The Best Life Advice—Hold It Loosely

Fear, control, and manipulation are the cerebral enemies of 2020. We are all in our own heads a little too much these days. In fact, “stinking thinking” is at an all-time high causing most of us to assume the posture of a defensive lineman just waiting for the snap.

Or maybe you feel like you are the one about to snap?

I’m right there with you . . . fearing the unknown, trying to control what I feel like I still can, and sometimes manipulating people and circumstances to work in my favor because I just need something to go my way.

But, it’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.

All this wondering and worrying, speculation and skepticism, fear-mongering and frenetics has me frazzled at the core.

How are you handling 2020?

Even though I sometimes succumb to the madness of today, I know Who to turn to for the Ancient Words for all our tomorrows. Jesus knew from the beginning of the beginning what 2020 would bring, who it would take, and how it would feel. In the midst of a million unknowns, He knows. And He passed on the best life advice, for all mankind, for all time.

Hold it loosely.

In Mark‬ ‭8:35‬ ‭(NLT‬‬) Jesus tells his disciples, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”

It is another of Christ’s great reversals. Lose your life to save it. Ironically, we first have to loosen the “death” grip.

We can do this! Arms outstretched, palms up, fingers spread, hold your life loosely.

Now physically try it! Arms outstretched, palms up, fingers spread, hold your life loosely. Now breathe.

On what in your life do you need to loosen your grip? What are you afraid of? Who are you trying to control so you can feel more empowered? Who are you manipulating so you can get what you want?

Jesus came to give us life, restored and abundant. Fear, control, and manipulation will only leave us exhausted, living on fumes.

In the beginning when God breathed life into Adam and Eve, their natural response was an exhale of thanksgiving. After the fall and apart from Jesus, our natural exhale is waste and fumes. When Jesus transformed our state and standing by losing his own life on the cross, he supernaturally restored our exhale of thanksgiving.

We weren’t made to spew exhaust. We were made in the image of glory to reciprocate glory!

May we heed His best life advice—Hold it loosely.

Arms outstretched, palms up, fingers spread, hold your life loosely. Now close your eyes, breathe, and pray.

Walking Spirit to Spirit

Hi friends, do you want to take a walk with the Holy Spirit?

If so, the journey begins and ends in The Word. . .

“For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Romans‬ ‭8:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As believers, what does it look like to live and walk Spirit to spirit?

Let us first focus on what it is not. Your spiritual journey is not meant to be an emotional one, nor is it a logical one. It is not even a knowledge-based one.

Your spiritual journey is, by design, a moment to moment surrender of your will to the presence, providence, and pace of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.

In fact, the Holy Spirit is your forever roommate!

Emotions are untrustworthy, logic is limited by the flesh, and knowledge is impotent without Spirit-revealed wisdom.

However, you can always ask your spiritual roommate for advice!

As to emotions: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah‬ ‭17:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

As to logic: “‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

As to knowledge: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Living spirit to spirit looks a lot like trusting the One who abides in your abode!

He knows everything about everything— “As it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We can also trust Paul’s advice, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Or as the old hymn says, “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me. . .“

Go ahead, take a walk with your spiritual roommate. I promise it will become a lifelong journey of conversational living, Spirit to spirit. Rest assured, His pace is always determined by His grace.

Tired of Fighting

Are you tired of fighting?

I sure am.

We live in a society of fight or flight triggers that seem to keep our stress hormones at an all time high and our sacred encounters at an all time low. We fight traffic and feelings, different opinions and all too familiar foes.

Familiar foes are perhaps the most dangerous triggers because we have become so comfortable with their presence. I’m referring to strongholds and sins that we have assimilated into our lives over time to the point of tolerance and acceptance.

Familiar foes like overeating, abusing alcohol, obsessing over body image, foul language, taking the Lord’s name in vain, controlling and manipulating others, past mistakes, and future fears. We don’t remember buying a ticket and, yet, we can’t seem to hop off the struggle bus!

Anyone?

In 1 Samuel 8 there is a verse that resonates with me and my exhaustion from fighting. It says in verse 20 “that our king may . . . go out before us and fight our battles“.

