Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Key of the Greater Work

…I say to you, he who believes in Me,…greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. —John 14:12

And He promises, “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do…” (John 14:13). Yet we refuse to pray unless it thrills or excites us, which is the most intense form of spiritual selfishness.
We must learn to work according to God’s direction, and He says to pray. “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

I never thought of my not praying as a form of selfishness before. I guess it is. It seems like the more time goes on...the older I get, the less spiritual I actually become. I am shrinking spiritually. Why am I doubting more? Why am I more cynical than ever? 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… —Joshua 24:15

 A person’s will is embodied in the actions of the whole person. I cannot give up my will— I must exercise it, putting it into action. I must will to obey, and I must will to receive God’s Spirit.

Your choice must be a deliberate determination— it is not something into which you will automatically drift.

You have no business trying to find out where God is leading— the only thing God will explain to you is Himself.

I think that if it was at all possible for me to meet Oswald Chambers in person, he would be gravely disappointed in me.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Come as you are...holy garb will be provided

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. —Psalm 37:5

This is the over-riding theme in all of my devotional lately. "Trust in the Lord. It's all going to be good." Well...that and this one which I have also put into laymen' terms. "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." (Okay...that is not in the Bible per say, but in so many words it is.)

Here are the gems from today's Oswald Chambers devotional.

God seems to have a delightful way of upsetting the plans we have made, when we have not taken Him into account.

LOL. That's all I can seem to come up with for that one. Actually I have a little more. Sometimes even when I consult him the plans seem to get upset. Maybe there is a communication gap going on here. Reminds me of my husband and I. I will say something to my husband (or he to me) and we seem to have an understanding. After all... we are both speaking English and grew up speaking that language within the same geographical region of the USA...so we aren't getting confused by different phraseologies. Later on however, we will have this problem because we misunderstood one another. Am I just not understanding God? (I know it isn't the other way around)

If we have the idea that we have to put on our “spiritual face” before we can come near to God, then we will never come near to Him. We must come as we are.

This one is a comfort...especially seeing how I can never be perfect. So far from it I could cry sometimes. "Why am I like this?" I often ask myself. I know I have issues...I admit it. I can't get that spiritual face on all the time. I misplaced that quite a long time ago. You know what is kind of funny...or not, depending on how you look at it. I used to consider myself to be quite spiritually together and mature. (Makes me kind of laugh now) I seemed very wise to myself. That would have been circa 1984 or so. All knowing at the age of 17. Now... I'm even wiser because I understand just how dim witted I can be spiritually. I'm just me. I fret. I obsess. I don't pray the way I ought to. I say dumb things that irritate people. I'm sinful in ways that I don't even recognize as sinful. I am just me. The imperfect one. Luckily I don't have to be perfect to be loved by Him. He says, "Come as you are." He will provide the garments of righteousness. Amen!

You cannot hoard things for a rainy day if you are truly trusting Christ. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1). 

So is that why we can't get ahead financially? I would like to trust in a great financial plan. My plan is actually biblically sound. Live simply. Pay off all the debts. Keep socking away funds for retirement and also...for emergencies and for that rainy day. The one where we decide to finish fixing up the house...or buy a new sofa. Sounds good? I think it does...but we can never seem to get there. Sometimes I wonder if God prefers us to live on the edge of panic simply so that we are forced to acknowledge that we have to rely 100% on Him rather than on our own ingenuity. I won't even touch the topic of learning to be content!

God will not keep your heart from being troubled. It is a command— “Let not….” To do it, continually pick yourself up, even if you fall a hundred and one times a day, until you get into the habit of putting God first and planning with Him in mind.

Ah, nuts! That sounds like work to me. You mean, I have to figure out a way to stop fretting and obsessing about things on my own? I have to keep getting up and dusting myself off to try again? I have to admit that this sounds like a recipe for failure. I have been trying and failing at this for so long now. I am weary of standing up again.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fret not thyself

Do not fret— it only causes harm. —Psalm 37:8

It's easy to say, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Psalm 37:7), until our own little world is turned upside down and we are forced to live in confusion and agony like so many other people. Is it possible to “rest in the Lord” then?...Resting in the Lord is not dependent on your external circumstances at all, but on your relationship with God Himself.

