Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Requirement of Obedience

Throughout the Bible there are all sorts of references to the concept of responding to and conforming our lives to the commands of the Bible - a.k.a., obedience.

My pastor preached an awesome, Spirit-led message on obedience this past Sunday. He cited God's promise in the book of Joshua where God essentially says, "Think constantly on my Word. Hold it in your heart and mind day and night so that you will be careful to do everything it says. Then you will be prosperous and successful." (Joshua 1:8, my paraphrase)

Notice the requirement that we actually "do" what the Bible says - not merely read it and believe it.
Notice the requirement that we do "everything" the Bible says - not just the parts that are comfortable and that require little personal sacrifice.

So, wishing to allow God to really work in me and change me through the sermons I hear on Sunday mornings, I have been meditating on this concept of obedience this week. I have looked at numerous scriptures in the New Testament that imply the same, basic, mandatory-obedience concept: "We know that we have come to know him if we obey His commands." (1 John 1:3)

A while ago I did a summary of all of Jesus' commands just in the book of Matthew.
Check out my list below:

-Don’t hide my light within you. Shine brightly (through good deeds) for me.
-Do not have anger or discord in your relationships. Seek and pursue peace and reconciliation.
-Do not entertain lust. Do not look at a man or woman lustfully.
-Do not divorce – except in the case of adultery.
-Do not swear or make oaths. Be such a person of your word that those measures are not necessary.
-Do not retaliate upon your enemy. Love them, pray for them, and try to bless them.
-Do not be showy or prideful with your acts of righteousness. Do what you do in secret – seeking to please God, not seeking to impress man.
-Give. Do not spend your money on earthly treasures. Do not try to amass earthly treasures. Use your money for things of eternal value. Use your money to build-up treasures for yourself in heaven.
-Pray. Pray for God’s Will, not your will.
-Forgive everyone who sins against you. Be merciful to those who wrong you.
- Don’t spend your time worrying over the temporary things of this life. Let concerns of His Kingdom be first in your mind and agenda. Trust that He then will provide all your temporary needs.
-Do not be critical or judgmental toward your brother. Focus first on your own weaknesses and sins.
-In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. Love others like you love yourself.
-Freely give because of how you have freely received.
-Do not be silenced because you are intimidated by man and wanting to be a people pleaser. Be bold in your witness because you fear only God. Be concerned only with pleasing Him.
-DO NOT be an instrument of sin, causing others to sin or leading others into sin.
-Deal SEVERELY with sin, to rid yourself of sin.
-Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, with ALL your mind, and with all your strength.
-Attend to the needs of “the least” of people, serving them as if I were serving Christ; understanding that when I ignore and reject them I am ignoring and rejecting Jesus!
-GO and make disciples of all nations.

From this list alone, I am personally convicted about:
1) Continuing to pursue peace with someone who I know is angry with me
2) Checking my motives when I do "acts of righteousness" so that I am not trying to be seen or praised
3) Not trying to pile-up earthly treasures but rather trying to pile-up eternal treasures which will be earned by giving away my time, my resources, & my money to others for the glory of God in their lives
4) Keeping my mouth shut when I want to say critical, judgmental, or slanderous things about others
5) Caring for the needs of the weak, the small, the poor, and those who could never possibly repay me.
6) Making disciples; intentionally investing my life into teaching others to be true followers of Jesus.

I know that I cannot earn God's love or favor through my obedience. 
Scripture teaches against that just as loudly as it teaches the requirement of obedience.
Still, I want to be obedient.
My Lord, Savior, Creator, and Judge asks it of me. 
I believe that my adherence will produce great and eternal blessing.

What about you? Where do you need to obey today?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Did you know that Habakkuk is a kick-butt book of the Bible!?!?

