Surrender

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Surrender

Exodus 15:19–21

“The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.

The Song of Miriam1

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them:

“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Matthew 6:7–15

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not bring us to the time of trial,

but rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

What is the prayer that gets you saved? God has undoubtedly heard it all, in every (or nearly every) language. He has been offered everything in exchange for help. This kind of bargaining (and I want to tread carefully here) is not really what God wants, and yet all of us do it, as if part of the human experience. Since so many bible characters offered sacrifices to God, which were often accepted by Him, and following the Exodus, even regulated by Him. That leads me to believe that although God does not desire sacrifice (see Psalm 51, Hosea 6, Psalm 40, and Isaiah 1, He works with us when we want to use bargaining as a way to communicate and have a relationship with Him.

One of my favorite stories of such bargaining I heard from a retired pastor. He had served in the Army and had stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944 with a small group of soldiers he commanded. Just before they landed, he told God that if he and his men were protected and lived through the battle, he would dedicate the rest of his life to God. He and his men all survived the day, and when he got back home, he joined the ministry and spent the rest of his life serving churches throughout the Midwest. He gave his life to God as a bargain for saving his life and the life of his fellow soldiers. Perhaps it is not the most theologically mature way of connecting with God… but God’s willingness to allow us to approach him in clumsy ways led to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people brought closer to God through Harry’s ministry.

But lets be honest, it takes more than one prayer to live a life like Harry’s. It takes a continual prayer. It takes a prayer like the one Jesus taught us to pray. What has come to be known as The Lord’s Prayer is a not a prayer of bargaining. It is a prayer of surrender. Tweet: What has come to be known as the Lord's Prayer is a not a prayer of bargaining. It is a prayer of surrender.From the outright surrender of our will to God’s in “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” to the more implicit asking for forgiveness for ourselves and those who sin against us as well (an excellent example of a way God calls us to spread knowledge of Him across the entire world), this entire prayer is one of surrendering our selves over to serve God. The few provisions requested in this prayer are not for personal comfort, but provision and protection while we serve. This is a prayer of a servant, not a prayer of someone bargaining for religious services. It is a prayer meant to be prayed by someone with nothing to give in return, because by the time they are praying it, they have already offered God everything they have.

God wants us all to serve Him not out of a spirit of tyranny, but out of love. He knows that he can care and provide for us better than we could ever hope to do so by ourselves. Many of us run out of resources to bargain with before our life runs out. Insurance companies bank on this. Investment companies use it to buy our loyalty. Yet only God truly has enough abundance to care for our every need. God can take care of us if we will let Him.

What prayer do you find yourself praying most often?

How has God answered that prayer for you?

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  1. (Num 26:59)
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Worship and Surrender

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Worship and Surrender

1 Peter 2:11-171

Live as Servants of God

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.

For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Freedom is in. Surrender is out. We want direct connection with God, Whom we struggle to obey when we receive that direction, and if we are going to struggle obeying God, we are really going to struggle following human leaders. Is it any wonder why we preach and sing about freedom, forgiveness, and grace instead of surrender and submission to God’s will. Even, the songs about following God’s will for our lives put the emphasis on it being our decision. We want God to be in control, but we really would prefer God to control things according to our desires – and that comes awfully close to idolatry.

God, in His wisdom, has put others in charge of us though, and He works through them, in them, and sometimes around and in spite of them. Whether it is because He knows we need a reminder of His authority that wears skin every once in awhile so we do not doubt or forget Him, or because the interconnectedness and hierarchy we find ourselves in is a vital part of creation, I do not know. God probably does it for a reason I may never understand. But it is undebateable: God has put human authorities in our lives, and scripture specifically tells us it is our Christian duty to submit to it. Yes, even when I did not vote for them.

It is hard to swallow sometimes. It can be hard to see God working in them as well. If I’m honest though, I personally do not struggle with this the most in the political realm. Politics have more of an indirect affect on me personally, and I have seen enough of the system to know it is complex and difficult to really pin problems down as the decisions of individual people. The chains of compromise are far too long. Instead, I often struggle with it professionally – in church, and specifically in worship.

If you ask me what I think about worship or what kind of worship I like, do not expect a single statement as an answer, expect a five page thesis. I have many strong opinions based on education and experience, both good and bad. When I plan worship services, I think about them as they spread out over weeks and months, not just the 60 minutes we have together on a given day. I try to look at it from multiple angles, and, while I usually can let it all go with gratitude to God when it is all finished, I rarely am completely satisfied with my work. I always find something new to learn, to change, or remind myself not to try next time.

My struggle with authority comes in the few times a year that I visit other churches or worship in settings I am not responsible for leading. Within the first five minutes of walking into the door, my mind starts picking apart every detail of the service and those balcony critics in my head begin to go to town. It gets even worse when the sermon starts. There are times, I’ll be honest, when the critics are far louder to me than the preacher speaking into the microphone. Those moments, I am not submitting to the authority that God has put before me for that time (and if we really think about it, every human authority is temporary), and it keeps me from really worshipping – really experiencing and returning to God what He is due.

We all have problems with the failing, fragile human leaders God has put in our lives. But the challenges of our worship are not controlled by them. The surrender that we are able to give is a vessel of grace that sometimes needs to flow out of us, up into our leaders, instead of us always expecting them to give grace to us. When the flow of grace is stopped up, worship ends, and we all end up stuck in the mess, looking for God again.

What makes it difficult for you to worship?

How do you allow God’s grace to flow from you into those who help lead you in worship?


  1. (Cp Rom 13:1–5)

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“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide by what his ears hear;

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,

and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,

the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy

on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11.1-9 (NRSV)

Peace on earth and goodwill to men is not just what the world needs, it is what each of us need. The famous poet Longfellow wrote a poem about this, which he called “Christmas Bells”. After losing his wife and a son, Christmas was not a joyful occasion for him, yet upon hearing the bells chime on Christmas Day, he reflected that his own sorrow was shared by the world. He was also reminded that God’s grace speaks to our sorrow in the gift of his only Son, Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate this weekend.

You cannot bring this peace about with force. Does scripture tell of violence? Yes, most assuredly… but every battle is followed by another. Every conquest is followed by a loss to a bigger, badder army. God’s creation in Genesis and the redemption of the world in Revelation are not marked by violence – indeed it is quite the opposite. They are instead marked by submission to Him, and God gets that submission through invitation and offer of a relationship, not through brute force or clever tactics.

The apostles Paul and John perhaps write about it best in their description of God’s primary means of transforming the world. It is, in a word: Love. Not romantic love or any other kind of self-serving emotion… God’s love is self-sacrificial by definition. God, in so many ways wins the war by giving up. He surrenders His only Son to death at our hands and the world is transformed in a moment. Victory is guaranteed. To a worldly way of thinking, this is absolute madness. You cannot gain, let alone protect yourself by giving up… yet this is exactly what God does, and it works far better than anything He might accomplish by force.

Isaiah reminds us that from beginning to end, from Eden to New Jerusalem, God’s desire for our world is peace on earth; goodwill to men. God is willing to surrender anything for that peace to cover us all. What are you willing to surrender for peace?

  • What would you be willing to fight to protect in your life?
  • Where do you need peace in your life?
  • What would you be wililng to surrender to invite God’s peace there?

The Cost of Peace

Monday December 19, 2016