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Posts Tagged ‘Restore Church’

fruits and veggiesThe roots of the Daniel Fast come from this portion of the book of Daniel who circumvented the commands of King Jehoiakim of Babylon, who conscripted several bright men from the Israelites to be trained and to serve in the king’s palace. But part of their training was to eat and drink from the royal food (something most people would jump at the chance to do — something like being invited to the White House to eat 3 squares for 3 years]. But Daniel considered the food of Babylonia defiled and came up with a test:

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. [Daniel 1:11-16, NIV]

So, a few of us at Restore Church  will be working a modern day interpretation of this fast for 21 days. Susan Gregory wrote a book about the fast and has promoted it around the country since 2007. It’s actually a “partial fast” which means that we will only be fasting from certain foods and not others. In this case, we will be abstaining from all meats, fish, dairy, coffee and carbonated drinks. The Daniel Fast website has a complete food list.

The first question everyone asks is why? It’s a good and valid question. Personally, I have done a pretty good amount of fasting, at least once a year. But in all of those cases, I have done a complete fast, finding the partial fast too difficult. But I am drawn this time to the regimen and sharing the experience with others. During this time, I will continue to add my other Lenten practices. Basically, I’m curious. And there are health reasons too. I am testing these waters as well. Will I feel better?

There will be more food preparation and in some ways, I worry a bit about the time involved, something that full fasting releases me from having to think about. Nonetheless, I am forging ahead. And perhaps, there will be a mind-body-spirit integration that I could not have predicted.

Day one begins March 6.

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wake up 2I was so proud of myself a couple of months ago. I set myself a goal to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every day (even non-work days) and I did it. Someone asked me why I bothered with this exercise and I explained that I was trying to find another hour in my day. But the part I didn’t understand then (which I learned this week from Pastor Jess) was that I didn’t use that extra hour to wake up the second time.

The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. [Romans 13:11b-12, NIV]

Beginning today, we are entering a time of year called Advent, a time of waiting for the arrival of Christmas, the time the Church has designated to celebrate the birth of Christ, our long-awaited Messiah. Advent (and Christmas, for that matter) is a purely man-made time of year and yet, I’m glad of it. I need to direct some energy and preparation to my spiritual awakening. That is what the Christ was all about, that is why Jesus came into the world, to wake us all up.

But there is a challenge for believers to see past the tinsel and the commercialism and the anxious Martha-type shopping and planning. After all, families will gather and great amounts of food will be eaten and gifts will be collected and distributed (some well chosen and others not so much). It’s not that such things are inherently bad at all. It’s just that we need to balance these external activities with some inward contemplation. If we don’t . . . if I don’t, then I will make the same mistake I made two months ago and miss the point.

Sometimes it’s more than just busy-ness that overtakes us. For those who have little money, it’s a heartbreaking time in which blinders and dark glasses are a necessity to shut out the cacophony of the marketplace: “buy, buy, buy” or “lay-it-away” or “charge it.” Every sign and commercial is telling people what they want, whether they want it or not. And soon, everyone groans under the weight of wishes and wants they cannot have or cannot afford. Our eyes are not open; not the eyes that count.

Open your eyes 1It is for this second awakening that I want to engage our hearts and minds during this season. Pastor Jess talked about the ever-present armies of God surrounding us and our circumstances (see II Kings 6:15-17). Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see them, to actually see through and beyond the enemy soldiers camped nearby. So it must be with our Christmas season.

We must wake up and look beyond and through the difficulties, the depression, the expectations, the clamor, and the demands of others and focus on the coming (and present) Christ, whose birth we celebrate.

How often do mothers post their birthday wishes to their children and include a picture of the child when he or she was just a baby or toddler? Those were the innocent times, the days and weeks and months when the future was unknown and the child had a world to explore. Jesus came into the creation just so.

Come with me on this Advent journey. We will wait together and prepare and when we come to that day, we will see the light that broke through the darkness.

Just give a little time to your inner life. That’s all it takes to wake up again.

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me and me and meRomans 8:7-8 says this, “So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t. People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God.” [CEB] And never once did I think of selfishness as being offensive; I just thought being self-centered wasn’t “nice.” I suppose another reason I missed this truth is the translations I’ve used over the years where the phrase “living in the flesh” was used. I allowed that to mean a carnal life and I figured I had that one pretty much under control.

