Silent Night

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It’s Christmas and my cups are out! Can’t help but smile when you sip hot coffee from a cheerful Christmas mug. This year as part of my own devotion I plan to read a Christmas carol each day. The words are so rich, and I don’t want to miss the message behind the words. Often they were composed with a specific purpose, other times written from a moving experience of the heart, but they always tell the story of salvation in the language of music. Who doesn’t get teary eyes watching little boys in bath robes and sweet little girls with crooked halos singing “Away in a Manger.”

Today the song on my heart is Silent Night. Most of us know the story of the broken organ in a small Austrian village. Joseph Mohr, the priest, had just watched a troupe of traveling actors present the nativity play and his heart was deeply moved. Rather than going home he walked in hushed silence to a hill overlooking the little village. His heart swelled as he reflected on the birth of the Messiah in the stillness of the snowy evening. “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” Could he visualize the events that quietly took place so long ago in another small villiage in Israel? In Bethlehem? “Round yon virgin, mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild.”

Suddenly that tranquil night was filled with light and angels! “Shepherds quake at the sight!”

The next day he shared this moment and poem with his friend and fellow priest, Franz Gruber. Franz composed a simple melody on the guitar and Silent Night was sung in the tiny little villiage of Oberndorf, Austria, at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Silent Night

By Joseph Mohr & Franz Gruber

Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night, Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from thy holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

 

Silent night, holy night, Wondrous Star lend thy light;
With the Angels let us sing Alleluia to our King.
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

The first verse ends with “sleep in heavenly peace.” I hope today you will sing all of the verses to this beautiful carol and may you also sleep in heavenly peace, because he came.

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“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NKJV)

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When My Heart is Overwhelmed

53384266861__6A804B9E-63C0-4B76-B89F-432DBC9A3513December First! Christmas decorations up. Christmas cups in the cupboard. The tree, decorated by the sweet hands of grandchildren shining cheerfully in the corner of the living room.  And even a few presents wrapped and under the tree.

This morning as BJ and I sat having our own devotions, with tears in his eyes he read:

“Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61, NKJV)

Several years ago from the southern tip of New Zealand (where the sign pointing south said, “Next stop, Antarctica”) BJ and Joseph, our son, released the sound of the shofar and   worshiped the Lord. Truly from the ends of the earth they had cried out to Him.

Then picking up my own devotional book I read: “From the ends of the earth will I cry out to you. And when my heart is overwhelmed, Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

What are the chances? Always 100% with God! This morning our hearts were overwhelmed with His presence, His goodness and His love.

But what does this scripture have to do with Christmas? Everything! Life without peace is totally overwhelming. From the first fig leaf, we have tried to cover ourselves, tried to hide, seeking for a safe place. From the very beginning he heard our cry and sent a baby to answer that cry. God came down, dwelt with us, loved us and became our cornerstone, a Rock that is higher than we are. Jesus, son of man, Son of God.

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The ROCK that is high than I

Are you overwhelmed by the rush of the Christmas season? Overwhelmed by what is happening in our nation and world? Overwhelmed by situations in your own life?

Cry out to Him. Run to the Rock that is higher than you are. A Rock that is higher than any situation that presents itself today. This Christmas season each time you see a manger remember He came, not just as a baby but as a Rock. No longer a baby in a manger, He is the risen King of all kings and Lord of all lords. Fully, abundantly able to answer even the smallest cry from a hungry heart.

 

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Pioneer!

This morning Billy Joe, and I had such a sweet experience with the Lord. I was reading Dutch Sheet’s new book, The Way Back, which starts with the song, ”Pioneer” by Nancy Honeytree Miller. As we listened to this song several times it touched my heart as deeply today as it did when it was recorded in 1993, and has become the theme song of our ministry over the years.

You see, I married a pioneer.

Pioneer by Nancy Honeytree (click to listen)

About 20 years ago I sat and wept in my driveway. We were comfortable in the church we had planted 15 years earlier. Yet the restlessness in our spirits was evident as we prayed. A feeling of transition yet again permeated our souls. Uncertainty was looming before us. God was calling us to new and uncharted territory. Again. At the time there was no paradigm for a prayer network prayer ministry, but it seemed this was where God was pointing. PIONEER. This song defined our hearts, our souls, our lives.

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Since the 70’s we had heard and pursued a call from the Father to come out of the comfortable and step into new, uncharted areas. But in those uncertain times one of the best gifts God gives to pioneers is other pioneers who have also traveled the unfamiliar territories. They become your life long friends.

We were pioneers in the early 80’s when we stepped out of the Methodist pastorate to plant a new kind of church called Charismatic. A few other pioneers joined us.

We were pioneers in the mid 80’s when we, along with three other pioneer families, took our children out of public school to bring them home to educate them ourselves.

