Rain

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Rain. Rain outs. Rain delays. A reminder of how little control we have.

It can ruin the best laid plans for a day or it can bring a reason to find shelter to stay in its warm embrace.

You can either feel defeated by it or relieved for it.

You can be drenched by it or learn to dance in it.

It can lull you to sleep or awaken you.

Perhaps today, you woke up refreshed from that extra hour of sleep. The day is like a canvas waiting to be painted.

Where ever you are in your inner being, if you are in the South Bay, my church is leaving its building and bringing Church to the city. If you don’t belong to a church or if its been a long time since you’ve been, then come.

Don’t let a little rain stop you from becoming refreshed by a message of hope, a warm cup of coffee, the strum of a guitar and some people who will be glad to be with you. It’s not going to be weird. No one wants your money. I promise, you’ll be glad you came.

Come to a park, come to a school, come to a restaurant on the strand. Our family will be at Calle Mayor, El Retiro Park and Bluewater Grill.

Take your pick. Visit http://cominghomesouthbay.com to find the location nearest you.

Hope to see you there.

God is Not an Indian Giver

My ears and heart are perked up to the subject of Spiritual Gifts because we are in the middle of a series on the Spirit Led life and also because my friend Angela just published her book, Beautifully Gifted.

It seems many of us are in need of is a better sense of our wiring and how we are gifted.  The avenue to discover that is still something I’m unsure of.  Having grown up in the decade in which we were “tested” to discover our gifts and talents, coming away to declare them more than demonstrate them kind of put me off a bit.  Personally, I think the best way to go about finding your gift is to ask God to show you, do a little self-discovery to understand what it is you do that you can’t NOT do… what it is that you do that makes you feel alive, that helps you sense God’s presence and pleasure {cue theme song from Chariots of Fire} and of course hear it from the mouth of someone who knows you.  Angela’s book and workshops help to facilitate these things.

Last week, one of my dearest friends came to speak to a women’s group at our church.  She had spent years leading and teaching through Young Life, youth ministries at local churches and women’s ministries until she finally decided to pull away and tend to the youth group that was growing under her roof.  It had been a while since she taught but when she opened her mouth last week, God brought it through a deeply moving and gracious message on contentment.  A message that all of us moms needed to hear.

As she was speaking it occurred to me… when God gives us gifts he doesn’t take them back. 

He may change the course of our lives as such that His gifts are manifested in different ways through us.  There may be seasons when we are called to a different place and to different responsibilities. Yet the Creator God is even creative in the way in which He chooses to gift pieces of Himself to us and through us.  Our gifts are given to us for the common good so they are not for us they are for those who He has placed us with.  When we bloom where we are planted it’s for all to enjoy, benefit and in effect, be changed.

Sometimes I get tangled in the now and fret about the things in my heart I think need attention right now…before its too late.  Yet I see more clearly that sometimes the now is just the now… and if I spend too much time thinking about what isn’t right now… I’ll miss the now and the next may not be quite as good.

“What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.   He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.”

~ Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 

This Is {Monday Morning Reflections}

Peter begins his sermon at Pentecost defending those who have been praising God and telling of His mighty works in languages other than their own.  After explaining these men were not drunk, he goes on to say, “This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel that in the last days…”

I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy

Young men shall see visions

Old men shall dream dreams

And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below…

This. Is.

While I am not one to focus, dwell or be alarmed by the “end of the age,” I do, sometimes more than others, long for Christ’s return. Every generation has historically believed theirs is the last and while I’m not sure ours is, I do consider myself a part of the welcoming committee should God ordain it for such a time as this.

This week, I’ve had three people tell me about dreams they’ve had that have either compelled them to move upon a prompting from the LORD or brought them to a place of rest in Him.  The Word of God has prompted people {myself, included} to do, change and say things they never thought they would have before.  We are encouraged. We are sobered. We are hopeful.

This is:

Obedience. Understanding. Peace. Joy.

The preaching of the word and the work of the Spirit to reveal the life of the Word brings about conviction.  Conviction that slows us down, makes us think and be still.

Be still and know that God is God.

Conviction brings about a desire to change. To move. To do something differently than the way we have been carrying on.

The difference between conviction and condemnation is that condemnation just leaves us feeling bad. Where as in conviction we can rejoice because we are standing on the edge of a great plan God has in mind.  We may have a physical reaction brought about by Holy fear or regret,  but we can rejoice and be glad because conviction has a purpose.  Best of all, we can trust that God has gone before us and the outcome will be something He has desired for us and those involved with us.

This. Is.

This is what God intended when He chose to fill us with His Spirit. That we may be filled overflowing to the point where we cannot help but to do His will.  We cannot help but to spill over and pour out to others.  We cannot help but to stand in awe of Who He Is and who we are because of Him.

Caring for Orphans

James 1:27:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Several friends of mine as well as family have enjoyed the privilege of adopting kids.  From nations in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Haiti, Georgia and even here through the Los Angeles Foster System.

There is an anticipation like no other as they wait, holding their breath until a judge finalizes the adoption or a dossier is stamped with approval.  Faith is grown as families raise the necessary funds to bring their kids home from far away countries.  Trust is built as parents learn before they even hold their children that they are not their own and that God the Father is holding them, watching them caring for them as they wait in an orphanage or foster home. There is also the heart ache of losing a child that you have loved and cared for over the first year of his life.

Adoption rates and awareness seem to be increasing as more and more people are recognizing and living out the truth that to be pro-life means a lot more than being against abortion.  There is a responsibility we have to not only keep life and save lives but to sustain life by nourishing souls, bodies, minds and hearts.

While not all of us are called to adopt, according to the passage above, we are called to care and look after orphans and widows in their distress.  There are so many ways we can care for orphans now through wonderful organizations such as Compassion International, World Vision, Child Hope International.  We can also support families we know who have adopted through prayer, giving, baby showers, child care, etc.

As any parent knows, raising a child is much more fruitful with the help and support of a community.  The same goes for adoption.  Our family has not been led to adopt thus far, but we are committed to supporting those who have as well as doing what we can to care for orphans now.

Today, the opportunity comes as our church welcomes home a team of people who have given themselves to serve children in the LA County Foster Care system for one week through Royal Family Kids Camp.  One week of saying “yes” to kids who rarely get opportunities to have the kind of fun they had at camp this week.  One week of doing whatever it takes to send a message to a child that they are loved… wanted… planned for with a hope that springs eternal.  One week of being the hands, feet and heart of Jesus who happens to think they should not be hindered because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.   As they load the buses to come home they will be worn out. Sad. Emptied. And the kids will return to their foster homes a little more full but sad that every day can’t be the way it was at camp.  They will leave with a greater longing in their heart for a place to call home.  But hopefully some of them will leave knowing their home is in Jesus.

Will you join me in praying for them? 

Let us pray that God will continue to give us all unique opportunities and show us how to care for orphans and widows in their distress?

Sage

Yesterday in church, our pastor asked for feedback from the congregation on the text we were studying for the morning. As usual there were observations stated from all around the room. What stood out to me was the number of  seasoned men and women we have worshiping with us in our community. Some of the answers in the room yesterday came from two former pastors and one man who has served as a deacon or elder in three different churches. It caused me to look around and spot women and men who have given decades of themselves to serve the body of Christ and build up the church.

One couple who gave years to their community and after enduring some difficult, life changing experiences have come here to help others find freedom from the bonds of sin, liberty from shame and the hope and restoration Jesus offers.

Another couple who have served for years pastoring churches and sharing the story of Christ on the streets have come to our church and are the greatest encouragers to those of us are just starting out.

A couple who have kept the door of their home open for 35 years to the lonely and downcast while serving in youth ministry, marriage ministry and as an elder continue to influence a generation of people starting families.

A widow who gives 4 out 7 days of her week to teach Bible study and discipleship to women in her home. Rarely does she turn down a request to invite yourself over for tea.

A 92-year-old woman who started the church before most of us were even born comes each Sunday with a twinkle in her eye, knowing the possibilities of what God can do in the 90 minutes His people have gathered together.

The pastor on our staff  who led a church for years and has come to support our leader bringing years of experience and tells us plainly when we’re making something out of nothing and nothing out of something.

The couple who invited our church to join their congregation when they were getting too weary to lead it on their own. They contend for the power of prayer and continue to remind us there is more at stake on our knees than any place else.

Not only do they encourage, but they correct us gently. They have insight that comes from longevity that I do not have. They have stories that come from seeing other stories pan out that I do not have.  By now, they have a much better idea of what really matters and what quickly fades.  They have peace that comes from experiencing the kind of struggles and suffering I may never see simply because of the time and place I was born into.

I’m thankful because their wisdom, experience and maturity brings stability to our community. It brings peace to my heart, knowing these trust worthy saints would choose to serve in our community. They serve as reminders that our church is a sanctuary where God is stirring and inviting us to participate.

I look at them and see where I want to be 30 years from now. Side by side with my husband encouraging another generation to relentlessly pursue God, uphold the authority of Scripture, build the Church and keep eternity in mind.

Lord willing.

