Surrender

...now browsing by tag

 
 

May 25

Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

Has something ever had its grip on you and to get rid of it was like ripping teeth out? Alcohol. Drugs. Porn. Tobacco. Food. Job. Busyness.  The list seems endless doesn’t it? These things, these addictions, these nuisances have such a grip on one’s life that it is hard to give them up. We call them addictions because they seem to grab us by the throat and won’t let go.

Revelation 18 pictures that for me. The whole “here is what it means” aside, a unique picture is given.  First, I think it is only correct to say this is a continuation, a sequel and fulfillment of the story started in chapter 17 when it speaks about the doom of Babylon. I even mentioned that event in yesterday’s devotion. Babylon will fall…guaranteed. What Babylon is does not apply here. IT. WILL. FALL.

Chapter 18 is its fall. Verse 2 tells us the inevitability of that. The Lamb will overcome. The description of Babylon and its fall is vivid. All who commit sin with her will fall. He does call out His people so they will not be part of the judgment (verse 4).

Verse 8 says judgment is coming. Without question. The rest of the chapter describes that judgment which ends in complete obliteration.

A stronghold is defeated. We all have them. Jesus calls us to Himself and tells us “My grace is sufficient for You. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Living for the enemy is a losing cause. All will be burned up. Strongholds will be defeated. Babylon will fall.

“Father, may I relinquish to You all the strongholds of my life. Please give me victory of my “Babylon” as I watch those enemies fall.”

April 27

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

There is a common saying one might hear: “God never closes a door that He doesn’t open a window” (or some form of that). As far as I can surmise, there doesn’t seem to be anything theologically wrong with that statement.

But I still struggle with it.

Like I said, I don’t necessarily struggle with it because it is wrong. I struggle with it because I have trouble recognizing open doors. I lack discernment sometimes.

Let me explain.

People say we ought to walk through open doors. But how do we know doors are open, and how can we tell whether it is God opening the door or if it just our own making? I’m guilty of bashing doors down, of not waiting on God to slowly open the door or to make it very clear to me to wait.

The church at Philadelphia (Rev.3:7-13) was faced with an open door. Least that is what verse 8 says. We are not told what that open door is. The Apostle Paul speaks about open doors in I Cor. 16:9 where he says, “for a wide door for effective service has opened to me…” In 2 Cor. 2: 12 he says, “Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord…” He also speaks of an open door in Col. 4:3.  So, could the Philly church have an open door to share the gospel? To influence their community? To take a stand which would  bring people to their knees? We aren’t told.

What we are told is that they were to remain faithful. To step through the open door. To stand their ground.

What a challenge for any church! For any individual follower of Jesus! See the open door. Walk through it. Trust God to give you the strength to remain faithful.

“Father, help me to keep my eyes open today for any open door there may be. Help me not to break them down, but to follow you and gently turn the knob and walk on through.”

Let me encourage you to check out my other blog. I have a song there I think you will like.

April 7

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Continuing with some thoughts from Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur.  (See my March 31 and April 4 devotion for reference).

The essence of the Christian walk is to live contrary to human nature. (p.249)

Anyone who has  tried to live the Christian life knows that not only is this true, but way too familiar. When God says, “Zig” the world says, “Zag.”  God says, “Go right” the world says, “Go left.”

That’s how it has always been.

That’s how it is today.

That’s how it will always be.

It would be nice to think that coming to Jesus would end the struggle. But no, if anything it makes it worse.

The apostle Paul wrote about this struggle on more than one occasion, but his most extensive (I think anyway) and most pointed is found in Ephesians 6: 10-20. Everyone knows it to be the teaching of warfare which is not of this world, but also the armor of God every Christ-follower must wear.

Paul David Tripp wrote the following:

Paul is reminding you that at street level, practical, daily Christianity is at war. There really is a moral right and wrong. There really is an enemy. There really is a seductive and deceptive temptation. You really are spiritually vulnerable.  (New Morning Mercies- April 6)

Day in and day out our culture is calling our name. Our enemy is putting out the “red carpet” that leads to fame and fortune initially, but in the end leads to death and destruction.

Old man vs new man. Fake vs reality.

“Father, help me to choose Your way and not the world’s. And most definitely not mine. That spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.”

March 28

Monday, March 28th, 2022

When I was in my teen years I was different. I had been raised to treat people with respect. To answer with “Yes mam” and “No sir.” Growing up in PA near Pittsburgh in the 50s and 60s the use of the “N” word was very common. But not to my mom. No sirree! I was taught not to use that word or to make fun of others, especially those who were handicapped.

