A generally decreased capacity for bigness

“Many Christians . . . struggle to behold Christ’s glory because they have a generally decreased capacity for bigness in the first place.”- Jared C. Wilson

Jared Wilson continues Chapter 3 of The Imperfect Disciple as he discusses what we can do to help us behold better.  First, we must overcome our preoccupation with small things.  In fact, this leads to an inverted sense of measurement.  Therefore, big things seem to us small or familiar.  In contrast, small things become big to us in terms of time, attention, and energy.

Furthermore, our consumer-oriented culture, inundates us with all kinds of media.  As a result, the gospel seems quite one-note and familiar.  Thus, Jared advises, “don’t just do something, sit there.”  The author continues:

” . . . until we learn to simply sit there, to be still, to be settled, to look at the great big world around us, to consider with wonder all those incredible humans made in God’s image, to look at his endlessly fascinating creation in long steady concentration, we will continue in spiritual myopia and spiritual boredom.  When our vision is constantly occupied by small things, we are tempted to yawn more at the glory of God.”

Therefore, looking at big things increases our capacity to see big things.  This means you rest from the spaces over which you “rule” as acting sovereign.  Instead, you get out into spaces that palpably reflect Christ’s sovereignty.  As G. K. Beale says: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.”

In conclusion, Jared asserts, all this indicates one core issue – a worship problem (emphasis author’s).

Today’s question: What worldly things and messages created a decreased capacity for bigness in your faith life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Every day when you encounter God”

 

The little squall stirred up in a snow globe

“Within the spiritual ecosystem of God’s saving sovereignty, in fact, our struggle is like the little squall stirred up in a snow globe.  God is collecting all these little storms . . . doing something beautiful with us, and even in us and through us (emphasis author’s).”- Jared C. Wilson

“There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.”- Romans 8:1-3

In Chapter 1 (“Sin and the Art of Soul Maintenance”) of The Imperfect Disciple, Jared Wilson succinctly contrasts Romans 7 and 8.  He states:

“I’m engaged in the flesh before I even get my feet on the carpet.  And yet, right there beside me, laid out like the day’s outfit for school, are new mercies.”

Thus, Jared exhorts us, introduce the truth of Romans 8 to every dark place in your heart.  And make sure this happens as often, as much and as fiercely as you can.

Most importantly, this must happen every day.  why?  Because, the author observes, as long as we live on the other side of glory, there’s more sanctifying to go through.

In conclusion, Jared notes that the problem Romans 7 highlights needs the antidote Romans 8 presents.  Furthermore, Jared states, both the problem and the antidote reverberate throughout the Bible.  Also, Romans 7 and 8 help us to diagnose our real dysfunctions.  For deep down, we know our real problems don’t revolve around self-actualization, success, or happiness.

So, try as we might to address all these issues, we never feel quite fixed.

Today’s question: What beautiful thing has God done through your little snow globe squalls?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Refollowing Jesus every day”

Faith – the hallmark of providence

“It is impossible to please God apart from faith because faith is the hallmark of providence.”- Dr. Tony Evans

Dr. Tony Evans concludes Chapter 10 of Detours as he compares sovereignty and providence.  Dr. Evans explains:

Providence . . . expresses one of the key ways God demonstrates His sovereignty in connection with His intentional arrangement of people, circumstances, and events to achieve His sovereign purposes.  Sovereignty is God’s rule.  Providence is how God uses that rule to integrate, connect, attach, detach, arrange, and hook things up to facilitate His purposes.”

Therefore, sovereignty and luck cannot simultaneously exist.  As a result, one excludes the other.  If we opted to use the concept of luck to describe Joseph’s life, we’d say he rode a roller coaster of great and bad luck.  However, understanding the concept of providence assures us God put all things in place to work together for good in Joseph’s life.

Thus, when you attain understanding of providence- the subset of sovereignty- you begin to view life in a new way.  Dr. Evans writes:

“You . . . begin to rest when you used to fret . . . breathe easily when you used to worry . . . give thanks when you used to be filled with bitterness and regret.  To fully live out the victorious Christian life and experience the abundance Jesus Christ died to provide, you must live and look at the events of your life through the lens of providence.”

In conclusion, these specific aspects of God’s character provide a solid foundation.  With it, you can properly solve the complexities you encounter in life.  Furthermore, what shocks you never shocks God.  Finally, don’t express surprise when God doesn’t make sense. He’s not supposed to.  That’s why we need faith as we follow God.

Today’s question: How does your faith serve as a hallmark of providence?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Using the negative to produce a positive”

Two- inch events

“It’s two- inch events that change our trajectory.”- Mark Batterson

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth, and he determined the times set for them and the exact places they should live.”- Acts 17:26

Mark Batterson opens Chapter 5 (“The Game of Inches”) of Chase the Lion with the two- inch story of Ed Catmull.  In the summer of 1957, Ed, then twelve, accompanied his family on a cross-country auto trip to Yellowstone National Park.  Zigzagging on a canyon road with no guardrail, Ed’s dad swerved to avoid an oncoming car that had veered into his lane.

