Walking In The Blessings Of Obedience

Here is the opposite of perverse. Proverbs 3:32 Amplified says, “…but His confidential communion and secret counsel are with the (uncompromisingly) righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with Him).”

Psalm 25:14 Amplified says, “The secret (of the sweet, satisfying companionship) of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its (deep, inner) meaning.”

When our way is conformed to God’s way, we will have clear direction through our intimacy with Him. John 15:15 says, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

All that we need to know is in His word. Our communion with Him is through His word.  Verse 4 says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

The Amplified says, “…without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine…” As vital as our breath is to living, so is our intimate communion with the Lord. Verse 5 says, “…without Me you can do nothing.”

The Lord has prepared everything we will ever walk in. Blessings, trials, adversities, good works, conversations, etc. because the list could go on. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says that our eyes have not seen, our ears have not heard, nor have we comprehended or grasped the things that He has prepared for those who love Him.

Verse 10 says that He has revealed them to us through His Holy Spirit. The Amplified says, “…for the (Holy) Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God (the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny).”

The path of obedience is strewn with grace. The condition for the promise of grace is humility. I love to picture John 1:16 in the Amplified. It says, “For out  of His fullness (abundance) we have all received (all had a share and we were all supplied with) one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift (heaped) upon gift.”

No disobedience is ever worth it. We will reap whatever disobedience we sow. We never reap in the season we sow. Sometimes we may think that we got away with our sin. Numbers 32:23 says, “But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.”

Let nothing rival your time of intimate communion with the Lord. He often speaks whispered words. They are like a wisp that floats over our heart. Our flesh is noisy and blocks us from hearing clearly. As we come to Him, we need to silence our heart and wait in expectation. His Presence is our true resting place.

Lesson From Balaam: Blocked By God

The story about Balaam is really interesting. He was told by God to not go with the men. He clearly understood that. Numbers 22:13 says, “…Go back to your land, for the Lord has refused to give me permission to go with you.”

Years ago I heard a father say to his son, “What part of no do you not understand? The N or the O?” Balaam pressed the envelope. The king sent more men. Read their words from the king carefully. Verse 16-17 says, “…Please let nothing hinder you…for I will certainly honor you greatly…”

I want to jump ahead to what Jude wrote. Verse 11 says, “…they…have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit…” Moses asked a question of those who disobeyed in war. Numbers 31:16 says, “Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord…”

Anytime our way opposes God’s way, He will stand as an adversary against us. God Himself will block our path. We see this clearly in the narrative. Balaam went anyway. Numbers 22:22 says, “Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand against him…”

Have you ever felt walled in? Verse 24 says, “Then the Angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side.”

Have you ever felt trapped? Verse 26 says, “Then the Angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.”

Verse 32 could not be clearer. It says, “…Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me.” Perverse means to be obstinate. Proverbs 3:32 says, “For the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord…”

Psalm 18:25-26 says, “With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; with the pure You will show Yourself pure; and with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.” The Hebrew word for shrewd is to be twisted or to wrestle. Tomorrow I want to do a deep dive into the opposite of perverse.

God’s Way Through Our Obstacles

Everything that the Lord does in our lives is for His name’s sake. The Red Sea seemingly was an obstacle in the children of Israel’s path. What did they do? They allowed fear to overtake them. God’s eternal purpose was about to be played out before their eyes.

Verse 18 says, “Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” All God’s purposes for our lives were birthed in eternity. When I think about this truth, it feels like the sides of my mind expand. 

We know from Job 42:2, that no one, nor any thing can thwart God. As the children of Israel faced the uncrossable Red Sea, they saw it only as an obstacle. Exodus 14 revealed His purpose for those who had ears to hear. Verse 13 is great instruction for us as well when we face an obstacle.

Moses spoke, “…Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord…” God’s plan was to use the Red Sea as the vehicle with which He would destroy their enemy. He opened the way for them, but closed it as the Egyptians were in the middle.

He took off their chariot wheels to trouble them. The Egyptians knew it was God. Verse 25 says, “…Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”

Verse 27 says, “…when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.” The Lord will use our obstacles to reveal Himself to us in a new way.

There were more obstacles that the children of Israel would face. We are to learn from their experiences so we don’t follow their fleshly reactions. Right after the Red Sea victory, there was no water to drink. Their fleshly reaction was to complain. 

They complained again in Numbers 11. Verse 1 says, “…the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused…” They looked back to what they used to have, and in their pride they forgot about the Lord’s promises for them.

2 Peter 1:3 says that He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” Are you content? Paul said that he learned contentment. If he had to learn it, then most certainly we do as well.

How do we do that? 2 Peter 1:4 says, “By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…” When our path is blocked and we don’t understand, we can stand still believing is what we do know through God’s promises.

