Word of the Day

The Power of Surrender

Job 42: 2

I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted.

Do we really know that He, God, can do all things? Have we really grasped in our depths that no purpose of His can be thwarted? I very much doubt that we have really grasped the truth of those two statements. If we had, no purpose of His to which He has called us would be impossible to us. We would have no fear in the things that He has asked. I am not sure that this is just a matter of faith. This passage is found in the last of Job. These statements represent some of Job’s last utterances in the long discussion which is the book of Job. I think these passages reflect a heart which, rather than demonstrating faith, shows surrender. Job finally surrenders to God’s omnipotence. He finally accepts that he, Job, cannot make everything make sense but if He will surrender to God, He can make it right. Job’s next words are of repentance. Then God restores Job. Job had to come to a place of surrender and repentance in order to receive all that God had for him and all that God wanted to do for him. Job had to get himself out of God’s way. He had to surrender his thoughts and his ways and acknowledge that God, Jehovah, is the way and that God, not Job, can do all things. Job, through surrender, let go of his arguments and his wisdom and acknowledged that God knows all things. These statements, so seemingly full of faith are actually full of surrender and repentance. It is the letting go of ourselves that allows us to flow in deep faith.

He is Paying Attention

Isaiah 40: 27

Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God?”

Sometimes, I know, it seems that God is far away. You are doing your best with all you do; trying with your effort to please the Lord, but it seems the ungodly are getting the best of you. You wonder why God does not see all the good you do and how much you are giving in order to be like him and why he does not rush in to vindicate you. Do not fear. Do not lose your patience. God is watching and he is seeing. All that you do in secret is plain to him. Nothing you do goes without his notice. He will come to you in a time when you least expect it. There is a law that cannot be denied. That is that what you sow, you will get. While it may seem that your efforts are going unnoticed, believe there will be a reckoning. God is paying attention to you and he is working out situations for you right now. When it seems that you are the most alone, just look up. God is much closer than you think and your deliverance is just around the corner. No matter how bleak the prognosis nor how dire the circumstance God will deliver you into his own hand. He has your solution in his hand right now and is rearranging whatever he must in order to get it to you. Don’t lose faith. What you have done in secret, the Lord has seen and you will be rewarded according to your faithfulness.

Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5: 1

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

As we celebrate this Independence Day holiday we think of the many men and women who sacrificed their lives and fortunes to secure our liberty. Yet freedom is not won once for all. The call of freedom is one of vigilance. We must constantly be on the alert for those who would steal or limit our liberty.

There is no one who gave more than Jesus in the continuous fight for freedom. His calling was to set the captives free (Isaiah 61: 1). When all of humanity was in bondage he bore in his body the price of our freedom. Even as we think of the brave patriots who fought and died for a better way of life let us remember that without Jesus’ victory there would have been no liberty for us to pursue. He bought our personal freedom with which we were able to dream of political and religious freedom. Paul warns us, though, that liberty gained is transient if we do not stand firm resisting the yoke of slavery.

I cringe when I see all of the personal liberties we relinquish these days in favor of convenience, security, etc. Americans are giving away their liberty hand over fist. The single greatest reason seems to be fear but why should we fear? Are we not all children of the most high? People even argue today that individuals have no right to personal privacy. Not so many years ago that would have sounded completely ludicrous. It still does to me. But then look how we have subjected ourselves to bondage even though Jesus did set us free.  Sometimes it is better to die than to pay the price of slavery.

We have made ourselves slaves to all sorts of substances, habits, television, leisure and so on. We have relaxed our guard even though Paul warned us not to and have become slaves again to sin and the fear of death. We have become prisoners of vain philosophies when the Word of God is the sword of freedom. We have allowed the lies of the enemy to imprison us in dungeons of sickness, poverty, brokenness and every imaginable impediment to liberty.

But Jesus stands at the threshold. He stands ever ready to show us the way to loose the shackles that bind us, he having already broken them. There is no shackle, no prison that has power over us. Jesus has set the captives free. Although prison doors have been splintered before the mighty arm of the Lord, they retain all the power we give them for if we do not arise and walk through the open doorway then we are every bit a prisoner as if the bars remained. We are only enslaved to the degree of our acceptance because the battle has been fought and won. 

This 4th of July renew yourself to the freedom won for you by those who have gone before. Refuse to allow your personal liberties to be trod upon and give no quarter to the enemy who seeks to enslave you again to the yoke from which Jesus freed you. Renew your stance, standing firm against those who would trade liberty for convenience or governmental assistance. Determine that you will guard your personal liberties even as you stand with and for your neighbor. Freedom is precious but it is always under attack. Stand firm therefore.

Our Gift to the Lord

1 Samuel 15: 22

Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.”

This is a fairly well known scripture, especially the latter part of it but let us also read it from the God’s Word translation: “Is the LORD as delighted with burnt offerings and sacrifices as he would be with your obedience? To follow instructions is better than to sacrifice. To obey is better than sacrificing the fat of rams.” This version speaks plainly about the weight of sacrifice vs. obedience.

Clearly we do not offer burnt sacrifices today so how do we equate this in modern terms? We would talk in terms of “works”. Our sacrifices are more in the line of working at the church, participating in all of the food drives, etcetera. There has never been anything wrong with the sacrifices nor the works. The problem lies in the fact that over the eons we have all substituted the true sacrifice desired by God with all of these other things. We need to be able to speak honestly about works the way the old prophets spoke openly about burnt offerings but in order to do that we must first agree that there is no open criticism about any of those things. Our projects are worthy. They just are not worthy as a sacrifice because what God is seeking is our obedience.

God wants to rule in our hearts. I remember when God told me to leave the practice of law and go into full time ministry. It made absolutely no sense to me. But why does what God tells us to do need to survive our scrutiny? Anyway, it took me a long time to heed God’s instructions. I was very active in church but I was in disobedience and things got messy for awhile. Eventually I got the cart righted and did as I was told and believe me, my life improved as a result. Being outside the will of God is just not a good place to be. I was trying to do all the right things but I was missing the big one, obedience. God was trying to lead me into a place of peace and blessing but I was too busy working myself to death to heed Him. It sounds silly now but I just couldn’t hear Him through the noise of my life.

This shows that you can have the very best intentions and still miss the mark by a mile. We busy ourselves with what we think God would have us do rather than simply spending some quiet time with Him finding out. I have learned that He doesn’t think the way we do so the only way we can know His mind is to give Him time to convey His thoughts to us. Ministers are the very worst about this. It is easy to spend so much time doing the work of God that we never spend any time with Him or in the Word. This is great error and will always end in trouble. We all must be still and listen to the voice of the Lord so that we can follow His instructions. He is always leading us on the blessed path but we must be able to hear Him. And then, once we do hear, we are really best served if we will hurry to obey Him. You don’t have to understand what He is doing or why. Just know that He has your interest in mind. He is leading you to the blessing place, the oasis in the desert. If you don’t heed Him, believe me, it is going to be barren and dry. 

Forget your religious sacrifices and traditions and seek His face. Ask Him if you are doing what He has directed you to do. If you have missed something, don’t fret, just get on track. Your obedience to His Word and to His instructions will serve you well because it will lead you to your anointed place. It will be well with you if you will obey the Lord.

The Sacrifice of the Heart

Psalm 50: 14

 “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.”

 Psalm 51: 15 – 17

O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Psalm 50 and 51 might best be understood when read together for they shine light upon each other. In Psalm 50 God is speaking and when you read the psalm in its entirety you see that God says the he owns all of the cattle, knows every bird and so on. He does not require Israel, or us, to sacrifice goats, sheep or cattle so that He can feed Himself. It was not the sacrifice of animals that He wanted. He said to offer Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

David responds to God in Psalm 51. He first prays that the Lord will give him a mouth full of praise then he goes on to explain that he understands that the sacrifice the Lord wants is the sacrifice of praise. He tells God that he would gladly give sacrifices of burnt offerings if that is what the Lord wanted but that he knows that is not what the Lord seeks. In truth, I would say that the burnt offerings were necessary because people would not give the Lord what He sought; hearts devoted to Him and mouths which offered praise and thanksgiving. David reveals to us that what God really wants are our hearts.

