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“The Wonder of All Wonders”

In the evening, when all of my responsibilities for the day are done, one of my favorite ways to relax is to read a Christian novel, especially a mystery story. Since these stories usually center around solving a puzzling crime, they keep my interest until the end.

In the Bible, the word mystery isn’t quite the same as the world’s idea of a mystery. It refers to truths that are undiscoverable by human understanding. Only by revelation from God do these truths become learnable. The focus of this week’s Advent devotions from God Is In The Manger, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, center around the biblical theme of mystery.

To live without these mysteries is to live limited to human reason, seeing only what is visible on the surface. Mystery is used over 45 times in the Bible, most in the New Testament. A few of these are the mystery of lawlessness and iniquity, the mystery of the will of God, the mystery of Christ and the church, and the mystery of the kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven in Mathew).

But there is one mystery that stands out above all the others. To live without God’s mysteries being revealed is to live without Christ Jesus, because we cannot come to the a knowledge of Christ Jesus or accept Him without the Father drawing us.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John‬ ‭6‬:‭44‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In Colossians 2:2-3, Paul speaks of Christ as “the mystery of God.

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians‬ ‭2‬:‭2‬-‭3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Bonhoeffer calls God’s willingness to become human “The Wonder of All Wonders.” That God loved the people of this fallen world so much that He gave His only Son, Christ Jesus, that those who believe in Him will not perish but would have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus Christ is the unrecognized mystery of this world:

  • He became lowly and weak, out of love for mankind.
  • He shows that God loves the world, not an ideal world but the real, fallen one.
  • He is God revealed in flesh, the God-human Jesus Christ.
  • He was born as a human baby, placed in a lowly manger where animals had been fed.
  • Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter, was also the Lord of glory.
  • He lived a sinless life, then took upon Himself all of our sin.
  • Because of His sacrificial death on the Cross, we can all be forgiven.
  • He is coming back soon for those who eagerly await His return.
God Is In the Manger!

Awaiting the Messiah’s Return

During this Advent Season, I’m reading God In the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, a book of daily devotionals by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written in 1943 while he was in Tegel prison camp in Germany. I will usually be doing a weekly blog post, sharing some truths and quotes that were especially helpful to me. This is a second post on the materials covered in Week 1.

On Week 1, Day 4, Bonhoeffer shifts his focus from Jesus’ first coming to pay the penalty for our sin, to His still future second coming. He begins with what he calls “The Un-Christmas-Like Idea,”

“When the old Christendom spoke of the coming again of the Lord Jesus, it always thought first of all of a great day of judgment.”

There will be two judgments, one for believers and another for unbelievers. Revelation 20:11-15 describes what is called the Great White Throne Judgment. “Books” are mentioned in this passage, the book of life and other unnamed books where the dead whose names were not written in the book of life are judged “according to what they had done.

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation‬ ‭20‬:‭11‬-‭15‬ ‭ESV)‬‬

Those whose names are written in the book of life will not be judged for their sins. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes this clear. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭8‬-‭9‬ ‭ESV‬‬) But this doesn’t mean our works as believers in Christ are not important. The next two Scriptures make it clear that when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ we will give an account for our works IN CHRIST, after we surrender our lives to the Lord. This judgment has to do with rewards versus loss. As Christians, we will all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, where our works at believers will be judged.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5‬:‭10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭3‬:‭12‬-‭13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

2 Corinthians 5:11 begins with these words: “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. Most of the people who read my blog posts have committed their lives to Christ Jesus as the Savior and Lord. For you, take advantage of this Christmas season by sharing your personal testimony with some who still need to be persuaded of this life-changing decision.

For those reading these words who have not yet made this decision, there is no better time to do so that during this season when we focus on Jesus’ coming as a baby in a manger. For this wasn’t a normal baby. He was God in human flesh, and for thirty-three years He lived a sinless life. Then, Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross, paying the penalty for the sin of all who put their faith in Him. But that isn’t the end of the story. Three days later, He conquered death. As it says in Acts 2:24 (NIV), “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

If you haven’t made the decision to make Jesus Christ your Savior and Lord, I invite you to pray the following prayer.

