Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Need Healing for My Dis-Ease

33 Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. 34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. 38 Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. 39 Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. 40 How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness. Psalm 119:33-40

Being saved is first recognizing you have been sick unto death! You have been brutally wounded by sin … so severely, in fact, that recovery is out of the question. You can do nothing to “heal yourself”! There is only one narrow hope … and only if you “make it” to the Gospel Hospital.

Once you say, “Yes … I desperately need to go!” and when the servant helpers finally get you there, the Great Chief of Staff puts you in the Spiritual ICU. He announces to us all some time later, “Our patient is going to make it. It’s going to take a good deal of time to recover, but he’s on the mend. It might take years, but eventually he will be as good as created … even better!”

Here’s the plan!

  1. Put him on IV. He must be slowly force fed the medication truth that will restore his bodily functions. His diet will be closely monitored for maximum nutrition to restore him as quickly as possible.
  2. Of course no exposure to alcohol, drugs, tobacco or other toxic habits that diminish his health potential.
  3. His ICU “mentor nurse” will also monitor his pain medicine when the discomfort reaches too high a level. We won’t let him feel more pain than he can stand!

In other words the new Disciple recovering from sin and sins must:

  1. Incline my heart toward massive doses of Your truth.
  2. Turn my eyes from gazing after vanities rather than Your grace.
  3. Confirm to me Your promises where alone I find the love and truth that heals.

So read Psalm 119:36-38. These three verses were the first three I memorized from the magnificent 150 verse 119th Psalm. Only much later (years!) did I realize that their application to “my condition” would result in verses 39 and 40! (The Savior’s promises are connecting and unending!) Note the triune healing of making the Master’s promises BIGGER than your problems rather thinking (and acting) like your problems are BIGGER than God!

  1. He will take away the shame that always drives me to “feel guilty” because His truth has cleansed me (119:39).
  2. I will discover a longing and delight for His Presence as my supreme ambition and full satisfaction (119:40).
  3. He will make me an overcomer as I am drenched with His forgiveness and the gift of His righteousness (119:40).

So I awake each morning with my first thoughts being focused on “more of Jesus.” I rush through my “getting up procedures” and then sit at my little desk where the Scriptures, my reading, my thoughts, my prayers, my praise and my writing open up my little world and His colossal universe. It is then I see them both with His eyes and move into His kingdom dimension! It is then I delight, enjoy, thrill and revel in the Savior’s incredible Presence. I find myself continually requesting the first words of our stanza from Psalm 119:33-34, “Teach me, O Lord, to follow Your ideas … when I discover their magnificence I know that I will treasure them and seek to grasp more and more of them until the end of my life. Understanding You compels me and captures me! I yearn to obey You because I possess Your ideas with all of my heart. I know what it is to experience the full delight of Your Overwhelming Presence!” (HDM)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Bullet of the Christ Life (Part 2)

When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you." Exodus 15:23-26

Let’s pick up with the following from last weeks post on the meaning of the Christ Life! We find Moses and the people of the exodus at the bitter waters of Mara. They are just three days out from the miracle of crossing the sea, after the resurrection of our Lord, the greatest miracle to occur thus far on earth. Yet they were already groaning, griping and complaining. The Israelites cried out against their leader when they found undrinkable water in the desert. Blaming a leader is always the first reaction of immature and self-centered people. Moses’ reaction is a magnificent example to all who wish to live the Christ Life. Faced with turmoil, problems, demands, injustice and rebellion he turned to his Lord and was shown the Divine plan for deliverance, overcoming and sweetness.

Our lives can be dominated by “grace sweetness” if we learn to keep stirring the bitter waters of earth with the cross of Jesus (Ex. 15:23-27). If we authentically cry out to Christ as our only deliverer, He will answer us and show us what to do. As He did with Moses, He will “show us” a new dimension of reality. The Redeemer will reveal to us immediately the cross (tree) we are to take and use to overcome our crisis. Note that when the people turned on Moses in criticism, blame and rage, he didn’t react against them. Instead, he went to God! This is always the mark of maturity as we live with our own imperfections and the wearying imperfections of others! The Hebrew word here symbolizing the cross could be translated stick, piece of wood, log or tree. Whatever “it” was was enough! None of us will ever grasp the full meaning of our Lord's cross, but, if we see enough of it in whatever form in the midst of our crisis, and trust its promise power over our problem, our situation will become enjoyable.

What is our Christ Life lesson from this incident? To the Cross Disciple, one who is focused on the Christ Life, it makes absolutely no difference what people do to you, say about you or how they fail you. All that eternally matters is that you respond to all other people … both outwardly and inwardly … in such a way that you please the Father. We should be like His Son! “Father, forgive them!” (Luke 23:34). Pleasing the Father about how you respond to people will steadily blow away any and all pain people may cause you! Besides, we need to be harassed by the imperfections of others so we will expedite our hunger and search for the perfections of our Savior.

Think of the delight in the Lord’s heart when He saw Moses make his great decision! Instead of cursing back at the people who were cursing him, Moses turned from their foolishness and disbelief and sought the counsel of His Redeemer. Even thought the people were faithlessly wrong in their grumbling and self-centeredness and Moses was obediently right, he still left them alone and “cried out to the Lord” (15:25). One man’s belief in the Savior’s Voice overcame and trumped the shallow faith of thousands of others.

The breakthrough here, out of an impossible situation … no water in the midst of a desert … was the result of Moses’ seeking “more of the Master in the midst of the mess.” (This is one of my current mottos!) The Lord told Moses that the whole episode was a test of their faith. He wanted them to learn “precise supernatural obedience” rather than put their confidence in “vague natural belief” (15:26). If you are in your desert right now and are desperate for the water of life, the Lord is ready to help! Why not do the Moses thing and “cry out to the Lord”? If your heart is ready to truly believe that dependence on the Lord is bigger than distress over your problems (?) and truly ready to yield to praise to whatever might happen according to His sovereignty (?), then you can count on His showing you “the cross answer to your problem”! After all, the Lord Jesus told us life won’t work unless we take up His cross (Luke 9:23).

Just praise God for the people or events that brought you to “the bitter place” so you could “take the test”! Put His cross answer on your test paper and the sweetness will come! That’s what students of the Christ Life learn when they listen to their Teacher! “Triune Thinking” always shows us His cross solution for our bitter waters! There are many things we need to learn that we don't like learning. The lessons bring tension, anxiety, disappointment and hurt! But they are all made temporary by faith! They teach us the Mind of Christ! And to live with His Mind is to overcome all that enters our experience. This is the essence of the Christ Life!

Masters at living the Christ Life have learned the great secret of endurance, overcoming, adequacy and contentment. No matter what hits them they have learned to “throw the cross” into the situation and are confident of triumph. The Beloved Apostle John confirms the process, “Fully developed love for the Father throws out all of our fears. (I John 4:18) Hence, one of the compelling wonders of the seeking the Christ Life!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Bullet of the Christ Life (Part 1)

A Rationale for Living

The Lord Jesus sadly declared that the incredible life He offered to mankind would be found by only a few (Mat. 5:13-14)! To discover the small gate and narrow path to His Light demands precise following (John 8:12). My vision for Ventures is to be a ministry “to the few” in hopes they will “impact the many” with the “precision secrets” of the Christ Life. I must quickly add that I consider anyone who is hungry for more of Jesus to be numbered among “the few.”

In every generation our Lord has raised up men and women to stir the fire at the heart of His radical message (Luke 3:16; 12:49). Veterans of the cross must tell the generations following (Ps. 89:1). Comprehending what many have called “the Christ Life” is the highest path that will enable the honest and hungry Disciple to break free from the “devil’s circle” of boredom, routine, mirage, frustration, pretense, failure, legalism, powerlessness, lethargy, shallowness, rebellion, deception and depression.

These pathologies have defeated multitudes of Christians. Still, church history witnesses to a genuine and overcoming remnant who entered the advanced dimension of “father spirituality”! At Ventures we call this the Z-Life … the pursuit of living the Christ Life at its highest level (I John 2:12-14; Rev. 1:8). Children learn the ABC’s of the faith while adults sort out the MNOP’s of taking up the cross. Only the fathers and mothers who know that everything is “in Christ” are most fully prepared to live out the XYZ’s of their own servant vision. Their primary passion in life is to understand and follow the Servant of Heaven … Jesus! (Luke 22:27) Remember the Savior’s words, “I Am among you as one who serves!”

My goal is to impact Disciples with the seed truth of “advanced Christianity.” Foundational and anointed insights are being honed, graphed and rephrased into a fresh strategy for “precision discipleship.” Our Ventures mission is to excite and enable everyone we can to “put” all of their thoughts and circumstances “in Christ”! To do so is to endure and conquer the agonies and ecstasies of existence and to reign in life by being an overcomer! (Rom. 5:17). Our lives can be dominated by “grace sweetness” if we learn to keep stirring the bitter waters of earth with the cross (Ex. 15:23-27). If we authentically call out to Christ as our only deliverer, He will answer us, as He did Moses. The Redeemer will show us immediately the cross (tree) we are to take and use to overcome our crisis.

