The book, “The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible” by Robert Wilkin is an excellent orientation to proper interpretation in Scripture. It is an exposure of the simpleton approach to Scripture. Continue reading
Can you hear it?
I have read the passage hundreds of time. It is time I comment on it. Proverbs 8:1-2 says, “Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice? She takes her stand on the top of the high hill. Beside the way, where the paths meet.” How many of us think about this?
How can you hear wisdom? The passage says that wisdom cries out, yet you can’t audibly hear anything? The question should really be, “Are people listening for wisdom?” How can people listen for wisdom, when they may no longer carry the “boom boxes” from the eighties, but ARE wired into the ear sets of iPods, iPads, iPhones and all sorts of MP3 players? The style choices for music, talk shows and news are seemingly endless. The preferences people plug into stimulate their brains, bodies and souls, which can fill every waking moment, so that no one could ever become “bored.” How can people listen for wisdom if they are always listening to something on the television, radio or techno gadget?
How many people have the television on in the background, even though they are not really listening to it? There is something that our flesh likes about having music, or talking, in the background. When I visited my cousins on the farm, my uncle always played music on the radio at milking time, because it calmed the cows and they produced more milk. Do we like something in the background to keep us calm and we really do not like silence?
All the noise can easily become “white noise.” What happens then? What might be very important is not heard, like wisdom calling in “the way, where the paths meet…by the gates, at the entry of the city.”
In fact, wisdom is spiritual wisdom, just like God is Spirit. You cannot feel, taste, touch, see, smell, or hear God. You cannot use the senses during this Age to connect with God. God has provided everything you need to understand and know Him through His Word. The Christian way of life is based on faith, not sight. Paul makes this point clear when he said, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” (Col. 2:6) How did you receive Jesus as your Savior? You received Him by faith. It was not by works, feelings, sight, hearing or any other physical sense. You received Him by faith and you are also to live by faith, not by your senses or personal efforts. You are to live by trusting in Him to do His work through you by means of His Spirit.
Consequently, wisdom is given by God’s Spirit as you hide God’s Word in your heart. God’s Spirit guides you into the Word (John 16:13) and enlightens you as a partaker of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 6:4). When a person is filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), he will be enlightened and the Word will not be a dry desert, but a loud message awakening him from his slumberous walk in life.
Proverbs eight continues to use the hearing sense personified, just as wisdom is personified as a lady to be courted by a pursuing believer,
· 32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, for blessed are those who keep my ways.
· 33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it.
· 34 Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at the posts of my doors.
· 35 For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the LORD. (Pro. 8:32-35)
Wait in silence before God and wisdom will call to your soul and lead you in God’s presence of blessing and life.
Silence is a Spiritual Discipline1 that must be cultivated. How will that happen in a world full of white noise? Schedule times of silence in the day, so that as you meditate on God’s Word, or at least have God’s Word in the back of your mind, wisdom will speak to you and you will understand the will of the Lord. Unless you schedule silence into your life, you will miss wisdom crying out to you.
1Look back at the following link on Spiritual Disciplines for a short description on the Spiritual Discipline of Silence: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/2013/03/words-spiritual-disciplines-part-3.html
Fail, Fool, or Fake
I have been very interested in ministry to men for several decades. However, my passion rejuvenated five years ago. I began with a group called “Hungry Hunters” on Wednesday nights at church. I realized how important men are in the church. In fact, I believe, “As go the men, so goes the church.” I now disciple two groups of men and one home group composed of couples. That does NOT mean women are not important. It does not mean women do not greatly contribute to the spiritual vitality and growth of a church. It does express that I believe if men do not lead, the blessing God intends for a church and community will not be all that God desires. Men have a key role and they have been passive since the Garden of Eden.
In the Garden of Eden, while the Serpent was wooing the woman, Adam was standing near passively listening to the discussion. When the woman took the fruit and ate it, the text says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Gen. 3:6)He should have been leading. He should have been protecting the woman from being deceived. He should have cried out to God if he didn’t know what to do. Because Adam was passive and silent, we suffer today. Because men are passive and silent today, we continue to suffer. Why are men passive?
Men are passive, because that is the alternative to doing the wrong thing. What? Yes, men want to do the right thing. Men want to lead, but they have not been discipled. Men want to make a difference in life, but it is easier to do nothing than risk doing the wrong action.
