Uncategorized

A Living Sacrifice

cross-sun-sky

Romans 12:1-2

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 8:13

for if you are living according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

I am such a hypocrite.  Daily I see where I want all of the blessings of God without anything being required of me.  I want to embrace all of his love and goodness and give Him nothing in return.  This actually puts me in the category of being an unbeliever as well.  I pick and choose the scriptures I want to live by and ignore those which speak of self sacrifice.  Jesus himself challenged anyone who would be a disciple of his to consider the cost:

Luke 14:26-35

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him,  saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.   Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?  It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

OUCH!  As I re-read this passage, I see that I am also a guilty of self-idolatry.  I have myself lifted up on a pedestal and become quite indignant if anyone insults my elevated position.  Is it any wonder that most days I am miserable?  The scripture above from Romans 8 says that if I am living according to my flesh, I will die.  That death is not a future event, it’s in the now.  I fall on my own sword daily because I have lifted myself up to an ungodly position.  A place where you dare not speak to me like that!  A place where I am more valuable and worthy than the rabble around me.  A place that looks down with scorn on the broken and miserable people that I come in contact with.  A place that is full of self-righteous hypocrisy devoid of love for the very world that Jesus came to save.

What is the cost that I work so hard to avoid?   What does it mean to hate your own life?  What does it mean to present yourself as a living sacrifice?

First, it means repenting of my unbelief.  Somewhere along the line, I stopped believing that my life is not my own.  If I am a child of God, then I was purchased with the precious blood of Christ.  He bought me. His spilled blood and mangled body was the receipt for my life.  That is why we are called to remember that transaction thru the sacraments of the cup and bread.  “This do in remembrance of me, as often as you will.”  We need to take Communion more often to be reminded that our lives are NOT are own.  Christ was beaten beyond recognition; he ceased to exist in a sense.  He laid down every ounce of his own will to have the right to own us!  How dare I exalt myself above my Lord!

Secondly, it means renewing my mind and believing the truth that my life is hidden in Christ.  I embrace that my sins are hidden but recoil that my person has to be hidden.  I forget that I am a new creature and old things have passed away.  Paul exhorts us to put to death the flesh with its deeds.  I must embrace the truth of being emptied like Jesus.  I must surrender!  I must take up my cross and follow him.  A cross was meant for one thing only, to die upon.

Thirdly, I must believe the glorious truth that true life comes from this death.  Jesus shared this great mystery as recorded in the Gospel of John:

John 12:24-26

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

On my self-exalted pedestal, I am alone and have no kingdom worth.  I am tasteless salt that is good for nothing.  But, if I die to myself daily, then I have potential to bear much fruit and find eternal life NOW!

“Lord, thank you for your new mercies today.  God, change my heart that I will want to die to myself today.  I don’t want to be worthless and alone and falling on my own sword. I want to be where you are.  I want to follow in your footsteps.  I want to present myself to you God and be called a good and faithful servant.  Help me remember that you own me and help me love this broken world the way you loved me.  Help me empty myself that I might receive you to the full and be truly alive!”

 

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Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

God calls us to go ALL the way.

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Part 1.

Looking at the saints of old, I see a mysterious and Holy pattern.  God doesn’t stop short of the miraculous.  He doesn’t go half way or do anything in a less than complete manner.  God takes his people to the very edge, He brings them to the last-minute rescue and the midnight hour desperation and then reveals himself with such power, glory and might that we are left speechless.  His plans are for his works to be displayed in such a way, so that there can be no other explanation for what has happened except that God has intervened.

However, these gripping stories are also to build our faith.  Our lives are not so unlike the people of old.  Sometimes our trials bring us to very edge of disaster and if God does not work, we are done for.   If God does not part the Red Sea, we will be destroyed.  If he does not dry up the Jordan, we will drown.  God calls us to go all the way to see the miraculous.  It is necessary to go the distance. Consider this example:

Genesis 37 relates a tale of a very dysfunctional family where sibling rivalry and hatred peaked with a brother being sold into human trafficking by his older brothers.  Let’s look closer at the pattern. It was necessary for Joseph to go ALL the way down into the pit that his brothers cast him into.  There he learned that God had a plan to preserve his life.  Thru the long dark night, with each passing hour, he survived.  As dawn broke over the wilderness, he realized that his body was whole and preserved and that he had lived to see the sun’s rays pierce the darkness.  It was then necessary for Joseph to be sold into slavery and taken hundreds of miles away from his home and family ALL the way in Egypt.  On an auction block, his favored son status was stripped away and he became the property of someone else.  He had no say, no input, no nothing.  His elevated status in an affluent family was cruelly ripped away as he was inspected and chosen solely for his physical build.  His father, his family, his lineage meant nothing.  It was then necessary for him to be accused falsely and sent ALL the way to prison.  Ultimate humiliation and unfairness became his daily bread.  It was in prison, however, that he learned to trust the God of the dark.  Totally constricted and unable to dictate the terms of his life, he was helpless before God.  How easy to lose faith and hope in such a circumstance.  Who would have blamed him if he had.  The evidence, however,  tells a different story.  The evidence speaks of a young man who continued to work with excellence not to please men but God.  The way he ordered his cell, his habits, his time was of such a nature that it captured the attention of his guard.  He was then placed over other prisoners so that he could teach them the same order and habits.  But still his case and cause were overlooked.  Year after year he remained in his confinement and was able to contribute nothing to change the outcome.

What did he dream the outcome to be?  To be set free at some point and make his way back home?  To be free so that he could take revenge on his brothers?  While we are not privy to Joseph’s private thoughts and agonies of soul, we are privy to God taking him to the limit and then some.  Just when it seemed it could not get any worse, it did.  God had set an against all odds scenario so that if God doesn’t act and save, Joseph is toast.  I am sure that no matter what Joseph longed and dreamed for, he could not have imagined the outcome that God  accomplished.  He went from the prison cell to the right hand of pharaoh.  Who but God could bring such a conclusion?  Revenge to his brothers?  Joseph ended up not only saving his immediate family from starvation but the entire known world at the time.  It was necessary for God to take Joseph ALL the way so that the work accomplished was so incredible, no one could deny God.

Yes, God often calls his children to go to the brink of disaster.  But no matter where God takes us and calls us to go, we are not alone.  We have His promise never to leave us or forsake us.  If He takes us to the very edge, He is there.  We are not alone.

If you find yourself in a prison cell of unfair life’s circumstances, falsely accused and forgotten….Wait and watch.  You are primed to see a miracle.

To be continued.

 

Living in Freedom, Reflections, Uncategorized

The Wonder of Being Small

HALF DOME

I had the wonderful privilege of visiting Yosemite National Park this past week.  There is an inadequacy of words to describe the beauty, the vastness, and the grandeur of it all.  The most surprising element that I experienced, was the wonder of being small.

From any view, either down in the valley or atop Glacier Point, I realized my smallness and the infinite bigness of God.  His handiwork truly declared His glory!  I breathed deeply and was struck by His greatness.  He is so much bigger than that which He has created.

Trees, birds, squirrels, lizards, rushing waters, roaring water falls, placid lakes, jagged peaks; all spoke of him and not of me.  What a cleansing place.

Job 12:7-10New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.
“Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;
And let the fish of the sea declare to you.
“Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this,
10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind?

I fully agree with John Muir:

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
Uncategorized

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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God is rich in love toward us.  He has been from the beginning.  Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Jeremiah 31:3   The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Allow yourself to indulge in this love today.  The kind of love that does not love a future version of you; he loves you now!