I Surrender

“Lord, make me humble, but don’t let me know it.” Dwight L Moody

Continuing Pastor Mark Hitchcock’s sermon from Sunday …… he talked about humility in our Christian life. It makes me wonder why so many Christians are so proud.

“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 PETER 5:5‭-‬7 NASB

“Pride is the soil from which all sin grows.” Mark Hitchcock

Merriam-Webster describes “servant” as “someone that serves other. A “subject” is “to make oneself amenable to the discipline and authority of another,” or, to be under someone, a servant, of service to someone else; humble. nothing we can do on our own, all depends on GOD. The phrase here, to “clothe yourselves” means to tie it on, like an apron on a servant – like Jesus did when He washed the disciples feet.

“….. and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to – continually fighting, open warfare – the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34, 16:5, 6:16-19) Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, ….” – 1 PETER 5:5‭-‬6 (Deuteronomy 8:2-6, James 4:10)

“Clothed in humility” ….. are we scantally clad?

Do you see what the message is? We must consciously come under the Hand of GOD. Not just in this moment, but continuously, as we go through life. It’s so easy to let pride, the I can do it attitude, creep in! GOD will exalt the humble, not man. It may be this life, and it may not be, but it will definitely be in GOD’s Kingdom and Eternity.

Remember these words of the old hymn by Judson W. Van DeVenter, published in 1896? This is what he said of his inspiration for the hymn:

For some time, I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full-time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, He caused me to sing. (Emphasis mine)

I Surrender All
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
In his presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Jesus, I surrender all.

Perfection!

I am the middle child. Actually, I share that spot with my next younger sister, because out of 6 kids (poor Mom!) I am third and she is fourth – 2 ahead of me, and 2 after her. I am the baby of the first 3, and she is the eldest of the last 3. We have also concluded that most (all!) of us are ADD, and some are ADHD as well, starting with my parents- and it really goes back further than them. My life is an oxymoron 😎 …. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with us!

Whatever spot I choose for the moment, baby or middle-child, I must admit that I have been guilty of pride and perfection much of my life. Is that an affliction? Perfectionism stems from many things, both internal and external. I think that on a subconscious level, we make the choice to be prideful and conceited. I chose both, to hide the damaged, broken parts that I am comprised of. Whatever I did, I did with the attitude that if I did it, it was the right thing to do. Whatever I decided was the right decision, the only logical conclusion in my mind; therefore, anyone else was obviously wrong. I had the attitude that I was invincible, hard and sharp-edged – and I was hard and cut people like a knife with my words and actions. I sound like a bad person! If I was told I had a heart of ice, or that I was hurtful or mean, well, guilty as charged. I was full of pride and could do no wrong because I was perfect. Seems like we all have the tendency to judge others based on our own perceived perfection. For years, I was really good at being perfect, at least on the outside. My ‘inside’ was pretty messed up!

Even now I will find those feelings of pride and perfection, perfectionism and judgementalism, stealing back into my life. I cry out “GET BEHIND ME, SATAN, in the Name of JESUS!!”

When I came to be under the Shining Bright Light of my LORD JESUS through His saving Grace, all of my cracks and brokenness were illuminated. His illumination shows everyone who looks what a messed up person I am, but the LIGHT also shows how He has put me back together. My prayer for us today:

LORD, show us our brokenness. Shine Your Great Light on us and let the world see YOU in that Light. Use my brokenness to illustrate how beautifully You can put us back together, if we just ask You. No matter how shattered we are or how much ugliness we contain, help us to see the beauty of Your Handiwork in ourselves. You alone can take all of our messes and all of the junk we accumulate in our hearts, and create something beautiful.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the LORD JESUS, to testify to the Gospel of the Grace of GOD.” – Acts 20:24 ESV Amen.

And the ONE who was seated on the throne said, “See, I Am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5 NRSV

Do As I Say….

