I Surrender All

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I appeal to you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice… Romans 12:1

A young ram stood quietly in the dusty courtyard, tethered to the hitching post with a dozen others. Smoke from the Lord’s altar filled the air, adding its aroma to the holy hush. The man who had brought this offering laid a weathered hand on his sheep’s head and a tear made its way down one cheek. He had sinned, and only perfect blood could make him right with God again. The lamb never resisted when the high priest slit its throat, as though it knew it had been born for this moment. With a few deft movements, the priest and his assistants drained the ram’s blood, sliced him from top to bottom, and arranged the sacrifice upon the stone altar. With a whoosh! the flames licked at the flesh, sending a purifying fragrance toward the heavens.

Now, imagine that you are that ram. You have no will of your own. No one will ask your preference or your opinion. You are there for one purpose only—to submit to the will of God. That’s the picture Paul painted when he instructed us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. God has already spilled the perfect blood of the Lamb for our sin. He has no more use for burnt offerings. However, those of us who have accepted His Son’s sacrifice in our place should now willingly offer ourselves to Him for His purposes. Just as a burnt sacrifice was under the complete control of the high priest, so is a living sacrifice. We must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (Rom. 6:11). Living as a sacrifice means we choose to live each day on the altar.

Imagine lying on that altar. If the High Priest split your life open, what parts have not been sacrificed?

Winners and Losers

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I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send…?" 
Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"  Isaiah 6:8

Annie gripped the seat back in front of her and braced for the last altar call. The voice of the Holy Spirit was so strong within her that she was sure it was obvious to everyone. ““Lay it all down,” He whispered. “Surrender to my plan for your life.” Sweat dripped from her chin as snaky thoughts crackled inside her head. “No!” they hissed. “If you let go of control, you’ll be miserable. You’ll have no friends, no money, and you’ll be really ugly!” This internal battle was not new. Annie had fought it for weeks as the yearning to know God grew stronger. But fear, lies, and self-will remained in charge. When the music ended, so did the Voice. But as she wiped her hands on her jeans, she was acutely aware that, despite her resistance, she had lost.

The still small voice of our God can be overwhelming when it comes. Yet, He never forces our wills. He allows us to resist Him if we want to. But when we do, we are the losers. He works to make us so complete in Him that we would rather die than walk away. We are created for purpose, for service, and for relationship with our Creator. We are becoming all He designed us to be when we eagerly respond to His call with “Here am I! Send me!” When we resist, we forfeit the experience of becoming all it means to be created in the image of God. In God’s kingdom, the losers are those who continue to resist Him. The winners are those who surrender. Winners have counted the cost, and understand that full surrender is the only way to win at life.

According to kingdom values, are you a loser or a winner? 
What must change for you to win at life?

Denying Jesus

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He chose to be mistreated…rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Hebrews 11:25

“Just say it!” the turban-clad soldier screamed. He rammed the rifle barrel into the ear of a man on his knees. The blood-streaked captive replied, “I can’t. I cannot deny my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died for me and I—” An explosion ended the sentence and the captive slumped dead onto the sand. He was just one more of thousands through the centuries who have faced a similar fate. What makes it more compelling is the fact that they, like Moses, chose it.

When Moses walked away from the luxuries of Pharaoh’s palace to identify with his Hebrew brothers and sisters, he forfeited his privileges as Egyptian royalty. Instead of enjoying a full ride at Pharaoh University, he sat around a slave’s campfire and learned about God. He knew God’s purpose for his life would require sacrifice and difficulty, but he chose it anyway. We can do that too. We may not be offered a full ride at Pharaoh University, but the world makes plenty of other offers. It dangles wealth, fame, popularity, or sexuality before us, whispering, “God will understand.” So we surrender. Or we don’t. We are each given a choice, every day, every moment to surrender to something, either sin or God—but never both. We cannot serve both.

Denying Jesus is not always verbal. How might you be denying Him instead of surrendering to Him?

