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December 10, 2002

Walk the Walk

Amos 3:3
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?

The power of agreement is a well known principle in the scripture. Reading it in context today has given me a new perspective. I've often assumed it had a similar context to Jesus' instruction on the power of agreement (Matthew 18:19 - if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven). Although Amos is pointing out the significance of agreement he is not speaking about the agreement between men. He is calling people to come into agreement with God.

This is not an instruction on prayer. It is a call to repentance; calling Israel to come into agreement with God, walking in obedience to Him. Before we can engage the power of agreement on earth with one another, we first must come into agreement with Him. We must be people who don't just talk the talk - "roaring" about without having done anything (v. 4). The trumpet has sounded (v. 6), the warning has gone out. God is calling people to walk the walk - to live their lives in agreement with His commands and purposes.

Lord, I want to not only be in agreement with you. I want to be with You, walking in step with You, led by Your voice.

Walk the Walk

Amos 3:3
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?

The power of agreement is a well known principle in the scripture. Reading it in context today has given me a new perspective. I've often assumed it had a similar context to Jesus' instruction on the power of agreement (Matthew 18:19 - if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven). Although Amos is pointing out the significance of agreement he is not speaking about the agreement between men. He is calling people to come into agreement with God.

This is not an instruction on prayer. It is a call to repentance; calling Israel to come into agreement with God, walking in obedience to Him. Before we can engage the power of agreement on earth with one another, we first must come into agreement with Him. We must be people who don't just talk the talk - "roaring" about without having done anything (v. 4). The trumpet has sounded (v. 6), the warning has gone out. God is calling people to walk the walk - to live their lives in agreement with His commands and purposes.

Lord, I want to not only be in agreement with you. I want to be with You, walking in step with You, led by Your voice.

July 19, 2003

Making Successful Plans

1 Chronicles 28:11,12,19
11 Then David gave his son Solomon the plans...
12 ...and the plans for all that he had by the Spirit...
19 All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, all the works of these plans.

Proverbs 19:21 says there are many plans in a man's heart, Nevertheless the Lord's counsel - that will prevail. In my life the challenge is knowing what plans are my plans and what plans are the Lord's. David has made plans to build the temple and even had intially recieved godly counsel to "do all that was in his heart" (2 Samuel 7:3). David was obedient to the Lord, coming to understand it was not going to his assignment to build the temple. Nevertheless, David made preparations for the future to set Solomon up to succeed.

One of the hardest things is determining which of the things I want to do is really the right thing to do. I do think that God is interested in all the choices in my life. I know He is honored when my plans are submitted to Him. What is really rewarding is to know that the plans you are making that have thier origin in your heart have been initiated and developped by the Holy Spirit. I think that this is when we feel most fulfilled and sence the greatest favor from God.

Some challenges I have to be aware of. First is allowing my desire to do something override God's restrictions. David had the resources to move forward with the construction of the temple. We know him to be a man passionate about worship. Yet he subjected his noble and right desire to obedience to the Lord. Sometimes that's harder than it sounds. Emotional investment in an idea get tied in to personal identity issues and it becomes hard to let some things go. But I must if it doesn't have God's approval. Another issue is that God will allow us to do what we want to do in some circumstances because He knows that's what we're going to do anyway. I can have the tendancy to confuse God's permission to be His blessing. That's not always the case. There have been times that He's allowed me to experience the consequences of my own decsions. He helps me to learn from them and move ahead.

As I'm getting older I don't want to be as presumptuous of His favor. I won't sit around using lack of direction as an excuse for my fear of taking steps of faith. Neither do I want to be as quick to do something just because I have a jones for something. I want my plans to have thier initiation and directions to come from the Holy Spirit.

January 15, 2004

A Force To Be Reckoned With

Matthew 10:34; 11:12
34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword..."
12 "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

These are two of the most difficult of Jesus' statments. They seem to contradict His message of love and peace. For me today, they scream loud and strong a message of urgency.

The issues of life are literally matters of life and death (eternal and everlasting). Jesus' sword (which in other places in the NT represents the Word) seperates that which will produce either life or death in my life (Heb 4:12). The Truth always produces conflict because it wages war against my flesh, dividing my soul and my spirit, and discerns my thoughts and intentions. Jesus did not come to passify mankind - He came to deliver us, to seperate us from sin and bring us into freedom.

