The Lost Art of Godly Discipline . . . .

This is the fourth post in a series featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to encourage you to trust in God, no matter what life brings. ❤️

As a child of the 50’s, I grew up thinking discipline was synonymous with punishment.  When I became a parent, I accepted the necessity of spanking as part of the arsenal of weapons parents used to communicate the seriousness of their children’s “crimes”.   As time passed, however, I became personally convicted about spanking my children, because too often, my anger took control and I spanked them harder than was necessary.

The Fruit of Godly Discipline~😊

In my last post, I wrote about how God brought order to my home after I surrendered my heart to Christ.  It was at that time that He replaced my penchant for perfectionism with Himself.  It was also then, that I became convicted that my efforts in parenting were too often motivated by:

  1. My anger at my children, and/or
  2. My fear of losing control, thinking–If I can’t control them when they’re small, what on earth will I do when they get into their teens?

The problem was, I didn’t know what to replace it with. Initially, I recognized my children still needed discipline so, I replaced spanking with yelling–A LOT!  (It was amazing how quickly they were able to tune me out!)  I struggled with feeling helpless and foolish most of the time in my efforts to parent.

 It was not until I learned:

  1. Discipline and punishment are NOT synonymous.
  2. “Disciple” is the root word of discipline.
  3. God shepherds the hearts of His own by leading (not beating) them! 

that “the lost art of Godly discipline” came into view.

So what is the difference between discipline and punishment?  The simple wisdom of Christian motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, is full of insight:

We need to understand the difference
between discipline and punishment.
Punishment is what you do TO someone;
discipline is what you do FOR someone.

The difference between the dictionary definitions of the two is stark:

  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary affirms Ziglar’s assertion with this definition of discipline:“Training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”
  2. Punishment is defined as, “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.”

Between the two choices, discipline is certainly preferable to punishment when it comes, not only to raising children but also in how we want to be treated by our Creator.

Yet, as I look at culture today (even Christian culture), it is very apparent that many children are not receiving the benefits of discipline.  Sadly, as culture has embraced the notion of developing high self-esteem, parents have been remiss in teaching the difference between right and wrong, as well as God’s mandate that we love Him and our neighbor.  The results?  Just listening to the nightly news says it all.

So how was I to proceed as a Christian parent?  The wisdom and truth of II Timothy 3:16, 17 drew me in:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.”

It was then that I committed to depending on the Scriptures, prayer, and the leading of God’s Spirit to teach this servant of God, how to discipline/disciple my children.  Along the way, I received the assurance that God did not expect perfection from me as a parent.  All He wanted from me was a teachable heart:

“He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”
Isaiah 40:11

The following are insights that guided me through the process of discovering the art of  Godly discipline. with the hope that you might also be blessed:

Insight #1: Godly discipline has to be learned before it can be applied. 

God convicted me early-on with this thought:

If you want your children (or your grandchildren) to take you seriously,
make YOUR own bed before requiring them to make theirs.*
 

Insight #2: Godly discipline is meant to be a lifestyle, not a series of events.

 I found great encouragement in this beautiful word picture given the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.”

Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Insight #3: God does not have grandchildren; He only has children.

This piece of wisdom came from Corrie Ten Boom, author of one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place.  I had read her book to my children, so they had great respect for its author.  I reminded our children of this at various stages in their lives, pointing out that being raised in a Christian home did not make them followers of Jesus Christ.

Insight #4: Make regular worship at a Bible-teaching church and fellowship with other Believers a priority.

Early in my walk with Jesus, I learned: “There is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian.”  Worship of God with other Believers became our priority. I remain grateful for how our church family has loved us through good and tough times.  Having relationships with other adult Believers benefited our family greatly through the “teen years”–when Mom and Dad were “uncool”.

Insight #5: Help your children think biblically by reading to them–A LOT!

Early on I discovered God uses reading to shepherd our hearts.  I especially loved summers when we had larger blocks of time to read all kinds of books.  As my children grew (early elementary age and above) we enjoyed reading true stories about the lives of other Christians–Corrie Ten Boom’s, The Hiding Place, Joni Ericksen Tada’s story as well as Hudson Taylor, Eric Liddell, Gladys Aylward, David Livingston, and George Muller are but a few of those we enjoyed.  We also read the Narnia, Little House and Lord of the Rings series as well as delving into the wisdom of the Bible.  (Reading The Hiding Place and Joni’s Story in the shelter of our home, gave opportunity to talk about sin, the human heart and how God blesses His children through adversity.)

