Tag Archives: obedience

Choose Who and How Today (Joshua 22-24)

Choose today who you will serve.

My mother underlined Joshua 22:5 in her Bible. This is what it says:

But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you; to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.

We can choose to serve God, but we have to understand that we cannot serve Him on our own terms, by what makes us feel good, or what is easy. If we choose to serve God, we must also choose how we serve him. Because God does not accept unauthorized fire. (Leviticus 10)

According to Joshua, choosing to serve God means choosing to:

  1. Love God. Jesus Himself said this is the greatest commandment.
  2. Walk in His ways. Makes me think about the fruit of the spirit. Do I walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? It also reminds me that walking in the footsteps of Jesus means taking sin very seriously, in my life and in the lives of those around me.
  3. Obey His commands. The Ten Commandments are still the measure of holiness God expects of all of us. Yes, we are incapable of obeying not only the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law. Yet we are commanded to obey. To do otherwise is to sin.
  4. Hold fast to Him. As a Christian, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. But I must realize that my distance from Him is determined by sin in my life. If I want to hold fast to God, I need to recognize sin and repent of it.
  5. Serve Him with all our hearts and all our souls. God isn’t interested in servants that simply go through the motions, servants who are faithful on Sunday yet ignore Him on Monday. You can’t serve God if your loyalties are divided. When He says “all” our hearts and souls, He means it. 100%.

So with Joshua I am asking us to choose today who we will serve. Ourselves? Our families? A religion? A career? Or will we choose to serve God today?

Then, I am asking us all to consider how we will serve? Are you all in? Am I? I pray we can all answer that with a resounding YES!

 

What Am I Missing? (Joshua 16-18)

The thing that always hits me when I read these chapters is how the Jews allowed the enemy to survive, knowing God specifically said to destroy them completely. They not only allowed the enemy to survive, the enemy was allowed to co-exist with them in the towns God had given the Jews.

I am also struck when I read these chapters, and hear Joseph’s clan demand more land than what they’d been assigned. They said their numbers were too large to fit in that portion of land, so they needed more. Joshua called them out and, in effect, told them the problem wasn’t the amount of land. The problem was that Joseph’s clan was just too lazy, or too fearful to do what needed to be done. They had all the land they’d ever need – if they’d clear it.

Sure, the Canaanites were a formidable foe. But the Canaanites were no match for God’s army. Joseph’s clan just needed to quit whining and go to war.

God uses these chapters to ask me if I have allowed the enemy to co-exist in my life. Is there a sin I’ve gotten used to having around? Have I watched enough TV to be desensitized to the seriousness of sin? Do I turn my head and ignore sin in myself and/or in others close to me?

When I read these chapters God also reminds me there is land to clear. There are battles to be fought in order for me to enjoy the Promised Land of His Presence in my life; in order for me to embrace all of Him and receive everything He has in store for me. God reminds me I need to go to war.

It’s tempting to ask God for more of Himself, more blessings, more opportunity to serve Him, without even trying to defeat the enemy in our lives. People pray, “Heal our land,” when they should be praying, “Heal my heart.” People pray, “Send revival,” when our prayer should be, “Revive me.” The problem isn’t that we live in a sinful world. The problem is that we are sinful, living in this world.

When I read these chapters in the book of Joshua, I wonder what it is I am missing by not trusting God to help me take everything available to me through the blood of Jesus.  What blessings have I forfeited? What opportunities have I squandered? What joy have I missed?

Dear God, I want it all. I want everything a relationship with You can bring. I want to go to war against sin in my life. I want to clear my heart of any remnant of the enemy. Convict me. Break me. Strengthen me to win my battle over the enemy. Oh God, I don’t want to miss a thing.

God’s Power In Me (Joshua 1-4)

Rahab’s testimony spoke to me today. She was a prostitute living in Jericho. She most likely had never met a Jewish person before. But when Joshua’s two spies came to her house, she welcomed them based on Israel’s reputation. Hear what she said to them:

I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts sank and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below. (2:8-11)

Rahab went on to save the lives of the two spies, and later we’ll find out her faith and obedience saved her own. But what spoke to me today is what she said about God.

She told the spies that she and everyone around her trembled in fear because of the great things God had done for Israel. They had heard about Israel’s great victories, the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel’s reputation as the children of God made them realize how weak and helpless they were against Him.

In fact, in the case of Rahab, she put her faith in the God of Israel in response to the power she heard about in the lives of the Jews. Which got me to thinking.

Is God’s power seen in me? Is God recognizable in my life to people who are lost without Him? I don’t want people to see me and think what a religious, good person I am. I want people to see what a great God I serve.

The world is experiencing something in this virus outbreak that I don’t think has ever brought us together before on common ground in such a way. It’s not just the US who are practicing social distancing. Countries all around the world share the same restrictions, face the same challenges, and are searching for that last roll of toilet paper. For the first time in my lifetime, I feel we are one in something.

And that puts a responsibility on the shoulders of we who know the Lord. And believe me, people all over the world are watching how Christians handle this pandemic. Let me ask you, what are your family members, neighbors, friends, coworkers learning about God as they watch how you act and react to what is going on? Do they see a powerful God, the God of hope, the God who saves? Or do they see a God who can’t be trusted because you are in a panic, wringing your hands, and hoarding the TP?

Rahab came to faith in God by watching Him demonstrate His power through the people of Israel. Let’s pray that people will come to faith in God by watching Him demonstrate His power through each of us.

Don’t Be Discouraged (Deuteronomy 30-31)

How are you fairing during this quarantine? I trust you are well, and making good choices for yourself and your family. Seriously, have your hands ever been this clean?

I know for most of you, this is not a vacation. Loss of wages is serious. Bills still need paid even if the money isn’t coming in. Your kids need you to guide their school work, AND to be creative about how they spend their days, after days, after days. It’s not exactly what you signed up for, is it?

Toilet paper? Yeah. There’s that.

For many, this virus epidemic is more than an inconvenience. Having the virus is serious, and some people are dying. Our entire world is feeling the effects of this thing, and it’s hard.

But as bad as it is right now, reading Deuteronomy 28 reminds me it’s not as bad as it could be. What God has recorded in this chapter is truly awful. He is warning His people what the consequences for disobedience looks like. And it’s ugly.

Some people are saying they don’t know why God would allow this virus to go unchecked. Personally, I don’t know why God didn’t remove His protection long ago. I mean, we haven’t been exactly obedient for quite some time, have we? Is this virus a judgment on sin? I don’t know. But I do know God said this:

Be strong and courageous…, The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (31:7-8)

Now Moses was talking to the Jews about entering the Promised Land. There would be trouble ahead, but in 30:15 God told them that His children had a choice. They could choose life and prosperity, or death and destruction. Then He commanded them to…

love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws.”  (verse 16)

Obedience to that would mean choosing life. Disobedience would mean choosing death.

Remember God is talking to His children. And, friend, I believe He’s talking to His children – His Church – today. Let’s each of us who know Jesus as our Savior reevaluate our relationship with Him while we are practicing social distancing. Let’s spend time in His Word and let Him lay a heavy finger on sin in our lies, to point out inconsistencies in our walk, to reveal Truth.

Then may we confess, draw close to Him, love Him like He deserves and determine to walk in His ways. May we keep His commands and decrees and laws, resting in the fact that if we do, He will go before us and be with us, He will never leave or forsake us, and we need not be afraid or discouraged, because He is true to His Word.

It’s easy to be fearful during this time in our lives. Those who don’t know God probably have reason to fear. But we who are His children through the blood of His precious Son need not be discouraged or fearful. Do you believe God means what He says? Then hear Him say, choose life today. Obey Him. Trust Him. He goes before us and will never forsake us.

Don’t be discouraged.

 

 

Purge (Deuteronomy 20)

I’m not what you’d call a hoarder, necessarily, but I will admit that I tend to hold on to things longer than I should. I have a closet full of clothes I haven’t worn in years, some of which I can’t even fit into any more. But I like them. So there they hang.

Others I know have a difficult time letting go of anything. They live in houses so full of things there is only a path from one room to another. Magazines thirty years old, food that has long outlived its healthfulness, toys that haven’t been in the hands of a child in decades, things stacked from floor to ceiling.

Sometimes the thought of purging is terrifying. So when I read God tell Israel to purge the evil from among them by destroying entire cities full of idolaters and people doing detestable things, I can’t believe that was easy to do.

“…do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them…”

But if the Israelites wanted God’s blessings, they had to obey 100%.

Now let’s be clear. The Bible emphatically declares our enemies are no longer flesh and blood this side of the cross. (Ephesians 6:12). We are NOT commanded to kill people who reject God. But the Bible says we do have enemies we need to purge from our lives.

Our enemies are spiritual forces of evil, powers in this dark world. Our enemy is Satan. Our enemy is sin. And that’s what we are to purge, destroy, annihilate.

I don’t know what enemies look like in your life. An addiction to video games? Pornography? Alcohol? Gossip? Lying? Putting your job above serving God? Yourself?

Whatever sin you are identifying in your life right now is something God is telling you to purge. Don’t let a remnant survive. You might have to sell your TV, erase some apps from your phone, change jobs, stop drinking if God leads you to that.

But God also told the Israelites over and over that if they obeyed Him, if they went to war against their enemies He would go before them. He would fight for them. And He’ll do the same for you.

God doesn’t want us to purge the sin from our lives because He is against fun. He invented fun. God wants us to purge sin from our lives so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him, free from any bondage.

I’m going to use my closet as an example. Right now I walk into that space and have to step over boxes, shoes, a pile of clothes I am considering donating. I have to force clean blouses onto the rack because there just isn’t room for another hanger. I long to go into my closet and be free to walk from one end to the other without tripping over stuff on the floor, to pull out a pair of slacks and not have to iron them because they’ve been smashed onto the rack between a dozen pairs of slacks and are wrinkled. There is nothing fun about that.

But when (notice I said “when” not “if.” I’m thinking during this virus quarantine, I have no excuse not to clean my closet) I purge myself from the things that are holding me back, entering my closet will be so much better. Do I dare say fun?

Is it time for you to purge, to repent of sin, to get rid of the evil that is keeping you from an unhindered relationship with God? Do it!

Uninterrupted (Leviticus5-6)

I’m not sure what prompted men to make a Nazarite vow. It was most likely to honor God, or as a testimony about their devotion to God. Whatever the reason, it was a serious thing to do, a commitment God took very seriously.

If you made the Nazarite vow, you had to do it God’s way – no exceptions. Not even if something unexpected happened to that person. If for any reason he was exposed to uncleanliness, the vow was voided, and he had to start over again. Making the Nazarite vow could not be interrupted.

The vow required complete obedience. And that has me thinking about my vow to God as His child. My vow to follow Him and serve Him requires complete obedience. It’s not a vow that I can honor on Sunday, and ignore on Thursday, if I want to please God. It’s not a vow that I can put on when it’s convenient.

Now the man whose vow had been interrupted had to start over. I don’t lose my salvation every time I sin. But – and this is what God is saying to me today – I cannot let sin in my life go unaddressed. Not ever. When I sin, I need to confess that sin and allow God to forgive me. In a sense, I guess it’s like starting over, with a clean heart and a determination not to repeat that sin.

God tells us to be holy as He is holy. I am praying that each of us will vow to be everything He wants us to be, that we will follow His rules, and with His help be a man or woman totally dedicated to Him…

uninterrupted.

