Tag Archives: surrender

March 15; Made In The Shade

Deuteronomy 6-8

God gave the Israelites a stern warning before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. It went something like this:

“It’s amazing there. Streams and pools of water. Healthy wheat and barley fields. Fig trees, pomegranates, olive trees, honey. Flourishing cities you did not build. Wells you did not dig. You can mine copper out of the hills. And you will lack nothing.”

God goes on to say, “The land is inhabited by my enemies. Don’t worry about that. I will defeat them.”

Sounds pretty good, made in the shade, so to speak. A cushy lifestyle, health and wealth for the taking. Doesn’t sound like much of a warning. But there were two stipulations that went along with the promise:

  1. Destroy the enemy totally. Don’t show mercy. Don’t make treaties with them. Don’t marry them because if you do, they will turn you away from Me.
  2. Be careful not to forget the Lord your God. Don’t get comfortable in your new surroundings and become self-satisfied. Don’t get cocky thinking you deserve it, or created it yourselves.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirm his convenient, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (8:18)

Then God’s stern warning:

If you forget… you will be destroyed like the nations around you. (8:19-20)

There are so many parallel lessons here. We could look at the state of our nation, the condition of the Church. But I think God would have us look into our own individual hearts today. What would God say to us about our relationship with Him?

Consider the enemy. Sometimes we “marry” into the enemy by adopting the world. We show mercy to the enemy by worrying about their feelings over their eternal souls. We look and act like them instead of standing apart, and sometimes we invite them into our hearts one compromise at a time. When you look into your heart, do you recognize the signs of the enemy there, even if it’s disguised as tolerance?

Consider our attitudes. Do we truly give God the glory for everything, or do we secretly take satisfaction in believing we are strong, capable, powerful in and of ourselves, like the enemy wants us to believe? Please don’t tell me you’ve fallen for Satan’s “I deserve this” lie. When you look into your heart, what do you  see? Be honest. Is it so full of Jesus that there is no room for anything else – not even yourself?

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (6:4-5)

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.(7:9)

Hold on to that promise. God is true to His word. But don’t ignore His warning. He shows no mercy for the disobedient. And there are no blessings, only destruction for those He considers His enemy:

But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.

You might say, I don’t hate God. But do you love Him with all your heart, soul, and strength? I guess that’s what God has me looking at today for myself. I don’t want to be satisfied with where I am, sit back and think I’ve got it made in the shade. I don’t want to be entertaining the enemy while pushing my Savior aside. I want to give Him the glory with every breath I take, because He alone is worthy. And I’m just not.

Luke 8-10; A Subtle, Yet Significant Difference

Jesus sent out seventy-two missionaries into “every town and place where he was about to go.” (10:1) He gave them this message: “The Kingdom of God is near you.”

Plus, Jesus gave these missionaries power to heal the sick and cast out demons. These seventy-two came back on a mountain-top, filled with joy and excitement as they shared how God had blessed their ministries.

“Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” How awesome to have been a part of God’s work in those cities.

But Jesus said something to them that struck me this morning. “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven… do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

What caused Satan to fall from heaven? Pride.

And Jesus said, in essence, to the seventy-two, “Wait a minute. Those demons didn’t submit to you. They submitted to me. Don’t allow what I do through you cause you to be prideful. Pride is what sent Satan to hell. If you rejoice in anything, rejoice in the fact your sins – which are many – are forgiven.”

There is a subtle difference between saying, “God used ME,” and “GOD used me.” You may say, “but I am humbled God used ME.” But that sounds like what you are really saying is that you are proud of your humility.

Through this Scripture today, God has prompted me to look at my own attitude toward service. As I write this I started to list the ministries I am involved in to make a point. But all of a sudden it turned into a subtle “Look at me.” “Look how God is using ME.” When in fact, God is reminding me He is the one at work. I am only a tool.

I feel like I need to encourage us to take ourselves out of the mix all together. Look at what God did. Forget the “through me” part of the sentence. We tend to put so much emphasis on the servant when, in fact, God could use a monkey to accomplish the same thing if He wanted to. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s never was.

Let’s not miss recognizing what God is doing, when we subtly turn the emphasis on ourselves. Pride is pride. And it’s a sin even if it’s cloaked in humility, or excitement, or praise. Can we just say “Praise God for working, for doing, for revealing Himself in this situation,” without adding anything about us who were His instrument?

What a shame if we allow our “selves” to prevent us from giving credit where credit is due. What a shame if we would sin while serving. How tragic if we would allow pride to creep in. Yes, it’s a subtle difference. But it’s a difference Jesus felt was important enough to address.

