Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hope

I trusted You
in Your word I hoped
and I believed
with joy I received
I heard the sound of Your voice
and my spirit rejoiced
my heart leapt within me
and then You led me out from that place
into a vast wilderness
of deep affliction
and utter darkness
where the sound of Your voice was music to my soul
but around me was a crushing weight
that I was broken under
though it seemed I could not hear You
I remembered
You and all Your wonderful promises to me
You led me into a place of dreadful darkness
through times of tears and turmoil
you tested me
I drank deeply the cup of bitterness
it was gall in my mouth
and I wanted to despise the day of Your word
disdain the dream
pour contempt on all I have hoped for
but I could not and cannot
a prisoner I am
to the sound of hope
to the sound that I heard
in the cool of the night
when Your voice carried me
and reminded me
Your voice has carried me
even when silent to me
Your voice has buoyed my soul
given me wings to soar
as I wait on you in hope
darkness has been like a shell surrounding me
and I’ve been like a chick breaking free
a butterfly formed in blackness
stepping out into the light
it hurts my eyes
but, I remember, and I believe
what I thought was trust has been formed deeper in me
Lord, let me see, Your light again
Your word a lamp to my feet
illuminate the path before me
I trust in You
in Your word I hope
and I believe
with joy I receive
I have heard the sound of Your voice
and my spirit rejoices
my heart leaps within me
and You lead me out from this place
into a spacious land
a land of peace

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Back to the Beginning

"For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."
I Corinthians 15:22

In many ways I had an ideal childhood.  Sometimes, when life gets hard, I long for the simpler days of being a kid again.  I’d like to be restored to that place of child-like innocence and wonder.

I grew up in small, safe, Midwestern towns.  As a boy I rode my bike all around town without fear (except for that dog that scared me once).  I played “Peanut” League and Little League baseball.  For practice my dad threw the ball to me from the middle of the street.  I hit it into a field next to a church.  Our backstop was our burn barrel.  If the ball went past the burn barrel I had to run after it and throw it back to my dad.

Besides baseball, I played with Lincoln Logs and Legos, enjoyed sleepovers with my best friend, Mike, and had a paper route.  Much of my paper route money was spent on sports cards.  Today, I have about 30,000 baseball, football, and basketball cards in boxes, most of which sit in a closet at my parent’s home in Michigan.

Sometimes on summer days we played in the woods down the street from the house, biked around town, bought candy and ice cream at a small convenience store called The Milk Depot,  ran through the sprinklers, or flung our bodies down the Slip-n-Slide in the backyard.

Not everything in my childhood was easy.  There were hard times.  My family had its share of struggles.  However, I don’t recall being burdened down by cares, worries, and disappointments.  In so many ways, my life was good.

And, in many ways, my life is still good.  But I have experienced my share of hardships, circumstances that seemed like setbacks, and disappointments.

These disappointments are an inevitable part of life.  Things do not always work out as we may have hoped they would.  We all make mistakes and bear the consequences.  Sometimes those mistakes cause our hearts to be weighed down by guilt and regret.  But I believe that the disappointments of life do not have to choke out our joy.  We can accept the love and forgiveness of God.  We can still experience the newness of life we felt when we first gave our hearts to Jesus.  We can live in the wonder of God’s amazing grace.

*the preceding was an excerpt from my book, Calling Out to Deep

Monday, August 27, 2012

Like a Child

Several years ago, while attending Christ for the Nations Institute, there was a period of time when I tried to get up early and spend some time in prayer.  Sometimes this resulted in me kneeling on a comfortable chair and drifting off into sleepiness.  But one morning God spoke to me.  He reminded me of when I was a young boy playing on the baseball team.  He reminded me of a swimming pool party our team had and how much carefree fun I had.  Then He said to me, “I want you to be like a child."

In one of my classes that very same morning, the teacher began talking about being like a child.  Obviously God was speaking to me.  The teacher shared the Scripture from Psalm 8:2 which says,

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”

It may seem odd, but in the midst of our battles we can be carefree like a child.  One of our best weapons is simply praising the Lord.

