Newsletter 11/29/11

Connections are being made through UniteBoston.com – a young woman found a ride home to New York for Thanksgiving via our website!

UniteBoston is helping to make valuable connections across the Christian community in this area! Here’s a cool story –  A friend of mine was trying to find a ride home to Rochester, New York for Thanksgiving – she posted about this on the UniteBoston forums.  Another individual from the Boston Justice House of Prayer saw this opportunity on the UniteBoston newsletter, contacted her and was able to give her a ride! It’s so encouraging to hear about these connections that are being made with our forums and events calendar which provide a platform for communication across the body.

Journey Church helped pack turkey baskets for the Cambridge community with the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House

On November 19th, eight members of Journey Church lifted, carried, passed, and bagged Thanksgiving baskets with the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood house. It was a joy to help families in the area enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. This month Journey Church has also been blessed by Pastor Kent’s teaching on spiritual gifts with the “Supernatural” series. We serve a God that is bigger and more powerful than anything  in this world – He is super-natural! Paul writes: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).  More than simply a belief or a concept, Christianity is about taking risks to bring the kingdom of God wherever you go, so that people can encounter and be transformed by the powerful love of Christ. I was particularly impacted by Pastor Kent’s message on how love itself is supernatural – click here to listen

I’m thankful for…you! I am now at 33% of my full support as a missionary! Praise God!

I recently became a home missionary through Elim Fellowship and have started building a team of people who will support me in prayer and finances for my work in the area. I have been so blessed by the number of people who have been willing to partner with me and God’s work throughout Boston. In about a month and a half, I’m already at 33% of my total monthly support – praise God! If you’d like to learn more about this opportunity, please email me – it would truly be an honor to have you on my team!

Prayer Requests:
-Wisdom and strategy for the UniteBoston leadership team in connecting with church and ministry groups throughout the city to build our user base
-For Journey Church, we are praying for laborers to help lay the foundation of our church, including children’s ministry, administrative help, sound and tech, as well as a campus pastor.

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Thanksgiving has just become my favorite holiday

There’s something special about Thanksgiving. I used to love Christmas – the lights, the hubbub and excitement leading up to December 25, the music, the scents, along with family and friends coming together. But there’s also the gifts element of the holiday which, in my experience, has truly take away from the true meaning of Christmas – celebrating the birth of Christ. There’s writing lists of things you would like to get, the stress for finding the perfect gift for everyone in your life, and those awkward times when you get a gift but don’t have one to reciprocate. For me, I think that the gift-giving component of our American celebration of Christmas points to our materialistic nature, a lacking in our heart to continually desire bigger and better things. Because of this, I have a newfound love for Thanksgiving – a day all about coming together to share a delicious meal with friends and family, a day to reflect on all that God has given you.

This morning I woke up and felt a stirring in my heart to go to Harvard Square. At first this made me really excited, thinking I was going to go and tell people about Jesus. But what I realized is that God wanted me to go to Harvard Square to teach me some things.

In Harvard Square this morning, there was a different feel. On a normal day, there is a busy hubbub of people rushing to work, to shop, or commute. But this morning was relatively quiet – most people being at home with family in nice warm houses, and a few walking to the T, carrying bottles of wine or small gifts on their way to family Thanksgiving meals. And yet the street-laden individuals of Harvard Square were still there, sitting on the pavement, cup of change rattling in their hands, a backpack with all their belongings not far away.

When I saw these young people sitting on the sidewalk, homeless and unable to eat a good Thanksgiving dinner or be with their families, my heart went out to them:

I spoke with a few, offering prayer and a listening ear. Each person expressed a longing to be with family, prayers for the health of loved ones, and a desire to be “anywhere but here.” One man remarked how cold it was getting at night sleeping on the pavement in his sleeping bag, which made me remember what a blessing it is to have a warm and comfortable bed only a short walk from the square. In my conversations, I expected to hear more pessimism, more hostility for the situation they were in, and yet everyone expressed thankfulness for being alive and for how God had brought them through. I realize that I have a lot to learn from these individuals, as their faith has been weathered – tested and tried even amidst the rough Boston winters. Truly, their ability to thank God in every situation is commendable and made me take a second look of appreciation at everything that I have. Why is it so easy to dwell on what we don’t have, instead of remembering what we do have?

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you  (1 Thesselonians 5:18)

And yet after a few hours, I hopped on the T with the rest of the middle-class Americans, to enjoy a delicious, filling meal with friends and family, leaving these folks still out on the street, rattling their cups of change, hoping for a better life. Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for, but I’m wondering – what can we do to change the injustices of the world, such as the God-given right for all to eat a Thanksgiving meal?

Now that’s funny

Robin and I are co-leading a life group designed to help members of our church get to know one another. Today at life group, each person brought in a favorite joke or movie clip that makes them laugh. There was quite a hodge podge of hilarious stuff – and since everyone needs a good laugh once in awhile, I thought you might enjoy these:

Jokes:

What happens when girls eat bullets? Their hair grows out in bangs (from Robin)

Two carrots grew up out of the ground and decided to go see the world. As they are walking across the street, one gets smashed and goes to the hospital. The other carrot is extremely worried about his friend and follows him to the hospital. The doctor tells the healthy carrot, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that your friend is going to be all right.” The carrot asked, “Well what’s the bad news?” The doctor answered – “He will be a vegetable for the rest of his life.” (from Dave)

A preacher was driving home from a conference when a policeman noticed him swerving all around the road. The cop pulled him over and said, “Sir, have you been drinking tonight?” “No officer, only this bottle of water” the preacher replied. The cop responded, “Sir, that’s clearly a bottle of wine.” The preacher looked down and said, “Good Lord, He’s done it again!” (from Nate – but I also brought this same joke to our small group!)

Two guys were talking, and one of them asked, “What do you think is wrong with our country – apathy or ignorance?” The other responded, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” (from Chris)

A major research project was commissioned to study optimism and pessimism. They were testing subjects by bringing them back to the lab and placing them in two different rooms. The first room was filled with every kind of toy imaginable. The second room was filled with horse manure. The boys were placed in the rooms and their behaviors were observed by the researchers. The first boy stood skeptically in the doorway of the first room filled with toys, then entered and systematically rejected the toys in turn, saying, “These aren’t like my toys at home.” “It’s hot. I don’t have any friends to play with.” etc. before finally sitting down in the middle of the room, shouting, “I’m bored and I want to go home.” The researchers then went to the second room where they saw another boy wildly shoveling horse manure. He was animated, alive, excited and happy. They asked the boy, “Son, what are you doing?” A huge grin crossed the boy’s face and he replied, “Sir, with all this manure I just know there is a pony in here somewhere!”  (from Chris)

Youtube Clips:

From the Jimmy Kimmel show – Jimmy announced a  YouTube Challenge where parents told their  kids that they ate all their halloween candy and recorded their reactions (from Gina):

This was my pick, an instructional video on how to worship appropriately:

Enjoy!!!

A lighted cross…

I went to the Boston Pastors Prayer Summit on Tuesday. The fall prayer summit is an opportunity for forty or so pastors and leaders in the area to pray together for the entire day. Of all the things that people want to do, some might consider praying for twelve hours to not  quite make the top of their list. But when I think about the prayer summit I attended last spring, I would have to say that it was a definite highlight of my year. You see, there is something special about taking time away to seek God corporately and engage in His heart together as a body. At the summit, you also are given the opportunity to share meals with one another, which fosters these neccessary relationships with brothers and sisters who are all working to glorify God in this area. The first time that my pastor Kent attended the prayer summit, he was amazed at the amount of unity he felt, which is largely due to this intentional time for relationship-building across cultures and denominations.

To begin the morning, Pastor Tom Griffith thanked everyone for coming and said that he believes there is no better way to spend your time than to minister to God in this way. I have found this to be true – there is power when we come together to pray.  In Acts, after Jesus had been crucified, all of the disciples were in an upper room praying together “in one accord”, and this is when the Holy Spirit came to dwell with us. In my mind, there is nothing I would rather be doing –  Yes, it is stretching, and yes there are times when your mind wanders and you think of all the other things that you “should” be doing. But then you wait, your mind becomes silent, there is peace, and love, and you look around the room and realize that it is a sacrifice for each person to be taking time away from their regular schedules to put Jesus and the kingdom of God in this area first, and you realize, yes, this is why I came. Plus, I get excited about eating corn chowder and apple pie with “famous” pastors (as I used to call them,) well known leaders who minister in this area who are nearly impossible to set up a meeting with any other way :-)

Here’s a picture of the cross that illuminated on the floor just after we started praying. It’s cool how God does stuff like this, in the natural realm, to display what is happening in the spiritual:

Then another woman pointed out to me that you could actually see it reflected on the trees outside – can you find it in the photo below?

Breaking Bread

I baked my first loaf of bread last week. It was quite the process – you have to first combine the yeast with the water (correct temperature is key!) then add the other ingredients, then knead it for 10 minutes, then let it rise, then punch it down, then let it rise again, before finally baking it in the oven. Intense!

I never realized that baking a loaf of bread was so difficult. And yet there’s nothing that smells quite as good as freshly-baked bread.

Then I got to thinking about all the ways that God uses bread in the bible. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were traveling through the desert with little to eat, so God sent manna for them (tiny pieces of sweetened bread) to collect every morning and sustain them on their journey. Later, when Jesus came around, he fasted for forty days in the desert, and afterwards the Devil tempted Jesus by telling him to turn a stone into bread.  I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty tempted to turn anything into bread after going forty days with nothing to eat! But Jesus confidently refused, stating instead that, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Then there was the time when Jesus was ministering  – his disciples were flustered because they were supposed to feed over 5,000 people in the field with only five loaves of bread and two fish. But Jesus told the people to sit down in groups of about fifty each. Then he took the bread, broke it, and gave to the disciples to distribute. After they ate, the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of leftover bread. How cool is that! (see Luke 9).

