Relinquishment and Surprise

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Catherine Marshall wrote about relinquishing our desires through prayer. You can read more about my experience with that prayer here or order her terrific book on prayer here.

Change invariably demands some degree of relinquishment, and so I find myself in another chapter of that challenge. Am I happy to be living in a new city? You bet. Do I question the rather monumental changes Steve and I have made in the last several months? Not at all. But our enemy always seeks to rob us of our joy and of the best God has for us by convincing us to reject the challenge of change. Perhaps that’s the reason he warned Lot and his family not to look back as they fled to the mountains. (Or, for you Star Wars fans, it’s probably why Shmi instructed Anakin with the simple words, “Don’t look back.”)

  • When we cling desperately to the old, we are not free to embrace the new.
  • When we pray with the attitude of a demanding child, we are out of line and rarely at peace.
  • When we relinquish our own agendas, we are able to accept the times when God says “no” or wait” or “this instead.” Then, trusting his grace, we are ready to be delighted by the gifts he gives and the plans he sets out for us.

We can pray in faith and, at the same time, be willing for God in his wisdom to refuse our requests. Then, when God does say yes, that gift is all the sweeter.

Relinquishment to God’s will certainly doesn’t cause us to stop praying. On the contrary, as we become closer to our Lord, every circumstance is wrapped in prayer as we express our needs and look for his provision. There are miracles to be found in the mundane affairs of daily life if we will only watch for them. More about that next week. In the meantime, look forward! Let go of anything you feel the Holy Spirit is asking you to relinquish. And may that choice give you rest!

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Faith and Presumption

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I was staying at my parents’ condo a few weeks ago and borrowed my mom’s Bible. She writes in the margins, making her Bible all the more precious and insightful. Here is the passage I was reading from Matthew 14:25-33. (Underlining mine.)

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Here is the note Mom had penned in the margin: “Peter knew he could not walk on the water unless Jesus told him to.”

Peter asked Jesus to call him out onto the water, and then he waited for Christ’s command. We can, in our own pride and presumption, begin to consider ourselves to be in charge of—responsible for—far too much. Our God is an awesome God, ready to help us accomplish great things, but not all things. We are wise to seek his will and keep our efforts within his calling.

Secondly, if we doubt or fail, all is not lost. Yes, Peter sank. But he also walked. And he was still brought back into the boat by the Lord.

What are you considering this week? Pray. Seek the counsel of a good friend and of the Bible and of God’s still small voice. Don’t take on some challenge just because it is there. It may be meant for another. But, if you are convinced that God is calling you to some task, step out of the boat! Our Lord won’t let you drown.

Mrs. Oswald Chambers

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I’m reading Mrs. Oswald Chambers, and my aim today is to urge you to do the same. It’s the story of Biddy Chambers, helpmeet to the man credited with writing My Utmost for His Highest. It recounts the life of faith that Oswald and his wife lived and explains how the famous devotional came to be. I’m savoring this book, reading a bit at a time in the quiet of each morning. It’s engaging, inspiring, full of history, and packed with wisdom. Let me share just a bit with you.

These quotes from My Utmost for His Highest remind me to renew my trust:

 

  • How can anyone who is identified with Jesus Christ suffer from doubt or fear?
  • It is God who engineers circumstances.
  • God…gives strength…only for the strain of the minute.

These quotes from Mrs. Oswald Chambers have taught me once again that we serve God in all we do, even the simple things, and that we ought to be ready all the time to lay down our own agendas.

  • Their day together still began in the early dawn hours with the Daily Light reading, prayer, and a cup of tea…Other people filled their days, but they remained mindful of each other. (p.115)
  • Biddy ran a ministry open to interruptions throughout her life…Fortunately tea and soup could always be stretched. (p. 59)
  • The secret to Biddy’s unflustered reactions to her lengthy to-do list and surprise visitors lay in her prayer time every morning. She gave God the day and watched it unfold in his timing with anticipation.
  • Oswald’s teaching was plain: When you were not sure of what God wanted, examine the situation and your options and then do the next logical thing. (p.127)

Each time I open the book, I learn something new. Of course, the same is true of My Utmost for His Highest. I hope you will add that devotional to your reading list as well. Biddy and Oswald were missionaries no matter where they were. They took difficulty and discomfort in stride as they served. They loved deeply—both Christ and those He put in their path. What a description of life well lived!

And how was the world’s bestselling devotional born out of their efforts? I hope you’ll get a copy of Mrs. Oswald Chambers and see for yourself! You can click here to read more about the book. There’s even a free download of the first two chapters available at the bottom left corner of the site.  

