Thursday, March 28, 2013

Discipline

Those of us who live as followers of Jesus are constantly seeking to pay attention to spiritual realities as we live within these physical realities. This paying attention to spiritual realities has at least two aspects to it: one, putting aside distractions and two, being intentional about pursuing spiritual growth. Distractions may be things like television, unlimited media streaming from the internet, reading material that points to the dark rather than toward the light, consumerist mentalities in our shopping habits, sexual fantasies, financial fantasies, fame fantasies, narcissism, and pop culture idols. If we are serious about pursuing a healthy spiritual life we will need to limit these distractions.

On the other hand, spiritual growth looks like, prayer, reading the Bible, reading spiritual biographies, periodically fasting from distractions, periodically fasting from good things, meditation upon God, and serving others. Richard Foster offers us sustenance for the journey in his book, The Celebration of Discipline.  In it he describes the path of spiritual growth that leads to greater awareness of spiritual reality. He speaks of the inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study; the outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission, and service; and the corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. Collectively, these disciplines will lead to greater liberty and greater awareness of the spiritual world. Much of evangelical Christianity has been impoverished by our lack of attention to spiritual disciplines. If we encourage disciplines at all we likely limit our encouragement to the disciplines of Bible reading and prayer. Availing ourselves of all of the disciplines described by Foster will surely make us much more attuned to spiritual realities and more aware of the voice of God. It takes an intentional approach to life to focus on both the physical reality and the spiritual reality; yet, with time and discipline, the rewards are great.

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