Spiritual Disciplines

When someone starts to speak to us about ‘spiritual disciplines’ our eyes kinda roll back in our heads and we by default assume a defensive posture. Discipline of any kind is contrary to our nature and I would propose that is of our ‘fallen’ nature. Surely God didn’t create “in his image” a nature rebellious to discipline.
I should clarify the term as it is used here. The verb form generally suggests chastising, reprimanding, or in the extreme, punishing. But our present focus is on the noun form. Here we speak of discipline as a routine or a regimen, something we adhere to as a regulation. There are legal disciplines we term laws and authority. There are any number of disciplines we impose on ourselves, such as work, exercise, diet, sleep habits, and even self-control. We unite with society demanding the disciplines of morality and ethics from our neighbors.
So what are spiritual disciplines and how are they any different than those we have listed? Where is the authority for these disciplines? What penalty do I invite by my ignorance or refusing to abide by them?
Dallas Willard, in The Spirit of the Disciplines, and Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, have compiled a list of spiritual disciplines and practices they believe were modeled in the life of Christ. These disciplines are typically organized into two categories: the disciplines of abstinence (or “letting go”) and the disciplines of activity.
Disciplines of Letting Go
Solitude, Silence, Fasting, Frugality, Chastity, Secrecy, and Sacrifice.
These practices allow us to relinquish something in order to gain something new. We abstain from “busy-ness” in ministry, family life, and work. We stop talking for a while to hear from God. We give up buying another material possession to experience God more fully. First Peter 2:11 warns us to “abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” Identify what is keeping you from experiencing greater strength and perspective. Do you talk too much? Are possessions controlling you? Are you too worried about what others think? Choose disciplines that will help you become more dependent on God.
Disciplines of Activity
Study, Worship, Prayer, Fellowship, Confession, and Submission.

Dallas Willard writes, “The disciplines of abstinence must be counter-balanced and supplemented by disciplines of engagement (activity).” It’s choosing to participate in activities that nurture our souls and strengthen us for the race ahead.
Abiding fully to these disciplines is no more possible than fully obeying the Ten Commandments, living by the Beatitudes, or wholly exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit.
Remember you are a sinful being. The Bible refers to our bodies as vile and lowly (Phil. 3:21); earthy and corruptible (1 Cor. 15:48-50). Jesus indicates that evil things pour forth from it to defile humankind (Mark 7:20-23), and Romans characterizes it as having a throat like an open grave, a tongue and lips full of deceit and poison, a mouth full of cursing and bitterness, and feet in a hurry to shed blood (Rom. 3:13-15).
It is no wonder we find discipline such a challenge. But we must not lose heart. Spiritual discipline is not a matter simply for the mind or will; it is an activity of the body. We must intentionally choose to pick up the Bible and study it, meditate on it, and pray its passages. We must intentionally go to church, sing praise and worship to God and fellowship with other Christians. Your times of solitude, silence and secrecy, your fasting and frugality are all things we do with our body – not simply think about doing.
Spiritual discipline is a choice we make to honor and obey our Lord. Some have suggested that such is the only way we can draw near to God and make ourselves available to his abundant blessings.

Peace

Peace – we find the term used two hundred and fifty times in the Bible, not including peace-loving, peaceable, peaceably, peaceful, peacefully, and peace-makers.

In the Old Testament the most common usage is the Hebrew word salom or shalom. The less familiar New Testament Greek word is eirene from which we get the name Irene. There are a few other words we render ‘peace’ from the Hebrew text but their meaning differs no more than black and indigo. When you think about our English word peace there are few synonyms. Thesaurus’ best attempt is tranquility, and it adds quiet but I envision ‘quiet’ as icing on the cake.

I chose Peace as our topic today as I meditated on our approaching celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

I would ask you at this point to go back to your ‘peace place’. For some of it is a place we can no longer go. It may have been as your mother read you a bedtime story. It may have been wading a trout stream or just sitting in an easy chair, fire embers dying away, draining the last of your hot chocolate. It was a time that everything was right – not everything in the world – just in your world – for that moment in time.

Some of us find that ‘peace place’ frequently – perhaps daily. It is my prayer that you know and visit your peace place often. My wife gets up earlier in the mornings than I do most of the time. And when I get up I often find her on our patio, coffee on the table, her devotional and Bible in hand, gazing off into space. I know she is at that moment at peace. I would not disturb that for all the world has to offer. I know that my entrance into the scene is to bring her back into a world of errands and chores, and living life in a fallen world.

The apostle Paul was very much aware of the significance of being at peace and that the Lord’s peace transcends all understanding (Phil. 4:7) As you read Paul’s epistles note that he opened each one with the salutation, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.

Jesus was not heralded as the Prince of Peace without reason. His promise of peace was both immediate and eternal. Imagine you and I go to see a movie that I have already seen. In the movie there is a threat against an innocent child and you might become anxious or cringe in anticipation. Yet as I already know the outcome and know the threat is not forthcoming you would see a sense of peace or tranquility in me and appropriate that peace. Jesus knew the end of the story. He knows the end of your story and mine.

He told His disciples “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27) and “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This is the peace Paul painted as "transcending all understanding", not an ordinary or commonplace type of peace. This was God's own peace – supernatural, beyond our understanding. Jesus knew the disciples were going to face uncertain days in the future, especially between the time of His death and the giving of the Holy Spirit some two months later. That was a promise of both immediate and eternal peace. His peace.

The eternal peace Jesus promises is that which we find as He healed the bleeding woman and the woman who anointed Him at the Pharisee’s home. He said to them “Go in peace, your faith has healed (saved) you”. (Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50; 8:48) Our peace is predicated on our faith. More faith = more peace.

You and I can have that peace that transcends all understanding in this troubled world only in Christ Jesus. We can know that we know that we know that our long awaited and longed for peace is promised and secured for us in heaven. Those peaceful moments we are blessed with now will multiply a thousand fold and be unending.

Twice in the book of Revelation God promises to wipe away every tear (Rev. 4:17; 21:4) Those verses cover a lot of ground. To wipe away every tear means to do away with anything and everything that would stand in the way of our joy.

It is my prayer that you know the peace Jesus promised. Trust Him – have faith in Him and you will find that peace.

The Prince of Peace is coming – Hurry, hurry!

Going Home

“For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thes. 4:16-17 NLT)

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matt. 24:30-31 NIV)

“For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27 NIV)

There’s a wonderful old hymn, “When we all get to Heaven”, an upbeat, joyful song of hope and victory, and that drives my spirit to another hymn titled “It is well with my soul”. I don’t specifically recall ever singing the two back to back but certainly when we get to Heaven – it will be well with my soul. Victory and quiet satisfaction – all in Jesus.

An old, and true, axiom says that two things in life are sure – death and taxes. But we know an even surer truth, and that is that Jesus will return. We have looked for Him on the plus side of two thousand years now – just as He said we should.

False prophets and seers have duped countless souls into an advocacy of a date, even the hour of His coming. If you find yourself drawn to that deadly flame you must run away, for all such predictions are lies, be they purposeful or accidental – they are products of Satan. Christ Himself did not – and perhaps still does not – know the hour of His return. Not the angels in heaven, only the Father knows. (Matthew 24:36, 40 & 42). Jesus told the apostles that His return will come like a thief in the night – best you keep those lamplights burning. (Matt. 25:1-13; Luke 12:35-37; 1 Thes. 5:2)

I think there is a lot of misunderstanding and even ignorance of what the Bible teaches us about Christ’s return. Much of the imagery from Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation is difficult to piece together into a complete picture. What of that is metaphorical or analogical; which is is to be real??

What is much easier to grasp, at least for me, is the definitive statements of Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4, and 1 Corinthians 15.

HE IS COMING TO TAKE HIS ELECT HOME AND NO ONE KNOWS WHEN!!

So what should we expect? Next week I hope to unpack the rapture and Christ’s second coming. But for today think on this: Jesus told His disciples (John 14:2-4), that He was going to ‘prepare’ a place for them (us too), and that He would be back. God created this big blue marble we call Earth, all the beauty we enjoy, the complexity of our minds and bodies, the rhythm of nature, all the stars and galaxies, etc, etc. He did all this in SIX days. Since then He has these many THOUSAND YEARS to prepare our home with Him in Heaven. Can you even imagine?? (1 Cor. 2:9)

Be blessed.