Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Treasure

Tomorrow I will willingly give my treasure back to Jesus. We are sending our middle daughter, Bonnie, to Guatemala where she will live for five and a half months as she goes through discipleship training with YWAM, Youth With a Mission. After she finishes the discipleship training, she will prepare to go to Austrailia to go through midwifery training. However, this midwifery training will not prepare her to be a midwife in the US, it is for becoming a birth attendant in 3rd world countries.

So, the reality is that we are sending Bonnie off to become trained to live a life away from the US. This isn't news to me. God has been preparing me for this time her whole life. When she was only 3 months old, and I was a brand new Christian who didn't know much about hearing God's voice speak, I heard him ask me as I rocked her, "I want you to give her back to me." I said "Of course," not realizing at the time that I was saying yes to a life of being separated from her.

Bonnie delights me. She lights up a room when she is in it. She seems to know my thoughts and cares about what happens in my day, as well as what my dreams are for life, the future, for Missio Lux. So, this departure hurts my heart as I will miss her terribly.

But, at the same time, I want to say that I willingly give up my treasure to God because I trust him to take care of her, to fulfill the dreams in Bonnie that he put within her, to meet me in my place of grief.

It is a great privilege to send a child into a poor country to live out a justice ministry. Having proper health care for pregnant mothers and babies is a reality that the whole world should have.

So, Jesus, take my treasure and use it for your purposes to love the forgotten, the poor, the scared and the vulnerable.

Do you trust God with your Treasure? I pray that we can support one another as we grow in this area together.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What Do You Treasure?

Jesus spent time helping turn everything upside down and money was certainly one of the major themes that Jesus took and showed a great reversal. Remember how he praised the woman who gave the small coin because it was everything that she had? Remember how he upset the vendors at the Temple because they were disrupting the worship?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about treasures and how they are the key to understanding our hearts.

He said that no one can serve two masters. That where our treasure is, this is where our hearts will be found. He also told us not to worry about money, that God takes care of the lillies and the birds. He goes so far as to say that "We cannot serve both God and money."

Where does this leave us in this culture? It takes so much money to live and it is so easy to get caught up by what is perceived as being necessary for life. It's so easy to forget that a good portion of the world goes to bed hungry.

Today I read about Haiti and that food is so scarce that they are eating mud cookies. Somedays that's all they eat; can you imagine?
I think often about the refugees in the Kamkuma Refugee camp for Sudanese. The United Nations has begun to systematically reduce the food availability so that the people leave because they don't have enough to eat. The only problem is that they don't have anywhere to go.
These stories are widespread; but they are only stories to most of us. We haven't ever experienced such hunger, such poverty.

Matthew 13 is a chapter that gives one Kingdom of God example after another. Jesus begins with the Sower parable where seeds either fall into hard soil, rocky soil, thorny soil or the fertile soil that absorbs and grows the seeds. I find it so interesting that Jesus states "The one who received the seed that fell among the thornes is the one who hears the word but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

Doesn't this describe our lives? We worry about paying our bills and we struggle because we don't have the latest (you name it...). We worry about not having enough.

Jesus helps us to reconsider what enough can be. He also shows us the answer at the end of Matthew 6 where he tells us "To seek first God's Kingdom and his righteousness (right living) and all these things will be given to us as well."

Once again, as we let go of the worry, the striving, the fear of not having enough, and begin to put Jesus' way first, we will find that we have enough and that the only thing missing is worry.

As we discover all that God wants to do in Missio Lux, I dream about living as a people counter culturally to our culture. We aren't set apart because we are better than anyone or judging the people around us, we are set apart because we live in financial freedom and with that stress lifted off of us, people will take notice and ask us "What makes you different?" It's at that point that we can share the very good news of Jesus' reverse priorities that lead us to freedom.

What's your response to these thoughts?
Where do you struggle with worry?
Where do you grieve over the poor and forsaken?
What do you want to see Missio Lux do to help bring forth true financial freedom in our midst?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Celebrate Recovery

Last Monday Celebrate Recovery was launched. As I worshipped with a very wonderful worship band, I sat there grateful for all the seeds that have been planted to come to this point.

When I first came to Pine Lake, I looked at Celebrate Recovery with Betsy Gordon, who had come forward to lead a recovery group. We both looked at each other and knew that the soil wasn't ready for CR, it needed more cultivation and more seeds planted.
We started the Freedom Trek, which was a small group recovery setting. Many people went through the Freedom Trek and discovered freedom through Christian 12 step work. Seeds Planted!
Last weekend I was also at the Healing Prayer Training for Emotional Healing. Bill and Leslie Bedell led this training two years ago too, and this was when God broke through and brought an authenticity to the people present and a hunger emerged for more of what they had experienced. More seeds planted.
After that training, we offered Healing the Wounded Child, also taught by Bill and Leslie Bedell, in gender specific groups. Many who have attended HWC also discovered Celebrate Recovery and have seen how being in a recovery setting has brought them to a place of wholeness, authenticity and freedom, and they can't get enough of what Jesus offers. More seeds beginning to push through the soil to become plants!

It was so apparent at CR. We had a snowstorm yesterday and even so, the room was crowded, people were grateful to be there, and the love flowed freely. The seeds have now become full grown and are beginning to bring forth a harvest!

I am delighted to be part of forming a church that values authenticity, friendship on the journey of life, recognition that to become a Christian doesn't make one perfect, but forgiven and on the road to healing, and seeing people get free so we can be the full person that God created us to be. As we step into this, I see that nothing gets in the way of God's plan for our life; the plan that brings us to the place of "life to the full, or life abundant on earth." We can still anticipate heaven with great longing, but it makes life on earth a lot more fulfilling.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Becoming Like a Child

Jesus shocks and amazes his audience once again when he proclaims: "Unless you become like a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God." He told the people another time, "Whoever welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me."

This is yet another extreme reversal statement in his culture. In Jesus' day, the culture wasn't centered on children. Value went to the elderly for their wisdom in life. Children were often considered just another pair of hands to work. The disciples tried to shew the children away who came to see Jesus, figuring that he had much more important work to do.

How do we value children?
Sometimes I look around and see that often parent's give children too much authority; when they are rather desperate for the adults in their lives to lead them. But, at the same time, I see children shuffled off to daycares, put in front of videos and ignored as stressed out parents try to "get their important work done."

How can children point us to God?
How do children help us to have simple faith?
What do you think that Jesus meant when he said that we need to become like children to enter the kingdom of God?

I would love for Missio Lux to value children so much that we listen intently for their voices. I would like to see children included in the gatherings and given value for their contribution. I believe that one of the strengths of the Missio Lux structure is to reunite families as they discover together how to spiritually form as people. As families worship together and serve together and develop friendships with other community members, there will be much more to talk about at dinner than the latest television program or the newest Ipod download.

As we form the foundation, let's wrestle with what it means to be the Family of God. Let's make room for children just as Jesus did.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Whose Job is it Anyway?

Thinking again about the Kingdom of God brings to another priority shift. I think that 21st Century American Christians have two obstacles in front of them in truly living out the Kingdom of God. They are the American mindset and the Christian work ethic.
Americans have a value of "pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps." We value independence and we value being able to accomplish the impossible through our efforts. Christians have also been taught and modeled to work hard, to give our full effort, so that we can see God's results take place.
But, lately as I've been studying the Kingdom of God and looking at Matthew 13 and Mark 4 and thinking through how the Kingdom is presented, what I am seeing is totally counter to the American mindset and the Christian work ethic. The parable of the growing seed is like this: "The Kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed on the ground. As he sleeps, the seeds sprouts and grows, though he doesn't really know how that happens. All by itself the soil produces grain, first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."

The way I see it, the man had to get the soil ready. He then planted the seeds. But, after that he just stood by and watched the seeds do their work, until it was time to harvest.

As I've been thinking about this, I think I understand that the soil is the environment, which can include the culture, the atmosphere and people's lives. Our job as Christ followers is to cultivate the soil so that when the seeds are thrown down, they don't hit the ground, the rocks or the thorns, but they go deep into the earth where they then die (John 12) before beginning the growth process.
Our next role is to plant the seeds.
But after that, it's God's turn. His role is to grow the plants from seeds to a plant full of fruit ready for harvest. This may be quick, like a marigold or slow like an oak tree, but eventually a healthy plant will bring forth fruit.

I don't know about you, but this concept makes me feel rested.

Instead of the frantic pace of life that we try to keep, we can be present through prayer to help the soil become ready. We then know, like the farmer, when the time is right to plant the seed. So, we go and do it, joyfully, because it isn't burdensome. It is full of anticipation as we await the seedling popping through the ground. Waiting doesn't mean being a slackard, but it also doesn't mean living in a place of frenetic activity.

We can hang out, enjoying life and each other.