That makes it significant.

Mark 9-10; Paradoxes in Christianity

The Gospel of Jesus certainly wasn’t what the 1st Century Jews were expecting They had been living by the “what goes around comes around” philosophy of life, and were expecting the Messiah to give the Romans what was coming to them. Jesus blew that idea right out of the water.

The Gospel isn’t exactly what many 21st Century people expect, either. That all-loving grandpa in the sky who makes bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people doesn’t exist any more than a 1st Century political leader.

Warren Wiersbe, in his With The Word, (Thomas Nelson, 1991, page 660) points out that the true Gospel, in fact, is juxtaposed to the world’s philosophy of life. Just in these two chapters you’ll see several paradoxes that are at the core of our faith.

You’ll see victory out of surrender, when the world would tell you victory comes after hard work and personal effort. You’ll see greatness out of service, when the world would tell you you are great when people serve you.

You’ll see gain out of loss, when the world’s drive is for more possessions, more wealth, more, more, more. Jesus tells us we gain eternal life when we let go of all of that.

And ultimately, you’ll see glory out of suffering. Like Paul in Galatians 6, we can glory in the cross of Christ because, as awful as that death was, as humiliating and degrading, it was there Jesus paid the debt of our sin, the punishment we deserved. Jesus suffered and died for me. And for you. I love that old cross.

To many, the idea of letting go of material things, family members, our health, our reputations, our future, as well as our present, doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t sit well with some to humble ourselves, consider other people more important than ourselves in order to be of service to them. It doesn’t make sense to give up control of our situations and our future, and to trust Someone we can’t even see with it all.

That is, until you do. And you realize the flip side of that coin is amazing. It’s God Himself for today and eternity. Nothing can compare in this life. Nothing!

Paul, in I Corinthians 10 said he was crucified with Christ. He often said he died that day he met Jesus. But in I Corinthians 10:13 he tells us that because Christ lives in him, he is truly alive.

Life out of death might be the ultimate paradox in Christianity. But it’s real. I hope you have died, and know what it’s like to be gloriously alive.

I Kings 17; Empty

I’ve heard the story of Elijah and the widow for as long as I can remember. In my mind’s eye, I can picture the figures on the flannel board in our Sunday School room. (When was the last time you even saw a flannel board? 🙂 ) The lesson we learned from this Scripture was: GOD SUPPLIES ALL OUR NEEDS.

I read what J. Vernon McGee had to say about this passage today, and he reminded me Elijah had just returned from the desert where God used ravens to feed him, a stream to meet his need for water. McGee pointed me to others who had similar experiences: Moses, Abraham, John the Baptist, Paul. Even Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness before beginning his ministry. GOD STRENGTHENS US IN TIMES OF TROUBLE.

Dr. McGee then talked about the miracle of the healing of the widow’s son. The boy had died. But when Elijah went to him, made contact with him three times, the boy lived again. GOD IS THE DIVINE HEALER.

Do you remember Jesus’ first miracle? The wedding in Cana of Galilee, right? He turned water into wine. GOD GIVES HIS VERY BEST.

Then J. Vernon challenged every lesson I thought I’d learned from these stories. While it is true that God provides what we need, that He is our strength, our healer, and that He does all things well, we miss something important if that’s all we see in these passages.

What does the never-ending flour pot, the desert, the dead boy, and the wine have in common?

NOTHING.

Well, not nothing. But an emptiness, a void, nothingness. The lessons are not just that God prepared people for ministry in the desert. It’s the desert.

It’s not only that God didn’t let the flour run out. It’s the empty pot.

It’s not raising a boy from the dead. It’s the dead boy.

And it was never about the wedding, or even just the wine. It was the empty jars.

All which were filled by God Himself. To make his point, Dr. McGee shared a story about Hudson Taylor. It’s lengthy, but I want to quote it from page 107 in Thru the Bible Commentary Series on 1st and 2nd Kings by J. Vernon McGee. (Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1991):

It is said of Hudson Taylor that when he prepared young missionaries for service in his mission, he insisted, “Remember that when you come out here you are nothing. It is only what God can and will do through you that will be worth anything.” One young missionary replied, “It is hard for me to believe that I am just nothing.” And Hudson Taylor said to him, “Take it by faith because it is true. You are nothing.” You and I are just dried up brooks unless the Word of God is flowing through us.

