Tag Archives: Spiritual Disciplines

Look at My Muscles, Dad

When my children were younger, they would suddenly get it into their heads to start exercising. They’d do some jumping jacks and some push-ups, taking all of five minutes. After they were done, they would flex their biceps and say something to the effect of, “Look at my muscles, Dad. See how strong I’m getting? I’ve been working out.” Not wanting to crush their spirits, I would praise their efforts, after all I remember doing the same thing when I was younger. Not surprisingly, it would be weeks (or even months) before they would work out again. This is how Christians, including me, act towards growing in our strength. A little Bible reading here; a little Bible reading there. A prayer today; another next week. The difference is that many times, we don’t become giddy with accomplishments like a young child after doing push-ups. We lament that we are not growing in faith and strength.

Paul wrote to Timothy that he was to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV). The word for “train” is where we get the word “gymnasium.” It has reference to training or to exercising. Training might work, but exercising is not helpful in our culture since many exercise like my children and I used to do. The best word is perhaps “discipline.” My godliness is linked to my discipline—my buckling down and getting to business, consistently and intentionally. If I were to consistently and intentionally do all the disciplines that Don Whitney wrote about (Bible reading, study, meditation, and memorization, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving others, stewardship of money and time, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning on my own) there is no telling what type of man I’d become! Two things are for sure: I would be a very busy man and I would be so busy, I wouldn’t have time to get ensnared by sin. That isn’t to say that I would never sin, but that being captured by it would be nearly impossible. Holiness, or as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:7: godliness, would be a near given state of being.

In some ways, I wish Dr. Whitney’s book was introduced by the concluding chapter, but then again, it probably would not have had the impact that it does as a conclusion. In that chapter, he articulated what discipline really was: “But even though disciplining yourself is sometimes difficult and involves struggle, self-discipline is not self-punishment. It is instead an attempt to do what, prompted by the Spirit, you actually want in your heart to do.”[1] This will probably be the point that I am going to take with me. I’m not seeking to make my life drudgery by disciplining myself; I’m seeking to give my life godliness. That’s what I really want. It is easy to forget the reason for doing anything, especially the things that go against the flesh. The flesh has a way of fogging up the mind. Whitney reminds the reader that the heart (not the stony heart, but the born again, heart of flesh) wants godliness and holiness. It is a struggle, but it is one worth fighting.

In my bullet-journal, I have a habit tracker in which I record whether or not I did a certain habit (good or bad). My goal is to actually add a Spiritual Discipline’s tracker which would include all of the disciplines Dr. Whitney wrote about. I was planning on having it done by August, but as the saying goes: “No time like the present.” As J. C. Ryle wrote, “Tomorrow is the devil’s day.” Thus, I will be sure to finish my Spiritual Discipline’s tracker today, and begin today with disciplining myself unto godliness. May God allow me to supplement my faith with virtue and virtue with knowledge and knowledge with self-control and self-control with steadfastness and steadfastness with godliness and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-7).

[1] Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, (Downers Grove, IL: 1992), 244.

5 Zones Men Must Defend

It’s true what they say about sports: they are a great metaphor for life.  Not everyone is a football fan, but I am.  Unfortunately my favorite NFL team is not doing so well right now (Atlanta Falcons), but my favorite college team is (UGA).  I would say that Atlanta’s defense is their biggest hindrance from being a good team, even a great team. It always seems to need work.  Toward the end of the game, the defense goes into a much more zone defense, where players guard an area around them, rather than man to man defense, where each defender is assigned a certain person.  Atlanta does horrible in zone defense. I hate to see them play zone defense, not because I don’t believe in the strategy, but because they do so poorly at it.  The same could be said about men as husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, friends, etc. In fact, we all are probably dropping the ball on at least one of these.

I get that most men have “a lot on their plate.” The problem is that tends to be because men’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs–they take on more than they should.  When that happens, problems come and the opposition wins.  That being said, I want to present you with 5 zones that men need to start defending more closely.  In writing this, I am reminding myself of these areas, as I am by no means perfect in them.

  1. Spiritual Zone.  Defend your spiritual zone. At minimum men need to be in the Word and in prayer daily.  I’m not saying that you need to be in these daily to impress God or to get a blessing. I’m saying that you need to be in these daily as a conditioning of your heart and soul. These are your spiritual bench-presses, squats, and sprints.  Corporate worship at least once a week is necessary as well. This is pivotal. You need to rest, not just physically from the daily grind of your workweek and mowing the lawn on Saturdays, but spiritual rest comprised of songs and prayers and hearing God’s Word preached.
  2. Family Zone. Depending on your family, you may have a smaller zone or a fairly large zone to defend. If you don’t have children, it may be that you are guarding your wife. If you do then we are talking about wife and kids. Perhaps you have aging parents that need to be taken care of or a brother or sister who is unable to live on their own.  As the man of the household, your job is to guard them, to defend them against the opposition that could hurt them (physically or spiritually). That means watching out and being on guard for what or who comes in to you home (through the door, internet, or otherwise). That doesn’t mean that you’re alone in this area, but it does mean that you oversee this area.  Some things you can’t delegate; only you can love your wife as Christ loved the church. Only you can nourish her and cherish her the way a husband is to do.  You should be leading your children in God’s Word through family worship or devotions. There may be days you can’t make it home in time and so delegate it to your wife or an older child. Perhaps your aging parents need more care than you can give; that’s fine, but be sure to keep up with what kind of care they are receiving.  Remember the Apostle Paul’s words, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” (1 Timothy 5:8, ESV).
  3. Private Zone. Guard your character; guard your heart. Let’s be honest guys, we live in a sexually-saturated world. Soft pornography is pervasive and hard porn is just a click away. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word,” (Psalm 119:9, ESV). Our eyes and our hearts need to be focused on Christ and not on the things of this world.  If we are not guarding the zone of our personal life, we will not only lose, we will knocked out of the game entirely.  “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified,” (1 Corinthians 9.27, ESV).
  4. Work Zone. Work is work; it is not play. Play is fun; generally speaking, work is not. That is why we need to defend our work zone from ourselves. Our bodies and minds crave pleasure and will seek to find it any time they can.  We need to be on guard against this kind of offense, because it comes at us fast, hard, and internal. Before we know it, we can be sluffing off, shooting the breeze, checking our social media or the highlights from Monday Night Football.  It could be that we have a jerk of a boss always on our cases and in response we snap back, slack off, or seek some other type of revenge. But we are told by the Apostle Paul, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive your inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ,” (Colossians 3:23-24, ESV).  The Apostle Peter adds, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust,” (1 Peter 2:18, ESV; italics mine). Guard your work zone, so that in it you are doing your best just as if you were working for Jesus yourself, because in a way you are.  You are to do this no matter if your boss is a jerk or the greatest ever.
  5. Physical Zone. Guys, you don’t have to be an Adonis, but good grief, we need to keep these bodies of ours in good shape. After all, do we not house the Spirit of God (if we are believers)? One of the sad eras of Israel’s history was the time when they neglected the temple.  It was falling apart. The temple was a symbol of the spiritual condition of the people of Israel. It wasn’t until King Joash came around that the temple was repaired and renovated (cf. 2 Chronicles 24). I’m not so bold as to say the same is said about our bodies displaying our spiritual condition. I will say though that if we do not guard our physical zones, the other zones can easily fall into disrepair.  We are psycho-somatic beings. What affects the mind affects the body and vice-versa. If the body is weak or sickly, the soul is affected as well. If we are weak, how do we spend the time doing things with the kids or the wife? If we ignore the physical zone, it could mean an “untimely” death or at least hospital stay, garnering bills, worries, and such from family, employers, friends, etc.  I’m not saying we should make our physical zones idols. Again, we don’t have to be Adonises, but we should be fit enough to be able.

Zone defense; it works, but it takes effort.  But men, this is what we’ve been called to.  “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love,” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, ESV) We must keep these zones in balance, something the Atlanta defense seems to have trouble doing.

Let me know your thoughts. Give some comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.