Cloaked in it's way-back-then-language is the awesome and relief-giving message that God has a plan!!! Habakkuk felt angry and confused that godlessness and injustice seemed to prevail, but God reminded him that He was and always is in control. Check out my summary of the book and its message below:

Habakkuk's Complaint:
"How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?... Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?... there is strife, and conflict abounds... justice never prevails... Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?"
(parts of Hab 1:2-4, 13)

The Lord's Answer:
"Look at the nations and watch - and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."
(Hab 1:5)

I will stand at my watch... I will look to see what he will say to me."
(part of Hab 2:1)

The Lord:
"The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea... the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."
(Hab 2:14, 20)

"Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known... Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength."
(Habakkuk 3:2, 17-19a)

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Consider My Life Worth Nothing

"In every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." 
(Acts 20:23-24)

I skimmed through the entire book of Acts this morning. I was compelled to do this because of much recent meditation on the responsibility of every Christian and every church to be radically, completely devoted to the service of Jesus and the spread of His gospel. Though I was just seeking to get a quick, overall synopsis of the mission of the early church, I came to a stop when I read and re-read the scripture above, written by Paul.

Paul's attitude of abandonment in toward His work for the Lord Jesus is stunning. It agrees completely with the same attitude of abandonment that Jesus calls us to all throughout the gospels. Repeatedly, Jesus clearly communicates that all of our lives and all of our resources are to be centered around the chief aim of telling others about Him and bringing glory to Him.

I am gripped in my soul as I realize the changes that need to be made in my life in order that I might have the same intentional, impassioned, missional lifestyle that the disciples in the book of Acts had. I have been begging God for the outpouring of His Spirit to work within me the desire and willingness to live in this way despite how hard or sacrificial it may be.

Oh that I might have the same filling of the Holy Spirit that Paul had; the same abandoned determination to testify for the gospel that I will say "I consider my life worth nothing to me!"

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Global Purpose of God's Great Grace

I was born into a context where the gospel of Jesus is relatively accessible. I have heard about Jesus' death on the cross practically since the day I was born. I am overwhelmed whenever I think about where I would be without the gospel. And I am humbled when I consider that I had nothing to do with where I was born. The only reason I have heard the gospel of God is because of the grace of God.

Meanwhile, more than six thousand people groups equaling nearly two billion people still do not have access to the gospel. For generations they and their ancestors have been born, have lived, and have died without even hearing the name of Jesus. They have all gone to hell. I am even more humbled when I consider that they had nothing to do with where they were born either.

So why have I heard the message of the gospel when they have not? Why have I received such mercy from God? This question is not just for me but for all who live where the gospel is accessible and who participate in churches where the gospel is abundant. Why have we been given such immeasurable grace when none of us has done anything to deserve it?

You and I have been given the great mercy of God for a global mission from God. He has called, commissioned, and commanded each of us as Christians to give ourselves to the spread of his gospel in every part of the earth. Every church that passionately loves the gospel of Christ will purposefully live for the glory of Christ among those who have never heard his name.

-from Radical Together by David Platt

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CHURCH - Useless Tradition ...or... A Place for True Worship?

Today in Mark 7, I have seen some scripture in a new and piercing light. What I will write may feel offensive to some, but I am highly convicted that God's message is clear and one that we will either respond to or ignore:

A bunch of the religious folks came to Jesus and asked him why His disciples weren't washing their hands before they ate. These religious and seemingly spiritual people insisted upon the keeping of certain traditions that they felt made a person clean and acceptable before God. One such tradition, established by older generations, was the mandatory washing of hands before eating. Their exact words to Jesus were, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders?"(Mark 7:5) Jesus' response to their question was harsh. He called them "hypocrites," told them that they were giving him only lip-service rather than true heart devotion, and that their worship was useless. Finally, He said the words that really struck me: "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men...  You have a find way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions." (Mark 7:8-9)

For those of us who have been in church for years, are an active part of our churches, or have even been turned-off by a poor church experience, I believe this story holds stunning application to church culture. This story, I believe, demands some questions to be asked:
Are we just being religious and going through the motions of man-made traditions? Are we insisting upon the keeping of empty church traditions and programs simply because that's the way things have always been done? Are we continuing in the "traditions of the elders" not because they are effective methods of producing glory for God but simply because we're scared of change and of what unknown things God might ask of us? Are we content to cling to our church traditions because they only require surface-level lip-service rather than costly, life-changing surrender to Christ? Have we actually set aside the clear commands of God's Word and chosen instead to rest comfortably in the keeping of useless church rituals? Are we mistakenly calling those rituals "worship" and fooling ourselves into thinking that God is pleased with our show?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jesus Offers Hope When Life Doesn't Make Sense

John 11 tells a story with a wonderful application to our lives when our circumstances are painful or just don't make sense:

Mary and Martha were the sisters of Lazarus. Scripture indicates that these three were good buddies with Jesus, the miracle worker. It says, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus" (John 11:5). Yet, when Lazarus gets sick and his sisters send word to their all-powerful Lord so that he can come and heal Lazarus, Jesus did absolutely nothing! "When he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days" (John 11:6).  Jesus explains his inaction by saying, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it" (John 11:4). At this point in the story, I imagine that Mary and Martha may be feeling pretty hurt, even betrayed. They have walked in close fellowship with Jesus, and Jesus has repeatedly proven his ability to perform miracles and heal the sick, yet He chooses to do nothing to heal their brother. Ouch. 

Moving on in the story...... Jesus becomes aware that Lazarus is no longer sick - he has actually died. Listen to Jesus' seemingly not-too-compassionate comment about Lazarus' death: "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe" (John 11:14-15).

Jesus finally went to see Mary and Martha. By the time he arrived Lazarus had been dead for four days! Both of the women said, "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died" (John 11:21, 32). I believe I would have probably said the same thing, maybe with some anger in my voice. But, to their surprise, Jesus told them that their brother would rise again. Jesus looked at Martha, in her grief and anguish, and assured her of who He was and what He could do. He then asked her, "Do you believe?" (John 11:26b). Martha said, "Yes, Lord, I believe!" With Mary, Jesus did not have this sort of spiritual conversation. With her, He cried.

Jesus then went to the tomb and commanded the stone to be rolled away. He said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:40)  Sure enough, Lazarus walked out of the tomb alive. Scripture then says that "many" who were standing by witnessing this whole situation put their faith in Jesus.

The application of this story, to me, is clear and powerful:
God will allow us to experience all sorts of pain and circumstances that don't make sense from our earthly perspective. We may feel neglected, forgotten, betrayed, or angry at Him. We know that He loves us and we know that we love Him, and so we wonder why in the world He would allow life to happen like it does.  However, He has a wonderful, eternal plan at work, and He knows that our pain can be "for God's glory.... so that God's Son may be glorified." God is both wise, glad for the dark times because of their potential to grow our faith, and compassionate, crying with us as we hurt. God will work in and through our ugly life circumstances in order to bring us to a place of greater belief in Him. Our belief will enable Him to work wonders.  Then, as others witness our spiritually-mature, faith-filled responses to hard times, they will see the greatness of our God and be drawn to Him.

Yay, God - you have a purpose in the pain!
When life doesn't make sense to me, you are holding everything in your hands.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Growin' Like a Herb!

A couple of months ago Nick brought me home five bags of herb seeds: basil, cilantro, dill, thyme, and parsley. While I felt loved by his gesture, I did have a teeny bit of disappointment because I was just planning to go out and buy already-grown herbs. Wasn't sure how I felt about having to start them from seed and wait for them to grow. Now..... it is official.... I'm thankful it's happened this way. God has taught me a lesson in the growing of my herbs.

Though it seemed like it took forever, the little boogers finally sprouted and poked-through the soil. They grew very slowly at first because the weather was not consistently warm. Then as it became a consistent 95+ degrees outside, they shot up tall and healthy. Where at first I was disappointed in their growth, the heat came and turned them into something I was proud of. Then about a week ago I noticed that though they were tall, they weren't very full or thick. They also sort of stopped growing; like they had done enough and wanted to quit. Well, one night I was making some spaghetti sauce and needed to cut some basil. Then I made some tai grilled chicken and needed to cut some cilantro. To my delight,  within one day it became evident that my cutting on those particular herbs had caused them to really thicken up and produce more! Cutting yielded growth. What might have appeared destructive to a young, new plant actually served to make it stronger and more fruitful!

I see my life and my current circumstances so clearly in this plant-picture.
Over the course of years, God has turned the heat up in my life and caused me to grow stronger and more mature in Him. It was not comfortable, but it was necessary. And now, lest I become too comfortable in my relationship with Him and feel that I have "arrived," He has taken His pruning shears to work once more. My circumstances are uncomfortable. The cutting is painful. But, I know that He has a plan and a purpose that is grander than I can see, and I know that I can rejoice in the growth and fruit that will be produced in me as a result of the trials.

 I hope you can relate to this and find encouragement if you're being cut-on right now.