Now we were being called out to raise up a prayer network of intercessors to pray specifically for reconciliation and revival in the state of Mississippi. This song gave words to the strange, unsettling yet sure voice we had followed since our commitment to the Father back in 1971. Stepping out into this new, unknown place, his everlasting arms were sure, solid and held us firmly. Again we found a few pioneers on this new trail too.

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And just as the song described, settlers came behind us and built it better and faster than we could have. There are now many huge Charismatic churches in most cities. The homeschool movement has exploded in our nation. There are numerous prayer networks that are doing it bigger and better and faster than we could have imagined. Most will never know our names, nor the names of countless other pioneers who pursued the call along with us. But these settlers needed and used the paths we had charted in order to build their highways. Isn’t that the way of the Kingdom? Filled with pioneers and settlers, both essential.

The words of this song continue to ring true today, just as the same call continues to resonate within our spirits. Still not sure of what to say when people ask, “Now, what is it that you do?” because there is always a new horizon ahead. We are pioneers, and settling is hard for a pioneer, even at seventy years old.

Now ask yourself: Does this song touch that deep place in your spirit? Do you hear the distant rumble on the next horizon? Are you yearning for more, feeling the transition but unable to define it with words? If so:

You, too, are a pioneer.  

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You are the one to cut the new path now. You do not know where or what you are seeking, but The Father does. He sees, knows and is pleased, always smiling and guiding you to step out deeper into the unknown.

As old pioneers, we are your cheerleaders. We want to give you a hoist up and champion your journey. We want to shout, “Go for it!  Step up higher so you can see farther. Run to find the new thing Father is doing. Cut the trail so others can come behind you. Make the path clear, because they will need this road you are forging to build their highway or maybe even a runway.”

Keep pressing on. You are the pioneer.

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14 (NKJV)

Pioneer by Nancy Honeytree  (click to listen)

 

 

 

Like a Flood, Raise your Standard

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When the enemy comes in, like a flood God raises a standard. Isaiah 59:19

“The river is at flood stage.” During the Greater Glory meeting in South Haven a couple of weeks ago, I kept hearing the Lord whisper this word to me.  Sure enough the Mississippi River was at flood stage, but that was not the river I could see in my spirit.

Isaiah 59:19. “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard.” (KJV)

By changing the comma, we get a different picture. “When the enemy comes in…LIKE A  FLOOD God raises the standard.”

In the 60’s the enemy had come in with division, drugs and discontent. Racial violence and immorality were rampant; a flood of wickedness was rising in our nation. But quietly, in a steady wave God began to arise. In the halls of our campuses a quiet peace begin to surge. Hippies, looking for peace began to find true Peace. Christian coffee houses began to spring up here and there and the tiny little pamphlet of “The four spiritual laws,” the plan of salvation, was found in bathrooms, cafeterias and on park benches. The hushed flood waters of salvation moved through our land in answer to the desperate cry of the mothers, fathers, pastors and teachers of this restless generation. I was caught up in this amazing river and the deep thirst of my heart was quenched by His Love.  And as one by one, we found true peace, we shared it in the halls, on the buses and even at the rock concerts and beaches. We had found a higher “high”!

Like a flood, God raised His standard.

As BJ and I were praying for the campuses of our state this morning I remembered the 60’s and 70’s. Yes, the enemy has come in again to steal this younger generation and to shift our nation off of our Christian foundation. But yes, the mothers and fathers, pastors and teachers are crying out again in desperate pleas. “Lord, awaken our generations! We appeal to Heaven!”

The river is at flood stage.

Oh Lord, like a quiet, constant surge, raise the river of the Holy Spirit on our campuses again. Release the waters of salvation to flow abundantly in our coffee houses, on our beaches, our homes, our churches, across our land. Let the mighty flood of the Holy Spirit wash away our unrighteous agendas and cleanse our hearts and our land.

Let us not be drunk on the wine of the news media, the politics of the day, but let us be filled with the New Wine of the Holy Spirit! Let us walk in integrity, truth, righteousness and justice. And let us continue to pray.

Let the river of your spirit truly rise up like a flood.

Lord, Raise Your Standard.

Salt

saltRecently a friend was going through a difficult time in her family life. As we spoke she made the statement, “I need the community of believers right now. I need to worship with others. I have prayed, read and listened on line to worship, but I just need to experience Jesus with skin on.”

A few days later I learned that some women from her prayer group had kidnapped her and taken her out to dinner. They laughed, talked and cried together. They prayed for her and simply loved her. When we spoke again she sounded very different. She had been with believers, not in a church service, but in a restaurant where they laughed, talked and cried together. They prayed for each other and my friend was restored in her spirit. Her situation had not changed, but her total outlook had been refreshed and she had the courage and strength to go on.