Again, the night before He was crucified, Jesus gave thanks and broke a loaf of bread, giving it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)  In fact, breaking bread and sharing communion together is one of the unifying practices among the Christian faith, across denominations. When we break bread together, not only are we honoring and remembering Jesus, but we are engaging in a supernatural practice of obtaining His life for our own.

I’m starting to realize that there’s something supernatural about Jesus breaking bread which leads to miraculous provision and sustenance. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, His body (bread) was broken for us, which has supernaturally released provision for people who follow Jesus, both then and today. Jesus even goes so far to say, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:47)

Now those are some pretty bold statements. Jesus is saying that when we trust in Him, He will be our sustenance, our life-giving force, and will supernaturally give us everything that we need. Jesus even says that His food is to do the will of God and to finish his work (John 4:34), and we should strive to be fed in a similar way. In brief stints of fasting that I have done, I have found that where I lack in nourishment, there is a supernatural grace that allows Jesus to fill me up, which nourishes me, sustains me, and even rejuvenates me. He IS our bread of life!

I’ll never look at a loaf of bread the same!

How Hungry Are You?

How hungry are you to see Jesus in this city? It’s been one month since the Boston Night of Worship, and I’ve been thinking a lot about where we are as a church, where we need to go, and how we are going to get there.

At the Boston Night of Worship, it was incredible to stand in a stadium, with about four thousand Christians in the area, all worshipping Jesus together. Sometimes when we are all in our own churches I can get exhausted and discouraged because I feel like I’m the only one. But when you get in a setting like this, it’s refreshing to see the unity present among believers who are all worshipping together. I could also sense a powerful love that is so real you can literally tangibly feel it. When you look around the stadium and see believers from all different backgrounds, all different nationalities and denominations, worshipping together, you get a small taste of heaven, as in heaven there will be people from every nation, tribe, and language standing before the throne worshipping Jesus (Revelation 7:9).
Here’s a video that I took from the evening – it’s dark but in the middle of it my friend Brie and I are jumping up and down, smiling and singing praises to Jesus. Hallelujah!
And yet, at one point in the evening the leader asked us what we wanted God to do in our lives that night. I prayed, “God, I want to see revival in Boston.”
Now revival can be defined in many different ways, but I like to think of it as a spiritual awakening. I want to see hearts in this city awakened to know who Jesus is and what He has done for them, filled with the knowledge and the glory of God. I want to see this city transformed by Jesus’ love. And this time when I prayed for revival, I felt in my spirit that God was asking me: “OK. How hungry is the Church to see revival?”
I looked around the room and realized I had no idea where the majority of these people were at spiritually, how hungry they were to see revival. So I said, “God, I honestly don’t know. You know our hearts – so why don’t you tell me – how hungry are we?”
And I felt Him very clearly respond: “Not hungry enough.”
I then remembered that the theme of this year’s Boston Night of Worship was: “Hungry for More.”
Then God began to give me an impression that the church was here, but he wanted us to go here (deeper) – and He asked me a question: “What if the music stopped? Then who would come here to seek my face?”
I do think that the music, lights, bands, dancing is honoring to God, but that’s not what it is about. When I honestly considered this, I’m not sure how many people would come if there were no music, no lights, no dancing, no big-name worship leaders. I don’t know how many people would come to seek Jesus just for who He is. And in that moment this really began to burden and break my heart. I know that God wants so much more from us as His body in Boston. So I asked, “OK, God – What can we do to get the church to where you want it to be?”
And I sensed strongly in my spirit “Through corporate prayer and fasting.” God began to remind me of how the past ten days God of prayer and fasting He had been able to soften my spirit and plant His dreams in my heart. I thought about how, with Jonathan, Frank and myself, in sacrificing our time, energy, nutrition to the sake of Jesus and one another, there was a cord of brotherly love that came forth, binding us together. I thought about how these ten days had changed me, cleansed me, and transformed the way I thought about other cultures, how I see the beauty of the Kingdom in a completely different way. And I understood that God was asking me to dream with him, to imagine what He could do when that cord of love binds together hundreds, even thousands of believers in the area.
Yes, God gave me a sense that the 10 Days of Prayer, UniteBoston, and the Boston Night of Worship are three different initiatives, but are three cords of the same strand – UniteBoston is the communication network, the 10 Days of Prayer is the strategy, and the Boston Night of Worship is the corporate expression of Jesus in this city. I understood that when we as the city-wide Church come humbly together to pray and seek His face and turn from our own ways, then Jesus will hear from heaven, will forgive our sin, heal our land, and send revival to Boston (2 Chronicles 7:14)
God desires more for us… so much more. There is more in Him than we can ever imagine. Let’s pursue this deeper level of maturity together as a body. Let’s engage in days and seasons of corporate prayer and fasting. Let’s experience the incredible myriad of cultures and denominations present within our city, the various expressions of Jesus’ heart, and find opportunities to learn from one another. Then let’s come together to celebrate Him, to worship Him just for who He is. As one body, let’s say a corporate “Yes” to Jesus.
Zechariah 8:20 says “The inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, “Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.”
Yes, I myself am going. Who wants to come with me?