Thursday, August 30, 2012

Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20

Today, Chambers talks about how it is not important to know and understand when you are being of great use to the Lord.  In fact, it is by God's mercy that we don't know.  Otherwise...we tend to focus on our spiritual accomplishments, rather than simply walk with the Lord. Knowing can be detrimental to your walk. I believe it is true.  We humans are a prideful sort.  I can picture myself saying, "Yeah me!  Look what I did!"

If you keep your relationship right with Him, then regardless of your circumstances or whoever you encounter each day, He will continue to pour “rivers of living water” through you (John 7:38). And it is actually by His mercy that He does not let you know it.

It is really so simple...but it seems to evade me.  Just live for Jesus each and every day!  He will do the rest!  He will make rivers of living water flow out of you...and that will effect everyone else around you in a positive way.  I want this.  I really do.

For quite some time I have felt like a desert spiritually.  No more.  I want living water!

Image Source:  Photo by Hubert Stoffels-The Jonathan's Run Falls in Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania. Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Unsurpassing Intimacy of Tested Faith

 Jesus said to her, ’Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’ John 11:40.

If you haven't done so already, use the link to the right and go read the devotional yourself!  It is speaking to the very heart of where I am today.  Can I trust the Lord for everything in my life?  Can I trust him to provide for my needs and to guide and direct my steps?  It is a very difficult thing to do on a daily basis.  Especially when nothing seems to be working out! My stars never seem to line up. Sometimes I honestly feel like hollering out to God, "Are you up there?  Do you see me?  Do you hear me?"  He's the still small voice...that I keep missing...that I can't hear.

Chambers describes exactly how I feel:
Every time my theology becomes clear to my own mind, I encounter something that contradicts it. As soon as I say, “I believe ’God shall supply all [my] need,’ ” the testing of my faith begins (Philippians 4:19). When my strength runs dry and my vision is blinded, will I endure this trial of my faith victoriously or will I turn back in defeat?

Today I read some other pretty serious stuff in this month's Voice of the Martyrs publication.  Descriptions of believers being beaten and thrown into prison for months or even years...all because they follow Jesus.  What I am going through in my life can hardly be considered suffering when I read these things.  If God would allow that to happen to a Christian, why would he care about whether or not I have a job...or enough money to pay the bills?  Do I really believe the Lord will take care of me?

Can you venture out with courage on the words of Jesus Christ, while the realities of your commonsense life continue to shout, “It’s all a lie”? When you are on the mountaintop, it’s easy to say, “Oh yes, I believe God can do it,” but you have to come down from the mountain to the demon-possessed valley and face the realities that scoff at your Mount-of-Transfiguration belief (Luke 9:28-42).

This week summer ends for me.  My job ends...and then I am faced with an uncertain school year...more of the same...with no end in sight.  I just feel so discouraged.

Photo:  I took this.  I don't know when or where it was just seems fitting somehow.  An unknown road going to an unknown destination...and it is winter.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sacrifice and Friendship

Wandering in the desert

I have called you friends . . .John 15:15

Truth jumps out in the very first paragraph of the Oswald Chambers devotional today:
We will never know the joy of self-sacrifice until we surrender in every detail of our lives. Yet self-surrender is the most difficult thing for us to do. We make it conditional by saying, “I’ll surrender if . . . !” Or we approach it by saying, “I suppose I have to devote my life to God.” We will never find the joy of self-sacrifice in either of these ways.

Surrender is undoubtedly the most difficult thing for me to do in my walk with Christ.  It is because I want to control my life.  I want my plan to work.  I think I have a great idea for my life...and so many times that plan goes right on its head.  I get very frustrated by this and think, "Why, God?"  I keep striving for my own way all they time.  I also get consumed by worry.  As if worrying over something is giving me more control over a situation.  I fool myself into thinking that worrying is helping me. It is basically coming right down to the truth that I do not trust God for His best for me. I think I know best. This want and desire and struggle for control results in joyless living.

But as soon as we do totally surrender, abandoning ourselves to Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us a taste of His joy...Have I ever yielded myself in absolute submission to Jesus Christ? If He is not the One to whom I am looking for direction and guidance, then there is no benefit in my sacrifice. But when my sacrifice is made with my eyes focused on Him, slowly but surely His molding influence becomes evident in my life.

