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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31

All the dealings of God with the soul of the believer are in order to bring it into oneness with himself that the prayer of our Lord may be fulfilled....Everything in the Christian life leads up to this perfect union.  The Lord has made us for it, and until we have intelligently apprehended it and voluntarily consented to embrace it, the travail of His soul for us is not satisfied, nor have our hearts found their destined and real rest.”  Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 5/31

It’s pretty amazing to me to look through the window of my life and see that everything that has happened thus far and everything yet to come is meant to fulfill Christ’s prayer for me and that the reason it hasn’t is because I’ve not consented to embrace this truth.  I can think of all the things in my life that I’ve not accepted because I believed that they weren’t meant to happen.  What I also realize is that I had no power over these things--they happened despite my best efforts to prevent them.  Sometimes I had no advance warning so there was absolutely nothing I could have done.  By not accepting them, however, I’ve only caused myself to focus even more on myself--whether it’s self-pity or by trying to compensate in some way for my loss.  This is such a waste of a life.  Lord, I accept Your Hand on my life.  May I feel Your touch in everything that happens.

“But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’ And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”  Matthew 17:7, 8

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30

“[Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego] were confident in God’s ability to deliver them, but they trusted Him so completely that they did not ask to be spared.  Does your faith need miracles to sustain it?”  H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 5/30

Another major “artery clogger” besides the unforgiveness I spoke of yesterday is discontentment.  Discontentment is like the cholesterol that causes the plaque in the arteries leading to the physical heart—the cholesterol is the result of an unhealthy diet, not the root cause of the clogged artery.  Just like we can become so focused on the cholesterol in our food that all we can think about is ourselves we must not focus on what we’re discontented about.  Instead we must look at why we would be discontented to begin with.  It’s our ungrateful hearts that allow us to fall into discontentment.  So, just like we must strive for a healthy lifestyle by the foods we eat and the amount of exercise our bodies get, we must strive for a healthy spiritual life which consists of daily thanksgiving to and praising of God as well as acts of service.  These will condition our spiritual lives in such a way that discontentment and unforgiveness will not gain a foothold in our lives.  It also keeps our focus on God rather than on ourselves.  In this way I can be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in trusting God for whatever He allows into my life.  I won’t continually be asking Him for a miracle in order to feel contentment in my situation.  Instead whatever is will be good because I know that God can be trusted to care for me.

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit,” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29

“Christ has made our hearts capable of this supreme overwhelming affection and has offered himself as the object of it....Continually at every heart He is knocking, asking to be taken in as the supreme object of love....’Will you be content with pleasing me, and me only?’”  Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 5/29

The fact that our hearts are capable of “supreme overwhelming affection” overwhelms me.  I feel as though a boil has been lanced. I had a boil as a young child--I still have the scar.  It’s an infection that occurs around a hair follicle and left untreated creates a painful pus-filled bump.  Antibiotics must be administered to deal with the infection.  This is a good metaphor because I know the result of withholding my love.  Love held within one’s heart is always due to some unforgiveness.  This unforgiveness is the infection, that left unchecked, begins to fester.  Healing the infection allows the love to flow out of our hearts.  Jesus Christ is the only one who can heal the infection of unforgiveness.  We must first be healed by receiving forgiveness.  Then we must forgive others; otherwise we begin to reinfect ourselves because the forgiveness God gives us becomes contaminated by our unforgiveness.  This is one of those spiritual laws that God has set forth, and it makes sense.  How can we receive forgiveness, then not give it?  Even love, if hoarded, can putrefy.  Love is meant to be passed on.  We can only do this if our hearts have been opened up and handed over to God.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Matthew 6:14, 15

Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 28

“All of us have struggles....But if we truly set our heart to trusting God, and if we stay thankful even in the midst of our troubles, we’ll be more likely to acknowledge that we ‘don’t have anything to complain about.’”  Dave Branon, Daily Bread, 5/28

We have had so much rain this Spring that we’ve not been able to cut the grass and because of all the snow we had last winter the trees and bushes have seemed to double in size this year. Consequently, as I drove up our long driveway yesterday I felt I was driving into a woodland hideaway.  God has reminded me how I’d grown tired of the barrenness of winter and had longed for some greenery.  I would say He has answered the desire of my heart because now everything is so lush!  I had been feeling irritated by the overgrown look of my yard until God showed this to me.  In that moment I found myself enjoying the overgrowth because now I saw it as God giving me more than I had asked for.  My eyes had longed for green and He has given me an overabundance of green!  I was then reminded of the drought we’d had last summer and how my gardens had shriveled up. Now when I look at the unkempt look of my yard I see God’s abundance.  Everything doesn’t have to be perfectly “in place” in order for me to enjoy the beauty that it holds.  Just knowing that God is in it is enough for me.

