The Power is in the Kiss

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THE KISS OF GOD 

Here is the first verse of my song The Power is in the Kiss: 

The power is not in a top down ultimatum 

It’s not in the angry raising of your fist 

The power is not in your well defended position 

Real power, purest power is in the kiss 

In many arenas of society in the past year we have seen a lot of what I describe as the “wrong kind of power” in this first verse:   “top down ultimatums, angry raising of your fist, well defended position… calling down heaven’s fire on the ones we think are lower than ourselves.”  These actions and attitudes flow from a belief that “I am right, I have the power, and I am going to exert my power to get my way, even if it means I will dominate you and show violence in doing so.”  

In his book, “A More Christlike God,” Bradley Jersak describes the way Christ rules:  “…Christ rules through love rather than coercion—through persuasion rather than force—through revelation rather than domination.” 

Jersak goes on to explain that consent rather than coercion is how the Father and the Son relate to one another.  “Consent is the divine act of love between Father and Son.  Some have said that as the Father kisses the Son, the Holy Spirit is the kiss.  The Son shows his love for God the Father by continually consenting—obeying, surrendering, yielding—to his Father’s will (and God’s will is love!).” 

Jesus showed us a very different kind of power than we see in some of our modern-day politics.  He showed us and upside down kind of cruciform power – going to the cross.  He showed is kenotic power – emptying himself of his rights to exercise authority as God (Philippians 2).  Kenosis means to “empty yourself of self will.” 

The kenotic and cruciform power of Jesus is described in the bridge of “The Power is in the Kiss:” 

It’s the power of love reaching across the great divide 

Embracing the lonely ones on the other side 

It’s the power of the peaceful dove   

The power of an open door 

The power of an outstretched hand    

Giving help to the weak and poor 

The power of real surrender, it’s the power of letting go 

It’s the weakness of an earthen vessel, 

Filled with power, purest power from above 

In marriage and in all relationships, surrendering our power, or letting other people have their way is often the right choice.  Another way of saying that is from 1 Cor 13:  “Love is not insisting on your own way.”  This is how I approach my relationship with Linda, my wife.   It’s also the way I try to behave in my interactions with friends, co-workers and strangers in the marketplace. 

Though we don’t automatically allow ourselves to be run over or abused, at the very least we are called to show love and respect at all times to all people.  Paul writes to Titus, “…be peaceable and considerate, and always…gentle toward everyone.”  (Titus 3:2)

Meditations Series – Celebrating 45 Years Walking with Jesus 

I’ve travelled a rich journey of knowing God through the last several decades.  To be exact, it’s 45 years since I started walking with the Lord in my first year of university studies.  I had never imagined that God could be so real, so involved in my life, and so willing to reveal himself to me. 

To celebrate these first 45 years of my walk with Jesus, I am writing a series of 45 Meditations on all sorts of subjects that have been key lessons for me along this road.  Some topics offer advice on how to deal with specific challenging situations of life, and some are big-picture topics that form the spiritual foundations we walk on. 

You can see several episodes of this series on the 45 Meditations page on this website.  All of the Meditations are posted on my Youtube page @ Andy Park.

My Great Reward 

Abraham is one of my favorite Bible characters.  He walked a very long journey of faith.   God made very great promises to him:  2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing… all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 

As great as those promises were, they were NOT Abraham’s “great reward.”  His great reward was the person of God – walking with and being a friend of God.  Abraham enjoyed many earthly blessings.  He had a beautiful wife (Gen 12:11), many servants and was wealthy: “Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold” (Gen. 13:2).  “Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels” (Gen. 12:16). 

Abraham’s life is a very important example for all of us.  God promised him, “descendants … as numerous as the stars in the sky.”  Though God may generously bless us in many ways on the earth, none of those promises are our ultimate treasure.  HE is our ultimate treasure.  

If I get too focussed on the promises of things God is planning for me, I become very disappointed.  Accomplishing goals or attaining possession or even having special relationships will ultimately disappoint us if they are our ultimate treasure.   If we make idols of earthly blessings, in the long run they will fail to satisfy us. 

I encourage you to enjoy friendship with God today and every day.  Don’t forget that God is at your side, in your heart, above you and below you and behind you and before you.  In a way, it’s not so much what you do in life as Who you do it with that counts.

God is Stirring the Waters 

In John 5, we read the story of the man who was sick for 38 years, and was waiting for his healing.  He was lying among the hundreds of sick who were gathered at this pool in Bethesda.  Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well.  He said that he wasn’t able to be the first one into the pool when the angel began to stir the waters.  The first one in always got healed. 

Jesus healed him on the spot.  No angel was necessary, no jumping in the pool was necessary.  The man didn’t even answer Jesus with a strong, “YES, I want to be healed!”   Instead, he brought his lament to Jesus – he wasn’t quick enough to jump in the pool first.  Jesus showed mercy to this man who had been crippled for decades. 

By healing him on the spot, Jesus was saying, “I’m here, and I’m all you need.  You don’t have to wait for an angel.  There is no lack of healing available.  Healing isn’t reserved for the clever and able ones who manage to get into the front of the line.” 

In the past year, God has been “stirring the waters” big time in my life.  Did you know that the average adult human body is 50-65% water, averaging around 57-60%?   The natural things speak of the invisible.  Jesus said we would have living water gushing out of us if we come to him and drink.  The river of God never stops flowing. 

I hear so many stories from around the world of God stirring the waters in peoples’ lives.  In the John 5 healing story, no angel was present.  But in these days, angelic visitations are not occasional.  They are constant.

I believe the veil between our earthly existence and stepping into the kingdom of heaven is thinner than ever.  People who persistently push through this veil will experience more and more of God’s love, healing, glory and empowering for daily life. 

The first week of June will mark the beginning of my new video series called The Pool of Healing.  The word translated “healing” in the new Testament is sozo.  This word describes much more than physical healing.  It describes deliverance from evil, salvation of our souls, restoration of our minds, emotions and social relationships.  Sozo brings about a general state of well-being, and it prepares us to be conduits of living water to others. 

