Thursday, January 4, 2018

Timeless Truths. Spiritual Disciplines

"Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing itself."
Leo Tolstoy
 This was going to be a brief segue into the New Year. Yeah, right.


  1. Discipline is usually associated with the punishment that resulted from some misdeed. Detention, time-out, and restriction or denial of some desirable activity or event are common forms of discipline. However, discipline has a flip-side.
  2. Athletic teams that make fewer errors than other teams of the same caliber are praised for their team discipline. Military units without discipline suffer unnecessary casualties in battle, while disciplined units are legendary.


Spiritual discipline is associated with example #1 above by people, Christians included, whose idea of discipline is incomplete. Spiritual discipline applied correctly to life is far more rewarding than any example #2. 

I admit to having very little formal knowledge of spiritual disciplines. However, as a new year begins, it seemed appropriate to offer this post on what some call “resolutions.”

I practice Prayer with the most consistency. Others on this list are part of my routine, but I begin every day with a time of prayer. There is an expanded my description of my prayer discipline at the end of this blog post.


  • The text below is from the website sited.
  • The list after the text was a handout from Mission Church of the Nazarene sometime in the past. Unless otherwise noted, the list and descriptions are from "The Celebration of Discipline- The Path to Spiritual Growth." The reading list is from the handout, except for the highlighted book. I wrote a note explaining why it’s highlighted.

The term “spiritual disciplines” is not in the Bible. Most of the times we read the word “discipline” in the Bible it is in conjunction with reproof or correction using the Hebrew word “muwcar” (Prov. 13:2422:1523:13-15) or the Greek word “paideia” which basically means instructing in the way one should go. It is used of training or disciplining children (Eph. 6:4Heb. 12:9-10) and of God’s discipline of us, His children (Heb. 12:5-11). This is not the type of discipline people generally refer to with the term “spiritual disciplines.”

Biblically Defining “Spiritual Disciplines”
The closest use of the word “discipline” in the Bible to how “spiritual disciplines” is generally used in Christian circles can be found in 1 Timothy 4:7 where the Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy, “train yourself to be godly.” The New American Standard Bible words it, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” It uses the Greek word “gymnazo” from which we get the English word “gymnastic.” Hence, this kind of discipline is more training, practicing, or exercising to become fit.
Paul goes on to say that “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:7-8). Physical training for athletes involves making choices to exercise, intentionally, with a sense of devotion to make it an on-going and regular part of their lives. They often have to sacrifice other activities to spend sufficient time working out to become and stay fit. If we can be so devoted to that which produces physical fitness, why wouldn’t we have that same kind of devotion, yet even more, to that which leads to godliness, making us spiritually fit?
In accordance with this usage of the word “discipline”, we could then say that spiritual disciplines are those practices that we impose on ourselves to make us spiritually fit or healthy. We are putting structure into our lives so as to be intentional in our quest to grow spiritually, to get to know God better through the various means described in Scripture that can lead to such growth.

Fasting
In fasting, we abstain in some significant way from food and possibly from drink, as well.
Absolute Fast: no food or liquid. It must be underscored that the absolute fast is the exception and should never be engaged in unless one has a very clear command from God, and then for no more than three days.
Partial Fast: restriction of diet but not total abstention (Lent).

Service
As the cross is a sign of submission, so the towel is the sign of service.
... the difference between choosing to serve and choosing to be a servant. When we serve, we are still in charge ... But when we choose to be a servant; we give up the right to be in charge. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 132)

Prayer
Of all the spiritual disciplines, prayer is the most central ...
To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 33)

Study
Study is a specific kind of experience in which through careful attention to reality the mind is enabled to move in a certain direction. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 63)
Meditation is devotional; study is analytical. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 63)

Meditation
Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God's voice and obey His word. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 17)
Human beings seem to have a perpetual tendency to have somebody talk to God for them. We are content to have the message second hand. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 24)

Silence
... silence is the way to make solitude a reality.
Silence and especially true listening are often strongest testimony of faith. (The Spiritual Disciplines, page 165)
Solitude
Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 96)
Let him who cannot be alone beware of community ... Let him who is not in community beware of being alone ... (Life Together, page 77)

Worship
Worship is the human response to the divine initiative. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 158)
But the forms are not the worship; they lead us into the worship. We are free in Christ to use whatever forms hinder us from experiencing the living Christ - too bad for the form. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 159)
If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 173)

Celebration
... joy is the motor, the thing that keeps everything else going. Without joyous celebration to infuse the other disciplines, we will sooner or later abandon them. Joy produces energy. Joy makes us strong. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 191)
In the spiritual life, only one thing will produce genuine joy, and that is obedience. (Celebration of Disciplines, page 192)

Other Disciplines:
Simplicity, Submission, Confession & Guidance
Recommended Books for Reading:
"Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us" by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun NOTE: The sample on Amazon for the Kindle version is most informative.
"Life Together" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you don’t have a focus on some spiritual discipline in your life, I pray you will ask God to lay one of these—or another—on your heart.

My prayer lists are varied. Each list is prayed for by name every day. The prayers are both requests and thanks. It takes between 90-120 minutes. The lists fall loosely into the following categories. After I wrote the list, I considered leaving it out of this post. Since you can see it below, I changed my mind.
I hope you don’t see what follows as bragging. I’m hoping you do see it as inspirational.

Monday – Friday
Every day begins with prayer for my immediate family members.
Physical Needs – Both short- and long-term
Other Needs – Refugees, relationships, life situations
Cancer Survivors – Friends/Relatives of both genders who’ve been diagnosed as cancer-free
Military – Friends and others
Teachers – I just counted. The names of 176 teachers are on this list as of 1/3/2018. I was surprised that there were that many.

Each weekday includes prayers against human trafficking and the pornography industry in the region and one specialty prayer group.

Monday:
Missionaries and their ministries in Africa. Includes Nazarene missionaries, Wickliffe translators, compassionate ministries I’m aware of, bush pilots, World Mission Broadcasts of music/teaching/preaching on radio/TV/internet, seminaries, the Jesus Film ministry,  the persecuted church, disaster/terrorist recovery, etc.
“My kids.” A list of former students and offspring of friends, colleagues, pastoral staff, etc.

Tuesday:
Missionaries and their ministries in the Asia/Pacific. Includes Nazarene missionaries, Wickliffe translators, compassionate ministries I’m aware of, bush pilots, World Mission Broadcasts of music/teaching/preaching on radio/TV/internet, seminaries, and the Jesus Film ministry, the persecuted church, disaster/terrorist recovery, etc.
Family friends. For their friendship and any special needs.

Wednesday:
Missionaries and their ministries in the Europe/Middle East/India. Includes Nazarene missionaries, Wickliffe translators, compassionate ministries I’m aware of, bush pilots, World Mission Broadcasts of music/teaching/preaching on radio/TV/internet, seminaries, the Jesus Film ministry, the persecuted church, disaster/terrorist recovery, etc.
Unemployed people I know.

Thursday:
Missionaries and their ministries in the Western Hemisphere. Includes Nazarene missionaries, Wickliffe translators, compassionate ministries I’m aware of, bush pilots, World Mission Broadcasts of music/teaching/preaching on radio/TV/internet, seminaries, the Jesus Film ministry,  the persecuted church, disaster/terrorist recovery, etc.
My Sunday school class members. I also pray without names for all who’ve been following my Hebrews study questions, my Timeless Truth blogs, and my Expressions of Faith blogs.

Friday:
Leadership in America/California/San Diego as well as Christian Educational Institutions I’ve been associated with.
Pastoral leadership. Present and past.
These last lists spill over into Saturday and Sunday most weeks.


If you have a prayer request, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If not me, there are Christians around the world that are praying every hour of every day. Please, allow someone pray for and with you.


 I wish you a Happy 2018! 

Next Timeless Truth: How to Make Your Life a Masterpiece #1. What do you think of yourself?

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