Thursday, July 5, 2018

Open Doors by Pastor Brent Lokker

By Brent Lokker & Michaela Thompson
This past week I shared about how our beautiful and powerful King Jesus opens doors wide in front of us to be able to step through with Him. You can hear that message here on podcast: In the message, one of the doors I mentioned that Jesus opens for us is the one to healing the deep wounds in our hearts.
Michaela Thompson had this wonderful insight to add:
It’s interesting that you spoke on Open Doors last night, since Papa has been bringing back to my remembrance some of the first promises He made to me. He promised to heal my heart, but it has to be His way. It's funny how we think we know what that means when we first hear it, but in reality there’s a continual unfolding of revelation that unpacks this truth. His WAY now takes on more than repentance from sin (my first interpretation) and basic obedience. His WAY now encompasses my whole life's journey regardless of how I got here, which is something I've been having a difficult time accepting and embracing. 
So what is one of the open doors that Jesus has opened for me that no one can shut? Obviously, it's the healing of my heart, but that is so very vague. The open door is deep, deep rest for my soul - this is my life's message, which encompasses so very much. It's freedom from anxiety and fear, freedom from feeling the weight of my world upon my shoulders.... feeling like I am completely alone in this life. I have an open invitation to step into and abide in His pure love for me.... that He just likes me for me, that's it - there's nothing for me to do. This is so very difficult to hold onto.... the tendency to return to performance and achievement as a means of finding value and worth is strong.  We say it all the time, that “Papa loves us just as we are,” but this can be so very hard to grasp on the inside. So, the invitation stands for me to go deeper into this peace, into His rest, into His love and His care for me. I get to go deeper into trust, into leaning upon my Beloved. I get to perform and achieve things because I am already loved and accepted as an overflow of His life in me and the unfolding of who I am in Him in this world. The fact I can do nothing at all and still be good with God is crazy.
Papa has invited me to take dance lessons... couples dance lessons (like ballroom, west coast swing, etc., anything with a partner). He wants me to learn to follow. My initial internal response was "I know how to follow! I'm sensitive to the Holy Spirit!" - and yes this is true, but there is so much more for me! So, I’ve taken a few lessons and I’m beginning to understand why He wants me to do this. ("Ohhh! There’s a whole other level of following and sensitivity that I haven’t experienced yet!) Here is one nugget I’ve learned so far: As a follower, I need to be committed to keeping the momentum of my movement going in whatever direction the leader sends me until I receive another direction. There’s a deeper level of trust involved that Papa is getting at with me, because I find that I want the security of knowing all the steps from beginning to end. But there’s no trust in that, because regardless of what my leader does, I would already know what I'm supposed to do. See how I’m getting my sense of worth from my performance?  It’s true I can't dance if my leader doesn't know how to lead and it’s also true he can't lead if I don't follow and am second guessing him all the time. I can get in my head instead of simply staying present and this is just not how couples dance works. And there’s no rest in trying to know all the steps ahead of time either, because then I have to remember what's coming, which keeps me from simply staying present with my leader in the now and enjoying the moment. There's a deeper level of rest in simply feeling the direction my leader sends me. All these insights are aspects of the open door I’m walking through with Papa. 
So what open doors are in front of you? Ask for Papa’s help to walk through them. He’s all about taking you to good places in your life and He’s all about doing it with you!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Greatness of the Gospel by Jim Stilwell

In Matthew 16:13 Jesus is standing in a region called, Caesarea Philippi and asked His disciples what the “word on the street” was about who He was.  One of the disciples, Peter ,answered by declaring Jesus was the Christ , the Son of the living God.  The purpose Jesus had for His disciples then and for you and I now required knowledge of who He was and is.

Jesus went on to say , that the Church, the followers of Jesus, would be given authority to influence the culture.  Now there is much to say about that passage I am not covering  with you right now but I do want to call attention to a few things that can help set our hearts on a trajectory that will cause us to engage with His plan.

