Jun 262014
 

readingA friend of mine brought up this topic on an email list and I thought it worthy to bring here.

The following is a list of “spiritual disciplines” from the Renovare website.

 

 

Do you practice any?

If not… why?

If so…to what benefit?

Are there any you would like to pursue?

  • Meditation: The ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word.
  • Prayer: The interactive conversation with God about what we are doing together.
  • Fasting: The voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.
  • Study: The mind taking on an order conforming to the order of whatever we concentrate upon.
  • Simplicity: An inward reality that results in an outward life style.
  • Solitude: An open relational space for being found by God and freed from competing loyalties.
  • Submission: The discipline which frees us to let go of the burden of always needing to get our own way.
  • Service: The many little deaths of going beyond ourselves which produces in us the virtue of humility.
  • Confession: Experiencing the grace and mercy of God for healing the sins and sorrows of the past.
  • Worship: Entering into the supra-natural experience of the Shekanyah, or glory, of God.
  • Guidance: Knowing in daily life an interactive friendship with God.
  • Celebration: A life of “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8).

 

  296 Responses to “Spiritual Disciplines”

  1. Oy Vey! another list. what is it with people and their lists?

    I am sure that I do several but not in list form, but because they spring out of who I am or what I am doing.

    Where the heck did those definitions come from? Does anyone (come on, be honest) know what this means?
    “Simplicity: An inward reality that results in an outward life style.”

    If you do, I will pray for you. 🙂

  2. Be careful Michael, Renovare is Richard Foster. 🙂

  3. Bob,

    I know…I’m pretty much numb to further beatings, so we’ll roll with it. 🙂

  4. In Ortholandia, we have prayer rules. A typical EO believer will, upon arising, pray his morning prayers. They can be short or long, depending on the person. Also typically an Orthodox Christian will read (either as a family or privately) the Scripture readings from the Lectionary and the lives of the day’s Saints. We also pray the Lord’s Prayer before meals. Before bed, we typically pray our evening prayers and maybe a few Psalms. Wed and Fridays are fasting days (vegan fare) and in the Russian Church (not all EO churches, though) we go to Confession the night before receiving the Eucharist.

    We talk about “simplicity” all the time in the Church. It means not over thinking a situation. An example of simplicity would be encountering a homeless person with a sign asking for money. Without thinking of all the myriad of reasons why this guy should not have our dollar, in simplicity, give him the dollar and don’t analyze it further. Like those poor kids on the border- just help them if you can, in humble simplicity, and don’t over analyze the politics around it. “Simplicity” is a virtue that says God is in control of everything and just take the events and people around you as they come from His Hand, simply and without cynicism or over-thinking. Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

    Simplicity is demonstrated by the martyr who refuses to deny Christ and goes to the sword instead of thinking of a dozen reasons (loopholes) that he could use to escape. Simplicity is trusting the wisdom of the Church and not interfering in the business of bishops, just doing what you know to do (prayers, Bible reading, fasting, whatever) with a cheerful heart.

    Most of the people I know who are the most Christ-like are “simple” and most of the people I know who have left their churches (and sometimes the Faith) and grumble continually are not “simple.”

    It doesn’t mean being simple-minded nor does it mean that one’s life is simple and uncomplicated. God Himself is “simple.”

  5. Another example of simplicity is giving a simple, direct answer to a question, without self-interest or guile.

  6. I find lists like this very helpful.
    Thanks for this topic and links Michael!
    Look forward to the conversation.

  7. Xenia,

    I find that all very attractive.
    What percent of the Orthodox actually embrace those practices regularly in your opinion?

  8. London,

    I find them to be helpful as well…

  9. Michael, I don’t know. My friends all practice these things regularly but maybe that’s why we are friends- birds of a feather and all. There is a lot of nominalism in the Orthodox Church but the disciplines are always there for the taking, if one wants them. No one is forced to do any of these things. The idea is if you want to grow with Christ, these are time-proven ways that will help.

  10. Simplicity also sees every person as equal, everyone being an icon of God (that is, created in His image.) A “simple” person does not get excited over celebrities while overlooking the the waitress at Dennys, all are the same.

  11. I’m just thinking out loud here, but if you need to be continually reminded by a list, especially someone else’s list, doesn’t that show a lack of growth in Christ?Then when you read the list, guilt is induced and now you feel compelled to catch up.

    I did like Derek’s one comment on his list on the other thread – something to the effect “it’s OK not to be super spiritual – to live a normal life.”

  12. Yet the entire Protestant Reformation began with a list….

  13. MLD,

    I don’t view it that way at all.
    I see these as ancient ways that people have found to grow in Christ.
    Some are going to be helpful tools, some are not for everyone.

    You made a comment that I appreciated on the other thread I appreciated as well…that to know the thought of Nixon you actually took the time to read all of his books.

    I see the spiritual disciplines as putting that same effort onto eternal things…not for merit, but for growth.

  14. But not for individual spirituality

  15. Why wouldn’t we put the same principles in place for our individual spirituality?

  16. Michael beat me to it MLD. Why not for individual spirituality?

  17. I’ve practiced all of these. To avoid sounding like I think I’m super-spiritual, let me say that I’m about as consistent as my dog, who pees outside on the grass one day and upstairs on the hallway carpet the next.

  18. Of course, in western evangelicalism, study trumps the rest.

  19. The older I get, the more solitude becomes important to me. While I realize that moments of solitude can be found or created in everyday life, I find that I need, crave, time away by myself. It’s only June, and I’m already looking forward to October, when I will be able to spend 3 nights in a cabin by myself. Just me, my Bible, a couple other books, some music for worship and meditation, a journal and a good steak to barbecue.

  20. CK,

    Solitude is the indispensable one for me…and the one that has been almost impossible to achieve over the last few months.

  21. The list – the 95 theses – were not for individual spirituality – they were a list condemning a corporate body.

    Also note that I was critical of “other people’s lists” for me.

  22. Before I had my prayer rule (in the form of printed prayers in a prayerbook) and prayed when I felt like it, I rarely prayed. (I have mentioned this before here.) I knew a Christian should pray but I had no model other than the long flowery prayers I heard at church, which I tried to emulate, without success because I felt silly. Convicted that I should pray, I would fix some tea and settle down with the latest woman’s devotional book. I’d read that and maybe a chapter from the Bible and then attempt my prayers, with ran thus: O Lord, I just want to thank you for this beautiful day You have made. Help me rejoice and be glad in it. Please bless [names of family members], thank you. Uh…. thanks for everything, Lord, I just want to thank you for…um… everything. I just… uh… well Lord, help me be a better Christian. Um…… well, amen.

    Since this activity was so unsatisfying and contrived, I just didn’t do it very often. At night I might pray (maybe) an adult version of “Now I lay me down to sleep…..”

    The thing is, the less I prayed, the less I heard from the Lord. (I know some people believe they can only hear from the Lord in the pages of Scripture. I am not one of those people.) So since I hardly heard from the Lord, (very few HS pokes in the ribs) I was not being led by Him to pray so the less I prayed, the less I heard from Him so the less I was inspired to pray…. You get it. A downward spiral.

    A discipline cuts through all that. It’s time to pray- hop to it. (This is part of simplicity, by the way.)

  23. Xenia,

    I think there’s a ton of wisdom in what you’re doing for me….and by instituting some of it my prayer life is drastically better.

  24. I’m discovering that there’s a certain amount of inside baseball on this blog, and I’m fine with that, but I don’t want to inadvertently offend anyone either. I never even heard of Calvary Chapel until visiting this blog, so I do understand that I’m somewhat of an outsider (at least temporarily) in some of the conversations and people references.

    Which brings me to this post. A seminal moment in my spiritual journey was a small group I joined about 3-4 years ago where we studied Richard Foster’s, Celebration of Discipline. It spoke to me and opened my eyes as to how to cultivate my relationship with God. I cannot overstate how meaningful the book and accompanying video were to me.

    I resonate with Xenia’s #22 regarding prayer. In addition, God does speak to me when I read scripture. Confession has been huge for me, as well as service. I need a lot more simplicity and solitude (bucket list). Foster’s book made all these principles accessible to me.

    I don’t see these as a guilt list, or achieving merit with God, or whatever. I just see them as part of what it means to me to walk with God. The disciplines help me create space for me to hear God’s will for me.

    Since I started applying what Foster’s book taught, my relationships with family, friends, and God have improved. I feel more hopeful, patient and confident in my faith and my future. So, I’m a big believer in many of the disciplines, even though I admit that the word “discipline” can be misunderstood.

  25. Michael, glad to be of some help.

    There is a thread that runs through American Christianity that parallels the “Ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to do” sentiment in politics. The idea of submitting to a discipline sounds so un-American and so medieval. “Ain’t nobody gonna tell me how or when to pray! I got the Holy Spirit and I only listen to Him!” Yet in many cases this simply doesn’t work. It turns out that the Lord actually works *through* discipline. Even among Evangelicals, the ones who set aside a time each day for prayer and reading are more likely to actually pray and read than those who just wait til they feel like it. (This is what I have seen. I am sure there are folks this doesn’t apply to.)

    If we trained for a marathon (or for anything else) without discipline we would not get very far yet in the spiritual life we often rely on flimsy feelings.

  26. Jean, here’s a bat and glove! Glad to have you on the team!

  27. I’ve written this before as Bob Sweat probably recalls. I really like Foster’s Celebration of Discipline book. It is one I have kept on the shelf for years when other books have been boxed or given away.

    Another good Disciplines book is Donald Whitney (forward by Packer 🙂 ) – I was required to read this one in seminary and I gave it to all of our leaders at the church a few years ago when we had a leadership meeting, in hopes it would bless (not as homework, MLD 😉 )

  28. Jean, Xenia…both well said…and I concur.

  29. The idea of submitting to a discipline sounds so un-American
    ————————————————————
    And yet, just think of the multi-million dollar industries centered around diets and/or exercise disciplines. It is quite a disconnect isn’t it, Xenia? Americans welcome the idea in some spheres and reject in others….

  30. Xenia,

    I see your point about American Christianity, but its deeper than that when it comes to spiritual disciplines. Its also about the balance between Law and Gospel. Or Grace.

    If someone gives me a list to get closer to God and I follow it, I may feel closer to Him, but in reality know that the feeling may be just my inner Pharisee being contented with following an outward standard.

    If someone wants to follow a list, be it 1 or 20 items to get closer to God – more power to ya.

    Just don’t EXPECT anyone else to follow something that’s worked for you.

  31. Steve,
    “I gave it to all of our leaders at the church a few years ago when we had a leadership meeting, in hopes it would bless (not as homework, MLD 😉 )

    Sounds like the time I gave my wife a diet book – hoping it would bless and not be homework I have gotten used to the couch. 🙂

  32. Lists like this work well for me as a way to stay focused. I tend to be a bit all over the place and bore easily. I don’t see a list like this as “rules” or guilt inducing at all, but rather as reminders of possibilities of ways to be more disciplined and focused.

  33. What are typically on these lists? Prayer, Scripture reading, maybe a little quiet time. Don’t we all want these things? Don’t we all believe these things will bring us closer to God? Why the reluctance to submit to a plan (for lack of better word) that might help us with these things? Why bring up the Pharisees? Don’t we believe that the more time we spend with God the less Pharisaical we will become?

    The Lord said, “When you fast…..,” assuming people fasted. How many people fast? From what I’ve seen, unless you belong to a Church with a fasting discipline, most people will never fast.

  34. Is there anyone here who has led someone to the Lord who then did NOT tell them to start reading their Bible and praying a little each day. You just said “Have a nice day, I’ll see you in heaven”

    The point of discipline (the word) is to teach. A parent disciplines a child to teach them, and the hopes is that down the road the child will act properly, not for fear only of discipline, but because they WANT to – they embrace what is right.

    Spiritual disciplines are no different. Those of you who never miss church except in the rarest of times, go to church because you WANT to, but you disciplined yourself to get to that stage.

    I personally see nothing legalistic about talking of spiritual disciplines…

    Xenia, Jean and I are definitely on the same page here….

  35. I agree that all have some form of spiritual discipline – I just think it should be more organic.

    When this guy puts out his list he is assuming lack in others or his list will make people feel a lack – one way or another it puts focus on him like he has it all together – for all we know, his life is a mess.

