discipline

Proverbs 26:1-16

Today’s reading is Proverbs 26:1-16.

Self-discipline is a character quality. It is the ability to do things that are necessary or required ore productive when you don’t feel like doing them. Someone else defined it as doing what you don’t want to do in order to get a result that you do want to get.

Self-discipline does not come naturally in every area of life for us. You may be painfully aware of some areas where you are not as disciplined as you want to be or should be, but there are some areas where you are very disciplined, but you just don’t think about it. If you brush your teeth every day, twice a day, you have self-discipline in that area.

But there is probably at least one area in your life that is suffering from a lack of self-discipline. Verses 13-16 in today’s reading describe the opposite of self-discipline which is laziness. A “sluggard” is another word for a lazy person. What is he like?

  • He makes up crazy excuses for his lack of action. Verse 13: “a fierce lion is roaming the streets!”
  • He moves a lot, but only within his comfort zone. Verse 14 says he turns on his bed like a door turns on its hinges. That describes constant movement but only in the horizontal position. Sometimes we do a lot for our own comfort when we should be doing the uncomfortable--but much more productive--thing.
  • He quits halfway through a productive project. Verse 15 says that he puts food on his fork, but never moves it to his mouth. This is like getting your paycheck but being to lazy to take it to the bank and cash it. The benefit is right there, but it requires a little effort to receive it. The sluggard--the undisciplined person--can’t be bothered.
  • He thinks he’s got all the answers. Seven wise people can all give him the same bit of great advice, but the undisciplined person thinks he has better ideas.

Do you see any of these qualities in your life in areas where you know discipline is lacking? Why do we act this way? Often it is about fear. We fear putting in effort and having the project fail anyway, so we make excuses, stay in our comfort zone, quit doing productive things just before the productivity benefit shows up, and refuse skillful advice.

Living a self-disciplined life requires faith. It requires believing that God has structured the world in ways that reward productive behavior. Could it be that your laziness in one or more area of life is really an expression of unbelief? God has promised that a person reaps what he sows and you see it everyday in the corn fields that surround our church building and are throughout our community. Don’t let laziness and unbelief rob you of the blessings and benefits of disciplined work. God will reward effort that is invested in productive things.

Colossians 2

oday’s reading is Colossians 2.

The church at Colossae that received this letter was not started by Paul. Colossians 1:7 plainly states that the people who received this letter from Paul had received the gospel from “... Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf.” As we read yesterday in chapter 1, Paul was thankful and encouraged by the faith of these Colossians. Now, here in chapter 2, he assured them that he was “contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.” Though they were not churches he had founded, Paul was concerned for their spiritual growth and health (vv. 2-4). Then, in verse 5, he wrote, “I... delight to see how disciplined you are....” That phrase, “how disciplined you are” is kind of unexpected. The rest of the verse, “and how firm your faith in Christ is,” is exactly like something we’d expect Paul to write. But what did he mean by, “how disciplined you are”?

Let’s start with the word “disciplined.” Discipline means training. When you discipline your children, you are not (or shouldn’t be) punishing them for being bad; you should be teaching them that doing wrong is harmful and doing right is better. So, when Paul said, “I... delight to see how disciplined you are” he is referring to the training they had received from Epaphras (again, 1:7). Epaphras not only told them that Christ died for their sins, he taught them what it meant to live in obedience to Christ and he expected them to show obedience to Christ in their daily decisions and lives. This was and is Christ’s goal for every Christian. He commanded his apostles to “Go make disciples” (Matt 28:19) and to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt 28:20). Epaphras not only obeyed the “make disciples” part, he obeyed the “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” part of Matthew 28:19-20. Paul was happy to hear how these believers were growing in that way spiritually.

Still, threats to their faith were lurking around. False ideas about spirituality were gaining a hearing among the believers in Colossae. That’s why in verse 2 he said that he wanted everyone to “know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.” It’s also why he said, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Everything they and we need spiritually is in Christ. There is no need to look to Judaism or to pagan religions. God has given us everything we need in the church. What we need to put these growth resources to work in our lives is discipline. Discipline is a form of self-control that enables a person to make progress in the Christian life. Discipline is what calls us to form daily spiritual habits--Bible reading and prayer at the least--that will nourish our faith and stimulate our growth. The fact that you’re reading this devotional probably indicates that you’ve developed the discipline of reading the scripture daily. That’s great! But, also, each believer should discipline him or herself to pray everyday, asking God to keep purifying them even more.

