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Posts Tagged ‘Obedience to God’

(Steve and I are enjoying time with family this week.  I’ll return soon with  new posts.  Meanwhile, I’ll reblog previous ones.  Hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.  The following post was first published June 13, 2013.)

From stage left, she crosses the platform in confident strides.  One hand waves in sweeping arcs to the large audience. The crowd claps and cheers.

In the other hand, with confident ease, she holds the microphone.  And the smile—big and broad, bright white teeth visible even from the balcony.

Able to sing like a nightingale and articulate truth with conviction. Impacting thousands.

Now there is someone God is using in a powerful way, whispers an accusing voice.  Look at her significant contribution in the Kingdom of God. No doubt she’s highly valuable to him.  So what are you doing that’s important?  Your spot in the scheme of things is nothing compared to that shining star on the stage.  You might as well face the truth:  You are unimportant.  The ship of Significance has passed you by.

Sound the least bit familiar? You’re not alone. Demons use those same lies on a lot of us. Evil spirits aren’t very creative, are they?

But here’s the truth of the matter:

Each of us is the workmanship of God (Ephesians 2:10). The Greek word, workmanship, sometimes has the connotation of “work of art.” You are a work of art—carefully designed and meticulously executed.

The verse goes on to explain we’ve been created to do good works. It does not say the same work. Diversity of personality, talent, and interest are necessary among the children of God in order that all his plans are accomplished.

He made each of us unique, to fulfill a personalized plan. Every now and then we see such a plan unfold so clearly, we know God engineered the circumstances. Sometimes it’s a unique set of talents or gifts that work together sublimely to meet a need.

Take, for example, the naturally talented writer, who happened to grow up in a bilingual home, and studied Christian Education in college. She was especially prepared by God to write Spanish curriculum for a Christian publishing company.

Other times the plan is much less obvious, and we must trust that the task before us–caring for our families, teaching that Sunday School class, working at the homeless shelter–is indeed accomplishing divine purpose.

What we can know for certain:  each of us is valuable to God (Matthew  10:29-31).

Believe that he has prepared in advance good works for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).  Take joy and satisfaction from completing those good works.

It may not be walking across a stage with a microphone. It might mean walking across the kitchen with a rolling pin—to bake cookies for the neighbors.

That’s just a small, insignificant thing, you say?

Think about this: What if God takes particular pleasure in small things?

Personally, I’m fascinated by small things. Miniatures, doll houses, petit-point, babies!

Scripture gives us indication that God does indeed love small things as well:

Sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

Two little mites given by a widow (Mark 12:41-44).

Five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:1-13).

Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Let’s never again allow those little demons of abasement to put us down. God has promised: “I will bless those who fear the Lord—small and great alike” (Psalm 115:13, emphasis added).

You see, in God’s sight, we’re of equal worth.

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 “By myself!” “By myself!” “By myself!” Numerous times each day our granddaughter asserts herself, announcing with much gusto that whatever the task, she can handle it.

But Elena just turned two. Although her confidence is high, skills are limited. When it’s time to go upstairs, “by myself” means down on all fours, one limb at a time. One hand up, and then the other. One foot up and then the other. It is a slow and laborious process.

In addition, the grown-up in her wake must be very sly about offering support. No hand on the back, or even hovering where Elena can see it. She’ll cast aside such safety precautions and announce firmly once again, “By myself!”

Child Washing Hands

Hand washing is another activity she prefers to do independently. But her attempts to pump out a dollop of liquid soap often end unsuccessfully. The soap usually lands in or around the sink—not in her hand.

And once the soap is in her palm, Elena reaches for the faucet. Forget the actual washing. If we try to help, she pulls her hands away. “By myself!” Even when she acquiesces, her scrubbing efforts leave much to be desired. Squeezing is her version.

And rinsing is another issue. “By myself” often results in enthusiastic splattering of water on dry dishes, counter, and backsplash.

spoons

Mealtimes offer more opportunities for autonomy. “By myself” means she will hold her spoon or fork as she chooses, not as the grown-ups have shown her numerous times. Elena has yet to figure out that holding a utensil at the very end of the handle is not very efficient.  (The child in the photo is not our Elena, but is demonstrating the same technique.)

Because of her unwieldy grip, Elena ends up turning the spoon upside down as it approaches her mouth. Needless to say, most of the food ends up on her chin, in her bib pocket, on her clothes, on the tray, or back in the dish.

We shake our heads and roll our eyes. Toddlers!

Then it dawns on me. Sometimes I’m not much more mature than a toddler in God’s family. I’ve been known to proclaim “by myself,” too:

  • “Yes, Lord, I need you to take care of the important matters, but I can handle the small stuff by myself. ”
  • “I’ll make this decision by myself, Lord, because—to be honest–I’m not sure I’ll like your choice.”
  • “I can decide by myself what will make me happy, Lord.”

Yep, I can be as foolish as a toddler, even though great wisdom is available to me.

way of wisdom the_t_nv

Wisdom such as:

“Start with God.

The first step in learning

is bowing down to God.

Only fools thumb their noses

at such wisdom and learning”

(Proverbs 1:7, MSG).

Ouch. But Solomon is right.  God made me; he knows the best course for me. Over and over again he has proven himself worthy of my trust — guiding my way, providing for my needs, empowering me to accomplish his plans.

If I can’t trust the One who died for me, who can I trust?

Any time I’m tempted to approach a situation or decision by myself, I need to remember:

“God always gives the best

to those who leave the choice to him”

–Selwyn Hughes

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Father, forgive me for the times I have foolishly asserted my independence. Help me to relinquish control to you. I’ve lived long enough to know from experience that living life by myself does not result in satisfaction. Help me become a person who turns to you first, and asks, “What do YOU want me to do, Lord?” because you are the all-wise One of the universe.  And I know the benefits of following you will far outweigh any costs.

(Photo credits:  www.motherhood.modernmom.com; http://www.childcare.oxfordcounty.ca; http://www.cleftstories.com; http://www.covedevotions2010.blogspot.com.)

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The story told in Acts 10 may be familiar to you. The apostle Peter was staying in Joppa, and one noontime he went to the rooftop of his host’s home to pray. Instead he fell into a trance. Three times he saw a puzzling vision of a large group of unclean animals, unlawful for Jews to eat. Yet a voice directed him to do so. Three times Peter said no. “I have never eaten anything impure,” he replied each time.

While he was still thinking about this strange dream, three men came to see him on behalf of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, stationed about thirty miles away in Caesarea. Cornelius had also been surprised by a surreal experience: an angel visitation. Not only did the heavenly visitor tell Cornelius to send for Peter, but told him the house in Joppa where the apostle was staying.

The three men found Peter, precisely where the angel had said he would be. Compelled by the Spirit, Peter went back to Caesarea with them, accompanied by six men of faith from Joppa. When the entourage arrived, they found a large group of Cornelius’ family and friends gathered. Peter preached to them, and while he was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon them all!

Bernardo Cavallino - St Peter and Cornelius th...

Sometime later Peter went to Jerusalem. Jewish Christians criticized Peter because he went to the house of Gentile and ate with him—both acts unlawful for Jews. Peter explained what had happened—the angel’s visit, the vision, the timing, and the evidence of the Spirit. He ended his explanation with a rhetorical question: “If God gave them the same gift as He gave us…who was I to think I could oppose God?” (Acts 10:1-11:18).

Bible teacher extraordinaire, Anne Graham Lotz, uses this story in her book Into the Word (Zondervan, 2010) to teach us about God’s guidance. While meditating on Peter’s experiences and considering Anne’s thought-provoking questions, the Holy Spirit led me to several interesting observations. Perhaps they’ll interest you, too.

Discovery #1–God Doesn’t Always Connect All the Dots

Why didn’t God send an angel to Peter as he did to Cornelius? Why the puzzling vision?

Granted, after the vision, Peter did receive an impression from the Holy Spirit. “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them” (vs. 19-20). Clear instructions, but no reasons given.

Why not explain in plain terms that visiting Cornelius was the right thing to do? Why the strange dream? It seems Peter was left to connect the dots—between the cryptic vision and the Spirit’s instructions—on his own.

Perhaps God wants us to follow Peter’s example, to act upon what we know, heed those inner impressions from the Spirit, and step out in faith. You might ask along with me: What do I know that is guiding current decisions in my life?

We have a resource that Peter did not: sixty-six books of God-breathed truth at our fingertips, the Bible. Here are several of my favorite passages about His guidance:

• “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8).

• “Delight yourself in the Lord and do good, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this (Psalm 37:5-6).

• “I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10b).

The word “will” stands out to me. He’s not finished instructing me, working on my behalf, or accomplishing his purposes. It would seem God is guiding me to press on, to pursue the passion in my heart—a particular desire. I will continue the pursuit until God makes clear another course of action.

But every day I pray for his guidance, as an act of committing my way to him. I tell him if I’m blindly heading off course, please adjust my rudder! Every day I seek to submit to his instruction.

I know I can trust God’s truth to teach me in the way I should go, including a change of course if he sees fit. I can trust his heart of love, to understand me and know me. And I can trust who he is: my Heavenly Father who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth (Jeremiah 9:24)—including my little corner of the world.

Meanwhile, waiting may be involved, and hard work may be required.

“Faith doesn’t make things easy. It makes them possible”—Anonymous

* * * * * * * * * *

What scriptural truth has God communicated to you that is guiding current decisions in your life? Please share! Your input may be just what someone else needs to hear.

Next Monday we’ll examine Discovery #2.

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