Sunday, December 28, 2014

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: I noticed right after Christmas that the newspaper ads were full of exercise machines on sale. I couldn't help but wonder if those weren't targeting those of us who ate too much over the holiday and/or were making New Year's resolutions about pursuing regular exercise in our lives. Paul wrote to Timothy about spiritual training in 1 Timothy 4:7, 8: "Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." Many Christians have chosen to pursue spiritual disciplines . . . not to win God's approval, but, like physical exercise, to develop godly habits that will make us spiritually strong and better able to serve God. I can't remember who first suggested two categories of spiritual disciplines: engagement and denial, but I have found these to be very helpful IF, like physical exercise, I am faithful in practicing them. It's my plan in the New Year, to focus on one discipline each week and then repeat the sequence again. Repetitions in godly disciplines build spiritual muscles even as repetitions in physical workouts build physical muscles. Here's a description of 7 disciples of engagement and 6 disciplines of denial: Disciplines of Engagement (things I intentionally do) 1. Bible study – carefully examine the Scriptures every day not to gain information, but in order to become more like Jesus. 2. Prayer – communicate to God my adoration, thanks, confession, and requests for others and for self. 3. Community worship – gather weekly with my Christian family to praise, pray, serve, give, and learn. 4. Fellowship – regularly share life and resources with other believers. 5. Good works – do good things to relieve suffering and meet needs. 6. Giving/Generosity – be quick to share what God has given me to relieve suffering, meet needs, spread the Gospel, and build Jesus’ church. 7. Evangelism – eagerly take every opportunity to talk to others about Jesus and the Gospel Disciplines of Denial (things I intentionally do NOT do) 8. Fasting – give up food or some other regular activity for a time in order to prioritize serious prayer. 9. Solitude – separate myself from people and activities to be alone with God. 10. Silence – take time to be quiet before God in order to listen to Him and to be quiet with people so as to not say too much or the wrong thing (defensive, retaliatory, unkind, critical, condemning). 11. Secrecy – not tell anyone about good things I have done. 12. Simplicity – slow down, pare down, do/buy/possess/and eat less in order to have more energy, time, and resources to enjoy and help other people. 13. Chastity – guard purity in my mind, motives, speech, deeds, entertainment, and technology.

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