Apr 30, 2011

Dying Daily

Dying Daily is a subject that most people don't like to think about, let alone do.  It is a process of daily bringing our natural self into total submission to God.  To consciously saying, "I got nothing, Lord.  Use me today to do Your will, not my own."  Admittedly, until recently I never did that.   I have lived my entire life giving lip service to surrendering to God but never actually doing it.  I asked Him to bless me in my own pursuits and in my own desires but I rarely asked Him what He wanted me to do.

I think because I was afraid of what He would ask of me.  In my mind, surrendering to God meant giving up all earthly pleasures, selling everything, moving to some remote foreign land to be rejected by the people He sent me to save and dying a horrible death from malaria.  Surrender to God, equated to poverty, discomfort, sacrifice, and suffering - none of these things are all that appealing.  Hey, I am being truthful here, surely there are others out there that think the same way.

So how did I go from living for myself to submitting to God?  What brought me to the place where I die to self daily and give over complete control?  That is simple, He brought me to my knees.  Now I have been brought low before, faced hard times, suffered and walked through many a wilderness.  I was close to God during those times but never broken.  We have within ourselves untapped reservoirs of strength and will that serve us well in times of trouble but will also keep us clinging to self when we should have surrendered long ago.

There is a first death to self that occurs when we give our lives to the Lord, when we are born again and our spirit is changed.  We go from being a condemned sinner to a new creation in Christ.  This is eternal change that no amount of bad behavior can ever change because that would mean we were in control in the first place.  Notice though, when we are born again - two parts of our being are NOT changed.  Our soul and our flesh are not changed, these are what we have to learn to bring into check and into control.  These are the things that have to die daily.

Galatians 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Maybe it is just me, but I fought this process HARD.  One day in early April, I died.  I died to myself.  I had no strength, no pride, no will, no illusions of my own beauty, intelligence, ability - nothing.  I wept before the Lord without the strength to raise my hands in praise.  In the end, all I could say was "I got nothing, Lord."  I wish I could tell you it was at that moment that the filling of the Holy Spirit took place.  I wish I could tell you that a white light shown down in my living room and the angels came to minister to my battered soul.  I wish I could tell you that peace, joy, and understanding replaced despair but alas they did not.  I felt utterly alone, even though I knew I wasn't.  I could not feel His presence, even though I knew He was there.  That was the purpose, I had to die and death is not fun.

So what has happened since early April?  Well, I continue to walk and pray with the Lord everyday.  Some days I stagger more than walk for this dying to self is not a singular act, it goes on everyday.  I am stronger and have moved into a depth with the Lord that is deep and meaningful.  Mostly, there is peace and understanding that His will for my life is better than anything I could ever plan.

So dear Abigail and Dolley readers I encourage you to take a step of faith and every morning before you get out of bed say to the Lord, "I give you my life today.  I surrender my own desires and my own will to You.  Use me today, fill me with your strength, your wisdom, and your heart.  Amen"

Apr 23, 2011

Holy Saturday - The Second Day

Abigail and Dolley readers I have been contemplating today, Holy Saturday for a few months now.  This is the day after Good Friday and the day before Easter.  This is the day that Jesus' body lay in the tomb.  To the followers of Christ, this must have been the darkest day of their lives.  Think about it for a minute, forget your knowledge of the Resurrection, forget that you know the end of the story, simply go to the upper room with me and imagine.

The Apostles are hiding, certain they will be killed if found.  The fear of gruesome death and humiliation torments them.  They have lived with Roman oppression, they know what happened to Jesus.  He was the most powerful man on Earth and they killed him, how vulnerable they must have felt!  How terrified would you be waiting for the knock at the door that signaled they had come for you?

Their friend Judas had betrayed the Lord and was gone.  He had fallen prey to the lies of the Devil himself.  With Jesus out of the way, the poor disciples who had cast out demons in Jesus name must surely know that the hoards of Hell were coming after them.  With Jesus dead, they would be fresh meat for the demons.

Judas was the caretaker of the money for the group and it stands to reason he would have taken all of their funds with him when he left.  So they are broke, with a price on their heads, and they are trapped.  They have no way to pay off anyone to help them escape, how are they going to get food?  The followers of Jesus had scattered and the people of Jerusalem had called for the Lord's Crucifixion, without funds there is no one to help them.

