September 17 Devotional

Opening Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that our salvation is not up to us. Thank you that we can’t make it happen, but only you can. It is all about your power working within us. Thank you that all we need to do is return to you—not once, not twice, but always again.  And thank you that as we are faithful to return to you, you are faithful to give us rest in the finished work of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Scripture: Isaiah 30:15

Journal: What do you tend to rely on for your salvation? How do you live with the sense that everything is up to you? What is the effect of that in your life? How does that keep you from being able to rest? How do you need to return to God? 

Reflection: I made a realization not too long ago, and the more I think about it, the more significant it seems to be. It involves a shift deep within me, one that has to do with the age-old tension between doing and being. For most of my life—and even more so, honestly, in my Christian life—I have constantly felt the pressure to try and make things happen. It is a mode of operation (a way of thinking and believing) that is very subtle, and seems noble and right at first glance, but one that is incredibly deceptive and has an enormous effect on how you go about living your life, particularly your life with God. At its heart, it says: “Everything is up to me.” 

But recently I have noticed a change, one that has shifted me from the pressure of doing to the freedom of being. A realization that I do not have to make things happen, in fact I cannot make anything of true value happen, that is all up to God. He is the One in charge of salvation and growth and transformation, not me. He is the One that causes the heart to change, the seed to grow. 

What I have noticed is that when I finally let go of the need to make things happen, somehow mysteriously (and miraculously) things just begin to. Things just come to be. These days I often find myself looking around in amazement and surprise at the fruitfulness and the beauty springing up all around me, as well as deep within me, and ask myself, “How did that happen?” It is simply extraordinary.

So what are we to do, sit idly by and never do anything? Not at all. What we are to do is to try and learn the lesson God was trying to teach Israel in Isaiah 30. They were the same as us. In Isaiah 30 they were under attack, their world filled with fear and chaos. But instead of turning to God, the One who knows them best and loves them most, the One who longs to save them, they panic. They take matters into their own hands and run off in another direction altogether, trying to insure and secure their salvation. In fact, they turn to Egypt (of all places) and beg Pharaoh to come to their rescue. Because when it came right down to it, when they were desperate for something or someone to set their world right again, their true beliefs came out. Instead of turning to God, they tried to make things happen for themselves. 

So God came to them and reminded them of what life with him is really all about. Your salvation will be found in returning and rest. Don’t try to take matters into your own hands, don’t carry out plans that are not mine (Isaiah 30:1). Turn back to me: once, twice, and always again. For when you turn (or return) to me, you will find rest, because I am the Sovereign God, the only One that can truly save you, the only One worthy of your trust. Find your rest in me, trust quietly in Me, for I am in control. 

So a shift is required, in them and in us. A shift very much like my own. A shift from trying to make things happen to turning constantly to God and trusting Him to work and to act. A shift that helps us begin to understand that the significant elements of life with our God are not do this and do that, but returning and rest, quietness and trust. Those are the bricks to build our spiritual house (lives) out of. Because when you turn constantly to me, I will be the One to make things happen...like you never imagined. So don’t just do something, stand there. (Pieces II by Jim Branch)

Hymn for the Day

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Steve and Ruth Porter center their ministry around Steve’s dentistry at the Miango Dental Clinic in Nigeria. Their goal is to provide high quality dentistry, a winsome witness, sound teaching, and a compassionate outreach to those in need. They minister to local pastors, teachers, and other church employees, offering their services for the cost of the materials they use. Pray today for the Porters as they continue work at the dental clinic. They are still waiting for the PVC pipe and the connections for the suction unit. 

Knox County CAC is a public agency serving the citizens of Knoxville and Knox County. Cedar Springs is partnering with CAC Homeward Bound Emergency Transitional Housing Project (ETH). The program helps specific groups find housing: (1) Families with children that cannot find shelter space, (2) Seniors that cannot get into shelter or who are too frail for existing shelter, (3) Individuals with an already established housing plan. Pray today for the staff of CAC as they seek to find housing for these individuals.

Closing Prayer: God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me—the very thing you’ve been unwilling to do. (The Message)