Archives For Discipline

Matthew 25:1-13 tells the parable of the ten virgins. The story details how ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom. Five of them were prepared to stick it out until the groom showed up, bringing extra oil to keep their lamps lit throughout the dark night. The other five didn’t come prepared. They brought their lamps, but no oil. When the groom didn’t show as early as they expected, they all fell asleep.

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When the groom arrived at midnight unexpectedly, the ones who were prepared lit their lamps so the groom could see them. These were invited into the wedding banquet, but the unprepared were left outside, alone and in the dark. The moral of the story is to be prepared in case the Lord delays and doesn’t show up until midnight. My friends, midnight is coming.

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In her wonderful Lenten devotional, “40 Days of Decrease”, author Alicia Britt Chole writes, “We are duly thankful, challenged, and inspired by Jesus’ forty-day fast from food in the Judean wilderness. Perhaps we should likewise be grateful, awed, and humbled by His thirty-year fast from praise, power, and potential in Nazareth.” We don’t often consider everything Jesus gave up during the thirty years before we read much of Him in the Bible. We know a little about His first two years of life, and then get another brief glimpse when he was around twelve years of age.

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After that, it’s pretty much silent until He steps onto the scene eighteen years later. Through it all, this man was at the same time the almighty Creator of the Universe. He chose to set aside all His power, all His potential, all His right to be praised and lived in the poor and dusty town of Nazareth. This was the ultimate fast. He gave up everything, and He did it for you and me.

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Lent is a season of (roughly) 40 days leading up to Easter and celebrated by various denominations within the Christian faith. I am never interested in having a debate over whether a particular style of worship, liturgy, ritual, or tradition is pleasing to God. I’m happy to talk about Jesus all day long, but outside of Him, I’d say if it brings you closer to God, then do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. The differences in our traditions don’t offend me.

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I heard Bob Hartman, the guitarist and main songwriter for the legendary Christian band Petra, once say, “Don’t criticize the way someone else worships God because God might like it!” I grew up in a Protestant household where Lent was not celebrated. As I’ve grown older and developed my own relationship with Christ, I have slowly come to embrace Lent and the beauty of the season.

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It’s a weighty thing to letdown the God of the Universe. Yet we do it every day. Of course, God in His infinite, unsurpassable, incomprehensible love would never tell us we let Him down. But we know it. We know it in our bones. We know it in our souls. We know it in our hearts. We let Him down. We failed Him. We acted in a way unbecoming of a child of the King. And we’ll do it again.

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The moments following a letdown are sobering and strangely clarifying. We see what we should have done and what we did not. We become aware of an opportunity missed, never again to be revisited. And we’ll do it again. How can this be so?

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You don’t need a New Year to make a new start, but there is something cleansing, refreshing, and hopeful about the change of the calendar year. A new year presents a clean slate, a fresh palette, and a blank page. New dreams and possibilities dance playfully before our eyes. There are new moments waiting to be lived, new roads to be explored, and expanded heights for us to reach.

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While the temperature in many parts of the world registers a deep chill, our blood boils nonetheless with warm vigor and boiling dreams. These are days that must be more than lived, they must be tasted, held, and molded to form new possibilities. I love a new beginning. It reminds me of what Christ did for each of us when He laid down His life so we might experience a new and better life of our own.

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Until we make tomorrow today, I am convinced we will die the same (or worse) as we are right now. As a people, we are notorious procrastinators. Some are worse than others, but we all have an uncanny tendency to put off those things we deem uncomfortable or difficult. It’s true in all areas of our lives, but nowhere are the results more devastating than in our walk with Christ. How many times have we resolved to read through the Bible… next year.

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Perhaps you committed to getting up 30 minutes earlier for some quiet time with God, but since it was already Wednesday, it seemed wise to wait until Monday to kick off the new habit. Or maybe you determined praying with your spouse or best friend would be a great idea, so you promise you’ll begin doing this tomorrow. The trouble is, tomorrow never comes. Until we make tomorrow today, we will forever be adrift in our wishes, dreams, and best-laid plans.

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In Philippians 4:8, Paul instructed the church to think beautiful thoughts. He encouraged them to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, of moral excellence, and worthy of praise. How often are our thoughts centered on things like these? I confess my own mind is not naturally inclined to go to such places. I will also tell you when I do think of such things, my mood improves dramatically.

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Such thoughts are a natural tonic and trigger the endorphin rush we all crave. When we dwell on dreadful things, our mood sours and our hearts darken. The question we must then ask is, why do we not spend our days thinking beautiful thoughts?

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Satan knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12). He gets more desperate each passing day. It’s one reason this world continues to fall ever deeper into evil and depravity. In the midst of the chaos, it’s easy to become discouraged. We wonder if things will ever get better. Some even question where God is in the midst of all this.

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Followers of Jesus should, while fighting against the dark forces prevalent in our world today, also be encouraged. If Satan knows his time is short, it means ours is too. The difference is our time ends in victory, while the devil’s dissolves into defeat. If Satan’s time is short, then Christ’s return is near.

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As I continue to seek ways to simplify my life, I’m amazed at how complex it continues to grow. There seems to be a never-ending flow of demands on my time, opportunities to pursue, and responsibilities with which to engage. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess your experience is similar. We are a busy generation of humans. As I often tell my team at work, being busy is not synonymous with being productive.

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I fear many of us have allowed our lives to become so busy we cannot be productive for the Kingdom. We’re so consumed with the fleeting things of this world we are missing out on the great eternal work left to be done.

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Spiritual warfare is a real and ever-present occurrence in the life of a disciple of Jesus. We spend most of our days fighting off Satan. Whether it’s in the subtlety of the decisions we make each day or getting smacked in the face with a major challenge to our faith, for as long as we are seeking to follow Christ we’ll be fighting off Satan. On our own, we’ll lose every time. Our sinful, physical beings are no match for the dark spiritual forces swirling about us.

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But Jesus not only can defeat Satan, He already has. Satan is no longer any match for those who are allowing Christ to live through them. Knowing this, why do we so often succumb to the temptations of the devil? Why are we not finding more success standing against him?

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