Yielded Spirit

What does it mean to have a spirit that is yielded?

Anyone who has been in or around church in America over the last couple of decades I’m guessing has probably heard others speak in conversation or in corporate or group prayers, or perhaps even prayed it yourself, meaning you are giving way to the Holy Spirit to work in your life in whatever particular regard you are praying about.

What else do we yield our spirits to besides the Holy Spirit, either knowingly or unknowingly?  Thoughts, ideas, programs, desires, culture, teachings, upbringing, prejudices, preferences?  What keeps us from moving forward in His plans and purpose for our lives?

Teach us Lord, we pray, what it means to yield our spirits to You and You alone.  Reveal to us what other things we are currently yielding ourselves to, so that through the power of Your Spirit those things can be removed, and nothing stands between our spirit and Yours.

Naked, Barefoot, and Buttocks Bared

Naked, barefoot, and buttocks bared.  This was a command the Lord gave to Isaiah (see Isaiah 20).  Isaiah obeyed, going naked for three years as a sign to both Egypt and Cush (Ethiopia) regarding their pending captivity by the king of Assyria.

I’m not saying God is commanding anyone these days to go physically naked.  The question I have is one of obedience to what God is speaking in your life, in this moment, here and now.

Would you do it?  If you clearly heard the Lord Himself speak and demand something that was hard to do, and might bring with it rejection or persecution not just from people in general but possibly from your own family or peers, but you knew it was the Lord giving you a direct order, would you be obedient?

How far in your journey with God are you willing to go?  He will take you no further than the point of your disobedience.  To the degree you hesitate is the exact degree that He is truly Lord of your life.

I Choose You

It is a peculiar thing about walking in relationship with Holy God. Spending time each day sitting still at His feet, fixing your gaze upon Him, hearing His voice and communicating with Him is so incredibly sweet.  Once you get a taste of it, you long for it and miss the times when it cannot happen.

Why is it then a struggle to get there?

If we haven’t yet discovered the tenderness or tapped into the fact that He is our source for all we need, often our thoughts tend to be “there will be plenty of time for that later, I need to do this now”. Funny if we say that about filling our car with gas then we find all too quickly how fast one tank of gas will last (it doesn’t).

I know I am not alone when I admit that I sometimes struggle with spending time daily with Jesus. Even when we have all good intentions of either setting aside the time or not wasting the time we had set aside, we often find ourselves in a place of constant distraction. Anything and everything works against us as we purpose to reach that place of worship, friendship, refreshing, communication, and learning.

Personally I’ve always been stunned by the things my brain is able to conjure and try convincing me is more important in the very moment than worship, prayer, and scripture reading. No one need set obstacles in my way, I am quite capable of doing that all by myself.  Yet those of us who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good find ourselves choosing time and again to walk through mud to get to Him each day rather than running down the clear path.

I recently asked the Lord why. Why, when we know all here in comparison is like a candle to the sun at best, why does it remain a constant struggle?

The answer I heard in my spirit is that it is all about choice. He wants us to continually choose Him, so that the unforced rhythms of grace are by choice, not by force.  We love Him and desire to know Him by our choice. Even though His will and His plan for our lives far out shines anything we could ever conceive for ourselves, and is rich, full of goodness, and beautiful beyond compare, He will never force it upon us.

Salvation is merely an introduction. When you meet someone for the first time, you may have heard a lot of stories about them but you really don’t know who they are until you make the choice again and again to spend time getting to know them for yourself.

Jesus chose me first and wants to be in continuous relationship with me, but I must now choose Him in response. Purpose over preference. It is up to me to make the disciplined choice of setting time aside for this daily.  A friend of mine likes to say “discipline is nothing but a choice”.   I say she is right.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”    – Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

Why is America Different?

It’s hard to believe 2017 is rapidly moving towards the half-way mark, and the July 4th celebration is already just around the corner!  Barbeque and fireworks, that’s what I’m talking about!

Have you ever wondered what makes July 4th so special?  You might say, well it’s Independence Day, the day we celebrate our freedom here in the United States!  Yes, but, where does that freedom come from really, and what exactly is it that sets the United States apart from any other country that has ever existed?  Why is America different?

If I were to ask you what kind of government we have in the United States, what would you say?  If you said democratic, you would be among the majority.  The truth is, however, that our Founders decreed that the United States of America shall be a republic.

