Tag Archives: obedience

Clean Your Room!


Francis Chan is one of the most amazing speakers for his use of illustrations.  In this 2 minute video clip he talks about “how NOT to make disciples”.  Seriously, I think this has amazing applications for the church.  What if we stopped memorizing the Great Commission and actually DID it.  What if we stopped arguing about titles and worship styles and started leading people to Jesus.  What if we stopped listening to podcasts about “what is missions” and actually WENT.

“I desire obedience, not sacrifice.”

A prayer from a coward’s heart


“Father, I want to know thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys.  I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from thee the terror of the parting.  I come trembling, but I do come.  Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival.”  ~The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Sometimes we say to our children, “You don’t need to know why I am forbidding something- you just need to obey.”  Sometimes God says the same thing to me, his child.  I just need to obey God.

I don’t always see things like he sees them.  I don’t always agree with his commands.  I don’t always LIKE what he’s told me to do.  I don’t enjoy putting to death my flesh.  It’s not a pleasure to carry my cross.


I obey.  Perhaps begrudgingly, perhaps with a bad attitude sometimes, but I obey.

Some of those spiritual muscles are not used to being flexed and exercised.  Some of them have become weak and unaccustomed to being controlled.  I need to practice a movement, repeatedly, concentrating on correct form and execution, repeating it until it becomes reflexive and automatic.  I build up my muscles by repetitive actions until they become a part of who I am.  I do not enjoy the exercise, but I do it.

Hopefully this will get easier with time and practice.  Hopefully I will find joy in obedience.  But right now, I grimly set my hand to the plow and faintly trust that Jesus knows better than I do.

The flame of my faith is just a flickering candle, not a mighty blazing inferno… not yet, not here.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast and compliant spirit within me.

Right between the eyes


This is a part of a devotional I read this week in My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.  It hit me right between the eyes.  Emphasis is mine.

I claim God’s promises for my life and look to their fulfillment, and rightly so, but that shows only the human perspective on them. God’s perspective is that through His promises I will come to recognize His claim of ownership on me. For example, do I realize that my “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” or am I condoning some habit in my body which clearly could not withstand the light of God on it? (1 Corinthians 6:19). God formed His Son in me through sanctification, setting me apart from sin and making me holy in His sight (see Galatians 4:19). But I must begin to transform my natural life into spiritual life by obedience to Him. God instructs us even in the smallest details of life. And when He brings you conviction of sin, do not “confer with flesh and blood,” but cleanse yourself from it at once (Galatians 1:16). Keep yourself cleansed in your daily walk.

I must cleanse myself from all filthiness in my flesh and my spirit until both are in harmony with the nature of God. Is the mind of my spirit in perfect agreement with the life of the Son of God in me, or am I mentally rebellious and defiant? Am I allowing the mind of Christ to be formed in me? (see Philippians 2:5). Christ never spoke of His right to Himself, but always maintained an inner vigilance to submit His spirit continually to His Father. I also have the responsibility to keep my spirit in agreement with His Spirit. And when I do, Jesus gradually lifts me up to the level where He lived-a level of perfect submission to His Father’s will— where I pay no attention to anything else. Am I perfecting this kind of holiness in the fear of God? Is God having His way with me, and are people beginning to see God in my life more and more?Be serious in your commitment to God and gladly leave everything else alone. Literally put God first in your life.
I think I can just let those thoughts stand on their own merit.  I’ve been convicted.  I’m off to work on my rebellious and defiant mind.  This obedience thing is really hard.
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I don’t have to like it…



Recently God and I were locked in a battle of the wills.  (Of course you know who won.)  As I squirmed under his thumb, I felt him speak to me in that Fatherly tone that he often uses with me.  He said, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to obey.”  

Now clearly I would be assured of a greater blessing if I submitted with humble faith to the thing that I didn’t understand.  But God and I were beyond the point of tender prodding and gentle leading.  I had gone through all my whining “Whys?” and settled into a defiant pout.  Now all he could do with me was to pull the “Because I said so” card, the Parental Ace.

