Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;… Psalm 1 This is where it all begins – Happiness. Yet who among us has not followed bad advice, taken a path we probably should not have taken, or sat in the scoffer’s seat? After we’ve done all these things what’s left? The spirit within that cries out. Like a parent to a child God answers with love and discipline. Then redeemed, we go forth and try again.
Lent: Day 18 – Before I knew it I was hooked. Somehow I had managed to move from a 25¢ bag to the $1.49 bag of potato chips per day. What’s worse, I couldn’t look at a bag of potato chips without watering at the mouth! No one could tell it was happening, but it was still embarrassing. I knew some type of drastic intervention was needed or the weight I had gained would get worse and as summer would soon be on its way, I wouldn’t have the cold weather as an excuse. Lent was coming and I decided to go cold turkey with the chips. The first week I thought I would drown in my own saliva. It was much worse than I thought! Determined not to give in I had to cut out lunch to keep from ordering potato anything. I decided that perhaps scripture might help. At the time I only knew one by heart, “The Lord’s Prayer” and one in part, Psalm 23 verse 1. I know that sounds pretty sad, but I really didn’t have much of a relationship with God back then. Anyway, I figured if God’s word had any power in my pathetic situation, my limited knowledge at the time was going to have to be sufficient. So, every time I thought, or even looked at a bag of potato chips I just prayed what I knew. It worked and I lost 10 pounds! What’s even more significant, I realized God’s intimate concern for me in such a small matter in my life. Had it not been for a few verses I don’t know if I would have had that small but significant victory that I did. Truly, more than twenty years ago, it was the beginning of a different kind of relationship with my Lord and Savior and a different understanding of Lent, which endures to this day. Thanks be to God!
Psalm 78:1-39 They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved… He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not come again.
Lent: Day 15 – In our country, households needing food can go to government and local food programs. However, lands in other countries, where food has become unavailable, depend on outside programs to reach out to them. Over time and with persistence many of these programs have been very successful. There are times in our own spiritual life when we are simply hungry, when we go for a quick bite of the Holy Spirit with a song or scripture reading and it sustains our strength in this journey and gets us through every day trials and circumstances. Then there are other times when we find ourselves, in fact starving, when the usual nibbles and the regular meals are available but the usual resources we reach out to don’t seem to strengthen us and the resources that usually reach back to us don’t seem to have much affect. God in fact seems rather silent. The first time this happened in my own life I began to understand what it must be like consciously, at least to some effect, what starving children in severe poverty might experience. I am hungry. Why am I not being fed? Why is it that the food I have doesn’t nourish my need? Why is there no food? If we fill our selves with so much of the world around us, we may find our bodies full and yet still be hungry and to some extent spiritually starving. Over time and with persistence we must continue to discipline ourselves to eat of the spiritual food. It is inevitable that in our busy lives today the spiritual famines will come and we’ll unknowingly enter into physical storms. The good news is that we can have peace in knowing that starvation does not have to be our fate. We learn to sacrifice the tangible for the intangible and continue to reach out to God and allow God to reach out to us one morsel at a time and in time our strength is restored. Thanks be to God!
Genesis 43:1-15 Famine
Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, ‘Go again, buy us a little more food.’
Mark 4:35-41 Storms
A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’
1 Corinthians 7:1-9 Sacrifice
Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Endure trials for the sake of discipline. We’re always ready to accept the gifts and benefits of love but not until we fully understand the truth about love are we ready to accept discipline as part of that gift. Love is not always about getting what we want. The truth about love is that it involves sacrifice of which was first made by God. Sacrifice in turn involves discipline. Our parents made sacrifices for us and we in turn make sacrifices for our children. As mature adults we understand that when we are in disobedience towards God, we can expect to be punished. When we are obedient towards God we can expect to be rewarded. Discipline, the practice of training the self towards a certain behavior, is what happens in between. Whatever our situation, we can either discipline our spirit towards reconciliation with God or we can discipline our spirit towards death. If we believe that God loves us, not only will our act of love through discipline help us to endure but also learn, grow, and prosper.
God’s discipline is different from the world. While the world’s discipline usually involves physical consequence based on action, God’s discipline involves changing attitudes of the heart, the soul and the mind. Once you begin to have a relationship with God, you begin to understand God’s discipline in trying situations. It used to be that whenever I was in a hurry, I always seemed to find myself behind the slowest driver on the road that day and frustrated by the time I reached my destination. It took me awhile to discipline myself to leave the house on time and stop cursing the consequence of the situation. Our thoughts generally guide our actions. We can’t control what other people do but we can control the self. Every day life experience warrants that the rod that disciplines and the staff that guides never ends in this journey. God helped me to see that I was disregarding the other driver’s respect of the speed limit because I was in a hurry and admittedly, because of my lack of discipline. In every situation God’s discipline constantly transforms our thinking, which in turn creates a new being in us for God’s purpose and his will. The discipline that we receive in the home may be the beginning of how we understand that our actions affect the self and others. The discipline from God helps us to also think about why our actions affect the self and others and when necessary, make changes to the glory of God’s name.
Psalm 23 Your rod and your staff they comfort me…
…on relationship with God
It begins with discipline. Discipline comes from the heart not the head. Parents don’t discipline their children only for what is wrong, but also for what is right. Parents do what is believed to be the right thing; love, encourage, support and punish, all forms of discipline. Even when we see that the road our children take is a crooked one we wait, hope and pray that they will come into themselves, the self that remembers the discipline in all its forms. It is at that point where the parent is recognized as the teacher and the child is ready to listen.
Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Proverbs 3:12 …for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.