Surrender

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January 30

Monday, January 30th, 2023

Several thoughts are swirling through my mind this Monday morning.

Primary is that today is the love my life’s birthday. As you may know, we took a quick trip to Ohio last week as an early birthday present.  Jo was able to see both Janna and Braden. Today I’m taking a good part of the day to spend it with her, which will include taking her out to eat to Olive Garden. We have a gift card and seldom eat there, but it is her desire to eat what she shouldn’t on her birthday. 🙂

But this “Shadow” blog is not about my family (although I do brag on them).

Another thought is a book I’m reading in possible prep for a sermon series later this year…possibly this summer. I might preach on the Model Prayer, aka The Lord’s Prayer. It is my belief that the real Lord’s Prayer is in John 17 but that is not a point worth making an issue about.  Be that as it may, one of the lines of Jesus’ teaching prayer has been a sticking point for me lately: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.”

It is easy to allow my desires to become the expected desires of everyone else, including God. It is easy to get attached to “My kingdom come, my will be done.” The earth and all its happenings revolve around me and my desires.

You know what? That is a mighty small orbit! And as time moves on, the orbit closes in on us. I know it is cynical to say this, but everything becomes about us, and even when we pretend to care, our inward motive is “How can this benefit me?”

Something happens within us when we are no longer interested in looking out for #1 (me), but instead truly want to live our life saying, “YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done.”  When I/you can do that with all sincerity, life transforms. We find that orbit that was tightening, that orbit that was closing in, suddenly expands. We are no longer the focus.

And that’s a good thing.

Question: what was the last time you prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” and meant it?

Do it. Today.

January 11

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

Several years ago-well over 20-I did a personal Bible study, then led several groups through the study as well. The study included a story of D.L. Moody. The story goes that someone approached Moody and said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is wholly committed to Him.” Moody was reported to have said, “Then I will be that man.” What I have read of Moody is that was his life’s goal.

That is an intriguing story…and an intriguing challenge.

For someone to issue that challenge with one simple statement to a man of Moody’s spiritual stature is pretty bold. (Then again, perhaps that is why Moody became the man of God he was). I sort of wonder what precluded him saying that to Moody and why.

But the greater impact was Moody’s willingness to say, “Here I am.”

That reminds me of Daniel who refused to be silenced for fear of a lion’s den.

That reminds of Shadrach, Meschah, and Abednego who refused to bow for fear of a furnace.

That reminds me of Jeremiah who found himself locked up because he would not stay quiet about Israel’s degradation.

That reminds me of Peter and John who were unafraid of the religious leaders and the consequences of continuing to talk about Jesus. “It is far better for us to listen to God than to man.”

That reminds me of Polycarp, the pastor of Smyrna, who refused to denounce his faith in the “One True King” in order to avoid being burned to death.

That reminds me of the early reformers who refused to be quiet about the Roman Church for fear of being burned alive at the stake.

That reminds me of persecuted Christians in China, North Korea, Iran, etc who face the loss of everything for converting to Christ.

That also reminds me to ask myself, “What about you Bill? Will you take that challenge to be the man willing to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is wholly committed to Him?”

And what about you?

January 9

Monday, January 9th, 2023

One of my favorite songs is by the Christian rock group, DeGarmo & Key. I began listening to them in the mid to late 70s and continued listening to them until they disbanded in the 90s to pursue other ventures. Dana Kay has since gone to be with Jesus and I’m sure heard a “Well done, good and faithful servant.” My favorite song by them was called Long Distance Runner. (You can listen here).

That song is about running the Christian life. Using the motif of a runner, it speaks of the Christian life as not being a sprint but a long distance run.

Would you please think with me about that comparison for a moment? We are told in 2 cor. 5:7 to “walk by faith, not by sight.”  Curious language, but true.  It does not say, “Sprint by faith.”

Why?

