Tag Archives: obedience

There Is a Master Plan

A valid plan provides a sense of comfort and trust. If you are a leader, the ability to truthfully say to others, “I know what’s going on. We’re still following the plan,” helps others believe in you. If you can go a step further and point out how the plan is working, then the trust grows even more. On the other hand, while there may be some excitement and an adrenaline rush from “figuring it out as we go along,” it’s more stressful and little things can cause a breakdown much sooner than if there’s a reasonable plan.

God understands this about us. We have to be flexible enough to handle changes in expectations. However, those changes are easier to handle when we know that we’re still following “the plan.” When I speak of plan here, I mean the plan that fits with God’s sovereign will. Knowing God has a plan, that He’s totally in control of that plan, and that we are a part of that plan can give us a sense of purpose, an understanding that our lives have meaning, and a realization that we exist for more than our short time here on this planet.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. – Ephesians 1:7-10, ESV

Everything I described with respect to a valid plan is true of God. Paul reminds us that there is a plan for the “fullness of time” that will unite all things in Christ Jesus. We have evidence that the plan is working because we have been redeemed, we have been forgiven, and we have had His grace lavished upon us. Also, we can remember that the Holy Spirit provides us insight and wisdom to glimpse a bit at this overall master plan from time-to-time.

In the craziness of the day-to-day it is easy to lose sight that God’s sovereign will has prevailed, is prevailing, and will continue to prevail. When tragedy or loss hits us, it’s natural to lose sight of the fact that everything is still ultimately under His control. The plan isn’t broken, just our vision. When that happens, we can regain our confidence because we are warned that these types of craziness and the events that cause us such pain are to be expected. God has taken them into account and He will succeed in the face of them. Scripture tells us this and reinforces that God does deliver with the examples of those whose lives are recorded therein putting their faith into action.

Be encouraged, for there is a master plan. For those who have believed, we are redeemed and forgiven. We can obtain glimpses of the master plan to reassure us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can receive and acknowledge His love and grace. Finally, we can take comfort because we know how the master plan will conclude. He has revealed that to us in the Scriptures. Look past the craziness, the unfairness of the world, and whatever personal pains you are currently suffering through. Look past to gaze upon God and His plan that will come to pass in the fullness of time. He will not fail.

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The Importance of Right Action

alastair shackledIn chess we have this word “kibbitzer.” Someone who noisily comments on a game he or she isn’t playing in is usually called a kibbitzer. Often times, the folks who are called kibbitzers rarely play. In other words, a kibbitzer is all talk and no substance. For chess players engaged in a game, kibbitzers are nuisances because their opinions on what should be played can infect your own and because they can break one’s concentration. Think about that first one for a minute… untested and untried ideas from inexperienced folks competing with tactics and strategies developed by chess players who are trying to execute them during the pressure of the game. Add to that the break in concentration. That’s not a solid recipe for good chess. It’s also not a solid recipe for good ministry.

“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” – Isaiah 1:12-17, ESV

The problem with Israel here is that they were doing a fine job of talking about being faithful. They were even going through with the outward signs by keeping the sacrifices and the like. In reality, though, they were all talk and no substance. God accused them of doing evil, of injustice, of oppression, and of not taking care of the orphans and the widows. Now here’s the question that hurts: if God were to speak to us today, would He say the same thing about our churches?

Unfortunately, I think He would. There is a lot of evil that goes on within the walls of many churches. Political agendas, power struggles, how money should be spent, who should get the solo for the Eastern celebration, etc. I’m just touching on the obvious things. Anyone who has been in a church regularly in recent months has likely seen more. Let’s carry that further. How are we, as God’s people, attacking injustice and oppression when we see it (and it’s everywhere)? How are we taking up the cause of the orphan and the widow? Can you point to specific, ongoing ministries in your church that deal with these last three accusations by God? No? Then how are we any different from the Israel of Isaiah’s time?

