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”

Satan’s modus operandi- set up shop in unhealed places

“This is Satan’s modus operandi —  to seize upon our trials, weaknesses, or unhealed places and magnify them and try to set up shop there.”- John Eldredge

Continuing in the Fall section of Walking with God, John Eldredge states that our story of love puts us in such a vulnerable place.  Rather than deal with it or sort through it, we prefer to keep our distance.  Perhaps, John posits, that’s why God needs to sneak up on us.

We’d love it if God simply left us alone to get on with life.  But God, in His loving kindness, says no.  Because we leave ourselves all too vulnerable when we refuse to deal with the deep things of our hearts.

Therefore, that’s all it takes to attract Satan.  As John notes, “demons smell our struggles like sharks smell blood in the water.”  Thus, we live in a dangerous world.  Consequently, God’s so insistent we deal with the unhealed and unholy places in our souls.  He’s acutely aware of our vulnerable state.

As a result, what we need at such times is the truth- objective, everlasting truth about God’s love.  So, we must turn to the Scriptures.  However, Mr. Eldredge observes, at times we don’t accept the truth of the Scriptures because that truth doesn’t align with what we’re feeling at the moment.  John describes this as an arrogant posture- letting our immediate state of mind judge whether or not Scripture rings true for us.

Rather, our starting point must be the truth of God’s Word.  We need to embrace it and stake our all on it.  Then, we’ll experience Scripture’s truthfulness.  Sometimes immediately.  Sometimes down the road.

Today’s question: What Bible verses block Satan’s modus operandi from setting up shop in your heart?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Listening to God on behalf of another”

Hope comes in two flavors

Brigid Bazlen, age 14, as the Blue Fairy on WGN-TV, 1958

“We all hope, but hope comes in two flavors- hoping  for something and hoping in someone.”- John Ortberg, Know Doubt

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:  for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”- 1 Corinthians 15:52 (KJV)

It’s almost 7:30 pm on a chilly Monday evening in 1958.  While parents watch in an adjoining room, a studio technician escorts me and five other youngsters to our seats- oversized mushrooms in The Blue Forest.  At 7:30, The Blue Fairy, suspended by wires, flies above the forest, saying: “I’m the Blue Fairy.  I’ll grant you a wish to make all your dreams come true.”  Resplendent in her blue gown and diamond tiara, Brigid Bazlen clasps a silver wand.  After descending to the forest floor, she asks each of us a question: “What is your favorite zoo animal?”

In 1958, WGN-TV, then located in the Prudential Building, produced two color programs- The Blue Fairy and Garfield Goose & Friend.  Although only televised in the Chicago area, The Blue Fairy won the Peabody Award for best children’s programming that year.  The award catapulted the series- and Brigid- to national attention.  Brigid later appeared in King of Kings (1961) as Salome and in the soap opera Days of Our Lives (1972).

Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister George MacDonald (1824-1905) once wrote: “Anything large enough for a wish to light upon, is large enough to hang a prayer upon.”  Yet, as John Ortberg points out, we must recognize the truth that one day every thing we hope for eventually disappoints us.  That’s why hope comes in two flavors.  Therefore, through the power of the Holy Spirit, faith requires:

  • belief- what we do with our minds
  • commitment- what we do with our wills
  • hope- what we do in our hearts

Furthermore, Pastor Ortberg suggests, our wishes reveal something true about why we exist and the reason God created us.  And Frederick Buechner echoed these thoughts when he stated that “sometimes wishing is the wings the truth comes true on.  Sometimes the truth is what sets us wishing for it.”

Three-day stories-  Jesus’ death and resurrection, for example- demonstrate (1) desperate need and anticipation and (2) hope hanging by a thread.  Although that hope comes in two flavors, only one flavor transforms your soul, rather than reducing Jesus to a heavenly meal ticket.  John Ortberg explains:

“What got released on Sunday was hope.  Not hope that life would turn out well.  Not even hope that there will be life after death.  Hope that called people to die: die to selfishness and sin and fear and greed, die to the lesser life of a lesser self so that a greater self might be born.  And many people did.  This hope changed things.”

Year-round resident

“The Holy Spirit is a year-round resident in the hearts of his children.  As God’s story becomes our story, his power becomes our power.”- Max Lucado

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”- Ephesians 1:13

Max Lucado begins Chapter 7 (“Power Moves In”) of More to Your Story with a question.  If the Holy Spirit’s power becomes our power, why do we suffer from power failures?  In other words, we depend on God’s power to save, but not sustain, us.

