God’s Disciplines


Psalms 140-142 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Because He loves us so, He perfects and changes us through His messengers

No one likes to be criticized.  I’ve never started the day with the thought I hope someone criticizes me today so that I can grow and improve.  Critical words can disrupt a friendship and destroy family ties, yet when those words come from pure intent, they can change us and make us more like Him.  David was facing an enemy in our reading today.  We don’t know for certain if he was trying to save his own life from the king who had gone rogue or if it was in battle; but in the midst of it all, David opened his life to criticism as he prayed to the Lord for help. 

@ Psalm 141
David’s heartfelt prayer that he offered in a difficult circumstance is an example for us of the contrition and humility we should exhibit in the challenges we face.  His first step was surrender, “Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.” (2)  His arms were raised in surrender to the One who would help him.  David offered plenty of suggestions of what God could do to his enemies, but his first action was one of surrender.

David surrendered the most difficult member of his body according to James 3:6; he surrendered the words of his mouth.  “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.” (3)  How easy it is in the face of criticism and pressure to spout off the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s rarely a good thing.  Guard our lips, Lord.

Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness.  Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong.” (4)  Seldom do we move from a godly life one day to the depths of sin the next.  It is usually a slow drift, a little compromise here and a little concession there.  It is right here, at this moment, that David opened his life to the possibility of criticism.  God often uses the wise counsel of others to help keep us on track, to keep us from drifting and sharing in the deeds of evil and wickedness.  It’s much easier to see the drift in others because we’re not standing in their skin.

However, David knew exactly what he was praying, “Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness!  If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.  Don’t let me refuse it.” (5)  Only a heart of humility will look at criticism in this way.  The key word is godly. “Let the godly strike me!”  David asked God over and over again to protect him from the criticism of the ungodly, but when the godly offered correction, he said: “Bring it on!”  Solomon expressed this same thought throughout Proverbs, “Correct the wise, and they will love you.  Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.” (9:8-9)

No, I don’t like criticism, but when it comes from time to time, I want to listen with the surrendered heart of David, keeping my mouth shut in the face of it. I want to view it as an act of kindness from someone who cares about my well-being and prayerfully considers its message.   In prayer, God has always been faithful to reveal the truth of the matter to my heart.  Even more than my own desire, God wants me to be wise and righteous.  He will send the godly to my life when He sees the drift, and how could I not receive His messengers? 

Moving Forward: It humbles me to think that the God of all heaven and earth is so mindful of the condition of my heart that He sends His messengers to bring wisdom and righteousness to my life.  “All to Jesus, I surrender…” 

Tomorrow @ Song of Solomon 1-2 (Help)

Ecclesiastes 9-10 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  His Word provides the wisdom we need to keep sharp!

A few years ago a friend and I prepared a meal in her home for our families.  My job was chopping veggies, so I searched through her drawer for the best knife I could find.  Now, it needs to be understood that in food prep, it’s all about the knife for me.  Maybe that comes from my Italian heritage, I don’t know, but I want my cutting knife to carry the right weight in the handle, fit easily in the hand and cut like a dream.

On that day I couldn’t find a knife to fit any of those requirements.  The knives were so dull they couldn’t cut through butter…almost.  I ask my friend if she had a sharp knife, and she replied, “No, I can’t have a sharp knife. I would cut myself.”  She didn’t get it.  My job was tedious, to say the least.  Aarghhh…

The other day I spent some time in my daughter’s kitchen doing food prep and once again my job included chopping veggies.  In her drawer was the perfect knife, great balance, great fit and the sharpest of blades, and I whipped through those veggies effortlessly.  My daughter got it.  A sharp blade requires less effort for the task and provides greater safety in the process.  Bottom line – we have to keep our edge. 

@ Ecclesiastes 10
“Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade.  That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.” (10)  Well, obviously Solomon got it, and there are some lessons to be learned from a dull ax.  Whether we realize it or not, a sharpened ax will lose its edge over time with use or without use.

