Partial Obedience is not Obedience

Now that I have my word for the year, I need to delve into the scriptures I’ve chosen. There were 4 scriptures that resonated with me and 2 I chose for my focus verses.

The first of my 4 verses that I chose is from 1 Samuel 15:22. King Saul was anointed by Samuel, the priest, as King and blessed by God. The Lord gave him instructions on how to deal with the evil Amalekites. He was to completely destroy them and not take any plunder at all. Saul mustered his army and went to battle with the Amalekite King. He won the battle but took King Agag prisoner and took his flocks as his own. Here is the story after Saul returns from battle, 1 Samuel 15:13-29

 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

16 “Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.

“Tell me,” Saul replied.

17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

22 But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
    and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has rejected you as king.”

24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”

26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”

27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

Did you notice that King Saul did not obey the Lord’s commands but says he did in verse 20. He thought that partial obedience was obedience. Does that sound familiar? When God requires us to not murder or covet, yet we hold murderous or covetous thought in our minds that is only partially obeying the Lord. When God requires us to keep the Sabbath holy, yet we feel it is okay to miss church or not ever go because we don’t feel like it or it interferes with our rest time that is partial obedience. When we believe in God and desire to follow Him but only do it half way that is partial obedience. King Saul only partially obeyed the Lord and choose what he wanted to do instead. He kept King Agag as a trophy to parade before the people as a symbol of their victory and they only kept the best of the sheep and cattle and killed the rest. To compound this sin of disobedience, Saul tries to put the blame on his men. He said his soldiers brought back the best sheep to use as sacrifices. God tells King Saul what he thought of his partial obedience in verse 22. You thought to bring the best sheep as sacrifices to me, said the Lord, but I’d rather have total obedience. Don’t try to cover your disobedience with an excuse. As a result, God removed the throne from King Saul and his descendants. Later Samuel anointed David king but he had to wait 14 years before Saul to died in battle. During those 14 years, Saul tried to kill David repeatedly and remove him as the future king. His plans always failed as God protected David and his kingship was established.

What do we learn about obedience in this story? God requires that we totally, wholeheartedly follow Him. He wants our total surrender to His ways and plans. Partial obedience = disobedience. This concept is hard to see sometimes as we like to rationalize how our doing part of what God wants and see that as okay with Him. Looking at this story, God wants it all. The glory for the battle victory belonged to the Lord and was not Saul’s to take as his own. They were ridding the land of an evil group of people. By partially obeying the command, we see later in 2 Samuel 1 that David was still fighting the Amalekites and one actually came to him and reported Saul’s death. God knew the Amalekites would continue to be a thorn in the side of Israel, influencing them with their evil ways and God wanted that influence gone. The parallel for us is that God knows the evil or worldly influences He desires eliminated from our lives. He desires our wholehearted devotion. By only being partially obedient to Him, we are allowing those influences to remain in our lives and leaving ourselves open to temptations and sin.

Where do you need to be obedient wholeheartedly, not partially? Are you only partially committed to Bible Study or daily reading of the Bible? Do you only go to church when you feel like it or do you make it a priority to worship God each week? Where do you choose the majority of your friends? Are they from the world around you or from others believers? Friends can be a powerful influence on you as well as those you can influence. Ask yourself, where is most of my influence coming from? Who do I need to influence for the Lord?

Ponder this verse and examine your own obedience and ask God to show you where you are only partially obeying Him. He will reveal this to you as you seek Him, then repent and seek to be totally obedient. God desires obedience as it pleases Him. “To obey is better than sacrifice,  and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Linda

Here are a couple of quotes on this subject- old and new.

A Reminder of What Christmas Brings…

This blessing shows us what having Christ in Christmas does for you and me.

His Spirit brings us peace. John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” His peace dispels all fears, removes our heart troubles and calms us in a chaotic world.

His arrival brings us hope for forgiveness, mercy and redemption. Colossians 1:13-14  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” 1 Peter 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead“. Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”

He brings warmth into our lives with His love. 1 John 4:7-9 speaks of God’s love for us. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” God is love and He sent Jesus as proof of that great love. John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

May the Peace, Hope and Love of God fill you day.

