Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Posts tagged ‘obedience’

The Power of a Choice

As a kid, we didn’t have TV at home, so going to my grandparents’ place was an opportunity to watch cartoons like Popeye and game shows such as Let’s Make a Deal.  The difficult thing about the latter was that people had to choose between two unknowns—such as money in an envelope and an object behind a door—or between one known and another unknown that might be much better or much worse than what they already had.

Thousands of years ago, King Solomon was given a choice. In fact, lots of people in the Bible were given a choice which determined the whole outcome of their lives and the lives of others.  But, unlike the game show, the options and their consequences were clearly stated from the start.  Solomon went into this with his eyes wide open, the whole deal laid out on the table.

Solomon got to make two major choices in his life.  First, at the outset of his reign, God appeared to him and offered him anything he chose.  Because he asked for wisdom instead of wealth or fame, God gave him all of these!  He treated him as a favored son, lavishing on him fabulous riches and renowned wisdom.  He had everything he could wish for! 

After some years, God presented him with another choice (1 Kings 9:4-9): 

1)  Live a life of obedience to God.  The result would be a continuing dynasty that would reign forever over Israel.

2)  Reject God and worship other gods.  The consequence would be that Israel would be uprooted from their beloved land and made an object of ridicule, and the magnificent Temple he had just built would be a shambles.

Now, is that a hard choice? Who would choose the latter?

Yet, that is just what Solomon did as the years went by.  He chose to marry wives from nations around him who brought their “detestable” gods along—gods that were worshipped by burning children alive and by lewd prostitution.  Solomon not only tolerated this kind of worship by his wives, but he also turned his heart from the true God and participated in the disgusting worship of his wives’ gods.  As a consequence, his glorious kingdom was divided as it passed to his son, and idol-worship became a constant problem as long as those two kingdoms lasted.  Finally, God had enough of it and they were expelled from their land as He had said.

It’s enough to make one cry.  Why, oh why would anyone choose to rebel against this loving and generous God and bring trouble upon themselves?  Well, the story goes on in the headlines today, in our neighborhoods, and even in our hearts. 

Each day brings its choices.  Will my choices today be those that please or displease Him?  Remember:  God does not “tolerate” what He has forbidden.  The consequences may be delayed out of His mercy, but they will surely come.

God’s Word—a joy or a joke to you?

Recently I participated in the dedication of a Bible translation into a language that had never had it before.  The highlight for me was the tears in the eyes of members of that community who shared what it meant to them! 

Those of us who have grown up with Bibles of all versions, sizes, shapes, colors, and editions too often fail to recognize this treasure right in our hands.  My recent reading in the Old Testament highlighted wildly varying responses to the arrival of God’s word:

King Josiah – When the scroll of God’s word was found in the Temple that had been neglected for decades, and he tore his robe, horrified that he and his people had not been obeying it.  What followed was major repentance, revival, and joyful celebration.

…18 years pass, and Jeremiah is receiving God’s words of warning to a nation about to be destroyed because of their stubborn rebellion against Him. 

Officials of King Jehoiakim –When God’s words are read to them, they looked at one another in fear and told Jeremiah to hide.

King Jehoiakim, who was notably the son of Josiah—When God’s words are read to him, he cuts up the scoll and burns it, then tries to have Jeremiah arrested.

When we hear God’s word, what is our response?  Do we humbly accept and obey it, or do we disdain or even try to suppress it? 

When I discovered your words, I devoured them.
They are my joy and my heart’s delight… (Jeremiah 15:16)

Keeping the commandments keeps a person safe,
but scorning the way of the LORD brings death.  (Proverbs 19:16)

 

 

A Real Hero

Antoinette Tuff is my heroine today.  And she gives all the glory to God, who gave her wisdom and courage to talk a gunman out of carrying out his plans to shoot up a school full of elementary kids.  One tool she used was her own story of weakness, loss and need.

Another hero is Gideon whose story I’ve been reading again (Judges chapters 6-8).  These same two things stand out in his experience:  his doubts and fears, and then his obedience and effectiveness in saving his people. 

His fear: 
–Threshing wheat in a wine vat to hide it from the marauding enemy. 
–Waiting for the cover of night to carry out God’s order to demolish idols worshipped by his townspeople.

His doubt: 
–When God appeared to him to commission him (addressing him as “mighty warrior”!), Gideon asked for a sign of confirmation, which God graciously provided by burning up his meal and then vanishing! (6:20-21)

–But that wasn’t enough.  He still needed confirmation.  So God arranged for a wet fleece on dry ground and then vice versa (6:36-40). 

Then God threw in one extra confirmation for good measure.  He sent Gideon to eavesdrop on a couple of enemy soldiers discussing a strange dream which they concluded  meant that Gideon was going to defeat their whole army!  (I wonder how they knew about him by name?!?)

