Many of us suffer from a terrible sickness in our churches. It is called “Spectatoritis.” We speak of the congregation as the audience. If we sincerely believe the Gospel, we must believe that God has a vocation for each of us. The situation is a lot like inactive fans
We were losing daylight.
It was getting darker. The woods seemed to be closing in. My wife and daughter behind me, the trail barely visible in front of me. Have I been here already? I can’t tell, it all looks different than it did in the bright light. We are losing daylight, but we must be close, right? I’m starting to wonder if we will get out of here. Now, before you start thinking, “just grab your cell phone, Pastor”, this was when we didn’t have cell phones. So, you say “why not have a map at least, you should always have a map”. I didn’t think I needed a map. I really was starting to get worried. My daughter, Jessica, was sounding a bit panicked, tired of the hike, and kept wondering how much longer we would be. I knew we couldn’t be far from our car, we were close, but just not there yet. Right?
We finally did make it out of the ever-darkening woods and back to the car. We actually had been very close to the parking lot, but I couldn’t tell that from under the thick canopy of trees. Ok, here’s the point, and please don’t laugh, we were at Point Defiance. No, I didn’t say Snoqualmie National Forest, I said Point Defiance Park. (It is a big park, ok?).
Something entirely different.
My point is there are times we are so far from a revelation and yet so very close at the same time. I challenge you to pray on this and meditate on its significance. We were talking to the kids on Sunday about Jesus living in our hearts. Not a hard concept, but even that is surely not simple either. As the Lord was shifting me Sunday morning he pointed out a short phrase I have never really sunk into.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
As I read Jesus’ prayer for us, as I have done many times before, this time the Lord pointed out to me His prayer for me to be in them! Wow! I know Jesus lives in me – I am the temple of God. His address! Where He lives is “Jeff”. But in this particular prayer He prayed something entirely different, which I had missed up until now. He prayed not that He would be in me, but for me to be in them.
We go together.
For me it is still like being lost in Point Defiance, I know it’s truth, but I also know I don’t fully understand it. I am not there yet, but I know I am not far from revelation.
As we go together, down this new trail of Church Arising, let’s pray to be IN THEM, united, together, listening to His voice, asking for revelation – and let’s get there together!
This morning, as I was taking my vitamins (a very rare occurrence) I noticed the glass I was using was cracked, from top to bottom. Not a huge deal, we have lots of glasses. I finished taking my handful of pills and as I threw the broken glass in the trash, I heard my dad’s voice echoing from my childhood, “If you break ’em, you don’t have to wash ’em!” He usually said that immediately after I dropped something (a very common occurrence). If the dish broke in the fall, I didn’t need to try to repair it, I could just toss it. Dad meant it as a joke, making light of my clumsiness so I didn’t feel bad for being such a klutz.
Today, that phrase struck me differently. I think my Dad was wrong. (Sorry, Dad!)
Often we care for someone, and then something happens… there’s a difference of opinion, a disagreement, an argument. A Facebook post we don’t like. A scriptural interpretation that doesn’t mirror our own. An opposing political perspective. One party says something, the other party says something and BAM! Relationship broken. We feel justified in not repairing it. After all, I am right, they are wrong and the only reasonable course of action is to never speak to them again. If it’s broken, you don’t have to wash it.
I’m so glad Jesus doesn’t hold this view. If I look at my life, my choices, my words, I am absolutely certain He has not been in agreement with me on all of them. His opinion matters. Mine, actually, not so much. But… and this is huge… Jesus NEVER withdraws His love from us. Even when we are wrong. And, I am pretty certain He calls us to mirror His love in our encounters with others, not justify why we don’t have to.
Now, I know… some of you are already, yeah-but-ing. You know…
“Yeah, but, you don’t understand what they said.”
“Yeah, but you don’t know how they hurt me.”
“Yeah, but you haven’t lived my life.”
You are absolutely right. I don’t, and I haven’t.
But I do know this – true transformation doesn’t… won’t… can’t come through argument, bitterness, or cold-shoulders. True transformation, healing, restoration can only come through sacrificial love. Jesus demonstrated it this way. The night before He was crucified He washed the disciples broken, dirty, smelly feet. Even Judas’.
And then He said this.
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
If you find yourself in a broken relationship, instead of tossing it away, perhaps you should grab a towel.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
I am blessed and honored to write this letter in service to our King Jesus. Each one of you is so precious to our Father. As He looks at each one of you, He sees endless possibilities and a perfect inheritance which He has lined up for you to walk in with the Holy Spirit.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth,
the gospel of your salvation
having also believed, you were sealed in Him
with the Holy Spirit of promise,
who is given as a pledge of our inheritance,
with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession,
to the praise of His glory.
Your eternal life and inheritance as children of God has been permanently sealed. This is reason to celebrate and walk in thanksgiving! Furthermore, for the present time we are called to live a life in communion with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is here to help us in this life! Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever….” John 14:16
The Holy Spirit has been poured out on this planet. We are paid for in full. We have been redeemed as God’s own, for a purpose. If anyone has difficulty finding that purpose remember, Jesus is the one who knew you before the foundation of the world and His Spirit is here to lead you into your divine story. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…
In Service to Jesus,
My heart is overcome with the love of the Father for you as I write today. As a leadership team at Zion’s River we believe God is setting the stage for our hearts to enter into new levels of believing, greater engagement with His presence, and a renewed sense of His life moving through every facet of our daily living. We are aware of the spiritual enemy whose goal is to rob individuals of their divine story through deception which comes via our own free will. Yet, GREATER still, we believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are at work on our behalf to create and give life, and this life is found under Their covering, and within the borders and boundaries set within the written word of God. We believe that as we choose to engage our faith, the substance thereof will bring a tangible manifestation of Heaven on earth and it is from this place of belief I write to you today.|
Many within the Church are looking for answers and for a word that speaks to the current issues of the Nation, they are looking for a way in which they can overcome and rise above. The answer we seek lies within the faith we possess. Through it all, Jesus sits on the throne beckoning for us to turn our hearts to Him once again, to be revived by His word, and to be led by a word greater than our own. Hear me Beloved, this is not condemnation, this is the Father Himself speaking out through His leaders.
Now is the time for the Church to rise up and step into His New and Living Way (Hebrews 10:20). This is the time in which He is calling our hearts to be revived by an authority greater than ourselves and to move from the place from which Jesus Himself has opened up for us through His death and resurrection. God is calling us to be Holy as He Himself is holy (1 Peter 1:16). He is declaring over us once again that “[We] are a chosen race; a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light,” (2 Peter 2:9). He is calling us to turn our eyes upon Jesus, to hear His voice, and to walk in His ways. He is calling us, the Church, to be the answer.
Lives Will Be Eternally Changed
Through our faith in God, and His heavenly provision, lives within the Nations will be eternally changed. Pastor Jim stated on Sunday that “faith is the only force that has the power to draw upon what heaven possesses”. Our corporate belief, engagement with His presence, and engagement with our everyday living will become the catalyst through which we will see our God move. As Pastor Jim stated “our faith gives God the legal access to enter our situation…it releases what we passionately envision, and IS the work of our Christianity”. Our “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1- KJV). The faith we possess is made possible not through our works (…religious duty and sacrifice), but rather through the new and living way of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 10:19-23 reads:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
Take The Great Leap
Church, “without faith it is impossible for us to please him, for whoever draws near to God must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6). I declare over Zion’s River and the Church that now is the time of faith, now is the time for us to confidently draw near to God, now is the time to engage our belief, to live from the place of His presence, and to allow our lives to speak of the New and Living Way. The One who has called us has fully equipped us, and “…it is not by might, nor by power, but by [his] Spirit…” (Zechariah 4:6) that Zion’s River will take the great leap.
With Great Love for His Church,
“I just want to sit down and chill”, I thought, as I pondered the calamity and disappointment of the last couple weeks. 2016 is over and I couldn’t be happier. It wasn’t the worst year ever, but tough, really tough. Not just for me, but for dear friends and family. However, it seems last year was reaching out from the grave with one last defiant attempt to knock me off course.
Like many, I anticipate great things for 2017. I began the year armed with an architecture of resolute plans, a deeper love for those around me, a favorable financial standing, and a broader vision for the future than ever before. I felt a solidarity in my calling as a boss, mentor, parent, and husband and began to walk in a refreshed confidence as a pastor, leading the most amazing group of volunteers I have ever known. This year was set apart as I launched out of the gate and fell flat on my face.
God Is A Good Father
Enter Sunday. I had a conversation with myself much like ones I hear all the time from our parishioners, “Pastor was preaching right at me!” Know this, God is a good father. The deeper you go with Him, the more He challenges and corrects you. This word was for me and I am certain, for all the pastors and elders. I started the year off well, but my attention was quickly diverted. I stopped running and began to stagnate. Can you relate?
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
Galatians 5:7-8 (ESV)
There are three main reasons we become stagnant.