    I remember 30 yrs ago Barbara DeAngeles had a psychology radio show on the air. She had been married 4 times

  36. Those of you who never miss church except in the rarest of times, go to church because you WANT to, but you disciplined yourself to get to that stage.<<<

    That is a really good point, Steve.

    For some folks, the idea of a discipline sounds burdensome, a real chore. And it may be, in the early days as you are getting the hang of things. But after a few months or years, the habit of regular prayer and Scripture reading will become a joyful and beloved time of day. This happy turn of events came about because of discipline.

  37. Last week some time when Michael was speaking about Crater Lake and asked where our place of refuge / refreshing was – I responded, and I was 100% serious that I was so busy all the time, that if the Lord wanted to refresh me he would have to do it like the Air Force tankers refuel jet bombers in mid flight … and he does.

  38. When this guy puts out his list he is assuming lack in others or his list will make people feel a lack – one way or another it puts focus on him like he has it all together – for all we know, his life is a mess.”

    The reality is you have no idea what you are talking about here.

  39. Well, I doubt he wrote the list just for himself. If he had, it would be hanging on his refrigerator and not being blogged all over.

    So I figure he must have decided “there are people out there that need to hear what I have to say, so they too can learn to be like me.”

  40. MLD,

    Maybe he and others have found these things helpful for a couple of thousand years and he’s passing on what has benefited them…

  41. MLD .. or he may have decided, learning about and practicing these disciplines have really enriched my life. Maybe others will have the same experience.

  42. Anne,

    We almost tied on that one…good to see you here again. 🙂

  43. I structure my work week. I structure my food intake. I structure my day for sleep. I structure my expenses. I structure my conversation to interact with people I have relationships with. I structure my commute to work. I structure my dwelling space for living, cleaning, rest and entertainment. I structure my actions to coordinate all those structures.
    I just want my faith to be organic and unstructured. Like my intellect, a free form disassociated collage of thoughts, inputs, impressions and expressions without tethering to rigid, legalistic judgments and machinations.

    This is my favorite conversation with folks who cling to the SoCal Stoner Hippie Surfer Jesus Model.

    Duuuuuuude.

  44. The church seeks men whose faith in Jesus Christ is nourished regularly by the Word and sacraments in public worship and by a disciplined devotional life.
    ——————————————————–
    disciplined….devotional…..life

    (from lcms.org)

    Maybe the argument, MLD, should be whether only men called to the Lutheran pastorate are to be encouraged to a disciplined devotional life. Or if all of the brothers and sisters in Christ can benefit in their walk by such a means…

  45. Anne & Michael,
    That is what I said – he sees a lack and figures he can fill it because he has something others lack.

  46. Well done, Rob. 🙂

  47. Steve,
    You flew right past the point – yes, one should be discipline and devotional — that does not come from a list. It comes from a prompting by the Holy Spirit.

    So, I get up tomorrow and I work through the list – am i better for having done so?
    Prayer, check
    Reading check
    Quiet – check
    Confession – check

    OK, all done with my checklist for the day.

  48. MLD,

    That’s simply disingenuous and obnoxious.
    We teach the faith and it’s practices anew to every generation…and in this generation awareness of some of these things have been lost.
    He’s not coming from a place of moral or spiritual superiority.

  49. There are two kinds of disciplines: the kind that enrich faith by intentionally engaging in an activity (or no activity – such as solitude); and the kind that protects faith by intentionally staying away from things harm us. Each takes discipline.

    Yesterday on Links, Michael posted an interview with John Piper in which Piper explained why he stays away from television shows that show nudity. To me, that’s a discipline. In my own experience, I found that when I went to the gym to work out and picked up a magazine (nothing special), such as Outside Magazine or Men’s Health, even they are full of suggestive pictures of women, articles about sex and advertisements for products to increase sexual activity or pleasure. I found these magazines personally problematic because they triggered lust impulses. So I disciplined myself to stop reading them and I feel the same way about certain movies and TV shows.

    Perhaps it was Billy Graham that said: “We have two natures within us, both struggling for mastery. Which one will dominate us? It depends on which one we feed.” That seems like common sense to me.

    There’s also the psychological and neurological aspects of how habits are formed. There’s been a fair amount of research on that. I think we can be intentional about cultivating positive habits.

  50. In just going to let MLD pretend that he’s right and the rest of us are fools….and move on…

    What do you guys see as the difference between “guidance” and “meditation”
    Aren’t both of those about hearing and following Gods voice/leading?
    Why do you think there’s two separate items on the list?

  51. “A very good way of testing any view that you may hold is this one: Is this view humbling to me, glorifying to God? If it is, it is probably right. You won’t go far wrong if whatever view you are holding is glorifying to God, humbling to man. But if your view seems to glorify you and to query God, well (there’s no need to argue or to go into details) it’s wrong. It’s a very good universal rule–that! And, my last word of all is, again, a word primarily to preachers–indeed it’s a word to everybody in the sense that if ever you are putting the Gospel to another person, you’ve got a very good test whether you are preaching the Gospel in the right way. What’s that? Well, let me put it like this to you: If your presentation of the Gospel does not expose it to the charge of Antinomianism you are probably not putting it correctly. What do I mean by that? Just this: The Gospel, you see, comes as this free gift of God–irrespective of what man does. Now, the moment you say a thing like that, you are liable to provoke somebody to say, “Well, if that is so it doesn’t matter what I do.” The Apostle takes up that argument more than once in this great epistle. “What then,” he says at the beginning of chapter 6, “shall we do evil–commit sin–that grace might abound?” He’s just been saying: “where sin abounded grace does much more abound.” “Very well,” says someone. “This is a marvelous doctrine, this ‘Go and get drunk, do what you like the grace of God will put you right.’” Antinomianism. Now, this doctrine of the Scriptures–this justification by faith only, this free grace of God in salvation–is always exposed to that charge of Antinomianism. Paul was charged with it. He said, “You know, some people say that’s what I’m preaching.” Paul’s preaching was charged with Antinomianism…So I say, it is a very good test of preaching. You see–what is not evangelical preaching is this: It’s the kind of preaching that says to people, “Now, if you live a good life; if you don’t commit certain sins; and if you do good to others; and if you become a church member and attend regularly and are busy and active you will be a fine Christian and you’ll go to Heaven. That’s the opposite of Evangelical preaching –and it isn’t exposed to the charge of Antinomianism because…it is telling men to save themselves by their good works…And it’s not the Gospel–because the Gospel always exposes itself to this misunderstanding from the standpoint of Antinomianism. So, let all of us test our preaching, our conversation, our talk to others about the Gospel by that particular test…If you don’t make people say things like that sometimes, if you’re not misunderstood and slanderously reported from the standpoint of Antinomianism it’s because you don’t believe the Gospel truly and you don’t preach it truly.”

    —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Romans 3

  52. Papias,

    I don’t think this conversation as presently engaged has anything whatsoever to do with the law/Gospel distinction.

    My life is better and deeper because I’m learning to work with these disciplines.
    I’m not holier or better than those who do not…but I see a definate difference in almost every aspect of my life when I’m actively engaged in them.

  53. “That’s simply disingenuous and obnoxious.”

    Not a very holy spirit filled comment – not even politically correct. I have my opinion and you have yours, but I have not said a thing about your opinion.

    But to be a conformist I printed out the list and hung it on my wall.

  54. You flew right past the point – yes, one should be discipline and devotional — that does not come from a list. It comes from a prompting by the Holy Spirit.
    ——————————————————–
    I’m with London but one final comment to MLD on this topic.

    This is the same argument against teachers (like you) in the church. Just read the Bible and let the Spirit teach you – nobody else need be used by God to guide you on the path.

    As to my link to the Lutheran requirements, if they are serious at all in examining their candidates for a disciplined devotional life (and that is not included just to sound good), my guess would be they are looking at some objective measures – Do you fast, pray, read etc.

    My guess is they aren’t looking for “I read and pray if the Spirit leads me to that day” in their pastoral candidates….

  55. London,

    The difference is small…but here’s how I understand it.
    When I’m neck deep in a Bible study and thinking through a passage…and letting the passage think through me…i get fresh insight and knowledge of the heart of God through that experience.
    I respond to insight in some way….or just receive it.
    That’s meditation to me.

    Guidance is when I’m engaged in prayer and seeking and see God interacting with me as my Lord and friend in these personal issues.

    I’ve seen a lot of both lately.

  56. Jean, although he will not agree with me, because it is me, says it correctly.

    “I found these magazines personally problematic because they triggered lust impulses. So I disciplined myself to stop reading them and I feel the same way about certain movies and TV shows.”

    See, he disciplines himself without a list – the Holy Spirit acting in us will have us do the right things. When he, the Holy spirit thinks we need to pray, he will prompt us. When he thinks we need to confess, he will be sure that the message is delivered – when he sees that like Jean we may be putting ourselves in harms way, he will convict us to put the magazine down.

    Not the list.

  57. One of the disciplines Whitney mentions (and I think Foster does too but not as its own category) is journaling. I have never really attempted this in any fashion, but I wonder if any of you have, especially if you did so at first as a discipline that then grew to something you truly enjoy today….

  58. MLD,

    What you have done is impute ill motives to the author and to those involved in this conversation.
    That is unfair and colors the whole conversation with negativity.

  59. Michael, I think you may be describing the item under “study” in your first example.

  60. Steve,
    Do you have to read a list to get it all in? Are you lacking if you don’t get it all in? Do you feel guilt if you only get 8 of 10 items in?

    I for one do not fast as they fasted in the Bible. (except between meals)

  61. Maybe not. I don’t think the disciplines are as cut and dry as a list would suggest. There’s much overlap.

  62. MLD, I think I remember you said you are teaching through the book of the Prophet Daniel in your Sunday School class? When you reached chapter six, verse 10…..

    ….Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.…..

    …. which is clear evidence that he kept a regular prayer discipline, what did you tell the people in your class? That this was an outdated Jewish practice? Which was continued by the Apostles, for some odd reason?

  63. London,

    There is much overlap.
    To me, the singular benefit in this is building relationship with Christ…and all the benefits that come with having a vital relationship with Him.

  64. London, my view on mediation (which I have heard from many others) is to take one verse or even one phrase or term and to just chew on it, mentally. Not to empty the mind but to fill the mind with God’s word, brief as the chosen passage might be.

    I am crucified with Christ…

    Our Father….

    Pick up your cross and follow me…

    The Lord is my shepherd…

    To me it is not the idea of study at all, but just to meditate on the truth of God’s word in the Spirit and let Him speak to us….

  65. Michael – when we attempt to follow a list…. any list….are we not trying to tell the Holy Spirit that “I have this covered.”?

    A list may work for you in making you feel better, but not actually doing better in regards to listening to the Holy Spirit.

    I will refer to my #30 and go the way of buffalo….

  66. Steve, I’ve used journaling quite a bit through the years in different ways.
    Sometimes just as a way to get out the things I think but can not say, sometimes to sort out what I think, sometimes lately it’s a place to doodle/draw which I’m finding as a way to meditate in a way that words/thoughts are not required.
    I love the idea of art or creative journals, but do not have the skill for them.
    I hardly leave the house without my moleskine journal actually.

  67. Xenia,
    Where do you get any indication that I object to the disciplines. See, you are so head strong in your own view, you can’t see mine.

    Did Daniel take out a list and say “to fulfill my list I now must pray.”? (the answer is no.)

    That is my point – Daniel was prompted by his continual association with the Holy Spirit to pray.

  68. When the Scriptures talk about the Law, they are talking about the OT ritual Law, the one that God gave the Hebrews as preparation for the Gospel. It involves circumcision, animal sacrifices and kosher food. It’s not about regular prayer and Scripture reading. How could talking to God at a regular time each day be considered legalistic? Good grief, my husband, who I adore, and I usually have a good chat each morning over breakfast. If he thought I considered it a work of Law to spend time with him, he wouldn’t feel very happy about that. How could talking with God and reading His word possibly be thrown into the category of the Law?

  69. Where did Daniel get the idea that he should pray 3x a day, along with the rest of the pious Hebrews of the time? Where did the number 3 come from?

