Lessons to Learn

When Obedience IS the Sacrifice

Picture of a clock with the words "Redeem the time" to represent the time sacrificed to do what my job required.

As Christians, we are held to higher standards than the world. We are expected to follow the requirements of those in authority over us as long as what they are asking us to do does not conflict with what the Bible commands. We do it because we are representatives of Christ, and our behavior reflects on Him. And, we do everything as to the Lord and not to men. But what happens when those requirements aren’t wrong but just annoying? Not only that, but others around you refuse to comply. This very situation happened to me this week at work. I learned a lesson about obedience that reminded me exactly who my Boss really is.

The Mandate

I’m a high school English teacher. I get to school around 7:00 AM and leave around 3:45 each day. So when the email came through instructing English teachers to sign up to attend a meeting scheduled from 4:45 to 6:45 PM the next day, I was already not happy. To make matters worse, the purpose of the meeting was so that the teachers from the two high schools in the district could get together to share ideas and plan for the next quarter. But the other high school teachers don’t do the same things we do at my level of English. They don’t even do the same things as each other. The whole thing would be a pointless waste of time, and it would add three extra hours to the end of my day.

I mentioned what a bummer it was to my two my teammates on my level. “It’s three hours after school,” said one. “I’m not going.” “What’s the worst they can do? Slap our hands? Not going,” said the other. Well, I decided. Then I’m not going either. But no sooner had I hit “delete” on the online sign-up sheet, the nagging feeling of guilt started in my head. 

Indecision

“I’m supposed to be representing Christ. Everybody knows I’m a Christian. If I just do whatever I want, what does that say about my integrity?” I thought. Wasn’t there a Bible verse about that? I looked it up: 1 Timothy 6:1, “Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.” Then Colossians 3:23 popped in. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” “Besides,” that voice in my head continued, “I don’t work for people. I work for the Lord. He called me to teach. He put His fingerprints all over my job when I got hired at my school over ten years ago. I’m supposed to do my best at work to please Him.”

“But I don’t waaaaant to!” I whined back to the voice. Plus, if nobody showed up, maybe the person in charge would get the idea that the online version we have been doing to this point was fine. I was just being a conscientious objector. It was like chaining myself to a tree or refusing to leave a sidewalk. I was protesting really. I’m sure that’s allowed, right?

A Choice to Obey

But the nagging feeling just would not go away. I sat at my desk for over an hour after school going back and forth in my head. I decided I wasn’t going, and that was final. Then the nagging feeling stopped. Wait. A small shiver of fear shot through me. Did it stop because I had finally convinced myself that it was the right thing to do, or did it stop because the Holy Spirit was tired of dealing with me? THAT scared me. If it was the Holy Spirit who had been behind that feeling of guilt the whole time, this was a game changer. I never want to get to a place in which I ignore God’s voice so that He stops speaking.

Plus, just a few weeks ago, I had been in a similar position. I had a strong feeling that I was supposed to share Jesus with a certain someone, but I didn’t do it. I was in a place and at a time when it wouldn’t have been exactly convenient, so I “straight-armed” the Holy Spirit. As soon as my split-second decision was made not to comply with what He was asking, I felt the sting of regret. I had made a promise to myself at that time to always look at things from the standpoint of hindsight. So now here was my chance to do things right. Which would I regret more? Losing three hours of my time or the opportunity to show obedience to God? I decided to go after all.

It Was a Good Night

Long story short, it wasn’t a bad meeting. Only one other lady at my level showed up from the other high school, and we actually had a good conversation. I found out that we have similar backgrounds and were hired the exact same year at our respective schools. She told me some stories from her years teaching at her school, a lower-income version of my school. I shared some lesson plans and talked about my love for my kids . I also told her how I believed God had sent me to my school. On the way home, I prayed for three accidents I saw. And, when I stopped for gas, I felt led to give out a Spanish tract I had in my purse to a guy pumping gas next to me.

Looking back at the evening, I had the very strong feeling that I had done the will of the Lord. I believe that I was in the place He wanted me to be at the time He wanted me to be there. I think I had made the difference I was supposed to make – whatever that difference actually was (only God knows). The whole thing was annoying and pointless in theory, but the reality was that God put me in my position for a reason. I am not my own. I was bought with a price. He gave me the exact advantages, skills, and background I needed to do the job He sent me to do. Submission to my employer is submission to God, and obedience is the only option.

When Obedience IS the Sacrifice

The idea for the title of this article came from 1 Samuel 15:22: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” While I was meditating on it this week, I believe that the Lord showed me something about this verse I had never heard mentioned in any commentary before. Since no sacrifice is needed unless there is sin, this verse means that It’s better to do what is right the first time than to have to repent for doing what’s wrong/sinful (which would require a sacrifice). And even when obedience has a cost attached – our time, our effort, our submission when we don’t understand the point – that sacrifice IS the obedience that God desires. Then, when we look back on the situation, instead of regret, we will have the amazing feeling that we have done the will of the Lord.

