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Posts tagged ‘obedience’

God’s Boundaries (for us)

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.

They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.” (Psalm 19:7-11 NLT)

 Walking with God means agreeing with his boundaries . . . and staying within them.

 In the Bible are many commandments and instructions.

They set boundaries for us.

We may respond to those boundaries in several negative ways. Surely that doesn’t apply to this situation. . . . It won’t hurt to step outside that line this once. . . . That just doesn’t seem fair. . . . I know God wants me to do it this way but I just don’t think I can. . . . I really don’t care. I want to do this.

Been there?

But walking with God means agreeing with him and all his commandments.   Agreeing means obeying.

Why so many boundaries? Just to see if we will obey?

The above scripture makes it clear that those boundaries are for our good. God set them out of love for us. Read back through the passage. His commands are perfect, trustworthy, right clear, true, fair, desirable, sweet, and a warning.

When we follow his commands our soul will be revived . . . we will gain wisdom . . . we will receive joy and insight for living. And we will receive a great reward.

He has even promised to help us obey.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 NLT)

Father, I thank you for the Bible. I thank you for the blessing and protection of your commands. Help me to obey. Help me to always agree with you . . . obey you . . . and walk with you. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Stepping into Freedom: A Christ-Centered Twelve-Step Program
by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

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“BUT”

SOURCE:  Tim Clinton/AACC

“You face your greatest opposition when you’re closest to your biggest miracle.” Bishop T. D. Jakes

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” G. K. Chesterton

Often, the most powerful, life-changing miracles seem to happen in the “buts” of life.

Consider the story of Naaman. 2 Kings 5:1 describes him with glowing accolades.

Commander of the army of the king of Syria.

A great man with his master.

High favor.

A mighty man of valor.

Then out of nowhere – life-altering words.

But…he was a leper.

Think about that. Leprosy. The most dreaded disease of his day. A visible outward malady that in reality defined who he was. Putrefying infected sores that in time caused loss of fingers, toes, nose. Everyone who came in contact with him saw the miserable condition he carried with him everywhere he went. There was no hiding it.

Many Christ followers understand this reality in their own journey. No doubt, many of you are living there right now.

You love God, and you really do believe that God loves you. You read the Word, pray, give your tithes and offerings, attend worship services, desiring to obey and walk in His Spirit.

But…

The doctor gave you terminal news.

But…

Your spouse left, and the hole in your heart grows deeper and wider by the hour.

But…

Your position at work was eliminated, as was your pay check, and you find yourself in the unemployment line.

But…

A son or a daughter rejected a lifetime of nurture and admonition and the relationship is strained, broken and seemingly destroyed.

“Buts” that now seem to define who you are. “Buts” that perhaps even cause you to question God and His plan, much less His goodness. “Buts” that understandably cause you to ask “Where are you God?”

Let’s look again at the well-known Bible story of Naaman. At the recommendation of a young slave girl, he travels to find the prophet Elisha. Elisha sends a servant out to instruct Naaman to go and wash seven times in the Jordan. Albeit reluctantly, and even with quite a bit of raging about how irrational the command is, he obeys.

I wonder how Naaman felt after he dunked himself the first time. No change. The second time. No change. Third time. No change. After number six, he might have been thinking that this was a horrible joke and a waste of time. The anger he had initially felt was returning. Someone was going to pay for this public act of embarrassment.

Have you been there? Faith…trust…obedience…and seemingly no change. You find yourself confused, distraught, and perhaps even a bit angry at God.

Then Naaman dipped the seventh time and “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” 2 Kings 5:14 ESV

He went back to the “man of God,” stood before him and declared, (now) “I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel…” 2 Kings 5:15  ESV

God was in the midst of his pain. Faithfully at work in the “but” of Naaman’s life. Steadfast in His in plan in Naaman’s journey, which ultimately brought Him glory.

And God is in the midst of your pain also. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t forsaken you. He is faithfully working in the plan of your life, and He will ultimately get glory by taking your storyand making it His story.