Lord Jesus, I believe You died on the Cross to pay the penalty for my sin. I recognize I need Your forgiveness for my sins. I want to turn away from living life my own way, but to do that I need Your help. Please come to live in my heart, through Your Holy Spirit. I surrender my life to You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You for forgiving my sin and accepting me as Your child. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

The Christmas season after I graduated from college was when I personally made this life-changing decision. My life – and my Christmas celebrations – have never been the same since then. If you prayed the above prayer, I believe this will also be a part of your testimony. Jesus will no longer just be a baby in a manger to you. He will be Your Savior, Lord, and coming King.

✡️ Awaiting the Messiah ✝️

Hopefully Waiting for Jesus

During this Advent Season, I’m reading “God In the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas,” a book of daily devotionals by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written in 1943 while he was in Tegel prison camp in Germany. I will be sharing some of the most important points from this book, points that really stood out to me. This week, I’ll be dividing the material into two posts, since it would be difficult to share all of the important points in one post.

GOD IN THE MANGER: REFLECTIONS ON ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS, WEEK 1, PART 1

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor, theologian, and peace activist. He wrote without compromise about the Christian faith, as he stood against atrocities of the Nazi Regime. He was imprisoned shortly after Hitler’s cruel reign began in 1943, and was executed just weeks before the end of the war. God In the Manger was originally in German, and the version I’ve reading was translated by O. C. Dean Jr. and compiled and edited by Jana Riess.

Week 1 in this devotional focuses on the truth that Advent is A SEASON OF WAITING. The word “advent” comes from a Latin word, “adventus”, that means “arrival or appearance.” For Christians, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and is a period of preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ Jesus’ first coming as an infant, God in human flesh, also known as the Incarnation. It is also a reminder that He has promised to come again, this time as Conquering King.

In a letter to his best friend Eberhard Bethge, as the holiday season was approaching in 1943, Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other—things that are really of no consequence—the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”

Since I have personally been in a season of waiting on God for several months for an answer to prayer, this week of devotions was encouraging to me. One quote from Day 2 especially stood out to me.

“Celebrating Advent means being able to wait… Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting – that is, of hopefully doing without – will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.”

Waiting on the Lord to answer our prayers is in essence “hopefully doing without.” This was one of the most helpful quotes I’ve even read about waiting on God. God seldom moves in our timing, so waiting with hope and expectation is the key to not giving up.

In Week One, Day Three, Bonhoeffer explains that not everyone can successfully wait on the Lord. It takes a special kind of people, those who understand that they are poor and incomplete in themselves, waiting on the Holy One, the only Complete One, “God in the Child in the manger.” He is our source of strength and power to live in a way that is pleasing to the Father.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2‬:‭12‬-‭13‬ ‭ESV)‬‬

When Jesus came in Bethlehem, He came as the LAMB OF GOD who would take away the sins of all who placed their faith in Him. John 3:16, the best known Bible verse by most people, makes it clear that God gave His Son because of His love for those He created. All men and women, boys and girls, are offered this gift, but to receive it we must believe in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (‭‭John‬ ‭3‬:‭16‬ ‭ESV)‬‬

Jesus, a descendant of the tribe of Judah, will soon be coming a second time, as the LION OF JUDAH. Lions symbolize power, fierceness, and majesty. Lions have been called the king of the beasts. When Jesus returns, He will come as the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” (Revelation 1:5) Hebrews 9:28 says this time He will be coming for “those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Does that include you?

SWITCHING TRACKS!

I’m currently reading “You’re Going to Be Okay: Encouraging Truth Your Heart Needs to Hear, Especially on the Hard Days,” by Holley Gerth. She had the clearest understanding of renewing the mind that I’ve ever read.

“The other day I pulled up to a railroad crossing just as a train came barreling through it. At the last minute, it screeched to a halt and an engineer jumped out of the first car. He ran to the track, made some adjustments, and hopped back in to continue the journey. As I looked closer, I could see exactly what he’d done – switched the track.

“Our thoughts are a lot like that train. They go speeding through life, and we don’t give much intentional focus to them. They run on automatic based on past experiences and how we’ve taught ourselves to respond to different situations. Every time you react a certain way, your brain makes a note of it. That means the thoughts you think most have the strongest tracks, and your mind automatically goes there.

“When you decide to ‘renew your mind,’ it means stepping off the train and switching the tracks. We have to do this again and again. Then at some point, your brain realizes that this is the new normal response, and it goes there automatically.”

