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December 28, 2003

The Blessing Is There All Along

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Genesis 22:13

The ram was there all along. It was Abrahamís obedience that revealed it.

Abraham faced the greatest challenge of his life. Isaac his son, the one promised to him, was to be sacrificed as a burnt offering. There is no indication that Abraham questioned Godís words. Early the next morning, Abraham was up and going, ready to obey. God requested, and Abraham responded. As they approached the site for the sacrifice, he appeared to believe that God would somehow restore Isaac; he told his servants, ďWe will worship and then we will come back to you.Ē But he didnít know for sure.

Interestingly, Abrahamís obedience came without record of an emotional struggle. But Iím certain that his heart must have been breaking. He must have wondered, ďDid I hear You correctly, Lord?Ē

Still, he bound his son and raised the knife. At that moment, God cried out again. Abraham passed the test. And as he looked up from Isaac, he saw the ram. It was there all along. He might have seen it before, but his focus was upon Godís command. He had been watching Isaac, his son, the one whom God had promised.

Lord, Your blessing is there all along. It is our obedience that reveals it.

Every day I face challenges and tests. They may not be as extreme as Abrahamís test, but they are important just the same. With every test, my heart is revealed. Will I love you, first? Will I obey without question? Iíd like to say I would, but You know the truth. You know how often I doubt and struggle to follow You. Even so, the blessing is there waiting for me to see it Ė waiting for my eyes to be opened by obedience.

Father, You know my heart. You see my obedience. You see my disobedience, and You love me still. Continue to reveal Your plan. Help me to see the blessings that await my response to Your requests. You are the God who sees. You are the God who reveals.

February 28, 2004

The Hard Way

Then the Lord said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?" Exodus 16:28

Some people just need to learn things the hard way. Moses was very clear with his instructions to the people; God had been very clear with him. The manna was for one day only. On the day before the Sabbath, more was gathered, and it would last for two days. But still, some had to learn the hard way. The manna that was kept for the next week day spoiled, and on the seventh day there was no manna to be gathered.

Moses grew angry. God grew angry.

Lord, as a parent I understand Your frustration. Some lessons are not easily learned by our children. They push the limits. They try to follow their own thoughts rather than our instructions.

I am the same. So many times in life, Your instructions are clear to me, yet I choose to learn the hard way. Help me, Father, to obey Your word. Help me to willingly accept Your instruction. Teach me to follow You.

April 6, 2004

To Please Him

It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Leviticus 1:13b

The rules of sacrifice seem almost unreal. To spill the blood of an animal and to burn the meat on an altar is such a foreign concept. I don't fully understand why it was necessary. But God established the sacrificial system for a purpose. It brought atonement, and more importantly, it pleased Him.

Sometimes, we simply need to look beyond our own selfish desires in order to please another. It takes work. It is a labor intensive process. The system of sacrifice reminds me of this.

Lord, help me to do whatever it takes to please You. Help me to step out of my comfort zone - to humble myself - to give and not worry about receiving anything in return.

April 19, 2004

As He Is Holy

"I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy." Leviticus 11:45

Holiness - to be set apart from the rest of the world - this is what God asks of us. Can we ever get there?

There are so many things in life that make our hearts unclean. Praise God, the blood of His Son can make us clean.

Lord, this challenge of being holy because You are holy is sometimes too great to bear. How do I keep it balanced? How do I seek holiness through what I do without making my action a god in itself? The Israelites eventually turned the Law into the focus, and they forgot You. As a Christian, I struggle with turning completely away from the Law to Your grace. Even Paul said Your grace is not a license to sin.

Help me to live a balanced life - one that is balanced by Your grace and my obedience. I love You, Lord. Help me to be holy as You are holy.

April 27, 2004

The Laundry List

"Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord." Leviticus 18:5

Obedience, restoration, and life.

How much am I willing to give in order to have a full and joyous life? We all seek it. Everyone wants to be happy. But how much are we willing to sacrifice?

God's laws sometimes seem like a laundry list of "do nots." It makes me weary just thinking about them - maybe because I've missed the mark on so much of the list. But letting go of the things that can destroy us - in the end - brings life... and happiness.

Lord, I keep getting hung up on the list of what I shouldn't do. Breaking one law makes me as guilty as breaking all of them. But Jesus changed all that. He fulfilled the law. His one act of sacrifice makes me fully forgiven.

