapses
  • a prompting to step up, step in , or step out in faith
  • speaking the right word at the right time
  • a verse of Scripture that jumps off the page and into our spirits

In addition, Mark likens the quickening of the Holy Spirit to a truth bomb implanted in your heart, mind, and spirit.  As a result, when you hide God’s Word in your heart, you never know when the Holy Spirit might ignite it.  And, Mark encourages, that’s a good thing!

Therefore, whatever method you choose, get into God’s Word. Hence, in the process, His Word gets into you.

Today’s question:  What’s your favorite way to get into Scripture?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The Bible – a spiritual sonogram”

Do the next right thing – knowing what you ought to do

“Do the next right thing  you know you ought to do. . . . Nothing will drive you into the Kingdom of God like trying to do the next thing that is right. . . because you will need help, and you will get it, because that’s where God is (emphasis author’s).”- Dallas Willard

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 7 of I’d Like You More . . .  as he cites political theorist Hannah Arendt.  Writing in The Human Condition (1958), Hannah states that the very commitments we fear restrict us end up defining us:

” Without being bound to the fulfillment of our promises, we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each [person’s] lonely heart.”

Thus, even when we blow a commitment, God keeps His vow to us.  At the cost of the cross where Jesus died, God gives us His grace.  Even when we fail and fall down.

As Dallas Willard once said in conversation with Pastor Ortberg, do the next right thing.  In addition, the beauty of doing the next right thing centers on the fact that often we’re unable to do it.  As a result, that realization drives us to seek God.  And, rest assured, we will find Him.  However, we first need an honest approach to our intentions.

In conclusion, G. K. Chesterton encourages us to be all in with Jesus.  As he ends his essay ” A Defence of Rash Vows,” G. K. states:

“All around us is the city of small sins, abounding in backways and retreats, but surely, sooner of later, the towering flame will arise from the harbor announcing that the reign of the cowards is over, and a man is burning his ships.”

Today’s question: How’s God helping you to do the next right thing?  Please share.

Coming Monday:  the new Christmas Short Meditation, “Mighty Lord of all Creation”

Tomorrow’s blog: “People need a sense of belonging”

Time to reframe our disappointments

“It’s time to reframe our disappointments in light of God’s promises.  It’s time to face our battles with courage in light of God’s power.”- Susie Larson

In Chapter 8 (“Dare to Pray From Victory”) of Your Powerful Prayers, Susie Larson asserts that our gaze often pulls to the object of our fears.  As we listen to Satan’s taunts, we freeze in our tracks.  Next, the fears we stare at in front of us actually get in us.  However, we become downright dangerous when we rise up in Christ’s authority and entrust ourselves to His care.

Furthermore, no matter how big Satan gets in the face of our fears, he can’t turn a lie into the truth.  Ms. Larson summarizes:

“There’s something powerful about rising up in the strength of the Lord and declaring to your soul and to your enemy that Jesus is your strong tower, your shelter against the foe, your defender, deliverer, and mighty God.  His strength and power inhabits your soul!  You have Him!  You have His power.  And you have His promises.”

In reality, Ms. Larson underscores, here’s the truth.  As heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, we possess certain privileges.  We have Christ’s:

  1. presence – where we find fullness of joy
  2. promises – Christ’s faithful, true promises change everything for Christ-followers
  3. power – the same power that raised Christ from the dead

In conclusion, Susie exhorts, now’s the time to “reframe our disappointments in light of God’s promises.”  Writing in Risky Gospel, Owen Strachan states:

“God doesn’t want His people to be fearful, but faithful.  He’s not trying to cool us down, but heat us up.  Yet, biblical faith isn’t reckless or careless.  It is trusting, confident, and fearless because it’s grounded in Almighty God.”

Today’s question: What favorite Bible verse helps your reframe your disappointments in light of God’s love?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Often we thwart God’s interventions”

Learning to hear the voice of God

“In learning to hear the voice of God, one thing is certain — if you cannot hear a ‘no,’ you will have a hard time hearing from God at all or believing that what you think you’ve heard is in fact from God.”- John Eldredge

As John Eldredge begins the Winter section of Walking with God, he presents two crucial concepts necessary for hearing the voice of God.  John states that hearing God:

  1. requires surrender, giving all things over into His hands
  2. not abandoning your desires, but giving them over to God

Romans 4:21 tells us Abraham based his faith on a clear and specific promise of God.  John observes that the passage states that “God had the power to do what He had promised.”  Thus, John notes, when it comes to our faith, we must be careful that our earnest hopes and desires don’t lead us to claim a promise God hasn’t given.

Furthermore, no matter how hard our adversity hits us, those adversities don’t have to be brutal and lonely.  Most importantly, accept the grace of God when it comes!

However, we must remain aware that Satan loves to act as an opportunist.  Mr. Eldredge explains:

“He is always looking for open doors, opportunities, a chink in the armor.  He’ll seize what might otherwise simply be an event- an argument, an emotion, a loss- and he’ll use it as an entrée for his lies, deceit, and oppression.”

Thus, even in moments of tenderness and sorrow, we can’t drop our guard.  While that seems unfair, Satan never plays fair!   In that way, we remain free to bring our hearts to God sans Enemy interference.

Today’s question: What Scriptures assist you in learning to hear the voice of God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Worship language – or the living God?”

