Tag Archives: obey

A Bird In Hand

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.


“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” is a proverb so many of us were raised with. From our childhood we are taught that we should hold onto what is certain instead of going for the unsure thing. We are taught that risk isn’t worth it through this proverb. I would even say that this proverb teaches against faith. It wants us to hold on to what we have instead of letting go to see what God might give us.

Abraham was a man who walked by faith. In Genesis 12:1, the Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s home, and go to a land that I am going to show you” (NLT). In this verse, God is asking Abram to let go of the bird in the hand. He had security where he was. He had his father’s inheritance coming to him and the protection of family too. God was saying, “Walk away from all of this, and I will give you more than you could ever imagine or think of.”

I believe God still speaks that to us today. I believe He calls each one of us to trust Him on a level beyond where we are so that He can give us more than we have. The promise is only good if we let go of the bird in the hand. Abram was promised descendants, a nation, blessings and fame if only he would walk away from everything he knew. I wonder how long he wrestled with it. I wonder how long he questioned if he had really heard from God.

Because Abram was human, you know he had to struggle with these questions just like you and I. The difference is that he was willing let go of the temporary for the eternal. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” God has called you and I to live by the same faith he required of Abram. He calls us to let go of the bird in the hand and to trust Him. When we do, He rewards us with so much more. 

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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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Strange Obedience 


My uncle told me the story of how my grandfather once pastored a small town church. They were dependent week to week on the offerings to make a living. For whatever reason, there wasn’t enough in the offering one week for them to get groceries. As my grandfather prayed about it that Sunday afternoon, he felt God telling him to go to the post office. He argued that it was closed, but he went anyway. When he arrived, sure enough, there wasn’t anyone there. After sitting there a while, he decided to get out of his car and check the door. When he did, a man walked up, handed him money, and walked away without saying anything. 

I don’t know if the other guy argued with God or not, but I do know that he showed up to a place that was closed. It took faith on both sides. It’s hard to obey God when it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what God asks of us sometimes. Part of it could be that He’s testing us. Part of it could be that we ask God for ridiculous signs so we can make sure it’s Him. Whatever it is, obedience is key. A Biblical example of this is a Phillip in Acts 8. He was preaching in a town, people were getting healed and saved to the point he needed help from the other disciples. That’s when God asked him to do something that didn’t make sense. 

Acts 8:26 says, “Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza” (MSG). The instructions were very specific, but they didn’t make sense. Leave a place full of people accepting Jesus to go down a deserted road? Why would God ask him to do that. He could have questioned whether he heard God or not, but he didn’t. He obeyed. What he found was one man on a chariot on his way back to Ethiopia reading the book of Isaiah. 

He went up to him, explained what he was reading, and the man got saved. I’m sure it still didn’t make sense to leave many accepting Christ for one, but what we now know explains it. That eunuch went back to Ethiopia and started the Coptic church with has led many to Christ in Northern Africa through the centuries. Because of Philip’s obedience, generations have been affected, changed, and saved. God doesn’t just look at the immediate situation, He looks at the future situation. What doesn’t make sense now, may only make sense to future generations. 

Are you ready at a moment’s notice to obey when it doesn’t make sense?

Obedience is decided well before God asks. What can you do now to be prepared to obey later?

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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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Obedience In The Silence

  
Since I was a child, I have heard the story of King Saul in I Samuel 13. The army of Israel had won a small skirmish with a Philistine garrison. The Philistines then mustered an army several times the size of the Israelite army. As they waited for battle, fear crept into the Israelite camp. Men began to desert the army. Those that remained were visibly afraid. Saul looked around, saw their fear, and then checked the calendar. Where was the prophet Samuel? He had said he would be there by now.

As he watched more troops leave, he decided decisive action is what was needed to keep the troops. Verse 9 says, “So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself” (NLT). Wouldn’t you know that as soon as he finished with the burnt offerings, Samuel showed up. Saul realized that he jumped the gun. He ran to Samuel hoping to smooth things over, but Samuel wouldn’t hear it. He explained what a foolish thing he had done, and now God would take the kingship from him.

