Love, Obedience and Joy Go Together

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John 15:1 – 17

As I studied this passage, I was fascinated by how there seemed to be a repetition in what Jesus was saying to His disciples, that what He said in verses 1-8 were echoed or expanded in verses 9-17.  This really should not come as a great surprise though, for we must remember that chapters 13 to 17 of John’s Gospel all took place on the last evening that Jesus spent with His disciples before He was crucified.

If you or I knew that we were just about to die, then I’m sure that we too would want to be very clear to our family and friends that they hear and understand our last wishes.  And to make sure that they really heard us, we too would probably repeat the most important parts again to them.  It seems to me that this is what Jesus did.  And to help see this, I have paired the verses together from the two halves.  Jesus said:

1 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.

Both God the Father, and God the Son love you and I very much.  God tenderly cares for us as the Master of a beautiful garden.  It is a love relationship that ties us to God and God to us, and we must choose to remain in that relationship to experience His love.

    

He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

Here we see that love and obedience go together.  Jesus modeled for us what obedience to God looked like, and showed that this is the path to experiencing God’s love.   When we truly love God, we desire to obey Him.  If we refuse to live in obedience to Him though, God will remove His watch care over us, and may allow painful events (pruning) to shape our lives to bring about positive growth in our lives.

    

You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

As Christians, we must allow Christ to rule completely in our lives.  And we establish and maintain this relationship through regularly spending time in the Bible, God’s Word.  As we drink in the riches of His Word, we will experience such tremendous joy in connecting and communing with God.

    

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

All that we think we accomplish in this world mean nothing though in the light of eternity.  We need to pursue actions that have eternal significance, such as loving God and others, even as the cost of our own lives.  God will reserve our reward for us in heaven which will never be destroyed.

    

Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.

15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

All of us begin as broken, sin corrupted people whom God cannot tolerate in his holy presence.  We all deserve to be cast into the fires of hell.  But then God showed His love by sending Jesus to become one of us.  And Jesus showed His love by taking the punishment for our sin.  He then elevates us, who believe in Him, from being slaves to sin to becoming children of God and brothers and sisters to Christ.  Praise God for His great love.

    

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!

16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.

When we make that choice of accepting Jesus as the Lord of our lives, the things that He wants become the things that we want.  We begin to know God’s mind on important matters, and so when we ask for things from God, it is not out of our own selfishness that we ask, but rather a desire to see the Kingdom of God advance in the world.  Therefore, what we ask for will already be within the will of God and He will naturally want to give us those things that we are praying and asking for.

    

When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

17 This is my command: Love each other.

The final result is that we will be true disciples, that is, as we follow Jesus, we will become like Jesus, and this will bring honor to God.  In practical terms, we will love others just like Jesus loves others, and was willing to die to demonstrate the love of God to the world.  Wow!!  What deep truths are contained within this passage.

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God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 16

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 8: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
THE RIGHT DOORS OPEN

Question #1: What blocked doors have you encountered in your life?  As you look back on them, how might God have been protecting you by blocking your path?

I have no doubt that God was watching over me to help place before me the right woman to marry.  There had been three other women I had given serious thought to about marrying, but a number of circumstances and differences in personalities were revealed to me to stop me from making a poor decision.  The funny thing is that Jill had been in front of me all along.

You see, while I was away from home doing mission work, my parents had taken Jill in as a room-and-board person.  When I came home from the mission field, I ended up in our dusty downstairs bedroom.  (We still laugh about that.)  I tried and failed to date these other young women, until Jill asked me one day, “I thought you were interested in me once.”  With our passion for missions, and then focused interest in each other, it wasn’t long before we became husband and wife.

The other event that certainly had to be from God, was how Jill and I ended up being with our current mission Pioneer Bible Translators.  After attending a month long recruitment retreat led by Wycliffe Bible translators, it was clear we were not ready to go overseas yet.  Two years later when we had our finances and other issues taken care of, we applied again, but heard no answer.