Simply sitting on the sidelines arguing isn’t what we’re supposed to be about. Caring who gets the credit misses the point that God is supposed to get all the glory. These are serious charges and we’re guilty of them. God told Israel to “fix itself,” to borrow a phrase from my Citadel days. I’m sure He expects us to do the same. We must be a Church that is active in ministry. It must be the right activity, though. In a lot churches today you can stay busy, really busy, with the activities that are going on. However, being busy isn’t the same as being effective. That goes to the first part of the verses. Israel was busy. They were carrying out the feasts and the sacrifices. However, they weren’t being effective. They weren’t doing what they needed to be doing. We’re too often guilty of that same problem. We need to be active, but active in ministering and serving in the ways God has told us to be. We need to “fix ourselves” not only for the benefit of the people around us, but for our own benefit as well.

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It Starts with Humility

Crown JewelsOne of the things that a close read of Genesis 3 reveals is that Adam and Eve wanted to be like God. That was the serpent’s primary temptation: you shall know good and evil and be like God. In other words, these two wanted to be more than what they were with respect to God. They were looking for a shortcut to rise in power. They were trying to be equal with God. They had lost their humility.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  – Philippians 2:5-8, ESV

In order to overcome sin, in order to pay the penalty for our sins, Jesus did things the opposite of Adam and Eve. Rather than try to grasp up for something more (or even what was rightfully His), He instead gave up so much, coming in the form of a man. If that wasn’t humility enough, He humbled Himself before the Father and was obedient, leading to His own death, His death on the Cross. Through that humility our sin debt was paid, our fellowship with the Father restored, and our relationship with Jesus made permanent. All because Jesus chose to humble Himself when the first Adam chose to reach when he ought not.

What does this all mean for us? It sounds like a great theology lesson, a compare and contrast between the two “Adams.” Is there a practical application? Yes, there is. The problem in the garden that day is that mankind lost humility. When humility was lost, the relationship with the Father was severed and sin became a lingering problem. That lingering problem affects us all. It causes us to be arrogant: we think too much of ourselves when compared to God. As a result, we don’t experience a proper relationship with Him. We don’t see His full power in our lives. We have at least partially closed our minds and our hearts to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The key to God moving in our lives has always been and will always be our humility. Christ’s example must be our own. He gave up everything in obedience to the Father. Anything less isn’t good enough. Jesus became nothing when He deserved everything. We think we deserve everything but truly have earned nothing. We must flip the way we think and the way we live. We must get back to a real and honest humility before Jesus. This doesn’t make us more holy than those who don’t. We aren’t. It just means we recognize our place before an Almighty God and in the process we clear the wax out of our ears so we can hear from Him and we open the door for His power to flow. It all starts with our humility towards Him. He is everything and we are nothing. He deserves all praise and we none. We exist for Him, not He for us. We must return in spirit to the time before the fall of the first Adam. We must continually reject the first sin: pride. We must humble ourselves before our Creator, our Master, our Father. This is where we must begin again.

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Stand Up to Evil Men and Troublemakers

Knights dueling at Belvoir Castle Fall 2004There’s an old saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This is often attributed to Edmund Burke, but is a misquote. He said something to the effect that when evil men start to get together, good men must do the same, otherwise they will be a pitiable sacrifice (evil will overwhelm good). The idea both quotes capture is that good men must stand up to evil. How exactly to do this differs from situation to situation, but Scripture is clear that we must stand up for what is right. David experienced just such an issue:

But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.”  – 1 Samuel 30:23-24, ESV

In David’s case, he and his men has marched as part of the Philistine army in what would be a confrontation against the Israelites. Saul’s pursuit of David had driven him into the hands and protection of the enemy. Being David’s former enemy, many of the Philistine commanders didn’t trust him. They figured David would turn on them at a crucial point in the battle, giving the victory to Israel. As a result, they appealed to his commander and sponsor and that man was forced to send David and his force home.

Only when David and crew reached home they found that their stronghold had been sacked and their families and valuables carried off. So you’re looking at a group of men who had marched off to battle, then were told to go home, only to find that there was nothing to come home to. David and his men didn’t settle for this setback. They went after the attackers. However, the fatigue of all the marching meant some of the men couldn’t go on to engage in the battle. David didn’t want to let the attackers get away, so he left those men behind and pursued. The remainder went into battle and won and were able to liberate everything and everyone that had been taken. Of course, when everyone was reunified, the ones who had been able to go on and fight didn’t want the ones who stayed behind to get anything beyond their family members.

