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!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Made In Heaven

Tony and I have some friends from China visiting our family for a few weeks. One day, while out having a picnic lunch, Jeremiah began singing a funny song he and Gabriel made up about “everything being made in China.” It goes something like: “all the toys are made in China. …. .. all the dishes are made in China. … . .even our streets are made in China. . .”, and so on and so on.

Nancy, our new Chinese friend, retorted with a funny song of her own: Nancy was made in China!” Everyone laughed except Jeremiah. He sat very quietly and thought deeply.

“No, Nancy,” he said with very sober authority. “You were born in China, but you were made in Heaven.”

My mind immediately drifted to the scriptures. I thought of 1 Peter 1:23:

“You have been regenerated (born again), not from a mortal origin (seed, sperm), but from one that is immortal by the ever living and lasting Word of God. (AMP)

I thought about what it means to be born again. Born from above. With paternity established by and from the Father of Eternity. Not of a natural seed, but born and regenerated supernaturally from The Word of God, The Gospel-- the most powerful seed in the universe. This Seed is so powerful, it is able to destroy what we used to be and raise us up again to be another—belonging to Another.

“Likewise, my brethren, you have undergone death as to the Law through the [crucified] body of Christ, so that now you may belong to Another, to Him Who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4 AMP)

The Nancy born in China, was brought through a death with Jesus Christ on the Cross, experienced His burial, and was raised to life again with resurrection power in perfect union with the Son of God. Nancy was indeed made in Heaven. She doesn’t have a mortal origin any more. She was not formed from a human seed, or created on the basis of a human decision. She was regenerated from the ever living and lasting Word of God.

The Nancy born in Shan Dong Province, China, was born from a mortal seed. A Husband’s will. A family’s decision. The fruit of a human union. This seed was more than just corruptible. It was already corrupted. Since Adam ingested the temptation of independence and separation from God, and took sin into his self, the entire human race has suffered from the most incurable, horrible disease. The disease of being born of a mortal seed with a sin nature. When we were born into this world, we were not given a fresh start. Being born into this world doesn’t mean a new day for us or a clean slate. If that were the case, Jesus Christ would not have had to intervene on our behalf.

No parent in the world can produce a son or daughter that is Holy in their own ability. You could fast all you want and pray the most holy prayer you can muster up, but it still won’t make this new person Holy. At some point, this little person is going to have to face a very real choice:

“To remain in this mortal state of creation--with a mind, will, and emotions, open to the supernatural forces of evil—or receive the Ultimate Seed of Power.”

This Seed is the very Gospel itself. The only, very only, remedy for a soul subjected to sin.

If someone came into my garden and handed me a flower-- a beautiful flower full of fantastic aroma; however, it was completely infested with worms, gnats, and deadly plant fungus---would I be wise to receive this into my garden?

No way! I would put that rancid thing in the fire where it belongs, so that nothing would be left of it to infect the rest of my garden. I would want to make certain that there is NOTHING LEFT of this corrupted thing to infect the other living plants in my garden. The only answer would be to completely destroy the plant. Even though the flower still held some sort of beauty, in its corrupted, infested state, it would only be able to produce evil in my garden. God created it to be beautiful, but it was infested from germination with fungus that attracted all sorts of nasty creatures and infections throughout its life. There is no hope for it now, except complete destruction. To rid this plant of its own life would be the only merciful thing to do. How horrible it would be to allow it to flourish in an infested state in my garden. Slowly giving itself over to fungus, and worms, that only stay to destroy. It would be better to see it burn in the fire than to keep on living in torment.

This is what happened to Nancy, Me, and everyone else that has found themselves at the precipice of the ages—to receive The Seed, or not to receive The Seed. The Seed I am talking about is the ultimate Seed, The Word of God, The Truth, The Gospel. The greatest news ever told to the human race---that there is a solution for the sinful nature.

