Revelation

Stryper’s newest release, “No More Hell To Pay” was released November 5!  It quickly went to #1 on the iTunes rock list.  Today it is at #9!!  From what I’ve heard, this is one of the best albums Stryper has produced.  For those who have followed the band for any length of time I know you will not be disappointed.  If you are new to the band, and like good rock and roll music with a great Message, I am confident you are going to love this album.  This is a lyric video released by their label, FrontiersRecords.

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It’s His vision… delight yourself in Him.

polaroidDo you recall using one of these cameras?  This camera would give you a developed picture in a minute or so.  The picture would literally develop right before your eyes.

I recall going to Washington, DC in eighth grade with one of these cameras.  I was standing in front of Abe Lincoln’s statue at the Lincoln Memorial.  I remember being nervous with excitement as I took that photo.  The picture came out a bit blurry as a result. Over the years the picture has faded and became darker…. much more difficult to see.

Has God given you a vision for your life, family, church, community, or job?  Can you see what it is He wants you to become or do?  I think we become frustrated (at least I know I do) when we can see what He wants yet we are having to wait for the picture to develop.

We live in a world where everything is instant.  We take our phones and other digital gadgets and snap the picture and immediately look to see how well it turned out and immediately show others how great the shot is then immediately post it on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for the world to see.

I see “vision” kind of like the development of a Polaroid picture.  I look through the lens and see the future and press the red button to capture the vision.  The film comes out and over time the vision becomes reality.  It slowly develops into the vision I saw before I committed to it.  If you have ever owned one of these cameras you know that after some time the quality of the photo losses its luster… especially if it is not protected.  Just like with any vision we must protect what God has given.

One of the well-known promises in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11,

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. (NIV).

It’s God’s vision.  Often-times we go through life and forget He has it all planned.  He has given us the Bible to help guide us in this life.  To encourage us when things are dark and without hope.  He gives us the Bible to build us up to encourage others who are in need.  Whatever the vision God has given you protect it, cultivate it, and share it with others.  Keep it before God… after-all it is His vision.  And when the days are long and you seem to think the vision will never come to pass, remember to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and He will give you these things.  (Matthew 6:33).

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4, NIV)

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

Fear: Profound reverence and awe toward God

Do you ever feel afraid?  Do certain things, circumstances, or people strike fear within you?

When you find yourself fearful – do you set up your surroundings in order to protect yourself?  Fear can lead to a negative or a positive emotion.  Fear is necessary for one to display courage.  “Courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear.” Michael Hyatt.

Fear is defined by Meriam-Webster as an, “unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”  Another definition is, “profound reverence and awe especially toward God.”  I think we all experience fear to some degree in our lives.  I know when I’m out on a long bicycle ride the last thing I want to do is to experience a dog… that fear I have of being bitten can be overwhelming.  The fear I want to focus on today is the fear of God, “profound reverence and awe especially toward God.”

I’ve realized fear can be exhibited in a couple of ways.  One is the fear that leads to becoming self-absorbed… to the point of not being able to move (bondage).  The other fear is built on what I listed above, “profound reverence and awe especially toward God.”  This fear of God leads down the path of freedom.

I want to walk the path of freedom.  To choose freedom is to choose to trust God in all things.  It is reverence and awe I have for God that enables me to be able to lay down my fears on His altar.

Psalm 128:1-2, 4 in The Message states,

All you who fear God, how blessed you are! how happily you walk on his smooth straight road!2 You worked hard and deserve all you’ve got coming. Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness! 4 Stand in awe of God’s Yes. Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God!

Choose today to stand in awe of God.  Take this moment now to thank Him for His goodness.  My prayer for you today is you will be amazed by God and that you will walk in great faith in His power.

The Clouds…

I stepped outside last night and the feel of the cool air was refreshing.  I gazed up into the sky to look at the stars.  It’s a beautiful sight just to stare at what God has created.  Throughout time men and women have looked up and seen the same site I looked upon last night.  As I could feel the breeze coming in from the west I could also see the clouds moving in to obstruct the beautiful view.

The winds of change can bring so much that impact our lives.  Some times these winds bring news of great hope, love, joy, and happiness.  Other times these winds bring clouds of  hurt, disappointment, and despair.

We all experience these winds at some time in our lives. We have experienced them with our friends and loved ones:  The bad news of cancer, the unexpected death of a friend, the loss of a job, or the horrible end of a marriage – all bring it…

If we aren’t alert to the troubles that these clouds bring, we will fall into a trap that will blow us off of the path God has intended for our lives.  I’m sure if we are both honest we have all been there at some point in time within our faith walk.  Margaret Feinberg writes about her life where the “marvel of life” was misplaced.

Faith invites us into an enchanting journey—one marked by mysteries of divine beauty, holy courage, irrepressible hope, unending love. But in my life, any sense of the splendor of God had faded. I knew I needed a fresh encounter with God to awaken me from my sleep, to dis- turb me from my slumber.

And so I prayed for wonder.

Palms extended, wide-eyed with expectation, I waited for an answer. And God did not disappoint. For me, a prayer for wonder asks the Lord to expand my capacity to see and savor the divine gifts all around. (Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck, 7).

When we look through the lens of the Holy Spirit we can see the good in all things. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (NIV).

You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. (Psalm 91:1-2, The Message).

Seeking doesn’t always bring answers but rather more questions.  These are lyrics by The Choir, in TheLoudestSoundEverHeard_covertheir song, The Forest, from their newest album, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard.

