Monday, March 31, 2008

Acts 29: Another Day Another Riot

Easter is over. For followers of Jesus things have been happening. We’re going to be looking at those very happenings that are still affecting us today. The events just after the resurrection of Jesus Christ are found in Acts.

Welcome to Acts- the twilight zones of our heart- liminal space of the early church. No comfort zone.

‘Safest Place On Earth’ and ‘Dangerous Church'.

Jeremiah 17:7-8
"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Acts, like other books of the Bible are often broken up into little sections that we can wrestle with them. But would we do that to a symphony? Today we’re going to look at the first 8 bars of Beethoven’s Fifth? Makes no sense.

Scripture is more like symphony than we often realize.

May the love with which you’ve loved us truly become our reality, and may your wisdom penetrate our hearts Lord Jesus.

Acts truly is about a whole new way of doing life. It’s about a way of life that for some of us, we’ve long forgotten about & for others we’ve never truly experienced.

A bishop of the Church of England long ago said, “Everywhere Paul went there was a riot; everywhere I go they serve tea.”

Bishop Tom Wright has said that Acts is literally, Another Day Another Riot. Something explosive was happening every day.

Western Christians often wonder, ‘where’s the dynamite?’ or as John Wimber wrote, ‘where’s the stuff?’


Where is this life changing radical way of being led by the Spirit? Here it is in Acts. For us it’s Acts 29.

The dog races down in Florida. You know, they train these dogs to chase an electric rabbit, and one night the rabbit broke down and the dogs caught it. But they didn’t know what to do with it. They were just leaping around, yelping and biting one another, totally confused about what was happening. Well, I think that’s a picture of what happens to all sorts of people who catch the rabbit in their life. Whether it’s wealth or fame or beauty or a bigger house, or whatever, the prize isn’t what they thought it would be. And when they finally get it, they don’t know what to do with their lives. This is a huge factor in finishing badly: people need a rabbit that won’t break down. But that’s not something the superficial values of this world can really give them.
Dallas Willard

You don’t catch this rabbit- He catches you! He's more like the ancient Celts version of the Holy Spirit, the wild goose. They liked the wild goose over the dove because it seemed way too easy to domesticate a dove. You don’t own or possess a wild goose. You don’t own the Holy Spirit- He owns you!

Ezekiel 36:26-27
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

This is what the Spirit driven life is all about!

Luke was writing a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. The G of L was all about Jesus and the coming Kingdom. Acts is how this Kingdom shows up. It begins in Acts 1 with Jesus doing some more teaching about the Kingdom after the resurrection (v. 3) & it ends with Paul in Rome teaching about the Kingdom of God.

“This is how the Kingdom comes.”

The sovereign, saving, healing, justice bringing, hope fulfilling reign of God.

The disciples ask Jesus, “Is it at this time that you will restore Israel?”

Jesus answers nothing about going to heaven when you die. His answer is more along the lines, “There is another King & His name is Jesus.”

When a new king was announced heralds went out and proclaimed it to the four corners of the Empire. These witnesses, you & I, are commissioned & empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The medium is the message. You don’t take this Kingdom by force. Though bad things will happen, amazing events & happenings will carry the day.

God is claiming the world as His own.

What would it look like if God was running the show here at Hope?

What would it look like if God was running your life?

What would it look like if He were in charge of my family?

What would it look like if God was running this country?

MacLean’s Magazine article: “Jesus has an identity crisis: scholars are casting new doubt on the divinity of Christ- and even wondering if the church would be better off without Him”.

This is one of the reasons why we have to unlearn some things. Here is a proposal to jettison Jesus from the Church- the organization, the denomination, the building, the common life. You can’t do it- although we try all the time. The message to the seven churches in Revelation is what happens when we try & take Jesus out of the church: He stands and knocks and wants back in!

This really is no different than churches, Christ followers who do their own thing, going off on their own whims, dreams, and desires, for any number of reasons.

“Who Stole My Church?” New book by Gordon McDonald. Maybe Jesus is asking the same question.

We’ll see how that pans out for the early Church.

Jesus ascends after instructing the disciples. When Yuri Gagarin first encircled the globe as a Russian cosmonaut he announced, “There is no God. I didn’t see Him out there.”

That’s not the reality we see Luke explaining here. He means that Jesus went into God’s space. Heaven & earth are the two interlocking domains of God’s creation.

Luke 24:36 (John 20:19) Jesus appears to the disciples and they think He’s a ghost. He has His wounds, but is alive & even eats!

To a first century Jew heaven and earth would come together in the Temple.

Revelation 21: especially v22: I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

Luke is announcing that according to Jesus, “The whole world is now God’s domain, His Kingdom.”

Acts 1-12 looks at how the new Kingdom relates to Israel & Judaism and then from Acts 13- 28 it shifts a little more to the Gentiles, the non-Jews.

You can imagine a concert at Rexall; pick your favorite band, or tenor, whatever. The night of the performance some street musicians show up, and pretty soon they’re getting reviewed, they’re getting the attention. That’s what’s happening here.

In Acts 12:21-25 the King of the Jews is replaced. Rather dramatically I might add.

The early Christ followers were, ‘Destructive of Jewish institutions and a troublesome element in the Empire.’ Acts is about kingdoms in conflict!

Acts 13- 28 we see Jesus as Lord of the world. Acts 28 seems to end, dot dot dot…

What’s going to happen next?

You and I are what are happening next.

Jesus upstages the Temple, in Jerusalem, in other areas and finally in Rome!

Jesus is the true Temple where heaven and earth come together. And some churches are going to replace Him!

Jesus followers claim that heaven is already here and we see what it looks like when we get together, ala Acts 2!

Acts 2 has similarities to 1 Kings 8 and Isaiah 6, Temple scenes.

The Spirit of the living God has full reign in Acts 2.

Spirit filled engagement with every culture. As they discover they are the place where heaven and earth overlap, Luke anchors it to early church life in 2:42-47. Remember, no institution, no building.

