The Life of Surrender

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30

Manna For Today

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” 

Galatians 5:25

I wrote down this verse at the end of December to meditate on in January. I have been thinking about what it means to live by the Spirit.  It sounds good, but what does it look like in everyday life?

I got an answer the other night as we were up in the night with kids and then we were having a hard time falling back asleep. I was having a hard time falling back asleep because I was worrying about how the sleep disturbance would effect me the next day. When I start to worry about these things, my mind goes into a tailspin of silly worries that don’t need to be worried about.

Exodus 16 tells the story of the Israelites being led in the desert by Moses. They started grumbling and complaining about not having enough food.  God provided enough manna for one day and told them not to take more than they needed for the day. Some of them disobeyed and took more and their manna was rotten in the morning.

Food is not something that I typically worry about. I hardly ever have to worry about if we are going to have enough food for the day. I know many people don’t have that luxury, but in our home it is not something that is a concern. My concerns recently have been centered around my energy level and getting enough rest and relaxation. I find myself grumbling just like the Israelites that I don’t have enough energy or time in my day to do the things I want to do.

As I laid in bed worrying about when I would be able to make up for this lost sleep, I felt like God was putting the story of the Israelites and the manna for the day in my head. I felt like he was telling me to stop worrying about my energy level for the next day and to enjoy what he had provided me for this day.

I felt like God was painting a picture for me what keeping in step with the Spirit means. I need to trust God for the energy I need for today, for this hour and minute.  He does not want me to be burdened down with worry about when I will be able to refuel.  When I trust God to fill me, I feel His presence more in my life than when I am leaning on myself.

I heard somewhere that you know something is an idol in your life by the way you think you would react when it is taken away.  By that definition, sleep and rest are a big idol in my life that need to be given to God and not manufactured by my own will.

I want to experience God’s full power in my life. God does not distance himself from us, it is the other way around. When I try to manipulate my life situations by gathering more “manna” than I need in the moment, I am distancing myself from my Creator.

We are not meant to live life with mountaintop highs all the time. We are really meant to live life in the valley where God shapes us and molds us and He can use us more when we are relying on Him instead of on ourselves.  I want to live my life leaning into my Creator and not trying to blaze my own trail thinking I, the created being, am above the Creator.

One Word for 2018

This is our third year picking one word as an anchor for our lives. Our 2016 word was surrender and you can read more about that here.  Discipleship was the word for 2017 and you can read about that here.   I am so thankful that God put these words on our hearts and we feel like it really does anchor our year. Last year when we started discipleship we had no idea where that would bring us.  God gave us so many good resources and now as we enter 2018 we really feel like we know what it means to disciple someone else and also to be a disciple of Jesus. Just like the word surrender, discipleship is going to keep going through the rest of our lives.

I wasn’t sure that we were going to do a word this year because I didn’t feel like God had placed anything on our hearts and I honestly didn’t think that we could top surrender or discipleship.  Just this week I was going through some reflection time on 2017 and thinking ahead to 2018 and I felt like God was really putting prayer on my heart.  I do feel like our prayer lives have been lacking and I felt like God was telling us that this was the thing we are to hone in on in 2018.  I asked for and received a yearly prayer journal from Val Marie Paper for Christmas. I have been preparing it for January and I am excited to start our year out focusing on prayer.

This quote from the Dad Tired Podcast Facebook page really stuck out to me:

I absolutely love this quote. It is a good reminder that I need to go to God not just daily, but throughout the day as well. I feel confident that God will be with us every step of the way as we really try to filter everything about our lives through Him. I don’t want to silently declare that I have more power over my life than Jesus does.

Here is to a prayer filled 2018!

Gospel Truths to Remember This Holiday Season

The holiday season is well underway and I can feel the excitement starting to bubble.  I look forward to the holidays every year and it seems like every year I need to remind myself to stay focused on what the holidays are all about.

Holidays are used for remembering Jesus and his gift of humbly coming to live among us and laying down his life for us. We have a beautiful eternity waiting for us because Jesus chose to take the punishment for us all.

Here is how the holidays usually go for our family: We get really excited about the holidays coming up. We enjoy decorating our house and doing some holiday traditions. We start signing up for things without thinking about it because it is the holiday season and we can. We start to feel really stressed about gifts, obligations to family/friends, pressures we are putting on ourselves, etc. We end up needing to reevaluate the season and what it is for.

I don’t like that I get to the point every year where I need to reevaluate what I am doing.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5  

When I need to reevaluate what I am doing with my life, I find myself going back to John 15:5 over and over again.  I often want the future laid out for me so that I know where a decision is going to lead me when I take it. Life doesn’t work like that, often God only reveals a bit of his plan to us at a time.  When I am remaining in the vine, I am taking baby steps in faith and trusting that God is in charge of the whole world.