Jesus is fully committed to make sure the world is impacted by the reality of Who He is.  How far will He go? Who will He use? How will He accomplish it?  Jesus invites everyone in His Kingdom to be great and to have the kind of maximum impact He spoke of in Matthew 16:13-20.   I sometimes struggle with this in my own life as I see my own weakness, mistakes, and insufficiencies.  But at the same time I take Jesus at His word when He said, “ Whoever does and teaches (my commandments)to others will be great in the kingdom in Matthew 5:19  Jesus was not speaking of earning His love or about the outward achievements you have experienced.  He was talking about the setting of our heart to love and obey Him.

This is why I am so glad that He relates to you and I out of love and not what we deserve. Who will He use? He knows how weak and inconsistent we can be at times but doesn’t have another plan to impact the world. His only plan is to use you , He will not transform the earth apart from you.

How far will He go? He didn’t only wash you of sin and forgive you, which we never minimize, but He is so committed to you that He put His Spirit in you so He can have friendship with you and empower you with the things He loves.  He has chosen you to be who you are, filled with His spirit, where you are, wherever you go, filled His Spirit to influence and impact the world.

How will He do it?   The call to greatness and impact can never be repented but  only realized as we love the things He says are great.  What kind of authority  impacts the earth?  That authority is given to those who set their hearts to love what God loves.  He likened this influence on earth to those who are salt and light in Matthew 5, which is a result of cultivating the Beatitudes. The grace to live this way, is favor from God and sustains the life miracles in Matthew 4 and goes on to impact the earth.  We don’t get these naturally, they are cultivated as we ask Him for the grace and love to walk them out.

So today, I leave you a suggested prayer,   “Jesus , how far will your love and grace take me in cultivating a life that you love , that results in favor and impact in earth”

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Perpetual Sadness Is Not Your Lot - by pastor Todd Lout

We are all going to face some sadness in our lives, of course.  Pixar’s Inside Out does a great job of depicting how a little sadness is compatible with Joy, actually causing joyful moments to stand out more.  The Bible even tells us to empathize, “Mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15) One of Holy Spirit’s names is The Comforter.  He wouldn’t have that name if we didn’t deal with sadness. There should be no shame in the fact that we experience sad feelings at times.

In as much as this is a part of the human life, our Father does not desire that sadness is our constant companion.  Recently, as I was doing some yard work, Holy Spirit pointed something out to me about this in my own life.  I was fresh back from being in Uganda and definitely missing people, missing their way of relating to others and just having some difficulty with the culture shift back to America.  This was very much on my mind out there in the yard.  It was so much so that I started talking to God about it, asking for some relief.  Somewhere in that time with Him, He told me that I actually have “perpetual sadness” to a certain degree.  That took me by surprise, but I began to look backward and realized that I had subconsciously accepted a low hum (if you will) of constant sad feelings as my normal.  I actually sat at a table and got intentional about pinpointing why this would be, and what I had those feelings over.  To keep this short I’ll simply say that a list was formed, and on it were mostly things I didn’t really trust God with in my life.  Repentance was at the table with me and also further conversation where God let me know that it’s not good to accept sadness as a constant companion, to any degree.  He also impressed on me, “Most of you have this and don’t even think about it being something you can be rid of....but you can.”

It goes without saying that we all have various sources of sadness and we should never, ever judge anyone else for whatever brought on their time of being sad.  In fact, if we do that, that in itself, will cause us to be sad. As for yourself, try taking a look at what it is that made these feelings come on.  Some are very obvious, but some might be hidden.  For example, if we have gone ahead and accepted a certain sin to persist, convincing ourselves that it’s not really a big deal, that could certainly be the source of a companion such as sadness.  God will absolutely help you with this list, highlighting things to you, because He wants it to be resolved. He wants our freedom.  He wants our whole heart because He desires us.