Not My Will

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"Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." Luke 22:42

The plan had been in place since the beginning of time. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had forever been in perfect agreement, but now… now the Son saw it from the vantage point of dusty sandals and human flesh. From this perspective, the price to buy back sin-drenched humanity looked almost too high. He’d stubbed His toe, cut His arm, and taken some breath-stealing punches in his brothers’ wrestling matches. He’d felt the ache of rejection, the passion of temptation, and the cry of loneliness. God’s spiritual idea had become His physical reality. The cross. Evil. Abandonment. His hands quivered at the thought of the spikes. Sweat beaded on a head that would soon be filled with every vile thought Satan could produce. Dread was a rabid lion roaring so loudly in His heart that it threatened to destroy the plan. “Father, please! Isn’t there another way? Please...”

None of us will ever face such a horrendous intersection of flesh and Spirit, but we have our own crossroads. When we accept God’s offer of salvation, we also receive a new nature that desires to please Him. But with that new nature comes the sudden realization that some of the things we have cherished cannot stay. Relationships. Dreams. Lifestyles that clearly contradict everything it means to follow Christ. God’s plan collides with ours and we fall to our knees in the garden and cry out, “No! Please, isn’t there another way?”  But, thankfully, Jesus’ prayer didn’t end there. Because of His next words, we can be made right with God. Because He said to God, “Not my will, but Yours,” we can say that too.  

Jesus never asks us to do anything He did not do first. Are you following His example in surrendering to God? 

What Time I Am Afraid

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When I am afraid, I will trust in You. Psalm 56:3

From the stock market to ISIS to Donald and Hillary, this world provides thousands of opportunities for us to be afraid. And the internet provides thousands of opportunities to express that fear in destructive ways. Fear and hopelessness are fast becoming our nation’s gross national product. But fear is nothing new to humanity; we’ve just found faster ways to pump it into our brains. If you were asked to rewrite this verse from your own experience, how would you end it? “When I am afraid, I will _______.”

The Hebrew word translated “trust” means to be boldly confident. The same word in Arabic can mean “to throw oneself face down,” which is a good mental image of trusting God. In order to throw ourselves face down before God, we must be boldly confident of His character and of our relationship with Him. We are more likely to seek God in our fear when we have also sought Him in our joy. If we seek Him when the sun is shining, we are more confident to seek Him when the tornado threatens. But sometimes what we call “seeking God” really means “seeking a better version of myself.” Bold confidence cannot be based upon what we think God should do, because we will often be disappointed. Seeking God in every season means that we are positioning ourselves to be in agreement with the outcome He chooses, knowing that it is for our good.

How do you respond to fear? Are you positioning yourself to be in agreement with the outcomes He chooses?

Bullying God

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“…Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you…”  Nehemiah 1:11

“Daddy, I need new shoes. Look at these.” Five-year-old Macy held out one foot where a ragged tennis shoe dangled by one lace. Her father, Dan, smiled at her. “You’re right. We’ll go tomorrow, soon as I get my paycheck.” Someone banged on the front door, and when Dan opened it, twelve neighborhood kids glared at him from the porch. He recognized a couple of bullies who had terrorized his daughter and others who painted graffiti on his garage. “Hey, dude,” one bully shouted. “We heard you give out shoes. We’re here for ours, so hand ‘em over!” Dan shook his head. “I’d like to, but I can’t. You’re not my children.”

Some people treat God the way those neighbor kids treated Dan. They have no interest in loving and obeying the Lord, they merely want His blessings. They ignore His commands, but “claim” His promises. When they find themselves in a tough place, they demand that God rescue them. And sometimes He does, because He’s good. But He is not obligated to, because they are not His. Nehemiah could come with confidence before the Lord because He understood that God listens to His own children who delight in honoring Him. When we seek the Lord, we must do it His way. He knows His own children and is not fooled by those who pretend spirituality only when they need something. He delights in those who delight in Him.

Are you seeking God as a neighborhood kid, or do you delight in honoring Him?