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:10

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 27

“If you have ever loved anyone enough to find sacrifice and service on his or her behalf a joy; if a whole-souled abandonment of your will to the will of another has ever gleamed across you as a blessed and longed-for privilege or as a precious reality, then, by all the tender, longing love of Christ, I entreat you to let it be so toward, Him.”  Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 5/26

As I read Hannah’s words I’m searching my heart for the abandonment she speaks of.  Have I ever felt that way toward another person?  Honestly, I can say I’ve only felt that a few times---when I first fell in love with my husband, when my children were born, when my father was at his most helplessness, and when my mother first became terminally ill.  That seems to be one of my character traits....I start out well, but fizzle out when expectations set in.  Lord, this is one of those things I need to have worked out of me.  I’m obviously expecting something in return for my love and when I don’t get it the way I want it to be given to me, my love becomes shallow.  While I might be able to say there is “sacrifice and service on their behalf” I cannot say there is joy, and I certainly cannot say it is a whole-souled abandonment of my will.  Once again You are showing me my heart and why I must hand it over to you.  You are the only one who can be totally trusted.  In You I can find no disappointment.  And as I wholly abandon my will to You, You will enable me to sacrifice and to serve whom You desire.

“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  Romans 12:1 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 26

“Incredibly, Jesus said that we have the opportunity to be even greater in the kingdom of heaven than John the Baptist...  We must remember that service to God is the greatest privilege we can receive in life...We have the opportunity to allow Jesus to carry out His work through our lives, so that greater things are done through us than were ever accomplished through John the Baptist.”  H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 5/26

I love to be useful.  If I see something that needs to be done I always step in to do it, unless I feel it’s not my place to do so.  Just as there are times when you shouldn’t wash a friend’s dirty dishes that have been left in their sink, there are times when you do wash them without having to be asked.  I think it’s the same way in God’s Kingdom.  Most of us want to be useful, but we also like to dictate when, where, and how.  In addition, we lack the discernment of whether or not we’re overstepping our position.  We may do things for God that He does not want done!  We think we are loving someone by helping them, but God might be working patience or trust into their lives.  We must be careful not to interfere in God’s plans for that person.  Other times, however, we are lazy and uninterested in what God is doing around us and we miss one opportunity after another to be useful.  Lord, may we instead be open to Your leading and see serving You as a privilege.

“If any one serve me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serve me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:26

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25

“...we will begin to see that the law of faith is as absolute and as dependable as the law of gravity...‘For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.’  Sin is a down pull.  Gravity is a down pull toward the center of the earth.  Both are dependable.”  Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 5/25

Both are dependable.  What Eugenia is saying is just as we can depend on the law of gravity to be in effect we can depend on the law of sin to be in effect. The Good News is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is greater than the law of sin. Habakkuk 2:4 says, “Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”  This is one of those cause and effect verses that is packed with a truth which can set us free--a truth that allows the law of the Spirit to take precedence over the law of sin.  It’s not in being righteous that we are enabled to live by faith, but rather it’s the other way around.  It’s in the living by faith that we become righteous....“the righteous shall live by”....It is like saying “so and so lived by his wits.”   It’s his “wits”, his ability to improvise, that enables him to accomplish what he set out to do.  So when scripture says the righteous are enabled, we have to look at the cause--“living by faith”.  The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is the same principle.  It’s in living our new life of faith that the law of sin becomes nullified in us.  You can depend on this.

“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 24

“We will undoubtedly be led by the Spirit of God if we give ourselves up to His guidance.  But unless we have the right standard of Christian life set before us, we may be hindered by our ignorance from recognizing His voice.”  Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 5/24

This truth explains for me why God had the church compile the Bible.  I wondered for years why we needed the Bible if we have the Holy Spirit.  Then I realized that because the Holy Spirit’s voice has so much competition in our noisy world it was necessary.  Even back in the third century before all the noise pollution God had to deal with all the man-made rules being attached to the Gospel.  In addition, the population was spreading and growing.  The written word would certainly help to give people a compass to discern the Holy Spirit’s leading.  But today I feel too many Christians rely only on God’s written word, which I think is a great mistake, and pay no attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  It leads too many of us into legalism and makes Christianity a "religion" instead of an alive and vibrant way of life.  We must continue to consult the Bible for the examples of Christ-likeness, but we must also heed the voice of God Who desires to have an intimate relationship with each of us.

