Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey

1 When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word, 

what a glory he sheds on our way! 

While we do his good will, he abides with us still, 

and with all who will trust and obey. 

Refrain:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way 

to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. 

2 Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, 

but our toil he doth richly repay; 

not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, 

but is blest if we trust and obey. 

3 But we never can prove the delights of his love 

until all on the altar we lay; 

for the favor he shows, 

for the joy he bestows, are for them who will trust and obey.

4 Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet, 

or we’ll walk by his side in the way; 

what he says we will do, where he sends we will go; 

never fear, only trust and obey. 

I remember this hymn well from many years ago. It’s so catchy and such a classic, but the truth is….I wish I would have let its word sink into my brain better back then!

It seems not much pleases God as much as His children trusting Him. Isn’t that why Abraham is often mentioned in the Bible as an example to follow so frequently? Or King David? People that please God have this in common – they chose to trust God. They chose to obey God, not always perfectly of course, but still that choice was made.

N1706P22004CTrusting God pleases Him….so what angers God? Well from the Israelites experience of wandering 40 years in the desert and never being allowed to enter the Promised Land, I’d say it’s testing God – not believing He is powerful enough to do what He says and that He loves us enough to take good care of us as He promises. Our unbelieving hearts that are always going astray….this angers God. (Hebrews 3:10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’)

When we don’t chose to trust God and obey Him, we spiral downward in our pride and stubbornness, in arrogance that we know better. Our hearts become full of sin and hard as a rock toward God. We become unable to hear Him or see Him and if we persist in our sin and foolishness, God may eventually give us over to all the consequences of a life lived without Him. Sure, it may seem we won, we got our way. But really we may lose everything.

Thankfully God often still grabs our attention to bring us back to our senses enough to repent. But then what? Where do we go from there? We either obey God and prosper in His eyes or we don’t obey God and stray from Him again, and again.  I see where He could get really tired of fickle and often unfaithful hearts. I’m so thankful for God’s patience and mercy.

Let’s trust Him today. Wherever we are, easy or hard, straightforward or completely bizarre, joyful or heart-wrenchingly sad and painful, His way is the way to go. There really is no other way that leads to good things. 

Keep our hearts soft today, Lord. Help us trust you no matter what. Help us obey, quickly and humbly.

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His Still Small Voice

How much we notice the promptings of the Holy Spirit seems to go hand in hand with how much we obey God. God pricks our conscience with concern about an action, or regret, or guilt, and we have to decide how to proceed. Our society of course values “absolute freedom” to do as we please and makes fun of those who “feel bad” about their actions and thoughts.

While it’s true our consciences can be over-active, I’ve found it’s usually the Holy Spirit warning me I’m about to cross a boundary I shouldn’t or that I need to repent for what I’ve done. How I proceed determines how sensitive I am to God in the future.

Sometimes God just seems to be quiet and I have the chance to be faithful and trust He’s always there with me. But other times I find His promptings are nonexistent because I’ve increasingly ignored Him.

It’s like having a friend tap your arm to get your attention. The more layers of clothing you have on, the less you feel that tap. These “layers” are our disobedience and ignoring of God’s promptings.

I am very relieved that God is so patient and merciful. He’s the father waiting for the prodigal son to return, always watching, always there. It just takes one step toward Him and He gladly increases our sensitivity to Him. Just obey Him now, today, and off comes that thick outer coat you have on.

Our sensitivity to God is never something we can just take for granted though. The more we obey, the more sensitive He allows our hearts to become. Perhaps today it was the way you chewed out your coworker that made you “feel bad”. But next week it may be your rude tone toward that coworker that God convicts you about. And then perhaps you’ll next find He is encouraging you to be kind to that coworker. And maybe eventually He’ll soften your heart to want to actually befriend that person.

It seems wherever God has us, He will challenge us to become just a bit more like Jesus today. If we obey today, then the next step will be obvious tomorrow.

Yes, Dad. Right away, Dad.

17 This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 48:17-18 (NIV)

N0860470It is humbling to really understand that I do not know what is best for myself. It goes against everything the world teaches us and against all our prideful assumptions.

God is always our Father and we are always His children. This is a relationship we must be content to remain in forever. It isn’t like a human parent/child relationship. There isn’t a time we will be independent of God, or be friendly equals, or take care of Him in His old age. He is forever my all-knowing, perfect Father and I am always the child that needs to listen and obey and agree I don’t know best.

I think of all the things a good parent must lead his child through so he becomes a responsible, caring adult…how to eat well, manage time, stay in shape, be kind and compassionate, have good priorities, know his worth, on and on. All the, “No, you’re not going to do this,” or the “Yes, you do need to do that.”

How much the child’s attitude matters! How much grief is avoided if the child listens and obeys and doesn’t have to unlearn bad habits or learn the hard way why the rules exist. Growing up is hard and we do know so many varying end results – good and bad results physically, mentally, emotionally,  and spiritually. We are no different as God’s children.

Do we respect God?

Do we trust that He really is absolutely good, and knows best? And do our actions and beliefs match up? Do we say, “Yes, Lord” and immediately obey with a good attitude? Do we follow his rules and trust He knows best even when we would prefer our way and His way seems to make no sense to us at all? What about when He seems to add another chore to our list and no one else’s, and we want to complain about the unfairness of it all?

Are we learning to be obedient, respectful children that bring God glory? Or are we more concerned with our own ways and plans and therefore failing to obey him, disrespecting His name and character.

I love the end of these verses – that God will bring abundant peace and righteousness to our lives if we pay attention to His commands. That’s the kind of life I want. I want to skip the strife and fear and pain that come along with bad decisions and refusal to learn wisdom. So, I will ask God to help me be obedient and do so quickly with a good and trusting attitude. It’s not easy! I know that from experience. But I have yet to regret submitting to God in the long run, even if I just don’t get it at the time. He is so very good and His plans and wisdom will always be far above my understanding.

God’s Invitation

Will You Accept It?

rsvp“Come, all you who are thirsty,  come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” Isaiah 55:1-2b

The Christian life is one big invitation from God! Of course the biggest and best invitation we can accept is that of God’s salvation! But even after that, God continues to invite us daily to take that next step toward knowing Him better and loving Him more. He invites us into life abundant and free!

I think my parents’ generation took invitations and sticking with our RSVP decisions much more seriously than my generation does. We don’t like standing people up necessarily, but it’s not the taboo it used to be. It seems we can have that same wishy-washy approach with the Almighty God and His invitations to us as well.

I would say I’ve spent most of my life thanking God for His great invitation, responding, “yes I’ll be there” and then ditching Him and hoping He doesn’t notice. Why? Well for lots of reasons, like it’s hard to give Him control. It’s inconvenient to do things His way. His healing is great, but it usually will involve some sort of pain and I hate pain. So, these are true, but don’t have to stop me. But, some things are not true, like I worry that God will be ashamed of me or say, TOO LATE! Maybe He’ll be angry at my lack of progress all these years? Maybe God would be happier if I didn’t show up?

These wrong assumptions of God get in the way quite often I think. We run from Him because we know,  I shouldn’t doubt. I shouldn’t struggle with this or that addiction. I shouldn’t avoid people like the plague because of what happened to me in my past. “Shouldn’t“s really don’t matter. “What is” is what I need to focus on. And “what I want to become.”

God is so good! The changes He will make are ones we will love, if not at the moment, for sure later on. There’s nothing we can confess or admit or talk to Him about that He can’t help us with and help us find peace about. There’s no issue or obsession or hurt that will remain the same as it is tended to by the Master Physician. And Master Counselor. And Amazing Friend.

We have to get to the point that we daily accept God’s plan for this day, no matter what it is. Maybe we even take it one step further and give him free reign to do with us and lives whatever He wants….now that’s when life really becomes an adventure!

Walking with God can be challenging at times. True, it won’t always be easy, but it’s what we were created for! His plans for each of our lives are the best plans for us. Not easiest, not always most pain free, not always the most understandable. But always, absolutely always, the best. We can be transparent with who we are because, let’s face it, we already are transparent to Him. Being honest with God about what we may doubt or struggle with or wish we didn’t fear lifts a weight off of me and puts it on Him, as He desires.

How much of my time have I wasted pretending to be ok? It’s exhausting and leads to nothing good! It’s like refusing to get help for an infected wound. Or like insisting on driving 80 mph in terrible weather. Where that will probably lead is to further pain, injuries and really, possibly even death.

Let’s accept God’s invitation for us today, whatever that may be.

It’s different for each of us, of course. But it’s important that we say YES, LORD!  Is He going to bring healing to an old wound? Or is He pinpointing a bad attitude you never realized was there? Is He inviting you to learn more about His amazing grace? Or maybe He wants you to finally forgive someone that hurt you long ago?

Let’s take that time to sit in the presence of the Almighty and listen to Him, read His Word, ask Him for help. “What are you inviting me to learn or do today, Lord? I trust You. Nothing’s off limits.”

He will change us! He will convict us! He will tend to wounds that we are SO TIRED OF! The healing and peace and freedom He brings is beyond compare. Why would we wait one more day to say, Yes, Lord. Have Your way, Lord. Accept His invitation today and every day!

Walking With the Spirit

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.       Galatians 5:25

N1509P37009CI have been very interested in understanding what walking with the Spirit entails. Since God knows best where I should go, when, and how quickly, why not submit to Him instead of challenging Him?

Here are a few things I’ve learned so far…

1. Walking with the Spirit is not walking with an equal.

We submit to God and agree to stick with Him, no matter the path or timing or seeming confusion.

I think of a young child with his parent running errands. Usually the parent walks slowly for the child to keep up comfortably. But sometimes the parent rushes (for reasons unknown to the child) and he just plain needs to keep up! We opt to hold God’s hand and He is also holding ours. We like the security usually but here and there He holds tightly to keep us from running off in dangerous places or when He knows we don’t need another “gimmee session” in the toy store.

2. Walking with the Spirit requires trusting God.

He gets how all these crazy circumstances fit together to end up best. He has the best plan so we can stop planning and focus on obeying. It’s a challenge but it works so well. Why slow God down by constantly trying to pull Him other ways? Or by throwing fits? I hope to please God and be a pleasant and obedient child, not slowing things down and needing to be disciplined every few steps. It usually comes down to Him pointing to that next step and me taking it. When I obey, He reveals just a bit more. It’s probably smart He doesn’t give me the map, because I’d be tempted to go run off and do it all myself. 

3. Walking with the Spirit halts when I grieve Him.

We can’t trick God – He knows everything about us! But, if you’re like me, I sure have tried to do that frequently. Like a child sitting in “time out” with chocolate smeared all over his face, I can refuse to admit, “Yes, I took my brother’s candy.” I can beg and plead and cry, but in the end, the only way I’ll get out of the chair is to confess and make things right. 

When I think through my life, I’d say too much of it has been spent in that time out chair. I feel really bad about that now, but I can’t change the past. What I can change is my obedience now! God forgives and every day is fresh and new. I don’t want to keep Him waiting any more. I think of all the complaining I’ve done that God just “didn’t seem present”and how He seemed to “forget about me”. Well, yeah! I have been stuck many times, but it hasn’t been Him, it’s been me being stubborn! God’s wanting to move too, but it’s hard when we refuse to talk with Him about what is grieving Him! I pray I will be quick to repent and He will keep my heart soft towards Him from here on out!

There are so many wonderful places God wants to take us. Some are hard, but many are full of joy! The nice thing is, regardless of the places we are in, we always are with the absolutely best travel companion and friend ever!

Who Is This God?

I watched a great sermon on YouTube yesterday by Francis Chan, The Cost of Discipleship. I’d highly recommend it! He spoke about knowing who this God is we serve. Do we know Him? Or do we just latch onto one part of Him and leave it at that? Isn’t that what the world does? They only want God to be love, and not even real love. The world’s definition has more to do with God’s leniency- He should let me do what I want and never cause me pain. Isn’t that more the definition of indifference?

It’s true that no person will ever fully know God, even spending eternity with Him. But we can make it a point to know Him better, can’t we? If I have a million piece puzzle and I have 2 pieces, it’s impossible to know anything about the picture. But if I keep gathering pieces, won’t I have a better idea when I have 20 then 200 then 2000? Of course. Or if I moved to another country, although I may never speak as fluently as a native, wouldn’t I still do my best with that goal in mind?

As we get to know God better and understand Him more day by day, His complexities become clearer. I can get how God can be love and still have annihilated all but a few with a flood in Noah’s day. I can get how He tells us murder is a sin and yet in Numbers this morning, I read how He let 250 people get swallowed up into a crack in the earth for rebelling against Moses and Aaron.

All these puzzle pieces fit together to perfectly show this God who is love and holiness and justice and many other noble characteristics all at once. He is holy, extremely holy. He is very serious about our obedience or lack of it. He loves us more than we will ever understand AND He is perfectly just. He will be sure that every unjust thing is brought to justice. He knows what’s best for us and that can include times of suffering and pain. We try to hide our wounds but He lovingly tends to them, digging out debris, changing the bandages, even grafting skin and giving us transfusions when needed. We yell, stop it! Leave me alone! You are so mean! We don’t know Him very well.

Knowing God better helps me face life more realistically right now. When I want to do things my way, I can’t just focus on how kind and loving God is and not how holy and righteous He is too. That’s making up my own “god”. Or if I’m angry with someone, I can’t just focus then on God’s justice and holiness and forget His compassion and mercy.

In the end, we just need to realize how we view God and who He really is, is constantly changing and hopefully improving. He will point it out if we’re listening and He will help us know Him better. He is unchanging after all. I hope I can know Him a bit better today, place one more puzzle piece into the picture.

I try to remember on days I feel I really don’t understand God very well, that it’s God that initiated us being able to know Him at all. It’s God that is revealing Himself to us and softening our hearts to even hear Him. It’s God that has come up with our amazing world and everyone in it. And best of all, it’s God that figured out a way to save us from the eternity of wrath we all deserved. He is for us. He loves you and me more that we will ever know. Seeking to know Him better and love Him more should be our top priority in this life. He makes all the difference.

The Abundance of God

girlonmountainAs I think about God’s abundance today, two Old Testament stories come to mind, both involving Elisha the prophet in the book of 2 Kings. The first account is of a desperate widow that will soon lose even her sons in order to pay her debts. 

2 Kings 4:4  Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

 

We may feel we have nothing, and in our eyes, we don’t. But, God sees all sorts of possibilities with the little we have. It all hinges on our trust and obedience. What Elisha told the widow to do seemed odd really, silly. But she did what he said and therefore was part of a miracle, an unending jar of oil. I love how that oil didn’t stop flowing until they ran out of jars. God’s abundance is only limited by our low expectations and our lack of faith and obedience.

The second account takes place right before the prophet Elisha dies. The king of Judah, Joash, comes to Elisha unsure what the future will bring the divided country. Elisha instructed him to strike the ground with his arrows. Again, a strange request. But Joash obeyed and was blessed. He could have been blessed even more had he struck the ground a few more times. Just another reminder to do what God tells us to do whole-heartedly and with abandon!

II Kings 13: 14-19 Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow,” and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. 17 And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The Lord‘s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” 18 And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. 19 Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”

God cares about everything that happens to us. He loves every person and wants each of us to come to Him to be forgiven and saved from our sin. He sees us in our need and in our fear and wants to encourage and strengthen us. It doesn’t matter if we seem to have nothing, materially, or socially or inwardly. He does. And He is the giver of good gifts.

It takes faith though. We must believe in Him and be obedient to His commands. It may not make a lot of sense. Why collect jars from all over town? Why strike the ground with arrows? Why give that last bit of money to a needy person? Why give up your day to work on a friend’s house when your own house is a wreck? Why meet with that hurting friend when you don’t really have any answers? Why…

What God instructs doesn’t always make sense but we should all agree, He knows better than we do what needs to happen. Right? And most likely He will be blessing not only that needy person, but the one that chooses to obey Him as well.  God is a God of abundance and excess. He doesn’t do things halfway. And when we obey Him with that same whole-hearted abandon,  He gets the glory and amazing things happen.