Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seek first his Kingdom: Choosing between Faith and Fear

The Buchan family has a lot happening right now:  we are seeking to move to a new location in Santa Rosa, California so that Bill can stop commuting weekly from Seattle to San Francisco.  Our daughters live in Seattle, Chicago and London so this adds another location to our already very spread out life.  I am leading Missio Lux through an important transition as together we discover how to continue to be faithful in God’s call for us to be a “dispersed faith community.”  I am also getting close to finishing the editing process of the Identity Book I wrote earlier this year; it should be out in print in early December.

I went through a period a few weeks ago where I was so overwhelmed I could barely get up in the morning.  I felt fearful, stressed out and anxious about how I was going to be able to do all that was in front of me.
I began to ask myself, however, how I could walk out the very thing I was encouraging you to do:  “to seek first God’s kingdom.”  The Lord was faithful to show me the way to do this and I’d like to share it with you.  I hope it will be helpful to an area of your life where you feel overwhelmed, or out of balance.

The first step is to examine priorities.  What’s more important?  Are you worshiping Jesus or the problem?  In other words, what’s occupying more of your thoughts:  the challenge or the answer to the challenge?  Make a decision to focus your thoughts on God’s ability to do the impossible.  The angel told Mary that “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37).  It takes a lot of repetition to change your brain pattern but over time you will find it much easier to find the right focus:  on the Provider not the problem!
The second step is to incorporate a posture of celebration and thankfulness.  Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to “Be joyful always, pray all the time, and give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  When we make a decision from our will to thank God for the challenges, it takes us out of our place of worry and fear.  Our decision to trust God with our problem actually frees God up to move to answer our dilemma.  I find the more that I thank God for the challenges, the sooner I get to peace!

We found an amazing house in Santa Rosa. We felt confident that we be able to buy the house as there had been very little activity on it.  We were sad to discover that another buyer came in and bid for it the same day we did.  I got so stressed thinking the house may not be ours.  It wasn’t until a couple of anxious days later as we waited to hear their decision that I decided to come outside my emotions, and with my will thank God for the challenge. When I did, everything changed.  Amazingly, the timing of my decision to thank God and the owners choice was at the same time! The owners picked us saying, “We know they are the ones meant to have this house.”
The next step after examining our priorities and developing a posture of life full of thankfulness is to follow Scripture.  Paul outlined an excellent process to the church of Philippi in the fourth chapter:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:6-7
There it is:

Don’t worry:  pray instead:  the priority!  Focus on the provider rather than the problem.
           Tell God your needs and thank him for the challenge, developing your life of faith as you wait for God to bring the answer.

Remember the ways God has worked in the past and speak them to others.  This will build your faith and remove all fear from your thoughts!
            Develop your life of testimony:  review the ways in which God has been faithful     to you!  We have a testimony now about our future house in Santa Rosa; if we wouldn’t have walked through the challenge, we wouldn’t have known that it truly was the house God intended for us to have.

The outcome:  peace which goes beyond any circumstance.  The word guard here means to “prevent hostile invasion.”  The Lord guards our heart from the hostile invasion from the thief who comes to rob, steal and destroy us.  God does the opposite:  he gives us the life of heaven that we were meant to experience in the Garden before the fall.
The valuable outcome of this process is that our life of faith is built so that the next challenge becomes less daunting.  I am able to say that I am at rest and peace right now despite all that is happening around me because I have a list of testimonies for how God has worked in other impossible situations to bring about my best; and his best, the kingdom come!

Romans 14:17 says this, “For the kingdom of God is not eating or drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy!” 
Righteousness:  things being set right as we are in right relationship, peace and joy. 
There it is again, the priority:  it’s not about acquiring the needs the Father already knows we need:  it’s about seeking first his kingdom; which gives us righteousness, peace and joy.
It’s the treasure the whole world is seeking!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vision for "Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You!"

Now that "Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You" is written, what are the different options for how it can be used to help pull people out of an identity crisis and into the place of walking in fulfillment of God's plan for our lives?

The possibilities are quite endless!

"Identity Crisis:  Reclaim the True You" is an interesting read, and will open up minds to a way to a different lifestyle.  However, just reading it will only go so far in helping change a lifetime of thinking and behavior.  The book will be most effective in bringing peace and joy and a fulfilling life when the material in the book is interacted with, both individually and in groups.

Therefore, I have designed a variety of ways to interact with the book:

       1.  Each chapter ends with both reflection questions and experiences to reinforce the themes.
       2.  The reader will be directed to an interactive website where the questions and experiences will be accompanied with opportunities for online conversation and support.  (QR codes in the book will take those with iPhones directly to the website.)

