Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Following Jesus to Jerusalem: Thoughts on Holy Week, Part 2

A new Barna survey came out recently. George Barna tracks cultural and spiritual trends in the United States. The focus for the latest survey was our understanding of Easter.

The results were insightful in that although a majority of Americans indicated a spiritual connection with Easter, only 42% could point to the meaning of Easter being about the resurrection of Jesus and only 2% said that they would describe Easter as being the most important holiday of their faith.

That comes down to just 1 in 50 adults understanding that the central point of our faith is that Jesus came to earth with an intentional mission to give his life as the final and eternal sacrifice for sins, so that we are given life instead of the death we deserve.

Let’s unpack this some more. We are currently in Holy Week: this is the last week of Jesus’ life where he entered Jerusalem with a cheering crowd and ended up just five days later hanging on a cross because of a jeering crowd. In between the Palm Parade and his crucifixion, he was anointed with oil for his burial by a woman who crashed a party, he went into the temple and angrily cleared it out of all the commerce and materialism, he was sold out by one of his 12 disciples, he shared the Passover feast with his disciples a day early, and he was arrested in a garden with great fanfare, being kissed by the one who betrayed him.

Did you realize that the four books in the Bible about Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, include at least 25% of their content about this week? Jesus lived for 33 years, ministered for 3 and yet, the majority of the writings in the Gospels are about the last week in his life? It must be pretty important.


Once again, we have to go back to the Garden of Eden where life with God began. When Adam and Eve broke God’s boundary, the punishment was eviction from the Garden but the grace included an animal killed so that its sacrificial blood would pave the way from Adam and Eve to God to stay in relationship.

Animal sacrifices continued to the time of Jesus as the Israelites pathway to relationship with God. They had to travel to the holy city of Jerusalem to make the animal sacrifices, as well as having strict criteria about the type and condition of the animal.

God always knew that eventually the sacrifice would become his son. He was willing to make his own sacrifice because his desire for relationship with us is that great. Imagine that. So, Father and Son planned to do the unimaginable.

Jesus became human so that he would join us on earth to demonstrate that his father isn’t one who stands apart from his creation but is actively involved in it. He came as a helpless baby so that he would know the struggles that we all encounter. Jesus lived a sinless life, however, so that he could become the “perfect lamb of God for sacrifice.”

We need to be clear. Jesus did not get killed. Jesus gave his life in sacrifice. It wasn’t easy, in the hours before his arrest the Scriptures tell us that he dripped blood in agony of the anticipation. He asked for a way out. His Father did not give him one: this had been their plan for all eternity.

So, Jesus walked the road to the crucifixion. He endured whippings, humiliation, mocking, nakedness, betrayal of the people he came to save, taunting from one of the thieves hanging next to him, and finally, the silence of his Father as the totality of the worlds’ sins came upon him and he gave up his life in death.

Creation knew that something big had happened. Matthew tells us that the earth shook, rocks splits apart and tombs opened bringing the bodies of godly men and women back to life. The temple curtain tore in two from top to bottom on its own. And, secular guards knew at that moment that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 27:50-54).

A hidden disciple came out into the open and took Jesus’ body and laid it in a new cave for burial. Guards were posted day and night in case Jesus’ friends would want to steal his body and lie about it. The tomb was sealed.

A faithful group of women came to the tomb as soon as the Sabbath was over; early Sunday morning. They came to an open, empty tomb. The disciples Peter and John saw the empty tomb. The women encountered an angel who gave them this life changing message, “Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen. Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has been raised from the dead!” (Matthew 28:5-7).

What does this mean for people today?

We deserve punishment for our sins of unbelief in who Jesus is and our disregard for God’s laws for life. We deserve to lose our access to the One True God in relationship. The Bible tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

But, because Jesus made the journey to Jerusalem towards the cross, we are invited to live life with him and to have a life of meaning on earth and for eternity in heaven. We are given the awesome invitation to partner with God in restoring and redeeming the earth and the people in it. We have the third person of the Trinity living in us: the Holy Spirit who gives us power to live out our faith so that we can do the things that Jesus did.

