Obedience

God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.  Give me insight so I can do what you tell me- my whole life one long, obedient response.  (Psalm 119:33-34, The Message)

As I begin to write, I had to have a conversation with my 7 year old on obedience and respect.  She has an old iPhone that she has kept up with for about 4 years now.  No, she doesn’t have wireless service but she does get to use it like an iPod.  I have been very impressed at her ability to keep up with it and to not break the screen.

How does this relate to obedience?  Well, I had a conversation with her this morning about not walking around the house watching and listening to her “kid shows”.  I explained I don’t want to hear it today.  So, as I begin to write, she walks past my room with it playing.  Literally – all I typed before this happened was the word obedience.  I turned around and called her back and had another conversation about it.  (Side note:  I do like all the times she walks around the house playing and singing Hillsongs, “Oceans” at the top of her lungs!)

This week I made a step of obedience myself.  I have been praying about this for over a month.  Really? Yes really!  I sat around for the past month and prayed whether or not I would be obedient.  Sounds silly, stubborn, and disobedient – all at the same time – I know.  And, yes, I do and did deserve the same conversation from Jesus that I had with my daughter this morning.

It gets better than that prayer.

I actually called one of my life-long friends from seminary.  Fortunately, he didn’t answer the phone.  I called looking for him to give me permission to be reasonable and logical about this thing I was praying about…. bottom line I was looking for him to tell me (without him knowing) I was looking for him to give me permission to delay my obedience.  Think I will call him back today to apologize for something he has no idea he was almost a party to… Honestly, I don’t think he would have given me the permission or encouragement for me to delay my obedience.

My wife and I sat down that same night, held hands, and prayed.  Immediately, I did what I had been “praying about for a month.”  Two days later, God intervened in a situation to let me know He had heard me and was with me.  A direct answer to another prayer that has been ongoing for the past month.

Honestly, as I sit here and contemplate this week.  I can see all of the situations before me and see them all as layers connected to the same onion.  Obedience is the key to the layers being able to be peeled back.

This morning I am reading Rick Warren’s daily devotional and he also is writing on this same subject!  (I love how the Holy Spirit works through things I read to confirm His leading in my life).  The first paragraph reads,

God smiles when we obey him wholehartedly.  That means doing whatever God asks without reservation or hesitation.  You don’t procrastinate and say, “I’ll pray about it.”  You do it without delay.  Every parent knows that delayed obedience is really disobedience.

Well, you don’t have to hit me over the head…. but I do love the confirmation of God at work in my heart and my life.  For that, I am wonderfully thankful!!

Faith-filled living does require action.  And, oftentimes, that action is at the center of obedience.  So, today, walk in obedience and do what He is leading you to do.

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The Promise…. waiting.

When I read this verse today I heard George Michael sing, “Faith.”  If you are familiar with the song now it’s stuck in your head too.  Sorry about that.  🙂

Faith.  Hearing and responding in faith, at times, can be a very difficult thing to do.  Especially when one is living in long season of silence.

I wonder about Abraham.  I wonder about his life and the thought process he went through before he took matters into his own hands.  God had told him he would have a son.  I presume he waited.  I guess he actively engaged at the task of trying to have a baby with his wife.  I’m sure he didn’t get tired of that!  But, then again, maybe he did.  He did end up taking things into his own hands by having sex with someone else.

I still wonder about his thought process.  He knew the promise.  He knew the Lord.  He was a friend of God.  Yet, he got tired in the waiting.  Did he question his understanding of the promise?  Did he begin to doubt?  Did he ask God about this decision to sleep with someone else?   Obviously he believed he was supposed to have a son.  That’s why he stepped outside of the covenant of marriage to have one.  (That doesn’t feel or sound right to even type).  But that’s exactly what he did.  He stepped into sin in order to bring about God’s promise…

I go back to wondering about his thought process that got him there.  Had he lost faith? Did he think it was up to him to help God bring about a child? In James 2 we read faith and works go hand and hand.  Abraham is even used as an example of faith and works when it comes to his son Isaac.  The son that was promised!  Yet, before he got to that point he exercised his faith with works outside of the covenant.  Outside of the realm of what God had promised.  Which brings me back to my wondering about what was going on in Abraham’s life and heart at the time he made his decision to help God along with the promise.