 

The Presence (Exodus 39-40)

The book of Exodus ends with a description of the Presence of the Lord. Moses and the people had done everything God told them to do to make a beautiful dwelling place, fit for the King of Kings. And when it was done, God showed Himself to the people in all His power and glory.

May we do everything God has told us to do to build His Church, the place where He dwells on earth today. And may his Church, you and I, be fit for the Presence of the King of Kings in all His power and glory.

If You Build It… (Exodus 25-27)

Sometimes when I read the intricate details of God’s plan for the sanctuary, my eyes glaze over. That happened today, and I was finding it hard to hear what God would say to me about these chapters. As I was praying, I felt God nudge me to take a look at what Warren Wiersbe had to say (With The Word; Oliver Nelson Books; 1991). Here’s what struck me this morning page 61:

“God could have made the whole tabernacle in an instant of creative power, but instead He asked the people to bring Him their offerings. They were privileged to make a sanctuary for God.”

I hadn’t thought about that. If God was so insistent on having the tabernacle done in such specific details, why didn’t He just do it Himself? He certainly had the power. Well, maybe He wanted His children to obey Him, to be a part of the process, to take ownership of God’s House.

The same is true today. God could build His Church today by miraculously changing the hearts of men, by using His power to force people into believing. But instead, He has asked us to go and make disciples. We have the privilege to make a Church for God, to obey Him, to be a part of the process, to take ownership of God’s Church.

Now, I’m not saying we have any power on our own. But God is asking us to be a conduit for His power to change lives, to save souls. That’s His plan. Yes, it takes time, effort, inconvenience at times. But God’s plan for building His Church includes you!

And sometimes the building of God’s church (small “c”) includes you, too. For instance, our church is in the middle of a building project. We have the land, we have readied the land, but we are a few hundred thousand dollars short of being able to break ground. Now, some of us are praying that God would move in the heart of a rich benefactor, that by some miracle the money will come so He can build His church on this island. We would absolutely give God all the glory! That’s not a bad prayer. And God is certainly able to answer that prayer today.

But God is asking us to build that church. It might require sacrificial giving, effort, inconvenience in the lives of we who are part of this fellowship of believers. But we have the privilege of building a church for God.

I think God’s plan is a good one, not that He’s looking for my approval. And I love the example the Jewish people lived, as they gave, and worked, and obeyed God in the making of what must have been a beautiful sanctuary there in the desert. Their obedience must have spoken to the pagan people around them, it certainly speaks to me today.

May I buy into God’s plan, and be a faithful worker in the building of His beautiful Church in 2020. As I think about it, I want to be faithful in contributing to the building of His spiritual Church, AND the church building that will house Frederica Baptist Church on the north end of Saint Simons Island.

Because I believe if we are faithful, obedient workers in God’s Kingdom, if we build what He has asked us to build, people will notice. If we build it… they will come.

 

Just Move On (Genesis 20)

Sometimes I read about Isaac and the feud with the Philistines over the wells, and think, “Why didn’t he fight for his rights? Why didn’t he stand up to the bullies and tell them he’d dug those wells, so they should just go and dig their own? Why should Isaac lose what he’d worked for?”

Instead, Isaac gave in, packed up and moved on to another location, dug another well. Then, when the Philistines came and claimed that well, too, Isaac reacted the way he’d reacted before. He packed up and moved on to yet another location, and dug yet another well. The Philistines took the second well right from under Isaac, and Isaac appears to not even have objected. He simply moved on.

That just isn’t done in 21st Century America. I mean, people have gotten into fist fights, even pulled guns on one another over parking spaces at the grocery. You don’t step on the  perceived rights of an American these days.

Was Isaac so weak, did he have so little faith that God would fight for him over the wells? What gives?