My video series will include stories, songs, prophetic words, and sharing what I’ve learned about walking with Jesus over the past four decades.  You can check it out on my youtube channel.

Unlock Love with Your Eyes and Words 

Unlock Love, post #3

Unlocking love can’t happen unless we are seeing God everywhere and acknowledging him with words.  By opening the gates of our eyes, emotions, ears and minds to God-reality, and marvelling at the miracles all around us, we get in flow of his love. 

The writer of Psalm 36 was surround by haters.  He starts by giving a lurid description of rebellious, conceited, evil-doing, self-centered liars. But the transition between verse 1-4 and 5-10 is striking.  He does a 180 degree turn.  He turns his attention to the ‘meteoric’ love of God! 

How does he keep from spiralling down into a pit of negative emotion?  It’s not by repenting with sackcloth and ashes.  How does he get his mind off those who are attacking him?  He thinks about the ‘astronomic’ faithfulness of the Lord.  How does he stay out of self-pity and self-centeredness?  He thinks about God’s tender care and kindness that leaves no one forgotten. 

How does he get out of bemoaning the ubiquitous ‘virus’ of people who ignore God and are constant doing evil?  He marvels at the ‘oceanic’ justice of God.  This is a great example of gratitude and worship DISPLACING all the bad feelings and thoughts.  It’s impossible to be stuck in a “woe-is-me”  mindset if we’re standing in awe of Love Divine. 

If we look at life from our seat in the heavens (Eph 2:6), we see reality from God’s point of view and speak into existence a positive vibe. 

When I go on a walk to pray and sing, I see God everywhere.  I feel him in the fresh, cool wind.  I see his glory in the sun, the trees and blue sky. I see amazing glorious clouds and say, “that’s the glory of God!”  (the spiritual reality behind the physical reality). 

As you go about your daily chores, say things like: 

“O God, how extravagant is your cherishing love!” 

“Your great faithfulness is infinite.” 

“You’re a fountain of cascading light, and you open our eyes to light.”

The Corona Virus is a Crown that will Not Last  

The Coronavirus gets its name from the word ‘corona’ which means crown in Latin and in Spanish.  Coronavirus has a series of crown-like spikes on its surface, which is the reason for the name. 

Names are significant.  In the midst of a lot of panic and fear over the Coronavirus, how can we be encouraged by the biblical symbol of the crown?  The metaphor of the crown is used in many ways in the Bible. 

While most of the uses of “crown” in the Bible refer to the exalted status of God and kings, and the crown worn by every believer who runs the race of faith, there are also negative uses of the word.  Locusts wear crowns (Rev 9), as do the beast and dragon in Revelation (Rev 12, 13).  This speaks of a destructive power.  

The Coronavirus is a bad kind of crown.  But there is good news… The Coronavirus WILL NOT LAST.   It will fade away.  Before we know it, we will be remembering it as a thing of the past… “Remember that crazy virus?” 

The Apostle Paul made a big deal out of difference between temporary and eternal crowns.  He writes about the imperishable crown that goes to the Christian who completes the race in contrast to crowns won by athletes, which will fade with time. The unfading crown of life, joy and righteousness will last forever.  Peter writes: “when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”  1 Peter 5:4 

While we take practical steps to avoid catching or spreading the Coronavirus, we ought to think about the crown that will last.  The crown of glory we receive as we run the race of faith WILL LAST FOREVER. 

But we don’t have to WAIT to wear crowns from God.  In Christ, we are already wearing the crowns of love, compassion, joy and righteousness. 

“To experience the blessing of his character and activity on one's behalf is said to be a crown. So his lovingkindness and mercy can be a crown (Psalm 103:4) as can mere relationship with him (Isaiah 28:5).” (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary). 

I encourage you to enjoy your position as a treasured member of God’s family and rejoice in your lasting crown!

Do you think God is patient with you? 

Unlock Love, post #2 

“Love is patient…”  This is the first descriptor of love Paul gives us in the famous “love chapter” from his letter to the Corinthians.  If God is love, and love is patient, then God is patient with you and I.  He is way more patient with us than we are with ourselves.  Sometimes I think, “I can’t believe I’m still struggling in this area of my thought life.”  But God says, “Cheer up!  Just keep going, keep growing, keep letting me love you.” (I guess that must be from the gospel of Andrew). 😉 

Yahweh was always this gracious.  He “passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”  Meditate on this and it will help you have a good day! 

“Love endures all things.”  God happily endures with us through our struggles and failures.  Put those two attributes of love together and you have, “God patiently endures with us.”  God is not against us, he is for us.  He doesn’t want you to go around in a cloud of frustration because you stumbled and made a mistake.  And, it’s not just something he does to us; he endures with us.  He is inside of us, alongside of us, above and below us, and ONE with us.  He empathizes with us when we struggle.  He rejoices with us when we overcome.  He abides with us when we genuinely want to walk in his love-agenda. 

To unlock love in our lives, we must open the gates of our minds and emotions to receive his love!  If we are going to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” we have to start by loving ourselves.  Then we’ll be cheerful, feel good about ourselves and be able to live with a buoyant spirit.  We can withstand opposition and a multitude of problems when we know God’s unwavering love. 

Jesus asked the Father, “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them (1).” The same love the Father has for Jesus is poured out on us! 

Have a love-filled day.

Angel Ambassadors 

I love this picture of the angel over the city for several reasons.  It depicts angels as being real, powerful, and very concerned about our cities and the people that live in them.  The sweet, fluffy angels you see on Hallmark greeting cards present angels as an endearing Christmas-time myth rather than as powerful emissaries of God.  

Why is there skepticism about angels being real and active on earth?  Because we live in the scientific age, which has programmed us to doubt the existence of other-worldly beings.  Last time I checked, the whole of Christianity is founded on other-worldly stuff! 

