With ALL the Saints: Honoring one another so that we may be one

Wow.  I knew it had been a long time since I wrote a blog…but almost TWO YEARS?  My my.  I’ve started about 10 blogs over these two years, but nothing has come to fruition.  Writing is a labor of love, and for me demands a lot of energy as well as creativity. With the addition of our second child, Elijah Nash, to our family, my demands have definitely been elsewhere!  Now that he is eight months old, sleeping and eating well, I’m sensing it’s time to once again labor over the words God puts on my heart in hopes that it might encourage and strengthen your walk with the Lord.

A prayer I’ve prayed a lot as of late is Ephesians 3:17-19 “… that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  

The phrase that has struck me is  “WITH ALL THE SAINTS.”  With all the saints.  When you stop to think about who “all the saints” are, it becomes clear that God wants to do something miraculous amongst His people.  “All the saints” encompasses that believer you really struggle to be around because your personalities clash, it includes the believers in that church whose doctrine is very different from your own, it involves those weak in faith who you can barely tell are Christians yet the Lord sees the yes in their hearts, it includes those whose style of worship you don’t like, and it also comprises those whom you have regrettably lost relationship with because of misunderstandings. It involves the rich and poor, the strong and weak, educated, uneducated, American and every nation under the sun.  When you really stop and think about who “all the saints” are and pay attention to your heart response to each individual or group, it becomes clear not only that God wants to do something miraculous with us, but also that we have to prepare our hearts to enter into this collective and corporate encounter of God’s love.  We as individuals can enter into a measure of His love, but there is a greater revelation reserved for the collective body of Christ.  I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of comprehending the extent of His love with all the saints! 

Paul was moved to pray for the unified comprehension of the love of God amongst believers in Ephesians 3:17-19 because he understood it is the Lord’s end goal for us, but we need prayer because we are so far from that reality!  Jesus also prayed for all those who would believe in Him because what He desired would take the Father’s grace in each of us.  Jesus did not merely want a bunch of individuals in heaven, but a unified, glorified body of believers who enter into the oneness of love He experiences with the Father and Holy Spirit.  Before going to the cross, He prayed His hearts longing:  

“I  do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their [the disciples] word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us…23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one…Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory who You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”” John 17:20-21, 23a-24

The type of relationship Jesus desires for us as believers encompasses so much greater unity and oneness than what we experience today.  His end goal for us is comprehending the vastness of His love together as one as He experiences the Father’s love with the Spirit.  Wow!  That is so powerful to think about, and it demands for us to change the way we think about the body of Christ.  Seeking the Lord and following Him is not just about me and my relationship with Him, it is a corporate journey with those who call upon His name.  And yet there is something that prevents this type of oneness from manifesting today:  DIFFERENCES.  There are so many differences amongst, “all the saints.”  Often these differences create tension, tension creates conflict, and conflict creates offense which usually leads to division.  

Biblically, differences are supposed to be a celebration of God’s unique design rather than a catalyst for separation.  Paul uses the imagery of a physical body in 1 Corinthians 12 as an analogy of how we are to function as the spiritual body of Christ.  Each member is made different, functions different, receives different, has different gifts to give, but those differences are not supposed to fracture the body, they are designed to allow each part of the body to give and receive, to be nourished and to nourish.   As each part does what it is supposed to in connection to the head, Christ, it allows the other parts of the body to function properly as well.  We each have an individual responsibility to love God and receive His love, and also to learn how to enter into the corporate body to learn how to give and receive so that the body can be properly nourished, edified, and strengthened.  If we continue to focus more on our differences, annoyances and grievances, we will continue to be separated and at odds.  The Lord has a better way for us.

Jeremiah Johnson, a prophetic voice in our nation, recently posted on Facebook, “You cannot receive from that which you do not honor.” In order for us to truly become one, a body properly functioning together, we need to learn to honor one another, to honor one another’s ministries– despite our differences.  Where there is honor, we can receive from the other rather than reject the beauty of what they have to offer.  Are there ministries that need areas of growth? Yes!  Are their individuals who need to mature?  Of course!  We all do– ahem, I do.  We are all on a journey.  But the Lord’s desire is that we all mature, together, focusing our attention upon Him and extending honor to the other parts of the body.  Every part of the body of Christ has insight and revelation of God the Father and Jesus because the Holy Spirit is in them teaching them these truths (John 16:13-14, 1 John 2:27).   As I position myself to honor “all the saints” rather than see where we are different (and let’s be honest, perhaps where I think they are wrong!), I am now able to see the beauty God has put in them.  We can now mutually edify and strengthen one another rather than tear one another down.

Of course there are times when separation is needed.  Members or ministries who openly support immorality, idolatry and drunkenness are really separating themselves from Christ and the body.  We are not to be united with that.  But to those who are seeking after God’s glory, His holiness, righteousness and love, we are to learn how to nourish, strengthen and edify…not tear down.  I believe that this is a necessary preparation for the ability for us to comprehend the vast expanse of God’s love together, as it says in Revelation 19:6-7:  

“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia!  For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. 

There is one mighty voice thundering before God’s throne in the end.  It is a multitude of voices from every tribe and tongue, people and language.  It is ALL THE SAINTS lifting up their voices to create one voice of praise and honor to Him who delivered us out of the perils of this world.  And note, we have  made ourselves “ready”.  There is preparation we as the Lamb’s wife enter into so that we are ready to not just love Jesus individually, but side by side, fully united and connected to the rest of the body, as one bride ready for her husband.  

So today, just at Paul prayed, just as Jesus prayed, let’s contend for our hearts to connect with “all the saints,” that we may be one, that we may experience the greatness of the love of our Bridegroom God– together.

