"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands." - Psalm 143:5

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Yule Better Watch Out




Traditions are grand; they encompass us with a rich blend of history and relationships. However, some can be just downright …well, silly. I did a little research about the Yule Log and found out some interesting facts, which may just surprise you. Before I get into specifics of the Yule Log itself, it seems that most of these legends started in lands where cold and ice rule the landscape for months on end. I’m only suggesting that combined with the long months in darkness, the cold can play a few games with your mind. This for me explains many of the wacky Yule time folklore stories.

From Iceland comes the disturbing tale of the giant…Yule Cat. This terrible feline is ready to make meow mix out of any lazy townsfolk, especially those who might have been less than ambitious in helping the town prepare for the long winter. Perhaps they were put in charge of the litter box, (a rather large litter box at that), and lost all motivation, who can blame them? However, slothful citizens in Iceland were not alone in their peril; it seems that poor people were also at risk to fall prey to this very picky Yule Cat. For if it found you outside with old clothes on, you were a goner as well! Poorly dressed lazy folk were a high risk target for sure.

This is the real reason all grandmothers give new socks and underwear every Christmas, its anti-Yule Cat protection for their grandkids. After all, no self-respecting Nana is going to risk losing one of her own to some oversized Garfield because of old underwear. The Yule Cat legend may also explain why the dog became man’s best friend. A family dog may eat all your food in your house but at least not members of your household.

The Yule Log originates from some ancient Scandinavian festivals and the Vikings did their bit for history by spreading it around Europe through their many raids. Can you imagine Eric the Red saying, “Here you go, we just raided your town and took all your stuff but we left you this Yule Log gig.” I think the modern day equivalent would be the holiday fruitcake, which I believe is flammable and could be used as a Yule log in a pinch, but I digress.

Tradition states that after choosing a large log in the forest, it was decorated with ribbons and carried back to the village. It was customary for anyone meeting the procession on its trip home, to raise his or her hat in respect. Why the log would need such a greeting or honor is beyond me. However, if you wanted an excuse from observing such a custom, you only needed to be a barefoot woman or have flatfeet. A 4F rating that no doubt, kept many a fine young person from serving in the Yule Log burning service corps.

Through the years the legend grew in popularity and changed a bit. It was believed by many to be unlucky to buy a Yule log. The real lucky ones were found on one's own land or from a neighbor's wood. This, for the neighbor trying to find his own Yule log, was not so lucky. People even saved a fragment from the previous year’s log to use to ignite the new one. The homeowner would keep this under the bed to keep the house safe from fire and lightning (and perhaps Yule dust bunnies). Not lighting the log on the first try was a sign of misfortune (watch out for the Yule Cat) and touching it with dirty hands was a sign of disrespect. This early version of the Duraflame log would have to burn unattended for 12 straight hours, but at least you got to eat during this time. Although people were distracted from eating their meal, since you had to carefully study the shadows cast on the wall by the Yule log fire. A “headless” shadow was not good news for the person casting the shadow. A groundhog moment like this one supposedly foretold the death of said person within the year.

Here in America we have dispelled the myths of this long ago legend by reducing the Yule log to an appearance online. You don’t have to hunt for one (except maybe for web surfing), there are no wall shadows to worry about while you are chowing down. More importantly, the internet could care less about your flatfeet.

Every Christmas I learn something new and surprising. The memories, the stories and traditions, collectively add to the discovery process I go through each year. It wasn’t always so, but God has faithfully showed me the right attitude to dive into at Christmastime.

It happened this way…

Over 2000 years ago, in a small Hebrew town, something more powerful than tradition rocked the world. Celebrating His birth does more than change the way I “do” Christmas, it transforms the way I am, the “who” I am. Because of that God injection into humanity, all the stories, memories and traditions become richer in our lives. Let’s enjoy the festivities with the focus on a Savior that came to give us so much more.

Yule love it!


“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” Luke 1:68

Monday, November 7, 2016

All is NOT Lost




The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. Psalm 28:7

He helps me…wow…our Father helps us!

The Hebrew word for help in this verse means to surround and protect. What better way to be surrounded than by the creator of the universe. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English puts it this way.

Lord Jehovah is my helper and my protector, for my heart is confident in him and my flesh flourishes, and with glory I shall praise him.

