God’s loving discipline

 

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Hebrews 12:4-13

I want to quote part of this passage again:

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Wouldn’t we like a pass from all pain? And really, when one thinks about it, from all correction. We may know better, but we always justify ourselves in what we’re doing, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it.

That’s when God as our loving Father through Jesus steps in to discipline us, all of his children. The unpleasant time that brings is well worth it, if we submit to our Father and his discipline, and try to learn well what God wants to teach us.

We need to have the heart and a mind that’s sensitive to God. Most of the time that will be obvious, though some of the time we may have little to no clue, and need to pray to God for discernment.

We would like to see the lesson come and go, but it’s in God’s hands. We need to submit to the Father of our spirits and live. That means accept what we’re going through, and continue on with the strength God gives us. Being trained in God’s loving discipline. In and through Jesus.

the mystery of Christ’s conception and birth

I was struck this morning by the thought of how Christ was in the womb, soon to be born. The idea that God through a miracle, was fully human, to soon pass through his mother’s womb into the world as a newborn.

That is amazing in itself, a mystery of the faith to be sure. And evident of God’s triunity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We might say the Father oversaw it all, the Spirit was active in it, and the Son was the human embryo, nine months after conception to be born.

It is amazing, but somehow tied to God’s amazing work in our own lives.

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.

 

an early Christian hymn

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

He appeared in the flesh,
    was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 3:16

What is the difference for the Christian? What enables us toward true godliness? The simple answer is Christ, and Christ in his coming. What we celebrate at Christmas. And what we see in Christ in his incarnation, life and ministry of teaching and healing, his death and resurrection, his ascension and the Spirit being poured out, and the promise of his return when what he has accomplished will be completed.

The hymn like any good hymn gives us a particular focus. And the focus is on Christ himself, and the events and impact of that on the world. That makes all the difference. In and through Jesus.

 

 

 

handling trouble in a godly way

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish[b] woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job 2:9-10

Job lost everything except his wife: his livelihood, his seven children, and then his health. And the rest of the book is well worth reading, rereading, and pondering. But Job did not abandon his faith in God. He was up against it, at his wit’s end. The story ends well. But part of what can be instructive for us upfront and right away is Job’s initial response to all that happened.

It’s interesting how some seem to go along in life without little care. And that includes those who are responsible. While others of us seem to be chomping at the bit to descend into fear and the fretting that ordinarily accompanies that.

How much better to trust the heavenly Father, just as Jesus taught us (Matthew 6:19-34). To leave everything into God’s good, more than capable hands. To trust that the Father will see us through. And to learn to live in that prospect with the peace that accompanies it. So it’s a matter of trust versus fear.

Paul gives us what perhaps is the most direct, specific direction in dealing with trouble and troubling thoughts when they come:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Seems like an impossible command, I say loving directive, not to be anxious or worry when trouble comes. But instead, in every situation we’re to pray, and tell God our concern. And thank God for the good in our lives. With the promise that God will give us peace, a peace that goes beyond our limited understanding. That our hearts and minds will be guarded in Christ Jesus. I have thought that worse than nearly any problem is my own reaction to it. We do our best, but in the end, God is the one from whom all blessing flows. This world is not trouble free, even as Jesus told us. We simply need to submit ourselves to the Father’s care.

I wonder if this is a part of the spiritual warfare we’re up against as Christians. I’m sure the spiritual enemy does try to exploit whatever weakness we have. We do well to go back to Ephesians 6:10-20 and ponder that in prayer.

What is crucial for us is how we react when trouble comes. Job initially does well, and then we see the rest of the book, how he responds further. Of course he didn’t have all the revelation we have now, or the person writing the wisdom story, one of the oldest if not the oldest writings of the Bible. It’s not like there’s going to be no wrestling or anxious moments. But whatever we’re experiencing within or without, we need to commit ourselves to growth in doing so in a godly matter, depending on what God’s word tells us. In and through Jesus.

not crossing certain lines

…train yourself to be godly.

1 Timothy 4:7

I think one of the most important things even we older Christians can do today is to train ourselves to be godly. What godliness means might to some extent be up for grabs, since different theological schools will emphasize different things. Really godliness is beyond us, both in really understanding it, and certainly in applying it. We have the Spirit along with scripture, the word, and the church, particularly those who are examples to us in this. Only God can give us light in both helping us see, and be changed, as we are enabled to walk, or live in the light in Jesus as found in scripture.

