WRITING A DEVOTIONAL
WRITING A DEVOTIONAL
Back in 2003 after having spent the year before reading Sarah Ban Breathnach's book "Simple Abundance" I took her suggestion to heart and wrote my own daily devotional. Each day I took a line or two from one of the various spiritual authors from the last three centuries I was reading and wrote my own thoughts on the subject. I then looked for a scripture that illustrated the truth that had been revealed to me. What follows is the result.
"Our greatest bondage is to have our own way; our greatest freedom is to let God have His way." Warren Wiersbe
Monday, January 31, 2011
“(Jesus) wants to give rest to everyone in the world. But the way to enter into that rest is by the way of meekness. The really meek person does not have to be proven right. He is willing to be made right.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 1/31
Oh, to BE right. Isn’t that the goal of every person’s flesh? The lengths we will go to have that proven is what’s wrong with our world I dare say. What is so glorious about the Good News is that we are MADE right, and we don’t have to lift a finger to prove it! I really don’t have to say anymore about freedom in Christ for I’m sure anybody reading this knows what I’m talking about. And if not, I know the wheels have started to turn because your appetite for this “rightness” has been whetted by God and He won’t leave you until you have it.
“And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Sunday, January 30, 2011
“I saw that He was not only my Savior for the future, but He was also my all-sufficient Savior for the present. He was my Captain to fight my battles for me, in order that I need not fight them myself; He was my Burden-bearer to carry my burdens, in order that I might roll them off of my own weak shoulders; He was my Fortress to hide me from my enemies; my Shield to protect me; my Guide to lead me; my Comforter to console me; my Shepherd to care for me. No longer did I need to care for, and protect, and fight for myself. It was all in the hands of One who was mighty to save; and what could I do but trust Him?” Hannah Whitall Smith, “The Unselfishness of God”
I was just as amazed as Hannah was to discover that while I trust Christ to save me from eternal punishment without my help, I wasn’t trusting Him to save me from my flesh without my help. As much as I thought I knew the role of the Holy Spirit in my day-to-day life I always saw myself as receiving help from Him. But now, Hannah’s words have explained what is meant by “to step aside”. In fact, she used these same words to describe how she allowed God to fight the battle for her. I have already written about my discovery that along with stepping aside I needed to acknowledge and accept what was before things could change. Hannah has clarified this even further for me when she wrote, “Our Lord tells us over and over that according to our faith it shall be unto us.” It is by faith that we lay hold of the power to step aside. The kind of faith that is required is not belief in what we hope for (which is the opposite of acceptance), but belief in Whom we hope for--God. Our hope is in God, Himself, and in His great love for us. We must never put our hope in ourselves or in what our flesh wants.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26, 27
Saturday, January 29, 2011
“Suffering makes no sense except with Christ Jesus.” Out of the Silence
When those words first popped into my head I knew they were true. As a person who must make sense out of any and everything, I needed this truth. It helps me to understand when I am in the flesh and when I have stepped aside and am allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through me. Many say feelings should not be trusted. Perhaps. They should not be trusted in the sense that they are speaking Truth (capital T), but they are speaking OUR truth, for our feelings tell us about ourselves. So if we FEEL we are suffering we need to examine that feeling. Let God’s light shine on it and see it from His perspective. This will not take away the trial, but it will take away the feeling of suffering. For us, to suffer means to be a victim and a victim is powerless, without hope. But through Christ Jesus’s suffering on the cross we are not without hope and our suffering becomes His suffering and thereby makes sense.
“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;.........Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God.” 1 Peter 3:18, 4:1,2
Friday, January 28, 2011
“One of the most majestic things about Jesus was the way He stood before Pilate and said nothing.....His silence was so deep, all who beheld it must have known that kind of silence is possible only with God.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 1/28
Silence. They say the best teacher is experience so rather than write about silence I will be silent for the next 5 minutes and what comes to you will be your devotional for the day!
“But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:20
Thursday, January 27, 2011
“We all endure suffering to some degree, but the good news is that through it we can become like Jesus....Don’t make all your decisions and invest everything you have into avoiding hardship. God did not spare His own Son. How can we expect Him to spare us?” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-By-Day, 1/27
It can only be the power of God that the very question I finally made public yesterday would be found by me in a book printed five years ago! How good it is that God makes even clearer His word to me! Blackaby’s words have helped clarify for me the distinction between my flesh, the container, and my soul, which is the container for God’s Spirit. When scripture says God did not spare His own Son what I hear is God did not save His earthly container. The truth that presents itself here is that my flesh will inevitably endure suffering, but the good news is “through it we can become like Jesus”. Our flesh can become like Jesus’ flesh. Our flesh can never become sanctified, but our behavior in the flesh, when it has endured, can be Christlike. But even as I can rejoice in this, for God’s sake, I am even more overjoyed with the fact that I, my soul, is already sanctified and sealed. It is seeing myself as two separate entities--flesh and spirit--that I can live the victorious life in Christ.
