Don’t struggle – surrender

Selwyn starts today’s study, with: “Yesterday we commented that the issue of self-surrender is not comfortable for the ego, and for this reason many try to find every way they can to skirt around it.” Further on, he states: ” … In self-surrender the self ceases its own rule and takes God’s rule, abdicates the throne and kneels before the throne of God.”

I sometimes think, that some people know that they must placed God first and they do recognise Him as the one true God; whom they knee before – for a short time on a Sunday. For the rest of the time, they sit on their own thrones and seek God’s power to ensure that they remain on their own throne – in control of their own environment. Said another way, they make decisions during the week based upon what they want; they give Jesus little or no role in the making of their decisions – but then they turn to God in a Twitter type of prayer, seeking His help when their plans start to go astray. We can’t follow Jesus when we try to live a partly surrendered life – it’s full and total surrender, or it’s nothing!

Overall, I like Paul’s letter to the Romans, and Selwyn has selected the first part of Chapter 10  for reading and meditation – the last few verses are good and I’ve included a few more, [Romans 10:9-15 (NIV)]: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and non-Jew (Gentile) – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

The last few verses, perhaps need to be placed into context – it is God’s Spirit, who directs the feet of those who bring good news. Jesus prepares the hearts of His people, so that they accept His Word and believe in Him.

Any comments?

The first law

Have you had a personal encounter with Jesus?

It’s a pivotal question, because they is no grey area – an answer cannot be ‘I might have, but I’m not sure.’ The answer is either, ‘Yes – I have’ or ‘No, I haven’t’.

It’s not the same question as ‘Do you believe in Jesus?’  Do you agree? [Satan knows Jesus and believes everything written about God, in Scripture.]

Selwyn writes in today’s study: “While we are exploring the escape routes which we Christians may take when we are threatened by reality, we pause to think of those who, although they attend church, have never really had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. …

They will follow the rules of religion, try to do good, attend church, give liberally of their finances – in fact, they will do everything that is asked of them except the one thing that is of prime importance: the surrender of self to God. If you try to get around this issue of surrender then, believe me, you will trip over your unsurrendered ego into unhappiness and frustration.

The law of self-surrender is the first law of the kingdom of God.”

In essence, we cannot love God or each other, if we unable (i.e. unwilling) to surrender ourselves to Jesus!

Your view?

 

Detached – and defeated

Selwyn spends one more day, considering the escape route of detachment and withdrawal.

I think that the major driving force behind those people who flee to a place, where they close their eyes to reality – is fear. They fear that if they turn to face their known present or unknown future they may have to ‘do something’ – it could be to love someone by helping them with their load – it could be to forgive someone who has hurt or insulted them – it could be to deal with an ‘elephant in the room’. [That is, an obvious issue that should be addressed; outsiders can see the problem but those closest – those in the room – live their lives as if there is no huge issue to address.]

In addition there is the constant and paralysing fear of pending disasters, that many people suffer from: the loss of a job, a failed exam, the breakdown of a relationship, a health catastrophe (e.g. road accident, life threatening disease, heart attack  & severe dementia), social riots, terrorist events, earthquakes, fires and floods. In our daily news reports we are presented with a deluge of bad things happening – therefore, it’s easy to become apprehensive about something bad happening, at any time, to us. Consequently, it’s understandably that many people use different routes to escape from the looming threat of something bad happening – at any moment.

It’s fear mixed with a lack of trust in God that drives the majority of people living at the moment.

So, where do you stand – in this scene of turmoil and confusion?

The text for today, is 1 John 4:12-21 (NIV): “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

Selwyn concludes today’s study with these words: “It must be said that fear can drive some into withdrawal and detachment, and cause them to mentally to run away from things. Reality means being willing to look at the possibility, no matter how intimidating it may be.”

It’s hard, I know, to face the storms of life without some degree of trepidation at times; but we can trust in the love of Jesus. He is always near us – He knows how we are feeling – all the time.

Just spend a moment to reflect on the following words, Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV): “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” Jesus said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” ‘

Hold this thought close to your heart as you go through your day – even if you have a small and growing faith – you can cry out to Jesus, ‘Save me.’ Immediately, Jesus will reach out His hand and support you, when you at risk of drowning in dark and crippling fear, caused by bad things happening.

Your views?

 

 

‘The shell of refusal’

Selwyn says in today’s study: “An underlying reason for withdrawal and detachment is a fear that we cannot handle the situations which confront us from day to day. But Scripture says that God will never allow anything to come our way without providing the strength to deal with it.”