A survey of angelic appearances in the Bible show us they function as messengers, guides, comforters and protectors.  There are also warrior angels.  They often show up at times of birth and death, and in moments of danger and crisis.  A few examples:  the angel at the tomb of Jesus who encouraged the two women who came looking for Jesus.  The angel who appeared to Zechariah to tell him his wife would bear a son in her old age.  

How about Cornelieus?  “He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”   Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.  The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”  (Acts 10). 

And of course, the angel who let Peter out of prison (Acts 12):  “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.”  This one makes me smile because I regularly encounter being zapped with a small electric shock by an angel to wake me up at night.  It’s God’s means of inviting me into a night-watch conversation with him.  (I’m not saying this is what he does with everyone – I have no idea how many people experience electric zaps.  I suspect I’m not the only one).  

The way I see it, you receive what you believe.  If you believe in Jesus, you get salvation.  If you believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, they are available to you.  If you believe that angels still function today as they did in Bible times, then you will benefit from their encouragement, presence and guidance.  But if you reject any one of these things, you will not receive the blessing they bring. 

In the past year I have had many encounters with angels.  It is now a regular part of my life.  Prior to that, I would occasionally be aware of the presence of an angel as I was worshiping, and one time I had an open vision of an angel on the platform of Anaheim Vineyard while Todd Hunter was leading a ministry time (somewhere around the year 1990). 

But after listening to some teaching and stories from people who regularly encounter angels, I asked God to bring that into my life if he desired.  In a matter of hours, I received a visitation from an angel. 

It would be ridiculous to worship an angel, but very sensible to treat them as friends.  Many people in the Bible had conversations with angels.  The messages I receive from angels are not unlike hearing directly from God.  It isn’t an audible voice, but a strong impression, and sometimes very specific.  You know that the thoughts you are receiving and not originating in your own mind.  And you are aware of the presence of another being in the room besides yourself. 

The advice I’ve received is to welcome and honor angels.  Just a simple, “I welcome you and honor you.”  It’s not unlike welcoming the Holy Spirit.  Another thing you can try is asking God to introduce you to your personal angel if he so desires.  You can also ask the Lord to reveal the name of the angel that is assigned to you. God dispatches the angels for different purposes in all kinds of times and places.  Don’t worry about getting obsessed with angels.  If you get too angel-happy, they probably will not show up because they don’t like to be worshipped.  They know that kind of honor is reserved only for God.  Just remember they are one means by which God helps and strengthens us (see Bible).   

In my limited experience, it is very clear that there are different types of angels who have different responsibilities, realms of authority and assignments from God.  Angels such as Gabriel are at the top of the angel hierarchy.  They carry a huge amount of power and the scope of their work is global.  But most of the angels that I regularly encounter are the kind that are sent to minister to each one of us on a regular basis. 

I receive great comfort and encouragement from the presence and words of angels.  I know that the beginning of experiencing angels was my repeated prayer, “God I want more of you. Please show me more of yourself and show me what to do.”  I want and need every kind of help God wants to give me because life is challenging!  Why would we refuse an obvious and proven means of God’s blessing such as angelic beings?

We are Children of Love 

Unlock Love  -  Article #1 

This is the beginning of a series of articles I will be posting under the umbrella of “Unlock Love.”  It’s a phrase that God spoke to me, telling me to emphasize that theme.  It’s no surprise that our loves should be permeated with God’s love.  We should always be tapping into the continuous flow of God’s love coming into us, and letting that love flow out of us.    

Jesus quoted the 1st and 2nd commandments, “Love the Lord your God…and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Paul echoes Jesus’ words by writing to the church in Corinth, “Make love your highest goal,” and “do everything in love.” 

There are many pathways of thinking, habits, and spiritual strongholds that block the flow of love.  A few of these are the way we see God, see ourselves, and see other people.  In this series of articles, I will share my experiences of removing the barriers to love. 

Let’s start with our identity as children of Love.  Where did we come from?  We were made in Love’s image.  God IS love.  We were made by love, in love and for love.  We are joined to Jesus, who is love: “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (1 Cor 6:17).  We are one with Love.  That’s our true identity.  There is no separation between the branch and the vine (John 15).  The love that is inherent to the nature of God flows through us as we abide, remain and live into in his love. 

“Children of love” is a re-phrasing of Paul’s words, “you are children of light” and “you are light in the Lord.”  Scripture teaches that God is light.  For Paul to say, “YOU are light” is an amazing statement.  His light is alive in us – the full potential of creative, energetic God-light.  Paul is saying, “this is who you are.” 

So, when we’ve lost our temper or carried a bad attitude for awhile, all it takes is a simple re-alignment to get things right.  We repent and remind ourselves who we really are – ones who are not envious, boastful, or proud.  We are alive in the Spirit because “Christ in us, the hope of glory” is our powerhouse companion! 

I like to pray this type of prayer, and make this declaration, taken from the “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians: “I am joined to Jesus, who is kind, patient, unselfish and believes the best about others.  I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in these qualities of love.  I am one with him.  I choose to surrender to his thoughts and impulses, enabling me to freely love as I have been loved. 

It’s hard work becoming a constant conduit of God’s love to others – but it’s not a heavy burden.  If we are struggling under the weight of condemnation, labeling ourselves as dismal failures, we’ll never climb out that depressing hole.  But, if we immerse our mind and spirit in the never ending flow of God’s love, we’ll get in sync with his loving ways.  And we will love our neighbor as we love ourselves! 

Do yourself a favor – love and forgive yourself.  Give yourself as much grace as Jesus does – it’s unending.  It’s a lot easier to love others when you know you are loved unconditionally.

Moses, his Fears, and His Staff 

“Now the Lord had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.”  Exodus 4:19-20 

Moses had to go back to the place of his failure.  He had to trust God to protect him.  He had to walk into the environment in which he was almost murdered by the previous Pharaoh, the place from which he fled into the wilderness. 

