Dear Father, from this moment on, for all eternity, I give you control of All my houses, all my land, all my hopes, all my plans. All my pleasures, all my fears, all my joys, all my tears. Where I go, where I stay, what I hear, what I say. What I eat, what I drink, what I like, what I think. What I give, what I keep, when I work, when I sleep. Where I shop, what I buy, how I live, when I die. What I wear, how I look, what I text, what I cook. When I pray, when I sing, when to let go, when to cling. All my strength, all my health, all my pleasures, all my wealth. What I do, what I see, what I let bother me. When I stand, when I bend, when I back away from friends. When I whisper, when I shout, when I quietly "back out". What I hate, what I love, when to talk to you above. How to serve and obey every moment of each day. All things tiny, all things grand, things I do not understand. In my life, Lord, take control of my body, mind and soul.
As Christians, most of us have made some sort of dedication pledge giving our lives to God. We have given Him permission to send us and use as as He sees fit.
The servant’s attitude inherent in such a pledge often prompts us to be active in service to others. We act and give in order to relieve the suffering of others and aid in the spread of the gospel throughout the world.
We take seriously the message of the Good Samaritan parable. Our hands, feet, arms and legs are always available to be used by the Father. In moments of peak dedication we might even be willing to wash feet.
Such activity gives us moments of satisfaction, knowing we are serving God by helping others. We revel in Christ’s words “unto one of the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). We build ministries on “Pure religion….before God…is this, to visit the fatherless and widows (James 1:27).
But are we willing to sit quietly and do nothing if that is what He directs? Are we content to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10)? Do we allow God to give us times of restoration and relaxation so we will be able to serve more effectively later?
God knows when we need to be pulled aside and have our batteries recharged. He knows when we need to sit and study, rather than strive and serve. He knows there are times when we need to rest rather than minister. We need to accept his decision for us to “sit on the bench” until He puts us “back in the game.”
Monday morning I was visiting with a friend when he asked me “What did you do last weekend?” “Friday morning I went to the grocery store.” “So?” “I brought home some groceries" “Friday afternoon I went to see my optometrist.” “So?” “I can read small print again.” “Saturday morning I took my car to the mechanic.” “So?” “It doesn't make that funny squeak anymore.” “Sunday morning I went to church.” “So?” Based on your last church visit, how would you have responded? Satan says to us “Here are some things wrong with you. They will keep you from ever amounting to anything. You're worthless. You never will be able to improve." Self-improvement books say “This is what is wrong with you. Here are some ways you can improve.” (Then you are on your own.) God says "I love you. I know there are some things wrong with you. But that's all right for now. Come sit beside me and let's visit for awhile. Let me hold you. We'll do the improvement stuff later.” Every morning God hands me a sack. It is labeled with my name and the date. In it are everything I will need to live that day the way God wants me to. He allows me the opportunity to put stuff in or take stuff out before I start the day. (Those put-in and take-out choices greatly influence how successful and pleasant that day will be.) In the evening God sits with me and we open the sack to see what is still there. Many of the things that started out in the sack are gone and some new things are there. Often God will ask me “Why did you take specific items out and what did you do with them.” Other times He will say “Will you explain why those new things are in there.” Sometimes the evening discussions about my sack are pleasant and other times they are very uncomfortable. But when we are done I always know He loves me.
A woman had three sons, each of them married with children of their own. All three were scheduled to arrive at her house at 11:00 for lunch on Thanksgiving Day.
For days she carefully planned the menu. Most of Wednesday was spent cooking desserts. She put the turkey in the oven at 5:00 Thanksgiving morning. The table was adorned with her best dishes and gleaming, polished silverware. By 10:45 everything was ready. She had done her best and she was pleased with her efforts.
Then she heard voices and strange noises from the area behind the house where the trash cans were stored. When she looked outside she could hardly believe her eyes. There were all three of her boys, along with their families, sitting in a circle around the trash containers. They were eating from the trash cans.