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” Romans 5:4,5
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
“I wanted God and Christ to be one and the same. That’s why I finally became a Christian. I wanted it to be true when Jesus said “I and the Father are one.” Then how could God smite the Christ who had saved me?” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 1/26
This was Eugenia’s question upon reading Isaiah 53:4b: “....yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Finally, I was about to have my longtime, forever-lingering question settled. I had always wondered how I could trust God to show ME any favor (grace) when He did not even spare His own Son. This was not something I could speak out loud amongst my Christian friends for fear of exposing what looked liked doubts. And I certainly couldn’t pose this question to nonbelievers for fear they would never give God a second thought again! So I suffered in silence, always pushing it aside when it threatened to cause me to lose what faith I did have in God’s goodness towards me. So as I prepared to read some profound yet unknown truth to me I was not prepared for the simplicity of her response--the obviousness of it--the slapping-of-my-forehead-upon-the-discovery type of revelation. I will share her words: “Rejoice and again I say rejoice,” because cleave this “pleasant clear stone” to its heart and you see as I have seen at last, that God actually smote Himself for our sin!.....He afflicted Himself, as the Lord God “laid on him (self) the iniquity of us all.” NOW I understand. Jesus, the man--all that was written about his life--is meant to show us that God was identifying with us. Once He was nailed to that cross, it was God Himself who gave Himself for us--who suffered and bore our sin against Him. God took responsibility for my sin and knowing the weakness of my flesh did not leave me on my own. He came to me Himself. He has exchanged my old life for His. My flesh is merely the earth container until my soul is brought back home. Jesus was also a container and meant to show me how it is possible to live a sanctified life here on earth. When the container was no longer needed, God displayed it on a cross for all to see that it was no longer needed. God Himself was now back on His throne. The Power of Sin had been defeated. Through our faith in the finished work of the Christ we share in this victory.
“So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:6,7
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
“Let’s just acknowledge that as far as real life is concerned we are only one step away from dealing with dysfunction. So what are we going to do about it? We can stop waiting for life to become perfect and start working with what we’ve got to make it as satisfying as we can. We can accept, bless, give thanks, and get going.” Sarah Ban Breathnach, SA, 1/25
Amen, Sister! The only thing I can say after such a rousing speech is to look at myself in the mirror and own up to the fact that I’ve been my own worst enemy.....waiting for life to become perfect.....So, where do I come off thinking that life CAN be perfect AND that I should HAVE a perfect life? This is the power of Sin for sure. Sin (Satan) also wanted to have the perfect life--to be equal to God. Yikes! When I say it that way I can’t even lift my eyes to look into that mirror! I don’t have to evaluate my life very hard to discover just how good I have it. It’s not perfect, but then perfect is not attainable. Why waste my energy and especially what time I have left striving for perfect? I think I will just go for experience. And if I make my experience with God my number one priority I can be sure that all the other experiences will be worth my time and my energy. It’s a win/win scenario. Yes, I think I will post a little sign on my mirror as a reminder that I should “accept, bless, give thanks, and get going!”
“I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3
Monday, January 24, 2011
“Christianity is not a set of teachings to understand. It is a Person to follow.....As you walk daily with Him, Jesus will answer your questions, and you will discover far more than you even knew to ask.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-By-Day, 1/24
We awoke to no water this morning and soon discovered it was due to a frozen pipe. We’ve lived in this house for almost 22 years and have never had a frozen pipe before. So why now? We’re having colder temperatures for a longer time than I can ever remember but also two years ago we had to reroute a leaky water pipe that brought water into the house from the well. Because it was under the basement floor, it was easier to put in a new pipe overhead. The new one was plastic--again because it was easier. The room in the basement where this pipe enters the house is only used for storage. It has an auxiliary electric heater in it, but was not turned on because the clutter had grown too close to it. This is a good picture for me concerning my relationship with God. While taking the easy route may be the most practical solution to a problem we must be careful to examine the repercussions and take whatever precautions necessary. Freedom in Christ means I no longer need to be legalistic--that is, cross every “t” and dot every “i”, but it doesn’t mean I mustn’t be diligent to follow Christ and the law of love. My flesh will entice me to think otherwise for it is what I know best and with which I feel most comfortable. That is why I constantly need an example to follow--so that I do not stray from that path which God has laid out for me.
