Tag Archives: spiritual disciplines

Forget Something?

k4836825Have you ever gotten up to do something and been distracted along the way—completely forgetting to do what you intended? Maybe you promised to have your daughter’s soccer uniform clean and ready for her game that night. Maybe you even washed it, but on your way to put it in the dryer, you became sidetracked. Could be the distraction was important—your son got sick or your husband needed help finding a file for work. Maybe you needed to get meat out of the freezer for supper.

Or maybe what made you lose focus wasn’t so important. Maybe your best friend called to gossip about the neighbor, or a commercial on television caught your eye. Could be you just never made it past the cookie jar on the kitchen counter. Either way, the result was the same. At the end of the day, your daughter asked about her uniform because it was game-time. You rushed to the dryer only to find it empty. With a sinking feeling, you turned to the washer and pulled out a soggy lump—her uniform, totally unfit for the big game. You failed to do what you promised.

Often we fail to do what we’ve promised God as well. We tell Him we’ll attend Worship, study our Bibles, spend time in prayer, memorize Scripture, and nourish those fruits of the Spirit. But we get distracted along the way. Sometimes the distractions are important. Sometimes we have to deal with illnesses, job troubles, or family problems.

But sometimes the things that derail us aren’t so important. We neglect Worship to go shopping or skip our quiet time so we can sleep in. Instead of reading books that nourish our souls, we veg out in front of the television. We spend an hour backbiting our sister in Christ rather than memorizing the Scriptures that command us to love one another. No matter what distracts us, the result is the same. We come to the end of our lives and God asks for an accounting because it’s judgment time. We rush around in our minds, trying to produce a clean garment of godliness, only to pull out our soggy lump of a life and feel sorry for the time we’ve wasted. We’ve failed to do what we promised.

God offers forgiveness for His repentant children, but let’s not waste the life God gave us. Let’s not allow anything, whether petty or important, to distract us from our true purpose in life: to glorify God in all that we do, say, and think. Let’s keep the promises we made to God when He adopted us as His own. Let’s spend time in His Word and in prayer, worship with fellow believers, and encourage one another to grow in grace and godliness.

The Importance of Practice

This week’s post is an article by my son that appeared in the March 9, 2014, issue of Encounter Magazine. He shares some good thoughts on ways Christians can strengthen their faith through practicing spiritual disciplines. images (1)

Often people think that practice doesn’t matter, and that you only need to try in a game, whether the “game” is a sport or the Christian life. I’ve found that you need to try hard during both practices and games. Practice helps you to understand how to win the game.

For example, if you want to be a good soccer player, you have to practice certain skills. One of these is running. In soccer if you’re not constantly running, it’s almost impossible to score. You have to run a lot at times other than the game so that you can build up your stamina.

Second, you have to juggle. Juggling is bouncing the ball off of your feet, thighs, chest, and head without letting it touch the ground. It takes a long time to learn how to juggle. You have to understand how the ball bounces and how heavy it is in order to gauge the strength of your kicks. This teaches you ball control and strengthens your legs so you can play better during games.

Third, you have to practice striking the ball. Unless you strike the ball just right it will curve, go over the target, or just roll a few feet ahead of you. You have to practice a lot in order to get it right.Practice pinned on noticeboard

It’s not just sports you have to work on. You also have to work hard to act like Christ. Acting like Jesus all the time is very difficult. There are things to help you with that too.

One thing you can do is pray.  Ask God to give you help and patience, because acting like Christ takes time and effort. However, don’t just sit back and wait. Try to make it happen. Otherwise you are asking for one thing and really wanting it not to happen. Also, pray when things are going well, not just when you’re struggling. Like in soccer, you can’t wait until the game to start running, so you can’t wait until times of trial to start praying.

Second, read your Bible. The Bible explains how you are supposed to live. Without it, you can’t know what God wants you to do. You can only guess and hope you don’t mess up. You can’t wait until someone asks you a difficult question about your faith before you start reading your Bible regularly. You have to practice this discipline. It helps you be strong in your faith.

Third, you need to think about Christ. It’s hard to get angry about someone lying about you or not playing fair in a sports game when you consider how much worse Christ endured.

Finally, we all know what the point of a sports game is, but what is the point of the Christian life?

The answer is easy to say, but hard to do. The point is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. In everything we think, say, and do, we must glorify our LORD. When you’re on a soccer team, the point is to bring glory to the team. When you’re on God’s “team,” the point is to glorify Him.

One of the ways we do this is by telling others about Him. If you really think God is amazing, then you should want to tell others. This isn’t always easy to do, but it gets easier when you try it, or put it into practice.

Another way is to sing His praises. Often, people think that you should just sing loud. I think you should try to sound good. After all, you’re singing to the Creator of the Universe, so you should at least try to sing well. We should give our best to our Savior, not just our loudest!  I’m not saying that we have to be perfect. I just think that God deserves the best we can give. This also requires practice. When I play in the Praise Team, I don’t just show up on Sunday morning right before it’s time to start. I practice throughout the week, and I get up early to practice with everyone else. Practice is the only way to give our best to God.

To do well at anything, whether something as unimportant as sports or as crucial as becoming like Christ, we must practice.

