Surrender

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October 20

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

All of us go through those times when our faith is dry. The late Keith Green once wrote and sang a song with these lyrics: “My eyes are dry/My faith is old/My heart is hard/My prayers are cold/And I know how I ought to be/Alive to You and dead to me.”

Been there. Done that. Don’t want the t-shirt.

There are all different reasons as to why our faith can become dry. I’m not going to get into them. Instead, I want to look at the cure.

The verse which started my thoughts this morning was Pr.20:27-“The spirit of the person is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.” My mind quickly went to the story of David. After Nathan exposed David’s sin, it drove him to his knees and he wrote Psalm 51. Included in that chapter are these words: “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Verses 7,10). David is not only praying for a clean heart, but also a restored one.  Ps.139:23 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” Acts 3:19 says, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

There will be times of coldness, of distance, of hardness, of feeling disjointed. When those times hit, don’t despair. If it is the result of sin, confess it and ask for forgiveness and a renewed spirit (ala David). If it is just one of those times that happens to all of us, don’t panic. Seek the Lord and He will show up.

“Father, when I am dry flood me with Your presence. When I sin, forgive me. Help me to always seek Your presence.”

All Scripture from NASB2020.

October 18

Monday, October 18th, 2021

As a parent, you love and raise your child(ren) to let them go. You discipline them when they need it. You laugh with them. You cry with them when their heart is broken. You let them spread their wings. And then you let them fly. But through it all…you love them fiercely. You watch them grow into fine, principled young women (in my case). You watch them become good at what they do. You smile when they marry. You are sad if they divorce.

But no father, to quote Theoden from Lord of the Rings, “should ever have to bury his own son.” We were spared that sadness last week, but it is hard to watch your child suffer, no matter the age. I told Jo just this past Friday that it is still hard to believe that Tami had a heart attack.

But, it happened, and I don’t want to sound calloused, I still did not despair. I knew she was in good hands, the BEST. Then today I read Psalm 112:1 and also verse 7: “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the person who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments…He will not fear bad news; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

I have an online friend whose husband has gone through several heart procedures. While there is concern, there is no fear. And while there was obvious concern for Tami’s health, there was no fear. She’s in better hands than I have ever given her…the Father’s. And in those hands she will stay. And in those hands I will let her lie.

“Father, thank You that Your hands are strong and sure and enfolding.”

October 4

Monday, October 4th, 2021

Security is a big deal to many people, maybe most. The pandemic’s fear and the lawlessness of the summer of 2020 raised the fear level, hence the insecurity, of many individuals. People who never locked their doors before now lock them, even deadbolt them.

Others have more or less security depending on the state of their money.  The more they have the more security they feel. I hate to tell them…

I’ve counseled enough couples to know that security is a big issue, especially with wives and children (but not always only them). They want the security of knowing they are loved, protected, and will be taken care of.

I would by lying if I said Christ-followers were not also in that group of “security-needers.” Even despite the fact that we have a faith which stands upon Jesus Christ, we can often get caught up in the trap as well.

That is why Psalm 91 was particularly poignant to me this morning. I’d like to encourage you to read it this morning. Right now if you can. Slowly. Read it again. Highlight the meaningful verses.

Then bask in the security that God gives. And ask how you could trust more.

“Father, my life is in Your hands. Help me to find my security in You.”

October 1

Friday, October 1st, 2021

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my thoughts on Luke 1 were getting way out of hand (too long) so I thought I would split my thoughts into two posts.  It will certainly make it easier to stomach. 🙂

In yesterday’s devotion I wrote about Zechariah’s hesitancy and ultimate acceptance of Gabriel’s words (God’s plan), as well as my admiration for Elizabeth’s willingness to go along with God’s plan. We have no record of her thoughts until later in Luke 1 when she visits with Mary. 

But let’s move on to Mary and some observations I want to make:

1. Mary.  I suspect we all know the story. After being told what she could expect-“You will conceive and bring forth a son” she was also told who that son would be. Here is what hit me this morning. Zechariah was struck dumb when he asked, “How will I know this?” (v.18). Why was Mary not dealt with in the same way? Why was she dealt with differently when she said, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Was it the question, “How will this be?” as opposed to “How will I know?” Was it more expected out of a mature and aged man who knew of the coming King as opposed to a young teenage girl? I guess we will never know while on this earth.

