Friday, June 15, 2007

When Is Disobedience Not Really Disobedience?

Could there actually be something worse than disobeying God by being an obstinate whiny brat? I believe there is. And God has been showing me that not only does this insidious phenomenon exist, but that many times I have been the poster child for this kind of rebellion without even knowing it. Let me explain.

We all know what it means to just flat out disobey the directives of God. I hope by now you have all reads the book of Jonah.
“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish. Jonah 1:2-3 (NLT)

Of course, God let Jonah have a brief stay in the Big Fish Hotel for a couple of days to rethink his decision. We’ve all done that, haven’t we? We have all heard what we believe to be God telling us something to do, and yet we didn’t do it.

I love the story my friend Paul told me about being in a line at a bank behind a lady carrying a baby. He said that he heard the small voice of God telling him to say to the lady that her baby was going to be alright. He didn’t do it and felt horrible after the window of opportunity had passed. Then God said that it was OK. He was going to use another servant to get that message to her. But Paul had missed out on a blessing.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you felt like you should call someone, or pick up a stranded motorist, or speak a much needed encouragement to another person…and didn’t do it? Then you feel horrible because you know that you disobeyed? I have, many times.

Another friend of mine Scotty the body was at a gas station when a poor motorist asked him for money for gas. He said “Sorry, all I have is a credit card”. WHAT??? He knew that it was lame and felt bad the next day as he relived the story for me. There is a definite blessing in being obedient to God.


In the amazing book “My Utmost for His Highest”, Oswald Chambers says that the counterfeit of obedience is self sacrifice. What’s worse than being rebellious is disobeying by doing other good works. It is because we deceive ourselves into thinking that we were being obedient servants. Ponder that for a second. “Sorry God. I would speak to that lady but I’m busy reading your word”. “Sorry God. I can’t give to that poor motorist because I have to tithe”. Get the picture?

The greatest example of this in the Bible is King Saul in 1 Samuel 15. It is an amazing story. Here is the directive from God by way of Samuel the prophet:
“Samuel also said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD…Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” 1 Samuel 15:1-3

And Saul went and did what the Lord commanded him to do. Well almost….
“But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” 1 Samuel 15:9

Samuel asked Saul if he obeyed and his response was that HE DID. Samuel asked him about the sound of all the livestock that he heard. And here is the conversation that they had:
“Why haven’t you obeyed the LORD? Why did you rush for the plunder and do what was evil in the LORD’s sight?” “But I did obey the LORD,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” 1 Samuel 15:19-23

What is wrong with giving all the good stuff to God? What is wrong with offering sacrifices that please God? NOTHING! Unless doing so is disobedience by self sacrifice. And God is very serious about obedience in his servants.

There have been times when I didn’t do something I knew God wanted me to do because I was too busy “discipling” someone, or ushering at church, or leading a men’s accountability group. All of those are good works for God. But Samuel said it best: obedience is better than sacrifice.

Are you being totally and completely obedient to what God wants you to do? Or has the counterfeit of obedience, self sacrifice crept in? Ask God. He will tell you.



Monday, June 04, 2007

Four Years Later, God Showed Up!

I have been on a total 24 hour high because of some news I received. Rimma Palangian was saved yesterday. I guess I should not be any happier than when any other lost person comes to know the Lord. But Rimma was different. Her case was special to me.

I met her when I enrolled in UTA to take Russian language classes. She was my professor, and she was unlike any other college professor I ever had. I instantly fell in love with her. She was hard yet caring, and would push each student to the limits of their learning capacity. She was tough, and many people would drop her classes. But there was a softer underbelly that would occasionally show itself to her students.

Rimma had a very hard life. She was born in Soviet Russia and worked as a translator for the KGB. She and her husband smuggled themselves out and came to America where they both taught foreign languages at the university level. Rimma was adamant in her disbelief in God. Maybe it was because of the oppression and poverty she came from in Russia. Maybe it was because she had seen and experienced so much pain in her life. From the brutal murder of her mother, to numerous abortions, to having her husband and soul mate become sick and live in a vegetative state for years, she never saw any evidence of the presence of a loving God who is in control. She and I would spend hours talking about Jesus, and just “agree to disagree” every time. So I decided to pray for her religiously and love her through it. There is something about the power of love that can break through the hardest heart.

Her husband Jack died and I was blessed to be asked to give the funeral. That is when I started seeing cracks in the hardened exterior of Rimma. Because now the question of eternity and life after death were things to be seriously considered. I kept praying and loving her, even when she many times just plain pissed me off.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 (NKJ)

Rimma has been sick lately and in a lot of pain. I make trips to her house as often as I can just to visit, listen to her talk, breathe her second hand cigarette smoke, and remind her how much God loves her and is waiting on her. Yesterday my friend Jayne and I met at her house. We were there to just love her, and nothing more. Jayne went and got her tacos. We watched her eat and talked about who would be waiting for her on the other side and what existence would be like with our new, young, spiritual bodies. Rimma went to sleep, so we left. Jayne is an extremely sensitive person where the leading of God is concerned, and she felt like she should go back later and have a conversation just between the two of them. Jayne led her to the Lord, and Rimma was saved with many tears and great joy. Praise God!

So What’s The Point?
“Never stop praying.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)

“Pray one for another…The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16 (NKJ)

I started praying for Rimma four years ago. It is easy to stop praying when we don’t see immediate results, or we start believing the lie that it does no good anyway. Prayer works. It is an amazing weapon of our warfare, and a great way to move God.

"The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent". 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

How is your prayer life? Do you pray consistently? Are your prayers strong? Have you given up on your unsaved loved ones? Do you feel like there is a glass ceiling between you and God, and that He doesn’t listen to you? He does, you know!

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (KJV)

Happy Birthday Rimma, or should I say “C Dnyom Rozhdenya”. Yesterday you became my sister in Christ. And there are a lot of people who are celebrating with us.

“In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” Luke 15:10 (NLT)

Thank You Jesus!