Whisper // Mark Batterson

“God wants us to hear what He’s saying and we must heed His voice. So He whispers softer and softer so that we have to get closer and closer. And when we finally get close enough, He envelops us in His arms & tells us that He loves us.”

Mark Batterson concludes his new book, Whisper, with what might be considered the thesis statement for this writing: because God loves us, He wants to communicate with us and He does that through whispers.

Throughout Whisper Batterson underscores the thought that God desires to communicate with His people and highlights seven languages that God uses: Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings and Pain.

I appreciated that he continually pointed back to scripture as the means to interpret the other voices God uses.  Some might raise concerns when you speak of dreams or desires or looking for open or closed doors.  While God certainly can (and has) used other voices to speak to His people, He has given us His Word to be our guide.  As Batterson said in one chapter, “. . .we don’t interpret Scripture via signs; we interpret signs via Scripture.”  In another he reminded readers, “God-given dreams won’t contradict scripture.”

Through his own experience in ministry and through the stories of others, Batterson shows how God uses the other voices to whisper to His people.  One particular voice that I wrote about in a previous post is how God uses doors to speak to us.  This phrase stuck with me: “We put a period where God puts a comma.”  His comment that we interpret a closed-door from God to be a “no” when perhaps what God is saying is “not yet” was a good reminder.  He also said that sometimes we have to walk through several doors to get to where God really wants us to be.

Whisper points readers to listen to the voice of God.  The foundation of the book is that because God loves us, He wants to speak to us.  We need to be listening.  Batterson’s book is a good tool to help us do just that.

 

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Putting a Period Where God Puts a Comma

A couple of weeks ago I received a review copy of Mark Batterson’s new book, Whisper. I’ve had the opportunity to read several of his books including The Circle Maker. Any of his books that I have read have proved helpful.  While I still need to finish Whisper, there have been a number of things I’ve highlighted and earmarked.

The subtitle of the book is How to Hear the Voice of God and Batterson writes about different voices that God uses to speak to us.

In one particular chapter I read this phrase: We put a period where God puts a comma.  Batterson is writing about doors that God opens and closes as we seek to know what He wants us to do.  He remarks that we interpret a closed-door from God to be a “no” when perhaps what God is saying is “not yet.”

As I read this particular chapter, I thought about our adoption experience.  Like many, we’ve had a number of starts and stops on the way (I’ve shared some of our experience in previous posts.)  We actually waited close to two years between potential adoptions.  Our son Eli is four and a half months old as I write this and we weren’t sure God wanted us to adopt again.  We had a feeling that perhaps that door was marked “closed.”

As it turns out, God was just saying, “Not yet.”  Things fell into place at the right time and we have added another little boy to our family.

Back to the chapter from Whisper, I think we were interpreting a “no” instead of a “not yet.”  Perhaps Batterson’s insight a page later in the chapter described us fairly well:  “Simply put, we want what we want when we want it, and usually we want it now.”

While there is no formula for hearing the voice of God, this chapter was a good reminder that what we perceive as a closed-door could be more of a delay than shut forever.  Because while most of us are by nature impatient, it may be that God is waiting for a better time or better situation or even a better us.

As I was looking back at the posts regarding our son’s adoption, I ran across this quote:  What God originates He orchestrates.

I think we are always learning how to understand and hear the voice of God.  No one has it perfected.  In the process this chapter was a good reminder to me that listening at times means waiting.

Granted, sometimes God tells us, “No,” – just like we do with our children – but there is also the potential for God saying, “Not yet.” Because He sees more, knows more and in control, we need to keep our ear tuned to Him.

When He does open the door, it can be a beautiful thing.

The Winsomeness of Humility

About two weeks ago I received an email from Growing Leaders that talked about one quality that Boomers and Millennials must develop. This blog post is not about either Millennials or Boomers or the differences between the two.

( ( However, if you haven’t seen You’ve Gotta Love Millenials you must take three minutes to watch it. ) )

Back to the original topic . . .

In the article this one phrase kind of jumped out at me: Attitudes speak louder than words. . . don’t underestimate the winsomeness of humility.

Winsomeness is defined as sweetly or innocently charming; winning; engaging.

There is something charming, winning and engaging about a person who demonstrates humility.

We see a lot of acts that don’t demonstrate humility: athletes that draw attention to themselves after making a big play, artists who strive to keep the spotlight on themselves, public figures who make it a habit of keeping their faces on camera. We can probably all think of a time when we were turned off by arrogant behavior – a lack of humility.

We might also be able to bring to mind a time when we were attracted to humility. Someone did something solely for the benefit of someone else and stayed out of the limelight. It could be as simple as paying for meal of the person behind you in the drive-thru line or leaving a circle of friends at lunch time to sit with someone who was eating alone.

There is something attractive, beautiful, even winsome about humility.

In his book Chase the Lion Mark Batterson shares this story of Booker T. Washington.

Washington was in Iowa and had spent the day speaking to packed rooms at four different gatherings. He was the keynote speaker, the center of attention, the one everyone in town came to see.

While in the hotel lobby where he was staying, Washington was mistaken for one of the hotel staff. A woman asked him for a glass of water. His response: he got her a drink and then asked, “Is there anything else I can get for you?”

What a great example of the winsomeness of humility.

I don’t know if the woman in the hotel lobby that day was ever told who it was that got her that glass of water. But it seems that Booker T. Washington didn’t care.

In the Growing Leaders article, this advice was given: Ask questions. Listen well. Develop a hungry mind. Talk about others more than yourself. Seek out good books and mentors. Show me you’re good, don’t tell me.