  70. I don’t get the issue about the list. Having read the two books I mentioned earlier both authors are very clear they are not providing an exhaustive layout.

    When I played college baseball at OU I had to go to the weight room 3 times a week. I could do it any time I wanted (with a day rest in between) to fit in my schedule.

    Day one – I was given a list, created by the strength/conditioning coach – and told to do the things on the list. It was day one. I needed to check the list throughout. There were other weights I could have lifted, but this was the list the coach put together for me.

    Within a short period of time, I did not need the list. I knew what stations I was supposed to do – the list, as a list, served its purpose, even as I continued to do the items on the list for the next couple of years.

  71. I don’t personally journal because I don’t want anyone to find my journal and read it, either while I’m alive or dead. If I thought someone might read it (and someone will, for sure), then I will be tempted to write for that audience and not for God. In other words, I would lie.

  72. I think my 56 and Papias’ 65 say the same thing.

  73. Papi,
    This isn’t a task list that required following.
    It’s more like a list of things you might want to try if you are looking for some different ideas.

  74. Xenia,
    I worry about that too. But I’ve learned through time, not to write down what I am worried someone will read.
    Still find, for me, it’s hugely helpful

  75. Xenia,
    “Where did Daniel get the idea that he should pray 3x a day, along with the rest of the pious Hebrews of the time? Where did the number 3 come from?”

    You win – Daniel got the above from a list he saw online.

  76. Just published a report from the ground in Iraq…

  77. London – I realize your point #73. Do you know my point in 30 and 65?

    Lets do as you say – someone is a not doing so good with their walk and is looking for something different – and you hand them this list because its helped you? So far, so good?

    You see this person a few weeks later. You ask them how they’re doing – and they are still in a funk – you ask them about the list, if they are following it – they say that they tried but didn’t see any changes after a few days.

    What do you tell this person? Do you tell them to try harder in following the list? Do you give them another list to try?

    Its not what the list does for you that’s the issue. Its what we MAY imply when we hand a list off to someone else. Even if we don’t say it, its implied in the subtext that following this list will (fill in the blank).

  78. “Its not what the list does for you that’s the issue. Its what we MAY imply when we hand a list off to someone else. Even if we don’t say it, its implied in the subtext that following this list will (fill in the blank).”

    Papias has summed up my whole conversation.

  79. Here is a value in the disciplines. And it is connected to grace.

    We are not under any law as to how often we are to read, pray, how much to give, serve etc.

    At the same time, if serious about our walk, we know we need to be about such matters. And the problem with grace is that (by not giving us the requirements) we can always do more.

    Can always read more, pray more, give more, serve more. And at least in my life Satan is a constant voice in that area.

    So I can flake away all my time on this blog, watching TV, fishing at the lake or whatever…and totally stunt my Christian growth in the present, and no doubt collapse when the pressure of life hits some day and I am like the guy walking into an exam who hasn’t been studying or the athlete going to the field who has not been practicing.

    Or…I can have some daily disciplines that, when accomplished, open the door to these other things in the grace of God.

    I have a disciplined giving system when it comes to money. It is not simply giving God the leftovers (if any) and it is enough so as to pinch in some areas – but having done so, I do not have the slightest conviction about dropping $200 once in awhile at an amusement park for the children.

    That is an easy example but the same holds true for everything else. Of course there is more spiritual ways to use my time than watch the Sooners play football on Saturday. But I can enjoy life in the grace of God, knowing I am not flaking out. And part of that discipline might also be JUST watching the Sooners and not sitting in front of the TV from 9AM-10PM (as one can easily do during college football season) 🙂

    Anyway, that is how I see it. Maybe it makes sense to someone else.

  80. Steve,

    Well said.

  81. Papi,
    I see your point.
    Having said that, I still see a list (these were actually first in book form, not a simple list) as helpful reminders.
    I wouldn’t hand someone this list if they were in a funk. I may, however, suggest they read the book.
    If I saw them a few weeks later and they said it didn’t help, I’d say, ok, let’s talk about it a while and see what’s up.
    I don’t see this as a prescriptive list to cure all that ails a person. Just helpful hints for those seeking to be more disciplined in this area. It is more rounded than “read your bible, pray, go to church” imho.

  82. In my world, “the list” (there is no list but you know what I mean) is part of our life in Christ as lived out in the Church. It’s not derived from a web site or a book. These disciplines fit in with the Church calendar, the lives of the Saints, the Liturgy, and the rest of ordinary Orthodox life.

  83. MLD what I actually said on the other thread that I was fine with was:

    “Not being “radical” for Jesus. It is okay to lead a normal life.”

    It was more aimed towards the crowd in evangelicalism that thinks that if you aren’t out there doing “big” things for Jesus that you are somehow an inferior or lukewarm Christian.

    I have no problem with people having lists. My wife uses them all the time.
    It helps some people.
    Me, I would lose the list and then forget what is on it.

  84. I tried to make it clear several times – it’s not the list … if it is your own list. Tomorrow, before work I want to get up, jog 3.5 miles, read 5 chapters in my James Patterson book, and I want to pray.

    There, I wrote out my list of what I want to do before going to work tomorrow – but to pick up someone elses list, just leaves me cold – what I don’t know what I want to do myself? I need someone to make a list for me

    And why would I think his track record for list making is any better than mine.

  85. I know when people become Christians at my old CC they were given a short list:

    1. Pray daily
    2. Read your Bible
    3. Find a Church
    4….. I can’t remember what 4 was. I don’t think it was “get baptized.” (Maybe it was!)

  86. MLD,
    Can’t you just let those of us who are interested in “the list” as you call it, talk about it? Do you HAVE to keep insisting that there’s something wrong that there’s a list at all. It is extremely annoying.
    We get your point….you don’t like the list. You think that your lists are just fine.

    We get it….you don’t need to tell us again.

  87. London – just ignore me – I ignore you. 🙂

  88. This is not “his” list.
    These are ancient, historical disciplines that have been written about and practiced for a very long time.
    If they are deemed to be of no benefit to a particular reader, then the wonderful device that controls your computer would be put to good use …click away and find something that edifies you.

  89. Xenia.
    4). Give us your money. 😉

  90. London, in some churches that would be it for sure!

  91. Every item on that list is part of the daily life of many Orthodox Christians and many other traditional Christians as well. He has compiled a list of old-time disciplines and has not thought up anything himself or presented any novelties. No one is coercing anyone to comply with his compilation. There might be people out there who wonder what Christians have done for devotions (etc) down through the centuries and by the wonders of the Internet, voila’, here’s a list, free to be studied, mocked or ignored.

    I myself believe that this list could be very beneficial for someone who wants to do more than offer up the feeble prayers I used to pray. If one’s on devotional life is robust then there is no need to consult this list.

  92. MLD, brother, I think your focus on the ‘list’ misses the point. The fact is that our spiritual forefather Martin Luther, heartily and often quite forcefully endorsed many of these disciplines, and chastised pastors and congregations that did not pray or study the scriptures. These disciplines are fine tools and are the fruit of a mature Christian life.
    However, I understand your unease, especially when I visited the Renovare’ site and saw the disciplines called ‘means of grace.’ ‘Means of Grace’ is the technical and theological terms for God’s channels of grace TO us. Think baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the word of God, and absolution. These are God’s means, through the Holy Spirit, that He uses to pour out His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation on His people. Renovare seems to have the flow of action in exactly the opposite direction, calling our efforts (discipline) to avail ourselves of these means as the actual means of grace. Seems subtle, but it’s a huge difference.

  93. If I have access to tradition through authors, English language bibles through translators, theology from writers, etc., why would I not avail myself of these resources? I couldn’t recreate the wheel, first of all, and even if I could, I wouldn’t trust myself in isolation.

    If someone asks me what I do or what has helped me, why wouldn’t I share with them anything I know that could help them? I believe that Christians are channels of Gods grace to others. If you’re a successful business person, a good musician, a good writer, a loving person, etc., someone will at some point probably approach you and ask: How do you do it or what’s your secret? Well, if I love my neighbor, I’m going to honestly share with them the source of that gift or strength, and I’m going to share with them any insights I have into how to tap into that source.

  94. Here is what Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, wrote:

    “When we despair of gaining inner transformation through human powers of will and determination, we are open to a wonderful new realization: inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.
    ….
    The moment we grasp this breathtaking insight we are in danger of an error in the opposite direction. We are tempted to believe there is nothing we can do. If all human strivings end in moral bankruptcy (and having tried it, we know it is so), and if righteousness is a gracious gift from God (as the Bible clearly states), then is it not logical to conclude that we must wait for God to come and transform us? Strangely enough, the answer is no….God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.

    The apostle Paul says, ‘he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life’ (Gal 6:8).” (p 6-7)

    Foster’s analysis is what I find in the Bible and what I experience in my life.

  95. Hello Patrick,
    If you go back to comment #1, I think you and others will see my issue;

    “Oy Vey! another list. what is it with people and their lists?”

    My very next comment was that I do several of the things on the list – I believe in filling my life with all those things — but not because someone gave me a “to do list”.

    Having come out of evangelicalism where the mantra was dictated by Alan Redpath’s “Victorious Christian Living” you can see the results of a generation following after the theology of glory, if only I could follow the list.

    I also have issue with the “getting closer to God” since it was God who came to me.

    But I do hear you.

  96. I have no problem with the list….Doing them should be a normative life style.Sadly I am not very consistent at doing them.

  97. This is not “his” list.
    These are ancient, historical disciplines that have been written about and practiced for a very long time.

    _____________________________________________________________________

    lets not turn these into law and say these are Jesus’ list for us to do. That’s the problem I have with folks who use it as a standard to judge maturity level of a Christian.

  98. Who is doing that Andrew?

  99. This list basically comprises two important aspects of any Christian’s life: private and public worship. Some of the items assumes a Christian will want to pray and study at home and the rest assume a Christian will want to participate in a local church. This is normal Christianity and yes, I do think this list originated with the Lord. I still don’t comprehend how someone equate a call to regular prayer, reading, and church attendance legalism. But then, “freedom” is the American idol.

  100. “But then, ‘freedom’ is the American idol.”

    Amen Xenia. It’s also the American deception. “Gotta Serve Somebody”

  101. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to loose” – Janis Joplin (Me & Bobby McGee)

  102. Well, I for one am thankful for “American Freedom” right now.
    Everyone else can get down on it, but right now at least we don’t have the worries a large portion of the world has.
    I am probably not thankful enough for it. But, I think someone said that already today.

  103. I think Jesus was pretty fond of freedom too.
    He freed people from “demons”, religious Wing nuts, and legalistic thinking to name a few examples.

  104. I can appreciate an intramural debate about grace vs. legalism or legalism vs. freedom. But when the name of Jesus is invoked on either side of a debate, I encourage everyone to be careful.

    The only place I’m aware of that Jesus speaks about freedom for his disciples is in this context:

    “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, “You will become free”?

    Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36)

    So, if Jesus frees us from the power of sin, then what? Are we free to do whatever?

    Are we not transferred into the Christ’s kingdom? (Col 1:13)

    Is not Christ the King of his kingdom? (Pslam 110:1)

    Is a disciple above his master? ““A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.’
    (Matt 10:24-25a)

    “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 10:38-39)

    The freedom Jesus spoke about was not in any sense of the word the freedom that finds currency in American political discourse. Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for many. His followers are called to pick up their crosses daily and follow him. (follow him where?)

    This is not about legalism or a guilt trip. The point Jesus makes is that our lives are measured by eternity not by the snap of a finger that constitutes our present existence. We have freedom in knowing that we are free from sin and death and, in particular, the fear of death (Heb 1:15). Our freedom was purchased at an incredible cost. But not so we can carry on in any way we feel like. We were purchased to do good works (Eph 2:10) and to be his ambassadors to the world (2 Cor 5:20).

    This doesn’t mean we’re all supposed to be Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. Maybe we’re just supposed to be like Brother Lawrence. But whoever you’re called to be, it’s vitally important that we remember that we are not our own.

  105. I still like my freedom and thank God for it as long as I have it.

  106. In many countries, Michael could not even have posted this article to share with you these spiritual disciplines.
    That is what I am talking about and what I am thankul for.

