The Mystery of Hurt, Joy and Obedience

How can I post about obedience bringing joy, Lord?

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That’s what I asked. Because it felt trite in the context of such a painful week.

Monday’s devastation in Boston. And Wednesday night’s horrific fire and explosion in West, Texas.

So how can I post about joy at such a sorrowful time?

Not this week. It feels trite in the context of such a pain.


God forgive me. That is my way of thinking and not the truth of Your word.

Truth is not trite. It heals. It gives life. It is Jesus.


In John 11, we find the account of  Lazarus being raised to life by Jesus. But prior to that miracle where Christ spoke, “Lazarus, come out!” there were troubling, heart-breaking circumstances.

  • Lazarus was sick (verse 1)
  • His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus for help (verse 3)
  • Jesus received the news, but did not come (verse 6)
  • Lazarus died (verse 14)
  • The sisters grieved (verse 19)
  • By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb 4 days (verse 17)

“Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus – John 11:5  NIV” 

So why did the sequence of events occur this way? If He loved them, why so much pain?

Jesus’s purpose is always to do the Father’s will. God’s will in this situation is given to us plainly in verses 4 and 40 – 42. It is for God’s glory and man’s benefit. In this pain and loss, Jesus reveals more of who He is.

I am the resurrection and the life.

He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;

and whoever lives and believes in me will never die – John 11:25  NIV.”

Christ spoke these words to Martha. And she said, “Yes, Lord.”

This is the same Martha who was irritated with daily circumstances when she first met Jesus. She instructed Jesus to tell her sister, Mary, to get in here and help me. Jesus told her that Mary had chosen the one thing that was needed {the necessity thing} and it wouldn’t be taken away (see Luke 10:38 – 42).

So how did Martha get from the easy irritability of her sister not helping her to the, “Yes, Lord” even in the wake of such grief in the loss of a brother?

She obeyed. She obeyed what Christ said about the necessity thing.

How do I know?

The evidence is in the passage from John 11. After Lazarus has been dead 4 days and she hears Jesus is coming, watch what Martha does.

  • She goes out to meet Jesus (verse 20)
  • She calls Him, “Lord” (verse 21)
  • She demonstrates great faith in who He is and His ways {authority} even if they don’t make sense to her (verses 21-22)
  • She knows His teaching about resurrection of the dead {showing she’s spent time at His feet to learn from Him} (verses 23-24)

Martha has done the necessity thing.

She has built relationship with Jesus as her Lord.

Martha’s life shows us this truth:
Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus because of  His love for Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
He did it so that the glory of God could be seen and more people would believe.
Martha didn’t have the peace shown in her conversation with Christ because Lazarus was raised.
It hadn’t happened yet.
It was from her yielding to, experiencing, and believing Christ.
The path to joy flows from obedience to our master. No matter the circumstances.

Obedience: How much do details matter?

One glance at the silverware drawer and I can tell which child unloaded the dishwasher.

Now I admit to having specific desires about how the forks, knives and spoons are all placed. {I even have two drawers, one for the set I prefer and one for the “back-up” set.}

My point is:  I’m still training my children. And they don’t always think the specifics of what I ask are necessary. Often, they’ve got their own version of how to complete a task.

Consider this quote from Experiencing God by Henry & Richard Blackaby with Claude King.

 We tend to want to skip making adjustments and go directly from believing God to obedience. If you want to follow Him, you don’t have that choice. His ways are so different from yours the only way you can follow Him requires an alignment of your life to His ways.

So what is this adjustment, this alignment stuff all about?


To truly follow God and know His ways requires a close relationship. A relationship where we yield to Him.

If you read 1 Samuel 15 since the last post in this series, you read about an obedience problem.

Click here for more.Why did God instruct Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites?

Did Saul believe God was God?


Did this equate to God being Saul’s personal Lord?


Obedience without Lordship tends to be circumstantial.

Circumstantial obedience is counterfeit obedience. And any counterfeit for relationship with Christ as Lord will leave us empty.

  • It can’t satisfy. {Us or God, He desires intimacy, and we need it.}
  • It can’t serve. {Counterfeits are self-centered rather than God-centered.}
  • It can’t save. {Only the holy blood of Jesus Christ can do that.}

Jesus’s words to the disciples show the close connection between obedience and relationship. The key is love.

