SOLITUDE/Silence – Disciplines 2014-21

Solitude/Silence – Disciplines    2014-21

Is it possible to be in a state of extended silence or of living in complete solitude today?

It could be that a fear of being alone drives us toward noise, crowds, TV’s, etc.!  We have radios strapped to our arms, ear buds in our ears and other ways of “keeping in touch, or having the comfort of distractions.”  Solitude is more of a state of mind than a place, such as an inner sanctum of quiet.  It is an inner fulfillment rather than a loneliness of emptiness.

A hermit, on top of a mountain in a cave can quite possibly never experience solitude. He could be alone, but he may not have the inner solitude of the mind. We should not fear being alone if we possess inward solitude for we would know we are not alone. What I mean is this, whether alone or among others, we can always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart that especially includes Jesus Christ.

Why would we call Solitude or Silence, an OUTWARD Discipline?

Solitude can have outward manifestations whereas there is a freedom to be alone, not to be away from others, but instead, to hear the divine Whisper better.  That is outward!!  Jesus did this many times.  He spent 40 days alone in the desert (Matthew 4-1-11). Jesus chose the twelve and before doing so spent the entire night alone in the desert hills (Luke 6:12).  After hearing of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus “withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart (Matt 14:13). After feeding the five thousand he “went up into the hills by himself” (Matthew 14:23). In Mark 1:35, Jesus, ‘in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place..”  Other passages such as (Luke 5:16), (Matthew 17:1-9), (Matthew 26:36-46) all show that the seeking out of solitary places was a regular practice for Jesus as perhaps it could be for us.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in “Life Together” titled one of his chapters “The Day Together” and the following chapter “The Day Alone.” Both are essential for spiritual success. He writes, “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community…. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone…. Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.”

Therefore, we must seek out the recreating stillness of solitude if we want to be with others meaningfully. We must seek the fellowship and accountability of others if we want to be alone safely. We must cultivate both if we are to live in obedience.

Do you think Solitude has to have Silence?

Actually, without silence there is no solitude. You do have to involve yourself in the act of listening, even though silence sometimes involves the absence of speech. To refrain from talking without having your heart listening to God is not silence. There is an old proverb to the effect that “all those who open their mouths, close their eyes!” The purpose of silence and solitude is to be able to see and hear. Control rather than no noise is the key to silence. Under the Discipline of silence and solitude we learn when to speak and when to refrain from speaking. The person who views the Spiritual Disciplines as laws will always turn silence into an absurdity. In the Book of James (3:1-12) he discusses this subject very well.

Silence is a two edged sword.  If we are silent when we should speak, we are not living in the Discipline of silence. If we speak when we should be silent, we again miss the mark. Only when we learn to be truly silent are we able to speak the word that is needed when it is needed. I am trying to learn this myself, and have to mentally tell myself, “Be quiet!” when listening to someone speak their minds, especially when it is so important to that person doing the speaking.

Do you think it is hard to stay silent?

One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? Truly, God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust. Control of the tongue can mean everything. Have we been set free so that we can hold our tongue? Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Real silence, real stillness, really holding one’s tongue comes only as the sober consequence of spiritual stillness.”  We have to learn how to be silent, and sometimes that is by being silent in a spiritual way.

The Dark Night of the Soul

We could at this time go into a discourse of solitude that comes from St John of the Cross, a man living at the time of St Theresa of Avilla in Spain in the 13th century. St John of the Cross wrote about “The Dark Night of the Soul” which goes into a privileged opportunity to draw close to the Divine in a special way.

When solitude is seriously pursued, there is usually a flush of initial success and then an inevitable letdown— and with it a desire to abandon the pursuit altogether. Feelings leave and there is the sense that we are not getting through to God. This is a normal reaction to the Spiritual way of life that includes all the Spiritual Disciplines.

When God lovingly draws us into a dark night of the soul, there is often a temptation to seek release from it and to blame everyone and everything for our inner dullness.  Recognize the dark night for what it is, if you can do so. Be grateful that God is lovingly drawing you away from every distraction so that you can see him clearly. Rather than chafing and fighting, become still and wait.

Does it happen to all of us and is it a short or long term happening? Well, it is complex and I would rather not get into this aspect right now, other than to say it can occur and would be glad to go over this time of inward darkness with anyone of you that feels you are experiencing something of this nature.

What to do and how to do involving Solitude?

Don’t start by trying the big solitude moments in life, instead go for and enjoy the little ones that happen. The early morning moments when you first awake and are in bed is a good one to enjoy before the rest of the family is awake. The morning cup of coffee or tea before going to work are moments of solitude, except when there are kids screaming in the background, of course. At night, when it is nice out, slip outside the covers of your bed and go outside and take in the silent night, looking at the clouds or stars.

