Thursday, January 8

Birth-Right Behavior

“Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.” (Deut 4:39)

I am dedicating this devotion to my best friend – whose example of disciplined living has been an unfailing inspiration during our happy pilgrimage together.

The ‘wilderness wanderings’ are not unlike our own inability to ever reach God’s best for us – represented as Canaan! The children of Israel's conduct gives us needed instruction as we repeat the patterns throughout the course of our own lives. The script may be different but our behavior rings a familiar truth; without the love and grace of God, without a fear of the Lord, a lack of obedience, and the absence of a disciplined life; the sum total of our own condition could be described as ‘birthright behavior!’ Whilst awareness to our condition may be vanishing, God calls it reprobate; “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Tit 1:16)

Good judgment (reprobate = void of judgment) in the way we conduct ourselves throughout each day, is paramount to the Christian woman’s life; the way we speak, how we dress, what we do with our time, our motives, personal friendships, how we run our homes and our attitude vertically and horizontally. In other words, does our conduct reflect our love for Jesus, or is it obvious to others that our life is incongruent?

What habits have I inherited as a result of being influenced by others? Do I understand the impact that a generational lifestyle has had on my pattern of living thus far? Why haven’t I had victory in specific goals from last year? Why are the odds against me to have success this year?

Has it ever occurred to you that we all fall short in at least one area of our lives? Do you realize that none of us are excluded from the patented potential to be non-achievers? As a woman, have you defined what your weaknesses are and then applied the necessary restrictions and principles to guarantee you will master that particular weakness in 2009 – a success that has alluded you thus far?

The seven questions that I have prefaced my devotion with all point to the same score; why is the failure rate for our resolutions so high each year, and why are the chances so great that lack of success this year is almost predictable?
  1. Because we don’t shun the course that will make us miserable, and take the course that will create blessing.
  2. Because we refuse to make permanent adjustments of our living patterns.

“O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut 32:29)

The plight of our world today may be summed up in; “our striving for self-indulgence.” I know I use this phrase often, but tis never enough for our ears to be in tune with: the path of least-resistance is our goal; sacrifices, discipline, restraint – these words present “ideas” that are hard to come by in this generation.

Perhaps you will gasp at my next illustration. May I suggest we point the finger inwards and ask God to reveal the birthright behavior penned on our Bible pages as a repetitious reminder of our inherited tendencies?

The sober truth is, as many brokenhearted parents have discovered too late, that humored and coddled children do not love their parents more, but less! Their self-love is fed until it chokes out every noble impulse. Even their natural affection atrophies, and callousness takes over. They become incapable of real pity or sympathy, and a mother or father can slave and it doesn’t evoke even a grunt of thanks. The parents can be breaking their hearts in sorrow and anxiety, and almost to collapse through overwork and strain, and such children never see it. If their attention is called to it, they are too heartless in their self-centeredness’ to care.

This particular story is a sad picture of a mother’s fate and represents the bitter root of an undisciplined nature – something we all possess to a varying degree.

She arose very early each morning in order to have sufficient time to prepare seven different breakfasts for her husband, son, and five daughters – all of whom had personal tastes which must be pleased. The father and son were off to work first; then when the five feminine meals were ready, the harried mother would call her daughters who were still lounging in bed. Years passed. The old mother, now a widow, found it necessary to live with her children – all of them married. But they didn’t want her! Bickering over whose turn it was next, they passed her on from one to the other. Finally they rationalized their consciences into putting her into an old people’s home, where she was left to vegetate, with an occasional hurried visit. She didn’t live long! It was claimed that she died of a broken heart.

This mother had devoted herself unstintingly to her children because she had so pathetically wanted to be loved and appreciated. But unlimited pampering was the wrong method, as it dried up the springs of gratitude, and stanched the flow of natural affection. Notwithstanding, it would have been very hard back there when her children were small, to have convinced her that her “kindness” was in reality the created cruelty both to herself and to her family.

Lack of discipline reveals itself through our own character traits. We forever seek ways to avoid the arduous grind of solid work and to arrive quickly at our goals by short cuts. Throughout the verses in Deuteronomy, it is easy for one to come to the conclusion that they too were undisciplined in an otherwise principled way of living, and that their desire to run-from instead of run-to Canaan Land, revealed their self-centeredness and a lack of discipline.

