Sunday, March 31, 2013

White Flag

We raise our white flag
We surrender
All to You
All for You

We raise our white flag
The war is over
Love has come
Your love has won

Here on this Holy ground
You made a way for peace
Laying your body down
You took our rightful place
This freedom song is marching on
(lyrics by Chris Tomlin)
At the end of last year, I felt like God was wanting us to settle quickly with our adversary that was suing us but I wanted to fight. I knew that we did not do anything to this person. I started thinking that it did not make sense to settle and I must have misunderstood what God was saying to me.  The following months, I worked tirelessly by going through documentation and transcripts trying to prove our innocence but no one would listen. I was in shock that the lies were believed so easily even though there were many contradictions. Chris kept saying that he believed that God would defend him and for me to stop spending so much time working on it. I did believe that God was going to defend him but I just thought He would use me to do it.  In the end, all my hard work and time spent trying to defend us did not pay off.  It was like I was invisible and things kept moving forward.  Instead of responding to the contradictions, they were ignored and met with demands.  Even though I felt defeated, I wanted to fight to the end, no matter what the cost but there was one problem.   I felt like God was wanting me to surrender it ALL to Him. 

 A few days later,  I went to listen to Beth Moore speak at a church in Atlanta. Before she spoke, they read about the crucifixion of Jesus from Scripture. While they were reading God’s Word, I felt like God was saying to me again to settle quickly with our adversary.  I started to cry and told Him, "But we did not do anything wrong. Why should we have to pay for something we did not do?” Suddenly, as they were still reading from Scripture, I realized that Jesus paid for something He did not do….MY sin.  “You will give Him the name Jesus because He will save His people from THEIR sins,”….“But who among the people realized that He was dying for THEIR sins---that He was suffering THEIR punishment? He had done no wrong….”....“For God made CHRIST, who never sinned, to be the offering for OUR sin, so that we could be made right with God THROUGH CHRIST,”  (Matthew 1:21, Isaiah 53:8b, II Corinthians 5:21 NLT). At that moment, I became overwhelmed at what Jesus did for me.  How He humbled Himself, surrendered His will and became obedient to death, death on the cross…for me (Philippians 2:8).   I cried even harder because I realized that God wanted me to stop fighting, to trust Him and surrender my will to Him.  I also realized how Peter felt when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wanted to fight to defend Jesus and even cut off the servant's ear of the high priest with his sword trying to do so. After Jesus healed the servant's ear, He told Peter, "Put your sword back in its place.....Do you not think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"   When Peter realized that Jesus was willfully surrendering, he fled in fear with the others and would later deny Jesus three times. I began to realize that Peter was ready to fight to the end in His name but he was not ready to surrender and suffer in His name. 
 Jesus had tried to tell His disciples earlier what would happen but they did not comprehend it nor wanted to accept it because it did not make sense.  "He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him,” (Mark 8:31-33 NIV).  When I read that I thought, how could Peter be so bold to take Jesus aside and rebuke Him.  Are you kidding me? Then I realized how many times I have done the same thing when things did not turn out the way I thought they should. “God, why did you allow this to happen? Why did you not answer my prayer the way I wanted you to? How could this plan bring You glory?”   But just like Jesus told Peter, He is telling me, “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s,“ (Mark 8:33 NLT).   God sees the finished masterpiece, His work in us, but we only can see what we are facing right at that moment.   We have to trust His heart when we don’t always understand His hand…..even when His plans don’t make sense to us…..especially when they don’t make sense to us. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).  God wants us to surrender our will to Him but surrendering OUR will to Him can be so painful.  We want to give him bits and pieces but He wants it all.  He wants all of us in order to show His power through us when we are weak. 

I remember one night I could not sleep again because of fear of the future.  Then I just fell on my knees and wept…not cried….wept.  It was difficult laying it down but once I did, there was peace, His peace.   Surprisingly, there was also great strength because it was His strength.  Sometimes, I think we forget what Jesus did for us and we how difficult is was.  Just moments before Jesus was arrested, He was praying, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me.  Yet I want Your will, not Mine.”  Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him.  He prayed more fervently, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.  At last, HE STOOD UP…..”  Luke 22:42-45a NLT.  When He stood up, He was standing in our place, for our sins.

Moments later, "The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put Him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against Him, but their statements did not agree" Mark 14:56.  The high priest asked Jesus if He was going to answer against the charges but He remained silent and gave no answer.  I was AMAZED that Jesus remained silent every time a lie was spoken about Him.  Even Pilate, the governor, was astonished that Jesus did not defend Himself even to a single charge.  Jesus only responded to TRUTH because that is who He is.  “I am the Way, and the TRUTH and the Life.  NO ONE  comes to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME,” (John 14:6).  Later, the high priest said to Jesus, “Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.”  Jesus, the Truth, would then respond, “Yes, it is as you say,” (Matt 26:63-64).  Pilate also said to Him, “You are a king, then!”  Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a King.  In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the TRUTH.  Everyone on the side of TRUTH listens to me.”  What many did not realize at the time, including His disciples, was that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).

 I began to realize that Jesus did not have to declare His innocence because God, His Defender, declared His innocence through those around Him.  Judas, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, returned the money and declared to the chief priests and the elders, “I have betrayed INNOCENT blood,” (Matt 27:2).  Pilate’s own wife told him, “Don’t have anything to do with that INNOCENT man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of Him,” (Matt 27:19).  But in the end, in order to satisfy the people who wanted Jesus crucified, Pilate, who found no basis for the charges against Jesus, declared his own innocence instead of the innocence of Jesus, “I AM INNOCENT of this man’s blood.  It is your responsibility.” Instead of surrendering to Jesus, Pilate surrendered to the will of the people who shouted their demands to crucify Him.   With that, Jesus, the Lamb of God,  was led like a lamb to the slaughter.  He was “pierced for OUR transgressions, He was crushed for OUR iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed," (Isaiah 53:5,7).   

At the very end of his life on the cross, Jesus, the Word of God, had the last word and declared, “It is finished!”  The disciples thought that meant they were finished and, for the next few days, lived in fear behind locked doors.  They had lost all hope.  What they were about to find out was that the Hope of Glory was about to be found….not among the dead but the living….for He had risen from the dead conquering sin, death, and the enemy (Col 2:15).  He had settled the matter once and for all and God exalted him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above EVERY NAME.  Salvation is found in NO ONE else, for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Philippians 2:9, Acts 4:12).

Once I surrender everything to God, He also settled the matter in our situation.  He took what the enemy used to crush us and gave me this opportunity to tell of the greatness of Jesus Christ.  We might have lost the battle in the world's eyes but I was able to tell who won the ultimate War---JESUS CHRIST!!!  Whatever you are facing today, SURRENDER it ALL to Him.  Know that it is His incomparably great power, the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead, that will be at work in you and through your situation (Ephesians 1:19-20).  More importantly, SURRENDER your life to Him.  Thank Him for dying for your sins and taking your place.  Praise God with all of your heart that HE IS RISEN!  "For if you confess with your mouth that 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved," Romans 10:9.

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