If men do the wrong action, what happens? They will:
· Know they did the wrong thing and people will let them know it.
· Look like a fool in front of other people.
· Be found out as a fake. Men want others to respect them and they want others to think that they have their act together. If they do the wrong thing, they will either be shown a fake or someone will accuse them of being a fake.
Obviously, most of that is perception. But the reality is that is a man’s reality. And he has a fear of those things. Let me explain. There are three key things men do not want.
Men do not want to fail. Jesus prayed for the disciples before going to the cross, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:32) To fail is to fail God for most men. Somehow it is wired into most men that we want to succeed, to win, to overcome, to complete the task and hence, triumph. You can see that in every aspect of life. Men want to succeed up the corporate ladder, win the big game, overcome the adversity or challenge, complete the project at home or work and hence have satisfaction of the triumph. Men do not want to fail in their marriages, their families, or their church, let alone their work. But men have not been discipled.
Men do not want to look like a fool. Men know from Scripture that a fool is the opposite of the wise one, “the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. (Pro. 11:29) Men like to joke around and banter back and forth among trusted friends. However, make a man look like a fool and he is gone. He will not come back unless he knows it might be safe. Make fun of him around people he does not know, especially women and he will avoid you like certain politicians avoid answering the truth. A man who looks foolish will remain quiet and uninvolved, until he can work up the courage to risk that last step again. Even then, he’ll be very cautious.
Men do not want to be found out as a fake. Men want people to respect them. The Lord respected Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s (Gen. 4:4,5). Jesus told the same parable in each of the three synoptic gospels regarding the expectation that the Son should be respected by the vinedressers (Matt. 21:37; Mark 12:6; Luke 20:13). Respect is a big deal to men. That’s why God tells women to “respect their husbands” (Eph. 5:33). When, or if, a man does not know or live in a way that he should be respected, he would rather retreat to his man-cave. So rather than saying or doing the wrong thing, it is easier for him not to do anything, than risk being found out a spiritual or otherwise fake.
These three – fail, fool, fake – result from fear. Men do NOT want to claim to struggle from fear, so it is easier to be passive, silent and uninvolved. Even Scripture identifies this as a possible approach, “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” (Pro. 17:28) A man wants to look wise, so it is easier to be passive, silent and uninvolved than take the risk of revealing fear. Fear is abominable to a man. He is supposed to be a leader! But when the flesh controls, he plays the fool and fear gets the best of him. What is the solution?
The solution is to disciple men. That was the purpose of “Hungry Hunters.” We took the Message Based Discussion Questions and went through them each week. The purpose was to engender confidence in the men and restore true masculinity to lead in their marriages, homes and the church. Men are hunters and providers. Hungry men are those who seek after God’s righteousness. The goal is to stay with a man, until he is ready to disciple other men. The key is “as go the men, so goes the church (marriage, family).”
Words: Half-Full or Half-Empty
I have to admit that I used to be a half-empty kind of person. I really never liked that. Why look at life like it is half-empty? Actually, it’s pretty normal to see life half-empty. There is only so much land to go around; once it’s gone, you have to wait for someone to sell some. There are only 24 hours in a day; once it’s gone, you have to start a new day and the old day can never be relived. There is only so much money a person normally makes each month; once it’s gone, you have to wait for the next month, because only the government can print more money.
Then I realized that is really dumb, because if something is only half gone, there is still half of it still there that can be enjoyed! That seems like a much better approach to life!
Okay, let’s change perspective and see how God will stretch out the use of that blessing… Oh, what does it mean that God might stretch it out? Sure, God can grace us out to use what is available to multiply blessings in incredible ways in His way, in His timing and in His blessing.
Jesus said well that He didn’t want us to live like paupers. He said, “I have come that they may have life and they may have it more abundantly.”(John 10:10b) Jesus doesn’t want us to live a half-empty OR a half-full life – He wants us to live a more abundantlife! The problem is we too often look at the material side of life as the measure of abundance. We look at how much property we have, money we stash, cars we drive, clothes we wear, places we go, or things we own. Those are so mundane, common, ordinary and routine.
Jesus wants us to look at life from His perspective. Let us consider several abundant aspects of God’s blessing. First, consider the grace that abounds to the believer, because of the death of the Lord Jesus,
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:19-21)
Grace abounds to the believer who was condemned, but is set free from the penalty and power of sin! Is there something on earth worth that?!?