As a result, the Catmulls came within two inches of driving off the cliff.   In addition, that close call gave us films like Finding Nemo.  Why?  Because Ed grew up to be founder and president of Pixar Animation Studios.

Life, Pastor Batterson reminds us, is a game of inches.  Yet, God controls every one of those inches, as Mark confidently asserts:

“What I am sure of is this: God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time.  Of course, it often seems like the wrong place at the wrong time.  But like a grand master who strategically positions his pawns, bishops, kings, and queens, God is setting you up.”

Therefore, rather than placing your focus on meeting the right people, focus on becoming the right person.  When you do the right thing, day in and day out, God keeps His promises to you and orders your footsteps.  Even with two- inch events!

Today’s question: What two- inch events altered the trajectory of your desert, land between time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Equilibrium in God’s sovereignty”

 

Enthusiasm and grace

“Sovereignty paves a pathway of perspective that leads away from cynicism  and bitterness to enthusiasm and grace.”- Dr. Wayne Stiles

Wayne Stiles continues Chapter 9 of Waiting on God by stressing that God had many options at His disposal to deliver Joseph’s family from the famine.  For example, a good downpour of rain or preventing the famine altogether.  Merely saving lives, however, wouldn’t have changed lives (God’s goal).  God wants to make us into the individuals He wants us to be by changing our hearts.

Claiming omniscience resurfaces most often in our lives when we talk to God.  In addition, we supply Bible verses to back up our ideas.  Furthermore, we try to convince God how much better life would be if He honored our request.

But the Lord has plans for our plans, stemming from His infinite wisdom.  Therefore, factoring God’s sovereignty into every event becomes crucial.  Unless we have a firm belief in a sovereign God, we view ourselves as the prime cause of life’s events.  As a result, our perspective shrinks and we see God as distant, uninvolved, and irrelevant.

Most noteworthy, struggling and suffering at the hands of those who care nothing about us cannot prevent us from experiencing God’s sovereign plans.  In fact, those people who oppose us quite possibly become part of the process of fulfilling God’s plan for us.

Dustin Shramek offers this perspective in “Waiting for the Morning during the Long Night of Weeping” (Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor):

“Too often we allow ourselves the belief that a robust view of God’s sovereignty in all things means that when suffering comes it won’t hurt.  God’s sovereignty doesn’t take away the pain and evil that confront us in our lives, it works them for our good.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you respond to your current situation with enthusiasm and grace?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Obedience to the truth”

A spiritual vacuum in our hearts

“Part of waiting on God includes praising him that providence refuses to give us more . . . if getting more would actually create a spiritual vacuum in our hearts.”- Dr. Wayne Stiles

Wayne Stiles continues Chapter 8 of Waiting on God by commenting that “God’s love and protection come just as much from what he keeps as from what he gives.  In other words, God remains sovereign over every last detail of our lives.  Consequently, any problem with our situation or circumstance equates to a problem with God.

Therefore peace, including peace of mind, requires personal sacrifice.   Yet, Wayne wryly observes, we cling to baffling priorities no matter how old we get: “We find ourselves at the breaking point of something valuable because we refuse to release something trivial.”

God must be much more than a moral compass to guide our decisions.  Every event, even the bad ones, needs to be viewed through the filter of God’s sovereignty.  Furthermore, Dr. Stiles asserts, that may be the biggest lesson we learn from Joseph’s life.  Dr. Stiles expands that thought:

“Yes, he uses all things– even that one thing you think is an exception.  Honestly, he may us that one thing most of all in your life.”

Similarly, we get things backwards when we confuse God-ordained events as occurring purely as a result of our own doing.  Put another way, we view God as the effect and ourselves as the cause.

This type of thinking comes to a screeching halt when we find ourselves in a situation where we can do nothing.  Backed into a corner, Wayne notes, “we can come up with ten airtight reasons why sticking with God’s Word will flop.”

We create a spiritual vacuum in our hearts.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help fill the spiritual vacuum in your heart?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our impossible situations”

Preparation through pain

“Following God is not an escape from pain but a preparation through pain for a future made greater by it.”- Dr. Wayne Stiles

Dr. Wayne Stiles concludes Chapter 7 of Waiting on God by emphasizing that God’s will for our lives rarely follows a smooth path.  That’s because “when we refuse to trust and obey God, he waits for us to do so by allowing circumstances to compel us.”

Therefore, from the perspective of Jacob and his sons, the famine caused their problem.  From God’s perspective, however, the famine and its resultant circumstances revealed two much bigger problems.  Those problems – Jacob’s reluctance to trust God and his sons’ jealous and treacherous attitudes.

Most noteworthy, Dr. Stiles observes, God hasn’t changed His methodology:

“This type of wrenching experience does more than hurt us.  It frees us from the past where our fears have fenced us off from our potential.  These arduous events compel us to follow the Lord out of the gate and into the broad, open field of his unknown will.”