Grace and discipline are not enemies; instead, discipline is an expression of grace and an application of the grace we received in salvation. Without grace, we could never discipline ourselves just to become more godly but, since “all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Christ” (v. 3) we can use God’s grace to teach us to be more holy and Christlike. So think about an area of your life where you need to become more holy and Chrislike. What kinds of self-discipline should you use by grace to become a godly man or woman?

1 Corinthians 5

Today the reading schedule invites us to read 1 Corinthians 5

This short chapter discusses the difficult subject of church discipline. The occasion for the Corinthians was a man in their church who was committing adultery with his father’s wife (v. 1). The fact that she is not called his mother probably means that she is a step-mother to the man. Regardless, Paul was appalled (no pun intended though enjoyed) both that someone who claimed to be a believer would do this (v. 1) and that the Corinthian church tolerated this sin in their church family (v. 2). In fact, “tolerated” may be too mild a term; the phrase, “and you are proud” indicates that the Corinthians celebrated this sin. It would be nice to know more about what Paul was suggesting. Maybe the Corinthians saw their tolerance of this sin as some advanced display of grace? Regardless, Paul called on the church to remove this man from the church through church discipline as we saw in the phrase, “put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this” (v. 2b). What, then, does this passage teach us about church discipline?

First, that church discipline is public. Verse 4 told the Corinthians to handle this matter, “when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present” (v. 4). That phrase is speaking of a public gathering of the church, not a private meeting or a letter. When someone is removed from church membership through discipline, all the other members of the church should know of his removal and why he was removed.

Second, that church discipline is for the spiritual good of the person placed under discipline. Verse 5b describes the purpose of this act with this phrase, “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” Remember that no one should be disciplined from the church until they have been confronted with their sin and given the opportunity to repent. A repentant believer is not removed from the church because he is responding to sin the way that a Christian should. But a person who will not repent when their sin is addressed is acting like an unbeliever. Paul is very concerned that the man described in 1 Corinthians 5 will go to hell because his open practice of sin is not consistent with the life of a believer. A main goal of removing him publicly is to shake him out of the false confidence of salvation he has so that he will repent of his sin like a believer should or turn to Christ genuinely for salvation.

Third, that church discipline is for the good of the church, too. Verses 6-8 compares sin to yeast (leaven). A little bit of yeast expands throughout baking dough to make the resulting bread soft and cause it to rise. The image is that the yeast grows to affect the whole loaf; likewise, sin unaddressed in the church also grows and expands until it pervades the entire body. Church discipline, then, removes the sin by disassociating the church from the person under discipline. While the people in the church might still see this man around, they are no longer to regard him as a brother in Christ who is growing in his faith. This has a sobering affect on the rest of the congregation, showing them that sin will not be tolerated in the body of Christ.

Church discipline is always a difficult thing, stressful for everyone involved. It is like surgery for the body of Christ. A surgeon wounds your physical body in order to remove or repair something that is affecting your health in the long term. Church discipline, likewise, is painful to the body, but God uses it to bring long-term health and healing to the body of Christ.

Hebrews 12

Today we’re reading Hebrews 12.

The point of yesterday’s “Hall of Faith” chapter was not to exalt believers of the past. It was to encourage us to keep following God, just as they did, even when it is painful, difficult, and costly. Verse 1 here in Hebrews 12 draws the experience of the believers in chapter 11 to our life when it says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” But, just so we don’t get our attention diverted to one of these great believers or to anyone else, the author of Hebrews wrote, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.... Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (vv. 2-3). When we focus on the cost of discipleship to us or to others, it is easy to get discouraged. When we focus on Jesus and all he endured and accomplished for us, it gives us strength to keep going.

No one else on earth will ever suffer as much for Christ as Christ himself suffered for us. Re-read that sentence. It’s powerful!

And, no matter how much you have suffered in this life, the author of Hebrews reminds us that, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (v. 4). The rest of chapter 11 encourages us to remember that many of our trials in this life are God’s work of discipline (vv. 5-13), to fight sin in our lives so that we will become holy like God is (vv. 14-17), and to remember that our experience of God is not fearful like it was for the ancient Jews leaving Egypt (vv. 18-21) but joyful because of all that God has done for us in Christ (vv. 22-24). Given all that God has done for us already and all that he promises for us in his future kingdom (vv. 28-29), the author of Hebrews urges us to listen to God’s word (vv. 25-27), to be thankful and worship God with awe (v. 28). I don’t know what struggles you are facing in the circumstances of your life today, but don’t quit on God; turn to Jesus and “consider him” for the strength you need to keep trusting and obeying the Lord.

