Tag Archives: HABAKKUK’S VINEYARD

The Warrior

11d4cc66fd62f24a6213348bfb996d9fNEW SONG #7

Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? Song of Solomon 8:5

(verse 1)
Oh, Abba! What words can I write
To sing new songs of sweetest praise?
To tell of victories in the night
And how a victor’s shout is raised?

Who is this? Her brow so bloodied?
Coming out of desert grim?
What has happened to this warrior?
Who will hear her soldier’s hymn?

(chorus)

Soft she sings—as hard she leans
Her Savior only strength and shield
From darkest battle’s she has gleaned
Truth, that Freedom’s sword will yield,

Only when the battle’s over!
Only when the victory’s won!
A warrior never quits, or surrenders,
‘Til Father whispers, “It is done!”

(verse 2)

Not ’til then can sword be rested
Not ’til victory has been found
Not ’til soldiers metal tested
And enemy’s surrendered Holy ground!

She turns and lifts her sword now skyward
To honor her Father’s Holy Word
Remembering day when He first called her
Broken Vessel—so absurd!

(verse 3)
And now scarred lips and heart once broken
Gladly she lays at nail-scarred feet
Here to sing! Her Victor’s token!
Her song declares—enemy’s defeat!

She raises voice in song of praise
To tell of desert battles won!
Her sword surrendered at His feet
A Freedom Fighter she’s become!

 

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Called To This?

I have not been “called” to this.

The easy chair.

(Or the easy crowd.)

Though I confess?

(There are days I wish I were.)

Simply put God has called me to the Prodigal-Church.

Yeah, you know.

The ones referred to as:

The Messy-misfits.

The Raucous-runaways.

The Wrecked and Wounded.

The ones who have heard it all before and just ain’t listenin’ anymore!

(Yeah, them.)

These are the “ones” who are severely bruised, deeply disappointed and pissed off at God, The Church, or all of the above.

(Nope. Not an easy crowd.)

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But, you know what else?

God passionately LOVES these that many folks just privately hope will “Go away.” leaving us in ‘The Good Church’ to our sleepy tranquility.

(Yeah.)

I know because I was one of these prodigals, and truth be known? Sometimes I still am.

Ticked-off that is—not prodigal.

I still get angry because many of these folks have been brutally beat-up good-n’-proper.

Perhaps they “once upon a time” believed. But, now?

Now they ain’t havin’ anything to do with it!

They have hit the dusty trail, and now have turtle-shells thick-n’-crusty around once trusting hearts.

Yet they are STILL HIS. And are perhaps MORE WANTED than they were in the beginning.

(Before it all went wrong in their lives.)

Make no mistake about it—He still calls them BELOVED, and He longs for them to come home to Him.

These the Saints consider rabble-rousers, and futile-flotsam, He calls with infinite tenderness, “My Beloved.

I believe this because—I was one of them when He came after me.

(And I do understand how “The Church” feels.)

I fondly remember the days of easy crowds and occupying easy chairs. (Yeah, I confess.) All gone now, and it’s okay because I believe someone needs to reach Wounded Sheep! All those Prickly-Prodigals with crusty shells around hearts that have stopped believing in anyone calling themselves Christian—walking away from our churches—taking the back door out.

Yep, they’re my assignment. My mission. My project.

Broken Vessels Recovery Project

(To be more exact.)

  • Some in The Church say they are MIA.
  • Some know they are AWOL.

But whatever “they might believe? Know this.

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They are His.

They are loved.

His very own Beloved.

(And wounded or wrecked—He wants them back! )

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The Gift

Some things matter in this life.

Many things don’t.

Figuring out what does, and doesn’t, makes all the difference in how you finish.

Many of us have had a rough start.

We don’t have any control over that.

But it’s how you finish that will tell your real story.

How will you finish?

We each must decide for ourselves.

What matters; what we choose to care about, that will tell our final story.

Where we invest ourselves?

That will be our legacy.

I have seen people choose wisely and I have seen people choose foolishly. But, mostly? I have seen people choose much less than they could have had.

And that is the saddest part.

