Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Focus Training

Since, then, ours is so high a destiny, we must -- we MUST pay fuller attention than ever to the truths that we have already heard, and never drift anchorless away from them (Hebrew 2:1, A. S. Way)

Focus is a problem universal to the human race. Every single day while raising my three boys (which is something akin to having a litter of bouncy lab puppies) I would have to help them focus. They would be continually running through the house in their super hero costumes, climbing over the couch cushions of their latest fort or deep into lego world. How I remember their eyes bright and alert, full of the imaginations of their own heads trying to slow down enough to focus in on my face.

“My son” I would say, “Look me in the eye while I’m talking to you.”

“My son, look at me! Now focus. Ok, now what did I just say to you? Please respond by saying ‘Yes Mom’. No, no, look at me when you say it . . . wait, stop don’t run off I’m not done speaking to you!”

It was a continual daily, sometimes hour by hour interaction. Even getting dressed was a chore. One bedroom was a particular challenge in that one of my sons could see himself in the mirror from almost anywhere in the room (a mirror is the ultimate distraction). Pete and I found the only spot this was not possible and called it “the dressing corner”. Otherwise he’d still be in his p.j.’s to this day.

Now they are older. But still we have rules about focus. No cell phones while driving. The headphones of their iPods only plugged into one ear only while in the house so that they can hear if someone is talking to them. And here is the biggie: No “multi-media-ing” (Which is a term we made up to describe using the computer, X-box, iPod, TV whatever all at the same time). Sheesh! The challenges of modern technology!

You see distraction or learning to focus --- is a universal problem. Listen again to the writer of Hebrews as he pleads with us to focus. He says
. . .we must, we MUST pay fuller attention than ever to the truths that we have already heard and never drift anchorless away from them.

Why? Because our destiny depends on it!

So, now that I have your attention - let me ask you a question: What truths are we supposed to focus on? Will any truth do? Or was there something specific he wants us to focus on?

The whole book of Hebrews is about where you are looking & what you are listening to. Over and over it keeps pointing your eye back to Jesus and the first three verses of the first chapter. If you read the book as a whole you will find the words “consider, look, listen, hear . . . . Its all about the senses. Your senses are the lens by which you perceive and interact with the world around you. They need to be trained, like my lab puppies, with firmness and patience.

“Here, is the lens by which to perceive all reality,” cries the writer of Hebrews, “Don’t loose sight of if or you will begin drifting anchor less, hopeless, driven and tossed by the waves.”

Lets look and listen now to that central truth that he was speaking of: Turn over to Heb. 1:1-3.

By various partial revelations, under various forms of appeal, did God in past ages speak to our fathers in the persons of His prophets. But now, as the age in which we live draws to its close, He has spoken to us in the person of His Son. He has made Him the heir who takes for His inheritance the universe. Nay more, it was through His agency that God created all cosmic systems. He is to God as the rays are which reveal to us all we know of the sun: He is the Image that bodies out for us the essential being of God. It is He who bears on to its goal all God’s universe through the Word which is the conducting medium of God’s power. He achieved the cleansing of the world’s sin, and then sat down on a throne a the right hand of the Majesty Divine in the high heavens (Heb.1:1-3, A.S. Way)

First of all lets focus on the fact that God is still speaking through His Son, Jesus. An accurate translation that reflects the aorist tense of the verb would be: “He began speaking and is still speaking to us through the person of His Son. Let me ask you this. In light of this verse, what is Jesus saying to you?

This week before your Cross Immersion Group take a half hour and interact with the Holy Spirit about Heb. 1:1-3. Take your current day, your worry or challenge of the moment and look at it through this lens. Perhaps you are struggling in your finances, in your body, or in your relationships. What is Jesus saying to you from this throne? First of all you need to focus on the clues already there in the verses. Who is He? Where is He? What has He done? Then ask Him for specifics - How does who is He, where He is, and what He’s done impact your circumstance? What is the reality of your circumstance that goes beyond the surface of what you can see with your natural eyes?

Focus here. Don’t drift away. Herein lies your destiny for today. Herein lies the destiny for your life, your family. Herein is the anchor for your emotions and projections of the future. Here in will be your joy as the bright radiance of His person fills your eyes!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Lamb is in the House

"Jesus, Turn all my water into wine"

Two Sunday’s ago, I heard my spirit man speaking this statement to Jesus: "Jesus, Turn all my water into wine." It was a statement of faith in the Son of God; yet my own mind had no idea what it meant. Even though I didn’t understand it, I just knew the statement was from heaven, so, I spoke it out loud: “Jesus, Turn all my water into wine.”

I thought perhaps it was for something big, like. . . debt relief, or. . .financial restoration. Seems like that is on a lot of people’s minds these days. That is a big one. On the “Life on Earth” scale, I would say that aside from H1N1, financial crisis is on the world’s stage. So, my mind just sort of threw that heavenly statement I was hearing about water and wine toward something I could get my head around on short notice, and I resolved to just fling it at our finances, hoping God would come through.

I woke up today, grabbed my coffee, and opened my Bible. “Jesus,” I said, “Open the scriptures to me. I don’t want to go into my Monday without you ordering my week. Live your life out in me this week. I don’t want chaos and disorder and feeling like I’m two steps behind all day like I did last week. Come and bring the order of heaven to this house today. Bring revelation.”

I started to journal the things God had already been speaking to me. Sometimes it was just a simple phrase, or maybe part of a scripture, but He had been speaking and I needed to take a look into what He was saying. Sometimes, He may speak a simple phrase to me, and I am tempted to say, “wow, cool prayer, Jesus,” and then just leave it there. Obviously, there is a problem with that response. Jesus was opening a window of revelation to me and I just took a glance and said, “nice window.” -- However, Jesus actually wanted to invite me to the window, open it for me, and give me a view into the scriptures from His perspective in heavenly places that would blow my mind.

So, sensing that I may have “missed something” in that whole “water into wine” bit he gave me that Sunday, I took his nudge to open the scripture this morning and started to look for the story of the Wedding at Cana.

I had two things going on as I looked for the verse. I had the temptation to write the whole story off as something I’d already read and therefore wouldn’t find anything new. On the other hand, I had Jesus inside of me FULL of expectation that I would definitely find something new and just needed to keep my heart open to receive. When I really looked at my heart response to the temptation of “writing it off,” I sensed that I just had a lot of questions about the story that I had never stopped long enough to ask. I probably breezed through the story, didn’t get why Jesus stuck it in there, and then moved on. I “missed the window.”

So, I found the scripture in John 2, read it, and then wrote down my questions with each statement that puzzled me. I approached the throne with my pen and journal with boldness and asked my questions to Jesus, knowing He REALLY wanted to open the revelation in the story for me.

First question that puzzled me: “Why did Mary ask Him to turn the water into wine?”

I mean, Jesus responds to her so clearly, “Dear woman, what does this have to do with you and to me?” It obviously wasn’t the time or season for him to respond with a public miracle from heaven. He seemed to be correcting her; yet Mary turns directly to the servants and says, “Do whatever He tells you to do,” and then she stands back in full expectation for Him to do something awesome. HUH???

In my mind, I’m thinking, either Mary was over-zealous for her son to show off his miracle-working power, or she was a responder in distress and really felt overly-obligated to come up with a solution for a problem that didn’t involve her and she asked her son to fix it, because maybe he could do a miracle or something. I’m thinking this, but I wrote down my question anyway.