Oh, how I long for someone to fight my battles for me!

I understand the nation of Israel’s cry to Samuel for a king, despite his warnings against it. You see, they assimilated with other nations and their foes had become too familiar as revealed beginning in verse 19, “But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, ‘No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’” (ESV)

They looked around and began coveting what the other nations possessed, but the Israelites forgot Who they had already been given. What the Israelites truly wanted, God had already provided—Himself!

How easily we forget God and His promises.

Generations before, as the Israelites watched Pharaoh’s army and chariots pursue them to the boundaries of the Red Sea, they cried out to the Lord and Moses responded. “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”, says Moses in Exodus‬ ‭14:13-14‬ ‭(NLT‬‬).

Repeat after me.

The Lord himself will fight for you.

Just stay calm.

So much of the Old Testament points towards the New, including the cry for a king. The King, who the people of Israel longed for, was, and is, and is to come. He goes before us, beside us, and behind us; preparing, providing, and protecting.

Just as Moses reminds and the Israelites later demand, our heart cry finds its voice in the created longing for King Jesus.

There is a reason we long for Someone to fight our battles for us. Some battles require a miracle. Familiar foes teach us dependence on God. Yet, familiar foes are nothing compared to the evil being defeated in the heavenly realms.

Peace be still my friends. Jesus can both calm the storm and be your peace in the storm. 

All He asks is that we prepare for battle, put on the full armor, stand firm in His grace, and be still and know that He is God.

Are you tired of fighting?

I am too. Let us get dressed for battle, but not forget Who God already provided—Himself!

Healing For the Sin-Sick Soul

It is no secret that the Western Medical Model has failed us. Built primarily on the treatment of symptoms and disease, this model has trained us to focus on our problems more than prevention. We have become a society seeking relief rather than patiently waiting for healing.

We demand answers from physicians while simultaneously questioning their wealth of knowledge and expertise. To the ones who took the Hippocratic Oath, we are the hypocrites who say we want healing but make contrary choices.

All the while, Jesus is the Great Physician. He reminds us of this in Luke‬ ‭5:31-32‬ ‭(ESV‬‬), “Those who are well have no need of aphysician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

‭‭Yet, Jesus did not come to treat the symptoms. He came to heal the sickness. And the root of our sickness is sin.

Like a weed pulled from a garden, if you do not remove it at the depth of the root, it will return. When we turn to Jesus in confession and repentance, He removes the root of sin from the rich soil of our souls. A soil yearning to bear fruit unhindered by the weeds of wickedness.

What are some of the personal symptoms you commonly ask Jesus to treat?

What are the familial symptoms you have prayed about for years?

What are the societal symptoms we are trying to address as a nation?

Maybe the answers are hidden beneath the surface symptoms. Perhaps we need to dig deeper to the root of our emotions, our conflicts, and our social constructs.

Just as physical symptoms are mere manifestations of a physical sickness, relational and societal symptoms are signals of a deeper issue, an underlying source.

Sin is the underlying source, the raging undercurrent that tries to sweep us downstream into false realities and distance us from God’s truth.

If we want to sing “it is well with my soul”, if we want familial reconciliation, and healing for our nation, we cannot continue to ask Jesus to treat the symptoms. The Great Physician came to heal our sin-sick souls for eternity.

National, community, and family healing starts with my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Personal accountability married with a personal relationship with Jesus are the keys to unlocking the truth of God’s Word.

The truth, and only the truth, will set us free, personally, relationally, and as a society. Truth uproots the wicked weeds of sin. Without absolute truth, we are like a compass that cannot find True North.

Let Jesus be your Great Physician, the Model who fails not, the Gardener who tends to your soul, the Lifeline who saves you from the raging undercurrent of sin, the Truth-Bearer who always points you to True North.

Choose healing over relief. Choose Jesus, personally, for your family, and for our nation.

Set Yourself Free

There was a time in my life when my daily planner influenced me more than my daily devotional. In fact, I often refer to my old-school, pen-and-paper planner as my “other bible” because I would be lost without it! Every aspect of my life from kids, to work, to household management, to ministry, to taxes are tightly fastened in that binder.

It was a time when my “To Do” list lorded over me in such a way that I became unavailable to the nudges of the Holy Spirt. I was only as free as my daily checklist dictated.

Then I finally realized from those same Spirit nudges, you are only as free as that which masters over you.

Whatever masters over you also controls you, sways you, influences your decisions, limits your availability, and challenges your emotions.

My master was my planner and it’s freedom was defined by expectations. Expectations of myself and others. 

What masters or lords over you, causing you to think, act, speak, work, post, and feel a certain way?

Are you controlled by negative thoughts?

Your past?

Your pain?

Your fears?

Your planner?

Your cravings?

Your longings?

Your relationships?

Your religious rituals?

Your political ideology?

Your “shoulds” and “ought to”?

Your freedom is both defined by and the direct result of the decisions you make about whom or what you serve. 

And freedom always comes with the cost of sacrifice and service. Ask any Veteran.

You are only as free as the boundaries set forth by that which or that whom masters over you.

King David fully understood from whom his freedom came when he cried out in Psalms 16:2, “I said to the Lord, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.””

King David knew the protection and provision granted within the boundaries of service to His Lord and Master. He knew, by the sparing of his own life, that every good thing comes from above. He knew the freedom that comes with surrender to the God who saves.

Jesus, from the line of David, became our Lord and Master in the flesh. He came to purchase our freedom from sin. He came as the Living Word of God so that the truth would set us free. He came to break the chains of our negative thoughts, our past, our pain, our fears, and other’s expectations and to set the prisoner within us free.

Master is not a dirty word when you can trust the One you serve.

Lord is not a title to fear when we love because He loved us first.

Freedom only sets you free when it’s founded in truth and motivated by love.

Jesus is both, Lord and Master, and he comes in the name of love, mercy, and grace to impart true freedom.

His boundaries are set forth for protection, His commandments are set forth for relationship, and His sacrifice is set forth for us to choose whom we will serve. God or man? Spirit or self-imposed expectations? Truth or relativism?

My friends, choose this day whom you will serve. Read Galatians 5. Ask Jesus to lead you through the gateway of truth that is the cross into a freedom founded in love and trust.

Trust the freedom that was bought with a price on the cross of Christ.

Spiritual Warfare; Offense or Defense?

Are you familiar with the term spiritual warfare? Some of us are all too familiar with this war in the spiritual realm, while others may not have heard much about it from the pulpit. Thankfully, God’s Word describes spiritual warfare for us.

“Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.”

Ephesians‬ ‭6:11-12‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Simply stated, spiritual warfare is any scheme, strategy, or deceit the devil may use to discourage us. Yet, more importantly, it is also everything we have been given by God to both defend and offend the devil’s ways.

Spiritual warfare works both ways. Let me explain another way.

Sports teams decide between who is on offense and who is on defense by a coin toss, a jump ball, or a winning streak. In football, the coin toss not only determines who kicks off and who receives the ball, it also allows the opposing team to decide which side of the field they want to play from. In basketball, a jump ball scenario determines who gains possession of the ball first, while some other sports often give preference to the team with the winning record.

What if this were true about the game of life? What if a coin toss determined your day, your demeanor, or your destiny? What if your physical ability to react quickly, to jump high, and maintain control determined your success? What if only those with “winning records” excelled in life?

Praise God that our state and our standing in this life are not dependent on our ability to control the outcome. Our state (sinners saved by grace) and our standing (forgiven, purified, sanctified, redeemed, restored) are established and determined solely by the atoning work of Christ on the cross.

This is the Good News!

However, because we live in a fallen world where good and evil collide on a daily basis within every institution, family, and human being, we continue to experience spiritual warfare. Not unlike the world of sports, in any atmosphere of war there is often one entity on the offense and one on the defense.

When it comes to spiritual warfare, I do not claim to be an expert. However, I know from experience that spiritual warfare works both ways. Growing up in church and bible study, I remember most of the spiritual warfare talk being more along the lines of the devil as the aggressor. The one who kills, steals, and destroys.