“Pilate said to him ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king.  For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.  Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.’”  John 18:37

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23

“Missions is God finding those whose hearts are right with Him and placing them where they can make a difference for His Kingdom.”  H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 5/23

I think we have a limited idea of what “missions” is in the church.  Too many relegate it to a special Sunday once a year when missionaries come in and tell how they’ve spent the church’s money.  That’s about as involved as the congregation gets--giving their money.  But at least they’re doing something.  Some churches put no emphasis on “missions” and leave it to the denominational hierarchy.  What Blackaby is talking about, however, applies to every single Christian.  Every one of us is a missionary in that we have a mission.  It starts in our homes, moves to the neighborhood and out into the community.  It’s within our churches and across the country and throughout the world.  It’s wherever God plants us or directs our attention.  But just because we are surrounded by needs doesn’t mean we are able to meet them.  We must first have a heart that is right with God, otherwise, our work will be self-motivated and self-empowered.  This leads us into the sin of pride and eventually into burnout.    To have a heart right with God requires a humbleness that is born out of our recognition that without God we are nothing.  If we truly believed this at our core, we would partake of God in the same way a man dying from thirst would partake of a cup of water handed to him.

“As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and behold the face of God?” Psalm 42:1, 2

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Shane & Shane - "He is Exalted"

May 22

“....see what amazing characteristics are available to you when you begin to partake of this life of God within you.  It is not imitation.  It is realization.....We must let Him be Himself under all circumstances.  Even when it causes us great inconvenience.”  Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 5/22

What it comes down to is obeying the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  It’s that little voice we often hear momentarily telling us to do something for someone else, but to which we quickly have an answer like, “But I’m so tired (busy, need help myself, ....fill in the blank_______) right now and someone else will probably help them.”  Or it may be that little voice that’s telling us not to be in such a hurry, not to eat another piece of cake, or not to say that biting remark.  My excuse is usually that I don’t know if it’s the Holy Spirit or just my Self harassing me.  

I don’t think God is trying to make it that hard for us to obey Him.  That is why our obedience begins and ends with trusting God for everything.  If we are truly in that humble place and love Him with our whole hearts, minds, bodies, and souls we will know what to do and what not to do.  It will not be an effort to figure it out.  Our downfall is that we try to act like Christ because we think that’s easier than doing the real thing.   But if our hearts aren’t right with God, that’s all it will be--an act.  To do the real thing is to have no rehearsal.  To do the real thing is to love Him and let Him be Himself in us.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” Galatians 5:22, 23a

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 21

“ As you walk with Jesus daily, let the witness of the changes taking place in you come from others and not from you.  If you have to prove to someone that God has really changed you, He has not.”  H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 5/21

This is another argument against self-reflection.  We could quite easily become consumed with our appearances and start making adjustments as necessary to “prove to someone” that God has really changed us if what we see doesn’t match our idea of what a Christian should look like.  Instead, we must rely on the prompting of the Holy Spirit to bring those unholy things in our lives to our attention.  It is in being convicted by the Holy Spirit that we are then able to change.  Any attempt at changing in the flesh will be temporary.  As soon as we forget about them our old habits of the way we always were will take control.  But if the Holy Spirit convicts us of our transgressions and we humbly repent, then the Holy Spirit can transform us in an instant.  This is why you hear stories of people instantly losing their desire for something that had controlled their lives before.  But this also means we must maintain this attitude of submission to the Holy Spirit.  The moment we allow our flesh the upper hand even the things that were instantly taken away can reappear.  This is why Blackaby says, “As you walk with Jesus daily...”  We were made to respond to God, so we must remain humble in order to respond.

“For thus say the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:  ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and revive the heart of the contrite.’”  Isaiah 57:15

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20

“Years ago I came across this sentence in an old book:  ‘Never indulge, at the close of an action, in any self-reflective acts of any kind, whether of self-congratulations or of self-despair.  Forget the things that are behind, the moment they are past, leaving them with God.’”  Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough,  5/20

Several scriptures come to mind as I think about this quote:  from Paul's “forgetting what lies behind” (Philippians 3:13) to living one day at a time as Jesus’ prayer suggests when He said to pray for our bread daily.  The only time in my life that I truly lived this way was when I was caring for my ill mother in my home.  As her life hung in the balance I could not even begin to project what the next day held for me nor did I have the energy or time to reflect on the day before.  I could only look to that day.  I thought that by the end of that year I would be so practiced in that way of living that I would continue it, but I didn’t.  So it would seem that it is strictly a matter of the will that we must exercise moment by moment.  We must choose to leave all things in God’s Hands--not only the things that are past but also the things that are yet to come because as soon as we lay our hands on anything it already belongs to the past in that very next moment.  Each breath we draw in is replaced by one leaving.  The rhythm of our lives is the same.  If we can understand that each breath we take is from God, then we can grasp that each exhale is in His hands as well.  It is forever gone as far as we are concerned, but God is still using it in ways we may never comprehend in this life.

“Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD!  Psalm 150:6

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May 19

“Love can never be glad of anything that hurts its loved ones unless there is to come out of the hurt some infinitely greater blessing.  Therefore we may be sure, no matter how unlikely it may seem, that hidden in every one of our sorrows is a blessing that would be a most grievous loss for us to miss.”  Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 5/19

I need to hear this today.  I’ve suffered a hurt and I might be tempted to commit the same grievous error that Martha did when her brother, Lazarus, died when she declared that her brother wouldn’t have died if Jesus had been there.  While it would seem she was acknowledging that Jesus had the power to save her brother what she was really saying, whether she understood it or not, was that her brother’s dying wasn’t in God’s plan.  This was a crack in her reservoir of trust.  How quickly we can look to surface matters--the place of our feelings--as an indication of whether or not things are going the way we’ve deemed they should.  So now I’m stuck on the surface in all the goo of feelings concerning my hurt, even though I’ve acknowledged that God is in control and He will bring good out of all this.  Lord, all I can do right now is to rest in Your Love and to trust that eventually the goo will let go and my bad feelings will evaporate, if I will continually praise You and all that You are doing in my life.

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.....but Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.....Noah walked with God.”  Genesis 6:5, 6, 8, 9b

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 18

“...He gives us something we can do to prove His power to forgive.  Something we ourselves can do to prove that we have been given a new life.  That we have been healed.  ‘...Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thine house.’”  Eugenia Price, S.P.S. 5/18

Eugenia is quoting Jesus when he had just told the man “sick of palsy” “that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins...”  As I read this I heard God ask me, “What is your bed?”  What is it that represents my “sickness” of doubt and fear?  Eugenia says I need to “grasp it with both hands” as Jesus told the man he’d just healed.  He said, “Take up thy bed and walk.”  I can prove to myself that Jesus has healed me of my misery if I will just get up off my bed where I’ve lain for so long.  Yet, when I’m most miserable I feel tethered to that bed.  Lord, I know what keeps me tethered.  I want You to prove Your power over my life by just taking control of me.  But that is not Your way.  You have given me free will and desire for me to give You permission.  I am afraid to give You permission for fear of what You might require of me.  This is clearly a trust issue.  But I think it is only an issue because I’ve taken my eyes off You.  For when I look fully in Your face I cannot fear.  And the reason I don’t look fully into Your face, Lord, is because I care more about what people think than I care about You.  The more I see how this plays out in my life the more I realize I do not want this to be.

“Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!  Thou hast said, “Seek ye my face.”  My heart says to thee, “Thy face, LORD, do I seek.”  Hide not thy face from me.”  Psalm 27:8, 9

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 17

“It is impossible for us to conceive being glad when our hearts are breaking, but God has said it....It is a waste of time to try to reach it.  We can only receive.  The river is there.”  Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 5/17

Eugenia is referring to Psalm 46:4: “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.”  I am writing this several days after the date on the page.  I’m wondering if the reason my heart is breaking right now is because I neglected to take the time to write the last two days’ devotionals.  I took my eyes off Jesus for just a moment in my busyness and I got lost.  Now I’m trying to “reach” Jesus again, but Eugenia is reminding me that is a waste of time.  All I can do is receive Him.  The river that flows from His heart to mine is within me already.  I need only to lie down in the green pasture by the still waters and receive.  I know that my heart is breaking because I haven’t done this.  And I know that God has allowed this trouble into my life to show me this.  And what is so blessed about my trouble is that it will cease to be a trouble for me if I will just lie down and receive.

