A Study in Surrender

surrender

So, the Be Attitude of God’s Kingdom is Surrender. But what exactly does that mean? Is it the waving of a white flag? The raising of hands to signal defeat and despair? Or maybe the act of simply giving up because we know we can’t win and what’s the use in fighting?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word Surrender has its roots in Old French and combines ‘Sur’ (which means over) and ‘Rendre’ (which means to give back). So, stripped down, Surrender can technically be defined as handing over back. This implies a return of some kind.

When the Pharisees and Herodians (who actually were bitter enemies, but united that one time in an act of common hatred) said to Jesus, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:16-17). Jesus, fully understanding their trickery, said, “”Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”” (Matthew 22:18-22).

If the coin belonged to Caesar because it had his image on it, then we who are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) belong to God. The problem of the Fall was that man took himself into his own hands when he decided to disregard God’s command. In surrendering, we give ourselves back to God, who has righteous claim to us.

Rather than a desperate last resort, Surrender is the ultimate act of worship, for it requires the understanding that God is our All, and without Him we are nothing. This is the definition of meekness or humility. By contrast, Pride insists on defining itself independently of God. It may sound benign, but pride is at the very root of sin itself, for it separates us from our Creator.   Is it any wonder then, that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”? (James 4:6).

Be blessed,

R

Image Attribution:

http://www.ltocz.com/surrender

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The Be Attitude of God’s Kingdom

Beatitudes

Like most Christ followers (and pretty much anyone who goes to church with a fair amount of regularity), I knew about the Beatitudes. And even though I found them slightly confusing, I also knew that they represented a high bar or standard that I had to strive to attain as a good Christian.

Then, one day, the Bible teachers I listen to were talking about the Beatitudes at the same time. Intrigued, I decided to pay closer attention to what the Holy Spirit might be trying to teach me about these (what I considered) somewhat vague golden Christian standard principles found in Matthew 5:3-10.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Interpretation: Blessed are those who realize that without God, they are nothing; He is our All in All. This understanding is what prompts us to accept Christ as our Savior and enter His kingdom.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Interpretation: The only thing that causes sorrow in God’s Kingdom is sin or separation from our Father. We are blessed when we mourn our sin and turn to God, who is ever ready to comfort and welcome us back into His fold.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Interpretation: Blessed are those who humble themselves before God, for they shall receive the inheritance of God’s favored.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Interpretation: Blessed are those who hunger for God, who makes us righteous, for He will come and fill us with His Holy Spirit.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Interpretation: Blessed are those who extend the same mercy God has shown us, for it keeps us in the center of His mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Interpretation: Blessed are those who never fail to confess their sin, for they shall be cleaned from all unrighteousness and stand before God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God. Interpretation: Blessed are those who follow Jesus’ example to bring peace between God and His creation (no matter the cost), for they are truly God’s children.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Interpretation: Blessed are those who suffer for God’s sake, for they will be received into His kingdom.

Paying attention did bring me some additional clarity into these principles. But it was something one of the teachers said that opened a burst of light in my understanding. He said, these beatitudes are not about what you can or cannot do; they represent what God is doing in and through you.

Philippians 2:13 says it is God who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. Only God can bring a soul to repentance, and only God can stir us up to show mercy, work for peace and suffer for His Name.

So, those high and mighty golden standards? All I have to do is let go and let God have His way in me. Not the easiest thing, I agree. But I think easier to focus on than all those golden principles.

The Be Attitude of God’s Kingdom is Surrender.

Be blessed,

R

 

Image Attribution:

http://easter.org/wordpress/?page_id=5232

The Heart of the Matter

The-Old-Testament-vs.-the-New-Testament-590x295

I love the Old Testament. In it, the Red Sea parted (Exodus 14), walls came tumbling down (Joshua 5-6), the Sun and Moon stood still (Joshua 10) and a giant was slain (1 Samuel 17). Still in its pages, we see fire falling from heaven (1 Kings 18) and men saved from a burning furnace (Daniel 3). What’s not to love? It’s all so much larger than life!!

Yet, while the Old Testament contains thrilling accounts of divine intervention, the New Testament explodes with a new revelation. Jesus’ appearance on the scene turned life upside down as he challenged long held beliefs/traditions and demonstrated a new way of life. Even His miracles served to underscore His overall message and mission. While religious leaders focused on behavior and keeping up appearances, Jesus delved into the heart of the matter. For, as Samuel was told centuries before, “man looks at the outward appearance, but [God] looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

In Matthew 15:20, Jesus astonished his listeners by declaring the ceremonial washing of hands unnecessary. After all, the things that we put into our bodies tend to come out as waste. Instead, he urged the disciples to focus on the things which proceed from the heart – words, evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, slander – as these have the power to defile a man (Matthew 15:17-19).

By human nature, the heart abounds in deceit and desperate wickedness (Jeremiah 17:9). But through the Holy Spirit it overflows with, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). How do we get from one state of heart to the other? Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount.

Join me next for a walk through the Beatitudes.

Be blessed,

R

Image Attribution:

http://www.projectinspired.com/a-closer-look-at-the-old-testament-vs-the-new-testament/

When Jesus Came

When Jesus Came

Mary and Joseph were planning a wedding.

The shepherds were tending their sheep.

Herod was plotting his intrigues.

The Magi were seeking knowledge.

Augustus was assessing his empire.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were raising their son.

Everyday life was happening when the Divine intersected humanity. Aside from the announcement to the shepherds on a lonely hill, Jesus made a quiet entry into the world. For most, life continued as normal; for a few, life was never the same again.

Those few positioned themselves to participate in heaven’s plan of salvation for all mankind. Mary and Joseph became the Savior’s earthly parents. Why were they chosen? Only God can say. But consider how YOU would have reacted in either one of their shoes.

The wise men followed the Star and God’s instructions to come face to face with the Son of Man. How did they know that the Star was anything special? How did they manage to hear God speak? We don’t know. But Jeremiah 29:12-13 says “Then you will call upon Me and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Zechariah and Elizabeth conceived a child destined to issue the clarion call for Jesus. Considering Zechariah’s initial doubts, what made this family the right choice to herald the coming of the King? Even they didn’t understand. But despite the stigma of barrenness that they had to bear, Luke 1:6 says “Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.”

If Jesus were to come today, would you play a part in His Master plan? God knows all things. But how would you answer the following?

  • Where do you stand in the grand scheme of life today?
  • How do you respond to God in your circumstances?
  • What does your heart seek?

 Be blessed,

R

Image Attribution:

http://thekingiscoming.com/when-jesus-came/

El Roi – The God Who Sees

She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13).

Speaking with a friend about some of the recent challenges she’d faced, the rawness of her pain and frustration tore at me. I prayed for the grace to give her comfort and the words spoken by Hagar in the wilderness flooded into my mind. “God never wastes a shed tear,” I responded. “He is the God who sees.”

I could just imagine the servant’s emotions as she fled from her envious mistress. Hagar hadn’t helped the situation by flaunting her ability to conceive over Sarah, but the treatment she received in return was harsh and unyielding. Terrified, she fled into the desert pregnant, alone and very far from her known home in Egypt (Genesis 16:4-6). Most likely contemplating death there, she instead encountered a messenger from God who spoke words of encouragement, guidance and healing to her hurting soul.

We don’t know if Hagar had embraced the faith of her masters before that point. But the experience was so powerful, she declared a new name for the One who saw and met her in her pain (Genesis 16:13).

Many of us have had to struggle with gut wrenching pain or sadness. At such times, it may seem that God is far away and uncaring. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is in those experiences that God is closer than ever before. Without Him carrying us through, we never would make it out whole. Rather than close our hearts, we need to be still and open to what God is saying. For anyone currently in such a season, I pray that His words of healing and restoration will wash over you and bring you out stronger than ever before.

Be blessed,

R

DEEPER: Read Luke 7:38-50 for the experience of another woman who felt seen and touched by Jesus.

 

Image Attribution:

https://jarrodcooper.net/2014/06/18/the-god-who-sees-me/

 

 

Embral E’Veria

unquenchable-love

In the Eyes of Everia young adult Christian fantasy series, author Serena Chase coins the phrase ‘Embral E’Veria,’ which is translated, unlimited power governed by unquenchable love. This idea, attributable only to the Divine, contrasts with the view expressed by the historian Lord Acton, who once stated that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

After King David sinned by conducting a census for egotistical purposes, God told him through the prophet Gad, “I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments and I will inflict it on you…you may choose three years of famine, three months of destruction by the sword of your enemies, or three days of severe plague as the angel of the LORD brings devastation throughout the land of Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:9-12). David picked the third option, crying “let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great. Do not let me fall into human hands” (1 Chronicles 21:13).

Having encountered his fair share of powerful men – Goliath the giant, King Saul, Achish (King of Gath) – David knew that power and cruelty tended to go hand in hand as far as mankind was concerned. But he also knew that was not the case with God. David’s experience of the Almighty was inextricably linked to His love, mercy and grace. When faced with a decision of judgment from man or God, the choice was clear.

Like David, we may find ourselves on the wrong end of sinful behavior. While God promises to forgive all confessed sin, we cannot escape the consequences of our actions. But this knowledge need not consume us with dread or fear. We can trust that God, the all powerful judge, also overflows with a heavenly father’s love. Therefore, “though [we] stumble, [we] will never fall, for the Lord holds [us] by the hand.” (Psalm 37:24)

Be blessed,

R

Image Attribution:

https://tebeth.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/unquenchable-love/

God or Not?

CS Lewis Jesus Quote

“He’s demon possessed and out of his mind,” some cried out. “Why listen to a man like that?” Others replied, “This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’” (John 10:19-21)

Riddled with uncertainty, “the people surrounded him and asked, ‘how long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24). “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me,” Jesus replied. “The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name… The Father and I are one.” (John 10:25, 30).

Rather than satisfy the crowd, this plain declaration incited them to violence. Outraged, the people “once again took up stones to kill him.” (John 10:31). “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works,” Jesus said to them. “For which one are you going to stone me?” (John 10:32)

“We’re not stoning you for any good work,” they answered. “But for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:33)

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

“If I do [my Father’s] work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works, even if you don’t believe me,” Jesus said. “Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.” (John 10:38).

How will you decide today?

Be blessed,

R

Image Attribution:

http://merecslewis.blogspot.com/2010/11/deciding-about-jesus-liar-lunatic-or.html