God’s Strategy In Discipline

God does not punish His children. Psalm 103:10 says, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.”

Hebrews 12:9-10 says that our earthly fathers corrected us, as seemed best to them. The end of verse 10 is God’s strategy. It says, “…but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.”

Verse 11 in the Amplified says, “For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness–in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God).

The ‘afterwards’ reveals whether or not we were trained by His discipline. Trained means that we accepted and embraced what God was seeking to accomplish. Resisting His way causes stress that can lead to disease.

I listened to a fellow yesterday that had overcome a serious disease caused by stress. He defined his stress as unresolved issues. He had to bring his failures into the light, and forgive everyone who had hurt him. He said, “Forgiveness releases you from the prison of pain.”

Let’s go down to verse 15. It is talking about bitterness and resentment. Unforgiveness is one of the spiritual roots to disease. It says, “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”

Acts 8:23 says, “I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Refusing to forgive sets us in a prison of our own making. Disease then eats away inside, unnoticed until it is full blown and detected. It erodes peace and joy. There is no grace for hidden sin until it is confessed.

What God allows is His discipline. We can either embrace it and receive grace to endure, or resist and be resisted by Him. James 4:6 says, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Let us examine our heart through truth, confess our hidden, and release it to Him. His grace will meet us to carry us through.

Faith: Active Waiting

God had told Abram that He would have descendants more in number than the stars. I want to capture that fulfillment in Hebrews 11:11-12.

“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.

Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude–innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”

This links back to Romans 4:19 which says, “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.”

There are key components to active waiting. We must keep our faith strong. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing the word. Repeating God’s promises is essential to undergird and strengthen our faith. Faith affirmations help to keep us centered on the Lord.

We can take a few cues from Abraham’s testimony. He did not consider the impossibilities. Romans 4:20 says that he did not waver through unbelief, and his faith was strengthened AS he gave glory to God for what He was going to do.

Verse 21 says, “And being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” As we wait, we remain active in praise. We continually keep our focus on God’s ability, which nullifies our inability.

Isaiah 64:4 says that God acts for those who wait for Him. The dross of our hidden flesh is revealed through the trial of waiting. We know that from Sarai. She schemed. She thought about how she could hurry God’s promise along. Our flesh, like hers, hates to wait. Therein is God’s wisdom. Luke 21:19 says, “By your patience possess your souls.” He uses our waiting time to purify our faith of flesh-dross that would interrupt His way.

Endurance: Unwavering Faith

Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

Faith is not what we see, but what we hear God say through His word and stand in it. Unwavering faith is strengthened through our gazing at the Lord.

Hebrew 11:27 says of Moses, “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured by seeing Him who is invisible.”

I want to document the word ‘invisible’ for a moment. Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God…” Genesis 1:26 says that we are made in the image of God. Romans 4:17 says of God, that He, “…calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”

Let’s take Abram. He had no children, yet God promised him that one would come from his body. In Genesis 15:5 God told Abram to count the stars if he was able. Then He said, “…So shall your descendants. be.”

Time passed and no son. Sarai stepped in to fulfill God’s promise. That was a disaster. It always is when our flesh takes over. Have you created ‘Ishmael’s’ in your life?

Yet, in Genesis 18:10 God’s way began to unfold. It says, “Sarah your wife shall have a son…” Genesis 21:1-2 says, “…and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the SET time of which God had spoken to him.”

God’s promises in His word have SET times. When we believe and stand in what He has spoken, our faith will be strengthened and will not waver in the face of the impossible.

Endurance is a race that requires us to keep throwing off the things that encumber us. Entertaining thoughts of doubt, fear, and unbelief cause us to waver. Anything we do in our own strength will be an encumbrance.

When we feel pressed in at every side, let us gaze upon the Lord through His expressed attributes. Romans 1:20 says, “…His invisible attributes are clearly seen…” They are revealed to us through Scripture, but according to John 14:21, the Lord reveals Himself to those who love His word and keep His commandments. Don’t let anything take your focus off the Lord.

Endurance: Grace Upon Grace

Hebrews 10:36 says, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” The Greek word, hupomone, means: constancy, perseverance, continuance, bearing up, steadfastness, holding out, patient endurance. Note in my Bible: It describes the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances, not with a passive complacency, but with a hopeful fortitude that actively resists weariness and defeat.

