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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Male Goldfinch (photo by Doris High)
Lebanon County Pennsylvania farm

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"For Our Good"

"Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!  Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:9-11).

We are blessed if we have been on the receiving end of our father's discipline. Yesterday the Lord brought to my memory a teenage experience with my dad which I want to expound on in our message today.

When I was about 15 I went to a summer camp and picked up some worldliness. After a week of camp Dad came to drive me home and on the way
I began to try out the new lingo I had learned from my camp counselor.  I was now among the "cool" kids so I referred to my mom as "the old lady".  (Thinking back, I can hardly believe I used that disrespectful term but I did.)

My dad quickly turned to me and in a strong corrective voice demanded, "Don't you ever refer to your mother as "the old lady" again!  He made it absolutely clear, in no uncertain terms, that I was never to show such disrespect toward my mom and believe me I didn't.  I was disciplined for my good and to this day I am thankful for this needed correction, along with plenty of others along the way.

The Bible characterizes God as a loving Father who disciplines His children.  One part of the daily verse especially heartens me.  We should memorize it and hide it deep within our hearts. "God disciplines us for our good." 

But this Fatherly discipline is very hard to accept in the midst of a trial.  We may very well pray and plead with God for another way and let's face it, so very often prayers like these are answered as we desire.  But we have all experienced situations where such is not the case.

Lawrence Richards comments on this passage. "Two things reassure us when God disciplines. We remember that Jesus suffered first. And we remember that God has graciously explained His motive for discipline. One thing that bothers us is not knowing 'why'. We lose our job, and in our fears about the future cry out, 'Why?' We lose a loved one, and agonize, 'Why him, and why not me?' We suffer from a lingering illness and, try as we may, we can find nothing 'good' in it. We begin to doubt Romans 8:28, and again we ask, 'Why?' But God doesn’t give us reasons for specific hardships.

But He does explain, carefully, what He is doing. God is treating us as any good parent treats his own children. God is disciplining us 'for our good, that we may share in His holiness.' Don’t expect an economic benefit from the loss of a job, an emotional benefit from the loss of a loved one, or a health benefit from a serious illness. But do expect a spiritual benefit from any hardship. If you and I submit to God (v9), He will work in our lives, and through suffering we will grow in holiness. Even more, we will reap a rich 'harvest of righteousness and peace' from the training hardship is intended to provide."

Blaine Allen has said, "Tuck this thought away: Never in eternity will we want to walk up to Jesus and say, 'I surely wish you had answered my prayer differently'."  I believe that.  In the words of the old gospel song, Farther Along, "we'll understand it all by and by." 

Fellow servants, some of you are undergoing a serious trial and at the present time you just don't see a way out.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, may you come to realize that this may very well be part of the disciplining process of our loving heavenly Father. You may not be able to see the benefits at the present time, but Jesus does since He sees the past, present and future.  He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  He is in all and through all and He will see you through this tumultuous chapter of your life's journey.  He has much blessing in store for those who remain faithful and trusting for what lies ahead.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, when our earthly fathers discipline us, it is intended for immediate correction and future application.  At the time it is painful and a humiliation of sorts.  And with You, Father, Your discipline is not pleasant at the time but painful.  We stand upon Your promise that "later on, however it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those of us who are trained by it."  It transforms our thinking, shapes our values, and corrects our behavior so that we become more and more like Christ.
Personal note: The manner in which the Lord helped me to recall the teen memory from the first paragraph took place yesterday when I was speaking to a young man in a factory. He referred to his girlfriend as "my old lady" and I immediately recalled my dad's instruction some forty years earlier. I told the young man my story and cautioned him that he should never refer to a loved one in the manner in which he did. I really believe my message got through and he seemed genuinely appreciative of the needed correction.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources
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In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.

"All Your Promises Are True"  Video

"He's Always Been Faithful To Me"  Video

"He Giveth More Grace"  Video

Stephen's Note: One of the most helpful books I have ever read on trusting God in times of His discipline is a book simply titled "Trusting God" by Jerry Bridges. 

Trusting GodTrusting God  By Jerry Bridges / NAV Press

Does trusting God come easily to you---until adversity strikes? Amid troubles and tribulation, do you sometimes doubt whether he really cares? Exploring three essential truths about God---his complete sovereignty, his infinite wisdom, and his perfect love---Bridges shows you how to rely on God implicitly in every circumstance. 240 pages, softcover from NavPress.
You can read an excerpt of the book online.  Ordering information

Today I shared a quote by Blaine Allen. This book may be encouraging to all who have been hurt by others, but is especially for those in ministry.

When People Throw Stones: A Leader&amp;quot;s Guide to Fielding Personal CriticismWhen People Throw Stones: A Leader's Guide to Fielding Personal Criticism  By Blaine Allen / Kregel Publications

Like most leaders, Blaine Allen is familiar with the underside of ministry, where critical words and negative attitudes thrive. He provides helpful advice for ministry leaders struggling with personal or public criticism to know when to blow it off, when to take a stand, what to do when the critic speaks the truth, how to make the situation easier, and what to do when we don't want to forgive.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." But they do. They hurt us. They hurt our families. They hurt our ministries. And the hurt they cause can fester. Criticism from the body of Christ is not always constructive, and when it's not, it can emotionally kill us. When criticism becomes painful and you can't take any more, what do you do? Where do you turn when you've done your best and God doesn't seem to be defending you?  
Ordering information

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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