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Posts Tagged ‘obedience’

Every time I read about King Josiah, I admire him more.

His great-grandfather was the one who did the most to bring Judah back to the Lord than any had before him.  His grandfather was the one who did the most evil and led Judah most into sin than any other king.  His father had one of the shortest reigns of any king of Judah.

And then there’s Josiah.  With such a wildly oscillating family history, I often wonder how he ended up with a heart for the Lord.  And being only eight when he became king? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to maintain the status quo?  Though it isn’t mentioned in the text (at least not in 2 Kings), I wonder if God didn’t place some good people around him as he had Joash several generations before…

Josiah was a good guy.  When the book of the Covenant was found and read to him, and he realized how far the people had strayed from their God, he tore his clothes and repented.  He inquired of the Lord because he recognized great wrath was due to come upon the nation because they had forsaken the Lord and His commands.

And God’s response?  “You got it, Josiah, I will bring evil to Judah and all its people because they have forsaken me.  The wrath and punishment you read about is most assuredly coming.” (my paraphrase)  In fact, the wheels had already been set into motion for Babylon to eventually come and take down Judah!

So what did Josiah do? He tore down alters of false gods, brought the people to repent, renewed the covenant, organized the first celebration of the Passover in centuries and even took down idols and pagan worship places outside of Judah’s borders (including that stupid calf that Jeroboam I set up when the kingdom split way back when)!

Honestly, I’m not sure if that’s how I would have responded.

When we as kids (or adults) get into trouble don’t we more often than not repent in order to avoid the coming consequences?  Don’t we want to get something out of our repentance and obedience?  Had God told me, “I see you are repentant, that’s good, but the destruction is still coming,” I probably would have simply curled up in my bed and not gone any further.  I mean, I was sorry and stopped doing the wrong, what’s the point of doing more if punishment is still coming anyway?

But that’s not how Josiah responded.  To be fair, God did tell him that he would postpone the destruction until after Josiah’s death (but Josiah didn’t have a really long life and he died by being killed by the king of Egypt).  But even Jehu in Israel got promised that his sons would be kings “to the fourth generation” because he had been obedient to certain commands of God!  All Josiah got was “I’ll push it back a few years.”

But still, Josiah worked to actively remain obedient to God and bring the people along with him, clearing out the idols and renewing the covenant.  That is true repentance.  That is unselfish obedience.  Not seeking rewards for repenting and obeying, but doing it nonetheless.

I want to be more like King Josiah.

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Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.

Genesis 37:20

So the brothers said.

But Joseph’s dreams were from God.

And God had bigger plans.

I fear dream-killers way too often…

  • other people ridiculing or squashing my dream
  • other people causing me harm or simply holding me back
  • my health not allowing my dreams to come true
  • worries and fears and failures…

And there are things that can distracts us from our dreams or prevent them from happening in the way we think they should.

And it is really our worries and fears over those things that are the biggest distraction.

But the only true Dream-Killer is not being obedient to the One who gave the dream in the first place.

In all things.

Even when it’s hard or doesn’t make sense or seems to lead us away from our dream…

… even as far as Egypt… as a slave… in a jail cell…

Because the dreams were never about us to begin with.

They are about what the Dream-Giver wants to accomplish.

So do not fear.  Do not worry.

Simply trust and obey the Dream-Giver.

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A thought struck me yesterday as the pastor was preaching. In fact, it began when he mentioned a guy who had a thought strike him.  And I can’t remember the guy or the source, but I remember something about Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine (which seems rather mundane compared to casting out demons and raising the dead) being the key to rest of Jesus’ miracles, the Gospel and the Bible itself… because it’s about transformation.  It was a miracle of transformation.

And that got me thinking.

At the feast there were six stone water jars that were used by the people for washing themselves in the way that their religion said they must. Each jar held about twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants to fill them to the top with water. Then after the jars had been filled, he said, “Now take some water and give it to the man in charge of the feast.”  The servants did as Jesus told them, and the man in charge drank some of the water that had now turned into wine.

The water didn’t become wine until it was poured out.

