40 Days of Discipline


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40 Days of Discipline: Easter Sunday

Glory Hallelujah – He is risen!

While driving today, I listened to a National Public Radio program in Florida where individuals explained why they are atheists and why the Christian faith is futile.  As I listened, I was reminded why what we experienced over the last 40 days has to be about more than rituals. This is truly about life and death. There is a world that needs to see us living with resurrection power. The words of Paul in 1st Corinthians 15:17 came to mind,  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

Without the resurrection of our lord and savior Jesus Christ the atheists on the radio program would be right – our faith would be futile.  Praise be to God though, they are so wrong! Jesus is alive and because he lives believers “have life and life more abundantly”.

Let me end this year’s journey with the doxology from Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 40 – Focus on Jesus

Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. (John 5:25)

There is something about the suspense of Holy Saturday that is captivating. It is hard to imagine what it must have felt like to the followers of Jesus on that day. Was all lost? Had they pursued a futile cause? Did evil win?

Looking back we of course know the answer and we can learn tremendous lessons. Based on our consideration of the disciplines over the last 40 days I hope we have grown in our conviction that God can always be trusted and he is always victorious.

On Day 1 of our Journey we considered Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” As you have considered the disciplines over the last 40 days, have you tasted?  What is your verdict?  Remember, the Disciplines can’t save you but they will deepen your relationship with God. They are, therefore, worthy of your pursuit. Just as suspense filled the air on Holy Saturday, suspense fills the air for us. Will we continue to pursue these disciplines and deepen our love for God?

Whatever your personal circumstances are today, remember that Sunday came!  You may be going through challenges circumstances but remember it is just a comma.   The exclamation point is coming!  The stone was rolled away and the tomb is empty! God won – Satan lost! We are more than conquerors because the grave can’t contain Jesus. Don’t despair, don’t give up.  Even if you couldn’t keep up with the study of the Disciplines :-), that’s not a problem. You can go back and revisit the studies any time. Remember Philippians 1:6, “and being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

If you have taken this journey and you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior please don’t wait another day. Please contact us through our website: www.40daysofdiscipline.com.

“There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s vein and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains”

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 39 – Focus on Jesus

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

The importance of Good Friday can never be overstated. At its core, Good Friday is a statement of love and as a result the cross has become a powerful symbol. God’s love and grace were on full display and we must accept this unparalleled gift to be saved.

Any consideration of acts of discipline must be secondary to God’s grace, because we are not saved by works. However, I hope we have learned two important principles over the last 39 days:

  1. Love (God’s definition) is the most potent motivation for consistent practice of the disciplines;
  2. The practice of the disciplines help us to demonstrate and grow in our love for God and others.

 

Good Friday is a great day to reflect on the first principle, because it is not an exaggeration to say that Jesus, who is love, demonstrated all of the disciplines we studied on Good Friday. Were it not for the death of our saviour on the cross, the last 39 days we have spent focusing on the disciplines would have been futile. We love Him because He loved us first. In light of Calvary, Isn’t He deserving of our love? We can demonstrate and grow in our love for him by practicing the disciplines.
If you have limited time today, you can stop right here and just reflect on the amazing sacrifice of Jesus and the gratitude we should live out every day. If you do have a few more minutes, please take the time to read below how the disciplines were all manifested on Good Friday and listen to a great song.

  • Bible Study: Jesus quotes and fulfills prophecy on Good Friday – He validates the importance of studying the word of God. Note the words of Jesus in Luke 22:37 (which is a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12) – “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
  • Spiritual Warfare: In Luke 22:53 Jesus says, “But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”  Jesus always see things through spiritual eyes.
  • Prayer: In Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Even to the “end” Jesus is committed to prayer.
  • Fasting: Jesus refused to use the narcotics offered to dull the pain of the crucifixion. In Mark 15:23 we read, “Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.”
  • Worship: In Luke 22:42 Jesus said “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus was all about giving his Father glory.
  • Creation: Creation cried out on Good Friday. Mark 15:33 tells us, “At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.”  God’s creation speaks to us.
  • Fellowship: In John 19: 26-27 we read, When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
  • Counsel: Even in the midst of his torture, it is obvious that Jesus was still dispensing wise counsel to many (e.g., his disciples, his mother, the thief on the cross). I note though there was not a lot of dialogue with the religious leaders, and I am reminded of the dire consequence of not being prepared to listen to wise counsel.
  • Service: Every act of Jesus on Good Friday was an act of immense service to humanity. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
  • Stewardship: The fact that Jesus submitted to the will of His father on Good Friday is very obvious, so I will give two other people a shout out for their actions on the day. The two are, Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus who also demonstrated stewardship. John 19:40-41 reads, “Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.”

Mankind had never seen and will never see a greater act of love than the sacrifice on Calvary more than 2000 years ago. There really is no greater love. Have a blessed Good Friday.

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 38 – Focus on Jesus

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

All week long we have seen how much pressure was building during Holy Week. Well it only gets worse, and on Thursday the intensity is palpable. Let’s consider the following four events from the Thursday of Holy Week deeply and be amazed by our Lord and Saviour.

Event 1 (Discipline of Fellowship):
Even as Jesus headed towards the cross he craved Fellowship. Listen to what he says to his disciples on the day before he died.

And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (Luke 22:15)

When Jesus eagerly desires something we should really pay attention. How it must hurt our saviour when we casually blow off fellowship with him and other believers. Do we really crave fellowship with Jesus and other believers when the pressure is on?

Event 2 (Disciplines of Spiritual Warfare, Prayer, Service and Counsel):
There is an interaction between Jesus and Peter on Thursday that is packed with lessons. In one act I see Jesus modeling for us Spiritual Warfare, Prayer, Service and Counsel. He could have been totally consumed with the very dark hours to come but instead listen to our Saviour talking to Simon Peter.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31 – 32)

Do we use these disciplines in times of crisis and further do we see when our brothers and sisters are under spiritual attack (even when they can’t see it)? How much do we pray for each other?

Event 3 (Discipline of Service):
The Bible tells us in John13:3 that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God”. If I found out I was this powerful I might be looking for some praise and adulation. What does Jesus do? The Bible goes on to say in John 13:4, “so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.” Jesus got ready to serve, and by washing his disciples feet he left us with one of the most powerful images of service ever recorded in history.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13: 12-17)

Event 4 (Disciplines of Fasting and Praying):
Finally, look at the contrast between Jesus and the disciples in the depth of the crisis.

And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. (Luke 22:44-45)

Do we realize how much we need to pray and fast even when we don’t feel like it? When we don’t we fall into temptation. The disciples needed to pray and fast from sleep but they didn’t and we know the failure they exhibited shortly after Jesus asked them to pray.

Jesus is truly our perfect example – He is perfect. What a travesty to think that in just a few hours powerful forces would be trying to find fault in him. Instead we say, hallelujah what a Savior – we can find absolutely no fault in him!

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 37 – Focus on Jesus

The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. (John 4:23)

There are so many captivating things to explore about Jesus during Holy Week that it is difficult to pick and choose. We will pick two items for today and continue to view our Lord through the lens of the spiritual disciplines we have studied:

  1. We will see what Jesus did under tremendous pressure
  2. We will see another woman who impressed Jesus

Response to Pressure:
What would you do if you knew you were going to be executed in a few days based on trumped up charges, and for sins you never committed? What if you had to confront the relentless pressure of a powerful religious establishment intent on destroying you? What did Jesus do? According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, during Holy Week Jesus responded by teaching extensively using parables and other forms. For example, there is the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28 – 32), the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46), the parable of the wedding banquet, (Matthew 22:1-14), the teaching on paying taxes (Matthew 22:15-22) and the rebuke of the Sadducees who deny the resurrection (Mt. 22:23-33). When I read how Jesus responded under tremendous pressure I am reminded of the words He spoke to his parents as a young boy when they thought He had been lost, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49 KJV)

What I see here is the real meaning of worship. Many people associate worship with singing or other acts performed during a church service. However, in our study of the discipline of worship three weeks ago, we learned that true worship is a lifestyle of submission to God. Despite the pressure, despite imminent death, Jesus went about his Father’s business. How about you, do you worship even in the face of pressure? Are you resolutely pursuing a lifestyle of submission? Worship is not the only discipline exhibited here. At a minimum, the disciplines of spiritual warfare and service are also evident. Do you agree?

Another Woman Impresses Jesus:
Let’s briefly consider the second item, which likely occurred on the evening of Holy Wednesday. As you read the passage below ask yourself, “what discipline is Jesus impressed by?”  Please let me know what you think.  The passage is Matthew 26: 6 -13:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.  When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 36 – Focus on Jesus

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)
Do you ever wonder what really impresses Jesus? Well on Tuesday or Wednesday of Holy Week we get a glimpse of one thing that impresses Jesus – giving God our all. The story is captured in Luke 21:1 – 4 (emphasis added):

The Widow’s Offering
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Jesus gives the best object lessons, and this one is a classic. In the midst of the pressure cooker that Holy Week was, Jesus stops to draw attention to this act of a poor widow. If He was prepared to pause and pay attention, so should we. What do you see? The words “all she head” ring in my head and I see the disciplines of worship and stewardship on full display.

Doesn’t it encourage you to genuinely practice these disciplines knowing that Jesus pauses and takes notice? Remember, no one understands this kind of commitment more than our Savior because just a few days after this incident He gave 100 percent for our salvation.

How committed are you? When you are tempted today to give God what’s left of your day rather than the best of your day, remember the poor widow who gave all she had. Practice the disciplines of worship and stewardship today.


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 35 – Focus on Jesus

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Over and over again throughout this special week we will see that no one models the Disciplines like our Lord and Savior Jesus. There is simply no one like Him. The week starts in apparent triumph with Palm Sunday as captured in Luke 19:

Luke 19:35 – 44
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.

It is very important to note that in the midst of the euphoria Jesus cries because he clearly sees the Spiritual Warfare that is playing out.  Note also how Jesus sees right through the intent of the Pharisees. Oh that we would like him see things through spiritual eyes.

Chronologically the next significant activity recorded is on the Monday of Holy Week and it is captured in Mark 11:

Mark 11:15 – 17:
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.

Do you see the passion Jesus has for Spiritual Warfare, Bible Study, Prayer and Worship? Note the following:

  • Jesus sees the spiritual in what appears to be temporal (commerce);
  • Jesus quotes scripture. His quote, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.” is taken from Jeremiah 7:11
  • Jesus is clearly disgusted that God’s house of worship and prayer is being violated.  Worship and prayer are too valuable to be perverted for monetary gain.

As we start this week consider the passion our Lord has for the disciplines that we have been discussing and hopefully practicing over the last few weeks. Don’t you want to be more like him?

Today, recommit yourself to the practices of Bible Study, Worship, Prayer and Spiritual Warfare. Our Lord is great and there is no one like Him!

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 34 – Service (basic Discipline)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)

Yesterday, we focused on sacrificial service to “the least of these”. Today, as we conclude our deliberation on the Discipline of Service we will widen our focus. There are people all around us that we need to serve by demonstrating the love of our Saviour, empowered by the Holy Spirit. To commit to fully living out this discipline might certainly cause trepidation because servants can oftentimes be “trampled on” or manipulated. Consider the following thoughts on the topic as written by Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline:

“A natural and understandable hesitancy accompanies any serious discussion of service. The hesitancy is prudent since it is wise to count before plunging headlong into any Discipline. We experience a fear that comes out of something like this: ‘If I do that, people will take advantage of me; they will walk all over me.’

Right here we must see the difference between choosing to serve and choosing to be a servant. When we choose to serve, we are still in charge. We decide whom we will serve and when we will serve. And if we are in charge, we will worry a great deal about anyone stepping on us, that is, taking charge over us. But when we choose to be a servant, we give up the right to be in charge. There is great freedom in this. If we voluntarily choose to be taken advantage of, then we cannot be manipulated. When we choose to be a servant, we surrender the right to decide who and when we will serve. We become available and vulnerable.”

Are you prepared to make the Discipline of Service a lifestyle and be a servant through the power of the Holy Spirit?  Love for God and our fellow humans demands this.  Let me close by suggesting that you listen to the following inspired song:


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 34 – Stewardship (extra credit Discipline)

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2)

As we conclude our deliberation on the Discipline of Stewardship, we will consider a powerful Biblical example. The Bible is full of stories of individuals who served as good and bad examples of stewards. Jesus is of course the perfect example but I would like to focus on another example, Job. The story of Job’s reaction to the loss of his livestock, servants and children is remarkable. In Job 1:20 – 21 we read the following account after Job had suffered tremendous loss:

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

These are certainly the words of a good steward. Job truly understood that as precious as the lost items and individuals were to him, they were not his, they were the Lord’s. Don’t you crave Job’s attitude?

Spend some quality time with God seeking his strength to grow in your practice of the Discipline of Stewardship.


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 33 – Service (basic Discipline)

And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

Yesterday we described the prevalence of service devoid of sacrifice in our society. As an antidote to this type of service we discussed having the mindset of Jesus. If you didn’t get a chance to review yesterday’s (Day 32) posting you may want to review it before continuing.

Today I want to deal with another powerful passage of scripture that also clearly spells out the “right” kind of service. This kind of service pays attention to “the least of these”. Read the words of our Lord from Matthew 25:35-40 (emphasis added):

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Providing service to the well-off can often be done without much sacrifice. In fact, it can sometimes be rewarding from a worldly perspective. In contrast, providing service to the very poor, sick, young, old, incarcerated, or otherwise vulnerable can call for considerable sacrifice. To be very clear, I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t lovingly serve those who appear well-off. Sometimes they are more needy than it appears at face value. For many of us though, our real struggle is with making sacrifices to serve the vulnerable.

Jesus loves it when we are servants to the vulnerable.