Tag Archives: obedience

All or Nothing

Reading 2 Kings 10 today, I wondered why Jehu went through with sacrificing the burnt offering to Baal. I mean, I get why he called the prophets and worshipers of Baal to the temple with the promise of a big corporate worship service. Get them all in one place, then kill them all while you have them cornered.

But why go through the worship before destroying everything Baal?

Then I read on and it made sense. Jehu never intended to actually give up Baal. Oh, he obeyed God. He destroyed the idolators and their idols. But Jehu kept Baal in his heart.

He mostly obeyed. But mostly obeying is disobedience.

In fact, Scripture tells us “he refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit.” (10:31)

It’s possible to look like an obedient servant of God, to go to church every Sunday, sing in the choir, maybe teach Sunday School. It’s possible to abstain from alcohol, show love to your neighbor, and say, “Praise Jesus” twenty times a day, and still be disobedient.

God’s not fooled by what we do or say. God sees our hearts. You can read your Bible every day, and be as disobedient as an atheist if you are refusing to totally submit your heart to the Lord.

You can’t mostly obey, and think it balances the scale. It doesn’t. True Christianity – the heart that God approves – is all in. It has to be all or nothing.

A Sad Tale

Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, I Kings

I can’t read the Song of Solomon or the book of Ecclesiastes and not be sad at how Solomon turned out. 1 Kings tells us he loved God when he first became king of Israel, and I have no doubt he did. But 1 Kings 3 tells us Solomon loved God, BUT…

We find him offering sacrifices to God on the pagan high places. He may have loved God sincerely, but he wanted to worship God in his own way. He loved God but he wanted things the way he wanted them.

Like marrying an Egyptian woman, expressly forbidden by God. I believe Solomon loved this woman, especially if she is the main character in the book of Song of Solomon. His marriage to her even put the nation of Israel at peace with Egypt. That had to be a good thing, right? I mean, who doesn’t want world peace?

The problem was Solomon’s way wasn’t God’s way. Solomon’s way was disobedience. And God takes a dim view on disobedience, no matter who you are, and no matter what your intentions are. Solomon’s way led him down a path toward despair and destruction. It couldn’t lead anywhere else.

What started out as a hopeful reign for Solomon over Israel ended up with pagan worship and a king’s heart turned away from God. It ended up with the nation of Israel split in two, with both sides at each other’s throats for generations that followed.

It’s such a sad tale. It didn’t have to be that way.

If we want life to mean something, if we want to walk with God and be blessed by Him, we have to live life according to God’s way. Anything else is like chasing after the wind.

Follow My Example?

I Chronicles 29

King David gave generously from his own treasures toward the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. Then he went to the people and challenged them to follow his example.

That spoke to me today. God has give me so much, blessed me way beyond what I deserve. Not financially, necessarily. Although I have enough to be comfortable. But I certainly don’t have the equivalent of tons of gold and silver to throw around.

Yet God is reminding me how truly rich I am.

I have my health, a working brain. I have hands and feet and a voice. I have Jesus! I have the forgiveness of my sin, and the gifts of having the Spirit of God in me: love, joy, peace…

I have God’s own words at my fingertips!

The questions then, are these: Am I using these things generously toward the building of God’s Church? Am I investing in people, introducing unsaved people to their Savior?

And, would I ever in a million years suggest you follow my example?

I’m wondering if I’d want you to put in the same amount of time I put into serving God; if I’d want you to use your talents in the same way I use mine for the glory of God. I wonder if I exercise my faith in a way I’d want you to exercise yours, or am I serving half-heartedly, giving only what I think I can afford, hoping you’ll not notice?

David said, “follow my example.” Can I say that to you?

If not, why not?

David’s prayer in verses 10-19 reminds me that everything I have belongs to God. It all came from God in the first place. I own nothing. I am nothing. But I am a steward of everything He’s given me.

May God, when He examines my heart rejoice when He finds integrity, when He finds me giving away with both hands what He’s given me, so that someone will come to His saving grace.

I pray the same for you.

So Take This Seriously.

David’s charge to Solomon spoke to me today. It serves as a reminder:

And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work. (1Chronicles 28:9-10 ESV)

Too many of us try to hold God to his promises without our doing the work. Maybe we should emphasize the knowing God intimately, the worship and serving God with our whole hearts and our willing minds, if not instead of, at least in conjunction with his wonderful promises to his obedient children.

