Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bethany Covenant Retreat Reflections

Almost one year ago, I sensed the Lord speaking to me about writing a series of talks on Esther to give at retreats. One week later, Bethany Covenant asked me to return as their retreat speaker. It turns out that their Bible Study for the year was on the book of Esther!

I was anxious to return to Bethany Covenant. Two years ago, I was their speaker and it was a delightful experience. The women were attentive and responsive, the atmosphere was open to the movement of the Lord and it was in the midst of beautiful tulip country!

This time they expanded the retreat to a whole weekend and moved it to Warm Beach Camp; a beautiful location on the Pugent Sound in Northern Washington.

I don't believe it was an accident that I was asked to speak. Missio Lux has been training 12 members from Bethany from their healing ministry, and I knew that to do the theme of Esther at a retreat; we would need to have many prayer ministers available after all my talks.

My four sessions on Esther included:

The story of Esther and healing from disappointment and hurt from unexpected events in our lives
Identity: Esther moving from her identity as an orphan to being Queen of the most powerful nation on earth
Coronation: Receiving our crowns and scepters to rule with King Jesus
Call: Each one of us has a significant call "for such a time as this"

Each session brought up emotion and new thinking. I am very sure that I could not do this retreat unless the prayer support is present. We had a reponse time of worship and availability of prayer after each session, as well as prayer appointments on Saturday afternoon.

When we had testimony time on Sunday morning: woman after woman spoke of how God had met them in significant ways. The combination of story, worship, prayer and experience as well as being in a set apart location all combined to bring one kingdom breakthrough after another.

My very favorite part of the whole experience was observing the Healing Prayer Ministers from Missio Lux partnering with the emerging prayer ministers from Bethany Covenant. They are bonded now in friendship, ministry partnership and unity!

Kingdom partnerships are very significant for Missio Lux. We know that we can do more together than we can apart. We are celebrating our kingdom partnership with Bethany Covenant. When we were leaving, I invited them to come and help serve at our Missio Lux Women's Retreat next year and they responded with a very big yes.

Saturday night when we crowned each woman and gave her a scepter so that she would experience what Esther experienced, true joy broke out in the room. Women were worshipping, laughing, dancing, and just having a lot of real fun.

I encouraged everyone to wear their crown for the rest of the retreat. Several of the older ladies only came for the day and was leaving after the session. They were making plans to attend their church service the next day so they would have courage to wear their crowns to church.

Finally, it's fun that several women facebooked me that they came home to crown their daughters and tell them they too are Esthers! There's a ripple that makes my heart sing with joy!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Holy Moment at Healing Prayer

I left my house at 6 p.m. to go to Healing Prayer, but I had a couple of errands to run first. By the time I got to the church for the Healing Prayer Worship Service, one inch snow flakes were coming down quick and starting to accumulate.

We knew we needed to cancel but we didn't want to leave before we spent at least a few minutes in worship and prayer.

So, about 10 of us stood in a circle and sang. As we sang, our voices seemed like 200 instead of 10. Our voices sounded so beautiful, and the sense of the Lord's presence was so strong. All I could say is "Lord, you are so holy." We got quiet as we enjoyed his presence with us.

Two women came in out of the storm. One had cancer and the other one had leukemia. We put chairs in the middle of the circle and we began to pray for them. I almost felt like we didn't need to pray because the presence of the Lord was so powerful.

But, we did and then enjoyed communion together.

Tonight was a night where our communion with one another and the Lord seemed extra special. As I went to my car and saw the beautiful trees covered in snow and the freshness of everything around me, I knew that I would always remember this night.

The Tree of LIfe: Reflections on Jesus as our Brother

I have never once been in a prayer session when we have been praising Jesus for who he is that someone has thanked him for being their brother. We thank him for being our Savior, our Lord, our Teacher, our Healer, our King, but not our brother.

Why do you think that is? The idea makes sense logically. If God is our Heavenly Father and Jesus is his Son, doesn’t it follow that Jesus is our brother? Why do we have an actual physical reaction when we think about it?

I assume that many of you are skeptically thinking about it being proven in the Scriptures. Let’s look at Jesus’ encounter with Mary in the garden right after his resurrection in John 20.

