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Death to your will, your desires, your dreams, etc…

The book Live Before You Die by Evangelist Daniel Kolenda was not only one of the best books I have read on the subject of seeking God’s will for our lives but it was one of the top five books I have ever read. Here is a Bible study I received today based on his teaching from his book. It touched my heart as it addresses so well a present struggle. 

This book is well worth the investment but you are welcome to borrow mine….if you promise to highlight things that speak to you and write in the margins your own thoughts as I have had several others do…and then return it to me.

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Part 5 – Death to Your Vision

Secret #2 – The Surrendered Will This Bible study has been taken from chapter 7 of LIVE BEFORE YOU DIE

When we talk about being crucified with Christ and dying to self, what do we mean? It means we die to our desires, our ego, and our will. Sometimes this even means dying to our own vision. But you may say, “I’m sure my vision is God-given. It is His will.” Yet there is an inherent danger. It is possible for the calling, promises, and vision God has given us to become our main ambition, making them opponents of God, for He is not willing to share our hearts with anything—not even with good things.

Isaac was the fulfillment of the promise God gave Abraham. Yet God was not willing to share Abraham’s heart, not even with Isaac. So God asked Abraham to lay Isaac on the altar and offer him as a sacrifice, knowing this would be the ultimate test of Abraham’s love. Author A. W. Tozer expounds on this brilliantly in his classic bookThe Pursuit of God.

God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, “It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there. I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.”

What does it mean to surrender our will to God? The word surrender is a radical word!Many of us are willing to surrender until it begins to hurt, but true surrender is painful. Some people are willing to surrender as long as it is logical, but true surrender is not subject to our rationale. Others can surrender what is bad and harmful, but God is not satisfied. To God surrender is not complete until it is all encompassing, exhaustive, total. It is not simply saying, “Your will be done,” but it includes, “Not my will.” This death to self is not some form of divine sadism. God always has life in mind. Just as a gardener prunes off the old branches so new ones can grow, God desires to remove that which hinders life and growth. This place of death is also the place of birth, and it is how God’s purposes are born in the earth!

John Wimber is best known as the founder of the Vineyard church movement, which is well known for its wonderful music that touched the world and, in many ways, revolutionized worship in the modern church. But many people don’t realize that John Wimber had been very successful as a secular musician. Two of his hit singles reached the US top ten before he met the Lord and abandoned fame and fortune to follow Jesus. His wife, Carol, told the following story:

John and I had been Christians only a few months. We were broke and Christmas was coming. John had laid down his musical career because Jesus asked him to. After refusing a lucrative offer to arrange a Christmas album, he quietly put down the phone. As I watched, John went to the cupboards, closets and the piano bench. He gathered a lifetime of work and talent and placed it in big cardboard boxes and we drove to the Yorba Linda dump. As he pushed the last box out of the station wagon and it sunk into the garbage, John 12:24 came to my mind: “Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” In my heart I know that was when worship was born in the Vineyard.

What if God asked you to give up the thing you enjoy the most? What if He asked you to lay down your gift or talent, the thing that defines you—the thing in which you find self-worth? Could you lay your promise on the altar as Abraham did Isaac, or push your treasures into the Dumpster as John Wimber did? Have you checked to see who is sitting on the throne of your heart? Is it you? Is it your vision? Is it your dream? Or is it Jesus?

My friend, God has a wonderful plan for your life, and He wants to use you in extraordinary ways for His glory. But resurrection only follows death—death to self, death to your will, death to your desires, and death to your dreams. It is in these painful moments of surrender that God’s kingdom is established in us, when we pray with Jesus, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” This beautiful brokenness allows us to become an extension of God’s dominion, and our lives become “cracks in the wall” through which His kingdom can come and His will can be done in earth and on earth!

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“give up all…”

Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes

I give up all my own desires and hopes and

I accept Thy will for my life.

I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever.

Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit.

Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt

And work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost 

  now and forever.

~ Betty Scott Stam

This is a prayer I have prayed so many times over these last years. Today in my journey I have come face to face in a very small way, to this “give up all…” that Betty Scott Stam speaks of.