There have been so many temptations to rant and rave about this Presidential election, I wanted to tell you/sell you why each candidate is unworthy to hold an office, much less than the highest one in our country. I was going to complain about a nation asking for a king instead of bowing their hearts to the King of Kings. I was…but I can’t…I feel there is something far greater at stake than electing a President tomorrow.

Who will hold your heart after the election?

The answer depends on what or who we have transferred our hope to. I admit to losing hope because there was a dearth of leadership presented to us. Some have placed their hope in one of the candidates. We give our hearts so easily to other causes, to other leaders, to other hopes…and when we do…we come up empty.

And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Psalm 39:7

His sons and daughters have great reason to rejoice, for our hearts can be confident despite what is happening in our country, for our hope is found in Him. Hope grows in a grateful heart, hope thrives in a heart that worships the Father and hope abounds in the heart where He lives.

All is NOT loss, not on His watch.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Our hearts are far more important to God than the election tomorrow. If the heart of the Church is firmly in the hands of the Father, our hope will be as well. May I encourage to earnestly be praying for tomorrow? Whoever is elected, God is still sovereign, and He still holds the heart of the “king” in His hands.


And He still holds ours.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Make America Great Again




But maybe not the way you're thinking....

Lately I have avoided most political discussions like a man wearing a paper suit avoids people with matches; such interactions get heated quickly and tend to burn someone. The media, which is harder to avoid, feeds the American public with ridiculous amounts of un-journalistic garbage, calling it news. It is no wonder we suffer from the obesity of self-interest and pride when America gladly gorges on this political junk food. Then we have the social media world, filled with its own opinionated pyrotechnics, which has frustrated me with post after post of some of the meanest rants I have ever read online.

And those were from Christians… Have we lost our minds?

No man/woman can make America great again. No candidate/Democrat/
Republican/congress/judge/army/economic package/3rd party/grass roots movement or revolution can bring greatness back to the shores of the United States. Only God can make America great.

He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. Daniel 2:21

And, by the way…It’s His definition of great that counts.

Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people. Proverbs 14:34

If His sons and daughters want America to be great again it requires righteousness…in the way we live and in the way we love. It needs repentance and the willingness to turn back from a life that is centered on me. It’s not who I choose as my candidate that guarantees my well-being but who chooses me.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm 33:12

Let’s turn the ballot booths into the greatest collection of prayer closets the world has ever seen… praying that God make American His again.


That sounds great to me!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hard





Following the Messiah is anything but easy, it’s hard. It’s a walk that fills the longing in our hearts but leaves it gasping for air at other times. Following Jesus is hard because we’re human. We walk through a lost and hurting world and we can’t help but wade through the ripples/wake of their pain… their sin….and yes, our sin.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. (14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard (pressed like grapes) that leads (carry) to life (real, vibrant), and those who find (get it, understand) it are few. Matthew 7: 13-14 

The gate is narrow… the way is hard… how do we respond to that?

We could get hard-headed, hard-nosed, hard as nails, hard to the core, The battle for our heart is real, the enemy wants to defeat our heart…make it hard, unresponsive to the Father. We could shrink back… lose heart, choose a different way or we can choose have the Father’s heart pressed into ours.

"I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart." Jeremiah 24:7

"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." Ezekiel 36:26

For whatever or whoever has your heart… has you.

What we believe about our hearts matters. If it’s valuable (and it is) we’ll protect it, fight for it and worship the God who created it! The enemy wants us to believe our heart doesn’t matter to the Father, that it’s unredeemable, corrupt and beyond hope. Thankfully, the truth is miraculously more powerful, Father God restores our hearts with His.

The process of receiving a new heart is more than a transplant of values; it is a radical new way to live. It's a heart that beats with a rhythm of surrender, responding in the only way that brings life. This is huge… in order to move through a hard life without growing hard and cold, we need His heart, His Spirit breathing new life into our hearts. We need to understand our hearts in a new way. If you’re still worried about your heart listen to this…

God is greater than our hearts

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (19) We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. (21) Beloved, if our heart condemns us not, then we have confidence toward God.” 1 John 3:18-21

If God doesn’t condemn us and our own heart doesn’t either then our faith should be off the charts! Not in us but in our heavenly Father. Our confidence is not in our own heart, but the heart of the Father in us. We can’t be passive in our repentance or in our responsibility when we sin and disobey. Will we love like Him, live like Him… no matter how difficult?