North American thinking leans toward a highly compartmentalized view of life. We have our professional lives, our private lives, our recreational lives, and our church lives. Yet, wise brothers and sisters in other parts of the world do not think this way, nor did the early Christ followers. They saw life as one seamless whole. An integrated view is far more biblical.

Acts 2:42-47 are signposts that you’re on the right track- Apostles teaching, breaking bread, prayer and fellowship. The name of Jesus carries power, real power.

Some title this book, 'Acts of the Apostles'. Its more like Acts of The Holy Spirit for the dominating theme is the power of the Spirit manifested in & through the early Christ followers.

Acts 7:51
You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

Acts 7, especially 7:54-56. Jesus is the place where heaven and earth come together. See Stephen’s stoning ala Jesus on the cross, “Father forgive them.”

This is all about giving allegiance to the Lord regardless of circumstance. In the middle of this we find Saul. He was a deep conservative, a fundamentalist, and a heresy hunter. He was a religious Bounty Hunter!

The Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Ezekiel 1- the throne chariot.

This was likely what Paul was mediating on during his travels as was common for a Pharisee at the time. Look at what happens in Acts 9!

Paul and the sea was a parallel to the great classics like Homer & the Odyssey.

Luke has 24 chapters, and after chapter 9 Jesus goes to Jerusalem. In Chapter 19 He arrives in Jerusalem and Chapter 23 is the crucifixion, 24 the resurrection.

Acts 13 onward Paul is journeying gradually to Rome. Luke weaves a theology of the cross right into the narrative. The shipwreck of Paul is equivalent to the crucifixion (27:9- after the Day of Atonement)

The cross is a part of the journey; Acts 27 is a whole chapter on it. The gospel has to grow through fire and water to get to Caesar & Rome.

Jesus really is Lord.

What is the fire and water of your life that the gospel must get through?

What is the cross that is woven right into the fabric of your life & journey?

The messengers of Jesus are to be reckoned with! We are those messengers.

Imagine being a magistrate & hearing that Paul is coming to your town. Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth and Jerusalem, the mother of all riots.

At Paul’s trial (Philippi) to everyone’s surprise he gets off. Acts 16:16. This is a story where spiritual warfare has economic consequences. Drugs, alcohol, prostitution, slavery…

They sing in prison. Another day another riot. They are ordered released 16:36- 'Excuse me we’re roman citizens.'

16:37- early Christ followers were very concerned how people carried out their authority and power. The church has a role to say, “You’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Jesus For President: A different kind of campaign. A different kind of party. A different kind of Commander in Chief.

Spirit driven leadership. What a thought!

Paul’s mission is stated in Acts 20:22-24
And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

What’s your mission as given by the Spirit?

If you're not sure I trust that the Spirit will make it more clear as we walk this journey together.

Jesus keeps working through His faithful and loyal followers. Jesus keeps working through His faithful local communities. We embody heaven and earth.

The trials and tribulations are ours. The vindication is His.

Another day another riot. Follow along in N. T. Wright's brilliant work, Acts For Everyone.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Jesus We're So In Need Of You...

With a broken heart I come to stand before You
So in need of a comforting word
I'm feeling lost and I'm tired of feeling empty
I'm so in need of You

Now I'm holding on to the One that gives me hope
Jesus, how I need You
Oh, this stirring in my soul, it just won't let me go
Because I know I'm so in need of You

When it's hard to trust, and the fear wells up within me
I'm so in need of a comforting word
I need Your love and Your presence all around me
I'm so in need of You

No matter how I try I could never live without You
Forgive me for thinking I could make it on my own, on my own

None of us has been loved adequately. We all feel we cannot afford to give love away to anyone else. Admit it or not, that is your heart and mine. Only God’s Spirit can alter that self-fixation. Even with the presence of the Spirit, my thirty-five year history at large in God’s Church tells me it is rare to meet a Jesus Follower who lives in light of the realization for any significant length of time. Steve Sjogren

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sunday after the service...

Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as e had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Friday, March 28, 2008

What Are You Looking For?

God is in the business of redeeming people’s stories. That’s a beautiful thought, isn’t it? I mean, it’s comforting to know that I am incapable of making a mistake that God can’t redeem. That’s true for all of us. You can’t out “fool” God.

But what are we really looking for out of life?

I tend to think that most of us have learned that our stories are fragile, just as we learn that glass is fragile—when it shatters. And while we try to protect ourselves from danger, we learn very quickly that we can’t, that we’re not in control. That truth scares us at times and invigorates us at others, but most of the time, we have to admit that we’re not sure what we’re supposed to think about all of it. We want to trust that God is the one who is in control, but then we turn on CNN and our theories tend to go out the window. You know what I mean? I don’t believe anything messes with a person’s ability to trust in God like watching the media’s coverage of war.

As we get older and experience more of our story, we also become fully aware of our own personal humanity. In other words, we know what’s really going on inside of us. While our families and friends may not know what we battle, we do. And we think to ourselves, if God can’t get his hands around our fears, our addictions, or our sins, then how in the world can we believe that he’s capable of taking care of our stories? That’s a valid question, I believe—a question that can make faith difficult, make the Christian life difficult to live.

A lot of us have divided hearts—we fight a war between faith and logic, God and culture. The culture most of us live in teaches us that our stories aren’t important. Usually, the stories that are told by the media are those of the wealthy, the intelligent, the sexy, the talented, and the revered. But if those are the only “successful” story lines, what does that mean for the majority of us? What if we can’t find a job? What if we’re homely or fat? What if our only “talent” is playing video games? I mean, is there a successful story line for the jobless fat guy who kicks butt at Halo?

It’s really no wonder so many of us are investing our time and effort into “making it.” Instead of living the stories that God designed us for, we settle for the generic ones—the ones advertised on TV, the Internet, and in the education systems. We buy into the “generic” stories but end up realizing—often, when we hit middle age—that the life we’re living isn’t the one that was advertised. We don’t realize where exactly things went wrong; we just assume that the truth was somewhere in the fine print. And we didn’t read it.

