A disciplined thought life

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation (I’ve added the two proceeding verses, so as to give context to Paul’s first word in Chapter 4, ‘therefore’):

Philippians (3:20-21), 4:1-9 (NIV-UK): “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

A lot of good material in the above verses, the goal of all of us (whose names are written in the book of life) is to be with Jesus in heaven and to have a glorious body like His (3:21). Now, isn’t that one of the best thoughts?

Selwyn writes the following in today’s study: “Now that we have seen the first step on the road to self-discipline is a complete surrender to Jesus, we move on to ask: What are some of the major areas of our lives that need self-discipline? The first area is our thoughts.”

He goes on to point out to us that the reading we have for today, is one of the classic sections of the New Testament on self-discipline. We are instructed to bring our thoughts under control by focusing on the things that are true and good, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.

I think this comment of his, is worth thinking about: “If you constantly think about things that are untrue, negative, wrong or impure, then the very disharmony of these things will invade you and pervade you.” The peace of the Lord, within you, will be under threat. Think of it, in this way, if our Lord is on the throne in your heart, why would you drag these types of negative thoughts in front of Him?

It requires discipline, an active decision on our part to focus on the blessings we have received from our Lord and to draw closer to Him, who is always near us.

Selwyn’s conclusion is directed at perhaps one of the dominating thoughts that is a problem for many, he says: “If sexual thoughts are a problem then don’t indulge them, for any delay can soon develop into the doing. Don’t try to dismiss such thoughts – that doesn’t (always) work: they are best dissolved and replaced by thoughts” concerning God’s goodness. “Direct your attention to Jesus. See Him in your imagination. To think on Him is to summon His aid.”

As I mentioned earlier in this post, imagine yourself standing in front of Jesus’ throne, and then start talking to Him about the wonderful gift He has given you, thanking Him and praising Him for what He has done for you on the cross. It will amaze you how quickly impure thoughts will evaporate, from your heart. Yet, it takes a deliberate action on your part to replace thoughts that are not of God, with ones that are an acceptable fragrance to Him.

What are your thoughts on this challenging topic?

Commit yourself

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

2 Chronicles 15:1-19 (NIV-UK): “The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, ‘Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.

For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them. In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil.

One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.’

When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.

Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign.

At that time they sacrificed to the Lord seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder they had brought back. They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul.

All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley. Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. He brought into the temple of God the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.

There was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign.”

Let’s look at what happened next:

2 Chronicles 16:9, 12,13: ” … For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing (entered into a treaty with a pagan king), and from now on you will be at war.’ … In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the doctors. Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his ancestors.”

Part of Asa’s heart was committed to our Lord, but clearly there was not total commitment; we see an early clue to this, when Asa did not remove the ‘altars’ from the high places.

Then in the 36th year of his reign, he enters into a treaty with a pagan king (Ben-Hadad king of Aram); and, from then on, his nation was at war.

A couple of years later he dies, and we are told something very important, in regard to today’s study: ‘Even in his illness, he did not seek help from the Lord.’ It’s a pity, Selwyn did not mention this, because it highlights the need for total commitment of our lives to Jesus. Of course, under the New Covenant, the situation is very different, as compared to Asa’s time. (Any comments on this?)

I’ve spent a bit of time looking into today’s reading because I feel it’s important to place material into context, and it’s also a very interesting reading. A question I’ll leave you with, comes from today’s reading (verse 15:6): Does God trouble us with every kind of distress, when we, as His people, stray from the truth?

Now, I finally get on to today’s study. 🙂

Selwyn continues to discuss self-discipline. He writes: “The first step towards self-discipline, we said yesterday, is ensuring that Jesus is central. This involves a complete surrender to Him and to all His purposes for our lives. It is no good giving up this thing and that thing unless the central self has been given up. Relinquish the central self, and that will carry everything else with it.”

I’ve already covered Ada’s story, but I think these words of Selwyn’s from today’s study, are appropriate: “Leave no door open behind you. The mind in a fearful moment, may be tempted to take that way of escape. Don’t be a person with an escape mentality.”

