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Posts tagged ‘choice’

I’ve been reading the book When God Writes Your Life Story, by Eric & Leslie Ludy, and I am just blown away. I’ve known for a while that the Christian life is surrender, but somehow the depth of it never hit me until last night as I was sitting in bed, waiting for my husband to finish an after-hair-cut shower, reading a few pages.

They went to the lives of several spiritual giants from the past–Hudson Taylor, Dwight Moody, Oswald Chambers, among others–and shared how these men had all come to the point of realizing that their religion was powerless and empty. At the point of desperation, they realized that they were still in control of their lives, that God was merely their hired servant, coming to fulfill their bidding, to carry out their plans. And they made the choice to give all, to surrender entirely everything they were.

I would like to quote from the couple of pages that struck me the most:

So how did this amazing transformation happen for these men and women of God? Just what is the secret to a victorious Christian life that each of them discovered?

It was an exchange.

An exchange of the most dramatic and life-altering proportions.

They gave up their very lives in exchange for the very life of God. They allowed their bodies to be taken over, like a town surrendering to the invasion of a foreign power. They allowed their being to be possessed by a Spirit so holy, so pure, so righteous, that any remnant of selfish sin was burned away with the fire of God’s perfect presence. They relinquished complete and total control of their lives to their King, for Him to dispose of as He saw fit. They invited the most divine Guest into the center of their existence and said, “Make this humble stable your princely palace, O holy Lord!”

They each made an exchange. . . . They exchanged life as they new it for life as God knew it should be.

They exchanged the right to do with their bodies however they saw fit for the life of a servant who only does what the Master requests.

They exchanged their dreams and ambitions for God’s great and dramatic plan for their lives.

They exchanged a life ruled and controlled by sin for a life victorious over sin, clothed with joy and triumph.

Such is the secret of every great man and woman of God. It’s the solemn exchange of a humble human life for His majestic holy life. 1

Listen to how Walter Wilson, a respected young Christian physician from the early 1900s, expressed his surrender:

Lord, I give you my this body of mine; from my head to my feet, I give it to You. My hands, my limbs, my eyes, my brain; all that I am inside and out, I hand over to You. Live in and through me whatever life You please. You may send this body to Africa, or lay it on a bed with cancer. You may blind my eyes, or take me with Your message to Tibet.  You may take this body to the Eskimos, or send it to a hospital with pneumonia. This body of mine is Yours alone from this moment on. 2

I finished the chapter just as my husband came to bed, and as he turned out the light, I rolled out of bed and knelt to pray. As I knelt there before God, the words I had just read started running through my mind, and I realized that the life I have been seeking had just been described–and it was a life of slavery. Being a bondslave of God forever.

In the Old Testament, there was a ritual mentioned about a servant who wanted to stay with his master and never be free. Normally a servant would serve for 6 years or buy his freedom. But a servant could freely choose to remain with his master forever–meaning until he died. As a sign of this, his master would take an awl and bore his ear through onto the doorpost of his house. This hole in his ear was a symbol of his submission for life to his master. See Exodus 21:2-6

There is no Biblical account of any servants ever making this kind of submission to their masters, but the story is there for a reason. You see, there was One whose ear was pierced, symbolically.

Mine ears has Thou opened . . . I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.

The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. 3

It is obvious from the context that both of these verses are speaking of Jesus. What is not obvious is the connection to the ear-piercing ceremony. Strong’s Concordance tells us that the word “opened” in these two verses means “pierced.” Do you see the implication?

Jesus was a slave of God. He sought only His Father’s will, not His own.

And He is our Example.

All of this flooded over me last night and I knelt before God. And suddenly I realized I had to get up and write in my prayer journal. I wanted to keep a record of what was going on in my mind. Here is part of what I wrote:

I am to be a slave, with no will of my own.

Paul called himself a slave of Jesus Christ. This is what I must be. A bondservant. My highest aim must be His will.

Wow. That means I consult Him about every decision. This doesn’t mean He will always tell me what to do. He is my friend and calls me a friend, not a slave. But I must make no decision on my own.

Am I willing to take this plunge?

I guess I liked the word “surrender” better. Slavery seems so final. But this is what I must do. I must have my ear opened, or pierced, as Jesus did, and learn to delight to do my Father’s will.

Am I willing?

I want to–but I am afraid. Why? Because it is so … final. Being a bondslave is not something one could ever get out of. It lasted until death.