His staff was a simple piece of wood, a tool he used every day in his daily, menial work of caring for animals.  God directed him to use the tool that was earthly, ready at hand and completely unremarkable.  God turned it into a conduit for revealing his authority, presence and favor. 

What tool is ready at your hand?  A guitar?  A cell phone that you can use to share God-ideas online?  The ability to speak or write or lead or serve?  What skill do you use on almost a daily basis?  Caring for children or adults or needy?  What knowledge do you have from years of experience that God wants to embody and empower to be a tool for revealing his loving encouragement? 

What is the “Egypt” you have to walk back into?  What fears do you face every day as you say a simple ‘yes’ to God’s invitation?   It’s not about your abilities, it’s about “I AM THAT I AM” being with you. 

On a natural level, Moses had plenty of reasons to lack confidence.  He wasn’t an articulate speaker.  He had murdered a man when he was still part of the royal household.  He was a very reluctant leader. 

God called him to do something way beyond his own little world of caring for flocks.  He called him to deliver people out of slavery to a cruel dictator.  It wasn’t about the wow factor of doing miracles.  The miracles were a tool to bring freedom and God’s blessing to an oppressed people.

Ride the Wave  

There have been thousands of “waves” of the Holy Spirit throughout church history.  Here’s one example: in the country of Wales, between 1762 and 1862 there were at least 15 outstanding revivals (see “Revival Comes to Wales” by Eifion Evans). 

I grew up in Southern California, and did some surfing.  I never surfed enough to became a good surfer.  But I did learn some of the fundamentals of the sport.  There are many parallels between catching a wave on a surfboard and catching a wave of the Holy Spirit. 

What do you do when you surf a wave? 

1.  Watch for it.  While we are never without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, it’s good to always be looking for incoming waves.  When you see people being touched and hear stories from near and far about extraordinary things God is doing, you are seeing incoming waves that might reach your own shores.  This raises your faith level, and spurs you on to seek the Lord diligently, to pray and listen and respond to him. 

2.  Get yourself in a position to catch it.  Being in the right place at the right time is supremely important in surfing waves.  You learn it by doing it.  Simply go where there are waves and you pick up the knack for being in the right place.  Things of the Spirit are “more easily caught than taught.”  So hang around people and places that are receiving and giving away the Holy Spirit’s blessings.  Several years ago I was in Hawaii on a ministry trip (poor me, someone has to do it).  I got a couple of brief surfing opportunities with my son, Ben.  While I was paddling to catch a wave, one of the local surfer women shouted out, “go, go, go!”  She could see I needed to pick up the pace to catch the wave.  We need friends around us to cheer us on towards our spiritual goal. 

3.  To catch the wave.  You have to build up speed to catch the wave, which means you have to paddle hard. I relate this to having good spiritual habits.  You learn to pray by praying.  Just as surfers build up strong upper body muscles through lots of paddling, we build up spiritual muscles through frequent practice.  Mother Teresa said, “Prayer is a 2-way conversation.  God speaks, we listen.  We speak, God listens.”  The Holy Spirit is our constant inner teacher.  We tap into what he is saying by maintaining a posture of prayer. It’s not easy to catch a wave in surfing, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.  (I think it’s much easier to receive the Holy Spirit than to catch a beach wave!) 

4.  When you’re on the wave, you move in response to the wave.  You “do what the wave is doing.”  Keep listening.  Abide in him.  Get your instructions from him.  Do what he says.  In Paul’s teaching on discerning spiritual things, he says, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2).  If we have access to the mind of Christ, that means he can potentially be feeding us his thoughts non-stop.  Because we aren’t perfect receptors for his thoughts, we miss a lot of stuff.  Nevertheless, he is always ready to lead and guide. (Every analogy has weaknesses.  In a sense, we are always on a wave of the Holy Spirit because he is connected to our own human spirit.  See 1 Cor. 6:17, 2 Peter 1:4).  In surfing, you “feel” your way along the wave.  Not unlike moving with the Holy Spirit. 

5.  The power comes from the wave, not from us.  If we abide in him, we will bear much fruit by virtue of our connection with his love, wisdom and power.  This is liberating.  We never have to produce the power, and we never take the credit, because he is the source of every blessing.  

Good waves come in sets of 6 or 8, then there’s a lull, then another set rolls in.  Watch and wait for the right times to surf.  If there are no waves, go have a barbeque on the beach!  At all times, love one another, serve the needy, and do the “main and plain” things that every Christian should do. 

6.  Riding a beach wave is unlike any other feeling I’ve had.  It’s definitely a euphoric experience.  I think it’s even more fun than skiing or snowboarding – being smoothly carried along by a very powerful force.  For me, these euphoric feelings in surfing have been few and fleeting.  The Holy Spirit’s presence in us is much more constant and dependable than a beach wave.  He is always with us.  We don’t focus on euphoria, we focus on him, and sometimes he gives us a taste of heaven, and helps us to help others experience the same wonderful freedom. 

7.  Disclaimer.  Maybe the biggest weakness of this analogy between surfing and responding to the Holy Spirit is that surfing is and individual sport and immersion into the Holy Spirit is best done in relationship with others. 

8.  Watch for waves!  Paddle hard!  Trust the wave-Maker.  Be connected to a community of comrade-Holy Spirit-surfers.

Holy Disruption 

Historically, we see that God brings renewal and positive change when people intentionally seek him.  But people don’t usually decide one day all on their own initiative, “I’m going to really go for God.”  Usually, there is a catalytic moment, an eye-opening experience, or a disruption of our contentment with the status quo. 

God brings disruption to light a fire under us. 

God disrupts normal life by his delightful appearance, his penetrating words, and at times through great difficulty.  Through disruptions, we see that what we thought was “normal spirituality” is probably less than all God has for us in our pilgrimage of faith. 

These disruptions are often not specifically sought after or expected. They are often difficult, but they are also heavenly.  God satisfies the hunger in our hearts when we follow his path of disruption.  God-disruptions produce godliness and fruitfulness if we humbly respond, giving God a chance to unwrap his gifts to us.   

Examples of biblical disruptions: 

Jesus encountering Paul on the road to Damascus.  “Is that you, Jesus?!” 
God encountering Moses through the burning bush, “God, you’ve got the wrong guy.” 
The prophet Samuel anointing David as the next king.  Teenager becomes giant-slayer. 
Matthew, sitting in his tax-collectors booth, received an invitation from Jesus: “Follow me.”  Jesus’ radical inclusion of a “scum-of-the-earth” tax collector is scandalous and wonderful. 
The Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost and empowered the disciples, which turned the world upside down. 
Jesus offers the Samaritan woman “Living Water.”  She tells the whole neighborhood this good news. 

We can be disrupted when we: 

Read a book, hear a sermon or a song – God grabs our heart, opens our eyes to a reality we know is right but couldn’t previously see. 
We see a passage of scripture like, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart” and decide to take it seriously.  (Col. 4:2) 
We see burning passion for God in someone’s life and it produces the right kind of jealousy in our hearts.  We want the blessings of God that we see in those around us.  We are provoked to follow the path of disruption – to break out of previous habits and really dive into the pursuit of God. 

Jesus said some radical things, like “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.”  (Matt. 10:37) 

Jesus absolutely didn’t want us to stop loving our family, but he calls us to love him with everything we have, everything that’s in us:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”  Most people would describe that as fanaticism.  For Jesus, and Paul, and hundreds of thousands of disciples through the ages, it’s the normal Christian life.  That’s where real adventure is. 

Don’t hear legalism in what I’m saying.  It’s finding the Pearl of Great Price.  God disrupts our routines and our low expectations in order to begin a new chapter of experiencing his love and giving his love away.

Fires from Heaven 

In the Bible, God’s activity among us is sometimes compared to fire. What does the fiery Holy Spirit do?   He purifies, refines, ignites, makes alive, imparts passion and zeal for God, and his coming is accompanied by spiritual gifts and boldness.  John the Baptist said that Jesus would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11). 

The Holy Spirit baptizes all of us with fire.  He brings his fiery love into our midst as we worship.  He dwells in us as a burning presence.   When two disciples broke bread with the risen Jesus, they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). Each one of us is individually a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the collective body of Christ is another kind of temple of the Holy Spirit.  We are exposed to a larger, more powerful fire when we gather as the church. 

How do we steward the presence of the Holy Spirit in all arenas of life? 

1. We respond to him as individuals.  Each of us is joined to him.  “He (or she) who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17).  His presence in us is a flame that is never extinguished.  We pray and listen to him everyday, and we do our best to respond to his words and his voice inside us in all kinds of practical ways.   

2. We “keep the home fires burning.”  I picture a family hearth in a simple, medieval home.  The fire had many purposes.  It kept the house warm, provided hot water for cleaning, and was used to cook food.  It was also the gathering place for family fellowship.  Most of us don’t gather around literal fires in our homes, but we gather in response to the love-fire of the Holy Spirit in all of us.  We have to be attentive to the “home fire,” continuing to stoke it with fresh fuel to keep the fire alive.  For us, this means fanning the flame of God’s love in our own hearts and being attentive to relationships in our family and with our roommates.  

3. We welcome the fire of the Holy Spirit in our church gatherings.  Much of the time, the Holy Spirit’s effect on us is simply to warm our hearts towards him and towards one another.  At other times, he reveals the holiness of his fire, leading us to repentance (Hebrews 4:28-29).  We give place to the unpredictable move of the Holy Spirit, allowing his fire to kindle and ignite us however he wants. 

4. We gather with Christians from all kinds of other churches.  Throughout church history we see seasons of God’s fiery visitation, which draws together people from all kinds of churches, and those who aren’t churchgoers.  The fire spreads into the community, into every neighborhood and coffee shop where people will welcome his burning love.  The fiery love of God propels us to help and serve people everywhere. 

Will we let him burn in us?

Hungry for God 

How do we become hungry for God?  I think it’s partly God’s gift, and partly our choice.   Recently God has made it very easy for me to pray because he has visited me with amazing power and regularity.  I am swimming in a sea of revelation.  I see it as mostly God’s doing.  God is taking some big steps towards me these days, and I am trying to keep stepping towards him.  The result is wonderful and also challenging.  He is calling me to make a career of seeking him.  But that’s where the action is.  I feel like this is a season of great opportunity for anyone who will step towards him.

I find that it’s very easy to become satiated and satisfied with all kinds of things and activities that are NOT God.  Many of those things are good.  But if I fill myself up with entertainment, recreation and taking care of my possessions, I have a very shallow life.  So, we have to put aside the good stuff to get the best—God himself. 

I think when Jesus said, “I am the bread of Life, come to me and drink” and “I am the living water, come to me and drink,” it was the real deal.  We can actually get sustenance and the satisfaction of an intimate relationship with the God who is love.  But there are so many inferior substitutes available in this era of great wealth and super advance technology. 

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.  Doing God’s will feeds us.  We know our lives have meaning when we do God’s work.  That is very fulfilling. 

Our hunger can be satisfied with nearness to God, just as the Psalmist who wrote these words: I will praise you as long as I live, 
and in your name I will lift up my hands.  I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;  with singing lips my mouth will praise you (Psalm 63:4,5).

Post #10: Living in Humility 

A life-changing conversation between mother and son 

When he was 10 years old, David Eisenhower was vey excited about joining his older brothers to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night.  But his parents wouldn’t let him go.  They thought he was too young.  David threw a terrible temper tantrum.  He begged his parents for the chance to join his brothers.  In a rage, he screamed and cried and beat his hands against a tree. 

His father spanked him and sent him to bed.  Later on, his mother came to comfort her son, taking him into her lap and gently rocking him.  After a time of quiet, she quoted Proverbs 16:32: “He that conquers his own soul is greater than he who takes a city.”  She explained to him how dangerous it was to hold bitterness in your heart towards others.  Hanging onto anger will damage and imprison you. 