For me, this story is a reminder to stay patient when doing what God asks. If we let our circumstances dictate our obedience, we will fail and miss out on the blessings of God. It’s hard enough to stay obedient when God is silent, let alone when your circumstances show your obedience isn’t paying off. The easy thing to do is make assumptions, but assumptions often lead to disobedience. If God asked you to do something, you must keep at it until He says, “Stop.”

I Samuel 15:22 says, “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 than offering the fat of rams.” Whatever God has called you to do, obedience to that calling is most important. Your calling may seem small and insignificant. It may lack the spotlight that you want, but it is a valid calling. Don’t ditch it to do something more spiritual. God has you doing exactly what He wants you to until He’s ready to give you more. Stay obedient in the silence and God will reward you in due time.

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10 Scriptures On Obedience

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1. An undisciplined, self-willed life is puny; an obedient, God-willed life is spacious. (Proverbs 15:32 MSG)

2. Samuel said, “Which does the Lord prefer: obedience or offerings and sacrifices? It is better to obey him than to sacrifice the best sheep to him. (1 Samuel 15:22 GNB)

3. [Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel]. (1 Peter 1:14 AMP)

4. Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. (Ephesians 6:1 NLT)

5. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; (Isaiah 1:19 AMP)

6. Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, (Titus 3:1 ESV)

7. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19 NLT)

8. For as the human body apart from the spirit is lifeless, so faith apart from [its] works of obedience is also dead. (James 2:26 AMP)

9. “Preach to the people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem. Tell them this: ‘This is GOD ’s Message, the Message of Israel’s God to you. Anyone who does not keep the terms of this covenant is cursed. The terms are clear. I made them plain to your ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt, out of the iron furnace of suffering. “‘Obey what I tell you. Do exactly what I command you. Your obedience will close the deal. You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours. This will provide the conditions in which I will be able to do what I promised your ancestors: to give them a fertile and lush land. And, as you know, that’s what I did.’” “Yes, GOD,” I replied. “That’s true.” “‘Obey what I tell you. Do exactly what I command you. Your obedience will close the deal. You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours. This will provide the conditions in which I will be able to do what I promised your ancestors: to give them a fertile and lush land. And, as you know, that’s what I did.’” “Yes, GOD,” I replied. “That’s true.” (Jeremiah 11:4-5 MSG)

10. I will give them a new heart and a new mind. I will take away their stubborn heart of stone and will give them an obedient heart. (Ezekiel 11:19 GNB)

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He Simply Obeyed

Joseph, the father of Jesus, has always been one of the people in the Bible that have intrigued me. There’s not much written about him, but he played such an integral role in the story of our salvation. Outside of Jesus, we tend to focus on Mary when we think of the birth of Christ rather than Joseph. We’ll look at her role tomorrow. For today, I want to spend some time looking into the man who would shape the man Jesus would become.

Joseph is mentioned in all four Gospels, but not a word of what he ever said was recorded. I’ve always heard it said that “actions speak louder than words.” If that’s the case, then Joseph speaks volumes. Here’s a man who is engaged to the woman he loves and finds out from her that she’s pregnant. He knows it’s not his. Instead of blowing up and making a big scene, he thinks his response through and decides to handle things quietly so as not to disgrace her publicly. He had every right to have her stoned to death, but he chose not to.

While he was still reeling from the news, an angel visited him and explained that the baby was indeed conceived by God. In Matthew 1:21, Joseph received some amazing news. Not only would he be the earthly father of the Messiah, he would be the one to name Him. God reserved that honor just for Joseph. In verse 24, it says, “When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel commanded.” He didn’t question or argue with God. He simply obeyed at the risk of looking like he had gotten her pregnant before marriage. He took the shame that would have been Mary’s and provided a covering so that Jesus would be born.

The next time we read about Joseph is when the wise men left for home. The angel came back to him at night and said, “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother. Stay there until I tell you to return (Matthew 2:13 NLT).” The next verse says that during the night Joseph left for Egypt. He didn’t even wait until dawn or for Jesus to wake up. He obeyed immediately. Again, he never questioned the angel or God’s plan. He simply obeyed. He was a man of action when it came to obeying the voice of God. I think that’s just who he was as a person too. He was a hard worker, a man who feared God and a man who heard from God.