Insight #6: When disciplining your child–draw them in–rather than isolate them.

I’ve never understood the practice of sending children to their room when they get into trouble.  When my children needed discipline, I saw that time as an opportunity to minister to their hearts.  Keeping them close to me, helped me not to forget and miss that window.)  This is the pattern that developed when they were small:

  1. They stood in the corner of the room where I was working (usually the kitchen) with the timer set and their hands behind their back to help them think about what they had done.  (If they fidgeted more time was added, so they soon learned to settle into their corner as I continued to work!)
  2. When the timer dinged, I sat on the chair and they either sat on my lap or stood in front of me.  (The main intent here was to make good eye contact.)
  3.   I then asked, “Why did you have to stand in the corner?”  I soon found this to be a critical piece of the discipline process–especially when they were a bit fuzzy about what they had done wrong.
  4. We then talked about what had happened, the sin that was involved, and then, how to make things right again.  (Often it was to apologize to one of their siblings.)
  5. Before we went on with our day I prayed for them–about what they had done but always with thanksgiving to God for their lives and His plan for their future.

As they grew the pattern adjusted.  Rather than stand in the corner, I assigned appropriate passages of Scripture for them to read and apply in a short essay. (The intent was to help them take sin seriously by going to God in confession and faith.)

Insight #7: Along the way, watch for ways to bring laughter, adventure, and opportunities to serve others into your family routine. 

I Timothy 6:17-19 pictures this beautifully:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant
nor to put their hope in wealth . . .but to put their hope in God,
who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Command them . . . to be rich in good deeds . . . to be generous and willing to share.
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves . . . for the coming age,
so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Through the years God proved Himself faithful to our family, even when we were not entirely faithful to Him.  What our middle-child, Amy wrote in her early twenties sums our family up quite well: “I come from a family of five sinners . . . . “  Over time we have grown to be a family of fifteen, still delving into the lost art of Godly discipline . . . .

All to His Glory!

*Underscoring the warning against saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!”  (Such an attitude breeds disrespect and contempt.)

On Dealing With Fear and Bullies . . . .

This is the second in a series of posts featuring spiritual lessons God taught me through my family.  Over the years these stories have been helpful to many a Client; I share them now in the hope that they might also encourage you. ❤️

There is much talk about bullies/abusers in the world today, but bullies have been around since the beginning.  It was their fear of bullies, that resulted in Israel having to march around in the wilderness for forty years*; and Goliath (of David and Goliath fame) was nothing more than an oversized bully.

Of our three children, Amy (our middle child), was the most fearful. Amy was afraid of (or was resistant to) such things as:

  • Volcanoes. When we received orders to move to England, our then four-year-old middle asked with serious intensity in her voice: “Are there volcanoes in England?” (All these years later, we still laugh that if we’d received orders to Hawaii, we would never have been able to get her on the airplane!)
  • A boy in our village named Christopher Blackman.  I doubt that Christopher (who was probably about 10 and DID have a bad reputation) had any idea that our little Amy had stopped going to the village shop for sweeties (candy) because she was afraid he might be there.  Also, he probably was unaware that she immediately hid herself behind a garden wall or bushes if she saw him when walking home from school.
  • Pick-pocketers.  After traveling into London on a train, we heard an announcement warning that pick-pocketers had been active in the area that morning.  Amy clutched the little purse I had made for her tightly against her chest as she said, “They should make them wear uniforms so we can tell who they are!”
  • Learning to write–because she knew she wouldn’t be able to write as well as her sister–Amy resisted the pressure to learn to write.)

    Amy

Yet despite her fears, Amy could also be the most courageous.  When she saw a smaller classmate being bullied, she took it upon herself to stick up for them.  On one such occasion, Amy was quite surprised when the bigger kid (not Christopher) knocked her down.  Fighting back tears, Amy got up and yelled passionately, “I FORGIVE YOU!”  (I heard later that the bully looked quite embarrassed as he slunk off!)

When I learned about the incident I was both stunned and proud.  I had to admit that Amy’s response demonstrated a special courage and biblical wisdom that I lacked.

COURAGE defined: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

True courage demonstrates moral strength to withstand danger despite our fears
as we take our stand against evil.