To set the stage: Mary is crying at his tomb because Jesus’ body is missing. Suddenly, she sees someone come up. She assumes it’s the Gardener and asks him where he put Jesus. But, it’s Jesus and he makes this statement to her:

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

We were taught in seminary to pay particular attention to the timing of a situation. The fact that Jesus made this statement in his first conversation after his resurrection makes it all the more important and impactful to us.

So, what does Jesus’ statement that he is our brother mean to us?

It strengthens the reality of the family of God that we are invited to be part of. We have a Father that loves us unconditionally and a brother that follows his example. Our brother, Jesus, loved us so much that he was willing to die the most torturous death on earth to show us his love.

We find some clues from Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for what we receive as Jesus’ siblings.

He was praying for us when he prayed:

“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.

9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you.

10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.

13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. John 17: 6-19

I see quite a list of our benefits as Jesus’ siblings:

1. Belonging: “they were always yours.”
2. Faith: “they believe you sent me.”
3. Provision: “now they know that everything they have is a gift from you,”
4. God’s Name: “You have given me your name”
5. Protection: “protect them by the power of your name”
6. Unity: “so they will be united as we are”
7. Joy: “so they will be filled with my joy”
8. God’s Word: “I have given them your Word”
9. Sanctification: “Make them holy by our truth”
10. Significance: “I am sending them into the world”

As I go through this list, I am not surprised that the two themes of Covenant Relationship and Kingdom Partnership are present. We are first connected in relationship with the family of God and then sent in kingdom partnership to share God’s invitation with others.

When I was 13, our family moved from Denver to Kansas City. My sister was already in college, so she didn’t move with us. But, my brother was 16 so he came with us. I know that first summer we were inseparable because we relied on one another to keep company, find our way in a new place, spend time doing fun things, and to encourage one another when we felt sad, lost or lonely. I was incredibly grateful for my brother’s presence in my life that summer.

I see this same assurance of presence in Jesus.

He doesn’t send us out into the world until he has helped us get our grounding of the new place we live. He gives us the benefit of his Father’s provision, protection and presence as he teaches us how to be family to one another.

We are going to be exploring the different ways that he teaches us to be family to one another in coming weeks. I want to end by challenging you to relate to Jesus as your brother this week.

Pay attention to what comes up for you; does it make him more approachable? Does it bring up hard memories of a brother who teased you or made you feel small? Does it expand your sense of belonging to a big extended family who loves to be together and celebrates life together?

One thing is for sure: we are not orphans. Jesus tells us in John 14:18 that “you are not orphans, I will come to you.” We are part of God’s great big family and each one of us is valued, cherished and celebrated!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Tree Trunk

Our focus for discipleship this year is the Tree of Life!

We spent the Fall examining the inner soil of our lives where our life with God takes place. Right now our focus is on the tree trunk: that solid protection that comes with life in community. In the Spring, we will be interacting with the leaves and the branches: our life of kingdom serving the world.

Last week in huddle, one of the women broke down crying in discouragement. Her husband is looking for a job and was hitting lots of obstacles in the process. Promised phone calls weren't being returned, interviews were being cancelled, etc.

So, we began to enter into kingly intercession, where we wait and listen for what the Lord's heart, will and direction is for us to pray, and then we speak it out. We take seriously 2 Cor 1:20 which states, "No matter how many promises God has made, they are yes in Christ. That is why we say, 'amen' when we give glory to God through Christ."

We are given the privilege to say Amen: so be it for what God wants to do. It's the kingdom partnership that we have been invited into....

We prayed during huddle, and our friend's spirits lifted. Here is an email she wrote for the rest of the story:

"Hi Ladies, God is so good. I have to set the scene for you when I arrived home. My husband is standing in the doorway, hands on his hips, and he asks, "Have you been praying or something?" I just shake my! One of his contracts will be finalized today, and he got a call from a head hunter about another job. Hmmmm. I shared about some of our prayer time, and he is in a good place, and has felt the shift. Yeah, Holy Spirit at work.

