Quick Obedience

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor

knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10

Have you ever read a newspaper column and wondered how the writer comes up with something new

to write about every day? I have! As a member of the group of volunteers who write daily devotionals for

our church website, I have learned one strategy that helps: when I get an idea for a story, I start writing

immediately.

Most of us who submit devotional material are not professional writers, just concerned Christians

who want to do all we can for the cause of Christ. I sincerely want my writing to be inspired by God, and

I pray to Him for divine guidance. When I become enthused over a particular assignment, I know I had

better start writing without delay. If I put it off, the enthusiasm tends to fade, and, unfortunately, so does

the quality of the final product.

As I thought about this, I realized that this principle of “quick obedience” applies to all aspects of the

Christian life. It reminds me of the saying I used to hear that “slow obedience is not obedience at all.” For

example, if God is leading us to witness to someone today and we choose to wait a while, it may not have

the same effect later. Worse yet, the task may seem more difficult then, and we may never get to it at all.

Have you ever thought of sending a card to someone in the hospital, only to put it off and later learn

that they are already back home? At the very least, the opportunity to cheer up that friend has been

missed, and perhaps the card would have had an even bigger effect if it had been sent when you first

thought of it. Or, maybe there is a restitution that needs to be made. This cannot wait; it needs to be done

now. For some of us, there may be a problem to straighten out between us and another person. This is

almost never easy, but it must be done—and the sooner the better. Even if we feel that we are right,

Scripture enjoins us to go to the other person and resolve the disagreement.

We could add all sorts of examples to this list. The point is that if we are following God, we must

show Him that we will act in a timely manner upon His leadings. Whatever we need to do, let us get

started quickly.

Brain Fade

“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought

how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same

hour what ye ought to say.” – Luke 12:11-12

How many of us have had an experience of forgetting something? At times it seems that the harder

we try to remember, the more elusive the answer is. A modern term for this problem is “brain fade.”

Someone told me about objects being absentmindedly put into the freezer, where they really did not

belong, and at times I have caught myself trying to put away something in a wrong place. Our minds are

on other things, apparently, when we make these mistakes.

Given how frustrating it can be to mislay an item and later realize we have done something foolish

with it, today’s focus verse should cause us all to breathe a sigh of relief! Not everyone is adept at

memorizing Bible verses, but God’s Word states that the Holy Spirit will bring Scriptures to mind when

we need them.

Years ago on my job, I experienced the promise in our focus verse firsthand. One young lady I

worked with believed that we all sin every day and have no power over it. She quoted to me the Bible

verse that says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I was only

seventeen years old at the time and not at all adept at quoting Scriptures to people. In fact, I had only been

a Christian for about two years. However, when she made this statement, the Lord brought to my mind

that the verse says “all have sinned,” not “all are sinning.” I do not know if she took this to heart when I

explained it to her, but I was glad to have the opportunity of letting her know what the Scripture meant.

Scripture is the most important thing for us to remember. It guides our pathway ahead, helps us to

keep from sinning, and tells us how God would have us to live. The Holy Spirit will bring the right words

to our minds when we need them, but He will also let us do our part by studying and meditating on His

Word regularly. With His promises hidden deep in our hearts, we will not have to fear spiritual “brain

fade.”

Boundaries

“The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” – Psalm 16:6

Where are the boundary lines? One of the first questions a prospective buyer asks when looking at a

piece of land concerns the boundaries. He wants to know the exact length and width of the property. He

feels more secure if he is shown the surveyor’s stakes.

More than one person has built without positively ascertaining the property lines, and learned to his

sorrow that he was on his neighbor’s land. Such mistakes can lead to loss of time and money—perhaps

even court action and financial loss. So it is easy to see how vital it is to know where the boundary lines

are . . . no guessing!

Boundary lines apply to Christians, too. God has set some limits and it is important to know where

they are and what is included. As we study His Word and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, He

will teach us what things are pleasing to Him and what things are “out of bounds.” As we learn about His

principles and obey them, we will see His blessing in our lives.

It is also important to know that these boundary lines are unchangeable and are for our good. God

created principles for us to live by at the beginning of time, and throughout the history of the world they

have not been altered. The same values that Abraham held are the ones that you and I must also embrace.