This is where David had to step in. He was the only one who had the charisma and authority to settle things. The right thing was for the entire army to regain what they had lost. There are always some who cannot make the battle. Should they be treated differently? In the case of those who tried to fight and couldn’t, no they shouldn’t. That was David’s view because it was the right one. We see a similar argument from Jesus in the New Testament with the workers hired throughout the day, all who receive the same wage.

Had David not stepped in, had he not intervened, this event could have split his army. There was a core group of troublemakers who felt they were right. To make matters worse, they were the majority. I can’t go so far to say they were being evil. A lot of us in the same situation would have been nursing similar feelings. But there’s no doubt about the fact that were causing trouble and stirring up disorder. David stood up to them and stopped it. As a result, David continued to have a strong and effective military force in the years to come.

When we see evil and wrongdoing we, as the Church, must make a stand. We cannot accept what is an abomination in God’s sight. But let me very blunt here: we cannot respond to evil or a wrongdoing with further evil or wrongdoing. Our history as the Church is full of exactly this type of response. God is not pleased with evil, regardless of who did it or why they did it. In other words, the end does not justify the means. Not when it comes to God. We must take a stand, but we must do so in a way that glorifies God. He has commanded us to repay evil with good and that doesn’t just mean being pleasant to those who seek to harm us. Be ready to confront evil and troublemakers. Do so when you are called to do so. But do so in a way that is holy and pleasing to God.

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Respond to God’s Rebuke

WrathAt The Citadel it does no good to hang your head. If, as a first year cadet, you get corrected by an upperclassman, a hound dog expression is just going to draw more heat. You’re expected to fix the problem. If you can’t fix it by yourself, you’re expected to reach out to your classmates for their help. Self-pity just gets you more trouble. Continue it for very long and it’s a lot of trouble. The same is true with God.

  So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”  – 1 Samuel 3:18, ESV

Samuel, when he first heard from God, learned that God was upset at Eli and his sons. Eli’s sons were wicked. They were an abomination to the priesthood. Naturally, when Eli asked Samuel to repeat what the Lord revealed to the young boy, Samuel didn’t want to do so. However, Eli compelled him and Samuel gave him the pronouncement from God. Verse 18 is Eli’s response. Do you sense a hound dog expression on the part of Eli? Does it sound like he was resigned to his fate? It’s a tragedy that he was. The reason I say this is because in verses 19-21 we know some time passed as Samuel grew up. No word of punishment is found in those verses. In other words, Eli had time to try and correct things. My assumption, based on the fact God carried out his punishment (chapter 4) and because of Eli’s response when first told, is that Eli did nothing to change the situation.

Don’t do this. If God rebukes you, even if you feel additional punishment or consequences are on their way, deal with the issue. Correct your behavior. Try you best to make it right. Don’t resign yourself and say, like Eli, “Let Him do what seems good to Him.” We know from Scripture that upon receiving a rebuke, when the people have responded, God has typically relented. Look at how many times Moses intervened on behalf of the Israelites. Or look at how Nineveh repented when Jonah presented God’s message and how that generation was saved.

God may not relent. You may bear the full brunt of what is due you. However, don’t let this discourage you from trying to get back to doing what is right. We all fail to be perfectly obedient. We all sin. We all face the consequences of those failures. Until we enter heaven, that’s life. The key is how we respond to those failures, those sins. Do we step back and say, “Whatever is to come is to come,” or do we waive off the failure and say, “I’m covered by grace?” Both of those may be true. However, the point is to try and enter back into obedience. Therefore, our next steps should be to actively seek to become obedient again. We should not wait. When it’s something we’ve done wrong, that means changing our path, trying to correct what we’ve done wrong, and seeking God’s forgiveness. We should not resign ourselves to face His wrath without trying to get back into right relationship with Him. If He administers discipline, so be it, but He does so because He loves us. Let us show that we are loving children by trying to surrender to Him anew and accepting His Lordship over our lives. Let us renew our efforts to follow His commands. And let us not sit idly by as He rebukes us. Instead, let us attempt to be better for it, a step closer in sanctification, and more like the people He desires us to be.

