Category Archives: obedience

Am I ‘mentally ill’?

John 10-27 My Sheep Hear My Voice green

I told you, and you do not believe.  The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about Me, but you do not believe because you are not part of My flock.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  John 10:25-27

I don’t know if you have followed the flap in the media this week regarding the comments made on the ABC show “The View” about Vice President Mike Pence.  Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman said that the most dangerous person, the one that we should really be afraid of, is the Vice President.    She said that he not only talks to Jesus, but Pence also says things because he believes that Jesus talks to him and tells him to say them.

Joy Behar then said, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus.  It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you…that’s called mental illness.”  John 10 makes it pretty clear that there is a division between those who will hear Jesus’ voice and those who won’t.  Those who don’t are not a part of His flock.  The group of Jews around Jesus had been arguing with Him and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  He answered, “I told you, and you do not believe.  You don’t believe because you aren’t a part of My flock.”

In John 15:18-23 Jesus went on to warn His followers that ‘the world’ was going to hate them.  They hated Him, they were going to hate them.  The same thing applies to us.  The same spirit of the world is here today.  It drives the media, politics, and just about everything around us.  And it hates Jesus and it hates followers of Jesus.

And for sure, if we start talking about hearing Jesus talking to us, they aren’t going to get it.  Not even most believers get it.  I’m not even I understand His voice most days.  The voice of Jesus is one of the most wonderful, most precious and most confusing things in my Christian life.  If I were to start my sentences with things like, “Jesus told me to give you this money,” or “Jesus told me to quit my job, so I’m quitting,” the words ‘mentally ill’ would soon trail behind me as well.

I like what JD Greear writes in his book, Jesus Continued: “Such experiences (like God throwing us a curveball, or God moving in our spirit is not on the time table we thought it was) should teach us to hold our perception of what the Holy Spirit is ‘telling us’ loosely,” on pg. 166.  I can sense that God is telling me something, or leading me to make certain decisions, or pressing something on my heart.  All of these have happened to me in varying degrees of intensity.

There are times when I know from the Holy Spirit pressing inside of me that I need to say with boldness that it wasn’t just a coincidence that I knew to give somebody something specific, or to call at the right time, etc. but that God led me to do it.  To tell that to a nonChristian at work takes a risk.  And there are times when I know that God is speaking that I can’t deny that it could be Him and I need to act on it.

I am i the middle of sensing that God is moving me through His Holy Spirit to uproot me from my current full time job to a possible ministry position.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  It is not just a debate for “The View” between scoffers or those who genuinely can’t understand this talk about hearing from God.  It is about my husband and I listening to God and obeying Him.

In Hebrews 11 it says that Abraham left without knowing where he was going.  I’d like it to be a little more clear than that.  I am trusting Psalm 32:8-9 that promises (and warns), I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.  Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.  

And no, I am not mentally ill.  I am one of Jesus’ sheep.

 


You don’t just wake up one day in a 10′ by 10′ shack

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:6

In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory...Ephesians 1:11-12

That is a promise from God.  I have often drawn out a tangled path drawing showing what happens when we do things our way, as contrasted by the much straighter line when we do things God’s way.  As the mathematical theorem states: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  God directs us more in a straight line fashion.

In Sunday school I was sharing about how several years ago there was a gal who hadflirted a bit with following God.  She and her family ended up in a ten by ten hunting shack with an extension cord strung from the next lot’s RV line.  There were five people jammed in a little shed, and it wasn’t insulated in a cold oncoming winter.  They were determined to stay there, so some men at church had tried to help build on an extra addition and put in some insulation so they could endure the winter.

shackA friend at work was saying that no one should live in those conditions, which I agreed with, but I said, “you don’t just wake up one day in a ten by ten shack.”  My meaning was that it was a series of choices that got them there.  For them it was drugs and alcohol.  It was also a lot of manipulating and not working steady jobs when given the opportunities.  It has become my “go to” thought about being responsible for your choices.  You can think that you’re a victim, but one day you have to examine your own choices to see what you did to get you in that shack.

Life is always a series of choices and we have to own our choices.

In Sunday school one lady got angered at the Proverbs straight line illustration and she said something to the effect that I was making it sound like a prosperity gospel where no one ends up in shacks.  She has not had a straight line path, but a broken road.  It has been at the hands of others: the brokenness of rape, an abusive x husband, a grandchild who died…I mentioned Joseph, who faced his brothers, slavery, false accusations, prison and was still able to say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

He was also able to say in Genesis 39: 9, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” when Potiphar’s wife called out to him to lay with her.  He could have reasoned in his heart, “I am a victim.  No one knows I am here.  I deserve this.  I had a bad childhood.  I’ll sleep with her…”  But no.  He acknowledged and obeyed God still.  Though his path looked like a crooked one to him, it was a straight one to God.  And it was a path with a purpose and plan for the Kingdom.  Joseph didn’t know that, but he stayed obedient.  But once Joseph saw his brothers and his father with him in Egypt, suddenly the crooked paths became straight.  They made sense.

