Category Archives: Surrender

Getting It Right

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in the pickle of a moment.  It’s that all too familiar place when the flutter of the wings from the angel on your right shoulder are weighed against the pricks from the horns of that guy on the left, which oddly feels good!  Some call it that battle in the mind between right and wrong, good and evil — a conscience, conviction, confrontation — a decision.  And then we lean — go ahead, pick a side — because we do lean to the voice we most recognize.  The sheep always follow the voice of their shepherd.

I’ve always been one to speak against the “Land of Should’ve”.  We all say it at one time or another, even myself.  “I should’ve done this” or “I shouldn’t have done that.”  As though by saying these words to ourselves or even out loud declares the “right-er” path — the good path — a better decision.  It somehow releases the guilt and unloads the current circumstances of it’s meaning and gives more justice to the choice left behind.  It’s to say our future is determined by our choices.  But is it?  Really?

There is no doubt in my mind that my choices today may in fact dictate my future.  We can all dig up examples in our own stories where the choices we have made have altered the future outcome of things.  But let’s not forget Sampson!  God was with him, ordained from the beginning to save Israel.  Yet, his choices as they should have altered the outcome were no challenge in the Mighty scheme of things.  God’s purpose was still delivered through him — regardless of his choices along the way.

It’s not so much that our future is linked with making the right choices along the path of our journey, it’s more so directly linked with the right Lord we serve.  When we see this first, before our decisions, it serves as a compass in all things.  That’s when we get it right!

Lord Jesus, today I pray that in all things I choose you first.  But it’s not easy!  I read your word and it has so much to say about your love, and I am learning to trust you more, not just with my junk, but with my hopes and fears, my dreams and drama, my heart and my hurt.  You have my attention, may it be undivided.  I choose you today Lord, but I know you chose me first!

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  This is my command:  Love each other!    John 15:16-17

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If Prayer Worked Like Magic

. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

Last night I sat at the restaurant table, waiting for our food and across from me was my son.  He and my other son were intrigued by the optical illusions printed in the kid’s menu activity sheet.  Incessantly they both got my attention to show me how cool it was that you could see this image if you stared at it long enough.  I never really enjoyed looking at those things because I’ve always had trouble seeing the smaller shapes for the big picture.  I remember once as a teenager gazing upon this little white dot in the middle of a printed American flag because if you did it long enough there would be a cool picture that would appear.  I never found out what that picture was, but my eyes stayed blurry for hours!

God is so interested in me that He is telling a story through me!  My problem, and it could be one of yours as well, is that I tend to only be interested in today’s paragraph.  But He is writing a big story!  Within the creation of my story is a conversation.  Sometimes it goes something like this . . . “God do this!  God, please do that!  If I do this, then please give me this other thing!”  Me, me, me!  Not much of a conversation at all.  Prayer is that necessary conversation and my story would be incredibly boring if my prayers were answered like magic.  “Mirror, mirror, on the wall!”  My first wish would be more wishes!  Thank heavens that’s not how God works!  But, admittedly, that alone can frustrate me.  In turn, however, my faith is strengthened to further trust Him as He writes my story one paragraph at a time!

Prayer changes things — I’ve witnessed that in me and many others.  But I’ve also seen prayer go without answer — so it appeared.  Like an echo in the canyon I question His whereabouts.  I know He’s near, so near He’s there!  (That was a little Dr. Seuss-y!) I never doubt His presence, but I don’t get His answers sometimes.  This is because I’m staring at today’s dot, waiting to see the big picture and my patience gets weary.  Without the conversation of prayer there would be no relationship — and in that relationship comes victory in Jesus!

In my impatience I attempt to make my story go the way I think it should go.  I take my eyes off the Author.  But when I look and see the works of His hand in my story and engage in prayerful conversation with Him about those things, I begin to develop an eye for Jesus!  My tendency, however, is to step off those pages and into my own story line.  But my story is not the story He designed for me — so I must stay in His story at all times!  This is perhaps the most difficult thing to do, because it seems quiet, uneventful and dormant.  But God is moving, writing and binding my story against the will of the Father!  I must allow Him to write and speak His voice into the details of my life.

Lord Jesus, the story of me seems like a difficult thing to write.  I think you have your hands full with this one!  Best seller?  Yep!  All the stories you write are top of the charts!  Mine is no different.  I’m living the words you write each day and I am listening for your voice — learning to develop an eye for you — in the details of my journey.  I’m staring at the dot still and plan to stay focused on the center of your will — in obedience and faith in knowing you are going to complete this good work!

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.  Psalms 1:1-3

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From Not For

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36

Just imagine, living a life where nothing matters.  A life where risk is paramount and failure is subject only to the level of risk.  What if life could be lived without the possibility of effect?  Where the response of others matters not?  Free to be all I want to be and soar the skies of life, moved only by the shifting winds.  Did I say free to be?

