Knowing God’s name – personal knowledge and encounter

“Intimacy and dependence come only through personal knowledge and encounter. . . .  Knowing God’s name means knowing Him personally and knowing His nature.”- Banning Liebscher

“And those who know your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.”- Psalm 9:10

Banning Liebscher continues Chapter 3 of Rooted as he notes many of the truest tests we face in life involve a game of inches.  In other words, these tests reveal our response to the little things that hurt, disappoint, or scare us.  However, Pastor Liebscher cautions, Satan loves to sow doubt in our little cracks of vulnerability.  Just as grass seeds find their way into sidewalk cracks, Satan’s seeds put down roots that chew away at our foundation.  Also, they compromise our ability to withstand bigger tests.

Thus, to build an unshakable trust in God and pass your truest tests, you must allow Him to teach you intimacy and dependence.  Only personal knowledge and encounter assist this process.  Yet, Banning notes, God doesn’t expect us to build trust in Him:

  • blindly, without knowing His character
  • based solely on what we’ve heard about Him

Hence, through the power of the Holy Spirit, trust gets built with personal knowledge.

In conclusion, Pastor Liebscher stresses we must follow God’s lead to a place where we come to know His voice.  Banning explains:

“Hearing His voice is what brings us life.  When we don’t hear His voice, our hearts and spirits starve to death.  We must set up our lives so we are always tuning to His voice.  He wants to give us strength and assurance. . . .  to know that He is with us and that we’re going to be okay.  His voice is going to get us through the process.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures, hymns, or Christian songs deepen your knowing God’s name?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Where w confront our deepest fears and longings”

Places of weakness and vulnerability

“He [God] know our deepest fears and longings better than anyone, and He is supremely confident that these places of weakness and vulnerability are where He can prove Himself trustworthy to us.”- Banning Liebscher

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, is whom I will trust.”- Psalm 18:2 (NKJV)

In Chapter 3 (“The Trust Factor”) of Rooted, Banning Liebscher underscores that God primarily pursues our trust as He develops our root system.  Thus, every key to thriving in the root-building process requires the same crucial factor: trust.  Conversely, Pastor Liebscher notes, anything we do to avoid cooperating with God denotes an act of mistrust.

Furthermore, God not only builds that trust through the process – trust also gets us through the process.  In addition, the author states, trust consists of two basic elements: intimacy and dependence.  These two elements define what Jesus meant when He told us to remain in Him as He remained in the Father.  Most noteworthy, Banning stresses the only way Jesus builds our root system of abiding connection.  It comes through a process that repeatedly asks, “Do you trust Me?”  And our root system grows every time we affirm that trust.

However, it should come as no surprise that Satan primarily targets and assaults our trust in God.  The Enemy dedicates himself to convincing us God either withholds good things or fails to protect us from bad things.

Consequently, we must remember why God leads us into places of vulnerability.  Banning explains it’s in those places where Jesus proves His trustworthiness.  The author writes:

” . . . God leads us into places of vulnerability where the deep things in our hearts are exposed and where He gets to reveal Himself as our protector and the One who fulfills our deepest desires.  He is committed to showing us, through His process in our lives, that we can trust Him with the deep things of our hearts because they are also the deep things of His heart for us.”

Today’s question: What defines your greatest places of weakness and vulnerability?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Knowing God’s name – personal knowledge and encounter”

Before He [God] develops our vision

“God always develops us first before He develops our vision.  If we don’t understand this, we will resist Him, get frustrated, and ultimately end up disappointed and disillusioned.”- Banning Liebscher

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”- 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

As Banning Liebster concludes Chapter 1 of Rooted, he underscores the main thing God wanted David rooted in.  He desired to establish a deep and abiding trust in David’s life.  Therefore, God prepared David in three different soils.

1.  The soil of intimacy.  As a shepherd in the field, David built: (a) a relationship with God through prayer and worship; (b) dependence on God as he privately battled lions and bears; and (c) a secret-place lifestyle.

2.  The soil of serving.  During his two-decade rooting process, David humbly served his father, brothers, and King Saul.  That posture, in turn, positioned David to receive God’s grace.  Furthermore, David chose to trust God to promote him.  As a result, he didn’t take matters into his own hands nor attempt to prove himself.

