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To obey is better than sacrifice

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Sometimes I can be a martyr. We call it discipline. Or duty. Or being responsible.

Oh, it’s not that I moan, “poor me” aloud. Often times I say very little about the sacrifices I think I am making. I may not even be very aware of the sacrifice itself, as it is just something that I “should” do in order to be a “good this” or a “good that”. And then one day I find myself tired, over committed, looking for a new venture, or looking for the next way to do it “better”.

Come on. You probably do it, too. 

The comparison game is partially to blame. You hear of what someone else is doing as a parent, as a friend, as a Christian, and feel you should do it too. You think that you should be a good enough person (spiritual or otherwise) to make the same kind of sacrifice.

Or maybe you lead the way in sacrifices. Maybe others look to you for your upstanding volunteerism, or the sacrifices made for your children, or your difficult lifestyle decisions. Maybe you like it that way and feel compelled to maintain your “different” status.

“Isn’t this what being a follower of Jesus is all about? ” you muse. “To make sacrifices in his name? To give it all up for the sake of following him?”

Well, yes. And, no.

God wants our sacrifices, only if they are sacrifices that he has specifically asked of us. What He wants more is our obedience and the two aren’t always one in the same. Obedience usually involves sacrifice, but not all sacrifice involves obedience. 

Remember King Saul? God told him that he was to go and kill all of the men, women, children, camels, donkeys, and sheep of the Amalekite people for what they had done to the Israelites when they came up from Egypt. Samuel specifically told Saul to listen to these instructions.

Saul obeyed, partially. He killed everything and everyone except for King Agag and the best sheep, cattle, and lambs. In Saul’s mind, he was 95% obedient and seemingly justified because he was going to sacrifice the animals on the altar as a thank offering to the Lord. Jewish laws suggested such sacrifices.

But partial obedience is disobedience with God. 

And external sacrifices do not make up for pride within a heart.

And a clear word from the Lord always trumps religious “shoulds” and “should nots”.

It is easy to get that all mixed up.

You could sell all that you have and give it to the poor, or give up your career to raise your children, or serve 30 hours a week volunteering, but if you aren’t humble enough to do it God’s way, it is worthless. And prideful. Yes, uncalled for sacrifices lead down the dangerous path of pride.

True obedience leads to humility for it requires an emptying of yourself, not merely your wallet, your time, or your dreams. We must be obedient to the Lord whether it leads to a palace, or to a cave. King David obediently lived in both. We must be obedient to the Lord whether we are favored by others, or looked at as strange. We must be obedient to the Lord whether it means we are asked to move to Africa, or to stay in the affluent suburb.

God cares less about what we give Him, or give up for Him, and more about our surrender to Him. It is doing whatever He asks, and in this we must listen.

“To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22)

The phrase “to obey” has strong connotations of hearing, listening, and then following through. It’s not assuming that the way we have always done it is the way we should do it now. It is not assuming that how someone else is doing it is the right way for us. It’s going to God each day and listening for the still small voice that speaks a personal word through His Word.

The word “sacrifice” refers to Israel’s sacrificial system, but in some places is translated “thank offering”.

The word “better” can also be translated “happy”, or “glad”.

Perhaps being obedient will make us more joyful than does being thankful. I know that when I am in the center of God’s will for me I am filled with the abundant life that He promised. When I am just making assumptive sacrifices, life often feels hard and joyless.

I think sometimes we make things harder than they need to be. Will God ask hard things of us? For sure He will. But, if they are His ideas, He will help us succeed and they won’t seem so hard after all.

To obey is always much better. Sometimes scary or humbling, but always better. It will make you glad.

 Looking towards obedience,

To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark 12:33)

Allowing ourselves to be influenced

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Curled up on the couch across from my father, I leaned in to hear what he had to say. Wisdom patterning the years of his life, I knew that his counsel on the matter was needed. He spoke with certainty about the professional issue at hand, addressing the key issues and giving insight both righteous and gracious.

And then he redirected advice towards me personally. Exhortation and correction was in order and I could sense it coming. My head told me what was right, but my heart suffered so. It’s easy to receive advice when it is once removed from our emotions, but when it is close to the heart, that is altogether different.