Merry Christmas,

Linda

A Journey towards Freedom and Joy!

My journey though the Christmas scriptures has brought me to Christmas Eve with a humble and open heart. I know I did not get to the Wise men or aged Anna and Simon yet, but the Mary, Joseph and Jesus did not meet them until after his birth. Anna and Simon were encountered in the temple when Jesus was circumsized after 8 days, as was their custom. The wise men saw the star when Jesus was born and followed it, arriving in Bethlehem about 2 years after his birth. The gifts they brought provided monies for Joseph, Mary and Jesus when they had to flee in the night to Egypt to avoid Herod’s executioners. I’ll continue with their parts in this story next week. However, the journey thus far has given me renewed hope in the Sovereignty of God. He was then and is now in control of all things. God has a plan which is to bring as many people to himself as are willing to come. 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” All the details before, during and after the birth of Jesus shout of His sovereign power to bring about the impossible.

This Christmas Eve, meditate on the delivery of all mankind from the power of sin and the freedom revealed in Jesus’ birth. Power over sin- Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Romans 5:9 “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.Freedom- 2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Lastly, take time to rejoice in the Savior. He is worthy of all our praises and brings joy for you and me. Romans 5:11 “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

Have a blessed day remembering how God led us in the journey, delivered His promises and provided unending joy for all mankind through the birth of His Son.

Linda

How are you affected by Jesus?

What affect does the Savior have upon you? In our passage today we see the shepherd’s encounter with the baby Jesus and his parents.  After the news from the angels, they went immediately to find the child. They did not stop to consider it was nighttime, their sheep, the distance, or their weariness from the day. The only thing that mattered was finding the babe. Are you seeker of Christ who puts finding Him first each day? I’m sure they were curious but more than curiosity would have been the desire to see this child from God. They were eager to see their Savior first hand. Are you curious about Jesus, His Word and are you eager to pursue Him? The thought of seeing the Savior who would bring peace into their lives gave them energy and motivation to seek Him out. Are you ardently seeking Jesus for the peace only He can provide? They even knew where to look and what they would see. A manger would mean a stable of some kind and He would be with his parents, wrapped up in cloths lying in the manger. Being familiar with the area, it did not take long for them to locate Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Are you familiar with Jesus and know where to find Him? Do you open your Bible regularly to learn about Him? Here is our passage-see their eagerness, curiosity and amazement.

Luke 2:16-20 “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

After seeing Jesus, how were they affected? They were amazed!! They wanted to tell others! Their joy could not be contained and they wanted to praise and glorify God. What about you? How are you affected by Jesus? Do you want to tell others about your Savior? Are you amazed at His love and compassion, His mercy and forgiveness? Does it make you want to sing praises and glorify God?

I pray that this Christmas season you encounter the living Jesus and have a reaction similar to the shepherds. We all need to be amazed, curious, eager and desirous of telling others while praising and glorifying God. May it be so with you.

Linda

God of the Unexpected, Yet Again!

Two simple but profound verses add to our Christmas Story today.

Luke 2: 6-7 “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

What do we learn about Mary and Joseph? First and foremost they made it to Bethlehem. That 90 mile journey accomplished, they looked for a place to stay. There were no places available so an innkeeper allowed them to stay in his stable. I have visited the place thought to be where Jesus was born and it is a cave in the side of the mountain, cozy and sheltered. When you consider who visited them that first night, the shepherds, it is a perfect setting with easy access to those coming from the fields. We also see that Mary gave birth with just Joseph’s help. I’m sure as there were no women there to assist her or scripture would have told us. A birth is beautiful but messy and stress filled. Alone in a strange place, this must have taken great courage and determination to see this night through for both Mary and Joseph. Scripture does not give us additional details except to say that her time had come and she delivered the baby and wrapped him in cloths. Providentially, there was a manger available to use as a crib.

