The sun spills through bare branches, streaking its way across the corn stalks, alighting in the grove of trees, illuminating what lies hidden in summer–trunks reaching heavenward, shining in simplicity this clear morning, a silent reminder that He is the vine–beautiful, steadfast and true, and we are the branches, destined to bear fruit as long as we remain in Him.

Father, this day, as surely as the sun shines, illuminate my mind and heart, and guide me by your Spirit. Amen

Growing up…

God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in a crisis they are the ones upon whom He can rely. ~ Oswald Chambers

For approximately 25 years, I’ve been reading the same book almost every morning. More than anything, it has been responsible for my growing up in the reverential awe and admonition of the Lord. That last part is a mouthful, but that’s what growing up in the ‘fear of the Lord’ means. The book is Morning & Evening Devotions with Oswald Chambers, which comprises two books, My Utmost for His Highest and Daily Thoughts for Disciples.

I was one of those kids who loved Jesus from an early age. My favorite song as soon as I learned it, probably at four years old, was ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ and somehow even at such a tender age, I began to believe it. So it was only natural that I would respond to an altar call at our church when I was six. From that time on, I came to understand more and more about how Jesus loved me, mainly from my Sunday school teachers.

My family went to church every time the doors were open, but, until I was 12 and received my own Bible, no one read the Scriptures in my home except on Christmas Eve. That’s not an indictment, just a fact. Mother’s Bible was precious to her, so it was kept on a shelf in the living room unless she had to prepare devotions for a club meeting or if it was Christmas Eve.

However, that was not the case at the home of my grandmother, who read the Bible every day and often would read it to me when I was at her house. I faced some harsh realities as a child, but because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, those hardships only drew me closer to Him. And, in the process, though I was still a child, I began to grow in my understanding of God–and in my faith in Him.

Please know, I am not saying my childhood was dreadful. It wasn’t. I grew up on a farm with an older brother and sister, and a dad who was an encourager and advocate, so there were times of laughter and fun as we explored woods, creek and barns with the freedom few kids enjoy nowadays. There were, however, big challenges of discrimination because we were adopted–even from those who were supposed to love us–as well as harsh discipline by a mother who had been raised with the ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ mentality. Couple that with her fear that we three kids might somehow disgrace her by what others might judge as merely childish behavior, and unreasonable discipline was bound to become the norm at our house.

My life as a kid growing up in the 50s and graduating in the early 60s was pretty normal for a kid raised on a farm in Indiana. Field trips and concert band in the fall, pep band and basketball games in the winter, band contests and track in the spring, and instrumental lessons in the summer, along with Bible School and church camp, swimming at Matter Park, day trips to places like Lake Maxinkuckee and Mounds State Park, and frequent Sunday afternoon picnics at Francis Slocum. Around home, there were always chores to do–chickens to feed or butcher, eggs to gather and clean, gardens to weed, produce to can, and 4-H projects to work on–all before we could go fishing, climb trees or read.

Although we were maturing physically, in many ways we weren’t really growing up, mainly because of my mother’s fear of letting us make our own decisions, and, likewise, learn from the consequences of our choices. I was married at 19, because that’s what most girls did, continued with college, and had my first child at 23. However, it wasn’t until I began to face the experiences of my childhood in the Light of God’s Word that I even began to grow up emotionally and spiritually.

In Genesis 22:2, God’s promise to give Abraham a son has been fulfilled, but God tests Abraham: “And He said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.”

God’s command (to Abraham) is,“Take now,” not later, Chambers writes. It is incredible how we debate! We know something is right, but we try to find excuses for not doing it immediately. If we are to climb to the height God reveals, it can never be done later—it must be done now. And the sacrifice must be worked through our will before we actually perform it.

“So Abraham rose early in the morning…and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). Oh, the wonderful simplicity of Abraham! When God spoke, he did not “confer with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). Beware when you want to “confer with flesh and blood” or even your own thoughts, insights, or understandings—anything that is not based on your personal relationship with God. These are all things that compete with and hinder obedience to God.

Please listen carefully. There are some of you who are right where Abraham was. You know what you should do, but you’re trying to find excuses for not doing it immediately; and all that stands in the way of you obeying God is your will. You can think and think and think about what you know you ought to do, and you can talk and talk and talk it over with others, but just know that all of your thinking and talking puts the focus on what you want and not on what God wants.

Remember the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat as the storm rages? Even though Jesus said they were going to the other side of the lake, when the storm came up, fear rose up in the disciples, and they woke up Jesus. Listen to this from Chambers’ Daily Thoughts for Disciples:

When we are in fear, we can do nothing less than pray to God, but our Lord has the right to expect of those who name His Name and have His nature in them, to have an understanding confidence in Him. Instead of that, when we are at our wits’ end, we go back to the elementary prayers of those who do not know Him and prove that we have not the slightest atom of confidence in Him and His governing of the world. He is asleep–the tiller is not in His hand, and  we sit down in nervous dread. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in a crisis they are the ones upon whom He can rely.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says, When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.…”

What childish things are you refusing to abandon? Are you taking responsibility for your choices? Are you insisting on your will, or do you want His will?

You can hold tight in your fist what you want, but just know this: If you hold onto what you want, ignoring what He wants, yet praying for His will to be done, God will pry open your hand and remove it from you–and with a whole lot more pain and trauma than if you just willingly open your hand and surrender to His will.

Prayerfully…  Sara