        3.  Identity Crisis is designed to be a powerful book study which takes place over 10 weeks or more; readers can assemble their own groups to work through it, or existing groups may adopt it as their present study.  The Scriptures, stories, reflections and experiences are transformational when explored in community.

       4.  Some readers may find the book most effective as they work through the content individually at a pace that gives them time to fully integrate the themes found in the book.

       5.  I am also available to lead groups through the material in a variety of ways:
                     a.  Weekend Retreats are excellent in taking "set apart time" to process the themes in the book and to process it in community with others.  These retreats can be either gender focused or done with both men and women.

                    b.  Identity Workshops are one day gatherings which will focus on the two main themes found in Romans 8:14-17:  we are beloved adopted children of God, and our inheritance of being co-heirs to Christ as we partner with him to bring his kingdom purposes to earth.

                    c.  One topic talks from the 10 different identity concepts presented in the book: these talks can be sermons, one time presentations, or presented at conferences or seminars.

                    d.  Book studies done over a series of weeks in locations convenient to where I live.

I am also developing a blog, facebook page and twitter to communicate the themes of Identity Crisis on an ongoing basis!  Watch for all of this to come out in the next few weeks as we prepare for the first printing of the book coming out in early December!  (the book will make great Christmas presents)

What are my dreams for how this book will make a difference?

I envision a scenario much like we find in Ezekiel 37.  The Lord took Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones and he told Ezekiel what to say so the dry bones became a living, breathing army.  We, as people, have become a valley of dry bones as we let the world define our identity.  As we engage the truth of our god given identity, we begin to breathe again and find our destiny, the unique reason for our life on earth.  As we reclaim our true identity from the wasteland of the dry bones, we discover our life on earth is fulfilling, joyful and full of peace!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Writing "Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You!"

Last January on one of my prayer days, I sensed the Lord calling me to write a book about identity.  Within 30 minutes, I had an outline, a personal story, Scriptures, illustrations and biblical stories for every chapter. 

I started to write it in mid-March, even though the only time that I could carve out for it as two to three hours on Friday morning.  However, I made great progress, finishing half the book by mid June.  My plan was to go to San Francisco for the month of July in hopes of finishing the whole book.

Amazingly, at the end of the three weeks that I stayed in San Francisco, I finished the manuscript.  When I added up the amount of hours that I spent writing the book, I realized that I had written it in less than 100 hours.  Wow!  I knew I could only have written it through being empowered by God's Spirit.

We don't often get to experience something so powerful in the Spirit, but I can honestly say that writing this book has been one of the most thrilling experiences in my life.  Some days I felt like Jesus was right next to me, giving me the words to write, as well as expressing his pleasure about its progress.

Before I left San Francisco, I sensed the Lord urging me to work towards getting it published by the end of 2011.  I gulped and thought that timeline seemed a bit impossible.  I know people spend years seeking to get their books published.

Once again, the Lord was present showing the way.  When I asked those who committed to pray for me to pray for direction for a publisher, my parents gave me a name.  When I prayed about it, I sensed the Lord's pleasure on it. 

When I approached them about it,, they were willing to by pass the submission process and take it on.  They agreed to have it published by early December.

Wow!  I got the call to write the book in January, started working on it in March, finished writing in July, and now am moving towards the first printing in November.

When I asked the question about the rapid way that this book came together, I sensed the Lord respond, "My people are discouraged and distracted because they don't know the truth about who they are, what I created them to do, and how to walk out their true identity that I gave them."

In other words, we are in an identity crisis:  letting the world or our own thoughts define our identity.  The word "reclaim" means to take back that which has been wasteland and make it productive again.  This is what God wants to do in our lives:  to reclaim the wasteland of our identity and to make it reflect the true glory that he deposited into us; his beloved children!

Read my next blog for ways that "Identity Crisis:  Reclaim the True You" can be used to help us all live into the places for which we were created!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reflections on the Kingdom of God: What are We Working For?

Our daughter, Molly, was home from Chicago this weekend.  On the way home from the airport, she brought up the “Occupy” movement.  She wondered why there was so little press about what was taking place.  It seems pretty important to her. 

Seattle has had pretty extensive press because we are a city that likes our freedom to express ourselves.  We have a history of demonstrations, the one in 1999 with the World Trade Organization as perhaps most famous.  Even our mayor seems in sympathy with those gathered at Westlake; it seems he has even given up wanting to arrest them for violating the park permit of no sleep overs!
I find it interesting that even those walking into their buildings on Wall Street seem sympathetic with the protesters.  So, if they are sympathetic, who are the oppressors?