So JESUS said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but GOD knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the Sight of GOD.” – Luke 16:15 NRSV

When we don’t fear GOD, we leave a vacuum to be filled by self and the enemy. Luke 16:19–31 is the parable of Lazarus and the rich man – did you know that the name ‘Lazarus’ literally means ‘GOD helps/has helped’? And that this parable is the only one JESUS told where He named the characters? The parable is a way to compare lifestyles and determine if we are living as the LORD would have us live, and if we are hearing – and spreading – the Gospel. The rich man, being tormented and in agony after his death, begs Father Abraham to send Lazarus back to his family to tell them to repent. This is how Abraham answered:

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” – Luke 16:31 NRSV

I believe that JESUS is speaking of His own approaching death and Resurrection. How many thousands; how many millions of people have done/still do just as the rich man, ignoring JESUS in our everyday lives? Are we more concerned about the feasting and partying and our appearances, than we are about those surrounding us who are struggling and in need? We are our own worst enemies in life. We allow selfishness (GUILTY!) to rule our lives, sowing disharmony, discord, dishonesty, and dissension all around us. We live by he “Do as I say, not as I do” rule. Read Exodus 22, especially verse 25. It’s about selfishness.

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” – Ephesians 4:26‭-‬27 NRSV

“We can be angry and not sin when we are angry at sin.” – Pastor Mark Hitchcock. Even justified anger can be sin when we use it to attempt to judge others. (Again, GUILTY.)

So [Nehemiah] said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our GOD, to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?” – Nehemiah 5:9 NRSV

It can be a hard lesson to realize how much of the world’s ways we have accepted into our lives. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “keeping up with the Jones’s” and allowing the desires of our hearts to turn from GOD to the selfishness modeled by so many people who claim the name “Christian” but don’t live it. If they can do/have/say it, it must be okay for me to follow their example, right? No, it’s a recipe for disaster with our LORD. He doesn’t tolerate being second in our lives; He is all or nothing, never-ending, ALL-Powerful, and ALMIGHTY.

On my face before Him, Loved by Him despite my constant fails, I say, so be it in my life, LORD, Your Will be done. Amen.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach, 1035-1040, German National Museum, Nürnberg. Top panel: Lazarus at the rich man’s door Middle panel: Lazarus’ soul is carried to Paradise by two angels; Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom Bottom panel: Dives’ soul is carried off by two devils to Hell; Dives is tortured in Hades.

Prodigal, Sinner, and Hypocrite

Someone said that if he were to find the ‘perfect’ church and join it, it would no longer be perfect. I wonder at the churches – and church members – who think they are perfect and better than others. Why, how, could anyone think that an assembly of humans could possibly be perfect? Then there’s the other side, the person who refuses to be a part of any church “because they are all made up of hypocrites.” Um, duh. (Sorry. My sarcasm slipped out!) Seriously, how can a church NOT be made up of anything besides prodigals, sinners, and hypocrites?

The only thing that separates the church-goer, the true Christian, from the world is JESUS CHRIST, The LIVING HOPE!

In Luke 15, JESUS is disrespected by the Pharisees, those men who were stuck so rigidly to the Law that they were unable to see the MESSIAH Who was right in front of them.

“Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ “
Luke 15:1‭-‬2 NRSV

Horrible horrors, GASP! JESUS sat down to eat and commune with these despised Jews. He spoke to the people there and told them these stories. There was a woman who had 10 silver coins. She lost one and searched her home until she found it, then celebrated with her neighbors. He tells of the shepherd who has 100 sheep, and leaves the 99 sheep in the wilderness in order to find the lost one. He rejoices because he found it. Finally, He tells the story of the prodigal son, a story I think we have all heard. This son took his inheritance and left his home, then wasted and squandered the fortune. Even though he had sinned against his father, when he returned home in defeat, his father ran to greet him and celebrate his return.

“…. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” – Luke 15:32 NRSV

Every person to ever draw breath is a sinner; a hypocrite. Maybe we are all prodigals. I am all of these and more. I’ve shared my story of growing up in the church, of being raped and abused, and consequently turning my back on the GOD Who allowed it all to happen. I was a sinner in the lifestyle I adopted; I am a hypocrite, because I know the Truth but I often forget to live it. I need to allow the LIGHT of my LORD shine through my ‘cracks.’ I am a prodigal who has squandered much before finally returning to the LORD after my 40 years of wandering in the wilderness of sin and the Enemy.

Oh, that we would welcome every prodigal, every sinner, and every hypocrite into all of our houses of worship! We, as the Body of CHRIST, should be running to greet ‘those people’ as soon as we see them. Unfortunately, much of the time, we – the prodigals, the sinners, the hypocrites who make up the church – run away from ‘those people.’ I have witnessed it over and over, and I confess to having done it myself. When I truly returned to my LORD – and I had many false starts – I was Blessed to land in a church that wholeheartedly supported a great recovery program and pastor. I am one of ‘those people’ ….. but because I don’t show how ‘bad’ I had been in my outward appearance, people in the church are often shocked when I share my testimony. I have been found; saved through the Grace and Mercy of our LORD.

LORD, show us how to be the woman searching for her lost coin, the shepherd searching for his lost sheep, and especially the father running to meet his child. JESUS is our Shepherd, and we are like the sheep. We should share His Love and Mercy and Grace, and welcome the lost with open arms as they are brought in by the Shepherd. Do you open your hearts, or do you shut the door in their faces?

Rembrandt’s painting of the prodigal son’s return.

Angry People

So much anger in the world! World leaders and politicians spew ugliness at each other. The ‘elite’ celebrate and gloat over their own. Pro-athletes push and shove and fight each other with words and actions. Popular musicians glorify drugs, drinking, sexual ‘freedom’, and violence. Television and movies glamorize all of the above, enticing us and lulling us to a point where we don’t even notice the deterioration in our language, our morals, and our lives. Anger and cursing and violence have become the norm, rather than the exception. We may overlook it, but God notices. He made sure that James wrote about it to remind us of the Truth.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness GOD desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the Word GOD has planted in your hearts, for it has the Power to save your souls.” – James 1:19‭-‬21 NLT

Remember, too, what Paul wrote: “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.”- – Romans 7:18 NLT

None of us are righteous without GOD, and even then it isn’t us who are righteous. It is GOD’s Righteousness showing through our brokenness and our humility that people need to see. I loved to hear Billy Graham speak, because whenever praise was directed to him, he deflected it back to his Saviour. My dad always gave the Glory to GOD (and credit to my mom, who was his right hand!) when asked how he managed to continue to preach throughout a lifetime debilitating disease. True righteousness doesn’t manifest in anger, it comes out as love and compassion. Angry people are not in GOD’s Will…. think on that the next time you want to let loose your anger.

Listen to Matt Maher sing “LORD, I Need You.”

How Do You Pray?

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, Who sees everything, will reward you.

When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!” – Matthew 6:5‭-‬8 NLT

Did you grow up in a house where prayer was the norm, or was cursing at God the only ‘prayer’ you heard? I was taught that the ‘correct’ way to pray was to sit with head bowed and hands clasped in front of me, or on my knees with eyes closed and hands clasped; praying out loud, beginning with ‘Dear Heavenly Father’ and always ending with ‘Amen’. This definitely helped with my focus as a child, but do you think this is the only way to pray? We want to be reverent and humble when we pray, but I submit that we can pray anywhere, anytime, and with anyone. Prayer is simply having a conversation with the LORD. Prayer can happen while we are driving or working, in the classroom, or in any social setting, and I’m not talking about the ‘OH. MY. GOD.’ we frequently hear today.

