Friday, January 20, 2012

A living eulogy

Imagine if you could hear your eulogy while you were still alive? Imagine if you realized what people really appreciated in you before you were dead? Would it change
the way you lived?

We've been away in Idyll Wild for a few days with our elders and wives. A generous man gave us use of his home which has almost 360 degree views of this stunning part of the world. It's been a very rich time of comeraderie and clarity in the midst of ridiculous beauty. One of the questions we talked around was, "If culture is more caught than taught, then what cultures are being caught from this team?"
One of them we're wanting to grow, to the point of becoming contagious, is risk.

I'm aware of God's risky entrusting to us of a message, a people and a mission.
He's not satisfied with maintenance. He expects a return on His investment and there is great reward for our return. (Luke 19) This means very intentional, and risky investment on our part.

I've found that there is a great connection between a culture of risk and a culture of encouragement. This is not insincere flattery. Rather, it's faith-filled urging in areas where goodness could and should become greatness.

So we found ourselves doing an exercise along these lines, which may sound morbid to you, but was poignant and helpful to us. We wrote and read eulogies for each other. Random names pulled out of a hat meant you had to find ways to give a tribute to a person's life while they and everyone else got to listen. Although it was deeply emotional, it wasn't sentimental. It was profoundly empowering. These were the areas in which people saw God's grace at work in us. These were our areas of intentional investment for a greater return and reward.

I think it's worth giving tribute to people's lives before they die.
It empowers them to live with more risk and die with less regret.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fasting is for Mission (Day 3)

When Daniel and his three friends fasted on vegetables and water in the royal court of Babylon, God gave them great insight so that, "In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians in his whole kingdom."(1:20)

It gave Daniel opportunity to interpret the king's dreams and give glory to God. "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." After Daniel's interpretation of the dream, the king fell prostrate before him saying, "Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a Revealer of Mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery."(2:47) Daniel's fast was a catalyst for God's mission. A whole nation was impacted.

When the church in Antioch fasted there was also a catalyst for mission. 'While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Paul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them.So after they and fasted and prayed they placed their hands on them and sent them off."(Acts 13:3)

Today, we're on the home straight of our fast. Let's begin to focus our prayer outwards. Let's pray for those in authority in this nation. For wisdom and righteousness, and for God to raise up 'Daniels' into places of profile for His glory.
Let's pray for an empowering to fulfill both halves of Jesus' Great Commission - preaching the gospel and making disciples.
Let's pray for a community on mission that uses the nets of their friendships for the sake of the Gospel.
Let's Pray for an acceleration of our church planting and re-planting initiatives.
For an establishing of partnerships with churches across the world for the Gospel's sake.
For fruitfulness in our ministry to the poor.
For unity amongst the churches in our city for the sake of the Gospel.
For revival in our County.
And for the Revealer of Mysteries to visit us as he visited Daniel, so that we might give wise answers to the mysteries of our time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The blessing of 'Lame' (day 2)

'Lame'. It's a word we use to describe something or someone lacking humor, intelligence, agility or strength. 'Lame' is an all-encompassing insult.
I've never heard of anyone who felt that being called 'lame' was any blessing at all.
Except Jacob, of course.

Jacob was the son of Isaac, and his name meant 'trickster.'Right from the womb he had a knack of getting ahead of others through clever scheming, even tricking his father into giving him his brother's birthright.

One day Jacob reached the end of his own good ideas, and wrestled all night with God for a blessing. The blessing God gave him was to change his name and make him lame.
With a dislocated hip, Jacob limped and leaned upon a staff for the rest of his life. His name was now 'Israel' which means "he wrestles with God.' He learned to lean on God like he leaned upon his staff.

Fasting is willingly putting ourselves in a place of weakness so that we lean on God. It is taking away our 'staff,' whether that be food, coffee, candy or alcohol so that we lean on God's power. Sometimes our 'staff' is our own understanding or strength, and fasting reminds us that we are not as smart or as strong as we think we are. Fasting is the blessing of being lame and learning to lean.

Jesus began his ministry with by led by the Spirit into a 40 day fast. In his weakness from hunger he was tempted by Satan, but he withstood and returned in the power of the Spirit. Even Jesus learned to lean on the power of the Spirit in the desert.

Fasting may well put us into a battle of temptation, where we are confronted by our own sinfulness. God allows this so that we can overcome by His Spirit, returning in a greater measure of power over sin. The Holy Spirit also empowers us on Jesus' mission, with boldness to tell our grace story and faith for the miraculous.

So today, the second day of the fast, let's receive the blessing of being lame so we can learn to lean on God's power.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fasting is Feasting (Day 1)

This Wednesday we start a 3 day church fast. We'll meet each night to worship and pray and then we'll gather around a common theme for the next day.

Whether you're a part of Southlands or a blog reader from another community, you may be asking, "But why fasting?" Is it a guilty purge after a Christmas binge? Or maybe an attempt to please God so that He blesses us in 2012?

To be honest, both thoughts have crossed my mind, but really, it's none of the above. When the Pharisees asked Jesus why He and His disciples never fasted He replied, "When the bridegroom is here, the guests of the bridegroom do not fast.
But a time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away and then they will fast." (Mark 2:20) With these words He's showing us how and why we fast.

The fact is, that Jesus the Bridegroom has come to us. He loves us so much that He paid the bridal price for us with his own life. Here is the critical difference between fasting as ritual and fasting as sacrament.
We don't fast to try and win His presence or His pleasure. We fast with joyful confidence, knowing He has come to us and is well pleased with us.
This is how we fast.

Here's the thing though. Although Jesus has come to us and given His life in payment for us, he has in fact been 'taken away.' He has ascended to heaven.

This is why we fast.

We long for a tangible sense of His presence.
When we fast we're denying ourselves of food so that we can feast on Jesus.
We're asking for the Father to communicate the presence of Jesus to us in new and fresh ways by His Holy Spirit.
We are not satisfied knowing about Jesus. We want to Know Him.
We want to abide in Him and for His words to abide in us.
We want to remember that apart from Him we can do nothing.
And we want to fast longing for the day when He returns for us once and for all.
Jesus Himself is longing and fasting for that day.(Luke 22:18)
The day when we will never fast again.
The day when the unending feast can finally begin.