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Posts Tagged ‘Obedience to Christ’

Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (John 14:21)

In the hit television drama “Breaking Bad”, high school chemistry teacher Walt is trying to set up a big buy of his amazing quality methamphetamine. The buyer is reluctant to deal with Walt. This is because Walt employs Jesse Pinkman, a former student of his who sells Walt’s drugs. “You can’t trust drug addicts,” the buyer tells Walt.

Sitting in a fast food place with this dealer, the  manager and also a man who is really a major player in the drug world, Walt explains why he works with Jessie. “I trust him,” Walt says, “He’ll do what I say.”

While Walt is far from being Jesus, he DOES have the same approach as our Lord when it comes to who he associates with. One of the followers of Jesus asked him “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say… Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.” (John 14:22-24a)

I’m a little like Jessie Pinkman. I have my own dependencies. What I have come to realize, however, is that if I want to have a connection to Jesus, I have to get rid of them.

Unlike Walt, part of of doing what Jesus says involves dealing with my personal character. If I don’t, the attitude of Jesus toward me will be the same as the major buyer of Walt’s meth: He won’t let me into His world for fear that I may betray Him.

It’s getting more and more difficult in American culture to do what Jesus says. For me and I am sure others, part of the problem is that we want to fit in and have friends.

However, I think in my case the real issue is that I know that I can pretty much do what I want in America in the moral sphere and not worry about recriminations. In fact, the only abuse I would take in the US now is if I failed to join in on the fun.  In essence, the boundaries against immorality are now gone.

What keeps me from disobeying Jesus now is that I value His friendship more than I do the fleeting pleasures of my dependencies.  With this attitude in place, I have done pretty well of late dealing with them.

The rest of the world doesn’t know what they’re missing!

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“The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave (Proverbs 15:24).”

Noted historian Anthony Beevor records in his new book on D-Day that men waiting to embark for the beaches of France were pretty tense.  They wanted to get the show on the road, and were nervous in the waiting.

Men did various things to deal with the situation.  Some married their girlfriends before leaving.  Others got drunk.  

A number of the soldiers had premonitions of their impending death. One minister recorded that a soldier he knew with these feelings was resigned to his fate.

Beevor writes that “a few men cracked under the strain”. One of them armed himself and ran away.  He was hunted down by his fellow troops. When he refused to surrender, he was killed.

A soldier who recorded the incident wrote,”We never did know whether he just didn’t want to die on the beach, or he was a spy. Whatever he did, it was dumb.  He was a sure dead man versus a ‘maybe’.”

According to Beevor, a lot of men “took a runner” before the invasion, but most returned to be with their friends.  Practical commanding officers didn’t want to lose these men to jail, so they showed mercy, giving them a chance to redeem themselves on the battlefield.

The circumstances of we Christians often seem like the experiences of these World War II soldiers.  We are under a lot of pressure to perform.  Christians have to work hard at being godly spouses and parents, faithful employees, and honest citizens. 

Christians have a Commanding Officer who has His boot camp and operational plans in place.  We Soldiers of the Cross undergo a lot of experiences that unbelievers don’t because we are at war. The civilians, those who don’t follow Jesus Christ, dance merrily along behind the lines enjoying the comforts of life while those who have enlisted for the Savior are involved in spiritual warfare.

The suffering we believers endure is necessary for long-term success.  As individual members of God’s army, we need the training God is giving us in order to engage in battle.  Furthermore, our particular performance in concert with other believers is essential for the final victory in the war against the enemy, Satan and his bandits.

Unfortunately, like some of the soldiers awaiting the landings on Normandy, we sometimes give way under the pressure and stress.  Also like them, we deal with the strain in many ways.

At times the stress is so great we try to relieve the pain of it all by leaving God’s path.  We don’t want any part of this war anymore and we want the comforts our unbelieving friends and acquaintances are experiencing. Therefore, we take our own runner.

We can do this is many ways.  We might get involved in activities that God says are displeasing to Him in an effort to feel better. In addition, we may just stop participating in His plan altogether and go into hiding.

While temporarily relieving, making choices like these in order to relieve the tension isn’t a good idea. In fact, it’s just plain stupid.

God’s program may be difficult, but it’s the only way to eternal success. As individuals, we didn’t start this war, but we surely can’t avoid it. It’s going on around us whether we like it or not.   We’re in dangerous waters one way or the other.

