God’s Disciplines


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

Ephesians 4-6 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is our example of how to love one another 

@ Ephesians 5
This is the time of year we celebrate fathers. Sermons are preached, and articles are written that honor, encourage and challenge them.  Not to be outdone, Paul wrote a little on the subject, especially in the area of husbands and wives. “As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” (24)  Words to brighten just about any husband’s day! Of course, through closer scrutiny, we find that this discussion begins with “Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.

For a wife, this submission means following her husband’s leadership role, and this thought troubles some women, needlessly I think.  If something should go wrong in the home, I find it comforting to know that it has happened through no fault of my own.  This makes me happy. “For husbands, this [submission] means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.  He gave up His life for her…” (25)  As I see it according to scripture, wives must be willing to submit, and husbands must be willing to submit and die.  I’m OK with this.

When we add together all the New Testament scriptures regarding the husband/wife relationship found in Ephesians 5:21-33, Colossians 3:18-19, I Peter 3:3-7 and I Corinthians 7:3, the true, unadulterated breakdown is as follows:

Wives are challenged to:
1) Submit to him as head of the home
2) Respect him
3) Not withhold affection
4) Bring holiness to her marriage.

Husbands are challenged to:
1)  Love her as much as he loves himself
2)  Love her to the point of dying for her
3)  Pray for her
4)  Protect her
5)  Please her
6)  Honor her
7)  Treat with understanding
8)  Never treat harshly
9)  Treat as an equal
10) Not withhold affection
11) Bring holiness to his marriage.
12) And if he does not treat her as he should, God will not hear his prayers.  Wow! 

@ Ephesians 6
While all this sounds very fair and balanced to me, she says with tongue in cheek, I can’t help but think of the tremendous responsibility this brings to the husband as the head of the home, not only concerning his wife, but also his children.  “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.  Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord,” (4) and “do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21)

By His gentleness and compassion for children, Jesus modeled for fathers throughout the gospels how children should be treated, but what an overwhelming task for a father. No wonder our husbands and fathers are targeted by the enemy for destruction, leaving our many homes without fathers struggling to survive.  Destroy the king and the country soon follows.

Dads will open lots of ties, books, tools and other gifts at this time of the year, but without a doubt, the greatest gift we can offer them, dads and husbands alike, is our prayers for God to strengthen and protect them and give them the wisdom to handle the enormous responsibilities He has given them. 

Moving Forward: With a thankful heart, I pray today and every day for the wonderful father of my children and the fathers of my grandchildren.  I pray that God will provide all they need to carry out the great responsibilities before them. 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 4-6

Ezekiel 1-6 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He gives hope for restoration through discipline

Our heavenly Father is not the kind of parent who gives empty threats or perhaps is too busy or too lazy to even care.  It’s painful to watch the parent who threatens punishment for a willful child over and over again but never follows through with discipline.  And of course, that child usually remains willful.

Almost 900 years before Ezekiel was written, God had threatened to wipe disobedient Israel off the planet because of the worship of the golden calf.  Up to this point in our reading, He hadn’t done it.  It wasn’t because He was lazy or too busy – something He could never be – but because He was and is longsuffering and merciful.  Aren’t we thankful for His mercy!  However, we find in the book of Ezekiel that punishment had finally come to the house of Israel.

Punishment of our children is seldom helpful to them if we don’t explain the purpose of it.  It may make us feel better to punish them, and children will tell you the old “this hurts me more than it hurts you” is a myth, but it won’t bring about a change in behavior unless they understand the reason for their punishment.  God was interested in change for His wayward child, Israel, and sent prophets to warn of punishment and to explain the reason for it.  Ezekiel was one of them.

Ezekiel was a priest and prophet who grew up during the great spiritual reforms of King Josiah, a king who did right in the eyes of the Lord.  Ezekiel had been exiled from Judah to Babylon during the second exile in 597 B.C., and at 30 years old, this young prophet had an encounter with God that changed the course of his life.  “On July 31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God,” (1:1) and Ezekiel goes on to explain the four living beings that he saw.

