Suffering Obedience

Suffering Obedience

There is a connection between suffering and obedience that tends to make us uncomfortable with both.  As we enter Holy Week, it becomes impossible to separate the two—and we should eternally praise God for it!

Speaking of Jesus, Hebrews 5:8 says, Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.  And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.

This passage can seem like a quandary and leads many to ask:

  • How did Jesus “learn” obedience?  Wasn’t He always perfectly obedient?
  • How was He perfected?  Wasn’t’ Jesus always perfect?
  • What is it about suffering that helps with obedience?

Jesus, as the Perfect Son of God was and is perfectly obedient.  He was conceived without Sin and did not bear the fallenness of the flesh within Him.  Jesus is perfectly God!

But Jesus is also the Perfect Son of Man.  He is eternally the “Second Adam.”  His human nature was susceptible to the same temptations that the first Adam was susceptible to.  Like Adam, Jesus began without sin.  But in stark contrast, Jesus remained without sin—turning to Father in obedience with every insult, every test, every punch, every slap, every indignity, every lie, every whip strike, every thorn puncture, every nail, and every drop of blood…  Jesus is perfectly Human!

Adam the First, meanwhile, never suffered anything in the perfect Garden and yet turned away from the Father in outrageous disobedience.

As a human being, Jesus had the same free will as the rest of us do, and as Adam had.  Yet He always responded in obedience—even while suffering unjustly and horrifically.

And that leads us to a great mystery—suffering can actually “perfect” (complete) us as we respond to it correctly.  Suffering is a given in a fallen world.  Our response to it is contingent upon our free will.  Do we turn to Father in hope and faith when the pain erupts, or do we erupt at the Father over the injustice of it all?

In a strange way, Adam’s lack of suffering left him weak when dealing with decisions of the heart.  For those tested and purified by the crucible of suffering, turning to and trusting in God’s perfect love can strengthen us and lead us to the joy of obedience!

As Romans 8:17 says, we children become heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. 

As fallen human beings, God does not expect us to be either perfect or perfectly obedient.  Yet in times of suffering, as we choose to trust God during confusion and pain, we grow in obedience and are perfected (strengthened) in our connection to our Brother, Jesus.

Jesus is the Perfect High Priest.  He is perfectly Divine… And He is perfectly Human.  He suffered as a human and perfectly identifies with our suffering.  As we turn to Him in our suffering, we identify with His Glorious Divinity.

As Coheirs with Christ Jesus, we will reign and rule with Him eternally in perfect obedience—obedience that was formed in us not by easy comfort, but rather by being comforted by the One who knows perfect suffering…!

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Ecclesiastical Obedience

Ecclesiastical Obedience

Ecclesiastical is a fancy Greek word for Church—specifically, in this case, for Church leaders.

Below is an email that I sent to our General Conference Delegates, who will be gathering in Saint Louis next February to determine the future of the United Methodist Church—even if the United Methodists will remain part of God’s Church as defined in Scripture…  We got in this mess because many of our leaders have been very disobedient to God’s Word…


As our Delegates to the General Conference, you have an awesome and fearful responsibility.  I appreciate your willingness to represent our Annual Conference as we decide whether we will continue to be part of the “One, holy catholic and apostolic church,” or if we are now leaving it to form a new movement “foundationed” on sexual licentiousness.

If we were deciding between two or three equally Biblical viewpoints, this wouldn’t be such a big deal.  The pressure to pretend that this is the case is extreme; it is also absurd.

This is nothing less than the choice between Apostolic and apostate; between truth and heresy.

Imagine that you were at the First Church Council as recorded in Acts 15.  The presenting issue was Gentile inclusion in the faith–specifically, did gentiles have to first become Jewish to become Christian.   The deeper issue was salvation by grace through faith, not law.  Grace, as you know, prevailed–including the grace to “abstain from sexual immorality.”  (Grace is NEVER a license to sin…!