Progress to another level. Find a “quiet place” just for you, that is where you can be silent and alone. Decree a special chair that is yours and state that “This is my chair, for me, to be alone,— let me alone, please”, when in it. Outside your home, find a place to be by yourself, in the park, in the corner of your yard, or anywhere that you can claim as your own. Remember though what I said before, “Solitude is more of a state of mind than a place”, so it is where you most feel comfortable to have the inner self be by itself.

What do we get out of practicing the Discipline of Solitude/Silence?

We will be more sensitive to others and have more compassion.  We will find that we will cherish a new freedom to be with other people. We will be attentive to their needs and hurts. Thomas Merton stated, in his work “The Sign of Jonas”, “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.”

I would strive to begin the Spiritual Discipline of Solitude and Silence to be closer to God and to be exposed to His Presence. This Discipline will open the door to “listening to God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, and loving all-embracing silence” (Catherine de Haeck Doherty).

SUBMISSION – Disciplines 2014-20

Submission Disciplines    2014-20

Martin Luther supposedly said, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”  That statement somewhat sounds confusing to me!  Webster states that to submit is to yield to a power of authority and to be submissive is to be humbly obedient.

People can use religion as a way to bondage and religion has done much to manipulate people regarding the subject of the teaching of submission. In discussing the Spiritual Discipline of Submission we must realize again the purpose of the Disciplines. We learned at the very beginning that there is really one goal for the Disciplines, namely, to experience a life of relationship and intimacy with God.  By themselves, they have no value, but they have value, only as a means of setting us before God so that he can give us the liberation we seek in finding Him. The Disciplines are the means, but not the answer to finding liberation, they lead us to the Answer of finding God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

That being said, “What do we think Submission is, in relation to being a Discipline?”

I had a hard time with this word myself. I made a statement at my Affirmation of Baptism on 3-30-13, that I will “Submit myself to our Lord God and surrender myself to our Savior Christ Jesus, as His disciple”. This was stated then, after much deliberations, prayer and thought and I have my own ideas of what I meant when I made this statement.

We are told to submit ourselves to God (James 4:7). In Ephesians we read the wife is to submit to her husband as unto the Lord and the husband is to “love” his wife (Ephesians 5:22-25). This passage is one that could be debated today though…… The Apostle Peter writes, “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. Being older, I like this one!!!  All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). The theme here is one of humility. One cannot submit to God without humility. Obedience requires us to humble ourselves to surrender to the authority of another, and we are told that God resists pride—the opposite of humility—and the arrogance that fosters that pride.

Almost all of what I have read has to do with submission to others in a humble way, with God loving us for doings so; let me explain.

The biblical teaching on submission focuses primarily on the spirit with which we view other people. This concern for a spirit of consideration toward others pervades the entire New Testament. The old covenant stipulated that we must not murder. Jesus, however, stressed that the real issue was the inner spirit of murder with which we view people. In the matter of submission the same is true; the real issue is the spirit of consideration and respect we have for each other.

What are the actual “Acts of Submission?”

The first act of submission is to the Triune God. At the beginning of the day we wait, in the words of the hymn writer, “yielded and still” before Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As the first words of the morning are of submission, so are the last words of the night. We surrender our body, mind, and spirit into the hands of God to do with us as he pleases through the long darkness. The cross is the sign of submission, through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

The second act of submission is to the Scripture. As we submit ourselves to the Word of God living (Jesus), so we submit ourselves to the Word of God written (Scripture). We yield ourselves first to hear the Word, second to receive the Word, and third to obey the Word.

The third act of submission is to our family. The primary deed of submission is a commitment to listen to the other family members. Its corollary is willingness to share, which is itself a work of submission. 

The fourth act of submission is to our neighbors and those we meet in the course of our daily lives. The life of simple goodness is lived before them. If they are in need, we help them. tools. No task is too small, too trifling, for each one is an opportunity to live in submission.

The fifth act of submission is to the believing community, the body of Christ. If there are jobs to be done and tasks to be accomplished, we look at them closely to see if they are God’s invitation to the cross-life. At times calls to serve the Church universal may come, and if the ministry is confirmed in our hearts, we can submit to it with assurance and reverence.

The sixth act of submission is to the broken and despised. In every culture there are the “widows and orphans”; that is, the helpless, the undefended (James 1: 27). Our first responsibility is to be among them. There we must live the cross-life, which is the sign of Submission.