Now, we know, according to Revelation 21:4, that sadness will be wiped away from us permanently, again acknowledging it’s existence here and there.  THAT is going to be a wonderful day!  But, while we are here, God offers relief and even urges us to give it to Him and keep going in His joy, which makes us strong. (Nehemiah 8:10)  He actually designed us to be able to contain and distribute His fruit of the Spirit, Joy.  Furthermore, in Proverbs 17:22 we’re informed that allowing that joy to be in operation will actually give our bodies good health and that staying gloomy makes us tired and weak. 

Here I’m going to include a short list of helps / remedy methods, some spiritual and some natural, that can really offer relief and freedom:
  • SURROUND YOURSELF WITH TRUTH – Listen to fresh testimonies of God’s goodness – Read your Bible with Holy Spirit – Create a timeline of the good events that have taken place because you exist. (It’s A Wonderful Life)
  • CULTIVATE THANKFULNESS – Look at what is going right - Think on the good reports in your life (Philippians 4:8-9)
  • WORSHIP JESUS – When you declare God’s greatness it scoots other thoughts and feelings away.  We are designed to worship Him, thus when we do, we are becoming more of our real self.  Also, you’re tapping into what’s going on in Heaven and there is no sadness there.
  • MAKE SURE TO HAVE AN OUTLET FOR YOUR PASSIONS – Don’t allow your schedule or other people’s opinions to override taking some time to do what makes you feel alive.  (For me it’s creating something, gardening, designing and helping people)
  • USE CONFESSION – Your mouth is very powerful! God created the world with His.  Jesus spoke life into Lazarus with His.  Speak what you want, not what you don’t want to happen.
  • PRAY IN TONGUES – We utter God’s mysteries, perfect truths that our own reason can’t fight with.  It edifies your spirit and you are a spirit in a body!
  • REMEMBER – God told the Israelites (on their way to the promise land) to put “stones of remembrance” along the way when great things happen.  He knew that the craziness we will face here and there will try to snuff out our memories of His goodness so He asked for some intentionality.  We still need to do that; journal, record...
  • MEDITATE – “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”  “Whatever things are of good report, think on these things”  Our mind is a battlefield and our defense is God and His truth, not grumpy thoughts of lack and revenge.
  • BELIEVE THAT GOD REALLY IS PERPETUALLY GOOD – We sing it and say it and even have plaques with it written across the front...but we still need to truly, to the core, believe it.  This will absolutely break away sadness.
  • CULTIVATE INTIMACY WITH GOD – Don’t hide!  He sees anyway, but wants your invitation to prove His love, even in your worst.  PSALMS 18:20-24 tells us this; “God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him.  When I got my act together, He gave me a fresh start.  Now I’m alert to God’s ways; I don’t take God for granted.  Every day I review the ways He works; I try not to miss a trick.  I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step.  God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heat to His eyes."
Friends, I pray for you to be free from sadness being your constant.  I pray that it will not dampen your life and ability to function as our perfect Father truly designed us to; in victory with Him.

                                                                           Love, Todd

Friday, June 15, 2018

He's Orchestrating Everything by pastor Karena Lout

First off, our team (Todd and Josiah Lout and Eric Williams) wants to thank you for your support and prayers during our time in Uganda and Turkey. We couldn’t have done it without you! We saw God heal hearts and move in ways that were beyond anything we could’ve planned.

Because I am passionate about helping survivors of human trafficking and bringing awareness, I asked our host, Pastor Fred, if he could connect us with a safe home in Uganda last year. He found an amazing anti trafficking organization for our team and we were able to visit their drop in center. Pastor Fred made a great connection with the director so he invited her to speak at his annual Leadership conference. Hundreds of pastors in Uganda now have more awareness and tools to protect children and young people from traffickers in their area. Because of this new awareness, this year I was asked to talk about prevention to several hundred young people at the teen camp we speak at in Rakai. So many young people shared their stories with me and plan to take steps to see justice in this area.

