Tag Archives: discipline

Philippians 3:19-21; Brief Thoughts

19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Paul exhorts the believer to keep watch on the way they walk so that they will not become like those who are characterized in verse 19. In order to maintain this holy lifestyle, a believer must be disciplined to examine him/herself and to work hard to pursue holiness. There are a few disciplines and activities that can aid a believer in strengthening themselves from the temptation to ever act like a wolf.

Fasting is a powerful tool for self-examination. The denial of self and surrender of satisfaction of desires is a necessary exercise to prove to oneself that the belly is not the master of the soul. In modern Christianity, most people do not know how to fast and few make a regular or even occasional practice of it. Yet, fasting is often assumed in Scripture as a discipline that Christians voluntarily submit to for purposes of guidance and purity (Acts 13:2-3, 14:23, 27:9, 1 Cor. 7:5). This lack of discipline could be an indication that many people claiming the name of Christ, do not actually know Him and the joy of His presence. Christians fast so that this can be proven incorrect and Christians can be assured that they belong to Christ.

Self-examination is an excellent means of grace. However, self-examination alone leaves blind-spots. This is why Christian community is critical. Believers must be plugged-in to an honest community of other believers who will call them to account for their miss-deeds and sinful behaviors. Further, a community of love and faith is necessary for a believer to be able to gain honest and unbiased insight into his or her own character. In short, if you don’t want to accidently fall into the trap of finding “glory in… shame,” then join a Bible-teaching, gospel-living church.

In an effort to surrender earthly treasure and man-centered focus one must be willing to focus their efforts on the world that lay beyond this one. Christians are in desperate need of an eternal focus in order to overcome the trappings of this world. That focus is gained through the consistent study of the Word of God, constant surrender of material goods to the work of the Kingdom of God, and faithful efforts to seek heavenly approval and scorn human accolade.

One of the greatest strengths of a believer is that mysterious confidence in eternity. Believers can recognize the great truth that there is a full life beyond this half-hearted momentary struggle that all humanity shares. There is a great everlasting existence beyond the grave that a believer can cling to with certainty and hope. A Kingdom set apart for God’s own set-apart people. This home that Christians trust in is currently invisible to the eye of man and yet it exists. Heaven has a real, physical, and full existence. It is not some ethereal realm that houses the disembodied spirits but is a real place with real streets and a real throne room, and a real King. A King who is going to return to this earth and claim His own people to Himself.

When the King returns, all His people will be transformed and given resurrected glorified bodies. Consider this for a moment: the King of all things is going to return and restore broken, incomplete bodies to a new state. He will give glorified bodies to His people. This means the bodies of believers will be re-created in the image they were originally intended for. The glorified condition of the believer’s body will, at last, match the redeemed condition of the heart. Jesus will accomplish this great transformation by the same power that allows Him to subject all things to Himself. He is King, there is nothing that is outside of His rule.

Oh Christian, cling to this truth: that Jesus is King. There is no trouble or turmoil that is too great for Him to overcome. No swell of waves that He cannot calm. No failing of man that He cannot change. There is no circumstance He cannot answer, He is God. He has the power of creation in Himself and He can handle all trials and circumstances. Trust Him.

A Great Book to Read: Tortured for Christ

Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor in communist Romania who was imprisoned for 14 years because he refused to say that communism was God’s ordained plan and that it is greater than the revelation of Christ. He was tortured daily in prison. One of my favorite phrases is when he talks about a deal he made with his guards in the prison. He says, “we have made a deal: each day I will give a sermon, and each night they will give me a beating. I am happy because I get to preach, they are happy because they get to beat me. All are happy.” In Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand recounts his own story of suffering through severe persecution. He also shares stories of other persecuted Christians throughout the work. These stories stir the soul of believers to share the Word of the Lord!

The story of Wurmbrand’s suffering convicts me to share the gospel all the more boldly. Wurmbrand was beaten and persisted in preaching, we sometimes remain silent because we feel it might be a social impropriety. Wurmbrand was separated from his wife and son for the sake of the gospel, we hesistate to obey the call of God because I don’t want to risk such things. Wurmbrand knew the joy of the Lord through sacrifice and solitude and suffering, most of us have never truly sacrificed, spent time in solitude, or suffering.  We are commanded in Scripture to “remember those who are in chains as though you are in chains with them, for you are all part of the body.” Heb. 13:3 So read this book!!!

Wurmbrand also writes a chapter to the western church.  He calls us to give the underground church the tools necessary to do the work.  He states, “…we will do the suffering… we just need the tools.”  We are able to help the underground church in many ways.  One of the easiest ways is to send money to those who are dying.  A more difficult way is through legitimate prayer.  Spend time on your knees praying for the salvation of the enemies of the cross of Christ.  Finally, stand for justice in every location by loving people in a radical way.

