Lambs, just a few days old, on a field in northern England.  Sheep farming is a major economic activity in the UK, with large fields reserved for it. In later winter, and beginning of Spring, it's common to see many newborn lambs in the fields.

The One

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off”
(Matthew 18:12-13).

It’s difficult to leave a writer’s conference without packing a suitcase full of discouragement. Edit after edit, the haunting question looms, “Am I good enough?”  As you prepare to leave, you discover pieces of yourself in the form of ink-stained papers, pieces of your heart tossed inside a dumpster next to yesterday’s biscuits and gravy. These same thoughts seemed to plague much of the attendees, but even more so, the newbies who had come to the conference looking to fulfill a lifelong ambition. However, it was these very conversations that led me to have a bizarre dream on my final night.

In this dream, a precious heirloom had been abandoned in an alleyway. Its owner had set the piece against the wall next to the trash compactor. All of a sudden people began to make their way towards the heirloom. I watched as they stood around and argued its worth (or lack thereof). Finally, one gentleman, deciding it was to his liking, picked it up and walked away while the others continued on in their debate. I woke up with the realization that this is exactly how it may seem in the writer’s world. To some, our words may not be considered “good enough”. We may find ourselves ridiculed and criticized by countless individuals, until that is, we find the one. Just like in my dream, there will be one person out there that needs our words to be penned. That one person is our audience. That’s to whom we are writing. That’s for whom we pour out our soul day in and day out. For it is that one person who will pick up our piece among the remnants and see its true worth.

This image reminds me of Christ, and how He too was deeply concerned about the one. The verse above reminds me how quickly God would leave everything to pursue that one lost lamb. Shouldn’t this be our heart’s desire as well? It’s easy to feel discouraged when only a smalll number of people read our blog posts or visit our websites, but wouldn’t it be more productive to forget about the numbers and focus solely on that one individual who needs a life-alterning word from the Lord.

One is all we are asked to reach, and before we know it, that one could possibly turn into hundreds and even thousands. But it all starts with one.

flesh

Contradictions of the Flesh

Did you ever notice the contradictions of your flesh? From one minute to the next we can be hot or cold. It’s a feeling a love, acting in hate. We dress it up and tear it down as soon as we look in the mirror. It’s alive and yet, dying at the same time. Our flesh holds us together, yet tears us apart when we allow it to rule.

The flesh is very significant in the Bible too. Woman was formed with the rib of a man, and he called her “flesh of my flesh”. When two people get married they become one flesh. In communion, the bread represents Christ’s flesh. However, there are plenty of occasions in the Bible when men are given over to “the desires of their flesh” and then disaster happens.

I remember succumbing to such desires in my own life, and the results were catastrophic. When my flesh took over, I was like a zombie, walking around without direction, lost, afraid, hopeless, and so angry I wanted to rip people apart at the seams. The flesh left to its own devices is entirely unreliable. In fact, Romans 7:5 states, “For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.”

So, how can we receive new life into these dry bones? 

While the Bible tells us that the wages of sin are death, it also says that the “gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We must accept God’s free gift.

First, we have to accept Christ as our Savior (Roman 10:9-10).
Second, we need to turn from our former way of living and leave those things which once brought destruction to our lives (2 Timothy 2:19).
Third, we need to fill our lives with the Word of God, the Bible. This way, when doubts and temptations arise we can stand firm (Hebrews 4:12).

Living to please the desires of the flesh always leads to spiritual death.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather miss out on the small things in this life than miss out in the blessings of all eternity.

Farbenspiel (Kaleidoscope of color)

Fear or Peace

There are fears that grip us and keep us from what God has for our lives. You know the kind of fear; it’s the kind that jolts you awake from the deepest of slumber. As I was thinking of this the other day, the thought occurred to me, “How much do you fear God?” I mean, I spend enough time fearing what may never be, but the fear of this world and the fear of God are two totally different things. I would almost venture to say that they are polar opposites. The fear of this world brings anxiety and turmoil, while the fear of the Lord brings peace, love, and understanding.

Proverbs 1:7 actually says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” and Proverbs 19:23 tells us that the fear of the Lord leads to life and rest and leaves one “untouched by trouble.” In today’s crazy world, there’s nothing I need more than wisdom, peace, and rest.

Growing up, I thought the fear of the Lord was fire and brimstone bursting from the sky. I tried to avoid the great lightning strike from heaven by trying to be perfect at all cost. Problem is, I was far from perfect and this mentality actually led me to give up on Christianity altogether. It seems silly, but many people have a very skewed idea of God. Thankfully, God brought me to my senses. As an adult, I discovered that the fear of the Lord was a really beautiful act of worship that added to our relationship. In reverence and awe, I “fear” the Lord. I fear Him because I know without a doubt that He is holy, righteous, and always has my best interest in mind. When God calls us to be holy like he is holy it is not a call to perfection. He knows that we are fallible. Instead, it is a journey to holiness, holiness that will be made complete in Him upon reaching our heavenly destination. As we walk with Him in reverence and awe, the fear of the Lord will inevitably bring peace to our lives and joy to our hearts.

If you don’t know the Lord already, I pray that you will know Him and the peace and joy only He can bring.

Action-packed

I don’t know if you know the story, but it’s likely you’ve seen a portrayal of Jesus’s grueling crucifixion on TV or in a church production somewhere. And while I too have seen this many times in plays and such, it’s hard for me to grasp what is really taking placehp-crossshadowI was reading through Matthew 27:25-50 and very briefly it discusses the events leading up to Jesus’s death on the cross. Even the best productions out there really can’t capture the feeling, the emotion, the rejection and ridicule taking place. So, I tried making it a little more personal in an effort to carry the message home.