God led us next to Illinois so I could do further work on Greek and Hebrew.  That is where we first learned about PBT.  We saw this as God’s direction, so we wrote to Wycliffe to have our personnel file sent from them to PBT.  The women we had worked with said yes she could do that, but asked why we had not accepted their invitation from Wycliffe.  Somehow that letter never found us as we moved.  We were approved by both missions, but God had wanted us to be with PBT.

Question #2: On the other hand, has God opened a door in your life?  Explain what happened and how you could see his hand at work.

Twice, while I was with Teen Missions, I saw God’s hand move and do the impossible for me.  To go on my first TMI team (to build a church in Dominican Republic), I had to have all my support of about $1,400.  But by the beginning of May I was still quite short and it was getting close to the deadline for the final payment.

I looked to the Lord and pleaded with Him to allow me to go to Brazil and serve Him there.  Incredibly, a final check came in for me and it was almost the exact amount of money I would need to pay for the whole summer, and even lasted into the Fall.  I knew that I was called by God to serve Him that year in Brazil.

The second event with Teen Missions happened less than a year later.  I had received a letter from their mission office asking me to join a newly formed Staff Travel Team to minister to churches and advertise in churches about Teen Missions in hopes of recruiting some more young people to come on a summer mission trip.

When I got to the airport, the Customs Officer came to the conclusion that I must be hiding the truth and that once I was let into the United States, I would try to work for pay, which is not allowed   Two supervisors argued about me and I tried to calmly reassure them that I would not be taking a job while in the States.

The supervisors finally left and the Officer wondered what to do with me.  Finally, he said he couldn’t see that I would be a threat, and even though it was going against his supervisors’ opinions, he still decided to approve my US entry visa.  I ran to the plane as they were literally shutting the door.  It was a “God-thing” for sure, and it was a reminder to me all year long that I knew I was where God wanted me.

Questions #5: What blocked doors are you facing right now?  Pray for one another that God would blast them open in his perfect timing.

A door that has been closed to us for many years, but still is within our hearts to do is to actually make the move over to PNG and live back there again.  We have not heard God say “Yes” to us, but He also has not said “NO” either.  It has been assumed by others, and by us I think, that it would be too difficult for us to live in this under-developed country with the health needs that I have.

But I think we need to look at this carefully and consider which is more powerful: the discouragement and sense of defeat which Satan can throw at us because my health has been seriously compromised with this muscle disease, or the power of God and the stripes that Jesus took on our behalf to free us from spiritual death and the diseases of this world.

We leave this decision in God’s hands, but we ask you all to pray for us to have wisdom in this matter.

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Make Your Life A Testimony – Pt 1

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We have come to the last chapter in our book that we have studied together this year on The Listening Post.  The title as many of you know is “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel” by Mark Atteberry.  We have journeyed together with the children of Israel through their wilderness wanderings until they came to their Promised Land.  But we have also journeyed together with reflections on life with one another and seen that the God who fulfilled His promises to the Israelites is the same God who fulfills His promises to us in our lives.

This book has had such a profound impact on my life as I have been on my own personal hard road journey living with my muscle disease that flared up 3 ½ years ago.  There have been many difficult days for me along this road.  Even today, I am not feeling well as I have not had a good sleep and battled pain and fatigue for four days now.  But then I remember that my commitment to God is to serve Him, not complain to Him.  And I also remember that God’s promise is that when I am weak, He is strong.  And reflecting on that brought an old hymn below to my mind.

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Before I gave my life to Christ at age 12, I was only concerned about Me.  (But isn’t this the attitude of all children?)  Yet I wonder what kind of adult I would have turned into if Christ had not become my Lord.  I shudder to think about how self-focused and self-serving I would have become.  So I praise God that I heard the Gospel message when I was young and responded to that call.

