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Simple Obedience

Do you remember when you were told to clean your room? What did you do? You probably went in there and thought of ways to not do it. After a long time contemplating, you decided to either shove everything under the bed or put it in the closet. When your room is checked, you didn’t fool anyone. The shelves and boxes where your things should have been are still bare. Your closet gets opened and your sheets pulled back exposing your lack of obedience.

Sure the floor is free of clutter, but you didn’t do what was asked. You didn’t clean your room. You merely rearranged it without putting things where they belonged. In your mind, you think you obeyed, but deep down you know what you did was an act of defiance. You try to argue your case by using technicalities, but you don’t get very far. What you’ve done is caused more work for yourself and lost more time because you have to do it over the right way.

Saul was like that. He got specific instructions from God on what to do, but somehow put the toys in the closet every time. He obeyed, but didn’t. Each time he had an excuse for doing what he did. God finally had enough and Samuel called him out on it. In I Samuel 15:22-23 Samuel said to Saul, “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. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king” (NLT).

Each of us struggle with simple obedience for some reason. God gives us simple instructions, but somehow we complicate them. God is looking for us to simply obey what He’s asked us to do. Anything other than obeying His call on your life is an act of rebellion in His eyes. Whatever He’s called you to do, you need to do. Wherever He’s called you to go, you need to go. Whatever He’s called you to say, you need to say. Don’t find ways to put they toys in the closet. Do what He’s asked willingly and with a good attitude and your life will be fulfilled like never before.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Times Of Conditioning

I always loved it when basketball season was starting in high school. What I hated was going through conditioning for it. Coach would have us start off with stretches. We would then have to run about a mile. Once everyone was back in the gym, we began to do exercises that strengthened our core. Our legs would get wobbly around that time, but then we had to start doing drills. If you messed up, you had to take a lap around the three acre property. To wrap up practice we would run the lines, or horses as we called them. The next day, we would do it all again. Our bones ached. It hurt our muscles to go upstairs for classes. Coach would remind us, “We may not be the tallest or the fastest team, but we will be the best conditioned team.” He was right. We ran the legs off every other team straight to the State Championship.

Conditioning has a purpose with the end in mind. It hurt going through those times, especially not knowing if it was going to pay off. In 1 Samuel 30, David and his men were on the run from Saul. They were considered fugitives. They had to move out of the country and live with one of Israel’s enemies. When Israel rose up to fight that country, David and his men went to fight on behalf of the enemy. They weren’t trusted, so they were sent back to the town of Ziklag where they had been staying. As they arrived, they saw smoke rising into the sky. Another enemy came in while they were at the battle front, burned their town and captured their wives and kids. David’s men began to talk of killing him. It was a dark day for David, but it was all part of God’s conditioning for him to become king.

David kept his eyes on God instead of his circumstances. Verses 6-7 say, “David strengthened himself with trust in his GOD. He ordered Abiathar the priest, son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the Ephod so I can consult God” (MSG). David understood that sometimes God’s plan takes us through painful circumstances. It often leads us to places we don’t understand. Like David, it’s important in those seasons when everything seems to be falling apart and our closest friends are turning on us, that we strengthen ourselves in our relationship with God, and that we consult with Him. Conditioning is often very painful, but there’s a reason and a season for it. We must go through that period in order to be prepared to endure what’s ahead. God’s plan and purpose for you are good. Don’t quit when things look bleak. Trust Him more and those times of conditioning will pay off.

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Immediate Obedience

One of the things my wife and I decided after we had a kid was that we weren’t going to use the Three Count Rule. We wanted our son to obey the first time we said something, and not for him to think he had until the count of three to obey. Our reasoning was that if a car was coming and he was running towards the road, we wanted him to obey immediately. Kids are often distracted and unaware of their surroundings. As parents, we are constantly looking out for his safety and need him to obey without understanding why.

You and I are not so different as God’s children. We get distracted by the things of this world and our lives. We have a Heavenly Father who watches out for us and asks for our obedience without our understanding why. Instead of obeying, we often argue or don’t do what He asks because we don’t understand the why behind it or because it just doesn’t make sense. We could all learn a lesson from Peter who obeyed without understanding.