For me, I know I have made decisions in the darkness of silence.  Knowing I was supposed to do something, make a move, career change, etc.  Many, if not, most of those decisions didn’t work out so well for me.   Why? Did I not hear correctly?  Or did I not wait?

I think it has more to do about the waiting and trusting the promise God has spoken  than anything else.

I’m in way over my head

This is all way over my head.

I need to hear You.

You are the light that leads me.

Yet I wonder, “Where do I find peace?”

Jesus is the strength that keeps me walking.

Yet, I find it hard to trust.

Seeking His purpose.

The storms of life want let me rest.

The quest for peace becomes more desperate and allusive.

Yet He takes me in and takes me deeper into His Word.

Breaking through a fading concentration.

It’s in His Word that I come to a place of being able to see a place that can’t be seen without His Spirit revealing.  Psalm 139:13, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” As many times as I have read this my mind has stopped with the creation of the organs within my body.  The miracle of blood flowing through the body sustaining life to the entire body.

But today I thought about something else.  The creation within that can’t be seen or touched.  A place that can’t be operated on by human hands.  I’m referring to the personality, the interests, the likes and dislikes…. purpose.  He knit it all before we were ever delivered.  For me that was interesting thought today.  Made me question, “What in the world am I doing with that aspect of my life?”  There is so much more to life than just living… heart beating, blood flowing, and lungs taking in oxygen, etc. IMG_4061

Visiting a third world country in the name of Jesus can leave you speechless.  Yet, full of questions about life and your place in this world. That’s what it did for me.  The first morning back home I arose early and began to fill my pot with water (like I do every morning) so I could boil three eggs for breakfast.  Before I could get the eggs in the pot, I wept and said, “They aren’t doing this this morning… at least the way I am able to.”  Then I thought about the young Christian men I had the amazing pleasure of meeting.  I thought they have a deeper understanding of Jesus in their country than I do of Jesus in my country.  Their vantage point of seeing Jesus is so much different than mine.

The need is great in the land I had the pleasure of walking, praying, pondering life and purpose.  They probably don’t remember me but I can’t shake their faces from my mind.  I don’t want to lose sight of those I came to love in just a few short days.  I don’t know what God wants to do with all that I have experienced.  I do know He doesn’t want me to waste it.

13419113_10206513780182839_2338340058097243765_nI still can’t seem to grasp the words to convey my thoughts and my heart… I’ve been home for two weeks.  I can say there is so much more than this… this in which I live.  There is so much more.

Jesus, thank you for making sure I was there.  Craig, thank you for sharing with us worship, heart, love, discipleship, obedience, courage, faith, Jesus!  I can’t thank my church family, known as CFBC, for giving me the opportunity to have this experience.

As Matt Redman so beautifully wrote, “I’m coming back to the heart of worship.”

 

Crossroads

Are you familiar with the ending to the movie “Cast Away”?  Tom Hanks is standing there in the middle of this intersection in the middle of Nowhere, TX.  As far as he can see in all directions is nothing – yet he has been given the gift of life to be lived another day.  If you had been him, how would you have chosen where to go?    IMG_2822

We all find ourselves at places in life where we are at an intersection and we aren’t sure which way to go.  In the movie, he isn’t sure where he is going to go.  He pauses and gets out of the Jeep with his map and ponders for a moment or two.  During this moment of contemplation is when the person he was looking for drives up.

I wonder how many times in life we come to a crossroad and ignore it and just keep driving our lives right on through.  Or – how often do we get there – and recognize it… and then we get stuck there afraid to move at all.  Maybe there has been a bad decision in the past and fearful of getting burned again.

No matter the reason or how you would respond to the situation it is still a decision that must be faced and made.  No decision is still a decision.  How do you make the decision?  What steps do you take?  Do you get the Road Map out?  In my life, the Road Map has become God’s Word found in the Bible.  No, it doesn’t tell me to turn right or left and any specifics like that at all.  I can say the Holy Spirit gives insight I can’t explain.  Which is often followed by a peace I can’t explain.

Jesus tells us in John 14:25-27,

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. (The Message).

