"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Yesterday my mind was making more noise than the car radio and rush hour traffic combined. In those clamorous times very little can break through my busy brain.

But when I braked for a stoplight near home, everything became still. The silence jolted me and focused my attention. In the next moment I heard a phrase sung by Casting Crowns that would haunt me the rest of the day.

When the song on the radio ended, I pulled out my iPod and listened to it again.

Then I played only the first line. And I played it again.

The Holy Spirit convicted me not only of the truth in that phrase, (and of every word in that powerful song) but God also revealed that this particular truth is not always reality in my life.

The song is called “To Know You.”

Line by line the lyrics declare the truth of what it means to really know God, and I couldn’t get passed the fact that knowing God means we never worry.

Since I truly have an intimate relationship with God, I should never worry for my life. But I do.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34 NIV

If it’s true that knowing God means never worrying for my life, then why isn’t it true for me?

Because I get sucked into thinking reality is truth. If I have a reason to worry, if circumstances produce worrisome possibilities (or even outcomes) then it makes sense to worry.

But God doesn’t always make sense.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

Faith is believing the truth of God’s Word even if we don’t see it. It’s being certain of the things we hope for. (See Hebrews 11:1)

When I’m worried it’s because I’ve taken my eyes off God. And just like Peter I get sucked into thinking I’ve got a reason to worry.

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. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night 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," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he 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?" Matthew 14:22-31 NIV

The words to a brand new song challenged me yesterday. 
The words to an old hymn call to me now.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

The memory verse I decided to post today gives me hope.

It also boggles my mind.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m down in a slimy pit covered with mud and mire I don’t want to wait patiently. In fact, I don’t want to wait at all.

I want out now!

But David (the author of today's memory verse) waited patiently.

He didn’t claw at the sides of the pit. He didn’t whine or grumble or yell. He waited.


I’m beginning to think our attitude while waiting for God’s deliverance may affect the duration of our pit visit.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pictures on my Refrigerator

My grandmother had red hair and loved to think it gave her an excuse to be feisty.

Her picture is stuck to the side of my refrigerator way up at the top. There’s a reason for that.

The location of Gram’s picture reminds me of where she is buried and why.

Sam’s picture has hung beside hers for several years. My dad’s is up there now too.

Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those Christians who have died so you will not be sad, as others who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again. So, because of him, God will raise with Jesus those who have died. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NCV

Last night at dinner my husband made a random comment about the dead in Christ rising first.

(Our conversation didn’t mix in the normal dinner hour ingredients, but our life hasn’t been entirely normal lately.)

Was it a coincidence that I’d been gazing at the precious pictures on my fridge while preparing dinner? And now my husband wanted to talk about the dead in Christ rising first.

I can’t help but smile at the memory of my redheaded grandmother telling us at Sunday dinner over a decade ago why she’d purchased a top drawer at the mausoleum.

She’d pushed her chair back from the table and looked at me with that familiar gleam. “I made sure your grandpa and I got the top row,” she’d said as she raised one arm and pointed to an imaginary spot on the kitchen ceiling.

“Because when the dead in Christ rise, I want to be the first one out!”

We who are living when the Lord comes again will not go before those who have already died. The Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And those who have died believing in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 NCV

I love that memory every bit as much as Gram loved her red hair… 
and her Jesus.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians so they would “not be sad, as others who have no hope.” (v. 13)

In the Bible “hope” isn’t a wish. It’s a firm conviction. It’s a rock solid knowing that something is real even if we do not see it. (Hebrews 11:1)

That’s why the upper corner of my refrigerator warms my heart. One day soon Gram, Sam and Dad will rise.

After that, we who are still alive will be gathered up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 NCV

Maybe last night’s dinner conversation was exactly what my husband and I needed to chew on.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Holding vs. Casting

A missionary to a Third World country once told me of an observation made by an indigenous church member.

“You Westerners take your requests to God and hand them over to Him palms up,” he said as he cupped his hands in front of his face. “But we offer our prayers palms down.” He dumped his imaginary handful and flicked his fingers to make sure nothing remained.

The missionary’s illustration reminds me of the way Sally mailed her stack of letters in the Meg Ryan/Billy Crystal movie When Harry Met Sally.

She would tip open the big blue mailbox, place one letter inside, close the lid, then open it again to make sure her letter had disappeared. Then she would repeat the process with the next letter.

Eventually, Harry grabbed the stack from Sally and threw the whole bundle down the chute.

I wonder if God can relate to Harry’s exasperation when it comes to the way I deposit my prayers.

