Monday, June 30, 2008

Part 5- Study

This continues a series based on Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.

In this chapter, Foster explains that there are three things that we, as Christians, should study in order to grow closer to God
1- The Bible. However, Foster explains that studying the Bible is more complex than just reading it. We must explore it. Read it over and over. Foster suggests using lectio divina to study passages.
2- Other writings on Christianity. He suggests a number of books, but perhaps the easiest to digest would be C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. Other books that are named offer great insight into the thoughts and discoveries of many spiritual giants. Feel free to explore this chapter to find out what else Foster recommends.
3- Ourselves. In order to better understand your faith, it's important to understand yourself. Try to figure out what helps you get closer to God. Find out what hinders your walk, and make efforts to adjust your life so that you have more of the former and less of the latter.

In the final paragraph, Foster addresses the fact that study is something that is difficult to begin and keep doing, but once you've started making it a habit, it is easily maintained as we begin to thirst for more knowledge.

Read the other entries from the Disciplines series
1- Introduction

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Summer is a little crazy, so I'm just now getting around to updating. I'm currently on a mission trip, and have very little time to use the computer and internet, so I'll give you an assignment:

1. Go to a place where you can find some silence and solitude, take a Bible, but leave your watch, cell phone, iPod, or any other device that could be used as a distraction.
2. Find a place to sit down and just watch the day, (I prefer mornings or evenings, especially at this time of year). Don't do anything, just observe your surroundings: creation. Listen to the sounds of nature, hear the songs the birds are singing...
3. Sit for a while, no specified time, until you are content. Then pick up your Bible and turn to Matthew 5. Begin reading out loud to yourself. Don't stop until you finish chapter 7.
4. After you're done, sit and let the message sink in. Imagine what it would have been like to hear Jesus preach that message.
5. Sit and enjoy creation some more. Then try not to listen to music or any manufactured noise on the way back home, or wherever you're going.

Monday, June 16, 2008


This continues a series based on chapters from Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.

Fasting may be the most mis-understood of the disciplines we've covered so far. In fact, not eating by choice may seem unhealthy to us. In fact, Foster alludes to this when he states, "Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money." However rare, fasting can be one of the most rewarding of the disciplines, because fasting gives us increased opportunities to focus on other disciplines.

In order to be a discipline, fasting must be done with God in mind- anything else and it is merely selfish in motive. Fasting in the Christian faith, is not a diet, or a way to get what you want (from others, or from God), but it is a way to enter into intimacy with God through escaping indulgence and other "needs."

Before considering fasting, be sure you're healthy enough. Someone that has been sick, or has another medical condition should seek the advice of a physician before deciding what is best. When you begin fasting, start out with a small, partial fast (allow yourself to have juices), and work your way up to only drinking water, and maybe longer periods of fasting. View it like running long distances- you can't start out running a 10K, so start out with a small amount and work up.

The physical effects of fasting will be easy to detect, but the spiritual gains will come when you begin to look beyond yourself and your hunger, and seek God through prayers, praise, and study. Always start and end a fast with a small meal (Foster advises that it be based on fruits and vegetables).

read the other entries in this series
1- Introduction
2- Meditation
3- Prayer

Monday, June 9, 2008

Praying successfully

This is part 3 of a series based on the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.

In my opinion, prayer seems to be the most common (and yet still misunderstood) of the spiritual disciplines. Many of us learn to pray at a young age when we go to bed and before meals. The prayers I learned early were memorized, and I can still recite one! As we get older, we begin having conversations with God. Some of these early "conversation" prayers may be the best we'll pray for years. Why? Because children often trust that what they ask will be granted, more so than adults. Foster offers a great example of a child asking their parent for a sandwich. The child trusts that there will be a sandwich any time they want one, and doesn't worry about packing food away for a day when the sandwich won't come. Foster explains that many children present their requests to God with the same faith that God will take care of it if they ask.

As adults, we often struggle with this kind of request/expectational prayer- fearing that we, as imperfect beings, don't have the right to expect something of God. Well, to put summarize Foster's point, what's the point in praying if you don't want something bad enough to believe that it will be granted? At the beginning of the chapter on prayer, Foster gives a great quote about prayer: "In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God's throughs after him, to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills." (Foster, p.33) In essence, Foster argues that as we begin to pray correctly, it is not God's will conforming to our requests, but rather our being more in tune with the will of God causes our requests to fit into God's will and plan.

