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.

“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.



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.

The Same Access Yesterday, Today, and Forever

I woke up at 2am, ridiculously hungry, so I decided to get something to eat. Reflecting on it, my hunger was not just for physical food, it was also for the presence of the Lord.  The last few days had been full of heart gymnastics (if I were at the Rio Olympics, I would have won the gold, silver, and bronze medals), and in the pain I felt I began to shut my heart down to the Lord.  Rather than going to Him to receive the wisdom, strength, love and encouragement He always offers, I turned to worldly comforts– talking things through with others (we like to call it venting), watching movies, sleeping through my quiet time.  None of these things are bad or sinful, but we know when we, in a sense, avoid God in an attempt to ease our pain and receive comfort from something other than Him.  That’s what I was doing, and the outcome was a distance I could tangibly feel and a growing hunger for His presence.

The distance I felt was not because He was distant, but because I distanced myself… but it felt like He was distant.  This phenomena is observable in our earthly marriages and in our relationships with other believers because of the bond of covenant we share.  If I intentionally avoid my husband in subtle ways because my heart is in pain, he is going to be affected; our relationship will be affected.  What can happen is rather than owning up to our own deficiency and realizing the walls we put up, we feel others are distant and it further removes us from wanting to be with them because we feel they don’t want to be around us.  And that is exactly what had crept into my life the last few days.  I could feel a distance in my heart I created, began to feel as if God was not available, and thus continued to remove myself from being near Him.

Despite the state of my heart, the Lord, in all His patience, began to speak to me about “access” in the middle of the night while my stomach was growling and my spirit longing. The distance I created in the relationship was not the only issue.  When we draw away from the Lord, it is perpetrated by something: shame, guilt, anger–we hide away from Him for a reason.  And while there may be compounded reasons and layers of why we hide, He continues to call out to us in the same way He did with Adam and Eve, “Where are you?”  Genesis 3:9.  Despite the things we do to affect our relationship with God, He is the constant One, always loving, always persevering, always reaching out to us.

The access to the Father’s presence, though at times we feel is closed off, is always open.  It’s always open because Christ forever lives in God’s presence, opening up the way for us to come in.  He is the One who prayed, “Father, I desire that those whom You have given Me may be with Me where I am.”  John 17:24 (emphasis mine).  The longing of Jesus’ heart is for us to be with Him, always.  The access we have been given to the presence of God and to His love is absolute, never ending, never changing, though we may wander at times.

And there is no person on earth who has been given anything different than we have.  It’s the same access, for every person, from every culture– we have access to God through Jesus Christ.  It’s the same access for you as it is for me, and it’s the same access today as it was yesterday, and it will be the same access in the future.  In the quiet of the night, my hunger quelled, this word He spoke to my heart about having “the same access” to Him as always, began to penetrate down into me to break down the distance I felt.  He was there all along, had never left.  He was watching the gymnastics my heart was going through and was waiting for me to come closer to Him.

This is obviously not a new revelation by any means.  However, in the midst of walking through life and encountering all the things that press upon us and seeing the ways our hearts respond (sometimes not for the good), He continually comes to remind us, “I am here, I’ve always been here, and I’ll always be here.”  What comfort He gives us.  What assurance we have in this covenant.  Imperfect as we are, His perfection and enduring love will never fail us if we keep saying yes to Him.  I went to sleep with warmth in my heart knowing despite my reactions over the last few days, God was not closing Himself off or putting up a wall between us, He was doing the exact opposite– assuring me of the access I had and will always have to Him.

On Saturday mornings I go to the prayer room, and on my way today, more of my walls came down. Tears filled my eyes and I was finally able to declare to Him once again my desire to be near Him.  I had avoided Him, had distance myself, but I didn’t want to anymore. To top it all off, I turned on a devotional set at the prayer room that ended up expressing my heart perfectly.  You can listen to it by going to this link: Marshall Kirkman  (fast forward to 1 hour and 2 minutes).

Here are excerpts from this set:

“I still love You, despite all my failures.  I know I need You, first in my heart.  I still want You, more than I want this world, these bones You have broken will be my song to You… Come awaken my heart, all over again… Awaken my heart like when we first met, Lord draw me away… Let us stop running, stop hiding from You, and quiet our souls, and run to You, because only a holy God can quench the thirst that’s inside.”

Once again, the knowledge of His love has flooded me.  It’s a love I never want to be without…though sometimes choose to go without. He’s reminded me we were never meant to live without His love, He made us for it and has given us constant access to it now and forevermore.  May you run into it again.



Sometimes I feel such a pressure to “make something” of myself.  In His great design, the Lord actually created us to desire greatness, to make impact, to have influence.  Though its not necessarily something we express verbally, we each have hidden desires in our hearts of what we want to accomplish in life– what we believe God has called us to and who we desire to become. I believe this is the redeemed desire to “make something” of ourselves.  Unfortunately, especially in our Western context, these desires can be muddled and caught up in a world of comparison, and there is a measure we use to identify if we are “making it” or not.

When we look at God’s creation, He speaks to us so distinctly about the issue of comparison, and offers us wisdom to keep our hearts at peace as we move forward in the calling and destiny He created us for. I’ve seen this expressed most beautifully through His creation of flowers.

I’ve walked many mountain paths, many desert trails and canyon valley’s in my short years, and what fascinates me is the immense diversity of His creation.  Walking in the midst of His handiwork, you experience the grand-views of massive landscapes and the microcosms of life found along each trail.  It’s on many of these walks I’ve noticed the diminutive flowers that dot along the sides of the trails.  Some flowers are so small, so imperceptible, their purpose is questionable.  They’re so tiny, so easily trampled upon, their petals so frail and would be destroyed even by a harsh rain storm.  And yet, when you look closer, you realize that it’s there, blooming, doing exactly what God created it for.

This thought sent me on a search to look at the various types of flowers, realizing that His purpose in making them was simply to create beauty.  I found thousands upon thousands of different flowers, every one of them so different in shape, size, color, and where they bloom.  But again, the point He was showing me was that they bloom.  The most astonishing one in complete contrast to those little flowers I find along trails was “the Queen of the Andes.”  This flower grows along the Andean mountains in South America, receiving its name because of its massive size.  Jutting up from a large bush-like structure, this flower can reach 20-30ft. tall, surviving harsh mountain conditions with little to no shelter.  And while some flowers bloom every year, this flower only releases its beauty once in its lifetime, which is about 80-100 years, and then dies week later.

The contrast in these flowers amazed me.  On one hand, God created the small, insignificant flowers perhaps no one would ever notice, on the other He made these towers that attract everyone’s attention and which only mature once.  Each flower was doing exactly as God intended it to– to bloom– and yet each was doing so in such a different way.  It made me wonder– do the small, minuscule flowers receive more glory from God than the Queen of the Andes?  Are they not each doing what God designed them to do, in His timing, and in His way?  Yes, they are.  One may be more noticed by man, but before God, they are each doing His will.

photo by JuliAnn York

photo by JuliAnn York

Our lives are meant to reflect and bring forth the glory of God into this world– we are the light (Matthew 5:14).  As sons and daughters, He has instilled into each one of us the glory of Himself through the Holy Spirit and has also created us to do good works (Eph. 2:10).  But just like the flowers, we have each been given such a different place of influence, a different audience to reach, a different number of people to reach.  He has created us all with a desire for greatness (to bloom), but really we don’t know if we are like a Queen of the Andes or a flower dotting the side of a trail.  Each is to do God’s will, and in that alone He is pleased.  Comparison will help you try to be like another flower, whereas He’s just calling you to bloom.  We’ll release beauty, no matter where it is and for who it is, if we simply choose to do what He’s calling us to.  He wants us to bloom, in this He is well pleased– the rest is up to Him!

Receiving Strength to Overcome Through the Word

Justin Rizzo from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City sings a phrase I have found to be very true:  “Life isn’t only but it’s always a war.”  I’ve taken this to mean that God’s purpose for life was not to be in a battle, but because of sin and the state of our world, we are always in one.  Once Jesus returns this will not be the case as we will receive resurrected bodies and our sin nature will be completely vanquished, but until that time we have a real battle in our flesh and an enemy who is relentless to attack. Our priority is simply to learn how to overcome and learn how to walk in victory no matter the battle we face.