Joseph heard from the angel one more time. Again, it was at night and the angel said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel.” Joseph woke everyone up, packed and headed out before sunrise. He simply obeyed what the angel spoke to him. Mary didn’t argue with him over waking her and the baby up to leave. She knew that he was a man of obedience to God. When he told her God spoke to him, she trusted him. She was obedient as well. Simple obedience is what God desires from each one of us. I believe that’s why Joseph was chosen to be the earthly father of Jesus. It’s a trait that Jesus would see modeled in Joseph and later practiced when He went to the cross. You’ll recall that Jesus said, “Not my will be done, but yours.”

Our lives are built around following our own will. They’re built on doing what’s right for ourselves and making ourselves look good in the eyes of others. Those things are the opposite of what being obedient to God is all about. Joseph was a man of simple obedience. He was a man of few words. A man of action. We could learn a lot from this silent hero in the Bible if we just took some time to listen to his actions. The next time God asks you to do something out of the ordinary or that could paint you in a negative light, will you argue with Him or answer in simple obedience? You won’t have to say a thing. Your actions will speak louder than words.

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Fishing In The Wrong Boat

In one of the classes I teach, I have people introduce themselves and tell me a hobby they have outside of work. It provides opportunities for connection early in the class as well as information I can tie back to throughout the day. Yesterday, while training this class, a guy answered that he liked to play music. I followed up with, “What kind?” He responded with, “Worship. I’ve felt called to lead worship since I was young, but I’ve been too scared to step out and do it.” He admitted in front of our group what so many of us Christians are afraid to say.

God’s call on our life can be scary. I think it’s supposed to be. If it were anything less than scary, we’d do it without hesitation. The problem with that is we would think it was done in our own ability. We need to understand that we are simply vessels to be used by Him. It is He who performs the work, we simply provide the channel. Our inability to do whatever He called us to is His greatest opportunity to do something amazing.

God sees in us what we cannot see. Peter was just another uneducated fisherman when Jesus called Him. He didn’t posses the ability to start the Church. He didn’t have the business acumen to take twelve men, start a worldwide movement and grow it. He didn’t have the boldness to stand in front of thousands to preach. He knew what fear was and it got the better of him from time to time. He denied Jesus and his calling in the same night.

The fear of his calling to be the rock that the church would be built on caused him to go back to fishing when he should have been preaching after the resurrection. He went back to what he knew instead of stepping out in faith to be the rock he was called to be. Jesus didn’t leave him in that boat though. He went to the waters edge in John 21, but they didn’t recognize Him. He called out to them, “Have you caught any fish?” They replied, “No.” Jesus called out, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you’ll catch some.” As soon as they did, the net teemed with fish. Peter recognized the man as Jesus and swam to shore.

Jesus reaffirmed to Peter that day what his role was. He didn’t worry about his failures or inabilities. He worried about his love for Him. Jesus knew that if he truly loved Him, he would obey his calling. He didn’t leave Peter in the boat catching the wrong kind of fish. He reiterated that he was to be a fisher of men from now on. I think that call goes out to you in whatever boat you’re sitting in today. Maybe you’re reading this in the place where you can accomplish things in your own strength. It’s the boat of what is familiar and easy to you. But God has more for you. Have you really caught anything where you are?

I encourage you today to recognize the fear that is paralyzing you and keeping you from your calling. If God called you to do something, it’s His strength and ability that will accomplish it, not yours. Release the fear that sent you back into the boat of the familiar and do what God has called you to do. Faith is about trusting God to do what He said He would do. It’s not about you doing things and giving Him credit. Don’t let fear hold you back another minute. If you love Him, feed His sheep.

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Break Your Box

It was Wednesday of Holy Week and Jesus was a guest in the home of Simon the leper. While He was reclining at the table, a woman from the village silently walked in the room. Every eye was on her and the alabaster box she was carrying. The fragrance peeked through the box giving those around her a tease of the pure Nard that was inside. Suddenly, without warning, she broke the box and poured the perfume on Christ. The fragrance permeated the house. I imagine everyone closed their eyes and drank in the smell of this perfume with a slow, purposeful breath through their noses.