The closer you get to the finish line it’s not the what of life, or the where, but the Who in your life, that begins gathering great importance. If you don’t get The Who figured out, and by that I mean, your relationship with Jesus Christ? Trust me; the rest doesn’t amount to a worthless hill of beans.

The Bible asks all of us,

This life is as uncertain as shifting sand in a hurricane.

Eternity?

That’s a very long time, to get it all wrong, living in the FOREVER of mistaken and dismal choices.

This world only gives you one certainty.

God gives to each person the right to choose where they will spend eternity.

No one makes this choice for you.

Only you get to make this decision.

The Bible says, you brought nothing into this world, and you will carry nothing out with you.

I have seen that for myself. Seen people leave as naked and as empty-handed as they arrived. We leave with only what we have sent ahead.

God holds out to you,

  • THE GIFT—of His grace through His Son’s shed blood on a cross for your brokenness and sin.
  • He offers you Heaven and an eternity of joy and purpose with Him.

You can’t have Heaven any other way.

And your choice?

Your choice will stand for all eternity.

Choose wisely caterpillar.

Reach out and take His Gift for you.

 

 

 

 

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Broken To Bless

Pottery4I think it was Ruth Graham who wrote, “…there is a broken heart in every pew.”

Many years down the road, with many a “breaking-experience” under my belt, I can say a healthy amen.

We in The Church are “a building” built from broken things.

I recall when I was the editor of my women’s church newsletter.

I went to our Women’s Director purposing a series on suffering. I offered a couple of samples topics and suggested the book of Jeremiah as our ongoing theme. Her response, “We don’t want to hear about these things. Write about happy things.”

I thought at the time, “Seriously?”

I personally knew of many people in our church that were going through a very difficult time.

There were single moms, struggling to get to the next payday, wondering how they would feed their kids. Divorced dads, hemorrhaging internally, but wearing stoic smiles. People out of work wondering only two things—where and when? Folks dealing with catastrophic illnesses, for themselves, or their families. Marriages that were being held together with scotch tape, and half-hearted,  “why-do-we-even-bother” prayers.

Could she not see? Did she not hear? Or, was it just the same old coldness of heart that chooses to walk by the bleeding and broken, choosing “the other side of the road” like Jesus related in the parable of The Good Samaritan.

Today, thirty years later—I still do not understand it.

How can people who meet together to sing about loving the Lord, listen intently to all those fine-sounding-sermons about reaching the lost, but then pass the lost, messy, and broken—looking right through them?

Perhaps it’s going through a few breakings myself. Knowing firsthand, the pain and confusion; the helplessness; the dark and intense days suffering brings.

And yes, I know there are “professional victims” in our Churches. Those who seek a continual attention-feast every time you encounter them. (Yes, I know.) I have also encountered the drama-queens (and kings) who suck all the emotional oxygen from the room. Every church has these folks.

The trick, as I see it, is to not let their choices blind you to the genuine suffering that is all around us.

We are buildings filled with the broken, and yes, sometimes messy ones. People whose lives are in crisis and need our compassion and tenderness.

Our simple and decent caring.

That is what I am pleading for here—hearts that care for the wounded and brokenhearted, rather than walling ourselves off behind aloof and superior stone walls.

Jesus calls each of us to reach for His basin and towel.

My bible says no one is exempt:

Does He not call you, too?

Jesus was always tender with broken hearts—asking what He could do.

Are we, not all called by Him, to do the same?

Is not the last word… His words to us?

 “…YOU …do as I have done for you.”

BROKEN VESSEL

Into a shop, I chanced to go
Seeking vessels high and low
When in a box I casually spied
A broken vessel—cast aside

At first glance, I thought I’d take
These broken pieces for to make
A vessel “new” from broken things
To carry songs and glad tidings

But no! My Master bid me take
This broken vessel, for His sake
And look again… “This jar was you…
Before My loving grace you knew!”

“I came into this world so dark
Received the nails that made their marks,

To gather vessels—not a few,
Shattered and broken, just like YOU;

To bring to wholeness once again,
To piece and polish, glue and mend…”
Ahhhhhhhhhh, now I see!” I answered Him.

“The centerpiece for which I search,
To show, display, inside the Church,
Is BROKEN—like so many more,
That wait for us outside these doors.”

