A specific, tangible sign of divine confirmation

“Sometimes when we ask for God’s favor, he responds by giving us a specific, tangible sign of divine confirmtion that allows us to take our next step with confidence.”- Brian Jones

“If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.”- Judges 6:17 (NIV)

In Chapter 9 (“Divine Confirmation”) of Finding Favor, Brian Jones talks about another way God shows us His favor.  When we ask for it, God gives us unmistakable confirmation He’s at work.  He’s leading, guiding, and calling us to do something.  Also, as Gideon failed to realize, with God what we can see never determines the battle.  Rather, what God sees within us determines the battle.

Furthermore, Pastor Jones underscores, in Judges 6:17 Gideon uttered the twenty-one most important words one could ask when trying to discern God’s will on a particular issue.  Yet, our tendency to overanalyze things erects a barrier to experiencing God’s presence.

Therefore, Brian suggests five ways to ask for a sign from the Lord:

  1. Look to Scripture first.  Thus, a principle in Scripture provides the guidance or specific direction you need.  If God’s Word provides the sign, you need not look anywhere else.
  2. Don’t ask for a sign as a way to sidestep patience and suffering.  Hence, it’s important not to sidestep the wisdom-building process of the trials and tribulations God takes us through.  When we sidestep the issue, that represents our attempt to force God’s hand in the matter.
  3. Ask for a sign only when you’re forced to do so.  If time is of the essence, there’s nothing written in Scripture, and you’re indecisive about God’s direction, then ask for a sign.
  4. Wait until you have an A or B scenario.  Before you ask for a sign, narrow down your choices to only two.  Use godly wisdom, trusted advice, and searching the Scriptures.
  5. Ask for an abnormal occurence of an everyday occurence.  Pastor Jones finds that God works best when given realistic, everyday options.

Today’s question: Describe a time when you asked for a specific, tangible sign of divine confirmation.  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Making an idol of exhaustion”

Called to make decisions in community

“We are called to make decisions in community.  The challenge with making decisions in community, however, is that it requires humility and submission.”- Banning Liebscher (emphasis author’s)

“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”- Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV)

In Chapter 12 (“It’s Messy, but It Works”), the concluding chapter of Rooted, Banning Liebscher reminds us that we find strength in community.  Not isolation.  Speaking personally, Pastor Liebscher attests that any fruit or healthy area of his life has the best of others poured into it.  As a result, Banning explains:

“When we walk with those who are wise, we gain the strength of wisdom that is in their lives.  We’re not supposed to figure things out on our own. When we end up over our heads — which will happen all the time in God’s process of growth in our lives — we need to know that the strength, wisdom, and grace God want to give us are most likely going to come when we humble ourselves and reach out to our community.”

Thus, the wise counsel of our community helps us navigate the deep end.  Furthermore, Pastor Liebscher notes, in the book of Proverbs Solomon reiterates that we find safety when we access the wisdom of community.  Decisions made outside of community are unsafe.  Thus, God calls us to make decisions within it.  However, the challenge with making decisions in community centers around humility and submission.

In conclusion, Banning observes, you need humility to ask other people for counsel.  And, the author posits, humility comes harder as you age and feel pressure to be an expert on things.

So, when you find yourself in over your head, seek the Lord.  Next, immediately call on someone further along the faith journey than you.  Ask for their wisdom and strength.

Today’s question: What decisions have you made in community?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The imperfect person God speaks through”

God – as near as our next breath

“We can calmly take our concerns to God because he is as near as our next breath.”- Max Lucado

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”- Psalm 118:6 (NIV)

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 5 of Anxious for Nothing as he reinforces Paul’s point in Philippians 4:5-6.  Because the Lord is near, we need be anxious for nothing.  Also, Pastor Lucado reminds us, Paul wrote Philippians as a letter.  And letters don’t contain chapter and verse numbers.  Therefore, Paul intended that we read this passage in one fell swoop.  As Max points out, two early commentators saw this:

  1. John Chrysostom: “The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety.”
  2. Theodoret of Cyrus: “The Lord is near.  Have no worries.”

In addition, Pastor Lucado believes, we learn this reassuring lesson from the miracle of the bread and fish.  While Jesus desired to feed the entire crow, the disciples wanted to get rid of everyone.  In fact, Max detects anxiety, aggravation, and frustration in their response to Jesus.  The disciples don’t call Him “Master” or offer a suggestion.  Rather, they approach Jesus en masse and tell Him what to do.

