Meanderings of a Minister

Is Partial Obedience Really Obedience?
March 29, 2012, 2:31 pm
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In the book of 1 Samuel, we read of the tragic story of King Saul.  On one occasion, Saul had been given instructions to go to war against the Amalekites and to wipe them out and put all of them to the sword as God’s punishment for opposing the Israelites as they were coming out of Egypt in the Exodus.  In what was just another sad episode that showed Saul’s lack of character and integrity, he greets Samuel after a great battle, and even greater victory.  As Samuel approaches, Saul greets him with these words, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.”

Here is where the situation gets tragic because just behind Saul are the flocks and herds the people have spared at Saul’s instruction.  Also present is Agag, the king of the Amalekites that was supposed to have been killed, but was not.  Saul greeted Samuel with a greeting that says, “I have done what God told me to do.”  But he clearly had not.  He had done SOME of what God had told him to do, but not all.

Saul’s behavior begs a question.  How much obedience does it take to be able to claim you have obeyed God?  The answer should be obvious on paper, but is often difficult to live out in flesh and blood.  The answer is any disobedience is disobedience.  Saul had mustered all of Israel for war, gone to battle and killed a lot of people.  He had burned down towns and villages to execute God’s judgment.  He had traveled many miles and gotten muddy and bloody in battle, but he had not fully obeyed God and it cost him the kingdom.

You might be thinking, “Okay.  But how does that apply to me?  After all, the Bible is quite plain that salvation is by grace, through faith and not of works.  Why should I worry about this concept of obedience or complete obedience?”  I am glad you asked.  1 John 5:3 says, “For this is how we love God:  we obey His commands and they are not burdensome.”  What does that mean?  It means that loving God is obeying God.  If you are in Christ, you have been forgiven of your sin, accepted by God, included in His family and are assured a home in Heaven.  That sounds like a pretty good deal.  So, what does God ask in return?  Everything.

God deserves, demands and desires our entire lives.  He gave it to us and He deserves to have us use it for His glory.  He has saved as and, as our Lord, demands that we love Him enough to obey Him and love others.  He saved us for relationship with Him and desires that we maintain the fellowship of that relationship.  He desires to walk with us in the garden and not have us hide in the bushes because we are ashamed of our disobedience or partial obedience.  He did not halfway save us, so why would we think we can halfway serve Him?

So, during the last throes of this Lenten season, or in the week before we will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, whichever is part of your tradition, we would do well to spend some extra time with God asking Him if there is any area of our lives that we have not been completely obedient, repent, set our face towards obedience and pour ourselves into His word and His word into us so that we might seek to make our obedience complete, so that we can truly celebrate the relationship Easter made possible.


God Restores Order (Genesis 8:22-9:7)
March 19, 2012, 12:47 pm
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Many Christians walk around everyday as victims of masters that don’t have to master them.  Perhaps one of the greatest of these masters is their own past failures.  They are convinced that their failure has to define them to everyone, including themselves.  They carry around the bag of garbage that is their past sins and are constantly reminded of the stink of things they would rather forget.  This message is a first step towards putting that past where it belongs:  in the past.  If you have struggled with a hurt, habit or a hangup that you cannot shake, this message could be the first step towards freedom.  That being said, it is not the end of the journey, but the beginning for some and follow up for others.

If you are convinced your situation is helpless and hopeless, this message could help provide hope.  If you are fine with being a victim of your past or other situations you face, or if you enjoy the attention you get from being a victim, you probably don’t want to listen.  I hope you long for the freedom that can only be found in Christ because it is the only freedom that is no an illusion.

Click Here to Listen

This Time It’s Personal
March 16, 2012, 2:27 pm
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Many of the articles I have written have been somewhat impersonal as I have taken a look at a Bible passage or contemporary issue and commented on it from scripture.  As this is Spring Break, and I have been out of town spending some extended time with the Lord, I thought I would share with you a page from my own personal journal.  I hope that you will be encouraged.

Thursday, March 15, 2012:

Lord, I read today about how you superintended the distribution of the Promised Land to the various tribes and then the inheritance to the Levites and from there the provision of the cities of refuge.  You carefully orchestrated how the people were to live and now where to live and all of that was SUPPOSED to remind them of Your sovereignty.  From the reading, it sounds like You did so knowing they would forget, but You were not willing to allow their failure to define Your faithfulness.

Even on my best day, I am so far short of Your standard of perfection and faithfulness!  The question that always creeps into my heart is, “How can You save me and love me, knowing that I will fail?”  The only answer I can come up with is that it is all about Your grace.  Your grace is enough!  Even in the darkest moments of the downness of my soul, Your grace is enough.  When I don’t know what to do, Your grace is enough.  When I have failed You, myself or others, Your grace is enough!

I thank You that Your activity in my life is not limited by my actions or attitude.  I thank You that, every time I fall down, You pick me up, dust me off, and lead me to walk with You again!

Your grace is enough!

Decisions Can Have Lasting Ramifications
March 9, 2012, 2:07 pm
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There is a story that takes up the last part of the book of Judges.  This is not probably a story that you studied in Sunday School as it is pretty graphic in nature.  It is not a story you have probably studied in Church as it has some difficult subjects to consider.  It is a story; nevertheless, that God has included and preserved in His word, so it bears considering.  But, what do we learn from this story?  I am glad you asked.