3.  The soil of community.  While holed up in the cave of Adullam with four hundred men, David learned to:

  • truly lead others
  • trust his friends and brothers as well as God
  • encourage and inspire
  • take hits
  • model a standard of honor
  • lead with a vision

Most noteworthy, each of these three soils provided different, yet equally necessary ingredients to develop and strengthen David’s root system.  And if David needed to be planted in those three soils, so do we.

In addition, God starts the process right where you are and will get you to your proper destination.  So, Pastor Lucado exhorts, embrace God’s root-building process.  Choose to be a finisher who’s rooted.

Today’s question: How has the Lord developed you before developing your vision?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The first key to thriving”

Commitment – the foundation of intimacy

“Commitment is the foundation of intimacy, because without commitment there can be no trust, and without trust there can be no intimacy.”- John Ortberg

“The man who makes a vow makes an appointment with himself at some distant time and place.”- G. K. Chesterton, “A Defence of Rash Vows”

In Chapter 7 (“We Should All Be Committed”) of I’d Like You More . . . , John Ortberg notes the commitments we make and keep mark our days.  In addition, those commitments form our identities and anchor our intimate relationships.  Also, as Lewis Smedes writes, commitment establishes a “small island of certainty” in an uncertain world.  Furthermore, intimacy and commitment must link together.

Thus, intimacy without commitment contains greater potential for hurt.  On the other hand, commitment without intimacy creates hurt.  Also, commitment:

  • possibly creates fear because it means the loss of options
  • builds an invisible fence around us – we freely choose to honor the restrictions it places on our freedom
  • gives commitment makers and keepers a kind of freedom commitment avoiders never know

Finally, Pastor Ortberg comments on G. K. Chesterton’s’ statement about making vows:

“In the act of commitment, I bind myself to that future moment.  I’m not free to love another woman, I’m not free to follow another God.  and yet somehow, that ‘not free’ commitment leads to a deeper freedom than all the other options and escape clauses in a commitment-phobic world. . . . Having the courage to commit and trust makes possible an intimacy we would otherwise never know.”

In conclusion, John states that we’re drawn to make commitments because God created us in His image.  For He not only makes, but keeps, commitments.

Today’s question: What provides the foundation of intimacy in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Any good commitment – the strength to last”

Where we place our hope and trust

“Our daily life communicates where our hope and trust is placed; we are actually ‘praying’ with our words and deeds every day.”- Jared C. Wilson

As Jared Wilson concludes Chapter 5 of The Imperfect Disciple, he describes prayer as “spilling your guts.”  Therefore, prayer doesn’t have to be pretty, tidy, particularly eloquent, or even particularly intelligent.  God speaks to us in the Bible and we speak to Him in prayer.  Also, spilling our guts in prayer enables us to process God’s Word.  In response, we interact with our friend Jesus through prayer.

Yet, God never checks His watch when you’re talking to Him – although, Jared suggests, you might!  In fact, Pastor Wilson stresses, God’s more eager to listen to you than you are to speak.  And God’s not distant, but, as John Ortberg puts it, closer than you think.  Jared explains:

“We are constantly moving away, and he’s constantly following.  He is a much better chaser of us than we are of him. And he’s a much better listener.  He picks up everything.”

Hence, you find the rhythm of God’s kingdom in a consumer culture as you seek humility.  That humility comes as you reject independence, admit dependence, and confidently embrace God’s acceptance of you through Jesus Christ.

In addition, since we acknowledge our helplessness (spilling our guts) through prayer, the more we pray the more we:

  • abide in God’s strength and love
  • surrender thoughts of our own glory
  • unbusy ourselves with the enterprise of our own glory
  • lay down our bricks and trowels and let God knock down our Babel Towers
  • get off the treadmill of routine religion and find the rhythms of the kingdom

Today’s question: In your daily life, how do you communicate where you place your hope and trust?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Bringers of the gospel”

The reason we are more than we know

“The reason we are more than we know is because God is greater than we can imagine.”- Susie Larson

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life.  It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.  We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.  And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us — an unbelievable inheritance.”- Romans 8:15-16 (MSG)

In Chapter 4 (“Dare to Pray and Say What’s True”) of Your Powerful Prayers, Susie Larson discusses God’s invitation to trust Him.  God wants us to trust Him with:

  1. the surface parts of ourselves we find difficult to acknowledge
  2. the deepest parts still needing healing and wholeness

Thus, we first, through the power of the Holy Spirit, dare to believe.  In other words, we appropriate God’s truth.  Then we walk and talk that truth.

