Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Seek first his Kingdom: a Posture of Thankfulness

It’s fun to see all the facebook postings of “thankfulness messages” this week.  This is the season we are reminded to stop and give thanks for the blessings we experience in life.  It’s good to have this season, but I wonder, what would the world be if everyone of us followed Paul’s admonition to live a life of thanksgiving.? How does a posture of thanksgiving for all things change us, and the atmosphere around us?

1st Thessalonians 5:16: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Three short phrases. Simple, really:

            Be joyful.
        Pray continually

        Give thanks for everything.
I memorized this Scripture as a child, so I’ve known it for a long time. But, I am only recently learning to live it out.  I am discovering knowing how to recite it and walking it out in daily life are two very different realities! 

The first phrase “be joyfulcan only be done in relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Joy is something we can’t manufacture.  We can create happiness through our circumstances, but joy comes from the inner place of our spirit when all is right with the world.  Do you ever have those moments when you just know that joy is present? I had one a couple of days ago when I was editing my book. As I listened to moving music and  anticipated how God would use the book, I felt my heart burst with joy over the privilege of participating with God in conveying his message of “good news” to his people about our true identity.

The second phrase “pray continually” is a posture of how we live our days.
I used to get so hung up on this thinking “there’s no way I can pray all the time.”  I am realizing, however, it’s more about how we live our days.  Are we relying on ourselves and our own abilities to get things done?  Or, are we committing what we are doing at this moment to the Lord and inviting him into it?  I started to get overwhelmed when I started writing today, and when I realized it, I stopped and invited Jesus into the process.  Once I did this, he joined me and my writing became much more joyful and fulfilling.  It’s no longer something to rush through in order to finish my list on this short work week, it’s a journey with my friend who is delighted with the message

The final phrase “give thanks for everything” ends with a qualifier “for this is God’s will for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
A couple of things here:  the first is I used to think that everything that happens to us is the “God’s will for us”….but that thought doesn’t line up with tragedy, destruction, illness, war, poverty, those things that definitely aren’t found in heaven, so it’s not God’s will for earth. 

What I now understand is the “God’s will for us”  is to live in the posture of thankfulness, which leads us to continual prayer, and results in joy! 
Thankfulness brings us freedom. 

I wrote earlier about the challenges we hit regarding the purchase of our new home.  Despite the impossibility of the situation, when I started thanking God for them, I was freed up emotionally and able to pray in faith, which resulted in God’s tangible presence which brought me joy.  I will never forget the power of that day. When everything fell apart around us, we were given peace and joy.  Romans 14:17 tells us “the kingdom of God is not eating or drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy.”
The eating and drinking represent our earthly needs….paradoxically when we look heavenward, we find peace and joy despite what is taking place around us on earth!

I want to conclude with a story I heard Mike Breen (www.weare3dm.co) tell at a Learning Community.  On a trip to Africa, he found himself very ill in a small village far away from any hospitals.  Mike was so sick the doctor told him he was going to die.  As he laid on a cot two feet too short for him, far away from any family, he heard the Lord tell him to “thank him.”  Mike asked him what to thank God for in his situation.  He heard God say, “Start with the nurse taking care of you.” 
So, Mike began to thank God for the nurse, for the hut, for the short bed, for the village, for anything he could think of in his very sick state.  After about an hour of thanking God, he realized his fever had broken. Within a few hours, they were able to feed him some broth.  Within 24 hours, he was completely well. 

One day he was dying all alone in an African village.  The next day he was totally healed.
How did this happen? 

It came about through the posture of thankfulness, which caused him to pray continually, which brought not just his spirit joy, but his body health.
How about you? 

What are you thankful for? 
It’s a good time to get started in living a posture of thankfulness as we see it all around us.  My next door neighbor, Nancy, is celebrating her birthday with a month of 50 random acts of kindness.  She is learning the posture of thankfulness, which leads to peace and joy!  She is also inspiring those around her to learn the joy of a life shared freely with others.

