Celebrate Discipline :: GRATITUDE

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.




SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.


GRATITUDE: a thankful and loving response toward God for His presence with us and goodness to us;  joy in our heart in response to someone for who they are or something they have done.


For years we’ve heard the saying, “Have and attitude of gratitude.” But I’ve come to learn that being grateful is more than an attitude. It’s a practice. You can have an attitude about something without acting on it. Not until we begin practicing gratitude consistently will we see real change in our lives.

How can we practice gratitude?

  • Gratitude starts first with a change of heart. Only when look beyond ourselves and see the good around us, in other people, in nature, in our pets, can we begin to walk in gratitude each day.
  • For me keeping a gratitude journal has been helpful. Taking a few moments before bed to reflect on the good things of the day. I’m not as faithful to it as I’d like to be. But at least I’m making the effort to start.
  • Making a conscious decision to thank others. So many times we get lazy and overlook the kindness of people around us. You will make someone else’s day better by noticing them.

Gratitude enhances satisfaction and balances greed and entitlement. And is so lacking in today. It starts with us. We must make the effort, to take the first step. It can change our world!

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

If you can’t see the video screen below CLICK HERE and let your gratefulness overflow into blessings all around you!


RESOURCES:
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Image credit: robwilson39 / 123RF Stock Photo

Celebrate Discipline :: WORSHIP

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.


SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.


WORSHIP: a response to God’s love as the Holy Spirit touches our human spirit.


It may seem odd to look at worship as a Spiritual Discipline. But if you have ever been so angry you could explode or struggling with an ailing body… think about being in the midst of these situations and still able to worship God. That takes Spiritual Discipline. 


Though worship is usually associated with religion, there are people who aren’t religious that have a type of worship. Worship is often revealed by the people or things we value most; money, power, possessions, substances, etc… 

Where do we turn when we’re coming undone at the end of a bad day?

There are many styles of worship: liturgical, charismatic, traditional, and contemporary. Because the New Testament doesn’t specify rules and forms of worship, no one style is better than another. The most important thing to consider is our heart motivations before, during and after. 

Before beginning a time of worship we must be sure we are in right relationships with family, friends, and God. If we go into worship angry that will block our ability to give and receive love, which is the primary purpose of worship. 

The quality of our worship comes from the focus of our heart. We mustn’t look at another person and compare styles of worship. God wants my very best, not my interpretation of someone else’s very best. 

The heart of worship is to seek God and love Him in our own personal way. 


Take some time to evaluate your type or style of worship. Is it all you want it to be? You can lay face down on the floor or dance around the room. Whatever you do that shows God how much you love Him is what He wants from you.

God is Spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. ~John 4:24

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:

What does worship mean to you? How do you like to worship?


If you can’t see the video screen below click here for one of my favorite worship songs. 

RESOURCES:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney

Photo credit: designpics / 123RF Stock Photo

Celebrate Discipline :: CONFESSION

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.

CONFESSION: an admission of misdeeds or faults to God or another person.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. ~ Psalm 139:23-24

Since God desires to give and forgive, He has put in place the process of redemption which started at the Cross and was confirmed with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is because of Christ’s holy work and through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can make our confession and know that forgiveness is possible.


The Spiritual Discipline of Confession is a difficult one for us because we often choose to see our community as one full of saints rather than a fellowship of sinners. All the more reason for confession to be a priority in our lives. When we are able to help someone struggling with their lives it helps us to know we aren’t alone in our struggle with sin. If I am left alone in the confession of my sin, I stay in the dark. It is in the light of mutual confession that healing power is released and lives are transformed.

In some Christian traditions there are formal printed confessions spoken as a congregation or to a confessor. There are many advantages to this method.

  1. No more excuses or blaming. We confess that we have sinned by our own fault. 
  2. Forgiveness is expected and given. With words from a brother or sister our forgiveness is sealed by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Remorse is experienced. We use this time to consider the seriousness of our sin against God.

Confession journalling is another avenue to consider. As we go about our daily lives we can process our various sin struggles in a diary or journal. This can be a sweet time of self-examination with the Lord at the end of the day.

The most common view of confession is that spoken to another person. But before we run off and start sharing our deep dark secrets we must take care to find the proper person. Key qualifications we should look for are: spiritual maturity, compassion, wisdom and the ability to keep a confidence. 

Having found a confidant there are three things we must check before we begin.

  1. Our conscience ~  We invite God to show us where we need healing and forgiveness.
  2. Our sorrow ~ We are taking our confession seriously because we know we have offended God.
  3. Our desire to sin ~ We ask God to help us live holy lives from this point forward.