This is what I sensed Jesus say to me in response to my question, “She knew He could do it, because it had been revealed to her ahead of time who He really was. She identified Him as the Son of God. It had already been revealed to her. This was her life, knowing this fact. She walked everyday with this revelation. She couldn’t separate it out from her every day life experience. He was with her when she woke up, with her during breakfast, with her in housework, and with her in the walk to the market, with her in changing diapers, and with her when she met Joseph at his wood shop to tell him about a debt they had to pay. He was with her when she shopped for a new pot for her kitchen and was with her when they read the scriptures as a family in evening. He was with her when she went to bring bread to a sick neighbor, and He was with her when she went to the temple to worship."

Now, in John 2:3, here they are together at a wedding in Cana, and a crisis presents itself to the kitchen staff. Mary catches wind of the problem and turns to Jesus. “They have no more wine!,” she says to him.

Now, see, this is the same Jesus that was with her in her kitchen yesterday when she ran out of eggs for the dish she was preparing, and he offered her a simple solution of heavenly wisdom so that she could finish her task. This is also the same Jesus that probably shocked the family during ‘family cell’ at the age of 9, when he opened the scriptures to Mary and explained what God was actually trying to say to them. This is the same Jesus.

So here they are now, together at a wedding, and there is an earthly crisis of “no wine.” Her life was not like most other lives in her day. Her life was constantly interrupted by the “unearthly” presence among them. Jesus was Holy. He had to be different than his brothers! He must have been like an alien in his household. But God had revealed Jesus to her when she conceived. She knew Him before he was known. So her life was lined with heaven’s solution. It was common place for her to reach for an unearthly solution in small and large crisis’ of life. Heaven’s solution was in her house. The Lamb was in her house. Therefore, there was a solution for everything in her life-grid. The Kingdom of Heaven was more than near to her, it was her life as she watched it unfolding in her home. So, she was so familiar with Kingdom activity in her household, that to solve an issue in public was naturally to turn to the One God had sent for the solution.

Here’s My Next Question: “Why did Jesus say to her ‘What is that [no wine issue] to do with you and to Me?”

Jesus inferred a couple of things in this statement as I studied the scripture references for the language He used. He was saying in essence, “why is this our problem, woman? why is this your and my business?” and he was also saying, “why are you asking me, my time/season of performing public displays of miracles and wonderworks has not come yet.”

Now I know that Jesus doesn’t ask questions for which he doesn’t know the answer, so as I’m reading this story, I banked on the fact that this question was purely for Mary’s benefit and the benefit of the hearers to reveal Jesus and the character of the Father to everyone. So, I almost sense a grin inside of Jesus as he asks this question to his mother—this woman so used to the Lamb in her house.

I sense him smiling inside, knowing that she’s “Got It.” She has got it in the sense that her common life and spiritual life, and earthly tasks and everyday stuff have become completely infected with the life of God in her midst. Oh yeah, this is THEIR business alright. This is their ordinary daily encounter. She is unable to separate her life from the Lamb of God. He is grinning, because this is why He has come. This is heaven’s solution for man, sent to the earth in human form, sitting at the table in Cana with Mary and the disciples at the wedding, and Mary gets confused about what is public ministry and what is private life when it comes to needing a solution. Her private life experience leaks into her public experience, and she reaches to the Lamb of God for a solution. Of course Jesus is grinning about this!

Mary didn’t know how to separate out her relationship with Jesus anymore, in regards to public and private life. This was her life-- to reach to God for help, wisdom, assistance, understanding, provision. Mary, sitting in this crowd in Cana, was holding something very precious in her womb again. She is holding a life of knowing that God sent his only Son as a solution for all man’s needs. All of man’s needs. The whole Lamb for the whole of man.

She was an alien among men at this point. She had a secret life with God that had begun to leak into every part of life-- to the point that her response in this public place of a wedding in Cana becoming the same as the response she would have had at home—“Oh, . . . there’s no more wine? Well, just ask the Lamb.” This response was common place to her now.

This made me laugh out loud! I then imagined Mary, in her home, stirring a pot of cake batter that is sitting on the kitchen fire pit. I could imagine Jesus resting his head on his hand while seated at the table next to her, watching what she is doing. I imagined her hanging out with Jesus, preparing to host her in-laws for a birthday party and her desiring everything to be just right. She isn’t all stressed about it, though, because Jesus’ presence and peace just brings a sense of order in her life. She is actually enjoying the work of preparation.

Suddenly she realizes that she needs a cup of oil for the cake she is baking, and all she can find is a cup of vinegar. Knowing she is in crisis now, even though seemingly small to the average teacher of The Law, she looks over at Jesus, who is sitting next to her smiling as he watches her cook. Mary, smiles back, thinking to herself, “well, he did this with the laundry soap yesterday, hmmmm, could he really turn this vinegar into the oil I need for this cake?” So, she hands him the cup with a grin. And to her amazement, Jesus hands her back the cup, which is now brimming with the oil she needs for the cake. They both smile and laugh and Mary shakes her head in wonderment. I can imagine her saying “You never cease to amaze me!” Such a sweet relationship of dependence growing as Jesus grew up in her house. The Lamb in her house, hovering over her very menial tasks of baking and cleaning, wanting to partner with her in all things.

This whole encounter brought my mind back to a verse I read yesterday in 1Peter 2. Verse 21 says,
“For even to this were you called [it is inseparable from your vocation]. For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you [His personal] example, so that you should follow in His footsteps.” [AMP]
When I read, “it is inseparable from your vocation,” I felt God revealing to me the life Mary was experiencing in oneness with a life of the Lamb in her household. It is inseparable from any part of our lives. Public and private alike.

Then, Verse 9 in 1Peter 2 says,
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

So, I am hearing this verse say that we are a people that are special, purchased, and setting forth public and private wonderful deeds and displays and virtues of Jesus. We are those whose lives are completely one with the Lamb in our homes.

Here’s My Final Question about the Wedding of Cana: “Why did Jesus say, ‘It isn’t my season or time yet?’”

I sensed God answer my question this way:

He knew the timing for the Glory of God to be revealed publicly, and it had not yet come upon Him; HOWEVER, . . . Here’s this woman! What does he do with HER??? I mean, she already knew Him as He was known. She already had the Lamb in her house! She already knew the solution God sent for the big and small things of life. . .
--a broken handle on her cooking pot
--or a decision about their taxes
--or the death of Joseph
--or how about a wedding that ran out of wine!

The “solution” had so leaked into every-day life for her, that she couldn’t separate Jesus out from private and public. Therefore, He stretched forth His hand and released a wonderous deed (1Peter 2:9). She knew this Way! She didn’t need it modeled like the disciples were about to learn over the next season of life. She already knew. What could He do? She already knew Him, identified Him as the One God sent. He had to respond to that, even if it were out of season.

She was in season already! He had been revealed to her by the Father, through angels, so she could carry Him, give birth to Him, and she and Joseph could guard the revelation with God’s own strength, wisdom, and angelic assistance during and after Jesus’ birth. She watched Him grow in her home—amazed I’m sure, at his behavior and words. He was Holy. That had to look different than the other children. She watched the Lamb operate in her house in everyday things, and then on Sunday, she watched him operate with the teachers of The Law in the temple.

