Tag Archives: surrender

Learning to walk


Walking with God in tough times is an ongoing process that requires humility, surrender of self, a desire beyond self interests, obedience, and a faith that continues to believe. But how do we develop and nurture these characteristics when our life was previously built on the opposite? We don’t. Trying to master these in our own power is an exercise in futility. That’s why Jesus sent his own Holy Spirit to dwell within us to accomplish in and through us what was impossible alone.


It starts with humility because its opposite, pride, is our fiercest foe. Pride thinks all the time about satisfying ‘my’ desires, comforts, and ambitions. Pride redraws the universe to revolve around ‘me.’ It’s insatiable appetite is never fulfilled. Whatever it has, it wants more. Humility finds calmness of heart and peace in the storm. It says, “It’s not about me. There’s something much bigger than me. I’ve learned to be content.” Personally, I am never more humbled when I think of God’s greatness and especially his mercy and love. It’s humbling to recognize that he chose us before the foundations of the earth were laid. Looking at the vastness of God’s creation brings me to bow in humility. Humility grows when we recognize the depth of our sin, how we deserve nothing, yet find God giving us all good things instead. A humble heart learns to say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” On the scale from humility to pride, where would you place yourself? Remember, only the Holy Spirit can bring you closer.


Humility leads us to repent. Repentance is surrendering and turning away from sin and the failures of our own limited efforts. More than that, repentance counts everything as loss that we once considered gain. God may or may not call you to leave your treasures, a secure job, or a bank account to serve him. But he will call you away from striving after them as your deepest desire. His Spirit brings us to joyfully turn away from these pursuits so we can pursue something far greater. Repentance turns away from the old self – no looking back. Do you find your old self more in your rear view mirror or in your windshield?


Repentance not only brings us forgiveness but the grace to see beyond ourselves. Just as a self-directed life focuses primarily on us, the Spirit- led life brings us to increasingly look at others through the eyes of Jesus. Can you admit to sometimes seeing people as interruptions or maybe not really seeing them at all? Jesus changes that. We’re all tempted to look at people, savings, possessions, and time as if they belong for our comfort. Jesus shows us that he owns it all. Scripture reminds us that even our bodies are not our own. They were purchased with a price!  What we surrender comes to seem very small compared to the opportunity to participate in his master plan of redemption and  restoration. Ask God this question each day, especially when you confront people you regard as difficult: “God help me to see others through YOUR eyes.”


Seeing our lives and others through God’s perspective leads the spirit-led life to obedience. Obedience is the test of love.  If we catch ourselves persistently envying a better lifestyle, a certain look, or other things if the world, we’re not loving God. If we constantly steal time from our spouse and children or our friends in need so we can pursue our own interests, we’re not loving God. If we persist in anger, bitterness, judging others, self pity, anxiety, or fear, we aren’t living in obedience to the one who calls us to freedom. Obedience is listening to the voice of God and doing what he says right then. Sadly, I can remember too many times he prompted me to pray WITH someone, not just for them later, but I chickened out; how many times I had opportunity to comfort and encourage others who were sick and lonely but instead stayed away. What is God calling you to do differently?  You may feel you’ve given the steering wheel of your life to God, but have you taken your foot off the accelerator and brake? Trust God to lead you in complete obedience even if it’s out of your comfort zone.


Finally, the obedient heart learns to keep believing. Believing God over our emotions and feelings allows us to remain content in him. It believes that Christ-in-us is a reality that changes everything, that it’s Jesus who makes us complete, not anyone or anything else. When we keep on believing, we start to look for God to show up in our daily life. Our former pursuits grow gradually more dim as we come to be more satisfied being in his presence.


Though I graduated from crawling to walking as a toddler, it seems learning to walk in cooperation with the Spirit of God is a lifetime pursuit. Thanks for sharing the path with me as we walk together.


Do you love me?


I am persuaded that faithfulness is the ONLY thing that matters. Not just clinging on to mere  words, but actually responding to that firm stand: faith expressing itself in love. Love is the true test of faith. Faith living all out for Jesus, nothing held back, whether fighting the fight and running the race, or simply resting in his loving arms. Faith expressing itself in love is the answer to “Do you (really) love me?”


You remember Jesus asking this same question of Peter – three times, each time drilling further to measure the depth of his love for the master. As you pray to the Heavenly Father do you ever hear him ask you, “Do you love me?” The first time is rather easy: of course I love you Lord. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have asked you into my life. “Yes, but do you love me?” He asks again. “Lord haven’t you seen me going to church, serving on church projects,  and giving financially?” Without hesitation,  Jesus asks again “Do you (really) love me?” And you realize it is not simply a matter of what you’ve done but who you are becoming in his image. Do you thirst after him as if you were in a very dry place with no water? Are you as excited about him as you are about your favorite sports team, your house, accomplishments, or even your family?


Each of the three questions are answered with “take care of my lamb” or “feed my sheep.” Jesus’ response to the question of our love for him is wrapped in the context of desiring what he desires, seeing people and circumstances as he sees them, not through the lens of our own ambitions.


“Do you love me?” reveals what in our heart is lifter to a higher level than our Lord? It asks  us “who or what brings you the greatest satisfaction?” It confronts our hidden pride and selfish ambitions. It questions even our good deeds which become worthless to God if they are not led and inspired by his Spirit.


Even if your life starts resembling Job’s and losses seem insurmountable, will you be able to say, “Yes Lord, I love  you.” Is Jesus really enough for you even if you lose all things or the one thing most precious to you in all this world?


Its not an easy question to answer honestly. We are so attached to the world, it’s hard to fully let go. It might not be easy to carry on. It’s not so much that we don’t love the Lord, but that we are so preoccupied we forget to answer the question. Perhaps that is our biggest challenge, to slow down enough to hear God ask, “Do you love me.” And to hear you responding back, “Yes Lord I really do love you. More over, thank you for first loving me!

Where is God in your place of emptiness?


Years ago, a team of astronomers at the University of Minnesota announced they found a hole in the universe in the Eridanus constellation. They say it has no galaxies, few stars, not even dark matter. It’s just an empty place they say is a billion light years across.  I think it means that IF you could travel at the speed of light, it would take one billion human years to go from one end of this hole to another. Who can comprehend it? Only God, because he created that hole and the entire universe and everything in it. His divine power and wisdom keeps it running.


I’ve reading through the book of Job lately. Job knew something about empty places. As you may recall, Job was a wealthy and well respected man. But then he lost all his possessions, his children, and his health. He was only left with his criticizing ‘friends’ and a nagging wife. Covered in boils, he was in unspeakable pain every day. Yet Job accepted his condition as allowed by his sovereign God. He spoke truth about God to his so-called friends despite their constant battling against him. What a vast empty place that must have been!


After repeated discourses between Job and his accusers, the Lord spoke to Job, reminding him of who was God and who wasn’t. “Where you were when I laid the earth’s foundations? Who marked off its dimensions? Can you bind the chain of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s Belt?” (Interesting that God points Job, in his place of emptiness, to the Orion constellation which borders the Eridanus constellation where this large empty hole was found.)  Essentially, God brought Job to the end of himself. Job turned to God and God restored him. Not only him but twice his wealth and more sons and daughters.


Can you associate with Job in your suffering? And after your endless questions and cries for help, after all your own reasoning and you find yourself in a dark empty place…can you surrender everything to God? I know this is painful because I’ve gone there myself. But when we tell God, “I’m tired of being bitter, angry, lonely, always in pain, full of grief, always anxious and afraid, I desperately need your help,” he is ready to change us. When we stop resisting his leading and going our own way, he will restore us. It’s a matter of telling ourselves every day (and throughout the day), “Yet still I will believe you Lord. Yet still I will trust you. Yet still I will claim your promise of assurance, peace, love and so much more. I will let your goodness replace my harmful thoughts and actions. My beliefs will be made evident through my thoughts, words, and behaviors. I will walk out of my self-imposed prison of rebellion and find freedom in following you.”


The choice is ours. Where are you going to turn in your place of emptiness?



What’s NOT on the altar?


One of the things that gets in the way of trusting God in all situations is that we hold onto things we need to surrender. We cling to the evils we’ve lived with for so long – the negative thoughts, the false guilt, the lies that we have out-sinned God’s capacity to forgive. We’ve kept these at our side and played the tapes over and over in our mind for so long it seems impossible to let them go, even though God promises to replace them with his goodness, peace, assurance, and love.we cling to the evil we know rather than embrace the freedom of God’s goodness.


We also cling to good things that we treasure more than anything else including, if we’re honest, our relationship with God. Our actions say, “I will trust God as long as…” As long as he provides me with a good job, with the house I want, with good health and happiness, with close family and friends. The list goes on. What would you add?


We read in Genesis 22 the account of Abraham willing to sacrifice his only son on the altar. He was faced with a crisis of whether to trust and obey God    or to trust his emotions and self reasoning. Of course we know that he trusted God and God intervened by providing an alternate sacrifice. Abraham’s faith was rewarded. Faith means believing whatever we place on the altar will be blessed by God.


Maybe it’s time to put something on the altar. Job, income, kids, finding a spouse, happiness, friends, dreams… whatever stands between us trusting God partially and trusting him fully, with complete confidence that he will work good in our lives according to his purpose.


