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.

The Outward Joy of Worship

My relationship with Jesus gives me daily strength that may or may not be accompanied by a feeling of euphoria. My relationship with Jesus gives me joy and peace that may or may not be accompanied by the need to sing and shout. My relationship with Jesus gives me confidence and a sense of security that may or may not be accompanied by a mountain-top sense of revival and rapture.

Corporate worship should lead me to new heights of spiritual excitement, but it should also reinforce my existing levels of spiritual belief. It is not a wasted worship experience that says “You are on the right track. You are headed in the right direction. Keep fighting the fight. Stay on course.”

Should I ever become satisfied with the level of my devotion to Jesus? Of course not! But is it wrong for me to be pleased that I am growing in Him? I don’t thing so.

I don’t feel a time of corporate worship must be deemed a failure if I am not transported to the throne of God and emotionally thrilled by the activities that transpire there. If I approach Him in my own quiet way, if I take joy in my time with my brothers and sisters, if the Holy Spirit reinforces my devotion and submission to Him I will feel my time has been well-spent.

There are times of corporate high, holy excitement. The valleys are endurable only because of the mountain tops. But it may be unrealistic to think that every Christian can attain a mountaintop every Sunday morning. And undue efforts to attain such worship levels may prevent other desirable worship experiences.

Goodness vs Holiness

Goodness and holiness are not the same thing. In fact, in the life of a child of God, good may actually hinder holy.

Goodness refers to those acts of kindness we do in order to help others. Holiness means being set apart and used for God’s glory. Goodness does not always produce holiness.

In Mark 9:41, Jesus talked about giving a cup of cold water “in my name.” Goodness prompts the giving of the water, while holiness causes that water to be presented  in the name of our Lord and Savior. If we give a cup of water, provide free babysitting for the single mother who lives next door, visit a follow church member in a nursing home or help a stranded motorist change a flat tire – and don’t mention the name of Jesus or give God any praise – we are being good. But we are not necessarily holy.

Our good deeds may hinder increased holiness because such deeds cause us to feel gratified and pleased with ourselves. We may continue to look for ways to help others and overlook opportunities to glorify God

There are many good non-Christians in the world. Only the redeemed children of God are holy. We must allow the leadership of the Holy Spirit to show us how our good deeds (which bring recognition only to ourselves) can become holy deeds which bring glory to the Father.

The Holy Spirit creates a greater degree of holiness in our lives when we allow him to change the motive for our good deeds. Good deeds done in Jesus’ name and for the Father’s glory become holy deeds.

Are we willing to go beyond good to holy ?

Desert Experiences

Are you in a desert right now? Are you living in a harsh environment, surrounded by unpleasant people and unfair expectations? If so, don't despair! God has often used such situations to prepare his people for great acts of service.

He used the desert to prepare Moses to lead the Hebrew nation out of slavery. He sent Jesus into the desert after the first public proclamation of his divine mission. Paul spent time in the desert after discovering his life goals were completely wrong.

God dictated a completely unique agenda for each of these journeys. They were not a time for vacation or amusement. Jehovah confronted these men with themselves and with Himself. Each had to wrestle with God's view of his own past and future. Each was forced to acknowledge the Creator's rightful place as provider, ruler and commander. Yet each emerged with an understanding of God's will for his life and a dedication to follow that, wherever it led.

Are we willing to emotionally and spiritually go into the deserts He provides and spend time one-on-one? Are we willing to allow Him to show us our mistakes and weaknesses so that we can be changed? Are we ready to accept our total nothingness and acknowledge His complete power and wisdom in all parts of our lives?

He knows when we need to be removed from the daily rush and pressure of our schedules. After He has our attention He can show us who He is, who we are, what He wants to become within us and what we can become for Him. Such insights are often seen more clearly in the school room of the desert.

Until we fully and gratefully accept our dependence on Him we will not be ready to serve Him. When He puts us into the empty, harsh places we must accept his way of doing things and learn from the Master Teacher.

How Did He Stand It?

When did Jesus know He was going to die on a Roman cross as a common criminal? At birth? At age twelve? Certainly by age 30.

At some point his divinity gave a fore knowledge of his death.  How did his humanity handle this look into a future that promised such pain and suffering? How did He maintain a sense of joy and peace in the shadow of the cross? What allowed Him to laugh, sing, joke and smile during his ministry?

And He did each of those things. Grown men didn’t leave home, family and careers to follow a sour puss. Children didn’t flock to be picked up and held by a grouch. Crowds didn’t contribute their donkeys and cloaks to form a parade for a “gloomy Gus”.

How did He avoid a constant feeling of dread and sadness as He healed and taught the people of Judea and Jerusalem? As he conquered disease and death in others, surely the specter of his own future hovered in the background of his mind.

The answer to the question has to be in his total trust in his father’s wisdom, power and love. Long before Gethsemane his daily mantra was “Not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42.) He was fully convinced that only by following Jehovah’s will could He provide a way for the human race to be ransomed from the power of sin. He had heard “With him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) as He stepped out of the waters of John’s baptism and He had to die to hear it again.

What am I willing to do each day to hear it from Jehovah God?

 

 

 

Unproductive Christians

Can you imagine the CEO of a large company calling an employee into his office and saying “My friend, as far as I can tell, you have not accomplished a single thing for our company in the five years you have worked here. I cannot find even one situation in which you have contributed anything to the success of this organization.”

