STUDY- Discipline 2014-23

STUDY-  Discipline    2014-23

The next and last Spiritual Discipline in the Inward Disciplines is that of Study. The purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines is the total transformation of the person. They aim at replacing old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits. Nowhere is this purpose more clearly seen than in the Discipline of study. I must remind  you again that Richard Foster wrote the book,

I think it would be easy to “gloss over” this Discipline as not being worthy as a Discipline.  The apostle Paul tells us in (Rom. 12: 2). “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

What do you think happens when you study?

Study is a way to learn and be changed. We may pray to the spirit, sing out our praises to our Lord, live as obediently as we can, be filled with revelations perhaps, but still be unchanged. Why?  Because we may never have taken up one of the ways God uses to change us:  namely study.  If we get to know the knowledge of truth we can be free as stated in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”.  Ignorance of the truth can hamper and confuse us in the spiritual walk of life.  This all may sound good or even confusing to a degree so let us look into just what study is.

Do you think study helps us in life?

Through study, we can move in a certain direction as a kind of experience in life.  So, with study, there is concentration, perception, repetition, and ingrained habits of thoughts that are formed. These habits of thought that are formed will conform to the order of the thing being studied. What we study, such as the Bible,  determines the kind of habits that are formed, which is why Paul urges us to focus on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious.

The application of study is a process that is different than that of meditation for instance. Meditation is devotional, whereas study is analytical.  Meditation will relish a word in Scripture, for instance, and study will clarify the meaning.  They are two distinct experiences.  Study will set the framework from which meditation will function. Through study we will be changed, perhaps slowly, but changed never the less. We will learn, and through the learning be able to meditate on the words read and studied.

What different ways are there to study?

We can have different ways to study; verbal and nonverbal. The verbal way of studying would be in the reading of books and attending lectures or Sunday school lessons, which make up half the field of study.  Nature and, most important, the observation of events and actions are the primary nonverbal fields of study and one that we can learn much from.

 

What is the primary task of studying?

The principal task of study is the perception into the reality of a given situation, encounter, book, etc. We can go through a major crisis, for example, without any perception of the real nature of the tragic situation. But if we carefully observe and reflect upon what occurred, we can learn a great deal.  In doing so we are studying the situation.  We can study before an occurrence, and that is studying also.

What steps are there again to studying and how do they relate to Spiritual Growth?

They are:  Repetition, Concentration, Comprehension, and Reflection

Repetition:

This is an age old way of learning something. Going over and over again, to get it engrained in your mind. When we read the Bible, we get channeled into a specific direction.  Pastor Laura had me read the Book of James each day for a month.  That is repetition, but is only the beginning.

Concentration:   

Upon reading the Bible over and over, learning will increase because it centers the mind and focuses the attention on what is being studied.  Our mind is centered on what we are reading, absorbing input from the written Word.  The key is not to be distracted and get off base while reading, but instead keep your mind on the subject at hand, because that leads into the next area.

Comprehension:

Reading the Word in Scripture, will give us the “knowledge of truth” as I mentioned in John 8:32 because with comprehension the knowledge comes out. After reading James many times, it was amazing to realize that what I read before was now understandable in a new light from the reading days prior. Insight and discernment occurs and the true perception of reality of what was read, happens. After we have read over and over, concentrated on the Word, and start to comprehend, then something else develops.

Reflection:

We start to see the significance of what we are studying in the Bible. We start to see things from God’s perspective and in understanding the subject matter, we start to understand ourselves.  Jesus speaks often of ears that do not hear and eyes that do not see. When we ponder the meaning of what we study, we come to hear and see in a new way.

What to study?????   !

The Bible is a great start and it can be studied in many ways.  Someone won an award once in church one time for reading the Bible in its entirety over a short period of time. That in itself was amazing, but I always wondered, did he go through the steps we just outlined of the four areas beginning with repetition. I doubt it.  He got the award, but it was not meaningful.  Reading the Bible a section or book at a time is a worthwhile undertaking and if you end up reading all of it, that is great.

What are some other books that could be read that will give you meaningful insights to Christian thinking?

