Surrender

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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.”

August 21

Friday, August 21st, 2020

Have you ever been hurt so deeply you wanted to strike back? You know…give them the old one-two punch. Hit them with the left jab of “love,” then hit them (i.e. put them down) with the right cross of power. The full punch will always be more powerful than the left jab that either keeps a person at a distance or sets them up for the power punch.

More often than not that power punch is the result of the desire to get even, to defend my rights. An illustration: several years ago I was hurt deeply. I’ll not say how or when or where. It hurt my family as well. That happens when a member of a family is hurt by another. Tami was really hurt and said some things to me about this person’s actions. I told her she has to let it go. So she wrote a letter of apology asking for forgiveness. (I was so proud of her). Instead of a letter of grace acknowledging and offering forgiveness, she received a letter of defense-one justifying that person’s actions, taking more shots at me and adding fuel to the fire. She was hurt all over again; I was livid. We moved away and over the course of time God dealt with my own anger. How could I help her process if I myself couldn’t handle it? In time, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life, I was able to lay down my “rights” and forgive.  I wrote a letter explaining my feelings and asking forgiveness, but I never received a reply. But God’s grace allowed me to move on-stronger, more mature, and able to help others do the same. In fact, it was after that when I was working at a non-church related job that I was able to help someone else.

I was working the other morning on a sermon from Ephesians 4: 25-32. Paul tells us there are certain things we are to put away. One of them is clamor. Clamor is the cry of passion railing against another.  To get rid of that I/we must give up my right to be right.

“Father, You got this. You have in your hand all that happens to me at the hands of others and will deal with them. Help me to give up my rights to always be right.”

August 7

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Down through the years I have talked to/counseled tons of people for all kinds of issues. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the different topics of discussion.  But I can honestly say with extreme clarity that the most common topic has been “a product of my environment” kind of talk. What I mean by that is that an individual is a product of their raising. 

Basically put: I am who I am, I act the way I act, because of my parents. Now, there is some truth to that. John Eldredge, founder of Wild at Heart, is often heard speaking about the “father wound” many of us have. Our relationship with our father determines a lot of why we are who we are. In many ways, we are the product of our raising. I know I am. I have traits/characteristics about me that are definitely from my mom and some from my dad. My purpose here is not to delineate them.

My purpose here is to say this: while we are a product of our raising, i.e. environment, we don’t have to be a slave to that. Too often I have heard and seen people who continue to bemoan their upbringing. They keep blaming their parents for who they are-40 years (arbitrarily-picked number) later! It’s time to stop that train and get off. It is time to realize that transformation of a heart, mind and life are a by-product of salvation. As a person yields daily to the power and life-transforming influence of the Holy Spirit, they can also throw off the shackles of the past and walk in freedom.

“Father, You have made me new. You have changed everything. And while I can’t change my past, I can change its hold on me. Please continue making me a new creation and changing me.”

May 22

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Is there any of us who hasn’t struggled with prayer? I’m not talking about frequency, or seeing the necessity, or posture, or any of the varied ways to pray. I’m talking about believing God will answer our prayer. Or to put it another way: Is God even listening?

You know how it goes:

  • A dearly loved grandmother is diagnosed with dementia.
  • A much-loved child is diagnosed with cancer.
  • A husband or wife is only given weeks, maybe months, to live.
  • A job ends and days of unemployment turn into weeks then months.
  • A much prayed-for child goes AWOL and chooses a lifestyle we don’t approve of.
  • A pastor/youth pastor goes rogue and leaves everything to pursue lust.
  • A child we have prayed for and prayed over since before birth becomes a prodigal, abandoning their faith.

The list seems endless doesn’t it? Is God listening? Is He deaf? We are praying in faith believing, but it just doesn’t seem to be heard. The prayer hits the ceiling and slaps us in the face, laughing at us.

We may never know the “why” of God’s work. Least not at the moment. Maybe later. Maybe. I honestly have no answer except to say, “Been there; done that; keep praying.” God is listening. It may not seem like it, but He is. Sometimes no matter the sincerity or the fervency or the heartache the prayer goes unanswered. That doesn’t mean God is not listening; it does mean our wish is not His command. God is not deaf. He is not out relieving Himself (as Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal about their god).  God is heart-broken over your heart break. He is shedding tears with you as you shed tears before Him. He does care. He is listening.

