The big idea of Mercy Season
Here is the big idea, the Power Rhythm we focus on during Power Season:
God is proactively working a strategy to bring the power of heaven to earth so people can live in the new era of freedom and power that Jesus announced. No more, "I wish but I can't."
The Bible is one long coherent story. Near the beginning, the one and only Real God initiates a master plan to bless and heal the world by bringing heaven’s power to earth through the descendants of Abraham (Genesis 12.3). Jesus takes that plan to a new level. He personally brings heaven’s power to earth. It is as if the power is inside him and he is radiating it. It changes people and it does miracles.
But then the story of the Bible has a problem. What happens to the power when Jesus leaves? Does it go with him? Are humans right where they were before, doing the best they can? How are they supposed to obey Jesus and copy him if he is not around to radiate his power into them like he used to?
Power Season celebrates the answer to that question. On Pentecost Day, Jesus sent or projected his own Spirit, his own life and power, from heaven down into his followers on earth, proving he could do that from a distance. Later examples in the book of Acts show that he could do it again anytime and anywhere he chose. Through his Spirit, Jesus is “still around.” There never needs to be a spiritual power shortage again.
Here is the other half of the big idea of Power Season:
God's strategy for our era is to channel his power to earth through all who have the Spirit of the risen Jesus living in them. They tell everybody else where the power comes from and how to get it.
When reinforcements arrive, there is always a huge sense of relief and joy. They turn the tide, and the battle that was going to be lost is won. Afterward the rescued ones can’t thank the reinforcements enough for arriving when they did.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit of Jesus in his original followers in Jerusalem on Pentecost Day was like that. The Spirit brought the power that the followers needed in order to convince the world that their message was true—Jesus really was alive again, and he was and always will be the power center of history.
Once the Spirit of Jesus gets hold of a person, the power of Jesus comes too. People can do things they could not do on their own. Life gets exhilarating, almost magical. We never really get over this, and we never get bored again because we never know what the power of Jesus will do next in us or through us. How will our desires shift? Who will Jesus help through us? Is a miracle coming somewhere? Jesus is full of surprises.
Even before the surprises come, we realize that the first effect of the power of the Spirit is to lift a huge weight off our shoulders. Success doesn’t depend on us anymore, and it is not limited to whatever we might be able to achieve by our own brains and effort. Never again will we feel hopelessly trapped and powerless. Never again will we feel like losers. We are surfing a super-wave of power that no one can stop.
Our part is simple (though not easy). All we have to do is keep letting the power of Jesus do whatever he wants it to do in us or through us.
The more his power works, the more amazed and grateful we get. And when other people notice the evidence that something unusual is going on in us or through us, we point them straight to the power source, King Jesus.
They can get in on his power just like we did. They simply invite Jesus to send his Spirit into them to go to work on them from the inside out, doing whatever Jesus wants and assigning them their niche in his global strategy for an empowered world.
That is basically what “SYNC” is all about—saying “SYNC me” to Jesus. It is like "calling for back-up" in a situation that is getting out of our control, except that in this case, we aren't merely hoping Jesus will send help quickly. We are realizing he already sent it by his Spirit. So we welcome the Spirit.
Bottom line of the big idea of Power Season:
We see ourselves in Christ as walking evidence of God’s power for good, calling the world to embrace this power. We live in SYNC with God's intentions when he sent the Spirit of Jesus down into his original followers on Pentecost Day.
Jesus made his "Power Promise" to his followers, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8).
When you SYNC, when you See Yourself iN Christ as walking evidence of God’s power for good, you realize that Jesus’s promise is coming true in you. You are participating in the new era of freedom and power that Jesus launched.
That power is meant for everybody, but not everybody knows that yet. People are living as best they can without knowing where the power of Jesus comes from, how it works, and how you get it. If you know that power, your “cause” in life is to help everybody discover it. You are caught up in that cause, energized by it, and delighted every time you see even a small sign that the power is spreading.
If you don’t know that power but you do want a better world, please realize that is why God sent the power—for the good of the world. Why not invite his power to work through you instead of contributing only what you can manage by your own power? Why not get on board with his plan instead of trying to work some other plan?
Of course, you have to get over your view (if it is your view) that Jesus is merely a great teacher of the ideal of kindness. If you are stuck there, read the story of Jesus’s original followers for yourself (Acts 1-10; 30-min read). See what the people were empowered to become and to do once the Spirit of Jesus moved into them. It would never have happened if they were just trying to be kind. Something else was going on, something powerful.
Our role as evidence of God's power, calling people to live with that power
Here is the big picture, the flow of the story of the power of Jesus.
