Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Disciplined for Life

It's the only way to really live.

Far from his friends was Coemgen steadfastly among the crags; nobly and alone he saw the order which was brought to the brink of the fair lough. At night he would rise without fear to perform his devotions in his fort; there he would early recite his hours [prayers] standing habitually in the lough up to his girdle.

  - Life of Coemgen, Irish, 17th century, from an earlier ms.

But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to declare My statutes,
Or take My covenant in your mouth, 
Seeing you hate instruction
And cast My words behind you?”

  - Psalm 50.16, 17

One of the aspects of Celtic Christianity I appreciate so much is their commitment to a disciplined life. For Celtic Christians – especially those who had committed to living in community together – no aspect of life was to be left unaccounted for; everything was committed to God, and every moment treated like a gift to invest for God’s glory.

People like Coemgen, Columbanus, Patrick, and others spent long hours in the Word and prayer, in fasting and singing, wandering in solitude and reflecting on the glory of God in creation, and subjecting their bodies to rigors designed to heighten trust in God and to mortify the flesh, so that they could glorify God in every moment of their lives.

They also practiced specific disciplines throughout the day, designed to promote unity and maturity in love, make the best use of the resources available to them, create lasting and beautiful forms of culture, and seek and save lost human beings.

The disciplines by which Celtic Christians organized the time of their lives were often encoded in rules of community practice, so that not only leaders but also lay men and women could share in the fruit of the disciplined life.

This disciplined life prepared them well for martyrdom of one kind or another – whether “white martyrdom,” which meant believing so sincerely that you would be ready, if called, to leave everything familiar and safe to take up the ministry of the Word; “green martyrdom” which saw a monk heading off on his own to live off the land and start a new community of believers; or “red martyrdom” with its obvious implications of dying for the Gospel.

Let’s be honest: We’re not much into discipline, not like our Celtic forebears, anyway. We may not “hate” discipline (the Hebrew word for “instruction” in Ps. 50.17), but we don’t embrace it the way Scripture commends, as providing correction, direction, and spiritual power for every aspect and every moment of our lives. About the most discipline we practice consistently, that can be identified as Christian, is what we do while we’re at church.

Over the past 40 years of ministry, I’ve talked with many church leaders, and have asked them about this matter. Too many of them admit to me that their disciplines are not what they should be, beginning with their spiritual disciplines. They don’t pray as much or as earnestly as they think they should. Most of their Bible reading and study is for something they’re preparing to preach or teach. Fasting? Nope. Solitude? Nope. Singing or contemplating creation? Nope.

And as for the other disciplines which should structure the rest of the time of their lives, most of the people I’ve talked with don’t seem to be all that familiar with them. They just take what life and their ministry throws at them, and do the best they can.

If this is true of the church leaders, what can we expect from the people they serve?

I wouldn’t say these folks hate discipline, but they don’t seem as zealous for it as we might expect of those who are called to make the most of their time and glorify God in all things (Eph. 5.15-17; 1 Cor. 10.31).

In Psalm 50, God had a warning for those who “hate discipline”. He said they were wicked, and He did not consider them fit to take His covenant on their lips! They claimed to be His people, but there was no evidence that anyone but they themselves were king over their undisciplined lives. Most of what they heard at church, they left at church, with little evidence of a transformed life to show for the effort.

Following Jesus costs. If we aren’t willing to sacrifice time, diversions, or busy-ness to make more time with and for the Lord, and if we’re not willing to bring all the time of our lives under God’s Kingdom program, what is He to conclude, but that we seem to love ourselves and other things more than we love Him?

Let’s look to the Lord to show us how to order our lives and carry out our work so that the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Lord will become evident in and through us in all we do.

For Reflection
1. What do you understand by the term, “a disciplined life”?

2. What does it mean to “redeem” or “make the best use” of the time God gives us?

Psalm 50.1-4, 16-23 (Austrian Hymn: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken)
God, the Lord, the mighty Savior, summons all from east to west:
Out of Zion, rich with favor, shines He, of all things the best.
Come, O God, and keep not silence; fire devours before Your way!
He His Church, steeped in defiance, comes to judge this awful day.

“All of you My Word despising, who are you to claim My grace?
Praise may from your lips be rising, but you scorn Me to My face.
You approve of all transgressions, scheme against your mother’s son!
I will crush your vain aggressions and destroy what you have done.

“Reckon this, My sinful people, lest My wrath consume you whole:
None shall thwart Me when I seek to crush and break your sin-stiff soul.
He who thanks to Me addressing, follows after what is good,
he shall know the way of blessing coming from the hand of God.”

Help me get my disciplines in better shape, O Lord, so that I can…

The Disciplined Life
Our ReVision series, “The Disciplined Life,” can help you to bring your life more into line with God’s plan for your time, so that you have a richer, fuller walk with the Lord in all the time of your life. Write to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I’ll send you the seven installments of this series in PDF for free.

Thank you
Thanks so much to those of you who faithfully support the work of The Fellowship of Ailbe. God uses your gifts and prayers to reach thousands of people every day in over 120 countries. We praise the Lord for His having moved and enabled you to share with us in this ministry.

If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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