Sunday, July 26, 2015

The New Bourne Again Identity


For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.  Jeremiah 2:13

Do you remember the spy-book thriller The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, popularized by the three movies starring Matt Damon? It is the intriguing adventure of how amnesia victim Jason Bourne discovers his true identity.

We live in a highly performance-oriented society where the essence of our identity is determined by a combination of how successful we view ourselves combined with what the significant others in our lives think about us. As Christians we usually spiritualize this formula by determining our worth based upon our spiritual performance. We may evaluate our significance by our fruitfulness in God’s work, how well we do in some creative endeavor, or the position we hold.

Since none of us are able to consistently perform to the level of our expectations, we begin to somehow feel less than others, inferior, and inadequate. Even when our performance reaches our expectations, the satisfaction we yearn for somehow escapes us.

In his book, Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning describes this struggle:
“In my experience, self-hatred is the dominant malaise crippling Christians and stiffing their growth in the Holy Spirit. … Negative voices from our family of origin, ‘You will never amount to anything,’ moralizing from the church, and pressure to be successful transform expectant pilgrims en route to the heavenly Jerusalem into a dispirited traveling troupe... ” 1.
“When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions.  The real trap, however, is self-rejection.  As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, ‘Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.’” 2.    
Abba’s Child is one of the best books I’ve read on this subject. The gist of the book is that most of us bend toward man to define who we are. Finding our identity by looking to man is what the author calls the false-self. Since we were created in the image of God, we really need to look to God to discover our true identity. For me, the most challenging phase in the book is a quotation by John Eagen:
“… The heart of it is this: to make the Lord and His immense love for you constitutive of your personal worth. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God's love for you and His choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.” 3.
The bottom line question in the issue of identity is how to move from a performance-based identity {a human-doer} to a love of God-based identity {a human-being}. Two things seem to stand out as necessary.
  • Get in touch with what you really believe about yourself. The lies you believe must be exposed before they can be transformed by the renewing power of God’s truth. Ask God to reveal to you what you really believe about yourself and your identity.
  • Plan a half-day alone with God. Ask Him specifically, what are Your thoughts about who I truly am? How do you identify me? It is impossible to truly hear God’s voice in the agitated life-styles that many of us live. From Abba’s Child:
“The indispensable condition for developing and maintaining the awareness of our belovedness is time alone with God. In solitude we tune out the nay-saying whispers of our worthlessness and sink down into the mystery of our true self. Our longing to know who we really are – which is the source of all our discontent – will never be satisfied until we confront and accept our solitude. There we discover that the truth of our belovedness is really true. Our identity rests in God's relentless tenderness for us revealed in Jesus Christ.” 4.
Define yourself radically as one beloved by God!

NOTES:
 
1.       John Eagan, A Traveler Toward Dawn.
2.       Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer.
3.       John Eagan, A Traveler Toward Dawn.
4.       Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Practicing His Presence


On Friday afternoon I did some work around the house. Things weren’t going well and I got angry, impatient, and extremely frustrated.

Jesus, I ask afresh for Your forgiveness and for You to speak to me and help me walk in more constant communion with You. I need You every hour of everyday and night. In Your name, I command all other voices to silence and non-interference, and ask You to come, commune with me, and be my closest friend. Would You be pleased to commune with me now and throughout the day?

“It would please Me to be in communion with you throughout each and every day but it requires active participation of your part: focusing on Me, being present to Me, looking to, and for Me.”

Would You help me in the details of work around the house today … and to be patient, steadfast, joyful, and in communication with You? “Yes. I will be with you - listen for Me!” Lord, I Need You!

“I am for you, My son … fear not for I Am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God … I will strengthen you, yes I will uphold you …” Isaiah 41:10 “Hold My hand and I will hold yours. Reach out to me each and every moment of the day. I Am is your God … and there is none (no other) like ME. Hold My hand.”

LORD, I NEED YOU

I'd love to hear things you are learning about practicing the presence of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. L2G.Forum@gmail.com

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Humble Yourself

I spent some extended time with God on Saturday regarding why I was struggling in an area of desired spiritual growth. I was surprised by what came into my mind after I poured out my heart to the Father: “I dwell with the contrite and lowly of spirit … first, you need to humble yourself before Me.”
 
So I goggled "humble yourself" and discovered "Twelve Ways to Humble Yourself" by Janet Chismar on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I've linked it if you'd like to take a look.

But most helpful were several verses of scripture that had a transformational impact on my heart:

“Humble yourselves therefore beneath the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time He may set you on high” 1 Peter 5:6 Weymouth N.T.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” James 4:10 NIV.


"And it will be said, 'Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.' For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, 'I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite'" Isaiah 57:14-15 NASB.

I also ran across several quotations that I inserted in the "Quotes of the Week" on the right side of my blog below.

"A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility." - D. L. Moody

"Grant, O Lord, that I may look for nothing, claim nothing; and that I may go through all the scenes of life, not seeking my own glory, but looking wholly unto you, and acting wholly for you." - John Wesley
O Lamb of God, who, both by your example and precept, instructed us to be meek and humble, give me grace throughout my whole life, in every thought, and word, and work, to imitate your meekness and humility. Mortify in me the whole body of pride; grant me to feel that I am nothing and have nothing, and that I deserve nothing but shame and contempt, but misery and punishment. Grant, O Lord, that I may look for nothing, claim nothing; and that I may go through all the scenes of life, not seeking my own glory, but looking wholly unto you, and acting wholly for you. - See more at: http://prayer.knowing-jesus.com/Prayers-for-Humility#sthash.7DZV1bpN.dpuf
O Lamb of God, who, both by your example and precept, instructed us to be meek and humble, give me grace throughout my whole life, in every thought, and word, and work, to imitate your meekness and humility. Mortify in me the whole body of pride; grant me to feel that I am nothing and have nothing, and that I deserve nothing but shame and contempt, but misery and punishment. Grant, O Lord, that I may look for nothing, claim nothing; and that I may go through all the scenes of life, not seeking my own glory, but looking wholly unto you, and acting wholly for you. - See more at: http://prayer.knowing-jesus.com/Prayers-for-Humility#sthash.7DZV1bpN.dpuf

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind


Human wisdom, merit, intellect, good works, and achievements are irrelevant when it comes to salvation, intimate relationship, and having favor with the Almighty. I want to listen to You this morning. I prepare my heart: what additional communication do You have for me this morning? 

The blowing of the wind (as You discussed with Nicodemus in John chapter 3) is one the best descriptions of Your work in the hearts of men and women. The blowing of the wind is mysterious: we do not know where it comes from nor do we have any control over it. 

The working of My Spirit in and through you is very similar. You have no control over when I will work in or through you. Yes, you can place yourself in a position where I could work … but you can’t will or think Me into working or in accomplishing great and mighty works deep within you or in the lives of others. Dependence on Me, the Supreme Being, who is both alive within you and yet outside of you is a key facet of how I (God) work in you, around you, through you, and in the world I have created. 

Father God, You blow my mind and surprise me over and over again by the things that You orchestrate and bring into being like the breakthrough You orchestrated with the young man during a recent trip or like when You spoke to me about how You chose me to belong to You during a time alone with You. 

Though My working is similar to the wind, I want you to trust Me … to place your full faith in Me in everything … your work, your marriage, your family, your ministry, and finding things you ‘lose’ (like the car keys and your check book). Remember what I said to you? “I will carry you through if you will (but) risk and pursue.” Pursue Me, and as a demonstration of your trust in Me, allow Me to carry you into situations, relationships, events that you might normally avoid because they make you uncomfortable. 

Follow My advice by personalizing Proverbs 3:5-12 from the Message: “Trust ME from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for MY voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; I’m the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to Me! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health; your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor ME with everything you own; give ME the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. But don’t, beloved son, resent MY discipline; don’t sulk under MY loving correction. It’s because I love you that I correct you; My fatherly delight is behind all that I bring into your life.” 

What is God teaching you as you listen to Him? L2G.Forum@gmail.com

Sunday, June 28, 2015

On a Breezy Thursday Morning


Romans 10:17 says, “And this proves that faith comes from a Message heard, and that the Message comes through its having been spoken by Christ” (Weymouth N.T.).

After exercising the authority of Christ over all of the other voices I ask, what faith-instilling message do You have for me this morning?

Outside my window, I see the wind blowing in the trees and am reminded about the conversation You had with Nicodemus in John 3. He sought You out and You responded by saying, “unless a man is born anew he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

As Nicodemus questioned what You meant, You responded: “Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Whatever has been born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever has been born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished at my telling you, ‘You must all be born anew.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So is it with every one who has been born of the Spirit.”

Jesus would You cause the wind of Your Holy Spirit to blow across the embers of my heart to rekindle the fire, gifting, and passion for You that You placed within me and reignite my zeal, passion, love, pursuit, joy, and single heartedness in my relationship with You?

Holy Spirit, You brought 2 Timothy 1:5-8 to mind: “For I recall the sincere faith which is in your heart … For this reason let me remind you to rekindle God's gift which is yours through … [Robin, Carl, Will, and others who mentored me] … For the Spirit which God has given you is not a spirit of cowardice, but one of power and of love and of sound judgment. Do not be ashamed then to bear witness for our Lord and for me His prisoner; but rather share suffering with me in the service of the Good News, strengthened by the power of God.”

Then You reminded me, “For He saved us and called us with a holy call, not in accordance with our desserts, but in accordance with His own purpose and the free grace which He bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before the commencement of the Ages” (Weymouth N.T.). Remember my message to you in 2012 that "before you were even born I chose you to belong to Me and to be doing what you are doing today …”

Father, thank You that You saw me when I was so lost, without direction, and heading in the wrong direction (when I was in the Army back in 1970). By pure grace and unfailing love You "drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure" Psalm 40:2 (RSV).
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I’d love to hear your story … where you are at in your relationship with Jesus, what are you yearning for, and what is He communicating to you. Drop your story in a short note to L2G.Forum@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

L2G: Is God Really Communicating with Me?


I chose to still myself and listen for a Word from God about a week ago. After praying through the Listening to God Guidelines, and asking God to speak, below is what I jotted down:

“I Am for you My mighty warrior … do not forget that it is I who chose you to belong to Me and not visa versa … and that I have gone before you and will empower and use you in the lives of My people as it pleases Me. Go in strength that you have! I will work and no one will be able to prevent it!”

How do I know this is really You?

Our doubtfulness that the holy God of the universe would actually communicate with us is not a phenomenon reserved for the 21st century Christian. Abraham struggled with it in Genesis 17:17 when he “fell facedown; laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under Your blessing!’”

After preparing the way for the Messiah by baptizing thousands, John the Baptist doubted He had really heard from God in Matthew 11:2-3.

Then there was Gideon in Judges 6:12-17: The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.”

Then Gideon responded, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles that our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The Lord looked at Gideon and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” Feeling insecure Gideon reasoned with God, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”

The Lord encouraged Gideon when He said, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.”

Gideon’s skepticism lingered as he said, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who is speaking with me.”

In spite of the fact that “the angel of the Lord” physically appeared to Gideon (which in and of itself would seem to be enough confirmation that God was communicating with this timid but mighty man of valor), Gideon wanted a sign that what he heard was really from God.

When you dedicate time to listen to God, do you struggle with doubts that God is communicating with you? I sometimes do. I’d love to hear what your experiences of listening to God are like. Drop a line to: L2G.Forum@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gravity - Beached in Buffalo

~ 10 am - June 16, 2015: Stranded at the airport in Buffalo, New York ~

My 2 pm flight back to Colorado Springs was delayed ten times and cancelled last night at about 9 pm. So I found a 'not so hot' motel and spent the night in Buffalo ... a victim of physical gravity.

"Gravity" is also a song by Shawn McDonald. It begins like this: "The ways of this world are grabbing a hold ... won't let me go, won't let me fly by. Taking its toll down on my soul, 'cause I know what I need in my life. Don't let me lose my sight of You ... don't let me lose my sight!" The refrain cuts in: "I don't want to fall away from you ... gravity is pulling me on down."
Click on this picture to watch & listen to "Gravity"
As I spent hour after hour as a victim of physical gravity (I can't fly), a different kind of gravity began to pull at my soul. This heavier tug on the soul is described well by the next lines of Shawn's song: "This world keeps making my cry, but I'm gonna' try, gonna' try to fly high, gonna' fly high. Don't wanna give into the sin, want to stay in you until the end. Don't want to lose my sight of You ... don't want to lose my sight." 


Funny thing, last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I was carried on eagle's wings as I taught a group of 35 about a deep area of passion in my heart ... 'listening to God as applied to our inner healing' ... and later talked to a mix of prayer ministry leaders and elders. But Monday and Tuesdays' 'beached in Buffalo bummer' experience quickly brought me back to a world full of trial, dysfunction, and temptation. 

My plight helped me to remember something Jesus said to His disciples: "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world." John 16:33 Amplified.   

"I want to fly into the sky, turn my back on this old world and leave it all behind. This place is not my home. Its got nothing for me ... only leaves me with emptiness and tears in my eyes."  

Drop me a note and tell me about your experiences with gravity. L2G.Forum@gmail.com