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 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 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 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, "  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.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

He promises that He will deliver...even when life here is not fair.

"…I am with you to deliver you," says the Lord. —Jeremiah 1:8

What a wonderful promise this is. I have such a sense of peace when I read a verse like this. The following is a truth that has taken me years and years to realize in my life.

Jesus says, in effect, “Don’t worry about whether or not you are being treated justly.” Looking for justice is actually a sign that we have been diverted from our devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will only begin to complain and to indulge ourselves in the discontent of self-pity, as if to say, “Why should I be treated like this?” (Oswald Chambers)

Apparently, I am not alone in my struggle with this concept.

Even the most devout among us become atheistic in this regard— we do not believe Him. We put our common sense on the throne and then attach God’s name to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts (see Proverbs 3:5-6). (Oswald Chambers)

The Lord often drives home the same truths to me again and again. In this case, surrendering my right to fairness. I'm learning, albeit slowly. I am grateful for the Lord's great patience with me.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Drawing in God's grace....NOW!

We…plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. —2 Corinthians 6:1

Here's one of the quotes today from Oswald Chamber's study.

Pray now — draw on the grace of God in your moment of need. Prayer is the most normal and useful thing; it is not simply a reflex action of your devotion to God. We are very slow to learn to draw on God’s grace through prayer.

I'm afraid that I must admit that I am often slow to pray. It is not always a natural reflex for me. How often do I battle it out and then later...when I'm at my wit's end do I stop and pray? Haven't I learned anything yet? I am in the remedial "draw on God's grace now class." I'm not making the grade.

More good stuff.

Let circumstances take you where they will, but keep drawing on the grace of God in whatever condition you may find yourself.

Sounds fairly straight forward and simple, doesn't it?

Something I feel drawn to ponder.

“…having nothing….” Never hold anything in reserve. Pour yourself out, giving the best that you have, and always be poor. Never be diplomatic and careful with the treasure God gives you. “…and yet possessing all things”— this is poverty triumphant (2 Corinthians 6:10).

I guess this would be called being authentic. God already knows who I am ...what I am. I needn't hold back from him. I am also finding more and more as I grow older that being authentic before others often ends up blessing. If you are real with your struggles, then others won't feel needlessly intimidated by the "perfect version of you" and they will be encouraged, knowing that they are not alone.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Learning to walk on water

…Peter…walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid… —Matthew 14:29-30

 Don't look at your the Lord. When we simply use our earthly wisdom...we can see circumstances as hopeless. I've fallen into this trap many times. I've looked about me and said, "Life isn't fair." "If only...." "I'm doomed." "We'll never be able to ....."

Life doesn't always turn out the way you plan it...and it really is hopeless apart from the Lord. But...He is powerful. He enables. He will never leave us nor will He forsake us. His plans are often quite different than our plans. When something catastrophic happens...we must remember that He is God. He doesn't have to answer to anyone. He gets to choose.

If you are truly recognizing your Lord, you have no business being concerned about how and where He engineers your circumstances. (Oswald Chambers)

If you debate for even one second when God has spoken, it is all over for you. Never start to say, “Well, I wonder if He really did speak to me?” Be reckless immediately— totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything— by casting your all upon Him. You do not know when His voice will come to you, but whenever the realization of God comes, even in the faintest way imaginable, be determined to recklessly abandon yourself, surrendering everything to Him. It is only through abandonment of yourself and your circumstances that you will recognize Him. You will only recognize His voice more clearly through recklessness— being willing to risk your all. (Oswald Chambers)

People, ....please take this warning seriously. I heard his voice, ignored his warning...went my own way and suffered the consequences. A lesson that was learned the hard way. Practice self-abandonment in favor of His ways!

God is good. He has our best interests in mind. Trust Him.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Judging Others

17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”"
 Romans 2: 17-24

Gems from today's devotional:

  • The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. 
  • It is impossible to enter into fellowship with God when you are in a critical mood. 

Interestingly enough, sometimes I find that my criticism is directed towards myself.

  • Jesus says that as His disciple you should cultivate a temperament that is never critical. This will not happen quickly but must be developed over a span of time. You must constantly beware of anything that causes you to think of yourself as a superior person.
  • Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation.

I have very little to add to this devotional today. Sometimes I have many of my own thoughts...but not today. I admit to being critical of others at times....and it is wrong. I haven't walked in their shoes. I am so thankful for the grace of God with my own blunders and mistakes. Chambers ends his devional with the following statement. My prayer is that I can one day say the same with absolute sincerity.
  •  have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.