Jesus brought heaven's power to earth, and he used it for good
While he was on earth, he temporarily gave his miraculous power to some of his followers so they could carry out special assignments in his name
He did not use his power to attack anyone, to defend himself from execution, or to take revenge on his enemies after his resurrection
Before he left the earth, he promised his followers they would receive "power from above," and he ordered them not to leave town until that power arrived
On Pentecost Day he sent the power down by sending his Spirit to live in and among his followers, proving he still had power and he could still delegate it to people for their missions
No wonder some people get a little carried away when they speak of the Holy Spirit of Jesus and when they notice or sense the power of God working in them! That Pentecost Day event is a piece of history that sounds more like science fiction.
If that happened as reported (Acts 2), the world is at a whole new place. Heaven's power has come to earth in the followers of Jesus, and it is available to everyone who wants it on Jesus's terms. There is no fine print. All he asks is allegiance to him as King.
Jesus was killed by people who denied he was King and wanted to make sure he never would be. Now enthroned as the true King of heaven and earth, he sends his Spirit to empower the people who say he really is a King and who welcome his power into their lives to take over.
People who still want to insist he is not a king have a problem with his messengers. If the messengers were just repeating Jesus's teachings and re-telling his story, that would be one thing. But they are doing a lot more than that. They are changing people's characters--making stingy people generous, drug addicts free and productive, two-faced people truthful. And if that is not enough, they sometimes do healing miracles or have revelations of things there was no way for them to know. The messengers say that Jesus's power is doing all this, and nobody has come up with a more convincing explanation.
The messengers love to repeat the Power Declaration. It SYNCs them with the intentions Jesus had when he sent his Spirit down on Pentecost Day, and it doesn't get any better than that.
The Big Idea vs the Big Lie
If we get the Big Idea of Power Season, it protects us from the Big Lie, which is,
"Religion is about trying to become a better person and make a better world. All religions are the same in this sense. Everybody has good intentions and is trying to do the best they can.”
This lie has some truth to it. People who take God seriously should be better than people who don’t. It is a reasonable expectation. However, if religion is about how hard we try to be better people, we are stuck with three nasty tendencies:
We get arrogant about whatever we manage to get right
We get judgmental and condescending toward those who don’t do as well as we did
We go on a permanent guilt trip, knowing we always fall a little short of our own goal to be “better”
If that is what “religion” does to people, isn’t it better not to be “religious”? Or at least if you are going to be religious, don’t take your religion too seriously. The more involved you get, the more arrogant, judgmental, and guilty you get, and who needs that? So billions of people either do not practice a religion or they practice one very mildly.
All that is perfectly sensible if the Big Lie is the truth. But what if the Big Lie is a big lie?
What if the truth is that religion is about empowerment from Jesus through his Spirit? That kind of power would prevent us from ever getting arrogant, judgmental, or guilty, because the focus is not on how hard we tried or how well we succeeded. The focus is on Jesus’s intentions, his strategy, and his power. All we “try to do” is to let the power of Jesus do whatever he wants it to do.
That is why life in the power of Jesus is more like discovery than conquest. We never know what we will find out or how the power will work this time. We just keep our eyes open and stay available for any role Jesus wants us to play.
Every time he assigns us a role, he gives us all the power needed to do it. He never gives us an assignment and tells us, “Go do the best you can.” As we carry out our assignments, we discover our “new self,” our empowered self. We learn by experience to see ourselves in Christ.
Holidays and the big idea
Ascension Day, May 21, 2020
Ascension Day is a great day to be getting the power of Jesus on your mind. It is the day Jesus ascended to take power on the throne of the universe. Rejected as Messiah by a planet of sinners, Jesus is nevertheless enthroned as Messiah by God the Father.
His enthronement happened on the 40th day after Easter, the opening day of the longest season in the SYNC annual cycle, the Season of Power. For most of us, however, the holiday passes unnoticed because very few English-speaking countries celebrate it. In France, Germany, the Nordic countries and several others, it is still a public holiday.
The New Testament emphasizes the ascension and enthronement much more than we do. The Old Testament verse most quoted in the New Testament is an enthronement text, “The LORD said to my lord, ‘Sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool!’” (Ps. 110:1) It was the clinching text Jesus used to silence the Jewish leaders, the clinching text in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, the clinching portion of Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin, and the clinching point in the Hebrews passage about Jesus’ superiority to angels. (Mt. 22:44, Mk. 12:36, Lk. 20:42-43, Acts 2:34-35, Acts 7:49, Heb. 1:13)
Jesus had obviously never been enthroned on earth. The High Priest never anointed him as other high priests had anointed the previous kings of Israel. He was “anointed” on one occasion but it was totally unofficial, done by the “wrong” person at the “wrong” time in the “wrong” place. His friend Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointed him in a private house in Bethany, a few miles from Jerusalem and a few days before the Passover. (Jn. 12:1-3)
It was done by an ordinary person acting on her own initiative, using extremely expensive perfumed oil. It was done as an act of extravagant honor for a guest. In other words, it was a way of welcoming Jesus. In this act Mary spectacularly shows us how to do the best and most important thing we humans can do—welcome him and honor Jesus, totally carried away in admiration of him as our Messiah.
And this, it seems, is what he really wanted. Not the endorsement of the establishment. Not keeping protocol. Not seeking office. Not “taking power.” All he wanted was an authentic welcome, and anybody of any rank could do it. Mary welcomed him on earth. The Father welcomed him to heaven. And we echo it. King Jesus, let your kingdom come! Let your reign begin!
An Ascension Day prayer of welcome
Jesus, Anointed One, we welcome you like Mary did, honoring you with whatever we have that is precious. You are King of Heaven and Earth, and we love it!
An Ascension Day affirmation
Jesus the Messiah is on his throne, installed by God the Father. Some welcome it, some resist it, some deny it, but none can change it. It is done!
Pentecost Day, May 31, 2020
Jesus came to earth to start something, and the first thing he did when he returned to heaven was to expand it. Before he left, he had told his followers, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, . . .” (Mt. 28:18-19) But he had also told them not to try it on their own.
“You are witnesses of all these things. And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” (Lk. 24:48-49) This gag order may seem odd to us. Jesus’ followers knew about the cross and the resurrection as well as all his earlier teaching and miracles. They were eyewitnesses with amazing stories. Why not get straight to work letting the world know while their memory was fresh?
He did not want them telling what they knew until they could back it up with his power. Otherwise they would give people the wrong impression about him, the impression that he was a memory. They would be mere reporters and teachers.
The book in the Bible that follows the gospels is emphatically not “The Reports of the Apostles” or “The Teaching of the Apostles.” It is “The Acts of the Apostles,” and the acts proved what words alone could not—the presence of a living Jesus. Though invisible as the wind, he was just as obviously present by his actions and their effects. It is the wind, not someone’s memory of the wind, that shakes the leaves on the trees.
The Messiah’s first act from the throne, ten days after his ascension, was to pour out his power through the Holy Spirit, the wind or breath of God. Through the Holy Spirit he extends his reign or sphere of control and distributes the power that points the world back to him.
We are empowered followers of a powerful Messiah. In the name of King Jesus we are fighting worldly power with spiritual power, and worldly power does not have a chance. The rest of the Season of Power will show us why.
A Welcome Prayer for Pentecost Day
Welcome, Holy Spirit, first and best gift of the Ascended One. We welcome him back through you. Anoint us with his presence. Shake us like leaves so everyone knows the wind is still blowing.
An Affirmation for Pentecost Day
Under the rule of the risen and reigning Messiah, there are no power shortages. We only need to stay connected to Jesus's power through his Spirit in us.
Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, 2020
The Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) is by far the least known of the Christian and Jewish holidays I have reconfigured to create the SYNC annual cycle of seasons, but what a fitting climax it makes to the Season of Power. On that day Peter, James, and John got to see the powerful side of Jesus, the dazzling side that was usually invisible to human eyes.
He usually looked like an ordinary person, but they got to see him looking like the Messiah in all his glory. His face and even his clothes seemed to radiate it. Then Moses and Elijah appeared. Peter could easily have been thinking, “This is it! We are going down from this mountain to install Jesus as King of Israel and the world!”
Not so fast. Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus’ “departure” from Jerusalem instead of his arrival. (Lk. 9:30-31) What on earth could that mean? Perhaps Peter’s befuddlement was what made him suggest that they make camp on the mountain. He may have wanted Moses and Elijah to stay long enough for him to clear up the confusion. But he did not get his wish or his explanation. Instead he got to hear the voice of God.
The voice brought Peter back to the same rock we need to go back to whenever we are confused about God's use of power. The voice said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” (Lk. 9:35) That would have stung Peter, because right before this event he had not listened. He had contradicted Jesus to his face!
Jesus had predicted that he would be rejected and killed, and Peter had claimed this was preposterous. The Messiah with his awesome power would be overpowered by humans? God's power does not work that way!
The Transfiguration is the proof that Jesus really is the Messiah we think he is, even if later on the story of his power does not go the way we think it has to go. If we get that settled in our minds and hearts, we sign off on the right to decide or even to know how the messianic power and glory will arrive. We sign on to be part of the group that listens to him and welcomes him.
Voila! His messianic reign begins in us, the listeners. Like Peter, James, and John, we get the Messiah we need even though we don’t get the explanation we want, and to our surprise we find ourselves totally satisfied. Every time he opens his mouth, he crackles with power, and we are listening.
Happy Feast of Transfiguration!
A Welcome Prayer for the Transfigured Messiah
Awesome Messiah, radiant with power and glory, we welcome you with undivided attention. We are all ears for whatever you want to tell us. We are fine with whatever you do not.
An Affirmation for the Feast of Transfiguration
A lot of our wishes for explanations don’t need to come true if we hear the voice of God saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.”