And it was only a few years after making that decision to make Jesus my Lord that He showed me that my life was to be fully dedicated to serving Him in mission work around the world.  I have never thought of my years of service for Him to be my “duty” or my “repayment” for the salvation He offered me. Rather, it has always been my joy and privilege to offer my life as a thanks offering back to Him.

1.  Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

2.  Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

3.  Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

As I consider the years that I have been in ministry and mission work up until my disease become evident, I feel that my commitment to serve Christ was in some ways easy for me. Like the first three verses of this hymn mention, I gladly gave Him what was not difficult to give.  I would go, I would reach out, I would sing for Jesus.  And I would enjoy myself as I went along on this adventure in life.

But it in these past 3 ½ years, I have found that serving the Lord had to become a regular choice, as I could choose to give in to the disease and decide the effort to go half way around the world to do our mission work was not worth it.  Even more basic than that, I had to choose to praise God and thank Him for each day that I woke up, no matter whether I “felt” good at the start of the day or not.  Living for Christ is giving all of me over to Him, my mind, my will and my heart.

4.  Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

5.  Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

6.  Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

I found that my world shrunk for me all the way down to little more than my living room.  With little to do, and little ability to do much more than sit in my recliner chair and become even more attached to my computer, I could have literally turned into a “couch potato”.  But God was not finished with me yet.  Through encouragement from my wife and others, we found ways for me to still serve God, even sitting in my own living room.

Through modern technology, I am still able to work on translation projects that are on the other side of the world.  With modern medicine to manage the pain, and rapid transport to get me to other countries, I set myself up in a different recliner and keep on being active in this mission ministry.  But God also opened up this ministry of blogging so that I could encourage others to believe that if God can use me and bless me as He has in spite of my limitations, then He can do this for anyone.

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Back to Atteberry and his last chapter, he tells us that when we have broken through from the barren wilderness of our hard road experience, we need to set up a memorial, as a testimony to others that God is faithful and will carry us through.  And I believe that is what this blog site has become for me.  I sit down and write three articles a week and memorialize all the good things that God has done for me and is still doing for me.  My prayer is that my writings, my memorial stones, have brought honor to God, and been an encouragement to all my readers.

Being A Follower Of Jesus

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There Is a Cost To Following Jesus

When we look in the New Testament at the topic of people becoming disciples of Jesus, He almost always talks about the cost of being a true follower.  Take a look at some of the first men whom He called to be His disciples.  Peter and Andrew, as well as James and John, were all professional fishermen who lived hard, simple lives by the shores of Lake Galilee.  Then Jesus came and asked them to follow Him.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “Put down your nets for a short time while I ask you to come and be my disciples.  Then you can go back and continue your lives as fishermen.”  No!  He was expecting them to turn their backs completely on their old ways of living and adopt a whole new vocation.  Jesus said, “Come follow Me and I will cause you to become fishers of men.”

James and John were shown how costly it would be to follow Jesus, for in that moment of decision, they left not only their nets and their boats, but they even left their father sitting in the boat.  So much for passing on the family business.

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What is very unusual is that when someone wanted to be attached  to a famous Jewish teacher (called a Rabbi), then they would humbly approach the Rabbi and ask to become a follower.  In the case of Jesus’ disciples, it was Jesus Himself who invited them to become His students and learn everything they could from Him about God the Father and about the coming Kingdom of Heaven.

In Luke 9:57 – 62 we see Jesus interacting with three potential disciples.  One man approached Jesus and said, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  Looking in Matthew’s account, we find out that the man was a “teacher of the Law”, commonly known as a Scribe.  He would have been a young member of the religious group called the Pharisees.  He probably thought that if he got himself attached to Jesus, then his own fame and importance would also rise in the eyes of the people.

That would explain Jesus’ response, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the air have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no place to rest my head.”  To follow Jesus meant a person had to be willing to give up the comforts of life, and to do Kingdom work even in the most difficult social and physical environments.

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The next two inquirers did not fare any better.  One said, “Please let me go back and bury my father.  Then I will come and follow you.”  The third man simply said, “Let me go home and say goodbye.”  Look first at Jesus’ response to the third man, “No one who puts his hand to a plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.”

