God’s Disciplines


1 Thessalonians 4-5 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all the guidance we need to live for Him each day

I love lists!  They’re my friends that help me get through the day, through various events and even through a special holiday dinner: 10:00 – turkey in oven, 12:00 – sweet potato casserole, 1:00 – Boil potatoes, corn soufflé in oven.  Sound familiar?  I even have lists for my lists which seems somewhat Monkish like the neurotic television detective, but that’s who I am.

I wish I could say that I am able to check every item as completed on every list on any given day, but of course, that would not be true.  My lists, however, keep me focused on the priorities of the day and help keep me from getting bogged down in those things that are insignificant to my goal.  I love lists, and I love that Paul has given us so many of them in his teachings to help us stay focused on our priorities – like the one in 1 Thessalonians 5. 

@1 Thessalonians 5
Between the significant teachings on the end times in Chapter 4 and those of 2 Thessalonians, Paul included a list of instructions for His brothers and sisters that would help them occupy until these future events took place:

1)  Be an encourager.  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (11) Who needs a special word of encouragement today?

2)  Honor and respect my spiritual leaders. “Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” (12-13)  We honor our pastors by showing love for them in our acts of kindness, in our words of thanks and through our loyalty.  We honor them by respecting their guidance.  And most pastors would say that living peacefully with each other is right there at the top of the list of ways to honor them – it lightens their load.

3)  Be patient with everyone. “We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” (14)  It’s difficult to interact with those who need to pick up the slack or to help those who are weak if we are too busy judging them for who they are and why they are in their present situation. Patience brings understanding and gives us the time to help in the right way.

4)  Do good to everyone. “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”(15)  No revenge; simply following the Golden Rule.

5)  Be joyful, always. “Always be joyful.” (16)  We worry about someone who walks around smiling all the time, but Paul encourages us to let the joy of our salvation, the joy of who we are in Christ and the joy of our eternal reward outweigh any temporary discomfort and trial. “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

6)  Live on the verge of prayer and never give up.  “Never stop praying.” (17)  If we really want to accomplish No. 5 on our list, this is the way to do it.  Of course, we would never get anything done for ourselves or for the Kingdom if we stayed on our knees all day, every day.  I’m a little hesitant to compare prayer to a chronic cough that is present and can erupt at any time, but like a cough, continual prayer is always right there waiting for any provocation.  It’s persistent and never gives up.  Pray away!

7)  Be thankful in everything. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (18)  And once again, if we really want to accomplish No. 7, then No. 6 is the way to do it.  When we are thankful to God in our abundance, we are giving Him the glory and credit for it; and when we are thankful in our lack or trial, we are trusting God’s providence to see us through it.

8)  Flow in the Spirit. “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” (19-22)  It’s the Holy Spirit who will help us accomplish all the other things on our list today.  We’re not in this alone – we have help!  Whether in a sermon or in spontaneous utterance,  a word from the Holy Spirit can be trusted and measures up to the Word of God.

In light of this list, I apparently have a lot to do.  I would like to check off everything on my list today, but if not, it will always be available tomorrow, and the next day and the next.  I love lists. Thanks, Paul! 

Moving Forward: I’ve got my list for today, working on those priorities, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can do it!

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 22-24

Proverbs 13 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His wisdom helps us raise Godly children

To spank or not to spank – now that’s a debate for today.  Gaining momentum is the idea that spanking promotes anger and hostile behavior in children.  Many others take a more traditional position and believe that spanking when done without anger is an acceptable means of correcting disobedient children.  Having followed the conventional view, it was somewhat disconcerting for me to learn recently from my grown son that the spankings I gave him when he was young never really hurt him.  When I reminded him that he always cried, he gave me a sheepish smile and informed that he did that to make me feel better about it all.  I honestly gave it my best shot.  In spite of this, he’s grown to be a godly father and husband today, for which I am eternally thankful.

There was no debate in Solomon’s mind regarding corporal punishment – he was all for it!   He began the chapter with, “A wise child accepts a parent’s discipline; a mocker refuses to listen to correction,” (1) and added in verse 24 a stronger statement, “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” “Discipline your children while there is hope.  Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” (19:18) “A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away.” (22:15)  “Don’t fail to discipline your children.  They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.” (23:13-14)  Well, I think we know where Solomon stood on the subject.

The most abusive discipline by parents that I have observed came from words spoken rather than spanking. However, spanking need not be our first course of action in disciplining our children, and so very often other methods will take care of the situation we are facing.  When I resorted to this form of discipline, I followed the advice of so many others and never disciplined in anger but did so when emotions were calm and thinking was clear.  Any form of discipline administered without instruction, in my mind, is useless.  The purpose of discipline is to bring correction, to bring about a change in behavior.  How can these dear ones learn how to change without our instruction and help?  Following discipline, I often asked my children to tell me what the correct behavior would have been.  There was a lasting reinforcement in the matter when the answer came from their mouths instead of mine.

There were a few months in my daughter’s early teen years where there was a battle for supremacy between us.  Because of my determination to win, I was considered by her at times to be one of the “meanest mothers in the world.”  I must admit that I wore that label with some pride.  Then one day everything changed when my daughter told me about an exchange she had with a close friend.  She was complaining to her friend about how strict I was, never allowing her to do what she wanted to do.  Her friend tearfully responded, “Well, at least she cares about you.  At least she cares about what you are doing and where you are going.  I wish my mom did.”

I believe we both won that battle.  My decisions and instructions were now received without question.  My daughter finished her teen years without regrets and is today a beautiful woman of God and a wonderful mother.  No matter what form we use, disciplining children takes time, tenacity and a willingness to be disliked from time to time, but if we really love our children and care about their future, we will do it.  “Those who love their children care enough to discipline them… Physical discipline may well save them from death,” said the wisest man who ever lived. 

Moving Forward: I move forward today with a grateful heart.  Grateful for the wisdom from His Word that produced the remarkable children I enjoy today. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 37-42

Proverbs 11-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He delights in our honesty and humility, and He rewards them with wisdom

A day at the Minnesota State Fair was always one of the highlights of my year when I was young.  Where else can you get fried cheese curds, sugary Tom Thumb donuts and food on a stick?  Yum!  My dad always walked us through the Midway where the rides whirled over our heads and hucksters barked and called to him to take a chance at winning the big prize.  I wanted that big prize, the big cuddly stuffed something, but he always just kept walking, eyes focused straight ahead.

When I asked him one time why he wouldn’t stop and try to win a prize for me, he said that the games were crooked, the balls were weighted and the chances were slim – they couldn’t be trusted.  I never viewed the Midway and its hucksters the same way again. Since then I’ve walked through many midways in life, and I’ve tried to keep my focus straight ahead with added determination for my own life to never be described as one that could not be trusted.  Thanks, dad! 

@ Proverbs 11
“The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but He delights in accurate weights.  Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  Honesty guides good people.” (1-3) Solomon addressed the problem of dishonest scales several times in Proverbs, where the weighing of foods and goods was common business practice and where heavy thumbs and hidden weights were tools used to cheat buyers.  Dishonest business practices still prevail today, but of course the methods are much more sophisticated and elaborate.  Why do people cheat each other?

It’s interesting that Solomon slips this little statement about pride in between two verses on honesty, “Pride leads to disgrace.”  When we feel that our gain and our advancement are more vital than that of someone else to the point of dishonesty, it is because we regard ourselves as better and more important. The definition of pride: a haughty attitude shown by somebody who believes that he or she is better than others. Ouch!

Clearly, pride throws the Golden Rule right out the window.  But, “…with humility comes wisdom.”  Humility: the quality of being modest, respectful and meek.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NIV)  Now that’s quite an inheritance! A prideful heart seeks to bless itself while a heart of humility is blessed by the Lord.

Whenever my motivation in any transaction or exchange, whether financial, relational or really anything is to bless me at an expense or loss to someone else, it’s time for me to evaluate that motivation.  The incredible One-day Sale at Macy’s where sale prices almost seem like stealing?  Acceptable!  Cheating the sales clerk, the tax collector, my spouse or a customer? Not good.  I don’t ever want to be like the dishonest huckster who cannot be trusted.

Honesty guides good people.” Honesty is a valuable guide through the midways of life.  It is humble, reliable, timeless, easy to remember…and it’s trustworthy!  So in light of these scriptures, the right way to gain or advance in life is to treat others in the way we like to be treated, with humility and respect, and we can be certain that honesty will come right alongside and help us do it. Our efforts will be blessed with wisdom and a rich inheritance! 

Moving Forward: Honest guidance today from the Golden Rule, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)  I can’t go wrong. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 31-36

Leviticus 16-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has reconciled us to Him through the sacrifice of His Son

One of the most valuable commodities in the world today is a pint of AB negative blood, at least it is for those who have this rare blood type.  These individuals often have blood taken and stored for their own use should they need it as a result of injury or sickness because less than 1% of the population carries this blood type.  Scary thought.  No one can live without blood.  God said to Moses, “The life of the body is in its blood,” (11) and He would know. 

@ Leviticus 17
Leviticus is filled with instructions regarding animal sacrifices and the use of their blood in attaining reconciliation with God, often sharing more detail than I think I would need to know.  But what may seem like a preoccupation on the subject was more accurately God’s desire to preserve the honor and integrity of the blood because He was looking forward to Calvary.