Don’t be defined by the “but” in your pilgrimage. Don’t give up. Keep believing that He is God, and that He is good.

Your miracle could be just one more “dip in the Jordan” away.

A miracle that will turn your life around.

Not Just Knowing What Is Right — Doing It!

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Family Life 

A. W. Tozer said, “The word of God was not given to us to make us intelligent sinners, but obedient and authentic saints.”

 Obey God 

Our lives are made up of choices—difficult forks in the road where we must decide to choose God’s way or to pursue our own. And as Moses said to the children of Israel, the choice is really not between right and wrong but between life and death (see Deuteronomy 30:15-16). The prophet Amos said it very succinctly: “Seek the LORD that you may live” (Amos 5:6). Truly, the only sure path to life is found in obedience to God and His Word.

So when you don’t feel like loving your spouse, obey God.
When you’re tempted to steal or to compromise your integrity, obey God.
When your boss asks you to do something you shouldn’t, obey God.
When your lusts and passions are telling you to give in, obey God.
When you’re suffering and feel like quitting, obey God.
When the easiest thing to do is nothing, obey God.
When you feel like being lazy, obey God.
Whatever choice you may be facing, obey God . . . and live!

Thomas Carlisle wrote, “Conviction, be it ever so excellent, is worthless until it converts itself into conduct.”

It is not enough just to know what’s right.

Ask God to give you the strength and conviction to be not just His children but also His obedient children.

Don’t Look Back

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“Abraham had faith and obeyed God. He was told to go to the land that God had said would be his, and he left for a country he had never seen. Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. He lived there in a tent, and so did Isaac and Jacob, who were later given the same promise. Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.” Hebrews 11:8-10 CEV

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

God called Abraham to leave everything that was familiar to him and enter a world of the unknown.

Abraham obeyed without hesitation.  He set out, leaving relatives and friends, leaving the security of his home, leaving his culture and religion . . .… and followed God.

And he didn’t look back.

Abraham could have spent his days complaining or grieving over all he had left behind. He could have rebelled against being taken out of his comfort zone. But he didn’t. Why? He believed God. He believed God’s promises. And he set his eyes on “the eternal city that God had planned and built.”

The apostle Paul knew God wasn’t finished with him yet. He had made many mistakes in the past, but he forgot the past and looked forward to what lay ahead, pressing on to the eternal prize. 

He didn’t look back.

Is God calling you out of your comfort zone? Or maybe you have already stepped out of your comfort zone but really want to do an “about face.”

In every situation we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. If we look back and dwell on what was, we can’t be effective in the here and now. We need to focus on what God is calling us to do today and press on to what he has promised us for tomorrow.

Father, help me to put the past behind and focus on what you want me to do today. Help me to be willing to step out of my comfort zone and not look back. In Jesus’ name . . . …

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Godly Heroes: A Small Group Study of Hebrews 11
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

“How can I know what Jesus wants me to do? If I knew – I would do it!”

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Tim Clinton/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Doing What He Says

Too often, the thought that echoes through the corridors of our minds is, “How can I know what Jesus wants me to do? If I knew – I would do it!”

You can know.

God has given us three wonderful gifts in this “following Christ” journey:

His Word.

The Psalmist declares that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 ESV) The Bible will clearly guide you as you “resolve” to do all that Jesus asks. Even Jesus, when faced with temptation, responded with “It is written…”

Spend some time in the gospels – in the “red letters” – the very words of Jesus. Soak in everything He spoke about grace…about forgiveness…about facing challenges…about a relationship with God the Father.

As those words take root in your heart and soul, resolve to follow His guidance, and whatever He says to you, do it.

Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit – our Helper – and promised that “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV) In chapter 16 Jesus added “He (Holy Spirit) will guide you into all the truth” (vs. 13).

Listen and hear what Jesus says to do through the whispers of His Spirit.

Other Believers.

The great Apostle Paul reminded the Philippians “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things…” (Philippians 4:9 ESV) Again in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul admonishes, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (ESV)

You are who you spend time with.

Each one of us need spiritual leaders and “coaches” in our lives from whom we hear and see and learn and receive guidance in doing what Jesus says.

