Stay Close to the Father

I recently dreamed that I was prophesying from a church platform. I stood next to a pastor, his identity was unknown to me. I had a microphone in my hand and prophesied from the stage. The prophecy was like a short rhyme, but I don’t recall all the words. It was something like, “Jesus, Jesus, seek Him with all your heart.” The general message of the prophecy was to seek the Lord, to be close to Him.Head on Chest

Then I heard clearly, “Evil days are coming, walk closely to me so I can protect you.”

Next, I saw a silhouette of the Father. In this vision, He was gathering His children close to Him with large and long arms. He was big, but gently reaching out His arms to bring His children close to Him. It was a picture of strength and tenderness.

Psalm 91:1 says,
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Now is the time to seek God and draw close to the Father. For Him to protect us the way that He wants to, we must remain close to Him.

Proverbs 22:3 says,
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself,
But the simple pass on and are punished.

God has not called us to be in hiding, but to hide ourselves in Him. If we will take the time to seek God in the secret place, He will protect us in the open spaces of this world. Stay close to the Father!

Blessings,

Jon

Little Seed

A poem for our son, Joseph…IMG_0783

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.”
-Psalm 127:3-5

little seed
grow to be a big tree
an oak of righteousness
the planting of the Lord
little seed
what great joy you bring
the hand of the Lord is on you
for great and mighty things
little seed
you will be strong in the land
you will be powerful by His hand
as we contend with the enemy
at our gate
little seed
like an arrow
you will hit your mark
as you walk closely with the Lord
little seed
my quiver is full
a blessed man I am
to be Papa to you
little seed
stand up!
grow like a moist root
from holy ground
as we water you with His word
little seed
there will be weeds
and tares and thorns
that will confuse and perplex you
little seed
hold onto the seed
the word of God
and you will rule in the midstIMG_1519 of your enemies
little seed
beloved son
with you I am well-pleased
from the moment you were born
even before you were conceived
God told us about you
the great joy you’d bring
little seed
I remember your cry
when you broke the womb
and came to life
like a seed
our dreams had died
buried in the ground
precious tears, precious seed
came alive with you
oh the joy we reaped
little seed
we watch you grow
child on our knees
we rejoice in every progress
every crawl, every tooth
every giggle, every moment
little seed
our joyful dreamer
we will raise you up
to love the Lord
with all your heart
with all your soul
my little seed
may His heart you know
may you grow, grow grow
and go, go, go
to reap a harvest
my little seed

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“Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.”
-Psalm 126-5-6

In All Things

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” -James 1:17

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God is good and He gives us perfect gifts. God gives gifts because He loves us and wants to bless us. He is a good Father (see Matthew 7:7-11)!

Sometimes good gifts come in unexpected packages. God surprises us with His gifts and we stand amazed at His goodness. And sometimes His gifts come in unwelcome packages. These gifts are good for us but may come in a package that we don’t think we want. But what may seem like an unwelcome gift contains a priceless treasure. It’s our job to discover that treasure and allow it to transform us in the process.

How do we respond when God gives us something that seems not good? At this point, we need to realize that God uses ALL things for His good in our lives. He has a purpose and a reason.

Romans 8:28 says, “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.” God has a high calling and a high purpose for us as sons and daughters of God, to walk in the power of His glory.

If we love God and are pursuing His purpose, ALL things work for our good. What is God’s purpose? God’s primary purpose is our redemption and the transformation of our character for His glory. Romans 8:29 says, “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.” God’s wants us to share in the glory of His Son and there is no greater gift than the glory of Jesus.

God’s plan includes trouble, but God uses trouble for His purpose. The key to Romans 8:28 is Romans 8:29 – God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. God uses ALL things to make us like Jesus.

Romans 8:31-32 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

We need to remember that in ALL things God is for us – He is not against us. He has given us ALL things in Christ. He has given us everything we need. He wants to see us succeed in every area of life. He has given us many gifts to help us on this journey, if we will tap into the gift of His presence and the gift of His word. “[H]umbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:21).