  107. Derek, if I could hug a dude with a beard, I would offer you a big a** out hug! 🙂

  108. Who is against freedom? Certainly not me! I appreciate all the freedoms I have in this country.

    But it is a mistake (I think) to apply American-style Bill-of-Rights political freedom, as lovely as it is, to one’s walk with Christ. If we have the political freedom to build radio stations, publish blogs, holler the Gospel message on a street corner, etc. we should take advantage of it. That’s why God put us here and now. But to claim some kind of freedom from a perceived legalism found in a helpful list of Christian disciplines- I think this confuses political freedom with freedom in Christ, as Jean has written. I do not think a Christian should view regular prayers and church attendance as legalism, even if it’s written in list format.

  109. And I never confused the two, Just spoke up for one of them.

  110. Please continue on with the discussion.
    Not trying to derail.
    I just don’t care to have umpteen bible verses thrown around just because some of us like the freedom we enjoy.

  111. I think Jesus already told us what is important. Love the Lord and love our neighbor. I personally am going to use that as my measuring rod for spiritual maturity than some fabricated list. Of course I pray. Of course I read and of course I confess my sins. I can add a bunch of things to this list that aren’t on it that are just as important. The problem is it looks like someone made a new list of the 10 commandments.

  112. I think Dallas Willard pretty much encapsulates what I think is the problem folks are having with the way these spiritual disciplines are listed. He is quoted as saying “All who deserve to be saved will be saved”. Think about that. Who will be saved then? This is outright rank heresy in my book.

  113. Jean.
    Thanks for the lecture but I stand by what I said about Jesus.

  114. Yes Andrew that is right. Tis list of things people can do to grow deeper in their faith is outright heresy.
    :eyeroll:

  115. Andrew, where is Willard saying what you claim he is saying in your #112?

  116. I believe it was in a interview with John Ortberg
    http://www.solasisters.com/2010/03/dallas-willard-is-universalist-what.html

    Following the spiritual disciplines is not heresy but thinking they will save you sure is.

  117. This thread is one of the strangest ever…but it has been very revealing.
    I posted these because I’ve found them helpful, not as a way to secretly enslave my readers to bondage.
    Those of us who do find them helpful have made that point over and over again.
    I think what we’re seeing is the power of traditions…traditions that have been “anti-Catholic,” opposed to structure, opposed to liturgy, and that misinterprets any structure as equalling “Law’.
    This is the same way of thinking that puts “Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship” on tee shirts but forgets how much work goes into good relationships.
    I don’t follow a list…my life is too hectic to do so if I wanted to.
    I do appreciate the wisdom that has been passed down by others over two centuries on how to cultivate my relationship with God.
    That…and that alone…was the point of posting these.

  118. The one discipline that is not listed here that I felt sure made the top 10 in previous editions is HUMILITY! Was that removed or never one to begin with?

  119. Andrew,

    I’ve not heard of a character trait being listed as a spiritual discipline.
    The church has been writing about these things for a couple of thousand years, so finding an “edition” may be difficult…

  120. Michael,

    Renovare might not list it but others on the Internet do. I just googled it and came back with quite a few. But not sure about it historically.

    http://spirituallydisciplined.blogspot.com/2008/05/humility.html

  121. Andrew, in Foster’s book, the discipline of “submission” looks similar to the discipline of “humility” in the link you posted in #120. I like the formulation “submission” for the reason stated by Michael in #119.

  122. So if I am understanding correct, spiritual disciplines are something you do and character traits are something you are?

  123. Yes.

  124. I was thinking about how odd it was that people had trouble with this list and started thinking of other places where we have disciplines.
    They are everywhere in the art field. People who play music have gone through the discipline of practicing scales, learning chords, reading music, listening, counting, etc.
    I’m learning clay. There are disciplines of wedging, centering, opening, pulling, compressing, trimming, glazing, firing etc
    Each of those items feels awkward at first, takes much practice and then becomes second nature and I become a mature potter who can throw something beautiful.
    I can’t imagine any artist saying that a list like the one I typed is burdensome, legalistic or unneeded.
    It’s not a list of rules, or even an all inclusive list, rather it’s a simple, descriptive list of categories of things to do if you want to be a good and productive potter.

    Make your own application.

  125. Well in this case, you could probably just turn any character trait into a discipline but just prefacing it with “Practicing the art of ——————” And you name the character trait in the blank.

  126. London,

    Very well said…

  127. But doing it the other way around I am baffled. If I practice the art of fasting. What does that mean? That I am just a good faster?

  128. Nope

  129. Andrew,

    Jesus said there was value in fasting.
    He actually said that some things won’t happen that should happen unless the disciplines of praying and fasting are combined.
    He didn’t explain beyond that.
    He didn’t get the concept from Dallas Willard.

  130. When my CC pastor (big fan of the disciplines) decides to do a church wide corporate fast right through Eastern Sunday completely ignoring lent and stopping a week later to celebrate their new building and not Christ’s ressurrection. What does that tell me? They are honoring Christ? They are honoring their new building? Or they honoring the fact they can do a 21-day Daniel fast?

  131. Perhaps the disciplines would be fine if they were listed under Christianity 101 then.

    Look, I was raised in my Christianity to follow “disciplines” – to follow lists – even the pastors preached messages that were really “lists to the successful Christian life” – watch as the pastor preaches in sermon series “How to…” and watch the crowd take out pen and paper to take notes. The message?, follow the list and you too can one day become a successful Christian.

    But where does growth really come from? What I have discovered is that real growth comes from a continual look to the cross – not what I can do, what I should do – but what Christ has done. I would much rather hand someone a card with Christ on the cross and say – think on this, than hand them a list and say work on these.

    Hey, just my opinion.

  132. Preston Sprinkle recently wrote something that I find very insightful and relevant to this discussion:

    “When we get saved, we become united with Christ and indwelt by the Spirit, so that it’s impossible to untangle Christ’s empowering presence, the Spirit’s transformative work, and our own regenerated response to God.

    That is: Our union with Christ drives us to obey. Our will, emotions, and desires are meshed with His. The Spirit who indwells us empowers us to obey. We have been clothed with the risen Christ, so we cannot understand ourselves apart from Him.”

    I think what Sprinkle is saying is that I can’t separate my desire and intentionality to strengthen my relationship with God from what the Spirit is doing within me to bring about that desire and intentionality. So, if I resolve to read scripture and pray every day, it’s pointless to ask whether I’m following a list or responding to the Spirit within me.

    I think Paul lays out this idea in Rom 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind….”

    Does that make sense?

  133. For clarity – I take no issue with any item on the list – just a list itself that get’s published and passed around as if a Christian driven by the holy spirit doesn’t or can’t on their own know what to do.

  134. I think that is the 3rd or 4th time on this thread I have agreed with Jean. 🙂

  135. Jean,

    You get bonus points for quoting Sprinkle… 🙂

  136. Andrew,

    The abuse of a doctrine or concept does not invalidate the doctrine or concept itself.

  137. I would much rather hand someone a card with Christ on the cross and say – think on this, than hand them a list and say work on these”

    Then go do that. And let those of us that are interested in this topic discuss it

  138. I fast everyday and break the fast in morning at break-fast time. 🙂

  139. People generally have order built into them to lesser or greater degrees.
    I could take one of my workdays and tell you when I get up, when I leave for work, when I clock in, the exact order of most of my days and so forth.
    God built us this way. It is what it is.
    List or no list, you will order your life to an extent.

    London’s #124 is correct.
    No one gets better at something without practice.
    I was thinking of it in terms of soldiers. A soldier learns his arts through tedious repetition.
    You don’t get better through just half-a**ing through life.
    I myself would benefit by including more discipline to my Christian life.

    The part I find hard is finding time in all the other order I have placed there.

  140. Here’s the thing I run into all the time when I meet up with my former evangelical co-religionists. They say “So now you are working your way to heaven.” The good works they do, they claim they do them out of a pure and holy love for God whereas I do them (they say) because I am trying to bribe God into letting me into heaven. Their spontaneous random acts of devotion are selfless and inspired by the purest of motives whereas my more structured acts of devotion have thrown me into the category of those who deny salvation by faith alone.

    This is judging motives.

    Why is there the assumption made by many that appreciating/ practicing a list of spiritual disciplines means they don’t love God and don’t love their neighbor?

  141. Michael, #135,
    Just don’t forget to send me an email one day with a list of the authors and scholars who are persona non grata here, so I don’t get in trouble again. 🙂

  142. Derek,

    Very well said.
    I have always been very committed to study…but very lax in other areas.
    We’ve had a lot of stressful, time consuming issues here at home the last few months…and what I’m finding is that making the time for prayer and other disciplines makes a great difference in the quality of my life and the strength of my faith.
    I’m nowhere near where I want to be in terms of consistency…but I’m certainly seeing the value of trying.

  143. Or they honoring the fact they can do a 21-day Daniel fast?<<<

    Even this so-called Daniel Fast is misunderstood. Daniel wasn't actually fasting, he was sticking to the kosher laws as best he could under the circumstances of his captivity in a pagan jail where the meat came from who know what ungodly (according to the Law) sources. Daniel wasn't a vegetarian, given proper meat to eat, and he wasn't on a weight loss diet, and he wasn't fasting to get something from God, he was just following the Law as best he could.

    So when churches say "we are going to do a Daniel fast" they are completely missing the point.

  144. Jean,

    Always remember that we have about thirty regular commenters…and a couple thousand regular readers.

    I write for them…and most have appreciated being exposed to the thoughts of people they either haven’t heard of or have only heard them spoken of negatively.

    I love interacting with and learning from the whole of orthodox Christianity…so we’ll keep throwing this stuff up for discussion.

  145. Some of these disciplines appear to be solely personal and some appear to be corporate disciplines that we do together such as “worship”. I brought up fasting because the church did practice this discipline corporately for centuries in what is known as lent. I am fine with that and think its a good thing. But when a church decides to violate this tradition in a very obvious way I feel like I need to ask why?

  146. Andrew,

    So…go ask them.
    None of us can answer that.

  147. Years ago I once fell in with a group of people who followed the teaching of radio preacher Bob George of Classic Christianity fame. Never was a book so inappropriately titled. I went on a retreat they sponsored. This was back when I was an evangelical, by the way.

    Anything that smacked of lists, discipline, ritual, regularity or gave off the faintest whiff of Roman Catholicism was labeled legalism by these people who, by the way, were the most legalistic bunch of hypocrites I ever encountered in a religious setting. I remember sitting down for lunch at a table and bowed my head for a quick “thank you Lord,” only to raise my head to see everyone staring daggers at me. “We don’t perform those dead rituals,” they icily informed me. The whole weekend was like that. They claimed the Lord was with them At All Times and they did not need to make a ritual out of thanking Him for food, or setting aside a time for prayer or structured Bible-reading and you won’t be surprised to hear that none of them went to church. Instead, they listened to Bob George’s tapes.

    No one here is like that bunch, I know. I just wanted to tell my experience with a group of people who did take it to the extreme.

  148. Uh oh, someone please close my italics tag!

  149. Xenia,

    That’s the bunch that almost split our church…

  150. By the way, after that retreat, the people who brought me became so angry that I would not join their group that they ended up screaming at me. Seriously, they became hysterical that I refused to see things their way. Possibly the most bizarre church-related experience I ever had.

    Again, just telling this story for the sake of telling it, not saying anyone here is remotely like that group.

  151. Derek said, “No one gets better at something without practice.”

    And that is probably my objection – is that the standard used with God? Does one pray better (with more effectiveness) with practice? Is there a right way and a wrong way? Will God’s ear turn to you more once you master prayer?

    This is the point- “I know you try, but if you want to do it right for God, do it this way.”

    Reminds me of those who used to try to teach us the right way to speak in tongues.

  152. Some of these disciplines appear to be solely personal and some appear to be corporate disciplines that we do together such as “worship”
    ——————————————————–
    Foster’s book is organized around three sections. Inward, outward, and corporate disciplines.

    All are valuable.

