Surrender

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January 15

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Have you ever been disappointed with God? I suspect all of us would speak to the affirmative of that statement. I must confess there have been times I have been. One of those times is now. After 10 months or pursuing me, Covid finally caught up with me. In spite of the mask, the hand sanitizing, the extra vitamins designed to ward off a virus or infection, I got it. A body that once weighed 223 and was pretty solid is now 30 pounds less in 3 weeks, lost a lot of muscle and is weak. (I hope this is not TMI): I have trouble keeping things down (or at least not feeling nauseated) and keeping things in. I’ve tried the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Apple sauce, and Toast) but that hasn’t worked. And besides, it is boring and sort of disgusting.  I’m not fond of bananas, white rice or white toast.  I’ve had people praying for me. I have prayed fervently for healing. All the tests so far have come back negative, or on the good side. After a night of solid sleep where the alarm woke me, I slept fitfully last night. This is not meant to be a “woe is me” devotion though. It is designed to ask a question:

Why am I disappointed with God?

I already know the answer: because He hasn’t answered my (and others) prayers for healing. My desire is to be completely healed from this mess. But then I think, “Who am I to expect that? Maybe God has a bigger plan in His big picture?”

One thing I do know is that I need to delight in God and then He will fulfill the desires of my heart, not the other way around, i.e. God will fulfill my dreams then I will delight in Him.  So I must keep in mind that disappointment is not unusual or even unexpected, but I must delight in Him no matter what. If He chooses to heal me, I will praise Him. If He has another plan, I will praise Him.

“So Father,  I will praise You even through my disappointment.”

January 14

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

One of the tragedies that many Christ-followers fall into is failing to see people, events, or circumstances through the eyes of Jesus. I can’t “swear” by this but I think that may be at the root of a lot of peoples’ anger at God. Instead of seeing whatever it is through His eyes, we see it through our lens. I know I have done that. Sometimes I have railed at God-anger spilling out of my lips; my body tense for battle; my fists clenched…before I ever know His motives or desire for me.

So, what to do? I read a great picture of that. Imagine standing face-to-face with Jesus, enjoying a conversation about life and all its challenges. He looks into your eyes, and you sense His perfect knowledge of your innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires. You look into His eyes and see His deep love and acceptance of You. Then, in this moment of intimacy, you see Him step closer toward you, so close it looks like He’s going to knock you down. But instead of a collision, He steps right into you. He turns around so He’s looking out of your eyes, He stretches His hands down into your hands, and you begin to feel His heartbeat…He has clothed Himself with you. (taken from Experiencing God’s Presence-Jan 13)

As I read that my mind went to several Scriptures. “If a man is in Christ, He is a new creation.” (2 Cor.5:17). “I have been crucified with Christ…nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.” (Gal.2:20) “And all who have been united with Christ…like putting on new clothes.”  Some translations say, “put on Christ.” (Gal.3:27)

“Father, may I live my life as seen through Your eyes. Please give me ‘Spirit eyes’ to see as You do.”

January 4

Monday, January 4th, 2021

I wrote this January 1 but am posting it as my first post for 2021.

At the beginning of a new year, I, and countless other followers of Jesus feel like a new start is in order. So people make vows, resolutions, or whatever you want to call them, to do better, be better, speak better…better…better…better. But as the old joke goes we find out on January 2 our resolutions, well…are broken. Did you know making resolutions dates back to the Babylonians who made vows to appease their gods? As if that would work.

Maybe we ought to consider it a lost cause and pursue another avenue. For Christmas someone in the church gave me a daily devotion called Experiencing God’s Presence. The writer hit on something that not only had I never thought of before, but made perfect sense. Like many others, my awareness and closeness to God fluctuates. Close. Far. Close. Far. Inch back. Far. Why is that? {Because there’s a big difference between His Presence and an experience of it.-Jan 1} It’s not enough to believe God’s Presence is every where (and it is); it is also important to experience it. We don’t just want to know His Presence is there, we want Experience it. I’m not talking some mystical, transcendent thing, or some rapturous “caught up into the 3rd heaven” experience (2 Cor.12); or some hyper ecstatic “tongue loosening.” No, I’m talking about encountering Jesus so I am deeply affected down the core of my being. More than hype. Just a deeply affected, inner core sense of God’s Presence. That is my hope and prayer for me in 2021. Will it be yours? I invite you to join me in that quest.

“Father, move in me. Let me encounter Your Presence in the very core of my being. May this year be the year of Your Presence in me and those I influence.”

December 11

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Random thoughts gleaned from my various reading this morning:

In the story of David and Goliath, two thoughts bear to have an audience:

  1. Prevailing over giants isn’t accomplished by using their technique. David’s greatest piece of armor was his inner shield of faith.
  2. Conquering giants isn’t accomplished without great skill and discipline. My weapon is the sword of the Spirit not a club or physical sword. 

