He Speaks in the Noise

I thoroughly enjoy my moments of quiet and relaxation.  That typically happens before my family is awake or out on a country road riding my bicycle.  Lately, life has traveled far from tranquility.  It’s loud, stormy, and, stressful.  In about every arena that I am involved – it feels like a storm is brewing.

For example, while retrieving one of our cars, after being in a wreck this week – the van I have been driving shuts down on the way home.  Now it sits in a parking lot as I try and figure out my next step with it.  As for the car, it will probably end up getting crushed later this week for scrap metal.

Yesterday I took a vacation day from work and went on a field trip with my daughters kindergarten class.  It was a fun time to watch my daughter interact with her friends.  I don’t see how the teachers do this day after day.  Leading little minds to learn, respect, behave, and to enjoy life.  One parent said to me, “I don’t see how they (teachers) do it.  They kept up with all of these kids today.”  I’d like to add that the children were well behaved. I know the teachers were tired from their little outing but they still had a smile!

Reading in Luke 8:22-15 this morning.  I have re-read this passage several times this week as I continue my trek through the New Testament.  A couple of things stand out to me.  Nothing new.  But in the midst of the current circumstances these verses seem to hit home.

The disciples are with Jesus in a boat.  Jesus is sleeping. There is a storm on the lake and the disciples are scared and have begun to panic.  Now, some of these guys are very familiar with boats and being on the water, as they were fishermen by trade.  I am sure they are very familiar with storms on the water as well.  But for some reason this storm was nothing like they had experienced before.  They were afraid for their lives,

They awaken Jesus for help, “Master we are going to drown!”  The Message says, “Getting to his feet, he [Jesus] told the wind, ‘Silence!’ and the waves, ‘Quiet down!’ They did it. The lake became smooth as glass.”

The sentence that leaves me asking more questions is Jesus’ question back to his disciples. “Why can’t you trust me?”

Makes me think of a moment this week where things seemed to be crashing in on me and I wondered if God even liked me anymore.  I began to question if he was going to let me perish in the midst of my own personal turmoil.

As I read this again, I hear him ask, “Why can’t you trust me?”

Yes.  It’s very noisy right now.  And he is here.  I know it.  I need to learn in this experience of life and to respect, behave, and enjoy life.

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Joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Approaching 2015 I felt all of this pressure to have a “word” for the year. I’m not sure where all of this started but for the past several years I have had a word or a phrase that has been a central focus. But this year it seemed like the message of “having a word for the year” was coming from many directions. I don’t recall there being so much focus on “having a word for the year” before. It came from a devotional, a friend, my pastor, and Margaret Feinberg to name a few sources.

I was leaning in a direction for this word or focus for the year. Then I began to think that I was being influenced by one of my favorite authors and I didn’t want that either. I wanted this to be real, fresh, and lead by what the Holy Spirit. I even changed my word on New Years Day just to avoid the word I thought I needed to focus on… just to change it back within a few days.

I landed with “Joy” as my word for 2015. Margaret Feinberg’s book Fight Back with Joy has some to do with where I was going for the year. And it was because of her book I wanted to fight off the thought of joy being my word for the year. I just wanted this to be something God wanted me to focus on.

Several years ago I had a pastor friend tell me his prayer for me has been that I would experience real joy in my life. His words have stuck with me now for about 6 years. I’ve wondered: What was it about me that would have him say that to me?   Was I depressed? Unhappy? Did I seem like I was missing something in my life? Is that why I have been feeling the way I have been feeling? Was it all because I lacked this three-letter word in my life? The answer is, Yes.

It’s time to stop asking questions and really pursue what God has in store. Taking the words of Margaret Feinberg and making them my own,

It’s time to pursue a joy-filled life. No need to wait for joy to arrive mysteriously in the mail one day. I need focused spiritual practices that might nurture joy. (Fight Back with Joy).

