The Gift of All Gifts

“For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground:  Isaiah 44:3

I’ve said goodbye to loved ones who are now in heaven.  My mother died when I was 30.  I never knew my grandfathers.  One grandmother passed away when I was 10 and the other when I was 25.  My Dad went home to heaven in 2003. And our son, Ryan, in 2019 on Father’s Day.  When you those you love have been nearby, and then they’re gone, the absence is both excruciating and disorienting before it can be comforting.

Think of Jesus’ mother, his disciples, and His friends, after He died.  Feeling His absence left a void the likes of which none of them had experienced before.  They didn’t just say goodbye to a son, or a parent, or a wife or husband; they said goodbye to God.  The One who was called Wisdom had walked with them.  The One who was called Love had consistently discerned their spiritual and physical needs.  The One who was called Counselor had spoken into their thoughts with perfectly crafted language.  When He announced that He was leaving, there was panic.  The caveat in this announcement, however, was the promise that He would come to them again in a much better way. 

It was only months later that Pentecost happened.  They got back the Spirit of the One they feared they had lost, and it was better.  He was right!  Instead of walking with Him on the roads of Judea, they were filled with His presence and took Him with them everywhere they went.  Instead of waiting their turn to speak with Him, His voice was inside, and His words were no longer for the masses; they were personal.  Daily, they were transformed by the incoming floods of Living Water. 

Oh Spirit of God, be poured out upon those who don’t have you or even want you.  Bring those dead in sin to living faith.  Be poured out to comfort those whose hearts are broken, to encourage those who are disillusioned with you.  Be poured out upon the dry bones of our lives, the places where the smell of death is still in the air.  Be poured out upon the Word which we know, the Word which has been preached to us, prayed over us, and yet has not taken root to change us.  Touch our barren landscapes with the promise of green.  We are the dry ground and You are the river.  Amen

Praying For What I’ve Stopped Praying For

But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”  Genesis 15:2

Abandoning prayer about anything is a mistake but abandoning prayer for what I’m most in need of is a grave error.  Prayerlessness is the result of unbelief.  I have concluded that God can’t, or won’t, do anything good for me.

God’s blessings come in the form of natural impossibilities.  When I hear the promise, I can laugh, because it is so far out of my reach.  God promises Abram an heir – and then descendants as numerous as the sands of the sea.  The thought of an heir was ludicrous enough.  His only heir was a slave of his household.  When God spoke, Abram and Sarah were too old to bear children.  Was God serious?  But Abram believed and his faith that God could do the impossible was credited to him as righteousness.

I’m amazed at most every prayer mapping retreat how people answer a question I love to ask during breaks.  “What are you going to prayer map when you leave here?”  Most give me an answer like this.  “What I really need from God is _____________, but I’ve prayed for so long and nothing has happened.  I’m going to create a prayer map for something less, something safer.”  I launch into a very animated response that encourages them to prayer map their deepest needs.

I should be asking myself, “Where have you lost faith in God?”  When captivity spans 15 years, when infertility enters the second decade of a marriage, when a wayward child hasn’t called home in many years, when depression has become a way of life, when financial struggle feels normal, when a family experiences a seemingly irreparable breech, these are the things that cause us to lose faith.  What we really need to prayer for, we don’t pray for.

I need to hear the voice of the God of Abraham.  He lives in Spirit form, right in my own heart.  He’s speaking constantly, wooing me to believe, wooing me to hope in Him again.  He is the One who does the impossible as He rewards the one who perseveres in prayer.

At this moment, the embers of faith are stirring in someone reading this.  Is it you?  Tears of relief are in your eyes as you realize that the deep discouragement that comes from resignation no longer needs to be your friend.  You can be fully alive to God, fully alive to faith, once again!  As you and I look at the sad themes of our lives, are we numbed out to the point of feeling nothing?  That is probably the very area where prayers of faith need to live.

I infuse my unbelief with your hope-giving Word.  Give me the grit to dig in and pray expectantly.  Amen

What’s Behind The Light

House of Jacob, come, let us walk in Yahweh’s light. For you have abandoned your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full from the east. Isaiah 2:5-6

Most people are drawn to the light. That’s the good news. But there are two kinds of light and one is fake. That’s the bad news. Satan masquerades himself as a god of light because he knows that if he shows us his true identity, we will be seized with fear. He must disguise himself into whatever he knows will appeal to his victims.

This is why I often encourage true believers to address this problem in prayer when praying for their families. They can restrict the enemy, with the spiritual authority they have in Christ, from putting on a demonic glitter that makes his way addicting.

Oh, the stories associated with this kind of praying! Sons have, all of a sudden, seen a girlfriend for who she is and broken up with her. Middle school children have, all of a sudden, seen the true nature of their ‘bad’ friends, and walked away from danger. A husband has, all of a sudden, seen the kind of woman he’s having an affair with and ended it. Once the demonic glitter was removed, loved ones stepped back, gasped, and came to their senses. None of us need be under the spell of false light.

Isaiah compels the people of God to turn away from the people of the east ~ the foreign and evil tribes outside their borders. What made the ‘east’ hard to resist was their ‘fullness’. With them as allies, they had access to their wealth. Horses and chariots were plentiful, gold and silver, abounded. Satan always rewards idolatry with temporary abundance.

All that glitters does not gleam with heaven’s light. All that is gilded is not godly. The propensity for self-preservation causes me to make alliances with anyone who promises to make my life better. Their offers sound generous, even loving.  But God promises to expose evil of every kind. What is veiled will be revealed. The veneer that glistens will crackle and feature what was behind it all along; something sinister and destructive.