Although the disciples felt unsettled, they had every reason to be at peace.  For they witnessed Jesus perform many miracles.  Yet, they failed to pause long enough to think or to ask Jesus for help.

So, on the one hand, a problem exists in your life.  On the other hand, you possess a limited quantity of wisdom, energy, patience, or time- nowhere near what you need.  As a result, Max exhorts:

“This time, instead of starting with what you have, start with Jesus.  Start with his wealth, his resources, and his strength.  Before you open the ledger, open your heart. . . .  count the number of times Jesus has helped you face the impossible.  Before you lash out in fear, look up in faith.  Take a moment.  Turn to your Father for help.”

Today’s question: What makes you aware that God’s as near as your next breath?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the Easter Short Meditation, “The loudest voice in your life”

Tomorrow’s blog: “A child of the King – the front of the line”

Dream bigger dreams

“If you want to dream bigger dreams, get around dreamers.”- Mark Batterson

In Chapter 17 (“The Rabbit Room”) of Chase the Lion, Pastor Mark Batterson observes that getting where God wants us to go involves a partnership.  Left to our own devices, we’ll fail to achieve our dreams.  Somewhere along the way, we find ourselves lost.

Therefore, as Mark points out, we need others to help us realize our dreams:

“Misery loves company, and so do dreams.  If the presence of company cuts misery in half, then it more than doubles the joy of a shared dream.  It’s the synergy of shared dreams- the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

However, we need to avoid our natural tendency to surround ourselves with people like us.  To grow yourself, you need people who think and lead differently.

Similarly, in order to grow spiritually, you need to be around Christians who have more faith and wisdom.  As a result, their God-sized dreams stretch your faith.  Consequently, Pastor Batterson notes, view everything God does through you in context:

“Everything God does through you is a testimony to those who have parented you, mentored you, disciple you, coached you, and loved you.  You are their downline, and they are your upline.”

In conclusion, Mark somewhat surprisingly states his belief that God’s design for some people involves serving someone else’s dream- perhaps a more significant option than pursuing one’s own dream.

Ultimately, the bottom line equates to God getting the glory.

Today’s question: What, if anything, prevents you from starting to dream bigger dreams?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Thy kingdom come”

Event horizon

“In the realm of general relativity, an event horizon is the point of no return.  It’s the point at which gravitational pull becomes so great that it’s impossible to escape.”- Mark Batterson

In Chapter 28 “The Event Horizon”) of If, Mark Batterson states the most obvious example of an event horizon is a black hole.  Once you cross the horizon of a black hole’s gravitational field, there is no turning back.  Similarly, when we come to faith in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, there is no turning back.

Yet, Pastor Batterson observes, we have the misbelief that God is keeping an eye on us because He wants to catch us doing something wrong.  Mark explains that God keeps His eye on us for all the right reasons:

“God has His all-seeing eye on you.  In fact, He never takes His eyes off you.  But it’s not because He’s some kind of cosmic killjoy who wants to catch you doing something wrong. He can’t take His eyes off you because you’re the apple of His eye.  He loves you too much to look away.”

God’s love pulls stronger and longer that anything else.  Love is the event horizon.  You can’t get back- and who would ever want to?  But it is humanly impossible to reason our way to God.  No one is smart enough.  We need God’s spirit of wisdom and revelation.

Thomas Aquinas’ magnum opus was Summa Theologica, an exhaustive and enduring theology.  However, on 6 December 1273, Thomas had a no ifs, ands, or buts about it moment.  One revelation from God surpassed all knowledge he’d acquired- and he stopped writing his magnum opus.

Hardship either hardens or softens our hearts- and that hardening or softening makes us or breaks us.  Mark encourages:

“No matter what trouble, hardship, or persecution you face, this too shall pass.  More importantly, Jesus is with you and Jesus is for you.  And no matter what has died at the hand of sin or Satan, Jesus can roll away the stone.”

Today’s question: How is God’s love the event horizon in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Guttermost to the uttermost”

 

 

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”

The ultimate door

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery, which is in Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”- Colossians 2:2-3

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 5 of All the Places to Go with the eighth way God’s wisdom can lead us to, and help us through, open doors we encounter.

8.  The ultimate door.  Pastor Ortberg writes that Biblical wisdom literature recognizes that wise human decisions have limits.  In the Bible wisdom is much more than life management.

