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

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.