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When I Surrender, I Worship

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When we began our study on surrender, Romans 12:1 was one of the first Scriptures we studied. Now that we are coming to the end of our study, we go back to this important verse.

Laura says, “Considering all that Christ has done for us – making us right with God by his atoning death, freeing us from the penalty and power of sin, lavishing us with his grace – how should we respond?

After eleven chapters full of rich truths that are the foundation of our faith in Christ Jesus, the apostle Paul begins chapter 12 of Romans with his answer to this question. How should we respond to the grace and mercy of God? The only appropriate response is found in surrender, in presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Paul says, this “is your spiritual worship.

We don’t surrender our lives to God to gain his favor. We offer ourselves to him in response to the favor he has already freely shown us because of the saving work of Jesus.

A CORRECT UNDERSTANDING OF WORSHIP
Worship is not an emotional response, though often emotions may be a part of it. Worship is not singing songs of praise, though singing is often a part of it. True worship is a choice to respond to God in gratitude and praise for who He is and for all He has done for us.

True worship, according to Romans 12:1, is presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Surrender is the main requirement for worship. And worship is to be constant because it is an expression of God’s worth, which never changes, even when our circumstances and emotions fluctuate from day to day.

Laura shares a feeling of apprehension when she first began to understand the link between surrender and worship. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. But none of us are holy. Even our best attempts at surrender are imperfect.

Laura says, “I can’t present myself as a holy and blameless sacrifice on the basis of my track record. But I can present myself to God as holy and blameless based on his mercy!” When God looks at us he doesn’t see our self-centeredness and failures. He sees in us the righteousness of Jesus.

As we bring this study to a close today and tomorrow, let’s spend some timBlamelesse in thanksgiving and praise. And to get us started, I want to share the chorus of a song written by Laura Story reminding us this life we have is no longer ours to do with as we please.

Not My Life

This is not my life
It is Yours, it is Yours
This is not my heart
It is Yours, it is Yours
I surrender all I am
Place my life into Your hands
Jesus, I am Yours
I am Yours

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Jesus: Our Example of Surrender

This week, we are coming to the end of our study of I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life, by Laura Story.

Christian author Katherine J Walden said concerning surrender:

“The enemy knows that without surrender, we will never experience the freedom that God offers us. Without surrender, we will remain spiritually malnourished, ill and confused. Without surrender, our foxholes become prisons of the enemy’s making. Our lack of full surrender limits God’s ability to both work in our lives and through our lives.

“God’s call to surrender is not an intimidating, angry bark heard from the other side of a battlefield. God’s invitation to surrender is expressed through the example of his Son, Jesus, as described in Philippians 2:5-11.”

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians‬ ‭2:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The call to surrender is a call to live like Jesus lived. He willingly took on human flesh, taking on the very nature of a servant. He humbled himself by becoming obedient, even to the point of death on the Cross of Calvary. His choice to always do whatever his heavenly Father asked enabled him to be victorious.

The decision to live a lifestyle of surrender to God can simply be described as following Jesus. And by making this choice, we are set free to live in the freedom God offers us, to walk in the victory he gained. 

A lifestyle of surrender is also a life of putting others before ourselves. As Laura Story says,  surrender has a “ripple effect.” If you’ve ever thrown a stone in the water, you’ve noticed the ripple effect – with concentric circles going out from the place of contact. How we live matters, not only in our personal lives but also in the lives of those around us. As we follow Jesus’ example, we aren’t the only ones who are changed.

Philippians 2:5 mentions that the mindset of Christ Jesus is to make a difference in our relationships with one another. And to understand more clearly what that means, we just need to look at the two verses right before this passage about the mindset of Jesus.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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I wanted to close today with Laura Story’s latest song, one that reminds us of the victory that Jesus won on our behalf. As she says, “Our fears and our failures hang dead on the cross.” And because we were crucified with him, we are able to share in His life and His victory.  Following Jesus is choosing the lifestyle he lived, a life of daily surrender to the will of God. And doing so means sharing in His victory, which includes all of the benefits that are a part of that.

 

Love Is!

Our focus for this week in Laura Story’s Bible study “I Give Up” has been two-fold.