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in him.” ~ Psalm 92:12-15

The Greatness of God in Relationships

The theme for our women’s retreat in January is the Great is Our God. We chose this theme this year because of our conviction that as humans, we often lose sight of just how great God is, how powerful the Gospel of Christ is and it’s significance to our daily lives. I often wonder how I would approach many situations in my life or the relationships I have if I viewed them through the lens God’s greatness.  Lately, I’ve been inspired by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson’s book, Counsel from the Cross. Today I came across this as it relates to how we relate to others:

“When our relationships are built around the truths of the gospel – the truth that we are walking in light even though we are still sinners in need of cleansing by his blood – we can be free from feelings of inferiority and the demanding spirit that is born of pride. We can pursue relationships without fear of being discovered as the sinners we are.  This kind of open relationship rests solely on the realities of the gospel.  We are more sinful than we ever dared believe, and so is everyone we know.  Because of this, we won’t be surprised by other’s sins.  They won’t expect us to be sinless either, so we don’t have to give in to self-condemnation and fear when they see us as we really are. We don’t have to hide or pretend anymore.

The gospel also tells us that we are loved and welcomed without any merit on our part, so we can love and welcome others whose merits we can’t see.  We can remember the circumstances under which we have been forgiven, and we can forgive in the same way.  We don’t deserve relationship with the Trinity, but it has been given to us.  We can seek out relationships with others because we know that we have been sought out by him and that he is carrying us all on his shoulders.”

Do you have a relationship in which you need to apply this truth to?

Preparing for Church

This morning if you are going to church, remember these things…

There are people who will struggle to get there. There are others who will be there first because it’s the only place they feel any hope. There are people who will hate being there. For some it is the one day of the week they look forward to. For some it is exactly what they need. There are others who will come for the first time and no one will greet them. There are some who will come for the first time and be received in a way they never have before. Some people will hear the Gospel for the first time. Some people have heard it a zillion times in their life time but today will be the day when they actually realize Jesus loves them. Some preachers will deliver their message with no problem and nothing stopping them. Some will struggle through their message and yet still deliver truth upon truth. Some ministers will hurt their flock while others will bring healing. There are people who will worship with abandon and others who will be reluctant. Some will repent of the things that hold them back and others will continue to hide. There are people who are covered with shame because of their past and there will be some who will finally be set free from it. Some will feel like they belong and some will feel excluded. There are people who will be convicted by the Spirit of God and make some serious changes in their lives. Others will feel condemned and will go home racked with guilt. Some will understand everything that goes on around them and others will feel like foreigners in a strange land.

Which will you be a part of?

The church is people, not a place. It was meant to be hope, not despair. It is the vehicle for truth, not the melting pot for lies. It should be a place of healing, not damage.  We do Church because she is the apple of the eye of our Savior. We gather together to equip one another to be the Church Monday through Saturday. We join together to celebrate and bring honor to a God has chosen to dwell among us. Because there are 364 other days in the year that we realize

He. Is. Risen.

May our ears be open to listen to the Spirit of God and become more aware of His presence and direction for us today.

Lord Jesus, open the eyes of my heart today so I may see others as you see them. Show me the darkness in my heart that prevents me from worship you completely and allow me to enter into your presence whole heartedly. Give me wisdom for every conversation, every interaction that I may be part of this body that is an extension of your love and grace. Amen.

Cape Town

Two of my favorite writers/bloggers are in Cape Town, South Africa for the Third Lausanne Congress on Evangelism. If you are unfamiliar, the Lausanne Movement began in 1966 with Billy Graham and 1200 delegates from over 100 countries. The second congress was in 1974 (the year I was born…no correlation however), in the Swiss Alps with 2700 participants from 150 countries. This week, the third congress in Cape Town has over 4000 people in attendance from 197 countries.

The purpose of the gathering is to address and engage the issues facing the Church and missions today. The stories I’ve been reading  through Margaret Feinberg and Mary DeMuth are amazing. Stories of people who are:

Suffering

Contending

Giving their lives

to bring Jesus to people who live countries where Christ may not welcome.

Today, Margaret wrote this:

A young man shared some of the failures of the global church that captivated me.

He highlighted the following:

The failure to understand the world we live in and have a Christ-like response. This statement has countless implications, one of which is simply—because we don’t understand Islamic world, Muslims are feared and despised instead of recognized as people Christ died for.

Another is that we have failed to realize the twentieth century has ended. We have not realized that the twentieth century missions movement has ended with it. As a result, we continue to offer clichéd responses to people and situations. Evangelism is not a one-off event in which we give no second thought to what will happen to people.

As a result, we need to have the courage to ask the question every generation must ask:

“What does it mean to believe in a crucified God in this time in this generation?”