But no. I have fooled myself into a comfort zone.

Selfishness, self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and narcissism, they are all threats to the free-flowing of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I am also living in the age and culture of the “self” and the “selfie.” [Our pastor is starting a series at Restore Church called Me, Myself & Selfie, this weekend — that’s no accident either.]  And worse, when I’m in that selfish place, I am actually preventing myself from entering into the secret places of God. I am putting up my own roadblock. I am shooting myself in the foot, as the saying goes.

None of us likes to take the blame for things that happen. It’s simply no fun to make mistakes and then own up to them. But I’m thinking this is a big one.

There are a few simple test questions for this: Do I think about the other person first before I act or speak? Do I register my thoughts within, with the Spirit before I indulge them further? Do I choose consciously or am I living out of a habit of selfishness?

I’m going to take this quiz today.

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trustThe truth about trust is tricky. I mean, I have struggled with trust all my life. Sure, betrayal is a stumbling block to trust. But personal strength and intelligence can get in the way too. My mother taught me all the ways to combat trust: self-sufficiency, stick-to-it-tiveness, if you want it done right do it yourself, and so on. Trust requires a perpetual surrender.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence.” [Proverbs 3:5, CEB]

On Sunday, Pastor Jess Bousa, taught the message this way: to recognize the sovereignty of God, we must acknowledge God’s control of situations when things are “bad” and not just when things are going swell. After all, it’s easy to trust God when life is moving along sweetly and securely. It’s the tough times that call on the truth of our trust and faith in this One God.

One of his examples was II Kings 6:15 – 17, when Elisha’s servant feared the encampment of the vast army of the Arameans out to destroy the prophet. But Elisha could see what his servant could not, God’s army that encircled them all: the “second circle” that is God’s domain. This is the circle where trust is engaged. This is the circle where God operates, the bigger arena where our human strengths are worthless, where our intelligence can no longer figure things out, where our manipulations no longer have impact. Trust happens there.

Elisha prayed that God would open his servant’s eyes to see that second circle.

I pray the same. For me.

And yet, I must remember this, unless I go through the chaos and clatter of life’s challenges, I will never get to see God’s power in my life. It’s a paradox of faith. I surrender this day. I must. I will to do it.

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the tenWhat is your take-away in the negotiation between Abraham and the 3 “angels” about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Abraham: Please don’t be angry, Lord, at my boldness. Let me ask this just once more: suppose only ten [righteous people] are found?
Eternal One: For the sake of only ten [righteous people], I still will not destroy it [the city]. [Genesis 18:32, The Voice]

And there it is, the ultimate question and answer, “Will God sweet away the righteous with the wicked?” Those who study the end times have all kinds of scenarios about the final destruction, the great apocalypse. But in the end, don’t we really wonder, would God cast all away in one full sweep? Abraham wondered the same thing.

The answer was that God would save the city for the sake of the ten . . . but ten could not be found.

Ten could not be found.

How many are enough to save the Earth? or our nation? or continent? Will God stay the hand of destruction for the sake of the beloved? Am I one? Am I enough to make a difference in my world’s fate?

followershipToday, at our church’s “Code Red Revival,” the last of our guest speakers [Daniel McNaughton, from his book, Learning to Follow Jesus] laid out a clear context in which any believer must be operating in the world:

  • Learn to be with Jesus (like any mentor and mentee relationship, you must hang out together).
  • Learn to listen (it takes practice to hear God and there are many places where that can happen: in a large group like a church setting; in a small group like a bible study or micro-church; in a one-on-one relationship with another person; or simply alone with God).
  • Learn to heal (for this is modeled by the Christ and healing is promised, whether physical-mental-relational).
  • Learn to influence (being the salt of the earth or light in a dark place).
  • Learn to love (for God is love and until we step toward people in love, even those we “hate,” nothing changes).
  • Learn to pray (it is a dialogue built on respect and trust in which we can intersect with the divine).
  • Learn to manage God’s resources (work with the gifts we are given, now and along the way).

This is how we can  be one of the ten or twenty or 10,000. Thanks be to God.

