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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Reflections on The Sound by Pastor Brent Lokker

First and foremost, I want to tell you how much I love all of you in my Blazing Fire family! I'm so proud of how deeply you love the Lord and how you share His passion to see sons and daughters enter into His Kingdom of love and grace!
 
Suzanne and I were blown away by how many of you participated in The Sound this past weekend. We recall seeing the faces of at least 60 of you at Hippie Hill on Saturday during our worship set. Susan Fochler estimates that those of you who volunteered your time and love to be part of our prophetic/healing tent on Friday at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater were able to richly bless over 100 people!
 
I’ve heard first hand stories from at least a dozen of you, recounting to me your life-giving interactions with passer-byers in the park, the powerful spiritual encounters you saw happening from heaven’s perspective and how you felt a deep oneness with the Body of Christ to agree with God’s heart for a city that He so loves. Chris Burns shared that there were “more people saved (especially on a Friday night outreach to the Height and on Saturday at Hippie Hill) than we can count.” One such story was of a man who came daily to Hippie Hill to smoke marijuana but on this day could not light up because he was so captivated by the peace He felt and didn't want that to be altered in any way. He was encountering Jesus and he found Jesus!
 
As we all unashamedly and openly displayed our love for Jesus, the environment was infused with an increased desire in us to know Jesus and make Him known which directly impacted the hearts of those wandering by to know Him as well. We are all maturing in Christ to share in the Apostle Paul’s mission:
 
“But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).
 
I believe we participated in a catalytic moment that will have a far more reaching impact than we can comprehend. But what I do believe we will begin experiencing even now is an increase fire within us to make Jesus known and an increased hunger in the ones we are touching to encounter our very real Jesus who loves them right where they're at.
 
I hope to hear a few of the stories from you this Saturday night at Blazing Fire's worship service before we experience the extreme blessing of having Dr. Susan Richards minister the healing touch of Jesus to us.

We're embarking on some truly remarkable times together!

With Love,

Pastor Brent

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Adding Your Value by Pastor Karena Lout

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others
and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:28

 
I love that Jesus used His authority to love and serve. He didn’t lord it over His disciples as a cruel task master, but He demonstrated the heart of our Father. He paid the highest price and laid His life down for us. Who wouldn’t want to follow a King like that?!
 
Making Room
There’s no doubt that Jesus is moving in the earth. He wants His kids back and many are finding their way home. We’re seeing this happen at our Refuge young adult group on Thursday nights. Over the last year, we’ve had countless young people show up on our doorstep, searching for the real, tangible love of Jesus. Todd and I have felt challenged to make room for what God wants to do, not only in our home, but in our every day lives and in our hearts. It’s not always easy or convenient but it’s always worth it.
 
 A Challenge for the Church/ We’re Family
 When we view church as a business, we often ask, “What can I get? How is this going to benefit me as a consumer?” When we view the church as a family, we ask the question, “What can I give? What’s my part in adding value to what God is doing?” God’s intention has always been for the church to be a family. I’ve found that there are some beliefs that often hinder us from stepping out and adding our part:
 
1). We often wonder if saying YES is going to require more than we’re willing or able to give. It can feel pretty unsettling when we’re afraid to have boundaries, as if anyone can come into our garden and take whatever they want, whenever they want.
I pray Jesus would give you courage to put the appropriate boundaries in place as you say YES. You’re worth it!

2). There is a fear of “missing out.” When we’ve done without, it can feel that there won’t be enough to go around. If we invest our time in one place, will we somehow be lacking in another?
I pray you would know the extravagant love of our Father who holds nothing back from you! As you take care of His, He will take care of you.

3). We’ve been “staring in the mirror too long.” What I mean by that is sometimes we become so self-focused, that we lose sight of the world around us. While it’s so important to take care of our hearts and receive the healing we need, taking a time-out to bless someone else can be a huge part of our healing journey.
I pray that God would remove the spotlight that you’ve put on your perceived failures and weaknesses and show you who you really are in Him!
 
4). We believe we’re not healed enough to step out. The truth is, some areas that we still need healing won’t surface until we actually do the thing God’s asked us to. There’s been several times that I’ve felt inadequate or afraid of failure when I’ve chosen to do something outside of my normal comfort zone. I wouldn’t have known I still believed that if I hadn’t stepped into that unknown territory.
I pray Jesus would speak truth to those areas of your heart that need it most!
 
You are each such a vital part of this family. Thank you for making each person who walks in our door at Blazing Fire feel welcomed and valued week after week. Thank you for choosing connection when everything in you wanted to run. Thank you for adding your value and being such an integral part of what God is doing. I love being on this adventure with you.
 
