Do You Know The Chain Breaker?

Thousands of years before now, Isaiah saw a vision so beautiful, so powerful, so subversive,  the elite of the chosen could not grasp it.

In that day, The Lord will end the bondage of His people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders…
In that day, the heir to David’ throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to Him and the land where He lives will be a glorious place. (Isaiah 10:27)

If I decide to follow Jesus – to truly embark on the unknown journey of God directed growth, I will discover a landscape far broader than I could have imagined from the hazy safety of my comfort.

If I truly follow Jesus, I see Him breaking chains, setting people free and healing the wounded of their affliction.  But I must confess many times, rather than following Jesus, I am content to wave at Him as He passes, scarred hands beckoning, eyes pleading as He disappears again beyond the confines of my day.

Love.  Joy.  Peace. Patience. Kindness.  Goodness. Gentleness.  Faithfulness.  Self Control. 

If I take the leap; commit to be a follower, not an observer, I must become a carrier of the very Lord I follow.  Until His presence eclipses the old man and he shrivels into silence under the radiance of the reborn soul ever more filled with Light.

I will feel the breaking of chains reverberating through the layers of my life while His relentless Love usurps fear, depression, turmoil, selfishness, darkness, anger, faithlessness and bondage.

Almost without knowing, imperceptible to some, my life becomes a banner.  Of Love.  of Salvation.  Of Jesus.  Lifted up, shining in the darkness for the world to see and wonder.  It is Jesus, people are drawn to; the tangible manifestation of the Beautiful One through a Body they can see, feel and touch as it bends low to touch the leper and whisper healing to the wounds of souls.

Nations, ravaged by the god of the age will summon hope like a tattered garment, compelled to begin the trek to a banner that waves freely among the rags of disillusionment worldly power casts aside in its wake.

Why?  Because wherever Jesus dwells, fully enthroned, adored, worshipped, and carried without reservation is a glorious place. A place where every question has the same answer, and that answer is enough.

Jesus.  It is all and has always been all about Jesus. The vision Isaiah saw was Jesus, and we, the carriers of it.

Do I expect the peace of His banner without the renovation of His soul scalpel and the Via Dolorosa on which His skill is revealed?  Without the pursuance of lovers, so entangled in desire for one another that all else fades to the importance of knowing and being known?

And so as the calendar marks the passing of another round, I must choose.  To follow, donning the robes of contrite surrender that must be worn in that journey or to maintain control, waving as He passes by.

Don’t Stay In The Manger

As wrapping paper is put away, presents relegated to their places and the Christmas glow fades, I am made aware this morning of the journey of growth from cradle to cross.

With His life, Jesus set an example of what is possible when filled with the Spirit, walking in oneness with the Father.  But the peaceful creche fails to depict the development Jesus underwent as God’s rescue mission unfolded. Scripture tells us Jesus grew in wisdom, and favour with God and man.

From the helpless babe in the manger, grew the Saviour of the world.  From the obscure carpenter who faced down Satan in the wilderness and overcame, to the One who vanquished every force of hell and rose from the dead. From the One just learning to speak to the One  who uttered a word and stilled seas, touched disease and created wholeness.

As the New Year approaches at breakneck speed, a question hangs in the balance: will we press into growth to fill out the clothes God has designed for us, or will we settle back into 2016’s routine , merely replacing the 6 with a 7?

This morning, my Beloved shared how Elijah went from the brook of Cherith (meaning “obscure”), where God provided supernaturally, into the region of Zarephath which means “crucible.”

God tells Elijah He will provide a widow to feed him through the drought, but when Elijah asks the widow for food, he is told there is none.  Elijah goes from being a passive receiver, to an active participant in God’s plan and work, telling the widow to collect and fill countless jars with her one portion of oil.  Each segment of life was a call to a new level of authority, confidence, and responsibility as his relationship with God matured and deepened.

We too are called to be continually growing in spiritual authority, confidence and intimacy with God.  He will always give us opportunity to stretch the faith we possess to grow into the role He has for us next if we are willing to engage the uncomfortable growth.

