I hope you have had a great week. I have accomplished almost nothing I set out to this week. I had a list in my head and I’ve checked off almost nothing. Instead I have been blessed to spend time with people. In fact, some the very best moments of my week have happened in the last 24 hours. Yesterday morning I spent some time catching up and praying with a few friends. Last night I went to a women’s event at church that has a time of worship and teaching on the Psalms. Then this morning as I drove Sam to school, we caught up with my grand-nephew Brooks. He sang us a song about rejoicing. These all felt like cup-filling moments of worship, prayer and celebration.
If you have read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline you might recognize these –worship, prayer and celebration — as three of the twelve Spiritual Disciplines. I resolved to re-read this book by the end of January, but in typical fashion I’m just a few pages in on February 5th. Still, every page is worthy of deep reflection. It’s an incredible book. On page two is this stunning statement: “The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.” Foster’s words feel almost prophetic: in our 2021 world the need for liberation from self-interest and fear is dire.
We know from experience that fear is combatted not so much by a determination to be brave, but to practice the Disciplines (Foster consistently capitalizes it so I guess I will even though it feels weird). So how are you doing? Have you been to a worship service? Have you stood with the body of believers and corporately acknowledged that God is good and full of steadfast love? Last night we sang a song I love called Yet Not I, but Through Christ in Me. Reminding ourselves together of God’s truth through song has always been part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It would be a terrible thing to give up now.
Here is the last stanza of this beautiful song:
With every breath, I long to follow Jesus,
for he has said that he will bring me home.
And day by day, I know he will renew me,
until I stand with joy before the throne.
To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus; all the glory evermore to him.
When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat,
“Yet not I, but through Christ in me.”2018 CityAlight Music
How are you using worship and all of the Spiritual Disciplines to remind yourself that hope is found only in Jesus? That no matter how dark the world around you feels, no matter how fear-inducing the headlines, no matter how enslaved you may be to self-interest, Jesus is the source of day by day renewal?
One the best quotes I’ve come across this last year is from Sinclair Ferguson, who said, “But, you see, if you are crippled by fear you don’t even enjoy your food, or your friends, or your family, or your life.” We can turn that question around and ask are you enjoying your food, your friends, your family and your life?
Fear, worry and fretfulness rob us of much, but they are not merely benign pitfalls. Check out what Psalm 37:8 says: “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Do you need to turn from anger or wrath? Do you recognize how fretting leads only to evil?
Matthew Henry makes a wonderful point on this. He says, “Fretfulness and envy are sins that are their own punishments; they are the uneasiness of the spirit and the rottenness of the bones; it is therefore in kindness to ourselves that we are warned against them.” Kindness to know they are their own punishments, and kindness to practice Disciplines to drive them out.
I hope if you haven’t read Foster’s book, that you’ll pick it up. I’ll be reading it sloth-paced for the foreseeable future. Hope you have a blessed weekend and that the promise of life springing out of the cold, hard ground very, very soon gives you as much joy as it does me!
P.S. Another Spiritual Discipline is solitude. Two weeks ago I spent a few hours on the beach, just me and Jesus. Those were the most spiritually renewing hours I’ve enjoyed in a long, long time. Maybe the disciplines we most neglect are the ones we need the most. I guess that means I need to take up fasting.