Imagine how our schools, churches and workplaces would change if we all followed that advice and sought to demonstrate humility.

Chase the Lion – Mark Batterson

chase-the-lion-mark-batterson-mobile-wallpaper-lion-and-textJust over five years ago I posted a review on Mark Batterson’s In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. Last week I finished reading a follow-up to it called Chase the Lion. The newest offering used In a Pit with a Lion as a literary springboard and continued looking at Benaiah as well as several other of David’s Mighty Men written about in the Old Testament.

The byline of Chase the Lion is this: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small. Through the pages of the book Batterson refers to David’s mighty men, followers of Jesus from scripture and history and contemporary Christ followers who live out this Lion Chaser manifesto.

As I was reading the book, I would mark quotes that stood out to me and then dog-eared the page so I could find them later. Upon concluding the book, I saw that I had a number of pages with bent corners. Batterson knows how to turn a phrase and pack a punch in a sentence of two.

On page 70 he had this good reminder for those who are chasing a dream God has given them: “We overestimate what we can accomplish in a year or two, but we underestimate what God can accomplish in a decade or two. If you’re discouraged, zoom out. you can’t just dream big; you have to think long.”

Good reminder.

One of the more powerful parts of the book for me personally was near the end when he wrote about the importance of thinking long-term when it comes to the work we are doing in the kingdom of God. Sometimes (or perhaps most of the time) we think about what God is doing for us or for those around us. On page 171 Batterson wrote, “We think that what God does for us is for us, but it’s never just for us. It’s always for the third and fourth generations. We think right here, right now, but God is thinking nations and generations.”

He shared several examples how men and women who lived and served generations ago are still impacting people today. Whether is was planting a church, starting a scholarship, launching a ministry or introducing someone to Jesus, Batterson showed how God used the efforts of previous men and women to impact third and fourth generations.

What a great picture to have in mind as we serve today. To think that the work we are doing now has the potential of impacting or grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren is both humbling and inspiring.

Batterson’s encouragement throughout the book is to continue to Chase the Lion. Whatever God has called to do, our task is to remain faithful and allow Him to take care of the results.

Draw the Circle

draw tge circleI was pretty excited when I saw that Draw the Circle was an available book in the BookSneeze list. I’ve read all of Mark Batterson’s previous books and appreciate his writing style. Several months ago I was able to purchase multiple copies of The Circle Maker to make available to some of our leaders here. Draw the Circle is a continuation of that book.

In this offering, Batterson builds on the principles of The Circle Maker, but also includes stories and testimonies he has received from people who have read his book. He designed this book to be a 40 day devotional and it came at a good time for me as I was just finishing up a Bible reading plan.

I have found Batterson to be quite quotable and my Kindle version of the book has a list of highlights from various chapters. While Batterson is a proponent of believers spending time in prayer, he doesn’t see prayer (or drawing prayer circles) as a way to get God to do what we want Him to do. In one chapter of the book, Batterson writes: “Sometimes the purpose of prayer is to get us out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them.”

Just a few pages later, Batterson makes this statement: “If we’re being completely honest, most of our prayers have as their chief objective our own personal comfort rather than God’s glory.”

Draw the Circle is a good resource for those looking to grow in the discipline of prayer. I found both Batterson’s words and the stories he shared to be both helpful and challenging.

Praying Circles Around Your Children

I’ve read several of Mark Batterson’s books including In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy DayWild Goose Chase and The Circle Maker.  Praying Circles Around Your Children is a shorter book based on the principles and scriptures found in The Circle Maker.  I read the entire book in two sittings, but it could easily be read through in 60 – 90 minutes.  Batterson does a good job of building on what he wrote about in The Circle Maker and made it applicable to parents.

He shares stories not only from his own experience of raising three children, but also from parents he has met through his various speaking engagements. He also receives emails from people who have read his book and take time to share their stories.

I was challenged by this book to be in regular prayer for my children.  Batterson emphasizes the importance of not giving up when it comes to praying for various things.  One quote from the books states it well:  “We need a paradigm shift.  We need to start praying ALAT prayers – as long as it takes.”  He shares stories from people who prayed on a regular basis – some for several years – for their children before answers came.

Many times when you read books like this and you have older children, you get the feeling it is too late.  Batterson addresses that as well.  He writes specifically to those who have teenage students.  “When they enter middle school or high school or college, we need to intercede for our children.  Pray that they will make the right friends and the right choices.  Pray that their conscience will keep them on the straight and narrow.  Pray that they won’t just survive; pray that they will thrive.”

Praying Circles Around Your Children not only encourages parents to pray, but offers practical ideas on how to do that.  If you are a parent, this book will be an encouragement to you.

Conviction vs. Condemnation

I was listening to a podcast yesterday from National Community Church in DC.  Mark Batterson was speaking on Romans 8:1 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..”

He made an excellent distinction between conviction and condemnation in regards to our sin.  When we sin, one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of our sin, which should lead to confession and then forgiveness. Conviction is a good thing as it brings us to the place of coming to God so He can take away our sin.

Condemnation occurs when we have confessed sin, but still carry the guilt for it.  Satan will remind us of our sin and will attempt to weigh us down with guilt that we shouldn’t carry.  Once we have been convicted of our sin, turned to God to forgive us, He doesn’t condemn us.  That’s the point of Romans 8:1. Once Jesus has forgiven us, we are no longer condemned.

Batterson had a simple equation he used.  Sin – Grace = Guilt.  Sin + Grace = Gratitude.  Thought that was a good reminder.