Knowing Him

Sometimes, the distant (and recent) past turn me into an incapacitated pillar of salt, much like Lot’s wife. Stormie Omartian says it like this, “…even the good things of your past can keep you from allowing God to do a new thing now. If we get locked into what we did before, we may miss what God wants to do now.” He has a divine plan for our lives; looking back, building our expectations either on past failures or past successes, only keeps us stuck.

The great hall of faith – Hebrews 11 – can refresh one’s perspective. These folks could have turned back to the country they came from, they had opportunity, yet they didn’t. I want to be like these great witnesses of faith, going out, serving Him, even when I don’t know where He is taking me (v. 8). Being willing to choose affliction, and daily esteem the reproach of Christ, knowing that what He has for me is far greater than anything this world has to offer (v. 25). Oh that I would learn to receive His plan for my life with peace (v. 30), resting in the sure promise that His will is always for my good.

He is forever doing a new thing in our lives, He will even be doing a new thing when I am on my deathbed.

His creativity and power are endless. It is my call to, in faith, be a blessing to others – and, my great privilege as His child to worship Him. There is endless wisdom when we lean on Him in all situations for guidance and help (v. 21.)

Looking unto Jesus, the one who endured the cross joyfully, may I run the race that has been assigned to me – letting go of what I think I know, and taking hold of that which Christ Jesus has already taken hold of for me.

Robert J. Morgan asserts, “Relationships aren’t static. They are either growing richer or leaner with passing years.” Oh that my years with Christ would be more rich than lean – living in the fresh moments of His new mercies rather than my expectations and past experiences – getting to know my Savior more intimately day by day.

I am finding drawing more closely to Him than anything else is paramount in my walk this side of eternity. He is so much more than we can comprehend; it will take an eternal walk to even begin to know Him. I’m thankful He gave us that with Calvary.

At the end of my journey I long to be found among those precious names in the hall of faith – with His face always before me, His testimony in my heart, and His praise on my lips. And, as Abraham was, may I be counted a friend of God.

Elevation Worship

Stay Salty

The world’s pull is subtle. It’s insidious tendrils never appear as a Goliath in size but are just as mammoth in the potential destruction they hold. The world will siphon off our strength when we are looking to anything or anyone other than Christ. Whether you are a Pastor, Sunday School teacher, leader, mom, dad, lay-person, teacher, banker, any profession – all walks of life for a Christian are ministerial in nature – we are called to approach our lives from a Biblical perspective. Everything we do is to be filtered through the truth and will of His Word. His promises are directly related to our successes (and failures.) When we are obedient and walk in His ways, His promise is to provide, protect and bless. His promise is not to keep us from trials or hardships – only to strengthen us and keep us in tact as we face them. His strength is perfected in our weaknesses, and we are made more like Him through every circumstance when we look to Him and not to the world. When you keep bad company, it will rub off on you, eventually. When you are worldly-minded, your heart is focused on goals more than God and self more than service. Worldly-mindedness is a sneaky, controlling love that calls a person to be constantly endeavoring to attain and accomplish what the customs of man and his practices of life beckon for. It is totally devoid of the truest godly pursuits of peace, good and God’s glory and has none of Christ’s savor – none of His divine light. We are to be salt and light in this world. Losing His savor is easy to do when we change our perspectives from the truth and light of His great promises to the shadows and emptiness of the world’s deceit. Stay salty fellow laborers, serve and seek His way – it will be worth it! Leaving a legacy of surrender to the Lord, and His will is the best thing we can leave behind. Mark Batterson writes, “Every prayer we pray, every gift we give, every sacrifice we make, and every step of faith we take is an inheritance left to the next generation. And our prayers live on, long after we die, in their lives.” Oh that I would be that kind of woman, that kind of teacher, that kind of servant – Biblically minded and seasoned with His savor!

Sing Soul, Sing

Today is a new beginning, a chance to live free,

Not bound with bonds of sin and shame.

When the enemy taunts my soul these hours,

and dares to accuse my earthly name,

May I look to You,

my heart behold the empty Cross and vacant tomb,

and trust,

My pardon was paid.

I’m no longer a slave.

I’ve been cleansed by Your blood.

White as snow, no more condemned,

or ensnared by sin’s unholy arm,

I am a child of God, set free to live, blessed to sing a new song.

Sing soul, sing.

Sing to the One who bled and died and give Him all your days,

Glory and honor to the King of Kings,

my Friend,

Jesus, be always praised!