Remembering- a bold action

“Remembering is not a passive reflection, but a bold action of calling God’s truth into the present.”- Esther Fleece

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”- Proverbs 3:5-6

As Esther Fleece concludes Chapter 8 of No More Faking Fine, she reminds us of the beauty of lament.  Lament involves “unedited, unfiltered real talk that allows God to meet us right where we are.”   Therefore, when we feel like God’s forgotten us or left us behind, we’re able to openly express those feelings.

Then, the next step is to remind God of His promises to us.  Obviously, God remembers His promises.  Thus, reminding God benefits us, as Esther notes:

“But reminding God of the promises He has made helps us remember them and reassures us that He can be trusted to keep them. . . . Remembering is an active tool to reignite our faith.  As we wait on Him, He actively renews the strength necessary for us to persevere.”

The Hebrew language uses active tense verbs for “remember” (zakar) and “not forget” (lo shakach).  So, our intentional practice of remembering “leads our hearts into thankfulness for the past and hope for the future.”

In conclusion, Esther encourages us to dive into Scripture during those times we feel God’s forgotten us.  Reading Scripture provides a great opportunity to refresh our memory of God’s character and promises.  Esther writes:

“God’s promises are energizing; they give us courage, and courage helps us to get moving to do what needs to get done.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you make remembering a bold action?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Forgiveness- our invitation to process the pain”

Bold predictions

“God has made some bold predictions about you- they’re called promises.”- Mark Batterson

In Chapter 22 (“Bold Predictions”) of If, Mark Batterson highlights the fact that what if starts with bold predictions.  Yet, dreams lacking deadlines often turn into if only regrets.  And if you are big enough to accomplish your dream, your dream isn’t big enough for God.

Nor can you just sit back, wait, and twiddle your thumbs.  You have to prove yourself to God in the little things.  Mark explains that God’s faithfulness is not a theological crutch or an excuse for less effort:

“God is setting up divine appointments, but you have to keep them.  God is the gift giver, but you have to fan them into flame.  God is calling, but you have to answer God.  God is ordering your footsteps, but you have to keep in step with the Spirit.  And God is preparing good works in advance, but you need to carpe diem.”

Pastor Batterson defines faith as “the ability to see possibilities where others see impossibilities.”  Such faith will shape your future.  And it is never too late for you to become what you might have been.  Mark is confident God hasn’t given up on you because you still are breathing.  God always delivers on His promises:

“The resurrection is the down payment on every promise.  If God makes good on that prediction, what are you worried about?  God does not overpromise or underdeliver.  If we meet the conditions, He always exceeds expectations.”

Today’s question: What bold predictions do you feel led to make following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Reconditioned”

The historian’s favorite question

“It’s been said that what if is the historian’s favorite question.”- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 1 of If by observing that history, as well as Scripture, if full of what ifs.  In fact, there is a branch of history, counterfactual theory, that asks what if questions.  Mark believes counterfactual theory and thinking is a healthy exercise for all of us.  He states that counterfactual thinking is:

a.  a critical dimension of goal setting and decision making.

b.  thinking outside the box.

c.  going against the grain.

d.  the divergent ability to reimagine alternatives.

Pastor Batterson previously wrote that neuroimaging shows that our cognitive center of gravity shifts from the imaginative right brain to the logical left brain as we age.  If we start living out of memory and stop living out of imagination, we stop living by faith and start living by logic.

Mark believes that each of us is our own historian:

“It’s God who ordains our days, orders our steps, and prepares good works in advance.  But we have to be students of our own history, including our if only regrets. We have to learn the lessons and leverage the mistakes.  We have to connect the dots between cause and effect.  And we have to reimagine our future through the frame of God’s promises.”

In this book, Mark Batterson unpacks the promises of Romans 8.  Martin Luther called Romans 8 “the clearest gospel of them all.”  Mark notes that the 10 ifs in Romans 8 add us to infinite possibilities.  He adds that the touchstone of the chapter is verse 31.  Verse 31 is the lynchpin on which the chapter turns: “If God is for us, who can be against us.”

Mark’s prayer for his readers is: “May you fall in love with the God of what if all over again!”

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, have you primarily been living by logic or by faith?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the Annotated Bibliography of Moving Mountains

The greatest moments in life

“The greatest moments in life are the moments when God intervenes on our behalf and blesses us way beyond what we expect or deserve.”- Mark Batterson

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 9 of The Circle Maker, he reminds us there is nothing God loves more than keeping His promises.  Praying hard is standing on God’s promises.  Pastor Batterson emphasizes that “when we stand on His word, God stands by His word.  His word is His bond.”

Mark observes that we experience problems when we doubt ourselves, which in turn leads to doubting God.  We don’t ask God to extend His hand to us because we don’t know or don’t trust His heart.  Pastor Batterson states God wants to bless us far more than we want to be blessed.  Mark describes the heart of our heavenly Father:

“He can hardly wait to keep His promises.  He can hardly wait to perform His word.  He can hardly wait to answer our prayers.  And when we simply take Him at His word, He can hardly contain His joy.”

Pastor Batterson cites his favorite verse in the twenty-third psalm (Psalm 23:6)- “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”  He notes that follow isn’t a strong enough translation.  The word follow is a hunting term in Hebrew.  The psalmist is saying that God is hunting us down to bless us.

Mark writes that he prays for the favor of God more than anything else.  He defines God’s favor as “what God does for you that you cannot do for yourself.”  When God blesses us beyond what we expect or deserve, it’s a humble reminder of His sovereignty.

Today’s question: Describe the greatest moments in your life and how they help you to stand on God’s promises.  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “He makes provision”


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”