Interested in more articles about workplace encounters? Check out Check out God Knows Even When You Don’t, So Pray!  It’s about a time when I prayed for the graffiti to stop, and it did. Or, try Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray. It’s a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see God Answered the Prayer I Did Not Pray. In it, God teaches me a lesson about leaning on Him for strength.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Lessons to Learn

An Object Lesson About Pride in Our Hearts

This is the space heater that God used to show me an object lesson about pride.

God does enjoy a good object lesson. In Ezekiel 4, God has the prophet lay on his side, eating food by weight for 380 days, to illustrate the siege of Jerusalem. In Hosea, God has the prophet marry a harlot to show the relationship between faithful God and unfaithful Israel. Both of these stories involve spiritual concepts symbolized by physical items in order for the audience to better understand. God still uses object lessons today for those who are watching for them. The winter before last, He used an unlikely scenario with a space heater to show me a lesson about pride.

The Set Up

It was a cold January morning around 5:30 am when I hit the bathroom to get ready for work. Immediately, I reached to turn on the space heater that my son had bought me for Christmas the year before. Nothing. I saw that my husband had unplugged it to charge his phone, so I plugged it in and tried again. Nothing. Thinking it might be the outlet, I took it to my side of the bathroom and plugged it in there. It still didn’t work. I was frustrated that my relatively new space heater wasn’t working, so. I set it on the edge of the bathtub for a minute and turned on the shower to get the water warm. 

When I turned back around, I noticed something I hadn’t before. There was a band-aid stuck to the plug. Now, I know what you might be thinking: this is pretty far-fetched. And, I have to agree. But, this story happened exactly like I’m telling it. When my husband unplugged the heater, the cord had come down into the tiny trashcan next to the counter where it must have picked up the sticky band-aid. As soon as I pulled off the band-aid and plugged in the heater, I was in business. The heater worked just fine.

I wondered at the whole scenario as I finished getting ready for work. I knew that God can help us see things that we wouldn’t ordinarily see. Apparently, He also sometimes can help us miss things that we wouldn’t ordinarily miss. But why? I had a very strong suspicion that this was a lesson of some sort. Really, there could be no other explanation for the weird way it went down. It wasn’t until later that day when I happened onto a Word from the Lord that it all came together.

The Lesson and a Confirmation

Someone on my Facebook feed said that she had heard from the Holy Spirit that pride can block the flow of love. Then it hit me. The sticky band-aid had blocked the flow of electricity to the space heater. It was a perfectly good heater. It simply could not get the power it needed to operate because it was blocked. This was a physical representation of a spiritual lesson. I commented on the post about my experience, and we both had confirmation that the Word was from God. But what specifically did it all mean?

Pride Blocks us From Loving the Weak

When we have pride in our hearts, it can lead us to look down our noses on those around us who are not as strong and/or healthy as we are. I thought about times when I was exasperated by people who didn’t seem to be “pulling their weight” at work or others who seemed not to have the same commitment to coming to church every service because of illness or pain. Instead of having compassion on those who are built differently or who have different crosses to bear, I have been guilty of thinking of myself as better or more committed instead of loving them and asking how I can help.

Pride Blocks Us From Sharing Our Faith

When we have pride in our hearts, it is very hard to live our lives out loud for God. Worrying about how other people see us can cause fear to overcome any sense of love or compassion for people who will find themselves in hell without our Savior Jesus Christ. We are commanded to tell others about Jesus. But how many of us go about our lives interacting with store clerks, customers, bank tellers, and the like without ever mentioning Jesus to any of them?

A while back, God convicted me that I needed to do more, so I do pass out tracts when I’m out, but I struggle with pride every time, forcing myself to do it and even sometimes scurrying away with a quick, “Have a blessed day!” instead of sticking around to see if there are any questions or prayer requests. I worry about how people see me instead of being concerned about the consequences of not sharing the great blessing of salvation that someone had to first share with me.

Pride Blocks Us From Loving God With Our Hearts

Finally, having pride in our hearts can block the flow of love toward God Himself. He requires obedience and humility. When we are disobedient or proud, He chastises those whom He loves. When this happens, we have two choices. We can submit and humble ourselves, or we can bristle, get defensive, and pull back from Him. Like a child with a parent who says, “No,” or “Stop,” we can start to see God as strict or (God forbid) mean instead of the compassionate, loving God that He is. It’s obvious to us why children can’t go into the street or touch hot stoves, but as adults, it isn’t always clear why God has us do (or not do) certain things. We just have to remember that it is all for our good and His glory. We must humble ourselves to be grateful for His correction and love Him with our whole hearts.

