Tag Archives: obedience

Choosing God (Luke 15)

Our God-given ability to choose is a funny thing. For most of us, it’s hard to marry human choice with the Sovereignty of God. And today, I’m not even going to try.

But there is something about our ability to make decisions for ourselves that has me looking at our Sovereign God with adoration as I read the three parables in chapter 15. Hear me out.

We make choices every day that effect our relationship with God; a thought we choose to entertain rather than putting aside, a little white lie we tell to cover ourselves, listening to gossip or being the gossip even when we disguise it as concern or by asking for prayer, an unforgiving heart, whether to speak up for the truth or stay silent. Many seemingly meaningless decisions we make every day impact our relationship with a Holy God.

It’s not just the “big” choice of choosing God or rejecting Him outright, although that is certainly a huge part of it. We make choices all the time and none of them are insignificant.

The three parables we read today has me thinking. One lamb among hundreds, or one coin among 10 doesn’t seem that big of a deal. But look at how the keepers of those things reacted when something so small was lost. They dropped everything and actively pursued that which was lost.

Look at the father in the parable of the prodigal son. That dad had been searching the horizon for his son. Scripture doesn’t say but, considering what we see in the other two parables, I have to believe that lost boy’s father searched the horizon every day the boy was gone, ready and eager to welcome him home.

Have you ever watched a baby take his first wobbly steps? Very often one parent will stand behind the child, bent over, both hands on either side of that precious one, ready and eager to catch him when he falls. The baby moves to the left, the parent moves with him. He moves to the right and teeters, the parent adjusts her hands to provide that extra safety.

I’ve seen a parent scoop up his child in his arms, with pride and excitement, when his wobbly baby falls to the ground after taking a few steps. I’ve watched the joy and love given and received between parent and child when that happens. That’s the picture that came to me today as I considered our Heavenly Father and the independence He has given us.

God wants us to grow to maturity, to step out, to make decisions for our good and His glory. And, because He has allowed us to do so (or not) He stands at the ready to catch us, to find us when we get lost. He is there to scoop us up into His arms, to rejoice with the angels when we come back to Him.

I think I love Him more today than I did yesterday as I get another glimpse of how much He loves me. My Heavenly Daddy has my back, has His arms stretched out to catch me when I fall. And I do fall.

I don’t always make choices that honor Him. The prodigal son certainly didn’t make choices that honored His dad, either. But the boy made a choice. The dad let him go. But that dad never gave up and was there to welcome the lost boy once again into His embrace, when the boy chose to come home.

I praise God for His unending love that is expressed to me in many ways I don’t even consider half the time. I am that lost lamb, that silver coin, that parodical son. The choices I make to step away from Him are never met with indifference. God remains right here, working behind the scene, steadying me, looking out for me, and rejoicing when I choose to fall into His arms in surrender and faith.

I have the ability to choose God with all that entails: forgiveness, eternity, blessings, and obedience, surrender, humility. I have the ability to choose to reject or ignore Him with all that entails: pride, unforgiveness, missing out on the blessings, judgment.

But in either case, while we have breath, God is going to pursue us, to look for us to come to Him, to do everything possible including die for us, to give us every opportunity to be found by Him, and rejoice when we choose Him.

I choose God. I pray you choose Him, too.

Forgive? But… (Matthew 18)

When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray (Matthew 6), He told them to ask for the ability to forgive as they had been forgiven. What does that even mean?

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. The master called the servant “wicked” and threw him into debtors prison even though he’d already forgiven the servant’s debt. Why?

Because, after having been forgiven an enormous debt, the servant turned around and refused to forgive a fellow servant who owed him a few bucks. The wicked servant had had a debt of millions of dollars forgiven! Then he refused to forgive someone who owed him a few dollars.

We who are believers in Jesus have had our enormous debt forgiven. Our sins demanded a price we could not pay without dying for them. We had no resources from which to draw, no hope of ever being able to pay our sin debt in this lifetime. Yet because we accepted God’s grace through Jesus, our outstanding balance reads ZERO!

Now we are told to offer the same mercy to others. Not as easy as it sounds sometimes.

Forgiving like we are forgiven doesn’t happen if we still hold a grudge. The old. “I can forgive, but I’ll never forget,” is just another way of saying, “I will never forgive you,” if we are really honest. If we are to forgive like we’ve been forgiven we must throw those memories, those things we claim to forgive into the ocean, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and remember them no more.

That’s what God did for us. That’s what we are to do for each other. Jesus, in verse 35, says we are to forgive each other “from your heart.”