This past week I watched the 1998 movie, Rounders, starring Matt Damon who plays a man with a gambling lifestyle of big bets and bigger losses.  In the movie Damon’s character sits around the table with the toughest card shark around with the confidence of high return.  On an apparent strong hand he puts it all on the line, betting every chip of the $30,000 he brought to the table.  In a matter of a second, that confidence turned to fear while he watched his life savings zero out.

Living in true freedom takes risk!  But what truly is the price?  God has called me (us) to live a life free in Christ and yet, I remain shackled to the insecurities of my own understandings.  He says to trust in Him, but to trust in all His ways means a complete abandonment to self and releasing the grip of all I want and receiving all He wants.

What if, I’m living my life not as free as God has intended it to be?  What if, even in my limited knowledge of knowing Christ has set me free I am not nearly as free as I’d thought?  In the midst of crisis, or when things just don’t go the way I had ever hoped or planned, what about that moment gives way to the very essence of Christ in me?  Subjecting myself to the landslide of failures over and over again against the heavy terrain on the steep side of that mountain of healing gives the impression there is far more I must do before I am truly set free.  But God’s freedom does not come after the journey, but instead within the journey as I experience the very presence of Christ in me, through me!  It’s facing the biggest, most dangerous, risky moment of life, where anything and everything I’ve ever dreamed is on the line and placing it all in the arms of Jesus.  It’s not to say that the outcome will be any better and become rosy red, in fact it can all disappear, but God doesn’t want me to climb this mountain alone to find God waiting at the top.  That’s not freedom!  He wants to be in every step, every treacherous slip, every strained ounce of progress . . . that’s freedom to be!

It’s when all seems lost that our vision clouds with uncertainty, but when I am walking in intimate fellowship with Christ in all things — loss becomes gain.   For me, it’s living life from salvation, not for salvation.  It’s living life from His grace, not for grace.  It’s living life from His acceptance, not for my acceptance.  It’s living life from His love, not for love.

Dear Lord Jesus, I so often wrestle with living for others instead of from you.  There is nothing more important to me than living in full obedience to you.  Unshackle the chains of insecurity I have placed around my own mind and renew it with the confidence of Christ in the freedom of life that only comes through you!  I love you, I love you, I love you my Abba . . . Daddy, I love you!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

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Settling and Centering

Reposted from Scotty Smith’s blog site:

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Ps. 46:10-11

Sovereign Father, whenever I hear the command to “Be still,” my default mode takes me back to several elementary school teachers who consistently told me to “Sit still!” They had to, because I was a squirmy, restless little person. I had a hard time staying in my seat. But you’re telling me to be still, not sit still—and there’s a world and gospel of difference.

You’re not impatient or frustrated by your children—never irritated or exasperated with us. I’m not disrupting your classroom, but I do have a disrupted heart, and you notice and you care. I don’t feel anxious or fearful—though I’d freely acknowledge it if I did, before such a loving God as you. I do want to slow down on the inside, however.

I know that you’re with me and for me. I know this because of everything you’ve done for me in Jesus. You’re a fortress of comfort, for broken people like Jacob and me; you’re a haven of rest, a strong tower of grace, a fountain of mercy.

When I’m still, I remember that you are God, and nothing and no one else is. That’s the best news of this or any day. You have no competition—counterfeits, but no competition. There are demigods, semi-gods, wannabe gods, but only you are God.

Kings and nations are not God, for one Day you will be exalted among all the nations. The nations are like droplets in your bucket. Storms and environmental disasters are not God, for you will be exalted in the earth. You send the earthquake and harness the hurricane for your purposes.

Neither are our circumstances God, nor the opinions of others; nor is getting older, nor the choices of people I love, the mistakes I make and the sins I commit. In fact, the second most comforting news of the day is that I’m not God, though at times my attitude, prayerlessness, and unbelief would indicate a measure of self-worship.

Father, be exalted in the daily-ness of my today. Let me see your hand and heart at work in everything. I don’t want to be a practical atheist about anything, not any little thing. You are working all things together after the counsel of your will. You are working in all things for the good of those who love you, and that means me, but only because you first loved me in Jesus.

I probably won’t sit still, but because the gospel is true, I will be still. With palms up in surrender and praise, I enter this day. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ excellent and exalted name.

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Desert Cure

He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there.  He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle.    Psalm 107:33-36

I wish I could say that I’ve stepped foot onto an actual desert.  But then again, thinking about standing atop a living dune of sand with nothing but mirages glistening in every direction is not my idea of a pleasant experience.  Life seems to beg for mercy in the desert, crying out to but a dew drop to quench the thirst — to give life.  And yet, it’s beautiful.  Adorned with brilliance and elegance, sculpted upon an ever shifting canvas of sand, the desert is a place of renewal, dependence and discovery.

