#wcaacc: Prepartion thoughts- The Basics

The basics, two simple words that are often spoken with
disdain. We do not like thinking about the basics. Yet everything has a
foundation. There is no success for moving ahead without a focus on the
foundation.  It is the basics that serve
as the starting point.  It is easy to
lose track of basics and get too caught up in the subtle details that add to
the complexity. It always comes back to the basics.

For me today is a day of re-establishing the basics. Today
is a day to be grounded in who God is, who he made me to be, and how He wants
me to touch others. In this post want to just touch on a basic thought
regarding God, myself, and others.

The essential element here regarding the Basics of God is He
is my King and He is the creator. It is He who I serve.  I entered His Kingdom through the gate He
provided, Jesus. It is through Jesus that God is with me every day. It is by
accepting what God did and giving up of my self that enables me to be a member
of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom is not of this world. At the basic level though I
serve God because what He did to set me free from my own selfish ways.

Regarding myself, it comes down to who God created me to
be.  At the heart, God made me one who is
able to touch others and help them be restored to what God created them to be.
My words, actions, and deeds are directed at building up into wholeness. The
only true wholeness is found in right relationship to the creator.  Now there is still work to be done in my life
to be more in line with who God created me to be. I have sins, hurts, fears,
and failures that keep more from being wholly at peace. Straying from God’s path
or embracing that which distracts happens all too easy.  At the basic level, as a Man of God, a member
of His Kingdom. He calls me to walk in ways bringing Him honor through engaging
in trusting and obeying . He calls me to worship in spirit and truth. He calls
me to work out my salvation and be awake and alert as walk in endurance the
path before me.  That path involves
bringing others to His peace.  At the
basic core I am a man who honors God and walks a path that brings others to
peace.

Finally, my thought go to the basics about others.
Everywhere there are people hurting. Each person has areas that they are not
whole.  We all need walking in greater
surrender. Each person around us needs a touch of God’s love. We all live in the
twisted and fallen world with the consequences of sin. We all have been hurt
and all hurt others.  We live in a twist,
broken, and fallen world.  Everyone needs
love.  Each of us also readily fall prey
to pride, unbelief, and selfishness.  We
each readily embrace the lust of flesh, lust of eyes, and pride of life.  And sadly, at the basic level, most will be
unwilling to surrender to God. Most will stay locked in darkness. Yet, even
with that fact, our encounters with others need to treat them as someone that is
redeemable. Someone that can be found. For each of us has no idea what word or
deed will impact another to set them free toward the path of wholeness. It is
God who knows the end, our responsibility is to love others. Everyone needs a
touch of God’s love. Our walk each day needs to be centered on that thought.
How is what I am doing demonstrating love.

In closing, take time to think, remember, and reflect on the
basics.  What is God in your life and who
is He. What does He want you to know and remember today. Then think about who
God created you to be.  Are you walking
the path or strayed. What is getting in the way?  Are you too caught up in examining the areas
of depth that forget to stay true to the basics?   After those thoughts then take time to think
about your interactions with others.  Am
I filled with anger and upset with others who wrong me?  Am I focused on the pain cause by others that
I forget the good?  Am I loving others in
word and deed. Am I interacting with others with love and truth?   Take time to reflect on those questions or
any other that God brings to mind. Or just simply ask God to show you what
basics you need to review and renew awareness of in your life.  Taking time to do so will in turn bring you
perspective that will bring you in align with God’s path of wholeness in your
life. Take these steps, and then rejoice and celebrate for in this is the way
of God’s peace.

Holy Week Musing: Preparation on the Path of Submission

Yesterday, my thoughts went to the confusion of those around Jesus as the event s of Holy Work enfolded leading to Jesus dying on the cross as payment for our sins.  He followed the path, step by step, surrendered to the Father’s will.  As already stated, to everyone but Jesus there was great confusion. However, God was working out His plan.  Prior to Jerusalem, and every step up to Passover and the betrayal the wheels were in motion.  Everything was falling into place.  Jesus with every action was preparing both His self and His disciples for what He knew was to come.  God prompted people to provide what was needed, from the colt, to the upper room and so on, God prepared and wheels were in motion.  God was at work, but it was not always recognized, expect by Jesus, who knew what was to occur. 

This is often the way in this life.  We do not recognize at the time what God is doing and how He is working.  How God set in motions things for Him to use us to carry out His plan.  Every day this is true, and when we walk and follow in submission to God’s plan, God works so that He is glorified and we are brought to further growth.  In this, we always have a choice.  Jesus at any moment could have turned away.  Every fiber of Jesus humanity wanted to turn from God’s way, to not take the cup of the suffering.  Yet, He maintained faithful. He resisted to the point of sweating blood.  It was not His divinity that enabled that, but His being dedicated to always do the Father’s will, whatever the cost, for God’s will and plan was the right way, there was no other that could redeem the fallen state of creation.  