This is what I hear God say to me this morning: It wasn’t that Isaac didn’t trust God. It’s that Isaac trusted God a great deal. After digging the third well, and without any objection from the Philistines this time, Isaac said:

Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land. (26:22)

The truth is, sometimes battles present themselves that God does not want us fighting. Sometime we don’t need to respond if someone baits us with a political position, or a moral dilemma. Sometimes God wants us to back away, move on instead of taking up our battle position.

Yes, there are times God wants us to go to war. But sometimes war is not His will, even though Satan would love for us to jump into the fray. God may want us to move on instead.

Isaac was sensitive to God’s leading, and God led him to greener pastures where Isaac could flourish. I know you’ve heard it said, “Pick your battles,” and I think that is sound advice. Here might be the better advice, though:

Pick God’s battles.

Notice in the verse I quoted above Isaac said, “… the Lord has given…”

It wasn’t about winning a fight, it was about waiting for God’s best. And God always gives His best when we are in a position to receive it. Sometimes we just have to keep moving on until we are in that position where God can and will bless us.

Let’s determine to be in God’s Word every day, to pray without ceasing, and to be sensitive to God’s leading in every situation. Then let’s let God move in our hearts as to whether we fight or just move on. May He find us obedient however He leads.

 

Unequally Yoked (Genesis 4-6)

I was talking to my sister the other day about these very verses. Who were the “sons of God,” and the “daughters of men,” anyway? So today I did some digging.

There seems to be two schools of thought on this. One is that the sons of God were angels (some think demons, although not sure why anyone would think a demon would be called a son of God) who had sex with humans. The other is that the sons of God referred to the line of Adam’s son Seth, those who followed God. The daughters of men were from the line of Cain, who did not follow God.

Matthew Henry (Commentary on the Whole Bible in One Volume; 1961; Zondervan Publishing House; page 16) takes the second viewpoint without giving a thought to the angel idea. R.C. Sproul, Jr. (ligonier.org; Who Are the Sons of God and Daughters of Men in Genesis 6:1-5?) addresses both views but ends up agreeing with Henry’s interpretation. With good reason, I think.

First, Sproul points out angels are spirits without flesh and blood bodies. They can’t morph themselves into human form.

Now, there are times in the Bible where we see God sending angels looking like humans to perform some task, but never to have sex with a human. And looking like a human doesn’t make an angel human nor does it suggest their bodily functions would be human-like. The idea of an angel having sex with a woman has no foundation.

Second, Sproul reminds us these verses in chapter 6 come after the account of two groups of people alive at the time; those who followed God, and those who did not.

In chapter 4 we read about the line of Cain, who killed his brother Abel, and whose claim to fame was building a big city he named after one of his sons. His line also is recorded to have yet another murderer in its midst. This group of people seem to be more concerned with “number one” than with obeying God. In fact, there is no indication that following God was on any of their minds at the time.

Then in chapter 5 we read about the line of Seth, the son born to Adam and Eve after their son Abel was murdered. In this account we read about Enoch who walked with God, and Lamech who said that son Noah would save the people from the Lord’s curse. Seth’s line contains people who followed God.

Even though we see chapter 6 as a division point, remember the Bible wasn’t written in chapters and verses. The account of the sons of God and daughters of men immediately follow the genealogies of Cain and Seth. We see believers, sons of God through Seth, marrying daughters of men, daughters through Cain, simply because they were pretty. 

Unequally yoked with unbelievers.

That is a recipe for disaster. In fact, by chapter 6 in Genesis, sin is so rampant God is going to destroy the world.

I believe this account in God’s Word isn’t here to suggest some super-human race existed because of the sin of angels and women. I believe this account is here to remind us the consequences of sin, the seriousness of being linked to non-believers.

I think that is what God would have me hear today. We are to go into all the world, be all things to all men in order to win some. But we must never, NEVER, compromise on sin. We must never deviate from the holiness God demands of us. And we must never marry, or go into business with, or attach ourselves to non-believers in any way.

Matthew Henry says this: “The bad will sooner debauch the good than the good reform the bad.” I believe that’s the lesson here today.