3 Things That Matter

In this read of Ravi Zacharias’s The Grand Weaver, three things stood out to me. They, like all eight chapters in the book, discuss what matters.


Your disappointments matter

In chapter two, he wrote this about the end of life:

One of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender.

He looks at the lives of David, Job, and Habakkuk to illustrate the importance of communion with God to carry us through pain, to make us “tender by that which makes the heart of God tender.” God’s presence is more essential than answers.

Your calling matters

In chapter three, these three statements can breathe life into any searcher:

When your will becomes aligned with God’s will, his calling upon you has found its home.

God often reinforces our faith after we trust him, not before.

No follower of Christ does secular work.  We all have a sacred calling.

Your worship matters

Chapter eight may be the best chapter you’ll ever read about worship. In it, he discusses the five main components of worship taken from the book of Acts: the Lord’s Supper, teaching, prayer, praise, and giving. This line speaks deeply to why worship matters:

When worship and praise lose their focus and purpose, the finite finds the Infinite boring and the creature finds the Creator insufficient.

Tenderness matters.  Trust matters.  Worship matters.

The Power of Christian Contentment (book review)

Releasing this book last year, there’s no way Andrew Davis knew how helpful this book could be this year.

I agree with a life coach that said this about COVID-19: “It’s not creating fear. It’s exposing the fears we already had.” The same could also be said about our contentment.

Each of the twelve chapters are rich. The most helpful ones are entitled The Mysterious Mindset of Contentment (5), The Excellence of Christian Contentment (7), The Evils and Excuses of a Complaining Heart (8), and Contentment in Suffering (9). Here are quotes from the entire book to help you tap into the power of contentment:

  • Christian contentment is finding delight in God’s wise plan for my life and humbly allowing him to direct me in it.
  • It is no stretch to say that the Lord may orchestrate amazingly challenging circumstances for you and your family for the primary purpose of giving your supernatural hope and Christian contentment a platform.
  • Abiding, supernatural contentment is a “secret” to be learned, not part of the original equipment of conversion.
  • Cosmologists estimate the total number of stars in the universe to be 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Each of those stars is named and sustained moment by moment by God.
  • The combination of complete satisfaction in the world and complete dissatisfaction with the world is a mystery of contentment.
  • There is an inherent humility in Christian contentment and a basic arrogance in discontentment.
  • Tempting a content man is like shooting flaming arrows at an iron wall.
  • Christian contentment enables us to worship God excellently, in a way far purer and more glorious than any other form, better than hearing a sermon or attending corporate worship without contentment.
  • Esteem contentment highly; hate complaining passionately.
  • Old wicked habits die through starvation, and new godly habits grow through obedience.
  • American evangelicals of the 21st century are the wealthiest Christians in the history of the church. According to one study, evangelicals worldwide collectively made $7 trillion in income for that year. The Christian income in America represents nearly half of the world’s total Christian income. That is a massively weighty responsibility for American Christians.
  • The tapestry of our life’s history is made up of Todays.
  • God sees everything in super slow motion, and every microsecond of history is calculated and part of God’s providential plan. Don’t let Satan speed things up. Slow down! Breathe!
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how your electronic devices, especially your smartphones, are making you discontent.

God of My 20’s: Mourning Replaced with Savoring

(Post #6 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger: Dawn Stark

Throughout my 20’s I worked for an international airline and traveled the world for almost nothing. But all I really wanted was a baby.  I mourned continually over my empty arms.  Nothing else would appease me: Hawaii, the Greek Islands, Europe, sailing down the Nile – a decade of beautiful places and experiences that I mainly viewed through the lens of pain. I didn’t understand God’s love language to me in the waiting season.  I missed so many amazing places of worship on the way to my arms being filled to overflowing.

The way I spent my 20’s shrouded in mourning is a life regret.