More is hidden than revealed. Sometimes the path to understanding is concealed. It hurts to be alive, your pain is real. Go on laugh until you cry, it’s good to feel

The sun will shine. The sun will shine on you. The sun will shine. The sun will shine on you.

I believe the sun will shine on you and me, my friend. I have learned to trust the turning of the seasons. Even now the sun is breaking through the clouds again. But I still don’t know the causes or the reasons

So, in the wake of unanswered questions how do you deal with change that comes throughout the seasons in your life?  I have found praying and reading the Bible are two of the best ways to deal with that which I can’t understand on my own.  Just as those stars have been there throughout time – God is always here with us.  He is not out there somewhere but right here among us.  If the clouds have obstructed your view of God – pray! Pray that He will reveal his marvelous love… may you be filled with the wonder, excitement, and joy of his love.

The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes. (Psalm 19:7-8, The Message).

God cares about every detail that concerns us…

Almost 2 years ago I was taught a valuable lesson through some very difficult pain.  I had a break out of Shingles.  I went to the doctor, I had shots, took medicine that was prescribed, and laid around in a lot of pain.  It had spread from my waist and hip, up my side, and down my leg.  I prayed!

The valuable lesson was in the praying.  James 5 came to mind and I began to read.  Verse 10 refers to Job and how God restored him in the end of the misery he endured.  “That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.” (The Message).

Verses 13-15 are key to what God was teaching me during this season.Iron Hill Loop

13-15 Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and 
anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out. (The Message).

There are three key points God highlighted for me,

  1. “Are you hurting?” Pray.   I’ve thought about how many times I had something going on and instead of praying I called a friend and asked them to pray for me.  It had become a way of life.  I had begun to talk with my friends about things in my life more so than talk with God.  I think I had friends praying more for me than what I was doing for myself.  God opened my eyes to this while laying there in physical pain.  I admitted this to God and asked for forgiveness.  God showed me I was desiring the end result but not the intimacy with Him that would be gained by spending time with Him.
  2. “Do you feel great? Sing.”  Again, God is saying here I want to be close to you.  He desires, wants, and he deserves ourthanksgiving.  He wants our praise to Him.  I began to think about how often I was blessed by Him and realized that I had not been singing.
  3. I sent a txt to my pastor, “Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet.” His response, “I’ll bring the oil.”  I said, “I’ll see you in the morning.”

It was that Sunday morning after my pastor and the elders laid their hands on me and prayed for healing that I began to heal.  There was more that God wanted to do in me that day.  I know God wanted me to share the depth of what I had been learning through this situation.   He had given me a message for all of them that morning and I shared it.  I was at one of the lowest times in my life at that moment.  Yet, God was taking care of the details I couldn’t even see.  As I look back I can see His hand at work in me then.

At that time, I was the volunteer that led the intercessory prayer efforts at our church.  God was telling me if I was going to lead in this area – I needed to lead and by example!  God cares about the path we chose to walk.  We need to let Him have his way in us as we walk.  I know at times our path is hard to see and we get lost in the forest of choices we find in our lives.  He is with us and as we walk by faith – He will guide us.

I truly believe that God wants to accomplish all that concerns us.  He wants to give good gifts to His children and to perform miracles.  I also believe our part of that is to pray without ceasing and to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  We need to live with heavenly perspective.

We are each faced with options each day.  We have the option to follow Jesus or to follow the crowd.  We need to believe by faith He has already weighed out our options.  It’s our place to live and walk by faith.  It’s our responsibility to pray.

“The person who believes God, is set right by God – and that’s the real life.  (Galatians 3:11-12, The Message).

God enjoys the prayers of his people

Have you ever walked into a room where candles or incense were burning? If so, you know how the aroma fills up the room. Depending on how well you like the aroma will determine how you respond to it.

I have a pastor-friend who told me several years ago that he was praying for me. He was specifically praying for me to be full of joy. I was in the midst of a time where I was very frustrated with how life was going. I was praying, reading scripture, serving in church… you know, all the “right” things. He was right I lacked joy!

It was during this time that I found out my wife was pregnant with my 4th child. I quickly did the math and realized this baby would be 16 years younger than the oldest and by the time she would reach high school I would be… well, we’ll leave that for a later post. I was stunned at the news. I was literally speechless all day. I sat in silence until that evening then I went outside and started a fire and I just sat there and I prayed.

I didn’t walk away with answers to all the things going on in my life. I didn’t have some major revelation from God in that moment. My circumstances hadn’t changed. I walked away changed… just a little. I walked away with a glimmer of hope and assurance I hadn’t felt for a while.

While reading and praying I was drawn to Revelation 5. It was in verse 8 where I read that the prayers of God’s people are in bowls of gold.

…the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8, The Message)

I stopped here and pondered the thought that our prayers are a sweet-smelling aroma before God. He delights in our praying that he finds in our words. David prayed, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:4, NIV).

A prayer marked by faith is never about what happens on our terms or time lines, but God’s. Faith-stained prayer brings us to a place of trust and hope. (Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck, 17).

Every year I enter into December with a sense of hope and anticipation that great things are going to happen. This year has been no different. As I look to the future, I am reminded that my hope is in Jesus. My trust is in him. Before the things of God are revealed in my life, I’m understanding His desire for me to come before Him and pray. I believe this December is to be a time of drawing away from the crowd and settling down in the quietness of prayer. Seeking the face of God.