In the same way the Jesus has contended (and throught the HS, continues to contend) for our freedom, I must now contend for that which has become my life's cause - the Kingdom of God. And as a warrior, I must not be entangled with the affairs of the world (2 Timothy 2:4). I want to please Him and pleasing Him requires a violent, radical, forceful obedience on my part.

Lord, I want to be a force for you in my world.

June 8, 2004

There's Always an Exception

1 Kings 3:3
And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places.

Except. This is the universal excuse for violating agreements and procedures. It is the reason I give for less than complete obedience. "I would have, except..." "I tried, but..."

Solomon was commended for loving the Lord, even following the Godly directives given to him by his father. But he has developed some bad habits of his own; worship practices that while permitted by the Lord, weren't in compliance with "best practices." His worship at the high places (the places where idols were worshiped) reveal how we all are prone to develop habits, either out of ignorance or laziness, that nevertheless violate the boundaries of our relationship with God. Interestingly, after God appears to him in a dream, Solomon goes to the temple and offered offerings to the Lord in the right place.

Lord, I want to start cutting out the "excepts" in my life; the little points of compromise and convenience that keep me from being fully engaged with You.

July 2, 2007

A Whispered Question

1 Kings 19:15-17 (NIV)
The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.

Conversations with God are interesting interactions. Elijah's hiding out in a cave. He hears the voice of God asking him what he's doing there. Elijah explains his situation. God responds by "passing by," and speaks to Elijah in a whisper. He hears again God asking him, "what are you doing here?" And Elijah gives the same response he did earlier. I feel like that happens to me; God asks me a question, twice, but I give the same answer. You'd think that if He repeats the question, we'd figure out we need to give a different answer. But I don't usually, and neither does Elijah in this situation. God gives Elijah an assignment.

The most interesting part to me is not the assignment to anoint kings. It's the directive God gives Elijah to find his own successor. First of all, who's want this job anyway? Elijah's hiding in a cave out of fear for his own life. Additionally, Elijah's in the "prime" of his career. I had never noticed before that in the "still, small voice," God gives assignments (e.g. Moses and the bush). To his credit, Elijah doesn't seek out the "glory" job first of finding kings. He went from there to find his successor Elisha.

My lessons for today:
- If God repeats the same question, I should give a different answer.
- When God whispers, it usually involves an assignment.
- Obedience is about finding successors before anointing kings.

October 11, 2010

Supreme Court Justice Hamilton

John 8:15 (NKJV)
You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.

OBSERVATION
The context for this passage is extremely interesting. Jesus has snuck up to Jerusalem for Sukkot. And after making a public announcement about who He is (7:37-38; 8:12). And now he's teaching in the temple on Simchat Torah (8:2) and we have the story of the woman caught in adultery. According to v4, it appears they have the required amount of witnesses to confirm her sin and pronounce judgment. Instead, her accusers depart, and Jesus says, "Neither do I condemn you" (v11). At this point the Pharisees challenge Jesus on the authority of his "witness" - the corroboration required by an additional party. While presenting his defense, Jesus makes this interesting statement in v15.

APPLICATION
Immediately I'm brought back to the words God spoke to Samuel while looking at Jesse's sons for the next King of Israel: "Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). This woman, seemingly caught in the act with all the necessary evidence to condemn her, Jesus gets off. It again demonstrated the fallibility of my motives for and abilty to render accurate judgement.

Jesus defended this woman in a manner that causes her accusers to walk away. It as if they were forced to judge themselves before they would have the authority to render judgment. It's no wonder we're admonished by Christ:
"“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." (Matthew 7:1-2)

We understand this concept. But what did Jesus mean when He said He didn't judge anyone? First we need to understand Jesus' purpose in coming. He said "I did not come to judge the world but to save the world" (John 12:47). He came to save. But the words He spoke form the basis for which the Father will judge. And it's those words we can use to judge ourselves. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our own soul as the authority to evaluate our own lives. Yet often I'd rather join forces with others to pronounce judgment on another persons visible transgressions. If I truly desire to be like Christ, it's time for me to take off my robe, come off the bench, relinquish my gavel, and turn my efforts to obedience and mercy.

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for not condemning me. Thanks you for the sweet words, "go and sin no more." Help me not to live so judgmentally of those around me and walk in the freedom that comes from knowing you.

