The Revolving Door And The Open One

The last few years of my life have been a weary wandering. Suddenly, every blog or devotional I come across is speaking about waiting. I’m finally moving fast enough to hear. I’ve broken the sound barrier, but on this side of the noise, God’s the only One left to listen to. Physical barriers don’t apply to Him. He is without limit. I am painfully aware I am not.

I’ve always been drawn to the idea of God opening doors. It’s a Biblical concept, not just a trite platitude. We’ve all heard it at one time or another, usually when we’re least disposed to the idea, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.”

God created us to be creatures of change, as much as we sometimes fight it. We are wired to seek novelty. There are times and seasons in our lives. Beyond our natural desire for the different, God uses these variations in momentum to prepare us for what’s next. When a “door opens,” when an opportunity presents itself, we should be ready to walk through it if we have been sensitive to God’s direction leading up to it.

I have been somewhat fixated on these doors, of late. To my dismay, all the doors I thought I walked through seem to have spit me back out. Just when I felt the high of progress rising, I found myself where I’d started. Every door I walk through seems to be a revolving one, programmed to take me on a delightful merry-go-round of imagination and preparation, only to drop me back off at its entrance. Hope deferred stops my inertia dead in its tracks and I cannot maintain even a slow forward motion.

I am not one to shake a fist at God, but I am not afraid to bow my head in surrender and ask why. Why, God, can I not move forward? What am I missing? Where am I looking away from you? How can I move toward the plans and purposes You have ordained for my life? When am I to move?

Absurdly, the phrase that has assailed me this season is “be still,” in all of its Biblical forms.

God says Be Still…

The Lord will fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)

Wait patiently and fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way. (Psalm 37:7)

Know that I am God and I will be exalted. (Psalm 46:10)

Jesus awoke, rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace.” The wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:39)

The more I despair over how I’ve failed God, He’s been speaking to me about rest. He’s been whispering to me, “Be still, child.” As a woman who searches for answers and seeks wisdom, this paradox threatens to drive me mad. Riding shotgun on this trip of existential uncertainty is the voice of doubt shouting, “You must have walked through the wrong door! You must have missed your chance!”

Yet, I’ve stumbled upon the most liberating plot twist in my series of unfortunate thoughts.

In all my searching for the correct door, I imagined a stage of life on the other side. The door I thought I was seeking held my steps on the other side. I had never considered the door would not lead to an earthly place.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)

I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelations 3:8-9)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelations 3:20)

Isn’t that what I’ve been looking for? What I’ve been told to find? Rest. Stillness. Pasture. But what use is a pasture without one to guide and protect the sheep? A great field is an open trap for wolves and bears to strike the sheep. Without safety, there is no rest. A fearful mind and an anxious heart are a recipe for misery.

Yet, Jesus is both the door and what lays behind it. The Holy Spirit binds me up and leads me where I need to go. He is the final destination, so why should I be surprised that He is my earthly destination as well? I have little strength and thin resolve, but He does not expect me to do more than open the door. He knocks, I open. Simple.

Stop looking for the door to your success. Still your restless ambitions. Halt your heavy steps. Seek the Holy Spirit and the door will be open. He Who holds the key of David opens the door that no one can shut.

For whoever enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following the same pattern of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:10-11)

Rest from your works, child of God. Listen for The Spirit of Jesus Christ to give you life, direction and wisdom. In doing His work, we rest from ours and find rest in obedience. Don’t be afraid of where He calls you. Rest in Him. Know that He will exalt Himself. Know that the wind will cease and calm will come.

Be still.

Submission and #NoFeels

I wanted to take a moment to share some powerful truth God has been teaching me. It’s life-changing and liberating. It’s simple and impossible without God. It’s the beginning of restoration and the realization of God’s promises in my life.

My submission has nothing to do with anyone else.

Did you catch that? I didn’t on the first pass. But I’m starting to and it’s creating a tsunami in my walk with God.

As a woman, a wife, a member of Church leadership, a daughter, a follower of Jesus (the list goes on, but lets end here) submission is a way of life for me. I am commanded by God in nearly every area of my life to submit to other humans. The order of said submission is sometimes blurry and the hierarchy I submit to is occasionally out-of-order, but that I am under human authority is ceaselessly relevant in my daily life.

