Motivation for Discipline – Proverbs 13:24

Spoiled Children Are Like Spoiled Food – They Leave A Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Worldly Wisdom

Everyone seems to have a word of wisdom.  Time-honored advice that has worked for them, and others who passed it on to them.  Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge for the betterment of mankind.  And the world, the flesh, and the devil seem to constantly pour out their versions of wisdom.

With children, wisdom from the world and the devil appears to be hands-off parenting.  “Be their friend; give their opinions, no matter how bizarre, the same weight as your own, and let them guide the way; after all, they are the future!”

The world does so at their own peril.  For children learn by observing and doing what pleases them.  The implied morality that human beings supposedly have – that we are inherently good – is believed and embraced.  And any correction to the natural learning cycle of children is no longer the imparting of wisdom, but rather considered an impediment and abuse.  After all, should not the child be able to decide for itself how it should think, act, and respond to the world?

Learning Love

The first fallacy of hands-off child-raising is that children, by their very “innocent nature”, implicitly know love and how to love.  But observe any child left to his/her own devices, and watch just how manipulative, conniving, scheming, self-centered, self-absorbed the child will become.  Rather than Timmy on the classic “Lassie” TV show, the child instead begins to resemble Damian in “The Omen“.

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Children need training.  They need to both be trained through instruction and correction, as well as having a solid example of behavior in the form of character that is congruent with what is being said.  Children are natural hypocrisy detectors.  Their “radar” is tuned to check what they hear against what they observe.

Love does not come naturally.  It makes no sense to love anyone else if there is no direct benefit to yourself.  Self-preservation and self-fulfillment are the goals of the untrained, undisciplined mind.  Even in adulthood, the world behaves in the same way:

  • Get as much of the pie as you can, because no one will help you out
  • Be concerned with yourself first and everyone else later (if it is convenient for you and your plans)
  • The strong should rule over the weak

Godly love does none of these things.  Godly (agape) love is

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Does not envy
  • Does not boast
  • Is not proud
  • Is not rude
  • Does not insist on its own way
  • Does not rejoice at wrongdoing
  • Rejoices with the Truth
  • Bears all things
  • Believes all things
  • Hopes all things
  • Endures all things
  • Doesn’t fail

Children, left to their own devices, will not embrace this type of character.  They must be taught character.  The first part of learning is accepting the correct role of authority in one’s life

Accepting Authority

Correction helps us to accept the rightful authority over our lives.

An old friend of mine had a nephew whose father was wild.  In a stunning, emotional scene where the child’s mother was allowing the father to see his son one last time (she had won full parental responsibility and the court ruled that the father would no longer have any rights [or financial obligations] towards the child), the father’s parting words to his son were astounding.  He basically said, “Son, you don’t have to listen to anyone, not even me.  Be your own man.”  His parting words were calculated to do the maximum damage that he could so that the child’s mother would have the most difficult time raising him up.

Years later, the uncle of that child and two of his friends took this child on their annual pilgrimage to a famous amusement park.  There were three sets of hawk-eyes trained on that young man, now just a little before the teenage span of his life.  Rather than hold the young man’s hand (and embarrass him in front of strangers), these three men kept a watchful eye on the young man.  The child, who had never had the opportunity to visit this amusement park, was in wonder at all of the sights before him.  The three men watching him were diligent in keeping their eyes on this child.

About three hours into the first day of this weekend-long trip, some sound caught the attention of all three men.  They looked away for a mere second or two.  But that was all that was needed.  The child, who was watching the men carefully, realizing his opportunity to be free from the control and authority of these men, bolted into the thick crowds.  Almost an hour later, the young man was found, greatly enjoying the freedom from oversight by those who had been placed in authority over him, unaware of the dangers that his “dash to freedom” placed him in.  Because this young man had the tendency to bolt like this, corrective action needed to be taken.  In this case, the weekend-long trip was cut short, as the risk was just too great.

When we refuse to accept the rightful authority of the ones who have been placed in charge over us (not only men, but also God), we set ourselves up for the opportunity to be placed in a situation where the outcome is less than desirable.  And like the young man’s story above, not every “dash to freedom” results in dire consequences.  But we fail to recognize the danger that we are in, because we are unable to see every aspect of life as it unfolds around us.