2. Mary’s response “My it be done to me according to Your word” rattles me. Here she is-an unmarried, virgin teenage girl whose whole world just got rocked with this earth-shattering announcement.  “May it be done to me.” WOW!  I’m not a Mary-worshiper by any stretch, but even someone who isn’t has to be impressed.

I tend to be more like Zechariah than Mary. At least I have been in the past. “Are you sure, Lord?” “Seriously God?” I have often questioned God a lot about things which were different and out-of-the-ordinary. Still do at times, especially when events happen which I don’t understand. As I’ve gotten older and (hopefully) wiser and more mature, I’ve accepted God’s work and way somewhat easier. Not all the time but it is better than it was. 🙂 I still tend to question, but I believe that is okay. As long as those questions lead me to seek Him and not my own way.

How about you? Me? I like Christmas in September (yesterday’s post) and October (today’s). It has some great lessons which, like Christmas, should be all year ’round…at least the spirit of it.

“Father, may I be willing like Mary, even when something seems strange to say, ‘I am yours. Let it be done to me according to Your word.’ ”

September 30

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

September 30, 2021. Christmas is just around the corner…less than 3 months away. I read Luke 1 this morning as I read through the NT again this year, and it made me think of Christmas. In July, Jo watched a whole month of Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. I walked in once and said, “Oh look! Snow!” And it was really snowing. People were wearing heavy coats, hats, gloves, and their breath was able to be seen. B-r-r-r-r.

Seemed strange to me when it was 100 degrees outside and the TV was showing snow falling. And it seems a little strange reading Luke 1 in September knowing most will see Christmas in those words. And rightly so. If I was a betting man I would be “bet” more sermons are preached on Luke 1 & 2 during December than at any other time of the year. (I am s-o-o-o-o-o smart don’t you think?) 🙂 

But I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of other thoughts which I’m sure you have heard or thought of before which hit me this morning:

1. Zechariah’s (Z’s) lack of understanding but willingness to accept Gabriel’s message…and its meaning. I know Gabriel said “because you did not believe” but far be it from me to question Z’s questions. Talk about an “out-of-left-field!” announcement!  He is minding his own business, doing his priestly duties when BAM!

2. He learned to trust. He came out of the temple unable to speak. But what about Elizabeth, his aged, long-suffering wife? What a shock it had to be to her as well! Old. Infertile. Beyond child-bearing age. “You’re pregnant.” Nothing is said about her reaction. Nothing. We can talk about Z’s hesitancy and acceptance, but let’s not forget Elizabeth.

There is something to be said about people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, people who are willing to question (Z) and then accept God’s program for them. I admire them, and find myself really admiring Elizabeth as I read about her later in the same chapter of Luke.

“Father, may I be a willing servant to accept Your will and plan for my life, even though I have no clue what it might entail.”

As I wrote this, and even more as I now type this, I began to realize how long this post was getting to be. So I finished writing it and have decided to post the rest of it tomorrow.  Stay tuned for my thoughts on Mary in tomorrow’s devotion.

September 20

Monday, September 20th, 2021

Sitting the bench is no fun.

Because I was a fairly good athlete I seldom sat the bench. That is, until I hit high school basketball. I started playing Little League baseball at Age 8. There no such torture chamber as T-ball or “coach pitch” back then. It was us playing ball. I seemed to have a knack for baseball. I didn’t start basketball until 9th grade. I was tall but grew 3-4″ in one year (I had the achy knees to prove it). I didn’t know how to dribble a basketball and run so while the team practiced I did too-on the sidelines running up and down the side of the court dribbling the ball.

I played some as a JV in grades 10-11 and thought I would have my chance to play as a Sr. I even went to summer ball. Nope. Coach was looking to next year so I sat the bench. I didn’t even get a chance to play in my last game as a Senior (but coach said he heard me yelling for the team.  Big deal!)

Moving onto college I played as a starter all 3 years (I didn’t play my senior year since I chose to get married and actually try to study). The only time I sat the bench was for a breather or coach wanted me to be playing later in the game and stay out of foul trouble.

I hated sitting the bench. I felt like a loser. I never had my parents come watch a high school game so I wasn’t disappointing them. I just felt useless at times. I was a practice dummy-used in practice to prepare the team for the opposing team.

I dreamed of playing professional sports. I know now I was never good enough. And never would have been.