Just Sow…He Will Increase

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.  And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.  Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five tents.  And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.  But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.  After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, “Lord, you delivered me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents beside them.”  His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your lord.”  He also who had received two talents came and said, “Lord you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.”  His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your lord.”  Then he who had received the one talent came and said, “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.  Look, there you have what is yours.”  But his lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.  So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.  Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.  For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even wat he has will be taken away.  And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness.  There will be weeping, and gnashing of teeth.””  Matthew 25:14-30

Working in the gardens at HOPE Ranch the past few months, I’ve found this statement very true:  you have to sow and labor in order to reap a harvest.  A bag of seeds on a shelf will remain a bag of seeds, but if sown into prepared soil; tended and kept, a harvest will come forth.

Two of the servants in the above parable “sowed” what they were given through trading.  Though each were given a different amount, each received increase as they labored with what they had.  Their reward was three-fold:  they increased what they had, they were given rulership over more because of their faithfulness with little, and they were granted permission to enter into the “joy of their lord.”  In contrast, the third servant did nothing with his talent.  Rather than increasing, he lost what he had and was not called “good and faithful.”  I don’t know about you, but I have a deep longing for increase in my life, and especially to hear the Lord say at the end of it all, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  

The past few months I have felt both the smallness of what I’m doing and the difficulty of it.   Tending the gardens has made me to come to terms with my propensity to give up, it’s forced me to let go of my desire for perfection, and created a clear-cut context for the revelation that you must sow in order to reap.  I have felt God’s encouragement to offer myself fully to this labor with the ability He has given me despite my inability to do it as perfectly as I’d like.  From the parable of talents in Matthew 25, I have found three principles needed to be encouraged to “sow” that which God has given so that increase may come and the affirmation, “good and faithful” heard:

  • First, God has entrusted us with something to take ownership of
  • Second, we have to do something with what we have been entrusted with
  • Third, we have to believe in God’s good nature to liberate us from the fear of failure

First, we must recognize God has entrusted us with something so that we take ownership of it.  God has entrusted Jason and I with being the only ones present at HOPE Ranch in this season.  With just two people taking care of the gardens, I’ve been overwhelmed, frustrated and even discouraged because the work load is so large and our experience so small ( also our time divided as we take care of EJ and labor at the house of prayer). It is incredibly fun to harvest, but there is much knowledge needed in order to properly maintain and care for each plant. Each seed has to be sown at the proper depth,  pests have to be identified and deterred, diseases have to be remedied, soil pH and fertility have to be kept at their peak, water must be administered properly and plants pruned timely…its a lot to learn!  Despite our  minimal knowledge base, acknowledging what He has entrusted us with allows us to take ownership of it and find solutions to the problems we encounter.  The two “good and faithful” servants acknowledged what they were given, took ownership of it, did something with what they were given and doubled what they had.  God has entrusted each of us with something we are to take ownership of and take action with– it is only then increase can come.

After acknowledging what we have been entrusted with, the second principle to glean from the parable is  to do something with it!   A bag of seeds on a shelf will remain a bag of seeds until we sow it.  God does not want us to be passive with what He has entrusted to us, but to see them as opportunities for growth.  The gardens are by no means perfect (IN ANY WAY), but we have been harvesting vegetables and fruit, and most important increasing in knowledge and skills.  If we did not take ownership of the gardens, we wouldn’t grow in understanding of what each plant needs, how to maintain good soil composition, etc, etc.  For many of the things I planted this year, the pests got the best of me, but I’ve learned about which pests are attracted to which plants and how to remedy it.  Yes there are pests, and no things are not perfect, but we are harvesting more than if we never sowed anything at all!  He’s not expecting perfection, but He is expecting our best.  And that’ s just it– He’s expecting my best.  Not the expert gardener’s best, not the super organized person’s best.   Just as in the parable, my increase will be different than someone else’s.  The servant with 5 talents doubled it and had 10, the servant with 2 doubled it and had 4.  In the natural, it would be easy to look and deem one servant’s efforts as greater than the others, but to the Lord they were both faithful with what they were given.  The results were different based upon their capacity and what they were entrusted with in the first place, but they both did something with what they were given, and therefore had increase and heard, “well done, good and faithful servant!”

But in the midst of all of this, we have to understand the third principle from the parable, that God is good.  Believing in God’s goodness liberates us to try without fear of failure.  When I see different problems with the plants and am figuring out solutions, I can get a sense of dread:  “What if this doesn’t work?  What if I fail and all the plants die and I don’t get any harvest?  I’ll feel so foolish!”  It’s a fear of failing.  Sometimes it feels easier to not try because then I won’t fail!  Fear clouds the face of a loving Father who has invested things into us and given us opportunities to grow and learn.  The third servant believed his lord to be “hard” and was afraid.  This belief paralyzed him and he did nothing with the talent he was entrusted with– instead he buried it.  His belief about the lord prompted his actions.  We must therefore choose to believe what the bible declares, that  God is not “hard,” He is not cruel.  He is incredibly patient and understanding and simply wants us to do our best.  “If you do well, will you not be accepted?”  Gnesis 4:7

The third servant also believed the lord would “harvest where he did not sow.”  In other words, the servant believed the lord expected something of him he had no ability to give.  God is not going to expect us to harvest 1,000 lbs. of food if He only had us sow 1 seed.  He knows our frame, He knows our individual capacities, abilities, and resources.  He will not expect something of us that is unrealistic for what we have been given, but He does expect our best as we labor beneath His smile.  There is so much freedom in this!

No matter where you are or what you have been called to, these principles will apply.  God has entrusted you with gifts, abilities, financial resources, social spheres of influence, etc, that He wants you to utilize faithfully, trusting Him for increase.  When you are faithful with the little God has given you in this season, He will reward you with greater opportunities to rule over more in the future, in this life and in the next.  The question is, what is the Lord calling you to labor in during this season?   Where is He calling you to be faithful, what  is He calling you to put your energy, money, efforts, time, and attention to in this season?  God wants to give you increase, but if you never sow, if you never labor, there will not be a harvest!

