Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"The More we YIELD, the More we are RELEASED to be ELEVATED!
The Bible very clearly states that God selected the judges. "And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge..." (Judges 2:18). Deborah is listed in Judges 4:4 as first a prophetess --her spiritual calling before birth, then as the wife of Lappidoth --her natural calling as a woman, and finally as judge of Israel. This was a woman who was seasoned from years of being a godly wife. As God observed her behavior toward her husband, He knew that He could trust her as judge over Israel. I doubt very seriously that if Deborah had a reputation as a rebellious wife who ran her husband, the people would not have respected her the way which they did. No one likes to see a henpecked man. God knew he could not put a woman like that in power. Its a simple lesson but a deep one....The more we yield, the more we are released to be elevated!

The Power of Being a Woman by Michelle McKinney Hammond

Friday, January 30, 2015

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan!"

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan!  for it is written:  'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"  Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. -- Matthew 4:10, 11

Aahh, this was a familiar face --Satan!  He felt sadness at the sight of this lost and unrepentant soul, but He also felt some righteous indignation as He recalled the revolt this solitary figure had tried to lead against his Father in the heavenlies.  This foe He had once called friend had risen to incite one-third of the heavenly host against the throne of God, and He, Jesus, had waged war against him, casting him down.  Satan had fallen like lightning from the sky along with the angels he had rallied to his cause, still screaming his threats that he would somehow get back at them all.  Supposing he was doing a good job at fulfilling hsi vow ever since tempting Adam and Eve to fall, Satan now confidently sauntered up to Jesus, a smooth smile doing little to cover the hatred that glittered behind his hooded eyes.

Jesus understood that this man, this entity, this fallen angel who used to gather the praises and present them so magnanimously before His Father, was not one to be trusted.  So He gave him no greeting.  He was almost hypnotic to take in, however, for he was still quite beautiful, but in a twisted, perverted kind of way.  As a matter of fact, he was only beautiful at first glance.  If you really looked, you would begin to take in the horrid little imperfections that marred his features in a disturbing way.  The longer you stared, the more repulsive he became.  It was clear that Satan truly believed his own press and was quite heady with the power he held over this small domain he had been given for only a season.  Why, he even had the nerve to try the same manipulation that he had used on others now on Jesus, as if the Son of God were merely some new kid in the neighborhood who was not yet familiar with the town bully's tricks.  Jesus almost felt sorry for him.  Didn't this fallen one understand that the longings of the flesh could never be fulfilled apart from the Word that God so lovingly gave to His children?

It was almost amusing, that Satan would ask Jesus to prove He was the Son of God by manipulating Him to test His own Father!  Didn't he understand this was not about Jesus proving anything to anyone?  He knew who He was, and who His Heavenly Father was to Him --that was enough.  And the nerve of Satan, to offer Him something that already belonged to Him!  The years of separation from God had truly twisted his logic.  Had Satan forgotten that he was only the prince of this world and that He, Jesus, was still King of kings and Lord of lords?  Well, he would be reminded soon enough.  Though Satan rehearsed scripture back to Him, it seemed as if the serpent had developed convenient amnesia, doing anything that worked to get him the results he wanted.  And he got rid of anything that would reveal to his chosen victim that his offer was as useless as a bucket of water was to the sea.  What could he offer that God couldn't do greater?  Absolutely nothing!  This Jesus knew on authority.  He had his truth straight from the throne room.

And so they stood face to face, yet kingdoms --worlds---apart.  One disguised as light, the other emanating pure light, the only difference being their relationship with the Father  of Light --God Himself.  Though both looked alone, only one was truly alone, separated for all of eternity from the One who gave all that he craved --power, wealth, and fulfillment.  Only God could give the ability to gain these things.  And only when given form His hands would they be lasting.  To acquire these things by one's own devices led to a life of trying to secure one's holdings.  This was a hard existence that left one bitter, weary, and disillusioned.  But now, sadly, this was the only life that Satan knew.  A life filled with attempting to get everyone in the world to see his flawed point of view and to go along with it.  Jesus shook His head at all the possibilities that Satan had forfeited in his rebellion.  It was His Father's good pleasure to give him the kingdom within the confines of His Lordship, but for Satan that wasn't enough.  So now, ultimately, he would have nothing.

