Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sweet Surrender

There is much that has been on my heart the past few weeks as I have thought and prayed about my own spiritual life and have been examining different aspects of it, realizing ever more that I am not where I should be. I was seeing how I had become complacent in some areas, and how various things in my life that I was struggling with, while seemingly unrelated, stemmed from a similar root: self-focus. Self truly is an enemy to be continually fought and defended against! I find that it likes to rear its ugly head when the busyness of life creeps in or when I am tired or am struggling with my emotions.

The struggle to overcome it when tried in one’s own strength is wearisome and unfruitful at best. (speaking from experience here. :) Yet resting in Christ’s lovingkindess and in His strength and love brings such a change! Simply changing my focus from self and earthly things to my dear Savior, showers down the peace and the joy that were lacking. Through a heart and mind “set on things above” one’s outlook is so different! When looking at things through a heart of surrender to Christ with the desire to serve Him as opposed to a heart of self, how different is one’s love and service to others!

It is amazing how swiftly the change to resting in Christ can take place – yet it is through an effort . . . and a continual, conscious, and persevering effort. That seems a little contradictory doesn’t it? Effort and rest at the same time? But the two seem to go hand in hand. As we put forth the spiritual effort and make the choice to surrender ourselves and to rest in Christ, then He can fill our hearts with Himself and His rest . . . the Holy Spirit and the “impulse of His love” will be what moves our hearts, our hands, our feet, our words.

As I read in my Bible yesterday morning, so much was speaking to my heart. Yet one particular passage especially so as it held in it the beautiful example of the Lord Jesus. It is speaking of when Christ will return and when He has “put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25.) And then it goes on to say . . .

When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15:28

Christ Himself, the Son of God, the Savior, Redeemer, the Lamb, the One who is holy and true, the Perfect One, the Alpha and Omega . . . subjecting Himself to the Father.

What an example . . . what a humbling example our Savior is to us. Can we do any less than to surrender our poor, sinful (yet redeemed!), weak beings to Him?

Sweet surrender . . . it is indeed that. Not always easy, but the fruit reaped is without a doubt, very sweet.

-Posted by Sarah

Friday, April 13, 2012

". . . for You will enlarge my heart . . ."

When reading in Psalm 119 recently, a particular verse caused me to pause . . . it is one I have read many times, yet it spoke to my heart in a way that it had not before. The verses preceding speak of the writer's love for God's word, choosing "the faithful way", clinging to the Lord's testimonies, and more. And then the last verse in this section (verses 25-32) reads . . .

"I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart." Psalm 119: 32

When reading this, the thought that immediately came to mind was in relation to the "running" and the "enlarging of the heart." Physically, when we run, the heart begins pumping faster and harder. If one continues to exercise by running on a regular basis, the arteries will expand, the heart will get stronger, and the body will be able to exercise longer and do more and more physically demanding things. It will become more fit, strong, and have more energy, and all as a result of the continued effort and perseverance.

How beautifully this relates to our spiritual life! As we run in the way of God's commandments which are found in His Word, as we persevere and practice them, read and study them, seek to apply them, and to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1b), the Lord will enlarge our heart! And as He enlarges our heart, we will have increasing strength and endurance to continue on in this race . . . which will then bear the fruit of a maturing, stronger, and more solidly grounded life in Christ.

Sometimes this "race" can be painful and difficult, and one may begin to think they cannot take one more step forward (things that those of us who have run for exercise can probably relate to! :), yet the Lord gives the grace and the strength to take that next step. And as we take it, He prepares us to take the next one. Yet it hinges on us taking those steps and continuing to run in the "way of [His] commandments." Then, through that continual perseverance and pressing on, we have the joy and comfort of resting in the knowledge that the Lord will "enlarge our heart" and be there with us every step of the way. What an encouragement this is!

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"One Another"

Our family has been studying various scriptural topics together, and one area that we looked at recently was the “one another” verses of Scripture and especially how they relate within the family unit, and then also to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Having read the Bible many times (and some passages/books a great many times), I thought I was fairly familiar with the instruction given for how we are to specifically treat one another . . . love one another, encourage one another, and things along those lines.

I was amazed, though, to discover just how many specific commands are given! And how far reaching those commands are. As I looked through the long list that Dad had compiled and studied the verses therein, I found my heart humbled and convicted . . . how far short I was falling in so many areas of where the Lord has called me to be!

As our family then gathered together and discussed among ourselves the different things that we learned and which particular areas spoke to our hearts, the thought came to mind that these “one another” verses would be an excellent blog post. Perhaps you have already studied these, perhaps you have never even heard of them, or perhaps you are like me and had known in part, but had not fully realized the broad scope and the great depth that a true one another love encompasses. I do hope that whichever one you are, that what is shared here will be a blessing and encouragement to you . . . and remember, these are not simply suggestions, but are commands from God to those of us who are His children . . .

~ Love one another (John 13:34, 13:35, 15:12, 15:17; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 John 3:11, 3:23, 4:7, 4:11, 4:12; 2 John 1:5)

~ Increase and abound in love toward one another (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

~ Fervently love one another (1 Peter 1:22, 4:8)

~ Keep fervent in your love for one another (1 Peter 4:8)

~ Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (Romans 12:10)

~ Be of the same mind toward one another (Romans 12:16)

~ Give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10)

~ Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

~ Accept one another (Romans 15:7)

~ Admonish one another (Romans 15:14)

~ Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)

~ Serve one another (through love) (Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10)

~ Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2)
~ Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:23)

~ Be tender-hearted to one another (Ephesians 4:23)

~ Be forgiving of one another (Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:13)

~ Show tolerance for one another with humility, gentleness, and patience and in love (Ephesians 4:2)

~ Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Ephesians 5:21)

~ Teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

~ Regard one another as more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)

~ Bear with one another (Colossians 3:13)

~ Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

~ Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 10:25)

~ Live in peace with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

~ Seek after that which is good for one another (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

~ Confess sins to one another (James 5:16)

~ Pray for one another (James 5:16)

~ Be hospitable to one another without complaint (1 Peter 4:9)

~ Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)

~ Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)

And then the “do nots”

~ Do not judge one another (Romans 14:13; though this does not negate the need for discernment and righteous judgment – context on this verse is important!)

~ Do not challenge one another (Galatians 5:26)

~ Do not envy one another (Galatians 5:26)

~ Do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9)

~ Do not repay evil for evil to another (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

~ Do not hate one another (Titus 3:3)

~ Do not speak against one another (James 4:11)

~ Do not complain against one another (James 5:9)

How convicting this list is! And I found it especially interesting how many times “love one another” is mentioned (at least 16 times); and also how few “do nots” there are compared to the “dos”. It is much easier to simply refrain from doing something (though it still can be quite difficult!), but it takes much more effort, commitment, forethought, and perseverance to do those things that God has commanded us.

One particular “one another” especially convicted my heart, and it led to a bit further investigation on my part as to what it means . . . “give preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10.)

'Preference' as defined by Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is

The act of preferring one thing before another; estimation of one thing above another.

While 'prefer' is:

To bear or carry in advance, in the mind, affections or choice; hence to regard more than another

These definitions really convicted and spoke to my heart . . . and they bring to mind another “one another” . . . “regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3.)

Since doing this study, all of this has really been on my heart, and I am striving to practice what was learned . . . to learn and grow in each of these “one anothers” . . . to my family . . . friends . . . brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is a journey that is for certain! But even the tiniest of baby steps bring one closer to the journey’s goal . . . would you care to join me?

-Posted by Sarah