From the scheduled reading in Deuteronomy, I’ve listed some of the Israelite’s weaknesses and formatted a inventory for our own lives. It is most obvious to me, that God writes on such matters to compel us to be different. Perhaps while you read my earlier illustration, you excused yourself from any such self-indulgent behavior, after all, we did it tough growing up, we were given specific chores and were taught to do the job well---and pampering to a particular taste was not in our families equation (after all, that’s what went through my martyr’s mind).

We fail to take into account the sin principle. Children’s natures are not placidly neutral; we are all born with a bias. There is already a twist toward self-centeredness and lawlessness which will not right itself under the benign rays of Christian environment, but will feed on kindness, turn liberty into license, and grow alarmingly with the years. From the cradle onwards, we must rigorously curb by firm rule, our natural appetites for over indulgence and self-centeredness.

Having determined you have a specific weakness, and having determined your desire to become a disciplined person, begin with the simple things.

  1. Acknowledge your rebellious heart (Deut 1:26) “Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:”
  2. Stop complaining about your circumstances (Deut 1:27) “And ye murmured in your tents…” Be grateful and thankful for everything.
  3. Never doubt the faithfulness of God (Deut 1:27b) “…to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.” God doesn’t operate on the same agenda we do – self, self, self.
  4. Take full responsibility for your actions (Deut 1:28) “…our brethren have discouraged our heart,” Point the finger inward first.
  5. Know that fear generates confusion (Deut 1:28b) “…The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.” We must not run our lives with unbelief rather; we must consider God’s miracles and trust His continuous care and provision.
  6. Count your blessings (Deut 1:31) ”And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.” We always see the bad before we see the good. It’s so easy to forget past victories and instead, to feed fear through uncertainty. “…name them one by one, and you’ll be surprised with what the Lord has done!”
  7. Trust in God and His Words (Deut 1:33) “…to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.”
  8. Acknowledge your lack of strength (Deut 1:42) “And the LORD said unto me, Say unto them, Go not up, neither fight; for I am not among you; lest ye be smitten before your enemies.” Unless God is at hand to help us, we have no strength to achieve anything worth while.

Where to begin in disciplining yourself?

Begin with the simple things in life that you avoid; private discipline must be of upmost importance in our personal lives before any public display of discipline. A disciplined person seeks to avoid making unnecessary work for others. He also is concerned about the aftermath, not just a good showing now.

Surprisingly simplistic yet utterly logistic is the hanging up of your clothes, the making of your bed promptly and neatly, washing out the bathtub or washbasin after yourself, putting your shoes in their place, cleaning the utensils that you use and putting them where they belong – and where either yourself or another can find them next time. Don’t scorn these trifles as being irrelevant to a disciplined character, they are the very essence of it! For they indicate just that extra touch of foresight, of carefulness, and of thoughtfulness – which makes the difference between slovenliness and refinement.

My father typifies a disciplined life; his morning regiment includes his personal walk with God, his personal hygiene, dress sense, military-polished shoes, and his to-the-second attention for being-on-time to church, work, or any other appointments he may have - making allowances for bad weather, gas stops, or any extras that may add to his journey. I admire my father and reverence him for his godly example – a legacy passed on to me.

I love the smell of old-fashioned boot polish. When my darling takes his shoes from the closet and proceeds to initiate his own military-style polish, the shoe crème wafts through our home and triggers such sweet memorabilia. With each shoe regiment, childhood memories are stimulated which often tear me up. My husband is another who typifies a disciplined life. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by such fine examples throughout my childhood, youth, and now as a wife and mother.

What lies at the bottom of our unstructured oceans is a lack of discipline, and that being the root cause of so many other symptoms that attribute to a mediocre life of never overcoming our weaknesses or achieving our goals.

The Christian life is serious, demanding, and challenging. It is not seen as either a glorified picnic or a dress parade – but a field of battle! Our Captain is the world’s Redeemer, who “pleased not himself.”

As women, let us be His disciples. Without a spirit of earnestness and commitment, our efforts to become disciplined women will be abortive and vain. But with the correct spirit, our discipline will find its Christian purpose and fulfillment.

As a woman, I can summarize by saying; that if I am in possession of a Christian philosophy of discipleship, I will demonstrate it by;

  • A passion for improvement – for Jesus’ sake and glory
  • A sense of stewardship toward life – for Jesus’ sake and glory
  • A readiness for sacrifice or service – for Jesus’ sake and glory
  • And, as I mature in the disciplined life, my capacity for steady application to the task at hand will increase – for Jesus’ sake and glory

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:5-11)

I Love You,

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