  153. MLD – I think this discussion centers to the larger issue you have expressed many times here – it all starts with a point of view that maybe you hold differently from many of us

    You stated “What I have discovered is that real growth comes from a continual look to the cross – not what I can do, what I should do – but what Christ has done”

    On the one hand, there is something to agree with here, but on the other hand, there is plenty to disagree with. There just is too much Scripture, from multiple authors, encouraging us to “exercise ourselves unto Godliness”, “deny yourself and take up your cross”, “not to be a babe in Christ but to mature” and on and on.

    You also have in the past spoken of the good works you do for Christ as buying a bagel from your local baker and so forth.

    I say without fear of legalism or misunderstanding the grace of God, that I want to be a better Christian. Period. I want to be more Godly than I am in my thoughts, words, and deeds – and (to paraphrase) I will be satisfied when I awake in His likeness….which I did not today so there is still plenty of room for growth.

    So if I run into a dear saint who says journaling or meditating or whatever really changed his/her Christian walk, I would be a fool to not at least listen and maybe even attempt – a fool because of the starting point I hold.

    As a salesman, I was always out to find what the best salesmen might do to make themselves that way. Same as an athlete. Why not a Christian?

    I can think of an elderly seminary professor I had and what a tremendous witness and example he was. I imagine him being a lot like Dr. Packer must be to those who know him (based on what I see from Dr. Packer in video and text)

    I don’t think that I, or any of us, will just get to that point because enough birthdays pass us by on this earth…if for no other reason than I have also seen the flip side of the coin, guys who are surely saved but abandon any Christian disciplines in their life, and see how disgruntled and poor their witness is in their older years.

  154. Steve,

    Amen and amen…and bonus points for speaking well of Dr. Packer. 🙂

    Dr. Packer is the reason I have interest in these things…God has used him greatly to encourage me to more discipline in pursuing the things of God.

  155. Xenia,

    @150…we must have known the same group…same reaction I received.

  156. MLD
    Do you understand the Bible more by not reading it?
    By not thinking/meditating on it?
    Does it somehow permeate your brain by sitting on a shelf unopened?
    Now, I might not be the brightest bulb in the pack, but I know that you have to at least read your Bible to know it better and thus know God better.
    Not telling anyone any certain interpretation, just saying “read to grow”

    Somehow, the “against lists” people seem to think the “for lists” people are saying that if you don’t do x practice you are either not going to be saved or that someone is trying to teach some right way that everyone must do x practice

    I haven’t seen anyone say any of these things.

    Have you?

  157. “As a salesman, I was always out to find what the best salesmen might do to make themselves that way. Same as an athlete. Why not a Christian?”

    Why not a Christian?? As I asked in my #151 – “is that the standard used with God?”

    Best salesman, best athlete, best Christian? Is there such a thing as “the best Christian”?

  158. Packer’s short introduction to Whitney’s Disciplines book is excellent – and unabashedly speaks to the idea of being serious as a disciple of Jesus, while hitting head-on the idea that this is not about legalism or self-justifying effort.

  159. Xenia, at my Methodist church, I would describe worship as “liturgy-lite.” We include liturgy, but no where near as much as the RCC or I imagine the OC. I personally like the liturgy and believe it serves useful purpose during worship. I see the usage of liturgy in the NT (e.g., 1 Cor 11:23-26).

    I see a general decline in literacy in this country, as well as the desire to read. The day may be coming when liturgy will take on increased importance in the proclamation of the gospel as well as teaching the faith and the biblical narrative.

  160. Michael, that group and those like them have deluded themselves into believing that any thought that enters their head is a word from the Holy Spirit. So if they don’t feel like going to church on a Sunday morning and lazing around the house in their pajamas eating pancakes instead, it’s because the Holy Spirit told them to skip church. Ditto for everything else. Most people at least have enough spiritual insight to realize they are being lazy, but these folks have fooled themselves into thinking it’s the voice of God.

  161. “…the idea of being serious as a disciple of Jesus,”

    I am as serious as a heart attack in being a disciple of Jesus. I am creedal, confessional and liturgical. What if I passed out a list saying “if you want to be serious about Christ, you should really develop a more liturgical, creedal and confessional church life.

    Your reply would probably be similar to the way I feel out other people’s lists

  162. Jean, a good Liturgy is just jam-packed with Gospel proclamation and theology.

  163. MLD, maybe by accident but you took my plural and put it into a singular. There is no singular best salesman or athlete either, but there is certainly a collection of folks we might call the best in their fields.

    Good, better, best

    I want to be a good Christian (Well done, good and faithful servant…)

    I want to be a better Christian in the future than I am today

    I want to be the best Christian I can be in the time I have on this earth.

    I am sure many reading would amen those three sentences, but again, I am not sure you can because of your starting theology. I get the impression you don’t think in these terms per se, (I am not being insulting here, or saying you want to go out and sin or something – just from years of watching you post that this sort of mindset is evangelical in a negative way)

  164. Perhaps I look more as to what we do for ‘growth’ as community than as individuals – that our the church grows spiritually as we do for others – and me as an individual is along for the ride and I garner the benefits to me from the community.

  165. MLD @161 – You do recognize I was loosely quoting Packer, who sees no conflict or competition between a book “listing” disciplines and a liturgical, creedal, confessional church life.

    His exact words were (after encouraging multiple readings) “This will not only make the book sink in, but will also give you a realistic picture of your seriousness, or lack of it, as Jesus’ disciple”

    Now, one may bristle with Packer’s quote, but you can’t do so by simply countering about the sort of church service you experience on Sundays.

  166. I remember one woman from the group I am talking about. I had just had a baby and out of the blue, she and her husband descended upon our household with a casserole and I think it was a pie. What she didn’t realize was that we, unlike they, belonged to a church (our old CC) that had an organized list of women who took meals to new moms. We were already up to our ears with enchiladas, lasagna and three-bean salad. She seemed a little put out that the luster of her grand, Holy Spirit inspired entrance was dulled by a mundane list. She overlooked the fact that God can accomplish His work by means of lists!

    Again, just telling stories. I like lists.

  167. A few years ago we had a visiting priest and I went to confession with him. He asked some questions and he replied “You are in danger of becoming a superficial Christian” and gave me a short list, which I have followed to this day, with great benefit.

  168. Steve,
    “but you can’t do so by simply countering about the sort of church service you experience on Sundays.”

    This is where we do think differently – and I do admit we do. You look at what I wrote “you should really develop a more liturgical, creedal and confessional church life.” and you see only Sunday morning – where I see it as the daily life of the Christian (who you see more as an individual and I see more as in community.)

  169. Fine MLD, I’ll retract the Sunday part if you will acknowledge the point of quoting Packer makes your response irrelevant.

    And to repeat – I am not saying you are not serious as a disciple of Jesus. I am saying you think differently than the rest of us, including Dr. Packer apparently, some of whom (incl. Packer) do have a creedal, confessional, liturgical church life.

  170. Steve,
    Go back and read the thread – I have said probably half a dozen times that i have no issue with anything on the list and probably do most of what is on the list.

    I don’t like the idea of passing lists around – I find they make people weaker Christians and if most were honest they would admit to jumping from list to list or “how to” book to “how to book”. The bookstores are full of them.

    Read my #1 and my #95

  171. I don’t like the idea of passing lists around <<<
    jumping from book to book<<<<

    I agree with this.

    I wonder, MLD, if what you are saying is that you belong to an established tradition and that it has its own internal list (written or unwritten) that provides you with a rhythm of life in a natural way, based on your church's liturgy and liturgical calendar and typical private devotional practices and you don't see the need to heed a list compiled by some stranger on the internet and that just living out your life in Christ in the life of your parish does the job without need to consult someone's list?

    Is that what you are saying? Because if that's what you are saying, I definitely see your point.

    Or am I still missing what you are saying?

  172. I have said probably half a dozen times that i have no issue with anything on the list and probably do most of what is on the list. I don’t like the idea of passing lists around
    ——————————————————————————-
    MLD, you have been walking with the Lord for how long? 30-40 years? You teach at your church, you were elected Board President last week, right?

    If we substitute the word “collection” instead of list, would it be better. Here is a “collection” of spiritual disciplines used in whole or in part by Christians for 2000 years, that may be of benefit in your life.

    As I also have previously written, the two books I have read both make clear these are not exhaustive lists, nor is every discipline something that every Christian is likely to find themselves benefiting from.

    I’m going to quote again from the back of my Whitney book. “It’s not uncommon for an accomplished musician to be able to sit down in front of a new piece of music and play it through without a hitch. To make it seem easy, as if it required no effort. Yet, the “freedom” to play with such skill comes only after years of disciplined practice. In the same way, the freedom to grow in Godliness-to naturally express Christ’s character through your own personality-is in large part dependent on a deliberate cultivation of the spiritual disciplines.”

    MLD, you and I both have no doubt seen Christians fall apart. Life rocks them and the weakness of their faith is evident, often causing damage to others in the process. I remember hearing a long time ago that if I was ever tossed in prison for my faith, the only Scripture I would have is whatever I had put into my mind regularly and repeatedly enough to bring back to memory. How is one going to know God in prayer in the trial when he has never made the effort to do so in many years of prosperity?

    In sum, you seem a little like the skilled musician who is ripping on the means of learning for those just getting used to the instrument, as well as those who may be pretty proficient but realize how much more like a, (The), Maestro they could still be.

  173. Even exert musicians still practice basics from time to time. They also learn new techniques (maybe a list of new techniques) from other musicians.
    Using a list certainly doesn’t make them better or worse, it’s the practice if the technique on the list that makes them better, more proficient at their craft. Those techniques become part of their tool kit for when they play or compose.

  174. Xenia and Steve,
    Let me see if I can summarize my thoughts, which have gone further than my original ” Oy Vey! another list. what is it with people and their lists?”

    1.) If someone decides they want to be a “better Christian” and the first thing they do is run to someone else’s list, I think they are starting in the wrong place. And I also question where they get the thought that there is a better Christian they can be – really, is the person who prays everyday better than the one who prays every other day?. Everything on the list seems to be so inward and internalized on myself.

    2.) If we see someone who looks like they are “doing it better” than us – do we try to emulate them, watch them, write down all the things they do? Or do we stop and realize that perhaps God made that person and God made me.

    3.) I think, either the Church or the Christian media make people feel like less than – so they now have a service to render and they have a consumer.

    Gotta go downstairs and get my list for Costco … but I could free style it if I had to – but that would cost an extra $100 🙂

  175. Also, using a list of techniques from time to time does not mean they suddenly lose the ability to improvise.

  176. MLD, your 174 I think confirms my earlier thoughts about how you just think differently than me (and maybe some others here)

    Paul said to imitate him. (multiple times in multiple letters) – Paul was a giant. It seems weird those repeated commands would be in Scripture to us if our response is to just say “Well, God made me, me, and Paul, Paul”

    And as to better Christian, I think if we simply speak of better witness, for Christian as a label is supposed to be (at least a little) about us presenting Christ to the world, then there is nothing to argue about. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

    Surely you recognize better witnesses out there than others. The believer who still tries to dull life’s pain with pills or booze, the guy who seeks revenge for himself, the guy who seeks to destroy his enemy, the guy who blows up in the face of his wife, kids, or coworkers, the guy who runs to the hotel p*rn the first night he is out of town away from the wife….we could go on and on.

    So yeah, the person regularly praying, serving, reading, worshipping is going to be “better” when it comes to such things than the person who is not.

    (And those are just American examples..I could add the people we all know of (and some know personally) who take beatings, risk imprisonment or even life itself, for the Name of Jesus when just a pinch of incense would spare them of it all.)

  177. I guess a list does imply that one can improve as a Christian. I believe this is true.

  178. I do too. I think you can get better at anything you practice at more regularly.

  179. I am sure many reading would amen those three sentences, but again, I am not sure you can because of your starting theology.
    ___________________________________________________________________

    Steve you are correct about this. Our starting theology I believe is important. I felt judged by my previous CC pastor when I came to them for help. He told me to look around and see his leadership team etc. and told me what I see was all because they all followed the spiritual disciplines. However, when he said that at that moment I looked around and all I could see was arrogance. MLD has a point about the community thing. No one is better than anyone else and we need each other.

