Obedience Does Not Guarantee Victory

man prayingDuring a battle recorded in Judges 20, two times the Israelites prayed and asked God if they should fight the Tribe of Benjamin. Both times God said, yes. Both times they were defeated, proving obedience does not guarantee victory.

The Israelites couldn’t figure out the loses. They asked. God said fight. They fought. They were defeated.

God didn’t guarantee victory. He just told them what to do.

As the Israelites discovered through this battle, obedience does not guarantee victory. Nor does it guarantee our desired outcome. Sometimes the purpose of obedience is to teach us faithfulness to God’s directions.

After suffering severe losses both days of battle, the Israelites once again asked God if they should fight the next day. God said, yes, adding, “I will see to it that you defeat the men of Benjamin.”

Often, I believe, our default is to expect our desired outcome because we are obedient. Have you ever felt that way? As we see with the Israelites, although they prayed for direction and did what God said, victory was not granted until the third time they went to battle.

While writing this post I thought of Elisabeth and Jim Elliot, missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador. For Elisabeth, after nine months of developing a written language for the Ecuadorans in the jungle, her suitcase full of handwritten materials translating the language was stolen as she prepared to leave. Everything she worked tirelessly on so the people living in the remote jungle could have the Gospel in their own language was gone. Elisabeth’s obedience did not guarantee victory.

Then there is Jim. For nine months he repaired three dilapidated buildings, and constructed two new ones at the Shandia mission station in the eastern jungle of Ecuador. In addition to all that, he had five hundred hand-planed boards for future buildings on hand. Those boards represented five hundred day’s work. Regardless of his obedience to spread the Gospel to the people of Ecuador, the entire station of Shandia was demolished in a flood. It literally washed away. Not long after, Jim died at the hands of the Auca Indians at the age of 29. Jim’s obedience did not guarantee victory.

There are many more stories where the obedience of God’s people did not guarantee victory, both in Scripture and in the lives of those around us. The important thing, I believe, is to be obedient. And in that obedience, God brings victory.

Victory may not look as we imagine, or happen in our timing. Who knows? Victory may not come until we hear Christ say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

How do you handle times when your obedience does not bring the victory you expected?

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The men of Israel asked the Lord, “Shall we go out again and fight against our brother Benjamin, or shall we stop?”

And the Lord said, “Go, for tomorrow I will see to it that you defeat the men of Benjamin.” Judges 20:28b

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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What Must I Do?

The story is told in the 19th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew of a man who came to Jesus and asked, “What good must I do to earn eternal life?”

The man many call the Rich Young Ruler felt he had all his bases covered. He kept all the required religious laws. To make sure he hadn’t left anything undone to earn eternal life, he went to the one he considered a good teacher. Mind you, the man did not call Jesus Lord or Messiah. Only teacher.

“What good must I do to earn eternal life?” Sounded like the man wanted a checklist of good deeds to follow to ensure he earned his spot in heaven.

I’ve met students like this. They never came right out and asked what was the least they could do and still pass the class, but their actions made it quite clear that’s what they wanted. Internal motivation to do a job to the best of their ability, was nowhere on their radar.

When Jesus mentioned several commandments recorded in what we refer to as the Ten Commandments, the man said he’d kept all of them. Was there anything else he lacked? Jesus told the man he must sell his belongings, give them to the poor, and to follow him.

Matthew tells us the man went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

Although the man asked, “What good must I do to earn eternal life?” he wasn’t willing to put Jesus before his possessions when told that was what he should do.

The first commandment tells us not to place anything before God. We might not put our possessions before God, but what about our relationships, jobs, leisure activities?

Jesus told the man if he wanted to have eternal life, it wasn’t a long to-do list of external things to check off. Christ is more concerned with heart attitude than outward show.

Our motivation to strive to keep the commandments should be because we love God and desire to please him. It’s all about internal motivation, not external motivation.

What Must I do? What must we do?

Do we love Jesus enough to let go of the things that keep us from following him? That’s a good place to start, is it not?

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A man came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?” Matthew 19:16 (CEV)

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay

Pause for Poetry-Count It Done

Count It Done

Annie Johnson Flint

A father wrote to his son, who was faraway from home;
“I have sent you a beautiful gift, it may be delayed, but ‘twill come;

It is what you have wanted most, and have asked for many days;”
And before the child received the gift he voiced his thanks and praise.

Our Father saith unto us: “Your need shall be supplied;
Ask and receive that your joy be filled, and My joy in you abide.”

Shall we wait to thank till we see the answer to every prayer?
Forbear to praise till we feel the lifted pressure of care?

Nay, let us trust His word and know that the thing is done,
For His promise is just as sure as a father’s to his son.

Annie Johnson Flint

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buttons.

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Jesus Holds the Keys

key Have you ever thought about how important keys are?

When Jesus holds the keys the answer is; very important. Jesus holds keys which open and close doors only he can open or close.

Last week I needed to retrieve a book from the classroom at church where I lead a women’s Sunday school class. When I reached the room, the door was locked. I don’t possess a key to unlock it, so I had to seek out someone who did.

