Prisoner of Hope

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

©susanirenefox

©susanirenefox

Willingly your captive, prisoner of hope

Persevered to woo me, grace and love your gift

Willingly your captive, prisoner of hope

 

Rescued me from hunger, hollowness adrift

Beckoned me, asked nothing, freely gave your grace

Persevered to woo me, grace and love your gift

 

Loved me, fed me, filled me; famine now replaced

Riches never ending fill me with your peace

Beckoned me, asked nothing, freely gave your grace

 

Mercy, love, compassion; gifts that never cease

Your plans engender hope, my faith You inspire

Riches never ending fill me with your peace

 

I seek to do your will in all you require

Love is your commandment, this burden of Light

Your plans engender hope, my faith You inspire

 

Gratefully surrendered in love I delight

Love is your commandment, this burden of Light

Willingly your captive, prisoner of hope

Willingly your captive, prisoner of hope

 

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

 

Inspired by Cindy Powell’s post, Forever Bound at Deeper Waters

In the Chrysalis

caterpillar

As Christians, why do we struggle against the world when we are told our enemy is not flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12)? Why do we wage war as the world does, with hateful words and rhetoric, when we are told these are not to be our weapons (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)? Why do we insist on clutching to our own agendas when following God’s agenda would be so much more fruitful (James 4:7)?

cocoon_butterfly

We’re a fearful culture. We exclude, discriminate, segregate, judge, restrict, and divide. We live from fear. We are slow to learn and resist change. We refuse to gently and lovingly engage when we see or hear private wrongdoing; we step away because, “it’s not my concern.” Yet we’re quick to indiscriminately judge whole groups, deciding they are greater sinners than we. We’re caterpillars who inch along, give our Sundays to God, but refuse to surrender pieces of our private lives the rest of the week for the gift of grace and love that comes with yielding all.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19

animal-kid.com

animal-kid.com

We’re an impatient culture. We suspire when we stand in line. We honk horns when we drive. We search out the shortest grocery queue. We want fast food, fast downloads, fast conversations and no interruptions. We want what we want and we want it now. We pray, and assume our prayers go unanswered if we don’t immediately receive a job, a house, a spouse, a cure, a resolution. If tragedy occurs, we run from God instead of toward Him, accusing Him of not caring. We struggle inside our chrysalis, refusing to acknowledge the wait is a journey, the silence a respite for metamorphosis, redemption. We agonize and thrash to escape before our intended time.

Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not get tired; they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31

scholastic.com

scholastic.com

We’re a changing culture. As we investigate God’s word for ourselves and assimilate its meaning – not just listen to what other people tell us it means – our eyes and ears begin to open. Our hearts are blessed by hope and filled to overflowing by His mercy, grace and love. We are enabled by the Spirit to bless others who we recognize as His creation. We suddenly have a core grasp of what loving God and loving our neighbor means. He has released the butterfly in us, and we are transformed. We live our lives from abiding in love.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

Ode to Psalm 119

Acrostic A in Fourteen Syllables

Almighty God, Creator

Maker of things visible

and invisible, to You

I lift my hand, raise my voice.

Adoring me so greatly

You sacrificed Your One Son.

Anointed, Jesus lived, taught,

suffered, died, overcame death,

abides in me now through the

Holy Spirit’s grace and peace.

Acquiescing to Your will,

I build Your kingdom through Christ.

As I write in praise of Your

everlasting love, all my

afflictions fall away in

Your mercy and forgiveness.

Fear: a Stumbling Block to Love

Earlier this week I wrote a guest post for my brother Paul at Just me being curious. I decided to repost it here in an expanded version after ruminating on the subject a bit more.

Fear: the opposite of Love

©stux  allfreedownload.com

©stux allfreedownload.com

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

How many times can we speak of God’s love and have it meet with closed fists? How many times do we come away with broken hearts for those who don’t allow his love inside, yet continue to write about his great love and grace, available to anyone and everyone? How many times do we cry out to Jesus, “Lord, please let those who live from fear taste your honeyed grace. Let them desire to inhale your sweet bouquet of love and feel your soft-handed embrace of mercy. Let them hear the mellifluous notes of your voice speaking to them of love in ways only they can hear. Enter their hearts, Lord Jesus, and transform them.”

Jesus spoke of this love first: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And, “A new command I give to you to love one another; just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” And, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

He reminded us of the two most important commands, to love God first and love our neighbor which originated with Old Testament law. He said these two were the essence of all the laws; if we keep these two in our hearts and minds, we would surpass the righteousness of the religious leaders.