The seventh act of submission is to the world. We live in an interdependent, international community. We cannot live in isolation. Starving peoples affect us. Our act of submission is a determination to live as a responsible member of an increasingly irresponsible world.

The Spiritual Discipline of Submission is complex and is more detailed than what I have shown above. This could be a lesson plan that can be discussed in detail, but I have elected to just show what is included and perhaps we can delve into depth regarding Submission, at a later time. The commitment to the Discipline of Submission is NOT AN EASY ONE, and I feel that we all can “strive” toward accomplishing the goal of submitting to our God. I have only highlighted the thoughts of Robert Foster that he presented in his book, “Celebration of Disciplines” and when you get his book, there is SO MUCH detail in it, that you can read and understand.

SERVICE- Discipline 2014-19

      Service- Discipline 2014-19

Where the cross is a sign of submission to God, the towel is the sign of service. What towel?

When Jesus gathered his disciples for the Last Supper they were having trouble deciding who was the greatest. This was no new issue for them. “And an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest” (Luke 9: 46). Jesus then showed them exactly what humility was all about. He took a towel and basin and redefined what greatness was to them.

Having lived out servant hood before them, he called them to the way of service: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13: 14-15). WOW!!

Just what is service in relation to the Disciplines, in YOUR mind?

Service makes us able to do so much. We throw away the world’s games of promotion, authority; pecking orders and we no longer stay in the chicken pen to find out who is the greatest or the least among us. This way is the way of human society today and with service we get rid of those feelings. Jesus Christ redefined leadership and rearranged the lines of authority for all of us. He did not rearrange the “pecking order” He abolished it. Authority became, not of manipulation and control, but instead an authority of function, not of status in life.

“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant… even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20: 25– 28). Therefore the spiritual authority of Jesus is an authority not found in a position or a title, but in a towel.

Self-righteous (SR) Service Versus True Service, (T) what are the differences?  

If we want to practice true service to the Lord, we have to know the difference between “true” (T) and “self-righteous (SR) service.”

SR service involves human effort with much energy towards calculating and scheming how to render the service. It looks into how to “help those people” via charts, graphs and surveys, for instance. T service comes from having a relationship with the divine Other deep inside oneself. It, the T service is done via the urgings from the divine with whispered promptings.

SR has to do with the “big deal”, especially when the service is gigantic with great scoreboards to keep the score. T cares less and finds it hard to distinguish between the biggees and the small service done. Actually, the T servant sees the smaller service more important at times and welcomes ALL opportunities to serve.

SR service desires external rewards and wants to be recognized, and appreciated. Fanfare and accolades are desired, with proper religious modesty, of course. T service does not seek the lights and horns of success, but does not fear them either. The divine’s nod of approval is enough for the T service.

SR service wants results and desires to see if the person served will do so to them also. If the results are below par, it becomes bitter. T service will serve enemies as well as friends has no need for calculated results.

SR service is picky and serves where there is an advantage to them, even serving the lowly and needy to show a humble image. T service does not distinguish in its ministry and feels it should be the “servant of all” (Mark 9;35).

SR service serves when it feels like doing so or perhaps when, “moved by the Spirit”, but is subject to the whims and moods of feeling. T service ministers very simply because there is a need, period…. T service disciplines the feelings rather than allowing the feelings to control the service.

SR service does its job only while the specific acts of service are being performed and is fleeting. After doing the service it can rest easy.   T service is not just for the moment, but is a life style of doing and does so to meet human needs automatically.

SR service is insensitive and demands the opportunity to help even when it could be destructive to the one being served. T service is compassionate and can listen plus can be patient before acting.

Lastly, SR service centers in on the glorification of the individual once all the religious trappings are removed. It can become one of the most subtle and destructive forms of manipulation and can fracture community. T service builds community and does its job quietly caring about the needs of others and instead, builds, heals, binds and draws. 

What is the KEY WORD that describes True Service after reading the above????

You can NEVER gain the one virtue that is shown above by seeking it and the more we pursue it the farther it goes away from us. To think we have it is to be assured we do not have it. One of the best ways to get it and the most conductive way to obtaining it is through the Spiritual Discipline of Service. That word is, of course, humility. Humility towards others, via service.

When we set out on a consciously chosen course of action that accents the good of others and is, for the most part, a hidden work, a deep change occurs in our spirits. Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness.

Every day should be viewed as a day of humility. How do we do this? By learning to serve others, it is the Discipline of service that brings humility into life. This is again, easier said than done, but once more, we should “strive to do so”.

What happens if we do serve with humility towards others with the Discipline of Service?

