Following Jesus Requires Obedience

As we continue our series on following Jesus, our Scripture today reminds us that we must be obedient to what Jesus is asking us to do, and that means even when it is difficult or what we are not comfortable with.  1 Peter 1:14-16 says, “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” (NLT)

There are times when God calls us to step out in faith and do something that is so far beyond our comfort zone, that I think some of us tend to say, “Wait a minute Lord, I can’t do that!”  It reminds me of Moses.  God called him to rescue the Children of Israel from Pharaoh and take them out of Egypt,(Exodus 3) and Moses protested, saying that he couldn’t do it because he didn’t talk well when in reality, I believe he was afraid.   When it boils down to it, I think that’s where we are when we say we can’t.  We are walking in fear instead of faith, and we don’t obey the call to a mission He has given to us.

Peter reminds the early church that we must live holy lives and must be obedient to what God calls us to, whether it be a ministry, or asking us to conduct our lives in righteousness.  Obedience is key.  Peter says we are not to live to satisfy our desires, but we are to live to seek God’s desire for us.  What does He ask of us?  “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8 KJV) In following Jesus, we should walk in an upright manner, our actions, speech, and attitudes should be just.  Our lives should show mercy to others with love in our hearts for them and if they are unbelievers, our hearts must break for their lost condition.  Our lives ought to be an example of how God wants us to live, as we show our love for them in everything we do and say.  As examples, we are to follow God with humility, not with an attitude of, “Look at me, I’m a Christian, I’m better than you.”  Nothing will drive an unsaved person away quicker than a “holier than thou” attitude.

When God calls us out to step into a new arena, yes, it can be scary.  Our knees are knocking, and we can feel fear rising.  But we also know that God has promised not to abandon us. (Hebrews 13:5) He will help us take that first step of obedience.  Remember, obedience means we are dying to our selfish desires and accepting the task God is asking us to take up.  One way to remember this is to look at the word, “obedience.”  Obedience.  See the word inside the word?  The word, “die” is tucked inside the word, “obedience.”  We are to die to self and turn to Christ and follow Him, and we are to do this with an attitude of humility, just as Christ was humble. 

Is God asking us to witness to others and tell them what Jesus has done for us?  He will help us. He will give us the courage to open our mouths and share with them the love of Jesus.  Is He asking us to take a new job?  Is He asking us to move clear across the country?  I’ve been in all those situations (I had to move across the country twice!) …and yes, I was scared to death. But He helped me put one foot in front of another and I now know why I had to walk those paths.  As I was obedient in each of those cases, my faith became stronger, I learned something new.  I learned about myself and I learned about the faithfulness of God.  Being obedient to the call of God brings peace and a life that is full because we have obeyed the voice of the Lord.

Following Jesus Even When it’s Hard

Sometimes, following Jesus isn’t the easiest thing to do. Life seems to get in the way, plans that we’ve worked so hard to bring to fruition change, sometimes, it seems we’re slogging through knee-deep mud, and life just isn’t fun anymore.

Some of Jesus’ disciples found this out. They had seen Jesus feed 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread, and they’d seen Him walk on water! They must have thought that life was going to be cushy walking with Jesus. They were more concerned with what He could give them.

Then He began to tell them that walking with Him wasn’t always going to be easy. He tells them that instead of being concerned about their physical food, they should be more concerned with their Spiritual food. He begins talking about how He is the bread of life and that no one can come to God, the Father, except through Him. They’re still thinking of the food they got when He fed the 5,000, and they ask for a sign. They want Him to do something for them and then they would believe in Him. Then Jesus begins to tell them about how He must become our sacrifice with His death on the Cross and they must partake in His suffering. Then in John 6:66, the Bible says, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” When things got hard, they walked away.

Back when I was a teenager, there was a popular song playing on the radio, “Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson. The song isn’t a Christian song, but one phrase in that song has stuck with me when I think of what God has promised when we walk with Him. The phrase says, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” God never said that walking with Him would always bring us sunshine, roses, and no problems. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we have planned, or situations hit us so hard that we lose our balance and get knocked off our feet.

It is during those times when our commitment to Jesus really shows up. What do we do when all we’ve worked so hard for falls completely apart? What about when we’ve asked God for something and prayed so hard for and He says “no”? What about when we’ve been persecuted by unbelievers? How do we react? Following Jesus means staying with Him even in the hard times. It means sticking to our commitment to follow Him.

It is during those times that we need to hold on to His hand all the tighter. It is then that we need to draw closer to Him. God promises that when plans change or life gets hard, He will be with us. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV) Don’t get disillusioned or be so easy to give up.