So the question is for each of us, what do we do as we go along our varied paths in life, do we remain faithful, or to do me make the self-focused choices like Judas?  Each step on the path is another choice; choice upon choice upon choice.  And in the ever enfolding choices, when we follow God’s way, He prepares the steps before us, even when all appearances suggest otherwise.  And when we falter and stray, there is always the means to return, and God can and will meet us wherever we are at.

Sadly, we often miss what God is doing. Sometimes we learn what God intended after the fact, sometimes we just don’t “get it.”  Yet, God is who He is. He is the same God worked to ensure all that as needed was provided as Jesus approached the climax of the cross.  God worked the ways of death to bring life.  The reason being because of love, so that what was twisted can be restored and God’s love be made evident to all.  Yet, given all the God did through Jesus, we all still miss it. We all don’t get it.  For there is no words of man able to describe the height, depth, length, and width of God’s love and ways, for we cannot comprehend.  Yet, even in our not “getting it” God has, is, and will prepare us.  God not only is patient, but delights in preparing us and surprising us in ways of revealing His love that are beyond anything we could imagine.  He revealed His love in Jesus, in the events of Holy Week, and His working things  so that everything that was needed was provided, even if it made no sense. 

For all of this, the Holy week, the expectations, the confusion, the preparation, and so on all took place to reveal God’s passion for us, His deep and abiding love.  For while we are yet sinners, he took the initiative to suffer and die, so that all who respond and not reject God’s initiation, may be made right and free from the wrath that  a loving and Holy God has to carry out. 

In thinking about all of this, no that no matter where you are in life, God is still loving and initiating and active. God always is ahead of us. He knows us intimately. He knows the deepest pain, know why we make the choices we make.   He loves, and He prepares.  Even when we choose unfaithfulness, God is there, loving and working things to the good for those of us that love Him.   Without that love, without God active in our lives, there is no hope, and only survive.  Holy week, the cross, the tomb all demonstrate the reason for Hope, for God gave all He could so the way could be made for all. This way is found in Jesus alone, for there is no other that suffices.  God has, is, and will provide and prepare as we follow the path of surrender to Jesus and respond to Him with our love and submission. His love dictates no other way.

Passion Week Musings: The Last Passover Supper

After the Olivet discourse the events documented in the Gospel’s really focuses on events of preparation leading up to the Last Supper which was a Passover meal.   Prior to that meal there are two other significant documented events.  Jesus was anointed with perfume by some woman, which Jesus described as his being prepared for burial.  During this same time the other event described in the Gospels is Judas making a deal with the religious leaders to betray Jesus.   Up until the last Supper all the tensions were mounting and the crescendo was building.   As Jesus spent time preparing both himself and his disciples for what is coming there had to be an emotional storm building in Jesus.  The anticipation of what was to come had to far more intense than anything any of us have gone through.  Tomorrows post on the Garden will touch a bit more on the emotions of Jesus.  Here the focus is really about the preparation and Jesus pointing ahead and trying to prepare his disciples for what is to come while the pieces were moving and being set into play.  Jesus focus during that last Passover supper was all on what is to come.

After all the pieces were in place, Jesus and the disciples had the Passover meal and celebration. Now if the reader is not aware, the Passover points to the night Israel was delivered from Egypt with the tenth plague, the death of the 1st born males in Egypt.  There was instruction to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on the doorpost, resulting in being spared having the first born killed.   The Passover meal reminds us of sin and bondage and points to God’s once and for all sacrifice in Jesus.  Jesus declared himself the “Afikomen” when he directed his disciples to eat the bread. He declared himself “salvation” when he drank the third cup.  He really told the disciples about what was coming and it would be for salvation.   Jesus also spent time giving the disciples words to remember and a significant object lesson of serving and loving one another.  His actions were all about preparing the disciples for what was ahead, even though he knew they did not understand that they could not possibly understand. When Judas left the meal, after likely dipping the parsley at the same time as Jesus and announced as a betrayer, imagine the confusion and shocked the disciples experienced.  I can imagine the indignation the disciples felt as they were told that they would all falter.  Imagine after the resurrection, the disciples talking and discussion the events of the Last Passover Supper with a new grasp and understanding that had failed them in the midst.  The point that really hits home today thinking about this, is the Jesus and the Father both spent a lot of time preparing the disciples and those around for the events that were to unfold.  The essential point here is God does prepare us for what is ahead. 