The Lamb in her house had become her life. He leaked into every part of life –the common and the uncommon practices—cooking, vacuuming, building a door at a bank, going to the grocery store, writing computer programs, attending Sunday service at church, selling cars, ordering food at a cafĂ©, picking up items at the hardware store, fixing a tractor on the farm, and BAM!—Mary and Jesus find themselves at a wedding in Cana—and the SAME Jesus that gave her the idea for the next ingredient for the stew she made last Thursday, and the same Jesus that gave her heart the strength to endure Joseph’s death, was the same Jesus she reached for to solve a public crisis and He has to stretch forth His heavenly solution, in her everyday revelation, to solve her request and He changed that water into wine.


How does this impact my life?

Well, first of all, it takes the pressure off me to perform miracles. Whew! I stood up to join the ministry team in praying for people needing healing yesterday and felt no pressure to do anything but be a child of God and believe in the One God sent for everything. I felt totally different than I usually do. The old dynamics were not there. I didn’t even put healing in a different category than trusting Jesus in Tony’s job. (my vocation is not separate 1Peter2:9)
This keeps the playing field of what is “church life activity (miracles, signs, deliverance, whatever)”—all level for me. Sometimes in the past, I have run into a wall of performance anxiety in church, in regards to someone needing obvious deliverance or healing, but then, at home last week, I leaned over to Jesus while I making a meal for guests and asked Jesus what to put in the potatoes next. I fully expect him to tell me to throw a little rosemary on the potatoes. And He did! Why shouldn’t I fully expect him to heal knees with fire from heaven on Sunday morning??—especially, when HE suggests it? HA!
This also keeps Jesus in my everything, not just my “Sunday thing”. This also keeps angels working with me just for the normal stuff of life, because I’m drawing from heaven’s solution all day, not just in the uncommon situations in public ministry or missions or something that might seem to be more notable. Nothing is more notable than when the Lamb is in the house. This means that He has become my life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cast Out the Slave Woman and Her Son!

Morning light was filtering through my kitchen curtains, bread warming in the toaster and the coffee maker gurgling to life while my oldest son and I were discussing the recent developments in his film career. We were marveling at the continued divine favor that is resting on his life and looking at a current situation. Though the situation on the surface looked like a missed opportunity, Ben was expressing complete peace and confidence in the sovereignty of God. He was marveling at the difference between himself and others in his sphere who were bound by anxiety, trying to impress people, frantically trying to “be in the right place at the right time”.

“You know, Mom,” he said cheerfully, “sometimes I think I don’t worry enough.” We chuckled together.
“It’s because you don’t have the pressure of the ‘self made life’, son.” I replied, “You are receiving a career from heaven out of relationship with your Father.”
And because you are sons, God has sent the Sprit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. Gal. 4: 6-7 (RSV)

Because we have been crucified with Christ and are living a life of “no longer I, but Christ, living in us” we have to reorient our understanding of how to live. It is no longer by our works, trying hard, achieving by natural means. We are no longer supplying God with use of our natural gifting, asking Him to bless our striving for success. We are no longer trying to curry favor with Him by the performance of “godly Christian disciplines”.
I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose. Gal. 2:21 (RSV)

No, we have been place within the body of Jesus Christ in His death and been completely judged and punished for all our sin and imperfections. Now, we are raised completely righteous, in total favor with our Father! Nothing, can cause me to gain MORE favor than the favor I have received on Christ’s behalf. Nothing. No fast, no hour in prayer, no quota of tracks handed out or verses memorized, no number of self inflicted stripes on the back. Nothing. Our favor does not come from the Cross + plus our good works. Our favor is complete. Our Lord said, “It is finished” as He absorbed the last of our judgement. Now, our job is to enjoy, explore, and worship with the whole of our beings as we enter into this complete unity - oneness with Christ. And as we enjoy knowing and experiencing Him to receive the life that our Father has prepared before hand that we would walk in.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God- not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:8-10 (RSV)

This way of “receiving our life” rather than “making something of ourselves” is foreign to the world, to most of Christendom and to many of us. But now that we are New Creations (2 Cor. 5:17) we need to learn the new and living way to walk. Most of us have been raised in a world which teaches “the Lord helps those who help themselves” and the power of the “seven habits of a highly successful person”. From here many of us were saved into a mixture of “do-it-yourself”, self help and trusting God. What does that make? Look around. How much of your thinking about your life is balanced on what you can do for God with your skill-set, gift-mix, education or passion of devotion? I fasted and prayed for years for God to open the heavens in our region, only to find out Jesus opened the heavens 2000 years ago, and that there is no barrier in our region to the risen Christ. What I was doing was the equivolent to 2nd grade “busy work”. Now I am entering into what He has already done. Now, any open door before me relationally, I walk through --- both “spiritual doors” and “natural doors” as I receive my life from Him, in the meantime, I enjoy, experience and worship my Lord.

I want to take a moment and emphasize that this is not just about “praying for people in the market place”. This is about how to live life in its totality. All of life from when, where and how to turn in your lease car to healing the woman ahead of you in the line at the grocery store, to making vital career connections, to disciplining your children is a whole. Life is a whole. Our spiritual life not separate from our natural.

But . . . but does this really work?


But only if you get rid of the slave woman and her son!


How do we receive our life from heaven?

How do received our inheritance as sons?

This is what Paul is making every effort to teach the Galatian church who had begun so well, but got muddled up, confused, bewitched, bothered and bewildered and who in effort to fix the situation entered into MORE and MORE performance behavior. Have you ever been there? I have. Here is what Paul says to them.
“Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman.” (Gal. 4:22)

What happened here? Abraham had a desire and a calling to have children. This was natural. Then God came along and added a supernatural promise to this natural desire. He showed Abraham that not only would he have children but as many as the stars of the sky and sand of the sea! With this prophetic word he defined Abraham and opened up the deep recesses of the natural longing in his heart, coupling it with divine destiny. Then nothing happened. Nothing at all, for years! Finally Abraham decided to use his “skill-set” with another woman to bring about the promised life and destiny of being a father. I believe he did this with all sincerity. Though we look at it through the lense of history as an act of ignorance think about this: how many times have we tried to figure a way out or fix our own situation and asked God to bless our plan? Let’s look some more at what Paul is saying:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory; these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, is bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one that dost not bear; break forth and shout (or cry), thou who art not in travail; for the desolate hath more children than she who hath a husband.: Galatians 4:22-27 (RSV)

Under the old covenant (Hagar) the way to live was to work hard according to the flesh. Under the new covenant (Sarah) the way to live is to receive the promise. Look at that phrase, “Jerusalem above is free, she is our mother. . .” As one under the new covenant you no longer strive but you receive your life of promise from above, from heaven. This is the way the free woman lives she receives her life and provision from heaven, from the unseen. One minute she doesn’t show any signs of being pregnant and suddenly she cries out in the last stages of transition and pushes out the child of promise, the life of promise, the career of promise, the car of promise, the transformed teen of promise, the miraculous provision of promise. But there is a catch:
But what does the scripture say? “Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman” So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. Gal. 4:30-31 (RSV)

For the new creation, the old system no longer works well. It doesn’t produce a harvest of blessing. You might say, I’ve tried trusting before and God didn’t come through. Well, if we have a mixture of Hagar and Sarah no one gets nothing. Why? Why not just let them all live together and give special favor to Issac? Because if you are relying on your own “do-it-yourself” methods you actually enter into the curse (Gal. 3:10). God is not going to bless that. He wants you to rest, delight in Him and receive from heaven all that He has promised you. What is this received from heaven bit? Look at this scripture:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God . . . and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear . . . (Rev. 21:1-4, RSV)

Why does the slave woman and her son be cast out? Because God wants to dwell with us. That is the point. That’s what He’s always wanted. That’s why He created mankind and you in particular, to dwell with you! That’s why Jesus came to break down every barrier to that happening. Now, God wants to settle down over our lives with a heavenly city of promise which is comprised of all provision in every way primarily because He is dwelling in our homes, our lives. He wants us to receive from His open hand the gift of our day to day. He wants to be trusted and known in the process. This is the way the free woman lives! Receiving from the unseen realm through the veil into this realm with our tangible senses. So today, whatever your need large or small --- cast out the slave woman and her son, so that you can receive your inheritance for this day and know your Lord in the process.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What is in your hand?