You see, the old Nancy, in her unregenerate state of sin, upon hearing and receiving the Gospel, received the greatest gift ever given. Her sin nature was destroyed through the merciful and supernatural death of Jesus on the Cross. The very Son of God graciously, mercifully, and lovingly, received the corrupted seed of her sinful nature up into His body. Then she received the greatest act of kindness the human race could ever and will ever know. Her old life was drawn up into the Son of God, and her sinful nature experienced the same putting to death that Jesus experienced on the Cross. It experienced the judgement sin deserved. The Wrath of God.

In Jesus’ bleeding, tortured body, Nancy’s sin nature died. It was completely and utterly and eternally deprived of life. It was denied existence. It was executed. It died until the life drained out with the blood. Her unregenerate self became impotent for storing, enjoying, and functioning for evil. Every sin pattern learned from parents, generational curse past down to her from ancestor’s sin, inherited disease, and any material that gave free-play for the enemy, suddenly became useless, dead, and ultimately free in the broken body of Jesus on the Cross. This death set us free.

Ephesians 2:1-10 describes our former, mortal condition:

“You however were deprived of life, involved in transgressions and contradiction of the law, in sins and errors, living merely as members of an age, a universe not under God, but under a power working invisibly in the air as ruler of the world by means of a spirit, a leaven that handles the minds and souls of those who exist in disobedience. More condition which you shared with the rest of the blind world, a condition to which are attached all the desires of the flesh, motions of the will and thoughts, belonging not to the children of God, but the children of the wrath of God, denizens of a misbegotten state.”

This is the condition of our former self, our unregenerate, human self. Our sinful nature was not unlike that corrupted beautiful flower I described in the analogy above. We were totally infested with sin and misbegotten from germination.

Jesus, in the most insurmountable act of love the world will ever know, stepped out of a timeless and Holy existence, into a world completely corrupted and infested with sin. The world didn’t recognize Him. They didn’t receive this beautiful Seed from heaven. Not even when He stood in their presence and released the great miracles, signs, and wonders of Kingdom from which He came.

Instead, The very Author of our salvation—Jesus Christ-- allowed Himself to be treated like that flower from my garden story. Although He had known no sin, was conceived by The Holy Spirit, He allowed Himself to be exterminated like a sin-infested thief and evil transgressor. He allowed Himself to be publicly scorned, despised, and rejected—like an infested plant worthy of being thrown into the fire. Why would He do such a thing?

Jesus Christ, our Savior and King, was doing more than what the public eye could see that day. He was accomplishing all things, in and throughout all the ages, in and outside of time. He was taking on the full extent of the penalty of law and wrath for the whole world—past, present, and future. He was doing more than just making a public statement about who He is in heaven. His all-inclusive plan wasn’t even just go there to prove He could die and be raised from the dead. Jesus allowed Lazarus to experience that.

No, Jesus Christ, for the joy set before Him, endured the full penalty of the Wrath of God and the punishment for all the sins of humanity on the Cross. The full penalty! But not without first drawing all men---ALL MEN—in their unregenerate, sinful, evil-infested state, fully into Himself. It was there, He fully united Himself in a feverish punishment, with a broken humanity that could never save itself from out of the corruption in which they could never find relief. The only solution was the perfect sacrifice of Himself, encompassing all of humanity’s broken and unregenerate condition in His own body, and bringing both to a perfect end together. He united Himself to humanity in a perfect union in death.

But He didn’t stop there! Not only did He deliver the ultimate solution to the sinful propensities of the human race--this ugly mortal condition--He brought a struggling mortal condition of men and woman to the most perfect place of rest. The Holy Place of God Himself.

Although the world did not recognize and receive this Heavenly Seed from the Father when He came, Jesus received us into His body while he died and identified fully with our evil, sin nature. He did this, so that we could escape the judgment and wrath the world is under because of sin. Instead, he, by taking us in his own body through this death, caused us to enter the most Holy Place--united to God Himself. Jesus became for us, the perfect resting place of union and holiness. We entered death with Him, and so we entered the tomb with Him. We rested together, united in death.