On the contrary, Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that believers can and must become the aggressors against the spiritual attacks on our thinking. Joyce Meyers calls this the battlefield of the mind. My pastor calls this stinking thinking.

The war which Satan wages in our minds to first try to discourage us, then try to disable us as disciples of Christ is real. While only Jesus can and will ultimately bring Satan to his demise, we must take as captives any threat he deploys on our thought life.

“For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ,”

2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:3-5‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Paul is the same apostle who reminds us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God! We are at war with Christ in the spiritual realm to stave off the devil and his schemes until Christ returns. We are more than human beings, we are spiritual beings equipped with warrior spirits and the promise of eternal victory.

Spiritual warfare then becomes a playing field of both offense and defense depending on the state of our mental preparedness when the attacks ensue.

Are you prepared?

Are you fully equipped to receive the “ball” of this fallen world and run the offensive attack against the devil’s dealings? Are you ready to jump higher and reach farther than you ever thought you could through the power of the Holy Spirit in order to maintain possession of your soul for Christ? Are you securing your “winning record” by getting up every time life knocks you down with the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation? Which side of the field are you playing from, the side of fear or the side of faith?

Spiritual warfare is real and it works both ways.

We don’t have to live perpetually on the defense of the devil. We have a God who goes before us, stands beside us, and resides within us. He is the One who will one day appear on a white horse, clad in eternal glory and victory for my soul and yours.

His name is above every name in heaven and on earth. Jesus. The leader of the armies of heaven gives us the heart of a warrior when we fully trust in Him.

Offense or defense? When it comes to spiritual warfare the answer is dependent on your mental preparedness.

We won’t always be ready for what the devil uses to discourage us. Sometimes spiritual warfare must come in the form of prayers by our family and friends. Intercessory prayer is like bringing the whole army, not just a lone warrior, against evil. 

Nevertheless, despite our spiritual wins and losses, in the end at the very last battle, Jesus wins our souls for His glory. Spiritual warfare will cease and the grace of His glory will reign eternal. Amen.

Developing A Sweet Tooth For God

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”
Psalm‬ ‭34:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What if the cover of your bible read like a food label? The Bread of Life; made with love, mercy, and grace, organic, no artificial ingredients, only God-breathed, preservative free, yet preserves life, recommend a daily dose, sweeter than honey, taste and see the goodness!

Ever wonder what exactly the psalmist meant by “taste and see” that the Lord is good? Are we to somehow consume Him or meet the One “who dwells in unapproachable light” face to face in this life? The answer is a mysterious combination of both yes and no.

God gave us His Word so that we may know Him, His character, His intent for mankind, and His incomparable goodness. His Word, His Son, and His Spirit are all gifts He gave us to better understand His nature. 

We are encouraged to consume His Word, chew on its meaning, savor its promises, swallow its truth, and live by the heartbeat of its nourishment and sustaining grace. Just as tasting your meal is better than merely reading the menu, God’s Word is meant to be ingested (not merely read) so that the Holy Spirit can help digest its power into our being.

Taste and see.

Are you developing a sweet tooth for God?

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Psalm‬ ‭119:103‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When we read scripture, tasting comes first. Just as we taste our first bite of food to see if it’s too hot, too cold, too bland, or too dry. Just as we sample wine before we pour the whole glass. The more we sample God’s Word, the more we want to consume. Then we develop a “taste” for His teaching and His words become sweeter with each bite. We begin craving Him like a sweet tooth craves sugar.

Taste and see.

Do you desire a sweet tooth for God?

“Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.”
Ecclesiastes‬ ‭11:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

First we taste, then we see. Seeing comes as the Spirit illuminates the nourishment The Word offers thus providing us glimpses and visions of God at work. The transition from tasting to seeing is often subtle.

We start by seeing creation a little more clearly. Colors pop louder, nature resonates a melody, sun rays offer a divine warm blanket embrace. Then, we begin to identify His presence in others. Our spirits elevate with hope when we dig beneath the surface and lower our empty buckets into the well of faith of another believer. Lastly, we begin to notice subtle changes in our own nature. We see, we feel, we hear, and we think differently.

