Monday, February 20, 2006

Tombs are for the dead

Zak, our youngest son, comes up more and more these days with profound observations which he interjects at just the right moment. It is as if he were waiting for the perfect opportunity to insert truth when it is most needed. I am learning to consult him for problems and questions. How he will be missed next year when college calls!

Following a great message from his brother Tim yesterday on Lazarus being raised by Jesus, Zak casually commented to me today that "the old nature has been crucified. It is not just alive and sitting there waiting to be summoned. It is dead." It was put to death at the cross. It no longer dominates. All of it that remains are only tendencies and deceptions which try to make us believe that the dead still live.

Romans chapter six spells this out. How familiar the text, but how slow I am to grasp it! Residual effects of the old nature are like the grave clothes of Lazarus which are to be torn away and discarded. They no longer serve any purpose. Grave clothes are not me anymore! We are alive with Christ. Why continue hanging around the tombs of sin any more? Why even visit? Why think about that from which we have been delivered? Paul said, God forbid, or why would we even want to?

I like a fresh, simple declaration of what is absolutely true. The old nature has been crucified and replaced with His divine nature, permanently. Thanks, Zak, for the reminder! We needed that!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thought filter for today

Reading assignment is Philippians chapter 4. What good is there in it?

Bulls eye: (v.7) the peace of God provides a safe-keeping for our hearts and minds. (I need help for inner stability and a mind that can keep a focus on what's important, as well as the ability to filter out thoughts that are counterproductive and even destructive.)

Thought filter: (v.8) The thought filter enables us to hit the bulls eye. The new nature wants to think on things listed here. The old nature resists this list and insists on doing the opposite! Since Christ's new nature has defeated the power of sin and all its thought patterns, it leaves the obvious result that this list is entirely do-able! I cannot decide to just think these things, but He does, and therefore, so I can. I suppose that it is like a skill that needs to be practiced. But if He wants it for us and has told us to do it, then it must be possible! Here they are:

Choose to concentrate on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, things of virtue, things that are praise-worthy. A quick inventory today showed me how skilled I am at doing the very opposite of each of these! Grateful for the Good News. . . .

These 8 "tools" provide the protective grid for our conversations and thoughts, and also guard our hearts so that we can successfully bring under control all of our responses. This is impossible unless He controls the heart and the tongue. Thankfully, that is exactly what He and only He can do, and He has invited us to see Him do this filtering in us. And He is able to show us that it works. I hate to say bring it on, but our peace and security depend on this filter. So, the negative attacks so that the filter of the positive can deflect it. We shall see how this works!

Perspective for today's activities!

Off to work as usual, headed for stresses, people, challenges, complainers (usually me), pressures, obstacles to peace and sense of fulfillment, unpleasant surprises, etc. etc. What an attitude! What have I come to expect from life? And what good do I expect if this is what I have come to anticipate each day! Wrong.

The pressures are quite real in all their forms, but a change in my perspective is beginning to show me a different attitude towards them. There is a purpose attached to each of these "unpleasantries". These difficulties can become the good works we were created for in Ephesians 2:10 because they are designed to show me the powerful work of Christ in me. The works are not thank you notes or cookies and flowers, but the ability to respond to the trials knowing that they were planned for my benefit and for the reflecting of Christ to others. The many good works He has planned are just beginning once we can appreciate purpose in trials.

Nothing can reach me unless the Lord says "yes, send it to him now, it is what he needs. It will cause him to turn to me and recognize the strength I have given him for just the time as this. He needs to see this and so do those around him. And he needs to see the person of Christ in his daily pressures."

Learning to welcome the stresses of life as expressly sent to be beautifully met by the strength of God within me is the discovery of these days! They are not intruders to be avoided at all cost. They are agents to show me the sufficiency of Christ. Christ in me, the hope of glory. The reality of the present world is met by the even more powerful reality of Christ in me, his mind, his wisdom, his skill, his kindness, his patience, his love, etc. Nothing the job can throw at us can separate us from Him, his plan, his conforming, his love.

Today was full of opportunities for me to lay aside my life-long reflexs of anger, frustration, discouragment, fear, etc. and begin to see the Lord's strong and loving hand walking me through each moment. His grace is way more potent than we think, and at the end of the day always accomplishes his ultimate plan of conforming and transforming us to the likeness of his Son.

This good news however has been slow to sink in. Too many years of neglect, blindness and hardness. But the word of God is powerful and effective in penetrating even the most stubborn of hearts such as mine. A change in my response to very irritating people, obstacle courses, etc. have been the amazing proof that He is real and that his busy work in us is full-speed-ahead as long as life shall last.