We enter into and share His nature through them. I love 2 Timothy 2:13. It says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” We enter into His nature of faithfulness by looking to Him instead of our obstacle.

We set our eyes on Him, just as He set His eyes on the joy that was set before Him. His focus empowered Him to endure. When we gaze at the Lord through His attributes, our obstacle fades into the background. We will be like the three disciples in Matthew 17:8. It says, “When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”

When Your Path Is Blocked

When my path is blocked, I often turn to Acts 16:6-10 and reread it. It is a heart check for me. Obstacles can frustrate, protect, or redirect. They have a divine purpose. When our heart is humble, the Lord will give us clarity.

In verse 6 it says that they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit. Verse 7 says, “…but the Spirit did not permit them.” Then Paul had a vision. Through the vision, he received clear direction. The resistance and the open door were both directed by the Holy Spirit.

It reminds me of Revelation 3:7. It is speaking of the Lord, “…He opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.” The Lord will frustrate us when we try to open a door that He has shut, or will keep a door firmly shut that we try to press through.

I use this verse when I pray for folks that need to make a decision. Praying Scripture is a sure way of conforming our way to God’s way. It is speaking truth that agrees with His eternal purpose.

I think back to Paul when an opportunity opened for him. 1 Corinthians 16:9 says, “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” He had other plans, but verse 7 says, “…if the Lord permits.”  When the new door opened, he remained where he was. 

In Ephesians 6:19 he asked for prayer for himself, “…that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.” In all that Paul did after his conversion, it was always to make God’s word clear to his hearers.

When our path is blocked we need discernment. A few days ago I wrote about the fruit of humility is discernment. James 4:6 is such a well known verse. It is easy to skip over the first part. We want grace. God’s condition to His gift is humility. 

The first part is our reality check. It says, “…God resists the proud…” When we are resisted, we need to check our heart. Are we prideful? Are we pushing for our own way? Are we being impatient because something isn’t happening as fast as we had hoped?

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 uses the word ‘all’ five times. Verse 5-6 says, “But with most of the God was not well pleased…Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.”

Lust is a byproduct of pride. Think of the 10 Commandments. What is the last one? Exodus 20:17 says, “You shall not covet…” What is coveting? My personal definition is wanting something that God has not given me.

I believe that the Holy Spirit will put a check in our heart the moment that we begin to dialogue in our thoughts that are contrary to God’s way. Psalm 23:3 says, “…He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” I will continue this tomorrow.

The Holy Spirit Is Present To Direct

Think of Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” The Hebrew word for ordered means: to be firm, be stable, be established, be secure, be enduring, to be fixed.

It reminds me of Ephesians 1:4-5 which says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”

The word ‘predestined’ means to foreordain, predetermine, mark out beforehand. John 15:16 says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever  you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”

Our course was charted before the beginning of time. When the Lord created us, He did so with all that would take place in our lives. Jeremiah 1:5 says that He knew us before He formed us in the womb.

Our progressive sanctification is a journey to be made holy. That is achieved as we allow the Holy Spirit to direct us. Anything that we do in our flesh is futile, empty, worthless, unproductive, ineffectual, and absolutely void of results. That is the way of the world. We are called out of the world system.

Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world…” The rest of the verse is the opposite. It requires diligence on our part. It says, “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Our trials conform us to His image. They help us to walk in the prescribed path as we look to the leading of the Holy Spirit. He gives us revelational insight to navigate through our hardships, trials, and adversities. They are designed to bring out and develop the character of Christ in us.

Everything in our life works together. Our fruit is two-fold. First, it glorifies the Lord. Second, it is for others to eat. What is your fruit like? Is it succulent and delicious? Does it exude words that come from your relationship with the Lord?

2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” That ‘comfort’ comes when we abide with the Lord in intimate communion.

It is unique to you. They are His words that sustained you in your trial. They were worked deeply into your heart, like a tapestry is woven. The beauty is on the outside, whereas underneath the threads are crisscrossed, knotted, and there seems to be no distinguishable pleasing pattern.

Colossians 2:6-7 says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving keeps us from bearing bitter fruit that no one would want to eat.

Be Sensitive To The Holy Spirit’s Conviction

In Nehemiah 8 Ezra read the Law of Moses. Verse 1 says that they gathered as one man. He read it from morning to midday. Verse 3 says, “…the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”

Verse 8 says, “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense and helped them to understand the reading.” In the backdrop of what they heard, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (verse 10).

Verse 12 says, “And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.” Then in chapter nine the people confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.

Do you see the connection? It was the reading and understanding of God’s Law that brought conviction. So it is with us. Without the daily reading of God’s word, we will not understand or recognize how our flesh creeps in.

