Your Will Be Done

Matthew 6:10,
“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”

I have gone through a redefining of one of my core motivators. The ideal used to be to surrender my will to the will of God. That seemed to be a noble application of “Thy will be done,” but in surrender of  “my will,” the focus remains on “my will” – what I am doing.
Instead of “surrender of” my will, the motivator is now “surrendering to” the love which God is; not only in my life, but in the lives of others. Trusting in God’s loving faithfulness beyond ourselves leads to surrendering to God’s greater purposing – a focus way beyond my life to the extent of all things “in earth as it is in heaven.” It is a shift from my life (the how I think things should be perspective) to recognizing a beautiful reconciliation beyond my understanding and participating in God’s glorious working.

The key is participation, to not confuse surrendering with inactivity. There is a difference between “waiting for God’s will and “waiting on the Lord. There is a difference between waiting for your next step and waiting as God is “directing your paths.” God can’t steer a parked car. Waiting for Lord is acknowledging Him and seeking that sense of God’s presence. It is developing and nurturing a certainty that God is in this with us – “being confident of the very thing that He who has begun this good work in each of us will continue it.” The unspoken name of God “YHWH” is a verb. It is a mistake to wait for God’s will, because God never stops willing, never stops moving, never stops purposing all things together.

Praying, “thy will be done,” is a surrendering to that love which God is – in and through each of our lives!

Love and Blessings,
Pastor Jeff

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Matt 5:9, “Blessed are the Peacemakers”

My life has been a continual pursuit of the peace that is only found in the presence of God – those “be still” encounters of perfect clarity when everything is suspended in a picture perfect understanding of unity, purpose and focused awareness of God’s presence. It is a pebble of clarity dropped in the pool of my soul. The verse, however does not say “blessed are the peaceful.” It reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

My thoughts immediately go to the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics. In this visual display of wonder there was a point when almost the entire field was covered with what seemed to be thousands of boxes that moved up and down creating various shapes and designs in sync with the music that filled the air. It was a mechanical graphic wonder, only it was not mechanical. Underneath each of the boxes was a person raising and lowering their box. The precision was awe inspiring. There was one point in this display that they replicated the outward ripple of water from a single pebble. This they said was a visual representation of inner peace expanding out to create outer peace.

If I could just remember that every action and each word spoken is a stone dropped into the pool of time. Perhaps those moments of clarity are not the pebbles, but rather when I realize I am the pebble. It is not enough to seek the peace, or to experience the peace of God. I am called to be the peace using my words and deeds to create ripples of peace in the waters of this world.

Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.

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Guilt Free Zone

Every other year I revisit the vision goals of Just As You Are. For me they have become more than a vision for JAYA, they are a goal for my life. The first vision goal is to create a guilt free zone for worship and spiritual growth. That’s a good one for JAYA, but would not life be more enriching in we were able to create this zone wherever we may be?

My good friend , Shai, who is a very faithful Jewish man, laughed when he heard the by-line for Just As You Are – Experience the Unconditional Love of God … without the guilt of religion. He said, “Religion without guilt – Impossible! I should know. I am Jewish; we invented guilt.” And, in a sense he is right. Is it not guilt that brings us to the point of realizing, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)? Is it not guilt that motivates us to seek out God’s forgiveness, to realize that we need a Savior? Maybe guilt is not such a bad thing – maybe it is just misused, abused and leaves us confused.

I looked up guilt to help me find the words to make a distinction and there it was as plain as day: Guilt as a noun and guilt as a verb.

NOUN Definition: The fact of being responsible for the commission of an offense; remorseful awareness of having done something wrong; guilty conduct; sin.

Guilt as a noun can actually be a good thing, as long as it is discarded once we realize the forgiveness and love of God in Jesus Christ. We cannot create a place without this kind of guilt, because we carry that guilt with us. We can, however, create a space to release that guilt and realize the forgiveness available to all of us and we can create a place to let go of all the misplaced, invalid guilt that others pile on. Some of us have been so abused and maligned with guilt that it is our first reaction in almost every situation. That is guilt as a verb. It is guilt as a verb that we are talking about in our vision statement:

VERB Definition: To make someone feel guilty, in hopes of getting them to do something

My thoughts go to Romans 14. I have heard this passage misused and abused because of the last phrase of verse 13, “make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s or sister’s way.” I have heard that phrase used to condemn alcohol, going to movies, dancing, or any other activity they want to guilt you out of doing. They invoke the concept of the weaker brethren, but they have missed the point, because they exclude the first part of the verse. Let’s read it in its entirety, “13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” The stumbling block is the judgment. The stumbling block is the condescension. The stumbling block is the condemnation. The stumbling block is intolerance. The stumbling block is the guilt of religion.