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  Psalm 23:1-3

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16

“When Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies, was He being realistic?.....Do you treat commands like [this] as implausible?...When God gives an assignment, it is no longer an impossibility, but rather it is an absolute certainty.”  H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 5/16

This is a whole new way for me to think, but I must be catching on because the other day I told a friend that God gives me my needs.  And if that’s the case, then He’s planning to meet them.  What I’ve come to realize is that God is All.  Everything originates with Him.  The question I’m hearing someone ask is, “Are you saying that evil originates with God?”  God is love so it doesn’t fit at all to make such a blanket statement.  But the essence of the whole matter is that the absence of God, Who is Love, is evil.  So, if you look at it that way even evil is the result of God’s love.  It’s the same with dark and light.  You can’t have more dark.  Dark is merely the absence of light.  Light doesn’t actually cause dark, but if it’s not there, then it is in a sense causing darkness.  So I must apply this same kind of thinking to God’s commands.  He’s not going to make a request of me that I’m not capable of fulfilling.  So why do I get so bent out of shape when I feel I’m being asked to do something I don’t think I can do?  It’s obvious I’m looking at my own strength and capabilities.  I must never stop trusting God to be Who He says He is.

“But who am I [David], and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly?  For all things comes from thee, and of thy own have we given thee.”  1 Chronicles 19:14

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15

“But we must look at and think about the Lord, and ask ourselves, not, ‘How do I feel about this?’ but, ‘How does the Lord feel?’ not, ‘How shall I manage it?’ but, ‘How will he manage it?’”  Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 5/15

This morning I was acknowledging to God and myself some ill feelings I have toward another person.  I knew my feelings were wrong, but to love this person despite my feelings wasn’t going to take care of my heart, which felt like it had a dead spot in it.  Yes, I could be obedient and show this person love, but as for what to do with the hard feelings that still remained I felt clueless.  It was then I realized that I loved this person for the wrong reason.  As long as I loved this person for their sake, my bad feelings, which might very well be justified, would remain.  But if I loved them for God’s sake.....well, I have no reason to feel bad about anything.  My feelings toward this person no longer mattered.  They were merely there to begin with to protect me from being hurt by that person because without the bad feelings I would expect something in return, which I probably wouldn’t get!  But to love this person for God’s sake is an entirely different matter.  Any love I give on God’s behalf is going to be “safe” to give because there are no strings attached--nothing to snap back in my face--no expectations--no disappointments.  I think this is what Hannah is saying...that everything we do, think, or feel must be directed at God, for it is only then that we can count on it bearing fruit.

“...and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  Mark 12:30

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 14

“As God’s servant you should have no other agenda than to be obedient to whatever He tells you.  God does not need you to dream great dreams for your life, your family, your business, or your church.”  H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 5/14

I use to think that God often gave us the “great dreams” for our lives in order for us to have something to aim at.  But I’m beginning to see that He doesn’t work this way.  Any “dream” that we might start out with in our youth can’t be of God.   A dream is not the same thing as the “desires of our heart” that scripture says that God gives us.  To dream, according to the dictionary, is to invent, devise, or concoct.  The desires of our heart are the natural outcome of giving our hearts to God.  Hannah W. Smith says that our hearts, as referred to in the Bible, are our wills.  So when God says He will give us the desires of our hearts, He is saying that if we’ve surrendered our wills to Him, He will fulfill His desires through us.  Everything belongs to Him--even those things we think are our desires.  Even when we go against God’s will and do our own thing, even those things belong to Him in the sense that He controls their eventual results.  They will be labeled as refuse in His Kingdom, and we enter Heaven with nothing to show for our time here on earth.

“Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw--each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done....If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”  1 Corinthians 3:12-13, 15

Friday, May 13, 2011

May 13

“Their interest in self is gone, transferred into the hands of God.  Christ alone is their all in all.  The blessed result is that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as these will be.”  Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 5/13

Hannah is talking about the person who is not concerned about his spiritual growth, but only that he abides in Christ.  This is one of those subtle ways in which Self used to keep me engaged.  Not realizing the difference I got it turned around and felt driven to focus on my spiritual growth in order that I may abide in Christ.  All this served to do is encourage me to hone my judging skills that I then freely practiced on others as well.  The problem with judging yourself is that it either leads you into pride or into self-punishment, neither of which have anything to do with spiritual growth.  It’s like digging a hole for a plant and then setting the plant on top of the ground next to the hole.  You expend a lot of energy and your plant dies, and you are left wondering why all that effort produced no results.  So as my gardening season begins I will remind myself that I am the garden and God is the Gardener.  My job is to lay myself bare before Him and let Him do the planting and the tending.  I am to abide in His loving care and receive the fertilizer and the cultivating that freshens and nourishes my soil so that when He puts in my seed, I will grow and bear much fruit.

