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”

 

Define your dream

“Define your dream.  Claim your promise.  Spell your miracle.”- Mark Batterson

As Mark Batterson continues Chapter 3 of The Circle Maker, he references Matthew’s account of “Jesus Heals Two Blind Men” (Matthew 20:29-34).   When two blind men sitting on the roadside outside of Jericho hailed Jesus, the disciples saw it as human interruption.  Jesus, however, viewed it as a divine appointment.

The key to Jesus’ encounter with the two blind men is the pointed question Jesus asked them: “What do you want me to do for you?”  Mark states Jesus was forcing the men to define precisely what they wanted from Him- to verbalize their desire.  That is where drawing prayer circles begins.  You have to know what to circle.

What, Pastor Batterson wonders, if Jesus were to ask you that exact question: What do you want me to do for you?  Could you define your dream?  Mark describes the crux of the problem: “So while God is for us, most of us have no idea what we want God to do for us.”

The answer to Jesus’ question changes over time.  Different seasons of life require different miracles.  Rather than simply reading the Bible, Mark emphasizes that we need to start circling the promises.  Rather than compiling a wish list, compose a list of God-glorifying life goals.

Today’s question: What concrete steps do you need to take to define your dream?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Nuanced prayers”

Identifying your Jericho

“Drawing prayer circles begins with identifying your Jericho.”- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson begins Chapter 3 (“The Jericho Miracle”) of The Circle Maker by stating that prayer is something people instinctively do when facing a challenge far beyond their ability.  Pastor Batterson has no doubt the Israelites were praying as they silently circled Jericho.

Even though God had promised something impossible and had a nonsensical battle plan (from a human perspective), Jericho stands- and falls- as a testimony to the simple truth that if you keep circling the promise, ultimately God will deliver on it.

The miracle at Jericho, Mark encourages, challenges us to confidently  circle the promises God has given to us.  The first step, then, to drawing prayer circles begins with identifying your Jericho:

“You’ve got to define the promises God wants you to stake claim to, the miracles God wants you to believe for, and the dreams God wants you to pursue.  Then you need to keep circling until God gives you what He wants and He wills.  That’s the goal.”

The problem is, Pastor Batterson notes, that most of us don’t get what we want for the simple reason that we don’t know what we want.  As Mark writes: “Instead of drawing circles, we draw blanks.”

That is why identifying your Jericho is essential!

Today’s question: Has your ministry downsizing or vocation loss led you to reassess identifying your Jericho?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog:  the new Short Meditation, “No longer a slave”

 

No falling words

“No Falling Words” is the title of Chapter 15 of Glory Days.  Max Lucado states the theological heart of Joshua is: God keeps His word!  In Joshua 21:45 we read: “Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel.  All came to pass.”

Yet, we live in a world of falling words- broken promises, empty vows, retracted pledges.  Words, however, then to tumble.  Max describes such words as “autumn leaves in November’s wind.”  Promised Land people believe God’s promises and choose faith, as Pastor Lucado explains:

“And Promised Land people risk the choice.  When forced to stand at the crossroads of belief and unbelief, they choose belief.  They place one determined step after the other on a pathway of faith.  Seldom with a skip, usually with a limp.  They make a conscious decision to step toward God, to lean into hope, to heed the call of heaven.  They press into the promises of God.”

When fears surface or when doubts arise, Max encourages you to press into God’s promises and respond with this thought: But God said . . . .  As God’s promises settle over you, you will choose the path of peace even though everything around you tempts you to panic.  Take hold of God’s promises.  They are no falling words.

Today’s question: How can you prepare yourself to stand firm and choose faith when hard times inevitably come?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God fights for you”