All posts by: Naomi Stephens

Obedience is a word I just can’t escape lately. It comes up at the most inopportune times and stretches me in uncomfortable ways. In scripture, obedience, to me, is best personified through Abraham. Even before his name was changed from Abram, he willingly followed this God along unknown paths to places that he’d never been and trusted Him for things that seemed beyond impossible. Abraham’s life was changed, stretched even, in ways that he could have never foreseen at the start. Over the last week I have began to study six of the names of God using the S.O.A.P. method and an outline from LoveGodGreatly.com, with a few dear women in my area. I’d like to share a little along my journey.

“So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed him…Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.” Genesis 12:4 NLT From the time Abraham was seventy-five years old, he began to follow the direction of the Lord. Moving to an unknown place, fleeing to Egypt, separating from Lot, rescuing Lot, pleading on behalf of the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah, waiting for the promise, holding and then sending away his firstborn son. Then God changed his name and the promised son arrived, nearly twenty five years from his first act of obedience to God. What was to come next was a stretch I can’t even imagine.

After years of obedience, Abraham had received the one thing he had desired of God, an heir – a son. Isaac brought laughter and happiness to his parents. Yet here Abraham was receiving instructions from God for he and his boy to go and worship. To hear something like, “Abraham, get up in the morning and take Isaac, your sacrifice, to the place I’ll point out and offer him to me there.” There are no words. I can’t imagine that I’d be able to keep that to myself. The shock, grief, despair even. However, I can find none of that in the text. Abraham had full confidence that in his obedience the Lord would honor him. The Lord, who so faithfully promised Abraham an heir all those years ago, would not break his promise. Abraham had faith and because of it was declared righteous. Once again, he held on to that faith and listened for the voice of the Lord.

In his obedience Abraham found God to be the One who will see it and provide. It being the very thing of which we have need. And he was so right. That day on the mountain God did something for Abraham, for Isaac. He provided a substitutionary sacrifice. Abraham was willing to give his desires back to the God alone who could fulfill them.

In our modern-day, instant-access, microwave society, we know little about waiting. Little about drawn out obedience. We look for God to evolve with our changing pace, changing cultures. He doesn’t change. For over twenty five years Abraham waited on the Lord. He was impatient at times, making poor choices thinking he could help God out. Living in turmoil and grief because of his actions. Still he had faith the Lord would provide. And God is faithful.

As I studied this week, there were a few things that stood out:

  • The supply for our needs, our desires even, does not come from a place; it comes through the person of Jesus Christ.
  • God is always before us, prepared to open our eyes and reveal Himself as we humbly walk in faith.
  • God wasn’t looking for a sacrifice, He provided that Himself. He was looking for a willing, obedient heart…which He found in Abraham.

My challenge is to walk drawn out obedience in faith, humbly with my God.

I am a Bible study girl. Digging into the rich text of the Holy Scripture fills me with excitement and the desire to know Christ more. I am also a too-much-is-on-my-plate girl. I enjoy digging into the Word so much that I often get involved with multiple Bible studies at once. That’s when I find myself frustrated and overwhelmed, desperately trying to understand what I am meant to take away from each one.

Recently, I had come to the point where I found myself committed to a one year Bible reading plan, a small group Bible study with my local church, a Bible study with a group of local homeschool moms and an online Bible study through Hello Mornings. All of these are in addition to teaching youth Sunday school each week, which is another study, as well as teaching my boys scripture at home.  And not to mention all the devotional tools – books, blogs, apps. Too many choices, too many chances to let someone down.  I realized that a few of these would be ending within a matter of days/weeks.  At that point, I chose to keep up with my reading plan, and my pastor (hubby) had asked me to lead a ladies small group on Sunday evenings.  Besides teaching youth, and my kiddos, my daily reading and the ladies study would be all for me.

A few days later a sweet friend asked if I would like to join her in a study through the Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 app. I honestly struggled to tell her I just couldn’t do it. As much as I wanted to jump in and not let her down, I could feel myself crumbling under the weight of “just one more”. So I stuck with my no.  However, I do periodically read the devotional aspect of the study on the First 5 app.

This morning the words of Hebrews 2:1 were powerful and convicting.  My thoughts raced back to that manilla paper hanging on the door of my free-standing closet in my parents home. The paper that had a cross outline and the words of Hebrews 2:3a that read,

“how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”

And I think of all the ways I read that part of the scripture and judgmentally looked around at those who were not believers. I see the Pharisee me and the grace I so deeply needed. And I read the rest of that verse with hope and mercy this morning,

“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.”

This is for the church. The encouragement and accountability we need comes from those who have heard him. This great salvation is ours and is for us to share with those around us. It is for us to confirm to others what we have seen and heard from Him. To encourage the church and build one another’s faith in Christ. To hold one another accountable to live according to what the Scripture teaches.

In order for us to encourage and hold one another accountable, we must be in The Word. Not just solo. We must be in The Word together, holding one another to what we have gleaned from Him as His church, recognizing our limitations and boundaries, and living in faith with freedom where, and how, He has confirmed to us through His Word.

How can you use the gifts He’s given you to encourage and build up the church?  Where do you need to recognize your boundaries or limitations and find freedom? What opportunities to build community/Christ-centered relationships within your local church do you need to make or take?

Oh, the never ending metaphors on life. I have to shake my head and laugh at how we grasp at straws to describe what it’s like to live. For me, I’ve always just taken life a day at a time. I’m a planner but not long range.  I never dreamt of my wedding day, picked baby names before I even thought of having children or designed my dream home in hopes of “one day”.

Calvin and Hobbes

Many people plan their lives around family, career, beauty, intelligence, freedom, or ideals. Order, beauty, freedom and simplicity are important to me.  However, they are not what I’ve based my life on or what I expect.  Over the years, in my little corner of the world, I’ve come to learn a couple of things.

  1. Life isn’t what I make it. Granted, there have been times I’ve tried. There have been circumstances that have been beyond my control. Places I’ve loved and enjoyed that I no longer call home. Houses where I brought children home from the hospital and where they had their first steps that we no longer live in. I’ve learned that circumstances change. Memories last even when you no longer sweep those floors everyday. And no matter how much you enjoy the cityscape, the skyline doesn’t make the place, the people do.
  2. My life isn’t mine to make.  As an older child I made the decision to accept the free gift of salvation offered to me through Jesus Christ. In accepting that gift, I’ve learned so much about sacrificial love and following The One True God who created me with a purpose and a plan. His design and plan for me, my husband and our family is greater, and of far more value than any I, or we, could design apart from Him.

We’ve chosen the path of faith through this life, both individually and together. What the ins and outs looks like daily differ.  What it always looks like is looking to and leaning on Christ, living in reliance upon His Holy Spirit and trusting the plan Almighty God has laid out in scripture. For me, that is vital.  He is my source of Life.

So, while you are here you may see posts that are devotional in nature, posts on parenting, homeschool or marriage, posts related to leadership or the church, understand this is from my perspective.  This is a glimpse at my faith path.

 

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