“However, we consider you to be a fine gentleman and an over-all nice guy. We plan to continue paying your salary and you will continue under our health plan and benefits package. We hope you are happy working here.”

“That’s crazy,” you say. “Not going to happen where I work.”

And you are right. At least not under the world’s system.

But in God’s system that is exactly what happens all too often. He comes to us before our salvation and says “I love you. My son died for you. I will provide you with life’s necessities. I will protect you. You are valuable to me.” Then He adopts us into his family.

In the years after salvation this scenario is likely to continue largely unchanged. If we remain mostly unproductive He still loves us and provides for us.  He gently invites and prods us to allow Him to develop the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)  in our lives and influence others into his kingdom.

Will He discipline us (Hebrews 12:6) and prune us (John 15:2)? Yes. Will He send us various places and give us assignments? Yes. Will He allow loss and pain into our lives? Yes. Will He continue to love us, protect us, hold us in His arms and let us live with him for all eternity? YES, YES and YES.

Discipline and Change

When a parent disciplines a child, there is an expectation of change in the child’s behavior or attitude (or both.) Discipline that does not result in change is largely wasted. Discipline that is not motivated by love is likely to produce anger and resentment that can last a lifetime.

God disciplines those He loves. That’s you and me. When we experience His discipline are we willing to change? Do we allow the Holy Spirit to show us the Father’s opinion of our behavior, priorities, motives and attitudes? Are we willing to accept what God accepts and reject what He rejects, even if it means change?

Change is difficult because it means admitting that – heaven forbid – we have been wrong and others have been right. No matter where our values came from, how long we have had them or who taught them to us, we will resist changing them. God isn’t interested in how we got to be the way we are, but He loves us enough to discipline us until we are like Jesus.

Just as a parent does not ask the child “How do you think I ought to discipline you” God does not ask us for guidance in his correctional process. We need to accept that such is necessary for our well-being and when it is all over we will be the better for it.

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If we will open the cover of our Bible to our eyes, God will open the message of our Bible to our hearts.

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When I pray, my desire should be to touch God, not to “put the touch on” God.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus’ Tower

Luke 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?”

In Luke 14 Jesus talked about the dedication demanded from everyone who would be His disciple. Verse 20 put forth a requirement that seems extreme to the point of cruelty. Often misused by those who would subvert the scriptures for their own gain, this verse tells us that discipleship demands a conscious decision to put Jesus above all else in our lives.

This decision must be carefully made. Verses 28-30 explain this concept in terms His original listeners could understand. He was warning against starting down the path to discipleship and then being unwilling to pay the full price demanded. He was saying “Consider the full price of discipleship before you commit yourself to the process.”

What was Jesus’ tower?  What tested his level of commitment to determine if He was willing to pay the full price and complete the task.

The answer, of course, is the CROSS. The cross was the tower Jesus had already decided to complete. He had been tempted by Satan in the desert after his baptism. At that point in his life He had refused any shortcuts or compromises. From that moment on his entire life had been directed toward completing the sacrifice that would allow Him to take the blame and burden for our sins.

That resolve was to be tested again in Gethsemane. In that garden He again looked inside himself to see if He could complete His tower. The result of the  self-examination  was his statement to the Father “…thy will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) Jesus’ entire life had been preparation for this final decision and when the time came He was up to the task. (His final statement of “It is finished” was the announcement that the tower was complete.)

Will our tower demand such sacrifice? Probably not.. Have we been given some sort of tower to build.? Certainly! Do we have the resolve to finish it?

God’s Surgery

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God…is sharper than any two-edged sword…dividing asunder soul and spirit…(KJV)

 

We would be devastated if a doctor gave us the bad news, “I’m sorry, but it is cancer and it is malignant.” We would rejoice if he continued, “But it is localized and surgery can provide a total and permanent cure.” In this situation we would welcome the surgeon’s skill and expertise. We would trust him to make the necessary incision and remove all that was diseased. As we lived healthy lives in the years afterward, we would recommend to others both the doctor and surgeon whose skills and knowledge had helped us.

In much the same way Jesus, the one with the sharp, two-edged sword, comes to us and says, “I’m sorry but there is sin in your life. It is malignant. Left unchecked, it will continue to grow and destroy our relationship.” But, similar to the surgeon, He offers to use the razor-sharp “sword of the Spirit” to remove that sin.

We would not welcome either diagnosis, nor would we look forward to the process that would remove the problem. However, after the treatment we would be able to live  healthy, active, fruitful lives and praise God for providing the cure.

As Christians we seem all too willing to live with spiritual cancer while we demand the immediate, total removal of the physical disease. We would never argue with the doctor by saying, “Well, maybe I do have a little cancer. But it isn’t my fault. That’s just the way I am ” or “At least I don’t have as much cancer as my neighbor” or “If that’s the way you are going to talk to me, I’ll just go to another doctor.”

But when the Holy Spirit comes to us and shows us we have sin in our lives we often respond in these or similar ways.

We must seek and accept God’s diagnostic revelations of our spiritual health. We must allow him to perform whatever surgery is necessary. His skill and knowledge are equal to the healing task. Our only role is to give him permission to do what needs to be done.

We can never enjoy spiritual health until we accept the Savior’s work.