Animals could be used for food, clothing and even medicine, but their blood was to be used for only one thing – the atonement for sin.  “I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life that makes purification possible. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood.’” (11-12)

My first thought is why the Israelites would need such instruction. However, this was a practice in their culture because of their idolatrous worship of other gods, such as the sacrificing to goat idols or demons mentioned earlier in the chapter.  By drinking the blood of animals in their rituals, they thought they would capture the life force or energy of the creatures.  With the most significant force of life, the Source of all energy in the Universe and the Creator of all things guiding them by day and night with a pillar of cloud and fire, it’s impossible for me to understand the attraction of drinking blood.  Doing so diluted the symbol of His atonement for their sins, and only the enemy of their souls could entice them in this way.

These scriptures should give us pause to consider our culture’s present fascination with vampires, blood and the like.  As believers, should our entertainment include anything that glorifies and focuses on sucking the blood out of people? How could I ever put before my eyes something that dishonors or discredits the only eternal life-giving blood, the blood of Jesus?  I believe that only the enemy of my soul could entice me in that way.  No, my focus should be on this, “With His own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (Hebrews 9:12)  For our bodies, life is in our blood; but for our eternal spirits, life is in His blood.

Moving Forward:  Thinking of the old Andre Crouch song, “The blood that Jesus shed for me, way back on Calvary…the blood that gives me strength from day to day, it will never lose its power.”  Taking that song with me today.

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 11-15

Luke 19-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He gives us all that we need to invest in His Kingdom

When I was a young girl, my mom often said something similar to “use your talents for the Lord, or you’ll lose them.”  I didn’t really know at the time if it was a mommy-ism or hardcore truth, but then later I came to understand it was based on the story in Matthew 25 and this similar story in Luke 19 about the king and the money or talents.  When my saxophone was stolen some years later, her words were ringing in my ears.

I played my saxophone in college and in church for many years, but now it sat in the corner of the basement, pads drying out, picking up a musty smell.  I was in the ministry and just too busy with other things.  Well, someone broke into our home and took only four items – a pillowcase, a small empty piggy bank, a package of frozen hot dogs and yes, my saxophone.  I used to laugh and say that I still had the talent but just lost the saxophone.  However,  now so many years later, I’m reasonably sure it’s a lost skill as well.

Jesus used the story of the talents to clear up some misinformation.  The oppressed Jews were looking for Jesus to overthrow the Roman government and establish Himself as their King, but He was interested in a different Kingdom.  Eventually, the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, they crucified Him, He arose and ascended to Heaven, and the church age began.  The story of the talents gives a clear picture of how the Lord views our responsibilities as citizens in His Kingdom.

Each servant was given a pound of silver to invest and grow the kingdom, and those who did so were praised and rewarded when the king returned.  The servant who hid the money to protect it out of fear of losing it was reprimanded, and the money was taken away – he lost it anyway.   I’ve heard plenty of excuses through the years about why Christians can’t use for the Lord what He has put in their hands to use, and I’ve offered many of them myself.  Most will say they just don’t have any talents or giftings to use for the Lord, and I’ve found it hard to argue with a few of them, but if we’re still breathing, then the very least we have is time.  Time, skills, money, intelligence, physical strength – God has given everyone something to use to bless His Kingdom.

A had a friend who owned a beautiful set of china.  It sat deep within her china hutch and never used because she was afraid it would break or be harmed in some way.  So sad.  In truth, I was tempted to take a dish out and damage it in some way and say, “OK, now the set is ruined, go ahead and use them.”  Of course, I never did it.  The china rarely adorned her table and never served its intended purpose.

Sometimes we hide the talents He’s given us because we fear failure or misuse, but I think we should understand that He rather use a chipped or scratched plate than none at all.  Often we are too focused on our own busy lives, or perhaps we’re just too lazy to use what God has put in our hands.

The servants knew that the king would return to see how well they had invested his money and lived for that moment when they would hear “well done, faithful servant.”  We can look forward to the day when Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom, but in the meantime, He expects us to live like He’s returning.  “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

A faithful servant longs to please the One he serves, longs to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)  I’ve always said that when we stand before Him someday, it won’t matter how many things we have accumulated, how clean our house was or the prestigious positions we held.  No, all that will matter is what we did with Jesus and what we did for Him. Once again the reminder: The only thing we take with us into eternity is other people. 

Moving Forward: I want to be the faithful servant today, not hindered and not afraid to invest any talent he has given me for His Kingdom, using those dishes! 

Tomorrow @ Colossians 3-4

Proverbs 7 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He calls us to a pure and moral life

Triple chocolate fudge cake with chocolate mousse filling…can you see it?  I see it every time I pass by the dessert counter at my favorite restaurant.  It’s not content to just sit there on the counter.  No, it calls to me. In fact, it walks right up to me dressed in its seductive ganache icing, surrounded by a blanket of silky sauce and a perfumed dusting of cocoa.  I inhale its fragrance, and it’s as if I hear it say, “You are alone, and no one will ever know you allowed my sweet, creamy mousse to kiss your lips, you deserve it.”

