Disobedience Thru Ignorance

None of us consciously intends to disobey God. We don’t get up in the morning and say “Today I’m going to refuse to do what God tells me.”

Yet every day we manage to be disobedient. Why?

Sometimes the answer is that we simply don’t hear Him telling us how to obey. We are like the child who, as he runs off to play, honestly does not hear his mother say “You be home by noon.” We don’t consider our actions to be disobedient because we can’t be expected to do what God says if we don’t know what He says, can we?

Oh, we don’t put our hands over our ears and shout “I can’t hear you” like we did when we were children. Yet we allow the radio, phone, TV, computer and demands of job and family to drown out his still, small voice. We don’t hear because we don’t listen. Often we don’t listen because we fear He will tell us to do, or stop doing, something.

We may feel “I didn’t know” is an acceptable excuse for sinning. But while it may serve as a thin veneer of acceptability in our minds, God views it differently. For a child of God to be ignorant of His commands is a sin that leads to further sins.

Does God really want to make his specific will clear to each of us every day? Yes! But those messages will remain a mystery unless we learn to listen and comprehend. To hear Him more clearly and consistently we must enter our prayer closet several times each day, listen for his voice in the din of life, read what He has already written for us and discipline our minds to think of spiritual things.

He will guard us from accidental disobedience if we deeply and sincerely want to obey.

My Heavenly Coach

A standard practice among coaches is to view a film of the previous game with the players. During that viewing the staff points out each player’s mistakes and good plays. A dedicated player will accept the criticisms and resolve to improve. Such an athlete feels gratitude for the compliments and determines to repeat that behavior the next game.

Their won-lost record at the end of the season hinges largely on the success of such sessions.

If I am serious about playing well for my Heavenly Coach I will eagerly take part in the periodic reviews He makes of my life. At times I will sense Him saying “Bob, you missed an opportunity to be a witness there” or “Bob, that was cruel” or “Bob, that was a selfish attitude.”

Then my reaction should be “You’re right, Lord. I’m sorry. I see now that it was sinful. I confess each of these to you and I will try my best not to repeat them. Please help me. Thank you for forgiving me.”

At other times Coach will say “Bob, you controlled your temper pretty well back there” or “You were extra kind and thoughtful with your family today” or “Your attitude of gratitude was strong last week.”

And my reaction should be “Thank you, Lord. All that is the work of your Spirit. I’m going to work harder to make sure I keep developing the fruit of your Spirit.”

Teaching On The Way to Emmaus

     The episode on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-36) is beautiful to me because it is so instructive.
     Just a week before, these two men believed they had found in Jesus the answer to all their political and spiritual questions. But their hopes that He would "redeem Israel" had been dashed. They were confused and disappointed followers of Jesus. (Don't know about you, but I've been there and done that.)
     But Jesus specifically and intentionally went to them in their struggle. (And He finds me in mine.)
     After walking with them for awhile He started to leave them with only a partial understanding. They asked for more teaching and He obliged. (He gives me more when I ask.)
     In verse 27 Jesus used the scriptures to teach about himself. What Scriptures? The Old Testament, because that is all they had.
     I would love to have been there and heard Jesus tell about himself and his relationship to those Old Testament writers. He could have said "I know exactly what Isaiah and David meant because I was right there with them when they wrote those words." That is really teaching with authority..." (Mark 1:22)
     And then they went and told others.

Jesus Sinless On The Cross

Mark 15:23 records that Jesus refused to drink a mixture of wine and myrrh that would have reduced the pain of his crucifixion.

Why? Was there a certain level of physical pain He had to suffer in order to accomplish the purpose of his death? Did the Father require a minimum amount of physical trauma before salvation’s plan would be complete? I don’t think so. For Jesus the physical aspect of the cross, with all its horror, was not the worst part of his sacrifice.

Jesus refused the myrrh because He still had work to do, even after the nails had been driven through his hands and feet. He needed a clear head to to stay sinless until his death.