The apostle Paul uses images in Colossians 2:2-3 that describe wisdom in the Old Testament.  Paul then applies these images to Jesus.  Wisdom has come down to earth.  At Jesus’ time, the Israelites knew their problem was Rome.  According to their limited human thinking, they had three options:

1.  Door #1- overthrow the Romans in hatred (Zealots)

2.  Door #2-withdraw in contempt (Essenes)

3.  Door #3- collaborate with the Romans (Sadducees)

Jesus saw an alternative, sacrificial love and resurrection power- the ultimate door, as John describes:

“Wisdom, thank God, is far more than common sense and practical advice and navigating life safely and well.  Wisdom bets it all on God, dies on a cross, and gets resurrected on the third day.  Wisdom is alive today and can walk with me through the doors I face.”

Today’s question:  How have you grown in wisdom following your vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Crossing a threshold”

Why am I still here?

“The way of a fool is right in  his own eyes. but a wise man listens to advice.”- Proverbs 12:15

John Ortberg continues his discussion of ways (five and six) God’s wisdom can lead us to and help us through open doors we encounter.

5.  Pray the Lloyd’s Prayer.  Pastor Ortberg states that things happen when we begin to lay our problems out before the Lord.  When an elderly shoe salesman named Lloyd suffered a serious heart attack, doctors told him he should have died.  That prompted Lloyd to pray the question. “Why am I still here?”

The author notes that the truth of the kingdom of God is written on our hearts.  We were made for the open door.

6.  Ask some wise people to help you.  John writes that “everybody needs a door-selection committee.”  We all need wise counsel, because there’s a fool inside each one of us.  As the life of King Solomon testifies, the battle for wisdom is unending.

Left to our own devices, we tend to miss doors because (a) we fail to consider the full range of options God has before us or (b) we suffer from confirmation bias-seeking information that confirms our opinion rather than looking for the unvarnished truth.

We need to associate with Christians who love and care for us, are trustworthy, and exhibit good judgment.

Today’s question: How would you answer Lloyd’s prayer question- Why am I still here?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Failure tolerance”

 

The place where you are

Today John Ortberg begins his discussion of eight ways God’s wisdom can lead us to, as well as help us through, open doors we encounter- as found in Chapter 5 of All the Places to Go.

1.  Stop waiting for a spontaneous outburst of passion.  Andy Chan, who heads up the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, says that one of the greatest stumbling blocks for young adults is the illusion that if they just could discover their passion, every day of their working life would be saturated with effortless, nonstop motivation.

No one’s life lives up to this illusion.  To believe this illusion leaves us mad at God and frustrated with ourselves.  David Hubbard, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, once said students had the misconception that his life was filled with glamorous, inspiring moments.  In reality, most of what Dr. Hubbard did “involved the consistent, plodding progress of one task following another.”  All together these tasks added up to wonderful work.

John states that it is an essential need of our soul that we believe in the significance of our contributions.  As he explains, however, we need to put passion in its proper perspective:

“Don’t wait for passion to lead you somewhere you’re not.  Start by bringing passion to the place where you are.”

Today’s question: How can you bring passion to the place where you are?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The right course of action”

Decidophobia

“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.”- James 1:5 (NRSV)

In Chapter 5 (Door #1 or Door #2) of All the Places to Go, John Ortberg tackles the question of choosing the right door.  For example, when facing prolonged adversity, we may wonder whether God wants us to grow by persevering in our difficult situation or whether God wants us to leave because He’s concerned about our happiness.

Pastor Ortberg states that what often drives us is our state of great distress.  When we’re filled with anxiety, it’s tempting to look for a guarantee of future outcomes that removes the responsibility of decision-making from our shoulders, as opposed to seeking God’s will.  As John phrases our temptation: “God has to tell me what to do for I am in great distress.”

Princeton philosopher Walter Kaufmann coined the word decidophobia to describe our fear of making decisions.  We don’t want to be wrong and decisions wear us out.  Because King Saul really didn’t want God’s will, his prayers went unanswered and he consulted the medium at Endor.  While superstition seeks to use the supernatural for our purposes, faith surrenders to God’s purposes.

John emphasizes that prayer is closely associated with seeking and discerning open doors because it’s our primary means of communication with God.  The author concludes:

“If I’m facing a choice and I want to find God’s will for my life, I don’t begin by asking which choice is God’s will for my life.  I need to begin by asking for wisdom.”

Today’s question: Are you seeking to use the supernatural for your purposes or are you surrendered to God’s purposes?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Seeking Lady Wisdom”