10 Poor Excuses (about doing/not doing what God says)

SOURCE:  Susan Nikaido/Discipleship Journal

We’ve all done it—thought of reasons why doing the opposite of what we know God says is OK … this time.

Here are some common excuses for disobedience, and why they won’t fool the Father.

Excuses For Not Doing What God Tells You To Do

Excuse 1 “I’ll Do It Later.”

When God prompts you to do it now—tell a friend about Him, deal with a persistent sin, send an encouraging note, spend time with Him—telling Him “later” is the same as saying no. “Later” may be too late for the good that God intended when He urged you to act.

Excuse 2 “It’s Too Difficult—I Would Fail.”

Jeremiah tried this one. When God told him He was calling him as a prophet, Jeremiah replied, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child” (Jer. 1:6). God’s response to Jeremiah is His response to us: “Don’t make excuses; just obey. Don’t be afraid, because I will be with you in everything I ask you to do.”

Excuse 3 “I’m Too Busy Doing Important Things.”

What can be more important than what God is instructing you to do? Claiming, “I’m too busy” is putting your agenda ahead of God’s.

Excuses For Doing What God Says Not To Do

Excuse 4 “It Won’t Hurt Anything.”

God told the Israelites that His commands were “for your own good” (Dt. 10:13). Only He knows the chain of results our disobedience will set in motion. We need to trust His judgment, not our own.

Excuse 5 “No One Will Find Out.”

God will know. Every sin damages both our relationship with Him and our own conscience.

Excuse 6 “I’ll Do It Just This Once.”

God never said sin was OK if you only do it once. Besides, submitting to the flesh rather than to the Spirit strengthens the wrong forces in your life, making it more likely that you will do it again.

Excuse 7 “God Let Me Down.”

When we’re disappointed with our lives, we can begin to think, God didn’t come through for me, so why should I come through for Him? We may stop doing the things we know He wants us to do, and not worry too much about breaking His commandments.

God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5); He will always remain faithful to us (2 Tim. 2:13); and His plan for us is for our good (Jer. 29: 11). We need to acknowledge that our perspective is limited and that our painful circumstances and unanswered prayers are part of a larger, grander plan. Learning to trust His Word when it contradicts our perceptions, feelings, and experiences can keep us from excusing our disobedience by blaming Him.

Excuse 8 “I Deserve A Break/Reward.”

When we’ve been working hard on the job or in ministry, it can be tempting to justify taking something that’s not rightfully ours—whether it’s money, goods, or time that belongs to our employer but is spent on personal projects. Or, we blow off something God prompts us to do because we’ve “paid our dues.”

In 2 Kings 5, the prophet Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, figured he was entitled to a little reward for ministry. His master had turned down a gift from a wealthy warrior, but Gehazi returned, behind Elisha’s back, and requested a few “perks” from the man. God struck Gehazi with leprosy.

God never “rewards” obedience by allowing disobedience.

Excuse 9 “At Least I’m Not As Bad As _____.”

Sometimes we try to make ourselves feel better about our sin by comparing it to someone else’s. “I may flirt with my secretary, but at least I’m not sleeping with her.” “I may ‘fudge’ a little on my taxes, but I would never embezzle money.”

Jesus tells the story of a Pharisee who compared himself to others. The religious man prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers.” Yet Jesus commended instead the tax collector who prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Lk. 18:9, 14). Repentance is the only attitude toward sin that God accepts.

Excuse 10 “Everyone Else Is Doing It.”

It’s tempting to violate our consciences, to give in a little on our convictions, when we see others doing things we feel uneasy about. It’s especially tempting when “others” are believers we respect. Yet what is right and wrong is never determined by popular vote—”It is the Lord who judges” (1 Cor. 4:4). We must listen to the inner voices that tell us what is right and wrong, not the outer ones.

Warding Off Worry

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Stacey Padrick

Learn to trust God when anxiety strikes.

“If you ever get caught in an avalanche, dig up!” Mom instructed me whenever I went skiing with my friends.

If I was packing my beach bag for a trip to the ocean, she would remind me, “If you get caught in a riptide, swim parallel to the shore!”

And when I went hiking, it was always, “If you see a mountain lion, wave your arms up and down so you look bigger than you are!”

Whether it was winter, spring, summer, or fall, whether my destination was the mall or the mountains, Mom—with her caring heart—worried about the worst possible thing that could happen to me.

In my family, worry was often an automatic response to whatever we faced—whether it was a new noise in the car engine or what we would serve our guests for dinner. Thus, I had always excused my own tendency to worry as hereditary. What could I do about my genes?

Nature, Nurture, or Sin?

Though I had always accepted my anxiety as a natural part of my makeup, God’s Word challenged me to see that worry has no place in the lives of His children. “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6). “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). “Do not fret” (Psalm 37:8). “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:25, 31, 34).

I began to see that God does not merely suggest we should not worry; He commands it. But are we as vigilant about not worrying as we are about other things He commands us not to do, such as stealing, getting drunk, or committing adultery? Though I wanted to justify worry as an issue of temperament, Scripture is clear that it’s an issue of obedience. Failure to obey His explicit commands is sin.

Calling worry a sin may sound harsh, but it actually brings great freedom. I no longer see my anxiety as a hereditary trait I cannot control. Rather, I see it as a sin I can choose to resist. Because sin does not have mastery over me (Romans 6:14), I can be set free from slavery to worry.

No Smoke without a Fire

Because my mind so easily gravitates toward worry, I’m not always aware when it begins to take over. A tense back and racing thoughts clearly indicate anxiety, but other signs are more subtle. A lack of joy and lightheartedness, impatience with myself and others, taking myself too seriously, forgetting to thank God for His blessings, difficulty praising Him—all of these signs point to the presence of smoldering coals of worry in my heart. Like a smoke detector warning of impending danger, they alert me to the asphyxiating smoke of worry.

Rather than trying to extinguish the individual fires of worry that encircle us, we must identify the source of the flame. Anxiety is most often sparked by unbelief or doubt in God’s character. When we worry, we’ve unthinkingly questioned His wisdom (that He knows what is best), His love and goodness (that He cares for us and wants what is best), and His sovereignty (that He is able to do what is best).

Worry reveals not only our distrustful thoughts about God but also an unrealistic view of ourselves: that we are ultimately in control; that we are responsible for other people’s happiness (our spouse, children, parents, boss, friends); that we can determine better than God what we or others need.

One morning as I fretted about an important decision in my life, I took a walk to clear my head and talk with God. Across a park lawn, I saw a beautiful golden retriever frolicking alongside his loving master. Oh, I mused, to be as carefree as that dog, to play and run freely, knowing that your master will provide for all your needs.

Even as I thought this, my words convicted me. I sensed God’s gentle voice respond to my heart. “Oh, My precious child, do you not know that I am your faithful Master? Don’t you believe that I care for you more than any earthly master could ever care for his dog? That you, too, can run free of worry? I am thegood Master. Trust in Me.”

Then I recalled a cowering stray dog a friend of mine had found. Even after she adopted it, the dog trembled each time someone reached to pet it. My friend believes the dog was probably abused by its former owner. Likewise, when I allow my heart to tremble in anxiety, what am I telling others about my Master? Most likely I’m communicating that He is uncaring and unfaithful.

Not only is God my Master, but He’s my heavenly Father as well. How much more than a good master does a loving father care for his precious children?

Matthew records Jesus saying:

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

—Matthew 7:9–11

Just as a child’s carefree spirit is a testimony of caring parents, so a joyful, trusting attitude testifies to our loving Father.

Extinguishing Anxiety

God wants us to experience release from the grip of worry. He longs for us to rest in His wonderful care for us (Matthew 11:28–30). Here are some ways to douse the fire of worry and stoke the flame of trust.

Take stock of your thought life. Our feelings are often the fruit of the thoughts we sow. If you’re anxious, review what you’ve been thinking about. What thoughts have you been listening to? What have you believed about your circumstances and God’s ability to meet your needs?