For thirty-three years He had lived a life of sinless perfection, always obedient to his Father’s will. Even though the crucifixion had begun He still had six hours during which He had to continue to resist temptation. To sin at this late stage would have been to negate all previous acts of service and obedience. He had to remain the perfect Lamb right up to the moment of his death.

The myrrh might have clouded his determination. (He was, after all, still fully man.) By refusing it, He was choosing spiritual purity as a higher priority than the relief of pain and placing obedience to the Father’s assignment above comfort. He could not allow a chemical crutch to interfere with his most important task.

The temptations of those six hours on the cross must have been greater than all the other temptations of his entire life. Truly He was a man among men, masculine, heroic and courageous in every sense of the terms.

Acting On Faith

The second chapter of James deals with the importance of acting in ways that demonstrate our faith. Faith that is not put into action is basically dead (James 2:17)

The question is “Faith in what? What must be the basis of the faith we display through our actions?” Certainly we need to have faith in the Bible and we need to have faith in God’s promises. But the deep, unshakable faith we must show to the world is faith in God himself.

Abraham had faith only in Jehovah God (Genesis 12:1-3). He had no scripture to read and none of the New Testament promises such as “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20) or “I will come again and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3). Abraham’s faith was in the person of God, the character of God.

To develop such faith we have to know and understand what He has told us. We must search the Scriptures. We must sit quietly and listen for His still, small voice.

Then we must allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to believe His words. (This has been described as letting knowledge go from the head to the heart.) The Spirit will give us concrete, every-time, every-place, in-every-situation belief that all his words are true.

Such a belief will then enable us to act in obedience to those words and show our faith. This is the type of faith demonstrated by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. It had it’s basis in their personal relationship with God.

Our faith must be only in the God that created the universe and allowed his Son to die on the cross. The closer we are to him, the more we will have the faith that enables us to base our behavior on his words.

I SAW JESUS

Last night, in a dream,
I saw Jesus. 
Not Jesus the God, but
Jesus the man.

I was surprised.
He looked normal.
Not unusual.
Just normal.

Short and stocky,
Strong and solid, with
Black curly hair.

Almost instantly
I realized I was
Disappointed.

Here was Jesus, and
He looked so very
Human.

Then I met Him and
Shook His hand.

And there,
Face to face,
Arm's length away
With His hand in mine
I first looked 
Into His eyes.

And immediately
I knew I was meeting
More than a man.

In His eyes I saw
Love.
Total, open, complete
Love.

Love with no exceptions
Or limits.

Love that does not
Have to be earned
Or even returned.

Pure love.
Enormous love.
Powerful love.
Tender love.
Giving love.

But in those eyes
I also saw
Compassion and
Acceptance and
Forgiveness.

I saw calmness and
Understanding and
Power.

I saw peace and 
Courage and
Purpose.

Then I knew
I was also looking
Into the eyes of
God. 

Becoming By Changing

Acorns become trees, tadpoles become frogs, caterpillars become butterflies. This is God’s plan for orderly change within nature.

In much the same way He intends for each new Christian to become a fully devoted, dedicated disciple of Jesus. Galatians 5:22-23 describes some of the characteristics He intends us to develop during this process.  It is a process directed by the Holy Spirit but it can be stopped or slowed by disobedience on our part. No matter how long ago we became his children He expects us to continue to become more and more Christlike.  

Too often our selfish nature sees no advantage for us in this growth plan and we ignore it. Other times we judge our growth by comparing ourselves with other Christians. This leads to jealousy, anger and interrupted growth. If we are to become what God has planned for us we each have to develop humility as the Holy Spirit guides us into devoted, dedicated discipleship.

Before our salvation experience we had to learn we needed a savior. After being born again we now need to remember we have a savior…and He has plans for us.

Giving My Life To God

"So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice." Roman 12:1 CEV

As Christians we use the term "Give my life to God," but much of the time we don't really understand how to do it.

Our life on this earth consists of time. Therefore, to give a life to God means giving time to God. And time must be given in segments of years, months, weeks, days, hours or minutes. We must determine what God wants us to do today, the next hour, the next ten minutes.

