Thursday, March 30, 2017

“Our Identity In Christ, What an Abundant Life!”

When we are following God, and growing in the experiential reality of our identity in Christ, every circumstance is subject to God. He doesn’t “send” every circumstance, but He does take them and work them FOR OUR GOOD. The whole purpose of every circumstance is to reveal God’s goodness in and through us. As we rest in this reality, I believe it progressively leads us to consider Him in all our ways, not just the “big” decisions, and it increasingly brings us to a point of making every choice according to His wisdom, and not our own humanly manipulated feelings or reason. He is merciful though, and so even as we make mistakes in decision-making along the way—some that may lead to adverse circumstances—if we trust in His love and grace, we will come out on the other side of the circumstance covered in His goodness. As we grow in Him, and increase in revelation relative to our identity in Him, we’ll make fewer and fewer mistakes, because we’re living by His power, and by His life more and more, and by our human reasoning, logic, or “self righteous” performance less and less. An increase in His wisdom and knowledge, empowered by His spirit, and applied through our obedience to His leadership, brings us to an “in step” life, where He is guiding our every step, and we are completely dependent upon His wisdom, grace, power, and love to direct us. The more we “settle in” to this lifestyle of trust, dependence, and obedience, the more authority we exercise over circumstances and emotions. Jesus lived and modeled a completely “at rest” life. He went through some circumstances, so we wouldn't have to. “For our sakes, He became poor, so that through His poverty, we might become rich.” He experienced every emotion, rejection, and sorrow. He overcame them, and made a way for us to learn and grow through faith and obedience to His completed work. Sometimes, because of our stubbornness or human inclinations, we have to learn things through painful experience. Progressive revelation of who He is, and who we are In Him will lead us into a place of overcoming—circumstances, emotions, and enemy attacks. We don’t have to be subjected to the pain, frustration, and fear of adversity, circumstance, or emotion, but sadly, we tend to walk according to the weakness of flesh instead of the strength and power of Christ in us.
Jesus overcame it all, and now as Christ followers, we are in Him. And “As He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17). That’s reality and truth, however, we have to make choices to live according to the fullness of that reality, or live a duplicitous, double minded lifestyle as some sort of spiritual/human hybrid. Many Christians settle for this lifestyle, but God’s purpose and desire, is for us to overcome the world, and it’s limitations. That’s why Jesus encouraged His disciples when He told them to “be of good cheer”. He had overcome, and therefore, choosing to live In Him and by Him, we can overcome practically in life, just as in reality, we have already overcome spiritually, through what Christ has done. We don’t have to wait until the sweet by and by to experience the overcoming life. We have to “live against the grain” of our human nature, NOT through our grand performance or awe-inspiring self discipline, but by a constant state of surrender and obedience to His power and life at work in and through us. This is indeed counter cultural living. Jesus did it, and gave us the power to do it also. This isn’t “spiritual rhetoric” or exalted Godly theory, this is reality we can experience and live out. We have been set free indeed—in reality—through the blood of Jesus, and through His Life in us. We make choices every day as to which life we will live by. This goes beyond simply receiving salvation, and being justified from sin to live with eternal security and expectancy of heaven some day in the future. This is Kingdom living NOW, here on earth, as it is in heaven. This is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and how He desires us to live. Christians will be saved, but sadly, many of them will miss out on the Life He has given us NOW. They will be saved, but will live an earthly existence of pain, frustration, adverse circumstance, and fear, because they won’t access the Christ Life in us—the Kingdom life—here in earth, as it is in Heaven.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

“The Journey, The Frustration, The Exhausted, The Desperate, The Surrendered, The Prepared, The Next”

