father disciplining adorable attentive son at home

Discipline Is not Punishment.

I’ve noticed that Americans are very sloppy with the words we write and speak. We say that we love our child, and we love ice cream. Just this one sentence has probably earned enormous sums of money for therapists. Consider these conversations:

Adult: Why did my Dad love me like ice cream?
Therapist: Perhaps he wished you would melt away.

And then we have a problem with speaking. What we say is barely comprehensible from the written words.

Written: “James, be sure to wash your hands today.”
Spoken: “Jimmy, be sure to warsh yer hands ta-day.”

We all have certain misspoken words that literally drive us nuts. 😉 It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard when we hear “worshed” instead of “washed.” My pet peeve is when people say “ta-marrow” instead of “tomorrow.” It’s painful for me to hear Annie in “Annie, the Musical” sing, “Ta-morrow! Ta-marrow. I love ya ta-marrow! You’re only a day away!” And, how many times have you heard someone say punish when they meant discipline?

Mom: “Jimmy, this is the last time I’ll clean candy out of your jeans pocket! They went through the wash today and left a gooey mess. You will scrape that mess out and then handwash your jeans as your punishment.”
Dad: “Jimmy, that was a bonehead thing to do. If you do it again, your mother will kill you.”

With our language being as wonky as it is, it’s easy to mix up the meaning of words when we read the Bible. Mom didn’t mean punishment; she meant discipline. On the other hand, Dad implied punishment but not a capital offense.

Compare these two verses:

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” 1 John 4:18 (New Living Translation)

“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?” Hebrews 12:7 (New Living Translation).

We are promised by God that if we are His child, we no longer face His punishment. Because God is our Father, He disciplines us. All discipline is love in action with an expectation of improvement. No one disciples a pet or a kid if they don’t love them. All discipline is intended to help, to guide, to nurture. How can we not rejoice in God’s discipline? Discipline is not punishment.

There is a day when judgment will come. On that day, God will hate everyone who rejected His sacrifice, Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb. These people will not receive discipline. They will receive eternal, unending punishment. God will not expect their improvement. Each will bow before Jesus, but their bow is the surrender of the conquered, not the bow of worship.

So, praise God! The love we enjoy from our Father has no fear, and all discipline is His love in action. He has expectations for us. That’s exciting! Who does He see when He looks at us? Oh God, bring your discipline. Help us to be that person You see in us!!

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A wood planer.

The Planer of God

I have always been intrigued by wood planers. You can take a plank of wood that is ugly as sin. That plank can have parasite infection bulges, knots, and even its bark, but those defects begin to be cut off as the plank repeatedly passes through the planer. The wood’s beauty becomes revealed. And, when finished, the wooden board is perfect, ready to be included in the construction materials of the carpenter.

In the hands of the Carpenter1, the Wood Planer carefully cuts away our defects, for the Holy Spirit is the Planer of God. He works in us so that we will eventually be perfect. Though we are already forgiven, our blemishes and weaknesses that lead us to sin, commit transgressions, and even iniquities are being removed through the progressive sanctification God performs in the lives of those in Christ Jesus.

God Changes You

Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was a one-time event, yet His sacrifice continues to make the dead alive and the alive progressively perfect.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10:14

We are told, “And this word continues to work in you who believe.2” That word is “God’s Good News.3” And just as God chooses gnarly planks, He sees the beauty hidden in them that is from the world. Then the height of the planer blade is adjusted, and the process begins.

This process is happening in everyone that has been made alive in Jesus. Some of His are still ugly with sins, some are beginning to show their purpose for God, and some are nearing what God has always seen in them.

Good News

Don’t fret. God chooses the wooden planks, Jesus is the Carpenter, and the Holy Spirit is the Planer. We may see nothing of value in us. That’s okay. If we are alive in Jesus, then God’s process of sanctification is at work in our lives.

Be of good cheer. God never starts a job that He doesn’t finish.

