Tag Archives: obey God

Will God Ever Tell Us Not to Pray?

Even If We Don’t Understand Why God Tells Us to Do Something We Should Do It Anyway

A time not to pray.After giving Jeremiah a stinging message to tell the people, God gives a personal message to his prophet. He says, “You are not to pray for these people.” He says don’t plead for them or make a petition to me about them. “For I won’t listen to your prayer.”

How strange. Doesn’t God want us to pray? Why would he tell Jeremiah not to pray?

God has his reasons. He has a plan. This plan may not make sense to us. In fact, it may seem foolish. But we also believe he will work things out for the good of his people who love him (Romans 8:28).

God Said to Pray and Then Not to Pray

One time I visited a church with a friend. They were between pastors and struggling, yet a core group worked hard to help this church grow and move into their future. Since the church was in a different city, there wasn’t much I could do to help or join in their work.

However, I could pray. In fact, God prompted me to commit to pray for them every day. And I did that. Well, at least most every day.

Yet after praying for this tiny church for several months, one day, while in mid prayer, God told me to stop. He said, “I don’t want you to pray for them anymore.” This shocked me. God told me my season for praying for them was over. Click To Tweet

This small congregation had a committed group of people dedicated to following Jesus. They desired to make a difference in the community. And even though they didn’t have a pastor to lead them, they moved forward on their own. They seem to be making a difference. Yet God told me my season for praying for them was over. Though he didn’t tell me he wouldn’t answer my prayers if I continued, he made it clear I would displease him if I persisted.

I stopped praying for that church that day. I don’t know why God had me stop, but I do know it was part of his greater plan.

Maybe one day I’ll have greater insight into what his plan was when he told me not to pray—or maybe I’ll never know. Either way I trust God in the outcome even if it doesn’t make sense to me now.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 7-8, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 7:16.]

Disobedience Can Have Long-Term Consequences

When God tells us to do something he has a reason and we should obey

God Tells His People to Drive Out the People in the Promised LandAfter Joshua leads the people of Israel into the Promised Land and takes control of it, he divides the territory among the tribes. Though they have conquered enough of the area to occupy it, remnants of other people, such as the Canaanites, still live there. (It’s often called the land of Canaan.) It’s up to each tribe to fully take control of their assigned region and drive out the people that live there.

We can debate who has the right to live there. Is it the Israelites who God promised could live in this land? Or is it the people who live there when the Israelites arrive? Of course, if we go back a few centuries, we see that God first gave this land to Abraham. This means Israel is merely reclaiming what God gave them through Abraham long ago. Who has a rightful claim to this land?

Drive Out the People Occupying the Promised Land

However, the discussion of rightful leadership isn’t the point in this post. The point is, what will the people of Israel do once they repossess the land? God tells them they are to drive out the people living there.

This is another item we could debate. Why can’t they peacefully coexist? Why can’t they get along? It seems fair, but God knows that these other nations will negatively influence his people, causing them to disobey him and turn from him.

Though we don’t want to make an isolationism theology based on this passage, we do see how important it is to guard ourselves against ungodly influence. For the territory given to Ephraim and Manasseh, the Bible says that they didn’t dislodge the people who lived in Gezer.  We must guard ourselves against ungodly influences. Click To Tweet

As a result the Canaanites continued to live there. They caused great problems for God’s people in the coming years and centuries. We see their reoccurring threat throughout the book of Judges, and they’re still around during the days of Ezekiel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

The disobedience of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh to purge their area of ungodly influences cause problems for their descendants for centuries.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Joshua 16-18, and today’s post is on Joshua 16:10.]

When God Calls Do We Answer? When He Speaks Do We Listen?

Punishment May Await Us If We Fail to Listen to God

Listen to God When He Speaks: Our Actions Have ConsequencesIsaiah wraps up his lengthy prophecy talking about judgment. He prophesies that God has destined the people for death. That they will be slaughtered.

Why would a loving God want to kill his people? Through the mouth of Isaiah, God explains why. He says that when he calls his people, they don’t answer. It would be like you and me passing each other on a path. You say, “Hi,” but I ignore you. That would be rude. It would disrespect you. And that’s exactly what God’s people do to him. They’re rude and disrespectful.