Why are we oh so slow to learn?
Why don’t we see that what man spurns,
Is just the ONE that God will use?
He chooses MOST what we refuse!

I thank you LORD for taking me
A BROKEN THING—that all could see,
Had little use… not much could be…
Reclaimed… restored… for Your glory!

 

 

 

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The Table (Part 3 ~ Moses-Moments)

history-biblia-3I believe there are Moses-moments that all of us will encounter.

Experiences that we walk through; things that happen to us that change us forever.

They may come unbidden or unwanted. They may be a result of our choosing, or of another’s choices. But the result is nevertheless the same—we change permanently. From that moment forward we are different.

That is what happened to me in that room full of tables. I was about to encounter a burning bush, though I wasn’t aware of it. Oh, I had a vague “awareness” of where I thought God might be going, but I didn’t see that table for what it was—not at first.

As I began to set all the pieces in place: dishes, utensils, napkins, people who were doing the same with their own tables, began to notice the disparity of my “creation” with the rest of the room.

I truly was an ordinary brown sparrow in a room full of peacocks!

My “little vision” to some of those ladies, seemed grossly out of place in that ocean of flowers, and china and crystal. I wasn’t surprised by their dismay, but the outright offense of some—stunned me.

When I reached into that box, to pull the broken shards of what had once been a beautiful jar, and arranged all those broken pieces as my centerpiece, with the book, and basin, and towel, and poem?

I was not prepared for the outright rejection of what I had created.

Was BROKEN so bad; so scurrilous?

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I do remember I said a quick prayer that they would somehow understand my heart’s intention, and I left, hoping I hadn’t made a dreadful mistake.

What if they removed my things after I was gone? What then?

Would the ladies assigned to table eleven show up tomorrow and find nowhere to sit?

I was dreading the next day’s event.

UNEXPECTED BEGINNING

I walked in wearing a plain black jersey dress; black stockings. I took a simple flour-sack dish towel for an apron, tied it in a knot, in the back.

I inhaled slowly, deep breath, and removed my shoes placing them under my “hostess” chair.

(I felt the LORD Himself had asked me to do this.)

Then I waited.

I said another silent prayer that the ladies at my table would not be hurt or offended at their “gifts.”

As I lifted my eyes to survey the room, I saw women gathered in small groups; some whispering; some openly glaring; a few smiling. “Were those smiles of approval or mocking?” I wondered.

I looked down at my mud-brown bowls of brokenness and baked clay. Bowls with offerings of what I hoped would be tender encouragement. Basins with soap and towel and poem. Would these small “ordinary-offerings” be accepted, or rejected?

(Ever wish a floor could swallow you whole?)

One by one the ladies assigned to table eleven arrived. Each surprised at first; at the gifts. At the pains, I had taken for them. They read the poem, studied the jar in the center of our table, and they marveled at what they were seeing. Each “saw it” coming from Him—for them!

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It was perfect.

It was holy.

It was their Moses-moment.

I was only the server that day—He was The Host, and He met each one in their personal point of need.

I sat listening intently to each lady as they told their stories, marveling to myself. The things they were going through; the struggles each one had; the way the bowls and the poem and the jar “spoke” to their hearts. There was nothing “random” about who He had chosen for Table Eleven—not even me! God had prepared a burning bush for each one, to remind us all, that though we are broken, we are all The Chosen by Him, to make a difference in this broken world, for Him.

The best part of my story I save for last.

She was not seated at our table, but I believe she was perhaps the most blessed that day.

If table eleven was for anyone in that room, it was FOR HER.

I don’t know who she was. She walked up to the table without a word. Stood at a little distance, hanging back.

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When I turned and looked at her, our eyes locked.

I will never forget the pain I saw in those eyes.

Tears were flooding down her cheeks as she looked at that big broken jar. Big, beautiful, crocodile tears.

She looked back to me and silently mouthed the words, “Thank you.”

Then she walked away.

In the day’s events, it was a brief moment. That was all. That was enough. I have carried that “thank you” in my heart from that day to this.

(It was for me.)

It was my Moses-moment.

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The Table (Part 2 ~ Unexpected Places)

Okay, I have my list. I’ve got my plan and I’m headed to the import store for, table cloth, check. Napkins and utensils, check.

