Tag Archives: obedience

Joshua 11-17; Still Ticking

I retired from public education in 2011. I’d spent 37 years working with kids, parents, and fellow teachers. And I loved it. But during Christmas break in 2010, I knew it was time for me to go. I was tired.

Much has happened in the six years I’ve been retired. And I haven’t regretted my decision to move on from teaching. I will say, though, that this chapter in my life has its own challenges.

Caleb was in his 80’s when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Now, at 85, he was ready to tackle his own challenge, and take the land God had given him. It meant war, and hardship. But he said he felt as strong at 85 as he did at 40. I’m not close to 85, but I don’t feel as strong as I felt at 40.  I wonder what he ate for breakfast.

I’m reminded that obeying God, and serving Him does not have an age limit. I have a dear friend who’s mother has had several hospital stays the past few months as doctors try to get a sore on her foot to heal. She’s been in a lot of pain.

But that hasn’t stopped her from sharing Jesus. She talks about her Savior to everyone who comes into her room. She hands out business cards with our church’s address and phone number, and invites them to join us. Doctors, nurses, orderlies, volunteers, janitors, have all received a special invitation from this dear woman. They all know and love Ms Madelyn.

Ms Madelyn’s ministry has changed over the years. She can’t teach Sunday School or work in the nursery or sing in the choir. But even in the midst of her pain, she’s obeying Jesus’ Great Commission. She is still involved in ministry.

Ministry changes with age, as does simple tasks we take for granted. My back isn’t as strong as it used to be, my knee gives me problems from time to time, I don’t have the stamina I once had, and my hands are showing signs of arthritis. But my heart is still ticking, and I have a job to do.

At prayer meeting last Wednesday, we prayed for an especially long list of people with physical needs. Cancer, heart problems, organ failure, the health of our elderly population is getting more precarious all the time. Our pastor told us he’d read that someone once said the aging process is a gift from God, intended to wean us away from this life, and get us looking forward to the next.

It’s kind of like the timing of my decision to retire from teaching. People kept tell me I’d know when it was time for me to retire. I remember saying, “Then I’ll never retire, because I love my job.” And I did. For 36 1/2 years I loved it. But during that particular Christmas break, I realized I was worn out physically, mentally, and emotionally. I didn’t have the same enthusiasm I had when I was first out of college. I didn’t wake up each day eager to get to school to be with my kids. Even my colleagues started getting on my nerves.

I think what the pastor shared about aging being a gift from God, is true. I know the older I get, the more I am aware that this body is wearing out, and the more I think about living in heaven. I just never considered these aches and pains gifts from God, a way a loving God helps us let go of this life, and grasp His hand to lead us into eternity.

So what I take from these chapters today is to be faithful with the abilities God has given me today, in 2017. I may not be able to do the things I once did. But I can do the things God asks me to at this stage of life. If God can help Caleb conquer nations at 85, I’m pretty sure He is going to help me with the battles He wants me to win today, too.

You’re never too old to tell someone about Jesus. Not while your heart is still ticking.

 

Deuteronomy 30-34; The Law and Grace

What is your definition of grace? When you think of God’s grace, what comes to mind? Jesus? The cross? Forgiveness? Eternal life? What about, the Law?

I’ve heard religion criticized for being a list of rules, of “don’ts.” And actually, Moses reminds us it is. The Law is a very big part of this thing we call Christianity. Even though we know the Law is powerless to forgive sin.

The Law reveals sin, though. And in doing so, it points us to our Savior.

I guess God could have left us to our own devices, not defined sin for us, then sat back and watched us unknowingly crash and burn. Like a cop who knows the speed limit sign is missing, then pulls over unsuspecting drivers and tickets them for driving too fast.  Sorry, boys, not knowing the speed limit doesn’t change the speed limit.

Not knowing what sin is doesn’t change what sin is.

But God is full of grace. In Romans 7:7, Paul tells us he would not have known what sin even was if it had not been for the Law. I wouldn’t know what light was except for the darkness, what health was if it weren’t for sickness, what joy was but for sorrow. I wouldn’t know what forgiveness was if I didn’t know I needed to be forgiven.

Deuteronomy 33:3 tells us God loved the people, He held them in His hand, they worshiped Him, and God gave them the Law as a possession, an inheritance. God gave them the Law as something precious, not because they deserved it, but because He graciously wanted them to know their boundaries so they wouldn’t cross over them. Then He could bless them, like He longed to do.

The Law is still in effect today. Those boundaries are still in place. Idol worship is still a sin. Adultery, lying, dishonoring parents are still sins. And because the wages of every sin is death, God wanted to spell it all out so we would not be caught unawares.

He wanted to give us life instead of death. A life, as sinners, we don’t deserve. That’s grace. And in a very real way, the Law plays a big role in God’s grace.