He could be glad that he didn’t compromise and cave to the call of the world that says, “It’s not your fault if you live a morally corrupt life because that was the ground work that was laid for you…You were a victim…Keep the script going.  Sleep with her.”  My thoughts are about being obedient in the midst of the seemingly crooked paths.  I didn’t have a fairy tale beginning, but by God’s heavy hand on me, His work of grace on my life, He kept me from buying that victim script.  He kept me from falling.  He gave me the grit to say ‘no’ when everyone else around me was diving in.

I can say with Joseph, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” and not make my path more tangled.  It is so easy to make compromising choices and justify them saying, “I had to because…” and not be obedient, and then complain about the 10′ x 10′ shack.

Later, as the Sunday school thoughts were tumbling around in my mind, processing the questions of the seemingly crooked paths at the hands of others and the promise of Proverbs 3:6 about straight paths, God spoke Ephesians 1 to my heart.  It was as if He were giving me an answer.  He works all things according to the counsel of His will in order that we might be to the praise of His glory.

In other words, whether our crooked paths are because of others’ abuse or because of our sinful choices, or because of God’s sovereign hand that takes us to Egypt ahead of our brothers Joseph style–He has His hand on it all, working it out according to His sovereign plan.  Just like Romans 8:28 promises, He is working it out for my good because I love Him and I am called according to His purpose.

There are three ‘according’s’:

  • Ephesians 1:11 ‘according to the purpose of Him who works all things
  • Ephesians 1:11 ‘according to the purpose of His will’
  • Romans 8:28 ‘to those who are called according to His purpose’

The upshot of all of this is that I don’t have to be bitter at God, wondering why my path was crooked.  Joseph wasn’t.  He didn’t spew bitterness at his brothers and get revenge once his father Jacob was dead, which is what his brothers all feared might happen.  The other thing Joseph didn’t do that we all must copy is that he didn’t use his harsh treatment at the hand of his brothers as an excuse to sin.

Joseph kept being obedient even when he had every right to do otherwise.  Don’t use anything as an excuse to sin.  Your choices matter in this life and they matter to God.

Finally, we can say that God will take our crooked paths and strange circumstances and weave them together for good because we love Him.  We are His, and we are called according to his purposes.  God works all things according to the counsel of His will, or according to His plan, so His glory will be worked out in our lives.


Extravagant generosity compels an extravagant response

I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome, for I am not ashamed of the gospel.  Romans 1:14-16

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  John 12:3

I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.  2 Samuel 24:24

Paul realized that he owed a great debt to God.  He often called himself a servant, a slave, or a bondservant.  In the Greek, it is “doulos”: somebody who is forced to work for somebody else for no payment and is regarded as the property of that person.” (Encarta Dictionary)

If grace is free, why should we operate from the concept of owing God, or of being His slave?  There is a difference between a slave of God, and a bondservant.  A bondservant served out his or her time as a slave and could go free, but instead chose to stay with his or her master and to serve for the rest of his or her life.  It is done willingly.  So we are God’s bondservants.  We serve Him willingly.

As for sharing the gospel eagerly like Paul, we should do it out of obedience, out of love, and out  of understanding the gospel.  This involves grasping the depth of our own sin and the depth of the love of God displayed by Jesus on the cross.

perfumeSomehow the two women that washed Jesus’ feet with their hair, tears, and perfume got this while the onlookers didn’t.  In the Luke 7:36-50 account, it was the Pharisees who scoffed while the “sinner” poured out her extravagant response to Jesus.  In John 12:1-7 it was Judas who sneered at Mary that the expensive perfume could be used for the poor.  What catches me with Mary was that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  Mary’s generous sacrifice wasn’t just a beautiful odor to Jesus, but to everyone there.

  • Am I willing to pour out my most expensive possession to wash Jesus’ feet because He washed me with His blood?
  • What is my most expensive possession that I need to hold on to more loosely to give to Jesus as a thank offering?

JD Greear: “God wants us to be consumed with His glory and filled with compassion, just as He is, moving instinctively to a world of need around us.” (Jesus Continued, pg. 89)

When Jesus said “Follow Me,” He bids us first to come and die, like in Romans 12:1-2 and John 12:24, Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit.

No one wants to die.  They want their cake–

I want to be near my family…I want cute kids…I want a comfortable job…I want a nice husband…I want a 9-5 job…I want a good income with money to spare…I want good neighbors…I, I, I

It is the death of “I”: The Village of Me: Population 1    Welcome to ME

When I chop down that sign, then that’s when God really begins to work.  I surrender, God takes over and He moves my heart with gratitude just like the two women with hair and perfume.  I think gratitude triggers compassion

I sat across the table this week from a dad at school.  His hands were dirty from trying to start his car in almost below zero weather for two days and the car wouldn’t cooperate.  He was early for the meeting, so we had time to talk.  I made him coffee and we chatted.  I’ve known him for years.

His wife died at her own hands several years before, leaving him to raise three boys on his own.  He was severely burned in a welding accident since then, leaving him with just a knob of a nose and no eye lids.  He explained how he should have asked them to give him eyelids because when he goes out in the sun it’s like rivers of water, but he wasn’t complaining.

My heart wells up with compassion for him and his boys, thinking about Christmas, about what life looks like for them, telling him that I was sorry to hear that his dad died just a couple of weeks ago.  How can I bring Jesus into his world?  Oh God, tell me.

Use my life, Lord, to the greatest extent, to bring salvation to those around me.  You used great people to pour the gospel into me, so use me to pour the gospel into others.  I am obligated because of what You have done for me, I am eager because the great news of Jesus, and I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation for whoever hears it.

 

 

 


A Tangled Path, or a Straight One?

tangled path

straight path

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6                                                      

To trust God is to believe in His reliability, truth, ability or strength. It means that you rely, depend, bank, or count on, and be sure of all that God is and what He promises.  Many times when there is some big rescue or feat, the newscasters will talk about “the indomitable human spirit” that made the people overcome.  When we put our trust in ourselves and our strength individually or collectively, we are missing the real source of our strength.  If we name the name of Jesus, the source of our strength is to be God and God alone.

In Genesis 11 we find the account of the Tower of Babel.  Everyone gathered together with the same language and said, Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, found in verse 4.  When God saw what they were doing He said, This is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. God stepped in and confused their language and scattered them to the faces of the earth.

That is what happens when we decide to build or do anything in rebellion of the King of the Universe.  Sometimes we don’t plan to do things without God in rebellion, it’s just because we’re used to figuring things out on our own, counting on our own wisdom and desires.  But God calls us to consult and trust Him, not others and not ourselves.  To trust Him with all of our hearts means that we don’t have a backup plan.  God is our only plan.  And He will take care of the details of our obedience.

There is a promise in these two verses: God will make our paths straight.  Have you ever tried to accomplish something or get somewhere in life, but you keep getting twisted around?  Your dream or your desired goal might always end up just beyond your grasp. You take one step forward and end up three steps back.  Sometimes you don’t go backwards, you just go sideways.  Or you stall out.  Your route isn’t a straight line, but a tangled path.  If this is you, ask yourself this question: Are you acknowledging God in all your ways?  Are you doing things His way or your way?  

When you do things God’s way, things have a way of working out.  And your path will be straight, not a mess.  Step by step in the right direction leads to a habit and a routine and then a lifestyle of obeying God, trusting Him, and  consulting with Him before you make choices.  You can’t beat it.


Our GPS

GPS.jpgI will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.  Psalm 32:8

This is one of my favorite promises in all of the Bible.  God promises to tell us where to go, and to counsel us with His eye upon us.  There are two parts to this.  The first is to teach us the right principles to make good choices on our own.  The second is to counsel us when the choices are between several things that all look good.  Or maybe they all look bad, like being between a rock and a hard place.  The promise part is that God has His eye on us, just like He has His eye on the sparrow.  Isn’t that comforting?

Our GPS voice on Google Maps, or whatever device you use, is a computer generated voice.  It doesn’t really care for us.  It doesn’t make value judgments.  It merely tells us the shortest route.  Some programs can take into account heavy traffic, but other than that, you don’t have an omniscient, provident God looking down in love telling us which way to turn.

There are times when I think I know better than my GPS voice and I have quite the argument with her.  I don’t have a name for her.  But if I did, I think it would be the name of my least favorite high school teacher.  One time I couldn’t figure out how to shut her off when I first got a Garmin, so I shut her in the compartment between the driver and passenger seat and her muffled directives rang out the whole trip.  So I turned up the music.

We can do the same thing to God.  There are times when we think we know better than Him, trying to shut off our GPS with Him.  “Stop it Holy Spirit!  Stop it.”  His voice rings in our heart the whole while.  He tells us to knock it off and we barrel on, suffering the consequences. And we turn up the music so we can’t hear His voice.  God gives us commands which are really for our provision and protection to guide us.  He also gives us the Holy Spirit who is with Christians always.  

On the positive side, when I don’t know what to do and I humbly ask for help, God is there to counsel me with His eye upon me.  I don’t always know that His leading hand is upon me, but I can look back and tell that it was.  One time my husband and I were travelling to my family’s side for Christmas, about a five hour trip.  We prayed before we left that we would have safe travels.  A snow storm blew up along the way, making travel treacherous.  

I was driving, and as we went through one town, my husband said as we were passing a gas station, “stop there for the restroom.”  I said we could go to the one a few blocks down the road since I was already past it.  He said he didn’t want to go then.  He’s a bathroom snob, which I was later to find out why (another story).  As I pulled into the other gas station to get gas, I locked the car door to go in and pay, with our coats inside the vehicle.  We got back outside and the fob wouldn’t work.  Apparently the battery was dead.  We went back into the station to call for some assistance, explaining what had happened, complete with cell phones inside car.  The person behind the counter asked what kind of vehicle we had, we said “Ford.”  She said, “Why don’t you go to the Ford dealership across the street then?”

Now there is an example of God taking care of us with His eye upon us.  In the midst of a snowstorm, with our coats in the car, we were locked out right across from a Ford dealership.  They gave us a new battery for free, installed it, and on we went!

Take God at His word today, following His instructions and trusting in His promises.  He will counsel you with His eye upon you.

 


Are you blessed?

blessed

Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but delights in the law of the Lord, and on His law meditates day and night.  Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed.  Who doesn’t want to be blessed?   Is being blessed an ‘entitlement’?  Not necessarily.   David, the psalm writer, tells us how to be blessed.  There are things we need to do and ways to live our lives.  Would you describe your life as being blessed, or is it one big struggle?  If it’s a struggle, read on.  It might help you to figure out why ‘there’s always something.’

Is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.   It  has something to do with not living the same way that people who don’t know Jesus live.  It is also taking our cues from them, seeking advice from those who don’t love the Bible.  If we make our counselors and closest friends those who do not live according to God’s principles, we think and act like them, not like God.  Further, if we consistently watch TV shows and movies that are wicked, we are contradicting this spiritual principle.  Can you sing all of the old TV jingles, but not be able to quote a Bible verse from memory?  

Nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.  We must hate sin.  In Psalm 139:21 David goes as far as to say, “Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?  And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?  One night I was out with friends at a pizza place.  The friends were not believers and the husband took great delight in telling his stories of their drunkenness and rebellion.  I had heard the stories many times, complete with the supporting cast.  In walked one of his old buddies and they began to recite the stories again.  I was laughing at the funny parts, until God spoke this verse straight into my mind.  

I froze, knowing that I was not hating those who shake their fist at Him.  To be honest, that was the last time I saw those friends.  I knew I needed to part ways with them because they were not desiring to change their lives, but were continuing this life of rebellion.  Do you shut the TV off when you know the show is promoting sin, or leaving a group of friends that have gone too far?  

But delights in the law of the Lord, and on His law meditates day and night.  This is the positive solution to changing our hearts and minds to be like Jesus.  We must have a daily habit of not just reading quickly through a chapter of the Bible, but studying, memorizing and meditating on it.  And then putting it into action.  The result?  We will be blessed.  That is a promise.  

*Image from La Casa youth

 


Going Rogue

obedience__1_samuel_15_22_by_symplearts-d66j86e.jpg

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.  1 Samuel 15:22-23

Samuel spoke these rebuking words to King Saul.  Saul had not done as God had commanded him to do.  He was supposed to completely wipe out the Amalekites.  Instead Saul saved back the king and the best of the sheep, oxen and lambs–all that was good.  He said he was going to sacrifice them to God.  This wasn’t the first time that Saul had gone rogue.  Samuel delivered heavy words from God: God regretted that He made Saul king and He was going to replace him.

Samuel asked Saul in 1 Samuel 15:19, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?”  This is rebellion and it obviously did not play well with God.  God didn’t want Saul’s sacrifice, He wanted obedience.  Saul rationalized what he did in 15:24, saying he did “because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”

Partial obedience and delayed obedience is rebellion to God no matter how we justify it to ourselves and others.  When God tells us to do something, He expects us to obey completely.  To God, when we disobey it is worse than us turning to witchcraft (the sin of divination) and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols.  This is because rebellion opens doors to Satan just like divination or witchcraft does.  Both sins cut us off from God.  It is better to fear God than to fear people and do things to mollify them.

A spirit of rebellion must be renounced in any way, shape or form.  If you short cut what you know God is telling you to do and stubbornly continue in patterns of sin, watch out. You will be disciplined by God because He loves you and has a claim on your life.  He will not let you continue down this path.

Samuel also told Saul, “presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.”  The word for presumption in Hebrew means “seething pride.”  That means we think we know better than God.  We just act without checking in with God to find out what He thinks about a situation.  And then when we find out it was wrong, presumption would be shrugging it off as a little deal, like King Saul did.

David prayed in Psalm 19:13, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.”  God, show me where I am being partially obedient, slow to obey, and how I am shrugging off sin as no big deal.  May I always check with You first and not think “I’ve got this.”  Forgive my rebellious heart and change it to be soft, open and ready to listen and to act.

*Image from Symple Arts