A few are:

The Confessions of St.  Augustine                            “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A Kempis

Brother Lawrence’s  “The Presence of God”        Blaise Pascal’s   “The Pensees”

Martin Luther’s  “Table Talks”                                     “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

St Theresa of Avilla’s “Interior Castle”                     St John of the Cross, “Dark Night of the Soul”

The main thing is not to worry about what you have NOT read, but instead, remember that the key to the Discipline of Study is not reading many books, but experiencing what you do read.  I believe that from reading the various classics of old and those works from more modern writers, we will learn. From learning we will be able to better understand the Christian culture of belief we have in our Lord Jesus Christ.

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SIMPLICITY- Disciplines 2014-22

Simplicity      – Disciplines     2014-22

How do you define Simplicity? 

The base root is the word “Simple”.  In Ecclesiastes 7:30 it states, “God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising”.  The Christian Discipline of Simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life style.  Nobody in this class can profess to have a simple inward thinking and not have an effect on how they live, which is the same way of your thinking. Just cannot happen.

When you have an inward simple reality, you are liberated outwardly. Your manner of speech is more truthful and honest. The quest for status or position in life is gone, because we don’t need those things any longer. We offer ourselves and our goods to others, to the church, for instance, and where needed by others.  We will no longer fear what others will think of us, but instead do things because we feel we must do them for the sake of those others.

What about today’s life styles and simplicity?  

I would imagine that EVERYONE craves things, at times, that we neither need nor enjoy.  We buy and buy items we do not necessarily want, but do so to, at times, impress people we know. When we purchase items that have a planned obsolescence, where that ends, psychological obsolescence takes over.  Some are ashamed to have last year’s style of clothes or a very old but reliable car, and are made to feel ashamed by owning them (especially by the manufacturers). The media tells us that to be out of step with fashion is to be out of step with reality.   We must take exception to the modern psychosis that defines people by how much they can produce or what they earn. The Spiritual Discipline of Simplicity is not lost — just something that we have to recapture today.

Does the Bible teach about Simplicity?

It all depends on who you talk to about the Bible and the simple life. The Old Testament is rife with warnings about the exploitation of the poor and the accumulation of wealth.  The world we live in belongs to God and cannot be held perpetually as stated in Leviticus 25:23. The Ten Commandments have the one about covetousness or the lust “to have” which can lead to stealing and oppression, if taken to the nth degree.  Jesus taught or condemned the mammon or wealth and declared it the “rival God”, as “You cannot serve God and Mammon”, as stated in Luke 16:13. Other Scripture readings are Luke 12:15; Luke 12:33; Luke 12:16-21; Matthew 13:45-46 and Luke 6:30 as some of the other examples of the teachings of Jesus.

What should we do then regarding material things?

OK, does that mean we should become paupers and do without STUFF?  NO!!!! God wants us to have adequate material provisions in life. Forcing oneself into poverty is not right in the eyes of God and should be renounced as being contrary to God’s will. Scripture declares that the creations of God are good and to be enjoyed. And extreme asceticism is not to be condoned.

Asceticism or the severe self-discipline and abstention from all form of indulgence, usually for religious reasons and it renounces possessions whereas Simplicity puts those same things into perspective. There is no place for the “good things in life” with the ascetic, but Simplicity rejoices in this gracious provision from the hand of God.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13

What is the “Outward Expression” of Simplicity?

I said before that you cannot have an inner reality without an outward expression and to experience the liberating spirit of Simplicity WILL affect how we live.  With this thought in mind, we must discuss the specifics or this Discipline would be just theoretical.  Therefore I will suggest ten controlling principles for the outward expression of Simplicity. These are NOT laws, but instead an attempt to define the meaning of Simplicity today.

 Buy things for their usefulness rather than for their status. Would it be prudent to buy or own a home with 22 rooms whereas 6 or seven would do well for two people?  Joann and I live in a house that is too big for us, and we will be downsizing to a smaller place sometime.   Buy clothes that you need without the need to impress others.  IF you haven’t worn a certain item of clothing for over a year, donate it to Dorothy’s Porch, regardless of the original cost.

Reject those things that you are addicted to in life. This could be almost anything, such as drinks of any nature, chocolate, videos, books or as simple as money itself. Refuse to be a slave to anything but to God, as His servant.   Easier said than done, I am sure and not something we want to rush out and start or stop doing. Keep this in mind, addiction is something beyond your control, and that is where God comes into your life as the forgiving grace and healing power of God to help you with your control.

Give things away. I don’t mean the tie or scarf you got for Christmas you never wear, but that is still OK to give away. It would mean more though to give something that means much to you as a present to someone else that truly needs it. We gave a TV enclosure, TV and DVD to someone whereas I could have made some money on it selling it on Craigslist.  The feeling we had in knowing that the items were truly appreciated was overwhelming to us.  Get rid of things and De-accumulate and in the process, simplify, and simplify your life.

Fourth, refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.  New gadgets, such as the I-Pads, Smart Phones, Kindles, and other such toys are examples of having the “newest model” for the sake of having it. These new features seduce us into buying items we do not need, but only want.  We, who live in the U.S. comprise 6 percent of the world population but we consume 33 % of the world’s energy, so gadgets are an unnecessary drain on the energy resources of the world. Our children and grandchildren don’t need the cheap breakable toys made today. Look for the durable and educational ones and/or make some yourself.  Ever notice how the small kids play in the boxes that the gifts came in?

Enjoy those things that you don’t own!  How do you do that? Well, the beaches at a Lake , the  parks at a local  Park District, the libraries that abound, are some ways to do this. If you own something we feel we can control it, if we control it we will get more pleasure – these are illusions. Free things can be enjoyed without owning or controlling them.

The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Ps 24:1) Develop a sense of appreciation for the creations of God and His Glory. Enjoy nature, the birds, the bees, the bugs, the flowers, and the rainbow of colors of nature.  Again, the park systems of Lake and Geauga are teeming with adventures to be had, and things to enjoy.  Get closer to the earth and closer to God in the process.

Use extreme caution before incurring debt by being simple and prudent.  The advertisements to buy now and pay later, (over and over again) is something to be skeptical about today. Usury in the Bible referred to any kind of interest, and it still applies today.  Jesus denounced usury as a sign of the old life and admonished his disciples to “lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35).  Do not be held in bondage to the schemes of those wanting you to buy from them and paying later.

Be honest in your speech.  In (Matthew 5:37) “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes” or “No”, anything more than this comes from evil”. Make integrity and honesty the biggest characteristics of your speech. It is best to reject half-truths or ways of talking that obscure and done to impress rather than to inform and illuminate.  After my accident, I found that if I told the truth in my speaking to others, I did not have to try to remember those things that were untrue and it was much easier to live that way. I remember years ago when I was in sales, I lost orders due to telling the truth about shipments being longer than the customers desires, but then I found that in the telling, the customers got to know I had integrity and could trust me when I told them something.

Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.  The best way to give an example of this is to think of those things that are things we purchase.  Do we sip our coffee and eat our bananas at the expense of exploiting Latin American peasants? In a world of limited resources, does our lust for wealth mean the poverty of others? Should we buy products that are made by forcing people into dull assembly-line jobs? Do we enjoy hierarchical relationships in the company or factory that keep others under us? Do we oppress our children or spouse because we feel certain tasks are beneath us?

Our oppression takes on the thought of racism, sexism, and nationalism. The color of the skin still affects one’s position in the company. The sex of a job applicant still affects the salary. The national origin of a person still affects the way he or she is perceived.

Lastly, shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.  Job, position, status, family, friends, and security— these and many more can all too quickly become the center of attention. It is all too easy to lose focus in the pursuit of legitimate, even good things, but we must try.   Simplicity: May God give you— and me— the courage, the wisdom, the strength always to hold the kingdom of God as the number-one priority of our lives. To do so is to live in simplicity.

It may not; no  I really think it IS NOT easy to live the simple life. You have to go out of your way to do so.  It can be done, but you have to have a commitment to do so. I suggest you try it, but start slow, make goals and work towards it. I bet you might be surprised at the results.

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.