And to make sure we don’t miss his point, God rephrases it. He adds that when he speaks, his people don’t listen, either. That would be like you telling me, “Wait! Don’t step into the road.” But I ignore you, walk into traffic, and blam! A car hits me. So it is with God’s people. He tries to warn them, but they don’t listen.

Our Actions Have Consequences

Instead of answering, instead of listening, they do the exact things that God says are evil. They intentionally do what displeases him. That’s premeditated disobedience. They may figure they’re free to ignore what God says because they don’t think it matters or because they assume there will be no consequences. At least they haven’t seen any consequences for a long time.

But God’s patience is at its breaking point. He says, “Enough is enough; your time is up. You ignored me and disrespected me long enough. You’re about to enter the punishment phase,” all because they didn’t listen to God.

We may have a similar view of God, perhaps not directly but indirectly. We may choose to ignore God because we think it doesn’t matter, that we’ll still get into heaven. We may assume there will be no consequences because we haven’t seen any yet. However, just because God loves us and will forgive us doesn’t mean our wrong actions won’t have negative outcomes. When God calls, we better answer. When God speaks, we better listen. Click To Tweet

When God calls, we better answer. When God speaks, we better listen.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 65-66, and today’s post is on Isaiah 65:12.]

God Speaks to the Prophet Amos through a Vision

Regardless of How God Speaks to Us, We Should Listen to What He SaysGod can speak to us in various ways.

The words of the Old Testament prophet Amos appear in the book of the Bible that bears his name. The words come to him in a vision. But the Bible doesn’t tell us the circumstances surrounding the vision or how it occurred. The vision may have come to Amos at night in a dream or in that early-morning time between the unconsciousness of sleep and the consciousness of being awake. Or perhaps the vision came to Amos as he was praying or fasting or meditating. Regardless of the details, God speaks to Amos in a vision.

Some of the other prophets also have visions but not all. For other prophets, such as Jeremiah, the Bible simply says that the word came to them. And God spoke directly to Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Job, and Isaiah. Other times, angels serve as messengers to carry God’s word to his emissaries.

Regardless of the process, however, God speaks to his people. It may be through a vision, words, or thoughts. It may be through an angel, a person, or another means. The method doesn’t matter but the message does.

Be Faithful When God Speaks

When Amos receives his vision, he proclaims it to the people. A scribe records it for us to read in the Bible. In this way, Amos is faithful to his vision. God speaks to him, and he shares it with others.

I wonder if God spoke to other people who weren’t faithful with his message. They didn’t proclaim it to others and therefore those words didn’t make it into the Bible. We’ll never know, but it’s worth considering. Are we ready to listen to what God says to us? Click To Tweet

God speaks to us, too. Are we ready to listen to what he says? And when we hear, are we faithful to say or do what he says?

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Amos 1-3, and today’s post is on Amos 1:1.]

We Must Listen to God and Do What He Says

God Promises Rewards for Obedience and Punishment for Disobedience

As we read through the book of Leviticus, which is a struggle for most of us, we read instruction after instruction of what God expects from his people. With precise detail, his commands come forth one after another. Then, in chapter 26, the book begins to wrap up. Here we see the prior chapters put into perspective. The key concept here is that we must listen to God and follow him.

We must listen to God.

The chapter opens with a detailed list of rewards for those who listen to God, follow his decrees, and obey his commands. He promises favor, peace, and fruitfulness. Isn’t this a life we all want to experience?

But then the tone of the chapter changes. The word “but” signals a transition. For those who refuse to listen to God, don’t carry out his commands, and reject his decrees, he adds a list of threats (Leviticus 26:14-16) that contrast to the comforting promises in the first half of the chapter. He talks about terror, disease, and enemy oppression. We all want to avoid these things. God doesn’t want to punish us. He wants us to turn to him. Click To Tweet

However, these aren’t to punish us but to get our attention.

After a few verses he says, “If after all this…” It’s like he’s taking a breath and giving his people—and us—a second chance. We must grab this opportunity. Because if we don’t, more punishment will follow, with dire repercussions.

What follows in the rest of the chapter is a series of chances: a third chance, a fourth chance, a fifth chance, and so on.

God doesn’t want to punish us. He wants us to turn to him, follow him, and obey him. His message is clear. We must listen to God and do what he says. Then we will receive the rewards he wants to give us.