A number of things can occur. We can have a sense of presence of being aware of a fresh zest and exhilaration of living. Increased confidence with our activities and hopefully a unhurried peace will envelope us. We will view people with compassion where once we envied them, because their pain of existence will be in view. Others we once looked at as not being there will become individuals. The guy at the Speedway gas station, is no longer the mindless soul working for us, but instead a person with identification of worth.

The best thing is we will have a deeper love, a deeper joy of our God, whom we serve as obedient children. We will pray with praise and adoration and love and feel that our new self is directed by a higher being.

What are some of the pitfalls if we dedicate ourselves to service? 

People will take advantage of us!!!! NOT SO, if we choose between serving and being a servant!! IF we choose to serve we are still in charge. We decide as to whom we will serve and when we will do so. Sounds like the right way, correct?   BUT, if we choose to be a servant, we give up the right to be in charge. If we choose to voluntarily give up this advantage, we CANNOT be manipulated. We surrender the right to decide who and when we serve and become available and vulnerable. Let me explain.

A slave looks at his life as a slave and does not see himself with freedoms of those that are not slaves. When slavery is not of your choice, it is cruel, but when freely chosen it is a great joy. The Apostle Paul looked at himself as a slave to Christ, out of love. We can translate the word slave to that of servant, but know this, Paul meant he “freely gave up his rights” to Christ, not as a beholden slave, but as a free slave.

So, we can look at ourselves as having a fear of having people taking advantage of us and that is justified. AND, it may happen!! The difference is nobody can hurt someone who has freely chosen to be stepped on; nobody! Through the love of Christ, we CAN endure sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships; if we choose to do so. That is NOT easy!! 

Service is not a list of things that we do, though in it we discover things to do. It is not a code of ethics, but a way of living. To do specific acts of service is not the same thing as living in the Discipline of service. It is one thing to act like a servant; it is quite another to be a servant. As stated at the very beginning, in describing all the Disciplines, it is possible to master the mechanics of service without experiencing the Discipline of Service.

The risen Christ beckons us to the ministry of the towel. Such a ministry, flowing out of the inner recesses of the heart, is life and joy and peace. Perhaps you would like to begin by experimenting with a prayer that several of us use. Begin the day by praying, “Lord Jesus, as it would please you bring me someone today whom I can serve.”

Once more I suggest you get the book by Richard Foster, “Celebration of Disciplines” available from Amazon or most other book stores, besides the local library. It has details that are more involved and the book being on hand will be a great guide on the Disciplines. There is also a study guide for this book.

CONFESSION – Discipline 2014-18

Confession – Discipline 2014-18

“We aren’t sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners; it is our nature” Do you agree with this statement or understand it?

What is Confession and why is this “Corporate” Discipline?

The simple explanation for the word Confession is “the acknowledgment or disclosure of sin or sinfulness” as it relates to religious undertakings. You can “confess” many things outside of religion though, such as confessing to your spouse that you forgot to do something.

We confess openly at church as a group, which would be with others as one body. We also can confess to another person, such as a Pastor, or even to one another.  It is not just a private matter, but is the act of confessing to others, openly. The act of confessing just to God directly also makes us understand that “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Is Confession difficult to do in an open way?

Well, it can be a difficult Discipline, if we look at each other as saints instead of as a fellowship of sinners. We cannot hide from one another with veiled lies and hypocrisy and to be honest and admit our doing something contrary to God’s love is not easy. It is much easier to think we are the only ones who have not messed up and we sometimes cannot bear to reveal our failings to others, including God.  But, He already knows your sins.

What about private confession to another?  We can, but usually do not do so in our church, other than to our Pastor, perhaps. The followers of Jesus Christ have been given the authority to receive the confession of sin and to forgive it in his name. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20: 23). Luther believed in private confession, but that was in his day.

 

“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.”       (Matthew   6: 9-13) Is this a confession to God asking for forgiveness and does He welcome this way of confessing?

I can remember in the past, praying the Lord’s Prayer, by rote. It was stated, usually with others, as part of the religious service. It was somewhat my confessing to God and asking for forgiveness of sins known and unknown at the time.

God loves to forgive and forget the sin at the same time and delights in forgiving us our sins. When a person asks for forgiveness His unconditional love for us shines and radiates to us. BUT, confession should NOT be by rote as I did in the past, but do not do so now. I now confess my sins, known and unknown, in a different way.

In any confession, what are the things that should be considered when doing so, including the Lord’s Prayer?