Now the above translation is the Contemporary English Version.  Most translations simply say “take some and give it” rather than emphasizing “take some water.”  But I remember hearing a teaching or two before, talking about obedience, that brought out the same point:

The water didn’t become wine until it was poured out.

And that’s what got me thinking about transformation.

Because as long as the water remained in the pot, it was not transformed into wine.

I think sometimes we sit around waiting to be changed and transformed before we go out and serve or get involved in ministries or missions. As though our job is to sit on our keisters until we get changed from water to wine and are therefore worthy to serve.

And yes, it is Jesus who performs the miracle of transformation.  It’s not like we can pick ourselves up “by the bootstraps” and transform ourselves into what He wants us to be.

But that doesn’t mean we sit around on our keisters.

Because as long as the water stayed in the jars,  it was not transformed into wine.

I think perhaps we also need to be “poured out” because it is in the pouring out that Jesus works in and through us and transforms us.

Perhaps we need to be obedient in going and doing and serving where God leads, heeding His call and His word so that He can work the miracle of transformation in us.

It’s not about our works.

But it is about obedience.

Hmm.

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I see you You here, I feel Your hand.
Vast and mysterious is Your plan.
If all things start and end with You,
then I can beleive that dreams do come true.

That’s a line out of one of the songs from Sight & Sound’s production of Joseph.  I saw it last Tuesday and I haven’t been able to shake it out of my head yet.  Not that I mind, because I don’t.  I believe it was their best production ever (on so many levels) and for me even tops the Broadway version of Joseph (which I never thought would happen)!  I won’t go into detail here about the musical itself, but I would highly recommend you see it if you get the chance.

But seeing Joseph has got me thinking again.  Or perhaps “dreaming” would be a better word.  Or is it that I’m thinking about dreaming?

If you’ve followed my blogs since this spring, or even before, you’ll note that I have many dreams and I have recently wrestled with following God’s call and being on the right path.  And in many ways I still do.  Not the “where” so much as the “hows” these days.  God has given me dreams and visions and sometimes I’m not sure what to do with them all…

I’m not the first one to be given dreams and visions.  The Bible is full of people who were given dreams and visions – and hopes and promises.  And I’ve been thinking about them a great deal recently.  Specifically how most of them took years to be fulfilled.  In fact, I haven’t been able to think of any that came true instantly…  but I do know several instances in which the dreamer never did get to see the fulfillment of the dream.

Like David.  Now his wasn’t a literal dream like Joseph or Daniel had.  His was a vision.  Born out of a love for God and desire to worship Him.  He had a vision of building a temple for the worship of the God who called him, anointed him, made him king, saved him, strengthened him, forgave him and so on.  And God said that it was good that he had this desire, this vision, this dream.  But that he was not the one to see it through.  David had a vision of a temple that he would never see.  His son built it.  And David, for his part, imparted the dream and helped to make preparations.

So, as I’ve noted before, sometimes the dream or vision is given not for us to fulfill, but to make paths or preparations to that it is fulfilled in the future.

Then there’s Joseph.  Joseph was about 17 when he had dreams involving his brothers bowing down to him.  But he was probably 37 or older until that dream was fulfilled.  And for many years it probably seemed he was getting further from the fulfillment of that dream than closer to it.  His brothers sold him into slavery.  No one bows down to a slave.  Then on top of that, he was thrown into prison.  Instead of getting higher and higher into a position where people would bow to him, he was getting lower and lower.  The scripture says he was 30 when Pharaoh made him second over Egypt.  So that’s some 13 years of the dream seemingly going in the wrong direction.  Clouded, distant and with too many obstacles…. but eventually, some 20 or so years later, his brothers were indeed bowing down to him.

So sometimes the dream is a long time in coming and can seem impossible due to the way that things are currently happening.

And then there’s Nehemiah.  His also was more of a God-given vision than a literal dream.  He heard the report that though the temple had been rebuilt, Jerusalem still lay in ruins and unprotected with a broken down wall.  So with God’s guidance, favor and protection, Nehemiah was granted permission (and supplies) from the king to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.  Nehemiah didn’t reveal all his plans at once and we can see from the scriptures that he prayed and planned as much as he acted.  We read his prayers, his thoughts, the opposition that he faced and about the completion of the walls and even other rebuilding aspects of Jerusalem.