Still, Foster argues, there is a time for a prayer recognizing that sometimes we do not fully understand the workings of God. Christ understood this when he prayed in the Garden (Matthew 26:39). In order to avoid constantly praying about things that your will doesn't agree with God's, Foster suggests that intercessory prayer should only be used when you feel deeply moved by the topic- he argues that the reason you may be moved is that you are being called to pursue God's help in the situation.

I cannot begin to summarize the chapter, instead, I would suggest reading the book for yourself. But I'll conclude with a quote Foster gives: " Listening to the Lord is the first thing, the second thing, and the third thing neceessary for successful intercession." (Foster, p. 39)

Read part 1- Introduction Read part 2- Meditation

Friday, June 6, 2008

Thoughts on Meditation

This post continues the series on Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline.
Part 1 of this series "Disciplines Intro" was posted on Monday, June 2nd.

Our desire to meditate comes from a desire to have a relationship with God. This explains the fact that we are often so dissatisfied with all that we've accomplished in this world- if we don't have a relationship with God, part of us knows something is missing. However, like many things we desire, we want to acquire it in the easiest possible way. See Israel not wanting God to speak to them, instead they send Moses up the mountain, and then ask Moses to shield his face. Then Israel wants a king, a leader to tell them God's plan and carry it out for them. We're not much different today. Today, we look to our pastors and leaders to do all the meditating for us. We often neglect reading scriptures, praying, reflecting on God...and settle for our weekly dose on Sundays. Why? Because it is the easiest way. It doesn't require us to change. But if we actively seek God and meditate on God's will, we would have to change.

Here are some thoughts on meditation, many of these are Foster's thoughts that I've summarized:
1- Meditation is not meant to be some mystical experience in search of finding a euphoric state. Instead, Christian meditation is meant to be a time to consciously try to connect with God by
pausing from our every day life.
2- Meditation is not difficult, and not reserved for "experts". Any that desire to meditate can do so.
3- Meditation should be a part of every day. Making it a point to have some time with God each day can lead to better meditation.
4- It cannot be limited or scheduled for a specific time. Realize that you may need to meditat for more than two minutes a day...
On this, Foster writes, "If we are constantly being swept off our feet with frantic activity, we will be unable to be attentive at the moment of inward silence." (Foster page 27)
By this, Foster means- If you've determined that you have five minutes for your time with God before your next activity, you're probably not going to be able to focus on God...your mind will already be on the next thing to do.
Only you can determine the best way for you to meditate, but Foster offers a few tips:
1-find a designated place- away from phones, tvs, gadgets...preferably at a place with nice scenery.
2-position yourself in a way that is conducive to meditating...a posture of receptiveness that isnt' uncomfortable.
3-take time to unwind... this may be the most difficult thing for us to do. Our lives are often so busy, that we forget how to be still. Our lives and minds are like an automobile, to stop down we have to take our foot off the accelerator, and then permit the car to slow to a halt, or take a more active role and press the brake.

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10 (NIV) (bold added)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Disciplines Intro.

I recently started to re-read of one of my favorite books that was assigned reading during a Spiritual Formation class I took a few years ago. Richard J. Foster's Celebration of Discipline describes different Disciplines (or practices) that we use to connect with God in order to satisfy the need we have for intimacy with God. I'll post as often as I can (depends on how much I read) and give some of Foster's thoughts, as well as some of my thoughts.
To begin, I'll offer a few quotes from the Introduction of the book...along with a bit of my own commentary:

"Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people." -Richard J. Foster Celebration of Discipline Introduction (page 1)
These words, although written 30 years ago, are still true. In fact, I would argue that we're even more addicted to instant gratification because of advances in technology- with the internet at many of our fingers, we can satisfy almost any desire we have....but the internet can never give us intimacy with God. The kind of intimacy we truly desire comes from consciously seeking God and searching to know God better each day...This is the type of person one should strive to be after making the decision to follow Jesus. Jump in, explore, dare to be deep with God.

"In our enthusiasm to practice the Disciplines, we may fail to practice discipline. The life that is pleasing to God is not a series of religious duties. We have only one thing to do, namely, to experience a life of relationship and intimacy with God..." -Richard J. Foster Celebration of Discipline Introduction (page 4)
This is something I want (and want you) to keep in mind during this entire series. When we become more disciplined in our faith, we risk the trap of being impressed with ourselves, thinking, "God must be very proud of me." The truth is, there's not much we can do to impress God. If it's approval we seek, all we need to do is to "experience... [that] relationship" with God. But it's not possible to passively experience God, it will be passionate, and it should be desired as your discipline turns from feeling like a chore to feeling like a necessity.

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