I go through this with my own children sometimes.  They whine, “I don’t want to brush my teeth.”  You don’t have to like it, you just have to obey.  “I don’t like peas.  I don’t want to eat them.”  You don’t have to like it, you just have to obey.  I don’t always explain my reasons to my children for the very purpose that learning to obey a parent will help them learn to obey God when he is also silent about his motives.  Sometimes children just need to trust that the grown ups know more than they do.  And sometimes I need to trust that God sees things that I don’t see.

I’m still not happy about what I know I’m supposed to be doing.  I still don’t understand it. But I have grimly set my face towards obedience, like Jonah plodding towards Ninevah with whale vomit pooling in his shoes.  I don’t have to like it.  I just have to obey.

Last night I prayed, “Lord, change my desires.  Give me your desires.”  And immediately I felt my cold heart begin to melt a bit.  This is going to take some more praying and more submitting of my desires, but I think I’m learning little by little.  I still don’t understand, but I choose to obey.

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When Pigs Fly!


I’ve been thinking a lot about King Saul lately.

He was ancient Israel’s first king.  Before Saul, the people of Israel were lead by prophets and judges, but the rule of government was spotty at best.  The Bible says, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”  And boy, was it a disaster.  The last judge was the priest/prophet Samuel.

Samuel was getting along in years and had served the Lord and Israel faithfully for his entire life.  But the people started itching for something different.  They wanted to be like the nations around them who all had real kings.  For Israel, God was supposed to be their King.  But the people decided they didn’t want God for King nor Samuel’s sons as judges, they wanted to be like their neighbors.  They rejected God and demanded a king.

So God said, “Fine, I’ll give you a King, but you won’t be happy with the situation.”  God told Samuel to anoint Saul as King.

Now Saul was a nobody from a nobody family with nothing going for him except his good looks.  He was taller than everyone else and had a handsome face.  But his character was far from Princely.  As a matter of fact, on the day that Samuel anointed Saul to be king, he told him that later on he would come across a band of prophets.  Sure enough, later in the day Saul ran into the group and they were prophesying.  The Bible says the Spirit of the Lord came over Saul, changed his personality, and he began to prophesy too.  This was such a dramatic  departure from his normal character that it became an expression of shock to say, “What?  Is Saul among the prophets?”  It became their version of “when pigs fly!”

But Saul’s change of character just didn’t stick because he had a hard time obeying God.  His new power went right to his head and he felt like he was exempt from rules.  Saul’s heart became harder and harder until the Bible says God’s Spirit departed from him… and he never noticed the difference.  Saul was so self absorbed that he only followed his own heart and didn’t seek after God’s heart.

So God told Samuel to go anoint David as Saul’s successor.  David was “a man after God’s own heart.”  Meanwhile, Saul remained king and his hard heart lead to desperate, horrible things.  Saul even stooped so low as to consult a witch for advice about the future!  Eventually Saul committed suicide by falling on his own sword.  His reign ended in misery and heartache for everyone around him.

Now my thoughts turn to you and I.  Have we “clamored for a king” like the Israelites because we don’t like the idea of God ruling over us?  Have we gone in for the pretty face of a sin without considering the content or character beneath the surface?  If God’s Spirit left us, would we even notice the difference?  These are all questions that we can ask ourselves both individually and as a community.  As for me, I pray along with David who wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God… and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”  (Psalm 51)

Faith like a Ficus Tree


There is a pretty little park a few blocks from my house where ancient Ficus trees line the side of the road.  I have never seen Ficus trees this big because in Minnesota a Ficus tree is a finicky species, out of its element, and must be treated with extreme care or it will drop all it’s leaves and die.  But here, a Ficus is in its natural habitat.  No wonder they grew so big.

One day I was passing by the park and saw, to my utter horror, a tree trimming crew was hard at work.  They were trimming back the Ficus trees… cutting them back hard!  Too hard, I thought.  They cut off nearly all the branches of those majestic trees, leaving only a few spindly branches on each tree.  I thought they must be cutting them all the way down.  I was very, very sad and angry at the same time.  Why would they cut those beautiful trees back so hard?  Now those Ficus trees will surely die.