The pathway is simple: Romans 10:9 tells us that “If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved.”

Making a decision to follow Jesus is about surrender. It is about acknowledging that we are not in control of our lives and that Jesus is and making the invitation to live life connected to him.

Take a moment now to consider if you have ever made the invitation to make a life with Jesus. If you have, thank him for the opportunity to share life with the One who created life, who created you!

If you haven’t, don’t miss out on the invitation. Respond with a yes in your spirit and then with your mouth, tell someone about your decision!

Easter is about new birth; let’s celebrate what our Heavenly Father purposed since the beginning of time by sending his beloved Son to die in our place.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fliers and Prayer Go Together

I just got back from Occidental Square. I took Rosemary, a Missio Lux Healing Prayer Minister, with me for the task of passing out fliers and hanging posters for our Easter Celebration at Occidental Square in Pioneer Square Seattle.

I knew that Rosemary should come because she has a natural gift for praying for people whereever she goes. She knows Jesus as healer and she offers to pray for anyone who desires to be healed, or saved, or both!

We went to all the shelters around Occidental Square: Bread of Life Mission, Union Gospel Mission, Compass Center and Chief Seattle. We also visited some of the local businesses and asked them to hang our posters, as well as offering to pray for their business! Some of the recipients looked dubious but no one said no.

We met one man named Cowboy Bill. He told us that he had a blood clot on his leg and he needed to use a wheelchair because of it. We asked how we could pray for him, and he told us "he needed his wheelchair back." Rosemary said, "I'd like to pray that you don't need the wheelchair anymore because God healed you."

So, we did. We prayed for his leg to be healed and for the blood clot to go. Cowboy Bill thanked God for the healing in faith. Then he gave us both hugs.

I said that I hoped he would come to Easter at Occidental with a testimony of God's healing power in his life and leg!

I just love being in Pioneer Square in Seattle. There is something that draws me there. There are a lot of poor and disenfranchised people but almost everyone that we meet knows Jesus. They live with him on a moment to moment basis because they have no other umbrella to hold them up.

Speaking of umbrella's, my prayer is that they won't be necessary this Easter after the major deluge of rain that we experienced last year!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fireworks at Healing Prayer Worship Service

I've had a new experience lately with the Lord. When he is really pleased about something, it's like fireworks go off in my mind! I see the sparkle and hear the boom and it feels like July 4th all over again: one of my very favorite holidays.

I experienced the fireworks on Tuesday at the Missio Lux Healing Prayer Worship Service.

This is why: the entire service is planned, led and set up and cleaned up completely by God's people. I came at the time to pray and the room was set up for prayer stations and with athestics to prepare an atmosphere of worship. The band was practicing.

I joined in a circle of prayer which was led by one of our Prayer Team leaders, Muffie. The circle continued to get bigger and bigger as prayer member after prayer member arrived to prepare themselves to be God's vessel for healing that night.

The two prayer team leaders came around the circle with communion, serving it to all of us.

As we worshipped, heard Larry's powerful testimony of his Lazarus resurrection, and then broke into teams to pray, I couldn't contain my joy. I knew that Jesus was so pleased with what takes place, watching committed people who can't wait to get there each month to pray, and knowing that they were doing it out of their calling and their passion.

This is Missio Lux. The people of God following their divine design and fueled by their passion and God's power, reaching out in missio to serve the world.

If you haven't ever attended a Missio Lux healing prayer service, I would encourage you to come. We meet on the 4th Tuesday of every month at the Pine Lake Covenant Sanctuary at 7 p.m.

It's a chance to make space for God in a comtemplative setting and to receive prayer for whatever you desire.

I hope that the fireworks never stop in this ministry; God is showing up and showing off his wonderful heart for the people he created!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Following Jesus to Jerusalem: reflections on Holy Week

The paradoxes surrounding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem continue to astound me!

