Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Week Forty-Four - Gripping

  The grip of my fathers hand brought me into submission, made me feel safe and loved, and assured me of his presence.  Yet, as strong as my fathers grip was, it was nothing compared to the grip of Jesus on my eternal soul.
   The grip of Jesus is triumphant in numerous spheres. 
It orders our years, makes wars to cease, uplifts womanhood, gives dignity to manhood, makes children important, improves working conditions, inhibits evil, and makes men ashamed of the evil that persists.  His grip puts laws in our statute books, holds sway in our courts, and sets the highest standard for life.  One historian wrote, The simple record of three short years of Christs active life has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophy and all the exhortations of moralists. (p 176)
But I don’t want to talk today about these great effects of Jesus’ life, I want us to think about the grip of Jesus on our individual souls.  While on earth, he touched many, drew many, and changed them forever.  Mary Magdalene, whom no one would touch, was held captive by his love.  Nicodemus, though wealthy and respectable, was gripped by Jesus. Then Matthew, the publican, the man who had sold his soul to the Roman government, left his money bags stepping out into a life of adventure and daring at the grip of Jesus’ words, “Follow me.” Even the thief on the cross was gripped as he saluted Jesus as King during his darkest hour.
   And, I remember the day Jesus gripped my heart.  As I knelt to pray with my friend, I heard Jesus’ voice speaking gently, yet certainly, to my heart, “I cannot hear your prayer, Gail, because you have not yielded your heart to me.”  I knew right then that I must repent and give my heart and life to Him.

   That wasn’t the only time His grip reached out to me.  It reached out in a call to service, in the conviction of sin, in expressing comfort and assurance to my soul in times of deep distress.  Truly, the grip of Jesus brings me into submission, makes me feel safe and loved, and assures me of His presence.  What about you?  Has he gripped your heart?

Not what these hands have done
Can save this guilty soul;
Not what this throbbing flesh has borne
Can make my spirit whole.

Thy love to me, O God,
Not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest
And set my spirit free.

Let me no more my comfort draw
From my frail hold on Thee,
Rather in this rejoice with awe—
Thy mighty grasp of me.

Jesus and Ourselves, Leslie D. Weatherhead

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Week Forty-Three - I Have it All

Ever find that a single word catches your attention as you read? Well, I was reading through Colossians during my quiet time when the word “all” began jumping out at me. I found it used at least twenty-nine times through the four short chapters. Let me share a few with you.  But before I do, let’s make note that the word “all” means the whole quantity or extent of a particular group or thing, the whole of one’s energy or interest, the total sum, everything, the entire amount.
               So, look at some of the things God mentions along with the word “all.”  In Colossians 1:16-20, there are no less than seven “all’s.” Each of them declaring that all things are his, he created them, and all things consist only by his decree and command. He is to have preeminence in all things—everything, the whole quantity.
               Colossians lists several more things that are ours because of his supremacy and the availability of his power within us. We read of:
+being all pleasing (1:10) walking worthy of the Lord in every good work.
+strengthened to all might (1:11)
+all patience (1:11) with longsuffering and joy.
+all wisdom (1:28) so we can proclaim the gospel.
+all treasures (2:3) of wisdom and knowledge which are hidden in him.
+all riches (2:2) of love and understanding, and
+all fulness (2:9-10) making us complete in him.
It sounds to me like we are fully equipped because he is our all in all (Col 3:11).
               If you take time to look, you will find more treasures.  Colossians 2:19 speaks of all the body(church) being held together.  Colossians 2:22 warns us about all the things that perish, teaching us that we need not be hung up by things of this world.  Colossians 3:8 lists things to take out of our lives while Colossians 3:14 shows us the things to put on.  Colossians 3:10 elevates the Word of God.  Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Then verse twenty instructs children to be obedient in all things.  Verse twenty-two requires servants (employees) to do the same.  Colossians 4:12 ends with, “that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”
But, as I reread Colossians 2:13, I humbly bowed my head.  It reads, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you ALL trespasses.”  All my trespasses! And they were so many. Verse fourteen goes on to say he blotted them out and nailed them to his cross. His cross? That should have been my cross. But in his mercy and grace, he took ALL my sins —the entire amount, the total sum, the whole quantity—upon himself once and for all making an end to them.