Ok, so things aren’t going the way we want, are we going to just throw our hands up and say, “Forget it!”? The hard times not only help us in that they strengthen our faith, but they also build our character and teach us to rely on God.

There have been times in my life when I have wanted to just chuck it all and say, “Forget it!”, but when I really thought about it, there was nowhere else to go. My only hope in those difficult days was at Jesus’ side. When I look back at those days, I see how walking with Him has made me stronger in my faith, and when the next difficulty came along, I was better able to withstand that trial than the struggle before. It is when we are in the valley that we grow, not on the mountain top. It is also then that we learn how faithful He is, and we learn how much He loves us.

Don’t Be Afraid to Step Out

As we look at having a vision, sometimes we can be paralyzed in fear before we even begin to work toward accomplishing that vision. In today’s Bible Journaling verse, we find that fear can stop us before we start. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (NASB) As a little background, Moses had died, and Joshua was now the leader of the Israelites. They were standing at the banks of the Jordan River about to cross into the Promised Land. God is encouraging Joshua not to be afraid to lead the people and cross over the Jordan. Why should he not be afraid? God tells Joshua, “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

When we start out to reach the goal of accomplishing the vision God has placed in front of us, fear can arise in us. Fear comes from the enemy, not from the Lord. Satan sits on our shoulder and tells us all the reasons why we can’t, why the mission will fail, others will think badly of us, and on and on it goes. These are all lies straight from the pit of Hell. We have nothing to be afraid of because God is with us. He has placed the vision in our hearts, and He will be the one to help us to achieve the goals set before us to see the vision come to pass. The Bible tells us 365 times, “Fear not!” That’s one verse for every day!

I truly believe that fear is the most damaging to Believers. It stops us in our tracks! We don’t move forward, we stand still, and if we are standing still, we aren’t growing, we are dying, we are stagnating in our walk with the Lord. The vision dies before it begins.

So, how do we conquer the fear that grips us and keeps us from the vision God has given us? Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (KJV) Our first action should be to pray! As we begin to experience fear of even stepping out to accomplish the vision, we need to pray and ask God to help us, to take away the fear. Sometimes that means to pray with every step.

We conquer fear by exercising our faith. Faith that God will help us, faith that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13 KJV) As we begin to experience faith rising in us, we can step out in faith and “Let Your Faith Be Bigger Than Your Fear!” This phrase has surfaced within the past few years and I love it! It reminds me that my faith in God and what He can do is bigger than any fear that may well up in my soul. God speaks to us and reminds us that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

God is our biggest cheerleader and He wants to see us accomplish the vision He has placed in us. The vision, whether it may be for a godly home and marriage, a ministry to reach the lost, or begin a new business, whatever it may be, is something He wants to see us be successful in and will bring glory to His name. As He is given glory, we become the light for others to see Jesus. We become witnesses of what He can do in a surrendered life and we become that sweet fragrance to the world that God loves them, and He can change their lives and put a vision in them as well.

Today, step out toward the vision, let others see how God is working in your life, and accomplish that which He has destined for you.

Freedom from Fear

Fear. It’s something each of us deals with. Some people are enslaved by fear to the point that they won’t step out and tackle something new. Some are afraid of something that may happen to them. Some are so fearful that it paralyzes them emotionally and sometimes physically. Our Bible Journaling comes from 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (KJV) Notice the verse says that God has not given us the spirit of fear. Fear comes from the enemy!

Satan’s whole purpose is to “kill, steal, and destroy.” (John 10:10) He wants to derail us in our walk with the Lord. He wants us so paralyzed in fear that we become ineffective witnesses for Christ, and our lives are in bondage to the fear that holds us. On Sunday, my Pastor spoke about how Satan speaks to us, telling us we are less than what God says we are, degrading us, telling us we can’t do this because….” In the process we become bound by what the enemy is telling us because we allow him to demean us in our minds. We can be locked up in fear.

But our verse tells us that God has not given us the spirit of fear. Instead He gives us power, love, and a sound mind. Fear can be debilitating to the point of becoming a psychological disorder. Some people are afraid of being out in crowds or around people, that is called agoraphobia, and they are holed up in their houses, afraid to step outside. I have never experienced that kind of fear, but I do have a fear.