God chose to teach our family a deeper lesson through Amy’s second fear: Christopher Blackman.

BULLY defined: “a blustering, browbeating person . . . one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.”  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

Our youngest, Luke (about 2 1/2 years old at the time), was notoriously friendly toward anyone he met.  While taking Luke out to the local playing field in his stroller, Luke reached out to Christopher–who I had no idea was THE Christopher Blackman!  Soon after, Christopher began showing up by our garden wall calling out for Luke.  Having found out WHO the boy was, I kept Luke inside at first.  But I remembered what Jesus taught about dealing with enemies in Luke 6:27, 28,

Luke
with Christopher Blackman

“Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.”

As we (Amy and I) began to pray for Christopher, something unexpected happened: God softened our hearts.  I began to see that Christopher genuinely held a special affection for Luke–who Christopher called, “Lu-key”.  As I made some inquiries around our village I learned that Christopher was in foster care and was waiting to be placed in a special school. (He had been put out of the village school because of something he’d done.)  We reached out to Christopher’s foster parents and learned that because his foster mom was quite ill with diabetes, she put him out of the house after he’d had his breakfast each day to roam the village.  I realized that Christopher was showing up at our garden wall, because he was lonely while all the other children were in school.

What happened next is really kind of a blur.  We began by allowing Christopher into our garden and it wasn’t long until he became a special part of our lives.  I cannot tell you how long it was before Christopher and a couple of his friends began attending church with us.  Looking back, I do not recall even a hint of Christopher’s bad reputation being expressed in our time with him.

You may be wondering about Amy in all of this?  Well, she now says that Christopher probably DID push her down, sat on her and pounded on her back one day before he became a special part of our family.  But when she saw how he liked her little brother and saw our genuine concern for Christopher, she was okay with it.  Besides, even as a child, Amy said, she “figured that it was what Christian families were supposed to do!”

Soon after we returned to the States Christopher started at his new school.  We wrote back and forth for a while but then lost touch with him.  After all these years, I still wonder what he did with his life and would love to see him again.

So what did I learn from my children about dealing with fear and bullies?

  1. To take sin seriously–my own included–in difficult relationships.  Romans 12:9 says, “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.”  God is both sovereign and good and worthy of our trust.
  2. To faithfully pray for my enemy.  I have learned that by doing this God keeps my heart soft. Praying for my enemy also opens the door to miracles, as God also can work in the heart of the bully/abuser.  James 4:7 hits the mark with this counsel: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
  3. To trust God to provide courage to resist being run by my fears. By standing up to bullies/abusers (and asking others to pray where needed) the sin is exposed for what it is.  The wisdom contained in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare, lends powerful encouragement to all who seek Christ’s help:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against
the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when (not if) the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then . . . .”

Ephesians 6:10-14

After 25 years of counseling, I have learned (where bullying/abuse is concerned) that prayer and getting help (be it in the church or by calling on the civil authorities) to stop the pattern of abuse is the best course.

To allow the sin of abuse to continue without addressing it,
encourages disrespect in the heart of the abuser toward the one being abused.
To call for outside help often forces the abuser to face the ugliness of their sin.  

In the end, there is opportunity on both sides of the relationship, for spiritual growth to take place as God works in both hearts.

All to His Glory

*Press here–> Joshua 5:6, to read the text.

A Fresh Perspective on Valentines Day . . . .

I had some thoughts to share about Valentines Day, but the honest freshness of my friend Kristy’s perspective expressed it far better.  Read it and be blessed:

Tomorrow will start the flood on Facebook of all the lovely flowers, candy, jewelry and other niceties given to the many women I know who are committed in some fashion to their other half. A lot of single people find the day really depressing. They believe what the media tells them, that in order to enjoy Valentine’s Day, you must be in a relationship with a significant other.

Love always hopes, always trusts . . . .

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes . . . .

Let me tell you the real truth! Valentine’s Day is not a day strictly devoted to couples. It is a day you can choose to show love to anyone special in your life! If you are single, you could choose to show love to your parents, your siblings, special young people in your life, special older people, widows, orphans, and special friends. You could even show a little extra love and kindness to a stranger.