In my head, I see it—this table of mine in a sea of china, silver, and crystal.

Only my table is the exact opposite.

Instead of china, wooden plates with plain glass plates on top. Wooden spoons with wooden forks. A tablecloth, not of fine linen, but rough woven cloth, like something Moses would have worn. Plain brown napkins tied with leather thongs. In the center of the table, a basin and towel, with the book. (Yeah.) Maybe I could even write a poem?

And then it hits me—an idea!

 

What if I take a bunch of clay bowls, line them with broken bits of pottery, so the “broken” is on the inside. Put a bar of homemade soap wrapped in brown paper and tied with leather thongs. Add a rolled up towel, and a copy of the poem for each woman. Something they can take home and keep long after the event is over!

Isn’t that the theme I’m really looking for?

Okay, now I’m getting excited. So I take all my stuff up to the counter eager to check out and get on my way.

That’s when I see it. Something totally unexpected. This plain brown box, on the floor behind the counter, with a huge clay jar in a dozen broken pieces. My centerpiece!

It speaks so loudly no one could possibly miss it!

 

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The clerk assures me, “It’s only junk, and once logged in on the breakage list, destined for the trash.”

Yes, I can have it.

I set the box on the floor of my car, and start for home when God shows up. Not like last time but I did feel just like Moses staring at that burning bush. It wasn’t an audible Voice but I know God spoke.

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From this plain brown box, through a broken jar, He spoke straight into my heart.

He showed up again, in an unexpected place, in an unexpected way, and I knew.

He was up to something BIG.

 

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The Table (Part 1 – Social Doofus)

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I wonder how many people are like me?

I live in this weird parallel universe of making myself do what I need to do, while at the same time feeling totally incapable of doing it.

(I think it’s a holdover from my childhood.)

I remember the first time dad stood me on a kitchen chair in front of the washing machine. I was seven years old. He began explaining what all the dials meant and how to use them. Terrified of letting him down, I struggled to comprehend all that he was telling me. How would I remember all these directions?

Most of my life has held moments and experiences that felt just like that day standing on that chair.

  • My first time sitting behind the wheel of a car.
  • My first apartment in a large city where I knew almost no one.
  • My first job interview in that city interviewing for a job I had zero experience doing.

Does life do that to each of us? Thrust us into situations we have zero talent, or ability, or training for? Then, we have to “step up” and somehow, or some way, pull the rabbit from the hat?

Yeah—I think so. And that is definitely me, and the assignment to Hostess—anything.

I have no natural gift of feeling at ease in social functions. ZERO. I ask you then, “Whatever possessed me to sign up to Hostess at my church’s premier women’s social event: Hats Off To Hospitality?” And, at the last possible minute?

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Total insanity!

I’m standing there in front of the sign-up sheet, looking at all the “taken tables.” Only the least desirable spots in the room are still available.

“Just choose one.” I think.

(Yeah, sure.)

So I take number eleven, way off to the right, next to the wall and the doors to the kitchen.

Talk about the worst possible spot!

(I mentally picture bending to fill someone’s glass, just as a busboy boots me in my you-know-what, with one of those swinging doors!)

Now, what?

Well, I’m supposed to come up with a table theme. So I think of the book I’m currently reading, Jim McGuiggan’s, “The God of the Towel” and I think, “Yeah, maybe I could do something with that?”

I make lists for everything, so of course, I started making my list.

I thought I knew just what to buy; just what I was going to create. I smile remembering because God was about to tweak my plan with a few ideas of His own. He was about to take my moment of temporary insanity and pull off something, well let’s just say, I was about to learn that being a social doofus is a REAL KINGDOM ASSET to God’s way of doing things.

In my greatest fumbling weakness?

He was about to work His quiet little miracles!

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Beloved Prodigal… (Part 1 ~ bat Shuvah)

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The road you’re on is not an easy one. (I should know.) I have been down your road.

It is for that reason I wrote this book.

I am hoping it will plant some seeds of trust in that heart of yours.

The Jewish would call me “bat Shuvah”—she who has returned.

I have returned.

  • To my Abba-Father God.
  • To The Church.
  • I am a Prodigal no longer.