For a few months, they looked really ugly.  They looked hacked and wounded, pathetic and humiliated.  But photosynthesis was still happening.  Month by month, those trees stared to fill out again.  Bit by bit, the shade returned to the park.  I asked someone about it once.  He said, they cut them back so they stay sturdy otherwise they get leggy and top-heavy and could fall over in a storm.  I did some internet research of my own and learned that a Ficus is actually a very resilient type of tree, if it’s in its natural environment.  I was very surprised.

So one day when Taylor and I were driving home we spotted a Ficus tree dumped in a garbage heap on the side of the road.  It appeared to have been a potted plant that someone had thrown out.  It was about as tall as I was, with a decorative braided trunk like they do with house plants, and only one side of the tree had leaves.  Even the leaves it had were brown and curled on the edges.  But Taylor and I stopped and threw the thing in the trunk.  We took it home and replanted it in the yard.  I watered it.  I fertilized it.  I sprayed it with pesticide to protect it in its weakened condition.  And month by month, it stared to fill out again.  Bit by bit, its leaves grew back and offered a patch of shade to my yard.  It was indeed a resilient plant.

Faith is like a Ficus tree.  Sometimes God has to prune us hard, cutting out dead and dangerous stuff to make us sturdy and strong, healthy and resilient.  Don’t resist God with you see him coming with the pruning shears.  He’s not coming to cut you down, he just wants to make you stronger.  When God prompts your heart to let something go, you should obey immediately.  Let go.  Don’t hold on to that dead past, don’t keep the life-sucking relationship when God commands you to cut it off.  Let God shape and cut and prune your life and one day your shade will be a blessing to those around you.

Cookie-Cutter Missionary, a Tale by Guest Blogger Ilona Hadinger, Missionary to Mexico


This is a blog written by a fellow missionary momma.  When I first read it, it really resonated with what I’ve felt all along about my awkwardness in ministry.  I have never felt like I was your typical pastor’s wife and sometimes that’s bothered me.  So here’s encouragement from another woman who doesn’t seem to fit the mold either.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Then He formed man in his image; male and female He created them.

In the middle, God birthed His New Testament church.  Then He commissioned them to go into all the world; anointed with His Spirit He sent them.

Near the end, God hastened his task.  Then He formed a cookie-cutter shaped missionary; identical He produced them, for the harvest was great and the workers were few.

And they rarely lived happily ever after.

The End.

(written by Lax N. Site for the “Myths, Lies, and Twisted Truths” anthology.)

You’ve never read that?  Oh, but many of us have believed it- or live surrounded by those who do.

Like me.

It began with the “I do” to a minister on my wedding day.  I felt I had to be that cookie-cutter pastor’s wife.  I did love people, but I couldn’t sing, wasn’t a social butterfly, and the only songs I knew on the piano were 70’s hits like “Yes, We Have No Bananas.”

Was I the wrong cookie for that post?

In time came the call to missions.  With itineration came invitations to be the engaging speaker for women’s event in There-ville.  “Come, share your vision with passion!”  Except that I hated public speaking and was still recovering from the shock of the call.

Was I the wrong cookie for that plate?

On the field, most nationals have received us warmly with invitations to preach.  In my case, again to women in conferences or other large gatherings.  Often I sensed their disappointment that I am not the Patsy Clairmont or Beth Moore they expected… or hoped for.

Am I the wrong cookie for this place?

I used to think so, but not anymore.  Sweeping the crumbs aside, a dormant truth in my heart awoke to active belief:  I am uniquely created by my Maker!  My talents and abilities are to be used for His glory, for the calling of His choosing.

As a missionary, I can serve Him with what He’s given me, though others try rolling me, cutting me out and baking me into what they think I should be.  if I like to write, paint, bake or to raise my kids well and be the best help-meet for my husband, I can do any of those as faithful ministry, creatively using my desires, abilities and talents for God’s glory.

