Archive for November, 2018

What on earth2

The Questions of Discipline © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 6 – 10 WAYS TO KNOW IF I AM EXPERIENCING GOD’S DISCIPLINE? – Discipline Part 2

A car accident changed his life. He is in a wheelchair and believes that God is angry at him. Is his accident really GOD’S DISCIPLINE? 

Another woman who lost her husband feels that God is VERY SEVERE.

In Psalm 6, David believes that he is being disciplined by God.

O Lord, don’t REBUKE ME in Your anger or DISCIPLINE ME in Your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?

DISCIPLINE?

  • Have you ever prayed for healing and not received it?
  • Do you feel that God is displeased with you and rebuking you for your sinfulness?
  • Do you believe that the Lord is angry with you and “taking you to the woodshed for a spanking with the razor strap?”
  • Does the Lord yell at you and discipline you in a rage?

King David is afraid that God is doing just that. His Psalm doesn’t go into details, but it is clear that he thinks that God is disciplining him. And he is upset, humbled and broken. He’s in anguish about his circumstances. He’s more concerned for inward peace than even outward healing, though, it seems, he needs both.

And that’s what leads me to ask this question…

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN IT IS GOD WHO IS DISCIPLINING ME AND WHEN HE IS NOT?

Fortunately, the Bible gives me some guidelines and they are not necessarily what you expect. They have much more to do with the results of discipline than to the discipline itself. Here are 10 ways to know if what you face is the discipline of God.

The first way has to do with God being a God of Truth …

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO GOD’S WORD?

Psalms 119:67,71 (NLT2) says “I used to wander off until You DISCIPLINED me; but now I CLOSELY FOLLOW YOUR WORD… My SUFFERING was good for me, for it taught me TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DECREES.” 

In fact, God’s Word itself disciplines us. 2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT) says “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to MAKE US REALIZE WHAT IS WRONG IN OUR LIVES. IT CORRECTS US WHEN WE ARE WRONG and teaches us to do what is right.”

So difficult things that happen in our lives can lead us back into the Bible and what God has to say for our lives.

God’s Word always brings correction and direction for our lives, and perspective on how we can respond to what happens in the world and to us personally.

Sin triggers discipline. So the 2nd way to know if you are being disciplined by God has to do with the righteousness and justice of God… 

2. AM I PROMPTED TO ADMIT WHEN I GET THINGS WRONG?

1 John 1:8-10 (Msg) says …

“If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we ADMIT OUR SINS—… He won’t let us down; He’ll be true to Himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of Him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.”

The key thing to remember is that when I deserved God’s discipline, Jesus suffered for me on the Cross and died to pay the price for my sin.

This brings me to admit when I get things wrong and ask God for the forgiveness that was purchased for me on the Cross.

That leads us to the third question to help you know if you are facing the discipline of God. It has to do with responding to God’s righteousness …

3. AM I PROMPTED TO PLEASE HIM AS MY HEAVENLY FATHER?

Hebrews 12:6 (NLT) says, “For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.”

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

If I am loved by God as His child, apparently, there will be times of discipline.

Some parents today do discipline badly, but not God. God never abuses His children, and so His discipline will draw me closer to Him, not drive me away. 

I will not find myself saying, “Whatever” with teenage indifference to a parental instruction, but I will find myself delighting in pleasing Him as I respond willingly to His correction. My response will be prompted by my relationship to Him as my Father, someone I respect and love.

The 4th way to know if it is God who is disciplining me has to do with being prompted to recognise that God is omnipotent and sovereign and I need His help…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO RECOGNISE THAT ONLY GOD CAN HEAL ME?

Psalm 6:2 (NLT) says, “Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.

The requests of David’s prayer indicate he feels the consequences of his sin and of God’s displeasure at him. He is distressed and depressed. Helpless and hopeless.

He doesn’t resist or reject God’s discipline or despise God for it. He recognises that only God can heal him on the inside and on the outside.

The 5th principle has to do with responding to God’s unfailing love…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO BE RESTORED TO HIM?

Psalm 6:3-4 (NLT) says, “I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until You restore me? Return, O Lord, and rescue me. Save me because of Your unfailing love.”

Psalm 6:6 (NLT) says, I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears.

I mourn for something inside me which struggles and sometimes wants to give up and I am so tired of struggling and being defeated. Ever felt like this? I have.

Sin always clouds who I am in Christ and I need You to restore me to health on the inside. Distress, emotional anguish and depression over a period of time make me cry out “How long, O Lord?” How do you pray when you can’t cope?

David is so honest. He questions and wrangles with God as he cries out in pain and anguish. God even invites us to ask for answers.