Tomorrow, I plan to celebrate the love I have for my daughter who lights up my life and makes me laugh. I will smile and I will enjoy the holiday as I do all the rest. Peaceful and content in who I have in my life.
For all my friends who are in relationships, post those pics of your beautiful arrangements! I would love to see them.
Lastly, I hope that you will remember the greatest love story and that is:

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”
John 3:16

God loved you so much that He sent his only son to die on the cross for your sins. That is Love! ❤️ ❤️

Didn’t I tell you?  Thank you, Kristy, for reminding me that true love is about so much more than hearts and flowers.  True love puts God and neighbor first as we give thanks for His Presence and kind provision in our lives. Happy Valentine’s Day!

All to His Glory!

Dark and Stormy Nights: Hope For You and Me . . . .

A medium-sized, square black plate rests on the corner of my desk in the Counseling Room.  Most of the year the plate holds a smallish arrangement of flowers that I change with the seasons.  Along with the flowers there is a framed cross-stitch that says, “Tears Welcome Here”– words of assurance extended to Clients looking for hope and a safe place to work on their problems.  

During Advent and into Epiphany, the plate becomes a stage.  The stitchery and flowers are replaced, first with a solitary manger in front of a plaque that declares:

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things . . . .”
I Corinthians 13:7

Waiting . . . .

Waiting . . . .

Last week, Mary and Joseph were added.  With Joseph standing and Mary kneeling near the empty manger, the parents-to-be appear to be wondering about the Child, uniquely conceived, soon to be born– the Son of God Most High. Were they nervous?  Perhaps scared?  The Scriptures do not tell us.  What we do know, is they remained faithful as they waited . . . .

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee . . .
to Bethlehem the town of David,
because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary. . .
pledged to be married . . . expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came . . .
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger,
because there was no room available for them.”

Luke 2:4-7

As I look at the figures of Mary, Joseph and the waiting manger, I find hope and comfort at the gentle reminder: “Love bears all . . . . believes all . . . hopes . . . endures.”  Such was the point of Christ’s coming, LOVE CAME DOWN. 

The young couple’s lives had been turned upside down less than a year before.  Far from home, they had likely endured much societal rejection because of Mary’s pregnancy.  As they waited for the Birth, they were clueless about the drama that was about to ensue:

  • Shepherds paying them a visit to see what an angel had pronounced–“A Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord . . . a baby wrapped in clothes  and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11,12)
  • Magi from the East, following a star, would come bearing gifts to worship, “the one who has been born King of the Jews.”(Matthew 2:)
  • They would flee to Egypt, after an angel’s warning, before King Herod began his search to kill the Child–only able to return home to Israel after Herod’s death.
  • They would end up in obscure Nazareth (apparently not their first choice) to stay out of range of Herod’s son:

“So he (Joseph) got up, took the Child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod,
he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream,
he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and . . . lived in a town called Nazareth.
So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets,
that He
(Jesus) would be called a Nazarene.”

Matthew 2:21-23

So what can you and I learn from Mary and Joseph’s story?

  1. That when (not if) those dark and stormy seasons hit us, God is faithful to direct the steps and shepherd the hearts of those who rely on Him.
  2.  To honor God in the dailyness of our lives--faith is not something to be turned ‘on and off’ with a switch.
  3. To trust in God’s Sovereign Goodness to get us where He wants us when He wants us there–God’s timing is perfect.

For twenty-five years I have seen miracles happen as I have watched Clients, overwhelmed by their circumstances, make one of three choices– to trust in God, to trust in themselves or in someone (or something) else.  Those who cho0se to trust God:

  1. Look to Him in the Scriptures for the wisdom they need,
  2. Pray for the courage they lack to either move forward or to wait, and
  3. Give thanks to God that He was with them every step of the way.

It is nothing short of miraculous to watch as their outward countenance slowly begins to reflect a deepened, mature faith that affirms the truth of what is written in Hebrews 6:19,20,

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.
He has become a high priest forever . . . . “

On Christmas Eve I will return to my office one last time: to place Baby Jesus in the manger and add the Shepherds who came to see Him.  You and I are invited to enter the Holiness of that wondrous season as we celebrate God’s Perfect Provision–unto us a Child is born; a Son is given–Merry Christmas!

All to His Glory!

Soul Work: Rx for the Weary Heart . . . .