I am once again reminded that the Bible is a timeless book and that nothing new comes under the sun.  I read Haggai today and felt like the prophet Haggai could be here today giving the same message to us.  So, what is it?
Let’s read most of the first chapter from the Message:

2A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: "The people procrastinate. They say this isn't the right time to rebuild my Temple, the Temple of God."

3-4Shortly after that, God said more and Haggai spoke it: "How is it that it's the 'right time' for you to live in your fine new homes while the Home, God's Temple, is in ruins?"

5-6And then a little later, God-of-the-Angel-Armies spoke out again:

"Take a good, hard look at your life.
Think it over.
You have spent a lot of money,
but you haven't much to show for it.
You keep filling your plates,
but you never get filled up.
You keep drinking and drinking and drinking,
but you're always thirsty.
You put on layer after layer of clothes,
but you can't get warm.
And the people who work for you,
what are they getting out of it?
Not much—
a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that's what.
7That's why God-of-the-Angel-Armies said:

"Take a good, hard look at your life.
Think it over."
8-9Then God said:

"Here's what I want you to do:
Climb into the hills and cut some timber.
Bring it down and rebuild the Temple.
Do it just for me. Honor me.
You've had great ambitions for yourselves,
but nothing has come of it.
The little you have brought to my Temple
I've blown away—there was nothing to it.

9-11"And why?" (This is a Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, remember.) "Because while you've run around, caught up with taking care of your own houses, my Home is in ruins. That's why. Because of your stinginess.  And so I've given you a dry summer and a skimpy crop. I've matched your tight-fisted stinginess by decreeing a season of drought, drying up fields and hills, withering gardens and orchards, stunting vegetables and fruit. Nothing—not man or woman, not animal or crop—is going to thrive."
This message from God, through the Prophet Haggai, is about priorities.  The people that returned from exile to Babylon made their priority about taking care of themselves first.  They forgot about their identity as redeemed chosen people, and they focused on meeting their own needs.  In the process, they worked hard but they had so little to show for it.

According to God, they were working, working, working but they only had a leaky, rusty bucket to show for it (verse 6).  It seems they were going in circles, never getting to their desired destination because they were on the wrong path.
They were experiencing extreme frustration because they were “taking care of their own houses while they forgot about building God’s house.” This was the very reason that they were given permission to come back to Jerusalem.  How quickly they forgot their unique call.  As they continued their futile pursuit, God reminded them that “he’s matched their tight-fisted stinginess by decreeing a season or drought:  nothing, not man or woman, not animal or crop, is going to thrive” (verses 9-11).

Don’t you think that this sounds familiar?  How many of us worked hard to save money only to see it wiped away in a day or two in the stock market?  How many of us put gas in our cars, only to see our hard earned money disappear at an alarming rate in our engines?  How many of us went to college to be trained for a vocation, only to find ourselves working at a job meant for a high school student?
We are going in circles.  We are in a futile pursuit.  We are exhausted and confused.  Why can’t we get ahead?

Are we asking the right question?
Maybe a better question to ask is “What are our priorities?”

Jesus spent a good deal of time in his time on earth challenging priorities.  The Sermon on the Mount is all about priorities.  He ended his teaching with a challenge:  “Will we build our house on the rock or on a sandy beach where any storm can take it down?”
Sound familiar?  I hear an echo of God’s word through Haggai.

The words “Seek first My Kingdom and my righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” come to my mind.
There it is again.  When we prioritize building God’s house, our own houses stand on a firm foundation that can’t be wiped away by any storm that comes our way.

So, what does it mean to build God’s house?
I like to think of it as the difference between a circle and a brick.  When we have a circle of life and Jesus is in it, we have a house build on a sandy beach.  When we have a brick; the rock of Jesus Christ on which everything else is built, we have a house standing on the firm foundation that will never fall.

What’s the difference between a life with Jesus in it and a life built on the rock?
It’s about priorities.  Is Jesus first, or is he one of many priorities in our life?

Here’s my idea to find out where you stand. Spend a day or two being an observer or your thoughts and decisions.  Recognize what you think about in those moments where your mind is allowed to wander: in traffic, or on the subway, or doing dishes.  Are you thinking about how to get ahead or are you communing with your Creator? What are your first thoughts when you wake up or when you go to sleep?
Pay attention to your small decisions.  Not the big ones, but the small ones. What will you do with the extra five minutes before your kids get home from school? Do you turn to the internet or to prayer or God’s word?  How many times do you hit the snooze bar on the alarm before you get up?  Has all your quiet time of reflection in the morning been eaten up so you face another day in a frenzy?  

