one obedient step

I’m often found peddling the 3-column bible study method, or at least extolling its virtues — I suppose I’ve never taken money for my counsel.  I am indeed quite the advocate, but I realize I don’t often share with you guys what I myself am studying and how I’m being obedient to those texts.  [I don’t intend to post an actual 3-column study here today — though if you want to know more, please read this post on how to do a 3-column study and this post of an actual 3-column study.  If you do, and you put it into practice, I believe you will be blessed.]

But I figure what better news for a Christian to share on his blog than how his life is being changed by God through Bible study?  Setting my words to publish can be quite the accountability partner as well.  Plus, it certainly doesn’t hurt to occasionally provide a testimony of God’s faithfulness as we read his word.

Two weeks ago I began reading from Deuteronomy 6.  It is an incredible chapter.  I won’t use this post to go into detail today about all it contains (but I will use this one), but instead will let it suffice that I believe Deuteronomy 6 to be an abundantly practical instruction booklet on how to raise a Godly family.

As I reflected on the passage written in my own words, I began to realize I was not doing a very good job of leading my family spiritually. My wife and I pray together every night before bed, occasionally discuss what we’re reading in the Bible, and sometimes sing praise songs with Baylor — but only the evening prayer has been done with any real intentionality.  While I believe it is indeed my responsibility to be the spiritual leader in my family, it was not this issue of obligation or duty that struck me so clearly as I read the text.  Rather, it was a question of opportunity.

Was I letting slip through my hands my chance to help my wife be all that God intends?  Was I missing the occasion to teach my daughter how much God loves her?  Was I, by not leading my family well, choosing for us to live uninspired lives, full of mediocrity instead of peace and joy? How many blessings of God might I cost my wife and daughter by not taking advantage of my role in our family?  How many blessings might my grandchildren and their families fail to receive because of my inaction?

And so I came to my “I will” statements.  In the beginning I committed to pray about my role in our family and that God would show me how to lead better.  And I committed at that time to do whatever it was he would show me.

A few days later Christie and I spent an evening at the home of Sam and Nancy Shewmaker, missionaries in Rwanda.  At the breakfast table in the morning, as we ate our meal of pancakes and fresh fruit, Sam read aloud from the Bible. It wasn’t a difficult thing to do, nor was it new or fresh or exciting.  But he read the Word of God as we ate together.

Every morning, now, I make it a point to be at the breakfast table when Christie and Baylor sit down to eat.  [That’s new for me.]  I read a section of scripture (we began in Matthew) and then, based on our reading for the morning, I pray for our family. It’s not a difficult thing to do.  Nor is it always new or fresh or exciting.  But I am being obedient to God, and I believe my family is being blessed as a result.

This is how God changes lives.  One obedient step after another.

**********

Let me share with you with a few words from John King, one of the shepherds at our sending church:

Discipleship is a series of changes. It is a process of hearing from God in this one thing and being obedient. As that process of obedience picks up steam over time, we realize we’ve undergone significant transformation and even that realization motivates us to hearing more, obeying more and being more amazed at what the Holy Spirit is accomplishing.

I pray that you are being amazed at what the Holy Spirit is accomplishing in your life.  And if you’re not, I pray you will commit to working with him to bring that transformation.  May your life be changed, and may our God be glorified.

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20 Comments

Filed under family, obedience

20 responses to “one obedient step

  1. jay @ bethegospel

    Thanks for the links. I’m always looking for new methods to read the Bible. I like to be a resource for others, especially sine New years is coming up – resolution time.

  2. Brett, I appreciate your transparency. It is great to hear of your openness to doing whatever God called you to do and then seeing the example of a godly man (Sam) and receive that as an answer to your prayers. Papa God will bless you in this! Thanks for mentioning me and quoting my blog. I pray the link will bless others.

    You are so right about writing being an accountability tool. It reminds me that I am being watched and heard. More than twenty-five years ago a youth at the first church I worked with kept quoting me. Debra (we had just been dating for a little while) asked why he kept referring to me. He said, “When you have a second-hand Jesus you need to listen.” It floored me. I was so humbled, but also reminded that we are all supposed to embody the mind of Christ for those around us. Who better for us to be Jesus to than our spouse and children.

    • “your openness to doing whatever God called you to do”

      this is what i strive for, but i don’t know that i can say it’s really me yet. it’s me on certain days. but you’ve challenged me — without knowing it, perhaps — to work towards this in a greater way.