The Spiritual Discipline of Confession breaks all pretenses over our life. We are now free to walk in our God given grace and forgiveness with the hope of making a difference in the lives of those around us.


“Honesty leads to confession, and confession leads to change.” ~ Richard Foster


If you can’t see the video screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful song to meditate on.

RESOURCES:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Celebrate Discipline :: SERVICE

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.



SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.


SERVICE:  offering resources, influence and expertise for care and protection of others.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “ ~ Matthew 22:37-39

The Christian discipline of service is the way we can share God’s love with the world. We are the mouth, hands and feet of Christ in our world today. Unless we see the needs of our friends and neighbors as real and as important as our own we will never really be serving others. 

True service requires checking our motives. 

Are our efforts all in our own human strength?  

Are we trying to impress someone?  

Are we looking for an external reward?


Service is rooted in seeing others the way God does. It requires us to put on our Jesus glasses. In service we experience the little deaths that come when we move beyond ourselves into the shoes of another.

The Discipline of Service is worked into our lives with the grace of humility:

  • Hidden, anonymous, maybe even secret.
  • An act of submission allowing other to serve us.
  • Simple acts of common courtesy.
  • Practicing ungrudging hospitality.
  • Being a listening ear.
  • Sharing the Life of God’s Word.
Because service is one of my primary Love Languages it comes easier for me than some other things. The main thing I have to remember is to keep my motives pure and serve as unto the Lord. That prevents bitterness from taking root. 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Where do you like to serve? What can you do different this week?

If you can’t see the video screen below CLICK HERE to watch an inspirational video.

RESOURCES:
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Discipline Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
The Spirit of The Disciplines by Dallas Willard

Photo credit: valeriylebedev / 123RF Stock Photo

Celebrate Discipline :: SUBMISSION

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.


SUBMISSION : aligning my will and freedom with God’s will and freedom; submitting to others in love and reverence for Christ.

“Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” ~ Romans 12:1


The Discipline of Submission has been abused by our culture and by religion. When we make the Discipline the goal it puts the wrong emphasis on it. The Disciplines themselves are a means to an end. They themselves are not the goal. Their value is the means God uses to give us the freedom we seek.

The freedom that corresponds with the Spiritual Discipline of Submission is the ability to lay down the burden of always getting our own way. It helps when we realize that the world won’t end if we don’t get what we want. It may be painful today, but life does go on. It’s up to me to trust that what God wants is far better for me than what I want.


In Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster we see Submission functions in several ways:

  1. The first act of submission is to the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We are to yield our mind, body and spirit for His purpose; living each day in an attitude of surrender.
  2. The second act of submission is to God’s Word. As we submit ourselves to Holy Scripture we look to the Holy Spirit for interpretation and application to our life.
  3. The third act of submission is to our family. With a submissive heart family members graciously make allowances for each other, listen and share as required.
  4. The fourth act of submission is to our neighbors. By performing small acts of kindness, sharing food or tools, caring for children, we are acting with a submissive heart. 
  5. The fifth act of submission is to the Christian community. Just as in our family and our neighborhood, we are called to serve the members of the body of Christ. Serving poor, the sick, or simply working in nursery can all be acts of submission.
  6. The sixth act of submission is to the despised and broken in our world. Like Mother Teresa and others before her we must find ways to identify with those who are rejected.
  7. The seventh act of submission is to our world at large. We don’t live in isolation. Our environmental responsibility affects people around the world and generations to come. We must live daily with the future in mind.

While these six areas of submission are all vital, the primary one I’m focusing on is the first. I believe when we yield our mind, body and spirit to God the others will fall in place. 

There’s no doubt that submitting ourselves to God is the most difficult of all. For me it is a daily, sometimes moment by moment, challenge. But as we keep Christ front and center of our Spiritual Disciplines we will be drawn closer to his heart and He will make the rest possible.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What experiences with submission have you had?

If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE to watch this week’s music video by Aaron Shust.


RESOURCES: 

Celebrate Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
So You Want To Be Like Christ by Charles Swindoll
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard



Photo credit: designpics / 123RF Stock Photo

Celebrate Discipline :: SILENCE and SOLITUDE

In our Celebrate Discipline column each month we are learning a new Spiritual Discipline, how to apply it and hopefully grow into the people God wants us to be.



SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.


SILENCE: removing sound (noise, music, words) from our life so spiritual goals can be pursued.


SOLITUDE: complete aloneness in order to receive guidance and oneness from God.