1 Chronicles 18, James 5, Jonah 2, Luke 7

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 18, James 5, Jonah 2, Luke 7. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Jonah 2.

Jonah seems like such a rare person--a disobedient prophet. Surely all the prophets struggled with disobedience in their everyday lives as all believers do. Jonah’s disobedience, however, was disobedience to be the prophet God commanded him to be. He refused to go where God commanded him to go because he did not want to deliver the message God wanted him to deliver. 

What is often misunderstood about Jonah, however, is the reason for the fish that swallowed him. This passage is sometimes taught as if the fish was God’s judgment, God’s dungeon to punish Jonah. The truth is that the fish saved Jonah’s life. Verses 5-6 describe a man who was drowning until “...you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit (v. 6c). And why did God do this? Because Jonah was repentant: “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple” (v. 7). 

The fish was an unpleasant place to be, I’m sure. It was certainly part of God’s discipline in Jonah’s life. God’s discipline is never “pleasant at the time, but painful” (Heb 12:11). Yet those painful, unpleasant times save us from the self-destruction of our sins. When God allows you to drown in your own sin but saves you through his discipline, the proper response is the one Jonah brought: “I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” This is a good word for us as we prepare to give thanks tomorrow.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Samuel 27, 1 Corinthians 8, Ezekiel 6, Psalm 44

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Samuel 27, 1 Corinthians 8, Ezekiel 6, Psalm 44. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Ezekiel 6.

One of God’s greatest goals for Israel was to proclaim his glory through their greatness. If Israel had obeyed God’s laws and worshipped him wholeheartedly, God promised abundance to them—long lives, plenty of healthy children, bumper crops, and material prosperity. These promises had multiple purposes such as (a) to bless and benefit his people (b) to give them tangible incentives for doing what was right and (c) to demonstrate to the idolatrous nations around them that there is only one true God—YHWH, the God of Israel.

God knew well that humanity was infected with depravity and were incapable of keeping his laws without an infusion of new spiritual life that we call regeneration. In every generation God regenerated some Israelites. They loved him, obeyed his laws, worshipped him from the heart, and enjoyed some of the benefits of his promises, but most of the people lived in sinful rebellion against him. Although God sent judges and prophets and even some godly kings to provide them with spiritual leadership, most of Israel’s history was dominated by spiritual and moral failure generation after generation.

So what of God, then? If God’s goal was to make himself famous through the obedience of Israel and his consequent blessings to them, what did Israel’s failures teach about God?

Ezekiel 6 contains the answer. Remember that not only did God’s law (through Moses) spell out the blessings of obedience; it also spelled out the consequences of disobedience. Just as God promised blessing and prosperity to his people if they served him and obeyed him, he also promised judgment and exile to them if they rejected him and disobeyed him. In Ezekiel 6, the Lord’s word through the prophet explained to the people in exile all of the destruction and death that would happen in their beloved homeland (vv. 2-7a). The reason: “…you will know that I am the Lord.”

Yet God was never fully going to abandon his promises. In God’s grace, some would be saved from the destruction that their sins deserved. Verses 8-9 describe what will happen to them; namely, they will be taken captive and will suffer but in their suffering they “will remember me” (v. 9a), “…will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices. And they will know that I am the Lord” (vv. 9c-10). 

Have you ever thought that the painful events in your life actually prove both the existence of God and of his love for you? If you’ve sinned and suffered the consequences for it (and who among us hasn’t?), then your own experience proves the teaching of God’s word that a person reaps what he sows. If you’ve ever experienced the Lord’s discipline in your life that corrected you from a sinful path and brought you back to obedience, then you know that the Lord loves you because “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Prov 3:11-12, Heb 12:6). God’s people needed a painful lesson in God’s faithfulness to prepare them to deliver Christ into the world. Though most of them were in unbelief when Christ came to the world, and most live in that unbelief even today, God will still make good on his promises for Israel in the kingdom of Christ. Until then, see how the struggles that Israel had historically were unprecedented and difficult, yet God did not allow his people to be permanently extinguished from the earth. All of this is a testimony to the existence and power of God. So, since we know him by faith and have the regeneration that most of Israel lacked, let’s take his word seriously and live obedient lives to it.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Samuel 4, Romans 4, Jeremiah 42, Psalm 18

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Samuel 4, Romans 4, Jeremiah 42, Psalm 18.  Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 1 Samuel 4.