There was no undoing of this gesture. The box had been broken and all of the perfume purposefully poured out on Jesus. When others criticized her for her actions, Jesus said in Mark 14:8, “She has done what she could.” He accepted her offering and it was a sweet, savory smell to Him. No one else in the room had the will to do what she had done, though they all had the ability. We each have the ability to do great things for God, it’s having the will to do them that stops most of us.

Like the disciples and others in the room, we start adding up the cost of doing something for God and find all the reasons we can’t or shouldn’t do them. We allow our minds to tell us, “It’s not worth it. Your resources are better spent elsewhere.” All these excuses come in that keep us from being obedient. We also wonder what others might think if we do what God has called us to do. But not this lady. She didn’t care what the others thought, and neither did Jesus!

In fact, He said that wherever the Gospel would be preached, what she did will be told about. A single act of obedience has been told all over the world over a couple of thousand years. Why? Because she had the will, not just the ability. We wish we had her kind of will power to do something so extravagant, so costly for Christ. We all have the ability in us to do it. We just lack her will. We lack her recklessness.

I don’t know if she had doubts. I’m sure she did. She was probably even scared, but she didn’t let those things stop her. She knew once she broke the box, there was no turning back. Once she broke the box, she was committed. So she walked in and broke it immediately before doubt, the disciples or fear could stop her. She poured out this costly perfume on Jesus even though His own disciples criticized her. She wasn’t concerned about their approval. She was concerned about His.

What box have you been holding that has your precious gift in it? What’s keeping you from breaking it and using it for Christ? You have the ability to do what He called you to do. You have the strength to do it. It’s time to get the will to do it no matter what others say. If you are holding it back because of others, remember that it’s not their approval you seek. It’s His. Step out and break that box today. Let your story be told wherever the Gospel is preached.

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Finding Rest

Are you exhausted mentally, physically or spiritually? It’s easy to get that way. We have so much going on in our lives today that exhaustion becomes the norm for our lives. We have work, school, relationships, activities and families that require our attention 24/7. It seems we can never escape the stresses we allow ourselves to acquire.

When we finally break free from everything, our mind continues to try to solve problems, plan what’s coming next or think through our next steps. We never get a break and our bodies, minds, spirit and relationships suffer for it. That is a high price to pay for doing what we do.

God wants you to rest and recharge. He understands the pressures of this life. He set the example Himself for us by resting on the 7th day. There are some things found in scripture to help us find that rest that recharges us.

1. Hear His voice

If you are going to allow Him to lead you, you must first be able to hear His voice. Jesus often referred to himself as a shepherd and to us as sheep. He said that His sheep know His voice. That means that we need to be able to quiet all the voices and thoughts that are fighting for our attention and to listen for Him.

Psalm 95:7 says we are the flock under His care. If only we would listen to His voice. We have that ability to hear him, but we don’t make the availability. That is where we fail. Stop today to listen for his voice. He’s calling out to you to take you to a place of rest.

2. Obey His voice

Once we hear His voice, we must then obey it. It’s a two part process. We often hear God speaking to us, but we choose not to obey it because we either don’t like where He is telling us to go or we don’t think we have time to do what He is asking. We allow our minds to overrule what we heard from Him and that keeps us from the rest He promises.

Hebrews 4 talks about how the disobedience of the Israelites kept them from that rest after they left Egypt. They did not obey and did not find rest. God renews that promise of rest to us, but only if we obey His voice. That promise is contingent on us following through on our part.

3. Let Him lead you to it

In one the most quoted chapters of the Bible we find a scripture we pass over. Psalm 23:2 says that He lets me rest in peaceful meadows and He leads me beside peaceful streams. God wants to lead you to those places. He wants to be the one who takes you there. You cannot find fulfilled rest on your own.

We try to find that place through meditation, exercise or getting away. We often fail though at trying to find that rest, but it eludes us. You can get there if you allow Him to have that control to take you to those peaceful streams and quiet meadows. His desire is for you to find that rest.

If you find yourself in need of rest today, I encourage you to stop and listen to his voice. Once you have heard His voice, obey it and allow Him to lead you to that place of rest in your life. Without that rest, you will burn out and sacrifice things in your life that you hold dear. What will you do today to find that place of rest you desperately need?

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