What do you do when you want to do things for Jesus and go places for God? You ask Him to use you, to send you, etc and then His Will so far is to have you wait or to go nowhere and do what seems to be nothing except to live your same old, every day, ordinary life? I know, I know there is someone out there thinking my life isn’t ordinary. Believe me, it is!!! Over the last two days I have watched a sick grandson while trying to also work at a job where I am doing the same thing I was doing 21 years ago – when I would drag my own sick children through the same exact type of day I just had. Most days at the end of my day I feel like in a practical sense I have accomplished mostly nothing for the Kingdom. Maybe it seems to be nothing because my eyes can’t see or because it is not what I had in mind. Maybe these plans and dreams I have are my own and not God’s. How do you know? Some days I think maybe the Holy Spirit is weeding desires out of my heart and life. Maybe it is just not His timing. I mean the desire of my heart just presented itself almost perfectly today – the place, the mission, the leadership, the monetary costs – but the timing was so wrong that it was like a glaring red warning flag! Once again saying NO! NO! NO!

So what do you do? All I can figure is you either turn totally back or you go on that wrong path or you stand and wait…and turning back is not an option. So I wait on my Father to work it all out. I wait because I trust His dreams. I am well aware that my plans have led me to a pigpen or two. I wait because I love Jesus so much and I told Him I would yield to His will regardless, at any cost. “Nevertheless” was the word of the covenant I made. Even though it hurts like crazy to take my hands off of my dreams and leave them on the altar…what else can I do at this point in this journey. So many times we think that when Jesus says “follow me” and we say “Yes!” we will go on a journey where we are running after Him in a very real way like the disciples or we will be sent somewhere – to a people group like a missionary, with God opening doors in miraculous ways. My journey has not been quite like that and sometimes I wonder if there is any way God can use a woman like me.

I wait and while I do I daily pray the scripture John 15:5 – “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”  I cry Lord, if today without you I can do nothing…then today Lord I ask that You please teach me to abide in You so that I can at least do something. Something for You!

And I wait… and then unexpectedly today I came face to face with what it means “give up all…” as in the poem. It means to wait if that is what He requires of me. Face to face He has allowed me to see so clearly that this “waiting” and this “nothing” I have felt almost offended by is actually leading to WORSHIP! It is perhaps the “something” I prayed for. Maybe worship in it’s truest sense means to give up all…all of your own will and dreams and desires and purposes and hopes. Give up all, not just until the right time, but give it all up for eternity if required! Give it all up with joy that I may win Christ.

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” ~ Philippians 3:8

Learning step by step (and even in the waiting) to abide!

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Some Thursday Thoughts

Just some thoughts. Believe me I don’t claim to have any of it figured out…at all…and this is directed at no one. If it speaks to you good. If it doesn’t just as good. I do in my blog what I have always done since I was very young – just write what is on my heart without too much censorship…as a way of processing and it is my hope that when I look back at it all in a year, I will have changed for the better in some way.

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Praise and Criticism

It’s great to have a few people in your life that believe in you and that can give sincere praise and honest critique. I have learned to value criticism and am rarely offended by it, if it is constructive – serves the purpose of making me better in some way or correcting a wrong that I have overlooked by negligence or even choice. We grow by both critique and praise but too much of either can be detrimental. Both have to be tempered with true LOVE.

So I wonder…

If someone constantly praises you, does it show their level of relationship with you? Do they really even know you or do they just like who they think you are or more who they think you are to them…like an idol of sorts? When they see a fault, will they still praise what is good in you or will the fault overshadow and topple everything they have seemingly built you up to be? Once toppled will you be as rubbish to them? I don’t know, just a thought I had this morning.

And I wonder also if someone constantly corrects your actions and beliefs, your words and things like the way you dress or what you love to surround yourself with in your own home or environment (as long as it is not unholy) is that constructive critique at all? Do they really believe in you or are they hoping to recreate you into the image of who they want you to be? Again idolatry perhaps?!?

I want to be recreated into another’s image…but only in the image of JESUS! I do want others to be recreated in His image as well. While we are to be there to help each other and build each other up and admonish each other – ultimately someone’s recreation is not my job. It is between them and the Lord and so it is His job!!!

Temper it all in LOVE!!!! When I need to go over a good definition of love, I look at 1 Corinthians 13 (I like it especially in the Amplified).

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lordmy strength, and my redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. ~ Proverbs 10:12

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. ~ 1 Peter 4:8

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. ~ Romans 8:29

If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). 3 Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing. 4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. 5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. 6 It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. 7 Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. 8 Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. As for prophecy (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth]. 9 For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect).

10 But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded).

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside. 12 For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall  know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. 13 And so faith, hope, love abide [faith—conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope—joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love—true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love.  ~ 1 Corinthians 13 (Amplified)