I remember praying for the kids. I’d say something like, “whatever it takes Lord, just draw my children to you. Just don’t make it too painful or too embarrassing,” I’d pray the same thing for myself, “Lord, create in me a pure heart. Rid me of this pervasive sin that I fight daily; just don’t cause me public ridicule or pain.”  Finally, I had to pray, “Whatever it takes, Lord.”


We’re conditioned to think that victory is of highest value. But there are some things that need to be surrendered before we can achieve real victory in life. Surrender is a matter of the will. It decides who has control of my life, me or God? Can I really trust God to direct my life or do I think I do a better job managing my own challenges? Surrender means asking “Am I going to go on letting my feelings and emotions lead me or am I going to really live by faith? Which engine is going to pull my train?


In my search, I’ve asked God, “What stands in the way between me and you?” Do I only trust you if things go according to my plan? Romans 14:8 tells me I can trust God whether I live or die. But what about that in between place where I am not fully living and thriving and yet not dead? Can I trust God for that too? I was recently talking with one of the overnight staff who commented about trusting God even though her dreams are not being realized. “And still I will praise you, my God” was her faith-filled response.”


Is is there something in your life that needs to be put on the altar and surrendered completely to God? Perhaps you’ll pray along with me:

Search me, God, and know my heart:
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

– Psalm 139:23-24


God’s glory gives light

Have you ever noticed how suffering has a way of stripping away the layers of who you think you are, to reveal who you really are inside?  Who I am as a man, as a leader, as a provider for my family – a father, husband, grandfather – a contributor to my church, an influencer of others for the kingdom of Christ… All these have changed, some in small ways, others more significantly, through the journey of Leukemia. This is good when it involved surrender to God and being molded in His image. But there is also a certain grieving of the journey from Gal 2:20 and 2 Cor 5:17. It seems we carry so many labels and hold some of these dearly close to us. Some aspects of these need to be stripped away. The remainder all need to be submissive to the one label of God’s child, devoted follower of Jesus.


Lately, I am reflecting on the glory of God filling his temple (2 Chron. 5:14 and many other verses). I think on 1 Cor 3:16 (and others) where we are reminded that we ourselves are the temple of God. It follows of course, that His glory should fill us, that others should see his glory when they observe our lives, filled with his presence.


It is like the story of the little girl who asked her mother, “Is it true that when we ask Jesus into our life that He lives in our heart?” The mother replied, “Well yes dear, that is right.” “And isn’t He the light of the world?” the girl continued. “Yes, that is true,” replied the mom. “Then shouldn’t others see Him shine through us?” the girl asked. Out of the mouth of babes comes a truth for us. Some extent of the glory of God should be revealed through us if His Son lives in us.


This label of glory-filled-holiness is a worthy (and daunting) one to consider.  It is our true identity that no one and no circumstance can strip away unless we let it.  It is a banner we can only carry by continual surrender to Christ in us, the hope of glory. When He carries this banner others can see Him…in us.


What other identity rivals this one? Let God’s glory shine in and through your day. For the glory of God gives light!

Living the Parable

Jesus taught many parables to help people understand the kingdom of God. Some people think that parables are just stories about good values. More than that they are stories about who we are meant to be and how to experience God’s best for you. One of the parables Jesus taught is that of the widow’s offering. A story about money, yes, but even more, it is a story about how much of US belongs to God.

Mark 12:41-44 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Jesus would rather see us put OURSELVES in the offering plate than money. We sing, “All to Jesus, I surrender,” but it is easier to say than to do this, right?

If we want to get to better physical health we generally start with a Complete Physical Assessment. Steve Canfield shared with us recently that the road to better spiritual health often begins with a Complete Spiritual Assessment. Part of that process is considering our priorities. for example, number the following in relation to which gets the most of your TIME daily (1=most time, 6=least time):
___ Computer/internet
___ Television/Movies
___ Eating
___ Recreation
___ God’s Word (reading, memorizing, meditating)
___ Prayer

Now, in order, number the following in relation to which gets the most of your MONEY monthly (1=most money, 6=least money):
___ Car or pets
___ Sorts or hobbies
___ Dating/socializing
___ Habits
___ God’s work (church, missions, etc)
___ Music and videos (CDs, MP3s, etc)

If we are honest with ourselves these simple exercises will reveal how much (or little) of our time and money are invested in seeking God and His best for us, and how much is frittered away. I remember years ago when we were doing regular missions to storm ravaged New Orleans someone said to me, “I’d like to go, but I just don’t have the money.” and yet, they had fashionable clothes, a big TV, nice car, went out to eat often, etc.

It’s all about choices, isn’t it? As you search your heart, ask yourself, “What changes do I want to make in my daily schedule and monthly budget?” Our answer always depends on how much do we love and trust the One who made us.

Choose God’s best for you today. Give Him all of you. He gives you all of Him.