“But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”  Mark 4:20

Thursday, May 12, 2011

May 12

“When a friend is under deep conviction by the Holy Spirit, do you try to give comfort?  Don’t ever try to ease the discomfort of someone whom the Holy Spirit is making uncomfortable!  Be careful not to communicate to your friends that you find their lack of faith acceptable.”  H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 5/12

Yesterday Blackaby wrote about being careful not to focus attention on people’s behavior but rather to focus on the activity of God, otherwise we could easily become frustrated.  Ever since my friend reacted badly to my confrontation of her inability to trust God in her illness I’ve tried to honestly examine my motives to make sure I wasn’t confronting her out of my own frustration.  Today, however, I know that I was right to confront her even if my motive was not pure because I had been communicating to her by my silence that her lack of faith was acceptable.  We are no longer in each other’s lives and I mourn that some days.  Other days I feel I was right to confront her, but wonder if God wanted me to remain her friend so that I could continue to have some influence on her life.  For now, though, I will trust that God is using my absence.  My job is to keep my heart open to her in case God brings her back into my life.  I realize, too, that this applies to some other people in my life with whom I feel an unspoken estrangement.  I mustn’t let their absence create bitterness in my heart.  I can continue to love them in my heart until the Lord brings them back into my life.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”  Proverbs 27:6

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May 11

“...on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to the church, ‘which is the house of God,’ to abide in her midst forever.  But in individual experience, the power of it is not always known, and each soul needs to come to its own Pentecost. The conscious presence of the abiding Comforter is not realized by every Christian.”  Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 5/10

Hannah calls this consciousness the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  I’ve often wondered if the denominations that believed the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a separate event from salvation were correct in their assertions.  Hannah’s explanation answers this question for me.  It’s not that we receive a separate or fuller filling of the Spirit, because if you are saved you have all the Spirit you’re ever going to get.  Rather, I believe, as Hannah asserts, it’s a consciousness of the presence of the Spirit within.  Just like in baptism where you are immersed in water, you are immersed in the Spirit and His presence cannot be escaped--you are aware of Him and all that He is:  Comforter, Counselor, Sanctifier, Sustainer.  All believers have the Spirit but not all are conscious of Him.  This may account for so many ineffective Christians and those who are considered carnal.  By not being conscious of the presence of the Spirit you will continue to be conscious of your “old man” and be influenced by it.  Between the two who do you think would be better to pay attention to?

“Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.”  Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 10

“...God does not promise to keep us in perfect peace because we have done Him the honor of trusting Him.  It isn’t a reward.  It is an inevitable result.”  Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 5/10

I think people often think in terms of reward and punishment when they speak of God.  That’s why they are devastated when trials come. They feel they are being punished and find no peace in their situation.  They may even become angry with God. By the same token when good fortune comes their way they may be quick to give God the credit, but inwardly feel they are being rewarded for being good. Both are arrogant because Self is really who is getting the credit.

On the news today when a victim of the many tornadoes that have hit the Midwest in recent days was asked why he thought this had happened to him he responded, “Why not me?”  The Bible says, “God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45b).  We must never presume that our good fortune is a reward and our misfortune a punishment.  God and all that He is is unimaginable to our finite minds.  Instead we are to trust Him, and in doing so, we will receive all that we need--whether it is good fortune so that we have something to share with others, or misfortune as a means of bringing us to the end of our self sufficiency.

“Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trust in thee.”  Isaiah 26:3

Monday, May 9, 2011

May 9

“If your heart longs, He has answered.  All along He has known your longing and He has known just when you would call.  He has been waiting for you to voice your longing.”  Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 59

This is, indeed, reassuring.  Eugenia is paraphrasing Isaiah 65:24 here.  We know that everything comes from God--even our desire to know Him.  This is why we must examine our longings carefully to make sure they aren’t influenced by Self since the big ME often confuses us into thinking God wants us to have this thing or that.  What I’m beginning to understand is that all our longings are from God, but all are not meant to be fulfilled in the way we think they should.  The longings that are influenced by Self can be used by God as sandpaper so that we’ll become less and less rough in our personalities.  We become sweeter and more beautiful to the Lord as we submit these longings to His care.  If they are born of Him they will be fulfilled in due time.  If they are born of our Selves, they will teach us our need to submit ourselves to God for all our needs so that the disquiet within us can be healed.  So the next time I realize I have a longing for something I will remind myself to pray like this:  Lord, if this is from You may I receive it with humbleness and if it is not from you may the desire leave me so that I am not tempted to strike out on my own.  I will pray for protection from the Tempter and for a way out of the temptation.  In both cases I will have glorified God as the pioneer and perfecter of my faith.

“...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith...” Hebrews 12:1b, 2a

Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 8

“Jesus, realizing that His role was that of a servant, never sought to initiate activity for the Father (Matthew 20:28)....The servant must be so alert to what the master is doing that whenever the master begins to move in a direction, the servant quickly joins him.”  H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 5/8

Today I found myself “taking over” as I was helping someone.  It came so naturally that I was not aware I was doing it until the person reacted negatively toward me.  If I do this with people I’m sure I do it with God more than I realize or care to admit.  My intent is not to usurp the other person’s (or God’s) job, it’s that I’m so use to taking charge and initiating things in order to get them done that if they aren’t doing it fast enough or thorough enough, or properly by my standards, I go into my take charge mode.  I really must break this habit for that’s what it is.  It would be helpful if people would look me in the eye and say, “Cathy, I’ve got this under control.”  I think I could relax about it then.  This is what God is doing for me.  I know, because I’ve felt His kind and gentle hand on my shoulder as He turns my face toward His and looks me in the eye.  But there’s more that I can be doing to pay attention to what I’m doing so that I can see what God is doing around me so that I’ll be ready to serve in the way He desires--not my idea of how it should be done.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.” John 5:19

Saturday, May 7, 2011

May 7

“What is meant by growing in grace?...It is the unhindered, wondrous, boundless love of God, poured out on us in an infinite variety of ways, without stint or measure, not according to our deserving, but according to His measureless heart of love....In order to grow in grace, the soul must be planted in the very heart of divine love, enveloped by it, steeped in it.”  Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 5/6, 7

To grow in grace isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you.  Grace, after all, is something that is given to us--it’s something we receive not something we earn.  Yet, when you think of growing we usually think of effort--the effort that goes into planting, watering, fertilizing something in order to get it to grow.  But I have plants in my garden that receive no attention from me at all.  They come back year after year with no watering or fertilizing by me.  They receive what they need from the sun and the rain and the decomposition of their own stems and leaves.  This must be what grace is like.  If we are “planted in the very heart of divine love,” we will receive all the nourishment we need to grow in grace.  It is here that we will experience love so that we can love.  We must stop all the effort because it leads us into an independence that will only serve to stunt our growth or even bring death.  Let us instead depend on God for all.

“But he gives more grace; therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”  James 4:6

Friday, May 6, 2011

May 6

“Never, under any circumstances, has it really in the end paid you to try and exalt your great exacting ME, for always, sooner or later, it has all proved to be nothing but meaningless and a vexation of spirit.”  Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 5/6

Hannah often speaks of “common sense things”.  I am a great believer in common sense, yet when it comes to ME, I am often blinded.  But no more!  I was complaining in my journal this morning that it looked like my husband and sons would neglect to acknowledge the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday to my satisfaction. I didn’t want to feel this way and asked God’s help.  Then I read Hannah’s words and realized that it was ME that was causing me to feel this way.  The big ME wanted to be married and have children, but as usual ME is never satisfied.  Now it not only wants to receive honor, it also wants husband and children to be thoughtful.  I realized that if ME got those things it probably would want more or something else it didn’t have.  In that moment ME was exposed.  This longing I had belonged to ME, not to the new creature that I am.  I felt released from and relieved of the bondage to ME that ME was attempting to put me in.  Why even try to please ME when it always wants more.  The common sense thing is to ignore it when it starts it’s griping and grumbling.  Sooner or later it will grow tired and give up.

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”  Hebrews 2:14, 15

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 5

“We ‘desire’ to do the will of God, not because our piety is so exalted, but because we have the sense to see that His will is the best; and therefore what He wants we want also.....For when our will is in harmony with His will...it has the stamp of oneness with Him....” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 5/5

Our wills are really the cause of all our troubles.  We talk of denying self, ignoring self, dying to self, but it’s really the self-will that we are talking about.  The will that wants it’s own way and that way is against God in some way.  It’s against God, obviously, when it wants something we all agree is bad--like stealing, lying, killing, etc.  But it’s also against God whenever it doesn’t want to depend on God to receive what it needs.  This is when our wills lead us into running ahead of God’s timing---like Sarah and Abraham did when they did not wait for God’s timing for Sarah to conceive the promised heir.  Or it leads us into not loving others by demanding our rights over theirs.  Or not being content with what we have.  The list goes on and on!  Freedom in Christ, then, is having this sense that Hannah speaks of--the sense to see that God’s will is the best and therefore wanting what God wants.  This is how we bring our wills into harmony with God’s will and how we can then claim His promises.

