Tag Archives: obedience

Beyond Forgiveness

weekly theme #46 Beyond Forgiveness*    

week containing the Sunday between September 11-17

The theme for this week intrigued me.  What does it mean, “Beyond Forgiveness”?  Here’s my first idea.  After people and God forgive me, I must decide how this forgiveness will change me.  How will my life be altered so this same forgiveness is not required tomorrow?  Temptation will come, but how can I lessen its attractiveness and increase my resolve?  Frequently aligning myself with God’s Spirit seems critical.  I must repeatedly pledge my allegiance to God.  God will shield me from evil’s attacks with a “wall” of protection, but I must resist the temptation to open the gate out of curiosity else evil will seep in the gap.  Beyond forgiveness is the need for full devotion and cooperation with God.

Beyond forgiveness, a new path lies before me that was near all the time, but I was blind to it.  The Lord leads me in this path and teaches me, if I will be humble enough to learn.  My pride makes me so stubborn, so arrogant that I think it is others, not me, who are in the greatest need of Jesus’ guidance.  No wonder I stumble and fall.  From my experience, walking this path of holiness is only temporary.  It seems odd.  When I am on the right path, walking with God, I can’t imagine straying off of it.  Then, after a time, I seem to awake from a spiritual sleep and find myself off the path.  My response depends upon whether I’m only slightly off or lost in the wilderness, but the solution is always the same.  I cry out to God, and he leads me back to the path he has prepared for me.  For beyond forgiveness is more forgiveness.

Moses told the descendents of Jacob that God wanted them to witness the awesome power of the Lord.  He added, “…let your fear of him keep you from sinning.”  In Romans 14 Paul talks about living righteously out of love for God and others.  Two different motives, but both with the intent of living a life aligned with God’s will.  I’ve lived with both motivations, and I think I still do.  In either case, beyond forgiveness is the opportunity for a more godly life.  Thank God!

Beyond forgiveness is oneness and peace.  Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of all people allows us to look beyond our differences and live in harmony with one another – not unison, harmony.  Each, in our uniqueness, is valued in the family of God.  I long for the time when differences without strife are the norm.

Forgiveness provides a chance to change, even restart anew.  God can redeem me – let me live my life to full value.  Beyond forgiveness is the potential for a redeemed life.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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weekly theme #38*

week containing the Sunday between June 17-23

The editors of this devotional didn’t start where I expected, Psalm 37.  I became a little angry when I read verses 25 and 28.  The author of that Psalm, David, says that he has never seen children of the godly begging for bread, and he adds that the Lord loves justice and will keep the godly safe forever.  That is not how I see the conditions around the world!  Yet I admit that this topic, patience, is most relevant when conditions don’t align with how I think they should be.  Patience is hardest when things are the worst.

“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” (Psalm 37:7a)  For a follower of Jesus, there is a connection between patience and trust in God.  Often I think God moves too slow, and I become impatient.  “Too slow” means I have a pace I want to go and God isn’t keeping up.  It is arrogant, and foolish, for me to be impatient with God rather than trusting him.  I heap so many burdens on myself, and others, by my lack of trust in the Lord.  I must work when he calls me to work, but I must remain still, even rest, if he says to wait.  On the other hand, patience may be shown by persistence even when progress seems slow.  Impatience can occur even in the midst of activity.

Patience doesn’t seem to be a stand-alone quality.  Both Paul and Peter name it among other qualities such as mercy, kindness, self-control, and moral excellence to name a few.  I can improve my patience by strengthening surrounding qualities.  In fact, maybe patience is simply a fruit of a holy, obedient life.  Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, thus poor fruit of any type shows a poor connection to the Vine.  I think that connection should be my focus, the fruit is a natural result of the connection.

Some of my impatience is over silly things: a slow line at the grocery, slow traffic, people who don’t do exactly what I think they should, etc.  In the long-term view, is it really worth getting upset?  And the long-term view of God is longer than my lifetime.  My view of mission or purpose is usually limited to my days on earth, but God sees mission or purpose over a period of generations – even centuries.  Nothing I do is a stand-alone success, but it is merely a thread in a tapestry of events.  It is important only as a part of the whole, but in that respect, it is still important.  Without all those individual threads, there is no tapestry.  Patience is being content to be a thread without seeing the final tapestry.

I want to speak these words the next time I become impatient, “Lord, I’m responding with impatience to [event, person, situation, etc].  I give it into your hands.  Your will be done, not mine.”

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Chosen By God

weekly theme #27*

week containing the Sixth Sunday of Easter

When I think of being chosen by God, I think of having some mission or purpose to accomplish.  Yet the first part of being chosen, the first part that never ends, is receiving.  I receive his guidance, care, protection, and discipline.  Until I receive from him, even the amount of my faith in him, I have no hope of accomplishing any mission.  God’s mission for me is unique from the missions of others because each of us is unique.  He uses a great variety of us to work in harmony for his fame and glory.

Paul says God reached out to me before I showed any interest in him.  In fact, Paul writes that God restored my relationship as his friend while I was still his behaving as his enemy.  (Romans 5:8-10)  He did this knowing beforehand what a rebellious, inconsistent, and dull follower I would be.  God chose me despite my qualities, not because of them.  What’s more, he invites me to join in carrying his cross, to suffer with him.  My willingness to do this is my expression of love to him.  It is an opportunity, not a punishment.

