"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me." - Galatians 2:20

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Friday, April 1, 2011

OBEDIENCE ISN'T OPTIONAL

Hello Friends,

It has been a fun, non-scheduled week with my boys during their Spring Break this week.

Today you will be blessed by my friend Stephanie. We have grown in friendship since our first meeting at She Speaks Conference in July 2009. Her heart for the Lord is beautiful and her desire to please Him is unwavering. May her thoughts regarding obedience encourage you as you seek the Lord.

Have you ever seen a child clap his hands over his ears when he doesn't want to listen? Joey, my six-year old, often tries this trick. He's convinced that if he covers his ears tightly enough he wont' have to obey the command he's missing. Sometimes he even hums loudly to make sure he's drowning me out.

When this happens, I have to bend down, peer into Joey's eyes, and pry his tiny hands off his ears. I remind him that obedience is not optional in our home. I reinforce my expectations. And then I help him follow through.

If I'm not careful, I can mimic my six-year old. But it's not my ears I cover - it's my eyes! When they flitter over a Scripture that pricks my soul, it's easy for me to do a spiritual blindfold. Then the Holy Spirit nudges me with the same truth I teach Joey: obedience isn't optional. He unties my blindfold and allows me to see that it's only through obedience to the Word that I'll ever become ingrained in Christ.

That's because love is tied to obedience. Jesus says three times in John 14 that if we love Him, we'll obey His commands. Love and obedience are interlocked because to obey God we must be immersed in His Word. And when we're immersed in His Word, we become ingrained in Him because He is the Word.

Think about the people to whom you're intimately connected: your husband, your sister, or your best friend. You're inseparable because you share similar values, pursue the same passions, and agree on almost everything. It's the same way with Jesus. As we purpose to value what He values, obedience becomes an act of worship instead of a wearisome burden. Pleasure replaces procrastination, and desire replaces duty. When we're ingrained in Jesus, our hearts cry out, "Lord take me, Lord break me, Lord make me look just like you!"

God hears the cries of our hears and sends His Spirit. He never leaves us to wander through life alone. Instead, He polishes the rough edges of our lives until we sparkle. As He refines us in the fire of His love, He helps us obey Him even when obedience seems impossible.

It was the last morning of the She Speaks conference, and never before had I experienced such a profound movement of the Spirit's power. As the keyboard echoed a beautiful melody and Cheri Keaggy's voice reverberated through the conference ballroom in a hymn of praise, the Lord stirred my soul.

"Kneel down, put your face to the ground, and worship Me," He said. My flesh groaned and I thought, "Lord, there are 600 women in this room. They're all gonna think I'm weird." But I knew what I had heard. So I got down on my face before God and humbled my obstinate flesh.

In the stillness of surrender, the Lord spoke again. "When you return home, share with Pastor Eric how I've miraculously moved in your life this weekend. Then ask his permission to corporately repent in front of the entire congregation for the sins of pride and unforgiveness you've harbored in your heart."
Corporately repent? In front of 1000 people?
With my face low to the ground, I thought I might vomit as I wrestled with the magnitude of God's request. Yet I knew I had to obey, and I made a vow to the Lord that if Pastor Eric allowed me to speak I would do exactly what He'd asked of me.
As our time of worship drew to a close, the She Speaks staff invited us to come forward with our hand-written prayer requests. Two wooden crosses waited for us at each end of the ballroom, ready to shoulder our burdens and trade them for a promise.
When I laid down my prayer request at the foot of the cross and picked up my promise from the hundreds strewn there, hot tears streamed down my face. My verse read, "If you (really) love Me, you will keep (obey) My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever." John 14: 15-16, Amplified Version.
Immediately I knew what the Lord had spoken over my life moments earlier would indeed come to pass. That's because love is tied to obedience, and we can't love God and refuse to obey Him.
As I sat in the hotel lobby a few hours later waiting to catch my shuttle to the airport, the Lord arranged an appointment with Linda Hicks, a conference attendee. When she said she had a passion for teaching women the importance of obedience, I knew the Lord was about to divinely deliver another message.
"My husband had given me biblical grounds for divorce, and we were separated," Linda began. "Every Saturday we met for counseling with our pastor and then had breakfast together. But this particular Saturday was different. During breakfast, the Lord said to me, 'Linda, it's time to take him home.' And I thought, 'No Lord! I can't take him home. I'm not ready! I haven't gotten over this.' And the Lord said again, 'Linda, today is the day. You must take him home!' " So Linda obeyed.
Linda continued, "That night, after some wonderful horizontal fellowship, I lay in my husband's arms, my head resting against his chest as I listened to his heart pounding. He looked at me intently and said, 'Linda, thank you. I love you so much.' And those were the last words he ever spoke to me. He had a massive heart attack and died."
Once again hot tears stung my eyes as I sat speechless in the oversized lounge chair next to Linda. God chose to use her in my life to make sure I didn't wonder if I'd heard Him clearly that morning.
Needless to say, I obeyed God. Although I battled butterflies as I approached the pulpit the following Sunday, I boldly proclaimed the truth God had so clearly spoken over my life. When we're ingrained in Jesus, obedience overflows from our hearts into our actions.
Precious sister, is God asking for obedience in a particular area of your life? If so, I pray that you'll fall on your face in sweet surrender to the One who can help you walk in obedience despite all of your fears and insecurities.


***Here is a little bio for my friend Stephanie. Please take a moment to visit her website and blog. You'll be blessed by doing so.
Stephanie has been described as "passionate." Her southern hospitality and often animated personality will make you feel instantly at home, but her insatiable hunger for God's Word and her gift of practically applying Scripture to even the mundane things in life will leave you inspired. Through the GEMS Ministry, Stephanie helps women discover the purpose, peace, and fulfillment found in God's design for their lives. Stephanie lives in oxford, Mississippi with her husband Mark and their three children. She blogs at Sparkling to Reflect His Glory about her journey through Titus 2 womanhood.