Surrender

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September 22

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

This will be the last post based on The Trail by Ed Underwood. I’d suggest if you want to pursue this look at how to know and follow God’s will that you buy the book. It’s old enough now that you can find it for $5 or less. It obviously take a more in-depth look at God’s will and discerning it.

For this last entry, I’d like to “borrow” from the book the great recap that the author uses one of his characters to make. BTW this is written as a story of a couple who goes backpacking with a crusty, old firefighter turned pastor named Sam. Sam gives these lessons to them along the way. Anyway, here is the recap from pages 177-178.

#1- TRUST. God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need His strength to recognize His guidance.  Pr. 3:5-6

#2-RELATIONSHIP.  Make sure you’re all in for Jesus. Ps. 25:14

#3- INTIMACY. Stay within the circle of intimacy with God, and trust Him that you’re on the dot of His good and perfect will.  Ps. 139: 23-24

#4- TIMING. Live expectantly; God’s signature on events is timing. Eccl. 3:1

#5- PROTECTION. God’s will is a flashlight, not a crystal ball; walk to the edge of the darkness and wait.  Ps. 119:105

#6- ENCOURAGEMENT. When you wonder if you’re on the right path, ask God for a sign of encouragement.           Ps. 86:17

#7- COMMUNITY. Loners lose their way; trust the guidance of those who love you enough to tell you the truth. Pr.12: 15

#8- GRACE. All is grace; put one foot in front of the other. Pr.16: 9

My take? All is grace. If I follow Jesus with a heart that seeks Him, no matter what I do, He is there. I may bob and weave. I may totter. I may stumble as I follow. I may lose sight of the path. But He will be there for me and with me. He will protect me. He will encourage me when I need it. I need to surround myself with a community, a group/person I can count on to tell me the truth. And then trust that all is grace.

So ends the series of posts on The Trail. I pray it has helped you to clarify some things. I also pray it has challenged you to seek God’s desire (will) for you. I don’t need to say each of us are different, so one size doesn’t fit all. Carve out your own path in following Him.  And remember: All is grace.

The Trail: A Tale about Discovering God's Will

September 15

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

After a day when we contemplated an issue that tested our willingness to trust and surrender (Thanks Ryan S.), let’s move on…to more of the same. 🙂

I think one of the hardest times for many of us is because we may not, or don’t, see the clear path, we have trouble moving forward. Sometimes we act paralyzed. Sometimes we simply hesitate following.

Let me revert to an illustration from the book. Many firefighters survive because they know a key truth: a meadow, brush, or even trees, can only burn one time. Many of them will run to the burn. It seems weird, but it is true. Many firefighters have been saved because they ran to the burn.

That brings up an important point. There is a positive side to adversity. Let’s be honest: most of us would like to avoid adversity. Avoid it like a plague would not be too far off. We see adversity as incongruous to a loving God and that said loving God would place adversity in front of us, let alone have us go through it. We do all we can to avoid it! We are far more interested in what will make us happy; God is far more interested in what will make us holy.

Instead of our natural aversion to pain and adversity, maybe we ought to embrace it. Instead of looking for a way around it, let’s stop trying to avoid it. Suffering can actually give us a greater platform for sharing the truth of God’s love.  Instead of running away, maybe God is saying, “Follow Me into the burn. You may not understand. In fact, you probably won’t. But follow Me anyway and I will lead you to safety. You will get to see what I can do.”

Truth: He does not want us to run ahead of Him; He wants us to follow Him. Even if that following has us meeting adversity.

And for your encouragement this morning, stop and read Psalm 86: 11-13. You’ll be glad you did.

August 31

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

If I were to conduct a man-on-the-street interview with Christ-followers, I’d ask this question: “When it comes to God answering your prayers, what is one of the hardest and most frustrating things for you to accept and understand?” IMHO I think one of the #1 answers would have to do with timing. Why did He wait so long? Why didn’t God answer sooner? If God knew what I needed, why did He wait to give it to me? Why not spare me the heartache that came with waiting?

Timing. Makes a vehicle run right. Makes a meal come together at just the right time, a la Beat Bobby Flay. 🙂  Timing really is everything. I’m certainly no gourmet cook (I can burn water) but I do know it is good to have things come together at the right time.

In fact, stop for a moment and read a passage of Scripture dedicated to timing: Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8. But don’t stop there! Keep reading because one of the most powerful and beautiful verses comes in verse 11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  (ESV) There was an old praise and worship song in the early ’80s by the Maranatha Singers called In His Time. (Click on the song title for a video link of the song). It was straight out of this verse. I remember singing it at night when I laid in bed struggling about my future. Sometimes that was all I had to hang onto (or so I thought). 

I know God has a plan for my life, for yours. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” (You can read verses 24-26 on our own. They are powerful).

All of this to relate Principle #4 to you:

God’s signature on events is timing.

I’ll try to flesh that out more tomorrow. Meanwhile, you can add #4 to the list of three I gave in yesterday’s devotion.

August 30

Tuesday, August 30th, 2022

As promised (yesterday’s devotion), here are the first 3 principles we have looked at so far:

#1- God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need His strength to recognize His guidance.