2 Timothy 2:15 is not just for pastors and teachers. It is for everyone. It says “Be diligent to present yourselves approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

As we systematically read our Bible, we are reading in context. Some of it is expressly for Israel, yet we can still make personal applications. Some promises are conditional, so we need to know what God’s conditions are.

I like to visit Isaiah 58 frequently. The chapter is about fasting. Verse 6 says, “Is this not the fast that I have chosen; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?”

How does that apply to our lives? Let’s read further. Verse 10 in the Amplified says, “And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday.”

Did you catch the condition? Reading God’s word, and spending our quiet time with the Lord in intimate communion fills the condition when He is our sustenance. Our heart’s will be filled with hope and encouragement for others. His word in us will literally be the power behind our conversations with others.

Here is another. Through Psalm 15 the Holy Spirit will bring conviction if we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that is open. The question started with verse 1. Who can abide or dwell in God’s presence?

Verses 2-5 are great barometers for us. They are like a template for walking in the Spirit. Here are a few. Are you speaking truth in your heart, or are you dialoguing with lies, or negative thoughts against yourself, others, or your circumstances? (verse 2).

Are you walking in heart integrity? Is your message and messenger the same? Do you say that you have fellowship with the Lord, but there is no fruit in your life to glorify Him? Verse 4 says, “…he who swears to his own hurt and does not change.”

Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.” 1 John 1:6 says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

A Fruit Of Humility: Discernment

Pride blocks discernment. Actually, pride blocks all things spiritual. James 4:6 says that God resists the proud. It takes a heart of humility to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. 

There is an interesting verse about the tribe of Issachar. 1 Chronicles 12:32 says, “Of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…”

Isaiah 33:6 says, “Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of the Lord is His treasure.” Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are components of discernment. Discernment is seeing through all FLAK to the true nature of a thing. Peter wrote about false prophets. Paul said that there is a gift of discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10). 

The apostle John wrote about this also. 1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

We know, according to Paul’s warning to Timothy, that there are deceiving spirits. 1 Timothy 4:1 says, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.”

Discernment is crucial in our progressive sanctification journey. Our compass should always point true north to God’s word. There we will find no lies, or any slight deviation from truth because it is eternal. Titus 1:2 says that God cannot lie.

All lies spring from satan. Jesus addressed this with Abraham’s descendants. John 8:44 says, “…does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”

When a new teller is being trained, they are given real money. Why? There are myriad counterfeits. It would be pointless to show them a counterfeit and expect them to recognize one. Their senses are trained to discern by daily handling only true money.

Our senses are trained as we daily read God’s words of truth and walk in them. The second a lie comes, our sentinel of truth within rises up to warn us. Studying satan’s lies is futile.

When I was in grade school, I used a word that got my mouth washed out with soap. It was a word that I picked up at school. I innocently asked my mom to tell me all the dirty words so I wouldn’t get my mouth washed out with soap again.

David’s covered up lies reaped severe consequences. Many of his Psalms were written from that perspective. I love Psalm 25:4-5 which says, “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.” We can make them our prayer as well. When our heart is wallpapered with truth, then discernment will protect us.

Discernment Is Crucial

Nehemiah’s discernment saved his life. How would you have interpreted this message? Nehemiah 6:10 says, “…Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.”

Verse 11 was Nehemiah’s response. “…Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” After that statement, he had discernment from the Lord. 

It says, “Then I perceived God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.” Think back to why the Lord spoke in parables.

Mark 4:12 says, “So that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing that that they may hear and not understand…” One of my morning prayers is this: Lord, help me to see beyond the visible, obvious, and the obstacles.” I am asking for discernment.

Discernment is crucial to know what is truth or a lie, good or best. Hebrews 5:14 says, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern between good and evil.”

Discernment comes with practice. It is for spiritual meat eaters. It could be a gift that is imparted in the moment, but I’m talking about a daily discipline. Take note of the words, ‘who by reason of use’ because they are key.

We know that Scripture is discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

What blocks discernment? I like to use FLAK as an example. In the war times, the enemy would put out FLAK to keep the pilots from seeing their bomb target. Noise, distractions, disobedience, and refusing to acknowledge hidden sin are a few ways that our discernment is blocked.

Hebrews 4:12 gives us another. If we are not daily in God’s word, we will not change. We have to exercise this discipline to gain understanding, insight, personal application, and encouragement.

God’s word is like a surgeon’s scalpel. It is precise. It goes deep. As the verse says “…piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Another way that we learn discernment, is to spend time being quiet before the Lord. Pushing thoughts of ‘do it now’ or feeling impatient have to be calmed. We must come with no agenda. Our expectation is to be on the Lord, and not on something that He might do for us.

