Surrender

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May 3

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

I think one of the hardest traits to have as a Christ-follower is humility.  We have heard it all:

“It’s hard to be humble when you are as great as I am.”

Joe Namath is credited with saying, “I can’t wait until tomorrow.” When asked why he answered, “Because I get better looking every day.”

I’ve sometimes said (jokingly), “I’m proud of my humility.”

All those sound like innocent remarks, and for the most part they are. 

But humility is no joking matter.  When pride takes over, it is hard to stomach. A proud person is not one we enjoy being around.  An arrogant person wants to make us want to empty our stomach. Unless, of course, that proud person is me. Then I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Jesus was the antithesis of pride. In John 13 we have the story of Jesus taking  off his outer cloak, taking a bowl and a towel and washing His disciples’ feet. When challenged by Peter, Jesus said that unless He does this he (Peter) would have no part in Him.

There are those who want to make a big deal about the washing of feet, like it is a command we are to do.  I believe that is missing the whole point. Jesus Himself said, ” What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will understand.” They saw Him washing their feet; He was actually showing them something much greater.  He was showing them what it means to be a servant and show humility.  His point comes out strongly-out of His own mouth-just a few verses later: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

The whole principle is not foot washing but humility and being a servant.  The question which confronts me then is am I willing to submit to the Father and be a servant?  It will require humility. Not the fake kind but real, genuine humility.

“Father, it is a sign of submission to humble myself before You, which is then to translate to the people around me. Please teach me to be humble.”

April 28

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

I read recently about a British ski jumper named Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards. I vaguely remember him in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.  He competed alright. In fact, he has his own entry in the Oxford Book of Words and Phrases. “Pulling an Eddie” is defined as “doing something extremely badly, and doing it in the most embarrassing manner possible.”  I think I will let your mind show you his jump.

But here’s the thing: at least he tried. As someone has said, “It is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.”

We often hold back from enjoying life, or challenging ourselves, or even living the adventure (my slogan) for various reasons. John Eldredge, in Wild at Heart says, “Every man has a battle to fight; an adventure to live; and a beauty to rescue.” It is the second part of that statement which intrigues me today-“an adventure to live.” I hesitate saying this but the older I get the more I regret what I haven’t done. One of my dreams was to ride across the USA at my speed with a friend or two, a motor home to sleep in, and Jo driving or riding along to witness my fete. It never happened and it will go down as one of my disappointments.

But at the same time, I am grateful for what I have experienced, including but certainly not limited to Colorado, Daytona Beach, and Alaska (I want to go back). Friends. MLB games in person (before they got all politically stupid).

You know, Peter walked on the water and failed. He “Pulled an Eddie” right in front of Jesus and the other disciples. But we also know this: least he walked on water. None of the others who stayed in the boat can say that!

Life is an adventure. You can choose to live it or hide from it. I may be getting older (what do I mean “may be”?)  🙂 But whatever time I have left I want it to be an adventure.

“Father, You call me almost on a daily basis to walk on the water with You. ‘Step out,’ You say.  ‘Come to Me. Here, take My hand.’ Help me to not be afraid to follow You.”

April 15

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

I’ve been reading lately about the Sadducees and Pharisees in preparation for some sermons which are coming up. It was this group of men-throw in the scribes also-whom Jesus had the most difficulty with.  But like today, not even the religious could agree.

The Sadducees were the political ones of the group. Their influence at the time wasn’t necessarily religious. Their influence was more political. Although they would deny it vehemently, they were in bed with the Romans. Oh, they had some religious quirks too. They did not believe in the resurrection, angels or anything supernatural. The also only believed in the validity of the Penteteuch (first 5 books of the OT).

The Pharisees, on the other hand, were the super religious. They were religious legends in their own mind.  The Pharisees were very legalistic, wanting to hold all 600+ laws as a hammer over the heads of the people. They were opposed to the Sadducees when it came to their beliefs, especially on the resurrection.  They were united with them on one thing: getting rid of Jesus.

