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.

Walking in wide open spaces

I loved living in the desert.   I miss the wide open spaces with blue sky all around.  While reading in Psalm 119, I was reminded of this beautiful land that I miss.

and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.  Psalm 119:45.

The Psalmist loved the Law of the LORD.  I love reading Psalm 119.  Through all of life it’s the law, the way of God, His precepts, commandments…. that he loves and that drives him forward in his pursuit of God.  He has a relationship that is real and personal with God.  The Message puts it this way, in verses 44 & 45,

Oh, I’ll guard with my life what you’ve revealed to me, guard it now, guard it ever; And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom;

Rio Grande in New Mexico Bike MS 2015

We were visiting a church several years ago.  During the worship these lyrics jumped out at me, “All of my deserts are rivers of joy.” I mentioned I love the desert.  And when I look back at my time of physically living in the Southwest I see rivers of joy.

I was reminded of John 14:12 this morning where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (New Living Translation).  God intends for each of us to be moving toward greatness.  He tells us here in John that we will do even greater works… but we must believe in him…  Even in the times of desert living.

Our lives have the propensity to become messy.  Everything about each one of us is not perfect.  Yet we try hard to make our lives look neat.  We want to make everything look perfect.  We attend churches with stained glass windows and/or churches with rock bands filling the room with great music, lights, and dry ice… all looking and sounding good.  But when it’s all torn down what really remains?  Hopefully, in both situations, relationships are being built so that when the stain glass windows and the music fades that the heart of it all will still be standing.

After having lived in the beautiful Southwest, I understand that there is a lot of life in the desert.  For me, its a beautiful place that is open with great views all around.  To some the land may look barren but it’s really wide open spaces full of excitement.  So much has adapted and been created to sustain life there.  I believe we will each spend our time in the desert of life.  It’s not a place we should avoid but rather take advantage of.  It’s there, in the stillness of the desert, we can draw close to God.  It’s a place for us to be able to sit back and enjoy looking into the face of God and keep our focus steadfast on Him.

The desert at night is breath-taking!  The first time I ever stopped on New Mexico HWY 550, in between Albuquerque and Aztec, I realized I couldn’t see one foot in front of me due to the darkness.  But I could see more of God’s creation in the sky than I have before.  I never would have seen the beauty above me had I kept my focus on the darkness in front of me… I had to look up.  When we find ourselves in a desert place with darkness all around it’s not until we look up to God that we will see His glory.

Romans 5:2 in The Message says it best,

We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

If you find yourself today in a land that is dryer than you would like keep your eyes on Jesus.  Look to him and him alone for your joy.  We will not find joy looking in any other direction.  Feeling a little dry? Want someone to pray with you?  Just leave a comment, “In need of prayer”.  I’d be happy to pray for you.

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.

Open my eyes…

“Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law.” Psalm 119:18, (NIV).

When I walk into my garage from the outside and the lights are out I am blinded by the darkness as I walk in.  If I stand there for several minutes in the dark my eyes will adjust to the darkness so I can begin to see my way to the door into the house.  In life, I don’t want to live so that I am accustomed to the darkness around me.  I want to be a light in the world I live in.

The Bible tells us, “Without a vision people perish…”  (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).   I’ve desired nothing less than to see the Lord in my daily life.  During times of struggle, it can be hard to see him.  When I take my eyes off of Him, I stand there in my circumstance and get used to the darkness that surrounds me.  Yet, my desire is to continue to seek Him in those dark times.  A famous poetic quartet once stated, “In the dark you need a light do you want to make it right… So, freely surrender!” (Freely Surrender, Stryper).

The Psalmist knows he can’t see without the help of the Lord and he looks to God’s law for his light.  He realizes without his eyes open he will not see the wonder of God’s love found in His law.  “Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law.” Margaret Feinberg writes, “God invites us to look up, open our eyes to the wonder all around us, and seize every opportunity to encounter him.”  (Wonderstruck).  There is not a better place to look for God than in the Bible.  Take the time to read it and you just may be surprised how He speak with you.

Make this your pray today.  Father, open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law. In the wonderful name of Jesus, Amen.

Walk Steadily on the Road

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. (Psalm 119:1, The Message).

Has God revealed something to you?  Is there something God has spoken to you that hasn’t come into being?  Do you have a desire in your heart that you can’t seem to explain to others?  Yet, you know God understands! What’s keeping you from pursuing that desire with all your heart?  Maybe you have given up on God, thinking, “That’s not what He really said for me to do.”  The Psalmist says here you are blessed if you stay the course.

Maybe there is something God called you to and circumstances blocked your path.  Where are you now?  Are you still on the road? Maybe you are still on the road but have settled for selling lemonade instead of walking steadily.  After-all, you heard once when life throws you lemons you should make lemonade.  Or have you given up altogether and decided to cut your own path?

I was listening to Steven Furtick’s message, “Don’t Stop on 6.”  It’s a message on Joshua and the people of Israel as they were headed for the Promised Land.  On the road, they encountered many obstacles and problems.  Jericho was one of those problems in their path.  God told Joshua to lead the people around Jericho.  Literally, they marched in circles around Jericho.  For 6 days they made one lap each day around the city.  What if they had given up on day 6?  What if they had given up on lap 6 of day 7?

It doesn’t matter where you are in life.  If you are a college student struggling to understand God’s plan, or if you are in your 40’s/50’s wishing you had made other choices. Blessed are those who stay the course! Don’t give up.  Don’t quit. Has God given you a dream – a passion – something you can’t let go of… yet you haven’t arrived? Don’t stop here!  Keep pressing on.  Let Him take you deeper in His Word.  Deeper with those He has put in and around your life.  God’s purposes are much greater on the road He reveals over the path either one of us could carve out on our own.

In Matthew 7:14, Jesus said, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  (NIV).

Josiah was eight years old when he became king. He ruled for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. He behaved well before God. He kept straight on the path blazed by his ancestor David, not one step to the left or right. (2 Chronicles 34:1, The Message).

Our lives aren’t meant to be a sprint to the finish line but rather a long distance endurance race.  Don’t allow the mountain in front of you to keep you from finishing the race strong!  Take it one step at a time.  Keep your focus on your footing and keep on walking steadily.

I picked up a journal recently I was writing in 2009.  The interesting thing for me is that I am still praying about the same thing today that I was then.  I’m even praying over the same passage of Scripture.  My initial reaction was, “Wow, I can’t believe that!”  I thought for a moment why continue… but that thought process quickly changed.  What if Israel had stopped on 6.  I’m not stopping either.

Day 7 is on it’s way if we keep walking steadily!