Allow me to hit the highlights (or lowlights) of the story in order for us to understand what we can learn.  A Levite staying in the remote part of the hill county of Ephraim took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah.  After a while, the concubine ran away and went back home to her father’s house.  The Levite went to get her and, after talking her into returning, prepared to return home.  His father-in-law talked him into staying for three days of feasting and drinking.  On the fourth day, the Levite tried to leave, but was talked into staying another night.  On the fifth day, after giving in for most of the day, the Levite, his servant and his concubine started for home.

Later on that night, the man had passed through Jebus (which later would be conquered and renamed Jerusalem) and decided to spend the night at Gibeah in the territory given to Benjamin.  After waiting in the town square for someone to take him into their home for the night, finally, a man arrived and was very concerned that the man was going to spend the night in the square, so he took him home.

After they had settled in for the evening, some of the men of city surrounded the house in which the Levite was staying and demanded that the owner send the man out in order that the men of the city could have sex with him.  He man, and the Levite, bargained their way out of it by sending the Levite’s concubine outside instead.  The men of the city raped and abused her all night until she died early in the morning.

The Levite, intending to return home, found her dead and took her home on his donkey, where he cut her into 12 pieces and sent a part to each of the tribes of Israel to tell them of the horrendous behavior of the men of Gibeah.  The nation gathered for war and , after a few days of fighting, in which over 70,000 men lost their lives, nearly the entire tribe of Benjamin was wiped out. Feeling sorry for wiping them out, the men of Israel concocted a plan whereby they kidnapped women and gave them to the Benjaminites as wives to keep their tribe name going.

Whew!  If you are still reading, you are ready for the lesson, no doubt.  It is simply this.  The Levite was supposed to be a man of God.  He was of the tribe of Levi and was given the designation of serving God through care for the temple and leading in worship.  God had warned the people against multiple wives, but he decided to get another woman with whom to have intimate relations, other than his wife.  What did that one decision cost him?  The girl’s life.  Over 70,000 dead Israelites, the breaking up of hundreds of families and a black mark on the Name of God.  A single decision led to lasting ramifications.

If you are a Christian, your decisions can have incredible ramifications as well.  You might think it no big deal to have a drink at an office party, but you have no idea how that decision can affect others.  You might think it is innocent fun to flirt with the new guy a the water cooler, but have no idea where that encounter might lead.  You might think, “But I am not hurting anyone.”  You don’t know that because you do not understand the full impact that your decisions might have on someone else.  The Levite man may have thought that everyone else was doing it, but that did not make it right or lessen the impact.

The next time you are presented with a chance to sin, ask yourself what effect this might have on others.  As a matter of fact, it might not even seem like sin, but if it affects others, you might want to reconsider.

Ten Ways to Kill Sin, Part II
March 3, 2012, 1:55 pm
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Last week, I began an article based upon on article I had read in Revive! Magazine.  In the article, author and evangelist, Brian G. Hedges, gave ten ways to kill sin.  During the Lenten season, and with Easter looming closer and closer, many of us may have gotten weary in the resistance to whatever it is that we have set ourselves aside from to focus on our relationship with Christ.  Hedges takes the battle one step further by addressing Colossians 3:5, which says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:  sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  This article continues that article from last week.

To review, Hedges told us the first five ways to kill sin are as follows:

  1. Yield yourself to God.
  2. Accept the battle.
  3. Take God’s side.
  4. Make no provision for sin.
  5. Use your sword (the Word of God).
  6. Aim at the heart.  So often we attack the outer manifestations of sin in our lives with no regard for where those sins come from.  Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  (Luke 6:45)  In order to truly deal with the issues of sin with which we struggle the most, we must first consider where the sin comes from.  Do you struggle with overeating?  Maybe it is because you are trying to deal with some pain involved with not forgiving.  Do you struggle with lying?  Perhaps it is because you do not really trust God.  Maybe you keep getting involved with affairs because deep in your heart, you believe yourself to not be worth anything more than being someone’s play toy.  Deal with the heart and the behavior will follow.
  7. Replace sin with grace.  So often, the church does a great job of telling people what not to do, but we don’t tell them what to replace it with.  We major on what we are against, but we don’t speak much about what we are for.  True repentance means turning away from sin, but it also means turning to Christ to embrace His grace and forgiveness.  Related to the previous point, this means that we have to find out the virtue that is being violated by our sin and work to cultivate that virtue, with God’s help.
  8. Stay in community.  There is a reason that 1 Corinthians 12 says we have been given gifts for the common good, that Hebrews 10 tells us not to neglect the gathering of the believers, and that most of the instructions about love involves loving one another.  God knows we cannot survive in isolation.  Hebrews 3 tells us to exhort one another daily so that we won’t lose heart in the fight.  Stay connected.
  9. Look to the cross.  Many times, we get tired of the struggle and want to sit back and take it easy and take a break.  We think we have fought long enough and hard enough and little break wouldn’t hurt.  When we are tempted to begin thinking this way, we simply need to think about the cross and realize Jesus did all that was needed for us to be forgiven, without a break.  In addition, the cross reminds us that the battle has been won because, “It is finished.”
  10. Depend on the Holy Spirit.  Paul said, “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  (Romans 8:13)  We cannot defeat sin in our own power, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We must stay connected to, rely upon and listen to the Holy Spirit as He keeps us from sin, shows us the way out of sin and reminds us we are forgiven of sin.

This Lenten season, stay the course.  Fight the good fight.  Lean on God and others.  Let’s see what God can do with a Christian community of completely dedicated men, women and children that have been through the battle and won the war!