And how thankful we are for them! Living by the teachings of the Bible prevents us from experiencing

much of the pain and heartache that exists because of sin. In His love, God shows us the simple path that

leads to peace, joy, and contentment on earth.

God’s lines are well-defined and eternal. If we stay within the boundaries of His Holy Word, we will

reap the benefits of the goodly heritage that He has provided for all His children.

Great Joy

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” – Matthew 2:10

The Christmas season will soon be upon us. It is a wonderful, exciting season, especially for the

redeemed of the Lord. Before I gave my heart to Jesus, Christmas time did not really mean anything to

me. I did not even look forward to it, because I did not have a relationship with the Son of God. Then, as

a young woman, one Sunday morning in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I knelt before the Lord and He washed

away my sins. Like the Wise Men that saw the star, I also rejoiced with exceeding great joy!

Many years have come and gone since that time, but each year I look forward to the wonderful, holy

time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Just as the Wise Men rejoiced in anticipation of salvation to

come, we rejoice looking back on our own salvation made possible through Jesus’ birth and crucifixion.

And not only did this Gift bring us salvation, but also access to the holy of holies, an intimate relationship

with our Creator, healing for our bodies, and many blessings besides. What joy we feel when we go to

God’s house, sing the beautiful carols, and lift our hearts in prayer and thanksgiving to Him for sending

us His Son!

Yes, Christmas is truly a joyous time as we meet with family and friends, and we look forward to

those occasions. But more wonderful is the fact that God sent His only begotten Son into the world to

redeem mankind. Because He came, each one of us can know His redeeming grace and experience the joy

of salvation! As we anticipate the coming Christmas season, may our focus be to rejoice as the Wise Men

did when they saw Jesus’ star, and as we did on the day we were saved. That is what this season is for.

Heavenly Father, Thank You for sending us Your precious Son so we can have eternal life. Thank You for

the hope we have of being forever with You and Your Son for all eternity.

Walking by Faith

“Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines.” – 1 Samuel 9:15-16

The first time in my life that I felt seriously concerned about a decision I had to make was when I was thinking about which college to go to. I knew that my decision would impact many parts of my life—the people I would live with, the professors and students I would work with, my future career, and even more things that I could not foresee. So much was on the line! More than anything, I wanted the Lord to direct my decision. I earnestly prayed about it and waited for an answer. And waited . . . and waited. To my disappointment, God never said, “Thou shalt attend George Fox University,” or any of the four other schools where I had applied. I thought God would be forced to give me an answer in April of my senior year, when schools send out acceptance and rejection letters, but instead I learned that I had been placed on three waiting lists! Month after month I waited on God, all the while wondering why He did not just tell me what school I would go to. It was not until late July—only about a month before my classes would begin—that I knew for sure which college I would attend. For a while after that experience, I continued to be frustrated by important decisions. I thought that if I drew closer to God, He would tell me what He had planned for my life, and then I could finally stop worrying about it. However, that was not the way God led me to find the right roommate, major, job, or anything else. Instead, I would pray, worry and wait, and then at the last minute something would come up that was clearly God’s plan. The more I saw God come through for me, the less I fretted over my decisions, but I still wondered what I had to do to get a little more notice from God. Just as I was becoming accustomed to the idea that God may not ever give me much notice on important choices, I read the story about how God led Samuel to anoint Israel’s first king, Saul. I was so surprised to read that God told Samuel “a day before Saul came.” I could not believe it! The Prophet Samuel—the holy man of God—got one day’s notice? I then realized that if Samuel was not “in the loop,” I would never be in the loop. And this, actually, was a relief! I finally understood that I do not have to seek God until He spells out the answer to every question I have; I can just take my concerns to Him and then trust that He will answer—in His time. I may not know what will happen until the very moment I need an answer, but God is faithful and I can trust that He will provide the answer. I do not think Samuel was the type to worry or fret about decisions, and that was clearly not because God told him everything that would ever happen to him. Samuel did not know the details, but he had peace because he knew the outcome: God’s will would be done. If we pray until we know that, we will have peace too.

Living on top of Circumstances

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” – 

Philippians 4:11

One of my all-time greatest Thanksgiving Day memories took place many years ago when I was a college student, living with my mother and young sister. The house was a mess, for we had just moved to a different home and had not had time to unpack. Rather than celebrate Thanksgiving in these unsettled conditions, we decided to pack a meal and go up into the mountains and eat picnic-style at a campground. We fixed a nice dinner with roast turkey, stuffing, baked yams, Jello with fruit in it, and I cannot remember what else. Placing all of this in paper bags and a cardboard box, we loaded up my old jalopy and headed for the hills. The day was cold and blustery, with intermittent rainsqualls. Unfortunately for us, my old car did not have a heater, so to be comfortable in it, one had to dress warmly. To make things worse, my car was in desperate need of a new radiator. Consequently, it boiled over several times on the way up. Finally, I did not feel it would be prudent to drive any higher, so we parked in the visitor’s parking lot at Mud Mountain Dam. As I recall, ours was the only car in the parking lot, and of course, there was no view at all out of our car windows, because the rain on the outside coupled with the steam on the inside had completely obscured them. Despite all of this, we had a wonderful time. We all loved the Lord. We enjoyed each other’s company. And the food was great. Basically, the key to our enjoyment of that day was that we were determined not to let “circumstances” spoil our joy. As someone has said, we were determined not to live “under” the circumstances, but rather “on top” of them. Or as in the words of Paul, we were determined to be content in whatever state the Lord had allowed us to be. Today, I drive a much nicer vehicle than the jalopy I spoke of, and I have had many wonderful Thanksgiving meals down through the years, served in warm, comfortable surroundings. Yet, I still look back fondly to that day at Mud Mountain Dam, when God came down and blessed us as we ate—we were content. Let contentment be a hallmark of your life no matter the circumstances in which you find yourself.

Just say thanks

“What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.” – Psalm 116:12-13

A number of years ago, I worked with a young man named Curt. I remember clearly something he once said to me: “You don’t take compliments very well.”

He had previously offered to me a simple compliment and somehow, in my desire not to appear conceited or proud, I had said enough negative things about myself to make him sorry he had ever bothered to compliment me. He had not really asked for a sermonette on my human frailty; he was just trying to be courteous and appreciative. At a later time, my pastor clarified what to do in cases like this. He told us that if someone complimented him, perhaps on a recent sermon, he would respond, “Thank you.” How simple!

From time to time people will, out of the goodness of their hearts, say something nice to you or perhaps go out of their way to show you kindness. They may even give you a gift—something that is appropriate for your relationship with them. How helpful it is to know that all that is expected of us in these situations is to accept what is offered (whether it is words or something more tangible), and to thank the giver in a way that shows we really mean it.

There is a similar lesson in our key verse. Some might wonder how to receive answers to prayer from God. “I am just an ordinary person,” they might say, “and I don’t see how God could ever do a miracle  for me.” They might wonder what great deed they must do to impress God, or if they are just not good enough to ever please Him. Sadly, some people who think this way never realize how God wants to work on their behalf. They just go on, bemoaning their unworthiness, and never accepting the free promises in

God’s Word.

The fact is that none of us is perfect. None of us deserves God’s love, but in spite of this, God loves us! He does not ask some heroic deed from us; all He asks is that we simply obey Him and accept what He has provided for us. In fact, just taking the “cup of salvation” and calling on His name is very pleasing to Him. Then, when He does bless us, we need to tell Him, “Thank You,” from the bottom of our hearts.

Today is the Day

“For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

2 Corinthians 6:2

A while back, I made plans to purchase new furniture for my home office. After doing some research

and reviewing my budget, I finally decided what pieces I would buy and just how they would all fit into

my room. To sweeten the deal, I had a coupon for a substantial discount, based on points I had earned

from an office super store.

At last the day came to head for the store and make my purchases. I picked up the coupon, intending

to put it in my wallet—and stared at it in horror. It had expired the day before! NO! Thoroughly disgusted

with myself, I decided to go to the store anyway, and see if I could persuade them to accept the coupon.

“Is there any way I can still use this?” I asked, handing the coupon to the cashier. She studied it for

a moment, and then replied, “No, I am sorry. It is expired.” I asked about possible deals that were not

advertised. “Are there any discounts available at all? Of any kind?” Again, the answer was no. I left the

store disappointed, realizing that I was going to have to re-think my budget. My sweet deal was no longer

available, and I had no one to blame but myself. If only . . .

