“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3 NIV
Every born-again child of God is invited to facing reality in this unseen kingdom.
What does facing reality really mean? And I also ask, “whose reality am I facing?”
For over 14 years I worked in community development. My job was to imagine a better future and create a plan for the community to accomplish it. If we cannot imagine or envision a different reality than what darkness shows us then there is not much scope for dreaming or achieving.
In my job with communities I told stories of what they could be because they couldn’t imagine what they had never seen. I found other cities that had been transformed—cities like theirs—and as I shared the ideas, the residents began to have a vision for a different future. A future with hope in it. They could see a new reality.
Every once in awhile people will tell me I need to face reality, by which they mean I must see and be overwhelmed by the darkness as they are. I must become miserable or hopeless or angry because surely any halfway intelligent person can’t look at the world and not fear.
But throughout the Bible we hear God telling His children, His followers, to fear not. To trust and be at peace for He is with them. Every person who met God saw a different reality than the rest of the crowd.
Noah built a boat in a land where some scholars say there had never been rain.
David put a stone in his slingshot imagining, believing in a God who was with him. A God that no one else could see. And truly no one else saw a reality in which David was victorious. But God did.
When people say I must face reality they point to governments, crime, inflation, or some broken local system; some freedom no longer available; some future without hope. I heard someone say that fear is simply imagining a future without God in it. It’s like faith pointed in the wrong direction. Fear is having more belief in the darkness than in the light.
THE RENEWED MIND
“The renewed mind reflects the reality of another world.” I think Bill Johnson said that.
Everything, every single thing, in our ‘real’ world was born from an unseen world. The earth formed, stars created and named, our very breath given by a God we cannot see. By a spiritual Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
There is only One who created everything. Every amazing thing from atoms to the Milky Way – from fish that glow in the dark to our complex human bodies. Every system in creation was designed, given, and is upheld by the God we seek. By the God who loves us.
Out of this unseen realm comes a reality stronger than death. A love that cannot die. Cannot be silenced. Beauty that never ends…every book I will ever write, every vision I will ever see, every plan I will ever need comes from an unseen realm.
This reality with things I can see and touch, things with mass and form is the fragile one. The unseen reality of my Heavenly Father, of my God, is the substantial one. The one that cannot be destroyed. Its elements are eternal. The space-time continuum does not exist in His reality. Only in ours. He made it for us-for our world, a place with scientific restraints where we could begin to know Him. To have relationship with Him. Exploring the boundaries of who He is and who we are and what He’s given us in creation: naming animals, discovering hundreds of ways to employ a peanut – ways God knew when He created the little legume. Hundreds of ways that are designed into every realm of life. Ways He has always wanted to share with us.
THE CALL OF LIFE
My biggest challenge is in thinking I can manage this life and its reality without Him or that I’m on my own and supposed to do it all myself. Not understanding that His heart’s intention was always to unfold it all with me. To share the mysteries of His reality with His children. To let us stand on the mountains and hear how He flung the stars into space. To wander the desert with Him and see springs come alive under our feet. To experience real life. The true life in our Father, our God, that never ends.
His reality always produces life. Everything it touches rises up in answer to the call of life. A life so big, so thick it pulls us into eternity when we choose it. When we choose Jesus we encounter a reality that is full of life and light and beauty. A reality not dependent upon how I am treated, what people say, or what the circumstances around me are doing. The anchor of my reality is held fast in an unseen world.
And yet we look at one another and say, “Be real, darkness is winning.”
I’m not willing to face that reality. I don’t believe in it.
In fact, I choose to not be part of the darkness – to not spread the darkness. I choose to be a seeker of light. God is in everything in creation. Every single creature, every single one of us. We cannot keep Him out or stop Him. He can be found. He wants to be found by us.
In God’s reality you and I are alive and free. We have each become all He dreamed we would. In this reality, where He calls us, woos us with His faithfulness, we bow to our Warrior-King-Savior who fights for us, not the dark thief who only enslaves us with lies. When we face God’s reality, we hardly even see the liar because the light of Jesus is so bright.
Only God knows what is real. Reality is not what we observe or experience or believe to be true based on the only facts we can see. Reality is what God knows to be true. Reality is something I will never see if I don’t ask God to show me what it looks like to Him.
We, God’s children, God’s artists, writers, and poets are the storytellers of His reality. Painting, writing, dreaming, sharing the the glory and hope of the unseen realm with those whose hearts are longing for a place, a future….a God who loves. It is an adventure to face God’s reality. A joyous exploration of real life.
Heavenly Father, what do you want us to know about being connected to your Heavenly realm? to your reality? Where, how, and to whom should we go and share Your future and hope and reality for them?
What I don’t give to God cannot be touched by Him. Cannot be healed by Him.
He cannot show me the truth of any of the things I don’t or won’t give to Him.