By Faith

By faith – two simple yet powerful words.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell.

By faith a harlot found redeeming life.

By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice.

By faith Enoch found divine favor.

By faith Noah built an Ark of salvation.

By faith Abraham obeyed.

By faith Sarah conceived promise in her barren womb.

By faith Isaac and Jacob blessed nations.

By faith Joseph remembered.

By faith Jochebed hid Moses as a baby.

By faith Moses led His people.

By faith Abigail prepared.

By faith Esther found boldness.

By faith Joseph raised a son not his own.

By faith Gideon conquered an army.

By faith David slew a giant.

By faith John preached in the wilderness.

By faith the disciples followed Jesus.

By faith Paul proclaimed the gospel in the midst of persecution.

By faith the church was formed.

By faith kingdoms are subdued, promises are obtained, works of righteousness are accomplished, violence is quenched, ways of escape are made, weakness become strength, battles end in victory, resurrection of life happens.

Faith is not logical when approached with anything outside of a biblical worldview. It is the substance (hypostasis, substructure; foundation, assurance) of things hoped for and the evidence (elanchos, conviction; proof) of things not yet seen.

By faith we can be certain God’s word alone spoke the world into being, and He still molds clay into redemption.

When looking through the eyes of faith, struggles and trials hold as much joy as blessings do. Dreams find hope. Suffering finds meaning. Joy finds grateful hearts. Relationships find contentment. Faith births champions of grace. Faith is a producer of overcomers.

By faith – two simple yet powerful words, indeed.

It Is Written

It was a summer day, 4 years ago this past June, when the Lord gently reminded me His Word is always enough. My mind had been racing around the track of “what if.” With every turn, I felt the enemy trying to bump me into a head-on collision with despair. Nevertheless, I said to myself, “what time I am afraid, I will trust in You Lord.” I did what I could, I slowed down and asked my Father to take control.

I am thankful He is a divinely articulate conversationalist, because often I don’t know what to say.

His voice was gentle as He began to speak. Matthew 4 held sweet power and consolation for me that June morning – still does today. As I envisioned Christ being led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, I couldn’t help but feel an odd sense of relief. Friends, the Son of God understands what it is like to have the enemy racing beside you. He knows how it is when the onslaught of attacks are relentless. On this lone wilderness trail, Satan attempted to cause Christ to abandon the will of God – three different times. Yet, “It is written,” preceded each thing Christ had to say. By temptation number three, Jesus was over it! He claimed all authority saying, “Get thee hence satan, it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve,” and just like that, the enemy abandoned his lane of offense, and the angels came to minister to Jesus.

The beautiful truth is there is great power in the Voice of God. Anything the devil can throw our way is always subject to the authority of God.

Years ago when the Lord bled His resurrection power into my heart, I began to recall portions of His truth. Today, I recount them again.

I know that all things will work together for my good because I love Him, and I am called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
I know that He is faithful to establish me and will guard me from the enemy of my soul. (2 Thes.3:3)
I know that there is no place I can go that He will not be there. (Ps.139)
I know that when I lean unto Him, acknowledging Him in all my ways, He will direct my paths. (Ps. 3:5-6)
I know He will keep my foot from slipping; He never sleeps on the job. (Ps. 121:3)
I know my name is written in the palms of His nail-scarred hands. (Is. 49:16)
I know that the trying of my faith is a good thing – it molds within me perseverance and hope, and His hope is all I need. (James 1:3)
I know that I am to behave justly, love mercy and walk humbly before Him – this is what is required of me. (Micah 6:8)

I know how precious His thoughts are, they are so vast, we could never count them. And even when I come to the end, I will still be with Him. (Ps. 139)

This morning, as I fix my eyes on His Word, I can taste the powerful promises of God on my lips. I pick up my sword and exclaim, “Go away Satan, it is written – we will finish the race, and fight the good fight, for He who has begun a good work is faithful and just to complete it.” And, just like that, the presence of God ministers peace to my heart once again.

Let it Go

It appears to me I can take a long time in learning – even the simplest things. I am thankful my Father is a patient teacher. Lately (and by lately, I mean the past 8 years) there has been a common theme to these lessons – stop being a hoarder. Cease being an hoarder of negativity and fears and a packrat of past successes and defeats. Stop being a keeper of hurts and wrongs.There is beautiful consolation in knowing He loves us and is unwilling to let us stagnate in the muck of the past. God longs to make life a glorious adventure for us, if only we would “stop clinging to old ways.”

