Tag Archives: obedience

August 27; Kinda Christian

Ezekiel 34-36

What happens when a person becomes a Christian? God, through the prophet Ezekiel gives us a description.

  1. God cleanses us from all our sins (36:25)
  2. He gives us a new, soft, and pliable heart (vs 26)
  3. He takes up residence in us, giving us His own Spirit (vs 27)
  4. God gives us a desire to obey Him, to turn from sin (vs 27)
  5. He brings us into His family (vs 28)
  6. He blesses us with everything we need (vs 29)
  7. He gives people reason to change what they think about us (vs 30)

This got me thinking today how (or if) my life looks any different right now than it did before I was a Christian. Or have I chosen to continue to live in the wilderness of anger, jealousy, biting tongues and gossip. Do I go where I’ve always gone, sound like I’ve always sounded, do what I’ve always done?

I’m reminded Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!

But is there a Christianity that changes a person into almost new? Is there such a thing as being kinda Christian? I don’t see Scripture teaching that is the case.

I think there might be some who believe they are Christians by virtue of having had repeated a prayer at some time in their life, and by going to church every Sunday. But their choices, their actions, thoughts, and words are unchanged the other six days of the week. They might say, “Lord, Lord,” but God doesn’t really know them at all.

Friend, that is serious. They are as lost as the unrepentant soul.

My question for myself is this: Does my claim to know Jesus translate into a changed life, a life that doesn’t look like a person who doesn’t know Him? I wonder if I stand out as a person who belongs to God. If I am a new creation through Jesus’ saving grace, if I am 100% His, if His Spirit lives in me, I can’t help but look and act differently than people who are not His..

Ezekiel tells us that if we’ve allowed God to do His work in us, people can’t help but notice. And what people notice is the reason God saves us, and keeps us here in this life. He saves us for the sake of His holy Name which is dragged through the mud in this world. He saves us so:

…the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. (vs 23)

And that will result in this:

I will make their people numerous as sheep, as numerous as the flocks for offering at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord. (vv 37-38)

God is convicting me today. If my life example isn’t drawing people to the Savior, if my words and actions aren’t a result of God’s Spirit in me, if my choices are no different than a non-believer, I need to check my relationship with my Holy God.

Because there is no such thing as a kinda Christian.

August 23; Stay Or Go

Lamentations 5; 2 Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah 40-42

The Jews were in a sad state. Many of them had been taken captive and forced into Babylon. Many had died from the famine, or had been slaughtered by the enemy. Even when it looked like a remnant would be safe, the enemy stepped in to destroy even them.

So finally, the last remaining Jews looked to God. “Where should we go, God? Tell us what to do.” The enemy was closing in, so God’s answer was surprising.

“Stay put.”

He told them if they stayed He would bless them and protect them. Leaving, He said, would be a fatal mistake.

Sometimes staying put is hard. Standing firm is scary. Trusting God seems good on paper, but when that enemy is bearing down on us, our reaction might be to run. Hear God tell us that if we stay, He will build us up and not tear us down. He’ll plant us and not uproot us. He’ll be with us, save us, and show us compassion if we stand where He stands.

I think this applies to so many things in our lives. Certainly standing for the truth of Scripture. Certainly standing up for God’s definition of sin, worshiping God in truth. It might be applied to a marriage commitment, parenting, a job. I have no idea what God is speaking to you about today.

But if God says, “Stay,” He’ll be exactly what you need to stay and thrive. If He says stay, stepping away comes with serious consequences.

So do we stay or go?

August 15; A Broken Heart

Ezekiel 20:30-22:31

Do you know how, when you are close to someone who is grieving, you can feel their heart break? You ache because they are hurting so badly, and you know you just can’t fix it for them. Watching a loved one go through the darkest time of her life was probably the hardest thing I have ever done.

The thing about reading the Bible as God’s love letter to me, expecting Him to speak to me, and getting to know His heart through His own words, there are times I feel like I’m watching Him grieve, and my heart breaks for Him.

Today I read His words, His pronouncement of judgment on His disobedient children. I heard His anger, realized the fierce punishment that was coming their way. God is really mad.

But through the years of reading the Bible, I’ve come to understand – in part – God’s heart. Of course I don’t claim to totally get Him, but I know Him enough to know that when He is angry, when He is bringing judgment on His people, He’s doing it from a broken heart.