Since we were kids, we’ve been told that “normal”—whatever that means—will make us happy. Most of us, at some point in our lives, have fallen for the lie that says: The “good life” comes when we have a high-paying job, a house we can call our own, a decent 401k plan, stock options, a car that doesn’t embarrass us in front of our friends, a couple of kids, and a spouse who doesn’t hate us. And what if we are fortunate to get everything on that list? Is there any one of us who could keep something like cancer or a drunk driver or a found-out secret from taking it all away?

(From Matthew Paul Turner's great new book Hokey Pokey)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Acts 1:4-8
Jesus said to them, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jesus, the Oak of Righteousness

The picture is clear. A big oak tree, tall and majestic, leaves growing, acorns galore, birds and squirrels finding places of refuge. It can withstand the hottest summer days and the coldest winter nights. It’s seen wind, rain, hail, thunderstorms and blizzards. Then one day there’s a rush of wind and – crack! – down comes the big oak tree.

Why? This tree has seen stronger winds than this before. Why did it come down today? The answer lies inside the big oak tree. The trunk is hollow, its support system is weak – how did it happen? Grubs! Big ones, eating away at the inside. With each bite the tree gets weaker and weaker.

Look at my life. It’s like that big oak tree. To the casual observer it stands tall and majestic. I’m a pastor, you know. The leaves are growing, It grows deep within, hidden until the storm. By there are acorns galore, birds and squirrels are finding places of refuge, I’ve seen some pretty strong storms in my day – I’ve withstood them all.

But wait – something’s wrong. There’s a weakness growing deep within. Then all of a sudden there’s a rush of wind and – crack! – down comes the big oak tree.

Why? I’ve seen stronger winds than this before. Why did I come down today?

The answer again lies within. It has nothing to do with the external forces. God promises not to give me anything more than what I can handle. God promises me that His rod and staff will comfort me when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

There is something eating at my insides. There are little grubs eating away at my strength. What are these grubs? Where did they come from?

They are the strongholds that I’ve allowed Satan to have. The unconfessed sin, the bitterness and anger, the disobedience, the selfishness... When there’s only one, it seems so small compared to the big oak tree. How can anything so small do any damage?

Time. Over time that grub eats away, it gets bigger and begins to multiply. Before I know it there are many little grubs eating away at my insides.

Is it too late? Never! Not with Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord who heals! He can heal anyone. He can remove the grubs, the strongholds and restore my strength. Brad Friedlein

Isaiah 61:1-3
The Year of the LORD's Favor
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hope Is Alive! - Easter 2008

"I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me."

"The year that is drawing toward the close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. These bounties are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come."
Abraham Lincoln

In that quote from Abraham Lincoln we can see Good Friday & the difference Easter makes.

Oilers won yesterday. Are they going to make the playoffs? Who's back on the bandwagon?

Who was left on the Jesus bandwagon at the crucifixion?

Luke 23:49-53

Joseph- true courage. He certainly stood alone at a low point- everyone who had been close to Jesus - “Stood at a distance, watching Jesus.” What was going on that they watched? Jesus surrendered to the Father one last time, and a centurion acknowledged Jesus was God.

It has been said that the meaning of grace comes in three parts:

"Grace means you don't do anything; you don't do anything; you don't do anything."

We can only really understand the true nature of this unless we come face to face during a time of utter brokenness. An incredible rescue!

What was Jesus, what was God up to? Where are we in response to that?

Flowers as facets of atonement. ‘Jesus paid it all.’ What does it mean?

Someone needed to pay the price for justice to be upheld. Our selfish bent needed to be accounted for- & Jesus took care of it.

When we do something wrong we feel guilty. Jesus covered over that, too, and removed our shame.

Jesus showed us how to live life to the fullest- surrendered to the Father & His love. These three facets make up a beautiful arrangement of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

God says through the words of Scripture, “Do you want to know who I am, what I’m about? Let me tell you a story.”

In the book of Hosea, God tells Hosea to enter into a marriage, a living story of sorts, to illustrate the way God feels about Israel & all of us.

God tells Hosea to marry Gomer because what happens in his relationship with his wife will mirror God’s relationship to Israel. Things go horribly wrong. Gomer cheats on Hosea. Not once, but repeatedly and openly. Hosea’s love is unfazed by the humiliation and rejection he receives from Gomer.

At various points he showers her with gifts to win her love again. She takes them and gives them to her lovers. He devises romantic schemes- to ‘take her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her’ (a romantic picnic with personally written love poems) to woo her back. Gomer isn’t buying it.

Hosea can’t stop loving Gomer. She rejects him at every turn. This isn’t just a story about two people. Remember, the whole point here is God saying, “This is me. This is how I love you!” Where any spouse would reject the one who had caused so much pain, Hosea loves on. Of course he does, his love mirrors God’s.

Things unravel for Gomer. One can rely on looks and sensuality for only so long. Eventually she becomes a prostitute. Even that dries up. In ancient Israel, if one becomes so destitute your debts can’t be paid; you could sell yourself as a slave. That is what it comes to for Gomer.

Hosea shows up for the sale & he makes a bid. Hosea says something unbelievable to her. “I have bought you, not that you should call me master, but that you would call me Husband.” After everything, Hosea’s still bent on reconciliation! Still bent upon a return to a relationship of love!

In Luke we hear Jesus tell about a Father & a wayward son.

Ancient Jewish culture had a very strict sense of honor. To be the male head of a family was to be the center of a world built around the giving and maintaining of your honor. If a child shamed a Jewish father, maintaining honor took precedence over familial love. True disgrace brought literal exclusion from the family. A father would hold a funeral for the offending child. All mention of him would be forbidden. “How is your son?” “What son, I have no son. My son is dead.” That is the way of honor (similar to ‘saving face’).

How shocking then when Jesus tells a story about a very different Dad. A Dad whose youngest son has come to him demanding that the father liquidate his assets so the son not have to wait until the father’s death to get his share of the family inheritance. Basically, “Dad, I wish you were dead. All you are to me is an obstacle to wealth.”

