Have you ever been scolded by God, Jesus? Today in Matthew 16 and starting with verse 15 Jesus asks the disciples who they say he is? Immediately Peter says that Christ is the Son of the living God. Immediately Christ responds to Peter that he is rock and on this rock I will build my church. All of this seems wonderful and Peter must have felt very fulfilled at that moment. Yet in the same chapter Jesus is telling his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things as well as be killed and raised from the dead. In all of this Peter takes Jesus aside to reprove him saying, “God forbid Lord! This must never happen to You!” Then Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Get behind me Satan! You are in my way for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men.”
All of this makes me look at myself wondering how many times I’ve been complimented for doing something “right” and then thinking I have it all together. It doesn’t take long for me to blunder and realize a compliment isn’t an assurance of wisdom from this day forward. My pride and wishes will always need to be set aside when they conflict with Christ’s leadership and direction. My current direction from Christ–to be surrendered and to obey Him each and every day–is great. I truly need to also be aware that when I question or doubt His nudge I am questioning once again who will be in charge of my decisions–my pride or Christ? I want to choose Christ each and every day.
“This is the day the Lord hath made, rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:24. Everyday is a day God has made. That is a statement which will always be true. The second part of this scripture is the part more difficult to see and to live out. Rejoice and be glad in the day when troubles surround you is not quite so easy. I’m learning that the things which would weigh me down are the things God wants me to surrender to Him. He wants to carry the weight of them–not me. Matthew 11:28 &29 say in part, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Not so many years ago I remember taking time during my devotions and picturing putting Christ’s yoke upon myself. However, I could never picture this being easy or light. Christ’s yoke always seemed to be everything but that. Now in my scripture reading of Matthew I read this again. This time I can do this so much easier. To rejoice and be glad in the day God has made has needed me to grow into a much stronger relationship of trust and faith knowing that our God is a God of mercy and grace.
“Burdens are lifted at Calvary” are words from an old hymn. It goes on to say that “Jesus is very near”. My learning each day to surrender and obey means that the burdens I carry are laid at the feet of Jesus each morning for Jesus is very near. This is true whether the burden is my own personal one or for someone else. The yoke I have from Christ Jesus is easy and light when I leave the burden of it with Christ. Surrendering and obeying each day keeps the burden light. This is truly a daily lesson I keep needing to have right in front of me.
There is something about writing this at the computer when a granddaughter is sleeping in the room. This little three year old is one of grandpa’s favorites and as soon as she sees you she wants to be with you or in your arms. So, somehow I just didn’t get to the computer yesterday morning. The journey needed to pause for a day and night to just be with this little one.
Today has some celebrations and a stressor in it. Friends are getting baptized and then I need to make a phone call which I’m not looking forward to making. Of course I see this task through the lens of conflict but God has let me know I am to follow through with it. So, I will complete it through obedience because this is where His miracles take place even if I don’t see it from this human side.
God is truly working in many individuals of late, I know. There are some caught in their own past mistakes, needing to forgive themselves but not able to do so, yet God is challenging them to see them as the new creation He has made. I know this struggle all too well. Getting support through this time of struggle is something I was given through friends and family. God is wanting me to return the favor now for others and I gladly do so. There is nothing like the confirming sense–I am ok in my Father’s family.
Mercy–what do we know about it–what do I know about it? This morning’s devotional time and Bible reading focused much on this. Matthew 9:13, Jesus tells his disciples that He desires mercy rather than sacrificial gifts. Joyce Meyers says she was not a merciful person when she became a christian. She was structured, disciplined and had rigid boundaries. I know this type of living as I was raised in it and I was particularly that way with myself. I tried not to be that way so much with others, but yet I know I was.
Mercy is kindness and it is forgiving. Mercy builds relationships where sacrifices can be done but without a relationship ever forming. These are huge lessons I’ve learned from years of working with recovery. The relationships I’ve built with others are so much deeper and richer than most all of the ones outside of Celebrate Recovery. I’ve learned and have received a much deeper relationship with Jesus too by receiving His mercy.