God clearly tells us IF we seek him we will find him. IF we forsake him, he will reject us.

So take this seriously.

The Winning Side

I Samuel 14

We all like to be on the winning side. I was a die-hard Cleveland Indians’ fan for literally decades (until they got woke) and I will tell you it wasn’t always fun wearing Chief Wahoo t-shirts. Many years people would laugh at “the mistake on the lake.” But during the 90’s when the Indians made serious runs at a World Series title, Indians fans came out of the woodwork! The Chief was everywhere, and “Go Tribe” was our mantra. It was so fun!

Winning draws people in. That’s what happened in 1 Samuel 14. When Jonathan and his armor bearer were defeating the Philistine army, people noticed and got excited. Warriors literally came out of hiding in caves and joined the battle BECAUSE they were winning.

Well Christian, where are you in this battle against our enemy? Are you hiding in your pew and behind a few praise songs? Do you turn on a live stream in your home on Sunday mornings?

Or are you out there wielding your sword? The truth is, if you know Jesus as your Savior you ARE on the winning side in this war against Satan. We WILL win this war. Satan WILL be defeated!

But we need you today. We need you to get out there and join us in the battle we face today.

If you aren’t serving in your church, if you aren’t forging relationships with your neighbors in order to introduce them to their Savior, if you aren’t studying the Bible, praying, growing, standing up, and moving ahead – you need to crawl out of your hiding place and join God’s army. Now! You won’t be sorry.

It’s great being on the winning side!

Can You Imagine?

Judges 17-18

In those days Israel had no king. People did as they wanted. It resulted in idolatry, war, murder, dishonesty, lawlessness. Each person could make up his own truth.

Wait.

What?

You can’t make up truth. Truth, by definition, is true. Right?

It would be utter chaos if people could make up their own truths. Can you imagine?

Sleep Like A Baby

Judges 9

I play pickle ball with a dear friend who can put a wicked spin on the ball. Whenever I am playing on the opposite side of the net, and find myself swinging at the wind because the ball has taken a nasty bounce, I sometimes jokingly ask her, “How do you sleep at night?”

I find myself asking the same question of me after reading what Jotham said to the Jews in Judges 9. In a sense he told them, if they had acted honorably, if they had done the right thing, then he wished them joy. If they had not acted in good faith, Jotham called for fiery destruction of them.

I’ve had nights when I would lay awake, filled with regret or shame or guilt. I know what it’s like to feel the fiery hand of God’s anger at 2 AM. There were times I couldn’t – or didn’t want to pray, and I continued to toss and turn throughout those long nights.

But there were also nights when I confessed my sin, truly repented, and experienced the joy of the Lord – and a good night’s sleep.

We’ve all probably marveled at how infants can fall asleep so easily, and stay asleep so soundly. They have nothing to regret or feel guilty about. The sleep of a baby is generally peaceful and sweet, especially when that infant falls asleep in your arms, right?

I feel God asking me how honorably I’ve conducted myself in light of His holiness. Have my actions, thoughts, and words pleased or angered Him? Some days, I have to confess, it’s a wonder I am able to sleep at all.

As I go through my day today, I pray that I will act honorably toward God, that I will bring Him joy by my obedience. If I do, I’ll have no regrets. If I do, I just might crawl into bed tonight and into His arms, and sleep like a baby.

The Most Important Word in The Bible

Deuteronomy 13

God gave specific instructions to the Jews concerning worship, sacrifices, how to treat one another, caring for the poor, etc. The nuts and bolts of it were fulfilled by Jesus on the cross so today we don’t sacrifice animals on a stone altar, and we don’t kill idolators. But God’s instructions to the Jews speaks volumes to us today.

Deuteronomy 13:18 is the lesson God wants us to understand from His instructions:

The Lord your God will be merciful only IF you listen to His voice and keep all His commands that I am giving you today, doing what pleases Him. (emphasis mine)

Gods words in Deuteronomy are still true today, and only through the substitutionary work of Jesus can our sins be forgiven without the physical sacrificing of animals. Without blood, there is still no forgiveness of sin. Jesus shed His own blood as the ultimate, perfect substitute.

What we read in Deuteronomy is a picture of what Jesus did on the cross. He became those sacrifices for us. And therefore, the same principle applies:

God will show mercy IF we obey Him.