We would not need endurance if we had no trials. Trials are essential for our spiritual growth, purifying our faith, and a testimony to others of God’s grace. Here is another reason. Ephesians 3:10 says, “To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”

Trials have a God designed progression. Romans 5:3-4 says, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Have you ever asked the Lord to get you out of your trial? That mindset opposes God’s will and way and needs to be reset with truth. Every trial comes preloaded with grace to endure. It is God’s grace that flows in, around, and through every trial. Grace is His special provision.

I have two favorite verses about grace. 2 Corinthians 9:8 is in the context of finances, but we can apply it to our trials. It says, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

Have you ever considered that your trial is a preordained good work? I didn’t until right now as I was typing this. In 2 Corinthians 1:4 Paul described the fruit of our trials. It says, “Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

The grace that sustains us, that empowers us to endure, is God’s gift to us. He pours out His grace upon us that it might flow into us in order to flow out to others. We are His grace-conduit.

John 1:16 Amplified is another grace verse that I love. Read it now in context to your trials. It says, “For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received (all had a share and we were all supplied with) one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift (heaped) upon gift.”

We are the body of Christ. Colossians 2:19 says, “…holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.” Today, I encourage you to reach out with your comfort-gift to encourage and build up others.

Mind Reset

It is foolish to build on top of something corrupted. The foundation is unstable. Luke 6:49 is a great illustration. When the storms of life assailed, the house built on the sand crashed. Obliterated. 

I love the story of Gideon. In Judges 6:25 the Lord instructed Gideon to tear down his father’s altar to Baal, and to cut down the wooden idol beside it. Then He instructed Gideon to use the wood from his father’s idol to offer up a burnt sacrifice. Ashes.

Elisha is another example for us. You can read the narrative in 1 Kings 19:19-21. Elisha burned his whole means of livelihood in order to follow God’s purpose. He left nothing to turn back to.

Tearing down strongholds means that we leave nothing for satan to use against us. Totally demolishing all vestiges of the lie can only be done through God’s implanted word.

Will power doesn’t work, neither do good intentions or self effort. John 6:63 says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” Anything we do in our own strength is powerless to bring lasting change.

How do we know if we have hidden strongholds? We can look for the telltale signs. One is stubborn habits. They are a great indicator. They always oppose God’s way in our thoughts. They are also self-centered, and resist change. They are emotional fillers. We default to them unknowingly.

A mind reset brings inner transformation. Think of the caterpillar. It goes into the cocoon. I wonder if it even suspects that it is going in there to die. It melts. From the liquid of what was a caterpillar God forms the butterfly. There is no vestige of the old.

In Jeremiah 1:10 we have God’s way. It says, “…to root out and pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.” We do this as we renounce the lie that was planted (root out and pull down), and affirm the truth as we implant it in our hearts (build and plant). That is the power of a mind reset–uproot the lies and replant with God’s eternal truth.

Diligence Vs. Sluggish

Hebrews 6:11-12 says, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Diligence is a character trait that exemplifies the Lord. When I think of the word ‘sluggish’ I am taken back to Proverbs 6:6. It says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise.” The ant is such a diligent insect. Verse7-8 says, “Which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.”

Think of these two words: gathers and supplies. Remember the manna? They had to go out and gather it every morning to provide food for the day. What a marvelous picture for us in our daily reading of God’s word.

Diligence carries the meaning of enthusiasm and earnestness. It is the absolute opposite of sluggard. In 1986 I was in Costa Rica on a short term mission trip. I saw a sloth for the first time in my life. Slow doesn’t even describe this creature. It was up in a tree on a limb. Its crawl was almost unnoticeable.

2 Peter 1:3 says, “But also for this very reason…” We have to go back up to verse 4 which says, “By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…”

Verse 3 goes on, “…giving all diligence, ADD to your faith…” Add is an active word. None of these inner graces come through osmosis.

Here is a list of things to add: virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Verse 8 says, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Barrenness is sluggard-fruit. To spiritually thrive requires diligence. 2 Corinthians 10:4 says that it is God’s word that is our tool to pull down strongholds.