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

We find ourselves weary and discouraged as what was once “unthinkable” has become common place.  Even so, I am grateful to report that God continues to impact the hearts and minds of those who hunger and thirst for His perspective on their lives. With every problem faced in the Counseling Room, I marvel at God’s faithfulness as He consistently brings forth meaningful Scriptures that:

Come to Me . . . find rest for your souls.

Come to Me . . . find rest for your souls.

  • Challenge and direct according to Client need,
  • Shine forth hope and light to encourage each one forward and, above all else,
  • Inspire heartfelt repentance and thanksgiving for His truth spoken in love.

Understandably, there are times when tears are spilled.  Yet anyone who passes by my office is more likely to hear peals of laughter break through the walls as God ministers as only He can do.  The best part for me?  Is listening and reflecting on what God has shown them since our previous session through their Journey Notes Praise Journaling.  (It is then that I take notes!)

Last week, Matthew 11: 28, 29 came to the forefront while working with several Clients; each one was uniquely touched by Christ’s tender call:

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.”

It is an invitation that is also a command– “Come . . . COME TO ME . . . and I will give you REST.”  Jesus makes this appeal to our weariness as He:

  1. Acknowledges the burdens that go with living life on this earth,
  2. Calls us closer to Himself to help bear our spiritual and earthly burdens,
  3. Sets the example of gentleness and humility of heart we are called to emulate, and (finally)
  4. Speaks to our deeper need of soul work where we discover rest in Him.

SOUL WORK*. . . what is it and how is it accomplished?  I write this not as any sort of theological expert. I am a sinner saved by God’s mysterious and wondrous grace through faith in His Son.  After more than four decades of walking by faith, with the Scriptures and God’s Spirit shepherding me through many a trial–plus encouraging others in the Scriptures for twenty-five years–this is what I have learned:

SOUL WORK is:
That deeply mysterious work only God can do
as we open our hearts and minds to Him.

Scripture gives much instruction about our hearts and minds:

Proverbs 4:23 is one of those verses that warn us to guard our hearts:

“Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.”
 

(NASB)

In Luke 6:43, Jesus taught that what we store in our hearts is reflected by our actions as well as our words:

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart,
and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

As culture teaches, “follow your heart”, Jeremiah 17 admonishes–

“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”
(Verses 9, 10)

While we are responsible for what we store in our hearts, Jesus calls us to go deeper in our relationship with Him. In Matthew 11 He urges: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” 

So what is this “yoke” Jesus urges His followers to take?  I appreciate the perspective of seventeenth century commentator, Matthew Henry** who wrote:  

It is a yoke that is lined with love.
So powerful are the assistances He gives us,
so suitable the encouragements,
and so strong the consolations to be found in the way of duty,
that we may truly say, it is a yoke of pleasantness.
The way of duty is the way of rest.”

To embrace the loving kindness of Christ’s invitation, though scary at first, is to discover the pleasantness of rest found only in Him.

SOUL WORK is not something we strive for;
it is worked out as we yield our hearts and minds
to God’s Sovereign Goodness.

So how is it begun?

  1. Prayer . . .
  2. Confession of fear, anger, pride, resentment, you name it . . .
  3. A willingness/determination to trust God no matter what your circumstances.

For me it required desperation.  As a new Christian I wanted to please God: but there were mountains of garbage stored deep in my heart that kept tripping me up.  Over time, I noticed that King David (said to be, “a man after God’s heart” in Scripture–despite his many failures) exposed his heart to God more than anyone else in the Bible.  I resolved to pray every portion of  the Psalms of David that mentioned the heart.  The day I got to the end of Psalm 139 was my “Day of Reckoning”.

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
(Verses 23 and 24)

I remember terror gripping me as I contemplated praying David’s words.  I vividly imagined myself, laid out on an operating room table and the scalpel God held poised to open my chest.  I wanted to run . . . yet remained transfixed.  As I contemplated the painful rawness of being totally exposed, I prayed the words anyway:

“Search me, God . . . open me up and do what only You can do to make me whole.  
Cleanse me . . . please . . . that I may find freedom in YOU.”  

I braced for the pain of my chest being opened and my sin ripped out of the crevices of my being–but there was only silence.  I continued to wait until finally . . . I realized that God is far gentler and kinder than I ever imagined.  Slowly, I relaxed my grip on my fears as relief flooded my mind and heart like never before.  That marked the beginning of what has continued for a lifetime: learning to trust Him only deep within my soul, in good times as well as in bad.