Remember Elijah. The Lord was not in the strong wind, the earthquake, nor the fire. 1 Kings 19:12 says, “…a still small voice.” Elijah was watching the ‘God show’ without being affected in his spirit. Yet, the moment he heard the still small voice, verse 13 says, “…he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the  entrance of the cave…”

Wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and discernment come from the Lord. The more that we walk in them, the more they will be there to direct our steps. “Surrounded By Angels” is a book that required the author to have discernment as he delivered Bibles behind enemy lines. Let us seek the Lord, through His word, and grow in the discipline required for keen discernment.

Being Active In A Gap

The Jews were very active in multiple gaps. Nehemiah 4:1 says that the enemy mocked them. Verse 2 is where I got the title for one of my earlier ebooks in 2016. It says, “…Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that have been burned?”

We often get ‘burned’ in our interpersonal relationships. They are prime targets for the enemy of our soul. He hates unity, love, family, and church community. We must remember that a look on a person’s face does not likely involve us. Have you ever been distracted when talking to someone? Have you ever entered a new conversation, yet still were carrying anger from a previous situation?

We can easily ‘misread’ facial expressions. This is especially true if we have been burned in a relationship. Our emotions are on our sleeve, as the saying goes. We are often overly sensitive.

The Jews had to work closely together. If you read chapter three, the words, ‘next to them’ is frequently used. Nehemiah 4:6 says, “So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.”

Being active in a gap does not necessarily mean that the person knows that you are praying. They may not be open to your involvement. Yet, that is the beauty of God’s way. We can pray from afar. It is like a secret. The enemy has no access to stop our ambush.

Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The Greek word ‘restore’ is like setting broken bones, or mending torn fishing nets.

Though we would normally consider this verse as a one on one involvement, we can expand it to be a secret prayer mission. You might see someone struggling with a habit that is counterintuitive to their spiritual growth; being tempted and yielding; downcast; or someone struggling with emotional pain.

We are the body of Christ. We are members individually and collectively. A weaker one is to be covered in prayer. Think back to Noah. He was lying naked in his tent ~ drunk. One son saw him and told his two brothers. What did the brothers do? It is the same principle when we pray secretly.

Genesis 9:23 says, “But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.”

Matthew 6:6 says, “…when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

We can interpret this verse several ways. Here is what came into my mind as I was typing this. The ‘open’ reward is seeing the Lord’s hand move on behalf (intercession) of the one you are praying for. The gap is being closed! That is a great illustration of what it means to be active in the gap.

Standing In The Gap

Ezekiel 22:30 says that the Lord was looking for an intercessor. He defined one as, “…who would make a wall…on behalf of the land…” The implication is that the land could not do it. On behalf means as a representative of someone or something.

A good way to understand this is through Romans 8:26. It says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

A gap can start with a little opening. In the OT vineyards, they would put a hedge around them for protection. It could be plants or rocks. A small animal would dig a hole. A larger animal would increase the hole until there was a gap.

Song of Solomon 2:15 says, “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines,  for our vines have tender grapes.” What might little foxes be in our lives? Unbelief, doubt, fear, worry, bitterness, anger, etc. 

Little niggling thoughts of worry can work up into full blown fear that paralyzes. Unbelief can creep in and harden our heart. Unresolved issues can magnify out of proportion. I think you get the idea.

Lack of diligence to guard our heart will also create a gap. Here is an example. Proverbs 24:30-31 says, “I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; and there is was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down.”:

Fiery dart lies that we allow to penetrate also make a gap. All lies are warring against our faith. Any thought against yourself or another is a fiery dart. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

We know from Psalm 139:17 that David called God’s thoughts toward us as precious. Psalm 40:5, also written by David, says, “…Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”

When our thoughts do not align with God’s thoughts the little hole begins. Matthew 15:19 says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…” An evil thought is always negative. 

Our example is the Lord. He did not sin even in His thoughts. His heart was pure and undefiled. We are to walk as He did. That means that we have to capture any thought that does not agree with God’s word and bring it down. Whack it to pieces with your sword of the spirit (Hebrews 4:12).

Accountability is essential in our progressive sanctification. If you are struggling in any area, ask someone to intercede for you. Their intercession will become a wall of protection as you begin to close the gap through truth. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your gaps made by the little foxes that are knocking off the fruit that would glorify the Lord.

Renouncing the lie and affirming the truth, are the beginning tools needed to close a gap made through our sinful thought patterns. All actions are first thoughts. The battlefield is our mind. We have the mind of Christ. We are no longer under the rulership of satan. Yet, unless we bring truth into our lives (live in it experientially), we will remain captive through our disobedience.