I chose not to smoke, drink or chew for several reasons. I played sports. I was scared of my dad. And more importantly, my faith was important to me and I didn’t feel that represented Jesus in a good light. When the riots took place in the late 60s and black and white kids who used to be friends were duking it out, I chose to withdraw and not take part. I found there were others who were like-minded (Jeff Goldblum was one of them).

Peer pressure was there but was not a defining thing for me. Harder for me was when I “came out of the closet” spiritually and chose to leave my legalism behind. God had been working on me for awhile, but I resisted. It was when I found myself surrounded with a legalistic bunch that I finally gave up and surrendered my pride and my “legacy” to God. I went through some semblance of burnout as I struggled with leaving the comfortable and stepping into the unknown. It wasn’t over then. A new church said, “You’re done here” (I’m putting it nicely) after 3 years. The reason I was given was “I didn’t preach on water baptism and other mainstays of the Christian Church/Church of Christ enough.”

Strange. I was able to resist peer pressure but it took me longer to yield to the Spirit’s pressure because of the unknown than it ever did to peer pressure.  Pastoral peer pressure existed in a big way. I’m glad I finally said, “Goodbye” to that and submitted to the Spirit’s pressure.

At that moment (whenever it was), I went from Pharisee to tax collector. One of the best moments of my life.

My prayer is that I will continue submitting to the Spirit’s pressure and not worry about peer pressure and what others will think. That pressure to be liked is a far greater one that any peer pressure. But following the Spirit is so much more satisfying…even if it isn’t always popular.

March 23

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

If I was to put into words what I consider to be one of the premier struggles Christ-followers have, it wouldn’t be Progressive “Christianity.” It wouldn’t be the rightness or wrongness of CRT or BLM or transgenderism or the LGBTQ+ agenda (although I don’t see much right in any of them). It wouldn’t be the whole political game being played on the world stage, nor even the one being played in the states. It wouldn’t be crime or the border or immigration or masking or vaxxing. I think it is something much more serious.

Losing your heart for God.

It’s easy to do. Gotta go here; gotta go there. Have to do this; have to do that. That shiny new thing looks really good. “No one will ever know if I do this or that.” “I’m not a workaholic…I just love my job.” “Arrogant? Me? I’m just good at what I do.”  “The applause of men is so refreshing. It is nice to be appreciated.”  “I’m tired of being good, of denying basic pleasures. I’m going to let go and live for today.”

And the beat goes on.

What doesn’t go on is a heart beating for God. It is sacrificed for the temporary. Displaced by secondary or second rate idols, it fights for supremacy. Being displaced from the throne of my heart is not God’s plan. He wants first place.

He wants my heart always beating for Him. Pursuing a deeper walk with Him. Pursuing intimacy. Passionate. Worship. Adoration. All for Him.

Is my heart beating for God? Is yours?

“Father, You know my prayer without me even stating it. Let my heart beat for You and for You alone.”

March 9

Wednesday, March 9th, 2022

“I want to be dirt poor. I want to have nothing,” said no person ever.

In fact, we do our very best to not be poor. We trade. We invest. We save.  No problem here. The converse to that is that we buy to impress. We want people to not see us as poor. So to prove we aren’t poor, we buy things which give the impression we are doing okay. Ironically, it is these very things which sometimes take us down.

It seems strange then that Jesus calls us to be poor. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” is how He put it. True that is taking life and looking at it differently, but think this through with me. It is Week #1 of Lent. I confess to you right here that I did not say, “I’m going to give up (fill in the blank).” Sadly, the only things we tend to give up are the things we are better off without anyway: sugar, candy, pop, alcohol, etc. Here is an idea to think about! I have never heard someone say, “I’m going to give up always having to be right.” “I’m going to give up my arrogance and pride.” “I’m going to give up watching TV from…say…7-8:00 and use that time to pray and read my Bible.” 

Poor in spirit has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with humility. It has everything to do with the realization that humility is the pathway to a richer, fuller life. It is remembering the One of whom it was said, “He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)

Lent reminds us to honor the One who gave up so that we might become rich. Perhaps what we should be giving up should actually be used to benefit someone else.

“Father, help me to follow the example of Jesus, in that He was willing to become poor so that I might become rich by knowing the wealth of His salvation.”

February 17

Thursday, February 17th, 2022

There is a story of a father who watched his son struggle with trying to remove a boulder. It was way too heavy for him to do so. He grunted. He groaned. He tried to pick it up. He tried to push it. When he finally stood defeated his father asked him if he had tried everything. He said, “Yes.”  That’s when the father said, “No you haven’t. You haven’t asked me.”

Okay…so that may be a bit cheesy or even hokey. I will grant that. But it isn’t that far off either. There is ingrained in each one of us this “I-can-do-it-by-myself” attitude. Whether it is something as simple as moving a stone or something as monumental as a seemingly immovable mountain in life, we all struggle with showing weakness.

