Delightful Discipline

Psalm 94_12_14_Delightful Discipine

Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,  the one you teach from your law; you grant them relief from days of trouble,  till a pit is dug for the wicked.  For the Lord will not reject His people; He will never forsake His inheritance. (Psalm 94:12-14)

If you’re anything like me, you don’t frequently equate the blessing of God with being disciplined by Him!  In fact, discipline of any type doesn’t feel good at the time (Hebrews 12:11), so we may lose sight of God’s purposes during the process.

I love that the Psalmist took the time to remind us of what God’s discipline is NOT – it is NOT a sign He has rejected us; it is not an indication that He has forsaken us and written us off!   Instead, God’s perfect discipline is to teach us about His ways, and to bring about relief from our troubles.

Isn’t that amazing?  God would have every right to smite us right where we stand.  If He wanted, He could shame us and drive us away from His presence.  But as a loving Father, God’s desire for us (even after we’ve messed up) is to bless us and lead us out of trouble – even trouble of our own making!  As a result, we are happy and blessed.

Are you feeling the sting of God’s discipline?  Remember – He has not rejected or forsaken you; He simply desires what is best for you in the end – to be closer to Him. –Dave

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Serve With, Glorify By

John 9_3_Serve With Glorify By

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

It’s such a strange contrast that we can barely wrap our minds around it.  Everything within us and everything in the world that surrounds us seems to abhor a weakness.  Weaknesses are to be avoided, hidden, or constantly worked on in order to improve and get ahead.  But leading with our weaknesses or boasting in them?  Well, that seems crazy!

Yet that was Paul’s message in the passage above.  And that was Christ’s message about the man born blind that He was about to heal.  While the disciples were ready to chalk the blind man’s defect up to someone’s sin, Jesus said,

…this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  (John 9:3)

“Displayed” in the verse above means “to illuminate, to make visible, or to make graspable.”  I love that last definition.  Jesus was going to make His Father more “graspable” by working through the blind man’s weakness.  And folks the same is true today as well.  We may serve God with our strengths, but we bring glory to Him with our weaknesses, because through them, Christ can work to make His Father more readily apparent to those around us.  That is why Paul was willing to boast about his weaknesses.

The world doesn’t need to see how we handle our ease and comfort; they want to see what difference Christ makes when life is HARD.  So don’t run from your weaknesses and struggles; let Christ work through them so that others may begin to grasp an otherwise invisible God. –Dave

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Do Something

John 9_4_Do Something

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide what to do.”  (Elbert Hubbard)

I don’t know who Hubbard was, but I’m convinced he must have been looking at my office when he wrote the words above!  For a long time I’ve wanted to tidy things up a bit, but it hasn’t happened.  The truth is that very little effort would be required physically; however, I don’t know exactly where to start…so, I don’t.

Sadly I think that’s the mentality many of us take with our spiritual walk amidst a very unspiritual world.  There is SO MUCH that needs to be done.  There are homeless people to be sheltered, hungry people to be fed.  There are young girls being trafficked, and babies being aborted.  There are prisoners to be visited, and injustices to be corrected.  On and on we could go.  We can’t possibly address every need, so what do we choose and where do we start?

Might I suggest that we begin by asking God where He’d like us to concentrate our time and effort, then show great strength and decide to do something!  FDR is credited with saying, “Do something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, do something else.”  What great advice.  Choose a cause, throw yourself into it, and see what happens.  If God blesses those efforts, do more.  If fruit is not growing on that tree, plant a different one.  But do something!

Don’t wait too long; as Jesus said during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).  Now is the time.  These are our days of sunlight.  Night is coming when we’ll be too old, too tired, too something to be about our Father’s work.

The Lord’s sun is shining – what will you do for Him while it is still daylight?  Pick something and go for it! –Dave

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Opportunities that Work

Proverb 12_11_Working Opportunities

Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.  (Esther Pauline “Eppie” Lederer)

You likely don’t recognize the name above, but you may know her by her pen name, Ann Landers.  For 47 years, Landers provided common sense messages like the one above to an estimated 90 million readers.

And while the sentiment above may not be popular today, it is consistent with Scripture’s teaching on the benefits of hard work.  The Bible’s answer to meeting one’s basic material needs and even getting ahead is work!  Believe it or not, work is NOT a four-letter word (well, technically, I guess it is, but you know what I mean).  In fact, work was part of the blessing given to Adam in the Garden BEFORE the fall (Genesis 2:5).

For the rest of our time today, let’s take a look at just a few of the benefits of work as described in God’s Word:

  • Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. (Proverb 12:11)
  • A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverb 6:10-11)
  • Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
  • That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:13)
  • All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverb 14:23)
  • In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35)

Work.  With it come food, shelter, profit, satisfaction, and the ability to help others.  What an opportunity!

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Speak Up or Shut Down?

Acts 13_45_Speak Up or Shut Down

But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to oppose what Paul was saying by insulting him. (Acts 13:45, HCSB)

French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr is credited with saying it first – “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  As I read the verse above, it struck me that human nature hasn’t changed much over time.

Paul and Barnabas were traveling through Asia Minor spreading the message of love and forgiveness available through faith in Jesus.  However when the Jewish leaders of the area saw crowds beginning to follow Paul, they were filled with jealousy.  As is often the case, their jealousy prompted them to take action against the object of that jealousy.

But because they couldn’t dismantle the message about Christ, they attempted to dismantle the messengers.  The verse tells us that the Jews tried to oppose what Paul was saying by insulting HIM.  The NIV says by “abusing him.”  Here too is a human trait that hasn’t changed much over time.  When opponents of the gospel can’t take done the message, they will often try to take down the messenger.

The temptation to quit must have been great for Paul and Barnabas.  After all, who wants to endure insult and abuse?  But we can learn much from studying their response to the strong opposition they encountered.  First, they shook the dust from their heels and moved on (13:51).  Then, in total reliance upon the Lord (14:3), they continued to preach the gospel (14:7).

In other words, they refused to shut down.  Instead they moved on and spoke up!  How about you?  What do you do when your faith is challenged – speak up or shut down?

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Exits and Entry Ramps

Proverb 16_9_Exits and Entry Ramps

“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” (Tom Stoppard)

What a wonderful perspective that is when our hopes don’t go according to plan!  Recently, I’ve watched helplessly as something I had hoped for just died on the vine.  I had hoped and prayed.  I had made plans, sought counsel, and rolled up my sleeves.  Yet despite it all, it became apparent that this baby just wasn’t going to fly!

The journey was coming to an end and I needed to exit that highway.  It was hard to admit it had ended even before it really ever started.  I felt like a failure; like I had misheard from the Lord months and months earlier.  I firmly believed I had gotten on this particular highway in obedience to Him.  Now I was sure, however, that one more mile on this path would be sheer disobedience.  So exiting was the only option.

It was into this discouragement and defeat that Stoppard’s words crossed my desk – and they made me smile.  For with God as the pilot, there really are no dead-ends – only redirections.  An exit from one path simply means finding the next entry ramp He wants for us to try.  The last outing need not be an ending, but the beginning of something new and wonderful with Him.

Remember – every exit from one plan is an entry to somewhere else God wants to take you! –Dave

A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverb 16:9, HCSB)

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For Good Measure

2 Kings 17_24_33_For Good Measure

Nestled among the somewhat tedious list of kings of Israel and Judah is an interesting story regarding an exile in Assyria.  Because His children had committed ongoing idolatry, God allowed them to be drug off to a foreign land.

But instead of leaving Israel unoccupied, the Assyrian king sent in people from many other places.  Scripture tells us that “people from Babylon, Kuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim…settled in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites” (2 Kings 17:24).  When these people came, they also brought their foreign gods.  This too displeased God, so He sent lions among them to torment them.

Finally, the King of Assyria sent a priest of Israel back to his homeland to teach the people how to “worship the God of the land” (v. 28).  The priest did his job; he taught them God’s ways.  But listen to how the people responded:

They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. (v. 33)

What did the people do?  They continued to live how they had been living; they just threw worship of the Lord in for good measure.  While I wish it weren’t true, I fear that I’m tempted to do the same thing – live according to the ways of the world, but throw in just a little of Jesus for good measure.

How about you?  Is Christ the only object of your devotion?  Or are you embracing the ways of the world with just a little Jesus sprinkled on top?

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