I’ve personally been at a crossroad for a long time now.  I have ventured in a couple of directions already to find that the peace, fulfillment, and contentment were not in the directions I have tried thus far.  I am still hungry to know God more so I keep going back to the Cross and asking for direction.  I am asking for wisdom… wisdom to be used for His glory, for the leadership of my family, and the community in which I live (wherever that would take me).

The Holy Spirit will teach us all things.  He will give all that we have need of.  He cares intimately about the details of our lives.  He will not leave us lonely in the dark.  Jesus instructed his disciples:

“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! (John 16:23-24).

I know He uses me through my job… even though I can’t directly communicate His Word… I live it.  I’m thankful for the opportunity I have to influence others in all aspects of my life.  I want to continue to do so full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, and grace.

What’s your plan?

For the past several years I have trained for the Cox Atlanta Bike MS Ride at Callaway Gardens in Georgia. This event supports the fight against MS. Each year I have a plan on how I want to accomplish my goal.  I have a plan that requires a lot of time and my family is very supportive as I prepare.

Just as I have a plan for getting stronger as a cyclist – I must have a plan for spiritual growth.  I can’t show up and ride 100 + miles and expect to complete it.  Nor should I expect to grow as a Christian without a desire and plan to make that happen.  One of my favorite people to read about in the Bible is Joshua.  As a leader, his life has always intrigued me.  I wish the Bible recorded more about him than what is there.  He has become one of my heroes of the faith.  He learned so much under Moses. (How would you like to have “Studied under Moses” on your resume. As he gleaned from Moses, he had a deep desire to know, love, and worship God.

Recently, in Sunday School we talked about Joshua and his leadership.  In the Book of Joshua, we read about how Israel crossed the Jordan River without getting wet (except for those first Priests that put their feet into the water).  It was at that moment they got their feet wet that God stopped the flow of water. After everyone had crossed the Jordan, God instructed them to take twelve stones from the river bed and build a monument so that all who would see the monument would remember what God had done for the people of Israel. (See Joshua, Chapters 3 and 4).

We discussed monuments we have built so that those around us would remember what God had done in our lives.

I spoke up about journaling.  I began journaling back in 1991.  That’s a lot of ink, paper, time, and tears.  I began journaling as a part of my spiritual growth plan.  For me, journaling, was an intentional step in order for me to grow deeper in my walk with Jesus.  My time journaling has grown and transformed over the years.  Currently, I write in 3 different journals with three different purposes for each.  It has been very difficult to keep up with all three.  I haven’t mastered this as of yet.  It is probably the greatest reason why I don’t write as much here as I once did.  At times, they each over-lap each other… a spiritual treasure map of how God is at work in my life.

Why three journals? I keep a journal as a record of my prayer life.  It contains everything that is going on in my life and specifics that detail how God is speaking to me at the time.  The second journal I am writing in contains my trek through the Bible.  I am following a Read-Through-The Bible-Plan in a year (It’s really taking longer than a year because of the time I am taking to record my thoughts and response to the Scripture I am reading).  The third journal is based off of Psalm 119.  I am taking Psalm 119 verse by verse – reading and writing about each verse.

The Psalm 119 journal has been interesting for me.  It is definitely transforming my thoughts on God’s Word and deepening my desire to grow stronger and more intimate with Jesus.

What’s your plan for spiritual growth?  If you don’t have a plan, I highly encourage you to get into God’s Word and see what He has to say to you.  Don’t think you have to start with something as difficult as what I am doing at this time.  If you want to grow and get to know God and His Son, Jesus, I highly encourage you to develop a plan.  There are many plans for reading the Bible at You Version.

While reading the Bible, several years ago, this came to mind: Seek. Find. Live.  This has become my motto for life as a result.  As I read, study, pray, and serve, everything falls under these three words.

The journey begins in the seeking…  Life truly begins in the midst of finding…  Obedience leads to living a life of fulfillment.  For me it takes a plan and allowing Holy Spirit to guide it.

Finish the race

When you step back to take a look at your life, what do you see? How do you evaluate your place or position?  What tool do you use to measure in order to see if you are where you need to be or want to be in life?

