Complete Obedience or Negotiated Compliance?

Today I read Numbers 8-10. Obedience is always in the details and how we obey completely not whether we obey in part. In Numbers God sets up the rules which the Israelites should follow in how they set up the tabernacle, consecrate the priests, handle the passover, and move from place to place. Each of these instructions had very specific things that could and couldn’t be done with consequences for each action that was not followed. For instance, if someone was deemed unclean for doing something like touching a dead body, they could not celebrate Passover with everyone else on the appointed time but had to wait a month to do it. To touch the ark of the covenant would mean instant death. While all of these rules had meaning beyond the rules themselves, it was also a test of obedience for the people of Israel who had to follow them.

Obedience is a word that many people do not like today. For many it is too authoritarian which in a postmodern society means someone is being marginalized and someone’s voice is not being heard. Sometimes I wonder how a postmodern thinker would have done in his/her conversation with God! As a result of our philosophy on life and errosion of authority through concepts like situational ethics, people prefer to pick and choose what they obey and what they do not. Most people see situations where obedience is necessary as opportunities to negotiate. If I can negotiate the terms I will obey you. This is kind of like what I experience with my kids. They want to obey the things that they deem easy and negotiate why they shouldn’t have to do the rest. Or if they know they are not going to win the negotiation they try to get me to give them something as motivation for doing something they should be doing in the first place. As a good parent, I can’t allow my boys to set terms or negotiate with me or they will grow up thinking they only have to do the right thing or submit to authorities if they feel like it and my life with them would be miserable. Instead, because I love them, I have to set up boundaries and rules that they must obey so they can learn appropriate boundaries and respect for authority.

Now I know some will think that something like that prevents them from being independent thinkers but it really doesn’t. It helps them to know the limits of what they can and can’t do and actually makes them more creative. Ask a child to build a sand castle on a beach and he goes wild trying to figure out how to make it happen because of all the space. Tell him to build a sand castle in a sand box and he suddenly has the appropriate boundaries to thrive. In our lives we need boundaries as adults just as our kids do. God puts boundaries in place in our lives because he loves us and knows what is best just as I as a parent put boundaries on my kids because I love them. When we obey completely without negotiation we should our love for him and our complete trust that he has our best interests at heart. When we choose to negotiate or partially obey we show that we really don’t trust God and we think we know better in some areas of life. How does your current obedience show your trust in God?

Lord, help me to trust you in everything in my life. I want to hear you and obey you because I know your way is better than anything I could dream up. Please help me to walk in step with you not negotiate, partially obey, or walk ahead of you. Amen.

The Honor of Obedience

Today I read Leviticus 10-12, Acts 16, and chapter 4 in Refuel. There are a couple of things that stood out this morning and have me thinking. The first is the story of Aaron’s son’s who did not do all of what God asked them to do. They used a strange fire in sacrificing to God. Basically, they did their own thing and did not obey what God said they had to do as his priests. As a result, they were dragged outside the city and burned. Aaron was commanded not to mourn for them in the customary way. So these guys blew it in a huge way. Then a couple of verses later their cousins did not follow the rules of sacrificing properly. So Moses was about to punish them until Aaron stepped in and explained how they were in a tough spot based on back to back sacrifices they had to perform and Moses was ok with that.

As I look at these two circumstances it seems to me the heart was the biggest issue that was being judged. The first two were obviously doing their own thing in disregard for what God had asked them to do. They were prideful and were actually stating by their actions that they knew better than God. I know in my life I may not say this but what I fail to realize many times is my disobedience of what God has asked me to do is, in essence, saying the same thing. We don’t have recorded that these guys ever said that, but their actions were enough. I am so grateful that God has given me his grace in the gift of His Son and the Holy Spirit so I don’t get the punishment I deserve. Instead I can confess and repent of my sin and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, make changes in my life that, hopefully, make me more like Christ. I am free from sacrifices and immediate death penalties and uncertainty about my eternity. I am so blessed because of what Christ has done for me. The more I reflect on that, the more I want to make sure I am obeying all that God has commanded to show His place in my life, my trust in His ways, and my gratitude for His love and grace. What a blessing that my sins no longer define me!

I had the privilege last night to go to service with my wife and 3 boys together at the Fuse (our 20-30’s service). I was so filled with joy to see my three boys worshipping God together with Cheryl and I. We sat at the very top this week because the boys really liked the idea. During Doug Field’s talk, Dylan was taking notes on his card. He was so excited to do what I was doing. He wrote down each point and kept showing me what he was doing. He would grab my paper and tilt it so he could copy it. I could see in his eyes and feel his little heart that he wanted to please me and wanted to be like me. I can’t explain the emotion that brings up in my soul. To have my son want to honor me and honor God in that way blows my mind. There are so many things I have done wrong as a parent that I don’t deserve that level of love. Yet there he was excited to be in big church. That is a moment I will always remember and hope to experience on a regular basis. I love all my boys so much and I am so proud to be their dad. Again, I am blessed beyond what I deserve!

Lord, help me to always remember your presence in my life and what you did for me on the cross. What a blessing I have in you! Give me the strength to obey and the discipline to listen to your Spirit. Guide me today. Amen.

Resisting God

Today I read Exodus 3-5 and Luke 22. I was reminded today how much God chooses to work in and through our humanness instead of choosing perfect people who always respond the right way. Here is Moses who God saved from death by the Egyptians who appears to him in a talking burning bush, who then goes on to resist what God wants to do in his life. I know plenty of people today who would love to have God speak to them directly and tell them exactly what to do in their lives. But here was Moses who had all of that he still resisted God’s call on his life. He didn’t just give a weak “no” and then give in when God replied back. No, he pushed God pretty hard to choose someone else and that he was not worthy and that he could not talk well. This morning for some reason it felt even more uncomfortable reading this because of the number of times and even the way in which he told God no. Here God is doing all these miraculous signs for him (like the voice and burning bush were not enough) and still he says go find someone else. The funny thing is, God was not asking him a question. He was telling him specifically what he had to do.

As I read this I think about all the small ways I say no to God. It might be in times when I feel the spirit asking me to talk to someone, or do something on the spot. Times when I know I should take time out to do something He wants me to do and I procrastinate or put it off or refuse to take a risk for a number of “reasonable” excuses. When I really think about it I am no different than Moses in many ways when God is asking me to do something. I bet if someone read my story some time and saw the ways I have resisted they would be uncomfortable. What is it about human nature that causes us to resist what God has for us?

The great part of this story is that Moses did eventually follow what God asked him to do and even though he met a lot of resistance, at least he followed through. You can even see in the story how his confidence increased the more he trusted God until he eventually became one of the greatest leaders of Israel. I love the fact that God has patience with us and wants to develop us instead of just tossing us aside at the first sign of weakness. What a loving and awesome God I serve!

Lord, help me to be a man who fights through his apprehensions and insecurities to follow you where ever you may lead me. Help me not to give up or be discouraged but to keep plugging along and listening to your quiet voice. Use me however you want for your honor and glory. Amen.