Fighting the onslaught of fret

Dresden’s Frauenkirche after the 1945 bombing and today.

“God’s sovereignty bids us fight the onslaught of fret with the sword that is etched with the words but God.”- Max Lucado

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”- Proverbs 12:25 (ESV)

Between 13 and 15 February 1945, more than 1,200 British and American heavy bombers dropped high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on Dresden, Germany.  For two days, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), affiliated with the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony, withstood the attack.  Also, the church’s most distinctive feature, a 12,200 ton sandstone dome known as the “Stone Bell,” stood tall and strong.  However, at 10:00 am on 15 February, the dome collapsed.  Temperatures inside and surrounding the church reached 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit.  As a result, the eight pillars supporting the dome glowed bright red and exploded.  In addition, the updraft created by the incendiary devices produced hurricane-force winds.

But shortly after World War II ended, the people of Dresden began collecting and numbering stones from the rubble for future use.  Since some residents felt the ruins served as a necessary reminder of wars destructiveness, the massive pile of stones laid there for fifty years.  Others, though, considered the site and eyesore.  Time to move on.  Therefore, several years after Germany reunited, reconstruction began, using the original 1726 plans.  Workers finished the project in 2005, a year ahead of schedule.

Both blackened, original stones and modern, light-colored sandstones comprise the current façade of the Church of Our Lady.  This creates a mosaic of past and present.  Most noteworthy, a son of a British pilot who dropped bombs on Dresden made the golden cross that crowns the dome.

Today, the Frauenkirche interprets its reconstruction in the light of reconciliation.  In fact, John 20:21 provided the motto for the consecration on 30 October 2005 – “Peace be with you .”  On the other hand, author and pastor Max Lucado (Anxious for Nothing, Thomas Nelson, 2017) describes perpetual anxiety as “the mental alarm system that never turns off.”  Rather than viewing God as distant and removed, we must affirm that God existed before all things – that in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17, NIV).  For the whole universe collapses if God steps back.

Furthermore, to fight the onslaught of fret, we, like Joseph in Egypt, need to view life’s sufferings through the lens of divine providence.  Otherwise, Pastor Lucado, stresses, anxiety winds up stalking you every day of your life.  As with Joseph and his brothers, God used intended evil for ultimate good.  God’s resolute in His plan to carry, as well as sustain, creation to its purposed glory.

Hence, if the story of Joseph teaches us anything, it’s that we either wear our hurt or wear our hope.  Either we outfit ourselves in our misfortune, or we don the lace of God’s providence.  Pastor Lucado explains how to fight the onslaught of fret:

“Has God permitted a time of darkness in your world?  You look but cannot see him.  You see only the fabric of circumstances woven and interlaced.  You might question the purpose behind this thread or that.  But be assured, God has a pattern.  He has a plan.  He is not finished, but when he is, the lace will be beautiful.”

A child of the King – the front of the line

“As a child of the King, you are at the front of the line.  You, at any moment, can turn to God.”- Max Lucado

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”- Philippians 4:6

In Chapter 6 (“Prayer, Not  Despair”) of Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado notes that when people pray, peace happens.  Next, Pastor Lucdo cites The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-6) – a parable of contrast, not comparison.  Thus, this parable doesn’t depict prayer as a matter of pestering God until He breaks down and gives us what we want.

Rather, although the judge growled, complained, and murmured, in the end he rendered a just decision.  Therefore, God certainly gives justice to His chosen people, who cry out to Him day and night.  Also, the parable placed the widow at the bottom of the pecking order.  However, as a child of the King, you stand at the front of the line.  At any given moment, you can turn to God.

Thus, in Philippians 4:6, the apostle Paul calls us to take action against anxiety.  Up to this point, he’d been reassuring us of God’s character – His sovereignty, mercy, and presence.  Now, we need to affirm this belief as we choose prayer over despair.  For when people pray, peace happens.

Furthermore, Pastor Lucado calls our attention to the terms prayer, supplication, and requests.  While the terms possess similar connotations, they’re not identical.  Max explains:

  • prayer – a general devotion that includes worship and adoration
  • supplication – suggest humility; supplicants make no demands, simply offer humble requests
  • request – a specific petition; you pray the particulars of your problems

Today’s question: What Bible verses remind you that you’re a child of the King?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Casting anxiety in the direction of Christ”

Open doors and closed doors – a package deal

“One of the promises of Scripture I pray most frequently is Revelation 3:7, and let me note up front that it’s a package deal.  You can’t pray for open doors without accepting closed doors.  After all, one usually leads to the other.”- Mark Batterson

“These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.  What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”- Revelation 3:7

Mark Batterson continues Chapter 7 of Whisper as he talks about the subject of open and closed doors.  The author compares the will of God to the iconic opening to the classic television series Get Smart.  As the program opens, Maxwell Smart walks through a series of doors before he finally enters CONTROL headquarters in Washington, D. C.

Similarly, Mark observes, we walk through a door, thinking it’s our final destination.  But, it’s actually a door leading to a door that leads to another door.  Most noteworthy, Pastor Batterson underscores, opening and closing doors provides on of the most mysterious and miraculous ways in which God reveals His sovereignty.

Furthermore, Jesus opens impossible doors and leads us to impossible places.  As Mark stresses, it’s one of the ways Jesus whispers.  And God has reasons beyond human reason, resources beyond human resources.

Someday, Pastor Batterson believes, we’ll thank God for closed doors as much as we readily thank Him for open doors.  Yes, closed doors slam in our faces.  And we fail to understand why they closed.  However, Mark adds, closed doors = expressions of God’s prevenient grace.  In addition, sometimes closed doors:

  • come in the form of failure
  • are checks from the Holy Spirit that keep us from walking through doors in the first place

Either way, Pastor Batterson emphasizes, “God sometimes shows the way by getting in the way.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you accept open and closed doors as a package deal?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Perceived detours and delays set up divine appointments

The sovereignty of God – past our pay grade

“The sovereignty of God is way past our pay grade.  Instead of spending all our energy trying to figure out the future, you need to focus on doing the right thing, right here, right now.”- Mark Batterson

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 4 of Whisper, he affirms his belief in God’s ability to speak audibly.  Yet, more often than not, Mark notes, God speaks in “sign language.”  In fact, Pastor Batterson adds, God speaks via sign language in Scripture.  That’s our precedent as well as part and parcel of living a Spirit-led life.  Thus, if we ignore God’s sign language in our life, we:

  • miss the miracle
  • become unwitting accomplices to the Enemy’s schemes

Furthermore, there’s no limit to God’s ability to speak in signs.  However, God generally speaks through divine appointments and divine timing.  Pastor Batterson refers to them as supernatural synchronicities.  In addition, Mark, without apology,  believes God strategically positions us in the right place at the right time with the right people.

Most noteworthy, God never leads us to do something contrary to His good, pleasing, and perfect will revealed in Scripture.  But, Scripture doesn’t reveal the logistics- where we should go or what we should do.  While Scripture give us the guidelines, the Holy Spirit is our Guide.

In conclusion, Mark asserts, to grow in the likeness of God entails better stewardship of language.  And that includes both speaking and listening.  Plus, hearing the voice of God starts with “longing to hear, loving to listen.”

Sooner or later, most people settle for secondhand spirituality.  But we must not substitute listening to those who listen to God for seeking Him ourselves.  Mark defines spiritual codependency as reliance upon others for inspiration.  As Pastor Batterson exhorts, “God wants to speak to you.”

Today’s question: How does the sovereignty of God far surpass your pay grade?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Bibliolatry – the Bible as an end in itself”

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”