This passage records one of the darkest days in Israel’s history. Not only did God’s people lose in battle to the Philistines, they lost the Ark of the Covenant, the physical symbol of God’s presence with his people. And why did they lose it? Because they treated it as a good luck charm, a super-weapon of mass destruction rather than what it was intended to be—a place where atonement would be made for the people of God.

What was a terrible day for Israel nationally was also a horrible day for Eli and his family personally. Just as God had prophesied to Eli through the prophet in 1 Samuel 2:30-34, Eli’s family was cut out of the priesthood and his two sons died on the same day. Just as God had reaffirmed his prophecy through Samuel in chapter 3, so it happened here in 1 Samuel 4. Furthermore, the wife of Phinehas also died giving birth to their son, leaving the boy orphaned. 

This is why we should respond in repentance when God speaks to us through is word about our sin. If we refuse to turn at God’s rebuke, he will bring correction into our lives. 

This is also why we should not treat our faith as a good luck charm. God did not save you and call you to follow him to be disregarded and disobeyed for most of your life, then brought out to fix your life when things go badly. Instead, he saved us and called us so that we would bow before him in worship and honor, not only pleasing him with our prayers and our praise, but with a life of obedience to his word. It is easy for us to act like practical atheists, affirming God with our mouths, but disregarding his word and his ways until trouble comes into our lives. Then, like a spare tire, we pull God out and ask for his help. God is gracious and does help us in our needs and trials, but that should be an outgrowth of lives that are devoted to him, not our fix-all when our sins have put us in jeopardy. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Judges 15, Acts 19, Jeremiah 28, Mark 14

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Judges 15, Acts 19, Jeremiah 28, Mark 14. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Jeremiah 28.

In Jeremiah 27, which we read yesterday, God commanded Jeremiah to develop a little object lesson for the kings of his era. He commanded Jeremiah to make a yoke and wear it around his neck (27:1-2), then to send a message to them urging them to submit voluntarily to the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar (vv. 3-12). Here in Jeremiah 28 a prophet named Hananiah confronted Jeremiah with a prophecy of his own. He spoke his words “in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and all the people” (v. 1) and told them that God would break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon within two years (vv. 3-4). He even removed the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it to emphasize the message (vv. 10-12). 

Jeremiah responded with an enthusiastic, “Amen!” (literally, v. 5). However, he warned Hananiah about making untrue prophecies (v. 9). With only two years or less for his prophecy to become true, his role as a prophet would either be validated or he would lose all credibility as a spokesman for God (v. 9). Later, God himself spoke to Jeremiah and sent him to warn Hananiah about the consequences of prophesying falsely in God’s name.  

Predicting that God will do something within a period of time where you will probably be alive is a bad idea. If it doesn’t happen, people will know that you are a fraud. Jeremiah, however, made a prophecy with an even shorter runway to fulfillment; he predicted that Hananiah would die within the year. The reason for this prediction was God’s judgment on him “because you have preached rebellion against the Lord.” Although Hananiah's word was rosy and optimistic and encouraged people’s hearts, it was, in fact, urging them to rebel against the Lord instead of obediently following the word that came through Jeremiah. God honored his true prophet, Jeremiah, by causing his prophecy to come to pass: “ In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.” Hananiah didn’t make it two months (see v. 1) before God vindicated Jeremiah and discredited him.

God does not seem to bring such swift and clear punishment against those who speak lies in his name today. Why? Because God is merciful to them. In fact, that was the point of Jeremiah’s prophecy to Hananiah. The reason he was told that his death was approaching was so that he could repent. Had he repented, God would likely have let him live for many more years. This is always why God’s word warns us—to lead us to repentance. While disobedience to God’s commands may not lead to premature death, there are always painful consequences to sin. Let’s consider this when we are convicted of sin in our lives. It is unwise and unsafe to ignore the confrontations and warnings of the Lord. Conviction of sin is for our good; let’s welcome it and respond to it in repentance for God’s glory and our good (see Heb 12:4-11, esp. verses 10-11). 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 25, Psalm 68, Isaiah 15, 1 Peter 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 25, Psalm 68, Isaiah 15, 1 Peter 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Numbers 25.

