Listening To Obey

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Have you ever been confronted by someone claiming, “The Bible is full of contradictions”? 

How about this one: God says, “I tested you at the waters of Meribah” (Psalm 81:7) vs. at Meribah…[the Israelites] tested the LORD (Exodus 17:7)? 

Whenever we see a possible contradiction, remember this: Context is king. We have to look at these two accounts in their proper context. 

In the Exodus account, the Israelites have just been delivered out of slavery in Egypt and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. The pursing Egyptian army tried to follow them, but the waters closed back over them and they drowned. Three days later we find the Israelites grumbling over a lack of drinkable water, which God miraculously supplies. A month after that they are complaining about their food supply, which God miraculously supplies. And right on the heels of that they are again complaining about not having water to drink, which God miraculously supplies (see Exodus 15-17). 

It is after this second miraculous supply of water that we read that phrase we are considering: the Israelites tested God. The Hebrew word for “tested” is nasa which equates to, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” or “I’ll believe it when I see it!” or as The Message paraphrase puts it, “Is God here with us, or not?” 

In Psalm 81, God Himself is speaking in vv. 6-16, so He is the One who claims, “I tested them at Meribah.” The Hebrew word for “tested” in this instance is bahan. This means to investigate closely, to spot and bring out the impurities in fine metals. God not only makes the claim, “I tested them,” but He is also the One who tells us to Selah—pause and calmly consider. 

Consider what? After the first instance of grumbling about water in Exodus 15, we read, “There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there He tested them. He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians’” (Exodus 15:25-26). 

Notice the words decree, law, and commands. Asaph says something similar in Psalm 81:4, “This is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He established it as a statute for Joseph when He went out against Egypt.” 

God is talking about laws before the Ten Commandments are given. What is the law He desires to be obeyed above all else? In a word: Listen. 

  • If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes (Exodus 15:25). 
  • I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah. Hear, O My people, and I will warn you—if you would but listen to Me, O Israel! (Psalm 81:7-8) 

God brings us to these moments of tests to see how we will respond. He doesn’t need to know, but we need to know how we will respond. When we find ourselves wringing our hands, or grumbling, or saying, “Is God here with us, or not?”, what does that tell us about our own heart? He wants us to be wholly His, so He has to bring out the impurities. That same word bahan is used when God speaks this word: “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9). 

Asaph uses the Hebrew word for “listen” five times in Psalm 81. This word means listening with an attitude to obey. In order for us to hear God’s voice, we have to listen with an attitude toward obedience. This is not, “Oh yeah? I’ll believe it when I see it!” but “Oh yeah! I will obey it so I will see it!” 

As I pondered this, the Holy Spirit dropped these questions on my heart which I encourage you to ponder as well: 

  • God is always speaking to me. Am I making quiet time to listen to His voice?  
  • God sometimes has to discipline me. Am I open to His purifying? 
  • God has wise counsel for me. Am I obeying it?
  • God knows the best path for me. Am I walking in it?
  • God wants to subdue my enemies. Am I asking Him to do it?
  • God has abundant blessings for me. Am I listening to obey?

God will only speak a new word to me when I have obeyed His previous word to me.

When I am in distress, I need to train myself to Selah so that I can say, “God has brought me to this test, what do I need to learn? Am I listening to God’s voice with an attitude to obey?” 

May our heart’s posture always be, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening and ready to obey whatever You speak to me.” 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Podcast: The Value Of Feedback

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • “Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” says Greg
  • giving and receiving feedback is a mark of a healthy leader 
  • why people don’t like feedback
  • whose feedback we should value
  • the best attitude for both giving and receiving feedback
  • we should view feedback as a tool to help people (including ourselves) get better  
  • how do we gain credibility that will better enable us to give feedback
  • my pet peeve about feedback and what Greg suggests to correct this
  • an important spiritual component of feedback
  • feedback is never intended to make clones of the leader, nor is it to make the leader superior over his/her teammates
  • why it is important to be both “do as I say” and “do as I do” leaders
  • our coaching huddles are an excellent place for leadership-lifting feedback

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Podcast: The Importance Of Gratitude

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • the importance of a leader’s gratitude  
  • team members need to hear genuine words 
  • how Chick-fil-A onboards grateful employees 
  • Ken Blanchard teaches us to catch people doing something right 
  • the lasting impact of a simple text I sent to a teammate  
  • Greg says gratitude is both an attitude and an action  
  • being ungrateful makes people feel like products
  • when gratitude fades, entitlement takes its place
  • you cannot compliment too often: more people die from a broken heart than from a big head
  • being around grateful people is energizing 
  • Greg says being grateful leads to great-filled leaders
  • more ways to be entered into our November drawing

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and iTunes.

The Attitude That Thwarts God’s Blessings

Two of Israel’s king Jehoahaz and his son Jehoash perpetually hung on to an attitude that limited what God wanted to do for Israel. That attitude can be summed up in a single word: but. 

