focusing on obedience to God

Category : God, Jesus, bible, faith, taking action

Things are rushing these days.  I’m trying to juggle a new job, volunteering opportunities at my local church, writing opportunities (both for R3 and a book I’m working on), and most importantly a wedding.  Yes, that’s right; I got engaged over the holidays.

Which brings me to obedience.

Because so much is going on I need to streamline my life.  I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions.  But I wanted to try something new.  (Although I’m still not doing a New Year’s Resolution!)  I think God has a lot of things he’d like me accomplish, and to do that, I need to be organized.

So I’ve decided to identify four words that will define my 2010.  The first three revolve around productivity / work / scheduling / time.  But the fourth one, the most important one, is all about faith.

And, in case you haven’t guessed already, that word is obedience.

I want 2010 to be fully focused on God.  I want to be obedient in an intentional way I haven’t been before.  Sure I’ve been thinking about this word for a while now.  As you can see from the R3 post called the miracle of obedience.  I’ve even given talks focusing on what it means to be obedient.  But I’ve never tried to fully live it out, consistently, in all things.

That’s scary just saying that out loud!  Truth be told, I like my rebellion.  But all things must come to an end.

Which brings us to Mary…

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

This is the only time in the entire Bible Mary gives a command.  (thanks to Erwin McManus for pointing that out).  Locally she’s speaking to the servants at the party.  But it applies directly to us too.   As I wrote a few days ago, the servants didn’t question what Jesus was doing (something that surely was crazy), they just did it.  They filled up giant containers of water that must have weighed hundreds of pounds (which was a lot of work without forklifts or running water.)

Through their obedience Jesus performed his first miracle.

Which makes me wonder, what miracles will he perform through my obedience?  What about yours?

what is my mission?

Category : living a life of faith, mission, taking action

……….

One of the areas we, as believers, can get hung up is on our mission.  For some reason we think that we can’t act until God comes down in a beam of light or burning bush and directly tells us what to do.  To put it bluntly: that’s a load of crap.

I told you it would be blunt.

The Bible gives us more than enough stuff to work on.  At the very least your “mission” is to fulfill Jesus’ words “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19).

This is even called “The Great Commission.”

Of course that can look like a lot of different things.  God is a creative guy, you can be creative too.  What matters is that you’re being obedient to God.  And while I don’t know what your specific mission may be.  I do know that if God wants you to do something specific he will let you know.  That’s part of what happens when we are obedient – God has an easier time giving us specific instructions.

Perhaps, though, you will never have  a specific mission.  That’s okay.  This isn’t some kind of competition.  You aren’t less of a believer just because you haven’t seen a burning bush.  Living out a life of faith is about being active.  Not sitting back waiting for your “moment” to come.  Even if you are never given anything specifically, you can still live out a life of faith.

So go.  Act.  Do something.

guest post: benefits of a clean room

Category : God, different, sharing faith

 

For the last week R3 has been focusing on the theme of obedience, and the sometimes surprising results that can sometimes bring. 

1.  Does God want you to clean your room?

2.  God of the mundane

3.  Prayer Thursday: obedience

4.  Holding on too tight

I tend to think of obedience having the same meaning as “no fun” or “getting in trouble.”  But sometimes obedience is simply setting the rules so that we can have fun.  How much fun would football be if there were no rules?  Not much.

Well these topics spawned a conversation between myself and Chris (got-fruit.net).  He sent me an email about obedience and cleaning your room.  Apparently God asks more people to clean their room than I ever imagined!  In any event, I thought this would be a perfect wrap-up to last week.  So I asked if I could repost the whole thing: 

About 3 years ago I had a similar experience; maybe it has something to do with being an apartment dwelling bachelor huh?

Seriously, the situation you described sounds very similar. I’m no neat freak, but I usually keep things around the apartment in decent order. Over a period of a few months though, I got lazy. I let bills pile up in a stack on the kitchen counter, and in my office/bedroom there were piles of notes here, miscellaneous PC parts, pens, notepads, more bills, CD-roms, etc; all out of their proper place. I’d use something then not promptly put it back from where I got it, so stuff piled up.

Finally one day it became obvious that I had a small recreation of the junkyard from Sanford & Son in my bedroom. I guess what became bothersome for me at that point is that I usually read or study in my bedroom as well, and having the chaos around was distracting.

As you described, one day God just spoke to me. “Dude, clean your room.” (OK, He didn’t really say “dude”.) So, I obeyed. Afterward, I felt better about things as well, some order had been regained. What I found out shortly after the cleaning episode however was that God seemed to still be talking to me about cleaning up, but it wasn’t in the sense of cleaning up physically. His point seemed to be that I needed to “clean” out the clutter in my life as well, to address a spiritual issue.