When I was in the 7th through 9th grades my friend Mike and I went to “Spiritual Warfare” camp.  It was intended to be like a spiritual boot camp for young people.  The time we looked forward to the most was the evening services, lingering at the altar and afterwards celebrating what God had done.

Looking back on those times, I’m not entirely certain I completely grasped the concept of spiritual warfare.  Perhaps I did more than I now remember.

I recall, on one occasion, sometime during Junior High or High School, Mike and I were walking to a small, wooden bridge where we used to pray sometimes.  The bridge was in his apartment complex, down the street from where he lived.  We decided to run to our place of prayer, shouting like we were going into battle.  It was our battle cry.  Did we grasp the reality of spiritual warfare?  Perhaps we did.  Perhaps, in our youthful innocence, we were just having fun.  And, perhaps, that’s just the way God wanted it to be.

Spiritual warfare is serious business, but there also needs to be joy in the fight.  There are real responsibilities that we need to accept with maturity.  God has not called us to be childish, but child-like.  God has not called us to live in denial of the battle, but not to be overly focused on it either.

Even in the midst of the battle we need times of lightheartedness and refreshing.  We can’t get so bogged down with everything around us - all the bad things going on in the world and the cares of this life.  We need to take the time to enjoy the simple things and the beauty of God’s creation.  We need to take time to rest in the Lord.    

*the preceding was an excerpt from my book, Calling Out to Deep

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How I Long To See the Day

"For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God."
Romans 8:20-21

the night is spent in turning
the minutes are counted, each, one by one
as every passing moment is a reminder
of the hope I grasp for
the deliverance for which I long
for years I have labored under this burden
and longed for the day, for the moment
when You would bring release
in this deep and desperate bondage
I can hear the cry of freedom
it rings out like a far of call
and even though it seems so far away
I can hear it, I can feel it
and it stirs within me a hopeful longing
that it won’t be long
my oppression, You have surely seen
my cry, You have heard indeed
these taskmasters, of them You have taken notice
my sorrows, You have surely known
to bring me up out of this land, You have said You will
to a land flowing with milk and honey
how I long to see that day!
to a good and spacious land, You have proclaimed
my affliction, it has reached Your heart
with compassion, You have turned Your eyes
how I long to see the day
the day when all my fears are whisked away

this night another reminder
of how I have tossed and turned in affliction
this day, how I can reflect upon
the sorrows that have rolled over me
sorrows like billows roll
with the surging of the storm, I am troubled
with the swelling of the ocean, I lose my way
with the rolling of each wave, I am surrounded
I tumble with each heave
my soul rises up in me, I let out a cry
the wave settles on the other side, and I issue a sigh
another prayer, another offering
another request, grasping for some light
in this moment of distress
in the tumult of this darkness
from a far off cloud I hear a cry
it’s the cry of freedom
and it stirs something deep within my heart
the day of deliverance is soon at hand
how I long to see the day!

Remember Me

who will hold me, on a cold, winter night?
who will shelter me, be my everlasting comfort?
won’t You take me into Your arms
and whisper into my ears
won’t You surround me, while I sleep
be my angel, who guards me
and watches over me with eternal vigilance
be the One who keeps me, from all danger
from all fear, from all destruction
keep me from evil, I pray
and from all temptation
deliver me in my hour of torment
as I lift my soul up to You
like a baby who sleeps so tenderly in her crib
be the Father who watches over me
and won’t ever let me stray
tonight, I am praying, that You will hear my groaning
and remember
turn Your eyes and remember, like you remembered Israel of old
You heard the cry of their bondage
their deepest sighing and innermost moaning
little comfort to provide for themselves, they hoped
wrapped in their own lonely arms, they cried
and wept
deeply
bitterly
softly
sobbing, they cried out
and You remembered
tonight, Lord, I pray, remember
remember me, on a blustery pier
gazing out across snowy waters
tears and snot on my face
remember me
in the nights of my groaning
my desperate longings
looking up at the ceiling and hoping
that you would answer my cry
remember me
at the altars of my childhood
leaning on Your breast
longing to listen to Your heart
remember me
remember me in the hour of trial
on my face, on the carpet, wondering if I would make it
remember my tears
remember my love
remember my longing
turn Your eyes, Your face, I pray, and remember
Your covenant
Your promises
hide me in Your shelter tonight, I pray
and remind me
of unfailing love and never-ending mercy
remember me

