Tag Archives: obedience

Love Obeys God

I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord;
therefore, I obey your instructions.
Psalm 119:55, NLT*

You can’t read Psalm 119 without sensing the devotion the psalmist has for God’s instructions. It’s not a dry list of rules that he loves, but the precepts and teaching of how God says he – and we – should live.

Why are these regulations so important? Because they teach us the way of true, abundant life. They keep us from straying away from God or allowing sin or self to distance us from Him.

The Pharisees claimed to love God’s laws too, and the negative examples of their behaviour toward Jesus and the common people may taint our view of this beautiful psalm.

The difference is, they were following their own understanding of the laws, while missing the heart of God. They saw the rules as the goal, not as the way to live with Him.

Today’s verse gives us the key: it’s knowing God’s character and His ways, responding to His love and mercy, that motivates us to obey Him (click to tweet). The more we discover of who He is and of how much we need Him, the more we’ll value the instructions and principles by which He calls us to live.

Whole-hearted obedience is a love response. Not an attempt to earn points or avoid punishment.

Holy and loving God, in wisdom You have set boundaries for us, and in great mercy You have sent Your Son to ransom us from the power of sin and death. You are faithful to forgive when we ask, and to teach us Your ways. The instructions You give are for our good and for Your glory. You alone are worthy of worship and adoration. Please draw us to know You better, and teach us to rely on Your Spirit’s power at work within us.

Loving God will draw us into obedience to Him. Let Kathryn Scott’s song, “Presence,” bless us today.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Rest from the Ordinary

You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 5:13-14a, NLT*

Note the extra word the NLT adds here: “Your ordinary work.”

Rest. He insists on it. God rested on the seventh day of creation, not because He needed it, but because we would need it. Because otherwise we’d find ways to go nonstop in the pursuit of our “ordinary” work.

Stopping becomes an act of faith as well as obedience. It’s a sign to us, and to others, of God’s trustworthiness and His care for us. It means we trust Him to help us accomplish the “ordinary” work He has for us in the other six days.

Truly resting and trusting means not just stopping the work for a day. It means stopping thinking about the work for the day. Otherwise our minds keep working, and we miss the point.

Choosing rest makes us see where our worship and affection really lie – and where they belong. It can refocus us on what’s truly important, taking our focus off ourselves and pointing us back to God. It may reveal a few things that need trimming from our schedules. It also recharges us to return to work with new energy and stamina.

Worship is a key part of soul-rest and restoration. Other aspects of a day of rest dedicated to God may mean different things to different people.

Without legalism, and with daily resting in His presence as well, how might we expand our understanding of a designated day of rest?

God our Creator and our Shepherd, You know our limitations better than we do. You know we need rest of body, mind, and spirit, and You know how we can turn our own agendas into mini-gods if we’re not continually reminded of our true allegiance. Thank You for being the kind of God who rests His people instead of grinding us into the ground. Thank You that You desire relationship with us: our love, not just our labour. Teach us what it means to rest, including how to carve out a day of rest in our fast-paced world. May our obedience be a sign for us and for others of Your goodness.

The key to rest is the invitation of Jesus to “Enter the Rest of God,” sung here by Brian Doerksen.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Ignoring the Gift

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.
2 Corinthians 6:1, NLT*

The gift Paul’s speaking of is a new life in Christ, reconciled to God and freed from the penalty of sin and death. (2 Corinthians 5:18) In the same verse Paul asks the Corinthian believers to reach out and be agents of reconciliation, bringing others to know this gift of life.

I’m sure that’s what he means by begging them not to ignore the gift. He wants them to fully live – to demonstrate this gift, vibrantly, contagiously, so others will want in, too. The gift is for everyone who’ll receive it.

There’s another aspect of ignoring the gift, though: literally ignoring it. Not letting it change us at all. We’ve escaped a Christ-less eternity, but here and now, life goes on with no appreciable difference.

I believed in God from childhood, gradually moving from a superstitious type of faith into the real thing as I learned more about Him. I knew the dos and don’ts and tried to obey, because that’s what He expected.

But it wasn’t until university that a Bible study weekend showed me Jesus doesn’t just want to be our Saviour, He wants to be our Lord. Not distant, issuing rules, but personal. Close. He wants our obedience, but also our loyalty. Our hearts.

He wants our hearts more than He wants our outward obedience.

How can Jesus have our hearts if we don’t spend time with Him? In quiet, in prayer, reading His Word and even studying it.

Without His having our hearts, of course we won’t change. Others won’t see His goodness. We won’t see it, either.

What if we took a few minutes, just 5 or 10, every day? Even twice a day? A little break for quiet with the Lord, to spend time in His presence. To reorient ourselves under His Lordship. To know Him more.

Father God, You’ve done all that needed doing to rescue and redeem us. You invite everyone to come, to be forgiven and made new. Forgive us for the times we ignore Your gift. Draw us back to Yourself. Forgive those who’ve ignored it long enough that they don’t even think of you now. Like the Roman soldiers, they don’t know what they’ve done. In Your mercy, draw their hearts back to Yourself. Remind them of the gift, and help them to embrace it.

