Stop. Breathe in and out. Narrow your focus.

For a few moments, take in only what is in front of you.

Let your ears be open to the whisper of the Spirit.

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The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord. No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

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As children, we need lots of rules: “Don’t touch the stove. Hold my hand when we cross the street. Eat three bites of broccoli, and then you can have a cookie.” As we grow, the rules shift: “Don’t use the stove unless I am in the kitchen with you. Look both ways before you cross the street. One scoop of ice cream is enough.” The older we get, the more freedom we have: “Breakfast is up to you. Let me know when you get to your friend’s house. Enjoy your dinner!”

Nothing has really changed. The stove is still dangerous. We still have to be careful around traffic. Eating healthily is still important. But now those ideas are inside us, and we don’t have to be told every time. Obeying becomes a matter of the heart instead of a list of restrictions.

When we follow God, we look to the rules to learn our way. But as we continue on the road of faith, our hearts are changed by obedience. We begin to trust that God is leading us and that we will know when God is calling.

Ellen Di Giosia

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God, help me to learn how to obey you. Give me patience with the instructions that I don’t understand yet and help me to see how they are leading me to more freedom as I grow in following you. Amen.

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Now widen your focus.

Let your eyes be open to the whole wide world.

Remember that God’s call to obey is intended for your good.

Ellen Di Giosia

Ellen Di Giosia is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, Tennessee. She is a parent, a spouse, a knitter, a napper, and a proud ex-resident of the great state of Texas.

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Ken Medema

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