The mind is renewed one area at a time, as we apply this process. Our thinking changes as we apply “the mind of Christ” to our circumstances or sin pattern. Then we do it again and again, until our thinking in this area conforms to the Word of God automatically. Our new normal response is no longer conformed to the ways of this world. Our thoughts in this area now line up with the “good and acceptable and perfect” will of God.

Coping With Emotions During the Coronavirus Pandemic

“Our feelings do not affect God’s facts.
They may blow up, like clouds, and cover the
eternal things that we do most truly believe.
We may not see the shining of the promises—
but they still shine! His strength is not for one
moment less because of our human weakness.”
– Amy Carmichael

As I sat down to have my quiet time this morning, my feelings were definitely not where I wanted them to be. These stressful circumstances all of us have been walking through for the last three months and the uncertainty concerning what lies ahead have me feeling numb on the inside. Weariness, along with the physical pain of a flare of sciatica, made staying in bed today much more appealing than getting dressed and spending time reading God’s Word and praying. But I knew from personal experience that would not have been a wise choice.

I’ve learned that how I start my day sets the direction for the whole day. I have a morning routine that usually begins with half-an-hour of gentle exercise. It only took me a couple minutes to realize this wasn’t going to be a part of today’s routine. So I got dressed, prepared and ate a quick breakfast, and drank a cup of coffee. Then I took some unhurried time in God’s Word and prayer.

God created us with emotions, they are a gift from God, one aspect of our being created in His image. Jesus, who lived a perfect, sinless life, experienced a wide range of emotions. He was angry at the Pharisees because of the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:1-6), yet had compassion on the crowds who came to hear Him speak (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:23). He wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazurus (John 11:35). He experienced deep agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, even while choosing the will of the Father above His own (Mark 14:32-34). Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God and the firstborn of every creature.” In Jesus, we see what our Heavenly Father is like, including the emotions that are a part of His nature.
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Emotions are a part of our regenerated nature and a vital part of connecting us to other people and to God Himself. But unfortunately, emotions are also wired into our fallen nature. Sin and Satan have access to them and will try to use them to manipulate us to act in ways that are not pleasing to God. That’s why we can’t allow our emotions to determine our choices, to rule our lives.

In her book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, Lysa TerKeurst wrote:

“Feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift . . . called self-control.”

By their nature, human emotions are highly variable. They were never meant to determine how we walk. God has provided His Word and the Holy Spirit as reliable guides. The only way to overcome the ups and downs of our emotions is to fill our minds with God’s Word, our source of truth. And remember, God has also provided the Holy Spirit to guide us into His will for our lives. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13)

We can’t control the things that happen to us each day, but we can control how we think about them. Emotions are rooted in our thoughts, so the only way to bring them under control is to change how we’re thinking. Sometimes, we just need a change of perspective, a decision to look at our circumstances through the lens of God’s Word instead of through our disappointments and anxieties. Romans 12:2 calls this renewing our minds. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ‬

I’d like to close with a prayer I received in my email, a prayer from New Life Ministries that helped me get on track this morning when I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster ride. This simple prayer helped me to change my perspective and not allow my emotions to be in charge. If you’re struggling emotionally, I encourage you to make this your prayer.

“Heavenly Father, You are my strength and my refuge. As I journey through this day, I will encounter events that cause me emotional distress. Lord, when I am troubled, let me turn to You. Keep me steady, Lord, and in those difficult moments, renew a right spirit inside my heart. Amen”

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Living For Eternity

SOMETIMES LIFE HURTS. That’s definitely been true in my life during the last fourteen months. First, we lost our special-needs son David, then I found myself dealing with a long list of new health issues that seemed to have no simple solutions. During such times, it’s easy to become disheartened.

As I was praying this morning about this Wednesday’s RECLAIMING YOUR LIFE post, one of the first books we studied in God-Living Girls came to mind. Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, is the life story of Sara Frankl, co-written by Mary Carver.

Sara Frankl knew what it was to live with chronic pain. As a young woman, she was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disease and form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine but can also attack other joints. As Sara’s disease progressed it became clear that her health was not going to get better.

