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Sacrifice Out

Not all of us are called to plant the flag.

Some of us will be Jake and some of us will be Jonathan and some of us will be Audrey Caroline.

We each have a role to play.

Some of us will give our lives on the beach, not making it beyond the sandy shores, our bodies paving the way for comrades behind us.

And some of us will step over the fallen, taking the cause one foot further before we meet our reckoning, the bullet with our name…the explosion that takes our gutteral last and ushers us in to hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. You’ve done what I purposed for you to do.”

Perhaps some of us won’t be in the second wave or third wave that hits those bloody beaches. We’ll be in the umpteenth wave, the bodies long gone, the blood seeped through and washed away by sand and salt.

Will we forget why we are here? Will we press on, into the jungle, ever pushing the edge of danger? Or will we vacation on those beaches, the place where others before us fought to pave our way?

We must not forget why we are here. We are here to take the cause of Christ one more foot, one more inch, one more life further into the domain of darkness. Though it takes our all, the gates of hell cannot stand against us.

Am I willing to be the sacrifice out? Am I dedicated to myself? Or to the Kingdom to which I belong?

I suck breath in and know the dividing of hearts and intentions, the Word that pierces and evaluates. And I am found lacking.

Only a handful get the honor of planting the flag; the others of us get the honor of paving the way for it. That is no less honor.

Will I embrace it?

Will I honor those who gave their lives on the shores…in the thick…in the foxholes… in their youth…in their gray…by being faithful to take it the next leg?

And if it means my blood and body pave the way for the next wave behind me, will I give it gladly, with a whisper, “Thine be the Kingdom…and the power…and the glory…”

He speaks it deep and I stay in this place. He invites me to train for my part. He invites me to let my arms and heart and mind be disciplined by Him for when I am “up.”  For I will be called upon…not to vacation the beaches but to bathe them in my blood.

To live and die for His cause and His body that continues throughout the ages.

It is a daily invitation, to let Him mould me in the ways of true nobility. In humility. In servitude. In giving up for the greater advancement. In seeing significance in the mundane. In full obedience. This is  true purpose, this living for Something greater than one’s self.

As former IMB president Jerry Rankin said, ours are lives given, not taken. Because when we play on His team, the agenda isn’t about us. It is about His team, His kingdom, His glory, His pre-eminence.

We know going in that some of us will be sacrifice outs. So we train to fight hard and give our all and when it’s our turn to pay the ultimate, we’ll rejoice to know we are advancing the team.

In Living and In Dying.


Spending Your Thousand Dollar Life

I step over a pile of green mucus the person in front of me hawked on the ground and board the bus. Body odors and foul air greet me, the stench of the unbrushed and unwashed.

I’m the only fair skinned one on this bus and I stick out like an alien with purple polka dots.

I’m traveling to a rural town called “Spirit Mountain” and when I arrive, I do sense the spirits, the long time resident ghosts who have kept this place in darkness….

Click here to continue reading the story…

How to Make the Bitter Sweet

“I’ve got a big ol’ steel cup of bitter,” she told the ladies group.

“Five kids, homeschooling, a controlling husband, a home based business. The demands never end and the resources are never enough.”

Another spoke up and shared her waters, the lot she’s been given, the bitter she can’t get down.

Who hasn’t come to the waters of Marah? Bitter waters aren’t potable. Our human condition cannot stomach such.

The ladies in bible study all turned to look at me, like I would have some answer for them.  Um… blank. I was thinking of Marah and I mumbled something about Exodus 15 and grew silent, hoping someone else would step in and take it over. It’s all I had.

I went home and looked again at the place Marah, where God “tested” His people.

I’d seen it in my own life; I’d heard it from the ladies at group; and now here it was in the scriptures: we come to the bitter and ask, “What are we to drink?”

The question implies we anticipate a change. This water hole isn’t going to cut it, surely God is going to take us down the road to a new, fresh, clear place where we can drink and be satisfied.

We expect God will make things better by changing location, circumstances, or by giving a quick fix.

But He doesn’t.

“…the Lord showed him a tree…”

He shows us “the Tree,” the wood that when brought to bear on the bitter turns it to sweet.

But oh, wait a minute.  I’m seeing something here. It was at the bitter waters that God revealed Himself as “The Lord, your Healer.”

Surely it is the bitter of life where God makes Himself known to us as The Great Physician as well… if we can get past asking how our needs are going to be met and let Him do what He does best.

