Saturday, September 16, 2017

I Am The Vine, You Are The Branches by Pastor Brent Lokker

Last Saturday night in the midst of deep and intimate worship, a clear message came into focus from God’s Spirit. It was a timely reminder to combat any discouragement or weariness that may have tried to settle into our hearts.  What was the simple and profound truth that came through many voices last Saturday? 
 Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches.
 
Here is that truth found in John 15:5:
I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me. 
 
Recently our family took a vacation to Spain. We were celebrating the landmark of both of our sons having graduated from college. One of the days we wound our way through the hills of northern Spain where vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see.  We stopped at one of the vineyards to go on a tour of the fields.
 
I was astonished and thoroughly impressed to learn just how meticulously these grapes were cared for. Branches were pruned back to such an extent that the grapes would produce more intense flavor instead of volume. There needs to be enough water so that the grapes are sustained, but too much water once again reduces the flavor. Even different rows of grapes on the same property received more or less watering depending upon the exact components found in the soil. Though the fields were vast and spread out acre upon acre, one vinedresser carefully and painstakingly inspects and cultivates each and every cluster on the property to care for it in the best way possible day after day after day.
 
If this much care is given to produce the best and richest grapes possible in the natural, can you begin to imagine how much care Jesus takes in the supernatural fashioning your life to yield the purest and most exquisite representation of His pure love?  We have this tendency to try and judge for ourselves how good we think we’re doing. We look at one point of time in our journey and think, “I’m not as far along as I should be” or “What am I really doing that’s making a difference?” or even “Does it really matter than I’m alive?” 
 
Jesus says, “Trust me.  I know what I’m doing.  I am the vine as well as the vinedresser. Why don’t you let me do the gardening of your heart? I know the soil of your heart and I know just how to water you at the right time. I am your source for everything in life. Everything you need—love, encouragement, hope, blessing, favor, breakthroughs—everything—comes through me. I am meticulous in my care for you and I know how to make your life the sweetest version of who I created you to be. I don’t look at your life in one fixed point in time. I see all of your life from start to finish as one beautiful montage of all the highlights of the ways you have loved well because you have chosen to remain connected to me. You’re making a bigger difference than you know. I’m making sure of it. Trust me.”
 
Take in the truth one more time from the heart of Jesus to you and hear the tenderness in His voice:
 I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father! I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. Let my love nourish your hearts. 
(Portions of John 15:5-9 in the Passion Translation)
                           Love,

Monday, September 11, 2017

Free Falling Into Him by Pastor Karena Lout

Last week our family got away to Tahoe for a few days. I always come alive when I’m in nature. I was feeling pretty adventurous and decided to make a big jump over a portion of a pool that narrowed into a canal. Well I didn’t quite make it across and ended up hitting the concrete pretty hard. Thankfully a trip to the ER wasn’t required but I did get some pretty sizable bruises, swelling and scrapes all over my legs. My kids told me afterward they were surprised that I didn’t hesitate to make such a big jump. And strangely enough, I didn’t regret it.
 
I’ve been challenging myself to not let fear dictate my decisions. I realize that I probably could’ve used a bit more wisdom before trying to leap across that pool, but I was glad that I didn’t see it as an impossibility. God’s been encouraging me to walk in this kind of faith in my relationships and also in the dreams I’m pursuing. As we live vulnerably, love wholeheartedly and take more risks, every obstacle that comes our way is an opportunity to trust Him more.
 
I love this quote by Bill Johnson, “living in regret will become your biggest regret.” I lived many years feeling regret over big decisions and small decisions. I put all of my perceived weaknesses and failures under a microscope, ready to judge through a harsh lens. Jesus began to show me that He doesn’t measure success by whether I stand or I fall down. We’re already a success because we’re loved by Him. The most courageous thing you could do is to get back up after you’ve fallen down.
 