Take some time this week to make a list of everything you can think of as you thank your loving Heavenly Father.  Repeat the list out loud.  Do it again the following day.  I encourage you to do this for 40 days throughout the entire holiday season.
At the end, ask yourself, “Was I able to live this holiday season with greater joy, peace and connection with my Father?” My guess is that the answer is yes because when we align with the way we were created to live, the outcome is God’s supernatural gifts of peace, joy, hope and love!

I think I will start now….
1. I am thankful for you.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Raise Up Your Staff: Missio Lux Moves Forward!

In many ways, it feels as if Missio Lux is pressed up against the water's edge, just like the Israelites after they were miraculously delivered from Egypt!  They literally had nowhere to go, but instead of being defeated, they walked through a sea which supernaturally parted for their crossing.

We have a moving date now; we are moving at the end of December!  Watch for my future blog where I describe the miraculous way God has moved to answer our prayers for our home to continue to be a beacon of light, welcome and hospitality for his kingdom!

When I asked the Lord to show me the most important things to do before I move, he was clear to show me we needed to do a process of discernment and prayer.  So, we set two nights to gather, discern and pray. 

Our first was Sunday when we asked the Lord to show an areas where we needed to repent, open entry points where the thief is able to sneak through a door, and sins made against us.  We took communion and prayed for repentance for the areas we discerned through the evening.

Last night many of us gathered to pray specifically for repentence and breakthrough.  It was exciting to me to see how we humbled ourselves, prayed and sought God's face, as we trusted him to hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land (2nd Chronicles 7:14).

It was also good for us to gather from our different missio communities to come together to pray. The unity in the room was palpable; the desire for God to do more amongst us increasing as our prayers of faith rose up to believe God to part the waters so we can walk through, and our enemy the thief, is drowned in the sea.

When people hear I am moving to another state, their first question is "What's going to happen to Missio Lux?"  However, instead of distress, we hear the Lord saying, "This is my finest hour.  Watch and see what I do...."

We are expectant.  We are watching, waiting and listening...as we raise up our staff like Moses for the sea to part.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Seek first his Kingdom: the Treasure of a Good Foundation

It’s been interesting to watch the “Occupy Movement.”  I have been fascinated by how quickly it has spread, as well as their passion and the organization they have for the simple tasks of living:  cooking, trash removal, and . . . protesting!  The Occupy Movement is highlighting an inequity that exists between the wealthy and the poor, as we slowly watch the middle class disappear.

Jesus spoke to crowds who also experienced the vast difference between the wealthy and the poor. . .no middle class existed in his day.  The wealthy had power; the poor were powerless.  Jesus was brilliant in his ability turn things upside down….and money and power were one of his favorite topics as he revealed how shallow they truly are in comparison to his kingdom come.
Remember, in his message about priorities Jesus told us to “seek first God’s kingdom and to set things right, and then everything else would fall into place.”  The apostle Paul heard Jesus right.  He wrote a moving letter to his disciple Timothy where he concludes the letter with a passage about priorities in finances:

1st Tim 6:17-19:  “As for those who in this present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”
Think about it.  How many times a day do we receive the message that if we “get a better job,” we will have a better life?  Or, if we buy the latest car, outfit, cell phone or computer, we will have a better life?  We have these messages coming at us over and over all day long, especially now when we are so connected to technology.

Paul tells us not to focus on the uncertainty of riches.  It’s a great message for today as we watch the stock market jump all around and the selling price of our homes continue to plunge.  Paul encourages us to “set out hopes on God who richly provides everything for our enjoyment.”

I guess I wonder if we really believe that God wants to provide things for our enjoyment.   I find that when I dig with people, we often have a mindset which believes God wants us to take less, to be less content in life, that suffering is where he wants us to focus.  God is teaching me, however, that he does like to surprise his children with gifts….just as we like to do for our own children.