An ax that sits on a shelf without being used, no matter how sharp it once was, will begin to lose its edge over time through oxidation from humidity and other elements. Only when it is taken off the shelf and sharpened will it once again be useful to do the job it was intended.  Sometimes we go through periods in life where we feel we are sitting on the shelf, not very useful and, well, kind of oxidizing.  That is where we’ll stay unless we sharpen up – sharpen our skills, our training and get up-to-date in our thinking.  It’s amazing how just sitting in on a local training course or an online session in our field will get our creative juices flowing or open doors for the future.  We have to keep our edge.

An ax will lose its edge from overuse as well.  After a couple of hours of chopping, slicing and dicing the other day, my knife was starting to get a little dull, but I knew my son-in-law would be able to fix that in no time.  When a knife starts to dull, it doesn’t go as easily through the onions or whatever we are cutting and that provides a little play in its action where a slight turn of the blade can cause it to go places where we don’t want it to go. It’s a subtle deterioration that slowly moves to a risky venture for us.

We so often are slicing and dicing our way through life, and I mean that in only the kindest of terms, and over time we have dulled our edge.  Our work takes a greater effort than ever before and even our safety may be at stake.  This is when it is time to reevaluate the tool, our skill or our vocation by putting down the ax and picking up the sharpener.  Perhaps a little sabbatical is in order or once again attending a class or a refresher online, something that will sharpen our edge and help our efforts moving forward.  I once read, “Don’t work harder, work smarter.”

Most important is our walk with the Lord – we don’t want to lose our edge.  If we sense our relationship with Him is taking more effort and feeling a little dull, it’s time for some sharpening, stepping away from the day-to-day for some alone time with Him.  He said, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)

And “That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.”(10)  Thank you, Solomon, for your wisdom today and encouragement to keep our edge sharp!

Moving Forward:  No dull ax here, I want to keep sharp for Him so that my efforts will accomplish the most for the Kingdom. 

Tomorrow @ Zechariah 8-14

2 Peter 1-3

Discover His heart:  “God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.”

Tom and I are celebrating our 47th wedding anniversary this week, and yes, we did get married when we were twelve.  I thank God every day for the love that we share and the blessing that Tom is in my life.  There was a time back in our early years of dating, however, when I couldn’t foresee this long and happy union because Tom just wasn’t perfect, and this was troubling to me.  I had a friend offer wise counsel when she advised, “God created woman to be a helpmate.  If you’re looking for the perfect man, he doesn’t need one.” Husband and wife, working as a team, bringing their strengths to the union – great advice!  But it took a little admonition from the Lord to finally straighten me out. 

@ 2 Peter 1
One particular day back then I was talking to God about Tom and his imperfection.  I didn’t think that I had accomplished perfection in my own life, but for some reason, I felt I needed it in the one I loved. Thankfully, because God is so merciful, He chose not to smite me on the spot but instead sent me to 2 Peter 1:3-7: “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life… And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature…In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.”

After reading these words, God suggested that I contact Him again regarding any criticism of Tom after I had achieved all these godly attributes in my own life.  Ouch!  Well, needless to say, we’ve never had that conversation.  I took God’s correction to heart that day and have done my best to remember that we all are a work in progress.   Every day the Holy Spirit is working on developing His divine nature in my life and in Tom’s life as well. 

Faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, patient endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, love for everyone – I’ve got my work cut out for me, and there’s little time to be criticizing someone else.  As far as reaching perfection on this earth, chances are…well, there are no chances.  Only One has lived a perfect life, and He died for it.

Moving Forward:  Living this day as a work in progress, seeking to share in His divine nature and looking forward to a perfect eternity in heaven. 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 16-19

Deuteronomy 13-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  When we honor Him with our tithe, He blesses us beyond measure

We enjoy honoring our friends for their birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, new births, graduations – the list seems endless.  These celebrations are little respites for each of us from our day-to-day lives as we are honored with cards and gifts.  I love finding just the perfect gift for a friend, something that shows that I have taken time and effort to give honor.  When I run into a store for a birthday card, my husband knows it is anything but a run.  He settles back for a good 15-20 minute wait because I am compelled to find the perfect card to honor my friend.  In the same way, I always want to do my best to bring the most perfect gifts to the Lord to honor and celebrate Him.