First of all, is “An examination of conscience.” This is a time, as Douglas Steere, a Quaker  ecumenist (1901-1995), wrote, “where a soul comes under the gaze of God and where in His silent and loving Presence this soul is pierced to the quick and becomes conscious of the things that must be forgiven and put right before it can continue to love One whose care has been so constant.” We invite God to move upon the heart and show us areas that need his forgiving and healing touch.

It is far too easy to avoid our real guilt in a general confession. In our confession we bring concrete sins. This means not just the easy general confession sins, but definite sins, the sins of the heart— pride, avarice, anger, fear— as well as the sins of the flesh— sloth, gluttony, adultery, murder, the real and nasty ones we commit.

Second, let us bring “Sorrow” into our confession with God or with others. This is necessary and is not just an emotion, but abhorrence that we have committed the sin, regretful as having offended the heart of our Father. In fact, being sorrowful in the emotions without a godly sorrow in the will destroys the confession. If we have sorrow as part of our confession we are taking the confession seriously.

The third essential for a good confession is “A determination to avoid sin”.  In the Discipline of confession we ask God to give us a yearning for holy living, a hatred for unholy living. It is the will to be delivered from sin that we seek from God as we prepare to make confession. We must desire to be conquered and ruled by God, or if we do not desire it, to desire to desire it. Such a desire is a gracious gift from God. The seeking of this gift is one of the preliminaries for confessing

I heard one time that “Confession is good for the soul”, or words something like that. Well, it may be true, but it amounts to the fact that confessing does not hurt anything and has much for a person to gain from this practice or discipline. What can it hurt? How much can it help? Try it and find out.

WORSHIP- Discipline 2014-17

Worship– Discipline   2014-17

Why do you it is good to go to church and Worship?

It is a chance to break into the “glory of God’s presence” or even better, to be invaded by the Shekinah of God.  God actively seeks worshipers. Jesus declares, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him” (John 4: 23). It is God who seeks, draws, persuades. Worship is the human response to the divine initiative. God is the initiator and wants to restore and maintain fellowship with His children.

Therefore, Worship is OUR response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father, and we can have the entire best liturgy, but we have not worshiped the Lord until the Spirit touches spirit. Until God touches and frees our spirit we cannot enter this realm. Singing, praying, praising all may lead to worship, but worship is more than any of them. Our spirit must be ignited by the divine fire.

Is there a special or correct way to Worship?

We need not be overly concerned with the question of a correct form for worship. The issue of high liturgy or low liturgy, this form or that form is peripheral rather than central. We are encouraged in this perception when we realize that nowhere does the New Testament prescribe a particular form for worship. So, when a Pastor  worships  during the service it is NOT the form, but the spirit that is important, for when Spirit touches spirit the issue of forms is wholly secondary.

The forms are not the worship; they only lead us into the worship. We are free in Christ to use whatever forms will enhance our worship, and if any form hinders us from experiencing the living Christ— too bad for the form.

The Priority of Worship

The divine priority is worship first, service second. Our lives are to be punctuated with praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. Service flows out of worship. Service as a substitute for worship is idolatry. Activity is the enemy of adoration, therefore we worship. Simple!? If we long to go where God is going and do what God is doing, we will move into deeper, more authentic worship.

Preparation for Worship

A striking feature of worship in the Bible is that people gathered in what we could only call a “holy expectancy.” They believed they would actually hear the Kol Yahweh, the voice of God.  When more than one or two come into public worship with a holy expectancy, it can change the atmosphere of a room. People who enter harried and distracted are drawn quickly into a sense of the silent Presence. Hearts and minds are lifted upward. The air becomes charged with expectancy.

Here is a practical handle to put on this idea. Live throughout the week as an heir of the kingdom, listening for his voice, obeying his word. Since you have heard his voice throughout the week, you know that you will hear his voice as you gather for public worship. Enter the service ten minutes early. Lift your heart in adoration to the King of glory. Next, lift into the light of Christ the pastor and other worship leaders. Picture the Shekinah of God’s radiance surrounding them. Inwardly release them to speak the truth boldly in the power of the Lord.

Of course, a good place to worship is at church, so there is a commitment of going somewhere else, other than your house, or a place outside with nature. I highly suggest TRYING a church of your choice, with a religion of your choice to practice this Discipline of Worship.

 Avenues into Worship

One reason worship should be considered a Spiritual Discipline is because it is an ordered way of acting and living that sets us before God so he can transform us. Although we are only responding to the liberating touch of the Holy Spirit, there are divinely appointed avenues into this realm.

The first avenue into worship is to still all humanly initiated activity. The stilling of “creaturely activity,” as the patriarchs of the inner life called it, is not something to be confined to formal worship services, but is a life-style.

