Obeying Despite Consequences

Man what a month it has been.  I try not to whine all over this blog every time (haha) – so let me just say this month was a bruiser and I have not reacted so well to all we’ve encountered.

Our friend, and mentor (really our own personal Pastor this past two years), Bryan McAnally, posted this quote yesterday and it resonated through me:

Faith is not believing without evidence, it is obeying despite consequences. – Chuck Missler

That is a choice (much like choosing to love your spouse or to place your children’s needs before your own).  Those are  moment-by-moment, sometimes incredibly difficult, man-up because this is real life, choices.

That quote, and what I am about to share from Deuteronomy, shifted my perspective today.

Because here’s the truth, friends.  I have not been choosing to obey, or see truth, lately.  I have been acting like a big stinking baby in my head the past two weeks.  Questioning and doubting, hurting and battling.  I am tired.  To the bone, tears-at-the-back-of-my-eyes, breathing “Jesus where are You in this?” many times a day… tired.

So I read this quote today and feel a whisper in my heart – “This is for you.”

Obeying despite consequences.  What does that mean?  Aren’t I doing that already?

I’m simultaneously reading about Moses delivering the Israelites to the border of the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 32.  And I say it that way intentionally – he delivered them to the border, but he was not allowed to enter.

Moses was a faithful guy – much more so than the Israelites that he was serving, and yet his promise was never fulfilled.  And I read this today and expect to see some sign of his disappointment, his exhaustion.  I want him to be tired too.  I want someone else – maybe even a big father of the faith – to act like a baby (for no other reason than to make me feel better and to give me an ally in my own personal “God is not fair” rally going on in my head these days).

But in Deuteronomy 32, Moses delivers to the Israelites a song, his farewell address.  He says:  “I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!  The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice.  A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He.”

He goes on to remind the Israelites of the time when they were faithless, and the Lord turned His back on them to open their eyes to their need for Him.  And then He reminds them that the Lord is always faithful, as he says “The Lord will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone.”  He affirms the sovereignty of God and actually speaks in the voice of God as he delivers this message; “There is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”  He reminds them to live by the Word of God, for it is life to them as they enter the land the Lord has given them.  He joyfully blesses each tribe and each leader, as he praises God for His love and faithfulness.

No whining.  No rallies (at least not the kind I was looking for).

After this speech, Moses ascends a mountain on the edge of the Promised Land, and while looking into the land he will never enter, dies.

Faith is not believing without evidence, it is obeying despite consequences. – Chuck Missler

Moses got this.  He died getting this right.  His eyes were opened to another plane and he simply obeyed, seemingly without thought of consequence (or rights, or selfish ambition).  Oh to have faith like that!

I’ll confess I don’t see like that most of the time.   I catch glimpses, but they are fleeting and the selfish mentality of my default mindset quickly takes back over.  When I see this story with human eyes – it stinks.  Righteous guy gets nothing while selfish people get it all.  Wah lah – God isn’t fair.

But when I see it with the eyes of faith I see that Moses traded the Promised Land (temporal, flawed, momentary) for the PROMISED LAND (eternal, perfect, no pain, no death, next to JESUS).  And for that moment, when I see it and get it, that tension in my head, that desire for fairness and reward here on earth and for everything to work out the way I think it should, begins to ease the slightest bit.  For a second, I can breathe more deeply and I think “Wow – He is as good as I read He is.”

Sometimes I wonder, as I write these posts, if I am the only one who struggles to trust the heart of my Creator like this?   Is it some flaw in me, some psychological remnant of mistrust from life in this broken world?  Or is it a universal human condition that many of us don’t even recognize or acknowledge because it is altogether too common?  I honestly don’t know.

But I do know that I have to make a choice, because allowing this whiny fit to go on in my head is not okay.  I don’t have backing on this one.  People have faced MUCH bigger hurts than we are facing with grace and confidence in the goodness of God.

Faith is not believing without evidence, it is obeying despite consequences. – Chuck Missler

Lord, I don’t understand some of what is happening with our family on this earth.  And I’m sorry that I define Your faithfulness, so very often, by what I see and by what I define as good, as if I were the judge of You.  I confess that as absolutely abhorrent sin against You, my Maker and the Almighty God of the universe.  Please forgive my arrogance.  I am in constant, unending need of Your mercy and grace.  Please grant me more faith and make me better at this tomorrow than I was today.   I choose to obey despite consequences and I ask You not to give up on me – to continue to be faithful when I am faithless.  I thank you for Your love for me and Your understanding of my many limitations.  I feel like the man wanting healing for his child,  “I believe, help my unbelief!”  I need You, even to believe properly or see clearly.  You are good.  Please help me obey.

Sending out Doves…

A friend of mine is about to adopt three precious kids.  In fact, they went from no kids to possibly having three children in their home next week.  So brave and beautiful what they are doing.  I feel so blessed to get to pray for them and support them anyway I can.  They are caring for the least of these.

My sister just returned from training camp for the World Race (her 11 month mission trip to 11 countries).  Already, I can see it all over her.  She is growing and changing.  She will return a different person -no longer a girl, a strong woman of God.  Already her view of the Lord is exploding.  She is stepping out of the boat and following Christ.

My tiny girls, in their own ways, are going through radical change.  Bekah’s will and vocabulary seem to have tripled overnight.  And with it, Grace’s understanding – we swam with her yesterday and her ability to follow direction astonished me.  She is growing up.  Parenting is challenging – there are days where it feels like we are battling for the souls of our kids – but stepping back and seeing progress is always a gift – and I was grateful to see some of that yesterday.  My children are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Justin covered for a precious friend of ours as the lead Worship Leader at a church in Southlake on Sunday.   Justin is always the guy behind the guy, and for one brief Sunday, he was responsible for the direction of the service.  Although it isn’t necessarily something we would regularly do (without much prayer and the writing on the wall – so to speak), it was impressive for me to see him take that on fearlessly.  He did so well.  I am humbled by my husband’s talents.  He is a man after God’s heart.