I hate to think my trust issues may compel God to practice an inordinate amount of patience with me. I’m afraid I’m guilty of carefully holding onto my needs, even as I offer them up to Him.

Do I fear God will drop them?

David’s Psalm counsels me to dump my bundle palms down.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.  Psalm 55:22 NIV

So does Peter’s first letter.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV

I don’t know about you, but I think “casting” our prayer requests isn’t something we can do with cupped hands. Wouldn’t you agree that “casting” more closely resembles Harry’s method of mailing Sally’s letters?

You and I need to cast off our cares and anxieties, and fasten our hope on God, who is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

We need to let go of the things we’ve placed in God’s hands, and hold firmly to the faith we profess (Hebrews 4:14)

“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, …for I myself will help you’," declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 41:13-14 NIV 

I’m learning “holding” takes a lot more energy than “casting.”

Excuse me, I’ve got a bundle to unload…

Monday, August 23, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

I believe with all my heart that God speaks in a variety of ways.

He often communicates to me through my circumstances. For example, I might hear a perfectly timed song on the radio that comforts me… or convicts me.

Sometimes God will speak to me through my husband or a friend or even a stranger.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you already know that He speaks to me through my dreams.

Even though I’ve heard God speak in a variety of ways, I truly believe He most often speaks through the Bible. I’ll go so far as to say that I don’t think He’s likely to speak to me in the other ways I mentioned unless I regularly read His Word.

In other words, because I read, study and memorize God’s Word, I’m more apt to hear His voice whenever and however He chooses to speak to me.

Your commitment to read Oil from the Jar on Memory Verse Monday means you are also “tuned in” to hearing God’s voice.

The verses I’ve chosen for today speak volumes about the power of God’s word. 

Even though this memory work may take a little longer than usual, it will be worth it.  

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dreams that Speak

In the middle of last night I found myself in a hospital room.

Upon awaking I didn’t consider it strange that my dreams took me there in light of the circumstances of the past two weeks.

But this time the patient needed a new heart instead of new lungs.

I rode the elevator to the surgery waiting room with a stranger, but she looked at me with a flash of recognition.

“I’ve heard you pray!” she exclaimed with delight. “You pray like no one I’ve ever known.”

I smiled and thanked her and felt a little unsettled inside.

As I neared the door to the waiting area, another stranger greeted me in a similar way.

“You’re that lady who prays!” she sang out with enough admiration to make me feel even more uncomfortable.

I smiled again and mumbled something about believing God hears us when we pray.

To which she replied, “You pray like you believe a friend is listening, a close friend.”

Her words followed me into the waiting room, but were chased away by the scene I stepped into.

A party?

A long table decorated for a child’s birthday party filled the room. Cheerful balloons and brightly colored cups and plates seemed so out of place.

But the celebrating crowd was the strangest sight of all. How could they rejoice at a time like this? A little girl was about to undergo very serious transplant surgery. What were they thinking?

I looked around the room filled with happy faces and was surprised to see the patient sitting alone in the corner.

She was around 8 years old, I can picture her face even now. It revealed bitterness and anger.

I crossed the room and asked a man at the head of the party table why they were celebrating.

“Her heart is cold,” he replied. “God is about to do surgery on her so she won’t become hard-hearted.”

“That’s why we’re celebrating,” another man at the table piped in. “This painful trial is going to soften her heart, her cold, cold heart.”

I woke up shivering with chattering teeth.

I live near Fresno, California. With our valley’s heat, no one ever wakes in August with a chill. Never.

So I asked God why I was cold and if it had anything to do with my dream.

This Scripture immediately popped into my head:

Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-15 NIV

And I knew the girl needing heart surgery was me.

I’ve prayed lots of prayers lately that haven’t been answered the way I wanted.

I’ve suffered severe loss in many forms.

I’ve felt betrayed and trampled by someone I love more than my own life.

I’ve lost sleep night after night and cried enough tears to make my eyes permanently swollen.

And my heart has hardened.

Will I become angry and bitter like the girl awaiting surgery?
Or will I remain the woman of prayer even strangers recognize?

I choose prayer.

And this morning, I chose to pray a Psalm of David:

You want me to be completely truthful,
So teach me wisdom.
Take away my sin, and I will be clean.
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
Let the bones you crushed be happy again.
Turn your face from my sins and wipe out all my guilt.
Create in me a pure heart, God,
And make my spirit right again.
Do not send me away from you
Or take your Holy Spirit away from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation.
Keep me strong by giving me a willing spirit. 
Psalm 51:6-12 NCV

Before putting my dream into words on this page, I looked up the 
verse from 1 Peter to make sure I remembered it word for word. 
(I’d memorized it from the NIV.)