October 18, 2010

From The Beginning

Matthew 19:6-8 (NKJV)
"...what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so"

(emphasis added).

OBSERVATION
In Matthew 19 Jesus is asked about the lawfulness of divorce. There's many things in this chapter that are interesting to consider. But it's verse 8 that caught me attention, especially the last comment (which I've emphasized).

APPLICATION
I've witnessed the effect of divorce. I've seen people who have navigated its challenges with their integrity intact and maintained civil relationships w/ their "ex." Still, even it the best of circumstances it leaves a scar. In the worst case scenarios, it damages one's psyche forever. But I'm not here to talk about the right or wrongs of divorce. I'm intrigued with the idea that not everything plays out as God had designed it. Could it be that God makes concessions to man's will?

(One quick caveat for anyone reading this entry: I'm not presenting a theological position here...You are reading my personal devotional journal; my thought, musings, questions, frustrations with and about God. I'm not trying to settle anything here, just process it out. And I'm willing to let my process be shared. Truth be told, my process probably isn't that different than yours.)

The issue of the will of God is overwhelming. Much smarter people than I have tried to figure this out and any answer still leaves one unsatisfied. Whats so interesting to me is that in this situation Jesus seems to say that there's a way that God originally designed for us to live our lives. After sin entered the picture, His way became subject to "my way." Its not that that His way ceased to exist. Its that "my way" now takes precedent. In doing so we rationalize (justified or not) our choices. We place blame, make excuses, deny culpability to explain why we do what we do, why we are what we are.

It's been said that the most powerful force at work on the earth today is not the power of God, nor the limited power of the "devil," but the will of man. We can choose to accept or reject God and his desires for our lives. We can choose to yield to the destruction that the enemy intends for our lives. We can even impose our will on another human being that produce positive (a father's protection) or negative (a father's abuse) consequences. Nevertheless, I may arrive at an outcome that isn't what God intended when He invited me to the wholeness that comes from obedience. I wonder how many things in my life God's conceded to, but "from the beginning, it was not so."

There will be a day when God's will is imposed and cannot be avoided. But for now, my best life is lived when I voluntarily yield to His will.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to live a life that is in the end how You intended it to be from the beginning.

February 17, 2011

New Routine

Leviticus 18:2-3 (NKJV)
According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. 4 You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the LORD your God.

OBSERVATION
Leviticus lays out all of the rules and regulations for navigation life as Jew - clean and unclean, relationships, sacrifices, etc. These rules defined a people who other than for maybe a style of dress wouldn't be identified as unique for the other peoples of the region. It describes the way that the Lord wanted them to live because as He said, "I am the LORD your God."

APPLICATION
There are so many things I do everyday that I dont even really think about. My routine of getting up, reading the word, having a cup of coffee, watching the morning news as the family starts moving, heading to the gym, coming home and having a 2 egg omlette...everyday stuff. I remember when my breakfast was a bagel. But since I wanted to lose weight I needed to cut some carbs and add protein. So I changed my routine, but only because I had a reason to.

All these regulations presented in Leviticus required a change in routine, and change in lifestyle. I would have been so easy to "love God" and still live with the old routine. But often we don't know why we have the routine we have. It's default living. And as long as Egypt lives in me, I won't make the Lord mine. If I get swayed by the way they do it here in Canaan, I placed myself outside of His covering.

I find that I add the Lord to my regular routine other than changing it. There's the tendency to modify my life's patterns, conforming in little ways as I'm influenced by what I see going on around me and not making intentional choices about why I am or not doing a particular thing because I don't hold it against the Lord's judgments or ordinances. Just because "we've always done it this way" isn't reason enough to hold on to what the Lord requires me to do differently. Nor is the excuse that "everyone else is doing it" reason enough to compromise the standards that God has established for me. This seems like BasicLife101. But I think it's more subtle than that. The Lord's requirements for living are often "other than" what has been my old routine. There's another way to do life. I need to pay attention, not living as an Egyptian or a Canaanite, but as God's.

PRAYER
Lord, continue to point out to me where I still carry habits and routines that are other than the ordinances and directives you've laid out of me. Let my life's choice and habits be a witness, if only even to myself, that I belong to You.

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in the Obedience category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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