The Work of Death

God delights to meet with His people. Gathering, walking, talking, abiding in each other’s presence, this is the agenda and heart of God and all of His efforts ever since the beginning of time have been unto relationship, and since the fall, have been about restoring relationship.

Within the text of Genesis, right at the start in chapter three, we find God restoring dignity to mankind and covering over what had already been lost.

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21, is not just a nice little verse about the newest fashions of the day. It is about God interrupting created order for the sake of his children. God the creator of all things, the one who sustains all life, kills one of his creatures for the benefit and blessing and restored dignity of both Adam and Eve.

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Grace Says

Some years ago now the Lord entered me into a vision. I was standing on the threshold of the universe and before me was the vast expanse of eternity with the entire thing packed down running over with grace; a heady, sweet, thick fragrance of our Lord. And I was given a dipper and given the privilege of dipping of this grace and distributing it all around the world. Dipping and pouring out grace here, dipping and pouring out grace there, again and again and again.

In the time since I’ve come to learn that grace is the awareness and deep knowledge that God is big enough for every single thing in our lives. Meaning, there is nothing beyond his grace, nothing beyond his compassion, nothing beyond his knowing and understanding.

Now, grace is not a pardon or a pass per se, its not a concession and it carries no grief or guilt. It demands no reckoning for the reckoning has already been done in the work of Jesus Christ. It is complete and free for the taking.

Grace is a mighty, active, alive, vibrant, work of our Lord that does not just relieve us from sin but changes the entire way we see and do life.

Where before we may have been fearful, pinched in our expectations, narrow in our thinking, grace introduces us to the expansive thought, perspective and heart of our God.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

The entire first chapter of Isaiah is a litany of the abhorrent attitudes and useless sacrifices of the people. They were not a changed people. Sure they continued making sacrifices and bringing burnt offerings but they did not enter into the transformation of the Lord.

And as the Lord lays this disastrous way of being out for them, nearly right smack in the middle is this verse, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” 

God in active, passionate investment of his very self has taken care of the problem. The only thing we must do, is admit we need the help, that we need him.

Continuing to bring our sacrifices and our burnt offerings proves we do not yet know our Lord. For our Lord is grace.

Continuing to try to make things right, to prove up, to do better next time, proves we do not yet know our Lord.

For our Lord is grace.

Grace says, “Stop trying so hard. Repent yes, and then rest in my work done for you. I’ve taken care of the divide between us. Put down every single thing that you hold between yourself and me. Put down your shame. Put down your self hatreds. Put down your guilt. Put down your disqualifications. I have made it right, I have made us right. Enter into me.”

What is Prayer?

In our society that has become very spiritual it is easy to mistake warm fuzzy feelings with prayer. Most everyone I know will send up prayers for those in need. We are wired to do this and it is one way to express our emotions regarding the situations and circumstances of others.

Within this I’ve known people who genuinely believe that as they send warm thoughts to another that this will make a difference for the person. That somehow in our warm cozy north american beds that warm thoughts sent out into the universe will put an end to poverty or sexual trafficking or …

This kind of thinking and belief comes across as most ridiculous in the wake of enormous tragedy such as the recent typhoon in the Philippines, the tsunamis in Japan, and earthquakes in India, just to name a few. In the face of photographs that mark unimaginable catastrophe it seems ridiculous to me to read responses such as “I’m sending positive thoughts your way.”

Really?

Now, for myself and in the work that I do I am often telling people in very dire straights that I am praying for them. Sometimes I wonder how lame this must sound and feel. Sometimes, in light of the huge need, it feels that I am no different than these folks who send warm positive thoughts.

And yet I know it is different.

It is different because true prayer is grounded in a person. True prayer reckons on God who is bigger and mightier than us. Prayer that makes a difference acknowledges our own lack and the Lord’s own greatness. My warm fuzzy thoughts will not make a difference for anyone.

Prayer after all is hard work. I’m not so sure that positive thoughts are hard work unless one calls willful denial hard. For prayer doesn’t push away difficulty and pain and loss and grief but instead draws them into the heart and lays them before God.