Jehoahaz “sought the Lord’s favor” during a time Israel was under the oppression of their enemies, and “the Lord listen to him”! God raised up a deliverer who brought them freedom. Israel, under Jehoahaz’s leadership, could have used this newly won freedom to live closer to God and remain in a place of renewed worship. “But” they used their freedom as a license to sin and God reduced Jehoahaz’s army to a mere skeleton of what it had been (2 Kings 13:4-7). 

Jehoash went to visit Elisha. It doesn’t appear he went with a prayer request but merely to pay his respects to this dying prophet. God in His graciousness gave Jehoash something he didn’t even ask for: a promise of victory over Aram! Jehoash was invited to boldly ask for God’s help “but” he thought God had a limited supply and he asked for just a small portion. As a result, his victory over Aram was small—much smaller than God wanted for Israel (13:14-19). 

Once again, enemies surround Israel and we read a statement pregnant with possibility: “But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of His covenant” (13:22-23). Despite their sin, God still wanted to bless them! 

God wants so much more for us than we even want ourselves! But our sinfulness, stubbornness, and unbelief will limit the fullness of what God wants to do. 

Jesus fulfilled God’s covenant. If God did not spare His own Son, how can I ever continue to remain skeptical that He wants to bless me?! He is glorified when I am abundantly blessed in Him. What do I do with God’s gracious concern? Will I squander it and live hemmed in by oppressors? Or will I embrace everything God has for me in Jesus and live in a way that He delights to bless? 

My attitude will determine the blessing I receive. 

Remember … Reorient … Rejoice … Repeat …

…remember… (Deuteronomy 16).

As Moses called the Israelites to keep three main feasts each year—Passover, Weeks (or Pentecost), and Tabernacles—he said the purpose was to remember.

Closely linked to all three of these feasts was another important word: celebrate (vv. 10, 13, 15). 

This remembering and rejoicing on a regular schedule was to keep God’s people aligned with God’s intimate and ongoing involvement in their lives. As a result, an attitude and an action should become just as ongoing in the lives of God’s people—

  • The attitude: joyful gratitude (vv. 11, 14)
  • The action: joyful giving (vv. 10, 15, 17)

These three set times were to be a time of reorientation. They were not supposed to be the only three times God’s people remembered what God had done, celebrated His goodness, let joy overflow their hearts, and let giving overflow to others. These reorientation times should excite us to live like this every single day! 

That’s why Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). 

What celebrations can you build into your life that will help you 

Remember … Reorient … Rejoice … Repeat …

God’s Blessing On A Good Attitude

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered… (Genesis 39:2).

This idea is repeated throughout Joseph’s life:

  • the Lord gave him success in everything he did (v. 3) 
  • the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph (v. 5)
  • the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the warden (v. 21)
  • the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did (v. 23)

For 11 years as a slave in Potiphar’s house and 2 years as a prisoner in jail, God not only blessed Joseph but He also blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph. 

This wouldn’t have happened if Joseph had been bitter over his situation. 

He didn’t demonstrate a bad attitude, but an outstanding work ethic. 

He didn’t look for opportunities to subvert and scheme, but he submitted and served. 

These principles are echoed in the New Testament as well:

  • Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16)
  • Slaves, obey your masters with respect (Ephesians 6:5)
  • Work well whether your boss is watching you or not (Colossians 3:22-23) 
  • Whatever you do, do it for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • Live such good lives that others may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Peter 2:12-20)

[check out all of these verses by clicking here] 

This attitude is one that receives both God’s blessing and man’s favor. When we steward this blessing and favor well, we bring even more glory to God! 

Whether as a slave, a prisoner, or a prime minister, God blessed Joseph and He blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph’s attitude. Can the same be said of our lives?

Poetry Saturday—Mind Is The Master

Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:—
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass. —James Allen, in As A Man Thinketh

Thursdays With Oswald—The Holy Spirit’s Spring-Cleaning

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

The Holy Spirit’s Spring-Cleaning

     A man’s character cannot be summed up by what he does in spots, but only by what he is in the main trend of his existence. … In Matthew 7 our Lord is dealing with the need to make character. First up: The uncritical temper.

     Criticism is part of the ordinary faculty of the man, he has a sense of humor—a sense of proportion, he sees where things are wrong and pulls the other fellow to bits; but Jesus says, “As a disciple, cultivate the uncritical temper.” In the spiritual domain, criticism is love turned sour. In a wholesome spiritual life there is no room for criticism. …  

     No human being dare criticize another human being, because immediately he does he puts himself in a superior position to the one he criticizes. … That is never the work of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost alone is in the true position of a critic; He is able to show what is wrong without wounding and hurting. … If we let these searchlights go straight down to the root of our spiritual life we will see you why Jesus says, “Don’t judge”; we won’t have time to. Our whole life is to be lived so in the power of God that He can pour through us rivers of living water to others. …  

     Jesus says of criticism, “Apply it to yourself, never to anyone else.” … It is impossible to develop the characteristics of a saint and maintain a critical attitude. The first thing the Holy Spirit does is to give us a spring-cleaning….