With God as their Lord, Israel was like a military freight train—an unstoppable army that would blast through any nation that opposed her or lived in her land. Way back in Numbers 22, the king of Moab, “Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites” (Num 22:2-3). For the past several chapters in Numbers we have been reading about how the king of Moab tried to stop this freight train from plowing through his kingdom. His strategy was to entice Balaam to call down a curse on Israel. It is unclear whether Balaam was a true prophet and non-Jewish worshipper of God or a false prophet that God decided to use in this case but, whichever it was, God was clearly speaking through Balaam. Although Balak king of Moab was looking for someone to curse Israel, all Balaam did was pronounce prophetic blessings on God’s people. This angered Balak (24:10-11) and, at the end of yesterday’s reading in Numbers 24, these two men ended their collaboration and Balaam returned to his home (Num 24:25). 

Here in Numbers 25, however, we see, unexpectedly, a curse fall on Israel. It was not a curse brought on supernaturally by God by a prophetic utterance. Instead, it was brought on them by their own disobedience to God’s commands. God had preserved Israel as a separate nation in Egypt and kept them from intermarrying with the Egyptians which would cause them to lose their distinct national identity. God gave them all kinds of laws many of which were non-moral but designed to keep Israel worshipping the true God and  to keep them distinct and separate from their neighbors. But, despite God’s commands not to worship other gods and not to commit adultery, here in Numbers 25 God’s people forsake God’s commands and engage in idolatry and adultery with the Moabites. Passages such as Revelation 2:14 (and others) tell us what Numbers does not—that although he could not prophetically curse God’s people, Balaam taught the Moabites how to create a curse organically by sinning against God in adultery and idolatry. Because they disobeyed God’s word, which was designed to bless them, “the Lord’s anger burned against them” (v. 3). The rest of chapter 25 describes the devastation that God’s punishment brought on his people. 

Israel’s experience in this passage should sober us and warn us. We ask for God’s blessings in our lives and God has blessed us immensely in Christ. While the world and the devil would love to see us fall under the curse of God’s judgment, God’s promises in Christ stand between us and their desire to harm us. What removes God’s blessings in our lives and causes us to miss all he wants for us to have in Christ is our own choices to sin against God’s word. Remember James 4:4, which we read last week: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Sin is so damaging in so many ways but one of them that we should keep in mind is how it cuts us off from God’s blessings and makes us an object of his displeasure. Because Christ bore the wrath for our sins, we don’t ever need to fear being lost and becoming God’s enemies in the sense of losing our salvation. But when we sin, we do lose the power of God and his blessings in our lives and, instead, expose ourselves to the consequences that are embedded automatically in many sins. Our worship and daily exposure to God’s word is designed by our Lord to protect us from the deceitfulness of sin so that we can live in God’s power and enjoy his blessings in our lives.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Leviticus 9, Psalm 10, Proverbs 24, 1 Thessalonians 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 9, Psalm 10, Proverbs 24, 1 Thessalonians 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Proverbs 24.

One great temptation people face is the temptation to choose the most comfortable option. Today's reading gives us two Proverbs that caution is against this easy choice. The first proverb is 24:27: "Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house."  I visualize this piece of wisdom going from Solomon to his newlywed son. As the young couple begins to embark on life together, they dream of having a home of their own. Using the property subdivided by his father, the young couple faces a choice: spend their time and whatever money they have building a comfortable starter home on their new land or live with ma and pa for a while as they work the soil, plant the crops, and tend to the weeds. After the process of starting their farm has begun and the growth of the crops looks promising for their first harvest, then they can start working on a home of their own. 

No one really wants to live with their parents and it's more fun to build a house than to plant a field. But the field will produce income. It will get you started in life financially. It will provide for you in the future. If you build the home first it will give you your independence and a comfortable start to your life as an adult, but it will also drain your finances and delay that first harvest. It is far wiser to put productivity over comfort in the short term so that you can be more comfortable in the future but that takes a disciplined approach to life that probably does not come naturally to most people. 

In a similar way, verses 30-34 describe the ease of laziness. If a farmer skips one day of planting, is the crop ruined? No. But it is easy to let one day off become one week off; our legitimate need for rest can snowball (v. 33). We feel as if we’ll be able to work better tomorrow if we rest up today. That may be true; it may also be a way of rationalizing our procrastination. 
I lived most of my childhood as a procrastinator. I came home from school and told myself I would do homework or study for my test after I ate a snack. Oh, but Scooby Doo is on, so I’ll watch that just to relax for a few minutes. It’s going to be dinner time soon so I’ll get busy after that. You get the idea. I created habits of laziness in my life. By the time I was in seminary, I was turning in papers at the last minute after an all-nighter. I got decent grades but in my heart I knew I wasn’t doing my best work or getting the most out of the opportunities God had given to me. Eventually I learned to build some disciplined habits, but even today if I deviate from those habits, the old sin of procrastination is ready to slither back into my life.

But what does any of this have to do with God? These are wise bits of knowledge and helpful for productivity but couldn’t we have learned them from somewhere else? Why did God encode them into his holy word? One answer is that these productivity problems—seeking the easy and comfortable way and allowing laziness and procrastination to take over—are spiritual problems. They are manifestation of a heart that wants to disobey God. God created the world to respond to the diligent work of humanity. He gave us everything we need to provide for ourselves but we have to obey his laws of sowing and reaping, of prioritizing investment over consumption. Our faith in Christ should lead us toward a productive life because we have faith in his commands and know that when we obey his commands and work with diligence God will provide and bless us.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Exodus 36, John 15, Proverbs 12, Ephesians 5

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 36, John 15, Proverbs 12, Ephesians 5. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Proverbs 12.

Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge….” There are two kinds of discipline: self-imposed discipline and authority-imposed discipline. Solomon has the latter in mind, as we’ll see in the 2nd line of the verse, but both are sources of knowledge. A student who wants to master a subject will discipline herself to study. A musician who wants to know music will discipline himself to practice his instrument and learn music theory. A Christian who wants to know God’s word will discipline himself or herself to read God’s word each day as well as think about it and even study it. One of the keys to knowledge is self-mastery. It requires us to discipline ourselves. I recently heard an excellent definition of discipline: “to do what you don’t want to do in order to get a result that you want to get.” It's tough to do but essential for learning "the easy way."

Then there's "the hard way," namely, the second kind of discipline, the kind imposed on us by an authority outside of us. This is the one Solomon has in mind here in Proverbs 12:1. We see this in the latter half of the verse which says, “… but whoever hates correction is stupid.” The word “correction” in the second half of the verse echoes the word “discipline” in the first half of the verse. This indicates the contrast between two types of people who both receive correction / discipline from an authority. The person who receives (“loves”) discipline is the one who learns. She is the one who grows when corrected because she receives the correction and changes her ways. By contrast, the person who can’t stand to be corrected, who would do anything to avoid looking bad, is the one who is “stupid.” That is not an assault on the intelligence of the person who refuses correction; instead, it is a description of the state that person stays in from refusing to receive correction. He is not “stupid” because he has low IQ; he is stupid because he never learns when an authority tries to correct him.

NOBODY “loves discipline” in the sense that he or she receives pleasure from having their ignorance or sin exposed. It is always embarrassing to be called out for not knowing something you should know or for doing something wrong. But we need to learn that discipline is an essential part of the learning process. If we can swallow our pride and really listen to the correction, we can grow wiser and stronger morally. But if we are so eager to protect our ego at all costs that we will not receive correction, then we remain in a state of ignorance. That is foolishness. So it takes humility to learn because receiving correction requires a humble heart. One of my favorite artists, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, once said, “The humble improve.” At least, he said that according to this Starbucks cup I once drank from in 2006:

And, he’s right. Of course, the reason that the humble improve is that they can take criticism from a wise teacher and make changes. This is true in all of life:

  • You won’t get smarter if you don’t let the teacher find and fill in the gaps where you are ignorant.
  • You won’t get wiser unless you change your ways when your foolishness is exposed. And,
  • you won’t become more like Christ if you don’t allow God to discipline the sin from your life so that godliness can replace it.

Remember, too, when God does allow you to be disciplined, it is the clearest indication that you belong to him by faith. Listen to the words of Hebrews 12:5-11:

“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.”

If you’ve been humbled recently, it is natural to feel wounded. But don’t let the negative feeling of woundedness keep you from growing. If God has been working in your life by painfully bringing discipline on you, remember that it is proof that you belong to him (Heb 12:8). So, welcome God’s work in your life as an act of love not an expression of anger or hatred. After all, "the humble improve."

Care to share a time when you were disciplined—either by God or some other authority figure? Leave a comment. Or, share your thoughts on Proverbs 12 or any of the other passages we’ve read today: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.