The pain and loss could have easily become Sara’s primary focus, but she decided this wasn’t how she wanted to live. Sara chose to place her trust in a God Who is good all the time and to find hope and purpose in the midst of the pain. She chose joy, not happiness which she described as being “flimsy as a shirt blowing on a line in the breeze.” She chose “true heart joy, which sustains through obstacles, disease, death.” She lived with an “unwavering trust that God knows what He’s doing and has blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of it.” 

Sara lived with relentless pain, but she chose to focus on the blessings instead of the burdens. She believed God had a purpose for her illness or He would have taken it away. And she accepted God’s plan, though it was difficult, and focused on what God wanted to do through her life. She wrote, “It’s not about me; it’s about what He can do with me. My job is simply to pay attention and enjoy the rainbows.”

Sara made it her goal to live the best life she could with what she had been given. She knew it wouldn’t be the life she had expected to live before this disease touched her life, but accepted it as the one God meant for her to live. Though Sara may never have used the term RECLAIMING YOUR LIFE, that’s how she lived.

Sara Frankl came up with six life goals which she wrote on her wall. They were a constant reminder of what was most important to her and they became the motivation for every choice she made.

As we focus this year on reclaiming what chronic illness has stolen from our lives, I felt Sara’s Life Goals would be a good launching pad for each of us to come up with our own life goals as we press on to live in the fullness of what God has in mind for our lives. The following verses encourage us to forget what is behind and press on toward fulfilling the goals God has set before us.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

Sara’s Life Goals:

  1. To not be ashamed to stand before God.
  2. To fulfill God’s plan by living the best life I can live with what I am given.
  3. To be aware and present in every moment.
  4. To love what I have, not yearn for what I lack.
  5. To spread the Joy, not the fear.
  6. To be intentional in all things.

Now, it’s your turn. If you have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you will one day stand in His presence. Let’s look beyond our earthly desires for a while and focus on eternity. What are the goals you hope to fulfill before you see Jesus face-to-face? What principles do you go back to over and over again to guide your decisions? Share some of your personal life goals with us in the comments.

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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.

 

Peace or Anxiety – You Choose!

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When the apostle Paul wrote these familiar words, he was nearing the end of his two years of house arrest in Rome, which ended with his death as a martyr.  Based on a vision in which the Lord stood near Paul and told him he must testify in Rome (Acts‬ ‭23:11‬), Paul’s life took a drastic turn. When he testified in Jerusalem before King Agrippa, Paul appealed to Caesar and was escorted to Rome under armed guard. The apostle Paul spent the final two years of his life chained‬ to a Roman guard, but they were not wasted years. During that time, he wrote the books of the New Testament that we now know as Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, in addition to proclaiming the kingdom of God and boldly teaching all who came to see him about the Lord Jesus Christ.

As I did a study of the book of Acts earlier this year, reading the stories of Paul, Peter and the other apostles, their surrender to the revealed will of God, regardless of the personal cost involved, was something that stood out to me.  These leaders of the early church had a clear understanding of the subject of surrender, and they lived it out in their daily lives.

But Paul and the other apostles were also fallible humans, just like we are. We tend to put these men up on a pedestal, but I can’t help but wonder if before the apostle Paul wrote these words that teach us how to overcome anxiety he lived them out. The circumstances he faced certainly could have caused anxiety. I suspect Paul learned through personal experience how to replace anxious thoughts with the peace of God. And then he put what he had applied in his own life in writing, leaving us clear instructions on how we overcome anxiety.

When I saw Philippians 4:6-7 was one of the three focus Scriptures for this first week of our I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life Bible study, my first reaction was to wonder what these verses have to do with surrender. But as I’ve faced some circumstances that have caused some fear and anxiety about what lies ahead, I’m beginning to look at Philippians 4:6 through a different lens. The words “in every situation” stand out to me. I don’t know what your “every situation” might include, but mine right now feels a little scary.

Since all the options for treating the recent changes in my left knee have led to dead ends, I don’t know what lies ahead. Yes, I know I need to pray, but I’m having a little trouble with the specific requests since at this point I can’t see God’s plan. I’ve been taking time daily to express thankfulness to the Lord, but I can’t honestly say I’m walking in the peace of God. So how do we get to that place when we know something is wrong but we are powerless to change it? When we see no way out of our situation and don’t know what God is doing?