James 1:5-8 (NLT) says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

Lord, sometimes You seem so far away. I pray that Your presence would be apparent in my life today and that You would actively intervene in my situation because I am continually in need of rescuing. Thankyou Lord for Your unfailing love that has saved me and continues to save me.

David is not impressed with the painful state that his life is in and wants the Lord to extricate him. It seems he even fears for his life and so the 6th way to tell whether or not I am being disciplined has to do with responding to who God is…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO WORSHIP HIM?

Psalm 6:5 (NLT) says, For the dead do not remember You. Who can praise You from the grave?

The Message Bible says, I’m no good to You dead, am I? I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb!

1 Corinthians 11:31-32 speaks about Christians participating in the remembrance meal in the wrong way and says some have been judged for doing so and some have even died as a result of their sin, … But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”

David still had work to do. He wants to live and continue to make a difference as his life on earth gives praise to God. He is examining himself before God.

If I serve a righteous, holy and just God, then God’s discipline will also lead me to ask …

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO STAND AGAINST EVIL?

Psalm 6:7-8 (NLT) says, “My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies. Go away, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping.”

My vision is blurred by grief at wasting my life. It seems sometimes that life conspires against me and I am surrounded by defeat instead of victory. Today I actively refuse evil ways and pursue Your ways, Lord. Thanks for listening to my heart.

God is immutable (unchanging and faithful to His character) and if God disciplines me then I can expect to ask…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO DECLARE MY CONFIDENCE AND TRUST IN GOD?

Psalm 6:9 (NLT) says, The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.

Thank You for hearing my deepest cries. I trust You, Lord. I know You answer my prayers.

God is eternal and wants us all to share in His life. Does God’s discipline make me more passionate for the gospel?

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO DESIRE THAT THOSE DON’T KNOW THE LORD WILL BE CONVERTED?

Psalm 6:10 (NLT) says, May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified. May they suddenly TURN BACK in shame.

The Hebrew word for “Turn back” is the word that means to recover, restore, convert or revive. Is David praying for their repentance and conversion?

In Psalm 51:13 David says, Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You. THEN I WILL TEACH YOUR WAYS TO REBELS, AND THEY WILL RETURN TO YOU.”

May the things that conspire against all that I am created to be today be thwarted and run for cover and find none. May shame not be present in my life today as I serve You, Lord. May those who conspire against You be disciplined, not so they will suffer, but so that they too can find their way back to You.

God’s discipline is not purposeless and so a final question,

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO FIND SOMETHING GOOD WHICH COMES FROM EVERYTHING FACE IN LIFE?

What I do know is that Romans 8:27-29 (NLT) says, “… GOD CAUSES EVERYTHING TO WORK TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” 

Notice this is not saying everything is good but God CAUSES everything to work together for good to those who love Him. The Christ-followers to whom this was written were experiencing persecution. God turns cursing to blessing.

When Jesus went to the Cross it was certainly not a good thing. But God caused everything to work together for good so that we could be saved.

By the way, I don’t believe that all the accidents, catastrophes, sickness and terrorism and droughts and floods and earthquakes and bad things that happen to good people are God’s discipline, any more than I believe old age is God’s discipline.

These things are all part of the world we live in and yes, God allows them.

Nevertheless, God can use what is already part of our lives for His good purposes, both good and bad things, and they can also serve to keep us trusting in Him. 

What I like about David is that he is honest with God. He realises that difficult times have a purpose and bring us to our knees with the kind of honesty that is disturbing to anyone else but God. 

God wants you and me to be transparently honest with Him.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF IT IS GOD WHO IS DISCIPLINING ME? I will be prompted to pay more attention to God’s word, to please Him as my Heavenly Father, to admit when you get things wrong, to recognise that only God can heal me, to be restored to Him, to worship him, to stand against evil, to desire that even those who don’t know the lord will be converted, to declare my confidence in God, to find something good which comes from everything we face in life.

God bless you.

Pastor Ross 

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Going too far © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 6 – GOING TOO FAR WITH GOD – Part 1 

I’ve got to admit my Western mindset doesn’t like to talk about God’s discipline. But God’s word indicates that God does discipline us, both those who are Believers and those who are not, but He does so with JUSTICE AND FAIRNESS and in order to get us back into relationship with Him and in tune with our destiny.  

IF THE LORD DOES DISCIPLINE YOU, HOW DOES HE DISCIPLINE YOU? 

  • Does He humiliate you by putting you in situations where you will fail? 
  • Does the Lord discipline you through accidents, sickness, pain, old age? 
  • Through natural disasters – fires, floods, drought or other catastrophes? 
  • Through losing your livelihood or your mental health, like Nebuchadnezzar who lost his mind for a time? 
  • Does God discipline you through losing those you love? 
  • Through satanic attack like Job? 

