Dictionary.com defines “discipline” as “training to act in accordance with rules; activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill.” It’s opposite, “undisciplined,” is defined as “not exhibiting self-control or good behavior; untrained.” Where do you see yourself on the “disciplined–undisciplined” continuum?
Discipline is not a subject we hear very often (if ever) from many pulpits in America today, yet it is required as an active part of every Christian’s life. Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is not just about receiving His blessings and having a “good” life (however we define “good”) in the here and now. No, we have entered a war zone. Heaven comes later . . . .
We’ve been peddled a “soft” Christianity for several decades now, but in years past, the theme of many hymns including this 19th century hymn, “Onward Christian Soldier,” was one of entering a battlefield—war–and we were “soldiers” in it. The chorus for this 19th century hymn goes like this, “Onward Christian soldier, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.” Christians of the past knew they were in a war; Christians today have been lulled to sleep by the excesses of a culture that whispers ever so sweetly, “anything goes . . . if it feels good, do it.” And it’s killing us so softly that we hardly even notice . . . until it’s too late.
In a chapter titled, “Slaughterhouse Drive,” in an excellent book by Dr. Russell Moore titled, “Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ,” (Crossway, 2011), he describes a system that was created by a scientist to kill cows with kindness. Due to the fact that “high stress levels in animals can release hormones that could downgrade the quality of the meat,” this scientist learned through years of research “how to register which stimuli produce which animal sounds and how to track what scares or distresses livestock” (p. 25). And, as you can imagine, the beef industry was willing to pay for this information.
Turns out the scientist’s secret insight was that novelty distresses cows. A slaughterhouse was designed with this in mind to keep the cows calm and instructions were given on how the cows should be treated. The next three paragraphs are from the book on page 26:
“Workers shouldn’t yell at the cows, she said, and they should never ever use cattle prods, because they are counterproductive and unneeded. If you just keep the cows contented and comfortable, they’ll go wherever they’re led. Don’t surprise them, don’t unnerve them and above all, don’t hurt them (well, at least until you slit their throats in the end).
“Along the way, this scientist devised a new technology that has revolutionized the ways of the big slaughter operations. In this system the cows aren’t prodded off the truck but are led, in silence, onto a ramp. They go through a ‘squeeze chute,’ a gentle pressure device that mimics a mother’s nuzzling touch. The cattle continue down the ramp onto a smoothly curving path. There are no sudden turns. The cows experience the sensation of going home, the same kind of way they’ve traveled so many times before.
“As they mosey along the path, they don’t even notice when their hooves are no longer touching the ground. A conveyor belt slowly lifts them gently upward, and then, in the twinkling of an eye, a blunt instrument levels a surgical strike right between their eyes. They’re transitioned from livestock to meat, and they’re never aware enough to be alarmed by any of it. The pioneer of this technology commends it to the slaughterhouses and affectionately gives it a nickname. She calls it ‘the stairway to heaven.'”
Now I don’t know about you, but as I read that description it sent chills up my spine. That’s exactly how succumbing to all of the excesses in our society–the lure of money, materialism, greed, gossip, gluttony, power, illicit sexual encounters (yep, that includes porn, folks), and the list goes on–and allowing those excesses to invade our lives without giving any thought as to what it is doing to us will destroy us in the end . . . and we won’t even know it until it’s way too late.
That slaughterhouse description gives new meaning to “wake up and smell the coffee,” folks! It sure had that affect on me.
Dr. Charles Swindoll wrote a devotion that targets one of the areas of excess in our society today (one I definitely relate to) and I want to share it with you:
That Dreaded “D” Word
Okay folks . . . it’s that time again. I’m down to two suits, one sports coat, and only a couple of pants that I can squeeze into. No more excuses. I’m tired of good intentions, secret promises to myself, groans and grunts as I roll out of bed in the morning, and especially those well-meaning comments from first-time visitors at our church: “You look . . . uh . . . different than I expected.” I suppose that’s better than “You look . . . uh . . . fat.”
Funny thing about being overweight . . . it’s impossible to hide it. So the alternatives are (a) ignore it and lie to yourself by saying nobody notices, (b) make jokes about it, (c) try to solve the problem overnight–which is tempting but dumb, or (d) face the music and get underway with a long-range plan that works.
For me, it’s an intelligent diet (ugh!) mixed with a program of regular exercise and a do-or-die mind-set that is determined to see it through, followed by a from-now-on game plan that is realistic, workable, and consistent.
Personally, I don’t need a shrink to shrink. But what I do need is discipline with a big D. (It might also help me a lot to think of rewards other than a strawberry sundae). You know what I’m getting at, don’t you? If I intend to avoid great widths, I need to go to great lengths to make that happen. And if you are put together somewhat like I am, you do too.
So why am I telling you all this? It would be much easier and certainly less embarrassing for me to say nothing, eat little, exercise in obscurity, and start to shrink. I did that once before and it worked. Problem was, when I got down to my desired weight, a rumor spread that I had cancer. Cynthia even got a sympathy card or two. So . . . none of that.
I’m mentioning it because I need to be accountable and we need to be reminded of the importance of our physical appearance. While there is an overemphasis on this in the secular world, for some strange reason, we Christians tend to underestimate its importance. Yet our bodies are indeed the “temple of the Holy Spirit” and we are to “glorify God” in those bodies (I Cor. 6:19-20).
So, let’s get serious about something we’ve ignored or excused or joked about long enough. As for me, I’ve got about forty pounds to go. How about you?
Have you looked in the mirror lately?
Could the Spirit’s temple stand a little attention
to get it back where it ought to be?
In the past year I’ve done some serious soul-searching regarding how I’ve treated this body of mine over the years; and since that time I’ve lost 45 lbs and worked my way up to exercising five to seven days a week for 55 minutes each day using a Leslie Sansone 4-mile walk exercise DVD (started at one mile last December and worked my way up to all four miles by the end of February). However, since around March of this year, the weight loss has halted (in other words, I decided to coast along at that point), yet I still want to lose another 50 lbs. I also cut out using all artificial sweeteners this past summer and I spend a lot more time in the grocery store now reading labels and checking for “high fructose corn syrup.” (Anathema!) And, I must tell you I haven’t felt this great physically and emotionally (eating junk and too much sugar affects a person’s emotions, too) in years and years . . . maybe never . . . and I’m 60 years old, folks!!!
Well, after reading the slaughterhouse story in Dr. Moore’s book and then Dr. Swindoll’s devotion, I’ve decided it is definitely time to get serious again about getting the last 50 lbs off. Starting now!
So what parasitic sins are you in need of getting rid of? First off, pray and seek God’s help, and don’t make excuses with Him or with yourself.
And do it now . . .
You don’t want to end up like those cows . . .
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
YouTube Video: “My Help” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir (from CD-“High and Lifted Up,” 1999):