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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Intention, Discipline, and Routine

"Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes...You must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."  - Luke 12:35-48


I am 51.  I have worked at the same company for 27 years.   I have been married for 28 years.  I know my parents, my Grandparents, my Great Grandparents.  I know my family's history for more than a dozen generations.  My life isn't radically different from theirs.  There is a sameness.  When I read the passage from Luke (above) I am reminded that no matter how long, no matter the sameness, there is an intention and a discipline that I must maintain so that I don't miss something important... like The Master!  This got me to thinking about discipleship. 


Intention (Definition:  the thing that you plan to do or achieve;  an aim or purpose)  gets us motivated.  It is our "want to".  I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  I want to do the things that help me grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  I want to measure up to the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4: 13).  I want to break bad habits and thought patterns.  I want to be free from sin.  I want to do what God asks me to do.  I want to understand God and His Word.  I want to hear "well done good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:23).  I have good intentions.  I just need something to get going.


Discipline (Definition:  control gained by enforcing obedience or order; a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity) is my "get going".    If you pull the "in" out of the word discipline, you get disciple.  Discipline is the process of putting the disciple in.  It is what breaks a habit.  It is what turns a single act into a habit.  It is the engine fueled by our intentions.  The more we are disciplined in acting out our intentions, the more routine they become.  And therein is a challenge. 


I had a boss who told me:  "Every strength is its own weakness".  Discipline is the drive to make behaviors routine.  It works.  However, in the routine (Definition: a regular way of doing things; a boring state in which things are always done the same way) there is the potential for risk and reward.  The reward is the regularity, the being who I intended to be.  The risk is becoming bored.  The risk is forgetting why I am doing it or for whom I am doing it.  It is forgetting The Master is coming home!  How do I reap the rewards of routine without the risk?


I think there are two things that important; two things I am learning.

1.        The same tools that developed the "routine" can be applied to "change it up" and keep it fresh... Intention and discipline.

2.       I need to continue to pursue and discover Jesus in my relationship with him.  He is infinite and can be new and fresh and exciting every day.


Routine can wreck us.  Just look at the effect of history and traditions on the institution we have come to call the church.  We do things because they were done before us and most us don't even know why.  In routine, we can forget the why and who of our discipleship. 


Discipline can be legalism that nullifies the state of grace in which we are saved.  It can be a harsh master that becomes a "god" we serve instead of tool to serve the One, True God. 


Intentions can be a guilt trip the Adversary uses to keep us from growing in our relationship with Jesus ("I just can't... I never seem to be able...").  In our broken state and with the encouragement of the Adversary, these God created, God ordained tools can be barriers to our discipleship.  This is why we must know God's Word.


Everything God created is good provided it is accepted with thanksgiving.  It is made holy (Definition:  devoted entirely to God) by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4).  Our consistent (i.e. routine) pursuit (i.e. discipline) of God through his word and prayer (i.e. intention) makes it (intention, discipline, and routine) good.  We need to accept these tools and be thankful for them for they are keys in making us disciples for Jesus Christ.

7:42 pm edt 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Thought I Knew

Encouragement takes many forms.  For me it isn't always a "sunshine and smiles" moment.  There are times a reminder delivered with a bit of a point on it is "just what the Doctor ordered".  Today's post is that form of encouragement for me.  It is excerpted from the book of Job.


"Have you considered by servant Job?" 


In Job 1:8 and 2:3, God poses this question to Satan.  This is a curious scene to me.  We are looking into the courts of Heaven.  God is there along with the members of the court of heaven.  Satan is there with them.  Why and how Satan is there is a post for another day but none the less he is there when God poses the question.  In my mind, I can almost see the hint of a smile on God's face as he asks the question of the Adversary.  The idea of baiting comes to mind but that is putting on God qualities (or maybe more accurately deficiencies) in my own personality that are most likely not in His.  In any case, Satan responds to it disputing God, which is what he has been created to do. The demonstration or test is embarked upon... not once but twice.


"What is the lot prescribed by God...?"


Job makes his case to his friends and to God.  Everyone, including his wife, concluded Job is cursed.  His closest friends have concluded that there is sin in his life and that his "misfortune" is the consequence for it.  Job's contention, a sample of which in reflected in Job 31:1-37 - starting with the quote above, is that he is innocent of wrong doing.  "Yet does not God himself see my ways and take account of my every step?" (31:4). The climax of Job's self-defense comes at the end of Chapter 31 (v35-37)...