And this all starts when we listen to God.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Leviticus 25-26, and today’s post is on Leviticus 26:14-16.]

Walk with God and Do Not Stumble

The righteous walk in God’s ways, while the rebellious trip over his wordsWalk with God and Do Not Stumble

As the prophecy of Hosea winds down he urges Israel (and us) to turn from our shortcomings and return to God. When we do this, blessing will follow: blessings for us and for others through us. Once again, we have this concept in the Bible of being blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.

After this conclusion to his message, Hosea tacks on a final thought. He says that God’s ways are right. Those who are righteous walk with God; they follow him. Those who rebel against God will stumble (Hosea 14:9).

If we find ourselves stumbling over what God tells us to do, this could imply we’re rebellious. This doesn’t mean we can’t have questions. In fact, I think God enjoys our questions—as long as we’re sincere and ask with the right motives. But if we disregard what he says, we shouldn’t be surprised when we trip over it.

Walk with God and Do Not Rebel

Some people read the Bible and delight in it. They’re happy to follow God and walk in his ways.

Other people read the Bible and mock it. They think it’s outdated and irrelevant for their lives in today’s world. Yet in ignoring it, they end up stumbling over it. Then they can’t figure out why their lives are a mess. “Why don’t things work out for me?” they ask. “Why can’t I catch a break?” But this happens when they rebel against God and stumble over what he tells them to do. Walk with God, and do not stumble. Click To Tweet

They can’t have it both ways.

Though God doesn’t force himself on anyone, a person can’t rebel against him and ignore his words and then expect to receive his blessings. People who don’t know God stumble over his ways and fall. Ironically, these rebellious people then often blame God for their troubles. But he didn’t cause them. They did.

Walk with God, and do not stumble.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Hosea 13-14, and today’s post is on Hosea 14:9.]

When God Tells Us to Do Something, Does He Mean Forever?

God instructs Jacob to go to Egypt, but he doesn’t intend for him to stay

Just like Cain and Abel, along with Ishmael and Isaac, Joseph and his brothers have problems, too. There are two reasons why Joseph’s brothers don’t like him. First, he’s Dad’s favorite. Second, he doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.

As a result, Joseph’s brothers sell him off as a slave, and he gets hauled off to Egypt. Yet, God orchestrates their reunion: Joseph has risen to a position of power in Egypt. He has stockpiled food for the future. Meanwhile, his family back home is starving. His brothers go to Egypt to buy food, and eventually Joseph reveals himself to them. He invites them to Egypt, where they have plenty to eat and a great place to live.When God Tells Us to Do Something, Does He Mean Forever?

As Jacob wrestles over what to do, to go or to stay, God tells him not to be afraid and to go to Egypt. God also promises to bring Jacob back home.

Jacob gathers his family and they had out. When they arrive in Egypt, the family is reunited. Jacob again sees Joseph, his beloved son who he thought was dead.

Four Hundred Years Later

Jacob directs his family to the land of Goshen, a great place for them to live and raise their flocks. They go there and settle down. Life is good. They stay four-hundred years. I don’t think this is what God had in mind when he sent them to Egypt. I think this was a short-term command, to go to Egypt for as long as the famine lasted and then return home. Why else would he have promised Jacob he would bring him home again?

Instead, Jacob and his descendants stay. They don’t return home. Their numbers grow, and they’re eventually enslaved. Life’s not so good for them anymore.

Of course, God knew this would happen. Though it may not have been his intent for them to spend four centuries in Egypt, he uses this to make them into a great nation. Sometimes when God tells us to do something, it’s a short-term command, not a permanent instruction. Click To Tweet

Sometimes when God tells us to do something, like go to Egypt, it’s a short-term command, not a permanent instruction. Thankfully, even if we misunderstand what God tells us to do, he can still turn our situation around and make events work out for our own good.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 46-48, and today’s post is on Genesis 46:3-4.]

Do You Know What Your Mission Is?

How closely do you do the things God tells you to do?

Do You Know What Your Mission Is?Paul travels to Ephesus to tell people about Jesus. As a Jew it seems logical that he would go to his own people first to share this good news. He does. He goes to the local synagogue, where he spends three months boldly telling them about Jesus.

