Recently I've been drawn to Luke 7:2-10 which gives us a fascinating glimpse into what Jesus calls “great faith.” It tells the account of Jesus healing the Roman centurion's servant, where the soldier sends word to Jesus saying,
“Just say the word, and my servant will be healed! I too am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to one, Go, and he goes, and to another Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it.”
Jesus marveled at this request, and called it “great faith.” To understand why, let's take a little deeper look at the life of a soldier.
Military personnel understand both being in a position of authority and being under it: they knew how to lead and how to serve. This soldier knew that he taken a pledge to immediately obey a superior officer's command, and he also expected the same instant obedience from warriors under his leadership. Somehow he knew that Jesus was in a position of authority in a heavenly Kingdom and could easily reach across space and time to heal his servant with just a word – sickness would bow its knee to the superior word. Something of this military understanding and application to faith deeply impressed Jesus.
Recently I've been embracing the position of being a warrior “under command” to the King of Kings. We talk about “being in God's army,” but how many of us really have the mindset that we are under the command of great Warrior and His orders require swift action on our part? Sometimes we brush the gentle prompting of the Spirit aside and are slow to respond, when His words are sometimes the very thing that would bring us the answers we seek.
Even as a child, I was fascinated by stories of militant faith; the kind that requires the swift response of a soldier in action. I remember a story told to me when I was about eight-years-old by a man who was witnessed the Jesus Movement in the 1970s. Apparently, a group of hippies lived together in a house in the inner city of Milwaukee, and after getting radically touched by Jesus, they wanted to witness in every possible situation so they wrote scriptures on their windows. The neighbors were openly hostile, and would sometimes throw rocks through the windows in protest against the “Jesus freaks.” My friend told this story in his deep, booming voice, but when he approached this point of memory, his voice lowered into a slightly secretive whisper.
“There was one man,” he confided, “who was so close to the Lord that He could clearly hear God's voice and obey at a moment's notice. One day, he heard God say, 'Duck!' He instantly obeyed, and a rock smashed through the nearby window and sailed over his head, in the very place he had been standing.”
Like the centurion in Luke's gospel, this man recognized that just a word from Jesus carried great authority. In this situation, his quick obedience possibly saved his life.
I can't say that I've achieved this type of complete trust and obedience yet, but I've recently been challenged to obey God in big ways. Sometimes I'm not sure if I'm hearing from the Lord, so I try to take extra time to figure that out rather than dismissing it. Other times, I know a prompting is from God, and I have to choose to obey, even if it's not my preference for the moment. That “inner nudge” of the Holy Spirit always points toward greater peace, even if it means going against the crowd or makes us a bit uncomfortable. Following Christ always pays off!
This week, let's seek to listen intently to the Lord, through His Word and Spirit, and rise up to respond quickly, just as warriors who seek to follow their commanding officer!
Prayer: Father, I want to hear Your voice clearly and have discernment to follow Your leading in both big and small opportunities. Give me the heart of a warrior who knows their assignment and carries it out completely, and let me see Your hand showing up in my life as a result!
In Celtic writings, the Wild Goose has been used as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Rather than portraying Him as the gentle dove, they felt more comfortable with a bird who expressed the wildness and un-tameable nature for the Spirit of God. It is said that the early Celtic believers in the Dark Ages would fast and pray, and then launch from their coasts in a boat with a sail and no rudder, simply believing that the Spirit would direct the winds and blow their vessel where He wanted them to evangelize or set up a prayer cell on some coastal island. For them, the Spirit of God was as wild as the Irish Sea, and the call of the goose represented that part of His nature.
Celtic artist Mary Fleeson says, “The Wild Goose tells a different side of the Holy Spirit. To begin with, wild geese aren’t controllable, you can’t restrain a wild goose and bend it to your will. They’re raucous and loud, [and] unlike the sweet and calming cooing of a dove, a goose’s call is strong, challenging, strident and unnerving - and just a bit scary. In much the same way, the Spirit of God can be demanding and unsettling, and at times even a little scary.”
Jesus foretold that His followers would embrace this aspect of the Spirit:
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)
There's something about this aspect of God that we often miss, since our Western culture seems bent on making everything as comfortable as possible. But what if God was less interested in our personal comfort and more passionate about helping us live out our calling? In this photo, I wanted to show the Bride of Christ being moved by the call of the wild goose, and drawn to step into an adventure that's a little wild and crazy, but exactly what she was born to do.