Only then can we thoughtfully and prayerfully determine how to respond.

It seems to me that bringing the truth, love, joy and hope of Christ to people in the 21st century is largely dependent on relationships. Almost any where you are, or any where you go, there is information available. Just today, I talked with a woman who knows her Bible cover to cover but is not getting any peace, hope or joy from her knowledge. Transformation no longer occurs solely through fact-finding, but rather through the authentic display of truth, the tangible acts of kindness and the astounding effects of mercy and justice.

Authenticity is more essential than it ever has been.

In church this weekend, I was convicted by my response to the world around me and my failure to understand it.

It’s easy to talk about other faiths without actually being willing to go to people of other faiths and have a genuine, authentic relationship with them. Especially when it’s just next door.

It’s easy to talk about “culture wars” without actually entering into the culture and understanding why it resonates with people.

We can jump into all kinds of rhetoric about homosexuality without actually entering into people’s sexual brokenness, listening to their story or walking with them.

I can join a pro-life rally, I’ve even prayed in front of abortion clinics, but have I been willing to sit with someone who has actually had one, showing them kindness and love that is absent of condemnation and help them heal? Have I been doing enough to care for the children of those who have chosen life yet their kids are bound up in a broken foster system?

As people in church stood up and proclaimed Christ’s victory for pulling them out of pits of oppression, blindness, poverty and captivity, I sat convicted that as a follower of Jesus, I have no right to cry, warn others, grieve or talk about an issue, unless I’m willing to walk with a person, enter their story and stay with them through the pain regardless of the outcome. The outcome belongs to the God of the Universe. Not me.

Clichéd responses to people and their situations not only marginalize people who need Jesus, but they also become a stumbling block for those who are trying to seek Him for who He is. I’m not sure, but I don’t think Jesus ever reprimanded or corrected anyone without loving them, listening to them and making it clear He understood them.

Well… except maybe the Pharisees.

 

 

Let’s Talk about Sex

It’s been three days since we’ve been home from The Idea Camp and my head is finally coming up from the water. In our two days in Vegas, I came away with so much more than I thought I would. In fact, the way the conference is set up lends itself to a much more interpersonal and in-depth learning environment than many other conferences. I was going through my notes to try to summarize for you all that I have, but it’s just too much! What I did find is that I jotted down a lot of quotes, so I will leave them for you. Forgive me for not knowing who said some of these things. But I know the people who made these statements all have a heart for Jesus’ truth and love to reclaim all that has gone wrong in this world as it relates to human sexuality. So here it goes:

On Sex and the Marriage Bed (all by Angus Nelson):

It’s important to talk about sex with your spouse and diffuse any unrealistic expectations.”

“We make relationships about us. The reason why the marriage bed is the heart of God is because it’s not about me.”

“What an exchange, if two people can serve each other in safety, love and selflessness.”

“Tell your man everything you respect about him and honor him. When you disrespect the man, you neuter the man.” (insert scissor motion here)

On Beauty for Ashes: Relational Healing for the Church (all by Dawn Carter):

“Dealt with is not the same as healing from.”

“The power of story: mirroring that which should have been as God intended.”

“Understand the role of your authority as a child of God in the Spiritual realm.”

From Charles Lee:

On implementing great ideas: “Friendship is not enough, you need the right people on the team.”

On sexual abuse and sin: “The Church has gotten good at confronting people, but not in walking with them.”

From David Trotter:

“If you are thinking about having an affair, keep in mind you will lose things you never knew you had.”

From Chris Clapp Logan and Ryan Russell:

“Things parents may not be aware of when their kids get on-line:

  1. They assume their kids are good and wont’ get into anything they shouldn’t
  2. Their kids are searching for love and affirmation
  3. Their kids have become callous to sex

“Know your kids friends online as you would off-line.” ~ Chris Clapp Logan

“True recovery is found in Luke 5 because sometimes it takes the power of God through community to bring about healing.” Nicole Wick

On Human Trafficking:

“Instead of being a temple builder, be a well digger.” ~ Mel McGowan

“The whole Church must participate, it takes the entire body of Christ.”

On Jesus and Justice (Bethany Hoang and Gary Haugen):

“At the end of the day, it’s about spiritual formation. The work of justice is given to us to shape us into becoming more like Jesus.”

“When you do the right thing, for the right reason, God has your back.”

“Prayer is the filter for our work, it shapes it and punctuates the day.” (regarding their 8:30 and 11am prayer times as a team)

On practical insight to discouragement in the work of justice (by Gary Haugen):

“Jesus asked us to be His disciples in fallen world. He doesn’t take us out of it, He leaves us in it.” Expect the world around you to be fallen… because it is.

“Spend time in prayer, do your work in community and be intentional about finding the joy.  Joy is the oxygen that makes obedience possible.”

On practical 1st steps to enter into the work of human trafficking (by Bethany Hoang):

“It really is one step at a time. Pick a target country or city. Focus your passion into that particular place. Have prayer time with a few others. Read a newsletter. Get close to the victims.”

On Restoring America’s Sex Trafficked Women by Annie Lobert:

“The world throws us away, the Church needs to love them through the pain, expecting them to fall.”

“Grace is more powerful than we realize.”

“90% of prostitutes are trafficked by a pimp.”

On Trafficking and Orphan Care:

“The church is the hope for the orphan crisis Every person has to play and every church has to engage in this crisis.” ~ Chris Marlow

On Sexual Orientation:

“The authenticity of friendship is that the outcome is secondary.” ~ Andrew Marin

“We have to pause and listen to the human story. We have to let love work its way through incarnation.” ~ Greg Russinger

Sexual orientation is not about an issue, it’s about people.” ~ Charles Lee

On sex and the family (Jud and Lori Wilhite):

“We are missionaries in a foreign world. Our hand is to the plow. We don’t expect our culture to think the same as us and yet we still engage and don’t separate ourselves from our culture.”

“Talking to your kids about sex is not a purity message, it’s a gospel message.”

On One in Six Women (Crystal Renaud):

According to Crystal’s research, 1 out of 6 women are consumers of the sex industry. This number is fast growing.  This ranges from erotica, films that are becoming more “relational” to attract women, and phone sex. Regarding the healing process, Crystal uses the acronym, “SCARS.”

  • Surrender – not just the behavior, but surrender your woundedness to Christ and to the process of recovery.
  • Confession – (James 5:15), Admitting the struggle
  • Accountability – Partnership on a daily basis. Know what your triggers are and tell someone.
  • Responsibility – Say you are sorry and repent to those you have hurt.
  • Sharing – God never wastes an experience we’ve had.

So there you have it… some snippets of what’s been swimming in my head all week-long. I pray it is encouraging, I pray that it will be useful as I continue to share it with those around me.

Camp Notes

Safety.

A word that was used in every session I attended at day 1 of the Idea Camp.

The unusual thing about The Idea Camp is, rather that filling the schedule with well-known key-note speakers, there are workshops and sessions with people who have experience, maybe some expertise and a story. They are people who have walked through the fires of sexual abuse, failed marriages, adultery, exploitation, prostitution, pornography and addiction. The workshops are interactive and every one in attendance is invited to contribute. Everyone has a story.

Let’s just say, it was really heavy.

The word safety was used when talking about the marriage bed. Guarding it. Contending for it. Making it the the place of holiness it was designed to be. It was also mentioned as the necessity to healing from abuse. It was brought to the forefront of the restoration process from sin and it is required for intimacy.

If you want to have a rockin’ sex life with your spouse, you need to feel safe with him or her. Talking about things is not always easy, but if you feel safe you can have these conversations.

Victims of abuse have lost their sense of safety. They feel abandoned, isolated and unworthy. Unless they find a person or a place of safety, they are not able to open the Pandora’s Box of hurt, loss and shame they may be pressing down.

Those that find themselves lost in affairs need to experience the safety that comes with grace in order to be restored after repenting from their sin.

Last night, Nicole Wick shared that true healing happens in community. Referencing Luke 5 where we find a paralytic who can’t come to Jesus on his own. His friends know the only way he can be healed is by Jesus. So when they can’t get through the crowds, they climb up on the roof, carrying their friend on a stretcher and they lower him down, right in front of Jesus.

My mom is paralyzed and I know if I were to grab a few friends, put her on a stretcher and climb up on a roof top only to lower her down in the middle of a crowd, she would be completely freaked out to the point of not willing to go through with it. She would not feel safe. She would feel vulnerable and more out of control than she already feels. We don’t read anything indicating this man was reluctant, fearful or hesitant. He must have known he was in good hands. He was willing to take the risks associated with putting his life and his care in the hands of these friends.

If you find yourself lost in the pain of abuse or in debilitating damage of your sin, do you have a trust worthy friend who you feel safe with? One who will take you to Jesus when you don’t think you can get there?

How are we doing with cultivating shelter for those who are in need of it?

What will it take for you to feel safe enough to talk to your spouse about what

your needs are to get to place of greater intimacy?

In any case, it’s worth the battle. Let’s do this.

You can follow the idea camp’s live stream by clicking here.