Prayer isn’t about setting aside all potential negative results from our mind rather it is about entering into and bringing those very things into the throne room of heaven and advocating solutions and peace instead. Prayer is about agreeing with our Lord that the assignments unto death have no power any longer.

Sometimes its about speaking these things out, sometimes its about carrying these things in our being as though birthing a great desire. Prayer is participation in all that has gone wrong and in all that can be made right. Prayer doesn’t deny tragedy and it doesn’t deny goodness, it holds both firmly together and in that dichotomy of all that we know makes a space for God to work.

But unless we have agreed in our own personal lives to life instead of death, to God’s ways instead of Satan’s ways, unless we have come under the covering of the Lord Jesus Christ personally, it is pretty hard to advocate life for another if we’ve not even found it for ourselves.

It’s pretty hard to advocate peace for others until we’ve found it ourselves; pretty hard to declare solutions unless we know the solution maker. For belief isn’t just for belief sake. Belief is grounded in the person of Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the presence of our Holy Spirit.

Prayer here, in this context, is a powerful thing indeed.

It’s so much more than positive (may I say wishful) thinking.

Prayer after all isn’t about us. It’s not about how positive or sympathetic we can be.

Prayers that make a difference do so because they acknowledge the One who can make a difference.

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16b

Fasting Unto the Lord

P1290233 compressedThis is the fasting that God wants: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you.

Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.

Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.

Then you will call, the Lord will quickly answer, ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.

Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble.

Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.

The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.

You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.

Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.

Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.

Isaiah 58:6-12

Come and See

Jesus Christ SavesThis is a reminder to those living in the greater Vancouver area that tomorrow we are having our Capturing Courage Tea, Story & Prayer gathering.

At 2pm – 4pm, Sunday April 21st, we are gathering to share and pray for God’s heart around the world.

It’s been about six months since our last event, and there have been a lot of things going on in that time – Come and get caught up.

Our last few weeks at Capturing Courage have carried some sorrow and loss – Come and honor with us.

The investments are increasing, relationships are expanding, growth is slowly yet steadily taking hold – Come and celebrate with us.

A trip is in the wings, we are praying and planning – come and look ahead with us.

  • Sunday, April 21
  • 2-4 pm
  • 10082 160St
  • Surrey

“Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life could be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.” Mark 6:12-13 The Message – And the task we are about

A Gift of Contrition

P1340113 compressedGood Friday. A day of juxtapositions. A day of death and a day of hope. A day of torture and a day that frees our souls. A day of everything gone wrong and everything set right.

The gift of Good Friday is the gift of repentance.

A day that forever more opens up opportunity to put our lives out on the table, say it like it is, all the good the bad and the ugly, and find sweet relief.

It is a day that marks a new freedom to confess, to say ‘I did that’ and to be released.

Released from the guilt and the shame and regret. A day for new beginnings. Fresh starts.

We cannot talk about freedom until we have talked about repentance. For freedom only comes on the back-side of our admitting what has not gone so well; the back-side of our acknowledging where in fact it has gone very badly.

It is a crises of our psych’s to admit wrong-doing and less-than living. An incredibly vulnerable moment when we do not know if a sword will fall or a hand will be extended.

Before the cross, before the King of Kings, what is the verdict? In the deepest parts of our being our hearts are unsure.

It is only as we come with nothing left to lose that we find grace and mercy and freedom.

The blood of Jesus shed on Calvary truly washes away our sin.

We are new creatures. Fresh. Alive. Free.

We find upon repentance that Jesus has in fact already claimed 100% responsibility for your and my sin and all the resulting ramifications.

“You didn’t do that, I did” Jesus declares.

Bring to mind the worst thing you’ve ever done. It doesn’t have to be big, it may be very small, but it is that thing that won’t leave you. That act or word or decision that never leaves you. That haunts you day and night. That though you move forward in all of life that one thing feels like a mill-stone about your neck.

