Tag Archives: discipline

A Father’s Love (Reflection for 9/18)

“For the LORD will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief,
he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men”
Lamentations 3:31-33

ROTD:   God’s reactions to our actions are always perfect.

Why?
This is one of the hardest things for anyone to grasp. Why would a God who is so good send trials? Why say no? Why delay the fulfillment of our prayers? Why is there still consequence?

There are many factors into these, but we can look at at least one aspect here in Lamentations. The narrator speaking in chapter 3 is a man who has directly felt the wrath of God, who has seen his punishment firsthand. The best way to explain this, I think, is with an illustration we all can understand.

Parents. (Yes, this is where I am going with it. Hear me out.) As kids, parents have rules for us to follow. They love us and inspire us and better us as people, but there are still rules of the household. What are the worst words you could ever hear when you got caught breaking one of those rules?

“Just wait till your father gets home”.

Terrifying. Because you knew that there was some type of consequence to your action. And dad gets home, and punishment is doled out, and reconciliation occurs as you tearfully swear to neverevereverever do it again. But of course you do. And the cycle continues.

Look at the nation of Israel throughout the whole Old Testament. They are constantly disobeying God, leaving His commandments, following other gods or people, complaining, whining…and then when God acts accordingly, they shape up. And so it continues. To read, it looks like Israel is really, really, stupid. Just follow God and it’s all good!

But don’t we do the same thing?

God is our Father. He is also a perfect Father. So while many of us have had horrible, terrible experiences with parental discretion here on earth, we need to be able to look past those to see what God is doing. Because we constantly are disobeying Him, sinning, blowing off His words, not talking to Him, trying to do life without Him. We disobey our Father all the time.
“He does not afflict from his heart” is such a cool statement, because it shows that God doesn’t bring punishment because He enjoys it. He brings correction to discipline us, to grow us, to help us to better understand Him and draw closer to Him. And, thanks be to God for His Son, we have the ability to turn around, repent, and continue to follow hard after Him.

Being a Christian does not mean that your actions no longer carry weight to them. God is love, yes, but He is also righteous and just, holy, mighty (for more on that, click here). What the speaker realizes is that all of the correction we receive from God comes out of a place of love, not evil sinister joy. Punishment doesn’t last forever. The trial you are going through does have meaning and purpose. All things do. So if God is trying to teach you to let go of some recurring sin, it might hurt a bit when that sin comes to light in the worst possible way. Or if He is trying to grow your patience, life might become quite stressful for a time. Finance and trust issues? Money might be a little tight for a while. We may not always understand the method, or the timing, but we MUST KNOW in our hearts that God knows perfectly how we learn and what we need to push us forward. These things always move us toward a deeper relationship with God, if we let them.

Now, I realize this leads to some bigger questions that have harder answers. Why do people suffer in general? Why is this world full of evil? My sister got raped, is that part of God’s plan? Why do babies die? How much does God send, and how much does He allow to happen to us?

These are questions that I have heard over the years, and some I struggle with to this day. We will dive into some of these later on, and look at the different aspects of God’s relationship to us, and sin’s affect on the world as a whole.

For now, though, rest in this: That just because it seems like God is angry at you, He’s not. He derives no joy from our pain.God loves you more than you can fathom, and with love does come discipline, and correction. Anything that God is using to teach us and correct us-any trial ,situation, person, circumstance-is done in love. We just have to open our minds and hearts to see it as such.

Prayer:

Lord, we do not always understand the means and ways that you work. We struggle to grasp that a loving God can also punish and correct and discipline. God, help us to know that you love us. Help us to recognize Your hand in our lives, in every situation. We pray for forgiveness, for we know we are a sinful, messed up people. Show us where You are at work in us, and correct us in whatever way you see fit. However loud You have to shout to get our attention, do so. However fall You let us fall before we face our eyes to You, let us. However much You have to strip away from us in order to build us up correctly, break us down. Whatever You need to do, do in our hearts today.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Valleys Can Be Pretty, Too

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke andrebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

-Mark 4:35-41

Hello to you all!
I do apologize for the small sabbatical I took from writing. It started out as a good little break, and then slowly tumbled downhill as I became overwhelmed with school, work, and my own personal struggles.

Over the past month or so, I have slowly become increasingly busy as I prepare for the summer. School became MORE demanding (what a shock). I am helping plan a youth retreat for my home church. I had to turn down a trip to Tennessee, because of school, I haven’t been reading my Bible as much, because of school, I work during the few days I don’t have school…I’m broke because I don’t spend my money wisely, so I’m stuck not being able to enjoy time with others because I have to still pay bills and such things.
One might think that school is the problem here. Or money. Or a huge workload.

But in fact, it’s not. Because I’ve discovered lately that no matter the circumstances of life, that it’s my response that determines how things are going to go. The passage above describes the well-known story of Jesus calming the wind and the waves, and reading it brings to mind a few lessons I’ve learned over the past weeks.