I am terribly guilty of hanging on to all kinds of junk. So believe me, I know how hard it is to let go. Nevertheless, with each peek into God’s word, I pray to get a little better at releasing all to the Father, so He may clean the dirtiest closet in my heart and unclutter the attic of my mind.

What a promise of sweet comfort it is to know the Holy Spirit is a fabulous collector and housekeeper. It amazes me how God takes all our brokenness – all our junk- and makes our testimony a treasure, if only we would let it go.

A Choice to Remember

If you have heard me speak, or known me for any length of time, you know I talk alot about perspective – probably because mine is constantly in need of re-adjustment. If I am to be honest with you now, my focus was in need of help today. These truths are what I found when the Lord shifted my gaze:

Marriage. It is a mix of ups and downs, wins and losses, tears and laughs, fights and kisses, conversations and silence, and it is most certainly full of surprises – good and bad.

Although we know better than to do so, it is easy to get caught in the “comparison trap” when it comes to certain areas of life. Many of us, sometimes, try to line our marriages up side by side with social media posts and the images of couples presenting their best selves to the public. I, too, have been guilty of only wanting others to see the good, because really, who wants to see my ugly anyway, right? Yet, admitting how we struggle, get upset, and still love each other at the same time is a beautiful thing.

Instead of lining our expectations up with what God says we are to be for one another, we are so easily distracted by what we think we are supposed to be. Envy and unrealistic expectations lead to error in judgement – and disgruntled spouses.

The Lord wants more goodness for our union than we could ever imagine. But friend, marriage is work. Love is arduous at times. I am finding marriage takes a creative kinda grit, the pursuit of remembering, and a surrendered soul of prayer. Micah gave wise instruction I am finding works in marriage as well – do what’s right, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

My yesterday began with “fights” but, thankfully, ended with goodnight “kisses” of forgiveness. And so, today as my sweetheart was away with our Senior, at her college orientation, I made a choice to remember how I love him and how he loves me – and, most importantly, how God loves us both.

Copy. Paste. Gone.

For a few weeks, I hadn’t written much, simply because I had been flailing and whining my way through a crazy tempest. My irrational mind and deceiving heart often cause me to drown in the deep sea of forgetfulness. I grow fixated on my own plan, my vision of what life is supposed to look like. It then becomes easy to lose sight of the many ways the Father has blessed me. And, in His perfect (and often challenging) way, He reminds me to slow down, and start all over at the beginning. So, it was no surprise when, after thirty minutes of struggling to type my thoughts out, all my writing disappeared.

Copy. Paste. Done. Easy concept, right?

Well, however easy it may be, one should be careful when attempting to perform the edits. Otherwise, she may lose all her work. And yes, the she is me. Those thirty minutes worth of labored thoughts vanished.

However, maybe, just maybe, losing it all is what it takes to gain a little perspective – at least this has been the case with me on my journey.

Learning how to navigate through a storm is often more about taking shelter than standing in the rain dancing like no one’s watching.

So, I put my typing gadets away, and sat with my Bible open. I was drawn over and over to verses and passages He had been giving me for over a year and a half. And, with each stroke of my pen to the paper, His promises etched deeper into my soul.

I love how He uses His Word to protect me, lead me, move me, calm me and, my oh my, how He uses it to remind I am His and He is mine.

He redirected my scattered mind and war-torn spirit back to the basics – behave justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

Remain steadfast in service to Christ.

Stay obedient to His ways.

I believe it was Pastor Paul Sheppard who said that we are only responsible for our obedience, not the result – that’s God’s job. I am thankful His mercy and grace are endless and that His plans for us are good. And, I’m thankful those plans sometimes include ‘copy, paste, gone.’ Those moments illuminate our desperate need for a Savior who is always a refuge of grace, and quite honestly, a fantastic editor.

The Watcher

Hello! My name is Ira. I am the youngest son of Simon ben Judah. My mother Miriam says I came out of the womb observant and quiet. Actually, all the other ladies present the day of my birth say they weren’t even sure I was alive – until, I whimpered my way into my Mother’s arms. I’ll admit, the meaning in my name fits me fairly well – ‘watcher of the city.’ I have been observing the people around me all my life. So, one day, when a man named Jesus had come to town, I had been incredibly curious to see what had the religious leaders so up in arms – and why so many other folks were saying He was the Messiah.