Simple. The Christian life is a walk. We speak about “the Christian walk.” We never say anything close to “the Christian sprint.” We might talk about the life of a follower of Jesus being a long distance run (because it is), but never a sprint. I don’t know about you but my legs don’t run anymore. There are days I feel strong walking.  My legs and knees feel strong. No pain. No discomfort. But there are those days-days like yesterday in fact-when it seems like every move, every step is agony. The knee that will someday need replaced balked at every step and seemed to mock me saying, “How long will this go on?” 🙂

Sounds like life, doesn’t it? Days of exhilaration co-mingled with days of pain. If I do happen to run (spiritually, that is), it isn’t very long at all. I wasn’t made for sprinting. I was made for slow and steady.

Take a moment and stop to read Colossians 2:6-7 and get a further glimpse into my thinking. And then remember: it is not a sprint; it is a long distance walk/run.

January 2

Monday, January 2nd, 2023

Welcome to 2023! That’s not the first time you have hard that I’m sure.  It is from me though! 🙂

Every new year that we hit is seen as a milestone. It is also seen as a chance to start over. To turn over a new leaf. To start with a clean slate. Whatever and however you want to say it.

But it’s also not true. We still have the past to deal with. Now…I’m a barrel of fun aren’t I?

But let’s run with the idea that it is a new leaf, slate, etc. So what? What now? Do we do the same old humdrum stuff, the same old approach to our daily life?

Let me suggest an approach toward this new year for myself and for you. Let’s stop and ask ourselves a couple of questions:

What am I pursuing?

What has captured my heart?

What am I obsessing about?

We are all going to have different answers to those questions based on our goals, ambitions, desires, and yes, loves. I know what my answer should be, ought to be. “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” is the way Jesus put it.

Plainly put: Is He first? Is He my pursuit? Is He who I long for? Is He the One who has captured my heart? Is He my obsession? Does my heart long for Him?

The answer to all of them should be a simple “Yes.” The reality smacks of a different answer.

My desire for 2023 is to be able to answer a Yes to those questions. Join me won’t you?

December 29

Thursday, December 29th, 2022

Welcome to what will probably be the last post on “Shadow” for 2022. There will be a lot of reflecting over the next few days about 2022. The highs and lows. The victories and defeats. What I will call the woulda, shoulda, coulda’s.

But along with reflecting on 2022 (the past), there will also be some pondering about 2023. No one could have guessed what all 2022 would bring, nor can we guess what 2023 will bring. I won’t lie-I do wonder. Will my health hold up? Will that knee they say needs replaced “someday” find its “someday” in 2023? Will I be able to erase even more debt in 2023 (I only owe on 2 things at the moment-my house and truck)? Will the church thrive? Will Jo and I be able to celebrate our 50th in June? So many questions…not one answer…

Except…

I don’t have to know. God does. And since he has never failed me yet, I’m pretty confident He won’t in 2023.

I read about a lady named Charlotte Elliott. She suffered a physical disability for years and on the night before she was to participate in a fund-raiser for higher education, she was a mess. She tossed and turned all night with doubts and worries. She felt inadequate. The next morning she went to her desk and penned these well-known words: “Just as I am, without one plea/ But that they blood was shed for…”

Take note of Genesis 17:1. It says, “I am God Almighty (El Shaddai); walk before Me.” The Hebrew term, El Shaddai, can mean “God who is sufficient.”

I don’t know what 2023 holds. None of us do. What I DO KNOW is El-Shaddai, God Almighty, is sufficient to enable me to weather any storm.

“Father, may I trust You no matter what, as the One who is sufficient.”

November 30

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Isaiah 59:19 says, “So they will fear the name of the Lord from the west and His glory from the rising of the sun, for He will come like a rushing stream which the wind of the Lord drives.” (NASB2020)

I rather like the simplicity of the NLT in this verse: “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

As followers of Jesus, we are-or should be-keenly aware of our enemy’s tactics. His desire is to control us, or at least to compromise us so much that the effectiveness of our testimony is gone.

I was reading just this morning from I Cor. 10. After writing about the Israelites and their sin, Paul says some very poignant words to his readers (us). Please take a moment and read verses 11-13 right now.

We can choose to be a pawn in Satan’s grip or to be a vessel under control of the Master Commander. We can choose to give in to the temptation or we can choose to trust and rely on the One who changes lives.

