Tag Archives: obeying god

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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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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Moving God’s Boundaries

I read a news article recently about a farmer in Belgium. He was out plowing his field one day when he came across a stone that was where he was trying to work. He stopped plowing, moved the stone about 7 feet and went back to work. A little while later, a person was hiking in the woods near his home and saw the stone had been moved. He called the authorities and alerted them. It turns out that it wasn’t just any stone he moved. It was a stone that marked the border between Belgium and France. He inadvertently made Belgium about 7 feet wider. When he told them what happened, they all laughed, but told him to put it back, which he promptly did.

Saul, who was the first king of Israel, tried to move the boundaries that God had set too. When God told him to kill all the animals in a military campaign, he spared the best ones and the king. When he was confronted by the prophet, he said he only spared them in order to sacrifice them to God. In another instance, the prophet had told him to wait before going to battle until he arrived to make a sacrifice. When the prophet didn’t show up exactly on time, Saul began to panic. He saw his men deserting him before the battle. He offer the sacrifice himself which was against the direct order given to him and the Law of Moses. When Saul moved the boundaries because of his impatience and self reliance, God took the kingdom from him.

Proverbs 22:28 says, “The previous generation has set boundaries in place. Don’t you dare move them just to benefit yourself” (TPT). What boundaries that God has set have you moved because it was convenient for you? We all test boundaries and move them trying to enlarge our own territory. The problem is that when we do, we’re shrinking God’s territory in our lives. Our flesh is constantly at war with our spirit fighting over that boundary. It’s time that we moved the boundaries back to where God established them. If we truly want to thrive and to live the life God created us to live, we need to obey what God has said and to become dependent on Him rather than ourselves. God established our boundaries for a reason. We must respect them and obey them even when we don’t understand.

I read a news article recently about a farmer in Belgium. He was out plowing his field one day when he came across a stone that was where he was trying to work. He stopped plowing, moved the stone about 7 feet and went back to work. A little while later, a person was hiking in the woods near his home and saw the stone had been moved. He called the authorities and alerted them. It turns out that it wasn’t just any stone he moved. It was a stone that marked the border between Belgium and France. He inadvertently made Belgium about 7 feet wider. When he told them what happened, they all laughed, but told him to put it back, which he promptly did.

Saul, who was the first king of Israel, tried to move the boundaries that God had set too. When God told him to kill all the animals in a military campaign, he spared the best ones and the king. When he was confronted by the prophet, he said he only spared them in order to sacrifice them to God. In another instance, the prophet had told him to wait before going to battle until he arrived to make a sacrifice. When the prophet didn’t show up exactly on time, Saul began to panic. He saw his men deserting him before the battle. He offer the sacrifice himself which was against the direct order given to him and the Law of Moses. When Saul moved the boundaries because of his impatience and self reliance, God took the kingdom from him.

Proverbs 22:28 says, “The previous generation has set boundaries in place. Don’t you dare move them just to benefit yourself” (TPT). What boundaries that God has set have you moved because it was convenient for you? We all test boundaries and move them trying to enlarge our own territory. The problem is that when we do, we’re shrinking God’s territory in our lives. Our flesh is constantly at war with our spirit fighting over that boundary. It’s time that we moved the boundaries back to where God established them. If we truly want to thrive and to live the life God created us to live, we need to obey what God has said and to become dependent on Him rather than ourselves. God established our boundaries for a reason. We must respect them and obey them even when we don’t understand.

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Busy Work

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand busy work. I hate being given a task just for the sake of having something to do. I see it as a waste of time rather than a time filler. Nothing truly productive comes from it. I’d rather save my energy, brain power and time doing nothing rather than doing meaningless tasks. Whether it’s at work, home or wherever, we’ve all been given busy work since we were kids.

Sometimes doing things for God feels like busy work. I can’t see the purpose behind doing what He’s asked, so it feels like busy work. Whether it’s busy work or not, I obey because it’s God who is asking. Many times it’s simply to go somewhere, pick someone up, say something to someone, serve at an event or something like it. When I don’t get to see the impact or reason, it can feel like busy work to me.

I was discussing this with one of my pastor friends recently. Then I recalled a couple of events that I could barely remember doing, but the people I helped acted as if I had saved their life. The “busy work” on my part had a significant meaning to the person God was directing it toward. It was a great reminder that often what we do for God may feel like busy work at times to us, but to others, it’s life changing stuff.

Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 15:58, “Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless” (GNT). If you’re feeling like God has given you a lot of busy work lately, take heart. Nothing you do for Him is useless. It’s not a waste of your time, talents or resources. Often you’re changing lives without even knowing it. God doesn’t give out busy work to keep us occupied. He gives us work that we’re to stay busy at because eternity is at stake.

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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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Checking Our Motives

I was born and raised in church. My parents took me to Sunday School each week. Year after year I had heard the same stories taught by different teachers as I grew older, and I had memorized them all. Christianity began to move from my heart to my head. I began to see it as behavior based instead of relationship based. I remember talking to my dad about sin and all the behaviors you could and couldn’t do. I wanted to make sure I didn’t do any of them. I thought if I could memorize them all, I could know which behaviors to avoid so I could go to Heaven. That’s when he said, “Chewing gum can be a sin.” I was confused. He said, “Sin is as much an attitude as it is a behavior. If the rules tell you not to chew gum and you do so in defiance, you are sinning. James 4:17 tells us if we know what’s right, and don’t do it, it’s sin.”