Furthermore, Pastor Lucado cites the apostle Paul’s words to the Galatians to support his contention.  Hence, writing in Galatians 3:3, Paul states: “After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”

Therefore, Max states, to walk in the Spirit you must be sensitive to and respond to the promptings God gives you.  As a result, you must learn to:

  • wait
  • be silent
  • listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice
  • cherish stillness
  • sensitize yourself to the Holy Spirit’s touch

In conclusion, Pastor Lucado exhorts us to lock into God’s power:

“The same hand that pushed the rock from the tomb can shove away your doubt.  The same power that stirred the still heart of Christ can stir your flagging faith.  The same strength that put Satan on his heals can, and will, defeat Satan in your life.  Just keep the power supply open.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures enable the Holy Spirit to be a year-round resident in your heart?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A season of blocked doors”

Our Christian colors

Mr. Henning astride his 1917 vintage Choo-Choo Car

Mr. Henning astride his 1917 vintage Choo-Choo Car

“We must show our Christian colors if we are to be true to Jesus Christ.”- C. S. Lewis

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”- Psalm 25:5

Throughout my 22-year Lutheran elementary teaching ministry, whole family ministry constituted one of my core philosophies.  While teaching third grade at Northwest Lutheran School, I had a student named Abby.  Maddy, Abby’s sister, attended K-4 at Northwest.  Three-year-old Robby tagged along with mom on her chauffeuring duties.

One day Robby arrived at school with a monkey his parents purchased at Build-A-Bear.  Struggling to keep a straight face, mom shared the following story.  When the time came name his monkey, mom suggested an obvious choice from kiddie lit- Curious George.  Robby, however, immediately interjected with his own selection- “No!  Mr. Henning!”

John Ortberg, via conversation with Dallas Willard, describes the soul as the deepest, or core, part of you.  Furthermore, both the Old and New Testaments consider the word soul synonymous with the whole person.  However, when your soul suffers from “sinkhole syndrome” caused by your vocation loss, your soul quickly becomes un-centered.

In addition, Pastor Ortberg describes five indicators of an un-centered soul.  A soul without a center:

  • finds making a decision difficult; indecisive with regard to resisting temptation or making sacrifices
  • feels constantly vulnerable to people or circumstances; resultant exhaustion requires “re-souling”
  • lacks patience; always in a hurry to be someplace else
  • is easily thrown, no matter how hard you try to hang on
  • locates its identity and sense of control in externals; losing those externals equates with loss of identity

Although external circumstances may cause disappointment, John emphasizes, Scriptural truths keep your soul centered in the very heart of God.  If anything, those external circumstances draw you closer to Jesus.

In Waiting on God, Wayne Stiles points out that the tough parts of the Christian life list as required courses, not electives.  Consequently, we encounter difficulty when we interpret our Christianity as we want it, not as God reveals it.  As a result, God allows us to reconcile reality with His truth so we can be like Christ.

Especially relevant, our sovereign God never asks whether or not we’d prefer to experience our vocation loss.  He does, however, promise to be with us as we discover the path He lights step by step, displaying our Christian colors.  In conclusion, Dr. Stiles encourages:

“God is with us.  Often that truth is all we know.  He is with us, not to answer our questions but to comfort us as he takes us to a place that teaches us to trust him by forcing us to do so. . . . At the outset, we never would have chosen those strange gaps of God’s sovereignty in our lives.  But in the end, we never would have missed them.”

Obedience to the truth

“Having purified your souls by obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”- 1 Peter 1:22 (ESV)

Dr. Wayne Stiles concludes Chapter 9 of Waiting on God by explaining that Peter uses two different terms for love in verse 22.  Sincere brotherly love, Wayne states, refers to a “friendly affection based entirely on feeling pleasure from someone’s presence.”  Furthermore, sincere brotherly love gives legitimate happiness.  This type of love offers no resistance.

However, because feeling from the foundation of this love, it may evaporate quickly.  In contrast, love from the heart comes not from our feelings about another person, but from that person’s genuine value.  In addition, Dr. Stiles provides two more contrasts between the two terms for the word love.

Sincere brotherly love

  • begins and ends with our emotions
  • receives strength from love from the heart

Love from the heart

  • begins and ends with our will
  • gives even when it gets nothing in return

We show love when we don’t feel like it by reaching out in love without expecting any love in return.  Consequently, the expectation or goal of our love must remain the glory of God.

While other people in our lives may never opt to change, we cannot allow such obstinacy to change us.  Mary DeMuth (The Wall Around Your Heart: How Jesus Heals You When Others Hurt You) describes how to completely release from bitterness and obligation anyone who has hurt us:

“Everything that hurts us on earth has the potential, when we let God put His hands in the conflict, to bless the world.  In short, we hurt and God heals, which makes us an agent of healing.”

Today’s question: How have you demonstrated obedience to the truth during your desert, transition time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The black hole of hopelessness”

Compulsory journeys

“Like Joseph, we find ourselves taken on compulsory journeys by God.”- Dr. Wayne Stiles

“Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought Him from the Ishmaelites who had had brought him down there.  The Lord was with Joseph . . .”- Genesis 39:1-2

Dr. Wayne Stiles concludes Chapter 2 of Waiting on God by noting that our compulsory journeys usually start, ironically, with unpacking.  Props in our lives we substitute for reliance on God face mandatory removal.  We enter a foreign world, where no one speaks our language.  We know no one there- except God.

Especially relevant, our sovereign God never checks with us on our preferences.  Therefore,  we follow, discovering the path He lights one step at a time.  Hence, our only choice involves how we opt to respond to His leading.

