Unbridled Obedience

We typically use bridles and bits with horses to get them to go where we want them to. But if you and your horse have spent enough time together and know how to communicate, eventually you don’t need a bridle. You can just hop up onto the horse’s bare back without so much as a halter or lead rope, and the horse will just go where you ask, sometimes without anyone being able to see how you’re directing the horse.

Let’s think about this in the context of obeying God. You and I have more willful natures than a horse, so sometimes even though God would like to spend time teaching us how to respond properly, we just refuse to learn or even refuse to come to Him in the first place. But with more patience than you and I would need with even the most stubborn horse, God teaches us, gently and firmly continuing the lesson or letting us run around for a while as appropriate.

God doesn’t want us to need bridles. He’s trying to get them off of us, especially when they’re being pulled on by someone else or have gotten tangled up and tight. God wants us to obey Him because we want to, not because we have to. God wants to build a relationship with us and communicate with us so well that sometimes other people can’t tell when or how He gave us an instruction. He wants us to enjoy each other’s company so much, that whenever He comes to the pasture He doesn’t need to go catch us, we just come because we’re happy to be with Him.

Let’s strive to work together with God so that the merest word or movement from Him is the only prompting we need to obey.

Notes on Godly Fruit

A tree needs sunlight to produce fruit. Christians will experience a drop in fruit production when walking in darkness. We need Son-light.

The fruit of the Spirit is not a basket of different fruits from which you get to pick and choose, it is something you should be growing all together, like a cluster of grapes or a specific type of fruit on a single tree.

Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches. He does the sustaining and it is our job to produce fruit accordingly. God is the Vinedresser, and frequently prunes certain parts of the branches to take away that which isn’t useful, thereby making way for more fruit production.

You can tell a lot about a plant based on its fruit. You can tell a lot about a person based on what they produce and grow in their lives.

Giving an Answer

In 1 Peter 3:15-16 we see that we Christians should be ready to give people an answer for what we believe and why we believe it, and to do it in a kind manner. Being able to give an answer or reason is also referred to as apologetics. It is knowing what you believe and why you believe it, and communicating that effectively.

Apologetics are not just for “special forces” Christians. We are all called to give an answer. That sounds daunting but don’t worry, we don’t have to study all the science there is and get a PhD in anything to do it. Not that studying isn’t a part of it; after all, people will ask you some difficult questions that you don’t know yet. But you don’t have to be a super-genius, famous scientist, or well-known apologist to know what you believe and why you believe it. That’s literally all you need to know: What do I believe and why? Then you just need to do it in a kind and winsome manner. Don’t be angry, belligerent, or gruff about it, just be every bit as loving as God has called you to be.

To be ready we must sanctify God in our hearts, meaning we acknowledge and respect His holiness by giving Him the place He should hold in our lives. Build your relationship with God and let Him build with you. Study the Bible. Listen to God and do what He says. The more you know God and His words, the more you will know about your beliefs, the better you will be able to talk to others about your reasons for having them, and the more loving and understanding you will be towards those people.

And remember, no one has ever been argued to the Kingdom of God. You’re only responsible for giving a reason for your beliefs, not changing the beliefs of others. Your job is to witness, telling them about Jesus and showing them love. It’s God’s job to do the calling and the changing. If someone is going to change it will be because God has called them and they have chosen to heed.

This is part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). People have questions; go answer them with God’s love and guidance.

Love Holds On, Love Lets Go

God is the source of real love, and shows us how to have and use it. Love seeks the highest good of its object. Whether that means holding on or letting go, love makes us strong enough to do it.

Love holds on and sticks around even when it is difficult. Love holds on even when the other person would rather you let go. If it is best for that person for me to stay, then I will stay no matter how painful it gets.

Love lets go and steps away even when it is difficult. Love lets go even when the other person would rather you hold on. If it is best for that person for me to go, then I will go no matter how much we both want me to stay.

Which is more difficult, holding on or letting go? I’ve found it depends on the situation. Both have been equally difficult for me, but both necessary and both good. God has given me the strength for both and God has brought good of it for both sides, and I thank Him for that!

Closeness and Closeness

I was reading a devotional earlier this morning and part of it stuck out. While nothing can separate us from the love of God, we can distance ourselves from Him relationally, becoming insensitive to Him. We can be close to God without being close with God.

It’s like growing up living in a house with loving parents. Your parents love you and want to be close with you, but you can be close to your parents without being close with your parents. You can be close in physical distance, but not close relationally and emotionally. While they still love you very much, you can behave yourself more like someone who just lives there than like their child.

God wants to be close with you. Take advantage of the goodness that comes of that relationship for both of you! Start getting to know Him as well as He knows you!

Fungus Among Us

If you’re familiar with fungi, you’ll know that often by the time you can see a fungus, it’s already been there growing a while. I’ll be using mushrooms and mold as an example here.