The choice is this…what heart will we accept?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Why I’m Not (Still) Who I Am




Sorry for the confusing title, hopefully I can explain why it fits. In 2013 I wrote a blog post intended to debunk the mythos of my reputation and to dispel the notion that I always have my act (what ever that is) together. It seemed that I was gaining pedestal status in some circles and I thought that was a dangerous place for a man to be.

Now six years later I wonder if I’m still sending mixed messages.

Don’t get me wrong, I work hard to maintain an honorable character and I believe I should as a follower of Christ. I appreciate the respect I’ve earned and the trust that follows a man of his word. The influence I have I do not take lightly, I pray that my actions follow the words I speak and that my life points (favorably) to the God I serve. I’m known as level headed, calm… a bit strange, but easygoing and likable.

Someone once said to me… “I can’t imagine someone ever getting mad at you”

I have people get mad at me all the time… some of those people live in my house.

I’ve been happily married for 34 years, a father for all but seven of those years, but sometimes struggle with loving my wife (as wonderful as she is) as she needs to be loved. I love being married to my bride and am devoted to loving her as Christ loved the church but sometimes I fall so short of that ideal. The selfishness of my own way gets in the way of caring for her soul and our marriage suffers from my callous heart.

My children think I’m a great Dad and generally, I agree with them. Yet, I don’t always lead them correctly or model what a man should be in a way that is inviting to them. My words appear as jabs instead of encouragement and I let distance fill the gaps where my love should be.

I’m (still) not who I am

My faith is strong and I love Jesus desperately, but I would guess that there people who think I’m a hypocrite because I don’t always back up my words with right action. One of my gifts is encouraging, I love finding ways to build people up and help them see what Father God sees in them. Then, there are times where my heart seems so distance and remote that it leaves me wondering do I really care at all?

I’m (still) not who I am

I have the honor to speak into men’s lives, many people see me as friend and confidant. They put their trust in me and that friendship; it’s a real humbling place to be. Unfortunately, there have been times I have stretched the limits of my friendships with selfish motives and lack of consideration. Sometimes my desires to be a “somebody” have muscled its way into my idea of who I am in Christ… interfering with the bonds of brotherhood.

Now I pastor a church (3 years) and every Sunday I have the opportunity to bless or disappoint and sometimes do both without even recognizing it. I love this group of hearts entrusted to my care and long for their lives to be full and free. Yet, there are seasons of ungraceful moments where I’m lost for the words they need to hear and I fill them with platitudes, hoping for a spiritual placebo instead.

Have I knocked myself off that pedestal yet?

My point is this… I’m not finish yet! I’m not (still) who I am (going to be) and Father God is not done with me yet. Can you see where my heart is? I’m asking for forgiveness if I have ever portrayed something unreal and false, something that may have put me on a pedestal.

I never want to show you all anything but Christ in me. Any success I have as a man, a husband, a father and a brother is all because of Him. The struggle to be real and transparent gets clouded when you begin to think you are “all that and a bag of chips”… that is not the way of the King. I don’t have wisdom, insight or compassion (not any more than you anyway) but I do have the King (rather, He has me) and He has all that in abundance. In my desire to be a hero to you, I may have misrepresented the King, please forgive me.

I’m (still) not who I am…but I’m getting there

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus return. Philippians 1:6

Why am I (still) not who I am (yet)? Because I need more of Him and He will complete the work!

In Him for Him always…Jay

PS. I’m not beating myself up here…this is just a heart check and I sincerely what to only represent Him in all I do.


“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:10

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Green Grass Ahead



“You're overwhelmed. Freeze was underwhelmed. Why isn't anyone just whelmed”? – Robin from the Young Justice TV show

If my ramble is confusing, I apologize, the whelming of my heart is in full effect and it is searching desperately for the Head Shepherd’s way.  

Life as pastor/shepherd/fellow follower of Christ is an emotional/relational mix of rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (Romans 12:15). It stretches the contents of your heart daily and often “whelms” you to the tired tears of weariness as you move in as much compassion as that frail heart can muster. In your heart and spirit you wonder…

Did I say the right thing? Did I give what was needed? Did I listen to their heart? Did they hear God in my words?

Many times there are no simple answers to those questions and my sleep suffers because of it. I am so mindful of my words, careful of the weight my position carries and the effect that beautiful mystery has on the folks I journey with. My position as under shepherd encourages this intense collision of hearts and urges a seal of unity in place of otherwise separate lives. To move in such unity requires a surrender unlike any other, one that consistently “whelms” me with its passion.