After you do your work of observation, read through the book of Haggai.  Ask yourself the question, “Where is my priority?  Am I building God’s house or my own house?”  If your answer is my own house, spending time reflecting on the promise Jesus gives us in Matthew 6:33.  When we seek first his kingdom and set things right within our relationship with him, all the “other things” are provided to us.

Then follow the way of God’s direction in Haggai.  Go up into the hills and cut down some trees….which translated for the 21st century is “Take a step.”  Do something to give to the kingdom, to build up God’s house.  Give your time, your money, your precious energy.  And, as you do it, prepare yourself for the blessing that comes from building God’s

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy: Is it a Spider or a Starfish?

I am not sure if you have read the book "The Starfish and the Spider:  the Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations." The basic premise of the book is that if you cut the head of a spider, it will die, but if you cut off a leg of a starfish, it will grow back.  It's quite an interesting concept, one that many terrorists cells have made good use of....

I have been watching the movement of "Occupy" with great interest.  Yesterday, there was an article in the Seattle Times entitled, "Can Occupy protests last without leaders?"  People debated back and forth as their opinions ranged from comments from a country sheriff in Minneapolis who wonders why each day the leaders are different people, and the protesters themselves who say that the decentralization is deliberate and this is how other movements have started up.

The academics are studying it and noting that leaderless organizations allow for people with very different backgrounds to to come together in a broad message without having to agree with a lot of fine details and sticking points.

Observations at the different camps are that the protesters have organized "work crews" and that people are demonstrating leadership, without needing to carry the title.

I find all this refreshing.  I long for more of this movement in the church.  We've had a lot of spiders, but not nearly enough starfishes.

I wonder what it would be like for people to gather because they KNOW their message of Jesus' redemptive work and resulting outcome of kingdom activity of healing, deliverance, provision, peace and unity is worth giving their lives to.  How would this change the landscape of life and faith?

I wonder if we have trained Jesus followers to "wait for the leader to show us the way."  And, in the waiting, we get bored and allow other life things to distract us and fill up our time.

I wonder how much we have abdicated the role that God gave to Adam.  He told Adam "to go forth and multiply; and to rule over the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and the animals on the ground." That sounds like pretty exciting work to me:  important, vital and fulfilling.

As the Lord spoke to Adam, he speaks to us. 

We are to do the same.  We are to go forth and multiply and bless the world.  We are to find solutions to the challenges on the earth, and to do it in partnership with the One who Created the earth!

Missio Lux stands on the precipice of a new day. I am being moved to California away from the people who have given their lives to help build Missio Lux.  Increasingly, I am understanding that I need to be removed geographically because God created Missio Lux to be a that replicates out of the life that is being walked in partnership with God for his kingdom.

How do I feel about this?  Excited....I anticipate that as we walk out this shift, we will see the presence of starfishes become much more prevalent!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Seek first his Kingdom: What's Righteousness?

Seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness, and all things will be given unto you as well.”  Matthew 6:33
Righteousness.  It’s a familiar term in Christian circles, but what does it really mean?  I’ve been asking people what they think it means and I am getting a lot of different responses:  living rightly, wearing God’s righteous robe, self -justification, the work Jesus did on the cross, judgment.  You get the idea:  everyone has an opinion, but today let’s look at God’s definition of righteousness.

The Hebrew and Greek definition of “righteousness” mean “action in conformity with an accepted and approved standard.”  In the Bible, this usage is God’s standard, which is God himself.  His nature is holy, so righteousness is living by God’s holy standard. 

In the Old Testament, this standard was the law.  All the Israelites knew that they couldn’t live up to the requirement of the law so they sacrificed animals to make themselves right with God.  They knew that the blood of the animal brought God’s forgiveness so they could continue to live in relationship with the holy God they served.

In the New Testament, the Pharisees organized themselves to help their Jewish culture live into the law.  The Israelites hadn’t heard from God for over 400 years and they continued to live in exile in the sense that they had governments ruling over them, they were not the ones ruling over the other countries.  So, the Pharisees mission was to help purify the Jews that the long awaited Messiah would come.

And, the long awaited Messiah did come, but they missed him because the “righteous standard” he brought didn’t involve a long list of rules for how to keep the Sabbath, but how to connect with the God of the Sabbath through belief and relationship.

Jesus continued to frustrate and infuriate the Pharisees through breaking their laws.  He healed people on the Sabbath, which in their mind constituted working. 
He hung out with people of poor reputation, which to them was defiling his body. 
He crossed their purity boundaries by talking to and taking water from a Samaritan woman; both big no-no’s to the Pharisees and their rules.