Staying true to my nature, I frequently had noticed the worried frowns which burdened my Father’s face. When it concerned this man called Christ, my father had seemed to always side with the leaders of our community. Their resentment against Jesus ran deep, and Father’s loyalty to the leaders ran even deeper. Until.

It had been like any other dry and dusty walk I had made into town many times before. However, as I had drawn nigh unto the city’s gates, I heard the commotion. The angry faces induced panic within me. Hateful insults had hurled like daggers at the woman being violently drug through the town’s streets. The leaders had been on a mission, not one of mercy like their counterpart Christ, no, they were on a mission of madness. The half-dressed woman, worn and broken, had been thrown down at the feet of Jesus. Little did the men know, their cruel and self-serving pursuit had been about to backfire. At first, I had wanted to turn away from the craziness, until I saw Him – Jesus. He had a blanket of grace and divine authority over Him, it was magnetic. He had stooped down to the ground, and I had wanted to hear what He might say to the men whose words had dripped with sadistic subtlety. They asked him, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now, Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned: but what do you say we should do?”

Jesus oozed with silent power as He began to take his carpenter’s fingers and construct words of conviction in the dirt. His silence incensed these men. Nevertheless, without pausing too long, they had continued repeating questions, not realizing they were attempting to bait the Creator of the World – with an empty hook.

Confidently, Christ stooped down once more, transcribing on the dusty canvas with worn knuckles. I wasn’t close enough to see, so I have no idea what was written on the ground, but as He rose, He uttered these words, “He that is without sin, cast the first stone.”The men, including my father, turned away, defeated. I watched the religious leaders walk away, carrying not only their wolf-like scowls, but their proud, cruel hands still clutched the stones of judgment.This day influenced me the most because, when Jesus turned to the broken woman on the ground, He had stooped once more, but this time His bending wasn’t too condemn anyone. His merciful bow was to lift her up, offering her hope and forgiveness with these words, “Woman, where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you. Now, go and sin no more.” There was such a gentle authority in His voice; I knew the same thing she did that day – surely He was the Son of God, the Savior of the world.From that day forward, she and I followed Jesus wherever He traveled. We learned, laughed, cried, fellowshipped with Him. And, oh how we marveled at His ministry. I found this man to be gentle, yet, revolutionary with His bold love, teaching and compassion. I witnessed the physically doomed healed of illness, beggars find their sight, lame men walk again, and, the outcasts without a place, find complete acceptance.

We followed Him all the way – even as this precious the Lamb of God willingly went to be crucified. As I gazed upon the jeering crowd, it broke my heart to see Him so abused and broken. They mocked, beat and eventually murdered the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, at Golgotha. The hands they drove nails into at Calvary were the same ones that healed, broke bread to feed the thousands, calmed the winds and seas, and brought hope to so many.I was truly who He made me to be, in the end – Ira, the watcher. Yet, I no longer held interest in watching the world. I would now, and forever be, a man with an eternal perspective – looking to the Author and Finisher of my faith. He will always be the gentle Savior who stooped down to make things right for the broken and lost, my Redeemer, the One who called me friend.

Symphony of Praise

Often I am much like Elijah and David, subject to moodiness when life seems to overwhelm. Nevertheless, my Father has such compassionate ways, remembering I am but dust. He knows how prone I am to scatter all about when the wind blows even a little. I believe this is why He makes His mercies new each and every day – He knows our infinite need of them! Certainly, the past few weeks have been no exception to this truth. So, this morning as I watched a Louis Giglio video clip for devotions, I was both amazed and convicted. I witnessed the stars’ percussion and string sections perform a praise concert with the whales, and instantly, my droopy heart was encouraged – and challenged.

Unlike man, the universe does not possess the indwelling presence of God’s breath within it, yet, all of its substance bellows a bold chorus of praise declaring His glory. God’s children have even more reason than the cosmos to be full of reverent, bold praise. Yet, we often come up short of where we truly should be.

The psalmist had no way of actually hearing these magnificent symphonies of praise as we do, yet, by faith, he believed all creation could sing praise, and insisted they do so! And should we truly rejoice in our Maker, believing He delights in us with unfailing love and enduring mercy, we would find ourselves filled with faith too. To fix our gaze on Christ and not our circumstance, being more prone to worship than wander, and much more fixed on praise than pouting, would bring about laudatory attitudes toward our Savior. And honestly, we were made to worship Him. We thrive when we do.