1 John 14:21 (NLT)  Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.

Let’s pray. Father, thank you for your gift of grace that positions us as your children. I am your much loved child when I obey and when I disobey, please keep training me in our relationship so I am more and more useful for your will. May we all yearn for real intimacy with you that grows genuine love and surrendered obedience.

Your turn. Relationship and obedience are both needed for a true Christ follower. Most of us gravitate toward one more easily than the other. Which takes more concentration for you?

Next week we’ll finish this series with look at the connection between Lordship, obedience and joy.

Raising Surrendered Hearts-


I’d Disobeyed and We Both Knew It

It was 1989.

And my bright red car was parked in front of my boyfriend’s {now husband’s} house.

Right where it wasn’t supposed to be.

We were watching TV along with some other people in his living room. A knock came from the front door. The next thing I heard was, “Jeanette, your mom’s here.

OH. NO. I’d disobeyed and we both knew it.

When I got to the door, she said only one thing. “Why have you disobeyed me?

I had no answer. {Except that what I wanted meant more to me than her instruction. But I knew better than to say that out loud.} Besides my actions had already revealed it.

  • It didn’t matter that we weren’t doing anything “wrong.”
  • It didn’t matter that we were “in love.”
  • It didn’t matter that there was no homework to do.

She was my parent and her expectation–because of that relationship–was obedience.

In the same way, when we use our mouths to say, “Lord” that relationship should mean something in our hearts.

In Luke chapter 6, Christ describes the person who puts His words into practice like a man whose house is built on solid rock and survives the storm. But the one who does not put Jesus’s words into practice {who does not obey} is struck by a storm and the home is destroyed.

Matthew records the same teaching in chapter 7 {and warns those who try to obey without relationship}.


“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!  Matthew 7:23″

Actions cannot replace relationship. He must be Lord, not just on our tongue but in our heart. When that is the case, obedience will follow from a love relationship and His grace will cover us when we fail. That grace does not remove the need nor the expectation for obedience to the One we call Lord.

Read 1 Samuel 15. Always pray, asking God to reveal His truth to  you. Read it more than once and we’ll study it together next time in a video blog.

Until then, ask God this question: Is there a place where I’m not allowing your Lordship?

This is the second post in the Obedience Series. Click here to read the first post.

Raising Surrendered Hearts –


photos courtesy of Christopher Dodge  via


WARNING: Substitutes Not Recommended – Obedience Series

Substitutes can get you into trouble. Whether they’re intentional or accidental.

During our teenage years, my sister and I made a batch of lemon poppyseed bread. It was a family recipe and we had exact expectations of how the bread would look and taste. But when the oven door was opened, the bread was flat, completely sunken in the middle.

What happened?

Accidentally, we’d mixed in baking soda instead of baking powder.

While the two items perform in a similar way, they react differently based on being mixed with other ingredients.

Our accidental substitution left flat, disappointing results.

Substituting obedience for relationship in the Christian life can do the same thing. While the two things may outwardly appear similar, inwardly they are distinctively different.

And when mixed with the various circumstances of life, reactions will uncover the truth: obedience is never a substitute for relationship.

Baking powder can be used in place of baking soda. In this way, relationship supersedes obedience, because you can never achieve with human {imperfect} obedience what grace from a relationship with Christ produces – abundant and eternal life. 

But some recipes do call specifically for baking soda, just as our Lord calls for obedience.

Our desired outcome as Christ followers should be to please God. This requires faith, both in who He is and faith called into actions of obedience. (See Hebrews 11:6 and observe all the actions taken by faith in the entire chapter.) Relationship is a necessity, and obedience should be called for out of that intimate place.

Today I’m kicking off a short series on obedience. It’s vital to our intimacy with God, yet when misused, it can get us into trouble.

  Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46

Jesus spoke these words to his disciples and a great crowd of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem,  Tyre and Sidon (see Luke 6:12 – 18).

Does He expect obedience?


But what role does calling Him “Lord” play?

This is where we will discover the close connection of relationship and obedience.

To get started on this series, read Luke 6: 43 – 49. Also read and compare it to Matthew 7: 13 – 27. Always pray, asking God to reveal His truth to  you.

Can you think of a time  when obedience {or the lack of it} in one of your human relationships affected its progress? Or have you experienced the distance of cold obedience without intimacy, and where does that leave a relationship?

Looking forward to studying together.

Raising Surrendered Hearts –