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Photo by Anna Shvets

[1]: John 16:13
[2]: 1 Thessalonians 2:13
[3]: 1 Thessalonians 2:9

Path Road Hitchhike Hitchhiker Straight Goal

Be Persistent

The idea of “being persistent” may cause you to recoil, invoking memories of times when somebody you knew chronically nagged you or provoked you for no reason. I’m reminded of an old cartoon where an elderly man was trying to get his mule to move. The mule refused, so he began beating the poor beast. Then, suddenly, the mule picks up a board (it’s a cartoon) and mercilessly beats the old man. This approach to being persistent is not God’s way. Here is an example of what the Holy Spirit revealed to the apostle Paul concerning persistence:

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Ephesians 6:18

Many verses in the New Testament tell us to be persistent in prayer. On the surface, I find that odd. Once we’ve asked God shouldn’t that be enough? He knows everything, so He’s not going to forget our requests. Truth be told, God already knew what we would ask in our prayers. So why does He tell us to be persistent? I am reminded of that old joke about marriage.

Wife: “Why don’t you tell me you love me anymore?”
Husband: “I told you that when we got married. How many times do I have to repeat it?”

A part of being loving is consistently telling that person you love them. If no action follows those declarations of love, then they are just lying. Being persistent in our prayer life is vital; one aspect of this is our prayers for the body of believers. The mortar used for building Jesus’ Church is made with the blood of Her martyrs.

To pray effectively for our fellow believers, we must stay alert. We need to know the specifics. For example, right now, there is widespread physical persecution of Christians in India. Local church buildings are being destroyed, and the members are beaten with boards and refused help. We need to be praying, in the Spirit, persistently for these believers. Likewise, the earthquake in Turkey and northern Syria has caused great pain and suffering for millions of people, including Christians. We need to pray for them and ask God to send Christian workers to offer physical help and spiritual life.

There are local needs, national needs, and global needs that require our prayers, especially prayers for God’s children. These prayer needs are just part of being a Christian. Let’s please Jesus and pray for the needs of His Bride.

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Happy Birthday Love Heart For You Valentine

3rd Grade Valentine’s Day

Unless you live under a rock, you know that today is Valentine’s Day. It is a day that is seared into the minds and psyches of most people in America. Some have fond memories of this holiday that they will forever treasure. For others, this day brings up memories of their injured hearts. For me, this holiday always brings up a memory of embarrassment from the 3rd grade.

I never found out exactly why I was enrolled in a two-room schoolhouse. We had moved into a vast married student housing complex while my dad completed his master’s degree. I think the school was just one room upstairs and a basement, but for the sake of accuracy, I’ll say “two.” Multiple grades were in my room at school. I’d never experienced anything like it. It wasn’t bad. I liked to learn and was always more interested in the 5th-grade lessons. Anyway, the school was small, isolated in the country, and everyone had grown up with everyone else, so I was new, very new, and painfully shy.

For most of the school year, I managed to hide. I ate my sack lunch in the classroom instead of going outside, where my schoolmates played. Before and after school, I quietly stood in line to board THE school bus. My teacher pitied me and teamed me with another boy to raise and lower the American flag each school day, but that didn’t help. I remained disconnected.

One segment of PE (physical education) was square dancing. I tried, but having never been in such a social exercise, I stumbled through the lessons with a perpetually flushed face and downcast eyes. So, on that fateful day when my mother had required me to sign a Valentine’s Day card for the girl whose name I’d pulled from the girls’ hat, I went to school unprepared for what the day held.

Heart Card Pastels Figure Valentine's Day Love

This Valentine’s Day contains a lesson we need to know about God. At lunchtime, my teacher made us all go outside. This was when she would distribute the cards. Wandering back inside when the bell rang, I approached my desk, and my cheeks immediately turned red. My desk was completely covered in Valentine’s cards. Being the first new boy ever to enter their world, every girl from all grades in our room gave me a card.

Seeing the mound of envelopes left me stunned and very embarrassed. While the other kids took a moment or two to open their envelopes, I quietly tore envelope after envelope open to read what had been written. My teacher was kind enough to begin a 5th-grade lesson, giving me time to work through my post office full of envelopes. Our heavenly Father treats us like I was treated.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1 John 3:1

I know the girls in my 3rd-grade class were not in love with me, but for a fleeting moment, I felt accepted. A year later, my family moved. Never again would I have that experience, which was a good thing. But those few moments continue to give me a deeper insight into our Father’s lavishing love that He pours out upon us.

