Tag Archives: obey

I. Still. Believe.

People ask me from time to time how I can still believe for things that have seemed so completely hopeless for years.

I love this question. It gives me an opportunity to share my unwavering faith in a God who specializes in the “impossible.”

“Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.
– Romans 4:20-21

I didn’t always have this kind of faith.

Actually, I don’t always have this kind of faith.

Believe me, there are many days, when I feel much closer to the Centurion than Peter.

In fact, there aren’t too many days that I don’t think those very words, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

I grew up reading the stories about these men and women of great faith and thinking, “well, that’s not me.”

It discouraged me tremendously.

See, I wanted to believe that kind of faith was possible, but it didn’t feel very real to me. At least not in my life.

Looking back though, I realize that, by definition, I had no faith.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
– Hebrews 11:1

The truth is, I pretty much only believed in what I could see.

I believed in my circumstances.

I believed in my feelings.

I believed in things I could define, in what I could understand.

Too often my feelings told me that my circumstances proved God wasn’t there and didn’t care. When the exact opposite was true. (And still is.)

Those tough times were opportunities to build my faith, for me to trust and obey and for God to show himself to be real and active in my life.

God always uses the challenges in our lives to build our faith, bring us closer to Him and do great things in and through us.

– God’s glory was demonstrated to both His people and enemies when David had the courage to face Goliath.
– Mary and Martha had to suffer the loss of their brother, Lazarus, to really understand Jesus’ love for them.
– Paul and Silas had to be imprisoned to bring the jailer and his whole family to Jesus.
– The apostles had to be in the middle of a storm for Jesus to calm it.
– The man had to be born blind for Jesus to heal him, and more importantly, reveal himself to him.
– The disciples had to live through the pain of watching jesus die, to experience the joy of his resurrection.

Listen, if we want to be men and women of great faith–we’re going to be put in some circumstances that require great faith.

There is no other way.

There are no short cuts.

It’s gotta be lived through, tried by fire, earned in battle,

Now, even stepping in to those circumstances, and each step through them, requires some faith.

We need enough faith to obey.

That’s the critical first step, the key to our breakthrough.

Do we have enough faith to obey?

Even when it isn’t what we want to do?
Even if we’ll lose some friends?
Even if it hurts?
Even if it makes no sense to us?

Joshua had faith that God’s unorthodox battle plan would work. But how much more faith did he have when it actually did?

That’s the reward on the other side.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Faith is the fountain, the foundation, the fosterer of obedience.”

It is also true that obedience leads to greater faith.

See, I believed that God could, but wasn’t quite convinced that He would. So I did what I wanted. I did what was most expedient for me. I did not obey.

Today, I am striving to do what God says. To do it His way, no matter the cost.

From an earthly perspective it might seem more convenient and comfortable to find my own solution, but I know how that ends.

And please don’t believe that God understands our disobedience and that He’s okay with it. That we can blow off what God says because “our situation is special.” That we are some sort of an “exception.”

That is a lie straight from Hell. A lie that’s tempting to believe because it feels so good.

But God warns against doing what we think is right, over and over again in His word: Proverbs 14:12, Proverbs 3:5-7, Jeremiah 17:39.

God is never ok with our disobedience.

Don’t trust books, gurus, experts, TV preachers or blog writers. Check with the Word.

Even well-meaning Christian friends and family will encourage us to choose our own path, in direct contradiction to what God’s Word tells us, by saying things like, “Hey God wants us to be happy.”

And He no doubt does. But the path to the joy He has for us–peace that we can’t comprehend–isn’t in choosing our own way. It’s in exercising enough faith to obey.

Its trusting that if I do what God says, I will always be better off. And that my obedience will bring glory to God and point others toward Him.

So, back to that original question. How can we trust enough to obey, even through the hardest of times, when there seems to be no hope?

The writer of Hebrews tells us, “By faith Abraham obeyed…

We just have to have enough faith to obey. That faith is rewarded with confidence in God and deeper faith. And the process, the journey, is key, as Paul reminds us, because it ultimately ends in the hope we’re so desperately searching for:

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope..”
– Romans 5:3-4

And know this, God is trustworthy. There’s a purpose to your pain. Whatever you’re walking through right now, He’s got this.

