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.

Do Your Children Believe // Terence Chatmon

Read the Bible.

Go to church.

Pray.

Some pretty standard answers that are given when asked what we should do to grow in our relationship with God. All are pretty good indicators that we are moving in the right direction and are generally accepted as steps all followers of Jesus should be taking.

In the opening pages of his book Do Your Children Believe?, author Terence Chatmon shares this statistic:

“. . . the hard truth remains that fewer than 10 percent of Christian families ever really engage with one another for the express purpose of encouraging or informing their growing faith. And not 1 percent could show you any kind of written plan that even briefly describes the spiritual direction they’re praying for and working together toward.”

So while we know we should read the Bible and pray, it seems that the majority of families do not practice those things together.  Into that gap of knowing verses doing (especially in the context of the family), Chatmon offers his insights.

Now normally the emotion that is associated with Bible reading and prayer seems to be guilt.  Guilt that we don’t read enough.  Guilt that we don’t pray enough.  Guilt that we aren’t consistent in either arena. Chatmon doesn’t pile onto that feeling of inadequacy.  Instead he shares his journey of how this became a priority in his life, even admitting that for a number of years he was not actively involved in doing what he writes about. He mentions multiple times that he doesn’t have it all figured out nor is he an expert. He confesses that he is not a Biblical scholar, but has in recent years taken seriously the role of leading his family.  From that experience and obvious passion he offers his thoughts.

In the chapters of the book the author offers ideas on identifying each family’s values, crafting a vision and a mission along with other steps to help families achieve a written plan for family faith development.

One of the things I appreciated as I read the book was that while Chatmon offered direction and shared many personal stories, he didn’t give too many specifics on what his family put together.  He didn’t want someone to fall into the trap of simply adopting what his family did.  He stressed the importance of each family identifying their own values, their own mission, their own prayer focus, ultimately making their plan their own.

While he shared some good insights and clear steps, there were a couple of phrases I highlighted that I considered memorable.

Near the end of the book Chatmon was expressing a long view of his family’s faith development plan.  He painted this picture:

“The thought of my kid sitting around a table with their kids, teaching and training them how to sit around with their kids – my great-grandkids – learning and living the ways of the Lord . . . I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”

His vision reaches beyond even his own lifetime.  The generational impact could move far beyond his own years on this earth.  A pretty powerful picture.

In the final chapter he concludes the book by underscoring why he is passionate about families developing a written plan:

” . . . my most direct route to fulfilling this enormous calling of mine (and ours) is to live it and share it and instill it within those who are closest to me:  my family. They are the essential starting point where any hope of my being effective, any hope of becoming my very best for the kingdom, must begin.”

Chatmon offers practical tools to help families (especially fathers) to become intentional about a faith development plan and create specific steps to leave a spiritual legacy.

House Build Trip is Two Weeks Away

Two weeks from today our group will be on our way to Mexico. Monday will be a travel day and we will spend the next three days building a house with 1MISSION. Hard to believe that we are closing in on our departure date. Our team has met a couple of times and we are getting ready to go.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this trip through prayers, financial gifts, donations to our concessions during our Upward basketball season and just inquiring about the trip. We can’t wait to share what we experience while there.

Please be in prayer for the family we will be serving, 1MISSION as they continue the work they are doing and for our team as we travel and work together.

See You At The Pole 15 #syatp

This week was See You At The Pole. It is a nationwide prayer event that we encourage our students to be a part of each year. Due to the timing of some of our schools’ events, I was able to be at a portion of two different schools gatherings. Each year when you walk on to the campus, you can sense both the excitement and nervousness as students gather. While we don’t have official number of participants from each year, this year seemed to have a higher number of students present than in years past.

I’m grateful for the students who make it a point to participate in the event and make it a proority to get to school early to pray. I’m thankful for the adults (parents, teachers, church leaders) who encourage the students by their presence at the event. While SYATP started with high school students, it has trickled down to the elementary school level.

There have been many pictures shared on Facebook of the various events. Here’s a brief video of pictures from our local schools.

9 Years Ago

NineI got a text from my son today reminding me of an anniversary. It’s one that we remember, but don’t really celebrate in the way you might celebrate a wedding anniversary or a birthday. Nine years ago this month Joe had a stroke which affected the right side of his body. When you look at him now, you wouldn’t really believe it. In fact, as I think back to that event, it seems a bit surreal.

We were at our junior high camp out and he wasn’t acting himself. We ended up at the hospital, came home, then went back to hospital. He ended up at Dayton Children’s Hospital, but made a relatively quick recovery. We found out over time how many people were praying for Joe during this time and know those prayers made a huge difference.

A lot has transpired in the past nine years and as always we’ve hit a few bumps in the road. God continues to bring good out of bad situations. Looking back, the stroke seems like a lifetime ago. I’m looking forward to the future God has for Joe and what He will continue to do with him.

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.