Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Spirit of Truth and Spiritual Discipline:

Surely we have a teacher, and He is Christ the Lord. He has promised the Spirit, Who will reveal the Truth to us. Sent by the Father to speak just what the Father speaks. Certainly, we can and should read and listen to others, but it is Christ who teaches and reveals the Truth through the Spirit. Our spiritual disciplines train us and guide us along the way, the Narrow Road, the Good Red Road of Christ. Do not be deceived, no one person, no seminary will do this for you. If you want Christ to be formed in you, then you must participate in the disciplines. You must choose to follow the Way. The Lord is your shepherd.

“This is what the LORD says:
"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.” [Jeremiah 6:16]

“Furthermore, tell the people, this is what the LORD says: ‘See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.’” [Jeremiah 21:8]

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” [Matthew 7:13-14]

“Imagine your soul as being like the [Golden Gate Bridge]. There are busy times and quiet times. The job of the bridge is not to ask what is in the cars or [trucks] but simply to bear their weight for a few seconds and then allow them to go on their way. There is no problem when the flow of traffic is even, but when breakdowns and bottlenecks occur, the fights and the impatience begin. Your soul too has to take the weight and let it go. The suffering becomes prolonged only when you do not acknowledge its existence and let it pass on. Then it sits on your soul like a judgment. The time to repair the bridge is in the night when the traffic is light? Your prayer (spiritual discipline) in quiet times gives you the strength to cope with the heavy, busy times. You dig, patch and repair in the night. As a result the world can flow over your soul in the day without congestion. You must allow the flow of faith, love, healing, hope, joy and light to pass through you into the world. You must allow the flow of hatred, darkness and sin to flow from the world through you to God. All of this is done by prayer and by forgiveness of yourself, of others and perhaps even of God Himself for what you feel He has done to you. Little by little, you grow in the power of prayer, in the ability to bear the weight and accept the contradictions of the two-way flow between God and the world.” [Aidan Clarke]

So, where do we find the motivation to pursue this life? Perhaps the following may help kindle the fire:

Excerpts from The Imitation of Christ (Thomas a Kempis):

Study the worthy examples of the holy Fathers, those illustrious models of true perfection and devotion, and you will conclude that you are doing very little or almost nothing. What is our life when compared to theirs! These saints and friends of Christ served the Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in la¬bor and fatigue, in night vigils and fasts, in prayers and holy meditation, in persecutions and countless insults.

How often the adversary harassed them! How fre¬quently and earnestly they prayed to God! How scrupulously they kept their fasts! What eagerness and application they manifested in their desire for spiritual progress! How valiant the contest they fought to eradicate their faults! How pure and righteous their determina¬tion to love God! They spent their days in labor and their nights in long prayers—even their working hours were not without mental prayer.

They spent their time gainfully. Every hour spent with God seemed all too brief, and in experiencing the great sweetness of contemplating God they forgot their body's need for nourish-ment. They renounced all wealth, dignities, honors, friends, and family; they desired absolutely nothing of this world. They barely accepted what was necessary to sustain life and only begrudgingly did they partake of it. In earthly things they were poor, but in grace and virtue they were opulent. Outwardly they were in want, but inwardly they regaled in God's consoling grace.

They were strangers to this world but close and intimate friends of God. They saw themselves as nothing and the world despised them, but in the sight of God they were priceless and beloved. They possessed true humility, lived in simple obedience, and walked in charity and patience, and thus they daily pro¬gressed in spirit and found great favor with God. These holy Fa¬thers are given as models to us religious and their examples more powerfully spur us on to advance in holiness than the multitude of the lukewarm can entice us to become lax.

Each day we ought to renew our resolves and rekindle the fires of our fervor as if it were the first day of our conversion. And we should say: "O Lord God, help me to keep my good resolution to serve You; give me the grace to begin anew, for what I have done up to now is nothing." Our spiritual advancement will equal our resolutions, so if we want to make good spiritual progress we need to exercise dili¬gence in making our resolves. If the man who makes his resolu¬tions with stout-heartedness often fails, then what about the one who makes them only feebly and infrequently?
Failure to keep resolutions results from a variety of reasons, and every seemingly unimportant omission in our spiritual prac¬tices produces some injury. The resolutions of a righteous man depend on God's grace and not on his own wisdom, and whatever he undertakes to do he must first place his trust in Him.

If a prescribed exercise is omitted because of a brother in need, or because we must perform some other charitable deed, the exercise may be fulfilled at a later time. But if we omit it with¬out good reason or out of laziness, then it is no small fault and it will prove harmful to us. Though we try our best we find that we still fail in many things; hence, we must make our resolutions spe-cific and especially with regard to those things that are our great¬est obstacles to progress. We must examine both our inner thoughts and our external actions and put them in order, for both have an important part to play in our spiritual advancement.

If you cannot be continually recollected then at least be so at certain times, for example, in the morning and in the evening. In the morning make your resolution, and in the evening examine your performance, checking how you conducted yourself during the day. Scrutinize your speech, your actions, and your thoughts, because by these means you may have offended God and your neighbor. Arm yourself like the man who prepares himself to resist the devil's temptations (Eph. 6) and keep your love for food in check and you will find it easier to control all inclinations of the flesh. Never be altogether idle but read or write, pray or meditate, or do something worth¬while for the community.

Yes, I admit, this seems impossible for us. Our world seems too busy, too full, too overwhelming already. But, the truth is as we pursue this life, as we exercise these disciplines, God will grant us Peace and a “balance” to our lives that we have failed to find ourselves. Patterns have been established from the early church as they imitated the Apostles in their own imitation of Christ. These patterns have been applied by Christians throughout the ages, in many different places and times, and under a variety of situations.

We have good resources in our own time, not the least of which are books that have become classics on the subject of spiritual discipline and formation. Beginning with Celebration of Discipline (Foster), then The Spirit of the Disciplines (Willard), and finally (at least in my own personal library) Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Whitney). We must teach other in Christ to apply these disciplines to our own lives, being gentle and “taking small bites” as we get used to a “new life”.

Start small, carve out some time (preferably in the early morning – “quiet time”), use a simple devotional; (Our Daily Bread, Upper Room, etc.) and give the Lord 15 minutes. He will bless your effort and give you a hunger and thirst for more. For those of you who are more energetic (be careful not to be “busy” in this), you may wish to apply some of the patterns outlined in the Book of Common Prayer (I personally like my own library version, Celtic Daily Prayer.) Ultimately, the key is to form a habit of prayer and communion with God, once you do something every day for about two weeks, it will become easier (habit). Again, rest assured that God will bless your efforts in seeking Him.

Lastly, this verse from Alistair Maclean for encouragement:

“I find thee enthroned in my heart,
my Lord Jesus.
It is enough.
I know that Thou are throned
in Heaven.
My heart and Heaven are one.”

only by Grace, pat

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