#2- Make sure you are all in for Jesus.

#3- Stay within the circle of intimacy with God, and trust Him that you’re on the dot of His good and perfect will.

Before we move on tomorrow to the next principle, I’d like to “hit” one more time on these three principles.

As you can see, these principles are layers, if I can use that word. We first need His strength to see and recognize His guidance. Knowing God’s will is not some willy-nilly conjecture of our mind. God has His will for each of us. I’m not speaking in the Calvinist vein where we are predestined. He does know (Omniscience), but He gives us the choice of whether to follow or not. Doing that sometimes takes courage.

To follow wherever His will may take us, requires we be “all in” for Jesus. How can I follow, how can I do His will, if I hold back complete surrender?

To be all in, I need to maintain an intimacy with the Father. Being sensitive to His whispers in my spirit. Being open to His discipline. Being willing to go where He leads. Being able to discern truth from false, my interests from His interests. That all requires a sensitivity to Him which comes from intimacy with the Father.

Tomorrow, unless led differently, we move on to Principle #4. But we must grasp these three first. Stop right now. Read them again. Go back and read the previous posts (if you have time). Ask God to prepare you for what is ahead.

August 24

Wednesday, August 24th, 2022

So far we have talked about two principles. You can check yesterday’s devotion for those two in a short recap.

Two words stand out with a third one for today: Trust (#1). Relationship (#2).  And Intimacy (#3).

That idea has always intrigued me. Think of intimacy and what word comes to mind? (Keep it clean! 🙂 ). The word that comes to my mind is CLOSENESS. Another word is nakedness (and here I told you to keep it clean). But not in the physical sense, but naked as in unguarded, you-see-me-as-I-am. A person who is physically naked is, in essence, hiding nothing.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Phil. 3:19 where he says, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” The phrase to know means to know intimately. That sure puts a spin on our relationship doesn’t it? That tells me it is more than casual. It is more than “when I feel like it.”

David expressed the intimacy God desires in his prayer in Psalm 139:23-24 where he wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Test me and know my anxious thoughts! Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (NLT)

We were made to worship Him! We were made to know Him! There is a bare bones honesty David is yearning for with God. As Augustine is credited with saying: “Our hearts are restless until they their rest in You.”

“Father, may my heart desire intimacy with You. May I not find rest until I hunger and thirst for closeness with You.”

**Note: Tomorrow more on Psalm 139 and intimacy.**

August 22

Monday, August 22nd, 2022

Thank you for your prayers this past weekend. Jo and I had an uneventful trip (which is a good thing) to Ohio. We visited her sister in the nursing home (and sadly, she was foggy on who we were). We also had a chance to spend time with Janna and her friend, Mike, and watch Braden play a game on Saturday morning and have lunch with him before heading home.  The really good thing was that there was no traffic tie-ups this trip. Yah!!

Now…back to the old grind.  🙂

In my last devotion on The Trail (August 17), I wrote about giving up control. It’s not easy to do so. To trust in the dark is sometimes a scary proposition.

Take for instance…following. It is much easier to follow when the trail is clearly marked. Have you ever prayed or wished God would just sort of put it in neon lights the direction He wants you to go in? GO HERE!! I have, and seldom has it ever been that way. Least not to the naked eye. There’s an old saying I’m sure you have heard or even used: “God never closes a door (or window) without opening another one.” While that may be true, I don’t often see that open door or window that clearly.

So how do I know which way to go? I’m going to quote from the book:

Once God has my heart {i.e. relationship}, I’ll be receptive to His guidance, and He know I’ll choose His will. His specific will for me hasn’t changed, but my heart has changed.

I think the key is that last phrase I underlined. To follow God’s will requires a willingness on my part to do what He says and go where He says to go. That often requires a heart change.

One of the lessons from the book is one I have agreed with for years. The most important thing I can do is be in relationship with God. After 49+ years of marriage, I’m still in love with Jo and I still want to please her and make her happy.  Sometimes grudgingly, if I’m honest, but it is still my motivation). 🙂

It’s not a matter of whether God guides me. He does. It’s a matter of whether I can see His trail. That becomes clearer as I stand in relationship with Him.

First order of business: KNOW HIM.

August 16

Tuesday, August 16th, 2022

INSTALLMENT #1

The basis for The Trail by Ed Underwood (see my August 15 post) is that God’s will is not some thing that is mystical or otherworldly (my words). We make it out to be that way as we search here and there; throw out fleece after fleece; say “If this happens a certain way or time then I’ll know” and other ideas like that.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is clear: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Some translations say: “He will direct your paths.”

I think…(and this is my thought so blame me if you disagree  🙂 )…we have such trouble with knowing God’s will, and then even following it, because we like to have control. Different personalities look at life differently, and even having control differently. There are some who like to fly by the seat of their pants. Sort of like “go with the flow”. There are those who like to have some control. They enjoy the adventure but still want to kinda, sorta have some control. Then there are those who want to know every twist and turn, every nook and cranny of following Jesus. What’s next? What’s around the corner?