Yes, I returned.

But you know what?

I confess (even today) I still struggle to not get discouraged and go over that hill again.

Perhaps that’s because I also have learned—today’s Church can be a cold and lonely place for the wounded and broken. All the disillusioned, angry, and messy-ones. And yeah, it scares me to confess that truth to you.

Truth is, I grew up in a house full of secrets.

In my house?

It was definitely not okay to be wounded or broken.

(That would have been admitting the truth.)

No, appearances had to be kept up at all cost. Illusions were prized far above truth.

I still shake my head today, thinking back, looking at the choices my parents made I wonder, “Why would anyone want to live like that?” Then, I look at how it still is in today’s Church and I realize, not much has changed. People still live lives of posing and pretense.

Perhaps they think it easier… less messy—to just fake it.

But my heart has to ask, “Isn’t that just a waste… to live an unreal life?”

I mean…

“How do you ever become “REAL” without telling your real story?”

6a1d6b965ff0038f17473284a4997d96So, here it is. Mine, with all of its ugly scars, brittle edges, and more than a little healed-crooked, hard won, Jacob-type-leaning, and limping.

I’ve come a long way from that crooked and broken road.

(Been through some fierce storms, too.)

I hope I’ve learned—a little…

And maybe even earned… my place?

To speak to that deeply wounded heart of yours.

 



 


 

CODE RED

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I am stumbing through grief again.

“So soon?” my heart whispered.

It seems as if I had just recovered from one huge loss when I got the jarring news that someone I loved dearly had been whisked away.

Gone.

Death always jars me to my toes.

I never get used to it no matter how many times I walk through it.

And I wonder, “Is this the way it is with everyone?”

So here I am again walking through each day in a kind of a gray fog. Trying to concentrate on the next thing; the next step; the next breath; and not doing a very good job of any of it.

My eyes gush tears when I least want them.

My heart overflows with this new empty.

I am lost in a maze of memories I can’t hold back or control no matter how hard I try.

I drift. I flounder.

I reach for answers I already know I won’t find; can’t find, until Jesus and I are face to face.

I scold myself. Telling myself, “This is how it is at your age. Loss will be a regular part of normal now.”

But grappling with that truth doesn’t help much.

The bible warns us, “You do not know what a day will bring forth.”

“Yeah.” I think. “No kidding.”

Like the other day.

We had just had a nice lunch with some visiting family. A pleasant afternoon. Peaceful. Little did we suspect that in just a few short hours we would be sitting in the kitchen reminiscing and the phone would ring with words flashing across the T.V. screen — CODE RED!

I stared at the screen then at the face of my friend as her expression went from happy to grave.

She was listening intently to the message from our caller.

emergency-response-training-9-638Then she hung up and calmly announced, “We have been told to pack up whatever we can and be prepared to evacuate.

There is a wildland fire burning north of here; it’s headed our way.”

We just stared at one another for a moment, stunned; trying to absorb the warning; trying to think. What should we do first?

What do you pack up when you have only moments to decide what needs to be saved, and what you must walk away from, and surrender to the flames?

“You do not know what a day will bring forth…”  James 4:14James 4:14
English: World English Bible - WEB

14 Whereas you don’t know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.

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warns.

(For sure!)

The ONLY thing that is certain in this life is it’s abiding and constant uncertainty.

So let me ask you a question

“What are you going to decide to do with His pearl that we call: The Gospel?”

It is the MOST important decision you will ever make.

Perhaps this is your CODE RED.

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Apart from His blood that He shed on His cross FOR YOU, to cover your sin, so that you can walk into the city of God, a citizen of His Kingdom?

You have no hope of heaven!

There is no other way.

The micro-second you step into eternity your decision and the choice have been made. It will be settled for all of eternity. No arguments. No explantions. No second chances, or do-overs. Nope.

None of us know when death will come knocking at our door.

(None of us do.)

Don’t put this decision off.

Some things can wait.

This can’t.

To refuse to decide — is to decide.

Coram Deo

truthI had always felt it.

This distance.

All of my life—I felt out of sync with what was around me. Family. School. Church. God.

Wherever I was, there was them, then there was me.