The desert is a place that whispers no words, but instead churns more questions than answers.  It’s a place that gives no breaks and no hint of relief.  A desert can be personal, God makes certain of that!   It’s hand-made, different for each one of us — and trust me, everyone will encounter a desert at some point.

The desert experience is found throughout the Bible in many of the familiar stories.  Joseph’s desert was him being betrayed and spending years as a slave.  The Israelites wandered throughout the desert for forty years.  David ran from Saul in the desert.  Paul spent his converted life wrestling with sin in his desert.  Lazarus became an example to all of new life that comes from the desert.  And Jesus stepped into the desert for forty days to reenact our own desert journeys by fasting and facing the temptations of Satan.  All of these experiences face the reality of their own desert while holding tight to the hope of God’s Word and promises.

It becomes a place where all that once sustained you is no longer there to satisfy the cravings of the flesh.  It’s a place of spiritual purging that cleanses the soul and dries out the tongue that no longer thirsts for junk.  Instead, it defines the true thirst of our hearts.  The desert becomes the best place for God to wilt away the false selves and bring life to an authentic self.

Lord Jesus, in my desert are many mirages.  My eyes fail me, my senses deceive me to think that what my mind thinks is there is true.  But I know you are the only Truth to trust and it is not found by my senses.  It is found in the faith of knowing who you are in me and I in you!  While I’m in my desert may I encounter the gift of your presence each day.  And in your presence, as I am so thirsty, may I drink from the abundance of your well of living water!  It is in knowing you are with me in the desert I experience your protective love that gives me the strength to continue in this journey.

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.   Psalm 63:1

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Do Through Who?

. . . Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Romans 7:24b-25

I had a bitter-sweet relationship with swimming as a child.  While on one hand I loved getting into the pool, floating on tubes and challenging myself a little closer to the deep end, on the other hand I was deathly fearful of water.  There could be any number of reasons why I disliked it so much, but one thing was true — the thought of drowning petrified me.

This fear was perhaps generated by the story of me nearly drowning when I was three.  I think I remember, but then again I’ve heard the story so many times my imagination could very well have drawn the picture for me.  Story goes that one day while playing at the beach, my oldest brother was playing with his friends a good distance from shore.  No one I’d rather play with than my brothers at age three.  My mom set up camp a few yards from the water and got me situated at waters’ edge with my toys.  Mom turned her head for just a second — the very second I decided to go play with my brother.  The water didn’t have to be too deep to be too deep for me.  With that said, mom looked up to find me bobbing like a cork, feet in mid-air.  As any mom would do, she ran with all of her might to snatch me from the water.  She rescued me!  I naturally held my breath while bobbing, but had mom not been nearby it would have been over.

From that point forward, either a curse or a life saver, I had to wear those arm floaties.  I hated those things!

Life seems to dish out some unexpectedly deep waters to step into at times.  My life has had it’s fair share, with current rip currents and breakers that are strong enough to lose your footing.  As I reflect, I’m reminded of the many things I’ve used to rescue me.  When I’ve appeared to be drowning I’ve stepped up onto people, places and things that were temporarily strong enough to get my nose out of the water.  But even so, they crumbled under the sand and left me searching again.  The more I do, the more I try to rescue me, the more my feet dance in the sky.

Like Paul, I’ve found myself so often asking, “What will rescue me from this I do not want to do?”  But then, I realize, Paul never said “what will rescue me?”  Paul said “Who.”

God rescues!   Strong enough to rescue me from that Hawaiian sized wave of life that crashes down with such a force I wonder if I’ll ever surface again.  So, bobbing with my feet in the air . . . I wait . . . I hold my breath . . . I trust . . . I live . . . I do . . . through . . . who?  Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ my Lord!

For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever! Amen.   Romans 11:36

 

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Passive Attentive

Dear Lord Jesus, I can think of many things in my life, both past and present, that by definition fall into the category:  destructive.  Whether it be patterns of negative behavior or attitudes from the flesh, I know I have what it takes to single-handedly make a mess of everything.  This is no surprise to you.  I’m so thankful you are a God of restoration!

However, the sealing off of negative thoughts and inconclusive moments in my world have been conduits of passive aggressive behavior in my relationships.  You have spoken to me this morning as clear as the sun is shining and answered my prayer.

Awareness of your presence and the familiar tone of your voice are but refreshments to my weary mind and aching heart.  I am guilty of being passive attentive to your Spirit within me and when I neglect to listen, my doer listens to other things.  I hurt, others hurt, I no longer trust, others cannot trust — it’s not your plan.

I know I need to listen to you in all things, becoming actively attentive to your Spirit within.  Remind me of the power I have in you!  In your precious and Holy name, Jesus Christ, Amen!

We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  I John 4:19-20

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