This year, we also visited the safe home in Kampala and spent time with the girls. I made a deep heart connection with one young girl. She gave me one of her only belongings, a bracelet that says JOY on it. I humbly accepted it. She then said to me, “Mommy Karena, I pray no matter what happens in your life, you will always have joy and you’ll always remember me.” Needless to say, it wrecked me beyond words. She didn’t know that joy was something I had been asking God for more of. This beautiful young girl has been through the worst pain imaginable and she still knew real joy on the inside. Joy isn’t circumstantial. My prayer is that you would experience internal joy in a deeper way than you have before!

At the same time our team was at this safe home, our daughter Sierra was in Thailand, helping at an Immigration Detention Center where trafficked women who overstay their visas in Bangkok are temporarily held. Ironically, most of the women are from Tanzania and Uganda. One woman that Sierra spent time with was able to return home to Kampala (where our team was at the time), so she met her at the airport so she could see a smiling face before returning home. I then was able to share this with the director of the safe home in Uganda who now plans to connect with the center in Thailand to support Ugandan survivors returning home.

If you’re following along, you can see how all these dots are connecting. I could’ve never planned any of this out myself. It all began with a heart filled with passion for something and a simple inquiry to Pastor Fred. I want to encourage you to pay attention to those little nudges from Holy Spirit. Sometimes those nudges can unfold a bigger picture of something that we only see “in part.”
“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future.”
Romans 8:28 -29 (Voice Translation)
I encourage you to ask Jesus, “What story do you want to write for my life?” Your past, your pain, your limited understanding, your current challenges don’t have to define your story. Jesus is the author. It’s a story that will affect more than just you. Jesus has a way of taking our “little something” and multiplying it in a way that will feed so many others. Surrender to Him and watch as He orchestrates every detail of your life into something so much more than you could’ve imagined.
                                                                         Love, Karena

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Being Jesus to Others by pastor Brent Lokker

A few weeks back while Suzanne and I were on vacation in Lake Tahoe, I attended a cooking demonstration just for fun (Yeah, I’m one of those who actually finds life in the kitchen and would willingly choose to do something like this for fun on my vacation). When the demonstration was over, I began talking with the chef, whose name was Tony. I was interested to discover that Tony grew up in Hawaii and by asking more questions I found out what dishes he learned to make in his culture. As the conversation continued, we kept going to deeper places. I think it was because I was genuinely interested in Tony as a person and he felt cared about and safe. After some time, he revealed to me the pain of a divorce and the subsequent deeper pain of not being with his two children as much as he wanted. I felt no need to fix his situation but I did feel compassion.  In his profession of serving others, he was clearly touched that someone would take the time to listen and to care. Much later in the conversation Tony mentioned a religious encounter from his past which left him frustrated at the whole ”church thing” even though he still believed in God. I never shared with him I was a pastor but instead I conveyed my own story about discovering the tender heart of God as my loving Father. Tony’s attention was riveted, longing to know more of the truth.

I have to tell you, it really didn’t cross my mind to share about the love of God with Tony when I started talking with him. That wasn’t my motive. I was simply interested in another person’s story. When love is our motivation for why we connect with others, doors will often open up right before us even when we aren’t looking for it, and that’s exactly what happened with Tony. Because he felt cared about long before I shared with him my story of encountering God’s love, what I expressed was far more believable. By the time we finished, he was extremely thankful and his heart was wide open to encountering the love of his heavenly Father. I found myself in awe of how love once again was the key to opening up the heart of a man who I had only met an hour before.

I didn’t have this conversation with Tony because I was a leader of a church or even because I authored a book about God’s love. I had this conversation because I’m a follower of Jesus and because Jesus has transformed my life with His love. I had this conversation because it was a natural result of Christ in me, the hope of glory!