A king would arrive with a great entourage of white horses and soldiers with a road perfectly groomed for his arrival.

Jesus arrived on a borrowed donkey that had never been ridden.

A king would sit in a spectacular saddle upon his majestic horse.

Jesus sat on his discples’ coats.

A king would have a military band playing announcing his arrival.

Jesus came amidst of the shouts and singing of people declaring “Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in highest heaven,” while they waved palms which they broke off from the trees.

It seems that the people who praised Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem that day recognized that Jesus was a King, even though he didn’t have all the appearances and trappings that all kings carry.

They recognized that Jesus was a king because of “what he does” rather than what he owns or wears.

Luke 19:37 tells us that the people worshipped Jesus because of all the miracles that he had done. This is the Kingdom of God in action: God’s divine activity and invasion onto earth!

The disciples must have been bursting with pride to see their leader being praised and worshipped by the adoring crowds that lined the streets. Their dream of seeing Jesus build his kingdom was coming closer.

Except they were looking for the wrong kingdom.

The disciples still believed at that point that Jesus was going to bring political and military freedom to the Jews. Surely the crowds meant that was going to happen—they would help to accomplish it.

I am continually amazed that as people who follow Jesus we think we get it when we are really so far away from what he intends for us.

Jesus had no intention of lining up an army to fight the Romans.

As a matter of fact, just around the bend from the parade, Jesus burst into tears. He spoke these prophetic words over Jerusalem: “I wish that even today you would find the way of peace. And, now it is too late, and peace is hidden from you. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you. They will crush you to the ground and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you have rejected the opportunity that God offered you.” (Luke 19:41-44). Jesus knew that the Israelites were rejecting the true king, even though many of them worshipped him as he entered the Holy City of Jerusalem for his final week on earth.

What can we learn from Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday?

First, that God is often hidden in the most unlikely of places.

We may go to our comfortable pews on Easter morning looking for Jesus but actually find him when we share lunch with a homeless person. We may look for Jesus in our Bible Studies, but actually find him as we work out a conflict with our co-worker. We may look for Jesus in our political association but actually find him through serving our neighbor whose lifestyle is radically different than our own.

Second, following Jesus means that we take the role of a servant.

Jesus tells us that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to offer his body as a sacrifice for many.” (Mark 10:45). He continually modeled to his disciples the role of a servant rather than a hierarchical leader.

Finally, following Jesus often leads us into a place of suffering.

Jesus knew throughout his whole life that he had come to die. He invites us to follow in his example by taking the narrow road of life and carrying our own cross: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9:23-25).

Friday I went to the Christian Ministry Convention. I went to hear a speaker that invited me, but I was overwhelmed by my reaction when I entered the building. I had the immediate sense that I was with Jesus at the temple when he reacted in anger over how they had made his Father’s home a market.

I also had a sense that many well intentioned people were present believing that they were following Jesus, but I wondered is if they would ever hear his words of invitation to follow him with our own cross to the place of suffering. And, if they did, would they have the courage to follow him?

We cannot fully celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter without first acknowledging the price he paid. Jesus didn’t rise to life without first dying the most horrible death imaginable.

My invitation to you this week is to spend some time reading the final chapters of the Gospels as you hear Jesus’ words of challenge to us that “in dying we find life.”

Consider this passage as you meditate on what it is that he is urging you to let die so that he can bring it miraculously to a place of great life:

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:23-26

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Celebrate Recovery Leads Sunday Worship Service at Pine Lake Covenant

Celebrate Recovery is a kingdom ministry that is led jointly between Missio Lux and our parent church, Pine Lake Covenant. The CR Leadership Team is pictured: an amazing group of people committed to living a Jesus lifestyle of freedom with a call to help others live in freedom too!

Sunday, Celebrate Recovery led the worship service as people of both congregations came together to experience a rather typical Monday night gathering at Celebrate Recovery.