One aspect of the Pharisees’ belief was the separation from unclean people. They would not dare get their hands dirty. “Come out from among them and be separate” applied to contact and interaction.

There some who take that literally, even today.  They withdraw from society.  Form communes. Want no influence (outside) to soil them. But I don’t believe that idea is to be taken physically. I believe it has to do with our hearts and minds. “Set your mind on things above not on things on earth” is what Paul told the Colossians. (3:2)

The word we are searching for is holiness. Sanctification. It means “to be holy, to be set apart.” Not physically, but in our hearts and minds. Devoted to Him.

The Pharisees thought they needed to physically separate.

The Sadducees thought they needed to ideologically separate.

The Bible speaks of devotion to God not the world.

Am I separated from the world? Am I dedicated for the Lord’s use? Are you?

“Father, may I be Yours completely. Help me not to be as concerned about physical separation as I am about having my heart and mind consecrated to You.”

April 9

Friday, April 9th, 2021

We often hear people say something similar to this: “You need to see that God has something much better for you.”  Even though that is true, sometimes it smacks of insensitivity. It also seems almost meaningless because the person may not be ready to hear that or want to hear it.

I know what a person is saying when they do. We often get so myopic that we fail to see the bigger picture. We see the hear and now. Like a card player who keeps his cards close to this chest, that is all we see. Up close and personal.

When the truth is that God may have a bigger picture for us. If He gave us what we wanted all the time, we would miss that. I was reading Psalm 119 this morning (and yesterday and the day before) :). In Psalm 119:26 it says, “I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me Your decrees. “ It’s like he realizes God has so much more to teach him.

Here’s the reality: I would never have known what God had waiting for me if I had only aimed at my target. God has so much more than my eyes can see. His plans for my life are so much bigger than mine. He wants to give me so much more than my keep-things-close-to-my-chest-vision can see.

It’s good to pray for answers but leave a card or two available for God to show His hand.

“Father, You are good. Kind. Loving. And would NEVER give me bad things or do bad things. Help me to pray but then leave the door open for You to work.”

April 1

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Today is typically known as “April Fool’s Day.” We play pranks on people. Oh, I can remember trying to catch people off-guard with crazy, wild-eyed stories. Or coming up to someone who is afraid of spiders or snakes and playing on that fear. Most of it was innocent (but juvenile) fun.

When you think of someone in the Bible whom you might call a fool, who comes to mind? Solomon talks about fools a lot in Proverbs. We could add in Ecclesiastes as giving us a picture of a fool, one pursuing the here and now and finding it empty.  Paul says at one point that he is a “fool for Christ’s sake.” A totally different meaning.

One person? My vote goes to Judas. His is a baffling case. Follower of Jesus for 3 years. Endued with power to heal the sick, cast our demons, etc like all the others. (Luke 9) He saw Jesus do miracles-feed the 5000, calm the storm, raise the dead, and more-over the 3 years he was with Jesus. He hung out with the boys. Late night campfires. Early morning brisk walks.  Rousing discussions about the religious leaders.

We also know he loved money. He loved power. Deadly combination. When Mary anointed Jesus he protested. But as John says only because he liked to dip his hand into the till and help himself.

He sold Jesus for 30 pieces of sliver. Not much, even in those days. We gain some insight into Judas when we realize he never called Jesus “Lord.” At the last meal when Jesus predicted His betrayal, Judas calls Him “Rabbi.” In the Garden he calls Him “Teacher.”  Never Lord. That should tell us something. He followed but never surrendered.

Fool. Ooops, what does that say about me? Follow but fail to surrender. Hmmm. Fool seems to fit me as well.

“Father, help me not to be like Judas. Help me to cast aside the ‘fool’ label and commit to following You as my ‘Lord.’ ”

March 30

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Coming to Christ means to change. Romans 12:1 tells us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed. The root of that word is metamorphosis. Changed like a caterpillar to a butterfly.

