So far we’ve learned that spending time in Scripture must become a priority—a severe discipline—in our lives. We’ve also considered a few practical ways to make that happen. But we will keep ourselves from much blessing if we halt our discussion at the discipline of reading and don’t talk about the discipline of meditation.
The moment I mention the word meditation, however, it is possible that you are immediately drawn to images of people sitting in the Lotus Position: eyes closed, legs crossed, with palms up on one’s knees, with the thumb and middle finger on each hand slightly touching. That’s because our culture is fascinated with eastern-style meditation, and, most recently, something called “Mindfulness” (although mindfulness experts do not all insist on one specific kind of posture, even though they would say posture is important). Continue reading “Spiritual Disciplines, Part 4: What is Biblical Meditation?”
So far we’ve seen that spiritual discipline is essential to our spiritual growth and that discipline is not a burdensome alternative to spiritual spontaneity, but is actually a means to it. We’ve also seen why Bible reading should be a priority in our lives. In this post, I want to offer you a few ideas to help you build Scripture reading and meditation into your regular routine. Continue reading “Spiritual Disciplines, Part 3: Bible Reading: Some Practical Suggestions”
In his little book, Make Your Bed: Little Things that Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, former Navy SEAL and Admiral William H. McRaven offers his readers ten pieces of hard-earned wisdom, each culled from the rigors of life as one of the U. S. military’s most elite soldiers. Making one’s bed first thing in the morning, McRaven suggests, is a discipline that sets the tone for the rest of the day. Why? Because “sometimes the simple act of making your bed can give you the lift you need to start your day and provide you the satisfaction to end it right.” By beginning the day with a task completed, we establish a pattern that will enable us to accomplish larger tasks during the day.
This is sound advice, and I am glad to receive it as a gift of common grace. But there is another discipline that is infinitely more important when it comes to setting the tone for our day, even if our bed remains slightly disheveled. Continue reading “Spiritual Disciplines, Part 2: The Priority of Bible Reading and Mediation”
Personal discipline is vital to the Christian life, but it seems that a broad misunderstanding exists among Christians as to how personal discipline and heart affections relate to one another. Before we discuss spiritual disciplines, we need to consider the important question of how these disciplines relate to our affections.
All You Need is…Discipline?
On one side I’ve heard folks who give the idea that discipline is all that matters. That is, they’ve concluded that affections (i.e., feelings, emotions) for God aren’t essential to the Christian life and that it is simply our duty to discipline ourselves to do the right thing even when we don’t feel like it (which we often won’t). Continue reading “Spiritual Disciplines, Part 1: Is Self-Discipline “Unspiritual?””
Nothing of any significance has ever been accomplished without discipline. That’s true in both the physical and spiritual realm. Talented athletes who rely upon their natural athletic prowess and refuse to put in the work to develop their skills rarely find enduring or memorable success. Wealthy sons who take their financial status for granted instead of laboring to multiply their inherited wealth often stand as pathetic examples of privileged yet wasted lives. There have been great minds who have wasted their massive intellectual gifts because they simply would not discipline themselves to work hard. Regarding this last kind of neglect, I am reminded of the following description of William Coleridge, a 18th-century poet who, despite his literary gifts, fell far short of what many expected him to accomplish. Continue reading “The Vital Importance of Personal Discipline”
In the spring of 1741 Jonathan Edwards visited and ministered to a small congregation in Suffield, Connecticut. This little church was without a pastor for a short time but was blessed with a few excellent servants, including Edwards himself and the great evangelist George Whitefield.
A few months after Edwards visited the church, Elizabeth Hatheway, a member of the congregation, asked Edwards for some spiritual guidance. In response, Edwards wrote this young lady a lengthy letter with 19 points of advice on Christian living. Several years later, the letter was published under the title, Advice to Young Converts. It is currently published along with Edwards resolutions by P & R Publishing.
On point #3, Edwards gives some timely advice on how to listen to sermons.
When you hear sermons, hear them for yourself, even though what is spoken in them may be especially directed to the unconverted or to those that in other respects are in different circumstances from yourself. Let the chief intent of your mind be to consider what ways you can apply the things that you are hearing in the sermon. You should ask, What improvement should I make, based on these things, for my own soul’s good? Continue reading “How To Listen To a Sermon: Eagerness and Examination”