Readying for Responsibility

Correction readies us for greater responsibility.  As we accept correction of those who are in lawful authority over us, we begin to be prepared for greater responsibility.  Just as you wouldn’t give the keys of the $500K Ferrari to the 14-year-old wild-child, neither will God give us responsibility when we are not ready.

When God calls us, He then equips us.  But this is after careful preparation:

  • Joseph was prepared as a slave for more than a decade before God called him to save the entire world from famine
  • Moses was prepared for forty years as shepherd before God called him to shepherd his people into the promised land
  • The twelve disciples of Christ were prepared for three years (including Paul, who had his own three-year preparation with Christ in the desert before being released) by Jesus Christ Himself.

We need to be open to correction in order to grow and be prepared for greater responsibility.

Careful Correction

The manner of correction is just as important as its intensity and timing.  The strong-willed child will defiantly say, “I would rather DIE than have to submit to you!”  And the child is truly fully prepared to make good on that statement (it is NOT an idle threat).  What to do?  How do you prepare a child such as this so that they will be ready to be released from your care and supervision and then solely under the supervision of Almighty God?

God Himself will provide the manner, attitude, words, and consequences for training such a child if we allow Him to and invite Him to do so.  Some children appear completely compliant.  Those are the dangerous ones.  They seem OK, but what is really going on inside?  Are they compliant to get their way, or are they compliant because they desire to accept the authority over them?

God sees our hearts as they truly are.  And He is more than capable of applying the “rod of correction” to each of us in such a way that we will not soon forget it.  What works for you wouldn’t necessarily have any impact on me.  And what works on me might just irritate and turn you away from God rather than have the desired effect.

In any case, correction is necessary, for if we are permitted to continue on in our ways, we will surely pass the point where our consciences are seared, and we won’t even realize the deep depths of darkness that our lives slip quietly into until the terrible moment when circumstances reveal the true depravity of our souls.

Properly Prepared

God is the one who knows best how to guide, correct, and instruct each and every one of us at any age or stage in our lives.  We need to go before Him to receive instruction and correction.   The hyper-grace community of believers may be just as surprised as the legalists when they go before Almighty God saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?”  And our Lord Jesus Christ will reply, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

God disciplines us as His childrenAnyone who is not disciplined by God is NOT one of His.  Surely, if God disciplines us, should we not then discipline our children as well?  And what then shall we say of our motivation behind discipline?  Is it truly “child abuse”, as culture tell us, or is it loving care as we use it as a preparatory method for bringing about the fruit of righteousness?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I accept discipline properly?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may Your holy name be praised.  Thank You for disciplining me so that I would not bring dishonor to Your name.  Thank You for showing me, through Your discipline, that I am one of Yours.  Thank You for the opportunity to grow in truth and righteousness.  Thank You for the opportunity to bear fruit in accordance with righteousness rather than selfishness.  Thank You, Father, for Your many lessons, painful as they are.  And I pray, Lord God Almighty, that should I be in the position of administering these lessons to others in a parental, governmental, judicial, and/or business environment, that You would guide me as to the best way to do so.  Help me to adhere to Your word, and to reject culture where culture conflicts with the truth.  Give me courage, resources, and assistance where necessary to defend Your tried and true methods against the rebellion of society towards You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Leadership of God – 1 Timothy 3:8-13

It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.

8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Requirements of Responsibility

The body of Christ, now as well as then, needs capable leaders and leaders-in-training to ensure that the body is orderly, well-kept, and that their needs are met.  Before anyone should be put into a position of leadership, they should first be examined to see if they are up to the challenge.  Leadership exacts a toll on people.  And to the extent that leaders allow themselves to be crucified – to submit to the task of servant-hood and apply themselves to fulfilling their responsibilities well – will determine the success or failure of their leadership.

Paul lays out the expanded character requirements of Deacons here.  It is important to note that all of these requirements should be the core foundational principles of EVERY Christian man and woman.  We should ALL be found worthy to be chosen for roles of leadership.  Jesus is our model; He led the disciples, and leads us now.  How much more should we try to emulate Him so that we can be useful in the Kingdom of God?