Pride is bad news. It’s the sin that caused Lucifer to fall, and it’s the same one that is still causing trouble for many well-meaning Christians today. Just like the heater was blocked from power, our hearts can be blocked from having compassion for others and even fully loving God Himself when we have pride there. But loving God and loving others are the two greatest commandments, and without that power, we aren’t truly functioning the way Christians should. It is up to us to pull off that sticky pride and plug ourselves into the Source once again.

Enjoy object lessons? Check out Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe. In it, God uses a housefly to teach me about the way I should view the enemy. Or, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change. In that one, God shows me that we don’t have to stick with bad choices once they have been made.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Lessons to Learn

What My Dog Taught Me About God’s Timing

My German Shepherd Angel looking up at me after she taught me about God's timing.
Angel Marie G. Excuse the mess!

God’s timing is perfect. Ours is not. It’s one thing to know it and believe it. It’s another thing to experience a situation in which we want something so very badly, and it’s not yet God’s time for it. This morning over breakfast, I think my dog taught me a lesson about God’s timing that I will take to heart from now on.

The Setup

Bagels and cream cheese. Yum. I love them. My dog Angel loves them. This morning, I was sitting in bed eating my bagel. (I’m a teacher on summer break, so I can do stuff like that.) My dog was sitting with her little snout on my bed. Her eyes looking up so very longingly at my plate. The crispety, crunchety sound of bagel munching was in the air. Angel wanted a bite of my bagel. She licked her chops with a little sigh.

I took a sip of my coffee, surveying the bagel landscape. The bite at the end would be just perfect for her. It wouldn’t be too much to give her a tummy ache, and my own stomach would be satisfied by that point, too. I made my decision to give her the very last bite of my bagel. I continued eating, my plan firmly established. And then she left.

The Lesson

In that moment, I saw myself in the many times I have come before God asking Him for the latest thing I WANTED. I have pleaded with God over things in my life, looking up at Him with plaintive eyes and practically licking my chops. But how many times have I gotten tired of God’s timing and wandered away right before He gave me the thing I was asking for? Of course, I have no way of knowing, but it sure made me think.

The next time I come before God, asking Him for something in my life, I’m going to remember this breakfast. I’m going to stay at the altar until the situation resolves itself and the door is either swung open wide or slammed tightly shut. I won’t give up while God still has the bagel in His hand.

If you like object lessons, try Message In the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change . In it, we learn that bad choices shouldn’t trap the child of God. Or, if you like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His,” check out Telling Hearts.

Lessons to Learn

God Answered The Prayer I Did Not Pray

From the time I was a child, I have always been an independent person. I even remember jerking away from my mother as she tried to help me tie my shoes, saying, “I do it!” In the world, independence is a good thing. It keeps us responsible for our own affairs and moving toward a life away from our parents’ couch. As Christians, though, we must remember that ultimately, it’s not always up to us to do things on our own. Instead, it is in our very own weakness that God shows Himself strong. Recently, God taught me that lesson by answering a prayer I did not pray. 

The Set Up

That day I had gone to Costco to pick up a few items, and I found a great deal on water. Getting the giant pack into my cart wasn’t hard because I was able to use gravity to swing it down from the tall stack with a thump. Getting it out of the cart would prove to be another matter. I’m not physically strong at all, and after securing everything else into my vehicle, I found myself alone in that parking lot trying to lift that water. I would strain and get the heavy pack almost up to the top of the cart…before watching helplessly as it fell back down. 

The Verse

Then the verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9 popped into my head. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’…” So I said a prayer: “Lord, if your strength is made perfect in my weakness, give me the strength to lift this heavy pack of water out of my cart.” I lifted again, harder than before, with the same results.

The Answer

After a few more tries, panting and grunting and bulging my eyes, a family pulled up a few spaces away. It was a mom, a dad, and a teenaged boy. Without any prompting, the boy came directly over to my cart and offered to lift the water. A moment later it was done, and I thanked him profusely. He even took my cart back to the corral for me. I considered the situation. I had prayed for God to give me some sort of burst of supernatural strength to lift the heavy item for myself, but I really just wanted the water in the truck. God had answered the prayer I did not pray, sending instead another pair of stronger arms.

The Lesson

I then reconsidered the verse. It’s not about God making us strong enough to do things for ourselves. It’s about leaning on His provision to get things done. He never promised to take away our weakness. He promised to meet our needs despite them. Too many times, I realized, I really just want to be able to do things myself. It’s easier, somehow, not to involve other people in my own messy life, but God doesn’t work that way. If I had been able to lift the water myself, I would not have witnessed God moving on my behalf, and that boy would not have received the blessing of helping a stranger in need. I also realized that at other times, I am the one who is blessed when God sends me to help.

I think that’s where the rest of Paul’s sentiment comes from. “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” God delights in taking care of His children and shows Himself strong on their behalf. The very weakness we see as a hindrance is sometimes just an opportunity for God to work in our lives. 

Interested in more articles about prayer? Check out Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray, a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see Hope For Lost Loved Ones: God’s Mercy in Trials, a new way to pray for lost loved ones.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.