Spiritual disciplines, spiritual discovery... get ready to change!
Tim Sherrill, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022
Much of the future thoughts and ideas shared in this blog, for a while anyway, will be taken from a book by Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, The Path to Spiritual Growth, 3rd edition, 1998.
Foster’s book covers 12 “disciplines” or practices, if you will, regarding biblical principles for spiritual formation and maturation.
You won’t find a text anywhere in scripture that calls us to obey a collective group of recommendations called “spiritual disciplines”. However, and this is a big one, the encouragement to practice these disciplines are all throughout the scriptures. Sometimes they are clearly mentioned as commands if you will; sometimes they are expressed in the form of either examples, stories or illustrations. Regardless, one cannot walk away from the entirety of God’s communication to us and neglect these practices, or disciplines.
Don’t let the word discipline throw you off or make you anxious... replace it, if you like, with the idea of practices. We all brush our teeth at least once a day, I hope, and we would never bristle (no pun intended) at the thought of that being a discipline, yet it is... because we know it is good for us and for others....
Foster encourages us with these preliminary thoughts... “Superficiality is the curse of our day. The doctrine of instant gratification is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.
“Our world is desperately hungry for genuinely changed people. Leo Tolstoy stated, “Everybody thinks of changing humanity, but no one thinks of changing himself.”” In my way of thinking and living, to change requires a desire to go "deep".
The practices I will be writing about are twelve in all.
The first four are what Foster calls “inward disciplines”: Meditation, prayer, fasting, and study.
The next four are “outward disciplines”: Simplicity, solitude, submission, and service.
And finally, the last four are “corporate disciplines”, or group, such as a church body: Confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
These disciplines, or practices should not be viewed as drudgery. The purpose of the disciplines is to liberate us from stifling slavery to self-interest, perpetual sin, and fear. When our inner spirits are liberated from all that weighs us down, singing, dancing, and even shouting characterize the spiritual life, not drudgery. We become “deep” people for God, his original intent for us.
It is my prayer and aim that incorporating these practices, along with our engagement as a church with Spiritual Discovery, will enable us to become "deeper" people. In touch with who we are in Christ and with all others who are also co-bearers of the image of God.
May our spirits be elevated and brought to that which is true living, a longing for God. Psalm 42:1-4, David offers:
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under
the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.
Let's start with some preliminary thoughts on mediation shall we?
Psalm 104:34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.
Depending on your translation, did you ever consider there are over 25 verses around meditating/meditation.
Then, add in another 100+ synonyms: ponder, reflect, consider, dream, vision, reason, study, think... found in scripture.
Do you ever worry? Guess what, that's meditation... albeit a negative one. So meditating is not as "foreign" an idea as you may think. The key is meditating about God and what he is saying to us, where his Spirit is both speaking and leading.
Meditation is not the sole property nor did it even remotely originate, in Buddhism, yoga, any other “ism”. Meditation is not the work of some cultish idolatry, even though that may be our initial reaction or thought. The call to meditate ORIGINATED and was promulgated by God. Meditation is intended to keep us centered in life, in tune with our identity in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and a place where we can find solidity for whatever we need in the moment.
When we meditate, we haven’t lost our senses; we come to them!
Here are some quotes of others, many humorous, yet spot on regarding meditation.
- Don’t just do something. Sit there!
- Sorry for what I said before I meditated.
- Come on inner peace, I don’t have all day!
- The best vitamin to be a happy person is B1.
- You’ve mastered the seflie. Now master thy self.
- In meditation, I attempt to empty my–– oh that reminds me.
- The key to meditation is learning to stay.
- So, what is a good meditator? The one who meditates.
- You are only 10 minutes and one meditation away from a good mood.
- Meditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively.
- It’s like having a charger for your whole body and mind. That’s what meditation is!
- All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
- To earn the trust of your meditation, you must visit it every day. It’s like having a puppy.
- You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.
- It is very rare to find a human being today. They are always going somewhere, hardly ever being here. That is why I call them ‘human goings’.
Two men meet on the street.
One asks the other: “Hi, how are you?”
The other one replies: “I’m fine, thanks.”
“And how’s your son? Is he still unemployed?”
“Yes, he is. But he is meditating now.”
“Meditating? What’s that?”
I don’t know. But it’s better than sitting around and doing nothing!
Maybe you could spend some time in the word this week seeking out all the scriptures that talk about "meditation" or "meditating", or even some of the synonyms. I'd be curious to know what you find. Would love to hear from you.
Psalm 19:14 NRSV-May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.