After Moses had been wandering the desert as a shepherd for 40 years, God confronts him. God asks him, “What is in your hand?” to which Moses replies, “A staff.” (Exodus 4) I imagine that Moses replied with the same tone and emotion as if he had said, “Nothing. There is nothing in my hand.” But God knew better. The staff was something – and as Moses had gripped that staff for 40 years, God had gently fathered him. As Moses held that wood (a symbol of the Cross that would later be the item extended outward as God’s people were led from bondage to freedom), in situations that seemed insignificant and situations that were terrifying, he was being changed, humbled, formed to be like God, and prepared for more. The 40 years were training for another 40 years in a desert that was to come. All the lessons of shepherding – care, service, and patience – had equipped him to lead an equally difficult people. The staff – Moses place of comfort, support and protection – is then thrown down at God’s command, becomes a snake and Moses fearfully reaches out to take hold of it. There was more in that staff than Moses had realized. The mighty power of God was manifesting in and around that staff. Moses had been trained, without knowing it, by the Great Shepherd Himself, and now Moses was being invited to see himself with new eyes and to see the how full and extensive the Father’s intimate training had been.

Over the last few weeks I have had this question churning around in my spirit, “What kind of training did King David have to be king?” I look at the Bible and I don’t read about a King School and it’s not like he was raised in a very kingly household. He was a shepherd. Maybe a good modern-day equivalent would be to say that he was an elementary school teacher, or auto mechanic or even a Starbucks barista. What he did was good. What he did was needed. What he did was valuable but it could be easily diminished and viewed as nothing. So where was this training to become this heralded and unequivocal king? I don’t see a formal training that he submitted to that helped him “achieve his destiny” or “unlock his potential.” I don’t see where he read, “10 Keys for Ruling God’s People.”

No, his training was right there in the field. Like Moses before him, David’s training

was intimate and it was right in his hands - it was near him. David was a tree planted in Bethlehem and in Bethlehem is where God watered and pruned him and it is where he grew (John 15). We get a clear sense that David knew that the Lord, his Deliverer, was with him in the field. David was being intimately fathered and trained. Time with the King, in worship and in praise, had reproduced a king in David. So much so that when we read David’s first conversation with King Saul, we are struck with how it sounds peer to peer. This is not a timid and unsophisticated shepherd boy – this is someone who has been raised to reign. Let’s listen in – and let’s get a snapshot of David’s training while we’re at it:

“David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him." Saul replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth." But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you." 1 Samuel 17:32-37

What does David say? I killed bears and lions. I have been trained for Goliath. “I seized the lion and bear by the hair,” and soon he held Goliath’s head by the hair. His revelation of the presence of God and what God was doing in that hidden season lead to a nationally televised God-moment that no other person in Israel had been trained to overcome – only David had received this intimate fathering.

As we continue to read about David’s life, we are stunned at all that God had unlocked in that young, ruddy boy. He was a king, a priest, a prophet, a warrior and a son. David “humbly accepted the Word planted in him” (James 1:21) and that Word – the person of Jesus Christ – manifested the beautiful Christ. We see this again when regarding the life of Joseph. Joseph’s expression of leadership in Potipher’s house and in the prison could have been easily diminished in his eyes as he longed to be understood and to be freed. Yet, in it all, he had been so sweetly humbled that he could be trusted by God to have all of Egypt under his authority. (Genesis 41) We see into the heart and revelation of Joseph when he shares with his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) All of it was for good.

What is in your hand? And don’t say nothing! Are you employed, underemployed or unemployed? It is all being used for good. Are you single, married, married with children or married with 10 children? God is fathering you and God is using each relationship and relational dynamic – yes, the ones that feel good and the ones that don’t – for good. What are those bear attacks all about? God has a Goliath in your future and you being trained for the “saving of many lives.” What are these hidden years all about? If you can see it, the quiet and peaceful outworking of the Cross is at work in this season. The seed that has been planted in your heart is sprouting. Hold the staff and see that the Cross is more than you imagined – it is the power for those who believe! Can you see your own life now – where God has uniquely planted you and the people you have been surrounded by – it is all for good! Yes, you are in Detroit and it is good! Everything is working together to form you and to reveal the Son, the King, the Shepherd, the Priest in you. The hope of any such thing is only found in Christ the Son – Christ in us.

Oh, praise Jesus that we can save our time, our money and our energy. We don’t have to go running here or there to get this or that. God has come to us. Christ has made his home in you and in me. Now, God, in His miraculous majesty, is using each and every feature of our lives – our family, friends (or maybe some of them need to be ex-friends), work, home, marriage, the economy, everything – to draw out of us the Son. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is trivial. Every moment has value. Oh, Praise Jesus! The King School has come to you. The “training for reigning” is happening in your kitchen and at your workplace and when you are trying to balance your checkbook. At every moment Christ is on the scene. Then the Son says in our hearts, “Well done, my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.” (Luke 19:17) Our stewardship and understanding of this time – right now – is of the utmost value and importance. All the training we need for life, our true and substantial expression of the Cross, and all the work of the Kingdom is in our hands right now. And while we continue to hold the Cross, we too can say that we understand any difficulty we face. Yes, God has a huge plan, and everything that is at work in our life… “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Deliverer

I’ve had this phrase of scripture echoing around inside my spirit for a few months now. It comes to me during worship and during prayer times. This phrase has a life all its own. It feels living and active and loaded with supernatural strength. It feels like someone stands up inside of me, with feet planted on solid ground, and makes a strong statement within me to my body, my soul, and my surroundings. It is the very Person of Jesus Christ Himself, taking His rightful position in me and making a declaration into the atmosphere. He stands strong in me, like a fortress, in the midst of a world full of trouble, He looks right at what’s going on, and says . . .

“We have this Hope/We’ve got this Treasure.”

I’ve been meditating on the book of Hebrews for a few months now. I’ve been digging into it like a treasure hunter, looking for something really precious—a treasure. I drank in the pages of scripture, which poured into me a consistent reminder in every chapter, that I have a hope, and I have an inheritance. Every page seemed to lead me closer to learning about this “pearl” that I was longing to grasp with both hands. My inheritance in Christ.

I read and read and read and then finished the book of Hebrews with a kind of ‘Did I miss something?’ sort of feeling. I remember getting to the end of the book, sitting back in my chair, and exclaiming, “So what is my inheritance??!! What exactly is IT?” I emailed Pastor Pete and asked a load of questions, which he graciously answered, but we both agreed that all these questions and a feeling of “I’m missing something,” was just a sign that I was about to have another encounter Jesus and Him crucified.

The next weekend, our family was sorting through some really dynamic and challenging circumstances. It came on suddenly, from many directions, and we encountered challenge and distress on many levels. There seemed to be pressure on every side of us, kind of like being surrounded by sharks in an open sea. In the thick of this, there was a strong temptation in the midst of crisis to feel helpless, get frustrated, and turn on each other.