Go get this book and read it. If you don’t like to read, go get this book and read it anyway!  If you can’t read, go get the free audio book here this month: http://christianaudio.com/free/?utm_source=HomePage&utm_medium=InternalBanner&utm_campaign=freebook

Overcoming Temptation (Matthew 4)

In the temptation of Christ, Satan attempts to draw Jesus to deny God by three simple challenges.  The first is turning stones into bread. The second is miraculous acts. And the third is idolatry. Jesus maintains perfect focus on the mission of God and comes out the victor. (Read it here)

Stones to bread:

Jesus kneels, hungry and exhausted, and the accuser dares to pose the challenge. “Make these stones bread.” The enemy challenges God’s provision and Jesus has the opportunity to utilize His own strength or to focus on the mission at hand. The interesting truth about this first test is that Jesus is “The Bread.” He is bread. He is what sustains life. He is the sustaining breath in our lungs and the life giving power that maintains all life on earth. Satan tempts Jesus to deny that mission. Take these stones and make something else bread… go on, you’re hungry… deny the mission of God.

Miraculous dive

In the second test the accuser leads Jesus to the peak of the temple. Imagine for a moment, Jesus stands at the epicenter of religious piety. Imagine what must go through His mind. All the people enslaved to a religious system that has really become a corruption of what true worship is. All those religious people are clamoring to earn some sort of righteousness that will never come in this way. His heart must have grown faint at the sight of some of the worshipers. The Pharisees who would never believe (John 10) are just below. He could do this amazing feat and have them eating out of His hands. Then what of the people outside the court? What about the people who cannot enter? He would be King then, for sure, but they would not know Him. They would see God from the same distance that the people Israel always  had to endure. They would stand gazing upward at the fire on top of the mountain while trembling in fear and sin in the face of a Holy Terror. No, The New Moses must come down the mountain to connect the people with their God. He cannot stay atop or the people will be caught in eternal distance from God. The mission of restoration must supersede mystical terror.

Idolatry

The final temptation is played out on a global scale. Jesus is shown the entire world and told that He can have the whole thing, so long as He agrees to make the devil God. I believe this was a tactical error on the devil’s part. You see Jesus made the world (John 1) and when He made it, it was perfect. The devil offers Jesus a marred and broken world. Imagine the sorrow that flooded Jesus as He saw His creation desperate for His restoration. Imagine His anger at sin. What fury must have raged as He looked through time and space and saw you struggling in your sin. What agony must have built as He watched every injustice played out on His beloved earth. What terrific indignation He must have garnered in that instant before He responded to Satan. What must it have been like? His face turns red, jaw clinched, tears begin to stream, hands tighten, eyes narrow to eagle like focus on the mission of restoration, and the proclamation is made!

Overcoming temptation is difficult to do, but it can be done and you in fact have been empowered to overcome by the work of Christ on the cross. (1Pt. 4:1-6, Rom.6:1-5, 15-23) When Christ overcomes temptation He does it by His connection to the Word of God and His focus on the mission of God. Likewise, we must overcome temptation by the same means. We must remain connected to the Word of God at all times. Simply put, this means that you should be reading and memorizing your Bible. To fail to do so is to weaken your own resistance to temptation. This application is simple and you should not be surprised at your failure if you never listen to the word of God! Second, we must maintain a focus on the mission of God. To see the world from an eternal perspective will alter the way you can be affected by temptation. Your resolve will be steel! The accuser will not be able to quench the light that comes from your soul. Learn to see the mission of God above all else and that cowardly accuser will flee.

One Of “Those” Days: Guest Post by Stephanie Elkins

It’s been one of “those” days. Some days, raising, training, caring for, and shepherding three little ones ages four and under doesn’t seem that hard. Routines run smoothly, little ones entertain themselves and each other with fervor, the laundry basket gets emptied, and the new dinner recipe turns out amazingly. Life is a bowl full of cherries. Some days, I think, “My children are responding so well to the training they are receiving!” Of course, the more my children excel, the more my own heart has to deal with the pathetic sin of pride.  And of course, shortly thereafter, I can be sure that one of “THOSE” days is coming. The “other” kind. The kind that humbles me. Exhausts me. Frazzles me…and leaves me wondering how I EVER thought I had this whole thing down!

I know the day is going downhill when my middle child, who is only two, doesn’t take a nap. It’s somewhat normal for there to be a day sprinkled in there every so often when the firstborn doesn’t actually fall asleep, but when both of them manage to make it to dinner without having slept, things spiral out of control pretty quickly. Nap time is when Mommy rejuvenates in this house. Not by napping, but by focusing, restoring order, and often by exercising. Mostly by walking on the treadmill with a book and pen in hand. This afternoon, Sally Clarkson’s “The Ministry of Motherhood” was interrupted about half a dozen times with pleas for attention from the supposed-to-be-napping girls. Ironic, of course. While they know that getting out of their beds once they have been put in is strictly against the rules, it doesn’t stop them from trying it one more time. Every day. In my mind, it’s like having a death wish. Why would you intentionally do something today that you JUST GOT DISCIPLINED FOR yesterday? Or five minutes ago. Tension starts building and my nerves start unravelling the longer this whole routine goes on.

One of our primary objectives in parenting is to shepherd the hearts of our children. Pastoring the members of a local church may define the overall calling and direction of my husband’s and my lives, but pastoring the tiny hearts of those who live within the walls of our own home defines our MOMENTS. They are our congregation. And they NEVER GO AWAY.  It’s overwhelming, exhausting, and so soul-inspiring.

One of our goals, then, is to be sure that every opportunity that calls for correction or discipline is viewed as a teaching moment. Because our purpose is to teach our children to know their own hearts, and to turn those hearts ever toward their Savior. What this looks like is a whole bunch of conversations, usually when we really don’t want to be having a conversation at all! While spanking and sending them to bed in tears, or simply isolating them for a time, often would be easier, we aim to make every moment of correction/discipline an encounter with Jesus.

Sometimes these conversations go beautifully, and we all leave refocused and restored. Then there are days like today. In one such moment of discussion after administering discipline, I pleaded with my daughter to choose the path of obedience and submission. After mentioning to her that learning these lessons now, when she is young, will be much easier than learning submission to authority as an adult, she, of course, wanted to know if the other authorities she would “have some day” would give her “pops.” “No,” I replied, “they won’t give you spankings. But there WILL be discipline for you when you fail to submit and obey.” She wasn’t satisfied. “Mommy, like what? Give me an example.” “Ok,” I said, “lots of people have jobs. And they have authorities over them called bosses. If they decide not to obey, but rather to do things their own way, they can lose their job! And then they have no way of making money and no way of buying food for their families.” She wasn’t impressed. “But Moooommy, I don’t have a job. And the only money I have is in my piggy bank. And it’s not even real.” Yeah, that one went right over her head. I wanted to say, “You ASKED me for an illustration of authority/discipline for a grown up! Fine. See if you can come up with something better!”

So, as our day progressed, as mentioned earlier, the un-napped children got more wound up, their abilities to control themselves worsened, and the tears (did I mention we have GIRLS?) flowed much more readily. We announced an early bedtime, bathed them, and then Daddy left for an evening work meeting. Let the fun begin. I should have known that a quick tuck in, a song, a prayer, and a goodnight would NOT see the end of this day. Three children all in bed by 7 o’clock? Why do I ever get my hopes up? Some things just aren’t meant to be. Thus began the next hour and a half of children BEGGING for more of Mommy. In fact, I’m pretty sure they lay in bed contemplating how they can misbehave enough to get Mommy to come back into the room, because apparently a mad Mommy is more desirable than no Mommy at all. There were tears, confessions, spankings, conversations,…and then repeat.

Sometimes, having a four-year-old who understand deep truths and how to apply them creates more challenges. As evidenced by this second conversation tonight. Julia, 4, has been encouraging Ellie, 2, to get out of her bed and come find me and declare her desperate need for something like a Kleenex (she does NOT have a runny nose) or to go potty (she wears diapers). Ellie gets corrected, and then Julia gets corrected for her part in the ruse. Tonight, in one such moment, Luke 17:2 came to mind, and I shared with Julia that according to the Scripture, God takes this kind of thing pretty seriously. “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” “Now, what would happen,” I asked her, “if someone had a heavy rock around their neck, and they were thrown into the sea?” No hesitation there. “They would die,” she replied (looking very serious). “Right. So, what this verse is saying, is that things will NOT go well for the person who intentionally leads another person, especially a “little one” (like your sister), to sin. Basically, it would be better for that person to die! So, God takes it very seriously when we lead another person to sin.” At this point, I’m feeling pretty good about this conversation. “But Mommy!” she exclaimed, “I don’t HAVE to die, because Jesus died for me, and he paid for my sin.” [Insert sigh] Yes, baby, yes, he did. And somehow, my point, once again, went right past her.

She gets it. But she still fights it. One moment her heart is so tender, and the next I’m wondering how in heaven’s name she can choose sin so defiantly. (Did I just describe all of us?)

One moment I pour my heart out in conversation with my child, pleading with her to choose obedience out of love for her Savior. And the next, I am desperately pleading grace for my own heart as I battle for control and patience. As I fight to direct my heart. To be zealous for God’s glory and pleasure rather than my own peace and solitude. I was tired, frustrated, and had more on my “to do” list than hours to do it.

This particular evening “ended” with the dishes littering the counter, the leftovers getting cold on the table, the bath water still filling the tub, the neatly folded clothes scattered across the floor of the bedroom, and my 4-year-old “waiting on the couch for Daddy to return from his meeting.” Frustrated and exhausted, I jumped back on my treadmill and grabbed my book. (You know, the one about “The Ministry of Motherhood”). Before I read a complete sentence, I put the book down and started to pray. “God, what can You refresh me with tonight?! I need some peace and quiet! I need to not “be needed” for a while! I…I….” And then I remembered this: I needed to turn my heart toward HIM. I needed to refocus my heart on Him. I thought about listing off His character qualities, but the one that immediately came to mind was SOVEREIGN. And with that thought, came peace. If He is SOVEREIGN, then He picked this day for me. He chose these moments for me. He placed these children, these personalities, this tiny congregation, in my care. He directed this day, these moments, for a purpose. I just needed to receive it. As. Coming. From. His. Hand.