Pay Attention to How You Hear

What exactly makes a good listener?

You might say it is someone who is compassionate, patient, and humble. Or maybe it has more to do with wisdom, life experience, and one’s ability to relate. Yet, perhaps the quality that makes the best kind of listener is the one who pays attention to how they hear.

Not my words. This phrase belongs to Jesus.

We find in Luke‬ ‭8:18‬ ‭(NLT‬‬) Jesus sharing the Parable of the Lamp as he says, “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”

Evidently, listening is important to Jesus. In fact, not listening has dire consequences—the removal of any understanding. But how you listen, or hear, is important to Jesus as well.

First, take note of what Jesus does not say.  He does not say pay attention to what you hear. He takes it beyond the what and into the realm of how you hear—from the physical into the spiritual. According to Jesus, how you hear has the potential to lead to further understanding and revelation.

So let us take inventory of how we hear. Beyond the physics and anatomy of hearing, we first process words and sounds with our brains. Our minds become the filter through which everything verbal, and even nonverbal communication, must pass. 

Then, in a matter of milliseconds, our minds associate words, sounds, and nonverbal expressions with specific thoughts, memories, feelings, reactions, and responses. Lastly, this association is filtered back through the mind and elicits a new, or often times a default, response or reaction.

All this to say, the mind is crucial in how we hear. The mind is the filter that can weed out lies, false thinking, and fear-based reactions and only allow truth, discerning thoughts, and love-based responses to pass through.

This is why having the mind of Christ will change your life. Having the mind of Christ means having the Holy Spirit as your forever filter. Jesus, through the Spirit, will change how you hear and, subsequently, how you respond to those He loves.

The battlefield of the mind significantly influences how you hear. How you hear an inquisitive child. How you hear a fear-crippled aging parent. How you hear an attention-seeking spouse. How you hear a grief-stricken friend. How you hear an anger-laden customer. How you hear a sin-sick stranger.

It is helpful being a good listener when you are naturally compassionate, patient, wise, and can relate. However, paying attention to how you hear requires dependency on the supernatural ability of the Holy Spirit to filter everything and align it with the mind of Christ.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We can trust the filter of the Holy Spirit to take captive that which is not of God.

Like the Parable of the Light teaches, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” (Luke‬ ‭8:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

‭‭The light of Christ can poke holes in the darkness of our minds and reveal to us the the spiritual significance of what and how we hear.

Pray for the mind of Christ. Pray for the Holy Spirit to filter through the physical aspects of communication in order to reveal to you the spiritual significance of how you hear and, subsequently, how you interact with those He loves.

Remember, that which He commands He also makes possible through the power of His Spirit who lives inside of you. Let Jesus transcend your physical interactions into spiritual experiences by first paying attention to how you hear.

The Simple Truth About Anger and Stones

I was so mad that I just wanted to throw something. It was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right at work, then home, then I had to deal with that child—the one who pushes all the buttons.

It wasn’t necessarily the one thing. It was all the things that allowed the one thing to create an internal combustion within my mind and then out of my throwing arm!

Why is it that one of our anger reflexes is throwing something? Is it the need for desperate release? Or perhaps the selfish desire to inflict harm—a hurt equivalent to our own amount of suffering? Maybe it’s a little bit of both, release and misdirected revenge on the closest target.

Scripture has a lot to say about anger, and, surprising, an important lesson about throwing stones.

You may be familiar with the verses about in your anger do not sin and don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Like me in the midst of my anger and frustration, you may have also wanted to throw something anyway.

Yet here’s the simple truth about anger and stones—You can’t throw what you don’t pick up.

Jesus did not necessarily say this to the Pharisees who brought an adulterous woman before him, but the lesson was received loud and clear. After demanding an answer from Jesus about the fate of the woman, He stands up and says in John 8:7 (NLT), “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

While the Jewish law permitted stoning and the woman’s sin called for it, no one picked up a stone. Not one.

It was a pivotal gospel moment when the Old ran headlong into the New. Jesus turned the law and the prideful lawmakers upside down and inside out.

In fact, Deuteronomy‬ ‭17:5-7‬ ‭(NLT‬‬) states, “then the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death. But never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses. The witnesses must throw the first stones, and then all the people may join in. In this way, you will purge the evil from among you.”

‭‭Don’t miss those last few important details of the law. Putting someone to death required two or three witnesses AND the witnesses must throw the first stones.

But no one picked up a stone. Not one.

There was no desperate release, no misdirected revenge. The Pharisees’ trap did not work. In fact, Jesus’ timely words caused each and every potential witness to look within. The anger they harbored in their minds was quickly and succinctly redirected toward the sin in their hearts.

You see, Jesus was preparing His way to the cross through the misdirected anger of accusers. As He ran his fingers through the sand, He knew the only witnesses Who could testify to the Truth were found in the Trinity.

Jesus alludes to this later in John‬ ‭8:17-18‬ ‭(NLT‬‬), “Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.”

Yet Jesus, the only one without sin, did not pick up a stone either. Instead, He extended mercy and grace and released the woman from misdirected revenge. He turned the law upside down and exposed the Pharisees’ sin from the inside out.

Jesus met anger with truth. He met potential stones with pearls of wisdom.

So the next time you get angry just remember, you can’t throw what you don’t pick up. Leave the stones of bitterness, betrayal, revenge, reaction, despair and desperation on the ground at the foot of the cross.

Like the woman caught in adultery or misguided love, lift your eyes to meet Jesus. Receive His mercy and grace. Then go and sin no more. Be His witness. Let your life testify to the truth.

‭‭

What Do You Give a Prodigal for Christmas?

Parenting is not for wimps. Just ask God. He wrote a whole Book about it.

Parenting is the ultimate roller coaster ride with all its highs and lows, twists and turns, moments that take your breath away and moments you just want to throw up.

It is the ride of your life as you co-create, raise, and share life with a piece of your own heart. Whether by birth or adoption, you become a co-creator with God when He ordains you as a parent.

The most common sentiment of new parents is the overwhelming realization of their own heart’s seemingly unlimited capacity to love another human. There is no purer love than the one between parent and child. This is why it is so incredibly painful when our children break our hearts.

Parenting is not for wimps because, honestly, we often feel like more of a failure as a parent than we do ordained moms and dads. Like when our children are three and get their first sunburn because we forgot to reapply. Or when they are six and we aren’t there to catch them when they fall off their bike. Or when they are twelve and we can’t say anything right because they think we are clueless. Or when they are eighteen and we can’t locate them because they turned off their Life 360 in some brazen act of defiant freedom.

When these small or large “failures” occur, our human instinct is to look within and ask ourselves, “Where did we go wrong?” Sometimes it feels like our success as parents looks more like a professional baseball player’s batting average. We swing and miss more often than we make meaningful contact.

However, just as God established boundaries in the Garden of Eden, boundaries born out of love, we are called to set boundaries for our children. God’s garden boundaries provided Adam and Eve with physical, emotional, and spiritual security within a loving relationship with God. Our boundaries as parents are to serve the same purpose.

Yet, just as God’s first children questioned His motives, thus questioning their own identities, and chose to cross the Father’s boundaries, our children will do the same. And it will hurt us, just like it pained God to find His children in hiding wrestling with shame.

The true test of parental love is will we continue to love when our children choose to cross the boundaries. Will we turn our backs and wallow in “what went wrong“, or will we stand watch with open arms waiting for our co-created prodigal to return? When God’s first children chose to cross His boundaries, God continued to love through open arms pointing toward His own cross.

Yes, there are consequences in the garden and beyond, some painful and some merciful, but the love of the Father undergirds mankind’s long and tedious journey to the cross.

Are you struggling with your own parental fails? Perhaps you are pained by some of your child’s poor choices? Maybe it is killing you to even consider your child as a prodigal?

I understand. I am right there with you as a parent. I once was a prodigal as well. Perhaps we have all been prodigals at some point in our lives.

God also understands. He wrote a whole Book about it; sixty-six chapters about reconciling His children to Himself through His Son and the Father’s long-awaited embrace when we return home.

There is no purer love than the one between parent and child because Jesus is the One in Whom this love is made possible.

Want to love your children through poor choices, disappointments, and even rejection? Give them Jesus.

Jesus is the Christmas present Who keeps on giving; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, grace, and mercy to name a few.

Give the prodigal in you and the child you love so dearly Jesus for Christmas. His love makes all things possible.

Living in the ‘In Between’ of Darkness and Life

Have you ever had a deep truth hit you right between the eyes? A truth you have skimmed over before in Scripture, but because you could not see it, God just plants it in a place you cannot focus—smack in the furrowed brow between the windows to your soul. It is a moment during which you set your Bible down and say, “Wow!”

I recently experienced one of these “in between” epiphanies while reading in between John 9 and John 11. Nestled in the middle of a chapter about physical and spiritual blindness and a chapter about raising a man from the dead, Jesus throws a metaphorical stone into a body of truth water that creates ripples for eternity. Ripples of truth, my friend, that you and I need to hear today.

Allow me to set the scene.

In John 9, Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth. The Pharisees are outraged over His actions because one, they don’t like Jesus since he is a threat to their authority, and two, he healed the man on the Sabbath which is also a threat to their religious rules and pride. Then Jesus does what only Jesus can do. He transcends a physical miracle into a spiritual reality and, subsequently, calls the Pharisees out on their spiritual blindness.

“‘I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.’ Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, ‘Are you saying we’re blind?’ ‘If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,’ Jesus replied. ‘But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.’”

John‬ ‭9:39-41‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Spiritual blindness means living in the dark no matter how enlightened you may be. Only the light of Christ can penetrate the thick blackness of a mind void of truth.

Fast forward to John 11 in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, a sign that points toward His future resurrection as well as His followers’ current state of belief. The parallels to God’s plan beyond the cross are striking; devout women mourning their brother’s loss, a people seemingly without hope, a stone covering the tomb that must be rolled away, a body raised without decay, and all for the glory of God so His children will believe.

“Jesus responded, ‘Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?’ So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.’”

John‬ 11:40-42‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Perhaps no one yet knows or understands the life we find in Christ more than Lazarus. He died in his sin and awoke once more in the darkness of a tomb, only to hear the literal call of Christ on his very life and arise to new breath. Only the love of Christ can penetrate a body decaying from sin and give it new life.

And so it is in the in between of darkness and life that we must find Jesus and the evidence of His miraculous power to resurrect lost and disheartened souls to new life.

John 10 is the scriptural equivalent of where we often find ourselves living in the in between of darkness and life. It is where the Good Shepherd recognizes our struggle to simply believe. So he points us to the evidence.

“Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”

John‬ ‭10:37-38‬ ‭NLT‬

Jesus is the key to unlocking the door of our empty tomb from the inside out. When we believe, He is the One who transcends our understanding in the dark to our living in the light.

Yet Jesus understood the canyon of doubt we must all cross to fully surrender our faith unto Him and not unto ourselves. He knew we would struggle with spiritual blind spots on occasion, so He graciously reminds us in John 10 to focus and believe in the evidence of His works when we are struggling with faith in Him.

Then Jesus does two very telling things. First, He goes back to visit the place of His baptism, the event that marked the beginning of His ministry. Second, He raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus points to the evidence and, subsequently, many believe.

Ironically, following His return to the Jordan River in John 10, John 11 marks the end of Jesus’ public ministry as He retreats to the wilderness with His disciples.

“So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death. As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples.”

John‬ ‭11:53-54‬ NLT

From John 11 to John 12 Jesus transitions from ministry to mission. He goes from public teaching and preaching to private sharing and preparing for His death and resurrection. Up until this transition, Jesus was always able to escape the plots of the Pharisees, but His time had come and His mission remained incomplete until the cross became our doorway back to the Father’s embrace.

Living in the in between of darkness and life requires coming back to the foot of the cross for the evidence. It means stretching as far back as Genesis to find Jesus and His miraculous works, and gazing into the final sunset of Revelation when the Son Himself will be our light. It means being honest with ourselves, others, and Jesus when we have trouble believing in the goodness of God.

Living in the in between of spiritual darkness and abundant life becomes a question of faith. Do you believe in the One calling you out of the darkness of your own tomb? And do you believe Him even if?

Search the scriptures. Scan the chapters of your life. Find the evidence. He is there in the in between.

To turn these words to worship, I encourage you to look up the song “Evidence” by Josh Baldwin.

Is Our Relationship With Food a Sign of a Deeper Longing?

Are you aware that you have a relationship with food? Yes, food. A give and take, up and down, love and hate, daily interactive relationship with all things edible. We all have one.

There is no escaping this relationship. We have to eat in order to live, so there is no breaking up with food either. It is a long term relationship with only short term benefits if we are not careful to cultivate and invest in quality over quantity.

Food, in all its forms whether good or bad, healthy or indulgent, creates a response within our minds and bodies similar to relational dynamics. For example, food can create longing, fulfillment, satisfaction, fond memories, cravings, desire, as well as disdain, disappointment, and disgust. Just like our closest relationships with the ones we love, or love to avoid.

I am not a nutritionist, dietitian, or eating disorder expert, however I am a bulimia expert because I lived it. I misused, abused, and confused the created purpose of food for over fifteen years. Yet I survived and, by the grace of God, overcame my abusive relationship with food.

Whether you struggle with stress-eating, overeating, under-eating, obsessive-compulsive eating, addictive eating, or misguided fasting, these are all red flags waving toward the metaphorical “bull-y” who wants to sabotage your relationship with your Creator. 

The “bull-y” is Satan and he knows the beauty of the sustenance provided by the Sustainer in the Garden of Eden. He also knows how to take a consequence of sin and use it to beat and shame us to spiritual death if we allow him.

Genesis‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭(NLT‬‬) tells us, “So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.” In the abundance of fresh food in the garden, Satan used the one forbidden fruit to tempt Adam and Eve away from the promises of God. And when God in turn used the provision of food as a consequence of sin, that man would “struggle” to provide food and only eat by the “sweat of his brow”, Satan the opportunist knew he had the “thorns and thistles” to perpetually keep mankind from the promises of God (Genesis 3).

Your struggle with food is no coincidence. Your struggle is both ordained and manipulated.

Ordained by God as an avenue of dependency on Him and Him alone. Manipulated by Satan as an avenue of temptation to sin, to keep you isolated and alone. Satan is crafty enough to trick you into making food your “god”, your false comforter and sustainer.

Real food with heaven sent seed and source, as created by God, is intended to nourish and sustain. Like any healthy relationship, it must be cultivated, whereas processed food is just a cheap way to be fed, a substitute for the real thing.

Are we cultivating a healthy relationship with food as God ordained, or are we using, and perhaps abusing, food as a substitute for deeper spiritual longings? Longings that can only be fulfilled in Christ.

Substituting food as a means for control, fulfillment, or satisfaction minimizes Jesus and His substitution for our sin. I was guilty of this for many years, until Jesus opened my spiritual eyes to His Will and His Way.

We are called by God to cultivate a healthy relationship with food, but first we must submit to our dependency on Him. Until I truly surrendered to God, Satan continued to manipulate and sabotage my relationship with Jesus via food.

Every diet in the world will only keep you focused on food; only God will help you cultivate your relationship with food.

Remember Jesus encourages us in Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) to “work at living in peace with everyone”, but not with every calorie! He continues in Hebrews by saying, “and work at living a holy life”.

Our relationship with food is often a sign of a deeper spiritual longing that can only be satisfied in Christ. Cultivation equals work. And work invested in our deeper spiritual hunger for Jesus leads to holy and healthy eating and living.

This Advent Is Different

I have never thought more about the second coming of Christ than I have this year. 2020. A year that arrived with such vision and hope, yet will depart as a rear view nightmare marked by uncertainty and despair. In the the midst of such a roller-coaster year, I have never clung so adamantly to the prophecy and promises of the second advent, or coming, of Jesus.

So as we near the finale of a ridiculously messed up year, may this season of Advent be different.

Along side tiny chocolates and kind neighborly gestures, may we whisper sweet morsels of longing to our Savior and reflect kindness in the image of the One who taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Maybe 2020 is the year God pressed pause so He could remind us how to love.

2020 has been “different” to put it mildly. This Advent is different too.

Psalm 23 might seem like an unlikely address to go to for Advent, but allow God to surprise you with His living and breathing Word.

One of the greatest lessons this year has taught us is the great divide between what we want and what we need. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (v1) While so much has been seemingly taken from us this year, God’s provision of what we need abounds. Down time, family time, quiet time, more sleep, more creativity, more time outdoors, and more dependency on Him. Less want, more need, period.

And one of our greatest needs is more Sabbath — more rest for our souls. “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” (v2) His green pastures and still waters may look more like the family dinner table and long walks through the neighborhood, nevertheless, the provision is rest.

Our Shepherd has led us back to the very sources of love and life that restore our souls. “He restores my soul.” (v3) He knows and fully understands the chaos of this year, yet when we look beyond our circumstances and discover the provision of pasture and stream, we will find Jesus. The Good Shepherd.

In a year of great debate between right and wrong, Jesus reminds us that being right does not always make you righteous. “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (v3) Jesus did not teach us to defend our right to be right, He taught us to choose the path that leads to right relationship with Him. For His name’s sake, not our own. Your right to be right rests in the shadow of the Savior.

Many of us have walked through our darkest days in 2020. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (and darkness), I will fear no evil, for you are with me;” (v4) His presence is a promise. He goes before, behind us, if we turn to the left or the right, He is there. His presence can and will penetrate our pain like a needle drawing pressure off of our heavy hearts. It hurts like hell, but it heals us from the inside out.

2020 has also been a year of discipline, or not. “…your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (v4) The Shepherd’s crook is not meant to “steal” our freedom, but to guide us, direct us, and remind us how to find the green pastures and still waters. Discipline is a comfort when it is given in love and disciples embody the discipline of the Savior.

As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the first coming of Christ, let us remember the table He later prepared for His disciples. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (v5) Communion becomes a celebration of advent, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension when we believe in the One who is coming again. He invites everyone to the table, longs to set you apart, and give you life abundant in the power of His Spirit.

And so believers can shout this from the rooftops as Christmas approaches, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (v6) Jesus is coming again! We will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. He has gone to prepare a place for you and me. This is God’s deepest longing — to dwell with His children. The garden tells us so.

Has 2020 been ridiculous? Yes. Has 2020 messed up almost everything? Absolutely.

However, 2020 does not get to ruin Advent. We have a choice. Let this Advent be different. Choose to look for Jesus.

Why I Am A Christian

There are a plethora of reasons why someone may identify as a Christian. You have the nominal Christian who merely bears a “spiritual name tag”, the Christian by birth because their parents said so, the Christian by happenstance because  growing up they found a cool youth group, the Christian who attends church but has no relationship with Christ, or the baby Christian who feeds on spiritual milk but has yet to try the “green pea” baby food of The Word that nourishes, yet goes down heavy and difficult. Then you have the Christian who, like the Pharisees, has fenced in the law and made Christ about rules and traditions only.

The list goes on and on, but I will stop short in summation to say that the term “Christian” is often tossed around, served, and, unfortunately, spiked like a volleyball during a game on the beach in which the out of bounds lines are hard to see. Yet, just like the ball is central to the volleyball game, you cannot take Christ out of being a Christian.

Christ is central.

And this is why I am a Christian.

As a writer, you are taught to write with we and us pronouns so that the reader feels more included and hopefully understood. But this subject is very personal. So I want to share my reasons with you.

I have not always been a Christian for the same reasons. However, age, time, life choices, and life experiences have shaped my reasons to look more like Christ. 

I am a Christian because I know the depth of the pit of despair from which Jesus extended His eternal love to save me. I remember the cold, dark reality from which I thought there was no rescue. Sometimes I still hear the deceivers lies, but the Way, the Truth, and the Life has truly set me free.

My Savior is central.

My Rescuer is central.

My way, truth, and life are found only in Christ and He is central.

This is why I am a Christian.

I am a Christian because I know the depth of the pit of depravity from which Jesus extended His mercy and grace to forgive me. I was the wreck who became the wrecker, the hurt person who hurt people, the performer who could not fake it any longer. Jesus healed me from the inside out with His cleansing blood and redeemed my life with His very own. My Redeemer lives and because of this I have new life in Christ.

My Forgiver is central.

My Healer is central.

My Redeemer lives and so do I because He is central.

This is why I am a Christian.

I am a Christian because I know the blessings that have been bestowed upon me were not deserved or of my own doing. I deserve the pit of despair and depravity that leads to death. But God placed Jesus at the center of the Good News by first allowing Him to die at the center of the cross. From before time to creation to birth to death to resurrection to ascension to His promised return, God made Christ central.

This is why I am a Christian.

I used to be a Christian because of my grandparents and parents, because I had a cool youth group, because going to church was good, because I wanted to check the right boxes, and because I wanted to be better.

Now I am a Christian because I know and love Jesus and He knows and loves me.

Jesus is why I am a Christian.

The Best Life Advice—Hold It Loosely

Fear, control, and manipulation are the cerebral enemies of 2020. We are all in our own heads a little too much these days. In fact, “stinking thinking” is at an all-time high causing most of us to assume the posture of a defensive lineman just waiting for the snap.

Or maybe you feel like you are the one about to snap?

I’m right there with you . . . fearing the unknown, trying to control what I feel like I still can, and sometimes manipulating people and circumstances to work in my favor because I just need something to go my way.

But, it’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.

All this wondering and worrying, speculation and skepticism, fear-mongering and frenetics has me frazzled at the core.

How are you handling 2020?

Even though I sometimes succumb to the madness of today, I know Who to turn to for the Ancient Words for all our tomorrows. Jesus knew from the beginning of the beginning what 2020 would bring, who it would take, and how it would feel. In the midst of a million unknowns, He knows. And He passed on the best life advice, for all mankind, for all time.

Hold it loosely.

In Mark‬ ‭8:35‬ ‭(NLT‬‬) Jesus tells his disciples, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”

It is another of Christ’s great reversals. Lose your life to save it. Ironically, we first have to loosen the “death” grip.

We can do this! Arms outstretched, palms up, fingers spread, hold your life loosely.

Now physically try it! Arms outstretched, palms up, fingers spread, hold your life loosely. Now breathe.

On what in your life do you need to loosen your grip? What are you afraid of? Who are you trying to control so you can feel more empowered? Who are you manipulating so you can get what you want?

Jesus came to give us life, restored and abundant. Fear, control, and manipulation will only leave us exhausted, living on fumes.

In the beginning when God breathed life into Adam and Eve, their natural response was an exhale of thanksgiving. After the fall and apart from Jesus, our natural exhale is waste and fumes. When Jesus transformed our state and standing by losing his own life on the cross, he supernaturally restored our exhale of thanksgiving.

We weren’t made to spew exhaust. We were made in the image of glory to reciprocate glory!

May we heed His best life advice—Hold it loosely.

Arms outstretched, palms up, fingers spread, hold your life loosely. Now close your eyes, breathe, and pray.

Walking Spirit to Spirit

Hi friends, do you want to take a walk with the Holy Spirit?

If so, the journey begins and ends in The Word. . .

“For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Romans‬ ‭8:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As believers, what does it look like to live and walk Spirit to spirit?

Let us first focus on what it is not. Your spiritual journey is not meant to be an emotional one, nor is it a logical one. It is not even a knowledge-based one.

Your spiritual journey is, by design, a moment to moment surrender of your will to the presence, providence, and pace of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.

In fact, the Holy Spirit is your forever roommate!

Emotions are untrustworthy, logic is limited by the flesh, and knowledge is impotent without Spirit-revealed wisdom.

However, you can always ask your spiritual roommate for advice!

As to emotions: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah‬ ‭17:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

As to logic: “‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

As to knowledge: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Living spirit to spirit looks a lot like trusting the One who abides in your abode!

He knows everything about everything— “As it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We can also trust Paul’s advice, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Or as the old hymn says, “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me. . .“

Go ahead, take a walk with your spiritual roommate. I promise it will become a lifelong journey of conversational living, Spirit to spirit. Rest assured, His pace is always determined by His grace.

Tired of Fighting

Are you tired of fighting?

I sure am.

We live in a society of fight or flight triggers that seem to keep our stress hormones at an all time high and our sacred encounters at an all time low. We fight traffic and feelings, different opinions and all too familiar foes.

Familiar foes are perhaps the most dangerous triggers because we have become so comfortable with their presence. I’m referring to strongholds and sins that we have assimilated into our lives over time to the point of tolerance and acceptance.

Familiar foes like overeating, abusing alcohol, obsessing over body image, foul language, taking the Lord’s name in vain, controlling and manipulating others, past mistakes, and future fears. We don’t remember buying a ticket and, yet, we can’t seem to hop off the struggle bus!

Anyone?

In 1 Samuel 8 there is a verse that resonates with me and my exhaustion from fighting. It says in verse 20 “that our king may . . . go out before us and fight our battles“.

Oh, how I long for someone to fight my battles for me!

I understand the nation of Israel’s cry to Samuel for a king, despite his warnings against it. You see, they assimilated with other nations and their foes had become too familiar as revealed beginning in verse 19, “But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, ‘No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’” (ESV)

They looked around and began coveting what the other nations possessed, but the Israelites forgot Who they had already been given. What the Israelites truly wanted, God had already provided—Himself!

How easily we forget God and His promises.

Generations before, as the Israelites watched Pharaoh’s army and chariots pursue them to the boundaries of the Red Sea, they cried out to the Lord and Moses responded. “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”, says Moses in Exodus‬ ‭14:13-14‬ ‭(NLT‬‬).

Repeat after me.

The Lord himself will fight for you.

Just stay calm.

So much of the Old Testament points towards the New, including the cry for a king. The King, who the people of Israel longed for, was, and is, and is to come. He goes before us, beside us, and behind us; preparing, providing, and protecting.

Just as Moses reminds and the Israelites later demand, our heart cry finds its voice in the created longing for King Jesus.

There is a reason we long for Someone to fight our battles for us. Some battles require a miracle. Familiar foes teach us dependence on God. Yet, familiar foes are nothing compared to the evil being defeated in the heavenly realms.

Peace be still my friends. Jesus can both calm the storm and be your peace in the storm. 

All He asks is that we prepare for battle, put on the full armor, stand firm in His grace, and be still and know that He is God.

Are you tired of fighting?

I am too. Let us get dressed for battle, but not forget Who God already provided—Himself!