About that thing, Jesus declares, “You didn’t do that, I did. I’ve taken responsibility and though you cannot see it I am working behind the scenes of your life that all the ugly and the nasty might be leveled off and made smooth. Made right. You didn’t do that thing, I did.”

But of course, those denying and refusing to acknowledge whats gone wrong through them, will never receive this gift.

Life is for those who admit they are dying.

Denials of heart and mind are found in all walks and stations around the world. Some of the deepest denials are those of believers, those of Christians who’ve managed to live lives of restraint and caution and prudence, but cannot see their own hearts judgments and condemnations.

These are the worst sins of all. Believers impervious to saving grace.

Believers still counting on their good works and their prudent lives to save them. It doesn’t work this way.

At the cross we are all on level ground. Every single one of us. And where we are angry for the grace and mercy shown another, we will not receive it ourselves.

Think of the kind of person that offends you to your very core. Bring to mind the kinds of acts that disgust you. Imagine the depths of horrors perpetrated on innocents around the world.

And get it, that that one stands beside you at the cross. That one is right there, elbow to elbow with you. That one has access to the same grace that you have.

Two very different lives standing before the cross. One clean and unsmeared. The other filthy and degrading. Stand equal at the cross.

For those who’ve lived ‘good’ lives this should break us. We are no better. In fact, unless we can find the core of our sin we will be worse off.

For the cross is for those who repent. The gift is given only to the contrite.

“Jesus I come to you today with parts of my life deeply offensive to you. I am sorry. Today I give over my life and take on your life. You have shown us the way to God and I say thank-you. Please teach me how to live and in fact, I now depend on you to transform me from the inside out, something I’ve never been able to do myself. I welcome you Jesus into my life. Thank-you for loving me. Amen” 

Not in Vain

008 compressedAs we walk our journey’s with God we may at some time come to realize that we think of God the Father, or we feel a real relationship with Jesus yet hardly know the Holy Spirit.

Or we think much of the Holy Spirit and ignore Jesus and cannot stomach the Father. Others still find companionship with Jesus while others know God but outside the context of Christ.

Spiritual Authority is all about harnessing the fullness of God, the full spectrum of glory and directing it. Because this comes out of the context of relationship with God, how are we to do this if there is a part of God we are not familiar with or comfortable?

Unless with are in relationship with all of God, it begins to be a taking advantage of the power found in the Lord. This is the exact sin that the first of the Ten Commandments addresses, “Do not take the name of your Lord in vain.”

We surface skim this verse thinking it has to do with the words of our mouths. We apply it to swearing and yet the commandment is about something much deeper.

The context to which this commandment is speaking is the state where we see the power of God, recognize the amazing things in and through God and want that for ourselves yet without the relationship.

In the Old Testament when the Israelites settled in the promised land there were all sorts of other nations watching. If you remember, the Lord went before the Israelites. God was their might as they conquered and settled in the land.

They were a powerful force to be reckoned with, and the nations round about them recognized that it was due to the God of Heaven and Earth that they had that great power.

These other nations wanted that power for themselves. So they would ‘use the Lord’s name in vain’. They drew on the name of God yet without any relationship base by which to do so. Thus the ‘in vain’ reality of their words and the heart-sin of using God.

As believers we can come under this same judgment. We pray to Father God yet ignore Jesus Christ. We come under the influence of the Holy Spirit yet reject the admonitions of the Father. We stand solidly in Jesus Christ yet judge anything smacks of crazy Holy Spirit stuff.

Simply put, being divided does not work and in the end we may come to see that while we’ve been operating in the name of our Lord we actually never knew him or welcomed him.

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast our demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you ; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Matthew 7:22-23

The realization that we have been denying one part of God is a grand revelation, and maybe you are realizing today that there is a part of God that you are uncomfortable with and haven’t been too keen to fully accept.

As with all revelations this comes from the grace of God revealing to us the secrets of our hearts. In this we can know that God desires to open our hearts and minds to more of who he is and as we welcome all of who God is, we are truly equipped.