The father does it. And, what’s even more amazing, he doesn’t have the expected funeral for his insolent son.

This story isn’t about the son. It comes as the last of a group of three stories (the lumping of three ideas together being profoundly significant in Jewish culture) all of which are on the same theme. Something precious has been lost and the one who has lost it will not rest until it is found. A shepherd with a lost sheep, a woman with a lost coin, a father with a lost son. This is not a story about the son, but about the Father.

He lives the highlife for a while, but the money runs out and things get desperate. In the end, he takes a job working for a pig farmer, standing up to his knees in pig manure envying the slop they have to eat. He thinks to himself, “Even slaves in my father’s house had it better than this.”

On his way home his father rushes out to meet him & throws a party. Talk about being surprised by hope.(Thanks to Steve Sherwood)

If we’ll let God speak to us through these stories He will. Look at how He spoke to two very discouraged followers of His after the crucifixion:

Luke 24:13-35
That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, "What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?"

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened during the last few days?"

He said, "What has happened?"

They said, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn't find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn't see Jesus."

Then he said to them, "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don't you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: "Stay and have supper with us. It's nearly evening; the day is done." So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. "Didn't we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?"

Come near enough to the cross of Christ to feel its sparks land on your skin and set your heart ablaze.

It is not that Christ did not do enough, but that he invites us to participate with him in the salvation of the world. When Jesus calls us, he calls us to come and die. We will die anyway. The question is whether we will die senselessly or as companions and coworkers of the crucified and risen Lord. Richard John Neuhaus

“Acts 29- Another Day Another Riot.”

Acts 29. He is telling a story in our midst, writing new chapters through each of our community and us. His community.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Flowers To Our King

Tomorrow for Easter, we will be bringing Flowers to our King during the Easter Celebration. We are asking each person (children included) bring a long stem cut flower to be placed on the wooden cross as a gift to our risen King.

After the service we will arrange the flowers into bouquets and take them to the Shepherd residence down the street. If you have an extra vase at home please bring it along.

Luke 24:6
He is not here, but has risen.

Walk on...

I will not give up on you as a person.

Regardless of how you respond — I will confer worth on you and treat you as more important than I — not just with my words but with my actions.

I will set aside my urge to serve self and instead consider you first.

You don't owe me a thing because I love. My love is willing and voluntary — and I will not make you feel that you are indebted to me.

I won't force my love or force you to do anything because of my love — but I expect my love to overwhelm you.

My love will be discerning and yet will not be critical, suspicious or over-sensitive.

I will not cause you to live in the fear of my disapproval, anger or withdrawal of love.

I will not bring up and rehash things that we have settled and will not remember things that have been dealt with.

I will bring up in honesty, things that need to be spoken and dealt with so that our ledger sheet of love may be reconciled.

My love will be full of truth — because if my love lacks truth — it is not love. By the same token, the truths I say to you will be said in love — because truth that does not have love — is not the truth.

When things go wrong, when there are hurts, misunderstandings, breakdowns, times of silence and separation, I will trust God for things to change — and will walk the second mile to try and reconcile — leaving the door open.

I will make an effort not to be put off but to put up with all that is happening — and deliberately look for the best in you — but through the lens of truth.

My love towards you is intentional, unconditional, not looking for any return.

My love for you will have the same quality of my Father's love for me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

He paid it all...

What an incredible rescue!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Magnificent Defeat

Power, success, happiness, as the world knows them, are his who will fight for them hard enough; but peace, love, joy, are only from God. And God is the enemy whom Jacob fought there by the river, of course, and whom in one way or another we all of us fight-God, the beloved enemy. Our enemy because, before giving us everything, he demands of us everything; before giving us life, he demands our lives-our selves, our wills, our treasure.

Will we give them, you and I? I do not know. Only remember the last glimpse that we have of Jacob, limping home against the great conflagration of the dawn. Remember Jesus of Nazareth, staggering on broken feet out of the tomb toward the Resurrection, bearing on his body the proud insignia of the defeat which is victory, the magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God.
Frederick Buechner, reflecting on the story of Jacob's fight by the river Jabbok found in Genesis 32:22-31

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


One choice
One tree
One fall for humanity
One lie
One liar
One bite is all death required
One great regret
One squandered chance, and yet
One hope
One day
One name above all other names
One bridge between then and now
One way to discover how
One price
One tree
One drop of crimson covers me Nichole Nordeman

Isaiah 1:18a
'Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…'

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

You are loved...

Even though there are days when you can’t get it together and you feel out of control...You are loved.

Even though it seems like everyone around you is disappointed in your performance... You are loved.

Even though you feel like you’re just a spiritual poser...You are loved.

Even though you’ve traveled through life listening to lies about yourself, the truth is... You are loved.

Even though you’ve learned how to numb the pain in your life with dangerous sedatives... You are loved.

Even though you think you’re too bad—or even too good...You are loved.

Even though you’ve learned how to live from your head and suppress your heart... You are loved.

Even though you live with a constant hunger for affirmation and affection... You are loved.

Even though it feels like shame is the predominant fuel running your life... You are loved.

Even though your ministry sometimes runs on the fumes of an almost empty soul... You are loved.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Breathing Underwater IX: Saying Goodbye To Performance Based Spirituality

Burnout history of churches and pastors I'm familiar with. Just this past week two more old friends opted out of ministry. It spoke to me of some truths God is teaching me via the ministry of Ed Smith that I want to share with you all this morning.

One of the first questions from a former leader upon our arriving at Hope was, "What do you do with someone who doesn’t (won’t) get well?"

It really is a lot of work fixing poeple, especially when we do it in our own strength!

Being a follower of Jesus is not about getting better but being whole, being complete in Christ, and relying on His strength, not our own.

Lord Jesus what do you want each of us to know today? Are we open to receiving it?

