Dying but Living

(Taken from God is Enough, Hannah Whithall Smith, p. 271)

Christ died to give me actual holiness as well as judicial; He died to make me really dead to sin and really alive to God in Him.  He died in order that He might become my life — the only life I have — and , living as one, He might work in me that which is pleasing in His sight.  I therefore die voluntarily that I may be alive in Him.  I lay down my own life and declare myself to be dead in order that Christ may become my life.  With Paul I say,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I life; yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20)

So I am abiding in Christ and He is living in me.  All I have to do now is yield myself to Him as one alive from the dead and allow Him to do with me whatever He pleases!

I do not always abide in Him.  Alas, no!  Satan sometimes succeeds in enticing me out and making me take up my old life in the flesh again.  But thanks be to my might Savior, His blood avails to atone for even this, and again and again He forgives me and cleanses me afresh from all unrighteousness.  I find that daily I learn more and more to hang on to Christ by a naked unfaltering faith, and as a result I find myself more and more confirmed in abiding in Him.

Any why should not the time come even for me, when I will be so established and settled there as to go out no more?

 

Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) was converted in 1868, age 36.  She and her husband were birthright Quakers and lived in a time of spiritually barrenness in the Quaker movement. America was experiencing what is now known as the Third Great Awakening (1867-1868), and the Smiths were among the many that found true conversion.

This excerpt was written nine year after Mrs. Smith’s conversion; she lived another forty-four years.  Did she ever reach that level of perfection which she questions at the end of the devotion?  Can we reach a point where the flesh has absolutely no control over us, and Satan is completely defeated in our lives?

Consider Joseph, one of my favorite Bible heroes.  We never read of any shortcomings or character faults in Joseph.  Does that mean he didn’t have any?  I seriously doubt it.  There is only one Man who ever lived on the face of this earth, who was completely sinless!  To think otherwise sounds a bit Popeish!

The Bible certainly teaches us that we can sin less, praise God; but we will not be sinless until we see our dear Savior face to face. and the “old man” (2 Cor. 5:17) is once and for all truly gone!

Mrs. Smith gives us such a wonderful challenge.  I choose to take it and leave the rest with God!  (Deut. 29:29)

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin,

when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Do not err, my beloved brethren. James 1:14-16

White Christmas – Mistaken Identity

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Another of my Christmas movie favorites is White Christmas.  What a wonderful plot! Bing Crosby, the ever big-hearted do-gooder, has a great plan to help his former army commander, General Waverly.  However, when the housekeeper eavesdrops on his conversation, she only catches a part of his plan and thinks the worst.  When she tells Betty, the sister who is falling in love with “Bob,” her heart also thinks the worst and she flees the scene.

Of course, all turns out well; the truth is revealed; her knight is back up on his white charger; everyone lives happily ever after!

Mistaken Identities.  Wrong Conclusions.  It’s the stuff that great plots are made of!  But how often does our God take the brunt of our wrong conclusions and mistakes in His identity?  Life gets tough and we blame God, claiming that He is mean or doesn’t care.  Tragedy strikes and we blame God.  We may even get to the point that we shake our fists to the heavens and hurl blasphemous remarks in the face of our Maker!

And what does He do?  What does our awesome, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient (love those three O’s!!) heavenly Father do?  HE LOVES US!!!!  He patiently waits for us to look up!

Usually, at this time of the year, I look back over my devotions and try to see what one lesson rises to the top as God’s heavenly baseball bat for me!  This year it was one word: focus.

Where we focus makes ALL the difference.  If Betty had focused on all she knew to be true about Bob, the story would never have happened!  🙂  How much drama would we be able to leave out of our lives if we just focused on all of God’s wonderful attributes?  AND, how many tense moments would dissolve if we would focus on other’s GOOD traits instead of the bad ones that may be in our faces at the moment?

A new year is coming.  What will be your focus?  We have absolutely no idea what 2014 will bring, but God knew a billion years ago!  That’s enough to blow any focus!!!  Oh, how awesome our God is!  His love is beyond anything our human hearts can fathom.  Didn’t He prove that in a stinky stable?!! I mean really – how many of us would even have placed our newborn in a dresser drawer much less a manger?  And then there’s the cross…and the scourging…and the crown of thorns…and the railing accusations…and the spiting…and hitting…and forsaking…

Check your focus.

“We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.’ Revelation 11:17

(FYI – the word ‘almighty’ is used fifty-seven times in the Bible: thirty-one times in Job!  I guess perhaps his life needed a good focus!)

 

The Ugly Side of George Bailey, Part Two: Reality

WonderfulLifeGeorgeBaileyExtremeCloseUpIn 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life was created.  Perhaps it was the era of new camera lens, but this picture doesn’t really capture how the camera filmed George in this scene.  The photo certainly matched the music to create an “other-world” effect!  At this point, reality set in: What if he really had never been born as Clarence suggested?  Certainly his own mother didn’t know him!  Dear Mrs. Bailey, always sweet and good-natured in the film becomes a sour old dowager running a boarding house!

He then rushes to the cemetery where he discovers that his younger brother died in the sledding accident because George wasn’t there to save him.  His last thoughts are of Mary, his wife.  Clarence breaks the rules and tells George that she’s a spinster librarian.  When she also looks at him as a stranger, he rushes back to the bridge and now prays a prayer that comes from his heart!  “Lord, let me live again!”

Life is so precious!  It can be tedious as we overwhelm our schedules with activities, and at times we can lose our focus on what is truly important.  We end the year with hustle and bustle, all in the name of Christmas – the birth of our Lord; but perhaps it would be good for us to end the year and start the new year with George’s prayer:  “Lord, let me live again!”

“Let me regain my focus on You and Your will for my life.  Help me to realize that this life is not the real life but only a temporary stay.  Help me to live in light of eternity: seeing all that I do, all that I say, all those I meet through the lenses of eternal life and eternal death.  May I bring glory to Your precious name in every way possible; and may Your spirit live in me to truly make this life a wonderful life in Your eyes.  In Jesus’ Name, amen!”

And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” 1 John 2:25

The Ugly Side of George Bailey

?????????????????????As we work our way into the Christmas Season, I thought we’d take a look at some of those Christmas classic movies we all love.  Certainly at the top of my list is It’s A Wonderful Life.  Dear George Bailey truly portrays a lot of us – our problems reveal what’s truly going on in our hearts!

Throughout the whole story,  George is stuck in a life that he would not choose.  His sights were set on seeing the world and building skyscrapers, but instead he inherits the headaches of the Bailey Building and Loan Company, building homes for the poor residence of Bedford Falls.

Near the end of Clarence’s (the angel) crash course concerning his soon-to-be charge, we see a happy George.  His dear wife Mary has turned the haunted mansion into a lovely home and God has blessed them with four beautiful children.  He’s full of holiday cheer and is proudly proclaiming the recent honors given to his kid brother, because of his heroic deeds as a World War 2 jet fighter.

Then it hits, like the blizzard in Rudolph’s day!  Uncle Charlie loses $7,000 – the deposit for the week.  George starts out being patient with his hair-brained uncle, but when they can’t find the money, the ugly side of George Bailey appears as he literally shakes and threatens his aged uncle.

It’s an ugly scene.  The only solution seems to be suicide, and then the fun begins.  Enter  dear Clarence, and his wonderful idea to show George the world without George Bailey.

As we follow the progression, we see a familiar path – a path that may mirror a path of our own.  First, a problem that we think we can solve.  Then frustration and anger when no solution appears no matter how hard we try.  Next comes panic as we think of the ramifications of the problem.  What will I do?  This can’t be happening, and then we may make serious wrong choices.  Suicide, divorce, theft, denial, running away…  Often our acid actions are flung all over those we love the most, burning them with angry words, bad attitudes and caustic replies!

Unfortunately, the holiday season can bring so many reasons for frustration – the first step of a wrong path.  Last week, I was facing a hectic day, which I wasn’t really looking forward to living!  I was tempted to start the day on the wrong foot; but as I talked it over with my heavenly Father, I was ashamed of my bad attitude.  I determined that morning to live the day for my Lord!  Do you know how many times I had to wrestle that decision back to its proper place?!

That’s when we learn something very important about ourselves.  What stuff are we made of?  What character have we developed, but most importantly, how deep are our anchors?  How real is my faith?  How close is my relationship with Jesus Christ?

When George prayed in the bar, he later joked that the punch in the mouth was the answer to his prayer.  He was right, but it was just the beginning of a nightmare!

Can we trust God when He sends what seems to be just the opposite answer of what we were expecting?  That, my friend, takes a lot of faith and trust.  It is during those times when we anchor ourselves in the facts that we know about God.  He is ALWAYS good.  He ALWAYS does what is best.  He ALWAYS loves me more than I will ever comprehend!  There is no situation too difficult, no waters too rough for our ‘God-anchor’!!!

 “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…”

Hebrews 6:19

(next time:  George’s ugly side. part two! 🙂 )

Lessons at Five-forty-five AM?

“…the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”  Romans 2:4

draft_lens2361419_1231040038Snow_Shovel_Clip_Art_t450I often misquote this verse and say that it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance.  Well, that is true as well; except that, as is often the case, then we are applying the verse to others and not to ourselves!

At first glance, we look at this verse and readily agree.  God is good; man knows that; they repent.  However, what if I meditate on this verse, which basically means to chew on it like a cow chews on her cud – really think about it over and over again, (chew, chew, chew for you SVBC readers!) trying to get just a little more “nourishment” from it? 1Timothy 4:15 says, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.”  Ah, so if I meditate on God’s Word it will show in my life: my hands, my eyes, my mouth, my feet…  (You remember the song:  “Oh be careful little eyes what you see…”)

So, back to our verse:  God’s goodness leads ME to repent.  How does that work?  Well, for me, this lesson came at 5:45 AM this morning.  We’ve had a bunch of yucky weather through the night which resulted in a thin coating of crusty snow-ice junk!  But no fear, it’s Monday – preacher’s day off, so let the stuff out there!  WRONG.  We have a funeral this morning, so my dear husband (I find I’m using that phrase a lot lately.  If you have a husband, is he dear to you?  That’s another blog! :))  is out there shoveling: scrape, scrape, scrape…right outside our bedroom window.  Just the kind of sound you want to sleep to, right?  So, as I lay there thinking about how I’d really like to sleep a little longer, I must confess that the old Wanda would have been annoyed.  Couldn’t he read his Bible or something at least until six-thirty!?  But this morning, I got up and went out to help him.  For those of you who know me, you know that’s a real stretch to be doing any activity before seven-thirty!  🙂  Oh, the joy of hearing his surprise when he found me shoveling the church sidewalk!

That’s when this verse hit me!  “…the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”  I used to think this verse only meant that people would see how good God is, and they would trust Him for salvation.  That is true, but there’s something there for every Christian to see as well.  When we choose to do “good,” He blesses our hearts and guides us to WANT to do right – that is repentance!  My life is changed because I chose to do right even in the smallest way.  It brings such joy into our hearts: no regrets, no guilt, no annoyance!

AND, the other application may also be true: men may repent when they see the goodness of God. (Notice that the verse says “leads” not “makes.”  The choice is still up to the individual.  That wonderful “free will” that God blessed us with bounces the ball back over the net to our side of the court!) Where do they see it?  IN YOU AND ME!  WOW!  This is really an overload for my seven-o’clock AM brain!  How do men see the goodness of God?  Well, they truly can just look up and out into His incredible creation and see His goodness (sad to say, many look at it, totally ignore the Designer, and worry about how they: puny creation themselves, can save it!); however, seeing it in His crowning creation: man, is what truly touches the heart.  When an unsaved man sees God’s goodness in you, sees you doing the impossible, seeing you do what he knows he can’t do because of his sinful nature, that prods him on to repentance as well!  Praise the Lord!

Hope you have a great day showing off God’s goodness!  🙂

Blue Skies Comin’ My Way

ID-1007409What started out to be a very nasty rainy day, turned into a beautiful balmy Indian-summer treat!  This morning’s sky was ominous with dark clouds; however, as I lay on my living room floor and did my Ab Rippers (hope you are duly impressed!), I looked outside and noticed that the clouds were rolling away, at least some of them.  The dark nasty ones were rolling away, revealing sun-lit puffballs above!  It was absolutely breathtaking!

As you may or may not know, our atmosphere is in layers, or different stratospheres, and each has its own wind currents.  The lower stratosphere obviously had a stronger wind current than the upper stratosphere, because the higher bright puffy clouds were just strolling along as the lower dark nasties rushed away!

Then it hit me – those bright clouds were there all along!  They were just hidden behind the nasties, and I thought about how often the dark trials that cloud our way also obscure our view of God.  We get busy trying to handle all that is on our plate, often in our own way and with our own strength, and the days just get darker!  STOP!  And look up!  He IS there – always; and if we would just “let go and let God” as the old cliche goes, the nasties would roll away and our days would be lit by the Son!

Now here’s another thought for all you sky-watchers.  This might seem kind of “duhish,” but did you ever stop to realize that the stars are always there in the sky – we just can’t see them because of the sun’s brightness.  It’s sort of strange to look up into a bright blue sky and think about the stars.  Is there a lesson there for us?

Well, have you ever felt that the ” heaven that is over thy head [is as] brass” (Deut. 28:23)?  It just seems as though God isn’t listening!  Your prayers seem to go unanswered, as though thy are going no further than the ceiling.

You can only see the beauty of the stars when the sky is dark, when the sun is lighting someone else’s world.  Likewise, take a look around in those “dark times.”  Perhaps God has something really special that He wants to show you.   Look for the hint of a tiny bright spot in your darkest hour.  It may seem like just a faint brightness to you, but remember: that speck of bright hope may be a galaxy of abundant blessings coming your way from God’s perspective!  God’s timing is always perfect, even when it makes no sense to us.  He IS listening, and waiting, and teaching, and knowing and hearing our every breath!  Wait upon the Lord.  Hang on to each promise from His Word, and He will be the North Star you need to find your way!

 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me:

for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

 Psalm 25:5

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