This rest is the ultimate freedom from evil. Freedom from our humanity. Freedom from all the power of the devil. For a dead man is free from sin and thus, we rested in burial in this restful condition of freedom and union until our Father—OUR FATHER—who is in heaven, raised us up in the Spirit of Holiness. We then, are born of the Spirit. We now share this beautiful union as a completely different creature. A new creation. A new beginning. A Holy-begotten state of existence, completely united with the Son of God.

So, yes, Nancy was born in China....but she was made in heaven. She was born from above, when she received The Seed. The Gospel. The most powerful seed or sperm in all of eternity. It isn’t human. It doesn’t come from the world. He came from heaven and united us with His death on a Cross, so we could have His new life and existence to enjoy.

Nancy, me, and anyone else who receives This Seed, will find themselves embracing the most awesome and merciful death the world ever needed to solve their sin condition. We who receive this death, receive a complete and total and final destruction of who we use to be and we trade it all in for the gift of being created anew through the supernatural rebirth through the Son of God—Jesus Christ.

“For if we have become planted together to the likeness of his death, [so] also shall be of the rising again; this knowing, that our old man was crucified with [him], that the body of sin may be made useless, for our no longer serving the sin; for he who hath died has been set free from the sin. And if we died with Christ, we believe that we also shall live with him.” (Romans 6: 5-8, Young’s Literal Translation)

Our Father made us in heaven. When we received His eternal seed, The Word, we received His sacrifice for us. We no longer belong to the world under wrath. We belong to Another. We are registered as citizens of Heaven—registered with the very blood of the Lamb. Our paternity has been established in the Father of all Life and Eternity. Our tes
timony is that we died. We have been born from above. Born of the Spirit. We are born again.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Green Grass

Yesterday the Lord said to me, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where there is something dead to fertilize it.” This was quite a profound statement to me, but when I posted it as my Facebook status, some found it humorous. Now that I think about it in a different way, it is kinda funny!

Well, what the Lord was saying to me was that me being dead in the place that I’m in is going to make the grass on “my side” of things green. It’s the way of the Cross! My striving, my efforts or my achievements aren’t going to bring about fruit. That’s not the life I’ve chosen to live. I said goodbye to that kind of life and gave up doing things out of my own strength once I embraced the Cross. Now, I am submitted to God bringing things about in my life as I trust and rest in Him. And as I rest in my death with Him, it makes my side of things greener. As I rest in my death with Him, fruit comes about. My death with Christ is the fertilizer for the life I now live, because in my death Christ lives! Apart from me being dead with Christ, I have no life.

Galatians 2:20 says we have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in us! If we do not see ourselves as dead and crucified with Christ, we cannot see Christ living in us! While not always the case, often times seeing ourselves as dead means resting; maybe even doing nothing. At all. And for some reason, that is very difficult for the majority of us. We want to do something about it. We want to apply ourselves.

There are many things in my life that I would like to “do something about”. But I’ve learned that I can’t just go ahead and start doing things and hope that God will bless what I’m doing. That’s not the way of the Cross! For instance, I’d like a new house, a new car and more money. And in and of myself, I could probably come up with some good ideas as to how I could make those things happen. But there is no faith in that. There isn’t any faith in me hoping God will bless what I want to do. And that which is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23)! The Cross isn’t for blessing what we set out to do. The Cross is for hearing, understanding and resting in what God has done for us! And the truth is, Jesus did something for us on the Cross! He did something about it! (Whatever “it” may be!) He applied Himself and His Cross to every situation of our lives! So as we rest, as we see ourselves crucified with Christ, Christ lives in us and we are given eyes to see Christ at work in our lives.

In truth, the grass is greener on our side of things:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures (green grass!), He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. – Psalm 23:1-3

Lord, we lay down with you in death to see You living in us, to see green pastures in our lives.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

T. Austin Sparks

Years ago I read the most incredible book called Pioneers of the Heavenly Way by a man named T. Austin Sparks. This book talked about the pioneering nature of believers who embrace the cross of Jesus, are crucified to the world and are now discovering heaven's way, heaven's government, heaven's power, heaven's everything.

