Posts filed under: Life

I was reading through the Bible recently and came across a passage that I have read many times before.  This passage is where Samuel and Saul were having a discussion about the Lord’s displeasure in how Saul had been going.

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 that offering the fat of rams.”   (1 Samuel 15:22 NLT)

Obedience is better than sacrifice.  obedience_dog-cat_350

I have heard that phrase many times before.  I have even used that phrase and passage in preaching and teaching many times.  This time reading through it, one thing stood out more than before: obedience over mindless rituals.

God desires our obedience more than anything else including our religious rituals that we perform. Sacrifices are events that were set up to show one’s trust in God.  As important as they are, God desires one thing more: our heart.

We can do all the sacrifices in the world – church attendance, giving, serving, – but if God does not have the loyalty of our hearts, then it is pointless.  We can walk through the motions of religious duty all day long and completely miss the whole point.  Any person can learn how to do the “routines.”  It takes the work of the Holy Spirit to change a person’s heart and get it involved in the acts.

Are we truly obeying the Lord today, or are we just going through the motions on a religious checklist?

Well it happened this morning. I had gotten up early to go into town and check out the condition of the baseball field that we had practice scheduled for. It has rained off and on the past two days. I knew that our team could use one more practice before games start next week. Sadly, the field was too wet still to practice.

As I tried to leave, I made my way through what I thought was some gravel… It wasn’t gravel. It was this gravelish slosh that was about 3ft deep. My Ford Explorer is not a 4-wheel drive… So you can guess what happened.

stuck!

Yep… I was stuck. The more I tried to get loose, the deeper I went. As I sat there in disbelief that I could be duped this badly, I began thinking about something else.

There are so many people that are “stuck” in the middle of sin. Many times we think that we can overcome the things that get us off track so easily. All we have to do is “work hard enough.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.

As I sat there and looked at my situation, I quickly began to realize that there was no way that I was getting myself out of this. I couldn’t smooth-talk my way out… I couldn’t “work harder” and get out. I was completely helpless on my own.

In Ephesians 2, Paul shared some great truths with us. First, we are completely helpless in our natural situation (Epheisans 2:1-3). There is no “will-powering” your way out of sin. It does not make one sick; it makes you dead. Dead people cannot do anything.

 

Secondly, we need outside help, and God has provided that (Epheisans 2:4-5). While we were helpless, God provided our need through His only Son, Jesus. God didn’t have to help. He would not be any less holy or great if He chose to let humanity experience the full judgment for their sin. He chose by His grace to show mercy.

Third, Paul shares that only God can set us where we need to be – and where we want (Epheisans 2:6). Paul shares that not only does God give life to the sin-killed soul, but He sets him/her with Him in heavenly places.

“Only Jesus buys slaves and makes them heirs.” — @ThabitiAnyabwil #T4G2016

As I realized my helpless situation, I found myself humbled to reach out for help. Strangely enough, one of our young couples lives about a block or so away from my stuck position. As I called the guy and asked for help, I was truly grateful that our relationship was not just a Sunday morning thing.  God has placed people in our lives to be the conduit of His grace and mercy many times. It is important that you build and invest in those relationships because you never know when you will find yourself in need of a helping hand.

I am a fan of many different styles of music. Each type brings something to the table for the listener to enjoy. I have come to notice that one characteristic stands out to make a song a great one. It really has nothing to do with the instruments or who is singing. The one characteristic that I think makes a song great is the fact that it tells a story. Think about the great songs of the past: they all tell a good story.

When a person reads through the Psalms of the Bible, it is easy to just read through them like any other style. The truth is that the Psalms are songs. They are not to be read like a narrative. They are lines that are meant to tell a story. Each line is important because without it, the song (and its story) would be incomplete.

Psalm 103 is a song written by David that is talking about the many blessings of God towards His people.  He talks about everything from forgiveness of sin (v 3) to justice (v 6) to God being a Father to His people (v 13).  There are so many reasons to praise the Lord.

While this song has given us great verses like these:

“The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (Psalm 103:8)

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12)‬‬

There is one verse that has intrigued me in this psalm that I have never paid much attention to before. It was verse 7 which says, “[The LORD] revealed His character to Moses and His deeds to the people of Israel.”  A casual reading of this verse, and you just might miss the whole point of the entire psalm.