After I let the receptionist know I needed the door unlocked, she phoned the head custodian, Fausto. If you’ve been around a church very long, you understand how important the head custodian is. Our church would be in big trouble without Fausto.

Among the many things he does is hold the keys which unlock every door in the building. When I told Fausto my dilemma, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a very large set of keys on a ring. He looked through the keys until he found the right one.

“This is the one,” he said as he handed me the entire set of keys.

Now let me tell you, I didn’t expect to be given the keys. In fact, I was a little surprised when he handed them to me. I felt as if I’d been given a great trust. Those keys of Fausto’s are a symbol of his power and authority. And he just gave them to me.  

Thinking about these keys led me to consider keys in the Bible. Upon Peter’s confession of who Jesus is, Jesus told Peter he would give him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Those keys would open the way for many to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

While he was on the island of Patmos, the apostle John wrote of seeing Jesus and fainting as a dead man at Christ’s feet. Jesus told John not to be afraid. He explained he died, he’s alive, and his life is now forever.

Then the Son of Man opened his hand. He showed John the keys he held. Keys which gave Jesus the power and authority to open and lock Death’s doors and open and lock Hell’s gates.

As Christ followers, Jesus gives us the keys through his power and authority to tell others about him. Through those keys we can point others to the One who can open any door.

Fausto entrusted me with the keys to open doors within our church building. Jesus entrusts us with the keys of the Gospel message to open doors within the Church.

So my friends, what are we doing with the keys we’ve been given? Are we using them to open doors which advance the Kingdom of God here on earth until Christ returns to open and lock doors only he can open and close?

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I saw this and fainted dead at his feet. His right hand pulled me upright, his voice reassured me: “Don’t fear: I am First, I am Last, I’m Alive. I died, but I came to life, and my life is now forever. See these keys in my hand? They open and lock Death’s doors, they open and lock Hell’s gates. Now write down everything you see: things that are, things about to be.” Revelation 1:17-20 (MSG)

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Photo by Jessica Yong on Unsplash

Gluten-free Barbecue Baked Beans Recipe

gluten-free bbq baked beansThis gluten-free Barbecue Baked Beans recipe is absolutely delicious. I’d say it rivals one of our favorite barbecue restaurant’s barbecue baked beans.

  • 16 oz can baked beans
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 3/4 cup hickory smoke flavored barbecue sauce, plus extra to cover top of casserole
  • 4 slices precooked bacon, cut in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix first five ingredients together and place in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.

Drizzle extra barbecue sauce over the beans. Spread evenly.

Place cooked bacon on top of sauce in a single layer.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Walking Circuitous Paths

stairway

Every adventure begins with a first step, or so it is said. We must take a step, whether in the right direction or wrong before progress can be made. Though we may not realize it at the time, even our circuitous paths are able to bring us home, when we allow God to lead the way.

When you were younger, were you positive you knew exactly where you were going in life, and exactly how you would get there?

I remember sitting around my room with girlfriends in elementary school telling each other the type of house we would live in, the number of children we would have, what our husbands would look like.

I can’t speak for the others, but I know I didn’t end up in the house with the white picket fence I imagined. And to be truthful, I’m glad I didn’t.

My elementary school plans were so limited. I didn’t have vision beyond what I saw on the covers of magazines, in television shows, or what I read in books.

I definitely didn’t give thought to the fact God was the one who should direct my path.

As adults, sometimes we might play the same game. We know for a fact what job we will have, who our friends will be, how much money we will retire with. But we haven’t given much thought to the fact God is the one who should direct our path.

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, it took them eleven days to reach the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 1:2) Yet, due to their unbelief, God refused to let them enter. (Numbers 13 & 14) As a result, they wandered through the Sinai desert for 40 years.

They took a circuitous route because they grumbled, complained, rebelled, and didn’t believe God would keep his promises. Their vision was limited. They couldn’t see beyond their next campground.

In fact, they spent most of their time looking backwards at where they’d been and wishing they were still there. They didn’t take hold of the vision God had for them even though his presence led them.

God had a plan from before the beginning of time for what he would accomplish through his people. He has a plan for what he wants to accomplish through us.

Sometimes the way seems clear and we’re right on track to living in the house with the white picket fence, then boom! Something happens that knocks us sideways and we end up wandering in the desert.

Sometimes God takes us on circuitous paths through the desert to bring us back to him. He won’t leave us in the desert as long as we continue to trust him.

Though we may take a circuitous route to get there, our home in heaven is so much better than any white picket fence we could imagine. Wouldn’t you agree?

Did your dreams end up as you planned, or did they take a circuitous route?

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Show me the right path, O Lord;  point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Psalm 25:4-5 (NLT)

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Along a Storied Trail Book Review

Along a Storied Trail is another fine tale of Appalachian history by Ann Gabhart. I love Ann’s books and the way she weaves historical details into her stories.

Set in 1937, Along a Storied Trail is fast-paced and filled with lovable characters. It tells the story of Tansy Calhoun, a Kentucky packhorse librarian. Her job is to deliver books to the folks living near her home from the library in town.

When Damien Felding arrives in town to write about the area, Tansy is tasked with introducing him to the locals to get their stories. At the same time, Caleb Barton, Tansy’s old friend, returns home from Tennessee where he worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Complications arise as Tansy searches for the ideal man with aplomb.

If you enjoy Christian historical fiction set in the Appalachians, then Along a Storied Trail is the book for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House for a fair and honest review, which is exactly what I gave.

Have you read this book? If so, what was your impression of it?

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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No Missing Pieces In Jesus

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Sometimes life can seem like a jigsaw puzzle with several pieces missing. Can it not? Fortunately, when we belong to Jesus, there are no missing pieces.

When Pie was in elementary school, he was majorly interested in the original G.I. Joe television series, toys, and comic books. Who knew, many years later, Duke, Scarlet, and Snake Eyes would be featured in several major movies? Certainly not me.

During one trip to my mother’s house in Georgia, Pie contentedly put a brand new, unopened, G.I. Joe puzzle together. Halfway through, however, no matter how hard he tried to complete the puzzle, there was a problem. Some pieces were missing.

We went to the local five and dime in Homerville to look for another puzzle, but they did not sell any G.I. Joe toys. Not to be deterred, Pie decided to write Hasbro a letter. He explained the problem of the missing puzzle pieces. And you know what? Hasbro came through. Not only did they send a new replacement of the puzzle Pie wrote them about, they sent others as well. Good on you, Hasbro.

Just like trying to make sense of a jigsaw puzzle, we try to make sense of the jigsaw puzzle of life, don’t we? We work hard to get all the pieces to fit properly to create a pleasing picture. We bought the brand new unopened puzzle, expecting all the pieces to be there. But halfway through, we just can’t make it fit. Our perfect picture of what we expected our life to look like is missing several pieces.

That’s when we get in touch with the Creator of the puzzle, the Great I Am. We tell Jesus the problem and wait on his reply. There are no missing pieces in Jesus. He has everything we need to complete the puzzle of our life. He knows what the picture will look like when it’s finished. On the day we stand before the Father’s throne, there will be nothing missing.

The way I see it, our job is to keep the box cover, our Bible, in view and make sure we’re putting the puzzle together correctly. Then put the pieces together day by day, piece by piece, and step by step.

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The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (TLB)

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Others Don’t Define Us

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

One summer semester in college I took Archery. After we finished the classroom instruction, we headed outside for target practice. The male instructor informed us once we hit a bull’s eye, we would receive an A and be finished with the course. Yay!

He added. No girl ever managed that feat in the shortened number of weeks left in our semester.

Gauntlet down. I determined to show him I was not just a girl.

Mind you, at the time I took that Archery class I was a non-traditional student. Not fresh out of high school. I couldn’t even technically be called a girl any more. Those days were long gone. Regardless, I was determined to do everything in my power to show that instructor females could hit a bull’s eye, no matter how short the time frame.

It didn’t happen on the first try. And not the second. But I’ll never forget the day I stood up to the line, took my stance, faced the target, pulled back the string, and let that arrow fly. Maid Marion had nothing on me.

Not only was I the first girl to hit the bull’s eye, I whacked the skin off my arm in the process. If you’ve ever had the bow string thwack across your forearm, you know the pain. And the swelling. And bruising. (Arm guards don’t help me. I need two of them on the same arm because my arm juts out at a funny angle.)

After my arrow sank into the target, my archery partner said something like “Way to go!” as he and I high-fived. YES!

We were stationed at the far end of the line of targets away from the instructor. When the instructor noticed my bull’s eye, he called down the line, “Which one of you boys hit that?”

Boys?

I stepped out of the line and faced him. My male partner, who had not yet scored a bull’s eye, shouted back, “She did!”

The instructor’s stunned silence was priceless. When he gave us the all clear, I stepped forward, tugged my arrow from the hay target, walked back to my partner, and told him so long.

Of course, archery isn’t the only area where others try to define us, our worth, or our ability. It happens all the time in all arenas. It happens in our parenting skills. Our financial resources. Our jobs. Our relationship status. Our skill set. Our education. Our biblical knowledge. Pick an area, and someone will have something to say about it.

Sure, there are areas where we are not able to perform as well as others. You all should know by now I am NOT the chef extraordinaire Pilot is. But I can whip up rather decent desserts. And if you were to ask Pilot, I believe he’d tell you I do a better job with the laundry than he does.

Our abilities do not limit us from being used by God. What limits us is our availability and desire to be used. God can use each of us if we’re willing to let him. Our worth is in the fact we belong to Jesus. And because we belong to him, our desire is to be the best at whatever he wants us to be.

Others do not define us. God does. And he thinks we’re pretty special. Special enough to allow his son to die a horrid death so we would never be separated from him. I’d say that’s pretty special.

Any other toxophilites out there with archery stories to share?

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Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ. Philippians 3:12-14 (Phillips)

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

Sandy

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