Such thinking should not result in a guilt trip if we don't spend every minute in prayer, Bible reading or service to a neighbor. His will for the next eight hours may be going to work and being the best possible employee. Or it may be getting a good night's sleep or washing the dishes or going fishing. But before we do any of these things we must ask "God, is this what you want me to do right now?"

Sometimes He will give us a day-long schedule if we ask early in the morning. Consequently only a few hour-by-hour decisions are necessary. But even then we must be open to Him leading us to do  something He did not see fit to show us before breakfast.

If we give him full minute-to-minute control will He allow some time to rest and play? Absolutely...to the extent that is best for us.

While functioning under such control will He sometimes direct us to do some things we would rather not do? For sure...to the extent that is best for us.

When we continue to find and carry out God's detailed instructions for becoming and doing, will we be more content and joyous than we are now? Without any doubt!

My Worship Relationship with Jesus

I worship God on the basis of my relationship with Him. I recognize Him as “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1) but I also enter into his presence “boldly” (Hebrews 4:16.) Such confident worship is available only to God’s children.

It is only because of my relationship with Him that I am allowed to approach Him at all, except to say “Please forgive me. I am a sinner.” I am his child (Romans 8:16.) This father-son relationship between us gives me access to Him, no matter what my failures or shortcomings might be.

So when I worship Him I recognize that his power, knowledge, majesty and holiness are far beyond my understanding. BUT I also know that his fatherhood provides love, mercy and protection that will never end.

If I knew God only as a stranger I would have to worship Him only in fear and trembling, resembling Isaiah’s “Woe is me” (Isaiah 6:5.) But I know Him as my Father, so my fear and trembling are accompanied with a confident “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15.)

Nothing can change this relationship. It is secure for all eternity.

The Ten Commandments in the Classroom

Recently a copy of the Ten Commandments was hung in each fifth grade classroom in the Middleville Elementary School.
     Marian, whose parents are Orthodox Jews, asked "Mrs. Johnson, do you go to church on the Sabbath or on Sunday?"
     "I go on Sunday," her teacher replied.
     "My daddy says the Sabbath is the right day to worship. The new poster on the wall says we should worship on the Sabbath. Who is wrong, you or my daddy?"   
     Jimmy's daddy pastors a Pentecostal Full Bible Independent Baptist Church. He asked "Mrs. Johnson, what is a 'graven image' anyway?
     "Well Jimmy, a graven image is a picture or statue of something that people think looks like God and they worship it instead of God."
     "Well, my daddy says the Catholics like Susie and Johnny worship the statue of Jesus that is in the front of their church. Do you think my daddy's right, Mrs. Johnson?"
    About that time, Robert raised his hand and asked "Mrs. Johnson, what does 'keep it holy' mean on number four?" 
     "It means we are not supposed to work on that day."
     "Well, golly, my daddy owns the Dairy Queen down on Locust Street. He says Sunday is his best day. Is my Daddy wrong for working on Sunday, Mrs. Johnson?"

     Just then Mrs Johnson noticed that Saboni, the little dark-skinned girl whose grandparents came to the U.S. from India, was about to cry. "What's wrong, Saboni?" she asked.
      "I don't know which god you are talking about. My mother and grandmother say there are many gods. You are taking about only one god. Are my mother and grandmother wrong, Mrs. Johnson?"

     Mulladi, whose father always wore a turban to P.T.A. meetings, spoke up next. "Mrs Johnson, why do you worship on Sunday instead of the Sabbath?"
     "Well, Christians moved the day of worship to Sunday from the Sabbath in order to celebrate when Jesus rose from the dead."
     "My daddy says that story is a lie. He says Jesus was a good man, but the story of him coming out of the grave is a story made up by his followers. Is my daddy wrong, Mrs Johnson?"

     Each of the families paid their school taxes. That tax money was being used to promote religious ideas that undermined what they were taught at home. Is this the way Christianity should promote "Honor thy father and mother?"