Out of curiosity I also looked it up in The Message.

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. 1 Peter 4:12-15 The Message

Life is hard.

But glory is just around the corner.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

Yesterday I opened with this line:

And I concluded with a promise to write about a friend whose “believing” recently became “experiencing.”

I’ve written about her before. I hope you had the chance to read of Pam’s radical and terrifying surrender. In describing her desire to yield everything to God, she wrote, “I know that ultimately I want nothing more than to live in total surrender and abandonment to Him every moment I have left on this earth.”

Pam’s daughter, Jaimee, surely must have learned the beauty of walking in the Spirit from her mom.

Jaimee went home to Jesus the day before yesterday.

Her young—in the way that Timothy was young—husband spoke of the final days of her fight to live with Cystic Fibrosis this way:

Jaimee's Journey Home
by Rony Renfrow III

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

After years of battling Cystic Fibrosis, our Jaimee now has a pair of lungs that will never fail. No longer trapped in a broken body, her beautiful spirit can once again sing, dance and run in the presence of God. 

If you don't know Jaimee's God, or if you want to understand what Jaimee is all about and what her faith is made of, you should read what she wrote, weak and nauseous, 2 days before being started on life support.

(Note from Shawna: I will include Jaimee’s glorious prayer of praise at the end.)

Our last two weeks with her have stretched our faith and changed our lives forever.

After being started on life support on Saturday July 31st, Jaimee beat down severe aspiration pneumonia and this was only the beginning of the roller coaster the last 2 weeks have been.

Miracle after miracle has paved her and our way.
  • Being placed on top of the transplant list against all odds.
  • Surviving a medically impossible level of CO2 of 225 thanks to months of chronic breathing issues.
  • Fitting a man's lungs into her little chest and breathing with them an hour later.

We don't understand why after all this God chose to still take Jaimee home. We know that we see things through a mist and one day will know fully.

Perhaps it was to bring us together as a family, to lead us to depend on one other and learn to love each other more than we could have ever naturally known how.  

Perhaps it was to rid us of our preoccupation with the useless things in life and teach us how to lean and trust on God alone. To shift our focus on what really matters and therefore truly live—the way she did when she would sing, "Take my life and let it be Yours!"

Perhaps it was to bring light and life to the people caring for her in the hospital.

Perhaps it was so we could rest on the fact that everything had been attempted and Jaimee's wishes had been fulfilled, and that with the situation perfectly in hand, He was choosing to take her home.

Perhaps it's so we could have the chance and the time to say goodbye.


All we know is that Jaimee believed in and was surrendered to her purpose, awake or asleep, and that she would go home when that purpose would be fulfilled. Be it that in a week or in 30 years, she was fine with whichever.  

And today, after pushing the limits of medicine and of the believable, she has finally gone home, her heart sealed for the courts above.

Jaimee's last request before being anesthetized and started on life support was this: 

Tell them to live for Christ.

After reading how Jaimee’s husband, Rony, beautifully chronicled this family’s commitment to radical and terrifying surrender, I can tell you this: I’ve certainly learned how to better live for Christ.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 NIV

I promised to include Jaimee’s prayer.

As Rony mentioned, she wrote it two days before being placed on life support. Jaimee named her praise offering:

A prayer and praise written to my God in song lyrics

I realized that the things I wanted to express to the Lord today have already been beautifully articulated by talented and spirit-filled song-writing brothers and sisters.

Dear God,

I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you. 
Today is the day You have made,
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
Even though I walk through the valley 
of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear. 
I fear no evil for my God is with me; 
and because God is with me, whom then shall I fear? 
No one and nothing. Because my hope is found
In Christ alone. He is my light, my strength, my song. 
No guilt in life, no fear in death...
This is the power of Christ in me. 
From life's first cry to final breath, 
Jesus commands my destiny. 
No Power of he'll, no scheme of man, 
Could ever pluck me from His hand. 
Till He returns, or calls me home, 
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand. 
My comforter, my all in all, 
Here in the love of Christ I stand. 
Your love, God, is extravagant. 
Your love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens. 
Your faithfulness stretches to the skies. 
For His infinite love, sing Alleluia. 
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. 
Even the rocks cry out, even the heavens shout. 
Sun, moon, and stars rejoice on high. 
All creatures of our God and King 
Lift up your voices and sing with us. 
Praise to the Savior, praise to the Lamb of God, 
Praise in all of His splendor, 
And praise for saving my life. 
My God is mighty to save.
He rose and conquered the grave. 
My Savior loves, my Savior lives, 
And my Savior's always there for me. 
He is the God who was, is, and is
Always going to be. 
Glory to God forever! 
Creator God, You gave me breath so I could praise 
Your great and matchless name all my days. 
So, let my whole life be a blazing offering. 
A life that shouts and sings 
the greatness of our King, because 
How great is our God? 
Take my life and let it be all for You 
And for Your glory. 
Take my life and let it be Yours. 
This world is empty pale and poor 
Compared to knowing You, my Lord. 
Lead me on and I will run after You. 

Compiled by
Jaimee Baker Renfrow
September 14, 1986 - August 15, 2010

Never has a dash represented so much life.

P.S. I think Jaimee would've liked this video.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

“Experiencing” takes “believing” to a whole new level.

I’m not suggesting we need to see in order to believe. I mean to say that we know what we truly believe when we’re forced to trust without seeing.

Here’s an example:

In regards to “believing”

I trust that God will never leave me or forsake me. I trust because I’ve read it, heard it, accepted it.

When I believe at this level, I intellectually trust I’ll never be alone.

In regards to “experiencing”

I trust that God will comfort me in a supernatural way when a loved one betrays me. I’m forced to trust because I have nowhere else to turn.

When I believe at this level, I wholeheartedly trust God to ease my loneliness.

Here’s another example:

I trust that God will meet all my needs. After all, the Bible says so in Philippians 4:19. I intellectually trust that God will take care of me.

But when the economy causes my income to dry up, I’m forced to trust that God will put food on my table and gas in my car. Will I freak out because I don’t see how I can meet expenses? Or will I truly believe my needs will be met?

Faith becomes real when it’s tested.

God wants our faith to be genuine. That’s why He constantly calls us to a deeper level of trust.

I’ve heard God say, “Okay, Shawna, you trust me for this much. Now will you trust me for this much?”

He repeats the question as He moves the bar higher and higher.

Tomorrow I will write about a friend whose “believing” recently became “experiencing”.

Today’s memory verse is the verse she posted yesterday on her facebook page.

When your faith is tested (and it will be tested) will you despair?

Or will you believe?

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sandbox Rocks

Today I had a really bad day (as evidenced by the tardiness of today’s post.)

I couldn’t think of a thing to write about, and then I remembered this story appearing in the first week of homework for the Bible study I wrote, Enough is Enough.

I knew I had to share it with you.

I once heard a story of a little boy at play in the new sandbox his daddy had just built for him in their backyard. The boy’s father had gone inside to cool off in the air-conditioned house, but continued watching his child through the window.

The boy, unaware of his father’s attentive presence, made himself busy sifting through the sand. Every now and then he would come across a rock. He’d scoop it up with his plastic shovel and toss it out of the sandbox. The father smiled at his son’s ingenuity.

Suddenly the boy found a much larger rock beneath the sand. When he tried to lift it, his plastic shovel snapped in two.

Swallowing back his tears, the determined little boy set his face like flint. He began pushing the rock first with his hands and eventually with his feet. He desperately tried to force the rock up over the lip of the sandbox, but time after time it fell back in.

Finally the boy let go of his tears and crumpled into the warm sand.

The father gently came alongside his little boy. “Son,” he called softly. “What’s wrong?”

“Daddy, I tried real hard. But this rock is too big.”

The father tenderly gripped the child’s quivering shoulder, “You didn’t use everything you had, Son.”

“Yes I did, Daddy,” the boy cried, pained by his father’s words. “I tried and tried.”

“No, son. You didn’t use all your strength.”

Suddenly the boy frowned, somewhat angered. He’d nearly smashed his finger and had already stubbed his toe. “Daddy, I did too!”

“Son, you didn’t use all your strength because you didn’t ask for my help.” And with that the father easily lifted the rock out of the sandbox. “I’m here for you, Son. All you have to do is ask for my help.”

Can anyone else besides me relate to the boy’s smashed finger and stubbed toe?

I’ve grown to the point where I usually remember to ask for God’s help instead of relying on my own strength. (Usually.)

However, I almost always forget that God may have a reason for the rocks in my sandbox.

In my frustration, I alternate between grappling with rocks and wrestling with God.

Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come to you. 
Psalm 102:1 NIV

When I ask God for help, He hears me, and He’ll move my rocks according to His schedule. 

I can either accept His ways, or nurse smashed fingers and stubbed toes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Memory Verse Monday (on Wednesday)

The memory verse I posted the day before yesterday was Mark 12:30. Because that verse issues a command, I couldn’t help but think of another verse.