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

The dictionary defines criticism as the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality something. Jesus is looking for disciples whose character-in-action brings glory to our heavenly Father. 

One area in which we all need to have the loving, penetrating searching of the Holy Spirit is in the area of our criticism We can criticize—but only ourselves; never others. We can criticize ourselves—but only in the loving eyes of the Holy Spirit who knows best how to give us a proper spring-cleaning. 

Simpatico

Have you ever heard the word simpatico? It means to be like-minded. The idea is being on the same page with someone else, ideally someone that is a positive role model. Peter calls himself a leader in the church (Greek word presbyteros) but then says he is simpatico with us (sympresbyteros). 

And this isn’t just for leaders in the church, because the same appeal he makes to leaders is the same appeal he makes to both young men and to all of you. 

Although Peter didn’t use the phrase servant-leader, that’s exactly what he describes. In fact, for Christians, the words servant and leader are really one-and-the-same idea! Peter says God’s leaders are:

    • shepherds (those who nurture, guide, and guard) 
    • serving leaders
    • serving not because you must, but because you are willing (it’s “want to” not “have to”)
    • eager to serve with a great attitude 
    • not lording it over others
    • realizing people have been entrusted into their care
    • being examples to the flock that are follow-worthy
    • being submissive to others
    • clothing themselves with humility 

Three key concepts that Peter brings out are all seen in the life of Jesus: clothing, example, and humility

Jesus set the example for us when He said the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:25-28). 

When Jesus was incarnated in human flesh, He literally made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, which means He put on the clothing of a servant. He completely humbled Himself (Philippians 2:3-8). 

Jesus most clearly demonstrated this when at the last supper He wrapped a towel around His waist (i.e. clothed Himself as a servant) to wash His disciples’ feet, and then told us to follow His example (John 13:2-5; 13-17).

That’s why Peter tells us all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. The word Peter uses for “clothe” means keep on doing this every single day. 

God opposes the proud [those unwilling to be simpatico with Jesus] but gives grace to the humble [those choose to be simpatico with Jesus].

So here are two questions I’m asking myself—

Q: How do I know when I’m a servant?
A: When someone treats me like one. 

Q: How do I know I have a servant’s attitude? 
A: When I don’t mind being treated like a servant.

C.S. Lewis On Relationships

All of these quotes from C.S. Lewis appear in the book Yours, Jack.

“The modern tradition is that the proper reason for marrying is the state described as ‘being in love.’ … Doesn’t the modern emphasis on ‘love’ lead people either into divorce or into misery, because when that emotion dies down they conclude that their marriage is a ‘failure,’ though in fact they have just reached the point at which real marriage begins.” 

“There is a terrible comment on this in I Cor VI 16 ‘he that is joined to a harlot is one flesh.’ You see? Apparently, if Christianity is true, the mere fact of sexual intercourse set up between human beings a relation which has, so to speak, transcendent repercussions—some eternal relation is established whether they like it or not.” 

“Agape is best seen, I think, in the words ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ i.e., by an act of will, aim at your neighbor’s good in the same way as you aim at your own. Now you don’t ‘love’ yourself because of your own ‘lovable qualities.’ You may, in moments of vanity, attribute lovable qualities to yourself, but that is not the cause of your self-love but one of the results of it. At other moments, when you dislike yourself, you still wish for your own happiness. This attitude to one’s own self is dictated by nature: towards other selves it has to be acquired.” 

“The great thing in friendship as in all other forms of love is, as you know, to turn from the demand to be loved (or helped or answered) to the wish to love (or help or answer).” 

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” 

“I take it that in every marriage natural love sooner or later, in a high or low degree, comes up against difficulties (if only the difficulty that the original state of ‘being in love’ dies a natural death) which forces it either to turn into dislike or else to turn into Christian charity. For all of our natural feelings are, not resting places, but points d’appui, springboards. One has to go on from there, or fall back from there. The merely human pleasure in being loved must either go bad or become the divine joy of loving.” 

“It is right and inevitable that we should be much concerned about the salvation of those we love. But we must be careful not to expect or demand that their salvation should conform to some ready-made pattern of our own. … God has His own unique way with each soul.” 

“The real trouble about the duty of forgiveness is that you do it with all your might on Monday and then find on Wednesday that it hasn’t stayed put and all has to be done over again.”

You can read my review of Yours, Jack by clicking here. And you can check out some other quotes I shared from this collection of Lewis’ personal correspondence here and here.

%d bloggers like this: