Friday, August 08, 2014

Spiritual disciplines

I starting (trying) to work through the Renovare resource "Connecting With God: A Spiritual Formation Guide." Renovare is an intrachurch movement commited to the renewal of the church. It was founded by Richard Foster. The name is latin for "To renew." I have used many of their resources, and really like them. This book is designed to do as the title says - it gives practical advice for connecting on a deeply personal level with God. It uncovers new places to look for God, while providing reflection questions and activities to reinvigorate communication with God in such traditional areas as prayer and Bible study. It can be used individually, or in a group.

I plan to go through this slowly. One reason is because they suggest doing so, but also because it's just going to take me some time. In the introduction they talk about understanding the spiritual disciplines. On p. xi they say,
What are the Spiritual Disciplines? They include fasting and prayer, study and service, submission and solitude, confession and worship, meditation and silence, simplicity, frugality, secrecy, sacrifice, and celebration. Such Spiritual Disciplines crop up repeatedly in the Bible as the way God's people trained themselves and were trained by God to achieve godliness. And not only in the Bible: the saints down through history, and even spilling over into our own time, have all practiced these ways of "grow[ing] in grace" (2 Peter 3:18).

A Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action by which we do what we can do in order to receive from God the ability (or power) to do what we cannot achieve by direct effort. It is not in us, for example, to love our enemies. We might try very hard to love our enemies, but we will fail miserably. Always. This strength, this power to love our enemies -- that is, to genuinely and unconditionally love those who curse us and spitefully use us -- is simply not within our natural abilities. We cannot do it by ourselves. Ever.

But this fact of life does not mean that we do nothing. Far from it! Instead, by an act of the will we choose to take up disciplines of the spiritual life that we can do. These disciplines are all actions of the body, mind, and spirit that are within our power. Not always and not perfectly, to be sure. But they are things we can do. By choice. By choosing actions of fasting, study, solitude, and so forth...

So, that's what I'm trying to do by working through this book. I'm trying to put myself in a place for God to "...work in me, enabling me to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Because I'm quite simply not able to do it myself right now.