JAYA is a guilt a free zone. May my life also create a guilt free zone. The only one that has the right to judge you died for you and rose again in new life so that you too could have new life. The only one that could condemn you is reaching out to you in love and acceptance – free yourself from all that would distract you from that loving relationship God wants to have with you. GOD LOVES YOU Just As You Are. We have each been called to proclaim and live the unconditional love of God WITHOUT the guilt of religion – to create a safe, guilt free zone for worship and spiritual development.

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But God…

Proverbs 19:21  Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

Most of my life I have lived with the core believe of “but God…”

We have all been there. You pursue a relationship, because you just know he is the one, but God takes the relationship in a different direction and you become “just friends” – only to later meet the “man of dreams”. You interview for a job that makes the most sense in your career path forward, but God shuts the door, it goes poorly and stay where you are and get a promotion and keep your seniority..

I have always found comfort in my “but God…” approach to faith. It was my declaration of surrender to the love God is. It was my confidence in knowing that God always has my best at heart. I have always found comfort, but not anymore. I have come to realize that my “but God…” believe was holding me back from a deeper more intimate connection with the God who loves me.

There is no “but”

In the Hebrew text the word translated as “purpose, council, will, advise” is preceded by ו  (vav), which depending on context can be understood as “and” or “but”. So why “but” here? Why the perspective that my plans are in direct contrast to God’s purpose? Why not “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, AND the purpose of the LORD will stand”? After all is not the purpose of God to reconcile all things back to God’s self?

This may seem like a small change in perspective, but for me it removes sense of conflict. God is not my adversary coming up behind my every move saying, “oh no you don’t!” God is my advocate; establishing my steps. It is not about me making the wrong dead end decision in contrast to God’s better plan. It is God lovingly and patiently directing my path with red lights, left turns and yield signs with with step I confidently take toward God’s love.

Psalm 25: 8Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

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“Throw Yourself Down”

This week was my review – always an insecure moment. As I was sitting there waiting, God reminded me of this reflection that I wrote back in 2009. Hopefully God will use it to encourage you as it did me this week.

Mat 4:6  “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down”

I used to think that this was about pride and humility. Doing something with the only motive of proving who you are to others.  Although important, the message that came after today’s contemplation was not humility but rather insecurity in who God created me to be – the temptation to self-destruct. In Matthew, the temptation for Christ was to throw Himself down to prove He was the Son of God. Satan uses the same “method” to tempt us is to throw ourselves down and not live as children of God.

For me, the temptation is to throw myself down with the “old tapes” that play in my head of never being good enough, pure enough, spiritual enough – to throw myself down because others tell me I am less than – to throw myself down because God can’t use damaged goods. Satan doesn’t care why I throw myself down he just constantly whispers, “throw yourself down . . . throw yourself down…” Too many times we self-destruct in our lives, not because we are failures, but because we listen to Satan and believe failure is our only option.

Here we are again, Lord, back to Satan tempting me to throw myself down. I thought that as I sought you and grew closer to you, that this would all somehow resolve. Instead of resolution, I find myself on this endless journey toward you. Instead of an end to searching, I find hope-filled transformation. “I believe, Lord, please help my unbelief.” It is not unbelief in the awesomeness that you are, but my unbelief that you can accomplish anything GOoD through me. Help me overcome this temptation to “throw myself down” by lifting me into stronger awareness of your love. For it is written, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:38-39

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Every once in a while when I sit in my chair to read the Scriptures, I stare out the window and I feel tired. I stare out the window and I feel sorry for myself. Then verses come to mind like: “the joy of the Lord is my strength”, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, “they who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength” and “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances”

Today was one of those days. As God was bringing back to memory those Scriptures to bring comfort, I decided that Scripture was the best place to be and I began to read in Isaiah.

Isaiah 5:13 Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst.

The lack of knowledge to which this verse is referring is the knowledge of God. The previous verse talks about having music and celebrations without a remembering of God.

Isaiah 5:12 AThey have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands… (Verse 13) Therefore…

It is my knowledge and celebration of God that keeps me connected. It is my knowledge and celebration of God that feeds me. It is my knowledge and celebration of God that quenches every desire that I have. It is my knowledge and celebration of God that I must nurture, increase and intentionally seek in every moment.

Lord, the more I celebrate, the more I find to celebrate. Every reminder of your faithfulness leads to another memory of Your love. Remind me of who You are, so that I will remember who I am to you and through you. Amen.