The wise man of Proverbs warns against doing a runner in the Christian life. He says,” Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die (Proverbs 15:10).”

God is on our side, and we’re winning. Others may have deserted, but we shouldn’t.  The primary reason we shouldn’t run is that in the conflict is where God is (Psalm 14:1-5). If we want to know and experience His presence, we have to be in the battle with Him.

I’ve been on Omaha Beach in Normandy. It’s an incline, leading to some small hills that our troops had to take before crossing the causeways to more level land.

The way to victory for these men was to fight to get off that beach, and tackle those hills. Staying on the beach, they’d die.  Furthermore, there was no place for them to turn tail and run. Behind them was the English Channel. Therefore, it was imperative for them to follow the orders of their officers and move forward if they wanted to live and gain victory.

Likewise, if we want life, we shouldn’t do a runner. It’s just plain dumb to do so. Instead, we should follow our Commander Jesus and storm the powers of Hell, obeying Him all the way up.

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For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…(I Timothy 2:5).”

Angela Merkel can’t win for losing.  Faced with a collapsing Greek economy and euro,  the German chancellor  still was reluctant to sign on to an expensive rescue package. 

Then, she met up with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who threw a table-banging tantrum over her reticence.  After Sarkozy’s emotional display, and a phone call from President Barack Obama, she finally agreed to the euro bailout.

Now the German people and media are mad at her.  They are accusing her of giving up too much to the European Union (EU).  Some Germans are beginning to doubt their participation in the EU, thinking that they are sharing too much of the load. Agreeing to the bailout even led to an electoral defeat for Merkel’s party in a German state.

Like politicians, believers are not immune to criticism and misunderstanding.  They are at times damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

Sometimes the attacks come from those closest to us, even our spouses. For example, Sarai, the wife of Abram, was frustrated over her inability to have a child. So she went to her husband and offered her maid Hagar as a wife through whom they could have a child. Abram agreed to this and Hagar became pregnant.

However, the results of this union created dysfunction in the family.  Hagar began to rebel against Sarai.  This upset Abram’s wife, and she turned around and blamed him for the whole episode. (Genesis 16:1-5).

Best friends can also be the source of unfair judgments.  Job had just lost his children and his health.  He was miserable, and expressed his suffering verbally to his buddies.

One of them, Eliphaz the Temanite, made a strong inference that Job’s problems were the result of his own sinfulness.  Somehow, in Eliphaz’s view, his “formerly righteous” friend must have blown it, and the suggestion was that God was punishing him (Job 4:1-8). A good reading of the book of Job will show that he did not submit to the opinions of Eliphaz or his other friends.

It’s difficult to stand up for our convictions when influential people, even spouses and friends are opposing us.  Yet, we are responsible before God for our own actions. 

Job could have done what his wife asked him to do.  In the midst of his suffering, she said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Nice. Instead of folding, Job rebuked her.   He replied, “You are talking like a foolish  woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” The Scriptures say Job avoided joining into the God abuse (Job 2:9,10).

Abram’s failure to stand up to Sarai and Job’s lack of concession to the faulty opinion of  his wife should give today’s Christian husband pause.  In this day and age when men and women are coleaders in marriage, believing husbands need to be courageous and consider their responsibility to be the head of their households.  Ultimately, a truly believing wife will appreciate it. 

In addition, Job’s eventual stand against the opposition of his close friends should instruct all believers today. We are too ready to submit to the opinions of those close to us instead of giving allegiance to God and the Scriptures. 

We aren’t subject to the opinions of others, even those close to us. Martin Luther espoused the priesthood of all believers. He determined that the Bible says that we all have equal access to God, that we are not to go through other people for our relationship to Christ.  Luther hoped that “”we shall recover that joyful liberty in which we shall understand that we are all equal in every right, and shall shake off the yoke of tyranny, and know that he who is a Christian has Christ, and he who has Christ has all things that are Christ’s, and can do all things.”

I am speaking especially to Christian men here, and to myself.  It’s time we become the heads of our households, or like my close friend Tom likes to say, it is high time we  “manned up”.  If this sounds cave-mannish, so be it.

There’s a time when collaboration is needed, sure. We were watching one of these old Moody Bible Institute science programs today where the speaker was discussing how for the purpose of our national security, cooperation with others was required.  

He mentioned how people were asking “What can I do as an individual in such times to make a difference?”.  These folks were in his view throwing up their hands and washing them of responsibility.