The Physician begins by “testing” us.

“…and there He tested them.” (vs.25) The Healer gives His people a stress test!

The waters of Marah are a test to determine our condition. Here, our Healer God evaluates our health and exposes the hidden.

Have your bitter waters brought out complaining, grumbling, negativity, and short-sightedness in you?

{Ouch. That stress test hurt.}

That’s okay, because He isn’t done yet.

Next, the Physician gives a prescription.

“There He made for them a statute and ordinance…” (vs 25)

When I reached the words “statute” and “ordinance” I got down on my knees in astonished praise. Statute means “a prescription, a specific decree.” Ordinance means “a decision, the act of deciding a case and giving a proper, fitting, customized plan.”

God tested His people with bitter waters to determine what the proper RX should be.

The lasting prescription He gave was the cross, the wood in the water.

So blown away was I by this that I googled it to see what else I could find. “What is the statute God gave in Exodus 15:25?”

I asked this of a computer.

This is what came back:

“The leading of Israel to bitter water, which their nature could not drink, and then the sweetening or curing of this water, were to be the statute (the Rx) for Israel by which God would always guide and govern His people, and a judgement (a decision, a custom fitted plan) inasmuch as Israel could always reckon upon the help of God and deliverance from every trouble.” Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the OT

Right there at Marah is where God, the Great Physician, revealed His prescription for bitter waters that can’t be stomached. When I am facing a moment in my day when I just. can’t. get. this. cup. down….there is a solution.

I can apply the Cross.

God doesn’t lead us to another water hole to drink from. He shows us how we can drink from any water hole, praise God! no matter how bad it’s waters are. He tells us, “I’m not changing a thing, I’m giving you a lasting ordinance, a foul-proof way to make your bitter waters sweet.

Two and a half weeks later,  I’m reading Galatians 6 and Paul says, “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross…” and my ears perk up and my heart opens wide and I can’t wait to see what Paul has to say about the Cross, that beam of wood that makes the bitter sweet.

“…through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

It’s what Paul says next that astonishes me most. “And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them.”

Is he talking about the regulation? The lasting ordinance? THAT rule? The Exodus 25:15 one?

The Cross changes everything. It makes the bitter sweet because absolutely nothing is “old.” Behold, all things have become new!

The Cross gives Purpose. I am dead to ordinary. I am dead to meaningless. I am dead to empty mundane tasks. Everything is new and full of purpose. There is no ordinary. Whatever I do, it is eternally significant.

The Cross gives Presence. The Cross is the Bridge by which I leave the ordinary, the bitter, and enter the Divine Sphere. I am dead to the world and alive unto God. I have access to Divinity at all times.

The Cross gives Power. It is not about me “doing” something, like circumcision of old. It is simply living by the rule that I am indeed a new creation because of the cross of Christ. I am not helpless. The Cross is the “power of God.”  (see I Corinthians 1:17-18)

It is not something to be understood with the head, but accepted with the heart.

“Even so, consider yourselves also dead to sin, and your relation to it broken, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11

The 3 R’s of God’s Classroom

I hear his story on the radio, on the way to take oldest to school.

His name is Matt and a car accident changed his life. He lost the ability to read.

Every time he sat down to read, he just could not put the words together. “I don’t understand!” he kept crying.

They told him he’d never finish school.

But he decided to try. He submitted himself to a program in which he re-trained his brain to read letters on a page. For over a year, he re-trained.

He had four hundred and eighty something days straight of migraine headaches.

It hurt. He pushed on.

It was hard. He pushed on.

It was agonizingly frustrating, re-learning something a completely different way, when he’d already done it the easy way years earlier.

He pushed on.

He can read now. He graduated with honors. And now he’s pursuing an MBA.

The story comes on a day when I want to give up. I’m oh so tired and the grueling work confuses the mind, sweat stings the eyes.

The story concludes on the radio and the Voice speaks to me: “I told you these days would come,” and I remember nearly a year ago, when He first gave me my prognosis.

I was sitting in the audience, waiting to hear the preacher, thinking the Word would come once the announcements were over. But no, there was one who had something to say and He spoke through that one.

The one had limped down the aisle to the podium, dragging his leg behind him.

His words were just as slow, forced out of a mouth that couldn’t keep up with the mind.

He barely spoke two sentences before he ambled back down the aisle, but in the span of those two sentences our mutual Maker spoke loud and clear, with no faltering and no stuttering. “That’s you,” He told me.

It was so powerful and so out of the ordinary that I told my husband about it that evening. “Yes, I know the young man,” he told me. “He calls himself “Marine 4 Christ.’”

I was so taken by this connection God had made between me and this young injured soldier, that I googled him. “Marine4Christ.” I found the connection in listening to his testimony.

Like Brandon, I am a wounded warrior. Years of abuse and spiritual bondage left me wounded and paralyzed, in a coma of sorts… Dead weight to those who cared for me.

“You are awake now,” He said to me that day as I watched Brandon’s story. “Like Brandon, I’ve redeemed your life too.”

“Now. If you are to get well, you too will have to relearn everything.

Relearn Everything.

I knew it would take hard, agonizing work. Grueling days, hours, moments. Impossible odds. Days when I’d say, “I can’t do this anymore.” It would take a team of people around me who pushed me to do what I felt simply and absolutely impossible.

But if I was to get well, if I wanted to live again, I would have to re-learn the ways of Grace. I’d have to learn how to eat again, how to work again, how to stand up and walk.

I’m still in the classroom. Today as I wondered if I’ve made any progress at all, God showed me that I have at least learned what the 3 R’s are in His classroom, and I’m giddy with the knowledge:

1. Receive- The way to eat is to receive. Receive all of God’s goodness and grace and to do that, one must open up, let go, do the opposite of what comes naturally when one has lived on life support. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”

Open up, take in, swallow down. Receive.

2. Rest- The work of God’s classroom is to rest, the cessation of self striving and self effort. To move the spiritual body means letting Him be the one to both give and fill the prescription. He is in me both to will and to work.

Resting in God’s Kingdom classroom is not passive! “Labor to enter into that rest…” (Heb 4:11) Entering rest is perhaps the most difficult work of all.

3. tRust- The walk of the godly is to trust. The just shall live by faith. Just as each step is an act of free falling, so walking by faith is learning to free fall through my days, letting God-legs catch and sustain.

This is what it means to re-gain the ability to walk.

On a day like today, I wonder if I’ve made any progress at all. I wonder if I can pick up and just. do. today’s. part. Then I hear Matt’s story and I remember Brandon’s story and I know that like them, I can do it too. My life is redeemed and my Physician won’t forsake me.

And He’s placed me in just the right environment for me to re-learn, with people in my life (especially the 4 children!) who will push me and force me to new limits. I just need submit to His plan and keep practicing.

One day, I’ll be eating on my own. I’ll have full range of movement again. I’ll be walking.

And today? Well today I’ve moved one day closer.

Have a great weekend, dear friend, you who have happened upon this place today…

Abba

She came looking for me.

I heard her sleeper-ed feet sliding across the wood floor, soft aches for a momma’s touch. I paused.

I waited.

Nothing.

Somewhere along the way she turned back. Somewhere along the way she broke my heart.

I went to go check, thinking perhaps I had just imagined the soft feet, the aching heart, the silent push then retreat.

I caught her tail end climbing back into bed and I knew.

She had come looking for me.

I asked her soft if she was okay. “Yeah,” she said in her quiet way.

“Did you get out of bed?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said again.

“Were you looking for me?”

“Yeah.”

I took that Little Bit in my arms and I hugged her tight, and my heart broke in half and I told her that she was okay, she was always welcome to get me, that’s why I’m here.

That’s when I felt the moisture on my cheek. She was bleeding.

I carried her to the bathroom and we looked at her nose bleed and I ran the hot water and we cleaned it up and all the while I was hoping that gentle touches were communicating things that words never could.

This little girl of mine who doesn’t trust. Doesn’t receive. Doesn’t hear and see and lay hold.

Together we got the humidifier and a drink of water and held hands as we walked back to bed and I tucked her in and I told her that if she needed me, come get me. That’s what mommas are for.

Then I cried.

“Is this how You feel, Lord?” I asked. When You have adopted us and we need You so badly but we are so wounded and so afraid; and we start to come get You but then we turn back, unsure…

And You hear our slipper-ed feet, wait in anticipation for our sleepy heads to peek in the doorway…. and Your heart just absolutely breaks in half when it doesn’t.

So You let something hurt us so that we can feel the gentle touches and heart-hear the nurturing love that words never could communicate.

Is this how it works?

And You let it happen again and again and again. Each time we make it further down the hallway before turning back?

