Hurricane Irma Can’t Take This From Me

I walked into my room and grabbed the black duffel bag in the middle of the floor. I breathed in more uncertainty than oxygen. After joking with my sister the whole week about whether we would leave our makeup collections behind, I had reached reality. It burned my throat as I swallowed. It clouded my eyes as I closed them. In the past, I may have allowed myself to fall apart, but I did not have time to sweep up the pieces. So, I breathed. I believed.

God is good. God is here. God is all I need.

I want to say I steeled myself. My proud flesh wants to say I buckled down and did what needed to be done. That is not what happened. I was carried. God has carried me this last week and it was sweet.

Tears don’t scare me. Breaking down doesn’t scare me. Feeling alone doesn’t scare me. Being alone is daunting, but it is not what I most fear. I can say confidently after this last week, losing everything doesn’t scare me. Losing God does.

There are a lot of dreams I have held on to. There are prophecies and promises I have clung to with white-knuckled hands. I have dug my nails into my palms until they bled, but I didn’t let them go. I have carried them while He has carried me. He’s brought me this far and He’s going nowhere.

My greatest fear is losing Him the way a mother loses her husband when she forgets she’s a wife. Sometimes circumstances dictate priorities, but we pay a high price for losing sight of Jesus. He is closer than a spouse. He knows me better than any human could. I don’t want to lose Him. I don’t want to lose what I have with Him. If I had locked my mother’s house and come home to nothing, He would have been there. He would have been everything out of necessity, not out of choice.

So, I choose. I choose God. I choose my One Thing. Jesus Who saved me, You are my One Thing. Holy Spirit, Who never leaves me, nor forsakes me, You are my One Thing. Abba, Father Who gives good things, God, You are my One Thing.

There are more hurricanes in the Gulf. There are a thousand other circumstances that could separate me from my family, friends, dreams, life… There is nothing that can separate me from God except my choice.

Choose the uncertainty that surrounds Jesus and you choose a life of adventurous, unshakable love. The world can make you no such promises. The uncertainty of the world is cold and unforgiving. The uncertainty I live in today is persistent. It is, at times, overwhelming. But I am not uncertain of God.

For now, things are quiet. I am back to my routine, as normal as I can make it. Others are still suffering. Others were suffering before the hurricane and the world will continue to contain vast amounts of suffering until Jesus returns. But God is still good. God is still here. I still choose Him.

 

The Post of the Resurrection

In the room across from the one in which I sit lies a sick child whimpering in his sleep. I had an agenda this morning which did not include organizing my room and wiping a runny nose all day long, but the space demanded arrangement and my son was too sick to go to preschool on his third day. Life is often rife with intrusive spontaneity, especially as of late.

This little ship called life is being rocked by one of the most turbulent storms I’ve ever weathered. Its persistent waves are teaching me the limits of my innate stubbornness and my acute desperation for the strength of the Holy Spirit. My husband is 1500 miles and 8 states away from me, working day and night through his own tempest. This is not the first time our vessels have been so far apart, but it feels farther than it did last time. A couple of months ago, this saga hit the two-year mark on a date so conspicuous that no one marked its passing besides me. I celebrated it with the comfort that things might soon stabilize and the days of being gypsies would be over, at least for a while. We were so stagnant for so long, stuck in the apartment where God taught me gratitude for 8 years, and now we can’t seem to find a place to rest our heads.

This time has been marked by an acceptance of things I did not ask for while God uses them to equip me for that which I did ask. It would be ironic were He not so faithful and so truly gentle. Concurrently, within this onslaught rages the deathless battle between the rational evaluation of my finite existence and my abject emotional wallowing. I know more about the inside of my head than I ever wanted to and, let me tell you, it’s not a space I was formerly unfamiliar with. The cynic within me rises up to begin a protracted commentary about the life of a self-aware Believer and is swiftly quelled. Let us not indulge that sort of martyrdom in the middle of this blog.

Why now? This is the overarching existential question du jour. Why is now the time? Why is now the time to chase after my dreams and work for their realization? Why is now the time to march around Jericho? Why is now the time to follow Elijah on one more errand? Lord, I am tired. Lord, you see my crazy life. Lord, how on earth is that supposed to happen right now? Why is now the time?