Engaging and welcoming all of who God is, entering into a relationship rather than scripts and formats is the only way to ensure that the authority by which we operate truly is of God.

God does not want to be taken advantage of any more than the rest of us.

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NOTE: This post is an excerpt of our Walking in Spiritual Authority course that we are beginning this Friday. The class is full (although we’ve tucked in a few more just today).

Please keep us in your prayers as we study Module One – The King’s Heart & Understanding Authority.

Mona Lisa

P1200321 compressedLike any great artist God has created the world we live in, all of nature and animals, the wonders of the deep, the beauty of the galaxies, and you and I.

All of it is magnificent. (and that is an understatement)

In the process of this artistry God poured all of his/her (God is both male and female, many languages have no personal pronouns designating gender, the English language is sadly constrained in this) into the masterpiece.

All of God’s goodness, all of his hopes and dreams, all of passion and ecstasy, all of dance and worship, all of grace and sufficiency, of wealth of soul and spirit, of rich relationships, community and communion has been poured into this Masterpiece.

The principles and the spiritual laws and the ways the universe works and holds together is based on who God is. Every single thing we can observe about nature and science reflects God.

Like any great art piece, if we look long enough and observed deep enough we would see the handiwork of the master. We would come to recognize the heart of the one who painted and sculpted and composed.

We spot a Monet and we know it is a Monet. We take in a Rembrandt and we know that it is a Rembrandt. Mozart is Mozart and Vivaldi is Vivaldi. Each artist has a unique style and heart and feel to their work.

So it is with God. We and this world are his living masterpiece. Invited to live out the masters heart in full color and joy and dance and satisfaction we are fashioned to give evidence of God.

But we have mucked with the masterpiece. We’ve not been respectful of the artist. Missing the heart of the artist, even in this world, can be easy to do. Many of the ‘great’ artists were not so great in their day. Only with time did the genius with which they create come to be truly appreciated.

The numerous and untold ways that we have mucked with God’s masterpiece range from violent acts against humanity all the way to the violent thoughts of our hearts. From overt acts to covert acts and to intentions of the heart we have been disrespectful of the Master Artist and his creation. From sins of commission to sins of omission to sins of the heart we have been exceptionally disrespectful.

Imagine if you will, that you are setting out a family dinner. It is summer, you are gathered outside. The sun is shining, the burgers are on the grill, the salads are plentiful, the sauces and chili and mustard and relish and ketchup are all at hand.

There are beverages, soda pop, beer, kool-aid, coffee, tea, wine, maybe even some homemade slushies.

It is going to be a great feast.

But before we all set down to eat, one of us pulls out a tablecloth (picnic tables need tablecloths after all). It is something that Uncle Ben* (not his real name) found.

It is the Mona Lisa. Imagine, if you will (and if it were really big enough for this) that we are using the Mona Lisa as our tablecloth.  Not knowing its value, not knowing its worth, ignorant of its beauty and importance we set our cups and plates and stemware and silverware on her.

We gather around. Henry is seated at her one shoulder, Joey is round the other side flanked by the toddlers. Grandpa Joe who likes to take his teeth out during dinner is at the head of the table. The baby in her highchair even has a place. With Martha on the corner, getting up and down to serve the food, that spot becomes the most frayed.

And every meal we gather and eat and laugh and make merry, and in it all, though we do not know it, we are profoundly and deeply offensive. Not because making merry is bad, but because we are making common what is in fact a masterpiece.

Picnics are fun, they are also messy. With glasses spilled, ketchup dropping, mustard staining, baby’s throwing up, with the sun beating down, with sudden windstorms and maybe even rain, with forks jammed through the cloth by bored teens and initials scratched in the surface by a love struck ones… with hot pots set on its surface, candle wax dropping, cream and sugar spilled, pepper smearing… there is profound disrespect for the artwork and for the artist.

We don’t even know what we are doing.

And this is exactly what we have done with God’s art work. We kill, we lie, we lust, we covet, we hate, we despise, we gossip, we destroy, our hearts become toxic, we come with hidden agenda’s, we reach across the table to fix another’s table manners only to spill our own drink … And we don’t really get what we are doing.

