Posts Tagged ‘Discipline’

I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?” (Psalm 6:3)

“The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.” (Isaiah 57:15)

Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!” (Lamentations 5:21)

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24)

“‘My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.  For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.’  As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children  Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?  If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.  Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how.  But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful!  But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.  Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”  (Hebrews 12:5b-13)

The Lord restores.  The Lord can, does, and will restore anything He wants to, for the whole world and everything in it belongs to Him.

We experience loss in our lives from many different sources; things we cherish become casualties of living in a fallen world and we watch as things and people we love die, relationships end, reputations flounder, possessions disappear.  Many of our sacrifices add up to so little in return or to nothing at all; dreams and ambitions get thwarted or we outright fail in so many ways.  Sometimes we lose precious, irreplaceable things through no fault of our own.  Sometimes we are directly responsible for painful losses we experience; our own sin, our own horrible judgment decisions rob us and destroy us.

This is a personal post, one in which I am compelled to document on a personal level that the Lord restores.  What can easily be called “The Lost Years” of my life were caused by my rebellion.

For me, there was a 4 year window of time in my young adult life where I was given the opportunity to take the next step in my educational path and attend a wonderful college to pursue my undergraduate degree.  The sky was the limit.  This was an opportunity in discovery that could go either way, to my benefit or to my destruction.

I was afforded the life that many do not get to live.  The campus was a paradise.  The classrooms, library and fitness facilities were state of the art.  The best.  Even the dining hall food was excellent.  I could have seized the moment in every way to feed my mind with every marvel in education I was curious about. I could have sculpted my body into physically the strongest and fittest version of myself possible.  I could have spent my time in social settings, doing fun, healthy things with others, forging and fostering lifelong friendships and relationships.  I could have networked and belonged to strong communities that would aid me throughout my life as I needed them.  I could have grown strong in my faith and spent my time renewing my mind and life in the beauty and guidance of God’s Eternal Word.  I could have given to others in so many ways and been a light in their lives.  I could have…I should have…

But instead of achieving these virtuous things, I was attracted to trouble makers who had no focus, no ambition, no goals of any worth.  I was attracted to carefree, lazy, godless people who only cared about having a good time and so I became just like them.  I managed to graduate from school after 4 years there, but aside from my paper, I have nothing to show for my time there other than heartache and regret at all the opportunities that I foolishly threw away.

These thoughts and many more have been a heavy burden on my heart for a long time. The sobering reality that I cannot ever go back and do it over has haunted me.  If only I could go back, I would do it right.

This may seem petty in the grand scheme of the world and world events.  It may seem petty in comparison to what most people consider true loss, myself included. I am not naive to tragedy and real loss, but loss happens on many levels and it impacts us in many different ways.  For me, this was a loss that landed squarely on my shoulders.  I was completely to blame for the collective loss of 4 years of my life that I have dubbed “The Lost Years”.   My sin; my own rebellion did this to me.

But the Lord restores.

After 15 years, the Lord has given me a new opportunity and I have the chance again to seize every good thing from this new window of time.  It’s like a smaller-lesser version of the Parable of the Lost Son has happened to me: I had it made, went away, squandered everything, was a loser, returned to the Lord, committed my life to Him again, and after several years of wondering what could have been ‘if only’, I am being restored in a very tangible and pleasantly emotional way.  Of course, the Parable of the Lost Son concerns the eternal implications of being lost and found, but it speaks to my heart greatly when I consider it as also applying to my earthly life and what I have lost due to my rebellion.  I praise God that He has saved me from eternal destruction.  I also praise Him that He is able to restore me in my life on earth as well.

The heartache of loss and regret I’ve carried for 15 years is the fuel that keeps hot the fire that is refining me.  I am grateful for this new door that has opened to me. To walk through it means that I must leave the room of emptiness I have been trapped in for so long.  I get to finally leave that room and shut the door behind me. I get to walk through the door of opportunity once again and make the most of what awaits me on the other side of it.  Just the knowledge alone that there is a new, fresh chapter opening up to me has restored my hope, my outlook on my life, my outlook on myself, my perception of my own worthiness, all of which had been what seemed irreversibly damaged because of my own sin.

The Lord restores.

As the children of God, we have the promise from our Lord that He makes things new again.  The Lord restores.  “Behold, I am doing a new thing!” Though Job did nothing to deserve the horrible things that happened to him, Scriptures say that, when Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored all of his fortunes and blessed him even more (Job 42:10-17).  Likewise, Joseph and many other people in Scripture suffered loss through no fault of their own.  But they were restored.

King David, who was directly responsible for heart-wrenching losses because of his sins (the child he created with Bathsheba died and he watched of 70,000 die by plague because he took a census of his warrior count instead of trusting the power of his Lord, to name a couple) also experienced the restoration of the Lord.

Does restoration mean that we get back exactly what we lost? No, it does not.  But the effects of loss take a toll on our spirit, our minds and our bodies.  As the saying goes, perception is reality.  Through the renewing of our minds in our communion with the Lord, He restores us.  This restoration may sometimes manifest itself in our physical world and belongings as well, but He restores US.

Praise the Lord for second chances.  Praise the Lord that He chastens, disciplines and then gently helps us to stand.  Praise the Lord for the wilderness, for when we have wandered through it on our own accord only to be left parched and barely hanging on, He offers the oasis to quench our thirst and give us life again. Praise the Lord for the experience of The Lost Years in whatever form they come, for without the acute and sharp knowledge that we have lost something precious, we take for granted what we have, particularly time.  Praise the Lord for new beginnings, the reminder of which we have every single day with every rising sun.  Praise the Lord that the earth and everything in it belongs to Him, for everything is at His disposal and perfect judgment.  Praise the Lord for His unfailing Love, for without it all is lost and can never be found.

