Father Shake This Place…

O my soul, why do you faint within me?

O foolish heart, why do you melt in my chest?

The saint trapped in this body of corruptible seed,

I know I would lose hope without the Promise.

O Father shake this place…

I pray all the day long for your Hand to be outstretched,

I am haunted in the night watch by the enemy,

When my eyes are open they see only You,

When my eyes are closed they see only darkness.

O Father shake this place…

My enemies of doubt and fear have surrounded me,

The curse of time has haunted me,

Why must I be tossed in the tempest of the sea?

Why must I walk in the desert of loneliness?

O Father shake this place…

The walk of faith as a man is the persecuted road,

The child with his childish thoughts is now passed,

But I long to be a child again at the kingdom’s gate,

The wonder of Your creation sparkling in my eyes.

O Father shake this place…

I stand firm as the siege continues to press me on all sides,

I lift the banner of Christ however weary my arms,

The refiner’s fire is the enemy’s playground,

But faith will prevail when all dross is consumed in the flame.

O Father shake this place…

Like the sunrise, Your healing chases away the darkness,

Like the living water that quenches the thirsty soul,

You Father will give strength to my bones

And heal the brokenness that is my only offering.

O Father shake this place…

So I wait in prayer for the Spirit’s breath of new life,

I look only to You O Holy One of Israel,

Renew me and make me to shine in your glory,

Lift my head as I stand on the Rock of my salvation.

O Father shake this place…

Remember me Father in my time of need,

Bend me to your will but don’t break my spirit,

Let me stand in your presence and be transformed,

And give me rest in your perfect peace.

O Father shake this place…

For all that can be shaken will be shaken,

This man is shaken by the wind of Your voice,

Build out of my emptiness all of Your fullness, O God

And I wait upon you alone Lord to restore my soul.

O Father shake this place…

So I praise you Father with my hands lifted up,

My lips testify to the greatness of our King and Savior,

I lift my life up to you as a sacrifice,

Burn me up with your unfailing love!

O Father shake this place…

The Ebb and Flow of the Spirit: Where is God?

Many of us know of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” But in most cases, the person quoting the verse is unintentionally taking this verse out of context, for the following verse expounds upon verse 28. Verse 29 continues: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” So we must surmise by its context that the phrase “all things working together” is meant “to conform (a person) into the image of His Son (Jesus)”. This is above and beyond creature comforts, this is not a conditional “good”, and this is not a situational “good”. This is part of the sanctification process that changes a person spiritually from a selfish, soulish person to a holy person. Now before you get offended by the holiness condition, let me say that we have HUGE misconceptions about what holiness really is. Suffice it to say, being transformed is necessary and deep; being satiated with temporary happiness or material, conditional wants, needs, and desires is profoundly shallow. Holiness is a process and one ordained by our Lord, so let us take what follows in this article and really understand the implications of process.

I learned an incredible lesson not too long ago and I would like to share it with you.

I’m sure there are many Christians out there that completely understand this statement:  “When God is speaking into my life, He always uses a rapid-fire approach”.  Something I read or hear sparks my spirit, and then at least two more times, usually in quick succession, the same theme is repeated.  It is like the Lord saying, ‘Hello…I’m talking here!’”  From my many conversations with other Christians, I have found this to be the case more often than not.  It’s funny actually when we think ourselves the only ones that get these “coinkydink” messages!  Almost every time I think I’m the only one who experiences the voice of our God in a particular and peculiar way, I am presented with many others who say, “Yeah…that happened to me too.”  At first you reel back and think, “Well, I’m not that special after all”, and what quickly follows is, “Thank God I’m not the only one”!