Thursday, August 23, 2012

northern night

northern sky
dancing lights
backdrop of darkness
sparkling pinpoints upon the blackness
ashes at my feet
I feel your heat
and add to you twigs and branches
puffs of oxygen
to fuel a fire
for this night is not the same without you
verdant shoreline
sandy, pebbled beach
your grit is in my fingertips
in you my toes find solace
my hands are your filter
and for this evening, you are my home
where is the boundary of the fire
as it fades into ebony?
might my soul find flight in you
may my spirit find quietness
may my mind find peace in your release
as you disappear into darkness
at the place where the day meets night
where the horizon waves goodbye to fading sunlight
and the freighter chugs proudly
no matter what time of day it is
wave, O wave – rolling onto Superior shore
come roll onto the shore of my heart
this beach is my banqueting table
His banner over me is Love
as the sounds of the northern night
gambol around me
and fill my mind with soothing memories
memories of northern nights

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Horn of Salvation

“I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
     my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
     my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
     and I have been saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:1-3

Sometimes, in the deep places of discouragement in life, we need someone to lift us up.  With no strength in ourselves, we are at the mercy of God.  We need God to be our rock, our fortress, our shield - the horn of our salvation. 

At a point where you may feel you cannot make it, God is your deliverer.  He is your shield against the enemy.  When He imparts His glory to you, you are lifted up and given the strength you need to carry on.    

According to the “Word Wealth” notes in my Bible*, the word “qeren” (English:  “horn”) refers to “A horn of an animal; a flask or cornet; a symbol of strength, power, and victory… Horned animals, such as oxen, goats, and rams, are symbols of strength.”  It goes on to say that the “‘horns of the altar’ (Lev. 4:7; 9:9; Ps. 118:27) are symbolic of the powerful presence of God.  The root from which qeren comes is qaran, ‘to have horns,’ ‘to shine.’”

What I like about the word “horn” is that it conveys both strength and glory.  In the throes of our deepest battles we need His strength and glory.  When you are being attacked by the enemy is when you need Him to be the horn of your salvation the most.  And when God shows up, when He acts on your behalf, He shows forth His strength and His glory in your life. 

It is in our places of deep brokenness, I believe, from which most emanates the glory of God.  Does not God glorify Himself through our brokenness?  As the Scripture says, “we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17)

Being broken is hard.  It is not fun.  On my face before God, pleading with Him for help with tears, is not the goal of my life.  I want to dance on clouds of victory, not lie alone in my bedroom crying out to God for help to make it another day.  But I believe my deep place of brokenness and agony before God, my place of anguish and turmoil; the valley of greatest darkness and despair, shall become a field of glory. 

The light of His unfailing love and mercy will shine on you and me.  He will lift us up from the shadows, and set us on a firm and stable place.  He is our rock, our strength.  He is our fortress, in whom we take refuge.  He is our shield and stronghold – the horn of our salvation! 

*The New Spirit Filled Life Bible, NKJV

Monday, August 6, 2012

When the Glory Comes…

it must be scandalous, like something I should not have seen
more intimate than a mortal man should dare to be
but, still,
I am here!

when the weight of the glory comes
will you be able to stand under it?
cast a casual glance at His feet
and just keep on eating
cause when the fire comes, it will burn
when His presence falls, it will lift you up
when the weight of His glory comes
just keep smiling
look at your friend, smile at your neighbor
with a knowing look in your eye
unspoken, but understood
that for so long we have waited for this day
this day, when His glory would fall
for so long we have prayed
for revival to come

here He hides me
in the cleft of the rock
His hand upon me, and I catch a glimpse of glory
it must be scandalous, like something I should not have seen
more intimate than a mortal man should dare to be
but, still,
I am here!

