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.