      • I understand “its me on certain days.” Challenging one another is part of what we are called to do as brothers. You help me “to work toward this in a greater way.” Blessings!

  3. Very cool. I had never heard of the three column study before. I am definitely going to give that a try. Thanks for mentioning it, Brett.

    • no problem, larry. i actually use more of a 4-column approach, sometimes 5 — but the bible study’s kind of been known as 3-column so i figured i wouldn’t change the name.

      but i:
      1. read the text
      2. rewrite it in my own words
      3. write what i learn about God and man and kingdom life, etc
      4. write my “i will” statements.

      i think your typical bible study (i don’t mean “your” as in you personally) uses #s 1 and 3. but #2 requires that we actually understand the text, something we often don’t do. it also prepares us to be able to share those ideas with others in our own non-religious words. and #4 is where, i believe, true discipleship happens. anyone can do #s 1-3. but to make a statement of obedience and follow through requires that one is truly a follower of Christ.

  4. Eagle

    Can I ask you a question…? One of the doubts I struggled with when I was a Christian was reconciling an omniscient God with what I was taught in Christian life. The concept of an omniscient God, one who knows everything about you, when you are born, how many hairs are on your head, how many steps you will take before death, etc.. is all beautiful until one considers the concept of evil. I think of someone who gets murdered or how a young child will be molested and harmed by a predator…and my question to God is how can you let that happen if you know it is going to happen?

    But to tie it to your post above you talk about praying with your wife nightly before bed. My question to you is that if God already knows what you are going to pray about nightly (as he is omniscient) before you do Brett, then why pray? What is the point?

    I’m not trying to difficult…this is one of those things that never was covered in church, well that and an omniscient God and evil. Can you think about this and respond?

    Thanks!!! 😀

    • eagle, i am by no means an expert on why others pray. and certainly not on why God allows evil. but i’ll give you my thoughts all the same”

      first, prayer. even though God can know what i’m going to say in my prayers, i still want to say it. and i think he still wants to hear it. i think of it less as me informing him of things and more as me talking with him about things. it’s similar to the way i might talk with my wife at dinner. i basically know what she did that day, but i still ask her how her day was and what she did (obviously it’s not the same because i don’t know everything about her day). but what i’m getting at is that i enjoy the relationship; i enjoy the conversation. there is something more important at work than the mere words and passing of information.

      and when it comes to asking God for things, it gets even stranger (by human logic at least). the more i speak with God and the more obedient i am to his commands, the more i think like him and want the same things he wants. so my prayers are now slowly becoming such that i’m not only asking God to give me things that he already knows i’m going to ask for — but i’m asking God to give me things that are the very things he wants me to ask for, and the very things he already wants to give me. but my saying the words demonstrates — to ME more than to him — that i am growing up in Christ.

      my daughter can’t talk yet, but i know what she wants most of the time when she wants something. i would LOVE to hear her say the words, though. not just because it would show that she’s growing up (which it would), but because it would show that she trusts me and knows that i can give her those things she needs. and she knows that i want to help her.

      so on the prayer question, i’m going to answer with: it’s conversation and relationship that’s important — more so than the words and the information. or something like that.

    • as for the question of allowing evil to happen, my answers may not be good enough. but i think i basically have two:

      1. i believe God set the earth spinning and handed it over to man. and because of sin, the world is a bad place. evil things happen, and people get hurt. choices have consequences and life’s not fair. this is life in a fallen world.

      2. i simply trust that God is good and right, and what he does is good and right. [and what he doesn’t do is good and right.] if i believe God is good — and especially if that goodness dwells alongside his being all-knowing and all-powerful — then i need to trust that what he’s doing is good. at all times. and i do. i suppose that’s much of what faith is.

      and, eagle, i didn’t at all think you were being difficult. you’ve always responded on my blog with kindness and respect, and i appreciate your willingness to read a blog with ideas so different than your own. i appreciate the questions and the conversation (and i haven’t lost or ignored that email, i’m just major backlogged on email these days — i’ll catch up eventually).

  5. Eagle

    Interesting…if I may your expereinces of prayer were much different than mine. You also reference your wife, and when I think of a relationship I think of a rich, vibrant, 2 way conversation. When I was a Christian, many Christians explained prayer as a deep, intimate expereince. For me prayer was nothing but silence. I’d pray, and pray – not for things but for God’s will to be done, whatever that might be. The result was continued silence. It was all the more frustrating having gone to church and hear people say, “God spoke to me about this” or “My prayer was answered!!” and I’d think…well shoot…why the silence? Unless others are excerbating and blowing things up to fit into the church culture here in the US, which I can see. But in an effort to get answers I read Philip Yancy’s “Disappointment with God” where he talks about silence.

    But I can’t figure out the whole prayer thing. Sometimes it felt like to be a Christian meant playing along with a system and being dishonest. That’s one of the things I do like about agnosticism….the pressure is gone, and I can be more open and honest. Perhaps it is the result of being a part of Christianity here in the US which was very results oriented.

    I don’t know…

    On evil I do have to tell you that I have a difficutl time respecting the Lord who knowingly allows a kid to be molested or someone to be murdered. If you knew someone was going to be harmed in the US but did nothing you could face criminal charges as an accomplice. I can’t understand why many Christians give God the pass. That bothers me a lot. Likewise it bothers me that some of this is materilal that is hard to discuss, and in the circles I was in, many Christians didn’t. Bottling up doubt I think can be very harmful. Likewise prenteding it will go away I think is just as bad.

    Either way enjoy the Christmas holiday with your family.

    • eagle, i don’t hear an actual voice when i pray to God (except for mine), but i do think of it much as a conversation. Jesus says in john 9 or 10 (i think) that his sheep hear his voice. i believe God speaks to christians today — and in many ways. but i do think too few christians bother learning to hear God’s voice. virtually all of us say that we do through scripture (and i believe that to be the easiest and surest way to hear God), but i think the number of us who actually do is much smaller than the number of “us.” i believe the Holy Spirit guides us to know and understand truth, and even to make it practical in our lives. but we have to listen. and i think that involves a lot of things: time spent with God, an openness to hearing from him, silence, willingness to be obedient if we do indeed hear something, and others.

      as for your difficulties with God standing by when horrible sins are committed which hurt the innocent, i definitely understand. it is indeed a hard thing. what’s even harder for me — not to downplay individuals being hurt, but — is genocide. i’ve been to rwanda several times and seen bones and what is left of bodies still laying on the ground where they were murdered in 1994. to think of an entire race or people group being exterminated simply out of hatred or anger is one of the worst things i can imagine. yet God doesn’t step in — or at least he often doesn’t step in. i can see why you’d have a hard time respecting that God.

      thanks for the holiday wishes. i hope your time has been good as well.

  6. Linda M

    Hi Brett,
    I have been reading the question and comments to do with “why does God allow murder and molestation to occur”? In my mind I think people have to take this thought one step further or even more. Why does God allow any evil or wrong to occur in the earth? What about greed? lust? hate? robbery? extortion? deceit? bribery?etc etc?
    What about people born in countries of lack and poverty, of oppression and violence? Why weren’t they all born in prosperous countries?

    I think what is being asked here is why aren’t we living in utopia? Why aren’t we living in heaven? This is not a God problem. This is a man problem. Job asked this question. Habakkuk asked this question. Micah asked this question I believe, and probably many others.

    Man has a responsibility to do justice and to do good. He has a responsibility to love his God and to follow after his God with all of his heart, mind, soul and strength. Man ( the general population of the earth) has abandoned this responsibility and is trying to blame God for all the problems that this abandonment of God has caused.

    A day of judgment is coming when the evil and the wicked will be punished by God for their deeds and actions. God hasn’t asked us to live with our hurts alone and without help. He says look to me for what you need and I will give it to you. Do you need deliverance from the effects of sexual molestation? God will help you to live with that, to come to a place of peace with yourself and with your abuser (s). The Bible makes it very clear that Jesus has felt and known about all of man’s hurts. He knows about sexual abuse. He experienced it. Whether literally himself or on our behalf.

    Our job is to say to God, ok, help me God. Help me to do and to think and to overcome this evil that has happened in my life. God says ‘if you overcome I will give you life, joy, peace, faith, love, happiness, the kingdom, rulership, victory, a new name, eternity, hope, authority, hidden manna, righteousness, holiness, a throne, paradise.