Has someone wronged you? Is what they did so awful, so unthinkable you believe you will never get over it? Do they deserve to be forgiven? You hear people tell you you need to forgive them, but you automatically think, “But…”

I am very glad God didn’t forgive only some of my sins, like lying to my fifth grade teacher, or not returning extra change at the grocery, or being jealous of someone, but couldn’t bring Himself to forgive the awful, unthinkable sins I’ve committed against Him. When I asked Him to forgive me, HE DID. 100%. And He isn’t holding a grudge, either.

And that’s what He is telling me I need to be doing toward anyone who has wronged me, no matter how small or how big the transgression. Forgive from my heart. And there’s more:

In verse 35 Jesus warns that if we don’t forgive like we’ve been forgiven, there will be severe consequences. The master in the parable threw the unforgiving servant into prison until he could pay the once-forgiven, multi-million dollar debt himself.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

So the next time you know you need to forgive someone and think, “But…” think again. Giving forgiveness from your heart doesn’t just benefit you, it is obedience.

No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

A Really Big Deal (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

It occurred to me today that when Jesus fed the five thousand, He used what was given Him. He took the meager portion of bread and fish, and made a meal of it for all the people. He didn’t add a salad or dessert. The meal they ate was a direct result of the food placed in Jesus’ hands.

Sometimes I think we are timid about serving God because we feel what we have is not enough. Or maybe we look at the gifts and abilities God has given us, and tuck them away because we think they are unimportant and insignificant compared to what others seem to have.

But how can you know what God can do with your offering unless you give it to Him? Who in their right mind would have looked at the hungry crowd, then at the five loaves and two fish, and thought: “This will do.” No one!

But placed in the hands of Jesus, it was more than enough.

What spiritual gifts have you been given as a result of your relationship with God? What abilities and talents were you born with? You might think they are no big deal. And you might be right in your own power. The disciples couldn’t feed that crowd on their own, either.

But place your gifts and abilities in Jesus’ hands and watch what a big deal He makes of them. Watch as He takes what you give Him and multiply it over and over. Watch how He takes you and uses you to feed, to nourish, to bless a multitude.

That’s a really big deal!

It’s Not Ridiculous (Luke 6)

It’s tempting to read these passages for the umpteenth time and overlook something God might want to say to us about it. That almost happened to me this morning. I was reading what God said about loving our enemies. You know it, right? Love them, do good to them, turn the other cheek. Yada Yada Yada.

My mind kept going to the climate in our nation here in 2020. Sadly, the term “enemy” has come to mean a person who simply disagrees with you; someone who is from a different political party than you; someone who supports a different side of the abortion issue. There are those who would like us to believe we should look at people with different skin color than our’s, or in a different tax bracket than us as the enemy.

And how do we treat our enemies these days? We burn down their businesses. Pull out a gun and shoot them. Beat them up. Slander them. Hate them.

The idea of turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, giving the shirts off our backs, loving our enemies and doing good to them is scoffed at. It’s weak! It’s ridiculous!

Did you know that Jesus gave us the Golden Rule as part of His message on how to treat our enemies? Yeah. Our enemies.

Now here is what I almost missed this morning. I believe God wanted me to see a short phrase in verse 36:.

because he (God) is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Really? You might think that’s not at all right. God should destroy mean people, ungrateful wretches! Instead, Jesus tells us God is kind to them. Ridiculous?

Oh, it get’s better. After Jesus tells us this, he turns to us and says…

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Now wait a minute, God. If you want to be kind and merciful that’s up to you. But how can you expect me to be kind and merciful to these thugs, these degenerates, these people who call me names and threaten my safety?

“Because I said so,” He seems to answer me.

I challenge you to read this portion of God’s Word, and check your kindness meter. Is it reserved only for people with whom you agree? Do you have the attitude, “I’ll be kind to them IF they are kind to me? I’ll show mercy IF they show it to me first?”

Do you see an “IF” in God’s command to us to be merciful? I sure don’t.

Jesus tells us if we obey Him in this, “Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.” He’s not saying we earn our position as His child by being nice to people. But He is saying that if we obey Him, people will notice and will identify us with Jesus, will recognize that we belong to God.

That’s not ridiculous!

Turn Around (Ezekiel 8)

I think every time I read Ezekiel’s vision I gasp when the people turn their backs on the Temple and bow toward their pretend gods in the east. That picture of blatant rejection of God shocks me every time.

Yet, even with this defiant act of disobedience, these were still citizens of God’s chosen people, Jews, Israelites. They considered themselves God’s favored nation even when they worshiped other gods. It blows my mind.

Today, however, God is asking me to do a gut check. Here are some questions I feel Him ask of me today:

Do I call myself a Christian, but refuse to repent of a sin?

Do I attend church on Sunday, yet live a lifestyle no different than my neighbor who has no use for church?

Do I read my Bible out of duty instead of letting it change me?

Do I read my Bible at all?

Do I live my life focused on myself, my feelings, my needs, my rights, my dreams, yet tell people I follow Jesus?

Do I know what is right according to Scripture, yet compromise the Truth?

Do I go to church expecting an experience, or do I go humbly, trembling at the seriousness of approaching a Holy God as He demands?

Oh, there are a lot of ways I can turn my back on the temple, so to speak. And I should be as appalled with myself as I am with those twenty-five people in Ezekiel 8 when I do. Today I am asking God to reveal any shift, no matter how small, from my worshiping Him in total Truth. I don’t want any part of me turning away from Him.

In fact, if God reveals the slightest movement, I want Him to convict me. I want to be sensitive to Him, and obedient. If I am facing the wrong way, I want to turn around and bow down to the one and only God according to Scripture.

Where are you facing right now? Is it time you turned around?

God Has Our Backs (Ezekiel 1-4)

Ezekiel had a call on his life. God wanted him to speak Truth in a time when the Israelites had rejected the Truth. I believe we, as people who know the God of Truth, have the same calling on our lives. Here is what encouraged me today:

2:1-2 He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.” (emphasis mine)

God didn’t tell Ezekiel to get up, then sit back and watch Ezekiel struggle to stand. God gave him an order, then enabled Ezekiel to obey. Then when Ezekiel was on his feet, he was able to hear God speak. God was in this with Ezekiel, not an observer but an active participant in the calling on Ezekiel’s life.

3:1-2 Again he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.” (emphasis mine)

Again God gives an order, then gives Ezekiel what he needs to obey the order. Ezekiel didn’t have to go searching for the scroll. He didn’t have to write his own scroll. God gave the scroll to Ezekiel.

After Ezekiel had ingested the scroll God told him to go to the Israelites and “speak my words to them.” I am reminded that God has given us His Words in the pages of Scripture and tells us to do the same: Speak God’s Words to our world. But first we must ingest His Words just like Ezekiel did. How much time do we spend in God’s Word every day? Have we devoured it, tasted it, ingested it so that it becomes a part of us? God has given us His Word, like he gave Ezekiel the scroll, and with it the command to tell others what His Word says.

Yes, Ezekiel was commanded to go to people and tell them about God. But never forget God gave Ezekiel the words.

3:10-12,14 And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” Then the Spirit lifted me up…The Spirit then lifted me up and took me way…” (emphasis mine)

Once Ezekiel had ingested the Words of God, God told Him to take it to his countryman and tell them the words Ezekiel had taken to heart, the words of God. But again, Ezekiel didn’t have to find his own way. God lifted him up and took him to the exact spot where the exiles lived.

We are called to go and make disciples, to be a light in the darkness, to speak Truth, to be prepared to give an answer for our hope in the Lord. But it is getting increasingly difficult to do.

We know people are being attacked verbally and physically, some are dying for offending someone, or disagreeing with someone, or speaking Truth when the lies are becoming accepted as truth.

But Ezekiel’s experience encourages me. I only need to be obedient. God will take it from there. He will give me the words to speak, open doors and put me in the middle of people who need Him. He will raise me up and be everything He needs me to be in order to be obedient.

I am reminded of Isaiah 30:21 which says:

Whether you go to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

That voice behind you is God. He’s got your back.

We have a calling. It’s not a popular calling. Our message might be rejected. But take heart, dear one. If we obey what God commands, He will raise us up, give us the words, and show us the way.

Be encouraged today.

The Promise of Obedience (Jeremiah 41-45)

I confess that I can wake up in the morning and, before I get out of bed pray, “I give you this day, Lord. Anything you want me to do I will do it! I’m ready.”

But then when God lays on my heart the name of a person I need to call, I know I should, but I don’t. God nudges me to change the channel from an ungodly TV show, but I don’t. He prompts me to speak to someone about sin, but I talk myself out of it. I overeat, I gossip, I think bad thoughts, I get jealous. I don’t love like Jesus loves.

I am like the Jews who told Jeremiah that they’d do anything God told them to do. But when Jeremiah told them what God wanted them to do they said, “anything but that.” They flat out disobeyed God, and they paid the consequences.

I am reminded that God doesn’t want me to promise to obey Him. We demands that I obey Him. He doesn’t want me to say the words I think He wants to hear, He wants me do the things He asks me to do. God is not impressed with my promises, or my good intentions. He tells me to be holy, to love my neighbor, to go and make disciples, to flee temptation, and be set apart.

He will accept nothing less. And neither should I.

