Suggestions or Rules to Live By

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I must be honest, I don’t like to read instructions.  I would rather try to figure things out.  Recipes for me are guidelines or suggestions but not necessarily something that must be followed exactly…unless I am baking and then I follow the directions pretty closely.  Of course, the time in the oven is negotiable. Every oven is different so when I bake I have to get to know my oven.  I have figured out that chocolate chip cookies need 8 minutes and 20 seconds.  They are done perfectly with this amount of time…just a bit of crisp on the outside and soft in the middle.  Many times when I make something new and it tastes really good my family will ask, “Will it ever taste like this again?” since I don’t always follow a recipe exactly and I don’t write down my modifications the taste is not usually quite the same.  I guess it keeps them guessing.

God did not leave instructions in His word as suggestions to be taken in whatever way we want or pieced together in our own way.

He left exact instructions for us to follow.  As seen throughout the many pages and stories of peoples’ lives, when God’s instructions are not followed life does not go well.  Not following God’s directives results in punishment, broken relationships, hardships, and broken hearts.

Unlike my cooking and baking, we cannot play around with God’s directives and pick and choose how or when we want to implement them.  They were meant to be followed just as they were written.

…but serve the Lord with all your heart.  And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.  For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make a name for Himself.  Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way.  Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you. (I Samuel 12:20-24).

These verses were written\spoken by Samuel to the Israelites but have great application for our lives today.  Samuel gives directions to the people and to himself from God.

  1. Serve the Lord with all your heart
  2. Empty things are empty for they do not profit or deliver
  3. Pray
  4. Instruct what is good and right
  5. Fear the Lord
  6. Serve Him faithfully with your whole heart

Results:  The Lord will not forsake His people

Why:     Consider/Remember the great things God has done for you

It seems pretty straightforward.  Jesus when He was on earth simplified the directives given in the Old Testament to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30, 31).  We see throughout the pages of Scripture examples of how individuals lived out these directives and others who did not.  As we read through Scripture, we see an elaboration of these commands so we have a better understanding of how loving God and loving others looks like.

The six instructions listed above help us better understand how to love God and love others.  As most of us know, the more we love God the easier it is to love others.

God’s recipe for life is tried and true.  Look at the examples in Scripture.  We don’t have to guess what pleases God; He told us exactly what pleases Him.

Follow the recipe exactly so you don’t have to guess at the outcome.

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Praise the Rules?

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Spring has come and gone in many parts of the United States, but those of us that are in the cooler climates are still enjoying the beautiful spring colors.  The lilacs, tulips, crocus, daffodils, and hyacinths are showing their beautiful colors ushering in summer.  Then those beautiful colors will die away and wait for a whole year before they will show off their beauty once again for such a short time.  It takes all that time for them to rejuvenate and restore their energy supplies so their vibrant colors will be on display for the next spring season.

Time.

For those beautiful colors to be ready for display it takes time to refresh and rejuvenate.  During that time, they will store up energy from the sun, moisture from the rain, nutrients from the dirt, and a good hard sleep during the winter.  But, it all takes time.

Psalm 119:164 reminds us, “Seven times a day I praise you, for your righteous rules.”    It takes time to praise God seven times a day.  Do I take that time to praise Him that often?  Do I see the beauty of the flowers and praise Him?  Do I praise Him when the crack of thunder wakes me in the night?  Do I praise Him when my plans do not turn out like I thought they should?  Do I praise Him for all the conveniences and the inconveniences of life?

We as Christians know we are supposed to have an attitude of gratitude, but do we keep a conscious awareness of praising God for all that happens in our lives to the point that we can say we praise God seven times?  Yet, it is not seven times for just anything; it is seven times for His righteous rules.  I wonder if I spent more time praising God for His righteous rules, if I would spend less time struggling with obeying those rules.

So what are some of these challenging rules for which I need to praise the Lord:

“A soft answer turns away wrath…” (Proverbs 15:1)

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer…” (Provers 15:28)

“The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil” (II Timothy 2:24)

“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is before us.” (Hebrews 12:1).

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7)

What happens when I take the time to praise the Lord for His righteous rules?  I change my focus.  With a changed focus comes a patience for God’s timing not my timing.  As these righteous rules begin to dwell in me they begin to be what is stored in my heart rather than worry, anxiety, impatience, wrath, quarreling, evil, or “whatever sin clings so closely.”

Over time these positives will show forth just like the beautiful spring colors that show their beauty each year.

Time.  Take time to praise God for His righteous rules.