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May 4

“If we are not careful, we can inadvertently bypass the relationship in order to get on with the activity.  When you are busy in your activity for God, remember that God leads you to the experiences in order to bring you to Himself.”  H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 5/4

God’s illustration of this came this morning in a church we visited. It was geared toward college-aged young adults and used film clips and videotaped skits.  The sermon was on what true fellowship was. In the skit a Bible Study leader said she felt the study was going to be great because she had the key to success--organization.  We soon discovered her organization got in the way of true fellowship as she kept to her schedule.  One especially humorous scene was when she handed out papers meant to be filled out by the participants to share their thoughts on how the group should be run, but she had filled them out herself to save time.  She ran such a tight ship that she tried to maintain total control over what the group did as well as what they thought!  I laughed, but it was one of those guilty laughs.  I was glad I was in the company of strangers or else I would have been wondering if someone in one of my Bible Studies from years ago had patterned the skit after me!  The thing is, I’ve known for a long time that people are more important than projects.  Yet, I find myself being pricked.  This time, though, it’s my relationship with God that is being brought to my attention.  If I will allow God to bring me totally to Himself, I really don’t think I’ll have to worry about working on my relationships with people--that’ll take care of itself.

“God is faithful, by who you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 3

“Those therefore, who know Him as their Father, know the whole secret.  They are their Father’s heirs and may now enter into possession of all that is necessary for their present needs.”  Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 5/3

This is a few days after I read the above and I can’t remember now why I chose this to write about.  I know that whenever a secret is involved I’m all ears, but the topic of God being like a father is still somewhat foreign to me.  My idea of what a father should be and the reality of who earthly fathers often are is so different that I find it hard to grasp the concept of "God as Father" and “possession of all that is necessary for their present needs” being in the same sentence.  But Hannah feels this is the “whole secret”....to know God as my Father.  Perhaps it’s the very exercise of separating my experience in the flesh with earthly fathers in order to know God as Father, is what I need to be dwelling on. God cannot be compared to anything earthly.  Jesus Christ is the closest earthly being we can trust to give us a picture of God, but even then He was only one-third of our triune image of God.  So, if I can take my eyes off earthly fathers and just come to know God as The Father I can begin living like His Child and receive the inheritance He has provided for me.  But even beyond all that, if I live in my Father’s household here on earth I should experience a security I can find no where else--the peace of knowing I will be taken care of no matter what may happen--a love that I do not need to earn--a place where I can grow and become a mature Christian.

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”  Psalm 68:5

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 2

‘“Hope springs eternal’ from the heart that is one with God.  But if there is one single point on which we are not obeying His slightest whisper, we cannot ‘commune with our own hearts... and be still.’ (Psalm 4:4)Eugenia Price, S.P.S. 5/2

This week I’ve been scraping, scrubbing, and scouring the old tile in the basement so that there won’t be “one single point” at which the new tile won’t “commune” with the old tile.  If I didn’t do this, all my hard labor and expense of putting down the new tile would soon be lost because over time the new tile would begin to lift or crack.  In order to make sure it adheres properly I must do the unseen work of preparation.  Our Christian life needs the same sort of preparation.  Eugenia points out that we cannot experience this hope in our hearts if our hearts cannot commune with God because of disobedience.  God is a holy and just God and expects obedience.  We have no excuse because He has given us His Holy Spirit to enable us to obey.  Therefore, all disobedience is pure willfulness--definitely not an expression of love to God.  As children of a loving God we must learn obedience and have a Godly sorrow when we do fail.  He is able to restore us, but we must be still and commune with our own hearts so that our hearts will be one with God.

“I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt.  Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.”  Psalm 18:23, 24

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 1

“So deeply ingrained in the church is the idea that the Christian life is a kind of bondage, that whenever a child of God finds himself walking at liberty, he begins to think there must be something wrong in his experience.”  Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 5/1

In Hannah’s Daily Secrets of the Christian Life she talks about being “gentle and humble of heart.” Blackaby talks about serving people out of love for God.  All three of these devotionals are speaking of the same thing--to be freed from Self. The only way we can be gentle and humble of heart is to be so in love with God that Self no longer matters to us.  The only reason Self has to matter in our old lives is so that we can survive in this world.  But once we become new creatures we no longer need our old Selves.  Yet, too many of us continue to entertain and in some way give importance to Self.  This is dangerous because we can easily begin to think we are still that old Self.  This affects how we serve people.  As Christians we know we are to help people, but if Self is in on it we will soon begin to expect something in return for our effort.  Or we may get caught up in trying to earn God’s favor.  All these things encourage pride in us.  True liberty means we are free to love God and to walk in the way He has prepared for us, trusting His love to take care of our needs.  We are then freed to help others without regard for ourselves.  This is freedom in Christ.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  2 Corinthians 3:17