“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
“Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.”
This one really didn’t take much dissection to find an application. There are a few areas in which I am vehemently and perpetually disobedient to my parents.
Most irksome for my mother would have to be my lack of communication. While abroad I speak to her maybe once a month. She takes this to mean I do not love her and it brings devastation. My rationale for sparse contact is that so far all of my faculties are in check, my limbs intact, I’ve avoided the brink of death, I’m not engaged, and I’m not pregnant. If any of that we’re to change she would be the first to know!
Humor aside, the reality of why I rarely reach out is I haven’t needed anything. Selfish, I know. But when my world crumbles, I call my mom. When I’m in desperate need of deliverance from a sticky situation, I call my mom. Never do I call just to send some love or gratitude. Never do I call to see how she is doing. What’s worse is that whenever she broaches this subject my annoyance flairs up and I act like she’s being needy and overbearing. How wrong I am! In truth she just loves me. She only wants to know what’s going on in my life because she cares about me, not because she’s being intrusive.
Oftentimes I act similarly towards God; praying only to petition Him for deliverance or a fulfillment of my desires. When I am in a place of trouble my first impulse is almost always to lift up my situation to Him. Why is it not the same when I am in a season of praise? Perhaps it ought to be. Perhaps I ought to start lifting up a little thanksgiving to the Lord of all creation. Perhaps I ought to call my mother while I’m at it.
Starting today I am going to call my mother at least biweekly. I am also going to keep a running list of things to thank God for and do so in my daily devos.
“Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”Ecclesiastes 4:12 NKJV
To knock one person down is a simple task. Add another body to the mix and things get a little more complicated. Try and go against three people on your own, you won’t accomplish much at all. Spiritual warfare follows the same principle. When you are alone with your thoughts the fiery darts of the adversary have a relatively easy time puncturing you. But, if you let even one reliable, godly friend into your thought process they will be able to bat down the attempts of the devil which so easily entangle you. Your friend can do this because they have objectivity. They see the fiery darts for what they really are, lies. But two together are still fallible, as is any combination of people. With that in mind, grab another friend! Having two godly people that are invested in your life, that care for your well being, fighting your battles with you is invaluable. Being that godly friend is just as important though. Do not forsake your opportunity to speak truth and love into the life of another.
In order to bless and be blessed in friendship I am going to invest more into the lives of my roommates Shannon, and Natalia. I will do so by making it a priority to walk and talk with them next time we go to town and to treat them to a coffee or an ice cream. Whatever their hearts desire.
“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves as slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness.”
Notice Paul says “you are that one’s slave.” Meaning you will be totally devoted to one or the other. You cannot be a servant of God on Sunday and a slave to the flesh on the weekend. You can offer yourself to righteousness or sin, not both. This idea is laid out in Luke 16:13 where it says “No servant can serve two masters; for either He will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.” Therefore every action you take will add or subtract from righteousness. For if you gratify the flesh you starve the spirit. Likewise if you neglect the flesh you feed the spirit. To determine which you are nourishing you must filter your actions by asking “Does this glorify God?” If the answer is affirmative then by all means, proceed. If it is in the negative, perhaps you ought to reevaluate your choices.
Even when we do choose to pursue righteousness there is an opportunity for backsliding. As a testament to my choice to obey I am here in Guatemala. However, I still fail and submit myself to sin. I justify making compromises because I categorize things as morally indifferent. I ignore the fact that all sin leads to separation from God. I am able to do this because I decline to ask whether or not my decisions will bring glory to God. This behavior works against my goal! I am enrolled in IGNITE to cultivate spiritual sensitivity and grow closer to God, not to flirt with sin and feign piety.
One counter productive habit I have picked up since being here is drinking coffee. It began innocent enough as a cup with my carrot cake, once a week at breakfast, but now I’m drinking a cup a day if not more. Every time we go to town I indulge in an obscenely caffeinated brew. Drinking coffee is not a sin, that’s not what I’m saying. But it certainly is missing the mark for me. No matter how my habit began it now stands that I drink coffee because I like the way it makes me feel. As someone that has oft been convicted of making mind altering experiences an idol, this is a red flag. Though caffeine consumption is socially acceptable and only mildly effective to move the mood (in comparison to other substances), it is, in its purest form, feeding the flesh. When I subject myself to the wiles of caffeine I am trying for that buzz, you know the one. But in doing so I dull my spiritual sensitivity. I detract from my relationship with God.
Over the remaining six weeks I will be reaching for a consistent closeness with God. To achieve that I must purge my life of everything that hinders this goal. Next in line is caffeine. Starting February 18th I will not partake of caffeinated beverages unless I am somewhere that requires my patronage to access the wifi.
