I will freely sacrifice to You;I will praise Your name, O LORD, for it is good.
So last week I made full use of an empty house after having several weeks (if not months) of high-stress life and decided to have a bit of much needed Down Time: Bubble bath, fire, cup of tea, dvd… my absolute Happy Things! I should have known God had his own agenda when the Holy Spirit came bouncing into the bathroom and plonked himself down with a huge grin on His face. I decided the best strategy was to close my eyes. He raised an eyebrow, but remained quiet. [God called me to intercede for someone last year June, and for the past 14 months, I have walked a long and hard journey in standing in the gap for this person. So, praying for them has become as second-nature as breathing – I’ve found that every time I sigh, its become a silent prayer that God might finally bring His salvation and freedom into this person’s life.] So realising He wasn’t going away anytime soon, I mumbled a prayer or two to try placate whatever plans He had – this was after all my Down Time.
Its incredible how the God of Peace can bring the opposite of peace just as easily as Peace itself! So after a few uncomfortable minutes of stubborn denial, I submitted and abandoned the bath. His grin widened. And then He decided it was Time to Pray. How He is able to move within our spirits, I will never be able to explain, but quite unexpectedly I suddenly found myself not just crying out for this person, but against every rational thought in my head, I heard the following words being uttered from my mouth, “Lord, I lay every promise you have ever given me regarding this person on your Altar of Sacrifice. If I never hear from them or see them again; if the Promise is all that I will ever have from you, may I submit it all to your Glory. May I sacrifice this most precious promise to you as an offering of praise? But may they come to know you as their Lord and Saviour; that is my only request – the deepest desire of my heart. Even if I should never see that fruit myself, may you only fulfill that aspect and it will be Enough.” What was I thinking?! I hadn’t even considered doing that at any point in the past 14 months; it hadn’t even crossed my mind. But as the words tumbled out, a Stillness descended and the Holy Spirit was gone as quickly as He’d appeared. And all I had left was a new Peace and Assurance – the deepest understanding that God had done something huge and necessary and I was no longer even remotely in control.
I didn’t really understand the depth or significance of this sacrifice until last night. Let me first explain something – by no means did I sacrifice anything against my will, or out of an obligation or even being forced into anything! I have continued to remind myself of that sacrifice with great joy every morning of this week; as much as its laying down some fairly precious promises from God, it has become more about a declaration of my love for God. That I would lay down every promise and plan and hope and dream that He has given me – just so that He may be glorified and honoured. He is worthy of every bit that I can offer and its out of a heart of Love, that that sacrifice was made.
Last night a friend invited me to join her at an evening being hosted by a local church. It was incredible; the speaker began explaining how we should approach God and the battles we face doing so…
So many Christians stand outside the gates and shout their prayers from this place, hoping that God might hear them. This is the kind of place where people feel detached, or far from God’s presence (not surprising is it? You’re standing outside. God’s waiting in the Holy of Holies for you to join Him!) and where it feels like prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. It’s at the Gate, that the Battle rages. This is the place where as Christians we are instructed to put on the Armour of God (Ephesians 6) and take a Stand against the enemy’s attacks. We are given the keys to enter God’s courts – through thanksgiving and praise – but few people press in hard enough to overcome the raging battle, and many turn back and leave, not having encountered the Fullness of God. Those that do overcome through praise and step through the Gates enter into… the Altar of Sacrifice! It’s the place where God begins His Redeeming and Healing work in our lives. Again, it is done through praise, this time not the declaration of His Sovereignty or Victory, but of His Love and Goodness. It’s the scariest and most vulnerable place to be: the stripping off of our Old Self’s, allowing Him to remove every part of us that distracts us from His purposes in our lives. Let’s be honest, this place sucks. I’m not going to lie to you or sugar-coat it. It’s tough. Its sore! The more we struggle, the more it hurts [lesson: lie still, don’t struggle and its somehow less painful and much quicker!]. But once it is done, God is able to pour out His Peace, Love and Strength in new measure, beyond anything that we’ve ever experienced.
The Altar of Sacrifice is the toughest place to get to, and the hardest place to remain – but it’s the sweetest place to stand up from. Nobody enjoys sacrifice. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve been made. Discipline is tough. Half the problem is that our view of our own situations and hearts is so very limited. We can only see through our small selfish perspective of Experience and Emotion. Asking us to give up the things (whether material, relational or even spiritual) we hold so desperately onto is terrifying. It is beyond our ability to understand or perceive what God is doing. Praise the Lord for His patience and gentleness! That He allows us to continue to cling onto these trivial things until our hearts are in the place where He can begin the Great Extraction. Circumcision may be a physical act in the Jewish culture, but it’s a physical reminder of the work God is wanting to do in our hearts and spirits – to remove from us everything that holds us to the World and keeps us away from His Glorious Presence. There is Freedom in His Presence. The sweet place of sacrifice brings us to the greatest place of all – it’s the place where we’re safe, where the enemy cannot touch us, where we get our needs met, where our prayers are answered, where Everything is Possible – where God’s plans and purposes for our lives are evident – where God touches our lives with His dreams for us. It’s the place where we are fully submitted to Jesus Christ. Where we have laid down everything that stands between us and Him, and we can simply stand in His presence and enjoy Relationship with Him.
For me, sacrificing the promises God has given me, meant releasing them into His hands – allowing Him to take absolute control of Everything – and to embrace the Freedom of not trying to force those promises into existence through my own means. I have not given up on these promises, or walked away from the belief that God will fulfill them. Not in the least! It’s the opposite: its confidently laying them gently into His hands, while I focus on snuggling deeper onto His lap and curling up tighter against His chest and simply enjoy being with Him. Please understand, I am not sharing this to tell you how wonderful I am! Believe me, I am FAR from it. There are two reasons for this post – the first, the very reason for this blog is that I determined to use every opportunity I could find to declare God’s goodness and to fight for my Inheritance. When your destiny is threatened, threaten back… this is my way of proclaiming God’s greatness in the face of the enemy’s tactics. And the second, more precious reason: that you may be encouraged to do the same. Whatever it is that you’re finding yourself clinging to – whether it’s your career, the comfort of your life, a relationship, a Pain, a Promise or Hope, or even the Fear of the Unknown (digging deeper into God is a huge Unknown)… be encouraged (may your heart find the courage) to Still yourself in Humble Submission and allow God to Release you from that chain of captivity. Its holding you back. Trust me, greater things lie ahead of you if you would lay whatever you’re clinging to before Him. God is gracious, loving and merciful – and ever gentle in His dealings with us. It’s time.