We can’t expect God’s blessings unless we do ALL His Word demands. That’s a tall order on our own.

IF I accept Jesus as my Savior I am obeying the Law spelled out in Deuteronomy. And IF I live my life like Jesus spelled out in the New Testament, then and only then can God bless me.

And, oh what blessings!

I think “IF” might be the most important word in the Bible.

What Do Your Tassels Look Like?

Numbers 15

One Christmas my niece and her husband gave me a wind chime that plays the most beautiful tones I think I’ve ever heard in a wind chime. Sometimes when there is a breeze I hear the music and stop what I’m doing just to enjoy the sound. Sometimes I’ll pray for Libby and Seth as their gift delights my soul. Sometimes I’ll just listen – but I always remember those two precious people who gave it to me. (Happy Anniversary by the way, dear ones!)

God told the Israelites to make tassels for the hems of their clothing so that when they saw the tassels they would remember and obey God’s commands “instead of following your own desires and defiling yourselves, as you are prone to do.” (verse 39)

I sat here and wondered what my “tassels” look like, what it is that reminds me to obey, and not defile myself as I am prone to do. I believe God brought His Name to mind.

As I wear the name, “Christian,” shouldn’t that be enough for me to remember to obey the One whose Name I wear? Should that be enough to do what I need to do to NOT defile myself even though temptation is always in front of me? If I identify with Jesus by calling myself a Christian, shouldn’t my choices, my life be lived in obedience?

I will admit that my wind chimes sing out on occasion and maybe I hear them, and maybe I’m so used to hearing them the beautiful tones don’t penetrate my hearing. I don’t stop and listen.

And maybe I’m so used to wearing the name, “Christian,” I stop hearing the beautiful tones of my Savior’s voice telling me to be holy, to confess sin, to obey, to love, to stand for Truth, to go and make disciples.

God gave the Israelites tassels to remind them to obey. God gave me His Name that ought to remind me of the same.

So, what “tassels” are you wearing that remind you to obey your Savior? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You May Not… But If You Do…

Leviticus 27

I had to do some digging to understand what appeared to be a contradiction. Do you need to offer an acceptable animal to God, or is there a loophole?

What I came to realize is that this chapter is not about offering sacrifices for sin. Those animals had to be perfect, without defect or God would not forgive sin. Leviticus 27 is talking about something else all together.

What we see here are offerings to God that accompany a vow to serve Him. Matthew Henry gave the example of people wanting to sweep the tabernacle or run errands for the priests. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary in One Volume; Zondervan Publishing House; 1961; page 141) These willing servants would pay for the privilege of serving, rather than expecting payment for their services.

So God gave them guidelines. The offerings were not sin sacrifices, yet the offerings still needed to be worthy of God. “Good animals” rather than “bad animals;” a fair price for a man willing to serve or the price of a house or land of the person willing to serve.

It costs to serve God. Don’t think it doesn’t.

Now, if a willing servant had only a “bad animal” it did not mean he couldn’t serve. But that “bad animal” would not be acceptable to God. In that case, the servant could bring what they had and exchange the inferior animal for a “good animal,” and offer that to God.

But that didn’t mean he could take his “bad animal” home. Both animals were accepted as the offering, and neither could be bought back.

God didn’t lower the standard because all the guy had was a “bad animal.” God didn’t say, “Well, your heart is in the right place. You had good intentions. That’s good enough.”

It wasn’t good enough. God’s requirement for this offering was a “good animal.” Period.

If the willing servant could have exchanged his inferior animal for the proper one, then taken his inferior animal home, it would have cost him nothing to serve God. And it always costs to serve God.

In fact, in this case the cost of serving God was now TWO animals instead of one. The cost went up. Warren Wiersbe talks about the cost of making rash promises to God. Those can be very costly. (With The Word; Oliver Nelson Publishing; 1991; page 84).

Do you remember the young man who told Jesus he wanted to follow Him? (see Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 18). I believe he meant it, until he heard Jesus tell him the cost of following Him:

EVERYTHING!

The young man, though willing, could not bring himself to pay the price when it came right down to it.

I hope you’ve determined to follow Jesus. But don’t get caught up in emotion and make a promise you can’t keep. Count the cost. Because, just as God keeps His promises to us, He expects us to keep our promises to Him.