“Father, in spite of long lag time, help me to trust, to believe You have things in Your sight.”

April 17/Weekend

Friday, April 17th, 2020

“Here’s my heart Lord/Here’s my life Lord/Speak what is true.”

It’s Friday and I’m at home on my day off. I slept in today so I’m late to my Quiet Time. Jo just came out of the shower with her phone playing a song by Lauren Daigle. It was the song with the above lyrics. We sing this song during our worship time on Sunday morning from time to time.

But its more than just a song we sing on Sunday in a worship set. This morning it gripped my heart. I seriously want to be all in with Him but I find myself fighting the “collar.” I remember a saying I heard once: “The problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar.” They must have been using me as a test subject. I say, “Here I am” but a few days (maybe just hours) I take back control and do my own thing.

I know I’m not alone. And the funny thing is that I’m really not in control anyway. The way life has been upended the last month or so shows that.  But it hasn’t been just the recent past; it has been for the past umpteen years.

It has taught me one thing though. Through all of my ups and downs, fighting and surrendering, there has been one constant: God. Always there. Always faithful. Always loving. Always with open arms.

“Thank you Father, for Your faithfulness to me-even when I’m not. When I say those words, “Here’s my heart, Lord” let me speak them truthfully.”

Here is the song which started me thinking today only by a different artist.

March 19

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

As I read a blog yesterday, it referenced this one. This poem is by Paul David Tripp and was posted March 17, 2020 at his blog.  I thought it was very appropriate for what we are facing as a nation, as people, and as a church. There can be no better place to be than in the shelter of His wings.

SAFE

I am safe,
not because I have no
trouble,
or because I never experience danger.
I am safe,
not because people affirm
me,
or my plans always
work out.
I am safe,
not because I am immune from disease,
or free of the potential for poverty.
I am safe,
not because I am protected from disappointment,
or separated from this
fallen world.
I am safe,
not because I am
wise
or strong.
I am safe,
not because I deserve
comfort or have earned my
ease.
I am safe,
not because of
money,
or power,
or position,
or intellect,
or who I know,
or where I live.
I am safe because of the glorious
mystery of
grace.
I am safe because of the presence of
boundless love.
I am safe because of
divine mercy,
divine wisdom,
divine power,
and divine grace.
I am safe,
not because I never face
danger,
but because you are
with me in it.
You have not given me
a ticket out of danger.
You have not promised me
a life of ease.
You have chosen to place me in
a fallen world.
I am safe
because you have given me
the one thing
that is the
only thing
that will ever keep me safe.
You have given me
you.

February 20

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Have vs Don’t Have.

Proverbs 30:15 says, “The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, ‘Enough’: Sheol, the barren womb, the land never satisfied with water, and the fire that never says, ‘Enough.’ “

I’d like to add a fifth if I may. I’m not trying to add to the Word but just add a thought. And maybe it is just a thought that would serve as a blanket to the other four. The word/thought?

GREED

Envy wants to have what someone else possesses. Jealousy wants to possess what it already has. Greed is the desire for more. Greed is always longing, craving, wanting, striving for more. I don’t have it; I want it.

It is perfectly illustrated in the parable Jesus told in Luke 12:17-21 about the man who had it all but wanted to build bigger barns and then said, “Eat, drink and be merry.” His greed led him to crave more, missing out on eternal things. Greed does that. It loses sight of what a person has, what God has blessed him/her with. Instead, it focuses on what it doesn’t have and wants it. “Gotta have it” would be the motto.

Followers of Jesus are not exempt. I’m not exempt. The desire for more seems to run though our veins. Jealousy and envy are listed in the sins of the flesh in Galatians 5.  I’m guessing greed could be also. Peter says false teachers will exploit us because of their greed (2 Peter 2:3).  Paul says he did not come to the Thessalonians with words of flattery nor with a pretext for greed (I Thess.2:5).

Greed is a subtle trap. Something catches our eye and it won’t let go. Then we just gotta have it. Meanwhile, we forget what we already have, what we have already been blessed with. It is no longer enough.

“Father, please keep my heart pure; my eyes focused on You; my wants/desires submitted to you. Please don’t let me allow greed to put its tentacles in me.”