God is so patient with those who really want to please and obey Him!

The tools:
–Personnel:  Just 300 people, whittled down from an original 32,000! (7:1-8)
–Weapons:  Trumpets, torches in clay jars, and their voices! (7:15-22) 

God’s strategy:

–As the noise and light show by Gideon’s men commenced (with the weapons listed above), God caused the enemy army to panic and kill one another!

What power!  What irony!  I love God’s battle strategies!  (For more, read the books of Exodus through 2 Chronicles.)

I also love the fact that God uses imperfect people who have doubts and fears and yet are committed to obey God to be used for His purposes, and to be sure He gets the glory!  I’m one of those.  So is Antoinette Tuff.

Taking a Sabbatical

“Taking a sabbatical” is something I associate with professors or pastors.  But this morning I was reminded that the first sabbatical was associated with farmland.  One of God’s instructions to the Israelites (Leviticus 25) was to give the land a rest every seventh year.  A wise conservation principle, right?

But what would they eat?  Along with this command, God made this promise:   

But you might ask, ‘What will we eat during the seventh year, since we are not allowed to plant or harvest crops that year?’ Be assured that I will send my blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a crop large enough for three years. When you plant your fields in the eighth year, you will still be eating from the large crop of the sixth year. In fact, you will still be eating from that large crop when the new crop is harvested in the ninth year.                       (Leviticus 25:20-22)

Jesus reiterated this principle in Matthew 6:31-33:

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Paradoxically, God helps those who put Him first, not “those who help themselves.”  Do I trust Him to care for me, enough to “recklessly” and follow Him with my whole being and then enjoy a life of fulfillment?  The other alternative is unthinkable. 

If you want to know what would happen if the Israelites failed to give the land its sabbatical, and whether they actually did it and the actual outcome, read Leviticus 26:14,34-35 and 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.

A Modern-Day Daniel

I’ve mentioned Daniel recently in my blog, but he comes to mind again as I think of the courageous stand the Greens, of Hobby Lobby, are taking. 

Like Daniel, they have strong convictions about what God, in His holiness, requires and what He despises.  Daniel and his friends had to make decisions about       

–whether to eat the king’s non-kosher food (chapter 1)
–whether to worship the king’s image (chapter 3)
— whether to worship the king instead of God (chapter 6).

In each case they respectfully refused to be pressured into doing what the government required, choosing to obey God regardless of dire consequences.  And God honored them, using them as showcases of His power and sovereignty to the king and his officials.  In their case, He rescued them from a fiery furnace and from hungry lions.

I thank God for the Greens who are standing as a modern-day Daniel, as a light on a hilltop being viewed by everyone (Mt 5:14-15).  May God bless them and use them to encourage us all to stand for what is right regardless of whatever the consequences may be.

I was deeply moved by a news article yesterday: “Please know that God is good to His church,” one Egyptian Christian said at an interdenominational prayer meeting of more than 10,000 people. “We are really blessed and see this time of tension as a chance for us to work for the Kingdom of God.” 

Maranatha!

Manufacturer’s Instructions

A few days ago I was figuring out how to use an Audibible, a small player on which were loaded lots of songs and Scripture readings in a minority language to be used in areas where there is no electricity.  One part of the manufacturer’s instructions is particularly important if recharging the player from an electrical outlet instead of using the solar charger.  Using a negative instead of a positive charge, I was told, could ruin the player.  Fortunately, that information is in the User’s Manual.  I just hope whoever uses the Audibible reads and follows these directions!

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People are like that.  The first human was manufactured from earth—yes, handmade (that’s what “manufacture” literally means) by God.  And to Adam and his descendants (that’s us!) the Manufacturer has provided a User’s Manual.  If we follow the instructions, things will go well.  If we insist on doing it our own way instead, there’s going to be trouble. 

So why don’t people read the instructions?  Is it because of pride?  Stubborn independence?  Thinking that they know better than the manufacturer?  Why don’t people humbly listen and obey the instructions of the One who made them?  Same reasons, I suspect…  The results?  Just look around and see.

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.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
     Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
     and strength for your bones.
Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything
     and your vats will overflow with good wine.  (Proverbs 3:5-10 NLT)

First Things First

Here are excerpts from the lyrics to a song I ran across.  Pretty poignant.

We say, “Show me, and I’ll trust You”
God says, “Trust me and I’ll show You.”

We say, “Heal me, and I’ll praise You,”
God says, “Praise me and I’ll heal you.”

We say, “Bless me and I’ll follow,”
God says, “Follow and I’ll bless you.”

We say, “Change me and I’ll love You,”
God says, “Love me and I’ll change you”….

You’ve got to put first things first, get your heart out of reverse,
for the highest will be servants, and the lowest will be kings…

(Words by Claire Clonginger, copyright 1987 Paragon Music and Word Music.)

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