Yes or No

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And the LORD told him, "Yes, go after them. You will recover everything…" 1 Samuel 30:8

We LOVE those kinds of answers! “Lord, should we buy that house we want?” YES! “Lord, will I get a promotion at work?” YES! “Lord, will I be cured of cancer?” YES!  God is a Father, and He loves to say “YES!” when our requests are within His plan. But   when we assume that “YES! is His only answer, we ignore the “No’s.” We don’t like “No’s,” so we decide they cannot be from God and we plunge ahead with our plans anyway. That view of God is flawed, because we are treating Him as a divine slot machine—plug in a couple of prayers and get ready for the jackpot of our choosing.

 God is not a genie or a slot machine. He is Almighty God. He can do anything He wants, and He wants us to seek Him for Himself. He loves to say “YES,” but sometimes His plan requires the word “No.” “Lord, should we buy that house we want?” “No, I have a better one for you.” “Lord, will I get a promotion at work?” “No, the company will lay off everyone in that department in six months.” “Lord, will I be cured of cancer?” “No, I’m ready for you to come home, and four people will be saved because of it.” Seeking God’s answers means we are open to either a Yes or a No from Him. Seeking God means we want to know His heart, not use Him as a rubber stamp for our ideas. David and his men were victorious when they chased after the raiders because God had said “Yes.” But if God had said, “No,” it would have meant that He had a better plan.

When you seek the Lord, are you prepared to work in harmony with His answer?

Should I?

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Then David asked the LORD, "Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?..." 1 Samuel 30:8

A new job. A new house. A new spouse. Should I? Should we? How can I? Questions pelt our minds 24/7 like shot from a pepper gun. We poll the audience, phone a friend, and often charge recklessly into a decision because it looks good on the surface. Or, we freeze in place and never progress an inch from where we started. Neither is how God designed us to live. He offers a better way. He instructs us throughout His word to call upon Him about everything (Ps. 50:15). Everything? Even family problems? Job frustrations? Loneliness? Depression? Yes, every-thing because He is that involved with our lives (Psalm 139).

When David had a big decision to make, He first asked the Lord about it. The wives and children of his soldiers had been kidnapped, and the grieving men blamed him for it. Instead of retaliating in rage, or taking off on his own, David first sought the Lord. The solution to their dilemma seemed obvious, but even then, David’s habit was to ask the Lord. Because he had made it his custom to seek God and wait for His answer, it was natural for him to go there first. When our passions run high, anger burns fierce, and revenge boils in our veins, we want to take matters into our own hands. We think the solution is obvious, while forgetting that we cannot see around corners or over mountains like God can. When we seek the Lord’s counsel on every decision, we can live in confidence that we are on His side.

Final Thought:  Have you developed David’s habit of seeking the Lord in every decision?

Running Out of Time

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Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6

“I’ll get my life straight when I’m old,” Juan boasted. “I’ve got plenty of livin’ to do before then!”
“I know I should get right with God,” Emilie confessed. “But that means I’d have to change some things, and I’m not ready.”
“Yeah, I’ll get serious about spiritual things one day,” said Pat. “But I’m so busy right now at work, I just don’t have time.”

These people are all making a huge and costly assumption. They are assuming that God will work within their timetables and that when they have decided they are ready for Him, He will come running. But the Bible tells us that the opposite happens. Jesus said that no one can come to Him unless the Father first draws him (John 6:44). He means that our hearts have no desire to repent, to change, or to know God unless the Holy Spirit has first prepared us. So God commands us to seek Him while we can, because that option may not always be available. To seek Him means we first acknowledge that He exists. Second, we agree that He is who His word says He is and that we need Him. Then we ask Him to reveal truth to our hearts and we act upon whatever truth we have been given. We seek God when a hunger has begun gnawing within our souls for something that this world cannot offer. That hunger was placed there by God Himself to cause us to seek Him. And because His character is so vast, we can seek Him all our lives and never come to the end of all He is and all He wants to reveal to us.

Are you seeking the Lord while He may be found?