For King & Country put it this way in their new song, Shoulders:

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

MORE: Charles Spurgeon’s mind blowing message on Faith

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Quick Thought | God Will Honor Our Obedience

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor posed a challenging question:

Do we TRUST God enough to OBEY Him?

See, God honors our obedience. [See Proverbs 10:2-3]

Shortcuts short change God’s glory AND our good.

What God has in store for us is far greater than anything we think our disobedience will do for us.

When we do what we know He wants us to–even when it’s hard, painful, or seems to make no sense–GOD will honor that choice. [Read Job 36:11, Isaiah 1:19 and the story of Jericho in Joshua 6:1-27.]

Remember what King David wrote in his older age, with the benefit of great experience:

“Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither. Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
Psalm 37:1-2

Charles Spurgeon made a great point about how vital it is to trust in the Lord. He said, “Sight is cross-eyed, and views things only as they seem…faith has clearer optics to behold things as they really are.”

There’s an old hymn that sums it up well:

“Then in fellowship sweet
we will sit at his feet,
or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
what he says we will do,
where he sends we will go;
never fear, only trust and obey.”

More: Charles Spurgeon
Sean Sears / Grace Church
The story behind Trust And Obey

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Quick Quote | John Wesley: On Perseverence

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“Oh let no man think his labor of love is lost because the fruit does not immediately appear.”
– John Wesley

Some good perspective on perseverance from the 1700s. True then, true now. We’ve got to do what’s right, be faithful and persevere–and leave the results to God.

People Change…

The desperation in this song is a painful reminder of a conversation I had with a dear friend out West. When “D” first shared what was happening in his marriage, we talked almost every night for several months. I remember asking him one night, “how are you doing, man?” He stopped for a second and came back with, “I’m not ok, Matt. Not ok.”

When I heard this song the other day, those words grabbed me by the throat. Word for word almost, these lyrics mirrored that conversation.

My heart hurts for them, their kids, and several other families I deeply care about who are dealing with great pain at the moment. It hurts for my own family.

But I want to encourage all of us with a reminder to take heart. To not believe the lie that there’s no hope, no point, no chance. That it’s over.

No matter how big a miracle you think it would take, do you honestly believe that God can’t? We serve the God of the impossible. There are no limits.

Don’t believe the enemy’s lies that people don’t change. Or that God can’t move in an instant, no matter how improbable.

Take what happened to Saul. Nobody believed that guy was gonna change. But God…

Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.

Look how things changed just a few verses later.

Acts 9:18, 20-22 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God! All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains…?” Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

People change.

In fact, we should all be changing. Daily. Renewing our minds, moving closer to Christ, growing in grace.

If there’s something that you know needs to change, I encourage you to start today. Talk to your pastor, or a trusted friend who’s truly following Jesus, and figure out what your next step should be and begin!

And don’t miss the change in people around you. Skepticism really is an unwillingness to believe. Cynicism at it’s core is doubt.

God specializes in changing people. Drastically. Suddenly. It shouldn’t surprise us. And when they don’t change on our timetable, sometimes God’s trying to change US!

God’s plan is ALWAYS for restoration. The entire Bible is a story of restoring what’s broken and bringing what’s dead back to life.

Things don’t have to stay as they are. Take a step of faith. Yes, following God requires risk, but it’s always the safest thing we can do. (Take a minute to read the intervening verses in the above chapter and I’ll share some thoughts on that soon.)

Trust God. Press on.

_____________________

“God Understands Why I’m Disobeying Him…”

“God Understands Why I’m Disobeying Him…”

Wrong.

That is one of Satan’s go to moves. He wants us to believe that those things are for most people. Other people.

Him. Her. Them.

Anyone but us.

Our situation is different. Our circumstances are special. We get a pass.

I’ve read the Bible cover to cover and I’ve never seen any asterisks.

There’s no appendix in the back with a list of exceptions.

There’s no fine print or disclaimer at the bottom of the page that let’s us off the hook.

God’s word is God’s word. None of us get a pass.

We sometimes think that God will let it slide because we’re a pastor/deacon/regular attendee/church member/Sunday school teacher/volunteer/pastor’s kid/tither/missionary/bible school graduate/good person/(insert your perceived qualifying exception), and well, “God knows my heart, so I’m okay. We’re okay…”

But, God does see our heart, that’s the problem. We’re not okay. (And if you think you’ll find peace while blowing off God, read the book of Jonah. He was a prophet who served God faithfully. Until he tried to swap out what he wanted for what God told him. How’d that work out for him?)

During my time away from God, I became well versed in that kind of (il)logic and still have to fight it from time to time. We become rationalization specialists. Expert excuse makers. I could list those on my resume under special skills. It’s sad.

We start thinking things like:

“I know God says, forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, but I have a personal relationship with him, so I don’t need to “go to church.”

(((insert buzzer effect)))

Wrong.

“I know God says hating someone in your heart is murder in his eyes, but you don’t know my boss/uncle/neighbor. God understands why I can’t stand them. (Besides, wasn’t that just for the Bible people anyway?)”

Wrong.

“Yes, Jesus said what God has joined together let NO man tear apart, and yes, he hates divorce, but you don’t know my husband. God wants me to be happy, so he’ll understand.”

Cue the buzzer.

“It’s not really gossip, I’m just venting.”
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“Insurance companies expect you to fudge.”
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“I know this show is raunchy, and vulgar, but, I’m a grown up, it doesn’t affect me, I just ignore those parts.”
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We need to stop bending, twisting and parsing what He said into what WE want.

And if we’re not willing to say, “Okay God, your way,” and stop rewriting His word on the fly, to suit our whims of the moment, then aren’t we really the ruler of our hearts and lord of our lives?

Are we just putting on a pretty good show?

Fooling ourselves, or even others, doesn’t help us where it matters. As my Pastor in California used to say, “There’s no future in fronting.'”

God cannot be mocked.

Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”
– Jesus (Matthew 7:21)

If we’re not following God, we’re not followers of God.

I mean, it makes sense, right?

Yes, what He tells us to do IS hard. Yes it WILL cost us. We may be scared. It may be uncomfortable. It may be the LAST THING we want to do.

– Ananias was really apprehensive about meeting with Saul, but he went.

– Noah didn’t want to be mocked and ridiculed, but he built the ark.

– Jesus asked God to avoid the cross, if there was another way, but He still died for us.

See, we don’t have to always want to it. We just have stop looking for loopholes and surrender.

Jesus said we need to DENY OURSELVES DAILY and follow him. We can’t do that and live for ourselves. It’s not possible.

We can be like James and John, who threw down their nets and never looked back. Or, like the rich young ruler, we can walk away sad.

Listen, we can’t do this on our own. We will NEVER be able to do the things we find difficult without praying to God daily for strength to obey him in these things. Get a friend to help hold you accountable in this area as well.

If you’d like more resources or prayer for a specific situation, please feel free to email me mr@thez.com.

Quick Thought: We Don’t Have To Kill Goliath

David didn’t kill Goliath. He just had the courage to trust and obey.

What God’s asking us to do may seem daunting. We may think we’re completely incapable of doing it, and we’re probably right. But the good news is, we don’t have to.

Moses couldn’t part the Red Sea if he had a million men and a degree in Marine Engineering from the Egyptian Naval Academy. He just needed to trust God enough to do the ridiculous.

Ditto Noah. And Abraham. And Joshua.

Think about what Jesus told the disabled man by the pool of Bethesda to do:

“Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.”
– John 5:8-9

This was a guy who hadn’t walked in almost 4 decades! He must’ve thought Jesus was CRAZY.

Get up and walk? Seriously? Been sitting here for 38 years, I’m pretty sure I’ve given that one a try already.

Even if Jesus’ words gave the man a flash of hope inside and he actually wanted to try, it would’ve been easy to talk himself out of it. Fear of failure, disappointment or looking ridiculous if he tried and fell back down would all be understandable.

