Surrender

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July 22

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

As I study through Mark, there are some wonderful stories and events and teachings of Jesus. One of the most insightful is found in Mark 12, the story of the widow’s mite found in verses 41-44. Four short verses but what a wallop!

Most know the story. Jesus sat down near the collection box (interesting place to sit and observe) and was people-watching. I like to watch people too. While everyone else goes to an amusement park to ride, I like to go to watch people. (Besides, I can’t do circles). And, as you can imagine, one can see quite a diverse group of people. But to sit near the offering plate and watch people put in their money is not something I would do (and don’t). 

But as you can see, Jesus had a reason. He watched the rich people put in large amounts. Then He watched a poor widow come and drop in 2 small coins. It would be easy to be judgmental and criticize her by thinking she didn’t give much. At least not when compared to the others.

But Jesus turns that type of thinking on its head. You see, in God’s economy big is not always better. A small,  humble amount/gift given in secret is much greater than an ostentatious gift given to be seen by others. I was speaking with someone Tuesday at a funeral and commented that it isn’t the size of the gift but the size of the heart that really mattered.

God doesn’t need our money, but He does want our heart. This widow gave her heart; the rich gave their money. Jesus saw it. He even said so: “This poor widow has given more that all the others who are making contributions.” (v.43 NLT)

It’s good to give your money; it is better to give your heart.

Father, here’s my heart. I’m giving it to you in surrender. Help me to see that it is so much more important to give my heart than to try to substitute money or something else.”

July 16

Friday, July 16th, 2021

If I were to pick one characteristic that was prevalent during COVID, or one that it highlighted, and one that still rears its ugly head, it is FEAR. Fear of infection. Fear of transmission. Fear of death. Fear of living life. Fear of (you fill in the blank).

This morning during my Encounter Time reading, it seems like God wanted to or had something to say about fear. First, read Psalm 118:6-9,14. “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (v.6  NLT) I encourage you to read the other verses.

Second, Joshua 6: 1-7. It was totally illogical and frankly, military suicide, to do what God told the Israelites to do. In fact, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The details are in the passage. Jericho was sealed up tighter than a drum and they (the Israelites) were told to march? Are you kidding me? What is the sense in that?

God was teaching them to stop seeing things from their perspective and their vantage point; He had a better idea. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 12:9- “My grace is all you need. My power words best in weakness.” (NLT)

When I can’t, God can.

When I’m unable, God is.

When I’m lost, God is my direction.

When I can’t see, God is my light.

It’s a promise. One I can count on and cling to. I am never alone. I am never wandering aimlessly in the desert. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (Ps.118: 8-9 NLT)

“Father, You are my refuge and my strength; my wisdom and life-giver. I have nothing to fear when I see things from Your perspective. Please help me to see things from Your point of view.”

July 5

Monday, July 5th, 2021

HAPPY (DAY AFTER) INDEPENDENCE DAY 

If you have the day off today, enjoy it.  If you don’t still enjoy it. 🙂  Let’s start your day out right though with a devotion.

Time for a quick quiz:

Do you know what the letters ADHD stand for?

  • If you answered Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder you answered correctly.  Give yourself a pat on the back.

Do you know what the letters PTSD stand for?

  • If you answered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder you answered correctly. Give yourself a virtual high five.

Do you know what the letters RADD stand for?

  • If you answered “Cool” or “With It” give yourself a big raspberry. Or do you hear that sound from one of the game shows for a wrong answer? It means Redemptive Attention Deficit Disorder (courtesy of Paul David Tripp even though he did not put it into a highlighted 4-letter statement. That’d be me).

Explanation: We serve a dissatisfied Redeemer. He does not do His work poorly or incompletely. He doesn’t walk away from us while work is in progress.  I get that way sometimes when working a jigsaw puzzle.  I will sit and work for hours until my eyes are crossed, all pieces look the same, and my butt is tired from sitting too long. I wisely know it is time to walk away and shut off the light. I can come back later and work the puzzle.

God does not have RADD. He does not work on us for a short minute and then grow tired and walk away.  Good thing. I’m reminded of the verse which says, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil.1:6)  That tells me that God stays with the project (me) until He is done.

When I’m done with a puzzle there is a sense of accomplishment, especially if it has been a difficult one. I have learned not to get discouraged by a lack of progress. Take one piece at a time. I sometimes wonder if God sighs at my lack of progress but then jumps up and down (figuratively not literally) when I stick with it and allow Him to do His work.

I’m so glad He is RADD, as in COOL. AWESOME. And I sure am glad He does not have ADHD.

“Father, do Your work and complete Your work in me. Keep me from being distracted and help me concentrate on being fully Yours.”

July 2

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Bob Goff tells the story of Walt Disney (WD) which I suspect many of us have heard:

Before WD dreamed up Disneyland, he was fired from his job at a newspaper in Kansas City because his editor said he “lacked imagination.” Can you believe it? Whenever I’m at Tom Sawyer Island (note: his personal retreat), I think about what would’ve happened if WD had dug in his heels at the newspaper instead. The world would have never met Mickey Mouse. Failure forced WD to pursue his passion.  (p.224)

He went on to say elsewhere:

Our habits shape our days, and our days make up our lives. Without much thought, we can settle into routines that keep us stagnant for decades. (p.224)

While Mr. Goff went in one direction, I want to go in another. I want to talk about failure. It is something most, if not all of us, hate to discuss or consider. None of us go into a venture, no matter what it is, thinking we are going to fail at this. If so, it is wise not to even get started.