I was reminded of this as I read my Bible this morning during my Encounter Time. In Romans 13:8 Paul tells us to owe no man anything except to love. In verse 10 he says, “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”

Then he moves on to the imminence of Jesus’ return.  “Time was running out,” he says.  Man, I gotta think what would Paul have to say if he knew it would be over 2000 years and still counting?

But now to the Scripture which captured my attention this morning. After telling them/us to wake up (v.11) he says, “So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shiny armor of right living.” What follows is a litany of “night” actions typical of dark deeds. They also belie our new state. But then comes the coup de grace. In verse 14 Paul writers, “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Do you see it? “So remove your dark deeds” and “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is change. Take off and put on. And it always goes in that order. We don’t put clean clothes over sweaty, dirty ones. Neither should we expect to manifest kingdom living and a Christ-like spirit when the old man has never been removed.

Now, that’s not saying we have to be perfect. But it is saying we need to have a “removal service” and get clean clothes to wear. If not, no matter how clean the clothes, the stench of the old will overpower and become dominant.

“Father, take off the old; put on the new. May that be the action I take to live for you today.”

March 15

Monday, March 15th, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get hard? Three Dog Night had a song in the late 60s (1969) titled Easy to be Hard with the lyrics “Easy to be hard/Easy to be cold.” (From the musical Hair). 

It is easy to get hard toward people. Maybe you’ve worked with them and thought you had a pretty good relationship when suddenly they give you the cold shoulder. It is easy to think, “Well, if that’s the way they want to be.” Several years ago I had developed what I thought was a good friendship. We talked a lot.  Our families spent time together. We ate out together. He and I went to a Saturday morning Bible study together. Then Boom! He withdrew and wanted nothing to do with me. To this day I still don’t know what happened, although before I moved the relationship was restored.

It is more tragic when that happens with God. We are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit. but I know there are times I test those limits. I disappoint Him with my words and actions. The relationship which was so dear and so vital is now cool, even cold. My heart grows hard to the things of the Spirit. I have trouble hearing His quiet whisper, or even His loud shouts for that matter! It is easy to be hard, easy to be cold as the song said.

Don’t let that happen. Stay sensitive to the Spirit. If sin is there, confess it and get rid of it. If something else has crept in to take His place, renounce it! Ask Him to restore your heart to the love you once knew.

“Father,  You don’t move. It is me who gets cold and hard. Forgive me when that happens.  Help me to once again be sensitive to the voice of Your Spirit.”

Here is a song to get you to think some more about what I have written.

February 26

Friday, February 26th, 2021

As a young boy growing up, then as a young man, I was taught-not so much by words but by actions-that real men didn’t cry. I only remember seeing my dad cry once.  It was after I was married and we had our first child. My dad had a heart attack-a bad one-and Jo, Tami and I drove over 4 hours from where we lived in Ohio to see him in the hospital. The attack was a bad one. He was to be in the ICU for 2 weeks; a step down for 2 weeks; then a regular bed for 2 weeks. Keep in mind this was 1975. Things are much different today than they were back in the Dark Ages. My dad was 47. He was miraculously healed because we visited him in a normal room and he was discharged within 2 weeks, not the 6 they said.  We visited him one afternoon, spent the night at their house, then visited again the next morning before heading back to Ohio. When we left to go home, I saw my dad cry for the first time. Some might say it was the chemical change brought on by the heart attack.  Maybe so. But I saw my dad cry for the very first time!

A sign of weakness or so I’d been taught. As I was to learn, crying was not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. A sign of confidence. A sign of humility. A sign of sorrow.