To still the activity of the flesh so that the activity of the Holy Spirit dominates the way we live will affect and inform public worship. Sometimes it will take the form of absolute silence.  Certainly it is more fitting to come in reverential silence and awe before the Holy One of eternity than to rush into his Presence with hearts and minds askew and tongues full of words.

Praise is another avenue into worship. The Psalms are the literature of worship and their most prominent feature is praise. “Praise the Lord!” is the shout that reverberates from one end of the Psalter to the other. Singing, shouting, dancing, rejoicing, adoring— all are the language of praise.

Let us consider some of the Steps into Worship

Worship is something we do. Studying the theology of worship and debating the forms of worship are all good, but by themselves they are inadequate. In the final analysis we learn to worship by worshiping.

First, learn to practice the presence of God daily. Really try to follow Paul’s words, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5: 17, KJV). Punctuate every moment with inward whisperings of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving.

 Second, have many different experiences of worship. Worship God when you are alone. Have home groups not just for Bible study, but for the very experience of worship itself. Gather little groups of two and three and learn to offer up a sacrifice of praise.

Third, find ways to really prepare for the gathered experience of worship. Prepare on Saturday night by going to bed early, by having an inward experience of examination and confession, by going over the hymns and Scripture passages that will be used on Sunday, by gathering early before the actual worship service and filling the room with the presence of God, by letting go of inner distractions so that you can really participate.

 Fourth, have a willingness to be gathered in the power of the Lord. That is, as an individual I must learn to let go of my agenda, of my concern, of my being blessed, of my hearing the word of God. The language of the gathered fellowship is not “I,” but “we.” There is a submission to the ways of God.

Fifth, cultivate holy dependency. Holy dependency means that you are utterly and completely dependent upon God for anything significant to happen. There is inward travail that the evil will weaken and that the good will rise up. You look forward to God acting and moving and teaching and wooing and winning. The work is God’s and not yours.

Sixth, absorb distractions with gratitude. If there is noise or distraction, rather than fussing and fuming about it, learn to take it in and conquer it. If little children are running about, bless them. Thank God that they are alive and that they have energy. Become willing to relax with distractions— they may be a message from the Lord.

Seventh, learn to offer a sacrifice of worship. Many times you will not “feel” like worship. Perhaps you have had so many disappointing experiences in the past that you think it is hardly worth it. There is such a low sense of the power of God. Few people are adequately prepared. But you need to go anyway. You need to offer a sacrifice of worship.

Willard Sperry declares, “Worship is a deliberate and disciplined adventure in reality.” 13 It is not for the timid or comfortable. It involves an opening of ourselves to the adventurous life of the Spirit. It makes all the religious paraphernalia of temples and priests and rites and ceremonies irrelevant. It involves a willingness to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3: 16).

I have taken from the book Celebration of Disciplines by Robert Foster for many of the ideas expressed in this blog. I recommend you’re getting the book and finding out the details of each of the Disciplines and learn…..  It is available at Amazon for a reasonable price, either as a hardback or Kindle version.

GUIDANCE – Discipline 2014-16

Guidance – Discipline   2014-16

So what is Guidance in relation as a Discipline?

This Discipline is listed as “Guidance”, which really does not say much as a title. It could be called Corporate Guidance, since it is listed as a Corporate Discipline. We can begin by acknowledging the prime word of “Guide” as something that teaches, instructs, assists, supervises, leads or accompanies.

Couple the word “guide” with “Spiritual” and we can see that it may pertain to something to do with finding our way toward God, by being led, or taught something toward that end. There has also been teaching— good teaching— on the exceptional means of guidance: angels, visions, dreams, signs, and more. But we have heard little about how God leads through his people, the body of Christ. On that subject there is profound silence.

By stressing its communal side as a Corporate Discipline we may be able to ascertain just what this Discipline means. God does guide the individual richly and profoundly, but he also guides groups of people and can instruct the individual through the group experience.

Although Jesus was an outsider to his own people, being crucified beyond the city gates, some people embraced his rulership. And they became a gathered people. “Now the company of those who believed was of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection” (Acts 4: 32, 33). They became a fiery band of witnesses, declaring everywhere that Christ’s voice could be heard and his will obeyed.

Perhaps the most astonishing feature of that incendiary fellowship was their sense of corporate guidance. It was beautifully illustrated in the calling forth of Paul and Barnabas to tramp the length and breadth of the Roman Empire with the good news of the kingdom of God (Acts 13: 1– 3). Their call came when a number of people had been together over an extended period of time. It included the use of the Disciplines of prayer, fasting, and worship. Having become a prepared people, the call of God arose out of their corporate worship: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13: 2).

I should stop right here and say this explains it all and leave it up to the reader to try to understand anything further.

 

Some examples of Corporate Guidance

Ok, let us say that we as a church have a problem that needs to be solved involving something involving the congregation. We could have a “meeting of clearness” whereas it would be called specifically to seek the mind of the Spirit for the question at hand. We could get together and announce the problem or situation and discuss it. We could take time to probe the issue, pray about it, and ask questions plus do some soul searching to find the answer. Maybe we will throw the issue away for the future as the answer. Hopefully the answer is confirmed by the prayers and interaction of the congregation as a whole.

In reality we ARE doing this already; using Corporate Guidance for answers. Let me quote a portion that our Church Council is working on to implement soon. “The congregational council will be a discerning body of spiritual leaders within the congregation. Instead of a maintenance board, the group will gather to not only discuss the business of the church, but also vision where we are going and how we are going to get there.” Notice the words “discerning”, “spiritual”, and “vision” mentioned in just that one sentence. One more sentence:  “Decisions will be made through a consensus-based model of decision-making interspersed with prayerful moments.”

A recent guest at a recent a church council meeting stated,  “You really have a different way of conducting your meeting affairs, it is very Spiritual” eluding to his more Roberts Rules of Order type business meetings he has at his Church, whereas ours was, as he said,  more spiritually administered.

Scripture must pervade and penetrate all our thinking and acting. The one Spirit will never lead in opposition to the written Word that he inspired. There must always be the outward authority of Scripture as well as the inward authority of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Scripture itself is a form of corporate guidance. It is a way God speaks through the experience of the people of God. It is one aspect of “the communion of the saints.”

This Discipline is also complex to understand, but it really comes down to using the Spirit in getting advice, taking action, leading and instructing towards the goal of obtaining what the Spirit wants us to understand.

I would challenge those that are not sure of using the Disciplines to give them a go at it and see if something works. It does take time for something to work, so don’ be disappointed if nothing happens right away.  Perhaps, you will have to “tweak” your attempts to get a reaction that you want. God is patient and maybe you should be also.

I can remember being frustrated when NOTHING OCCURRED right away. I wanted results NOW, and not later.  I found that what I wanted in my time was not God’s Time.

CELEBRATION – Discipline 2014-15

Celebration – Discipline       2014-15

Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ. He entered the world on a high note of jubilation: “I bring you good news of a great joy,” cried the angel, “which shall come to all the people” (Luke 2: 10). He left the world bequeathing his joy to the disciples: “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15: 11).

Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every Discipline should be characterized by carefree gaiety and a sense of thanksgiving.

To elicit genuine celebration, obedience must work itself into the ordinary fabric of our daily lives. Without that our celebrating carries a hollow sound. For example, some people live in such a way that it is impossible to have any kind of happiness in their home, but then they go to church and sing songs and pray “in the Spirit,” hoping that God will somehow give them an infusion of joy to make it through the day. They are looking for some kind of heavenly transfusion that will bypass the misery of their daily lives and give them joy. But God’s desire is to transform the misery, not bypass it.

God’s normal means of bringing his joy is by redeeming and sanctifying the ordinary junctures of human life. When the members of a family are filled with love and compassion and a spirit of service to one another, that family has reason to celebrate.

Joy is not found in singing a particular kind of music or in getting with the right kind of group or even in exercising the charismatic gifts of the Spirit, good as all these may be. Joy is found in obedience. When the power that is in Jesus reaches into our work and play and redeems them, there will be joy where once there was mourning. To overlook this is to miss the meaning of the Incarnation.

Joy is the end result of the Spiritual Disciplines’ functioning in our lives. God brings about the transformation of our lives through the Disciplines, and we will not know genuine joy until there is a transforming work within us. Many people try to come into joy far too soon. Often we try to pump up people with joy when in reality nothing has happened in their lives. God has not broken into the routine experiences of their daily existence. Celebration comes when the common ventures of life are redeemed.

The Benefits of Celebration

Far and away the most important benefit of celebration is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously. This is a desperately needed grace for all those who are earnest about the Spiritual Disciplines. It is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. This should not be. Of all people, we should be the freest, alive, and interesting. Celebration adds a note of gaiety, festivity, hilarity to our lives. After all, Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a winebibber and a glutton. Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things.

We do need deeper, earthier experiences of exhilaration. It is healing and refreshing to cultivate a wide appreciation for life. Our spirit can become weary with straining after God just as our body can become weary with overwork. Celebration helps us relax and enjoy the good things of the earth.

Celebration also can be an effective antidote for the periodic sense of sadness that can constrict and oppress the heart. Depression is an epidemic today and celebration can help stem the tide.

Another benefit of celebration is its ability to give us perspective. We can laugh at ourselves. We come to see that the causes we champion are not nearly so monumental as we would like to believe. In celebration the high and the mighty regain their balance and the weak and lowly receive new stature. Who can be high or low at the festival of God? Together the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless all celebrate the glory and wonder of God. There is no leveler of caste systems like festivity.

Thus freed of an inflated view of our own importance, we are also freed of a judgmental spirit. Others do not look so awful, so unspiritual. Common joys can be shared without sanctimonious value judgments.

Finally, an interesting characteristic of celebration is that it tends toward more celebration. Joy begets joy. Laughter begets laughter. It is one of those few things in life that we multiply by giving. Kierkegaard says that “humor is always a concealed pair.”

The Practice of Celebration

One way to practice celebration is through singing, dancing, and shouting. Because of the goodness of God, the heart breaks forth into psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Worship, praise, adoration flow from the inner chambers. In Psalm 150 we see the celebration of the people of God with trumpet and lute and harp, with timbre  and dance, with strings and pipe and loud clashing cymbals.

Laughing is another way we practice celebration. The old adage that laughter is the best medicine has a lot going for it. Indeed, Norman Cousins in his book, Anatomy of an Illness, discusses how he used the therapy of laughter to help him overcome a crippling disease.

A third way to encourage celebration is to accent the creative gifts of fantasy and imagination. Harvey Cox observes that “man’s celebrative and imaginative faculties have atrophied.”  In another place he writes, “There was a time when visionaries were canonized, and mystics were admired. Now they are studied, smiled at, perhaps even committed. All in all, fantasy is viewed with distrust in our time.”

Let us also relish the creativity of others. Those who create sculptures and paintings and plays and music are a great gift to us. We can organize art shows to display their work. We can sing their music in intimate gatherings and formal concerts.

Another thing we can do is to make family events into times of celebration and thanksgiving. This is particularly true of the various rites of passage in our culture like birthdays, graduations, marriages, anniversaries.

A fifth thing we can do is to take advantage of the festivals of our culture and really celebrate. What a great celebration we can make of Christmas. It does not have to have all the crass commercialism connected to it if we decide that we do not want it that way. Of course the giving of gifts is a great thing, but we can give many kinds of presents.

Celebration gives us the strength to live in all the other Disciplines. When faithfully pursued, the other Disciplines bring us deliverance from those things that have made our lives miserable for years which, in turn, evokes increased celebration. Thus, an unbroken circle of life and power is formed.

I acknowledge again, the infusion of information from the book Celebration of Discipline, by Robert Foster. I recommend his book highly, and suggest those looking for the reasons of the Disciplines. Anyone  looking for the “why” of celebrating, or the “how” of finding God in your life, would be advised to read this book. Things take time, and sometimes time is what it takes, and in many cases, you have to “work” at it to find out what is important in life.  I firmly believe that God is out there, and He is waiting to be found or at least acknowledged.

Easy Way 2014-46

Easy Way         2014-46

It’s easier to wallow in self-pity,

Than to change the nature of things.

It’s easier to give up,

Than to persevere.

It’s easier to do nothing,

Than to plan and then do.

It’s easier to look at darkness,

Than to look at the bright side.

It’s not easy for many things,

But, WHO WANTS EASY??

DDB

To Try 2012-45

To Try       2012-45

A venture not tried is but an adventure not made,

Not to make an attempt insures not defeat, but

Instead, assures no victory in life’s way of things.

 

To always take a middle ground, will prevent the

Sighting of a sunrise or crimson sunset of life,

And only days of dull existence will prevail.

 

No one should fault a person for trying for chances

Taken, for gambles made, risks beyond a safe way,

And no one should complain when the victory is won.

DDB

Body and Soul 2014-44

Body and Soul  2014-44

 

The very essence of the soul of man,

Resides, perhaps, in the confines of the mind.

The totality of the feelings of man,

Are, in reality, the very thoughts of the soul.

The body is but used as a convenient vessel,

For the soul’s long journey through life.

Comprised from many chemicals and minerals,

The body is a shell for the soul to inhabit.

At deaths door, the soul departs the useless body,

For a continued life far beyond imagination.

To where – is not for man to decide, only for God,

But with certainty it goes, never to return.

Gone, but with hope, never to be forgotten,

By those left behind in body and soul.

Den Betts