On few occasions do I ask the Lord, “Why?” It’s not a common question in my arsenal. I find it both irrelevant and presumptuous. To ask the question assumes I merit and would understand the answer. God owes me nothing and His answer would likely be beyond my comprehension. And in this particular instance, the question itself is redundant because the answer is obvious. Why now?

Now is all we have. If not now, when? Promises are realized in the now. Dreams are pursued in the present. The past has only lessons to be learned and every future we get in this life is a gift. Nothing is guaranteed except your chosen destination. I will be with Christ, I have chosen Him, but my reward is being constructed in heaven as I work here. I do not work for my reward, I work for my God, yet my reality in heaven is more concrete than that before my eyes.

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a wicked heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the assurance we had at first.  – Hebrews 3:12-14

Unbelief is a sneaky beast. I could not honestly deny belief in Christ, although the enemy sometimes prowls the outskirts of my mind. But, if I took my eyes off Jesus, he would quietly unravel my faith in the plans of God for my life. He can’t take my salvation, but he would settle for my purpose.

So, here I take up the banner once more. Here I say, “I believe in what You said to me.” Here I take the first step. The road seems no shorter, but in faith, I am one step closer. I have to start somewhere, so I am starting with this blog. I have recording to finish. I have copyrighting to complete. I have musicians to find. I have provisions to wait on. This blog has been dead since last year, but I plant here the post of the resurrection.

Why now? Because it is called today.

Free to Worship by the Rocket’s Red Glare

Good evening, fellow Americans. Tonight, we are free. I can say, with complete and heartfelt gratitude, thank you, God for allowing me to live in this country. I have to tell you, sometimes I wonder why God gave me the privilege of living here. The United States in a truly amazing place.

My son has never seen fireworks before tonight. He heard the noise that reminded him of thunder and, not wanting him to be afraid, I stood with him by the window so he could see them. They really are beautiful. My hard-working compatriots bought them with their hard-earned money to celebrate the country where they live. I have seen my neighbors. At least half of them are immigrants, as are my in-laws. I have traveled little in my life, but I visited my husband’s homeland, Brazil, last year. I can tell you, this country is amazing. There are very wealthy people in other parts of the world who, with all of their money, cannot enjoy the same conveniences we do here. And by we, I mean the working middle class.

I asked him, “Do you know why there are fireworks tonight?” He answered confidently, “I don’t know.” I smiled and thought about my reply. How do you explain to a three year-old what independence means? We thank God every night for our food, our water, our house, our family, our Church, but not often for our country. Then, it hit me. That’s it.

“We are celebrating because we are free. We are free to worship God here where we live. We are free to celebrate Him.” My son’s face lit up as a whistling comet burst into green twinkling stardust. “We can celebrate God!” Yes, my son, we can. We are free.

There are a lot of people who do not appreciate the freedom we experience in this country. For many years, I did not fully appreciate it. I heard stories about Jews who hid in basements and attics to live and how our people once held secret services so our heritage would not be found out, but somehow it did not click that I did not experience that because I lived in America. I had thought everyone was free. Freedom was a gift of the present age, rather than my present location.

Today, Christians are murdered in every conceivable way you can imagine. They are not killed in secret, but in public squares. Their bodies are not given back to the ground, but left in dishonor on the streets, so the populace will remember the reality in which they live – they are not free. I use Christians as an example, but I acknowledge there are many other groups of people who will go to sleep tonight in fear for their lives, with no hope that their governments will give them solace.

You can say a great many things about the wrongs this country has committed. You are free to say as many of them as you wish because someone died to give you that right. Tonight, as I write this post by the light of the rocket’s red glare, there are men and women all over the world, on the ground, underground, on the sea, in the air, who wear a uniform and fight for my freedom. Sadly, disgracefully, many of my countrymen malign them even for making the decision to put the uniform on in the first place, but I thank God for them. I am ashamed to say I do not often think to pray for the military that keeps me safe or their families who sacrifice, not just lives and limbs of their loved ones, but time away from family members, sleep while others lay with their loved ones beside them, and peace of mind knowing their loved one is out of harm’s way.  May God bless you and your families – truly, may God bless each and every one of you who served, serves and will serve. You give me this gift of freedom that can never be paid for. You pay for it so I can have it for free.