“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
Sunday, January 23, 2011
“Over the years I have discovered that much of my struggle to be content despite outside circumstances has arisen when I stubbornly resisted what was actually happening in my life at the present moment.....What happens when we accept our circumstances? Well, first of all, we relax. Next we change our vibration, our energy pattern, and the rate of our heartbeat.” Sarah Ban Breathnach, SA, 1/23
Sarah also tells how she arrives at acceptance. It comes when she realizes the circumstance is what it is meant to be right now. In acknowledging that she is enabled to say “All right, You lead, I’ll follow” and “Everything is going to turn out all right.” Perhaps this was the missing ingredient as I applied my “step aside” plan. Yesterday when I first put this plan into practice I noticed an immediate mood shift for the better. But the next time and each time afterward I noticed it became harder to step aside. What this is telling me about myself is that in stepping aside so that the Holy Spirit could express Himself through me I was hoping He’d make the outcome to my liking. No wonder I resisted stepping aside the next time. I really must get it out of my head that things have to be rosy at all times. Some times things have to get mucked up a bit before they can get cleaned up. Life is messy. The sooner I accept that the sooner everything is going to turn out all right.
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Saturday, January 22, 2011
“You will be incapable of ministering to everyone God sends you unless you have His love....Seek to know the Father and His immeasurable love; then allow His Son to love others through you!” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 1/22
It would seem that “I need only step aside” when it comes to loving people, as well--not only when it comes to letting God fight the battle in my mind. The fact that I haven’t seen this before shows how much I stand in the way. I’m beginning to see this picture of a woman busily working in her kitchen trying to cook for her large family while all the while there’s a helper knocking on her door, but because she’s so busy she doesn’t take the time to answer the door. My need to be in charge of my life has distracted me from seeing how ready and able God has been to supply me with everything I need. Why I’ve felt I’ve needed to do it all myself I don’t know. Or do I? Is it because I need to feel as though I’ve accomplished this great feat to love that unbearable person so that I feel accomplished? Or do I need to be in control of the love I give so that I can protect myself if I begin to feel too vulnerable? Either one of these reasons show me why I need to rest only in God’s love for me. That is where I will get my self-worth issues satisfied and my fears relieved.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Friday, January 21, 2011
“Satan will try to convince you that your sin renders you useless to God.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 1/21
It seems that all my reading material at the moment concerns the power of sin, or is it like when you’re pregnant you suddenly feel the whole world is pregnant because you notice all the other pregnant women for the first time. It is also interesting how the mind works in conjunction with the eye. Simple shading of an object and its placement can fool the eye we say--but the eye is only the vehicle for the information. It is the brain that translates it and therefore must be held accountable for the deception.
Yesterday I was thinking that Christianity came down to a battle within the mind. This thought greatly discouraged me. It’s ALL just in my head?! But, praise the Lord! His Light shone on one little word “in” and His truth revealed that the word should be “for”. Now I am no longer discouraged. What I understand now is that the battle is not IN my mind, but FOR my mind. I no longer need be the one fighting against the deceiving thoughts--which is tiring and overwhelming--I can’t keep it up for long. Instead, I need only step aside and let God fight the battle. He has already won the war, but the battle also belongs to the Lord!
“Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Fear not, and be not dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s.’” 2 Chronicles 20:15b
Thursday, January 20, 2011
“Even if you don’t feel anything, go on about your day, claiming His Presence every time a shadow crosses your mind.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 1/8
I’m having one of those days when I don’t feel God’s Presence. He can’t possibly be in me today my feelings tell me--not MY God. MY God would make me feel bright and cheery. So this whole notion of “acting as if” He is in me and I in him seems exactly like that---pretending. But claiming God Presence has a totally different feel to it. When we claim something it is because it’s already ours. It’s either waiting for us somewhere else and we have to go pick it up, or it’s right here and we just need to raise our hand and say here I am, that’s mine. So, Lord, I’m raising my hand and trusting, by faith, that your Presence will shine through me even though I don’t feel it.