Seduced by its smooth flattery and clever words, I eat it, and then I am immediately filled with remorse, remembering “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips” and all the things I know to be true.  I vow to never eat it again…until next time…when I walk that way once again, and it calls to me…triple chocolate fudge cake with chocolate mousse filling…Can you hear it?

All that to say that I understand seduction.  Although too many fudge cakes may send me to an early grave, some enticements will send me to an eternal grave. In Proverbs 7, Solomon warned his sons about the road that leads to the grave through seduction.  A much weightier subject than cake.

The way of the temptress is something to reckon with amid the vast array of seductive tools the enemy has at his disposal today.  When I started in ministry 45 years ago, adultery was something that happened in society but was frowned on and discouraged. Today, it is accepted as a part of social living by many and often celebrated throughout the media.  Men and women alike have yielded to the seductive call of the immoral man or woman, leaving behind precious children caught in the fray.

After counseling hundreds of hurting young people over the years, I can promise that there is not a man or woman on the planet worthy of sacrificing the security and peace of these dear ones – not one.  They may act as though everything is great; but believe me, for most, it is not.

“Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands.  Obey my commands and live!  Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyesTie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.”(1-3) When I married and the beautiful wedding ring was placed on my finger, it wasn’t meant to be an ornament.  It was intended to be a safeguard, a watchman if you will, to keep me from sin as I remembered its significance.

The ring, a circle without beginning or end, symbolizes an eternal agape love that is not threatened by the seductress or seducer.  “So listen to me, my sons [and daughters], and pay attention to my words…Don’t wander down her wayward path.  For she has been the ruin of many…her house is the road to the grave.” (25-27)  Don’t wander over to the dessert counter, don’t go down the path to ruin Solomon warned.  Heed the watchman.

Moving Forward: I cherish my wedding ring today and all that it symbolizes – eternal love, fidelity and the commitment to God’s morality, written deep within my heart. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 13-18

Proverbs 5-6 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He watches over our steps, providing His wisdom to guide us

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.  Learn from their ways and become wise!” (6:6)  Lazybones – what a great word!  I’m planning to use it in a sentence or two throughout the day, hopefully not describing me.  I can testify that the ants in my kitchen are not lazybones.

My kitchen has been invaded by grease ants, and please be assured, they are not lazy.  One missed potato chip on the kitchen floor caused a frenzy of activity that included the entire neighborhood ant community, forming perfect lines to and from the chip – until I removed the chip.  But while that chip was their focus, they were busy and productive with no foolishness or stray steps.  Hmmm…could this be a lesson?

Solomon’s direction over the next few chapters in Proverbs involves instruction regarding moral and wise living.  The purposed activity of the ants was illustrated to guard against poverty and lack, but isn’t it also protection from the dangers of infidelity and foolish living? The old saying from the writings of Chaucer comes to mind, “Idle hands are the devil’s tools or workshop.”  A purposed focus keeps us on track, “Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” (4:27)  When we are focused and productive, there’s little time for straying.

@ Proverbs 5
Much of Solomon’s writing focuses on fidelity and the sin of adultery, interesting coming from a man with so very many wives, but powerful nonetheless.  His heart’s desire was to spare his sons the pain that follows immoral living, and these are instructions we should take to heart.  Regarding the immoral woman (or man), he instructs:

1)  “Stay away from her!  Don’t go near the door of her house!” (8)  Don’t click on the website, don’t open the magazine, don’t watch the movie, don’t hang out at his/her desk, don’t think on vain imaginations…we know where the traps are set.

2)  Consider the consequences. “You will lose your honor…lose all you have achieved … someone else will enjoy the fruits of your labor…you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body.” (9-11) Nothing saddens me more than when a man (or woman) loses the honor and respect of his children.  How could anything or anyone possibly be worth it!

3)  Live life without regrets. “If only I had not ignored all the warnings! Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers?” (12-13) A life filled with if only this and if only that saps us of the joy and peace God desires for us.

4)  Enjoy your spouse! “Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.  Rejoice in the wife of your youth…” (18)  Other pastures only appear to be greener.  They require the same amount of attention and care.

Solomon ended this chapter with, “For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes.” (21) May He see us busy on our path of purpose, not sidetracked by the immoral man or woman or any evil that would take us off track. A life lived without regret! 

Moving Forward: No lazybones for me!  I’ll stay focused on the path that is set before me, looking neither to the left nor the right and rejoicing in the gift of my husband. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 7-12

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