MERCY is a huge piece in this puzzle of relationship. Jesus wants us to receive His Mercy, apply it to ourselves and then apply it to others he puts in our paths. How great our God is! How much I love being part of His family.
I had a beautiful opportunity last night to witness Jesus working. A man who had called our church seeking help/counsel was given to me. I had talked to him Monday evening and arranged for us to meet last night which we did. It ended being a 2.5 hour time of his revealing what I’m sure he thought was a ton of garbage which has been keeping him in an inner prison. Some of his background looks a lot like my own. When I shared with him a touch of it one could see a connection building. Just knowing a person understands the isolation, shame, bondage is a first moment of hope.
This gentleman is coming to Celebrate Recovery tonight. It will be his first time to attend a recovery meeting. He wants to find support and he wants to find friendships which can be more than superficial–“ones who know me and still desire to be with me”. That hit big for me when I heard those words. We tend to think that if anyone knows our past they will shun us and have every reason to do so. It has taken me almost a lifetime to realize what a lie this is. The bondage Satan creates seems so real until Christ enters the picture and His healing Light begins to shine into our darkness.
How grateful I am for this Savior of ours!
Yesterday I wrote that I’d begun reading through the New Testament and was in Matthew. The scripture was Matthew 5-6 which contains the Beatitudes and the rest of what Christ taught to his disciples including the Lord’s Prayer. Part of His teaching was to be the salt of the earth. Our lives, our words should give salt: flavor & seasoning to others in how they live their own lives.
Last night I had a pointed conversation with a gentleman following our restoration class. He wanted to share some thoughts with me and I was needing to share some with him. This has been a difficult situation all around about him and about his living conditions, behaviors, etc. As I began my scripture reading this morning in Matthew 7, the first three words are: “Do Not Judge….” Good grief, did that ever hit me over the head! The scripture goes on to say that we will be judged in the same way we judge. Our role is never to judge. I have to confess that in the situation with this man and his wife, I’ve had a difficult time not falling prey to judging. I’ve had my own self criticized and judged and I want to turn the tables.
As I got on my knees for my prayer time this morning the first words I saw were “surrender and obedience” which are written at the top of my prayer list. These reminded me that I need to surrender my pride and obey just what God is asking me to do. And yes, I needed to confess this judgmental attitude I had towards this one person. There’s a lot of background attached to this situation which in man’s eyes will keep it ugly. However, if I’m going to be a Light carrier for God, I certainly won’t accomplish it carrying judgment rather than God’s Light. This is something I want to do and my own humanness interferes and of course, Satan wants to have a hay day with it. So, I will keep on surrendering and obeying one day at a time and one moment at a time. Only this way can I be salt and a Light carrier.
The journey is getting started a little later today. There was a good snow storm last night so I decided I wasn’t going to drive the 1.5 hour drive to the school I’m working with until I can do it in the light. It is a .5 day anyway so I’ll see the late morning and afternoon rather than the early morning.
I was really challenged as I did my bible reading this morning. I’ve started Matthew. Matthew 5 tells the Beatitudes which Jesus preached to the followers. Celebrate Recovery’s 8 principles are built around these 8 verses. Once Jesus finishes delivering the 8 of them he continues by telling the listeners in vs. 13 “You are the salt of the earth….” He goes on to say in vs. 14 “You are the light of the world….” Then in vs. 16 He says, Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence….”
Last week’s Celebrate Recovery lesson was “Moral”. Essentially the lesson focuses us on doing the right thing. Whatever God is nudging us to do we are to be obedient in so doing. Sometimes it takes surrendering pride or addressing anxiety, but no matter, if the nudge is from God, our response is to be obedient. Sometimes there is a response to these actions that may hurt initially. I’ve recently had this experience. However, in my heart I want more than anything to be a God-pleaser. If that also pleases man, all the better. But, if it offends man at the time, I need to stand with the obedience to God’s nudge. He is the only One I want to serve. I can never know the outcome of obedience is I choose disobedience.