I want to thankyou for all the sweet birthday wishes, cards, cupcakes and ballooons. But, most of all, I want to thank you for standing in faith and prayer with me and my family. How amazing you all are! Thank you to our fearless leader for guiding us on this journey. It's been a wild ride for sure. The trunk is working!"

The Trunk is working. I love this. When we are able to be vulnerable and share what's happening in our life, go to the Lord in prayer and give one another support, this is the family that Jesus calls us into as his family.

I also have to mention that this family lives less than 5 minutes from where we met for huddle. God took the fast track to answer our prayers.

Where are you in your life in the trunk of community?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Ripple Effect Expands

One of our strategies for growth in Missio Lux is the Ripple Effect.

We believe that everything that we do will eventually expand several ripples beyond our own geographical region or influence, thereby multiplying our efforts for the Kingdom!

This weekend, Missio Lux is celebrating a wonderful Kingdom Ripple.

Two years ago, I was the Retreat Speaker for Bethany Covenant Church in Mt. Vernon, Wa. Missio Lux was just getting started. I was able to meet with a few of the women during the free time and one woman I met caught the rock thrown into the pond and has been instrumental in bringing kingdom ripples to her church, Bethany Covenant.

Her name is Anne. She brought her family to Occidental Square on Easter that year. She attended a Human Trafficking seminar that I spoke about during the retreat. She came to our food assembly with Children of the Nations. She also came to our Healing Prayer Training last year.

But, Anne didn't just stop with experience! She has taken much of it back to Mt. Vernon.

She has started a group that is working on erradicating human trafficking in their area. She was the catalyst to getting a food assembly on the calendar and even involved other churches in the area to do it.

But, most of all, Anne is now bringing 12 healing prayer ministers to our Missio Lux Prayer Training this year, so they can start a healing prayer training in their church.

So, as I am speaking, I am bringing 8 members our prayer ministry to partner with 5 members of their prayer training (men are not invited to this retreat!) to pray when we arrive to prepare the atmosphere, before the sessions, in response to the sessions, and to hold personal prayer appointments during Saturday afternooon.

I love doing ministy this way. Not only are we seeing the work we are doing here in Seattle expand, we are developing meaningful friendships along the way. Kingdom Partnerships are key for the 21st century and I am delighted that Bethany Covenant is one of our most valued partnerships in Missio Lux.

Look for my blog next week to let you know how it goes! In the meantime, pray the prayers of Jesus where he taught us to pray: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reflections on the Tree of Life: Who is My Neighbor?

A young man once asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” He was asking to be affirmed in the tight boundary of Judaism but Jesus blew him and everyone else standing there away when he told the story of the Good Samaritan. Both the Jewish Priest and Temple Assistant walked right past the injured man; it was his enemy, the Samaritan that stopped to help him.

Jesus expanded the boundary of neighbors that day. We are in a period of history where technology has also redefined our definition of “neighbor.” One hundred years ago, everyone was clear that our neighbors were the ones that lived in close proximity to us. Now, literally, the world is our neighbor as we often know more about the lives of people thousands of miles away from us, than those who live on our street.

Missio Lux is living the expansion of neighbor! Our simple, organic, flexible structure has enabled us to multiply into four continents. When we gather in Seattle, it’s easy to think, “this is who we are as Missio Lux,” but we have brothers and sisters passionately following Jesus in Denver, South Korea, Holland and Africa.

So, this begs the question, how do we live in community when we are geographically separated from one another? This is a good question and one that myself and a few others have been wrestling with for quite some time. We don’t have all the answers but we are starting to get clarity in some ways.

The Bible has two strong themes running through it: covenant relationship and kingdom partnership. Jesus taught us that we have two commandments: the Great Commandment which is to “love God, our neighbor and ourselves”, and the Great Commission which teaches us to “go and make disciples.” These two commandments directly line up with covenant relationship and kingdom partnership.

So, it makes sense that we should follow these two themes in our relationships and partnerships with Missio Lux around the world. Our common love for God is the glue that holds us together, our organic relationship with one another helps to build community beyond our close geography, and our desire to see people become passionate followers of Jesus ignites our kingdom missios.

Our identity is developing around these two themes of family and kingdom.