I pray that God will give you insight to what He has entrusted you with in this season.  I pray that you will labor not with your perception of what is enough, but what God says is enough.  I pray that you will have joy in the labor as you sow what God has given and trust He is smiling over you as you learn and grow.  May you have strength to endure when the labor gets difficult and be able to throw off every accusation of the enemy to make you feel like a failure or like you are not doing enough!  Amen.


Joy in Labor and Hope for New Life

Now that’s a pile of blackberry branches!!

New life from that which was dead


“Behold!  My Servant whom I uphold, my Elect One in whole My soul delights!  I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will ring forth justice to the Gentiles…He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth…”  Isaiah 42:1, 4

“There shall come forth a Rod (shoot) from the stem (trunk) of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”  Isaiah 11:1

These passages have stuck out to me this year in light of the gardening Jason and I are doing. In them contain important aspects of who God is and how He does things that can be great encouragement to us as we face problems in our individual lives and as we see the issues in our nation and beyond.

We are the only people living on the 30 acre ranch property owned by the ministry we are on staff with.  There are two large gardens, one containing 17 raised bed gardens, the other containing       4- 70ft rows of blackberries, 2- 70ft rows of asparagus and 5 extra 70ft rows of things yet to be planted.

At the beginning of the spring, the blackberry vines had to be pruned, which was a massive endeavor as each branch shot out “laterals” that replanted themselves into the ground.  What ensued was a labyrinth of blackberry branches that needed to be trimmed and ripped out of the ground.  It was a mess!  Then of course there was last years debris scattered about, new weeds coming up, and the need for new layers of wood chips to cover everything.  You might just say a lot of work lay before us (and still does), and I found (find) it a bit overwhelming.

As we began to tackle the blackberry labyrinth, the Lord brought to my mind Isaiah 42:1-4.  In this passage, Jesus is promised to bring forth justice to the Gentiles, and it also specifically states He will not be discouraged until He accomplishes it.  I began to see the world as the Lord’s garden, and just like the garden before us, the world is– quite frankly– a mess.  The constant conflicts in the Middle East, the struggles for power in our nation, the impoverished places of Africa and India, the oppressive dictators in Venezuela and soon Nicaragua…what a mess!  The nations, the Gentiles, are a  labyrinth of labor for Jesus, yet the promise is that He will bring forth justice– He will have His way with the nations and bring forth the Father’s vision for them.  That means that every nation will have the wrong things made right, corruption will be brought down, unrighteousness will be removed and righteousness will replace it, the poor will be cared for, the fatherless will find homes, the sick will be healed.  Jesus will bring justice to the nations of the earth, and He will not be discouraged until He does it!  When Jesus looks at the garden of the earth, He is not discouraged at the work that needs to be done.

This amazes me, because just looking at a few rows of unruly blackberry bushes can discourage me.  But when Jesus looks at the garden of the earth and all the “clean up” and “pruning” that needs to be done, He is not discouraged. Oh how God’s ways are not like our ways.  He sees a task before Him and He takes it head on, full of faith, full of joy, knowing He will make it right.  I am in constant need of this revelation of who God is to wash over me, not just for the sake of our garden exploits, but also in relation to all the problems of life in our nation and beyond.  Jesus will make the wrong things right, and He will not be discouraged until He does it.   We can know that Jesus is laboring, Jesus is bringing forth justice– He’s pruning back that which does not bear fruit to make room for that which will, He’s removing the old to make way for the new, He’s cleaning things up to make things beautiful.

Another thing that has caught my attention working on the ranch this year is that when I look at something that should be dead, somehow life begins to come forth from it!  I stumbled across a dead tree stump, truly an eye sore.  And yet this spring new branches began shooting out and there’s life springing up!  It made me think of the prophecy of Jesus in Isaiah 11:1, that out of the stem or trunk of Jesse, a Rod would come forth.  Israel was “cut down” as a nation and kingdom throughout their history for not being obedient to the Lord, and yet the promise was that out of that old, dead stump, God would bring forth a new shoot, a Branch that would become the mightiest tree on earth (Isaiah 4:2, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15-16, Zechariah 6:12).  Though the nations continually try to bring Israel low, and at times it has looked as if Israel was perishing, the Lord has brought new life from their nation in Christ.  There’s multiple layers of meaning of Jesus as the Branch of the Lord which I don’t want to delve into in this post– my point is simply to highlight that God’s ways are not our ways, and His knowledge surpasses ours.  When we see something that is “dead”, He sees the life He will bring forth from it, and that is exactly what He did with Jesus springing up from the nation of Israel.

When we see the labyrinth of labor that lies before us, we can ask for God’s strength and perspective because He never gets discouraged at the task before Him.  When we see that which is dead and dying, we can trust God for the new life He will bring forth against all odds. There is joy in the labor, and there is hope for new life. This is simply who our God is!

“I Don’t Buy Junk”

I was listening to the IHOPKC web stream one morning, and after worship the worship leader prayed:

“God, we want to be all that you paid for.”

All that He PAID for.

This phrase stuck out to me…Jesus paid for me…He paid for my life with His.  As I continued to think about Jesus literally paying for my life, I felt like He whispered to me, “I don’t buy junk. You are not junk, because I paid for you, and I don’t buy junk.”  He was planting the knowledge of my worth before Him deeper in my heart, and it filled me with a sense of contentment and joy.

