Category Archives: Discipline

focuses on the spiritual disciplines

The Journey to Easter 2018 begins <3

Good morning! I hope you each had a sweet Valentine’s Day although for America, our hearts are heavy this morning with the news of yet another school shooting.

Our prayers are with all those who woke up this morning to the reality of this devastating act and also we pray for the family and friends of the shooter and the shame and guilt they will surely encounter as their lives have drastically changed. And we pray for him as well, because we are commanded to do so.

We pray for first responders and friends and family of all involved, for teachers and staff at the school and for the moms and dads and little ones who hugged extra hard this morning at the bus stop.

It is unthinkable and yet our news feeds are peppered daily with so much violence and hatred and cruelty and corruption.

This morning I am continuing my reading in the portion of the the Chronological Bible that covers the Laws and Regulations and such from portions of Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers.

Having these all grouped together in this translation is helpful but still rather overwhelming.

And as long as I have been in Christ and His Church and as God has taught me of His heart in so many ways that bring me to trust that He is always good and kind and right and righteous…still my American born, post-modern laced mind cringes as I read the various laws.

I hear the voices of our culture’s talking heads in the back of my mind and I struggle with the methods of justice that I am reading through regarding slaves and aliens and offenses against the poor and women and I think of the outcry’s of political leaders and different special interest groups that would rise up against these passages and attempt to judge God as being unfair and oppressive.

But it strikes me this morning instead….how the laws really point to how evil we are.

The laws and the regulations given to Moses and the people of Israel are not really about God’s character but about how we must deal with our own sin nature. And what a myriad of ways there are that we choose to sin.

It is not God who created the issues that we must now decide how to discipline, correct, punish or gain restitution – it is our own problem of sinful bent that we refuse to accept as part of the fallen world.

We want to blame God for the fact that we choose to go our own way.

The human nature is one that is flawed by choice.

And God has provided a way to redeem our sorry selves from our selves.

Yesterday was not just Valentine’s Day, you know.

Yesterday we began the portion of our faith journey for 2018 that we call Lent.

Russ and I were touched by a newscaster on national network last night who gave her reports with the black mark of an ashen cross on her forehead.

A very visual reminder as she shared that she had gone at some point during the day to be reminded that she lives redeemed by the Cross of Jesus Christ. By His death and resurrection.

Each story she reported on, with the burned ashes of a palm branch from last year’s triumphal entry celebration at her church blotched across her artfully made up face, reminded us that we had no right to pass judgment on anyone.

For all have sinned and all have fallen short..but One.

And so we, as people of the Cross, begin our journey toward the celebration of Easter on the calendar this year, while we live every day celebrating the truth that He is Risen.

He is Risen indeed.

 

 

 

Well when you explain it like that, even I can get it <3

So did you meditate and ponder the Scripture from yesterday?

Here is is again…

For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ. And we are ready to punish any disobedience, once your obedience has been confirmed.   2 Corinthians 10: 3-6   HCSB

Or perhaps this version is more helpful…

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way –  never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structured life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.    2 Corinthians 10:3-6   The Message

Ok…now I just wish we really were sitting across from each other with plenty of hot coffee and time enough to really dig into this.

But we can’t so…

just grab your favorite beverage and imagine me waving my hands in the air instead of tapping out these words and here are few musings to start us off.

First look at the language describing how our thought lives can lead us astray:

arguments…high-minded things that set themselves up against the knowledge of God…strongholds….tools of the world…manipulation…marketing…warped philosophies…barriers erected against the truth of God…loose thoughts…loose emotions…loose impulses…obstructions

Next observe the expressions applied to their removal…

warfare…demolition…take captive…punish…smashing…tearing down…clearing the ground

So let’s take one of my examples from yesterday and work it through here.

For the sake of illustration I will set the stage with a scenario.

I find myself feeling particularly down around 3:00 in the afternoon as I stumble across a reminder that triggers a new wave of sadness. In an effort to shake it off, I do some mindless checking of email which leads me to a visit to Facebook and there I see some happy somebody celebrating some event that just enhances my sense of loss. I begin to ask God why I can’t be them and then immediately feel remorse because I realize all the wonderful things I do have and why can’t I just be happy…which leads me to think of several uber positive friends I have who somehow take life in stride so much better and no wonder God is blessing them and I don’t deserve anything good anyway and so … more tears…more guilt…

Ok…hopefully that is general enough that you can plug yourself in there.

Maybe it’s you are sitting at your desk at work and starting to assume what the powers that be think of your value.

Maybe you are sitting in a gym and your child has been riding the same bench you rode twenty some years ago and it’s getting old.

Maybe the house didn’t sell or the stocks dropped or the test results were positive or…whatever…and suddenly your head is filled with all manner of thoughts that are stacking themselves up against God and Truth and He is getting smaller and His plan for you is diminishing and the more He shrinks the bigger the lies grow.

And you don’t realize it but you have exalted your thoughts above your God.

I recently listened to a random sermon  as I was driving south to meet Sarah for lunch and antiquing a few weeks ago.

Only God would provide me with this wonderful picture as I was brewing this series in my mind.

Matt Cassidy, from Grace Covenant in Austin, Texas, gave a perfect illustration of this passage.

He said that we have a tendency to invite thoughts that are counter to God’s truth in to our homes. We basically welcome them in like an honored guest and offer them a cold drink and the best seat in the house.

When what we should be doing is to handcuff  them, put a restraining vest around them and tie them to a hard back chair.

Look again at what we are to do with those thoughts…aggressive, violent words.

warfare…demolition…take captive…punish…smashing…tearing down…clearing the ground

So don’t let just any thought occupy your mind today.

If you are feeling trapped by your emotions, look at your thought life.

Is it leading you toward Christ or away from Him?

Any thought that leads you away from what He says in His Word is a liar.

Lock. It. Up.

Philippians 4: 8-9 tells us how we can identify the things our minds should be camping on as we journey…

Is what I am thinking really the truth?

Is this thought noble?

Is it reputable and authentic? Is there fact to back it up, or just my embellished narrative?

Is it a gracious thought…towards me or towards others?

Is it beautiful? Is it worthy of my praise of God?

Is it the best thought I could be spending my energy developing?

If not…just imagine escorting it to that time-out chair in the corner reserved for misbehavior.

And if you think you don’t have that kind of imagination…you were the one that developed the thought to the point that it’s tearing your world apart. Think about it..

Take some duct tape and strap it down…and use a little across it’s boasting mouth for good measure.

And then take yourself to some truths you can sing or say out loud and let the peace of Christ RULE your heart and your mind.

God bless you today as you visualize thoughts you need to kick to the curb.

May the LORD bless us with wisdom and discernment to begin to grow up into right thinking about ourselves, our circumstances and others because we are thinking right about our God!

 

 

 

Of the Brits and Esau and such

So yesterday I mentioned that we started watching The Crown on Netflix. Friends told us about it over Christmas with such enthusiasm we just felt we were making a regrettable life choice by not partaking.

If you are like us before we got the memo and have not a clue what I am talking about…

(I actually have so much dental work, that I assumed it was a documentary on capping teeth, but don’t tell anyone….)

The Crown follows the story of the Royal Family beginning with the marriage of Elizabeth, daughter of King George VI, to Phillip Duke of Edinburgh.

One scene that caught my attention involved a conversation Elizabeth has with her uncle, who had abdicated the throne years before, choosing to marry a woman who was unaccepted as a wife of the King of England.

She points out that he never apologized for vacating his responsibilities.

Assuming she meant an apology to her own father for causing him to assume duties he had never wanted, he assured he did indeed apologize.

No, she says – you never apologized to me.

And then she briefly shares the high cost to her own life, to her marriage, to her husband and to her family that his choice had left her.

His choice had caused repercussions that would continue for generations.

On Monday morning, my Bible reading had me in Genesis 25, where Esau comes in from the field hungry and Jacob offers him food in exchange for his birthright.

The notes in the commentary portion shed a view of this that was new to me and reminded me of the dialogue above about how one man’s decision affected so many others life course.

Careless, and apparently disinterested in the benefits and responsibilities attendant to the birthright, Esau unknowingly forfeits his opportunity to be the one in his generation through whom the blessings promised to his grandfather Abraham would pass.” *

Ouch.

Careless.

And apparently disinterested….

in the

BENEFITS

and

RESPONSIBILITIES

that came with the birthright.

What about us?

What about me?

I have been born into a time and an area of influence with benefits and responsibilities.

And…

AND….

I have been born again…

into an inheritance of Promised Blessings.

Oh my.

These words churn deep in my spirit today.

They make me ask myself if I have been careless and disinterested in the benefits and responsibilities that come with receiving Christ and being made new in Him.