Have you ever read about Bezalel in Exodus 31:3-4?  God uniquely used him to help build the Tabernacle:  “I have filled him with the Spirit, with skill… to make artistic designs.”  Or you may recall the Levites in 1 Chronicles 23-26 who each had a specific work to do, “…they were to serve the Lord… in the way prescribed for them… and so they carried our their responsibilities.”  And let’s not forget Tabitha in Acts 9 who served the Lord by sewing for widows.

This is cookie-cutter freedom!

You know both your calling and your talents.  May God continually roll you, shape you, and make you into what He wills.  His house will fill with a wonderful aroma and your life will be a trail of delicious crumbs for others to taste and see how good He is.

*Originally posted on “In Real Life with Jamie Jo” on Women of the Harvest. and again on the LAC Writers’ Guild called Tortilla Press.  Finally, if you want to read more of Ilona’s blogs,visit her own Inkyspot.

I give my kids Tylenol. Can I call myself a doctor?


I hope nobody takes this blog post wrongly.  I am not trying to brag about myself or to put anyone down.  I’m not trying to be negative, I’m just expressing a frustration that most of my co-workers in the foreign mission field also feel.  These are my true feelings and thoughts.  I’m being honest.

It’s a really popular thing in churches now days to throw around the word “missionary” and to apply it to many different contexts.  For example, some people say “my office is my mission field” or “I am a missionary in my school.”  This kind of rubs me the wrong way.  I don’t deny that these places are full of people who need to hear about Jesus.  And I don’t deny that Jesus gave the Great Commission to all Christians (Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”).  And I don’t deny that it can be hard to be a light in the darkness.  But these uses of the word “missionary” kind of bother me because, you see, I AM a missionary.  A real missionary.  I have taken the “go” in that verse to literally mean “go to the nations.”  It’s more than my occupation, it’s my entire life.

As a real missionary I have made decisions for my own life that have ripped through my family.  I chose to go, so my kids have come with me.  And that decision tore the heart out of my parents who had to say good-bye to their grand kids.  That decision impacted the aunties and uncles and cousins and sisters and brothers that we left behind too.  You see, I’ve made the hard choices that a missionary makes when she loves God more than she loves her family.

As a real missionary, I have spent YEARS learning the language.  I have put in the hours of hard study.  I have laid down my own desires and submitted myself to another culture, another way of thinking, and another way of communicating.  I have been stripped bare of my own identity.  The “missionary” who just walks across the street to be a witness to his neighbor will never be required to make the same kind of investment.  I have done the hard work to become a missionary.

As a real missionary, I have sold all my possessions (except a few boxes of treasures and memories) and made an international move MORE THAN ONCE.  I sold the rocking chair that I rocked my babies in.  I watched my dishes walk out the door.  I put my electronics in the hands of a garage sale shopper on a Saturday morning.  I spread all my possessions across my lawn for my neighbors to pick through.  I looked at the pitiful wad of dollar bills and quarters that I accumulated in exchange for all my worldly possessions and I knew, despairingly, that this pittance would not cover the cost to repurchase these things overseas.  It was going to cost me something more to reestablish a home in a foreign country.

As a real missionary, I have swallowed my pride over and over again to ask churches for money.  We need support to do what we do.  To an American, this feels like begging.  I didn’t like it.  It can be humiliating, but this is the way our organization is run.  So week after week we would “shlep” our presentation table around the state like a traveling salesman.  We have done the leg work to earn our support as missionaries.

We have made the sacrifices to earn the title “missionary”, so to hear others appropriate the title for themselves when they haven’t made those same hard sacrifices kind of bothers me.  It’s like me giving my kids Tylenol and then calling myself a Doctor.  I didn’t work for that title.  I didn’t pay for that title.  I didn’t invest my life in becoming a doctor, so when I rob the Doctor of his title I also rob him of his earned respect.  I am not a Doctor.  I am a mother with an eye dropper full of over-the-counter pain-killer.