Like the boy who gave his bread and fish to Jesus. So trusting and small, yet so big in the hands of Jesus.
I recently stumbled upon a better way of giving my fears to God. Fear has been a driving force nearly all of my life. Someone said that the enemy has only a few things in his arsenal to use against us. Fear, guilt, and shame are the things he uses most effectively to move us off track, keep us distracted, or to immobilize us completely from experiencing God’s good intentions for our lives. That’s been so true in my life.
I’ve been listening to Jamie Winship, the author of Living Fearless. He teaches about our identities and truth-telling with God. About a process of simply bringing our real fears to God and asking Him, “What do you want me to know about this?” This situation, this fear, this circumstance, this confusion, this darkness.
I’ve done something like that in my prayers, but I wasn’t actually asking God what He wanted me to know. I was asking God what He wanted me to know so I could fix the thing. To make the outcome what I wanted it to be. I did not consider He might have a different outcome in mind. Or a different path. Or even a place of peace in the midst of the storm. I was pushing for peace that came because I knew I was going to have my results one day soon.
That is how I discovered truth in the inward parts. I didn’t know those were my thoughts. My motives. I didn’t realize I did not trust in my Heavenly Father’s plan. Not really. Not when I wasn’t seeing anything change in my circumstances. I knew what His blessings should look like and they weren’t coming my way. And I was afraid. Afraid I was too bad, too unfaithful, too broken for Him to give me what He said was mine. Afraid I would always fail. Afraid I would reap all the consequences from a life not lived well. All the consequences that were surely due me.
One morning recently, I heard the Lord say my true challenge was my biggest fear and I had made that fear an idol. I was serving it. Listening to its lies more than I was listening to God’s truth. I was spending time, energy, and resources on trying to change things because I was afraid. I was working in my own strength and with my own reasoning. I even made prayers to God encouraging Him with His own Word to fix the problem as I saw it. I didn’t see the true issue. I needed Him to show me the actual truth, which was that I was bowing down to the god of fear and it was stealing the life, the hope, and my future from me. I was threshing wheat in a cave like Gideon because I was afraid.
I was led to see how Gideon finally accepted the identity word God came to give him. The identity of Mighty Warrior. Gideon’s first act of obedience before he fully experienced his true identity as a mighty warrior was to tear down the idol that had been built because the people feared the gods of the Amorites.
That morning, The Lord asked me to tear down my idol to fear. To serve only Him not fear of unknown outcomes; not fear of others’ opinions; not fear of hidden disasters waiting for me. To serve only The Truth. Jesus. Bow only to Him. To ask Him each day, in each thing I encounter, in each fear that comes what He wants me to know about it. What is His truth in it. And then what He wants me to do with it.
As unbelievable as it sounds, the fear is gone. Nothing changed in my outward circumstances but the white-knuckled grip I had on each moment of every day is gone. There is peace, yes, beyond understanding, filling my heart, spirit, and mind. There is trust that He truly has it all figured out and ALL His intentions for me are good. That He always intended to take me to a promised land not have me die in the desert. I just didn’t believe it when all I saw was an empty landscape covered with gritty sand.
It is not the mountain in front of me that is my problem. It’s my fear of the mountain. It is not the river in my way that is the real challenge. It’s my lack of trust in God’s Word when He said, “Speak to the mountain and it will move.” When He said, “I am taking you to a land of promise that is yours and I will make a path for you, even to parting the sea that stands between you and my promise.”
“Do Not Fear. I will be with you.”
I know now that every time I am afraid I must tell Him and ask Him what He wants me to know about the circumstance. I heard Jamie say that fear simply points to a lie we believe. That was true for me. I believed the lie that God couldn’t want to be good to me when I had so many times not followed well. The lie that God didn’t care about this area of my life. That I was not worthy to have a solution and it made me afraid and unbelieving.
God came and reminded me His Word is the ultimate Word over everything. That His love for me is never ending. That He is with me always. That ALL His ways are for my freedom. For my relationship with Him. For my transformation. His mercy is new EVERY morning and all I have to do is receive it.
May you be blessed with a fearless journey today and always.
Hugs & Blessings, dear friends,
Next time I’ll tell you what I’m learning about receiving!
Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished. Luke 1:45
Jesus keeps quietly, gently inviting me to follow Him into places I’ve never been. Places with people. Creative environments with artists. Even into unfamiliar business trails. He keeps asking me to say, “Yes.” “Yes,” to His request that I follow Him into a vast unknown kingdom land.
In reflecting on the birth of Jesus, and Mary and Joseph’s part in this great event, I saw the Christmas Yes. I saw it was Mary and Joseph’s response to God that made Christmas come alive for us all.