This is part of the paradigm shift that we need to make; living out being the church isn't about stress or schedules or to do lists. It's about relationships, with the earth, with God and with each other. It's about living out of our true selves, not pretending or striving but being ourselves and being accepted in it. It's about being available when we see the plant ready for harvest. It about showing up and having the great privilege to see the Kingdom of God expanded, as yet another person decides to turn their back on the way of the world and to turn toward Jesus and his restful way of living.

How does that sound to you? It makes me smile and take a nice deep breath.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Next Step

Okay, Jesus sends the 12 out with his power and authority. They go out and do what Jesus commissions them to do and then Jesus exercises good leadership by taking them away for a debrief.
But, when they are debriefing, the crowds show up. Someone figured out where Jesus was and told 5,00o of his best friends. So, guess what? Jesus stops debriefing and then heals all those that need healing and teaches everyone about the Kingdom of God.
One of the ways he taught about the kingdom of God was through a life illustration.
The people had rushed out into the wilderness and hadn't stopped to bring food. The disciples heard the hunger in their own stomachs and got worried; how were they going to feed 5,000 people?
Ever feel the same? The resource doesn't match the need!
Well, Jesus knowing that they now had the power of the Holy Spirit and his authority tells the disciples "You give them something to eat."
What? There are only 5 loaves of bread and two fishes; but because the Kingdom of God is mysterious and present because Jesus is present, he takes the scarce food and turns it into a kingdom banquet.
Starting something new often seems like the "scarce food" when in reality it is truly the kingdom banquet. And we are the disciples, having been given the best: God's power and his authority to go and do what Jesus did. Can you remember having a situation where your need didn't match the resources you had and you saw Jesus take it and turn it into kingdom abundance?
If you haven't, now may be the time when we will have that privilege.
Let's dream together about what can be.
Where can we take the offerings we bring and see God use it in the world to do extraordinary things?
The world awaits.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Missio: Being Sent Out

Luke 9:1-2 is a Scripture that I keep returning to over and over as I spend time getting to know God better. It's the turning point in Luke when Jesus says identifies his guys, the disciples that he chooses to invest his energies into. He says to them "We've spent good time together getting to know one another, you've watched me do what I do, now I want you to go and do the same."
I can imagine that their eyes must have been wide considering that right before Jesus tells them to go and do what does, he brought a dead girl back to life. I can also imagine that they wondered how in the world they could do anything close to that; where would the power come from?
So, Jesus commissions them by saying, "Take my power and authority to drive out demons and to cure diseases." He sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Jesus' disciples were missio: they were sent out. They were sent out to realize that following Jesus means we have what he has. We have the power of the Holy Spirit and we have the authority of his name~and the combination of the two brings forth God's heart for the world: freedom from oppression and freedom from disease and illness. We also have the message of hope: Missio Lux: the mission of light.

Reflect on this:
How has your walk with Christ included healing, deliverance and hope for others?
What needs to change so that you can align your life to walk in Christ's power and authority to see healing, deliverance and hope be part of following Jesus in your life?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Share Your Dreams

God plants dream inside of all of us; they are wonderful dreams that He will bring forward as long as we are asking, waiting, fanning the dream into action.

Missio Lux is at the point where the dreams are so invaluable for our next step as a Build Team. As we share our dreams together, the dreams will deepen and become even more real and tangible.

What are your dreams?
for Missio Lux?
for ways to leave a lasting imprint in our community or world?
for yourself and your family?

Thanks for sharing! For all the readers who aren't part of the Build Team, leave your dreams, they may become part of what God will bring forward through Missio Lux!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Refined Sugar

Today I met with a man who hasn't seriously considered being part of Missio Lux, but is feeling an intense restlessness that is beginning to make him rethink how he lives his life. One of his barriers to participating with Missio Lux is the question of where he will get his feeding, his spiritual nurture. But, as he has been involved in a community for the last year; he is beginning to see how much more satisfying it is to discover God's teaching through exploration and discussion with others. He is seeing his boys become great friends with the children of the other couples. He realized that he would call one of those families to help him if his car got stuck, but not anyone at his church. He recognizes his desire to take his children on a mission trip so they understand that much of the world lives very differently than on the Eastside of Seattle.

As he processed all this, he made a very interesting observation: "It feels like when I go to church, I get my 'feeding' for the week, I leave and by the time I go home, the feel good feeling is gone. I've forgotten what the sermon is and I am ready to live the next 6 1/2 days of my week. It feels like the church is refined sugar."

How would you respond to his comments?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Kingdom of God is Within Us

We spoke on Saturday about the truth that the "kingdom of God is within us." The passage actually refers to when the kingdom of God would come and Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'here it is,' or 'there it is,' because the kingdom of God is with you.
This is one of the biggest repositionings that we need to make, to stop thinking that we do ministry over there--in the church--and to start thinking that "I am ministry because Jesus is within me."
I think in some ways that going to a building to worship has unintentionally created a segmentation that allows us to forget about being available for the Kingdom of God to show up. I realized that I used to say "I am going to church" when now I am say, "I am going to Pine Lake," because the church is not the building. The church is me at Starbucks when I am with another who knows him and we speak about what he is teaching us or what he calling us to do. The church is me when I stop and help someone in trouble. The church is me when I open my home to others. The church is me when I read a distressing article and I stop and pray.
Let's journey together in making this paradigm shift. It's going to take awhile and it's going to take focus, but this is worth it.
It's like a person who found a treasure hidden in a field. When the person found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field.
The shifts most likely won't happen in big degrees, they will be small adjustments along the way. Nothing is too small to share, but do tell us because then we can all share in the joy of discovering the treasure.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Becoming Kingdom Citizens--Day 1

Saturday the Missio Lux Build Team met for the first time. The Build Team has been charged with laying the foundation of the mission, vision and values of Missio Lux.
The first part of our time together was spent discovering in greater depth what Jesus has to say about the Kingdom of God. His first public statement was all about his vision of what the Kingdom of God is all about.

Let's not forget where Jesus made his public proclamation. It is was in his home town, in his home church. He took the scroll of Isaiah and read:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Can you imagine? Let's put ourselves in the place of the people at the church. They've known Jesus all his life, he worked beside his father, Joseph, as a carpenter. And, now he is proclaiming that he is the One that God sent to bring forth freedom for the Jews.

Let's wrestle with how different the reality of Jesus was from the Israelites expectations that a Messiah would come and sweep away all oppression in a single event. Could a carpenter apprentice really make that happen?

How would you respond? What feelings would Jesus' statement bring up in you? What would you say to the person sitting next to you as your first response? How do you think you would feel after you had time to think about it?

I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Kite Runner

Today our family went to see "The Kiterunner." It's a movie based in Afghanistan, and moves through the history from the Communist invasion to the rule of the Taliban. The most evil man in the city rules the Taliban, and he abuses children. I still can't shake how that makes me feel. How anyone can take a child's life and use it to fulfill personal pleasure literally makes me want to throw up.
I left the theatre wondering how God can stand it. I left wondering how he felt when Adam and Eve invited sin into the world. I left wondering how Missio Lux can help address such injustices and how we can make an impact into the unjust systems that prevail in most of the world.
It won't be easy, but it must be done. Jesus told us that we need to act justly and to love mercy. It's not enough to feel compassion, our compassion needs to lead us to acts of mercy and to develop systems of justice.
Next Saturday the Build Team for Missio Lux meets for the first time. The Build Team is the group that will help shape Missio Lux into what it is to become. I pray that God will give us wisdom and maturity to look beyond our own comfort into what truly will point us to Jesus' statement to the disciples, "And the world will know you are mine through your love."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Year of New Beginnings

The weather report for Seattle was good for New Years Day. However, the weather man forgot to check the wind report as a biting wind blew from the east. It didn't deter many however, who knew that gathering to welcome in 2008 as the year of new beginnings was far more important than their comfort.
We started out down below the Sammamish Town Commons where we were protected from the wind. As we read Scripture and listened to the Shofar blow, we were reminded that it is easy to follow Christ when it is comfortable. Halfway through the gathering, we left the protected area and went up the stairs straight into the wind. At first it felt like the roaring lion, but after a time many of us began to realize that the wind was like the wind that Jesus described in John 3: the wind that blows where it chooses or the wind of Pentecost of Acts 2: the wind that was like a rush of a violent wind.
One person described it a purifying. She said it felt like all the old was being swept off of her and that the biting wind opened her up for the reality of a new way of walking through life. Another said that the discomfort of the deep chill made her realize that following Jesus is never comfortable; that he calls out of comfort into a life of obedience.
I was just grateful. I was grateful for people hungry enough to know Jesus to come on a holiday (although it did not conflict with the Rose Bowl), bold enough to stand outside to worship in a public place, and humble enough to know that they need the purifying wind of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
How about you? Where is the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit blowing on you? I would love to hear all about it.