What do we learn about God? God protected them on the journey. God provided a place of shelter for them to stay that was warm and safe when there were no rooms anywhere. God watched over them and there were no complications or problems mentioned in the birth so we can know that there were none. God provided what they needed in a place that was accessible to those who would first come to see and worship His new born son. God is Sovereign over all things that happen in our lives. God is our great protector and provider. Just like Mary and Joseph, we can trust in God to be all those things for us.

Where do you need to trust God today? Are you facing a long journey of your own? Do you think there will be perils on this trip? Are you needing to stay someplace and you are concerned about the availability of room? Take your concerns to God and pre-pray the situation. Let God know of your concerns and worries. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Take you faith in hand and put them in Jesus. He loves and cares for you. Then proceed with a prayerful heart knowing the truth of Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Linda

This is a photograph I took of the manger area. We gathered and sang Silent Night. It was very moving.

God of the Unexpected

 Today’s passage shows us courage and determination in both Mary and Joseph. Mary was 9 months pregnant and had to endure a journey of about 90 miles going by the safest route in their day. It would have taken days. Joseph’s concern for his pregnant wife, the hazards of travel by foot/donkey and possible dangers on the road undoubtedly filled his mind as he sought to obey the law of the land and go to Bethlehem for the required census. Unlike in our day where we fill out a paper and mail it in, they had to appear in the town to be physically counted by the government. It was not an option to not go. So they went.

Luke 2:1-5 “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

Even though this was an unexpected turn of events for this family, they endured and persisted to accomplish what was required. I’m sure they must have wondered, why Lord? Why do we have to go at this time in our life? In a few months this would be easier, right? However, maybe they knew the child was to be born in Bethlehem as foretold by the prophets. Scripture is silent on this and as we have seen in previous passages, both Mary and Joseph were good Jews and sought to follow the Law. They were devoted and sought to be obedient to the Lord.

What about you? When things don’t go as you planned or unexpected road blocks appear, what is your response? Do you try to blame someone or even God? Or is your response one of diligent persistence and prayer? We can look back now at this story and see why they had to endure this hardship of travel. Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem. They needed to travel to this unexpected place for this blessed event to occur. What blessing does God have for you as you seek to follow through with His plans? He is the God of the unexpected and when you look back on your trials you will see His hand protecting, providing and guiding you all the way. You will see, perhaps, why the detour was needed. Following God requires faith and trust in His Sovereignty. He knows the way. We just need to follow and go just as Mary and Joseph did long ago.

Linda

The 4th Sunday of Advent, Peace to You!

On this 4th Sunday before Christmas, we light the peace candle. The first candle we lit on that First Sunday was the prophecy candle which symbolized the hope the coming Messiah brings to mankind. The second was the Bethlehem candle which reminded us of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. The third candle symbolized the Shepherd’s joy at the birth of the Messiah. Today we light the Angel candle symbolizing the message given to the angels which was one of “Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men.” The final white center candle will be lit on Christmas Eve which speaks of the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ child.

Rejoice today as you worship and sing carols. Ponder the blessings of hope, joy and peace that come to us because of God’s mercy and grace in sending Jesus as our Savior. Here is Psalm 130 which speaks of our cries to God for mercy as we realize our own sin. The answer rests with the Lord and His mercy towards us in sending Jesus.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.

I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from every kind of sin.

Thank you Lord for your unfailing mercy and love. Thank you for sending Jesus to redeem me from every kind of sin. Thank you Lord that You have everything under your control. I will trust in You.

Linda

Waiting with JOY!

The birth of a child always brings joy! New life, a new start, a new beginning are all positive events and worthy of JOY! John’s arrival was joyous and mysterious too. As was the custom of the day, the boys were named and circumcised on the 8th day of life. Both were significant events for the birth parents. Their child had survived the birth process and was ready to enter the world with a permanent name. From the text, we can see that boys were to be named after their parent or grandparent or some relative in the past. New names were unheard of, except for John. Elizabeth knew that God had ordained that their son was to be named John and that he had a special mission to fulfill. He would call people to repentance and ready the way for the coming of the Savior. Here is how the scene unfolded.

