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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Loving God = Obeying God = Loving God

“But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.

1 John 2:5 NIV

“He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”

John 14:24a NIV

Do you ever wonder why obeying God is so difficult? I have come to realize that it is because I do not love God enough to obey him. I confess, as a Christian, that thought makes me very uncomfortable. Yet still I choose to disobey.

I feel that on the “big stuff” like murder, stealing, adultery I do a pretty good job of obeying God. Yet I must ask myself if I live like that because I love God or because I have good morals? I must admit that it is the “little stuff” that bothers me. Things like always speaking kind words, judging others, being negative, responding to God in fear, gossiping, not giving all that I could, and not spending more time in the Word and in prayer. I know that God wants me to obey him regarding all those things and I’m sure many other things that I haven’t mentioned. Then why don’t I simply obey? Again, I think it is because I do not love God enough.

As a child I obeyed my parents to avoid getting into big trouble. Later I obeyed them in order to find favor with them. Their favor would prove to be beneficial to me in getting what I wanted. Finally, as I grew older I began to obey my parents simply because I loved them and didn’t want to disappoint them or dishonor them in any way. My love for my parents grew so strong that I just naturally wanted to please them. My acts of loving obedience told them in unspoken words how very much I loved them. It seemed like the formula was Love = Obeying = Love. The more I loved my parents, the easier it became to obey.

I would like to suggest that perhaps the solution for my lack of obedience to God is simple. I must fall deeper in love with Jesus! ! I must spend time with him. I must learn as much as I possibly can about how Jesus thinks, what he does, who he is, what he stands for, and who he loves. Just like in any relationship, when I discover more about the object of my affection, I fall head over heals in love with that person. Their character, their qualities, their abilities, and their love for me all contribute to my desire to love, obey, and serve them in return.

I wonder what a day of completely and perfectly loving Jesus would look like. For sure it would be a day void of selfish desires and ambitions. My day might start out by me saying, “Good morning God, here I am bright eyed, able and willing. What can I do for you this morning?” “Ask what you will God, I’m your gal!”

Instead, the scenario is more likely to be, “Thanks God for a good night of rest. Now here is a list of what I need today, what I need for my family, and what I need for my friends. God, I’d really like to spend some time with you this morning but unfortunately I have a very busy day. Please know God I wish I could, but I can’t! Oh well, not to worry, God, I know you will be pretty busy today because I, for one, have left you with a very long “to do” list.”

You see, on occasion I have been guilty of believing a very big lie of Satan that says to me, “God does not need you.” After all, if he is an “all knowing,” “all powerful,” and “all present” God, why on earth would he need you? I perceive this lie as making perfect sense because down deep inside, I really don’t think I have much to offer.

Au contraire, my friend. God does need us! However, God does not need our knowledge, our power, or for us to fill in for him in case he can’t be somewhere that he needs to be. No, God has all of that covered. But God created each of us because he needs our fellowship and our love. When we, as believers, experience a personal relationship with God he allows us to ask him for what we need, and then he tells us what he needs. It may be go, stay, wait, serve, encourage, give, or a myriad of other opportunities. We show God our love by obeying his commands and doing whatever it is that he asks of us.

Only selfish, ungrateful children would expect the relationship to be one sided. Remember we should love God not because we fear him, or need to, or want to be found in his good favor so we can receive gifts from his hand. No! We obey him because we love him.

I don’t think I ever really understood the sacrifice that my parents made for me. I doubt that my children see the sacrifices that my husband and I made for them. I also doubt that my grandchildren are conscious of the sacrifice their parents are making for them. So I imagine that I, a child of sin, do not really understand the sacrifice that God ordained for me even before I was born. God gave his one and only son to die as a sacrifice for my sin. Jesus took my place. Without Jesus’ sacrifice and his shed blood being applied to my heart I would be hopelessly separated from God for all eternity. If I was destined to remain separated from God because of my sin, I would die at the end of this life and never again receive his love, his gifts, or his provision. His protection would disappear from my life. I am reminded that God chooses to bless both believers and non believers. But some day his generosity will end for those who do not love him.

I know that I really do need to try to understand all that God has done for me so that I can love him more completely. I want my love to be pure. From time to time the test will come and Jesus will simply ask me as he did Peter, “Do you love me?” and then he will ask for my obedience as proof. Feed my sheep, give of your time and resources, take better care of yourself, and last but never least, spend more time alone with me.

I am convinced that my love fosters obedience, and obedience speaks a message of love to my Father in Heaven. Love = Obedience = Love! God knows that I am dust. I know that God does not require my perfection but he looks at my heart and he knows full well the depth of my love and that my desire is to love him. I want to love God more today than yesterday. I want to love him tomorrow more than today! I want to fall deeply in love with my Jesus! Less of me and more of Him!


Do you have trouble obeying God?

When you obey, why do you obey?

What do you think you can do to fall deeper in love with Jesus?

Do you agree that the more you love God the more you will obey him?


Dear God,

I am finding that I cannot be consistently obedient to you without consistently loving you. It must be the desire of my heart to obey you simply because I don’t want to disappoint you. I want to obey you because that is what husbands and wives, children and parents, and good friends do for one another. They help each other because they love each other. You are my Father and my friend. I confess, many times I have tried to obey you apart from loving you. It simply doesn’t work. God, I thank you that you first loved me. Amazingly, you loved me enough to send your Son to the cross to die for me even before I loved you. How gracious is your love for me! God, I need to spend more and more time with you so I can fall madly in love with you. After all, that is what people who love each other do. God I don’t want to just take from your hand. I desire to give back to you in obedience because I love you. Father, you lavish your love on me. Oh, that I might love you lavishly in return.

