Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Surrender: A Small Start to an Incredible Change

Some of the most pivotal points in history have centered on a surrender. Take for example the surrender of General Lee to General Grant, which ended the US Civil War. Wilmer McLean's house near the town of Appomattox Court House wasn't that much to look at, but what happened there made history. It led to the reuniting of an entire nation. All because of a simple act: Surrender.

Maybe there's something in your life that you need to surrender. It might not seem like much to anyone else, but for you...it could revolutionize your life.

I'm sure you've heard or read the story of Abraham and Isaac. (If not, check out Genesis 22!) In this passage, we read about how God asked Abraham to surrender the thing that meant most to him: his own son. Three things strike me about the way Abraham surrendered to God in this story:

1. Abraham had faith. He rested on God's promise that through his offspring, all the earth would be blessed. Isaac was the child of promise, and even if things didn't go the way Abraham envisioned them, he knew beyond a doubt that God would do what he said he would. He surrendered his son to God, knowing without a doubt that God would keep his promise to bless the world through Isaac, even thought it seemed impossible.

Are you resting in God's promises? Do you believe that if you surrender your plans and dreams into his hands, they will ultimately be better than you can imagine? Begin by learning the promises of God, and start believing that you can take God at his word.

2. Abraham was prepared. The Bible says he rose early in the morning and, without delay, went to do as God had said. He didn't argue or question, because he had already surrendered in his heart. Surrendering often means releasing our hold on those things that mean most to us. Surrender makes way for sacrifice, though it doesn't necessarily lead to sacrifice in every instance. Surrender is an attitude of the heart, and that attitude is something I believe Abraham had even before God asked him to sacrifice Isaac.

Do you have an attitude of surrender? If God asked you for something that is dear to your heart, would you be willing to let go? Are you preparing yourself now for the possibility that God may ask you to leave everything for him? Don’t be like the rich young ruler who turned away from Jesus for the love of his possessions. Prepare yourself now by having the attitude: Everything I have is just on loan from God. He can make a withdrawal from the bank of my life whenever he chooses. I am his servant.

3. Abraham set a pattern. He obeyed, to the point of binding his son, placing him on the altar, and preparing to drive the knife into his heart until the angel stayed his hand. God's response to Abraham’s obedience was "Now I know that you fear God." And now Abraham knew. It set up a paradigm in his life. God was always first.

Is God first in your life? Is there someone or something more important to you? It's great to love your friends and family, to enjoy your job and work hard at it, and to be diligent at school and hobbies you may have. But if anything or anyone starts taking higher priority than your devotion to God, that person or thing is becoming your idol. Abraham had to make the choice to unconditionally surrender the single most important thing in his life, to show that God is his all. Start now: Commit the things and people in your life, one at a time, back to God. Let go when he asks you to. Build a pattern of surrender.

The question for you is not, "DOES God want you to surrender?" but instead, "WHAT does he want you to surrender?" There is a constant call to surrender. Not necessarily a constant call to give up or sacrifice what we've surrendered, but a call to continually loosen our grasp, which is always groping for something to hold. Dr. David Jeremiah says that when we have open hands, God is free to take from them. But it is only then that he is also free to fill our hands to overflowing with more than we could ever imagine.

You know the hardest thing about surrender? We can't do it. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is so weak. It clings to its treasure like a child to her tattered, old teddy bear. The flesh alone cannot, or will not, let go.

But this is not an excuse to disregard surrender. Though we may not be able to do it fully, we can take the first step. Sometimes, all that step looks like is a cry for help, a plea to the Lord to pry our fingers from that to which we cling so that we are free to raise our hands to him. Romans 12:2 says "offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God." Committing ourselves fully to the Lord allows Him to have His way in our lives, which includes enabling us to let go.

Lately I've been pleading with the Lord to pry my fingers from some of the things I myself am too scared to let go of. I pray he'll teach me to trust in his promises alone; that he will make me fully devoted to Him. A God who desires our undivided love and adoration cannot ignore such a plea.

So I ask you: What do you need to surrender?

McLean’s surrender of his simple house led to one of the greatest moments in American history. Abraham’s surrender on Mount Moriah was only one man’s act of surrender, yet God used him and his offspring to bring to earth his own son, who would one day die for the sins of the world on* that same mountain.

Take your hands off the keyboard and mouse.
Look around at where you're sitting.
It may not be any place special, but what you do right now could change your life…

And maybe even the world.


*Jesus’ crucifixion occurred just to the north of Mount Moriah, or the temple mount

Additional resources and references: (Available for a limited time only)

Chip Ingram's Message - Make Great Sacrifices
Chuck Swindoll's Message - A Year for Letting Go

David Jeremiah's Message - Open Hands

Recommendations:

"Surrender" - Flame ft. V. Rose

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pass the Remote Please . . .

Do you ever wish you had a remote control for life?

Do you find yourself wishing something would come faster, or maybe wishing that time would slow down? I often want both at the same time. I want the next moment to come, but I also want to enjoy the moment I'm currently living in! Maybe you've even found yourself in a really wonderful moment and wished you could pause your life in that moment.