Sixty-six years later, when he was seventy-six, Eisenhower wrote, “I have always looked back on that conversation as one of the most valuable moments of my life. To my youthful mind, it seemed to me that she talked for hours, but I suppose the affair was ended in fifteen or twenty minutes. At least she got me to acknowledge that I was wrong and I felt enough ease in my mind to fall off to sleep.”[i] 

Here is another example of foot-washing.  In this case, we see the long lasting impact of sitting quietly with a person and speaking kind words.  Ida Eisenhower was doing what all faithful mothers do.  She was consoling and counseling her young boy.  She couldn’t have known she was shaping the character of a boy who would become President of the United States.   She couldn’t have known that this 20-minute conversation would always be remembered by her son as one of his most life-changing moments.  The slow, steady, humble work of showing compassion to a weeping child has long-term benefits that we can’t see in the moment of crisis.  This was another “secret place” moment of showing love to a hurting child. God sees every kind word, every minute and hour you’ve spent in compassionate caring. God sees that kind of faithfulness and rewards it—even if it takes a long time.  Through the centuries, mothers have had huge influence in shaping the character of their children and students, some of whom become leaders and influencers.  Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” 

What if David Eisenhower had turned out to have an unproductive, unremarkable life?  What if he had spurned all of Ida’s wisdom and guidance?  Would that have changed the value of Ida’s tender care for him?  No. If you’ve loved, you’ve succeeded.  If you “make love your highest goal,” as the Apostle Paul says, you’ve done well. We can’t control how the recipients of our love will respond.  

[i]   David Brooks, The Road to Character, Random House, New York, 2015, Page 52.

“God is Love” Song Story 

I am inspired to write songs for many reasons.  One way I catch a vision for a new song begins with seeing a need.  I sometimes do music for a dinner outreach to needy people.  It’s one expression of Nightshift, near where l live in Surrey (nightshiftministries.org). 

As we play and sing, looking out over the crowd, you see a lot of abused folks who came from broken homes and have struggled to survive on every level – emotionally, socially, physically and spiritually.  Many of them did not have a safe family of origin.  Home wasn’t a place they wanted to be. 

Seeing this group—a mix of the working poor, wandering teenagers, addicts, sex-trade workers and homeless—inspired me to write, “God is Love.” 

God is Love 

Have you been struck down, have you been bruised 

In danger and so afraid? 

Have you been slandered, hurt and abused 

And you barely have the strength to pray? 

There is a home, there is a shelter, 

There is a hiding place 

Jesus is here, his healing is near you today 

Chorus 

God is love, pouring like a waterfall over you 

Taking all your pain, taking all your bitterness away 

God is love, crashing like a breaker over you 

Darkness and death can no longer hold on to you 

Verse 2 

He’s your defender, he’s your protector, 

Run to the shadow of his wings 

Rest like a baby, in his tender mercy, 

There is healing in his wings 

He is your home, he is your shelter, 

He is your hiding place 

Jesus is here, his healing is near you today 

Bridge 

This is the kingdom, this is the life, 

It’s what you’ve been waiting for 

This is the freedom, this is the love, 

It’s what he has made you for

City of Light 

City of Light is the first track on the Bring Your Healing Love EP.  It’s a reggae tune that I’ve played a lot at Nightshift, a ministry in my city that serves a nightly meal to people in need.  The theme of the song is taken from the book of Revelation, which describes heaven as a shining city:  “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” 

We can experience some the blessings of heaven now – unity among people of all backgrounds, peace, inclusiveness, helping and sharing with one another and celebration.   Seeing a picture of heaven makes us long for the “full meal deal” and it should also make us pray for and work towards bringing heaven now, 

JKA Smith, in his book, You are What You Love,  describes well this concept:   “Christian worship should tell a story that makes us want to set sail for the immense sea that is the Triune God, birthing in us a longing for “a better country—a heavenly one” that is kingdom come (Heb. 11: 16). The biblical vision of shalom—of a world where the Lamb is our light, where swords are beaten into ploughshares, where abundance is enjoyed by all, where people from every tribe and tongue and nation sing the same song of praise, where justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream.”

On the Road Again 

Here are a few highlights of worship events from this fall in India, Langley, BC, Penticton, BC and St Louis, Missouri. 

A conference in Dehradun, India at the Vineyard church pastored by Sunny and Vika Gilbert.   This Vineyard was planted 20 years ago and is a fruitful sending church.  Lots of wonderful people and a great time with folks from many different churches in the region. 

Meetings in Delhi, India’s capitol city, hosted by Aradhna Vineyard.  This church is pastored by Emmanuel and Joyce Qureshi, a wonderful couple who were born and raised in India, moved to the U.S. for around 3 decades, and then moved back to Delhi to plant a Vineyard church when they were 60 years old.  It is a fruitful Vineyard with a wonderful 2nd congregation in a low-income neighborhood.  Lots of children from Hindu backgrounds are attending their services and equipping center. 

A worship weekend at Penticton Vineyard in B.C.  This 31-year old Vineyard is full of great people.  Really enjoyed hanging out with their worship teams.  God visited us in a special way in those meetings.  Always great to see Hart and Louise Loewen. 

A worship conference at Hope Vineyard in St. Louis, Missouri.  What fun to be back together with many of the band members from my Anaheim Vineyard days.  John and Audra Wyrosdick, David and Laurie Klein and Leo Song and I had a great time worshiping together and hanging out.  Some people were healed of physical ailments on Friday night.  I enjoyed staying with Robert and Kim Stovall, the pastors. 

In the 2nd half of November I’ll be in Denmark and Sweden for more worship events…Vineyards in Copenhagen and Gothenburg, a worship school in Umeå and a Nordic Vineyard worship leaders retreat.  Looking forward to it!

Harvest Vineyard Prayer and Worship Summit 

Last weekend I led worship sessions at the Harvest Vineyard Prayer and Worship Summit in Edmonton, Alberta.  One of the first things that struck me at this event was the angelic presence in the sanctuary.  Sometimes I know in my gut that angels are present.  Months of prayer offered up by the Harvest Vineyard beforehand made me feel like I was walking into an open, free space of connection with God. 

This tremendous grace was present for me not just in the meetings but while I was alone—to hear from God and prepare for the meetings.  It began a few weeks before I came to the event. That kind of thing happens because people have been doing the consistent plowing up of the spiritual ground, planting the seed through prayer and a lifestyle of worship and service. 

I love how they employ the arts:  their worship dance team is very unique and sensitive and really enhances the connection with God in the room.   Another prophetic use of the arts was Rik Berry’s painting during worship.  Rik is a Vineyard pastor and professional artist who skillfully brings forward God-themes through his work—done right before our eyes on the worship platform. 

The Harvest Vineyard has a high value on regularly setting aside long times for corporate worship where they can open the door for anything God wants to say or do.  (Once per month, they do an evening of extended worship and prayer with their community). They have a high value on going right to the holy of holies, listening to God and responding to his agenda, while holding their plans lightly.  This has been a core value in the Vineyard from the beginning, but it’s easy to slip away from actually doing it in week-to-week church life. 

There was a prophetic word about “The Northern Gateway.”  It seems to me that Harvest / Edmonton Vineyard could be a gateway through which God wants to bring something precious to the rest of Vineyard Canada and probably to many other churches, both inside and outside of the Vineyard.  They have a culture of prayer and worship that I think is rare in the Vineyard movement. 

They are humble people who have been reaching out to the needy in their community for over 25 years, and this year was their 15th annual prayer and worship summit.  There is no substitute for being a community that loves God and loves others, patiently building Kingdom—momentum over the long haul.

Take A Rest 

Just got back from five days at Gabriola Island with some family at a friends’ rustic cabin.  Their spot in the forest is only a few minutes from one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.   Cedar and Arbutus trees line the coastline. Sandstone rock formations in all shapes cover the shore.  Whitecaps are mirrored by puffy clouds overhead. 
  
It’s Peaceful. Serene.  The constant susurrating motion of the waves on the shore mesmerizes and calms.  In the background a long line of coastal mountains hover over the expanse of sea water in front of us.  The sun sets in a fiery orange-red ball on the watery horizon. 
  
At the cabin we are surrounded by The Gift of Green – the many hues of God’s green creation: grasses, wild shrubs and trees, topped with a light blue sky-covering.  Colorful accents of wild flowers dot the landscape. 
  
For most of these five days, my cell phone was far away from me, thank God.  We are not driven or held accountable to chronos time here.  No frantic rushing.  We enjoyed the freedom of kairos time.  Kairos is defined as an undetermined period of time in which something special happens. Jesus, Paul and Brother Lawrence operated in the kairos view of time. They saw every moment as a chance to enjoy and glorify God. 
  
In times of rest, there is ample time to think and be thankful.  To consider what really matters in life.  To let the tension drain out of your body.  To catch up on Sabbath rest.  To take opportunities to enjoy the sunset, share tasty food and reminisce about days gone by.  To share memories with loved ones. 
  
This summer, make sure to take time to unplug from the demands of work and a thousand other things. Whether it’s on an island for a week or in your own apartment or backyard for a weekend ‘stay-cation,’ find a way to slow way down and get out of your normal routine.  If possible, spend some time surrounded by nature and get away from your online devices.  You’ll be refreshed, revitalized and get fuelled up for the journey ahead!

Looks Like the Book of Acts 

Just got back from a 17-day trip to St. Stephen’s Society in Hong Kong.  Here is what I saw and absorbed and want to live: 
  
1.  A Culture of extreme generosity. Everyone is generous to everyone else.  They demonstrate the maxim: Give and it will be given to you. 
2.  Close community.  Sharing life, friendship, laughter, breaking bread together day-by-day. 
3.  Helping the poor...lifting up the downtrodden…freeing the oppressed…welcoming the outcast.  A few hundred people living with them in different properties around Hong Kong—from teenagers to the elderly. 
4.  A steady stream of people coming to Christ. Example:  Their “Go Kids” program welcomed around 1,000 mostly non –Christian parents and toddlers on Good Friday, for worship, a chance to receive Christ and games for the kids. (see picture above with my son and daughter, Jessica and Ben)
5.  Healings and deliverance from demonic oppression. 
6.  A very strong emphasis on worship and the Bible. 
7.  Slow steady growth of this ministry began by Jackie Pullinger 50 years ago, now with affiliate communities in several other nations. 
  
It really does look like the gospels and the book of Acts. 
  
How I will try to follow this example: 
1.  1 day at a time 
2.  1 person at a time 
3.  Don't let my life get too busy and cluttered with things that don’t really matter. 
  
 

Numb Fingers 

Our fingers were numb before the set started.  The temperature was 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit). Last night, our band set up the PA and our instruments outdoors at Nightshift (nightshiftministries.org).  We played for an hour while people ate. This is a nightly dinner served for people in need.  The volunteers mingled with the crowd, and prayed for some. 

We’ve been playing at Nightshift a couple times per month since last summer.  In the winter, it’s kind of crazy but it’s always fun.  We bundle up in several layers and my guitar goes way out of tune because it’s so cold.  Why is it fun?  Because we love to play good music together and see people touched by God—mostly people who wouldn’t go inside a regular church.  This is the closest thing to church they have.  Most of them are too broken and wounded to have the courage to walk into a traditional church (even if it’s a church that would welcome them). 

Another reason it’s fun is that we can play whatever we want to, and turn it up.  It’s not the regular “church rules.”  When you play outdoors during a meal, the boundaries of what’s appropriate are much larger.  Outdoors, the sound disperses and you don’t have people complaining that it’s too loud. 

Last night was typical – a handful of guys approached us to express their gratitude for our music, and our willingness to serve.  They always tell us what a huge difference it makes that we’re there.  It creates an entirely different atmosphere to have worship music (along with a few secular/Christian tunes) playing during the meal.  We welcome the Holy Spirit to speak and heal and he does it. 

This is where the action is.  “The meat is in the streets,” as John Wimber used to say.  It’s in giving that we receive.  We started playing at Nightshift because it was an obvious opportunity to bless the poor with our gifts of music and worship. 

God healed my arms in 2014 to show his love for me and to enable me to worship in places like Nightshift.  Freely you’ve received, freely give.

Out of the Mud and Up on a Rock 

In March 2015 I was in Hong Kong to do a 12-day songwriting workshop with a dozen worship leaders there.  One morning while I was there, I read Psalm 40 in my daily Bible reading.   God spoke to me powerfully through that Psalm, which begins, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”  I had been waiting a long time for a breakthrough.  Finally, God was bringing it to me. 
  
"He brought me up out of the mud and dirt...he gave me a new song to sing (Psalm 40:2,3)." 
  
For me, "the mud and dirt" was a combination of things.  I was feeling like I was going nowhere, I wasn't moving forward in ministry.  There was a lull in my worship-leading ministry.  I was leading worship in various churches, but I didn't have an overall plan or vision for what I should be doing. 
  
Four months before this, God began "lifting me out of the mud."  Within one week in November of 2014, heaven opened up and God initiated a whole new chapter in my life. 
  
The first breakthrough was a physical healing.  For 13 years I had suffered from a severe case of tendonitis in my hands and forearms.  I was “trudging through the mud.”  Playing the guitar for only 20 minutes was painful.  Doing any household chore with my hands was painful.  It was very discouraging.  I played through the pain but it was hard to write songs and really enjoy worshiping. 
  
Then God healed me!  The Holy Spirit came on me powerfully as a few family members prayed for me in church.  Since this healing, I can play guitar and work with my hands for hours.  I am not 100% free of pain, but my life is radically different because of this healing. 
  
The gushing of God's blessings continued with an outpouring of his presence, and an increase in hearing his voice.  In two months I received dozens of powerful prophetic words from many people.  Many people independently confirmed the same message:  God was going to give me a fruitful season of creativity, songwriting, and imparting his kingdom and healing to many people. 
  
Since that time, I have written over 50 songs (some of them still in process), and have recorded about ten, including “I Waited Patiently,” an adaptation of Psalm 40 that I began to write in Hong Kong.  Like the Psalm says, God gave me a new song to sing. 

In my next blog post I will share the climax of this story:  God continued to bless me as I freely gave what God had given me.  It’s in giving that we receive.

Your Family is Your Treasure 

A friend of mine gave me this word some years ago:  “Your family is your treasure.”  It referred to my immediate family.  I’ve often thought about it, and God has used it to keep my on the right path.  Sometimes I get too busy with the work that I love, and forget my family that I love even more. 

Last week I was in Cannon Beach for the annual gathering of worship leaders from the western U.S. (This year we were joined by several friends from other nations, as well). As always, it was a great time in God’s presence with old and new friends.  After four decades in the Vineyard, I’ve had so many precious experiences with this family of God.  When I see them, I’m reminded of God’s amazing goodness to me. What a privilege to be a part of this God-begotten community. 

This week, I couldn’t help but think, this family is my treasure.  I also thought about the counterfeit treasures that lure me, namely, finding affirmation through my music.  It’s human nature to want and need love and affirmation.  Where do we really get it?  From our Father and our family. 

What our hearts really long for is relationship with God and our family.  But, in this world of American Idol and The Voice, we often look for fulfillment through receiving recognition for our gifts.  But it’s just an illusion.  Sure, we get strokes when we do our thing on stage, but it doesn’t last.  We’re in for a huge let-down if we depend on the praises of people for our happiness.  Our idols always disappoint us. 

True friendship with God and our family members is such a beautiful thing—it’s completely unconditional.  What we gain from friendship and fellowship is affirmation...being with people who enjoy being with us.  We get the feeling, "I belong here!  These people love me and like me!  I don't have to strive or performfor acceptance.  I don't have to prove anything." 

So, remember what your true treasures are.  Be content to be a friend of God and included in his household of sons and daughters.   Cherish and savor the friendships God has given you.

The Miracle of Birth  

On January 31, around 7:00 pm, my daughter-in-law felt the beginning of labor pains.  My wife, who is a licensed midwife here in British Columbia, quietly sprang into action, making preparations for the birth.  For the past several months, the plan was for Shannon to give birth in our bedroom, for more space. 

It was very exciting as Shannon’s birth pangs increased in intensity and many family members gathered to wait and offer support.  My 2-year old granddaughter, Azélia, sat with my two daughters, along with several other women, mostly Parks. 

Around midnight, I went to sleep in my downstairs office for a few hours, intermittently being woken to the sound of groaning from upstairs.  At 2:30 am, I heard the sounds of pain turn to bursts of laughter.  I thought, “This is a good sign!”  So I went upstairs and heard the good news that Zebedee Park was now among us! 

What a miracle to see little Zebedee: a perfectly formed baby boy, wide-eyed and calmly looking around the room.  Holding him to my chest, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s gift to our family.  There were complications with Shannon’s first birth, so this fast and healthy delivery was especially sweet. 

I have a grandson!  It doesn’t matter how many times I’m around a newborn—I’m in awe every time.  Having a granddaughter was amazing, now our joy is doubled.  Looking around the room at my daughters and daughters-in-law, I thought about the grandbabies in our future…with eight of our own children, I wonder what the final tally will eventually be?! 

God keeps giving us blessings we don’t deserve and haven’t earned: that’s his grace.  At times like this, I think about what is most important in life:  loving the people that are close to me.  The busy-ness of life is briefly suspended as we gather to cherish the precious moment of a new birth.