He says things here in Ezekiel like, “I will pour out my wrath on you…,” “I will make you an object of scorn…,” “I will surely strike my hands together at the unjust gain you have made…,” “I will gather you in my anger and my wrath…”

I read His words, but I also see His tears. The God I know takes no pleasure in punishing His children. The God I know longs to walk with us, fellowship with us, bless us. That’s His will for each of us. It’s we who prevent that by our choices to sin. It’s we who break His heart.

When you were a kid and your dad stood in front of you with that belt in his hands, both of you knowing you deserved what was coming, did you ever hear him say, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you”? I hear my Heavenly Father saying that today, and I believe it’s true.

My Heavenly Father, I don’t want to cause You pain. I don’t want to break Your heart. I don’t want to be a rebellious child you need to discipline, because today I see how much that hurts You. God, I want to bring you joy. Forgive my sins. Create in me a clean heart. And may all I do and say today put a smile on Your face. I love You. 

 

August 13; Using or Abusing

Ezekiel 14-16

God likened the Jews to a prostitute. He’d saved her, protected her, nurtured her, and lavished her with amazing gifts. People should have been able to see God’s beauty in her, and been drawn to Him because of what they saw. But that’s not what happened.

God reminded me today that I can be like the ancient Jews God described as vile and disgusting. He saved me like he’d saved her. He’s protected and blessed me, too. And He has lavished me with things no amount of money can buy. What am I doing with what He’s given me?

I would venture to say you are blessed, too. If you are a child of God through the blood of Jesus, He has gifted you with things, with abilities that should be drawing people to Him. What are you doing with what He’s given you?

I would ask us all today if we are using the blessings and abilities that God thoughtfully and intentionally gave each of us, for His glory? Or are we using those blessings for personal gain and personal glory? Are we using those gifts or abusing them? The prostitute God described in Ezekiel was abusing what God had given her.

One of the gifts God gave us is His Word, the Bible. For the past ten days I have been reading and re-reading the daily passages and letting God speak to me without going through a commentary or study lesson. Just me and God, and I have loved it so much!

I don’t know if you took the challenge ten days ago, but let me encourage us all to consider God’s Word as a personal gift to each of us. Let’s let God reveal what He wants to say to us, rather than always reading what God said to someone else – including me. It’s great to read about what God is teaching others. But I don’t believe it can take the place of listening to what God would say to you when you read His Word for yourself.

God may have gifted you musically, socially, intellectually, with gifts of teaching, hospitality, knowledge, faith, wisdom, etc. If you are His child He has gifted you with His precious Son, His Spirit within you, and His Word in Scripture. He has gifted you with the Gospel of Jesus.

Are we using God’s gifts, or abusing them? I think you know how I’m praying.

 

August 6; Malleable

Jeremiah 14:1-15:9, 18:1-9:13, 24:1-10

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be malleable clay in the hands of a potter? Those hands pushing and stretching, applying pressure both firm and gentle, shaping and re-shaping toward a finished product only his mind can see?

Sometimes, if there is an imperfection, the potter might take the clay back to a formless clump by squeezing the clay between the palms of his hands. Then, once any trace of the imperfection is gone, the process begins again. The hands begin to knead, the wheel begins to spin, the fingers begin to work, and at just the right moment, a perfect form begins to appear, carefully fashioned by the potter’s hands.

Jeremiah is speaking to dry clay, hardened by drought, that would only break into pieces when the potter tries to form something beautiful. A clump of dry clay is fairly useless on a potter’s wheel.

But the potter, by adding just enough water to that dry clump, can restore it to a pliable form. Oh, it takes some strong hands to work that water through the crusty clay, to break it down, to soften it. But a skilled potter can restore that parched piece of clay, then form it into a beautiful, useful piece of pottery, that he can be proud of.

I want to be that malleable piece of clay in the hands of The Potter, the Creator God. I don’t want there to be any signs of dryness or imperfection, so that He can make me into something beautiful and useful for His purposes.

So I will continue to spend time in God’s Word every day. I’ll continue to let those Words apply pressure, push and stretch me. Because at the end of the day, at the end of my life, I want to look into the eyes of the Potter and see His approval as He looks at the woman He has fashioned from malleable clay.

 

August 2; Success and Failure

2 Kings 24:1-4; 2 Chronicles 36:6-7; Daniel 1:1-2; Jeremiah 26:1-32, 45:1-5, 25:1-38

Are you in ministry of some kind? Is there someone in your life for whom you’ve been praying and with whom you’ve been sharing the Gospel? How do you know if you are successful or not?

