Instruction to Live

Green Apple In Woman HandsKeep my commands and live. (Proverbs 7:2a)

People often think that God takes all the fun out of life. That with all His commandments and expectations, life is somehow less than it can be.

Not true.

Not even remotely true.

God fills life. His commandments add fullness. There is freedom in obedience.

God’s instructions aren’t just “do not,” but “do.”

Do pursue Him.

Do honor Him.

Do love Him and others.

Do let Him change and grow you.

Do know how much He loves you, how He has sacrificed for you, what He has planned for you.

Do live.

 

God Alone

daily-image-022813Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord:

Lord God of Israel who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are God—You alone—of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the heavens and the earth. Listen closely, Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, Lord, and see. Hear the words that Sennacherib has sent to mock the living God. Lord, it is true that the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but made by human hands—wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. Now, Lord our God, please save us from his hand so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God—You alone. (2 Kings 19:15-19)

No matter what, God alone is God.

No matter the frustrations, trials, pain, suffering, grief, betrayal, or anything else. He alone is God.

That’s difficult to fathom at times. I want to try to explain everything within His perspective and will. But I can’t. First, it doesn’t all make sense. I don’t understand how everything fits together. Second, if I could completely understand everything about Him and His perspective and creation, what would that say about Him…and me?

I don’t know why one person dies while another person lives. I don’t know why one person suffers physically, another suffers emotionally, and another seems to skate through life relatively unscathed. I don’t know why some people lash out at others yet are the first ones to cry foul when something similar happens to them. I don’t know why being called to a humble, higher road is exhausting and feels unfair at times even though it is also the most rewarding. I just don’t know.

But I know God. And I trust Him. And I am thankful for Him.

Are You Missing Your Next Step?

1sam-16v7The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have selected a king from his sons.”

Samuel asked, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me!” (1 Samuel 16:1-2)

There is always a “next step” of obedience. God wants us to move onward. We carry much of the past with us, because it prepares us, it has consequences, and it requires us to continue to wrestle and deal with things. Yet we still move on in  obedience. God invites and instructs us into our next step.

And we will often be able to find something that could hold us back, some reason we should stay where we are just a little longer: some excuse, diversion, or concern.

We may like the familiar, even if we aren’t completely content there, because it’s comfortable, even in it’s familiar pain and struggles. The next step isn’t quite as certain. It could be better; it could be worse. We just don’t know.

But will we only choose based on our own perspective of better or worse? If so, we’ll miss out on some uncomfortable, trying experiences and relationships that help us grow. We’ll stay put instead of taking some amazing journeys, even as they are wrought with complications and obstacles.

Praying Beyond My Ability

8442a97f5e87ffab001111e8f7b1068bI’m not an artist, so I relate to the comparison between what I see in my head and what ends up on paper. We can all relate in one area or another: writing, running, makeup or hair, decorating, or crafts of just about any variety. Our very best attempt seems like a huge flop. Our best just isn’t enough.

Then there is prayer.

It is this same concept but in reverse. When we start with our best, even though it might feel messy and awkward and insufficient to us, God takes the best we have to offer and makes it grand. When we take our pure heart to Him, revealing our trust, He creates a masterpiece. The result is more beautiful and complete than we can imagine.

It is only possible in our humble, vulnerable obedience.

Quit Reminding Me

“Be careful. Don’t hit your head.”

My dad repeated the warning at least a half dozen times. He was still recovering for surgery, so he directed, while I got some things ready for winter. One of the tasks was winterizing the dog pens. With each run, I reached in to the get a dog, placed him or her in a temporary dog box, got the pen ready for winter, then put the dog back in the pen. But I wasn’t used to the smaller gates into the pens. Unlike our dog’s pen, I couldn’t just lean in unless I wanted to bash my head.

Which I did the very last time I was putting away a dog. In fact, I bashed it about the time I thought, “I’m really glad my dad cares enough to keep reminding me, but does he think I’m an idiot who can’t remember a warning?”

Well, yes. Apparently, I am.

I reeled back as he asked if I was okay. “I don’t know,” I said. “Am I bleeding?”

I wasn’t, and we both laughed, but I had a knot on my forehead for several days and had small scabs from the imprint the fencing left behind.

We might get irritated when someone repeatedly reminds us of something, whether it’s something we should do or something we shouldn’t. But many times, we actually need those repeated reminders. We lose focus and easily forget.

Are you surrounding yourself with people who hold you to God’s standard, who know it well enough to hold you accountable? Are you consistently filling yourself with reminders by becoming increasingly familiar with God’s Word, not just what you remember, assume, or are told?

There’s always learning to receive and respond to and reminders about that learning.

Remember to get to it today.

When God Won’t Let You Quit

I’ve thought about stopping, or at least cutting way back, on this blog many times in the last several months. Writing something daily is challenging to say the least. I rarely get to interact with people who are reading…if they are reading.

In many ways, I enjoy the process. It spurs me to be more observant, sensitive, reflective, and consistent in how I live my faith in the real world…which, after all, is where we all live, not in this contrived contraption-place-space-or-whatever-it-is called: the internet. I’ve prayed about it. Others have prayed about it. I haven’t gotten a clear answer during my alone time, yet when I’m just about at the point where my finger hovers over the “deactivate” button, I get surprising comments and encouragement.

  • “I read you every morning!” from someone I hadn’t seen in over a year.
  • A sudden unexplained jump in readership.
  • “This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thanks for sharing.”
  • A Timehop reminder of someone’s encouragement.
  • A story about someone I didn’t even know read the blog sharing a post at a large women’s event.

So, I continue a bit longer. I’m still not clear about continuing, but I am even less clear about quitting.

Sometimes we stay stuck in something just because we’ve done it for so long. I don’t want that to happen, whether it’s about this blog or something else in my life. At the same time, I don’t want to let go of something I’m not supposed to let go of yet. Sometimes we continue without knowing why. That’s different than continuing because it’s the easy thing to do. Sometimes persevering, especially when we don’t understand the reasons behind it, are most difficult.

Oh, wait. I do know the reason behind it. Because God has prompted me to persevere for now.

That’s good enough reason and understanding for me.

At what crossroads are you standing? Is God being clear, or is He prompting you along just an inch or two at a time?

Be thankful for His presence, even if you’re not certain of the specifics or the timing or the purpose. Perhaps the purpose is simply listening to and responding obediently to Him.

Fields of Obedience

What I noticed as a change in the fields throughout Israel was a sign of obedience.

But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. (Leviticus 25:4)

During my first visit, I saw many lush fields, growing many different crops.

11.3.14 drive to Bethsaida
©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

This time, most fields were empty…except, of course, the fruit trees. After all, it’s difficult to tell a tree to stop producing fruit! (I learned there are “ways around” the seventh year rest for those who want to observe the laws yet don’t want to let their trees go a full year without attention.)

I initially missed the beauty of the patchwork fields. Then, I realized I had the opportunity to see another kind of beauty: the beauty of obedience.

Sometimes our lives look desolate and unproductive. We feel wasteful, as if we’re not taking full advantage of what’s around us. We feel idle and unproductive. But action and busyness do not equal growth. Sometimes, stillness is much more productive.

Obedience doesn’t always make sense to us. We want to do things the way that seem logical to us. We rationalize we’re doing it to grow and be productive, and we even infuse God’s name into our efforts, claiming to do it all for Him.

But if He didn’t tell us to do it, our effort cannot be for Him.

How is He directing and instructing you right now? How well are you listening? How well are you responding?

Obedience is beautiful. And, in the long run, it is productive and fruit-bearing.