Today I am traveling again, for different reasons, but still very similar to the way I did so many years ago. I know without a doubt God has once again given me this season as a gift in a beautiful way of merging mission and passion. It’s a do-over of sorts. Life is full of long, complicated, and painful journeys; infertility was only one of many that I’ve endured. In my early 50’s now, with 5 miracle children in my life, there is sufficient evidence that I cannot fret or worry or mourn my way through this life.

Recently, work led me to Puerto Rico. A traveler to my core, I was so excited about this new adventure I couldn’t fall asleep the night before my flight.  I’ve been to the island years ago on two other occasions, but only in the San Juan area.  This trip required me to rent a car and travel to Mayaguez, on the western side of PR.  I padded my travel time on each side of work events to allow for moments of spontaneity: pulling over to enjoy look-out points, taking the temperature of the Caribbean water with a quick dip, snapping photos of interesting sites, and choosing local eats over convenient chain options.

Puerto Rico did not disappoint!  I so enjoyed spending time with ministry partners, learning about the heart-breaking impact of Hurricane Maria, and discovering the resilience of the people. I intently practiced present-moment mindfulness by not letting my thoughts creep back to other weighty matters and instead choosing to focus on the “great and small” of life happening right in front of me:

  • the vibrant colors saturating the Puerto Rican culture through nature and art.
  • the proud rooster walking down the sidewalk, crowing like he totally belonged in that human space.
  • the irony of eating St. Louis (my hometown) style rib from the BBQ joint I just happened to stop at for dinner.
  • the newlywed who coaxed me to jump into the rough shore break and enjoy the sunset with her family.
  • the experience of driving in San Juan’s rush hour traffic when 12 lanes of inbound cars merged into 4 without traffic lines or signals of any sort.

While travel is all a little harder on my body these days, I am intent on not missing the moments made for worshipping along the way this time.  I cannot reverse the way I lived my 20’s, doubting the goodness of God, but I can learn from that experience.  My trip to Puerto Rico reminded me – again – to savor the gifts I’ve been given. The song, Peace, written by Michael McDonald and recorded by Russ Taff, perfectly captures my thoughts:

I have come from so far away

Down the road of my own mistakes

In the hope you could hear me pray

Oh Lord, keep me in your reach.

 

How I’ve longed through these wasted years

To outrun all my pain and fears

Turn to stone from own cried tears

And now its your grace I see

 

Love won’t compromise

It’s a gift, it’s a sacrifice

My soul renewed, and my heart released

In you I find my peace.

 

Wonderous child of whom the angels sing

Know my joy, feel my suffering

Shining star make this love you bring

So bring that I may believe

 

That my way will not be lost

From now on, ‘till that river’s crossed

My soul renewed, and my spirit free

In you I’ll find my peace

Heard

(Post #1 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Dawn Stark (bio below)

This morning in my daily devotion I’m reading from 1 Chronicles 14 where King David is fighting the Philistines. In preparation for the battle, David inquires of the Lord about strategy and God answers very specifically: “Do not attack them straight on. Instead circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees.  When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, go out and attack!” (NLT). I don’t know about you, but throughout a lifetime of inquiring to the Lord I’ve never been given such a specific and detailed answer.  Yet, this type of communication was commonplace for David and many others as recorded in the Old Testament.

God speaks this clearly to believers throughout the New Testament too. A good example is the back and forth conversation between the Lord and Ananias in Acts 9.  God’s instructions were very detailed: “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now.  I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” Acts records Ananias’ response to these instructions and God’s reply to his questions too.

I believe God still speaks to us today. Scripture explains He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 18:8, Mal 3:6).  He speaks to us through general revelation, such as what we observe in nature and from history; and, He speaks through special revelation as recorded in Scripture.

Worship and prayer are both powerful ways I hear from God. Worship is the cornerstone of my spiritual life.  Many days I wake up in the morning with a song running through my head and heart.  I’ve come to wonder if this is the Holy Spirit helping to prepare me for the day ahead.  Prayer is also a huge factor of my faith life. I’ve found that prayer quiets and heals my soul, or as Ole Hallesby so powerfully writes, “prayer is the breath of the soul, the organ by which we receive Christ into our parched and withered hearts” (Prayer, 1936, p.14).

