Streams In The Desert (book review)

streams-in-the-desertGod said, “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). This verse perfectly sums up the dominant message in Lettie Cowman’s book Streams In The Desert.

Everyone has been there: things haven’t gone as we planned … we’re not sure how we could have ended up in such a dry, barren place … it seems like nothing is working out right … we begin to think that even God has lost sight of us. But it’s in this painful, desert place that God is ready to do something unheard of!

Lettie Cowman knew the pain of sickness and disappointment and thwarted dreams. Yet in the midst of her desert place, as she poured out her raw emotions, she began to see a river springing up in her wilderness. This book is a heaven-sent blessing to anyone in those dark, barren places.

Each day you will get a glimpse of God’s spring, as Lettie shares her personal discoveries, insights from Scripture, quotes from other desert wanderers, poems of reflection, and even prayers for help. Each day’s short reading is thirst-quenching and soul-satisfying.

If you are going through a desert place, get a copy of this book for yourself. If you have a friend who is struggling, buy a copy for them, and find times to get together to discuss each day’s reading. There’s a reason why this book has stood the test of time and has been an immense help to so many throughout the years.

Beware Of Loving Praise From People

jesus-always“Beware of loving praise from men more than praise from Me. One of the effects of the Fall is that people are overly concerned about what others think of them…. I don’t want you to be preoccupied with how other people view you. I have lovingly shielded you from being able to read the minds of others. What they think of you is really ‘none of your business.’ People’s thoughts are unreliable—distorted by their sinfulness, weaknesses, and insecurities. Even if they praise you to your face, some of their thoughts about you will be quite different. I am the only One who sees you as you truly are. … Instead of seeking praise from men, seek to see Me looking at you. My loving approval of you is shining from My face.” —Jesus (in Sarah Young’ s book Jesus Always)

Praying With The Authority Of The Creator

pray-boldlyJesus had a way of praying that sounds unusual to our ears because He didn’t pray “normal” prayers. His prayers were bold statements! But Jesus also taught us to pray just like He did.

Most prayers that Christians pray sound like they come from the same formula. We may start with something like, “Heavenly Father” or “Dear God.” Then we probably spend some time praising God for His greatness before we make our requests of Him. Often our requests include something like “If this is Your will, I ask You to please heal/help/answer/etc.” And then almost always the prayer concludes, “In Jesus’ name, Amen!”

When Jesus prayed, His prayers sounded more like commands than requests. He would say things like, “Be clean” or “Rise up and walk” or “Blind eyes, be opened.” He usually didn’t ask His Father if it was His will to heal/help/answer/etc. And He never concluded a prayer by saying, “In My name, Amen!”

In Luke 6 there is a story about a man with a withered hand. Jesus healed him by speaking to the man, not to God. He said, “Stretch out your hand,” and when the man did so, his hand was completely restored. Jesus spoke with the authority of the Creator. 

I believe this was possible because Jesus had an unbroken conversation with His Father and the Holy Spirit. Certainly He had set times of prayer (see Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45-46, and Luke 6:12-13 as examples), but Jesus also told us that He only did what His Father told Him to do (John 5:19), and He only said what His Father told Him to say (John 12:49).

I know sometimes people want to say, “Yeah, but this is Jesus we’re talking about! C’mon, He’s the Son of God, so of course He could do these things.” But remember that the miracle of Christ’s Incarnation is that He chose NOT to do these things out of His Deity while He was on Earth, but restricted Himself only to His humanity. That’s why the Bible says that everything we face, Jesus also faced in the flesh (Hebrews 2:14-18).

But perhaps another example from someone who had no Deity in his nature might help. Consider Joshua—this man spent more time in God’s presence, listening to His voice, than even Moses (Exodus 33:11). So when the time came, Joshua could pray an incredibly bold prayer: He actually spoke to the sun and the moon and told them to stand still in the sky, AND THEY OBEYED HIM!

Just like Jesus spoke to the man with the withered hand in the authority of the Creator, Joshua spoke to the sun and the moon in the same authoritative voice. How could these men do that? Because they were familiar with God’s voice, and when He told them to speak out boldly, they simply obeyed.

Jesus said we could pray the same way—Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it (John 14:12-14, emphasis added).

How can we learn to pray this boldly? We need to spend more and more time in dialogue with God. We need to become increasingly aware of the His abiding presence with us. Then we, too, can pray in the Creator’s authority.

Praying this way glorifies God!

Get together with a friend this week and work through these application questions:

  1. Am I spending time in planned prayer and Bible reading?
  2. How can I make myself more aware of God’s perpetual presence?
  3. What’s holding me back from praying more boldly?

Get Off Facebook, Dad!

This is reprinted from the Axis Culture Translator

the-culture-translatorMiddle-aged Americans (35- to 49-year-olds) are now spending more time on social media (seven hours a week) than their children, with the fastest growing demographic on Facebook being Baby Boomers. I recently asked my daughter’s best friend what she was doing that evening and she responded, “nothing, just going home to watch my parents stare at their phones all night.” Ouch.

There’s nothing inherently good or bad about social media, it just is. Yet, how we use it matters. Is documenting your life online keeping you from actually living it? Maybe the greatest gift we can give our children is presence. Here are five practical ways to model healthy social media habits in your home so you can be fully present and engaged with your family.

1. Practice Faithful Presence: Root your life in the real. Anchoring yourself in the here and now reduces the impulsive need to broadcast your life, which can lead to envy, depression, and FOMO. Instead, embrace JOMO!

2. Resist the Urge to Share: Instead of posting that picture of you and your husband at the beach, keep that moment just between the two of you. Cherish it, and it will become an intimate memory binding you to one another, instead of cheapening the moment by sharing it with the world.

3. Unplug: Our devices tell us there is something more important going on “out there” than what’s going on right here, but that’s not true. Establish tech-free times during the day or tech-free places (dinner table) to encourage deliberate, face-to-face interaction with your family. Or, try giving up social media for Lent this year.

4. Slow Down: Your life’s pace matters. Our friends Matt and Julie Canlis encourage parents to live at “Godspeed”, which means living life intentionally, mindfully, and slowly. Practice it by reading a novel aloud together as a family at night, or play a board game instead of watching a movie. Start small, take 15-minutes every morning just to be with your kids before heading off to work and school. Build a liturgy to your day that encourages you to slow down and subvert the digital culture.

5. Pay Attention: The best way to capture moments isn’t to post them to SnapChat, it’s to simply pay attention. Cultivating an awareness of the world around us is a big part of being fully human. Henry David Thoreau said “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” Ask yourself from time to time, “Am I paying attention to my life right now?” Otherwise, whole days, even our very life could pass by unnoticed.

Our kids need healthy boundaries around screen time and social media, what better way to provide those boundaries than by modeling them with our own actions and habits.

Parents, please sign up for the weekly email from Axis. You can do so by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—Desire

Matthew ArnoldThou, who dost dwell alone;
Thou, who dost know Thine own;
Thou, to whom all are known,
From the cradle to the grave—
Save, O, save!

From the world’s temptations;
From tribulations;
From that fierce anguish
Wherein we languish;
From that torpor deep
Wherein we lie asleep,
Heavy as death, cold as the grave—
Save, O, save!

When the soul, growing clearer,
Sees God no nearer;
When the soul, mounting higher,
To God comes no nigher;
But the arch-fiend Pride
Mounts at her side,
Foiling her high enterprise,
Sealing her eagle eyes,
And, when she fain would soar,
Make idols to adore;
Changing the pure emotion
Of her high devotion,
To a skin-deep sense
Of her own eloquence;
Strong to deceive, strong to enslave—
Save, O, save! —Matthew Arnold

Thursdays With Oswald—Do You Think Life Is A Drudgery?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Do You Think Life Is A Drudgery? 

     God made man a mixture of dust and Deity—“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). The dust of a man’s body is his glory, not his shame. … 

     Drudgery is the outcome of sin, but it has no right to be the rule of life. It becomes the rule of life because we ignore the fact that the dust of the earth belongs to God, and that man’s chief end is to glorify God. Unless we can maintain the presence of Divinity in our dust, life becomes a miserable drudgery. If a man lives in order to hoard up the means of living, he does not live at all, he has no time to, he is taken up with one form of drudgery or another to keep things going. …  

     The wisdom of today concerns itself chiefly with the origin of things and not with God, consequently neither the philosopher nor the mystic has time for actual life.

From Shade Of His Hand

God created us to enjoy life as we enjoy Him, enjoy His creation, and enjoy doing what He has created us to do.

If you find life toilsome, burdensome or a downright drudgery, can I suggest one simple question: How is your relationship with God?

If you truly ask Him, God will show you how to live a life filled with JOY!

7 More Quotes From “Jesus Always”

jesus-alwaysIn Jesus Always by Sarah Young, we hear Jesus speak the words of Scripture to us in His first-Person voice.

“I am training you to view your life from a heavenly perspective—through eyes of faith. When things don’t go as you had hoped to, talk with Me. Seek My face and My guidance. I will help you discern whether you need to work to change the situation or simply accept it.”

“The more you keep your gaze on Me—in quiet times and busy times—the better you can reflect My glory to other people. … When you are aware that I am present with you, you’re less likely to do or say something that’s displeasing to Me. When you’re struggling with difficult circumstances or painful feelings, awareness of My presence offers courage and comfort.”

“If you aspire to reach the heights—especially the high places of achievement and recognition—be prepared to shoulder the responsibilities that accompany success. But don’t forget to enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishing good things with Me, through Me, and for Me.”

“Pursuing a close walk with Me is the best way to live in the present. Keep bringing your thoughts back to Me whenever they wander. Return to Me joyfully, beloved. I will take great delight in you and rejoice over you with singing.”

“You tend to waste energy trying to determine whether your resources are adequate for the day. You keep checking your ‘power gauge’ instead of looking to Me for My provision. How much better to simply acknowledge your insufficiency when you awaken! This frees you to rely on My boundless sufficiency.”

“Your becoming a Christian was only the beginning of the work I’m doing in you. You need to be made new in the attitude of your mind and to put on the new self—becoming increasingly godly, righteous, and holy. This is a lifelong endeavor, and it is preparing you for heaven’s glory.”

“See Me smiling on you in radiant approval. My limitless love falls continually upon you, like heavenly snowflakes that melt into your upturned face. No matter how distressing your circumstances, this love is sufficient to sustain you. Someday you will even ascend to Heaven on it. I eagerly anticipate the time when I will take you into glory—to be with Me forever!”

Be sure to check out my review of Jesus Always by clicking here, and you can read the first set of quotes I shared from this book here.

If you’d like to be notified immediately when I post more quotes, please subscribe to my blog, and be sure to follow me on Twitter and Tumblr, where I share inspiring quotes every day.

%d bloggers like this: