Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Week Thirteen - Unburdened

Beside the Well
            I have a few books on my Kindle I have read while travelling.  But if it weren’t for my journaling, I would have no way to record what I have read because I’m no good at marking the computer books.  Even though I can colour the text and put in marks, I can’t seem to go back and find what I am looking for.   I much prefer a real book where I can make notes and my visual mind can recall where to find them.  Anyway, I came across some quotes I had copied out of a book called Unburdened, by Chris Tiegreen.  Great book, by the way!  Let’s think about them together.
            “The burdened personality is preoccupied with achieving personal plans and purposes as well as compensating for emotional wounds.  It is also worried about the future, protective of its own ego, defensive and easily offended.”
            “The unburdened personality is unconcerned with personal agendas and trusts God with the future. It is emotionally healthy, humble, unpretentious and not easily offended.”
            “The burdened heart is focused on getting and keeping what it wants and needs; the unburdened one reflects on open-heart and open-hand mentality.  In other words, generous people who aren’t trying to hang on to what is theirs are able to live in freedom”  (Kindle p 1661 – that’s the best I can do to indicate the location).
            That challenges me.  Can I keep balance in life so things don’t burden me down?  Would I describe myself as emotionally healthy all of the time?  Where is my focus?  Am I trying to make life work or working with life?  Am I pushing and shoving or resting and trusting?  Do I get offended when my plans are thwarted?  Or can I give and take?  Do I live in the realization that since God began the work in me, it is up to Him to complete it, or do I live as though the whole burden of life depended on my accomplishments?
            One of his suggestions on working at becoming less burdened was,  “Make a contract with yourself not to do and think the things that bring unnecessary weight to your life.  Enforce that decision in your daily, moment-by-moment choices.  Whenever you start to feel the need to maneuver and manage, remind yourself that it’s unnecessary and resist it.  Whenever the burdens you cling to threaten your peace, just let go.”  (1689)
            Disney’s song pops into my head!  Let it go!  Such a simple instruction, but one with such freedom.  If something is burdening me down with unnecessary trouble and upset, I need to let it go.  If it is a thing outside my sphere of control or responsibility, I need not be burdened by it.  If it is something that is turning me into a monster, I need to let it go.

            Here’s the amazing thing.  Letting it go doesn’t mean I am shirking my responsibility.  It simply means I am recognizing Who has the ultimate power to carry my burdens.  I have a shoulder to lean on.  I don’t have to carry my burdens alone.  I really don’t have to be burdened down with them at all.  I have seen God work in amazing ways when I let go of control, turn it over to Him in prayer, and wait to see what He will do.  I’m glad I recorded these quotes.  They are a great reminder.  Let it go, Gail!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Week Twelve - Call in the Choir

Beside the Well
            During a Wednesday night Bible study Pastor Mark Formby said, “Don’t live under the cloud of what-ifs.”
            On the night this quote caught my heart I had been sideswiped with some unexpected news that would change the tenor of our ministry.  I was grappling to come to grips with the decision that had already been made.  I could not change it.  I was just going to have to accept it.  The “what-ifs” were becoming a heavy cloud overshadowing my heart.
            Then I heard, “Peace with My decision is enough.” Enough, had been the byword God was teaching me.  He was challenging me to believe change, and His hand in it, was enough.  I did not need to question or surmise.  I needed to accept it and be at peace with God’s decision.
            That night’s Bible study was in 2 Chronicles 20.  Jehoshaphat received news of a great multitude coming up against him to battle.  There was no changing it; the bad guys were on their way. Jehoshaphat was afraid, but he knew what to do.  He went straight to the Lord and called others into prayer with him.  Publically, He rehearsed the mercies of God in the past and placed his case squarely upon the Lord.  “O our God…we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon thee”(2 Chronicles 20:12). 
            The reply came by the Spirit of God through the Levite Jahaziel. “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s…Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD…for the LORD will be with you” (2 Chronicles 20:1 & 17).
            Jehoshaphat chose to believe God.  He called in the choir to sing praise and let the Lord handle the bad guys.
            I have known times in my life when God showed up and cleared out the enemy from before me. I have also known times when the “yeah-buts”, “what-ifs,” and “if onlys” flooded my mind and distracted me from the truth and the victory.
            Here is the truth.  God is enough.  Whatever I am facing, it isn’t unknown to Him. He is enough for every challenge of life.  When all is cleared away, He will still be standing there because He is the only one strong enough.
            So, enough with the “what-if’s.” Time to believe God and blow that heavy, shadowing cloud away.  Let’s call in the choir and sing!
                                                I sing because I’m happy!
                                                I sing because I’m free!
                                                For His eye is on the sparrow,
                                                And I know He watches me! *

*Civilla D Martin, His Eye in on the Sparrow

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Week Eleven - The Offer

Beside the Well
            Pastor Gritts said, “The world offers you nothing; but God offers you the world.”  I don’t know if I can adequately write what this meant to me, but I am going to try.
            The world offers us nothing.  All that is in the world will pass away. Yes, we can have fun, accumulate stuff, get a measure of prestige and possible fame, but all of that will pass away as fast as it came. It is all temporary. 
            Now, I’m not saying we should live as hermits or just be paupers.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t get an education and advance in life.  What I am saying is the world really holds nothing compared to what Christ can give.  “All the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her [wisdom]”  (Proverbs 3:15).
            The thought that caught my attention was the second part of Pastor’s statement.  “God offers you the world.”  When we give our lives to Him He opens a window of limitless possibilities.  There is no limit to where God can take me, what He can give me, or what amazing things He can do with my surrendered life.  Beyond that, all that is of any real value in the world becomes mine, because it is His—His to give.  I am truly rich in Christ. 
            I live in complete freedom.  The only restraints on me, besides natural ones of time and human strength, are those I keep as I seek to live in accordance to His Word.  Even those are not truly restraints; they are principles that keep me in the place of blessing.  They are wisdom for pathways to more possibilities.
            When I look at the world I do not see things I can’t have.  I own it all already.  When I look at the world, it doesn’t tempt me to get more stuff or seek some sort of recognition, I have all the stuff I need and my standing in Christ is more than enough recognition.

