Step Out of the Traffic

How do you feel about traffic? If you live in a big city, you probably just rolled your eyes. If you live in a small town, traffic probably means something entirely different to you. Nevertheless, we’ve all been caught in it, delayed by it, and frustrated with it at some point in our lives.

What about the personal “traffic” we endure in our busy lives? Have you ever thought about the word traffic in this way? Me either, until I stumbled upon this verse from Psalms in The Message Bible, “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” (Psalm‬ ‭46:10‬)

We all have personal traffic we endure on a daily basis. Whether it’s racing thoughts that bottle neck the freeways of our minds, or broken down emotions that block the flow of ongoing spiritual progress and growth. Perhaps it’s unhealthy habits that are responsible for transforming our once Cadillac bodies into rusty old Fords with lots of junk in the trunk. Maybe it’s all of the above.

On a more practical note, perhaps your personal traffic sounds like the horns of deadlines approaching the intersection of success and failure, or the Suburban full of remote-learning overloaded, socially bored, hungry for something other than mom’s cooking children who are not shy about expressing their opinions. (Deep sigh) Could it be the Mack Truck of unknown answers to your questions barreling down the underground tunnel of your deepest fears?

Regardless of the make, model, year, color, and style of our personal busy roadways, we all need to step out of the traffic.

We all need to heed the yellow and red lights we’ve been given by a loving God to slow down, stop, look, and listen before we proceed into the intersection of “normal” life again, much less accelerate toward a future that God has already planned (Jer. 29:11).

Do you know what the verse above from Psalms says in a more common translation? “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”(Psalm‬ ‭46:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Be still and know.

Step out of the traffic.

Same verse, different view.

Whether you have used this time of quarantine to be still and know, or if you are wishing you had spent more time heeding the traffic signals, it’s not too late to tap the brakes.

If you feel trapped by an essential job that puts you at risk, if you feel cut off because you’ve been labeled nonessential, if it seems like your plans have been barricaded and your future full of roadblocks, or if you are just frustrated with your personal traffic, I encourage you, as the scripture says, to take a long, loving look at your High God, above politics, above everything.

Step out of the traffic. It’s not too late to be still and know.

How Am I Supposed To Feel?

Isaiah 40 contains prophetic words later echoed in Luke 3 regarding the ministry of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a precursor to Jesus Christ and he preached a baptism of repentance. John’s ministry was a preparing of the way for eternal salvation to come through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

As most prophecies come to pass, these words first spoken through Isaiah held true to the woeful condition of the nation of Israel, as well as seven hundred years later for the people of the Messianic era. Now, over two thousand years later, God’s voice recorded through Isaiah echoes into our modern era of technology, intelligence, and self-sufficiency with soul piercing accuracy, warning, and hope.

“Every valley shall be lifted and filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked and uneven shall be made straight and level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory (majesty and splendor) of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. [Luke 3:5, 6.]”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:4-5‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

God given prophecy, much like His sovereignty, has a way of covering all people for all time. I believe there is a message in Isaiah 40 that both holds true and holds an abundance of truth for us today.

In these times of unrest and uncertainty about our future and that of our families and our country, spiritual discernment, or the ability to “see” and understand how God is moving and working, seems foggy at best. Nevertheless, be assured that the God of the universe is at work! Let Isaiah 40 be a reminder of how God will reveal Himself in times that call for repentance and a return home.

Our valleys of sadness and mountain top experiences of joy are being leveled by unknowns and unanswered questions. Valleys and mountains that once induced undeniable feelings are now in the rear view mirror and we find ourselves gazing forward into a level plain with no recognizable cues on how to feel.

Does anyone really know how to feel right now?

At least in the valley we can still see the mountaintops and remember the heartfelt joy and celebration of God’s grace. On the mountaintops, we gain a perspective of the valleys below that helps us feel both grateful and humbled about how far the Lord has brought us. Yet in the level plains where the road ahead is made straight, unchanging, and too far off in the distance for our spiritual eyes to focus, we suddenly lose perspective. When the view ahead remains the same, the feelings inside that once drove our experiences go dormant.

Lord, tell me how I’m supposed to feel?

Maybe the answer is hidden in the question. Maybe we aren’t supposed to feel anything. According to Isaiah 40:5 we are going to SEE it together. Maybe all this is happening to us on a global level because God is revealing Himself and his glory on a level plain for ALL to see. Maybe this is living breathing prophesy.

While we learn to have faith and persevere in the hills and valleys, we also tend to become emotional junkies there. In the valleys we want to feel better. On the mountaintops we want to feel in control. We pray about how we want to feel, not about Who we need to trust.

When God wants to reveal Himself in a mighty way, He does it through undeniable spiritual vision. Perhaps He’s using a global pandemic as a voice, like John the Baptist, once again crying out from the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. As it is written in Luke 3: 5-6 (AMPC), “Every valley and ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be leveled; and the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough roads shall be made smooth; And all mankind shall see (behold and understand and at last acknowledge) the salvation of God (the deliverance from eternal death decreed by God). [Isa. 40:3-5.]”

When you wake up tomorrow and you still don’t know how to feel, don’t be afraid to behold what God has filled up, leveled, made straight, and smooth. Don’t be afraid to behold the ultimate deliverance from the unknown and the unanswered questions. Listen for the voice crying out from the wilderness. God is preparing the way.

Invitation to Come Home

They say home is where the heart is, however, in the wake of a global pandemic, it’s also where the majority of us have been told to stay put.

Home.

While it seems everything except for Monday has been canceled, we’ve been stripped down to the people, pets, and possibilities that reside in the walls of our homes. Let’s not miss what’s right in front of us.

Home is your domestic church.

When God wants to get your attention, He has a way of eliminating all distractions. Whether you realize it or not, you have been given an invitation to come home.

Home and family are your first church; the place where your most sacred moments unfold. 

Uncertain times call for a certain hope; the blessed assurance of a kingdom home. So while we’ve been gifted with an extra dose of time in our earthly dwellings, let’s hear the invitation that’s echoed throughout the pages of Scripture from the lips of Zechariah, Malachi, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Joel, Paul, and, most importantly, Jesus.

In the Old Testament, God’s holy voice echoes “return to me”. In the New Testament, Jesus calls out “come to me”. Today, the invitation to come home to the Father and Son still stands in His Holy Word.

Return to me. Come follow me. Come home.

Perhaps this pandemic and the ripple effect it’s had on every single aspect of our daily lives is a modern day parting of the Red Sea in which God is saying…take the first step toward the Promise Land.

Come home.

Yes, you may have to walk through the wilderness to find your way, but I promise God is with you. Take the first step. You have been gifted with time and perspective.

How are we to return?

Get to know your spouse all over again. Hang out with your kids. Call that family member and be the first to apologize. Turn off the television. Go outside and watch the trees worship their Creator. Enjoy eating with nowhere to be. Soak in the sounds of children playing. Practice His presence. Let your painful questions become powerful prayers.  Listen to the leading of the Spirit in the quietness of home and nature.

Come home.

Perhaps home will always be where the heart is. The domestic church where we offer our hearts to Jesus.

*This blog is dedicated to my friend and former mentor, Elaine, who went home to Jesus today after a three year struggle with ALS.

Adrenaline for Jesus

I was a competitive runner for many of my younger years. For you runners out there, I was an 800 meter state champion, I ran a 5:10 mile, and my fastest 5k was 18:54.

I know what it means to press on through the pain for the victory that waits ahead.

I’ve also given birth to three children. The first with 21 hours of labor and an epidural, the second was induced with only a partially effective epidural, and the third with no drugs whatsoever! Through all of my childbirth experiences, I’ve learned that Pitocin is of the devil and adrenaline is your body’s way of telling you, “You can do this!” In fact, adrenaline is all you have for those “rocket launch” type of births!

I know what it’s like to push through the pain for the joy set before me.

Adrenaline is what pumps us up for cheering our favorite team, competitive games, family arguments, job interviews, and pushing out little humans! It is the hormone responsible for the “fight or flight” response – our God given impetus to press on, push through, flee, survive, fight for your life, breathe.

After considering the life of Paul, I’m convinced that adrenaline for Jesus is what kept him alive, not only physically, but spiritually. Paul knew what it means to press on, push through, survive, and even rejoice in his suffering. The evidence is sprinkled throughout his letters to the churches.

For example in Romans‬ ‭5:3-4‬ ‭(ESV‬‬) Paul says, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope”. Paul understood that Christ doesn’t just hand us the victory, but that victory is found as we arise, press on, and push through the trails of life.

Victory is found in tests of endurance, character building situations, and hope-filled discoveries as we travel down our journey of faith. Or as Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest, “God does not give us overcoming life – He gives us life as we overcome.” Jesus doesn’t just give us victorious life, He gives us victory as we live by faith. 

What we lack in the church today is adrenaline for Jesus. I want to be pumped for Jesus! I want to fight for my faith! I want to press on through the pain in the race of life with all its trails, hardships, and problems. I want to push through the labor of Jesus being born in me, no matter how much it hurts.

We like to blame a lot of things on hormones. Yet, maybe adrenaline is really the Friend who sticks closer than a brother. 

Adrenaline for Jesus reminds us “We can do this!” I want to encourage you today to face your trials with the knowledge that Jesus is before the Father interceding for you as you go through the best and the worst of times. You can do this! You will get through this, with Jesus.

Witnesses to Me

What does it mean to be a witness to Jesus?

The New Oxford American Dictionary offers one definition of witness as “an open profession of faith through words and actions.” Depending on the translation, the word for witness in scripture is interchanged with testimony and evidence. So being a witness to Christ means giving an open profession, testimony, or evidence of what you know to be true about Jesus through your words and actions.

Most of my Christian life I’ve understood being a witness to or for Christ as someone who shares the gospel message with unbelievers, who speaks of His transformational work in their lives, and who emulates Jesus in their morality, service, and love for mankind.

Sounds like a powerful witness, right? Yet, according to great men and great minds like Oswald Chambers, there is so much more to being a witness to Christ.

Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest, “When we are born again by the Spirit of God, our testimony is based solely on what God has done for us, and rightly so. But that will change and be removed forever once you ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…’. Only then will you begin to realize what Jesus meant when He went on to say, ‘…you shall be witnesses to Me….’ Not witnesses to what Jesus can do— that is basic and understood— but ‘witnesses to Me….’ We will accept everything that happens as if it were happening to Him, whether we receive praise or blame, persecution or reward.”

Oswald goes on to explain that only someone totally compelled by the majesty of His power will be able to take this kind of stand for Jesus Christ stating, “It is the only thing that matters, and yet it is strange that it’s the last thing we as Christian workers realize.” Herein lies a deeper work of God and, subsequently, a deeper transformation of a witness to Christ.

Naturally, we begin our faith journey testifying to what Jesus has done for us, in us, and through us. As we walk further down the path of faith, we begin to recognize the call to endure trials, suffering, and perhaps even persecution as the embodiment of Jesus.

Paul describes this deeper work of God many times in his letters, yet perhaps most poignantly in Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭(ESV), “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Living by faith and, subsequently, being a witness to Christ means we become the embodiment of Jesus. We no longer live, but Christ lives in and through us. Are you ready and willing to accept everything that happens to you as if it were happening to Him?

Praise or blame?

Persecution or reward?

Good times or bad?

In sickness or in health?

For better or for worse?

Sounds like a marriage proposal? Well, it kind of is one. Are you willing as the bride of Christ (the church) to marry and intertwine your life so intimately with Christ that your transformation makes you almost unrecognizable to the things of this world?

Being a witness to Christ ultimately means becoming one with the Father as Jesus is one with the Father (John 17). It means experiencing His death so that we may embody His life. It’s so much more than what He’s done for you and me.

Access For All

What do you tend to take for granted?

Freedom.

Running water.

A loved one returning home.

How about the Word of God? What about the one, or two, or possibly even the ten bibles you possess in your own home? Perhaps, on a more subtle note, it’s the fact that your one, or two, or ten bibles are published in your native language . . . English, Spanish, maybe French.

Think about it. Most of us have the privilege of waking up each morning with the opportunity to read God’s personal Word to us in a language we can not only read, but we can comprehend, share, and grow spiritually.

I take this for granted.

This seemingly infinite access to the living, life-changing Word. This tap of an app and I can search and browse and even have someone’s voice in my phone read scripture to me! I forget to say, “Thank you, Jesus!”

How about you? What subtle provision do you tend to take for granted? Perhaps it’s just your access to God Himself through prayer and candid conversation. He’s always available, always listening, always present. We forget to live in His presence.

Regardless of our location on this globe, we all have access to God. Even the small villages and people groups who have never heard the spoken name of Jesus. They hear the whisper of the Creator in the stirring of creation. They see His presence in the dancing branches of a windswept tree, and in the majestic hues of a sleepy sun. They feel His wooing of their souls in their longing for something beyond the natural seen world.

Then I read Isaiah 52:15 (AMP), “For what they had not been told they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand.”

Therefore, I find comfort in Isaiah’s prophetic words, that while I have unlimited access to the Word of God, others will “see” and “understand” in a way only God can provide. Perhaps as Joel 2:28 describes, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

I forget. I take for granted. Then I remember those who have never heard His Name. So, thank you Jesus that you have provided not only access for all, but also sight and understanding beyond the written Word.

Christmas In The Shadows

The heart and soul of Christmas is a joy unspeakable found in a baby born in Bethlehem. A baby whose birth lit up the brightest star, leading wise men from afar into the presence of the Light of the World. 

As believers, we know God is light and in Him there is no darkness. Yet, why does it feel like many of us are spending Christmas in the shadows? While Christmas is a holiday celebrated with lights, good cheer, and joy to the world, many are struggling in the valley of the shadows of grief and loss.

I understand your shadow. I’m with you in the struggle.

Will you turn with me to the Word? To Isaiah, Revelation and Psalms to find partial understanding and hope.

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭60:20‬ ‭(ESV‬‬) says, “Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.” This promise is echoed hundreds of years later in Revelation 22:5, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

My friend, my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we possess this hope. We posses this Light of the World within us. And while the light of God’s glory illuminates the cross of Christ, it also casts a temporary shadow. A shadow that will one day be no more.

While we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we know the greatest Christmas gift is Jesus. We know one day the Lord will be our everlasting light, and our days of mourning shall end. We know that shadows are temporary and spiritual life is eternal.

So we trust in ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:4‬, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Let God comfort you this Christmas in the shadows.

So Then, What About Jesus?

“Thousands of people in this world profess to be happy without God. But if we could be truly happy and moral without Jesus, then why did He come? He came because that kind of happiness and peace is only superficial. Jesus Christ came to “bring…a sword” through every kind of peace that is not based on a personal relationship with Himself.”

-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

I have seen it with my own eyes. There are thousands, maybe millions, who profess to be happy without God. Tragically, many of them were raised in the church, in Christian professing homes, and yet, they have exited the institution and many have severed their relationships with family and church family.

It is tragic, but I get it. There’s no judgement here, only grace.

These same individuals have often times been deeply wounded and severely disappointed by the men and women who taught them The Way. Again tragically, faith, hope, and love found only in the Person of Jesus Christ, have been overshadowed by doctrinal differences, corporate mentalities, and human power struggles within “the church“. In fact, some churches have wandered so far from the red letters that they should start selling tickets for admission for the entertainment factor alone.

While churches continue to come up with more and more programs and strategies to bring people in the doors, there are generations of people walking away from a faith that they now consider a fraud.