    God isn’t silent on these matters of evil and corruption. He’s waiting until their cup is full and his wrath pours out upon them in its’ fullness and its’ vengence. Vengence is mine says the LORD!!!

    • linda, you bring up some very good points. i basically believe (in extremely short) that God created the earth good — and then sin entered and made it a dreadful place. God is in the process of redeeming this world, and our job (the redeemed) is to work with him. so i think:

      1) much of the evil present in our world is simply the result of mankind having freedom of choice in a fallen world.
      2) christians are on some level responsible or culpable for having allowed these sins and evils to have taken place (and to continue).

      i say all of that to say that i think we’re in very similar places.

  7. Eagle

    Linda, I wasn’t intending to hijack this posting. As an agnostic I have no problem with the concept of sin, and evil happening. People have free will to do as they choose, if that is to steal a candy bar from 7-11 they can do that. If a teacher chooses to rape a student they can do that. For some reason I can accept the logical explantion of free will.

    What I can not accept is the fact that God allows it to happen and doesn’t intervene. In Christian theology God is taught as being omniscient, all knowing all powerful. So God knows Linda when a child is going to born. He will know what family, what nation, when it will be born, and how many hairs on that child’s head. He also knows all the details of that childs life before that child chooses them. And he will know how many steps that child will have before that child takes its last.

    What I can’t understand and what makes me feel queesy is that from the time a child is conceived God knows it will be harmed. God knows that when it is 15/16 (whatever) that a person will abuse that child. So why doesn’t he intervene? Why does he know that child will be harmed and do nothing? Also…how can you worship or respect a God that acts like that?

  8. Linda M

    Hi Eagle,
    I believe that God does intervene as he knows of coming harm. One way that I believe that he intervenes is when we pray and ask Him to. ‘Protect me God, keep me from harm’. One of the principles of the Bible is that ‘you have not because you ask not’ or that you ‘ask with wrong motive or intention’.
    God has given us what we need to fight and overcome. We have prayer, we have the word of God, we have the Holy Spirit, we have faith and hope. I guess that one question could be ‘Why aren’t people asking God?’ ‘Why aren’t people obeying what God has asked them to do?’ ‘Why aren’t people looking to Him?’ ‘Why aren’t people calling on His name?’

    In some ways I think that you are saying I want and enjoy my free will and I’ll do and think and believe what I want, but when it comes to something harming me I want God to step in and make it go away. That’s God’s job. Mine is to do my own thing without God. If that’s sin, then so be it.

    God is a covenant God. Alot of what he says in the Bible is …..’if you do this….then I will do that. ….if your sons keep my commandments and statutes then they will sit on the throne, and their sons after them.’

    Another point is that we haven’t been made or created like an animal. We have been created in the image and likeness of God. We understand good and evil. We each have made our choice in this matter. But, we are still created beings, and I’m not sure that we have the right to say to our potter, you’re doing things wrong? All people, good and evil, should be saved from harm? If this is the case what happens to justice, judgment, fairness if God’s job is to make all harm go away in the world?
    I think we forget about eternity. We think that this life is all that there is. This life is 70 years. Can we suffer for righteousness’ sake if we need to?
    I was born into a poor family. My dad was an alcoholic. My dad was an abuser. My grandfather was a sexual abuser. My husband was an emotional and mental abuser. These things do not define me. They’ve had their influence on my life, but God has made me able to understand these for what they are by praying, reading the Bible, and covenanting with Him.

  9. Eagle

    Linda

    He does intervene? That’s interesting…at one of my previous churches I was at the high school pastor was a sexual predator and molested something like 14 people? (this was before I got there…and no I wasn’t affected, just using this tragedy as an example) The church went to the police, and after fleeing the pastor killed himself. So where was the divine intervention for those 14 children? Did they and their families lack faith? Did they not pray hard enough? What should they have prayed for to protect them from being harmed? Especially if the relationship with God is based upon a covenant, as you suggested?

    It also sounds like you subscribe to the prosperity gospel in some form. When you write:

    “God is a covenant God. A lot of what he says in the Bible is …..’if you do this….then I will do that. ….if your sons keep my commandments and statutes then they will sit on the throne, and their sons after them.’ ”

    So if a person rededicates their faith to God and does what he wants them to do…then he’ll take away the cancer?
    So if you serve the Lord and do what he wants you to do then he wont let your child to be abducted and killed?
    So if a pastor is serving the Lord and does what God wants them to do…the treasurer wont embezzle money from a church?

