Monday, March 12, 2012

Extravagant God!

"Enjoy yourself in the Lord.  Relish His goodness.  Revel in the adventure of walking with Him.  Savor every moment with Him.  Delight in His unconditional love."    - Steve Backlund's expanded version of Psalm 37:4
Just returned from "Catch the Wave 2012," a 7-day Caribbean cruise and conference-at-sea, hosted by Catch The Fire  (, with speakers Reinhard Bonnke, Heidi & Rolland Baker, John & Carol Arnott, Duncan Smith, worship leaders Chris DuPre and Chris McClarney... I wanted to describe some highlights, but how does one choose from so many wonderful experiences?  It was such fun to hear Duncan Smith, son of British missionaries to Africa, doing his impression of childhood hero, Reinhard Bonnke - followed by Bonnke himself a few days later (who joked that Duncan's imitation of his German accent was the best English he'd heard so far :))  Of course, the endless sun and sea and extraordinary food & entertainment options were all delightful... A few thoughts here:

1.  You can have everything.
A startling statement?  While ordering dinner one night, one person at our table said this to another who was having trouble making up her mind between two appetizers.  As soon as the words were out of her mouth, I laughed, because (of course) it sounded prophetic to me  :) 

A week before the cruise departed, I found myself in a prayer circle at church, mentioning that I was about to sail on the biggest cruise ship in the world (Royal Caribbean's fabulous "Oasis of the Seas") and that, during a mission trip to eastern Europe last June, I'd also flown on the world's largest passenger airplane (Air France's Airbus A380).  A prophetic intercessor responded, "Seems like there's a message in that..."

Obviously there is much we could say about the bigness of God, His limitless love and power, His endless blessings... On a Catch the Wave cruise, the enormity of the sea and sky - the beauty of creation, and the extravagant goodness of God who allows us to enjoy the richness of life - are all brought to one's awareness in vibrant living color.

Another message I heard the week before the cruise (via internet) was a remark by Bill Johnson, at a Global Awakening meeting in Florida, that in these last days before the return of Jesus, we (the Church) need to learn how to "access everything" God has for us, due to the size of our assignment as His Body in the earth.

Jesus drew near and said to them, "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age."
[Matthew 28:18-20 GNT]

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
[Philippians 4:19 NKJ]

I heard a related message from Heidi Baker on my first Catch the Wave in 2006, that we need to lose this notion that we cannot feed the poor and also enjoy a Starbucks or vacation, as if somehow God's resources are limited or insufficient to do everything He wants to do.  It's a lesson Heidi has had to learn as well - that God loves those with material wealth just as much as He loves the desperate poor - and we need to let go of limited ideas about how God moves and loves a lost and dying world back to Himself & His everlasting Life in every possible way.

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
[Romans 8:32 NKJ] 

2.  Joy & Enjoyment
Believe it or not, it took my first 3 cruises with Catch the Wave (this year was my 5th) to loosen a deeply entrenched pattern of "working hard" and really begin to enjoy God's Love and the pleasure we find in His Presence.  We can find Him anywhere in the world - among the poor as well as in relative comfort and ease - but if we do not learn to enJOY Him, we risk burn-out and might well question what we are working so hard to share with the world.  Is it really the gospel, i.e. "good news?"  Do we manifest His love, joy, peace...?  For me, Catch the Wave is an exercise in learning to enjoy His Presence, to accept and be saturated in His abundant and overflowing Love.

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
[Psalm 16:11 NIV]

Again this year, Rolland Baker, 3rd generation missionary and co-founder of Iris Ministries (, wonderfully demonstrated and communicated God's love & joy while delivering a profound message on this essential power to sustain us through the many serious challenges that confront those who would advance His kingdom around the world.

They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.
[Psalm 36:8 NIV]

Abundance tends to overflow:  although organized outreach events were smaller this year (Abilene TSSM did prophetic evangelism training & outreach in Cozumel), we couldn't help sharing the Love of Jesus every day of the week.  Salvations, healings, even baptisms occurred on a port stop in Jamaica.  Worship leaders from IHOP-KC and Bethel sang in an onboard karaoke contest, and Oasis crew members showed up at our meetings.  And, by the way, this group of 600 "pleasure-seekers" also gave a missions offering of $75,000 to Iris, CFAN & CTF for ministry among the poor in Africa.   :)

"The joy never ends!"
- Pastor Surpresa Sithole, Iris Ministries

3.   Feasting, Exercise & Hunger
It may sound silly to write about "my greatest difficulty" on a luxury cruise but, honestly, this time I struggled a bit with all the food.  And since God can use anything to teach me multiple lessons - spiritual as well as emotional & physical - it's probably worth mentioning...

There are more than 20 different places to eat onboard the Oasis, and most of them are free (no extra charge above the cruise fare).   The Opus dining room serves up sumptuous 3-course dinners, with multiple menu options every evening.  Pizza, hamburgers, french fries & frozen yogurt are available all day long around the pool, and the Windjammer Marketplace buffet curves around the entire aft portion of the ship.  While there are plenty of healthy options - yogurt, fresh fruit, salads, whole grains, grilled fish, etc. - needless to say, temptations to over-indulge abound.

For the first 3 or 4 days of the cruise, I felt overly full and fat from all the meals - it's not hard to see how this could be a picture of North America, where we have so many resources and don't always realize how it's affecting our health when we consume more than we can really digest.  I began to see that the root issue, for me, was that I'd been stressed out and starved for enjoyment - when presented with so many options, at first I wanted to try everything at once.  I've heard Heidi speak about bringing orphans home, and how desperate street kids grab for everything because they lack security that there will always be enough.   Sons & daughters of the King don't have to gobble up everything in sight - we know there will be another lovely meal later on today, and again tomorrow.  Once I realized that I could simply try something new at each meal, I didn't need to "eat it all" in one day - I found it easier to choose, appreciate and enjoy a variety of options (salads, as well as desserts :)) in a healthy way.

I felt God spoke to me in those first few days, "Don't just eat."  When we overeat, our energy and ability to enjoy anything (including good food) is diminished.  We are meant to be so much more than consumers -  we need exercise & activity, as well as nourishment & rest.  Fortunately there is plenty to do onboard the Oasis, including an extensive fitness center (I love looking out at the sea and listening to worship on my iPod while using the treadmills and elliptical machines :)) and lots of other activities - I even went ice skating one afternoon, just because it tickled me that you could do that on a cruise ship in the Caribbean!  We are meant to give out and spend what we take in  (spiritually and physically), then rest and hunger again and receive more...

"...and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."
[Isaiah 58:10 NIV]

Last but certainly not least, it's important to realize that our real hunger is for God Himself.  A luxury cruise with extravagant meals and endless options for entertainment & activity can never fill the depths of our spirits or satisfy our true desires.  Love, joy, peace... God is everything we really want, and the source of all true pleasure.  The word "Eden" literally means "pleasure" - we were created to live in a garden of delights, enjoying God and sharing His joy as a family.  I believe this reminder to pursue His Presence and connect with others in His Love is the best part of Catch the Wave!

"Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink -- even if you have no money!  Come, take your choice of wine or milk -- it's all free!  Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen, and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!  Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake. I am ready to make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the mercies and unfailing love that I promised to David.  He displayed my power by being my witness and a leader among the nations.  You also will command the nations, and they will come running to obey, because I, the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious."
[Isaiah 55:1-5 NLT]

For information about next year's Catch the Wave conference-at-sea (February 24 to March 3, 2013) - check for updates coming soon to

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