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.

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It all boils down to one thing…

We are entering a season where people are more apt to care more about germs, colds, and the flu than at any other time of the year.  Anyone of us has the potential to carry any one of these and spread it to someone else.  In a sense, we are, potentially, couriers picking up sickness and delivering it to others.

If you think about it, we all have the potential to be “couriers” of so much more than the common cold and flu.  Individually, we all have ideas, thoughts, goals, dream, and aspirations that we carry with us each day.  Some of these will be accomplished and lived out because of the internal drive that exists that will push it into being.

I keep thinking about all the ways God can or could use me for His purposes.  Some of the ways that come to the surface the most are in the realm of writing and pastoring.  I meditate on His Word and think on those things.  I know he has gifted me.  No matter the vehicle He uses through me – it all boils down to one thing…. love.  We are all to be couriers of His love to the world we live in.  No matter the arena – love is the central theme He wants to share with those in which we come in contact.

I’m reminded of a time when I was a courier for FedEx.  It was Christmas Eve and there had been a lot of snow in key locations around the country.  This meant late deliveries and in many cases no deliveries.  It was late in the afternoon.  I was sick and it was very cold that day.  We were all messaged that there was a late plane landing in Atlanta and packages would be shuttled out to us for afternoon delivery.  Despite how I felt I was excited to be able to help spread a little Christmas cheer with a few more deliveries.  I just had no idea how one delivery was going to impact my life.

It was literally the last delivery of the day.  I pulled up to the front of the house and I could see two children peering through the curtain in the window.  As I put my truck in park, I could see them begin to jump and down with excitement.  I retrieved the package from the back of the truck as I wiped a little moisture from my eye – I was moved by the excitement I could see.  The children, along with their dad, greeted me halfway in between their house and my FedEx truck.  I handed the dad my clip board for him to sign for the package.  He told me that it was a package from their grandparents and they had been waiting all day for this box.

Some 10 years later, I still recall that moment as a courier for FedEx.  Why?  Why recall a delivery to a family whose name I can’t recall?  Why, get a little misty-eyed over this delivery?  I believe we are all couriers with the potential to impact the lives of others for the glory of God.  What I delivered was a box that contained items that have probably long been forgotten.  More than the contents of that package I couldn’t see – I realized I was really a courier delivering love from grandparents to their grandchildren for Christmas.  I am glad to have had the pleasure of being the one to have that experience that day.  For a moment, I had the opportunity to forget about “the job” or the fact that I was cold and sick.  In that moment, being a courier had great meaning and purpose.

How much more the joy we are to share the love of our heavenly Father with those He loves so much.  “For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal live.”  (John 3:16, NIV).

How is it God has gifted you to carry His Message of love? Who is it that needs to hear this Message of love from you today?  Go and deliver it in a manner He has gifted you!

Lost Dogs in Dallas, GA

Tonight the Lost Dogs were playing at Area 251/Real Life Church in Dallas, GA.  This was the 14th show on their tour.  What an amazingly talented group of guys!!  If you have the opportunity to go and see one of their shows I highly encourage it.  IMG_2001

The Lost Dogs are made up of Mike Roe, Terry Taylor, Derri Daugherty, and Steve Hindalong.  I have followed these guys since the 80’s.  Roe with the 77’s, Taylor with Daniel Amos, and Daugherty/Hindalong with The Choir.  I first heard of the 77’s and Daniel Amos on what used to be “96 Rock” in Atlanta.  They would play “Christian” music early on Sunday mornings.  As a new Christian, I would get up with my cassette player and record the hour long show “Higher Frequency”.

Tonight was a great reminder for me…  To look back at some of my roots in following Jesus.  Music is a powerful thing and when connected with the Holy Spirit it can be totally life changing!!  I’m thankful tonight God has set my feet upon the rock and made my foot steps firm.

If you are unfamiliar with this band check out their website.  There you can discover more about them and check out the latest music.

A final plug for Area 251/Real Life Church… a great hometown church located in Dallas, GA.  If you live in the area by all means check them out if you are looking for a place to connect with God.  Mark Blackburn of Jacob’s Trouble is the Pastor who is a gifted teacher and worship leader.

His blessings are beautiful…

Last Sunday I sat on the deck early for prayer and coffee.  I began to read over one of the passages I was going to use in the message I was speaking at church.  As I read, Matthew 6:25-34, I could hear all of the birds in the trees throughout my backyard.  The incredible sound began to overtake my attention.  For a few moments all I could think about were all of those birds.  Jesus said,

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

God takes care of the needs of those birds I could hear singing.  He cares for our needs as well.  I say “His blessings are beautiful…” because God deeply cares for all of our needs.  Lent this year was such a powerful time.  One of the great blessings that came my way when I wasn’t looking was my pastor and Expedition Church.  This all came about shortly after the beginning of Lent.  We ran into each other at a restaurant on a Friday night.  I visited on Sunday…  3 months later, give or take a few days, I am speaking on a Sunday morning.  I know more opportunities will arise and God will continue to pour into me so I can in turn give to others.  That’s what is so beautiful about serving God.  He gives to His people – His people have a choice to do with what He has given.  To hold on to it or to share it.  It’s when we share what God has given us with others that our lives really are fulfilled.

Do you want to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?  I encourage you to seek the Kingdom of God first and His righteousness.  Trust Him.  As you trust Him, be obedient to the words of Jesus in the Book of Matthew,

  19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Overwhelmed with the presence of God

It has been awhile since I have posted here.  I realize that it is a technical mistake to not continually post – especially if one wants to keep those following as a follower.  I appreciate those who have messaged me or spoke with me in some way that I needed to write.  That’s always so encouraging… thank you!