A Revelation of Life

But what is the essential Christ Life? It is for us to be awed increasingly by the purpose of Christ being “in you” and of your being “in Christ”! It is to experience in your inner self all you can of what He experienced in His inner self while He walked the earth. It is to learn and absorb from every idea, relationship, event or situation … good or bad … something more about our Lord’s wisdom, intentions, suffering and joy! It is to realize how God is taking everything messed up on earth and putting it back together for His eternal purposes. It is the stunning realization of the brilliant and wondrous Person the Lord Jesus must be! It is to be amazed at what He has to endure to bring His love promises to fallen and arrogant people like us. It is to know Him … confidently, intimately, ecstatically … and the power of His constant rebounding resurrection (Phil. 3:11). It is to join the Godhead in the dream and the drama of highest vision as you achieve your zenith ambitions as a new creation in Christ Jesus (II Cor. 5:17).

In summary, it is to increasingly discover “in Christ” the why and how of what the Father created and redeemed you to be and is now perfecting you to become (Eph. 3:10-11; Heb. 10:14)! The key word in this discovery is “identification.” The more we experientially identify with all that Jesus taught, did and endured, the more we possess for ourselves the same kind of life He lived while He walked the earth. It is my conviction that the most immediate and direct path to making this revelation real in one's life is the process I call “Triune Thinking.”

It is my conviction that the most immediate and direct path to making this revelation real in one's life is the process I call “Triune Thinking.”

A Resultant Called the Christ Life

What are our conclusions about this “in Christ” reality? The clearest insight would be the Apostle Paul’s witness in Philippians 4:11-13, “I have learned the secret of what it means to be sufficient and adequate for every circumstance I encounter. I have been initiated in ‘how to be enough’ for all the things that challenge me … and I overcome them by my ‘in Christ’ empowering!” As authentic Disciples, facing the deceitful offerings of a fallen world, we will do well to heed the counsel of an insightful French philosopher, “Nothing is enough unless you are enough!” The conclusion … I am only enough when I am convinced that Christ “in me” is enough!

Your Purpose and Mine

Once we begin to identify our Christ Life connection we more resolutely embark on our adventure of earthly and cosmic purpose … for Him, for others and for ourselves (Eph. 2:10, 4:32). That destiny is rooted in our Lord’s thoughts in John 20:21. “If you truly love the Father then go into the world just as He sent Me and repeat My Life!” Can this stunning and staggering command be fulfilled by the sorry likes of you and me? Evidently yes! The Savior does not command us “to do” unless He knows we “can do.” But only if we are becoming masters of the Christ Life! Only if we capture the passion of Isaiah 6:1-13 … to see … to cry … to go! Our goal is not to do it all … we can’t … but we can aim at doing “enough.”

Our Ventures passion is to be a precise and strong voice to the Father’s people! We trust our efforts will compellingly illustrate the centrality and magnificence of the Lord Jesus Christ to all who will listen! Daily … hourly … even minute by minute … we can be recipients of His Promised Presence in every earthly circumstance!

Dear friends, it is the pursuit of the “Christ Life” alone that will awaken us to all life can be. It is only “in Christ” that the pull of the impossible will take your life beyond itself. To “put” all you are “in Him” is the risk each of us must take to find our true self created and recreated in the Godhead’s likeness! Christ Life living is to continuously lose ourselves for Jesus’ sake and become participants in the wonder and thrill of the Kingdom Purposes of God, “To lose your life for My Life is to save your life …” (Luke 9:23-27). “Triune Thinking” is our best tool on “fixing” how to lose our life for His!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

When I Am Weak … Hallelujah!

7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. II Corinthians 12:7-10

I still remember with startling clarity the first time the blessed Spirit made II Corinthians 12:7 real to me! The verse instantly put a new, stunning hope into my heart! Ponder Paul’s words of truth: “To keep me from being conceited (or too elated or getting the big head or giving in to self pride or putting myself on a high horse or thinking I was really somebody or acting superior or being overrated, etc.) because of these wondrous revelations the Lord has given me, He gave me a thorn in the flesh … .” Let’s save discussing what this thorn might have been for another time. The primary issue to consider is that 1) God Himself gave the thorn, 2) He didn’t want Paul to be too elated over revelations of truth, 3) rather, He wanted Paul to be elated most about Who the truth came from, 4) He desired that Paul recognize his desperate weakness so that he would seek, learn and appreciate God’s power, 5) He was determined that Paul learn the deeper dimensions of grace (God’s initiatives on our behalf) so he could become more and more like the Lord of glory—Jesus! (I Cor. 2:8).

Wow! We all need “this kind” of thorn! How well I remember those early years after my conversion! I was so joyous. Everything was going right for me and I had Jesus too! I was on top of the world. In fact, when I began to realize how good things were for me, I was so joyous I “kept rejoicing myself right out of fellowship with God.” I would suddenly realize I was leaving Him out of my life. I was more motivated by what I was given than by the One Who was giving it!! I was putting too much confidence in my revelations and my situation and my possibilities. This caused me to decrease my expectations and joy in Christ alone! Hasn’t it happened to you? Our answer to this severe error is to regain our thorn(s) and the lessons the Master is giving us.

Thorns are necessary! I had to learn it was Christ alone and not Christ plus … anything … that was the secret to abundant life! My efforts, my knowledge, my giftedness, my situation, my accomplishments, my position, my recognition, etc. were all pale seconds to the superior options of my Savior and my Lord! To think any other way only exposed my weak and fragmented thinking about the foundational truth of life, “… it is in Christ all the fullness of the Godhead lives in bodily form … and this fullness has been given to you ...” (Col. 2:2-4, 9-10). What utter weakness and foolishness and madness it is to displace Christ by seeking more excitement and fuller meaning in something else. Everything else is either secondary, irrelevant or a lie compared to experiencing the continuous presence and magnificence of the Lord Jesus!

Note how Eugene Peterson translates our verse in The Message, “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations” (12:7).

Freedom from my thorn(s) could be the worst possible thing for me. I would miss grasping the greatness of true humility before the Savior (12:7). I would be blind to how to use my human weaknesses as my path to His grace initiatives in my daily life (12:9a). How else would I be alert enough to “Take up your cross daily” (Luke 9:23). I would not gain the impact strength that enables me to overcome (12:9b). I would not experience the joy that floods my soul in knowing that someone like Him everlastingly loves someone like me! (12:10). I would be denied the spiritually intoxicating wonder of supernaturally turning all my agonies and despairs into non-issues. In finding grace to replace my thorns my heart is flooded with confidence, wellbeing and delight. Truly tasting our Lord’s sufficiency and perfection creates an inner praise that passes understanding! There are no words to describe it!

Above all, I would not have learned that, in His great compassion for me, His “no” for my will is always my possible “yes” for His will (12:8). Our thorns are our gains! They bring the pains we cannot ignore so that certain weaknesses will be no more. Our “flesh effort” will wane and His “Spirit energy” will reign as we face and endure the realities of life (12:10). These pressing, inescapable “downers” that beat on us turn our “flesh trying” (human strength) into “grace trying” (Spirit yielding). To say “I’m trying” reeks too much of a flesh perversion and is doomed to mediocrity and probable failure. To say “I’m yielding” puts the emphasis where it belongs, “I’m trying to understand how the Lord is working in my life to increase my yielding to Him in this issue.” My paraphrase of this great passage goes like this, “When I discover how weak and void of power I really am, it propels me to faith-act (believe) His strength is already in me and will be released by my yielding to that truth.”

Let me summarize it all this way! Discovering my weaknesses can always open the door to Christ’s strength! What joy! Blessed is the Disciple who is learning how that works. To experience the exhilarating reality of it will put Paul’s incredible words in your own mouth, “For Christ's sake, I delight in my weaknesses …” (12:10). What a fantastic echo of dear David’s words in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

To delight in what the Father has designed is to discover the highest desires of your heart so that you can develop into a Disciple in whom He can delight! The greatest people who ever lived are those that brought the most delight to the Father. He in turn gave them the greatest delights of living. As our Lord declared, “I do always the things that please (delight) the Father” (John 8:29).

Perhaps this little poem, discovered and given to me by my faithful secretary of twenty plus years, will motivate you, as it did me, to praise our Creator-Redeemer-Perfecter for our thorns.

Unlocking Our Weaknesses

by J. Danson Smith

The text of this poem appears variously titled “Endurance” or “God-Given Thorns” or quoted untitled.

Strange gift indeed! - a thorn to prick,
To pierce into the very quick.
To cause perpetual sense of pain;
Strange gift! And yet, t’was given for gain.

Unwelcome, yet it came to stay;
Nor could it e'en be prayed away.
It came to fill its God-planned place,
A life-enriching means of grace.

And he who bore it day by day,
Found Christ his power, his strength, his stay.
In weakness glorified, since thereby
The power of Christ might on him lie.

Oh much-tried saint, with fainting heart,
The thorn with its perpetual smart,
With all its wearing ceaseless pain
Can be thy means of priceless gain.

God's grace-thorns, ah, what forms they take!
What piercing, smarting pain they make!
And yet, each one in love is sent,
And always just for blessing meant.

And so, whate're thy thorn may be,
From God accept it willingly,
But reckon Christ, His life, the power
To keep, in thy most trying hour.

And sure thy life will richer grow,
He grace sufficient will bestow.
And in Heaven's morn thy joy twill be
That, by His thorn, He strengthened thee.