Help me to cling to Your Word - to obey Your Word - and to be restored.

May 10, 2004

Count Me In!

"You and Aaron are to number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army." Numbers 1:3

God wasn't looking for volunteers. He expected that every able-bodied man would serve in Israel's army. Every family was counted except for the descendants of Levi, for they were to serve the Lord through care of the Tent of the Testimony. The Levites were given no choice; God had selected them. In truth, none could choose for their own.

Sometimes, I think there is too much emphasis placed on our free-will choice. Yes, following Christ is a choice. But God doesn't merely enlist volunteers to fight the good fight; He expects service from all His children. If we are counted among His followers, service is a requirement - not an option.

Lord, help me to see how You are calling me into battle. It isn't my choice - it is Your expectation. Your children are called to impact the world in the midst of this war with our enemy. I know you aren't asking for volunteers... but count me in!

May 20, 2004

When It Counts

At the Lord's command they encamped, and at the Lord's command they set out. They obeyed the Lord's order, in accordance with his command through Moses. Numbers 9:23

Every order God gave was followed. The Israelites moved or stayed at God's command. Obedience was becoming a way of life.

But I know the rest of the story. Eventually, these same obedient children would balk in fear when God called them to enter the promised land. These same people who obeyed every time God said to move would be moving about the desert for forty years until an entire generation was gone. Their obedience waned when it counted most, and they missed out on God's whole purpose. They never saw the success promised to them.

Lord, my obedience will only be worthwhile if I continue when it counts. Help me to stand strong against the enemy of my soul. My heart desires desertion. Give me the strength to fight in this battle. Sin cannot be the victor, for Jesus has already won!

June 18, 2004

Specific Instructions

"'But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.'" Numbers 33:55-56

When God's commands are specific, we would be wise to follow through completely. The Israelites received very specific instructions regarding the inhabitants of Canaan; they were to be driven out completely. If any remained, they would be trouble for the Israelites, and eventually God would drive out His own children.

Everything God said came to pass. And to this day, there are disputes in Israel.

Lord, I wonder what the world would have been like if the Israelites had followed Your instructions to the letter. How would it have changed Your plan? Would Jesus have come and died like He did? I wonder what You had in mind at the beginning.

Help me to hear Your instructions, Lord, then give me the strength and courage to follow through to completion.

July 7, 2004

What He Really Meant

See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:32

Why is God not enough sometimes? He laid out His law. If the Israelites would follow it, all would go well in their new homeland. Moses challenged them to not add to God's law, nor to take away from it.

Yet, in the name of theology, we add and take away. Too often, people seem to be saying, "God really meant to say this." How do we know?

It is in relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the One who completed the law. His blood provided the atonement - once and for all. His Spirit guides us into all truth.

Lord, help me to listen for Your words. Help me to add nothing to them and to take nothing from them. I need to hear your voice today.

July 8, 2004

In Addition or Instead?

... you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 13:3

Everyday is a test sometimes. It seems that the turn of every corner reveals another voice saying, "Follow me instead of Him." And somehow along the way, we are convinced that it's okay to follow these other voices "in addition" rather than "instead."

The truth is: either we follow God completely, or we aren't following Him at all. His grace covers even these times of rebellion, but if we are going to love Him with our whole heart and soul, it will require passing each test - rejecting each contradicting voice.

Lord, too often I fail the tests you send my way. Forgive my wanderings. Thank You for giving me the strength to pass a few from time to time. Help me to love You as I should.

July 12, 2004

Unselfish Giving

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your town may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. Deuteronomy 14:28-29

God made provision for the care of His chosen servants, the Levites, and the poor in Israel by requiring the tithe to be stored for them every three years. In this way, God would sustain the needy. He also chose to bless the giver. Giving was to be a part of life.

What is it about giving that brings us blessing? God seems to have special blessing held in reserve that is shared with unselfish givers. So if you seem to have lost His blessing, ask yourself, "When is the last time I unselfishly gave of myself?"

Lord, so much of my life has been filled with giving everything I have - at least all my energy - to my workplace and to my family, but I seem to have forgotten the joy and blessing that comes from giving to those outside of myself. Forgive me for losing focus. My emotions lately seem to be so focused inward. Help me to heal, so I might be able to live and give again with a pure heart.

July 16, 2004

Punishable by Death

The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. Deuteronomy 17:12

God takes righteousness pretty seriously. The Israelites were called to be different from the other nations. They were meant to seek the One True God only. Any who worshiped other gods or even showed contempt for God's priests were to be stoned to death.

In this day and age, stoning seems incredibly harsh. I don't know if I could follow through with it.

What God wants is our whole hearts. He knew how easily a nation could be turned from Him. It would take drastic measures to keep the nation from falling away.

Lord, help me to have Your zeal for purging the evil in my life. Help me to stone to death the thoughts and actions that turn me from You. Forgive me for not giving You my whole heart and mind. Make me holy as You are holy today.

August 26, 2004

Have I seen Him lately?

Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." John 14:23

There He goes again. Jesus was asked a question, and His answer doesn't seem to match. Judas (not Iscariot) asked Jesus why He intended to show Himself to His disciples and not to the world. Jesus responded by talking about obedience.

This seems to be one of those passages that requires us to dig deeper in order to understand. Judas asked his question after Jesus spoke of showing Himself to others. Jesus stated that He would show Himself to those that love Him. Just before this He said, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me."

There it is! The connection that makes His answer make sense. Judas asked why Jesus wouldn't show Himself to the world, and Jesus answers, "I will show myself to anyone! In order to see me, he must love me; in order to love me, he must obey my commands."

This brings another question to my mind... If I haven't seen Him lately, why not? Have I been loving Him through obedience?

Lord, I would never be able to obey Your commands without Your help, and I can never see You unless I obey. I guess what this says is: It's all about You! Praise Your Name, it's not about me.

Spirit, help me to obey. Help me to love. Show Yourself to me today.

October 1, 2004

Sowing Obedience

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 2 Corinthians 9:13

Do we comprehend the power of obedience? Not just in our own lives, but in the lives we encounter?

Oh, the witness it can be to those around us - to follow through with commitments - to remain true to one's vows - to do what it takes to keep it all together! These are the seeds of perseverance that bring a spiritual harvest, for where obedience is sown, hope abounds. To see God's grace lived out in the life of another can encourage a brother trapped by despair.

Lord, I am encouraged by those around me. They remain obedient in the toughest of circumstances. Like them, help me to be an encouragement to others. Help me to obey Your Word today.

October 8, 2004

Righteousness through Faith

Do we then nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. Romans 3:31

Have I ever understood the phrase, "righteousness through faith"? To me, righteousness seems to be something we achieve - someplace we can reach if we work hard enough at following the rules. This is a fundamental understanding that tends to be misunderstood in the extreme. When this premise is not fully understood, one is either to the far right or to the far left - a fundamentalist or a liberal. We tend to believe that either our works are important, or our faith is important. There really isn't much in between.

Or is it possible that it isn't an "either - or"? Maybe, it is a "both - and."

True righteousness is never about what we do. It is about who we are. My actions do not make me righteous. Jesus makes me righteous! My actions are merely a reflection of who I am. If I struggle to uphold the law, maybe I need a Savior after all.

Lord, change me from the inside - out. Let my actions reflect my heart. Let my heart be a reflection of You.

January 3, 2005

The Charmer's Tune

Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skilled the enchanter may be. Psalm 58:45

What an interesting picture of evil - like a cobra who refuses to listen to the tune of the charmer. Despite the charmer's skill, the snake has stopped its ears.

Despite the words of truth spoken by God Himself, evil and wicked men refuse to hear.

Lord, open my ears so I might hear Your tune. Draw me closer with Your beautiful melodies. Let my every move be synchronized with Your rhythms. Charm my spirit with Your wonderful truths. I long to dance in Your presence.

You are worthy of all our praise.

May 15, 2005

Hasten to Obey

I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. Psalm 119:60

When I am faced with the temptation to sin, do I quickly run from it? Or do I struggle for hours - or even days? Am I always quick to choose the right thing?

More often that I would like, I delay.

Lord, I confess that often I do not hasten to obey your commands. So many battles have been won, but still I find myself hesitating - contemplating whether I should follow You or the enemy. If only I could learn to make quick retreats or to immediately call for reinforcements, I might not find myself wounded as often. Help me to run to You.