It’s loud tonight. I pity the dog. But it’s safe. I have never been so proud to hear so much noise outside. I’m surprised at myself because I am normally quite miffed about noise late at night. Maybe this is God’s gift to me on this Independence Day. Gratitude is a gift. I thank God that what I hear are fireworks and not gunfire coming for my village. I thank God that the rocket’s red glare tonight is a firework and not a missile. I thank God tonight that, while I have it, I can enjoy freedom.

The future is uncertain. Nothing is promised. Tonight, your soul may be required of you. Let us thank God that we are here. Let us ask Him to bless our country and give our leaders wisdom, for this is what God has charged us to do in the land where we sojourn. Let us show gratitude to God for allowing this to be the country in which we live.

Thank you, God, for this, my country. God bless America.

Photo credit: http://www.unsplash.com – Ryan Wong

Parenting Blog #1: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Who hasn’t heard this age-old adage? Even non-believers know what it means and dispute about it, although they probably don’t know its origin. It should be no surprise to Word-reading followers of Christ that it comes straight out of the Bible. Or does it?

No, I’m not about to launch into a rant about the merits of various forms of punishment. Go ahead and exhale. I want to address the fact that this little maxim, like most Biblical tidbits that make it into culture’s collective consciousness, is a half-truth. Before I go any further, here is the actual verse in its entirety.

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. – Proverbs 13:24 ESV

Why am I starting here? Well, I’ll tell you where I didn’t start. I did not post the page and a half rant I had in Microsoft Word before I arrived at this verse. I did not begin by painting broad, sweeping generalizations all over my parenthood canvas – although that is exactly what I felt like doing when I put finger to key. I did not put down the very first thoughts that came into my head a month ago when I first toyed with the idea of delving into this most tenuous of subjects. I have been mulling them over, handing them back and forth to the Holy Spirit, asking why I felt like doing this. What am I trying to accomplish by writing one more (because, for real, they are everywhere) blog about raising children?

I am trying to get us to slow down and look up.

I don’t want you to follow your heart as you read this. Our hearts are sick and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). I don’t want you do feel bad or good about the job you’re doing as a parent. We have one standard by which we are to measure ourselves, it’s the will of God, not our feelings (Romans 12:2). I would like us, as parents, to think about what we are doing and be honest with ourselves about this work and how we should do it. We have one source of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6), let’s use it.

When people say, “spare the rod, spoil the child,” they got it wrong. Revelations 22:19 tells us we better not be taking things out of the Word of God, so if you’re going to quote the Bible, you better quote the whole thing. The verse says, “he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” This verse is about love.

How I parent my child should directly and accurately reflect how God parents His children. Let me repeat that. My behavior and, more importantly, my heart attitude as a parent should mirror God’s relationship as a Father with His children. Maybe you read that and thought, “Of course, it is.” This is a widely accepted truth among Christians, but, in my observation, not a widely applied truth.

I’ll give you an example. Parents often talk about the rewards of parenthood as the reasons why they do what they do. When a list of #realtruths about being a mother or father are laid out, they are usually followed by a statement that goes something along the lines of, “but it’s all worth it when they say I love you,” or, “when I see them succeed,” or, “when I feel like a good mom.” That last one is one of less commonly written-out-loud ones, but it’s often there between the lines. In reality, there is only one reason why God does what He does with us: Love.

There are children that are more difficult to parent than others. This is absolutely true. There are sometimes long stretches of time when you will not get any of the so-called “rewards” that make parenting worth it. There are moments when you cannot muster up enough warm-and-fuzzy feelings or feel-good-as-a-mom thoughts to propel yourself through the grueling fight for your child’s well-being.

Love, pure and unadulterated, is the only reason to do this and it’s the only way to get it done right. And I’m not talking about your finite, conditional love. I am talking about the love that flows directly from a personal relationship with God the Father through the Blood of Jesus Christ, ministered to your heart through the Holy Spirit. If you are not plugged into the source of infinite, eternal, whole love, then you and I are not talking about the same thing. True love has a Name, and it sure as heck is not Disney.

Almost all the mentions the Bible makes to parenting are in regards to either love or correction. Most of the time, the two are bound up as they are in this verse. It’s not as if you could misconstrue what God is saying here. To love is to correct. To correct is to love. To be a son is to be loved and corrected. To be a daughter is to be corrected because she is loved. God doesn’t correct us while he thinks about the perks or pros, i.e. because occasionally we say, “thank you,” or “I love you.” God disciplines those He loves.

For the LORD reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:12 ESV

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. – Hebrews 12:6 ESV

I am not perfect. I get things wrong and I make mistakes. I am not writing from a place of, “Hey guys, since I got this parenting thing down, you should listen to me.” I am opening up the Word of God for an honest exploration of what it means to be a Godly parent. God sees my work here and He is the one who will give the final judgement on what I did – not my feelings, not my peers, and definitely not my child. This is not about self-righteousness or self-esteem. In fact, this is not about self at all. We do this for our children, yes, we do. But more important, we do this for God. These are His children and we are raising them for Him.

I challenge you today to find a few minutes and ask God to speak to you about His love. Ask Him to show you something new about how He loves you. Ask Him to give you more of His love. Remember, love is not a feeling, love is a lifestyle. (That is a whole other blog.) If you don’t yet believe in Jesus, I ask you to start there. Ask God to show you something about Who His Son, Yeshua (in Hebrew), is. Let us start in love.

God bless you, fellow builders. With God anything is possible.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/child-rose-flower-red-smel-1152068/

Wherever you go, there you are

One time in Barnes & Noble, my sister-in-law burst into hysterical laughter over the title of a book on display, Wherever You Go, There You Are. As ironic as I had always found the spine of this book as it had stared at me from my father’s bookshelf, it is becoming increasingly less funny as it increasingly describes my life.

On another more recent foray with her, I bought a small canvas which says, “Home is where our adventure begins.” At the time, I was about four months into my musical houses adventure. I arrived in the Sunshine state in June and am now preparing for my husband to return to Minnesota again for work. By the time he comes back, I will have been floating here for a year.

What I have learned is the following… Wherever you go, there you are. I’m not talking about being mindful, at least not in the sense that the book meant it. Then again, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit does require a kind of mindfulness, a willingness to be still and listen.

The Spirit of God hovered over the kitchen sink in my former house. I know, it sounds silly, but I tell you, that is where I’ve heard most clearly from Him. The few words God has given me about my life, I have received there, usually while washing dishes. I was able to go to California for a couple of weeks in October to clean out my house and say goodbye. Amidst the goodbyes that were too few and the packing that was never finished, God gave me my last word in my house.

I was washing dishes, as usual, looking at the tiles that my husband and I had picked out the day before I went into labor with my son. I looked at the window I never got around to decorating. I thought about how much I was going to miss this space where God had so often met me. I remembered how difficult it seemed to hear Him in Florida. I missed my quiet kitchen sink. As I started asking God, “What if I can’t hear You when I leave?” He interrupted my thoughts with an answer that reverberated in my mind.

“I will be with you wherever you go.”

His words filled the room. After a moment, I realized that what He had said was a verse, even several verses. This was the most ancient of promises. God had made this promise over and over in the Bible and He was making it to me as well.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:18 ESV

Even as I continue to wade through the thick currents of confusion and waiting, God is with me. He steadies my feet and calms the waters, He lifts me up as I learned to walk closer to the surface of the sea. He knew where He was taking me when He told me we would be leaving California. I don’t even need to know myself. As long as He is with me, home will be where He is.

As if I needed one more reminder, my sister-in-law brought me home her latest find. A small jewelry tray with a verse written on it. Unbeknownst to her, I had been looking for one. She had bought one for herself and one for me. God knows just when our knees are buckling, He’s faithful to repeat Himself when He knows we are trying hard not to forget. Now, His words will be before my eyes every morning.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

The Summer of Some Other Time

Somewhere between spending the last two months in a different state and being temporarily apart from my husband, I seem to have fallen off the edge of the known world. Sorry, is that an awkward way to start a blog?

I’m not in a head space to get into the whole story right now, but let’s just say that a summer road trip coupled with an unexpected work opportunity for my husband in another state (yes, a different state than the state that I’m currently in, also a different state than the one we usually reside in) has resulted in my 2.5 year-old son and myself house-hopping all over that delightfully peninsular state in the south east of the country. How I went from California in a drought to Florida during hurricane season and may soon end up in one of the coldest winters in Minnesota is a bit mind-boggling, but I guess I should have seen that coming when God told me at the beginning of the year that we would not believe where we would be by the end of the year. I need to stop underestimating God’s ability to follow up on what He says.