Well, whatever the reason, I’m on a journey to find and experience lasting joy… a joy-filled life.

Almost everyday this year “JOY” has come up… in conversations, messages on the radio, a charm on a necklace, Scripture, a song on the radio… it comes at me through so many ways.

Recently, while sitting in the living room, sipping on a cup a coffee, during my Quiet Time, I have the thought come to me, “Read 1 john 1:4.” So I read that verse in The Message Bible. If you are familiar with The Message you know sometimes you can’t just read one verse.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!” (1 John 1:3-4, The Message).

I sat down to write this verse out on a break at work and as I finished “Joy to the world” by Three Dog Night comes on the radio that’s playing through our building. I understand what my pursuit is to be this year JOY.

I’m sure I’m no different from you as you live, breath, and walk this planet. There are problems. There are mistakes made due to unwise choices. There is sickness.  There are circumstances that may have caused you to label yourself as damaged goods – not to be used for the Kingdom of God. Maybe someone else has labeled you as such and you have believed the lie. It could be that you battle depression, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, lacking confidence or faith… whatever it is that may be holding you back today. Know that God wants to fill your cup. He doesn’t want to just fill it up He wants it to overflow from His heart to yours and from yours to those in your world.

Today is the day to surrender. Let Him fill you up! Ask Him to and He will.

Oh and one more thing… that same day I mentioned earlier, over dinner, my four-year-old says to me, “Dad you know what we are going to dance to? I got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart…”  I’m encouraged I’m moving in the right direction.

Crossroads

Are you familiar with the ending to the movie “Cast Away”?  Tom Hanks is standing there in the middle of this intersection in the middle of Nowhere, TX.  As far as he can see in all directions is nothing – yet he has been given the gift of life to be lived another day.  If you had been him, how would you have chosen where to go?    IMG_2822

We all find ourselves at places in life where we are at an intersection and we aren’t sure which way to go.  In the movie, he isn’t sure where he is going to go.  He pauses and gets out of the Jeep with his map and ponders for a moment or two.  During this moment of contemplation is when the person he was looking for drives up.

I wonder how many times in life we come to a crossroad and ignore it and just keep driving our lives right on through.  Or – how often do we get there – and recognize it… and then we get stuck there afraid to move at all.  Maybe there has been a bad decision in the past and fearful of getting burned again.

No matter the reason or how you would respond to the situation it is still a decision that must be faced and made.  No decision is still a decision.  How do you make the decision?  What steps do you take?  Do you get the Road Map out?  In my life, the Road Map has become God’s Word found in the Bible.  No, it doesn’t tell me to turn right or left and any specifics like that at all.  I can say the Holy Spirit gives insight I can’t explain.  Which is often followed by a peace I can’t explain.

Jesus tells us in John 14:25-27,

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. (The Message).

I’ve personally been at a crossroad for a long time now.  I have ventured in a couple of directions already to find that the peace, fulfillment, and contentment were not in the directions I have tried thus far.  I am still hungry to know God more so I keep going back to the Cross and asking for direction.  I am asking for wisdom… wisdom to be used for His glory, for the leadership of my family, and the community in which I live (wherever that would take me).

The Holy Spirit will teach us all things.  He will give all that we have need of.  He cares intimately about the details of our lives.  He will not leave us lonely in the dark.  Jesus instructed his disciples:

“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! (John 16:23-24).

I know He uses me through my job… even though I can’t directly communicate His Word… I live it.  I’m thankful for the opportunity I have to influence others in all aspects of my life.  I want to continue to do so full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, and grace.

Adonai, Master of the earth and sky…

Inspiration comes in so many ways.  But for me, music inspires me just as much as anything else in and around my life.  Most of my teenage years were heavily influenced by music.  So much so, it’s influence culminated while at a KISS concert in 1983, I gave my life to Jesus while at that concert.  Not because of anything the band did or said.  It’s the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the life on an individual in the midst of what I all experienced that night and the days that filled the first 18 years of my life.

