one true love

During a beautifully authentic time of worship with two dear friends, a melodic rift came from my heart. With just a few simple words, I expressed the deep fear of stepping into a new year of unknown challenges. Yet as each word fit perfectly with the harmonies of those dear friends and piano accompaniment, I found hope. Hope that grew in the depths of the fear.

When I cannot see the way before me, I will trust in You, God.

It’s amazing how simplicity soothes a weary soul fighting the only God you & I  should have loved, just as a gentle mother lulls her crying, sweaty child. In simplicity, the soul can cease competing and realize it’s sole purpose is to know and be known by a relentless God.

The words you & I read here are mere pixels illuminated on a screen. But what means EVERYTHING to the heart of the Father is you & me. He desires intimacy with you & me. When you & I come to the throne of King Jesus there is no competition with yourself or others. His blood is sufficient for you & me.

I find hope in the song of a great musician that was written for you and me to know God:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Many changes are coming in this year ahead of me. However, allowing fear to stunt a childlike faith and undaunted hope will not be one of them. Tonight declare with me through a surrendered heart and whichever melodic notes you choose:

Be my Strength, Be my Guide, Be my King, my One True Love.

cry out

As you are becoming conscience, you feel your body rocking to the rhythm of the waves. The voices of twelve trained fishermen become panicked and louder with each sway. The same confident voices that promised, “Sure, no problem. Get some rest. This storm is nothing.” are now crying out in terror, “It’s a ghost!” Each wave that crashes over the boat coats everything in a salty layer and each gust of wind carries the water-logged boat further from its destination. But something different captures the attention of the fishermen. In fact it does more than distract, it terrifies.

Standing up, you squint to focus on the figure walking on water toward the boat. Before you cry out in fear, you recognize the figure as Jesus. Everything stops. You look around: Jesus is walking toward you on the water, a wave threatens to engulf your man-made protection from the storm, the gusts of wind push the boat away from your destination, there is nowhere for you to run, and your mouth is open with the intent to express fear just like the other fishermen.

What drove twelve trained men to cry out in fear (Matthew 14:26)? Was it caused by the raging storm? If it was the storm, wouldn’t they have spent the whole night crying out in fear? Was it fear of Love pursuing them? If “perfect Love casts out fear” then why was their first response fear?

As everything continues, your eyes fix on Jesus who continues pursuing you. Your mouth is open, prepared to cry out.

I would challenge you to think about what your response would be. What is the reason for your cry?

Personally, I believe I am crying out in fear because I am not prepared for Jesus, as if I could ever be prepared. Satan has lied to me, “Jesus is coming to condemn you.” I have become so distracted by trying to hide and control the vastness of my sin that I completely forget that when Jesus said, “It is finished.” It is truly finished.

When Jesus walks towards us, what if our first response was a cry of worship or surrender. To raise our hands and claim, “I am too weak to do this on my own. I need your grace and power.”

“But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'” -Matthew 14:27

No matter what our response is, He is always patient and full of grace. He will always remind you who He is, even when He appears to be a “ghost” far off.

a song for the wait

Today the sun penetrates the very depths of my being. As its rays beckon to bring life to my bones, the cool breeze reminds me of where my joy comes from.

In Psalm 51:12, David cries out to the Lord, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” He is confident in the joy found in God’s salvation. Yet in this moment, it appears to be distant. The past couple of days I have craved the very thing David did. Just this morning, I made the same request, “Let me experience Your joy!”

In a vain attempt to experience His joy, I fumbled around looking for personal changes I could make. I just knew there was something I could do in my own strength to restore the joy I was craving. This search left me empty and exhausted.

But the Lord is good! Through a close friend He led me to Lamentations 3:26. “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

This morning I made a vow to do my part. I am waiting quietly for His salvation, while I trust Him to restore His joy in me.

Below is a perfect song for the wait. The joy on the children’s faces is so encouraging. I encourage you to listen to Hallelujah by Johnnyswim with a heart poised to wait.

“I hang on every word You say.”

caged bird

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” -1 Peter 4:7-9

On this Sunday morning, truth washed over me while reading 1 Peter 4. I got a picture of a caged bird singing its little heart out. A bird was not created to be trapped in a small metal cage, inhaling stale air and becoming weak. In caging a bird, humans become fascinated by thwarting its potential. In the same way that I would cage a bird, I have often immured myself. Many times I find I am trapped by my sin and the shame that follows. I become tactless and blinded by the metal cage that surrounds me. This cage has the same effect on me that it does a bird. I become weak as I heave for fresh air and long to be free. 

My mouth opens and a song flows out. A song that is sung from the deepest part of my soul. “Rush in! Rush in, Papa! Rush IN!!” As every fiber in my body believes and sings those words, Papa hears. A metal cage can enslave me, it may blind me, but one thing it can never do is silence the song of my heart. He sends a warm breeze that rushes around my body. As my lungs fill with this air, my song gets louder. My mind becomes sober and my eyes are no longer blinded by the metal cage. Not only do I see past it, but I see through an opening. One big enough that I can fit through. Am I willing to slip through that opening, to step into a place of total surrender? To leave behind all of my pain and the lusts that have enslaved me for so long?