Becoming Me (Jeremiah 18-22)

I’ve never tried to use a potter’s wheel. It must take practice to know the exact touch, the right pressure to use to turn a lump of damp clay into a beautiful and useful vessel. The potter’s hands touch every fraction of an inch inside and out, as the pliable clay is molded into the finished product. If the clay begins to harden, the potter adds just enough water to make the clay soft and pliable again, so that he can continue to fashion something beautiful. He works, and re-works the clay until it is exactly the way He intends it to be.

The potter’s wheel is one picture of our relationship to God. The clay has no say, no control, no opinion. It is totally at the mercy of the potter.

That’s right where I want to be. I want to be molded and fashioned after God’s will, and if I begin to try to take control of my life, or if I start to become hardened to sin in my life, I want the Potter to intervene, to soften me so that He can continue to work His magic in my life.

I love the analogy of clay in the potter’s hand. But I also love the picture of being that vessel God can use. In Scripture we see examples of empty pots being filled by God, as in Elisha and the widow, and Jesus at the wedding. We see pots that are clean on the outside, but filthy inside as in the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. We see a woman at a well ready to fill her pot with water when Jesus offers her Living Water. We see a broken pot no one wants, here in 22:28.

Today, I want to be both pliable clay in the hands of the Potter, and an empty vessel that only wants to be filled by God Himself. I want Him to mold, push and pull me and never stop until I meet Him face to face. I want to be that vessel filled to overflowing by the Holy Spirit so that I, like Jeremiah will be compelled to speak of God every chance I get.

Jeremiah said this:

But if I say, “I will not mention (God) or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.” (20:9)

I want to be a vessel not satisfied with keeping God to myself, but one used for exactly the reason I was created: to know God AND to make Him known.

As old as I am, I am still becoming me. And honestly, I don’t want the responsibility. I’ve never heard of a lump of clay creating a pot of itself, anyway. I want to put my self in the hands of the Potter, and trust Him to create a beautiful vessel He can use for His Name.

There is an old hymn that keeps running through my mind this morning. The first verse speaks about me being the clay, the last verse about being that vessel. I want to leave you with these beautiful words:

HAVE THINE OWN WAY, LORD: by Adelaide Pollard

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay!
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

He’s Got His Reasons (Jeremiah 10-14)

Jeremiah was fed up. He was following God, warning the Jews about consequences for sin, doing what God asked him to do to show the Jews they needed to repent, but they ignored him. Instead of repentance, sin ran rampant, and Jeremiah had had enough.

“Drop them off like sheep to be butchered,” he prayed. “Set them apart for the day of slaughter. Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the peoples who do not call on your name.” (12:3; 10:25)

I mean, he’s got a point. People who reject God, those who flaunt their sinfulness and persecute we who follow Jesus ought to be wiped out, they shouldn’t be allowed to continue. Right? “Get ’em, God! They deserve it.”

I’m reminded of James and John who wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy the Samaritans who had disrespected Jesus. Jesus’ answer? “Move on, boys. Let’s leave these folks alone.”

Really? Jesus let them get away with treating him so badly?

Yes.

Yes He did.

And here’s why: After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostle Philip went to Samaria and shared the Gospel. Many Samaritans were saved as a result. Most likely some of those James and John had wanted to incinerate came to know Jesus as their Messiah!

I guess the lesson here is, let’s go about our day doing what Jesus told us to do. Let’s love our neighbors, do good to those who mistreat us, pray for our enemies. Let’s go and make disciples, grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus.

Then let’s let judgment up to God. He’s got His reasons.

 

A Godly Leader (2 Kings 22-23, 2 Chronicles 34-35

A godly leader can turn things around. King Josiah was not afraid to stand up and read Scripture to the people. He didn’t send a priest to do it. He did it himself, and the hearts of the people were moved.

Josiah had been confronted with the truth of Scripture, and it broke him. He humbled himself before God, then went on to live the life of a man dedicated to God. But he wasn’t satisfied with a personal experience. He wanted his whole country in on the blessing. So he read them the same Scripture that had spoken to him. Lives were changed.

Oh, for a godly leader in America. I think we have a president who isn’t afraid to stand up to the masses. He says and does what he believes whether or not it is popular with any of us. But wouldn’t it be amazing if President Trump got up and read Scripture at his next press conference? What if his tweets were Bible verses? What if he started standing for right and Truth, and didn’t get into word wars with game players?

Never happen, you might say. But are you praying it will? God’s arm is not too short, nor is He too weak to break the heart of Donald Trump, to do a work in our president’s heart that would turn him into a godly leader.

Are you praying that Donald Trump will accept what Jesus died to give him, then follow the Lord in a pubic, zealous way like King Josiah did? I don’t care if you are a Republican or Democrat. Are you a Christian? Then you should be praying for our president. Remember, God is not going to answer a prayer not prayed, and if we want our country to turn around, we’d better be praying for a godly leader.