“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.” John 14:18
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
“I could never, in the wildest reaches of even my writer’s imagination, conceive of Jesus Christ bringing fears down upon someone.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 1/19
This was Eugenia’s response as a new Christian to Isaiah 66:4: “I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” But then the Lord opened up her mind to understand that He had designed our minds to function this way. If we choose to do evil the consequence will be fears and delusions. This makes such perfect sense to me that I do not understand why I didn’t see this for myself long ago. Bill Gillham has helped me to understand the ways in which the power of sin controls my thoughts if I do not believe I am a sanctified, and therefore a holy creature. The sin that I do commit is the direct result of the power of sin to cloud this issue for me. What some believers do not seem to realize, and I was one of these, is that sin is separation from God. Once we are reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, our missteps are merely that--we’ve stepped out of God’s will for us. The Holy Spirit’s role is to immediately convict us of this. Our role is to obey--and we have the ability to do so because of the Holy Spirit in us. If we do not obey, it is a blatant attempt to wrest control of our lives from God’s Hands--rebellion--and this is sin. This our loving Father will immediately begin to address by pruning our unruly branches! My heart breaks when I think of those times in my own life--not the times that I rebelled and God pruned, but the times I miss-stepped and then condemned myself. Because I condemned myself I did not seek God’s help--I struck out on my own to try and tidy things up before I went to Him little understanding I was headed down the rebellion path. When I couldn’t fix myself like I had hoped, God had to bring out His pruning shears to lop off those rebellious shoots and to prune the unwieldy branches so that my growth would once again come from the trunk of the vine.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and very branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1, 2
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
“Not only must we decide what it is that we must have changed in our thought lives, we must decide to let God change it. When we choose to be delivered, we are given the power to follow Him in the deliverance process whatever it costs. You and I can cast out those wrong thoughts at once In the Name and in the power of Jesus.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 1/18
Choosing is what free will is all about. I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t experienced free will. It’s that pull we feel when we do what we don’t want to do. Or it may feel more like a push. Whatever it feels like, I believe it’s the struggle that ensues in our consciences when our free wills clash with God’s will. I think that’s why I love the verses in the Bible that talk about our consciences being cleared. It’s not at all like the unregenerate person’s conscience. In order for an “unsaved” person to resist God’s grace, he must deaden his conscience. The new creature in Christ, however, has his conscience awakened and it feels wonderful.....until it’s alarm goes off. Now we are faced with choosing. Do I allow this thought that my conscience wants to boot out which will eventually lead to some inappropriate behavior or do I deny myself? It feels so natural to have this thought. I’ve always thought this way. This thought is me! If I boot out this thought where will “I” be. But my new creature knows this isn’t who I am anymore because now Christ lives in me--I’m born again. My old life has been exchanged for a new life. And so the struggle ensues. Sometimes the old thought pattern wins. Sometimes the New Creature wins. This is why we must never forget we are new creatures--fully sanctified and immune to sin. Otherwise, we have psychosomatic sin. Every sinful thought that enters our minds we will “catch”. Once caught it develops into a full-blown disease--some sinful behavior. But if we truly believe we are sanctified--holy in God’s eyes--when sinful urges/thoughts blow through our minds, they’ll have no place to land and dig themselves in. We’ll reject them because they are not who we are any longer. Jesus Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit is our inoculation against the disease of sin.
“Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and our members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:13, 14
Monday, January 17, 2011
“Harmony is the inner cadence of contentment we feel when the melody of life is in tune......As we bring the principles of gratitude, simplicity, and order into our lives, harmony emerges.” Sarah Ban Breathnach, SA, 1/17
The melody of life.........I have a little musical training--some by teachers, some self-taught. I don’t know enough to be able to share it with others, but I do have enough to appreciate what it takes to be a good musician. So when she speaks of the melody of life I feel I can safely say that if a piece has any life to it at all it is an expression of what is in the musician’s heart. I’m sure some music is written or performed from a mechanical stand point and may very well be why so much of it today is just noise. But when a piece penetrates your outer exterior and stirs an emotion within, you know the composer’s and performer’s hearts were involved in its creation. I see our Life in Christ in the same way. The harmony in our lives is directly related to what’s in our hearts. It’s only as we allow His “peace” to penetrate our exterior that we will truly experience His “heart”. And the way we allow His peace to penetrate is to not become “mechanical” (i.e., legalistic) in our relationship with Him. It is through prayer--that two-way conversation God desires--that we begin to develop this relationship.
“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7
Sunday, January 16, 2011
“God sees your life from His eternal perspective. He will take whatever time is necessary to grow your character to match His assignment for you. If you have not received a divine commission lately, it may be that your character needs maturing.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 1/16
Lord, you’d think I’d catch on by now. Why am I always so eager to do great things for you even though I have a string of “projects” left undone in my wake? When will I learn that You have to make me ready for Your projects--that I can’t pick and choose the ones I want and then head out just because I’m feeling pretty confident at that moment? In another book I’m reading the author uses the illustration of a helicopter to give me a word picture of God’s perspective. He’s hovering above us and from His vantage point He sees from the beginning to the end. For God, there is no time--only the present. I, on the other hand, am stuck in time and can only see what’s in front of me (and even then I can’t count on seeing it clearly). This morning as I spoke with a friend about this I suddenly “saw” God lowering the rescue ladder down from His Helicopter inviting me to climb up it and to take a look from His perspective. Of course, it was so high that the clouds prevented me from seeing clearly, but just being up there at His point of view gave me comfort in Him. I can trust that He does indeed know what He’s doing in my life! The fact that I even need to say that shows how blind I’ve been. As my eyes refocused on the venetian blinds at my window I realized that they looked just like that ladder and would be my reminder to climb that ladder whenever He lets it down. I realized I’ve been bringing God down to earth when I’ve tried to understand His ways when I should have been climbing that rescue ladder up to Him. Yes, God lives within me, but when I think about Him I need to keep Him above me in more ways than one.
“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let thy glory be over all the earth!” Psalm 57:5
Saturday, January 15, 2011
“Once we take stock of our lives and let gratitude begin its transformative work, the next step on the path unfolds naturally. When we appreciate how much we have, we feel the urge to pare down, get back to basics, and learn what is essential for our happiness.” Sarah Ban Breathnach, SA, 1/15
Sarah’s quest to find happiness through gratitude can be applied to our Christian walk. It is the difference between religion and relationship. In a religion we will focus on what we are spared and be grateful we’re not in the other fellow’s shoes; grateful that we won’t go to Hell; grateful we are protected from loss if we follow the rules, etc. In other words, if we follow the prescribed formula of that religion, then all will go well. I don’t see how peace can be arrived from that at all. All my energy would go into putting things into my life that would ensure my success in getting the promised reward of that religion. Christianity, however, is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Here the focus is not just on what I get but also from what I can give. Once I acknowledge my need to be saved from my self-sufficiency and then allow God to enter into a relationship with me and I with Him the gratitude that springs from this giving and receiving will naturally direct me along God’s path of not only living simply but simply living. When I picture Simply Living I no longer feel a need to prove anything. All the striving is gone. Instead I am freed to enjoy all that is wonderful and beautiful about life. And because I have a relationship with the God of the Universe and have His strength and power to draw from I can relax during the difficult and not so pretty times. This is Simple Abundance.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
Friday, January 14, 2011
“That way, we begin with an empty glass and anything in it will cause us to feel we’re on the way to being filled rather than emptied.....I understand now why I’ve battled with feeling deprived.” Me, 1/12 and 1/13 devotionals
As I reread the devotionals I’d written the past two days God opened up my understanding even further concerning this whole imagery of being empty and deprived. When my glass is full of ME anything taken from the glass is taking away part of me or something that I feel I need. This explains why I feel deprived so often even though I’ve been concentrating on gratitude by writing down daily for the past six weeks five things for which I am grateful. When you’ve done all the work yourself and then someone comes along and eats some of the fruit and especially if they don’t thank you, it’s logical to feel put out in some way. But even if all the work is done by someone else merely using your field, you may still feel the need to hoard the fruit for fear there won’t be enough left for you. So how much better to see even the field as belonging to God. He invites everyone to come and eat from His field. Only the selfish could resent sharing the field. Using my first illustration of the glass, then, I must acknowledge that the glass also belongs to God. Then when He fills it with His Holy Spirit, even a tiny drop upon my lips will quench my thirst.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20
Thursday, January 13, 2011
“The old “good dog, bad dog” teaching that we all cut our spiritual teeth on is the devil’s smoke-and-mirrors baloney. It’s not biblical. The Bible teaches unequivocally that the old man died in Christ and was buried with Him (Romans 6:2-8).” Bill Gillham, “What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity”
Gillham’s book is putting into biblical terminology that which God has been revealing to me concerning my self-worth and why I struggle so to be obedient. The way Gillham explains it is that because we were crucified with Christ we are now new creatures no longer subject to our old sinful natures. Our new nature wants to obey Christ who is now in us and we in Him. Any sinful thoughts that now arise do not originate in us, but rather are planted there by Satan. He uses the first-person-singular “I” or “me” to confuse us into thinking it is our desire. This is easy to do because the old thought pattern is still burned into our brains and if we are lazy, fall easily back into the old pattern. Our diligence, then, is not in being new creatures, but rather in not allowing our minds to be deceived into thinking we aren’t new creatures. Our new natures hate sin. Our battle, Gillham says according to scripture, is “the new man fighting against the power of sin” (Romans 7:23). What this revelation does for me is to settle once and for all my self worth issues as well as give me a handle with which to hold the pan I will use to beat Sin over the head! So then, if I act according to what I think, and if I think as though I’m a new creature because I am, then Sin won’t make any sense to me. I’ll be aware that if “I” wants something that doesn’t reckon with what I know to be true about Christ, that it’s not me but Sin that desires this thing. This will be my power over it. I understand now why I’ve battled with feeling deprived. I did not think as though I believed I was a new creature--a new creature whose every need is supplied. My new nature never feels deprived because it is in Christ and Christ is in it. If “I” feel deprived I can be sure that “I” is that smoke-and-mirrors trick!