Of all the Spiritual Disciplines I believe silence and solitude are the most difficult for us to achieve today. We are surrounded every waking moment with distraction to the point of numbness.

There were many years of my life when I couldn’t bear to be alone or in silence. I did everything in my power to stay busy, distracted with the television, radio, people or activities (usually unhealthy ones). 

The reason I couldn’t stand to be alone or silent was because I didn’t like myself. Not only that, I couldn’t stand the voices in my head. And later I didn’t want to hear the convictions from God to change my life. It wasn’t until I began my recovery journey that I learned how to enjoy silence and solitude. Today that is what I prefer. I rarely turn on the television or listen to anything in the car.

I have found such freedom in silence and solitude.

If we are going to put these spiritual disciplines into practice it is going to take a serious commitment; an intentional plan with specific goals in mind. Here are some ideas:

  • If you’re new to these disciplines I encourage you to start small. Choose a short period of time, maybe 10 minutes, set a timer to help alleviate distraction. Then just sit alone in the silence. It might feel awkward at first. But soon the silence and solitude will be your friend.
  • Choose an activity or chore, do it in silence with an attitude of worship to God.
  • My favorite is to take a walk with no music or phone conversations. It allows me to enjoy God’s creation in a much fuller way.


These are just a few suggestions. You can find much more in the resources I have listed below the music video. 

If you haven’t before, I strongly encourage you to dive into silence and solitude. There is so much to be gained there. They are invaluable and help us with other disciplines and areas of spiritual growth.



If you can’t see the video below CLICK HERE to watch an excellent video that will help us slow down.

RESOURCES:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
So, You Want to Be Like Christ by Charles Swindoll
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
Spiritual Discipling Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun


Photo Courtesy www.123rf.com

Celebrate Discipline :: SIMPLICITY

In our Celebrate Discipline column each month we are learning a new Spiritual Discipline, how to apply it and hopefully grow into the people God wants us to be.

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.

SIMPLICITY: freedom from complexity, pretense or guile; direct expression; absence of luxury.

“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little.” ~ Philippians 4:11-12 (The Message)

All the Spiritual Disciplines are important but I believe Simplicity is a linchpin to our spiritual growth. Our culture has us so busy, our homes and lives so cluttered with possessions and noise that we can barely think let alone hear God’s still small voice.  


Starting in 2006, because of several moves for my husband’s work, we were forced to sell most of our possessions. At the time we owned a 3000 sq foot home that was full to the brim with “stuff.” We needed to trim that down to the bare minimums required for survival as we moved back and fourth across America; the rest went into a 10′ x 20′ storage room.  It was a challenge but well worth it.

After four years we came out of that experience with a decidedly simplified lifestyle. We learned valuable lessons that taught us how much we really can live without. 

If you want to live life free, take your time, go slowly. Do few things, but do them well. Simple joys are holy. ~ Celtic Daily Prayer Book


Simplicity is more than eliminating possessions and adjusting lifestyle. It must begin with our heart attitude.

Thoughts Toward Simplicity:

  • What am I clinging to?
  • Am I buying things for their usefulness or for their status?
  • How can I avoid media marketing that drives me to buy?

Simplicity is the breath of fresh air we desperately need to revive our weary bodies and souls. It begins by trusting God for our everything, in our heart, our mind and our spirit! 

What step will you take today to create a simpler lifestyle?


Click here to watch Part One of Richard Foster and friends discussing the Spiritual Discipline of Simplicity. You can find Part Two here.


RESOURCES:  
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Celebrate Discipline : STUDY

Whether college students or students of life, when trying to learn something new we need the discipline of study. It’s the same when it comes to our personal spiritual growth. Let’s look at how we can become better students of and for God.

Our goal of integrating the Spiritual Disciplines into our lives is to transform our total person; to re-place old destructive thoughts and habits with new life-giving ones. Today we’ll learn four steps that will help us make the most of our valuable study time. But first let’s look at our definitions for this week:

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.

STUDY: application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge.

The Bible tells us that we are transformed through the renewal of our mind. And our mind becomes renewed as we apply the things we’ve learned in new habits. Some of us have naturally good study habits but many of us need help in this area. 

Here are four steps that I learned from Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline:

  • REPETITION ~ channels our mind in a specific direction by ingraining thoughts. Whether rereading, re-writing or reciting material aloud, repetition always works for me.
  • CONCENTRATION ~ our brain’s natural ability is enhanced by centering our energies on our subject of study. Remove distractions and find a quiet place where you can focus. Again key for me.
  • COMPREHENSION ~ understanding what we are studying is not always an easy task, but when we put the previous steps to work, comprehension is more achievable. Before we know it we have that light-bulb moment!
  • REFLECTION ~ once we have defined our subject through comprehension we are ready to bring significance to what we have learned. With reflection we can now apply what we have learned to our life.

Whether listening to audio books, studying nature on a daily walk,  or doing an intense scripture study, there are many ways we can become attune to the message of God’s love in our lives. 

One of the most important things I’ve learned from Richard Foster these last several years is don’t get stuck reading only current books or publications. By alternating classic Christian literature into my reading, more depth has come into my spiritual learning experience. Now the classics are my preference.

If you are unfamiliar with Christian classics I encourage you to check out Spiritual Classics by Richard Foster. This excellent book contains excerpts from many of the greatest books ever written. It’s designed like a devotional or can be used as a small group study. 

Whatever your do turn off the TV, put down the smart phone and pick up a good book. You won’t be sorry!

What’s your favorite Christian classic book?


Click here to watch How to Study the Bible with Joyce Meyer and Rick Renner.


RESOURCES:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Are You Hiding Behind Your Baggage?

When we hide behind our baggage we limit ourselves, our relationships and our future.


How much baggage do you have? Can you carry it with one hand or do you need a handler to assist you? Either way you’ve come to the right place!


This month we’ve been dealing with a lot of tough issues. We started by working Step 5 Admitting to God, ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Next we reviewed Anne Paulk’s book Restoring Sexual Identity. In week three we focused on the Christian Virtue of Integrity, pressing against the hypocrisies that creep into our lives. And last week we learned how to overcome Identity Crisis

Today’s topic relates to all the above issues. If we: can’t confess our wrongs to another person, aren’t confident in our sexuality, walk with hypocrisy in our daily life, have doubts about who we are or why we’re in this world, then we’re probably carrying some seriously heavy baggage!

What are you carrying in your baggage? 

  • Childhood hurts and wounds
  • Addictions overcome or recurring
  • Poor choices with painful consequences 
  • Failed relationships
  • Beliefs of inadequacies, insufficiency, entitlement
  • Hurt feelings, loneliness, anger, resentment, disappointments
  • Unhealthy coping skills,  etc, ad infinitum…


How are you handling your baggage? 
Hiding it in the closet, hoping it will disappear on its own?
Buried and smashed by the weight to the point of severe depression?

A few tips for baggage handling…

  • Face it. By accepting the truth of the past, we take away its power over us.
  • Call a trusted friend or family member. Talking it out relieves much stress and pressure.
  • Turn to Jesus. There’s no one more qualified to carry our burdens than Jesus Christ.

If you’re tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28 

Our past and its baggage has made us who we are today. So we mustn’t live with total regret. We can choose to have a new perspective on our past. Rather than focusing on the negative, identifying ourselves with our shameful mistakes, we can look and see where God was at work. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. ~ Psalm 23:6 


God was there. Even though we might have made terrible mistakes that forced us and our family into bad consequences; even in our darkest days of sin, God was watching us. He knew our heart’s deepest desires before we did. He knew that one day we would want out of that mess. So He gave us His Grace and Mercy. When we look back and see Grace, God’s goodness and mercy instead of the darkness, pain and mistakes, we’re able to see God’s Presence in all things.

So where do we go from here? Let’s choose to...


Live a life of greatness not mediocrity!
1. Step Out. Don’t make God have to drag you out. Receive what He has for your life!
2. Step Up. Encourage yourself in the Lord. Choose to believe in yourself!
3. Step In. Don’t wait for something to seem official. Destiny calls for faith!

When you look at your past where do you see God? Can you see His mercy at work?


See God’s goodness in your life. Enjoy @Israel Houghton’s video: http://youtu.be/OKs0aPWGTVk


Photos courtesy 123rf.com

Know Your Enemy

To live a victorious life we must know our enemy and understand our personal weaknesses.

Military leaders study the strategies of their enemy as they prepare to defeat them. Sports coaches watch recordings of the opposing team to learn their strengths and weaknesses. We, too, must know our enemy and where he is going to try and defeat us.

Most of us who are followers of Christ know who our enemy is. But often we are unprepared for his attacks because we don’t understand our own personal weaknesses.

It helps to spend time reflecting on life to see where we failed and how the enemy got the best of us in the past. Then, with God’s help, as we recognize theses areas of weakness we can guard from future attacks.

Photo courtesy 123RF Stock Photos