September, 2010

Sep 10

Who Are You?

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:16-21)

Who are you?

In the world you live in, your identity is built according to the flesh. You are called by your earthly father’s name (Smith, Jones, Miller, Mast, Yoder, Schlabach, etc). You are identified by your occupation (carpenter, doctor, grocer, housewife). You are remembered for your facial features (eye color, hair color, skin tone, type of nose) or for your body shape (tall, short, skinny, and fat).

Your friends remember you by your personality–quiet, withdrawn, bold, outgoing, opinionated. They know you by your knowledge, opinions, and preferences, whether it’s food, sports, cars, academia, music, or even spirituality. They may even know you by the things that upset you and irritate you, for the flaws that are in your life, even for the things you’re not good at.

These things are your body and soul. But is this who you really are?

To you, your physical imperfections may be very real. Your personality flaws may be blatantly obvious. Your imperfections may stare you in the face, and failure may be constantly ringing in your ears. But I’m here to say those imperfections are not you, because if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

I don’t mean those imperfections and flaws don’t exist, but what I mean is that it’s not your identity, and we no longer regard you according to those things. Buried deep in your heart, perhaps nearly forgotten beneath many lies and many voices, is the essence of who you are. And who you are is glorious, because nothing God creates is anything less than that. After all, for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

You see, sometimes we think that if people are to grow, we need to focus on their imperfections. But what if we went beyond that? What if we focused on their divine identity and divine destiny? What if we saw them for who they really are in Christ? Is that merely excusing sin? Absolutely not! Rather, it’s proclaiming a prophecy over their lives, because that is who they are and it is their destination. Is it ignoring reality? Absolutely not! Rather, it’s acknowledging the ultimate reality.

When God looks at you, He sees the righteousness of God within you, so who’s  going to stop me from doing the same thing? Through Christ, God is reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. And if God doesn’t count your trespasses against you, who’s going to stop me from writing off your trespasses? No matter what your flaws, your hangups, your addictions, your irritations, God is intent on loving you incessantly, recklessly, lavishly. This selfless love from God totally changed my life, so tell me–who’s going to stop me from pulling back the floodgates and letting you be washed clean by his incessant, reckless, lavish, selfless love flowing through me?

After all, that’s what the body of Christ is all about.

So tell me, who are you?

…[I pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints… (Eph 1:17-18)

Sep 10

Inner Vows

I’ve mentioned before that we are spirit, we possess a soul, and we live in a body. Understanding that is important, but I’ve just recently been thinking about it in a new way.

Who We Are

First of all, let me lay a little foundation, for those of you who enjoy that. You need to understand that your spirit is joined with God’s. Paul writes:

But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Cor 6:17, NIV).

Further, we are made completely new in Christ:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17, NIV).

If our spirit is one with God’s and if we are new creatures, why don’t we always act or think like new creatures? Peter writes:

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9, NIV, emphasis mine)

You see, even though our spirit is made new, our soul needs to be saved. Our soul is made of our mind, our will, and our emotions. And the spirit of God within us must reshape the way that we think, we act, and we feel. Paul writes again:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)

That’s called sanctification–our soul coming under obedience to our spirit.

Getting Under the Influence

We are meant to be under the influence of the spirit of God, and the spirit of God wants to continually shape the way  we think, we act, and we feel. That’s what the salvation of souls is all about!

But sometimes, there are structures that we have set up within our soul that keeps our soul from yielding to the gentle work of the spirit of God. These are called strongholds; they are like a fortress that we’ve built for the enemy to dwell.

One of these structures is called an inner vow. Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve trusted someone else, only to be humiliated or hurt? It’s easy to walk away from that situation and say in your heart, “I will never let myself get hurt like that again!” This is called an inner vow. It’s a promise you make within yourself, and it always reinforces a lie that the enemy would have you believe. In this case, the lie may be that people cannot be trusted, or that you are not worth loving.

Inner vows are also often linked with unforgiveness. In the example I gave, you need to forgive the person who betrayed the trust. But it can also happen with ourselves. When I hurt someone who is close to me, I can tell myself, “I will never hurt anyone like that again!” Somehow, making an inner vow can feel like the right thing–we somehow feel better inflicting punishment on ourselves. However, in the same way that inner vows keep others in unforgiveness, they can also keep us in unforgiveness. Quite simply, we need to forgive ourselves, and we need to give ourselves the same mercy that we hand out to others!

As a personal testimony, God recently revealed some inner vows in my life, and as I repented of those vows, I felt a new freedom within me for God’s spirit to make huge changes to the way that I think, act, and feel. Thought patterns that I’ve held for a long time are being broken, habits that have plagued me are being changed, and certain emotions that I’ve felt for a long time are coming into alignment with the truth of God’s Word. That’s called the salvation of my soul!