“We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” Romans 6:6
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
“Those who know themselves cannot be proud.” Daily Bread, 1/12/03
I was talking to my brother about how bored I felt which somehow led to my perennial declaration that I was the kind of person who saw the glass half empty rather than half full. My brother then recounted how his 14-year-old son had been asked that question this week in school--how did he see the glass. His response was, “It depends on how the glass was to start off--empty or full?” This sparked a train of thought in me concerning my expectations. Yes, it would seem I was always seeing the glass full to start off. But was this so bad? I mean, having dreams and goals of a full glass couldn’t be bad could it? This morning, however, what God revealed to me by bringing the issue of boredom back to mind is that there’s a difference between having expectations that turn out to be unrealistic (hence, the glass appears half-empty) and expectations that stem from entitlement. Unrealistic expectations can be dealt with matter-of-factly once they are shown for what they are. Entitlement issues, though, are another matter. These are the ones that are so deeply attached to us that we feel like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot if we try to make them let go of us. So we let them alone--until someone else comes along and shoots them down for us. But all this does is cause us to resent that person. That’s why getting to know ourselves--truly seeing ourselves (helpless without God)--keeps us from the sin of pride. Pride is the result of entitlements. Truly seeing ourselves--the way God sees us--should make us realize that we are entitled to nothing--it is only by God’s grace that we even have life. That way, we begin with an empty glass and anything in it will cause us to feel we’re on the way to being filled rather than emptied.
“For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.” Romans 12:3
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
“But one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.” Proverbs 11:18b
Henry Blackaby in his devotional on sowing seeds of righteousness asks this question: “How are you cultivating righteousness in your relationships so that you maintain your integrity?” Always in the past when I thought about righteousness it was always about appearance--do I look like I’m doing the right thing--not necessarily was I doing the right thing. All that mattered was that I muster up obedience to love my neighbor. However, doing the right thing often depended on the circumstances or the people involved. When I couldn’t overcome these obstacles I felt a failure. It never occurred to me that maintaining my integrity was a necessary part of righteousness. The dictionary definition of integrity is “undivided”, “honesty”. I can see now that putting up a facade of righteousness divided me and this dishonesty was not the proper seedbed in which to grow righteousness. We must come to God an open book not only to Him but also to ourselves. If we continue to lie to ourselves about what’s really in our hearts our soil is contaminated--the seed will not germinate. But if we lay ourselves bare before God (confession) and repent (agree with God we don’t want to be this way anymore), He then can begin our transformation. The fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control--will begin to ripen and produce luscious fruit, not only for our sake, but as a blessing to others.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” Matthew 6:33
Monday, January 10, 2011
“The comfortable reflection, that a watchful Providence regulates every event, and that nothing happens to us but for wise and good ends, greatly tends to alleviate every earthly care, and prevent that anxiety which would otherwise be the portion of mortals.” Margaret Woods, 1774 , D.Q. 1/10
It occurred to me that I wouldn’t WANT to be a Christian if I couldn’t believe that God was in control of everything that happens. The demands on me would be far more than I could bear. Not only would I have to expend huge amounts of energy to ensure that my environment was as perfect as possible, I’d have to make sure the rest of the world was doing everything right as well. On top of all that I’d have to act like Christ--to love everybody no matter what. Whew! I envisioned a horse pushing a wagon---not at all what it’s designed to do. What it means to be a Christian, then, if I believe that a watchful God regulates every event, is this: I am the horse, God is the driver holding the reins, and the wagon is my life. God holds the reins as He calls out commands, giving the horse it’s directions to turn left, turn right, move forward at a certain pace, or stop. I, the horse, provide the energy (the muscle) to pull the wagon, my life, along the path that God has laid out for me. But how well I traverse that path depends on my responsiveness to the holder of the reins. Will I go the way in which He directs, or will I resist? He knows every obstacle that lies ahead in my path, every challenge, the condition of the path’s surface, what’s around that next bend. I gladly listen and obey.
“But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’” Jeremiah 7:23
Sunday, January 9, 2011
“...it’s more important for us to get everything we need. Like infants, we feel contentment when our essential needs are met. Be courageous. Ask yourself: what is it I truly need to make me happy?” Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance, 1/9
What is it I truly need to make me happy? Ultimately, it is to be loved. But I must be careful not to state it so simplistically. If that’s ALL I need then I can easily learn ways to manipulate people to give me that love. But even worse, I may find myself compromising my values in order to get that love. I’ve had a hunger to be loved unconditionally. As a child I felt I had to be good in order to be noticed. And then to be loved once noticed meant I had to do and be what that person wanted. Fortunately, for me, I would not compromise my values. But I did compromise my “self”--my identity, my worth. The result was that I never felt I was being loved at all--merely tolerated and cared for out of obligation. From the viewpoint of one who is giving the love, however, he/she wouldn’t really be loving me if they allowed me to act unloving in return. This starts to complicate things. To love someone unconditionally does not mean you do not hold them accountable. Even in the best of families a child might feel as though they are not being loved unconditionally when it seems their parents’ approval is dependent on their obedience. How, then, do we convey this unconditional love and still hold a person accountable for their inappropriate behavior? Obviously, love must not be confused with approval and vice versa. Love always costs us something. I think too often our motive is selfish gain. If there’s even a hint of “what’s in it for me” in a relationship, the other person is going to pick up on this and not only NOT feel loved unconditionally but will resist being held accountable for THEIR inappropriate actions. This is why we can only love others with the love that has first come from God. If I am not experiencing God’s love first hand in my own heart, I cannot give God’s kind of love--unconditional. Nor, I suspect, can I receive it, because I will suspect any love given to me because I will judge it by what’s in my own heart.