                                                                                   Love, Karena

Thursday, June 22, 2017

When God Calls Us By Name by Joanne Moody

“But now, this is what the LORD says-- he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” 
Is. 43:1
 
Our Agape team was ministering two weeks ago in a marvelous worship filled church and as I got up to speak I felt the Lord prompt me to release the name Thomas. He had given me the name of Thomas that morning when I asked Him if there was any particular person he wanted me to highlight. I felt the Lord had said Thomas was a son.  As I asked the congregation if there was a Thomas among them nobody responded. I said, “I believe he is someone’s son and may not be here.” A woman from the back of the room spoke out; “It’s my grandson.” “What’s going on with Thomas?” I replied, “He’s a heroin addict and has been for 9 years.” The entire church joined in prayer together to intercede for Thomas’ freedom in the name of Jesus. We spoke aloud together and asked for Thomas to encounter the Father’s love so profoundly that he would never again be enticed by the spirit of addiction.
           
This morning, I received a message that Thomas has agreed to get on a plane and go to a Christian treatment center. There, he will receive Christ focused care for one year. Hallelujah. We stand together again to give praise to God for calling his beloved child by name.
 
When the God of the universe, the Great I am, the one who set all the stars in their places and named each one (Ps 147:4) sends a message from his heavenly throne room calling one of His children here on earth by name, everything changes. That God would take note of us amidst all of the things he keeps track of is for most of us, mind-boggling.  This is the kind of knowing referred to in Amos 3:2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” The Israelites God chose, as His people were no better than any others.  God loves us no matter where we are or what we are doing. He knew us before we were born, and He alone knows the great destiny we were born to fulfill. Calling us by name is affirming that destiny.
 
Another time the Lord gave the name of Tristan and the message was that God really liked Tristan’s hair. The young man was not at the meeting but his friend called him and gave him the message during the meeting. The friend then reported back that Tristan was completely shocked. Apparently, Tristan had shaved his head the night before because he hated his hair. That’s how much God loves Tristan.
 
A young woman was called out by one of our Agape team at a meeting last week. She had never been to that church before or in an environment where the Holy Spirit was present in a palpable way. As our team member spoke the words the Lord had given him over this daughter of God she was moved in a way she later reported was life altering for her.
 
A young woman learning to hear the voice of God in one of our training meetings told me that I would meet a flight attendant named Lisa on my flight later that day. Yes, there were exactly three flight attendants on board and Lisa was one of them. We were able to deliver even more very personal messages to her from the Lord including where she lived and the number of horses and children she had.  If God is going to tell someone Lisa’s name you can be sure he has a greater message for her. She confessed to having believed in God but had given up because of pressures and disappointments in her life.  After this encounter she was overwhelmed with how much God loved her that he would send two ordinary people on her last flight of the day to tell her. The other flight attendant’s were also deeply impacted.
 
In both ministry settings and simply in daily life, the Holy Spirit has given many of our Agape team members the names, numbers, children’s names and yes, even the names of beloved pets. We ask God for these specifics not because we wish to be right or have attention drawn to us but because this is what Jesus modeled. The woman at the well in the gospel of John, chapter 4 is an example of how personally Jesus engaged with strangers. After meeting and listening to Jesus reveal the truth of her life she was forever changed.
 
Identity is the key to healing the human heart, mind and soul. God is our Father who desires relationship with His children and at the deepest core of who we are created to be is the need to be known, accepted and seen.  When we do not know how much God loves us, we look to be known and accepted in the world in ways that leave us empty, disappointed and even arrogant. Eph. 1:4 says, “And He chose us to be His very own, joining us to himself even before he laid the foundation of the universe. Because of His great love, He ordained us as one with Christ from the beginning, so that we would be seen as holy in His eyes with an unstained innocence.” His love and approval are free by faith in Jesus and only here will we find the acceptance that brings us complete peace.
 
Our mission as Agape Freedom Fighters is to help others first know their identity in Christ and then to experience the riches of an ever deepening relationship with God and that through the power of the Holy Spirit to help call other children by name and into the glorious healing embrace of the Father.
 
Today, may your ears hear the beautiful whisper of the Lord of hosts calling your name.
 
Love and  Joy in Him,
                                    Rev. Joanne Moody
 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Looking At Our Perceptions & Judgments by Pastor Russ Fochler

Jesus: The Judge Who Brings Life
I loved Susan Fochler's talk on May 20th and follow-up encouraging email last week.  She shared beautifully about the way Jesus judges – a way that brings restoration and reconciliation to our hearts and relationships.  We so need Jesus’ help because we tend to perceive and judge in ways that are very destructive.  Ways that bring separation and death instead of life.  This dynamic started with the Fall of Adam.
 