Secondly, consider the hope that abounds to the believer. The writer to the Hebrews records,
16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.
17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,
18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,
20where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Heb. 6:16-20)
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13)
What is more valuable in dismal times and tribulation? Hope! God gives us abounding hope!
Thirdly, consider the Lord’s intercessory work on your behalf! The writer to the Hebrews states, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb. 7:25) He not only saves to the uttermost from reaches of condemnation, He continues to make intercession! What on earth could be more valuable than having the Lord Jesus Christ make intercession for you?!?
Fourthly, consider the abundant entrance that every believer will have into the everlasting kingdom of Jesus,
8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;
11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:8-11)
What on earth is more valuable that an abundant entrance into the Lord’s kingdom?!?
Fifthly, consider His abundant mercy given to every believer at the moment of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Pet. 1:3)
All of us need that mercy.
Sixthly, Jesus Christ enables us overwhelmingly to conquer sin and trials in life as we trust Him. Paul writes, that we are more than conquerors, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37) Who doesn’t want that kind of success?
And seventhly, He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we can think, let alone do, if we trust in Him. Read what Paul writes,
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)
God is infinite, so our finite minds are not able to comprehend what God is able to do if we just trust in Him.
“Is it half-empty or half-full?” is not the question. The question is “Will you trust God’s abundance and enjoy His presence”?
Words: Godly vs. Ungodly Results
In the Garden of Eden, Adam enjoyed perfect environment. He was never concerned with rubbing his eyes from air pollution, testing the water for contaminants, or listening to foul-mouthed neighbors. Everything was perfect, because he was made in the image of God and sin had not become a part of his nature or the world around him.
Scream forward to Genesis 3 and the serpent allures the woman into a conversation, to which she can’t resist.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, `You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;
3 “but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, `You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
5 “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:1-6)
At that moment, because of disobedience to God’s command, sin enters into the human race. Now, instead of perfect environment, thorns and thistles grow, sweat becomes normal and childbirth is overcome only by the joy of new life. This initiates the contrast of godly and ungodly results.
Take for example the following chart.
C.S. Lewis, “Messiah”
Refreshing the spirit and body
Stimulating lust Instant gratification
There are four columns and four examples. The first column identifies a component at its basic level. For example, chemical elements can be hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. The second column identifies the particular discipline or category of study or function which comes from the “component.” From chemical elements comes a discipline of “chemistry.” From that discipline, there will be two types of uses of that discipline: a proper use or godly result and a sinful use or ungodly result.
There are many proper uses of chemistry. One example is to use chemistry to create vaccines. Another is to develop prescription drugs, like pain killers for after surgery. However, chemistry can be twisted in a sinful use or ungodly result, for example to develop poisons to hurt people.
Each of the components has a resulting discipline and then a proper use or sinful use. It depends on whether God is behind it or whether man’s sin nature is behind it. If you understand this, you’ll understand why there is evil in the world and not be shocked when wickedness develops. What other examples would you suggest to continue lengthening this chart?
Words: Overcomers use SPAM®
John declares that everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ is an overcomer from the world. He writes, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5:4) By making that simple decision of faith, a person overcomes the pull of the world and is an overcomer. There is an additional aspect of overcoming, which is “overcoming in life.”
John addresses “overcoming in life” in the next verse, “Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5) Literally, John writes, “Who is he who keeps overcoming the world, but he who keeps believing that Jesus is the Son of God.” Both verbs, “overcoming” and “believing” are present participles, which emphasizes ongoing action. It is not a one time decision, but a moment by moment trust in Jesus’ ability to work and rule through the believer.
In fact, Paul addresses that in Romans 8:37, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37) As we confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9) and walk in dependency on the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), we will overcome the distractions of the world, the pull of the flesh and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16), which comes through the rulership of Jesus in our lives (Phil. 4:13).
In order to continue to overcome, you need an “Overcoming Plan.” Use this plan when you determine which life dominating sin you want to have victory over. Remember the acrostic: SPAM®. Each of those letters stand for an important concept.
Does it address specific sins not generalities?
Is your plan directed at a specific heart issue?
Are there “baby steps”?
Is this plan for you, not for your neighbor?
Do you think it will work for you?
Have you found Scripture related to your problem?
Does it address TWA (thoughts, words & actions)?
