Archives For Discipline

There is no more awesome feeling than being in the presence of God. If you’ve spent time there, you know this for yourself. Its true God is always near, but in our busyness, we tend not to notice Him. Once you’ve tasted being in the presence of God, you crave more time there. Knowing this, why is it we spend so little of our precious time pursuing the greatest love of our life?

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Is it, perhaps, we don’t consider Christ to be our greatest love? Or maybe we think we’ll get back to God once our lives slow down and we’ve accomplished certain goals? For those who have pledged our lives to Jesus, there is no excuse for not spending time in His presence.

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I don’t know if it’s the fact I’m approaching 50, or a matter of what I’ve been learning, but I keep getting smacked in the face with the importance of being aware of how we spend our time. Nothing is so valuable as time, because we cannot ever get back what we spend, we can’t borrow more when we need it, and we can never acquire more once it’s gone.

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Yet it appears time is the resource with which we are least responsible. We count our pennies, mind our career, and nurture relationships, but time is an afterthought. We’ve gotten this backwards. Nothing is more important to steward than the time God has given us on earth.

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Imagine your father was the richest, most powerful man in the world. Think Bill Gates or Warren Buffet rich. Now imagine also you were your father’s prize, the apple of his eye. No matter how many mistakes you made, he always forgave you, always wrapped his arms around you letting you know everything would be okay. Finally, imagine despite all his wealth and love, the thing you enjoyed most was disappointing him.

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Instead of taking advantage of the best life had to offer, you preferred cheap knock-offs. Once more imagine every time he reached out to hold you, you laughed and walked the other way. Wouldn’t it be great if this was just a bad fairy tale?

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Socrates once said a “life that’s unexamined is not worth living.” While he may not have realized it, his wisdom is wholly applicable and important to would-be disciples of Jesus. It’s much like the advice one receives when travelling on an airplane. In case of a loss of pressure in the cabin, we’re told to secure our own oxygen mask before attempting to assist others.

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If we aren’t living our lives in tune with God’s will, we won’t be able to help others appreciate its beauty. The only way to be certain we’re in step with Christ is to take regular periods where we examine our own walk with Him.

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I have no doubt each of us has been put here to glorify and further the mission of Christ. Every one of us has been given a unique combination of skills, passions, and gifts. This unique combination of talents has been designed to accomplish specific work within God’s Kingdom. We get to choose whether we will do this work. If we refuse, God’s will won’t be thwarted; He’ll just give the job to someone else.

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He leaves it up to us to decide if we will spend our lives killing time or living on purpose. We can simply count the days until He returns, or do something with the time and gifts He has entrusted to us.

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Disciplining yourself to do what you know is the right thing to do, at the right time, is a key to a flourishing relationship with God. How many times have you been tempted to do the wrong thing and, ignoring the warning bells going off inside, you give into the temptation? Every time we find ourselves at a decision point, we must ask ourselves how Jesus would decide in such a moment.

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When faced with a moral decision, the spirit of Christ within us informs us which way we should go. The problem is, the choice we know to be consistent with the character of Christ is often the more difficult path to walk. A narrow path is always more problematic to traverse than a wider one.

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In his book, “The End of Religion”, Pastor Bruxy Cavey writes, “If Jesus is God coming to us, and becoming one of us, then religion is redundant. Religion uses rules to force our steps, guilt to keep us in line, and rituals to remind us of our failure to live up to those rules. In doing this, religion adds more weight to those who are already burdened with life’s hardships.”

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But Jesus said his burden was easy and light (Matthew 11:30). He didn’t come to add a bunch of rules to our lives. He came to simplify what man had overcomplicated. Jesus came to show we don’t need religion; all we need is God.

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What’s the first thing you do when you awaken each morning? While I can’t admit to owning this ritual, I think the first thing we should do is thank God for the security and rest of the previous night and then ask Him how we can be used to build His Kingdom today. One reason we don’t live more powerful Kingdom lives is because we don’t begin our days with the intention of doing so.

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We have no plan, yet we expect God to do great things in our lives. If we aren’t positioning our minds, attitude, and heart towards Him, how can we expect Him to be able to effectively use us?

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I was recently wondering what it would look like if I reoriented my life around the rhythms of the calendar. If you’re anything like me, you don’t take much time to celebrate or even breathe. In the Old Testament, God gave His people festivals and Sabbaths to observe. I don’t believe God does anything on a whim or without purpose, so I know He had a reason for these events. Could it be, as our Creator, He understood we need these times to refocus and re-center?

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Working with this knowledge, it makes sense to orient our lives today around similar rhythms. I’m not advocating we observe each of the Jewish holiday’s if you aren’t Jewish. They won’t have the same beauty or effect without being immersed in the tradition and history. But we can all build an effective and even joyful cadence for our lives based on the calendar of our own culture.

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Complacency is a killer disease for would-be disciples. As soon as you think you are in a great place with your disciplines and in your relationship with God, you are in trouble. Unfortunately, I have learned this (more than once) the hard way. Each time I think I’ve grown so close to Christ I could never fall away, I’ve quickly found myself spiraling downward. It’s not as if you wake up one day and decide to walk the opposite direction.

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It always happens subtlety and slowly. You won’t even recognize it’s happening. You skip your morning prayer time, “just today”, because of something else going on in your life. Then you find yourself putting your needs ahead of others. The next morning you skip prayer time again. And so, the spiral begins…

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