Of course, even in the midst o this weak game of bartering, Satan still did not understand what he was dealing with because Jesus' mission was so contrary to Satan's character.  He had no concept of becoming nothing in order to gain everything.  His pride demanded that he validate his power with an accumulation of praise unto himself.  That he flaunt his wares and assets, so to speak.  Glorify God?  Whatever for?  No, Satan had missed the point, but Jesus hadn't.  He knew  who He was.  He knew who His Father was.  he understood every facet of their relationship and walked secure in His Sonship.  This left no room for His flesh to feel need above and beyond what God had already provided for His spirit.  His Father was His Friend; this was all He needed.  As he watched Satan depart from Him after He had reminded His lost friend how the scriptures really go, Jesus knew that He would see His foe again.  Satan had always been resilient, a sore loser, though his was a losing battle.

As the angels came to minister to Jesus, reviving His strength for what lay ahead, He again reflected on how sad it was that some would choose to go their own way, meandering down the road of self will, only to find themselves alone.  How sad it woudl be for them to find, at the end of the day, that all the things they acquired and accomplished were only cruel traitors robbing them of true everlasting joy.  As He basked in the care of His Father and those he had sent, he rested secure...definitely not alone.

From the time we burst forth from our mother's womb, the grasping begins.  Though we crave the love and security of our parents, we have an even greater desire for control.  We cry and that gets us attention.  We learn this early and use this newfound knowledge almost immediately to get what we crave.   But then our parents begin to set boundaries and we rebel, not recognizing the limits as detours that set us on the right track.  We don't realize that we must learn how to yield in order to be blessed.  So we fight for our own way and lose the grace that could be ours to help us attain what we truly desire.  Our rebellion places a breach in our relationship with God, causing discomfort and even the forfeiture of gifts and privileges.  Oh, but the blessings that await the child who grasps his Parent's hand and accepts His leading!

Dear Heavenly Father, far too often I have sought my own way, much to my own personal demise.  Help me to understand this unique relationship that You desire to have with me.  Give me a personal witness of Your love and Your intentions toward me.  Teach me of Yourself and increase my trust in You.  Make Yourself and Your Fatherhood real to me and increase my love for You, that I might withhold nothing of myself from You.  As I meditate on Your Word, make it come alive on the inside of me.  Grant me the revelation of Your heart as I read every line.  let Your Holy Spirit fill me with a passion for Your purposes.  I desire to be Your child in every sense of the word, bringing pleasure to Your heart and a smile to Your lips.  Help me to be ever aware of Your presence and Your love for me, that I may act accordingly.  In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

His Love Always Finds Me by Michelle McKinney Hammond - pg 123-127   Get your copy today!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

This is my acknowledgment that I am not only human but sinful and in need of cleansing.  Evelyn Underhill says our trespasses are our "voluntary share in the world's sinfulness."  My shortcomings and excesses, debts and trespasses, my meanness and fear and envy, my selfishness of whatever sort --all these have their deleterious effect on those I love, those I live or work with, and on the world in general. 

It seems that God must often delay the answer to our prayers for special guidance because we have already chosen a path of disobedience in that or some other matter.  It is not reasonable to expect to be shown the right way when we deliberately continue in what we know is the wrong one.  We must repent, which means to turn around.  Go back to the point of departure.  Then pray to be shown the path of God's will.

God's Guidance by Elisabeth Elliot

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

God's Guidance

I was reading Elisabeth Elliot's book God's Guidance, A Slow & Certain Light today.  I can certainly testify in my own experiences that she is correct.  God guides us but He wants us to ask Him to guide us, to give our full attention to Him, so that we can see and experience His promises.  I have to remind you that this is a slow process because it is in God's timing and He knows all the specifics of our situation in our life at the moment we are in it.  But the good news is if we have faith in Him and follow Him, His promises to us are "certain," just like Elisabeth Elliot says in her book.  She is so wise because she herself is guided by God.

I have read her books since I was in High School.  My first book I read of hers was Let Me Be A Woman and it got me through High School!  I could not have done it without her and my mother, with their words of wisdom to guide me, as God has guided them.  God put both of these older, wise with experience, women in my life to guide me through His wisdom, for they are the women that God describes in Titus 2.  They are...

"to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor 
enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good 
so that they may encourage the young women 
to love their husbands, to love their childrento be sensible, pure
workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands,  
so that the word of God will not be dishonored."
I want to share some of Elisabeth Elliot's wisdom and life experiences she shares in her books.  I hope to hear that you already have read some of her books.  But if you have never read her books, check out my post below, and if you, are like me, and can't put her books down, get yourself a copy of her book today!  

