Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It Takes A Man To Be A Dad

That's the slogan of the National Fatherhood Initiative. Check out this new ad they're running in major business magazines. The text reads:

"This is a baby. It needs you. It needs your love, your touch, and your time. Spend lots of time with it. Build a bird house. Read a book. Go for a walk. Do homework. Play. The more time you spend, the better chance it has of growing up happy and healthy. It grows very quickly. Pay attention. Never underestimate the difference you make."

Of course this strategy of tagging the baby would only work for the minority of men who read instruction manuals. :-)

For Christian fathers, we need to add some instructions:

1. Pray. Pray a lot. Here are some suggested prayers for your child.

2. Teach. Take Deut 6 seriously.

Our Lord promises that children are a blessing (see Psalm 127:3-5). Walk faithfully and humbly before God, dads -- it's ok if these kids are a handful before they're a quiverful. (Derek Kidner gets credit for that idea.)





Sunday, September 28, 2003

Friday, September 26, 2003

There really are facts about the post-war administration of Iraq

Do not succumb to soundbites. Do not succumb to soundbites. Do not succumb to soundbites.

Ad hominem swipes at President Bush are the order of the day. Edward Daley outlines the facts in Let's Get A Few Things Straight.

* the remarkable speed in establishing a central bank, new currency, an Iraqi cabinet, and basic infrastructure (especially compared with historical examples in Germany and Japan)

* that the Bush adminstration did not "rush" to war, or take unilateral action without Congress and the UN

* that there are readily-available details about how the $87 billion request would be spent

And more. Worth reading.
The Church is at the center, not the periphery

As we follow Christ and are made more into His likeness, it should come as no suprise that we're out of step with the culture around us -- and we will see persecution as a result. We are like foreign invaders to the body, triggered an immune reaction. Here come the white blood cells! (You may also want to meditate on this question: "What does it mean about my life if I'm not being persecuted?")

Check out Ann Coulter's column "It's the Winter Solstice, Charlie Brown!" for a review of David Limbaugh's book Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity The examples of public school teachers and boards squelching prayer are sobering.

It's critical that we keep perspective, men. This helps me:

"[Jesus] is in charge of it all, has the final word on everthing. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everthing with his presence." (from Ephesians 1, The Message translation by Eugene Peterson)


And let us not forget that persecution comes in degrees smaller and larger. Consider Richard Wurmbrand's story in Tortured For Christ.




Thursday, September 25, 2003

We've already done the experiment with the alternative

"Do you like having rights the government cannot take away? Do you like being equal? Do you like a country with few laws? These ideas have origins."

William Federer reviews some important history of these ideas in Three Secular Reasons Why America Should be Under God.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

10 Reasons You Cherish Your Wife

Last year I spent several weeks observing my wife closely and writing 10 reasons I cherish my her. (This was her request for a birthday present.) It was a wonderful process and probably helped me at least as much as it lifted her. They are posted now on a wall in our home, and I reread them often to remind me that I'm the most-blessed man on the planet.

Gary Rosberg says that every man marries 'up.' It's true.



Monday, September 22, 2003

Get a plan

I recommend the Discipleship Journal Bible reading plans, if you aren't already on a successful pattern of regular reading (and not just your favorite parts).



Sunday, September 21, 2003

What tickled their funny bone?

Cool high-res scans of babies at 26 weeks in utero are causing a predictable uproar in Britain and Australia. These babies are smiling! God is good! Go read Psalm 139 again, men!


No dress rehearsals!

In her column titled "Parenting: You only get one chance to do it right," Rebecca Hagelin hits on an important truth we dads need to remember every day: "Remember, raising kids is not a dress rehearsal ... you get one chance to do it right."
What mushrooms teach us about sin

Ever spotted a mushroom in your yard that wasn't there yesterday? Where did that come from!? Wow they grow fast.

Actually, that fungus has been there a while, it just wasn't evident or visible to you. Some time back a spore had germinated in your yard. The fungus grew and spread, feeding on the dead grass thatch at soil level. Millions of thread-like microscopic cells, called hyphae, formed a network there.

When conditions were just right, the network of hyphae consolidated and formed the mushroom you saw. This is the fruiting body, which produces spores that start the cycle all over again.