The picture here is that if relationships with others in this world are more important than following Jesus, then it will be hard for that person to truly make Jesus the Lord of their lives.  It is not that we should not love our families, but our love and devotion for Him must be greater than that towards our own family.

Now Jesus’ response to the second man can be difficult to understand, and some people accuse Jesus of not being very sympathetic in not letting him go and bury his father.  Jesus said, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own physical dead, but you go proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

You see, the culture then was that if a father was sick (and we have grounds to think the father was not dead), then the sons were to take care of the property and business work of their father.  So the second man was not willing to release his role on the materialism and the finances of the family inheritance.

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So what has all this to do with me and my family?  I believe that Jill, my sons and I have realized the importance of obeying Jesus, no matter what the immediate cost might be to ourselves.  These last four months have not been easy for Jill and me as we have been apart from each other, except for a few days in the middle.  But we knew God was asking me to serve Him here in Dallas, and that God was also asking Jill to “hold down the fort” and manage things at home.

For our boys, Eric was led to meet a lovely young Christian girl.  When they knew they shared the same spiritual beliefs and principles, then rather than “test it out” as so many common-law people do today, they followed the biblical injunction to leave their parents and get married and to reserve their sexuality for the marriage bed.

And finally, Glen followed the leading of God to enter into the Canadian Armed Forces (Army).  This has taken him out of our family, and placed him with some rough men, doing a tough job.  But in his words, “God wants me to be a light for Christ to the other men, and God wants to use me to help defend the defenseless people of the world.”

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But on December 15th of 2011, our schedules have worked out for all five of us to be back in Calgary for at least two weeks to celebrate the Christmas season together.  Being follower of Jesus has recently meant splitting up the family to do what we are called to do.  But the fulfillment we have in doing this work, and knowing God is always with us, makes being apart possible.  It also makes it so much sweeter when we do get to return home and share our stories of what God is doing in our lives.  I can hardly wait for December 15th to arrive.

Entrusting Our Children to God

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Who Am I?  Part 23

In the last article about our family and my life journey, we had all moved together in January, 2006 to live and assist with the ministry of Bible translation in a country in East Africa.  But very quickly, we all saw that it was not going to be the nice fit for our family that we had hoped for.  At least we would not be able to recapture the wonderful family times that we had experienced together while living in a remote village of Papua New Guinea.

Within a few weeks, our older son felt strongly that he would do better if he were to return to Canada and finish his last grade of High School there.  Meanwhile, I was loving the new country I was in, and learning the language and being fascinated by the different culture there as opposed to what I had seen and experienced in Papua New Guinea.

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So I tried to hold the family together and convince my son to stay.  I felt like David did in the Bible when he wrote words like these below:

8 O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
9 O fear the LORD, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

(Psalm 34:8-11)

The problem was that I was equating keeping the family together with God’s blessings on the family.  It took a few months, and many discussions in the family, for me to get to the point where I could see that the lack of social peers, the importance of my son’s schooling, and the pull on him of his Canadian culture meant being in Canada would be better for him.  I had to let go and entrust him into God’s care.

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In August of 2006 then, our first son flew by himself from East Africa and went back to Canada.  (God did provide a contact of a really neat Christian family who lived not very far from Heathrow airport who took care of Eric on his halfway layover in London.)  That left Jill and I with our younger boy, Glen.  Being only 21 months younger than Eric, and having traveled and lived all over the world with his brother at his side, imagine the impact of losing his best friend, his brother.

It wasn’t long before he too was asking us, even telling us, that he needed to return to Canada as well.  Now you think I might have learned something from having worked through the very same issues with Eric that I would have been more sensitive to Glen’s needs at that time in his life.  But no, I have to admit now that I came down rather hard on Glen, and even got overly spiritual with him and suggested that he was rebelling against his own father.