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The Citadel of Aleppo, located in Syria, is considered the oldest fort still in existence. It is situated on a mound where people have lived since about 3,000 B.C. Throughout the history of humanity, people have built forts for protection from their enemies and wild animals.

Many forts were protected for a while, but nearly all eventually fell, leaving their owners beaten, killed, and stripped of their property. But this is not the case for those of us who have entered the fort of God.

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.

Psalm 59:16

I think, as Christians, we understand that God is our hope and our salvation, but do we “leave money on the table?” Do we receive only some of God’s provision and fail to glean all of His promises that He has made available to us? Do we understand God as a fort where we can enter and find refuge?

Are we distressed? Do we feel as the apostle Paul did?

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

2 Corinthians 4:8–12

We must take refuge in God’s fort when hard times come, and they will come for each of us. And where is HIs fortress? It is in Jesus, our Lord, the Holy Spirit who lives in us, and our attentive Father who is ready to hear and answer our requests.

Jesus didn’t fold up God’s fortress and take it with Him when He ascended back into heaven. Jesus asked His Father to send us the Holy Spirit, and He did! God’s fort and refuge are still here, still ready. It has never been overthrown and never will be. Do you need relief? Then enter Jesus, for He is the Rock of our salvation (Psalm 62:6). He is our fortress and refuge.

Memorino, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Currently, I’m in the midst of a tornado. Not a windstorm, but a manmade one; I’m that man. As a side project, I’m designing some electronics and software for one of my sons. This is a radical departure from my typical, sedate office environment. It’s causing me to learn new things, which is good but rough on this old brain of mine.

A few days ago, my 3D printer arrived, and from the moment I flipped the power on, my world became a tornado; it’s not gone well. After many frustrating hours, I still couldn’t get it to work correctly. (still doesn’t). But I realized I needed to “cool my jets” and watch and see what that beast was doing.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

Often, our lives are human-made tornados as we juggle dozens of urgent demands on our time. We may even allow our tornados to expand into destructive vortexes that carry us to a point where we fail to see what God is showing us. Instead, we watch our lives play out, numbed by demands and needs.

God is a jealous God1. Ten of our top ten priorities belong to God. Yesterday, I became so busy watching that 3D printer that I didn’t respond to a priority of God’s. Today is too late, and that hurts. Jesus said:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33

Christ’s command to seek is not a one-and-done action. Seeking God’s kingdom is our way of life as Christians. We can get so busy “doing” that we don’t see God’s answers to our prayers. Our hearts may belong to Jesus, but the cares of this world draw our attention away from Him2. Our hearts become distant from God, not because He has moved from us but because we are not seeing; we are only watching.

I pray that you allow yourself to see, to look through the grey windstorm you’re in, and see God’s extraordinary will at work in your life and rest in God. And I pray that you “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;” (Isaiah 55:6)”.

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1: Exodus 34:14
2: Matt 6:25–26

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Us, Not They

As I was praying this morning, I noticed I was praying as if I was somehow separate from the people I was praying for. I had built a mental fence between them and me. I was praying “they” when the Holy Spirit wanted me to pray “us.”

My thinking was wrong because I recognized them as generic believers in Christ Jesus. I understood a small part of their struggle, so I carried their need to our Father. And I was confident that the Holy Spirit had led me to pray for them in the name of Jesus. That was proper and good, but I saw their problem incorrectly; my thinking was wrong. Now I understand that “us” is an object pronoun while “they” is a generic third-person pronoun, so why was I praying for generic Christians?

God stopped me and corrected me. He does that for those He loves (Hebrews 12:5–7). Within the Body of Christ, we are all brothers and sisters. We are blood relatives by Jesus’ shed blood. Like our bodies, there are many members in Christ’s Body, and they aren’t all the same. We have many parts: eyes, ears, heart, liver, and so forth.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.1 Corinthians 12:12

Shaquille O’Neal is 7’ 1″, so his nose is a long way from his toes, yet both are members of the same body. All believers in Christ Jesus are blood relatives; only distance separates us. When we consider Christ’s Body, it’s a long way from Indiana to Hunan Province in China, yet Christ’s Body is in that province and Indiana.