Ever had a blow-up with your wife or kids -- whom you pray for daily? Maybe it's some other sin you thought was long gone -- rage, theft, lust, greed, perversion. The lesson of the mushroom is that the basis of that sin is still with you. It simply required the right conditions to explode into visible form.

"The heart is deceitful above all else -- who can fathom it?" wrote Jeremiah. "I know that nothing good live in me," wrote Paul (Rom 7:18). The answer is godly mourning for our sins (Matthew 5:4).

Common hindrances to godly mourning include

* Cherished sin. There are some sins you still enjoy.
* Despair. Putting yourself outside of God’s grace, believing He can’t help.
* Conceit. Believing there is nothing to mourn.
* Presumption. Being satisfied with only a little forgiveness for the small amount of sin you have. This is like treating cancer like a cold that will go away in 48 hours.
* Procrastination. “I’ll get to it when it’s more convenient.”

Here are some suggestions to help

1. Study sin in Scripture to gain an accurate understanding of it. Sin is evil and repulsive to God, and destructive and damning to us. Sin grieves God, resists grace, makes us weak and impure.
2. Confess sin and repent -- don’t just admit it.
3. Check your sense of God’s forgiveness. Are you experiencing release and freedom from knowing your sins are forgiven? Do you have His peace and joy? Do you experience the divine comfort He promises to those who have forgiven, cleansed, and purified lives?

Maybe you need to get this praise song "stuck" in your mind today:

Purify my heart
Touch me with your cleansing fire
Take me to the cross
Your holiness is my desire
Breathe your life in me
Kindle the love that flows from your throne
O purify my heart!
Purify my heart

Why haven't there been other terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11/2001?

Walid Phares has an articulate column on Al Qaida's tactics. There are many encouraging signs, but let us remain vigilant.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"All that stands between us and the abyss is George W. Bush."

Diana West writes clearly about the importance of Bush standing strong in the political war as well as the war against terrorists. (She insightfully calls it a war against barbarians.)
A Catholic's response to the Church leadership

I appreciated Peggy Noonan's thoughtful essay, What I Told the Bishops. Her comments ring true and should be considered by any church leader.
It's Not My Job

I think about this picture now when I hear my kids -- or one of the whiny voices in my own head -- say "it's not my job." Hang tough, dads, do the right things.
"Holiday Party" no more

Check out Dennis Prager's suggestion on fighting to rename your company "holiday party" a Christmas party.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Ten Identity Markers

Some key thoughts from 1 Peter 2:1-12 (adapted from a John Piper letter):

1. It is you who desire the word of God
2. It is you are are growing up into the fullness of salvation instead of coasting in your spiritual life
3. It is you who have tasted that the Lord is good
4. It is you who understand that Christ is precious
5. It is you who are being built into a spiritual house, not a physical building but a spiritual house for God
6. It is you who are a chosen race
7. It is you who are a royal priesthood
8. It is you who are a holy nation
9. It is you who are a people for Christ's possession. You are not your own.
10. It is you who were in spiritual darkness before, but now are in marvelous Light!




Sunday, September 14, 2003

I prepared this lesson for our elder/deacon meeting before we started discussions about budget priorities. We can have constructive discussions -- even sharp disagreements – about specific expenses and the timing of purchases. But we must have complete agreement on our foundations and purpose. I share this as an example that others may use.

*******
The word ‘Facility’ comes to English from Greek. The word ‘facile’ comes from the same root word. The original meanings are “to make possible, to ease, to have capacity for.”

Our church mission statement is “To Know Christ and Make Him Known.” Therefore our core priorities are

* Caring for people (John 15:17; John 13:35)
* Instruction and training (Deut 6:4-5; Eph 6:4)
* Allow people to use their giftedness (1 Cor 12; 1 Cor 14; Romans 12)
* Enable outreach to neighbors and nations (Matt 28:19-20)

All these wrapped together are Worship (Rom 12:1)

We’re in a war, and we don’t want to carry excess baggage – nothing useless for the task at hand. We need maneuverability and adaptability. (For more on this, see the Marine’s excellent manual, Warfighting.)

We can also be assured that our loving Father will not give us excess money that we can’t handle wisely. Frankly, we’re not that spiritually mature yet. Therefore we need to exercise leadership and discern between wants and needs. No leadership would be required if the answer was always “Sure.” We must have self-discipline and a consistent spirit of putting others first.