I write this entry from the perspective of one who has experienced the rush of being set free from a spiritual and emotional bondage; the heavy shackles of regret and longing.

However, just last week, I wore those shackles.  Yet, I knew I am loved by Christ Jesus.  I knew I would be restored, whether in this life or in the eternal life He has given me.  Christ’s love is sufficient for everything and I have lived my life for several years now trusting in His love every single day.  I did not know that it was His desire to help ease my mind over my version of The Lost Years, but now I know.

If you are experiencing “The Lost Years” now or if you are lamenting your past, I am writing this for you.  The Lord restores.  The Lord can restore you if something precious has been taken from you. His love is sufficient.  The Lord can restore you if you are suffering by your own hand, your own sin.  His love is sufficient.  The Lord can restore refreshing waters into the desert wilderness you live in.  Whatever our circumstance, however seemingly hopeless, the Lord is infinitely bigger.  He can handle our mess and restore us.  Have hope.  Pray.  Answer your conscience.  Sin no more.  Whether in this life or in life eternal or both, the Lord is Mighty and He restores and makes new again. What an amazing thing it is to be the recipient of a gift so wonderful.  Praise the Lord.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.  When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties and other sins like these.  Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:16-23)

“I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.  But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.  (Mark 11:24-25)

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!  When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.  Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.  My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.  Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. (Psalm 32:1-5)

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.  There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow.  But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

And this is the message I proclaim — that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.” (Romans 2:16)

We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born.  We can’t take our riches with us.” (Ecclesiastes 5:15)

Look! I stand at the door and knock.  If you hear my voice and 0pen the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20)

Clutter tends to build up over time and can turn an otherwise nice room into a place of discomfort and embarrassment, where objects lack their proper, rightful place.  A cluttered room mixes valuable, worthy pieces with garbage and the overall theme and experience is disorder. No one likes to be in a place like this.  Those who live in places like this are generally overwhelmed and suffer from anxiety and other debilitating issues.  They want to hold on to the garbage “just in case”, but the more clutter that builds up, the more debilitated they feel.

They can barely function in the mess.  They are embarrassed by it and wouldn’t dare invite any company over to see what they are living in. In extreme cases, the place cannot even be dusted and cleaned because of the piles of clutter everywhere, so filth is added to the disorder, resulting in overall socially unacceptable living conditions.

Most people put forth the effort to keep their living space socially acceptable and even orderly and nice.  It is important to most of us to keep our things nice, organized and clean. If keeping our material belongings orderly and acceptable is important, how much more important is the condition of our spiritual life, our spiritual house?  As the days pass, our interactions with others, our thoughts, temptations and actions build up. They clutter and hamper what should always be an orderly and peaceful relationship with our Father in heaven.

Many of us would be mortified if the door to the room of our soul and thoughts was suddenly sprung upon, revealing all our secrets, all our filthy garbage to our neighbors and people whose opinion of us we deeply care about.  It should make our heart race to realize that God Almighty stands at our door right now, knocking, wishing to come in. Is our house in order? How long do we need to get it in order? How long would it take us to put things in their proper place, to scrub, to freshen up, to make our room acceptable to God so that we would not be ashamed to open our door to Him? Some examples of spiritual garbage/clutter are fear, bitterness, worry, resentment, hatred, pride, selfishness, envy, regret, grudges, covetousness, greed, laziness, hostility to others, outbursts of anger, sexual immorality, shame, and guilt.

This clutter and garbage has no rightful place in our lives, but we live with it, often collecting it, nurturing it and fostering it.  We provoke it in ourselves and in others, and of our own free will, hold tightly to it and justify it. What an embarrassing and shameful mess.

Fortunately for us, God has given us the tools we need to clean our spiritual house and keep it clean and orderly. He has given us His Word so we know with clarity what the worthy, valuable pieces are in our house, and what the garbage and clutter is.  He has taught us in His Word about the fruit of the our sinful nature so we can differentiate between what our flesh is doing and what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives.

When we see clearly where the fruit of our sinful nature is growing and ripening, He has taught us how to cut it from the corrupt vine of our sinful nature through confession and repentance.  When we confess and repent, we show that we have identified garbage in our life and that we agree with God that it’s time to throw it away and rid our house of it.

He has taught us in His Word about forgiveness, both in asking him for it and in granting it to others.  When we confess our sins and repent of them, we are invited to ask God for His forgiveness of them and we are assured that he grants the forgiveness that we’ve asked for, with one condition: we must first grant forgiveness to anyone we are holding a grudge against. If we want a clean and orderly spiritual house, then we must use the tools we’ve been given by our loving Father in Heaven, Who wants us to thrive in our lives and experience true joy and peace.

The wise confess, repent and forgive daily as part of their routine, understanding that these things are as critical to their spiritual lives as nutrition, exercise and rest is to their physical bodies.  Those who understand spiritual warfare have a very real, sober clarity on how these tools keep us safe from our enemy Satan’s attacks and in right standing with God. It is up to each of us to take an honest look at the condition of our spiritual house (our actual house/room too if needed!).  What are the conditions we are living in? Do we have years of clutter that we need to sift through and make decisions about?  We have all we need to keep our house clean and the Holy Spirit will help us.

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.

“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.

“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.