This scenario played out recently. As with all Christians, I had been going through a time of spiritual unrest, a period of confusion, and a stretch of time marked by what we sometimes refer to as the desert trial.  I just so happened to be reading a book by Graham Cooke when the following nugget of wisdom jumped out at me:

We cannot operate from a continuous flow of the Spirit.  For every flow there has to be an ebb in our experience.  What we do in the ebb is just as important as what we do in the flow.  We learn Lordship in the valley and the mountain.  He is Lord of every life experience.  Nothing prevents Him from being God.  We must experience Him in the depths as well as the heights.  We must learn to be a contribution when everything is against us.—Approaching the Heart of Prophecy, page 125.

This part of the reading hit me square between the eyes.  It convicted me.  It spoke into me that I personally cannot expect everything in my walk with God to be in the mountains; and that in a practical way, God necessarily must take us through the valley.  In other words, the valley is good; it doesn’t matter how I feel about the valley.  Someone once said, “You must travel through the valley to get to the mountaintop.”  So true, so true, but we do everything in our power sometimes to “pray our way out” of the valley because we feel we need to be on the mountaintop to do God’s work or to progress in our spiritual maturity.  Another misconception is that the valley is merely a season in our life that must be overcome once and for all; the idea that we have traveled the hard road as entrance onto the high road and that now the hard road is behind us!  How much different would your life and my life be if we embraced the hard road when it inevitably comes?  What if we approached the valleys with as much zeal as we do hopping around the mountaintops?

Let us understand of what I speak.  I’m talking about the times when God seems far from us, when His presence is not tangible, and when we feel quite lonely.  Our spirit is not quickened, our spirit can’t feel the Holy Spirit, and our spirit seems hopelessly buried and unattainable like a distant memory.  I’m not talking about the “hard times” we face in the natural, although that surely is part of the equation.  But any seasoned Christian knows that life can be handing us lemons and the Lord is making lemonade with us, but I’m talking about when the Lord seems MIA, when we feel He is not near, and when the lemons come they are simply sour and it’s all we have to eat! And when we are eating lemons, we look up and pray, “Oh God, oh God! Where are You? Why am I having to eat lemons?”

A word of wisdom here before we continue:  many Christians (me included) unfortunately think that when God seems far away, that they have done something wrong or that they haven’t done something right!  The liar loves to whisper in our ears, “God has withdrawn from you because you don’t pray enough”, or “The reason you feel so lonely is that God has turned away from you”, or “You are not holy, you are not righteous, you are a terrible Christian…and a really talented sinner!”  Listen to me right now and take this deep into your heart (I’m preaching to myself right now as well!).  That type of thinking is bull-crap (if you prefer, you can substitute the word doo-doo, rubbish, horse-*$#@, stinking-thinking, etc…whatever word doesn’t offend you…oops, too late)!  I have been guilty of this myself, so I speak from much experience.  As you continue to read, you will see just how faulty this mind-game really is…yes, sometimes we are so far off track that the Lord needs to chasten us, but even in this we rejoice, for the Lord chastens those He loves!  However, I would say most of the time it is simply a process to increase us.  Please read on and be edified.

Shortly after reading the above gem from Cooke’s hand, I was talking with a friend that shed even more light onto the truth of this epiphany.   Now, mind you, we all intrinsically know that life is a series of peaks and valleys, but we somehow convince ourselves that if we walk holy, righteous, and pure, that God will keep us from the valleys.  So the epiphany that I refer to is not the actual truth of it but rather my finally embracing it and seeing clearly how it applies to my spiritual walk.  Most of the profound truths are hidden in plain sight!  We read and hear things all the time that seem shallow, but when the Spirit breathes life into these truths, they take on a new life and we finally “get it”.  So this Christian friend of mine struck up a conversation with me after a Bible study that honed-in on the fact that life is about balance, that we can’t appreciate the good unless we truly comprehend the bad, that the highs of walking in the spirit are of no value without the perspective of the lows, and that walking through the desert sometimes creates a real thirst within.  You don’t appreciate water until you don’t have any, you don’t appreciate your health until you don’t have it, and you don’t appreciate the Holy Spirit’s leading until you are without it.  Awesome.  Thank God for Christian friends…

O.K.  It started with the reading, and then progressed to this conversation.  That will suffice for now to bring my attention to the truth the Lord was trying to show me.  Ah, but wait…there’s more!  Only a day passed when another conversation was sparked by another Christian brother focusing on the same theme!   Where have these conversations been?  Why haven’t we talked about this before?  If it is so darn important, why don’t we speak of this on a regular basis?  And why now?  Good grief!  I love the Lord’s sense of humor and timing.  Anyone who thinks God is so somber and matter-of-fact that He doesn’t get a kick out of this type of stuff is sorely mistaken.  And don’t get me wrong, we talk a bunch about how the Lord will get us through the hard times, and “I will pray for you” is tossed about like an empty promise that noone really wants.  We speak hollow cheers like “wait on the Lord”, “this too shall pass”, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, and the like; but rarely do we speak of the beauty and pricelessness of the valley (or desert or ebb)!

This brother spoke of how our spiritual walk is a series of ebbs and flows or rather high tides and low tides…really?…did he have to use the same words “ebb” and “flow”?…come on now Lord, surely you could have been a little more subtle than that…sheesh!  Anyway, he spoke of the low tide as being the time when the ships were being readied for their purpose:  repairs were made, cargo was loaded, crews were assembled, and the destination was charted.  On the other hand, the high tide is when the ships leave the port and head to sea to accomplish their mission.  Wow!  That is what I call a trifecta of truth.  Thank you Jesus! You see, what I now know, somewhat begrudgingly, is that God uses the low-tide to prepare us, that God lets us walk through the desert to take the pulse, if you will, of our faith, and that God walks with us through the valley unbeknownst to our selfish, blind eyes. Just because you can’t “feel” Him doesn’t mean He is not there! One famous teacher rightly pointed out that in his opinion, more than 80% of our spiritual growth happens without our even recognizing it, without our “seeing” it or feeling it, and without any harbinger to warn of an approaching time of testing. Beautiful.

So I write this so I won’t forget it.  I write this for you and me. We must be prepared for the inevitable times in our lives where the REAL progress happens. Is it painful? Oh yeah! Is it enjoyable? No way! Is it necessary? You betcha…if it weren’t, then much of the New Testament wisdom on trials and tribulations would simply be filler! I want to fully embrace the dry spells, I want to humbly allow God to do some character shaping in me, I want to stop dreading the ebbs.  The real beauty of this is how we react to the hard parts in the road. For how we react to these times will shape our future and purify our faith.

Here is how we must approach these times:  1.)  Pray even when it is most difficult to do so, 2.)  Dive into the Word of God even when we don’t feel like it, 3.)  Understand that faith without testing is not real faith, 4.)  Meditate constantly on what am I supposed to be learning in this situation and what does God want to be for me in this time.  I know, I know, easier said than done; but God has proved to us over and over again that He will always show up and that He is always up to something good in our lives.  What the Spirit has taught me recently is that the most precious offerings to God are the ones that have to be wrought, that a prayer when you don’t feel like praying is a magnificent blessing to our Lord, and that pushing past our emotions into our raw faith is where “waiting on the Lord” truly finds a foothold.

I am convinced that it is these times in our walk that prepare us for the next move of His Spirit.  It is almost like He is shaping us and enlarging us as clay vessels to contain the next outpouring of His living water! I often repeat the saying, “You can’t pour the ocean into a thimble!”  The functions of the valleys in life are to prepare us for the mountaintop; if we resist the valleys, we in essence are refusing passage to the very thing we seek.