I do not imagine that I have an adoring public or those who wait with baited breath for my next blog, but about the point that friends started calling me asking if I was still alive, I realized that I should probably alert the world to my continued existence. Yup, we’re here, we’re good, still trucking…

This constellation of events has also resulted in my inability to accomplish anything that I had been working on when I left home. Those projects include a campaign for which I missed the date of launch, a book which needs to be dissected and reassembled, an album composed of songs but no musicians, and a host of other small tasks such as putting out a semi-predictable blog. Although I will say that Publix baked goods have greatly contributed to this downfall in creative productivity… calypso crunch cookie bites, I blame you. Also, I’m constantly in the presence of family that up until recently I never saw, which also takes up a great deal of my time. No regrets there. I can’t say I am disappointed with the sudden turns my life has taken. I always used to dream of adventure (enter ironic laughter here), now it seems it has found me.

The real question I have in the midst of all of this is not the one I thought I would be asking. How do I continually seek the Holy Spirit in the midst of so much noise? There is so much to do and see and be right now, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that He’s as much here as He is in my quiet home. He is as much in mess as He is in the silence. Sometimes, I set my mind to finding Him and I am surprised by how close He is. He knows what He is doing. None of this surprises Him or phases Him at all. The only person who has been thrown for a loop in all of this is me. I guess I should just pull up my big girl panties (or rain slickers or snow suit…?) and deal with the fact that some things are on God’s time, not mine.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

Service Requires Identity

I’ve been living in the Gospel of John for the last few weeks. I leave it playing on my phone during the day, I read it when I sit down with a spare minute, I’m even hearing my son start to walk around quoting pieces of it on occasion. I’ve been trying (because heavenly things can only be grasped in the Spirit) to immerse myself in His Truth. I want to better understand the Deity of Messiah – His love, His sacrifice, His humility, His adoption – I want to truly be planted in Him. There are many things that pierce my consciousness every time I hear them, but one in particular has been pulling at me lately.

Most Christians are familiar with the account of Yeshua washing the disciples feet before instituting the last supper. I never noticed that this account is only given in the Gospel of John. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all address the disciples’ discussion of who would be greatest in the Kingdom. However, the act of Jesus washing their feet is only in John. It’s not this account, per say, that I get stuck on. It’s the sentence immediately preceding the short account.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. – John 13:3-4 ESV

Why does John say this before going on to tell what happened next? There are many accounts in the Gospels of Jesus doing things that were just not done. Talking to the “unclean,” and even touching them – not done. What happened? They were healed and made clean. Talking to women – not done. What happened? They were healed, saved from stoning, lifted from shame, and given the ability to believe. Getting up from a table, at which you are the honored Rabbi and Teacher, to take off your outer clothing, tie a towel around your waist and wash dirt off of your students’ feet – definitely not done. So why does John make a point of saying what Jesus knew before He did this?

Yeshua knew who He was. Yeshua’s identity was not based in what He did for people, what He said to people, or who people thought He was. He knew Who He was. John wrote this (by the leading to of the Holy Spirit) for our benefit. We need to understand as a people consumed with image, what people think, what people don’t think – we need to understand that our identity comes from one place: God.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13 ESV

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:15-17

If I am a child of God, then I can do what God’s only begotten Son, Moshiach, whom I am to imitate, did. He was not afraid to lower or debase Himself in the midst of His disciples because it meant nothing to Him what they thought of Him. He knew Who He was.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand. Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, If I do not wash you, you have no share with me. – John 13:6-8

Just a side note – I heart Peter. He makes me feel better about myself because, for as many people say they are Peter, I so am. Constantly jumping the gun with my mouth, making bold proclamations about what is right, what I think, what we should do – that is so me. I’m praying for God to move from pre-Holy Spirit Peter to post-Holy Spirit Peter. Another blog for another day.