It is disappointing when we miss out on something because of neglect or inattention to an established

time or date. However, it generally is not a life-or-death matter. We get over our disappointment and in

most cases, we can remake our plans. However, today’s focus verse speaks of the importance of “now”

when it comes to spiritual issues.

God offers salvation to all people, but many put off yielding their lives to Christ, thinking there will

be a better time. That is incredibly dangerous! They could easily miss their opportunity altogether by

neglecting to accept the mercy and grace of God.

Even after we have given our hearts to God and are serving Him, it may be possible to postpone

making a consecration or yielding something in our lives that God is calling from us. We must not let

anything distract us from responding to God now. Today is the day to make sure every consecration is up to date!

Using Faith

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Lately, I have spent some time thinking about the subject of faith, and have come to the conclusion that most of what we do takes faith. When we sit down at the computer to use the internet, we expect, or have faith, that we will be able to send and receive the information we need. When we buy an airline ticket, we have faith we will be able to go to the airport and fly where we have planned to go. When wego for a walk, we have faith we will come back again.

These situations show us that faith is something we learn. When we realize that certain events always unfold in the same way, we learn to trust that pattern. Our faith is increased when a belief proves true repeatedly, and our faith is greatly increased if a belief is tested under extraordinary circumstances and still proves true. If the belief were never tested, there would be no way to know if it were right.

Our focus verse says that to please God, we must have faith in Him and trust that what He says is true. Some people may say, “I just can’t believe,” or, “I just don’t have the faith to believe that.” Of course, no one has all faith, but when the Lord saves us, He plants a measure of faith in each of ourhearts. If we will let Him, He will continually build upon that little seed of faith.

Do you want to know a sure way to increase faith in God? In Romans 10:17 we read, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The more we study God’s Word and come tounderstand His greatness, love, mercy, and overshadowing protection, the more our faith grows. After welearn about His promises and goodness in Bible examples, we increase our faith even more by exercising those beliefs in our daily living. We start with small concerns, such as traveling mercies or strength for a trying situation, and as we see the pattern of God always answering, we will eventually learn to trust Godin every situation. The more we seek God and ask Him to undertake in our lives, the more our faith willgrow.

Some people seem to have loads of faith. We sometimes sing a song which says, “God said it, I believe it, and that is good enough for me.” That is a good attitude! The Bible is full of examples of thosewho walked by faith—Noah, the Hebrew children, and Daniel, to name a few. They trusted in God, and God did not fail them. He will not fail us either. Trusting God is a choice and it is the best one we can make

True Vine

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. . . . Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” – John 15:1,8

I love blueberries. When I learned that they were easy to grow in my area, it was not long until I had planted five bushes. Eagerly, I watched for blossoms and then fruit. It took a while, but by the third season, my spindly little plants had grown into fruit-bearing bushes. Their creamy-white blossoms brought beauty every spring, and were followed by plump, juicy berries in the summer. By the fifth year, the mature bushes were loaded with enough berries for the neighbors as well!

Those bushes always produced blueberries, and only blueberries. The fruit was simply an outgrowth of the kind of bush I had planted. An appropriate amount of plant food kept the bushes vigorous, and some judicious pruning made them stronger and healthier. I enjoyed an abundant harvest every year that I lived in that location.

The Bible teaches that people also produce fruit. The fruit of our lives is manifested both in personality and in actions; it is an outgrowth of who we are. The Master Gardener looks for the fruit of righteousness in our lives, but we cannot produce it by ourselves. We need to be connected to Jesus Christ, the True Vine, and then we need to choose the right nutrients to nourish the inner man. Our Father has endless resources to commit to our well being, but it is our choice to utilize them. We can feed our souls with His Word, the fellowship of the saints, and communion with Him, or we can allow ourselves to be sidetracked by the things of this world that hold a promise of happiness but never satisfy. If we stay attached to the True Vine and constantly nourish our souls with His nutrients, the outgrowth in our lives will always be the fruit of His Spirit.

The sharp pruning instrument of His discipline also encourages the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” And we have a part to play in this process, too. Our part is to respond positively to His discipline (see Hebrews 12:11). When we submit to His correction, we will be stronger Christians for it.

The Master Gardener is interested in upgrading the quality and quantity of the fruit in our lives. By His grace, and through His mercy, we can bring forth much fruit for His glory.