Capable Character

Paul lists several important character traits that the Deacons should exhibit prior to even being considered for appointment to this office:

  • Worthy of Respect
    • When leaders act responsibly and show themselves devoted to the tasks at hand, placing a special emphasis on the needs of those being led, they are worthy of respect.  When they abuse their office, or the responsibilities entrusted to them, they are no longer worthy of that respect.  In that case, they should be relieved of duty, confronted, and be restored once the issue has been addressed and they have once again shown that they are steadfast in their walk with God and worthy of respect.
  • Sincerity
    • Sincerity does not preclude hilarity.  A person can be jovial, but should be very serious when it comes to ensuring that their responsibilities are properly and promptly executed.  They should be able to set aside frivolity and indifference so that they can be clearly seen to understand the gravity of their calling, and be trusted to execute their responsibilities in such a way that any who watch will not have any reason to lay a charge against them.
  • Sober-Minded
    • Many have indicated that this means that a Deacon cannot drink alcohol.  In leadership, it is very important that the leader emulate the character that they wish to see in those whom they are leading.  It is imperative that this example be exemplary.  Imagine what a Deacon would have to say if they were called just after dinner and a glass or two of wine, to come out to the church to help with some immediate needs, or provide counsel to a member of the flock over the phone.  Wine addles the brain.  It is best to be sober-minded at all times, if possible.  While not prohibited, great thought should be given when contemplating the consumption of alcohol both for timing as well as amount.
  • Financially Content
    • The candidate should be able to put into practice the wisdom that God has provided to them concerning financial matters as instructed in the Bible.  This includes giving to the ministry of the church, financial planning, and with payment of all financial obligations.  There may be times that the candidate has unusual circumstances – one of the leading causes of bankruptcy is medical debt.  These should be taken into consideration.  The person should not desire to pursue dishonest gain, be in a state of greed, or envious of the material success of others.  If a person is faithful in the little things of life, they will be faithful in the big things of life.
  • Biblical Understanding
    • This requirement cannot be emphasized too greatly.  The Deacon, in the role of meeting the needs of the body, needs to have a firm understanding of God’s Word.  Not only should they have a firm understanding, they should have a great love of the Word.  It is only when there is a great love of God’s Word that they are able to do what God has called them to do when leading God’s people.  Because the office of Deacon is often the training ground for Elders (both lay-persons and ministers of the Gospel), it is critical that they show a commitment to the Word of God, and demonstrate through their lives that the understanding that they have in their mind is shown by their actions, speech, and thoughts as seen by others.
  • A Clear Conscience
    • When they are properly demonstrating in their lives the truth of the Word of God, they will walk with a clear conscience, being able to test God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will in their lives.  This will further embolden them to walk more confidently with God.

If after demonstrating these characteristics, if there is nothing found against them, they should then be considered for the vital role of Deacon.

Women Welcome

But this role is not only for the men.  Women can also serve in this capacity.  Paul gives a few qualifications for women to be considered.  Because of the God-appointed roles of men and women by God, they will not have all of the specific requirements that men are required to display.  The qualities of character that women are to display in order to be considered for the office of Deaconess are:

  • Worthy of Respect
    • Deacons should be worthy of respect.  It is hard to follow a leader when they demonstrate through their words and actions that they are unworthy of respect.
  • Careful Speech
    • God has made women natural communicators.  Because of this, the enemy likes to take the strengths that God provides and twist them to malign the image-bearers of God and by implication, God Himself.  It is important that women who are to be considered for the position of Deaconess not engage in gossip, or accidentally (and especially not on purpose!)  divulge anything said to them in confidence as they meet the needs of the body.  They need to be above reproach in how they speak, and keep matters that are private from becoming public talk.
  • Temperate
    • God has provided women with a natural ability to harness their emotions for accurately judging situations (womanly intuition).  However, the enemy does like to twist the good things of God, and women may have a tendency to be overly emotional or take the statements of others to heart before they are carefully evaluated to see if they have any merit.  In this, it is a requirement that women are able to manage their emotions properly so as not to be compromised when these situations occur.  Steady leaders are easier to follow than moody ones…
  • Trustworthy in all things
    • As with all positions of leadership, it is absolutely vital that the person be trustworthy in all things.  If people are unable to trust their leaders, there will be a reduction in their ability to fully engage in the work at hand.  This undermines the credibility of the leader, and eventually, people will just ignore them.  When they are not longer trustworthy, they are no longer worthy of respect.  It is hard to lead when no one will listen to you.

Family Focus

In any organization, their needs to be a hierarchy for decision-making and, as a necessary part of that, accountability.  God has appointed men to be the head of the household, and women to be in an advisory role.   While this may seem sexist to our generation, it is not that men are superior and women and children are inferior, but there has to be a chain of command:

  1. Jesus Christ is the head of the organization of the family
  2. Men are the leaders who are (ultimately) responsible for making the decisions and (ultimately) accountable for the success or failure of the family organization.  Men are, as Christ, required to lay down their life for those he has been placed in charge.
  3. Women are in a very good position within the family organization – they (should) have great influence in the decisions that affect the family.  They are required to submit.  It has been said that submission is the willingness to duck so that God can throw a right cross at leadership when needed…
  4. Children are adults in training.  Treat them accordingly.

When a man is leading his household faithfully and under the control and guidance of the Holy Spirit, it should be easy for those under his leadership to not only willingly submit to his authority but to rejoice and be glad in the decisions that he makes, for they will be in everybody’s best (long-term, and not selfish) interests so that they align with God’s Word and God’s plan.

Firm Foundation

When a Deacon is leading a life full of the Spirit and in step with the Spirit, he/she will be gain a boldness in their walk – a boldness from the confidence of knowing that God is leading them, that God is sovereign, and is has everyone’s best interests (within the framework of God’s holy and perfect plan) at heart.  They will grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s Holy Word, as God reveals more to them so that they can be better servant-leaders.  This confidence will be in a humble attitude, and should encourage those who have entrusted these leaders to greater trust and confidence in their ability to provide leadership to them.

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I leading my life in such a way that I would be considered for a position of leadership?  And if I am in a position of leadership, am I leading my life in such a way that I am worthy of respect and above reproach?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to bear witness to the Truth.  Guide me in Your Truth, and help me to live a life worthy of respect and above reproach.  Help me to completely submit to You through Your Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  May my life be poured out to You as a drink offering.  May it honor and glorify Your Holy Name.  May it be in dedication to You and Your purposes.  And may my life be lived in such way that others will glorify Your Name, and be drawn to You.  Help me in the role that You have placed me in so that it may be carried out to its best and fullest extent.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Stewardship from God – 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Wealth is a Trap; The Wise Put Their Trust in God.

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Warning of Wealth

To those whom God has seen fit to provide much, much is required.  The provision of great wealth can cause people to being to trust in it rather than in God.  Their wealth is what they turn to when they have problems in life.  And wealth CAN extricate a person from many issues in this world.  Indeed, most people who have wealth trust not in God but in the security that they are well provided for.  Jesus said:

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Since God owns all of the silver and the gold, as well as the Earth, and everything in it and on it, He is able to provide for our every physical need as well as our spiritual and emotional needs.  The wealthy need to be careful to remember where their wealth truly comes from, lest they forget and attribute themselves as the source.

Sharing is Caring

God has trusted much with the wealthy, but with great privilege comes great responsibility:

But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Since everything belongs to God, we are merely stewards of it.  And the rich have been blessed greatly by God with material wealth.  They must judiciously use it to further the Kingdom of God, rather than to merely spend it on their own pleasures.

You can only do three things with wealth:

  • You can save it (or grow it into greater wealth)
  • You can spend it
  • You can give it away

In this passage, God indicates that part of the responsibility of wealth it to give it away.  The steward entrusted with wealth is required to be seeking God with all their heart to know what God’s will is for His wealth.  Whether it be charities, ministries, the indigent, or whatever God places upon their hearts, they are to be faithful in managing and administering the wealth entrusted to them.

Firm Foundation

When we are obedient to God, we are assured that we are laying up treasure in Heaven rather than treasure here on Earth, where moths and rust destroy.  For where our treasure is, there also is our heart.  Those who have been provided much must seek God for direction in how to manage what they have been provided.  ALL of us must do this, but the ones who have been provided much have a greater burden upon them for their increased responsibilities given to them by God.