“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be prince and savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
To be a witness means simply to be one who can testify to the truth of something based on their experience with it. Just like the apostles, we are called to be witnesses to Christ. With that responsibility comes a means to do so, the Holy Spirit. We are to be conduits through which He witnesses. If we want to be successful in this we must obey. We are God’s servants and we need to treat Him as such. We are called to be attentive hearers and compliant doers, not begrudgingly acquiescent subjects.
In evaluating the most recent speakings of the Spirit into my life I noticed an unsettling trend. I argue and resist His gentle prodding. I do not relent until whatever He is calling me to becomes a burden or a hindrance. Observing this brings to light my need to adopt the attitude of a servant who loves their master. If my compulsion to obey was born of love I would promptly respond to His direction instead of trying to compromise and make my own solutions. In an attempt to reverse this pattern of resistance and resolution I am going to obey in one of the ways He has called me to be a witness. I am going to message or call my unsaved friend next time I have Internet.
“Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”
Though Jesus Christ was God incarnate He did not employ a divine capacity to be obedient. It was a learned behavior. He took the route that all of mankind must elect if they wish to be mature. The word “obedience” in the Greek signifies attentive hearing, or listening with compliant submission. While on earth this is the manner in which Jesus chose to receive God’s plan for His life. In doing so He cultivated maturity. With each submission to the Father’s will He was brought closer to completion, to perfection. It is the Father’s desire to bring each of His children into the same state of consummate wholeness.
If I know this to be true, why do I continue to resist His guiding hand in my life? Initially my reluctance can be written off as fear; fear that what He is asking of me will be painful, that it won’t work out in the end, that it will yield no benefit in my life or anyone else’s. But pride is the actual reason I feel this way. I am unable to comprehend why He would ask such things of me. My field of vision is too narrow to see and understand the big picture. By this my ego cannot abide so I adopt the lesser conclusion. There must not be a perfect, finished product because I do not see how it could possibly play out. Let’s put the problem in the pot once more, and set it to boil. All that remains is the true heart of my issue, unbelief. Fear, pride, anxiety, all of them masquerade about under the guise of being a rational response to something that asks you to dwell in a realm where surprise is the only guarantee. And perhaps they are a rational response for one who is unacquainted with the wonders of the most high God, but I have experienced His rule in my life. I know it as a thing which only brings freedom.
Unlike me, Jesus walked out God’s will in totality. He had the power to do so because He knew that the plans the Father had for Him were “plans of peace, not of evil, to give [Him] a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). I also know these things to be true, but because of my unbelief I shy away from operating in light of them. This needs to change. I need to stop choosing obedience solely in the matters of a painless nature. I need to start choosing obedience even when I don’t understand what will come of it, even when it’s difficult. There is no worth in parading about this life maintaining the illusion of godly living if I am ignoring Him in the most intimate aspects of my being. It is written that “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). So before I feign total devotion in an act of worship, I will obey the one command I have been evading. I will separate from my boyfriend the next time I have access to a phone.
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
I’m addicted to sugar. I waste money on gobs of supplemental snackage because I am fearful that the provided food will not be enough to satisfy me. Or maybe I have control issues. I’m really not sure what’s going on at this point because I do not eat such copious amounts so frequently at home. Either way it is an issue for myriad reasons.
Chief among them being that it has an effect on my mood. As I scribble this out I realize I truly am caught in the grips of addiction. If I don’t devour something sweet after a meal, before bed, upon waking, while studying, et cetera, I become slightly morose. When I do gratify my cravings it’s never enough. Thus I am never content. This behavior does not glorify God.
If Jesus was coming to stay in my home I would take every care to present a spotless, inviting dwelling. Should I not do likewise with my body, the temple in which the Spirit of God resides? The root of my issue lies in the fact that I am not allowing myself to find all of my contentment in Christ. I am clenched so tightly around the pursuit of comfort and satisfaction that I am suffocating the Spirit who wishes to provide both and more in abundance.
But I want to relent. I want Him to be my all in every moment. I want to cease from this lifestyle of hollow worship that isn’t reflected in my daily life. To find my contentment in Him I will not purchase anymore supplemental sugar for the remainder of February. Once my current stock evaporates I will not replenish it. I will meditate on Philippians 4:11 in place of my extraneous consumption in order to accomplish this. When we go to town I’ll totes get a coffee though.
“Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.'”
As a servant of God I am guilty of being discontented with my wages. I compare my spiritual earnings, my lot with what others have been given. For example, our field assignments; I have wanted to go to Montana from the very first mention of that possibility. And graciously God granted me the desire of my heart! However, as I observed all my teammates’ revelry my insecurities crept forward. I began to suspect inferiority in my character. Why did God choose to send me to Browning? It’s still the U.S. Does He think me ill-equipped to handle the foreign locations?
But then I remembered I have nothing to prove and only one to please. I remembered my worth is not measured by how many exotic countries I travel to or how rugged and adventurous people perceive me to be. My worth is defined by the fact that the Lord of the universe died on the cross for me.
As I began to internalize that notion the foolishness of my panic was made apparent. Quickly my emotions mutated into excitement. But emotions are fickle. I need lasting change. I need contentment that doesn’t depend on circumstance, but on who God is. I will strive for this by asking God to give me a heart for the Blackfeet nation, by asking for His heart.
“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Coming to IGNITE, I had purposed in my heart to do everything to the best of my ability, not to cut corners, not to slack off, to respect authority, to obey, to show diligence in all that I do. I am failing. Class is in session right now and I am sitting in the courtyard, feverishly grasping for an application from this verse. I have become sluggish. I am still trying to catch up with the past weeks’ assignments. I only have three IBS applications posted online.
In an attempt to remedy this problem I began waking an hour earlier so I would have time to put my all into these. I don’t just want to produce fluffy, pious, shallow, impersonal texts. I want to produce relevant, spirit filled writings, but in this I realize my oversight. My writings cannot be spirit filled if I am not filled with the spirit. Beyond that, the next six months of field deployment will be insurmountable in my own strength. I have become so entrenched in the ideal of success that I have put my relationship with God in the background. My priorities are out of alignment. Instead of devoting so much attention to homework, I will devote it to God. I am going to continue rising an hour early next week, but now I will spend my time in prayer and devotion.
“I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”
If I set the Lord before me, I will not be shaken. If I keep my eyes on Him, I will not be able to inspect the chaos that surrounds me. I will not have time to look at what everyone else is doing. Consider Peter when he walks on the water in Matthew chapter 14. It was not until “he saw that the wind was boisterous” that he began to sink. He had to take his eyes off of Jesus to notice his surroundings.
Just like Peter, I remove my eyes from Jesus in doubt. During worship, one of the most visceral ways to experience God, I am guilty of this. I can be in that sweet, intimate place of praise when something wells up inside of me that says “open your eyes, you look ridiculous”. So I do. My eyelids flash apart and I scan to see what everyone else is doing. Are they raising their hands? Are they swaying? Who else’s eyes are shut? Am I singing too loudly? Oh man, they look like they are really bathing in the Spirit. I wish I was there.
When all the while I could be. If I would only return my gaze to Jesus, if I would only set the Lord before me always, I too could be worshipping uninhibited. I could be lifting my voice and raising my hands to the God I love, in pure, joyous praise. But I’m not, because my eyes are not on the Father. I want to change that. Next time I worship without my hands and eyes otherwise engaged, I am going to stand in the front row so I can’t watch anyone else. I am going to keep my eyes sealed for the duration of the set. I am going to sing at the top of my voice because I am praising God, not pandering to man, and I will not squelch the impulse to raise my hands if it so arises.
“By your patience possess your souls.”
In the verses preceding Luke 21:19 Jesus gives the disciples a list of signs that will accompany the end times. His tone is almost inappropriately calm considering the content. Amidst all the natural disasters, civil unrest, and persecution expected to occur, Jesus optimistically says in verse 13 “But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.” He goes on to say that they need not prepare a defense for the imminent assault on their faith because He will supply words of which their adversaries will be powerless to combat (Luke 21:14,15. NKJV). With each travesty He foretells comes an encouragement; the final couple follows as such: “…you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost.” Finally, Jesus presents how to operate in the interim period, He says “By your patience possess your souls.” The English Standard Version reads “By your endurance you will gain your lives.”
“Patience” in the Greek is the word makrothumia from makros, “long” and thumos, “temper”. It suggests an attitude of lenience. It means to be long suffering, to have fortitude, and patient endurance. Yarash is the Hebrew for “possess”. It means to seize, inherit, or occupy. For “souls”, the word is psuche , it is considered the seat of affections, will, desire, emotions, mind, reason, or understanding; it also signifies the inner self. Through this passage I heard Jesus saying to the disciples: “You can be certain that a lot of difficult things are coming your way, but I will see you through to the end of them. So while you are waiting for struggle and release to come to fruition, have fortitude in your faith, have a long fuse, and you will seize your emotions, and captivate your desires. This is how you will gain your life.”
Application: I will walk in the truth of Luke 21:19 by writing down 2 Corinthians 10:5 and keeping the notion of taking my thoughts captive in the foreground of my consciousness for as long as it takes to become habit.