Prayer; praying out loud, has its place, whether in church or out, but my focus here is really about conversing with GOD. Just talking. As I grow in faith, I realize that talking to GOD doesn’t need to be formal. I don’t need anyone else saying prayers for me in lieu of my own prayers (but I’m always happy to know that people are praying for me!) I just need to be having conversations with my LORD. Before getting out of bed in the morning, a quick “Thank You LORD for another day, Your Will be done today” helps my day start in the right direction. I whisper inaudible prayers all day – “LORD, I believe; help my unbelief” is one that I pray when faced things that are out of my control…. which is frequently! “Keep me safe on the roads.” “Bless [insert name]” ….. I actually try to pray this whenever my mind strays to someone who has hurt me. God knows quite well that what my human side really wants is to hurt that person back, but by asking Him to bless that person, I can receive God’s forgiveness and Grace.

Prayer shouldn’t be any more difficult than talking with your best friend. It shouldn’t stress us out, but thinking that we can only approach Him in a formal way, or through a priest or pastor, keeps us from knowing GOD and His will for us/me. Just talk to Him. I’ve started many conversations with Him by admitting I don’t know what to pray, that I don’t have any words. I know that’s okay, though, because even when we don’t have words, the Holy Spirit carries our groans, our needs to the Father. To teach us how to pray, JESUS gave us this, and we call it ‘The LORD’S Prayer.”

“Pray like this: Our FATHER in heaven, may Your Name be kept Holy. May Your Kingdom come soon. May Your Will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly FATHER will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your FATHER will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:9‭-‬10‭, ‬12‭-‬15 NLT

There is tremendous power in prayer, whether it is you, alone by yourself, or together with fellow Christians, and regardless of whether words are spoken out loud or silently. Remember what JESUS said to His followers: “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, My Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as My followers, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:19‭-‬20 NLT

My prayer is that my words today can help ease us all as we struggle through this life, because old or young or in between, prayer works. Don’t let selfish pride get in your way, thinking you’ll somehow do it wrong or embarrass yourself in your praying. That’s just the enemy trying to separate you from GOD! Amen.

Continue reading “How Do You Pray?”

Patience. Not My Virtue

Ever feel this way? I’ve often said I have about this much [ ] patience….. and yes, I am serious. Patience is not a virtue of mine. I am impatient; I get frustrated when things don’t happen quickly enough to suit me. Basically, LIFE / PEOPLE irritate me with their slowness, and I am tired. Tired of people taking advantage of me and others. Tired of broken promises; tired of being lied to. I’m tired of the struggle to just survive. BUT, I believe in GOD, Who is the Creator, Almighty and Omniscient, and I believe His promises.

“Then call on Me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give Me Glory….. But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors Me. If you keep to My path, I will reveal to you the Salvation of God.” – Psalms 50:15‭, ‬23 NLT

I believe in GOD the Father, GOD the Son, and GOD the Holy Spirit. I believe that just as He cares for the birds of the air and the creatures on the ground and the fishes in the sea, so He cares for me. I am so thankful for the many blessings He has poured out on me. So WHY is it so difficult to trust in His timing? I literally have no way to pay my mortgage or utilities or car right now, as I write this, and no prospects for a job, despite the dozens – hundreds, even, of applications I have sent out. Today I woke up and finally dragged myself out of bed, weighed down with hopelessness and despair, and this is the verse that greeted me:

“The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think.” – 2 Peter 3:9a NLT

If He isn’t being slow, then what is the next step I should take? Most of my furniture is on several online ‘for sale’ boards; I continue to seek adequate employment. Do I start packing? Should I put my house on the market? On my knees in prayer, I beseech the Holy God of the universe to have pity on me; to open an opportunity, to provide enough; to show me His will and what direction He wants me to go. As I write, on the radio Crowder is singing “All my Hope is in Jesus…..” Yes, I believe, LORD. Show me how to get through this dark, dark valley! (And please don’t give me more opportunities to learn patience, LORD!) Amen.