Our goal in doing this was to help both faith communities to understand that Celebrate Recovery is for all of us. It's not for the "people over there" but for all of us who struggle with hurts, habits and hang ups in our lives that keep us from fully living the full and meaningful life that Jesus invites us to live.
We started by worshipping with the Rag Band: a team of 5 very gifted musicians who actually write recovery songs that help all of us to realize that if Jesus were here today; he would totallay be hanging out at Celebrate Recovery because their values are his values.
Next Bruce and Bill led us in the discovery of both the typical 12 steps and the 8 comparisons that come from the Beautitudes in Matthew 5.
Diana gave a powerful testimony of how God has worked to open her eyes from the denial and co-dependency that ruled her life.
Kim and Chas finished by giving a lesson on denial-the first step: recognizing that our lives have become unmanagable without turning to God. Denial as an acrostic says this: "Disables our feelings. Energy lost. Negates healing. Isolates us from God. Alienates us from relationships. Lengthens the pain."
We ended by praying the Prayer of Serenity:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
--Reinhold Niebuhr
Where do you want more serenity in your life? What hurts, habits and hangups are keeping you from connecting with God and others in your life?
Celebrate Recovery meets every Monday night at 7 p.m. at Pine Lake Covenant in Sammamish, WA, but check their website for one near you if you are too far to come to the Eastside of Seattle:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

We are Going Back to Occidental Square

This Easter we will not be gathering in a building to celebrate Jesus' Resurrection; we will be coming to banquet with the poor and disenfranchised in the center of the land where Seattle first began: Occidental Square.

To read about Laurie Bunnel's experience last year, read LaurieOnLifestyle.blogspot.com / communion in the city below:

Our second annual Missio Lux Easter in Occidental Square is coming up. We share a banquet in the park with anyone who comes to celebrate the Resurrection. One of the highlights for me last year was serving communion to the many homeless and disenfranchised individuals present, as well as some of the over 100 Missio Lux volunteers.

It is not the usual kind of place for communion; a concrete park surrounded by bars in the middle of the Pioneer Square district in downtown Seattle. As one of my friends commented, "Well it isn't exactly high mass." Yet for those who received it, especially those who have not felt welcome or empowered to step into a church, it was a Holy experience.

Naturally, the Holiness was lost on some people. A few thought we were handing out samples like CostCo. One woman walked by, grabbed the communion cup of grape juice before we could stop her to explain. She evidently thought it was some kind of shot glass of alcohol as she tipped her head back and said, "Thanks I really needed that."

However, most of our interactions were profound. Two men were talking among themselves and said, "I don't think that is for us." When we invited them to the table, they were incredibly moved that we would serve them communion as they had not had an opportunity to participate in the Eucharist for a long time. One was also thrilled to receive a free Bible we were passing out. He carefully tucked it into his worn backpack as he gave me his expert critique of recent Bible translations.

What became very clear after explaining communion many times, in the pouring rain by the way, was that communion tells the gospel story so simply and so well. God, out of love, coming to earth so we would know Him through Jesus. Jesus out of love offering himself (blood and body) on the cross in our place so that we could be in right relationship with God. And finally, what we were all there to celebrate that Easter morning, the Resurrection, Jesus raised from the dead - having overcome sin and death. Through communion we remember and celebrate Jesus until he comes again.

One Asian man I shared this with said in broken English that he understood, he believed and could he take communion? Some people just cried. My friend's dad, who is in his sixties, was there volunteering after making a decision to follow Christ just weeks before. It was an amazing privilege to serve and share in his first communion as this tough guy teared up as he grasped the meaning of the Eucharist.

We are looking forward to the surprises and blessings waiting for us this Easter! Hope you can join us!
(Photos are from last year's Easter Celebration.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Living as Kingdom Ambassadors, Part 3: The Toolbox!

After Jesus ascended to Heaven, the disciples stayed in a room and prayed. They knew they were waiting for the promise from God, but they had no idea what it would look like. However, when the promise came, there was no doubt that this is what they were waiting to receive so they took immediate action.

What happened? It started with a sound from heaven like the roaring of the fiercest wind storm imaginable. It was followed by flames of fire setting on their heads. These flames were followed by the ability to speak in languages that they had never learned.

