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.

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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.