Saturday, April 24, 2010

No Eagle Flies by Fighting the Wind

I can't seem to find a rhythm to write these days with my need to care for Jettie, but there is a pause today that allows me to write something that touches the very core of my understanding of life with the Lord Jesus: the place of surrendered abandonment to Him and His purposes.

I have been thinking much about surrender of late--the most recent time came the other morning when I realized how little I even thought about living surrendered just a few years ago. Because of that a lot of garbage came into my life and a lot of pain was inflicted on others, methinks. But because Father has told me never to live in regret, I don't dwell on things like that but instead allow them to propel me into the present moment. And when that happened the other morning I found my heart very much wanting to yield and yield an yield to my loving Abba. And that led me to think about others who have written about surrender and the absolute necessity of it (how else can one be led by the Spirit if s/he isn't listening and surrendering to the nudges of the Spirit?).

I thought of Andrew Murray's story of how he came to write about his incredible book, Absolute Surrender. "Absolute surrender. Let me tell you where I got those words. I used them myself often...but once in Scotland, I was in a company where we were talking about the condition of Christ's Church, and what the great need of the Church and of believers is. There was in our company a godly Christian worker who has much to do in training others workers for Christ, and I asked him what he would say was the great need of the Church--the message that ought to be taught. He answered very quietly and simply and determinedly: 'Absolute surrender to God is the one thing.' Andrew Murray then goes on to tell how this dear saint described that if followers of Jesus are sound on that point, everything else follows, but if not, they would often abandon their work in the Kingdom.

Then I thought about a young Russian whom Smith Wigglesworth describes in one of his messages. "As the wonderful manifestations of the power of God were seen, the people pressed upon him to know the secret of his power, but he felt it was so secret between him and God that he should not tell it. But they pressed him so much that he said to them: 'First God called me, and His presence was so precious that I said to God at every call I would obey Him, and I yielded and yielded, until I realized that I was simply clothed with another power altogether, and I realized that God took me, tongue, thoughts, and everything and I was not myself but it was Christ working through me." (The Wigglesworth Standard by Peter Madden, pp. 60-61).

Then the lights come on and I weep and say, "Ah, Father, we are such an unsurrendered people! No wonder your people today are so lost, so broken, so similar to the culture around them! Even those who think they are 'serving God' often do so from their own initiative and strength. And many don’t even think for a moment about yielding everything, all the time. (Not in slavery, but in childlike conversation with you as Abba). Ah, Father…no wonder we are so powerless! How can you entrust us with your power and glory?"

And now my heart cries out, "But let it not be so any longer, O Most High! Woo us with your love into abandonment to your will! Blind us with your brightness, stun us with your goodness, purge us with your holiness, but don't leave us in our stubborn state!"

I close with a short quote from my journal just a few days ago. It begins what I sensed Father saying to me (in blue text followed by my words in dark red).

"Yes, little one, when men yield and yield to the adversary, he takes them over—possesses them—by force. How much more then will I possess those who yield and yield to my gentleness and power? Yielding is the key to fullness, and I am taking you there. Don’t dwell on that which is past except as I lead you, little one. What I am doing, what I always do, is new and fresh. Yield to me, child, but don’t despair as you learn this, I will make your yes a true yes! Fly on My Wind! Eagle’s fly by yielding, by positioning themselves to catch every subtle nuance of the Wind!”

Father, I am realizing as I sit and ponder this yielded life that the old prophet had in The Quest for the King, has much to say to me. He is described as “possessed by Another’s holiness” and as one who was sustained by Power beyond himself. That is evidently how Smith Wigglesworth lived, isn’t it? And it’s where you are taking me. Oh, Lord God! Keep leading me there, I pray! As the Hillsong music says, “I give my life to the Potter’s hand.” Ah, Father, no eagle flies by fighting the wind!

Not sure what you think of all this, but this is what is on my heart these days...

Leaning into absolute surrender.

Tom, one of Abba's children

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quotable quotes

Many of you may know that George MacDonald, Scottish author (and clergyman), was very influential in the lives of prominent Christian authors, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and J.R.R. Tolkein. I have known this, too, for quite some time and since these authors have deeply influenced me, I thought it was about time to read some MacDonald for myself. When I found the complete works of this author available for free in a Kindle version, I knew my time had come.

I have discovered a treasure chest of wonder as I have worked through a number of his novels. The man was incredibly ahead of his time in terms of truly catching the heart of God. In contrast to the dark, oppressive, repressive and negative extreme Calvinism in Scotland at the time, George MacDonald revealed a God of love and kindness who revealed Himself joyfully in all of creation and who pursued every single person on the planet with goodness and mercy. And since my week has been quite strenuous, I thought it wise to share someone else's treasure rather than trying to find any of my own! Consider the following quotes and see what you think.

First, some thoughts from Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood. (an Anglican vicar's memoirs of early years in his parish).
"If I can put one touch of a rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman of my cure, I shall feel that I have worked with God." (Think about this!)
"People talk about special providences. I believe in the providences, but not the specialty. I do not believe that God lets the thread of my affairs go for six days, and the seventh evening takes it up for a moment. The so-called special providences are no exception to the rule--they are common to all men at all moments. But it is a fact that God's care is more evident in some instances than in others to the dim and often bewildered vision of humanity. Upon such instances men seize and call them providences. It is well that they can, but it would be gloriously better if they could believe that the whole matter is one grand providence." (a providence is a gracious act of God, particularly related to His provision. MacDonald believed that all of life was one continuing stream of God's gracious acts).

