Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cling



You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him;
 and you shall keep His commandments, 
listen to His voice, 
serve Him and CLING to Him.
Deuteronomy 13:4


What a great word:  cling.  This word defines relationship in this verse.  If we were only commanded to follow, fear, keep, listen and serve, we would conclude that our relationship to God was one of subservience, as with a slave status. But the fact that the Lord commands that we cling to Him, this reveals the heart of a father, doesn't it?

No one has to instruct a child to cling to their parent.  It is instinctual.  Safety is in the arms of the parent.  Try to pull a nine-month-old from their mother's arms at the nursery door at church.  What you get is instant clinging.

Clinging indicates safety and clinging indicates love.  In a crisis, the one you cling to is the one you love.  I heard an interview recently of one of the shooting victims from the Washington D.C. baseball practice this past June.  His name was Zach Barth and he was a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams.  When the shooting began, he was in the outfield shagging fly balls.  People were yelling, "Shooter! Run!", so he ran to a corner of the outfield but then the gunman started aiming at him. He was shot in the leg and decided he had to run back to the infield, so he limped his way back to the dugout, where he found Williams and they clung to each other until the shooting was done.  This man was not secret service - he wasn't trained to protect his boss.  But he loved his boss and found him, and they held on to each other for safety until the ordeal was over.

God wants us to cling to Him and in order to do that we have to have more than a Creator/created relationship with Him, more than a Master/slave, Employer/employee, Coach/player or King/citizen relationship with Him. We have to embrace that He is a good, good Father, our Heavenly Father, who loves us and wants what's best for us.  We have to trust Him and know that the safest place is in His arms.  We have to be close to Him, know Him, see Him and love Him, and then we'll cling to Him.

What do you cling to?  What do you hold tightly to in times of distress?  What do you hang on to as your greatest possession?  Your wealth? Your home? Your children? Your spouse? Your parents? Your education? Your job? What about your phone? Your free time? Your hobbies or your looks?  What is the greatest help in your life?  

Friend, Jesus wants you to cling to Him.  We've had a bat issue in our house lately and I've got to admit, trying to fall asleep while my ears are acutely hearing every crack or movement in the house is not much fun.  I want to cling to David at those times but there are a few problems with that - he really just wants to sleep and hanging on to him, buried under my covers, plus the occasional hot flash makes my body temp about 2,000 degrees. Not a great recipe for sleep and then both of us are cranky in the morning.  

Here's a plan:  How about I cling to the Lord?  Instead of lying in bed, waiting to hear the flutter of wings, I have gone into long conversations with the Lord each night until I fall asleep in His arms.  I have a lot to talk with Him about and knowing that He is there, that He loves me and that He isn't trying to fall asleep as well, makes the conversation much easier.  I did wake up to a bat in the room a few nights ago, but I didn't freak out and we caught the bat in the morning. Such is life - bats will come and go, but my Savior will be with me always.

By the way, we've just about got our bat problem solved, so please don't send me any bat videos or pictures.  I know what they look like and we're working with the Bat Man (seriously) and so we're just about done extracting the few hundred bats from my attic...true story.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Serve



You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him;
 and you shall keep His commandments, 
listen to His voice, 
SERVE Him and cling to Him.
Deuteronomy 13:4



Is your service to the Lord obligatory or voluntary?

The answer to that question should be "yes."  We are obligated to serve the one who redeemed or purchased us because He is our master now.  But our service should be out of love and not out of compulsion.  That's why I love the picture above because it's volunteering hands, not hands in chains, being drug into service.

Let's review our progression:
  • Follow - upon salvation, we surrender our life, our will, to the Lord and He becomes the leader
  • Fear - a proper awe and respect due to the magnitude of God's power and might - we must never forget Who He is and who we are
  • Keep - now that He's in charge, we must obey His commands, knowing that they are in our best interest and that in the middle of His will is the safest place to be - plus, obedience shows the Lord we love Him
  • Listen - we must fine tune our ears to hear Him amongst the competing voices in our head and the only way to do that is to know His Word - then we have a standard to compare all voices to
And now, serve.  Follow, fear and listen are instructions for our heart. Keep is an instruction for our actions.  Serve is an instruction for our attitude.  If our attitude is in the right place, it means we have the proper understanding of why we were created and why we were saved.  