I remember getting to church service that night, feeling like I could not bring myself to a place of peace. I could not find it in myself to stop blaming and forgive. I couldn’t find any shred of light in our circumstances. I couldn’t find hope in my knowledge of scripture to ‘rise up’ above it all and enjoy the worship going on around The Throne. I felt weighted down, I felt unable, I felt weak and human, and I felt disqualified to even enjoy Jesus as He was walking among us in this beautiful time of worship.

I tried and tried to focus on Christ. I tried to quote scripture to myself. I tried and tried to preach Truth to myself. I just couldn’t bring myself out of the feeling of being swallowed up by sin and circumstance. So, I fell to my knees and just whispered, “Help me, Jesus. Help me.”

Immediately, a tidal wave of light washed through me and I heard it. I heard a body being broken. On every sensory level I heard and felt and saw The Body of Jesus being broken—like a large grape being popped under tremendous pressure and crushed—and blood and water and grace poured out from the fresh wound in Jesus’ side. It flowed out from His body to me and my whole household. As this blood and water flowed out, I felt the very specific grace provided in Jesus’ death for our family in this moment in history and it was portioned specifically for this moment of circumstance and trial. I felt the provision of salvation and grace poured out 2000 years ago, here, for our family, now in the very moment of distress, and it filled my entire person out with life and peace and love again.

Then Jesus came into our corporate worship service. I saw Him appear, on the platform just a few feet from Shelley on the keyboard. He was standing in Kingly robes, offering a large piece of flesh, sopping with blood and water, from His side to the congregation. There was provision and salvation, being offered from His sacrifice for our now moments of crisis and sinful thinking patterns. The strong arm of the Lord came in and began to destroy patterns of thought to set us all free.

I reached out and took my portion of Jesus’ flesh into my body and I remembered. I remembered the book of Hebrews. I remembered my search for ‘the pearl’ of revelation in my inheritance and hope. I remembered!

Jesus then began declaring the Hope of the ages inside of me. I saw the world, I saw our country, I saw the spirit of the age and its effect on the inhabitants of this world. I saw the depression, I saw the fear, and I saw the hopelessness. In the same moment I saw the condition of the earth, I became very aware of my real condition. Jesus began declaring from within me, my inheritance in Him. He said,

“You are not a people called to deliver yourselves.”

I was overwhelmed with my portion in this simple statement. If I am not called to deliver myself, then that means I have a Deliverer. This is my portion in Jesus.

I felt a sudden and obvious separation from the things and people of this world. I felt the pearl of greatest price. I felt the Great Divide. I felt my name in the Lamb’s book of Life. I felt my place and position in heaven in Jesus. I felt my Father. I felt the Son. I felt the Blood that purchased me from hell and ransomed me out from under the world and sin. I felt the Son of God, entering into the thick of it, in a world full of hopelessness and pulling me out of it all through His own broken body into heavenly realms. I saw that I had been violently ripped out of an earthly existence through the veil of his broken body and I tasted my inheritance. I was experiencing my life in unbroken fellowship with God, through the Son, and I tangibly encountered the HOPE for which I had been reaching as I read the book of Hebrew the previous week.

We have this Hope!!! People without this hope have to deliver themselves! They have to bring their sheep and bulls to offer sacrifice for sin. They have to search out new and better ways to pull themselves out from or avoid calamity, crisis, and failure. They have to toil and pour their sweat into the earth and then eat the fruit born from thistled ground. They have to read advice books and listen to self-help tapes and attend seminars to teach them a better way to hold relationships together. They have to attend conferences on the latest and greatest idea for gathering wealth in storms of economic crisis.

They have to do, they have to go, they have to try. They are offered recycled ways and old formulas with new packages promising success, but are only an end in themselves. They have to stare in the face of ominous generational curses, coming down the line as their inheritance of a previous generation’s investment, and expect the full return in their lives.

They don’t know this Hope. The earth is their home, their portion is toil. They don’t know about the One God sent to Deliver them. They are still dragging their offerings from their own labor to the table trying to atone for something that can never be removed by human hands or ideas. They are still lugging the fruit of their own efforts to the crisis of life and coming up short and empty. This is the life of a person who has to deliver him or herself. Ugh. Can you feel that empty portion? Whew.

HOWEVER, we have this Hope:
But when the proper time came, God sent His son, born of a human mother, and born under the jurisdiction of the Law, that He might redeem those who were under the authority of the Law and lead us into becoming, by adoption, true sons of God. It is because you really are his sons that God has sent the Spirit of His son into your hearts to cry, “Father, dear Father!” You my brother, are not a servant any longer. You are a son. And, if you are a son, then you are certainly an heir of God through Christ. Galatians 4:4-11 Phillips

God didn’t stand aloof from our condition. He didn’t stand far off in heaven and hope for the best as we dragged our bulls and goats to the outer court to atone for sin we couldn’t cure. He sent His very own Son, Jesus and entered full into it. He dove right into the thick of it. He came right into the middle of it and offered Himself as a final sacrifice once and for all for our sinful condition. He drew up into Himself, the very condition of sinfulness in which we walked about contaminated and contaminating the world around us.

Jesus drew up into Himself the very specific circumstances and crisis that cause us distress and He allowed the sacrifice of His own body. A body broken outside of time and inside of history, so that at any given moment, the Truth of this superabundant act of grace and love can break in and deliver us in the new and living way.

We are not a people called to deliver ourselves. We’ve entered into the solution and the salvation through His very body--broken and crushed--so that blood and water and grace could pour out in the moment of crisis and say, “Mercy! There is provision in this Body for this. Here, receive the sacrifice for this one crisis, or ten problems, or 50 issues of distress. There is grace for this, and therefore, receive your deliverance.”

This is our inheritance. So, this is “This Hope” we carry around within us. This hope is that He is our Deliverer, then, now, and forever. We have been given way out through Jesus, our Lord. A God who has entered fully into the thick of it for us, to bring us into right fellowship with Him, in Him. What a gift. What a treasure. What a Father. What a Savior. He is our Deliverer.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus has already entered on our behalf. . . Hebrews 6:19,20 (Phillips)

Written by Melissa Williams (with a bit of publishing help from Pastor Lisa)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Death of the Self Made Life

Ever hear the phrase, “He’s as self made man?” or “Your life is what you make of it?”. How about, “God helps those who help themselves”? or “You’ve got to pull yourself up by your own boot straps”?

Just attend any motivational seminar or sales training and you will hear how you need to work hard, and to achieve your fullest potential. If you want anything done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. . . Reach for the stars, achieve your highest potential. I could go on and on, but I think that your get the picture.

I was an over achiever in school, in teaching, then in motherhood, and on into pastoral ministry. No one could work harder, achieve more, be more creative, more loving, more visionary, more dedicated.

Six years ago I was striving with all my might to build the Kingdom through the church by writing volumes of curriculum, giving hours of pastoral counseling, leading numerous small groups, leading intercession - praying up a storm, running leadership training seminar after seminar . . . the high speed, high energy, high output hamster wheel of success. Thank God I crashed! In His wonderful benevolent grace he allowed it all to come crashing down for me. I realized that try as I would to equip, train, and release, that everything I was building was running on my energy, my ability to motivate, to maintain, to keep all the balls in the air. . . thank God I crashed!

I crashed hard as everything I built and was so frantically holding together by the Word of my power crumbled like sand and slipped through my fingers. I look at this now as a glorious series of events! But make no mistake, at the time I was in severe pain!