Like those picnicking on the Mona Lisa we have no clue. It is only by the grace of God that we come to any understanding at all. Our hearts cannot perceive it. We have sat at our Mona Lisa tablecloth for too long. The picnic has been had.

It is the gospel story what comes next. God in his heartbroken and battered state, with disillusionment and grief, with full knowledge of the loss rises up to fight for us and for creation, for beauty and restoration. God sends a part of himself to cover the damage.

Jesus spreads himself out as our tablecloth over that table. The Mona Lisa is still there, the damage has been done, but God rises above the hurt to say, “Never mind, I will take care of it.”

We must eat, we must gather as before, but this time, for those who are aware of the deep insult to the heart of God, we accept and receive Jesus as the covering. It is in him we eat.

Jesus spreads himself out, covering over the offense done, making a new way, carrying the stains and the smears and the messes of our ketchup and relish and mustard. He says, “I’ll be the tablecloth, I’ll cover over your offense, come, sit and eat.”

And in this grace, as we accept deep contrition into our beings, we find companionship and community around the table as before yet even better. For this time it is in respect and honor of our creator, of the Master Artist and of the masterpiece sitting next to us. We recognize that we’ve been spoiling a great work of art and we are sorry.

And God replies, “I know, I’ve got it covered.”

Capturing God’s Heart

Colossians 3-16Every month CAPTURING GOD’S HEART is sent direct to Indigenous Pastors and local Lay Leaders around the world.

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Bible Studies with basics of theology in topical form, GOD’S HEART is filling the void in Biblical Training for the many Pastors in rural areas, who simply have little to no access to Biblical Training.

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“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

Capturing God’s Heart – Our Journey – Volume 20

This journey of walking with God is not always smooth. We experience a lot of hurdles and bumps in the road.

There are times of confusion and disappointment. There are times of frustration and upset.

These are really normal. They are part of our experience as human beings.

Sometimes, especially when we are young in the Lord, we expect God to make everything great.

We think that if we walk with God then everything will go how we want it to go.

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Permission

096 compressedI am entering the new year somber and waiting. It does not feel all cheery and rose. I cannot shout Happy New Year for I want something much deeper than that.

The Lord has set up 2013 well for Capturing Courage. An agreement that would have bound us is broken – grieving has taken its place, and for all this I am deeply glad.

I see the working of the Lord on our behalf. It does not feel very nice, but it is oh so good.

And this is the dichotomy of our lives. Where it is not nice it is very good.

Where we come to the end of ourselves God steps in.

Where we can no longer see we gain vision from heaven.

Where our knowledge falls short we draw on his wisdom.

Glory be to God.

The end of ourselves is something for which we are naturally afraid. I run across this time and again as I journey others to freedom via prayer ministry. The cry of our natural heart is, “Who will I be if not with these bonds?”

We are deeply afraid. Every one of us.

The only solution is the presence of God. In God we have nothing to fear. In God we have everything to offer.

In God we can cast ourselves aside. The worries about today or tomorrow, the details of this and that, the upkeep of our lives ad nausea can be ours to carry, or we can offload them onto the Lord. The choice is ours.

The choice is always ours.

We think we must ask God permission. But he gave us all the permission we need at the time of conception. Just by being here you are called into something. By the act of God breathing breath into your frame you are allowed. You are allowed.

But because we are unsure of this, God asks our permission.

“May I bless you today?”

“Might you join me in this work?”

“I’d like to pour my love over you, what do you think?”

“Might you take hold of salvation today?”

And by our actions we either say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

The decisions we make determine our lives. The agreement with either heaven or hell determines our days.

Agree with hell and you get hell.

Agree with heaven and you get heaven.

God says, “I love you.” What might change in your life if you really believed this?

What shift would you make in 2013?

Give God permission this year to do something amazing in and through you.

Will it be nice, no not always by any means.

Will it be good, yes and always pressed down running over and amen.

Give God the permission.