How involved is God in the details?  I have no doubt that he knew of me from the start of time, but was it by his design that I was born at this specific time and place.  I think so, and that makes the people and conditions in my path potentially divine appointments.  Why now?  Why here?  Why me?

The mind seeks to know and understand, and the heart seeks to be known and understood.  My mind seeks to know and understand God, but my heart’s longing is that he will know me and accept me as I offer myself to him.  The heart is content for he has called and chosen me as his own.  How I respond to being chosen has more to do with my actions than my feelings.  The question is whether I obey even when it’s painful.

I wondered what Psalm 126:6 meant, “They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”   The Amplified Bible helped understand why they wept as they sowed.  They were in a famine.  This grain they were sowing could sustain them for the short-term, but they would starve in the long-term if they planted no crop.  And if there was no harvest, the sowing was for nothing.  Their act of sowing the seed was a total commitment in faith.  That is the proper response to being chosen – all-in obedience.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Son Of God

weekly theme #7*

week containing the first Sunday after Epiphany

Mark 1:22 says, “They were amazed at [Jesus’] teaching, for he taught as one who had real authority – quite unlike the teachers of the religious law.”  I think it was more than his style or method of teaching that impressed those who listened to Jesus.  I believe it also held a depth that was only possible because of his communication and confidence with Father as well as his knowledge of the life beyond death.  I believe eternity will be more marvelous than I can imagine, and one of the highlights will be peace in all the relationships there.

Jesus said that he could only do what he saw his Father do (John 5:19), and he gave huge quantities of time to the relationship with his Father.  (Luke 6:12, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:46-47)  He filled himself with what the Father modeled and that bore good fruit.  What fills me determines my beliefs, then my values, then my behavior, and ultimately the fruit I bear.  My fruit indicates my filling.

I’m sitting in a room with several chairs scattered about, and one chair sits alone in the middle – facing my direction.  I imagined Jesus sitting there and asked him how I can balance all the things that beckon for my focus.  In a patient voice he said, “Focus on me.”  I cannot focus whole-heartedly on more than one thing, and nothing is more worthy of my focus than Jesus.  Only he can save me, and just as importantly, only he can improve me.  My best effort at improvement is cooperating with the LORD.  Thinking that I improve myself leads to pride and judgment of others.  I put myself on a pedestal to look down at others.

My call should send me to my knees, not a pedestal.  Jesus has trusted me to do his work, and I can only do his work if he possesses me.  “He will not crush those who are weak or quench the smallest hope.  He will bring full justice to all who have been wronged.  He will not stop until truth and righteousness prevail throughout the earth.”  (Isaiah 42:3-4a)  This is what Christ’s Body, the Church, is to do.  This is what I am to do.

When confronted by people who say, “Why doesn’t God do something?” I must honestly answer that he has.  He has empowered and commanded his followers to let him work through us, but we refuse to cooperate faithfully.  Honestly, I’m part of the problem when God designed me to be part of the solution.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Two Thoughts On Two Books

I’ve already commented on the books Radical and Fast Living, but I want to add a couple additional thoughts.  I missed two very important things.

In Fast Living, Todd suggests that people living on less than $2 per day are extremely poor.  I don’t think too many of us would disagree with that.  However, he feels that saying  all people in the USA are also poor, just in other ways,* tends to minimize the tremendous difference between being materially poor and poor in “other ways”.  I agree.

Are there some people in the USA who suffer daily because they are intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually poor?  Absolutely.  Do they all suffer to the same degree as those living in extreme material poverty?  Probably not.   Material poverty has unique consequences.  One of them is a lack of options to help their condition.  People in the USA who are intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually poor have options for help.  True, they may not use them, but options are available.

I think it is important to acknowledge the fact that human beings can be in need spiritually, intellectually, or emotionally.   These are real needs that need addressed.  But calling them “poor” tends  to do a disservice to the materially poor.  Is there a way to describe these conditions without using the word “poor”?  Perhaps it’s as simple as a synonym.  Here are a few nominees: needy, weak, challenged, or feeble.  Just a thought.

*concept  drawn from When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

As for the book Radical, I realized that I failed to mention one of Platt’s most clear presentations – the Americanization of Christianity.  My first thought was to politics.  There seem to be a lot of Christians with some pretty strong opinions about how the government should handle certain national issues.  On occasion I’ve asked the opinion giver, “As far as you understand Jesus’ words and life, how do you think he would respond to this issue?”  The replies are usually, “I don’t know BUT…” and they repeat something they heard on talk radio or 24/7 TV news.  Who are we listening to?  Who do we follow?  What are we to do?

Honestly, I don’t know how Jesus would respond either.  And that bothers me.  I am so ignorant of my Lord that I can’t apply his principles to everyday life.  Or maybe deep inside of me I do know how he would respond and I don’t like it.  So I ignore it.  I’m not sure which is worse – neglectful ignorance or deliberate disobedience. 

Platt’s book has pushed me to become more knowledgeable and obedient to the one I declare as my Lord.  For me, any other choice is a fraud.

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