Too many of us want to be the star of our show.  We want the spotlight.  We want people to think highly of us, praise us, like us, need us.  But we are believing a lie when we put ourselves in the center of the stage.  Our purpose for being here is to glorify the One Who made us.  He is the star of the show because He is God.  Period.  When I walk in a room and God walks in a room, He gets the attention. Every time. 

Now here's the awesome thing:  God has set His affection upon me.  Through His Spirit, He got my attention and through His Son, He paid the price for my redemption.  Not only has He purchased me, but He's made me His child - I am a fellow heir with His Son, Jesus. I am no longer dead or a slave to sin, but I am alive.  My eternity is one without sorrow, pain, suffering, fear or sin.  I am never alone.  I don't have to make decisions in a vacuum.  I can have deep joy and peace in the midst of the brokenness of this life because God has set His affection on me.

So when He tells me to do something, what should my attitude be?  Reluctant obedience so that everyone knows I am unhappy? Resentment for being bossed around? Willful disobedience because I know what's better for my life? Or burdened sorrow because what God wants of me is so hard?  

I think not.

We need to stop acting like a teenager who was just told to take out the garbage and serve the Lord with gladness. Our response to His affections should be joyful, immediate, and humble service.  We serve a good King.  We serve a loving Father.  We serve a gracious Master.  Our service is a delight and a joy because everything we do is to make more of Him.  When the Lord says, "Who will go?", our hands shoot shoot up as we cry, "Lord, send me!"  What a privilege to serve the Almighty God of the universe.  The fact that He has set His affection upon us is completely undeserved and simply unbelievable.  

Let's have an attitude check today.  Do you view your obedience to the Lord as an obligation or as service to One who loves you beyond words?  Do you see how your attitude can make a world of difference?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Listen


You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him;
 and you shall keep His commandments, 
LISTEN to His voice, 
serve Him and cling to Him.
Deuteronomy 13:4


There are a lot of voices in your head.  It sounds like just one, but the truth is there are a lot of competing influences that ring in your mind and it's hard to determine which ones are good and which ones are bad. The world is pretty loud and our flesh is pretty strong, so how do we know if the voice we are listening to is God's?

Let me start out by pointing out that God's initial command here is to FOLLOW, then FEAR and KEEP.  After these things, He says to LISTEN.  Unfortunately we tend to do these things in the wrong order.  We want to hear the voice of the Lord and then we'll decide whether or not we want to follow Him.  But it doesn't work that way.  The choice to follow must come first; a strong walk in surrender to His will, built on a healthy foundation of awe and respect for His character - these things must be in place in order for you to hear the voice of the Lord.

I had a woman once approach me after a Worship on the Waterfront concert I had been involved in.  I was directing a children's choir and our concert included a live band and adult praise team, plus 70 children.  This woman praised my efforts and told me that God had told her that because men were not stepping up and leading the way God had called them to, God was done with male leadership in the church and He was now going to raise up strong women to fill the void.  She had heard His voice and was His messenger.  The problem was that her message was contrary to God's Word.  If I didn't know the Word and understood God's design for church leadership, my flesh might have embraced this woman's message.  But I knew the Word and knew the voice she heard was not from God. As politely as I could I explained that to her and she didn't take it well.

We must know the Word, we must be actively walking closely to the Lord before we trust the voices in our head to be from God.  And even then, we must learn to listen and compare, before we act.

I know a gal who was very close to the Lord.  She walked with Him daily.  She relied on Him for her every need.  Her marriage was built on Him and I really don't know any other woman who lived in God's presence the way that she did.  Then one day she met someone...well, actually it was a talking snake...who told her that God was keeping something from her.  Then she assessed the information for herself and decided that he was right, and she broke her relationship with the Lord.  As a matter of fact, her actions along with her husband brought great destruction into the world.  

How did this happen to Eve?  She was in full fellowship with the Lord and didn't even have a sin nature to distort things!  The problem was that the voice in her head was not the Lord's and instead of comparing what God said to what the voice said, she acted on the voice.

When we listen to the voice of God, we must know His Word so that we know it is from Him.  All too often I hear people explain that they are hearing from the Lord and what they are hearing is contrary to His Word.  This is why FOLLOWING, FEARING and KEEPING must come first.  Then hearing will be a natural response to what we know about Him.

The flip side is this:  we just spent 8 months watching videos at church of people who listened to the voice of the Lord and had gospel moves all over the place!  The Lord would lay on their hearts to pray for hurting people around them, or to ask forgiveness when they were difficult at work, or to stand up for God's truth in a class, despite the negative response.  These are true examples of listening to the voice of God and acting on it.  By faith, they knew who God is and what His Word teaches, they knew the Gospel and what it means in life, and when the Lord nudged them to act, they obeyed.  What a wonderful example of LISTENING for all of us!  (to see the videos:  click here)

So what voice do you hear in your head and what is your process to determine if it is from the Lord or not?  We are commanded by God to listen to His voice, therefore we must commit to knowing His Word and surround ourselves with godly influences to determine if the nudging is from the Lord or from another source...

Monday, July 10, 2017

Keep


You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him;
 and you shall KEEP His commandments, 
listen to His voice, 
serve Him and cling to Him.
Deuteronomy 13:4


As we work our way through this verse, we have already seen the call to willingly place ourselves under God's authority (surrender at salvation) and the healthy fear of the power of God.  Today we are going to talk about "keeping."  The full instruction is "you shall keep His commandments."  

We tend to cringe when we hear the word "commandment."  That's for a few reasons.  First of all, we like the concept that we are free in Christ but commands do not equate to freedom.  In our mind, freedom equals the ability to do whatever we please, so the instruction to live within boundaries seems stifling.  Another reason is that keeping commandments sounds like we are earning our salvation and deep down we know we cannot perfectly keep God's commandments, so why is He telling us to do so?

I want to address both of these concerns.  First of all, we must understand what freedom in Christ means.  It DOES NOT mean that we are free to do whatever we want.  That would be foolishness.  That's what got us in trouble in the first place.  Remember, at salvation we are choosing to place ourselves UNDER GOD'S AUTHORITY - which means He is the boss of you.  Freedom in Christ means that we are no longer in bondage to sin, but have the freedom to please the Lord in whatever we do.  And what pleases the Lord the most?  Obedience to His commands. (I"ll explain why in just a minute...)

Secondly, the concern that God is instructing us to earn our salvation when He says that we are to keep HIs commands is inaccurate because of timing.  Remember, we are first called to FOLLOW - that's our salvation.  So how can this instruction save us more than what we already are?  Keeping God's commands has several purposes, but salvation is NOT one of them.  As Hebrews 11:1 tells us that the Law can never make us perfect, so there must be another reason for it.

So, why should we obey God's commands?  Let me give you three reasons. First, God's commands are in our best interest.  Just as a parent lovingly puts boundaries around their child for their protection, God places boundaries around us.  Sexual purity is a great example.  Do you know how simple it is for two virgins to marry?  There's no concern for disease and illness.  There's no partner baggage that comes into the marriage bed.  There are no competing memories or guilt trips.  There aren't any unwanted pregnancies or emotional and physical residue from abortions.  I have heard it said that high school girls who break up with boys they've slept with experience similar emotional loss to a divorce.  Purity guarantees none of that.  And yet, this is a boundary that no one wants to keep.  It's outdated, old fashioned and unreasonable.  Really? 

God's commands are a protection for us.  He is the author of life; He knows what is best.  To keep the commands of the Lord shows that you trust His goodness and love for you.

Second, it's a way to receive blessing from the Lord. Psalm 1 tells us that the person who walks in the ways of the Lord has abundant fruit.  Psalm 119 (all 176 verses) tells us of the blessings and benefits of walking in the Word of God.  Galatians 5 tells us that the flesh produces immorality, impurity, idolatry, jealousy, anger, fighting, envying, drunkenness and things like these, but the fruit of walking in the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control.  I would call those blessings.  If we keep God's commandments, deny our flesh and walk in the Spirit, blessing follows.

Finally, it's a way to show our love for Him.  Jesus said in John 14 that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  It's really that simple.  If you have WILLINGLY placed your life in His hands, why wouldn't you obey Him?  It just doesn't make sense to buck against His instruction.  In light of the price paid for our eternity, keeping the commandments of God should flow from an obvious trust in His character.  Would He sacrifice His Son only to leave you with ridiculous instructions to follow?  Come on, friend, we've got to think bigger than that!

So the logical question is this:  what are the commands of God?  Oh, dear!  There are many.  So get in the Word and find them yourself...read the Law of Moses, that's a good place to start!  In the Law you will see the heart of a holy and loving God.  Read the Epistles (the letters at the end of the New Testament) - there are tons of instructions there.  Or just read through a gospel - Jesus gave a lot of commands.  Oh - one more!  Why not just start with the BIG TEN?  You've got to start some place!

Follow.  Fear.  Keep.  

Halfway done.