Fog or Cloud?

“How are you?”
“I feel like I’m in a fog.”

I overheard a conversation start like that many times, but the response given this time sparked something in me that I couldn’t shake. The answer was coming from someone going through a tough time.

My heart crumbled a little bit because I know that feeling. It creeps on you, subtle but very much present; a fog will make you feel isolated, confused. It will rearrange your priorities. It’s not a nice cozy feeling, but one of bewilderment as you stumble forward, you try and remind yourself that you worship a living God that is in control despite the fog. The brief conversation also reminded me of early morning drives down my street, from home to school, when thick, crisp, lightly humid fog covered the still lakes and dewy, grassy spans pouring into the cold and quiet asphalt streets. Fog understood no difference between the lakes and the asphalt. It was interesting that fog had stirred different feelings in me. The difference seemed to be that the “negative or vague” fog was something I had picked up in literature but the child in me was intrigued by fog and celebrated it because I knew I had to soak in the experience of it because it wouldn’t last. Then I wondered, what does the Bible have to say about fog? Want to know the answer?

Nothing.

I had to search the word fog in different versions from the KJV to find one solitary verse, James 4:14, in the NLT version uses the term fog to describe what the KJV calls “vapour”. Basically, the term as we generally know it, is not used in the old language. What is most commonly used is the word cloud. Cloud!

In Genesis, He set a rainbow in the cloud as a reminder of His covenant with Abraham. In Exodus, one of the most evident revelations of His presence in the lives of the Israelites as they leave Egypt behind is that He “…went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud…”
Over and over, from Genesis to Revelations, a cloud would descend, appear, lead, cover from harm, disappear, remain until. It actually blew my mind how much the Bible mentions a cloud. It also convicted me. It stirred in me a lesson I had listened to about our attitude in the midst of trials or life in general. The more I read scripture involving clouds the more I realized that whenever a cloud appeared, it was God-sent.

Exodus 13:22 says ”He took NOT away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people…” Imagine being in the Israelite walk-a-thon and there’s a cloud before you and that’s all you can see. You’re being told to trust and walk. Don’t look back to Egypt. Then, things are dicey and the Lord’s presence descends on a mountain as a cloud with a rumble so deep that it shakes you to your bones! Conviction sets in. You can read about that in Exodus 19 where the cloud is even described as thick. The tabernacle is built and the Lord consistently presents Himself in this form. A cloud. Evidently moving by itself. A cloud. It fills the mercy seat. A cloud. Covering you from seeing past it and anyone seeing you in the midst of it. What I saw at that point is that God in His desperate love for them created a way to envelope His people without smothering them! Holy covering.

God put my attitude in check at this point for my own circumstance.

Am I in a fog or in a cloud? Yes, I understand a fog is a kind of cloud! But, am I going to continue to buy into the perception of this world that a fog is plainly a state of not knowing what’s ahead or that it’s a blurring of reality because I’d rather not know? Will I hold on to confusion even though the word clearly states in 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…” Or, am I going to get a hold of His promises of peace, grace, hope, strength, and faithfulness? Biblical verses on these abound! Colossians, Galatians, Hebrews, Peter even writes in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast our cares on Him because He cares. Will I truly take up the promises that have been given to me and embrace the cloud of the presence of my living God? Will I proclaim that He is my reality or fold under the pressure of wanting to know the unknown?

If God, Jesus Christ, has me in a cloud, I will trust that He is not only keeping me from seeing ahead for my own good but He might even be covering me so that my enemy can’t see where He’s taking me. I must believe. And if I believe, I must choose joy. I must glorify my Creator, Comforter, Father, my King. He must be exalted. He has been so good to me.

When fog happens, if my heart is in the right place, it should remind me that heaven came down. The Lord is in this cloud. His embrace is a breath away. I can dance with Him in this cloud. I can cry my guts out until my lungs are on fire. I can allow Him to lead me. In this cloud, I must continue moving forward when it moves and be still when it stands still. I learn to be sensitive. I learn I’m in a need-to-know basis and that’s perfectly fine because He wants my trust. I learn to hold the hand of my brethren and pray for their need because we are one body. I practice being patient. I practice being humble. I practice loving and being loved. I praise Him. I worship Him. The King of kings is in this cloud!