Thankfully, there is green grass ahead… 

He makes me lie down in green pastures…Psalm 23:2

Green pastures don't just happen—they're made by a heart of love, by a God who knows His sons and daughters. When our hearts are weary and whelmed out… ready to quit, bail, surrender and give in to something less… there is a green pasture ahead. The Good Shepherd is leading us to this place of nourishment and freedom. In this green, lush place, my whelmed self… my failing strength is replaced by His.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Psalm 73:26

So, when I pray with my brothers and sisters, when our stories overlap and blend together, and when the shared humanness of laughter and tears swallows us up as one, my understanding of community breathes with new life. Together we can cry out to the shepherd who knows where to lead us.

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety. Psalm 61:2

Is your heart “whelmed” today? How can I help you see the green grass just ahead…How can I pray for you?

Monday, July 18, 2016

My Prayer




My brothers and sisters, my heart is heavy with grief for yet another heartbreaking moment in our nation. I offer this simple prayer up as a cry from my own heart and urge you to offer up the same. We must cover this nation with prayer and offer up the only hope there is...  the name of Jesus. I also encourage you to read Psalm 130, a passage that I believe will move you and strengthen you. God bless you all, Jay


Our Father,

We are a hurting nation, a people who have lost their way and chosen another. Evil, violence, injustice and corruption fill the wells from which our nation drinks and it is sickeningly drunk from it's dregs.

Yet you are a God who loves redemption and have delivered it through your son Jesus Christ, help us today to surrender our hearts to His. Your sons and daughters cry out in repentance for this nation, and for the times we your children, have failed to follow your ways. We ask forgiveness for the sins we no longer want to ignore and for the ignorance we hide behind. We humble ourselves, we give ourselves over to your heart, please help us to act justly, and love mercy like you do. Fill our speech with your words, cast down the idols of our opinion, search our hearts and cleanse any wicked way hidden in us.

Give us bold hearts, sound minds... let your love rule over us and help us proclaim the great hope of redemption inside of us to our nation. Make us ministers of your grace and carry the truth of who you are to all we meet. Grant the Church wisdom, direction and the courage to lean into the darkness and bring the light of the Gospel.

I ask for peace and provision for the families struck by these tragedies. I pray that no root of bitterness take hold in their lives. Cover them with your grace and comfort them with your presence. Heal their wounds, heals their hearts and strengthen their spirits.

You are our only hope Father... we proclaim our trust in you!

In Jesus name...amen!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Drowning Man




No too long ago I read a blog post that compared sermon prep to drowning; suggesting that only the breath of God can bring life to lungs crushed by the weight of water (responsibility). When I read that post, I identified with the image of a frantic man longing for rescue from his own words, drowning in his own opinionated theology, desperate to breathe in the Father’s heart in order to speak life into others.

Now I realize that this sensation is consuming my journey with Christ and not just confined to the “safe” areas of sermon prep. I’m gasping for air, I feel raw, exposed, washed up on the shore of service… thankful for missing the rocks of doubt and envy that threaten every heart devoted to the Master.

This raw emotion is separated from uncertainty; I don’t fear the exposure and the peel back of my heart but I can’t say this is a pleasant way to inhale my next breath. There is great pain involved in holding one’s breath until you break the surface of liberty. The desire to live freely burns and consumes the oxygen of my soul, igniting the cleansing process that lifts me towards the surface.

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

What I cough up on the shore of new life is the regrets and sorrows of an old life, anchors that weighed me down, holding my head under water and drowning me with shame. His life expands my lungs, filling them with the pure oxygen of His love and leaves me gasping for more.

In this way, being a drowning man is good. I will gladly go under His waves of mercy, His current of grace and swim with all my strength towards the shores of His heart. His breath… gives life.

“For as long as life is in me, And the breath of God is in my nostrils, My lips certainly will not speak unjustly, Nor will my tongue mutter deceit.” Job 27:3-4

Words, thoughts, opinions, theology…me... all covered by the crashing waves of who He is. 

What a way to go

Blessings,
Jay

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Light Response




49 dead, over 50 seriously wounded… the lives of friends and family permanently altered forever.

I believe we (the Christian community) needs a pause, a moment to reflect before we post (or repost), rant or rave, change a profile picture or otherwise comment in the Wild West of social media.  Words escape our lips, our pens; our keyboards with such force that we must remember that those words can bring life or add to the pain people are already suffering from.

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. Proverbs 18:21

Can we quiet our opinions for a season and pray before acting, speaking, posting, and commenting? Let’s dare to ask God to check our heart and see if it lines up with His.
The hardship and suffering of others should move us to a gentle response, one that beats in rhythm with the Father’s heart.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

The tragedy in Orlando is a brutal reminder of how easy it is for evil to inflict devastation and suffering. Day after day, in one part of the world or another, it violently takes a defiant pose, shakes its fist at us and dares us to counter its cruelty.

Although I’m not connected by family or friends to this awful heartbreak, I am connected because God cares for the people involved. My connection to His heart compels me to act like Him. So, how do I, (a devoted Christ follower) effectively respond to such dark, hate filled and evil times?

God’s response to darkness is to send light, a response so radically different than the world’s response. He didn’t send a political solution, new policy or legislation to dispel the darkness.

He sent His son…the light of the world.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. Isaiah 9:2

The world Jesus entered was brutally dark and deadly. Humanity was under a death sentence of sin and it needed a Messiah…it needed the light.

It still does.

I believe light brings hope, because it exposes life; it brings life into clarity and focus.

We could use some hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.” - Martin Luther King JR

My response to tragedy must contain hope. My comments, my speech, my actions, my opinion must be saturated with the hope that sheds light on truth. Hope consumes the intent of evil and in its place brings peace and the courage to fight on. Solidifying my hold on my rights will not stop the flow of violence nor will the desire for my voice to be heard above the voice of others. My vote will not change this evil, nor will ranting and raving across party lines. Only His light, only His love and forgiveness can work that miracle.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

If I lose hope, if I refuse to shine the light of the Gospel, if I lack the will to do good… then I give away my heart to lesser things. I must find a way to do good in this world, the idol of my own opinion must be brought down from the high places of ego and I must surrender it to my King.

How do I respond then?

I love like the Messiah…bringing His light into a dark world. I do the good the Master sends me to do. I love with such a ferocious passion the evil of this world gives way to its light. I live the Good News and overcome the evil with the goodness of God.

“Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:21

Be angry yes, but don’t let anger distort your vision and your heart. Get angry at evil, at injustice and the cruelty of sin. Speak up but cover every word with the love of Christ. This is the way to counter evil, bringing hope and love into the fight. His love doesn’t overlook or excuse behavior, it works to change hearts… starting with ours first.

Dear Children, let us not love with word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fear of Falling



I’m restless today…

I tend to feel that way, the sensation of someone relentlessly tugging at my sleeve, trying to get my attention, attempting to pull me in different direction. Sometimes it wearies me with its persistent cry for my focus, for my deep introspection to discover the cause behind such unrest in my spirit. When I commit to explore the crevices of my fidgety spirit, I’m often surprised by the mystery revealed.

I’m restless because I’m not satisfied.

I want more from life and from my relationship with God. I want a stronger marriage and a greater connection with my children. The desire to make a meaningful impact on this world drives me daily and to settle for anything less seems pointless. This tug on my sleeve is a welcomed one… but there is one that is not.

I’m restless because I’m afraid.

Afraid of loss,
Afraid of failure,
Afraid of rejection,
Afraid of the unknown.

The fear of falling (Basiphobia) is a strong phobia and can cripple, immobilize and rob freedom from the strongest person. For our heart, in a spiritual sense, it’s just as dangerous. Loss, failure, rejection, the unknown threaten our spirit daily, trying to get us to believe a lie.

These restless tugs are connected; they meet at the crossroad of faith and fear. Just when I’m disturbed enough to move out/step out in faith, the fear of falling raises its ugly head and lying tongue.

The lie of falling

The fear of falling lies to me, tugs on my sleeve, fabricates a story of doubt and guilt. A story meant to immobilize my heart and stop me in my tracks… afraid to move out in faith. This enemy wants my heart to believe that I’m doomed to fall and that my falls are always fatal and final.

The truth of falling

“Though he fall, he shall not be cast down; for Jehovah upholds his hand.” Psalm 37:24

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. Jude 1:24

So, I’m checking out that tug I feel on the sleeve of my heart. I don’t want to settle for less than all that God has for me, nor do I want the fear of falling compromise my faithfulness to the call on my life. For that I need more of Him.

“All our falls are useful if they strip us of a disastrous confidence in ourselves, while they do not take away a humble and saving trust in God.” - Francois Fenelon


How about you… are you afraid of “falling” in something Father God has asked you to do? How can I pray for you?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Letter to the Church at Market Street




This is a letter I wrote this morning for the church I serve as pastor/shepherd. As I prayed for them, my heart was moved with compassion for the hearts I follow Christ with. Fighting back tears I wrote in the "style of an epistle", a dispatch of deep emotion. I share with all of you so that you would pray for me as I serve these awesome people, I desperately covet them. Thank you!

My brothers and sisters,

Something special is happening to my heart and it concerns all of you.

It seems that in pursuing/serving/ your hearts I have discovered a love for you that is deeper and purer than I ever imagined it could be. I was just praying and thinking of you all, and my heart is melting with tears.

I hurt for you.

I envision the battle you're in, the load you carry and the multitude of struggles that seek to discourage you daily. You have carried deep sorrow, managed the pain of loss and fight the fierce enemy of regret daily.

All of this, and more, moves my heart for you.

I also see a company of soldiers, an armed family of sons and daughters who have chosen a sacred path and have no intention of turning back. There is purposed determination in your heart; you know who your God is and your love for Him is deep. I love it when you hear His words and you believe them with the tenacity of Honey Badger. Your eyes light up with hope, shining with a reflection of the Father’s heart. That reflection is a life of freedom, the promise of a Father who sent Jesus to battle for our hearts.

I am encouraged for you (and by you)

As we dive into the freedom that Christ has purchased for us, may we remain focus on the battle that is raging around us. The enemy of our soul is unashamed about wrecking havoc in our lives…he lies, he steals and is pumped about destroying anything precious to the Father. Do not be surprised by the pushback and the viciousness of that attack by this deceitful one. For it is written:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

And it is has been said by one of our past Church leaders:

Many of us are hunting mice - while lions devour the land. (Leonard Ravenhill)

It is time to push back the darkness, to not concern ourselves with the smallness of the world and give ourselves over to a life of faith like we have never known before. For it is written:

“Who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." Hebrews 11:33,34

The truth is that we hunt lions with a bigger Lion!

For it is written:

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5

Weep no more…Jesus has won the victory

I am honored to be in such a company, overwhelmed to be one of your servant leaders and blessed to know each and everyone of you. You are my brothers and sisters, your hearts are purified by the greatest heart there is and set free by His great love for you. I urge you to never surrender to any kingdom but His and stay valiant in the battle for that Kingdom which offers freedom to all who come.


Yours in Christ, Jay

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spirit Warrior



This is a repost from 2010 (of a vision I had in 2002), the reason why I’m sharing again is simple… I want to see people free. The church I get to shepherd (BBCC) is spending a season on Living the Blessed Life and dealing with the curses we may have made false agreements with. We have already seen great work by the Holy Spirit through our small body of believers and we have seen and sensed some pushback by the enemy. So, I sense in my heart that this vision may be of some encouragement for all of us, as we remember who fights for us. God Bless you all, Jay

This vision began this way….

He stood with arms limp at his sides, with every muscle screaming with fatigue. The sting of sweat assaulted his eyes and beaded up like raindrops on the back of his neck. The battle began in a wayward land of deep darkness, devoid of all light. Now, at the battle’s end, the warrior stood in a light that had pierced through the shadows, leaving no trace of its former possessor.

A fiercely fought conflict was rewarded with fallow land recovered and restored to its rightful owner. Long held captives from strongholds were set free and now were heading back towards the safety of the Kingdom. The King personally had trained him and equipped him as well. The piercing words of the King had exposed the deceit of the enemy, allowing for precision strikes against them. Still, it was the King’s authority and Spirit that made the victory possible. Turning his vision towards the horizon, he saw the enemy licking its wounds. The veteran solider of light could sense that it would soon mount another attack. It was one large mass of insult and threat, with the full intent of destroying goodness.

The enemy started its hateful advance, with its fury bent on instilling fear and confusion. Fully aware of the adversary’s strategy, the warrior took a step towards the new battleground. Bone weary and mentally spent he then dropped to his knees. The creatures of destruction at first measured this motion as a sign of weakness and pressed forward. That is, until it was too late.