@ Deuteronomy 14
“You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.  Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for His name to be honored.” (22-23)  It just makes sense to give our tithe at the designated place where we worship as long as His name is honored there.  I would never take my gift for the friend I am honoring to someone else’s celebration or throw it up in the air and hope it lands somewhere useful.

In Malachi, God cursed the people for neglecting their tithe – help – and instructed them, “’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’” (Mal3:10) What a promise!  We give our tithe at the storehouse where we’re being fed so that the storehouse, our church, is able to provide all that is needed for the work of the Lord, and in return, we are abundantly blessed.  Well, I’ve tried it, I’ve tested it, and it works!

“Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.” (23)  Tithing doesn’t teach us to be afraid of the Lord, but this fear refers to reverence. Just like the gift for a friend, it is our opportunity to show honor and respect for the Lord.  A weekly or monthly tithe is a continual statement to the Lord that we honor Him with our provisions, the resources that keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. Our resources are meaningful and needful to us, yet we honor Him with them.

“Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest…”  (24) And isn’t this the bottom line?  All that we have, our provisions, are from His hand anyway.  Our tithe is our acknowledgment to Him that our income and resources come from His hand of blessing.

My tithe, my tenth, is a natural expression for me to show honor to the Lord. It is my continual gift to honor who He is to me and what He has done for me, and I could only bring it to a place of worship where I know He is honored and His work is carried out.  And believe me, in response to my giving, He has opened the windows of heaven for me, and He has blessed!

Moving Forward:  Today I am assured more than ever that I just can’t out-give God.  He always seems to outdo me because that’s just the way He is. 

Tomorrow @ Ezra 1-5

2 Chronicles 33-36 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  His blessing follows our choice to serve Him

I was about twelve when my dad asked me to go with him one Saturday to a Minnesota Twins baseball game.  They were playing the New York Yankees, so this was an offer I couldn’t refuse.  It was a great game with the Twins ahead for an inning or two, then the Yankees ahead, back and forth until the eighth inning when the Yankees scored bringing them ahead by one point, and the Twins came back with nothing.  Top of the ninth, Yankees did not score.

Finally, it was the bottom of the ninth, Twins at bat, one man on and the batter hit a Home Run.  Twins win it by one!  The crowd went wild!  I think it was Yogi Berra who said regarding baseball, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  Of course, he also said, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” So… 

@ 2 Chronicles 36
“So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them…They had no pity on the people, killing both young men and young women, the old and the infirm. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar…Then his army burned the Temple of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, burned all the palaces, and completely destroyed everything of value…The few who survived were taken as exiles to Babylon.” (17-20)  Over the past several months we’ve read about the warnings and prophecies of the prophets, God’s final attempt to change the hearts of His people but to no avail.  The Israelites continued in their sinful lifestyle, disregarding God’s laws. They proudly thought that they would have the final say over their own lives.  But they didn’t.

“So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.” (21)  One of the laws the Israelites refused to observe was the command to allow the land to rest from planting one year out of every seven.  This law was for their own good so that the soil would be replenished and provide the nutrients they needed in their food, yet they willfully disregarded the law.  Now the land would have 70 years of rest in a row to compensate for the years that were missed.  God is always the last one up to bat.

Sometimes we think we can live the way we choose without any ramifications.  As we read in yesterday’s scripture, “Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today.  But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the Lord your God.” (2 Chronicles 36:26-27)

Yes, we walk in the grace of the New Testament, but we still have to choose the one we faithfully will follow, no fence sitting or gray areas.  A baseball game never ends in a tie; the innings are played out until the last batter determines the game.  In life, our loving God shows mercy to us inning after inning as He draws us to Him, we make our choices and He always closes out the game. I’m good with that. 

Moving Forward:  When we walk away from our willful ways and surrender to the One who determines the final score, we can’t lose. We’re making that run to our eternal Home! 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 128-130

James 4-5 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He has provided help for us to resist the devil

Dieting – the great American pastime, or is that baseball?  This is a subject I could write about all day – dieting that is, well, maybe baseball too.  The Weight Loss industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and I’ve certainly added to its coffers.  My favorite weight loss program is the “eat all you want and still lose weight” approach.  It doesn’t work, but it’s still my favorite.  My husband thinks diet programs are a waste of time because he says that losing weight it is simply of matter of burning more calories than you eat. This is what he does, and it works.  I must admit, I really resent him for it.