The kicker for me is accepting the fact that it is a continuing process, not something to progress past; for if we refuse the continuing process of sanctification then we will never be able to reach the heights that most of us (including God) want to reach.  Remember what Jesus said, “Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may produce more fruit.” (John 15:2)  So if you are being pruned, then you must be pleasing to God, for He doesn’t mess around with the unfruitful branches…He simply removes them.  So take the purifying process of the ebbs and build God’s trust in you so that He will continue to use you to flow in His Kingdom.
Just know that you are not alone and that you are highly favored! We all must and should actually welcome the times that refine our faith and enlarge us to contain more of Him. May you be blessed by understanding that just as Christ suffered so must we suffer, but it is for our own good. The ultimate destination is worth the price…Amen?

A Prayer Life for Dummies

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This teaching was spawned from a request. The request came from my 15 year old son. We spoke briefly about prayer the other night and he asked me to give him a basic outline of a good prayer, a place to start, a benchmark. So I must immediately apologize to my son for using the word “dummy” in the title. My precious one, you are not a dummy…at least not all the time!

As you would think, this at first seemed daunting. On one side stands the fact that prayer can be a very private affair or at least should be. On the other side stands the fact that there are many types of prayer. He was asking me not for the ability to pray in front of others, to learn the right, fancy words, but rather what he should be praying for in his personal prayer life. Wow…really?

Now there are some great books on prayer, but my son trembles at the thought. In fact there is a book called “Prayer for Dummies” which I’m sure is great but I have not read it. It seems this question of how to pray has been asked since the very beginning! So I guess I’ll just settle into the reality that this may or may not help you, but it is from my experience and therefore the truest I can be for my children.

So I prayed about it a bit and asked the Lord to give me a simple, yet potently specific model for my curious little rug-rat. The obvious answer these days is to just talk to God like a friend, like you would have a friendly talk with anyone else. And yes, I agree that is a lovely way to pray; I pray this way more times than not. Another model (or rather THE model) is the Lord’s Prayer; but in my experience, it is too easy to recite it by rote memory and miss the personal heart-prayer that God really seeks. Seasoned Christians can literally pour their heart out into the Lord’s Prayer but it requires a revelation from God of the weight and the power of the words. So to try to make it personal and capture the spirit of true prayer, I offer this as another type of prayer that any young believer should be praying. This is not to replace, but rather to give a viable option. It is a serious prayer progression. This is for Christians and therefore assumes you have already come to believe in Jesus Christ and want to get to know Him. So here it is.

  1. Invitation: This first phase of prayer is crucial. We tell God that we desire Him in our life; we invite Him in. The Lord is a gentleman and appreciates the invitation. This prayer phase needs to be done every morning, followed by a prayer before bed. The morning prayer should be something like this: “Good morning Father. Praise you Lord, thank you for another day. Jesus, I invite you into my day; Holy Spirit, I invite you to walk with me throughout my day. Help me to forgive others as You have forgiven me. Thank you Father for loving me and wanting to be with me today.” The evening prayer should be something like this: “Father, thank you for your love and for hearing my prayers. Thank you Jesus for being with me today, whether I realized it or not, You were there every step of the way. Holy Spirit, thank you for guiding my steps and being patient with me. Forgive me for my shortcomings. Give me peace as I rest in sleep and in Your Name.”
  2. Recognition: This second phase of prayer is very exciting. We begin to recognize God’s influence around us. We catch glimpses of His hand not only in our heart but also in our daily comings and goings. This prompts us to pray more fervently. We can begin to thank the Lord for showing up in a noticeable way. We ask for more of Him and invite Him into a deeper walk with us. We should never rush in this part of our prayer life. It can last for great lengths of time. When we recognize Him in our day-to-day walk, we should immediately praise Him for His grace and remember it in our nightly prayer. Remember to tell God you recognized Him today; thank Him for showing up; and ask Him to continue to make Himself known to you.
  3. Revelation: This third and most incredible phase of prayer is best defined by God Himself. I could never describe it properly. But I will say that revelation is when the Spirit reveals not only a glimpse of God but also the truth of God. We begin to see not just the “what” but the “why” and the “how”. God will begin to reveal what true love is, what true peace tastes like, what and where joy comes from; we begin to see the traps in life for what they are, we recognize where God is and where He isn’t, and the list can go on. What was recognized by you in phase two, begins to be understood. This is where the verse in Amazing Grace says, “I once was blind, but now I see”; this is where we begin to see the world through His eyes. Faith grows exponentially in this part of our prayer life and I am convinced that it is quite personal in nature; hence, the apology for not being able to describe it properly. Although universal truths will be revealed, it is for you a personal revelation and therefore is as unique as you are. Remember to thank Him for revelation; ask the Spirit to teach you more about the revelation; and invite God to continue revealing as He sees fit.
  4. Sanctification: This is the ongoing phase of prayer in which all disciples of Christ must partake. Sanctification is the “burning up” of all that is sin and perfecting in us what the Bible calls “the mind of Christ”. Once truths are revealed in phase three, we are compelled to be changed by those same revelations! We are told many times in the Bible that our walk with God is marked by a transformation, an upward call into being changed, and the ultimate goal of being “transformed into His image”. For someone just starting, I will spare you the details. But I must at least brushstroke the basics: you will be walking in the spirit as a partnership between you and the Holy Spirit, you will begin to produce what the Bible calls “fruits of the Spirit”, and you will be led into a more intimate relationship with the Lord. At this point in your prayer life, you won’t need anyone to help you pray, as you will be assisted by the Spirit in your prayers. By the way, the Spirit is with us from the very beginning, but by this time you will know Him well, as you have spent much time together!

