When “No, God” Becomes “No God”

In what may have been the best writing I read all year, Ann Voskamp writes:

No, God.
No God.

Is this the toxic air of the world, this atmosphere we inhale, burning into our lungs, this No, God? No, God, we won’t take what You give. No, God, Your plans are a gutted, bleeding mess and I didn’t sign up for this and You really thought I’d go for this? No, God, this is ugly and this is a mess and can’t You get anything right and just haul all this pain out of here and I’ll take it from here, thanks. And God? Thanks for nothing.

-One Thousand Gifts

Those first two lines have bounced around in my mind and in my spirit from the time I first read them. I have thought an awful lot about how often we say, “No, God.” I have thought of the times, specifically, that I have said, “No, God.”

Photo by fotogail

Or maybe I didn’t say “No.” I just didn’t listen. I didn’t obey when I knew exactly what it was that God was wanting me to do. I felt His leading. I walked past a way of escape. I made excuses for my “No, God” but that is exactly what I was saying to Him, “No.”

We are all guilty. We have all done it at one time or another.

“No, God. That’s not what I had in mind.”

“No, God. I like my way better.”

“No, God. I really don’t think that is necessary.”

“No, God. What would people say?”

And eventually we become used to the wounds of our poor decisions and wrong desires. The skin grows thick and the calluses form hard. And if we aren’t careful our, “No, God” becomes a “No God.”

Isn’t it amazing how one simple comma takes us from a conversation, refusing to obey God and accept what He offers, to denying His very existence!

Say “Yes” today!

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Led To The Land Of Trouble

Let me ask you, when was the last time you read Joshua 7?  This chapter is loaded with important lessons needed to win the war against sin and evil in our world.  Joshua and the Israelites are fresh off of an amazing victory over the seemingly impenetrable Jericho.  Led by the hand of the Lord, the people had fought by unconventional methods to gain an unlikely victory.  However, crushing defeat lurked in the shadows of this unlikely victory.

This is where we find ourselves in Joshua 7.  Up until this point, every move the Israelites had made had been directed by God.  This time, we don’t have any record of God giving the marching orders.  Israel’s warriors were drunk on the high of victory and as a result had misplaced their confidence, relying on their own might rather the  Almighty.

On top of this, there had been a direct act of disobedience against the orders of God which had been given to the people through Joshua.  Achan had decided to keep some of the valuables that he had found in the battle of Jericho.  This disobedience is the reason given for Israel’s defeat in a battle that they should have easily won.  As a result, Achan and all his household were stoned and burned.  The place was called the Valley of Achor.  Achor means trouble.  Disobedience will always lead you to the valley of trouble.

A few lessons we can learn from Joshua 7.

1. Our greatest defeats can come on the wings of our greatest victories. 

2. We must not misplace our confidence.  Anything we do, we do through Him.

3. We will win battles that we shouldn’t be able to win through obedience and we will lose battles that we shouldn’t lose through disobedience.

Take Note.  Don’t allow yourself to be led to the land of trouble.

This Hurts Him More Than It Hurts You

My Bible (ESV Study) has headings, or titles, throughout the text.  Leviticus 26 has two headings; Blessings for Obedience and Punishment for Disobedience.  I found myself reading the section titled “Punishment for Disobedience” with much anticipation.  It goes something like this…

“But if you will not listen to me…I will set my face against you.” (Plus lots of other unpleasant punishments)
“Then if you [still] walk contrary to me…I will continue striking you.” (And other unpleasant punishments)
“If by this discipline you are not turned to me…I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.” (And other unpleasant punishments)
“But if in spite of this you will not listen to me…I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.” (And, yes, other unpleasant punishments)

It may seem strange to you, and it did to me, that each time the Lord punished Israel for their sin I felt extremely relieved.  Relieved?  Yes, relieved.  I wondered why I felt so relieved.  The reason came to me.  I was relieved because each time I read the words, “If you continue to sin,” I was fully expecting to read that God was going to take His presence away.  And I realized in that moment how merciful God was being even in these harsh punishments.

You see, there is something far worse than the punishment and correction of God.  What if He left?  What if He gave up on you?

If we have heard it once, we have heard it a thousand times, God punishes those whom He loves.  But this passage (and my expectations) revealed to me just how merciful God is when He punishes us instead of leaving us.

It will not always be the case.  There will be a separating, a judgement, but until that day every punishment from the hand of God is an act of mercy trying to guide you back to proper relationship and obedience to Him.

And yes, it hurts Him more than hurts you.

Oh, How He Loves Us!

P.S.  When I ran spell check on this, it asked me if I meant “presents” rather than “presence” when I said that I was expecting God was going to take His presence away.  No, that is not what I meant.  My version is a much more terrifying prospect…for some.

Selective Obedience

Let me give you a little glimpse into a scene that is played out all too often in my life.  I have a very bad habit; I tend to get busy thinking about something and I end up ignoring people who are talking to me.

Here is an example that tends to happen fairly frequently.  While eating with friends or family, I can tend to get lost in thought about the day or what I need to do or what to talk about.  Meanwhile, somebody needs the salt, which is setting right next to (you guessed it) the daydreamer.

“Please pass the salt.”

(clears throat) “Please pass the salt.”

“Tyler!”

“Oh, you were talking to me.” I say, slightly embarrassed.

And every once in a while, somebody will tell me that I have selective hearing, I only hear what I want to hear.

Today, I have been thinking about the importance of being obedient to God and the danger of selective obedience to His will and commandments.  All of us have been there at one time or another, and truth be told, many are probably there today.  We are obeying God in almost every area of our life but there are one or two things that we are holding on to.  And we have convinced ourselves that it is okay because we are being obedient in so many other ways.  We hold on to our disobedience so long that we are deceived into believing that it is obedience! (Saul is a good Biblical example of this)

Disobedience and deception grow together.  Deception leads to disobedience leads to deception leads to disobedience leads to…you get the picture. 

Here is the problem with selective obedience; we can be obedient in 99 out of 100 areas, but 99 acts of obedience do not offset the sin, misdirection, and lost time of the one act of disobedience.

Selective Obedience is Disobedience.  This is not to say that if you are failing to be obedient in one area of your life that you should just give up and all hope is gone.  No, rather, you need to pray for the grace of God to help you be obedient in every thing.  This is the will of God and it will bring you true joy and peace that can only come from walking in His will.

“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  Proverbs 3:6

So how about it?  I know that you are following Him, but are you fully obeying?  Is there something you need to do?  Something you need to give up?  Pray about it.