You, my friend are nothing. I am nothing. Neither of us has anything of value to offer God who owns everything, and who created everything anyway. And until we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us with Himself, we are worth nothing to Him, we cannot be used by Him.

Sorry if that offends your sensitive sense of self.

Paul said he died daily, that he was crucified with Christ, that he was dead to self. If you think you can effectively serve God any other way, you are wrong.

Empty yourself. Let Him fill you to overflowing.

Then stand back and be amazed at what God can and will do through you, for His sake, and for His glory!

Dear Filler of our souls, I pray that all of us reading this chapter in I Kings today will be challenged to BE that desert, that empty pot, that dead boy. Help us to empty ourselves of our hopes and dreams, our talents and our gifts, our egos and our rights. Then, Lord, fill us with YOU. May we be instruments in Your hands, clay in the hands of the Potter, and may You create in each of us pure hearts. Use us today as we yield to Your will. And may Jesus be glorified.

Genesis 41 Forget It

Joseph is out of prison. Not just free, he is made the vice president of Egypt. With that position came honor and wealth and a position of authority over his former captors. He got married and started a family. He had it all, according to what many equate with happiness and success.

But with all the good that was ahead, Joseph had to make a hard and sad decision. It’s revealed in the name he gave his first son: Manasseh, which means “forget”. Verse 51 says God helped Joseph forget all his troubles, including his father’s family.

Wow. That must have hurt. But Joseph was at a crossroad, and he chose to leave what was behind him and move forward. We know he’ll eventually unite with his family. Joseph had no such knowledge.

Sometimes following Jesus involves making hard choices. Sometimes it requires leaving a lifestyle behind, friendships, yes even family. Paul, in Philippians 3 tells us to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead. Jesus Himself tells us in Luke 14 that anyone whose feelings toward their parents doesn’t look like hate in comparison to their feelings for Him can’t be His disciple. And in John 21 we see Peter leaving a boatload of fish on the beach to follow the Lord.

Forgetting what is behind. Is there something or someone in your life that God is telling you to turn away from? Is there something in your past that is holding you back from serving Him?

Forget it. Leave it at the foot of the cross and move ahead.

God used Joseph’s obedience to save the very family he’d left behind. And God will use your obedience to do amazing things as well. After all, He’s the same God that we read about here in Genesis 41. Joseph trusted Him. And so can you.

 

God Doesn’t Give you… What?

Naaman’s story from 2 Kings 5 is a pretty familiar story for those of us raised going to Sunday School. It’s the story of a little Jewish slave girl who shared her faith in Israel’s prophet, and whose master’s husband Naaman was not only healed of leprosy, but became a believer in Israel’s God because of it.

I’ve read or heard the story many times over the years, but today I had one of those laugh-out-loud moments when I read something in the story I’d never noticed before. Naaman, who was a Syrian warrior, went to Israel on the word of this little Jewish girl, with a letter to the King of Israel written by his boss, the King of Syria. In it, the Syrian King said:

“Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.”

The reaction of Israel’s King is priceless and it is what made me laugh this morning. He tore his clothes, a sign of distress and anguish and says: WHAT? Does he think I’m God? Is this a trick so he’ll have an excuse to go to war with us when I don’t heal this man? I CAN’T DO THIS! WAAAA!

Talk about a major misunderstanding by someone who was looking within himself way too hard.

I laugh because, sadly, I recognize myself in the king’s panic. Sometimes I look at the circumstances of life, feel the weight of expectations on my shoulders, fret about a situation I’m facing, and think I CAN’T DO THIS. Then someone tells me, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.

LIAR!

Read 2 Kings 5. When the prophet Elisha heard that the king was losing his mind over this situation he sent a message to the king: Relax. God’s got this covered.

And God is saying that still. The truth is, God does allow things in our lives that are too much for us to do on our own. If he only sent things our way that we could handle, we wouldn’t need him, would we? God delights in revealing himself in every circumstance you face, good or bad. He wants you to go to him, to trust him, to depend on him, to show the world what he is able to do through you. I am convinced that God is not concerned about strengthening your ego, or teaching you how powerful you are. He wants to point you and me, and everyone around us to Himself as we allow him to handle every situation, as we trust him with every detail.

And I have found that, when I do surrender to him, I am blessed beyond what I can imagine. I believe it’s Satan’s lies that tell you you can handle things on your own, or worse, should handle things on your own. Satan certainly doesn’t want you surrendered to God.

The next time you are tempted to think God won’t give you more than you can handle, think again. Then turn the situation, your very life, over to him and see what he can do when you get out of the way.