It was about this time that the revelation of the Cross took hold of me on a core level. I had been meditating on the verse in Colossians 3:3-4
For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory

For weeks I went around saying to myself. “I’ve died.” Then I would just marvel.

“I’ve died.” I’d say again, and wonder.

"Holy Spirit, what in the world does this mean?"

Meanwhile I was watching the destruction of the sand castle I had carefully built and maintained.

“I’ve died.”

Romans 6:3-4 shows me clearly that I became one with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

I remember laying for weeks on the floor during Sunday worship, just crying and letting go. Every been there? When everything is out of your control. The death of control. I’ve died. I have died. Nevertheless I live, yet not I but HE liveth in me . . . (Gal. 2:20).

I would say, Lord only you can raise me up. Everything I was, everything I thought was true, the whole way I related to you, everyway I’ve ‘done ministry’ was off. I let it all go. Its dead. You must raise me up from here. You must infuse me with resurrection power. You must show me the New Creation Lisa who is one with You!

Slowly He did. The discovery has been full of quiet joy as I have learned to treasure the life hidden in Him. Watching Jesus reveal Himself in my everyday life, whether I am making dinner or preaching the Cross around the globe. Its all the same to Him. He is my life now. Each day, a day to know Him more, to experience the depths of our union. To know His life flowing in me. What a joy to watch Jesus Himself build His church, to watch the true Message of the Cross take hold, unshakable in the lives of my people. Nothing compares to knowing Jesus in this way! He is my very great reward!

Still at times I forget. Recently I was trying to break through a long standing stronghold, a barrier that the enemy had placed in my path. I had been trying a long time, had done everything I knew to do and was frustrated. Then I remembered. The Self in the Self made life is dead! I am not responsible for “figuring it all out” (both cause and solution). . . . Yeah!

Paul said that if he tried to build again what had been torn down by the cross that he would make himself a transgressor. In other words --- its sin.
But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor. . . for I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal. 2:18, 20

I repented of trying to “figure out & fix” the problem. I leaned back into the great exchange. Once again leaning into the death of the self made life. My life for Yours Lord. I died with you, was buried, and raised with you. Seems like I got the way better deal, but it was YOUR idea. Lord, I refuse to “figure it out, fix it myself or rescue myself”. I wasn’t crucified with you only to make it on my own. Show Your power as I lean into You. If I am to “do” something, make it clear and anoint it with Your energy.

As I took this stance the enemies incessant warfare increased, accusations coming fast & furious. And having done all to stand, I stood in the full majestic regalia of the Cross. The warfare lasted a bit, but could not withstand the power flowing from the risen Christ. The barrier broke and I was able to move with ease and freedom in an area where the enemy had once tormented me.

Thank God! This work of the Cross is immutable in the heavens! And it is full of power to hit our everyday lives, emotions and circumstances. Today, from Emmanual’s veins is flowing everything you and I need. His life, His resources, His energy, His joy, His resurrection power, His inexorable victory over the enemy --- all flowing right into my veins, emotions, body, spirit because I have died, and my life is now hidden --- wrapped up inside the One I love. When He appears, rising to scatter His enemy with fire and smoke billowing from his nostrils, there I am in the midst of Him. His strong right arm displayed, for real in my very ordinary life on Ravenscroft.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Pure Stream of Truth

Today while rushing to a dentist appointment and enduring the pressure of warfare in the atmosphere I began to observe my thoughts. Externally I was threading my way through traffic, half-listening to Sam talking, waiting at lights and watching the clock. Internally a ticker tape was running through my mind. First came all the circumstances, schedules, appointments, and things to do this month concerning school starting and the ramping up of the boys sports season, prep for upcoming ministry trips, parents 50th anniversary, followed by my "things to do" list relating first to home then to work, and finally floating across my inner screen came faces and conversations with the many people whom I hold in my heart to whom I am pastor, mother, daughter, friend. At the end of this internal multimedia presentation of calendar dates, faces and feelings came the thought, "I will be glad when this season is over, the pressure gone and my life not so busy."

This was a familiar road. A familiar habit of mind; this "sorting, organizing, processing" followed by longing for a break, a vacation, or at least just the passing of the pressure! Suddenly something deep within rose up saying, "NO! Do NOT escape!" With that a "spell" of sorts was broken. A fog cleared and a pure stream of truth began flowing. Its important to NOT escape into fantasy even if that fantasy only involves life after the checking off of the "to-do items on my list", or the visualization of "next week" when the calendar is freer of commitments - the grass greener, the sky bluer. . . No, this is now. This is my life. It is what it is. It is here in the glaring light of the present that I must see Jesus! It is HERE in the midst of the pressure, my over full calendar, my plate, heavy laden with emotions, decisions and concerns that I must see Jesus graphically portrayed as crucified. Unless I see Him here and know by way of experience his death and life at work in the whole of my being then I will either escape or devise a rescue plan of my own making (perhaps a mystery novel from the library? or another video with Pete? or a few moments rest in the comfortable recesses of my imagination).

Yesterday I was challenging MDCC to look at their lives. Are they full of symbols or substance? To escape, and not find the Way of the Cross here, well, that makes my preaching symbolic, not substance that is proven and born out through my own experience. (Ew, foul stench!) The challenge is that I am not walking through my days with a detailed instruction manual, the kind with the specific step-by-step diagrams that I love! No, instead I am walking the New and Living Way by knowing intimately the One who called Himself the Way, Truth and Life. I love to teach the Message of the Cross. Today I am grateful like Paul, that if I ask the gospel will be laid out personally for me by the One who knows my specific circumstances and my "hard wiring". This beautiful and fulfilling relationship with The Way will not occur if I start complaining internally, or fantasizing about escape. Jesus, could there be any higher purpose for my day than to know you by way of experience right here? I don't think so!

For I make known to you, brethren, the message which was announced as good news by me, that it is not as to its nature, human. For, as for myself, neither did I receive it directly from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation given me by Jesus Christ. (Gal. 11-12 Wuest)

Thank You, Lord, that if I ask, look and listen over all the circumstances You will be superimposed - graphically portrayed as crucified (Gal. 3:1). Thank You that this is not "poetic symbolism" but that being immersed in the power of your death and resurrection is actually the Way to live in my day-to-day. It is not just for the "big things", but also for the minutia of everyday life. Your death holds the answers for the questions and the concerns. Your life resurrects me in places of weariness and the emotions run dry. . .

What a treasure, this life with You! Knowing You, my joy and my very great reward.

Monday, August 3, 2009

People of Divine Distinction

A few weeks ago, I was really wrestling with some strong opinions. Not the opinions of a friend, or my own stance on a particular issue. No, I was wrestling with a demonic worldly opinion about my life and my God. This opinion was rotten to the core and sought to poison my thinking and freedom in Christ. It said things like, “God isn’t real. You have made a fool of yourself trusting in God. He can’t help you out of all these circumstances. You are surrounded and there is no one to deliver you. God just isn’t real.”

Now I knew all of this was false, but it was so loud. It was especially loud when I opened the bills, or we looked at our checking account, or we dealt with family issues. My very Gospel life was under persecution, as it relates to my living every day, and this ‘worldly opinion was just loud enough, that it started to kind of “leak in”. This awful demonic opinion shouted even louder when the persecution came through people that love us. These opinions were intent on bringing me to a place where I would feel alone out there in the world. It wanted to reduce me to feeling like an alien with no one to protect me from the residents of this world. It gave its best shot on making me feel like I was living in a universe without God and I might have to go to the world for help.