We must make this connection, just as Joseph did.  However, the problem comes when we define our doctrine as theists, but apply it to our lives as functional deists.  In other words, doctrinally we affirm God’s sovereignty and involvement in our lives.  But in the real world, our witness indicates we believe that God’s not involved enough.

When we try to escape the current struggle God has us in, we only run headlong into another struggle.  Running creates one effect- God replaces His agent of change.  But while you cannot transfer out of you, neither are you stuck.  As Dr. Stiles reminds us, “God really does offer change.”

Today’s question: How is preparation through pain providing for a greater future?  Please share.

Tomorrows’ blog: “Warning lights”

The hard facts of life-a means of God’s grace

“The hard facts of life, which knock some of the nonsense out of us, are God’s facts and his appointed school of character; they are not alternatives to His grace, but a means of it.”- Derek Kidner, Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary

And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin.  All this has come against me.”- Genesis 42:36 (ESV)

Dr. Wayne Stiles continues Chapter 7 of Waiting on God by noting that some of the pain we experience simply comes as part of living in a fallen world.  Quite often, however, God allows painful tests in our lives as warnings that something needs to change.  Usually, Wayne states,  “that something is us.”

Joseph’s father Jacob certainly needed to change.  Most noteworthy, take a look at Jacob’s explosive response to the Egyptian prime minister’s request for Benjamin’s presence.  Jacob moaned,  “All this has come against me.”   God set the stage for wrenching from Jacob the potential loss of his entire family.  Only then did Jacob concede and surrender to God’s sovereignty.

Therefore, our trust in God must be the thing we hold most dear.  As a result, Dr. Stiles stresses, “God requires more from us after he give us what we waited for.”

Specifically, God waits to see if we’ll be willing to give that blessing back.  In the New Testament, the original Greek utilizes two words for test:

  • dokimaizo– a test for the purpose of approval
  • peirazo– a test to show weakness of a point of failure; also translated ‘temptation’

Although occasions occur when it’s tough to discern the difference between a test and a temptation, Dr. Stiles counsels that our response should always- always- be consistent: obey God.

Today’s question: How have the hard facts of life been a means of God’s grace to you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Preparation through pain”

 

 

Faithfulness in obscurity

“God sees our faithfulness in obscurity as preparation for increasing influence.”- Dr. Wayne Stiles

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”- Galatians 6:9

In Chapter 6 (“The Opportunity of Obscurity”) of Waiting on God, Wayne Stiles states that while waiting on God, we really want to know when progress will happen.  However, God in His sovereignty determines that we only need to know what should occupy us in the meantime.

As a result, faithfulness in obscurity eventually leads to increasing influence- for which God alone gets the glory.  However, during times of obscurity, we mistakenly believe nothing important is happening to us.  Consequently, we implore God to remove us from our insignificance.

Consider Jesus’ words from The Parable of the Talents:

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.’ “- Matthew 25:21

Wayne reminds us that little things make big things.  For example, pennies make dollars and verses make Bibles.  Yet, unless we’re careful, we can fall into the trap of thinking that our insignificant actions matter little.  Furthermore, if we mess up, no big deal.  No one notices.  In addition, the world continues in orbit.  However, God notices.

French mathematician and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal perfectly expressed the contrast between great and little things:

“Lord, help me do great things as though they were little, since I do them with your powers.  And help me do little things as though they were great, because I do them in your name.”

Today’s question: How have you demonstrated faithfulness in obscurity following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A buffet lunch”

 

The proper time

“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.”- Psalm 145:15

Wayne Stiles concludes Chapter 4 of Waiting on God by noting that when the apostle Paul penned, “Love is patient,” he literally wrote, “Love is being patient.”  The original Greek word defines patience as a continual decision we make.

Therefore, although waiting on God seems passive, reality indicates otherwise.  In addition, Dr. Stiles explains:

“. . . waiting is a very active part of living.  Waiting on God, if we do it correctly, is anything but passive.  Waiting works its way out in very deliberate actions, very intentionally searching the Scriptures and praying, intense moments of humility, and self-realization of our finiteness.  With the waiting comes learning. . . . God made his creatures to live in dependence on their Creator. . . . Dependence demands waiting.”

Demanding instant gratification, even for good things, trivializes and overlooks the priceless worth of God’s sovereignty.  Consequently, Wayne states, “our faithfulness to God must find its motivation in our resolve, not its results.”

That’s because God often keeps quite about why he allows specific adversities in our lives.  Our sovereign God handles all our questions with ease.  However, we cannot handle all of His answers.  As a result, often God’s best answer to us is to say nothing.

Most noteworthy, God promises us His presence- a need far beyond our comprehension.  Even though we lack understanding, deep down we know that He understands.  Because He’s with us, that’s enough!

Today’s question: What Scriptures enable you to wait on God for the proper time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God’s goal for leading us”