Praying for the "O" word

Obedience isn't something we usually talk about, unless referring to children or pets.  It seems to be cast into that "no longer necessary" pile once we cross that invisible line between childhood and adulthood.  Sure, we might "listen" to our boss, or "follow" instructions....but obey someone?  Nope.  I'm a grown up now and I don't have to!

We are dropping the word from marriage vows (remember when we promised to love, honor and obey?), dropping it from our parenting responsibilities (how many children have you seen in the store deliberately disobeying their parent(s)?) and even dropping it from our relationship with God.  The "O" word is becoming one of those dirty little words that nobody wants to talk about, much less do.

Why is obedience so important?  Without a chain of command there is chaos. The parent, who is supposed to be in authority, places their child in a position of uncertainty and even danger by not expecting obedience from the child.  An employee that refuses to obey the employer does nothing to strengthen the business, rather their actions bring harm to the whole.  And a servant of Christ that doesn't obey Him demonstrates his or her lack of love for Him.  Don't believe me?  Read John 14:15.

It goes against our flesh nature to put ourselves under the authority of another.  It is the aspect of ourselves that Satan has exploited since the garden when he enticed Eve to disobey God. (Genesis 3:1-4)  And yet obedience is one of the ways God tells us demonstrate our love for Him (John 14:15).  The Bible is full of stories revolving around obedience and disobedience.  (Jonah, Samuel, Saul (both Old and New Testament))  Paul instructed Titus to, "Remind (the people of Crete) to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work..." (Titus 3:1)  Obedience is an important aspect of a real, true relationship with Christ.

I encourage you to take the time to study God's word.  It is impossible to obey if you don't know the instructions.  Ask God to reveal the area of your life that you most need to submit to His authority.  Then pray for the Spirit to guide you in your obedience.  I promise you that He has your best interest at heart and while it may at times be hard to deny yourself the reward will be worth it once all is said and done.

God Said...

God’s Word has awesome power! He spoke the Universe into existence. (Genesis 1; John 1:4; Hebrews 11:3) Ponder that for a moment. God didn’t ‘do’, God ‘said’; He didn’t lift a finger, wave His hand or even blink His eyes; the world was created because He said for it to ‘be’. Can you imagine what kind of power that is? He didn’t have to say it twice, either. Once, and done; literally. Funny how His Words were obeyed, until man came into the picture. Then man questioned and disobeyed. Who did ‘we’ think ‘we’ were to ignore what God said?

Who do we think we are now? How many times do you feel God speaking to you and you just brush it aside? Or question it? Or blatantly disobey it? Have you struggled with an idea or command God’s given you, wondering if He really meant what He said? Do you have difficulty in finding time to read your Bible? Do you doubt the promises He makes in Scripture?

What is it about His Word that we have such a hard time with? If we really think about it, it’s not His Word we have issues with, it’s us. We just don’t have faith that He Is Who He says He Is. It is by faith that we understand what He spoke into existence; it’s by faith we have to honor the words in Scripture; it’s by faith that we have to trust the path He’s put us on… It is by faith that we believe. (John 20:29, 1 Peter 1:8) It is by faith that we are saved. (Ephesians 2:8)

We need to understand that God speaks; continually. He spoke the world into existence, He spoke to His authors of the Bible. And He speaks to you. The question is: Do you hear Him? (Are you even listening?) Everything He has said (and hence had written) is true. Everything He has yet to say is true. His Word never fails because His Word withstands time. (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25) And if our faith doesn’t; neither will we. (John 3:15-16; Romans 4:16; Romans 3:22; Ephesians 1:13; Philippians 3:9; 1 Timothy 6:12)

The Good Shepherd

I am not a country girl.  My father was a Navy man and I spent my younger years moving from city to city, always near an east coast port, and never anywhere near the country.  I never saw animals roaming in a field and the closest I have ever come to seeing a shepherd lead was during an exhibition at Bob Evans Farms.  To say that the comparison of God to a shepherd was lost on me is an understatement.  And yet David gave the name Jehovah Rohi to Him (Psalm 23), Isaiah tells us that the Jesus will care for us like shepherd (Isaiah 40:11), and even Jesus gives Himself the title of shepherd (John 10:11).  So what's so great about a shepherd?

In the first century, it wasn't.  Plain and simple -to be a shepherd was the lowest of the low.  They spent their lives in the fields with the sole purpose of tending their flocks.  They spent their days in the dirt, hot and sweaty and their nights either sleeping in the field or in a tent.  Their testimony was not admissible in a court, Pharisees considered them unclean, and they were often thought to be thieves (even if there was no proof).  Seriously?  Jesus called Himself one of these?

And then you delve a little deeper....and you see the beauty in the title.  A shepherd devoted his life to his flock.  He didn't abandon them, he never left them, he was there from the moment a lamb was conceived until their death.  He ate with his herd.  He slept among his heard.  He protected his herd.   Isn't that just like our God?  To take as His name what so many look down upon and turn it around and show the beauty in it?

You see, Jesus isn't about the crown.  He never set Himself up as better than anyone else.  Instead he devoted His ministry on earth to reaching out to those who needed Him most - the broken, the lost, the sinners, the lowest of the low.  He emphasized that they way to greatness was to live as the least.  (Luke 9:48,  Matthew 23:11)  His entire ministry was about service to others.  Isn't that what a shepherd does?  Serve his flock?

When we begin to understand the love and sacrifice involved in the title of Good Shepherd we lose the cute and cuddly image of a young boy standing in the field with a staff watching a peaceful flock of sheep.  Instead we see the scratched, bleeding man standing between the lion that seeks to devour his beloved flock and us.  We see the strength needed to put the needs of others, the safety of others, before His own.  We better understand the man on his knees in Gethsemene beseeching his Father to reveal another way to accomplish the task of salvation and then humbling submitting.  (Luke 22:41-44)  The One who stands before our enemy to protect us is the same that comforts, guides and loves us.  The Good Shepherd is a strong warrior with a gentle heart.  He is the one unwilling to let even one perish without every effort.(Matthew 18:12)

Am I a sheep?  You bet I am!  I seek to know His voice and I will follow Him where he leads, trusting Him all the way.  How about you?

Resolution Solution

So—it’s a New Year and a new you? Seems like everyone starts the new year with resolutions about how they’re going to better themselves—diet, exercise, volunteer work, etc.—and many Christians make the ‘pledge’ to read through their Bible in a year; and that’s great, but what is your purpose? Reading the Bible should be on your list of ‘to do’s’ whether you do resolutions or not; but you shouldn’t just be reading through it, or even ‘just’ studying it; learning more with each reread, and you should be sharing it with others. We must continue to study in order to continue to grow. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

The Bible clearly states that we should be teaching others the Good News. (Matthew 28:19-20, 2 Timothy 1:6, Titus 1:9, Hebrews 5:12, 1 Peter 4:10) But so many of us don’t. We may witness to others, or share our testimony—and that’s wonderful—but we don’t actively teach the Gospel. We busy ourselves with us. We need to learn more, we need to focus more, we need to… But it’s not about ‘we’ [us], it’s about them. Why do we keep studying the same Scripture we can already quote? We remain immature in our studies, and consequently, our faith. We’re too comfortable where we’re at to push ourselves further, by teaching others. What good is the knowledge we’ve gained if we’re not 1) using it in our lives by a) living our lives according to Scripture b) understanding it to 2) teach others?

We know the basics—faith, salvation, eternal life. We need to be sharing these basics with new Christians, and non-Christians. As we share these basics, in turn, we will grow and understand more ourselves (undoubtedly questions from our ‘students’ will cause us to dive deeper into these basics and teach us something new). In order for us to continue our growth, we must move beyond these basic teachings (and just rereading the Bible yearly) to a more complete understanding of what the Bible says. (Hebrews 6:1-3).