Yet, Ms. Larson notes, as we walk through life, we find ourselves in storms that smash against us.  And whether those storms are self-made, natural elements of a fallen world, or the result of someone else’s rotten choices, sometimes we respond in ways beneath our dignity.  In addition, the author notes, Satan just loves to see us sulk in our humanity.  During such times, Ms. Larson observes, it helps if we remind our souls that we:

  • love because Christ first loved us
  • walk in God’s promises
  • enjoy His presence because He’s the one who invited us there in the first place
  • can and will be used greatly by Him- Jesus planned ahead of time to redeem us from our frailties

Today’s question: What Scriptures enable you and others to realize the reason we’re more than we know?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Live in the reality of God’s love”

When we see the rainbow, the shower’s over

A partial rainbow rises above Chestnut Mountain Resort near Galena, IL.

“It is said that when we see the rainbow the shower is over.  Certain it is, that when Christ comes, our troubles remove; when we behold Jesus, our sins vanish, and our doubts and fears subside.  When Jesus walks the waters of the sea, how profound the calm.”- Charles Spurgeon

“Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout.  I the LORD have created it.”- Isaiah 45:8 (ESV)

On a recent vacation to Galena, IL, my wife Vicki and I dined at the Sunset Grille, a restaurant overlooking the Mississippi River at the Chestnut Mountain Resort.  After enjoying a relaxing meal along with a idyllic view, we walked back to our car.  Suddenly, Vicki spotted a partial rainbow, with every single color vividly displayed, in an otherwise clear sky.  This phenomenon puzzled us, because no storms passed over the resort.  However,  when we returned to our hotel, the clerk informed us that a brief, heavy thunderstorm hit the hotel, about 12 miles northwest from the Sunset Grille, earlier that evening.

Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, you enter what pastor and author John Ortberg calls the “uncertainty period.”  Most importantly, John asserts, a significant reason for your uncertainty exists — a good of not knowing.  Consequently, Pastor Ortberg believes, this “uncertainty period” offers:

  • a unique opportunity for growth
  • a confident, joyful approach to life, even when you don’t yet know if you’ll get what you hope for
  • a type of soul strength not available through immediate answers
  • a call for trust rather than condemnation to anxiety

Thus, uncertainty forms an essential element of life.  Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a Trappist monk and spiritual intellect, once suggested that if you find God with great ease, perhaps you’ve found something other than God.

Therefore, Pastor Ortberg explains, trusting God provides the necessary foundation as you struggle with the not-knowing times of life:

“You have to trust the author.  You have to believe that God has a good reason for keeping his presence subtle.  It allows creatures as small and frail as human beings the capacity for choice that we would never have in the obvious presence of infinite power. . . . God wants to be known, but not in a way that overwhelms us, that takes away the possibility of love freely chosen.”

Finally, John concludes, you’ll find God anywhere you’re willing to see the entire world through wonder-filled eyes and a tongue fluent only in praise.  In other words, as Max Lucado states:

“We don’t need an ‘Over the Rainbow’ god.  We need the One who created rainbows.”

Our desire to have a nice little life

“The collision of our desire to live a nice little life and our need to remain in Jesus can bring about a sanctification of our will, where all things truly are subjected to Christ.”- John Eldredge

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”- John 15:4

Today in the Fall section of Walking with God, John Eldredge notes that we often overlook Jesus’ seemingly simple command to remain in Him.  Thus, if Jesus must tell us we need to remain in Him, He knows it’s quite possible not to remain in Him.  In fact, our common life consists of a life lived separate from God.

As a result, we tend to want two mutually opposed things, to:

  • live a nice little life
  • play an important role in God’s kingdom

In other words, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, heads in one direction.  However, we head in another, but not to some easily recognizable, flagrant sin.  We simply wander off, looking for the pasture we think best.  It doesn’t even cross our minds to ask God about it.

John stresses we must remember that, as Christians, we don’t get to live a normal life.  To remain in Jesus, John states, we must accept that fact in all the details of our lives.

However, John stresses, we don’t ask because we don’t want to know what God thinks.  For if we know what God thinks, then we face the decision whether to follow His counsel or not.  Thus, the issue becomes obedience.