Living within you is the Christ who floods you with the expectation of glory! This mystery of Christ, embedded within us, becomes a heavenly treasure chest of hope filled with the riches of glory for his people, and God wants everyone to know it!   (Col 1:27, TPT)

Jesus wants all of His followers to release to others the treasure of who He has been for us everywhere we go. He also knows we need help to do so. Our greatest Helper is Holy Spirit—the very Spirit of Christ living within us—who we lean on and ask to help us as we learn to follow His brilliant leading!

Yet another way Jesus decided to help us is to appoint certain people (widely known as five-fold ministers) to assist followers of Jesus to know who they are and to help them mature in the ways of love. In a nutshell, these appointed ones equip and empower all believers to grow in the ways of love so we can be Jesus to others.

And he has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers.  And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ...All our direction and ministries will flow from Christ and lead us deeper into him, the anointed Head of his body, the church. For his “body” has been formed in his image and is closely joined together and constantly connected as one. And every member has been given divine gifts to contribute to the growth of all; and as these gifts operate effectively throughout the whole body, we are built up and made perfect in love. (portions of Ephesians 4:11-16 TPT)

So there it is. Ministry (making Jesus real to people by being Jesus to them) was never delegated to a select few. Never! It has always been the designed role of every follower of Jesus. Or put another way, the moment you said yes to Jesus, you not only became one with him, but you instantly became his representative in his likeness to be Jesus to those who don’t know him yet.

Don’t feel up to the task? No worries! He didn’t leave it up to you alone, remember? He put his own Spirit within you so that you would reflect who He is in greater and greater clarity!

The pressure is off but the plan remains. Christ in you, the hope of glory!

With Love,

Brent expanded on these scriptures and several more last Saturday in his message, “Grace gifts to restore all things”  

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Wonderful Holy Spirit by Pastor Russ Fochler

Last weekend was the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, also called Pentecost -- which is 7 weeks (50 days) after Passover.  Shavuot is celebrated as a harvest feast and in remembrance of God giving the Torah to the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.   On the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus died as our Passover Lamb, the Holy Spirit came in power upon the those who followed Jesus and obeyed his command to wait in Jerusalem to be endued with power from on high.

The children of Israel were unable to stay faithful to God's commandments in the Torah (also called "the Law").  And the more legalistic they tried to be, the harder their hearts became.  But God prophesied through Ezekiel his answer to this great problem:

26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.  Ezekiel 36:26-27 NASB

God's Spirit within us, replacing of our hearts of stone with hearts responsive to God's heart!  So, we can now have the Spirit of the Life inside -- showing us the life-giving intent of God's statues and ordinances, instead of our continued striving to follow the letter of the law with a hardened heart.  (See 2 Cor 3:6)   Thank you Wonderful Holy Spirit!

Here is something Jesus shared about the Holy Spirit with his disciples.  I'm including two of the translator's notes (using underlined words and italics) because I found them intriguing and helpful.  
Jesus is speaking to his disciples:
15 “Loving me empowers you to obey my commands.  16-17 And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Savior the Holy Spirit of Truth, who will be to you a friend just like me—and he will never leave you.

another The Greek word allos means “another of the same kind.”  As Jesus is the Savior from the guilt of sin, the Holy Spirit is the Savior who saves us from the power of sin by living through us in fullness.

Savior  The Greek word used here is paráklētos, a technical word that could be translated “defense attorney.” It means “one called to stand next to you as a helper.” Various translations have rendered this “Counselor,” “Comforter,” “Advocate,” “Encourager,” “Intercessor,” or “Helper.” However none of these words alone are adequate and fall short in explaining the full meaning. The translator has chosen the word Savior, for it depicts the role of the Holy Spirit to protect, defend, and save us from our self and our enemies and keep us whole and healed. He is the One who guides and defends, comforts and consoles. Keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, our Savior. 

The world won’t receive him because they can’t see him or know him. But you will know him intimately, because he will make his home in you and will live inside you."