In the midst of a battle against sin, the Word of God is a great comfort and source of strength.  However, I’ve found the enemy easily uses the Word as a source of accusation that hinders me from getting in the Word, which can be even more detrimental!  Peter said to “desire the pure milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:1-2), because as newborn babes, we need strength and nourishment!

Some of the greatest accusations come when reading passages that contain God’s commands: the ten commandments, the Proverbs, the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), and the various places in the New Testament where we are given a list of “do’s and don’ts” (Romans 12-14; Ephesians 4:17-6:20; Philippians 4:4-9; Colossians 3:1-4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22; the entire book of James!, etc.).   As we read, there is a conversation in our minds, and I believe the Lord wants that conversation to be redirected and renewed from hearing accusations to receive strength, affirmation, and emboldened to walk in greater godliness.

Jesus testified He was sent to save the world, not condemn it (John 3:17).  But often while reading we may hear condemning words.  For instance, I might read:   “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29)…all the while the thoughts going through my mind are, “I’m a jerk!  I just told Suzie how much Sally is frustrating me, which was definitely not kind or uplifting or grace filled.  Why am I so upset anyway?  It wasn’t that big of a deal! I’m just so emotional.”  This type of conversation lingers, and by the time I’m finished reading I mostly feel guilty, ashamed, and frustrated.

Wow, all that just from reading the Word of God!  Is this really what God desires as we read His word? I don’t think so!  But it is a reality that happens.  Knowing God’s heart becomes key in this instance, as well as renewing the conversation in our minds.   He does not cast His beloved ones into a sea of despair because of their sin– He is the one who lifts us out of it and emboldens us to overcome it, and thus thoughts that bring us into despair are not from Him.  The voice of accusation found when reading the Word has to go, and our conversation with God has to be renewed so that we can receive from Him in the Word as He intended.

While God’s commands are weighty in that they put a high standard upon us to follow, we have to remember no one can fulfill them– Jesus is the only one who did. Yet at the same time He says, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”  (Matthew 5:48).  Reading God’s commands, rather than putting an irremovable weight upon us when struggling with sin can be the very comfort and strength we need to overcome, as it creates the opportunity for us to converse with God openly.  It’s as if we are putting a huge spotlight on our hearts where we can be more vulnerable with God.  Rather than talking to ourselves about all the ways we are terrible at fulfilling God’s commands, we can begin to talk to Him, asking Him for help, admitting our failures.  The conversation can be transformed from the former into this:

“Lord, I agree with your command to not have any corrupt word proceed out of my mouth.  I confess that yesterday I said something about Sally to Suzie that was not beneficial for my heart nor hers, and I spoke it out of my frustration and impatience.  I’m sorry Father.  Lord help me to put a guard over my mouth, help me to speak that which brings grace to the hearers.”

And then you can wait, see if He is speaking anything to you, see if there is more you need to repent for or offer up thanksgiving, because often in this conversation He releases His presence and love!  The Word thus becomes a conversation starter between our hearts and God’s.  The weight we feel from the commands doesn’t have to turn into condemnation or despair, but rather can become the source of our hearts turning to Him to receive mercy and strength.  He promises both that He is humble and gentle in teaching us His ways, and also that He releases grace to those who humble themselves before Him to learn His ways.  What assurance we have in going to Him for help when we know we have done wrong!  The enemy wants to press us down to feel condemned, while our Father reaches down to strengthen and encourage us.  He will be completely honest with us, which can be painful, but it is never to bring about despair.  His honesty about our sin and disobedience to His commands is to guide us to repentance, to learn His ways so that we can live in greater abundance that is found from living in righteousness.

“Come to Me…take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:29

“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He teaches sinners in the way.  The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way.”  Psalm 25:8-9

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time…”  1 Peter 5:6

Rather than condemn us, Jesus washes us with His Word to cleanse us and remove every spot (Ephesians 5:26-27).  The Word can thus become, and is, a place to receive from God in the midst of our struggles to help us overcome.  It is a place where our heart can connect to the Lord’s and where He can reveal deeper things in our hearts as His commands are released into our soul, exposing sin and shame.

May the Word of God continue to be a source of strength to your soul, a place of communing with His Spirit that helps you overcome all things.  May it become a delight to your soul, and may you desire His commands, knowing they are good and right.

“Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.”  Psalm 119:35