I don't know about you, but I'm ready for 2018 to be finished so I can “turn the page” and start a new year! I created this photo with the idea that the Bride of Christ is sleeping, but midnight is about to strike and a brand new day will begin. This bride has become pretty comfortable with her current position, but the time that is coming that she will need to arise and prepare for the new day so she can meet her bridegroom in it.
Notice the clock in this photo: it's nearly midnight- just on the verge of a brand new day.
A quick study on the word “midnight” in the New Testament paints an interesting picture.
It's the most inconvenient time of day: Then, teaching them more about prayer, he [Jesus] used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ Luke 11:5-7
It's easy to fall asleep: Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight... As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Acts 20:7,9
Breakthrough happens at midnight: Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! Acts 16:25, 26
The Bridegroom arrives at midnight: "At midnight they were roused by the shout, 'Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!' Matthew 25:6
We're on the verge of a new year, and I believe God is about to release new things into the earth. During this “almost new day” season, I feel like this poses the same challenges and opportunities that these scriptures reveal about the midnight hour:
-There's lots of inconveniences. People sometimes display more needs at Christmas time, and since there's often a lot of un-met expectations, it's easy for our lives to take on added drama.
-It's easy to “fall asleep” spiritually because there's a lot of extra options and demands on our time.
-Breakthrough happens when we worship and pray!
-It's the time when the Bridegroom calls us to go out to meet Him! God is getting ready to meet us for the new year with new dreams, strategies, and open doors!
As the Bride of Christ, let's make the decision to be “awake at midnight” so we can tap into the blessings of this season! Here's a few ideas:
-Stay intentional about spending time with Jesus in your personal prayer time. It's easy to get so caught up in the glitter of celebrating Christmas, that we forget to spend time with Jesus!
-Remember how Paul and Silas received freedom as they worshiped and prayed at midnight: I believe this can be a time of great break though! Let's make time to worship and pray, even in the business of the season.
-Listen for the Bridegroom's voice. He is ready to give fresh direction, strategies, and insight for the new year. Let's keep our ears open and listen for His wisdom!
Prayer: Lord, show me how to prepare for the year ahead. Tune my ears to hear Your call, and give me the wisdom for the new season, so that I can be ready for what you have created for us to do together!
Over the last few days, I've been astounded by the faithfulness of God. Sometimes He brings amazing people into our journey in a way that's deeply humbling, and opens our eyes to see His hand even in the most difficult of situations. It's a beautiful reminder that He wants to be a part of our lives even more than we want Him to, and He really is working on our behalf. 'Though the wind and waves crash, we can rest assured that our God is faithful.
Often the things God wants to reveal to us cannot be seen with our human eyes. In fact, if we only see with our eyes, our perspective will often lead us astray from God's plan. Sometimes it takes closing our eyes to a situation in order to fully see what God is doing, and peaceful clarity comes when we seek God's vision in prayer.
Seven times in the Old Testament, God asked the prophets, “What do you see?” (Jeremiah 1:11, 1:13, 24:3, Amos 7:8, 8:2, Zechariah 4:2, 5:2.) One of these times Zechariah was even awakened by an angel “like a man awakened from his sleep,” and his eyes were opened before the angel asked what he saw. Jeremiah was blessed by the Lord for reporting what he saw, and was told “you have seen beautifully/well.” Each time, God wasn't asking for their perspective on current events or what they saw with their natural eyes, but rather if they were seeing the specific thing He wanted to show them. Each time they saw what God was revealing, God brought revelation that was specific to their circumstances, and unveiled His plan.
I created this picture to remind us that the unseen world is mostly where God speaks. For many of us, He doesn't show up with a bold of lightning or write in the sky the answers we seek. In fact, we may discover Him in the most unusual of places. When thinking of this, I recalled how the Apostle John was a prisoner on the island of Patmos when he saw a door opened in heaven (Revelation 4:1). John had been exiled for the gospel's sake to this remote island, and I'm sure there was nothing comfortable about his surroundings. Then one day, traditionally while in a cave, he suddenly saw Jesus, who told him to write what he had seen and was about to see (Rev. 1:19). A door opened in heaven, and John was invited to see wonders that would unfold God's perspective about life on earth. When Jesus invites us to “come and see,” He invites us into heaven's perspective.
Many of my greatest experiences with the Lord have happened in "cave" places of solitude where I've just been crying out for an answer in prayer. Sometimes it's when I'm pacing in the bathroom (which is a nice, quiet place to pray!), or recently it's been when I perch on a cliff overlooking the beach, armed with a notebook to journal and write out my prayers. My situation may look bleak, but suddenly I have a "come up here and see" moment, where the Lord gives me a perspective that suddenly changes my entire outlook on the situation. Mountains become molehills and impossibilities become possible when He shifts my perspective and I begin to see through a new lens-- and none of this happens through my natural eyesight. Sometimes it happens with a thought impressed on my heart, and other times it occurs as I read the Scriptures, like King David who prayed,
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
Maybe this week we won't be caught up to heaven like John did, but we can still seek the Lord's perspective on situations that happen to us every day. Like this photo, sometimes it means deliberately choosing not to look on things with our natural eyes, but to kneel before the Lord on prayer and seek His perspective. We have open access to heaven, and God longs for us to see like He sees!
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes so I can see You! Show me Your perspective as I lay situations at Your feet and desire heaven's plan.
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!
This picture shows a woman who has attempted to bandage a deep wound while the dagger is still embedded in her back, and this is a depiction of many people's souls. Often situations in life may wound us, and damaging words and actions stick like a weapon in our hearts.
Sometimes we attempt to fix pain by throwing a “quick fix” at our emotions, but there's only one thing that solves the root of the hurt: forgiveness. When we forgive, it doesn't mean the hurt goes away, nor does it cheapen our suffering. Instead, it releases the pain and hands it to God, just like pulling a dagger out of the flesh enables the wound to begin to heal. You can ban-aid all you want to, but as long as you're holding onto the weapons thrown at you, the pain continues. “Soul daggers” include betrayal, misunderstanding, accusation, and abandonment- as well as words that simply hurt.
Believe me, I don't enjoy the forgiveness process! But the truth is, I've chosen to follow Christ and this means two things: first, I've been forgiven for my sin which nailed Christ to the cross. No pain I can experience is greater than what my own sin put Christ through. How can I refuse to forgive when I've been forgiven of so much?
Secondly, Christ calls His followers to be an example of His love, and this requires forgiveness. The good news is that He lives within us and can empower us to forgive even when it's really hard. We can release the daggers and receive His healing. Hallelujah!
This photo depicts the Bride of Christ walking in strength and freedom-- no longer defensive, she's on the offensive and ready to wage war! Watch the video to discover the deeper meaning of why I posted these two photos together! (See previous blog on the "Warrior" photo and more details.)
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds," 2 Corinthians 10:4
Recently I was at a conference where many churches were worshiping together. I had the picture in my head of the Bride of Christ tearing down strongholds- just by worshiping in unity. Simply by DOING what the Father calls us to do, we turn on the light in a dark place and the shadows flee. So I came home and created this photo in attempt to capture what I saw.
I remember leading a home group in Texas several years ago and the love of God was very present in a special way because of how we chose to walk in unity. The Lord spoke to me and said, "You are tearing down the religious spirit in this territory, just by releasing the Holy Spirit in this way."
When we obey the Lord, worship boldly, and cultivate unity, we accomplish more than we can dream.
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds," 2 Corinthians 10:4
Feeling "stuck" is a hard place to be. Sometimes there are seasons in life where it feels impossible to move forward! In creating this photo, I used several metaphors to capture the difficulties and hope. Watch the video to see my personal story and how I stepped out of a "stuck" place in life.
Gum: I chewed so much gum in the making of this photo! Gum brings the idea of a sticky and clingy mess that is hard to get away from. It doesn't nourish you- no matter how much you chew it, gum will never feed your body. "Stuck" places in life are like this: messy and not nourishing. Ugg, just the idea of walking around with chewed gum anywhere than in your mouth is pretty disgusting!
Clock: the time is 11:45, and I love the idea that it's almost a new day! Sometimes we get discouraged and think that life will always be hard, when in reality we are just on the verge of a new beginning.
Green Dress: green is the symbol of life. We are all carrying something precious, something full of meaning and destiny because God made us for a reason. We were never made to be stuck forever. With God's help and a willing heart, we will be able to step into His good plan!
He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:24