Just Breathe

This place of “rest” is where His grace flows, the Spirit refuels and where His mercy adjusts life’s pressures.

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A light dusting of snow materialized during the night and a quietness settled over my yard. As I watched the birds float in and out to the feeders, they too, seemed to slow down just a bit. The stillness – a reminder to slow down, rest and “just breathe.”

This time of year, with all of its joy, excitement and wonder also stirs-up chaos. Our “to-do” list grows as the urgent needs tug at our time and energy while sneaking in and assaulting our minds – stealing our peace. The “gotta-get-it-done” of getting the house and tree decorated, gifts bought and wrapped, planning, buying and preparing of special foods, party attendance, baking, as well as, the continual growing “other” details that call out for our attention; all seem to steal the beauty of the season.

How do we adjust this, how do we bring our lives back to the simplicity of the season?

Mark 6:31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.(ESV)

The disciples had just come back from a very busy mission trip where they had been barraged day and night meeting needs as they shared the gospel. Jesus knew and gave them the answer – come away and rest!

This is our answer also, come away and rest! Even in the midst of all that screams it’s need.

The space we create – time to rest at the feet of Jesus – is just like the dusting of snow over my yard – it brings a stillness that allows us to breathe. It is a resetting of our body, mind and spirit. In this place of rest, even if it is a 10-minute respite, Holy Spirit will come to bring peace. Here in this quiet place, you will find a place where those nagging pressures will begin to dissolve.

This place of “rest” is where His grace flows, the Spirit refuels and where His mercy adjusts life’s pressures. Here, in this place of rest – sitting at the feet of Jesus – your priorities, as well as your relationships will be re-aligned and restored with His plans and purposes. It’s here, where you “come away and rest for a while” that you find the simplicity of peace. His stillness will bring a reminder to “just breathe.”

Overflowing Presence

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You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ Acts 2:28 (NIV)

The “presence of God” is not just a nice sounding phrase but is a place of great honor, a place of great surrender, a place of ultimate experience, where in humility we are ushered into a physical encounter with God. Here, at the feet of Jesus we meet Him and nothing else matters. Here, the Holy Spirit draws us into the very presence of God. Here, all that life has thrown at us and all that we have become, what we have done and achieved, all disappears.

We have often been told that finding that place of presence is something we need to “chase” after, yet that is not who Jesus is. His love is great and beyond measure.  He continually pours that love out to us free of charge – we don’t have to “try” or “chase” after it. We need only to hunger, desire and ask.

In your everyday life and in nature, the heart of the Father is shown all around you. His desire is to pour out His presence beyond what you can contain, to bring you joy unimaginable, to saturate you with His love so that the river within you will flow out and bring life in every direction that your daily life takes you.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of His abundance found in the natural which will give you just a taste of who He is:

His little hands expectantly hold out his glass while daddy begins to pour the refreshing liquid. Soon it reaches the top and flows unchecked over the edge yet continues to pour out with no end. The joy in the face of his son stirs his heart to continue the deluge of refreshment, knowing the child can’t contain its entirety.

The awe-inspiring sight and sound of the waterfall stuns her into silence. Its unreachable height, its mighty power, its thundering plunge over the edge, its refreshing spray as it splashes all around her brings a deep feeling of joy. The river that flows from its base, moves in many directions as the thundering fall reaches its destination only to cycle on and on, bringing life everywhere it touches.

As you step into the supernatural presence of God, come expecting a presence that is beyond the natural. You will encounter a God who loves you and desires your presence. He is calling you to come away with Him, to just sit and be with Him.

Be like those little hands holding out the glass with expectation. Be awe-struck by the enormity of His very presence. Jesus has given us access to the presence of the Holy Spirit who is waiting to not just fill your glass but to continually keep it overflowing with Gods very presence. Just hold it out and step under the unending flow.

We can all draw close to him with the veil removed from our faces. And with no veil we all become like mirrors who brightly reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus. We are being transfigured into his very image as we move from one brighter level of glory to another. And this glorious transfiguration comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. II Corinthians 3:18 (TPT)

 

Whose Got Your Back?

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Our lives are filled with battles – from within and without – the physical, emotional and almost always, the spiritual. As independent people we usually choose to handle them alone, “I’ve got this, no need to bother anyone else.” When we live – or try to live – our life in this fashion, we are ultimately giving-in to a life lived in a form of isolation. We are not meant to handle life alone, we need others.

We all need that friend – you know the one – the friend that sticks closer than a brother. Do you have one, maybe two or three? Ones that no matter when, where, how, or what you need them for – they will be there for you. If not, now is the time to look around and begin that scary relationship that just might lead to that friend. If you have been a Christian for long, you will have picked up some hesitancy here! I know, me too. But in faith, step out and spend some time asking God to direct you to those people.