For the priestly warrior had not made a tactical error as the enemy had supposed, but as he knelt and looked towards heaven, victory was his. The enemy saw not one but a host of warriors on their knees, gleaming with armor of intense light. The warriors moved as one, they spoke as one, and as one under authority they let forth a shout empowered with the spirit of truth. The shout overcame the enemy and scattered their ranks and uprooted their entrenchments. The agents of darkness were called out, dug out and spat out with the overwhelming authority of truth. By faith, a praying band of warriors increased kingdom territory, pleasing the King. One warrior in particular… would sleep well tonight.

Some points from this vision that encourage me:

Those who belong to Father God have a huge promise of victory over the enemy.

“"No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me," declares the LORD. Isaiah 54:17

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.” Deut. 28:7

Through the Spirit of God we can also recognize who our enemy is and what his tactics are.

“For we are not ignorant of his (Satan's) devices.” 2 Corinthians 2:11

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

It is a battle with victory assured.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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. Romans 8:37-39

You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you. 2 Chronicles 20:17

Prayer is key

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

"Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven." Matthew 18:18-19

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18


Will you join me in prayer?

Father,

Move me in such a way that I become courageous to fight and to care in ways I didn’t think possible of me. Awaken the spiritual warrior in me to do battle as you see fit, for your glory and for the freedom of many. In Jesus name we pray…Amen

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Conrad Rocks!: My Testimony for Jesus



Join me as my new friend Conrad interviews me about my life and my faith. Make sure you check out other testimonies on his web page, the stories are awesome. Conrad does rock because he is on fire for the Messiah and loves seeing Jesus setting people free.

Conrad Rocks!: Jay Cookingham Testimony for Jesus: Testimony interview with Jay Cookingham from Strategic Fathering Ministries.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Long Haul


Soulfari has been quiet for months, as you may or not have noticed. The work of pastoring/writing/speaking (not to mention being husband and father…oh, I guess I just did mention it) has kept me entangled with many words meant for venues other than blogging. It’s amazing when seasons change and the transition period covers your tracks from one path to the next. It is these in-between places that the settling dust, kicked up from multiple life events, slowly re-covers the steps of the journey here.

Journey dust amazes me…

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

The journey of 2016 is a few months old; an interesting start that has included a serious (is there any other kind?)  health scare (my wife), multiple speaking engagements (for me) and the challenge of making life work with meaning for my family. Throw in pastoring a small church, working full-time and part-time (freelance), multiple writing projects and I wonder when dust actually has time to settle.

But maybe this dust is different…

The long haul of a committed life is covered by this powder, full of events, memories, and emotions; it is the history of the journey. Unlike the dust of inactivity, coating a life with its own myopic grime of the ordinary, journey dust mixes with life and carries it as it travels. This dust grinds away the grime, sandblasting our spirit and revealing our heart as we discover the purity of its work in us.

The endurance that joy produces fuels for the long haul of dust distribution, leaving marks of life throughout my voyage on this planet of dust. There is purity in these specs because Father God directs my steps, giving life through the crop dusting seeds I plant as I travel with Him.

The journey is successful because of who is watching…

Then they said, “Ask God whether or not our journey will be successful.” “Go in peace,” the priest replied. “For the LORD is watching over your journey.” Judges 18:5-6

The long haul approach is a commitment to the heart of journey giver, fully trusting in the life long events of change and growth because He is good. We can go in peace because the Prince of peace travels with us.


Journey well my friends… 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Grace Redux



Grace is fluid, a dance of mercy, a song of favor…a gift of redemption.
“And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:24
The Greek word for redemption describes the price paid for a prisoner of war…the price is paid and they are set free.

In reality… we are all former POWs.

Grace is liberating, grace ransoms us. Grace is how God greets us and meets us…it releases worship in us. Freedom is God’s breath of Grace in us.
“Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2
“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” - The Message Bible
I love being completely surprised by grace.

Grace is a powerful agent; it breathes life into difficult circumstances. It allows room and space for understanding and forgiveness to enter. That begins the road to restoration, and giving us opportunity to travel together on it.
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that in everything, always having all self-sufficiency, you may abound to every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

Father,
I thank you for grace, I know it’s a gift, something I did not or could not earn. I love the way it frees me to be more yours. I love how it changes me and invites me into your presence. Revive your Spirit of grace within me, release it’s power of life in me. Help me to walk in your grace and give it freely towards others. Amen