Surely there were good-hearted folks on both sides of the issue.  But can you imagine the convoluted mess had the Church Council decided to “kick the can down the road” for 40 years, or to say that it was up to a vote of each congregation or jurisdiction as to how they dealt with the issue?!

Can you imagine James standing up and saying there was a nice center place where most of us could agree to disagree, where anyone could do anything they wanted as long as they kept the money flowing to Jerusalem…?!

Thank God the early leaders were just that–LEADERS!

Jump ahead about 350 years.

Arius was, no doubt, a really nice guy, and a presbyter in the Church in Alexandria, Egypt.  He taught–and many followed–that Jesus wasn’t eternally God, but rather a creation of godliness.  The Nicene Creed was created to deal with the heresy, and the division in the church was at times serious and severe; yet the truth of Jesus–eternally God the Son prevailed…

Can you imagine if the early Church Mothers and Fathers had allowed a system where the Church in Alexandria could do it’s own thing around it’s little deity jesus, while the Church in Cairo continued to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints?”  That kind of unity is a farce.  That kind of leadership is criminally neglectful–and the early Church leaders would have nothing to do with it…!

Make no mistake about it–you are going to the Council in Jerusalem; you are going to the Council of Nicene.  You are voting whether the 50 Scriptures that speak to sexual immorality, homosexual practice, and male/female-only marriage–all breathed by God (2 Tim 3:16-17) and spoken into existence by the Preexistent, Co-eternal, Living Word of God (John 1)–are still valid, or whether we have somehow come to the place that we can define love better than the One who IS love!

It never should have come to this, but it has.  Make no mistake–As a pastor I cannot be part of a system that denies the Deity of Jesus by denying that He is the Word of God, or that denies the power of Grace to heal the sexually broken.

I trust you will vote with Jesus in your heart and two thousand years of courage in your hand…!


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Trust and Obey…

Trust and Obey…

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!  While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

This great hymn of the faith was written by John H. Sammis, a Presbyterian Pastor in 1887.  It captures succinctly the foundational truth of our faith:  To know Jesus is to trust Jesus is to obey Jesus…!

In preaching and teaching on obedience this year, this song has often popped into my head.  While pondering what to write in this blog, the Lord showed me the “great disconnect” this hymn uncovers.

Many people today have trouble with the word “obedience.”  Many folks struggle with even the most basic and simple acts of obedience concerning the faith—things like committing to a local congregation, regularly attending worship services, reading the Word, spending time in prayer and worship, and of course, tithing.

Why do so many find it hard to obey even the little stuff Jesus calls us to do repeatedly in the Word?  Because so many people have deep-seated trust issues that continually cause them to fear commitment, question authority—even obvious Biblical authority—and basically struggle with obedience—even to and with Jesus.

Trust Issues are real and usually crippling in terms of relationships.  People who have experienced violations in trust—usually in their formative years—find it extremely hard to trust anyone—even Jesus…!

Before we can obey Jesus, we must trust Jesus.  Before we can trust Him, we must experience healing from Him concerning our trust issues. 

It is clear why many of us get stuck in a cycle that never quite gets us to a place of deep trust and easy obedience.  Because we have such a problem trusting anyone, we never allow Jesus into the most wounded places—the very places that need healing the most.  Because we never experience that healing, we never get to a place where relational obedience just flows out of trusting love.

We don’t trust.  We never get healed.  We fear obedience.  We feel like failures but can’t seem to get out of the vicious cycle.  We don’t trust.  We never get healed.  We fear obedience…

Sound familiar?  As a Pastor, I grieve for those who spend so much energy explaining why they don’t need a church, why tithing isn’t for them, why reading the Word just doesn’t happen, why prayer and worship “just take too much time.”  It takes far more energy to make excuses than it does to trust and obey.  BUT FOR THOSE WHO HAD TRUST ROBBED FROM THEM, THIS ISN’T AN EASY THING AT ALL!