How often have you been the subject of ridicule? How many times did people call you names or say things about you that were just outright lies? I know for sure that this has happened to me a lot. I also know that at times, my reaction to these scenarios has been downright embarrassing. I can’t tell you how many times I would fly off the handle in order to justify my actions, defend my character, or “prove” myself.

Now. Here’s this man. He’s been ridiculed. Flogged. Mocked. Made to be a fool. His best friends have turned against Him. He is naked and alone. And he just stands there. Quiet. He doesn’t become enraged. He doesn’t hurl insults back at them. He doesn’t think, “Oh! I can’t wait to say, ‘Told you so!’ ”  And the thing is, He actually is who He says He is. He is the Son of God. He could easily prove them wrong in an instant. One word and they would be forced to bow at His might and power. But He doesn’t say a thing. He just sits there and takes it. And most amazingly, He takes it all for us, even those flogging him, even those who do not believe. How many of us can say that we’ve showed such staunch composure? Surely, not I.

I don’t know what has happened in society, but we are real quick to repay evil for evil; and real quick to defend ourselves. Not Jesus. He showed all humility, all grace, and all love without saying a word. His actions said everything.

What are our actions saying? Are we fighting, or are we loving? Are we hurling insults, or bringing encouragement? Are we staying quiet when necessary, or blowing our peace on foolish talk? It’s time we asked ourselves, “Could our actions be saying much more?”

Let us try not to be reactive, but action-packed with love, instead.

Out of the Desert

desert-1

I’ve been attending this one particular Bible study for over a year now, and we are currently studying the book of Matthew. It’s been three weeks and I have been pleasantly pleased with the new insights and revelation I have received. One thing in particular, which led to this blog which has been on hiatus for far too long.

The other night, our group leader was discussing the role of John the Baptist. He came out of the desert boldly proclaiming the coming of the Lord. As I sat there, my thoughts wandered to Jesus. Interesting, he also came out of the desert before his ministry took off. As I sat thinking of its significance, I was prompted to write:

Desert periods bring about spiritual renewal.

Maybe I’m not the first person to say this or something like it, but to me the Holy Spirit was reinforcing one important fact. A year and a half ago He told me, “Behold! I do a new thing… I will make a way in the wilderness and create streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19. This “Behold! I do a new thing” prompted me to quit my job, spend six weeks in Europe, and experience God like never before. It was an amazing time in my life, but then, all of a sudden– silence. I whined. I prayed. I cried out. “Lord, where are you?” I moaned. “I don’t feel you!” While that in itself could be an entirely different blog, nevertheless, here I am; and, while God is still not talking to me like He was in 2012, he is moving. I just know it. And that’s why I find encouragement in the stories of John and Jesus. They, too, had to spend time in the desert, but once God brought them to the other side, their ministry and their lives were changed, and more importantly, the lives of others were altered for all eternity.

Now, I can walk through the desert (not wander, mind you) knowing that soon enough, God will bring me to the other side, into my land of promise.

Make a way, Lord. Keep making a way. And soon enough I will be drinking from those nourishing streams.

December Night (Gone)

Frustrated soul.
I’m the only one to blame.
I bit at love’s forbidden fruit.
My eyes awoke to an evil place
where lies fall from lover’s lips
and where the devil makes his home.

I’ve been thrown out of Eden.
Lost my glory.
Lost my crown.
Now I wander through the desert
watching the sun circle ’round.
My throat parched from
this arid grave
hollow and endless
I sleep-

underneath the stars
counting the endless array
of dreams yet to come my way.

How I weep for her
in all her beauty,
her golden garden
sparkling new
Clean.

Flesh of my flesh.

Gone are the days of Eden
But the memories remain.

Don’t Forget Where You Came From. Ditch it Altogether.

You may have heard that saying a million times, “Don’t forget where you came from.” Well, I had a kind of epiphany this morning. Why not? Why in the world do we hold on to who we once were? That’s not what God says. He says, “Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past” (Is. 43:18). So why do we do it? Nostalgia? Fear? Insecurity?

Let me try to explain:

I gave my life back to Christ nearly 6 years ago. I was raised in the church but went away for quite sometime. From the beginning of my departure of the heart all the way to my return, many emotions and heartaches occurred. These things are part of everyone’s life, but these disturbances really have a way of shaping who you will become. I constructed walls to keep people out and I was always sure to be on the defense. Well, you live this way long enough and it sticks, even after giving your heart back to Christ. So, here I am 6 years later struggling with all the baggage I accumulated over the last decade or so. It’s almost as if I believe, somehow, this was my baggage to bear. I have to pay my penance, if you will, until I deserve to be free. We may never say it like that, but subconsciously, that’s how we live sometimes. Today, all that changed, almost instantaneously.

I was walking my dog and talking to God like I usually do. And God spoke to my heart.
“You are not who you once were.”
“What? Excuse me, God? I don’t understand.”
“That person you think you are because of your past, isn’t you. You are a new creation.”
“I’m a new creation? I’m a new creation! In that case I’m like a baby all over again. I can start all over. The past, all those things that happened, they don’t have to affect me anymore. They may have made me one way, but God has saved me in another.”

What revelation! What freedom! After Christ, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is new. It’s your chance to start over. Stinky old sin. Doesn’t matter. It’s been cast as far as the east is form the west. Hurt. He’s got that too. He came to bind up our wounds. It’s done. All of it. You and I have the opportunity to start again. Why are will still living with the repercussions of our former selves and former sins? We are free. We can do and be whoever we want now! We can forget what other people have called us. Forget about what we have called ourselves! We can be all the things God has called us: blessed, co-heirs, righteous, children. Whatever God has called you to be, confess it today. Out-loud. Tell God, tell yourself, tell Satan who you truly are-a new creation in Christ Jesus!
“All things have passed away. Behold! All things are new” (2 Cor. 5:17).