Until finally, we go all the way. We peek our heads around the doorway and we say, “Abba?”

And we both know ~ finally~ we are getting somewhere.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzfPHnoT0-0&w=480&h=390]

American Idol: The god Named Control {The Surrender Project Part II }

 One of the biggest lies I’ve believed is not that I can “have it my way” but that I want to.

Long before Frank Sinatra…in the garden, actually… this lie was introduced to mankind, the lie that we are better off having things our way, on our terms. We are better off being the one in control.

The frightening condition of our culture today, however, is that it has become so prevalent, even among Christians, that we fail to recognize its demonic origins.

This will undoubtedly be one of the most important posts I ever write. More than words on a page, I pray for the truths here to be written on my heart, truths from God’s word that untie the cords of control.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
She was a princess, the daughter of a king. Her father ~ the king of Tyre~ was named Ethbaal, meaning “with Baal”, and her name? Well her name was Jezabel. They were an entire family of souls sold to Baal.

Baal means “lord” or “to lord over” and by serving Baal, they served the god of control.

Ahab, the king of Israel, made a decision that was so distasteful to God and so destructive to the nation, that he “provoked the LORD God of Israel more than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” His decision was to marry the woman named Jezebel. In so doing, he not only became a Baal worshiper himself, but he became one “lorded over” ~by his own wife!

Get this. The name Jezebel? It means “un-husbanded” or “unable to covenant.” Here was a woman exalted by her false god Baal to the place of being unable to attach and submit to her husband. She simply refused to be under authority. She had to domineer and be in control.

She controlled her husband Ahab. She controlled the religious environment. She controlled generationally through her children. She controlled the entire nation of Israel. She lived as her own authority.

The god she served ~Baal~ gave her “permission” to be in control, to be her own authority, and to not be subject to anyone. No one was going to tell her anything and she sure wasn’t going to let anyone do anything to her.

Now why in the world should this matter to me?

For the very simple reason that Baal is alive and well today, this god of control, and so is Baal worship.

This god is demonic. It comes along and, like the cunning snake, says, “Take charge.”

“Take charge of your own righteousness; take charge of your relationships; your children; your finances; your future; your career; your body; your time.” It tells us “Don’t just trust; Take charge.”

It tells us “Don’t risk too much. Don’t give too much. Don’t trust too much. Don’t sacrifice too much. Self protect. Take care of your own…”

It tells us, “If you don’t control, protect, manipulate, manage, withdraw, domineer, etc, just imagine what will happen!”

We as women are especially prone to it’s tactics of intimidation.

In turn, we tend to clamp down, clam up, do our best to protect and manage while never recognizing the god named Control as it loops its cords around our souls.

This god of control has generational roots. It is passed down from one generation to another and blends into the background of our makeup and culture. Over and over in Chronicles, it speaks of godly kings who followed the LORD “except he did not remove the high places from Israel.” (For example see II Chronicles 20:32-33)

This is what happens when we tolerate sin in our lives: it becomes a generational stronghold.

Control has become so “normal” that it serves as the backdrop of our lives and we’ve become dull to it’s real identit. You would think that the Israelite kings would have recognized the high places- they were right there in front of their eyes! But I believe they were so much part of the culture and even the geography that they were blind to them.

The allusion of control is safety. Security. Provision. Protection. Results. Guarantees. But it fails to deliver.

Fortunately, Jesus came, told us the truth, and showed us the way out. “In this world the kings and rulers lord it over their people, yet they call themselves “Friend of the People.” Luke 22:25, emphasis mine

Yes, that is what control does. It comes as a “friend” to help, as the solution to fear and desperate, terrifying need. But it lords over. It is a master. It rules.

Jesus continued, “But it is not this way with you, but the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” vs. 26

The way up is down. The way to strength is weakness. The way to life is death. The way to more is to pour out.

We can let go.

We can start opening palm and unclamping heart and unwinding tangles and unfolding grace and start learning that it actually is going to be alright.

 Because we were not made to live under the tyranny of control.

Listen to this verse: “When that day comes’, says the Lord, ‘you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my Baal’ (master, lord).” Hosea 2:16    Perhaps it begins with understanding that Our God is not a God who lords over us. He is a God who husbands us, tends us, woos us, cares for us, nurtures us.

We are safe with Him. We CAN trust. We can let go of control. We can start today by simply confessing our idolatry and our Husband will take us back and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 ”He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Martyred Missionary Jim Elliot

 

Q4U: What area(s) of your life and heart are you still controlling?

 

Are there any generational strongholds of control within your family?

 

Are you willing to confess these to the Lord and let Him walk you through to full surrender?

 

To be continued…

Related Posts:

The Surrender Project (Part I)

Self-Sufficiency in Christianity

**I am indebted to Pastor Rick Atchley for the title of today’s post.

 

Core Lies

Okay, so I’m not telling you anything you probably don’t already know, but Sarah Mae has her FREE e-book on Core Lies up at her site.

My heart is blessed to see this resource up because several years ago, God started a process of identifying deeply embedded lies in my belief system. {He began the process with a very dramatic event- a story for another day}

The very first comment I left on a blog was on Sarah Mae’s when she asked for input on core lies back in December. This topic is near and dear to my heart. Here is part of my story as I shared in the comment:

Sarah Mae,

I am a visual person and God is gracious to give me illustrations to show me what He is doing in my life at any given time. As God walked me through the process of sifting truth from untruth in my life, He gave me the imagery of Achan to illustrate the process… You know when he took the goods under the ban and the Israelites cast lots to see who was guilty of the sin. (See Joshua 7)

First, the tribe of Judah was selected. God identifies the large categories first. In my life, the lies stemmed from two main areas: abuse as a 4 year old child, and the religious-but-powerless upbringing I had.

Secondly, the family of the Zerahites was selected. From the large group, God narrows it down, because not all things in that large group were lies. Much of my upbringing, for example, was helpful and good.

He showed me that certain things in my past caused me to “stumble” which means “to cause one to distrust One whom he should trust and obey.” This stage was identifying ways I became reliant on myself and withdrew from God, even “spiritual” looking ways. This stage was recognizing the ways I began “performing” and seeking after other things when I should have been laying hold of Jesus and developing a genuine faith in His love and goodness towards me.

Thirdly, the household was selected. God is getting ever closer to the “core.” In this phase, God revealed to me the misconceptions I held about Him and His nature, the “flesh and blood” concepts I picked up as truth but in fact were lies. For example, God is not a taskmaster but the rule by rod upbringing I had taught me He was.

Finally, from the household, man by man is brought near and Achan was selected. It is at this point that the core was identified, the one that had tainted the entire camp. God identified the core lies in my life as follows:

1. You are not good enough for God.

2. You have to do this by yourself. You are on your own. (Self reliance)

3. God is chiefly interested in your obedience (as opposed to relationship and obedience as an outflow of that- John 15)

Through a very difficult season of parenting my own children, God has used my emotions of fear, inadequacy, anxiety, and anger as triggers to teach me those underlying lies. From there, I have been able to identify them, label them, reject them as they come up, and embrace truth instead.

What freedom!

I am grateful to Sarah Mae for including an additional portion of my testimony in her e-book, which you can download by clicking here.

 

Eucharisteo Is Not A Formula

I love Ann Voskamp.

I read her blog, have read (and marked up) her book, even given copies away as gifts. I’ve learned from her and keep my own “list.” But…

But…

There is something that needs to be said {and I need to say it to my own heart}:

Eucharisteo is not a formula.

It is possible to start a list and hope to see God in it and ”do” everything just right yet end up missing the whole point. Let me explain.

Our approach in Western Christianity is to make everything a formula. Our independent, affluent, self sufficient culture sort of makes this our default.

The problem is, formulas indicate control~ ours. We do something for God’s revelation, power, goodness, grace, manifestation, etc. God’s outpouring in our lives is dependent then on us and on whether we have concocted the *right* formula.

God, on the other hand, invites us to relationship, which is the relinquishing of control and trusting in the character of another (God.)

Relationship is Trust. Faith.

I say this because I am afraid our tendency is to see people like Ann Voskamp and Beth Moore and others, and love what they have with the Lord and we want to follow their footsteps to having it too. So we “try it” amd are discouraged when we can’t follow suit or when ours doesn’t look the same or when the results we thought we’d see aren’t there.

The pattern for many of us is that of constantly jumping from one thing to another, thinking…hoping… this time will be “it,”  that somehow this is the missing piece and it will all come together, finally.

But it is faith that builds relationship, not Beth Moore’s bible study or Ann Voskamp’s List. The transforming factor in their lives is faith, not formula.

I know this agonizingly well.

I spent many years of my Christian life “trying” instead of believing.

Faith is about letting go of control. For Ann, eucharisteo was the way she practiced letting go and trusting God. For her, like it must be for us all, it is not about formula but faith.

We like to control our own spirituality. In fact, we even believe our spiritual growth is our responsibility. When caught in this trap, something wonderful like eucharisteo then becomes a formula we try to use. It is such a way of life that many of us can’t even see it.

“For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own…” Romans 10:3

It is possible to desire righteousness and seek after it and go about it all wrong because you know not about God’s righteousness, which only comes one way:

“But now, apart from the Law (works, self-effort, formulas), the righteousness of God has been manifested, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:21-22

We don’t have to manufacture our own righteousness, we can simply accept Christ’s.

If you can’t use spiritual disciplines as a means of deepening faith, letting go of control, and receiving Christ’s sufficiency…then let the discipline go. It only creates self-effort.

Permission to Believe

I stand at the window, watching the dying embers of orange fall over the horizon.

I wonder about days ahead, when kids aren’t in toddler beds and backyard isn’t strewn with sticks and balls and popsicle wrappers. I wonder how I might stand at a similar window, seeing similar sights…how might I be so different, so strong, so full of faith and the Holy Spirit, like Stephen.

He speaks. He says, “What are you waiting for?       A lightening bolt from Me? A rushing wind? What are you waiting for to believe?

“I AM who I Am and you are who I say.”

This is every woman’s dream, is it not? Every man, woman, boy, and girl’s, to be everything God speaks of us, once we really hear what He’s said?

So why can’t I believe it? What am I waiting for?

I ask it of Him: “Lord, You know me better than I know myself. You know I long for this, to be in You and Your Words in me and to be full of faith and the Spirit and so monopolized by You that nothing else matters. So what am I waiting for?”

He answers with scripture, “To them He gave the right…” (John 1:12) “You need to give yourself permission to believe. I’ve given you the right.”

A lifetime of religion (much of it good) somehow left me thinking God’s word and God’s gifts and God’s grace came with strings attached. God’s word always needed to be explained. It was always expounded upon and elaborated on, like it had to undergo surgery so we could understand what God was really saying, so that we would not take it to mean or say what God didn’t intend.

There was no simple, blessed gospel. 

I see it happen all the time and I call it whittling. It’s like taking a knife to a tree and whittling it… whittling, whittling it right on down to a mere toothpick.

“Here,” they said Sunday after Sunday, handing me the toothpick. “Here’s what you can take away from this passage.”

And now God is saying, “You can take the whole blooming tree! I’ve given you that right.”

“You are fully loved, freely forgiven, unconditionally accepted, deliberately chosen, delightfully approved, purposefully adopted, lavishly blessed, and exquisitely beautiful.”

“And I am exactly everything I AM. You have permission to believe.”

So after the toddlers are in their beds and the yard is still strewn, I open up worn, beloved pages and I take the hand of my Savior and I say, “Jesus, with Your help and by Your permission, I will believe this,” and I begin to read:

“Grace to you, and peace {Grace and Peace, The signature Gifts from God!} from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in His mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love.

“Long, long ago, He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift giving by the hand of His beloved Son.

“Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people. Free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ…

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had His eye on us…” (Ephesians 1:3-12, MSG)

I feel like preachin’ a sermon, a simple one: Brethren, we’ve been given a permission slip. We can skip class and homework and all the demands of rigid teacher and we can go out and take the whole blooming tree.

{Bet you never heard a sermon like that}

But Hallelujah, it makes sense to me.

The Surrender Project

Dear Journal,

It was raining when we left, the bucket kind of rain.

We were late enough already, got lost on the way, got slowed by the rain, and it was nearly 8pm when we reached the double wide trailer with the orange cones in the yard to prevent parking on the grass.

Her name is Felicia.  We talked for 45 minutes or so and she never did ask us in beyond the doorway, but she was giddy with Jesus.

We talked about what it means to be saved and asked when that had happened in her life.

“Three weeks ago,” she said, “That night at the ladies Bible study.”

It was the night I had talked about stumbling blocks. I had been nervous, because all that week I was working on a different lesson but 2 o’clock Friday morning He woke me up with a completely different lesson and I went with it and relied heavily on Him to get the message out.

Felicia had wept through the entire lesson.