Bob Goff reminded me there is no shame in being on the bench. He said,

The dream He (God) put in your heart are dreams He still wants to fulfill through you today. He didn’t create any of us to just be practice buddies or water boys-there’s no sideline to God’s story of redemption, and there’s no bench. (#262-p.311)

You know? He is right. All that “splinter gathering” I did was molding me to wait, but also showing me I have value-as a pastor-not as a ball player. It just took me awhile to realize it. (I Cor. 12:7)

“Thank you Father for showing me that You have no intention of me sitting on the bench. You have me in Your game and a highly valued member of Your team.”

September 2

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

As I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s devotion, the devotion was too long to have it as one. So I made the decision after writing it to split it into two.  This is a continuation of yesterday’s devotion.

As we talk about increasing versus decreasing our faith; as we talk about just “going through” versus “growing through” something, I’d like to focus on a very familiar passage of Scripture.  I know these verses can be overused (often consigned to “Jesus junk”), or even misused (especially by charlatans), but please read these verses S-L-O-W-L-Y and meditate on them as you read:

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NASB2020)

People latch onto that prosperity word and name-it and claim-it and think God is obligated to give material prosperity. But do you see the latter part? “You will call.” “You will seek.” “You will find.”

God wants us to pursue Him. Sort of like what is said of David: “He is a man after my own heart.”  David pursued God with a passion. Sure, he stumbled, but his passionate God-heart always brought him back to the heart of worship. Instead of expecting God to drop things in our lap because we think (or someone has told us) He is obligated to do so, let’s throw that junk aside and have a heart that pursues Him.

If I remember correctly, did Someone not say, “If you seek you will find”?

“Father, may my heart run after you with an undeniable passion.”

Late addition: after reading Psalms today I feel I need to add something to this devotion. In my morning reading today, I read the following words: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?”  Psalm 42:1-2 (NASB2020) The picture of the tired, desperately thirsty deer running from his “hunter” who finally reaches water where he can refresh his spirit, is one that should picture me, you.  We are being pursued every day by forces designed to take us down and out, to capture or “kill” us. We MUST find our rest, our refreshment in the Father.

September 1

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Today I read from Psalm 37. It is, by far, my favorite chapter in the Bible. Admittedly, Romans 8 comes in a close 2nd. But, by and large, this is my favorite. There is so much to digest just at the beginning!!

  • Trust in the Lord and do good. (v.3)
  • Delight yourself in the Lord. (v.4)
  • Commit your way to the Lord. (v.5)  This is my personal favorite.
  • Rest in the Lord.  (v.7)

That alone would be enough to say, “Here listen to me!”  That alone would suffice to say, “Here are the nuts and bolts of a relationship with God.”  But a little later David adds another gem:

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And he delights in his way.” (v.28)

We may face some limiting circumstances. We may face some which are not so good. We may face some that want to take us down and out. While it is hard to remember when we are going through a difficulty, we need to seek God. We can “go” through it or “grow” through it.

The challenge of every pressure situation is to increase our faith and trust, not to decrease. It it is to grow not diminish.

“Father, as I go through those challenging times may my faith increase. Help me to trust, delight, commit, and rest in You.”

I have so much more to say about making this happen but it would make this devotion too long for one day. So I have chosen to split my writing into two devotions. Tomorrow I would like to show how and why  we need to increase our faith not diminish it by using a very familiar passage. See you there!

August 10

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

Years ago I heard a leadership guru say, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

I know what he was trying to say (along with a touch of arrogance). In any situation there are three kinds of people: the leader, the follower, and the dragger. Progress is determined by one of those three types of people.

  • There is the leader, the one who gets out front and takes the bull by the horns and gets things done.
  • There is the follower, the one who gets in line behind the leader with support, encouragement, work, etc.
  • There is the dragger, the one who drags his/her feet for any number of reasons. I’ll not delineate them right now. You can figure them out on your own.

The problem which often arises is the failure to follow. Even the leader is a follower…if he/she is a follower of Jesus. Even the leader can sometimes get ahead of the Guide. I like what Bob Goff wrote:

When we find ourselves losing our way in life, it’s a good time to evaluate whether Jesus is ahead of us leading or behind us just carrying our stuff.  (p.265)  *

I hate to admit there are times (far too many) when I get ahead of Him. Instead of following Him, I strike out on my own. Or I simply walk too fast and get out ahead. I think I know best. I think I know the right, or even the best, path. I get in over my head and get lost or swamped.

It is then I need to have a seat and pause and relinquish my “lead.” It is necessary for me to be the follower, to even admit I’m lost.

“Father, I think I know best. Not always do I know. Not even often do I know. Help me to relinquish the leadership of my life to you.”

*Quote from Live Grace-Walk in Love

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.”