Never have I needed more wisdom than in these last days when it’s hard to tell the church from the world. Demonic glitter abounds but if I’m willing to see the source of all the lights around me, God will show me. Once I see behind the mask, I’ll be so glad I asked for divine eyesight.

Make me uncomfortable in the presence of mask-bearers today. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Can I Comfort God?

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”  Isaiah 6:8

For the past week, I’ve been wondering how much I care about the passions of God’s heart.  I am to be invested in His dreams.  He wants to advance the kingdom.  Do I support it?  He also is frustrated.  Do I listen to Him in prayer and take part in what He might be feeling?  He doesn’t want to work alone.  He has chosen me to do kingdom work.  Am I engaged with what I was created by Him to do?  He grieves when His dreams for people are shattered by sin.  Does His pain move me? 

God sent Jesus to birth many children into the kingdom.  He, collectively, calls them His church, spiritual children being re-parented to maturity.  He’s wants to communicate to leaders about what to preach, when to pray, when to correct, when to restrain.  But if they don’t listen, the effect is catastrophic.  People languish and God’s dreams are broken.  Then He grieves.

  • Last Sunday, someone needed to come to the altar to repent of his sin.  The chains on his wrists could have been broken but the pastor didn’t listen to the Spirit to make an altar call.
  • Last Sunday, a woman attended church who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.  God prompted someone to pray for her healing but that person was self-focused and dismissed the nudging.
  • Last Sunday, a couple was hanging onto their marriage by a thread.  They decided to file for divorce on Monday morning.  God had a saving word for them but the sermon that should have been preached was never even conceived.

While I should be heartbroken for the people who missed opportunities for no fault of their own, I should be even more saddened for the Father who dreamt of blessing His children but saw sinful humanity failing to cooperate. 

I’m asking God to help me understand, more deeply, His heart and His passion.  Perhaps it’s possible for me, and you, to comfort the heart of a grieving Father.

It’s not about what I want.  About my ministry.  It’s all about what You want and me embarking on Your dreams.  I’m here.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Lifting Up What Is Almost Dead

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.  Isaiah 54;11

Hagar knew what it was to face death.  She experienced an isolation in the wilderness that offered no comfort. She held her nearly dead child in her arms.  Voice weak, completely dehydrated, and half starved.  No water or provision of food was in sight.  She smelled death but refused to succumb to what seemed to be the inevitable.  She poured out her complaint to the God of Israel.  Hagar said, “Let me not look on the death of my child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”  Genesis 21:16-18

Where did Hagar learn to do this?  From the very ones who forced her out of their presence.  Abraham and Sarah.  Oh, the irony.

I’ve cupped my hands around things that appeared to be dying.  Dreams, health, ministries, faith.  From all appearances, many would have said that hoping was foolish.  Death was staring me in the face.  All options were obscure at best.

Hagar, the least likely ministry leader, shows each of us the way to glory.  She prayed, listened, cast her hopes on God, and then obeyed.  She lifted up her boy to the God who breathes life into dead souls.  She could not know that a thousand years later, Ezekiel would watch God breathe over a whole valley of corpses and bring them to their feet.  By the breath of His mouth, He would transform skeletons into warriors.

Has God been true to His promise? Did he make Ishmael the father of a great nation?  Yes.  Many Palestinians have, and will, trust Christ.  When they embrace their Lord, how passionate they are!

Will God hear me when I take what is weak, infirmed, perhaps even dead, and lift it toward heaven?  Yes. Hagar was told to lift Ishmael up and hold him fast with her hand.  Instead of laying him down in defeat, she embraced him in heartfelt prayer.  And oh, what an outcome.

You long to breathe over all things expired.  Amen

Reflection:  Hopeless talk infects an atmosphere of faith.  What have you recently declared hopeless?  Pick it up.  Cup your hands around it.  Lift it up to feel the breath of a life-giving God.

He Emptied Himself to Fill My Emptiness

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessi11ng on your descendants.  Isaiah 44:3

The nature of God is to give.  He doesn’t throw down penny candy.  He gives out of his storehouse and empties it into empty places.  He pours water out on dry ground.  He pours out His Spirit on those who ask for Him.  He pours out His wisdom to those who seek it, according to Proverbs.  He pours out His thoughts to anyone who aches to know the mind of God for their times.  Wherever there is emptiness, it can be filled.

In these days, the mind of God begs to be shared through His prophets.  This world needs a kingdom clash but there won’t be one without intercessors asking God to pour out His Spirit on an earth that is empty of knowledge.  “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.  Joel 2:28 

God loves His creation and when He saw our emptiness, He sent Jesus, who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”  Philippians 2:7   This was called kenosis, from the Greek verb meaning, “to empty.”   The incarnation was living proof that God gives everything for those He loves.

When Jesus left this earth, He sent back His own Spirit, not a companion Spirit.  At my rebirth, His Spirit was poured out upon me.  What is the proof that my emptiness underwent a spiritual takeover?   “He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ John 7:37  Out of a previously empty spirit, my spirit now overflows with the Living Water of the Spirit.  I treasure the words of this old hymn.

To wait on the eternal God means that we terminate ourselves.
That we stop ourselves with our living, our doing, and activity;
Receive God in Christ as our life, our person, our replacement.

Paul said, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’ Galatians 2:20 If ever a life was poured out without reservation, giving evidence of a filling of the Spirit, it was the life of Paul.  Though previously highly educated, successful, and a zealot leader, he was empty.  His filling came while on a road to Damascus.  From then on, Living Water shaped his education, his success, and his zeal.  He was poured out and the world has never been the same.

Pour me out as a drink offering, Jesus.  Amen