Of all people who wept, none were more manly, yet more confident and in control than Jesus. Several instances stand out:

  • In Matthew 23 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings.” (NLT) He wept as He entered Jerusalem.
  • At the tomb of Lazarus we find the most familiar verse to those who hate memorizing anything, particularly Scripture: “Jesus wept.”
  • In Ezekiel 6:9 we find God grieving over His children.  “They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts.” The NIV says, “How I am grieved.” That is one strong emotional verse about God’s feelings!!

I have wept more than once. Many times. When I have experienced a loss. When I have said goodbye to a friend because of a move. When I’ve hurt my wife or girls. And most assuredly when I’ve been made aware of my sin and been driven to my knees in repentance and forgiveness.

“Father, tears are a language You understand. May genuine tears of love, repentance, remorse, and forgiveness flow freely from my eyes and heart as I yield to You.”

February 25

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

As I sat down to begin my Quiet Time (QT), I did what I always do first. I pray. But something happened this time as I prayed. A song came to mind. A song from way back in my childhood memories. It would have been called a hymn back then but I wouldn’t call it that. I see it as a spiritual song. “Psalms, hymns  and spiritual songs” as Ephesians 4:19 puts it. A psalm is…well…a psalm. A hymn is an anthem of praise (like Great is Thy Faithfulness or How Great Thou Art). A spiritual song is a song with a spiritual meaning.  You may consider that nit-picky but I had my say. 🙂 Okay…now that I’ve taken that rabbit trail reign me back in. 🙂

As I sat and prayed these words flooded my mind: “Open my eyes that I may see/Glimpses of truth Thou has for me/Place in my hands the wonderful key/That shall unclasp and set me free/Silently now I wait for Thee/Ready my God Thy will to see/Open my eyes illumine me/Spirit divine.”

Not always do I approach my QT with an awareness of readiness to hear. More than I care to admit, my time is one of hurriedness and harriedness, (Yeah, I know my spell check is telling me those are not words…but what does it know?).  One of obligation. But today was different. It was like God was saying, “Slow down Bill. Don’t be in a hurry this morning.  Push aside your sermon agenda for a few minutes and be with Me. Stop hurrying and being harried and stop and listen.”

Then I read from Acts 1. The apostles found themselves in the same boat. Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem. “Do not leave” is what He told them.  After Jesus ascended they returned to the upper room they had been in and waited. Can you imagine what they would have missed if they had gotten impatient? If one of them had said, “This is nonsense. I’m heading into town for some carry-out.” What a monumental “Epic Fail” that would have been!

How often do I miss out because I don’t wait? Won’t wait? “Silently now I wait for Thee/Ready my God Thy will to see.”

Perhaps it is time to slow down and listen.

“‘Speak, Father, for Your servant listens’ is what Eli told Samuel to say. Those are words I want to repeat right here, right now: ‘Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.’ “

February 16

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

One of the major topics of conversation during the pandemic among pastors, leaders, magazine articles, podcasters, and other talking heads has been the well-being of pastors. It has been all over the spectrum-from depression; to excitement; to innovation; to pressure/stress; to a feeling of inadequacy; to innovation; to dreaming of what was/is/could be; to what could have been; to a bunch of other ideas. But it seemed one topic kept coming up over and over.

Burnout.

The burnout of the leader. The endless demands placed upon the pastor/leader by others and by himself. There was no overt sin involved which could cause it. No, it was simply a pastor or a leader giving too much of himself to the ministry, i.e. shepherding of his people and not taking care of himself. Not necessarily physically, although for some that definitely played a part.

I’m talking spiritual. Burnout comes when an individual gives so much of himself away that he doesn’t take care to feed himself. We neglect us for them. That spells disaster.

We can only take people where we ourselves have gone. We can only teach what we ourselves know or are learning. We can only give someone a drink if we have water to give. We can only offer a meal if we have food to offer.

Take care of yourself first. Cultivate God’s Presence in your life first. Then, and only then, will we have something to offer to someone else.

“Father, I need to refresh myself with You first. Help me to have a renewed fire because of You coming alive in me. Then, and only then, will I have something to give to someone else.”