It's been an incredible transitional journey for my family and me. There have been three "phases" to this journey to this point. I would say for Tina & me, phase one began around 25 years ago. Phase two began around 10 years ago, and then the third, and by far, the most intense, war-like phase started about 3 years ago. As I write this, I'm hopeful that this third "trimester" will unfold into the fulfillment of the God-given passion, and the birth of that which we have been preparing for the past 25 years. I often describe this journey as "beautifully frustrating". The beauty is seen in the transformational revealing of His heart, and the grace revelations and healing awakenings that God has been working out in us, helping us recover our original identity, freeing us from shame-based living and religious standards of performance, and patiently teaching us how to live freely and powerfully in His love and grace. The frustration has been felt in every deferred hope, every "reset", every delay, every closed door, every rejection, every failure, every missed opportunity, and every enemy-magnified insecurity and fear. I’ve discovered that the fruit of this journey is produced first inwardly, in our spirit, before it burgeons into the natural expression of His transformative work, practically and supernaturally. And that is where the war takes place. For the natural fights fiercely to maintain control of our reality, and it adamantly resists our spiritual identity from establishing its rightful place of authority in our lives. In pregnancy, that third trimester is the most miserable, the most uncomfortable, the most exhausting, and the slowest moving. It seems in those last few weeks that the clock and calendar grind to an excruciatingly slow pace. For me, that so accurately describes the last year and half of this journey. Fatigue, fear, anger, and emotional turmoil, the levels of which I never imagined I'd have to face, have taken me to the very brink of what felt like my breaking point, maybe even halfway crossing that threshold, but thankfully, God never loosened His grip of grace on me. I have experienced a demolition job of so many of my preconceived ideas and perspectives. At 48 years old, I have never been more dependent on, and desperate for the direction, love, wisdom, and constant closeness of my Abba Father! Any confidence that I've had in my natural abilities, talents, or gifts has faded from view. And I've been left feeling alone, clueless, and questioning my passion, my purpose, and my calling. But the amazing reality is that it is at this point--the end of my “best version” of me--where God is faithfully waiting for me, and where He can do His revolutionary Kingdom work, in and through my life in the most beautiful, wondrous, restful, fulfilling ways imaginable. And from the foundations of recovered identity in Him alone, amidst the rubble of self-made illusions and shallow definitions of self, relationship, blessing, and success, I fall, fatigued and helpless, questioning so many things, I fall, into the arms of Abba. He’s been there all along--seemingly silent at times, but never absent. He joyfully catches me, knowing what the “next” is gonna be. He rebuilds, He restores, He transforms, and He does exceedingly abundantly above all I can ask or think, according to His power working in me! And here in my exhaustion, my weakness, and my “Haven’t got a clue”, I simply say “whatever Father, I’m ready for the new”! I don’t know what opportunities await, and I hope I find them, or they find me soon. I trust in His unwavering faithfulness, and although His timing is maddening to my mind, my heart draws from the truth of my identity, and in Christ, I rest in the reality that His timing and seasons are perfectly laid out. He’s prepared me for that new thing, and in Him, all things are indeed new. I am living in unprecedented times personally, and I have no template to lean on or plan by. He’s calling me to live in Him alone, and to walk by faith in the wonder of His power, favor, and grace! So the 25-year preparation brings me to this moment. Thank you, Father, for the “next”, whatever it is.

Friday, March 10, 2017

"Shame--The Last Stronghold"

Shame and condemnation are toxic to the human heart. They are cruel and selfish tools used to manipulate the behavior of others in order to conform them to a desired and self-centered outcome. "Shame on you" and "You ought to be ashamed of yourself" are just a couple of examples of this language we learn from childhood. How contrary to the heart of a loving Father. When He freely gave us abundant life through the finished work of the Cross of Christ, the first thing He desired to eradicate in the relationship was condemnation. "There is therefore now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ." When you struggle with issues in your life, don't see yourself in shame or condemnation; see yourself in Christ at the cross. Shame is the ultimate "self-saboteur"! Shame and condemnation are the last strongholds that must be torn down for us to exit the long dark night season, and enter into the long-awaited season of purpose and harvest that God has prepared for us--the fruition of the God-given desires and dreams of our heart. Not only have we already been set free from condemnation through the blood of Jesus, and His finished atoning work at the cross, but because we have been set free, it is important to remember that we must also release people from our self-imposing shame on them. This includes our disapproval of their choices, our condemning the ways we perceive they have treated us, and the shame of unfulfilled expectations. Many of these, we have projected onto God as well. Doing so keeps us in a lifestyle of trying to perform for God, living under the constant threat of shame that we will never be enough, or can never do enough. We are accepted in the beloved, so no exterior rejections are valid, or significant. Religion is a system that is based on shame and performance, and this system has perpetuated much of this shame even in the name of God and morality. Shame can be generational, and a learned behavior as well. We try to manipulate our relationships, and the behavior of others as it relates to us through shame. These are toxic mindsets that we have been set free from through Christ. It is time now to walk into that freedom supernaturally and practically by the power of the Holy Spirit. We often use judgment, condemnation, and shame toward others to make us feel better about our issues that we struggle with. We must release everyone from our shame, and release them to the mercy and goodness of God. Including cases where we feel that their choices and actions reflect badly on us, or affect us negatively, we must release them from owing us any explanation or "compensation". Our compensation and justice are God's business, not ours. (Vengeance is HIS, HE will repay) No one owes us anything, and the sooner we can release them from any of our shame, the sooner we will move into complete freedom, and enjoy the long-awaited harvest of this new season. We are no longer victims, therefore we must not blame or shame anyone any longer, in an attempt to keep them as victims of our condemnation and shame, somehow making us feel better about ourselves. We do not need anyone's approval, so quit making others feel like they need our approval, by trying to shame them into conformity or behavior that is acceptable to us. We are beloved children of God, and in our identity in Christ, God is well pleased with us. That is reality, and that is what we should reflect in ourselves, and project to others. We have been set free, and now we can release others from the prison of our shame and condemnation toward them in which we have held them captive. The fruition of freedom awaits! It's independence day!