The book unfolded the message of the book of Hebrews and showed how every believer is a Hebrew. The probable meaning of the word Hebrew is people of the beyond. We are pilgrims and strangers here. We are people from beyond. Our very center is from heaven and being drawn through this world to heaven.

I recently came across several sites that are reprinting T. Austin Spark's material--which is powerful, cross-centered, Christ-exalting, ambition-breaking, religion-combatting, true-church building stuff. 

Below is one posting. Enjoy it.  Then check out the following, if you'd like more: 

The Offence of the Cross

And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. (Galatians 5:11)

The verse from which this title is taken suggests that if only Paul had continued to preach circumcision he could have avoided persecution and been freed from the inevitable offence which is created by the message of the Cross. It is an obvious fact that wherever the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ has been faithfully preached it has not only brought hope and new life to some but also caused trouble with many more. Wherever this message has gone it has aroused antagonism. As it was a stumbling-block to the Jews and an absurdity to the Greeks in the first days, so it has ever since been unacceptable not only to men of the world but even to many religious people.

This is a fact, in spite of its being the most popular symbol. There is hardly a city in Christendom where the architecture, galleries of art, collections of literature and conservatoires of music do not give a prominent place to the sacred sign of the cross. It is a pity, then, that so much of the preaching and teaching in the Christian Church is either confined to the “Historic Jesus”, which presents a crossless Christ, or to an interpretation of the cross which is much less than the Scriptural one.

Yet the consistent message of the whole Bible is that the Cross is God’s way of salvation, His sufficient and His only way. It is further very clear that this has been the message which God has blessed to the salvation of men. It was dominant in New Testament days, and the recovery of, or re-emphasis upon some vital and essential phase of that Cross gave rise to such movements as are signified by names like Luther, the Wesleys, Whitfield, Moody, Spurgeon and many other God-honoured men.

Before we begin to discuss why the Cross has always been such a maker of trouble and cause of offence, we need to make it plain that no exception is taken to the heroics of the Cross or its aesthetics. Sacrifice, suffering, unselfish devotion, self-effacing service for the good of others, enduring the penalty of setting oneself against current evils; these are romantic elements which are popularly appreciated. It is the deeper meaning which the Bible gives to the Cross which provokes men’s opposition, and it may be profitable to examine a few of these more closely.

1. The Cross condemns the world. 
In the Cross Christ created a great divide between the old world and the new, a divide which cannot be bridged. Two distinctly different systems, scales of value, standards of judgment, sets of laws, stand contrasted on the two sides of the Cross. The system of each is not only quite different, but irreconcilable and forever mutually antagonistic. The cross demands an absolute distinctiveness of interest and objectives, relationships and resources. It draws the final distinction between the saved and the unsaved, between the living and the dead.
The apostle Paul said that by the Cross of Christ he had “been crucified to the world” and the world crucified to him. The Word of God emphatically declares that this age is evil and that “the whole world lieth in the wicked one”. It says that the world’s ways, motives, purposes, ideas and imaginations are all the opposite of God’s. It further asserts that the world is utterly incapacitated from either receiving the revelation of the divine mind, growing of itself into the divine image, enjoying and appreciating real fellowship with God, or being entrusted with the privilege of co-operation with God.

Such capacities and relationships belong only to those whose new birth has delivered them from this present world. It is understandable that the world finds the condemnation of the Cross irritating and unacceptable, and it is to be feared that the presence of “worldliness” in the individual Christian life and in the Church is in direct contradiction to the essential purposes of the Cross. The Lord Jesus described His cross as being “the judgment of this world” (John 12:31). Those who follow Him must accept this verdict, and will consequently have to suffer from the offence of the Cross.

2. The Cross crucifies the flesh.
The Word of God declares that “our old man has been crucified with Christ” (Romans 6:6) and that “One died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). So far as God was concerned the history of the fallen race was concluded at Calvary. From that time onward, God’s entire concern was the new creation. It is no use our trying to bring some of the old creation life into the new creation, for God will not accept it. Our human capabilities as well as our infirmities; what we call our better side as well as what we recognise to be our worst side; our goodness and our badness have all been included in that death. Henceforth we are called to live not on a human level but on a divine. In ourselves we possess nothing which is acceptable to God.