I like to think of our Missio Lux family as an extended family. A good example of an extended family gathering is Thanksgiving. When I was growing up and we gathered with aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, we had a lot in common through our blood relationships, but we were also very different. We had different interests and lifestyle; but we always enjoyed being together a few times a year. This is very much like it is with Missio Lux. We have a common DNA, but we are also very different, so the rhythm of gathering and dispersing works well for us.

One of our strong values in Missio Lux is kingdom partnerships; as we believe that we can do more together than we can apart. God has given each of us something special to contribute to the whole. It follows then, that the more that we begin to recognize the valuable part that each location and missio community has to offer to the whole, the more that we will grow and expand.

One of Missio Lux’ greatest strengths is our commitment to and passion for prayer. When we committed ourselves to set aside the first week of January to pray, and used the prayer booklet together, we experienced a connection and unity that transcended miles. It was exciting to hear that the Lord was speaking the same themes to many of us; even though we live in different states and countries.

Missio Lux is now committed to take four weeks a year to pray with a prayer booklet; that will continue to take us deeper with Jesus and wider with one another. These weeks will coincide with our two beginnings: the beginning of the calendar year and school year, as well as preparation for two New Testament Celebrations: Easter and Pentecost.

We have also just launched a Prayer Wall.

In Nehemiah, they had both guards and builders on the wall; therefore, protecting the process of the wall they were building. We are seeking to do the same with having each missio community praying for and being prayer for by two other missio communities. This will build our connection and our protection with and for one another.

Technology makes all this connection possible.

We have seen how the organizers of the revolution in Egypt used Facebook to mobilize. Last week, I skyped with a couple of leaders from Power Surge in Holland. The possibilities are endless for how we can connect with the tool of technology. Our website is also a great way to tell our stories, just like the days of the family Bible and scrapbooks told the stories in the past.

One thing is for certain: we are not static in Missio Lux. I can’t wait to see how the Lord will continue to direct us and connect us for the future.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Save the Date - May 20th

Hoops of Hope is coming up again on May 20th! The money raised at this great "Hoop-a-thon" will provide for the 35 orphans currently sponsored by Seeds of Hope. Hopefully, enough money will be raised that some of the other 30 or more kids from this village waiting to go to school and have a place to live can also join the crowd (above).
The kids are all from a village in Sudan that was destroyed by war. $1,200 is all it takes to provide most of what one of these kids needs for an entire year - clothes, food, school, health care and supervised housing during school breaks. You can search my blog (using the search bar at the top right) for more on Seeds of Hope and Hoops of Hope. Plan to join us at Pine Lake Middle School on May 20th!

Here is a video created by a seventh grader about last year's event.

Hoops of Hope for Seeds of Hope Event 2010 from Derek on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reflections on the Tree of LIfe: Extended Family"

I went to the Evangelical Covenant Midwinter Pastor’s Conference last week. This is often a highlight of my year as I learn from gifted leaders, connect with friends from around the country, and worship with the larger family of the Covenant.

I always enjoy Midwinter but this year seemed extraordinary. I couldn’t put my finger on it for most of the week. The speakers were good, but they didn’t blow me away. The worship was passionate but seemed interrupted at times. It finally came to me at the end of the week: it was the atmosphere!

The sense of oneness with the larger Covenant family was striking. I spent a lot of time with the Church Planter tribe and met several people who were attending Midwinter to check out church planting within the Covenant family. As I listened to their stories of how respectfully they were being treated, how welcome they felt, how included they were, I felt excited to be part of a family that is moving in this way.

I heard the phrase over and over: “We are in it together.” As I looked around the room, I saw that I was in it together with brothers and sisters from many different walks of life. I sat by a man from Nepal, spoke with an African American woman pastor, worshipped with a young Chinese woman who did a rap in Spanish, and celebrated the diversity of the new hires in Covenant leadership positions.

Twelve years ago I attended my first Midwinter. It wasn’t like this. I sat in the back and looked around the crowd: there were a LOT of middle aged white men. Now as I look around, I see people of all ages, race and gender. I was invited to a luncheon to discuss how the Covenant can be more supportive of women church planters. I feel honored that my voice is being sought out and listened to; it makes me know that “We are in it together” is not just a phrase but is actually being embodied.