Using the can lids as serving trays they were eating potato and apple peels, carrot tops, and orange rinds. As she watched they scraped out what was left from the discarded vegetable cans and frozen food boxes.
She rushed outside, horrified at their behavior. “All of you come into the house this instant,” she cried.” This is crazy. I have a wonderful meal for you in there. Why would you want to eat garbage out here when I have turkey and mashed potatoes and hot rolls and apple pie on the table in the kitchen?”
The oldest boy replied “I’m sure you have a good meal inside, but we don’t deserve any better than this. We have neglected you lately and this is all we have a right to expect. It’s good enough for people like us.”
The middle son also refused. “This is really not so bad, Mom. If you’ve never tried it you don’t know what you’re missing. Would you like to join us?”
The third boy confirmed the decision to stay outside. “I’ve talked it over with my family and we don’t believe you really have anything any better inside. You can’t prepare a meal like you described. We think you are lying to us.”
The foolish, ungrateful behavior of these children causes us to feel outraged. But we act in similar ways toward God when we refuse the banquet of blessings he has for us and accept, instead, the trash offered by the world.
God prepares a menu of blessings for us every day. (Psalm 23). He knows we don’t deserve it but He continually offers us the best He has. Of course we don’t deserve his goodness, but He chooses to bless us anyway. To say He cannot bless us is to deny his power. To say He has not or will not bless us is to contradict his word. When we live in guilt, ignorance and denial we are as foolish as the three sons.
When we visit the Grand Canyon we approach it with some degree of reverence and look cautiously into it’s depths. We are impressed with the beauty, majesty, size and age. We realize we are engaging only a small part of the canyon with only a small part of ourselves. After a short visit we walk away, get in our car and move on.
But that is not experiencing the Grand Canyon. We don’t go to the bottom and allow ourselves to be surrounded by it. We don’t permit all our senses to become attuned to its sounds, colors, scent and sights. We don’t explore the side canyons and hidden pockets of splendor. We don’t sit still in the deepest recesses and view the animals and wild flowers. We don’t return throughout the year to view the seasonal changes.
If we really wanted to know the Canyon intimately we would read books about it and hire a guide for each visit. We would physically discipline ourselves to become strong enough to hike from one end to the other. We would stay there for days at a time.
But we don’t. And as a result of our look-over-the-edge-and-move-on visits we know it about like we know God.
We hurry into and out of God’s presence, perhaps impressed with a limited sense of his wisdom, majesty, beauty, size and power. We commit a small part of ourselves to peer cautiously into his Word, all the time knowing there is more. We stop short of a full sensory encounter then walk away content or even feel a little proud of our efforts.
We do not take the time and make the effort to experience God. We do not immerse ourselves and surround ourselves with Him. We refuse to explore the lesser-known facets of his personality. We do not develop the stamina and self-discipline necessary to know his heart. Expecting immediate answers and solutions, we visit Him and then move on before some of his most beautiful, valuable truths can be received. We do not allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We may feel his presence for a few minutes but we don’t become intimate with him. We approach God with a tourist mentality.
How can we correct this? We must make forming an intimate relationship with him the number-one priority of our lives. This will require a commitment of our time. Such relationships can not be rushed. We must establish regular times of prayer and Bible study, disciplining ourselves to concentrate of spiritual matters. The joys of experiencing God are available only to those who long for more than a quick, easy, occasional visit.
To me the term “…poor in spirit…” (Matthew 5:3) means total humility, admitting that on my own I can do nothing (John 15:5.) God loves me regardless of my lack of talent, beauty, skills or possessions. In God’s system I have great value. I am a child in his family adopted through the death of Jesus on the cross.
In the world’s system a thing like this is unheard of. We are taught that we must do something or be something or have something before we are granted the status of “valuable or important.” But God says “You are valuable to me exactly as you are right now.”
Should we ever wonder how valuable we are to Him all we need do is look to the cross. Jesus died there to buy my eternal freedom from the consequences of my sins. God’s grace means love without accomplishment. It seems to be a crazy system, but it is the way God does things and I sure am glad.
My friend lived in a large city I had never visited. Recently I was driving past there to a meeting. I called my friend and we met for dinner at a restaurant near the interstate.
As we were parting in the parking lot I received a phone call and I was told the meeting was postponed one day. I suddenly had an extra twenty-four hours.
My friend invited me to spend the night in his home. I accepted and asked how to get there. He responded “Just follow me.” And with that he drove off.
I hated every moment of that forty-five minute drive. I kept my eyes glued to his tail lights, afraid a stop light or another car would come between us and force me to lose sight of him. If that had happened I would have been in serious trouble. (I did not have GPS.)
As we were in the middle of this game of “follow-the-leader-or-else” I realized it was similar to our challenge of staying in contact with Jesus. Sometimes He leads through strange, dangerous territory. It is my responsibility to maintain contact with Him or I will get lost.
Since I had never been in that city before, there were billboards new to me and buildings that enticed me to take a “second look.” I was tempted to become a tourist rather than stay on my friend’s bumper. In the same way, following Jesus requires us to develop some degree of tunnel vision, focusing only on Him.
Jesus says “Follow me.” Our reaction must not be “Where?” or “Why?” or “What will we see?” or “When will we get back?” It is up to us to reply “okay” and get prepared to enjoy the trip.
Many people try to please God by obeying the rules He gave rather than by enjoying a relationship with the Son He sent.
The tendency to do this is strong because rule-keeping is more concise and specific. It lets us keep track of the good deeds we do and leads to self-satisfaction and self-importance. It gives us ammunition when we try to convince God we are worthy of His blessings.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were rule followers. They were very good at it. They never “walked up the down staircase.” But in their blind, narrow version of obedience they missed the thrill of knowing Jesus as friend and brother.
Establishing an intimate relationship with Jesus can be unpredictable. Some days we feel He is near while at other times He seems distant. (The difference is always of our doing.) Does Jesus care if we break the Father’s rules? Sure He does. But if we confess and repent He continues to protect and provide. Our relationship with our Savior can never be broken.
The Holy Spirit guarantees every child of God a life of comfort and pleasure if we obey Him out of love and gratitude rather than an attitude of blind rule keeping.
After Adam and Eve sinned they ran from God. After we sin we should run to God. (Hebrews 4:16) Why? Because only from God can we receive mercy, grace and forgiveness. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit can I learn to accept that forgiveness from God, let Him show me how to forgive myself and discover ways to avoid doing it again.
USED TO BE
Things I step over are higher than they used to be.
Things I duck under are lower than they used to be.
Stuff I wade through is deeper than it used to be.
Things I walk across are wider than they used to be.
Objects I carry are heaver than they used to be.
Errands I run are longer than they used to be.
Material I read is smaller than it used to be.
Reading lights I use are dimmer than they used to be.
Chairs I use are lower and harder to get out of than they used to be.
Stairs I climb are steeper than they used to be.
Floors I drop stuff onto are further down than they used to be.
But the God who made me and all that other stuff is the same as He has always been. And for this eighty-year old that is GOOD NEWS!
Confession?. . . . .”I did it”
Repentance?. . . . . “I’m sorry”
Obedience? . . . . . “I will”
Service? . . . . . “Let me help”
Worship? . . . . . “You’re wonderful”
Devotion?. . . . . “I love you”
Gratitude?. . . . .”Thank you”
Humility?. . . . . “Help”
When all the fuss and rush are over
With the silence so loud you can hear it
When being alone seems so final and sure
Comes the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
In the roaring stillness of the house
And the darkness of the night
The Spirit of God is anxious still
To help you find the light.
Believe His promise! Trust His Word!
When all you feel is pain
Somehow the blessed Spirit of God
Will help you smile again.