18 “I promise that I will never leave you helpless or abandon you as orphans — I will come back to you! 19 Soon I will leave this world and they will see me no longer, but you will see me, because I will live again, and you will come alive too. 20 So when that day comes, you will know that I am living in the Father and that you are one with me, for I will be living in you. 21 Those who truly love me are those who obey my commands. Whoever passionately loves me will be passionately loved by my Father. And I will passionately love you in return and will manifest my life within you.”

22 Then one of the disciples named Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “Lord, why is it you will only reveal your identity to us and not to everyone?”
23 Jesus replied, “Loving me empowers you to obey my word. And my Father will love you so deeply that we will come to you and make you our dwelling place. 24 But those who don’t love me will not obey my words. The Father did not send me to speak my own revelation, but the words of my Father. 25 I am telling you this while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Spirit of Holiness, the One like me who sets you free, he will teach you all things in my name. And he will inspire you to remember every word that I’ve told you."

Worth meditating upon and embracing!

With expectancy and wonder,

Pastor Russ Fochler

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Living In Prosperity by Pastor Brent Lokker

Last Saturday we heard a powerful message from Jim Baker about prosperity from heaven's perspective. He defined prosperity in this way: "You have no financial debt, you have more than enough money to fulfill every design assignment God has for you, and enough left to help others fulfill theirs."

I believe our heavenly Father is getting our attention about the ways in which we've been placing our trust in money rather than in His ability to take care of us. He's drawing our attention to this not because He's angry or impatient with us, but because He wants to bless us in such a profound way and He knows that our wrong mindsets are getting in the way. His plan is to bless us in order that we would be a huge blessing to this world. He's placed seemingly outlandish dreams inside of us to bring about His goodness and justice on the earth and the fulfillment of these dreams will require great resources! If we're looking to our own abilities, or if we're giving fear the time of day, we'll give up on our dreams. It's time to lay down our worn out fears about not having enough and embrace the extravagant goodness of Papa God for such a time as this!

Kris Vallotton just came out with a book, Poverty, Riches & Wealth: Moving from a Life of Lack into True Kingdom Abundance. As I share some contrasts that Kris outlines in his book, I want you to ask Holy Spirit to show you areas of your heart that need upgrades in truth. Remember that the Lord never condemns us or "puts us in our place," but always lifts us up to His place of truth as kings and queens in his court of honor. So as Holy Spirit shows you places in your heart and mind that need to agree with His truth, choose to agree and make a positive declaration about what is true in your life (even if you're not feeling it yet).

First, a contrast of poverty vs. wealth (Kris uses the word wealth in the same way Jim Baker uses the word prosperity):
  • Poverty lives for today, but wealth leaves a legacy.
  • Poverty finds a problem in every opportunity.
  • Poverty feels entitled, while wealth feels empowered.
  • Poverty fears the future, yet wealth makes history.
  • Poverty blames others for its condition, but wealth takes responsibility for things that are not its fault.
  • Poverty asks, "What are you going to do for me?" Wealth asks, "Who is worthy of my investment?"
  • Poverty hangs around with other disgruntled sorts who validate its accusations, but wealth surrounds itself with other powerful influencers.
Next, a contrast of rich mindsets vs. wealthy mindsets:
  • Rich people get their identity from the things they own. Wealthy people's identity comes from who they are.
  • Rich people either spend a lot of time trying not to lose their money, or spend time wasting it on themselves. Wealthy people's money is just an expression of who they are, so they are confident in their well-being.
  • Rich people think of their assets, but wealthy people dream of their legacy.
  • Rich people think their money protects them, but wealthy people are inherently humble because they are thankful, knowing the source of their provision is the Lord.
  • Rich people step on others to move up. Wealthy people measure success by the people they help up.
  • The rich person's business goal is to make money, whereas a wealthy person's profession yields profit as the fruit of serving others well.
God is taking all of us to a whole new level of deep trust. Are you ready to go? The stakes are huge, but don't worry, God has put His Spirit inside of us to lean upon Him big time in this journey.

With Much Love in My Heart for Each of You,

Brent, beloved child of my good, good Father