If Peter could not accept Jesus as a servant who washed his feet, how would he ever accept Yeshua, the Suffering Servant Moshiach, Who would allow Himself to be cursed on a cross, hung on a tree, to bear the sins of the world? Peter and the disciples, people who were not used to being lifted up before others, thought that by standing with Jesus, expecting a reigning King who would obliterate the Romans at any moment, argued about who would be the greatest. Why? Because most of them were fisherman! They were not people of respect, not esteemed by their people, they did hard work and looked forward to being in the court of the King.

Paul, on the other hand, came from the feet of the Rabbi Gamaliel. He was all set up to be one of the most respected, paid-attention-to, everybody-listens-to-me leaders in the Jewish world. To be blinded, thrown off his horse and addressed by God, only to find out that he is persecuting the One who he professes to follow so zealously – his call was the embodiment of humiliation. He knew where he came from, he knew who he was and he knew who he served. His take on identity and service was very different than that of the quibbling disciples.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3: 4-11

Yeshua said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 ESV).  He said also, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45).

This is increasingly becoming my heart’s cry. Exactly what Paul, Shaul, said is how I feel. I want to know Yeshua HaMoshiach, Jesus Christ. I just want to know Him. And the more I know Him, the more I realize that my position in His Kingdom becomes increasingly irrelevant when I realize who I already am in Him.

I am a daughter of God. I am a servant of the One true God.

Who are you?

He is speaking. Dare to believe.

God still speaks. And you cannot afford to close your ears.

Several months ago, God started impressing on me this sense of great urgency for His Presence. I knew something was coming, something big. I have felt its arrival on the horizon for years, but it was always too far for me to put my finger on. After this last year, full of so many things I never could have predicted, I found myself getting too tired to keep waiting. I found myself reaching for anticipation, fighting apathy, clawing my way through complacency, as this last year ground to a halt. But, by the grace of God, I can say I was faithful in this: I was listening.

God’s timing is perfect. People do not want hear that – I don’t want to hear that – when they are walking through their trials, but it is the God’s honest truth. For every great testimony in God’s Kingdom, there was a person who walked through that story so you could be encouraged. You don’t get to receive the fulfillment without the faith. You don’t get to receive the deliverance without a desert. You don’t get to receive the promise without preparation and perseverance.

Abraham was 75 when God told him that He would make of him a great nation, and he was 85 when Hagar bore him Ishmael, but he was 100 years old when Sarah finally bore him Isaac. Jacob received a promise from God when he slept on the mountain at Beth-El, but he did not receive its fulfillment until he left Laban’s house 21 years later. Joseph received his dreams at 17, but didn’t take the throne until he was 30. Jacob was 130 when he and Joseph were reunited – a fulfillment for both Jacob and Joseph. I could go on with countless other examples, but the fact is they had to faithful and listening to receive wisdom in the battle and the fulfillment of their promises.

God has spoken Words over my life. I treasure them in my heart. They are what drives me on. Our lives as followers of Yeshua need to be rooted in the Word of God, but God’s Word doesn’t end there. The Holy Spirit is our companion and guide. He speaks to us and through us. He uses other believers to do the same. All of His Words are in unity, they do not contradict one another. This is why we must know the Shepherd’s Voice.

When the battle is upon you, the trials are abounding, and you can’t find the strength to go forward, you can turn to Him and seek Him. His Word says that He will be found by you in that moment. But, how sweet it is when He has already given you a Word to carry you through your season of testing! How wonderful to know the end before the beginning! That is why you can’t afford to miss what He’s speaking to you.

The battles will not end in this life. As long as we live, there will always be another mountain, another valley, another time of silence. You need instructions. You need guidance. You need a Word to see you through. He has all of it waiting for your ears. He has purposes and promises just for you and He will speak them to you, if you only listen.

And you need to know His Word. You need to know His character, so that you are not led astray. You need to check a word spoken to you in your own heart or through the mouth of someone else against the Word of God. But before you reach that step, you need to hear from Him, yourself.

Find some time to be quiet. Read and meditate on His Word. Instead of giving Him a laundry list of desires, give Him your attention and your worship. Wonder at His goodness and faithfulness. Realize your own failings and shortcomings. Recognize His Sovereignty in your life. Accept the Answer, Yeshua, Who was sent to make a way for you and reconcile you to God. We have all fallen short. The one who hears from God is not a “better person,” but we must all be better seekers of Him Who is speaking. Out of all the things you prioritize in your life, make God the First and the Last. It’s only sounds like a cliche if it’s not your reality.