As an aside, many times we take for granted the way that we think, we act, or we feel–but especially the way we feel. It’s true, perhaps, that we cannot control our emotions, but we can allow our souls to surrender to the spirit of God, and believe me–the spirit of God will change how you feel!

An inner vow has an incredible power within your soul to reinforce certain ways of thinking, of acting, and of feeling. Like Paul wrote, it “sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” Until you break that vow, it will be working  against you to keep you from receiving the knowledge of God. But when that inner vow is broken, it’s like knocking the steel frame out of a structure–there’s nothing to hold up that building any more, and the spirit of God is free to barge in there and to transform you from glory to glory!

God bless you good as you align yourself with God!

within me

Sep 10

Living in the Unknown

(Well, I had this little post all written and then my battery died, so I’ll see how much of it I can reconstruct.)

“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” Philippians 3:10 ESV.

One of the mysteries of us as humans is that we are limited by what we know. In Hosea 4:6 we read, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

Recently I got to listen to a group of young men share the things that keep them from stepping out and doing great exploits in the kingdom of God. One of the biggest fears, besides failure, was fear of the unknown.

Like it or not, your life will always have large unknowns. You don’t know whether you will die rich or poor. You don’t know when you will take your last breath. For some of us, those unknowns loom much larger than for others. Some of my friends are facing huge transition in their work. The trouble is, they’re not sure into what! That’s entering the unknown!

The essence of faith and fear can be summarized in the difference of the known and the unknown. Fear’s very foundation is built on the unknown, and its tower is the tower of “what if”. However, faith is built on what we know.

For example, Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow–what to eat and what to drink and what to wear (Matthew 6). You see, none of us knows what tomorrow holds, and this unknown is the foothold of anxiety and fear. What did Jesus say? “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. … For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Did you catch that? In spite of the unknown, our certainty is in the heart of our Father towards His children!

We were not meant to live in the realm of the unknown. Our fleshly response to the unknown is to establish some earthly security. For some, it’s a storehouse of gold for financial uncertainty. For others, it’s an education to preserve a career, or a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife to protect them from being alone in this world. However, these are only false supports.

You cannot silence the voice of the unknown by ignoring it. Instead, you must silence these unknowns with the knowledge of Christ. I don’t know my financial future, but I know my Father’s heart for me. I don’t see where God is leading me, but I focus on that which I know–that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.

Like Paul we must learn to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. And believe me, our circumstances cannot withstand that power! You see, becoming free from the fear of the unknown is as simple (if you can call it that) as taking our eyes off the unknown and throwing ourselves on the reality of Christ. That is the realm of knowledge we are called to live in, and we can say fearlessly, “I don’t know my future, but I know Christ!” Do you want that kind of boldness and freedom to live like that? I know I do!

Sep 10

The Secret Place

“The LORD your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17 NASB

That verse captures what it’s like to commune with God in the secret place, to dwell in that place of intimacy where none other dare to enter. Last night I got to experience again, first hand, the transforming power of being in that secret place, in the presence of our most high God.

Much of modern counseling focuses on the level of the soul–trying to analyze experiences and shape the mind, will, and emotions. This can work–sort of. But it’s limited.

You see, as humans, we are spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body. Unlocking what all that means is a process, but it’s an important key to unlocking spiritual growth. Because we are spirit, our spirit has authority over our soul, and if we give it permission, it will transform our mind, our will, and our emotion.

That’s a bit abstract, so let me make it abundantly clear.

Last night I spent several hours in the presence of God, and God began to reveal inner vows and unforgiveness that had been hidden in my heart. Believe me, it was ugly! But as I repented of the stubbornness of my heart and allowed the spirit of God to minister to me, it felt like my soul finally surrendered to the truth spoken to my spirit. This was stuff that has plagued me for a long time. To put it simply, an evening spent in the presence of God dealt a huge blow to a way of thinking that had been enforced by over twenty years of experience.

Why this personal testimony?

Most of us have been taught the blessing of entering into the presence of God in corporate worship, which is a great blessing indeed. However, many of us have not been taught the importance of entering into that secret place of intimacy with God, where you just enter His presence and allow Him to touch you.

God longs for you to step aside and to listen to the songs that He sings over you. He has many things He is longing to reveal to you. But even more than that, He just wants you to enjoy Him and be totally content in His presence. He doesn’t intend it to be a heavy thing, but He is waiting for you to seek Him out, because He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. He is waiting for you and quietly calling your name, and He is inviting you to grow deeper into the greatest relationship in the world!