What did Jesus’ disciples do? They ran into the Temple Courts and began to speak! Suddenly it was obvious to everyone around them that Jesus’ disciples had changed. They went from being fearful followers to bold and courageous witnesses for Jesus.

The change came from the power they received as their promise. This birth, called Pentecost, is the dividing line between the Old Testament and the New Testament. That day in the Temple Courts, the New Testament Church was born because now Jesus’ followers were filled with Holy Spirit; the power to follow Jesus in his call to “go and make disciples and to do the things that he himself had done.”

So, practically, what does this power look like? I remember the first time I learned about Pentecost thinking, “I’ve never seen that power present.” However, I am learning to not only recognize it but to walk in it on a daily basis. It all comes down to understanding what we have and a willingness to use it by faith.

God has given us a toolbox which empowers us to live as we are called.

Scripture tells us at least three times that Holy Spirit is sealed within us as a deposit guaranteeing our future life in heaven (Ephesians 1:13-14, 2nd Cor 1:22, 5:5). Because Holy Spirit is sealed within us, the power is always available to us. We just need to learn how to access it.

The first way to access Holy Spirit power is through Scripture. Because each word of Scripture is God’s holy Word, when we declare it in prayer, it activates heavenly movement that accomplishes the Word that is spoken. When we speak God’s Word out of our authority with him, literal mountains can move in response to our prayers (Mark 11:22-24).

The second pathway to Holy Spirit power is Jesus’ poured out blood on the cross. Hebrews 9:14 tells us “Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the Living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for sins.”

The next pathway to Holy Spirit power is the dove: Holy Spirit himself! No longer does the Holy Spirit only rest on people, so that we don’t have to pray: “Lord, don’t take your Holy Spirit from me,” (Ps 51:11) like King David did.Holy Spirit is sealed within us for eternity, there is nothing that we can do to make him go.

This is not to say that Holy Spirit can’t become dim within a person. It is when we seek to follow Jesus in his call to live life like him that our spirits become very bright: 2nd Cor 3:18 speaks to us: “we are mirrors that brightly reflect the Glory of the Lord.”

Finally, the last pathway to Holy Spirit power is the funnel itself. This funnel is the Kingdom of God being released from heaven to earth. This is our role as Jesus’ followers to look for those opportunities to call what is in heaven to earth so that God’s original purposes for humanity are fulfilled before we go to heaven.

We remember our discussion last week about the funnel? How clear is your funnel? This weekend at the Healing Prayer Training, the participants took time to understand certain areas that clogged their funnel, stuffed it and then brought it to the bowl for clearing. It was powerful watching the papers being stuffed in the funnels, and even more powerful watching the process of removal.

Many of the funnels had papers get stuck within them. It was a struggle to get them out. That is representative of our lives. Some of the papers come out easily once we identify them and others take more persistence and attention to release them.

But, this is our promise! We have everything we need to follow Jesus in his lifestyle, along with fulfilling his word to us that “we will do the things he has done, and even greater things because he has returned to heaven and given us the Holy Spirit who is with us at all times in all places.”

Take time today to identify your “funnel clogs.” Stuff them into a funnel or a toilet paper holder and try to pour the salt through. The salt represents Holy Spirit and will not go through fully if the clogs are present. After a time of confession, remove the clogs and watch the salt pour through with great power and urgency: just like Holy Spirit does in our lives when our funnel is clear.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Update on Haiti: Romans 8:28 in Action

I just watched a very movie youtube about what is happening in Haiti spiritually.

I want to share it with you as we all remember that God brings good out of the worst circumstances in the world.

"and in all things God works together for good, for those who love him and are called for his purposes." Romans 8:28

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Living as Kingdom Ambassadors, Part 2

What do a toilet paper holder, salt and a bowl have in common?

Those present at the Missio Lux Celebration Sunday night know because we were able to recognize in the natural realm what God is doing with us, his followers, in the supernatural realm by calling us to be kingdom ambassadors filled with the king’s authority and power.