• The enemy steals the word of God by distraction
• We have no endurance
• We allow the worries of the world to choke out the truth
I am convinced we make the devil’s job very easy. He brings distraction so we lose sight of the goal ahead. This “persuasion” becomes our focus and his job is done. We get tired, sit down and chill out. It’s much deserved anyway, so it’s easy to replace our have-to’s with our seemingly deserved respite. Over time we become accustomed to a sedentary life and when it’s required of us to move again, we lack the endurance necessary. Worry and fatigue increase and choke out the truth. God’s revelation in our life dwindles and we become frustrated and angry. We repeat the vicious cycle and the enemy steals yet another one of our days, and we are the sole accomplice.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 (ESV)
Weapons Of Our Warfare
Praise God for our leadership who sits before our Lord to gleen His truth, and a gracious God who is patient with us, whose plans are so great, even I can’t mess them up! We wage battle against an enemy far more duplicitous than the devil alone, it’s a battle of our mind, a battle of belief. Will we believe the one who came so we might have life abundant?
For the weapons of our warfare are
not carnal but mighty in God
pulling down strongholds,
casting down arguments
and every high thing
exalts itself against the knowledge of God,
every thought into captivity to
the obedience of Christ,
2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (NKJV)
Get passionate about not letting the enemy steal any more of your days. Quit helping him. Take every thought captive and fight for your belief. You have everything you need to win the battle of the mind. I’m fighting alongside you.
In the joy of His presence,
I have to confess, as a young girl, I used to love watching martial arts movies! I loved watching Bruce Lee defeat the enemy and defend honor. There was rarely a dull moment once you got past the scintillating dialogue. It seemed like there would never be an end to the battles, and danger was always waiting around the corner.
Much like spiritual warfare, the battle never ends. The enemy is relentless and is always crouching at the door in his main agenda of stealing, killing, and destroying. John 10:10a
I have personally felt the onslaught of the attack of the enemy lately, and it doesn’t show any signs of letting up any time soon. Where is the hope in this message? If we read John 10:10 all the way though it gives us that hope: But He came to give us life and life abundant! That promise keeps me going along with all the other promises in His word to us. Will I see that abundance here on earth? Possibly, but what I stake my claim in is that my hope is in a future glory. One that moths and rust cannot destroy. Victory isn’t necessarily found in how hard we fight, but in how firm we stand. I have to personally purpose to keep my mind on the Father and what He’s spoken over me.
He keeps him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.
I gain comfort the more I keep my eyes on Him. The waves seem to diminish and I can continue in the last clear direction He gave me. It is the place of His greatest pleasure. The place where faith takes over sight, Hebrews 11:6.
Pastor Bonnie Simmons
I used to think that to be Christlike meant to be alienated and put off by the sin of others. But it’s quite the opposite. Refusing to be alienated and put off by the sin of others is what allows me to be Christlike.
Recently, there was an article in a mainstream online magazine about the hip-hop artist Lecrae, who’s an outspoken believer. Lecrae loads his music with thoughtful reflections on all aspects of life, including – and especially- the good news of God’s love for us.
The article read:
“Christians have no idea how to deal with art,” Lecrae said more recently, during a September speech to Christian leaders. “They say, ‘Hey Lecrae you can’t do that. That’s bad. That’s secular. You can’t touch that. Hey Lecrae, your engineer is not a Christian. He can’t mix your stuff. He’s going to get sinner cooties on it.’ “This is real. I wish I was making this up,” he said.
Yeah, me too. I wish he were making that up. The writer of the article went on to explain this mind-set to a mainstream readership, and I think he nailed it.
“Evangelicals adopted an isolationist mindset for much of the 20th century. Non-Christians, the thinking went, carried sin like a virus, and the point of following Jesus was to remain as pure as possible. Christians established their own communities, educational institutions and music festivals, separate from the rest of the world.”
Again, I wish it weren’t true, and not just of evangelical culture in general, but of myself specifically. I used to think it was not only prudent but my duty to be offended by others’ sins. Somehow, I took the example of the King of Kings, who wanted to be with us so much that He lowered Himself to be born in a barn full of animals and manure, and I thought it meant I was supposed to raise myself above and away from the messy lives of others.
I guess I thought I was always on the defense, guarding myself against contamination, as though my heart weren’t already contaminated with my own self-regard.
The Good News
But the Kingdom of God is not on defense.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
We know now this is not a defensive statement at all. It’s about being on the offensive. What it actually sounds like is this:
Jesus is sending His followers out to love others and they can go anywhere, even through the gates of hell to do it.
I must throw in this caveat or people will use it to miss the whole point: yes, it’s true, if you are weak in a particular area, you are wise to set up boundaries in that area. Someone who is addicted to alcohol may wisely decide not to go to a bar. But let’s stop aspiring to be “weaker brothers,” or letting exceptional scenarios give us an “out” from venturing into people’s lives. Love people where they are and love them boldly. And, if you really want to go crazy, like them too.
I want to be the guy who says, “Yes, I see the mess you’ve made of things, just as I have. But God wants us, mess and all. No matter what.”
And the good news, too, isn’t that God is disinterested in what we do, that He doesn’t care how we behave, or what we do to ourselves or others. It’s good news because He does care about those things.
He is going to change us and if we want the status quo we don’t want Him. But that’s not a guilt trip. His desire to change us is just further evidence that we matter to Him and He loves us.
My goal with relationships is no longer to try to change people. It’s to introduce people to a God who is already reaching toward them, right where they are. I am not responsible for changing people’s lives, I am responsible for faithfully loving them. As a believer, this means pointing them to a God who dearly wants them, and for whom I happen to know they yearn.
Don’t condemn the culture; redeem it.
Pastor Rob Riggan
(Excerpts taken from the book, “Unoffendable” by Brant Hansen)
One more thought on Revolutionary Love…
“We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19
If we are called to live and love as Jesus did, then this is part of His example we need to follow. I know, it’s risky. We are taught early on to be stingy with our love, because we don’t want to look foolish. We are cautioned to guard our hearts, because we can’t trust what is in others. We’ve been warned to not cast our pearls before swine as if love is a finite substance that might run out. But imagine how different the world would be if those who follow Jesus would imitate Him in this too. To love first.
- Imagine the reaction if you choose to say, “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
- Imagine the reaction if you simply took on an undesirable task, like calling the cable company, or picking up the Legos, or folding the mountain of laundry that has overwhelmed the couch? (Bonus points for putting it away!)
- Imagine the reaction if you allowed the woman with three kids and the mountain of groceries to go ahead of you in line, because she is just one “Mommy, I want…” from losing her mind.
- Imagine the reaction if you took the time to acknowledge your server as an actual human being, with thoughts, feelings, and really sore feet, and asked about her day?
A dear friend of mine taught me the phrase, “You give and you give and you keep on giving with no regard for your personal safety!” We usually use it as a joke, when I offer to eat the last cookie, or drink the last of the pot of coffee, or do something which purely benefits me. But what if we employed this tactic in our every encounter? What if we gave and gave and kept on giving without regard to our personal benefit, or recognition?
The ability to do this without resentment requires one thing, that your knower knows you are already loved sufficiently, abundantly, overwhelmingly by Jesus. We fear loving first because we are afraid we will come up short and will be left behind, alone, and unnoticed. But, if you are awash in the power and presence of Jesus abiding in you, you will have more than enough to pour out into others.
Imagine the reaction…
The air is stuffy….but electric. Muted conversations….then you hear it before you feel it. The powerful roar quiets all conversation and for an instant, nothing happens… Brakes are released and you feel it. Your back is thrust into the seat. There is a pressure on your chest as the objects out the window begin to fly by. Without notice, you feel like you are laying on your back with your feet in the air as the plane rotates. You feel the whole plane leap into the air as you continue to accelerate. The shaking stops and your fingers begin to feel the pressure of the grip from the person next to you – the one who has never flown before. You look over and his eyes are huge, yet the smile conveys great joy!
This little one is going to Disneyland. This first “ride” is one he has never experienced before and although it may be a bit terrifying, not knowing what is next, he knows the destination is all worth it.
These last 12 months have been a ride. I, for one, am glad 2016 is almost over. With it came many things I have not experienced before, and I tell you, I don’t want to repeat most of them. Right about now we have about 81 hours of this “take off” left. The thing is, this is the price of the destination – what the Lord has for us. Like Abraham, we have to pay (sacrifice) to get to the place the Lord wants to take us. Please understand it is not a cost God requires before we are blessed, it is the natural process of things – a consequence – of movement and growth. But, as in going to Disneyland, the cost is worth the destination.
Genesis 12:1 & 4
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country and your people. Leave your father’s family. Go to the land I will show you… 4 So Abram left, just as the Lord had told him. Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.
Our Lord said go – He didn’t say where or give any details… Sound familiar?
Zion’s River is going to a place we have never been before. Will it be free of encumbrances, free of fears, free of obstacles? Not sure, but I know it is better than “The Happiest Place On Earth”! Are you wanting to join us in this process? In this move of God? It is worth it. I see the possibilities and it really is worth it!
We are leveling out, the air is smooth, the sun is brilliant above the cloud. Your head leans back, your eyes close… next stop … 2017!