Finally, we cease to consider ourselves at all. We begin to naturally and somewhat reflexively consider God in all areas of life. This is what it means to have the mind of Christ. We were made to crave more. More of Him. More of His Word.

Taste and see.

Do you have a sweet tooth for God?

“More to be desired are they (God’s Word) than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”
Psalm‬ ‭19:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Once you taste and see that the Lord is good, you realize He is the only One who will ever satisfy your deepest longings. Christ becomes central. God alone sustains your soul for eternity.

The Son was called by the Father to offer himself for your sake on the cross. Yet before His journey to the cross, Jesus offered His body and His blood, in the form of bread and wine, so that we could forever taste and see the goodness of communion with the Trinity.

Taste and see the sweet life of communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let your sweet tooth have its way with His Word.

Be encouraged by the exhortation contained in this prayer written by Anglican theologian Thomas Cranmer:

“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Pentecost Parallels

In honor of Pentecost, I want to share just a few of the great parallels of Scripture. I was reminded this morning, as I read in John 20, of how the Spirit gives life.

Follow along with me as we discover the Old in the New!

“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”

‭‭John‬ ‭20:20-22‬ ‭(ESV‬‬)

John 20 tells of when Jesus first appears to His disciples after His resurrection. He shows evidence of His identity, speaks peace into their purpose, and breathes life onto them. All He required was that they receive. They believed after seeing Him with their own eyes, now they needed to receive.

These verses in John reminded me of another time when God breathed life into man.

In ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭(ESV‬‬), “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

In the beginning, God shows evidence of His identity through creation, He establishes peace and harmony in the circle of life in the garden, and He breathes life into Adam and Eve. All He required was that they receive His provision, and not partake of what wasn’t meant for them to know (evil).

God Himself breathed life into man, just as Jesus breathed life into His disciples, and subsequently all believers, in the Person of His Holy Spirit. We are made in the image of God and empowered to live by His Spirit who dwells in our innermost being. Just as the presence of God once dwelt in the innermost chamber of the temple, the Holy of Holies, your body is now His temple (1Cor. 6:19) and your soul is now His Holy of Holies.

Jesus prayed for us in John 17, before He traveled to the cross, that just as He and the Father are one, that “they also may be in us”. As Lysa TerKuerst so beautifully expressed, we are living in between two gardens. Yet, the Holy Spirit gives the hope and begins the restoration of Eden in our souls.

So many fascinating parallels!

Jesus breathes life into us so that we will choose to live and breathe and have our being in Him. Believe and receive the Spirit of life. Trying to live by the law in your own strength leads to spiritual death, but the power of the Holy Spirit gives spiritual life!

Please feel free to share some of your favorite parallels in Scripture!

The Love-Sick Bride

Jesus loves me.

This I know.

For the Bible tells me so. . .

These familiar lines first appeared in a novel by Susan Warner in 1860. Originally penned as a poem, they were spoken to comfort a dying child.

Most of us know these phrases as a childhood hymn, which they later became thanks to Susan’s younger sister Anna. A sweet melody reminding us of both the reality and the truth of Christ’s love for us.

Yes, Jesus loves me and you. His love is real and true and pure. The Bible reminds us over and over again.

While Jesus patiently awaits His Bride, the Church, we are the ones left love-sick for Him. We are the ones living with the sacred tug between the “already” and the “not yet”. We are the recovering saints from the sickness of sin. We are ever seeking for a way to satisfy our love-sick souls only to find again and again that the Bridegroom is The Way.

We are His love-sick Bride.

Yet His church also includes the sin-sick. We are the ones living with the tug of war between the spiritual forces of good and evil. We are the not yet recovering addicts from the sickness of coveting and idolatry. We are ever seeking for a way to satisfy our sin-sick souls only to find again and again an inadequate source.

We are His sin-sick children.

The question for you today is are you sin-sick or are you love-sick for Jesus?

It’s a fair question that beckons an honest answer. You are either one or the other. The good news is Jesus loves us both. His love heals us both. Both types of “sickness” require a Savior.

The difference between a love-sick soul and a sin-sick soul is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

I recently read a devotion by Christine Wyrtzen in which she wrote, “Nothing defeats evil faster than a love-sick bride.” If you are love-sick for Jesus today, consider it a blessing. You have a presence and a power within you that hungers and thirsts as it conquers and overcomes.

If you are sin-sick for Jesus today, consider it a blessing. Remember the poem “Jesus Loves Me” was written to comfort a dying child. Let today be the day of your salvation and the promise of everlasting life. Trade in your sin-sick soul for a love-sick soul who, by faith, lives in hopeful anticipation of Love Himself.

The story of Susan and her younger sister, is a wonderful example of the church. God used sisters in life and in Christ to pen the words that began with a fictional character in a novel and later echoed exponentially into the homes and hearts of His children for generations.

Jesus loves me, this I know because once I was sin-sick, but now I am love-sick for Him. Once I was lost, but now I’m found.

Without Jesus, we are dying children in need of a Savior. With Jesus, we are given spiritual life in mortal bodies who move and breath and have our being to the pulse of His unfailing love.

As Paul so eloquently states in Romans 8, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Because “nothing defeats evil faster than a love-sick bride.”

Sweeter Obedience

If you are a dog owner, then you know the highlight of your dog’s day is when they hear the sneakers go on and see the leash come out; aka, it’s time to go for a walk!

My boxer, Bailey, loves a walk. She has this uncanny ability to hear the moment I pull my Nike’s off the closet shelf and, subsequently, appears at my bedroom door with ears perked and head cocked to the side. If she had a conversation bubble above her head, it would read, “Walk?!”

On one of our recent walks, she was lagging behind “smelling the roses”, when her collar came sliding over her head and retracted back to the leash handle. In that moment we both froze, locked eyes, and I uttered a commanding, “Stay!”

In that moment my furry friend of eight years, my faithful greeter when I arrive home, my family’s beloved pet made a pivotal choice.

She chose obedience.

As I calmly and lovingly approached her and embraced her soft, droopy jaws, praising her for her willingness to stay, I noticed a sweet submission in her eyes and a sense of relief in her frame. She even leaned into the repositioning of her collar and our daily walk resumed with the assurance that all was well.

As I thought about this brief exchange with my canine child, I couldn’t help but imagine how our obedience warms the heart of God. As His children, our obedience becomes the sweet aroma of sacrificial living. An offering of obedience becomes your living sacrifice on the altar of Sovereign Grace (Romans 12:1). God’s chosen nation learned this lesson the hard way.

Israel chose disobedience.

Ezekiel‬ ‭20:13a (NLT) says,‬‬ “But the people of Israel rebelled against me, and they refused to obey my decrees there in the wilderness. They wouldn’t obey my regulations even though obedience would have given them life.”

God’s chosen people did not know how to handle their new found freedom in the wilderness. Misunderstood freedom leads to misinterpreted obedience. Israel thought she knew what could save her. She failed to wait for Who would save her.

Living on the resurrection side of the cross, we have a freedom in Christ that comes with the knowledge of Christ. We know Who saves us. We know Who gives us life.

Obedience gives us life in Christ.

Understood freedom leads to undeniable obedience. When God asks us to “stay” or wait for His timing, His answer, or His way, we can experience relief and even peace in the freedom of serving a Sovereign Master.

By choosing obedience, we choose life.

The Holy Spirit used an embrace with my boxer to remind me of the gift of sweet submission and even sweeter obedience to a loving Father. Similar to my dog’s relationship with me, when we believe our Master loves us, protects us, walks with us through life, provides all that sustains us, and will be there to greet us when He calls us home, we will choose obedience every time, even when we become “unleashed”.

I encourage you, like Bailey, to lean into the Master as he places on you not a collar of demands, but a robe of righteousness. As believers, we are clothed in Christ in Whom we can “put on” compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Above all we can “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14)

Clothe yourself in Christ.

Experience His embrace.


Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him (Psalms 34:8).

Sweet submission leads to sweeter obedience.

Then you can continue your daily walk with the Lord knowing and trusting that all is well with your soul.