Sharing with new Christians what you already know, and even introducing non-believers to this awareness, also helps teach and remind us of what we have already learned; putting into practice what we’ve studied. (Philippians 4:9) Hebrews 5:12-14 makes the comparison of infants that need milk, versus those that are ‘more mature’ and can eat solid food. We’ll never reach full nourishment in Christ if we continue to only consume milk; we’ve got to move on to more solid sustenance of what is in Scripture. (Note that we shouldn’t cut out the ‘milk’ once we move on, but incorporate it into our new rĂ©gime; this is the way to stay fully sustained.) (Deuteronomy 11:18-23)

So—again—it’s a New Year and a new you! Resolutions or not, make a personal pledge to stop studying ‘just’ the basics of the Bible, and to dive in further and share your knowledge. Open yourself up to growing, developing and maturing in your faith. Most typical resolutions are self-involved, and while improving upon oneself is great, Christians are called to be people-involved: Love God, Love Others. We shouldn’t be focusing on ourselves so much, as we should be focusing on God’s children. It’s amazing when we do take the focus off of ourselves, how much more benefit we reap, than when we only tend to our own living. (Hebrews 6:7-8)

Some times you've got to look back....

Happy New Year dear readers!  I, for one, am glad to see 2015 end and I look forward to what God has in store for 2016.  Normally I am not one for looking backwards.  What's done is done and there isn't anything that can change it.  But sometimes......... sometimes you've just got to look back.

Paul recognized this need.  In Philippians chapter 4 he spends several verses advising the readers to  find joy in everything, and to focus on the good.  (Philippians 4:4-8)  These are wonderful verses and would obviously be a blessing to anyone who implemented them.  But Paul seemed to know that even with the best of intentions people stumble.  And sometimes when we stumble things begin to look bleak.

In verses 10-18 Paul reminds the people of Philippi of the times that he faced hardship, that he "knows what it is to be in need".  When no other church supported him, the Philippians did.  When he was in Thessalonica they repeatedly sent him gifts to assist him.  God used them to provide for Paul.  Paul isn't trying to build them up, but to make it personal.  He is trying to help them see the part they played in God's provision for Paul so that they will connect with the next sentence.   This sentence:
And my God will supply every need of yours
according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

~Philippians 4:19
emphasis mine
God will supply every need.  Let that sink in.  God will supply every need of yours!  Sometimes we need to be reminded of what God is capable of, what He has already done.  That is why Paul made sure to point out the ways God had used the philippians to supply for his needs and make it personal for them before this verse.  And we can take comfort in the knowledge that it is still true for us today.  (Hebrews 13:8)

Sometimes we need to be reminded of just how much God has supplied for our needs.  Sometimes we get lost in the troubles, the darkness, the pain of this world and lose sight of this truth.  I know there were many times in 2015 that this was true for me.  And I am sure that there will probably be a few times in the year to come that it could happen as well. 

Might I encourage you this year to begin a new tradition - one of remembrance.  My family has used several different tools for this over the years.  We created a blessing jar for several years.  A simple jar that we kept on a shelf in our living room with a notepad beside it.  Every time one of us felt especially blessed by God we recorded it on paper, dated it and placed it in the blessing jar.  On New Year's Eve we opened the jar and read through them.  I was amazed at some of the notes as we read them.  Not that God had blessed us, but at the many blessings my young children recognized that I had begun to take for granted.  ("Thank you for the pretty yellow flowers (they were dandelions) in the yard.  They make me happy."  "Thank you for the rain today.  It was fun to play in.")

My pastor keeps a special chest in which his family saves "touchstones" to remind them of times that they have been blessed.  Items range from receipts to letters to candles.  Every member of the family can tell you exactly what the item represents and how God came through in that particular situation.

I keep a journal.  Nothing fancy, just a 3-ring binder with some tabbed dividers.  Inside I record scripture that speaks to me, prayers (and how god answered them), copies of emails that were sent to me by complete strangers with just the right words at just the right time, and so much more.  When I need a reminder of God's provision for me I open it up and flip through and am comforted by how my God looks after all of my needs and the needs of those I love. 

As a special New Year's gift I want to share some starter pages for you to create your own journal.  It is nothing fancy, just a few divider pages for things that I wanted to include in my own journal.  You can see a sample below.  Click here to download the PDF file. I pray that it helps you in those moments where you need to look back to remember that God's got this!