Submission has meant many things to me, but what has marked my journey into submission more than anything else is frustration. Frustration that I cannot make all my own decisions. Frustration that although I’m an intelligent, capable person whose skills are readily called upon to make other’s lives easier, I’m somehow less intelligent and capable when it comes to taking counsel on decisions that will affect me and those around me. Frustration that no matter how I try, I never seem to be submitting well enough or properly enough or often enough. You see, I’m not very good at submitting at all.

Without getting into the finer details of my childhood, let’s just say that surrender was never my strong suit. Never. Meeting expectations for the purpose of furthering my own agenda? Yes. Oh, I excelled at that. I was also a master of quiet rebellion and a Machiavellian manipulator. But submission? The action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person? No. Absolutely not.

You see my conundrum? How does one who has never submitted to authority of any kind without simultaneously scheming a way to get around it learn to yield? The Holy Spirit. As my sister and I say with all the sincerity in the world, “You slap some Jesus on that.”

I have recently stumbled into one of the most fundamental truths in the Gospel. If you have already found it, I’m sorry to have led you on so far. It’s quite elementary.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. – James 4:7a ESV

Let me back it up a few books to show you just what an “aha!” moment this should not have been for a Jew who grew up in Hebrew school.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.  – Exodus 20:2-3 ESV

The Jew within me scolds myself, “Were you paying any attention in synagogue!?”

It’s so simple, friends. When I submit to the Holy Spirit, truly accept and surrender to what He tells me to do, I am not in submission to man. I am in submission to God.

Don’t fret! It’s not heresy.

True submission is the seamless intermingling of several profound truths: I am an undeserving sinner. God’s grace saves me when I accept that Jesus died for my sins. I deserve nothing and have no qualifications to lead my own life. Without God’s wisdom and direction, I have no chance of doing what I ought. Yet, I will give an account to God for my days. All I thought, spoke, and did will appear before the courts of heaven and I will give an account for it. I am responsible for me regardless of what was occurring around me while I thought, said and did. There will be a reckoning. There will be no excuses. Jesus’ Blood will cover my sins, but the point at which I start in heaven will never be moved. I cannot redo my entry into eternity. Bearing all that in mind, I am aware of one obvious thing.

I better slap some Jesus on that.

If I live my life in submission to the Holy Spirit, I will rightly submit to everyone in my life whom I ought to. Furthermore, when things go wrong in my life, I can rest in knowing God has my back and I did what I was supposed to do. Not to mention, it lifts a huge burden in my relationships with those in authority around me and allows me to see them more as people, less like task-masters. God is my master. God is their master. My mastery of this life is dependent on my submission to Him. The same is true of my earthly “masters,” so to speak. We’re all in this together. Blame becomes less important. Guilt becomes a thing of the past. Feelings become immaterial.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:22 ESV

Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Colossions 3:22-24 ESV

Submission to God leads to submission to men where it is right. It may also lead to taking authority of things you had let go of out of comfort or convenience. Submitting to the Holy Spirit isn’t easy or low-maintenance, but it’s life-giving. Furthermore, if I am in submission to the Holy Spirit, my feelings hold no sway over me. Why would I listen to my feelings, which often have no basis in fact and distract me from where I would rather focus my energy, if I can hear the voice of God? I am so done with all of my feelings right now. I say goodbye to them and their accompanying roller-coasters with nary a qualm.

When the Spirit of Truth is leading me in all righteousness it doesn’t matter what feelings I have, they are rendered inactive by the power of His sovereignty. The actions of others have little to no effect on mine. Feelings become significantly less ascendant in light of all the above. Who even invited feelings?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

I’m in a world of chaos. My life seems to be constructed on minutiae. The more I listen, the clearer it all gets. Will I still mess up? Yes. Welcome to humanity. We live here. It’s messy. There’s only one ticket out and you better be ready for a heart-to-heart when you leave, so let’s start the conversation now. Who better to teach You than the Master Himself?

When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. – John 16:13 ESV

Choose I a burden? With delight, I do. This cross is mine to bear and, with Him, my load is light.

Follow me here on my adventures!

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.

 

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

 

 

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.

Jesus wept.

The day comes to all families when death wins over this fragile flesh. While those we love go on to glory and are immediately embraced by Yeshua upon stepping over the threshold of this life, we are still here on this earth without them. They are met with love, joy, and freedom, and we are happy beyond measure for them. But our hearts ache for their tangible presence in this life, where we must live without them until our own bodies give way to the earth.

