God’s Disciplines


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 45th 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 provision, the thing that keeps food on the table and a roof over our head. Our provision is meaningful and needful to us, yet we honor Him with it.

“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 provision, is 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 as well.  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 certain.  We can resist that chocolate cake all day long, but if we’re not submitted and committed to a program, a prayer or a strait jacket, 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, we’ll 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 very limited.  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 very seriously my ministry preparation 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 great gardens and vineyards because of his love for the soil.  He built a strong, well-equipped army as well as new weapons for defense 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 king.  While I had hoped to find a message of encouragement from 2 Chronicles, today is not the day; but through King Uzziah’s life we find 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

 

Deuteronomy 1-3 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He sometimes waits to answer our prayers in order to make us stronger

There’s nothing I like more than when God says yes to my prayer.  Bring out the brass band, serve the fried chicken and potato salad.  It’s time to celebrate!  When He says no to my prayer, I may have a low day or two or 30, but eventually I accept His wisdom.  When He says wait, I want to perhaps negotiate a deal, offer a bribe or, in my weakest moment, move forward on my own.  Not good.  I have come to understand when God says wait, it’s not because He wants to make me suffer, but it’s because He is perfecting me or my circumstance in order to answer my prayer according to His will.  He always has a purpose in my waiting.

After 40 years traveling in the desert to make an 11-day journey, Israel was finally poised to enter the Promised Land.  In Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, we’ve learned that God was perfecting His people, but it seems they were terribly slow learners. “Forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the Lord had commanded him to say.” (1:3)

Moses began his instructions from the Lord with a brief history of their travels since they had left Mt. Sinai headed for Canaan.  Because of the people’s negative response to the scouting reports by ten of the spies sent into Canaan, they would have to wait as a nation to receive the answer to the prayers that they had cried out in Egypt. Because of their hard hearts during their waiting period, only their descendants realized the answered prayer, except for Joshua and Caleb.

It seemed like every time the Israelites moved forward one step, they would retreat two steps, and, of course, it’s impossible to make any progress on a journey that way. As with Israel, it’s in the waiting period that we discover what we are made of.  While we wait for our prayers to be answered by God, our choice is whether or not will we trust Him or murmur, complain and disobey like the Israelites did in the wilderness.  The writer of Psalm 119 understood the challenge, “My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.  When will you comfort me?” (82)  No one has said it’s easy to wait for our answers to prayer, but do we really want to turn an 11 day waiting period into 40 years? Help! 

It’s in the waiting period that we learn what God is made of.  Through the history lesson of Moses, the Israelites learned that God was faithful, even when they were not.  God was merciful even when they didn’t ask for mercy.  God was loving even when they were unlovable.  God was leading even when they didn’t want to follow.  Even more important was that God revealed His glory to them throughout the entire journey whether they wanted to see it or not – a glorious pillar by night and by day.  We are not alone while we wait! God is revealing Himself to us along the way.

It’s in the waiting period that we learn what we are made of.  Will we trust Him regardless of the circumstances?  As we wait for God’s answers, are we learning what He is made of?  Do we see His glory leading us along or have we closed our eyes in discouragement?  Ultimately, God may answer no as He did to Moses when he requested to enter Canaan; but regardless of the answer, it will be the perfect answer at the perfect time.  After all, one day Moses’ journey would be to the eternal Promised Land.  His final answer was yes.  There’s nothing I like more than when God answers yes to a prayer in His timing and in His way.

Moving Forward: Some days I’m straining to see answered prayers, but in His perfecting and with His grace I sense His glory and receive His goodness as I wait.  He can be trusted. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 21-24

Hebrews 11-13 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He’s set a race before us and cheers us along the way

Everyone needs a hobby, a way of relaxing or blowing off steam.  Some enjoy sports, golf and tennis, etc., and others just enjoy reading a good book.  I’m married to a bicycling enthusiast.  Tom has several 500-mile rides under his belt and really enjoys the experience.  Me?  Not so much.  As a point of information, cycling is a very expensive sport.  While there aren’t any green fees to pay, the equipment involved in cycling is costly.  A $79.99 bike is not going to make it on a 500-mile ride.

Bikers wear clothing that I view as rather…well, indecent, but the tight, lightweight clothing prevents the wind from catching it and slowing the biker down.  All the cycling gear is lightweight, including the bike itself.  Imagine a bike weighing 14½ pounds!  Racers keep everything as light as possible so that nothing slows them down.  Also, they are focused on the road ahead so that no debris in the road trips them up, sending them airborne.  Throughout the race, crowds gather to cheer them on as they ride, and when they cross the finish line, the crowds witness the victory.

@ Hebrews 12
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (1-2)  As we race toward the finish line of life, we need to remember the people of faith who have finished the race before us – Abraham, Joseph, Moses and all the heroes of Chapter 11.

Remembering the race of these faithful finishers will cheer us on to victory as long as we keep light and stay focused. A biker who has made the costly investment of a 15-pound bicycle is not going to put a plush comfortable 10-pound seat on it.  It might make him feel good at the time, but it really would defeat the purpose of finishing the race in victory.  No, he’s going to keep it light.  There are sins that cross our path that may feel good for the moment; but over the long haul, they only serve to trip us up and weigh us down.  We need to keep light.

If the racer takes his eyes off the road for even a second, he will miss the small stone in his path that will unsteady that skinny bike tire and cause a painful crash.  The road sets the biker’s course and is what provides his forward movement so he can’t afford to look at the distractions along the way.  Jesus is our course; He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  We will only move forward to the finish line, eternity in heaven with the Father, by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the reigning Champion.  We need to stay focused.

Jesus is our example, our motivator and the loudest voice of all that is cheering us on because He was the first to finish the race in victory.  He knows just what to say to carry us through to the finish line.  “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (2-3)  I can hear the roar of the crowd, the cheer of the saints along the way to witness as we race forward to the finish line. They’re calling to us to keep light, stay focused and don’t give up! 

Moving Forward: How can I do anything but move forward today toward the finish line when I think of all those who are cheering me on.  We can’t give in and we can’t give up! 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 1-3

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