Are your put offs related to put ons? (see the article on put offs and put ons)
How will you know you’ve done it?
What questions could a friend ask to know if you’re making progress?
Can you repeat this plan as needed?
Every one who fails to plan really plans to fail. These steps will give you guidance for developing a plan to have victory and overcome sin in life. Remember these steps must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit in order to have Spirit-controlled fruit (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:22-23).
Words: Able to go to War
It’s interesting how God numbered the people of Israel when they came out of Egypt. Moses grew up in Egypt, but left Egypt when he killed an Egyptian (Ex. 2:14-15). After 40 years in Midian, the Lord provided him desert training to harden him to the great challenge of leading Israel out of Egypt. How many came out of Egypt? According to Scripture, there were some 2.5 million people. We calculate that according to the number of warriors counted in Numbers 1:46. The number is 603,550 men and then you’d have to add in the women and children.
It’s interesting how the Lord commands Moses to number the people. In Numbers 1:1-2, it reads,
Now the LORD spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying:
2“Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male individually,
3 “from twenty years old and above– all who are able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall number them by their armies. (Num. 1:1-3)
The Lord said to number those who were “20 years old and above – all who are able to go to war.” The Lord knew what it was going to take going into the new land – warriors. Life is not about tip toeing through the tulips. God gave Moses the physical reality that the men needed to be ready. Unfortunately, they failed the test, when they became afraid about the “giants in the land.” (Num. 13:30-33).
Are you ready to fight in the spiritual warfare for the Lord? Paul states it very clear that life is about warfare,
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age1, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:10-12)
If the devil can get you to think you are not at war, he’ll neutralize you and let you cower in fear every day. You will be neutralized and too afraid to share the gospel with your neighbors or disciple your children diligently to Jesus Christ.
May you be numbered with the warriors of the Lord!
Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 3)
This concludes the three part examination on Spiritual Disciplines as practices every Christian should do in order to grow closer in his relationship to Jesus Christ. They are exercises designed to orient a believer to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. They, by themselves, do not cause a person to become more spiritual. They, by themselves, do not cause God to be obligated to the believer with favor. They, by themselves, do not propel the believer to spiritual maturity. The disciplines can be functions that an unbeliever can perform and therefore, by themselves, do not produce any merit before God. They would not be categorized by the word “spiritual” in that case. However, practicing spiritual disciplines can help the believer focus on the Word of God, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is set apart by faith in mind, speech and action to become more godly. Spiritual disciplines can increase a believer’s pursuit of or commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the previous articles, the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible Reading, Bible Study, Scripture Meditation, Scripture Memorization and Prayer were first examined. Secondly, the Spiritual Disciplines of Worship, Fellowship, Service, Frugality and Fasting were discussed.
These first ten spiritual disciplines are fairly easy to understand, but the last five become more difficult to understand and practice. If Christians don’t see or understand tangible increases of knowledge, it’s easy for Christians to get discouraged with practical Spiritual Disciplines as bearing much fruit. However, just the opposite is true. It’s like spending time with a friend. Usually spending more time increases the love between two friends and the same is true with these last five.
Solitude: This is spending time alone with God to know and understand Him, while avoiding contacts other people. It is withdrawing from the world to seek the Lord alone. This is completed by silence and is very difficult to practice, because it is hard to measure. How do you know how well you’ve done, or if you’ve done enough, or if you want to do it again? There is nothing material to measure. But there is something to measure and that is the joy (settled assurance that God is in control) of a growing relationship with the Lord and knowing that when you encounter Jesus, you can’t help but enjoy His presence. Solitude is critical for those in ministry, because the ministry drain is so difficult to measure and it creeps up on servants of the Lord, like Elijah (1 Kings 19). Solitude is one of the best ways to refresh the spirit and restore freshness for ministry. Solitude can make you feel naked or like you are in a vacuum, yet that is when God may expose true things about you and His mercy will tenderly lead you through any valley and onto a mountain top of fresh air (Ps. 23:2-4). Solitude often helps God become more real than other spiritual disciplines. Jesus went to a solitary place to be alone with God the Father in prayer (Mark 1:35).
