Forgotten God

 

Steve makes a book report of sorts for every book he reads. Before he files it away, he sets it on my nightstand. That way, even if I don’t take time to read the whole volume, I benefit from his highlights. Most of the words Steve captures for me are quotes, since who’s going to make the point better than the author himself? So, today, I want to share a few of my notes and quotes from Forgotten God by Francis Chan with Danae Yankoski.[i]  Anything in italics is my take on what they had to say.

“God is not just one thing we add to the mix called life. He wants an invitation from us to permeate everything and every part of us.”  In this world of distraction, with our Enemy always doing his best to get our eyes off Christ, it’s so easy to partition life into that which God is allowed to permeate and that which we will keep to ourselves. What a mistake!

“When it comes down to it, many of us do not really want to be led by the Holy Spirit. Or, more fundamentally, many of us don’t want to be led by anyone other than ourselves.” Ouch! While that’s often true, it’s also senseless. Why wouldn’t we want the Creator of the Universe to be, always, leading us?

“We often choose to face life’s issues and circumstances in exactly the same way as someone without the Spirit of God. We worry, strive, and grieve no differently than unbelievers… Consciously or not, we essentially say to God, “I know You raised Christ from the dead; but the fact is my problems are just too much for You, and I need to deal with them by myself.” We may not say those words with our minds and hearts, but we do say them with our actions and our responses to crisis. Sometimes, when life doesn’t go as planned, I suffer a bit of panic or worry before I remember, “Oh, yeah, I guess God is in control of this as well.” Then I let go and peace returns, while I chide myself for not taking hold of that peace right away.

May this be the year you ask God to permeate your whole life, letting Him lead you day by day, and trusting him right away in every circumstance. That’s the best—really the only—way to have a Happy New Year! 

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[i] Chan, Francis, and Danae Yankoski. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. David C. Cook, 2015.

Rooted in the Right Place by Beth Smith (my mom!)

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Imagine this conversation between God and a typical Christian. (I’ll call him Chris.)

God: “What sort of person do you want to be?”

Chris: “I want to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

God: “Terrific! That’s just what I created you to be. ‘Made any plans for becoming like that?”

Chris: “Well, I do as many good things as I can and try really hard not to do bad things.”

God: “How’s that working for you?”

(We’d all have to answer just like Chris) “Honestly, it isn’t working.”

God: “Well, let me remind you of why you’re failing. Apart from me you can do nothing. But, with me all things are possible. If you want to be that sort of person, to have that good fruit, you’ve got to be planted in the right place.”

Chris: “But, God, how do I get planted in the right place?”

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Because I Leak

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When D. L. Moody was asked why he insisted that Christians needed to be filled constantly with the Holy Spirit, he answered, “Well, I need a continual infilling because I leak!”  

I leak sometimes. Are you leaking today? Has your spiritual tank already run dry? A word to the wise: we can’t fix ourselves. The sooner we realize that, the better off we’ll be. We need the Holy Spirit. He comforts and guides us. He reminds us of what Jesus has done for us and of our rights as children of the King.

Ask the Lord to refill you, to infuse you with new trust and peace and joy from the presence of his Holy Spirit. Ask him to take over! Begin each day, right away, before you ever leave your pillow, by acknowledging your weakness and surrendering to his control. Keep his presence in mind.

Meet each new challenge with prayer—right away, even in the midst of your busy day. You don’t need to be on your knees or in a place of silence to be in conversation with our Lord. We can’t see the Holy Spirit, and that can cause our trust to waver. But be encouraged by these words. They have encouraged me.

 “Trusting God is a decision, not a feeling that we want to have” (Joyce Meyer).

“We live by faith, not by sight” (Apostle Paul).

“There are two ruling principles of action—sight and faith…The life of every one of us is governed by one or the other of these principles…The Christian’s great days are the days when faith dominates, and our sad and bad days are the days when sight rules” (W. Graham Scroggie).

‘Hope this is a filled up, topped off, walking-by-faith day for you!

A Chance to Die*

Why would anyone want to assign such a title to a book? Well, Elisabeth Elliot did just that when she wrote about the life of Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India in the in early 1900’s. Let me share a few highlights from that book with you, paraphrased for clarity.

First a provocative quote by the author, Elisabeth Elliott: “Could it be that our vision, both physical and spiritual, has been compromised by the compelling images we see on ever-present video screens?” Elisabeth described the hope of an “unbroken walk with God,” a concept garnering great interest during Amy’s time. I wonder how much we seek the same these days. “Dying to self” is a difficult and unpopular proposition, made more so, perhaps, by all the media around us lauding an indulgent life.

Here’s a bit of what Amy had to say on the topic, encouraging those around her to trust the One who takes over when we take the chance to die to self.