Let us also recall that we live in a very healthy tension between understanding that time is short and being exhorted to leave legacies for the next three generations. We’re instructed to “number our days” rather than our years, and to live so that our children and grandchildren our blessed.
Growing in humility through parenting

There's nothing quite like the challenges of parenting to humble a man.

Some days there seems no connection between cause and effect. It's awfully tempting to withdraw from the field, to be selfish and walk away. But real fathers don't -- we stick it out, we stay engaged through the uncertainty, we continue in prayer, we continue to love unconditionally. And we are dependent on the partnership of the Holy Spirit and our loving wives.

Thomas Brooks, the great Puritan pastor, had seven ways to know if you were humble:

1. We will be weaned from ourselves. (Gal 2:20; Phil 1:21)
2. We are lost in the wonder of Christ. (2 Cor 3:18)
3. We do not complain about situations, knowing that we deserve worse.
4. We see others strengths and virtues clearly (Phil 2:3; Rom 12:10) and our critical attitudes diminish.
5. We spend much time in prayer, because we are always in need.
6. We take Christ on his terms, rather than ours.
7. We abundantly praise and thank God for His grace. (1 Tim 1:14)


Take courage, men. Be bold, be gentle. "“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and His rule.” -- Mt 5:3 from The Message translation.
In "Usama’s strategic reasons behind the attacks," Walid Phares outlines three likely goals of Usama bin Laden, and underscores our potential weaknesses that help make his strategy work.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Jefferson commentary on Newspapers

"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." - Thomas Jefferson.

I doubt newspapers are any better today than they were in the late 1700's.

This reminds me of a garbage collector I met in Evanston IL who didn't read newspapers but did read through the Bible four or five times per year. Whatever topic you wanted to discuss he would start in Genesis and work his way to Revelation. That's the man I want to emulate, not Thomas Jefferson.
Defend our families!

Here's a sobering fact: The illegitmacy rate (children born out of wedlock) was 8% in 1965 in the United States. Today it is 33.8%.
Is your family listening to good music?

We would be hard-pressed to fully explain why music has so much power to shape us -- our thoughts, our moods, our tempo. C.S. Lewis had his demons characterize the heavenly music as painful compared to hell's "glorious noise" in his book, The ScrewTape Letters. He also hit upon something special when he wrote of Aslan (Christ) creating the world of Narnian by singing to it (The Magician's Nephew). Music is an invention of God and works very deep in our souls.


Therefore, men, as spiritual leaders of our homes, what are we and our family listening to? For those of who grew up listening to great rock songs of the 70's and 80's, with all the fabulous guitar riffs and familiar drum solos, take care before you let your kids hear those lyrics! (It can be rather embarrassing to explain to a child why you know every word to Lola and Can't Get No Satisfaction :-)

There is probably a good contemporary Christian radio station near you. (My family likes KZZQ.)

If you have pre-teens and teenagers, let them explore different kids of Christian artists and listen to the style they like. Listen to their preferred music in the car and the house. Talk with them about the lyrics. Help them develop discernment about what they listen to, and why.

May the great song of Aslan reverbrate in your heart today.
God's sovereignty and his tender call

My conviction (and it has taken me years to come to this) is that God is sovereign. Nothing surprises Him. He is in control. I find it impossible to square all of Scripture, apart from this view.

Some would call God's sovereignty a paradox -- if God already knows who will come to Him and who won't, why is pleading with us? Why does Israel's unbelief (Rom 10:21) grieve Him?

And there are other examples:

God has hidden the truth from some, and he invites all. (Matt 11:25, 28)
All are invited to Christ, and the Father gives some to Christ. (John 6:35, 36)
All are invited to believe and be forgiven; as many as were appointed to life did believe (Acts 13:38, 48)

John Piper has some encouraging words on this : "This is what it means for God to be God. Man is not the final, ultimate sovereign over his own life. God is. God is the potter. We are the clay. But on the other hand God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4). He holds out his hands all day long to Jews and the Gentiles of the Twin Cities [Piper ministers in Minneapolis/St. Paul]. He calls, he beckons, he invites.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Thinking biblically about killing abortionists

I appreciate Doug Phillips' analysis of the actions of convicted (and now executed) Paul Hill and whether his actions were biblically justified. This is a good example of a Christian man thinking biblically, and not making judgments based on emotional information. Because this is part of Doug's blog posting, I have excerpted it here:

"PAUL HILL AND JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE

Last night convicted abortionist killer Paul Hill was executed by lethal injection. Justice was accomplished. God’s law was upheld.

To the moment of his execution, Paul Hill, a de-frocked Presbyterian minister, husband and father, maintained his innocence, claiming instead that he had only acted in defense of others, and should be acquitted on the grounds of justifiable homicide.

The common law defense of justifiable homicide is derived from the case laws of Exodus which make clear that one may use lethal force if necessary in defense of self or others where imminent life-endangering harm is threatened and lethal force is necessary to prevent the crime. In addition, lethal force may be used in defense of country, or by the state against those criminals lawfully convicted of a capital offense.

So where did Paul Hill go wrong? Practically speaking, Mr. Hill acted as executioner, not rescuer. Having determined that the abortionist in question was guilty of past murders, and would probably commit future murders, Paul Hill stalked, hunted and executed the abortionist. The problem here is that the biblical jurisdiction to execute rests only with the state. There is no provision in Scripture for vigilante justice.

And what of Hill’s argument of justifiable homicide?: Under biblical and common law, justifiable homicide in defense of others requires (a) a clearly identifiable victim and (b) an aggressor who is presently engaged in a clear life-threatening act of violence against that specific victim, and (c) a reasonable determination that lethal force is necessary to prevent the specific life threatening act of the willful aggressor against the innocent party.

Paul Hill failed each of these tests: Who was the victim here? We don’t know. In fact, we don’t even know for sure what the abortionist was going to do that day. We may presume he will be about the business of killing babies, but that is not sufficient to make a claim to justifiable homicide. Nor was the abortionist being stopped from a crime in progress. He was simply gunned down in his parking lot. Nor was Paul Hill rescuing a victim from an observable and specific criminal act. Nor must we conclude that executing him was the only way to stop this man from future acts of murder.

Paul Hill lacked the jurisdiction to execute another. He never found himself in a circumstance which warranted justifiable homicide, as defined at biblical and common law. His was an act of premeditated murder, and for that God’s Word required his execution by the state.

But before we walk comfortably away from Mr. Hill, perhaps we should examine ourselves as well. Many Christians today oppose abortion, except in those circumstances where doctors claim that the mother’s life is threatened by the unborn baby. The classic case involves a “tubal” or ectopic pregnancy.

Though most “life of the mother” arguments for killing a baby stem from pure emotionalism, many Christians who seek to offer a rational defense of this type of abortion, usually do so by borrowing the same reinvented justifiable homicide argument embraced by Paul Hill to sanction the assassination of abortionists.

As with Paul Hill’s justification of the murder of abortionists, advocates of killing unborn babies “for the life of the mother” reason that it is o.k. for a mother to kill her child if it is an act of self-defense. But Paul Hill and pro-life exception advocates fail the biblical test. Both are terribly guilty of borrowing from pragmatic, non-biblical arguments, and twisting the Scriptures to justify a desired result.

Several things are worthy of note: First, a baby is not a willful aggressor. This ends the debate on justifiable homicide. A baby neither intends the harm, nor acts aggressively against its mother. (In fact, if “blame” is to be passed, it should rest on the mother, not the baby, since it was the mother’s body which produced the circumstances in which the baby has found himself.) The Bible makes no provision for executing an innocent party (one which lacks intent to harm) in order to help another.

Second, while the unborn baby in the case of an ectopic pregnancy may pose a threat which could materialize into a harm to the mother, the threat is not imminent in the classic sense, nor is it conclusive that the baby’s presence necessarily will cause harm. All that is known is that it might cause harm. Consequently, the murder of the baby takes place in anticipation of a statistical possibility. Here again, the biblical requirements for justifiable homicide are not met.