I am totally deaf in one ear due to an illness I had as a child. My fear is that I will lose my hearing totally in my good ear and go completely deaf. To this day I don’t like being in totally quiet rooms, I must have noise, the radio or TV, in the background. A few years ago, I experienced an ear infection that was so bad that I lost a part of my hearing in my good ear. My husband could stand next to me and yell in my ear and I could barely hear him. It scared me badly. I experienced the closest thing to being totally deaf, the thing I feared the most, and I was in a panic. Praise God for His healing and antibiotics and medication to clear the ear infection. I did regain my hearing, however; my hearing was diminished a little. I’ve worn hearing aids for about 30 years, and my hearing continues to decline. Losing my hearing completely is still a fear, but God has helped me through that experience, and it no longer is as strong of a fear as it was before. I have learned a little sign language, so that I will be able to communicate with others. I’m grateful for friends who are sign language interpreters and help me out when I don’t understand something. I’ve also learned to read lips a little.

There are other types of fear that can cause us to step back and not be who we are called to be. We can also be fearful to step out into an area of growth that God is calling us into. We must believe that we are who God says we are. We must remember that it is God who gives us the ability to do what He has called us to. When I first started doing my blog, I was very hesitant. Several years ago, a prophetic word, that I was to begin journaling and I would be ministering to others, was spoken over me. First, I had never had a prophetic word spoken over me before and I wasn’t sure just how to take it. After consulting with my Pastor and talking to some others about what I felt God was leading me to, I launched out. It has been a slow beginning, but I am now beginning to see some rewards, small ones, but rewards none the less. I had to believe that I was able to do what God said I could do and not allow fear to stop me from being obedient to step into my calling.

We must go to God’s Word to reaffirm what He says about us. Romans 8:37 tells us that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (NASB) God promises that He will not forsake us. (Psalm 37:25) Ephesians 4:8 tells us that He leads us out of slavery. “Wherefore he saith ‘When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men.’” (KJV) Philippians 4:3 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB) Jesus gives us the strength and helps us to step out into whatever it is that we need to do.

We can follow God and His call on our lives because He does not give us the spirit of fear, He frees us from it. All we need to do is allow Him to free us from that fear and surrender it to Him.

Unshakeable Confidence

 

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Psalm 3:3-6, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of thousands of people who have taken their stand against me on every side.” (CSB) This passage was written by David as he was fleeing his son, Absalom. Absalom wanted to take over David’s throne and become king. Despite being on the run and having those in Israel who were favorable toward Absalom come against him, David still had confidence in God.

God had him anointed and placed on the throne of Israel. David could rest and not be worried or concerned because he knew that God was in control of everything and God had his back.

Worry can be disabling. It can cause sleepless nights, physical ailments, and take away our peace. But when we have confidence that God has everything under His control, that He sees our path beginning to end, we can have peace, we can rest. I love how David says, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me.” (verse 5) He could sleep at night in peace. Absalom had an agenda and desired to take David out so that he could become king, and David kept his confidence that God would settle the matter in His own time and way. He even says he is not afraid of those who are coming against him! That is Unshakeable Confidence!

I am not necessarily a worrier, however; there are times I can become concerned or even worry a little bit about a situation. I try not to let it get me to the point of being overwhelmed with worry, but I can have that situation uppermost in my mind, and it can always be there in my thoughts. If I don’t stop and pray about the situation, give it to God, and then trust Him to work it out for my good, then I become miserable.

God gives us His promise that when we pray, He will listen and answer. I John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (NASB) When we pray, He will hear and answer! That is our confidence!

God also gives us confidence to step out in faith when He has given us direction into an area that is not in our comfort zone. Doing new things can be scary, but God is orchestrating things in our lives to make us more like Him, to become a vessel that He can use in bringing others to faith in Jesus. Knowing He is directing my steps gives me confidence that I can do what He is asking me to do. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB) As Believers, we know this verse and quote it quite often, but we never really pay attention to that little word in the middle of the verse…all! There is nothing we can not do when we put our trust and confidence in Christ. Everything is possible through Jesus!

So, as we look at placing our confidence in God, step out in faith, rely on His leading, rest in peace that He knows what is best for us, and He will always walk with us!

 

Confidence is Mediated by the Holy Spirit

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Ephesians 1:13-14, “In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.” (CSB) The Holy Spirit’s purpose is not only to draw us to Jesus, but to help us in our daily walk with the Lord. One way He helps us is in assisting us to have confidence in God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Our confidence is then mediated by the Holy Spirit. Mediation, in this instance, is defined as “intervention in a process of relationship; intercession. The Holy Spirit helps us have confidence in Jesus, He encourages us to step forward when God is leading us into territory that is unfamiliar. As an example, when I felt God calling me to begin to minister through a blog, I was very hesitant. I didn’t know the first thing about blogging, didn’t even know how to begin. The Holy Spirit, through the counsel of my Pastor and others who journal and blog, encouraged me to begin. It was a slow beginning, and in some ways, it still is. But, without the prompting of the Holy Spirit to step out of my comfort zone, I would never have begun my ministry through Bible Journaling and this blog. I don’t claim to be an organized ministry to the point of being incorporated or needing licensing or any of the things full-time ministries do, but to the few that read my journaling, I am endeavoring to minister hope, healing, salvation, and encouragement. I have no grand ideas that my blog will develop into some huge ministry with thousands of followers. I am content to share with those who find my blog or read my entries on Facebook. God never said it would be earth shattering, but it is what He has called me to do, and I pray that it influences the tiny corner of the world I reach.

There may be something that God is calling you to do, but you have been hesitant to step out in faith. It’s scary beginning something new. However, if you truly feel God is leading you to begin something you are not accustomed to doing, rely upon the encouragement of the Holy Spirit and the confidence that God will guide you in the way you are to proceed. Is God calling you to minister in your church? It may not be something as prominent as singing or playing on the worship team or teaching a Sunday School class, but there are other positions that are needed in the church, that a lot of times, must be done by the pastor because no one else will step up. His or her calling is to be the shepherd of the congregation, not the janitor. Maybe there is a need for nursery duty or hospitality. Our church has a dear lady who quietly ministers by sending cards to those in our church who need encouragement. She sends our pastor something almost every week to help him and lift him up. He needs that little push to be able to minister to us. That is her ministry! Something like that, even though it seems so trivial, can be just the thing to help someone who is struggling.

The Holy Spirit seals us so that we have the assurance that we belong to God, and because of this, we have confidence that whatever God has for us in our walk with Him, we know that it is for our good, and will help us to grow daily as we seek to live our lives in glory and honor to Him.

God is Able

 

Today we’re looking at II Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need you will abound in every good work.” (NIV) The New American Standard Bible (NASB) says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” What jumped out at me is, GOD IS ABLE!

That is such an encouragement for me. No matter what I’m going through, God is able! He is able to bless me above anything I can even dream of, He is able to hold me tight when I am going through a trial, He is able to guide me in wisdom, HE IS ABLE!

What a blessing to know that I don’t walk this walk alone, He is with me! I have Pandora on at the moment, and a little bit ago, it was playing, “Good, Good Father”, and that song just resonated with me. He is able because He loves me, and He is a good Father who desires to give me all that is good for me. When discouragement hits me, He is there to bring encouragement and remind me that I have peace, joy, grace, and salvation through Him and Him alone. When I am burdened, He is there to lighten the load, for He tells me to “take my yoke upon me and learn of me.” (Matthew 11:29 KJV)

As I write this, my heart is heavy. In the middle of working on this post, my sister emailed me to let me know that my nephew is in the hospital after a heroin overdose, and he almost died. How “on time” God is…to remind me that He is able, and then to hear news that could shake my foundation of faith in Him if it weren’t for that reminder that “He is able!” He can take my nephew and turn him 180° in the opposite direction, save his life, physically and spiritually, and set him on a new course. My faith in God is not shaken. I’ve already put my nephew on a couple of prayer boards, and I’ve heard from so many who have said they’ve been there, and sent me encouragement, and are praying for my family. How good God is to surround us with a body of Believers who uphold each other in prayer, give encouragement, and sometimes even wrap their arms around us physically to keep us on our feet.

That is such a great blessing from God! I am so grateful to Him for His care. He knows right where I am. He knows what is heavy on my heart, He knows just what I need, He knows! We do not serve a God who is distant from us, nor unconcerned with our lives and what we experience. He loves us with an everlasting love, He walks with us, His desire is to bless us immeasurably, and He is faithful!

As I just looked at the verse again, I notice it says that He is able to bless us abundantly so that at ALL TIMES we have what we need. Do you need encouragement? He is able. Do you need healing? He is able. Do you need financial freedom? He is able. Do you need peace? He is able. Do you need your marriage restored? He is able. Do you need chains broken? He is able. Whatever your need is…HE IS ABLE!

My friends, even in the depths of despair, GOD IS ABLE! Take courage and gain strength in the knowledge that God is able no matter what your situation. Reach out to Him and give Him whatever it is you need for Him to do for you. Remember, “the God of Angel Armies is always by your side!”