Surrender

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December 2

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Seriously? vs You’ve Got to be Kidding!

One of the weaknesses of someone with my personality (very much a Sanguine) is the tendency to take things at face value.  Some would call it naivete’. Someone says something to me and I tend to accept it.  Now, given some time I may change my outlook or perspective, but initially acceptance not skepticism is the order of the day.

That’s why the story of Zechariah (Z from here on) and the story of Mary are contrasts to me. Hence, the title.

  • Both were going about their daily life.
  • Both found themselves in the presence of an angel.
  • Both received a message so incredulous it was stunning!
  • One responded with doubt and skepticism; the other with acceptance.

Both Z and Mary received word of a baby on the way. Z balked. Doubted. Mary questioned. Believed. They both asked “Seriously?” but in their own way. Z’s ended up being more of a “You-have-got-to-be-kidding-me” moment, while Mary’s was “So be it. I am yours.”

What will mine be? What will yours be? Will mine be like Z: Seriously? You have got to be kidding me!” or will it be more like Mary’s: “Seriously? I’m yours Lord. Have your way.”

“Father, may my response to your message at this time of the year be like Mary’s. Stunned but yielding to You.”

I have presented a challenge on my other blog for others to join me in posting a Christmas thought each day of December. If you would like to join me and others, then visit my other blog and let me know. I’d love to share links with you and with others.

November 22

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Lower vs. Higher.

Today it happened like so many other times. No, I didn’t get into trouble…yet. 🙂 No, it is something much better.  I’m sure you have probably had it happen too. You read the Bible and something clicks. You realize you are reading about yourself. Please let me explain.

My first reading this morning was from Jeremiah 2-4. First, I had to wade through the conviction that the Jews (and me) were trying to make life on their own and had committed two evils (2:12-13). Please take the time to read it. But what really got me was the incomplete repentance of Israel and Judah. What I mean by that is they were sorry for what had done; said so; but then failed to change. True repentance involves change, a turning around. How often has my repentance been incomplete?

That often comes from a failure of humility. A failure to see myself as needing to lower myself. In Luke 14:7-11 Jesus tells a parable of the wedding feast. In short: He says it is better to start lower and be moved up than to take a higher seat and be asked to move down. He finishes with these words: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Who is a better picture of that than Jesus? He humbly placed himself under human rule. As a human He exposed himself to all we face-weather, physical, abuse, political, all of it-to come down. But we also know as He humbled Himself He was also exalted to the highest place, the highest name, the highest seat, the highest position. Nothing in His life would make one think He was the King of kings. But His humility is evident. He wanted no pomp and circumstance. I mean…He rode a donkey not a Beamer!

A lesson for me to learn: take the lower place, not the higher. Don’t seek to elevate myself.

“Father, Jesus was the epitome of humility. He showed it as no one else did. May I follow His example and take/seek the lower seat.”

November 21

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Fool or Wise?

Over the past couple of months I have read two books that came from a unique perspective. Their authors were former atheists who came to know Christ as their Savior. They wrote for different reasons. Confronting Christianity by Rebecca MacLaughlin was written to answer 12 arguments that Christianity (God) is accused of. Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp was written to counteract actions in the church which threatened to turn MJ away from her life in Christ.

The denial of God’s existence is very real. There are those whose life mission is to disprove or argue His existence. The late Stephen Hawking. Dawkins. The late Christopher Hitchens. And others. But Psalm 14 puts a word on them that is ominous and no one wants to be called: F.O.O.L.

No one like to be called a fool and yet the ultimate foolishness is the denial of God.  But what concerns me is the one who believes in God and yet lives as if He doesn’t exist. What do I mean by that? Glad you asked. 🙂  It’s the one who lives:

  • As though God is a second thought not a first thought.
  • As though he is the master of his own fate
  • As though he is the ultimate ruler of his life and doesn’t need God’s authority.
  • As though he is smart enough to act and doesn’t need God’s wisdom
  • As though he has it within himself to overcome sin and temptation and doesn’t need God’s power in his life.
  • As though he gets things done by merit and does not need nor have to rely on God’s grace.