Let me just say, if I had experienced this, I would be on the ground with my face in the dirt, and apparently so was Ezekiel, “Stand up, son of man,’ said the voice. ‘I want to speak with you.’  The Spirit came into me as He spoke, and He set me on my feet.  I listened carefully to His words…‘I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation…I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’  And whether they listen or refuse to listen…at least they will know they have had a prophet among them…but the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me!  For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn.” (2:1-5;3:7)  Whew!  This was going to be a hard sell for Ezekiel.

It was disheartening for Ezekiel to realize that he would spend the ensuing years of his life as a faithful watchman over Israel, warning of impending doom, yet assured by God that no one would listen. Over the course of time, we learn that very few, just a remnant, listened to the prophet Ezekiel, but they came through the punishment understanding why it happened and more determined than ever before to follow after God.

Today as we attempt to reach a nation much like the one of Ezekiel’s day, we can only hope that God doesn’t choose to use us with the methods and illustrated sermons in Ezekiel.  Would I be willing?  I might not mind 430 day of rest, but 430 days of the same meal?  Help!  But there has never been a day when the gospel has been easier to share than today through the unlimited media of television, radio, the internet and print materials, not to mention the convicting power of the Holy Spirit working through us.

Yes, we will meet some opposition and perhaps persecution along the way, and we may not be as popular as we would like when we share the gospel of Jesus, but our responsibility is not how it is received, but solely in the telling of it. “Whether they listen or refuse to listen…at least they will know they have had a prophet, [a messenger] among them.”  Ezekiel 3:18 assures us that the Lord will not hold us responsible if they do not listen. 

Moving Forward: I will be His watchman over my nation, my personal world that I move in throughout the day.  With His wisdom, I will share the good news, not hindered by fear of rejection but emboldened by His love. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 11-12

Proverbs 4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His wisdom protects our hearts and determines our course in life

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!” (7)  Deep.  We probably won’t spend a lot of time dissecting and examining this statement.  It says what it means, and it’s true. Solomon went on to advise that after we get wisdom, we should develop good judgment, not forget her, not forsake her, guard her with our lives, love her, embrace her and exalt her. (5-13)  It’s interesting to note that wisdom is personified as a woman. That’s all I’m saying…it’s just interesting.  That being said, following Solomon’s instructions will involve the commitment of our will, our emotions and our minds.  In other words, our hearts must be committed in the process of getting wisdom.

The care and protection of our physical hearts get a lot of attention in the media today.  As the list of what we should not eat to protect our hearts grows daily, the list of what we are permitted to eat is reduced to oatmeal, fish oil, fruits and vegetables – make a meal out of that, will you.  Billions of dollars have been dedicated to research regarding the human heart, but Solomon had something completely different in mind when he wrote, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”(23)

While billions of dollars have not been spent researching the spiritual heart, we know from scripture that the heart is viewed as the center of spiritual life, involving our intelligence, our emotions, our will and our morality.  Wherever these characteristics are focused, that is where our heart will be.  Jesus said, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:21)  The Wisdom of Solomon and Jesus is really the only information we need in order to protect our spiritual hearts.

When asked what He considered to be the most important commandment of all time, Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)  Well, that about covers it – all.  When we love the Lord with everything within us, there isn’t room to love those things  in opposition to Him. We’ll follow Solomon’s advice, “Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers.  Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way.  Turn away and keep moving.”(14-15) In the long run, it’s much easier, much wiser to resist sin at the very start than it is to fight its progress throughout our lives.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  Solomon said we guard our hearts by protecting what we say, “Avoid all perverse talk,”(24) and Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart…For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”  We guard our hearts by protecting where we look, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” (25) Eve’s downfall escalated when she looked where the enemy was tempting.  And we guard our hearts by protecting where we go, “Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.  Don’t get sidetracked, keep your feet from following evil.” (26-27)  Solomon offered simple tools, full of wisdom, for protecting our spiritual hearts.

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!”  Deeper than we thought! 

Moving Forward: While eating my oatmeal, fish oil and veggies today, I’ll guard my words, my focus and my steps to protect my spiritual heart.  May I leave a legacy of wisdom to be passed on to my children and to my children’s children. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 1-6

Psalms 66-68 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He listens to the prayers offered from a pure heart 

@ Psalm 66
“Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me.  For I cried out to Him for help, praising Him as I spoke.  If I had not confessed the sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened.”(16-18)  Every time I read this passage, my mind goes back to an occasion several years ago when this truth became a reality for me.