Grace greater than all our sin.

God, thank you for letting me see your Law as an act of grace. You want us to know what sin is so that we are quick to repent of it, to accept what Jesus did on our behalf, and to enjoy unbroken fellowship with you. That’s grace. Thank you for grace that is even greater than my sin.

Deuteronomy 7&8; Obedience= Blessing (Not The Other Way Around)

Five times in these two chapters, God makes a direct link between obedience and blessing. Verse after verse describe the Promised Land with all its abundance. But God is not handing the land over to His people without some strings attached.

Clearly He says, all the blessings of Canaan are theirs, IF. Then three times He tells them what will happen if they disobey. First, in 9:14 He warns them they’ll forget Him, then in verses 19, and repeated in 20, He tells them disobedience will lead to destruction.

For myself, I know that when I am blessed by God, it encourages me to obey Him again and again. But I think the Bible is consistent in saying God does not bless disobedience. In fact, there are severe consequences for disobedience.

Sometimes I think people believe God chose Israel (and perhaps the Church) to bless them above all nations, when in reality God chose them (and the Church) to worship Him before all other nations and people, to demonstrate how much He blesses a people who obey Him, in order to draw unbelievers to Himself, so that they can believe, worship, and obey Him, be blessed, and continue to reveal Him to others, and so on, and so on, and so on.

God delights in blessing His children. But obedience comes before blessing, and disobedience comes before a fall.

Deuteronomy 4-6; The Greatest Commandment

I was reading Moses’ re-teaching of the Ten Commandments, and was struck by the simplicity of them:

  1. Don’t worship other gods
  2. Don’t make idols
  3. Don’t misuse God’s Name
  4. Keep the Sabbath
  5. Honor your parents
  6. Don’t murder anyone
  7. Don’t commit adultery
  8. Don’t steal
  9. Don’t lie
  10. Don’t covet

Moses elaborated on these commandments later, but in a nutshell, these are the condensed version of God’s commandments to His people.

Do you remember how Jesus answered the young man who asked what the most important commandment is? Jesus said: Love God. Love each other.

Love is the umbrella over which all the other commandments exist. And God Himself IS love. (I John 4:8)

Now, I am by no means an authority on world religions. I have scratched only the surface in my study of them. But I can’t think of another religion whose god says, “Love me.” Or even one who claims to love its followers.

The God of the Bible demands obedience, for sure. But when you understand His love, those demands don’t seem so daunting. In fact, obedience becomes a privilege, not a ritual. Worshiping Him out of love produces love. And when I break a commandment, when I sin, I can receive forgiveness through the precious blood of God Himself, Jesus Christ.

Holy God, thank you for telling us, and retelling us what it is You require of us as Your people. As straightforward as those commandments are, I have broken them more than once. So, Father, I thank You for giving Your Son to pay the consequence for my sin. He did what I can never hope to do. And His perfection is mine through His blood. God, I thank You for love. First for Your love of me, then for the privilege of loving You in return, and lastly for the love that I share with Your people. May my life be lived in such a way that Your love is evident, and enticing. And may I obey You today, out of love.

 

Numbers 13-14; Turn Down The Volume

When I was a middle school teacher I found that, when the kids in my classroom started to get noisy, the louder I spoke, the louder they got. If I tried to teach over their chatter, the noise level rose (and so did my frustration level).

It’s like that with arguments, isn’t it? Voice level rises, and anger escalates.

Ten spies came back from checking out the Promised Land, and threw fear into the people. I can almost see the Jews getting caught up in the frenzy. So rather than trying to out-shout them, Moses and Aaron fell to the ground, face down in front of the people gathered there. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes, a sign of distress and grief.

That got the people’s attention.

Several of my closest friends at the middle school and I had our breaks scheduled at the same time. Usually, unless there were papers to grade, lessons to tweak, or parents to talk to, we would meet in the teacher’s lounge for a cup of coffee and a few laughs. Most of the time five or six of us would sit around the table and talk about recipes, husbands, and TV shows, for twenty minutes. It was a much needed break from our day.

Two of the women were friends in school and out. They socialized together with their husbands, and enjoyed a special friendship. Most of the time, they would join the rest of us. But occasionally, they would sit together on the couch, heads together, and whisper about something they didn’t want the rest of us to hear.

What do you do when someone whispers? Do your ears perk up, your senses heighten? Well, mine did. I could be in the middle of a conversation with another teacher at the table, but as soon as my friends on the couch began to whisper, I found myself trying to listen to them, too.

I couldn’t help myself. The whispering got my attention, even if I really didn’t care what they are saying.

I got to thinking about how I share Christ with others. Do I stand on a street corner and shout “Repent! The end is near!”? Do I take my Bible and hit them over the head with it? Do I talk about Jesus, or do I live His love? Do I listen to my friend, instead of rushing in with answers? Do I argue? Debate? Lecture?

Moses and Aaron fell on their faces, rather than trying to out-shout the crowd. I think I can learn a lesson from this. Oh, if you read on you’ll find out that some of the people didn’t heed what Moses had to say. They ended up facing God’s judgment in spite of his warning.

But at least Moses got their attention, and was faithful to say what God wanted him to say. I want that to be true about me, too.

So, maybe I should learn to turn down the volume. Someone said, “if you want people to hear you… whisper.” I want my life to whisper, “Jesus.”

I’m thinking that, if I want someone to hear my testimony, I should get together with them in a quiet place. I should demonstrate my love for God by quietly serving, by reaching out to them in friendship.

Then, I want to be ready to give an answer for the hope I have in my Savior. I just need to get their attention first so that they’ll ask me to.

 

 

 

Numbers 7-9; Whose Responsibility Is This, Anyway?

I’m teaching a Sunday School class this quarter for the older ladies of our church. Our ages range from 60-80something. These women bless me and challenge me every week.

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ last days on earth in human form, and have been impressed with the Savior’s urgency in preparing his disciples for what was to come. Jesus was going to die, then come back to life, and there would be work for them to do amid hardship, persecution, and blessing.

Our lesson book is challenging us to get busy ourselves in sharing the Gospel, reminding us that there are people out there going to hell without Jesus.

I was praying Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church. Standing in front of the mirror with hair drier humming, I prayed, “God, these women have walked with you for decades. They are prayer warriors. They continue to use their gifts to serve you. Many have health issues. Some are widows the church should care for. They’ve put in their time, and this lesson is telling them to get busy. What can I possibly say to these dear women who are at the end of their service?”

The thought came to me, “Do you think I’m done with them, that they are of no use to Me?”

Point taken. I taught the lesson, and reminded them God does have something for them to do, someone they need to share the Gospel with, some whose lives God wants them to touch for eternity.

This thought was reinforced today as I read 8:23-26. Priests had mandatory retirement at age 50. After serving in the temple for 20 years, their responsibilities were passed on to younger men.

But here’s the good news for us old geezers: “They may assist their brothers in performing their duties…”

God doesn’t want us to turn in our union cards just because the pages of our calendars show more days behind us than ahead.

There’s a flip side to this coin. My Ohio church family does amazing things in the community. It’s a small congregation of people who love the Lord, and who work hard. And the bulk of the work is done by the dear ones who are in their 70’s and 80’s.

They work with backaches, arthritis, hernias. They work with hearing loss, and fatigue. But whenever there is a job to be done, these amazing people are the first in line. I love them so much.

But, young people – where are you? God’s footprint for an effective church includes you. It’s easy to let someone else do a job if that job is a bit inconvenient. They’re retired. I’m working. They’ve got experience. I don’t. Their kids are grown. Mine demand my attention.

Lets’ be honest here. We all find the time to do things that are important to us.

So whose responsibility is the work of the church? It’s all of us who know the Lord. It’s yours. It’s mine. There is something for all of us to do.

Let’s be faithful.

Exodus 32; 960 Hours

It’s the middle of March. I’m wondering how many of you who made New Year’s Resolutions are still sticking with it. Myself? I quit making New Year’s Resolutions long ago. I stink at it.

But what about when we make promises to God? Are we able to keep those promises more than forty days? Forty days were all it took for Aaron and the Israelites to forget their promise to follow God, and make a golden calf to worship instead. 960 hours.

How seriously did God take their failure to keep their promise? 3,000 people died that day. I call that serious.

A man in my church lost a bunch of weight a while back. He looked great. I, who gave up my yearly resolve to lose these extra 15 pounds I’m carrying asked him how he did it. His answer? “I prayed.”

I don’t remember ever seeing an infomercial on that diet plan.

But my friend said that he prayed believing God would hear and answer his prayer. Then, every time he was tempted to open that bag of chips or have that second helping of dinner, he’d pray. And God answered his prayers.

Prayers. My friend lives his life in an attitude of prayer. And God answered his prayers as often as he prayed. He successfully lost the weight and has kept it off several years later.

I don’t think the Israelites did much praying when Moses was on the mountain. Because if they did, God would have answered their prayers. They would not have lost their confidence in God and Moses if they had prayed about that.

I take two things away from this chapter in Exodus today. One, God takes my promises to Him very seriously. And two, if I feel led to make a promise to Him, He is able to help me keep it. If I ask Him. And if I go to Him when I am tempted to break that promise, He will give me the strength to be successful.

He is able. And because He is, so am I.