Whether with people, and especially with God, we tend to want to take the “bull by the horns” and show we are strong.

Paul speaks to that attitude in 2 Cor. 12: 9-10. He writes, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  It is not easy to admit I need help. Paul David Tripp wrote these words in New Morning Mercies:

Weakness is not the big danger to be avoided. What we need to avoid is the delusion of strength.

I’m convinced that we are afraid to admit our weakness. We don’t want others to perceive we are needy, we just can’t do something. We think there is more virtue in having this tough exterior and “can do” attitude, than saying, “I need help.” Sure, there are times we need to be strong; we need to not give up so easily. But we can also be so stubborn that we miss out on God’s grace gift of help.

Are you one of those who is afraid to show a weakness? Or to ask for help is a sign of weakness? Lay it aside. God never takes us on a journey where He leaves us to rely on our own strength and abilities. He always gives us the strength to accomplish what He has set before us…even if it means asking for an extra hand.

“Father, help me not to be so stubborn or foolish so as to think I need no one else, especially You.”

February 1

Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

If you hang around churches or church people very long you will hear what is called “Christianese.” That is language or words which are used without much thought given to another’s understanding, especially someone who is not a Christ-follower. Examples might be slogans like WWJD. Or words like redemption, justification, or propitiation. Say what? Or statements like “Praise the Lord.” You can probably think of others.

Here’s one which is actually true. And while it is true, it has lost its luster and its punch. Probably because there are so few who really practice it. Ready? “The battle belongs to the Lord.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that phrase. It’s most definitely true. Powerfully true. Backed up with one of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible, but it is still one that is missing in many Christ-follower’s lives.

The scene is David and Goliath. The Israelite army is taunted by Goliath for 40 days and for 40 days they cowered in fear. Along comes David-not intending to battle Goliath-but to bring food to his brothers. This insulting heathen got under David’s skin so bad David could not sit or stand by and let it continue. And while the rest of the army, including King Saul, forgot who they were, David did not. He also knew the battle belonged to God. When questioned by Saul, David knew God had delivered him from the bear and the lion and He would do the same now.  In I Samuel 17:45, when taunted by Goliath for being just a boy, David lets him know God will deliver him into his hand.

Deed done. All it took was one stone. And the hand of God.

The same is true for us. No matter the battle I/we face, the victory is His because the battle is His.

“Thank you, Father, for the victory. Thank You that the battle is Yours if I turn it over to You and not try to fight it on my own.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 7-9

Friday, January 7th, 2022

I am not normally going to post on the weekends, but this devotion came to me so I thought I would share it.

I wonder what it was like to be in Paul’s shoes. In 2 Corinthians 12 he speaks about being taken up into the third heaven. But he quickly changes his focus to his humility. Not bagging about it (because if he did he would no longer be humble!). Instead, he talks about how God keeps him from getting proud. His words: “to keep me from exalting myself.”  {Hmmm: does that speak to those who like to tell their stories for their few minutes of fame?}

But even more importantly is the lesson he is taught:  God’s grace is sufficient for any weakness. What an important truth to remember!

There is a saying, a thought, I often hear expressed which I think is very appropriate here: when you come to the end of yourself that is the best place to be. It is when you have nothing left, that you realize Christ is all you need.

Paul learned that.  He goes on to say, “Most gladly, therefore, i will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (v.9b)

That’s a good lesson for today and for the weekend. Well…for the future.

“Father, may I realize I am incapable on my own to counter all that comes. May I seek Your strength and grace to live a life which glorifies You.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 5

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

If I was a betting man (which I am not), I would be willing to wager that most, if not all of us, will at one time or another in 2022 ask or want to ask Why? Now, I’m not talking about the little one who has a thousand questions and they all seem to start with the word why?

No, this is much more serious. When a health event hits us our first question might be Why? When a catastrophic event hits us-a death, fire, destruction, car accident-we might be inclined to ask Why? When a financial hardship hits we may be tempted to ask Why?

We may never know the answer to that question while here on earth, but we can take comfort in the truth of One who does. Just this week (Monday) I finished writing a sermon from Daniel 2. In that chapter is a verse which speaks to this issue: Daniel 2:22- “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.” (NASB2020)

We can take comfort in the fact that God is never surprised or afraid. He is never caught off guard. And while the event that happens has me rocking backwards on my heels and a tad bit flustered, God is not wringing His hand wondering, “What am I going to do?”

Take heart. Those moments of darkness are not dark to Him. He is the light on the head of the coal miner. He is the compass in the hands of the explorer. As the old hymn says, “There is no shadow or turning with Thee.” (Great is Thy Faithfulness)

“Father, what You do in the light, You do in the dark. When I have questions-especially Why?-help me to trust Your all-encompassing hand.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE