Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I am God's treasure

Since 2005, I have been a part of taking teams to a colonia in Reynosa, just across the border from McAllen, TX. I take my kids with me. This July we took a team of 19 from the Vineyard churches in Arlington and Rowlett.

Our theme this summer was "Soy el tesoro de Dios" which translates to "I am God's treasure." We imparted this message via the movie "Finding Nemo" following up with 3 parables from the Gospels: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.

One day as I was handing out slices of fruit to those coming through the food line, I greeted each person with the words "Eres el tesoro de Dios." Adults and kids alike. I tried to make eye contact with each one. Some looked at me and smiled real big and repeated back to me "Soy el tesoro de Dios!" remembering the lesson from the day before. Others looked a bit surprised and gave me a shy smile. And there were a few who didn't look up at all.

The enemy is relentless. At every turn he attempts to undermine God's beloved creation with the lies that make us believe we are anything but God's treasure. We have a hard time believing that we are valuable much less valued.

We got to counteract that this past week. We spoke into the lives of many children and adults the truth that God loves and values them. We released the presence of God and invited the Holy Spirit. We prayed, worshiped and prayed some more. We fed the hungry and gave drinks to the thirsty.

We prayed with a mom who had abandoned her children and given herself over to drugs and prostitution. She returned to her parents' home one day last week, just in time for us to deliver the message that God loves her and that she is His treasure. A smile spread across her face as that truth sunk in past the grime and filth of bad choices made over the years and the shame that kept her in chains.

We prayed for her and with her. Freedom from sin and death. Salvation and restoration.

She received a new heart; she became a new creation. God's lost treasure found.

She immediately began devouring the New Testament we gave her and when we returned the next day with a book of daily devotions for her, she told us she was keeping the New Testament close to her under her pillow and would be reading the daily devotional, not one day at a time as prescribed, but as much of it as she could get through in one sitting.

This mom has a hard row to hoe. Drug-addiction is not an easy bondage to come out of. She was sick, feverish and achy, but intent on leaving behind that old life and embracing the new life that Jesus offers. We can pray that she stays firm in her resolve, strengthened by the Lord and the Holy Spirit who now resides within her. We pray for those who are there to come along side her, to reinforce the truth of God's Word to her and to disciple her as she learns to walk with Jesus, the Lover of her soul.

She is His treasure. She was lost but now she's found. He searched relentlessly until He found her, and He sent us to be His hands and feet. What a privilege.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Natural Self

I've picked up Devotional Classics again and have just re-read the first selection by C.S. Lewis taken from his book Mere Christianity. He expounds on the question "How much of myself must I give?"

"But we are hoping all the time that when all the demands have been met, the poor natural self will have some chance, and some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact, we are very like an honest man paying his taxes. He pays them all right, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on. Because we are still taking our natural self as the starting point." (p.7)

He goes on to say that if I try to meet all the demands made on the natural self, I will not have enough to live on. So true.

And so many times I live like that. I look at a task, a ministry opportunity, a chore, whatever...spiritual or not...and decide whether or not I should do it based on the natural self. Do I have "enough" in my natural self to get the job done.

These days, the answer would most often be no. My natural self is tired. My natural self wants to stay in bed and sleep all day. My natural self prefers to not do anything at all. It's just plain worn out.

And the reason I'm there (or here) is because I've been operating way too much out of my natural self. God wants all of me so that He can give me all of Him. That way, I don't run out. He never fails. He always has enough. If it's Him in me, the fountain overflows continually.

"The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self - all your wishes and precautions - to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call 'ourselves,' to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be 'good.'...That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals..." (p. 9)

Yes...I do that. Not on purpose, most of the time, but I do see where I am resisting giving ALL my wishes and precautions to Christ. I hold on to them as if I could do a better job of taking care of them, of protecting them. So follows the "real problem" where I am stampeded first thing in the morning by the wishes and hopes of the day, making demands on my natural self.

No wonder I want to just stay in bed.

But then Lewis says that "the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind." (p. 9)

Yes, out of the wind. So often I try to push through the wind or let it carry me wherever it blows. Which is fine when it's the wind of the Spirit, but I don't think that's what Lewis is referring to here. It's the wind of demands being made on my natural self. And God is offering me a place of refuge, a place where I can come in out of that wind and tap into that "larger, stronger, quieter life" that comes flowing in.

It flows in and brings clarity of thought, perspective, love, and peace. It allows me to rise above and see from God's perspective, to breath and be breathed upon.

I want to be better at allowing the life of Christ to flow through me rather than beside me. I want to stop using my natural self as the starting point. Instead I want to turn away from the clamoring and press in to the voice of the Father, resting in His Presence, receiving direction from His life flow.

"Christ says, 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well a those you think wicked - the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'" (p. 8)