in the year King Uzziah died… I saw the Lord
on the road to Damascus, I encountered Him
high and lifted up, He was
a blinding light, He is
all these problems that I’ve been dwelling on for so long
whisked away, with just one encounter of glory
when I see His face, that is all it takes
in the night when He met me
we wrestled until daybreak
and when I laid my head on a stone for rest
surely, the presence of the Lord was in this place
and I was not aware!
when he stepped out on the scene
indeed, we beheld His glory
full of grace and truth
and in quiet, tender moments, when I lay my head on His breast
I can feel glory shoot right through me
and the other night, when I laid my head to rest
who would have believed, that I would dream
that would lead me from here to there
far away from what I call home
and into a place where I’d feel often alone
yet, deep in this place where my soul is refined
He longs and desires, that my light would shine
when His glory comes…

when the weight of His glory comes
will you be able to bear the weight of it?
in this cloud of glory
I can feel the strength of the Lord
though I cannot bear it
He reaches down and takes my hand
urges me to go on
though I stumble and I falter
in my journey towards His throne
He says, “Rise up, My child, Rise Up,
You can make it!”

Lord, I want to encounter You
in ways greater than I’ve ever known before
at the end of this road of suffering, I pray
let Your glory come
let Your glory come

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.  But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.”
Exodus 24:9-11

The Keeper of My Dream

“They hurt his feet with fetters,
He was laid in irons.
Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.
Psalm 105:18-19

tonight, Lord Jesus, I pray
that you would unlock the chains that have bound me
for I remember long ago
the dream that arose from my heart
and how I reached out with hope and received it
claimed it as my own
a willing receiver, I believed
and I recall, how we drove down that highway
you and me
and the dream was so alive in my heart
this journey we embarked on together
this magnificent quest, yes, I believed
I knew the journey would not be easy
but who knew it would be this hard?
who knew I’d end up this broken?
who knew I’d lift beseeching hands to You
in such desperate moments?
they have plowed down my back
and made their furrows long
they’ve stripped me bare
my soul has been made gaunt
and I can only breathe with heavy sighs
my God, my God, why?
they have clapped my feet in irons
bound my hands in shackles
led me out like a sheep to the slaughter
when I open my mouth I voice out my complaint
in the privacy of prayers I make loud my anger
and lash out at You
yet, I still lift my voice to heaven
with this burden that has been laid on my back
I have borne some defeats
been dealt some setbacks
but I arise another day
to write the vision down and make it plain
even though now my soul is limping
and I need You now more than I thought I needed You then
I pray, let me run again with my vision
may I arise to the glorious day
cause if it comes to pass it’s going to have to be You
for heaped upon me is my own brokenness
and I can barely lift my head
dear Jesus, answer me
come to me tonight and break off the shackles of my shame
be the fulfillment of my dream
once again, command my destiny
may the trial be over, the testing complete
for in You all things have been perfected
I offer to You
the tattered remnants of the dream You gave me
please write a new chapter in my story
bring me out into a spacious land
a land of rich fulfillment
be the keeper of my dream

“‘They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,’ 
    let Israel say
‘they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
    but they have not gained the victory over me.
Plowmen have plowed my back
    and made their furrows long.
But the Lord is righteous; 
    he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.’”
Psalm 129:1-4

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Come Quickly

O God, be not silent
be not far off
for my soul is in agony
and I cannot hear Your voice
though I know You are close, as close as the mention of Your name
I need to hear You, I need to feel You
I need to know that You are and that You still care for me
my sins have been heaped up upon me
but I know, that you cast them far away
as far as the east is from the west
O my God, be not far off
come quickly, Lord, to save me
for my spirit is crushed under the weight of cares
and disappointments
rise up, O Lord, and be my Defender
for my soul is weary with sorrow
all day and all night
my soul cries out
sometimes only a whimper
a prayer of exasperation
hoping that You will once again come near to me
that You will be near me
and not let my enemies triumph over me
save, me, O Lord, in Your unfailing love
do not reject me
do not turn Your face away from me
in these moments of my distress
I need to know that You are still close to me
and I am still close to You
and that, in Your sight, I am acceptable
O Jesus, restore me
in Your righteousness, in Your unfailing love
I am weary under the fog of my affliction
my oppressors surround me every day
and breathe out lies and accusations
I pray, Lord Jesus, that you would silence their voice
that You would be strong in me
and the enemy would have no place
no foothold
no ability to torment me
come quickly, Lord, come quickly