Then there is the disillusionment.  These men had given up everything to follow Jesus - homes, families, business, position in the community.  I am sure there were those in their families that thought they were crazy, that condemned them for not doing the "responsible" thing and leading a normal life.  I am sure there were a few Mother-in-laws who had condemned them for leaving home and hearth to follow this rabbi.  As they sat in the upper room that day, they had to face the crushing possibility that they had been wrong and everyone else had been right.  Had they wasted the last three years?

Jesus had predicted his own death about a dozen times, but from all accounts His words seem to have been hidden from the Apostles.  It was like Jesus had spoken in code and they had not heard or understood what He was saying.  This is demonstrated by their disbelief on Easter morning and Thomas' rejection of the testimony of the ten.  So I do not believe that they took comfort and hope that Jesus would rise again, this Saturday did not serve that purpose.

Holy Saturday was designed to buffet the Apostles.  It was designed for them to reflect.  It was designed to bring them to the lowest points in their lives and to prepare them for the work to come.  Holy Saturday is what Christianity would be without the Resurrection - dead.

I believe we all have Holy Saturdays in our lives.  Our dreams, hopes, aspirations, and loved ones are taken away on Friday.  We curl up in hiding, mourning, and fear on Saturday.  Saturday is lonely and scary but take heart Sunday is on the way.  Sunday their is victory, new life, and resurrection!  Praise God.

Apr 21, 2011

Holding Pattern

Abigail and Dolley readers I feel like I am in the hospital.  Everyday I wake up, stretch, take inventory and determine today is the day I will get to go back to life as normal.  I anxiously await the daily visit from the doctor and pray He tells me I can be discharged.  Up until now, everyday the answer has been, not yet you aren't strong enough.  I argue and fight and try to show that I am indeed strong enough but the wise physician will not be swayed and I am forced to wait.

I look back over these weeks and realize I have needed this time.  I know I have caught up on about 200 hours of missing sleep.  I don't have black circles under my eyes anymore.  I don't appear drawn and haggard.  I've lost weight, gotten back into shape, quit smoking, and am closer to God than I have ever been.  So while I have fought this "hospital" season tooth and nail, it has been good for me. 

I find myself pondering this Scripture: Romans 5:3-4 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character and character produces hope.

I am working on the rejoicing part.  I don't think it means we are masochists about suffering but that we realize when we are going through trials and tribulations that God uses that to do good works in us.  In the case of this verse to give us perseverance, character, and hope.  It is worth noting that hope comes last.  I guess if we had an abundance of hope at the beginning we would not develop perseverance and character as we aught.  That does not keep me from praying for it though.

Apr 20, 2011

No Freedom of Speech in the Scientific Community

Abigail and Dolley readers I have in recent months watched a couple documentaries that have concerned me greatly:  The Great Global Warming Swindle and Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed.  Both of these documentaries demonstrate that the Scientific Community is effectively silencing dissension on Evolution and Global Warming.  They are taking away the Freedom of Speech for thousands of scientists that question the validity of these theories.

Careers and lives are being ruined for straying from the party line, even slightly.  Mere mention of Intelligent Design can get you fired.  I would venture to say that since Climategate, the opponents of Global Warming are not in as much danger as they were before, but that is really beside the point.  Suppression of free speech in the scientific community hurts everyone.  If scientists are not free to evaluate the evidence truthfully then real break through is not possible.

Scientists that make discoveries that bolster the arguments of the "other" side are forced to come out publicly and refute their findings in order to save their careers.  A case in point is the discovery of plasma, red blood cells, and connective tissues in a dinosaur bone. (To watch the video, click here: T-Rex Blood Cells).  This discovery flies right in the face of the old earth evolutionist of which the scientist who discovered it belongs.  Instead of being free to consider the possibility that this dinosaur bone is hundreds or thousands of years old, the lady is publicly declaring from the rooftops that she STILL believes in evolution and just can't explain why the pesky facts don't fit into their theory.

There in lies the rub, the facts just don't add up.  When scientists are discovering things that refute the pet theories they are too afraid to publish them, so they are hidden and covered up.  I am not a conspiracy theorist but there is enough evidence out there to validate this point.  Today, there are thousands of gifted scientists that will look through their microscopes, look at their data, and marvel at their discoveries but will be too afraid to share these with the world for fear that their careers will be ruined.

Apr 10, 2011

Israel's Faithful Generation

Abigail and Dolley readers I have been thinking about the wilderness lately, probably because metaphorically I am wandering around in it.  Now the wilderness of a middle class American would make most of the rest of the world and previous generations scoff at the ease, but God meets you where you are and it doesn't have to be life or death for it to be serious in your life.  The wilderness can be anything that leaves you anxious, worried, and fearful and is dominated by the fact that you in your own power can not change it.

In the wilderness, we look around and say if God doesn't show up, we are in big trouble.  The wilderness if full of pain.  We as humans hate pain and try to avoid it at all costs.  The wilderness if full of uncertainty.  We like to know where we are going and how we are going to get there.  Your wilderness will be different from mine but regardless of the circumstances, walking in the wilderness is never comfortable.

From our perspective, we would avoid it all together, but from God's that is a different story.  We are never closer to Him than when we are wandering in the desert.  We never rely on him harder than when we are powerless.  We never eat His Word and breath His Spirit more than when we are depending on Him for everything.  Paul writes that we are never stronger through God than when we are weak.  In our weakness, His power is made perfect.  So we should rejoice in our troubles because when we are weak then we are strong.

Consider Israel's greatest generation - Joshua's Israel.  The first generation out of the wilderness.  These are the children that walked through the dry land of the Red Sea and beheld the great miracles of the Exodus.  These are the children born in the desert who grew up on manna and quail.  These are the children who looked up at the cloud of God by day and the pillar of fire by night.  These are the people who the desert stripped fear, unfaithfulness, and murmuring from their hearts.  These mighty warriors did not balk at marching around the walls of Jericho at the order of the Lord.  These mighty men of God operated in His power.  This generation was the only faithful generation of Israelites and they were products of the wilderness.

I encourage you today, if you find yourself in the wilderness consider the good that the Lord is working in your heart.  In spite of your fears, trust the Lord to do a good work in you.  Trust Him to see you through this trial.  Hold on to the hope that we are at our strongest and most faithful when we emerge from the wilderness.  Cast your anxiety upon the Lord, for He loves you.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and with all your mind, lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge the Lord and He will direct your paths.  For we are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  Fear not, for He is with you always, even until the end of the age.

Apr 6, 2011

Spiritual Adulthood

Abigail and Dolley readers as many of you know, I lost my job at the end of January.  After a lifetime of full time work, I have struggled mightily with unemployment but the Lord knew what He was doing.  He knew that I was exhausted and had reached the end of myself.  I needed this break for more reasons than I care to admit and He has sustained me during this time.  I believe I have caught up on hundreds of hours of lost sleep but more importantly hundreds of hours of lost prayer time.

He has used this time to bring me back into full fellowship with Him.  I had been distant from the Lord for quite some time and relying solely on myself.  This has changed and I have returned full force to an every breathe dependency on the Lord.  What is different this time though is that I am no longer a spiritual child or teen.  I have moved into full blown spiritual adulthood.

Adulthood is marked by an understanding of God's Sovereignty while still believing in His promises.  It is putting off the pettiness and testing of the adolescent years and recognizing that His ways are not our ways and His thought are higher than our thoughts.  Adulthood also means we stop trying to manipulate God by striking bargains with Him - if you do this, I will do this or "putting out fleeces", if you make this happen then I will know what to do.  In spiritual childhood, I unfortunately fell in with the "Name it and Claim it" crowd that assert if a promise is in God's Word you can bind Him to make that promise come true for you.  This is a dangerous doctrine and does much to destroy the faith of baby Christians.  I have to admit I have a fair few spirituals scars from this false teaching.

As we enter adulthood either in the natural or the spiritual many of us carry a lot of baggage from childhood and our teen years that we have to work through and throw off.  I have been doing a lot of that lately.  I used to believe that there was a place that I was going to arrive and that I was going to stay there.  There is no such place while we inhabit this body.  We will always strive and struggle but the important thing is to just keep going.  Some days and seasons will be easy and others will be full of suffering, that is just life.

I think the essence of Spiritual adulthood can be manifested in the story found in Daniel 3.  It is a famous story where three young Jewish men, who were chosen to be rulers in Babylon refuse to bow down and worship a statue.  They are called before the king and face certain death.  Look closely at what they say,

 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

Don't you admire their answer?  They say we do not need to defend our faith to unbelievers.  God is able, He will do it, but even if He does not we will not be moved.  When you can say this with peace and rest in your heart my friends that is when you know you have reached adulthood.