David spoke about the human heart which is acceptable to God in terms of being broken. He also speaks of a broken spirit. When you look up the word “broken” in Strong’s Concordance you find that it does describe something that is broken. It literally means to burst. Other synonyms found in Strong’s are crush, destroy, hurt quench. This was not what I expected to find when I looked up the word. I was thinking of a heart which is not proud or haughty, a humble heart and spirit so I was surprised that David used a word that truly does mean broken. There is one other term that Strong’s uses in defining this word which, I believe, reconciles both viewpoints. The word shabar (broken) means break down, in pieces, etc. but in it is the idea of rebirth. The Strong’s definition literally says “bring to birth.” This means that God wants to receive our hearts in such a condition that he can rebirth them in His glory.

We sometimes talk about people having to hit rock bottom before they can get their lives in order. Perhaps there is an element of that kind of contriteness in this verse. Remember that David has already prayed for God to create in him a clean, upright heart (v. 10). I believe what we learn from this is that which God wants from us is a heart which has been cleansed of the worldly mess and all of our preconceived notions so that He can write His truth upon it. God will create a new, glorified creature in each one of us but he needs that clean, white slate upon which to write. He is not going to argue doctrine with us. He is not going to battle with us over what the truth really is. He will give us all truth and wisdom freely but we must first give Him a clean slate upon which He can write. We must prepare our hearts in the sense that we must offer them to God with a willingness for Him to fill them with Himself and His words. We do not have to do any of the work to clean them other than pray and receive. Jesus has already provided the heart wash and stocked it with cleaning fluid. All we have to do is to decide to drive our hearts through it. That’s all but it is a critical piece of the process. We must first do our part and then Father, Son and Holy Spirit will take over from there.

 So this is the sacrifice that the Lord requires of us, our hearts. 

Show Me the Way

Psalm 51: 10 – 12

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.

Although David lived before the Messiah came and claimed victory, he is in so many ways a New Testament person. When you read his writings you see that he not only had a revelation of the Holy Spirit but that he also had a relationship with him. In today’s passage you see the essence of the New Testament regenerate child of God and the process of renewal.

God cleaned us by the sacrifice of Jesus. We were literally washed clean of all of our transgressions. He recreated us into the glorious version of ourselves that we were ordained into at the beginning of time. The footnote for “clean heart” says “upright heart”. Our hearts have been made upright before God. We are upright, or righteous, before God because of the cleansing of our hearts wrought by Jesus. But salvation did not end there as you can so plainly see from this text.

God, next, renewed our spirits. Imagine the joy our spirits experienced when the rejuvenating power of the Holy Spirit came into us and renewed our own spirits. Our spirits are cast in the same image of the Holy Spirit and we are truly part of him. David says renew my spirit in that image so that I am steadfast, unwavering and strong. We, like David, can stand surely and steadfastly in the grace and honor of our Lord knowing who we are because our spirits have been renewed in Christ Jesus. 

And then David makes this oh so interesting comment, “Do not take thy Holy Spirit from me.” David knew what it meant to live with the Holy Spirit of God. That was a very uncommon occurrence before Jesus came. David also knew that the Holy Spirit and his walk with him accounted for the great successes he enjoyed as well as the blessings. The Holy Spirit protected him under some very difficult circumstances and David had a revelation of how to walk daily with him. This statement reflects the next step of our regenerated life. We are renewed in Christ and move into close personal fellowship with all three persons of the trinity. Our cleaned hearts are now fit habitation for the Holy Spirit so we can invite him to come live within us and be our daily guide and teacher. It does require an invitation of course. The Holy Spirit is a good house guest. He will come if asked but would never invite himself.

One can almost hear the insistent, almost desperate tone, in David’s voice when he says, “Do not take thy Holy Spirit from me.” He knew that the Holy Spirit’s presence in his life was saving grace and he realized how much he needed that presence in order to live. David was immensely successful in many ways but he also lived in very dangerous times. One of his sons usurped the throne at one time and David’s life was again in peril as it so often was during his lifetime. So David understood that all of his riches and his throne were because of the power of the Holy Spirit but he also knew that his very life was sustained through the power of God’s Spirit. Without that grace guarding his life he would not have survived to old age. Therefore, when David recognizes the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life and prays to the Lord for that presence to remain ever with him we can understand that his prayer is one of deep sincerity, appreciation and understanding. In fact, David shows an understanding of life with the Holy Spirit that few New Testament believers demonstrate even though this indwelling of the Holy Spirit is part of our inheritance through Jesus and part of our salvation package, part of the regeneration and renewal of our lives.

Salvation is a big thing. It is a process by which we are continually growing into the Father. Every day we can participate in this renewal by Christ and importantly we can celebrate these great gifts from the Father by acknowledging them through prayer and in thanksgiving. In Jesus we truly can experience the joy of salvation.

Dwell on These Things

Philippians 4: 8

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Last Friday I went for a bike ride. I had plans to meet some people for lunch at a trailside restaurant 29 miles down the trail later in the day. I thought I allowed enough time for me to cover the distance without keeping them waiting but I have not done many long rides lately so I was a bit concerned about my mph average and arriving at our meeting spot on time.

I started out at a good pace and was really pleased to feel good at that pace. Before too long though, at around 14 miles, I think, I noticed that my average was beginning to drop. I wanted to go faster but I had also noticed that my legs were beginning to enter the conversation with input of their own. I really focused on going faster and that is when I learned this important life lesson. The more I thought about my legs the more tired I felt. But our dear Father switched my thoughts from the fatigue in my legs to thinking about my cadence and to watching the average speed display on my bike computer. I stopped thinking about my legs and began thinking about the mph. A few minutes later when I looked at the current mph indicator I saw that I was going 15 mph which was the fastest I had gone all day. I had an epiphany right there on my bike. I realized that the more I focused on the bad news, i.e. my legs being tired, the more I reaped tired legs. When, however, I put my mind on my goal, my body just achieved the goal despite the obstacles. In fact, I didn’t even feel my legs. I just achieved a new level of success simply by shifting my thinking.

As I rode I thought to myself that this must be what God is trying to teach us in this verse. Whatever is good or worthy, let your mind linger on those things. If you meditate on your tired legs you are going to reap weariness. If you let your mind camp out on the goal, you are going to reap success. I remember thinking as I rode along, “If we think about being tired, we will be tired. If we think about being sick, we are going to be sick all the days of our lives. But, if we will meditate on the healing, the success, the blessing, etc. then we will be healthy, successful and blessed. Yahoo! Now that was a bit of practical education that I could apply immediately.

I have a few other strategies that I have developed over the years of riding that I think might work in many aspects of life. First of all, I pray at the very beginning of my ride. I say to Dad that this is our time and that I will be glad to listen and He can talk. I love to acknowledge (even out loud many times) that this is something that He and I are doing together and that not only do I invite Him to share this time with me but that He is just automatically a part of it. Then I often tell Him that we will ride together but that the last 3 miles are all His because I have noticed that no matter how far I ride it always seems that the last 2 – 3 miles become difficult. So we start out with an expectation that He is with me and is doing the bulk of the work. Those are two of my secrets but there is a third which is my emergency rations when I am out of gas and I needed it on this ride.

As I continued Friday, I began to weaken again so I put my earbud in my ear and turned on Praise music. Now I did not say Christian music because I need something more specific in these moments and it is Praise music. Say it loud! Play it loud! I start praising the Lord and listening to anointed singers glorifying the Lord and I get revived. The joy of the Lord can pump your legs even when you feel like there is nothing left in them. One caveat – trying to sing along can really be hard on your wind but then again who cares? Well, maybe some of the other people on the trail would prefer I didn’t start singing out loud but it just may make them ride faster too if only to get away from me.

The end of the story is that I did arrive on time. Actually, I was 40 minutes early. I had a great ride. I asked Dad to use the time to fellowship with me and to speak with me and He taught me this brilliant lesson about what we allow ourselves to meditate on impacting our immediate life. He used my leisure time to develop a Word of the Day teaching me that we can work and play. We had time of praise and I got some exercise. I’ve gotta say, that is a good day.  

Bottom line, we can affect our lives by what we think about and those impacts are immediate and lasting. There is something we can do right now to change the outcome of today. There is a lot of power in that. 

I hope you enjoyed going on this little 29 mile journey with me. To find out what my “out of gas” refueling music was check out the blog post for Sunday, June 29, 2014 at www.iveyministries.blogspot.com.