A Special Note: We must never forsake any of the phases of prayer, even if we think we are more spiritual. This is a trap. We must daily invite the Lord into our life; we cannot leave a “standing invitation” like a note stuck to a door! We must daily ask for eyes to recognize Him in even our most seemingly trivial occasions. We can begin to take this for granted and therefore miss the opportunity to praise Him. We must daily ask for revelation in proportion to our faith. It is crucial to always seek more and more revelation of His truth in the Word, in His creation, in our meditations (thoughts) and in our prayers. The more God reveals of Himself to us, the more in love with Him we become and more trusting we become. Sanctification happens quite naturally after the revelation of Christ, as it causes us to hunger and thirst for more.

Hope this helps whom it was supposed to help, and surely my 15 year old will be able to rest in faith that I won’t steer him wrong!

Parting Shot: You are a dummy. I am a dummy. As soon as you think you are not a dummy any longer, you have entered a whole new level of dummy! The Lord still has to remind me of these same things…a lot…too often really…I’m a dummy. So don’t feel bad son, you are in good company.

The Good Place

The Crow

The sweet smelling aroma,

the fire within…

love is warm; His love is fire.

Not burning, but…

filling the vast space,

small as the atom,

deep as her waters,

the stars moving further away.

Oh, it is the good place.

Shackled in chains,

the bonds of mortality:

Why must my body die?

Because nothing goes with it;

Freedom follows the uncovering,

Hope slips into reality,

Death is swallowed up by life.

But now, we uncover our hearts

and taste that it is good…

Oh, it is the good place.

All is overcome by the release, the gift, the mystery of charity:

Not able to be held,

not able to be willed…

But only to be given,

the springs of living water.

Completing the circle,

partaking of the soft breeze

that flows from His kiss,

Passing to the generation of longing…

Oh, it is the good place.

Spirit thirsty, spirit hungered,

how they hope deeply and hidden within:

Sometimes it whispers,

sometimes it cries,

sometimes it screams.

Drink my friends and heal the sores,

release the heavy burdens,

eat of the fruit of forgiveness and mercy.

It was right there the whole time:  He loved us first…

Oh, it is the good place.

Even in darkness,

it is light,

The revelation of the landscape,

recognizing beauty unveiled,

Danger looks the beast it is;

no hiding in shadows that do not exist.

Oh my God, keep the sky clear behind blue…

Always, it is the good place.