When I was unexpectedly diagnosed with an illness, a wave of worries flooded my mind. What about all the plans I had? How could I ever support myself with these health limitations? What about my dreams for my future? My anxiety revealed my belief that this illness had somehow slipped by God’s watchful eye.

But the Father’s still, small voice addressed my fears, reminding me of His perspective: “Yes, this illness does change your plans, but not Mine. It in no way changes My will for you.” Though my health had changed, God’s sovereignty over my life had not.

Focus on the truth. After we’ve identified any distorted beliefs, we must respond to them by looking intently at the truth of Scripture. We’re engaged in a battle against a very crafty spiritual enemy who continually attempts to saturate our minds with doubts about the Father’s character. Satan knows worry distracts us from what God has for us, so he drives us to work things out our way and steals our joy in the Father. We must use the armor of God—especially the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit (Ephes. 6:13–17)—to cut through the web of lies that can entangle our souls.

James wrote, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Repent of surrendering to worry, submit your mind to God, and resist any spirit of anxiety. Ask God to protect you from worry, to guard your heart and mind with His peace (Phil. 4:7). In faith, claim this promise Paul gave his youthful protégé Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).

I have also found it helpful to “act in the opposite spirit” when anxiety threatens to overwhelm me. For example, if worry drives me to hurry, then I purposely slow down. If worry tempts me to complain, then I intentionally thank God for what He is doing.

When I was looking for an apartment in the tight San Francisco housing market, I gave in to complaining and fretting after weeks of viewing undersized, overpriced units. Recognizing my doubt, I started thanking God for the place He was preparing for me in His perfect timing. I now write from a wonderful home He handpicked for me.

Practice Scripture meditation. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Keeping our mind steadfastly fixed upon God is critical when we’re tempted to worry. Meditate upon the passages of Scripture that describe God’s character: His loving-kindness, power, faithfulness, goodness. Meditate also upon verses about peace and rest.

Picture yourself putting your worries in a little gift box (or a big box, in my case!), tying it with a bow, and presenting it to God at the foot of the cross, an offering of faith to Him. Let these words of Jesus settle into your soul: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

No matter how unceasingly worries may assail you, choose to listen to His Spirit of peace and not to a spirit of anxiety. Think of worry as a ringing phone—and don’t answer it. Allowing peace to rule instead of fear is a daily, sometimes hourly, choice we must make.

Dwell on what you know. Most worries revolve around dwelling on what we don’t know: “How will I have enough money to pay for car repairs? What will I do if I’m laid off? How will I find an affordable house in such a tight market?” Instead of fixating on anxiety-producing unknowns, we can use the same energy to focus on what we do know: “God will meet all [my] needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). “God is . . .[my] ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me” (Psalm 138:8). “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted [including all that I deem precious] to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

After the man I dated for four years ended our relationship, my mind whirled with fears of the unknown. I had to stop and remind myself what I knew about God.

Though I do not know if we will ever be reunited, though I do not know if I will ever be married, I do know that God is good. I do know that He is faithful. He knows the desires of my heart, and I know His plans are to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Cast your cares on God. David wrote, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22). Recently, when I faced a problem that tempted me to worry, an image flashed into my mind. I pictured myself sitting on one side of a perfectly balanced seesaw. As a load of worry came my way, I could receive it, allowing it to pin me to the ground. Or I could cast it on God, who sits on the other end of the seesaw. As I chose the latter, God took upon Himself the weight of my worry, and I was lifted up.

As I rest in my Father’s tender love for me, I can more readily cast my cares upon Him. If He is gracious and compassionate toward His children, if He knows when even a sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29), if His thoughts of me are as numerous as the grains of sand (Psalm 139:17–18), surely He cares for my concerns even more than I do! When I reflect upon how perfectly He loves me, His perfect love casts out my fears (1 John 4:18).

God wants us to live free of worry. He liberates us from worry as we entrust control to Him, consider His character, and choose to cast our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7).

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way” (2 Thes. 3:16).

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