I don’t know if this song was intended to be about a romance, but to me it’s always sounded like a lament/invitation from the Lord. Here’s Cliff Richard with “Discovering.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

True or False

Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.
John 12:10-11, NLT*

You’d think raising someone from the dead would be proof enough of Jesus’ power, even for the priests and Pharisees. The common people could see it clearly enough.

It’s easy for us to say these priests were protecting their own power and didn’t want to acknowledge the truth. That they felt threatened.

That’s likely the case, but these verses make me stop and think.

How often do we deny what’s true because we’re invested in something false? (click to tweet) A belief, a perspective, a plan? Something we’d have to set aside to do life God’s way?

  • I can’t make it to church because Sunday’s my only day to sleep in, to see my friends, it’s the best time to golf…
  • Forget tithing, I can’t give anything at all, because money is tight. Hey, do you want to go out to lunch after the service?
  • It’s okay to sleep with my boyfriend/girlfriend because morals have changed.
  • I’m not bound by the Bible’s words about homosexual behaviour because Jesus would want me to be happy.
  • I don’t need to read the Bible because it’s out of date and confusing.
  • No matter what my friends say, I can trust this particular person. If I have doubts, personally, then I’m not being very loyal.
  • Maybe I shouldn’t complain, but listen to what she/he did!
  • I don’t have to report that money I earned on the side. There’s no paper trail, and the government would only waste the extra tax.
  • And the list could go on for pages…

It doesn’t have to be a big thing. God often teaches us in the small. The point is, we need to be open to see – and to follow – God’s perspective instead of our own. (click to tweet) The best place to start is with reading the Bible and taking time in prayer. Regularly and consistently.

Father God, You see the past, the present and future. You know all things, and You alone are wise. Open our eyes, hearts and wills to what You reveal, and help us to let go of our own cherished perceptions, plans and desires, and to trust You. Because we know You are good and that You love us, we know that Your way is best.

Our song this week is “Thy Word,” sung by Amy Grant.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

A Slave of God

This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
James 1:1a, NLT*

I think the word “slave” meant something different to James than it does in a North American context. In identifying himself this way, he’s not saying he’s dehumanized, abused, a victim, or in any way to be pitied or rescued.

He’s a willing slave. There existed in Bible times men or women who could have been freed but who chose to commit to a lifetime’s service to their master. Imagine how good a person this type of master would be, and how futile the slave might otherwise see his or her options to be.

If we look at this in the context of service to a good master, and with the slave being like a servant, worker or employee, what does it imply for our faith walk?

  • serve out of love, wholeheartedly
  • remember we’re under authority
  • we’re also under protection
  • we’re provided for, both our physical needs and the material we need to do our assigned tasks
  • obedience is expected, without whining or attitude
  • thinking is expected, with questions as needed; arguing and back-talk are not
  • work is also expected, so our service isn’t doing God a favour
  • it’s not about us

Plenty to think about, isn’t it? What are some other benefits I’ve missed?

Our God, we are Your servants and ambassadors, but You also call us your children and heirs. Help us grow in relationship with You so we can conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of Your great Name, serving in such a way that others will discover how good You are.

We give ourselves to God in response to who He is. Here’s the Newsboys‘ song “Give Me to You.” (Apologies for the extraneous commas in this video. It was the only one I could find with lyrics.)

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Living God’s Way

The word of God came to Solomon saying, “About this Temple you are building—what’s important is that you live the way I’ve set out for you and do what I tell you, following my instructions carefully and obediently. Then I’ll complete in you the promise I made to David your father. I’ll personally take up my residence among the Israelites—I won’t desert my people Israel.”
1 Kings 6:11-13, MSG* (emphasis mine)

Solomon’s Temple was a work of art—a work of worship—the best that humans could do to construct a place worthy of the Lord’s presence. It couldn’t contain God, but it was a beautiful connecting-point with Him.

For New Testament Christians, God keeps this promise to personally take up His residence among us by placing His Spirit inside us.

We’re even less worthy of His presence than the Temple building—except that Jesus has washed us and is in the process of re-creating us into His image.

And so, since we’re so richly blessed, we need to do what God said:

  • live the way He sets out for us
  • do what He tells us
  • follow His instructions

Rigidity here would be to miss the point. We’re to live carefully and obediently. Lovingly. Trusting our Good Shepherd.

It’s about staying close to Him instead of wandering away. Believing He is strong and loving to care for us. Relying on His wisdom and guidance.

Holy and majestic God, our minds can’t comprehend how One such as You could dwell in people such as us—but You do it anyway. Thank You for making us worthy, and thank You for the gift of Your presence. Help us to know and rely on You and to live lives worthy of Your Name.

Here’s a new-to-me song from Darlene Zschech: “Show Me Your Ways.”

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Willing Spirit

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalm 51:12, NIV*

“I don’t really want to do that.” It’s easy to look at our responsibilities or opportunities that way.

Who really wants to drag their tired body out of bed too early to face the day? Or pick up toddlers’ toys one more time. Make that difficult phone call. Go to the dentist.