“So, how are you?”
“In a cloud! Praise the Lord!”

Same Gift. Different Administration.

Fellow Young Minister,

Merry Christmas! I hope its going well for you on the road. I hear traveling weekly and preaching can get pretty lonely and presents its unique challenges. People are expecting you to show up with the same results everywhere you go, yet each church you’re with has a large variety of differences that show up. Talk about pressure. We know, its only pressure if we let it become so. But, I remember you mentioned how you felt the people expecting you to preach a certain way, because you are an evangelist; which typically means people are going to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, be baptized in Jesus name, miracles and healings are going to show up. Despite the expectations of the people, you mentioned you went ahead and followed God’s Spirit and there was demonstration of the Spirit and of power. This letter is not about the definition of demonstration, but I’m thankful for how you said that you focused on just “doing the will of God, and staying in your lane”. That really went a long way with me. I decided to look into the office God has appointed for you, from a biblical perspective, and the subject became bigger than I thought it would be. I have other friends called to the same office and became very intrigued, because while the Spirit and gift is the same, the administrations are different (1 Corinthians 12:1-4).

In Acts 8, Philip, biblically-known as an evangelist, went about Samaria preaching to people who had not heard of Jesus, having miracles and deliverance confirm the preaching (Acts 21:8). Likewise, people were being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, but no one was receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We don’t hear of Philip getting frustrated over why none were receiving the Spirit, he simply sends word for Jerusalem to send Peter and John. These two apostles show up and Samaritans receive the Spirit. EVERYONE rejoices.

There are a few things I want to denote before going further. Philip ACKNOWLEDGES that there is still a need not yet met, that another individual is gifted for. In the same manner, when people receive the Spirit after Peter and John show up, we don’t hear of Philip thinking he’s a good-for-nothing evangelist. It doesn’t stop there. An angel speaks to Philip to pack his bags and go to a desert where he finds ONE man, an Ethiopian eunuch. He proceeds to preach Jesus to this man, who reads the Scriptures, and baptizes the man in the middle of the desert. Then, God literally translates Philip to another region, like straight out of the movie “Jumper”. What’s astounding to me is that Philip is fully confident in his office and gifting, whether or not he was ministering to a whole region, one man, people received the Spirit, or people were being baptized. I wonder how many places Philip would be “invited to preach” nowadays, if no one ever received the Spirit where he went. Nevertheless, God would speak to him and Philip would listen. Peter had his place. John had his place. Philip had his place. ALL were effective.

Allow me to take this further. You know who else was gifted as an evangelist? Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5). The Scripture emphasizes that Timothy needed to be intentional about making “full proof” of his ministry. Yet, we discover that Paul had STATIONED Timothy in the region of Ephesus (1 Timothy 1). So how does one make full proof of their ministry, as an evangelist, when you’re stationed? We see here that the office of an evangelist isn’t limited to an “itinerant preacher” that’s invited to church services. Paul fully expected Timothy to appoint elders at Ephesus and still grow as an evangelist. It is for this very reason, I believe that Paul told Timothy to “not neglect the gift” that was within him (1 Timothy 4:14). Biblically, evangelists are individuals that are gifted for bearing the good news to SINNERS, not saints. Many times, we call traveling preachers evangelists, when they really may be operating as an apostle, prophet, pastor, or even teacher. I have witnessed young ministers become frustrated or skeptical of God’s gifting for them because it was not administered in the same manner others administered their gifting. They felt called to be an “evangelist” but never had “preaching opportunities” show up. Consequently, they felt like the bible studies they taught, souls won, and evangelistic equipping done in the local church weren’t good enough for a phone call to preach somewhere else. When in fact, it was the most terrifying thing that young evangelist could do to the kingdom of darkness in their hometown – and more importantly, to glorify the name of Jesus Christ.

Scripture talks about the “same Spirit” distributing “manifestations”, “administrations”, and “ministries” to every individual in the church (1 Corinthians 12). I would apply this principle to the five offices in Ephesians 4, as well. The same office, but a different manifestation or placement. BOTH just as effective. All evangelists are traveling preachers, but not all traveling preachers are evangelists. Whether or not traveling takes place right down the street, you’re traveling towards the destination of a soul’s heart, in order for God to intervene where they are at. I love how the Lord has such diversities of gifts in His body, and ALL MATTER. Paul talks about how the “unseemly” and overlooked ones end up mattering the most (1 Corinthians 12:23). It gave me so much encouragement to find this out, because our Lord really has a part for all of us to contribute through. Likewise, I am grateful and excited to know that I will continue to see God glorified in the manners He is through your life, in the years to come. It may be that you are in the same place Timothy was, in 20 years from now; but, God won’t be done doing marvelous things through you.

I suppose I can end this letter with saying, we’ve all received gifts from Jesus on our spiritual Christmas, and we rejoice that though our administrations may be different, the gift and Spirit is one and the same. Thankful to be partnering with you.

Merry Christmas!

The Thought Highway

Traffic.

Something MANY of us can relate to.

There are just a handful of things that help us get through traffic. For me, it can be a talk with Jesus, a podcast, or a throwback song.

I like to think about my thought life as getting through traffic on a thought highway. There are moments where you have that reckless driver that causes you to become a vicious wolf, or there can be that bubbly person on the phone, with their car speaker so loud you hear every word – yet it brings a chuckle to your heart. There are so many things that can run through our mind, that move a lot like traffic.

There is that one person who is in front of you that just WILL NOT let you go through. This person is a lot like that thought or mindset that is looking for a dwelling place in our minds, and just won’t get out of the way. What we dwell on will eventually determine our actions. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” I have a time or two or twenty, have been close to hitting the car in front of me from trying to get around these kinds of people. But what if I just simply slowed down? It is almost guaranteed that the car is just going to get further. I believe many times the solution to these mental gymnastics is just slowing down.

You may say, “What about everyone behind me?!” – which can be interpreted as, “Life is just jamming my mind!”

Well, there is peace for that. Interesting enough, Jesus told us to “not let [our] hearts be troubled” (John 14:27). Notice the “let” part? We are responsible for what dwells in our hearts. Yeah, something may drive-by, but it doesn’t have to park. This can be an emotional temptation of the soul, which happens with music, mental temptation, which happens with comparison, or physical temptation, which happens with self-immodesty. These are just a few examples.

Biblical peace implies a sense of tranquility (Strong’s Greek 1515). But things must be TRANQUILIZED to become tranquil. God’s presence in our lives truly has a tranquilizing effect on us. But many who do not engage with God actively seek other forms of tranquilizers – be it Netflix binges, unhealthy relationships, Instagram scrolling, or getting lost in Youtube like it’s Narnia, to name a few. Drugs and alcohol can be easy to pick on, but Paul contends that believers should not allow themselves to “be brought under the power of [anything]” (1 Corinthians 6:1-12). God TRULY wants us to live a life of TOTAL FREEDOM.

No troubling traffic…ever.

From this recent Thanksgiving break for the local schools, traffic was really cut back. I had WISHED I wasn’t working from home and had driven to work because of the lack of traffic! How crazy is that?!

Because I believe there is an enjoyment we can all benefit from when we see that progress is being made on a journey where traffic is not our enemy. I have had some amazing times in crazy traffic before, because I focused on the progress, and not the delay. I’ve heard it put this way, “delay is not denial.” In fact, it would even make the time for that evening more valuable. We get to choose whether or not we will view delay as a depreciation of our present or an appreciation of the future. But I will further that thought and say that our present perspective is what actually shapes our future.

I know, traffic is inevitable at times, whether you use Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps, or…Mapquest? And people don’t always use their blinkers, so you don’t know what circumstances will throw at you. But we are oftentimes trying to find a way around it, because I believe we want to feel like we are making progress.

Yes, we all will face a flood of challenging thoughts at times. But ever heard of marking email as spam? You can do that with thoughts on the Thought Highway too.

Just a reminder: the enemy of your soul cannot read your thoughts. Here is an extension of that, the devil does not know which thoughts you dwell on that he introduces, except by your words and behavior. You can have progress in your life in times of heavy traffic. Flying cars haven’t arrived yet. But if the treasure of your heart is in heaven, then the traffic of this life cannot deny you.