That phrase “He will direct your paths” is key. Why? Because it takes faith to follow. Like holding the hand of a parent, a child trusts his father/mother to lead him/her to safety or in the correct direction. There is security in that hand. The opposite of faith is control. How different it is for a child to hold the hand of their parent and go willingly vs holding the hand and constantly tugging or fighting. In most cases, the parent knows best (given our humanness); the child is wise to follow. “God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need His strength to recognize His guidance.” (p.14)

The reality is that we will never understand all that is ahead. God is not asking us to. But He is asking us to trust Him. Frankly, if I understand all that is ahead that puts me in the “I-am-God-category” and personally I am just not ready to say that! 🙂  Isaiah 42:8 (which I read this morning) says, “I am the Lord, that is My Name. I will not give my glory to another; nor My power to idols.”

Nope. God won’t share His place with anyone. That means I need to trust His wisdom and accept His strength.

First principle from My Trail: “God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need to trust His strength to recognize His guidance.”

“Father, help me to do as Proverbs 3 is telling me: not to rely on my own wisdom and strength, but on Yours. I’m not God; You are. Help me be willing to follow Your direction.”

August 11

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

I confess. I’m guilty. After reading Luke 12 I can only say, “I’m guilty.”

I’m guilty of misplaced priorities.

I’m guilty of teaching/preaching/saying one thing but doing the opposite.

I’m guilty of living for this world and not another.

I’m guilty of mismanaging the little. (How then can I be trusted with the much?)

I’m guilty of not seeking God’s kingdom first.

I’m guilty of being so “here-focused” that I am seldom “there-focused.”

I’m guilty of worrying about my future, sometimes dwelling on it too much and lamenting financial mismanagment and a lack of preparation for retirement.

I’m guilty of greed, of not being satisfied with what I have.  (Can anyone say vehicles?)

I’m guilty of a heart divided.

After all that guilt there is only one way to assuage it. Jesus put it succinctly: “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one is affluent does his life consist of his possessions.”  (12:15 NASB2020)

Keep my priorities where they belong. Focus on Jesus. Pursue Him and His righteousness. Leave the future in His more than capable hands.

“There you have it Father. My manifesto about my future. Guilty? Yes. Forgiven? Most definitely. Re-focused on You? My desire. May it be with your strength and direction.”

August 9

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture-least you think you have-and not have it register? Then one time you read it and BAM! the light goes on. This morning was one of  those times.

The Scripture in the spotlight: Isaiah 37: 14-20. (Please take a moment  and read it).

Sennacherib (S), the Assyrian king, planned to invade Judah. He sent his lackeys to threaten and badger Hezekiah into surrendering and not trust God. God surely would not save them. Outgunned and out-manned, Hezekiah does something totally unusual: he takes the letter from S, reads it, then heads to the temple and lays it out before God. Then he prays. It was not an “I’m scared spitless and don’t know what to do” kind of prayer. It was simply a prayer that acknowledged God’s power and might, Hezekiah’s weakness against S, and his trust that God would save them.

God answers Hezekiah’s prayer through Isaiah. I like the words Isaiah says in verse 21: “Because you have prayer to me (God) about S…” God is acknowledging Hezekiah’s correct response to the threat.

Now watch the result. Verses 36-38 -> 185,000 Assyrians dead. Not by Hezekiah’s hand or his army. “The angel of the Lord went out and struck…” Hezekiah didn’t lift a finger. S went home in disgrace and was eventually assassinated by his own sons.

Hezekiah averted a disaster by going to God first. What a great lesson! Instead of moving in his own strength (to sure defeat); relying on his own army; or even surrendering to S, he went to God and laid it all out before Him.

There’s gotta be a lesson there! 🙂

“Father, may I not  fret and worry and scheme in my own strength. Let me bring it all before You, lay it all before You, and trust You implicitly. “

August 8

Monday, August 8th, 2022

At this point in history, we who live in America have it fairly easy when it comes to following Jesus. True, Christianity is no longer the dominant worldview it used to be. But all in all, we are not China or North Korea or Iran/Iraq or India or some other hostile place. So following Jesus is still pretty non-confrontational and “safe.”

That’s what struck me as I read Luke 9 this morning.  On two separate occasions Jesus talks about what it will take to follow Him. These are not back-to-back incidents, but by my recollection days apart.

The first is in Luke 9: 23-27. (I’ll leave it up to you to read it). It is probably as familiar to you as it is to me. Jesus minces no words about what it will take to follow Him: “Deny…Take up…Follow…Give up.” Following Jesus is a full-time, full-on surrender to His rule in my life. Discipleship is not a “when-I-feel-like-it” experience.

The second, which comes at least 8 days later (v.28), is found in verses 57-62. It is what I will call “I will follow You but…” passage. You can read it for yourself. It seems to be a scene of “I will follow when it is convenient for me.”

I don’t think the scenes are unrelated or separate, except in time frame. What I mean by that is they supplement or amplify each other. “Deny…take up…follow…give up” sets the groundwork for Jesus saying, “It takes complete surrender to be Mine.”  The latter Scripture says, “There is no wasting time. Don’t put Him second. He wants me now.”

“Father, may I not hesitate to follow You. May my following involve being sold out to You without hesitation and completely.”