They urge me to be neither careless nor indifferent to the benefits of my salvation AND the responsibilities that accompany God calling me one of His children.

I want to take every opportunity in my generation to be one through whom God’s blessings flow.

I think of young moms and dads out there, swimming upstream in a culture gone awry.

I think of teens and tweens and young adults forging the bridge between the faith they were raised on and the place they will walk it out in the real world of school, work and relationships today.

I think of older people who are starting to wear down and wear out. Our time is drawing closer and its easy to think maybe we might just coast it on out.

Esau, we are told, came in from the fields weary.

Tired.

Exhausted.

Hungry.

We can get that way and when we do it is tempting to settle for creature comforts and forget to fight the good fight.

Let’s not do that.

Let’s you and I be known as people who seized the birthright of being born again as new creations and use our influence to call forth God’s blessings into the day ahead.

 

*From The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order, NIV, with Devotional Commentary by F. LaGard Smith; Harvest House Publishers, page 53

Only Day 3 and I am already slow to the gate <3

So here is what the start of 2018 is looking like in these parts.

Along with ….

Yes…it’s starting to go make the trip back to the green tubs in the basement.

And I need to actually get ready to go out and be productive in the world today, so just a quick thought to share and then it’s go-time.

I am borrowing Russ’s Chronological Bible this year and attempting a full read-through. It’s been a few years since I did this and I am looking forward to the daily discipline.

As I begin in Genesis, I marvel that these passages never get old and each time I read them, I glean something new.

On the third day’s section, I find the narrative of the nations forming and it is as relevant as today’s headlines.

Adding the past multi-month study from our Sunday School class on a series that began as an attempt to understand better the conflicts and countries of the Middle East, I am impressed as always that the stories of today are grounded firmly in the story of God and His Hand in all things.

What are you doing this year to draw closer to Him? How will you plan to make connections with His Word in order to be changed and transformed in 2018?

Talk to your friends and your family about it.

Be intentional in choosing to carve out time each day to get to know the God of history and the God of YOUR story <3

And by all means…share with me, too.

Have a blessed Wednesday and keep W.A.R.M. <3

 

So what does Thy Kingdom come look like?

While I have missed a few days here and there really meditating on the Lord’s Prayer (from Pastor Brian Talty’s sermon in the Be Still Series that I mentioned here), I do try and use it at some point in my morning devotions each day.

I am finding it does have an effect on how the activities that follow pan out, as well as I am developing a deeper level of meditation as I go through the steps prayerfully before God.

This morning as I meditated on “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done…” I had this faint whisper of recollection regarding Jesus many references to what the Kingdom of God is like.

I pulled open the gospels and started searching for any heading that might give me insight.

A short search landed me in Luke 13 where Jesus is attempting to explain the Kingdom of God.

So here is my paraphrase this morning of verses 18-21….

The Kingdom of God…what is it like? What could I compare it to that would help you understand…hmmmmm….let’s see.

Well. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.

A tiny little seed. And a man took that seed home and he planted it in his garden.

Now you know, that seed didn’t grow overnight like some magic Jack-in-the-Beanstalk fairy tale. He watered it and eventually a little shoot came out of the ground.

Maybe there were other little blades of stuff around it and so he had to be careful to not pluck out what he thought was a weed and end up destroying this baby plant.

He had to know what he was looking for…the shaping of a mustard tree.

Days and weeks and years passed but finally that seed grew into a large tree. A tree that various birds saw and were drawn to. A place to build a nest and raise their own baby birds.

Or you know…it is like that teaspoon of yeast that a woman will take and add to three cups of flour.

She adds a little water and oil and she begins to work the dough. She pushes it and kneads it. Over and over she folds it and presses again.

Her hands may begin to ache a bit, but she works until the yeast is completely blended…until every particle is bonded and it is no longer flour and yeast but one complete dough.

That…that right there is what the Kingdom of God looks like.

Thy Kingdom Come

Through the small ways that we take the Kingdom with us….out into our every day, ordinary lives and we work it into the life around us.

Patiently and diligently and purposefully.

Into…

Our homes.

Our work.

Our children.

Our neighborhood.

Not some big project.

Not some dramatic show of power.

The Kingdom comes in a daily tending of normal things like sowing seeds and making bread and changing diapers and turning in reports and teaching art and leading a bible study for teens and counseling a newly pregnant mom and coaching junior high basketball players…all the little things…done in His name and for His glory….this is what the Kingdom of God is like <3