I wonder if one of God’s greatest delights is seeing His children learn to overcome?  To help us develop in spiritual authority to set others free as we ourselves are healed and set free.  If we are to walk with Jesus, we cannot stay where we are.  We must go from asking God to provide our needs to working together with Him in faith for the means of provision.  We must travel with Him from the manger to the resurrection.

To follow Jesus is to sprout new growth in places of obscurity and the crucibles God allows into our lives.

I have nothing against resolutions and goals, but this year, I am going to sit with Jesus awhile and ask what His goals are for me.  What does He want me to develop in 2017 that will enable me to live with more freedom, joy, and authority than last year?

Are you in a Cherith or a Zarepath in your life? What has God been developing in you in the last year, and what do you hear Him calling you to strengthen this year?

 

 

 

Is That You Jesus?

I love what happens when John the Baptist encounters Jesus!  Before anyone except His mother and perhaps Joseph knew who He was, his cousin John recognized Jesus as God incarnate.

It is ironic – almost ludicrous that we humans chronically  put God in our boxes and expect Him to think like we do.  I suppose it makes us more comfortable, but so often we are surprised when God does something completely out of our box and very differently than we ourselves would think to.

Who would have thought the Messiah would come through a humble virgin in a stable?  Yet, God was unfolding a plan that encompassed no less than the salvation of the world.  Few recognized God at work or understood what was necessary for Jesus to accomplish what had been promised. John did.

At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child (John) leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:41)

Scripture tells us John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born, and the Spirit in him recognized the presence of God in Mary’s womb!

Later, after John’s ministry began, he exclaims the first time he sets eyes on Jesus:

“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘a man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for He existed long before me.'” 

John did not hail him as a conquering king, but as The Lamb who would take away the world’s iniquity.  God revealed to John the very heart of Jesus’ mission.

I wonder how many times I miss what God is doing around me, expecting Him to be predictable or understandable, rather than relying on the Holy Spirit to show me where Jesus is at work.

The circumstances of Jesus’ birth were messy and unpredictable with very humble beginnings. A young girl, pregnant before she wed, giving birth far from home in a barn.  This humble, messy pattern continued until Jesus went home to His Father, but in the process, He won power and authority to save the world.

This Christmas I am encouraged that small beginnings and things beyond my understanding are perfect soil for God to plant the seeds of unimaginable victories.  I am comforted that where I see a mess, I can be sure God’s plan is above the mess.  I am reminded that when I am filled with the Holy Spirit, He reveals the true heart of the Father in my broken world, and helps me understand the beyond understanding ways of my great God.

What are your circumstances this Christmas?  Are they too busy?  Are they messy and full of sorrow?  My prayer is for peace that passes understanding to fill your Christmas. May the Holy Spirit fill you and show you what God is up to in places you would never expect to encounter Him!

Merry Christmas!

It Matters How You Wait

Waiting is a part of life; the Bible talks a lot about waiting, but it seems how we wait matters a great deal.

I love the story of Anna and Simeon in Luke 2.  Check out the words used to describe their waiting.

There was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon.  He was righteous and devout and was eagerly awaiting the Messiah to come and rescue Israel…

Anna, a prophet, was there in the Temple, worshipping day and night with fasting and prayer. She came along as Simeon was taking with Mary and Joseph and began praising God and she talked about the child to everyone who was waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. 

As Christmas looms closer, we are reminded we too are waiting. This time for the second coming of Jesus to finish the redemptive work He began on the cross.

The last strains of the Old Testament are pregnant with promise and long held out hope.  Reading the beginning of the New Testament there were those who waited well and their waiting was rewarded, but there was also those who waited in the wrong posture and missed what God was doing in their day.

Eagerly. Expectantly. Righteously.

There were religious leaders who had commercialized the waiting.  Holding Israel in an iron grip with rules, stipulations and traditions, they used the promise of God to suit their agendas, leading people to believe God would respond only when the rules and traditions were upheld immaculately and people obeyed perfectly what the religious institution translated as “the law.”