Protective measures go up.

Yet, I determined in my mind to take it, to heed whatever advice he gave me. I swallowed hard to brace myself, hoping the tears would hold their place. His counsel was good. I was ready for a rebuke, but instead received a protective word. My muscles relaxed and I settled. It was still hard.

All personal advice can be.

We are influenced every day by the people God has placed in our lives. Some people show us how we are to live our lives. Some people give us a picture of what we should move away from. But, we can learn something from everyone.  A proud heart tries hard to only be influenced by those who make them feel loved (like my dad towards me). But, a humble heart chooses to to allow God to use all people to teach them; to let even the difficult circumstances and people play a part in shaping their lives. Sure, we need to filter truth and be proactive in who we surround ourselves with, but we cannot be so naive as to think that we won’t be influenced by someone or so arrogant to think that we are too important to receive their perspective.

Wise is the person who softens their heart to godly counsel and makes themselves teachable in all situations.

“To learn you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.” Proverbs 12:1

“Pride leads to arguments; those who take advice are wise.” Proverbs 13:10

“If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept criticism, you will be honored.” Proverbs 13:18

I am thankful for both an earthly father, and a heavenly one, who love me enough to discipline me. May we all grow in humility as we are influenced by one another.

Wanting to be teachable,

Work as if it were a prayer

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“There are some people who, in order not to pray, use as an excuse the fact that life is so hectic that it prevents them from praying. This cannot be. Prayer does not demand that we interrupt our work, but that we continue working as if it were a prayer. It is not necessary to always be meditating, nor to consciously experience the sensation that we are talking to God, no matter how nice this would be. What matters is being with him, living in him, in his will. To love with a pure heart, to love everybody, especially to love the poor, is a twenty-four-hour prayer.”–Mother Teresa

A mother’s life is one of perpetual interruptions. The babies tug at pant legs wanting to be held. The school children require help at the kitchen table with their mathe homework. The older children need rides to and from various activities. And no one can seem to find anything in the house without help. Although it is necessary to carve out quiet times alone to worship, not only is it often times a rarity, there can also be a danger in assuming that our everyday walking around life is less spiritual than time set apart for worship. For you see, all of life is a holy moment, an opportunity to worship.

Living in Christ means that we practice a simultaneous awareness of our existence in both the physical realm and the spiritual one, where each is spurred on and and enriched by the other. 

 

Instead of fragmenting our lives into various units of responsibilities, God wants us to thrive holistically, communing together with Him throughout our whole of our existence. No task is beneath the ability to be used as worship unto Him.

We can redeem all of our time, and all of our work, for His glory.

Even as stay at home moms, we can:

  • Pray over each member of our family as we fold laundry, asking God to fit them with His spiritual armor (Eph. 6) and to clothe them with compassion, righteousness, and humility.
  • Put on praise and worship music in the car. There are some great songs out there, even for little ones (check out these, or these, that will infuse scripture into their hearts and minds.
  • List the things we are grateful for about our home and life as we vacuum room to room.
  • Set written Scriptures by the kitchen sink for meditation as the dishes are being washed.
  • Listen to a sermon on podcast while we cook dinner or bake cookies.(I like him, or him, or him, or him) Lay a love note on the pillows of each of our family members after we put clean sheets on their bed.
  • Teach our children to do a household chore along side of us, showing them how to work as unto the Lord.
  • Confess our sins as we clean out the shower or toilet bowls, thanking Christ that He washes us clean.
  • Put note cards and a Bible in the glove compartment of our car. When we a have a few moments at carpool pick up, we can write something encouraging to a friend, or get caught up on Scripture reading.
  • As we tuck our children into bed, remind them that the Holy Spirit is their comforter, keeping them safe and warm with His presence.

And the list could go on.

Every work is kingdom work when it is done unto the Lord (Col. 3:17; 3:23; 1 Cor. 10:31), no matter how mundane or trivial it may seem.

“God has created us so we do small things with great love. I believe in that great love, that comes, or should come from our heart, should start at home: with my family, my neighbors across the street, those right next door. And this love should then reach everyone.” Mother Teresa

May we look at every aspect of our life, no matter how big or small, and re-purpose it for worship.

A redemptive home maker,