God's Guidance, A Slow & Certain Light - Part 1
Sometimes we come to God as adventurers and we think, we are well-informed and well-equipped.  But it has occurred to us that with all our accumulation of stuff, something is missing. There is just one thing we will have to ask God for, and we hope he will not find it necessary to sort through the other things.  There's nothing there that we're willing to do without.  We know what we need --yes or no answer, please, to a simple question.  Or perhaps a road sign.  Something quick and easy to point the way.

What we really ought to have is the Guide himself.  Maps, road signs, a few useful phrases are good things, but infinitely better is someone who has been there before and knows the way.

Is there someone?

The Lord is my Shepherd ( Psalm 23:1).  He can see to everything if we are willing to turn it all over (even the equipment, even the route), but we will not do this unless we believe He means what He says.  Can His word be trusted?  He has made countless promises.  Is He going to fulfill them?

To say yes to these questions is to have faith.  It is to start following.  The sheep, trusting the shepherd, trots after him down the trail.

But the picture of the Eastern shepherd with his robes and staff, the flock of sheep, the stony path through the ravine, the dark valley, and the grassy place with the quiet pool are so remote from our lives as to seem no more than a romantic painting from another country and another age.  We live in towns and cities and suburbs.  Our days are full of perplexities far removed from the things that bother rams and ewes and lambs.  We muddle along through the thousand decisions of an ordinary day.  When we are aware of the need for help in one of them, it is not one relating to good pasturage or a water supply.  Time and money fill our minds:  how to get them, how to use them, how to save them.  Where shall I set the thermostat today?  The price of fuel has gone up so frighteningly.  And for breakfast -- have I time to make pancakes?  Can we afford bacon?  Should children take their lunches to school (it takes time to make a lunch) or should they buy them (it costs two dollars)?  Shall I take the freeway to work today and pay a bridge toll, or shall I save the money and spend the time to go the long way?  Silly things, trivialities, but we cannot escape them.

Then there are the serious things.  A student has to decide where to go to college, what to major in, whom to marry, what job to prepare for, where to find that job.  After college he must decide where to live, how to pay for the house, the car, the furniture, the things that seem so much  more indispensable than green pastures.

But the God of the pastures is, let us not forget, the God of everywhere else.  He knows just as much about suburbia or the inner city.  He is not at a loss to know what to do with us, no matter where we are or what we are anxious about.  Every last thing that enters our heads is known to him.

“I will lead the blind by a way they do not know,
In paths they do not know I will guide them.
I will make darkness into light before them
And rugged places into plains.
These are the things I will do,
And I will not leave them undone.”
Isaiah 42:16

But the "guidance of God" --is it reasonable to expect such a thing in this day and age?  Has he ever made any promises that I can get hold of?  Is there anything that applies to my needs this Tuesday?  Are the promises (to use a badly overworked word) relevant?  Might not the advice of a trained guidance expert be more likely to help me?

When the question of relevancy is raised, the next question ought to be:  relevant to what?  As C.S. Lewis said, "All that is not eternal is eternally out of date. (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (NY; Harcourt, Brace, 1960, p.188)."   The Bible is relevant --more relevant, I am convinced, more accurate, more trustworthy, more totally applicable to my "case" as a human being than anything a man, no matter how well-trained, can tell me.  It is the place to begin.  It is the foundation, the only sure one.  What I learn from other sources may help me a great deal, as stones to be laid on the foundation, and it would be foolish of me to brush aside other kinds of help that might be available to me.  They are good gifts, and gifts of whatever kind come to us, we are told, from the Father of lights (James 1:17).  But we can start with the Bible.  

This is God's promise to us!

God's Guidance, A Slow & Certain Light by Elisabeth Elliot, 1973, 1992 

I highly recommend all of you to read this book.  To read this subject in its entirety, please purchase her book  ( http://www.elisabethelliot.org/ ).  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Open Hands - Relinquishment - Part 4

Relinquishment is always a part of the process of maturing.   When Christian parents have done all that can be done to shape their children for God, the time comes when the hands must let go.  The child, now a responsible adult, must be released.  For any parent this is painful, even when the child is moving in the direction the parents prayed for.  The child's continued development, and the spiritual health of the parents as well, depend on the willingness to accept this next stage of the cycle -- hands off, ready to part without a struggle, giving up authority and control, entrusting that child to God.

When, on the other hand, the child has obviously rejected what the parents have taught, the severing is painful in the extreme.  All has been done that could be done and all has been done in vain.  Nevertheless the time comes to let go, as it came for the father of the prodigal when he turned his wayward son over to God.  He must have foreseen the direction he would take, but he prayed for him and waited every day for his return.  God cared for that young man as the father could never have done, brought him to bankruptcy (another severe mercy), and returned him to his father, repentant and willing even to be a mere servant. 

It is merciful Father who strips us when we need to be stripped, as the tree needs to be stripped of its blossoms.  He is not finished with us yet, whatever the loss we suffer, for as we loose our hold on visible things, the invisible become more precious --where our treasure is, there will our hearts be.

He may be asking us to sell a much-loved house, to part with material things we no longer need (someone else may need them), to retire from a position in which we feel ourselves irreplaceable, to turn over to Him fears which hold us in bondage, forms of self-improvement or recreation or social life which hinder obedience. 

"Does all this seem hard?" asks Lilias Trotter, "Does any soul, young in physical or in spiritual life, shrink back and say, 'I would rather remain in the springtime -- I do not want to reach utnot he things that are before if it means all this matter of pain and dying.'

"To such comes the Master's voice, 'Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer' (Rv 2:10,).  You are right to be glad in His April days while He gives them.  Every stage of the heavenly growth in us is lovely to Him; He is the God of the daisies and the lambs and the merry child hearts!"

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Open Hands - Part 3

We are not told that we must go out looking for suffering.  It will come in God's time, int eh measure He meets out.  We must hear the call (He calls His sheep by name) and we must answer, even if it means taking a solitary way, misunderstood and even scorned by others of the same flock.  We will then find our chance to know Him, to reproduce the pattern as He relinquished His hold on all that was His, emptied Himself to share our lives, came to earth where even His own did not receive Him, and was finally obedient even to the point of death.

Why this waste ---of His perfectly pure life?

So that through death he might break the power of him who had death at his command, that is, the devil; and might liberate those who, through fear of death, had all their lifetime been in servitude.  It is not angels, mark you, that he takes to himself, but the sons of Abraham.  And therefore he had to be made like these brothers of his in every way, so that he might be merciful and faithful as their high priest before God, to expiate the sins of the people.  For since he himself has passed through the test of suffering, he is able to help those who are meeting their test now.  (Hebrews 2:14-18).

Whatever today's test may be, through accident, physical disability, our own mistakes or failures or disobedience, perhaps the hostility of others, He is able to help us meet our test.  He was made like us.  He had to be in order to die.  He had to die in order to break death's power.  His was a surrender, not to a fate He could not avoid, but to His Father.  When we open our lives to the will of the Father, we enter into that same mystery.  It is true that Jesus was put into the hands of evil men.  There are times when following Him means just that, as it has in a radical and costly way.... for a numberless others in the history of the church who have been imprisoned or killed for their faith.  It is not the external circumstances themselves that enable us to reproduce the pattern of His death, but our willingness to accept the circumstances for His sake.

Open Hands - Part 2

Joan Andrews is an example of the cost of an utter "unclasping" of one's own rights and privileges.  The call --Will you do this one thing for Me? -- comes to each of us in some form.  The thing required may be severely criticized, as Joan's stance has been.

Often the things which are taking place in the spiritual life are hidden to all but the eye of God, while the outward appearance seems nothing but unnecessary waste.  The judge who imposed Joan Andrews's sentence said, "It's a shame Miss Andrews has chosen to waste her life in prison instead of accomplishing something."  He could not fathom her regarding it as a privilege, as the apostles also did, to suffer shame for the name of Christ.  Paul even called it a happiness.  Joan had not chosen to waste her life but to spend it for her Master -- a very different thing, frequently misinterpreted.  She unclasped her hands utterly, "past all power of closing again," and there she sits in a cell, praying, singing, writing her letters, encouraging and ministering to other prisoners (even in solitary she was able to read her Bible to the girl int he next cell).

This is what it means to be a witness --to live the life of sacrificial love, a life which makes no sense whatsoever if this world is all there is.

Often there seems to be no visible reason for our having to let go.  But life, our spiritual life in Christ, depends on it.  The life-out-of-death cycle must proceed.

There are many voices to advocate escape from suffering through drugs, divorce, abortion, euthanasia, suicide.  "How far we are,"writes a friend of mine, "from saying with St. Paul, 'All I care for is to know Christ, to experience the power of his resurrection (no problem there) and to share his sufferings, in growing conformity with his death'" (Phil 3:10).

Eternal life means knowing God.  All our life on earth is designed to facilitate that.  But knowing Him must include sharing His sufferings by reproducing the pattern of His death.  Instead of seeking first for escape from suffering, the soul hungry to know Christ will seek in it the means to know Him better.  Our human nature would look first for someone to blame, and focus its responses on that person.  The spiritual mind looks first to God, "Teach me Thy way."  The rest can wait.

A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot