Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dogged Devotion: Part 1

     This is the first in an occasional series of blog postings that I have called: “Dogged Devotion”:

     I have a new puppy - a large breed, highly active dog. At time of writing he is a thirteen-week-old energy package wrapped in puppy exuberance. If he is awake, he is on the move! I am keeping one eye on him as I write this, because he has just woken from a nap and is even now about to trigger into action. This could well translate into two clumsy puppy paws suddenly landing on my laptop keyboard, producing a string of indecipherable messages and alerts never before encountered in the computing world!
     Jabulani (a Zulu word meaning “rejoice”) not only enhances my life with fun and affection, however. Raising and training him is opening my understanding to spiritual truths in freshly applicable ways!
     As is the case with toddlers, there are times when Jabulani seems to become increasingly frenzied in his activity, getting into more and more mischief, and becoming less and less responsive to commands. I have learned that he does this when he is over-tired, but unable to calm himself down. He needs a little help from me, so this is what I do:
     I face him away from me, and make him sit. Then I straddle him, sitting on my knees over him. In this position, I pull his front paws out gently, until he is lying down, and I squat over him, just enough that he can feel my body against his back. In this way any movement from him is contained. With the puppy under me, I then stroke him firmly, from his head to his shoulders, over and over. While I am doing this, I speak soothingly to him, telling him what a good boy he is.
     Within one minute I can feel his tense muscles relax under me, and his heartbeat slow. Finally he gives a deep sigh, then a yawn. Once he yawns, I know that he has calmed down, and I slowly release him. Almost inevitably, he goes straight to his bed, and falls asleep!
     Two things have happened here:
·         By placing him physically underneath me, I have established dominance over him.
·         Under my gentle, consistent authority, his tension is soothed, and he becomes quiet.

     In my previous blog, I expounded a little on Psalm 37. As explained, it provides us with a four positive commands and one negative, each of which comes with a promise:
Trust in the Lord…
Delight in the Lord…
Commit your way to the Lord…
Be still and wait for the Lord…
Do not fret and agitate…

     Verse 7 arrested my attention: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…” As I pondered how difficult it is for us to “be still and wait”, it struck me that every one of these commands emphasizes our position of submission and surrender under the Lordship – the authority - of Jesus Christ:

Our trust is in His authority
We delight in Him as sovereign over our lives
We commit our way to His kingly dominion

and then…

In this position of surrender to His Lordship, we are able to be at rest trustingly in Him, confident that He is at work.

     Just the way my puppy becomes calm and relaxed under my authority! I do not hurt him when I straddle and quiet him under me. My dominion over him is loving and gentle, and for his benefit.
     In the same way, the Lordship of Jesus Christ over our lives is not punishing – it is loving and gentle, and always has our good at heart!
     When we have a frantic need to be in control, it results in increasingly frenzied thoughts, and mental and emotional torment that often leads to ill-advised decisions and actions. We are limited in our ability to calm ourselves down. We need help from One who has greater wisdom, power and authority. As we submit and surrender ourselves to His Lordship, relinquishing control to Him, in our position under His authority, tension is soothed, and quiet seeps into the deepest recesses of our beings.
     Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
     His Lordship over our lives is a loving lordship, always working for His highest good in our lives. The place of surrender is a place of peace and rest and refuge and relief!
     This is true at any time, but most especially when we are going through difficult and harrowing times. The book of Hosea presents a picture of a woman who has ended up in a place of personal wilderness, as a result of rebellion against the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But in the wilderness, God comes to her in His power and sovereignty, not dealing harshly with her, but instead saying: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth…” (Hosea 2:14, 15).
     “Achor” means “trouble”. Are you in a barren and desolate place of trouble, frantically trying to “make something happen” in an effort to “fix” yourself or “fix” someone else, or “fix” your circumstances?
     Can you just stop? Stop and consciously place all that you are, and all that your circumstances entail, under the sovereign, tender authority of Jesus Christ. In that place of quiet surrender, He will:

Give you His peace and rest
Make His voice heard, speaking tenderly to you
Give you back the fruitfulness of your life
Transform trouble into hope
Give you a new song
Restore what has been lost to you

     My puppy’s name, Jabulani, means “rejoice”. The Bible tells us that when we surrender ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the help that we find there is so profound, that we are able to “sing in the shadow of Your wings” (Ps, 63:7).
     Be at rest under His sovereignty – and reclaim your peace and joy!

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