So often it is the assertion of some human element, some like or dislike, some ambition or some personal interest, which paralyses the work of God in and through us. To regard not only our sins but ourselves as having been taken to the Cross by Christ is the only way by which those purposes of God can be wrought out through our lives. It may seem strange that while we so often deplore our lack of spirituality, we are so slow to accept the verdict of the Cross on our natural lives. We find it humiliating to accept the same verdict on ourselves as has been passed on the world, namely that of death by crucifixion. Nevertheless there is no other basis for a really spiritual life and witness: the Cross must work out death in us in order that the life of Christ may be released in full expression through us. So there may be a sense in which the Christian also has to face the offence of the Cross. Only by really knowing the power of the fact that he is crucified with Christ can he know the blessedness of the new life. When it is truly “no longer I”, then the way is opened for the affirmation: “but Christ that liveth in me”. The end is glorious but the way is the painful way of the Cross.

3. The Cross casts out the devil.
Here we touch the deepest cause of the offence, for the world and the flesh are only the instruments and weapons by which the great hierarchy of Satan maintains its hold and its existence as the controlling force. As He approached the Cross, Christ said: “Now is the prince of this world cast out” (John 12:31). As Paul reflected on the deep meaning of the Cross he said that by it: “Christ stripped off principalities and powers, making a show of them openly, and triumphed over them” (Colossians 2:15).

It is perfectly natural, then, that the great hierarchy of evil should by every means and resource seek to make the Cross of none effect. By the “pale cast of thought” it will dilute the message of the Cross; by pushing in the world’s methods and spirit it will sap the spiritual vitality of the Church; by stirring up the flesh, the self and the old Adam it will cause schism, strain and disintegration; or by making much of the human elements in its artistic, aesthetic, heroic side, it will be blind to the need for regeneration. Reputation, popularity, the world’s standards of success, are all contrary to the spirit of Christ, but they are the attractions by which the enemy engrosses the minds of many, sometimes even Christian ministers.

If, therefore, the Cross is preached in the full content of victory over and emancipation from the world, the flesh and the devil, it is to be expected that by hook or crook the intelligent forces of evil will stop at nothing to silence it, and will stir up every cause of offence which can be laid to the account of the Cross. No wonder that this message is repudiated or misrepresented, since it is God’s solution to the problems of fallen man. Crucifixion is a harsh end; it reveals the utterness of God’s repudiation of everything which belongs to the old creation. To the believer, however, the Cross as presented in the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

In conclusion let us not forget that the enjoyment of the full purpose of God, the experience of victory, and association in life with Him that sitteth on the throne in His glory are ours just in so far as we are one with the reality of the Cross as set forth in the Word of God. Perhaps it is best summed up for us in the words:

They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they counted not their lives dear unto the death. (Revelation 12:11)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Freedom from Independence

I'm in a real 'learning lab' in my Christian experience right now. I am learning to let go of independent thinking. I’m being delivered from independent thinking through a world lens and learning to rest in my dependence on Christ.

I recently have experienced an onslaught of worldly cultural pressure that is pressing against my identity with Christ in His Kingdom. Attempting to shift my thinking off what is real and drift me toward trying to conform to what isn't. It has tried to get me to question what is eternal and what is temporary. There have been voices that persecute day and night, pressing in tighter and tighter until I have found myself entertaining questions like, "Have I been wrong to go this path all along? Have we been way off course?" I may not have entertained those voices long, but just a moment of lingering unbelief can spiral my life into anxiety and disorder.

I recently found myself back at the Cross again, asking how this all 'works'--this dependent life. I am asking questions like, "How do I DO this God? How do I do this Gospel life? It goes against everything the world is doing around me? How do I identify fully with the Godhead in a world in which I feel like an alien?"

