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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.

Disciplining yourself in the smaller choices of life builds your discipline muscle. When you get lazy in the little things, you stand no chance when facing the bigger issues coming your way. For example, we know we should put God first in all things, but how many of us live this out? How often do we wake in the morning, late again, only to rush out of the house without giving hardly a thought to Jesus? Or how many of us take the first portion of our paycheck and give it away to those in need before we pay our own bills? This is nothing but lip-service commitment, and the reason we fail is because we haven’t built the disciplines that will cause our life to reflect our convictions.

If we want to draw closer to God, we’re going to need to live lives that look more like His. If we don’t know Him, how can we expect to live a life worthy of Him? We’re going to need to get close, and achieving this requires establishing some disciplines in our lives which will reflect His character and priorities. Every habit, good or bad, will dictate the course of your life. Let me show you how this plays out in my own life.

When I neglect the habit of beginning my day in prayer, I tend to also disregard my workout routine. When I don’t exercise, I tend not to eat as healthy. When I don’t eat well, I have less patience with others, and less critical thinking skills to deal with what comes my way. When I have a dreadful day, I tend to continue not eating so well when I get home, which means I don’t sleep well. If I don’t sleep well, what do you suppose the odds are I’m going to get up early the next morning to pray? And the cycle begins again…

All of this could have been avoided simply by disciplining myself to begin my day in prayer. It’s a simple and easy thing to do. But we must never forget, what is easy to do is also easy not to do. Disciplining yourself is both easy and difficult. It is easy in that anyone can do it; no exceptional skills are required. It is difficult because it will require you to put Jesus first, and yourself second (or perhaps third or fourth). Most aren’t willing to do this; they would rather enjoy life now and hope for the best later. Disciples of Jesus are a different breed. We are willing to sacrifice short-lived enjoyment in exchange for an eternity with our Creator. Are you willing to begin disciplining yourself, or will you be content with the way things are? Your decision will dictate your future.

Being a disciple of Jesus should cost you something. If it isn’t, chances are you aren’t a disciple. It’s easy to assume you are a disciple of Jesus once you say the magic prayer and invite Him into your life. While such an assumption is safe and comfortable, it isn’t reality. Rather than frightening us, we should all be encouraged to pay whatever price necessary for the privilege of following Jesus.

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A.W. Tozer once prayed the Lord would make him “willing to let my Christian experience and Christian standards cost me something right down to the last gasp.” Tozer understood being a disciple of Jesus would cost him something in this life. What is discipleship costing you?

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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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I’ve got a problem and no idea how to solve it. I’m bored with everything but Jesus. As my relationship with Him has developed, I increasingly find myself growing out of other interests. When I’m spending time talking with Him, studying Him, or simply reflecting on Him, I am content. Nothing else satisfies any more.

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Now, a quick disclaimer: I am not in any way saying I spend all my time focused on Jesus or implying I have transcended sin and temptation. I still fall. A lot. It’s a frustrating, but true, dichotomy in my life. Having said that, the fact remains I’ve become bored with everything but Jesus.

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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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As I was getting ready for bed, a question crossed my mind: “What if I woke up tomorrow and hit it hard to live as a man after God’s own heart?” What would that look like? What if, once and for all, everything in my life reflected the love of Christ, and everything I did was for His glory? Perhaps it’s an impossible task. We’re human and not capable of perfection. I know I’ll fail. My life will never be the image of God I want it to be. But what if I never try?

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What if I reach the end of my life and realize I never took my commitment to Christ as seriously as I should have? I don’t want to die knowing I could have done more. I don’t want to face Jesus having lived a life half done. I want to pour it all out at his feet right here and right now.

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Who is it you want to be? More importantly, who is it God wants you to be? If the answers to both questions are not aligned, you are setting yourself up for a life of frustration and emptiness. No matter how far you advance on your dream of becoming who you want to be, if it isn’t the person God wants you to be, there will always be a gnawing hole inside. There will be an ache none of your success can fill.

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We were designed and created to serve and love God, to live in relationship with Him. Our thoughts were meant to be as His thoughts, our actions and motivations the same as His. Until we reconcile who God wants us to be, we will never become who we truly desire to be.

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One of my favorite Bible verses is James 1:27, which says, “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” As religions go, this list of requirements seems extraordinarily short. Yet there’s so much to discover in this little verse.

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Jesus didn’t come to instill a new religious order on earth. Rather, He came to establish a way of life. All Jesus wanted, and still wants, is for people to seek God with all their hearts (Matthew 6:33). Everything else falls into place once we get that part down. Why then does James call out requirements for religion God will accept, a true religion?

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Much of our lives are spent chasing the myth of security. We seek to live in safe neighborhoods, work in good parts of town, and save to achieve financial security. So much time is spent pursuing the myth of security we rarely have time to think about living dangerously. Unless and until we are ready to sacrifice our own comfort and security, we will never be able to take the light of Jesus into the darkest places on earth.

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If we won’t shine the light within us, who then will go and rescue the hopeless, the desperate, and the lost? Instead of pursuing the myth of security, we should be bounding headlong into the certainty of risk and danger.

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