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.”

Christian Capitalism

In a capitalistic economic system every person is encouraged to accumulate all the wealth possible. Success is largely determined by the size of portfolios and bank accounts. Money earned today is to be used in a way that will produce more assets tomorrow.

By the same token, an individual’s poverty is of no concern to anyone else. A person is allowed to lose all his wealth without interference from anyone else. Birth-to-death poverty is common.

Such capitalism is a disaster unless it is guided by “Do unto others” (Matthew 7:12) and “Feed the hungry” (Matthew 25:35-36). Only these Christian principles can shape the system to benefit all income levels.

There are, of course, many times and places that Christians can give to people who need help. The Holy Spirit will lead in determining when, where and how such caring and sharing should take place. Certainly Jesus called on his followers to give help one-on-one.

But in today’s world there is a need for large-scale institutions that strive to produce economic equality. For the most part our churches have not stepped up to the plate to help fill this need. One of the least offered prayers during Sunday morning services is “God, do you want me to give more?”





Q.  Does God want the poor in my community to have more of this world's resources?
A.  Yes.
Q.  What is His plan for getting more to them?
A.  The generosity of Christians.
Q.  Does God want me to have more of this world's resources?
A.  Only if I will pass on these additional blessings to the poor.(Or maybe only if I pass on   more of my currently held resources.)

Become Before Doing

     God's call to his children comes on two levels. First we receive the call to become, then we hear the call to do. Isaiah's experience illustrates this two-level call. First God called him to become sinless. Only then did He call Isaiah to do something (Isaiah 6:1-9)
     Jesus talked about this "becoming process" in John 15:1-5. Our identification with him should be so constant and  intimate that we become exactly like him. Jesus told Phillip, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father." (John 14:9) When we have each become all the Father intends us to be, we will be able to say, "If you have seen me, you have seen Jesus."
     After we have clearly understood and started answering the "become" call, God issues the "do" call. Correctly answering the "do" call is the goal of the WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? movement. It is very wise to consider this question before making decisions. Each of our actions and reactions should be identical to what Jesus would have done in a similar situation. If we always follow his model, we will impact our world for him.
     However, if we try to answer the call to do without first answering the call to become, we are in danger of being like the Pharisees of Jesus' time. They were trying to do all their religion required without first becoming what Jesus was (Matthew 13:13-15). Maybe we need to start a WHAT DID JESUS BECOME? movement. 
     We must answer God's call to become by spending time alone with him in prayer and Bible study. "I want to be like Jesus" must become the primary goal in our lives. Then, in his own time, God will issue each of us a call to action.
     

Faith

     Regular faith allows us to look back at past unpleasant times and say "God, I see now that you were teaching me and growing me. I understand now at least part of what you were doing. Thank you."
     Great faith allows us to look at current unpleasant times and say "God, I guess you are teaching me and growing me. Keep it up until I have learned all I need to learn. Thank you!"



     Somewhere I read "Faith and obedience will remove mountains of evil. But they must go hand in hand." I like this thought, but is faith without obedience really faith?



     The primary purpose of strong faith in God is not so that He can do more work through me, but so that He can do more work in me. My lack of faith hinders my effectiveness as his servant and it also blocks my becoming like him.



     I do not need to develop a plan for my life...month...week...day...hour. Instead I need to discover God's plan, which has been in existence for thousands of years. I need the faith to believe his plan is better than mine and the courage to put it into practice.



     Faith says to God "If it is your will I will attempt the impossible and accept the uncomfortable." 
  

Becoming Christlike

My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I love every person in my life all the time.
My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I want to help every person I love.
My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I learn how to express my love to people as individuals, not just as a group.
None of this growth will take place until I yield to the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.
     God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, teaching, patience and forgiving. (That short list is not exhaustive.)
     That trunk has compartments that contain all the forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet.
     When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small my qualification was to be a receiver of that love, and how much better my life is now because of that love.
     The best, most effective, most accurate way I can glorify God is to let the Holy Spirit make me like Jesus. "God...decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son." (Romans 8:29, The Message Bible)
     The Holy Spirit will do the shaping of the way I am. My role is to allow such changes to happen and then behave in ways that exhibit my new shape.
     Do we Christians spend more time, money and energy trying to change our physical "shape" into the way the world says it should be than we do allowing the Spirit to alter our spiritual shape into the way God wants it to be?