“Of course Lord! Who willfully buys junk?…”  My thoughts went on.  Who in their right mind looks at an item, whether it be clothing or a home furnishing or a car and think, “Wow, that’s a piece of junk that will probably break in two days…I’ll take it!”  Who buys things with hard earned money that are not desirable?  The whole reason it costs money is because there is value attached to it.  We purchase things because they have value, not because they are junk.

Jason exemplifies this more than any other person I know (okay, maybe my dad is like this too).  He does extensive research on anything he purchases, making sure it is all that he wants it to be, complete with warranties if it breaks or something goes awry.  Though buying things can sometimes take LONGER, he does it to make sure he gets the greatest return for his money.  If it is known to break in a short while or has terrible reviews, he won’t buy it– he’ll wait until he finds something to suit his needs.   Jason, and I’m sure most of us, don’t buy junk…and God doesn’t buy junk either.

What fascinates me is that Jesus paid the highest price He could for us, but we do not come with warranties or money back guarantees.  Quite the opposite.  Jesus paid the highest price for us– His own flesh and blood– not when we were all spiffed up and looking amazing and desirable, but rather when we were broken, weak, foolish, and frail.  In reality… we kind of were junk.  But that’s not how He saw us as He carried the sins of the world to the cross, and it’s not how He sees us today.  Through all of our filthiness of sin, our frailty to be faithful, our proneness to break and break others, He still gave the highest price for us:  His own life.  With absolutely no guarantees we would be worth it, He purchased us so that we could become His because in His eyes, we have incredible value.

Truly, we all have failed God and have lived less than He created us for in some way or another.  There are times the shame of our choices and the brokenness we feel seems to overshadow the well known melody, “Jesus loves me THIS I KNOW, for the bible tells me so.”   Rather than feeling loved, we feel shame and we feel dirty because we see our brokenness and foolishness.  But that is not how God sees our life, no matter how “off” we feel we have gotten.  He honestly doesn’t see our lives as junk…He doesn’t want to return us to get His “money” back, nor does He get angry He paid such a great price for our lives. On the contrary, He continues to lavish His love upon us because despite our brokenness, our foolishness and weakness, He sees beyond it at the incredible worth we are to Him.  The truth of the incredible value He places upon our lives is what transforms us.  Internally we no longer believe we are junk, broken, frail and sinful.  Instead we begin to live as His beloved, knowing we are chosen, accepted, and strong in Him.

The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price in Matthew 13 reveal this so powerfully:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”  Matthew 13:45-46

There are different ways to understand these parables, but I’m interpreting the man who buys the field and the merchant seeking pearls as Jesus Himself.  Jesus is the one who, upon finding a treasure in a field, gave up His entire life WITH JOY to purchase the field, and upon finding a pearl of great price, sold all He had to possess it.

Jesus found treasure in the field of our life, and rather than taking the treasure out, He hid it once more and bought THE ENTIRE FIELD.  By purchasing the field of our lives, ALL of who we are became His so that no one else could lay claim on us.  Though we may have been overgrown with weeds and thickets and rocky in areas, He saw value for our life knowing that hidden within was great treasure ready to be unearthed.   Our hearts are a treasure to Him, the place He wants to possess and worth all that He has, even when it is hidden from the world and at times from our own eyes.

I remember years ago when Jason and I were in a very difficult place in our marriage he turned to me and said, “I forgive you and I will keep loving you because I know you are worth it and that there is treasure in your life I will see in time.”  WOW.  Jason understood the Lord’s heart.  He saw the value of my life even when he was experiencing some of the thorns and rocks, and he kept loving me because he knew there was treasure in me.  Jesus purchased our lives seeing the treasure in our hearts, even when it was hidden in a rocky, overgrown and forgotten field.  We are not junk, we are treasure to Him, and He joyfully purchased us with His own life.

The parable of the pearl is much the same.  Jesus is like the merchant who was SEEKING for great pearls.  The Lord’s eyes scan to and fro throughout the earth searching for those whose hearts will be loyal to Him (2 Chron. 16:9).   When He found us, He saw that we were a pearl of great price, so He gave everything up (the comforts of heaven), and surrendered His life to acquire us.

Jesus had eyes for one pearl, the pearl of your life.  It’s amazing that while there are so many of us, God possesses the ability to have single devotion and love for each and every person.  As a new mom, I’m beginning to see how this is possible.  I love Eternity so uniquely and completely, yet I know when we are ready to have a second child, I will love them just as much!  Their life will have just as much value that I will be willing to do anything for.  God’s love is complete for each pearl on this earth. We are not junk, we were sought after and found to be pearls of great price.  

Thank You Lord that You see our true worth, and that You gave everything to possess us.

My prayer is that the truth of our worth and value before Him will be planted deeper in our hearts and increase more and more.  It truly is what transforms our life, and what allows us to love others as He has loved us.



Let Me Remember

Lord let me remember the goodness of who You are,

When I feel anxious and confused, and You seem to be far.

Let me remember the many times You have broken through,

How year after year, You’ve drawn my heart after You.

Let me remember the things You have spoken,

The comfort You’ve given when I’ve felt lost and broken.

Let me remember the truth about what You see when You look at me,

Because my heart feels dark, and I need Your tender mercies.

Lord let me remember.

Let me remember again and again,

Until I see Your face; until the end.

His mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness endures to all generations, but today feels different.  Today feels alone, today feels chaotic, today feels depressing…

Have you ever had one of these days?  I have!  There are days I just “feel” off.  The new challenges of “today”, the new circumstances and new emotions expose once again my need to remember who God is and what He has spoken, because it is truth that sets free and gives peace (John 8:32).  Today I might “feel” depressed, anxious or alone so I must…

I must recall to my mind the truth of who He is and how faithful He always is…

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,  because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  Lamentation 3:21-23

I must gird up the loins of my mind and not allow accusation against myself, God or others remain in my thinking…

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” 1 Peter 1:13

I must allow the Holy Spirit to bring to my remembrance all things the Lord has spoken…

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” John 14:26

I must set my mind on things above and not on the things of this world that perpetuate my present emotions and keep me in bondage…

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:1-2

When the day feels off, when my mind is full of anxieties and I feel down cast, it requires me to intentionally sit and let my soul get quiet, that I might forsake present thoughts and emotions and allow God’s truth to flood my soul. Some days this is easier than others; some days I have to cry out for grace to just sit still!  But it’s always worth it in the end.  My prayer is that the Lord will “let me remember” Him, even if I have good days and bad, that in the end I will have a history of keeping Him in my mind, of keeping truth as my foundation, of keeping a thankful heart for what He has done in my life.  It is a choice we get to make (though we may need help doing it somedays!)… it is a choice we make to bring Him to remembrance.

The Israelites did not always do this and it fostered complaining, frustration and doubt in their hearts.  This was costly for them:

“Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, but rebelled by the Red Sea…13 They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert.  And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106:7, 13-15

And today we receive the same warning of the peril of not keeping God and the truth of who He is in our thoughts:

“because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts… 24 therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…” Romans 1:21, 24

Remembering God, what He has done and who He is, is such a simple thing to do, and it is extremely powerful. So let us remember Him!  Let us intentionally think about the ways He has blessed us, let us think about His faithfulness, let us think about His love, His comfort, the times we felt His nearness, the times He has released provision…let us remember and give thanks.

Lord, as we enter into this season of remembering Your birth, let us be ever mindful of You. Let us remember You and what You have done each and every day, being thankful and expecting You to do the same now and always.

A Reflection: Learning who God is through experiential knowledge

I remember years ago sitting with a woman who was pouring into my life.  I was all smiles.  I had just completed a 6 month internship at the International House of Prayer and felt closer to God than ever.  I had a hunger for the word, a desire to pray, and to top all of that off, my boyfriend of about 8 months had just proposed.

This woman, out of genuine concern for me, was asking questions…questions about the timing of my marriage, questions about our relationship.  Sure, those questions agitated me a bit, because when you are going to get married, you just want people to rejoice with you.  And yet she simply was asking questions because she sensed that perhaps I was rushing into things.  It had nothing to do with the brevity of our relationship, but more because she had insight into what the Lord was doing in my heart in that season, and thought perhaps I should let the Lord continue to work on my heart before entering into a blessedness of marriage.

All of that is just context for what she asked me next…

In one of my conversations with this woman she asked me, “what is your favorite thing about the Lord?”  Don’t get me wrong, I knew I loved the Lord. I had been overcome with His presence, tasted His goodness, and was giving up all that I knew of my life to seek Him further by going through bible school.  I genuinely loved the Lord.  But to be honest, I had no clue how to answer her question!  What was my favorite thing about the Lord?  I was faced with the reality that I didn’t really know the Lord that well.  What I mean by that is, I couldn’t articulate what about the Lord I loved.  Sure, I knew some biblical answers of the Lord’s goodness, His love, but I walked away realizing that I didn’t really know those things about the Lord.  Just as I could read a biography of someone’s life and know intellectually what they were like, my understanding of God came a lot from reading and believing what the bible said at face value, but I hadn’t necessarily experienced those truths for myself.  I didn’t have experiential knowledge of the Lord, and thus didn’t have much to reveal what I loved about Him.

Don’t misunderstand me– believing what the bible says about God is an essential foundation because we draw upon who He promises Himself to be from the Word, but I believe we experientially learn who God is by receiving these truths throughout the various seasons of life as we walk with Him.  It’s in the midst of relating to Him, having Him lead you through life, that you learn who He is and what He is like, and then your realize, “Oh my goodness, You are who You have declared Yourself to be!”  When you read, “God is full of lovingkindness,” there is a witness in your spirit that it is true because you have received that lovingkindness time and time again.

Back to the story…

When she asked me the question, I offered that I loved the Lord because of His faithfulness.  I didn’t realize that over the coming years, God would reveal just how faithful He is.  I wonder that when I said to her I loved the Lord’s faithfulness if He took that as a challenge to show me just how faithful He can be!

I made several bad choices during the first couple years of our marriage out of brokenness, pain, and unresolved issues of my identity in Christ.  The brokenness was masked by anger; I allowed anger to take hold of my heart and mind and I directed it towards myself, Jason, and our marriage.  I had a loose tongue that would speak whatever frustration came to the surface of my heart, and like the Proverb says, “the wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands”  (Proverbs 14:1).   In many ways I was the foolish woman, tearing down myself, Jason, our marriage and any other blessing God wanted to give.  Most would not have known this because it was primarily behind closed doors, but I can attest those first years of marriage were the most trying years either of us have ever faced.

It was many of my own choices to turn against the Lord’s ways in that season that brought so much destruction to our relationship.  And yet despite all of that, the Lord never left my side. Amazingly, neither did Jason.  Psalm 139:8b-9 says that “even if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me.”  I was choosing anger, fleeing form the Lord’s ways, but He was right there to lead me back to walking in His ways.  He was right there to release mercy to me again and again when I repented of my ways and words of destruction.

I did not change overnight.  But after 6 years, knowing the place our marriage began and where we are now, all I can see is the Lord’s faithfulness.  He never gave up on me though I was so angry and stubborn and doing things that were very hurtful to Jason and myself.  He continued to lead me, He continued to teach me, He continued to be merciful to me, He continued to love me.  And now, my heart is in such a different place.  This morning as I sat with the Lord all that overflowed out of my heart to Him with tears was “You have been so faithful, You have been so faithful!”  Because of His faithfulness to lead me and help me, He’s transformed my heart so dramatically I can’t even believe they way I used to be and the way I used to think.  He never gave up on me and He truly has led me even when I made my bed in the ways of hell.

I’m sharing all of this hoping to reveal that God truly desires you to draw near to walk with Him and discover Him in whatever circumstances you find yourself in life.  We can know things about Him as we read the Scripture, but more than knowing Him from afar, He wants us to be up close and experiencing who He is.  Don’t allow today’s present difficulties and trials keep you from marching right into the Lord’s presence to seek His face.  Open your bible and cry out to Jesus to come and help you.  He is right there!  He’s there to offer wisdom, counsel, peace, comfort, truth…whatever it is that you need. It’s in these moments we experience God and are walking in real, honest relationship with Him. It’s here we gain experiential knowledge of God, so much so that when others are going through a trial we can testify, “It’s going to be okay!  I know because of how God has led me…”  Then when asked, “What do you love about the Lord?”, you’ll have a testimony to share.

“Let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, for in these I delight.”  Jeremiah 9:24


Jesus Cares This Much


Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are given the opportunity to pray glorious prayers.  We say,

“Lord, I want to be humble like You,”

“Lord teach me Your ways,”

“Lord give me the treasures of wisdom and knowledge found in Your heart…”

These prayers, birthed in the heart of God, are a gift from Him.  They are moments He opens our eyes to see the incomparable beauty of Jesus, and that our highest aim and greatest pleasure is to be more like Him.  As a loving Bridegroom, He has made it His greatest pleasure to answer these prayers. He removes every spot, every blemish and wrinkle from those who have chosen to be His.

More often than not, however, I unconsciously see my prayers to become like Him answered in the context of ease.  I’m slowly learning that, unfortunately, ease is never the way to become like the One who came to serve and not to be served. Ease will never produce the context my heart needs to be thoroughly purged from self; it will never produce the context my heart needs to learn the humility of Christ.  Rather it is pressure, hardship, and trials that reveal where I am completely unlike Him, and in becoming aware of this, I have the opportunity to go to the throne of grace to receive His mercy and learn from Him.

As one who cleaned residences and was a housekeeper for many years, I can attest to the labor it is to remove stains and wrinkles from garments and tablecloths.  It was probably my least favorite part of the job; my patience was quite limited as I scrubbed away at a wine spot or pressed a garment over and over again to get a wrinkle out.  One day as I ironed a shirt I remembered the verse about Jesus “washing us with the water of His word” so as to remove every spot, wrinkle and blemish (Ephesians 5:26-27). That day this truth took on a new meaning.  I realized how much a garment goes through in order to appear stunning– removing stains requires agitation and friction, while removing wrinkles takes heat and pressure.  It’s not done with the wave of a hand.  Likewise, the spots and wrinkles Jesus sees in our hearts are removed through the pressure of circumstances, the agitation and friction in relationships, and the heat of His gaze upon us.  Our blemishes and wrinkles do not turn Him away, nor do they simply disappear.  Rather, when we pray to have them removed, He puts on His cleaning gloves and heats His iron!  He sets up divine opportunities for the stains to be washed away and the wrinkles to be pressed out.

Difficulty and hardship are what make us want to give up and quit.  But no matter where the pressure is coming from, I’m beginning to believe they are instances He is cleansing us and ironing us out.  Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).  And once again, “Rejoice always…in everything give thanks…”  (1 Thess. 5:16, 18).  He said these things knowing that his aim in life was not to have a big ministry, it was not to have possessions or a comfortable life; it was to be become like Christ.  He longed to have fellowship with Jesus in the midst of suffering, not to be delivered out of it (Phil 3:10).  Every season, every opportunity that came in his life he took it as a means to be conformed to the image, as an opportunity to humble himself before God and men because that was what Jesus did.  Jesus, his friend, his helper, his teacher, his glory.  That was all Paul wanted, and thus he found the way to go through difficulty was to rejoice, knowing God would take care of everything that concerned him (Psalm 138:8).

So as I find myself in the midst of some relational pressures, the Lord dropped into my spirit:

“Jesus cares for me so much, He will not deliver me out of this situation.”

He’s working on me.  He’s washing.  He’s scrubbing.  He’s ironing me out.  The uncomfortable nature of the pressure is actually working for me, not against me.  As I yield to Him in the midst of the agitation He’s removing the sin and stains from my life. Yes it’s uncomfortable.  Yes it takes time. He told us the path to life is difficult.  He told us we would have trial and tribulation in this life.  But He also said He would give us His peace in the midst of it.  This, yes even this, is an opportunity to rejoice!

Jesus cares for me so much, He won’t deliver me out of the situation, but He will give me the grace to go through it with another spot removed, another wrinkle made smooth.


“Will you love Me here?”

It wasn’t until I was 22 that I encountered the love of God.  Up until that point I knew of God, believed the Scriptures were my source of truth, but had not truly encountered Him.  Once I did, it changed everything.  In my youthful zeal I wanted nothing more than to give up everything and serve Him every way I knew how.  For the first time in my life, I knew I was called to greatness and actually believed I would do great things.  In my imagination, that looked like trekking to the farthest parts of the earth and living in the most dire conditions– all to reach the lost and give them the good news I had received.  After all, that’s what Jesus’ disciples did, and I wanted to be a disciple.

That was in my heart– that was what love looked like.  Perhaps for some, loving God truly does look like that.  And perhaps someday, the Lord will call me to that lifestyle.  Yet just a decade later, I’ve found myself in the mid-west, living in a city I have never heard of, serving at a house of prayer, married, and about to welcome our first child into the world.  Ten years ago serving the Lord would have never looked quite like this…but here I am.  The desire to give up everything and serve Him in every way still rings true today; the knowledge I am made for great things still resounds in my core.

Sitting in silence one morning, I found a question rising up in my heart that maybe you have found in your own:

“Am I fulfilling God’s highest purpose for my life?  Surely I should be doing more…

If I were to answer that question by looking at what I thought my life would look like ten years ago, I’d have to say no, I am not fulfilling God’s highest purpose in my life,  because certainly what I envisioned in my youthful zeal contained God’s best.

As this question rattled around in my mind and heart, I noticed the Lord responding to my question with one of His own:

“Will you love Me here?”

His question brought forth more questions… to bring an answer to my question.  (How does He do that!?)

“Will you love Me here?”  provoked me to ask:

What is the Lord actually wanting from my life?  At the end of it all, what is the Lord’s highest desire, highest calling for me to fulfill?  Is it to sacrifice the most, to move in the greatest displays of power because of great faith, to bring the most number of people into the kingdom through ardent evangelism?  Is it to be a martyr and go into the most dangerous places on earth so that I can say I have no fear?”

Because on some level, in my youthful zeal, if I really loved God, that is what I would do  in order to reveal I truly loved God.   Yet as Jesus asked me “Will you love Me here,” I realized that while doing some of these great exploits are for us as children of God, they can come at the expense of loving God in the way He is calling us to in the situation we currently find ourselves in. The question, “Will you love Me here,” reinforced that the highest calling and desire of God’s heart for my life is to learn how to love Him and love those around me in the current season.

“Loving Him here” looks like fulfilling my obligations when I don’t feel like it or think it makes a difference, it looks like learning to humble myself and repent when in the wrong, it looks like showing kindness to those who offend me or annoy me, it looks like surrendering my ideas of what loving Him looks like and trusting Him with my life…even those burning desires.  Doing this on a day to day basis is fulfilling God’s highest purpose, because it is through these small sacrifices the heart is transformed into the image of Jesus who fully relied upon and trusted the Father in every season of life.  It’s in these small “deaths” of forsaking our own will for the Lord’s, a thousand times a day, that we are walking out His highest  for our life and manifesting our love for Him.  And yes, for some that looks like going into the darkest parts of the earth, putting themselves and even family members at risk.  But we cannot have our idea of what our life in God “should” look like overtake our ability to learn to love Him and others where God has us serving in the current season.  If we do, we will constantly live in a place of turmoil, feeling we have “missed” God’s highest for our life, all the while not taking advantage of the opportunities He has in front of us to love Him where we are at.

At the end of all of our lives, we will come face to face with the Shepherd of our souls, who in His perfect leadership is leading us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:3).  Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily look like doing the most intense, giving the most money, or venturing to the farthest parts of the earth.  It does look like complete surrender of our life into His hands, wherever He is leading us.  No matter where we are at and what our life looks like in this current season, the question He asks of us all is, “Will you love Me here?”   Once we resolve in our heart that yes, we will love Him where we are at, we have to let Him show us what that looks like for the time being.  It might be He’s telling you to trust Him with the timing of those dreams and desires that still burn in your heart but have no way of knowing how to make them happen.  It may look like rising up in greater boldness to go and pray for someone.  It may look like learning to be more disciplined so that you spend more time with Him in prayer.  It may even look like not filling your schedule because your body has to prepare for birth…(yes that’s me right now).

To the outsider, your life may look ordinary and plain, but to the Lord who knows you perfectly, He will see the surrender you are making on a day to day basis, learning to trust, learning to love Him, right where you are, and that is God’s highest purpose for  your life.  I didn’t always see it that way, but I do now.  And to be honest, I still believe He has some of those other things for me in the future…but if I’m not loving Him here in the ways He is calling me to, would I really be prepared to love Him elsewhere doing other things? I don’t think so.  That’s why I’m thankful He’s teaching me to be content to love Him where I am, because when He calls me elsewhere or to do other things, I’ll take with me a heart that has first been formed to love rather than to do.

“JuliAnn, will you love Me here?”  

“Yes Lord, my heart is saying yes.  Help me love You here, because that is my highest calling in this life.”

The Beauty of the Lord: It Changes Everything

In our own devices, we don’t discern or understand the beauty of the Lord Jesus.  We don’t possess the ability to see His true worth.  It is the Holy Spirit among us, in us, that awakens our dead spirit, opens our spiritual eyes, and touches our heart to love Jesus and be able to testify with our own lips, “Lord Jesus, You are beautiful, You are worthy, and there is nothing I desire beside You.”

I was having such a day.  It was a moment in time when I didn’t want to do anything but simply sit in His presence to tell Him over and over again that He is beautiful. The longing to do this for all my days stirred within.  All the while, I recognized this was not something that happened because of myself– it was a gift, a grace the Holy Spirit opened up that day.

What does it mean that He is beautiful?  As I sat with eyes closed and heart turned towards Him and words began to come forth from my mouth, I was seeing His beauty both as what He is and what He does, and it was filling me with the most blessed satisfaction inside.

Because of the beauty of His heart, what He does is also beautiful.  Just as that which stirs in our hearts motivates and dictates our actions, so it is with God.  But unlike us, He is perfectly pure inside, and thus all that He does is pure and beautiful. There is no thought of selfish ambition, no desire to take advantage of others, no purpose in Him to overtake the weak and helpless.  He is the only one– ever– who out of the greatness of His authority chose to serve the lowest.

Jesus is beautiful because He is pure inside and out.  That purity is not just in the flesh– it emanates from His being as actual light, or what the bible calls glory.  He is so pure that real light comes from Him.  It was veiled when He was in the flesh, but when the Father chose to unveil it, humanity could visibly see it (see Matthew 17:1-6).