“...whereas the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5
Saturday, January 8, 2011
“We fall into a lethargy and despondency saying it is the will of God and saying it accusingly as if God’s will were always the most disagreeable thing possible....What we must do...with God’s help, is to accept sorrow as a friend, if possible. If not, as a companion...” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 1/8
God’s will has always been a scary thing for me. In my imagination it was indeed the “most disagreeable thing possible.” I always figured God’s will would be hard and unpleasant at best and unbearable at worst. So why did I think this? Was it because He didn’t answer my prayers as a child that my Dad would stop drinking? I must have figured it was God’s will for me--and it was, indeed, unpleasant at best and unbearable at worst. Now that I’m an adult looking back I can see how the life I had shaped me in a positive way. Yes, it also shaped me in negative ways, but I see that as dross that God can burn away quickly if I allow myself to succumb to His furnace. What is left is the character that was built through the trials and tribulations of living such an insecure childhood. I was also saved from making many of the mistakes youth perpetrates. But even though I have been able to have a positive outlook on my past I realize I haven’t “made friends” with the sorrow it created. Seeing my father destroy his life as well as my mother’s in the long run is a sorrow I will always carry because it’s a wrong I can never right. It would make sense, then, to see that sorrow as a companion, accepting it into my home, and allowing God to show me how this companion adds to my life rather than subtracts.
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Matthew 12:50
Friday, January 7, 2011
“Whenever people do not base their lives on God’s revelation, they ‘cast off restraint.’ That is, they do what is right in their own eyes......The only way for you to know God’s will is for Him to reveal it to you. You will never discover it on your own.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 1/7
The beautiful thing about this truth is the knowledge that God has already prepared a path for us to walk in. Because God is the One who has prepared this path we can be assured that He will provide everything we need for the journey. Oh, that we people would realize this at the beginning of our walk with Christ! Why is this message so shrouded? Surely we were told this when we “came to Christ”, were “saved”, “born again”--whatever term you choose to label the before and after! Or is there no such thing? Is it always a gradual awakening. Is that why it’s referred to as a walk? There is just so much you can take in. Perhaps some of us hurry along too much and miss what we were to have seen along the way. That is why we are so backslidden--always seeming to redo so much of our learning.
“Make me to know thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” Psalm 25:4
Thursday, January 6, 2011
“We need to ‘come to’ ourselves. To see us as we are. We cannot begin to explore the deep places until we have allowed the Light of Calvary to shine into the shallow corners first.” Eugenia Price, Share My Pleasant Stones, 1/7
I came to the realization last night that the only thing we can truly learn from our experiences is more about ourselves or more about God. I used to look for lessons that would enable me to control my environment better. Years ago after losing my wallet because I’d set it on top of the car while I put the groceries in the car taught me to never put my wallet on top of the car again, which I haven’t. But that won’t prevent me from losing my wallet in some other absent-minded way. Instead I should have examined what it was about ME that led to my placing my wallet on top of the car. Looking back these many years later--and a lifetime of lessons learned--I can see clearly now that it was my constant state of hurry and not living in the present that caused me to forget about my wallet. It wasn’t the placing it on the top of the car that lost it. It was my forgetting about it because my mind was already onto the next thing, not fully living in that moment. I can see now how that behavior has exhibited itself in so many different ways and how it finally exhausted me to the point that now I’m finally being forced to live in the present. I no longer have the energy to deal with the side-effects of mentally going on to the next thing before I’ve finished what I’m actually living!
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or not.” Exodus 16:4
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
"All I had enjoyed before was only a peace, a gift of God, but now I received and possessed the God of peace." Madame Guyon, July 22, 1680
Madame Guyon felt that abandonment was the key to the spiritual life. She was a part of the Quietism movement which believed one could be sinless if one withdrew the mind from worldly interests and anxieties and instead contemplated God and his attributes. Her first error, of course, was in thinking she could be sinless. However, she also neglected Jesus teaching concerning being in the world but not of it. Yet, her realization that it was God she was to possess and not just His peace that speaks deeply to me. I agree that abandonment is key: What we must abandon, though, is our need to be in control. We must become as clay so that we can be shaped into vessels for use by God. This imagery of the potter and the clay fits very nicely with Madame Guyon’s idea of possessing the God of peace as I envision the potter becoming one with his clay and thereby the clay becoming one with his maker. The abandonment of self is necessary in this sense because we must be pliable, but the abandonment of all the world offers is a different matter. The things of life are ours to enjoy--they are not given to give us importance as some would think.