If the Lord has UNFAILING LOVE, how can He also be FAIR AND JUST in His discipline? 

R.B.Thieme writes “What righteousness demands, justice executes, and because God never violates His integrity, all actions He takes toward us (in terms of discipline) come from His justice. Justice can either bless or discipline; if righteousness approves, justice blesses; if righteousness disapproves, justice curses or disciplines.”   

WHY DOES GOD DISCIPLINE ME? 

If the Lord disciplines me as David says, what prompts Him to discipline me?  

Well, obviously, it has to do with my sin. Now there’s another word that people don’t like to hear and I don’t like to talk about.  

One man I spoke to said, “I don’t sin.” He lives in a world that prefers to deny the very existence of sin. His unforgivable sin is refusing to even consider a relationship with God or any claim God has in his life.  

Discipline may involve pain and suffering which always leaves me with a lot of questions as to how God dishes His discipline out. 

Some examples in the Bible indicate that those who are originally created in His image can go too far, and the patience and grace of God is rejected by people who prefer to come under severe discipline rather than consider repentance and forgiveness. 

SEVERE DISCIPLINE 

WAR  

During WW1 many people thought that it was the END OF THE WORLD – that God was bringing His FINAL JUDGEMENT – God’s discipline to humankind. It is easy to see why they would think that way given the horrors of the world war and the ravages of the Spanish flu in its aftermath. WAR AND PESTILENCE! 

People in the World War years knew their Bibles a little better than people today. They knew that occasionally God exercises severe discipline in the Bible on EXTREMELY WICKED NATIONS by having them defeated completely. Israel at one stage becomes His instrument of discipline, not that Israel is all that good. Just so they don’t become arrogant ….   

Deuteronomy 9:5 (NLT) says, “It is not because YOU ARE SO GOOD or have such integrity that you are about to occupy their land. The Lord your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of THEIR WICKEDNESS, and to fulfill the oath He swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  

Many people died as a result of the Lord’s severe discipline.  

PLAGUE 

Israel was disciplined too on a number of occasions also for their wickedness, once WITH A PLAGUE that killed many people.   

2 Samuel 24:14-16 (NLT) says, “So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!””  

It appears that some sinful people got away with it with their lives still intact while many others died because of God’s discipline. God’s discipline can seem so severe to me. I don’t pretend to understand, but I trust that God knows what He is doing. 

EXILE 

Jeremiah 46:28 (NLT2) says ISRAEL WAS EXILED BECAUSE OF GOD’S DISCIPLINE, “Do not be afraid, … for I am with you,” says the Lord. “… I HAVE EXILED YOU, but I will not completely destroy you. I WILL DISCIPLINE YOU, but WITH JUSTICE; I cannot let you go unpunished.”” (The Message Bible says, “But I won’t finish you off. I have more work left to do on you. I’ll punish you, but fairly. No, I’m not finished with you yet.”)   

So the emphasis of God’s discipline is that it is absolutely fair, not according to our standards, because those standards are so fluid, but His, which are unchangeable. God is Immutable.  
 

NEW COVENANT?  

Some say, “That was the OLD TESTAMENT. We are under the New Covenant and God does not discipline us like this.” Let’s not be too fast in saying this. 

Hebrews 12:6 (NLT) says, “For the Lord DISCIPLINES THOSE HE LOVES, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.”  

Revelation 3:19 (NLT) says, “I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.” If I am loved by God, apparently, I must also accept His discipline. 

THORNS 

In the New Testament Paul talks personally about how God disciplined him. 

2 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT) says, “… So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given A THORN IN MY FLESH, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.” I wonder if that thorn in the flesh was a person rather than a sickness. 

DEATH 

Acts 5:1-10 (NLT) speaks about Ananias who was disciplined by God, in the early Church, who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.  

Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”  

As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died...” Straight after this, Saphira fell down and died also for lying about the same thing. 

The Message Bible translates the last verse, “By this time the whole church and, in fact, everyone who heard of these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with.”  

HELL 

The ultimate discipline of God is total separation from Him, described in the Bible as Hell. I don’t like talking about Hell, but I’d be a fool to say in my heart that there is no God or there is no hell.  

The Lord, however, does not want anyone to endure the discipline of hell. Everyone of us has opportunity to respond to Christ. No-one else has come to save us. 

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 

So let’s be realistic. If you are someone who has read these words, you need to realise that God is waiting for you with open arms, not with a razor strap. You were created for a purpose, not for discipline. The first step is faith in Christand ignoring His claims is a disastrous choice. 

John 3:36 (NLT) says, “… anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” 

Pastor Ross