And I love this dialogue later in the same book.
"telling his flock that God loves them, and that they will never be happy until they believe it."
"They may believe that too soon."
"I don't believe anyone can believe the truth too soon."

And just one more (I have hundreds marked!)
"Until we love the Lord so as to do what He tells us, we have no right to an opinion about what one of those men meant (TW note: the authors of the books of the Bible, especially the NT); for all they wrote is about things beyond us. The simplest woman who tries not to judge her neighbor, or not to be anxious for the morrow, will better know what is best to know, than the best read bishop without that one simple outgoing of his highest nature in the effort to do the will of Him who thus spoke."

I am not sure that these even begin to capture the wonder you can find in this man's works, and I recognize that his writing style is quite challenging for many in our "instant" world, but perhaps you of childlike heart will have your appetite's whetted for more. MacDonald "claimed to have written for the 'childlike,' both young and old." (Listening to the Heartbeat of God by Philip Newell, p. 61). Perhaps you share in that childlikeness and will with me and many others catch the wonder in moment, in the ordinary, and in the others around you. I have found that authors like MacDonald help me to do so.

Pausing to wonder in the midst of pain,

Tom, one of Abba's little children

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Inspector or Loving Father?

So when God asks you a question, do you hear invitation or accusation? The past few days I have been thinking about how easy it is to put a negative spin on the questions God asks me (or people in the Bible). For example, "Why are you afraid?" may sound to me like I am defective because I am instead of an invitation to trust Him when I am afraid (Psalm 56:3). And "Where is your faith?" may sound like an accusation about unbelief instead of an invitation to explore God's love and power in ways that increase my trust. You get the picture, I think.

I think that we tend to put a negative spin on what God says because we still very much need our "paradigms" adjusted in terms of who God is and what He is really like to those of us who are His children. Recently I reviewed some words by Andrew Murray, from With Christ in the School of Prayer, that helped me return to a healthier understand of who God really is. He is not our heavenly Inspector, He is our loving Father! See what you think.

We are afraid to take God as our tender Father. We think of Him as a schoolmaster or an inspector, who knows nothing about us except through our lessons... We aren't supposed to learn to be holy as a hard lesson at school so we can make God think well of us. We are to learn it at home with the Father to help us. God loves you not because you are clever or good, but because He is your Father. The cross of Christ does not make God love us. It is the outcome of His love to us. His love lies underneath everything. We must grasp it as the solid foundation of our religious life, not growing up into that love, but growing up out of it.

Meditate on the words “our Father.” Say them over to yourself until you feel something of their wonderful truth. They mean that I am bound to God by the closest and tenderest relationship, and that I have a right to His love, His power, and His blessing in a way no one else could give me... Imagine the boldness with which we can approach Him! It means that all His infinite love, patience, and wisdom reach down to help me. There is infinitely more implied by this relationship than the possibility of holiness.

We are to begin in the patient love of our Father. Think about how He knows us personally, as individuals with all our peculiarities, our weaknesses, and our difficulties. The master judges by the result, but our Father judges by the effort.

Don't you love that last line? But please don't read into it that God's first response to you is judgement! The point is that God as Father is always for us and not against, never looking for reason to condemn us but always looking for reasons to commend us. Will correction come? Yes, but if it comes it will bring hope and power to change because He is our loving Father, not the Heavenly Inspector!

Just reflecting on our loving Father...

Tom, one of His little children.

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's About Love

"You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill."... "And so," said the Witch, "that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property." With these words the great Christian author, C.S. Lewis lays out in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe the human condition that gave God His opportunity to reveal His glory in awesome ways. In this description, C.S. Lewis, reveals that he (rightly, in my opinion) held a view of the cross that makes Jesus' sacrifice a ransom paid to set people free from the devil who gained rights to them because of their aligning themselves with him through sin.

Theologians have argued down through the centuries about the exact reasons why Jesus' death was necessary. Now I have my own theories about this, too, but I wonder if it's wise to try to figure all of that out, especially if it leads us away from what Jesus' dying for us is most about: God's passionate, pursuing and relentless love for you and me. A quick review of the scriptures shows us that by far the most frequent company the cross is found in is love and the reconciliation with God that God's love brings to the captive and estranged sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Consider just a few of the many passages that underscore this.

For God loved the world of men so much that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever trusts in him should not perish but have eternal life. (TW paraphrase)
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 NIV)
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10 NIV -- italics mine)
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself...(2 Corinthians 5:19a NKJV)
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV)

I am sure you see it. God's love for each and all of us, infinite in both its measure and its intensity, is what the cross is most about. And that love opened the way for us to be reconciled to the One who treasures us most, treasured you so much that Father, Son and Spirit paid an unthinkable price to make it possible for you to be called beloved daughter/son of the Most High God. This is not theoretical, dear ones, nor is it theological: it is the eternal declaration of the value of each and every person ever to reside on this planet, including you and me. No wonder, then, that those of us who have begun to glimpse just the slightest bit of this are in tearful, joyful awe of this most holy day!

"Nail-pierced hands, a wounded side; this is love, this is love. The holy heart was sacrificed. This is love. This is love." (Lyrics from This is Love by Terry Butler and Mike Young)

Barely understanding His love,

Tom, one of Abba's little children