Friday, March 3, 2017

“Weird Way, Faithful Guide”

It may be confusing to understand the path I'm on. I don't even understand it sometimes. It's unconventional (not usually by choice, I might add). Many question what I "do", my vocation, or what I'm "about", and I'm often left without a concise explanation to give that will assuage the suspicious curiosity of some. But even through the countless times I have felt like a misfit, abnormal, inadequate, shiftless, and useless, one thing remains--the deep, settled peace I have in knowing and trusting that I am where God wants me, becoming who He created me to be, positioned for the opportunities that he created for me, and that He has my heart and my life in the palm of His hand. I can trust Him to speak to me even when so many surrounding and competing voices question what He is saying. No external, modern, "american", or personally biased perspective and definition of manhood, ministry, or noble “duty” determines my worth, my value, my strength, or my relationship with God. Time doesn't bring Him to worry, and age doesn't concern Him at all. The judgments and perceptions of others relative to my productivity or my performance as a “provider” are not important, nor do they determine the validity or legitimacy of the path I take. Before the foundation of the world, I was placed In Christ to do good works, He has already written every volume of my life book. Any choice I have made (or not made) doesn't leave Him without a way to lead me back into alignment with His purpose and will for my life, relative to His Kingdom, and how He has created me to engage it. I have chosen to acknowledge Him first in all my ways before making a decision. This has been my first focus, instead of trying to reason and justify a proactive “doing” in keeping with the often quoted, yet non-scriptural philosophy of “God helps those who help themselves”. I realize that that is a bit of noble sounding self-justification for going my own way according to my comfort zones under the influence of my own will. I have discovered that “doing my part” is a responsive, surrendered move to His initiatives and plan, and not a self motivated agenda to which I invite Him to be a part and “bless” my already begun “efforting.” I have spent many moments in solitude, isolated preparation, and out-of-view obscurity. I have learned that stillness is not laziness when ordained by Him for certain seasons. And busyness is not "noble" when it becomes a distraction from hearing Him and being intimately connected to His heart. My productivity, my value, and my identity are determined by One and One alone. I don’t have to live my life in fear of “missing Him”, of making wrong choices, or of underperforming as a friend, a husband, or a dad. I have been chosen and invited to live out the "book" He has already written for my life. My choices can be trusted in Him. My life can be trusted with Him. Psalms 139 so beautifully comforts my heart in this season--”I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. My life may make sense to no one, people may disagree with my choices. But I answer to the call and the urging of One alone. And in the end, my faith that has directed me on this "weird" path that I've journeyed will be validated and vindicated, by Him alone. So ask me, ask me about my journey; ask me what my purpose is. Don’t be afraid to question my choices, or even understand why I journey the way I do. I’ll tell you, and though the answer may leave you confused, in disagreement, or even challenge your self-reliant perspective, I’ll be happy to share. Because you see it’s not a matter of my dutiful performance, or my talents to achieve. It’s about my complete dependence and trust in whose Life my hope is found. It’s about an intimate connection, and a willingness to walk completely in His wisdom, by His Spirit, resting in His timing. Even in the mundane, the routine, and the obvious, I put no trust in my own strength, or my mental & intellectual capacity to chart my own course. His will for me isn’t hidden, some mysterious conundrum that I may or may not be able to figure out. It has already been established in Him, and as I am willing to align myself and respond to His initiatives, a grand adventure awaits. It won’t make much sense to my sense of common sense or reason, and it may be difficult or even impossible to explain to the pragmatist or the analytical, purely logic-driven mind. It goes against the grain of my nature not to attack life in a proactive, self-initiated manner, but I’ve had to come to the realization that my part is wholly responsive to what He’s already initiated for me. My “part” is to hear, and then follow. And my following is not even dependent on my ability to walk in my own power, but rather a willingness to surrender to His power within, and be carried in His wisdom, by His Spirit. It may not seem a journey for the fearful or faint of heart, and yet that is whom He often calls. Just ask Gideon or Moses. Because, it’s not my weakness that disqualifies me, or my past that derails my destiny. I can follow, even in the fog, when I feel woefully inadequate, insecure, or afraid. It’s His strength that carries me, my identity in Him that establishes me, and His wisdom that guides my steps. And so I journey in surrender, realizing where my life comes from. I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone, not even to myself. As I am, here and now, I can rejoice in the reality that to my Father, I am perfectly beloved, and He is well pleased with me.