Monday, December 21, 2015

What Does God Want From Me? Obedience

You ever have one of those bible studies where the Lord has been working in each of you throughout the week and then when you get together you all have had the same thoughts? Not only that but then each of you talk about what the Lord has been pressing on your heart and then gives you even more ideas on what you had been thinking about? This happened recently to our regular weekly fellowship with some friends after dinner.
I have been thinking about obedience all week long, especially since I had lost my job in November. Between posts like Airport Dreams and Visions, and recently, Make Me!, my prayer for myself has been, "I just want to do [for work] what the Lord wants me to do." What does that look like? Well, I know that I don't want my job to come between men and the Lord, my wife, or my purpose in life. I don't want to work weekends so that I can be free to do ministry with my church, and I can have a day of rest. I don't want to work nights because let's face it, bad things happen at night. Not to mention that the body was designed to sleep at night. And I don't want to travel long distances or stay overnights because I have a wife that I worry about and also a Precept Inductive Bible Study that I teach at 7pm. My previous job was getting in the way of some things and I just know the Lord has something better for me. I have to be open to what He wants me to do. Even if it means changing careers at 43 years old. 

Another person in our group, who came from a legalistic background, also has been thinking about the difference between obedience and sacrifice. He asked the questions, "What does obedience look like and what is the difference between obedience and sacrifice?"  "Does God help those who help themselves?" One section of verses that I was reminded of throughout the week was the destruction of Jericho in Joshua 6. 

First, it was the Lord's work and we are to just be a part of it. God said to Joshua, "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor." (Joshua 6:2). We must realize that it is God's work and fight. He has done all the hard work and we are to just reap the blessings. 

Second, God gave them specific instruction on what to do (Joshua 6:3-5). 
  1. Men of valor march around the city once a day for six days with seven priests bearing ram's horns before the ark.  
  2.  The seventh day march around the city seven times. The priests shall blow the trumpets, the people will shout, and the wall will fall, and you will take the city. 
Third, they obeyed the Lord and did what they were told (Joshua 6:6-20). And the result of their obedience? Blessing and a fulfillment of the promise God gave them. This could have only come from obeying the Lord. 

Now, let's think about this in laymen's terms. God told them to march around a city a bunch of times, blow some horns, and yell at a wall, and then the wall will fall, and then after you walked around a city all day, you are supposed to have enough strength to fight and wipe out all people inside with the exception of Rahab and her family? Makes alot of sense, right? But here's the thing...you mean to tell me that the blowing of ram's horns or their shouts had anything to do with the wall falling? Did God need Israel to shout at a wall to make it fall? No. I can think of about 20 ways off the top of my head to make a wall fall, and shouting at it is not one of them. What did the Lord want from them? Their obedience. What does God want from us? Our obedience. 2 Samuel 15:22-23 states, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And the stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD..." The difference between obedience and sacrifice is that obedience is what we do that God commands us to do. Sacrifice is what we do for God that we want to do. Obedience, God chooses what we do. Sacrifice, we choose what we do. 

Sometimes the Lord will tell you to do something. Sometimes it will sound absolutely ridiculous, like walking around a city and shouting at a wall. God doesn't need us to accomplish anything He wants to do. He doesn't need me to witness to people to save them. He doesn't need me to give to my church to keep the lights on and the doors open. He doesn't need me to fast and pray for people to overcome major adversity in their lives. But when we do what He says, blessings will come. And if you don't, there will be consequences, like in the next story of the battle of Ai (Joshua 7). There are no shortcuts with God. We are to do what He wants, His way; Quickly, thoroughly, and cheerfully. 

So where does that leave me today? No matter what the Lord wants for me I need to be open, obedient, and willing to do whatever. Even if it means doing something I think is really stupid, insignificant, or crazy. It may mean switching careers, moving, doing ministry full time, or whatever. But with anything I ask prayer for guidance and clarity. In my next blog post I will talk about another thing God wants from me...my love. For Him and others. Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Make Me!

Yesterday morning I started to pray and I asked God to help me be the man He wants me to be. I asked Him to guide me, and to help me be a good example of a Christian man not only when others are around, but especially when I am alone in my thoughts and on the computer. Then it hit me, "When did God ever say in His word that He would help me in character and integrity?" So I started to ponder this and turns out in my unprompted bible study that when it comes to the character of man, people asked for help, but most of the time the prayer was, "Lord make me..."

Psalms

Many places in the Psalms when David is crying out to God he asked the Lord to make him the man He wants him to be. 

"Make me know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths." (Psalm 25:4)

"Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am." (Psalm 39:4)

"[Lord] Deliver me from all my transgressions; Do not make me the reproach of the foolish." (Psalm 39:8).

"Behold You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom." (Psalm 51:6)

"Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders." (Psalm 119:27)

"Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it." (Psalm 119:35).

Job

Even Job, who suffered greatly at the hand of Satan in which God allowed honestly asked the Lord..."How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin." (Job 13:23). 

Habakkuk

In Habakkuk's hymn of faith, the last verse in his book states, "The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills" (Habakkuk 3:19). 

New Testament

Even in the New Testament, "make me" in one form or another is used many times. 

Jesus said to His disciples, "Follow Me and I will make you fisher's of men." (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). All the disciples had to do was follow Jesus, and Jesus would make them fishers of men. 

The leper's statement to Jesus was, "If You will, You can make me clean." (Matthew 8:2; Mark 1:40; Luke 5:12). How can a leper heal himself apart from Christ? He cannot. It takes an act of God to cleanse the rotting flesh. So does He cleanse the hearts of sinful men like me. 

 In Luke 15, in the parable of the prodigal son, the father portrays God the Father. Here, when the son returns home he asks the father, "I am not worthy to be called your son, but make me like one of your servants."  (Luke 15:19). 

Now What?

Here is the point to this. When we ask the Lord to help us do a thing, or help us in character, we are saying to Him, "Lord, please fill in the gaps that I cannot fill or that I have missed." In essence, we say to Him, I can do most of it, but need your help to do what I cannot. My aunt said to me the other day, "The Lord helps those who help themselves." But I was quick to point out that verse is nowhere in the bible. When it comes to the character of man, miracles, and especially salvation, there is nothing a person can do to help themselves.Why? Because God is sovereign, good, and powerful and man is dead to sin, flawed, and helpless. God, who also has given all authority to His Son, has the authority, the power, and the will to make us vessels of honor or dishonor. So the next time you pray for good character, integrity, and sanctification...I suggest praying to God to make you the man or woman He wants you to be.