David writes this song not to show off all the blessings God has brought His way, but he wants to show that we are to praise the Giver of all these good gifts. In verse 7, David shows two very different options.

imageDavid said that the Israelites experienced “the deeds of God.” They saw God do mighty things like bring the plagues upon the Egyptians, part the Red Sea for them to cross, and provide food in the wilderness. These are all really good – even miraculous – things. One problem was that the Israelites apparently had grown comfortable with the blessings. So much so, they did not seek after the Giver.

Not so with Moses. As this song goes, David shares that God revealed His character to Moses. God showed Moses His heart not just His mighty deeds.

Moses experienced the same mighty acts as the rest of the Israelites did. He saw the plagues, walked through the Red Sea, and ate his share of manna. What was so different between Moses and the others? Moses was not content with just knowing what God does. He wanted to know the Giver who was behind the gifts.

There are times when we may experience the blessings of God and totally miss the whole point. We may say something like, “thank You, Lord for these blessings. They are good. I will stay here in the comfort of these blessings.” By doing this, we show that we never understood the gift at all.

God does not bless us with blessings because He has nothing better to do. God does not even bless us for the sole purpose of us enjoying the blessing. Each time God blesses us, He shows us a little more of His heart. He opens a window of opportunity for us to experience Him in a greater way.

When was the last time this scene played out in your life: before you lies many blessings God has richly poured upon you. You back away from the gifts and make your way to the Giver. You say, “thank You so much for these blessings. They are great. But honestly, more than these blessings, I want more of You, Lord”?

The Holy Spirit uses David to show that there is a great difference between Moses and the children of Israel. The children were content to dwell in the blessings and never go further to actually knowing the Giver. Moses wanted the Giver more than anything.

Which are you more interested in: the gift or the Giver?

The other day, I had the privilege of doing some chores outside. There were some bushes that needed to be trimmed back. I had a little time on my hands, so I decided to knock them out.

I called to my two younger sons to come and help me. I figured that they could probably use something to burn off some energy. (Okay, their parents needed them to burn off some energy.) I put them to work hailing off small branches that I cut off.

It wasn’t long after we got started good that it began… the whining. It was coming from the youngest son. He realized that his brother had checked out. The middle son had come to the point where he realized that this was “work” not “fun.” He was done.

As my youngest son stood there in the yard, yelling for his brother to come help him, I leaned over and told him, “It’s no fun when your partners bail on you, huh?”  He made a face and went back to helping (for a little while).

no funAfter I said that to my son, I began to think about what I had said. I thought about times where I had felt the sting of that truth. Maybe it was at a job… Maybe it was on a sport’s team… Maybe it was in a church/ministry.

When God changes your life through the new birth, He places on you a task (the Great Commission) and places you in a team (a local church).

[If you have trusted Christ for salvation, but you are not involved in a local church, you are living in rebellion to God’s plan for you. Find a local, Bible-believing, on-mission fellowship and get in the game!]

 

When it comes to the task of the believer (making disciples), God does not expect us to work alone. He gives us two key helpers: (1) The Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17) and (2) Other believers (1 Corinthians 12:7).

While the Holy Spirit will never leave you, the other helpers may sadly. There are times when fellow believers decide to “sit this one out”… or not do their part leaving you or someone else to pick up the slack.

Paul spoke about this throughout 1 Corinthians 12. All believers make up the Body of Christ. We need each part to do its job. I may not be able to do what God has called and equipped you to do. You may not be able to do what God has called and equipped me to do. But if we each are faithful with the task that God has called us to, we will see great things.

When we decide not to do our part – maybe because it is hard or inconvenient or not as glamorous as someone else or tiring or not what we expected – it’s no fun for anyone.

submitSubmission is an ugly term in our culture today.  The thought that you are to willing to place yourself under the authority of another seems ludicrous to many.  I must be honest, that there are many times throughout each day where I do not want to submit to the authorities in my life.

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, submission to the God-placed authorities in my life is a must.  It is not so much about being under someone, but it is more about honoring the One who has placed those authorities over me.

When Jesus was being arrested, we see Simon Peter stepping up to defend his Master (Matthew 26:50-51).  What Jesus does and says next seems crazy at first, but He was using this moment, like the great teacher that He is, to teach an important lesson.  In Matthew 26:53-54, Jesus says that He has legions of angels at His disposal to defend Him if needed.  He did not need Simon Peter’s sword.  If He had stopped what was taking place though, then the Scriptures would not be fulfilled.

Jesus was more concerned with God’s word being held true than His own personal interests.  He had the ability to stop whatever He wanted.  Rather than exercise His power and abilities, He chose to submit fully to the Father’s will.