Obedience Matters Part 2

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God responds to action that springs from faith in Him. Obedience matters. Period. It’s evidence of your faith. And it’s evidence that you are who you say you are.

That is the point of  Obedience Matters Part 1. We looked at Rahab, how the Lord delivered her from destruction because she hid the messengers (Joshua 6:25). Remember, Joshua didn’t say, “Because she believed me.” He said, “Because she hid the messengers.” But we know she only hid them because of her faith in God.

In other words, it is as Paul Tripp states in his book,lNew Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, “Faith in God is more than believing the right things. It’s living the right way because you believe the right things.” Our faith affects the way we live, which means obedience matters. I’m stating it this way because we live in an age where authority is constantly being questioned. We don’t like it. Our culture embodies the cry of the crowd when they yelled, “Crucify him.” We want the King of Kings dead (Mark 15:13-14).

We don’t like submission. We don’t like to think that our ways must change. We’d rather change the wording. We want to participate in what God is doing. We want to cooperate with his plan. We want to love. It’s all about love, right?

Yes, a love so great and demanding that it crushes us and brings us low to the point of surrender. A love so pure that it causes us to weep because our sin has us feeling so unworthy of it. A love so gracious that it lifts our heads and builds us back up. A love that transforms. A love that takes over. A love that obeys.

Obedience matters.

And honestly, I sometimes wonder why I bother writing about this at all. I mean, just re-read Tripp’s quote. So many have already written about the relationship between faith and works. Today, I want to take it a step further.

Do you want to know another reason why our obedience matters?

It affects people. Obedience affects people for good. In fact, John states that we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments (1 John 5:2). I remember stumbling over this awhile back. I couldn’t take my eyes of the phrase “children of God.” I asked myself, “What in the world does my obedience have to do with other children of God?”

Disobedience also affects people. Let’s return to Joshua. But this time let’s look at chapter 7. The Lord instructed the Israelites NOT to take the things devoted for destruction from Jericho. I want you pay close, close attention to Joshua 7:1.

“But the people broke faith in regard to the devoted things,

For Achan the son of Carmi,

Son of Zabdi,

Son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things.

And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.” (emphasis added)

What happened here? Who disobeyed? Who is affected by the action taken?

At first glance, as you start reading, it seems like everyone disobeyed and took the devoted things, but that’s not the case, is it? No, Achan took some of the devoted things. Yet the Lord’s anger burned against the people.

There’s so much that can be said here, so much that I can’t even get into because I haven’t completely wrapped my mind around the significance of the corporate people of God. We are so individualistic as Americans but God has a totally different perspective. He’s redeeming a People. And In Christ, he refers to us as a body. Paul makes the effect we have on one another apparent when he describes how a hurting member of the body affects the rest of the body (1 Corinthians 12:26).

We can’t just think about ourselves. It’s so easy for me to coddle sin and be okay with how it will affect me or my walk with God. I never give thought to how my decisions may affect those around me–not just in the present, but in the future.

Every time I read through this Bible this reality strikes me. It’s all over the Scriptures. Our actions can impact even our children’s children. I think of my husband’s grandfather, Mardy. My husband looked up to this man so much. I don’t know if Mardy ever knew how much his decisions for Christ would impact his grandson, but in many ways they have shaped the way my husband thinks about his life and how he wants to live. What battles did Mardy have to fight to become this example? What discipline did he have to enforce? How many times did he have to humble himself and obey simply because of what he believed about God? What if he had broken his faith instead?

That brings me to another observation about Joshua 7:1. I am amazed at how it directly relates to Part One of this series. Joshua writes that the people of Israel broke faith. How did they break faith? By taking the devoted things. They are one in the same. And the Lord, when his anger burns, he’s responding to them both. We live out of what we believe.

If you keep reading, you will see what this means. In short, 36 men die at the hands of their enemy. Which surprises Joshua and the rest of the people because they had experienced unimaginable victory with God on their side. And the people of Ai were a small people. How could this have happened?

People died because of one man’s disobedience. And it gets worse.

Keep reading.

God allowed the people to suffer the consequences, meaning there were consequences for the people of Israel if one of them disobeyed here. But he punished Achan, and not only Achan, but his family.

They die.

Achan devoted himself and his family to destruction by taking things that were devoted for destruction for himself. And I have to think that they this said something about his faith too.

We disobey all the time. We make excuses for it because we are saved by grace. But our actions affect people. Our actions affect our effectiveness in the body. Our actions affect our families. The Lord will do His will despite us, but we have to know and accept that obedience truly matters.

I love reading the Old Testament because it has a way of highlighting spiritual realities and impressing them deeper in my heart. There’s a rawness in the Old Testament Scriptures that just makes everything so real to me. But the reality is that when we disobey, we are not punished. One already suffered and died for the disobedience of the Church, and in drawing us to himself and giving us his spirit, making himself known to us, he has given us all we need for life and godliness. There is unimaginable grace for us to obey. We simply must believe in Him.

Our faith in Him transforms us. He changes our hearts. He changes our lives. The way we think. The way we live. We never stop growing once we find ourselves in Him. We never stop becoming more and more like Him. That’s a huge part of what it means to be His.

When we live as though disobedience doesn’t matter, we are saying the above paragraph doesn’t matter. And we’re not just saying that to God, we’re saying that to everyone around us. And that affects people.

I can tell you, firsthand, that I affect my husband when I resolve to obey God as best I can and depend on God for the grace to do so. I am available to serving him and building him up. I make decisions that bless him and others. I get out of the way and do what the Lord desires me to do, and it ends up being sooooo good. So much better than anything else I would have done.

But when I cave, when I give in to temptation and disobey, when I break faith and resolve to do what I want to do, it’s hard to shake that and go right back to following God. It usually has a domino effect on the rest of my day, which affects those around me too. I am not as available to my husband, my son, my family, or my church. I am selfish. And I don’t care until the Holy Spirit gets my attention and I turn from my sin yet again.

And what if I make a pattern of that? What if I make a life of “doing me” whenever I have opportunity? What will my son pick up from that over time? What does that say about God?

This little series is for me, People. I need to remember that obedience matters. The Lord responds to it. And it affects people. Even those most dear to us. Can God do amazing things in their lives despite us? Sure! But should we presume upon his grace?

Yes, we are saved and swimming in gracious waters. But let’s continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Why?

Because God works in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure!!!  There’s so much grace and so much strong help in our Lord. Let’s make an adventure out of using it!

More to come on those amazing verses (Philippians 2:12-13) soon.

Wine Mixed With Myrrh

My former senior pastor once taught an excellent sermon on savoring the word of God. He offered many ways to savor Scripture, one of them being through art. Poetry. Paint. Music. Storytelling. An old friend from college created a beautiful work of art after beholding our great Lord on the cross and noting how He refused a drink of wine mixed with myrrh. Her poetic insight will stir your soul. Slow down and consider the love of Jesus, how he gave himself up for you. See the video below and be sure to read her explanation. You will not regret it!

Thank you Quina Aragon! I love seeing how the Lord is using you and your husband to spread the good news in Tampa, FL and beyond.

The 5am Experiment: A New habit!

The experiment is over! But the resolve continues. Click here to revisit the original post in The 5am Experiment series.

As I hoped, we have established a new habit. We no longer need to do jumping jacks. We still look forward to a call from our friend Danielle as a helpful check in. Knowing that she is going to call still helps to me overcome the initial temptation to go back to sleep. I still drink my glass of water and cup of coffee, but it looks as though we have settled into a nice little routine that we look forward to every day. I have seen the Lord really bless my husband as he continues to get time with Him each morning. He has a sweet calm about him. He approaches his daily work as a teacher with more confidence in God and more hopefulness. I also see us working better together as a team. I too have a better attitude in general.

Nevertheless, it has not fixed everything. A new habit is not equivalent to a changed heart. I must depend on God through prayer to be the kind of loving wife that reflects the heart of the One who loved me and gave himself up for me on the cross. But I am so glad that I have more time set a part for prayer in the mornings. And I am so glad that He has given me the desire to set a small amount of time aside for prayer in the evenings as well.

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The 5am Experiment: A Night of Weariness

Day #28

A nightmare. A disturbing dream I’d rather not share. A text message. A phone call that went unanswered but woke me up nonetheless. A brief conversation. Waking up at 4am for no other reason but to turn over and enjoy my last hour of sleep. Last night was not very restful.

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The 5am Experiment: A Praying Life

Day #27

Hoodies are great. I have one on my nightstand that I grab as soon as I step out of  bed. Mornings have gotten especially cold, and without my USF hoodie, I am bound to leap back under the covers without shame.

Exercising is great too. Adam and I joined Retro Fitness last night and worked out for the first time in five months. We kept it light to ensure that we return. And I slept wonderfully. I don’t think I woke up once. It made 5am that much uglier but thanks be to God! We woke up! And thanks to be to God for hoodies and water and coffee and no jumping jacks!

Because Adam has another 2-hour delay, we were able to spend more time with God than usual. I love it. I read through Exodus 17 and noted the amazing grace of God again and started studying Galatians for a Bible study Adam and I are about to start leading this upcoming Monday.

Earlier this week, Adam and I spent extended time with God looking over the past few months and looking ahead to the new few months. We tried to pinpoint what the Lord may want us to focus on. For me, it was prayer. I tend to focus a lot on increasing in the knowledge of God through reading and studying the Word of God, but I do not spend very much time talking to God. It’s not that I don’t pray. It’s just. . . Well. . .

