Hebrews 12:5-11 “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him, For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
In a nutshell, the second law of thermodynamics tells us that all things are moving from order to chaos; all processes have a tendency towards decay and disintegration. As I think on this idea I don’t have to look far to find examples of things moving towards disintegration. A quick glance at the worn carpet beneath my feet gives heed to this scientific law. The chipped paint on our v
an, the stack of junk in the garage, and my inability to jog a mile all affirm this principle. Common cliches such as “Use it or lose it” also come to mind.
This is not only true for our physical world, but also
in our spiritual walk. When I neglect to exercise, my muscles weaken. When we neglect our spiritual walk,
putting Bible study, prayer, and fellowship on the back burner, our spiritual muscle weakens and we find ourselves rapidly approaching chaos.
A.W. Tozer in his book, From the Grave, puts it this way: The neglected heart will soon be a heart overrun with worldly thoughts. The neglected life will soon become a moral chaos.
We must take heed and do as John 15:4-5 tells us: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Spend some time abiding in Christ today. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Neglect not your heart lest it become overrun with worldliness.
Just a few days ago, I had a conversation with someone who has gone through years of struggle. He’s prayed and sought God’s healing over and over again. He’s witnessed the healing and countless victories of other brothers and sisters in Christ, but for him it’s elusive. He often prays these words from Psalm 25:16-18: Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. And yet, he remains in a broken state of disrepair. After 18 years of constant illness, doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and medications, he’s worn down, tired, and wonders where God is in all of it. What does one say to a person in this state? I just listened and made a few feeble attempts at encouragement as my heart broke for him.
In the midst of our conversation he said, “I’m a Christian, why doesn’t God help me?” I understand why he feels this way, but I have to consider scripture in the matter. Psalm 34:19 tell us: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. We will have afflictions. They will be many. But there is hope. God will deliver us. When? I don’t know. I’ve seen some receive instantaneous healing. Others are left struggling during their time on this Earth, but we have a promise of eternity with Jesus. We can cling to verses like Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. There is hope in that.
As a child, I’d pop out of bed on Sunday morning and learn that week’s memory verse as I brushed my teeth. I continued to recite it as I dressed and on the ride to church on the blue Sunday School Express. Earning stickers on my chart was a fairly easy endeavor. My spongy, child-sized brain soaked up verses in quick fashion.
My children have memorized scripture since they were three years old through the Awana program. Their brains are much like mine was at their age, spongy. Last week I listened as Kendall recited one of the verses she memorized (I Peter 1:22). It was followed by the question, “What are three ways you can be unselfish toward your friends?” One thing she said was, “You can think about what they want and help them get it rather than focus on what you want.”
“Do you realize that idea comes from the Bible?” I asked.
“Really? Where?” she said.
I turned to Philippians 2:3-4. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
“Oh yeah!” she said. “We learned that verse in Awanas! I forgot about that.”
What struck me about this interaction is that Kendall did not recall the verse from Philippians and yet it flowed out of her when faced with the question of how to treat your friends. It is a part of her thinking, of who she is as a person.
Psalm 119:11 says, Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (KJV). Kendall automatically knew that looking at her friend’s interests was the right thing to do because she had hidden God’s word in her heart. What other things might we be thinking and acting on that are from God’s word and we don’t even realize it? Or more daunting what might be programmed into our being that we are thinking and acting on that is not from God? Hmm, makes one wonder.
Isaiah 55:11 tells us, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. If we plant God’s word in our hearts, it will accomplish a godly mind-set. It will become part of who we are and part of our everyday thinking so that we too will automatically know how to treat a friend, or love our neighbor. We may not be able to quote the verse verbatim or even remember that our thought came from scripture. There is power in memorizing God’s word.
Although my adult brain works less like a sponge and more like a windshield covered in Rain-X, I am endeavoring to memorize some scripture this year. Not only will I set an example of life-long learning for my children, but I’ll be planting the word of truth in my heart which will become part of my thought processes and eventually pour out of me in the way that I live.
John 15:5 – 6
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
Are you remaining in Christ? Are you abiding in him daily? As he moves, are you moving with him? Does the fruit you bear give evidence to life in Christ?
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love. Just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
Are you walking in obedience or are you living a life of compromise? Do you sit in church on Sunday yet disobey his word on Monday? Or are you seeking him with your whole heart on a daily basis and striving to live in obedience to what he asks of you? What does your Bible look like? If you died and your family came across it, would it bear witness of pages read?
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Do you love your Christian brothers and sisters the way that Christ has loved you? He sacrificed everything, including his blood for you. Do you show sacrificial love to others?
I ask these questions, not just of you my friends, but of myself as well. Although I love Christ and I am endeavoring to serve him, I have much work left to do. May his word and his love permeate every fiber of my being and yours. Let’s join together to be the salt of the earth, bearing fruit that shows we are Christ’s disciples.
In January 1942, C.S. Forester walked into the British Embassy and introduced himself to a young man. The man, fresh from the Royal Air Force, had recently traded his wings for a desk. Mr. Forester invited the young man to lunch. As a writer for The Saturday Evening Post, he wanted to interview the pilot about his experiences in war-torn air.
As they sat over a lunch of roast duck with potatoes and gravy Mr. Forester wrestled between taking notes and cutting his meat. Sensing things weren’t going well, the young man suggested that he write down what happened and send it to the author who would rewrite it, making it suitable for publication. Mr. Forester agreed and they parted ways.
That evening the young pilot wrote about an event from the war and the next day, sent it to Mr. Forester. Two weeks later, he received a reply along with a $900 check. It seems that the young pilot was a writer at heart. His story so moved Mr. Forester that he sent it, unedited, to The Saturday Evening Post who published it. And the post wanted more.
This seemingly ordinary event, being interviewed about his war experiences, literally changed the direction of the pilot’s life. You may know him as Roald Dahl, the author of such famous books as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda.
Sometimes ordinary events lead to the extraordinary. In the book of Esther, God used the ordinary to save the entire Jewish race. Haman, the king of Persia’s right hand man, became irritated when Mordecai the Jew did not bow to him. This irritation grew to hatred which brewed into a plot to annihilate the Jews. Unbeknownst to Haman, this included the queen. Haman’s heinous plan required supernatural intervention.
So, God moved. And it started with a very ordinary event. The king couldn’t sleep. I’ll leave the story for you to read on your own. As you do, consider what might have happened had the king fallen into peaceful slumber.
It gives me pause. What ordinary event in my life today might set off an extraordinary move of God? I doubt King Xerxes knew that one sleepless night would lead to an event so historically significant, an entire nation would celebrate it annually. This indicates that God cares about the smallest of events in our lives and can utilize any given moment for his purposes. So as you put your shoes on and head out the door today, keep your eyes wide open. God might have an extraordinary surprise hidden in the ordinary steps of your day.
Janice knew God had a plan, but now things didn’t make sense. “Why God?” she asked as she read the eviction notice. “I know you’ve called me to ministry. I’m trying to be obedient. I broke up with Chad, cut off ties with the party crowd, and even quit my job to move here and work with this homeless ministry. And now, I might become one of them.” Janice was facing a Red Sea. She couldn’t go back to Chesterfield. There was too much bad history there, but what was she going to do now? She needed a miracle.
Brayden had also been called of God. He gave her the gift of speaking and a message to share. “Only as you open doors, God,” she said. “I’ll wait on you and as you open doors, I’ll go through them.” Eventually an opportunity came and she spoke at a retreat. She didn’t know how things would turn out, but trusted God to do a work. He did and women were encouraged. Several confirmed God’s calling. “You should be a speaker,” said one. “Others need to hear this message,” said another. Yet Brayden held back.
A friend approached Brayden offering to support her in getting a speaking ministry started. She detailed the plans for building a webpage and printing brochures. Brayden was edified by her friend’s confidence, but struggled with taking such big steps.
Janice faced a Red Sea while Brayden stood on the banks of a Jordan River. The story of the Red Sea is in Exodus 13 and 14. The story of the Jordan River is in Joshua 3. In both cases God’s people stood in front of an impassable obstacle. In Exodus, God parted the Red Sea first. Then the Israelites crossed on dry land. However, in Joshua, the priests stepped into the water before God parted it.
Why the difference? In Exodus the parting of the sea was a rescue. In Joshua it was a mission. In Exodus God was the rear guard as the people crossed. In Joshua, he led as the Ark of the Covenant went before them.
Janice needs parted seas. Brayden needs to step out in faith. Janice needs rescue. Brayden needs to pursue the promise. What obstacle do you face? Do you need rescue? Look for God to part seas. However, if God has already given you a promise and you stand at the banks of a Jordan, you might need to step in and get your feet wet first.