Genesis 39:2 tells us that “the Lord was with Joseph” as Joseph entered Egypt.  Furthermore, Wayne explains, that truth applies to our lives as well:

“That truth extends beyond Joseph’s live to ours.  God is with us.  Often that truth is all we know.  He is with us, not to answer questions but to comfort us as he takes us to a place that teaches us to trust him by forcing us to do so.  We really learn no other way.”

At the onset of our ministry downsizing or vocation loss, opting for these strange gaps of God’s sovereignty finds itself listed at the bottom of our “To Do List”.  However, in hindsight, we value God’s demonstration of His great love for us.  In addition, we praise Him for His goodness and grace.

Today’s question: What unpacking occurred during your compulsory journey?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Godly solutions”

 

Narrow framing

“One of the archenemies of what if is narrow framing.”- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson discusses the concept of narrow farming in Chapter 18 of If.  Pastor Batterson defines narrow framing as a decision-making villain characterized by:

” . . . defining our choices too narrowly.  It’s only considering two options when there might be a third.  It’s taking a thin slice of facts into consideration while ignoring the preponderance of the evidence.”

Mark further observes that we overestimate our ability to predict the future because we are under the impression that we know more than we know.  Because we operate under that assumption, we think we control more than we control.  Control, Pastor Batterson states, is an illusion.

Referencing the book Decisive by authors and brothers Chip and Dan Heath, Mark adapts their methods of counteracting narrow framing while using a biblical perspective.  We can use the Bible to:

  • reality-test our assumptions against the truth
  • attain distance before deciding by getting a God’s-eye view
  • widen our options with the promises of God

The religious assumptions of the Sadducees and the Pharisees created a narrow framing that left them unable to see the miracles Jesus performed right in front of them.  Nor could they imagine that the Messiah would be born in a stable, heal on the Sabbath, or eat with tax collectors.

Mark describes how to properly steward a miracle:

“The way you steward a miracle is by believing God for the next miracle- an even bigger and bolder miracle.  In other words, each miracle becomes a high leverage point for what if.  So as we grow older, our faith gains more and more leverage. . . . So the world doesn’t get smaller but gets infinitely larger until all things are possible.”

Today’s question: How have you used the Bible to counteract narrow framing?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Two-dimensional understanding”

The ultimate as if

“Verse 3 [Romans 8] is the ultimate what if– ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’  But the if in verse 10- ‘If Christ is in you’- is the ultimate as if.”

Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 10 of If by noting that sports teams often memorialize a fallen comrade by putting that person’s monogram on their jerseys.  For example, the Chicago Bears have GSH on the left jersey sleeve to honor their founder, George Stanley Halas.

Far more significantly, Pastor Batterson writes, we aren’t playing for ourselves anymore.  The apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2:20- “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.”

Mark observes that it is hard to get offended, angry, upset, or depressed when you’re dead- dead to your old self, that is.  You are a new creation in Christ, and you have to step into this identity on a daily basis.  There is great freedom in this daily death.  Mark says waking up each morning is like a little resurrection.  He summarizes:

“You live as if Christ was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is coming back tomorrow.”

Jesus modeled the power of as if.  While the Pharisees treated people as they were, Jesus treated others as they could be (emphasis author’s).  We all need Someone who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves.  That’s who Jesus is and what He does.

Mark describes how Jesus grows us through a high dosage of grace and truth:

“Grace means I’ll love you no matter what.  Truth means I’ll be honest no matter what.  No one was more graceful and truthful than Jesus.  He was full of both.  When those two elements combine, you’re loving people the way Jesus did.”

Today’s question: How can you live the ultimate as if following your vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Therefore- where as if begins”

The heart of it all

“Invite Jesus right into the heart of it all, right there, in the moment.”- John Eldredge

Before discussing prayer for guidance, understanding, and revelation, John Eldredge has a short chapter (Chapter 10- “Pray Now”) on the need to pray right there in the moment.  Despite our good intentions when we tell someone we will pray for them, often we forget to follow through on our promise of future prayer.

John states that by stopping to pray right there, in the moment, that practice helps us to follow through and helps the person being prayed for to agree with us in prayer.  Mr. Eldredge adds:

“The truth is, there is no ‘later.’  Now is the time to pray, for now is all we have.”

Of course, it is important to pray when you do have time and space to devote yourself to prayer- time to truly seek God.

John them moves on to Chapter 11 (“Let There Be Light- Prayer for Guidance, Understanding, and Revelation”) of Moving Mountains.  There he observes that the vast majority of prayers must be some version of , “Help!”  Following in second place in the category of “most often prayed” has to be the genre of, “God- what am I supposed to do?”

The author has three suggestion when we aren’t sure how to pray for guidance:

  1.  pray Scripture
  2. let go of your constant attempts to “figure things out”
  3. use the technique of praying “Let there be light.”  God’s light sheds light on clarity and truth, wisdom and revelation

Today’s question: How have you invited Jesus into the heart of it all when you pray in the moment?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “How to pray for guidance”