Could it be that every time I/you do or think the above thoughts we are saying, “God, I don’t need you. I’m going on this alone” even though we may not verbalize it?

I want to borrow from Paul David Tripp’s book Come Let Us Adore Him:

A fool has no ability whatsoever to rescue himself from his own foolishness. A fool is always a person in need of eternal rescue…He (Jesus) was born to rescue fools like you and me. (pp.122-123)

“Father, help me not to live in such a way so that it appears I don’t believe in You. Instead, help me to live a life of wisdom-a life of surrender to You and not to myself.”

November 11

Monday, November 11th, 2019

My title is Submission vs. Obstinance.

One of the dirtiest words in the English language is the word “submission.” Male or female that word “strikes a nerve.” “You want me to submit to him? You have got to be kidding!” “What do you mean I have to submit to the loser that is called my boss?” On and on our rebellion goes. And as I said-male or female-it is hard to accept.

That is what struck me as I read Luke 2 this morning. Following Mary & Joseph taking Jesus to the temple to be presented to the Lord, it says they returned to Nazareth. It ends with these words: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” (v.40). We would expect that. He was God’s Son after all.

Fast forward 12 years. (Some of the blank years in Jesus’ life). He and His parents go to the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem. They leave believing Jesus is playing with His friends. A frantic search of 3 days finds Him in the temple, confounding and amazing the religious leaders with His understanding and answers. But here is the part that struck me after telling Mary & Joseph he had to be there: “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.” (v.51)  I do wonder if there is a correlation between that verse and the following verse: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” 

Jesus, the Son of God, submissive? To earthly parents? Yes!! How baffling.  But then again, not so. When you think about it was not His whole life one of submission to His Father? Philippians 2 says He submitted by coming to earth as a baby. He surrendered to the greater agenda of His Father. He knew His Father’s plan was birth, death, resurrection -those three- and He willingly submitted.

Unlike me who struggles with submission. A more apropos word for me would be obstinance. Oh sure, I say “I submit” but do I really? Do I not have my own agenda that I am staunch about keeping? Katie bar the door if I should get out of whack.

“Father, submission to anyone, especially You, is not always easy. I’m more apt to get obstinate. To want things my own way. Help me to say “Your will be done” and mean it.”

November 8

Friday, November 8th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Me vs You.

It’s always interesting watching and being around young children.  We have a pretty good number at the church and I absolutely love interacting with them. One minute they are running up to me and giving me a fist bump or a hug and the next minute hiding behind their mom or dad’s leg or just ignoring me.  Just this past Sunday a young girl-I’m guessing about 6 y/o-came running up to me as soon as she got inside to ask me a question. You need to know that she plays a game with me-she’s hot and cold. She has a beautiful head of hair and I asked her once if I could borrow some since I’m bald. Anyway, for her to come running up to me is unusual but she had to ask me a question: “Pastor Bill, who made God?” Aaaaah yeah.  🙂

Kids have their own world and to be honest want you to conform to their world. But we adults are not much different are we? I get irritated in slow traffic or when I’m cut off. Right now I’m dealing with some construction issues at home where I’ve been put off for 3 weeks. Is it him putting me off or is it me upset because the job isn’t getting done on my timeline? It seems to be an unending war between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of light. You bug me because you are not conforming to my kingdom wishes. AND YOU NEED TO CONFORM!

“Father, the battle always rages. My kingdom, my little fiefdom vs Yours. Help me to put mine to death and live in your kingdom as your subject.”

November 6

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Giving Up vs Giving In.

I realize as I write that title some would say, “But Bill. Those are essentially saying the same thing.” On the surface I would agree, but on a deeper level I’d say, “Hang in there with me. I want to take it and stretch it.”

Giving up is what someone does when they seem to have no hope left. We might use the term “throw in the towel” to indicate surrender. Lots of people do that.  Life gets hard; fortunes turn; a medical diagnosis turned life upside down; and we find ourselves throwing our hands in the air. We give up.

On the other hand, we don’t give up…we give in. Like King Hezekiah in Isaiah 36-37. Sennacherib, king Assyria, invaded Judah.  He sent a messenger to the king painting a very dark picture of Judah’s future (as well as slamming on God). Hezekiah seeks Isaiah’s help, then he goes to God himself. Hezekiah could have given up but instead he chose to give in. He chose to give in to God’s plan. Isaiah reassured him but a letter from Assyria drove him to the temple and into God’s presence where he spread the letter out before God and poured out his heart to God. He didn’t give up; he gave in to the only One who could save him and his people. He put his trust in God…where it belonged.

God brought about his/Judah’s deliverance by routing the Assyrian army. God will do the same for me. For you. While it may not be a literal army attacking, he will take what seems like an army and bring it into submission to Him.

“Father, help me not to give up and give into despair. Help me not to give up hope. Instead, help me to give in to You, to take the seemingly impossible situation and trust You to work things out as you did for Hezekiah.”

October 16

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is My Steps vs God’s Plan.

Like every child, I was often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (I was just asked that the other day.  Hmmmmm.  I kid. 🙂 )  I started playing baseball when I was 8 years old. There was no such thing as T-ball or coach pitch back then. I fell in love with baseball and from someone who knew nothing at all about the sport, I developed into a decent pitcher and first baseman. I wanted to be a professional baseball player.  Later, sometime around my 7th-8th grade years I remember reading a series of books on an untameable horse on an island and told my dad I wanted to be a rancher. He laughed. I grew up near Pittsburgh, the land of steel mills not horses. 🙂  Then I got into basketball in 9th grade and didn’t know how to even dribble a basketball, let alone dribble and run at the same time. I spent endless hours on the side of the court leaning how. But practice and hard work got me to a decent place. So much so I wanted to play professional ball. That would have never happened. College was the end of that. My mom used to say when all the other boys were talking policeman, fireman, heavy equipment operator or some other “hero” job, I expressed an interest in being a pastor. Well, I guess we know how my “when-I-grow-up” scenario turned out!

I thought of that when I read two verses from Proverbs 16 today. “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (v.3) and “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (v.9).

I guess we know whose way won out! My steps were established by God…not me. All those dreams of grandeur as a child were good, but in the end, they were just pipe dreams. From before my birth, eternity was stamped on my heart by God’s indelible hand print. He told Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.” (1:5)

God chose Jeremiah. God chose me. God chose you. God ordered Jeremiah’s steps. God ordered (and still is) my steps. God ordered (and still is) your steps. Jeremiah was His. I am His. You are His. How much better to say, “Have your way Lord” than to say, “I’m going my own way Lord.”

“Father, I’m fulfilling Your purpose for me. It wasn’t in sports or some other pursuit. I’m being and doing what You want. You plan is better.”

August 21

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

My title for this devotion is The Battle is His vs The Battle is Mine.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Things come up; things pile on; we get to feeling ourselves being weighed down; we are soon unable to move. Whether it be real or imagined, it just gets too much. At that point, we have two choices. Carry the burden and fight the battle ourselves or say, “God, I can’t do this. It is yours.”

We will say the latter is the right choice. And it is. BUT saying and doing are two different things. It is easier to say, “Here Lord” than to actually do “Here Lord.”

A good example of this is found in 2 Chronicles 32. Hezekiah was king and he had been THE man. He brought renewal and reform to Judah. He restored God to His rightful place of prominence. Hezekiah brought sweeping reform-both materially (tearing down altars, etc) and spiritually (renewing the Passover, feasts, worship of God, etc). But in chapter 32, it is all put to the test. Would Hezekiah’s plans be thwarted? Would his commitment be seen as a “say” or a “do”?

Sennacharib king of Assyria invaded Judah and came against the cities to make them his. Jerusalem was one of them. Hezekiah and his people made all kinds of preparations and had to listen to Sennacharib blaspheme God. Big time. But in 32:7-8 Hezekiah tells the people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him…With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”

Were those just words or did he truly believe that? He believed them. He and Isaiah (the prophet) prayed and cried to heaven and God sent an angel to fight the battle and Sennacharib went home in disgrace. It was so bad even his own sons killed him.

God’s words are true. Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” Hezekiah says, “Yes indeed! I can attest to that!” 

Question: Can I?

“Father, this battle is yours. My sword is feeble and over-matched by my enemy’s. But help me to let you fight my battles. Help me to trust you as Hezekiah and Isaiah did.”

July 30

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Defeat or Victory.

After a thrilling chapter in Psalms-chapter 139-which in my book may be one of the most exciting chapters in the whole book, he ends with some very familiar words: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” [Verses 29-30]

What powerful verses those are! They stand even stronger when considered in the context of the whole chapter and also what is coming. Previously the psalmist has talked about God knowing us frontwards, backwards, up one side and down the other (a little poetic license there). Then he writes about how God knew us before we were born and how important His thoughts are of us. We have no other response other than to say, “Search me, O God.”

But as I read chapter 140 the other night, my eyes went to a logical presentation. I’m not sure why my eyes see things that way. 🙂 There are some words which stuck out to me. 

  • “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men.” [verse 1]
  • “Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked.” [verse 4]
  • “Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked.” [verse 8]

I’d say the psalmist took seriously the threat of those who were his enemies. He wasn’t asking for acceptance of his plan to walk alongside them. He wasn’t making any plans to give into them. No…he was asking for God’s strength and protection as he fought. He was praying for God to provide a “way through” the fire. “Deliver me. Guard me. Grant not.” I think inherent in these words is a resignation to God of his weakness and need for supernatural intervention.

If I can say it this way: maybe the psalmist is praying that God will snatch defeat out of the lion’s jaws and bring about victory for him.

“Father, thank you for your steadfast concern and stand with me. Whenever I feel overwhelmed and to the point of defeat, bring me into your rest and into your arms of safety and allow you to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. FOR IN YOU, I AM VICTORIOUS!”

We make our way home today with a moving truck and Jo driving mine. If you think about it, prayers for safety would be appreciated.

June 20

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Complete vs Partial.

There is a saying that became popular a few years ago. It popped up in a song. It still comes up occasionally today:

All gave some; some gave all.

That was used of the military personnel who served our country. It was even used of their families. Every soldier and every family gave part of themselves to the effort. Some soldiers and some families gave all-their lives. The soldier gave his life; the family gave their husband or wife, son or daughter.

The calling of Elisha was an interesting read. Small but powerful and effective. It is found in I Kings 19:19-21. Elijah must find a successor- one he can pass the mantle to. His choice is Elisha. In just a few verses we find out what kind of man Elisha was:

  • Elisha walked by and put his mantle on Elisha.
  • Elisha was plowing his father’s field.
  • Elisha asked to go back and kiss his father and mother.
  • Elisha killed the oxen then gave the food to the people.
  • Elisha followed Elijah.

There’s a story about an ancient leader who landed then burned the ships behind his crew. There would be no retreat. Elisha sacrificed the oxen, essentially saying, “I’m not coming back.”

I started thinking about those who follow Jesus. All give some; some give all. Some like the idea of being a Christ-follower but hesitate surrendering all. Others go all in. They kill their oxen. They burn their boats. They surrender all. Like Elisha, they are “all in.”

What about me? What about you? Am I willing to go all in? Are you?

“Father, you want to be more than Father. You also want to be Lord. You want to rule my heart. You want to see me relinquish all to You. You don’t want me to be part of the crowd that says, ‘I gave some.’ You want me to part of the ‘same gave all’ crowd.  How about we do that today and take that step?”