The clutter was the activities and distractions that prevented me from digging deeper & more consistently into His Word, as well as the excuses I’d use to not fellowship or serve. I believe that God merely used the distraction of physically cleaning as a metaphor to prepare my heart,eyes and mind for His true concern, my spiritual condition at that time.

I’m always struck how God redeems things in our lives.  Nothing goes to waste.  Yet we sit around refusing to act, refusing to believe, refusing to do much of anything.  As Chris’s story shows, you never know when God’s going to use something ordinary to teach you something extrordinary.

holding on too tight

Category : God, taking action

 

Thanks to God, I’ve been doing some spring cleaning.   

Not just your typical cleaning.  This is a massive cleaning that involves moving significant amount of things out of closets.  Places where boxes have lived for 8 years now.  As with anything that sits in one spot too long stuff gets piled on top of it.  You throw something in the closet shelf and say, “oh I’ll get to that later.”

Yeah right.

But now is the time to get things done.  So I’ve been going through a lot of stuff I put into the closet right after I got out of graduate school.  Things I’ve completely forgotten about.  Dreams I forgot I had.  Memories I tried to forget, but couldn’t.  My goal in cleaning has been to simplify my life and get as much clutter out of it as possible.  I don’t want “things” to be in the way of my relationship with God.  And all too often I let stuff do that. 

But today I found it very hard to throw things away.  An old phone.  A pile of notes from Grad school.  Even a few old magazines. 

I couldn’t figure out why this bothered me so much at first.  But then I realized – these things represent dreams and hopes I had that will never come to pass.  I will never be able to relive those moments, never be able to save those relationships.  I can’t go back. 

I’m not very sentimental, but this really struck me.  I feel it at the pit of my stomach as I type this.  I don’t want to let go of those things.  I want to hold onto those dreams, even if they aren’t my dreams today.  In fact that life has absolutely nothing to do with my life now.  When I was in grad school I didn’t believe in God, at least not in a God who mattered. 

Now my life is bent towards his. 

To be honest I don’t want to go back to that time.  I don’t want those dreams.  I’ve moved on to better things in many cases.  So why is it so hard to let go?  Why does the human spirit latch onto the things that hurt our relationship with God?

We are a fallen people.  No matter what we do, on our own it’s not enough.  Sometimes it takes memories of the past to remind us just how far God carries us.  It’s funny these are the lessons I am learning from God’s strange request to clean my room.  God redeems everything – even a messy closet.

does God want you to clean your room?

4

Category : God, faith, taking action, trust

 

Cleaning and God.  You’re probably wondering what those two things have in common, aren’t you? 

Well to be honest so was I.  At least at first.  But it all clicked a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  Or maybe that was Star Wars?   I think in my case it all started with a problem and a simple conversation with God.  That’s much, much closer and not that long ago.  Last week really.  But I digress.   

When I have a problem I like to talk it over with God.  I’ll talk to God about pretty much everything in my life.  I don’t care if it’s a big thing, like what to do about my job search, or something really important, like where to go for dinner.  I like to hear what God might have to say.    

This case was no different.  I was struggling with a creative / technical issue involving a new project I’ve started.  And I wasn’t having any luck coming to a solution  Especially working at my desk.  So I did what any good ADD-prone person does; I started to clean. 

I figured while I was cleaning I could ask God what he thought about my problem.  I bounced a few ideas off of him.  And then waited.  Nothing.  

“Just great” I thought.  “Not only is my apartment a disaster, but now I’m not getting any feedback from the Big Guy.”

I stood there looking at my apartment, quickly losing the desire to even try to clean the mess.  When I heard God say something.  Now it wasn’t audible or anything.  I didn’t see a burning bush (or a burning can of Pledge).  But the part of me that’s “wakes up” when God is speaking could hear something. 

“Don’t stop cleaning” God whispered.

“What?”  I thought.  “Why does God care if I’m cleaning?!”

To which I heard, “just be obedient.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s not really my favorite phrase.  But I started cleaning again.  The whole time I kept mulling over my problem with God.  I kept asking him questions, and kept getting silence.  In all honesty there was part of me getting frustrated. 

What I didn’t realize was that I had lost track of time.  So when I took a step back and looked up I was shocked to see that what once seemed like an insurmountable problem (seriously, you should have seen the mess) and uncertainty (where am I going to put it all) was replaced with a voice that said, “sometimes all you need to do is be obedient and the problems work themselves out.”

I never would have guessed that God would have used cleaning to teach me more about him.  And while my original problem didn’t get solved, I am encouraged.  Because I know that as long as I keep working, as long as I focus on obedience instead of the “what if’s?” I’ll be okay. 

It’s easy to get entangled in the “what if’s?”  We all do it.  It’s the spiritual equivalent of quicksand: the more we struggle against them, the faster we sink.  Sometimes the best thing we can do is relax, be obedient, and wait for someone to throw us a branch. 