Here in the United States, we live in a precarious time. Much division and even some hate seems to more and more embed itself and even mark our culture. And we Christians are not above being taken into it and yes, becoming a part of it. It is hard, because there are certain issues that we feel strongly about. Abortion, and then depending on our views, other matters as well. We need to apply scripture and the gospel to critique our views. There are some matters that people will end up disagreeing on, including Christians with each other.

What we need today is the discipline to stay on track, and not get off onto rabbit trails which end up not helping anyone at all. Addressing certain matters such as injustice, and being “pro-life,” along with other contentious issues like environmental stewardship, even government, the church and state, etc. We also need to determine that there are certain lines we simply won’t cross, along with the discernment to know what those lines are.

More often than not the best wisdom is simply to remain silent (Proverbs 17:28). To listen, to gather our own thoughts, and above all, to seek God’s wisdom with others. And to keep doing that. To learn to be reticent to speak. Then God can help us to know better just when we should and must speak out. But our emphasis must always be on Christ and the gospel and never on anything less.

enjoyment/fun as part of the good (godly) life

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

Enjoyment of life is something one of my favorite biblical books, Ecclesiastes, returns to again and again. It is an important part of God’s creation, of being human.

And yet we have been influenced by something less than that which would relegate fun and enjoyment to a secondary status at best, and even questionable or wrong at worst. It’s as if to be godly you can’t enjoy life; yes, you can enjoy God and spiritual things, but nothing else. But this directly contradicts what God’s word clearly says.

God…richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

1 Timothy 6:17

We can indeed become “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4). We can love the gifts of God and not the giver. But to enjoy those gifts is an honor to the giver. To enjoy life and have fun is truly a part of what godliness is all about. A part of the good life God has for us even now when we hold on to such pleasures lightly as we seek to follow Jesus (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). In and through him.

intake determines output

A good person brings good things out of the good stored up in their heart, and an evil person brings evil things out of the evil stored up in their heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Luke 6

Sometimes I wonder why I feel so empty. That may or may not be bad, but it might indicate that I’ve been lacking in not being intentional and diligent enough in my intake of scripture.

I can continue in scripture, but the practice can be more like an academic exercise, rather than pursuing God, and God’s will. In my opinion, it’s still good to be in scripture even from that angle, because scripture as God’s word does have a power and dynamic all its own. In fact, the mind angle is one important aspect, and not to be despised. God appeals to our reason over and over again in scripture. Reading scripture regularly helps us train our minds to think, as well as train ourselves to be godly.

And so what enters our minds and hearts impacts our lives for good or ill. Right now we’re in the climax of what surely was the worst US presidential campaign season in history. Two of the most disliked, polarizing nominees from the major parties, facing off against each other, one troubled with baggage which includes laundary not so clean, and the other vulgar and a boaster, who seems to want the focus on their supposed greatness, to allegedly make the nation great again. And plenty of media. So it’s easy to get steeped in that brouhaha to the neglect of God and God’s word. Or you fill in the blank as to what you might be filling your minds with.

While we will attend to, as well as enjoy other things, we need to be sure that our primary, first and foremost intake is the word of God, scripture, and its application in accord with the good news in Jesus. Day after day, in fact “day and night” (Psalm 1). Our minds fixed on what will last, as the world comes and goes. In and through Jesus.

living the Mystery

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

He appeared in the flesh,
    was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory.

The New International Version gets it right, in my opinion in translating this, “from which true godliness springs…” (see context). The point is not simply what we believe, but living that out.

Appearing in the flesh, may seem to open the door to Christ merely appearing to be human (the old heresy, Docetism). But we know from the rest of Paul’s writings and the New Testament that this appearance was no different than our appearance anywhere. Evident to all of his humanity, of his oneness with us.

This poem centers on Christ himself and the act of God in Christ in his Incarnation as well as a shorthand sketch of the scope of that. It would include the whole story, but like many songs, leaves out essential parts, or better put, presupposes them, saying certain things for one reason or another.

From Christ and his fulfillment of Israel’s calling in and for the world, we begin to enter into a godliness which is “in Christ.” It is something beyond us for sure, but for us, worked into our lives by the Spirit, nothing less than a participation in the source from which this godliness springs, a participation in Christ.