Laura Story tells of struggling with this when she was expecting their youngest son. After several normal ultrasounds, one wasn’t. Something was wrong, and she experienced anxiety about what was ahead. She says, “Now I knew something would be wrong, and I was powerless to change it. What needed to change most was me.”

She and Martin went to talk with their good friend and pastor, Bill. His advice was that this was a time they needed to wait on the Lord.

Laura agreed that she needed to wait on God, but immediately asked, “What steps do I need to take to do that?”

Bill’s answer was simple. “Wait is wait. There are no steps. You just surrender. And then you sit tight.”

When we face a situation that we are powerless to control and God hasn’t given us understanding of what lies ahead, anxiety may be our reaction. So what do we do in this situation? I’ll share how I usually handle this type of anxiety.

  • Surrender is the first step. Turn the reins over to God. He knows the end from the beginning, and He has the power to bring good out of even those situations that have our emotions in turmoil. Our first prayer is a prayer of surrender
  • Be still and remember He is God. He is still in control. Remember your situation isn’t too big for Him to handle.
  • Immerse yourself in God’s Word – read it, write it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it.
  • Then wait. Wait on God and keep waiting until He reveals a step you need to take or your situation changes. Don’t jump ahead of Him, but when He speaks be quick to obey.
  • Finally, give thanks that He is God and in control of your circumstances. Thank Him for the things He is teaching you though this situation, for the work He is doing in your life as you wait on Him.

Situations that we are powerless to control are NOT beyond God’s control. Surrender to His plan, draw close to Him, and wait expectantly for Him to work. Your circumstances may not change overnight, but you will begin to change.

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What Is Surrender Anyway?

For the next five week’s, I’m going through a Faithgateway Online Bible study on Christian worship leader and recording artist Laura Story’s newest book, I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life. My normal Tuesday and Thursday posts will be centered on the teaching in this book and the related videos and study guide.

The title for this week’s study: “What is Surrender Anyway?” So today’s post is to make sure we understand the true meaning of surrender.

Surrender is basically a military term. It is what an army does when it realizes their opposing army is going to be the victor and they lay down their arms and give up their rights to the conqueror.

This world is a battlefield. Since the Garden of Eden, mankind has ignored and rebelled against our Creator and chosen to walk according to our own desires. In essence, we have joined sides with Satan, who has been called the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

There’s one major problem with that – it puts us on the losing side of the battle. Satan hasn’t yet been totally stripped of his power, but he has been defeated by our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. The battle was won when Jesus became the spotless Lamb of God, died for our sin and rose again.

If you are a Christian, if you have accepted the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross as the full payment for your sin, you did so by surrendering to the drawing of the Holy Spirit, revealing the truth to you that you needed a Savior. But surrendering to God doesn’t end when we are born again and experience new life. That is simply the beginning. 

In simple terms, surrender is turning the control of my life over to God. Surrendering to God is recognizing His authority in my life and choosing His will over my own. Surrender is not meant to be a one-time decision for a Christian. It is meant to be a daily lifestlyle. It is laying down our desires in order to make pleasing God our top priority. As Laura Story says in our study guide, “Surrendering to God’s will is a learned skill that takes a lifetime to develop.”

The actual word surrender is not used in most translations of the Bible. But the concept of surrender is found throughout both the Old and New Testament. 

  • Surrender is submitting to the Lord. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 
  • Surrender is recognizing the truth of Galatians 2:20, which says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 
  • Surrender is being a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ. It is believing and living according to Luke 9:23-24, which says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
  • Surrender begins with presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, as Romans 12:1-2 tells us to do, the first prerequisite of knowing and doing the will of God. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  • Surrender is, as Ephesians 6:6 says, “doing the will of God from the heart.” Sometimes the will of God is clearly stated in Scripture, but often this isn’t true. It begins with us coming to the Lord in prayer and asking, “Lord, what is Your plan in this situation?” And then waiting patiently until we receive an answer and walking in obedience to the revealed will of God.
  • Surrender is yielding to the hands of God as He shapes us into a vessel to bring Him glory. It is making ourselves willing to be molded into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Remember, surrender is a daily choice. It is to choose to make Jesus Christ Lord of every aspect of our lives, seeking His will in every circumstance that we face. It is being who God created us to be.

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The theme song for the “I Give Up” Bible study.