Silence: This is refraining from speaking or even singing to quiet your mind and soul in God’s presence. Silence includes both not speaking and singing, but also shutting down outside noises in order to concentrate (Ps. 46:10). This spiritual discipline goes along with solitude, but can be practiced at other times like when having fellowship listening to a friend in need. Often in silence, sorrow can rise up, because of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work (Ps. 39:2). Silence is certainly what happens to a Christian who is enjoying the awesome presence of the Lord (Mark 4:39). Silence is sadly a lost commodity, because of all the white noise of television, radio, cell phones and electronic games. Silence helps a Christian go deeper in seeking after the infinity of God. Silence is the best way to listen to the “still silent [small] voice” of God (1 Kings 19:12) speaking through Scripture to understand conviction and God’s purposes.
Submission: This is the action of humility before the awesome sovereign presence of God (1 Pet. 5:6). It is practiced in not asserting self before the authority, power and wisdom of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:19-21). It is visibly seen in submission to a person as you would unto Jesus Christ, like a wife to a husband or employee to an employer. It is coming under the authority of one as a visible manifestation of submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a form of abstinence, because it denies self the power and privileges it would want to express or enjoy. Jesus submitted to the Father’s will from His opening mission statement (Luke 4:17-19). Paul recorded that Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on the cross (Phil. 2:7-8). Jesus acknowledged that He did nothing on His own, but only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:30; 6:38; 12:50). Jesus, as the King of kings and Lord of lords, even submitted to people (Luke 2:51). Submission is practiced by not forcing an agenda, but trusting God to work His will through people. It is welcoming criticism from others as opportunity for learning and to bless those who curse (2 Pet. 3:8-10). Submission will allow others to make decisions that you would want to make.
Reflection: This is paying attention to your inner self in thoughts and feelings in order to understand how to grow more closely with God and others (Pro. 27:19). It is not for the purpose of loving self more, but examining self to consider what hinders your relationship with God and others. It is always using Scripture as the mirror rather than a physical mirror (Jam. 1:22-25). Reflection is the chewing of biblical truth to extract principles and application in order to determine application and implementation of truth to life. Reflection requires slowing down in life in order to examine areas of life that are always in motion or often not considered, but may encumber relationships. Solitude and Silence often go with Reflection, however they are not required.
Sabbath Rest: This is resting in the Lord rather than working to fix things in life. In the Old Testament it was one of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20: 8). In the New Testament it refers to a moment by moment rest in the Lord (Heb. 4:1-11). It is not working in your flesh, but your flesh may be diligent about what it is doing. It is allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you to accomplish God’s will and leaving the results up to God. It is not a particular day as much as a particular way of trusting God with what is done and pursuing that rest by trusting what God will do through you. Thereby, you are refreshed, because you know that God has been working through you.
This concludes this examination of Spiritual Disciplines. There are excellent books written on the subject. The key is practicing these by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit according to God’s Word, so that God is glorified and you grow in a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him. These principles of spiritual disciplines can all be applied to marriage in similar ways to grow more closely with your spouse.
Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 2)
Spiritual Disciplines are practices every Christian should do in order to grow closer in relationship to Jesus Christ. They are exercises designed to orient a believer to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. They, by themselves, do not cause a person to become more spiritual. They, by themselves, do not cause God to be obligated to the believer with favor. They, by themselves, do not propel the believer to spiritual maturity. The disciplines can be functions that an unbeliever can perform and therefore, by themselves, do not produce any merit before God. They would not be categorized by the word “spiritual” in that case. However, practicing spiritual disciplines can help the believer focus on the Word of God, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is set apart by faith in mind, speech and action to become more godly. Spiritual disciplines can increase a believer’s pursuit of or commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the previous article, the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible Reading, Bible Study, Scripture Meditation, Scripture Memorization and Prayer were examined. In this article, active Spiritual Disciplines of Worship, Fellowship, Service, Frugality and Fasting will be discussed. These Disciplines are still fairly easy to understand, but become more difficult to practice.
Worship: This is the practice of praise and adoration before the God of the universe, the One who spoke the word and the universe into existence. It is the active thought and action process whereby our entire being gives “worthship” or value to who and what God is. Because He is, God is worthy to be worshiped. He seeks those who worship Him (John 4:23) and He commands that we worship in Spirit and in Truth from our inner being with all that we have (John 4:24; Matt. 22:27-29). Worship can be done individually in any location through meditation, song, enjoyment of creation, writing a prayer of praise, work, loving others, creating what magnifies His name and in all obedience according to His Word by means of His Spirit. God commands that we assemble weekly to worship Him in a local gathering of saints to exalt His name and edify the saints. We are to spur them to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24-25).