I would encourage you to take time to answer those very questions. Just beyond that small opening is the freedom that you and I were made for. Not only that, but there are many others who find themselves trapped by a metal cage. They need to hear your song of freedom. Your song will give them just the amount of courage they need to begin singing their own.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.” -1 Peter4:7

zp

wings of faith

Below is a sample of “Come On, Let’s Go,” by Andrea Marie. I suggest purchasing this song to support her and because it is a great song. As you listen to it, open your heart to God and allow Him to reveal anxiety. As he shows you different places in your heart, let them go and feel the grace that rushes in like a warm waterfall to cleanse and heal those areas.

“You may be broken, but these wings will carry you.” -AM

Meditate on the line above and the picture of the broken shell. What does this say about our God? Our anxiety?

“We live by faith, not by sight.” -2 Corinthians 5:7

This verse can often become faded, watered-down with use. It is often forgotten when life requires us to walk by faith. When we live by sight, our eyes open to a foreign world, causing panic and anxiety to set in. We stumble around trying to familiarize ourselves with the surroundings. Anxiety increases as we apprehensively decide the way that will cause the least pain. No one speaks our language and by the looks on the foreigner’s faces, we are hated. We all to easily throw hope away frustrated, confused, attempting to learn a different language.

God knows us all too well. He knew from the very beginning that it would be hard to live by faith. He gave us yet another reminder:

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7

Close your eyes. Fully give God your anxiety. Allow the wings of faith and grace to carry you. Be patient trusting that God is leading you to freedom. You may find that you are in a foreign world. Seize every moment to patiently teach those around you the language of hope. In teaching, you will come to find that hope is the universal language.

-zp

hope-filled gaze

This entry was started a couple of months ago when I was at home.

As lightening flashes through closed blinds, the green hue of the room becomes visible. Tonight, I am reminded of my friend Anthony, who I met in Citalapa. Citalapa is a small community outside Los Cedros. During my time in Nicaragua, I left the center in Jinotega to help a mission team from North Carolina as they did a Vacation Bible School in this community. Leaving Jinotega, I stepped on the bus, which was my transportation into the unknown.

Below is a picture of Anthony:

To give you a taste of the excitement and freedom that I felt in stepping onto that bus, I want to share what I scribbled in my journal as the bus full of people sped up and down the mountain roads. “Blown away by the absolute beauty of this country, Nicaragua. As the sun sets behind the mountains, it’s light reflects off the many layers of clouds, which are constantly moving in the wind. The rolling mountains are clothed in a lush, green blanket of vegetation…This trip is different from everything that I have experienced in my life. All of my previous times in Nicaragua, I looked through a camera lens wondering what it was like to be on the other end of that lens, I finally have my chance.” There was something very liberating and freeing of being on the other side. I was overwhelmed with the truth that God has every aspect of my life planned. He knew as I peered through a camera lens at a bus full of strangers, I would soon be a stranger to another curious eye.

The following verse is a beautiful reminder:

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” -Psalm 42:11

When my eyes peer and mind wonders, it is of absolute importance to remind the soul of the HOPE I have in my help and my God. Without hope, my soul becomes disquieted, downcast, shaken. Comfort allows the mind to wander, thriving on the seemingly hopeless future. But, my Jesus reminds me that the future is more than within reach of His love-scarred hands.

God used the encounter I had with Anthony to teach me this truth. I was able to walk alongside Anthony as he was searching for life. His search was evident in the way he became my shadow, following me everywhere. God used me to bring The Living Word into his life. The ripples of this encounter are endless. I left him on the first day with a copy of a Spanish Bible, I challenged him to read it to his family. The next day, he was so excited to tell me stories of how he read it to his mom, dad and brother. I believe the ripples of that one encounter will continue to resonate within that village.

This is just one reminder of how we should not settle for anything less than a hopeful future with a posture poised to praise the Living God!

-zp

el principio del viaje

viaje [ve-ah’-hay] – jour·ney [jur-nee] – passage or progress from one stage to another.

All journeys have a starting point. Home is the beginning of my journey. It is a place that reminds me of my heritage and gives me perseverance to press forward. You see, it is not enough to stay home in a comfortable environment, waiting for life to happen. Rather, it is a place where dreams begin, a place to begin the pursuit of dreams, and a place to revive dreams.

In Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something, he discusses pursuing dreams in relation to the future.

“Obsessing over the future is not how God wants us to live, because showing us the future is not God’s way. His way is to speak to us in the Scriptures and transform us by the renewing of our minds.” … “We should start looking to God–His character and His promises–and thereby have confidence to take risks for His name’s sake.” (p. 41)

The other day, God spoke to me through Scripture using Colossians 2:7. “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.” As I meditated on this verse, He gave me the following image.

The journey begins with the realization that Jesus is the foundation of everything. Once that is established, “we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds and have confidence to take risks” for the dreams He has placed inside us.

Be inspired,

zach