Today, music and the lyric that goes with it still influences and inspires my life.  Over the past several months I have written a lot that has been influenced by The Choir, Stryper, U2, The Lost Dogs, Lifehouse, Jesus Culture, and Martin Smith.  I’ve not posted any of those writings as I either never completed them or they felt too awkward to post.

While at a dance performance by the girls that make of Steps of Faith, I looked intently at my life.  I thought of dreams I have had for my life, failures I’ve experienced, and the present-day blessings that fill my time and space.  This was the first performance for me to attend where my oldest daughter wasn’t performing.  (However, my 15 year old was performing).  My oldest was on stage as a new instructor for the dance studio… I’m so proud! The performance was a beautiful display of artistic interpretation to the songs that spoke of the Names of God.

One song that was performed was Adonai.  I didn’t know the song, but it got me thinking about another song I was very familiar with by the band Petra, 1985.  Adonai means Master.  If God is Adonai in your life, He is your Boss, the One you surrender everything to.  Adonai is the One you give complete allegiance to – God – the Creator of the universe in which we live.

I recall being in Jerusalem back in 1990.  What I am recalling is a Fall evening.  We were at the Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall, in the Western Wall Plaza.  It’s a place of prayer and one of the most Holy places for the Jewish people.  That evening there was a gentleman walking backward away from the Wall – all the way across the Plaza.  At the top of his lungs he shouted in Hebrew the different names of God.  It was a beautiful moment.  It was one of the top highlights of the trip for me.  Hearing his praise to God without any reservation in front of all of us there… it was very moving!  I recall being emotionally moved in the moment as he spoke the name, Adonai.

As I write, I praise Adonai, “You alone are worthy! Adonai, let creation testify. Let your majesty be magnified in me.  Adonai you are an endless mystery.” (Petra, Beat The System).  It’s refreshing to look back and listen to these lyrics… a praise to God.  It reminds me of so much I have given in commitments to God, Adonai, my Master.  I want to live my life unashamed, surrendered, without reserve!  Each day I want to dwell in His righteousness… my Master and Lord – Adonai.

Why do you believe what you believe?

I recently read an article posted on Facebook.  I was shocked at what I read concerning a “leader in the church.”  I thought that can’t be true.  Yet before I investigated the truth of what I read – I sent the link to a couple of my friends.  Later in the evening, I was discussing this article with someone else.  Based on that discussion, I decided to actually do some research on it.  I discovered that the original article was an “internet hoax.”  I came to this understanding as I sought out multiple resources.  Even with a closer examination of the original article, it even stated on the website that what was posted was “satirical”.  (I over-looked that).

That’s why it is important for us to make informed decisions about our lives and the faith we so often proudly proclaim. Or the faith we so proudly try to disclaim.  Not only are our lives weighing in the balance but the lives of those we come in contact with on a daily basis.

This experience led me to question, “Why do I believe what I believe?”

I had never heard of the source of the original article.  So when I first read it I was skeptical.  Yet there were some interesting quotes that made me think, “Well, I guess that could be true.”  By the time I finished reading the article I was ready to send it on to a couple of friends with the subject, “Wow!”  And that is exactly what I did.

As a result of this experience I asked myself, “Why do I believe what I believe?” I want to pose the same question to you, “Why do you believe what you believe?” Why do you believe in God, Jesus, Holy Spirit?  Why do you not believe? Why do you believe in some other god or religion? Why believe there is no such being greater than our current existence?  I’m wanting you to consider this in order to draw you into a deeper relationship with God or to bring you into a real search for truth.

Did each of us come to our place of belief because we personally sought truth? Or did we stumble into our belief (or disbelief) in God based on our parents, family, friend(s), or culture?

I write here with the presupposition that those who read are already Christians.  I do so not to negate or over-look those who are not Christians or those seeking the meaning for life.  So, please know If you aren’t a Christian, I think of you as well when I write and pray you come to a place where you are brought to God through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life because you have sought to know Truth.