But I should rather focus on the joy that this surrender brings. Especially when I consider that Romans 6 teaches that we are all slaves–either to Satan or God, sin or righteousness. We cannot serve two masters, but we certainly always have one.

Which means that when my master is self, it is really Satan.

And that means I am bound for hell.

Lord, if I do this, You will have to remind me frequently. I am not in the habit of seeking Your will moment by moment. But You have begun a good work in me, and if I cooperate, You will finish it.

All right. I am Yours. All of me. Take my body and do with it as You will. Take my mind and fill it with love for You and zeal for Your Will. Take my hands and use them to minister Your glory. Take my feet and send them where You will. Take my tongue and bridle it. Tame it, that it may only speak words that will glorify Your name. Take my heart, cleanse it, and come dwell in me. Take my eyes and ears, that they may only see and hear what will honor You. Take my appetite and subdue it. May I let only what You permit pass my lips. Take every last piece of me. I am no longer my own. I am bought with a price. Praise be to God.

Can you sense the struggle? I have surrendered so many times, but it seems that in the back of my mind, many times subconsciously, there was a caveat, a condition that I would have the option to go back to the old way if it didn’t work out. But I had tasted the old way, and I was tired of it. I wanted something more. But as I wrote those words of surrender, a peace flooded over me. I put the book away and quietly went to bed. And I woke this morning with a hunger for God. And I felt led to write out this testimony during my quiet time. I wasn’t sure why at first–normally this isn’t something I would do during my devotional time–I rarely use the computer and try never to use the Internet. But now I understand. Something about going over it again has strengthened my desire, deepened my decision. I have yielded myself to the King of kings, and I will serve Him from this day forward. Praise the Lord!

 

1. Eric & Leslie Ludy, When God Writes Your Life Story, 68, 69

2. V. Raymond Edman, quoted in When God Writes Your Life Story, 70

3. Psalm 40:5, 8; Isaiah 50:5

I was listening to Revive our Hearts yesterday, and the speaker quoted from the book The Life of Helen Keller.¬†After describing the scene where Anne Sullivan taught Helen to eat like a civilized creature (if you’ve seen either of the “Miracle Worker” movies, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about; if not, either watch one or read the book!), Anne goes on to say something very profound:

I saw clearly that it was useless to try to teach Helen language or anything else until she learned to obey me. I thought about it a great deal, and the more I think, the more certain I am that obedience is the gateway through which knowledge, yes, and love, too, enter the mind of the child.

I don’t know how to improve on that, so I’ll just recommend that you read it again, 2 or 3 times, and let its meaning really sink in.

Yesterday I had a battle with Manny. Not near as big as Anne had with Helen, but it was something. Lately he has not wanted to eat any cereal except the chocolate-covered “Koala Crisps” (which are gluten-free and actually have nothing he is allergic to in them, which is why I buy them and give them to him occasionally). Trying to get him to eat anything else for supper is a battle. So last night I decided to try something different.

When I offered him the food, I told him clearly that he had a choice to make. He could either choose to eat cheerfully, or he could stand in the corner. He hates standing in the corner, by the way. But he chose not to eat, so by default he chose the corner. I put him there and worked nearby, watching him closely. If he turned around and looked at me, I would remind him to put his nose in the corner. Of course this made him cry again, but I persisted. I started him out at 2 minutes, then offered to let him eat. When he said no, I went 2 1/2 minutes. Then 3 minutes. Then 3 1/2. Each time I offered him the food, showing it to him, and letting him choose between eating and the corner. He tried to interject other options, like “nigh nigh” (going to bed), but I would not allow those options.

I am not sure how long it took, but we were up to 5 minutes between choices, and finally he chose to eat. He said, “Eat, eat,” so I put him in his chair, poured hemp milk on the puffed millet that I had coated with carob powder, and offered him the spoon. He ate the whole thing cheerfully, and was delighted to get some grapes afterwards!

Not only was this a great victory, but Daddy noticed later that evening that he was more compliant and less demanding. I think I have hit on something here.

The truth is, I have been very neglecting of my child training lately. But I have also neglected my walk with the Lord. In the past few weeks, I have been going through a period of revival, which always results in reformation if it is genuine. And this week the Lord convicted me that it was time to start working on my child training. I have been praying for wisdom, because Manny has some serious issues, and he’s too young to reason with, and I let some things get too far. But thanks to this victory yesterday, I am beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

But it’s a very long tunnel! At least, it feels like it! But God is my guide, and I know I will win as long as I remain with Him.

