February 28, 2010 § 4 Comments
So lately I have been thinking about obedience. The first thing my heart does when I think about myself and obedience is it twists inside. I can practically feel the flight or fight response begin, I am on my guard. “ME, Obey? Whom am I to obey? I am grown. What do you mean OBEY?” Frightening, but true. My sin nature likes to think I am in control and I don’t really need to “obey” anyone. However, that isn’t accurate at all. I have always been a pleaser to those in authority over me. It is part of my make up. I don’t want to disappoint so I do my best to please them, but is that truly obedience? NO. I had every pretension of obedience, but I didn’t always obey. I didn’t have the right attitude and I was willing to disobey as long as I wasn’t caught.
The same can be true today. I have the pretension of obeying God. I read my Bible, I pray, but am I truly obeying? See God is more interested in where my heart is rather than my actions. Psalm 51:16-17 says, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” So obedience is more than just going through the motions. I have been reading a book called Say Goodbye to Whining Complaining and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids by Turansky and Miller. I will tell you it dives into the issue behind obedience, it is honor. Honor is more important than obedience and for God it is part of obedience. As He calls us to honor Him. He taught us how to honor Him as well. Look at all the rules He gave the Israelites. Look at the sacrifices, the clean and unclean, the offerings, the commandments. God was teaching the Israelites THIS is how you obey and honor ME. No other god could do that!
So not only is obedience something I fight, not only is it about more than my actions, but it is also about love. WHAT? How is obedience about love? I so often think of tyrants when I think of obedience. What does love have to do with it? Well, first thing, obedience when coupled with honor (or the right attitude) is a gift you give the one you are obeying. Kids, when you obey your parents it is a gift. Wives when we obey our husbands it is a gift. Students when you obey your teachers it is a gift. Now this isn’t the feet stomping, eye rolling sort of obeying, this is the honor filled obedience. Secondly look at what Jesus has to say about obedience. (I must be slow that this is such a revelation to me, but it is true) John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” So It is easy for me to gloss over my part and say ok, if I do what God wants me to do He will love me, but that isn’t the point. The way we show love to God is OBEDIENCE! What? Seriously, we can say we love God, but unless we are obeying His commands that “love” is just lip-service. It is just a bunch of garbage.
So I have been convicted lately that if I am not obeying God then I am not loving God. That really changes they way I think about obedience. Praise God that He gives me more chances than I deserve to obey and honor Him.
February 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
So January found me reading Job. I have to say that Job is a difficult book for me to wade through. For one, the idea that God points out someone who is serving Him to Satan and says have you considered Job. Makes me cringe a little. Ok, it also makes me a bit excited. I mean the God of all creation and the universe knows our names. Cares about us! Pretty cool, but why if Job was such a shining star on God’s team, did God see fit to point out to Satan how well Job was doing? I mean God has NO reason to do a “mine is better than yours” argument with one of His created beings. Alright, here is what I know about God. He is good, faithful, honest, upright, powerful, continually drawing all to Him so that none may perish, the list is endless… So why would God point out someone who is doing well to Satan? Maybe, remember this is not Biblical, but my own musing, maybe God wanted Satan to see that a person fully devoted to God would stay strong regardless of his or her circumstances. In fact many people whose love of God is sincere draw even closer to God through illness, loss, hard economic times. So maybe this is God’s way of showing Satan that His kids are tougher than they appear. Maybe it is God’s way of showing Job the strength of his faith. Untested faith is pretty easy to swallow, but tested faith takes an iron gut.
Secondly Job is difficult because not even Job is actually in the right. God Himself gets onto Job about his planned response to God. The arguments he is presenting to his friends about how God has misused Job. However not all of Job’s musings are inaccurate. He talks of knowing his Redeemer lives and in the end He (Job’s Redeemer) will stand on the earth. He says “though He (God) slay me, yet I will hope in Him (God).” So Job in the midst of losing all his children, losing all his wealth, and losing his health makes these awesome professions of faith. However he also laments the day of his birth. No, he never curses God, but Job does accuse God of injustice. Job tells his wife essentially how can we accept good from God and not bad. Then he promptly turns around and says I am innocent and essentially claims to be without sin. This makes it difficult to see when Job is appropriately representing God and His dealings with man and when Job is not. I most likely struggle with reading Job because I find myself much like Job. I make huge professions of faith knowing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Then two seconds later I am begging God for mercy and to spare me from the difficult parts of life. That is part of my humanity with which I have never come to grips.