Luke 1:57-66 “When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Is it any wonder that the first words out of Zechariah’s mouth were words of Praise? He had been silent for 9 months knowing he was being held accountable for his doubt. His waiting period transformed his doubt into praise. I love the way scripture describes it, “Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free“. It was as if his tongue had been held captive and his mouth closed. It reminds me of the salvation process. Once you encounter Jesus your mouth is opened to praising God with knowledge of who He is personally to you and you are set free from the bondage of sin. I would imagine Zechariah wanted to praise God because he was overcome by God’s power and goodness. He had not been able to speak those long months and now he could. Has God ever kept you waiting for something you knew would be wonderful? Zechariah knew his son would be just who God wanted him to be and that he was to have a part in it. He was going to be able to have input into the raising of this special child. The waiting increased his faith and caused him to spill over with joyous praises.

One such time of waiting in my life was when God had me waiting to become a mother. I knew that God had a child for me, and that we were going to be a family. Our journey from infertility to adoption was a long one with many twists and turns, but I held to the belief that God had a child for me. After many years of waiting, our daughter arrived from Korea on December 1 and my life was never the same. That first Christmas was one of great blessing and joy! It was wonderful, terrifying and yet so glorious. The waiting increased my joy and strengthened my faith.

Think back to a time when God had you wait. Did the waiting increase your joy? Was your patience rewarded with peace and hope in what you received? If we got everything right away, we would begin to lose the joy and anticipation of what was to come. God’s plan is always for my good and brings Him glory. If you are in a waiting period, take heart and let praises be on your lips. Trust in the goodness of God and let joy be in your heart as you rejoice in the coming of your Savior.

Linda

Shared Joy!

When was the last time you shared a joyous moment with a friend or relative? I hope it has not been too long as those are moments to be cherished. My sister and brother-in-law just celebrated their 70th Wedding Anniversary! At dinner, we asked them to share their favorite trips, funny stories about their children, things growing up that impacted them, etc. It was a wonderful time of sharing. In today’s verses we see the joyous reunion of Elizabeth and Mary as they meet for the first time since they both were visited by the Holy Spirit’s power in a special way. Elizabeth in now 6 months into her pregnancy and Mary’s has just begun. We see Elizabeth’s joy at realizing her baby recognizes the mother of the Lord. This causes Elizabeth to be filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaim the coming of the Lord.

 “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:39-45

One of the things I cherish about this encounter is that it shows normal people engaging each other in normal ways. What is unusual about this encounter is the intervention of the Holy Spirit in their midst. We engage with people all the time, but have you stopped to think that you being indwelt by the Holy Spirit through your faith in Jesus bring the Holy Spirit with you into each encounter. As with Elizabeth and Mary, we need to let the joy of the Lord be with us in conversations and actions as we meet and greet others in our daily lives. God’s power within us has the power to effect and influence others for His good.

What words of praise do you give out? Ours will not be words of prophesy but can give life changing words of encouragement and hope. God has us where we are for His purpose, and we need to take opportunities to speak of Him as often as we can. You can speak words of hope by being a friend, listening with an open mind and heart, praying for the other person even as you speak with them. Look for the God opportunities today and share your joy!

Linda

Sacrifice and Service, Remember them today!

Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor – December 7, 1941.  It began 81 years ago at 7:55 am.  If you have visited the Memorial over the sunken Arizona where the sailors are still entombed, you are sobered by their sacrifice.  War is a terrible thing yet through it men rise to honor and sacrifice for their fellow men.   Over 2,400 were killed and 1,000 wounded that day.  The most causalities occurred on the USS Arizona as it was hit 4 times by Japanese bombers.  A piece of trivia- 37 confirmed pairs or trios of brothers were assigned to the Arizona and this battle cost 62 of these 77 men their lives and 23 sets of brothers died.  I can’t imagine the grief those families suffered all in one day.   President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it as “a date that will live in infamy.”  Just like September 11, 2001 will live on in our minds so should December 7th.

05 Duty, Honor, Sacrifice

Say a prayer of gratitude today for the sacrifices of the men who died this day so long ago and for the men and women who continue to sacrifice their lives, time, talents and family time for our freedom.

Seeking to honor their sacrifice and service.

Linda