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I think I may have even thought of the passage below, and I figured that if my son would just admit his rebellious attitude toward me, then I could be just as forgiving as the Father above is to his wayward children:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness.
9 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His loving-kindness toward those who fear Him.
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

(Psalm 103:8 – 13)

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Well, I can tell you now how awful I feel about how hard I was on my own son.  I knew that it was my responsibility to raise my children to love the Lord and obey Him, and to respect and honor his parents.  I mean, that is what the Bible says, right?  But what I had forgotten was that along with this, there is a strong admonition for fathers not to be so over-bearing that the opposite effect than you want will result.

Read the two verses below:

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

(Ephesians 6:1 & 4)

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Thankfully, I finally got it.  And I had to ask forgiveness from my son.  And I actually flew with him from East Africa to Canada to bring him back and set him up to live with some very good friends of ours in Calgary.  He was 16 at the time.  I went back to Africa and Jill and I finished out our assignment there and then we too came back to Canada three months later.

We were able to join the family back together at that point.  We bought a nice condo and set up our home and our family once again.  At that time, Eric was going to a Bible college (and got his 1-yr certificate) and Glen was just finishing High School.  We treasured the few more months that we had together as a foursome.  This was to change soon, as the next year Eric got married.  And then we were a fivesome.

Children are a blessing.  But we need to remember that they are on loan to us from God.  We are to raise them the best we can, encouraging them to have faith in God, but still allowing them to have their own personal space and freedom in life.  We found that when we entrusted them to God, He turned around and gave them back to us.  And my response is, “Thank you God!”

We Need to P.U.S.H. With God

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“I Don’t Understand, God.”

To be really honest, there are times when I have felt that I am not getting anywhere in life, or in my vocational career as a Bible translator.  It has seemed like many times, we just get moved and settled down into a given location and are at a specific level of my vocation, and then we are uprooted and have to start all over again.

I can say this quite literally, seeing as Jill and I have been married for 27 years now, and in that time we have moved 55 times to live in another residence.  We have lived in 7 Provinces of Canada, 2 States in the USA (multiple times in each), and at least 7 countries from the Americas, to the Pacific Islands and Australia, to Africa.  We have lost count of how many times we have either sold all our belongings to go live somewhere else, or lost our belongings due to sudden moves across the world.

Even now, we can feel discouraged as we look at what is happening.  God did provide a lovely 3 level condo for us in 2008.  A month after we moved in, my symptoms hit and living in the 3 level home became very challenging for me.  So we were led back to buy a simple 1 level condo right across from the hospital where Jill works.  But we need to be released from the first mortgage, and it looks like it would be at quite a loss for us.

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And now God is asking me to move to Dallas in August up through mid-December and Jill will stay back here in Calgary.  We have plans of getting together once or twice in those four months, and we have a number of ways to phone or Skype each other for free so we can talk to each other every day if we want to.  But that does not mean it is going to be easy to do this.

And yet, we see God’s hand in all of these matters.  We fail to understand His will behind some of these things.  But we believe that He orchestrates the important matters of our lives, and our response is to simply obey.  And my optimism and my hope tells me that later on, one day we will look back and be able to see what it was all about.  But for right now, we do what we believe He tells us to do, and leave the whys and the wherefores into His hands.

A friend sent me this recently and I believe that not only does it contain some real wisdom, but even while I was reading it, I saw God use it to minister to me in my current life situation.  See if it might also be speaking directly to you at where you are at.

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P.U.S.H. – and God appeared.

The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. So, this the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all of his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

Since the man was showing discouragement, the Adversary (Satan) decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the weary mind: “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t moved.” Thus, he gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man. Satan said, “Why kill yourself over this? Just put in your time, giving just the minimum effort; and that will be good enough.”

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That’s what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a matter of prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.  “Lord,” he said, “I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

The Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so?

Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown; your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. True, you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. That you have done. Now I, my friend, will move the rock.”

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At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He wants, when actually what God wants is just a simple obedience and faith in Him. By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God who moves mountains.

