When I started pastoring @ Hillside in January 2000, I decided to intentionally incorporate listening to & meditating on good Bible teaching messages from a few “chosen mentors,” many of whom had no idea that they were mentoring me through their teaching (I hadn’t even met most of them at the time). Due to the tasks I had to complete on most Mondays (administration, office work, errands) I decided to make Monday my main listening day. Most of the time, I just listened to the previous day’s messages posted on the somewhat fledgling interwebs from Ralph Moore @ Hope Chapel Kaneohe-Hawaii & Daniel Brown @ the Coastlands-Aptos CA. I’m so thankful for the many hours of good stuff I was subjected to, listening through the speakers on my computer, as I tackled mundane tasks every week.
With the proliferation of Bible message podcasts (estimated to be about 60,000 in the US at this time) its gotten easier to find Bible messages, but I really don’t KNOW about many of the people speaking or the churches they are a part of… I’ve had a few “swing & a miss” moments where I started a podcast at random & got about 20 minutes (or a couple episodes in) & found it to be wacky or “unique (read: non-orthodox) theology.” I’ve also most connected with churches led by pastors with a similar worldview & mission to what I have; doesn’t mean I don’t listen to people different than me: I do. It does mean it often feels like a waste of time to listen to people talking from leading a church with an attractional, program, & church building-driven model of ministry when that is the opposite of what I believe we (me & the Hillsiders) are supposed to do.
NOTE: Reading back over the previous paragraph makes me think it is a digression from what I was wanting to actually write about, but I decided to leave it in there, just because.
All that to say – I am re-embracing the practice of listening to good Bible messages; some are current (check out our friends at LIFE Church Chico or Modesto First Foursquare, to name a few – I’ve got more suggestions if you’re interested. Hit me up in the comments) & some are vintage. Like from the archives of my childhood.
Today’s message was from 1978 & it is by my mentor Jerry Cook, taken from a Sunday service from when he was pastoring East Hill Church in Gresham, OR. I was given the mp3 access to about 30 of his teachings by his daughter Christy in 2022, & I’ve listened to just about all of them at least once; some as many as 3x. This is one I’ve listened to several times – its called “Abraham #1: Genesis 12 & 13” & in it Jerry talks extensively about Abraham’s obedience to God’s call to him:
“Go from your country & your kindred & your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, & I will bless you & make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, & him who dishonors you I will curse & in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went… Genesis 12:14a
This is where the OBEDIENCE vs. SACRIFICE in the title comes in, especially as related to God’s guidance. (After all – this is the story of Abraham going without knowing WHERE he was being sent, only knowing the WHY – for God to bless him & bless all the families of the earth THROUGH him.) Some highlights for me:
- God wants our OBEDIENCE more than He wants our SACRIFICES. (You can read some of the biblical backing for this principle HERE in the story of God’s rejection of King Saul from 1Samuel 13-15.) There’s nothing God needs us to DO for him or to GIVE to Him or to SACRIFICE for Him; He wants us to learn to OBEY Him, to follow His commands.
- There are many people who are willing to sacrifice but who aren’t willing to follow simple obedience patterns. God is not impressed with nor needs our sacrifices; He wants our hearts & won’t settle for less.
- It’s in the act of our OBEDIENCE to God’s commands that His GUIDANCE comes… as obedience is a forerunner & key ingredient to receiving God as Lord & Master of our lives.
- The kind of obedience God calls those who would be His people to isn’t mindless or driven by blind faith; it is rooted in faith in the proven character of God.
- Sometimes we won’t know exactly or specifically what God is doing in/through/around us until we take the first steps of obedience to what He’s already spoken to us about.
- Something Jerry closed with: “Ok, Abraham, you don’t know WHERE you’re going, but that’s ok, because you are SAFE with Me.” I want to lean into this one more & more.
As I’ve been musing on this this afternoon, other Bible passages come to mind, like from Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, where Jesus emphasizes the “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” part of the Message from verse 20.
Simple patterns of OBEDIENCE > all the SACRIFICES we can make.
To me, a core truth from this seems to be: Want guidance & direction from God? Then obey/put into practice what you already know God has spoken to you about.
And as you take steps of obedience, God will reveal Himself more & more. And even if/when you don’t know 100% (or 20%) where you’re going, you can be sure that you are safe with Him.