Now our being prepared is not something that we are fully aware of at the time.  We like the disciples may be confused and lost in the midst.  We wonder the who, what, when, where, and whys of things we do not grasp. Yet, God does go before us and prepare us. God is in control.  Sometimes many pieces come into play that converge, but God is not caught off guard or surprised by anything and he gives us what He knows we need, which is often different than what we think we need.  Jesus spent personal time with his disciples during an important and meaningful time to prepare them for what is to come.  As what was to come in the next few days was an apex of darkness before the point of victory occurred.  The time leading up to the Last Passover supper was all about preparation,  it was the “middle” part of the story that at the time seems insignificant and can even get  bogged down but really is the essential time as it was the time the pieces moved into place, the character moments established that build to the climax, which in the cause were the death and resurrection to come. 

In this day and age, when pieces and events seem to be moving us ever closer to the second coming, it is important to know that God has us undergoing times of preparation. Whatever we are doing and going through, it really serves to build us up and prepare us for what is yet to come.  God is working in each of our lives to give us the teaching, training, and growth needed for what is yet to come.   Each day is a day closer to Jesus return.  Just like the cross, the moment of victory will be preceded by a time of great darkness and the appearance of victorious darkness. Yet, Jesus is coming and Victory is assured.  God has prepared us for what is ahead and will go before us and lead the way.  We just need to stay the course, be sober, be alert, and remain awake.  God is and will test all claiming to be in the faith. Lines are being drawn, pieces are moving, and we are nearing the end.  It is both a terrible and glorious day.  But worry and fear not, because it is God that prepares our hearts and minds, it is he that enables us to stand firm.  Just seek and pursue truly loving God and others, walk the path God directs and points you and trust that God will prepare you for what is ahead.

The four elements of effective preparation

Preparation: A word that really describes my current life phase as well as the phase that New Joy Church is in. Preparation is what occurs in the spring to get fields ready for planting and harvest. If you think about the steps to preparing a field there are really four key elements: cleansing, nourishment, establishing structures, and initiating engagement. Let us take a brief look at the purpose of each element in making preparation.

Cleansing: This is really about getting rid of the old and the garbage. It is about dealing with the debris of both the good and the bad. It can even involve making decision of what can stay and what can go. For example, sometimes there is tilling of old plants remains into the soil. However, if the old remains have bugs and insects or other problems it can damage the whole field. It is a necessity to sort out what is helpful and useful. In the same way, when in a time of preparation, we need to sort through our lives and separate what is useful and beneficial from that which can be harmful. Another part of cleaning is refreshing the tools, bringing anything in disrepair back to functioning. Some things are beyond repair though and need discarding. There are also often things that happened over the course of the year that caused damage that result in needed removal and repair. Really, the actions of cleansing encompass sorting, repairing, and removing that which remains from the previous year. When in a time of preparation we need to take same attitude in our lives and spend time sorting, repairing, and removing in relation to whatever is undergoing a season of preparation. We need to figure out what is helpful for the next season and what is not. We need to fix what is broken. We need to remove that which is not helpful or useful for the season ahead. The way those activities vary in terms of what it looks like but the actions are essential to preparation.

Nourishment: In Spring, tasks involved are adding both fertilizer and amendments to a field. It is essentially preparing the soil with the proper nutrients to be yield a successful harvest. When in a season of preparation time needs to focus on that which builds up and nourished. In the Christian life, nourishment comes from aspects of living as a disciple. They include studying and meditating on God’s word, time in prayer, and time in fellowship with other believers. If you lack nourishment, a fruitful harvest is unlikely.

Establishing Structure: This element relates to things such as tilling the fields and setting into place any needed support structure needed. In order to establish the appropriate structures and prepare the field adequately a plan and a vision needs to be established which can establish the direction. A productive harvest comes from planful preparation that includes establishing the appropriate structure. So when in a phase of preparation there is need to identify the vision and begin setting the proper structures in place. In each instance that will look different, but the element is the same.

Initiating Engagement: Everything a season of preparation is about culminates in initiating engagement. Another description of this element is the common concept of sowing seeds. It is the last step of preparation and is about planting the seeds identify in accordance with the prepared fields in accordance with the set structures. It is very easy to focus on where to sow seeds and the potential harvest. It is even easy to get lost in trying to make sure all resources are in place to handle the hoped for harvest. Focusing on these things ahead can easily distract from the work of preparation needed in the moment. It is taking an active step and engaging in dispersing and setting into motion that which can bring forth life and harvest.

Now regardless of whether efficacy of each step of preparation, any harvest is dependent upon the Creator, the master of the universe. Any good harvest is cooperation between man and God. Without that dynamic relationship, a person can prepare for a harvest that does not fit the conditions or climate. Ultimately, God allows and brings forth any good harvest. Our steps of preparation are getting ready to respond and be in line with what God will do. If out of alignment, the harvest is doomed. Falter in preparation or take short cuts and the harvest is flowed. God will bring forth what He will bring forth out of obedient response and preparation to His leading.

The Lion roared: A vision given to Kris Blake

My mother is involved in a home fellowship that has a weekly Eucharist service. She received the following vision during one of those recent services.

The Lion of Judah roars

The Lion of Judah roars

The Lion roared

As given to Kris Blake

Tonight during the Eucharist service I looked out the window and saw the branch of a big tree through the chapel window. There is a cross that hangs down into the chapel window. When I looked through the window the cross appeared right in the middle of the branches outside of the window. In my vision the tree was in a fresh green field of grass next to a creek. At the base of the tree was a lion lying down, and he appeared to be relaxed and calm. I saw a white horse and he was eating grass, drinking water from the creek, and meandering around the field. In the branches of the tree different varieties of birds came and landed and began building their nests. The birds ate and were nourished by the fruit that grew in the tree, drank the water and raised their young. The birds, the horse, and the lion seemed to be content in the rhythm of their lives. Each morning the sun rose over them and they attended their daily chores, and at night under the light of the moon they rested. Then rather abruptly one morning the lion got up and began pacing around the tree and suddenly he began to roar. As he roared, his eyes were like burning coals, and flames of fire came out of this mouth and he began to trot out of the field. The birds grabbed seeds and flew off with them in their beaks, and then the horse stood still for a moment and he looked at the lion, then his nostrils flared, his ears came up and he turned around and jumped over the creek and proceeded to trot off in the same direction as the lion and birds. They had heard the trumpet, the time had come to prepare for the final act, the curtain is about to fall.

Learning from Jesus Response to the Suffering of Passion Week

After posting an article on Good Friday  about the emotional suffering Jesus encountered during Passion Week, time was spent considering how Jesus responded to the suffering.  Jesus suffered completely.  The emotional and physical suffering was immense.  He also endured spiritual suffering by the Father turning His back and Jesus facing the subsequent separation and death.  Jesus faced the totality of suffering.  Now there is no specific formula one can take from Jesus response, but certainly we can learn what can help us in times of trouble.  So first we will look at how Jesus responded and then consider what we can learn for approaching suffering in our own lives.

 

The first noticeable way that Jesus responded is that He prepared and taught preparation.  Jesus spent the last supper giving lessons so the disciples would know what is ahead and instructed them how to prepare.  The preparation was real basic; to seek God in prayer and engage in surrender to God’s will.  Jesus spent an agonizing night in the Garden of Gethsemane praying in preparation. Multiple times he awakened his disciples, informing them of the need to pray to prepare for what is ahead.

 

After praying, the next thing that Jesus did was go through the suffering and the path set before him.  He did not retreat or attack, but stayed true to God’s will and the path set before, in spite of all the suffering that was to come and during each step along the way.  He was able to keep to the path, because He knew what God’s will was and the reasons for his suffering.  He knew that the suffering was necessary but temporary.

 

Jesus also remained faithful. He faced every temptation to respond with anger, aggression, self-defense, or any other ways of protecting self.  Instead of self-protecting, Jesus spoke only when needed in order to speak the truth. He did not defend, simply walked the course as the events played out before him.

 

            The last main response of Jesus to comment on is that Jesus always loved others throughout the process. He never treated Judas or Peter with disdain. He warned Peter and gave him direction.  He forgave those participating in his humiliation, torture, and crucifixion.  He even from the cross directed John to take care of his mother.

 

           So the question is what can we learn from how Jesus responded?  Jesus was God after all, how can we even begin to come close to Jesus response?  Well, Jesus gives us the examples of what we need to do.  We need to continually prepare through study of God’s word and prayer.  We study God’s word in order to know His will in our life and we prayer to converse and interact with God. 

       

            We also need to stay on the path God sets before us, regardless of appearances.  We need not veer to the left or the right but walk in the ways God sets before us in surrender and obedience.  This involves a surrender of our will in order to follow God’s will and path.

  

            We need to trust God at His word and keep are eyes focused on Jesus and recognize that what is going on in our lives at any time is but temporary. Even the chronic illnesses and pains of this life are but a mere temporary blimp in light of eternity. 

 

            And lastly we need to be able to walk in love.  We need to forgive those that hurt us, regardless of their response to us.  We need to find ways to move beyond our selfish defensiveness and tendency to attack or retreat. Rather, we need to love in the midst of pain.

 

            If we follow Jesus example, we will be able to stand in the storms of life.  Storms are always momentary. The Kingdom of God is eternal.