In Your Son’s name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fear In The Garden

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes
so that it will be even more fruitful.”

John 15:1-2 NIV

A long time ago Adam and Eve sinned in the beautiful garden that God had given to them. As a result, when God came looking for them they hid and experienced a new emotion, fear. Genesis 3:8 It was their sin that caused that fear. After all, the Bible tells us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,” 1 John 4:18a NIV

Satan tempted Adam and Eve with the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I have come to realize that my life is not so different from Adam and Eve’s. I still face temptations from Satan. When I succumb to the temptation I then experience the fear of facing God with my sin. But I need not fear because Jesus is my Savior and I am safe because Jesus’ blood covers my past sin, my present sin and my future sin. Because God loves the Son, he accepts Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin as payment for my sin. He loves me for the sake of the Son. Jesus’ love for me is perfect. It will drive out any fear I may have if I put my trust in him.

So why then do I at times fear the garden? It is because I am in need of correction. I need to have sinful branches that bear no fruit cut off. I need the pruning of the gardener in my life so that my life will be able to produce even more fruit. The pruning shears of the Master Gardner scare me because I fear the pruning process will be painful even though I know the Gardener will use the shears in love.

So today I am slowly shuffling my way to the garden. As I walk toward the garden I am rebuking myself because I have fallen into some sinful behavior. If there are flowers blooming as I enter the garden I do not see them. I am wearing the hat of submission but I am also wearing the coat of dread! I feel a bit like Adam and Eve, ashamed. What I really want to do is hide. I too hear the Master walking in the garden and I know without a doubt that he will be carrying his pruning shears!

As a believer there are some things that I really hate! I hate the things people do that bring out the worst in me. I hate when I have a bad attitude and end up needing to have my attitude hacked off the vine. I hate when I have spoken inappropriate words that hurt others. I hate when I try to carry my own burdens and fix my own problems. I hate when I have embraced a spirit of fear. I hate when I argue with God and fight being obedient. I hate the process of working through my sinful behavior! But most of all I hate that as a believer I must hold myself accountable to Jesus. I hate when I allow something to happen in my life that casts a shadow on my relationship with Jesus. I hate when I realize that I am in need of a painful trip to the garden to get my sinful behavior pruned and forgiven. I know deep down in my heart that there is no other way.

I know from past experience that it is absolutely necessary for me to reach the point where I can wave the white flag of surrender and submit to the pruning shears in order to restore fellowship in the garden between myself and my Savior. Pruning is necessary so that I will walk in a loving relationship with my Lord and bare fruit that will bring him glory.

Still it is my nature to try to avoid pain, admit guilt, confess my sin, and ask for forgiveness. Much to my chagrin I usually nurse the conflict that is raging within me, consequently causing the situation to become a very long and drawn out process before I can head for the garden, meet up with the Vinedresser, and bow to his shears. I have traveled this road many times before and I know all too well where it must end! Why does it take me so long to release my anger, admit my fear, confess my sinful behavior, and seek his loving forgiveness? Why do I want anything less than the Vinedresser's approval and my inner peace?

What I love is that Jesus holds me tight and never lets me go! I love that he keeps calling me to the garden! I love his faithfulness to me even when I am unfaithful! So here I am in the garden and now I hear the Master Gardner speaking reassuring words of comfort to me. I know this pruning procedure will change my self-centered character and as a result I will become more like Jesus. I now begin to cry tears of joy knowing that I am exactly where I need to be. I know that when the Master Gardener is finished with me I will be one more step closer to looking like him. Because of God’s amazing love for me I know that my life will flourish with his grace because of this pruning. Oh! Without a doubt, pruning is not to be dreaded and despised. Pruning is to be seen as God’s love gift to me!

As I leave the garden it is my desire to be a person of godly influence. For this day the work of the Gardner is finished; my pain has turned to joy. My fear has turned to peace. That which was not good has been forgiven, cut off and tossed into the fire. I am blessed. I am at peace. The vision of all he wants me to be for his kingdom has been cast by the Master. Somehow by the grace of God I now feel cleaner and stronger, and I walk a little taller. My eyes look upward; there is a lilt in my step, a smile on my face, and praise on my lips and gratitude in my heart!

I begin the walk back toward the house and as I walk I am asking myself a few questions. Paula, why do you wait so long to seek out the Gardner? Why do you put yourself through all of that prolonged misery? Paula, the next time you feel God’s rebuke why don’t you just run to the garden and bypass the painful struggling? I remember the last thing that Jesus said to me when I was leaving the garden. He reminded me that running to him immediately, is a mark of Christian growth and maturity. Oh how I desire to be in that place!


Have you ever feared the garden?

When was the last time God pruned your life?

What were the results of his pruning?

Are you currently in need of God’s pruning shears?

Are you making plans to run to or from the garden?

Can you see that God’s pruning is his gift of love to you?


Dear God,

I am getting tired of fighting you. Next time I want to go straight to surrender. After all, perfect love cast out fear. There is no need to fear the garden. Help me God to remember that all you do in my life is for my eternal good. I thank you God that you love me enough to whisper your words of conviction to my heart. I am blessed that your love wants to make something beautiful out of my life. I am so glad that you think that I am worth the effort. I am so thankful that you don’t want to allow the ugly branches of sinful behavior to grow out of control and remain in my life. I know the pruning you do in my life is your way of equipping me to serve you and others more effectively. I know that the more I love you, the less I will fear correction, and the more I will trust and obey you, and the quicker I will run to the garden. Prune me Lord, so that others will look at me and see your Son, Jesus Christ.

It is in your Son’s name I pray. Amen.