  • First, we looked at the “How” of surrender, in light of John 15. In simple terms, the key to developing a lifestyle of surrender is abiding in the Lord and allowing His life and power to flow through us. 
  • Second, we looked at The Fruit of the Spirit, with a focus on the first fruit listed, love.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23NIV‬‬

The fruit of the Spirit was never intended to be seen as a list of goals for us to fulfill. That is a task that is guaranteed to end in failure. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t fruit we can produce in our own strength. No, it is the Holy Spirit through us who produces this fruit.

Fruit in our lives is determined by who or what controls our hearts. Galatians 5:16 makes this clear. It says, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” But the opposite is also true. If you walk in the weakness of your flesh, you will gratify the desires of the flesh. That’s why we focused on abiding in Jesus, the true Vine, before looking at the fruit of the Spirit.

We demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit when we allow the Holy Spirit, also known as the Spirit of Jesus, to flow through us to those around us. Galatians 4:6 says, “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts…” The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, at work in our lives, conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ.

Author Jerry Bridges said, “The fruit of the Spirit is fundamentally relational. Rather than originating with us, it flows to us from our union with Christ, and it flows beyond us to bring us into fellowship with others. The secret of this flow – and our unity with God and others – is humility.

The first fruit of the Spirit is love. Some have even said love IS the fruit of the Spirit and the other eight qualities are demonstrations of love. The English word for love has a very broad meaning. But the Greek word translated “love” in Galatians 5:22, “agape”, has a very precise meaning. This love is not a feeling but rather a choice. It is a godly love which comes directly from God. It is the very nature of God, an unconditional love that God has offered us freely and He wants to flow through us to others. It is a sacrificial love, as seen in God willingly offering His own Son to pay the penalty for our sins so we could be restored to relationship with Him.

As Christians, the fruit of the Spirit of love is demonstrated in two main ways. Both are commands, given by Jesus in Matthew 22: 37-39.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

First, we are called to love the Lord with our whole being. It’s easy to see this love as a demonstration of surrender. The apostle John wrote, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The second command to love has to do with our “neighbor” – and Jesus made it clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan that a neighbor is anyone in need of our mercy (see Luke 10:25-37). Love for our “neighbor” is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

As you think about the fruit of love this week, I encourage you to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do I love God with my whole heart and soul and mind? If my answer is no, what or who do I love more than my Savior and Lord?
  2. How does God want me to be a conduit of His love to those around me, starting with my own family? Is there something God is asking me to do to show His love to my “neighbor”?

As you answer these two questions, don’t lose sight of the underlying truth from this week. In our own strength, we will never be what God has called us to be or do what God has called us to do. Be sure you are attached to the true Vine, Jesus Christ, because that’s the only way we can love like He loves.

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The Lord Is My Shepherd

This week, we are looking at the character of this One to whom we are called to submit. And one way we know the Lord is as our Shepherd.

Psalm 23 begins with the Hebrew words “Yahweh rohi,” the Lord my Shepherd. Yahweh, in our English Bibles LORD (in all caps), is the unique and sacred name of the Everlasting and Eternal God – the almighty, omniscient and omnipotent Creator.

The New Testament focuses on God incarnate, God in human flesh, Who we know as Jesus Christ. He is identified in John 10:11 as the Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” So both Father (Yahweh) and Son (Jesus Christ) are the Shepherd of those who have surrendered to their rule.

Psalm 23 was written by David, who during his youth had been a shepherd over his father’s flock. He took seriously his responsibility as the protector of the sheep.

In 1 Samuel 17, we read of some of young David’s experiences as a shepherd. In answer to King Saul’s concern that David was only a youth, not able to go against the Philistine giant Goliath who was taunting the army of Israel, David recalls some of the dangers he faced and overcame as he was tending sheep for his father, saying this Philistine would be like one of the lions or bears he battled as a shepherd.

“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.” (1 Samuel 17:33-34 ESV)  

Sheep are definitely not the smartest animals God created! They constantly need to be under the watchful eye of a shepherd as they graze. In the hilly terrain of Palestine, sheep faced many dangers. For example, if one sheep jumped off a cliff, and there was no shepherd there to protect them, the whole flock would likely follow. Therefore having an alert and vigilant shepherd to watch over them was essential.