Sitting in a Sunday morning service where Tom was ministering, I noticed during the praise and worship time that many others were experiencing a tremendous blessing from the Lord, but I was not.  I knew His presence was there by the response of the worshipers, yet I was not experiencing the fullness of His presence that comes when He inhabits our praises.  I just needed to focus more on Him, I thought, but nothing helped.  Finally, I cried out in my spirit, “What is it, Lord?”  Immediately, the response came, “You judged.”  And, of course, I knew what He meant.

The night before we attended a private function for individuals that I assumed were Christian believers, but some activities occurred that caused little red flag alerts to pop up.  I know all the scriptures about our role as fruit inspectors, etc., but I was visiting a different culture with many new Christians, really knowing only a very few.  In a split second, I had made a negative judgment in my heart about the commitment to the Lord of those in attendance.  While I never expressed my viewpoint to anyone, I withdrew, and instead of being a source of light in their lives at that moment or in the future, I blew out my candle.

Let me just say, the youth and young adult culture today look and act dissimilar to anything we have known in our lifetime.  Tattoos, piercings, rap and spin are common in the Christian culture as well as in the secular community.  It really is impossible for us to be a light and compass for them if we are too busy judging them.

Well, I repented that morning, my praise reached His throne, and His incredible presence immediately flooded my space.  I could say with the Psalmist, “But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.  Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.” (19-20) Like the old saying, God loves us just as we are, but loves us too much to leave us like that.  It wasn’t that He didn’t love me that morning, but I know He was displeased with my response the night before.  It hindered the fellowship with Him I desired, and He wanted to restore our relationship.

We’ve been reading in Exodus and will continue to learn in Leviticus about the prerequisites of the priests before they entered the Holy Place.  They were arduous with detailed washing, purifying, abstentions and just a long list of requirements in order to enter God’s presence.  Because of Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, these rules of law are no longer necessary.  However, they most definitely reveal how God desires for us to enter His presence with our praises and prayers – with clean hands and pure hearts. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”(Matthew 5:8)  I want to see Him, to sense Him and to know Him, and I don’t want anything in my heart to hinder it, ever. 

Moving Forward:  My heart today, “A pure heart, that’s what I long for, a heart that follows hard after thee…a sweet aroma of worship that rises to your throne.” (A Pure Heart, R. Nelson) 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 2-3

I Kings 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  Even when others fail, He is our example of a loving father

The books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles give the history of Israel’s kings from three different perspectives, and the many books of the prophets give additional insights to this history.  We may wonder why so much of the Bible is focused on the exploits of these kings, yet as we study them, we find their life lessons to be invaluable. 

@ I Kings 1
Chapter 1 begins with David, the mighty warrior and king of valor, near death at the age of 70.  When compared to Methuselah and others like him, this may seem like a relatively young age to die, but we learn that the role of king did not lend itself to long life in general.  David’s challenging early years of survival and his reign as a warrior king took their toll on his life to be sure, and the disconnect he had with his family must have added to his burden.

What little we know about David’s parenting skills doesn’t speak well of him. In light of what we are able to read in the Bible, most of the fathers in the Old Testament seemed almost clueless about raising children.  The patriarchs, kings, prophets and priests often had difficulty passing the family torch on to their sons because their devotion to God had not been accepted by their children.  Willful disobedience and rebellion seemed to be the lifestyle of the sons of many of Israel’s leaders.  What lesson can we learn from this?

Adonijah was David’s son with Haggith who was one of David’s many, many, many wives.  Because of his birth order, Adonijah “began boasting, ‘I will make myself king,’” (5) yet he and everyone else knew that David had chosen Solomon.  David was living the Absalom experience all over again with this willful, headstrong young son.  One short sentence in this chapter gives an explanation as to how this son could disrespect his father by making himself the king, “Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, ‘Why are you doing that?’”  Help.

I’ve never met a child that didn’t require discipline on occasion, and obviously, Adonijah was not the exception.  No doubt Haggith’s threats of “Wait until your father gets home!” carried little weight.  King David had many wives and many children, and with his leadership demands, he probably had difficulty remembering all their names much less worrying about discipline.  However, it’s hard to understand how great leaders can ignore the welfare of their future seed.  Solomon was on the right track for much of his life and wrote most of the book of Proverbs including helpful instructions to young men, but his own son, Rehoboam, was a mess.

