Just A Small Obedience

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Dear one, in spite of what you’ve heard, obedience is NOT a four letter word. (Some would suggest otherwise.) Pastors and teachers who are ‘old school’ remember when we heard much on obedience. But biblical obedience is not the same as legalism, and it is not the opposite of grace. It is however, an integral part of our daily walk with God. Obedience is essential if you’re going to follow Him.

“We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5, NLT

We have done so much with so little that when we finally initiate some bit of obedience we go into shock. God seriously delights in us when we move toward it. I believe that he waits for it, and grieves when we disobey His Word. We do not nullify grace by requiring obedience, rather we fortify our faith when we obey.

Oh saint, the Lord can’t hardly wait to pour heaven over your soul, and your home. He is ready to lavish Himself on you.

I’ve been reading the book of Jeremiah the last few days. One of the things that is striking is God’s faithfulness to His people under the ‘old covenant.’ He remained faithful even when they walked in disobedience. Jeremiah insists that we serve a holy God who seeks an obedient people. How much more is He under the ‘new covenant’ which was brought about by the blood of Jesus?

We are standing in a blessed place. When we make the choice to obey, all of heaven stands up and takes notice. (Let us not sell obedience short.) You see, greatness in God’s kingdom is always measured in terms of obedience.

“Our Lord told His disciples that love and obedience were organically united. The final test of love is obedience.”   

A.W. Tozer

We show our love by obedience; that is the ‘acid test’ of authenticity. We might insist that there are other ways to prove we are real: worship, witnessing, tithing or even prayer. All of these are great, but none can be a substitute for ‘everyday’ obedience. Heaven is seeking disciples who are compliant. The other things are wonderful, no doubt about it. But just the willingness to obey opens up heaven.

“Lord Jesus, make me willing to be willing to obey you.”

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A Stranger to Your Holiness

Below are the lyrics to a CCM song that I listened to over and over, circa 1982-83. The album is Steve Camp‘s, “Shake Me to Wake Me“, and there are several songs of reasonable significance on it.  Unfortunately, I no longer have a copy, if you should find one, I’d be happy to take it off your hands.  You’d make this “Jesus Freak” a happy man. Even if you can’t do YouTube, I encourage you to read these lyrics as if it were a poem.

Lyrics to “Stranger To Your  Holiness,”  by Steve Camp

Looks like the boy’s in trouble again
Living much too close to the edge of sin
Now he finds himself where he should not have been
Oh God, why is Your peace so hard to find
And the answer to the questions that haunt my mind
Oh Lord, Your ways are not like mine
And it pounds like thunder within in my breast
All the anger of my humanness
And though I call You “Lord” I must confess
I’m a stranger to Your holiness, a stranger to Your holiness
Can we really be what we were meant to be
Jesus’ people, living by the Spirit and living free
My heart longs to serve, but wanders so aimlessly
Oh Lord You deserve every part of me
Hear my cry of desperation as I see the wickedness of my ways
You alone are my salvation, and Lord I’ve learned this one thing to be true
Is that the closer I get to You, I see I’m a stranger (to Your holiness)
Don’t wanna be no stranger, and it burns like a fire…

As I follow Jesus as His simple disciple, I’m very aware of the issues that tangle me. It is like a net that drops and I get quite caught in it. But we really are asked to shake these things off. In 35 years of following Him, I find my personal sin is more clear to me then ever as I follow Him. “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy.” Lord hold me close as you continue to deal with me.

“Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. 2We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete.”

Hebrews 12:1-2, CEV

Mr. Camp reaches into places that the average Christian musician misses, and communicates relevance to all those who seek His face.  This particular song has a lyrical integrity and sensitivity that makes it stellar.  As I ponder the words I find myself with someone who understands me and my issues.  I hope this blesses.

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Good Medicine

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“A joyful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Proverbs 17:22, ESV

We have from ‘King Solomon’s mines’ a truth regarding joy. Whether we acknowledge its truth, or not, we find its effects on us to be binding. “A joyful heart” is like medicine for our souls. There are many issues that afflict us, many things that trouble us. I find within myself a veritable zoo. But there is a sure and ready relief.