I haven’t done a very good job checking the voices of criticism which have been going through my head. I awoke this morning with this again. As I did my journaling I asked Jesus what I was to learn from them? He reminded me to listen to the message of the voice I hear. Does it reflect the purpose of messages from Him, His Holy Spirit? Do the messages give Light or do they give shame? Instantly I knew the source of the voices I’ve heard. The voices were trying to lead me back into the darkness of shame and no value. I know these are never the message of our Holy Spirit. Thank you Jesus!
Working with ministry no matter what area must have its difficulties. Satan is always trying to steal, kill and destroy. That much is easy to see when it is happening to someone else. When it happens to me I do like most, draw inward and close off. This is never Jesus intent. He tells us to share our burden with Him and then also with someone we trust. Then, this morning He reminded again to listen to the message. God’s Holy Spirit’s voice sheds Light and gives direction. It promotes healing. Yes, it leads us not into temptation, but it does give Light as to addressing the wrongs of temptation if one steps into sin. The shame, hiding, secrets are all tools of Satan and certainly not our Lord and Savior. I truly want to be obedient to this behavior.
Today I began the New Testament in my scripture reading. Closing out the Old Testament reading all of the minor prophets was a blessing. Particularly this time, reading them with my new goal of learning to be fully surrendered and obedient. I found that this was exactly the theme of each minor prophet’s writing–leading the Israelites back to being fully surrendered and obedient. Now today I begin the New Testament.
One of the first things I noticed is that Matthew was written about 70 AD. I looked ahead at the other 4 gospels and found that the earliest written one was Mark–55 AD and John was sometime in the 90’s AD. I found this quite interesting because none of them were written while Jesus was with them. They were all written well past Jesus’ earthly life. Somehow, I wonder if each of them had to learn how to apply all that Jesus was teaching them ahead of writing it out?
I have never wanted to not be in God’s will for my life. Even ahead of giving my life to God I wanted to do what mom would tell us about living for Jesus and what our Sunday School teachers would be teaching us. However, I’ve sure learned in my past few years just how much I had learned in life’s experiences to hold onto things in my life which I wouldn’t surrender fully. These were things like trusting a man and man’s wisdom. I would far more trust a woman’s voice than a man’s. I know now this directly linked to dad and my brother’s abuse. Before, I just had this instinctive pattern of behavior. I’d act like I trusted it but I’d hold it in extreme scrutiny.
Today I am seeing that God’s ways of today are exactly like they were in these biblical times. Also, man’s ways are the same–self-centered and prideful. As I read through the New Testament this time I look forward to growing more fully into the surrendered and obedient soul God has always wanted me to be.
I said a couple times in this blog that last week was a firehose week. The two weeks away from all the different needs of the schools and districts and also not having our regular restoration classes had given me ample time to unwind. I simply had relaxed and let go of any responsibilities for them. Getting back into the life of this during the week brought me to a point of focus and a new reality for surrender and obedience. God had been working on me to learn the depth of surrendering me along with what obedience to Him really looks like in this work. I found myself listening to the ones at work while I’d silently ask God for His help. Help would look like me not talking or responding until I was asked or I felt like God actually had a message for me to give. Along with this there were the surprises in the week where God was working and I simply felt the joy of seeing it and in some cases, being part of it.
Today as I was journaling I thanked God for a weekend which didn’t have all the structure and plans of the week. I was looking forward to relaxing. However, I asked Him what surrender and obedience looked like in this environment? My learning and awakening to this new commitment wouldn’t end just because my “work” wasn’t before me I thought. I instantly was shown where I spend more time on a weekend–at home with my wife. We’ll see what this looks like and is like through the weekend. I’m looking forward to it for God is truly a God of clarity when we finally give Him the permission to be God.