So how do you get out of the vicious cycle?  How do you get healed of the trust wounds and discover the joy of trusting—and obeying?  That question could take a few more blogs to answer, but there is a verse of the hymn that may be incredibly helpful to you…

But we never can prove the delights of His love, until all on the altar we lay; for the favor He shows, and the joy He bestows, are for those who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

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Passover Obedience

Passover Obedience

Tina’s excitement On Wednesday night was beautiful, amazing, and impossible for her to contain.  She is currently teaching grades K thru 8 on Wednesday nights—NOT because we have a shortage of teachers, but rather because she is preparing all the kids TOGETHER for the Churchwide Family Passover Seder we are having on Holy Thursday, March 29th, in the FLC at 6:00pm.  All adults and children are encouraged to attend!

We will resume the normal separation of children by age groups after the Seder.

The Wednesday Kindergarten through 8th grade group numbers close to 30, and is growing with new kids weekly, but Tina has that “Teacher’s anointing” to keep a large and diverse group on track.  It was the Holy Spirit, however, who took center stage Wednesday!

Tina shared that, “the story of Moses and the Burning Bush came alive to the children as He made it clear that He knew each of THEIR names and was calling THEM by name just as surely and supernaturally as He did Moses.”   The Presence of the Lord in the room kept the young men and women glued to the story—and to the reality that THEY are being called to a God-sized life!

It was one of those nights when teaching our children and youth is just an overwhelming joy.  (Honestly, as many of you know, it doesn’t always feel that way…!)  Our decision to combine the classes for a few weeks and teach them all together the glories of the Passover was made so that this Church-wide Passover Seder will have the kind of impact on our children we all hope it to have—a life-changing impact!

That Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away our sins” was beautifully and powerfully displayed at the Passover Seder He enjoyed—and suffered through—the night He was betrayed.  The Passover Seder in His day was a bit simpler than the modern one—because the redemptive pictures and story was so much a part of Jewish life then that they didn’t need as elaborate of pictures or explanations as were needed once Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.

Jesus and His disciples, as is made clear in the Gospel accounts, were totally obedient to the traditional sharing of the Seder meal and the retelling and representing of the Passover narrative.  Jesus, however, “changed the script,” as He explained how His Blood, His sacrifice, His love, His life and death and resurrection would forever fulfill what the ancient Passover could only fore-picture…

We, too, are called to be obedient to the NEW and everlasting Passover narrative as presented by Jesus—to celebrate it often, and to do so in the timelessness of His once-and-forever sacrifice.  Yes, we celebrate it every week as a Church Family in Communion; but the experience of the full Seder meal and liturgy is incredibly powerful.

So please rejoice with me and Tina over the way our kids are growing to “taste and see”—and hear and feel—the greatness of mercy of our God!

Plan also on making reservations to be part of the Church-wide Seder meal and Passover Celebration planned for 6:00 March 29th in the Family Life Center.  We will worship, remember, enter into, see the deeper picture, and celebrate a unique and meaning-rich meal together.  You really don’t want to miss it!

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Stewarding Obedience

Stewarding Obedience

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip.  He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.  He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing in proportion to their abilities.  He then left on his trip.  (Matthew 25:14-25 NLT)

Our Lord has an expectation that in His Kingdom, His servants will invest what He has given them to advance the Kingdom.  The Parable of the Good Stewards is really a parable about obedience…

With amazing grace, our God does not expect equal performance from every person.  Instead, He recognizes strengths and weaknesses and divides “in proportion to their abilities.”  While He does not expect equal performance, He does expect equal obedience…!

As you well know, two of the three servants were obedient—at the level of their abilities—and built the Kingdom for their Master while He was away.  The third—though He had the least responsibility of all—wasted what His Lord had given him through disobedience.