  180. We judge between “good” and “bad” Christians all the time. Or maybe “mature” and “immature,” except that some people have zero desire to pass from immature on into maturity. If I were hiring someone as principal for a Christian school, for example, I would certainly want a “good,” or let’s call him “mature” Christian. How did this person reach Christian maturity? By practicing the Christian disciplines, at least some of them, whether he has a written list he follows or an internal list. This list would include Bible-reading, regular prayer and regular church attendance. These practices lead to spiritual maturity if carried out with a sincere desire to follow the Lord. (Of course they can be carried out superficially, too, and will not lead to maturity.)

    If someone chooses not to practice these disciplines or does them insincerely, this person will not grow into Christian maturity. I believe there is such a thing as Christian maturity and so does Saint Paul who admonishes people who still eat baby food and haven’t matured to solid food. He says grow up! How did he expect them to grow up? What did he expect them to do? Did he expect them to wait for the Lord to mature them without them doing anything different than what they were already doing (or not doing)?

    If the word “mature” is preferred over “good,” no argument from me.

    What if a person chooses, out of laziness, rebellion or orneriness not to pray, go to church, read the Bible, etc? Is this a mature Christian? Is this a “good” Christian? Are there Christians more mature than him? Better?

  181. Steve, in support of just about everything you’ve said, perhaps a couple clarifications might be helpful. I don’t think when you use the term “better Christian” that you mean that we can add anything to the work of Christ in terms of our justification before God. Forensically, the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him received the same verdict before God as the beloved disciple.

    I think your use of the term “better witness” is appropriate, although perhaps we could go further and say that we can also improve our earthly personal walks with God by using the disciplines. Again, I agree with Sprinkle that it may be pointless to try and divide our efforts from the efforts of the Spirit working in us, because we are united with Christ.

    And you are absolutely correct that Paul instructs his congregations to imitate him. I would add the following verses to the discussion:

    “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal 6:8).

    “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” 1 (Tim 4:6-7).

    Imitating, sowing and training…all biblical.

  182. Good, better, best
    I want to be a good Christian (Well done, good and faithful servant…)
    I want to be a better Christian in the future than I am today
    I want to be the best Christian I can be in the time I have on this earth.
    ———————————————————–
    I wrote the above in an earlier post.

    To be VERY clear, I use the term “better” only in comparison to myself and not any other person.

    Christ is the standard. Not another brother or sister, though I can aspire to be like another brother or sister as they follow Christ…and thus can learn from them.

  183. I don’t want to take us down a rabbit trail, but there is a danger for the Christian who remains an infant in Christ. The author of Hebrews warned his community about the danger of apostasy, resulting from such things as remaining on milk instead of going on to solid food; of drifting away; of being sluggish instead of imitating mature believers; and of abandoning regular meetings together.

    Jesus spoke in parables about the man who built his house on sand and about the seed that fell on the rocky ground or among the thorns.

    I don’t want any of these things to happen to me or anyone else. I understand that theologically people interpret Hebrews differently. But I’m not taking any chances either way. Why take a chance when I know that I am more fully myself, freer, more fulfilled, and a better friend, husband and parent when I place God first in my life in my tangible daily life which include the disciplines.

  184. “And you are absolutely correct that Paul instructs his congregations to imitate him.”

    I’m sorry , but you are using this out of context. Do you really think Paul wanted people to imitate him for the reason stated? – that he was a super christian (or whatever Steve said above) Paul, who called himself the chief of sinners – this was to be imitated? Paul who described his “Spiritual Growth” and development in Rom 7, this is to be imitated by other Christians?

    Why did Paul tell people to imitate him (and the part left out, as he imitates Christ) – Because no one knew what a Christian looked like – no gospels were floating around describing Christ – so Paul said “look like me, as I try to look like Jesus.”

  185. Well, Xenia and Jean both brought up about the immature Christian – what is more immature than a long time Christian who keeps running after the new list and the new book?

    As I said above, looking to Jesus on the cross and the natural flow of work in community will deliver Spiritual Growth and will evidence itself in Spiritual Discipline. I don’t think that “isolated” spiritual discipline programs deliver anything.

    Again, everyone on this blog is an “old timer” in the faith and in these discussions – why the excitement about this list?

  186. MLD, Paul said that in multiple letters – and for that matter Peter writing to the pastor elders told them to be an example to the flock as well. You complain about context and then you throw out the chief of sinners and Rom 7 stuff? Silly.

    Couple that with your comment challenging the Biblical admonition about the immature Christian, and you really are just giving your personal twist on verses that otherwise are quite clear when read normally by just about anyone else. So I guess that ends the discussion… 🙂

    (And I think Michael’s point earlier was that not everyone on the blog, at least reading, is an old-timer in the faith)

  187. Steve,
    As i said, some are just addicted to the good old to do list. Some preachers can’t preach without delivering a list and some people can’t go to church without receiving a list.

    You were clear above what a good witnesser would look like – in list form I might add, and have given the impression that anything less is, well, less that a ‘christian witness’.

    My point is, I want to be out on the front lines and if I offend someone with my less that “good witness” behavior, let it be.I for one think that the motorcycle guy who drops the F Bomb once in a while with his friends might just be striking a cord.

    Others might faint. 🙂

  188. Judging from my email, a lot of our readers are in transition…they left a CC/Baptistic tradition and are exploring everything from Lutheranism to Calvinism to Orthodoxy to some “ism” they haven’t found yet.

    They love articles like this and the church history stuff we do because it exposes them to things they never knew existed.

    It’s a real joy for me to bring things to the table that may help them decide what tradition they will embrace next, if any.

  189. At one time our hearts were not able to love others as He loved and at one time our perspective was that which was justified by worldly principles and concepts. The items on the list lends themselves to helping us to absorb those things that are of the Lord. As this take place, the Holy Spirit uses this to guide and convict (not condemnation) our hearts to repent and to follow (abide, walk in obedience, and doing it most willingly, without feeling as though it is a burden to do so). As this take place, not only are our hearts changed, but our perspective, our choices are as well, because as mature Christian, we look more and more like Him. In other words, those characteristics that we once had that were worldly bounded are now heavenly bounded.


    “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    on
    destiny

    1 Peter 1-2

  190. Xenia,

    In your 180 above, would you consider Bob Coy one to have obtained the level of maturity than lost it or never attained it in the first place? This is a practical question when we start evaluating people whether they are mature or not.

  191. You were clear above what a good witnesser would look like – in list form I might add, and have given the impression that anything less is, well, less that a ‘christian witness’.
    ——————————————————
    My 176 was hardly about such trivia as an occasional F-bomb.

    I come to this discussion from an entirely difference experience set than you do, MLD. Not better or worse…just different.

  192. @188
    Interesting trend. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

    http://vimeo.com/73577436

    maybe some day I’ll make it to Vegas.

  193. lxtlan, I haven’t found it yet either but I am hoping Lutheranism may have some answers. I have tried every else except that, EO and RCC and doubt I could ever be RCC.

  194. Michael,
    I understand why you write the articles and I do recognize the large, unseen readership, so believe me my beef is not with the article or you. In fact my beef is not with anyone here – it’s with the producers of these continual lists of “how to do it God’s way”

    To me, these list makers or “sanctification hawks” are just as wrong and arrogant as the things we see Mark Driscoll and some other characters do.

  195. Andrew,

    Maybe I’m just tired or stupid…but what the hell does Bob Coy have to do with this discussion?

  196. MLD,

    My beef with you is you keep mischaracterizing the intent of the cited work…which you just do one more time.
    It’s not worth trying to discuss it with someone who keeps doing what you’re doing despite what the actual point is.

  197. Michael, I believe he practiced the spiritual disciplines. I guess when I see a fall like this, it makes me wonder about the hype about practicing them. Does it really do wonders that everyone is saying they do? Or are the practicers really no better?

  198. Ixtlan,

    It is a trend.
    The internet has exposed people to Christian thought and traditions that they never knew of and is giving options to people who thought they had none but where they were and becoming a Catholic.

  199. Andrew,

    I’m going to try to be gracious here.

    There is no evidence that I am aware of that Coy practiced spiritual disciplines…his tradition tends to reject anything other than Bible reading through one lens and prayer.

    I didn’t publish this for hype…the article it came from is many years old as is the book it came from.
    No one I know of claims they do “wonders”.
    They have proven for at least 1500 years to be things that strengthen the faith and walk of the saints.

    Some folks are interested in a deepened faith and better walk…these are simply ways that others have found help in doing so.

    It’s really that simple.

  200. http://www.buildingchurchleaders.com/downloads/practicalministryskills/findingfocusthroughspiritualdisciplines/

    The Discipline of Fasting
    Spiritually directed fasting gives us supernatural power and a biblical perspective.
    Bob Coy

  201. Luther himself practiced spiritual disciplines…and made lists for his parishioners.

    This letter to his barber who asked how best to pray includes almost all the items collected in our article.

    http://www.ordinarypastor.com/files/A_Simple_Way_To_Pray-v1-Luther.pdf

  202. Michael,
    Why do you get to mis characterize what I say? I have great differences with people who not only place holiness and personal sanctification at the top of “what it means to be a Christian” list – but also sell it to folks while they are down or confused.

  203. There is much to be said about giving an ear to the long historical tradition of the church. There is truth, even from some Roman Catholic sources (Aquinas for one) although the makeup of modern day Roman Catholicism is problematic at best.

    This ideal that the church has finally gotten their theology right after almost 2 thousand years of existence has become less believable to me.

  204. MLD,

    “In fact my beef is not with anyone here – it’s with the producers of these continual lists of “how to do it God’s way”

    That is a complete mischaracterization of what Foster and others were doing.

  205. Michael – correct, when someone asks for advise – – but not just shooting it out there to the general public.

    You keep throwing around the term “spiritual disciplines” I don’t even know what that means anymore.

    But you would probably object to a PP road trip to Vegas. 😉

  206. Andrew,

    Coy wrote an article on fasting.

    That doesn’t mean he practiced it or any other discipline.
    It means he got paid to write an article.

  207. “That is a complete mischaracterization of what Foster and others were doing.”

    That is your view and you are entitled to it. I call Foster a “sanctification hawk” So I guess it is a split vote.

  208. MLD,

    Exactly how long has Luther’s letter to his barber been available to the public?
    I believe he had it published after his barber passed it around.

  209. Wasn’t Foster the one that had the out of body experience? Seems kind of freaky to me.

  210. Michael,
    I believe you are right. I googled a publication date and came up with 1535.
    When did Luther die MLD?

  211. Hi Andrew,

    I don’t know Bob Coy- never heard of him till I started reading here. I read here that he fell into sin, for which I am very sorry and I hope this sad time in his life leads to repentance and renewal.

    When a person neck deep in grievous sin and leading a double life it is unlikely that prayer and confession and the rest of the items on the list are a priority. But there things are the way up and out of the ditch.

  212. Just about every book I purchase and blog I read is the result of a recommendation or review from a source I trust. I don’t have a window into the soul of the writer, so I don’t make that a criteria. I also recognize that authors need to make a living just like I do. Am I put off by a lot of the commercialization of 21st century western Christianity? Yes I am.

  213. Wow, he published it the same year he wrote it to the barber.
    Guess Luther thought this was some stuff that might be useful to people.

  214. We all know that a person could just blindly work their way through a daily list and it will profit them nothing. If a person makes a show of praying in public and teaching Bible studies and they are not heart-felt, the person is fooling himself and fooling his friends but he is not fooling God. We are not talking about con artists here in this thread or originally sincere people who long ago left the path and are faking it for show, we are talking about sincere people who want to deepen their walk with God.

    Also, a person should not plow through book after book and list after list. Settle on something simple, something that is in keeping with your own church’s traditions.

  215. Xenia,

    Well said.

  216. To be fair to MLD I’m neck deep in Luther material right now, so this was an easy one to illustrate.
    Luther is one of the most complex men in history and writing blog articles about him is going to be a challenge…

  217. I compiled a list in my head based on what I heard from the pulpit through the years. A local politician is brought in to speak. Voting pamphlets are passed out. You learn what you should listen to, read, or watch on television or at the movies. You learn where not to shop. You learn why everyone else isn’t learning as much as you because they’re in dead churches. You learn why your wife shouldn’t work. You learn that the mature ones in church attend midweek studies. You learn you have problems because you’re not involved enough. You learn you’re a lousy parent as the pastor presents his son as jesus jr. You learn that reading the bible more, praying more, and sharing more with the lost is the mark of maturity. You learn that being a missionary is the pinnacle of faith and the more dangerous the country you go to the more radical your faith is. And then somewhere along the way you wonder how you left your first love.