"Let the Almighty state his case against me!  If my accuser had written out his indictment, I should not keep silence and remain indoors.  No! I should flaunt it on my shoulder and wear it like a crown on my head; I should plead the whole record of my life and present that in court as my defense."


In a sense, I admire Job's boldness.  In his defense, he has lost his children, his wealth, his home, his health, and in a sense his wife and his closest friends.  I believe he believes he has even lost touch with God.  At a minimum that God is being unjust toward him.  While this certainly smacks of frustration and even anger at God, it falls short of "...cursing (God) to your face."


How would you have responded to Job?  The encouragement of Job, for me, is God's response which comes in three parts:

1.        Who are you and who am I?

2.       Vindicating and restoring.

3.       Backing up the truck of blessing.

God breaks in and ends the test with these words:


"Who is this who darkens counsel with words devoid of knowledge?  Brace yourself and stand up like a man; I shall put questions to you, and you must answer."  (Job 38:2-3)


I would have most likely approached Job completely differently (further proof that I am not God - as if there was any question).  I might have patted his hand, stroked his brow, spoken softly to him to calm him down , told him what it was all about, encouraged him that he had succeeded, healed his infirmities, and then had a heart to heart with him about himself and his relationship with me.  But that isn't God's way here.  "Stand up like a man..." God calls Job out.  Being toe to toe with God is not a position with high odds of success for whomever opposes God and yet it is exactly the right approach for Job.  Listen to Job's response and what I believe was the lesson God intended for Job.


""I know that you can do all things and that no purpose is beyond you...I have spoken of things which I have not understood, things too wonderful for me to know...I knew you...only by report, but now I see you with my own eyes.  Therefore I yield, repenting in dust and ashes."


God knows me so well and he is so in control, above all, in all, over all, that he does exactly the right thing for me (and everyone else) in order to help me learn more about him which enables me to love him better.  I am certain some will read the account of Job and conclude that God is a mean spirited prankster.  That is unfortunate.  God created us to choose to love him.  For those who profess to love him, he wants to reveal himself to them completely... just as the most intimate of lovers do.  If we have an incorrect impression or flawed knowledge or false understanding of our Love, wouldn't they correct us?  Would that be a potentially emotionally charged and painful exchange?  I have been married for almost 30 years; the answer in my world is "Yes".  God loves us so much.  He wants to be known to us and by us.  Job clearly didn't know God by his own admission and as a result of Job's admission God's methods are proved right.


God is unhappy with Job's friends and makes it clear.  He makes Job the path to their restoration and gives Job the position of administering grace and forgiveness thus restoring their relationships.


Lastly, God backs up the "blessing truck" and dumps it on Job.  "The Lord restored Job's fortunes, and gave him twice the possessions he had before...Thus the Lord blessed the end of Job's life more than the beginning..." (Job 42:10-12).


I want that.  I want to be more blessed at the end of my life than at the beginning.  Not necessarily with stuff but in my knowledge of and relationship with God.  I want to be known completely by God and to myself.  I want to know God as completely as I can.  I want to share an intimacy, a passion for God that drives me to only want to please him.  That is a real source of encouragement for me!

7:23 am edt 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Truth and Our Relationship With It

Truth is truth.  It is unchanging.

God is truth.  His Word is truth.  Jesus said that He was truth.  God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  (John 1:14; 14:6-7; 16:12-15; 17:17; Ephesians 4:4; 1 Timothy 1:17; James 1:16-17; Malachi 3:6)


I am changing and growing.  I am a work in process. I am to be transformed. I am to grow actively and effectively. My ways and thoughts are not like God's.

(John 17:17-19; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; Ephesians 4:7-5:2; 6:14; Philippians 4:8-9; 2 Peter 1:3-11)


Since I am changing, my relationship with God changes... my relationship to truth changes.  I see it differently as I grow. There are things I thought I knew but will see more clearly over time. There are things I cannot know at this time.

(John 16:12; Romans 1:18-28; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 1 Timothy 2:3-7; Job 42:1-6)


My understanding is never complete therefore my need to understand is never finished.


SO...  Know more.  Do what know to do.  Be committed and convinced. (We may not "feel" like doing.  We may not "feel" the truth.  We may get our feelings hurt along the way.  Faith will keep us on the right path.) 



9:44 am est 

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