To cover his disobedience, this third servant attacked the character of his Master, attempting to deflect his disobedience by demeaning the One who had entrusted him with Kingdom wealth in the first place.  It wasn’t a good strategy.  Outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth is not a good substitute for simple obedience…!

Clearly, fellow servants, we all appear in this story.  While we each are called to different levels of responsibility in the Kingdom, based on our gifting’s and abilities, we are all called to obey the One who is King of the Kingdom!

At the end of the Day, Jesus will not expect that we all brought in the same number of souls, or cast out an equal number of demons, or laid hands on the same number of sick people.  He does expect, however, that we obey what he calls us to, rather large or small.  He expects us to know Him well enough to not denigrate His character as an excuse for our lazy disobedience…

Everything we have—everything we are—is a gift from our Lord.  Whether larger or smaller, what He gives us is of great value, and our eternal pleasure—as well as His—is found in simply doing what He asks of us—to build His Kingdom and push back the gates of hell.  The only way to mess this grace up is to refuse to do the simple things the Lord asks—and then to try and blame our disobedience on Him!

None of us are perfect, either in performance or obedience—yet the Lord makes accommodations for our weaknesses!  If we choose to obey at the level of our abilities—not judging ourselves against what others have or do, but rather to simply do what the Lord asks of us—we will rule and reign with Him forever and ever!

Obedience is the measure of a good and faithful steward.  God has entrusted you with treasure according to your abilities.  Do not hide what He has entrusted to you!  Do not blame Him for the fact that obedience is sometimes hard.  Instead, Trust and Obey, for there is no other way…!

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Why Obedience?

Why Obedience?

It is certainly clear in Scripture that our Father appreciates obedience from His children above all things.  What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His voice?  Listen!  Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.  (1 Samuel 15:22 NLT)

Obedience, therefore, is even more pleasing to Father than our worship is…!  Obeying His voice brings Him more pleasure than all the choirs and choruses and bowing and praising we can ever offer…

Why Obedience?  Because grown-ups realize that deep relationship is built upon it!  There comes a time in a relationship when “kissing toward” (the literal definition of the word, “Worship”) is less important than hearing and heeding our Beloved’s voice…!

While Tina and I certainly enjoy the kissing, what she needs—what I need—even more deeply is a true companion who hears the cry, the voice, the heart, of the other and say’s “yes,” even when it makes little (worldly) sense…

With our Heavenly Papa, it has always been and will always be the same—only far deeper and eternally perfect.  He desires what He, Jesus, and Spirit have together—perfect unity expressed in perfect community manifesting in perfect mutual obedience.

And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.  (Phil 2:8 ESV)

This is grown up stuff.  The marriage vows once contained the words, to love, honor, and obey…  “Obey” was removed because it can manifest in some selfish and even abusive ways within fallen humanity.  But properly understood, obedience reflects the deepest love, the deepest trust, and the deepest mutuality!!!  A married couple grows to the place of obeying each other because they have grown to the point of trusting one another’s voice explicitly.

Most Christians (at least in our culture) never grow to the place of being obedient in life because they never grow to the place of trusting the Lord’s heart even unto death…!

Grown-up Christians have come to the place of trusting the Father’s heart and voice beyond the “promises,” beyond the goosebumps, beyond the formulas, and beyond the quick and easy explanations!

Grown-up Christians have matured to the place of trusting the Father’s motives and mandates even when they make absolutely no sense in worldly terms.  Grown-up believers know that in obedience they will find a peace and an authority that never comes from a relationship based on feelings rather than obedience.

Shallow relationship has no place for obedience, because it is focused on the outward display, not the inward obey.  This was the place Tina and I were in while dating, and, honestly, early in our married life.  But love developed trust and trust led to obedience—not as unto a law, but rather as unto a love…!

Our Father desires a love-deep relationship that can trust and obey—that understands Love Himself will never hurt or harm us, even if our obedience to His voice brings hurt and harm from the world.  This world is not our home, and self-rule (being our own “god”) is the opposite of obedience…!

