Sunday, September 6, 2015

Spiritual Disciplines + Practices

One way Christians have spoken about embracing the journey of learning how to follow Jesus - to be Christian - is to incorporate routine spiritual disciplines and/or practices into your life...

What are spiritual disciplines?
  • The disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us. ... They are God’s means of grace.” ~ Richard Foster, Celebration of Disciplines
  • Henri Nouwen saw the disciplines as a means “to create space to meet with God that you other wise had not planned on.
  • M. Robert Mulholland described them as “things that intrude into our lives to align us with God’s purpose.”
  • My favorite description…Douglas Rumford said they were “a means to develop soul memory for reflexive spiritual responsiveness.”
Another way of referring to the disciplines is to call them spiritual practices. Spiritual practices are exactly what their name suggests; they’re ways to be deliberate about matters of the soul. A spiritual practice is a tool for becoming aware of God within the normalcy of life—it injects the sacred into elements that could otherwise seem just everyday.

Dallas Willard, in The Spirit of the Disciplines, compiled a list of spiritual disciplines + practices he believe were modeled in the life of Christ. He also placed these disciplines into two categories: the disciplines of abstinence (or “letting go”) and the disciplines of activity.

Disciplines of Letting Go
These practices allow us to relinquish something in order to gain something new. We abstain from the busyness of life. 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 and end up gossiping or complaining?
Are possessions controlling you?
Are you too worried about what others think?
Are you, at times, overcome with anxiety?
Are you usually stressed and easily angered?

Here are some of the disciplines that will help you LET GO and become more dependent on God.

Solitude—Spending time alone to be with God. Find a quiet place to be alone with God for a period of time. Use the Bible as a source of companionship with God. Listen to Him. Remain alone and still.

Silence—Removing noisy distractions to hear from God. Find a quiet place away from noise to hear from God. Write your thoughts and impressions as God directs your heart. Silence can occur even in the midst of noise and distraction. But you must focus your attention on your soul. This could mean learning to practice some forms of meditation; but it could also mean changing your life is rather simple ways…talking less or talking only when necessary and in it’s place quietly thinking about God. And it could mean turning off the radio, the music, the podcast, and the TV.

Fasting—Skipping a meal(s) to find greater nourishment from God. Choose a period of time to go without food. Drink water and, if necessary, take vitamin supplements. Feel the pain of having an empty stomach and depend on God to fill you with His grace.

Frugality—Learning to live with less money and still meet your basic needs. Before buying something new, choose to go without or pick a less expensive alternative that will serve your basic needs. Live a simple, focused life.

Secrecy—Avoiding self-promotion, practice serving God without others knowing. Give in secret. Serve “behind the scenes” in a ministry that you are assured few will know about.

Sacrifice—Giving of our resources beyond what seems reasonable to remind us of our dependence on Christ. Choose to give your time or finances to the Lord beyond what you normally would.

Disciplines of Activity
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 journey ahead.

Study—Spending time reading the Scriptures and meditating on its meaning and importance to our lives. We are nourished by the Word because it is our source of spiritual strength. Choose a time and a place to feed from the Word of God regularly.

Worship—Offering praise and adoration to God. His praise should continually be on our lips and in our thoughts. Keep praise ever before you as you think of God’s mighty deeds in your life.

Song Scripture has many references to singing praise and prayer to the Lord. There‘s something significant about the fact that whenever we gather, historically, God's people sing. It’s a weekly practice for most of us—even if you don’t sing, you’ve still shared an experience with a group of people, and that is at the heart of what happens when we sing: sharing an experience with God and one another. It’s a profoundly countercultural practice. Song can also to be done on your own. Read psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs from the Scriptures; or sing along with a favorite praise song or hymn.

Prayer—Talking to and listening to God about your relationship with Him and about the concerns of others. Find time to pray to God without the distraction of people or things. Combine your prayer time with meditation on the Scriptures in order to focus on Christ.

Fellowship—This is mutual caring and ministry for one another within the body of Christ…meet regularly with other Christians to find ways to minister to others. Pray for each other. Encourage one another.

Confession—Regularly confess your sins to the Lord and other trusted individuals. As often as you are aware of sin in your life, confess it to the Lord and to those you may have offended.

Submission—Humbling yourself before God and others while seeking accountability in relationships. Find faithful brothers or sisters in Christ who can lovingly hold you accountable for your actions and growth in Christ.

The Secular + Sacred Combined
The spiritual disciplines + practices are a tool for becoming aware of God within the normalcy of life—it injects the sacred into elements that could otherwise seem just everyday. They make room for God the Holy Spirit to fill us and shape us in simple and spiritually refreshing ways. So in applying just some of these spiritual disciplines + practices, we find that the lines can be blurred between those things spiritual and what is secular.

Incorporating these disciplines + practices into our daily routine reminds us: 
Gratitude can happen when we’re mowing the lawn.
Worship and grocery shopping are compatible.
God can be pursued and experienced during your daily commute.

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