Conclusion: God’s law is the standard. God’s word speaks not only to vague principles, but to specific methodologies. We are not at liberty to improvise, nor may we substitute our own private interpretations in order to advance a “greater cause.” The greatest cause is obedience to our Lord. Paul Hill was wrong because he misconstrued Scripture. His thinking became off-base and he embraced a form of unbiblical pragmatism---the ends justifies the means. Consequently, there is blood on his hands. It is my prayer that the Church of Jesus Christ will learn from this error, and self-examine our view of the so-called abortion exceptions, such that we will not be guilty of the same crime."
Brendan Miniter asks Where Were You? And where do you stand two years after Sept. 11? Here's an excerpt:

"But to overcome terrorism Americans must remain willing to pay the price of mastering our emotions. We must not give into the cravenness of fear, nor the seduction of half-measures. America is, as Ronald Reagan said, the last, best hope of mankind because our resolve and courage are the best guarantors for freedom. There's no need for "Victory Gardens" for this war, but Americans must cultivate strength within themselves.

This is a war not only over the future of the Middle East, but over our very soul as a nation. Do we believe in ourselves and that we occupy a unique place in history? Does America have the moral authority to stand up--alone if necessary--against the tyranny of terrorism?
If so, then as Americans we must act. Today we have a president who is willing to take the battle to the terrorists even in the face of international pressure to do nothing. But for too long as a nation we've allowed our culture, driven by a fear of offending anyone, to drift toward timidity.

That must end today as we must also move toward rebuilding the civil institutions that ensure the strength of our republic. In the schools we must rescue civics from the social-studies teachers who teach anti-Americanism. In the public square we must fight to preserve the right of religious expression. Within our churches we must demand that our religious leaders lead. Ministers once reinforced the moral authority of a free people by preaching that freedom was God's gift to mankind. Today that message is largely left to the president. "

It's oft-forgotten that the British referred to the American war of independence as the "Presyterian Rebellion" because it was Presbyterian pastors who rallied Americans on the issue of freedom as God's gift.

I hope you're concerned as I am about the trendlines evident in American government and culture today. Let's stand up, men, and ensure that this generation and the next and the next have freedoms. That's going to take self-discipline and courage on our part. We need to train our children well.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

A strong country needs bold and gentle men

I'm a supporter of President Bush. He is bold and gentle. I am, however, increasingly frustrated with his administration's domestic policies and decisions. We're already come so far from the US Constitution, and his decisions are pushing us towards bigger federal government. That coupled with a judiciary that is out of control create weaknesses that may prove fatal in a future crisis.

Mark Alexander has an useful analysis of the situation, drawing comparisons to the factors that led to the collapse of Rome.

The way out requires that American people recover strong moral character and discipline -- to say No!. Richard Foster's introductory words to Celebration of Discipline are apt: "Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."

The choices that you and I make today, men, will make the difference. Let us be devoted to the higher calling, leaving aside lesser things. This generation and the next need us.
You are the spiritual leader of your family

I recommend Spiritual Leadership: Moving People On to God's Agenda (by Henry & Richard Blackaby) for husbands and dads. Though explicitly written for pastors, businessmen, coaches, and teachers, there is a lot of good insight and encouragement for family leadership. Leadership is a gift, requires discipline and training, and is for the purpose of serving others. I treasure the Blackaby's definition of Spiritual Leadership : Helping people hear God's voice and obey it. Brothers, that's precisely what we're called to do for our wives and our children and our grandchildren.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Even the smallest light

I suspect all of us occasionally get discouraged, thinking that our efforts to be salt and light amongst our extended families, our neighborhood, and our co-workers just isn't effective. I mean, it's really dark in some setting.

John Piper points out that the 2-watt lightbulb in his daughter's nightlight provides more than enough illumination to help her see in the darkness. A 2-watt lightbulb reveals all the stuff on the floor that you might stumble over, the corners of the bureau and desk, the location of the door.

The human eye is exquisitively sensitive to light. If it were perfectly dark, you could easily see someone strike a match 90 miles away.

Don't be discouraged if you think your Christ-light is weak. Even a little light breaks the darkness. Some of you reading this have been led out of darkness by another believer with a weak bulb -- but it was like a halogen spotlight for you. Go ahead and hum, "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine."

Getting perspective

Yesterday morning I took a United flight from San Diego to Denver, and then on to Des Moines, returning home from a business conference.

By the time I boarded the plane I was fuming. I'd had the usual problems with getting a taxi at 4:30am, then the boarding agent told me they'd given my reserved aisle seat to an elderly man who needed to go to the bathroom frequently. The security guards gave me the usual "extra" attention for a man traveling alone. I found myself stuffed into a cramped window seat, adjacent to a, uh, "generously-sized" man taking more than his half out of the middle space between us. He fell asleep before takeoff and snored loudly, occasionally flailing his arm over me. I was mentally composing my complaint letter to United. (My laptop wasn't working, but I couldn't have retrieved it from under the seat anyway, not with Bubba flowing on me.) I was annoyed. I was ticked-off. My pride was on Full Power, my intellect fully focused on my rights, and woe-betide anyone crossing my path today!

I should have remembered -- the Lord has plans.

About 7am I glanced out the window and was stunned by the site of the Grand Canyon, illuminated by the low sun in the clear sky. The colors were magnificent; the scale was hard to absorb. Pictures do not do it justice. It was HUGE, even from 35,000 feet up. I never would have seen that from my original aisle seat, on the other side of the plane. Psalm 8 popped into my mind -- "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth."

Just that fast my attitude shifted. I confessed silently my pride, my contempt for the man next to me, my wasted thoughts. It was a holy time, a re-connecting time. Ah, Sovereign Lord, you are so good to us. Thank you. Thank you.


Tech tip : get the free Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer. Fast, easy, saves you lots of time.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Get a thrice-weekly encouragement message

I encourage you to subscribe to John Stanford's AO notes. They come Monday, Wednesday, and Friday -- and are often just what I need when they arrive! Here is today's message. Subscription information is at the end. Highly recommended.

*******
To me, it's one of the most meaningful verses in the Bible.
I came to it again this morning, on a 3x5 card "shaving verse":

"Not one of all the good promises which the LORD had made
to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass."
-- Joshua 21.45

Israel (early in life he was known as Jacob -- the usurper) and his
descendants often failed to obey God's law. Thus they failed to keep
_their_ side of the covenant agreement with God.

But looking back over Israel's history, the Bible writer reported that
God had been faithful to keep _his_ promises.

It's good to periodically review my history, to remember how God has
helped me and my family. It gives stability, and meaning, to life.

Coffee thought: In what ways has God's unmerited goodness been
evident to me and my family?

John

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The one thing God cannot do

Is there anything God cannot do?

Yes, but only one thing. He cannot lie. (See 1 Sam 15:29 and Titus 1:2)

Meditate on this great truth from God's Word. This should enlarge your faith and confidence in Him, and shore up your convictions about His goodness and mercy. And then consider how Satan is building his crummy kingdom on a foundation of lies.

P.S. This is a great discussion topic for your next family meal.
Being treated like smokers
"The goal of the secularists and the atheists is to treat religious people like smokers. You can continue to exist only if you are out of sight, out of hearing and out of smell." Phyllis Schlafly never minces words, and her latest column frames the attack on Christianity.

Men, we need to stand against this. At the same time, we must remember that the US Constitution helps guard against a state religion of Christianity -- that would undoubtably lead to tyranny as well. (It's sad to see men argue, "Well, it would be different this time because we would be in charge." Mao Zedong said that, and so did Charles Taylor in Liberia. We live in a fallen world and our hearts are deceitful and easily corrupted. )There is great political freedom in an environment with freedom of religion in both dimensions. A particular religion is not THE state religion, nor does the state make efforts to exterminate religion.



Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Be sure to check out the archives (see links on the sidebar) for past weeks' postings.
Self-discipline
"Gut Check" is an excellent article promoting self-discipline in a recent issue of Breakaway magazine from Focus on the Family. Though written for teens, everyone will benefit. An excerpt:

"We all have some amount of self-discipline; the trick is to make it a lifestyle. Self-discipline is like mental muscle, and it has to be exercised if it’s going to grow.

In looking back on my own life’s biggest failures and most painful disappointments, it’s plain to see in hindsight that, for the most part, all of them could have been avoided if I had exercised self-discipline. In many cases, I knew exactly what I should have done, yet I didn’t do what was right. In other cases, I knew what I should not have done, yet I chose the stupid course of action anyway.

It all fell to the weakness of my will. Had I been stronger in character, I would have been able to make myself execute what I knew to be the best course of action. Whenever I make a habit of denying myself daily, forcing myself to do what needs to be done (especially when I don’t feel like it), I soon find that my entire life is in better shape than it was before. "