In Luke 5, Jesus was teaching near the Sea of Galilee. The crowds kept pressing in until he had no more room to stand. Peter and his fishing buddies were there mending and cleaning their nets from an all night fishing trip. Jesus asked to get in the boat and to then have him push off land a bit so He could teach the crowd. After He taught them, Jesus asked Peter to go out a little further and then cast His nets. It didn’t make sense to Him because the prime fishing time had already passed plus he had already cleaned his nets. He was tired and wanted to go home.

In verse 5, Peter said, “Master, we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again” (NLT). He didn’t argue even though he didn’t understand. He simply obeyed. The result of his obedience was the catch of a lifetime. That trust he had in obeying Jesus, no matter what, also led him to be able to walk on water. He understood that God knows better than we do. He sees things we can’t see. We may not understand the why behind what He’s asking, but we still need to obey or we will miss out on some of His greatest blessings.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Weird Requests

A couple of years ago, my wife and I left visiting with my family a couple of nights before Christmas to go pray for a friend. On our way back to my family’s house, we were approaching the light to turn onto their road when I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Stop right here.” I was about 15 yards back from the light in the middle turn lane. My wife looked at me with a puzzled look and asked, “What are you doing?” I said, “I don’t know. I was told to stop right here.” So we sat there for almost a minute. I rolled my window down to listen. We saw police lights about a mile ahead coming towards us. Just then, a car appeared out of no where traveling at a high speed with no lights on coming up the wrong way to avoid people in their lane at the light. It swerved right in front of us and missed us by inches. It was so fast and close that our SUV shook from the wind of it passing. As we realized if I had been where I was supposed to be, they would have hit us head on.

The Gospel of Luke tells us a story of some fishermen who had been cleaning their nets after unsuccessfully fishing all night. Up walks Jesus preaching to a large crowd. He notices their empty boats and asks if they can take Him out into the water just a bit so He can teach the crowd from there. After He taught the crowd, Luke 5:4 says He told them, “Now row out to deep water to cast your nets and you will have a great catch” (TPT). Peter, the seasoned fisherman, explained that it didn’t make sense and that you fish at night. But then he added, “But if you insist, we’ll go out again and let down our nets because of your word.” When they did, their nets became so full of fish that their nets began to tear. He had to yell for help to the other boat on shore. They had so many fish in their boats that they were on the verge of sinking.

Both of these stories are related. God doesn’t always ask us to do things that make sense. They often go against the way things are normally done. We can argue with God about how it makes us look or we can trust what He’s telling us to do and obey Him at His Word. God asks for obedience from us even when we don’t understand. Sometimes it’s to save our life and other times it’s to bless us or others. As you go about your day, listen to what God is speaking to you. Ask Him for the courage to obey His requests no matter what they are. You and I can only see what’s right in front of us. God sees how everything is connected and into the future. He knows what’s best so we need to obey Him no matter what. You never know what’s riding on your obedience.

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Seeking God’s Approval

Too many times I’ve been a victim of paralysis through analysis. I feel God prompt me to do something, then immediately the voices come in. What if this isn’t God? What are they go to think of you? One of our greatest needs as humans is the need for acceptance. We want to fit in and we want to belong. Doing what God asks sometimes will cause us to do something that will seemingly put that acceptance at risk. It’s in those moments we have to ask ourselves, “Whose approval are you after? Whose approval means more?” Asking myself those questions is the only way I can combat the paralysis that comes from the other questions about what people will think of me.

Noah was a person who had to deal with this. God told him to build a boat because it was going to flood. It’s believed that rain was a foreign concept at that time and a boat was too. God gave him the instructions on how to build it and let him get to it. He didn’t worry about what other people thought. Instead, the Bible says that he did all god commanded him to do. Because of an obedience that regarded God’s request as more important than any of his friend’s opinion, God saved his family and established a new covenant with him.

Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in GOD protects you from that” (MSG). Each of us must make the decision to trust God whenever He speaks to us. It’s rarely easy to do, and the fear of losing acceptance will always be there to create a tension in the situation. Finding a way to push through that tension is critical to obeying God. Even when it seems counterintuitive, awkward or crazy, you can’t let it disable you. Lives and eternity are often at stake. You can break through the paralysis through analysis trap by deciding to trust God and seeking His approval above all else.

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Be A Listener

As we walked through Nazareth Village, the had a shepherd there feeding his small flock. The sheep were just about ready to be trimmed so the village could make yarn. I walked around the side and took this photo of the sheep eating. While I was doing that, our guide said something I had never thought of. He said, “Did you know that goats have ears?” I thought, “Of course they do!” Then he said, “Both sheep and goats can hear, but only sheep listen for their master’s voice and obey it. The goats hear his voice and do their own thing.” That’s why sheep have shepherds and goats have herders.

I believe we all can hear God’s voice, but are we listening for it? Hearing is a passive thing that happens just by having ears. Listening is something that is done intentionally. We’ve all be in conversations where we are barely listening to the other person, then we realize we missed the important part. We have to either pretend that we listened to what they said or we have to ask them to repeat it. When the King of King speaks to us, we should be giving Him our undivided attention. If we are merely passively hearing His voice, it calls to question whether He is shepherding us or is herding us.

In John 10:27 Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (NLT). The only way to know Jesus and to follow Him is to listen to His voice. He is constantly speaking to us, so we need to be constantly listening to Him. Ive found that the best way to listen is to be quiet. It sounds so simple, yet many of us are afraid of the silence of sitting in His presence. Today practice being still in His presence and listening for His voice. Be obedient to whatever He tells you to do. Don’t just be someone who hears His voice, be a listener of it.

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Just Get Started

My son loves the LEGO Architecture series. We’ve built several of them as a family. Normally they take a night or two for us to complete because we’ve purchased small ones. However, recently he wanted one that was about 1,700 pieces. When I opened the box and saw all those pieces, I wondered, “What were we thinking?” Then I saw the book. It was seriously a book of how to put it together. Do you know what the first step was? Putting two pieces together. When we put them together, I jokingly said, “Hey! Only 1,698 pieces to go.”

In Zechariah, God used the prophet to speak to Zerubbabel to begin rebuilding the Temple. It was about 90 feet long and 20 stories high. As he set the first stone in place, people walking by started making fun of him. He began to get discouraged because other people couldn’t see what God has called him to, and they didn’t believe it could be done. Then the Lord spoke to him in Zechariah 4:10, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand” (NLT).

It’s easy to look at large projects like that and get overwhelmed. It’s even easier to look at what God has called us to and want to never start. But just like the LEGO’s, it starts with a small step, and that is followed by another one. God enjoys seeing us begin to do the work He called us to because He loves obedience. He knows that if He can trust us to be faithful in the small steps of obedience, He can stretch us to take the larger ones. It just takes us to be willing to get past the size of the thing God has asked us to do, and to simply begin.

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Trusting His Plan

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my son to get ready, and then, before he gets ready, he asks, “Where are we going?” I usually tell him, “It doesn’t matter. I said to get ready, so get ready.” Instead of quickly obeying, he constantly wants to know all the info before doing anything. As a parent, it can be frustrating. There are things he needs to know, and there are things he doesn’t need to know. I simply want him to obey when asked to do something instead of questioning everything I tell him to do.

Even though I know these frustrations as a parent, when the shoe is on the other foot, I act the same way. How many times had God told me to get ready or to go somewhere, and I want to know all the details before I do anything? There’s also those times where I know where He’s leading me, but I want to know all the steps first. It’s like I’m my own child when God is the father telling me to do things. I wonder how frustrated He gets at our questioning and inactivity while He’s waiting for our obedience.

