Tuesday, May 31, 2016

God Brings us to Safety

But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
Acts 27:43-44

I've been reading through Acts the last several months, slowly, taking only a chapter or section at a time. It's been truly amazing! What God reveals of Himself in the faithful telling of the early Jesus followers. The miracles He performed. The power He gave. The love, justice, and callings. It's been such a blessing!

I may go back and look over my notes (I've been reading with some friends and we share our thoughts and lessons God's teaching us) and share some from previous chapters, but as I sat down today to write, the last couple of verses from chapter 27 came forward.

In chapter 27, Paul is being transported to Italy as a prisoner. He's spent somewhere between 2-3 years in prison already, and now he's making a treacherous trip via ship. We can only imagine the discomforts of traveling on a cargo ship with almost 300 people 2000 years ago. For weeks. In a storm for days.

I'm sure the passengers and crew were weary. Tired. Scared. And ready to give up.

We don't have to experience those exact conditions to feel the same way. There are a variety of life circumstances that bring us to the end of our rope. During these times, it's hard to remember that God is still sovereign and He is still with us.

Like Paul did.

During the whole retelling of this journey by Luke (which seems to be a firsthand account, since much of it is written using "we") it never seems that Paul loses his cool. He doesn't seem frightened at all. Actually, he seems full of confidence. There is only one place this kind of confidence comes from - from a most intimate relationship with the Lord.

By truly living in a way in which every single detail of your life is surrendered to the Lord, as I believe Paul did.

We can too. Because living surrendered means we trust that God will bring us safely to shore. That He'll sustain us through the storm. That our life is really His, not ours.

Paul had this calmness even though he faced possible death once he reached his destination. This is because he knew He belonged to God and owed God his very life. God provided temporary safety for the boat passengers and crew after the ship ran aground, and He will do the same for us.

But the most important safety God brings us to is eternal safety. If we can keep our eyes fixed on that, we will experience the same peace Paul did despite any storm that comes our way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Battling the Flesh

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. 
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Matthew 26:41

At times, it seems like these words written over 2000 years ago were written just for me. Why is it that I so desire to live in God's will and be obedient to Him  I let my flesh rule so often? The answer is found right here: the flesh is weak.

I know I'm not the only one struggling with a weak flesh, evidenced by the conversation I had with a good friend this morning. She shared her own struggles of the flesh.

While it seems like this verse was written just for me, the truth is we all struggle against a weak flesh. What the exact item that trips us up doesn't really matter. 

I've been on a journey to living surrendered for a while now, and I've experienced times of victory and times of defeat. Sometimes those fluctuations are a result of changing circumstances, but more often than not it's when I'm not faithful in my time with the Lord.

There's a reason Jesus told His disciples to engage in the battle of the flesh with prayer. It is the strongest weapon we have against giving into our desires. Prayer engages the Holy Spirit and wells His power within us. Prayer refocuses us on the eternal instead of the temporal. And prayer reminds us to praise God for the things He has given us already instead of the things we want.

Battling the flesh is a day by day, sometimes moment by moment fight. We will never win it on our own, but already have victory in our Savior. To live in that victory we have to be willing to fight. To ignore the flesh. To redirect it. To beat it into submission.

Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 9:27 - But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

We've been convinced that depriving ourselves of something is bad. That hard work is bad. That discipline is a negative thing. But biblically, these are all to our benefit.

Yet, even though I know this, my flesh tells me the opposite. For for this decision, this day, I will double down in prayer and seek God for His strength to build up self-control in me to I can resist the flesh. It won't be easy. There may even be tears. But, when I have victory, oh how sweet it will be! Won't you join me?