Until finally she had burst out in loud, uncontrollable crying and we waited for the Spirit to birth something among us and she blurted out, “My mom died suddenly 4 weeks ago and I’m a train wreck.”

Jesus came to save the sick and to bind up the broken and she was in the right place.

She told me that since that night, her life has been different. She has peace. Joy. She has read the Bible every day with a new hunger, an unquenchable thirst. She said she feels God’s arms around her and wants to tell everybody about it.

Said She’s falling in love with Jesus.

After the visit, the girl with me talked, shared things I hadn’t known before. We traveled dark, rain slicked miles back to church and kids and schedules and delayed bedtimes.  Right there in that van He spoke to me: Told me how I somehow thought I could fulfill God’s plans and dreams for my life my way, and hadn’t tonight shown me that letting Him do things His way is better?

Dear Journal, Like Abraham and Sarah, I’ve had God promises breathed over me. I can point to chapter and verse. I know God has promised. The only problem is that I’ve taken those promises and tried to tell God how to fulfill them. Expected Him to do it in my life the same way He’s done it in someone else’s. And when He delayed, I thought surely it must be up to me to make them happen.

But like Abraham and Sarah learned through Ishmael, God’s plans are only fulfilled God’s way.

I’ve given birth to an Ishmael.

Or two. He pierces my heart with the truth: The difference between Ishmael and Isaac is who’s in control.

And I’ve been in control. I’ve invested time and money trying to fulfill the promises of God in my life. I’ve taken control over bringing them to pass, labored long to give birth.

Abraham did learn to give up control (it is possible, hallelujah!)…for when God asked for the greatest sacrifice~Isaac’s life~ Abraham set out to obey. He had finally realized that God’s plans are always… only… fulfilled His way.

And he surrendered.

How? I need to know how, because I’m a control freak. I’m trying to be in control of bringing about God’s plans and purposes and promises upon my life. And my children. And maybe the whole world, at least the one I live in.

That night I saw my Ishmael paths, dear Journal,  and my Isaac path and that Abraham could give up his Isaac in Genesis 22 because he had already given up his Ishmael in Genesis 21.

“She said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac. And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham, because of his son (Ishmael.)” Genesis 21:8-13

Be it Arabah or Abraham, we all have a hard time letting go of our babies.

Yet I for one need to realize that ”my” babies, those born of my own efforts at fulfilling God’s word for Him…like I could ever do that… will never be heirs of the promise. 

“But God said to Abraham, ‘Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac your offspring shall be named.”

So Abraham rose up the next morning, loaded the child and woman up with food, and sent them away. This is how I am to let go? This is the answer for control freaks?

“Yes, it is,” God tells me through Galatians 4. “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh while the son of the free woman was born through the promise. But you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But what does the Scripture say? Cast out the slavewoman and her son for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the slave woman.”

Journal, there comes a time when we must cast out our Ishmael. We must let go of control. We must surrender all our efforts at accomplishing God’s will our way. We must come to the table with no preconceived ideas about how, what, and when God is going to fulfill His word in our lives.

I’m there.

God is calling me to full surrender. 

He is asking me to come to the table with absolutely nothing but my “Yes.”

No suggestions, no “helpful” attempts, no preconceived notions. Just a “Yes, Lord. Your servant is listening.”

Journal, you know that I have grown tired, oh so tired, of living the Christian life in the flesh. The pages here record a God who calls, moves, and invites to something profoundly different: a Christian life fully lived in the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God.

No props. No bootstraps. No jazz. No Guarantees. No Rights.

Just Him.

He has brought me to this point and dear journal, I am terribly excited.

It is no coincidence that Loving Husband is preparing for his Dissertation on the Shantung Revival, the revival where missionaries, pastors, and laity alike had Acts 2 like encounters with the Spirit of God.

Oh, I’ve learned so much from their testimonies! And from Brother Yun and from Bill Bright and others who have testimonies of walking by the Holy Spirit…and throughout them all is this one theme: full surrender.

Precious Jesus has shown me that full surrender isn’t possible for someone who doesn’t fully trust first. He has worked diligently for many years to rebuild trust, to invite me to believe and then show Himself trustworthy.

And now…now He prompts me for surrender. Surrender is never taken by force, it is always given. My spirit responds and He wakes me in the morning with words: “After you have returned, strengthen your brethren.”

I hope to somehow give words to what He is doing in my heart. Even in this, I surrender to Him. His work, His way.

To be continued…

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