Two weeks ago, Missio Lux hosted a Taster for 3dm. We are anxious to share yet another family that is having impact upon us. I attended a Taster two years ago this month, and the most compelling part of my experience was watching 3dm live out extended family so well. Four families were committed enough to one another to move from one side of the US to another to engage in a very new venture. They gather every morning to worship and pray for one another and the ministry. They eat at one another’s homes regularly. They celebrate big and small occasions with one another. They speak of one another with honor and respect.

Missio Lux has two good models to follow. But, even more than our current experience, we have a call from Jesus to “be family to one another” (Mark 12:46-50). If we truly want to follow him as a disciple, one that learns from his life and seeks to have it imprinted onto our lives, than living as extended family to one another needs to be a high priority .
So, how do we practically live this out?

It starts with awareness. We need to realize that we are part of something bigger than our own families. I spent some time at Midwinter with a wonderful woman that is in her 30’s and is not yet married. She spoke to me a couple of times of how she sees the Body of Christ as her family, but wondered aloud if they see her as part of their family.

Who is in your viewpoint that you could reach out to intentionally include as part of your extended family?

What does that look like? Some options could be inviting them to holidays and family celebrations. Perhaps inviting them to take a vacation with you. Check in with them during storms or if you know they are being challenged. Take time to listen to their stories of their day, their hopes and dreams and their fears.

How are we including the foreigners amongst us?

I’ve been reading Deuteronomy the past week and the Lord is very clear to show us that we are to include the foreigner, the widows and orphans. It’s not an option if we want to live a life like Jesus. Perhaps you are the foreigner: how are you reaching out to embrace your host culture?

Another practical way to live as extended family with one another is to be a learner about a people group who is very different than ourselves.

Do we know how Chinese Christians worship?

Are we embracing the dreams and desires of a generation different than our own?

Are we willing to take a risk of being culturally insensitive if we make a mistake in how we treat others?
It seems Jesus
was more about taking the risk than ignoring those who are different. Remember how we spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well? He crossed both an ethnic and gender barrier; and even more amazing, she was the first person than he revealed his identity to.

Missio Lux has some interesting brothers and sisters of faith. I am going to highlight two. One is named Gak; and he lives in Nakuru, Kenya. Gak is the Sudanese Lost Boy that oversees our Sudanese orphans in boarding school. Gak has given his life to be present for the children in overseeing the compound where they live on their breaks. He sees that the tuition is paid on time, and he purchases the food for the vacations. He retrieves the children when they are sick and nurses them back to health. He parents 35 children during the month long breaks: how’s that for an extended family?

Recently Gak came down with malaria. It was our privilege to pray for Gak’s healing. It prompted me to stop and think, however, how often am I praying for Gak on a regular basis?

He is one to whom 1st Corinthians is written: “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other "( 1st Cor 12:22-25).

The second person is AuHuen. She lives in Holland. Her family was present the week that Pine Lake launched Missio Lux and they continued to be part of ML until they moved back to Holland. AuHuen is so passionate about Jesus that she prayed for 40 days that the Lord would bring her sisters and brothers to form a missio community in Holland that would pray for the revival of Europe. God heard her prayer and now this community of people from all around the world are gathering to shine as light in Holland, but also in their own cultural families.

Spend some time this week praying and discerning how the Lord is leading you to extend your arms of family. Let him speak to you about his dream for us as the family of God. Listen for some specific actions items that you can take to follow Jesus’ heart for his family. And, finally, act on the ideas: take a step to extend what Jesus died to give us in relationship.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Does God Care About Lost Suitcases?

I had a wonderful week at Midwinter (the Evangelical Covenant Pastors Conference).

I experienced uplifting worship, impactful speakers and seminars, and most of all, meaningful conversation with old and new friends. Everyone I met wanted to hear more about Missio Lux, huddle and our missios. (Not to mention getting to spend some valuable time with our daughter Molly who goes to university in Chicago.)

I even got to ride home on the plane with two others from Seattle, who were seated right next to me and in front of me!

It had been such a good trip that I was unprepared for the reality that my suitcase was nowhere to be found when I went to retrieve it. I spoke to the airport employee who assured me that it would be on the next flight and they would bring it to our home.

One flight came, nothing. Two more came in: no word. After 2 1/2 days, I realized that it may not come at all. The second day I was so exhausted that I could only utter "please God, bring my suitcase back to me," as a prayer. But, I knew that God wanted me to exercise my spiritual authority and participate with him for the return of my suitcase.

The second kairos moment that I was experiencing during my suitcase absence was a reality of how MUCH I CARED ABOUT MY STUFF! I've always thought that I wasn't too into material things, but as I ticked off all the things that were in my suitcase and my despair over losing them, I realized that I cared a lot more than I wanted to admit.

So, Sunday morning I confessed my materialism and asked the Lord to help me to let go of the need for the stuff....but I also confessed my delay in exercising kingly authority (Eph 2:6) for the return of the missing in action suitcase.

I sensed the Lord asking me when I wanted to have it returned: I suggested Tuesday as that would be 5 days and then they switch to a different search and retrieval system.

Then, I sensed him asking me if I would wait until then to replace things. (This was challenging as Monday is my day off). I said yes, I would wait. This I knew was building my faith with a tangible action (or lack of action in this case.)

After that exchange with the Lord , I remembered how our daughter Bonnie had lost her backpack on the way to Mozembigue and it was returned weeks later completely intact. One of my friends had prayed for a righteous African to care for it until it was returned to her. So that reminder and a picture in my mind of a field of lost suitcases led me to pray that my suitcase would be identified out of the confusion of many missing bags, and that an employee would be led to it for finding!

After I finished my prayer by thanking God for hearing my prayers and for inviting me to partner with him, I began to read my Bible. Not 10 minutes later, the phone rang and wouldn't you know, it was American Airlines: they had found my bag!

I knew that God used this suitcase experience to not just show me that I was more tied to material goods than I care to admit, but also to remind me that we can partner with him for everything: even things that may seem insignificant to God.

The next time that you have a frustration or a delay or a loss, consider going beyond a "please God," prayer and actually ask him how he wants you to pray...wait to hear what he suggests and then exercise his invitation to partner with him for the answer. Then, let me know what happens!

John 14:13-14: "You can ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it becasue the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name, and I will do it."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reflections on the Tree of LIfe: Living with Jesus as Our Brother

Imagine the scene. Jesus has become popular in the previous months and his family was feeling a bit ignored by him. So, they came to see him. He got word that his mother and brothers were outside and wanted to talk to him. Instead of rushing to see them, he answered with questions: “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “These are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50).

It’s easy to gloss over this passage until we really think about what Jesus did in that moment. He redefined his definition of family for us. When we become his disciple and seek to live as he modeled for us, we become his brothers and sisters and even his mother.

I’ve been asking people in huddle if they think about Jesus as their brother. Most often I get a look of surprise and then a quick shake of the head, “No.” It seems to be one thing to consider ourselves part of God’s family, but it’s quite another to understand that Jesus considers us his siblings.

How do we treat our siblings? As we grow up, we are often in competition; seeking to be the one who gets the special treatment. Our siblings are one of the key places where we work out how to live in relationship with people, so many of us have scars from our early years. Some of us are estranged from our siblings even today.

Now that Jesus has told us that we are his siblings if we follow the will of his Father, the next step is to understand how we walk that out. How did Jesus live with his new family, his disciples?
One way that Jesus lived with his disciples in family relationship is how he continually pointed them to exercising generosity. He demonstrated it in just about every possible situation we read about.

One time the disciples were upset because they saw a man in the synagogue using Jesus’ name to cast out demons. They were proud of themselves because they told the man that if he wasn’t hanging out with them that he needed to stop (Mark 9).

But, Jesus saw it differently. He realized that everyone who is using his name to bring the kingdom will grow in faith and will not soon be able to speak evil of him. He stated, “Anyone who is not against us is for us. If anyone gives a cup of cold water because you belong to the Messiah, I assure that the person will be rewarded.”

Sometimes we want to draw tight lines around “who is acceptable in our crowd.” We want to keep our family pure and unpolluted. But, Jesus taught his disciples that when we reach out to welcome others into our relationships, we are actually expanding the family of God. We are welcoming others to join in.

The amazing thing about God is that he doesn’t have limited capacity.

He is able to keep extending and inviting and growing his family. Those already in it don’t get less; we all continue to receive his extensive generosity.

I think that we fight as siblings and families because we don’t trust that there is “enough:” enough time, enough love, enough money, enough affirmation, enough presence, enough of anything we desire to go around. So, we begin to fight for what we want; believing that we can make it happen.

This is what Adam and Eve fell for in the Garden. They fell for the lie that God was holding out on them, when in reality they already had everything that God had; except the presence of evil in their lives.

Jesus kept bringing his disciples back to the original truth about his Father: his extreme generosity. He showed that we can welcome someone in from another part of life and make room for them, and that by sharing what we already have, we are extending the generosity of God and bringing more blessing upon ourselves.

We only really get to keep what we give away.

Bill Johnson tells a story of a woman that had a need of $500. Bill gave her $50 and told her that there was 500 in the 50. So, she took it and wondered how God was going to supply the rest of the money she needed.

She went to the store that night and met a family that had no way to pay for their groceries. She gave them her $50 because she saw their need was greater than hers.

When she got home, she was stunned to see a person at her doorstep with a check for $500. This woman learned that when we are generous, we receive the gift of seeing God’s generosity multiplied.

What are you holding onto tightly? Is it your time? your money? your family? your friends? Today, as a sign of trust in the generosity of our Heavenly Father, open up your hands and release them back to him.

As you do this, you will see the area you fear brought back to you multiplied many times over. You will also be stepping into a closer position in your family where Jesus is your brother teaching you how to live in healthy relationship with our siblings all around us.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Year's Resolutions: What Happens to Them?

It's almost the end of January, so I am wondering how are you doing on your new year's resolution? First of all, did you make a resolution? If so, at the end of 30 days, the length of time that it takes to establish a new habit, how are you doing?

I found the survey by George Barna re: New Year's Resolutions to be very englightening. (

See what you think:

He found out that 19% of people actually make a resolution. Of that 19%, only 23% found that they experienced significant, long term change to their behaviors and attitudes. One of the reasons for this limited success is that most approach their resolutions by themselves and don't incorporate a support system of friends, family or support groups. In other words, we seek to do our resolutions alone because if we don't acheive them, we don't have any accountability attached to the failure.

Signficantly, the majority of the resolutions focus on self-oriented changes: weight, diet, health, money, debt and finances, personal improvement, addiction, job and career, spiritual or church related and educational.

What's missing from these resolutions is the decision to improve relationships with others.

There is also only a very small percent that wants to volunteer or serve others, as well as marriage and parenting. There is almost no response for wanting to be a better frined, or even smaller, to improve our relationship with God. Actually, it was only 9 out of more than a 1,000 surveys: less than 1%.

They write, "Even in the rare instance when people mention spiritual goals, it is often about an activity undertaken for God, rather than a personal pursuit of God or an experience with God."

What does this say to us?

We've bit the apple.

We have bought into the lie that it is better to improve ourselves to find acceptance, rather than to become an accepting people that look for ways to embrace others.

We find ourselves trying to better ourselves to "fit in" rather than providing an attractive alternative to the ever elusive changing bar of acceptance.

When God created us, he created us for meaningful relationship with himself and one another and meaningful partnership to the world. He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply.

So, how do we live into his command?

Matthew 6:33 tells us to "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you."

This is the pursuit of the kingdom that leads us into all life. When we prioritize our relationship with the God who Created us, (not doing something for him, but living in the moment to moment relationship) we find life. This life leads us into the "all things" of life. That means our weight, our job success, our familial relationships, our finances, all of it is the "all things promise."

I am testing this theme in 2011. I am seeking to "seek first his kingdom and his right living/right relationship (righteousness), and waiting to see "how the all things comes about!"

Will you join me? It's only 11 months now; you get a pass for a free month!