Bits & Pieces, Odds & Ends – 17

To fully benefit from having God as my Father, I must admit that I need him as provider, protector, counselor, guide, comforter and savior. I must admit "I can't," acknowledge "He can," and believe "He will." Only then can I know the full value of having been adopted into his family and having the privilege of calling him "Abba Daddy."

John 5:1-18 tells the story of a crippled man. When Jesus asked him "Do you want to get well" he replied that he had no one to help him get into the healing pool. He knew of only one way to get healed. Sometimes I limit God the same way. I say "Lord, I can't be happy unless ____." Then I get discouraged and disgruntled if my specific request is not granted. I need to be willing to say "Lord, do whatever you think is best in my life and I'll be happy no matter what you provide."

Should I view Jehovah as a god of joy (and praise him) or a god of responsibility (and serve him?) Of course the answer is "both," since worship is defined as "recognizing and properly responding to God." Service is part of that proper response. Too much emphasis on the joy part can cause a turn inward, always looking for the next bit of spiritual excitement. Too much emphasis on the responsibility portion can result in guilt and lifeless attempts to minister. Our challenge is to find and retain the joy that comes from fulfilling responsibilities.

I Can

If I apply Paul’s “I can do all things through Christ…” (Philippians 4:13) to my life, it means I can run errands for a shut-in neighbor and then sit and listen for the hundredth time as she recounts her memories of childhood. It means I can ladle soup in a homeless shelter. It means I can baby sit for a single mother while she goes grocery shopping. It means I can take a four-hour shift beside the ICU bed of a relative I hardly know and do not particularly like. It means I can share Jesus on a bench at Wal Mart. It means I can forgive completely. It mean I can show love to those who criticize me.

Any time my pastor or other church leader asks me to do something I must never say “I can’t” without first asking God if He wants me to. When I am following his will the answer “I don’t want to” is not an option, unless I immediately say “But I’ll do it if He wants me to.” In the Philippians verse the words “through Christ” are the key to life application. If, as I pray, I am led to believe God does not want me to do it I may say “I won’t” but I must never say “I can’t”.

Love

     God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, caring, forgiving and some occasional foot-washing.
     Our trunk has compartments that contain an inexhaustible amount of all forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can match each recipient with the proper form of love at the appropriate time. 
     When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small was (is) my qualification to be a receiver of such love and how much better my life is now because of that love.

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     The Bible is a love story...not a romance, but a love story none-the-less. It is a story of love freely offered, but often rejected. In the cases where that love was accepted the result was wonderful loyalty, joy and power in each individual's life.
     It is a love story featuring you and me, just as much as Biblical characters.

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     I have grown up with the idea that as Christians we should "Love the things God loves and hate the things God hates."  I think "...and with the same intensity" should be added. This may be an accurate summary statement of being and living as a Christian.
     It seems lately that the intensity of our hating is much greater than the intensity of our loving.

Loving Others ?!?!?!

Loving other people is dangerous. Loving other people can cost us time and money. Loving other people can cause us to travel to frightening places and spend time with frightening people. Loving other people can result in us being with “others” when we would rather be with “our own.”

For children of God, is loving other people a command or an option? Mark 12:31 answers that question for us. And that love for others is to be demonstrated by doing  and sharing,  not just talking and preaching. It expects us to love individuals, as well as groups.

Such love is impossible for us to achieve and maintain unless we are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. The “filling” will provide us with the desire to love and the “led” will  show us how to love. When we feel we are unable to do either of these we need to emulate the love of Jesus and daily choose the life-style described in I Corinthians 13:4-7.

If, for some reason, we want to measure the extent of our love, we need to go to that passage and substitute our own name for the word “love.”  (Go ahead and try it. I’ll wait.) Isn’t it wonderful to know that even though we don’t yet love like Jesus does, He loves us anyway and the Holy Spirit will continue to teach us.