Separate.

I don’t know why. Perhaps it is hidden in early events I cannot now recall. Anyway, forget the why. That isn’t what I want to talk to you about today.

It’s the Who.

It’s this separateness I always felt from God—as though He was way too BIG, way too GOOD, way too whatever, for the likes of someone like me.

I think most of us (who believe there is a God) know that following a God, “past finding out,” just ain’t easy!

(I think I gave up on doing that very early in my life.)

Thinking God was like, everyone else, living in universes I couldn’t reach or understand. I was wrong of course, but many years of my life would pass before I learned that God is not out there somewhere, disinterested, unfeeling, or uncaring.

He is an up close God.

A “get in your business” God.

A Father who takes His Fatherhood—mighty serious.

Like the day I decided to end my life.

That was “the day” I met up with My Father-God.

My “Abba-God” up close, and real, real, personal.

And no, I don’t know why He did this, except to say that I now believe my separateness from Him; my belief that He didn’t care what I did, or what happened to me; had become unbearable for us both.

I suppose that is hard for you un-believers to believe.

(Yeah, I get it.)

Still… I’m telling you right now, if you have hung-in with my story this far?

Oh, boy!

I think out there somewhere is waiting for YOU, your own encounter with, Coram Deo.

Wikipedia says,

Coram Deo is a Latin phrase translated “in the presence of God” from Christian theology which summarizes the idea of Christians living in the presence of, under the authority of, and to the honor and glory of God.

Sounds fancy doesn’t it?

It’s not. It’s actually terribly simple.

Bible teacher R. C. Sproul explains it like this:

To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze.

To be aware of the presence of God is also to be acutely aware of His sovereignty. The uniform experience of the saints is to recognize that if God is God, then He is indeed sovereign. When Saul was confronted by the refulgent glory of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, his immediate question was, “Who is it, Lord?” He wasn’t sure who was speaking to him, but he knew that whomever it was, was certainly sovereign over him.

Sounds all up-in-your-face starchy doesn’t it? But what it actually means is God is everywhere, all the time, watching, knowing, and ready for an encounter with you.

Probably when you least expect it. (Like me.) Like Paul on that Damascus road.

He will get all up in your stuff.

Love does that—especially Perfect Love. And trust me, you won’t have any smart alec answers to Perfect-Love if He shows up some day, barging into your confirmed unbelieving. He will quite simply, blow the doors off everything you thought you knew, or believed about this God you trivialize, casually curse, or just hold in a sincerly doubting disinterest, or contempt.

I wish I could adequately describe what this day will be like for you.

(When He shows up I mean.)

I can’t. Sorry. The closest I can come is to describe it is this:

His Presence will have a jaw-dropping, power, and purity to it.

That is His holiness.

You really can’t imagine how awe-creating it is.

I guarantee you, you can’t kiss the floor fast enough!

You’ll want to come close in wonder, and run away and hide, all at the same time.

jesusandthelambHe will feel like liquid warmth, pushing out every bit of the cold, dead, darkness, surrounding you (which you weren’t even aware of) until His Love showed up, and began to drive it out!

You will instantly realize: The Dark has zero power over Him!  He is Supremely powerful. Always The One in control—of everything.

This Presence? Sweeps you off your feet emotionally, while arresting you forever, in its realness. The memory of your experience won’t ever turn you loose.

You won’t ever be the same.

Can’t be the same.

His coming into your space?

Changes everything. He really shakes you up! So, fair warning…

I believe His intention, is to do this more and more as our days grow darker and darker, and His returning comes closer and closer.

We’re all on a deadline. Him most of all—since only The Father knows the day and the hour His Presence will depart this world, and everyone will be handed over to the evil one.

(Check the book. It’s in there.)

He’s all about building His Church and finishing what He began on that Roman cross.

Which means that if He is pursuing you?

(And Coram Deo says that He’s everywhere, all the time?)

It means that He’s right where you are—right now. Relentlessly pursuing.

That’s Him. Wooing… you. For Himself. HereNow.

Get ready.

You’re next.

 

 

For more on Coram Deo I recommend R. C. Sproul’s, In The Presence of God, available on Amazon, or http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-does-coram-deo-mean/