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Saturday, April 15, 2017

"A Pathway to Total Surrender" by John - 4.14.17

Entry Submitted by John at 6:01 PM EDT on April 14, 2017

I can't tell you who the speaker was but, I remember his words, like it was only yesterday. I think I was either 9 or 10 years old and, it was at the little church where my grandparents lived. I remember how I felt when I heard what the preacher said and, I even remember what I kind of said to myself, under my breath, after I heard him say...

"...God said, 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart."

...as if a 9 year old boy needed anything else to build up the image of "David" after hearing about what he had done to Goliath. It was very small church and, while there was room for a separate class for the kids, on this particular Sundaymorning, we were all together in the main room. I remember the lesson that morning, being about David the shepherd boy and, his call to action against "Goliath." I'm pretty sure more than what I remember, was said but, you know how 9 year old boys are and, whatever it was, it just didn't register with me at the time. Since then, though through personal study and, listening to others speak on the same topic, I've learned how David was like so many of the rest of us, in some ways and yet, in a way, you can't help but put him on a pedestal.

I learned that he was a bit impetuous but, unlike some of us, he was also quick to atone for his mistakes. I learned how he took Bathsheba as his wife and, what he did to actually make sure that her husband was out of the way, so he could have her as his own wife. As you read the story, it's easy to see how King David knew of and took advantage of her husband's loyalty and, made sure he went into battle and, would be subsequently killed. I suppose, in a sense, you could see that David understood the sanctity of marriage in that, he knew he couldn't have her, as long as she was married to someone else and, how God intended for it to be for life but, of course, this was before God had said

"Thou shall not covet thy neighbors' wife"

and then, with her husband out of the way, David must've believed, not only was it it possible to take her as his own but, even permissible. Later, he would find out the truth from the Prophet Nathan. As I studied this again, it seems, God gives us every opportunity to make the right decision, clear out to the point that we make the wrong decision and, in this case, have a true man of God come along and point out the err of David's ways.

In 2 Samuel 12:1-10, we can read,

"1So the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. 2The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. 3The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. 4One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”

5David was furious. “As surely as the LORD lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! 6He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”

7Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The LORD, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. 8I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. 9Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. 10From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own."

In truth, there was a time in my life, even remembering the impression that was made on me, as a boy about "David"...that, the more I learned of his personal life, I wondered how and why God even chose him to be king, in place of Saul and yet, as if God were saying it right now, I remember hearing it,

" But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.'" Acts 13: 22

WoW! Did you hear that?

Have you ever heard that before and, have it register with you the way it did with me?

...only later in life, learn all the things that David did?

Did you ever find yourself asking the questions that I had about, "How is it even possible for someone like "David" to have it said about him, that he's "a man after God's own heart"?

and yet, the impact it had on me was such that, I remember saying to myself,

"That would be so cool to have it said about me, that I was a man after God's own heart."

...and, from that day to this, my greatest longing has been to chase after the heart of God realizing, even as I write this, I've failed so miserably and, in so many ways and yet, it's somehow comforting to be able to see myself in the life of David.

You may be reading this and wondering,

"What do you mean, you've failed? Listen to yourself...you sure sound like you've got it all together with God."

"...and, what do you mean, you "can see yourself in the life of David"?

Well...in answer to the "failure" statement, I don't want anyone to get the impression that I've given up. I haven't but, if any of us were to take the time to think about our relationship with God, we all had expectations of how our life would've gone and then, there's what really happened. Were there extenuating circumstances and, other forces contributing to what happened? Absolutely but, in the end, unless we were kidnapped and forced into things, it was our own decisions that took us down the road we traveled. I just know, I stumbled a lot, along the way but, I'm not done yet and, I don't believe God is finished with me either. I know I'm a long way from walking on water but, at the same time, I know and am in an intimate relationship with the One who can and has.

If you're not there, does that mean God loves me more than he loves you?

Absolutely not!

It just means that I know God loves me but, I know that He loves you too and, He wants the very best for me but, He wants the same for you.

I went to the extent of saying all of that to assure anyone who may read this that, I'm no different from any of you in many ways and, "I do not think more highly of myself than I ought" and, at times, I feel like I could echo Paul's statement in 1 Timothy 1:15, where he wrote,

"This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"--and I am the worst of them all."

So, if there's anything I say that convicts you or, if it reminds you of someone else's life and their conviction, please know...In truth, long before anything I've said has convicted you, the same words had convicted me.

With that, I say...

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

I've prayed many times...

"Help me, Lord to never forget who I am, whose I am and, where I'm going. I know how easy it could be, Lord to forget everything I've learned. I understand how easy it would be while in the process of being "promoted" in this world, to lose focus of and forget my purpose in life...only, to begin staring at the "riches of this world" and, fall into the trap of my own fleshly desires. Just as David wrote, Lord...I confess Your Word...

"And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"

Psalm 139: 24

As I write this, it occurs to me that, there may be a question out there, of...

"How do you get to that place in your life, where you can sincerely say with "David"...

"How I love you, Lord!

You are my defender. The Lord is my protector; he is my strong fortress.

My God is my protection,

and with him I am safe.

He protects me like a shield; he defends me and keeps me safe.

I call to the Lord, and he saves me from my enemies.

Praise the Lord!"


Psalm 18:1-3 ?

May I suggest, that it's a process...and, for lack of a better way to say it...it's a process of "surrender."

We've heard that word "surrender", many times over the past several months and, while the concept of "personal surrender " may seem simple enough, as we try to jump in, both feet at once, we find out that it's more complex than one might think.

In the first place, consider the possibility that, the process of "becoming totally surrendered" is comparable to the way a diamond gets its luster. You see, the true luster of a diamond comes from how it's cut and, in that it is cut with many facets.

Have you ever looked at a diamond in the rough? They don't have the same luster to them as a "cut diamond" does, do they?

It's the same way with people. You may have heard of people be described as "a diamond in the rough" and, if we've known them, all their life, we may more readily see how that could be said. May I propose to you that, each time we're convicted in some way, in our lives about some particular aspect of our life by God's Word or any other way, it's the equivalent to a new facet being cut on a diamond. Each time we've been convicted, if we repent, wouldn't that seem as if we "surrendered" to God's will in our lives?

Picture, if you will, a battlefield. You're an observer and, your viewpoint is from behind soldiers in a foxhole, who are looking out over the battlefield...the theater of operations and, explosions are going off all around them but, they continue to bear down on the enemy hunkered down in a foxhole, about fifty yards away. Suddenly, you realize a silence...the explosions seem to have, at least paused and, you notice, one of the soldiers in the foxhole you've been observing from, grabs a His binoculars and looks out across the battlefield at the foxhole of the enemy...and, he shouts, as he sees a "white flag" being raised where it could be seen by all. Yeah...I know what you're thinking. Maybe, it's what anyone would conclude, "they surrendered!" but, have they, really?

Would it make sense for these soldiers you've been most closely observing, to abruptly pile out of the cover of their foxhole and rush over to where the "white flag" has been raised? Probably not, even as much as they might want this battle to be over, all that "white flag" really tells them is, whoever raised it, was simply saying,

"Hey! Would you stop shooting st me?"

You see, there's really no way to tell their mindset, is there? Whoever it is, just moments earlier had been shooting at us and, maybe attempting to lob grenades in the direction from which you're observing.

So, picture this. Right there in front of you, without a warning or, shouting "cover me!" an "Audie Murphy" type barrels out of the foxhole and stealthily approaches the "white flag." Eeverything is going just as you hoped it would for him and, finally, he's standing over the other foxhole with his weapon pointed directly at whoever is down in there and, you see the enemy crawling out on their hands and knees...and, as they get ready to stand to their feet, they drop their weapon. By this time, you've grabbed your own pair of binoculars to better observe and, you see a gangly lookin' character who crawled out of that pit. You make a mental note that, they seem to look as you feel...physically battle worn and tattered and, just as you focus the lenses on the binoculars to get a better look at who they are, they stand erect, put their hands behind their head and look up...in your direction as if to look out across the field and, you're suddenly overcome with emotion. You rub your eyes, as if to help you see more clearly and, you look through the binoculars again and, think that your eyes playing tricks on me so, you rub your eyes again and, wipe off the lenses of the binoculars, to look again and, without warning, tears flood your eyes and begin rolling uncontrollably down your face...because the person you just watched crawled out of the foxhole was You...

I can't speak for anyone else but, looking back, as I consider my own life...even knowing the guilt and, conviction that I may have felt at the time I accepted Jesus as my Savior, all I really did was raise a "white flag" and ask if the world would just "stop shooting at me!"

Just like in all the war movies you've watched, when something like this scene that I just described, played out on the screen...we seen the "enemy" captured. We've watched as they've walked with their hands behind their backs or, with fingers locked, their hands behind their heads but, you don't see the captured soldiers sitting around the campfire later that night, with their captors, laughing and joking and, carrying on like "all is good", do you? In most cases, it's not that the captors wouldn't like for that to be the case but, the mindset of the enemy forces things to be the way they are. Think about it. If the enemy is you. In taking you to their camp, have you become "one of them" or, are you still a "rebel", trying to figure out s way to escape? The answer is obvious but, this is only an allegory.

Since we're talking about spirituality here, isn't this the way it is when we accept Jesus as our Savior? Even though we hear or, read the scripture,

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

We said it out loud in front of a bunch of other people and, we meant every word. We confessed our sins and that Jesus Christ is Lord...that he was crucified and died on the Cross, was buried but, three days later, he came out of that tomb and was witnessed by over 500 people. In our hearts, even though we may not have had the spiritual maturity to say it, our true desire was then and, is now, to be in that place in our lives where we know and can say with confidence, no matter what happens...no matter what may be strewn along the "narrow way" that we've chosen to walk...no matter how much ridicule we may receive or, what anyone else has to say to the contrary of the choice we've made to follow Him, we want to know that "every step we take, our foot is firmly planted and, we're standing on solid ground."

Truth be known, we wanted that from the very beginning of our walk with Jesus but, the question has always been a matter of surrender.

Is it possible that we could slip back into our old ways?

Again, I can't speak for you but, I can speak for me and, I know that along the way, there were several points in my life where it seemed that it was "up in the air", so to speak, as to whose side I was really on. You see, like the impression we may have, when we see the guy in the foxhole raise the "white flag", we may think, "Surrender means just what it says, right?" Well, the answer is "Yes"...kind of.

Let's go back to the image of the battlefield for a moment. Our "Audie Murphy" guy has captured, not just one but, several who were in that same foxhole. Everyone one of them crawled out of the foxhole on their hands and knees and, laid down their weapons, holding their hands behind their head in submission. Now, fast forward to Audie's camp that night. He's not worrying about rolling out the bedroll for them and tucking them in, is he? Absolutely not! Why not? Well, the simplest explanation is, "Audie" doesn't know their mindset. Except for the fact that they're now his captives, he doesn't know what they're thinking nor, what they'll do if he's somehow distracted. What he does know is, at the drop of a hat, they could all turn and jump him and overpower him and, just as quickly as they had become his captives, he could become theirs...so, he's vigilant as he watches them... maybe even trying to sleep with one eye open. You see, the point that I'm trying to get across is that, "surrender" doesn't happen all at once. Total surrender actually comes in stages.

Think about a "prisoner of war"...while, they may have raised a "white flag", given in, laid down their weapon and show no signs of resistance...as your captives, if you're attacked by another "enemy", they're not necessarily going to pick up a gun and help you fight them off, are they? In similar fashion, we may have "confessed with our mouth that Jesus is Lord" and, "believed in our hearts that God raised him from the dead" just as it says in Romans 10: 9, the truth is,

"...the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Matthew 7:13,14

...but, what is this saying?

The first thing that it's says to me is, just how necessary is was for Jesus to come., as Immanuel, God with us,

The Christ, The Anointed One, The Lamb of God because, the blood of bulls and goats, year after year wasn't capable of satisfying God's wrath toward us but, by faith we accept the sacrifice He made and, trust the blood of Jesus, shed once for all, cleanses us daily and, with each step we take in our lives to draw closer to God, we surrender just a little more.

For all of those reading this who have taken that step in their lives, there's no doubt and...we know that we know, we have salvation but, we still struggle with letting God have every facet to our lives.

Maybe we've gotten rid of some of our old habits. Maybe we've added some other things like, Sunday morning "prayer meetings" instead of "sleeping in." Maybe we've given up a vice or two...our relationship with our spouse has never been better, our kids are even being cooperative but, we still worry about money and fret with our finances because...well, we've convinced ourselves that we're "managing" our money or, being "good stewards" by tightening up the purse strings and, not helping everyone who comes along whose asking for help and yet, the Bible says

"Give and, it will be given back to you in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and, overflowing will men give into your Treasury"

and, that's what our hearts says to do but, we're concerned that we don't want to get "lackadaisical" when it comes to to what we earn and, in a sense, we feel like we have to account for every cent.

Please hear me! I'm not speaking against "good stewardship." What I'm trying to get to us, to show you a pathway to security in your life, that no amount of bodyguards or bank vaults could provide. Am I telling you that you will never face any more trials? No, I'm not. What I am saying is, regardless of what your bank account may have in it or, not have in it, if you will allow yourself to look st life from the position of knowing that, when your time comes to give an account for what you did or didn't do in this life, none of what you've accumulated will be there with you. It will all be "left behind" and, as bothersome as that may be to some, that's only in a physical sense. In a spiritual sense, you may have sent it all ahead.

"Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be."

Matthew 6:19-21

May I suggest to you that through the "art of giving", you'll find a "pathway to total surrender" and, not the other way around.

in Christ,

John

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