This week, let's ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to hear the "call of the wild goose" that prepares us for new and exciting adventures!
Prayer: Holy Spirit, cause me to hear Your voice, and show me how to follow as You lead on the beautiful adventures You've prepared!
This photo is a bit different that what I've posted previously, because I used three elements to create it: light, time, and oil. Light and time are used to create a photo with a camera, and then I painted with oils on canvas and imposed that element on top of the photo. Watch this video to see the creative process!
I created this photo with the idea of capturing a moment when we're aware of God's Presence in a very special way. This moment of connection happens differently for each person-- some hearts are moved by nature and being surrounded by God's beautiful creation, while others experience the Holy Spirit through worship or reading the scriptures.
Recently, I've been thinking about how we sometimes miss out on these encounters for the simple reason that we don't practice longing for them. King David, a man after God's own heart, unashamedly wrote songs of wistful longing as he prayed for encounters with God.
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1, 2
O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
I believe that one mark of a new breed of warriors God is raising up is the deep hunger for the Presence of God-- not simply a desire for signs and wonders, but for God Himself. This holy ache can only be satisfied by God Himself, and nothing else will satisfy other than God showing up and completely having His way in our lives.
In Hebrew, the word for “presence” is the word paw-neem, which means “face.”
This word is translated as both "presence" and "face" in our English Bibles. In Hebrew, to seek God's Presence and to seek His face mean the same thing: when His Presence comes, we make eye-connection with the King of Kings and we have His full attention. It's also interesting to note that to avoid His Presence means avoiding His face. Here's a few scriptural examples:
God promised Moses that His paw-neem would go him and give peace.
Enemies perish at His paw-neem.
Fullness of joy in God's paw-neem.
Justice is decreed for us from the place of paw-neem.
God calls our hearts to seek His paw-neem.
Adam fled from God's paw-neem when he hid in the garden of Eden.
Jonah fled from the paw-neem of the Lord.
Sometimes we may go through seasons where we take God's goodness for granted, like that of an old friend who's somehow obligated to help us, and we don't spend time seeking His face. How much more we could experience if only we cultivated the heart of David who spent time longing for God! This week, may you carve out some time for this type of prayer: to spend time longing for God. I've often prayed, God, I'm asking You to show up! However You want to do it is up to You, but I am waiting and watching for You to come!
Every encounter I've had with God's Presence makes me long for more, even the times when He corrects me and shows me an area where I've gotten off track. Feasting on His Presence is completely satisfying, engaging, and makes me yearn to be like Him and know His ways.
Prayer: Lord, I ask You to place a deep hunger in my heart for more of You. Make me thirsty for encounter, and then meet me with Your Presence, as only You can do.
Recently I was sitting on an airplane, leaning over my laptop to work on this photo while listening to my favorite music. The lady next to me broke the unspoken traveling law of “never bother someone with earbuds on,” and began bumping my elbow.
“What are you making?” she asked curiously. I told her about the composite photo process, and pulled out my phone to show her some finished photos. She ended up looking at over fifty photos, thoughtfully nodding as she pondered the meanings. Even though my audience was held captive at 30,000 feet (she didn't have much choice to escape if she didn't like my art!), her curiosity reminded me how hungry human beings can be for wisdom and meaning.
I love illumination from heaven. One of the things I treasure most about Jesus is that He brings answers that work into chaotic situations. I love that I can go to Him and ask for wisdom-- and He gives it. Some of my most epic moments as a Christ follower have occurred when I felt overwhelmed, turned to God in prayer, and received an answer that changed the way I viewed the situation. Sometimes He challenges, corrects, or simply lets me know I'm loved. I'm learning that his wisdom is always at hand and freely given.
Scripture tells us that our thoughts are not God's thoughts, but it also tells us that we have the mind of Christ. Because of the cross, we have access to His wisdom. Christ's mind and the way He thinks, is open to us-- we partner with the God who created the universe when we ask for His perspective! The God who created sunsets, scripted detailed laws of science like DNA and the Fibonacci Series, has offered to give us wisdom on how to live life. All we need do is ask.
This week, may you be reminded of the promise:
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5
May the Lord bring His illuminating wisdom to every step of your journey! No situation is too big or small for Him to notice.
Prayer: Lord, I ask for the wisdom promised in Your Word. I come without pride, ready to follow. I lay aside shame- You never berate me when I ask for help. I come as a child to a loving Father, trusting that You desire to illuminate my path and walk with me every step of the way. Please lead me today!