In the same way that I am not a Doctor, I’m also not a super hero.  I don’t expect great honor.  I don’t want to be put on a pedestal.  I don’t want to hear the praise of men.  I’m not fishing for compliments or pats on the back.  The only thing I am dying to hear from my heavenly Father is, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Here’s your eternal home… and you never have to move again.”

Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

In the Belly of the Whale and Hating it.


You can be right in the center of God’s will and still be miserable.  Did you know that?  Just because you are obeying God doesn’t mean you’re always going to be happy and comfortable.  And just because you are UNhappy doesn’t mean you are necessarily OUT of God’s will either.  I’m writing this story in the hopes that it sets someone free from the guilt of being in God’s will and hating it.

We were missionaries in Mexico City for two years.  I did not love living in Mexico City.  There, I said it.  Up until this moment only some close friends and family had ever heard me say that.  Mexico City is a hard city to live in.  Aside from the language (which we were still learning), the traffic, and the pollution- living in a place where the bad guys had police badges and guns really messed with me in ways I’m not sure I can fully explain.  Corruption is a bad, bad thing.

On a spiritual level, the oppression over that city is palpable.  You can feel it even if you aren’t paying attention.  Let me describe it.  When I was flying with our kids into Mexico City from language school (Josh was already there with the car and trailer) I felt this spiritual oppression for the first time- but I had no words for it yet.  About 20 minutes from landing at the airport I was busy getting my kids packed up and resettled for landing.  Suddenly a fear gripped my heart.  I broke into a cold sweat and I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.  “I can’t do this,” I thought.  “What the heck am I doing bringing my kids to this city?!  I can’t do this.”  The voice of the Enemy spoke in my heart.  I felt sick to my stomach.

What I didn’t know was that I was flying into the spiritual domain of Death.  Since the beginning of human history in this valley, Death has been worshipped.  Humans have been sacrificed.  Even up to this modern day and age, Satanism is alive and well in Mexico.  There is even a holiday celebrating Death here.  Because Death is still worshipped here it has the right to be here.  Death does not like the messengers of God coming here because we bring Life.  Death hates that.  So Death did not want me and my family coming to Mexico City.  Death tried to intimidate me.  Everyday.

We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were in God’s will coming to Mexico City.  Doors had opened, miracles had happened, God’s blessing was on us and ministry was good!  So we felt certain that we were in God’s will.  But living there under the oppression of Death, day in and day out, was a grind.  It wore us to the bone.  But we are not quitters.  We had always said that we would never leave just because it was hard, or we were uncomfortable, or we didn’t absolutely love it here.  We only left when Lucy and I got sick.  We had amazing friends there, and ministry was flourishing, but I did not love Mexico City.

I felt guilty about that.  I prayed that God would help me love this place.  I was insanely jealous of other missionaries who claimed to LOVE were they lived and worked.  Somedays my only sanity was telling myself, “At least I’m not called to China.”  God knew I couldn’t take that!!  We didn’t love it, but we threw ourself heart and soul into Mexico City.  We gave 110% every day.  I still felt guilty about being so unhappy.

Then one day my Dad told me something that totally changed my thinking about this and gave me freedom from guilt.  He told me, “You can be completely in the center of the will of God and still be miserable.”  That got me thinking.  I’m sure Jonah hated being in the belly of the whale- but that’s right were God wanted him for those 3 days.  I’m sure Daniel was less than thrilled to spend the night in the lions’ den- but God sent him in there.  I know for a fact that Jesus dreaded going to the cross.  He sweat great drops of blood as he prayed in the garden the night of his betrayal.  He prayed, “Take this cup from me, Father” and all of humankind was a breath away from eternal damnation until he yielded, “But not my will, only yours, Father.”  He was right in the center of his Father’s will… and he dreaded it.  So I was not alone.

So the point is, our emotions are not a good indicator of reality.  Just because you are unhappy doesn’t mean you’ve missed God’s will or that you are being disobedient.  We can be totally happy and content and yet displeasing to God OR we can be miserable and be right were God wants us to be.  God’s will is completely independent of our emotions, both good and bad.  He does what he wants to do (he is Sovereign), and always does things for our ULTIMATE good.  But moment by moment he is less concerned about our happiness than he is about the end result of what he is doing for us and in us.  God is God.  He is not bound by contract to make me happy.  He is only bound to his own character which is GOODNESS.  Even when I hated being in Mexico City, I had the peace of knowing that I was right were God wanted me to be… even though I hated it.

