Let’s Notice

     As a Charismatic Christian I have spent a lot of time “seeking” the presence of God. I’ve put it in many hours reaching for His heart, beckoning for Him to come, and even sacrificing money and energy to go places to “get in His Glory.” Often, I have felt frustrated with the lack of fruit that has come from such attempts to attain a deeper connection with the Lord.

     One of the most popular worship songs of our time has a line in it that I’ve really grown to like. It says, “Let us become more aware of Your Presence.” I like that because it indicates a reformational truth about the nature of God.

     God is here. He is not just “out there” somewhere. 

     The incarnation of Jesus revealed to us that our Maker is not inclined to maintain a separation from humanity in any sense. He is committed to be with us, manifestly.

     This is not even just something He does. It’s who He is….

     He’s Immanuel – which literally means “God is with us.”

     He’s Yahweh Shammah – “The Lord is here.”

     He is the promised Spirit of Christ, “with us even until the end of the age…”

     Most of all He is love — and when seeking to overcome relational distance, “love never fails.”

     Instead of asking for more of God’s presence, my prayer life these days consists primarily of finding ways to acknowledge and appreciate His nearness. I actually make lists of “encounters” I have with Him, to help bring them to my attention more. For instance, I’ve made note that…

  • I wanted to spend alone time in prayer and reflection, but instead I felt God when I took time to encourage a friend who interrupted me wanting to talk about their problems. God showed up through me, rather than to me.
  • I had a dream at night that really caught my attention, and upon taking time to consider its deeper meaning, I realized there was divine counsel hidden in its imagery that added guidance to my current situation in life.
  • The number 11:11 caught my eye repetitively this week. I can’t help but think God is winking at me every time I see it, encouraging me that my life has an orchestrated symmetry to it just like the four linear ones standing side-by-side each other.
  • I was thinking about my own personal weaknesses and failures, right when Katy Perry’s song came on the radio saying “I will love you, unconditionally…”
  • I was thinking about someone I missed, and then five minutes later I ran into them for the first time in years at a grocery store.
  • At church I was let down because I was getting caught up in worship right when the pastor cut off the music. He immediately started preaching a message though that turned out to be exactly what my soul needed to hear that day.
  • I wake up dreading a long work day ahead of me, but suddenly the dread turns to optimism and I end up having a full, fun day. (I often find out later that someone just happened to be praying for me that morning!)

If I don’t take time to stop and savor these moments in life, I can become blinded to just how active and intimately involved the Lord is in my seemingly mundane routine. Even the more spectacular divine encounters – such as when an angel physically touched my head – can seem incredibly normal at times. The most dramatic signs from Heaven have a way of becoming easy to forget if we do not make an intentional effort to rehearse what happened and praise God for it.

Whatever it takes, I encourage you to practice looking for and listening for the presence of God in your life. Contrary to religious tradition, He isn’t one to simply “intervene” on special, awe-inspiring occasions. Rather, He is creatively weaving Himself in our daily lives already. He is loyal to keep working for our benefit whether we notice or not.

Let’s notice though. ? 

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Learning to Like People

I was at the gym the other day when a song came on the radio with the lyric, “I love you, even though I don’t like you right now.” 

That didn’t sit well with me.

I had heard the same sentiment expressed growing up in the Church in the past. Some people would say, “As Christians, we don’t have to like everyone. But we do have to love them with the love of Jesus.” After years of having my heart changed by the work of the Holy Spirit though, I can no longer agree with such statements.

You see, in order to “love with the love of Jesus” I think we have to actually like people. Jesus does not practice loving us unconditionally as if it’s just His divine duty. He loves us affectionately.

Passionately.

I could do a whole Bible study on this, which would be worthwhile. To save time though I will just suggest you read John Crowder’s The Ecstasy of Loving God. It covers the subject of God’s fiery affection well.

All that said, after extensive time having my mind renewed to recognize and receive the Lord’s love for myself, I can’t project on Him some heartless “love” that doesn’t really include a liking for people. Nor can I excuse such a heartless “love” in my own lifestyle anymore.

Everyone has their quirks. Everyone can be in a bad mood, in a rough patch of life, or in a place where they push people away instead of behave like someone who we would call “likable.” Some even get stuck in a toxic, long-term cycle of being unnecessarily difficult to get along with.

But none of that defines a person. As those called to live with prophetic vision, we take it as our responsibility to find the gold inside of people even when it is more of a challenge. This takes work, and sometimes we have to practice more firm boundaries with people because they are making a close relational connection more risky for us. Nevertheless, it is inexcusable for us to just “put up” with people and think we are still committed to loving them.

Love likes.

And I have found that people can feel it if we don’t really like them — even when we don’t necessarily critique them or say anything rude. Trying to just keep things “professional” with people who we really don’t want to be around won’t always work. It doesn’t legitimately help them to trust us.

Thankfully, we actually have the power to find things in people that we can appreciate and celebrate about them. We can call out the best in them even if they don’t see it themselves. Our connection with them will thrive much better when we do.

It might sound too good to be true to think that this kind of love is something we can walk in on a regular basis. I will admit — with some people, learning to like them may actually take a miracle. But that shouldn’t intimidate us in the least bit.

Our God doles out miracles like candy.

As Jesus put it, “With God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

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Audio: “Boredom”

Take a listen to this podcast from author and speaker Rob Bell. It’s all about the importance of processing our thoughts and emotions, rather than rushing through life and constantly filling our time with distractions.

Afterward, it might just make you want to turn off your phone/computer and enjoy the healing power of a little old-fashioned boredom.

