Discipline, Determination, and Diligence

Every once in a while we find ourselves stuck.

My aunt, who is 80 and a widow, recently went after her trash can which had blown into the adjoining field. There was a lot of rain with the wind and the field was muddy; a lot muddier than she anticipated. Her feet got stuck in the muck and she lost her balance and her shoes came off as she fell. Covered in mud, carrying her shoes and dragging her trash can, she made her way back to the house. Must’ve been quite a sight.

When she called and told me what happened she described the mud as if it had a personality and tried to capture her – especially her shoes and feet. She laughed and I laughed with her –  but being stuck in the muck really isn’t funny.

It would be too easy to just sit down in the mud right now; it seems as if we’re surrounded by the “muck” of bombings, train wrecks, tornados, destruction, and disaster.

Our human nature compels us to “take action,” to attempt to explain the evil, give reasons for the destruction, and claim God’s judgment for sin. Instead, it is our responsibility to “be careful how we live” and “be filled with the Spirit.” It takes a great deal of self-control and self discipline to avoid getting stuck in the muck of this world.

Paul writes this to the church at Ephesus: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)

“Paul calls for a dual imperative: ‘Be very careful how you live’ and ‘Be filled with the Spirit.’ The responsibility for being wise and making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil, belongs to the believer.”

“Any form of spirituality that makes the Christian feel less responsible and separates the experience of the Spirit from personal discipline, determination, and diligence is foreign to the apostle Paul. To be filled with the Spirit causes the believer to embrace the challenge of ordinary life, not avoid it.” (Webster: The Christ Letter, p137-138)

We are not responsible to explain why a tornado wipes out an elementary school and erases a subdivision; we are to “be filled with the Spirit.” Such a filling enables us to step into the suffering with those who have lost, to give sacrificially, to pray, to love others in the name of Jesus.

It would be all too easy to just sit down in the mud and feel sorry for ourselves; allowing the muck of all the world’s disasters to suck us in. But let’s make sure our focus, our attention; our hearts are centered in Christ. “Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians (5:19-20)

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I highly encourage you to direct monetary gifts to Convoy of Hope, a relief and disaster ministry out of Springfield, MO.

Offering Spiritual Direction

This morning I received a request from a great friend of mine; a pastor I’ve known for almost 20 years. He asked if I knew of any good counselors he might recommend to a couple experiencing difficult times in their marriage. I sent him a list within a couple of minutes but I was plagued by a gnawing sense that more needed to be said. This is what I wrote:

You are an excellent pastor and YOU ARE capable of helping this couple either together or individually.

What they really need is Spiritual Direction – not therapy. And you are more than qualified to provide Spiritual Direction!

  • You can show them how to pray the Psalms – especially the Psalms crying out to God for help.
  • You can carefully listen to them and sensitively pray with them.
  • You could work through a book with them. Here are some suggestions:

            As for Me and My House – Walter Wangerin

            Mystery of Marriage – Mike Mason

            Loving Each Other – Gary Smalley

            Love & Respect – Emerson Eggerichs

            Choosing to Forgive Workbook – Frank Minirth

            Soulcraft – Douglas Webster

  • You can ask lots of questions – penetrating questions that require much more than a “yes” or “no” and wait for them to reply.
  • You could even give them homework.

I trust I’ve not burdened you but I will repeat: You are a wonderful pastor and you could speak wisdom, mercy and grace into these lives.