Therefore, we return to holiness.  to ask = an act of holiness.  We ask because we seek to follow the Good Shepherd and live by faith in Him.  Our “nice little life” thing really gets in the way.

In conclusion, John emphasizes, holiness doesn’t equate with abandoning our desires- a resigned posture of the soul that asks God to “tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”  Rather, in holiness the heart is present and engaged with God.  As we bring our desires to Him, we submit our wills to His.  We genuinely trust that what He says is best.

Today’s question: To what degree do you desire a nice little life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our day-to-day grind; nothing close to Eden”

But even if You don’t, my hope is You alone

Mr. Henning’s first class, Grades 3-4, St. Paul (Dorchester), Chicago

“But even if You don’t/ My hope is You alone”- MercyMe

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods . . .”- Daniel 3:17-18

After graduation from Concordia Teachers College in River Forest, IL, St. Paul Lutheran School called me to teach grades three and four.  Sometime during the winter of 1974-75, I developed the worst sinus infection I’ve ever experienced.  Extreme congestion reduced my voice to a whisper.  Therefore, even if I reported  to school, I faced a communication dilemma.

As a result, my industrious students seized the day.  Presented with the opportunity to be my voice, they eagerly volunteered to read answers from the teachers guides and give directions for assignments.  Our cohesive classroom community carried through the next two days without a hitch.

Writing in Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, Timothy Keller notes a puzzling statement in Daniel 3:18.  The verse begins, “But even if he does not”.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego admit the possibility God might not deliver them.  Why?  Because they place their confidence in God.  They chose not to rely on their limited understanding of what God would do.  In other words, Pastor Keller adds, the three men trusted in God period.  Tim Keller explains:

“But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego really believed ‘all the way down’ to God.  So they were not nervous at all.  They were already spiritually fireproofed. . . . Their greatest joy was to honor God, not to use God to get what they wanted in life.  And as a result, they were fearless.  Nothing could overthrow them.”

In conclusion, Pastor Keller describes three lessons learned from the story of “The Fiery Furnace”:

1.  God is with us in the fire.  This metaphor means God understands the difficulties of living through the miseries of this world.  God walks with us.   However, the real question revolves around if we’ll walk with Him.  Life falls apart when we create a false God-of-my-program.

2.  We must treat God as God and as there.  Timothy Keller exhorts: “If you remember with grateful amazement that Jesus was thrown into the ultimate furnace for you, you can begin to sense him in your smaller furnaces with you (emphasis Tim’s).”

3.  You must go into the furnace with the gospel to find God there.  It’s most dangerous to go into the fire without the gospel.  You’ll be mad at God, mad at yourself, or both.  If you trust in Jesus, your furnace will only make you better.

What feels like the end of the story

“What if what feels like the end of the story is actually just the middle?  When God is the author of your story, you can trust that his grace will have the final word.”- Kyle Idleman

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”- romans 8:28 (NIV)

In Chapter 10 (“More Hopeful Than Your Despair”), the concluding chapter of Grace Is Greater, Kyle Idleman states we reach a point in our story where we want to stop reading.  Our challenge overwhelms us, the situation seems impossible, the pain too much.

Yet, in Romans 8:28, Paul tells us God will bring a good ending to our story- no matter how bad our current chapter seems to us.  That’s the promise of grace.  However, when adversity strikes, Kyle states, it’s easy to view Romans 8:28 as at best naïve, but more likely offensive.

Pastor Idleman researched the Greek word translated “we know.”  As a result, he discovered the Greek word means “an absolute, unshakable, confidence.”  In addition, Kyle notes, Paul also uses the word translated “we know” in Romans 8:22.  That passage reads: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning.”

In other words, Paul says, we can count on two things:

  1. Life is hard (v. 22)
  2. God is good (v. 28)

But, Kyle adds, sometimes the space between these two truths feels like an eternity.

As Pastor Idleman concludes, he admits it’s fun knowing the end of the story before the actual ending.  Perhaps that’s because once we know how the story turns out, we’re more comfortable processing the information.  Therefore, we turn our focus on a deeper understanding of the story.

Although we lose some of the suspense, that allows us to not only just enjoy the journey.  It allows us to actually enjoy it.

Today’s question:  What feels like the end of the story for  you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “How we define the word ‘good’ “