One day, as I sat feeling “underneath it all,” I had a strong sense that God wanted to help me see the Truth. He wanted to give His opinion and set me free from all this evil mumble-jumble in the air waves. So, I sat down at the computer and began journaling what He had to say.
People of Divine Distinction

God is real. Contrary to "popular world opinion," God is real. He is public. He is unashamed to go public with His Gospel. He is not afraid to be extravagantly public with His Kingdom. He parted the Red Sea, He let it pour down rain when it didn't rain. He made a rainbow. He tore back the Jordan all the way to a city called “Adam,” . . . and He put His beloved Son Jesus on the Cross.

Jesus and His death on the Cross is, was, and will forever be the most graphic public display of God's love and faithfulness to us. He only did and said what He saw the Father doing and saying. He was dependent on Him for everything! Even through the final moments of His death and suffering, He continued to utter His dependence on the Father. Jesus’ death demonstrated the most graphic public opinion for all eternity—that the Father loves us, identifies with us, and has made a way for us out from under the world and its systems of sin. He snatched us out from under tyranny and placed us in the body of His Son. No wonder we feel ‘different’ as we walk about here on earth!The Cross was and is the ultimate public display of the Father's Love for us, applying to every circumstance in life--no matter what we walk through, or whose opinion shouts at us. Though famine, or shipwreck, or persecution, or unemployment encroaches, God holds us in the very palm of His hand. Because of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross, no one can snatch us out of it. No one can remove us from this constant state of oneness and care, produced from Jesus’ death with us. Jesus was unashamed to draw us, mere men, into Himself on the Cross, and publicly and fully identify with us before the Father in our state of sin; Therefore, God is now unashamed to publicly call us His sons, born in the power of the resurrection.

AND, Although the world has its share of opinions, I am not ashamed of The Gospel, for it is the power that brought me from this death to life in Jesus Christ. It’s still working today, still making it clear to my enemies what happened to my old nature on the Cross, still comforting me in every storm of doubt and unbelief this world likes to produce, and still shouting in heavenly places that I belong fully to God, The Father, and that my home is in Him.
Matthew 10:26 in the Message Bible says, "Don't be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don't hesitate to go public now."
Now, the world tries to communicate a strong public opinion, too. It shouts loud and distorted views of a version of reality that constantly challenges our Christ existence. The state in which the world lives is just going to keep parading down the street in front of us--flaunting an illusion of freedom, but paralyzed under sin's control. Why should we be surprised when sometimes, our union with Christ gets exposed as "Abnormal" in this seductive parade of darkness or when it "stands out" like a city on a hill?

I experienced this recently in a series of real-life situations. One particular day, I was expecting guests from out of town. I was feeling 'pressure' to look like I "had it all together." To conform to the world's lens of looking normal and doing well. I was feeling challenged to fit in with family mindsets of success or the 'acceptable life' of an American. I found myself looking to produce a "god they could see," or a visual representation of what our family had in "solid future plans," assets, and money, to ease their consciences. This wasn't their fault. It really doesn't matter what pressure they put on me to produce these things. The pressure comes when I allow myself to be torn between two opinions: "Do I measure up to success through the world's lens?" OR "Am I one with the King of the Universe and therefore have inherited all things according to His riches in Glory?"--I felt ashamed of my public display of the Kingdom, because it seemed, so, well.... invisible through a world lens.

There is a point at which this pressure between 'conform to the world’s opinions' OR 'rest in The Death of Christ [The finished work of The Cross]' becomes so intense that it produces the opportunity for shrinking back into how the world deals with crisis, or divine deliverance and supernatural experience.

The pressure I was experiencing was taking too much of my attention and sapping my life. I found myself shrinking back into patterns of thinking that produced unbelief. I actually began to feel ashamed of my life in the Gospel as it compared to these visitors.

So, I found myself again, embracing the Cross of Christ. "Show me again God! Show me the Cross again! Here I am, acting like I'm alone out there on my own in the world, under the power of sin. I need to hear the Gospel again to remember who I am in You!"

In the next moment, I found myself experiencing Jesus Christ Himself--hanging on the Cross, hanging on the tree. Through a visual revelatory experience, I found myself hugging the bloody body of Jesus, filled with pulsing pain and anguish, and experiencing death for me. The Blood, the Body of Christ, and the Tree on which He hung was powerfully pulsating with the very life of God and the very death of all I ever identified with in the world. All of this was beating, pulsing into me, and restoring my soul. The pulse or heartbeat of Heaven available to me in Salvation was correcting my lens of identity. As I meditated on this graphic public display of love, I received deep deliverance from questioning my Gospel life. My mind was reoriented back to the Truth, and the other lens smashed by the reality that I am no longer subject to the curse this world is under.

This Cross is not impotent. It’s not just some sweet Sunday School story for children. Oh no! It is so powerful that life and living comes from the dying. Whoa! Selah! [Think about that one for a while.]

Oh Jesus, Your Cross is so powerful! How can I possibly view my life through any other lens? Through any worldly opinion? Because you died, I died. Because You live, I live in you. The Cross separated me from the world forever! It made me distinctly different.

This fresh and living experience with the Cross of Christ stabilized me in the Truth again. I could see clearly now, that the people coming to visit us, whose opinion about my life I had valued so much, were actually coming to eat from our banqueting table of Salvation. They don't know how rich we really are! They haven’t seen my book of remembrance—every time my God has delivered me and honored me in the face of persecution. Every time He sent me provision in unusual and unearthly kind of ways. Most of all, He delivered my soul from sin and death, through the sacrifice of His own body!

I am dependent on my identification with Jesus and His death, and therefore, I can actually depend on His identification with me. He has more than the world could ever offer. He has given me all that He has. I don't need to produce something to make my life more palatable for the world. What I have is supernatural. It can’t even be measured.

What a great awakening to the Truth again. I belong to the graphic public display of The Cross. My identity is found in simply hugging the death of what freed me forever from the patterns of this world. I don't have to answer to the world for my Gospel life. It didn't come from this world and it can't be questioned or taken away by worldly opinions.

It hurts the world to look into the mirror of a universe without God. It is a reminder that the devil has his hands and handiwork in their mind and life. We are the aroma of a real life to those that are perishing in their sin, but the smell of death to those that are enjoying the seduction of sin for a season. They both hate and want what we have. That makes for a dynamic atmosphere in which to live; But we have to have our roots in The Gospel. The very death and life of Christ. We have to hold onto The Truth-- this beautiful tree where Jesus finished it all-- and receive all the power available to us in The Crucifixion in order to live in it.

I am so thankful for the Body of Christ. I'm thankful to be able to gather together with those who believe. When I worship in a body of believers that are living in the Truth that we died and our life is now hidden in Christ, the world's system is exposed and seen for what it really is. Then "It" stands out; but it stands out like a sore thumb in the midst of the glorious worship around the throne. Heaven becomes more real than the silly parade slithering down the street of "worldliness."