1) Just because you don’t see Him doesn’t mean He isn’t there.

When life is swirling all around us, it’s easy to focus on what’s immediately happening. I have had to juggle school, work, bills, and life all at the same time and it is so easy, so natural, to give in to the misery. “woe is me,”, I cry, “for life has taken me into its depths!”. I felt like I was drowning, I felt like I had come up against the side of a very steep mountain, and had no energy to climb. I didn’t see where God was in the midst of my mess.

But as we see in the story, even though the disciples are focused on the storm, Jesus is still in the boat. Jesus, the incarnate living Son of God, was in the boat. He controls the waves they were so concerned about! His very will allowed for the storm to even exist! God is there in the middle of our struggles, in the midst of the arduous climbs we have to make. We need to keep our focus on Him-not on the storm surrounding us. Because when we recognize that God is always there, it makes storms more bearable. When we know that the Almighty God is in our boat, holding our rope, it allows us to calm down. Step back. See a bit of a bigger picture than what is immediately before us.

2) We can’t learn all lessons on silent seas.

This is the harder one to take in. Let’s say I’m a nautical kind of guy, and I’m teaching my son about sailing. I would like to start on a sunny day, clear, nice breeze…laying a foundation for his knowledge. But if I only teach him, all the time, during perfect weather, what about when a storm comes? When the wind is a bit strong, and dad doesn’t happen to be there? That could be potentially dangerous. Instead, as he grows in knowledge, I take him out when the winds are a bit strong. I let him experience some rough sea, get wet a time or two. A hiker can only learn so much going on small state trails. If He wants to tackle Everest, more of a challenge is needed to build up his skill.
The disciples had Jesus, they had His teachings, but to put what they learned into practice was another ordeal. Sometimes, the storms in our lives are meant to teach us. I messed up big time financially, to the point where I barely had $50 to my name with bills to pay. It was my fault, yes. But it taught me about responsibility, and it taught me to trust in God to get me through-and He did, with just what I needed to get by. I was in a rut spiritually, and God has used this rut to show me that it’s because I’ve been negligent of the discipline required in school for me to continue on in faith. God will send the storm not to shake our faith, but to test us and to grow us. As James says, we are to rejoice in our trials because they produce perseverance in us. They allow us to put into practice the things we have heard and talked about, and they teach us new things both about ourselves and the God we serve. I’ve learned over the past few months that God always has a means to provide; even when it isn’t what I expected or hoped.

3) The valleys can be pretty, too.

Being in a low place in life is never a fun place to be, let’s be honest. Over the past month or so the journey has not been fun. I’ve been stressed out and beat up and tired all the time, slacking in work and trying desperately to figure out what’s going on.
However, looking at the situations that I’m in, there are a lot of things that have gotten better because of my time away. I’ve realized how much I love to write for God. I have a growing family (shoutout to the Brunos for that one) that keeps me centered on Christ. I have a potential writing opportunity with a local company, I’ll be working more hours as school lets out, and just a series of recent events that have given me a new sense of conviction about my faith. Because even when you’re in the storm…even when you’re looking up at the mountain in front of you. It can be quite beautiful to see what lessons, what beauty can be brought out of tough situations. I still don’t have lots of money. I have bills, and I need to clean my room, and I need to keep doing well in school at the end here. But the outlook is different. I recognize now that God really never left me, that I just couldn’t see Him. I realize that I’ve learned some good lessons that I can now apply to the life that’s ahead of me. I see the beauty of the valley, and I look forward to the climb ahead.

So I’m back for a good while now, to continue to share the lessons and stories and teachings God puts on my heart. I love you all, dear readers, and I look forward to what the future has in store. God bless.

Stop Playing Games (Devo, February 2)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”
-1 John 2:15-16

It is appropriate that as we approach Valentine’s Day, this first verse for February has to do with love. As humans we are wired to love. It’s a part of our nature. But the things we focus our devotion and time and affection on can determine our eternity. As Christians, we are called to be separate-to be set apart. We are called to be perfect and holy and to be in this world but not of this world. But that is a hard thing to do in today’s society. There is stimulation for our sinful nature everywhere-television to the internet to the billboards you see walking down the street. Things that gratify US, and that do so RIGHT NOW! It’s instant, but the feeling is fleeting. So we search for more. And more. And more. And our sinful nature loves the chase; it loves the constant acquisition of things that make us feel so good. But spiritually? It’s like…if you were to go play Frogger in the street. The rush of not getting hit would be a lot of fun, but sooner or later you’re going to get hit and probably die. And yet we continue to try and play! Even worse, on Sundays and Wednesday nights a lot of us go back to church and say we’re okay! That God is all we need, and we worship and pray and then during the week? It’s back to Frogger. Looking for the next instant rush and then moving on.