I’ve been struggling with the mundane tasks of life the last couple of days. I made food, I changed diapers, I bought groceries, and all the while, I wondered where my family was. The dear brother and sister that God gave my husband and I were hurting today. They probably spent most of the day hovering near a hospital bed, talking to doctors, and making heart-wrenching decisions. I feel frustrated that things in life “go on” when grief strikes us and lays us bare. It doesn’t seem right that in one moment, our entire lives can be changed, people can be torn away from us, and the rest of the world keeps spinning as if nothing had happened.

Thus far I have only lost one grandparent. My father’s mother, my Bubbe, died about four years ago on Chanukkah, the day after Christmas that year. I was not allowed to go to her memorial because my Zayde is a Rabbi and having a believer in Yeshua at her funeral would have dishonored her memory and shamed my family before the entire Jewish community. Of course, it’s not widely known that I believe Yeshua is our Jewish Messiah, but my father and my aunt’s family knew I would not be ashamed to share it. My sisters went. I heard accounts of the funeral and the shiva at my Zayde’s apartment in New York. By all accounts, it was horrific. Death always is. I had been at home, going about “what needed to be done,” feeling the way I do now, wondering how things continue after someone we love does not. How insidiously evil death is to make a person feel so small and insignificant in the moment when they need the most strength.

And yet, even while life goes on, the world keeps spinning, and the minutiae of the day needs attending to, there is a truth so soul-shaking, so heart-stirring, so earth-moving, that we can place our entire lives in the hands of God. A truth so revealing of His great love for us and His eternal empathy, that we cannot help but run to His feet in our grief. A truth so infinitely vast that it can consume all of our doubts, fears and sorrows.

Jesus wept.

“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” – John 11:32-35 ESV

Jesus knew that He was about to walk to cave of Lazarus’s tomb and raise him from the dead. Jesus knew that in mere minutes, He would again hear his friend’s voice and see his face. Jesus knew that He had come to bring the dead to life and there was no doubt in His mind that this would take place. And Jesus still wept.

Even the unbelieving Jews that had come to mourn with Martha at the tomb marveled at how Yeshua must have loved Lazarus. His display was not a perfunctory display of tears and He did not hide His grief before those gathered around the mourners. He felt the pain of Mary and Martha in losing their brother and the sting of death on the earth. It was unfathomably bitter and Jesus, “deeply moved,” wept with Mary and Martha for the loss they had just suffered.

Death on this earth does not negate the promise of eternal life. We who believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was a sacrifice thus giving us free access to God and life everlasting in heaven can never lose sight of the amazing eternal plan God has for us. However, Jesus Himself, when confronted with severity of death, wept.

He could have told Mary and Martha, “Stop crying, don’t you know I can raise him back to life?” But, Jesus didn’t say that, He wept. He could have rebuked them saying, “Do you not believe that he is now in paradise and will live forever?” He did not say that either, instead Jesus wept.

Sometimes, we want to comfort people by trying to pull them out of their grief. People say a myriad of things to mourners that do not need to be said because they want to make the person “feel better.” The presence of grief commands self-examination. For Jesus, this process led Him to weep. He knew the reality that He had come to take the keys of death and the grave, but He still allowed Himself to feel the sting of mortality on the earth.

The Word of God says that it is better to be in a house of mourning than in a house of feasting and that the heart of the wise is there (Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4). Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Yeshua said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We have the unspeakable, profound, privilege of being comforted by the Holy Spirit and He is faithful to comfort us when we grieve. 

Wherever you find yourself today, remember the sober truth that, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If that’s a confession you have not yet made, today is your chance. There will be a day when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,” but that’s a promise made only to those who believe in Yeshua. That promise is not made to the “good people,” or the “nice people,” or the “did enough good deeds” people. That is a promise reserved solely for those who trusted God enough to put their faith in His Son’s ability to save them.

The woman for whom we mourn today was taken from us suddenly, but she is with the Lord, Jesus, even as we weep. You do not get to choose the day of your death. The only way to make certain of where you will be when that day comes is to surrender yourself to the reality that you do not have control over your life or the ability to save yourself and to put your trust solidly in the only One Who does.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:6-11