Fellowship: This is the practice of sharing things in common with other saints, commonly called koinonia. It is two or more saints sharing life together, because of their common bond in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:9). True fellowship is with the Father and with the Son (1 John 1:3). It is the Holy Spirit that creates and solidifies that bond (Phil. 2:1). Fellowship is not playing cards, although believers can have fellowship and enjoy games together. Fellowship is not talking about a sporting game, although believers can fellowship together while enjoying a game together, when Jesus is the focus of building bridges to others (Phil. 1:5). Fellowship is not eating a meal together, but believers can fellowship over a meal, when Jesus is the focus. Fellowship occurs because believers walk in the purity of the Light (1 John 1:7). Believers do not have fellowship with unbelievers (Eph. 5:11). That is called evangelism. We see good fellowship in the early church as believers came together to share their lives and resources to help each other grow in the body of Christ (Acts 2:42-47).
Service: This is Christian action to honor God by the overflow of His love and compassion toward others. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It begins by presenting yourself first to God as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). It will be humble actions of prayer support for people to the mundane care of financial concerns (2 Cor. 9:12). It may include a cup of cold water to a prisoner or prophet, and it may be preparing a meal, cleaning a home, giving a ride or watching a single mom’s children (1 Kings 17:10; Matt. 10:42; Mark 9:41). It can include work done in a God-honoring way that honors the Lord (Eph. 6:7), which will also include help to widows and orphans in need (Jam. 1:27). All service must be done in faith in total dependence and reliance upon the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:17).
Frugality: This is the lifestyle of simplicity and abstaining from using money or goods to gratify personal desires or status. It is a life devoted simply to Jesus, rather than fragmented on distractions in the world (2 Cor. 11:3). It is simple trust in God’s provision rather than the wisdom of man (2 Cor. 1:12). It is enjoying the presence of others in the gladness of the Lord rather than the pursuit of opulence and luxury of life (Acts 2:46). It recognizes the things of this world can easily become distractions and sin (1 John 2:15-16). It is not avoiding the things of the world, but using the things of the world for the gospel and God’s purposes (1 Tim. 6:6-8, 17-19). Frugality is wisely using all resources and assets, including money to further Kingdom purposes rather than spending the resources for selfish purposes. It is not being a foolish miser, but a faithful steward (Luke 16:1-10).
Fasting: This is the denial of some resource for the purpose of prayer and/or Bible study; food is the most common fasting tool. It may be a complete denial, or partial denial, in order to focus attention on the Lord’s will and purposes. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) A key passage to understand fasting is Matthew 6:16-18,
16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
18 “so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matt. 6:16-18)
Understood in this context, fasting is really feasting – feasting on the presence of God the Father. Fasting is not for health purposes, but for prayer or relationship with God. Those who fast should always ensure they drink fluids, so the mind can be alert. Those with medical conditions should consult with a doctor, before beginning. The fasting will often reveal inner sin patterns and immaturity, just as physically your body goes through hunger, fatigue, possible headaches and even frustration. It may reveal that food has become an idol and loved more than Jesus. Start with small steps rather than a 40 day fast.
These are the second five Spiritual Disciplines. The last five Spiritual Disciplines to be discussed will be given tomorrow. They are: Solitude; Submission; Silence; Reflection; and Sabbath Rest. As these will be posted on Resurrection Sunday, a day of great joy, these will hopefully be anticipated with the joy of how they will draw the willing saint into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.
Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 1)
Spiritual Disciplines are exercises designed to orient a believer to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. They, by themselves, do not cause a person to become more spiritual. They, by themselves, do not cause God to be obligated to the believer with favor. They, by themselves, do not propel the believer to spiritual maturity. The disciplines can be functions that an unbeliever can perform and therefore, by themselves, do not produce any merit before God. They would not be categorized by the word “spiritual” in that case. However, practicing spiritual disciplines can help the believer focus on the Word of God, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is set apart by faith in mind, speech and action to become more godly. Spiritual disciplines can increase a believer’s pursuit of or commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are many lists of spiritual disciplines and several authors have written books regarding spiritual disciplines. Some authors become almost mystical, but most are very practical. Here is a list of spiritual disciplines that every believer should consider pursuing and putting into practice for their daily walk. Again, in and of themselves, spiritual disciplines do not produce merit before God, but when done in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit seeking to know our God of Scripture, they are very helpful.