When Jesus was baptized (Mark 1) the heaven’s ripped open and the kingdom of God was released. It was finally kairos time. Right after his baptism, Jesus was sent into the desert to be tested by the Devil. Jesus was able to stand in that testing because he had a perfect identity as his Father’s Son. When we know and stand in our identity as God’s beloved children, Jesus’ followers and the Temple of Holy Spirit, we are able to exercise our authority that Jesus gives us.

Sunday we had a tool box present which held several items that represent different tools to use our authority Jesus gives us. The first is the authority of his name. Jesus tells us in Luke 24:47 “With my authority, go and witness.” In John 14:14 he tells us, “You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.” His name is like the money in the bank that gets used when we write a check.

The second area are the keys. Jesus told Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” We have keys that lock and unlock doors—we can lock out that which is not pleasing to God, and we can unlock the doors of provision, blessing, miracles and healing as well as areas of God’s character that we want ourselves to have, as well as those around us. Think of it like a treasure chest that holds hidden treasure that only the perfect key can open: we have been given that key!

The third representation of our authority is a rope. A rope ties people up. A rope also whipped Jesus which made his blood fall, his blood sets us free. The rope that ties us is also spoken of in Matthew 16 when Jesus taught that like the key, we can bind someone or something or we can loose it. The rope ties up that which is destructive in our lives.

What cuts up a rope? A sword. We had a sword in the toolbox because swords represent the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Imagining myself fighting a battle with a sword always makes my faith grow because I know the power that the sword carries to set people free.

Finally, the last area for authority in the tool box is a crown. Kings have crowns because they are a sign of their leadership. Jesus had a crown too, only his was made of thornes which once again made him bleed. When he died the brutal death but then did not stay in the grave, he was given an authority that every person in the entire history of humanity and in the universe will bend their knee to worship him. Every one. We can choose to do it willingly now, or on the final day. The cost to waiting to the final day is eternal; because not everyone will be included in his kingdom at that point.

Most of us are pretty clear that Jesus sits on a throne, but did you know that you do as well? Okay, it’s not the bathroom throne; it’s a positional throne once again in the supernatural. Ephesians 2:6 tells us that “We reign (on the throne) with Jesus in the heavenly realms.”

Okay, you may be saying, “I don’t hear of any toilet paper holders being in the toolbox” so what does that have to do with anything? This is the answer. When we know and experience the Father’s love, and begin to stand clearly in what he says about who we are, versus how the world or even ourselves, define us, our authority funnel is opened up.

When our funnels are clear, the kingdom authority and power (cover that next week) is able to move from heaven to earth. Jesus had the same Holy Spirit living in him that we have. He didn’t get his faith supersized at McDonalds—we each have the same starting point.

The difference between Jesus and us, however, is the amount of kingdom authority and power that can move through our funnels.

We stuffed paper in our toilet paper holders which represented areas of our lives that clogged our funnel. Some of those areas had to do with our identity and others had to do with our obedience, are we doing the things Jesus tells us to do and staying away from those areas which are destructive to us?

When we do, our funnel clears. We tried to pour salt through our clogged funnels and it didn’t work very well. Everything got stuck, except a few pieces of salt which slipped through. But, after we pushed out the clogs to represent our own cleansing, the salt poured through in a gush. Clear funnels set us free and bring God’s kingdom to others as we “re-present” him to the world.
My invitation to you today is to study these different areas listed in the Bible for yourself. Discover the truth of what you already have; they may be just a bit clogged in your funnel.

My challenge is to spend time reflecting on where your funnel is clogged.

Do you have a hard time believing Jesus had the same Holy Spirit that you carry?
Do you have a hard time stepping into the truth of what God says about you versus what you say about you?
Do you make choices to run away from God rather than coming near him?
Are you afraid to exercise your authority, does fear stop you from moving forward?