Many people have said that they would not mind being given that kind of responsibility.  However, are they able to manage the little God has provided to them?  If not, what would they do with that much more responsibility and wealth?  We are each given what we are able to manage.  If we are faithful with little, we will be faithful with much.  Indeed, we should turn our attention to the giver of the gifts rather than the gifts themselves.  And pray for the rich, for they need much help to be put all things in balance.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we being faithful with what little we have been entrusted with?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the giver of all good gifts.  Thank You for providing me with what I have.  Give me direction, strength, and ability to manage all that has been provided so that it honors and glorifies You.  Help me to be free from envy when I have little, and to be free from pride when I have much.  You own everything, and I am merely a steward of it.  All that has been provided to me I dedicate to You for Your purposes.  Direct my paths and guide my ways that the outcome would be fruitful.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Stewardship with God – Ephesians 5:15-16

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

The great equalizer of man is time.  Everyone gets exactly 24 hours in a day (unless it is their time to give an accounting of themselves to God), and can manage that time any way they choose.  Like the parable of the bags of gold, God has given us various amounts of material wealth, and gifts as well to use for His purposes and to bring glory to His name.

These can be summarized as follows:

Time

  • Every second of every day, we choose how to apply ourselves.  Some watch TV for hours on end; others play video games;  some invest in their family;  some in their job; others in pursuits that bring them pleasure or to fulfill their obligations; some choose carousing and sleep.  Lastly, there are those that invest in God’s kingdom for God’s purposes during God’s timing.
  • We cannot ever get even a second of time back.  Once it is spent, whether for good purposes or not, it is spent; it becomes one less second that we have left in the life that God has provided to us.  Use your time wisely.

Talent

  • What gifts has God given you?  Are you a word-smith?  An artist?  A teacher?  An athlete?  A scientist?  A pastor?  God has given us all gifts that can be used to further His purposes, or squander on our own lives.  The Holy Spirit has also provided you with Spiritual Gifts.  What a tragedy when someone with a great gift refuses to use it!  Imaging the world today if Marie Curie chose to write limericks?  How about if Albert Einstein chose to play tiddlywinks?  Or, Christopher Columbus decided to make rock gardens?  What if Martin Luther chose to tan leather?  You have talents!  How you choose to use them, or not, is up to you…
  • For most people, working at a job – whether their own business or in the employ of someone else – is a daily need and responsibility.  God has provided you with talents that, when used for Him, will bring differing levels of wealth in compensation for the efforts applied, risks taken, and perceived value by others for your skills.  The Holy Spirit has placed within you special talents in addition to your other talents.  Find the one (or ones?) that give(s) you such great joy that you cannot wait to go to work!  Remember that the Sabbath was made for man – God intended for work to be so satisfying that we might forget to set aside some time to worship our creator!  Don’t believe culture – find what God has placed in you and live a more rewarding life!
  • Even if you are scrubbing toilets, do it with all your might as unto the Lord.  Others will notice your diligence, and will provide you with better opportunities to make them more money (if they are wise).

Treasure

  • Whether you inherited money, make it from working, get it from a charity, or receive it from the government, you have been entrusted with wealth.  Even if you have no money, the fruit of your labor is your treasure.  Be aware of what treasure you have, so that you can honor God with it.
  • Remember that money is merely a medium of exchange – it allows you to freely trade the fruit of your efforts for the efforts of others in goods and services.  Use it wisely.
  • If you don’t have money, barter your goods and services well.
  • Some people want to win the lottery.  Why?!?!  It came from the backs of the poor, the destitute, and math-challenged people looking for a quick fix to their financial woes.  Unless a person has experience in managing great wealth, they are more likely to abuse it, and end up worse once the money is gone than when they were before they received “the blessing”.  Who would want to have to give an accounting to God for what they did with it?

When we bring these three things – Time, Talent, and Treasure – into submission to God, our lives will begin to become more focused and effective.  God rewards faithfulness in stewardship with more responsibility.  And with more responsibility comes greater reward – not just worldly wealth, but treasure in heaven – when it is used for God’s purposes.

So, let’s ask the question:  How effectively am I managing the Time, Talent, and Treasure God has provided to me for His purposes?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we praise You for You are wonderful.  We thank You that You have seen fit to permit us the opportunity to work, and to use skills to create and flourish.  Father, we are humbled that You provide this knowing that we mess things up.  I pray that You will show me, Father, how I can better use these resources to bring glory to Your name.  Reveal in me the talents You have placed in me that will bring me joy when used in Your service.  Help me to make any adjustments in life to fulfill this calling that You have given me, and fill my heart with joy knowing that doing this pleases You.  Forgive me, Father, for I don’t like change, and uncertainty causes me anxiety.  Remove these things from my heart that I may  die to self, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus with complete abandon.  This I ask in the name of Your Perfect Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?