Why Obedience?  Because obedience is the deepest language of love…!

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Witness Obedience

Witness Obedience

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, In Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Acts 1:8 NLT

Obeying Jesus isn’t optional.  Had the early church not obeyed Jesus’ command to wait in Jerusalem for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit—or His command to go out and witness once empowered—the story of Salvation would have ended with their generation.  But, THANK GOD, they obeyed…!

They obeyed with a clear understanding that the Holy Spirit and His gifts were given to empower them to become witnesses to the world, starting right there in the neighborhood, but going forth to the whole world.

The Holy Spirit is given to empower followers of Christ to go in His Power and Spirit—to offer others the very same life-changing, eternity-changing relationship they walk in!  A Spirit-empowered Witness is on a never-ending mission to bring others to Jesus as they operate in their Spirit-gifting’s.

It also means enduring the suffering that comes from confronting fallen human nature with the witness of the Risen Savior shared through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  When we witness to Jesus by the Spirit, it WILL tick off people living only or mainly by their flesh…!

Somehow, however, the Church has often turned this focus on outward-witness into a focus on inward-gratification.  In many circles, it is taught that the Holy Spirit is given to make us happy, meet our needs, and scratch our itches.  How very different this emphasis is from what Jesus and the early church taught! 


Nik Ripken, in The Insanity of Obedience, shares the story of a Chinese Church leader who corrected him about the number of true followers in China. The Leader stated, “Of the large number of believers that you described in your talk, two-thirds of those people are what we would call ‘members.’  Only one third of those people are who we would call ‘true followers of Jesus.’ …Probably two-thirds of the people you mentioned regularly attend a house church.  Most of those people have been baptized.  Most of those people contribute financially to the work of the House Church.  But we do not consider church members to be true followers of Jesus until they have led other people to Christ and until they have helped plant more house churches.”

True Disciples must lead others to Jesus…?  True followers of Jesus must help plant new congregations?  Where does this Chinese leader get his thinking from?  The Bible…!

Ripken asked himself the same question I hope you are asking yourself right nowAm I simply a member of the church or am I a true follower of Jesus Christ…?!

True followers of Jesus are obedient to witness—in fact, their lives help others Witness Obedience! 

In Obedience to Jesus, we MUST receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, and we MUST go forth from that baptism to share Jesus with the world.  As the Chinese Pastor understood:

  • church members often sit in the pews judging what they are witnessing…
  •  true followers of Jesus leap out of the pews to witness so others can avoid the coming judgment!

Are you simply a church member or are you a true follower—obedient to witness and plant and harvest—and pay a steep price in the process?!  May it be said of all of us, “they were true followers of Jesus…!”

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Healing Obedience

Healing Obedience

I will never forget an early spring Saturday now almost 16 years ago.  Our 12-year-old son Joey—without permission and without his helmet—had jumped on his bicycle and headed down our hill.  He didn’t make it very far…  Slamming into a tree after losing control of the runaway bike, he was seriously injured.

I can never forget that many people—including many of my dearest brothers and sisters in church—feel as if they are careening downhill with their lives out of control facing a devastating wreck just moments away…

To all of us who are, or have been, or will be in those desperate places, I want to suggest something radically Biblical.  Our deliverance is not found in a surface-level quick-fix or a little shot of Jesus—our healing is found ONLY in radical obedience to Jesus and His reign in our lives…

If Joey would have obeyed us in the first place, his accident would have never happened.  The truth for all is that at least part of our pain and insanity and fear is self-inflicted…  Yet guilt cripples as surely as a crash…

Did we punish Joey for his disobedience?  No—the accident did, and we grieved every moment of it…

Our Heavenly Father is an infinitely better parent than any of us can ever claim to be.  He does not punish us for our self-inflicted wounds, and He does not delight in our suffering.  He COULD hold it over us that our disobedience got us into this mess.  Instead, Jesus took on Himself the most horrific and fatal wreck of all time—totally NOT self-inflicted—so that we can find hope and healing even if a crash is imminent.