    Do you see the problem with that type of thinking? This is for another discussion but I would suggest that the prosperity gospel is deeply, deeply entrenched in evangelical Christianity. Perhaps more so than people want to admit.

    Also when you asked about us being critical of the potter..”Your doing things wrong?” Why can’t Christians be disappointed with God? Why can’t they be frustrated? Show some humanity and be normal? Elijah cried out to God? As did David? Noah got frustrated with God when he struck the rock twice? (though that had consequences…) Even John the Baptist had disbelief at times when he was in jail!!

    If I may suggest is it also possible that Christians get so focused on the afterlife that they neglect their responsibilities here? Its like forgiving and forgetting…do a lot of Christians confuse those principals? It almost sounds (forgive me if I’m getting preachy or condescending..because that is not the intent) that your just writing off molestation, abuse, etc.. as being minor. Just think of what we are promised and everything will be okay.

    I’m not trying to be difficult…I’m just trying to understand.

  10. Linda M

    Hi Eagle,
    There is no doubt that God does intervene. We see examples of him doing so in the Bible. The Exodus of his people from Egypt through mighty and fearful signs and wonders. The book of Habakuk says that the world is going to experience these again at the time of the end. The wicked are going to be left with rubble in the earth. God is going to sweep the earth clean of animals, man, birds and fish. Wickedness prospers for a short season. Then comes the end and eternal judgment.
    This is not minimalizing the effects of sin or its consequences in the lives of victims. Some people say that I have been through some difficulties in my life. yes, but I don’t bear the victimization of these situations and circumstances beyond my control. God has seen fit to provide peace, joy, and rest to me. Should we stop sin if we can? For sure. People need to intervene in one another’s lives. Expecially in the lives of children without the ability to understand or stop their perpetrator. Kids often love their abusers because the abuser is their parent or a relative etc. However, they want and need the abuse to be stopped.

    I think in the response of the pastor who was sexually molesting kids you see his shame and guilt. He knows that what he did was wrong. He knows that he has been outed and that he is going to suffer for his sin by the reaction of society, his family, his friends, his own kids? In your example he paid for his sin with his life.

    I’m not making light of sexual molestation or trying to minimise it. It can have lasting, devastating effects for a whole lifetime. In my case sexual molestation was minimal. I was lucky, I guess. But, my experiences have made me much more sensitive to sexual abuse.

    We sin worse against God. What should God do with us? Is it different now because we are the perpetrator and not the recipient ? How would we have God deal with our rebellion and rejection of Him? Do we still think that we should go to heaven? That we should be forgiven for our sins against God? That we should be shown mercy by God?

    What about other sexual sins that we commit? Maybe its adultery, maybe its fornication, maybe its date rape, maybe lust, maybe pornography, maybe _________?

    I’m not a prosperity doctrine believer but following and being obedient to the Word of God has natural blessings, protections, and spiritual blessings.

  11. Pingback: raising children according to deuteronomy 6 | aliens and strangers

  12. Eagle

    Linda, with all do respect I find problems with what your saying. God doesn’t intervene today, or most of the time (if he exsits…) chooses not to. Pointing to an intervention that happened 5,000 years ago and saying that God intervenes doesn’t cut it for today. Why would God intervene to save the Israelities from the bondage of slavery yet allow Christians to be enslaved in some countries today and let it occur? Same goes for children being murdered, pastor molesting a student, etc.. (there are plenty of examples to choose from)

    I can see what you are saying with the pastor paying for his sin with his life. But that in many ways does nothing to deal with the suffering, pain, and misery he inflicted on others. I can understand free will, if someone chooses to use their power to abuse someone in that context, they can do that, as frightening as that can be. But I still don’t understand why God allows it to happen and why Christians exonorate him from blame in the big picture. Christians never hold God responsible…why? And then to make suffering wrose Christians can throw around flippant Bible verses about “God ahs a plan for your life” and Romans 8:28, etc… Sometimes its just sick.

    My overall problem is with a God who allows evil to occur and does nothing to stop it. I find that immoral and wonder how God can be moral if he does that. And just being honest I can’t respect a God who acts like that…for me its makes me feel sick to my stomach.

    I’m not trying to be diffiuclt, I just have problems with this part of Christian theology.

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