If I talk with someone about a family member, I say “we” or us,“ not ”them“ or ”they.“ If asked if there are other Christians on my dad’s side of the family, my answer would be, ”In my family, we have many believers in Christ. God has blessed us with many who are pastors or missionaries.“ Our hearts and minds need to say ”us,“ not ”they.”

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Who Did You Say Jesus Is?

Years ago, I worked with a software architect that made a trip to the headquarters of Microsoft® in Redmond, Washington. While there, he emailed our development team, giving us a first-hand account of a fictitious encounter with Bill Gates at a local Wendy’s® restaurant. His story was entertaining but insightful and pointedly honed to speak to some bad thinking in our group. His email was masterfully written.

A Different Jesus

When we look at the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, we find a similar but far more adept message to those Christians and us. At one place in his letter, he wrote:

You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

2 Corinthians 11:4 NLT

The apostle Paul was writing to Christians. There are now, and always have been, people trying to lead believers away from the solid truth of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, the Son of God. Let’s not become weary or confused or abandon God’s work in us for the “next amazing thing.” Let’s cling to these words:

3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all.

Ephesians 4:3-6

We shouldn’t search to find what God has already given us: our place, purpose, and life in the true Jesus. If someone is preaching a new “Jesus,” they have been tricked by the enemy. As firm believers in Jesus, our Savior, we must remain like military guards, keeping out enticements that misrepresent Jesus. You know Jesus; rest in Him. You can search the world and never find more than the Christ who found you where you were. Who did you say Jesus is? For those that are His, He is our Savior, Shepherd, Redeemer, Ransom, Resurrection, Brother, and Friend.

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1: “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues.” – Matthew 10:15-17 NLT

Audience Soccer Stadium Soccer Stadium

Back of the Bleachers

If you’ve ever attended a major sporting event or musical concert, it’s likely that you ended up in the “nose-bleed” section. That is the place that is so far away and so high up in the bleachers that the athletes or musicians look like tiny ants.

I think it was the first real date I took my girlfriend (wife) on. We went to a concert by the Christian group, “2nd Chapter of Acts.” The band was marvelous, but being so far away, I was distracted by the hundreds of people that sat in my line of sight. The talking and moving about diminished the experience. Well, I might have been distracted by the beautiful, intelligent, and fascinating girl sitting next to me. 😉

Anyway, today in church, I had a flashback to that first date. I realized that the further away I sat, the more there was to distract me. If I want to be the Christian that Jesus wants me to be, I need to get as close as I can to Him. If I hang back, I miss some of what He wants me to hear, some of who He wants me to be. 

If I want all of Jesus, then I must be more passionate than a Green Bay Packers fan. I must press in, and squeeze through all the distractions. That’s what the woman with the “issue of blood” did (Luke 8:43–48). If a weakened woman can get past the crowd, I should be able to. And I am going to. I hope you do, also.

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Faith Is Expressed in Love

When I was a young Christian, more than once, I’d hear someone in our local church, complain that so-and-so was so heavenly-minded that they were no earthly good. In those early years, I learned to identify people that had ignored the admonition from James,

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

James 2:18

Expressed Faith

Something didn’t feel right when I heard those comments. Well, that was because I was ignoring 1 John 4:20-21 NLT, “if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see.”

This leads me to today’s thought, found in Galatians 5:6b NLT, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” The answer to thousands of questions about faith is found in those few words.

When asked the question, “What should you be doing with your life?” most people think of occupations, some think of recreation, and a few think of some sort of ministry.” I’ll hazard a guess that only a handful would reply, “I want to allow the faith God has given me to be expressed in my love.” But faith expressed through love is the right answer and the most difficult answer.

Good News

Because we were born in sin, people are wired to harshly judge people and live faithless lives. But we left this way of life behind when, in Christ Jesus, we entered God’s kingdom. I pray that we all remember that if we can’t love someone we see, how can we expect to love God, whom we’ve never seen? And what greater good can come from our faith than to allow our faith to express itself in love? My prayer for all of us is that we are so heavenly-minded that we are of immense earthly good.

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