First, I want to say to those individuals who have been deeply wounded and severely disappointed by man and/or woman of the church, “I’m sorry this was your experience. I’m sorry you’ve been hurt by those you once trusted.”

Yet my question for those individuals is this: If you could strip away all your negative experiences with “the church”, let go of all your expectations of the institution, and agree that “the church” (not as Jesus ordained it, but as mankind has invented it) is flawed, then, when all that negativity is neutralized . . . what about Jesus?

What do you do with Jesus? What do you do with the red letters and the cross and the empty tomb?

Matthew‬ ‭10:32-34‬ ‭in the Amplified Bible (which gives an amplified definition of the original Greek) says, “Therefore, the one who confesses and acknowledges Me before men [as Lord and Savior, affirming a state of oneness with Me], that one I will also confess and acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven. But the one who denies and rejects Me before men, that one I will also deny and reject before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword [of division between belief and unbelief].”

To those who have walked away, I would ask, was your faith in man, or in Jesus? Man will always disappoint. So then, what about Jesus?

As Oswald Chambers once wrote, “Jesus Christ came to ‘bring…a sword’ through every kind of peace that is not based on a personal relationship with Himself.” The question is not church or no church, doctrine or no doctrine, it’s a question of belief or non-belief.

 In Mark 8:29 (ESV) Jesus asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” and Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”

I know this could become a two year long conversation with lots of counseling in between, so all I ask is that we start the conversation.

And remember there’s no judgement here, only grace.

‭‭

The Advent Of The Soul

Perhaps no one understands nor appreciates the season of Advent more deeply than the ones who have loved and lost. The passing of a loved from earth to heaven leaves us wanting, weary, and waiting. We desperately want more time as we eventually become weary with grief, all while patiently waiting for the glorious day when we shall meet again.

For those whose loved ones have departed to an eternal home as well as those who wait for the arrival of a soldier’s homecoming, the season of Advent takes on a more intimate, familiar meaning. A grieving heart needs the healing whisper of an expectant Savior. A Savior whose presence and promises help sustain and prepare them for a celebrated reunion with those they are separated from for a time.

Wanting.

Weary.

Waiting.

These three words in succession describe a type of advent of the soul. We were created to want beyond our natural abilities, to grow weary striving for that which only Jesus can give, and to learn to expectantly wait for, thus put our hope in, the eternal presence and promises of God.

If the liturgical Advent is a season filled with expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming, then the advent of the soul is a lifetime filled with wanting more time with Jesus, weariness over that which separates us from Him, and expectant waiting and heart preparation for His anticipated return.

The advent of the soul is everyday, every season, every individual’s journey of faith. It requires diligent yet patient emergence of Christ-like qualities until the day in which our souls will perfectly reflect His glorious appearance.

Do you find yourself wanting, weary, and waiting? Embrace those inner longings as the love of God embraces you.

Who Told You?

Satan became Satan because he believed a lie. He is a fallen angel because he believed a lie about God, and about himself. Then he took a posse of angels down with him.

And yet again, out of his own disdain and jealous nature, he set out to trick the first woman and the first man into believing the same lies. And he brought them down too.

In Genesis 3 after the fall, God asks Adam and Eve, “Who told you were naked?” It’s a timeless question because God never intended for us to experience shame or any other emotion apart from total acceptance. He continues to tenderly ask you and me the same question today, “Who told you….?”

Who told you the lies that keep you doubting God and deceiving yourself? Who told you that God can’t be trusted and that you are not valuable? Who told you that God’s grace is cheap and that His love is based on performance, and that you are beyond His reach?

Who told you to run and hide?

Beware the wiles of the devil. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But he invades with a whisper, “Did God really say….?”

Yes, God really did say! Genesis 3 is not the end. There are 47 more chapters and 65 more books about what God really says, and Who He Really Is!

The Author of Lies hasn’t been given the authority to make you believe him. God has given you the freedom to choose the truth or the lies.

Who told you? Who will you believe, God or a fallen angel bent toward destruction?