However, some of the Jews don’t like what they hear, so Paul leaves the synagogue, but he doesn’t leave Ephesus. Instead he goes to the local lecture hall, presumably a Greek hangout. There he speaks daily about Jesus. It apparently goes well, because he sticks around for two years. In the end, everyone in the area—both Jews and Greeks—hear about Jesus (Acts 19:8-10).

I’m glad Paul goes to his own people first. And I’m glad he has a backup plan when his first one doesn’t work out. He seems to do this often when he enters a new city. He starts in the Synagogue, with his own people, and then expands his target audience when some of them oppose him. In each city Paul goes to the Jews first, to give them a chance. Click To Tweet

Yet, why does he do this?

Paul’s assignment is the Gentiles, not the Jews. Ananias knows this at Paul’s (Saul’s) conversion (Acts 9:15), and Paul confirms this when he shares his conversion experience while on trial (Acts 22:21).

Yet to the Romans, Paul shares his deep love for his people. He writes that he is willing to be damned forever if his people could be saved (Romans 9:3-4).

Does this mean that Paul puts his own personal agenda before God’s command? While it might seem so, consider Peter when he quotes Psalm 118:22 to say that (most of) the Jews reject Jesus and then he becomes the cornerstone, presumably for everyone (Acts 4:11).

Perhaps Paul goes to the Jews first in each city to give them a chance. And when they reject his teaching about Jesus, he can freely go to the Gentiles, with scripture to back him up.

What may at first seem like disobedience may actually be a sound strategy.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 19, and today’s post is on Acts 19:8-10.]

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Where Should We Go For Jesus?

Sometimes we may need to go far away for Jesus and other times we may simply need to go home

Where Should We Go For Jesus?Before Jesus returns to heaven, he tells his followers to go throughout the world and let others know about him (Matthew 28:19). Does that mean we’re all supposed to travel to a distant country for Jesus? It could be, but it might not.

Consider a different account, one where Jesus gives an alternate instruction.

Luke tells us the story of Jesus exorcising a legion of demons from a man. Jesus permits the displaced demons to enter into a herd of pigs. They do. The pigs go berserk, jump into the water, and drown. (We know the pigs die, but I wonder if the demons die along with them. It’s an interesting thought, but that question has deep theological ramifications to consider at a different time.)

The demonic influence is now gone from the man. In his right mind, and likely full of gratitude, the man asks if he can hang out with Jesus. Jesus says sure, why not . . . No, that’s not what Jesus says at all.

Jesus tells the man no way. Instead Jesus instructs the restored man to simply go home and let his family and friends know about what God did for him by restoring him to full health. The man obeys and tells the whole town about Jesus (Luke 8:38-39). Our mission field may be in a foreign country, but it might be in our own home or next door. Click To Tweet

In both accounts Jesus tells his followers to go. One time it is to go to all nations and the other time it is to go home. While our mission field may be in a foreign country, it might also be in our own home or right next door.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 8, and today’s post is on Luke 8:26-39.]

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All Progress Faces Opposition

Our response to resistance determines the outcomes we realize

All Progress Faces OppositionIn the beginning of the book of Ezra we have the story of Zerubbabel, who under direction of King Cyrus, begins to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. His job is a noble one and backed by the full support of the Persian Empire and all that it entails.

Yet things do not go smoothly for Zerubbabel. He faces opposition from his detractors who do not want to see him succeed. They don’t care what the king says, even though he could crush them.

The resistance to Zerubbabel’s temple restoration project starts by stirring up discouragement and trying to make the people afraid. Next they offer bribes to appointed officials in order to thwart the plans and frustrate the work.

To his credit Zerubbabel doesn’t back down. While the easy response would be to cease work, he doesn’t give up. He persists. He leads his people to complete their work, despite much resistance from those around him and corruption from the government officials over him.Any time we pursue something good, we will face opposition and encounter resistance. Click To Tweet

Any time we pursue something good, no matter how much backing we have, we will face opposition and encounter resistance. Sometimes the source of this opposition will surprise us, but it shouldn’t. We need to accept that this will occur. In fact, we should prepare for it and be ready to rely on God to protect us and help us see our project through to completion.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezra 4-5, and today’s post is on Ezra 4:4-5.]