This is a major reason why we need Jesus to renew our minds. (Romans 12:1-2)  And, it is our re-birthright to share in the mind of Christ! (1 Cor 2:16)
 
Last Saturday, May 27th we explored two passages from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 - 7 where Jesus taught about perceiving and judging:
 
“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!”   Matthew 6:22-23 The Message  
 
When the Greek culture of that time spoke of someone having an “evil eye”, it meant someone who was stingy and suspicious.  Just after this passage, Jesus goes on to talk about choosing to serve God instead of wealth/money -- living generously instead of being stingy.  And then Jesus talks about not worrying about our basic needs – about how well God provides as we simply ask, seek, and knock.  Our Heavenly Father knows how to give good things to His children.
 
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Matthew 7:1-2 NKJV
 
Please note: Jesus is not saying we should ignore evil or turn off the discernment Holy Spirit gives us.  In the next few verses in Matthew, Jesus tells us to be wise about not offering precious things to those who have no capacity to value them.  And just a bit further, Jesus calls us to discern false prophets by the fruit of their lives (evidence of a heart relationship with Jesus).
 
When Judging Becomes A Snare
However, judging becomes a snare when the story I’m telling myself about a person leads me to decide what they deserve and don’t deserve, and what their value and worth is. 
 
Have you ever sensed God challenging a story you’ve been telling yourself about someone?  It’s a good thing!  It means that we’re invited to “die to self” – to let go of our self-centered/self-protective projections and become open/vulnerable to Jesus’ true and life-giving perspective.  This happens to Mackenzie during the cave scene in The Shack.
 
How This Problem Started
C. Baxter Kruger writes vividly in The Shack Revisited about what happened when Adam and Eve believed Satan’s lies about God and then ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This is where our problem with perceiving and judging started.  I’ve italicized or bolded some of Baxter’s words for emphasis:
 
“His (Satan’s) chief deception is to invite us to doubt the Lord’s goodness, creating insecurity and anxiety in us -- which in turn drives us to independent action.  All of this is then shrewdly woven into the lie that we are separated from the triune God.  Adam and Eve believed the whispering doubt about the goodness of the Lord.  In the place of trust, love, and security rose doubt, and then fear, which inevitably turned them upon themselves.  They became self-referential and “chose independence over relationship” (Shack pg 125).  They became self-centered, making themselves and their own judgment their point of reference and discernment rather than relationship with the Lord.
 
…in the believing the lie of the evil one, they became blind.  They could no longer perceive the real truth about God or about themselves.  They hid from the Lord.  
 
Why? Clearly they were afraid, but afraid of what?  Of course, their hiding comes on the heels of their outright disobedience, and most people would assume that they were afraid of God’s punishment.  But then again, how could Adam and Eve stand in the garden, the recipients of such astonishing blessing and love, and be afraid of the Lord?  Had God changed?  Had the Lord who created Adam and Eve out sheer grace and love, and poured such astounding blessing upon them, suddenly made an about-face?  Had he ceased to love?
 
Adam projected his own brokenness onto God’s face.  He tarred the Father’s face with the brush of his own angst.  He took a paintbrush, dipped it into the cesspool of his own double-mindedness and guilt and shame, and painted an entirely new picture of a god with it.  And it was this god, created in his own darkened imagination—not the Lord—that he feared and from whom he hid.
 
Adam was scared to death.  How could he not be?  He believed himself to be standing guilty before a divine being who was as unstable as he.  From this moment, our shame will disfigure the Father’s heart.  The projection of our fear will rewrite the rules of his care.  He will continue to bless us beyond our wildest dreams, but in our mythology we will never see it.” The Shack Revisited by C. Baxter Kruger
 
God's Punishment or Our Darkened Projections?
Many of us were taught that God needed to punish mankind because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience; that God separated Himself from us until Jesus received God’s wrath and punishment on our behalf.  I believe the truth is, our loving Creator never separated from us.  Instead, our skewed perceptions, the projections of the darkness of our hearts upon God -- led mankind to emotionally separate from the eternal Trinity.
 
This lostness, this blindness is why our loving Father sent His cherished Son to Earth as a human – to reveal His true heart to us, as one like us.  Jesus absorbed the full force of our fears, hatreds, and rejections into Himself on the Cross.  Jesus came into our darkness so we can perceive God's light and love.   This is astoundingly good news!

With trust in Y'shuah's love and goodness,

Russ Fochler