No words can do justice to the beauty of that secret place, that place of intimacy where God and you can share the deepest matters of the heart, but it is a taste of heaven.

He is calling. Will you enter in?

Sep 10

The Time in Between

I don’t know where you all are in your journey of life, but I love where I am right now. Despite my enjoyment, however, I have a huge hunger and anticipation for where I’m going to be, and every glimpse of what could be my future just blows me away.

So how should I deal with this hunger? Here’s how it works. For every promise of God, there is a time “in between”. It’s the time when we learn how to walk blind, throwing ourselves completely on Him. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The unfulfilled promises that God has given you are true and real. Their fulfillment will not make them any more real or true; they will only make them visible. However, the challenge is to walk as if those promises are true, even though all evidence seems contrary.

You see, the worst thing you can do is to take the fulfillment of those promises into your own hands, as Abraham did. It will result in a work of the flesh that will ultimately burn and disappear.

This is a message that I’ve heard before, but it takes on new meaning whenever God starts moving us on to even bigger visions and even bigger promises.

What are those promises in your life? Are you keeping them alive by continually throwing yourself on the faithfulness of God? You have a choice–will you become incapacitated by the immensity of the unsolved problem, or will you allow yourself to be be overwhelmed by the majesty, power, glory, and goodness of our God?

Sep 10

Basic Principles: Identity

If I can add one more basic principle that rocks the world of a young believer, it’s learning to live out of your identity.

We are constantly bombarded by things that seem to be evidence against our identity. We don’t always feel like God’s children. We don’t always feel loved or accepted or valued. Because of that, it’s easy to assume we’re not. I remember what those days were like.

How did it change for me? It started with Psalm 103:11, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him.” For some reason, that was a verse I was able to grab ahold of. I began meditating it, and I began to force my way of thinking to come under that truth. I didn’t feel loved, but I force-fed my mind from Scripture, even when my feelings and experience wanted to speak the opposite. As I did that, I began to experience the love of God in a brand new way.

I still have moments when I don’t feel my Father’s pleasure, and each time, I must choose to confront that feeling with what I know to be true.

You see, if I would wait to believe God’s love until I see it, I might never get to experience it. But believe me, I get hit by it day after day.

There’s much more to your identity than just being a child of God, but that’s for you to explore. The important thing to remember is that the Word of God must trump your current way of thinking. The Word of God is the ultimate authority, and if you’re willing to embrace what God says about you, He will blow you out of the water.

At least it did me. God is just incredibly good and incredibly amazing!

Sep 10

Basic Principles: No Spiritual Lottery

Many people live their lives on spiritual lottery tickets, hoping to luck out with God. Like trying to win the lottery, this is ineffective and expensive. For example:

* Many people live their lives unaware of the forces at work within them, pulling them in one direction or another. And many people live their lives resisting the pull instead of removing it at the root. This is as fruitless as gambling, like hoping that God will pull your name out of a hat and work some magic. Until you pull the root, you will continue to fight the same things over and over again.

* The same is true for prayer. Some things we should pray about, while other things we just need to repent of and move on. I used to pray a lot for God’s presence, peace, and blessings, but I felt like I never got very far. I began to repent of sin and change some of the ways I think. For example, when I repented of being critical of other people, God started blessing me with peace, because that’s what His Word promises. Praying that God would overturn a principle of blessing and cursing that He has laid out in His Word is, once again, like trying to win the spiritual lottery–expensive and ineffective.

Your spiritual heroes were ordinary men and women who chose to align themselves with God. No lottery, no magic wand–just saying yes to God.

Update: Edited for clarity.

Sep 10

Basic Principles: Pouring Out

“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

We were reminded this morning in church of the importance of pouring out what we have, and of the fact that life isn’t about ourselves.

This is a profound principle of growth in the spirit, and whoever grabs ahold of it will go far. For example:

* You become sensitive to the spirit of God and start sharing what He lays on your heart. As you do that, you start moving in the prophetic. You are faithful with the little things, and God grows you into bigger things.

* You start opening yourself up to pray for people you meet who have an illness. You go about praying even when you see no results. You pour out the faith you have to pray for people, and as you use that, God pours out more, and you see people start getting healed.

* God gives you a revelation. You care enough about those around you that you apply it to your life. God follows up with greater revelation.

* You start sharing with others what God is teaching you, even if it is ‘simple’ or ‘baby steps’. As you do, the truth becomes more real, and God opens up even more of His Word to you.

Life is not about you. Even the spiritual giants reached greatness by pouring out any meager portion they were given. The faster you recognize that, the faster your journey. And the more deeply you live that, the more God will entrust to you.