Strongholds are mindsets that oppose God’s will and ways. They started out as fiery darts. As sluggards in our faith, we allowed them to penetrate. The enemy of our soul buried them deep so they would permeate our thought processes. Look for stubborn behaviors and you will find them rooted in an inner stronghold. Let us seize God’s word and uproot and destroy them. Planting His eternal word in their place.

Why Do We Still Sin?

Yesterday I read Hebrews 2:1 which says, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” I wrote in my journal: why do we sin?

Have you ever thought about why you just sinned? We were bought off of sin’s slave block. Redeemed through Jesus’ shed blood. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “…that we, having died to sins…” Dead things do not respond.

I continued through Hebrews 3. Verse 12 says that we sin by departing from the living God. Verse 13 says that we become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Verse 18 says it is disobedience. Verse 19 says unbelief. Hebrew 4:2 says that God’s word won’t profit us unless we mix it with faith.

Let me recap: disobedience is rooted in unbelief. Hebrews 5:8 said of Jesus, “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Do we emulate the Lord’s character through our suffering?

Yesterday afternoon I was proofreading Day 55 in my new 90 day devotional, “Overcoming Daily: more rich insights from my quiet time.” Here is the beginning of a paragraph: Why do we sin when our sin-debt was paid for in full? Several paragraphs later: The only way a believer can sin is through willful disobedience.

I love the Lord’s timing. I wrote that post several months ago. Yet, the Lord was speaking the same thing then as He was showing me in the present.

I keep going back to Proverbs 4:23 because it has so many applications. It says to keep or guard our heart with all diligence. Proverbs 12:27 says, “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man’s precious possession.” Diligence is not the vocabulary of a lazy person.

Proverbs 24:30 says, “I went by the field of the lazy man…” The result? Verse 31 says, “And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down.”

Our sin gives satan influence in our heart. That influence erodes our walk with the Lord. Jesus is our example. He ‘learned’ obedience. Learning something takes diligence. It requires doing something over and over until it is grooved in our heart, and becomes part of our thought process.

When we are tempted to sin: to complain, get angry, be impatient, chafe under our trial, or wish things were different, we must remember that we are dead to sin. In the face of any temptation, we set our heart to obey by submitting our will to God’s will and His impeccable timing. As we do this each time we too will learn obedience and emulate Jesus’ character.

The Oil Of Gladness

I started Hebrews yesterday. Here is another way that we can emulate the Lord. Hebrews 1:9 reveals the fruit of loving righteousness and hating lawlessness: the oil of gladness. It is the fruit that emulates the Lord.

As I thought about this, I realized something I had not considered before. We too can love righteousness and hate lawlessness. However we cannot live in sin (lawlessness) and love righteousness. They are like oil and water.

The Greek for lawlessness is iniquity, disobedience, and sin. We are born with a lawless nature. Ephesians 2:2 says that we walked according to the course of this world, and we were under the control of satan. We remained lawless until we accepted Jesus.

Let me quickly take you back to Genesis 2:7. Connect that now with 2 Thessalonians 2:8. It says, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

The breath that gave Adam’s dust life, is the same breath that will consume the antichrist! Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in your life? It will be when you love righteousness and hate lawlessness. This is a great barometer for us. When the oil of gladness is missing, it is time to search our heart for sin. Some thought has pulled us off course.

After David confessed his sin, Psalm 51:8 says, “Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.” Psalm 21 was written by David. Verse 6 says, “For You have made him most blessed forever; You have made him exceedingly glad in Your presence.”

Psalm 100:2 says, “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 says that He sings over us with gladness. Note that gladness is associated with His Presence.

Job sat in sackcloth and ashes when satan attacked his body. He was silent in mourning. Repentance for salvation is recognizing that our sin was against God and mourning over it. The gospel is the Divine exchange.

Isaiah 61:3 says, “…to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” The chains of sin were broken, freeing us to freely praise Him!

Emotional Fillers

This is my newspaper article published today in our local newspaper.