But, If I take a really long, hard, look at my question, I see that what I am really asking God is, "How do I DO this apart from you, because I feel alone in it. I would really feel better if I just looked a little more appealing to the world, because I am feeling like I look like a failure. I am feeling a bit outside your reach of grace, so I am going to go out there independently and give it my best shot. I just need your advice to get me started."
---uh oh, Melissa, let's go back to the Cross and see the Truth again.

Last week, I grabbed my Bible, sat down in the back yard, opened the pages of Romans, and read through chapter six again. The words resonated off the page into my body. I began spontaneously shouting out praise in the tongues of angels in my backyard-- even though my neighbors were 5 feet from me. Three men, working construction all day, came home to unload their truck and hear some alien creature just over the fence losing her mind over the pages of her Bible.

"How strange they must think I am," I thought to myself, "I'm shouting in tongues and manifesting Glory in my backyard, just from reading the pages of a book! Ah! But I can't help myself, I just need to keep reading the Truth! It's setting me free!" Thus, the praises and manifestations of an alien Kingdom woman continued.

I found myself feasting again on this amazing power that is so much bigger than the world. So complete, so finalizing-- as far as this world is concerned-- that my heart began to beat faster and my blood began pulsing through my body. The Gospel was shifting the lens through which I look at myself and quickening my mortal body to the Truth-- again.

Was I just reading words on a page and feeling inspired? No way! I was seeing my identity through the lens of the Cross as I read about my death with Jesus! As I am reading the Truth, I am actually experiencing the power of this powerful Gospel Message. This Gospel says that I am dead as far as the world is concerned. This Gospel says that I became One with Him in death and so now am One with Him in His resurrected life.

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Romans 6:8-10 NIV

This Gospel is so far from thinking independently. It is Jesus wrapping my life in His, and folding His Life up in me, when I should have been cast out as a leper. It is Jesus entering into my sin and curse-filled life, filling Himself with my shame, and pulling me into an eternal irreversible existence together. This is His permanent act of destroying my sinful/independent nature once and for all. Here, He ripped the power of sin and death and worldly points of view away from me forever--and all through an embrace of all of me in Himself. He identified with my sin on the Cross, so I could identify myself in Him in His resurrection life.

We were forged in the fire of His identification with us.

I have a friend that struggles sometimes with abandonment and rejection issues. In essence, he is slipping into independent thinking. He loves Jesus, but when he is feeling unworthy again, he immediately feels rejected by and separated from God.

I always say the same thing to this friend, "At what point did Jesus leave you? If He made Himself one with you on the Cross when you were still a God-hating sinner, when did He decide he had enough of you as His son and walk out of your permanently joined resurrection DNA?"

As I am learning to look at my life through the lens of Jesus' Death for me, I let go of independent thinking, and I see that I am no longer living my life through the lens of being independent from God. I am finding myself looking at Christ's Death again and finding that I can rest there. As I learn this Way-- the only real way to DO anything--rest, I find myself only doing what I see and hear the Father doing as well. I stay within His grace. He does the work, and I become a public display of God's love too. I look like a partnership with the living God. I don't look like an independent, hard working, world-saving super woman! I look like the God that loves me enough to finish the work ahead of
time and then walk me through the stage of my life in Grace.

The world will know will know us by our love. How do we learn love? We learn it from the One who gave His life up for us all. He didn't shrink back from death, but embraced it--all of it and all of us in all our hopeless conditions-- so that we could have His life. I love this Grace!!!

Being dependent on this union with Christ and His death produces within me a mindset that He is actually real and involved my life. He is involved in
timately with our reputation. Our acceptance. Our belief in an unseen God. Our jobs. Our relationships. Our crisis. Our living out life here on planet Earth.

