Archive for November, 2010

November 29, 2010

Traditions

The last two days, I had two husbands ask me about developing family traditions in two completely different settings. I’m taking that que to pick up this passionate topic once again. I have made a page dedicated to traditions that gives links to past posts on the subject. In the next few weeks I will add some more thoughts to this subject and update the page as I do so. Check it out!

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November 9, 2010

Spiritual Addiction

Whenever I hear the phrase “Spiritual Discipline” I shudder. Even more so, I find myself revolted almost to the point of nausea, spiritually speaking – that is.  Let me explain before you put your finger down your throat and say “gag me.” I find the term an oxymoron, as if we can just discipline ourselves into spiritual vitality.

An oxymoron is not a gullible teenager beset with a horrible case of acne. An oxymoron is a phrase that has words that are incongruous or contradictory but presented to be congruous. I love the idea behind the reason for and things that are what we are pointing to when we think and teach “spiritual disciplines.” But the oxymoron gets in my way. What an unfortunate term to describe the portion of Christian life that portrays coming to the Living Water and drinking at the source never to be thirsty again. Can you think of a worse sales technique than calling – “ Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – a spiritual discipline? If this was a corporate slogan then that would be a company soon out of business.

Yet, it is a slogan we Christians have hailed as a banner in our attempt to communicate a vitally important aspect of our walk with God. Indeed, we cannot walk with God without them. It would be like trying to live without food and water.

“Spiritual Disciplines” as a phrase creates a negative image in my mind. It is an image of a pharisee, who beats himself low as one who is observing the law, moaning as he fasts and rubbing his knees as he prays. Oh, the sacrifices! Oh, the pain! Oh, the inconveniences! “Look at all I have traded away for my discipline. My will and strength have won the day.” In short, I struggle because of how easy the term plays into the accusation of legalism.  It would seem that the surface problem of spiritual disciplines is legalism. Either from those who slave away under the practices  as if the disciplines are the end themselves or those antinomianists among us who claim “Legalist! Legalist!” if we dare raise the topic with them.

But there is even a deeper problem with our use of “spiritual discipline.” It is two-pronged.

First, we treat it like an option.

Second, we approach it as a task.

“See, he is preaching legalism!” You might be shouting out now. Maybe we could start texting sol (shout out loud) to tell people we are yelling at them from our armchair. So, maybe you are typing into the comment section right now “sol, sol – you legalist.” Thank you for listening. Please come again.

Think about it. We are constantly selling spiritual disciplines as optional tasks for the believer that are, naturally, to our benefit should we wise up and engage in them.

But for the believer, they are neither. Consider prayer and Bible study – two spiritual disciplines – in this regard. Have you ever thought of them as any thing but optional or tasks? I would like to offer a different way to consider them. They are, frankly, food – spiritual they may be – but food and drink none the less.

The Aspect of Intentionality

I like to eat. I like to eat a lot. And I eat a lot. This might surprise you; complete disclosure here – I eat at least three times a day.  Another surprise. You might have heard of these three periods before. Indeed, they have become so important that many people identify each period with its own name – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now, it might be enough that I eat at least three times a day, but again, full disclosure forces me to admit that I eat at least six times most days.

The only time I have not eaten at least three times a day has always been by my choice. In other words, it is only by my intentionality that I miss these meals. Flip this around then and realize that it is by intentionality that I eat six times a day most days. You might say, “Wow, you sure are disciplined.” And after blushing and mumbling some nonsense about “Aw, shucks!” I would quickly change the subject. (Back to reality) Only nobody ever has told me “Wow, I am so amazed at your discipline to eat food three times a day.”

But, why not? Surely discipline is an aspect of my eating habits. I am even intentional on what I eat – eating protein, carbohydrates and fats at those meals. That is a reflection of the aspect of discipline involved in how I approach the succulent morsel of meat and tasty portion of blanched asparagus on my plate, with who knows what other pleasant surprises have been added to my tantalizing delight on the plate. Still, discipline is just one aspect of my eating habits. Hence, to call eating a discipline would fall far short of giving it its just due. Yes, intentionality is there – but there is more.

