Power of the Holy Spirit…

there’s a group of us that have been going through a discipleship curriculum called “sonship” by world harvest mission. one of the lessons calls us to share “justification by faith” with a non-believer. to do this takes courage. to do this also takes an understanding of our faith as christians. but more than these, to do this takes a dependency on the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do. i’ve stumbled and fumbled my way through sharing the gospel plenty of times and have a hard time communicating justification by faith without using the words “justification” or “faith.” what about you? do you ever feel ill-equipped or at a complete loss of words when you’re in a place to share your faith?

i believe that it’s in these moments that we’re supposed to move forward and depend on the Holy Spirit. i think that it has less to do with us than we think. i’ve seen and experienced people come to Christ through a fumbling and stumbling of words. and, i know that my revelation of God and Jesus Christ was not because someone convinced me, but because the Holy Spirit breathed life into me.

when will we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit? what will it take to let go of our limitations and press further into our life’s journey led by Jesus Christ? i’m not writing this as a criticism. i’m writing this to challenge myself and hopefully you to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit!!! let’s go… as Scripture says, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” and as it says in the next verse, i’m praying that he Lord of the harvest will send you and into “His” harvest field!!! (Matthew 9: 37-38)

Advertisements

A Posture of Openness…

I was thinking last night about how I approach scripture and God in prayer. I have so many questions about my life and am typically seeking answers. So, I open up my Bible in hopes to find some kind of wisdom for my circumstance/problem. Or I’ll ask God for clarity or help to see my plans through.

I started to wonder, however, if I’m coming at this from a wrong angle. What if I didn’t come in looking for answers to “my” questions or looking for clarity for “my” plans, but instead came in posture of openness and listened more broadly? What if I sought God to and allowed Him to really direct my steps and future instead of asking Him to bless what I bring before Him? I thought of how scary and yet how freeing it would be. It’s scary because I know it would stretch me, break me, and challenge me. It’s freeing because I wouldn’t be so locked into my plan and what I perceive to be “detours” would actually be “the” path…

I come today in a posture of openness…   

Biblical Time…

More than ever, I’ve been in conversations that have made me think of time from a biblical standpoint. We live in a world where we have weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. And, when something goes wrong or nothing goes on for a bit (like a week or two), we start to stress and worry if what we’re doing is making any difference.
The Bible, however, talks about generations and time spans years, seasons.  The one that sticks out the most is 40 years in a desert. I think about the plight of the Israelites in the desert and how I too would be grumbling and complaining after a few months of daily walking in the desert. Or how I might be tempted to melt some gold after a few decades.
I’m reminded of pace. I’m reminded that we must “daily” give our lives to the Lord and trust that the Holy Spirit will do the rest. I’m further reminded that faith is: “to be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1).

The Manna Project

Israel, Egypt, and the Exodus

Where we see ourselves…

The old testament is filled with story.  When we typically read any story, we find ourselves choosing a perspective.  This perspective is typically the one of the protagonist/hero or the victim/oppressed in need of saving.  Very rarely if at all do we read ourselves into the role of the antagonist/villain.

A call to repentance…

God poured out grace to Pharaoh.  He was allowed the opportunity to repent and free the Israelites.  His heart, however, grew harder and his stubbornness became impenetrable.  Egypt was an empire and Pharaoh was the center of its leadership, authority, and power.  Its economy demanded more so that it could consume more.  It was oppressive in nature because of the demands for excess.

The desert…

God calls us into the desert in order to simplify and purge out the strongholds that have become mini-gods in our lives.  It is a trying time that sometimes leads us to believe that God is absent more than He is present.  It’s a time where we feel displaced and unsure of our survivability.  We feel like we’re living backwards because we hold on to the belief that adding things to our lives creates our identity.  It is in the desert, however, where we learn to wholly depend on God and truly discover that He is all we need and the source of our true identity.

Manna…

God is our provider in every way.  When the Israelites were walking through the desert, they began to hunger and so God provided manna.  The caveat of manna was that you were only to collect what was needed for the day.  If they collected more (hoarding), it would mold.  Why would God do this?  Maybe the better question is “Why would we do this?” Hoard that is.  Maybe it’s because deep down they didn’t trust that God would provide for them day after day.  Deep down they weren’t sure about God.  Are we any different?

Present Day Significance…

We are facing one of the greatest economic crises in history.  We are a credit-based community and it has now reached a point where we are over leveraged and our debt must to be paid.

Who are we in the story?  Are we the Israelites in need of saving? Yes.  Are we the Egyptians who are held captive to a self-power driven, empire model of life? Yes.

In either role, we are a people being called to repent and a people called to the desert where we can once again learn that God is our sustenance.  We are to relearn discipleship – a genuine following of and trust in Jesus.

What will we do? Where do we begin?

I believe that we are to examine our lives and make some changes.  There needs to be an evaluation of our life that includes: what we buy, who we buy from, how much we consume, how much we give, etc…

We can begin by taking an inventory of our assets (money and goods).  And, as we pray, we can consider what we need and what is genuine excess in our lives.  This is not a “get rid of our junk” session. It’s a time to be honest with God and with ourselves about who and what we live for.

Next Step?

My conviction is that we are to take our excess and find some way to match it up with those who are in need.  There are still questions (i.e. how do we determine who is in need? Or how do we find those who are in need?) that are unanswered, but this is version 1.0 of this conviction that God has given me.  I share it with you for your feedback, your counsel, and potentially your support.

Worthless Religion…

as i’m continuing to study the book of james, i realize more and more the connection between what we believe and our day to day actions. james goes so far as to say that the lack of an outward expression of our faith makes our religion worthless!!! (1:26) in fact, we deceive ourselves if we think that don’t live what we believe. i was reading an excerpt from ReJesus where it talks about Shane Claiborne (author of The Irresistable Revolution) taking a survey of a group identifying themselves as “strong followers of Jesus” and asking them, “Did Jesus spend time with the poor?” 80% of the group replied “yes,” while 20% responded “no.” The more baffling and humbling statistic is when the same group was asked if “they spent time with the poor,” only 2% responded that they did. I think that James would call their religion useless. sounds harsh doesn’t it? but it’s truth. even if they were some of the nicest people on the planet, their lack of action makes their religion worth nothing at all.

so… what happens when we read the Bible? do we read it as if it were an entertainment magazine? do we read it to stimulate our minds? or do we know it as the breath of God that gives us life and directs our life? it makes all the difference in the world! it may be the difference between true religion and one that’s worthless. it may be the difference between life and death!

next week, i’m going to be sharing a new initiative that i’m starting over the summer called the “manna” project. if you have been reading my blog and are interested in being a part of changing your community and living our your faith, then stay tuned next week and please invite everyone you know to connect with me here!!! 🙂

how our dreams shape us…

i was reading joshua 1 last week where God tells Joshua that Moses is dead and he is now in charge and will lead the people into the promised land.  what kept sticking out to me was the fact that God tells Joshua to enter the land that God had promised them but to be, “strong and courageous.”  he says it three times in the first nine verses!  now, why would Joshua need to be strong and courageous if he was about to enter the “promised land?”  this was the cumlination right?  i mean, they had escaped Egypt, walked through the desert for 40 years so i figure the destination should be a walk in the park right?  NO!!!

as i read through this passage over and over again, i started to see how God was telling Joshua to be strong and courageous in keeping His word; making sure that he doesn’t stray from it at all.  he didn’t say, “be strong and courageous” and go and build up your army.  he calls Joshua to trust in Him and to keep His word. what does this have to do with entering into the promised land?  maybe more than we think…

maybe the pursuit of our dreams has just as much to do with our formation as it does with reaching the destination.  maybe our formation is the purpose for God even giving us the dream/destination in the first place.  maybe walking 40 years in the desert was preparing everyone to trust in God’s provision every day rather than reacting to the environment. He keeps saying that He’s with us and will never leave us or forsake us.  But do we “believe” Him?  Do we “trust” Him?  More often than not, we don’t.  We give in to our fear, the circumstance and believe what we see rather than what we hear from God.  So, maybe God is constantly working to transform our life so that we’re looking to Him rather than what lies before us. Our dreams, then, have just as much to do with changing us as they do with changing the world around us…

More Faith Please…

Faith is such an interesting thing.  We yearn for more of it and yet have a hard time when God starts to culitvate it in us.  I would pray the prayer, “increase my faith God!!!”  and for some odd, ironic reason, I think that life is supposed to get easier.  I’ll read more Scripture, pray more, share more and think that I’m growing in my faith, but am I really?  I’m growing in knowledge and maybe some wisdom, but I really am growing in my faith, I think that life is supposed to get really crazy.  I’m thinking that I’m going to have to face major pain and struggles and there find greater faith.  Isn’t it weird?  I think that we want more faith so that life can get easier.  I ask for it so that I can handle what comes my way.  But when I ask for more… life starts to get pretty dangerous, difficult, and crazy.

I’m a church planter (Convergence) in an urban context (Oakland) which completely doesn’t match up with my upbringing.  I moved my family out here to follow a calling on my life.  I’ve been living the last two years in absolute uncertainty and yet I’m growing in peace, I’m growing in faith, and I’m learning to trust in God.  So, my prayer to God for more faith is coming true.  It isn’t what I expected, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world…

can silence change the world???

we live in an age where efficiency and effectivity are the marks of success.  speed to delivery, visible change are all things that make me wonder sometimes if our spiritual activity changes anything.  i was reading some henri nouwen over the weekend and he talks about silent prayer and how silence actually changes us.  it was incredibly profound to think that God speaks to us in silence.  we’re constantly listening to a barrage of voices.  we listen to emails, txts, tweets, fb updates, websites, blogs, billboards, tv, movies, news, etc.  we’re bombarded by so much stuff that to sit in silence is outrageously difficult and painful.  there’s a detox or an “unplugging from the matrix” that is liberating and clarifying in so many ways.  i believe that by pursuing God in this venue that we ultimately change; thus, creating change in the world around us.  can silence change the world?  i believe it can.  as much as our productivity changes things, so can silence and the choice to stop and center ourselves on Christ.

i’m spending this week (passion week) in extended times of prayer (silence) and fasting.  as i enter into this week, i’m believing more and more that what we do in our spirit (spiritual disciplines) affects the world around us more than we recognize or choose to believe…

finding your voice… a thought on prayer

Praying Manas a pastor, one of the burdens of my heart is the prayer life of my church.  so, in an effort to grow in this area, i thought i would teach our core team this spiritual discipline over the course of four weeks.  when i began to think about how i would teach this, i had to ask myself an even more basic question: what would make me feel like my church was prayerful?  unpacking this quite a bit, i realized that deep inside, there’s a need for people to pray like me.  i wanted people to be eloquent (ok, i may not be that eloquent, but enough to pass in a group prayer), comfortable praying in public, and sharing their prayers.  but, is this what it’s about?  i thought about my own journey and remembered a season when i wanted to listen and hear God.  I remember being at a prayer retreat trying to listen to God when a 1st generation korean woman (these women are true prayer warriors) came up behind me and told me that i needed to start praying.  i thought in my head, “but i’m listening for God.”  she kept pounding my back and egging me on to pray.  so, in a moment of frustration, i shout out, “God, IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME???!!!  IS SHOUTING OUT TO YOU WHAT MAKES MY PRAYERS EFFECTIVE???!!!  IS THIS WHAT MATTERS MOST???!!! THEN I’M TRULY LOST!!!”  the woman looked at me said, “good…  keep going…”  i felt completely empty at that moment.

i realized that we enter into prayer in different seasons of life and in different ways because we’re in different places in our faith journey.  i realized that we have different needs, different backgrounds, and different degrees of education.  so would we or should we all pray the same?  maybe as a leader, pastor, and teacher i’m called to help people find their voice in prayer.  maybe i’m more of a barrier breaker than a method maker.  maybe we’d all be more honest in prayer if it reflected who we are… have you found your voice?