River of Healing

river, river that runs through me
lead me, lead me into the deep center stream of Your will
O Great River, invisible as You are
I am overwhelmed at the sight of You
and I want to be overcome by the whole of You
as Your torrents wash over me
dipping my head back in Your stream
I feel the sunlight on my face
I feel the breath of the universe on my skin
and it is wholly refreshing
swimming here, in Your river

there is a stream that makes glad the city of God
the Lord is within her, she will not fall
she will stand at the break of day
there is a mountain from which flows
a river that brings cleansing and healing to the nations
nations will rise up, they will rise up
at the glory of the River that flows
from a mountainous throne

there is a deluge from heaven
and I am running in it
I am dancing in the downpour
sprinting through grass that has been soaked
flinging my body, splashing in puddles of glory
I am running like a prisoner set free
for my soul has been liberated in the path of Your commands
a shout from heaven
and the darkness that has gripped me is dispersed
scattered in many directions
shout my name, I want to hear!
that I am free and the enemy cannot touch me anymore

waterfall, waterfall that falls over me
your force, like Niagara, infuses me with power
lead me, lead me, I pray, into the deep place of Your will
be like a fountain of life which wells up inside of me
be like a spout of liberty that I cannot contain
you rise up from deep inside me
I cannot hold back this gush of power
I cannot quench this presence
I cannot dam this river
it will flow and not stop flowing
and bring healing to the nations
wherever it flows, wherever it flows 


Short clip of Niagara Falls...

video

Friday, August 3, 2012

Then Why Are You Smiling?

Crushed under the weight of life’s setbacks and disappointments, do you still dream?  Despairing of life, do you still hope?  Buried under the shame of sins and regrets, do you still smile, knowing God loves you? 

Perhaps, in a fleeting moment, as Jesus hung on that cross, a faint smile crossed his lips.  Under the weight of the agony of his own suffering, gasping for breath, his own eyes blurred by blood that he could not wipe away, perhaps there was a faint glimmer of a smile.  Why?  Because he knew.  He knew the truth.  He knew that despite his present circumstances, a resurrection was on the way.

It reminds of a scene from the movie, The Princess Bride.  Inigo Montoya is in a sword duel with the Dread Pirate Roberts (Westley).  He says to Westley, “I admit it you are better than I am.”  To that Westley replies, “Then why are you smiling?”  Inigo responds, “Because I know something you don’t know.”  “And what is that?” Westley asks.  “I am not left-handed!”  He then switches his sword to his stronger right hand and the fight begins to turn to his favor (until later Westley reveals he is not left-handed either).

You may be in a fight, a duel, and the enemy seems to have the upper-hand.  But, you are smiling.  Why?  Because you are not left-handed!

But seriously, we can smile today, regardless of our circumstances, because we know that the battle is fixed in our favor.  Even though things may look hopeless and dim right now, keep praising God.

In Psalm 88, the writer says,
“From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.
vs. 15-18

Have you ever felt this way?

The Apostle Paul wrote, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (I Cor. 1:8-9)

God raises the dead!  Despite the despair of our present situations, we can smile.  We know the truth.  We know that a decree from heaven has been issued in our favor.  As we praise Him the battle turns in our favor.  Even though the enemy comes against us with passionate fury, we can smile.  Why?  Because we know that God has for us a future and a hope.

In the midst of your difficult situation, you can still dream.  What do you dream of?  What hope do you hold onto?  As I sit here writing this, next to me lies a book by Dr. Mark Rutland entitled “Dream”.  Regardless of what I am going through right now I believe God has a plan for my life.  I have a dream.  I have a hope for the future.  I have hope that God will still act on my behalf.  I believe that the dreams God has placed in my heart will still come to pass.  For this reason, I can smile.  

And, in case you want to see a good sword fight....

  

Prayer Equals Peace

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow...