Lessons in Discipline (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 7, 2014)

So, I had this devotional idea to write about discipline, after I came across a few verses in Proverbs 19 that I’ll share below. I was thinking about telling the story of how my brother once kicked a hole in my bedroom door because sweet, lil’ innocent me made him mad for some reason or another that I’m sure was his fault, to begin with. 😉

I pondered this idea for a few days, and then – I kid you not – one of my boys lost his temper and put a boot-toe-sized hole in a brother’s bedroom door. I would prefer to only share the stories about how darling my children are, and how much they love each other. Those things are true … on certain days. On other days, the proverbial organic fertilizer hits the fan.

Sometimes I wish God’s instructions would be written on the wall for me. (See Daniel 5 for the wall-writing reference.) Trying to decide on the right punishment to fit the offense is one of the hardest things for me as a parent. I don’t share stories about my kids because I think I’m an awesome parent. Believe me, I screw up all the time and question myself way more often than I feel confident. I do know, however, that learning to accept responsibility for your actions is a huge part of becoming a mature adult. Proverbs 19:18 warns parents that if we fail to hold our kids accountable to their choices, then we are contributing to ruining their lives! Ouch. Verse 19 (NLT) goes on to say, “Hot-tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.”

Let’s switch gears a sec. It’s easy for me to put myself in the discipline-giver seat, since I’m the parent in the above scenario. Yet, how many times have I been the discipline-recipient because of my own poor choices? I don’t go around kicking doors, but if there’s a genetic link to smart-aleckness, then my kids come by it honestly. My attitude can get the best of me, at times.

Deuteronomy 8:5 and Hebrews 12:4-11 remind us that the Lord disciplines us like a loving parent – not for punishment’s sake alone, but so that we’ll learn and grow from the experience. Discipline should bring about the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” in our lives (Heb. 12:11, ESV). As painful as it may be to accept, that goes for us grownups as well as kids. What might God be trying to teach you, even now?

Outgrowing Habits (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 25, 2014)

What are some of your habits? Brushing your teeth twice a day? Checking your smartphone at stop lights? Sitting in the same spot at the dinner table or church? Going to the gym after work? Kicking off your shoes when you get home? Watching certain TV shows? I reckon that most of our daily habits are simply routines that we’ve developed over time.

Other habits, though, can be detrimental to our health – not only physically, but also spiritually. We don’t care to admit such habits to ourselves, much less talk about them openly. These are the ones we go to when we’re upset, when we want to escape, when we feel down … the things we expose to our bodies, our eyes, our minds, under the guise of making us feel better, if only temporarily … or the things we say, do, and think when we feel threatened, hurt, or entitled.

God calls us to a better life than this, dear friends. As we grow closer to Christ, we need to break the habits that used to ensnare us. Check out what Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians (3:8-10, ERV): “But now put these things out of your life: anger, losing your temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and saying shameful things. Don’t lie to each other. You have taken off those old clothes—the person you once were and the bad things you did then. Now you are wearing a new life, a life that is new every day. You are growing in your understanding of the one who made you. You are becoming more and more like him.”

I would be lying through my teeth if I claimed to have mastered all of this. I have too many habits that I still struggle with, and I’ve been a believer for nearly 30 years. If eliminating poor choices was easy, then we’d all be fit, no one would struggle with addiction, gossip would be unheard of, husbands and wives would model Christ in their marriages, kids would obey their parents, and we’d all manage our tempers and finances.

If it sounds too good to be true, remember that the objective isn’t necessarily perfection. Reread the verse from Colossians above. We are growing; we are becoming more like Christ. Change doesn’t always happen overnight, but as the poet wrote in Psalm 119:55, we choose every day whether to follow God or revert back to our old ways: “Lord, in the night I remembered your name, and I obeyed your teachings.”