Thirdly, Job’s friends are the “I think I have God figured out” sort of people. They speak half truths or truths that match their understanding of God. It is like God fits in their perfect little box and when hard times come, it all makes sense to them. It has to be Job’s sin…Oh, that I may never presume to know God’s plan for hard times people are going through. That I may remember that God isn’t a vending machine that you put in a “good” life and out pops prosperity, health, and smooth sailing for the rest of my life. No, remember from my last post that it is God who makes me holy. It is God who as Job says gives and takes away. God knows those perfect plans to give us a future and a hope. May I seek to honor Him in the good and the bad…May I seek to know Him more by reading even the difficult parts of scripture because God has something for me in those things as well as the easy things to swallow.
February 24, 2010 § 3 Comments
So I have been thinking about this whole holiness thing. God tells us to, “….be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” (Lev. 20:26) So holiness…Most of us think of holiness as a state of perfection. We NEVER do ANYTHING wrong. We say the exact right thing at the right time and we look down on others who don’t. We are then holy. But that isn’t God’s holiness. Really holy means set apart. For instance, I take a plate that says “celebrate” on it and tell my family this is our special birthday plate. We only get to use it on our birthdays. The plate is just a plate, but I have made it holy by setting it apart for a special purpose. So God is telling Israel and through them us to be set apart because He is set apart.
So how do we set ourselves apart? I mean seriously…How am I different than those who don’t know Jesus as savior? How do I maintain that difference? What can I do to make myself holy? In Leviticus we see that God is setting out laws and rules for those Israelites to follow. Don’t eat this, don’t touch that, this is unclean, that is clean, celebrate this festival at this time, etc. All of these outward things certainly make the Israelites look different. Most cultures at this time were steeped in religion, but of many gods and these gods didn’t really give them rules to follow, they sort of made it up as they went along. So here the Israelites are given rules. Rules that set them apart. In some ways we have the same thing now. Our morals our choices set us apart from our culture. Waiting to have sex until marriage. Not being drunk on wine, but being filled with the spirit. Are just a few that can certainly set the Christians apart from others around them, but do these things make them holy? Can actions and choices make us holy?
We find the answer to this question in the very book that tells us to be holy…Lev. 20:8 says, “…I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” This phrase and others similar is repeated at least seven times in Leviticus. Ok, stop the presses…You mean to tell me that God gives His people all these rules only to tell them that the rules don’t make them holy? I mean seriously the sacrifices, the festivals, the clean and unclean things. Are you crazy God? Why? So here is the beauty of the why at least in my life.
First, I can never be holy apart from God. I can quit trying under my own power. This may not be a revelation to you, but to me it was so freeing. I will mess up and I know that, but I was trying to be holy on my own. I wanted to MAKE the fruit of the spirit appear in my life. As if I could will self-discipline in my life. Hello self, it is a fruit of the SPIRIT, not a fruit of the SELF! So fruit of the spirit grows from a connection to God, a relationship to Him…Holiness is the same. We can’t make ourselves holy, only God can!
So second, why all the rules? We answered part of that earlier, the rules set us apart outwardly. They also are a way of protecting us as I mentioned in my last post. God knows more about us than we could ever hope to imagine. Just as the one who designs my car knows WAY more about it than I do. I can turn the key and make it run. However I don’t understand why it works and I am often running to the owners manuel to see what a certain blinking light means. The Bible is our owners manuel. We don’t understand it all, but God does and His plans for our lives help our lives to go smoothly. Does that mean we will never hit adversity? NO…Check out Job, but it does mean we can live for God in a way that pleases Him. Just as certain sacrifices and special burnt offerings were a fragrant pleasing aroma to God, our lives can be the same if we are obedient to Him.
Thirdly, we are humans and we forget. God institutes these festivals as times to remember. Why? Well, beacause we humans forget so quickly. Don’t believe me? So let’s take a Biblical example. It was approximately 130 days since God had led the Israelites out of Egypt. God sent plagues and parted the Red Sea. You would think the Israelites would be fired up and excited about serving God. In fact God was having a face to face pow-wow with Moses right up on top of Mount Sinai. However Moses had been gone for an awful long time. It was right about 40 days. So what did the Israelites do? The created a golden calf and claimed it was the god who led them out of Egypt. Seriously, these people forgot in less than six months all that God had done for them…In fact God had been leading them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. However, it had been over 40 days since they had last moved. We can look at the Israelites and say it wouldn’t happen if I was there. However the truth is we do it just as often. We either pretend that the check that happened to come the day before the mortgage was due that was the exact amount we needed was just a lucky chance. Or that weird thing that happened when I had a flat tire and couldn’t get the lug nuts removed was just a kind person stopping to help, not that God sent him. The list goes on…
We are forgetful and we have to be reminded who we are and who God is…He is holy and He makes us holy. I think it was Max Lucado who wrote this…It was a quote given to me by a friend years ago and I only vaguely remember it so it won’t be exact, but it goes something like this…”God’s smile is NOT for the healthy hiker who boasts he made it all the way by himself. It is for the blind, lame man who begs for a back on which to ride.” What a ride God has in store for us, if only we will cling to Him!