No matter the situation, you are more than a conqueror. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). In ALL things, you are a conqueror. In ALL things, you are victorious! No matter the trouble, in Christ, God has given you the ability to triumph in every situation.

ALL for Jesus!

The Mystery of Love

For Leslie50

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
-Ephesians 5:31-32

three things are a mystery to me
four things, indeed
the way of the snake on the rock
the ship on the sea
the eagle that glides on the wind
and the man with the lady
two imperfect hearts
perfectly bound as one
two intrepid souls combined
a fierce bond not easily broken
forever entwined
in the mystery called love

oh, how she drives me crazy
how she moves, she glides in my arms
she twists and she twirls
and sways unsteady in my embrace
this delicate pleasure
this inestimable treasure
how she delights me with soft touch
tender grasping, intimacy aroused
souls laid bare, wide open
she is joy and tantalizing delight
Oh, my sweet, I chase hard after you
in this mystery of love

you are exalted above all maidens of the earth
with fondness, you have my admiration
you are the fairest of them all
Snow White, Cinderella
we dance like a ship on the sea
my heart flies like the eagle
a lump in my throat
as I, mere man, behold the beauty
your tanned body
I am weak in my knees
as I am in awe of who you are
inside and out
it will take a lifetime to mine your treasures
study your complexities
ponder your mystery
captured and enraptured by your love
the beauty of the bride
I am lost for words
in this mystery of love

we are a word picture on display
revealing Christ and His church
I love you as my own body
washing you in the water of His word
your form is so lovely
your spirit lovelier still
I delight in your purity
lean on the strength of your character
you are steady like a rock
you flow softly like a stream
you are pure as the dove from heaven
and I find such sweet comfort
in your embrace
I find my home, in this mystery of love

How to Grow as a Christian – Part 2

IMG_0783
At birth

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” -1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)

My son Joseph, now 4 ½ months old, is growing every day. Of course, we can’t actually see the growing when the growing is happening. It’s imperceptible to the human eye. What we can see is that he has gained over 10 pounds since birth.

This miracle of life amazes me. Our little guy started as a tiny seed in his mother’s womb that formed into cells and blood vessels and tissue and bones and organs and skin and into the beautiful boy we are so proud of today. His growth offers a great analogy for our growth in Christ.

IMG_1728
At 4.5 months

How did Joseph’s growth happen? It happened because he is constantly attached to Leslie’s breast, eating. He loves to eat. He craves the milk of momma. Likewise, if we will stay constantly attached to the Lord, we will grow.

I don’t expect Joseph to grow a foot a day or even an inch each day. I’m simply happy that he is growing a little bit every day and that he’s healthy. I’m happy when he gets a little stronger every day. Every day we can see his progress and we rejoice in it.

Likewise, God doesn’t expect us to grow by leaps and bounds every day. He simply rejoices when we grow a little bit, little by little, and get stronger and stronger in Him.

If we will stay constantly attached to the Lord, we will grow.

The fact that growth occurs is not a mystery, but, if we’re not careful, we can become discouraged because growth is often imperceptible to us. We can, in fact, be growing even when we feel like we are digressing rather than moving forward. When we abide in Christ, we may not feel like we are growing, but we are. We only stop growing when we do not submit ourselves to the process of growth.

The process of growth requires a commitment. Consistency is key to growth.

The best growth takes place when we make a daily commitment. If we stay in the Word and in God’s presence on a daily basis, we will see growth in our lives. If we will remain consistent, we will grow, even if we go through seasons where it feels like we are not growing.

As we walk with Jesus, we will be able to look back and see the growth that has taken place. And certainly those close to us will see that we have grown.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” -1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)

We don’t have to remind Joseph to nurse. He craves his mother’s milk. It is, in fact, his source of life right now. Our problem is that we have to push ourselves to grow. Our flesh does not want to submit to the growth process.

God is our very source of life. We need to realize that we need God more than Joseph needs his mother’s milk. The problem is this: we grow accustomed to living apart from Him. Life apart from Him is actually a life lived in darkness. We can walk separated from our Creator and think we are doing okay when we are not!

So what are some practical things we can do to grow in the Lord? My encouragement is to establish some daily disciplines in your life regarding prayer and the Word and then intentionally live out your walk with the Lord in your every day life. I suggest the following:

  1. Have a daily place of prayer – be honest with God, love Him, worship Him, praise Him, seek Him with all your heart.
  2. Read, study and meditate on God’s Word – speak and declare God’s word over your life when you’re praying, when you’re driving, by your bed at night, or while you’re doing the dishes, or whenever.
  3. Make daily decisions that honor God.

Growth does take work. It may require that you rearrange some priorities in your life. It can be challenging to organize your days to prioritize your time with God. But it is a sacrifice that is worth it that will reward you now, in every area of your life, and into eternity.

How to Grow as a Christian – Part I

IMG_2119Have you ever felt frustrated, feeling like you are not growing spiritually? At times in my life, I have felt like I am either not growing at all or I’m actually getting worse. The reality is this: there is a way to grow in the Lord every day without feeling frustrated, condemned or constantly discouraged.

First of all, growth rarely happens quickly. It is usually a slow and steady process. It’s easy to get discouraged when we look at ourselves and lament what appears to be a lack of growth. The first thing we need to do is be patient with ourselves and with God. We grow in grace, not by placing upon ourselves unreasonable demands and expectations that only lead to frustration and condemnation.

II Peter 3:18 (NIV) says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

If you are prone to introspection, like me, you may tend to spend a lot of time gazing internally and finding things wrong with yourself. Then, you become frantic, trying to put out numerous fires at one time – I need to change this, that, and this, and that, and this, and that. This leads to feeling overwhelmed. When I feel overwhelmed like this, I get discouraged and want to give up.

A better plan of action is to implement disciplines in your life that will facilitate daily growth while, at the same time, understanding that you live under the covering of God’s love and grace. This covering gives us the freedom to be honest with ourselves about our sins and flaws and also the freedom to fail. God’s grace permits us to enjoy our lives while we are growing, even though we are not perfect. Discipline keeps us from using our freedom in Christ as an excuse for sin or unrighteous living.

Titus 2:11-12 (NIV) says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…”

Grace is not the enemy of discipline. Discipline is not the enemy of grace. The two are not opposites. Grace is not only God’s kindness to sinners, it is God’s empowerment to live righteously and victoriously. When we discipline ourselves, humbly depending on God every day, we position ourselves under His grace and His grace empowers us to live holy.

James 4:6 (NKJV) says, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.'”

The narrow road with Christ is both a road of discipline and a road of grace, which leads to abundant life. Perfectionism is an enemy of discipline. Condemnation and accusation are enemies of grace. The narrow road is not a road without stumbling, setbacks or mistakes. The narrow road is walked by imperfect people who enter through the gate of Christ and press on with Him in their earnest quest to be like Him.

Abraham provides an excellent example to illustrate my point. Through faith, Abraham received God’s grace. God’s grace to Abraham came through a promise, a promise that he would have a son and be the father of many nations through which all people would be blessed. But Abraham made some real mistakes. He messed up, but none of his sins cancelled out the grace of God.

God said of Abraham that he “obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions” (Genesis 26:5, NIV).

Despite Abraham’s mistakes, he obeyed the Lord. Abraham lived a life of both grace and discipline. The result was that he walked in the blessing of God while he stretched out in faith to inherit the promise of God. Likewise, by God’s grace, when commit ourselves to a life of discipline in the Lord, we will continue to grow in His grace.

Stay tuned for Part 2. In my next article, we’ll get more practical about how we can grow every day in Christ, by His grace! Blessings!

Water Wednesday – Fountains of Living Water

My wife and I recorded this video while camping in West Virginia a couple of years ago. We hiked a few miles to this waterfall and camped near it, and used it to bathe in the morning. I hope this message will be an encouragement to you in your journey. Blessings!

And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.

For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

-Revelation 7:14-17