The part of a mushroom that we see and call the mushroom is actually only the fruiting body. The “roots” of the mushroom are in the ground, decaying matter, or other substrate where you can’t see them. It grows there for a while before you even see the mushroom. The part you see is what happens when the fungus is ready to spread through spores instead of just staying and  growing where it is. The fuzzy stuff that grows on food is similar. The fuzzy part lets you know it’s there and that it had hospitable conditions in which to grow, so it’s ready to continue elsewhere.

Sometimes sin is like that. It has specific conditions in which it can grow, and sometimes it grows in our lives without us noticing. Then before you know it you can see it, and you wonder how it got there. We must frequently look around in our lives and find the conditions that encourage the unwanted growth, and get rid of them. Sometimes you’ve left something un-turned and un-examined. Sometimes you’ve kept something too long without using it all. Even if it was good, it’s time for it to go now. Maybe it’s time to replace it, maybe you don’t need any more.

Sin tends to spread very easily. Whatever and wherever the sin is, work with God to clean it out before it further contaminates you and your surroundings, including people around you.

God, Volition, and Natures

We humans have a sinful nature. It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are, and we can’t do anything about it ourselves. Sometimes to cope with our inability to do anything about it, we attempt to deny our sinful human nature. But God Himself doesn’t deny our nature, that’s why he sent Jesus to pay for our sinful nature, and why He gives us a new one over time.

But why doesn’t God just give us a new godly nature all at once? Because that would remove our volition and participation in it. It would remove the personalized and loving way that God deals with each of us. God does not seek to quash our individuality or to usurp our volition; He gave us these things in the first place. God wants our individuality and volition to be used to and for the best ways and purposes. God is not a god of assembly lines and cookie cutters. God personalizes the way He gives us each His new nature.

More on man’s volition and God’s sovereignty:
Love and Volition
Sovereignty of God and Volition of Man
Volition and Personal Responsibility

A Bit on Suffering

No one likes to suffer. Sometimes we suffer the consequences of our bad choices. Sometimes we suffer the consequences of someone else’s bad choices. Sometimes suffering is good for us and we learn something we would have otherwise missed. But no matter which way you slice it, suffering isn’t fun.

But suffering does not diminish the goodness of God towards us. Suffering will actually highlight God’s goodness towards us! He’s with us through our suffering and gives us strength and peace for it! Take a look at Job and the apostle Paul. Job in the book of Job suffered greatly in his grief from losing literally everything he had and loved except for his wife, but God showed up and affirmed Job, then doubled what he’d had before. Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 wrote about a problem with which he was suffering, finding and sharing that God really shows up when you’re weak.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it in The Cost of Discipleship: “Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship.”

Related topics:
What You Sign On For
Comfort in the Storm
Trust Without a Miracle

Man as God

When a person declares that they are God or a god, we know they’re crazy. We know we humans are not God and we cannot be. But at the same time, mankind is more and more looking to himself for answers, solutions, and morality. We are looking more and more to ourselves for guidance, power, and authority. Whether we realize it or not, humanity is attempting to be its own god.

When we remove the knowledge of and belief in God from our minds and consciences, we are removing the very and only One who gives us purpose. We humans are hard-wired to know there is a God, hard-wired with a need to follow a supreme being and to worship that being. When we remove God from His rightful place, something must fill the void. That’s why we often look to leaders and causes to follow. We must follow someone and must work towards something, and so often we settle for far, far less than that for which we were created.

We humans, even Christians at times, tend to think that we know better than God. It’s a crazy idea, but we do think so and we do act like it. We start worrying, doubting, taking things into our own hands, making our own way in life, choosing our own destiny, following our hearts. But we fall so gravely short of all that God is and all that God has for us. As far as we can reach on our own, it’s still not far enough. As many things as we can accomplish on our own, it’s a mere sandcastle next to a stone stronghold.

God is the most powerful being we can know or comprehend. God has created us and every piece of matter, bolt of energy, and law of physics we have discovered and will discover. God is in control of all these things. God has the most epic, wonderful, overarching plans for humanity that we’ve ever heard of, and they will be accomplished regardless of our participation, but He invites us to be part of them!

God has made you for more than just the things you can touch, see, and control. You must realize who you are, and how weak and limited you are. You must fully realize just how powerful the real God is! God doesn’t need your help, but He has a place for you to help anyway if you will take it.

There is a God, and you are not Him. There is a God, and He is bigger than everything you can know or imagine. There is a God, and He cares about your existence in a deeper way than even you do.

Get in the Boat

In Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus purposefully invited His disciples into a boat to get into a storm, and He went to sleep in the back of the boat!

Now some of the disciples were fishermen, so they likely knew what it was like to be out on the water when it got stormy. But this was a big storm, and the waves were covering the boat. But Jesus didn’t calm the storm right away. When the disciples woke Jesus wondering if He cared they were all going to die, then He calmed the storm. He also rebuked them for their lack of faith. Not the presence of fear, but the lack of faith.

Sometimes fear isn’t something you can just get rid of, but you can have faith bigger than your fears. Remember, Jesus invited you into the boat with Him. He’s there, too. It may be scary but the storm has a purpose, so by faith get in the boat!

For more:
Outside and Inside the Storm
Comfort in the Storm
Mightier Than the Sea