Foolish Enough to Trust God

When looking back on the lives of men and women of God, the tendency is to say, “What wonderfully keen and intelligent wisdom they had, and how perfectly they understood all that God wanted!” But the keen and intelligent mind behind them was the mind of God, not human wisdom at all. We give credit to human wisdom when we should give credit to the divine guidance of God being exhibited through childlike people who were “foolish” enough to trust God’s wisdom and His supernatural equipment. {Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest}

As I’ve been thinking about it, I am amazed that anyone is able to understand God. Why are we all not constantly misunderstanding Him?

Or are we?

The prophets wrote about Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death without having any idea what it would actually look like. Scholars debate and hypothesize over John’s revelation, trying to pinpoint what the timeline for the “end times” will be.

My two-year-old asks, “Why? Why? Why?

Our nature wants an explanation for everything in life. The explained can be controlled; mystery can be as unruly as that same two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum.

Search through scripture, and discover the instance after instance of God hiding His plan from His people. There was no spitefulness or malice in His actions, they just did not need to know. In the fullness of time His plans are revealed.

Even upon revelation, the wise may find His ways to be foolish; just as the paths of the wise are foolishness to Him. Solely through the interpretation of the Spirit can we attempt to understand the ways of God.

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Living Sacrifice: Half-Way There

As 2010 came to a close and I looked forward to a new year, God began impressing on me the idea of sacrifice. Struggling to balance pinched finances, stretched responsibilities and whirlwind days, one thought kept surfacing: simplify.

Things that I felt were necessary in my life became the things that God was asking me to let go of. Honestly, I was a little afraid that He was preparing me for a major loss (like the death of a loved one, or something catastrophic). Hesitantly I acknowledged God’s nudges towards open-handed living, starting with selling my iPhone.

I’ve written about it before, I’m sick of hearing myself talk about it {do you ever get tired of your own voice?}. Suffice to say, it was hard. Ok, I actually need to admit that it’s still hard for me. In fact, I went online today to check on our upgrade eligibility {although I ALREADY knew it wasn’t until October}.

The thing that I’ve learned through this season of sacrifice {and there’s been more things than just my phone} is that I feel entitled to what I want, I have a hard time saying no to myself, and I have some unhealthy coping mechanisms.

The other thing that I’ve learned is that sacrifice is not enough. That’s why God gave me a second word for 2011: abide.

Sacrifice without abiding is a weary trudge…

You can’t just empty yourself, deny your desires and rest on your spiritual laurels.

God never tells us to give up things just for the sake of giving them up, but He tells us to give them up for the sake of the only thing worth having, namely, life with Himself. It is a matter of loosening the bands that hold back our lives. {Oswald Chambers}

Previously I had viewed that word “abide” as a call to action. A white-knuckled clinging in the midst of gale-force winds. My sheer determination to remain in Him would be what got me through. Instead, it is an invitation to rest:

Be held by me. Survive in me. Wait in me. Live in me. And I in you.

Living out sacrifice over these past six months has meant that I let go of my expectations, assumptions and control so that I can rest more fully in the presence of God and the knowledge that it has nothing to do with me.

Did you choose One Word for 2011?

How has your word taken shape, and how has it shaped you?

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Living out Sacrifice

I normally don’t post on a Saturday, but a friend of mine pointed out today’s entry from “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers.

It goes along so perfectly with what God has been speaking to me about Abide and Sacrifice, I wanted to share it here.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend!

Abraham built an altar . . . ; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar . . . —Genesis 22:9

This event is a picture of the mistake we make in thinking that the ultimate God wants of us is the sacrifice of death. What God wants is the sacrifice through death which enables us to do what Jesus did, that is, sacrifice our lives. Not— “Lord, I am ready to go with You . . . to death” (Luke 22:33). But— “I am willing to be identified with Your death so that I may sacrifice my life to God.”

We seem to think that God wants us to give up things! God purified Abraham from this error, and the same process is at work in our lives. God never tells us to give up things just for the sake of giving them up, but He tells us to give them up for the sake of the only thing worth having, namely, life with Himself. It is a matter of loosening the bands that hold back our lives. Those bands are loosened immediately by identification with the death of Jesus. Then we enter into a relationship with God whereby we may sacrifice our lives to Him.

It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a “living sacrifice”— to let Him have all your strengths that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus (Romans 12:1). This is what is acceptable to God. {Oswald Chambers}

 

Don’t Make Me Repeat Myself

courtesy of photobucket.com

“How many times do I have to tell you?!”

“Don’t make me say this again.”

As a parent I repeat myself a lot, and I frequently get exasperated that I end up sounding like a broken record.

Clean your room. Eat your lunch. Don’t hit your brother. Go to sleep. Get in and get buckled. Don’t lick me. On and on the list goes of things I say throughout the day. You’d think after a while the kids would start catching on and listen the first time. But no, I repeat and I nag until even I get sick of my own voice.

My purpose isn’t to irritate them, I am trying to mold them into functional, independent individuals. I am doing my best to ensure that when they become full-fledged members of society they don’t embarrass themselves (or me).

How does God feel when we don’t listen the first time?

So often I look at situations in my interactions with the kids and see correlation between them and my relationship with God. I am a child of God. He is my Father. Just as I’m guiding and teaching my children, God is guiding and teaching me.

The Bible and the promptings of the Holy Spirit are the guidebook for right Christian living. We read, we study, we determine to change a behavior and then we forget. Our intentions are good. We don’t mean to ignore Him, we just get distracted.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

In these instances, God doesn’t get fed up with repeating Himself to us. He is well aware of our faults and failures and patiently tells us again the way we should go.

He doesn’t throw His hands in the air in frustration and yell at us, “What part didn’t you understand?” He doesn’t get angry with us when we don’t listen and obey the first time.

Lovingly He reminds us. With untiring care He redirects us and says, “My child, try again.”

Do You Love Me?

How am I so sure that God deals with us this way? It’s in the Bible.

In John 21 there is a breakfast between Jesus and Peter that is highly significant. Impulsive, thoughtless Peter had betrayed Jesus. Despite Jesus’ prior warning, Peter had denied his Master (John 18:25-27). Imagine Peter’s feelings when he learned that Jesus was not dead, but had risen. Intermingled with his joy would have been shame and fear due to the knowledge of what he’d done.

Does Jesus come to Peter with a lecture? “I told you you would betray me and you did. What part of I’ll rise again didn’t you understand? Why do I have to repeat myself to you?”

No. Instead, Jesus speaks to Peter about love:

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”

“Tend my lambs…shepherd my sheep…tend my sheep.”

Each time Jesus asks Peter about his love for Him. Never once is Jesus’ love for Peter questioned. Not only that, but Jesus confirms to Peter with each avowal of his love that He has a call on Peter’s life. Peter has a purpose and a mission that has not changed due to his failure.

Learning through Obedience

Learning is a process. There’s no point in me teaching my son how to read a book if I haven’t first helped him learn the alphabet. The primary lessons need to be mastered before he can move on to the next phase.

The same is true in our walk with God. Oswald Chambers highlights the importance of obedience in our Christian walk:

All God’s revelations are sealed to us until they are opened to us by obedience. You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. Immediately you obey, a flash of light comes. Let God’s truth work in you by soaking in it, not by worrying into it. Obey God in the thing He is at present showing you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. We read tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit when…five minutes of drastic obedience would make things clear as a sunbeam. We say, I suppose I shall understand these things some day. You can understand them now: it is not study that does it, but obedience. The tiniest fragment of obedience, and heaven opens up and the profoundest truths of God are yours straight away. God will never reveal more truth about Himself till you obey what you know already.

Peter had to learn his lessons. I have to learn my lessons. My children need to learn their lessons. No one has it all together and no one gets it perfect on the first try.

If you read the book of Acts you see that Peter definitely learned the lesson of confessing his relationship with Jesus despite all odds. He endured persecution and eventual death due to that relationship.

God understands our weaknesses and knows the areas we still need to grow in. Sometimes we might feel overwhelmed by the abundance of them, but He’s dealing with them one at a time.

So today, don’t believe that He’s exasperated with you, wondering when you’re going to get it and how many more times He has to tell you. Instead, recognize the small steps you have taken forward and see them for the growth they are.

And now I’m gonna have to do the same with my kids.