We know from what’s written in the Bible that God does not say one thing and then do another – His pure holiness guarantees that He is truthful to His Word. Consequently, what do you believe is the strongest – God’s love for you; or, your fear of unknown ‘terrors’? He has proven His love for you by what He did on the cross. Perhaps, it is time for us – to prove that we believe in His love; and live our life  – trusting that whatever happens, He will always carry us through the worst of our trials.

 

 

Retreatism – a life strategy?

Selwyn continues to look at the ways some people escape from reality – today, he again looks at the route of detachment and withdrawal.

In the text, set for reading and meditation, Jesus asks the invalid at the pool: “Do you want to get well?”

It’s a good question – it captures the same attitude expressed by a person being comfortable in their life of sin. The question: “Do you want to be free from the bondage of sin (consumerism, sexual liberty, etc)?” May sometimes result in an answer that is detached from the reality of our spiritual lives. Often, the imagined pain of giving up the pleasures they perceive to be satisfying; is not worth, to them, the possibility of sharing an eternal life with a loving God. Consequently, it’s easy to understand why, many of these people, don’t believe in an eternal life. A belief in an eternal life forces a person to explore the issue of entry and status in eternity.

Today’s Scripture verses, John 5:1-15 (NIV): ‘Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.’

A few points to notice – the man did not ask Jesus to be cured; he did not know who Jesus was; and, he had made no attempt to find out who had cured him. All this, perhaps indicates, a fairly low level of gratitude – even though he had been an invalid for 38 years. One could say that he was in bondage to his illness for nearly a life-time.

Finally, take note of Jesus’ last comment to this man: “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man had been cured of a physical disease but he was still a sinner; his eyes had not been opened to who Jesus was, and is. Being an invalid for 38 years may sound like a life-time of anguish; but being spiritually dead for eternity – is something far worse. Don’t you agree?

The prayer for today is great: “O Father, I don’t want just to be able to cope with life – I want to be in control of it. I cannot control what life brings, but I can control my reactions to what life brings. Help me, dear Father. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Temporary retreats

In today’s study, Selwyn talks about another route some people use to escape reality – ‘the road of detachment and withdrawal.  … We withdraw from life and establish for ourselves a detached form of existence which enables us to keep a safe distance from those things which threaten or intimidate us.’

He points out that it’s fine to ‘occasionally retreat from life in an effort to rest or renew one inner’s resources, However, when retreatism becomes the normal way of life, it spells trouble.‘ I think that a spiritual retreat, every few years, where you take yourself out of your daily routine and go to a place that allows you to ‘be still’ in front of God’s throne; is a good thing to do, especially if you allow God’s Spirit to search the deepest areas of your heart.  To spend time with God, away from the noise of a busy world and our daily, demanding responsibilities; allows us to be refreshed by the Holy Spirit and our spiritual direction to be fine-tuned and confirmed.

I think that if we constantly detach ourselves from the harsh realities of the world – we lose a degree of sensitivity and also find it harder to show compassion to those who are suffering.

Jesus, in His love, knows that we too will suffer at various times during our life’s journey – some people who are born with a disability, have to live the harsh realities of life – every waking moment.

We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Jesus knows that we will need His help – and we can depend on His help because He has proven to us that He really does love us. The most important thing of all, in my mind, is that when we see the richness of our life with Christ, and the glory that will be revealed in us – then the pain of our past suffering will fade away to nothing. The following lengthy quote from Romans covers this particular point extremely well.

Paul’s letter to the Romans 8:18-39 (NIV): “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long: we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Any comments?

The way of Jesus

Selwyn continues to look at the attempted escape from reality by adopting critical and negative attitudes.

He writes: “Nobody is ever really changed by criticism – least of all nagging criticism. Nobody is changed except the one doing the criticising – he or she is changed into a more critical person.”

In his conclusion, Selwyn makes an excellent point  – instead of  pursuing a path of constant criticism and fault finding, we should look for opportunities to encourage each other.

In Scripture, we often find teaching and encouragement going together, hand in hand.

Actually, when you look at the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters, there are many references to encouragement, here are a few examples: ‘After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them.’ (Acts 16:40)

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2)

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14)

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” (Romans15:4-5)

In summary, perhaps we should pause  at this point, to reflect and ask ourselves the question – when was the last time that I actively encouraged someone on their journey, as they followed Jesus?