Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” *Bible Version: New Living Translation (NLT)

Discipline is often misunderstood to turn a person into a machine. We won’t do ourselves any favors to even try. People are obviously no robots and mankind will never run like well-oiled machinery. There will always be surprises. Family life is full of them and before any disciplinary action we will need to apply discretion.

In connection with disciplining children, corporal punishment comes to mind. Corporal punishment refers to intentional application of physical pain as a method of changing behavior. Spanking is the most common form. The use of spanking as a disciplinary method remains controversial. A better way is leading an honorable life, which will also build honor and respect in our family relationships in the long run. Granted, this takes more effort on the side of the parents but really makes more sense to the children.

A father and mother cannot expect children to respect them if both parents have double standards and lead a hypocritical life. This leads me to believe that raising children is probably a more disciplinary event for the parents than it is for their offspring. We need to do our homework first and get our values straight before teaching our children.

We are God’s handiwork, and we need to be treated with respect. The keyword in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is “discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Man-made discipline is often harsh and unyielding. Lord-induced discipline comes from knowing the Lord, and the Lord is gentle. He teaches us discipline while giving us a lot of room for grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

There is a lot of saving to be done from God’s end. What does He save us from? What is boils down to, He saves us from ourselves. We have the potential to destroy ourselves in the course of a lifetime. There is no formula with which we can beat the restlessness that lurks in every human heart. There is only one known cure: the restless heart finds its way back home. Our home base is Heaven. That’s where we belong. Nothing on Earth replaces Heaven. There are cheap imitations, but they don’t work. Our restless heart needs the real thing.

God is real. He is actually more real than reality around us. The things that we can touch, see, hear, smell and taste are here today and gone tomorrow. God on the other hand stays around forever.

We are not alone. God created a lot of life, and He didn’t stop with the human race. He is the Creator of an entire universe. The life He created has the ability to make independent decisions, which is risky. It means that any of the life forms He created could potentially turn against Him. And as a matter of fact, that has happened.

If reality was a river, the stream would pull us in all kinds of different directions. There are forces pushing and pulling that are clearly beyond our control. We should be aware that some of the forces we are encountering clearly hate God. Those forces are responsible for God’s misrepresentation. Thankfully, there are also good forces at work representing Him well; those are the ones who independently decided for God, not against Him.

Picture yourself in the middle of such a ferocious wild stream. If you like river rafting you might even enjoy life’s wild ride. To make it through though, we too have to make up our minds about God.

Nothing is as cut and dry as we wish it to be. We may have decided to side with the Lord yesterday and have turned our backs on Him today. Life is ferocious; the waves are over our heads. God knows. He once lived on Earth as a human being. He has literally been there, done that. Jesus has since returned to Heaven, but His heart is still here. Putting our faith in Jesus, we will not be disappointed. He is our Savior. That’s who He is.

If we fail, God forgives us in a heartbeat. We all need grace. We get another chance and start over. And here is the good news for you and me: God is never running out of grace.

John 6:29: “Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.’”

Western society coined the term “rat race”. Wikipedia defines a rat race as:

“An endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit; it conjures up the image of lab rats racing through a maze to get the ‘cheese’ much like society racing to get ahead financially.”

Bills have to be paid and in order to pay our bills we need to work. It is very human to think that the kingdom of God is set up the same way, i.e. we have to earn our way to heaven. This is probably the reason why Jesus was asked more than once (John 6:28):

“Then they asked him [Jesus], ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’”

From a human perspective this is an understandable question. We assume we have to do something so that God can bless us. “There is no such thing as free lunch” we typically say. Well, actually, there is – When Jesus fed 5000 people He did not get paid.

Obviously, we don’t have to pay God to love us. There is such a thing as unconditional love. God loves us, period.

So, what is there left to do? Nothing! Absolutely nothing – and this is the rationale of Jesus’s reply saying: ‘All work is done!’ Interestingly, He puts it this way (John 6:29):

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Even the one condition that grants us salvation – believing in the One God has sent – is God’s work, not ours, and that makes perfect sense. Have you ever tried to love someone because you were told to? How did that work out for you?

In all reality, both faith and love are a gift from God. We love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit not because we worked hard to believe but because faith was given to us as a free gift.

That’s God’s amazing grace in action.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!” (John Newton)