Worrying always results in sin. We tend to think that a little anxiety and worry are simply an indication of how wise we really are, yet it is actually a much better indication of just how wicked we are. Fretting rises from our determination to have our own way. Our Lord never worried and was never anxious, because His purpose was never to accomplish His own plans but to fulfill God’s plans. Fretting is wickedness for a child of God. 

Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about whatever concerns you. All our fretting and worrying is caused by planning without God. (Chambers)

Well, I guess that is pretty straight-forward. I have to admit that I know this all to be true. I know that what is blocking me from moving forward in my walk with the Lord is my "fretting" over the past.

I fret about: What someone thinks is true. What went wrong. How I couldn't make it right. Unforgiveness towards people. Anger that I refuse to hand over to the Lord for good. My constant reviewing and examination of the events of the past....and looking at it and somehow convincing myself that it is all helping me somehow. Looking at it from every angle is not helping me. I have fooled myself into thinking that it is helping me come to grips with what I can't undo. What I cannot change. I tell myself that it is giving me answers...but it is really a refusal to accept the Lord's plan as best.

Let me repeat that. It is really a refusal to accept the Lord's plan as best.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

What is wrong with me?

To be a disciple is to be a devoted bondservant motivated by love for the Lord Jesus. Many of us who call ourselves Christians are not truly devoted to Jesus Christ. No one on earth has this passionate love for the Lord Jesus unless the Holy Spirit has given it to him. We may admire, respect, and revere Him, but we cannot love Him on our own. The only One who truly loves the Lord Jesus is the Holy Spirit, and it is He who has “poured out in our hearts” the very “love of God” (Romans 5:5).

Perhaps this is my problem. The Holy Spirit has passed by me. I'm always struggling to feel any devotion at all...and I almost always feel next to nothing. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I just can't get going with this "devotion towards Him."  I'm all over the board. I'm distracted by everything. I've asked for help from the Holy Spirit and I never notice any change. I just feel like I am a pretty rotten Christian compared to so many of my family members and friends.

I go to church. I bring my Bible. I take notes. I write really cool points in the margins. I try to pray. I try to have regular devotions. I try to consult the Lord with my troubles. I try to thank Him for the blessings. I am in a Bible Study. I have even been a Bible Study leader. I just feel like everything is a huge effort with very sparse results. I teach my children Biblical ways. I took them to Sunday school. I sent them to Christian summer camps. We have a verse of the week at the dinner table. We pray at the dinner table. I used to pray with the children before the went to bed....now they've grown up. All three go to Christian colleges. All three seem to have active and genuine faith. Yet I feel empty and fake so much of the time.

What am I doing wrong?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Time to pick up the tools and start working!

You will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. —Matthew 5:26

We seem to be on the same theme here in my utmost. Trial is God's way of purifying us and bringing us to Himself. Trial is necessary for our faith to grow. It may seem as though we are being unjustly punished and that it will last forever...and that God hates us. Not true. It is really the love of God drawing us ever closer...testing us. It is also called life. Life brings bumps and bruises along the way. We must decide what we will do with the bumps and bruises we receive. Are we simply going to whine about it and resort to spending our lives curled up in a fetal position under the covers of our bed? Are we going to obsess about our troubles with an endless loop of memories playing over and over in our minds?

How do we put it to good use? How do I move on from here? How do I pour what I've learned back into others so I can encourage them? How do I do this? Has the Lord opened a door that he is asking you to step through in faith? He has brought you this far...now it is time for something new. Go through the door.

I love Oswald Chambers because he doesn't mince words.

He urged you to come to judgment immediately when He convicted you, but you did not obey. Then the inevitable process began to work, bringing its inevitable penalty. Now you have been “thrown into prison, [and]…you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny” (5:25-26). Yet you ask, “Is this a God of mercy and love?” When seen from God’s perspective, it is a glorious ministry of love. God is going to bring you out pure, spotless, and undefiled, but He wants you to recognize the nature you were exhibiting— the nature of demanding your right to yourself. 

Stop obsessing! Get out of your head! Quit feeling sorry for yourself, roll up your sleeves, look around for others who may be hurting...and get to work!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I surrender all....still working on that

Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet
from the snare.
Psalm 25:12-15

Are we so intimately united to Jesus Christ’s idea of prayer— “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10)— that we catch the secrets of God? (Taken from Oswald Chambers' June 3rd entry)

This is really a very tough thing to do...to be that "intimately united to Jesus." It is harder than I ever imagined it would be at the start of my journey to become so united with Him 31 years ago. It was the fall of 1986, when I was called upon to endure a tremendous trial that would stretch on for years to come. I was 19 years old and had just gone away to a four years university to begin my sophomore year of college. Here's a brief testimony of that.