How to Suffer Well

bible105Stefanie knew God’s standards on sexual purity when she stayed at the office late with her co-worker and let things go too far. Can her marriage survive?
Dan had been a pastor for decades when he got brain cancer. After years of serving God, now he might not live another six months.
Trish’s deacon husband got caught embezzling money from work. Can she survive the humiliation?
Like these case study Christians, we sometimes suffer and can’t imagine how we’ll survive. Job gives us five steps to endure trials…with our faith intact:
1.      Self-examination. Job guards so constantly against sin he knows his pain isn’t a result of his own wrongdoing. In the above cases, Stefanie’s suffering is a clear result of her sin. Though the consequences won’t disappear with her confession, repentance is an essential step toward restoration. Dan’s cancer is likely a painful result of living in a fallen world, and Trish is suffering for her husband’s sin, but both must guard against bitterness. What about us? Maybe like Job we can say, “I have kept to his way without turning aside” (Job 23:11), but if God convicts us of wrongdoing, we must repent.
2.      Beware bad advice. Job’s friends falsely accuse him. His wife tells him to curse God and die. Job understands the pain of bad counsel. If Stefanie heeds advice to keep quiet about what she’s done, her marriage will only suffer more harm. If Dan’s friends tell him he’s sick because God doesn’t love him, the lies will sink him deeper into despair. If Trish’s friends tell her to leave her husband, she’ll suffer from her sin as well as his. We must heed counsel from mature Christians who will guide us to the One who loves us more than anyone else can.
3.      Seek God. Job knows God allows his suffering. He knows God alone can tell him why. So Job seeks God. In the above cases, Stefanie must run to God for cleansing. Only God can keep Dan through his cancer, whether it results in death or healing. Trish needs God’s grace to forgive her husband. We, too, must pursue God in our suffering, knowing only He can carry us through.
4.    Complain. God hates murmuring so much He let a generation of Hebrews die in the wilderness after the Exodus. Yet Job complains plenty. The difference is the Hebrews murmur among themselves against God’s gifts, while Job tells God how he feels about his pain. Job takes his grievances to God. Likewise, Stefanie should tell God of her guilt. Dan should tell God how betrayed he feels. Trish should tell God of her humiliation. We, too, should tell God of our rage, hurt, and abandonment. He can handle it.
5.    Hope. Job trusts God. He knows God will bring something good from his agony. He says, “When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Job knows his suffering will lead to his sanctification, though he doesn’t like the process. In her pain, Stefanie can hope for stronger character and deeper love for her husband. Dan can think of the testimony he’ll share if God heals his body, and he can look forward to spending eternity in Heaven. Trish can thank God for increasing her faith. We, too, should view our pain as God’s means of making us more Christ-like. We must hope beyond our suffering for the good God promises to bring out of it.

Testing Required

f-test1I graduated long ago, but I still sometimes wake up in a panic, thinking I have to take an exam for which I didn’t study. Ugh! I’d be content never having to take another test in my life.

Yet Scripture commands Christians to test the spirits to see if they’re from God. If we fail at this testing, the consequences are much more serious than flunking a class. The consequences are eternal.

False teachers are everywhere—television, radio, internet, books, movies. Even in Sunday School classes and pulpits. Everyone wants our ear, but not everyone should get it.

How can we discern who’s teaching truth and who’s spouting lies?Here are three questions to help us decide:

  1. What’s being said about Jesus? Lying spirits hate Jesus. If a speaker or writer professing to teach Biblical truth either ignores Christ or lies about Him, we must reject that teacher. I don’t mean we should nitpick every word that comes out of our pastor’s mouth. I mean we can’t listen to anyone who denies the basics of the Gospel—that Jesus is God who became man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, rose again, ascended into Heaven, and is coming back one day.
  2. Does the world love it? Popularity doesn’t equal truth. In fact, if the world loves something/someone, Christians should beware. By nature, the world loves what is worldly and hates what is from God. Remember, labels can be deceiving. Just because somebody labels a book or movie “faith-based” doesn’t make it Christ-exalting. I’m certainly not saying every “inspirational” book that makes The New York Times Best Seller list is teaching lies. I’m just saying we can’t embrace it without careful testing because not everything labeled “faith-based” is based on faith in the right Person.
  3. Is it Biblical? This question doesn’t allow laziness. We can’t simply point to a tacked-on Bible verse and call a teaching good. We have to ask if Scripture is being correctly interpreted. We have to watch for verses taken out of context. If the way a verse is used doesn’t fit with what the rest of the Bible teaches, it’s not being used correctly. In order to recognize whether a teaching is Biblical, we have to know what the Bible actually says. When we have trouble understanding passages, we can seek help from trusted Christians, read reputable commentaries, and check time-honored catechisms, creeds, or confessions. We should always pray for God’s help in discerning the truth.

How should we proceed when someone’s teaching fails the test? If the source is a book/movie/blog/radio program, etc., we can’t allow it in our homes, no matter how popular it is with our friends or family. If the false teaching comes from a teacher in our church, we should go to that person and respectfully present our concerns. Maybe we misunderstood what he/she said. Maybe the person will correct his/her false understanding. If the person refuses, we must bring the issue before other church leaders. If that doesn’t work, we must seek a different church–one where the truth is proclaimed.

Above all, we can’t give up. Even if we get it wrong sometimes, we’re commanded to test the spirits. We must use the tools God has provided…and get testing.