Lately I'm feeling more at peace because I am learning to trust Him more about my situation. (It also could be because my friend, Claudia says that she is praying for me constantly.) I have gotten to the end of myself and have thrown up my hands and said, "Okay, Lord. Whatever! I believe that you will work all of this out somehow." John 15:9-11 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. If I would just be wise enough to stay close to Him. Listening to His words and being grateful for what He has done for me, I would know joy and contentment.

Hebrews 12:1-2...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

And Chambers again:
“I have called you friends. . . .” Our friendship with Jesus is based on the new life He created in us, which has no resemblance or attraction to our old life but only to the life of God. It is a life that is completely humble, pure, and devoted to God.

Why do I keep wandering away from Him over and over again? It always results in being parched with thirst because I end up in the desert. 

Image Source:Wandering in the Desert by Shayantani Sarkar, Wikimedia Commons

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Spiritual Search

What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Matthew 7:9

Today Chambers talks a little about human relationships between children and parents.  Parents generally give good things to a good child when he or she asks.  He also talks about Christians who simply ask God for things when they are not walking in the light.  These same Christians often say that God has not answered prayer because it is not His will that they have what they have asked for.  This may not be true.  What might be the case is God is not answering because they are not walking in the light as the Bible tells us to in the following verse.

1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

We must constantly be examining ourselves in order to stay in the light and to be able to communicate with God and have His blessings in our lives.

Never say that it is not God’s will to give you what you ask. Don’t faint and give up, but find out the reason you have not received; increase the intensity of your search and examine the evidence. Is your relationship right with your spouse, your children, and your fellow students? Are you a “good child” in those relationships?

We refuse to look at the evidence that clearly indicates where we are wrong. Have I been asking God to give me money for something I want, while refusing to pay someone what I owe him? Have I been asking God for liberty while I am withholding it from someone who belongs to me? Have I refused to forgive someone, and have I been unkind to that person? Have I been living as God’s child among my relatives and friends? 

For most of us, prayer simply becomes some trivial religious expression, a matter of mystical and emotional fellowship with God. We are all good at producing spiritual fog that blinds our sight. But if we will search out and examine the evidence, we will see very clearly what is wrong— a friendship, an unpaid debt, or an improper attitude. There is no use praying unless we are living as children of God.

I admit that I have been in this situation in my prayer life...where I feel like no one is listening...and quite often it really is because I am not in the light. It is reassuring that God my Father does want to give good gifts to me when I ask.  I also think that if I am truly walking in the light, I won't be as likely to ask for the wrong things.

Photo image: I took this one of a little boy pointing to a butterfly in a church parking lot in Pifo, Ecuador. That is his mother standing nearby.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I indeed...but He

I indeed baptize you with water . . . but He . . . will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11

There was a point where I finally came to the end of myself and said, "I cannot do anything to make myself Holy...I need Jesus to make me Holy."  It is the truth.  On my own...I am selfish...and I complain....and I cannot love my brother and sister the way a Christian should.  I get tired and cross.  I start wallowing in the negatives...and then self pity comes along and OUCH!  I can only wash my outside with water, but He cleanses me on the inside with fire.  Sometimes I can only paste on a smile and pretend to be Holy...but He can change my heart.

Here is what Chambers has to say about it:
Repentance does not cause a sense of sin— it causes a sense of inexpressible unworthiness. When I repent, I realize that I am absolutely helpless, and I know that through and through I am not worthy even to carry His sandals. Have I repented like that, or do I have a lingering thought of possibly trying to defend my actions? The reason God cannot come into my life is that I am not at the point of complete repentance.

Sometimes I've tried to convince myself that I'm doing all right spiritually.  I'm a nice person, I believe in Jesus, I go to church, I attend Bible study on Thursday nights, I send my children to Christian camps, I even currently work at a Christian camp and I also keep a devotional blog...but it is all me doing the work and sooner or later I realize that I'm at the end of myself. That is when I know that Jesus needs to do some real work in my soul. My salvation (which is marked for me by a decision at age 15) is not just an experience I had once...but an on going work.

Chambers is so good at nailing it home that I will just end with his words:
“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John is not speaking here of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as an experience, but as a work performed by Jesus Christ. “He will baptize you . . . .” The only experience that those who are baptized with the Holy Spirit are ever conscious of is the experience of sensing their absolute unworthiness.