As a very logical, rational thinking person I loved Romans 12:1-2 when I was first exposed to it some twenty years ago:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Who needs mind renewal? All of us. Most of us have a landfill of lies up here in our heads.

Denial, control, until a crack appears, we take a break from blaming & suddenly realize that all is not well. Lets quit performing and allow God to expose us. If we really want mind renewal we will become open to our faulty ways of thinking.

I still love that verse, but I’m learning more that there is an emotional part of the renewal. Our emotions match what we really believe.

My emotional state in any given moment exposes what I actually believe as opposed to what I logically and rationally believe.

Philippians 4:13
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

We believe this verse that is until tomorrow morning when we walk into work and get fired. Now if we have an overriding sense of peace, well that the good shepherd has it all well in hand then we really do believe. But if that knot in our stomach keeps growing, maybe something else is going on.

This past week I’ve had knots in my stomach that have almost made me physically sick.

I’m being exposed through these feelings. We can trust our feelings and emotions to show us what we really ‘believe’; we just need to remember not to act on those feelings.

Those emotions REVEAL us.

Willow Creek Reveal study: “Does increased attendance in ministry programs automatically equate to spiritual growth? To be brutally honest: it does not. …Church activity alone made no direct impact on growing the heart…”

WCCC made assumptions, thinking that was flawed. We all do it- to their credit they are in the process of trying to change some of those assumptions. Assumptions about church are hard to surface, and difficult to deal with. Denial is strong.

What do you do when you are exposed?

Usually we suppress or move to blame, as we’ve talked about in the previous weeks. When we blame we make our emotional state dependant on another person. It’s like asking them, “Please allow me to have a happy day today.”

We sometimes say that to dead people, or to people we haven’t seen in years.

Philippians 4:13
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Paul wrote that while he was under house arrest, very likely knowing he was going to die soon. To top it off he was chained to a guard who could have likely given Kimbo Slice or Tank Abbott a real whooping! Notice he didn't say, "I'm screwed- do you see these guards?"

In his lifetime of mind renewal God had taught Paul that, "When we're on God's agenda, God's strength is all we need."

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart.

2 Thessalonians 3:16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.

This is our choice: Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. It is an ongoing act of mind renewal to let God's peace rule in our hearts.

When we don’t have peace, when our stomach is in a knot we’ll pretend it doesn’t exist; we’ll blame it on sinful behavior (or others will! & it may actually be true); we’ll blame it on others or even the devil.

The devil doesn’t hurt us- he just exposes us to our vulnerability. When we choose to go in our own power with him it gets ugly.

Ephesians 6:16
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Faith in this sense is belief. Allow your faulty beliefs to be exposed so that God can extinguish those fiery arrows.

Is exposure a good thing! YES! Does it feel good? No.

Exposure leads us to see our Performance Based Spirituality. It is difficult to detect because it’s clothed in righteousness and upheld with logical and rational theological thought. It’s caked in, ‘This is what the church is and does’ kind of jargon. Remember the Reveal study?

It has the appearance of being right but is driven by falsehood.

PBS is the ability to deny painful feelings. It enables us to look good when it feels like we’re falling apart inside, to look spiritual when we’re feeling defeated.

'Following Jesus through self-will' is the motto. Keep smiling and faking it.

Key assumptions of PBS:

1. Controlled behavior is equated with spiritual maturity. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit- but that’s the point- God is the one doing it, not us. If we are doing it it’s just willpower.

2. Abstinence is called victory. Now we have to start somewhere. An alcoholic must give up drinking- but there are many angry or sad sober people. They stopped a behavior but it was just a symptom. What if we can actually find some victory, which is the abstinence of battle.

3. Denial of inner emotional pain is seen as a virtue. It’s just really suppression.

We are encouraged to come to Jesus if we are weak and weary and then we learn to stuff our pain and act like everything is okay when it really is not.

One way we experience that here at Hope is trajectories. Some people come closer into the Hope community when they are hurting while others leave for a period.

4. Performance is rewarded while being in emotional pain is not condoned and viewed as spiritual weakness. The problem with that is all of us have pain!

PBS is driven by emotional pain, not peace. It is not a spiritual virtue but rather a defense against acknowledging our own pain & feeling what we actually feel.

Denial does have a place in life. It is God’s gift as protection against trauma, holding us until we can get to the Father with our grief. Think of war, or children when they face horrors. Remember the opening scene on Normandy Beach seen in Saving Private Ryan?

Luke 10:38-42
As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand."
The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it's the main course, and won't be taken from her."

Notice that Jesus doesn’t rescue Martha. We really have a hard time with the negative emotions, the vulnerable feelings so we rescue each other.

Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus, to hear His voice. That’s the best way. The only way.

Our motivation for good works is often overlooked. Martha was serving God, being hospitable.

Martha’s spiritual gift was likely serving. Was she exercising it? No – she was using her own energy and agenda to drive her- her pain.

Church leaders are often those who can’t say ‘no’. But when they do say ‘yes’ they move from feeling bad to feeling mad! This leads to an inevitable burnout.

Our own performance drive (pain) often gets our agenda running contrary to the agenda of God!

Lets get busy and do something! It leads to predictable and eventual burnout. I’m well on my way, and many of you have been there for a time.

Psalm 127:1-2
If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn't guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. It's useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don't you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.

How do we say goodbye to PBS?

Sorry but these aren’t 3 easy steps. The only way is the way of Mary- to sit at the feet at Jesus & hear His voice in our pain.

We just plain stop performing. We stop denying, pretending sit down & listen. If don’t choose it we often have it thrust on us as a limitation, such as burnout.

We tend to do things to deliberately distract our minds off of what is going on inside. If we get still we might feel.

I’ll bet many of the exercises from past weeks haven’t been done because the pain of stilling ourselves to look at things such as what our experiences have taught us, both good and bad, is too painful.

Know that the inner pain and emotional turmoil you carry is understandable even though Jesus has given you a new heart. Our old thinking often keeps that new heart from taking over our life. Don’t resist the renewal.

