Discipline

“I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.”
Revelation 3:19 NLT

Anyone reading the previous verses in Revelation 3, might initially feel that the Laodicean Christians were beyond hope, unable to find a way into God’s presence. Jesus pointed out to them that their self appraisal was at odds with their spiritual reality. But in today’s verse perhaps a little chink of light provided hope for them. Jesus told them that He loved them so much that He was going to make His correction and discipline available to them, something that He does for all His followers. If they accepted it, of course. 

Jesus encouraged the Laodiceans to be “diligent and turn“. An interesting statement. It implied that, first and foremost, they had to realise that they were spiritually poor. That they were, in fact, not the self-sufficient, “I don’t need anything” people after all. They had to decouple their thoughts of material blessings from their spiritual status in God’s Kingdom. And that would need a very diligent and prophetic pastor and leader to get that message across, with willing congregants desiring to change.

Presumably at some time the Laodiceans had heard the gospel message. They would have heard that God had sent His Son, Jesus, to die as a sacrifice for their sins, and as a consequence they would be made right with God. But after a while their hearts had grown cold and they had become indifferent to the things of God. But God never gave up on them, offering a solution to their apostasy. His grace and love would always be there for them, offering them His righteousness, if they repented and turned again to Him.

So, pilgrims. What is the state of our hearts? Are they hard and calloused, indifferent to the things of God? Or are they still soft and pliable, in the Master’s hands? We can all wander off the road to Heaven at some time. But like the Father in the Prodigal Son story, God is always waiting for us. Always scanning the horizons for a sight of us turning back from our waywardness. Yes, the returning might be painful. But worth it in the end. Because we look forward to an eternity to be spent with Him. There’s an old song I used to listen to. A favourite of my wife. The first verse goes like this:-

He didn’t bring us this far to leave us,
He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown.
He didn’t build His home in us to move away,
He didn’t lift us up to let us down.

Dear Lord God. We thank You that You care so much for us. We thank You that You never give up on us. Please pick us up when we fall, to be in Your presence once again. Amen.

Fatherly Instructions

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Now here’s a novel idea. Bringing up children by applying Biblical principles? Whatever next! But humour aside, here in the UK we live in a society that has lost its way, when it comes to bringing up children. The state is increasingly interfering with the rights of parents to bring up their children in the way they believe best. Social workers, teachers and the NHS, all have their own agendas, which often sacrifice Biblical principles, that have stood the test of time, on the altar of progressive and unproven thinking and theories. For example, in schools children are taught about sexual matters far removed from Biblical principles. Child gender issues abound with so-called experts agonising over the best way forward. If only they opened a Bible, they would find the answers to their dilemmas.

The Bible has a lot to say about bringing up children, both directly but also in an implied way. Way back in Deuteronomy, we read this, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up”. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). The way that we bring up children starts with us. With our own adult relationship with God, with the way we live our Christian lives. Our children look on. They see whether or not we are faking it. They can smell hypocrisy from afar. Parents living a life devoted to God and each other will set our children role models that will shape their own lives. And by so doing, we instruct our children in the ways of the Lord. 

My own children were fortunate enough to have been brought up in a Christian home. That is not to say that my wife and I always got things right. But they were able to watch us resolve our difficulties and move on in the Lord. The church teaching also helped them. I can remember that my daughter, in her High School biology class, challenged her teacher’s evolutionary beliefs, getting her in the end to agree that there was also a case for the creation model. Evolution is taught as fact in UK schools in spite of the difficulties with evolutionary theory that are conveniently glossed over. But that’s a subject for another day.

God is the Father over a large and growing family of children. He sets out the family rules, rules based on His love for His children, rules designed for our good and the good of His family as a whole. The Bible is our Source of discipline and instruction. We do well to read it, distilling out every Divine thought, every loving hint, always praying that our Father will help us in aligning our ways to His ways, our thoughts to His thoughts, our life to His life. And in the process teaching our children to do the same.