Praying for The Guy in the Whitehouse

When Obama was first elected I was not incredibly fond of him (to say the least). Back then I was more staunchly Republican for sure. Thankfully though, I was around a lot of prophetic people at that time, and prophetic people hear from God. And God was telling several prophets that Obama had a huge destiny to be fulfilled. So, joining with my cohorts, I started praying for my President to be the best version of himself and to live up to his true calling.

Then, one night while I was sleeping, I had a dream where Obama came to me for consolation about the stress he was carrying from all the responsibilities weighing down on him. In that moment, he was even more humanized to me — and I couldn’t help but feel for the guy. He had emotional needs just like everyone else I cared for.

Now, years later still, I actually really like the guy. (I happen to share a birthday with him too, so I’m rather glad I like him now!)

I was put off though when a close friend of mine told me that he refuses to pray for Obama. “But the Bible commands us to pray for our leaders!” I protested. I was shocked at how someone claiming to be a Christian could hold so much bitterness against another child of God.

Then Trump got elected.

I, like many others, shared feelings of strong disdain for Trump. One of my spiritual leaders mentioned to me that he felt unqualified to lead others in prayer for the President, because he has long been appalled by Trump’s personality. But again, I had a conviction that Trump is one of God’s children and needs His Father’s approval. Trump needs approval not for everything he does, but for who he is as a person made in the Lord’s glorious image. And I heard someone on a podcast encourage his listeners to pray for Trump to have real, sincere friends — because the President needs people he trusts to speak wisdom into his life.

So I have prayed for Trump, and I believe I (at least sometimes) really feel divine affection for him. I am once again learning to repent of my self-righteousness in feeling like my President is a more difficult person to treat well than I am.

Christ said in Matthew 5:43-45 (English Standard Version), You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

God treats all men with equality — no matter how far on the Right or the Left. In the same way we are called to sincerely bless (with our mouths) those who we could be label as our opponents.

I want to encourage you, if you feel like you have trouble praying for the guy in the Whitehouse (or for any other leader in your life), you are actually the most important person to intercede for their well-being. Why? Because it will take more faith for you to believe God sees good in that individual.

It will take more faith for you to see how God wants to use that person for the benefit of our generation.

And faith moves mountains.

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John Crowder on “The Shack”

If you’ve followed me on social media in the past it might be no surprise to you that I’m a huge fan of the YouTube-speaker John Crowder. He always gives a fantastic articulation of the Good News. It gets me so stoked!

I will probably be posting John’s videos here fairly often, because when they come out it is often one of the biggest highlights of my day. And I love sharing things that I love.

Check out this video John published recently about something else I’m a big fan of — The Shack. 

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Be Perfect…?

It’s surprising what kind of things you will discover in Scripture when you mature in your understanding of who God is.

Matthew 5 didn’t used to be one of my favorite portions of the Bible. After I first started to grasp the goodness of the Gospel, passages like this were not ones I was especially drawn to. The Sermon on the Mount in this passage sounded like it was just more talk about our need to perform better to appease God, rather than to rest in His amazing grace. After my heart soaked in the revelation of grace for several years though, I finally could see this portion of the Bible as actually being super practical to life.

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus says in verse 48. That can sound intimidating. Some preachers will say “perfect” just means “holy,” “complete,” or “mature”… but those words still sound difficult to live up to.

I now recognize that the whole passage gives us a picture of what being “like your heavenly Father” looks like. It looks like being meek and servant-hearted. It looks like being gentle and peaceable. It looks like being forgiving, humble, and embracing persecution.

When we realize how extravagantly our Lord demonstrated His merciful heart toward us through His life, death, and resurrection — our hearts likewise become tender towards God in reciprocal love. As a result, we further become tender toward OUR enemies. If we are truly touched by the kindness we were shown by our Savior, it is a natural progression for us to learn to embrace the “Sermon on the Mount” lifestyle. We want to treat others as great as we have been treated by the Father!

I believe this is why Luke, when writing in his account about the exact same speech that Jesus gave in Matthew 5, ends the Sermon with a different word. He quotes Christ as saying, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

What….!

Could it just be that to be “holy,” to be “perfect as our Father is”… is simply to express divine love like Christ models (1 John 4:8, 10)? Maybe it’s God’s exorbitant loving-kindness and mercy that makes Him so outstandingly distinguished from the “imperfect.”

Luke 6:32 -36 (English Standard Version)… “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

God is not challenging us to reach for a standard He knows we cannot attain. He’s given us mercy, and as we learn to savor it, we are also expected to give it away freely. 

Suddenly, “holiness” doesn’t seem so elusive and abstract to me anymore.

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Heyo!

I often find myself encouraging people to express themselves, to go for their dreams, to overcome false humility and to boldly “arise and shine” (Isaiah 60:1). I’m a firm believer that every individual is a gift to the world filled with insights and grace to offer as a contribution to society. By holding back what God has stored within us, we fail to live up to our fullest potential and we fail to glorify Him optimally.

While encouraging a friend to share his passion and talents with the world around him more, I realized I was being a bit hypocritical. I have generally slacked off in sharing my own love for writing (and communicating in general) with the public, mostly because I have been waiting for some time when I will feel more qualified for the task. Well, I decided to stop that. I want to practice what I preach.

Thus this blog was born.

I hope to update it often as a discipline in learning to put myself “out there” more. Feel free to check back regularly to hold me accountable to that goal.

Thanks for reading!

– Destin

Saint Louis, MO