I recently read some quotes attributed to the late coach, Vince Lombardi:

“If you accept losing, you can’t win.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

There are more but these ought to suffice in making my point. Failure happens. But there is a big difference between thinking you are going to fail from right out-of-the-box and failing because you tried.  WD failed at his newspaper job, but did not allow it to curtail his dreams. There are many (and I know some) who are glad he didn’t give up.

Perhaps another quote by Mr. Lombardi will be a good ending:

It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men.  It starts in ours.

“Father, help me to believe in Your dreams for me.  Help me not to cower in fear over seemingly overwhelming odds.”

Bob Goff’s quote from Live in Grace-Walking in Love.

June 30

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

Do you remember the song, The Gambler, by the late Kenny Rogers? It had lyrics familiar to the gambling trade:

You gotta know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em/Know when to walk away/Know when to run.

Those words are easy to see when it comes to gambling, but when it comes to life? Not so. For example, it took a lot for me to quit (fold ’em) when I played baseball or basketball. I went by the philosophy that the “game isn’t over until the last out.” Even in basketball, when a team is down by 20 points with one minute left, it is hard to stop playing. Least it was for me.

I remember twice in my college career when I folded early. So did the team. So did the coach. Both times we played teams out of our league and it didn’t take long before we all realized we were in trouble and way over-matched. (Ironically, both were before important tournaments).  Finally, in the second half, coach mercifully pulled me and “let” me enjoy the rest of the game on the bench. First time all night I enjoyed the game! 🙂

In the spiritual race/war, there are times we gotta know when to fold ’em and when to walk away or even run. It is one thing to stay and fight; it is a wise person who knows when to get out of Dodge. Yes, fighting sin and temptation and the Tempter is sometimes necessary. But so is running. Running from the temptation. Pulling back to gather strength to fight another day.

There is no shame in running to recoup. There is a problem with giving in without a fight. What I need to remember is that as I fight, God fights right alongside me. He’s got my back. And my front. And my side.  The battle is His; not mine. Victory comes from surrender…to Him. But sometimes that surrender is absolutely essential before victory is realized.

“Father, take my life and help me to fight.  Help me to also know when to run so I can recoup and regather to fight another time, another day.”

June 22

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

“The battle belongs to the Lord.” We will hear that often from pastors/teachers as they admonish us to fight on, to carry on, to not give up.

I read an interesting story from Our Daily Bread yesterday (6/21/21). During what has been The Charge of the Light Brigade, Lt. Colonel de Salis had a horse named Drummer Boy who was injured during battle. He decided his horse deserved a medal as much as his valiant men. Even though their military action failed, Drummer Boy was awarded a medal. And even though it failed, that battle goes down as one of Britain’s greatest military moments because of the valor of both men and horses.

That brings to mind several Scriptures:

“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But the victory belongs to the Lord.” (Pr.21:31) (NASB 2020)

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Ps.20:7) (ESV)

Those are just a couple of verses which show our strength is not our own. Nor is our strength that which is strong on earth. Over and over in Scripture we are told that God is the one who fights for us. He is the One we are to trust not that which appears strong. I like what Deut.20:4 says, “For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you the victory.” (NLT)

Not much more to say is there? God has promised to fight those battles with us and for us. Lean on that.

“Father, may I trust You when it comes to battle. Help me to stand firm against sin and evil and remember the battle is Yours.”

June 18

Friday, June 18th, 2021

HOPE.

An ‘oft used word:

  • “I hope it does/doesn’t rain today.”
  • “I hope it’s a boy/girl.”
  • “I hope my son/daughter gets a scholarship.”
  • “I hope God comes through for me.”
  • “I hope my new job is a good one.”

So many different ways we use the word hope.  Truth? We. all. want. and. need. hope. You take away hope and all you’ve got is a shell of a person left. You can see this in a person who has received the big “C” diagnosis and only given weeks to live. You see it in a parent’s worst nightmare-the loss of a child. From the biggest thing to a minor thing, we can see our lives are fueled and driven by hope. 

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” So says the old hymn.

Hope relying on things or people or circumstances will not last or hold together. Hope relying on horizontal fulfillment will not last. Only hope found vertically will stand the test of time and can be counted on.

You see…hope that lasts can only be found in a Person, that Person is Jesus. Hope found in Him will not disappoint us. (Romans 5:1-5) It will, instead, be the rock we can stand upon.

“Father, may my hope be in You and You alone. Take away all desires to find the answer to hope horizontally. Help me to push aside all the other imposters to Your throne.”

June 8

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

I have often said-and firmly believe- the phrase:

“God is seldom early but He’s never late.”

