Tuesday, 10 March 2009

spiritual disciplines, Your perspective, relationship with You

Feb 7, 2006

It is good to experience a heavy heart, to realize the depths of my hopelessness and guilt and sin and total weakness and depravity, because without that, how will I ever turn to God when He calls? Thank You, Lord, for Your grace in calling me, in showing me the true state of my being, and coming to my help and redeeming me from sin - indeed, from myself!

I have been studying about the spiritual disciplines, and then teaching others about them. But I have been finding it difficult to teach because I feel like I am really saying, "Do as I say, not as I do (or at least not as I fail to do)." I am coming to understand that it is good to be aware of these ways of glorifying You and growing in relationship with You. But also, I see that I must beware of throwing myself madly into trying to do them all, and ending up by trying to do them in my own strength. When that happens, these good and useful ways of cooperating with Your work in my life will become only works, and I will burn myself out.

I think I need to open my eyes wide to perceive where You, Lord God, have placed me here and now, and see the opportunities of time and circumstance that You has placed before me. I need to try and see my life - and the world - from Your perspective. I need to see what You see as right and important just now, and what is wrong, foolish, empty, vapid. Then I need to go ahead with Your purposes and plans, no matter how they seem to me at the time, always keeping Your glory as my goal. You do teach me so much, and build Your relationship with me, and fulfill Your purposes every day through the circumstances of life in which You have placed me. So, dear Lord, please help me see life through Your perspective. Help me to see clearly what wrong choices I have been making, and help me to jettison these things, and use the resulting cleared times, places and circumstances to "discipline myself for godliness."

It seems to me, Lord, that the way I approach things and think of them makes a difference in whether I perceive and make use of them as "just life" or use them as continuing, useful parts of disciplined spiritual growth. Ideally, am I not to come to a place where I understand that all of life is ultimately about my relationship with You, for Your purposes and Your glory? I think that in really coming to understand that, I begin to be able to live out biblical commands like, "in everything give thanks," and "pray without ceasing;" the kinds of things which disciplined spirituality strives for, right? Then even the most seemingly mundane parts of life will become ways of "doing all for the glory of God!"

I need to be careful not to separate my spiritually disciplined living into a box or compartment of my life. Certainly, it is important to spend "quality time" focused one-to-one, face-to-face with You, Lord, but I need also to realize that You never leave me, and that in every aspect and moment of living, I am actually in relationship with You. So I must ask myself then whether some of the things I do are healthy contributors to our relationship or not. Compartmentalizing my spiritual life also causes it to become just a "duty" and I start to begrudge the time spent with You, or I become self-righteous about it, and again it becomes a work of man rather than a relationship guided by You. It turns into something for my glory, not for Yours.

I am coming to realize that the "spiritual disciplines" really need to be moment-by-moment disciplined spiritual living, not just discrete activities in themselves, for their own sake. I am to be a disciple living the Christ-life, following the example of Jesus, abiding always in the Father. With God as my guide, I am to be open to, and asking Him what He wants me to be doing in this area. I see that striving to have a spiritual experience just like someone elses, no matter how wonderful they are, is not what God wants from me. So in the spiritual disciplines, the goal is godly living, discipleship, God's Glory. The details of the path are God's to choose, but I can cooperate by seeking to see from His perspective, and by choosing to order my attitudes, thoughts, words, actions and reactions - the details of my life over which I have some control - accordingly.

Here's another thing. I see more and more that knowledge and experience have to go together. Often I am in such a rush to "learn" it all. But the learning that is really learning, the learning that sticks and changes me, must go beyond just head knowledge. It must be experienced in some way. So I do learn things by studying the Bible, prayer and so on, but it is in going through life experiences that the knowledge I've gained is put to the test, and is given reality in the context of experience.

Thus my learning goes from head knowledge to wisdom and becomes a vital, living part of me. So vitality and reality is built into my relationship with God (and with others), making me a vital part of the family of God, the body of Christ, the heavenly kingdom. I need, then, to be careful not to push myself into endless amounts of cerebral knowledge, trying to "get there" in my own hurried time. I need to stop from time to time and check to see if my so-called learning is really God's teaching and guidance. He works slowly, it often seems to me, yet when I learn according to His methods and timetable, I will truly "get it."

One last thing. ____ just reminded me that each of us is taught individually by a tutor, the Holy Spirit, because each one of us has an individual walk with God, and each one has individual experiences and places and times, according to God's planned schedule. At the same time, God gives us the opportunity to share our learning with others, that we may each be encouraged and edified, and the church of Jesus may be built into the glorious kingdom of God.

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