Let’s look at Psalm 23 verse by verse. In these six short verses, we are promised:

* RELATIONSHIP AND PROVISION:The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:1a‬) (The word translated “want” ‬refers to not lacking anything we need.)

* REST AND RESTORATION:He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3a)

* GUIDANCE AND PURPOSE: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:3b‬)‬

* GOD’S PRESENCE AND COMFORT:Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:4)‬

* BLESSING AND ABUNDANCE: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:5)

* GOD’S GOODNESS AND MERCY AND AN ETERNITY WITH HIM: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:6‬)‭

Like sheep, we are helpless, defenseless, and even purposeless without God in our lives. We need a Shepherd who will protect, provide, and give purpose to our lives. And God wants to be that good Shepherd in our lives.

There’s just one problem. As sheep we are not always wanting what our Good Shepherd provides. W. Phillip Keller, author of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, wrote, “It takes some of us a lifetime to learn that Christ, our Good Shepherd, knows exactly what He is doing with us. He understands us perfectly.

We want the care of the Good Shepherd while still reserving the right to do things our way. But that’s not the way it works. Surrender to the One who is our Good Shepherd is to key to being able to partake of all the benefits of being one of His sheep. On this Thankful Thursday, let’s make sure there are no areas of our lives we are refusing to surrender to the Lordship of Christ and then give thanks to God for all the blessings that are a part of the life of surrender.

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Running to the Lord in our Hopelessness

On May 31st, my husband and I had planned to join some friends from our church to celebrate the seventh birthday of a dear friend. But I woke up with extreme pain and swelling in my left knee and my husband ended up going without me. This was the first of a long list of changes in my plans that is still continuing. I now know a little more of what is causing the pain, but four months later I’m no closer to an answer concerning what to do about it.

Each path we have tried to go down has led to a dead end. First, knee replacement surgery wasn’t recommended because of the extensive nerve pain in my knee, which could potentially be made worse from any knee surgery. Cortisone injections did nothing to relieve the pain. And the latest disappointment, after two sessions of physical therapy the pain and swelling in my knee became so bad this weekend that my therapist is meeting to morning to talk with the therapy supervisor to make a decision about whether it’s even safe to continue the exercises she has been teaching me.

Today, my heart has been asking one question. When life with chronic illness is marked by one disappointment after another, when every recommended treatment option leads to another dead end, what are we to do? How do we hold onto our hope in the Lord?

Let’s look at the life of a man in the Bible who experienced overwhelming fear and hopelessness and see if there are any lessons we can learn. The story is found in 1 Kings 19:1-8.

“Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.”
‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭19:1-8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So what did Elijah do in this passage? Other than feeling sorry for himself and asking the Lord to take his life, little worth mentioning. He ran away, but not from God. He was honest with the Lord about where he was emotionally, which was a place where he had lost all hope. And then he laid down and slept, only awakening when an angel touched him twice and provided food and water. Elijah was passive, all the work was done by the Lord. Elijah simply received from the Lord and was strengthened to continue the journey.

When chronic illness or any of the other problems we face in this life strip away our last bit of hope, all God asks of us is to come to Him. Remember, He made us with emotions, and therefore he knows best how to deal with them. If you are battling hopelessness today because of difficult circumstances that you can see no way out of, don’t pretend everything is okay. Run to the Lord and be honest with Him about where you are. Let Him meet the needs you have, and rest in His provision. He will strengthen you to face tomorrow.

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Never Alone: Three Benefits of Being Jesus’ Sheep

Today’s I Am Not Alone Scripture, John 10:27-30, has special meaning to me during this difficult season I’ve been walking through. In the midst of some of the biggest health challenges I’ve faced in several years, I’ve experienced the ability to hear the voice of God as clearly as I ever recall during my nearly fifty years as a believer in Christ. Yes, there have been times when God was silent. But overall, as I’ve spent time daily in God’s Word and seeking understanding of the path He is taking me down, His clear direction has given comfort that He is with me in all that I have been and still am walking through.f

Another important truth in these verses: No one is able to snatch us out of the Father’s hand! If we have repented of our sin, received Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we have been given eternal life and that’s not going to change.