In Mark 5 we read the story of a man who was under the control of the master deceiver. Uncontrollable. Unchained by people but chained to a cruel slave master. Then he met Jesus who righted the wrong and broke the chains that enslaved that man’s heart and life. I like what it says about him when the townspeople came out to see what happened: “He was sitting down, clothed and in his right mind.” (5:15)

I heard someone once say, “It is true God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. It is also true that Satan hates you and has a horrible plan for your life.”

Jesus can transform any life. I know. I’m one.

November 16

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Have you ever had those times when you were “satisfied”? I’m not speaking about “being content” as Paul talks about in Phil. 4:11-12.

In my mind this morning is the thought that there is a difference between being satisfied and being content. I’m not sure how well I can explain it, but let me try.

“Being content” is an attitude of the heart, a settledness with situations, circumstances, and the nuances of life. A resting in the soft arms of a Mighty God who give us all things. I see this in followers of Jesus who may not have much of what the world considers a “must have,” and yet there is a quiet contentedness that invades the spirit and exudes to others.

I hope that explains that.

Meanwhile, “being satisfied” has another flavor. I see that as meaning something different (at least in my other mind) in the sense of “all is good and going well.” For example, you realize one morning that all has been going well and smooth-job, home, relationships, health-and you rest, not in the strong arms of a Mighty God, but in your “peaceful” situation. Maybe not as drastic as the man Jesus talked about of “Eat, drink, and be merry” fame, but there is an uneasy sense of calm.

Why do I say this? I was thinking this morning how easy it is to get lulled into a lack of alertness, into complacency. We let our guard down. At this point, we become fodder-a target- for the enemy. There is a big zero on our forehead and centered in our heart. Are we not  warned of this in I Peter 5:8? He writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (NASB2020)

Simply put: being unaware, being “relaxed,” places us in great danger of the enemy. It puts us directly in his sights. Once we let our guard down we are fair game.

It is okay to be content. Be careful of being satisfied.

November 8

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

I hope to answer Ryan’s comment on yesterday’s post tomorrow. I had planned it for today but something else is on my mind. (And my other mind would be upset if I didn’t write this).

A dubious anniversary.

That is what I would call it. Usually anniversaries are celebratory occasions. We call them birthdays. We call them golden and silver (speaking of weddings. Fun fact: Jo and I will celebrate, Lord willing, #50 this coming June 16th).  We call them holidays. All days or moments of celebration. A highlight. A star.

So why do I write “a dubious anniversary?”

Yesterday, my daughter, Tami, texted me early in the morning to tell me I had an anniversary. More specifically, her memory feed on FB said it was the 6th year anniversary of my hit-n-run accident. Not me hitting and running, but someone using me as their personal practice dummy by using the mirror of their SUV to see if they could hit me and put me down. They succeeded. (Yay for me). Then I laid on the road watching him drive on, not even slowing down or using a brake light. November 7, 2016 around 1:15 in the afternoon. Clear day. Sun was out. Bright clothes. Day ruined. A trip to the ER. It was followed by a couple of weeks of pain and a huge hematoma on my left hip. A trip to a clinic about a week or so later due to a swollen leg. Gradual healing.

The first time out riding after that I was very cognizant (translated: highly alert) of every vehicle that went by me. Still am to this day. In the summer of ’17 I was buzzed by a car and when I stretched my arms as if to say, “Why?” he made a not so nice gesture out of his window. Yeah…it was on purpose. It happened a year or so later when a Jeep got real close, gestured and sped along. But it wasn’t so funny when two days later I was coming on an intersection, saw that same Jeep, pointed and he took off like a “bat out of you-know-where.” (Sorry for the rabbit trail).  Anyway, that first ride past where it happened, I rejoiced and prayed a prayer of thanks. Even to this day, I remember it when I ride past it.

It is a dubious anniversary. But it was also an awakening time. A realization that my life could been snuffed out that quickly. A spiritual awakening that began that day, was reinforced 3 months later when I went over the handlebars while going downhill (I still don’t remember what happened).  I broke my collarbone, 3 ribs, and split my helmet in 3 places.  That accident was like the exclamation point on the spiritual awakening which had begun on November 7.  It climaxed in spiritual awareness, repentance from drifting and taking things for granted, relaxing boundaries, and a new appreciation for life.