I entirely agree with Selwyn, when he says that 1 Kings 11:4 is a very sad verse: “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God”.

Selwyn’s conclusion is one, we all should think about, as we go about our day: “Solomon was a wise man who turned into a foolish one because of a lack of discipline. He didn’t guard his inner self (by seeking God’s help) so his outer life came down around him.”

We have too many cases of Christian leaders in public life who have failed because of arrogance/pride and a serious lack of self-discipline. It’s one good reason why we should constantly pray for them.

Changing ‘I’ to ‘U’

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

John 3:22-36 (NIV-UK): “After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptised. Now John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptised. (This was before John was put in prison.)

An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the one you testified about – look, he is baptising, and everyone is going to him.’

To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, “I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.” The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

It’s amazing how many times in Scripture, we hear these words: ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.’ Yet, so many people reject Jesus, even when they read the Gospels; so extremely sad.

Selwyn continues his discussion on discipline. He writes: “How do we go about becoming disciplined people? The first step is this: fix it firmly in your mind that you cannot control the marginal issues of your life unless Jesus is central. Jesus has to be the centre of our attention if we are to be spiritual self-disciplined. …

Have one supreme controlling love at the centre of your life – love for Jesus. … Dr Andrew Bonar said he could always  tell when a Christian was growing by listening to see how often the personal pronoun ‘I’ was used in conversation, (a person who is growing in their faith), seeks to de-emphasise self and elevate Jesus.”

Not much to add, basically I agree with what Selwyn has written. The best part for me, was the reading from John’s Gospel. There’s so much to meditate on, in those few verses.

Where everything starts

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Galatians 5:16-26 (NIV-UK):“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.

I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

I think that today’s study contains some excellent advice on the subject of becoming disciplined people, and Selwyn focuses on one of the fruits of the Spirit; self-control. It’s a great piece of advice because I feel that some young Christians suffer terribly from trying to live a life for Christ by using their own strength, and falling short of the standards they have set for themselves.

Listen carefully to what Selwyn has written: “We do not gain Christ through self-control; we gain self-control through Christ. We begin with love for Him and end with the strength to leave behind all things that do not contribute to His purposes for our lives.

The spring of action for self-control in a Christian is not self, but the Saviour. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 we are told that the love of Christ ‘compels us’, or literally, ‘narrows us to His way’.

If we begin with self-control than we are the centre: we are controlling ourselves. This will give rise to anxiety lest we slip away from our control. But if we begin with love, then the spring of action is love for God, someone outside of ourselves. Thus we are released from our self-preoccupation.”

Either, the above words from Selwyn make a lot of sense (as God’s Spirit is working in you); or, you defend the position that we must be the ones to exercise self-control through our own strength and will-power.  (This position makes the most sense from a worldly perspective.)

If, I reflect on my own journey with Jesus, and look at those times I drifted from His will – they are the times when I relied heavily on my own strength and human intellect. The good news is that Jesus always comes to the aid of His lost ‘sheep’, and brings them safely back to His flock. All praise to our amazing God, He is extraordinary patient with His wayward people.

I like today’s prayer: “Father, day by day it is becoming clearer: without Your love invading my soul self-discipline and self-control are arduous; with Your love they are adventurous. Help me start where everything Christian starts – with love. Amen.”

There is one truth that I can’t stress enough; spend a lot of time in prayer seeking a greater indwelling of His Spirit, to enable you to better love God with all your heart, mind and spirit.  Once your relationship with Jesus is on a solid foundation, then your relationship with other Christians will increase in fruitfulness.

What are your views on this topic of self-control?

***

[Tomorrow, I’m due for my next dose of chemotherapy – not looking forward to it, because I find it very hard to concentrate on writing for a few days after I’m ‘poisoned’.]

Free – to go nowhere

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Galatians 5:1-15 (NIV-UK):It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is required to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’ I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.
Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offence of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Selwyn, writes the following in today’s study: “We continue mediating on the elements of self-discipline that will help us ‘prepare the way’. …

There are many who throw their wills on the side of indiscipline, which they mistakenly view as freedom. People who try to be free through indiscipline find that they are as free as a ship when it loses its rudder – free to go nowhere.”

Another aspect of this discussion is that all freedoms come with responsibilities. A current topic in our media is ‘freedom of speech’; yet, while there is general support for this specific freedom, there is also a responsibility to ensure that speech, which may be interpreted as hateful at times, does not result in harm for others.

It’s our responsibility to live in peace with others; and, at the same time, it is essential that we remain faithful to Jesus. The other side of this debate, is that we should not be silent when we see an injustice being committed. The right action often requires our discernment; and the ability to make the right decision comes through prayer and our ‘willingness to receive the strength that Jesus provides and make use of it’.

I found the best part of today’s study comes from the verses set for reading and meditation: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Now, that is one sentence that can take a life-time to fully understand and action. Do you agree?

Artificial versus artesian

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

John 4:5-26 (NIV-UK): “ … So Jesus came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’

Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’

He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’

‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’ ‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you – I am he.’”

The above set of verses is one which I never grow tired of reading. It’s so pack with amazing truths. The last verse tells us that Jesus identified Himself as the Messiah.

Later, we learn that the woman told others the details of her conversation with Jesus and there could be no doubt that she also mentioned His claim to be the promised Messiah. This is indicated in verse 42: “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.’”

Another important point to consider is this – there is now, no single holy place where God resides – He is where, two or more people are gathered in His name. “You will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” Jesus’ kingdom is not restricted to a nation or a place – His presence, influence and power is found in all areas of this suffering world.

There are no holy lands, as such, because the focus of the new covenant is on people. In 1 Peter 2:9-10, we read: “But you (followers of Jesus) are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

One of the highlights of a visit to Israel (a most unholy place, in my view), was going to see Jacob’s well. [It’s a deep well, in the right area near the mountain, so there’s a reasonable chance, it’s the same well. Many ‘biblical’ landmarks in Israel are best guesses.] The highlight was being able to sit close to the entrance to the well, for an hour or so (it’s now below ground level), so that I could spend some time meditating on the above verses.

Now, what can I say about today’s study? Well, Selwyn continues to discuss the need to develop a disciplined life. He writes: “We need to be done with this idea that discipline turns us into rigid or austere people. Discipline, when understood and applied properly, is not repressive but resulting in the most spontaneous and natural people in the world.

Millions of Christians all over the world lead disciplined lives without conveying any sense of being harsh, grumpy or artificial. But unfortunately there are still some who connect discipline with a sullen, miserable countenance.”

It could be that those people who are stern and rigid in their attitude to everything, are suffering from a continuing failure to meet their own high standards of ‘discipline’, because they are depending on their own strength to meet their standards.

The disciplined life of a Christian is seen in their active love for God and their love for others; and, over time, their lives are gradually being transformed by the power of God’s Spirit such that the discipline they apply, turns into a joy to serve. Do you agree?

The divine order

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

1 Timothy 1:1-11 (NIV-UK): “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope.

To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work – which is by faith.

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practising homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”

I would guess that the list above (regarding sin), in today’s reading, would cause some people to pause and consider the attitude of today’s western society to these verses. We haven’t progressed very far, have we?

In today’s study, Selwyn reflects on his statement: “The future of the world is in the hands of disciplined people – those who are disciplined to achieve the highest.”

He says further on: “We belong to a divine order that was embodied in a divine Person – the Lord Jesus Christ. When we align ourselves to Jesus we are joined to the embodiment of an order that will last everything on this earth. … Have done with the idea that discipline turns you into a rigid or an austere person. True Christian discipline results not in repression but freedom and spontaneity – a love that springs (from a pure heart).”

Perhaps, I’m only understanding a part of what Selwyn is talking about – I’ll think some more about this study, during the day, and if anything comes to mind, I’ll add further comments. What did you get from today’s study?