This is the Distinction of a Divine People. We have our names recorded as citizens of heaven by the blood of the Lamb. We have inherited the Kingdom of God. We know through experiential revelation that we have died with Christ and He has made us a new creation. Our spiritual senses are alive to a completely different realm that is incorruptible and unfading. We are a people who have let go of the burnt down trees of sin, banned outside of Eden, and are now hugging the beautiful Tree of Life, where Jesus finished it all, in a life of blessing in Eden. We sit at a Banqueting table of pure love and rest in the finished work of the Cross of Christ. We are permanently out from under sin's control, and the curse of sin. We are no longer under the patterns of this world. We are Sons of the Kingdom of the Living God. We are His. He identified with us, so we could live out His identity on earth. We can never be separated from Him or His resurrection life--no matter what the world or circumstance says. And that makes us distinctly different.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gotta Get Back to the Garden

So I've had this thing stewing in me for about two weeks and I just can't let go of it. I've been sitting in Romans 8 in The Message Translation and the King James. Tonight I was able to put some words down to what my eyes are being opened up to and its so freeing!

I've been through a pretty major time of transition in the last 5 weeks and now I am left with the aftermath of the transition hurricane that hit my life. Last week while standing on the beach of Lake Michigan the Lord spoke to me very clearly as I watched the waves and cried with him. He said to me "Linds, you don't have to succumb to the darkness." I could literally feel this dark cloud trying to overtake me. Instantly I knew I needed to go back to Romans 8.

In the Message Romans 8:1-4 says:
With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The next verse the Lord lead me to was Romans 8:12-14: So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

I've been thinking about that for two weeks... I don't owe my do-it-yourself- life one red cent. NOT ONE. I've been having a particular struggle with my job and taking ownership of it. This past week I've been asking the Lord for his grace. I really needed him to intervene inside of me so that I could honor him in the job that he's given me because I was headed to a very ugly and dark place.

I began to talk to the Holy Spirit about what it meant to give my do-it-myself life a decent burial and get on with my new life. I asked him, "Holy Spirit, when did we begin to live this way?" and suddenly I was transported into the Garden of Eden. I saw the beauty of the Garden and saw Adam and Eve with the Father in the Garden in complete unity/oneness. I saw the fullness of provision in the Garden for every need and the presence of Rest there. Then I watched as Adam and Eve ate the apple and were thrown out of the Garden and into the unforgiving world and I watched them struggle to get back to that place of Rest. I watched them enter the "do-it-yourself way" of living that has created such a disordered mess for all of humanity. Out of this picture I realized...

The one place that the entire world is working so hard to get back to is the Garden of Eden. The very picture of complete fullness and oneness with the Father. The only place of true rest and completeness. The Father knew that the Garden experience was something that he had planted deep within the core of every human being. Whether or not we know its there, every man and woman and child longs to be back in the Garden. They long to rest, they long to be at peace, they long to be completely provided for in every way. So they, we, I attempt to recreate the Garden with our own efforts. We attempt to create our own rest, our own fullness with our own hands and self-effort.

And what is God doing as we toil away to give ourselves something that he's already given us? He rests... and throws reminders at us that he's already done it.

One of my reminders came on Sunday. Tony made a comment that went something like this- "You can only die to what it is that you really want and then the thing that you want becomes what you want it to be." That hit me in the center of my core. I just needed to let my job die. I needed to let my expectations of what it should be or the direction that I think my job should be moving in die... dead... done with. Because if I didn't let it die then I would be trying to create my own Garden. My own fullness. My own rest. And that already wasn't going so well... so how about, I just let it die?

But if I let it die... then what? How about this-

Romans 8:9-11: But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!

If I let my plans go, suddenly I stop thinking about myself and I am filled with the resurrection life of Christ and I have complete provision inside of me, coming out of me! When I encounter Jesus in this way, I am suddenly motivated to engage with my job and the details of my every day living because I am not the source- I am filled with the life of Christ! I don't have to succumb to depression or anxiety because I am operating out of the living breath of God that raised Jesus from the dead.

Today I lived out of this place. My entire disposition changed and I had a really productive work day. I was so thankful and am so thankful. With this, I can look forward to tomorrow because Jesus is taking me out of my disordered mess, my do-it-my-own-way life, and bringing me to a place where I am living more in the reality that he and I breathe together, we move together, we see together, we are one. I am less concerned about me and can rest in the fact that he has it all under control.

This is the Garden. Resting in his finished work. He is Rest. He is the very place we've been working so hard to get to!

Guest Post
by Lindsey Mack

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Over this past weekend I was hangin’ with Erin and some friends of mine at the Ann Arbor Art Fair(s). It was loads of fun and I enjoy going each year that I can. Art Fairs are funny to me, because each art fair basically has the same things (at least to me they do). Not only that, but often times when I go, we hardly stop at any booth really. Typically we just walk through, sort of “window-shop” and people watch.

One thing that I always remember when going to the Ann Arbor Art Fair(s) are the preachers on the corner. They cause a lot of reaction in some form or another. Many people just ignore them. A lot of people talk about them as they walk by, but don’t talk to them. Some people confront them. Of the people who confront them, it is often other Christians who disagree with their message or at least disagree with the delivery of their message. I’ve never confronted those street preachers, but I usually disagree with the delivery of their message.

Anyways, this post is about family, and as I looked at those preachers last night, I saw my family. I’m not saying I saw my brother Val or sister Febe in those preachers. I’m not referring to my relatives or my immediate family. I’m talking about my family in Christ. Because, as they say, you can’t choose your family, and it holds true that you can’t choose your family in Christ. So, whether I like it or not, those preachers last night are my family.

A lot of Christians might be ashamed of those preachers. Some might disassociate with them. A lot of Christians in their own hypocrisy will condemn them. Some might even say they’re not Christians at all. But Christians can’t afford to do that with each other. We can’t afford to do that with our Family. How is it that we think we can share the love of Christ with the world when we can’t even share it with our own Family?

Paul addresses family in I Timothy 3. I realize that in that passage Paul is not talking about the Body of Christ as family, but I think we would all agree that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, right? We are family! And whether we like it or not, other Christians, other churches, those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are our family. If such is the case, we must “manage” our Family with love, grace and a firm application of the Cross of Jesus! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 always strikes me. It says:

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

I don’t regard Christ from a worldly point of view. And I cannot, I will not regard Christ in my brothers and sisters from a worldly point of view. Whether or not I can see it with my limited vision, Christ is in them. They died the same death with Christ that I did, whether they know it or not, or whether I know it or not. For me to judge them according to their actions (however offensive to me they may be) is to see them outside of Christ.

When we judge other Christians we are seeing them from a worldly point of view. But as Christians we have rejected the worldly point of view, haven’t we? It amazes me at times when I hear Christians agreeing with the world, especially when it comes to the Body of Christ (one particular quote by Gandhi comes to mind). But we are called to see everything the way God sees things. God sees us all with love, grace and Bloodshot eyes (especially the Church). And because Christ is in me, I have it in me to see us all that way too.

I pondered much of this on the drive back home to Detroit. I then realized that while I could see Christ in those preachers at the Art Fair, I sometimes have a hard time seeing Christ in other Christians. And it has less to do with how other people are living and more to do with how I’m seeing. I confess that at times, I judge and have judged other Christians. When people have left the church I’m a part of, I have had lapses in judgment. Or if I hear some song on Christian radio with too much emphasis on how we’re sinners consequently overshadowing the power of the Cross, I can sometimes lapse in judgment. Or if by chance someone forgets who he or she is in Christ (again), I can sometimes lapse in judgment. Or………

Lord, thank You for Your Cross and thank You for Your blood. Thank You for your grace and thank You for my Family. Help us to see each other and ourselves from Your point of view. Open the eyes of our heart Lord, that we may see You in Your Body, Your Church, Your children – our Family. Your Cross was enough for me and for all of us! Praise You for Your most-powerful Cross that overcomes our actions and our judgments!