The Aspect of Necessity

I have called eating a habit, which may be interpreted as just another way as saying disciplined act done on a regular basis successfully making it easier to do than not to do long-term. But I would say when I eat, the reason it is a habit has more to do with its necessity for my survival, then it does an intentionality to master the art of eating. On some level I eat because I have to if I want to continue in this life. While our salvation doesn’t depend on our praying, we will pray if we are saved. It happens in accordance to salvation (see John 14).  This is very much like plugging in a rechargeable battery that is about to die. No one points to it and accuses it of legalism. “You legalistic battery. How dare you suggest to the rest of us batteries that necessity of getting recharged. We are just fine a.s….w..e…..c…o…n…t…i…n…u…e…….i….n……..o…..u…..r………..w……a……y……….” Sure you are (and since this is a blog, please assume my sarcastic tone here due to my utter incredulity for such a preposterous position). I have had periods of inconsistent and weak prayer. I have had times where I have not been intentional in setting aside a time for prayer. But I don’t think I have ever had a day when I haven’t prayed. Think about it. A passing one line sentence multiple times during the day. Of course, lean days and days rich in intentionality of prayer have taught me the necessity of prayer in my life. The more I pray, the healthier my diet. We all do it, but some of us do it with more intentionality than others and there lies a distinction.

The Aspect of Passion

I admit that there may be people who eat just to exist. And there are people who treat prayer the same way. But most people have a passion for food. And some Christians have a passion for prayer. Our habit of eating lies deeper than just a need to carry on, but also has a joy to it. Of course these passions are manifested in different ways – vegans, beef eaters, BBQ-ers, Cajun and spicy food, ethnic diversity in eating, and the list is seemingly endless. I love to eat. I have a recipe page on my blog. I am passionate about my food. My favorite channel on tv might just be the Food Network.

And I am desperately passionate about God’s Word and prayer. I find it strange that we can talk about these two areas as if we are Stoics. We find it strange when other Christians stop what they are doing and ask us if they can pray with us. Is it strange if they ask us to go eat lunch with them? We are more comfortable drinking a cup of joe with like-minded believers than we are opening the Bible. We can only do that at the designated time. Or we barely skim over the passage or can hardly think of  God’s attributes to praise him so that our prayer is less than a minute in length when we do pray. I lament over this point because I think it is here where we see the damage with a term such as “spiritual discipline.” When we treat our consideration of the intentional and necessary aspects of spiritual vitality as the only tasks to achieve we have undercut our vibrancy in life.  This is an issue of presuppositional proportions. We don’t look to be passionate in our prayer life or Bible study life because it was never on our radar screen.

The Aspect of Addiction

Finally, it pains me to admit this, but I am addicted to food. When I wake up in the middle of the night I head for the refrigerator. My discipline, habit, and passion to eat have resulted in it turning into an addiction. It is on my mind even when I’m not eating. This to me is the goal in my prayer life and Bible study. Indeed, I pray daily that God would make me a prayer addict. Does that sound funny to you? This is why to me we should be calling spiritual disciplines instead spiritual addictions. They require discipline, but that is just one aspect and there is so much more to our time with God. Not all addictions are formed immediately, but they all have the same result – you just can’t get enough.

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and instead of turning to the refrigerator or whatever it is you turn to, turning to God in conversation through prayer and reading His Holy Word. Doing it because it comes so naturally and, when you think about it, it is what you want to do.

So, perhaps, today I am praying that you will have an addiction too.

November 7, 2010

Two Freebies Not To Be Missed

John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life audio book and study guide – here. Good through November.

John MacArthur’s Slave book free before its release date – here. Expires 12/12/2010.

November 1, 2010

Multi-Site Churches

Here are three links that have interested me as I’ve thought about the validity and issues behind having a multi-site church. The first is a friendly jousting between Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll and MacDonald. It is a short video. The second video is about an hour-long and it is a panel discussion done at Southern Seminary with Al Mohler guiding the discussion. Between the two debates I would say that what I would like pursued more in-depth is a discussion on the Greek word (ekklesia) used in the New Testament for the local body of believers.

The last link is a letter from a site/church of a local multi-church – The Journey. True to  how they (The Journey) understand each site to being its own church and in close relation to what Driscoll and MacDonald say, this letter is about a site becoming its own church apart from The Journey. It seems to be a wonderfully healthy testimony to what proponents of multi-site churches claim.