Posts tagged ‘obedience’

FLAT BROKE & IN THE RED!!! Pt. 2

In part 1 of this post I talked about living in the red; the debt of a sinful life. Jesus paid our debt with his own life and filled out accounts to overflowing with His own righteousness. The only stipulation being that we accept His sacrifice as a free gift, recognizing that there is no way we would ever be able to pay our debt on our own, so Jesus’ gift is the only way.

In this continuation, I would like to talk about the connection that faith has in accepting the gift of salvation from Jesus, both during and after. At the point that a person accepts salvation from Jesus, there is faith. It is the faith that must be present in order for a person to believe in, and accept, the God whom they cannot see. Faith to recognize He is real, living, and active in the world, and in their lives. Faith that God has always been, is now, and will forever be.

One can believe that God is real, that Jesus is His Son and that He died to pay our sinful debt, and yet still not have faith. It is more of a head knowledge than a belief of the heart. So what is the difference between belief and faith? Obedience. There are a number of things I believe to be true in this world. Many of them are subject to debate, and I could, in fact, be convinced to change my mind. I may act on my beliefs, or I may not. My behavior is not crucial to my beliefs.

My faith in Jesus, on the other hand, does require action on my part. Faith requires a demonstration of proof; something that shows God, and the world, that I have taken my belief to the next level. I want to prove that I have hinged my life on my faith. I am not only willing to do things, say things, behave in certain ways because of my faith; I am willing to change the way I live my life so that all areas match up with my faith in God. I am willing to surrender my own will to the will of God and seek to obey His commands and instructions. Obedience is the evidence of faith.

It was by faith that Abraham was accredited with righteousness, before Jesus died on the cross. It was his obedience to God that demonstrated his faith, proved it before God. Hebrews 11 chronicles the great faith of so many of the Old Testament heroes. Each one, “By faith…” they did something. They obeyed. If they had not obeyed, they would not have demonstrated a faith that was worth committing to, but a belief that could change with the wind.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac….” Hebrews 11:17.
“By faith Isaac blessed….” Hebrews 11:20.
“By faith they [the Israelites] passed through the Red Sea….” Hebrews 11:29.
“By faith the harlot Rahab…received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11:31.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (NKJV)

Saved by grace. Through faith. Faith which then demonstrates itself in obedience. Let me be clear that it is not the act of our faith that saves us…only by God’s grace. But it is the act of faith that brings us to His grace and the demonstration of our faith, through obedience, that we accept His grace and salvation by answering His call to come to Him. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20. He calls to us. Do we obey and open the door, or disobey and reject Him?

If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who died for you; to pay the penalty for your sins, which you cannot do on your own, do you also have faith? Do you have the faith to live in obedience to God, let Him change your life? Are you ready to take the next step and commit yourself fully to demonstrating your faith through your obedience to God? Do you believe it, or do you live it?  If you aren’t living it, do you need to reevaluate and determine whether your faith is real, and make the decision, once and for all, to commit yourself fully to God?

Savior Yes, But Lord?

I was listening to a radio pastor recently while driving down the road, as I often do. He closed his message by asking the listener if Jesus was their Lord and Savior. Interesting question. Perhaps more interesting is the order of the words. Let me break it down and ask the question without the compound word “and.”

Is Jesus your Lord? Is He The Lord of your life? Have you surrendered yourself completely to Him? Have you asked Him to make you who He wants you to be? Have you asked Him to mold you and shape you, as a potter molds and shapes clay, into a vessel able to pour out God’s love on all those around you? Do you obey traffic laws because Jesus is The Lord of your life, and you know that He put those who make the laws in authority over you? Do you obey your employer’s rules because you work for them as though you are working for Jesus, Himself? Do you obey Him, even when you don’t want to, as a sacrifice to your Lord? Do you sin, seek forgiveness, and sin again, without true repentence, without surrendering that area of your life to Jesus and asking Him to change that in you? Do you long to spend time with Him? Do you hunger and thirst after His righteousness in your life? Do you pray without ceasing because He is the first one you desire to turn to all throughout your day and night? Do you wake up in the morning thanking God for another day, and eagerly looking forward to time devoted and set aside to read His word and pray and worship Him? And do you go to bed at night thanking Him for His blessings? Is He in your heart and mind, never far from every thought? Is His name always on the tip of your tongue? Have you given His Holy Spirit the throne of your heart so that His presence within you is becoming as though you are one together?

Or. Or is Jesus your Savior only? Once upon a time you told Him you believe that He is God’s Son, that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, then took your sins to the cross and paid that penalty that you deserve to pay. You believed that Jesus came back to life, and is living in Heaven now, while His Spirit is here on earth with us. You may confess it in church on Sunday as a part of the litergy. You sing it with the congregation. You recite the prayers, or at least bow your head when the pastor prays. But when you walk out the door of the church, you leave Jesus behind a barrier that you have erected there. Like a cloak, you put Jesus on when you enter the building, and you take Him back off before you leave. That is where He stays. He is your Savior. You are grateful. But not so grateful that you are ready to bring Him into your outside world. He is not your Lord.

Brothers and Sisters, Jesus did not die for you so you could get a weekly reprieve from your guilt. He did not die for you so you could live how you want during the week knowing you have a safety net that will pull you from the depths on the day of judgement. He offered His salvation free of charge, but when you accepted it, you were bought at a very high price, a price that only God could afford. You belong to Him. He is your Lord. He is calling you to make Him Lord, not only in name, but in deed also. Jesus took your filthy sins. He bore the intense weight of your guilt, and bled and died your death. Then He covered you with His purity and promised you life eternal. Does He not deserve to be The Lord of your life, lock, stock and barrel?

Time is short. The end is near. Soon Jesus will return. He needs all of His people to be serving Him with all of their hearts in this time so that as many as will receive Him will become sons of God.

Verses (from the NKJV):
Luke 6:46 – “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”
John 13:13-15 – “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”
Romans 10:13 – For whoever calls on the name of The Lord shall be saved.
Romans 13:1-2 – Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgement on themselves.
Colossians 3:22-24 – Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to The Lord and not to men, knowing that from The Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve The Lord Christ.
Psalm 4:5 (NCV) – Do what is right as a sacrifice to The Lord and trust The Lord.
Isaiah 44:22 – “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
Isaiah 64:8 – But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.

Jesus on the Kingdom & Power of God, the Spirit, & Our Service

The Gospel of Luke is a wonderful resource.  Written by a non-Jewish doctor who had a love for facts, it is clear, precise, no frills.  A historian’s dream.  And yes, I am a mild to moderate historian:-)  I have a degree to teach history, even though I have not taught it outside of my student teaching days in college.  Luke does a wonderful job of capturing Jesus’ teachings.  It is something like reading the compilations of a great philosopher.  A book of teachings by Socrates, or Plato.  Except, of course, Luke is a compilation of the teachings of the greatest teacher ever to walk on this planet, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  The teachings are connected.  One verse here, then later the topic comes up again, but with a twist…another piece of a puzzle that equals a whole picture…the complete message that Jesus was teaching.  Like any puzzle that is put together over time, it is great fun to gather enough pieces to see a clear picture of one part of the whole.  That is what I have for you today.  Pieces that will present part of a whole.

I will start with the very familiar verses of Luke 11:8-10, but then add to that verse 13.  Watch where this goes.  Jesus begins with a story about a man who receives surprise visitors during the night and goes to his friend to borrow a few loaves of bread, but the friend refuses to get out of bed to get them.   “I tell you, if friendship is not enough to make him get up to give you the bread, your BOLDNESS will make him get up and give you whatever you need.  So I tell you, ASK, and God will give to you.  SEARCH, and you will find. KNOCK, and the door will be opened for you.  Yes, everyone who asks will receive.  The one who searches will find.  And everyone who knocks will have the door opened….How much more your heavenly Father will give the HOLY SPIRIT to those who ask him!”

Puzzle piece number one:  anyone who asks, searches, knocks…with boldness (don’t be afraid because God wants to give this to you)…will receive the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit.  (I didn’t write the Holy Spirit twice by accident.)

Skip ahead a few verses to where Jesus is defending the power by which he casts out demons.  Verse 20 says:  “But if I use the POWER OF GOD to force out demons, then the KINGDOM OF GOD has come to you.”

Hold on to that.  Look at Luke 12:32 – “Don’t fear, little flock, because your Father wants to give you the KINGDOM.

Puzzle piece number two:  The KINGDOM OF GOD is the POWER OF GOD given to us.

Puzzle piece number 3:  How does the Father give us the Power of God?  The Kingdom of God?  Through the Holy Spirit, whom He tells us to boldly ask, search, and knock to find and receive.

Let’s bring these pieces together for the why.  God doesn’t give us His power through the Holy Spirit, making the presence of His kingdom here on earth just for the fun of it.

Luke 12:35, followed by Luke 12:48b:  “Be dressed, ready for service, and have your lamps shining.”  “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.  And from the one trusted with much, much more will be expected.”

Puzzle piece number 4:  We have each been called to service to the King.  God has a calling for you.  (If you have not figured out what that is, the quickest, easiest way to find out is to tell God you surrender all of you to Him, and ask Him to do with your life what He wills.  Believe me, He will take that and run with it.)  God expects you to be faithful and obedient in the calling He has given you.  If you are called to serve coffee between Sunday School and the service at your church, do it with all the muster you have.  Ask, seek, knock and receive the Holy Spirit who will open doors while you serve Him in this area.  But be faithful!  And obedient!  When you have the Holy Spirit within you, you have the power of God.  You carry His kingdom in this world.  If you minister to a flock, minister with faithfulness and obedience!  No matter what God has called you to do, do it knowing that you are accountable for that calling.