The funnel clogs are many, but the One who unclogs them is Just One. His name is Jesus, and as you bring your clogs to him for confession, he will be the stick to push the clogs out to empty out your funnel.

Then watch and see what God is going to do! It will amaze you and delight you because you will be more closely aligned to the place of God’s heart for you and the things he put in you to do to be his Kingdom Ambassador.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thoughts on the Academy Awards

I didn't get to see the whole Academy Awards because Missio Lux held our Celebration Sunday night; but did get home in time to see the biggest awards presented: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture--should I say, "best" awards!

The movie industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars making movies every year. "Avatar" cost $500 million to make. That's a boatload of cash. It was expected in many circles to make "Best Picture" because of how unique it was.

But, it didn't win. For the second year in a row** ("Slumdog Millionaire" won best picture last year), a small, inexpensive unknown film rose to the top. This year "Hurt Locker" was the winner; costing just $15 million to produce versus the $500 million with "Avatar".

On top of that, Sandrea Bullock won Best Actress for her role in the "Blindside." Critics did not like that movie, the Seattle Times gave it almost all thumbs down across the board. But, people flocked to it. Why?

I believe that we are drawn to the story of the Underdog. We want to see those that have passion and not so much power win the prize. It warms our hearts to walk away and realize that a very wealthy family from the South would invite a lost homeless African American boy to not just come to live with them, but to invite him to be part of their family. (if you haven't seen "Blindside", do!)

We are also drawn to the story of those who step out in faith and take a risk. The director of "Hurt Locker" was a woman named Kathryn Bigelow. When she took her award, she said that she hoped that the film would just get picked up by someone when it done; never dreaming in a million years that she would be standing in front of her peers accepting a Best Director Academy Award. She took a risk and her life will never be the same.

Kathryn Bigelow has a passion for those that protect others. She not only mentioned the military several times in her acceptance speech but she spoke of all the others who takes daily risk to protect us: firefighters, HSMAT, police...the list went on!

I believe we are drawn to stories of passion, of helping the underdog, and for taking risky steps in faith because this is the way God made us. We are cooperating with him when we move in these ways because this is the "god image" in us. We have joy when we move in these ways, moving closer and closer to the "Sweet Spot" of life.

What are you going to do today to live out your passion in risky faith?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Living as Kingdom Ambassadors

Esther didn’t know when she was a young woman that her life would take on such powerful significance. She was an orphan who lived with her cousin Mordecai, who adopted her into his family. I can picture her life as happy and her dreams as those of any other Jewish girl: to marry a nice young man and live a life connected to those around her, living out her faith in a culture that was familiar.

But, this isn’t what took place in Esther’s life. She was one of scores of young virgin women who were chosen to come into the palace to become part of the king’s harem as he searched for a new queen.

I believe that Esther was probably devastated by her assignment to live in the palace of the king. Her dreams for a husband and family were dashed because if the woman didn’t please the king, she may never see him again but she still had to live in the harem.

She also had to cross a huge cultural barrier. She was exposed to people that were vastly different in their belief system and their ways of life from her life in the Jewish faith. Because of her faith, her cousin Mordecai told her not to reveal that her nationality or family background.

Esther spent an entire year preparing for the night when the king would summon her. I wonder what she thought about as she went through all the beauty treatments and what clothes and jewelry she would wear. I wonder if she was afraid or if she felt confident. I wonder if she felt like she was betraying her Jewish faith or if she understood that God had strategically positioned her for “such a time as this.”

I see often that when God has a very important call for our lives he does similar things that Esther experienced. He may uproot us to a new location. He may take us away from those that make us feel safe and comfortable and bring us into unknown territory. He may allow our earthly dreams to be dashed, so that he can birth a kingdom dream into our lives. He may call us to be anonymous while he does character work in our lives; preparing us for the day when we become unveiled.

Has any of this ever happened to you? It’s important that we consider our circumstances in the light of God’s mind and heart, not through an interpretation of failure. Losing a job for a time may be just what God wants for us as he develops our character and heart to be ready for the position that will bring about God’s kingdom plans and meaning in our lives.

Moving and leaving the people that are familiar to us may bring much grief but cutting those ties may free us up to follow God in an exciting adventure.

Have you ever felt absolutely invisible? There are times when God protects us by keeping our profile low. This is a gift, not a punishment. There are times when we think that one thing is going to happen and it turns out to be something totally different.

When I was in seminary, Bill and I made the commitment to go and help a new church get started. The pastor promised me that I would work alongside of him to do adult spiritual formation. The church we were attending prayed for us and sent us off for one year of service to this new church.

When I got there, it seemed the pastor had different plans. He told me that I had to do children’s ministry (something that I had done for several years), so I felt pretty manipulated. This new church had a lot of young parents, so it was a challenge getting the help for the nursery and one year olds. It seems that each week I would find myself with crying one year olds during the service.

I felt really angry until one day, I sensed Jesus ask me, “Would you do it for me?” and my heart leapt and I said, “Yes, of course.” So, after that each week that I spent with the crying one year olds was like a special appointment with Jesus even as I continued to be very invisible to the people in the church.

This is when I learned the valuable lesson of “invisible ministry.” When we are willing to become invisible, God is able to use us far more than if we need to be upfront. I gained something really important through my assignment, which from an earthly perspective felt very manipulative, but from a heavenly perspective, I pleased the king!

We know the rest of Esther’s story. She pleased the king very much and he made her queen. She was given access to the king in ways that she could have never dreamed. When her people’s lives were at stake, she is the one who God strategically positioned to help bring forth their freedom, instead of their demise.

Esther was given the role of becoming a Kingdom Ambassador. She was connected to the earthly king for the sake of the heavenly king. She was given an opportunity to do something that required a great risk, but because the King of Heaven was with her, she was able to carry it out and see the plot that the evil one had contrived against the Jews destroyed and actually reversed.

Esther is a picture for all of us to follow. We need to understand that God strategically positions us as Kingdom Ambassadors and although we have earthly kings we need to serve: employers, the government, even our families at times. But, as we stay in relationship with the Heavenly King Jesus, we can understand how to serve him and carry out his purposes, even when they are at cross purposes of those around us.

We have the authority of the King through the name of Jesus:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:18-23

We have the positioning of the King:

For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6

We have the power of the King:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

Take a moment now to consider your circumstances. Have you been thinking from an earthly perspective about them, or have you asked the king what his ideas are for what is taking place in your life? I encourage you to set aside some time this week to pray through what it means to be a kingdom ambassador. You may be more surprised than Esther to discover what God’s strategic intentions are for your life right now!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An Amazing Place to Worship: Cabo San Lucas

My husband Bill and I had the privilege of going to Cabo San Lucas last week. It was a gift to enjoy each other, the sun, the ocean and most of all: the snorkeling!

The last day was the best part of the trip for me. We got up early and went to a public beach where we were able to have the entire bay to ourselves. When we got into the water, we were immediately surrounded with fish!

I am not talking about little fish or boring fish, we had magnificently colored big fishes swimming all around us, we felt like the Pied Pipers of the fish world. As we continued to snorkel, I kept finding schools of different fish and I couldn't help but notice that they all had their own personalities and culture that made them unique. Some would float near the top of the water, others stayed closed to the ocean floor. Some would swim in cirlces, others would go in a straight line. Some seemed to have a leader; others seemed to be more relaxed. Some would respond to our presence, but others were indifferent.

I can't help thinking that God created a whole new world in the ocean. I am never at a greater place of worship than when I am snorkeling. I am so awe struck by what I see in the fish and the corral that it literally takes my breath away (good thing that I have the mask to breathe!).

Snorkeling also brings me to a place of rest in my soul. All the stress and pressures of life melt away as I enter the water and live into a new land of the sea!

I never entered into a church building in Cabo, but I came away from the week feeling closer to God and more filled by worship than I have in quite awhile. Rest and creation: a wonderful combination for a life of worship to the One who created the world, and me!