That is a useful thought when talking to someone who is waiting…and seems to have  been doing that forever. The big (unanswerable) question is “Why?”

“Why do I have to keep waiting?”

“Why is God not answering my prayer when He says He will?”

There are many questions centered around waiting.

But let’s look at the idea of God’s timing in another way. This past Thursday evening, I went to visit one of our graduating seniors and her parents. Due to a wedding on Saturday, I was unable to attend her grad party. (Bummer. They catered Mexican).  But it was even better visiting, laughing, and reminiscing in their home than at the party where details would not have allowed that. Meilynn had been adopted from China in 2009 at the age of 9. What a delightful little girl she was with a winning smile (once she got over her fear). And she has become a beautiful, young lady graduating from high school.

Back on topic. After several “I better get going” I finally did. Almost 3 hours later!!  (They like to talk not me).  🙂 🙂 On the way home, I came to an intersection, stopped, and since no one else was waiting, preceded. As I turned left toward home, I was the recipient of a Mini-Cooper running a stop sign and kissing the passenger door on the driver’s side. Yeah, he got me good (and I have not heard whether it is totaled or not).

To the timing: One minute later he is gone. One minute earlier I am gone. 30 seconds would have been enough time. There’s a reason for this. I don’t yet know what it is. But someday soon I will (I think). I do know this: I am grateful he hit just behind my door/seat.  Cars can be replaced.

Point: 30 seconds either way avoids the accident.  If I had left the house earlier or later. But God’s timing is perfect. I will trust that.

“Father, thank you for Your perfect timing. Help me to always remember that in big and small things Your timing is perfect.”

June 4

Friday, June 4th, 2021

FOCUS. REMOVE. PUT ON. REPRESENT.

I read Colossians 3 this morning. That is how my mind worked and wrapped itself around my reading. In fact, it went into “preacher mode” (unfortunately) and actually did an alliteration. 🙂  I’ll share that with you at the end of this devotion.

FOCUSVerses 1-2

  • Seek the things that are above
  • Set your mind on things that are above

REMOVEVerses 5-9

The focused life-the one centered on Jesus- needs to be cleaned. Old garbage needs to go. Removed. Deleted actually. Killed. Buried. For good.  The list is very inclusive of what needs to be removed. It really brings to light the sins which lurk within.

PUT ON Verses 10-16

The old is removed-stripped off-and put to death. It needs to be replaced with clothes worth wearing. One wouldn’t strip of dirty work clothes, shower, then put those-or dirtier-clothes back on. No. New ones. Clean ones. Fresh-smelling ones. That is what the new nature calls for.  This list includes the gifts of the Spirit; the importance of forgiveness; and the exceptional quality of love. (I Cor.13 sure needs to be read at this point). The message overwhelms us, changes us, challenges us, makes us different so we can…

REPRESENT Verse 17

All of the stripping away and renewal (re-clothing) comes with a purpose-to represent Jesus in all things. That’s why it is so essential that the order be followed: Focus. Remove. Put On. Represent. 

And now for my “preacher mode” which likes alliteration: Rivetted. Remove. Re-clothe. Represent.

“Father, may I represent You clearly. No questions. No cause for sideways glances. No questioning eyes. Focus me. Strip me. Re-clothe me. Let me be a good representative of You.”

June 3

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

Have you ever had one of those “holy moments?” It’s one of those moments when you become so aware of God’s presence the only response is one of awe and humility. I’ve had several of those moments in my 45+ years as a pastor and my 60+ years as a Christ-follower.

The year was the summer of ’89 (no not ’69). It had been like many other summers-bike riding, preaching, ministry, moving Tami back from Florida. She lived with us for awhile as she settled in teaching at a school district north of our county substituting as a fill-in for a teacher on family leave as her husband battled cancer. One Sunday night something led her to visit another church in our city (we did not have evening services). She talked so much about her visit I asked  if she cared if I went. Of course not. She knew I would drive and also probably buy her something to eat or drink afterwards. Anyway, by August of that summer my life had been changed.

I experienced God’s presence.

My burning bush.

My ladder to heaven and wrestling with God.

My moment in the “temple” when “all was stripped away and I simply came” as Matt Redman’s song reflected. (Cue up The Heart of Worship)

That preceded a period of epic growth-for me and the church. I sensed God’s presence in everything I did. My speech. My preaching. My study. My activities. The church had 24 additions in about a 3-4 month period-18 of them new converts.  It also helped me weather losing my job because I wanted to be a spiritual leader, not a CEO type.

I long for that Emmaus time again-when my eyes are open and I realize I was with Jesus. When the communion with Him was special. When a bush burns (not literally) and isn’t consumed. When the things of the world grow strangely dim. When worship takes priority. When I experience a holy moment of being in God’s presence.

“Father, you don’t need an appointment to meet with me. You don’t have to say, ‘I’m coming at such-and-such a time. Be ready.’  I’m simply asking you to come and meet with me.”

{Note: Today I celebrate a very holy moment. 46 years ago God blessed Jo and me with our oldest daughter, Tami. Her birth was a “holy moment” for me. I continue to be grateful for her life and how God still grips her and she Him.}