  • Death to self means dead to all one’s natural earthly pains and hopes, dead to all voices, however dear, which would deafen our ear to His.
  • Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.
  • “When faced with hardship, our Lord has been so kind about other things that we cannot doubt but that He will care for this too.”

Finally, quoting Bishop Handley Moule in “Thoughts on Christianity” as he defines dying to self: “To displace self from the inner throne, and to enthrone Him: to make not the slightest compromise with the smallest sin. We aim at nothing less than to walk with God all day long…It is possible to cast every care on Him daily, and to be at peace amidst pressure, to see the will of God in everything, to put away all bitterness and clamor and evil speaking, daily and hourly.”

These are deep and challenging thoughts for me, but, as Amy once said, “Becoming dead to self results in being alive to God.”

And that is a very good trade.

*Elizabeth Elliott A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael. Revell, 1987.

Photo: geralt via pixabay.com

 

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Flex or Die OR Old Fruit

I learned a lot from our kids’ youth leader a couple of decades ago, but here’s the line that pops into my mind the most:

“Flex or die.”

That’s what Mike used to say when he and his crew were headed out to a service day or a mission trip or even just a fun outing. He wanted them to remember that the unexpected almost always happens. You can bend, or you can break.

How flexible are we? How well do we handle the unexpected, the uncomfortable, or even just the simple change of direction that life can bring? Following Jesus requires a good bit of flexing. We may plan our ways, but he directs our paths, and those paths don’t always go where we expect them to go. For one thing, what he calls us to do today may not even remotely resemble what he’s going to ask us to do next. That brings me to another wise person, Sharmon Coleman, leader of Proven Way Ministries. Here’s what she asked recently:

“Are you serving last season’s fruit?”

I’ve taught math, run a small wholesale bakery, and raised funds for clean water. When in the middle of each of those endeavors, I thought what I was doing might well be what I would do for the rest of my life. In each case, the Lord gently showed me otherwise. I lived in Houston for decades in a house I thought would be my home forever. Wrong.

Hopefully, I’ve finally learned to reign in my assumptions. So, for example, while I’m doing a fair amount of writing and editing these days, I realize there may be a new calling, a new assignment or passion, just aroung the bend.

Yes, there is a place for persistence. But we also have to be ready to flex, to let the Lord take us where we never thought we’d go. The key, in this issue and in all of life, is to stay ready to do our Lord’s will, to follow where we believe he is leading, holding all things with an open hand.

Are you ready to flex? I pray that you are, and that whatever this present season holds for you brings joy to you, glory to God, and blessings to those around you!

photo by Alex Loup via Unsplash

American Idols by Beth Smith

idols Photo by Denny Ryanto on UnsplashI’m sharing one of my mom’s devotionals today. Get ready! It’s a challenging one.

Today I want each of us to figure out whether we are molding idols, or being molded by our Lord. It’s a tough question to ponder.

God commanded us to put him first in our lives when he said, “Have no other gods before or besides me” (Exodus 20:3).

Most of us would probably say, “There’s nothing more important than God.” But do we live out that truth? Or are we molding idols on the side?

In Matthew 6, Jesus reminded his followers that we can’t serve two masters. We can serve God or we can serve mammon (which means riches, money, and possessions.) In the same chapter, he told us to stop worrying about our lives so much that we ignore God. Even what we eat, drink or wear can become idols if those things are more important to us than God. Sure, we need those things, but God knows that, so there’s no need for us to worry. Jesus promises that if seek him and his way of living first, he’ll take care of all those other needs that often preoccupy our thoughts.

Jonah 2:8 is a verse that continually pricks at my heart. It’s part of Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish. As he prays, he comes to this revelation and conclusion, “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” Ouch! I wonder how much we miss when we fail to make God first in our lives.

If we stop molding false gods, then God can mold us. Isaiah 64:8 gives us this prayer, “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Even though God’s process of shaping us into what he wants us to be is painful at times, it’s a good thing. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that the Artist who molds us has a perfect plan. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ Declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

God continually molds us so that his perfect plan, his will, can be fulfilled. Some of us take more work than others.  All too often, we resist his shaping. Hard clay has to be kneaded—pushed and pressed to soften it and make it useable. ‘Sounds uncomfortable, doesn’t it? The faster we recognize the Potter’s authority and his loving hand, the sooner he can mold us into what we are designed to be.

We can love a lot of people. We can enjoy many things. But no person and no thing can become our God! What’s keeping us from letting God be God, giving him the rightful place in our hearts? “Little children, keep yourselves from false gods—from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life” (1 John 5:21 AMP).

How about it? Are we molding idols or letting God mold us? Frankly, I’ve got lots of little gods to get rid of. Do you? I think we’d better get busy.

Photo by Denny Ryanto via Unsplash.com