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Hope for Revival

...Hope...We are not fighting a hopeless battle. We are not fighting on the losing side. While many of us deplore the state of the Church in America, the fact of the matter is that the Church as a whole will not go away. Also, there is always the hope for revival:

  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  – Matthew 16:18, ESV

This is a promise, and a mighty one at that. Nothing will destroy the church entirely. Just as God always preserved a remnant of His people, so too will he preserve the Church. The promise isn’t just to preserve, but to build. However, the Church will not be built on our abilities. The Church will not be built on our programs, our buildings, or our anything. The Church will be built on Jesus Christ. The Church will be built on the Scriptures that testify about Him and declare His glory. Why do I make a point out of all of this?

Simply to say that if we want revival we must first seek repentance. We must surrender and become obedient. We must allow Him, not anything we do, to be preeminent in our lives. The hope for revival is not found in us; The hope for revival is found in Him. Therefore, He must shine through us. He must dominate every worship and prayer service. He must be the Master and we the bondslaves.  We aren’t doing this and that’s why revival is not forthcoming. We aren’t humbled and yielded. We still believe too much in our programs, in our own paltry human efforts. And that’s why we don’t see revival.

Evan Roberts, the leading figure of the Welsh revival of 1904-1905 is a good case study for us. The Welsh revival spread beyond Wales and even touched our shore here in America. Who was Evan Roberts? He was a coal miner barely trained for ministry (a three month crash course, if you will). What he was, though, was obedient and surrendered. That is why he was used mightily.

I’m not knocking credentials and training. I’m not saying we don’t need resources, buildings, and programs. Those are important. However, none of them are effective unless Jesus is most important and most prominent. He is the hope for revival, not us. And we will not see revival until we, as His people, give Him His due.

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The Impossible May Be a Test

StruggleYou know you’re right. The facts back you up. You’ve done everything you can. Yet, it didn’t happen. Whether you were arguing your solution to a problem on a test, trying to explain to a brother why that girl he likes is bad news, or interviewing for a new position at work, there are times when we do our best and we don’t get the result we want. We have come face-to-face with the impossible and it truly proved to be impossible for us. But wait a second! Doesn’t God have the power to overcome what to us is impossible. Yes, He does. That doesn’t mean He will.

  But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”  – Numbers 13:30, ESV

Caleb was fighting that losing battle. He and Joshua argued to go into the land of Canaan because they had God on their side. However, the people were listening to the other 10 scouts. If you’re familiar with the story, you know that though Caleb was right, he didn’t succeed in convincing the large mass of people that made up the Israelites. In fact, that group went so far as to openly discuss stoning him! Caleb was facing an impossible situation. In the end, he lost. Or did he?

  But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.  – Numbers 14:24, ESV

Caleb lost when it came to the situation. However, he didn’t lose when it came to God’s eternal view. Just a short while later, after the Israelites rebelled and after Moses interceded for them before God, Moses is told that Caleb “has a different spirit and has followed me fully.” Now that’s praise. That’s praise coming from the One who matters most. Not only did God praise Caleb, but He promised that Caleb would come into the land he had scouted. God would make it happen.

The reminder is for us to do what is right, even in a losing situation. If it’s right, that’s good enough. We may not succeed in that circumstance, but we’re not living life for individual circumstances. We’re living life for the long term view of the Living God. Don’t you want to hear from God about yourself, “He/she has a different spirit and has followed me fully?” I know I do. We are called to be holy. That means we’re called to be set apart. If we have a different spirit, that’s being set apart. But holy means more than just being set apart. It means God has set us apart. Why would God set us apart? He would set us apart because we have followed Him fully. Obedience and faith walk hand-in-hand. Caleb demonstrated his faith by his obedience, even as his nation wanted to kill him. Pause and think about that for a moment.

We need to be bold like Caleb. Bold isn’t arrogant. Bold isn’t abusive. Bold is doing what many others do not have the courage to do. It takes courage to stay the course in an impossible situation. But there’s foolish courage and wise courage. Foolish courage is staying the course when it’s the wrong course. Wise courage is sticking to the path when it’s the right path, just not the successful one. Let us be full of wise courage. Let us be bold. Let us be like Caleb, willing to stick to what’s right, even in the midst of an impossible situation. The reward will be to hear God say something like, “You have a different spirit and you have followed me fully.” Now wouldn’t that be awesome?

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