Disobedience: Is it worth the price?

I went to bed and woke up with the same subject on my mind: Choices. In a recent post I wrote about deliberately making bad choices without considering the true consequences of them. Today I’m wondering how many bad, deliberate choices are we allowed to make before God leaves us to do our own devices.

In 1 Samuel chapter 15 Saul went into Amalek to kill the Amalakites. Before his journey God gave him specific instructions to kill all that was in the city; both men and women, infants and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. Saul and his army destroyed everything with the exception of the King; Agag and the best of the sheep and oxen, which they intended to sacrifice unto God.

On the surface it seems that this was a well intended decision which would please God because in the midst of their battle the Israelite people considered the God who was with them and took the animals to offer before Him in celebration of their victory. How thoughtful and loving of them right?

Wrong. When God saw what they did he became angry with Saul and said

 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.”

God was not interested in the sacrifice of these animals unto Him as much as He was concerned about Saul’s ability to be obedient to His voice. He was upset because Saul chose to do what he felt was pleasing unto God and not what God said he would be pleased with.

I think this is the problem we face sometimes. Like Saul we have the knowledge of what pleases God and sometimes when given a task to perform we ignore the specific instructions he’s given to us and subscribe to what we know usually pleases Him. You see, because it was the custom of the Israelite people to offer the best sheep and cattle to God as a sacrifice they prescribed to that even when God said He didn’t want it.  So to, we have our customs and practices but I think we need to be sensitive to what is acceptable to God right now.

Saul’s disobedience made God reject him as king. In verse 22 and 23 of the same chapter the prophet Samuel says to Saul

“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 heed than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.”

In our own lives how many times have we rebelled against God and disobeyed His commandments? How many times have we been stubborn towards the instructions for life as prescribed in the bible? How many times have we chosen to offer a sacrifice; through prayer and fasting, excessive giving, acts of worship, in lieu of being obedient to what God is asking of us right now, without realizing that our sacrifices are meaningless if they are not in alignment with God’s request?

God compares our actions to witchcraft, iniquity and idolatry.

For me, this is a sobering revelation. One which I’m certain I’ll think about for many days with the hopes of it being embedded in my heart so I may never sin against God this way again. I’ve got a lot to think about and I’m sorry that I’m writing this prematurely, but for right now I feel like I have to let some of my thoughts out.

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The Harsh Reality of an Angry Me

I’m angry

At least on the surface of me that’s all I can see

An anger with the potential to do as much damage as a raging sea

I’ve been silently observing me for a while

Making sure never to lose my smile

For without it I fear the world would see

The anger that’s been plaguing me

I’ve been contemplating when this anger started and how long it’s been building

Maybe it’s from as far back as my father’s beatings

Or as recent as my friends’ chastising of who I am

I could never be one hundred percent me

Because the me that they see and the reality of who everyone wants me to be is a fallacy

Everyone and their expectations

Placing me in difficult situations where my mind and my heart condition is always questioned

Maybe in the future I’ll see transformation

A heart transplant and blood transfusion

Call it righteous indignation

But I can’t help but feel like I’m bigger than my situations

And while they’re building blocks on my foundation

I can only look forward to completion

Because the me that I see is so bitter and angry

It leaves me desperate for a new reality

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Great Expectations

SunriseThis morning I was reminded that there are great expectations from those who called to carry out the great commission, as I sat enjoying a warm cup of tea as I prepared myself mentally for the day ahead. While I sipped, I pondered on my rebelliousness toward God’s direction for a spirit led life over the last week or so and couldn’t help but frown at the foolishness of my ways.

Let me back up a bit so I don’t leave you lost in the transition of my mind’s rambling without adequate content and context with which you can refer to. Last week I decided that people expect too much from me. I’ve never hidden my Christianity nor have I tried to hide my passion for God and the things of God. In fact I’ve done quite the opposite; I’ve taken every chance I got to let people around me know that I serve Jesus and how much I’m in love with Him. I invite others to share in this wonderful experience of salvation and encourage them to look to Jesus as the author and finisher of their faith. This wasn’t a problem until I came to the realization that I’ve put myself in the spotlight and there’s a target aimed directly at my head. You see, in a world where religion and God has somehow become the oppressive enemy of the human race when you decide to openly express your belief in God and practice the teachings of His doctrine people tend to look at you.

If everyone who looked on had good intentions or did so with the understanding that you’d slip up sometimes that would be great or at least considered fair. If somehow people could see that amid all the passion and excitement, you; just like anyone else, was figuring this whole “God thing” out and don’t quite have all the answers or solutions to every situation you encounter, then maybe your walk with Christ might feel a lot less burdensome at times. This however isn’t always the case. It seems that the greater your passion and excitement for God, the more likely you are to draw attention to yourself. What that attention does is cause people to assume you’re always going to have a firm grip on things or cause to wait with bated breath for the moment you slip up.

For me I can’t say that I know of anyone who is waiting for me to slip up but people around me tend to think that I’m supposed to somehow have the right answers and make the right decisions all the time. I’m constantly reminded that I’m a role model and others are looking at me. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset or bothered that I’m considered a role model; on the contrary, I think it’s a fantastic thing that my passion fuels others to draw closer to God, but last week the expectations of others felt like such a burden that I decided to change the rules a bit. I deliberately made bad decisions. I found myself in situations where I sat down and thought through the possible choices I could make and how they would affect my relationship with God and I chose to do the wrong thing. It wasn’t an accident or a spur of the moment thing.

I CONSCIOUSLY MADE BAD CHOICES!

In hindsight, I feel so ashamed and broken that I spent time with the Savior, got to know Him intimately and then dipped my hand in the bread basket at the same time he did, only to betray him later on with a metaphorical kiss of death. Like Judas I chose to go against the God that loved me and have been so gracious and loving to me. I willingly persecuted Him to avoid living up to the reality that as a child of God who is called to the great commission I was expected to live a righteous and holy life unto my King.

So that’s where I was a couple weeks ago. I was dipping my toes at the edge of sin’s ocean, all the while wondering how deep I could go before I would begin to drown. Thankfully I serve a God who’s ways are not like mine and who loves me much more than I could ever love Him. Just as I began to think about moving past my toes and actually getting my feet wet, his guiding arms skillfully wrapped themselves around my torso and carried me to safety. My rebelliousness lasted all of two days before I started getting “the messages”. We’ve all experienced “the messages”. It’s when God gets your attention by sending you the same message everywhere you turn; facebook, twitter, the radio, conversations at work, etc. You know what I mean right?

So, God got my attention and he began to show me my heart. I cried bitterly when the reality of my thoughts and actions were revealed to me. When I realized how subtly I began my descent from Christianity into things worldly. Who would have thought that me; a passionate woman of God with a call upon her life who have experienced the awesomeness of God’s power time and time again, could be so easily fooled by the enemy? And just like that, I snapped back to reality, climbed off of the pedestal I’d mounted and decided to start over, recommitting my life and surrendering all over  again to  the one who shed His blood for my salvation.

So that’s where I was this morning; taking part in an ongoing pity party, when God reminded me:

” to whom much is given, much is expected”

You see, when we come to Christ we get to take advantage of all the wonderful things He has for us. We are recipients of Grace, Love, Peace, Joy, Strength, Comfort, Various Gifts and so much more. If we are to be partakers of all this then we must embrace God’s command that we live holy and acceptable lives unto Him. It’s not right to abuse grace or consciously go against God’s word because we have mercy and forgiveness available to us. In as much as we expect God to honor His word and promises to us, so to we must live out His commandments and be the difference in the world today, so that His name would be glorified.

I know that no one is perfect. That we all make mistakes and slip up sometimes but in as much as we can, I believe we should always choose to please God. We should let nothing get in the way of our relationship with Him and more than ever we should let our light shine before men so that His name would be glorified in heaven. We are the salt of the earth and to lose our flavor means to lose our effectiveness. I can’t say it would be easy (actually I can guarantee you that it will get hard sometimes) but I can assure you it will be worth it. Keep the faith, fight the good fight and at the end of the race I pray that we all hear

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant”

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Divine Appointments

Read Matthew 5:4

Jesus tells his disciples that those who mourn will be comforted.

There is something good waiting beyond disappointment for each of us. There are appointments that God has destined. There are good works for each of us to do. And isn’t it interesting that the word appointment comes from within the word disappointment?

I’ve often marveled at that because I’ve seen again and again how disappointments take something from us: a dream, a piece of our hearts—maybe whole chucks of it. But disappointment leaves something too: a gift, an opportunity, the possibility of creating change. This means we can move from the valley of the shadow of death to new horizons and bring others with us on that road.

The enemy would like us to feel such a depth of disappointment that we never find our way back to the plan God has for us. If he can convince us to stay stuck in our disappointment, we’ll miss many of our future God appointments. I realize that some disappointments seem so big that we can’t imagine ever being able to move beyond them. We ask deep questions and they go unanswered. For example, when someone dear to us dies, no explanation will satisfy the questions crying out inside. But even for these tragedies, God has made a way.

When a precious couple named Maria and Dimitri lost their fourteen-year-old-son, Peter, they had many unanswered questions. They struggled mightily but they didn’t try to answer them. Instead, they determined to walk down that road of disappointment and heartbreak with Jesus. On the day of Peter’s funeral, still burdened with pain, sorrow, and grief, their family made a decision. Even though they did not understand why this tragedy had occurred, they would continue to trust God. They would keep on believing his promises.

They proclaimed at the funeral: Today is a sad day, but it is not a bad day. The devil thinks he has the victory because our son has died. But our son is alive with his Jesus, and is partying in heaven. The devil has not won. We are not burying our child today, but we are sowing him as seed into the soil of this nation. We believe in a mighty harvest of young people to spring forth. Out of one death, there shall arise new life.

Their words said, this family bruised by grief but beautiful with belief stood silently. There is a road through disappointment. Disappointment is not an end but an opportunity for a divine appointment.

Point to Ponder

One disappointment, or even more than one, does not mean that all the good works God ordained for you long before you were born are now impossible. There are still many ahead of you, beyond the disappointment. You can choose to allow God to propel you into the next chapter of good works God has destined for you.

Source: Devotions by Christine Caine via BibleGateway

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If Salt Loses Its Flavor, How Shall [the Earth] Be Seasoned?

A young boy went away to summer camp for the first time. When he returned home, his mom asked him what his new friends thought about him being a Christian. He proudly replied, “No problem, Mom! Not one of them ever even guessed it!”

Humorous? Yes. But also tragic—and, unfortunately, too realistic. Many professed Christians go about the normal traffic patterns of daily life, and no one has a clue about their faith. In an increasingly decaying and decadent society, our Lord reminds us that we are the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). All too often, however, the salt does lose its flavor.

Jesus had a unique way of using the simplest, most common things to illustrate the deepest truths. He spoke of shepherds and their sheep, lilies of the field, and birds in the air. In this chapter’s question, Jesus compares His followers to salt and warns us of the tragic result should we lose our flavor. Jesus says, “It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (v. 13). Since Jesus has declared you and me “the salt of the earth,” it is imperative that we understand four major effects we believers should therefore have on the culture around us.

Salt Preserves

One of my fondest boyhood memories is of our family’s annual summer trek from Texas to the hills of Tennessee where my dad grew up. We spent those days with my Uncle Lester and Aunt Idele, who owned a small one-room country store in the mountains nine miles out of Pikeville. Even as i type these words, my mouth waters as I remember the taste of their salt-cured country ham each morning. Those slabs of meat were stored in a large wooden box in a cellar behind their house. In the bottom of the box, a piece of ham was placed on a layer of salt, then another layer of salt and ham, and so on until the box was filled. That ham was perfectly preserved in the salt without the aid of refrigeration. That’s because salt is a preservative.

We are living in a decaying culture, and when something decays, it falls apart. Many of our social structures that used to be sound and secure are rotting away. Marriages and morals are continuing to decay at a high rate. And Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” The only thing standing in the way of an entire cultural collapse are those believers who are truly preserving the earth by being “salt” in their daily lives before others. Salt preserves.

Salt Flavors

Food without salt is tasteless and flat. But when added, a little salt brings great flavor to a meal. Christians are to life what salt is to food. Authentic Christianity always leaves people with a good taste in their mouth.

Our Lord was never discouraged that His disciples were few in number relative to the masses needing to be reached. He knew it only took a very little salt to flavor a much larger mass. i thought about this recently when i was preparing to eat a large baked potato. i cut into it and ate a bite or two without any real satisfaction. Then i sprinkled a bit of salt over it. Relatively speaking, the salt amounted to very little in proportion to the mass of that huge potato. But the next bite told the tale—just a few grains flavored the whole meal. So often, as believers, we think we cannot have much influence by our meager actions, but it just takes a little salt to make a huge difference at school, in the neighborhood, at the office, or wherever we might be. Salt not only preserves, it also flavors.

Salt Stings

Susie and I raised our girls in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on the beautiful gold Coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Any person who has ever gone into that saltwater with a scratch on their body can testify that salt stings! When it meets an open wound, that salt makes its presence known—and does so in a hurry.

When Jesus said we are the salt of the earth, He meant that our very lives should bring conviction to—should sting—the people around us. While it is important that our presence serves to both preserve and flavor a culture, there should also be an aspect of our presence that stings when it comes into contact with worldly actions and attitudes. Too many believers seem to think they are to be like honey and soothe our sin-sick world instead of being like salt that stings in order to convict. When our Lord called us salt, He meant for us to not only preserve and flavor our culture, He meant to use our example to convict others of their need for Jesus as they see Him alive in us.

Salt Creates a Thirst

The owner of the local movie theater in our town, Jerry, gloriously came to Christ as an adult. A few weeks after his conversion, he stopped by to see me and to confess something about which he had become convicted in his newfound faith. He explained that he had instructed his employees to always add extra salt to every box of popcorn they sold. Logically, this served to make the people thirsty; they, in turn, would buy extra or larger soft drinks while watching the movie. Yes, salt has its unique way of making us thirsty.

Is it any wonder that Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth? There should be that ingredient in our lives that makes people thirsty for what we have in Christ. When Jesus walked among the ways of this world, He attracted all sorts of needy people. The Pharisees repelled the publicans and sinners who were drawn to Jesus. Why? Because He made them thirsty for what only He could give.

Tragically, in our world today, the salt seems to be losing its flavor. In the words of our Lord, when this happens, it becomes “good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13). Each of us who are called by His name need to begin to see ourselves as salt. We “are the salt of the earth” (v. 13). Little does our world system realize that the presence of God’s people is preventing the final collapse of our civilization and ultimate judgment. We are the only ones who can truly flavor the lives of those around us, sometimes even sting them a bit, and make them thirsty for the Living water that enables us to never thirst again!

Source: The Jesus Code by O.S Hawkins

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Childlike Faith: Just do what you’re told

Today I witnessed the most beautiful thing. I sat through a three hour long service where the message was on the renewal of the mind through the Holy Spirit. The message was great;it was one of those “on point” messages, that gave me some much needed encouragement. This however wasn’t the highlight of the service for me.

The church I visited today is a small one with about two dozen persons in attendance including just over half a dozen children. Throughout the service the children; between 4 and 7 years old, kept interrupting the pastor with their occasional bursts of laughter or the sudden increase in their volume whenever the game they were playing reached a high-point. The pastor who has four children of his own, used admirable techniques to keep the little group in check without causing somber looks to cover their faces.

At the end of the message the pastor asked anyone who needed prayer to come to the altar. Surprisingly enough the entire group of little ones were the first to rush to the altar in a neat line awaiting prayer. While this in itself was enough to put a smile on my face what happened next caused me to marvel silently. The pastor diligently prayed for all the youngsters who made their way to the front and when he reached one little girl in particular, the congregation was asked to stretch their hands toward her as he believed God to heal her body. At this point all of her young comrades stood around her and stretched their hands toward her believing God for her healing as instructed.

I can’t say whether they understood what they were doing or not, but the the obedience they executed was astonishing. They didn’t question what was asked of them nor did they stop to work out the logistics of how this healing would take place or anything of the sort. They simply did as instructed and lifted their hands toward their friend.

As I looked on in awe I began comparing their radical obedience to the lack of such in my life. There are so many times I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit asking me to act and although I knew the command was not of myself but of God I never moved. I always stop and wonder how foolish I’d look or sound if I do what I was being led to do especially if the results aren’t what I expect it to be.What would my friends say, or my coworkers? Would I look like a crazy woman? What if it wasn’t God, what then? These questions would usually cripple me and I’d soon be praying a prayer of repentance for neglecting to act and asking God to embolden me for the next encounter.

Tonight I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I simply act from now on. If like those children I do what God is asking me to do and see what the results are? What if I put self and pride aside and take the risk? The truth is I don’t know if I can do it. I can’t say if I have the courage to speak to the stranger in the street or stop and lay hands on the woman who has a back injury in my office and believe God for her healing.

My heart’s desire is to be radically obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I always marvel at the stories I hear of persons who acted and saw the miraculous wonders of God manifested through them and my heart aches for such an experience. Watching those children’s radical obedience has challenged me. Tonight I have decided to act the next time I’m led to. I’m going to believe God to work through me and I’ll exercise radical obedience when next I am called upon to do so. Knowing God the call would probably come when I least expect it and the instruction might be the furthest thing from my mind but what I do know is the experience would be one I would never forget.

What about you? Have you acted and seen God move through you before? or do you, like me suffer from fear when called upon to act? I’d love to hear what your experience has been like.

I hope that you’d remember to pray for me in this area and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my progress.

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Simplistic Glory: Appreciating God’s Majesty

dark-starry-night-sky

I left at home at 4:30 this morning and as I rushed to hit the road and beat the morning traffic I looked up and was met with the most majestic sight. In the darkness of the morning my eyes beheld a sky scattered in stars shining in all their glory and it was as though they kissed my soul good morning.

I smiled. I smiled a genuine smile from within, I think it started in my heart and when my heart was full to capacity it overflowed unto my lips and my soul rejoiced because I knew the designer of those twinkling lights was my friend.

Recently I’ve been focusing my energy on apologetics and my ability to defend my faith. I’m a simple person by nature and so when it comes to examining the complex issues brought forward by skeptics it can be a bit overwhelming for me. I can’t say that it’s too much to handle or an impossible task ahead but this morning I was thankful that unlike my skeptical friends I didn’t need to add definition to everything around me before I could show gratitude to the creator.

God in all His glory made the most beautiful things for us to dwell amongst. I’m usually more of a “sun girl”. I’m a lover of nature but something about sitting and watching the sun rise or set connects with my inner being. Occasionally I’d wait a while at night and gaze at the stars before I go indoors but they’ve never had the same effect they had on me this morning. Something about them gave me a peace I’ve been longing for.

For fear that I ramble on about my many encounters with God’s creation I’d end this post by saying that I’m happy. I’m thankful that God gave me such a beautiful gift to start my week and just as he created the stars in all their beauty so too has he created each of us to bring Him glory.

I may not have all the answers needed to convince others that God is real but I am thankful that in my simple nature I have to ability to appreciate every thing He has given me and all He’s created around me!

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You Said What?!

This tongue of mine seems to be the hardest thing to tame. Not for lack of trying though. I must admit that I’ve seen some improvement in the tongue-taming department but I realize there’s still some work to be done.

I’ve been wondering about words used via instant messaging (IM) and social media (SM). Is it that you blame the tongue for words sent these medium? Continue reading

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Heart Matters: Facing Filth

heart_xray2

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

My fascination with the human heart and the way it works is peaked more and more each time I see the potential for both good and evil in it. With each day that passes I am faced with the reality that purification of the heart and by extension, the mind is a daily endeavor that one must approach with humility and vigor.

Like David I continuously pray the prayer:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

God in His faithfulness continues to answer me and I am always surprised by what I see. As I grow and learn I’m realizing that my response to my heart condition is maturing. In times past, any revelation of the ills of my heart would have sprouted a fountain of tears and I would have been launched into a week of depressed prayers and brokenness, however this has not been the case recently.

With the passing of time and what I assume is increased wisdom, my approach to facing the filth of my heart has evolved.  Instead of bringing on the waterworks and curling into a ball of despair I am now able to acknowledge God in the process and open myself to change. Recently I’ve been reflecting on a number of things God has been showing me and I feel an explainable peace from the words in Hebrews 12:6

For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives. 

I can’t help but feel honored that God loves me enough to discipline me. To take the time to show me my wrongs so that he can make them right. For some reason beyond me I mean enough to this great being that he won’t allow me to continue living with a filthy heart. I fall more and more in love with Jesus as I embrace the depth of this love.

Proverbs 3:11-12 is somehow illuminated in my mind’s eye

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,as a father the son in whom he delights.

As with everything surrounding God there’s a choice to be made when facing discipline from our Father. We can choose to be weary of it and despise God because of it or we can embrace discipline and witness the transformation of our lives because of it.

I know that for each of us our journey would be different and we would experience God in different ways however, I wish to encourage you. It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey with Christ the key is to be open to Him and embrace His ways; chastisement and all. It’s not always easy to accept what God reveals about our hearts but it will be worth it to open those things to Him and have Him remove them and continue the purification process.

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