So sometimes the fulfillment of the dream comes after prayer and planning and much hard work.

I have dreams and visions.  Sometimes seemingly grand dreams and visions.  It is highly likely that some will never be fulfilled in my lifetime or at my hand.  But the dream given to me will be passed along or somehow inspire others like a seed planted only to blossom later.  And I’m sure that some of my visions and dreams are going to require prayer and planning and hard work and perseverance in the face of opposition.  And I am in great need of having a little Nehemiah-character in my life!

But at the moment I feel more like Joseph.  My head swirling with these dreams that seem far off, remote and completely incompatible with my current surroundings and circumstances.  It seems every time I try to step forward with these dreams and visions, I am stopped short or cut down by health issues or other problems (as if my own tendency towards being distracted wasn’t enough)… Fatigue, headaches, dizziness, pain, stiffness and frequent illness and injury are not conducive to either teaching or performing mime!  So what’s a girl to do with the dream?

Because sometimes the dream is meant to be fulfilled in our lifetime and at our hand and sometimes the obstacles are more like Joseph’s (preventing the  dream for a time) rather than Nehemiah’s (to be fought through and overcome in a shorter period).

So I look to Joseph again.

He didn’t get to be second in Egypt by studying hard and working his way to the top one rung at a time.  He got there by being faithful and obedient to God.  Being a good steward of whatever he was given at the time.  When he was sold into slavery he worked hard and was a good steward of what he was given so that he ended up running the entire household!  When he was put into prison, his character and good stewardship allowed him to be put into a position of helping to run the prison!   The long and short of it?  It was Joseph’s character, his faithfulness to God and good stewardship of even the small things that put him in the position for God to use him and raise him up.

I need to be faithful to God.  I need to be a good steward of what God has placed in my hands – even if it’s not what I expected at this time.  And if you look closely, David and Nehemiah were actually being faithful and good stewards, too.  So whether these dreams are meant for someone else, to come true a long time from now or to be hard-won in a shorter time frame, it is my faithfulness and obedience to God and my stewardship to what I have been given which is what matters now and in the day to day.

Oh, God, give me a heart like David and character like Nehemiah and Joseph.

Or, to further quote from that song from Joseph,

Please make me wise, so that I might know
the will of my Lord from here below.
I see you You here, I feel Your hand.
Vast and mysterious is Your plan.
If all things start and end with You,
then I can beleive that dreams do come true.

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The other day I was in the bathroom, standing at the sink and I remember looking up and seeing the clock.  And I’m not sure exactly where my thoughts were, but I do remember suddenly thinking, “Jesus, if you – you who are God and Creator – emptied yourself, how much more should I – I who am human and created being – empty myself?”

Then today’s devotional reading was this:

3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very natureof a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

And this thread of thought was so clearly woven.  I need to empty myself.  Or, perhaps more rightly, to be emptied.  And I need to be a bond-servant of God and allow God to make me into the likeness of His Son – the likeness of Jesus.  Emptied of myself, servant of God, re-made into the likeness of Jesus.

And just as this emptying and servanthood and being in the likeness of humans meant humility and obedience and death and a cross for Jesus, so this emptying and servanthood and being re-made into the likeness of Jesus requires humility and obedience and death and crosses for me.

And it is not our names which our exalted.  But we strive to exalt God and to proclaim Jesus so that others will choose to humble themselves now, bowing their knees and confessing that Jesus is Lord.  Now.  While they still have opportunity before the end when they have no choice.  (For there will be a day, the day when Jesus is revealed in His glory – and His glory will be so overwhelming that even those who do not choose to serve or bow now will not be able to help but fall to their needs and confess that Jesus is, indeed, the Lord.)

Emptied of myself, servant of God, re-made into the likeness of Jesus.

Which means humility and obedience and death and crosses.

And all of this to the glory of God!

O, Lord, empty me!

And as my reading was turned into these thoughts and these thoughts led to that cry of my heart, the words of a song came to my lips:

Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with you.

(The song is “Empty Me” by Chris Sligh and you can watch it with lyrics here.)

O Lord, empty me.

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