Another friend has started an amazing blog where he chronicles his family’s escape from the rat race.  Every day he blogs a bit of his journey – remaining transparent as he faces the future without preconceived ideas of how he should live.  He has bravely begun to say, like Paul, “follow me as I follow Christ.”

I keep thinking of that verse “Behold, I am making all things new!

It made me start examining my life and my heart and wondering what is new in me.  I feel like so many of the people I love are moving onto newer better things – while I wait.   It feels like we have been here forever.  But again I begin to battle my mind – realizing I cannot allow my feelings to rule.  So today I chose to look around me and with gratitude I remembered this year – the blessings. The time with Justin, the Keystone Christmas blessing, the incredible friendships, the lessons learned.  The Lord HAS DONE a new thing in my life.  Already.  It might not be the new thing I expected, but it is real nonetheless. He is doing a new thing.  Just because I don’t see Him working doesn’t mean he isn’t – in fact, it means the possibilities are endless.

Today, a Pastor who I respect tweeted “Wondering if I am the kind of man to whom God would entrust the things I am asking from Him….”  That resonated with me.  I spent today wondering the same thing.  I have prayed for this thing – this ministry position for Justin – for years.  It never truthfully occurred to me to ask “Am I the kind of wife to whom God would entrust the things I am asking of Him?”  I can tell you this much – I was not that woman before this period of waiting.  I  can only hope and pray that I am that kind of woman, that kind of wife, that kind of mom, that kind of friend, today.  It is my prayer that this trial has served to grow in me the strength and patience and humility and faith to support my husband in ministry.  Then later this afternoon, Kirk Franklin, who I have had the GREAT pleasure to meet and who has had a huge impact on me tweeted, “Today if God gave you the thing you’ve been praying for, is your character strong enough to handle it? Grow… so you can Go.”  Crazy right?  The same message.  That is not coincidence.

When I was pregnant I read a ton of books about pregnancy… but few about parenting an actual human child.  I quickly realized my error when my 3 week-old cried incessantly from reflux and I had to advocate to get her care.

It made me wonder – in this time of praying and waiting and asking God to do this amazing thing, have I made the acquisition of the position the goal, or have I focused on becoming the person who would flourish in the ministry role alongside my husband that I am asking for?  It’s a convicting idea.  It’s the same thing with adoption – I don’t pray so that the adoption process would be smooth (although that is certainly a secondary request).  I pray that our home would be a place of safety and belonging and family to children who have none of those things.   When I envision our adoption – I envision snuggling with a tiny person and letting them know that I am their momma and that I will love them forever.

So today was a day of clarity for me.

One of the things I have been grateful about in this time of waiting is that there has always been something tangible we could pray for.   We have not walked through this time blind – but have been able to pray step by step through this as we have considered where the Lord would lead us.  And today I felt like the Lord gave me something really concrete for me to focus on and pray through for the next part of this journey.  I want to be the kind of person who is ready to do the new thing that the Lord is preparing for me to do.

Another crazy non-coincidence today is that the story of Noah kept coming up.  First I read a blog about Noah and then I spoke to someone about him.  This is another one of those stories that we have read since we were in diapers and so we often forget this was a real thing that happened to a real man.  The story is in Genesis 6 – 9.  Think about this – it took Noah months and months to build the ark.  That is a long time to wait and to be mocked for something nobody around you understands – for a promise that seems impossible to fulfill (chances are good he had never even seen rain).  And then the rains came, and he was stuck on the ark, while people and animals around him perished, for almost another year.  We often tell that story like it was a short easy process.  It wasn’t.  It was impossibly horrifying and difficult, I’m sure. To see the wrath of God poured out on all of mankind – to witness it firsthand, and to feel so alone both in the time of preparation and in the time of fulfillment of the word the Lord gave you.  To know that on your boat are the only survivors of a worldwide tragedy.  There are not many people I know who would willingly sign up for that job.  But Noah was faithful, and at the end of his difficult story there are three restorative things that happen that even today give us hope.  First, Noah sends out a dove who returns with an olive branch, signalling that there is some life remaining on the earth and that they will soon be able to leave the Ark and return to “normal” life.  Second, God blesses Noah’s family and gives him stewardship over the entire earth.

Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.  As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.

And third, God sends a rainbow as a sign of His promise that He will never destroy the human race again.  “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

In looking at Noah’s story, a few things struck me.  First of all, God was faithful.  He did what He promised.  His instructions and plans were very specific.  Second, Noah was obedient.  He may not have understood, he may not have enjoyed every minute, but he chose obedience.  He obeyed to the letter of the law the word the Lord revealed to him.  Third, in the end, God was good and His grace shone through.  He sent a rainbow to shine even today as evidence of that promise.

Noah
Pic courtesy of whateveristrue.com

In our life – we are sending out doves looking for olive branches.  Watching and waiting for the place where we can again plant our lives in ministry.  And we don’t necessarily love or understand all of the circumstances that have come up against our family the past year.  But we know that God is good, faithful, and full of grace.  Nothing we have seen or experienced diminishes that.  So we wait and seek to obey, knowing that in the meantime, God is preparing us for the home He is preparing for us.   And we know that who we are and what we do in that place is more important than where we land.  So we focus on who we will be there.  And we know He is good.  As long as He is near, we are exactly where He intends us to be.

Today was a good day.