“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:6-11 ESV

 

 

White-Knuckled. Holding Fast.

I can’t shake this feeling over the last few days that God is moving. I know, God works all the time, but there are seasons when His work is accelerated. There are moments when you realize that all the quiet, all the stillness, all the stuck, was to prepare you for this place, this second, this now. It reminds me of the whispers in The Chronicles of Narnia, “Aslan’s on the move.”

Move. I just want to move. I just want to surge forward. I’m so ready to fly.

But I’m still here. The quiet hasn’t quite receded yet. The time is soon, but not now. Get ready. Be prepared. But, above all – Hold Fast.

“You hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith” (Revelations 2:13), “Only hold fast what you have until I come” (Revelations 2:25), “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelations 3:11).

Yeshua’s final words to us are found in the book of Revelations. He admonishes the Churches by telling them what He sees in them that is good and bad. Three times to two different Churches, He says hold fast. Hold on. I’m coming.

“And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:6) “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain” (Hebrews 6:17-19). “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23).

What do we hold fast to? His Name. His Hope. His Promises. He is our Confession. He is our Anchor. He is What We Have.

“So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” (Hosea 12:6). “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15) Wait continually for your God. Hold it fast in an honest and good heart. Bear fruit with patience. I am here now. I am patiently waiting. I am holding fast. 

And here is where the Word of God leaves me – never without hope, never without promise, never without faith. The beginning and closing of 1 Corinthians 15 is the final word on the matter.

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” …“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, 58)

Glory be to God that His Word never returns void! Glory to God in the Highest that He is always on time! Glorious, beautiful Lord Who bestows beauty upon us in due season! He is so wonderfully FAITHFUL!

Unless you believed in vain, your labor is not in vain. Work steadfastly for your King. Listen for His Voice and move as He leads you. Know that every season leads to another. Above all, above all other things, hold fast to Him.

I may be tired. I may be bursting with longing and frustration. I may be spent, weak, and desperate. But I’ll tell you what: With every last drop of strength I have, resting on His inexhaustible Spirit, believing with every fiber of this fragile being – I. Will. Hold. Fast.

Here I am, God. White-knuckled. Holding Fast. Have Your way in me.

 

Kill the flesh – kill it stone dead!

I just finished creating the “Official” (oh, the irony) Facebook page for my music. I know God has been leading me on this journey and I have been praying for wisdom because I am not interested in doing anything, at this point, unless I am really, 100% about giving glory to God. However, I am finding self-promotion to be very anxiety provoking.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

This world is what it is. Yeshua didn’t send us into an “already changed” world, so to speak. He had entered it, so the world was irrevocably changed – Glory be to God! – but the world did not yet know it. When He sent out the 12 disciples, He gave them material instructions about what (not) to bring and where to go. He also warned them of the coming persecution and, in doing so, gave the above warning.

We are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus’ death, resurrection and salvation by any means necessary. Our lives are the greatest tools we have by which to preach this message – i.e. not just the words that come out of our mouths (although I don’t know how people who love Yeshua can help but talk about Him all day long), but with our actions. Wisdom governs actions. Actions are the physical, tangible, observable proof of our faith. They do not save us, but they do speak.

The Holy Spirit started speaking to me about recording my music about a year ago. My son was about to turn a year old. I had always wanted to record an album – since way before I was saved – but since I had been saved, it had seemed like a really self-serving thing to do. I say this realizing the spectacular paradox I create for myself by saying it because, while I feeling self-aggrandizing for promoting the music I have written to worship and praise God, I am also HUGELY blessed and exhorted by the music that others have written to worship and praise God.

I thank God for artists like Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Fernandinho, Kari Jobe, Aline Barros, Cassiane, a million others I won’t list, all of whom have profoundly moved me with their words and brought me into a place of intimacy with God. These are the well-known examples, but I’ve known others like Josh Rubinstein and Aaron Taylor, who have written songs that moved me and haven’t recorded anything (yet). I still feel really “look at me! look at me!” while I am doing this. I’m sure it is a smoke screen of the enemy, because I don’t think other people are coming from that place. Maybe, I’m having a total Paul moment: I just know my own heart and, man, it is dark in there. Chiefest of sinners, here I am.

Since God started speaking to me about this, I started writing songs again. There have been few times in my life when I’ve written because I wanted to write. The words just comes from somewhere and I need to get them out, so I write a song. They come when I’m doing dishes or supposed to be making dinner or vacuuming the floor, because this is my life now. After my son came down with a crazy immune condition, I pressed more into the Holy Spirit than ever before. The reality that the Breath of God is lifeblood to this mortal flesh came crashing down upon me. Then, God started speaking to me about the novel, Taking Form. I proceeded to write the first draft in three months… with an eighteen month old… It was completely God.

I believe that there is power in our testimonies (Revelation 12:11) and in the corporate worship of our Creator (entire book of Acts…). Yet, to tell my testimony and to lead others in worship requires a bit of “self-promotion.” I can’t sit on a pew at Church or stand in line at a supermarket or talk with relatives at a family reunion and expect the Holy Spirit to do all the work for me. The Bible says that He will give me the words (Luke 12:12), but it doesn’t say He will speak them for me. Don’t get me wrong – He can – but He put us here to be His witnesses, not to stare at people willing the Spirit to share our testimony through a word of knowledge. Now, comes the part where wisdom steps in.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that wins souls is wise.” – Proverbs 11:30

There is wisdom involved in the giving of a testimony. Jesus said to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” We need to act in a way that shows us to be “living epistles” (1 Cor. 3:1-3). We should not live our lives with the appearance of evil and we should exalt God above ourselves at all times because we are nothing. This was Paul’s greatest boast – that above all, He endured all things to bring glory to God and preach the Gospel (2 Cor. 11, 12).

We need to realize that our lives are being constantly examined by those around us. Everything we do as believers in Yeshua is scrutinized. And yet – in a the glorious upsidedownness – we are to live with the fear of God, not the fear of man. Providentially, it is the fear of God that is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Wisdom is what is to guide us in our testifying as disciples of Yeshua and there is no lack of it for those who ask (James 1:5).

I find myself here in this bizarre disparity of wanting to shout from the rooftops that YESHUA IS LORD OF ALL AND THE ONLY MEANS BY WHICH MEN ARE SAVED, and yet, I want to stop drawing attention to myself as if I’m this great someone. I assure you, I am not. This is another upsidedownness of the Kingdom in which we find ourselves citizens.

The solution to this seeming contradiction is to kill the flesh.

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” – Romans 8:12-14

“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.” – Colossians 3:3-10

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” – Galatians 5:19-26

We renew our minds in the Word of God – both His Bible and the Words that the Spirit speaks individually to us. Thus, we crucify the flesh and become more like Him. It’s not the other way around. You don’t get your life right and then start listening to the Holy Spirit. You come as you are and humbly recognize your inability to renew yourself, and He renews you as you walk with Him. Slowly, as you are sanctified, you become more like the new self, more like Jesus, and the things of the flesh are choked by His Holiness in your life. You have to want Him more than “the new self”, more than “doing the right thing”, more than you want anything else, and He will do the work as you surrender.

The longer I walk with God, the more I see of myself and, frankly, the less I like it. I had an epiphany in September that truly revealed such depths of my wretched heart, I wanted to eject myself from my own presence. So, as believers, we endeavor to walk with humility and ensure that the Light of Yeshua is the greatest brilliance about us.

Giving glory to God is not an afterthought or a way of exalting ourselves because we know the Truth – it is the only way we can truly walk with the Spirit. To glorify the Father and His Risen Son is to welcome the Holy Spirit’s Presence, in Whose wisdom we are to continually walk and in Whose friendship we are meant to live. To call Him a friend does not denote casual camaraderie or indicate a debasing of His Holiness so He may come down to our level. Rather, it indicates the awesome gravity of Yeshua’s sacrifice, that it gives us the ability to approach and commune with God without us being consumed by His wrath. We can see God face to face and live.

As I draw nearer to Him, my prayer becomes ever more fervent. Please, Lord, help me to daily crucify my flesh. I so desire to know you and love you. I yearn to shed this cumbersome mortality and live only in Your Presence. There is nothing in this life that I want more than I want you. So, Lord, I pray – with every fiber of my broken being – kill my flesh, Lord. Kill it stone dead.