Know that you are not alone. We are all in need of mind renewal!

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.

Lets redefine authentic spirituality in the context of being real while submitting to the journey of mind renewal and growing in our experiential knowledge of Jesus.

Recognize abstinence, controlled behavior and performance for what they are- not spiritual traits but rather our vain attempts at managing pain through self-effort.

Drop your guard and cooperate with what God is doing around you to expose you. Cooperate with God. Allow yourself to be a mess.

"I am a mess."

Choose to acknowledge & embrace your pain and allow Jesus to help you discern its true source.

Sit at the feet of Jesus & listen.

Ever get mad when a favorite sports player didn’t retire when he or she was at the top of their game? Why? Because you couldn’t stand the thought of them not performing like they once did.

Who do you want to put a show on for?!

Some marriages break up because of that too. “She just doesn’t wow me anymore.”

We secretly fear that God may retire us if we stop producing!

"Top 1% of all Performance Based Christians!" is our motto.

What if it is true that there really is just ONE thing- sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening for his voice- that God expects you to do and it requires no real effort to accomplish it?

What if everything else flows from this?

This is Breathing Underwater.

Some of you are tired. Some of you don’t know you are tired or how tired you really are.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he'll do it!

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

Where is the performance? Where is the energy required? It comes form God.

Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Release us to be real with ourselves, with each other and with you God.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It took only a few hours of silence before I began to hear my soul speaking. It only took being alone for a short period of time to discover I wasn’t alone. God had been trying to shout over the noisiness of my life, and I couldn’t hear him. But in the stillness and solitude, his whispers shouted from my soul, “Michael, I am here. I have been calling you, but you haven’t been listening. Can you hear me Michael? I love you. I have always loved you. And I have been waiting for you to hear me say that to you. But you have been so busy trying to prove to yourself you are loved that you have not heard me.” I heard him, and my slumbering soul was filled with the joy of the prodigal son. My soul was awakened by a loving Father who had been looking and waiting for me. Finally, I accepted my brokenness… I had never come to terms with that. I knew I was broken. I knew I was a sinner. I knew I continually disappointed God, but I could never accept that part of me. It was a part of me that embarrassed me. I continually felt the need to apologize, to run from my weaknesses, to deny who I was and concentrate on what I should be.

At L’Arche, it became clear to me that I had totally misunderstood the Christian faith. I came to see that it was in my brokenness, in my powerlessness that Jesus was made strong. It was in the acceptance of my lack of faith that God could give me faith. It was in the embracing of my brokenness that I could identify with others’ brokenness. It was my role to identify with others’ pain, not relieve it. Ministry was sharing, not dominating, understanding, not theologizing, caring, not fixing.

What does all this mean?

I don’t know… and to be quite blunt, that’s the wrong question. I only know that at certain times in all of our lives, we make an adjustment in the course of our lives. This was one of those times for me. If you were to look at a map of my life, you would not be aware of any noticeable difference other than a slight change of direction. I can only tell you that it feels different now. There’s an anticipation, an electricity about God’s presence in my life that I have never experienced before. I can only tell you that for the first time in my life I can hear Jesus whisper to me everyday, “Michael, I love you. You are beloved.” And for some strange reason, that seems to be enough.
Mike Yaconelli

Matthew 5:3
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Define yourself radically as one totally loved by God.

Romans 8:15-16
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Elijah's Cave...

Dr. Randy Kunkel has put together some good work on burnout. He identifies 5 stages:

At this stage our body becomes an obstacle and starts getting in our way. We have small aches, pains and illness that holds on and just doesn’t go away. We might notice fatigue that is difficult to shake and feeling drained and tired regularly. There is a tendency towards overindulgence at this phase. It could be overindulgence in food, alcohol, smoking, sleep, or work.

At this stage we begin having trouble sustaining relationships. We lose our temper over small things and become irritable and harsh with others. We have a tendency to isolate ourselves from others, especially people we find draining. We become difficult for others to be around also. Because we find relationships draining, we begin to postpone important interactions, both at home and work, and make no time to be with others socially. You might have issues with people that need to be dealt with, but because they feel draining, you don’t confront them directly.

At his stage, we begin to get a sense of overload and overwhelm and we’ll avoid thinking activities. Because of that, we begin to miss deadlines and find it difficult to concentrate for any period of time. We jump from one thing to another and have trouble keeping our attention on one thing long enough to finish it. We turntowards passive activities that don’t require any participation on our part. In essence, we become a spectator to life. We may find ourselves watching TV, even though we’re not interested in or enjoying a show – just because it is easy. We may fall into a pattern called “watchism” where we’re always looking ahead (to the end of the day, to the weekend, to vacations, to retirement) just hoping things will get better and never being fully present to life.

At this stage our emotions go to a low point where we start experiencing what feels like paranoia and total overwhelm. Nothing sounds interesting.We feel alienated from people and tasks and will even avoid those people we’ve enjoyed in the past, thus deepening the feelings of isolation. We may seek to be alone a lot of the time and fight off a feeling of constant boredom. (It’s almost like going into a cave to hibernate.) We might even turn to alcohol and drugs. We get into a victim mentality where it seems as if all we do is meet other’s needs at our own expense. Everybody wants a piece of the action and we’re the action would be a perfect description of what this feels like. This also leads to resentment of others, feeling taken advantage of.

At this stage it feels as if we have a broken spirit. Other people’s needs pose a threat for us, so we stop investing in others and make no efforts towards relationships. Someone new starts working in the office and you don’t bother to get to know them at all. Your child has a problem with their teacher that should be addressed, but that gets ignored. We even begin to doubt what is important to us, like our values and beliefs,leading to a hopeless, helpless feeling. Things that used to be very important to us before just seem less important. It’s like, “Why bother, anyway? No one else seems to care, so why should you?” At this point we begin feeling so miserable that we must make a change.

1 Kings 19
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain…for I am about to pass by." And there came wind, earthquake and fire…but the Lord was not in any of those things.