In biblical times, Kings and Princes had armor-bearers and even today, pastors establish those who they trust to stand in prayer, listen and to be that friend. We have inherited a place of prince or princess – a child of the King – in the Kingdom of God. The need for each of us to walk side-by-side with at least one armor-bearer is imperative. For us to walk with a different spirit as Caleb and Joshua did – one who hears, obeys and battles for the promised land – will require us to gird ourselves with the prayers of those walking this same journey.

As the body of Christ – the church – we hold one another up in prayer consistently, and that is necessary for a healthy church. As individuals we need to go one step deeper – one step of vulnerability – one step of trusting another with our “stuff” that we keep hidden. The days of “I’ve got this, no need to bother anyone else,” are gone. Having a trusted armor-bearer for yourself is much safer than doing it on your own. Being one and having one are two different things – you may be one for one individual yet need a different one for yourself.

If we want to see and walk in a new place of awakening in the body of Christ then we MUST lay down our pride, pick up our swords, fight forward and depend on our trusted armor-bearer to stand and fight with us. So, who is yours?

Numbers 14:24 But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.

I Samuel 16:21 When David came to Saul and entered his service, Saul loved him very much, and David became his armor-bearer.

Proverbs 18:24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

 

Surrendered Silence

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In a world where we are inundated with noise, it is hard to fathom what silence and solitude look like. Periodically we experience a glimpse of this mirage; an early morning sunrise in the desert, a breathtaking walk in the rain forest, the stars eruption as you sit high above the city, or a morning wake-up to a deep blanket of snow. But how does it look within our spirits, our hearts, our emotions or our minds? That place of complete stillness that allows peace to reign. To find it – even for a few minutes – is a practiced discipline.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Ps, 46:10 (ESV)

This scripture is known well, but do we really know what it means? It sounds peaceful and it’s great on a refrigerator magnet, but practicing this discipline is not easy. Try it – spend just five minutes, stilling your thoughts – don’t think, pray or look around – just be still, soak in that silence. Once you have gotten through a few days of practicing, you will find something amazing begin to happen. Sitting silent before the Lord will stir a desire to live in this blissful place.

Finding this place of stillness stirs within a divine depth of peace. Here in this place we find intimacy with our God. In this quiet place of silence, we hear His voice. Adoration and worship – an “awe” of knowing our God – begins to surface, as all of the noise of our world disappears. Here, we step into a place of worship that is found past the music and all of our words. This place is where our words – our requests, desires, needs and prayers – are not needed. This stillness will transform your busy, clattering life into a humble place of just “being” at His feet. Here, you will surrender; be laid bare, open, yielded, and ready to move only as He directs.

The discipline of stillness and solitude require practice, but soon in the midst of your chaotic life, you will find the ability to be still and know the presence of God.

Join me in developing this discipline. As you begin, don’t get frustrated if five minutes seems like forever. It will soon be fifteen minutes and before you know it, sitting in stillness for extended amounts of time, will be time that you will desire and willingly run to. Let’s joyfully surrender to a place of stillness found only at the feet of Jesus.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  Ps. 62:5 (ESV)

Does Your Barrel Leak?

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The oak barrel sits, ready to receive its prize. No thought is given to what it has endured to get to this place. Once it was carefully constructed, the real preparation began; boiling, flushing, toasting and more, all awaited this single barrel. The importance of each step will make the difference in its ability to keep the prize – one that is full of life, rich, and desirable. The prize – New Wine!

Spiritually we talk of New Wine and with excitement and anticipation begin a frenzied chase to find it – conferences and concerts abound – though will you find it there? You may experience a manifested encounter with the presence of God and be stirred for “more”, but will it stay when you get home?

New Wine poured into an unprepared vessel leaks out.

Just as the oak barrel is prepared for its prize, we, too, are prepared.  However, it is not about “doing” things to get ready – trying to pull it down from heaven – it is about “being” made ready. Preparation for us looks similar to the barrel – we will go through the boiling, flushing, and toasting as we surrender to the loving hand of our Heavenly Father.

As we hunger for the presence of God – that hunger stirs a deep love within – that love turns to desire – that desire erupts into a longing, and that longing pushes us to the feet of Jesus.

As we spend time in silent adoration at His feet, a mindset of yielding to only what is Him, solidifies in our heart – something changes; the vessel is prepared. As we chose to lay aside all the distractions, choose to step into worship, into reading the word, into prayer, and into fasting – suddenly, we are there. All of these choices are not about coercing Gods hand, but about a love that is growing – a love that desires His presence above everything else – a love to see His face. In that place of passionate pursuit, we find His presence; there we begin to experience and hear Him – right there in our own living room His presence manifests. We become a vessel that He has prepared to carry and distribute His New Wine. We will no longer leak!

As we wait at His feet, He pours a continual flow of New Wine into and through us. Then, as we walk into a gathering of passionate pursuers’ – we will enter into an atmosphere that has been saturated in worship, word, and prayer. The love, excitement, and joy will pulse as a single heart-beat from the Father and we will find ourselves in the presence of an explosion of Glory.

Every part of our lives will begin to have one central focus – Jesus! Our alignment to the Father’s voice, His plans and purposes will stir a passion – passion to say YES, LORD as we live a lifestyle full of New Wine from heaven.  We will see others drawn to us by the intoxication we are now walking under – they will ask, “Where have you been? Why does your face shine? How can I get what you have?” – sharing the gospel will be easy. Our prayers will change as we hear and do as Holy Spirit directs. We will see His answers and miracles abounding all around us. Our faith will be WHO we are, not something we do.

Join me as we fight off the distractions, begin to walk a lifestyle of passion, and choose to daily sit at the feet of Jesus!

Be ready to say YES, LORD as He directs you to pour out New Wine to those around you.

Matt. 9:17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved. (ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Wine-Press

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The scent of fermentation is distinctly nauseating. The process can’t be rushed. Days pass as you find yourself periodically retching as a whiff catches you off guard. Finally, at just the right time, you can bring out the wine-press. Its brutal archaic feel is needed to exert continuous force on this batch of crushed, fermented grapes. The pressing process now removes all the solid bits and from it begins to flow pure rich wine.

We don’t think of the pressing process often; we take it for granted. We press many things without a second thought; juicing a lemon, rolling out cookie dough, ironing out wrinkles – all are a form of pressing. Applying pressure always changes the original form. A solid lemon becomes juice, a bowl-full of dough becomes a tasty well-formed cookie, your just-out-of-the-dryer shirt changes from “a mess” to a smooth presentable clothing item – all from that process.

When Holy Spirit works the pressing process in your life, you must remember that His plan is always to change you, transform you into new wine. He works on one batch at a time and the process must be yielded into and walked through. How you chose to walk through it is the key – eyes on Jesus, trusting that He is in control and laying down your “fix it” mentality.

You have made it through the crushing and fermenting of this batch but the pressing now begins. Yielding your heart, mind, body and spirit to the loving hand of the Father will allow this process to bring forth a sweet wine.

Leaving behind all that was you to become what you were planned for is the ultimate process of pressing. Holy Spirit’s desire is to move you into a position of contact with the face of Jesus. The pressing will release a free-flowing wine and here you are changed. The pure rich wine that flows sends an aroma of worship to the Father that is intoxicating. It is a worship not made from man, not a music or performance but a purity of true worship that can only be found as you yield to the wine-press.

II Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)

 

Ready to Stomp Grapes?

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Making a good wine requires time, energy and a lot of science. The process from start to finish can take years. The planting, tending, and harvesting of the grapes is just the beginning; the chemistry kicks in later as the crushing, pressing and fermenting is launched.

Whenever we hear the word “crushing” it invokes a negative response. Anything that endures “crushing” will never be the same. But this process is necessary to make a good wine.

We have all laughed hilariously as we watched Lucy in the grape vat stomping the grapes but that process is real. To get to the good stuff – the grapes must be crushed. The skins must be burst, the flesh must be mashed and the stems dislodged. This whole process doesn’t sound funny but rather brutal. Once the crushing has occurred there is a time of waiting that allows all those parts to mingle, creating a unique complex flavor.

A number of years ago we endeavored to make our own wine; making many mistakes and learning what and when to do each step (as well as many “opps, we won’t do that next time’s”).  In our memories one of the best, though difficult, processes was the crushing. The sweet aroma that enveloped us that day as we watched our fruity jewels be transformed into a messy mush, stirred anticipation of the ultimate outcome.

We often pray for “new wine” and ask for “new wineskins” from the Lord but when the process begins we pull away, run away, or cry out “why me God”. Understanding the process of making natural wine gives us a little insight into the spiritual process that “our winemaker” undertakes in our lives in order to produce the very best wine from us.

Once the grapes – all of our natural spiritual maturing – is complete; the process is just beginning. Our yielding to the process requires a deep trust that He is in control of every aspect of our lives.

The crushing breaks the skin – the “me” – and allows the yeast of the Holy Spirit unrestricted access to the good stuff inside. The crushing breaks up all the “all about me” thinking, changing us to look outside of ourselves to see a bigger picture then us alone. In the crushing process, all of the stems – the unimportant hooks of life – are pulled away. Then comes a waiting time, a mingling of all of the parts. A unique complex flavor will ultimately arise, moving us to the pressing phase.

What does the “crushing” look like and feel like? You may already find yourself there If you are in the middle of life’s struggles; physical, emotional, mental or financial. Not the everyday ones but those that take everything out of you. Those times where you can only look up, focus on Jesus and trust that He loves you and has the best for you. It’s a time where you know you have nothing you can do yourself; it’s here that you surrender, yielding into the “crushing” process.

There is nothing fun or funny when you find yourself in these difficult places of life. It is a brutal time. However, you are not alone – Jesus is there to pour out His love, encourage and strengthen you. So be courageous, look up – fix your eyes on the one who loves you and remember the outcome will be the very best wine possible as you chose to yield to the hand of your wine maker.

Romans 5:2-5 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  (HCSB)