They were waiting. Looking for the One who had been promised to come. Isaiah prophesied Jesus’ birth 700 years before He was born. Generation after generation had waited. Until all they knew was waiting. Until the day an angel came to Mary.
In that one moment, that one choice, Mary’s life was forever changed. As was ours.
As Mary said, “Yes, be it unto me according to your word,” in that minute she must have known where her yes could lead her. She must have known she could be shamed and rejected by her family and friends. Shunned by her betrothed and the community. Although the prophecies spoke of the virgin birth of the coming Messiah, who would ever believe that it could be her?
In spite of any of her doubts, Mary honored God more than all those others and said, “Yes.” From then on, this seed God planted in her was His work. He formed this child in her womb.
And then I thought about Joseph. About the angel that kept showing up in his dreams and giving him messages from God. I found four records of his encounters with an angel as he slept. In every case, Joseph’s response was the same: he immediately got up and obeyed the directions given. This was Joseph’s yes. Complete, immediate obedience.
The Ungiven Yes
I thought more about my own, “Yes,” to God. When He speaks to me of His plans or purposes for my life, His dream seeds. Is my response, “Yes, be it unto me according to your word?” Or when He speaks quietly, softly nudging me to make more room for Him in my life, is my response to immediately rise and do what He said?
As He comes to me planting promises of who I am in Him. Of where we will go together. And my “yes,” like Mary’s, is an abandonment of trust that opens my life to His work within me. His forming of something within me I do not recognize and cannot see until I say, “yes.” Then, in expectation, I watch Him create this work in me. I wait as He births this promise. This “yes” requires only that I believe in what He has said.
I realized I was fairly good at giving Mary’s “yes”. The one that signifies a level of trust in God. In who He is and in His power to do the work. I say, “yes,” knowing the how and when is up to Him. What I don’t do so well is Joseph’s “yes”. The “yes” that requires obedience. I say my “yes,” expecting God to do the rest. I saw that in Joseph’s “yes”, he understood there was a responsibility to God, to Mary, and to Jesus and he was committed to do whatever God said to steward these lives placed in his hands.
I found Joseph’s immediate, obedient, “yes,” so amazing. I don’t always do that. I tend to ponder and then wonder if I really heard from God. I wait, sometimes thinking perhaps I need confirmation. I may look for a Bible verse. Many times I just forget about the words because I am not sure they are real…
In my author journey, I have not seen that God’s call on my creative life requires a commitment. That there is a responsibility attached to my “yes”. That when I say, “Yes, I trust you,” I am also receiving an assignment to go and do. To follow the nudges of the Holy Spirit and act.
I was so convicted by Joseph’s, “yes.” I had to sit with God and repent for the many, many times I did not acknowledge His word to me. I prayed for empowering grace to trust and obey. Trust like Mary did. Obey like Joseph.
Trust and Obey
There’s a fullness in the lesson of Mary and Joseph’s faith in God. There was an expression of trust and an expression of obedience. Mary surrendered to God’s work within her womb. There was not one thing she could do to form the Messiah child within her body. God planted the seed of this child. She had faith in His word over her life. She had an absolute trust He would fulfill all that He said. Her only part, as far as I can see, was her “yes”. Her willingness to be what God called her “favored one.” Mother of the Messiah. Her response was one of surrender. As God chose her, she chose Him.
One “yes” in our lives is our willingness to be what God calls us, whether it’s artist, author, craftsperson, singer, poet or architect. To trust in the word the Lord has spoken to us about what’s in us. To surrender to His life within us.
Joseph’s instant obedience to the word of the Lord was a different expression of faith in God than Mary’s, but without his immediate action, the mother and child would have been in danger and could have died. It’s obvious that God knew when He chose Joseph, He had found a man whose heart was committed to God.
I am inspired and convicted by Joseph’s “yes” to God. I know I need to listen more clearly to God to understand better what is His work and what is mine. What is He birthing and what am I being asked to steward in obedience?
Another thing that struck me was the context of Mary and Joseph’s faith. After generations of waiting, He was coming. The Messiah. Their trust and obedience opened the way for the birth and protection of the son of God, Son of man, Jesus.
We sit in a similar place today. Waiting. Waiting for the Beloved Savior to return. Foretold so long ago, we have almost despaired, but He’s coming back. All that God said will come to pass. Our “yes” today, our faith and obedience, ushers in His kingdom. Advances His kingdom in us and through us. Our “yes” gives Him permission and room to fulfill His word to have a bride without spot or wrinkle. To form in us and act with us in bringing Jesus to the world in the way that He dreams. Each one of us has a Christmas Yes waiting for our response. A “yes” of trust and a “yes” of obedience.
In the Name of Jesus, I bless you as you trust and obey. May the seed of your “yes” be watered this day with the love that falls from heaven and brings new life to you and all God’s planted within you.