  218. One of those disciplines is corporate confession…I seriously doubt that was practiced by the fallen pastor in FTL.

    In fact, a strong argument could be made that if practiced from the very start, that might have had a far better end than how things eventually did.

  219. Michael,
    “To be fair to MLD I’m neck deep in Luther material right now, ”

    The funny part is that if most of us here lived like Luther we would be told that we were uncouth and unsanctified.

  220. Erunner -Bravo!
    You just rattled off the ‘normal spiritual growth’ list preached in most… well I won’t say where / which churches – but they are the ones that teach in series, give lists and the audience is so busy writing down the “to dos” that they later have to buy the tape to see what was really said.

  221. MLD,

    I’m not sure I’d advise anyone to live like Luther.
    He was amazing both in his achievements and in his failures.

  222. Erunner,

    I hear you…but that crap is unique to a part of American evangelicalism…it is far divorced from true spiritual disciplines.

  223. Michael,
    I was watching the U2 video that was posted earlier. I admire Bono, I think he lives a full life and witness as a person and as a Christian. Many folks who are stuck on sanctification, thinking that personal sanctification is a primary virtue can’t see this in him. I think of Luther the same way.

    Perhaps I look at myself that way – as I carry on God’s work and live as a witness, I do so as I am wiping life off me.

  224. Too bad Michaels questions didn’t get addressed in this thread cause we spent the whole time obsessed with the fact that the items he was talking about we’re written in a list.
    Clearly an Exercise in missing the point.

  225. What makes a discipline spiritual verses secular? For instance I train for marathons. My

    primary motivation is to keep my body (the temple) healthy but I have fun doing it at the same

    time. With this in mind, I find it fascinating that the idea of spiritual disciplines finds a

    home in the charismatic world. I say this because every single charismatic pastor I have

    encountered claims they speak in tongues. However not one claims to speak in a foreign tongue

    supernaturally. I have been spending years now trying to learn a foreign language so that

    someday maybe I can share the gospel over seas in a language that is not native to me. It is

    hard work and discipline but I am also having fun doing it. But neither training for marathon

    or learning foreign languages are consider spiritual disciplines anywhere. I guess this is my

    biggest concern with someone else’s list.

  226. London,

    Truly.
    This went nowhere near where I wanted it to go and went a lot of places that made no sense what so ever.

  227. One of the questions I had (if this would have worked online) was about how we practice these disciplines according to our personalities.
    Study and solitude come very naturally to me.
    What the authors call “worship” and “celebration” do not enter into my reality…ever.
    I know people who those two disciplines fit like a glove however.

  228. Andrew,

    Because something requires discipline doesn’t mean that it gets baptized into this category.
    Spiritual disciplines are efforts directed Godward with the idea of deepening that relationship.

    That doesn’t mean that other disciplines are without value, spiritual or otherwise, they just aren’t what we had hoped to discuss here.

  229. Michael, I think this is where the Lutheran concept of vocation may come in but I am not a Lutheran yet so I don’t know. Even doing my job I think is spiritual. In fact, this is one thing the Holy Spirit has been working on me on. Not everyone is called to be a pastor. Some ordinary folks like myself do secular stuff for a living, make money and can give to the ministry. I can do my job unto the Lord and this makes it spiritual. But I am not going to discourage anything that brings folks closer to the Lord whether its well known spiritual disciplines or something else altogether.

  230. Andrew,
    Why do you keep trying to add to or change the list instead of engaging what’s There?
    Maybe the list is incomplete. That’s ok. It’s not set in stone. That’s ok too.
    Are you really having that difficult a time with the concept, or are you practicing being Lutheran and just arguing for the sake of arguing?

  231. London if it good for you great. I won’t discourage you. Just don’t push it on everybody as law.

  232. What the heck are you talking about? NO ONE pushed it on anyone as law.
    You really are unclear on the concept. You’ll make a great Lutheran

  233. Sorry Andrew. That was not very nice. I am taking my frustration with MLD out on you.

  234. London, why are you upset with me. I have not engaged you or your points and I have not brought up a single Lutheran thing.

    Now, when people get frustrated with me, they bring up Luther, Lutheran things and throw them my way.

    Me, I am easy. 🙂

  235. Andrew did bring up a good point when he said “Michael, I think this is where the Lutheran concept of vocation.”

    We don’t make a break or dividing line between the spiritual and the secular / civil.Yesterday when I was at Costco going from sample table to sample table I made a point as I always do is to look the minimum wage server directly in the eye and say “thank you, I am glad you are here.”

    This is as much a spiritual act as stopping to witness to them or praying with them for their problems.

  236. One thing that wasn’t brought up and maybe a topic for another day is concept of “contemplative” prayer. Is that supposed to make you feel closer to God? Does feeling closer to God actually make us closer to God? So I am not really sure what the purpose is for some of these disciplines. Is it mysticism, emotional or some kind of feeling?

  237. Andrew,

    What is your issue with mysticism and emotions?
    Are we not spiritual creatures with feelings and emotions?
    Did not the Creator make us this way?

  238. I’m wondering if some of the disconnect in the conversation is due to folks having a history in certain movements in which if such a list of possible practices were given from the pulpit from the pastor it was automatically implied that would be what folks would do if they were REALLY following the Lord. Thus maybe some of the knee jerk reaction we’ve seen.

  239. Anne,

    That’s part of it…and the other part is that in those same traditions people have been told that there may be something inherently sinful in pursuing some of these practices.

  240. Michael,

    As for the list, being in the Lord since October 23, 1978, these have now become a part of me, that is, except for fasting, which I wish I could take part in, but due to glucose issues, I cannot. In my journey, from being a babe in Christ to being more mature, one area might now be as developed, but as one area was, it would touch another and slowly at times and more expedient at other times and seasons, other part of my character was being changed as well. As for fasting, it was not to be used as some sort of sacrifice, but rather that which would enable my prayer life to be more effective in being able to empty myself of the world while putting on that which align itself more with my Father in heaven, thus praying more, according to His will and to hear His voice, rather than my own.

    As for the list, as a babe, I would have considered it as something “to do,” or to “achieve.” Now, after all these years, I know better. He is within me and upon me 24/7, no matter the circumstances and now matter what I do or say. It is Him and Him alone, that I belong.

  241. What is your issue with mysticism and emotions?
    _____________________________________________________________________

    I never said I had an issue. I asked a question. Of course we are emotional. Is there a difference between emotions and mysticism? Is there a distinction? I’m just curious.

  242. Contemplative prayer is really my question. I heard it explained once to me that its about emptying your mind of everything. They made it sound like Zen Buddism. I’m not sure if that is accurate or not but that is how it was explained.

  243. Andrew,

    Good question as I think contemplating or meditating upon the things of the Lord vs. what is not, is quite the opposite of what “Contemplative Prayer” is espousing. Emerging eastern mysticism concepts and principles, that is.

  244. Andrew,

    You can find many definitions for contemplative prayer.
    Because something “sounds” like something else doesn’t make it the same.
    My position would be that techniques and methods are neutral…it is the focus of those techniques or methods that matter.

    I’m off to church and offline .

  245. I can relate to Michael’s #228.
    “Celebration” and me are not a big thing.
    I can’t manufacture joy…it either happens or it doesn’t.

  246. “Does feeling closer to God actually make us closer to God?”

    The answer is “no.” God is close to us regardless of how we feel. Read what Paul said to the Greeks in Athens:

    “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for ‘‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.'”

    Can I feel close to God? Yes I can. Occasionally, I do.

    Can I feel that God is far away? Yes I can. Sometimes I don’t feel his presence at all. And when I sin, my own shame drives me from any sense of his presence (like the guy who tried to hide from God behind the trees) and makes a ship wreck of my prayer life. I hate what my own sin does to my relationship with God. Thank God for his love, mercy and grace.

    How close to God can we feel? Here’s a little conversation with God that I’m in the process of working up the courage to have:

    “Lord, I would like to move into your garden so we can be together all the time. I will work the garden and take care of it . Oh, and I’m returning this leather thing; thanks for making it, but I have no more shame, so I won’t be wearing it anymore. I want no secrets between us or between me and any of your other children. I’m happy to share all parts of my life with you and my new family. I’m holding nothing back. I’m not worried about the snake; it holds no power over me. I now know that all wisdom comes from you, and that you will reveal your wisdom to me when and as you see fit. I’m not taking any more short cuts.”

    I’m not yet ready to have this conversation with God. But, someday, with God’s grace I will. In the mean time, I’m going to keep trying to break down the obstacles that I place in front God to the kind of relationship he wants with me by using the means he’s given us.

  247. Linda, with all due respect to you, the article you attached at #246 is the biggest bunch of hooey I’ve read this week. If it wasn’t so outrageous, it would be hilarious.

  248. Jean, thank you for the feedback. So are you saying the you support the tenets underlying the “Contemplative Prayer?”

    Here’s another one for your consideration.

  249. Jean,

    Usually, your comments, along with a few others here are such that I am interested in what you have to share. Being so, I am startled at the “biggest bunch of hooey I’ve read this week. If it wasn’t so outrageous, it would be hilarious.” This seems out of character for you in light of what you usually do when giving consideration to things.

    I would not consider this to be “hilarious or a bunch of hooey” at all, particularly when those who have concerns about this practice being emerged into Christian circles. I would think that a more serious tone would be taken instead.

    Having been a part of the New Age and other Occult Practice, this is no different of a practice that was used, except now putting the name of Jesus or God upon it. It reminds me of people attempting to enter into the Kingdom through another gate or the scripture that reminds us that wide is the way that leads to destruction. Also, wondering if what lies behind all of this is what led the people to build the tower of Babel. To me, this is not a laughing matter at all.

    Sorry, forgot to attack link in my last comment:

    http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1763

    I realize some may take offense given their particular likes and dislikes of this or that person. I am hoping like the list of things, Michael posted from Foster, that any consideration of what is being written can be treated with objectivity, rather than being subjective in the person sharing it instead. That is, all things will be held up to the light of scripture instead.

  250. Linda,

    According to that hate article, meditation is within the category of contemplative prayer. According to the NASB bible translation, the author meditates 16 times and speaks of meditation 6 other times. So, meditation is biblical.

    However, aside from a theological argument, this article is a hate piece and really has no place in responsible Christian discourse. The author equates contemplative prayer to necromancy, calls supporters of contemplative prayer an abomination unto the Lord, smears the names of many brothers and sisters in Christ, and states essentially that ecumenicalism is evil.

    Who would ever be drawn to the God described in that article? I would rather be counted with Chuck Swindoll, Eugene Peterson, John Ortberg, Rick Warren, Thomas Merton, Brother Lawrence and the others than with the outfit peddling the crap in that article.

  251. Contemplative prayer is only one type of prayer. It is not a discipline.

    Prayer is the discipline. The type of prayer is secondary. Don’t get wrapped up in the exceptions

  252. Linda, I don’t come from a background in which, and am viscerally repulsed by, one group of supposed keepers of the truth faith who equate a mass amount of other Christians with the devil or condemn them as essentially non-Christian and therefore hell bound.

  253. Jean, Dallas Willard somehow seems to think a devout Buddist is a Christian. Go figure that out.

  254. Andrew, I don’t know what Dallas Willard thinks. He’s dead now, so I can’t ask him. None of us are perfect. From the little I know, Dallas Willard was a good Christian, who’s ministry helped a lot of people. I’m not going to judge him; he belongs to someone else. I recommend to everyone to be careful about evaluating quotations that are either second hand and/or not viewed in the entire context in which they were made.