Bible Reading: This is probably the most widely known and easiest to do, because you have Scripture to read and focus your attention in order to connect with God. Scripture is a treasure like none other. Scripture makes a man wise for salvation and life (2 Tim. 3:15-17). Proverbs tells us wisdom bears far greater fruit than silver or gold (Pro. 3:14; 8: 19). Jesus confronted temptations quoting Scripture (Luke 4:1-11). It is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). The humanity of Jesus grew learning Scripture (Luke 2:52) and used it to press forward to accomplish God’s will (Luke 22:42).
Bible reading should be done daily, because it is more valuable than food (Matt. 4:4). When you open Scriptures, tell God, “Your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:9-10). Read Scripture to learn, to grow and to become stable.
Bible Study: This is a much more focused time of analysis, comparison of Scripture with Scripture and acquiring the context of what is written. Bible study is learning the thread through all of Scripture and learning the flow from the books of Genesis to Revelation. It’s learning how the books of the Old and New Testament are organized. It’s taking the time to learn, so that you will be ready to teach others also (Matt. 28:20). Bible study ensures that the text is not taken out of context, so that it becomes a pretext for what you want. Bible study ensures you study what God has to say rather than man (Is. 55:8-9).
Scripture Meditation: This is thinking deeply about a particular passage of Scripture that you may be studying. It is interacting with the text and allowing God the Holy Spirit to examine your life, your feelings and your prayers for the purpose of teaching, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). It is through meditation that a person slows down enough to hear how the Holy Spirit is leading with conviction and life change. It is a drawing near with the heart in order to know the Lord Jesus Christ, not know about Him, but know Him. Meditation should be on Scripture as the focus of our attention all day long (Ps. 119:97). It is the means by which a believer can bypass his teachers in wisdom (Ps. 119:99). Meditation is sweet to the Lord, because it declares how we are spending our time—our most valuable resource (Ps. 104:34).
Scripture Memorization: This is a commitment of Scripture to memory, especially whole sections, chapters or books of Scripture. The Psalmist writes, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!” (Ps. 119:11) There are many ways to memorize Scripture. Going over and over the text is similar to the way Ezra studied Scripture (Ezra 7:10). Meditating on passages can set Scripture to memory through associations of concepts. The time of memorizing is a great tool for the Holy Spirit to set our lives apart to Jesus Christ. Memorizing passages can give great hope in crises. For example, memorize James 3:1-12 to learn control of the tongue, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 to learn the spectrum of love and what constitutes sin when not practiced, Ephesians 1 to gain an understanding of God’s eternal plan and His sovereign control of history, Phil. 4:6-9 to fight against worry and gain a foothold so the peace of God reigns in your life, or Psalm 23 as a passage of comfort and hope in trouble, or Philippians 3:7-14 for a passage on motivation to pursue Jesus Christ, or Psalm 1 for a great passage teaching children what to delight in and what to avoid, or 1 John 1 for a passage on walking in the light with God.
Prayer: This is talking with God about what we are experiencing and doing together in life. Prayer is the vertical relationship in life. It is the trust and dependence on the God of the Universe. It is not as easy as some people say, because it is often developed as other spiritual disciplines are learned. Jesus often went out to pray alone (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; 9:18; 11:1). He has a praying life rather than a prayer life. There are great prayers in Scripture like morning prayers of Psalm 3 & 4 and the evening prayer of Psalm 5. The Lord’s Prayer is found in John 17. Paul’s greatest prayer is Ephesians 3:14-21.
Prayer often can follow the ACTS or the CAST pattern, where the respective letters stand for Adoration; Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. The CAST acrostic is given for those who insist that confession should be done first. Prayers using Scripture are very wise, because that keeps you focused on God’s desires. Prayer partners often support and hold accountable prayer requests and can rejoice at answered prayers. Prayer walks are helpful to gain focus and allow the beauty of creation or a circumference boundary to receive the indirect artillery of prayer.
These are merely the first five spiritual disciplines. Succeeding descriptions will follow regarding the spiritual disciplines of:
Solitude; Submission; Silence; Fasting; Service; Worship; Fellowship; Reflection; Sabbath Rest; and Frugality.