So, why have I not been writing? It began at the start of Lent.  After reading, Wonderstruck, about Margaret Feinberg‘s experience around Lent, I decided that this year I would take those days leading up to Easter to focus.  And focus is what I did! I sat down to write several times but each time I felt like my focus was being divided.

Matthew 6:33 was the basis for my focus.  I began praying around these words of Jesus, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”  I researched the Bible and prayed with the focus of God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.  As I began praying, I realized how self-centered my prayer life had become.  My praying over the years had become about the later part of Matthew 6:33, “…and all these things will be given to you as well.”  I realized I had been seeking “things” rather than seeking God.  My relationship had become about the physical over the spiritual-love-life that God so desires to have with His people.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied withgetting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Matthew 6:30-33, The Message).

At the beginning of Lent, there was a lot of things that came up against me and my family.  I was beginning to wonder if what I had began to do was the right thing or not.  I pressed on!  With each obstacle, I spoke to God and prayed with His Kingdom and His righteousness as my focus.  I did not ever pray about the specific issues that came up.  I trusted the words of Jesus to seek first His Kingdom.

I write in a journal most days.  That journal at times becomes a list of stuff I am wanting God to bless me with.  I begin praying about those things and neglect intimately seeking God.  Think with me for a moment about your best friend.  Do you have them in mind? OK, now imagine every time you see them instead of talking with them you ask them for something.  Not ever once inquiring about their life or thinking about their needs, etc.  All you want out of them is something they can give you.  How long do you think you are going to have that relationship if it is only based on you asking them of something?  It’s not going to be much of a relationship is it?

If all we have are lists of things we are praying about – where is the relationship with God? 

During Lent, I came to realize my past “comfort” was found in praying over my problems rather than finding real comfort from the Holy Spirit.  Because the Holy Spirit is at work around us, all of the time, God knows what we need.  We don’t have to “worry” our prayers before God over those things.  He truly desires for us to live in freedom rather than fear.  I found freedom this year in knowing God.  I am so thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.  I am thankful for this time of Lent.  I am thankful for a renewed passion for love I have for God.  I am thankful for all the Holy Spirit has done in the past couple of months.  I am amazed and so blessed.  I can honestly say with great passion and grace I have been Wonderstruck by God.

Are you prepared?

Photo by James WhiteThere were two farmers who were both praying for rain.  But only one of them prepared his field.  Which farmer do you think was praying with faith? (Facing the Giants, The Movie)

Do you take a trip or plan your vacation without first counting the cost and consulting a map to determine how you are going to get to your destination?  I know the way to my mother’s house.  But each time I make the trip I consult the map, calculate the cost, and determine how long it is going to take to get there.

John the Baptist came preaching a message of baptism.  He came to prepare the way for people to receive the message Jesus would bring.

“That explains it,” said Paul. “John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you’ve been baptized in John’s baptism, you’re ready now for the real thing, for Jesus.” (Acts 19:4, The Message).

Maybe you have been made ready and you have begun following Jesus.  Now the question is, “What is it he is preparing you for?”  I believe we are always being prepared for something.  God takes all of our experiences in life and puts them together for His purposes and His glory.  He isn’t going to waste anything.  The hinderance to our moving forward tends to come in at a time of failure.  How we respond to that “failure” is crucial to our moving forward.

In Matthew 4, Jesus calls Peter to follow and immediately Peter follows.  Peter spends the next three years with Jesus being prepared for a future that he had not come to a complete understanding of.  Leading up to the time when Jesus was to be crucified – Jesus prepared Peter and the other disciples for what was to come.  In John 21, after the resurrection, Jesus prepares Peter once again for what is still to come.  John tells us Jesus was telling Peter to, “feed his sheep.”  Jesus also hinted to Peter at the kind of death he would suffer.  Once again Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me.”

Peter’s life is an example of the growth we each experience as we follow Jesus.  As we read the Gospels, we see all of the life-lessons each of the disciples experienced as they followed Jesus.  There were a lot of great moments as they followed and trusted him.  But there were also moments of failure… even denial as we read concerning Peter.  Jesus doesn’t give up on the man.  He continues to love, forgive, and prepare.

Maybe you are at a place in life where you have failed in some way.  I hope this is a reminder to you that Jesus loves you.  Jesus forgives you.  And that Jesus is still preparing you for your destiny.  Have you been praying for “rain”? Then prepare your field and get ready for the rain.

Photo by: James White

Surrender

Waving the white flag of surrender today…

I want to give up all of my past, my hopes, my plans, my dreams, my future… everything!  I want to lay it all down and surrender. 

Before they ever landed in a prison for their faith they made a decision to surrender to Jesus Christ.  Maybe that’s one reason why they could sing praises in the midst of their situation.  They had already surrendered to Jesus long before they surrendered to those who imprisoned them.

Surrender.  “To give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner.”  Surrender doesn’t come too easy for me.  I seem to want to continue to fight on my own terms.  I pray a pretty good game. But if my prayer life is just a game then what good is it?  At times, my prayer-life seems to be lacking surrender… total commitment.  When I pray for myself and/or for others I seem to interject my own selfish twist.

An example we have to follow is found in Matthew 26:39-42 is of Jesus praying with total surrender.

39Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

40-41When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

42He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.” (The Message).

I typically pray, “If there is any way, get me out of this…” Then find myself asleep like the disciples.

It’s not just in prayer but throughout life we are faced with decisions and choices we must make.  Our choice: To live a life surrendered to the will of God or to live for ourselves.

 Oh, the city’s afire
A passionate flame
It knows me by name
Oh, the city’s desire
To take me for more and more
It’s in the street, getting under my feet
It’s in the air, it’s everywhere
I look for you
It’s in the things I do and say
If I wanna live I gotta
Die to myself someday (“Surrender” lyrics by U2)