  255. Thanks Derek.

  256. Always better to hear it from the horses mouth.

  257. This is the most bizzare thread ever

  258. Linda’s Freudian slip:

    “forgot to attack link”

    ODMs are to intelligent, sophisticated apologetics

    as HoneyBooBoo is to quality entertainment

  259. Jean,
    You should be able to say you feel close to God all the time. Think about it – God came to you and the spirit of God dwells in you. How much closer to God can you get?

    The answer, you cannot get any closer to God than you are right now. God’s presence is external to you – you have nothing to do with God’s presence …it is there.

  260. Needs Repeating as what I gave caution to was totally ignored. No, it wasn’t a Freudian slip. It was a typo, duh. Nice try, and an opportunity to turn something into what it was not meant to be to slam those who are apologists and dare to step on the toes of those who tout things that lead people away, rather than towards the scriptures.

    “I realize some may take offense given their particular likes and dislikes of this or that person. I am hoping like the list of things, Michael posted from Foster, that any consideration of what is being written can be treated with objectivity, rather than being subjective in the person sharing it instead. That is, all things will be held up to the light of scripture instead.”

    Perhaps, this is the problem with being able to discuss these thing things. There is a propensity to take offense when a person addresses this or that teaching or practice that is being endorsed, supported, or touted by a person’s admiration of another, rather than to weigh out what is beings stated and putting it in the light of scripture.

    I agree that just because a person might get one part wrong, it doesn’t make them a heathen, but then again——depends on the underpinnings of the foundation it was seated upon, now doesn’t it. We tend to be loyal to those who tickle our ears and in this, we would be wiser to be more discerning and less emotional in thinking for a minute, if it works or if it keeps me from coming to term with the less convenient side of things, well, why not.

    Contemplative Prayer: is nothing more than New Age with Jesus name on it.

    This is the 2nd time I find myself agreeing with MLD, It is not that God has moved away from us. He is as close as one can get to those who know Him. It is when we move away that we strive to find another way to be near Him. Not His way, but of our own makings. All one need to do is to start talking to Him. It does not take mysticism to accomplish this. Just a genuine heart. Believe me, mysticism opens up the door to where you don’t want to go.

  261. Jean, the type of meditation in the Bible is not the same as what is being espoused by those who are supporting the Contemplative Prayer method.

    We are to meditate upon the Word and we are to search the scriptures and we are to be continually in prayer with the Lord. But not this type of meditation that is not any different than what New Ager and those before them practiced.

  262. I personally am pretty fond of the imprecatory prayers found in the Psalms – those make me feel good and uplift my spirit when I am done.

  263. I read through the articles again. I did not read anything about anyone hating or condemning anyone to hell. I read 2 articles that reported on the “Contemplative Prayer” method, what it was, and who was supporting it. I didn’t read anyone criticizing any of those who supported this method. What I did read is a careful summary of why this method is not biblical and how it is misleading the church and others into believing it should be accepted and taught. In the reading,

    There was a genuine level of care and concern in the process of doing some homework in being able to bring more information in the light that was left out by those who support, teach, or tout this method of prayer. This, is not hate mongering, nor is it a means to stumble anyone. It is that which needs to be known, so that we are careful in what we too easily buy into wanting to know or to “feel” His presence with us. These article were done by watchman on the wall. Please stop shooting the messenger and think more carefully through what they are sharing with you.

  264. Linda, I’m not familiar the lexicon of the hate filled group(s) you hang out with, so I’m not really qualified to debate you. Here’s what I feel comfortable sharing: I’ve read Foster on prayer and believe his teaching is orthodox. I’ve tried lectio divina, which has been around from before St. Benedict, and I see no problem with that prayer technique. I don’t trust sources, like the one you shared, which condemn massive numbers of my brothers and sisters in Christ. People who are so certain of what the Lord approves and and condemns frankly scare me. I’m just not at that level.

  265. “Thus, those who practice and promote Contemplative Prayer are really an abomination unto the Lord!”

    Linda, I may be slow, but I’m not stupid. That quote above is from your article.

  266. Jean, all I can say to you is this: my heart is grieved. What I hear you saying is that you would rather follow some “orthodox” “church” teaching rather than what God’s word proclaims. And just because some guy called, St. Benedict had it to sell, you decided to buy it instead of keeping with the what is written.

    By the way, Jesus told us that many are called, but few are chosen. No one is condemning anyone in masses, but they do stand in the gap, and upon the wall out of love for the Lord and for people to warn, admonish, and to expose that which is not of Him.

  267. Which article and where in the article and in what context?

  268. Well good night every one. Sorry Michael for hogging the blog. I think I’ll meditate for a while on how I got sucked into this discussion. 🙂

  269. I think if you are talking to God you are praying and you are praying as effectively as possible.

    There is not trick – contemplative or anything else is a made up marketing type tool.

    Just talk to God and you are doing it right.

  270. Jean,

    Part of the history of this blog has been my ongoing war with Lighthouse Trails and the ODM’s…the so called “online discernment ministries”.
    It got pretty hot and heavy and nasty in my younger days.
    These days I pretty much ignore them.
    The first article Linda linked to is an example of why.
    It begins with them “defining” prayer “biblically”…without any regard for context and with leaving out Scriptures that break their narrative…“What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.”
    (1 Corinthians 14:15 ESV)
    That’s an odd one…
    Second, there is no examination of how the early church used those Scriptures…how did they define them, what did they practice?
    We have instances of the lecto divina from very early sources.

    In discussing “contemplative prayer” they jump to the 1970’s for their definition…and then have the temerity to use something called “The Universal Gnostic Church” as a representative of Christians who embrace the practices.

    Seriously?

    Somehow, all these disconnected connections end up in spiritism and necromancy.

    The reality is that in the history of the church people have always used different methods of prayer to cultivate relationship with God…some grounded in Scripture and some not so grounded.

    There is a danger on the fringes of these movements…and some of these practices are unbiblical and theologically bereft of any value.

    Some of it is very valuable, indeed.

    Broad brushes only work well on barns.
    The site this sits on also condemns psychology “biblically”.

  271. MLD,

    You obviously never read your namesakes letter on prayer….he goes into some details on the subject.

  272. I said this to London earlier – when I back you guys into a theological corner, you throw out some Luther or Lutheran thing – which I rarely if ever bring up.

    So you don’t believe just talking to God is good enough prayer, just say so – say that you like contemplative or any of the other 22 prayer types – that’s fine … wrong but fine.

    See, the difference between us, although I am Lutheran, I don’t mimic Luther like you do Calvin and Packer..

  273. That would be quite the zinger if Calvin and Packer mimicked each other…which they don’t and you know I don’t either.

  274. Remember, I only bring this up because of the way you throw Luther stuff up when I don’t bring Luther stuff up at all. You use it like throwing dirt clods..

    So – come on, you have both Calvin and Packer on speed dial – ooops, I mean cut and paste as you many times use them as your auto / default answers.

  275. MLD,

    I do have them on speed dial…I have most of both of their published material.
    I’ve probably read more N.T Wright in the last year than either of them and I’ve been reading and studying Luther for the last month.

    Do I love Packer and Calvin?
    Unashamedly.

    Unlike you , however, I don’t see all things through one tradition and I’m willing to weigh and listen to different takes on most things theological…and sometimes find myself out of my own tradition and comfort zone.

    I find it hard to believe that one who chooses a monicker claiming to be a disciple of one theologian would object when that theologian is used to dispute a statement…

  276. I’ve been a Lutheran for about a decade…and of all my spiritual meanderings, I’ve found a home here.

    But I’m like Michael. There’s good in every tradition. I haven’t chucked my 25 years in evangelicalism and said, “Oh, everything was so bleak before becoming a Lutheran” blah blah blah…besides sounding arrogant, it ain’t the truth.

    I’ve been enriched by everyone from charismatics to Free Methodists to Baptists to Anglicans to Eastern Orthodoxy to my involvement with InterVarsity as a college student.

    As I get older, I guess I’m becoming more ecumenical. The differences between the groups pale in comparison to the fellowship we have in Christ.

  277. And Michael, I gotta say…

    I think what you’ve pulled off here is quite amazing. I salute you for providing a spiritual home for a varied group of folks and for such a long time! Again, quite amazing.

  278. Thank you, Lutheran…good to see you among us again!
    Some days here are better than others…but we keep plugging along. 🙂

  279. Yeah, you’re like a spiritual Energizer Bunny!

    🙂

  280. So Michael, I take it in the neck for dis agreeing with Luther and then I am told I see things only through a particular lens?? How juvenile.

    But you missed the topic – I said just talking to God is prayer enough and you objected to that by tossing in Luther.

    So, and this is the 2nd or 3rd time I am asking – why don’t you think that just talking to God is sufficient prayer?

  281. Well I think I opened up a can of worms when I mentioned “contemplative” prayer. No one really had any issue at all with any of the items on the list other than they were someone’s list for every mature Christian to follow. I think I am more convinced than ever that this is just someone’s personal list of what they think a mature Christian should do. The disciplines I practice in my life apparently aren’t spiritual since they didn’t make the cut. Oh well I guess I am not a spiritual Christian. In Bill Bright’s campus Crusade world this would make me a carnal Christian instead of a Spiritual Christian. In the charismatic world its nothing new either cause I am a second class Christian because I haven’t received the second blessing yet.

  282. Andrew….. In almost 40 years as a Christian, I have been taught, tried, experimented with so many different things. I have thought I had it all together and my tribe was the only group that really had the “truth.” Now, in my 60’s, I’ve come to the conclusions that God’s love and grace through Christ is deep and wide and no one has it 100% right. I’m now down to following Jesus ….. “love God and love your neighbour, seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”….the details of how that is fleshed out in each individual life can and will unique……He will take care of the rest. IMO

  283. Amen, Thanks Nonnie! Great words to hear.

  284. MLD,

    Please show me where I said that.
    Because I didn’t.
    This is exactly what I mean about your constant misrepresentation and desire for strife.
    I’ve said all the way through this thread that some people may find some of these practices helpful.
    Some may not.
    This thread was intended for those who wanted to explore and discuss these practices…and it never made it past the usual sniping.

  285. Andrew,

    Nobody said that this was a list for mature Christians to follow.
    Nobody.
    It’s a collection of ancient practices that people have found helpful in various traditions for two centuries.
    There are many discipline people practice that wouldn’t be included in such a collection because these have a specific goal in mind.
    No one here has judged anyones spirituality on whether or not they practice any or all of them.
    Your comment is another complete misrepresentation of what this article was about.

  286. this idea of a mature Christian has been a big part of this thread.

    _________________________________________________________________
    Michael, starting with Patrick @ 92

    “These disciplines are fine tools and are the fruit of a mature Christian life.”

  287. Andrew,

    You pull one comment out of 300 while ignoring everything I’ve written and that others have written about why this was a subject of interest.
    That’s just weird to me.
    In the future if I write on stuff like this I’ll probably take it private so that only those who don’t take offense and create motives that don’t exist can actually discuss the topic freely.

  288. Michael,
    At my #273 I stood up for simplicity when I said;

    “I think if you are talking to God you are praying and you are praying as effectively as possible.
    There is not trick – contemplative or anything else is a made up marketing type tool.
    Just talk to God and you are doing it right.”

    You took offense and threw up a rebuttal. So drop the ” about your constant misrepresentation and desire for strife.”

    I am all about the simplicity of the faith and the rejection of all the “spiritual tools” and I don’t care if it conflicts with Luther.

  289. I didn’t take offense at all. simply pointed out that the founder of your tradition disagreed with you.
    I take it you found no place at all where I said that simply talking to God was “insufficient’.
    Do you need more time?

  290. Michael, the comment I posted was the the first comment and the start of the trend in this thread. I can list dozens of quotes talking about the mature Christian starting from that comment going forward in this thread. I purposely didn’t list them all because I wanted to end with the good words from Nonnie. I am sorry you got pushback from me and others but I think you expected that posting the list from the Renovare website. I am not ignoring what you are writing. I learn a lot from your articles.

  291. “Do you need more time?”

    No, not at all – If I threw up someone position paper that was in opposition to one of your points, I think you would assume that I was taking that opposition position (which you did) – IF NOT, then you were just looking to cause trouble… which I find amusing at times when I do it also.

    So the question is, why didn’t you just say “good point” if you were in total agreement with me? See, you can’t even agree agreeably.

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