“Worry, fear, distrust, care-all are poisonous! joy is balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power. He has commanded you to be glad and rejoice, and He never fails to sustain His children in keeping His commandments. Rejoice in the Lord always, He says. This means no matter how sad, how tempted, how sick, how suffering you are, rejoice in the Lord just where you are-and begin this moment. The joy of the Lord is the strength of our body, The gladness of Jesus, the balm for our pain, His life and His fullness, our fountain of healing, His joy, our elixir for body and brain.”

A.B. Simpson

 

For those among us who struggle so, we find a  treatment plan that will work. There is an active ingredient within a joyful heart that heals and protects our souls. Real joy— applied frequently to our aching souls— provides something quite  like medicine to someone quite ill. I’m no snake oil salesman. Nor am I into herbs and vitamins. (I suppose I could be a little more aware.) But I know that this principle is true.

“A crushed spirit dries up the bones.” We know first-hand that this is true. There is a ‘crushing’ wound that can breakdown our spirits and bodies. We are simply overwhelmed by life and we experience a crumbling and mashing of our personalities. We are as sick in our ‘bones’ as we might be physically. Now there is a huge difference between a physical illness and a spiritual one, but the factual principles are the same. The pain is different, but is it not similar?

A joyful heart is the pharmaceutical of choice for treating diseases of the personality and spirit. Sometimes we are unwell because we ignore the prescription.  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:10) Joy in the deepest part of us is almost always:

  1. transforming,
  2. God-honoring, and
  3. contagious.

If this is true, then we do well to ‘give it a whirl.’

“The joyless Christian reveals himself by having negative thoughts and talk about others, in a lack of concern for others welfare, and a failure to intercede on others behalf. Joyless believers are self-centered, selfish, proud, and often vengeful and their self-centeredness inevitably manifests itself in prayerlessness.”

John MacArthur

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The Apple Tree

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“Like the finest apple tree in the orchard
    is my lover among other young men.
I sit in his delightful shade
    and taste his delicious fruit.”

Song of Solomon 2:3, NLT

Jesus is the subject of many different metaphors. We know him as a shepherd, a door, and bread. There are many other ‘pictures’ in Scripture, that speak of his ministry and life. There is one that strikes me today, that of Jesus Christ as a life-giving tree— an apple tree. Song of Solomon 2:3 and Revelation 22:1 are the ‘roots’ of this wondrous thought.

“On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

Rev. 22:2

To think of Jesus as ‘the tree of life’ or an apple tree is both a honor to Him and a strength for us. We can swirl metaphors around all day and never exhaust their truths. Jesus (a.k.a. “the apple tree”) is seen imparting life and healing by his fruit. He is the source of everything good and grand in our lives. Eating his fruit is not only recommended, but  encouraged. (Like most things in God’s Kingdom.)

The young maiden in Song of Solomon has given us her take on Jesus— her shepherd, lover, and king. She sees him as the finest in the forest. He provides shade to her, as she eats the fruit of his branches. Oh what a worthy picture of Jesus our savior. We can look at this all day. As we come to him we can see One who is gifting each of us of his blessings. We do well to consider him this way.  The first few lines set the tone for us.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.”

 

The song, based on an anonymous poem, first appeared in a New England hymn collection by a New Hampshire preacher in 1784, so it has a history. Many people sing this as a Christmas carol, although there is nothing in the words that refers to Christmas. Go through each stanza. See if it fits for you. Perhaps it will cause you to see Jesus in a new way. Here is the poem in its entirety:

Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

 

“Consider Jesus. Know Jesus. Learn what kind of Person it is you say you trust and love and worship. Soak in the shadow of Jesus. Saturate your soul with the ways of Jesus. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Stand in awe of Him. Let Him overwhelm you with the way He is.”   

John Piper

 

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