Obedience and Understanding

When truth makes no sense, wise people allow faith to lead reason to the place of understanding – Tolulope Ilesanmi

When there is understanding, obedience seems easier. When we understand a request or direction or vision, we can better buy into it and our response is more enthusiastic and committed. It will seem that obedience in this case costs us nothing; it can almost be like a natural response from us.

Sometimes, even when you see the bigger picture, and you understand the vision, obedience can be hard because it will cost you something. By obeying, you might become more vulnerable, more “boring,” and less animated. Obedience might cost you time and resources. It could make you seem unsure of yourself. When we understand and commit to obey God’s leading, he honors our obedience. The very fact that you decide and move to obey God is pleasing to Him. He will honor your obedience.

However, there are times when we do not understand and we will still be called by God to obey. I doubt Abraham understood why he had to sacrifice Isaac, the same child that represented his covenant with God and the promises that God had made. Joseph could not have understood that his journey to the top will take 13 arduous years. Peter, an experienced fisherman could not have understood why he had to cast his net into the sea, in daylight, after a night of zero catch.

There are numerous accounts of these tales and I am sure you are beginning to see a correlation between “faith in God” and “obedience without understanding.” At some point in your walk with God, you will likely be called to obey His leading and you will not understand it or maybe you understand some part and the rest is fuzzy. As long as you are sure God is the one leading you, obey Him, this is the stuff of faith and God will more than honor your obedience, when you do not understand. Jesus spoke of this idea when he encouraged Thomas to believe that He has risen from the dead

  • 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

How then do we obey God when we do not understand and, quite frankly obedience makes no sense? Here a couple of thoughts that I have found helpful

  1. The All Sufficiency of God – The Omniscience, Omnipresence and Omnipotence of God
  2. God loves you deeply. I cannot over emphasize this. He loves you regardless of where you are at, where you have been and what you have done. This is the basis of our faith in God – that He first loved us with an undying, unfailing and everlasting love. It will be unnatural and extremely difficult, dare I say, impossible, for God to not love you. His love for you is Him seeking your good for your own sake, not His.
  3. His thoughts are not your thoughts and His ways are not your way

Your knowledge is very limited. No matter how mature in God you are or in a discipline, draw a circle, however big, to represent your knowledge. Now take everything outside that circle and blow it out to the ends of the universe and maybe you can start to, marginally, represent the difference between you and God

God is there with you as you take those steps of obedience. You might not feel Him and you might feel empty but He is there. As you honor Him by taking those steps, He will be there for you and you can lean on Him for strength. Yes, obedience will cost you but it will not cost more than what God can give. And He will sustain you if you allow Him

Here is my encouragement to you: engage in any practice/discipline that opens you up to God. As you do that, God will come to comfort you and help you gain a better understanding. The better understanding will not necessarily address your concerns. Rather, you will gain an understanding that allows you to see that the One who calls you is FAITHFUL and GRACIOUS and so He will not let you fail!

Do not hold back from God, open up to Him and discuss your fears. Take a seat before the Most High, and just speak to Him without a format or preconceived result in your mind. Be quiet enough to let Him guide your thoughts and speak to you. Celebrate the Almighty and celebrate your life. As you do this, you will recount the many times He came through for you

Even if you misunderstood the instructions of God, and you obeyed it regardless, I want you to know that God will still honor you. The very fact that you step out to obey Him is proof of your trust in His goodness and greatness and He will not fail you.

HALLELUJAH, THANK YOU LORD

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Obedience and Understanding

Shame and Grace

I have been feeling jaded as I come to face my sins and mistakes. Sometimes the things I think about and do shock me, especially what I think about 😦 . These experiences are humbling and deeply convicting. They show a dimension of me that I detest. Sometimes the feelings and thoughts I encounter are crippling as the enemy taunts and whispers condemnation in my ears.

Either by nature of nurture, I am wired as someone who likes to earn his keep. If I make a mistake, I enjoy facing the process of paying for it. I do not like being indebted to others. I like being my own person and knowing that I saved myself by the strength of my arm. You can see that I am not short on pride.

Even though I understand the doctrine of being saved by grace, there are times that I try to make up for my sins by taking on some activities. Better still, I try to engage in certain activities to prove to myself that I am actually growing in God.

I spoke to a mentor of mine yesterday and I had to revisit some of my mistakes and it was painful. I know the labels used on me don’t quite fit as there are inconsistencies here and there. Yet I understand that I am also culpable, there is more than a measure of truth in the criticism and it weighs heavily on my heart. On the surface I look normal but within me, in my subconscious there is battle going on, one that threatens to make me undone

So I am in Church and as we are worshiping God and  I sense God whisper to me that my focus has shifted from Him to other things transitory things and justifying myself. I see the evidence clearly it in my thought patterns and my motivations for praying.

The message in church centered on loving God with all our strength, mind, soul and heart and then loving our neighbor as ourselves. The caveat there though is that we cannot do this. Not one person can do this, but it is the sick that need a physician and Christ came to save & call the sinners not the righteous.

Since we cannot hope to achieve the standards of God, our only option is to rest in what Christ has already done, to depend on Christ and truly receive what He has done. And his verdict is that we are free and innocent. This innocence is a bit hard for me to take in mainly because of my pride.

I firmly believe this is one of the lessons God is teaching me through this experience. Maybe this is why God told me to wait on Him.

I need to come to accept the fact that I have and I am going to commit some grievous sins against God and man. And then I need to fully accept the forgiveness of Christ and the grace He bestows to restore me, declaring me innocent and imputing His righteousness to me. Romans 5:17-19 captures the essence of what I have been saying

17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

As I come to accept and fully enjoy the grace and forgiveness of God, I am better positioned to bend out this grace to my neighbors. In marriage, I am better positioned to communicate this same grace to my wife. And without this grace, marriage will simply be lackluster at best. Why? Simply because I and my spouse have the sin nature and we are going to routinely hurt and piss each other off. We are going to routinely need the forgiveness and grace of God.

As I learn to drink of the grace of the Almighty, I see that I have been forgiven much; therefore I am better positioned to love and forgive much.

The following are excerpts from Lewis Smedes book on “Shame and Grace” that I believe is cathartic for folks like myself 🙂

“Shame is heavy; grace is light. Shame and grace are the two counter forces in the human spirit: shame depresses; grace lifts. Shame is like gravity, a psychic force that pulls us down. Grace is like levitation, a spiritual force that defies gravity. If our spiritual experience does not lighten our life, we are not experiencing grace. . . ” The lightness of grace does not lift all the sandbags that drag the spirit down. It lightens life by removing one very dead weight in particular—the weight of anxiety about being an unacceptable person. It extracts the internal threat of healthy shame. It gives us courage to track down the sources of unhealthy shame, see it for the undeserved pain it is, and take steps to purge our lives of it completely. It sets loose the lightest feeling of life; being accepted; totally, unreservedly accepted. . . .”

I (Lewis Smedes) close with a personal statement that sums up most of what I have said about grace and the healing of shame. It is my way of staking out a claim for myself on grace. . . .

I believe that the only self I need to measure up to is the self my Maker meant me to be.

I believe that I am accepted by the grace of God without regard to my deserving.

I believe that I am accepted along with my shadows and the mix of good and bad I breed in them.

I believe that I am worthy to be accepted.

I believe that grace has set me free to accept myself totally, and without conditions, though I do not approve of everything I accept.

I believe that nothing I deserve to be ashamed of will ever make me unacceptable to God.

I believe that I can forgive anyone who has ever infected me with shame I do not deserve.

I believe that I may forgive myself for anything that I have ever done to shame myself or another person.

I am gratefully proud of being who I am and what I shall be.

I believe that the grace of God heals the shame I do not deserve and heals the shame I do.

I believe that grace is the best thing in the world.

Shame and Grace

The Uniqueness of Your Brokenness

‎”Our brokenness is as unique as our chosenness and our blessedness. The way we are broken is as much an expression of our individuality as the way we are taken and blessed.” – Henri Nouwen

 The talents with which you are by nature endowed,—the learning which you possess,—the influence which you may have in the world,—the wealth which you have gained,—belong to God; and He asks that all these may be devoted to the great ends for which they were bestowed upon you. He made you what you are in mental endowment. He redeemed you. He keeps you. The vigour of body which you possess is His gift. Your powers of reasoning, your genius, your eloquence, are His. The place which you occupy in the world, morally, intellectually, socially, has been assigned by Him. The circumstances of your life have been ordered by Him. And He calls you—alike by Scripture, by your reason, by your conscience, by the events of His Providence, by heavenly influences,—to consecrate all you have to His service and to the good of man. Heaven appeals to you, and the world appeals to you, not to live in vain – Albert Barnes

 A prayer from Sherbet

Although I may not understand
The path You’ve laid for me,
Complete surrender to Your will—
Lord, this my prayer shall be.

The Uniqueness of Your Brokenness