The apostle Paul spoke of it often.

“Nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

As did the apostle John: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears as not been perfected in [Christ’s] love.”

Yet, we continue to speak and act out of fear: accusing, judging, excluding, telling our brothers and sisters in Christ what they should and shouldn’t do in the name of God.

Seeing from fear is like seeing through fog. We never have a clear picture of God’s love and grace.

 Love is patient and kind.

  Fear is impatient and antagonistic

 Love is not jealous or boastful or arrogant

Fear is jealous, dissatisfied and suspicious;

It is presumptuous, contemptuous and scornful

 or rude.

Fear is not courteous or willing to learn or listen

It does not demand its own way.

Fear is domineering and judgmental, forgetting we all sin

 It is not irritable,

Fear is argumentative

 and it keeps no record of being wronged.

Fear is resentful and angry

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Fear seeks vengeance rather than justice;

Fear is not open to forgiveness

 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful,

Fear does not seek to pray for enemies or offer the gospel to those they hate

 and endures through every circumstance.

Fear lets circumstances overcome trust.

 When we live our lives from fear, we cancel out everything Jesus has done for us. We return to the captivity of law as if we were orphans, as if no one had redeemed us and given us a new life and a new heart. Instead, we refuse to live from the higher place of love that comes from being a member of God’s family.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15

My friend Paul has said it over and over. Love is the answer.

No matter the question.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

The Turtle

Turtle Riding   National Geographic Magazine

Turtle Riding National Geographic Magazine

The struggle to remain in your embrace

When burdened with life’s worries, grief and fear

Becomes a hindrance all too commonplace

Thought first it was horrific and severe.

Oppressed beneath the weight of my disgrace

Ashamed, to you I no more could adhere

Allowing load and mass to sway my gait

I let affliction incapacitate.

 

Dear God, please show me rescue, don’t retreat.

Laid low by snares of which were not my choice

Imprisoned by the force of this defeat

I need you, long to once more hear your voice.

Without your touch I crumble incomplete

Release me, Lord; allow me to rejoice.

The Spirit stirs and moves me to the sea

Back to the ocean where I might be free.

 

When finally I dared to self submerge

Your ocean’s love was felt, Your grace bestowed

My burdens lifted, comforted and purged.

Glide fluidly, no longer pressed or slowed

In this surrender we did deeply merge.

Your light and love in me did hell explode.

As comfort, joy and peace have taken place

I’m once again caressed by your vast grace.

zcool.com.cn  allfreedownload.com

zcool.com.cn allfreedownload.com

This poem was inspired by a post by Tom Caton at realchange4u.com

Labor of Love

An Interview with Jason Ladd

I first met Jason through our blogs, but we really connected during an online lecture by Ravi Zacharias. We’ve become fast friends – Christian brother and sister – even though we are miles apart in age, occupation and, on rare occasion, in philosophy. With knowledge of Jason’s journey, his deep love for God and heart for Christ, I was privileged and interested to read and help edit an advanced draft of Jason’s book. His sojourn is amazing; one I think you’ll embrace and applaud.

Jason B. Ladd is a Major on Active Duty in the United States Marine Corps. He received a B.A. in Peace, War, and Defense from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2001). He has over 13 years of service and is a qualified F/A-18 “Hornet” Weapons and Tactics Instructor and a former F-16 “Viper” Instructor Pilot.

Jason Ladd

Jason Ladd

Jason is an Iraq War veteran who grew up without faith in God. His search for truth and acceptance of Christianity occurred in spite of a secular past. He is a husband and father of six who realizes the importance of raising children to understand spiritual truths about the world. He is outraged at lukewarm Christianity, and has a passion to uplift and strengthen Christian fathers. His book, One of the Few, is about this passion, and is being funded through pre-orders for a November 2015 release.

I heartily think One of the Few deserves readership, which is why I wanted to interview him here and provide a link to his pre-order site. (BTW, you can purchase books for service men and women there, too.)

Thank you in advance for your willingness to open your hearts to Jason and his story. I pray for your desire to know how Christ transformed his life, and how he has become a light on a hill through his book.

f18_super_hornet.sml

Jason, please give our readers a little insight into the question that brought you from a secular agnostic to an apologist Christian husband and father.