When everything seems to go wrong… just P.U.S.H.!

When the job gets you down… just P.U.S.H.!

When people don’t react the way you think they should… just P.U.S.H!

When your money is “gone” and the bills are due… just P.U.S.H!

When people just don’t understand you… just P.U.S.H.

P= Pray

U= Until

S= Something

H= Happens

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Disobedience Wipes Me Out

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Hard Road Journey – Part 4


The last article in this series which looked at Mark Atteberry’s book “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel” was entitled “Trouble Around the Bend“.  That article dealt with the idea in chapter two that it is imperative that we try to “commit to strict obedience”.  Now what exactly is he talking about  when he says this.

Basically, I see this as a call God’s gives to all His people.  And in this call, God is asking us to look to Him and by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, His Son, then we mark out a path that is straight and will not deviate from doing God’s will, doing what we know to be true and right.  It is when we take our eyes off of Jesus and start deviating from the path, and for sure when we start taking side roads which branch off from the one true straight path, that our lack of strict obedience turns into deliberate disobedience, and this ultimately causes us pain, grief and remorse.

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What I want to reflect upon now is the last section of Atteberry’s book in chapter two.  For all of us who are believers in Christ, the question isn’t whether or not we are committed to following Jesus, but rather, how well are we following Him.  We know the Scriptural injunctions of “love God…love your neighbour”, “in everything give thanks”, “don’t worry about what you will eat, or what you will wear”, “rejoice, and again I say rejoice.”

To do all of these well, we would need to follow Atteberry’s advice that we be disciplined to walk in strict obedience, and the hope that he puts before us is that if we can do this, then we will carry a lighter load on our journey.  What he means by this is that we will not need to unnecessarily carry extra weight from regrets, worries, negative self-talk, guilt, etc.  I think his comparison of an undisciplined person to an over-accumulation of junk is a good one.  He says:

Junk accumulates.  And it doesn’t just accumulate in our garages and attics and closets and underneath our car seats.  It also accumulates in our lives.  In our minds and our hearts.  I’m talking about worries and burdens and fears and frustrations.                                 (p. 22)

Let me give you a simple story that can illustrate this point that when we do not commit to strict obedience to follow what we know to be right, then we unnecessarily cause ourselves pain and add a heavy load to the road we are walking.

I still remember the day my mom told me that I needed to be home by 6 p.m. for supper, and “Don’t be late!”  I went for an afternoon bike ride.  And like most kids, I lost track of time and before I knew it, I was much too far away to get home on time.  So now I felt guilt knowing I had disobeyed, and fear for the discipline/punishment that was bound to come.

So I pedaled for all I was worth thinking maybe, just maybe, I would get home on time.  I was one block away from home and I attempted to jump a curb to cut across a little grass area.  But my forward speed was greater than my lift, my front tire hit the curb hard and I and the bike made a tremendous somersault into the air and landed in one bruised and broken pile.

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I managed to carry my bike and limp home but I was 20 minutes late.  I did get my well-deserved lecture for being late.  My supper was cold.  My TV privilege was taken from me.  My bike rim was smashed.  And my body sported nice bruises for days to come.  I was mad.  But I had no one to blame except myself.  If I had been obedient to the simple request to be home on time in the first place, then I would not have added all the extra pain and emotional baggage of guilt, fear, shame and frustration.

The point my dear friends, is that more often than not, the path of obedience that is set before us, whether it is from God, our parents, our employers or anyone in authority over us, is usually not that difficult.  And when we accept the boundaries placed upon us and act responsibly to obey them, then even when the path seems hard, it is usually not unbearable.  But when disobedience is added to the already difficult road we are on, then we find the path unbearable.

Let us then commit to a life of obedience to God and not add to our troubles.  And we will find in the end that the path was in fact easier to bear than we thought.  And God himself, who rewards those who obey Him, will supply the help and strength we need to walk through this difficult journey that we have found ourselves walking along.

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