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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Discipline or Release

Journey to The Cross
Lent - Discipline or Release?



Morning Meditation

Read Revelations 3:19-21

Rev 3:19-21 NIV
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.



• Praise God for His loving discipline.
• Listen as He speaks.
• Open the door of willingness.
• Anticipate the joys of being an “over-comer” this Easter.


Morning Prayer

Ask God to reveal everything that is getting in the way of your relationship with Him.
• Ask God what Spiritual Disciplines you need to practice this season of Lent.
• Ask God to reveal any strongholds in your life.
• Commit to using this Easter season to growing closer to God.
• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.
• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.
• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.


Morning Bible Study

Have you ever wondered where the word “Lent” came from? An old English word meaning spring, Lent is named for the season in which it is celebrated. It is 40 days long (minus Sundays) because forty days is a significant number in the Bible. It is an amount of time traditionally set for discipline, worship, or study.

Read Exodus 24:18.
Ex 24:18 NIV
Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.


How many days did Moses stay on the mountain?
• What do you think Moses used this time to do?
• What spiritual disciplines do you think he used during this time?


Read 1 King 19:8.
1 Kings 19:8 NIV
So he (Elijah) got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.


How long did it take Elijah to travel to the Mountain of God?
• What do you think he thought about as he made this journey?
• What disciplines do you think were necessary as he made this journey?


Read Jonah 3:4-5:
Jonah 3:4-5 NIV
On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.


How long did God give Nineveh to repent in Jonah 3:4?
• What did the people use that time to do?
• What actions did they take as they sought God?
• What substances do you think they fasted from?
• What strongholds do you imagine they were trapped in?


Read Matthew 4:2.
Matt 4:2 NIV
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he (Jesus) was hungry.


At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus took time to be with God. Why do you think he did that?

Now read all of Jesus’ experience on the mountain in Matthew 4:1-11.
Matt 4:1-11 NIV
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.


What happened to Jesus?
Why do you think Satan used this time to tempt Jesus?
How did Jesus respond?


Perhaps the reason 40 days is so important is because it takes that long to release bad habits and develop new ones. Lent is time where we commit to spiritual discipline, confession, and renewal. Set this time aside in your life. Be honest with yourself. Spend this Easter season developing a deeper walk with God.

Application

Many religions recommend the discipline of giving up something for Lent. The act of giving up a pleasure is a discipline of our will. Spiritual discipline is essential to a close personal relationship with God and Easter season is a good time to reaffirm that relationship. By practicing spiritual discipline, we are able to focus our time and energy on a season of prayer. We come out of this period with a deeper understanding of God and ourselves.

Spiritual Discipline is a proactive action taken by spiritually growing people. It is an act of submission necessary for developing a deeper walk with Christ. People needing spiritual discipline may feel like they are coasting and want or need a spiritual boost. They may already have a deep walk with Christ but long for more of Him. At Lent, people give up things like movies, meat, sugar, carbonated beverages, or their free time. Many practice spiritual discipline during Lent by attending additional worship services, increasing time in prayer, meditation, and or Bible Study, or volunteering their services. A spiritual discipline may or may not need to be a permanent change in our lives.

Many confuse the need for spiritual discipline with the seemingly overwhelming task of seeking relief from strongholds. A woman that struggles with food addition attempted to give up sugar for lent and was frustrated because she was unable. A person struggling with a sexual addiction said she was giving up sex for Lent. That lasted about 3 days. I’ve seen people try to give up alcohol, drugs, shopping, and pornography, most not making it through Lent without a slip. The stronghold simply had too much power over them.

Seeking release from a stronghold is a desperate action taken by a desperate person needing spiritual, emotional, and or physical freedom. People trapped in strongholds have replaced God partially or completely with their stronghold. They find themselves in a downward spiral. A stronghold is poor substitute for God and typically has either left or is on the way to leaving a person spiritually, emotionally, and or physically bankrupt. Normally the only way to be released from a stronghold is to turn our lives over to God and to become willing to give it up the stronghold completely.

If you were to give up something for Lent, what would it be? Pray about it.

What is the first thing that comes to mind?
• Are you seeking spiritual discipline or release from a stronghold?

If you are unsure of the answer, try taking from now until Resurrection Sunday to change the behavior. If you are unable to accomplish it or the act of accomplishing it is disturbingly painful, chances are, you are firmly in the clutches of a stronghold, which we shall talk about later in this devotional series.

If you are willing to commit to a spiritual discipline:
Ask God for a suggestion.
• Listen to His answer. The “Still Small Voice” will make a quiet suggestion.
• Obey - call someone today and ask him or her to hold you accountable.
• Spend this Easter season growing closer to Christ.
• Expect Satan to attack and tempt you.
• Like Jesus, say “Away from me Satan, for I shall worship God!”

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