God speaks to my heart during personal devotion time and through the preaching of the Word too. These are aspects of his special revelation, which require me to faithfully attend to the habits of reading the Bible and attending church.  I’m constantly amazed how often these activities seem to overlap and confirm each other-for instance, when a passage I’ve studied during the week just happens to be a key component in pastor’s Sunday message.

Meditating along the ocean shore or hiking through a nature preserve become holy places where He will reveal something new about His faithfulness and strength to me. Soft as rain, these gentle whispers create a new thought that cause me to suddenly see situations in my life differently. In the “be still and know” solitary spaces, God is near and always leading me forward.

Finally, and probably most profoundly, I hear from God through the relationships we form in this life.  Within the context of family and friends I learn of His faithfulness, compassion, and enduring love.  As I wipe away my children’s tears, I know that God also wipes away mine. Not only can I understand His patterns and purposes deeply through these vital relationships, my desire for His presence deepens.  When earthly relationships bring pain and disappoint, I run to the Creator to be healed by His unconditional and steadfast love.

How do I hear from God?  Oh, I hear from him in so many beautiful and powerful ways. I may not be the recipient of full conversations as the saints of old; but His presence fills me, heals me, and guides me daily. He is imminent and He is faithful.  I just need to be quiet and listen.


Blogger BioDawn Stark and her husband Tim ministered to youth of all ages, from babies to young adults, all while enduring their own private infertility battle.  Throughout this process that spanned a 23-year period, Dawn learned to worship her way through life’s challenges and heartbreaks.  As with Hannah of old, God was faithful and eventually granted Tim and Dawn three biological children, including a set of twins, and two adopted children from Guatemala.  

It was during Dawn’s adoptions from Guatemala that her eyes were opened to the complicated and lasting effects of poverty. Stuck in the process for years, she dedicated the rest of her working years to be an advocate for children and families in need.  Serving in the non-profit arena since 2013, she has worked for the Both Ends Burning campaign as the Director of Faith-based Initiatives and One More Child + FBCH as the Orphan Care Coordinator.

Her advocacy journey led her to Operation Blessing in May 2019 where she now serves as the Regional Philanthropy Manager for the Southeast Region.  In this role, she works in a 9-state region to match the philanthropic goals and interest of partners with the needs of the most vulnerable in 39 countries, including the U.S.   She is passionate about the work Operation Blessing is doing to bring hope and help to suffering families through innovative programs and partnerships that maximize resources and save lives. 

Dawn graduated from Regent University with a degree in government/ international relations and is currently completing a master’s degree in international community development at Southeastern University. She is a blogger, aspiring author, public speaker and a beach lover.  She currently lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband of 34 years, five children, and Siberian Husky puppy. 

Prison Time

“and had him thrown into prison, where the king’s prisoners were confined. So Joseph was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor with the prison warden. The warden put all the prisoners who were in the prison under Joseph’s authority, and he was responsible for everything that was done there.”‭‭Genesis‬ ‭39:20-22‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Well, that sounds fun. I’m sure this was exactly what Josph prayed for, and he went in rejoicing that his prayers once again had been heard. SMH

To this point in his life, it’s hard to imagine that Joseph could have had a clue what his life’s purpose was. Regardless what his spiritual gifts assessment revealed or what an elder suggested was his calling, how in the world do you explain his life experiences to date. Yet constantly scripture reads, “The Lord was with him.”

These verses were in my @youversion devotion today addressing the topic of drudgery. Here are a few lines from the devotional thoughts:

What we call drudgery God calls humble and helpful service to others. Patient and steady toil, honoring God right where he put you, in some ways is just as worshipful as singing hymns in church. If you can do it without complaining, all the better.