Hindsight… does this dream make my butt look big?


Leap of Faith

“Staring in the water like Aesop’s foolish dog

Can’t help but reflect on what is was I almost lost

What I thought I wanted, what I got instead

Leaves me broken and grateful.”

~Sara Groves, What I thought I wanted

I had a dream of living in Europe.  I studied 4 years of French.  I seriously thought God was going to call me to Europe as a missionary.  Europe suits me, and I have the wardrobe for it already!  I love the history, the architecture, the art, the cool youth culture.  I just love Europe.  I kept waiting for the Call from the Lord.  It never came.

When I was 17 I was supposed to be attending my high school graduation.  Instead I was spending a month in Europe with my family on a sort of family missions trip.  We spent 3 weeks in Brussels, Belgium working with missionary friends and then tacked on a week in Paris just for family vacation.  I never considered missing my graduation ceremony to be a hardship in the light of Paris!  I was born for that city!

While we were in Belgium we toured Continental Bible College, where I considered studying for at least a year.  As I walked through the buildings with the tour guide, I prayed in my heart.  I asked God, “Well, what do you think?” and clear as the voice of the tour guide I heard God say to me, “He’s not here.”  I knew immediately that he meant my future husband.  I said, “I didn’t ask you about that,” and we didn’t talk about it again.  I went home and applied to North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, my hometown.  I met Josh a few months later and two years later we got married.  What I thought I wanted pales in comparison with what I got instead.

Fast forward to 2003.  We were on a missions trip with our youth group kids.  We knew this would be our last trip.  We had already felt God starting to stir our hearts, change was on the horizon.  But we didn’t know what it was going to look like.  Sitting on a bench on the campus of the University of Mexico UNAM we felt God speaking to our hearts.  “This door is open.  Will you come here and work for me?” he asked.

I thought about my Europe.  I said, “Mexico??  But God, I took FRENCH!  Remember?   Is this one of those times when I say yes to what you want and then you give me what I really want instead?”

No.  Then he took me to the altar of my heart.  He reminded me of all the times I had knelt before him and said, “Lord, send me!!  I’ll go ANYWHERE!  Just send me SOMEWHERE!”

And he asked me again, “Did you really mean anywhere?”

“Yes, Lord.  I will go anywhere you send me.”  I humbly replied.  Europe slipped from my fingers.  And I had the sensation of falling backwards off a cliff and landing safely in God’s hands.  That free fall, stomach in the throat, adrenalin rush that you get just as you jump was me putting my trust in God, knowing that he was going to catch me.  Faith.  A leap of Faith.

Last year I had a very vivid dream.  The Lord was speaking to me.  In my dream the Lord and I were hovering over a globe of the world.  He showed me Europe.  I saw and felt and experienced in one moment everything I love about Europe.  Then the globe spun and I was over Latin America.  The same thing happened, in one moment I saw and felt and experienced everything I love about Latin America.  Then the globe was pulled back a little.  Looking at the whole world, God gave me a choice.  “Knowing what you now know, do you want Europe or Latin America?”  I was being given a choice, a permanent, real choice.

I hovered over the globe for longer than I thought it would take to make this decision. In my dream I cried over the agony of this choice.  Finally I said, “I can’t bear the thought of leaving Latin America.  I love it more than I ever thought I would.  I choose Latin America.”  As soon as I made my choice, the globe was removed from me and I felt that my decision was made final.  I would not be given this choice again.  But oh the peace that flooded my heart!  I knew I would be happy with this decision.

Something deep inside of me resonated like a bell.  There is a part of me that was made to respond to Latin America, and it thrills me to hear it ring like a bell in my heart.  What I thought I wanted was completely different from what I got instead.  And I am happy.  So happy.