Monday, September 12, 2016

Activating God - even when he is "sleeping"

I am not sure of any one who can retell this story with greater humor and punch that my friend Rob Rufus. It is of course the account of Jesus and the storm in Mark's gospel - Mark 4:35 - 5:1.

For me it is very autobiographical...

when the evening had come - Jesus is simply not at all committed to our convenience and comfort. At the end of the day, I love gearing down, debriefing the day with M, a warm meal and a quiet drink. I am not sure I would have been a "happy camper" if I got the call from Jesus...

"Let us go across to the other side". Now most of those he was calling on assignment were fishermen. They knew this was not a business class flight across the pond. This was an evening's tough boating that lay ahead of them - even in the best of conditions, they would not get a good night's sleep. Jesus has such a way to challenge the things that we think we are entitled to.

leaving the crowd - it is often the case that the Jesus call is contrary to the way of the many, the popular way, the way most travelled. Obedience to Christ is not a once in a lifetime moment. It is a regular challenge as we are so vulnerable to popularity and applause. Therefore he has to position us perpetually to make decisions of followership over decisions of affirmation.

A great windstorm arose - when I think of wind I think of the Holy Spirit. When he comes, he comes to empower us on mission. This was a different wind. These were fishermen whom one assumes were not easily overwhelmed by storms. I wonder therefore if this was not the "anti-Holy Spirit " type storm. The enemy was seeking to destroy these disciples in death. Or if not destruction, then he would seek to create distrust in divine instruction. He put fear into their hearts. (How Jesus handles the storm seems to reiterate that it was not just "weather/weather" but "demonic weather")

The boat was already filling - dear reader, we know that chest beating anxiety that comes our way when we feel swamped, overwhelmed, out of our depth. We all know that complex confusion when we feel we are going down and yet all we have done is obey him! Pretty disorientating.

But he was in the stern, asleep - so Jesus was sleeping. Well we get a glimpse into his incarnation - fully man, tired, needing rest. We get a window into the freedom he had to rest while the others manned the boat. But we also know the deep frustration when we feel like Jesus is asleep on our watch. All around us, others are having their prayers answered, yet he is asleep on our petitions. Or is he...?

"Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" Jesus is not gentle, nursery-like in his response to his faltering disciples. This was a key moment in him preparing them for their global gospel assignments. They would face many more complex storms ahead of them (think of Peter in prison in Acts 12). This was not a moment to mollycoddle them with quiet, gentle dialogue. Their lives depended on him rebuking them, raising their understanding of his mission. Did he not say they would get to the other side? Did they not get there? They came to the other side... 

Faith is a big word, a huge conversation, a most essential action if we are to step into the boat of divine assignment. It is not just word and Spirit that we need. It is also not just conversion faith that is needed. The just shall live by faith! It is an ongoing, daily reality. It is the continuos present tense. It is now. It is today, even when we think he is asleep on our watch!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Activating God...Persistently

I love Jesus' narrative style teaching. It is such a cross cultural genius. It works everywhere, in every culture among every people group.

So he tells a story of a widow who goes to see a judge (Luke 18:1-8). Her persistence pursuance of the judge was a source of much irritation and frustration. One could imagine the judge simply wanting peace and the right to be left alone. But the widow would not. She "kept coming to him". He held his ground offering her little audience and certainly not action in response to her endless appeal.

Eventually however he relented. Her perpetual "bothering" him and fear that she would "eventually come and attack me", resulted in him giving her both an audience as well as a response.

Jesus immediately explains if a "unjust judge" grants justice, will not God bring "justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night"?

 The front end of this narrative tells us this was a story "Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up". The back end of the story reads "when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth".

Our theology fashions our behavior!

In our quest to build Word / Spirit churches, I am not hearing nearly enough about the power of faith in our God stories. Into the reformed subculture, an element of fatalism creeps in if we drift from faith and overly rely on our sovereignty theology. The call to strong sustained prayer, matched with growing faith is clear in this captivating little story.

I have been going through the whole of the New Testament and highlighted every time faith occurs in the text. It is invigorating and inspiring. It mobilizes and mesmerizes. It creates and catalyzes. Jesus tells us to persistent prayer matched with firing faith, moves the hand of the "unjust judge"...well what about the true, just judge?

The adventures that lie before us require growing, activating faith.  Lets see what that looks like...

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Stephen's announcement at the time of his martyrdom is profound. I guess one may speculate what one would say if facing death.

Stephen steps into the great Jewish narrative format as he leads his hearers along some of the high points of their redemptive history. The verse that caught my eye was "But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt..." Acts 17.

Holding that thought for the moment, I love the notion that a healthy church lives in the width and wonder of 3 SPACES.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth" Acts 1:8

1st Space - Jerusalem
That is the space where the local church fully embraces their mission and mandate to influence and impact their city. Beyond simply butts in chairs, the Jesus community seeks to let "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is is in heaven" Matt 6:10. This assignment given by Christ in the final hours of his life, requires faith-filled ownership to create a Christlike foot print in our cities.

2nd Space - Judea, Samaria
This second piece of the Christ adventure, is to reach into the "surrounding area, similar culture - surrounding area, different culture". Every Jesus church, is to step out of the boat of comfort and safety and embrace the privilege of kingdom advancing into these arenas. Whether it be social justice, multi-siting or church planting, we are called to find the grace that is ours to lovingly reach into the soul of these regions and peoples.

3rd Space - Ends of the Earth
Creating new gospel frontiers is still one of the most inspirational components of healthy church life. In a spirit of love and humility, we are to take this gospel to the furthest corners of the globe, invigorating our church communities in a unique way. Stepping outside of our culture and embracing the challenging notion of a global gospel, is so evident throughout the pages of the text.

How does this translate into our world?

1. Every church we work with, is responsible for their "Jerusalem". By serving, loving, caring, reaching, these communities find the mind of the Lord for the city they live and minister in - creating fresh, fun and faith-filled ways to shine the Christ light into a very dark and broken world.

2. For us the 2nd space is expressed in Genesis Collective. This is a group of friends who partner together as the relational vehicle that the Father has given us, to enlarge, empower, equip and encourage the churches in North America. I love these leaders and their churches. By swimming upstream, we are seeking to obey the text as we want to create Christlike communities that will authentically represent Him into the 21st Century.

3. The 3rd space is our collaboration with others to reach the uttermost parts of the world. We still believe that our relationships are enough to glue us together for this mammoth mountain to climb. Under the casual banner of Global Assignment, we are seeking to facilitate new gospel frontiers, help establish indigenous apostolic households in every region we are working in, planting churches into these new cultures, holding some training gatherings, to empower the churches we are partnering with.

Back to Stephen. I love him repeating the mantra of Genesis 1 - "increase, multiply, in Egypt". There the idea of the 3 Spaces is repeated. By increase we seek to reach our city. By multiplying we want to reach beyond our immediate world into a broader story. Through "Egypt", we are able to go to the uttermost, doing life with mates, as we just can't do it alone.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Activating God...really?

This is the first time in a year that I have blogged.

It has been a deep year. I am not sure how else to put it. I think the Father tucked me away in the shadows as he did some pretty weighty work in me. It was not an easy time but I trust the Father. I guess he knew what he was doing.  If he can still use an "old crusty" like me, then I am most certainly available.

This blog was actually born two years ago, this month. There is a story in the bible about the rabbi Jesus, his 12 apprentices, a fig tree and a mountain. It is a simple story, yet the more I reflected on it simplicity, the more captivating it became.

Amidst the many various ways one can teach this text, what if a major component looks like this: Jesus wants to eat from the fig tree, but there is no fruit. This is just too great a moment for him to teach his apprentices (I do like that word).

My read on this account (Matt 21:18 - 22; Mark 11:12 - 25) had an air of empowering faith... Don't keep looking for last season's fruit, it is done. It completed its assignment. Turn around, look at the mountain I am placing before you...and speak to it...nope don't look at it. Speak to it! "Have faith in God...speak to the mountain ...believe and forgive" Mark 11: 22 - 25.

That was the textual catapult that empowered Meryl and I to partner together to get her to complete her Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. That was her mountain. As a grandma who had not formally studied for 32 years, she went back to university. That is what she had to face and speak to every day. That was her mountain. That was where she had to lay her doubts and moments of vulnerability down. We kept saying to each other..."this was God's idea, so He will get you through"

It has been a journey of faith rediscovered. A deeper faith, a bigger mountain, a great challenge, but it was his idea.

This blog series will journey you through a review of the wonder and catalytic nature of faith. "The just shall live by faith" was not simply a reformational revelation. It is the daily reality of each Jesus follower, where the Father places us in assignments beyond our wildest dreams and natural abilities.