I indeed” was this in the past, “but He” came and something miraculous happened. Get to the end of yourself where you can do nothing, but where He does everything.

Image source: Fuoco by Giovanni Dall'Orto. Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Ministry of the Unnoticed

Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .Matthew 5:3

Chambers translates the above verse in the following way:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . .” This literally means, “Blessed are the paupers.” And then he goes on to make the next statement, Paupers are remarkably commonplace!

Today's devotional is reassuring to me because quite often...I feel poor in spirit. I feel ordinary.  I am just me.  I'm not extroverted, outgoing or even strongly motivated most of the time.  I am just me.  I'm looking for a job, so some of these catch phrases really ...I don't know how to say it.  I guess they scare me because I'm just me.  I wish someone would give me a chance because if they did, they would find that I am a dependable worker and reliable and I'll try my best to do just about anything asked of me in a job (within reason of course). I'll stay late to finish a job...and I want to do the job I am meticulous and detailed.  But I'm also introverted, a little timid and somewhat quiet.  I'm not flashy or stylish.  I'm really quite commonplace in many regards.

Chambers again:
At the foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is the genuine loveliness of those who are commonplace. I am truly blessed in my poverty. If I have no strength of will and a nature without worth or excellence, then Jesus says to me, “Blessed are you, because it is through your poverty that you can enter My kingdom.” I cannot enter His kingdom by virtue of my goodness— I can only enter it as an absolute pauper.

I can be assured that I am useful to God.  He loves me just the way he made me.  He has a purpose for me being...just me. I should never wonder if I can be of any use for God because:
If I wonder if I am being of any use to God, I instantly lose the beauty and the freshness of the touch of the Lord. “He who believes in Me . . . out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). And if I examine the outflow, I lose the touch of the Lord.

I just need to believe and abide in Him. How do I abide in Him?  By doing what I studied "Coming to Him" (Matt 11:28).

I just want to believe in Him, abide in Him...and let Him do the rest.

Who are the people who have influenced us most? Certainly not the ones who thought they did, but those who did not have even the slightest idea that they were influencing us. In the Christian life, godly influence is never conscious of itself.

Photo taken by me at Robert Treman State Park in 2010.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Self Awareness & Christ Awareness

(Two devotionals at once because they really go hand in hand)

Come to Me . . .Matthew 11:28

I admit to being very self aware and Chambers says:
Self-awareness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of our life in God, and self-awareness continually produces a sense of struggling and turmoil in our lives.

He is also quick to point out that self-awareness in itself is not a sin...because it can happen suddenly because of nerves or being in an unfamiliar situation, but Chamber goes on to say that:
It is never God’s will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him. Anything that disturbs our rest in Him must be rectified at once, and it is not rectified by being ignored but only by coming to Jesus Christ. If we will come to Him, asking Him to produce Christ-awareness in us, He will always do it, until we fully learn to abide in Him.

I think that is one of my problems.  Instead of getting rid of it right away, I allow it to brew and grow...and then I am in the struggling and turmoil that he mentions previously.  I think it must be a mark of maturity...or at least growing towards that, to be able to recognize that I need to run with it to Jesus to get rid of it right away.

Never allow anything that divides or destroys the oneness of your life with Christ to remain in your life without facing it.

I think I've done this many times because I simply didn't recognize it as the "anything that divides" me from being one with Jesus. Perhaps that is why I'm going along and then I say, "I can't hear Him."

Nothing is as important as staying right spiritually. And the only solution is a very simple one— “Come to Me . . . .”

Continuing on with today's devotional:

. . . and I will give you rest Matthew 11:28.

This is really pounding home the previous devotional of turning to Christ immediately when something is causing us to be separated from Him.  Why have I done this again and again in my life?  Sometimes it is I mentioned in Saturday's post.  (Oh I know how truly stubborn I can be while walking with Jesus...believe me.  I am also truly fed up with myself...thus this devotional) Othertimes it is really something that has snuck up on me and come to me by surprise.  I pray that the Lord helps me be more and more aware of my being separate from Him so that I run to Him to fix it...instead of waiting and then saying, "Why can't I hear Him?"