“The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” John 17:22
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
“When was the last time you were physically affected by the reality that almighty God just spoke directly to you? John lost all physical strength...Paul fell to the ground...Moses trembled...Peter fell down at Jesus knees....” Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-By-Day
I stopped reading the above devotional at this point and became lost in the image in my head. I realized that I couldn’t say, based on what happened to John and Paul and Moses and Peter, I’d ever been in God’s Presence. I’d been on the fringe peering in, observing God, but I could not say I was actually IN God’s presence. I then saw myself receiving the federal jury duty notice in the mail the day before and feeling anxious, going to the kitchen and finding something to eat to relieve the stress I was experiencing. The thought of having to drive to Baltimore in rush hour traffic for the 5-week trial, of being asked to help decide another’s future, was overwhelming to me. As soon as these thoughts presented themselves, it was as though a curtain was opened to me and God was revealing that the anxiety I was feeling was not due to the stress of the impending circumstances, but instead that I had been standing in His Presence at the very moment I felt most helpless! But instead of running to God for help I ran to the kitchen to find my strength. What God had just shown me was that when I feel helpless--which is why I feel anxious--I am actually in His Presence and that my response should be to worship Him as the saints of old had!
“Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for ever more.” Psalm 16:11
Monday, January 3, 2011
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Paul to the churches of Galatia (Galatians 6:1)
What is it about the human nature that the faults of others can tempt us? Is it our need to belong? Are we so needy that we will lower our standards just to be accepted? I do remember in high school being “ashamed” of my grades--not because they were bad, but because they were so good my fear was that my peers would be jealous and not like me. Thankfully, this did not prevent me from striving to do my very best, but it did cause me to hold part of myself back. This set me apart, but as a teenager, not in a good way. I felt odd and left out. Once I was an adult I found myself becoming critical of others in an attempt to make myself OK for being different. My standards were always higher and therefore my life showed it. My higher standards were often mistaken for arrogance, and truthfully, sometimes it was. But as I look back I know now it was my attempt to compensate for not being accepted. Now that I’ve matured and have seen more clearly I understand this verse in Galatians where we are told to be careful when we correct someone lest we too be tempted. I believe the temptation is not to commit their trespass but instead the trespass of arrogance--believing we are above sin ourselves.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For that measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Luke 6:37-38
Sunday, January 2, 2011
“Let us accustom ourselves to pity the faults of men and to be truly sorry for them and then we shall take no pleasure in publishing them. This common humanity requires of us, considering the great infirmities of human nature, and that we ourselves also are liable to be tempted.” William Crouch to his children, Daily Readings from Quaker Writings footnote: Wm. Crouch: Day by Day: Being a Compilation from the Writings of Ancient and Modern Friends, Wm. H. Chase, Dennis Bros. Auburn, NY, 1869 p. 26)
This one statement may have the greatest effect on me I think because of the acknowledgment I felt upon reading it. It was both an indictment and a desire. An indictment because of the guilt I carry and a desire because of the guilt I carry. It is interesting that I should write that both are motivated by guilt. I had not planned on doing so, but in desiring to write strictly from my heart, this is what appeared. I am guilty of “publishing” other’s faults. I do this, of course, in order to “make my case” against them as I “defend” my own behavior. My desire not to do this any longer is what is more important to me. Wanting to stop a bad behavior because it makes me feel guilty is human, but wanting to stop a bad behavior because I desire to is quite another. This desire can only be born of God in me--the desire to do what is right and to be more pleasing to God. This is the kind of guilt that lifts me up and moves me forward. This is why I believe that God does in fact use the desires of our hearts to grow us up into Him. It is how He directs us and reveals His Will to us.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
Saturday, January 1, 2011
“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want. Margaret Young (as quoted in Simple Abundance)
Why has it taken me 52 years to understand this?! This morning as I opened my brand new journal and began recording my first entry for the New Year I found myself writing these words: “I truly want to begin this New Year--2003--in a new way which is to begin each day as though it were a new year--to live every day. I want to get to the end of this year and feel as though I’ve lived 365 years. This may sound strange to an outsider, but not to me who feels as though I’ve only lived 52 days--not years.” It would seem that Charlie Brown expresses best the way I’ve been used to living when he responded to Linus’s admonition to think only about today by declaring, “No, that’s giving up. I’m still hoping yesterday will get better.” When one “backs into” one’s life as I have it’s understandable why I would feel as though a whole year’s worth of living was merely a day’s worth. My whole life stretches behind me! I am never fully in the present. Therefore, tomorrow is always about yesterday. Today gets lost somewhere in between. But no more! From now on I’m going To Live Every Day!
“This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24