May 29, 2005

Remembering the Law

Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law. Psalm 119:153

Can remembering the law be my deliverance?

Can upholding the law save me? Only if I could uphold it. And this is my downfall. I can never uphold it in my own strength.

The other day, a friend spoke to me of putting on the armor of God to protect us from the enemy. He was quick to point out that the armor is not "our" armor. It is God's armor. His armor is the only means we have to stand against the enemy.

The interesting thing is: nowhere in the list of God's armor can you find the law.

There is the belt of truth... Is truth the law? The law may be the truth, but the truth is not only contained in the law. Without Jesus - without God's grace, the law is incomplete. He came to fulfill it. It the law was the only component of truth, it could not be completed.

There is the breastplate of righteousness... Is righteousness the law? I prove everyday that righteousness cannot be attained by following the law, because I simply can't do it. Christ is my only righteousness.

There is the gospel of peace that we are to wear as shoes on our feet... Is the gospel the law? The gospel is the true story of God becoming a man, dying because of my sin, and rising from the dead to reign in the lives of those who will follow. The gospel is all about grace.

There is the shield of faith... Is faith the law? In some ways, faith is the opposite of the law. Faith is about believing and living out the law. Without works - without following the law, faith is dead. These may go hand-in-hand, but the law alone cannot save us.

There is the helmet of salvation... Is salvation the law? Praise the Lord, it isn't! In the law, salvation is impossible, yet in Christ, we are saved.

Father, I haven't been wearing Your armor. I have been so caught up in trying to attain deliverance through following a set of rules I can never follow. Too often, I put on my armor, the only armor I have: to escape and to medicate. It will never protect me, for my armor doesn't deflect the enemy's arrows. In fact, it attracts them! Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for allowing the old man - the man I was - to come visit. Help me to send him away. He cannot deliver me. Only You are my Deliverer.

May 30, 2005

Falling Down

Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. Psalm 119:165

I am so tired of falling down in this life. For months, it seems I can walk with the Lord, and the instant I divert my eyes or loosen my grip, the enemy trips me. If I am focused on His directions and on holding His hand, I will never end up face first on the ground. But if I look away, if I let go of Him, falling is a certainty.

His ways are the only paths upon which I cannot stumble.

Holy Spirit, I need Your help. Fill my heart with resolve to never look away from the Father's holy paths again. Give me the strength to hold the hand of Jesus, and when I am tired and weakened, never let go of me. Make me holy as You are holy.

September 2, 2005

Conditional Obedience

Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go." Judges 4:8

Conditional obedience. Why do we so willingly follow God's plan, as long as certain conditions are in place? When my children are grown - when I have control over this bad habit - when I feel better about myself... There are so many excuses for delaying our pursuit of God's will. God is not limited by us; He can accomplish anything through a mere thought, through a simple breath. Yet He chooses to work through the hand's of men.

Barak was a strong military leader. He led an army that broke the back of Jabin, the Canaanite king. For twenty years, the Canaanites had oppressed the Israelites. With nine hundred iron chariots, the Canaanites seemed invincible. But in one day, the Lord used Barak to rout every single man.

All except one, that is.

Barak's obedience was conditional. He agreed to fight, only if Deborah the prophetess would accompany him. This request was not what one would expect. Take a woman into battle? Did he lack faith in God's plan? Barak was a man of faith; his name is mentioned among the heroes of the faith in the book of Hebrews. But he missed out on the honor of killing Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army. This honor was given to a woman.

The conditions Barak placed upon his obedience didn't affect the outcome; Jabin's army was destroyed. What was changed, however, was Barak's part in it. Yes, he is commended for his faith, but he is also remembered for his lack of it.

Lord, forgive me for placing conditions on my obedience. To love You, I must obey You. So in truth, it is my love that is conditional. Help me to love with my whole heart. Give me the courage - despite the conditions.

October 21, 2005

A Change of Plans

"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. 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." 1 Samuel 15:20-21

Why do we ever try to reason our way out of disobedience? God knows. He knows exactly what He asked of us. He knows exactly what we did and didn't do. Yet somehow we believe He won't remember what He said.

God is not a man. When He sets an expectation, it will not be changed. Our attempts to change the plans are worthless. Our disobedience cannot be hidden from Him.

Lord, give me ears to hear Your commands and the strength to obey them completely. I have lived so much of my life in fear of others that I too often forget to fear You. Forgive my attempts to pursue Your will in my own way and not the way You planned.

Show me today what You plan. Help me to obey.

June 27, 2006

Righteous Indignation

But the Lord replied, "Have you any right to be angry?" Jonah 4:4

Righteous indignation...

Why does the church seem to think God picks and chooses who He will love? Many of His children have been fooled by the enemy; they have believed lies about what God thinks of them. Do our actions cause Him to hate us? He is perfect love. How could He be anything contrary to Himself?

The Lord is calling us to reach out with the hands of Christ to a dying world. Will we listen? Will we respond? Or will we be like Jonah - running from God's plan, only to find we can never escape it.

Lord, so many times I have, like Jonah, paid my fare and boarded the ship. The waves have risen and tossed me about, yet I have survived the storms. Your calling must be obeyed, or so much can be lost. If the people do not hear the truth, they will continue to die in disobedience. Give me the words to say and the courage to say them. Give me a heart that is filled with Your compassion.

Forgive my righteous indignation.

June 30, 2006

The Cause of His Suffering

Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. Mark 1:45

When is spreading the good news of Jesus Christ not a good idea?

When He tells you not to!

Jesus was just getting started. His ministry of truth and healing seemed to take off like a rocket, yet He still had a little privacy - until one man didn't do what Jesus had told him to do. A former leper couldn't keep his mouth shut, and Jesus suffered for it. This man had been healed from the greatest curse of his day. Leprosy made him an outcast, but Jesus changed all that. Now, he could reenter the world as clean and whole. But how is he remembered?

As one who caused Jesus to suffer.

As a result of this man's disobedience, Jesus could no longer enter a town but stayed outside in lonely places.

What was so wrong? Is it a bad thing to share how Jesus has healed you?

It is a bad thing when Jesus has told you otherwise. This former leper was told not to tell anyone but to go to the priest, so he could be declared clean. Yet in his excitement, he went about proclaiming himself as clean - and Jesus suffered.

Lord, give me ears to hear Your commands and a heart of obedience. You have healed me from some big curses, and I believe the day will come to proclaim it. Help me to do it on Your time table. I don't see the plan. I don't know the suffering it could cause by acting too soon. But You do. Keep whispering to me, and I will try to obey.

July 16, 2006

Nothing for Everything?

Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!" Mark 10:28

Following Jesus has never been an easy proposition.

Though they saw Him every day, it was no easier for His disciples. One day, He spoke some very difficult truths to a rich young man about how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God, and His disciples seemed to question the wisdom of following Him. I can practically hear Peter shouting, "Now, wait just a minute! We have given up everything to follow You - our family businesses, our reputations, our futures, and now You start saying we might not see Your kingdom!"

Jesus assured them that they would receive what was promised. The problem was: they didn't understand the promise. The Kingdom comes with great joy - along with persecution and heartache. Nothing that is worthwhile is obtained without sacrifice. Eternal life was only made available by death. It stands to reason that they only way to live for Christ is to die to ourselves.

Lord, like Your disciples, I sometimes question if this is all worth it. Will I sacrifice everything to gain nothing in return? My human nature is selfish. In truth, I want to grab it all - to fulfill my earthly desires - AND receive Your Kingdom. But I cannot have both. I long to see Your glory, but I know I cannot see if if my eyes are closed. Help me to trust You - to empty myself - and to wait upon You.

Rabbi, I want to see.

June 9, 2007

When Joseph Woke Up

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:24

Joseph was an honorable man. He had in his mind to divorce Mary because she wasn't carrying his child, but an angel appeared to him in a dream to reveal the truth. The child was from God alone.

What strikes me is the word "when." The verse reads, "When Joseph woke up..."

I take this to mean that the first thing Joseph did upon awakening was to get Mary. He didn't go about his day and contemplate what he should do. The Lord had spoken, and he responded.

How many times do I hesitate? How many times do I have to think it through to ensure it is really what God had in mind?

Lord, I want to be like Joseph, who heard Your command and responded - no questions asked. Help me to be a man who leaves a heritage of quick obedience for generations to come.

About Obedience

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Potter's Hand in the Obedience category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Mercy is the previous category.

Reflection is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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