Our Love/Hate of Daily Requirements

indexSo David left Asaph and his relatives there before the ark of the Lord’s covenant to minister regularly before the ark according to the daily requirements. (1 Chronicles 16:37)

What are our “daily requirements”?

We all have them. We might look at others’ daily requirements, including those we observe at different times, different cultures, or different beliefs, and we declare them silly, unimportant, oppressive, or irrational. But we all have them, even if we don’t listen to God and rely on Him to determine them for us.

Even if we do listen to God for our daily requirements, we don’t necessarily see them as a blessing or honor. At times, we still feel as if they are silly, unimportant, oppressive, or irrational, even as we choose to follow them. Of course, sometimes we reject them. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that they are consider as “requirements” that we don’t like. We rebel against what is expected of us, especially in our independent culture. We don’t want anyone to boss us, including God, even when He is determining something that grows and helps us.

Our feelings about daily requirements don’t determine their worth. What God says about them does. Perhaps it’s not really the daily requirements in and of themselves that are nearly as important as our faithful discipline and trust that God knows how to lead well, even when we don’t understand.

Of course, we need to discern whether God is determining daily requirements, we are following tradition that no longer applies, or we are following people who we might respect and to whom the requirements might have made sense for them personally at some point but doesn’t determine our own faithful obedience.

Discernment is always key. Following isn’t about an established pattern but a firm faithfulness, whether God keeps our routine the same but grows us through it or changes our routine but reveals His own and our faithfulness through the changes.

Discernment is a daily requirement.

Fear Robs Us

Fear-1-ProblemSometimes fear and anger keeps us from moving forward. We get stuck for a short time or a long time. Either way, we can miss out on a blessing because of our fear.

When they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached out to the ark of God and took hold of it because the oxen had stumbled. Then the Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God. David was angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, so he named that place an Outburst Against Uzzah, as it is today. David feared the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” So he was not willing to move the ark of the Lord to the city of David; instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. The ark of the Lord remained in his house three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his whole family. (2 Samuel 6:6-11)

Living with fear and anger, the kind that separates us from God, robs us of a blessing. It robs our relationship with God, because instead of stepping closer to and relying on Him, we choice to stay put. When we refuse to move and grow, we cannot follow God well, wherever He might lead and however He might provide.

The Trust of Companionship

12407209_790916824388193_18117472_nHis armor-bearer responded, “Do what is in your heart. You choose. I’m right here with you whatever you decide.”

“All right,” Jonathan replied, “we’ll cross over to the men and then let them see us. If they say, ‘Wait until we reach you,’ then we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come on up,’ then we’ll go up, because the Lord has handed them over to us—that will be our sign.”

They let themselves be seen by the Philistine garrison, and the Philistines said, “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they’ve been hiding!” The men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armor-bearer. “Come on up, and we’ll teach you a lesson!” they said.

“Follow me,” Jonathan told his armor-bearer, “for the Lord has handed them over to Israel.” (1 Samuel 14:7-12)

Having trust is important, affirming, and challenging. Jonathan’s armor-bearer supported him and committed to stand by his side, trusting that “what is in (Jonathan’s) heart” would be trustworthy. We don’t follow people because we simply want to be by their side, as if we get some sort of affirmation or recognition out of being someone’s sidekick. We remind them to follow God’s leading. We trust we can follow them well, because they are following well. Ultimately, God is the trustworthy one.

He gifts us companionship, teamwork, and trust. He gifts us relationships. We simply have to follow Him into and through them. Each day and each relationship is full of choices.

The Cost of Perspective

12_ww_graphic_walk_with_humilityMoses sent for Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come! Is it not enough that you brought us up from a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? Do you also have to appoint yourself as ruler over us?” (Numbers 16:12-13)

We often refuse to submit because of our own perspective even if it skews reality. After all, we can’t understand it all. Our own perspective makes sense to us, because we’re right in the middle of it. But that’s the problem. We’re limited. There are many perspectives beyond ours. Even if we could consider them all, we might not be any closer to identifying the truth, so how can we know who and what to follow and trust?

The easy answer is “God,” but the easy answer certainly doesn’t seem so easy when we’re struggling to trust others, when we can’t possibly imagine how someone might be worthy of authority and trust.

Keep struggling. Keep asking questions. Keep moving. Keep growing.

Humility is worth the cost. It’s less about the results you’ll get and more about the faith you’ll grow.

Are You Better Off?

indexI was recently reading a book on church leadership that put forth a question to people:

“Are you better off five years after joining the church?”

It doesn’t have to be just about joining a church. I prefer to rephrase it a bit to ask, “Are you better off spiritually since…?” Then insert whatever you thought would have helped you grow spiritually. Perhaps it’s serving more, attending worship services more often, journalling or reading more, meeting with a mentor or mentoring someone else, asking more questions, building more relationships, and so on. Or are you continuing to go through the motions but you haven’t truly changed? Are you content to check a task off your to-do list or calendar app and pat yourself on the back?

Involvement requires investment, sacrifice, and change. It will challenge and grow you. Sometimes growth happens by leaps and bounds and other times it’s gradual. Sometimes you’ll take a huge leap forward then coast for so long that you end up losing more ground than you gained. That’s why it’s important to reflect on chunks of time instead of asking yourself if you changed since last week.

However, if we’re intent on changing through daily and weekly situations, we can be certain to change over longer periods of time. But are we changing well? All change and growth isn’t good. Are we content to define what “better off spiritually” means, or do we have a open mind and heart to considering what the truth of that phrase is? Do we let our assumptions and backgrounds define it, or do we ask questions? Do we look for affirmation or for challenging correction and conviction?

The quick answer to “Are you better off spiritually…?” is “Yes!” But is that the truth? Commit to soaking in the question and asking God for direction as you seek the answer. Growth always involves humility, patience, and purposeful pursuit.

Excursions to Explore

IMG_6407
©2015 PurePurpose.org

I love the beach. Give me a week on the beach, and as long as I have a stack of books to read (or a loaded Kindle), I’m content. Perhaps it’s because I live in central Illinois, nowhere close to a beach, nowhere close to a balmy body of water. Whatever it is, being at the beach is a treat I savor.

But, staying on the beach for a week has its costs. I miss out on anything…well…non-beach. To some, that might not seem like a big deal, especially compared to life in the midwest, particularly winter. But I recently left the resort for two full days to venture inland, and I was so thankful.

I would have missed so much. People. Mountains. Homes. Small villages. Waterfalls. Rivers. Roadside stands. The lushness of the land nourished me, as much as the waves and sand refreshes me. As I soaked up as much as I could, I realized I was still missing some things. I couldn’t take it all in. But I could take in what was in front of me.

When I don’t go where I’m supposed to go, I miss out on what I’m supposed to see and experience. I miss out on new people, changed perspectives, and renewed attitudes and passion. I can only be at one place at a time, but I can be fully present in that place and time. Otherwise, I not only miss out on where I’m not, but I also miss out on where I am.

Today, take a look around. Perhaps the routine of it all seems too familiar to notice anything new. Perhaps the newness is so overwhelming you can’t imagine taking it all in. Either way, there’s something for you to see, to do, and to become. Don’t miss out. Follow God well.

He leads well.

When Falling Behind Isn’t

Our bus dropped us off, so we could walk the narrow street to the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, most walks in Israel involve an incline, and this one was a long one. As usual, our tour guide led the way, and I trailed behind to make sure if anyone got misplaced, I would be with her. As long as our guide could turn around and see me, he knew everyone was accounted for.

The steep inclines were rough at times, and anyone with any kind of breathing problem would have to slow down and pause. As the sidewalk got steeper on the way to the church, one woman slowed and took several breaks. Our group got ahead of us, but we could see where we were going. We followed a little girl with her mom and grandmother, and her cuteness distracted us from the effort of the walk. The little girl paused and turned around. We smiled and waved, and she smiled back at us. We didn’t share a spoken language, but a smile bridges all language barriers. The mom saw our smiles, and I imagine it was obvious we thought her daughter was beautiful. She smiled warmly at us. I motioned at my camera and asked permission to take a photo of the girl. The mom smiled and nodded and stepped aside, telling the little girl to smile (I assume).

@2014 PurePurpose.org
©2014 PurePurpose.org

Had we kept up with the group, we would have missed that beautiful smile. We would have missed the wordless exchange with the women. We got to have a brief, yet sweet exchange that bridged our cultures.

Sometimes, falling behind is worth it. We want to be at just the right place at just the right time. We don’t want to miss out on anything. However, the right place at the right time isn’t ours to decide. God knows best where we should be and why. People might say, “You should have been there! You missed out!” but we only missed what they experienced, not what we experienced because we weren’t with them at the time. We can’t experience it all. We can’t be at all places at all times.

I’m sure I didn’t hear every word our tour guide said throughout our journey through Israel. I was more often behind him than beside him. But it’s okay. God sent a smile through a little girl and her mom and grandmother to remind me to run, walk, pause, or stop in His timing. There is a time for everything, and that time is His to decide, not mine.