We may not be ruling a country, but with all our breadwinning, deal-making, carpooling and errand running, the last thing we feel like doing when we finally arrive home is disciplining our children.  It’s easier to ignore the situation and hope for a better day tomorrow; but as parents, our primary role is to parent – a transitive verb meaning to nurture, raise and develop.  Somebody’s got to do it, and we’re it!

So, what do we learn from this?  Ultimately, our children are responsible for their own decisions and for the course they choose for life regardless of how we have parented.  David’s lack of parenting was not helpful for some of his children, yet neither was Solomon’s advice beneficial to his own offspring.

We can’t make decisions for our children when they are grown, but when they are young, we can do all that is possible through our nurturing and training to put them in a position to make good choices.  If they make poor choices, they will be without excuse with no one else to blame, and that in itself is worth all our efforts. But after spending an evening of pure joy with my children and grandchildren, I can testify that greater still is the reward that comes from our hard work as we watch our seed grow and flourish in the Lord for generations to come. 

Moving Forward:  I will do my part establishing my children and my children’s children in the Lord, doing the hard work when necessary in order to reap great rewards. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 63-65

Galatians 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He replaced the law with Christ, focusing on His grace.

This is difficult to admit, particularly to my riding friends, but I’m not terribly fond of motorcycles.  I’ve always found them noisy and smelly, and for one who doesn’t like to wear a hat, a helmet is just not going to happen.  One can safely assume that I’ll probably never be found on a motorcycle, the football field or roller blades.  I tried to indoctrinate my son with my attitude about motorcycles early in his life.  Whenever a motorcycle passed us on the road with its thunderous roar, I would say to him, “Oh yuck, Brady, we don’t like those motorcycles,” and I also shared many subliminal messages.

When our son was a little older, an especially sweet Harley passed us on the road and my husband, the traitor, said to our son, “Brady, look at the cool bike!” And my precious innocent son replied, “Wow! I like it!”  It was then I knew that my years of brainwashing had been in vain. The words of Paul to the Galatians came to mind, “Oh, foolish, Brady!  Who has cast an evil spell on you?”  I knew I had lost the battle. So to the bikers of the world, I acquiesce; but Paul, on the other hand, was not so quick to cave.

“Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you?” (3:1)  Poor Paul.  He had spent a great deal of time discipling the Christians in Turkey on several missionary trips and now to have them fall for the false message of the Judaizers!  “You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all.  You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.” (1:6-7)

In Chapter 2 we learn that the Judaizers were Jews who resisted Paul’s message of freedom from the Jewish law.  To them, belief in Jesus and what He did on the cross was just not quite enough.  They believed that all Christians, Jews and Gentiles alike, must follow the law given to Moses, and those who did not follow it should be avoided.

The Apostle Peter, unintentionally I am sure, added validity to their message when he would not eat with Gentiles in front of other Jews in order to keep the peace.  I would love to have been sitting with a cup of coffee over in the corner of the cafe or wherever it was when Paul and Peter had their discussion in Chapter 2.

Paul, seldom concerned about diplomacy, said it straight up, “When I tried to keep the law, it condemned me.  So I died to the law…so that I might live for God.  My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God…For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (2:19-21)  Christ and His Holy Spirit (3:2) living in me are more than enough!

Understanding Paul’s plight, we might say today, “Oh, foolish Americans!  Who has cast an evil spell on you?”  For the Judaizers of today, the law is irrelevant, but then to them, so is Jesus…irrelevant.  The man-made religions of today, the Oprah feel-good ones, may seem more open-minded, more compassionate and inviting, but they have nothing backing them up.

A handful of crisp, new counterfeit $100 bills may look good, feel good in my pocket and may give a sense of prosperity, but when I go to spend them I’ll find that nothing is backing them up!  Of course, some may reason that even authentic dollars do not have much backing them up today, but then that’s a topic for another day.  Convenient, man-made devotion to some higher power is only just that, a counterfeit, and it doesn’t spend well.  Jesus paid with His life, backed by the true and living God, and that we can take to the bank! 

Moving Forward: I resist the trappings of the counterfeits today and depend on Christ crucified, living in me to direct my life.  He’s all that I need and more than enough! 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 33-36

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