How many of us in that situation would’ve written off what Jesus said as simply undoable? Impossible. Nuts.

How many of us are doing just that with what God’s asking us to do right now?

Remember, it’s not about what WE can do. We just have to be available and willing to trust and obey. God’ll take care of the impossible and improbable.

Go. Do.

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Take Courage and Do It!

Some of us get confused about how God works. He does not lead us through life in a zig zag pattern. He doesn’t lead us from place to place in a haphazard or schizophrenic way. It’s US who wander around aimlessly when we try to over think God’s prompts or when we continuously doubt what he would have us do.

(Think 40 years in the wilderness. That want his plan. The Israelites doubt, fear, disobedience, second guessing, whining, worrying, etc., is what caused a short journey to take so long.)
When God leads us toward something, somewhere or someone we need to lock in on it like a set of GPS coordinates. Plug in an address to your GPS and it’ll set a course and not veer from it. If you doubt it’s accuracy (think you know a better/quicker/more pleasurable way) or have to deal with a road block or detour, you can leave the set path and it will recalculate and get you back on track–still heading toward that original destination.
God’s Word and the promptings of the Holy Spirit work in a similar fashion in our lives. We can ignore them and get further off track. The GPS shows us precisely how much further away we are as we travel off the original path but in life we often don’t realize how far we’ve strayed.
If you believe God is leading you in a particular direction, to a specific place or person, and a few months or a year later you feel another leading its likely that one of them wasn’t from God. Generally, that first leading is exactly where he wants us to head. It’s our desire for something new and exciting an different that distracts us and ends up wasting valuable time while we accomplish nothing.
When we first surrender to God’s direction we’re excited and fired up. Over time, the hard work of the journey, delayed gratification and boredom cause us to think maybe God wants us to do THIS instead. A new objective always seems exciting at the outset. The danger of living like this is finding ourselves 10, 12 or 20 years later with nothing to show for our efforts except a trail of stale breadcrumbs in circles. Much like the children of Israel, our enemy wants us distracted, discouraged and dissatisfied– wandering through the wilderness having accomplished nothing for the Kingdom.
Listen carefully for where and how God’s leading you, then set your course and do not get sidetracked by shiny objects, fear or doubt.
The enemy rejoices when we chase rabbit trails–often veering off course just before we arrive at the place God wants us. Or we whine and moan about how hard it is like the Israelites murmured and complained. If we only knew how close we are to where we want to be, we wouldn’t give up!  And let’s not forget, for every good thing God has for us, the enemy has a counterfeit. He’s bound and determined to convince us to give up God’s perfect plan for his cheap imitation. Let’s choose to listen AND believe, the Voice of Truth…
Don’t reach for the reset button based on circumstances or what you see! You could give up, turn around and miss out on the prize just before a massive breakthrough. The idea of a “fresh start” can be very seductive, but it’s a lie as old as time. How could the enemy harden the hearts of God’s chosen people enough to convince them to wanna go back to Egypt–as slaves–only steps away from the place of Destiny?!
He’s tricky, tricky… but don’t be fooled!
Once you’ve set your course, pray for God to bless that path, to keep you faithful, to finish the race. Constant questioning leaves us vulnerable to the enemy’s lies. Don’t let circumstances or ever changing feelings discourage or dissuade you from finishing
Read the story of Adoniram Judson, the first Protestant missionary who had only 18 converts in his first 12 years. How easy would it have been to be CONVINCED that this clearly wasn’t God’s plan. I’m sure the enemy was planting those thoughts in his mind, but check this out… When he died, he left the people he ministered to in Burma the Bible in their language, 100 churches he planted, and over 8,000 believers in Burma. To this day, many descendants of those he led to Christ are reaching others with the gospel. THANK GOD he stayed the course!
Much like our GPS system on a road trip, if we listen, trust and obey God’s Word and the Holy Spirit we will find ourselves arriving at our destination of destiny where we can live out his purpose for our life to the fullest and enjoy our promised land.

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Here’s a song to remind you of the power and might of the living God we serve: