Archive for the ‘Discipline’ Category

David sought God first thing in the morning. 

“O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.  Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you.  Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.  Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.”(Psalm 5:3)

“But as for me, I will sing about your power.  Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.  For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.”  (Psalm 59:16)

“Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting in you.  Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.  Rescue me from my enemies, Lord; I run to you to hide me.  Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.  May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.” (Psalm 143:8-10)

Jesus began his days early in the morning.

“Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening he returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives.  The crowds gathered at the Temple early each morning to hear him.” (Luke 21:37-38)

“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple.  A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.”(John 8:1-2)

“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” (Mark 1:35)

God treats each morning as a fresh, new start.

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

The woman of noble character rises before the dawn to begin her day’s work.

“She gets up before dawn to prepare food for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.”  (Proverbs 31:15)

Jesus rose from the dead early in the morning, before dawn.

“Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.  Suddenly there was a great earthquake!  For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it.  His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow.  The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.  Then the angel spoke to the women. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He isn’t here!  He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.  Come, see where his body was lying.  And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see him there.  Remember what I have told you.” (Matthew 28:1-10)

The apostles began their work at daybreak.

“So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.” (Acts 5:21)

The books of the Bible are full of instances where God’s people and other people of purpose rose early in the morning. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Pharaoh, Moses, Joshua, God’s priests (the descendants of Aaron), Ruth, Samuel, Job, Ezekiel, Daniel and so many more all awoke early in the morning, with purpose.

Successful people in the secular world have long known the advantages of waking up before the rest of the world starts stirring.  In fact, most successful people have one habit in common: they start their day before the sun comes up.  They intentionally force their bodies from the comfort of their warm beds and begin their day before the buzz of life and the cares and stress of the day can begin to weigh in on them.  They take control of the direction of their day and make specific plans and goals for the day while it is still quiet.

They know the power of this habit, even if they don’t understand why it’s so powerful or Who gives it that kind of power.

How much more so should God’s people revere the morning?  Scripture teaches us that the morning is the time of day God reserves for fresh starts, and when people of noble character rise early, intent on beginning their day in the presence of the Most High God as he begins anew.

King David eagerly sought God in the morning, desiring to be the first voice of the day that God heard.  Likewise, Jesus began every day early in the morning.  His daily routine was like clockwork; so much so that the people knew where to find him and when.  Lest the importance of this be lost on anyone, Scripture declares that Christ conquered death early in the morning, before the sun rose, rising to life again, anew, as true to his character as we see in all of Scripture concerning His work in the morning.

If we understand this, we understand that special blessings and attention are available to us first thing in the morning.  We understand that God is beginning afresh and has invited us to join Him as He begins new works.  This is not to say that God’s work ever stops, since we know from Scripture that He is always working (John 5:17), but that the morning is a special time God sets aside for refreshment and newness.

Jesus said “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and live righteously, and God will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33)  This can be applied also as Jesus instructing us to “seek the Kingdom of God above all else”, to prioritize the Kingdom of God ahead of everything else that matters to us.  When applied as a daily habit or routine, it looks like what David, Jesus and all the other notable people of purpose in God’s story did.  As a child of God, knowing we are to take our thoughts captive for Christ and to submit our will to His will, suiting up daily in the Armor of God and seizing whatever the day holds for us, the morning is the most appropriate time to get started.

If your routine does not currently involve awaking early in the morning to be in the presence of God, be challenged and be inspired to create a good new habit in your life: start your day before the rest of the world awakes, reserving a small portion of time for quiet refreshment from our Father in Heaven.  He offers a fresh opportunity every single morning to join Him as he begins again.  What an amazing privilege, and one long seized by people of purpose.

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“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator.  Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, ‘Life is not pleasant anymore.’ Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky.  Remember him before your legs–the guards of your house–start to tremble; and before your shoulders–the strong men–stoop.  Remember him before your teeth–your few remaining servants–stop grinding; and before your eyes–the women looking through the windows–see dimly.  Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades.  Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.  Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire.  Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral.  Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken.  Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well.  For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7)

The reminders abound in Scripture that we have so little time.  The reminders are a drum beat, a rhythm.  May we each be sensitive to our mortality, to our clock, as understanding it drives discipline in pursuing God’s Purpose; the only thing that isn’t utterly meaningless.

“Even fools appear wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”  (Proverbs 17: 27)

“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy.  Don’t throw your pearls to pigs!  They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.”  (Matthew 7:6)

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you.  Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”  (Philippians 2: 14-15)

“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts.  Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace.  Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.  Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.  A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.  Gently instruct those who oppose the truth.  Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.  Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap.  For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” (2 Timothy 2: 22-26)

The Holy Scriptures shine spotlight after spotlight on the war strategies of our enemy Satan.

How tempting is the lure of a good argument, especially one that involves our beliefs.  In the passion of the moment, our pride does the speaking for us, countering any contrary words that might come our way.  Our minds and hearts race over what it might take to gain advantage in the battle of “I’m right! I’m right! I’m right!” The argument often turns into a quarrel, which turns into a bitter feud, which sucks others in to the side-taking business, dividing otherwise sound relationships and hurling people into a spiral of destruction.  Many a war has been birthed by an argument, especially wars in our personal lives.

As Christians, we must remember that the agents of hell know the truth.  Jesus spoke the truth when he said “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse.  Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart.  And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand?  He would never survive.” (Mark 3:24-26)

And neither can we.

God’s command for us to stay away from foolish, dividing arguments, both with the world and in our Christian community, is a command that protects us if we obey it.  If we disobey it, we voluntarily walk into the trap set for us by our enemy; the jaws of the hungry, roaring lion that will devour us.  (1 Peter 5:8)

“We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.  In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.  But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  And the tongue is a flame of fire.  It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body.  It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.  People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue.  It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.  Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.  Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!  Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh and bitter water?  Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs?  No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.” (James 3: 7-12)

“…whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.  And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.  The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” (Matthew 12: 34-37)

Scripture says that the tongue is set on fire by hell itself.  The Most High God commands that we love others.  If the words we speak serve any other purpose than producing good fruit in our own lives and in the lives of others, we are agents of wickedness, serving hell, whether we realize it or not.  And we will answer for it.

It is our duty and obligation as Christians to check ourselves by listening to the words that spill out of our mouths.

We must ask the Holy Spirit to ping our conscience when we say something that grieves Him.  He answers this prayer with a whole-hearted YES and it is a common occurrence among discerning Christians that they find themselves stopping mid-sentence because their words suddenly sound like clashing cymbals between their ears.  No matter what the subject matter is, the Holy Spirit will help us keep control of our tongue if we ask Him.

Likewise, we can discern the state of other people’s spirits simply by listening to what they’re saying.  We can gauge whether people are beneficial to our lives or destructive.  And we can make wise decisions from this on who we invite into our lives and who we guard ourselves against.

 

“Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.  Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

Humans are naturally drawn to rituals because we were created to pray. While our daily lives have many different rituals, our prayer is the ritual that pleases the Most High God.

To today’s average Christian, prayer seems to be a mystery.  Somewhere along the way, many of our spiritual leaders have failed to teach us how to commune with our Maker.  We think that in order to have an effective prayer, we need to be energetic, creative; we need to feel like it and we need to put great feeling into it. But that is a lie from the pit of hell.

No one feels like praying every day.

But if we wait until we need something, or until a crisis happens, or until we feel like it, or until we have the energy for it, or until we have ‘the time’ for it, we can expect our spiritual familiarity and strength to be on par with how good we are at any other skill we practice only when it’s convenient for us.

Those who have skills that the whole world envies have them because they practice their skills ritually.  They show up every day, on time, whether they want to or not.  Because it’s time. 

They do it for glory that fades away in this world, but we do it for eternal glory with Christ.  How much more, then, should we be devoted to establishing and maintaining a ritual of prayer in our life?

“Don’t you realize that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  So run to win!  All those who compete in the games go into strict training so they can win a crown.  That crown is an earthly thing that lasts only a short time, but our crown will never be destroyed.  So I do not run without a goal.  I fight like a boxer who is hitting something –not just the air.  I discipline my body, training it to do what it should.  Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”  1 Corinthians 9: 24-27

Show up every day, on time.  Praise Him, give thanks, make confession, intercede for someone, make a request for yourself.

Make it a ritual, routine, rhythm. Your relationship with God will flourish and you will learn to refine your skills as an enlisted soldier in the Kingdom of Heaven.