No matter where you are or what your circumstance, Christ’s invitation to enter His rest awaits your response.  He has a plan and purpose for your life that will likely include heartache and confusion.  Yet, as you learn to trust in His Sovereign Goodness . . . that elusive rest found only in Him will be yours.

I pray that you will be encouraged by the Apostle Paul’s vision and prayer for all who trust in Christ Jesus:

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you
with power through His Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ . . . .”
Ephesians 3:16-18

Do you hunger and thirst to go deeper in your walk with Jesus?  TODAY is the day to answer His call to trust Him more and yourself less!

All to His Glory!

*I found very little when I googled the term soul work except for this article (actually it’s only the first bit of the article–the rest is blocked from non-subscribers of Christianity Today): http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/may-web-only/real-transformation-happens-when.html
**To learn more about Matthew Henry I found this site helpful: http://www.truthfulwords.org/biography/henrytw.html

Rule #1 . . . .

It began as a joke . . . “Rule #1”.  Three simple words born out of necessity–since our camper is equipped with comfortable sleep space and a kitchen of sorts but no bathroom.   Simply saying,“Rule #1” expressed  what was needed when “nature” called.  What inspired it?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps it was the thought of traveling together 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week for two months?  Maybe.  But it more likely was an attempt to streamline communication between us–given that my husband’s communication style aligns with “morse code” (one and two word responses are his specialty), while my own falls more into the realm of “s~c~r~i~p~t” (using a multiplicity of delightful, descriptive words that, at times, turn into a maze if I’m not careful.)  Whatever the inspiration, Rule #1  not only reduced the tension that can accompany such a call, it also added a bit of humor.  In the end, Rule #1 kept traveling from becoming more complicated than necessary.  Even now, it comes up on occasion–though not with the same urgency–causing us to smile at the private little joke we share.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . your soul . . . your mind . . . your strength." Mark 12:30

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . your soul . . . your mind . . . your strength.” Mark 12:30

In the weeks after returning home, I thought a lot about how simply saying, “Rule #1,” served to reduce what can be a potential stressor for travelers.   Yet, when it comes to rules, we humans tend to balk at the thought of our “rights” being impinged upon.  Growing up, I remember embracing the notion that, “Rules are meant to be broken” with a certain amount of glee.  That changed, however, after getting to know new neighbors who moved in next to my parents home.  Having recently moved to the US from Denmark, Henry talked about living in Denmark during the WWII Nazi Occupation.  What shocked Henry, was not the behavior of the Nazi’s, but “what neighbor did to neighbor” when the rule of law was no longer enforced.  I’ll never forget the look on Henry’s face as he talked about his neighbors doing, “things that would have been unthinkable before the war.”  Looking at the world through Henry’s eyes, I learned to appreciate the order and security that well placed and maintained rules can bring to society.

Reflecting on our own time, as secularism is so brazenly removing God’s rule–ie, the physical removal of the Ten Commandments in the public arena as well as the principles they represent–we find ourselves in a moral crisis like never before.  We have forgotten the simple direction of the Golden Rule“Treat others as you would have them treat you”*–as we emphasize “building our self-esteem”.  The consequences?  Consider the warning the Apostle Paul wrote in what is believed to have been his last letter before he was beheaded for his allegiance to Christ:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud,
abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving,
slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—
having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Have nothing to do with such people.”

II Timothy 3:1-5

As complaints of loneliness and depression skyrocket and as we worship created things rather than our Creator, it is no wonder that darkness has become so pervasive.

The good news is that all is not lost.  The Bible tells us that Christ came to free sinners (you, me and our neighbor) burdened by our sinful penchant to live as we think best.  The declaration the Apostle Paul makes in Galatians 5:1 lightens the heart of the repentant as it speaks assurance to all who trust in Christ:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

To surrender self-rule to the Rulership of Christ,
is to discover true freedom to live for, love and serve Him with glad hearts.

So how are we to live out this amazing freedom?  That’s where Rule #1 comes in.   When questioned about what He considered the greatest of God’s Commandments in Mark 12:30-31, Jesus narrowed our responsibilities down to two:

Rule #1: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Rule #2: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Faith that pleases God is intentionally placed on Him, first and foremost–Rule #1.
It is the fruit of that love relationship,
that strengthens and blesses us to pass on the light of His love
–no matter who the other person may be. 