The healing obedience I am writing about is not found in us being obedient on the front-end.  We can’t be—we are fallen creatures born into disobedience and destined for a wrecked life.  The Obedience I am talking about comes as we decide to fully embrace Jesus and His Gospel as the answer to our disaster-prone lives.

You see, Joey didn’t need a bandage—he needed a miracle.  His skull was fractured by the impact with the tree and both arms were broken.  A First Church prayer team assembled at the hospital to meet us—including Trueman and Laurie Smith and Amanda West—and prayed.  Miraculously, Joe’s skull “unfractured…!”

Yet, obedience calls us beyond a miracle…  God is calling us to a lifestyle—not simply a touch.  We don’t just need a shot of Jesus—we need to be fully immersed and soaking wet with Him!  We don’t just need a bandage—we need a deep and ongoing healing—one that a casual and occasional relationship cannot bring.

Joey was obedient to the all the great care he received.  Bones were reset, casts applied, antibiotics administered, and rest required.  His recovery was nothing short of a second miracle.  But it did not come from a little home-remedy; It came by being obedient to outside help that called him and us to radical obedience—to serious surrender to an authority offering far more than a little shot or a Band-Aid…!

You and I don’t just need a miracle—we need ongoing obedience that resets and recasts our lives in a radically new direction.  The Lord is our outside Help—the miracle-maker who calls us to obedience AFTER our initial rescue (salvation).  He calls us to a lifestyle of obedience.  Does it hurt?  Almost always—but nothing like the wrecked lives we endure and create by not being obedient day-by-day.

My friend, quit living in guilt over previous decisions you cannot reverse!   And quit trying to simply bandage your hurt! There is no “home-remedy!”   Instead, surrender fully into the Arms of the One who offers real ongoing healing, found only in a life of obedience to His Word, His Way, His Spirit, His Life, and His Love!

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Holy Obedience

Holy Obedience

Eight Months.   Ten Plagues.  Why?  Because the journey to freedom for enslaved people starts with two heart-based decisions.  The decision to be made holy, and the decision to become and remain obedient.  Had Father just rushed through the Deliverance, His people would have never been able to grasp what deliverance costs or what it necessarily calls us to—a radically new life.

Delivering Israel out of bondage and slavery took about 8 months, as God released plague after plague on the nation of Egypt.  The first three plagues, as you recall, impacted both the Egyptians and the Israelites.  It was important for Israel to understand the reality of the plagues…

But soon, God was protecting the land of Goshen and the People Israel from the plagues as they became more intense and devastating.  In doing so, He was purposely picturing for us what Holiness really is…

To be “Holy” is to be “set apart.”  Abba was setting His people apart and helping them see and feel the reality of Holiness.  The slavery they had been trapped in… The pagan deities that surrounded them… The sense of shame and guilt and worthlessness that defined them…  These all had to be set aside as He set Israel apart.

Holiness is not optional for Father’s Children.  A decision—or many decisions—must be made in our deepest being to consciously choose a new way of life and living that rejects the idols, the bondage, and the guilt/shame/worthlessness that we are in enslaved to as long as we live in and draw our sense of value and meaning from “Egypt.”

At the same time, God was teaching Israel of the necessity of Obedience.  Pharaoh’s disobedience was displayed as an eternal warning to all who resist God.  The Plagues were an eternal picture to those who attempt to live in two places—”Egypt” and the “Promise Land.”  You can’t live in bondage and freedom at the same time…!

Israel also learned that obedience to the Father was the only way to escape the bondage.  Obedience to God’s instructions—particularly in the Passover, (a Plague to Egypt; a Promise to Israel…!) was the key to freedom!

It is interesting to me that Israel’s salvation—as graphically pictured in the Passover—came AFTER 8 months and 10 plagues worth of exposure to Holiness and Obedience—to prepare the people for Salvation…

We call that preparation “Prevenient Grace.”  I wonder, if in our rush to get people saved we forget that the Holy Spirit needs to prepare hearts—to lay a foundation so that a Blood-washed soul can successfully exit their “Egypt” and enter into a lifestyle of Holiness and Obedience?!

Perhaps the great weaknesses of the American Church is the short-circuiting of the Spirit’s preparation.  Holiness and Obedience are rare commodities in the American Church scene.  We seem to hope that people will choose holiness and obedience without the Holy Spirit’s preparation…  We seem to think that holiness and obedience will just arise in a person because the Blood has been applied to the door-frame of their lives…

If only it were that easy or automatic!  But Papa does not force obedience or holiness on His Children.  These we must choose for ourselves.  The Holy Spirit prepares…  The Blood of Jesus causes death to Passover us even as His Presence passes into us.  Meanwhile, Father awaits our response.  Will we choose to be set apart for His purposes?  Will we choose to be obedient to His will for our lives?

This New Covenant we are under allows the Spirit to work in us and the Lord to fashion us in ways the ancient Israelites couldn’t fathom.  Yet the picture remains.  Holiness of heart of life is not optional.  Obedience to the Will of the Father is not optional.   Without both, we will soon return to Egypt…

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Obeying Heavenly Vision

Obeying Heavenly Vision

And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven.  (Acts 26:19 NLT)

As a congregation, the Lord is refining our vision and reminding us that we must be obedient to His vision.  It is not enough that we have a refined vison; it is imperative that we obey it and move forward in decisions based on that vison, though we understand they come at a cost…

As individual Christians, having both a heavenly vision and an expectation of our obedience to it are not exceptions, but the absolute standard.  Spend adequate time with the Father, and He will release His vison for this season of your life.  Spend adequate time with the Father, and the comfort of obeying Him—even though it costs—will comfort us more than the status quo-comfortable our flesh longs for…!

Obedience is not optional, yet obedience to God will bring persecution!  Obedience to God will also often bring suffering, and God often uses suffering to help His children grow up to the place of being obedient to the Gospel, though it leads to persecution…!

Paul’s bold words to King Agrippa and Governor Festus were not the result of human arrogance or pride on Pauls’ part; they were the Spirit-empowered words of a man who knew both suffering and persecution and chose obedience—like His Lord—even if it led to death!  Death IN obedience to God is infinitely better than a short extension of life here on earth by disobeying Father.  We either choose to die now and live forever, or to live now and die forever…!

Over the next several weeks, using the Nick Ripken book, The Insanity of Obedience, I hope to lay the groundwork in sermons and blogs for this, The Year of Obedience.  (Of course, just as with every other “Year” we have celebrated together, Obedience, like reading the Word, Praying, Loving, Testifying, and so on are lifestyles of faith, not year-long programs or goals…

  • Paul suffered from a “thorn in the flesh” that Father chose not to heal, allowing instead a suffering that took Paul out of self-reliance and into the Father’s sufficiency.
  • Paul was persecuted repeatedly and mercilessly because he dared to share the Love of Jesus in a hate-filled world.  He spoke to Festus and Agrippa during a completely bogus imprisonment and literally lost his head a few years later as a Roman prisoner.


Here me clearly:  Paul did NOTHING outside of normal Christianity…!  He simply obeyed Heaven’s vision (the Great Commission!) and shared the Gospel.  YOU AND I ARE NO LESS CALLED TO THE SAME COMMISSION, THE SAME OBEDIENCE!

When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations…baptize them…teach them to obey…” (see Matthew 28:18-20) He was talking to you and me!  Although the Heavenly Vision Father imparts to each one of us may vary a bit between us, the overriding Call to Share the Good News is a matter of obedience for ALL of us!  And it ALWAYS comes at a cost…

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