            God’s offer of the world is an amazing thing.  It makes me want to stand tall and walk with confidence.  Why grovel in the dirt when we are already king of the mountain?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Week Ten - Holding the Reins

Beside the Well

            Years ago I learned a secret about keeping life on a level emotional keel.  A few weeks ago, I forgot that lesson.  I let emotions take the lead and wound up on the vicious downward spiral leading to nowhere.  Well, not anywhere—it leads to the bottom of the pit where I found myself languishing in the mud with no equipment to get back to the top.
            After a few days I grew tired of being in the quagmire and gave myself a good scolding.  After reminding myself whose I was and where I could be if I chose obedience, God brought an event to my mind that helped me get hold of the situation.
            My friend, Carol, and I once had the opportunity to go horseback riding in Wales.  Neither of us were novices.  We had both ridden many times before. Anyway, we listened to the instruction, dawned our obligatory riding hats, and mounted our steeds for an afternoon’s ride.  However, these rental horses knew the route and were bored.  Mine wanted to scrap me along the fence and munch on the side grasses. 
            I complained to the riding leader and his comment was, “Well, they know an inexperienced rider and will take advantage.”  That was it!  I was not an inexperienced rider.  Letting the horse eat grass from the sides of the path or wander at will meant I was not in control of the animal.  So, I took those reins and let that horse know I was the master.
            I decided to apply the same principle to my emotions that day.  So, I got up and girded myself.  It was time to take the reins and not be driven by emotions.  I began to look at Bible verses about bridles. 
            In Psalm 39 David tells of trying to bridle his emotions, but the pressure was too great—great chapter to read when you are about to burst.  Psalm 32:8 & 9 tell us God guides with his eye—the need of a bridle indicates a lack of understanding and godly obedience.  James 1:26 and 3:2 say bridling our tongue is an image of self-control and leads to a greater control of life.
            That’s when I remembered the secret I had learned—or not learned—so many years ago.
            Proverbs 25:28 “He that hath no rule over his own spirit…is broken down.” Oh my!  I was not ruling my spirit.  I was letting my emotions have free rein.  I was broken down, vulnerable to the attacks of Satan, and not in the right place.
            How had I wound up there?  Poor choices in responses to controversy?  Stubbornness?  Inner boiling anger?  Personal insecurities, fears and jealousies?  Lies I had believed? You know, the spiral of thoughts that condemn and defeat?
            I had stepped outside of truth and was having a great pity party.  Trouble was, I was the only one there. 
            So that day I took hold of the reins and made my emotional horse walk straight back to the place where it was supposed to be.  It didn’t happen without a struggle and some real prayer and determination, but I knew the truth.  God can only rescue me when I want to be rescued. Pouting and howling on my bed is not the answer.  I have to do my part. 

            Taking hold of the reins of truth, acting in truth, and continuing to act in truth, that is the answer.  My emotions will come back in line as long as I keep them on a tight rein.  Woman, get hold of yourself!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Week Nine - Samson's Hair

Beside the Well

            Part of my time beside the well is reading devotional material.  Currently, I am enjoying a book of writings by C.H. Spurgeon that came to me from a clearing out of the college library.  This little hardback book, written in 1883, seems to be a record of Spurgeon’s own devotional reading as he begins each one with an anonymous quote then adds a few short reflections of his own.
            A couple weeks ago he started with a quote about Samson’s hair.  “Single prayers are like the single hairs of Samson; but the prayers of the congregation are like the whole of his bushy locks, wherein his strength lay.”  That caught my imagination. I’d never thought of prayer illustrated as Samson’s hair.  
            Spurgeon goes on to remind the reader of the prayers of the church as they plead for Peter in prison, “a praying band, all the smiths in Jerusalem cannot make bolts for the doors, or chains for the wrists, sufficiently strong to hold Peter in prison” (Acts 12:1-17).  
            That reminded me of a verse in Isaiah.  “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron” (Isaiah 45:2).  Truly, the prayers of the church in Jerusalem were used of God to release Peter from his chains.
            It has also been my experience to see God work most mightily in my life when I have requested others to join me in prayer.  When Satan begins to work in my mind, I have only to draw two or three others into prayer for me and he takes flight.  When I am facing a hard decision or a difficult task, I can call upon my co-prayer warriors and the way becomes straight and the load is lightened.
            It takes me back to James 5:15-16.  We need prayers of faith for our healing and strength.  We need to not be too proud to ask others to pray for us or confess the difficulties, fears, or failures we are facing.  I have always found if I drop my pretense and simply admit my weaknesses, asking for prayer and confessing my need, the power of the problem melts away and God works it all out for me.  When I hold onto my problem, it becomes a place for Satan to stir and create more fear and anxiety in my heart and mind.  For me, this proves the power of collective prayer.
            But Spurgeon’s last comment makes it abundantly clear that he is not just speaking of two or three saints binding together in prayer for each other.  “Come, then,” he writes, “to the meetings for prayer, for there is the strength of the church, and there are her Samson’s locks.“ 
            Are you a part of your church’s collective prayer meetings or are you leaving your Samson to grow bald?