But to this scientist/preacher, there was plenty they could do.  They could open their Bibles.  He decried that, even though it was a best seller, the Bible was just collecting dust on shelves. To this man, going to God through the Scriptures and following them was an individual responsibility, not a matter of collaboration.

It’s time we Christian men end the tyranny of the culture, and even of close relations, and be the leaders in our homes and societys that God calls us to be. We are ultimately responsible to Jesus Christ, our King,  for our actions and decisions, and not to fallen people, even our wives, children and close buds.

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“Your statutes stand firm;  holiness adorns your house for endless days, O LORD (Psalm 93:5).”

A look at the headlines from a news website today is like reading a tabloid.  A star quarterback is suspended for immoral conduct involving women; a man has his finger yanked off when a thief  pulls a bag with an expensive item from his hand; a British politician is hit by an egg as he campaigns for election.

The world is a wicked place sometimes.  Reading the news today, I also was reminded of a riot at a university in my state.  This school is located in a beautiful valley location in a normally quiet small city.  However, the place became chaotic one night when a large number of students had too much to drink and did things like set fires. I recall one quote in an earlier report about the incident in which one person said  that they could not believe how some people could treat others this way.

Yet, in a followup to the case, the local prosecutor, in what appears to be some grandstanding, got a search warrant and invaded the offices of the university newspaper in order to get some photos they took of the riot.  There has been an uproar from media advocates about the violation of the constitutional rights concerning freedom of the press.  Clearly this law enforcement official overstepped her bounds and actually committed an illegal act.

In the examples above, where I label the behavior as wicked, I am stating my personal opinion. It could be asked,”Who are you to pass judgment on these people?” I agree. I’m not the authority on what is right or wrong.

However, there is One who is, God.  A quick look at Proverbs tells us that He detests pride, lying, violence, and selfish desire.  It seems to me the situations I have recounted fit into these categories (Proverbs 21:4,6,-7, 25).

In contrast to the wicked people we encounter in this world, there are some who meet God’s approval. The apostle John was given a vision in which the kind of folks who please Him are standing on Mount Zion in Jerusalem with Jesus.  They are described as people who had kept themselves morally pure.  John says they are blameless, without fault (Revelation 14:1-5).

I don’t think most of us know how holy God really is.  We tend to put God into our box.  We assign Him our own characteristics or those of other humans.

In John’s vision, he sees a time when God’s wrath will be poured out on those who chose not to follow His ways. I’d sure hate to be in that crowd because it’s not going to be pretty.  John’s response to what he saw was, “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus (Revelation 14:12).”

With all the evil swirling around us Christians today, it’s difficult to obey and remain faithful.  Yet, that’s our task.  We have to keep on keeping on because this situation is just temporary. Our eternal reward is that one day we’ll get to live in God’s house where the decorations are sublime instead of in a world of filth.

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“A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth (Proverbs 17:24).”

Lately the local Starbucks has been playing a lot of soul music. I have enjoyed it because I have an affinity for this kind of music.  My attraction to soul music comes from my early adolescent days in the Baltimore of the late 1960s. Soul music was a distinctive part of the city’s culture. 

The music of  The Temptations, The Four Tops and the Supremes was played at hops and on the local radio.  The soft voices and brassy saxophones coming from soul music  gave the city a sense of community and made Baltimore unique. So, when I hear this music, I am reminded of my roots.  It is a part of who I am culturally.

Music particular to American culture just doesn’t sound the same if it is performed by a European.  Living in northern Europe, I would sometimes hear Nordic guys trying to sing our music. My comment: “Nordic white guys have no soul.”

Now this is not true literally. Of course they have souls. But they don’t  have “soul”: they don’t have what is needed in their hearts to carry off  a song written and sung by a black American.  It’s not a racial thing. It’s just the truth as far as culture is concerned.

The ancient Israelites carried off to Babylon after an invasion of their country didn’t feel much like singing the songs of their native land in their new country.  Somehow the change of location didn’t make it happen for  them.  Their own songs seemed out of place in the new culture, even when they themselves sung them (Psalm 137:1-4).

People who are of the same background can relate to each other because they have mutual experiences.  A person who finds themselves in a new cultural environment has a hard time fitting in.  They have a choice.  They can either try to acculturate, or they can somehow try to function within the new culture with their own customs and behaviors learned from home.  I think the people of God from Israel couldn’t bring themselves to adapt to pagan Babylon.

Jesus is the Eternal God.  Yet he injected Himself into our history and became a man.  He  was able to make the best of both worlds, though, because He was fully of heaven and fully of earth.  Jesus was completely human and completely God, except when it came to one issue: sin.  When it came to sin, He was a fish out of water.  Sin was not something He encountered in heaven and He was not about to acculturate. So he suffered when it came to that aspect of living here  (Hebrews 5:7-8).

Jesus’ goal was not to join in the sin, but to free us from us and get us ready for his world — heaven.  A lot of us have a long way to go in our training program (Hebrews: 5:9-14).

When we come to Christ, we have to learn some new music.  We have to dance to God’s holy tune.  The old sinful melodies won’t do anymore.   In respect to sin, we have to set our eyes and ears on eternity in heaven and in our hearts leave this fallen world behind.  It might involve some suffering to get rid of the old ways, but we have to do it.

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“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12)”.

It was a close call for the local high school girls’ basketball team yesterday. Shortly after they finished practice and left, the roof of the school’s gymn collapsed.  As Keith Jackson used to say when broadcasting college footlball, “Whoa Nelly!”

We all have close calls at times.  They may or may not be as dangerous as the one these teenagers encountered.  It’s amazing how our fates seem to be determined by actions we do or do not take.  Yesterday I put my recently broken foot on a PlayStation controller left in the floor of our living room -twice.  Somehow I didn’t break it again. 

Once I was sleeping in the back seat of a car while my my wife and I were traveling with friends.  I heard some screams and woke up.  I rebuked my wife and friends for being so loud.  They rebuked me back. It seems that they had just avoided a head-on collision at high speed with another vehicle. I was oblivious to the whole thing because I was sleeping.

Walking through life being ignorant of possible calamity is dangerous.  The biggest calamity we could face is one that comes as a result of NOT listening to God.  His Holy Spirit is within us for a reason: so we can hear God’s voice and do what He says.  When we toughen our hearts toward God, or just ignore Him, we potentially injure ourselves. Not only that, we make God unhappy (Hebrews 3:7-10). 

It’s not a good idea to say to God, “I’m gonna (you fill in the blank)___________________ if it’s the last thing I do, regardless of what you think.”   Following up on that attitude with action may in fact lead to it being the last thing we do. 

For me, the hardest thing to do is to love others, especially when  they are giving me a hard time.  I am like the Psalmist, who called on God to bring the nasty behavior of his enemies down on their heads in punishment (Psalm 140:10).  I want to see them get a taste of their own medicine..

But God tells me to love them out of devotion to Him.   Ironically, in God’s scheme of things we do in fact rain trouble down on them when we do this.  And we overcome the problems they make for us in the process (Romans 12:9-21).

It all starts with listening to God and doing what He says in faith, even when our lives are topsy-turvy.  We will please Him, give rest to our souls and keep the roof from caving in on us and our loved ones.

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“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Usually I don’t give my feet much thought. But I broke my ankle the other day. So now this part of my body that used to be an afterthought screams for attention all the time. 

But I can’t let my foot  run the show, just like I wouldn’t let a screaming kid rule the day.  I have to use my head and account for this  desire of my foot to take over. If I let it, this ankle of mine would leave me laying on the floor in agony. So I think ahead,and  plan for how I am going to deal with it. This leads to a much better journey through my day.

My body can get me into trouble. Even when they are healthy, my feet can lead me into sin (Proverbs 5:1-8).  But I have already made a choice that I want to follow God, not sin.  He has been immeasurably merciful and patient with me up until now in regards to my previous rebellion against Him. I no longer have any desire to play around with sin. I want to glorify and please God. So I have to be sure my mind tells the rest of me what to do. 

However, my mind is also subject to corruption   I can’t just let it implement any old plan.  So since I want to do God’s will, I consult the Source (Romans 12:1,2).  Sometimes our feet may not care for the results of His wisdom.  Note what happened to Joseph’s in the course of God fulfilling His plan for him (Psalm 105:17,18). But in God’s mind was a plan Joseph or no one else could  have conjured up on their own.  In the long run, God’ wisdom led to immense good. 

I want this goodness of God in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. Also, I want to glorify God. So I reject  the world’s wisdom and search out the unsearchable.  I seek God’s mind.

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