This afternoon my husband and I were waiting for a table at a local coffee house.  We waited quite a while until a table was vacated and gratefully moved toward it.   All of a sudden, a woman who seemed to come out of nowhere, darted past my husband and claimed it for herself!  I confess feeling a certain amount of irritation that raised very quickly in my heart as we moved back to the side and watched the woman and her husband enjoy OUR table!  I am embarrassed to admit that it took a few minutes before I recognized the opportunity to apply Rule #1.  When I did, I couldn’t resist giggling at my silliness as I decided to love that dear woman–she obviously needed that table more than we did!  As I reflected on God’s love for me, the irritation vanished as I gave thanks to God for freeing me to love Him as He loved me. 

As we determine to put Rule #1 in the forefront of our thinking,
the possibilities are limitless.
Without a doubt, this crazy kind of loving with the hope and light of Jesus,
has the potential to change this world one heart at a time!

All to His Glory!

Back to the Basics: Love is . . . .

It never ceases to amaze me how God uses the simple, very basic elements in life, to deepen our perspective on what is most important.   You know, those everyday essentials we take for granted (until there is about to be a shortage.  Things like . . . air . . . water . . . or even a half-roll of . . . toilet paper?  Yes, toilet paper:

Love is sacrificial . . . .

Love is sacrificial . . . .

It was while traveling with my recently retired husband that my latest back-to-the-basics lesson began.  Having poured over a book called, Drives of a Lifetime*for almost a year, we had decided to try to follow some of the routes described in the book.  It took us three days to reach our first target: the “Illinois River Road” near Peoria.  We chose a somewhat remote campground to use as a base for our three days of exploring.  The campground was small and had only one toilet and shower to be shared.  But it was brand new.  It was so new it wasn’t completed.  It had hot and cold water (a definite “yay”) and smelled of fresh pine because of its newness.  However, the wiring was not connected, so we needed a flashlight not only to get to the facility at night, but also to use it.  But wasn’t a huge deal for us.  The only real problem we saw, was the single roll of toilet paper sitting on the back of the commode that had only about fifteen squares remaining on it. With no manager to ask about a fresh supply (he lived at an undisclosed location), we resolved to use the half-roll of toilet paper we had buried in our camper for just such an emergency.

All went well in our trekking to and from the bathroom, except I found myself trying to hide our treasure as I carried it–especially after the roll still on the back of the commode had been reduced to about three squares.

It was after lunch on the second day, that I heard that “still small Voice” speak to my heart, “Love thy neighbor, Kathie.”

Recognizing immediately that the thought was not my own, I tried to ignore it.  I managed about three steps toward our campsite before being overwhelmed by conviction.  Only then did I finally responded, “Love my neighbor, Lord?”

The response was gentle, yet firm, “Love thy neighbor.” 

I stood on the path, embarrassed by my selfishness, as the next thought came: Love is Sacrifice.”

A myriad of thoughts went through my head I pondered the disconnect between my selfishness, love and sacrifice.  I realized that when the Apostle Paul wrote about the attributes of love in I Corinthians 13 –“love is” patience, kindness, protective of the welfare of others . . .–at the foundation any of such love-reflecting responses to my neighbor (even to those I may not know), is a call to sacrifice.   Christian love is not a feeling.  Christ-centered love is a deliberate setting aside of our personal needs or desires, for the benefit of someone else.  Love IS Sacrifice.

As I made an about-face, returning to the bathroom, I admit feeling a bit sheepish.  But, as I intentionally placed the half-roll of toilet paper on the back of the commode, it became for me an altar of sacrifice before the God who saved me for Himself.  As I stepped out into the sunlight, leaving my treasure behind me, I felt a wry smile break out across my face at the thought of how loving my neighbor sacrificially gave me a taste of freedom that was sweet indeed.

Be it in large or small ways, love often requires sacrifice.
What is the basis of such love?
Our love for the God, whose Son sacrificially paid the ransom for our freedom.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children,
and walk in love, just as Christ loved us and
gave Himself up for us as a fragrant sacrificial offering to God.”

Ephesians 5:1, 2

Is there anything you’re holding onto in your heart; anything that is getting in the way of truly loving God?  If yes, surrender it NOW as you lean on Him to love your neighbor as He so freely has loved you.

All to His Glory!

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