In the Old Testament, King Saul was told to wait for the prophet to show up who would offer a sacrifice. When the prophet didn’t show up at the appointed time, Saul began to panic. His men were afraid and some began to desert him. He decided to offer the sacrifice instead. Just as he finished offering the sacrifice, the prophet showed up. He knew he needed to Lord’s blessing, but didn’t do it the right way. A few chapters later, he was told to kill even the animals as he destroyed a nation. When the prophet showed up, Saul said, “I have carried out the Lord’s command.” The prophet replied, “Then what is this bleating of sheep and goats I hear?” Saul said he was going to sacrifice them to God. In 1 Samuel 15:22, after rebuking Saul, the prophet said, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”

Saul was doing the right thing by offering sacrifices, but his attitude was wrong in each case. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” (NLT). Man looks at behaviors to judge people, but God looks at our heart. He’s interested in our motives. You can do the right thing with the wrong heart, and it can be wrong. We can’t approach Christianity as a list of behaviors of right and wrong, thou shalts and thou shalt nots. It’s not your behaviors that get you into Heaven. It’s the grace of God through the blood of Jesus. God wants a relationship with you, and through that relationship, we’re changed from the inside out. We receive a transforming of our mind (Romans 12:2) as we become a new creation. We are saved by grace, through faith, and not of our behaviors. The Bible does tell us how we should live, but God is also looking at our heart behind the behaviors.

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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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Hard Problems. Simple Tasks.

Have you ever studied for a test, but the questions weren’t what you thought they’d be? You thought for sure the teacher would ask about all these other things, but they didn’t. It may not have been a difficult test, but what they asked didn’t make sense. I’ve had God test me like that. I hear Him ask me to do something that doesn’t make sense, and then I question whether it was from God. “Surely He would ask me to do something else,” I think. Sometimes what He asks of us isn’t difficult. It just doesn’t make sense. 

In the early part of II Kings, God spoke through Elisha and asked some people to do things that didn’t make sense. A widow owed her husband’s debts and the collectors were coming for her sons. Elisha told her to borrow bottles and fill them with what little oil she had. The Shunemite woman’s son died and Elisha told his servant to go put his staff on the boy’s face. There was also a pot of stew that had been made with poisoned gourds in it. Elisha threw a handful of flour in it and it was fine.

One of the most famous though was a man named Namaan in chapter 5. He had leprosy and went to see Elisha. Elisha sent his servant out to tell him to dip in the Jordan river seven times and he’d be healed. Namaan left angry. In verse 13 one of his servants asked, “If the prophet had told you to do something difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So shouldn’t you certainly obey him when he simply says, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” (NLT) Namaan went and washed and was healed. 

In each of these cases, it didn’t make sense. I think that God asks us to do things different than we expect to test our obedience. God simply wants simple obedience. If He asked us to do something that gave us the answer, we would begin to think it was what we did. When the instructions have nothing to do with it and we obey, it can only be God who answered. Whatever God is asking for you, it may not be about the problem. It could be about your heart. Simply obey and let God do His thing. 

Thanks to @mhdnohassi for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

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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Complaining To God

I was recently at our men’s group breakfast. We had some discussion questions to spark conversation at the table. The last question on there had a verse in Exodus where Moses was complaining to God and letting Him have it for doing what He told him and how everything was still going wrong. It then asked, “Do you feel comfortable expressing your feelings to God?” I don’t think there’s a person alive who doesn’t get frustrated at God. The problem comes from our unmet expectation of Him when we do what we’re asked. Our expectation is that if we’re in His will doing what He asks of us that all will go perfectly smooth. He never promised that though. He simply tells us to obey Him no matter how bad things get.

Jeremiah was a prophet who had to tell the nation of Israel that God was going to scatter them and force them out of their land. All the other “prophets” were prophesying the opposite. No one listened to him as he did and said what God told him to. In fact, when they were besieged, instead of listening to him then, they put him in prison and then down a well. Can you imagine? God chose him, gave him the words to say and things didn’t go smoothly. In Jeremiah 15:18, he complained to God, “Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you indeed be to me like a deceptive brook with water that is unreliable?” AMP) I’ve learned that God is not afraid of our complaints, nor is He afraid to answer us when we complain.

The next verse in Jeremiah, God responds, “If you repent [and give up this mistaken attitude of despair and self-pity], then I will restore you [to a state of inner peace] So that you may stand before Me [as My obedient representative]; And if you separate the precious from the worthless [examining yourself and cleansing your heart from unwarranted doubt concerning My faithfulness], You will become My spokesman.” How many times do we have a mistaken attitude when we complain to God? Is it usually birthed out of doubt about who He is and what He’s called you to? If it is, it’s time to repent. God is worthy of your trust and obedience no matter what your circumstances look like. He’s looking at your life from a big picture perspective. Don’t look at Him through a circumstantial perspective. Trust in His plan and keep obeying what He told you to do no matter what.

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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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