The thing you set your heart on

[God] knows that you become like the thing you set your heart on, and He knows that you thrive when you’re like Him — fully free, full of life, abounding in love, peace, and joy.”- Christa Black Gifford

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33 (NIV)

In Chapter 4 (“The Reconciled Heart”) of Heart Made Whole, Christa Black Gifford observes that one cannot force love.  Rather, love’s always a choice.   Furthermore, love always submits.  Yet, when we ignore God’s will, His Word, and the relationship He offers, many of us turn around to point the finger at God.  Although the Father makes His perfect will very clear throughout Scripture, we choose to turn our bcks and ignore Him.

Thus, God knows full well that you become like the thing you set your heart on.  And He knows that you thrive when you’re fully free and full of life.  For then you abound in peace, love, and joy.  Therefore, as long as you insist on refusing His assistance, you’ll remain stranded and feel abandoned.  But that’s not God’s will, nor is it His way.

Yes, as long as we live in close proximity to other human beings, it’s impossible to avoid the punches of others.  Asa result, Christa explains, we must make a crucial choice:

“The free will of others will continue to negatively impact all of our lives, and pain will be the result.  But if we choose to draw close to God in our pain — instead of running away in distrust — miracles are always the result.”

Finally, as we stay in relationship with God, we develop trust.  And from that trust, we’ll find peace in every storm.

Today’s question: How have you become like the thing you set your heart on?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Hearts anchored to God’s goodness”

When we confront our deepest fears and longings

“This [hearing His voice] is the kind of connection we need with the Lord, especially as He leads us into moments where we confront our deepest fears and longings.  We have to  know and be able to stay connected to His voice and His face.”- Banning Liebscher

As Banning Liebscher concludes Chapter 3 of Rooted, he affirms his ability to get through whatever comes.  That happens as long as he quiets his soul before the Lord and listens to His voice.  Hence, Pastor Liebscher makes it his first priority to continually draw close to the Lord.  In addition, Banning quiets himself, waits, and listens for the Lord’s voice.

Along with knowing Jesus’s voice and face, we must come to know His character in order to trust Him.  As the Bible reveals, every aspect of God’s nature and character (a) proves His trustworthiness and (b) invites us to trust Him.  Banning briefly describes four such aspects of Jesus’ character.

  1.  God cannot lie.  When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to Titus, he introduced himself as “a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ . . . in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (1:1-2).  However, Pastor Liebscher asserts, our picture of God sometimes includes the possibility He could mislead us.  We must affirm our trust in the truth of His Word, no matter how many twists and turns we face.
  2. God is the perfect Father.  God only gives good gifts.  Therefore, you never need mistrust anything God gives you.
  3. God is loving and kind.  As God continuously invites us to draw up close to Him, our capacity to see His love and kindness increases.  In turn, “His love and kindness naturally attract and inspire our trust.”
  4. God is faithful to be with us.  The Lord’s not simply physically present. He’s also emotionally present and deeply attuned to the most minute details of your life.

Today’s question: How does Jesus meet you at the place where you confront your deepest fears and longings? Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation – “Fighting the onslaught of fret”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Step into greater faith and rest”

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”