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God is greater than all I would presume.

Matthew 3:9, “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”

Assumptions are the mental boundaries that we create to give ourselves a sense of the familiar or increase our comfort with ourselves and even self worth. We assume in order to control the processing of information so that we can “take on” an appearance of understanding that we don’t necessarily have. With little to no supporting evidence, we jump to conclusions about others, about ourselves, and even about our world. So we say things like, “He’ll never change”, “I can’t do that”, “no one cares” or “it’s impossible”

In Matthew 3 the Pharisees were presuming more about themselves than they should, but the other side and just as damaging to our relationship with God is presuming less about ourselves than we should. I like to use the saying, “I planned…but God.” You see, I create walls of limitations built from assumptions of what I can or cannot do. Then I plan carefully and work even harder, only to end up banging my head against the very walls I created. This is where faith kicks in. When I look with the eyes of faith that God has given all of us, instead of being limited to what I think I can or cannot be, it allows trusting in the One by which everything is and will be.

I then understand that if God is able to raise from the stones, children of Abraham, then we truly live in a world beyond presumed limitations.Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

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A Peaceful Chaos

Manger1Do you ever wonder if we have lost Christmas? I mean all the shopping, all the decorating, all the parties and obligations – all the hectic things that seem to be the direct antithesis of “Silent Night, Holy Night”. Last Sunday we talked about “Peace on Earth” beginning in the soul of each of us as we strive to become peacemakers in this world. As I pondered these two seemingly opposed focuses – the chaos of Christmas and the Peace that passes all understanding, I realized they are part of a larger equilibrium.

The purpose behind all the decorating, shopping and gatherings is to celebrate. In our celebration of Christ, we celebrate family, we celebrate friends and for a short season we get a glimpse of what “good will” actually looks like. Friends and Family actually sit down to enjoy meals together. Volunteerism is always higher during the holidays. Charitable gifts increase and more people than you would think actually ponder and explore their faith.

Peace is not always about stillness. Peace is about wholeness, completeness and knowing all is well in the world. The chaos of all our preparations culminates in moments of clarity that give us a glimpse of what could be if we would just become the peacemakers we were created to be. The laughter of rowdy children, the clatter of dirty dishes, the confusion of simultaneous conversations and the mountain of cleanup are the remnants of all our efforts to create those perfect moments with family and friends – perfect moments that are little snapshots of the wholeness, completeness of knowing all is well. They are the proof that with a bit of effort, we have within us the ability to create peace on earth.

May the chaos of Christmas always bring you to the Peace of Christ.

Merry Christmas!

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Time for Change

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

Repent used to be a word that would make me flinch. It always brought to mind condemnation, anger and eternal damnation. It was this “turn or burn” association that always made me hesitant to even consider using the word in a conversation of faith. But, repent is actually not that at all. The Greek word is metanoeó. Meta means to change. Noeo is think.

So, what Jesus is literally saying is “change the way you think and believe the good news“.

It is ironic to me that instead of changing the way we think, we have changed the meaning of the words. Instead of reasoning together what the nearness of God means to the transformation of our lives, we widen the gap between God and humanity by changing a word of logic into a rhetoric of condemnation. Instead of drawing others into a conversation with an invitation to change the way you think about God, to believe the good news of “for God so the loved the world, we draw lines in the sand, creating our boundaries of conformity.

Allow me to share my understanding of Jesus’ words:
Right now is the time to recognize that God is closer than you realize.  It is time to change the way you think. It is a new day! The old thinking of hatred, lack of forgiveness, condemnation and all those things that we have allowed to distract us from the Love God is, are no longer valid. This is good stuff – run with it and spread the word!

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Better Learned Unsaid

Mark 1:13

unwritten_by_vitzy1It a beautiful thing how the same story can teach us very different lessons depending on the perspective of the teller. Isn’t it interesting that GOD did not inspire Mark to write more about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness? He just wrote, “He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.” Of course the other Good News writers expanded on the account, so we know more of the drama that unfolded which makes Mark’s lack of detail speak louder.

Perhaps there is a lesson in what is not said.

Our lives are surrounded by chaos and too often enveloped in the turmoil. If it is true that we become that on which we focus, giving those details our primary attention can drain our energy and empower the chaos to multiply – robbing us of the ability to find the good GOD has promised.

It is not a matter of ignoring the situation (that would be detrimental and unhealthy). Like Mark it is a matter of acknowledging the adversity (or adversary), but in the end finding our focus on “angels ministering”. For we know that all things work together for GoOD!

in surrender to the Love God is…


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