Some time ago, when I was whining about my character defects and failures, I heard Jesus say, “You’ll be healed as you go,” and I realized He didn’t want me to seek Him for solutions to fix my flaws. He wanted me to follow Him. To intently look for Him in each day. To focus on finding His face in my everyday life.
I don’t believe it’s because He’s excusing my weakness or ignoring my wounds but because He knows what’s in me that needs healing. He knows the broken places and the rooted lies that have grown deep in my soul. Things in me that I’m not even aware are there. As I come closer into His presence, the lies, the fears, and the wounds are revealed, removed, and healed.
My journey is not to become perfect but to find Jesus. The One who is unfolding my wholeness as I go. The wholeness He paid for with His pure life—with His redeeming blood. This is not an accidental journey. It is my intentional choice to follow.
My heart longs for Jesus. In my hunger, I hear a song I recognize, though I’ve never heard it before. It’s a song Jesus is singing. It’s the song of my heart echoing around me when I am with Him. I stand quietly, intently focussed on the song as I hear the longing of the singer for me. I’m the one He’s singing to. I know I have to find Him or life will not matter at all. When I locate the sound of His voice it’s an act of my will to follow Him into the unknown.
When I’m frustrated with myself for all the things I can’t seem to get right, everything from losing weight to increasing my productivity; when I’m scrambling and striving with my self-help regime, I realize He’s not as interested in my self as He is in my heart and the increase of His Spirit within my spirit. If I walk in the Spirit I won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh…
For me, perfecting myself doesn’t serve me very well and not in any lasting way. I may change some behaviors for a time. I may look better to others but I’m still lacking inside. Still empty in the place where some lies rule. Still aching where a wound festers.
Healing in the inward parts of my heart is the Holy Spirit’s work. This deep work of revealing Jesus who is the Word. Who is the One who separates the joints from marrow. Who can divide so mysteriously, and with such precision, the things that He didn’t plant within me. He is the One who comes with healing in His wings.
Healing is the work of God. A Divine touch from the One who is truly Divine. None of my freedom, my healing, or my wholeness is dependent upon me. It is His work. He continues to speak to me to follow and to cultivate my relationship with Him, my true savior. The lover of my soul.
He tells me my work is to believe every word He speaks. Every word from Him is true. It Is truth. Not just the words that are comfortable or make sense to me. Who am I that I should filter God’s words through my understanding? But rather, as He’s taught me, I should sit with Him asking for His insight about what He’s said, seeking understanding about what He’s promised, until I see what He sees. Until the promise comes shimmering into reality, covered in faith. The substance, the evidence of His truth alive and healing in me. Until the song I’ve followed into an unfamiliar place is so loud it fills my very being and I become a part of it.
There are so many ways I condemn myself. So many things I think I should be doing better to please God and others in my life. Conduct I expect to look more Christ-like but is not. Evidence I want in my life that speaks of God’s goodness to His children but I don’t see it. And yet Jesus still says only one thing to my doubting, frustrated, impatient heart:
“Follow me, you’ll be healed as you go.”
Ps 119:105 NIV
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path
Hebrews 4:12 NIV
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.
Sometime ago I heard a pastor say, “Faith isn’t the product of striving it’s the result of surrender.”
I’ve been learning to surrender.
To stop striving to believe what He says is true. To surrender all my fears and doubt and to sit with Him hopeful, like a child, expecting something good.
I’ve lived most of my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. Looking over my shoulder for a club to come down. And watching closely the rug under my feet expecting it to be pulled by some dark force to make me fall.
There is rest in the storm. There is peace in chaos. There is trust. Because I know He is good, I can follow Him into the valley of the shadow of death without fear. He is with me. He is trustworthy. And in the place where the enemy’s threats rattle and echo off the rocks Jesus sets a feast for me. Feeds me with dainties of His love. Romances me with intimacy. Gazes into my eyes and I am drawn into the love in His.
I forget there’s a malevolent presence nearby because the goodness and glory are so bright. So beautiful. With the radiance of God’s glory shining on me nothing else is important. I can’t even see anything else.
I’ve been learning to surrender to trusting Jesus. Even when it’s hard. Even when I want a different path. Even when I want it to be easier than it is.
He’s teaching me how to row upstream. How to move with strength, effort, and pain against the flow that resists what I’m called to do and who I’m designed to be. Seeing God’s country up ahead and not giving up. Throwing off all yokes except His. Not entangling myself in what is not my assignment. Embracing only that which He’s shown me is mine.
There are worse things than pain. Being without Jesus, without my Heavenly Father, without the Holy Spirit’s comfort is way worse. It is unthinkable and unimaginably empty.
The Lord is my shepherd. I choose to follow. I choose to surrender to His journey for me. It matters not where I’m going as long as He is there. As long as He is leading. As long He is with me.