It is a dubious anniversary, but one I look back on with gratitude. My life was spared. A 16 pound bike with a 205 pound rider has very little chance against a 3000 pound machine at 60 mph.  That is simply no contest.

More importantly though, God used it to say, “Wake up Bill! You are relying to much upon yourself.”

“Thank  you Father, for your gracious heart toward me. For the lessons taught (and hopefully learned) I thank you. Take whatever days I have left and let me use them wisely for You.”

October 27

Thursday, October 27th, 2022

Last night during my 66 class (66 books of the Bible), we were studying Ezra. I know what some are thinking. “Ezra! OT! B-O-R-I-N-G!”  Among all the adjectives one might use to describe Ezra, boring is not one of them.

Let me give you a brief background: The kingdom split after Solomon’s death-10 northern tribes (known as Israel) and 2 southern tribes (known as Judah). The 10 northern tribes went first, taken captive by Assyria. 130 years later Judah was captured by and exiled to Babylon (a small remnant was left behind, but Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple a charred ruin). Babylon was eventually overtaken by the Medes-Persian army, led by Cyrus, the king. Cyrus, in his first year as king, signed an edict allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. They went in three waves. Ezra was in the second.

Ezra was a priest, a descendant of Aaron’s line. Tradition tells us Ezra was a devout man of God who loved the Word of God and was considered one of the best instructors.

He took his responsibility seriously. While the people were rebuilding Jerusalem, Ezra was helping rebuild lives (7:6). Ezra called for a fast for God’s protection as they traveled. After he arrived in Jerusalem, he saw the terrible state of the people, especially in the area of mixed marriages (heathen and Jew not black and white), and laid himself out before the Lord in mourning and repentance (9:5-6). Ezra led the people in reconciliation with God by calling out their sin and “demanding” confession of sin! BTW: names are even listed in 10:18-44. WOW!

One thing I appreciate about Ezra was his inclusion. Like Isaiah (Is. 6) and David (Ps.51) and others, he included himself in the sinfulness of the people. Even though he was not guilty of marrying foreign wives, Ezra took ownership of his sin instead of pointing fingers.

May I be that honest and forthcoming of my own sin. And may I be a godly pastor/man who sees his responsibility to shepherd the people and be diligent in it.

What about you? How do you approach God? High and mighty or with humility and repentance?

October 12

Wednesday, October 12th, 2022

If I was to give this devotion a title, I’m thinking God’s Impeccable Timing would be a good one.

I/we often hear or read of people who are recipients of something at “just the right time.” God came through in the nick of time.  I, personally, have seen God do that. One time our family made it home from a week at a Christian camp on 1/2 tank of gas. The drive was close to 3-4 hours. Unexpected expenses hit us and I prayed desperately. (This was before I used a credit card which I no longer do). The gas gauge never moved. But there was still the matter of food to eat when we got home. In the mailbox was a check for $100. This was July. It was from a speaking engagement in December where the pastor found out I had not been paid for speaking.

Yeah…God’s timing.

I could tell you more stories. So could Peter and C0rnelius in Acts 10. Peter had to be the most amazed though. Cornelius simply did what he was told to do. It was Peter who was experiencing God’s perfect work and God’s impeccable timing. I’d like to ask you to read Acts 10 for the full story. Pay particular attention to verses 1-23. (The rest of the story is great as well). I like what verse 9 says. And after reading that, please pay attention to verses 19-20.

God’s impeccable timing. Cornelius was sending men as he is told by God to do. As they approach where Peter is staying, he is on the roof having an encounter with a sheet filled with unclean food.  God was preparing Peter for his meet and greet with Cornelius’ men. That is called God’s impeccable timing.

He works in my life and your life the same way. One of the hardest things to do is “wait.” But when we keep in mind God has impeccable timing, it is in our best spiritual interest to wait.

Someone has said, “God is seldom early, but He is never late.”

You can put a nail through that promise.

And by the way: did I happen to say God has impeccable timing?