This song, In Over My Head by Jenn Johnson has really been moving my heart lately. Here’s a portion of it:
I’m standing knee deep but I’m out where I’ve never been.
I feel you coming and I hear your voice on the wind.
Would you come and tear down the boxes that I have tried to put you in.
Let love come teach me who you are again.
Would you take me back to the place where my heart was only about you
And all I wanted was just to be with you
Come and do whatever you want to
Further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come, I am Yours
Then you crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head.
Whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head
“May you have the power to comprehend with all the saints, how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is.” Ephesians 3:18
 
 I pray you would have the courage to leave the shore, give yourself grace to make mistakes and free fall into Jesus’ all consuming, overwhelming love for you. (He’s soft, so you’ll escape with no injuries of course, haha!)

Karena

Friday, September 1, 2017

Trusting in God's Love by Pastor Russ Fochler

Trusting in God's Love
by Russ Fochler
Susan and I love the 13th chapter of the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  It is how we want to do life.  Time and time again, we’ve seen how conveying the gentleness, patience, and kindness of God has been a key for unlocking people’s hearts:
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  NASB
Years ago, I loved singing the worship song “Your Love Never Fails”.  It was written by Chris McClarney and is also the title song for the Your Love Never Fails Jesus Culture album.  And yet, for many years, I’ve struggled: How can I square this song along with this passage from 1 Corinthians 13 — with the scriptures about “hell” and unending torment?  I asked Holy Spirit for wisdom and then waited and watched for new understanding.
God’s love (the Greek word ἀγάπη, agápē) is indeed what Paul is describing for us in 1 Cor 13 — so we as followers of Jesus may embrace this way of being for ourselves.   I appreciate Wm. Paul Young’s definition of agape: “Self-giving, other-centered love”.  This love does not take into account a wrong suffered, bears all thing, hopes all things, and never fails (never stops!).
 Last Saturday night (August 26), I shared some of what I’ve been learning about difficult verses in many English translations about “eternal/everlasting punishment”.  I am very encouraged.  How I perceive Father God’s love is no longer tinged with what seemed to be extreme rejection and needless cruelty.  My trust and hope in God's goodness has grown.  

Here is a link to the podcast. A link to the slides for the talk (with additional slides) are also on this podcast page. http://blazingfire.podbean.com/e/to-bring-us-into-the-home-of-his-heart-russ-fochler/

If you just want to see the slides, here is a link:  https://www.slideshare.net/rfochler/to-bring-us-into-the-home-of-his-heart-russ-fochler
And if you just have a few minutes, I recommend watching this clip of Wm. Paul Young.   I used it to close the talk.  https://www.tbn.org/programs/restoring-shack/watch/restoring-shack-13  (move the slider to 23:45 and listen to about 26:30)  
With Love,
Russ
P.S. I’m aware the material here and in my talk is surprising -- and may be controversial.  Before you form an opinion, please listen to the talk, review the slides, and perhaps even watch the 2 episodes (15 and 16) of Restoring The Shack first.   Thanks!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Don't Give Up! by Pastor Karena Lout

There’s something about the story of Nehemiah that’s been speaking to me lately. To give you a short recap, after learning that Judah’s remnant was in need and that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild the city. Nehemiah discussed his plans with him, and he not only approved, but appointed him Judah’s governor. But when he arrived at Jerusalem, he discovered right away that the Israelites’ enemies opposed his plan. They argue in chapter 4, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing?” They tried to intimidate the Israelites by claiming they were incompetent and threatened them if they kept going. But Nehemiah persevered, depending completely on God’s strength and wisdom.
 
 We can all relate to feeling opposition at times when we’re pursuing the dreams God’s planted in our hearts. Sometimes that opposition is external but a lot of times it’s internal. Our thoughts, past pain and disappointment keep us from moving forward. The more we choose to bravely look at these things with Jesus, He will reveal truth to our hearts and these things begin to lose the power they once had over us.
 
 Some of Nehemiah’s biggest obstacles were intimidation and criticism. Intimidation is really just false power. It uses anger and bullying as a scare tactic to get you to shut down. Behind intimidation, is usually a frightened little boy or girl who feels powerless themselves. The good news is Jesus paid the high price so we could all live freely.
 
 The voice of criticism can often be our own. We tend to spotlight our perceived weaknesses and shortcomings and shame the parts of our heart that can’t seem to “pull it together.” I want to encourage you to start celebrating the small victories in your life; how far you’ve come already. Give yourself more grace and kindness. After all, you can only give away what you own yourself.
 
 As we pursue our dreams, fear can be our worst enemy. It immobilizes us and imprisons our dreams and desires because we view it as this big, ambiguous, scary goliath that holds all the power. We often don’t take the time to explore what it is we’re really afraid of. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll fail if you try something new. Perhaps you’re afraid that if you move forward with the dreams in your heart, God won’t provide for you. I want to encourage you to take some time to zero in and talk to Jesus about what it is you’re actually afraid of. I pray fear will no longer dictate your decisions and that Jesus will bring truth and healing to your heart!
 
 Nehemiah was invested in Jerusalem and the people. He wept over his city. Sometimes we can focus so much on the “what God’s called us to” that we forget our “WHY”. I pray that God would soften and tenderize your heart right now for what He’s placed in front of you. As I was sharing on Sat. night, I felt so much fire in my heart for each of you, to not settle for less than ALL Jesus has for you. He’s not holding anything back from you. Keep going. Don’t give up. Jesus is completely committed to see you through!
Love,

Karena

Friday, August 4, 2017

Gifts vs Calling by guest speaker Mark Neitz

Mark Neitz (Why Not Now Ministries) spoke at Blazing Fire in June.
He gave a timely and encouraging word on Gifts vs. Calling:

Making disciples in nations and making disciples of nations are both vital directives given by Jesus. However, both are distinct commands. It is important that we never lose sight of the”one.” At the same time it is important to realize that He said,”Ask, and I will give you the Nations as an inheritance.” Going after the “one”  is key because it carries the very seed for the transformation of Nations.
Living in Cambodia, my desire is to reach individuals and represent the King and His Kingdom. At the same time, my mandate is to see a nation transformed and see the Kingdom of Heaven manifested in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
As we look at our assignment in life, most of us look through the lens of our gifting. We tend to limit our personal commission to areas that we’re good at. It is important that we look at our assignment based on our calling not merely our gifting. Calling goes far beyond our gifts and passion. It actually goes into risky territory...our weakness. You see, when we move in our giftings, we receive the glory, but when we move in our weakness, He gets the glory!
As a missionary, rescuing children from trafficking, people say to me that I have such a gift for what I do. I can assure you it’s no gift, it’s a calling. Most of what I do I’m not gifted in. I just know without a shadow of doubt that I’m walking in my calling. Because of this, when times are tough and I face enormous obstacles, the word “quit” never enters my thought process.
When we move in our gifting and things get tough, many times we begin to look for a new season or new area of influence where our giftings can shine and we can feel valued and useful again. The Father wants us to function in our weakness, because that is when He can show Himself strong. When we accomplish things with Him that we couldn't do on our own, He is glorified.
Look at the Apostle Paul. He was educated in the Jewish Law. He was a pharisee of pharisees. He understood and functioned in the Jewish culture better than most. If God were to commission anyone to the Jews, you’d think it would be Paul. After all, he was the most gifted to do so. But, that’s not what Father did. He sent him to the gentile.
The point is this, we each have an enormous assignment. To limit our calling to just areas of gifting we greatly reduce the adventure that has been set before us. He pours out His spirit without measure and He gives us all authority. These enable us to go places and accomplish things that go far beyond our ability. As we walk in weakness we will go places beyond our dreams and have the privilege to see His Kingdom come on Earth as in Heaven!

Much Grace,
                     Mark Neitz - Why Not Now Ministries Inc

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Essential Importance of Baptism by Pastor Brent Lokker

This Saturday at Blazing Fire, we’re going to be celebrating the baptisms of many people who, because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, will symbolically and prophetically bury all the remnants of their past as they’re submerged under the baptismal water. They will come up out of the water in newness of life, new creations in Christ Jesus! (2 Cor. 5:17)

So is baptism necessary? I guess it all depends on what you’re asking. If you’re asking, “Am I saved and will I be escorted into heaven when I pass from this life if I’m not baptized?” then the answer is baptism isn’t necessary to be saved. The Scriptures make it very clear that belief in Jesus as your Savior is the key:
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9
But if you’re asking, “Is baptism necessary in order to experience the fullness of all that Jesus paid on the cross for me?” my answer is an unequivocal YES!