Over the years, I’ve tried just about every angle to weight loss, and there is one thing that I know for sure.  We can resist that chocolate cake all day long, but if we’re not submitted and committed to a program, a prayer or a straitjacket, we’re eventually going to eat that chocolate cake. Forgive this trite analogy, but we need to know that there is more to resisting the devil than meets the eye.

@ James 4
“Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (7) Of course, the Word is true, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” but the success of our resisting is far greater when we first submit ourselves to God. Sometimes we forget about the first part of the verse, but He is the one with the strategy to overcome. And sometimes we forget exactly who we’re resisting, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.” (I Peter 5:8-9)  Just like with the chocolate cake, on our own, we may waver in our resistance, but surrendered and humbled before the Lord, the enemy is no match for us.

When a soldier reports for active duty, he has surrendered his personal goals and way of life all the way down to the uniform he wears.  God has provided a uniform of sorts for all who are submitted to him.  We will resist our enemy best when we are in our military dress, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil…Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” (Ephesians 6:11-13)

If we truly want to resist the devil, it’s time to suit up. “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:14-17)  Submitted to our leader and dressed in our armor, we won’t waver, we won’t give, and we’ll be all that we can be and then some.  Not only will we resist the devil, but we’ll also send him fleeing!

Moving Forward: I may have trouble with that chocolate cake, but I will submit to the Lord today, suit up, resist the enemy and see him take flight!

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 7-9

2 Chronicles 25-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He looks for a humble response to His blessings

For many years I had the privilege of speaking to the women in attendance at an annual conference.  I always spent a lot of time in preparation and a great deal of time in prayer about it.  I remember one year my message was especially well received and our time together was blessed by the Lord.  After the meeting, a woman came up to me and asked me to share this same message with the ladies group at her church, and we secured a date.

When the day arrived, I only briefly went over my notes because I knew the material well, and because it was a busy week for me, my prayer time for the meeting was minimal.  I proceeded with all the confidence in the world when I got up to share, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t going well.  Possibly the term lead balloon best describes my reception that night.  No anointing, no response – I could hardly stand to listen to the message myself!  Needless to say, I have taken my ministry preparation very seriously ever since that night and vowed that I would never again rest on any laurels or attempt to speak His truths in my own strength.  In response to my repentance, God has been gracious and merciful to me, but unfortunately, Israel’s King Uzziah just didn’t get it. 

@ 2 Chronicles 26
“Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years…Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God.  And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success.” (3-5)  Uzziah’s accomplishments were many.  He reinforced the city walls with fortified towers that archeologists have now uncovered that were built to protect his many herds of cattle.

Uzziah developed magnificent gardens and vineyards because of his love for the soil.  He built a strong, well-equipped army as well as new defensive weapons that would be copied and used for many centuries.  “His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful.” (16)  Enter that old deceiver – pride.

“But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar.” (16)  Uzziah had every possibility of finishing strong, but once again a king in Jerusalem ended in defeat.  His pride brought leprosy and isolation to him after a tremendous start as the king.  While I had hoped to find a message of encouragement from 2 Chronicles, today is not the day. However, through King Uzziah’s life, we see a lesson to be learned about our response to God’s blessings in our lives.  It’s easy to become strangely enamored with ourselves through our promotions and successes.

If God’s blessings do not bring us to our knees in humility, they just may bring us to our knees in destruction because of our prideful response to them.  When blessings and promotions come our way, we shouldn’t think that it’s because of our goodness, because we spoke so well or because we governed so well.  Our blessings are all about Him and His mercy and grace to us.  Our best response to His blessings is a bow of the head, a prayer of thanksgiving and a heart of humility.  And with that, we will finish strong. 

Moving Forward: I pray my response to His blessings today will be that of thanksgiving and humility and not taking Him for granted.

Tomorrow @ Psalm 122-124

 

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