While there are many things we “do” in life, beholding the beauty of the Lord is that which refreshes our spirits, aligns our hearts to become like Him, and reveals to us our deeper purpose.  Yes, the Lord has given us mandates, assignments, and even given us gifts to accomplish them, however; He also made us to be temples of His glory (1 Cor. 6:19).  The purity and perfection of Jesus is meant to dwell in us, and like it does Him, shine forth from us.  The bible calls the redeemed “sons of light,” and “sons of the day,” (1 Thess. 5:5), and that is not mere language. Though we cannot see it now, those born of God have the eternal glory of the Holy Spirit shining inside, just as Jesus did.  One day, the fullness of who we are will be revealed as we are raised with glory at the return of Jesus (1 Cor. 15).

As my heart was drawn to His beauty that day, my heart longed for a person I had just met to encounter the beauty of the Lord.  I realized it wasn’t merely my own desire for him to see what I was seeing, it was the Spirit of God inside desiring his eyes to be opened to who He is, because it would transform his life.  We were made for Him, and our greatest good and delight is found when we know Him.  I was experiencing the delight and satisfaction of seeing the beauty of the Lord that day, and God wanted this man to experience it too.

Jesus’ name is known all throughout the earth.  Many have opinions about Him.  But it is the Holy Spirit who truly knows the beauty and worth of Jesus, and it is He alone who reveals Jesus to the human heart.  Seeing Jesus as He is is what transforms a person.  Yes there are many things to do on this earth, many things of social activism and justice that is good and right, but the greatest need of humanity is for our eyes to be opened to the beauty of the Lord.  It is when we see Him we are satisfied, we are comforted, we are strengthened, we are aligned.  Thus one of our greatest prayers can become, “Lord, reveal Your beauty to my heart,” and on behalf of others, “Open up the eyes of their heart to see Your beauty.”  It changes everything.

God’s Faithfulness in the Midst of Establishing Leaders

Recently I’ve been reading through portions of the Old Testament.  There is so much wisdom to be found throughout every section of Scripture, whether its a historical book, one of the prophets or wisdom literature.  That’s what I love about God’s Word- He speaks to us in all of it.

What struck me in the 1 Samuel narrative was how God commissioned the people to respond not to the “right” leadership but to God Himself.  Ultimately Saul was put in place as king over Israel, though he was not God’s choice. Not only was Saul not God’s choice, the desire for a king outside of God’s will was described as “wickedness” (1 Sam. 12:20).  It was in the midst of this wickedness that the Lord beckoned the people to turn to Him wholeheartedly, because He would continue to establish them despite the leadership over them.  This brought out a key point to my heart:  God is sovereign over having weak, imperfect leaders, or even the “wrong” leaders.  Let’s dive in a little to the text itself to pull out the gems.

In 1 Samuel 8, Israel begins to demand that a king be put in place over them so that they could be like the other nations (8:5b).  Up to that point, Israel had been through a season of being “judged and delivered” by judges, then Samuel was established as prophet to the nation (1 Samuel 3:20).  Yet as Samuel aged and his sons did not walk in his ways, Israel became restless and cried out for a king.

The Lord heeded the people’s cries, but the Lord revealed their desire for a king was actually a rejection of the Lord Himself (1 Sam. 8:7).  The character of earthly kings was revealed so that Israel would know what they got themselves into (1 Sam. 8:10-20). After giving fair warning, the Lord promised to give them a king.  He found that king in Saul– a son of the tribe of Benjamin– and anointed him commander over the people of Israel (1 Sam. 9:14-16; 10:1).

Here is where things get very interesting.  God made known that Israel’s cry for a king was not His desire, and He also told them plainly what a king would do to them.  Samuel went so far as to say that Israel’s desire for a king was wickedness (1 Sam. 12:20). And yet despite all of this, the Lord still promised Israel’s goodness and blessing if they continued to obey the Lord and love Him wholeheartedly, saying:

“Do no fear.  You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart… 22 For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people… 25 But if you do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”

(1 Sam. 12:20, 22, 25).

As I read this, I was seeing the goodness of God surpass the blunderings and failures of man.  Leadership is part of every sphere of society– from international relations, national government, states, cities, business, organizations, and individual homes.  We cannot escape how integral establishing leadership is no matter what sphere it is in.  If we are following the Lord, the desire is to have the right leadership in place at the right time.  But will we get it right every time?  The chances are pretty slim that we will.  And yet here the sovereignty and goodness of God begins to shine through.

Saul was not God’s choice for Israel, but he was anointed at the people’s cries.  Ultimately the Lord’s heart was for the people to love Him, to follow Him and have no idols.  This was still possible, no matter who was established as leader at that time.   God’s purpose for the people remained same though Saul was made king:  “Love Me, follow Me, be holy as I am holy.”  The people could do this despite leadership.

Israel’s choice did create certain dynamics for the nation, but the point being drawn out here is that God promised to be God to Israel despite their wickedness and lack of understanding in demanding a king.  He was going to continue to do them good as they served Him because He loved them and made covenant with them.  God would still establish them and bless them as they turned their hearts to Him.

So often we look at leadership- again, whether on a personal, local, national or international level, and think we are doomed because of who is in place as leader.  The Word reveals that it is actually the response of the people to God that either brings blessing or cursing.  Do we trust the Lord enough to pursue righteousness wholeheartedly and seek to see it established in others around us and forsake thinking all is lost because of who is in leadership?  God is looking for our response to Him.  He raises up kings and tears them down, He has used both good and evil men to accomplish His purposes in the earth, but ultimately He is looking at the hearts of the people– will we turn to Him and serve Him with all that we are?  Our response to God, not the perfection of our leaders or even the “right” leaders, is what saves us.

There will always be a need to establish leaders in various spheres, but we can be confident in the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness despite leadership as we turn our hearts to Him.