There is an unseen God that wants to be seen through us, to give the world a glimpse of the love of the Father of eternity. Our union with Him, is constantly tested by the world around us. God's point of view vs. a clouded, distorted, worldly point of view. I am thankful, that even through the testing, I can lean into my union for strength to sustain me. This oneness has more power than I have in my own human ability. It is supernaturally reminding me that Jesus has overcome the world, and I get His new life to enjoy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Roller Coaster Faith

I was reading an excellent blog post on MDCC Cross Talk about weeds and watering, and it got me to thinking about roller coasters and the act of simply believing the gospel

I don't know about you, but roller coasters give me the willies. When I take my physics students to Cedar Point every year, I always get a knot in my stomach as we step into line for the first roller coaster my co-workers get me to ride.

Now, I'm a physics teacher. I have a good mental understanding of the physics involved in making a roller coaster both thrilling and safe at the same time. Further, I mentally recognize that the amusement park has paid an engineering firm lots and lots of money to test, retest, validate and test to make sure it is safe for riders. But to let go and trust that is a different matter entirely.

In my head:
"Why do I do this every year? I should just go get some elephant ears. But that wouldn't be exciting ..."
"Well, no turning back, since we are next to get into the car."
"That's it!?!?! only a lap bar? Where's the helmet? At least an airbag? No steering wheel? No brake?"
"Ugh, why does there have to be that unnerving clank-clank-clank sound on the way up? It just reminds me how much I can't get out of this thing."
"Why aren't we at the top of the hill yet?! I wanna get off. Stop the ride. Let me climb down."
"Why is it so quiet?! What happened to the clank? WHERE IS THE TRACK?!"
"Just scream and let go! YAAAHHHH!"

And every year, I'm shaking with excitement and a big smile on my face on the way out.

Simply believing in the gospel of Christ is alot like that. I'm sure that most, if not all Christians say that they've been saved by the death and ressurrection of Jesus Christ. Much like the mental assent to roller coasters, most of us say that we have been saved from sin. But there exists a roller coaster for us as Christians to ride in simply believing the gospel of Christ every moment. I'm not talking about the cliche metaphor of the "ups and downs" of our lives. When we believe this:
. . .that you have put off once for all with reference to your former manner of life the old self who is being corrupted according to the passionate desires of deceit; moreover, that you are being constantly renewed with reference to the spirit of your mind; and that you have put on once for all the new self who after God was created in righteousness and holiness of truth. (Eph. 4:22-24 Wuest)

When we choose to simply believe in THIS truth, we climb on to God's back. We let go of saying that we know where our lives are headed. We see the argument that we just had with a loved one or the immaturity in our own personalities or the shortcomings in our characters and still say, "I have put off once for all ... the old self". We let go of the safety bar, put our hands up and say, "Father, you have hidden me in Christ. I believe in your work to effect this truth out through my thoughts, words and actions."

"FOUL!" you may say. "It's just not logical. How can you believe that you have put off the old self if you are still arguing with your spouse? still getting angry at your kids? still haven't done anything significant with your life?"

Well, those thoughts stem from the perception that the truth of the gospel depends on a life that you or I can produce. That's just like thinking that you should have a steering wheel and a brake on the roller coaster so you can control it.

Sorry. No steering wheel on this ride. That's what you give up for admission to this park. You received the heaven-powered, more-real-than-reality salvation-work in the death of Christ by saying yes to his gift. The Message translation says it like this:
What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection.
His ressurrection life is the life that we are included in. We've climbed into His car. We secure the lap bar over our lives to His life. The ride where God controls where we go. The life where God defines success, where God works out the maturity, where God springs forth love and compassion.

And our job is to stay in the car.

Stay believing the truth, even if you don't see it in your current circumstance. Stay believing the cross of Christ HAS CONQUERED SIN in your life.

We don't stay in the roller coaster by clutching for dear life. God's already taken care of that. He established the plans for your life from before the universe began. He has engineered this ride of yours not only to be safe, but glorious. So, don't run away from the emotional dynamic of this life. Don't get out of the car on it's way up. The fear, anxiety, accusation, temptation, shame feelings aren't what you are riding. You are riding Christ.

Just let go. Throw your hands up and believe. God guarantees that you'll be smiling on the way out.

Guest Blogger: Tophe Dannug