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ImpossibleIt’s been the word of the season at Restore Church this year: impossible. And it’s a word that all believers must hear, should hear, need to hear and understand. This word is about us today and our faith. This word is about the extent to which God will do something from nothing. Thanks Pastor Jess Bousa for this word, now illuminated.

It sounds impossible, but listen—you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So the impossible is possible with God. [Luke 1:36-37, The Voice]

The concept is a simple one, that the impossible cannot be expected: it is a miracle after all. And yet these miracles are among us every day but we fail to give them their due. Isn’t it a miracle that a man, like Jess, could be transformed from full-blown drug addict to pastor of a thriving church? Or that I, a self-indulgent, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed actress wannabe could become a follower of the Christ? Or that my children, all adopted, would be “the ones” out of a million orphans to come into our family? All of our lives are filled with the miracles of impossible when God takes the raw material of “nothing” and makes something. Whether one sees the Genesis story as word for word real or symbolic, the message is the same: Creator God is a Maker God, who uses building blocks that none of us can really fathom. Something from nothing. Possible from impossible.

In Greek, impossible is adynateō with meanings that bridge the distance between weakness, inability, and powerlessness to the bottom line: it cannot be done. And God asks me, when will I see and understand the adynateō in myself? Not weakness in what I want to do, my dreams and ambitions. No. This is the weakness in the face of what God wants to do. In Corinthians 12:9, God speaks through Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God is talking about the God Plan in Paul’s life and ultimately, in my life too.

God’s power manifests in doing God’s plan. 

impossible triangleOh, silly me. I have missed this obvious all along. I keep trying to get the blessing (and success) for my ideas, my plans, my ambitions, my projects. But there has been little room in my masterminding for the impossible, the unexpected, the miracles of God.

How many sermons and teachings have we heard about knowing God’s will for our lives, as though we might be able to figure out the impossible?

This is the only time I can truly say that the cliche, “whatever,” used by teens for the last decade or so, is truly the correct word in this situation. Our surrender to God is a “whatever.” That is, whatever God wants to do, whatever the Holy Spirit wants to manifest, whatever is possible in God’s cosmos, I choose to embrace today.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am sure this is not a passivity where we simply lie down on a bed and wait for a miracle. If anything, it’s a reckless abandonment of my narrow views in favor of the expansive potentialities of God.

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Hope Floats by Lori McNee

Hope Floats by Lori McNee

For the first Sunday of Advent, churches all over the world are lighting a single candle and speaking of HOPE: essentially the hope is of Christ whose coming has been promised and whose coming, we know, did happen. But then, if that Christ came, what is our hope today? Merely for His coming again or something else?

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? Romans 8:24 [NIV]

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”– Isaiah 7:14). Matthew 1:23

Today and tonight, our church also began this Advent season with a cry for hope but with much more power. Jess Bousa announced “It is time for us to stop thinking of the Christmas story as a baby shower.” Yes, it’s sweet that Jesus is depicted as coming among the poor, entertained by mild cows and sheep, and witnessed by the outcast shepherds of the day. But what of the other point? That God sent Spirit into a human woman to create a Savior, someone who could both live and die for us, fully human and fully God, sacrificing all, in order to deposit the Holy Spirit into each one of us : Emmanuel, God with us (in us).

So, if we have Emmanuel. Tonight, one of our worship leaders, Dale Woodring, shared: “If we have Christmas inside us every day and every month, then there is no need to fear holiday commercialism or misplaced focus, God is bigger than all that. God is not worried about the point of Christmas being missed because we have Emmanuel inside of us.”

We don’t have to hope for Emmanuel, if we have accepted the truth of the work of Christ to re-establish our relationship with God, then the Spirit is within us.

So, what dHopeo we hope for? Manifestation of Emmanuel in us. We hope for an explosion of a unified Spirit in humans, the ultimate human who lives and breathes and walks in the power of grace and mercy and love, fully trusting the Presence within, accepting the ongoing paradox of a life in Christ, for to live, truly live, is Christ [Philippians 1:21].

Hope is a word of confidence, an expectation of a good result, with or without evidence, hope remains. Hope is active, not passive. Hope can be regenerated. Hope loves. Hope sees. Hope is born in Emmanuel.

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