obedience

God requires an undivided heart.

God requires an undivided heart.

2 Chronicles 8

Although I am the one who decided on the title of this blog, I feel the need to ask you to read until the end—especially if you might take immediate offense at the title. There are a lot of ideas floating around out there about what God "requires" us to do before He will accept us. Sacrifices to be made, penance to be paid. This is not how I am using the word requires. So, if you’ll bear with me for a moment, I’d like to explain what I mean.

Delegation Abdication? {ex18}

Photo © Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

Photo © Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

Exodus 18 has been
the jumping-off point
for many a sermon on delegating.
But I wonder if delegating
was what Moses was supposed to do.

He listened to his father-in-law,
but it doesn't say
whether he consulted God
on the newly-proposed
hierarchy.

On one hand,
Jethro's idea took a heavy burden
from Moses' shoulders
and broke it up into smaller
more easily-managed pieces.

On the other hand,
maybe God had intended
Moses to carry
the Israelite Cross.

On one hand,
the people could
get their disputes resolved
without having to practice
so much patience.

On the other hand,
the
plan
added
yet
another
layer
of
bureaucracy
between
the
people
and
the
God
who
had
longed
to
speak
with
them
face
to
face
as
a
man
speaks
to
his
friend.

Perhaps Moses did
the right thing.

But if he had been on
the sure path to
burnout,
why didn't the God
who was in the habit
of speaking with him every day
tell him so
Himself?

 

God doesn't restrict His representatives' freedom.

God doesn't restrict His representatives' freedom.

2 Kings 10

The new king of the Northern Kingdom, Jehu, had been specifically commissioned by God for a special purpose: "You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel." (2 Kings 9:7) And, as we saw in the last chapter, Jehu set out to do his job with zeal.

Ruined {ex10:7}

Photo © Unsplash/Thu Trang Nguyen Tran

Photo © Unsplash/Thu Trang Nguyen Tran

The question Egypt's officials
put to their king
haunts me

How was he so blind
or so stubborn
or so arrogant
that he didn't see how
everything he loved
was slowly crumbling around him

Or did he see

Maybe the problem wasn't
that he didn't know
but that he did

Maybe the problem wasn't
that he thought he wasn't ruined
but knew he was
and thought there was
still a chance

still a way
he could fix it

One more opportunity
one more try
one more day
to start over
to redouble his efforts
to get it right

Maybe the problem wasn't that Pharaoh
didn't know Egypt was ruined
but that he still believed
he could repair the damage

But there is only
One
who can restore

There is only
One
who can rebuild

There is only
One
who can recover
all that has been lost

and it’s not us—

To be ruined
is not the problem

The problem is
we no more want to obey
than Pharaoh did
those two little words
God spoke:

Let. Go.

 

God prefers right to rite.

1 SAMUEL 15

I decided to go with the "softer" title for this blog. My first choice was God doesn’t care about your "good deeds." This was what Saul learned in 1 Samuel 15. He expressly disobeyed God’s command when he went into battle with the Amalekites. Nobody was to be taken alive, and everything that belonged to the Amalekites was to be destroyed.

But Saul didn’t listen to the Lord. Oh, he put everyone to the sword all right. Everyone except King Agag, that is. He took him as a prisoner of war, perhaps to gloat or maybe to torture him for a while. Who knows. And in addition to this, the army plundered everything that was "good"—the sheep, cattle, and lambs. They kept the choicest of everything for themselves.

When Samuel came to meet Saul (knowing that he had violated the Lord’s command), I love his answer to Saul’s declaration that he had carried out all the Lord’s instructions: "But Samuel said, 'What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears?'" (vs 14) Ha! But Saul was adamant that he had obeyed the Lord, saying that he had simply brought the animals back from battle in order to make sacrifices to God. (I think, in his mind, he thought that’s what would make God less angry.)

Photo © Unsplash/Chinh Le Duc

Photo © Unsplash/Chinh Le Duc

"And Samuel said:
Do you think all God wants are sacrifices—empty
rituals just for show?
He wants you to listen to him!
Plain listening is the thing,
not staging a lavish religious production.
Not doing what God tells you
is far worse than fooling around in the occult.
Getting self-important around God
is far worse than making deals with your dead
ancestors." (vs 22-23)

God always tells us the right thing to do. And if we are unwilling to listen and do what is right, God doesn’t care how many rites we try to put in place of our obedience. God doesn’t want our sacrifices; He doesn’t want our good deeds; He doesn’t want our empty worship. He wants us. And if a willing, surrendered heart isn’t part of what we bring to Him, then nothing else matters.

Do you think all God wants are sacrifices?
He wants you to listen to him!

Forget about the rite. Do the right!

Photo © Unsplash/Nina Strehl

Photo © Unsplash/Nina Strehl

On Acceptance {gn38}

genesis-acceptance-on-acceptance-poem.png

Perhaps Jesus said the Kingdom was for children
because children accept their lot in life.
Often, they don't know any different
and even if they did,
what can they do about it?

Children accept
and try to find ways of being content.

Adults, on the other hand,
have learned    better?
and have trouble accepting
what they don't want or can't understand.

Er wouldn't accept a mantle of morality.

Onan wouldn't accept a surrogate's role.

Judah wouldn't accept the position of widower.

Shelah wouldn't accept his brothers' leftovers.

Tamar wouldn't accept childless singlehood.

It's no wonder, then, that
centuries later,
Mary is called "favored of God"
and chosen as the one
to bear the burden of raising the Savior.
For how many people—
even in the very pages of sacred Scripture—
ever responded
to what they didn't want or couldn't understand
by saying
Let it be to me according to your will?

We so idolize those who
won't acquiesce
refuse to bow down
fight back
stick it to the man
get angry

that we are blind
to the holiness that comes with
accepting the lot we wouldn't choose—
if only it were up to us.

 

God helps us fight.

God helps us fight.

JUDGES 1

The first chapter of the book of Judges chronicles more of the war conquests of Israel. And as I read the various accounts, I thought about how God helps us fight. Of course, these were accounts of actual fighting, and we may not find ourselves out on the battlefield, but God helps us fight in other areas of our lives. When we need spiritual help, God fights for us. When we need emotional help, God fights for us. And whenever we align ourselves with God’s will, He helps us fight... and we always win.