I promised to post today.

It’s both easy to memorize and important to know.

By the way…

How did you demonstrate your love for God today?

Today’s Memory Verse:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Trust Fall

I once participated in a ropes course with a station called “Trust Fall.” 
It did not involve a single rope, but consisted solely of a 3’x 3’ platform about five feet above ground. I was instructed to stand with my heels off the edge and my forearms crossed over my chest. Then when the six-member group on the ground was ready, I was to fall backwards into their arms.

I watched several full-grown people go ahead of me. 
            Not one was dropped. 
Watching someone else made it look easy!
As one of the smallest on the course, I reasoned, “If it worked for them, it’ll certainly work for me.” But as I fell and realized my dependency on something I couldn’t see,

I discovered the true meaning of “blind faith.”

It was terrifying! 
And it was necessary.

We live by faith, not by sight. 
1 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

I’m the kind of person who hates to be stuck behind a truck while driving. The truck could be clipping right along, even exceeding the speed limit, but it doesn’t matter. If I can’t see around it, I don’t want to drive behind it.

Often I’ll change lanes only to find out I was better off behind the truck. Why didn’t I just stay where I was?

Because I don’t like “blind” anything!

I can almost hear Jesus’ words to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV)

I definitely need help with this whole “blind faith” thing.

Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? Ecclesiastes 8:7 NIV

God can. But He often doesn’t. Most often He doesn’t.

I’m learning that when God keeps me in the dark He’s got a really good reason.

There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. John 16:12-13 NLT

I’m learning that God not only has a good reason for keeping me in the dark,

He’s got a right to.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

When I was in my 20’s Chuck Colson came out with a book called Loving God. It was probably the first Christian book I ever read other than the Bible. It made a tremendous impact on me.

I bought the book because I thought it was about God’s love. I wanted to sit down and read about how much God loves me, but instead the book challenged me to stand up and love God.

Colson writes in the introduction why he chose to write a book about how to love God:

The greatest commandment of all, Jesus said, is “Love the Lord your God with all year heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” I’d memorized those words but had never really thought about what they meant in practical terms, that is, how to fulfill that command. I wondered if others felt the same way. So I asked a number of more experienced Christians how they loved God.

Let’s just say the answers he received prompted him to write a practical guide to loving God.

How did you demonstrate your love for God today?

If you can’t answer that question, you might want to pick up a copy of Loving God. (Billy Graham called it “One of the most spiritually satisfying books I have read.”)

The greatest commandment is found in Mark 12:30, and that’s the memory verse I chose for today.

Because that verse issues a command, I thought about including a second memory verse as well.

I’ll post that one Wednesday.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Radical and Terrifying Surrender

I spent the afternoon trying to meet my quota of words. I fell way short because my mind kept drifting from the fictitious critical care unit in my manuscript to a real one in San Diego.

While I’m conjuring up intense emotions for the characters I’ve created, my girlfriend is sitting at the bedside of her 23 year old daughter who desperately needs a lung transplant.

If my character displays peace that surpasses human understanding and demonstrates trust that comes only through intimacy with God
and knowledge of His Word, it will be because I’ve modeled her after my friend, Pam.

Pam reveals the beauty of God’s grace at work in her life through a note she posted on her facebook page.

Here’s what she wrote:

What if you could hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and He asked you to literally give EVERYTHING for His purposes and the glory of the Father? Could you do it? It's not out of His character to ask for everything. Those things that we do not want to give are not necessarily sinful. But that doesn't mean the Spirit will not lead me to forgo those things occasionally or maybe even permanently for the sake of His kingdom. To submit and give up everything truly is radical and terrifying. However, when I think deeply about it, walking in my own wisdom, contrary to the Spirit's leading, is even more frightful. Though I struggle to keep in step with the Spirit, I know that ultimately I want nothing more than to live in total surrender and abandonment to Him every moment I have left on this earth.

The idea of radical and terrifying surrender captured me.

 Jesus showed us what radical and terrifying surrender looks like.

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. Hebrews 5:7-8 NIV

God heard His Son because of his “reverent submission.”

When you and I offer up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who can save us, God will hear us because of our reverent submission.

Jesus taught us what a radical and terrifying prayer of surrender sounds like.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42 NIV

You and I can’t pray like that without keeping in step with the Spirit.

When we fall into step with Jesus, He sometimes leads us beside quiet waters. Other times we must walk with Him through the valley of the shadow of death.

No matter where that radical and terrifying prayer of surrender takes us, we don’t have to be afraid.

Our God is with us.
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