               Such is God’s amazing grace.  He takes a person with no hope, no worth, no redeeming qualities, someone who is failing miserably, and places within them the beauty of His Spirit by the humble, incredible act of forgiveness.  By this, He transforms a life, giving all things necessary for godliness and equipping the believer with a wealth of spiritual resources found only in himself so they can stand perfect and complete. 
              At times, we may feel ill-prepared for the things we face, but in truth, all we need are at hand.  We have only to ask. In Christ, we have it all.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Week Forty-Two - Nurture and Nature

Have you ever read Jennifer Rothchild's book, Self Talk, Soul Talk?  If not, I highly recommend it.  The book is full of sound, biblical instruction on managing and taming the inner voice.  I want to consider one quote from page 108 with you today.  She writes, "We don't veer off our pathway to peace because we're disabled or helpless.  We skid into those highway washouts and bridgeless canyons when we are defiant.  Absence of peace is not an "I can't" situation.  It's an "I won't" problem.  Defiance, an unwillingness to let go of anger, hurts you, my friend and you are too valuable to live like that."
     The thing that caught my eye was the "I can't" and "I won't" part.  I remember having discussions with teens about the difference between the two.  Helping them see they were making decisions based on a preconceived preference or downright defiance was a concept many of them struggled to accept. As I read on in her book, I realized teens aren't the only ones who struggle.  Adults, too, make choices based on only these two options.  But there is a third option, God's option.
    And what is that?  Faithful obedience.  Ah, how we avoid that option!  And, I find, even when we know the option, seek that option, and even believe it is the best option, the "I can't" and "I won't" filters create hindrances us.
    Let me see if I can explain a bit of how this happens.  Take a piece of paper and write the word, God, on the left-hand side.  Then, draw an arrow from that word pointing to the right side of the paper.  In the center, above the line of the arrow, write the word Nurture.  Directly below the line, write the word, Nature.  Okay, let's work from this visual for just a bit.
   God is God.  He is right.  Do you agree?  This is where all things begin.  The line represents His directives all pointing to the outcome He desires-our obedience in all things.  At the end of the arrow could be any question or circumstance you are facing.  We could put tithing, submission to authority, or whatever hurdle is relative to our current situation.  Go ahead and write something at the arrow's point personal to you.  It's good to first take time to look at Scripture about that topic so you are sharpened and certain about what God says.
    Now, let's consider the Nurture word.  Nurture is the influence of society, family, and friends.  These are the voices where we develop the "I can't" excuse.  We think we can't because we have been told we aren't smart enough, we aren't trained well enough, we aren't ready, etc.  The nurturing influences, if they aren't positive, aid in creating the excuse, "I can't."  If we continue listening to the negatives, they will draw us further and further away from God's directives and obedience will be crippled by doubt, peer pressure, and frustration.  What "I can't" excuses are you using?
   The word, Nature, relates to our feelings, emotions, and personal bents.  This is our will.  'I won't," is prevalent here.  We hear our inner voice saying things like, "I don't want to do that."  "That's too hard for me, it makes me feel uncomfortable."  "I'm afraid of failure.", etc.  Emotions and fears rise while anger and resentment hold us back from full obedience.  If we follow our nature, we will be stymied and swallowed up, living by emotion only and never fully obedient to God's directives.  Do you hear the defiant 'I won't" replaying in your head?
    So, as we put it all together, we don't fail to obey because we don't know any better.  We fail to obey because we make a choice based on fleshly and faulty information. 
    God's word is full of examples encouraging us toward "I can."  And God plainly says, "I can do all things through Christ" (Phil 4:13).  The opposite of "I won't," is "I will."  Take time to look at the "I will's" in the book of Psalms alone.  You will find so many.  "I will praise...I will bow down...I will remember...etc.  God knows the bent of our hearts and the influences in our lives.  He isn't afraid of them. Rather, He uses them to teach us more about obedience and to bring us to Himself.
    Today might be a good day for you to examine the hurdles you face and see if they are related to the nurture or nature of your life.  Take those things to the cross and get back onto that straight arrow of faithful obedience-the way of blessing and peace.