Proverbs 20:24 says, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” (NLT) As children of God, we need to understand there are things we need to know, and things we don’t. God knows everything we are about to do, and how He wants it done. Since the beginning of time, all He has asked is that we would simply trust Him. He’s looking for our obedience without having to understand everything. We need to have enough faith to trust His will, His plan and His directions without questioning them. Simple obedience yields eternal benefits. Just like the old song says, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way.”

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An Understanding Heart

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been taught that Solomon asked God for wisdom. I tried looking up the scripture where he asked God for “wisdom”, but the Bible doesn’t put it that way. In I Kings 3:9, Solomon asked God for an understanding heart so he could judge the people well. In essence he was asking for wisdom, but as I dug deeper, he wanted more than just wisdom. He wanted to do well in God’s sight and to care for His people.

When I looked up the word “understanding” as it was used in this context, it had three meanings. The first was to hear. Solomon wanted a heart that could hear not only God, but what others were saying too. He didn’t want to just rely on what his ears heard, he wanted to really hear what people meant. Wisdom comes in not just hearing what is spoken. It comes when we can discern the true intent of the words spoken.

The next meaning of “understanding” was to listen. Almost everyone is born with the ability to hear, but only a few ever learn to listen. I believe that God is always speaking to us. We hear Him, but we don’t really listen to what it is that He’s telling us or showing us. Solomon was concerned about the ability of his heart to listen to God. He wanted God to know that he understood the only way to truly govern the people well would be if He could listen to His voice.

The third meaning of “understanding” in this context is to obey. It’s not enough to hear or listen to God. We have to obey what He tells us. I’m sure that Solomon had been told of Saul’s disobedience and of God’s response in I Samuel 15:22. Obedience is better than sacrifice. God is more concerned with our obedience to His word than in our obedience to religious rituals. Anyone can walk through the motions of a ritual, but only the wisest among us obey a God at all costs.

Wisdom was a by product of what he truly wanted. Hearing the voice of God, listening to what He really said and acting on it from his heart is what made Solomon truly wise. You and I can experience that wisdom. Solomon’s request for an understanding heart is one that you and I can ask for today. James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.” God would love to give each of us the wisdom that comes from an understanding heart.

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Handling Transitions

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

Times of transition in life can be difficult. There’s the fear of the unknown and the excitement of a new beginning mixed up with the stress of change. Each one of us goes through these times in our lives. They usually aren’t easy to walk through because you don’t know how long the transitional period will be, you don’t know how much life will really change and You doubt that your making the right decision. I’ve learned there are things we can do to help these times go by more smoothly.

The first thing you can do is to be patient. David’s transition from shepherd to King took years. He had to learn to be patient during that transition time. He didn’t quite have all the skills necessary to be a successful King. There were still lessons to be learned in the pasture and on the battlefield before he was ready. God knows what you need in order be successful in the next step He has for you. Don’t rush into the next phase. Let Him continue to work in you and through you as He moves you into your next phase.

The next thing I’ve learned is to be obedient. When Queen Esther was faced with having to make a transition in her relationship with the king, she was scared. She decided she would rather procrastinate than to face him and save her people. In Esther 4:14, her uncle Mordecai said, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” God has you in this time of transition for a purpose. Your obedience still matters. Perhaps your transition is not for your benefit, but for that of others. Listen intently to what God is saying and do what He asks.

The last thing you can do is to trust God in the process. He sees the overall plan for your life. He knows what changes need to be made and when, so that you will be where He needs you when He needs you. Don’t panic because things aren’t happening according to your timeline. Allow them to happen in His. We only see a part, but He sees the whole. He will not leave you alone in this process. He will not abandon you to the no man’s land of transition forever. It will come to a close and your next chapter will begin. In the meantime, trust His plan for your life and trust in the process He uses to move you.

These three things are easily said, but much more difficult to live out. I’ve found that in times of transition, it’s easy to get out of your routine of spending time with God. You’re going to have to make time for Him. Whatever it takes, you need to make sure you are staying in His Word and spending time in prayer. Don’t lose sight of Him in the process. He’s there to guide you and has placed people in your path to help you. When you stay close to Him in times of change, those times go by a lot more smoothly.

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