Another reason that I need to reevaluate at Christmas time is because of guilt.  Guilt is not a feeling that comes from God. Don’t get me wrong, God convicts us when we have sinned and are in need of repentance, but God doesn’t give us a spirit of guilt about our performances in life. When we feel like we are not good enough because of any obligation that we have put on ourselves or others have put on us, that is not from God. That is from the father of lies.

The holidays often bring up a lot of guilt for us because we want to be everything for everyone. We want our children to have great memories of holiday traditions that we created for them. We want our meals to be spectacular and we want to buy the perfect gift that will make our loved ones feel special. Everywhere we look this time of year, there are reminders about the things that we “should” be doing.

When we are connected to the vine, we know what we should be doing. We need to be having faith in Him and taking baby steps of faith each day.  Just this week I found myself wondering if we could afford family Christmas pajamas to give the kids on Christmas Eve. Then I feel like I add extra stress to myself because I then would want the perfect picture of the family wearing the pajamas to post to social media. Already here are two ways that I have been tempted to kick Jesus out of Christmas and worship the commercialism all around us.

Ultimately those pajamas would have been worn very few times and I probably would have been frustrated with my children if they weren’t cooperating for pictures. None of this teaches my children about the amazing gospel story and what a gift it was to receive our Immanuel (God with us) that Christmas so many years ago.

Maybe you are feeling connected to the vine and excited about the holidays approaching.  Maybe you are battling your own temptations to commercialize Christmas and add extra stress to your life. Let’s try and commit to making sure that we are abiding in Him this Christmas season and experience the true joy that comes from knowing Him instead of the counterfeit joy that comes from worshiping things of this earth.

Episode 23: The Gospel and Car Rides

 

Car rides can be a place of frustration for families trying to navigate life together. We will explore the problems that can arise during long car rides and discuss how we can apply the gospel message to the problems in the car.

Episode 22: Off the Cuff

 

This episode ended up a little different than most of our podcast episodes. We were going to try out a topic and we even recorded the first half and it just seemed flat. We decided that we would try to go “off the cuff” and just talk about what we feel like God is putting in our hearts recently.  This episode covers different topics like being members of a church body, rest, finding balance in Jesus, etc. We hope you enjoy it. We certainly won’t be recording like this every podcast but we will be trying it again every once in awhile. Enjoy this off the cuff episode.

Episode 21: Results vs. Obedience

Episode 21 delves into our human temptation to look to the results of our lives instead of looking to God for obedience.  We often measure our success by worldly standards and then we miss out on the opportunity that God had for us.  We look into Paul and Jesus’s ministry and see that they didn’t have 100% results and we won’t either. We need to look heavenward instead of looking to our results as a measuring stick for our lives.

 

 

Show Notes

Introduction and Conclusion music is Buddy by Bensound.com

Bible Verses

  • Ephesians 2:8-9
  • Isaiah 30:15
  • Isaiah 40:29-31
  • Proverbs 16:9
  • Galatians 2:15-16
  • Philippians 3:7-14
  • Acts 20:22-24
Books
  • You Are Special by Max Lucado
  • Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson

Episode 20: Sounding the Alarm

This week’s episode is a walk through the book of Ezekiel and the main themes that we found while reading it.

Show Notes

Introduction and Conclusion music is Buddy by Bensound.com

Bible Verses

  • Ezekiel Chapter 7 and 33 about the watchmen
    • Acts 20
  • Ezekiel 13:10 on False Prophets

 

The Daily Grind and the Christian Walk

So we all hear this amazing gospel message about how Jesus is our Savior and took the punishment for all of our sin so that we can be fully forgiven and live eternally with God.  We hear these amazing stories and we know them in our core, but living in this world can make us quickly forget Jesus’s amazing gift.

Here is how the day usually goes for me.  I wake up and read God’s Word and I feel refreshed and ready to face the day.  I feel close to God and thankful for the gift he gave me.  I go from feeling refreshed to drained when the kids wake up and often it is a struggle to get out the door or we have a rough drop off at daycare.

There are imperfections going to work because often I will forget something or feel rushed.  A day this week I was called to one of my children’s classroom because they were having a hard time and I had to go comfort them.  When our children are feeling sad, it is often hard to think of anything else.  Later when I saw that child they had all but forgotten about it but this mother was still worrying.

Throughout the workday there are things to deal with and often I make mistakes within my job because I am not a perfect human being and those mistakes need to be cleaned up.

When I get home sometimes the supper hour goes awry and I feel guilt because the meal was not to the kids’s liking or not nutritious enough.  There is supper to clean up and lots of things to do before the kids go to bed.

I think in everyday there are thoughts that come and threaten to steal my joy.  The thoughts come to distract me from the Gospel that God wants me to live out in my daily life.

Then I think about God and his power and his sovereignty.  I think that these imperfections in my life aren’t there because he feels like picking on me, but because sin has entered the world. I long for the perfection that God intended, but I can use the imperfections to lean into Him.  He wants me to acknowledge that I am not God, nor do I want to be.  Talk about a burdensome job, I can’t imagine all that God has to deal with!

My biggest problems in life come when I think that I can do God’s job better than he can.  I usually don’t think I am trying to do God’s job, but when I try to take control of my life that is exactly what I am doing.  I am non-verbally telling God that I don’t think he can do it and that I am more qualified to handle the situation. How arrogant of me.  These are times that I need to repent of my prideful sins.

There is my answer right there:  to remember the Gospel throughout my day, I need to acknowledge that I am not God throughout the day.  I am God’s servant and I am called to follow His will for my life.  After that thought enters my mind I can take a huge exhale and I feel so much peace.  So when my children are fighting with each other I can faithfully discipline them and pray that God will be sovereign in the situation.  I can know that God is handling everything and I don’t need to be afraid.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

 

The next time I feel burdened by the daily grind I need to remember to stop everything in my mind and remember that God is in control.  Thankfully I don’t have to deal with the world’s problems because I have a Perfect Creator who is already doing that.

Episode 19: Our Story: From Nominal to Surrendered

Our family has been on a journey for the past few years just trying to understand just what it means to follow Jesus. We have stumbled upon some resources that have greatly helped us in our walk with Jesus.  We have come to the realization that we put Jesus in a compartment for most of our lives instead of treating Him like Lord of our lives.  We will discuss our journey to fully surrendering to Him in this podcast.

Show Notes

Introduction and Conclusion music is Buddy by Bensound.com

Books

  • Radical by David Platt
  • Follow Me by David Platt
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan

I Never Knew You

“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you, Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Matthew 7:21-23

These words have weighted heavily on my mind for many years.  I have been terrified that when I stand before a Holy God and look to Jesus to save me, he will say to me, “I never knew you.” Oftentimes, I would skim over this verse and try to distract myself to something else so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.  I think our culture teaches us that distraction is the name of the game.  If we are worried about where we are going to spend eternity, we should distract ourselves so we don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Friends, I don’t want this distraction to rule my life or your lives.  Satan wants us to think that we have all the time in the world to get our lives right and have assurance of our eternity.  The truth of the matter is, we don’t know when our time will be up.  This world is filled with uncertainty and our lives are very fragile things.  We could be gone in an instant.  I am sure that all of us know people who have died very young or stories where people died in an instant that were otherwise perfectly healthy.  I think we know in our hearts that our time on earth is fleeting, yet we get sucked into the ways of the world and allow ourselves to be distracted from our ultimate mission here.

Jesus’s last words to his disciples were:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:18-20

According to Jesus, our mission here is to go and make disciples of all nations.  We are to spend our lives glorifying God by telling others about Him.  Nothing else matters.  We get so sucked in to our lives that we are not fulfilling the great commission that Jesus set before us.  Satan is feeding us with lies and filling our churches with hesitation and distraction.  Sunday mornings are spent discussing sporting events in the fellowship hall instead of spurring each other on to fulfill our life’s purpose.

Here is where when Jesus says, “I never knew you,” is so convicting.  We don’t truly know Jesus if we aren’t fulfilling what he told us to do.  We can’t truly know Jesus if we are not in The Word and praying for guidance over our lives.  My life is not supposed to be lived so that I can be as comfortable as I can be and enjoy all the things I want to enjoy.  My life is here so that I can tell others the good news that I know and help others be able to spend an eternity with our Father.

How will Jesus know us?  I think he knows us when we are faithful to his commands.  When we follow what he is teaching us and have him be the focal point of our lives instead of our own desires. Oftentimes we try to make Jesus a compartment in our lives instead of the focal point.  We can’t truly know Jesus if we are serving ourselves.  Francis Chan sums it up nicely in his book, Multiply:

“The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don’t get to write our own job description. If Jesus is Lord, then He sets the agenda. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then your life belongs to Him. He has a plan, agenda, and calling for you. You don’t get to tell Him what you’ll be doing today or for the rest of your life.”

When we know Jesus, we know that we serve Him. The apostle, Paul, calls himself a slave to God all over the New Testament.  This is what our lives should look like.  Our lives are not our own, we were bought at a price.  Jesus’ blood paid the price for our sin and for that we should be eternally grateful.  Our gratitude should spill out into all areas of our life and we should live as slaves to Jesus’s plan for us.

I want to be careful in saying all this because I don’t want it to be thought that we need good works to be saved.  All we need is Jesus to be saved.  He died on the cross for our sin and all we are to do is rest in Him for our entire lives.  When we are resting in Him, we will find that we want to do His will and follow Him.  That is how we stay connected to Him.  We obey His commands and when we go out of our comfort zones to obey Him, we can feel His presence firmly in our lives.

This isn’t the most pleasant topic area because the fact of the matter is a life of eternity whether eternal life with God or eternal separation from God are hard to fathom.  We can’t fully grasp the weight of that, so we think about other things.  I would encourage you to spend some time thinking about where you are going to spend eternity and how you are living your life.  Would Jesus be able to say that he knew you? Are we giving our entire selves to Jesus or are we offering Him a compartment?  These are questions that need to be answered in all of our lives.

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