We somehow are what he is in this world. Of course he alone is the unique Son of God. We participate only through him. Somehow in that we are taken up into the very life of God, the root out of which comes the fruit of godliness. A godliness which is Jesus-like, cross-formed in offering the eternal life to the world.

loving one’s enemies

I hesitate to think of myself as having enemies in the biblical sense,  because enemies in that sense seems most evidently to be those who are enemies against God. They are the faithfuls’ enemies, because of the faithful, living in the way from God. Sometimes I don’t know why I have the few enemies I have. Other times though, I know I either rub them the wrong way, or we have conflict in a life situation which ends up unsettled. Sometimes hard to pinpoint or even surmise. I am not talking here about someone with whom one might have a conflict which then is resolved. But I’m referring to those who seem to be dyed-in-the-wool enemies.

It is especially galling when an enemy was once a friend. When one is ignored no matter what, or treated as one outside the family of God, and there is no reconciliation, then and there it seems one has an enemy. Or at least not a friend. When one has been a companion with another and is now rejected out of hand, even if for a reason that is either a sin, or could become a sin, but the other has repented of, then it seems the one withholding reconciliation has become an enemy. Of course in many societies in the world, simply to name the name of Christ means one has enemies who threaten their very lives. That is certainly not the case in the society in which I live.

How then are we to love our enemies? We can’t love them as friends, even though it is galling when they treat us as friends in certain contexts. As if they’re simply putting up with us. Are we seeing their perspective? Maybe there is some offensive way in ourselves we need to repent of, not only to the Lord, but also to them. Ironically, maybe they see us as an enemy, as well. That would be a good question to consider. Have I removed the plank from my own eye, so that I can really see clearly to remove the speck of sawdust from my brother or sister’s eye? Sadly one can treat others with contempt. Jesus said when we go down that path we can end up being in danger of hell fire.

Of course we know what the directive from Jesus is. We’re to love our enemies, to do good to them, to pray for them, and therefore be “perfect” as well as merciful, as our heavenly Father is perfect and merciful. We’re not to try to get revenge, but leave justice in God’s hands. At the same time, we should be like Jesus and Stephen who emulated Jesus in his death. Praying for our enemies right to the end, not for God’s vengeance, but for his mercy to them. That they might be forgiven.

As for those who are named among the faithful and yet essentially live as enemies, we’re to seek reconciliation. To do our part, and then to leave it in God’s hands.I consider being faithful to God and to the new covenant given to us in Christ, means to be faithful to each other as a brother or sister within the same family, the family of God. We should try to see the bigger picture around it, that perhaps they have a general problem which causes them trouble in other contexts. While wanting to be sensitive to whatever extent that may be true in our own life.

At any rate, we in Jesus need to show the world the difference following Jesus makes. A difference which involves loving the unlikeables, even those who are our enemies. Continuing to forgive those who continue to wrong us, that we might be forgiven, and bear the message of forgiveness and reconciliation in Jesus to the world. Together in Jesus for the world.

training ourselves unto godliness

Paul tells Timothy that while physical training has some value, godliness has value for all things both in the present, and in the age to come. Value for all things.

Godliness carries the meaning of being like God in character. Theologians have spoken of God’s communicable attributes, in others words those aspects of God’s character which he has created, and now recreates in Jesus, in us humans. In Jesus by God’s grace through faith we enter into new life. Of course we have to grow in this new life. From no less than infant stage toward full maturity in Christ. This is actually meant to be a joint venture, not a lone one. We are in this together with others. And yet we are responsible as individuals first for ourselves. Babies need help, as do toddlers. But there comes a time when more and more a person is on their own. There is the so-called age of accountability. And as an adult, each is expected to carry their own load, as a rule. Helping and receiving help when needed.

Do we think in terms of godliness? In other words, do we measure our thoughts, attitudes, spirit, words, deeds, aspirations, goals, etc., by whether or not they are godly? Or is something less than that driving us? Do we have understanding as to something of what godliness is, what it is like, what characteristics are part of it, what its source is, what really constitutes godliness?

Jesus gets at the essence of it when he lets us in on the first and greatest commandment along with the second that is like it: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Everything else is said to hang on these commands. So love out of a pure heart, with a good conscience, and a sincere faith, as we read elsewhere, this is the goal to which all of us in Jesus are to aspire.

Training carries with it the idea of surmounting difficulties, getting to the place where we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loved us. The latter thought comes in the context of understanding the great salvation that is ours in Jesus (Romans 8). Training itself involves understanding, and it involves a faith that is active, seeking God’s face and his will for our lives in Jesus. Endeavoring, however clumsily, to learn to walk in his way. In following Jesus.

Of course this takes time. And yet as we begin on it, God will help us, no matter what the obstacles. In fact the obstacles can end up being the means used by God to make us stronger in our faith, in our trust and confidence in God and his promises to us in Jesus. Not just for us, but together in Jesus for the world.