There are many voices and tools “out there” to give us the help and guidance in life to get us from where are to where we really want to be… or more importantly, to where God wants us to be.  For me, the greatest tool is reading the Bible.  I find direction, strength, hope, and encouragement in the words I read there.  Reading the Bible is a discipline that I must not neglect and must be a part of daily living.Run the Race

I was recently challenged to think about what my ideal life looks like.  As I began to think about my response, I thought back to the 4th grade.  I was sitting in a room in my house and I recall thinking, “I’m not going to be like that.” I can recall the voice of my dad saying he wish he had made other choices about his career.  I can recall the career path he would have preferred over the one he was on at the time.  In my pursuit of God and living in obedience, I struggle with keeping of my stride since it has been broken.

“How you see your future is more important than what has happened in your past.”  Zig Ziglar

I’m involved in quite a few really “good” things.  I visited one of those recently.  I walked out of that meeting and overwhelmed at the need in our community and the task that is set before them.  The thought kept rising in my mind that they are Jesus in their corner of our county.  They are literally being his hands and his feet.  Reaching out to those who can’t feed themselves.  I was unsure about what my experience would be as I drove onto the property.  I drove away challenged.

I once was a competitive long distance runner.  I recall the feeling of having someone break my stride because they cut me off.  It was a breaking of my stride physically and mentally.  I could get my physical stride back pretty easily but, at times, it was the mental portion of it I would have difficulty over coming.  I can recall dwelling on what had just happened and that becoming my focus over the race being run.

You are never a failure until you quit. Resist discouragement and finish the race God has set before you. -Rick Warren, Uncommon Courage Devotional.

I mentioned earlier there are a lot of tools to help us on our journey in life.  God’s Word is the greatest of those… His word is truth.  At times, each of us have moments when someone or something breaks into our lane and breaks our stride.  Keeping our eyes intently focused in the Word of God will help us to keep our focus.  The Holy Spirit will use those words to lead us where God wants us.

If you are in a place in life where someone has cut you off and broken your stride, now is the time to bring life back into focus.  Looking toward the goal that has been set within your heart.  “You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7, NIV).  Don’t let the distractions of this world, the words of others, or the actions of others break your stride.  Keep running.

Why do you believe what you believe?

I recently read an article posted on Facebook.  I was shocked at what I read concerning a “leader in the church.”  I thought that can’t be true.  Yet before I investigated the truth of what I read – I sent the link to a couple of my friends.  Later in the evening, I was discussing this article with someone else.  Based on that discussion, I decided to actually do some research on it.  I discovered that the original article was an “internet hoax.”  I came to this understanding as I sought out multiple resources.  Even with a closer examination of the original article, it even stated on the website that what was posted was “satirical”.  (I over-looked that).

That’s why it is important for us to make informed decisions about our lives and the faith we so often proudly proclaim. Or the faith we so proudly try to disclaim.  Not only are our lives weighing in the balance but the lives of those we come in contact with on a daily basis.

This experience led me to question, “Why do I believe what I believe?”

I had never heard of the source of the original article.  So when I first read it I was skeptical.  Yet there were some interesting quotes that made me think, “Well, I guess that could be true.”  By the time I finished reading the article I was ready to send it on to a couple of friends with the subject, “Wow!”  And that is exactly what I did.

As a result of this experience I asked myself, “Why do I believe what I believe?” I want to pose the same question to you, “Why do you believe what you believe?” Why do you believe in God, Jesus, Holy Spirit?  Why do you not believe? Why do you believe in some other god or religion? Why believe there is no such being greater than our current existence?  I’m wanting you to consider this in order to draw you into a deeper relationship with God or to bring you into a real search for truth.

Did each of us come to our place of belief because we personally sought truth? Or did we stumble into our belief (or disbelief) in God based on our parents, family, friend(s), or culture?

I write here with the presupposition that those who read are already Christians.  I do so not to negate or over-look those who are not Christians or those seeking the meaning for life.  So, please know If you aren’t a Christian, I think of you as well when I write and pray you come to a place where you are brought to God through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life because you have sought to know Truth.

If you are a Christian, I hope you will take the time to reignite your faith but answering the question about why you believe.  I hope that asking yourself will lead you into a deeper relationship and a greater walk of faith in obedience to the love of Jesus for his people.  If you are not a Christian and are still searching, I hope you will not give up in your search for truth.  Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness…” Matthew 6:33.  If all of us will live seeking His kingdom before anything else – we will not be disappointed!