Protection from the attack of wolves and other predators is one of the responsibilities of the shepherd, and our Good Shepherd will never fail to fulfill this responsibility for His sheep. We are safe and secure in Him. He will lead us by His voice, provide the Spiritual nourishment we need to keep growing through His Word, and protect us from the attacks of the enemy as we grow in our knowledge of Him.

What are you needing today from your Good Shepherd? First, make sure He truly is your Shepherd, that you are one of His sheep. And if you are secure in this truth, remember the benefits of being His sheep.

  • You are able to hear His voice. The main way He speaks to us is through His written Word, but sometimes He also uses other Christians, the still small voice of His Spirit within, and even circumstances to make His voice heard. Just be sure what you are hearing lines up with His written Word, because He never contradicts Himself. “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.” (John 8:47a)
  • He will lead you and you have the freedom to decide to be led. God doesn’t force us to follow Him. But if we have truly made Jesus both Savior and Lord, one of the fruits in our lives will be a desire to do what is pleasing in His eyes. “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians‬ ‭5:8-10‬)‬‬
  • He will protect us when the enemy comes against us. We have a part in this too, but by putting on the full armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10-18), we will be empowered to stand and keep on standing in the victory our Good Shepherd has already won on our behalf. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:57‬)‬‬

Ten Essential Truths About The Goodness of God

Yesterday, I did a short “Thankful Thursday” post for God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness on Strengthening Ourselves in the Lord. It was based on 1 Samuel 30, where David and his men return to their home-base in Ziklag, only to find the city had been attacked by Amalekite raiders, burned to the ground, and all the inhabitants of the city, including the wives and children of David and his men, taken captive.

As if this wasn’t enough for David to deal with, the passage also tells us that his own men had turned against him and were talking of stoning him. To say David felt overwhelmed is an understatement. Yes, the passage says David (and those with him) “wept until they had no strength to weep.” But then David did something else. The final words of 1 Samuel 30:6 say, “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” After doing this, David had the courage and wisdom to turn this dire situation around.

This has been a difficult week, as I’ve dealt with the disappointment of no obvious improvement in knee pain well past the five days it usually takes to tell if a cortisone injection will be effective. But after reading this passage, I had to admit my bad days aren’t even worthy to compare with what David experienced in this chapter.

I also knew God had a clear message for me from this Old Testament historical narrative. I needed to spend some time strengthening and encouraging myself in the Lord. That was the “next step” God was calling me to take, before I was ready to face the uncertainties of the future and begin moving forward.

And the Lord went a step further and showed me a specific area where the enemy had been using difficult circumstances of the last nine months to chip away at my trust in one of the major truths of the Christian life, the goodness of God. Without a firm foundation built on the goodness of our God, difficult circumstances can result in a type of emotional paralysis that keeps us from moving forward.

I’ve spent some time yesterday afternoon and this morning studying what God’s word has to say about the goodness of our God. God is with us whether we have awareness of His presence or not. He is always loving, whether our circumstances are a clear reflection of that love or not. And God is good, in every situation, even when our emotions are making it hard for us to believe this.

The truths that God is with us and will never leave or forsake us, that He loves us with a steadfast and unfailing love, and that no matter what is going on in our lives God is still good are three foundational truths about the nature of God that we need to accept by faith to make it through the tough seasons of life.

Ten Essentials Truths About the Goodness of God

  1. The goodness of our God is with us always, whether we have awareness of it in our emotions or not.
  2. God both is good and does good, goodness marks His nature and His works. “You are good and do good…”(Psalm 119:68a)
  3. God’s goodness follows me daily through this life, and because He gave His Son for my sins – His ultimate act of goodness – I will spend eternity with Him. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
  4. By faith I receive God’s goodness in the midst of daily trials. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” (Psalm 27:13)
  5. God’s goodness is tangible – we can “taste and see” it. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8 ESV)
  6. Because of His goodness, He is a stronghold we can flee to in the day of trouble. “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” (Nahum 1:7)
  7. Giving thanks to the Lord should be our response to His goodness. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1)
  8. God’s goodness is for all. “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:9)
  9. God especially promises to show goodness to all who wait on Him. “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”(Lamentations 3:25-26)
  10. While goodness is a fruit of the Spirit and a character attribute we are to extend toward others, no one is fully and truly good but God! “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19)

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