Puzzle piece number 5:  This is the piece that connects the little picture-within-a-picture to the rest of the puzzle.  The piece that has the last color of the picture are working on, and also has more that makes you know there is more to be done.  Luke 12:43 – “When the master comes and finds the servant doing his work, the servant will be blessed.”  Do your work now, because you don’t know when Jesus will return.  It will be soon.  When Jesus appears in the sky to call His own to Him, will you be caught with your pants down, or will you be dressed and serving Him?

The picture put together today?  Ask for the Holy Spirit with boldness…and God will gladly give Him to you…because the Spirit brings with Him the Kingdom of God, which is the power of God…so that we can serve God in what He has called us to do in faithfulness and obedience…while we wait, expectantly, ready, for the return of Jesus…and will receive His blessing.

 

When The Spirit Calls

What is your calling?  If you are a follower of Christ, God has a job for you.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:4- 11 (ESV) that there are many Spiritual gifts.  The list here is not exclusive, but a sampling.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

He also stresses that each member of the Church is a part of the body  (1 Corinthians 12:14-20).  As we all know, if one part of the body does not do it’s work, life becomes considerably more complicated for the rest of the body.  There may even be times when, because of the inability to use a certain part of the body, the body as a whole will be unable to carry out a given task at all.   For example, my parents are both blind.  The part of their bodies that see (their eyes), do not work.  It is impossible for them to use a camera to take a picture.  We have few family photos available to us.  Most are those that were taken by extended family members at big family gatherings.  When I was old enough to have a camera, my parents gave one to me, and after that time, we have more printed proof of our existence.  Prior to that, taking pictures was just something that my parents could not do.   People with disabilities exist all over the world.  And, for the most part, they are able to lead normal, productive lives.  But there are always some things that they just can’t do.  It is a fact of life.

When you put this into the perspective of the church, that is very disconcerting, however.  Imagine parts of the church body refusing to do the work they are given.  This is a big body, the Church.  If large numbers of Christians decide that they are just going to come along for the ride, how many things are we collectively unable to accomplish for the Lord?  Could God call in someone else to do your job, answer your calling in place of you?  Sure He could, and He does!  God can do anything.  My parents did receive pictures taken by family members and friends…but their were gaps.  None of them lived with us.  No one was there to take a picture of my first steps, or the first time I rode a bike.  When God needs to call someone else to fill in for you, what gaps are there in the work He has called you to?  Consider this.  When God calls someone to fill your shoes, who fills the shoes of the person who has to fill yours?  Do you see my point?

What if Mary, the mother of Jesus, had chosen not to receive God’s calling?  I know, I know.  God would have chosen someone else.  Yes.  And He would have made it work.  God will always see that His will is done.  But there is something else.  What would Mary have missed out on?  Oh my!  How terribly sad she would have been to someday realize that she passed up the opportunity to be the mother of the very Son of God!!!!  Difficult as her calling was at times, she was so blessed by it as well.  More than I’m sure she could have ever imagined.

So what is the Spirit calling you to?  Consider the desires of your heart.  Is there some area that you have felt the Spirit’s nudging in?  Ask Him to reveal His will to you.  He is just waiting for you to be willing.  If you feel you have received a call, but are uncertain, ask God to confirm it for you.  Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel, but her cousin Elizabeth confirmed it when the Holy Spirit filled her and she recognized Mary as the mother of the Savior.  I know others, myself included, for whom God has provided a confirmation of their calling.  Don’t view asking for a confirmation as doubting God.  If you are truly seeking His leading, He call you in ways that are very clear, but He will also provide confirmation of His call in equally clear ways.

The next question is, will you obey His call?  Oh yes!  I did say that!  Obey.  Are you going to obey His call?  God has given you a spiritual gift, and a purpose.  To not use them for His service, His glory and honor, is to disobey His call in your life.  Consider the story of the 3 servants in Matthew 25:14-30.  Each servant was given a number of coins to use for the Master.  The first and second servants both doubled the coins they were given.  And the Master rewarded them.  The third, however, sat on his coins and did nothing.  The response of the Master was to call him a wicked and lazy servant!  His coins were taken away, and he was sent away, where he would have to anguish over his failure.  I don’t know about you, but that is not the response I want from my King!  It might be difficult to obey His calling.  It might be scary at times.  I have had to battle Satan on many occasions because he does not want me to obey God.  But I will be jiggered (my grandpa’s word) if I am going to stand before Jesus someday and be called wicked and lazy!  I desire nothing more than to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” (Matthew 25:21).

I heard a pastor on the radio this week share a quote from an anonymous note he was given years ago.  “God’s commandments are our enablements.”  What a great quote!  You may think that you cannot do what God has asked of you.  You may be frightened by His call.  You may hear the doubts and lies that Satan fills your head with.  Do not forget this:  If God has called you to do something, He will give you whatever it takes for you to accomplish His will.  You are simply the tool for the work He will do through you.  God does not expect you to do this all by yourself!  Be bold!   Be faithful!  Answer His call now, and God bless you as you do!!!

Oh No You Don’t! It’s My Money!

Don’t you just hate it when the pastor starts talking money?  You just sit there with steely eyes and tight lips.  “You are butting into my business, now Pastor.  Going too far.  What I give to the church is between me and God, not you, me and God.”  You avoid shaking his hand after the service, but if you have to, you certainly don’t tell him it was a good sermon.  Humph.

What is it about money that sets us on edge?  We can thank God for our good health, our home, our families, our food.  We even thank God for the jobs that allow us to provide for ourselves and our families.  Have we ever thanked God for providing money so that we can give it back to Him?  Oops!! Did you see that?  The word back.  Oh snap.  I slipped that in there.

Before I go too far into this, and you think I am preaching at you, let me tell you that this is an area that my husband and I have wrestled with our entire marriage (20 years!).  Before we married, I gave 10%.  But I was a single girl and able to do that without any worries (which would have been conjured up on my own and without merit anyway).  My husband may shoot me for this, so this may be my last post;-)  He wasn’t ready for that.  To be fair, his walk with Christ at that time was not very deep.  He has grown, and changed a lot over the years, and I am so proud of him!!  As the children began to come, and money became tighter, it was easy to not give a full 10%.  And it was easy for me to think that it was probably just as well that we didn’t.  I will say that we did increase our giving each time we received a raise in pay.  And I did insist on giving 10% of any large lump some that we received unexpectedly.  I was really uncomfortable talking about this with my husband, and probably should have been bolder.  I went to prayer.  As the wife, I felt that I could not disobey/dishonor my husband by giving more than he approved of.  So I would talk to God about it.  I just asked Him to work in my husband’s heart and make the changes that were necessary.  Recently he has come to me ready to give that tithe…but it is scary for both of us.  We know our finances.  We know our needs.  How are we going to meet our needs with the finances we have coming in when we give more to God?  We start looking for other places that we can cut back, thinking things are going to be tighter.  And they might be.  But did we ever have a right to hold back the money that we haven’t given over the years in the first place?

Is it a coincidence that I tripped over the following passage in God’s Word this morning while looking for the time periods that a few certain books were written?  Not likely!!

Malachi 2:8-12 (NCV) –
“Should a person rob God?  But you are robbing me. 
“You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’
“You have robbed me in your offerings and the tenth of your crops.  So a curse is on you, because the whole nation has robbed me.  Bring to the storehouse a full tenth of what you earn so there will be food in my house.  Test me on this,” says the Lord All-Powerful.  “I will open the windows of heaven for you and pour out all the blessings you need.  I will stop the insects so they won’t eat your crops.  The grapes won’t fall from your vines before they are ready to pick,” says the Lord All-Powerful.  All the nations will call you blessed, because you will have a pleasant country,” says the Lord All-Powerful.

   Well, there is really no pussy-footin’ around there.  No, “I gave to you, so you give back.”  Certainly no, “Just give as you see fit.  Whatever you are comfortable with.  That is okay with me.”  NO.  It is hard hitting!  God says it like He sees it.  He gives to us, and commands a tenth in return.  When we don’t return that tenth, He considers it robbery!!  It takes either a pretty gutsy, or a pretty stupid, person to rob from God.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely never thought about it this way before.  And I’m feeling pretty stupid right now.  Forgive me, Lord All-Powerful!!

God is a gracious and merciful god, though.  Did you notice that He didn’t leave it with the conviction?  Oh praise Him!!!  He gives us a way to make things right.  Not only that, but He promises to pour out blessings from Heaven!  If someone robs from me, but gives it back.  I am probably likely to let bygones be bygones.  But would I turn around and give them a whole bunch of my good things in return.  Um, I’m thinking…no.  That is what God does.  He even tells us to test Him on it and see if that is not what He will do.  Why do we say we believe what God says is true, and trust that He will do what He promised with everything except money.  No wonder Jesus made a point of warning that we cannot worship both God and money.  He knew it was too great a temptation to not address.

We are going to take God up on that offer.  We are going to test Him…but we are going to step out in faith and know that He will indeed open Heaven’s gates and pour out blessings on us.  Will you join us, and receive His blessings?  I will pray for us, and you, to have the faith to believe that God will be true to His word, and keep His promises.  God be with you all!!!

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