Most of us would say we are as successful in ministry as the number of converts we have influenced. But is the number of people you’ve led to the Lord the measure of  success for a servant of God?

If that’s the case, Jeremiah was a huge failure. He preached the truth for 23 years, and nobody even listened to him (25:3). 23 years he preached to deaf ears. Would you say he failed? Or did the people fail?

Here’s what I believe God says in His Word: obedience = success.

If we are doing what God is asking of us, we are successful servants in His sight. If we are obedient, we’ve done our duty and can expect Him to do His. The truth is, there are disobedient preachers filling thousands of seats in mega churches every week all over the world who are failures. One day they will look into the face of Jesus and hear Him say “I never knew you. Depart from me forever.”

Fail!

I think of Jonah, one of the most successful preachers on record. Yes, that Jonah who started out as a failure, disobeying God and winding up taking a swim inside a fish. But once Jonah decided to obey God, thousands of people repented and were saved. He may have been a reluctantly obedient servant, but his obedience was instrumental in saving an entire city.

Let me encourage you preachers, deacons, Sunday School teachers, Bible study leaders, moms and dads with wayward children: Be obedient.

Don’t look at the numbers, large or small. Don’t look at the rejection, many or few. Keep your eyes on God, and be obedient. One day, if you were quietly doing what He asks of you, or if you were standing before a large congregation preaching the Truth from Scripture, you will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Join me!”

Your obedience is success is God’s eyes.

August 1; When Is Enough Enough?

Jeremiah 7:1-8:3, 11:1-17, 15:10-21, 22:18-23

It bothers me when I hear God tell Jeremiah to quit praying for the Jews. I mean I get it. For hundreds of years God spoke to them, begged them, disciplined them, ignored them, and even blessed them in order to get them to obey Him. But even when they turned to Him for a time, they always went back to their stupid idols and living life the way they wanted to.

I mean, I get that God was done with them. But it bothers me.

In Bible study the other night our teacher pointed out that its’s not just that the Jews sinned, repented, and sinned again. It was that each time they went back to sin, their sins became a bit more vile, a bit more blatant and bold. The people were on a downward spiral, and God was done with them. After all, how low can a people go before God washes His hands of them?

Fast forward to 2019.

I received a prayer request recently from a church I used to attend, concerning a sister church in another state. I don’t know all the details, but the request was for a young youth pastor who, because he didn’t address a boy in his Sunday School class by the feminine name the boy had chosen for himself because he identified as female, is in serious trouble. The community is up in arms, picketing the church and causing a media frenzy.

Did I mention the child is Ten. Years. Old?

Christian, we need to pray for this man and his church, that they will stay strong, obedient to God and His Word during this time. It won’t be easy for them. Let’s pray for this situation, and for other churches facing, or who will face the same persecution – including your church.

Do you know who the Recabites were? They were a family who obeyed with unwavering loyalty. Their granddad had told them he didn’t want anyone in his family to ever drink wine, build houses, or plant vineyards. And this family obeyed. For generations!

God, in Jeremiah 22 said, if they can obey a grandfather like that, why can’t God’s people obey Him?

Really, why can’t we?

If you know me at all, you know I am not going to leave this study with a “we.” I don’t believe God is just talking about disobedient nations, families, or even churches. God wants me to hear Him say He expects obedience of me. And that isn’t a suggestion.

What makes me sad, and a bit fearful, is hearing God tell Jeremiah He can be done with the Jews, knowing He’s saying the same thing to me about me. My disobedience is not a little thing at all. And He wants me to know there may be a time when He’ll think enough is enough.

I may complain when I face consequences for sin. But as long as God is disciplining me I know He’s trying to get my attention. I may be uncomfortable when under conviction of the Holy Spirit, and wish God would leave me alone. But if I don’t feel conviction, that might mean God has washed His hands of me. And I really don’t want Him to leave me alone. Not really.

I want to remember that playing the repetitive Old Testament Jewish game of obedience, disobedience, repentance, is a downward spiral. With each act of sin I get further and further away from my Heavenly Father. I don’t ever want Him to think enough is enough.

Let me say I am not going to stop praying for myself, my loved ones, my church, my country, and the world because I still believe God is faithful and just to forgive every sin confessed. I’m going to pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to do His work in my heart, and yours, and will place a heavy hand of conviction on each of us. I will continue to pray that God’s people will obey Him with all our hearts.

And I’ll keep praying until the day I meet Him face to face.