Okay, so I promised a book review today. Well, I haven’t had time to write it yet. Watch for it in the next day or two.

In the mean time, I wanted to share something that happened to me yesterday. It is an experience that illustrates how we can have victory in everyday trials. You see, I have a tendency to frustration–as all moms do at some point! And I was very encouraged by the outcome, even if it didn’t seem so great at the time!

My son drinks a lot of hemp milk, so I buy it buy the case. He had just finished one case and it was time to open another one. Now, try to imagine how the box looked. It is one of those boxes that opens with pull-tabs on the sides. The two ends are open in the middle, so you can see inside. There is a tab that says “pull here” on each side of the opening. Underneath the cardboard is a plastic strip that allows one to pull from that tab all down the side of the box around to the other end. Doing this on each side will separate the top of the box from the bottom, making a convenient way to store the containers still in the open half of the cardboard, kind of like they would on display in a store. I hope you have the picture in your mind, because it is crucial to understanding what happened.

The box was on a low shelf in my pantry, about mid-shin level. I decided not to pull the whole (probably 30 pound) box out and put it on the counter; I would just twist the box a little and get the top off right there. So I knelt down and pulled on the right tab with my right hand. It broke off at the corner.

Now, on a bad day, I would get frustrated right there. But this day I had been communing with God, and I immediately sensed His call to my heart to let it go. The other end was still intact, so no big deal. So I just smiled and tried the tab on the left side (same end of the box). It broke at the corner. I smiled and turned the box around and proceeded to pull on a tab from the other end. It, too, broke at the corner.

Again I felt self trying to well up, but I said, “Lord, please help me not to get frustrated at this!” After all, the cardboard wasn’t very thick. I could tear it with my hands if I wanted to. But I hoped I could at least get one side open, so that I could access the containers of hemp milk. So I pulled the last tab.

It broke at the corner.

I laughed and thought, “I should have asked the Lord to not let the tab break!” I laughed because He had answered my prayer exactly, and had not done what I had not asked for. “Ye have not because ye ask not.” So I decided I would have to just tear the box. I dug my right thumb into the right side of the box and began to pull to the right to tear open the box.

Then my hand slipped.

Now, try to imagine the scene in your mind. I am at a pantry door, which is just like any bedroom or bathroom door. It is open to my right. When my hand slipped, it went straight for the corner of the door, and slammed into the corner at full momentum. Instantly I was in pain. I grabbed my hand and opened my mouth in a silent scream (I didn’t want to startle the children playing nearby). Gislaine noticed and asked what was wrong. I told her I had gotten an owie. She came over to see. When I looked, there was a blueish dent on the side of my hand about 3/8″ wide. Within seconds it began to swell around the dent, and it was painful to the touch. Manny, of course, wanted to touch it, saying “boo boo”.

Through it all, I was amazed that I had not become frustrated. As I poured Manny his milk, I pondered how Jesus had never given in to frustration. I’m sure He must have felt like doing it over and over–especially in the last few hours of His life. But He never did. And He is our Example. He has provided all the power we need to overcome even frustration when things don’t go our way.

I can’t say that I always have victories like this. But I had one yesterday. And I want to have more. I want this to become a pattern. I want to choose to control my thoughts and feelings. And as I make that choice, God will provide the grace.

Yesterday I shared some of the things I did to fortify myself against failure in the Christian walk. Besides making the obvious commitment to daily Bible study and prayer, I chose a prayer/accountability partner to encourage and pray for me, and to help keep me accountable in certain areas. I feel this is important because, as I shared, sin thrives in darkness and concealment, but loses much of it’s power in the light (See John 3:19, 20).

Today I want to share how the Lord took me deeper. You see, it was good that I stopped resisting Him. But just saying “Lord, take my life” is not enough. There must be a continual surrender to God’s will. Here is where my past failures came from. I would say, “Lord, take my heart.” But then when He would ask me to give up some cherished idol, I would resist. And that resistance would sooner or later separate me from God.

So within a day of my initial surrender, I began to sense the Lord asking me to lay some things on the altar. Things like how much time I spend on the internet. (Yes, with it in the house, and especially with the iPod, it is a very real and powerful temptation again.)

So I asked my prayer partner to help keep me accountable and pray for me in this area.

Next I realized that I had let my eBay business take over my life. I needed to spend less time on it and more time working with my children. So I laid that on the altar as well.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still struggle with my time online and to an extent with eBay (some days it is more of a challenge than others); but I am trying to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s call to my heart, telling me when I’ve done enough or need to do something else. It’s nice to be able to make some spending money, but I cannot let the love of money (or even the need for it) control me.

Another area, related to the one, is the issue of how I use my spare time. I am beginning to realize that how we use our spare moments says a lot about who we are.

There is this blog that I was reading. It was funny and mostly harmless, but I had become somewhat obsessed with it. I wanted to read all the archives (over 2 years’ worth of almost daily posts), and had only a few months’ worth to go when the Lord brought it up to me. He pointed out that not only was I not learning anything of eternal value there, but it occasionally had content that was not really appropriate for a Christian to view–content that I would be embarrassed to be caught viewing if Jesus were to walk into the room. Since I had so few posts left (relatively speaking) to finish it, at first I thought I would just look at a post here and there in my spare time. But I began to see the negative effect of even moderate viewing (as opposed to sitting down for an hour to read a couple months’ worth, like I had done), and the Lord called to my heart again.

This time He asked me to surrender the whole blog, to be willing never to go there again. And at the same time, He also asked me not to check my email every time I had a spare moment–or my texting program, or whatever other little innocent thing that I might do with my iPod when I had a few moments to myself. Not that I could never use a spare moment to check my email, but I realized that I needed to try to use the majority of them for something of more eternal value. Like read a Bible promise, or take a moment to pray for someone or something, or read a couple of paragraphs from an inspirational book. So I surrendered the blog and the use of my spare time. And I have found that doing this has led me to love the things of the Lord more. It also is helpful to keep my mind focused on the Lord, and to make up for a not-as-long-as-I-would-have-liked quiet time in the morning. And I don’t miss that blog. Not one bit. I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

One side benefit (if you could call it that) of guarding my spare moments has been an increased sensitivity to the Spirit’s voice speaking to my conscience. As I open my heart up to God, inviting Him into more and more of my day, I begin to hear Him speaking to me in a very personal way. For instance, the other night I was typing this very post on my iPod, and when the time came to turn it off and go to bed, there was a temptation to just keep going with it under the covers, where it wouldn’t bother my husband. After all, I was doing something spiritual, not just reading stories like I had done in the past (yes, under the covers, late into the night, I am ashamed to say). But the Lord called to my conscience. He reminded me that even a good thing late at night was a bad thing. And He asked me to surrender and leave the iPod on the nightstand. I surrendered. And even though I didn’t get to sleep for at least an hour, I stayed firm to my resolve, and I didn’t regret it. I knew I would be able to pick up my train of thought and finish the post without any problem. And I did. I doubt you can tell where exactly I stopped. (Hint: It was in this paragraph.)

As I continue to spend time in God’s Word, and to listen to God’s voice directing me, I will be come more sensitive to His leading in my life. But if I choose to go against what I know to be right, then I will let go of God’s hand and be right back where I was before. Or worse. I don’t want that to happen again!

There is so much more I could write in this series, but I think this is a good place to stop. Thank you for reading. I pray you have been challenged.

Tomorrow I will share about another book that has made a big impact on me spiritually. So watch for that post.

Here’s something to consider:

Many are inquiring, “How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?” You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.

Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.

Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.

Steps to Christ, 47, 48

I have read this statement many times–have almost memorized it. But I heard a sermon recently on Audioverse.org which helped this make sense, even though the speaker never mentioned this quote in the sermon.

He was talking about when Jesus was in the boat, and the storm came up, and the disciples were afraid and had to wake Him up. You know the story. Well, think about this. Would it have been right for the disciples to make no attempt to bail water out of the boat? Should they have grabbed pillows and gone to sleep too? They showed their lack of faith, not by doing their utmost to save the ship and their own lives, but by doing it in their own strength, without Jesus’ help.

So it is with us. Being saved, being converted, doesn’t mean we don’t have to struggle. Sometimes we do. God doesn’t always calm the storm. Sometimes He gives us grace to see it through. We will have to struggle, to exercise our will–but it will be a will that He has sanctified and is directing.

Think about it. Some people have very strong wills. They can determine not to do something and by mere force of will not do it. Others have weak wills, and surrender to temptation at the slightest provocation. But without Jesus, neither is better off than the other. Ultimately both kinds exercise their will, and the person with the strong will could be “strong-willed” in the wrong way just as easily as the weak-willed person can be weak in the wrong way. But when Jesus takes our will and molds it, we have the power to choose the right. But we still have to choose.

Have Thine own way, Lord, have thine own way.
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.


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