There were people like Anna and Simeon who waited, believing God would keep his promise, living with intention and passion pursuing the heart of God in the waiting.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the 10 virgins waiting for the Bridegroom.  Some are wise and live with expectancy, eagerly awaiting the One and some live as if life will simply always go on, and are too caught up in day to day affairs to prepare for eternity.

I love the feeling of anticipation that proceeds Christmas.  The waiting and preparation to makes the day itself meaningful and significant.  But what separates our preparation with that of those who are not waiting?

How I wait and prepare is paramount to how I receive my King, now and in His second coming.  Am I waiting eagerly, like for a lover to come home? Expectantly like for a long awaited liberator bringing longed for healing. Will I see and understand what God is doing in my day?

Waiting well begins in the heart, spilling over the causeway of life like a flood that redirects everything.  I want to wait in such a way that the world wonders and longs for the hope I have rather than being repelled by tradition and conformity to a set of rules.

How are you waiting this  Christmas?  What do you hope for in the year that will prepare you for the return of the Bridegroom?

Don’t look at the Barrel!

One of my delights is teaching riding lessons.  We always have fun, and inevitably learn something about ourselves and God in the process.

Last week we worked on the principles of barrel racing; how to create the space needed to get around the barrel at top speed, in good form.  True to any principle, we didn’t start at top speed, but at the walk.

One of the main things that always needs correcting when a person starts out is where they put their focus.  Drilled home over years of racing is this principle: if you look at the barrel, you hit the barrel.

This morning during quiet time, I realize life is a bit like barrel racing. It matters greatly where I put my focus during the obstacles of life.  Just like it is natural to look at the barrel and crash into it, my natural tendency is to focus on the problem or obstacle I have to navigate and hit it straight on, slowing my progress.

A barrel racer spends hours honing the turns and obstacles of the course so when it is time for speed, their form is perfect.  Using light equipment and running without extra tack gives some advantage, but it is where your focus is and how you navigate the barrels that takes you to the winner’s circle.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up!  And let us run with endurance, the race God has set before us.  Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

If we thought of life as a race to win and the prize as Jesus Himself, we might be more compelled to throw of the” pretty” things that handicap us.  The sins and habits that slow us down, the thought life that hinders our ability to move.

In barrel racing, there are lots of fast horses, but it is the racer who can use the obstacle of the barrel to gain time that wins.  The wise rider gages the pocket (distance) well and puts the horse in perfect position to speed up through the turn, by keeping her eyes up.

It is in the problems of life our faith is not only tested, but strengthened, but if our focus is on the problem, we will inevitably crash into it and lose momentum.  If our focus is on Jesus, our prize and race perfecter, we will gain strength to power through the turns of life and navigate the problems at higher speed.  In fact, in time, when it is Jesus we focus on, and who guides our race, the obstacles and problems become the joy of the ride because it is then his power becomes manifest on our behalf and sets us apart.

So to all my fellow Kingdom racers, I say what I say to all my fellow barrel racers:

“Eyes Up!!”

 

A Parable

It is almost inconceivable that Jesus – God Almighty – would humble Himself to become a vulnerable infant. The Creator, depending on His willing, but frail creation for every need. The saviour of the world, cradled in a teenager’s womb, willing to learn to walk before He ever took hell by storm.  Not yet born, but imbued with destiny to save the world.  The ultimate example of sacrificial love.

Recently the American state of Ohio passed a bill that will make abortion inaccessible after 6 weeks; otherwise known as “The Heartbeat Bill.”
In immediate response, Planned Parenthood issued lawsuits and is working feverishly to stop the bill.