We need to stop playing games with God. We search for temporary alleviation for the pain and unfulfillment we have inside that can only be filled by the love and righteousness of Christ living in us. We were not designed to die. Physically, or spiritually. Humanity was designed to be in a relationship with the Lord, because He is the giver and sustainer of life. And yet we look to all these other sources and ignore the only One that can fill us, until crap hits the fan and then we realize those other things just don’t quite cut it. We drink from leaking buckets to quench our thirst when the ever-flowing fountain of life is standing right before us with open arms. When we recognize the source of our needs, and abide in Him instead of the world, life will begin to look quite different.

Is it hard to be a Christian? Yea. Is it a process? Yes it is. I still struggle daily. But at the end of the day-and at the end of the ages-it is so worth it to follow Christ and to have God’s love flowing through me. If you are searching for true fulfillment-that angst deep in your soul that something is not quite right-have a talk with God. Pick up a Bible. And experience the healing that comes from the deep wells of His mercy and grace.

http://bible.com/59/1jn.2.15-16.esv

Do I Scatter or Surrender? (Devo, January 27)

” For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
-John 3:20-21

     We have always used the light to expose. Whether it’s looking for a lost ring under the couch, or flipping one on to reveal a raccoon in the garage, or to see what’s wrong with a car engine, we always use light to reveal the hidden things in our lives. You never heard of scaring an intruder away by turning off the lights.
It’s the same way with God-but in this case, all of us would much rather that He keep the lights off. We are like cockroaches, that scatter as soon as the light is shone on us and our dark deeds. And nobody is exempt from this. It’s a part of the human condition, part of the sin nature that we carry with us.

But when we allow the Light of the world to shine into our lives, we are allowing for a complete transformation of who we are from a child of darkness to a child of light. We were made to shine; to be a beacon to all the world that reflects the light and love of Jesus Christ. So let Him shine that light! It may be a bit painful. It may be uncomfortable. But when we allow ourselves to be disciplined and molded by our Creator, we are slowly arriving at a place where we long for the light to shine on us, because our lives are becoming a clearer reflector for Him and His glory.

     So what will you do when the light shines? Will you give in and scatter? Or will you allow your soul to surrender?

http://bible.com/59/jhn.3.20-21.esv

Hand in Hand (Devo, January 26)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
-James 1:5-6

     I’m back in college now for my spring semester, and this verse especially speaks to me. I really do need wisdom this year, to know how to approach a lot of situations that are coming up in my life. There are so many times that we wish we had a bit more wisdom, a bit more insight, into what life will bring. Wouldn’t it be nice to know just what to do with your finances? If you knew the best way to fix your strained marriage? If you could sit down and figure out your best college option, or job option, or career path?

We all want wisdom. But what I think a lot of people don’t understand is that wisdom doesn’t really have anything to do with us. When we ask God for the wisdom to see what’s right to do, we think it will be like flipping on a light switch. But there’s another component: faith. If we ask God for wisdom and don’t really believe that He will come through, then why would He give it to us? It’s like a child asking a parent for something without really believing they will get it. It’s worthless.

     When we come to God asking for ANYTHING, really, we need to come in faith-in the assured knowledge that He is, in fact, God, and that He will deliver what He promised. God is willing to give to all who ask Him! If you want more wisdom, discernment, strength, discipline, He will help you and give you what you desire. It might not look like what you think it should-but it will definitely become a part of your life. But you must come in faith, lest you be tossed about by life. If you had wisdom but no faith, it might even drive you away from God. If you had discipline, but no faith, then your life becomes based on works. If you ask for discernment but have no faith, then you may question whether your intuitions are from God at all.

     Faith is so integral to our relationship with God. We need to be less like the kid who asks without being sure, and more like the little kid who just raises his hands, knowing Daddy will pick him up. There is no doubt in that baby’s mind. We need to be the same way. We need to believe and be confident in the fact that He will do all the things He promised. When we have that confidence that God will come through, then it is God who really can begin the work in us. It has nothing to do with our own power or intellect increasing; rather, it has to do with the infiltration of the Holy Spirit into our hearts to transform us to be more like Christ.

So go ahead. Ask for wisdom! Ask for the things you need. But ask in faith, and believe on God to be faithful. And He will. God bless!


http://bible.com/59/jas.1.5-6.esv

How To Walk the Narrow Road! Day 7: Walking Through the Valley With High Hands

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

-Psalm 23

The biggest challenge in developing a daily routine, in having a continuous daily relationship with our Lord is life itself. We get busy! It’s as simple as that. I can attest to this myself-I didn’t continue this blog this weekend because I was busy. But it took a toll. When we get out of the Word, when we get out of communication with God, things get a little harder. The best thing to do in these situations is to just pray. To seek God, to commune with Him, to get back into His glorious light.