What is an emotional filler? It is our well-established pattern of escape from present stress or other extenuating circumstances. The filler might be a person, an activity, or a certain food like chocolate. The whole goal is to get instant relief, even if it is only a temporary fix. It is a superficial means of emotionally extracting ourselves from what is weighing us down.

In actuality, emotional fillers are heart-idols. They become our source of comfort rather than turning to the Lord. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Psalm 61:2 says “…When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” He wants to be our Sustainer.

In Ezekiel 14:4, the Lord was speaking to the house of Israel through His prophet. Here is part of the verse which says, “…Everyone…who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, …I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols.”

Heart idols are sin. They are deceptive figments of our imagination. They lead us away from the Lord. Psalm 82:11-12 says that when we don’t listen to the Lord, “…So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.” That is a scary truth.

I am speaking from experience. As a child, I had bitten satan’s bait and was hooked on self-deception. I pretended that everything was alright, but my life was marinating in pain. My heart had a huge vacuum in it from broken expectations. I unconsciously turned to my myriad emotional fillers anytime I felt overwhelmed.

I had accepted Jesus as my Savior in 1958, but I did not know anything about intimate communion with Him until many years later. The crux of my emptiness was because my relationship with the Lord was superficial.

Emotional fillers are a hidden trap. When we turn to food, entertainment, or substances as an escape route we are deceived. Until our eyes are opened, we cannot see the dynamic magnetic force behind our choices. We find ourselves being pulled into the same old patterns of defeat. We try to do better but cannot get free.

My freedom came unexpectedly. A friend gave me a book by A. W. Tozer called The Pursuit of God. The prayers at the end of chapter one drew me with magnetic force. I dared to use them as my own. I haltingly spoke words like, ‘I desire to desire You’, ‘I long to long for You’, ‘I want to want You.’ My wounded heart began to open up like a flower bud does in the sun.

I didn’t realize the futile cycle was my default until the truth I was reading about exposed the lies. Like a yawning pit I fell into it time and time again. My heart idols spoke convincing lies that controlled my thoughts and actions. Once I confessed them as sin against God, my relationship with Him was restored.

I started to renew my mind by hiding specific verses in my heart. As I memorized them and put them into practice, my thought patterns changed. I quoted them in my mind, and I clung to them when I was overwhelmed. Ephesians 4:23 Amplified says, “And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind (having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude).”

Slowly my heart-idols were dismantled and replaced. Standing in truth reinforced my new pathway. I also began to understand how much the Lord delighted in me. As I spent some time communing in my heart with His Heart, I learned how to delight in Him delighting in me. That new awareness began my journey of intimate communion with the Lord that radically changed my life. 

The trials the Lord has allowed have been His tools to conform me to His image. He has used them to develop my trust to cling to Him alone. I am now aware of emotional fillers and seek to turn to Him first so that they fall as defeated temptations. 

What about you? Do you have a sustaining personal relationship with Jesus? If you don’t, you can. He died on the cross, bearing your sins. He took your place. Romans 10:13 says, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

How Are You Influencing Others?

At the end of Job, God addressed Eliphaz alone. Job 2:11 named Eliphaz first then Bildad and Zophar. Eliphaz was the first to speak accusingly to Job. Job 42:7 says, “And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”

It appears to me that Eliphaz had influenced his two friends through erroneous doctrine. In verse 9 they did as the Lord commanded them. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.” James 1:16 says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” James was addressing the cascading descent of temptations.

Verse 22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” It followed verse 21 which says, “…received with meekness the implanted word…” That takes us to 2 Timothy 2:15. It says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Do you think that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were ashamed when God corrected them? Prideful acts bring shame. They had to humble themselves. The one they falsely accused of hidden sin? Job was instructed to pray for them.

2 Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

We are all responsible to disciple others from God’s word. Will we influence them in right doctrine, or the doctrine of men? Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms an hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Here is our parameter. Verse 17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

A word to the one discipling, and the one being discipled comes from Acts 17:11. The folks in Berea heard Paul and Silas. It says, “…they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

That is the part James was writing about. To be a hearer only and not a doer leaves us vulnerable to self deception. It is God’s word, deeply ingrained in our hearts, that will keep us from the false doctrine of men. Digesting the full counsel of the Lord will exercise our senses to discern false doctrine the moment we hear it.