I was reminded that years ago I made bread. I had put in the yeast, the flour, honey and oil. I had kneaded it and it rose and became five beautiful loaves of bread. The aroma filled the house and I sliced a piece right away. I watched as the butter melted and mixed with the honey on this delicious looking, amazing fresh hot bread, straight from the oven.

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WELL YUK!!! What was wrong with this bread?!

I had forgotten to add the salt. I had baked five beautiful loaves of bread. And I threw away five beautiful loaves of bread.

No salt.

Jesus told us we were to be the salt of the earth. My friend had all the ingredients to walk through this pain. She had the Word. She had the Spirit. She had Prayer. But sometimes we all just need a little salt to complete the recipe. We need the salt to make the bread of adversity  palatable. We need the salt to help us share the load so we can grasp hold of the hand of the Lord and just keep walking forward.

We all need a little salt sometimes. And at other times, we need to BE the salt. The Lord told us to bear each others burdens. The Book of Proverbs tells us that when one falls the other can lift him up.  Building community with other believers in so important in our lives. God created community in the garden. Jesus walked in community with his disciples. We were created for community. We need each other.

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So go and be salt to your world!

Sunday’s Comin!

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Today has been one of those days where everything seemed a little hopeless, a little dark. Outside my window I could see that winter still had it’s grip on the earth. No leaves on the trees, no flowers blooming, neither snow nor ice on the ground either. Just another day of nothing in particular.

Ever had those days? “What are you expecting today?” “Oh, nothing in particular.” And that is what you get: Nothing in particular.

I did the usual things to wake my spirit up to His goodness and love, but….by afternoon I was still not feeling it. No spark of joy when I read my devotion; no revelation as I read the Word. So I just did the usual things you do. I was tired, and wanted to take a nap.

Finally, I walked out into my yard. It was a delightful day outside and I decided to go for a long over due walk around my neighborhood. Rather than call one of my children and talk as I walked, I listened to music. One of my fav is Gungor’s “The Earth is Yours.”

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The upbeat sounds began to sink in my soul and my step picked up a little bit. I found myself smiling and singing along. Then I began to see. The sun was going down and the beautiful pinks and purples and oranges were filling the skies through the stark branches of the trees. The yellow bells were beginning to pop out of bare stems that just last week had no life at all. Sort of like from my lifeless heart a little flicker of unexpected joy began to rise. Not so much, mind you, but a tiny spark slipped out!

One neighbor had put in some new landscaping that looked so nice and manicured. I liked that. New neighbors? When did they move in with their cute little purple playhouse and the trampoline in the back? I watched as the youngster did a flip and throw her hands up in victory. I shared her imagined moment of triumph as she received a ‘10’ for the Olympic gold! Was that a surge of joy I felt? Oh Yeah! Now I’m feeling it!

Suddenly I began to see the signs everywhere: The tender little lily pushing up the hard soil; The green buds getting ready to burst open on the Japanese magnolia and the buttercups. The hope that comes as signs of spring begin to emerge from the dormancy of winter was slowly awakening from the hidden places in my soul.

It was then that the Holy Spirit whispered quietly, “It seems like Friday night, But Sunday’s comin!” The Friday night after the Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross seemed very dreary, hopeless and dark. Jesus’ followers went into hiding as fear rose in their hearts. The one they had looked to for deliverance was now dead and buried in the grave. Oh yes, my friend, that was a dark Friday night. They just didn’t know that Sunday was coming!

I didn’t get the winter snow that I love so much. There are still no leaves on the trees, the days are short and my flip flops are tucked away in the deep recesses of my closet. My day started off a little dark and dreary too. But just as these little signs speak of the hope of spring, my heart shouts “It may feel like Friday night, But Sunday’s Comin!”

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His world is a beautiful place full of hope, joy and beauty, even in the winter. And even in the winter season of your life. But don’t despair,

Sunday’s comin!

and so is the spring.

THE EARTH IS YOURS!

by Gungor

January 29 – Mount Tabor

Excellent for anyone pressing deeper into His presence. the signal fire has been lit for our soul to ‘go up to the mountain of the Lord!”

THE RIVER WALK

Mt Tabor

Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? (Psalm 24:3)

Read: Exodus 8:1-9:35, Matthew 19:13-30, Psalm 24:1-10, Proverbs 6:1-5

Relate: Above there is a picture of a mountain followed by today’s verse asking who may climb the mountain of the Lord. I just want to clear up any possible confusion by saying right up front that no, the picture above isn’t the mountain of the Lord. The “mountain of the Lord” is Jerusalem. Often called Mount Zion in the Bible, Jerusalem has a much more gradual incline than this mountain pictured here. Just because the climb is gradual, however, doesn’t mean it is an easy ascent. Anyone coming from Galilee in the north to worship in Jerusalem during one of the festivals would not consider that final stretch very easy. They would head south towards Jericho and then cut west up to Jerusalem. From Jericho to Jerusalem is a…

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