That year...I had been convicted by the Holy Spirit that I wasn't putting Christ first in my life. I didn't love Him the most. I had put someone else in the first place slot...and that person was Me. I had originally believed that the person I had placed there had been the young man I had been dating...and while he was really close to the top slot, when I really stopped to consider that deeply, I had to come to the truth: that the person I put first was none other that myself. I wanted what I wanted. Period. I wanted love, security, and comfort....to be taken care of (and really...who doesn't want that?). I sought that security out by looking to the wrong source. At that point, I was fairly certain that I would be taken care of and loved forever by another person. I don't think this is unusual for the human species to seek security in the wrong place. For me it was a person who would love me...for another it could be in a job, money, or position of prestige. It can also be placed in your own ability and intelligence.

That September, I went on a Christian retreat with my college fellowship group. During that retreat, I went to hear a middle aged woman speak about what it truly meant to become a woman of God. I knew that I was far from being the woman that she described. I saw in her, a beautiful peace and gentleness that can only come from the Lord. I also understand now that it probably came after years of trial and tribulation. After getting the wind knocked out of her by life's circumstances. In order to become that peaceful...you need to have a deep faith. What is faith that hasn't been tried? It isn't anything! Faith is a muscle that must be built up. Just as lifting weights makes you stronger....going through trial increases faith (unless you decide that it isn't worth it in the long run and you give it all up).

At that retreat, I made a commitment to allow the Lord to make me into woman of God no matter what it took. Yes....I really did use those exact words in my prayer...and I meant them. During the course of that school year I was stripped of everything I had originally believed would ultimately bring me security and happiness. Due to a mental health issue, I experienced extreme confusion in both mood and my thinking. I was rejected and abandoned. I was falsely accused of things I hadn't done and my reputation was tarnished. I became incapable of nourishing relationships. I lost the person I had loved deeply and in whom I had believed would love me back forever. I had a very broken relationship with my mother. I also lost many "so called friends" on my campus. I had no energy...nor any ability to make rational decisions. I encountered humiliation and shame because of some of the things I had done and said during the height of my illness. I couldn't even count on my academic ability, as my grades suffered greatly. Thinking became extremely difficult for me. The depression I entered was so profound that I seriously considered taking my own life. Basically, I had lost myself...and it was pretty traumatic. This little paragraph doesn't begin to accurately describe the darkness and emotional pain I had entered. Throughout this entire time, a voice would often whisper in my mind and it would ask, "Do you still want to become a woman of God?" I would answer, "Yes....no  matter what it takes." And then I would go through even more hell. I somehow knew that everything I was going through was connected to my strong desire to thoroughly surrender my will to His to become a woman of God. I was in one of the biggest spiritual battles of my life.

That battle has continued throughout the rest of my life, although not alway in quite as severe a form. The battle rages on nonetheless. Becoming a woman of God is all about surrendering what I falsely perceive will bring me happiness and security. It is also surrendering control. I have continued to struggle to consistently surrender it all to Jesus...although it has become considerably easier. That hymn with the title I Surrender All has new meaning for me. What have I had to surrender? I have had to surrender some things that I once considered to be basic rights of a middle class American woman. Some of the things on my list might seem silly, and they really are, but Satan knows exactly what buttons to push...even the petty ones.

Here is a partial list of some of the rights I've sometimes thought I should have been allowed to claim...just by being alive on this earth. The right to enjoy a comfortable life. The right to be prideful. The right to live a pain-free life...both emotional and physical. The right to have control over all the outcomes in my life. The right to never having to experience extreme brokenness. The right to be understood. The right to a fair trial. The right to harbor anger (a biggie for me).

We all have our own lists. It all comes down to surrendering these rights and realizing that life is about learning to trust Jesus...not necessarily living happily ever after with all my dreams coming true. Where would I be if I had all my rights delivered to me? Would I understand my need for Christ? Would I have even an inkling of empathy towards those who suffer? Pain is necessary for personal growth as well as learning to surrender to Christ.