If you were a fly on the wall that made it your business to follow me around all day, you would notice that I pray very little and I do not pray as if it is an integral part of my relationship with God. Continue reading

The 5am Experiment: Enough is Enough

Bills-Blizzard

Day #26

It’s hard to believe that I have almost reached 30 days. And the Lord has been so gracious. I woke up on time today without doing jumping jacks. I woke up on time after being off on Monday and having a snow day yesterday. While I still woke up at 7am on my days off, 4 days off in the row was the perfect set up for a week of rough mornings.

Today, while reading Exodus 15-16, I was touched by the graciousness of God. He responds to the prayers of Moses. He is attentive to the needs of Israel, even though they are grumbling. In fact, I do not see where the people prayed to God for food. The Lord hears their grumbling and then gives Moses the plan.

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The 5am Experiment: The Struggle is Real

Day #23 – No prayer. No reading. No breakfast. I barely made it out of the apartment with my lunch. It was one of those mornings when an extra 15 minutes becomes an extra 30 and then an hour and then an hour and 30 minutes. For us, there’s no such thing as an extra 15 minutes. It’s always an hour. If we fail to recognize that reality, we end up sleeping longer than we ever imagined.

This goes to show that we will find a way to do what we want to do. Accountability is a GREAT HELP. But on your weakest days, it will not matter that a friend is calling. I sent a text to my friend who calls me every morning and told her that I was not getting up until 5:45am. And when she called, I missed it because my phone was on silent. I really need to remember to take my phone off silent when I get off work. That alone has made this whole accountability thing harder than it needs to be.

It even helps to call another friend to help her wake up at 5am. While I am calling her, I have this small window of opportunity to get up because I have to wake up in order to call her.

Today I was resolved to get more sleep because I felt justified. And getting more sleep wasn’t necessarily wrong. I just needed to be more realistic with myself regarding how the morning would turn out.

What do you do when you find that you are not getting any stronger in your area of weakness? What you do when your weaknesses regularly affects other people?

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The 5am Experiment: A Day and Night Solution

Day #22 – Today was a first. I woke up at precisely 4am wide awake. Don’t worry. I turned over and went right back to sleep because we all know that’s too much on a work day. Needles to say, I was not wide awake at 5am when my alarm went off. I knew staying in bed for another 30 minutes was not an option but getting up did not feel like a reasonable alternative either. Maybe I should have gotten up at 4 after all. Maybe I would not have had to do jumping jacks. It’s crazy how effective jumping jacks are.

If you cannot do what others advise, jumping out of bed at the sound of your alarm, jumping jacks are the next best thing.

While getting ready for work, I reviewed Psalm 1 and was struck by verse 2: “but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.” Continue reading

The 5am Experiment: Don’t Believe the Lie

Day #21 – There’s a lie out there that we all believe. And it goes something like this, “If you do what you want, you will be happy.” As good as it sounds, this is incredibly false.This experiment has shed light on the selfishness of my heart, especially as I latch on to my early morning routine as another thing to be selfish about. I see it when an unexpected need arises and I am angry about having to stop what I’m doing (reading the Bible, sipping my coffee, whispering prayers) to take my turn in attending to the laundry we forgot in the washer the night before.

My pastors have been walking us through Genesis with the goal of teaching us more about God. One thing that has stuck with me over the past couple months is their definition of sin as our inherent resolve to redefine good and evil for ourselves. Our definitions always align with what we want, which makes us inherently selfish. The Lord makes it clear that the penalty of sin is death. It is not life-giving. It does not bring true happiness for it separates us from God. Instead of our lives being enriched by holy desire, we are bound to wicked desires that work for our own “good.” Apart from Christ we are incapable of righteousness in God’s sight. God’s definition of good and evil will always seem backwards to us. Think on it a bit. Doesn’t it seem backwards to say that living for ourselves or our own self-fulfillment will only lead to our misery? Doesn’t it feel wrong to say that Christian love models the love of their Savior in that they lay their lives down for each other, considering the interests of others better than their own? Isn’t that the reason why verses on submission in the Bible are so hard to read? They prick on our self-made, self-glorifying belief system.

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The 5am Experiment: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!

Day #20 – It’s definitely getting easier. I am beginning to value my earlier mornings so much that I would actually hate to sleep in. The effect it has on the rest of the day is reason to keep this going beyond my 30 day challenge. We learned a few more tricks that we have yet to try out:

-Drinking hot water

-Rubbing peppermint oil on the soles of your feet (if using an essential oil, be sure to cut with olive oil or another oil).

  • Apparently, you will eventually smell the oil faintly in your nose and it will help to wake you up. I can’t wait to try this one.

I have also found that helping another friend wake up at the same time helps. If you need help getting up on time, let someone know.

By the way, there’s nothing more spiritual about rising super early. You are not going to earn extra points with anyone. For some of us, it’s just necessary in order to get things done that are very important to us. Please believe. If it wasn’t necessary, I wouldn’t be doing it!

I am happy to say that I completed my little project with the help of my hubby. Teamwork makes the dream work!

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Pop Quiz! Based on the pictures above, who can discover my next project?