There was nothing extraordinary about the question at first. It came from my wife several years ago during a normal conversation in our small San Diego condo. Somehow, we stumbled onto the topic of death. My wife was raised in a Christian home, but at that point in my life, I was content to spend little time or thought on spiritual things. She turned and asked me, “What do you think happens when we die?” to which I had an answer no better than, “I don’t know. Blackness?”

No sooner had I spoken did I realize the depth of my indifference to this important question. I already had a son, and we were expecting our daughter in the summer. She looked back at me and said, without accusation, but with patience and concern, “You really believe that?”

That was it. You really believe that? I didn’t know, because I had never given it any thought. Suddenly, although already a dad, I felt woefully unprepared to be a father.

What were your goals and intentions in writing this book, and how well do you think you achieved them?

The book started off as a “writing project.” I wanted my children to know my story, to see the transforming power of Christ in the heart of those willing to split their lives open against the blade of his truth.

Shortly thereafter, I began to see potential for others to benefit from my story. Seekers. Agnostics. Atheists. Men uncomfortable with the concept of faith, and women unsure how to connect with their spiritually-distant men.

That’s when I started writing for more than just my children.

What makes this book different than other books on the Christian worldview?

I wanted to create something to draw the reader into my experience. God has given me an amazing point of view from which to tell my story: through the eyes of a Marine; the canopy of a fighter jet; and from a home filled with a loving wife and children.

The book highlights the importance of knowing why you believe what you believe, but has a different flavor than other books written by pastors and theologians. I’ve taken my experiences from around the world, from the California Desert, to Japan, to Iraq, and woven them around my journey to discover what’s truly important.

You come from a military background – you’re a guy’s guy, a fighter pilot, a married dad of six. You approach the topic of Christianity through a very personal lens. How will someone who is not a male, not a military man and not a dad resonate with your story of transformation?

I think there are women out there with men who either don’t share their faith, or don’t share the depth of their conviction. I used to be that guy. This book gives them a glimpse into the often unstated thoughts of the secular man. This is where the book resonates.

The military themes are not meant to resonate, but to reveal, and I think that will be part of its appeal. Few know what it is like go through Officer Candidate Training to become a Marine. Few know what it’s like to fly a Close Air Support mission over Iraq.

The book will resonate with younger audiences and pre-parental readers because I’ve written about the things I wish I had known before I was a father. The age in which we gorge on information has us starving for what can be believed as true, and this book helps readers develop a worldview with a solid foundation — a worldview capable of providing hope and help when others are in need.

Who is an author you’ve read who has made you think differently about Christianity?

The first book I read about Christianity when I began my reconnaissance was Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith. That was where I first learned that my presuppositions about Christianity were not only unfounded, but well-refuted.

Since then, the writings of Ravi Zacharias have pretty much blown my mind. I have read more eloquent writings which speak to both the heart and the mind. They resonate at a personal and experiential level. His level of academic rigor, combined with his demand to care more about the questioner than the question make him one of the most influential Christian apologists of our time.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book? What was the part you most enjoyed?

Knowing when to use hyphens. We should either get rid of them, or hyphen-ate everything. Seriously. Who has time for that?

A difficult part was deciding what to include and what to hold back. It’s a book about my life, but it’s not a celebrity confessional. It’s also written for my children to read, and because of that, some discernment was warranted. There is a danger in presenting a life which seems too clean (which I assure you, is not the case). But I don’t think every person has to hit rock-bottom to have a story worth sharing.

The enjoyable parts were with earbuds in, Hanz Zimmer blazing, and watching the pages write themselves. That may have only happened a few times, but it was cool. Having the cover designed was a fun experience as well because I was able to take my original concept and watch it materialize into something greater than I expected.

 At this writing, you have six children ranging in age from eleven to soon-to-be-born. If you could instill one message in them about God, what would that single message be?

He is there. He is great. And he will have us all together on the far side of their darkest days.

Any last thoughts you’d like to tell my readers you haven’t been able to communicate through the questions above?

Thank you for reading. I don’t deserve an audience. But I’m starting to accept the concept of receiving what I don’t deserve. Thank you.

You can find Jason’s blog at FIGHTER FAITH, and can pre-order his book, One of the Few at https://publishizer.com/one-of-the-few/

Many Rooms

My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not true, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

 

As I asked the Holy Spirit for wisdom, comprehension,

insight into those red-letter words in my Bible

one verse stood out that caused confusion:

“My Father’s house has many rooms.”

Where are these rooms and

who are they for?

Ah! One such

room is

me.