Baptism is symbolic of your old life dying as you receive your new life in Christ, but it is so much more than just symbolism. The spirit realm of God’s Kingdom is far more real than what we see with our eyes in the natural realm. I am convinced that in baptism, there’s a demarcation that’s unmistakable from heaven’s vantage point. And what does that signify for the one being baptized?
·       Complete identification with Christ—You are ONE with Him! (Col. 2:11-15)
·       An agreement that your old life ruled by an evil master called sin is over and one with for good!  You have a new master, Jesus, who is good and grants you his freedom instead! (Romans 6:2-6)
·       Agreement that as His favored child, you are right with God and can jump into His Papa’s arms any time you want without fear or guilt or shame! (Galatians 3:26-27, 1 John 3:1)
·       An entrance into a life ruled by the Spirit of God where anything is possible! (Acts 2:38, Acts 16:5-7)
You can listen to my message on Baptism from last Saturday, explaining these passages, at the link below.
Jesus made a choice to be baptized and He instructed us to do the same. He even empowered us to baptize others before He ascended into heaven. Whoa! Baptism must be a significant part of our spiritual journey, don’t you think? 
If you are a follower of Jesus but you’ve never been baptized, this Saturday is your opportunity! Step up and take this opportunity to identify yourself with Jesus for all eternity…heaven is watching with great excitement and anticipation!
To let us know you want to be baptized, simply write to Pastor Karena at karena@blazingfire.org
Because this is a great celebration, after the baptisms, we’re going to worship our King together, take communion and go through a “fire tunnel” of empowerment to take the Good News out with us everywhere we go! This will be an epic night to be sure. And if you’ve never been baptized and choose to do so this Saturday, it will truly be a night you won’t forget. I hope you can join us.
With Much Love and Anticipation,
                                                       Pastor Brent

Thursday, July 20, 2017

It's Time To Expect The Unexpected by Pastor Susan Fochler

About 12 years ago Russ and I jumped at the opportunity for some free soil to backfill our very large, down-sloped backyard.  It would help level our yard and increase the usable space near the back of the house.  However, we completely underestimated how effectively a backhoe is; over the course of just a few days a huge mound of soil had been deposited, completely changing the landscape of our yard.  It also, inadvertently, uprooted several fruit trees including two pear and a pomegranate.  We were grateful for the added soil, but a little sad at the loss of the trees.  
An Unexpected Surprise
Fast forward to this year, and one of the wettest winters we’ve had in a long time.  Apparently wet enough to resurrect long dormant pomegranate seeds that remained hidden under the ground, for, sure enough, we have a fledgling 3 foot tall pomegranate tree growing right where the old one had stood. The tree that was gone and completely forgotten is coming up quickly, strong and healthy.  
The Year of Jubilee
Our God often operates like that in our lives.  We see something die, something we’ve hoped and yearned for, and it seems like it’s gone forever.  We try to remain hopeful, but, humanly, it’s hard.  But John 12:24 encourages us to think from an eternal, Kingdom perspective, that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain”.  Resurrection power makes no sense in the natural world, but it is perfectly normal and to be expected in God’s Kingdom.  And, as this is the Year of Jubilee, we can start expecting the unexpected as never before.  
Old Dreams Becoming New
Do you have any dreams or desires that seem to no longer have life?  Was it too hard to stay focused and hope-filled over the long haul?  Is it possible they are just lying dormant and need a fresh watering of prayer and expectancy to resurrect them and bring them back to full restoration?  I believe this is the year to see new things happen.  Like my little pomegranate tree, a traditional symbol of life and death, rebirth and eternal life, fertility and abundance, may this be the year old dreams become as new.  Desire fulfilled, after all, is a tree of life.  Proverbs 13:12.
With love and expectancy,
                                           Pastor Susan Fochler