 

Impact

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Veggie Tales

I’m a grandmother now, and Veggie Tales have become a part of my life. I wonder how many kids and no-longer-kids have lives once touched by animated vegetables singing about Bible truths. Who would have ever thought?

Paul Vischer, that’s who. Paul is the founder of Veggie Tales, and here’s what he has to say about touching lives.

“The impact God has planned for you does not occur when you are pursuing impact; it occurs when you are pursuing God.”

How easy it is to decide to do great things for God! But what is a great thing? How can we be sure we aren’t called to do the small, the simple, the behind-the-scene?

Have you ever heard of Edward Kimble? Quite possibly not. He was a shoe salesman long ago. But God used Edward Kimble, right in that shoe store, to lead D.L. Moody to Christ. What if Edward Kimble had decided selling shoes was too humble a task?

Of course, with God, there are no “What if’s.” He manages all things. And so, yes, he could have called D.L. Moody into a life of evangelism in some other way. But God used Edward Kimble, most likely because Edward was pursuing God.

Sometimes God calls us to great things, to what seem to be unattainable goals. We have to trust him to equip and empower us to follow that leading. Many times, though, he calls us to smaller things. Even then we trust him to use us according to his plan. They key, going back to Paul Vischer’s convicting quote, is to be about the business of pursuing God. And in this world full of distractions, that is challenge enough.

How are you pursuing God this week? How are you tamping down the distractions and redirecting your focus? I hope you’ll share your thoughts with the rest of us. We’re all in this together! And may we all discover the impact God has planned for us as we pursue him.

Power (by Beth Smith)

christ pix 9 7 17Matthew Chapter 9 recounts a story of two blind men who called out to Jesus, saying, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” (They had heard that Jesus could heal.)

Jesus asked them an important question, “Do you believe I’m able to do this?”

We pray, “Lord, help me. I need …” Can God really answer our prayers? Do we believe that he is able? Sometimes we give lip service to our belief that God is all powerful, but our hearts are not convinced. God’s Word, though, is completely clear and convincing. He tells us over and over again that he is fully able to meet every one of our needs. The Bible tells us that, among many other might acts, he

  • created a dry path through the sea.
  • stretched the daylight hours.
  • rained down bread from heaven
  • multiplied fish and bread.
  • stopped a storm.

He broke Peter out of jail in the middle of the night, even though that man of God was chained between two guards and watched by at least a dozen more. Peter hightailed it to a home where believers were gathered and knocked on the door. A young girl saw him, squealed with joy, slammed the door shut in Peter’s face, and ran to tell the others. “You’re crazy!” they told her. (They were just as slow to believe that God can miraculously change circumstances as we are.) When they finally opened the door, they were amazed by God’s power.

Peter, the same man who could fall asleep between two guards as he awaited almost certain death, had been a man full of fear just years earlier. Three times, he denied that he knew our Lord, afraid that he too would be arrested. Jesus changed Peter from a chicken to a lion.

We serve the same Lord who calmed the storms, rescued Peter, and then turned him into a fearless evangelist. He tells us that he is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Check out Hebrews 13:8.) Everything he did then, he can do now. When we pray, we need to do like the two blind men before Christ and say, “Yes, Lord, you are able to do all things.”

God is able [to carry out His purpose and] to do super abundantly, far over and above, all that we dare to ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, thoughts, hopes or dreams]” (Ephesians 3:20 AMP).

Oh how we thrive when we know deep in our hearts that we serve an awesome and powerful God! We want to own that fact, to bank on it, and to live within its security. We want to let God demonstrate his power and ability in our lives. And we can, because God says we can do all things through Christ.

Do Not Listen!

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When we listen to the chatter swirling about in the world, it often sounds like this:

  •             Be afraid.
  •             You haven’t got a chance.
  •             Give in or give up.

Hezekiah king of Judah, touted by the Old Testament as an excellent ruler who kept God’s commands, knew what to do with such chatter. Refuse to listen.

Sennacherib king of Assyria planned to destroy Hezekiah’s city, and he wanted all its inhabitants to know it. His messenger went to the city wall and called out, “Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria’… Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:29, 30, 33-35).

Hezekiah commanded his people to remain silent, ignoring the messenger. He consulted with the prophet Isaiah, who brought these encouraging words, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword’” (2 Kings 19:6, 7).

Hezekiah responded by asserting his trust in the Lord, “Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God…Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God” (2 Kings 19: 16, 19).

God delivered Hezekiah’s people in a mighty way. The end of the chapter tells us, “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king” (2 Kings 19: 35-37).

It doesn’t really matter how things look to our eyes. God is always in control. He always has the means to rescue us. When we hear discouraging chatter, we can learn from Hezekiah: Just don’t listen!