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the REPUBLIC
For which it (the flag) stands…

Why is this a distinction and what makes it important to maintain?

Democracy is government by the masses, requiring full participation of of the people in its legislative or decision-making processes, and so becomes increasingly unwieldy the larger the population grows. Many also do not realize that democracy in its base form is another derivative of socialism, which is becoming increasingly popular because the ideology looks so promising on the surface. But our Founders understood the difference was critical. Socialism and its many derivatives has at its core belief that the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the one, which negates the rights of the individual.

A republic, on the other hand, governs through elected representatives and can grow with the population.  It is a government by the people and for the people that maintains the rights of the individual, as it recognizes that the needs of the many can only be addressed if the unalienable rights of the individual are recognized and protected.

The second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Anyone who is a student of American history long enough may come to the realization that our Founders believed that the unalienable rights of the individual are endowed by our Creator, the Holy One, defined by scripture as Jesus the Messiah.  What makes a right “unalienable” or inherent is a right that cannot be established nor taken away by human law.

What is likewise important is for us to understand what is an unalienable, God-given right and what a vested right. Healthcare is not, for example, an unalienable right.  Education is not an unalienable right.  Cell phones are not unalienable rights.  Any right that can be granted or taken away by government is a vested right, not an unalienable (or God-given) one.

What is more, many of us also get equal opportunity mixed up with equality itself. Do we think equal rights means that all men were created the same?  Funny thing, we sure don’t look alike!  Not only do I not look like you, my tastes are not the same as yours, and my skill set and knowledge level is not the same as yours.  Would you agree we each develop differently?  It is evident that we are not all equal.

I believe the Founders meant when they said we were created equal is that all were born with equal rights, and we all have the right to be treated equally in the sight of God, in the sight of the law, and in the protection of our rights.  This means the equality of the opportunity, not the equality of outcome.

In the way the US Constitution is framed, I have just as much right to pursue an education or healthcare as you do.  I have the opportunity to own land, business and make a profit, to be a servant of Christ and enrich the lives of others!  In other words,  I can equally pursue anything you can, and vise-verse.

Equality, on the other hand, says if I have healthcare, you should too, or because you have an education, I should too, or because your salary is X, mine should also be.  I would fear any government that was big enough to grant all of that, because anything the government has the ability to grant, it also has the ability to take away.

Hopefully this helps to understand the subtle differences that can be so deceptive and lead down vastly different paths. True rights can never be taken away by a government that never granted them in the first place.  The proper role of government is to protect equal rights, not to provide equal things.  The Founders set what they considered the most important unalienable rights aside in what is now known as “The Bill of Rights”. Those are the ones they considered most crucial.

All of this combined is what I believe sets America apart, and what makes her unique.

One question still unasked: where does freedom come from?

Freedom does not come from WITHOUT.  It is not granted by any government.  Freedom is not something that can ever be taken away from me as an individual. It cannot be taken away by any prison.  Freedom comes from the same place my rights come from, and that is from God Himself.  Freedom comes from WITHIN.  As long as I understand this, no government has the power to spiritually cage me.  Freedom defined by scripture is Christ in me, the hope of glory.

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  2 Corinthians 3:17 NLT

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:31-36 NLT

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”  John 1:1-4

To learn more about the constitution of the United States and the 28 basic principles it was founded upon, read “The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle that Changed the World”, by W. Cleon Skousen.

To learn more about how to have a personal relationship with Christ, ask me!  I am happy to introduce you or help answer any question you may have.

Then Sings My Soul

Eternal God!  Do You dwell in the tent of stars You Yourself have pitched[i]?  The mind cannot Your vastness and eternal presence[ii].  As Your creation, I am limited in my ability to fathom all that is You[iii].  Isaiah was stunned when he experienced Your presence[iv], causing him to extol your greatness and glory throughout all his writings.

Man uses the aid of machines to help see into the tiniest of cells that You created, while You stamp Your image on the molecules that hold us together[v] as easily as You are able to soar the morning sky[vi].  You who exceed the boundaries of the universe call me by name[vii] in the morning hours to come sit with you in stillness[viii]. Who am I to sit in Your presence?  Yet I want to run into Your arms like a child, ride on the back of your wings and sing for joy in their shadow[ix]!

You, and You alone are God[x], the ONLY God, and I worship You.  You are my God, and no other[xi]!  You delight in those who delight in You, and You take joy in their presence[xii], as You created us for fellowship with You, even knowing that we would fall short and need Your redemption[xiii]. Your creation extols Your glory[xiv]!  Those who have eyes to see, see it and glorify Your name; and those who have ears to hear, hear the eternal song of praise and harmony, and contribute their rightful part.

_______________________________

[i] Isaiah 40:22

[ii] Revelation 22:13

[iii] Isaiah 55:8-9

[iv] Isaiah 6:1-5

[v] Louie Giglio on Laminin

[vi] Deuteronomy 33:26

[vii] Isaiah 49:1

[viii] Psalms 46:10

[ix] Psalms 63:7

[x] Nehemiah 9:6

[xi] Exodus 34:14

[xii] Zephaniah 3:17

[xiii] John 3:16

[xiv] Psalms 96:1; 98:7

Treasure

Imagine with me, if you will, a mysterious benefactor.  This benefactor began making deposits in your account long, long ago.  Whenever you were in need, he was there to fill that need no matter what it was.  Clothes, food, education, money, job opportunities, people you met, healthcare, comfort – whatever it was, he took care of it for you.

How long would you go before you began to be curious to know who exactly your benefactor was?

Well, you knew who he was.  Sort of.  You knew his name, anyway, and you remember the stories you were told about him when you were a kid.  Your mother and grandmother both knew him well.  And you knew he was real because of all the blessings!  You just never really gave him much thought.

At first you would read the letters he sent that went along with the blessings, but eventually life, well, it just became so busy that you often forgot about them.  You knew he was always there, so you planned on one day making the effort to get to know him better.  Just not now.  You just graduated from high school, and now college – wow – it was just around the corner! After all, you thought, he was always there, and there was always time.

The older you grew, the faster life flew by.  College – that was years ago.  Marriage, two children, divorce.  Where was your benefactor then, you wondered?  You had not heard from him in a while.  Career – head of your department, congratulations!  Yes, you are busy for sure.  You could sense your benefactor was still there, even through the hard times.  Maybe one of these days soon.  There was always time to work on that later.

Besides that, you were paying it forward!  You made sure you donated food to the food pantry and all your unwanted clothes to the homeless shelter!  You picked out a kid for the angel tree every Christmas and donated generously to the children’s hospital!

Life was smooth sailing now.  Your work ethic had paid off and retirement was just around the corner.  You rarely heard from your benefactor these days.  Retirement was a blessing for sure, but boy you earned that one yourself – every penny!  It would be nice if your relationship with your oldest was better, but there didn’t seem to be anything you could do about that now.  There was always time to work on that one later, too.

Then it happened.

The benefactor, the one who had given you all those blessings all those years, even the retirement – he was also the one that gave you every breath you ever breathed.  And now the time had come.  You had lived all the days on earth that were ordained for you from before you were ever born, and this was the moment.  Now you stand before him.  What will you say?  What will he say to you?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21 NASB

“We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:69 NASB

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ”  Philippians 3:7-8  NASB

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”  Isaiah 40:12-15  NASB
Do you know him?

God is Love

We like to believe there is a universal god that winks at sin and says all paths lead to him or her or “Mx.” regardless of what choices we make, because after all a loving god would never condemn anyone to a place like hell.

Our finite minds do not understand how a God who is all love could also be a God who condemns. But is it really Him who condemns, or is it we who condemn ourselves?

The truth is that Almighty God is all love. He is also all that is holy and pure, and by His very nature anything impure that would enter His presence gets crushed as a result.

Anything impure in my life that would keep me from being able to stand in the presence of Almighty God can be defined as sin.

Think of a submarine that goes too deep and gets crushed by the pressure.

The good news is that He created us to live in His presence, because He loves us and wants us. So for us to live in the presence of pure love and light and all that is good meant that He had to create a way where His holiness and purity could be imparted to us, because without it we are hopeless.

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me”. (John 14:6)

For God so loved the world that He gave us His Son, who is Jesus, so that whoever believes in Him will not die or be destroyed, but will live. This is the essence of John 3:16, that we might be able to stand in the presence of Almighty God and not be crushed by the weight of our own sin. It is the whole reason Jesus left the presence of pure love and light and all that is good is to sacrifice Himself for us, so that through Him we could live and not die.

The bible says in Proverbs 16:25 there is a way that seems right to each of us that in the end leads to death. What is death? It is the absence of pure love and light and all that is good.

Not all choices we make lead to the same path in the end. What choice will you make?