Sep 16, 2012

New Site

Hello loyal readers. I have made the leap and gotten a dedicated domain name for The Art of Pursuit.

All new posts will now be posted at

If you are a follower, you'll want to re-follow on the new site to continue to receive regular updates.

See you there!

Dare to Dance

Another day, another week, another choice to walk in trust or selfishness.

I spent the afternoon cleaning up cables and equipment at the church. One of the more common tasks of an Audio/Visual team leader. I could have had help if I had wanted, but today I didn't want. There was much to talk to God about and my heart was heavy. So I turned my worship music on loud in the empty sanctuary as started to coil, and arrange, and gaff.

Before long I was singing along. Singing to God with an audience of sixteen red rows of theater seats...

"You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust." *

Then I couldn't sit still any longer. I got up and started to dance.  Those sixteen rows of red seats wouldn't mind.

"...You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us!" *

There's a reason the Psalms command us to dance. It's freeing. When you discard all inhibitions in praise and pour your strength into worship. When all the unspoken prayer from the heart is lavished like incense on the Saviour's feet.  You can't dance and be dismal. And you can't dance halfheartedly - not when it's just you and God.

I danced my yearning for God, my desire for His pleasure. Then I danced His victory. My God IS victorious and it was time my enemies knew it. Visibly. I danced on the grave of my self will. I danced the dance of those made whole by the mercy of God. I don't know if it was pretty (that wasn't the point), it was simply  all I had. I danced until my strength was gone, my face was sweaty, and I could smile again.

I danced until I got victory. 

Take a minute one of these days and dance before God in your prayer closet. King David did it. The Israelites did it when God parted the Red Sea. Pour out your praise like sweet perfume at His feet. 

*From the song "Beautiful Things" by Gungor

Sep 15, 2012

Blessed Are They Who Mourn...

"Blessed (enviably happy) are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:4
If I were to write this verse, it would read, "Blessed are the eternally happy for they shall be...well...eternally happy." For what do the happy need?  But Jesus didn't say that the happy were blessed. Instead, He took a moment in time to correct a grave error in our understanding. He commanded blessing on an unexpected group of people. "Blessed are they who mourn..."

I never envy people in mourning and I would laugh at the idea of anyone envying my own sorrow. I envy those who are happy, excited, reveling in their circumstance. I pity those who have lost something.

So why are the mournful to be envied?  Not for their sorrow alone. There is a sorrow that is a "worldly sorrow". A morose spirit that sinks into depression and despair. We can tend to cling to our sorrow and never let it go. We can sorrow for sorrow's sake until it becomes an addiction. But it is those who mourn who have the opportunity to be comforted.

"...for they will be comforted." Not might not possibly. They will be comforted. "  Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted." (Isaiah 49:13) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Comfort. He is the Consolation in times of sadness, in seasons of loss, when there is no happiness to be readily obtained from our circumstance.  And He is always ready and available to comfort us. For this reason the heavens sing and the earth rejoices. The mountains break into song because the Lord is the consolation of His people.

Could it be that the comfort gained far outweighs the loss? Could it be that the consolation fills the void to overflowing - to the point that we are better off after the whole process than before?

This comfort is the mighty hand of God reaching down to dry the tears of His hurting child.  God could show us His power by withholding all painful situations from us. But He shows His LOVE when He comforts us. He reveals the sweetest side of Himself when the great Lord of Heaven and earth comes - not to pull us immediately out of a hard situation - but to gather us close to Himself and walk through the situation with us. He demonstrates His deep, affectionate kindness when He slows His pace to match our stride and supports our weak and stumbling journey through the rough places. He is the Companion in our sorrow...the kindest, most gentle companion ever known.

Blessed are they that mourn, for they know - more than anyone - the Father Love of God. They have felt a facet of His nature that no one else would know. They know what it is to be held close to their God.

Sep 13, 2012

A Day In Psalms

I have made it a habit over the past several years to read Psalms and Proverbs through every month. This means 5 Psalms a day to get through in 30 days. So today I started on Psalm 13, then counted out 30 and read Psalm 43, then Psalm 73, and so on. It's quite a nice system.

The Psalms always seem to follow a common theme, and, more often then not, they tend to be exactly what I need to hear for the day. Today was no exception.  The week has been a bit frustrating, there are several confusing questions that God has yet to answer, I'm waiting on some direction, and then to top it all off I had some discouraging situations arise.

I came home - tired and lonely - and determined to try to get some answers.  I grabbed my Bible and a flashlight and ran to my hidden spot in the backyard where I could cry if I needed.  Opening to Psalm 13 I read:

"O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me."

Oh, how I could relate to David's distress! But the last part got under my skin. WHY suddenly is David breaking out in joyful songs. What happened in the middle of writing that Psalm that change his entire outlook?  I am envious. But a bit confused too...

I moved on to chapter 43:

For you are God, my only safe haven. Why have you tossed me aside?
Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?
Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live.
There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!

There it was again. David, like myself, was searching for answers...for guidance. Suffering because he felt as though God had deserted him. Am I not in the same place. Don't I feel as thought God has maybe forgotten that I am still in need of answers?  But, again, David changes his mood midstream and begins to praise. What happened? I wish I could go back in time to be there, right in that room, listening to David's agony, but then finding out the source of his transformation into joy and trust. It was getting under my skin now...

I cried a few tears of frustration (10 minutes worth or so) then pushed aside my struggle to read on. Psalm 73:

Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm.
They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.
Therefore pride serves as their necklace...

Ah, again I could relate. I had envied, today, the people that could do whatever they wanted. Enjoy life, have fun. Those who did not have the burden of obedience. Yes, I am ashamed, I was envious of those who could have fun without worrying about righteousness or wisdom.  I was sick of struggle...of fire...of trouble and pain and self-sacrifice and laying aside my will all the time. I wanted to do my thing my way if God wasn't going to give me my answers...or at least that's how I felt until I read further.

When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me—Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors.
As a dream when one awakes, so, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image.
Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works.

The truth hit my brain like a shaft of light. David's questions were all answered. Not by whining and complaining or getting frustrated, but by turning his eyes from the question to look at the Solution. Suddenly all the questions - when put in an eternal perspective - were taken care of.  "It is good for me to draw near to God." THERE. That is how David was able to change his attitude. He took his questions and problems, gathered them up, carried them to the Throne Room and handed them to His God. "My heart and flesh fail..." He knew it. I know it. God knows it. "...but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever..." I don't understand how He does it, it's a great mystery. But somehow, when David drew close to God, He changed his outlook. He changed his attitude. He took the worries that were piled up like mountains around David, and He diminished them until it was like David didn't even remember what he was fretting over. Intriguing.

I tried it. I drew near to God...then nearer...nearer...then even more near. I spent time there. I didn't hurry away, I just sat and considered HIM. His character. His nature. The things He's done. The things He has said. Oh, yes, I did ask my questions - or, at least, I tried. I started to whine and it just seemed out of place next to His grandeur. The problems were too little to catch my attention now. I was enthralled. I couldn't keep my mind on the problem long enough to fret over it. I kept getting distracted by the beauty of Christ. I didn't WANT discouragement any more. I wanted God. I wanted joy, and adoration, and love, and trust, and to glory in His unending faithfulness. I wanted to sing and then maybe dance a little. I wanted to praise and worship and bow down and cry, "Holy!" with all the angels. That's what I wanted. So that's what I did.

I don't remember where I left my worries. I must have dropped them somewhere in the Presence of God. I don't have time to stop to search for them now...

Aug 26, 2012

Greater Love

What is love?

Not the mushy feeling of romantic love that come and goes like the tide.  Or the "we have fun together", friendly, spunk, non-committal love.
What is real, honest-to-goodness, last forever, kind of love?  The kind that you can shower on a child, or your husband, or any friend, or any stranger that will encourage them, strengthen them, make them all that they were meant to be?

Love is sacrifice.  "Greater love has no one than this: that to lay down one's life for his friends."   Sacrifice is costly. To be sacrifice it must be given without expectation of getting anything back.  I think we never truly understand love until we have poured ourselves out for someone who will not reciprocate.

Sure, we serve people. But have you ever stopped to question your own motives? Have you ever realized that deep down in the hiddenest place in your heart, the motive for serving people is often to gain their affection or their thanks?  I have.  That's not love.

I have loved the unlovely...but found it was relatively easy to love the unlovely when I knew they would respond with gratitude - even hero-worship. And so I plumped my ego to a terrific size by service as I gained back the praise of the people I helped. Then I woke up to the realization that I didn't really love THEM at all. I merely loved their love. Then I realized one thing more. I realized that I stopped loving people that I knew didn't care a straw for me.  I could love the unlovely, but I wouldn't love the ungrateful.  I realized I didn't really know love at all.

When Christ went to the cross, He opened His heart unreservedly for the world. He offered His blood for people He knew would never love Him back. Unreservedly. Without hesitation. He fed the crowds knowing those crowds would turn on Him.  He did not consider that miracle ill-placed. He loved Judas with an open heart knowing Judas would betray Him.  He did not consider that love wasted. He poured Himself out in service daily - hourly - for the people who would shout for Him to be crucified. He didn't look back on those days and hours with regret.
He didn't stop loving us when we didn't love Him. He didn't grow impatient in His love while He waited for us to respond to Him.  He just LOVED. Plainly, purely, simply, overwhelmingly, powerfully, astoundingly.

Love's definition is this: Give everything. Expect nothing. Forgive without limits.

Today, pour out your life in service to others. Not for praise or fame or to be well-respected by them. Not to gain friends or followers or loyal supporter. Serve with your words, with your actions, with your prayers. Sacrifice for the ungrateful, the unloving, the unworthy, the despicable. Sacrifice your spare time, and sacrifice the time you would have preferred not to spare. Serve in the Name of Jesus, to display His love to an ungrateful world.

That, my friends, is Love.

Aug 19, 2012

Jesus' Way

Is this the way my Jesus walked
This lonely, narrow lane?
If those footsteps in the dust are His
I'll gladly walk this way

Is that the way my Jesus looked
Love on His face, His eyes, His voice?
Then mercy permeate my every act
And compassion decide each choice

Where was it that my Jesus lived
The place He called His home?
If His country is Heaven, then so is mine
I'm content a stranger now to roam

How was it my Jesus talked
What sort of words were used?
If He spoke only the language of the Father
Then I yield my lips to truth

Is this the Temple my Jesus purged
To make it fit for prayer?
Then make me pure to my heart of hearts
That Your glory may abide in here

Is this the cross my Jesus bore
The weight of the Father's will?
I willingly kneel to accept my own
I'll follow Him up that hill

Aug 18, 2012

What Is Your Portion?

Are you satisfied?

Psalm 145:19 "He will fulfill the desire of all who fear Him."

All of us have desires, dreams and ambitions. Whether it be for an object, a relationship, a status, an achievement...
Often I have looked at scriptures like this and - though I would never have admitted it - I considered it a way to manipulate God. "If I love Him - if I fear Him, He'll give me what I want."
But today I looked at it different. I realized that what this is not saying that we'll have everything that we want right now.
It is saying that as we honor and revere and love the Lord - truly love Him from our hearts, and not just with lip service - He will become the fulfillment of every yearning of our hearts. He doesn't just satisfy a temporary longing, He reaches into the depths of our desires and satisfies the root, the core, the heart!

If you long for a relationship, He becomes your lover - and the best love anyone could ask for.
If you long for position, He gives you a place in His heart, in His family, in His story.
If you long for achievement, He will show you what counts for eternity.
If you long to be noticed, He shows you your own name written on His hand that He will never forget.

Oh, I know, sometimes life gets hard…hard because we have bought into the lie that says we have to strive for anything we want or we will never get it. Sometimes we get tired of waiting for the fulfillment of the promises of God…because we put more affection on the promise than we do on the Promise Maker.
Sometimes we get mad at the Lord because we think He has forgotten us, but in reality we are still cared for, still alive, still have access to salvation. He just doesn’t care so much about our priority list because He has one of His own that is infinitely better and eternally more perfect.

Are you satisfied with just your Lord and nothing more? If everything was stripped away and stolen from you (family, spouse, friends, job, responsibility, possession) would you still be satisfied. Or perhaps is your love a bit divided. Perhaps you love the Lord BECAUSE of all He's given you. I encourage you, do some searching...I had to, and I discovered how lacking my love was.

The age old question remains. Would you love Him if He took it all away and you were left with nothing but Him?

I ask you, what is YOUR portion?

Aug 14, 2012

Positioned for a Miracle

Do you ever feel that where you are right now is not compatible with where you are going?

Like a lame man looking up a sheer cliff face at his mountaintop destination?

It is curious to notice, though, that this is the place God puts His children in at least once in life. All of His best heroes have spent time in this spot.

And why?

Because this is the spot where we learn what faith is.  This is where we either give discouraged, throw in the towel, and never reach our potential...OR we lift our chin and ask, "I wonder what miracle God is planning here?"

You see, there's always a miracle.  In the exact right time, there is always the perfect miracle.

Look at Joseph. Years in prison - forgotten in prison - but one day the Pharaoh happened to have a dream, and his servant happened to hear of that dream, and that servant had happened to previously been in jail with Joseph, and he had happened to have a dream in prison, that Joseph had happened to interpret, and so the servant happened to tell the king of Joseph, and Joseph happened to be able to interpret Pharaoh's dream, so Pharaoh happened to make him second in command of all of Egypt, happening to fulfill a dream God had given Joseph years before.


Or was God orchestrating every detail to perfection in Joseph's life so that at the peak time everything slipped effortlessly into place?

Maybe, right here in this uncomfortable place that seems so far from where you're going God is crafting a miracle.

And just maybe that miracle will change your life.

And it won't be coincidence.

But don't get impatient...the delay just means you haven't reached the perfect time yet.


And you know what that means...'s means your miracle is still coming.

Aug 12, 2012

My Pledge

There is a great desire in all of us for relationship...especially a marriage relationship. It's a God-given desire, and it is a good desire. But as a Christian single, we encounter many pressures. From the church-world, everyone wants us to get married almost as bad as we want it ourselves. Our friends want to set us up. The world thinks we're crazy to keep ourselves for the one God chose for short, it's hard to wait.

I recently came across a pledge that I wrote the year I graduated. A pledge for my future husband.  It encouraged me once again to remember what it is that I am being patient for and convicted me to uphold, still, the same firm standard that I did then.  If you are single and still waiting for match God has for you, don't grow weary in well doing. Don't give into the temptation to settle or to bend your standards because the waiting has grown long. Remember that that promise of God is that we WILL reap if we do not lose heart.
I will wait for you, the man who is waiting for me.
I will be patient though it be years.
I will be ready though it be tomorrow.
I will not run ahead of the Lord’s plan; I will not lag behind His desire; I will not be distracted from His will.
God’s purpose will be my all-consuming passion.
I will love Him more than I love you; and I will love Him more than I love the dream of you.
I will let no impatience hold me back from the destiny the Lord has for me.
You are part of that destiny.
I will wait, but I will not be idle.
I will be giving myself constantly to the call of God for myself in faith that as I do I will also be preparing for our call as husband and wife.
I will be steadfast, unswerving, unwavering, undeterred. I will be committed to God's charge to me as a woman and as a Christian.
I will keep not just my body, but my heart pure and unstained from the affections of any other.
I realize that emotions may come and go within both of us, but my decision to give my whole heart will happen only when the Lord releases me to love you.
I will not allow heartbreaks in my past or hurts that I have suffered to affect how I relate to you.
I recognize that God is the Healer of my heart, and when He heals, He heals completely.
I will not hold you to account for the actions of others, nor will I withhold my trust and affection in anticipation of you making the mistakes others may have made.
I know that there may have been failings before you came to Christ.
I pledge myself to complete forgiveness, realizing that "everyone who is in Christ is a new creation...all things have become new."
I will lay any of my own failings under the Blood of Christ so they will not have any ground in our relationship.
I pledge to you that the day I say “I do” I will harbor no regrets.
I promise that the day I give myself to you I will come to you as a whole person ready to run, hand-in-hand with you, into our destiny.


It has been a prayer of mine for many years to see a revival in my lifetime like the revivals in the past. I read stories of the Great Awakenings, the Welsh Revival, the Layman's Revival, Azusa Street, and the rest and my prayer is, "God, do that here!"

I attempted to sit and write about the ingredients of revival, but as I began to read the promises of Scripture and the stories of revivals past I found it impossible to try to clinically lay out a series of sure-fire steps to revival.

I read of the young man in the Hebrides at a prayer service called by two elderly ladies who were concerned about the lack of young people in the churches. The young man said, "It seems to me to be so much humbug to be praying as we are praying, to be waiting as we are waiting, if we ourselves are not rightly related to God." And then lifted his hands asking,"God, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?" At that moment the power of God fell on that place and a revival began that completely transformed an entire community.

No preacher delivered a convicting sermon that all heard, no great evangelist organized a crusade. The Spirit of God swept, with no human help, through the towns and villages. Farmers in their field came under conviction of sin in an instant and fell to their knees to repent. Drunks in the pub were struck with the weight of their sin and got on their faces to cry for the mercy of God.

No, my friends, I cannot spell out any ingredient of revival beyond what God promised in the oft-quoted verse in Chronicles, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins and heal their land."

It seems the important thing - the only important thing - is for you and I to have the same heart as that young Scotch man. "God, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?" For when you and I are revived, we become conduits of revival. When we, the people of God, consecrate ourselves to holiness and are convicted of our  sins, we open the heavens over our communities for God to convicted of sin. But until you and I are revived, no amount of studying, of organizing, of waiting, of wanting will pave the way for revival in our generation. Until we, Christ's church, are holy our culture will remain unrepentant. That is the simple way of it.

If I want revival, I must be revived. So God, bring a revival...and start it in me.

Aug 3, 2012

Today's Cross

"Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Luke 9:23 (NKJV)

This verse has been often on my mind lately and cause me to stop once more and examine my daily life. Today have I denied myself? Am I carrying my cross?  Then I ponder further: What does it mean? What is my cross? Because I am not suffering, does that mean I am not "bearing my cross"?

The Cross of Christ means so much more than suffering. Anyone can suffer, but the cross is more than that. The Cross is ultimately about obedience.  When Jesus requires us to take up our cross, He compels us to dare to obey. Philippians 2:8 speaks of Christ's own obedience to the point of death. It is His footsteps we walk in.

Notice that when Jesus says to deny ourselves, to carry our cross of obedience, He does not speak of just the "important." He said, "Daily." He talks of the habitual tasks, the moment by moment decisions, the little things.  He asks me to deny myself by denying my "right" to do whatever I want. He asks that I be a slave to His will (hard words for our pride to handle).

We often find it easier to obey in huge life decisions, but often we forget to inquire the will of God in the small, common-place areas, too. Yet, this call to follow Christ is a consuming thing. Every decision from here on out must be focused on one goal. Isn't this what we committed to in the first place? From the time I wake up in the morning to the time I lay my head on my pillow at night, I am in the service of Christ. What He tells me, I must do. Where He commands me, I must follow. There is no aspect of a Christian's life that God's authority does not reach.

I encourage you, find out what the will of God is. Right now. This moment.
In your thought processes, does He approve?
In your motivation, is He priority?
In your words, are they the words He wants you to say?
In your spare time, is He still in charge?
Do you speak to the people He wants you to? Do you do what He wants the way He wants it done?

Don't just not do what He has forbidden. Take another leap of obedience and take time to find out what He WANTS you to do right this moment. 

Jul 25, 2012

Psalm 84

"How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young—Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they will still be praising You. Selah
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
O God, behold our shield, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!"
-Psalm 84
Those who are God's, it seems, find great joy in the things that are God's. They love what is holy. They crave to be near a holy God. They rejoice to obey His holy law. They delight in holy relationship with others that are holy.

"My heart and flesh cry out for the living God..." this is no religion of dead works or empty practice of goodness! This is a deep, a holy relationship with God who lives, and works, and speaks, and hovers over us. It is the cry of a heart that says: "God, I long for You so desperately that I am willing to remove anything, ANYTHING in my life that would separate You and I. Remove from me the habits that keep me from being transformed daily into Your image. I don't want to offer empty praise that is void of heartfelt worship. I want to kneel time after time at the feet of my Savior and be changed by Him. I want to meet face-to-face as friends, as companions. I want to be yoked together WITH Him in the same holy, living work."

"How lovely is Your Tabernacle..." then later, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness."
His altars will be my home forever, as a sparrow is at home in her nest. Here, in His Tabernacle, I want to stay. Here in the continual cycle of sacrifice and resurrection; daily laying myself before Him, daily being raised up by Him. To dwell here and wait in constant attendance on my God - what a lovely thought. Forever right at His side, waiting for a word, a touch, a glance to indicate His desire. Imagine! I'd rather be the lowliest of all servants here in the most blessed of places, than to roll in riches where I never catch a glimpse of His face. 'Blessed are those who dwell in Your house' the Psalmist reminds me. Blessed, happy, to be greatly envied are we who are so privileged as to spend our days in the presence of our Lord.

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in You..."
How happy are those who don't do their own will their own way, but who lean on the strength of their God. They will find that they are never without strength so long as they are doing His work with Him. the Everlasting God is the support of the obedient.

"...Whose heart is set on pilgrimage..."
My gaze is to be set on the New Jerusalem. I am to live always as one of her citizens, abiding by her laws, loyal to her people, devoted to her King, homesick for her beauty.  I am to be so set on her that when I walk through the desert, I dig deep into the sand to find the pools running far underground that are like her own springs, and the desert becomes luscious and beautiful like my own homeland. Where is my gaze? My home? My identity? Is my heart SET on pilgrimage? Am I glad to leave everything behind to follow close to my God? When people look at me, is it obvious that I am a citizen of heaven?

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory..."
He is my rear-guard and forward motion. Like the pillar of fire for the Israelites, He lights my way and holds my enemies at bay. He gives grace - His goodwill toward me, His good work within me. He gives glory - the favor of the Lord which no man can disprove or deny. "NO GOOD THING does He withhold from those that walk uprightly". In the end, when all is said and done, I admit without hesitation that I have no regrets in serving God. I have given up nothing that He hasn't returned ten-fold. I have made no sacrifice worthy of the blessing I have received. I gave up fear, and pride, and self-loathing. I received a home, an identity, love, security, and blessing. Let me never say the road is too hard or the pilgrimage too long when He illuminates my way, hedges me on every side, makes me an heir and child, and then - to top it all - showers me with every good thing...and all I have to do is follow Him.

Yes, He has left me no alternative than to praise Him once again.

Jul 22, 2012

The Cycle Breaker

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Do you ever feel as though you live in a cycle of disaster? Where it seems that every beauty has its flaw, every success is followed by extreme failure, every flight ends in a fall?  Do you wish to cry - as David did - "My God, why have You forsaken me?" Do the heavens feel like brass and the earth as unyielding as a desert?

We go through seasons of trial. Sometimes they last longer than we think we can bear. Has every relationship failed? Perhaps each business venture ends poorly? Or you've failed to reach the call of God yet again? Are there finance problems? Maybe you're in one of those situations yet again today. Sometimes the silence of God in these times feels unfair. We feel abandoned, left alone to struggle, helpless in the face of yet another calamity. We can't figure out why things are happening this way once again.

And yet...knowing that we go through all this, the Lord declares. Notice that He doesn't just SAY it, He DECLARES it. He knows in trouble we humans grow a little deaf. He knows we are prone to giving in to hopelessness and despair in hard times. He knows how weak, how failing, how prone to wander we are. And so He DECLARES His intentions and He PROCLAIMS His plans. 

His plan for you is to prosper you. Even in this season of failure, He is preparing you for great prosperity. He really is. I know because He said it. And you can take His promises to the bank. His plan does not include harm for you. You will not come out of this trial maimed, injured, or wounded beyond repair. He WILL give you a hope. He IS giving you a future.

But here is the key: let Him break the cycle of disaster. It has to be about Him. It has to be for His glory. It has to be to make His name great. He will not break through for us as long as we think we can do it without Him. Our plans for us are faulty, are shortsighted, are only a chapter in the story. Our plans will fail until we are out of human options.

His plans are glorious, grand, and beyond comprehension. In His mercy He will not let us succeed in our shortsighted plans. He will let us fail until we let Him work His plans in us. He will let us fail until we finally say, "GOD, it will take a miracle, and I can't do it without You!" 

And then He breaks through. He comes down like thunder. He breaks the cycle. He accomplishes His plans. He takes us into adventures we never dreamed. He works HIS PLANS and they are GOOD.

Jul 14, 2012

Still My Soul

How do you still a soul that can't be stilled - that WON'T be stilled? How do you bring back under the peace of God the raging emotions that do not want to rest?

"Be still and know that I am God," our Beloved speaks in His Word, "Be still and KNOW that I AM God, I will be exalted..."

The quietude we long for comes when we sit still and learn that God IS God. Shut down the clamor of the mind. Stop the argument, the reasoning, the logic first to one side then another. Shut up and just realize something...

Realize that right now your God is the Commander of your situation. He is the Master of your future. His is the Provider of all you need. He is the Refuge from the storms of life. He is your strength to do His will. He is the One who makes the decisions. Even though the earth be removed and carried into the sea, you will have no need to be anxious...ever. Even though everything you hold dear is shaken, He will accomplish what He said. He who "makes the wars of nations to cease" can bring peace to the war in your own mind. Today. Right now. This instant.

Don't just realize these facts. Proclaim them! Speak it with your mouth until you know it well. What your mouth speaks, your mind begins to believe. What your mind believes, your heart will feel. What your heart feels will become the all-consuming focus of your life.

Never forget that the One who loved you first loves you best. Never let the circumstances that arise shake your trust in Him, for, in doing so, you exalt make them make them bigger than God in your heart until they take up so much of your attention that they become your god. Never let your problems become your god.

Jul 7, 2012

Lessons from Abraham - Part 1

Have you ever noticed how specific, intense, and downright unbelievable the dreams of God really are? And yet, all over history is splashed the stories of people who accomplished the dreams of God for their lives. What kind of person does it take to live out the miraculous dreams of God?

It takes a person like Abraham...

First, God calls Abram (as he was still called then) out of the land of his birth. He doesn't tell him where he's going, only to start moving.
Lesson 1: God doesn't always tell us the end of the story right away. Sometimes He just expects us to follows His step-by-step instructions.
He lets Abram take a little rest of about 5 years in a nice little country, but it's not quite the Promised Land yet, so soon Abraham is on the move again.
Lesson 2: God won't let us get comfortable anywhere short of the Promised Land. In His great love, He makes sure we won't ever be happy with second best.
Within a little time, Abram is settled in Canaan, the Land of Promise. He is, perhaps, thinking that he has accomplished God's will and can now enjoy his rest. But God has other plans...
Lesson 3: The plans of God will last your entire life. You will never run out of His good pleasure or reach the end of His plans. The adventure won't stop short, and the process will not be boring.

Abraham and his nephew began to have troubles. So Abraham partitioned off the land and allowed Lot to take his pick of where he would live with his flocks and family. His pick was, of course, the best land, and so it was settled. But God came once again to Abraham to remind his that ALL the land of promise would belong to Abraham's descendants.
Lesson 4: No one else can steal your promise. You can turn from it, deny it, or ignore it and lose it that way, but no other person on the face of the earth can stand between you and God's dreams for you. This should erase all fear, all striving, all jealousy, and all self-protection.

Abram does a good turn for an ungodly king. The king, understandably, is very grateful, so offers Abram a reward. Abram refuses the reward on the grounds that he does not wish it to be said that a man made him prosperous.
Lesson 4: God's plans don't need the help of our logic, our human strength, or anyone's better ideas. There will always be a shortcut or "Plan B" presented. Don't take it. As Jim Elliot said, "God always gives His best for those who leave the choice to Him." Let God fulfill the dreams He gives. He is well able.

...and the story is just beginning...

One summarizing thought on this first part of the story:

God doesn't expect super-humans. He doesn't even expect above-average humans. He expects obedient humans. And in obedience, He expects complete obedience. Not the half-hearted, wishy-washy, unsure of what He said, uncertain as to what He meant, unwilling to listen close enough to figure it out sort of pseudo-obedience that we tend to offer. He really wants a heart that is set earnestly on Him. Like Abraham's.

Jun 25, 2012

Lovingkindness & Tender Mercy

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies..." Psalm 103:2-4
I spent all afternoon pondering this passage and the glorious depth it contains in such simple words. God saves and heals and redeems. Then, as if that was not enough, He crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies.

To put it in perspective, consider this: God's forgiveness alone is magnificent. The perfect God - the One without flaw or fault - took every single dirty, putrid sin from our defiled selves and placed them on Himself. He took those who had sold themselves into slavery to death and bought them back at the price of His life. He paid the price of salvation for the unlovely, the uncaring, and the utterly worthless. His blood covers sinfulness so completely that when He looks at us He sees only His perfection. THAT is salvation.

If God never did another good thing for you for the rest of your life, His salvation alone would make Him worthy of your unending praise and constant devotion. Were every breath a grateful prayer, every heartbeat marked a sacrifice of praise, and every moment spent in thanksgiving, you would never be able to repay Christ for His redemption.

But wait! He not only saves. And heals. And redeems. But THEN He garnishes your life with His lovingkindness and tender mercies. Like a father surprising His child with an unexpected present just to watch their delight, so God infuses your days with wonderful and beautiful gifts. The sunrise, the wildflowers, colors and sights and sounds and smells, relationships, the desires of your heart, the comfort of His Holy Spirit, the joy of His friendship, His wisdom, His counsel, His affection...He didn't have to bless you with them.

He just wanted to see you smile.

Jun 4, 2012


"Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths." Psalm 25:4
"Blessed are You, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes." Psalm 119:12
"Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach Your law." Psalm 94:12
"Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe Your commandments." Psalm119:66

It has long been the desire of the righteous man to learn wisdom. Those who pursue God pursue His heart, His ways, His teachings, His commands, and, yes, even His discipline. They cry out to understand Him more clearly and to walk with Him more closely.

Teachable humility is not a natural attitude for us poor humans. Arrogance is a more common reaction coming from our fallen natures. We attempt to put our best side forward and cover our flaws so no one will notice. We react violently if anyone points out an imperfection hollering about how judgmental they are, or complaining that they are just too hard on us. We excuse our own sin problems because we have an oh-so-good reason to be just like we are, and we expect others to excuse us as well. After all, no one is perfect...

But, in doing so we stunt our growth. We can not be changed "from glory to glory" until we finally let go of our incorrect belief in our own goodness and let God remake us into what is truly good and really righteous.

I read the Proverbs and see a pattern - a hungering cry for the wisdom of God. I read David's heart through the Psalms and notice his dedication to becoming daily more like his God. I see Daniel studying, Joseph giving himself to training, Samuel with an attentive ear, Timothy the apprentice apostle, even mighty Paul spending his 13 years relearning the Law he knew by heart.

I notice a trend: the best Christians are those who love to be taught in the school of holiness. They are transparent before their God, allowing Him to put His finger on whatever weakness He sees. They are willing for Him to train them as He deems fit. They let Him to use the circumstances and the people He chooses in that training. They do not shrink from even the hardest lessons or the most painful of discipline. They love to learn by whatever means possible. They embrace instruction. They are TEACHABLE!

"My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path."
Proverbs 2:1-9

May 17, 2012

Those Who Dwell...

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty...Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence..." -Psalm 91:1,3

He who lives, abides, finds his home in deep and real companionship with God will be covered by the protection of the God whose strength greatly exceeds all His enemies. He will be safe, sheltered, comforted, kept under the jurisdiction of the Commander of the Hosts of Heaven - the One who thunders from Heaven to respond with fiery anger to wreak havoc on any that would harm His beloved.

He will deliver that child, that close friend who dwells near Him from the snare of the fowler.
Hunters would hide traps in tall grass to catch the feet of birds as they walked through unsuspectingly. Our God keeps us from falling into the iniquities that we might fail to foresee, or the harm that could come to us when we can't notice the danger ahead. He watches over us to direct us around the devil's traps that trip us up, and cause us to fall when we aren't aware.
The one who is close, who lives daily, hourly in the God's presence will know God's voice as He directs Him carefully through the minefield the enemy of his soul has laid for him. He will be kept safe because he is familiar with the voice of God and is quick to obey that leading.

God will deliver His own - His friends - from the perilous pestilence. He will come between the fearsome plague that come to cause great destruction. He guards us from the things we can't overcome. He keeps death and destruction at bay. When cultures fall around us, when society is drenched in wickedness, when we aren't sure how to keep ourselves or our children safe from being swept into the tide of evil, our God comes to be our great and mighty protector.  The one who makes his home at the feet of God can be sure He will never be overcome by an irresistible evil. Though ten thousand fall at his right side, it can not come near because the Almighty God is his protection.  The friend of God knows his God is greater than any and every wickedness, so he does not fear. He knows evil is the enemy of His God, so he will not succumb to it.

Stay close to God today. Remain near Him tomorrow. Learn to live - not just visit - His presence. Don't make an appearance in His secret place, stay there! This is more than a daily Bible reading plan, or a quick prayer before work. This is stopping to make His voice priority. This is halting in the madness of life to push everything else aside to just listen. This is not just being a servant of God, this is being His FRIEND.

Apr 22, 2012


Are you torn, little friend?
Torn between two realities.
Torn between who you were and who you've been declared. One clutching at you from the drudgery you called life, and one beckoning you from ahead.
How do you make it?
How do you stick it out?
How do you handle the transformation process?
Are there days when the end result seems so near you can almost taste it, then days when you're not sure if you have the courage to wait out the pain?

Was before so bad?
Open fields and springtime skies. Colorful blossoms and companions to share it with. Sure, there were hard were fair game for the bigger and stronger. Sure you were worms, eking out a living on the ground. Sure you knew you were made to become something better.

Do you know what's coming?
Did you know the promise? The promise for all your ugliness to be turned to beauty. Do you remember trying to find fulfillment and satisfaction, to be full, only to find that everything was tough and tasteless just like always? Did you ever look longingly at one who had been transformed and realizing that they could soar, only crawled.  They were able to draw the sweetness from life and soak in every beautiful moment. Is that hope what gives you patience now?

And now this.
This dark, cramped prison. No sunlight, no hope except the promise. No companions. No freedom to do what you want when you want. This pain, this  longing, this impatience, this struggle with your own self to just  stay put until the right time.

This prison is a chrysalis.

This prisoner: a caterpillar.

This impatient one: destined to be a butterfly.

This example: set here for me to learn from.

So I can learn that my waiting is not useless.

I, too, am in a cocoon of becoming. My present is not my future any more than a chrysalis is a butterfly. But the chrysalis is vital in the making of a butterfly. Like the little caterpillar, if I break out of my confinement too soon, all will be lost.  Like the caterpillar I will, in the end, realize just how worth it the waiting is.

In light of all this, there is courage to wait it out a little longer. There is the realization that this chrysalis time is not my prison, it is my launching pad. And this pain that transforms me is my best friend.

Soon everything will be different. I will be who I was proclaimed to be from the beginning of time.

Soon, like my friend the caterpillar, I will be able to soar

Mar 27, 2012


The clang of garden gates behind me
The flame of the angel's sword, it blinds me
Stain from the fruit yet upon my face
A coat of skins hiding my disgrace
Run fast and hard before death finds me
Before death binds me
And death maligns me

The mind deceived by the serpent's hiss
The scars I bear from his unholy kiss
Go unnoticed in these crowded streets
Among well-scrubbed masses just like me
Unknowingly we march to the abyss
Ignorant bliss
Deadly ignorant bliss

Still inside my spirit thirsts
A groaning, a craving inside me stirs
I feed my lusts but my lusts leave a yearning
Nothing soothes my soul, I am learning
Is there no defender of us cursed?
For the sting of our curse
Grows only worse

Oh, for a redeemer to pay the price
Oh, for a hero to save my life
But my own heart of darkness thwarts my purpose
Deafens my ears to Love's sweet opus
The chasm between God and I
It is too wide
So I cry

They pass me by on either side
These Children of God with light in their eyes
Would that one stop and give me ease
My face rejects you, but my heart still pleads
For a taste of that glory that you hide
Don't deny
Please, don't deny

Saints and warriors, bearers of light
You know the bridge across the divide
Yet you ignore the the cries of these lost
Hoarding the mercy of Jesus' cross
Would you hold back what's freely given?
Would you bar the path to heaven?
Did you forget what Christ forgave you?
Did you brush off the mission He gave you?
Do you value His commands so lightly?
While holding comfort so dear and so tightly?
Sit safely inside your American dream
Over streets littered with the unredeemed

Who shall we send, who will go for us
Who will take up heaven's own cause
Who will run to the wounded and crying
Who will bind up the broken and dying
Who will hear the cry of the lost
And draw them from the grave to the foot of the cross

Feb 29, 2012

More than a Conqueror!

More than a conqueror…

I’m pondering that phrase this morning and wondering what this looks like.

It means that I can quit living on starvation rations and start feasting.  It means satisfied instead of craving. It looks like flying on wings of eagles instead of laboring through the sloughs of struggling. It means throwing off the rags of poverty and inhabiting a mansion of promise. It means inheritance. Why feed pigs when a robe and ring await?

More than a conqueror…
It does not mean that life is easy. It does not imply that the fight is over, but it means that there is a promise of victory in the middle of the battle. It means I will not have to give up, give in, or surrender. It also means that going home would be stupid and running away is not an option. It means I can stick out the fight, standing strong, my banner waving clearly.

More than a conqueror
...means that mountains are removable and giants start looking like grasshoppers. 

More than a conqueror!
It gives faith. Faith to take one more breath, one more step, one more leap, climb one more wall, cross one more river, swim one more stroke, run one more stride. It enables me to keep my eyes fixed on the finish line, ignoring distraction and discouragement, throwing of the weights that would cling to me and proclaim, “Is there not a cause?!”

MORE than a conqueror!
...means that I do not fight alone. It means that I have hosts of warriors that come at my cry. No, I do not command an army, but the One who commands all the hosts of Heaven also commands me, and He will never forget one of His own. He allows me to see battle, but He never leaves a man behind.

More than a CONQUEROR!
It means, get on the winning team, stay on the winning team, and be willing to die for the winning team…because in the end, we WIN!

Feb 7, 2012

Ascent To Hope

The crazy thing about despair is how addictive it is. It seems that once we have begun to lose hope, we lose all the will to regain it.

What is it about despair and suffering that intrigues us so? What pulls us into it? It seems it is the Second Law of Thermodynamics that works in our souls - everything digressing over time unless conscious effort is made to reverse the downward spiral. It all usually begins with a failure on our part, or sometimes the failure of someone else that begins to blot out hope. In all honesty, you will often find unforgiveness - either of another or of one's own failure - at the root of all hopelessness. We begin to dwell on the bad things, and forget about the plethora of good that God scattered all over our lives.  If left alone, we will begin to think that despair is all there is. That suffering is our lot. That the grandest plan of God for us is that we learn to accept that life is horrible. Suffering will beget more suffering, despair more despair until our world is so cluttered with arguments and failure and self-pity that no glimmer of hope can seep through. It seems, almost, that we begin to enjoy our misery. Often, in this state, when hope is offered us we reject it.
That is hopelessness.

Granted, there are times of suffering that God leads us through in our lives. There are seasons where we have great need of endurance to face the situations that confront us. There are times when we fail and He corrects us. There are time when others will fail us, and we must learn to forgive anyway. But that, really, is just the times of hardship we MUST fix our eyes on God, the Source of all hope. We must not let go of the expectation that He will fulfill His promise in our lives, otherwise our circumstance will pull us down into despair.
We can walk through suffering and yet hope.

It takes an act of God to restore hope in a heart that has lost it. But restore hope He can and will. Like all things, though, He will not force hope on us.  He will wait for us to ask. Yet His waiting is not passive. Nothing our God does is ever passive. In fact, His waiting is something of a warfare. His heart beats with intense longing, with aching pleas for us to lift our eyes from the rubble of our circumstance into the light of His countenance. Even when we feel we have reached the end of what we can bear, if we could look up we would see our dear Father holding off the forces of hell lest they destroy us. Bearing on His own shoulders the weight that would crush us. Shielding us from the fiercest heat, the raging waters, the wind that would surely destroy us if He was not still the Protector. He pleads with us to let Him reach down His mighty arm to save us, and lift us again to safety.
He waits close by, always, ready to save.

And there, as sun and shield He waits. He waits to give grace and glory. He waits to shower good things, as soon as we wish to accept them. Here, my friends, is where hope and grace intersect. Grace, by definition, is enabling power. When hope is gone and we cannot lift our heads and truly deserve nothing good, God comes to our aid. He takes the frail, wayward being and lifts them above their situation. He sets them in a safe place, and offers them whatever strength they need to regain hope.

As I mentioned before, God is the Fountainhead of all hope. Wherever He is, there is hope...and life...and vision! As long as we are close to Him, we will find that hope is always close. Despair is held at bay by the Presence of the Promise Maker Himself. Sure, trials will come. Battles may rage. Failure may occur. Wounding may even happen. But somehow, all these things seem a little more like an adventure or a challenge rather than a crippling blow when He Himself becomes our hope.

Jan 12, 2012

The Violent Take It By Force

Matthew 11:12 "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force."

The picture here is of a great multitude storming a city to lay hold of it's riches.

I firmly believe that Heaven will be populated by those we may not have expected.  Not the average, normal, nominal American Christian who are popular and soft and self-satisfied. I think we will see slews of the desperate, the tenacious, the determined, the zealous, the single-minded, and the steadfast.
Matthew Henry expounds on this verse in his commentary, stating, "They who would enter into the kingdom of heaven must strive to enter; that kingdom suffers a holy violence; self must be denied, the bent and bias, the frame and temper, of the mind must be altered; there are hard sufferings to be undergone, a force to be put upon the corrupt nature; we must run, and wrestle, and fight, and be in an agony, and all little enough to win such a prize, and to get over such opposition from without and from within."
Those who are good enough to suit themselves, those who are self-satisfied and full of their own righteousness will never see the inside of Heaven's gates. Neither will those who just don't care enough, or are unmotivated to put forth the effort to see the Kingdom of God advance. It is not those who sit back and watch from the sidelines that will lay hold of the Kingdom. It is those who fight day and night against their own self-will. It is those who wrestle with God for the treasures of the Kingdom like Jacob wrestling with the Angel all night for a blessing. These will lay hold of what they so earnestly desire.

Look at those in Christ's day who laid hold of the Kingdom:
The woman with the issue of blood, pushing through an anxious crowd to touch the hem of the Man she was forbidden by tradition from speaking to. The three ingenious men who lowered their sick friend through the roof to lay him at Jesus' feet because the crowd on the ground was too thick. The woman who braved scorn and ridicule to wash the Savior's feet with perfume and tears. Zaccheus, willing to lay down pride and public image to seize an opportunity to observe Christ closely.  The 120 in the Upper Room waiting and laboring in prayer for the promised Holy Spirit.
And who did not lay hold of the Kingdom: Those who felt like they didn't need it. Like the Pharisees, puffed with pride and self-righteousness, attempting to re-route the path to Heaven so only those as lofty as themselves could enter. Or those unwilling to make the sacrifice to gain it. Like the Rich Young Ruler, walking away from Jesus with his fortune intact, but forsaking what would have made his faith complete. Also, those who attempted to gain it the soft, easy way. Like Simon the Sorceror who would try to buy the treasures of the Kingdom rather than live the holy lifestyle that would allow him to access them for free.

We are used to soft American life. We love our ease and our comfort here in our pleasure-seeking and instant gratification lifestyles. Americans will go to church on Sundays...sometimes...but only the late service. We read the Bible if life gets rough, or say a prayer on a bad day. If asked, we'll admit to being Christian, but really, we prefer to keep that quite in case it could embarrass us.  But there is something in this comfort we are used to that is out of place in the life of a whole-hearted Christian. We have a hard time admitting that real Christianity requires effort and discipline. We forget that Paul admonished Timothy to "endure hardship as a good soldier."

I think we all face a point in our Christian walk where the rubber hits the road or we hit the road. We have to determine whether we will stand up or shut up, be a fence-walker or a fire-starter, live it up or live out loud, sleep in or press in, be a fop or a fighter. It is hard to do anything halfway...we tend to get burned out. In the life of a Christian you can be a name-only saint for so long. Pretty soon you either decide to live every moment for the cause of Christ, leaving every other venture and love behind, or decide it's not worth the sacrifice and leave true Christianity to someone a little more tenacious. Christianity is not something you put on - like a pair of shoes - it is something you become. It requires an over-haul and transformation in every part of your life.

The Kingdom of Heaven is forcefully advancing, and those who are forceful in spirit will lay hold of it!