This is easier said then done.

The hardest thing in the Christian walk is to accept the fact that life isn’t going to get any easier. In many respects, it gets harder. You may have to walk away from the only kind of life you’ve ever known. You may be called to leave friends, family, spouses, jobs, your life. Becoming a Christian isn’t just something you can put on a bumper sticker or wear on your wrist. It’s an entirely new way of life, and it’s a way of life that requires sacrifice daily. This is where the easy and hard collide.

I think many of us would agree that it’s easy to love God and talk with Him and praise Him when life is good. When we feel blessed, and when things are going fine, I can give Him all the glory for my wonderful life. But when times are hard we often forget about giving Him praise, about talking with HIM about our problems. Instead, we try and work things out on our own. This is a bad idea. I’ve done it time and time again. Time and time again I’ve failed. In Scripture it says that the wisdom of man is foolishness to God. Even on our best and brightest day, when we think we have it all figured out, it’s foolishness to our perfect God. So how can we survive in this crazy and crappy world? How do we survive in the dark?

First, we have to admit that life isn’t a cakewalk after accepting Christ. Matthew 7:13-15 says this familiar passage:
“13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

The Greek translation (instead of “highway to hell”)  is “road that leads to destruction”. Both wordings are accurate. The ways of the world are easy. They satisfy that inner craving to have WHAT we want WHEN we want it, NOW. The ways of the world are fun! They stimulate all of the pleasures God gave us, but in a fashion that leads us to death. And it’s easy.
The narrow way-God’s way-is hard. Few people find it. It’s narrow, first of all, which means that there isn’t room to stray to either side. It’s difficult, which means it’s a hard road to travel on. It’s not all smooth sailing. And few people find it. That means all those people you went drinking with, or smoking, or the girlfriend who you have sex with, or the “cool” crowd you roll with…those people have to go. They won’t help you on this road.
Christianity is not easy.
And once we can come to grips with this fact, the easier it becomes to accept the next part.

Because living a life for Christ isn’t easy, having Christ in your life makes it easy.

WHAT?

As much of a flip flop as this statement is, it’s true. While life doesn’t get any easier, having God makes things easier to handle. Your circumstances may not physically change for the better automatically. The sun doesn’t come out and millions of dollars pour from the sky. But YOU change. Your outlook changes, your attitude changes, your response to situations change. And in that, things around you start to look better. You can look at a bad situation and find out what God is doing in it. The bad situation may not get better right away. It’s OK though, because you know you have a God who works all things out to good for those who love Him and obey His commandments.

A different view in your heart results in a different view of the world. 

Here’s an example. There was a man named Job. He had absolutely everything he needed and more; he was blessed beyond comparison. Satan asked God if he could mess with Job, thinking Job wouldn’t serve and praise God through the bad times. Satan was wrong. Job continued to worship God, after losing his wealth, house, servants, and kids. Even when Job messed up and questioned God, God answered and Job repented. Then he was even more blessed than before.
Another example. There was a man named Abraham. He, too, was incredibly blessed and wealthy. God asked him to move himself and his family into a land that they had never known. Abraham obeyed instantly. God also asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Abraham was willing to go so far as kill his own son for God. (Don’t worry, God stopped it before anything happened). Abraham became the father of many, many nations in the world; being blessed by the Lord even more so.

Last example. There was a man named Jesus. He preached on all sorts of things, including the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. He preached repentance, and mercy, and hell, and heaven, and a whole host of things that some people didn’t want to hear. He was threatened and beaten and eventually killed. But in the end, He rose from the dead to go be with His Father in Heaven.

These three men all have something in common. All of them were in constant communion with God. All of them were called to make some pretty enormous sacrifices. And all of them continually praised the Lord through the dark times. When we walk through the valleys of the shadows of death in our life, we don’t need to be afraid.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it”
John 1:5

The dark will never overcome the light. So even though the world around me is dark, I have the light in me. I myself would naturally succumb to the darkness. It’s human nature; sin nature. We are dark creatures. With Christ, who is the Light of the world, His light shines through me to dispel  the darkness. This is why it’s so important to have a relationship with Christ. Without that daily communion, our flame slowly diminishes until we are so weak that we give in to the dark. We need to walk and talk with God to stay strong.

In conclusion, know that there will be hard times. There will be difficult seasons in life, and tragedies, and just plain bad things that happen. That’ life. That’s the world we live in. But also know that, despite all the bad, God is good. He is perfect. He is the one you and I need to put our hope and trust and everything into. He is the one we need to communicate with and lean on. He is the one that we need to draw strength from. He should be our everything, and we should do everything we can to be continually learning from and about Him. This is why every day we need to be praying, reading our Bible, talking with other believers. I realize this is not possible for every day, but we need to make EFFORT to be close to our God.

God bless,

~Michael Wright, Jr. ~