As much as I grieve the massacre of millions of children and the numberless unmarked tombs of our sacrificial offerings, this is a symptom, not the heart of the problem.  To illustrate:

“I am driving my truck at night. I forget to turn on my lights, or maybe I turned them on – I don’t remember. I hit a pedestrian in the dark and in that moment,  my life turns upside down. I realize this will be expensive, traumatic, and will commandeer my life, hijacking goals, putting plans on hold. I am afraid of what people will think of me. My driving partner took off when the impact happened.  I am terrified of the events that will unfold and feel terribly alone.

But it is my truck, so I get back in the driver’s seat, and ramming the clutch in gear, I run over the pedestrian again and again until I’m sure he’s dead and I can carry on with my life.

Growing up, I was told in order to have rights, one must accept the responsibility that comes with freedom and the consequences of choices. I believe this is a piece of the picture – we have cultivated a society that embraces rights and abhors responsibility but I think it goes far deeper than that.

When a nation loses the heart of motherhood and fatherhood, the integrity of that nation’s foundation cracks and we begin to lose the nation.  There are millions of women and men, falling into unmarked tombs of regret and forbidden sorrow, sacrificed with their children on society’s sanctioned alters of self worship.

When a people lose the mother and father heart of God there is a shift in the spiritual undergirding and mankind become victims under the volatile guise of self actualization.  The driver of our truck was conditioned one day at a time toward the decision on a fateful night that comprises one small cog in a great wheel of victimization.  A wheel turned ultimately by one who would destroy all life, but will begin where he can.

How does one counter this?  Perhaps by loving one girl, one boy at a time.  We must embody the mother and father heart of our Father in Heaven not just for our own wanted offspring, but for those who have never seen that heart extended toward them.

If our hearts are torn asunder by the countless pedestrians being run over by trucks, we must not begin with the pedestrian, we must melt the hearts of the drivers by loving them sacrificially so a lost nation of drivers know what sacrificial love looks like with skin on.

The Beautiful One

Studying Old Testament scriptures about Jesus, I am amazed at the incredible intentionality of God in His relentless plan to redeem His fallen creation.

The Salvation Compass begins pointing toward Jesus in the first few chapters of history -immediately after the fall. God promises the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.  From there, woven into the pages of history, God continually points to the Beautiful One who will overturn the law of sin and death and set things right again.

Through the Old Testament we become familiar with the Spotless Lamb.  The perfect lamb took the rightful  penalty of the people, and with its blood, atoned for the sins of the family to whom it belonged.

Ephesians 3:15 tells us every family in heaven and on earth derives its name from The Father.  Imagine the great table, turned by Jesus:  rather than one of the flock, dying for the family, Jesus, the creator of every family, dies for His flock.  His gesture is so grand, so ludicrous, it completely stuns the demonic rulers and authorities  who have subjugated the families of earth for so long.  It re-establishes the possibility for the dominion of mankind over the kingdom of the air – namely Satan and all his underlings.

Have you ever felt the aching desire for something you know is wrong to be made right?  Romans 8 says the whole earth has been groaning in subjugation, waiting for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed. The offspring of the Seed.

Jesus says that unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone.  Jesus is the seed of the woman, foretold in Genesis 3!  He is the lamb provided for the offspring of Abraham.  The ultimate High Priest who mediates for the people.  He was willingly buried so many could be given life! Just like it didn’t end in the manger, it didn’t end on the cross either!  The resurrection is where the power to live in Christ was secured for the sons and daughters of God.

For unto us a child is born, a son is given.  The government (administration of power) will be on His shoulders and He will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  His government and its peace will never end.  He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of David for eternity.  The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen.  (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Christmas is not only to remember what Jesus did for us, but that the administration of power has been given to Jesus. He has called us to be His Body that brings justice, peace.  It is a time to rejoice because the light that pierces the darkness has come, and that Light lives in us.  Because at the culmination of the manger’s story,  we were given the power and authority to bring the light of the world to the world and take dominion back from the darkness itself!

 

The Visit

My mind is churning like an over revved engine with all I want to talk to the King about today. I stride past the gate, and up the steps to the throne room, taking them two at a time in my haste.

The great door is open as usual, and I see the Father, sitting by the fire, a large smile spreading from ear to ear as He sees me. I would love to just sit in His presence and linger for a while like I used to, but my day is super full, and concerns weigh heavy on my mind.

The Father stands, and pours me a glass of wine. I don’t see the proffered glass, nor the offered easy chair as I dive into my soliloquy.

“Dear Father,” I begin, “I have some really pressing things I want to speak with you about. First is the relationship with my friend. I know you understand the situation better than I do, so I won’t go into it, but I really need your wisdom to know what to do to fix this!”

The Father slowly lowers the goblet to the table, and sits down again, His smile fading somewhat.  He nods and looks as if He might say something, but I have more on my mind than just my relationship with a friend.

“I also really need to know your will about this job offer I’ve received; it sounds really good, but I don’t want to jump into something I’m not ready for, you know?  The thing is, I need to reply by Friday, so if you could let me know by then…? That would be great!”

“I want to show you something”  The Father responds eagerly as He picks up a set of life blueprints adorned with my name from the table.

“I knew you’d be coming today, so I pulled these up.  I made them before you were born”  He motions toward the chair.

“Oh, that’s awesome”  I respond, “But I don’t have time to sit today.  Maybe tomorrow won’t be quite as hectic!  Lets definitely take a rain cheque!”  I pause for a moment, trying to remember the last item on my list:

“Oh yes! I really need a miracle for my uncle Craig, he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I know if you heal him he’ll know you’re real.  Please please, would you touch his body and heal him Lord?!”

“I think that’s all for now Father, and I gotta run – I have an important meeting I can’t be late for, but I’ll message you later! Thanks for listening!”

Glancing at my watch, I kiss the Father on the cheek and stride out the door, feeling like I’ve missed something.  But my mind quickly moves to the agenda of the day, and I close my Bible, and jump off the couch.

I don’t see the King behind me heave a deep sigh, fold up the blueprints, and return them to the shelf.  Maybe tomorrow will be the day.

New Like the Morning

Gazing at the snow on the mountains, I am overwhelmed by a rush of emotion at an image that simultaneously fills my mind.

It is Jesus, snowy paint brush in hand, cheeks rosy and frosted by the chill, eyes warm as hot cider as they twinkle, almost mischievously. The landscape He is painting is mine. It is my life. My day. My experience.

The oblique day to day browns and greys make up the panorama and rain tugs downward with a dull haze. Disappointments, weariness, unrealized expectations and dreams, and hills that never seem to  crest begin to be dusted over by the snowy brush as Jesus sweeps across the canvas of the soul.

The faithfulness of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness; His mercies being afresh every morning.  I say to myself; “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!” 

The Lord is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him.  So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. (Lamentations 3:22-26)

There is a reverent stillness in the early dawn as virgin rays reveal the artistry of the night before.  Jesus has again woven a creative masterpiece of soft white where the night before was bare and brown.

I am learning to wait in the stillness, quiet with an open heart to receive.  To flood the soul in God’s mercy is to receive salvation and hope for the day.

In the coldness of the earth, blanketed in snow, a process begins of purifying and renewing so when the sun warms the land, life appears afresh and mercy blossoms after the resting of winter.

I see in the cycle of nature, the promises of God.  To those who wait quietly in the fall seasons, searching after God’s heart, salvation comes softly down like newly fallen snow.  A restfulness purifies and begins the work of renewal, opening the door for the new life of spring.

In every season, there is a promise, displayed practically before our eyes to draw us into the reality of God.  In our souls, there plays out a call and response with our Creator that, like the seasons, brings new life and change.  How reassuring to know that when we come, we will always find mercy.

In Christ, there is never an end to the mercy of new mornings, nor the restoration in the quiet hush of snow that washes and heals with the promises of new life.  Each season can bring reason to celebrate and reason for thankfulness, yet knowing how to position ourselves where we are brings fruitfulness in any season!

What season are you in right now?  What promises of God are there for you in the stillness as you wait and search Him out in the colours of your life?