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.

Embrace this God-life

It seems like for the past 5 years I have been running around in the same circle.  The circle I’ve been running now is well marked.  Kind of like the rut you find on the ground around a merry-go-round at the park.

Faith.  What does it mean to live by faith?  Do you really know what that means? That’s what I ask myself… and anyone else that may be listening.  I have these set of verses that keep coming up as I read the Bible.  It’s the same set over the past 5 years that keep surfacing.  My heart races a bit when I read them.  I remember situations in the past when I read them, prayed, waited, and acted. 

Read Mark 11:22-25 with me,

Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, ‘Go jump in the lake’—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it’s as good as done. That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”  (The Message).

“Embrace this God-life.”  I continue to hold on.  I question, “Do I really have faith?”  Mark 9:23-24 is another set of verses that continue to come across my eyes when I read Scripture,

23Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.”

 24No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!”

There’s this cry for something from within me… something that reaches out that gives me the assurance of meaning and purpose – which leads to me knowing I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  This comes so easy for some… and so difficult for me. 

I think a part of the problem for me revolves around one of the words found in the Mark 11 verses listed above.  “Forgiveness”.  If I’m going to really embrace this God-life I’ve got to let some things go… and forgive.

Do you need a break today?

It’s interesting how each person that follows Jesus is so different. The gifts given, the personalities, and purposes for each person are all different. God is very personal with each person. Even the circumstances in life are different for each person. For some, it may seem like everything in life always goes their way. Another look at the human race it may seem like there are others that always struggle and have difficulties… never getting a break.

Why is it that some seemingly have no problems and all they touch turns to gold or at best stays steady moving forward? Why is it that others seem to never get a break?

It’s the same thing when I look at churches. Most churches get to a certain place with the number of people attending. And they just maintain that number… sometimes they will hit a growth spurt and leadership is gelling and moving forward then BAM roadblock… people leave and move on and continue on elsewhere or they get frustrated with the whole church thing and just drop out. Then there are those churches that start up and never look back… they grow and grow. The staff grows, changes, and grows some more.

Do you ever find yourself frustrated? Like there is something else that you should be doing… or that you just aren’t fitting in with what you are doing or where you are serving? Do you think that maybe you are doing something that God really didn’t intend for you to do… thus bringing on the frustration and roadblocks?

In Psalms 73we read about the frustrations of Asaph.  I’ve read it several times in the past couple of days. Do you relate to the thoughts of Asaph? What about in verses 11-14?

  What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch?
      Nobody’s tending the store.
   The wicked get by with everything;
      they have it made, piling up riches.
   I’ve been stupid to play by the rules;
      what has it gotten me?
   A long run of bad luck, that’s what—
      a slap in the face every time I walk out the door. (The Message).

Look and see just how Asaph ends this Psalm in verses 25-28.

You’re all I want in heaven!
      You’re all I want on earth!
   When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
      God is rock-firm and faithful.
   Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
      Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again.
   But I’m in the very presence of God
      oh, how refreshing it is!
   I’ve made Lord God my home.
      God, I’m telling the world what you do! (The Message).

I don’t know why (but for some) things just seem so easy – and for others it’s incredibly difficult. Wherever you find yourself I encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus. Stay focused.  Give all of your attention and worship to Jesus.

If it’s difficulties you are faced with remember the words of Jesus to John the Baptist’s disciples just before John was beheaded, “You’ll be blessed if this does not cause you to fall away.”  God can and will get you through anything… it just may be in a different way than what you are expecting.

Wide open spaces of God’s grace…

At times I’m finding it difficult to “just read” through the Bible. (Don’t be dismayed I’m ahead of schedule none-the-less with my reading plan). On Friday, I read 4 verses in Chapter 5 of Romans and BAM… I just have to stop and reflect on what is being said.

God has such a wonderful way of loving us. He created us with love in mind. That was His plan during the days of creation. He had you and me on his mind. I can’t comprehend that… but it’s the truth.

God has put on display Himself and His love toward us through creation as seen in the sun shining upon the water. He shows us His majesty as we gaze upon the Great Rocky Mountains. The expanse of His grace is revealed in the great open plains. Stop whatever you are doing and take in all His grace has to offer. Praise Him at the top of your lungs… go out somewhere this weekend all alone and proclaim OUT LOUD to God your love for him.

“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. 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. There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.” (Romans 5:1-4, The Message).

“Unforced rhythms of grace.”

I’m following YouVersion.com reading plan as I read through the Bible.  I’m loving it.  I am on track to read the Bible through two times this year.  If you haven’t noticed I like to use The Message by Eugene Peterson.

Today I was reading in Matthew 11.  Checkout the words of Jesus here in Matthew 11:28-30. 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  (The Message).

I love how Eugene Peterson has translated these verses!  “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”  This reminds me of the “Dance with me” posts I wrote in March 2008.  There are several posts there with this thought.

Jesus invites us to walk with him.  Our lives are to walk with the Lord as the Holy Spirit freely moves in our lives.  As I sit here, I get the vision of a wheat field moving with the wind out on the open plains.  The wheat moves without effort as the wind moves across the plain.  Jesus wants us to watch how he lives and to learn to move as he moves. 

I encourage you to read Matthew 5.  Think about walking with the Lord and putting to work the words of Jesus.  If you are burned out on religion, church, or “Christians” who say one thing and live something different… Seek Jesus… walk with him… “learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”  You will find a new world – a new life awaits you!