Whenever anything begins to disintegrate your life with Jesus Christ, turn to Him at once, asking Him to re-establish your rest. Never allow anything to remain in your life that is causing the unrest. Think of every detail of your life that is causing the disintegration as something to fight against, not as something you should allow to remain. Ask the Lord to put awareness of Himself in you, and your self-awareness will disappear. Then He will be your all in all.

Following Christ is never a passive thing. I admit that I have a passive personality.  I'm generally not especially proud of this. Walking with Christ is something we need to work at.  We need to examine every detail of our lives so we can find the problems that have come between us and Christ, and then, don't stop there, but fight against these problems by taking them to Him and surrendering them.  It is too easy to see them as little and not anything of importance.

Chambers takes it one step furthur by saying:
Beware of allowing your self-awareness to continue, because slowly but surely it will awaken self-pity, and self-pity is satanic.

All I can say is "Ouch" to that one.  Enough said.

The next paragraph in the Chambers study is so good that I cannot disect it with one or two sentences.  It is something to think about deeply:
A complete life is the life of a child. When I am fully conscious of my awareness of Christ, there is something wrong. It is the sick person who really knows what health is. A child of God is not aware of the will of God because he is the will of God. When we have deviated even slightly from the will of God, we begin to ask, “Lord, what is your will?” A child of God never prays to be made aware of the fact that God answers prayer, because he is so restfully certain that God always answers prayer.

And yet in the very next paragraph he says this:
Jesus says, “Come to Me . . . and I will give you rest,” that is, Christ-awareness will take the place of self-awareness.

I guess to put it simply, I just need to "Come to Jesus" because:
Wherever Jesus comes He establishes rest— the rest of the completion of activity in our lives that is never aware of itself.

I guess it is sort of like climbing a giant hill...which I did on Saturday.  I was gasping for breath and needed to sit down for awhile before continuing (this example is not advocating sitting down while following Jesus). What I mean is, I was fully aware that I was in poor shape.  My husband and son just kept moving quite comfortably towards the top. I just want to be able to continue on with my walk without being concious of the fact that I'm either out of shape or in great shape.  Do you know what I mean?

Photo taken by me in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Have you ever been expressionless with sorrow?

When he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. Luke 18:23

I can totally relate to what Chambers said today in his devotional.  I really get it and have experienced it first hand. The stinging repercussions of my stubborn disobedience left me reeling for years.

Here's what Chambers said:
Have you ever been there? Has God’s Word come to you about something you are very rich in-temperament, personal affinity, relationships of the heart and mind?  Then you have been expressionless with sorrow. The Lord will not go after you, He will not plead, but every time He meets you on that point, He will simply repeat-if you mean what you say, these are the conditions. "Sell all that thou hasts" (Luke 18:22)

I can think of a time when I was a young woman and God tried to get my attention...he whispered to me in that still small voice that I needed to turn from a certain idolatry in my life.  I heard the whisper, but wouldn't listen. I was the rich young ruler...unable to sell all that I had and follow Jesus whole-heartedly.  The funny thing is, up until now I never could really relate to the rich young ruler. Afterall, I never was rich.  Or was I?  The truth is, many of us are rich in something.  I was rich in my love for a young man that I was head over heels in love with.  God told me that it was idolatry and that I needed to turn from it.  I wouldn't.  I claimed to be a follower of Jesus, and yet I turned away from what He said to me with an "expression of sorrow"-just as the rich young ruler had.  My story actually has a happy ending, although I did not consider it to be a happy ending at the time.  When I was a sophomore in college, I rededicated my life to the Lord and told Him to do anything it took to make me the woman of God that He wanted me to be.  So, in a sense, I gave God permission to remove this young man from my life...and He did. It was, without contest, the single-most painful thing that I ever went through.

Am I the woman God wants me to be?  I doubt it.  I am too sinful, too worldy...too selfish.  I have a long way to go.  I am rich in things today too.  I am rich in my desire to be comfortable-in a nice house without any trouble. I am rich in my trust in material goods and in $. I am rich in thinking that I am entitled to better things in my life.  Am I still turning away "expressionless with sorrow?" How do I surrender it? I am afraid of the pain that may follow. So was the rich young ruler. 

More quotes from Chambers to ponder:
That is where the battle is truly fought— in the realm of your will before God..

Beware of allowing anything to soften the hard words of Jesus Christ..

Discouragement is disillusioned self-love.

"Lord God, I do not want to be rich in this way. Please take it away. Help me to only be rich in you-Amen"

Photo by Geoffery Bard via wikimedia commons.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Does He know me...?

...when I have sadly misunderstood Him?
 (Mary-thinking He was the gardener while she was looking for Him near the tomb)

 ...when I have stubbornly doubted Him? (Thomas-declaring that he would not believe unless he placed his fingers in Jesus' nail pierced hand)

 ...when I have selfishly denied Him? (Peter-denying Christ three times, the last with curses)

 Today Chambers looks carefully at these three questions, while using examples in scripture. Each one of these people had a personal history with Jesus. They knew Him. Jesus forgave, loved and restored each one of these people to himself afterwards. That's encouraging because although it hurts to admit, I've been guilty of sadly misunderstanding Him, stubbornly doubting Him, and selfishly denying Him. He still knows and loves me. He won't let me go...even when I am awful to Him.

 Here's a quote from Chambers: Do I have a personal history with Jesus Christ? The one true sign of discipleship is intimate oneness with Him— a knowledge of Jesus that nothing can shake.

I'm challenging myself with the following questions:
Do I know Him?  Do I talk with Him?  Do I love Him?  Do I truly follow Him?  Am I truly one with Him?

Photo of my daughter in Robert Tremain State Park

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Discipline of the Lord

 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. Hebrews 12:5

I have become very discouraged lately. Nothing is going "according to the plan" least not my plan that is. Is the Lord disciplining me?

When the Lord disciplines you like that, let Him have His way with you. Allow Him to put you into a right-standing relationship before God.

Am I fully prepared to allow God to grip me by His power and do a work in me that is truly worthy of Himself? Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me— sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me.

 I have to admit that I'm not sure what is going on in my life. Is God disciplining me when things aren't going right-like not being able to find a job and not knowing where to turn next? Is God just stretching me? I still can't hear Him.

I know God wants me to trust Him...but it is so hard sometimes.

Image taken by me in Cooperstown, NY.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Do Not Quench the Spirit

Do not quench the Spirit  1 Thessalonians 5:19

Today I have decided to come back to this blog.  It was good for me...but I have stopped keeping it.  Since it was a good way to keep me accountable for doing a regular quiet time, I see value in it.  I admit to quenching the Spirit as of late. I am back to square one.

The voice of the Spirit of God is as gentle as a summer breeze— so gentle that unless you are living in complete fellowship and oneness with God, you will never hear it.

I don't hear His voice anymore.  I can't hear it.  I say, "Why, Lord, aren't you loud like a thunder or a wind or an earthquake so I can hear you clearly?"  I know it is because He is never loud. He always chooses to whisper and I so often am caught up in my busy life so I cannot hear him.  Chambers included part of this scripture in the devotional today. (I Kings 19:11-13)
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I've heard this scripture story ever since I was a little girl...but as usual there is something new to be learned from it. I just noticed the end of the passage where God asks, "What are you doing out here, Elijah?"; So often when we finally hear God we discover that we haven't really been in the right place. In Elijah's case it wasn't where he was standing (God told him where to stand), but where he was thinking.  Elijah was sure that he was the only follower of God left and that people were trying to kill him. Actually people were trying to kill him, but that was irrelevant because God had called him to a mission and He is in control.  In the very next sentence God tells him to go back home and continue the ministry He had given him.

I admit that I do not hear God very much these days...and I am trying to get back to knowing Him.

If you get out of the light, you become a sentimental Christian, and live only on your memories, and your testimony will have a hard metallic ring to it  .Beware of trying to cover up your present refusal to “walk in the light” by recalling your past experiences when you did “walk in the light.”  When-ever the Spirit gives you that sense of restraint, call a halt and make things right, or else you will go on quenching and grieving Him without even knowing it.

 Remember when I kept that devotional blog and was learning and hearing God and growing?  I've got to stop being sentimental and put my hand to the plow and look forward once again (Luke 9:62).

Never become attached to anything that continues to hurt God. For you to be free of it, God must be allowed to hurt whatever it may be.

I've become attached to complaining, looking at my situation in life and wanting more, thinking it's not fair that I'm not "getting ahead" at my age.  

Dear Lord, Help me to become free of these attachments so that I do not continue to hurt you. 

Photo by Ralf Roletschek via wikimedia commons.