Today we are signing the loan papers on our new house.  It’s a big faith leap for us in trusting God’s provision to do this before our own house is sold.  My prayer for weeks has been for us to have a contract in hand before we signed the papers.  Last week not one person looked at our house….so the circumstances didn’t point towards getting a contract.  But, God is the God of surprises, and last night our realtor called with news of a contract for our house.   God is a God of “just in time” because today we signed the offer papers in our kitchen with our realtor and immediately walked into our living room to sign our loan papers for our new home in California!
While I was writing this reflection, Brad called me.  He has been out of work for awhile…and in his time of reflection, he realized that he was no longer content to continue to the status quo; he knew he wanted to give his life to something greater.  He is pursuing a position with World Vision where he would help retail stores carry their message of provision to a hurting world.  He told me, “I’ve made a conscious decision to give my life to a cause where I am helping serve people, making a difference in the world.”
Brad is listening to Jesus’ priorities.  He has discovered that when he aligns his life to “seek first God’s kingdom, and his righteousness, the all things comes into place.”  I read him the 1st Timothy passage which ends with “taking hold of the life that really is life.”  Brad agreed with it; saying his time of unemployment had helped to clarify his true heart.

Retreat does that. When we take steps away from our regular life and listen, being quiet and in solitude, we hear God’s heart more clearly.  His desire is for us “to live the life that really is life.” I love that.
From the beginning of time, our enemy has lied to us that God is holding out on us.  He twists the truth to make us think that the fruit on another tree is better for us, when in reality, the Tree of Life stands before us, beckoning us to eat from it each and every day.

When we remove ourselves from the tempting messages, we begin to get clarity on what’s truly important.  Jesus tells us “to love God and others, and then to go and multiply God’s message to others”, resulting in disciples who go and do the same.  Paul tells us in 1st Timothy when we set our hopes on God who richly provides everything for our enjoyment, we are able to “do good, be rich in good works, generous and ready to share.” 
When we move in rhythm with how we were created, to follow after God’s ways, we are building a foundation of the hidden treasure which enables us to take hold of the life that really is life.

So, how about you? 
Where are you tempted to follow the way of the world?
Where are you misaligned in your priorities? 
Where do you find yourselves frustrated and iscontent?
The answers to these questions will start you on the journey of discovery on how to build your life on the foundation of the life which is truly life:  a life spent pursuing seeking God’s kingdom, his righteousness and trusting him for the “all things” to fall into place.

I encourage you to find some space for some retreat, a time of solitude.  Sit down and journal your answers to the questions above, and meditate on Paul’s words to Timothy; his clues for a life worth living!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Experiencing the Egyptian Aftermath of the Massacre October 9th

Laurie is one of the major leaders in Missio Lux.  She has been my vision partner since the inception of Missio Lux; meaning that we meet together weekly to dream about the future and plan for the present.  Laurie is extremely gifted and intelligent. She currently attends Bakke Graduate University, http://www.bgu.edu/, whose mission is to "Develop Christ centered leaders who change global cities." 

As part of their curriculum, they require students to go on an intensive trip in some of the most challenging locations on the globe.  Laurie chose to go to the Middle East this October.  She began to get nervous as the date for departure drew near; especially with all the volatility in the Middle East this year.

She had reason to be wary.  The groups' first stop was in Cairo, Egypt right in the middle of the massacre October 9th.

Her group of Bakke students actually ended up staying in the Coptic Christian Bishop's home, as well as being present at a meeting with the Coptic Pope where the families of the Copts who were killed came and vented their grief and outrage.

It is often hard to get reliable press coverage; leaving us wondering what to believe at times.  Take a few minutes to watch this short (1:22) video and read the text that accompanies it.  It is important to know how our fellow brothers and sisters around the world are being treated.


Laurie has many stories to tell about her trip, including sharing about Jesus followers who risk their lives to share God's love by serving their communities. I will make sure to link all her blog posts to this sight so we don't miss out on her observations and reflections.

Take a moment now to pray for the Coptic Christians in Egypt; for their protection, courage, perseverance and wisdom. Amen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Seek first his Kingdom: Raise Up Your Staff"

Last week we heard some very discouraging news regarding our move to California.  Many of the finances we were counting on disappeared; and the time to move forward with the new house was immediate.  I went to pray; to ask the Lord to show us what to do.  What’s taken place has been one of the greatest faith lessons of our lives.

The next day, I heard the words “pressed up against the water’s edge” out of the blue. I knew the Lord was directing me to the passage in Exodus 14 about the Israelites, recently released into freedom from Egypt, in the desert as they watched the Egyptian army chase them down.  They were trapped on both sides:  the Red Sea and the Egyptian army.
The Israelites cried out to Moses in accusation: “Did you just bring us out to this desert to become a cemetery of death?”  Moses, being strong in his identity as a representative for God, calmly told them, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and today you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

After Moses made his declaration, it’s implied that Moses then turned around and said pretty much the Israelites message to the Lord. But, the Lord told him, “Stop crying out to me.  Raise up your staff over the waters so they divide.  The Israelites can walk through on dry ground.  I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so they go in after them.  And I will gain glory, so that everyone knows that I am the Lord!”
Raise up your staff.  What does this mean?  How can we translate it to our own lives?

God gave Moses the staff when he called him at the burning bush to go and confront Pharaoh.  The staff was important to Moses’ life as a shepherd.  However, when God gave it back to him, it was something else.  It was meant for his role as one who reigns with God, and has his authority to call forth God’s will and his supernatural power to reign over nature.  Over and over we hear of the plagues that were released through Moses into Egypt to bring them into a place of humility to God’s plan and purposes.
God replaced Moses’ identity as a shepherd and told him that “I AM” is with you.  “Because ‘I AM’ is with you; you are my representative to seek first my kingdom. My ways will come forth for the people of my heart.”  Moses was being called not to hide in a desert in fear any longer, but to go and fight for the freedom of God’s beloved people, the Israelites.

We are to do the same.  We are to go and fight for the people God created; keeping our back to the enemy so we don’t back down in fear, our eyes focused on our Deliverer, who has the power to part the water!
How did we practically walk out the challenge before us?

First, we didn’t back out of our contract to buy the house in CA.  We believe God led us to this house and he wants it for our new life together and for his kingdom purposes.  We kept our eyes on the Deliverer.
We asked people to pray for us. We didn’t try to walk through the battle alone.

We began to thank God for the challenges.  Despite all the chaos swirling around us, as soon as we started thanking God, peace came.  It is the peace that is clearly supernatural and not defined by our circumstances.
We raised our staff by praying in the spiritual authority given to us by Jesus. We followed the pattern of the Lord’s prayer by praying for “God’s will to be done on earth as it is heaven.”

We also called the angelic army to go and fight the battle for us.  God is always the God of just in time; so just hours before we had to wire a substantial sum of money for escrow, we got word that we would have enough finances to move forward.
We moved forward in faith.  We didn’t have all the answers then, and we don’t have all the answers now.  We do have, however, the confirmation of Exodus 14 five different ways.  Over and over in the anxious days of waiting, we were given this word from the Lord.  They came in various ways:  through the words out of the blue, “pressed up against the water’s edge,”  an email from an intercessor with a teaching of Exodus 14, prayers prayed by two young women who saw the waters and the army coming after us,  a daily Scriptural reading, and finally my Bible falling open to it when I picked it up.

Coincidence?  No, as we begin to know the language God speaks to us by, we begin to recognize that repitition is one of his greatest ways to show us his plan.
Was it easy?  No, it was very hard.  Walking in faith is truly living “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:6

Was it worth it?  Yes, because we are now walking in a greater level of faith which gives us confidence for the next test.  We have a testimony now.  We can tell the stories over and over how God parted the waters for us to walk through to the other side.
Let’s remember our theme for the year, “Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all things shall be added to you.”

To seek first God’s kingdom is align our lives with his heavenly kingdom reigning on earth.  This is not a cool Sunday School story, this involves real life action to which we have the ability to respond with a “yes, I am in, “or a “no, too hard, I am out.”
God’s righteousness is to “partner with him to set things right.”  Moses partnered with God to set right the Israelites freedom.  We partnered with God to set things right regarding our next stage of life and ministry.

And, all things shall be added onto you.  When we align our lives to seek first God’s kingdom, we can trust his promise to “provide the necessary aspects of our lives,” which includes food to eat, clothes to wear, and houses to live in.
Where are you pressed up against the water’s edge?  Get out your staff and begin to experience the power which flows from it as you trust the Deliverer to see your faith and to part the waters.  Victory is yours.  The King is calling you as his kingdom partner to help set his beloved people free from their slavery.