Saturday, April 29, 2017

An Unexpected Discipline

Spiritual Disciplines are a popular pursuit right now in the Christian world.  In the last 30 years, popular authors such as Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have brought out the practices of monks and nuns and given them significant attention so that their practices gather a person or community toward the movement of the Spirit of God in their lives.  

The ones currently written about - fasting, study, service, and others - are worthy pursuits.  Anything which places a person into the power-working of God in our lives are worth the effort and time to do so in a conscious way.  The disciplines are a way to stay conscious of the presence of the living God so as to rest, delight and change in that presence.

Spending time with God causes this statement to be true:  "I am my best self with you."  This happens when we let God have his way with us, going no farther and growing no faster than grace allows.  

There is nothing wrong with entering a discipline so as to flex our spiritual muscles.  Discipline, as such, cultivates and strengthens the soul and the will by correcting mistaken influences and practices and by giving instruction which aims at increasing virtue.

Paul says it well in Romans 12: 1, 2 - And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.  Let them be a holy and living sacrifice - acceptable to Him.  This is the way to truly worship him.

Don't copy the ways and customs of this world, but let God transform you by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to discern His will for you, which good and pleasing and perfect.

Transformed.  Into a living sacrifice.  True worship.  Discern God's will.  

Yes, yes, we would say!

Some people take engaging in spiritual disciplines quite seriously.  Whether it's Lent, personal retreat or regular practice, they want to be in pursuit of God.  But, I have a proposal to make:  most of the time, we just engage in the disciplines that appeal to us.  We might choose the most comfortable or attractive discipline.  We probably choose the one that is in our control to do.  The ones that fit into our schedule, our lifestyle, our own interests or priorities.

I am going to propose that the most impactful disciplines are those not in our control or in our personal intent of change areas.  I propose that we can be lazy and self-serving in our pursuit of spiritual practices.  

This series then is a sifting of disciplines I want to call An Unexpected Discipline, the ones we had not counted on experiencing.  We did not know that hidden inside a life experience is a great lesson that challenges us to keep our focus on God, separating from how the world sees the experience and making us more aware of God's will for us.  This is when we are changed the most - when we least expect it!

Here is the series:  The Spiritual Disciplines of 

Revelation from God

Some we hoped to attain but are surprised at the discipline inside them.  Some are true surprises.  I think these disciplines are more significant than our orchestrated ones because these are given by God, who always wants more for us than we want for ourselves!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Holy Ground

In the traveling tabernacle and in the temple in Jerusalem, the Holy of Holies housed the ark of the covenant, which contained the tablets containing the ten commandments.  On top of the ark was the mercy seat, where God resided and could be present to His people.  That was the entire purpose of the structure.  Exodus 25:8 - "Have them make me a sanctuary so that I can dwell among them."  Yahweh was determined to be in relationship with His special people.

Since humans continually sin, fellowship with God required a means of access which could deal with that sin, because sin kept them from God.  Thus, the development of the Day of Atonement, which held holiness law and ritual cleanliness so that people could be present with God throughout the year. (The priests' activities that day was substitionary for this possibility of the rest of the people.) Various holiness laws kept people conscious of the holy. Ritual cleanliness was an examination of the heart and its motives.  Only a specially selected priest could participate and dare enter God's presence. 

The use of the word "ark" has interesting overtones.  Noah's "ark" was a sanctuary from the ravages of the sin of his day. The ark of the Temple housed the ten commandments which were a way to be rescued from sin with a set of behaviors (or behavior avoidance).  The New Covenant, though, would reveal how God makes final provision for escaping sin and its consequences - so that we can be restored to him in a deep way.

Jesus' death served as the final and most powerful blood sacrifice, atoning for all of humanity, for all time, once for all, making a way into the presence of God.  Its symbolism was seen in the tearing of the tapestry into the Holy of Holies on the day that Jesus died.  Now there would be complete accessibility. This allows for a new people to enter the presence of God, not by a set of behaviors, but by a belief in what Jesus did to make it possible for us to be in this new/right relationship with God.

No longer outsiders, the holy place is now in our "hearts." God-with-us creates a sanctuary of our lives.  We now can be conscious of and develop the holy in us every day, living out holiness as justice-seekers by advancing the living and loving God and His kingdom in the name of Jesus Christ, who makes it possible.

You are standing on holy ground because Jesus is present in you.  Paul says it best in Ephesians 3:16-19:

Father, out of your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen your people.  Fill their soul with the power of your Holy Spirit so that through faith, Jesus Christ the Messiah will reside in their hearts.  May love be the rich soil where their lives are founded so that together will all your people they will have the power to understand that the love of Christ, the Anointed one, is infinitely long, wide, high and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced.  God, may your fullness flood their entire being.

What a way to live!

filled (and strengthened) with the Holy Spirit
Jesus residing in my heart
God flooding my entire being.

Truly this is Holy Ground!

Monday, April 10, 2017


"We are in an abusive relationship with sin," said my Bible study companion, "thinking that which harms us holds the most promise/good for us."  It is classic trauma syndrome.

We go to sin out of some unmet need, thinking it will satisfy, fulfill or complete the need.  We keep trying it, even though it harms us.  Such sin is its own hell, with us cycling through it repeatedly.  We can even love the sin because we have invested our deepest hopes in it.  We pet and protect it, believing at some point it will actually satisfy our need, even save us from ourselves.

We are afraid to cast it down, for fear that in its absence we would have nothing or be nothing without it.  Even when shown God's way, we are so afraid of changing, even when the sin is now our enemy, the source of our demise.

God's hope, true hope, is filled with the unknown - unknown good and good-for-us.  The prospect of good is so alien to us, though, that we cannot even distinguish what is good and right.  So, we stay with and stay dependent on the sin and its pain because it is, at least, predictable.

Paul spoke it so well in Romans 7:14-25 about his (and our) addiction to our own demise by participating in sin.  We are at war with our very selves.  "Thank God, there is hope." Paul says because the answer does not lie with us, "The answer is in Jesus Christ."


None of my life is a problem.
It is a provision
to make it possible
for me to love God all the more.

You are my rock and my fortress-
my soul's sanctuary.
Therefore, for the sake of your reputation
be my leader,
     my guide,
     my navigator,
     my commander.  (Psalm 31:3)

Out of Weakness

I bow before a people of greater strength than I.
Called upon to teach them as if I know the why.
I have so little; thankful God is enough.
Do I have a rich language?
Do I have a true enough language?
I just have an honest language.
A testimony of what I know to be so.
May it be so for them.