There are things we choose not to do, but there are plenty that we need to go ahead with.

The “I don’t want to” attitude can even slip into our relationships, or the job we love, or our ministry. It steals our joy.

Conscious gratitude helps, finding what we appreciate in the situations and deciding to thank God for His presence even in what we don’t like.

Eventually I find myself going back to King David’s prayer: “Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” It’s the way back to joy.

Holy God, Giver of life and mercy, complaining is offensive to You. Please forgive our rebellious spirits and the attitude of self focus that grows in us, and wash us clean. It’s about You after all, not about us. Grant us gratitude, restore the joy of our salvation when it slips, and give us willing hearts to sustain us in Your service.

Here’s Hillsong Australia with the chorus to the classic hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Joy Under Pressure

As pressure and stress bear down on me,
I find joy in your commands.
Psalm 119:143, NLT*

If that’s not a Christmas-related verse, I don’t know what is.

All jokes aside, you can’t read Psalm 119 and not see how the psalmist loves the Law of the Lord, how he thrives on it. I’ve been praying to better understand and follow his example.

At first this verse didn’t make sense to me. Pressure and stress bearing down… and he finds joy in God’s commands?

Pressure: God is the ultimate authority. This verse reminds me to trust Him to care for me and to ask for equipping wisdom or deliverance.

Perspective: It’s not me against the universe. God is bigger than the problem.

Focus: Centering on God’s way builds an attitude of God-trust instead of futile human striving or fighting the circumstances.

Wisdom: God’s code of conduct helps us know what to do, how to act in difficult situations.

Joy: There’s no joy looking at stress, but there’s deep joy in belonging to God. Keeping His Law, precepts and principles as the Spirit enables us keeps the barriers down between us.

Life: The next verse says

Your laws are always right;
help me to understand them so I may live.
Psalm 119:144, NLT*

Doing it God’s way brings joy and life in the midst of stress. What’s not to like?

God all-wise and loving, we can’t do this on our own, and that’s one reason You gave the Law in the first place, to help us see our need. Help us learn and understand, and through Your Holy Spirit keep us focused and following. Thank You for the joy and life You give.

The NewsboysWhen the Tears Fall is a song of trusting God through hard times. That’s not happiness, but it’s joy.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Obedient Thoughts

We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5b, NIV*

As I’ve been praying for grace to bring my thoughts under Christ’s authority, I’ve realized there’s more to this verse than avoiding sinful or tempting thoughts, as important as that is. There are at least three other types of thoughts that need to be kept in line:

Thoughts of self-focus, self-centredness or self-pity. When we’re preoccupied with our own opinions, choices and preferences, we can’t hear His.

Thoughts that ramble instead of being attuned to God’s leading. When we let our minds wander, even in safe places, we’ve lost focus and aren’t following our Shepherd.

Thoughts that yammer on and distract us from His voice. We need to still our thoughts and listen to God.

The other day at work I was tired and achy and tasked with moving boxes. Where ordinarily I’d be focused on muscle pain and “poor me,” I caught myself singing the same song over and over: “Hallelujah to My King.”

The Holy Spirit planted the song, but my moment of choice came when I recognized it: keep singing, or start complaining? For all the tests I (we all) fail, I’m glad this one I passed.

God our Maker, You know our weakness and how easily our thoughts slip away from the paths You’d like them to be in. Without Your Spirit to remind and guide us we don’t have a chance of keeping our thoughts obedient. Thank You for Your grace that helps us. Give us teachable minds and attitudes of obedient perseverance, and grow us in Your ways.

Hallelujah to My King,” by Paul Baloche, is a good song for us all today.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Not About Us

But Samuel replied,
“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”
1 Samuel 15:22, NLT*

What is it about humans that we always want to make it about us? And about outward, not inward, and doing, not being?

God’s been poking me about this in relation to why I do things and how I choose what to do. Too often my first line of thought is “what do I want/think/feel about this?” If Jesus is really Lord in my life, the better question is “what does God want/think/feel about this?”

Self-focus is insidious and I think we all struggle with it.

It’s silly, really, because if we know God’s way is best, why do we so quickly shift focus to what we want? When I’m focused on my own opinions and feelings I miss the better things God has for me. And I’m not pleasant to be around.

Focus on (and surrender to) His way brings joy, contentment, and a contagious sense of wellbeing. A much better choice… if only it were easier to keep this perspective!

Without this heart-choice—spirit-choice—we’ll either be doing the wrong thing or doing the right thing for the wrong reason. We can even turn the pursuit of holiness into being about us. Take a minute to read Violet Nesdoly’s post about victory vs. obedience.

God our King, Your wisdom and power, kindness and justice make you the perfect ruler. Forgive us when we try to re-take control of our lives, and draw us back to full surrender to You. There is none other like You, none other worthy to be God. Remind us who You are, and help us to trust and obey. Help us worship You with our lives.

Today’s song is “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” by ZOEgirl (not the same song that Hillsong does). Notice the part that says “It’s all about You… It’s not about me.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.