Who would have thought all of that would have come from just being obedient?

taking God for granted

1

Category : God, choice, faith, hope

  

There’s a moment I love when you first get over a cold.  You have enthusiasm, energy, excitement.  You’re just happy to be able to breath.  You walk around appreciating that you can do it pain free.  And the fact that you can smell dirty laundry makes you happy.  Or is that just me?

But after a few hours, a few days, that changes.  We begin to take everything for granted.  We forget what it was like to be miserable.  We can’t remember how much it hurt just to talk or move.  We tell ourselves, “it wasn’t really that bad…” 

For many of us, that’s how our relationships work with God. 

He comes in, does something amazing and within a few days, a few hours, we’re back to our “normal” selves.  We forget the miracles.  We forget how he changes our lives.  We even forget that he was the cause for it all.  We find ourselves back into our old habits as if we never experienced something amazing.

Most people who believe in God have have experienced this.  As humans we seem to easily forget who helped us, and attribute it to our own efforts.  Maybe there isn’t any way to stop it.  Maybe it’s just part of our fallen nature.  Maybe when Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we gained an understanding of evil, but lost the better parts of our memory. 

To be honest, I don’t know why we do this.  I can just make guesses.  And I don’t know how to stop it.  But I do know I don’t want to lose my sense of gratitude.  I don’t want to re-learn lessons that took suffering to learn in the first place.  I want my mind to latch onto God and never let go.  I never want to take him for granted.  Yet why is it so easy to forget?  How do we keep that sense of gratitude?

Maybe that’s just part of the struggle.  Maybe the only thing we can do is to wake up every morning and say, “today I am going to remember.”  Maybe what God wants most is that we give it everything we have, and if we fail, that’s ok, he’s there to pick up the slack.  Maybe living out a life of faith is more about honestly trying than succeeding.

And maybe it’s through that struggle that we’re changed, allowing us to remember what God has done for us.

prayer thursday: courage

2

Category : God, Matthew, fear, prayer thursday, taking action

  

Being a Christian means stepping into dangerous situations.  We’re called to care for the sick and needy, and to comfort the hurting.  Unfortunately this doesn’t always come with a hall pass.  Which means, sometimes Christians end up facing hardship, persecution, and death.  But that doesn’t mean we can give up.  In fact, the more we stick to it in the face of danger, the more we show people the power of Christ.

Courage

God – I’m a coward.  I know it.  You know it.  Help me to step into the places you call me to, despite the danger.  Don’t let my fear be the reason the Kingdom doesn’t advance.  Help me to remember that the harder the task, the more I need to rely on you.  And maybe, just maybe, that’s the point.

<comments are open, feel free to add your own prayer for courage>

obedience

Category : Daniel, God, faith, taking action

 

I have to admit, I didn’t expect to come back to the topic of obedience so quickly after prayer thursday. But sometimes God has a way of emphasizing a point.

Right after I finished writing that post I went to the gym and turned on my ipod to catch up on some Ravi Zacharias podcasts. Much to my surprise the topic on deck was Daniel’s life – specifically how he was able to stay obedient to God while virtually everyone around him was giving up God in favor of Babylonian ideals.

Ravi laid out three keys to Daniel’s success.

1. Resistence – Daniel knew where to draw the line. He recognized that there are some things we simply can’t do. Once we cross that line, it’s hard to get back.

2. Dependence – Daniel acknowledged that it was God who allowed him to act. He knew where knowledge, intellect, reason ended, and where faith and trust in God come into play. Because of this he was able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and save not only his life, but other’s as well.

3. Confidence – Daniel believed that God is who he says, and does what he promises. And that God alone would be his judge.

When I think about obedience in my own life I realize how often I fail at all three of these steps. But what strikes me is how often I fail at the first one. I often push the limits. I want to see just how close I can get to something without sinning. Isn’t that setting myself up for failure? Isn’t that asking to be disobedient?

Maybe I need to take a lesson from Daniel, and make an effort to not cross that line in the first place. Then, maybe it won’t be so hard to obey.

prayer thursday: obedience

1

Category : God, faith, fear, prayer, prayer thursday

 

God wants us to be in a relationship with him, and it’s difficult to do that if you don’t spend any time talking to him.  That’s where prayer comes in.  It’s simply a conversation between you and God.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or formal.  In fact, usually the most important prayers come when we’re just speaking from our hearts, not worrying about finding the “right words.”

On prayer thursday everyone is invited to add their own prayer, or prayer requests in the comments section.  This week’s topic: obedience.

Obedience

God – Sometimes we hear you telling us to do something and we ignore you.  Sometimes we ignore you because we’re afraid.  Other times it’s because we “know better.”  But lets face it, we really don’t.  We just want to be the ones in charge.  We’re stubborn.

Help me to overcome my own selfishness, and stubbornness.  Help me to resist the temptation to do it “my way.”  But most of all, help me follow you, even when it feels too big or too overwhelming.  Help me be obedient when I think I can’t.

 <comments are open>