“Right where he put you.” That’s a challenge. We allow ourselves to see only prison bars (been there, done that). We may even go so far as to break out of jail and basically snub God by saying, under our breath of course, “You Screwed Up…AGAIN!” That view is a flashing neon sign we have stopped thinking more about others and God than ourselves. Joseph’s prison season was quite short compared to his future season of purpose. He didn’t know that at the time, though. He had to trust God was with him and had actually put him there.

If your facing “prison time,” consider these questions:

  • What’s this season for?
  • What’s your trust level in God’s presence and purpose? 
  • How can you honor God in the next 24 hours right where he put you?

Make It Count

Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
John 12:3

Mary’s family had much to thank Jesus for. He had made it clear that he was the giver of life. She decided to do something extraordinary to show her love and worship.

  • Her choice was to anoint him.
  • Her choice was to give up something she’d being saving for herself.
  • Her choice was extravagant.
  • Her choice was a declaration.
  • Her choice was sacrificial.
  • Her choice was to have a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
  • Her choice was to make it count.

What do you have to thank Jesus for?
What choice would make it count?

3 Heart Tests

(A post for the church-going reader)

This morning we were reminded in our American church to pray for believers attending church in Pakistan earlier this morning where terrorists struck. Terror striking churches around the world has certainly found it’s way to American soil. We know this in our heads. I’m wondering if it’s made it to our hearts.

Here are three heart tests we could personally administer to check:

  1. The heart purity test: Why am I here? Would I be here if I lived in constant threat because of my faith? 
  2. The heart condition test: How did I prepare myself before coming? What do my expectations about my church experience say about my heart’s condition?
  3. The heart openness test: What’s my level of focus and attention and engagement? What’s the posture of my heart to what I’m hearing, seeing, and feeling?

We live out of what’s in our hearts. We worship only at the level of our heart’s pure and open condition. May we enter our gatherings with ready hearts.

Answering Where May Answer Everything

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:7-12‬ ‭

This section of one of the most quoted Psalms attempts to answer a “where” question. If you choose to believe the author’s answer, you might find the root answer to any question you have in life. Here’s why: No matter where we go in our minds, our emotions, our spirits, or our bodies, God is there. This should present great comfort and encouragement.

  • There is no place where He can’t be present…that means in our highs and lows, He can and should be acknowledged
  • There is no place where He can’t provide guidance…that means in our clarity and confusion, He can and should be trusted.
  • There is no place where He can’t provide victory…that means in our peace and tumult, He can and should be worshipped.

Because God is present everywhere, guidance to victory is always available. 

Seek to always acknowledge Him, to trust Him, to worship Him.

Looking for feedback: what “wheres” in life do you find it hard to see God is there?

Moses: 40 Years of Captured Awe

Exodus 3&4 recount the call of Moses out of a 40-year exile to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. God’s awe-filled display is dismissed by Moses’ fear. Read Paul David Tripp’s words on this scene (chapter 2 of Awe):

At the end of God’s glorious display of power, Moses begs God to send someone else. It’s as if fear of personal inadequacy and political danger has completely blinded his eyes to the awesome glory of the One sending him. Moses is not in awe of God. No, the awe capacity of his heart has been captured by fear of the Egyptians, and all he can think of is being released from the task to which God has appointed him.

Captured. Has your awe been captured? What does that even mean?

It means your awe has been redirected toward something or someone that doesn’t represent your best option, purpose, or worship. In Moses’ 40-year-captured case, this happened because of fear. 

You may think a lack of focus or maybe thoughts of doubt or confusion are to blame. Most likely, the root of your captured awe isn’t doubtful, confusing thoughts or inability to focus. Most likely, a fear is responsible.

Might it be a fear of comparison…of failure…of rejection…of success…of loss…of uncertainty…of loneliness…of pain…of expectations?

What if you saw God as the source of love…of purpose…of forgiveness…of healing…of power…of everything?

What if you remembered that God filled your lungs with breath…took you as you were…brought you out of the dark?

What if you released fear and gave God back your captured awe?