(From Good Morning, Lord…Can we Talk? by Chuck Swindoll)

“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day…You therefore must endure hardships as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him to enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Timothy 1:12; 2:3-4  (NKJV)

How important both of those Scriptures are. Put them together with the thoughts from C.S. and they leave us with some powerful lessons. One big one is the need for reliance upon and surrender to the Holy Spirit to fight our battles. My strength does not come from outward sources; it comes from God’s power from within in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

“Father, in this battle of life, help me to rely on You not on me or my own strength and wisdom.”

 

December 4

Friday, December 4th, 2020

There are a lot of emotions which people experience during the Christmas season.  There are the devastating ones like loss, loneliness, and lifelessness. They lead to a feeling of why bother? Why not just give up? There are also those emotions which carry a sense of settledness. Joy. Peace. Knowing you are loved.

One that is all too common is one called discouragement. How do I know that? I’m fighting it tooth and nail right now. This has been an unusual year to be sure. The virus lead to decreased attendance until we had to lockdown. Then when we could open again our attendance began to creep back up slowly. And I was okay with that. Then recently the spike has hit and we are back to people staying home. I know this is best, especially for those directly impacted by the threat to their health or those they love. But that still doesn’t ease the angst of one who loves people and feeds off seeing them.  So after an up, then a down, then an up, and now a down,  I have found myself fighting off being discouraged. For the most part I’ve been doing well. My hardest time? This past Sunday when it hit me again.

This all came back to me and I saw it again when I read Paul David Tripp’s Day 30 devotion from 40 Days of Faith. While his devotion focused on how God has each of my days written down even before I was born, it caused me to stop and think about my own heart. I had to remind myself that what happens (has, is and will) does not surprise Him in the slightest. He’s not wearing the suit of the guy with question marks all over Him.

On the contrary, He authored this all with a combination of wisdom and grace. That means He knows my disappointment and discouragement and comes alongside me with an arm around my shoulder and eyes full of understanding saying, “I’m here Bill. Don’t get discouraged. You are going to be surprised when this all shakes out. But you gotta trust Me.”

So I do the only thing I can do. I cry on His shoulder and lean into His chest and resign myself to His warm and steady heart beat.

November 16

Monday, November 16th, 2020

I am a terrible waiter.  No, I didn’t work at a restaurant and drop food or drink in a person’s lap. I could jokingly say, “When God was handing out qualities and said, ‘Patience?’ I thought I was going to be a doctor so I said I’ll take plenty.”  But I’m not a doctor and it’s not the same word. (I know. That’s bad).

I repeat: I am a terrible waiter. I’m not as bad I used to be, so I guess I can chalk it up to maturity. I remember one incident when I was at the first church I served. I commented about this new Bible I had seen at the bookstore. I went ahead a few days later and bought it. One day later, a man came to me with that same Bible as a gift. I missed out on being blessed and him having the joy of blessing me. That has happened so many times I can’t count. But I missed because I was spontaneous. I’ve run ahead of God way too many times.

I find myself waiting again. Last Thursday, the 5th, I was outside sitting across a picnic table talking to someone, for close to 1-2 hours.  The next day she lost her sense of smell and tested positive for ‘rona. I found out Monday afternoon. So, now I am quarantined until sometime this coming week (probably Thursday to be safe). I wait. Have I said I’m a terrible waiter?

When I don’t presume upon God and run ahead, He has often taken me on a slow path. However, while people will say, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” I’m not convinced that is always best. Some of my best time with God has been the slow churn. Or as I am fond of saying, “He took me ’round Robin Hood’s barn.” In other words, He took me the long way.

I’m learning to wait. I suspect I will also continue to learn. “And that is my prayer, Father. I need to learn to wait.”

October 27

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

I read recently that the late Catherine Marshall wrote about learning to surrender her entire life to God through a “prayer of relinquishment.” When she encountered a tough situation she panicked and exhibited a demanding spirit in prayer: “God, I must have thus and so.” God seemed remote. But when she surrendered the situation to Him to do exactly as He pleased, fear left and peace returned.

Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.” That happens to be one of my favorite verses. As I thought about that verse and I thought what Catherine Marshall said, I could think of no better example of that than Jesus. Two situations played out in my head. The first was in the Garden as He wrestled with what was coming. He ultimately said, “Not my will but Yours be done.” Jesus could have chosen a different path (He was fully man), but He didn’t. He chose to surrender to His Father.  (He was also fully God).

It shows on the cross. There is no “I want down!” No “Take these nails out of my hands. The pain is too great.” No “I’ve had enough.” No. Instead when we read His last words, we hear His resignation and surrender in these words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” There it is: a whole-hearted surrender and commitment to God.

An example for me. For you. If Jesus did so should I. So should you.

“Father, even though sometimes it is hard, please find a heart willing to resign itself to You, to commit itself into your hands. May I follow Jesus’ example.”

October 22

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

There is no question our world is unsettled right now. As I write this in 2020, we have experienced a pandemic the likes of which my generation or after has never experienced before. We have watched cities be held hostage; cities burn and in some cases are still burning; corrupt politicians grease their own palms and flaunt their sinful agenda, thumb their nose at people all while doing their own things to further their agenda. We have seen lies and cover ups, the likes of which we have never seen before. We have seen sin flaunted in the open, almost daring us to say anything derogatory toward that sin. And we simply cannot forget the hatred and vitriol we have seen from and on social media.

Something is wrong. True. But we are also seeing a fulfillment of Romans 1: 18-32.  Put aside for a moment the obvious reference in that passage to homosexuality. See the blatant reference to mass chaos in our lives. How can we read this passage without seeing the result of disobedience to God’s law?

There is a story told -true or not is up for grabs-that a UK newspaper once asked its readers “what is wrong with the world?” It is told that G.K.Chesterton, a Catholic writer, poet and philosopher answered that question with a 4-word answer: “Dear Sirs. I am.” How’s that for brevity and truth? I am what wrong with the world. It’s called sin and I have the disease. We all do.

“Father, the only solution to the sin problem is You. Jesus died for my sin so I can know victory over death, hell and the grave. I don’t have to be intimidated by sin any more. Give me the strength to surrender my will to You. The reason: me; the solution: You.”

September 11

Friday, September 11th, 2020

It is hard to believe 19 years ago today, 9/11/01, our country was the victim of a terrorist attacks. Two planes at the Twin Towers; one plane at the Pentagon; and one plane aiming for the White House that found itself crash landing in a field in PA.  I do not have the mind of a terrorist (thankfully) so I cannot conceive of that much hate dominating my thinking so completely that I have a careless disregard for over 3000 lives. All in the name of “religion.” Religion of peace my foot! It is a religion dominated by hate and fear which manifests itself in the careless disregard for life (even of their own). Sadly they will not find 7 vestal virgins awaiting them. Maybe the flames of hell but not peace and tranquility.  They are dominated by hate, fear and arrogance.  With that in mind, I write this devotion.

IMHO one of the greatest battles a Christ-follower faces is the battle with pride. It is so easy to get full of ourselves. So  full, in fact, that we are almost unbearable to be around. The Bible speaks to that in I Cor. 13 when it says, “Love does not boast.”

I read a wonderful story recently. It is from the book called Mauve…How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World.  In the mid-19th century the color-dyeing of materials was a painstaking and expensive process.

All that changed in 1856 when William Perkin, an 18 y/o chemist, was working on a treatment for malaria in his little home lab, and “accidentally” made a dark oily sludge (instead of artificial quinine). But it turned out this sludge could turn silk into a beautiful light purple-mauve.

It soon became the most sought-after shade in the fashion houses of London and Paris, and earned Perkin both a fortune and knighthood.

Sir William Perkin was a Christian. When on his deathbed someone said, “Sir William, you will soon hear the ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ ” He began to recite Isaac Watts’ hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross {Note: a personal favorite of mine}. At the one stanza it says, “And pour contempt on all my pride.”  After quoting that line Sir William commented quietly, “Proud? Who could be proud?”

Who could be proud indeed. This man who had every right to be proud and to cling to his earthly accomplishments refused to be choked by it. Humility was and is so much more Christ-like. “Nothing more to Him I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” That should be my sentiments. That should be the sentiments of every Christ-follower.

“Father, I have no reason to be proud. Strip me of my pride. Help me to follow the example of Sir William who followed the example of the Savior.”

September 2

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

Straight from Chuck Swindoll:

Shortly before her death, Corrie ten Boom attended our church in California. Following the service, I met briefly with her. She inquired about my young children and detected my deep love for each one. Very tenderly, while cupping her small, wrinkled hands in front of me, she passed on a statement of advice I’ll never forget. I can still recall that strong Dutch accent: “Pastor Svindahl, you must learn to hold everyting loosely…everyting. Even your dear family. Why? Because da Fater may vish to take vun of tem back to Himself, und ven He does, it vill hurt you He must pry your fingers loose.” And then, having tightened her hands together while saying all that, she slowly opened them and smiled so kindly as she added, “Vemember…hold everyting loosely…everyting!”   (From Good Morning, Lord… Can We Talk?)

I’m going to go on record as saying that sometimes-even though I know better-I hold things too tightly. It’s not as bad as it used to be but even at my age, I still want to hold on, to grip tightly.

Consider, for a moment, what we sometimes hold onto too tightly:

  • Our spouse. ‘Course I’m not speaking of hugging or being affectionate. You know that.  But sometimes we are too possessive (i.e. too controlling). In death it is hard to let go.
  • Our children. Many parents want to hold onto their children and not let go. Sadly, there will be times letting go is not pleasant (think Prodigal Son) but we raise them to free them.
  • Our way of life. Rough times tend to reveal the grip we have on the way of life we have come to expect or even take for granted.
  • Our stuff. Oh yeah, it is tough to let stuff go, either by necessity or desire.
  • Our health. We try everything to hold on to the fountain of youth. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves but vanity is an ugly master.

One thing we should grip tightly? Our faith in the ONE who loves us. And that’s another story for another time.

“Father, be my all. Help me to not sacrifice my relationship with You by holding too tightly to other things.”