If you are a Christian, I hope you will take the time to reignite your faith but answering the question about why you believe.  I hope that asking yourself will lead you into a deeper relationship and a greater walk of faith in obedience to the love of Jesus for his people.  If you are not a Christian and are still searching, I hope you will not give up in your search for truth.  Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness…” Matthew 6:33.  If all of us will live seeking His kingdom before anything else – we will not be disappointed!

  

Walking into the presence of God

Walking in the presence of God
Walking in the presence of God

Walking with God is not always as clear as we would like for it to be.  But then, maybe we shouldn’t desire for it to be clear.  Walking with God is about trusting Him… trusting his Son, Jesus, to be who he has destined to be in our lives. And allowing the Holy Spirit to have total freedom to lead and empower as He desires.

Today, I went for a hike on a rainy day up Pine Mountain.  As I walked up the mountain, I thought of Moses and wondered what it was like for him to walk up to spend time with God in such an intimate way.  I’m no Moses but as I approached the clouds I asked God to surround me and let me walk with Him up there.  I didn’t descend the mountain with stone tablets or a specific word to share with His people, but rather an assurance He is with me.

GOD said to Moses, “Get ready. I’m about to come to you in a thick cloud so that the people can listen in and trust you completely when I speak to you.”  (Exodus 19:9, The Message).

Even though our lives don’t seem to make sense at times – or the outcomes aren’t as we planned – or the answer to prayer didn’t come in a way we wanted it to – He is with us.  I captured the moment in this picture.  I thought about how much this path represents life… my life.  As I reflect upon this afternoon,

Walking into the future is much like this path. I’m asking God to fall on me and my path as the clouds did today on the mountain. Totally enveloped by His presence.

Living with Real Joy

In Luke 10:17-20, Jesus cautions his disciples not to get caught up in what great service they have done, “The seventy-two returned with joy,”  Jesus knew how easy it is for us to get caught up in what we accomplish and for our personal accomplishments to sway our feelings of “joy.”  Jesus received what they had to report and quickly turned their attention away from what they accomplished to himself saying, “Do not rejoice that the evil spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20, NIV).

Real joy does not come from what we do but rather in the One in whom we seek, find, and live.  Our real joy comes from knowing Jesus and walking faithfully in his leading.  The point of our following Jesus is wrapped up in him more so than in what we do… there is where joy is truly found.

Paul lived with great joy.  He was full of the Holy Spirit and was confident in Jesus.  He was introduced to Jesus on the Road to Damascus.  But he came to know Jesus as he walked with him the rest of his life.

I’ve got a friend who played professional baseball.  He played for many years at the top of the Triple A League.  He would get called up to the Big Leagues from time-to-time when someone was hurt then go back down.  His desire was to play in the Major Leagues full-time but that opportunity always seemed to escape his grasp.

In my opinion, he was living his dream.  He lived with joy.  He knew his “call” was the minor leagues.  He is a guy with great character, integrity, and faith.  Much like the Apostle Paul.  Paul found great joy in his sufferings for the sake of Christ.  My friend knew his greater impact in the lives of others was the Minor Leagues.

I read an article recently that spoke of Paul’s desire to serve in Spain.  Bet he never got there.  I thought of my desires in serving the Lord…. There is a deep growing in the process.  The ultimate goal of the Lord’s is not that I obtain that goal but rather a deeper relationship with him.

The missionary’s great essential is remaining true to the call of God, and realizing that his one and only purpose is to disciple men and women to Jesus (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 27).

  • Do I know the Lord?
  • Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit?
  • Am I wise enough in God’s sight, but foolish enough according to the wisdom of the world, to trust in what Jesus has said?
  • Am I abandoning the great supernatural position of limitless confidence in Christ Jesus, which is really God’s only call for a missionary?

I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 10).