I think it's certainly a good thing we don't have remote controls for life. We'd probably make ourselves dizzy going back and forth so much! I've sadly wasted some precious times in my life by wishing I was in another place or time. I've even ruined perfectly blissful moments because all I could think about was the dismal reality that the moment would soon end and I'd have to return to normal, everyday life.

Do you realize how silly that is? The old saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side" holds true. Ultimately, although I often wish I could change things about my life, including the rate of time, I'm thankful God chose not to give me that kind of control. I'd make a pretty big mess of things. ;)

May I make a suggestion? We need to stop living in anticipation or fear of the future, and start living now. I'm not saying we shouldn't plan; I simply think it's ridiculous to spend the precious present wishing we could control something we simply can't. God made everything in the universe with great foresight and design. This includes time. He made time, and the people who exist in time, to be perfectly in sync. Regardless of what we think, time is ticking along at the perfect rate.

"Tomorrow will worry about itself!" We're called to enjoy the blessings we've been given right now. And of course, the Author of time will be with us, guiding us every step of the way. :)

"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." ~C. S. Lewis

Psst! What do you think? I'd love to hear your opinion on this. Please tell me I'm not the ONLY one in the world with "remote control syndrome." ;) Drop me a comment! :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Holiness: Chasing God's Heart

Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in the rules. Don’t drink wine, do drink wine. Don’t dance, dance. Only watch PG movies, Watch what you want.

But you know, holiness isn’t about the rules. It’s about living for a goal. It’s about living to please God.

Think about this: When you’re living to please someone, what must you first do to be able to please them effectively? Is there a set of rules you must memorize, or a code you must follow?

No. You have to know the person. You have to know their likes, their dislikes, their passions, and what will touch their heart. If you’re living to please yourself, it’s easy, because you can just do what you want. When you’re trying to please someone else, say a spouse, it’s not so easy, because although you may be very close your spouse, I’m quite sure you cannot read his or her mind. It takes work to study the desires of the other person and figure out what they want you to do. It’s the same way with God. In order to pursue holiness (which means making our lives reflect or imitate Godly qualities), we have to know the heart of God.

David pursued holiness. Often he cries out in the Psalms for God to help him be holy. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). David stumbled, he fell, he wasn’t perfect, and he made some terrible errors in his pursuit of holiness, yet he was called “a man after God’s own heart.” He knew God’s heart, and he pursued it daily. Like a young lover seeking to win the affections of a woman, David did everything he could to please God. It wasn’t because David kept all the rules that he was considered “a man after God’s own heart.” Sometimes, his flesh got in the way. Yet David overcame the temptations and sin in his life, because he had a close relationship with God and desired to follow Him.

There are monsters of temptation in the world that want to hinder our pursuit of holiness. They cause us to sin, but worse than that, they pull us away from our focus and keep us from pursuing God’s heart. They cause us to fix our eyes on what is temporary, worldly, and perishable—destined for death.

These temptations faced Eve in the garden. She saw the fruit was pleasing to the eye, good to eat, and desirable for gaining wisdom. She knew God had told her not to eat of them, and he had also mentioned a consequence. Then the serpent began his sequence of lies. She touched it. Nothing happened. Already, her eyes were off of God and onto the fruit. Instead of “how can I please God?” she was now asking, “How close can I get”? Instead of obedience for the sake of the relationship, Eve turned to obedience for fear of consequence. When the reality of the consequence became questionable, Eve was all too quick to give in.

True holiness can’t come from a fear of consequence. It has to come from the Lord. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful. . . . Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-2,4 When we are focused on the relationship, we obey the command to “remain in me.” Then, the Father is free to prune us, working on one area at a time, teaching us more and more about His holiness.

Rules are nice guidelines, but if we’re following them for fear of lightning bolts from the sky or just to earn our way into heaven, that’s not holiness. Like children who obey their parents out of a desire to please them and be like them, true holiness comes from knowing and loving God. Are we obeying God out of our relationship with Him, or are we just following a list of rules? Let’s step into His presence, seek His face and experience the power of a life fueled by love.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I pray you and your family had a Merry Christmas and ended the year with much to be thankful for. Since the end of one year and beginning of another is often a time of reflection, planning, and goal-setting, I’d like to ask you a question:

If you could change one thing you did this year, what would it be?

Would you have spent more time with a loved one?
Worked a little harder on a project or goal?
Maybe you wish you had made a few choices differently.

We all can think of ways that this last year could have gone “better” for us. Unfortunately, this new year doesn’t come with a time machine, allowing us to go back and fix our mistakes. No, the new year offers us something far greater. It is a chance to move forward with new knowledge and wisdom gained from experience.

I’d like to ask you to take another minute of reflection and think of your best moments from last year.

Were they times spent with family?
Were they times you succeeded at a goal?
Times you felt close to the Lord?

Whatever they were, they probably didn’t involve winning an argument, eating the last slice of pie, or getting back at the crazy driver who cut you off.

As you jump into this year, remember your triumphs. Remember the moments that mattered. Use them as tools in the new year to help you discern what is important, and what will be just another forgotten day in a year from now. We have the chance to love like never before, to dream new dreams, and to step into an incredible new adventure.

In many ways, today isn’t any different from yesterday. It’s another day, given to you by God as a gift. He’s given you the opportunity to choose how you will respond to it.