It seems that Jesus pointed us to the reality that it is through our faith in his identity that we are made righteous. 
When we acknowledge that he is God’s Son, we literally receive righteousness by the reality of Holy Spirit entering into our body to seal us for salvation and to give us power to live a “righteous life.”
I was at the Pastor’s retreat last week and had the privilege of hearing former Covenant seminary president Jay Phelan speak on the kingdom of God.  He defined righteousness as “making things right.” 

Jesus came to be God’s instrument for setting things right.  His blood shed and death set things right for us to be in relationship with him.  There was no longer a need for animal sacrifice as Jesus’ sacrifice fulfilled God’s righteous requirement for humanity.

So, we are given God’s righteousness, but the call of Matthew 6:33 is for us to seek first Gods’ kingdom and his righteousness. 
Once we receive it from God, how do we then go and bring it to the world?

Paul tells us in Romans 6 that we are to “offer our bodies to God as instrument as righteousness.” 
Our faith is to translate to action. 
James tells us that faith without action is dead.  We are to act; we are to bring righteousness to the world.  We are to bring justice, compassion, mercy and love into situations that are void of God’s presence.  We are to be about bringing heaven to earth.
Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s prayer:  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”   

As we seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, we are to discover the ways that he has created us, gifted and equipped us to go as his kingdom representatives to set things right on earth, just as they exist in heaven.

So, what does that mean for you? 
Where do you walk out your vocation? 
Is it in business?  How can you set things right in your garden, the place where God has given you presence and responsibility?  In many ways, the “Occupy” movement is about just this:  they want to see the American financial system set right.
Are you in education?  How can you set things right by teaching children?  Perhaps you are bringing kingdom principles into your classroom.  Is it equipping parents to raise their children up with godly characteristics.  Perhaps it is writing a book that opens up our thinking on how to live as an instrument of righteousness.

Are you raising your children?  How can you structure your family life so that your focus is on God’s ways, rather than the ways of our competitive culture?  Perhaps it is inviting other children into your family life so they experience the heart of God in action.
It doesn’t matter where we are; it only matters that we set our priorities to “seek first God’s kingdom on earth as we offer our bodies as instruments of righteousness that set things right.”  It won’t be easy, the thief will try to thwart our movement in this direction, but it will be important.

We each have a special place on earth; it is to bring God’s heart, his life and his priorities to the world around us.  As we take these steps, we discover that his promise of the all things comes true as well.
I challenge you this week to ask God to show you how his righteousness in you can be brought to your world in tangible ways that help “set things right as the ways of heaven become the way of the earth.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Missio Lux in Transition

I haven't blogged for a long time.  The reason for this is that at the beginning of September, everything in our lives changed, as we announced that Bill and I are moving to California.  He has been commuting back and forth to San Francisco for 4 1/2 years, and it was time to make a change.

I stayed at Bill's apartment in San Francisco during the month of July and it was then that we knew that the supernatural grace that God has given us to be apart during the week was being withdrawn.  So, we began to pray and ask God to show us what to do.

We got a very clear answer when Bill's company said they wanted us to be in California; they no longer wanted to support his apartment in the city.  They gave us some time to make the transition, and I thought that we would finish out the next ministry year and go next summer, but when I asked the Lord about it, I heard him say, "Go now!"

So, we began to tell Missio Lux our plan.  The response shows the great maturity of the people within Missio Lux.  Their first statement was "We are so happy for you and Bill,  we want you to be together."  Some of them even said, "I knew that you would be moving, the Lord has been preparing me."

This blessing is huge for giving us the confidence to move into the next stage of Missio Lux's life and ministry.  We understand that God continues to spread us out and that my next stage is to be present in California. 

What does this mean for Missio Lux in Seattle?  They are ready to do the work of ministry without my presence.  Most have even said that they recognize that they will step into their full calling as I go.  I will continue to huddle, our intentional discipleship, and train them from afar with conference calls and skype, as well as occasional visits.

Our most challenging aspect in Missio Lux has been the center core.  We have attracted people that are interested in the missional aspect of ministry, not the nuts and bolts that sustain the rest.  So, we have decided to look for a person who will commit themself to doing this work... we won't call it an employee because we are a family, but one that will receive financial support to be freed up enough to do the work.

My work will shift from being an implementer of ministry to one who equips, trains and disciples the ministry implementers.  I am excited about this new stage of life.  It will allow me to work with the catalysts that God is identifying in different locations, as well as those in Seattle.

We covet your prayers during this very important time in Missio Lux' development.  We are relying on the Lord to continue to show us his path to walk.  We recognize that the Lord very supernatually birthed this ministry and he will continue to bring his heavenly solutions to our earthly challenges.