Then, finally, there came a gentle whisper, the Lord's "still, small voice," and He said: "Go back the way you came...and serve Me again."

And Elijah did.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Marriage is a stunning picture of what God offers his people. Scripture tells us it is a living metaphor, a walking parable, a Rembrandt painting of the gospel. The Enemy knows this, and he hates it with every ounce of his malicious heart. He has no intention of just letting that beautiful portrait be lived out before the world with such deep appeal that no one can resist God's offer. John Eldredge

Many marriages have little to no structure that encourages intimacy in their relationship.... Passion in marriage is a result of making intimacy a priority for life. Many Christian couples think passion either is a part of their relationship, or it isn't. The truth is that passion is a dividend that comes from making consistent investments in the priorities of a marriage relationship.... Many couples try to get the passion back into their relationship, when what they need to do is to get their priorities back. Once you reestablish the priority of the relationship, the passion naturally follows and grows. Doug Weiss

Share two things you love, appreciate or value about your partner with them.

Father thank you that you have called us into an intimate relationship with each other. We recognize that our marriage is anchored by Your love. We need your help in the following areas ____. We want to remember some of the ways You have blessed the two of us ____. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

spiritual pessimists

Do you look at what is not happening in your life and in the world around you, at how bad things are or are you more interested in wanting to be in tune with what God is doing?

Psalm 31:3-5
You're my cave to hide in, my cliff to climb. Be my safe leader, be my true mountain guide. Free me from hidden traps; I want to hide in you. I've put my life in your hands. You won't drop me, you'll never let me down.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Letting go...

What have you already lost and not let go of?

What must you let go of to continue on the journey?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Breathing Underwater VIII: Letting God Use My Pain To Help Others

Life is fragile, and yet at the same time the creator of the universe has breathed into us. And this divine breath is in every single human being ever . . .. We’re these sacred, divine dirt-clods. And yet we possess untold power and strength. Your life is but a breath, and yet the creator of everything made you. Now for thousands of years, people have understood that this physical breath that we all possess is actually a picture of a deeper reality. In the Bible, the word for breath is the same word as the word for spirit. In the Hebrew language, it’s the word "ruach," and in the Greek language, it’s the word "pneuma.’ . . . Breath, spirit. Same word.

The first Christians took hold of this idea, and they took it way farther. They actually believed that the Spirit of God resides, or can literally dwell, live in a person. One scripture in Romans 8 says that if the pneuma (Spirit of God) who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then God will give you life. Another scripture says that what the Spirit of God does living in you is it sanctifies. Now the word sanctify, it means to, like, purge, or to clean out. What it essentially means is that when you let God in, when you breathe, what happens is you become aware of all the things you need to leave behind, everything you need to let go of. . . . Jesus said that what the Spirit of God does is it guides us into truth. Is there anything you need guidance in? Rob Bell

“We all fall short. It’s just some of us haven’t been caught.” Catherine Rohr, Prisoner Entrepreneurship Program

Is pain my mentor?

The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Some things are loved because they are worthy. I am worthy because I am loved.

Too many times we recycle our pain to hurt others and not to help them.

Step 8: I will let myself be used by God to bring healing, love and truth to others, both by example and words.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched... but are felt in the heart. Helen Keller

Why has God allowed my pain?

There are ‘head’ answers to this question, and ‘heart’ answers.

You have a free will and so do others.

Our pain gets our attention and can lead us to God.

2 Corinthians 7:9
Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.

Jonah 2:7
When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you.

God uses pain to help us learn to depend on Him.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11
We don't want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it. We felt like we'd been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he'll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don't want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God's deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

God allows my pain to become healing for others.

2 Corinthians 1:4
God alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.

God never wastes a hurt. But we can waste it if we don’t learn from it and don’t share it with others.

How can others become whole and healed if you and I won’t share our problems with them in order to encourage them on the journey?

1 Peter 3:13-18
If with heart and soul you're doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you're still better off. Don't give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath. It's better to suffer for doing good, if that's what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That's what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others' sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.

Make a list of your experiences, the good and the bad, and journal about these questions:

What did I learn from that experience?

How God, did You help me through that tough time?

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

Galatians 6:1-2
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

God wants to use you.

What if the parable of the talents (Matthew 25) actually had some meaning towards the stewardship of our pain, too?

Many people come to God hoping to eliminate their pain, buying into a kind of false teaching that says, “If you come to God everything is going to be okay!”

1 Peter 4:1-2
Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

Acts 20:22-24
But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I'm completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won't be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.

Allow God to finish what He started in you. He will use you to bring healing to others!

We’re going to immerse ourselves in Acts in the coming weeks, and consider ourselves a part of the writing of Acts 29.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Find something to appreciate about a tough situation. It could be worse!
Don't let anger or resentment live rent free in your brain; practice forgiveness.
Find joy in the journey, whatever the outcome.
Sincerely listen with care instead of trying to 'fix people'. Most people simply want to be heard!
Let go of rigid mind-sets and learn to be more adaptable and flexible. You could be wrong!
Be open to the unpredictable nature of people, life and especially God!

"People who are chronically angry and hostile are four to five times more likely to have a heart attack than people who are not." Steven Sultanoff Ph.D

In this quickaholic society in which we live, people want instant results. But transformation works like yeast in bread, a seed growing in the ground. It is too bad we often do not have the patience to wait on it. . . .Transformation is a mysterious work because the Holy Spirit is ultimately the source of it. The Spirit blows where it will, and often catches us off guard. Instant transformation is not the way the Spirit works. But the Spirit does work, which is why transformation does happen. God is always doing a new thing, Isaiah reminds us. The questions whether or not we want to be a part of it. Jan Linn

Isaiah 43:18-19
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

1 Peter 2:1-3
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Psalm 34:8
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Friday, March 07, 2008

You can't breathe underwater if you won't dive in...

Ezekiel 47
Now he brought me back to the entrance to the Temple. I saw water pouring out from under the Temple porch to the east (the Temple faced east). The water poured from the south side of the Temple, south of the altar. He then took me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the gate complex on the east. The water was gushing from under the south front of the Temple.

He walked to the east with a measuring tape and measured off fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water waist-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet. By now it was a river over my head, water to swim in, water no one could possibly walk through.

He said, "Son of man, have you had a good look?"

Time to dive in!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hang in the battle....

TO: Commander and Chief Spiritual Armed Forces, Jesus Christ

Dear Lord;

I am writing this to You to request a transfer to a desk job. I herewith present my reasons:

I began my career as a private, but because of the intensity of the battle You have quickly moved me up in the ranks. You have made me an officer and given me a tremendous amount of responsibility. There are many soldiers and recruits under my charge. I am constantly being called upon to dispense wisdom, make judgments, and find solutions to complex problems. You have placed me in a position to function as an officer, when in my heart I know I have only the skills of a private. I realize that You have promised to supply all I would need for the battle. But Sir, I must present You a realistic picture of my equipment.

My uniform, once so crisp and starched, is now stained with tears and blood of those I have tried to assist. The soles of my boots are cracked and worn from the miles I have walked trying to enlist and encourage the instructed troops. My weapons are marred, tarnished and chipped from constant battle against the enemy. Even the Book of Regulations I was issued has been torn and tattered from endless use. The words are now smeared.

You have promised You would be with me throughout, but when the noise of the battle is so loud and the confusion is so great, it’s often difficult for me to see and hear You. I feel so alone. I’m tired. I’m discouraged. I have Battle Fatigue. I would never ask You for a discharge. I love being in Your service. But I humbly request a demotion and transfer. I’ll file papers or clean latrines.

Just get me out of the battle–please, Sir.

Your Faithful, but tired, Warrior.

To: Faithful, but tired, Soldier, Spiritual Armed Forces
Location: The Battlefield
SUBJECT: Transfer

Dear Soldier:

Your request for transfer has been denied. I herewith present My reasons:

You are needed in this battle. I have selected you, and I will keep My Word to supply your need. You do not need a demotion and transfer. (You’d never cut it on latrine duty.) You need a period of “R&R” –Renewal and Rekindling. I am setting aside a place on the battlefield that is insulated from all sound and fully protected from the enemy. I will meet you there and I will give you rest. I will remove your old equipment and “make all things new.”

You have been wounded in the battle, My soldier. Your wounds are not visible, but you have received grave internal injuries. You need to be healed. I will heal you. You have been weakened in the battle. You need to be strengthened. I will strengthen you and be your strength. I will instill in you confidence and ability. My Words will rekindle within you and renewed love, zeal and enthusiasm. Report to Me tattered and empty. I will refill you.


Your Commander-in-Chief, Jesus Christ

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Irrepressible Hope

“I now preach to those who have lost their families and to those who are guilty of killing the families of others. And Jesus is there!” Bishop John Rucyahana, Rwanda

Is your Jesus distant or walking with you in the midst of life? Does that impact your feeling of hope?

Genesis 28:16
"Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Matthew 6:25-34
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Christ Centered Community

As we move into covenant community I was reminded of a church on Vancouver Island that recently had done the same: "This past year has been an interesting year in the life of our church. We are a covenant church and have learned how to put the covenant into practice in our daily lives. This covenant has been the backbone that drew us together when times became very difficult during battles with the spirits of religiosity, legalism, and bullying. It is also the backbone of the new creation God is leading us to. Together we were able to take a stand and walk out our difficulties while pressing into God's will for our church. We are excited to experience the new creation that God is designing for us as we start over with a clean slate."

Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Ephesians 4:1
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Philippians 1:13
As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

2 Timothy 1:8; 3:11
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God…persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

Philemon 1:1; 1:9
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—

Paul teaches us about the transformed self. He uses that wonderful phrase, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."

Let's nail our signed covenants to the cross in celebration of community. We'll share in the sand ceremony by mixing different colored sand together and trusting that Jesus Christ will make it beautiful.

“In God’s sight there are no little people and no little places. Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God's place for us, at each moment. Those who think of themselves as little people in little places, if committed to Christ and living under His Lordship in the whole of life, may, by God's grace, change the flow of our generation." Francis Schaeffer

E-nen-neh-moon Circle (Cree for “How your feelings from your heart”); learn how talking from your heart is key to moving past the abuses of the past. A safe place for people to share their pain, and begin to dream what it would be like to trust again & begin the healing journey with Christ.

Ken Blanchard writes that, “the term leader is mentioned only 6 times in the King James Version of the Bible, while the term servant is mentioned more than 900 times.”

So we are to cultivate The Heart of a Servant. This leads to two questions to:

Am I a servant leader?

Or am I a self-serving leader?

Our new elders are committed to being servants first, and to always seek God's agenda, laying personal agendas at the foot of the cross.

Galatians 6:14-16
For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can't you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!

Matthew 16:25
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I plead the Fourth......

Ken Sande suggests asking two close friends the following questions to encourage your continued growth in Christ:

Please describe three character qualities, behaviors, or attitudes in me that have disappointed, annoyed, or offended you or others, or seemed to undermine my witness for Christ. Give specific examples, if possible.

What things have you seen me make idols out of? (An idol is any desire—even for good things—that I have elevated to a demand, become excessively preoccupied with, looked to for security, had to have in order to be content, or allowed to control me.)

If there were just one change God would bring about in me in the next six months, what would you pray it would be?

Psalm 141:5
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.

Proverbs 27:6
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

How is your camouflage doing?

One of my more meaningful automobile trips came when a church elder drove me from the airport to his church to preach. He said he had discovered his own walk with the Lord could be charted according to his level of accountability with other Christians. He said, "I have discovered in the Christian life that you are moving either toward or away from accountability." Very few healthy things in the Christian life happen in secret. If you cannot or will not tell your spouse, your peers, or your superiors about something, then accountability falters. Our immersion in and integrity with these patterns of Christian association and accountability are ordinary means by which we grow in godliness. Bryan Chapell