SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES.

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1 SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES. Intro To Spiritual Disciplines Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. The spiritual disciplines invite us to explore deeper in the spiritual realm. Are you feeling lukewarm or distant from Christ? The spiritual disciplines are an avenue for intimacy with Jesus and spiritual depth. We must not be led to believe that the Disciplines are only for spiritual giants and beyond our reach, or only for comtemplatives who devote all their time to prayer and meditation. Far from it. God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings. Neither should we think of the Spiritual Disciplines as some dull drudgery aimed at exterminating laughter from the face of the earth. Joy is the keynote of all Disciplines. The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from slavery to self- interest and fear. We can learn about the Spiritual Disciplines all we want, but unless we begin practicing and doing them, we will not see fruit or become more like Christ. For each Discipline, you will have a chance to practice them or discuss them during small group. Students will also receive a challenge to practice the Spiritual Discipline in a specific way during the week. Read. Listen. Worship. Simplicity.

2 Read. We study and meditate on God s Word to know God and be changed, not to store up information. Jesus made it unmistakably clear that the knowledge of the truth will set us free. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:32). Good feelings will not free us. Ecstatic experiences will not free us. Getting high on Jesus will not free us. Without knowledge of the truth, we will not be free. Why? Why do we need to be studying God s Word? What fills your mind during the day? What truth does the world tell us? Honestly, how is your devotional life right now? How much does God s Word saturate your life? Read Psalm 119:9-16. What does this passage say about God s Word? God s Word helps us keep our ways pure and stray from sin. What does it mean to meditate on God s precepts (God s Word)? Read Psalm 119: What does this passage say about God s Word? What worthless things take up a lot of your time or consume you that you could replace with God s Word? Read Psalm 119:103,105. What do these verses say about God s Word? Read James 1: What is the purpose of hearing (or reading) God s Word? James says we hear God s Word to do what it says. How? We can study God s Word. Three steps: Observation. What does it say?

3 Interpretation. What does it mean? Application. So what? How do I apply God s Word in my life right now? Read John 15:1-17. Observation What stands out to you in the passage? What does it say? Interpretation What does it mean to abide in Christ? (vs. 4-5, 10) What does it mean for God to prune us? Why does he prune us? What is the significance of verse 5? What is the connection between obedience and abiding? Application How can you abide in Christ this week? In what areas of your life is Christ calling you to obedience? In what areas are you struggling to obey? What verse can you focus on this week from this passage? Do! Pick short book in the Bible this week to study. Maybe choose a couple different passages to study. Here are some suggestions: John 15 1 John 1 Philippians Colossians 3 Psalm 1

4 Listen. We need to take time to listen to God. He is the Good Shepherd and His sheep hear his voice. God is speaking in the continuous present and wants to address us. All who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord are the universal priesthood of God and as such can enter the Holy of Holies and converse with the living God. How awkward would it be if you went to hang out with a friend and they did all the talking and did not let you get a single word in? How often are your prayers one- sided? Where you do all of the talking and do not stop to listen to God? Why? One way to practice listening to God is meditating on God s Word. What does meditate mean? Christian mediation, very simply, is the ability to hear God s voice and obey his Word. Meditate involves changed behavior as a result of our encounter with the living God. Meditating on God s Word is a way to enter into intimate communion with him and rest in his promises. This is a way to abide in Christ! We enter the story not as passive observers, but as active participants. Christ truly is with us to teach us, heal us, and forgive us. Meditation is different than study in that meditation is more focused on being with Jesus. Meditation urges us to live in his presence in uninterrupted fellowship. Meditation is communication between the Lover and the beloved. In meditation, the written Word becomes a living word addressed to you. After reading a passage, whatever weighs on your mind is where you should camp out. This is normally a verse or two. Re- read the verse. Let the words sink in. Give God the space in your mind and heart to transform you through His Words. Allow the Lord to commune with you and love you through his Word. How? Anyone who imagines he can simply begin meditating without praying for the desire and the grace to do so, will soon give up.

5 Begin with a couple minutes of prayer, asking God to take away distractions and clear your mind and heart to truly commune with Him. Ask him for the desire to be with him and spend time in his presence. Read Psalm 139: What does this verse mean? Make this verse your prayer. We need to have open hearts and minds to listen to God as he searches our hearts. Read John 10:1-5. Sheep are generally stupid animals who go astray. I feel like a sheep a lot, and I m assuming I m not alone on that. Nevertheless, if we are in Christ, we are His sheep and we know and can hear his voice. So, we need to be listening. Do any of you fear silence in your time with God? Why? Do you fear that you will feel alone? Do you fear that God will not show up? Do you fear that you will be confronted with the less attractive parts of your heart? Explain. Share your thoughts with the group. Silence is good. Though it involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening. One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust. Do! Divide into groups of 3 or 4. Read Psalm 23 as a group. Then, silently re- read the chapter. Picture the words and enter into the passage. What phrase or verse stands out to you? Keep thinking about this phrase or verse. What does it mean in your life? What is God saying to you? This week, meditate on Psalm 23. Try to recite this psalm before you fall asleep each night, and again when you wake up each morning. Before your feet hit the ground, try to have slowly meditated on each word.

6 Worship. You become whom you behold. So turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace. Read Psalm 95. What is worship? Worship is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ! Worship is our response to the love of Christ and the heart of the Father. Worship is more than singing a few songs in church on Sunday mornings. Read John 4:23. What does it mean to worship in spirit and truth? Why? Do you ever come to church on Sunday and realize you have not talked to God or praised Him since last Sunday? Why does that happen? If the Lord is to be Lord, worship must have priority in our lives. The first commandment of Jesus is, Love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30). Our lives are to be saturated with praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. God is God and is deserving of all of our lives and worship. Brother Lawrence experienced the presence of God and said, I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the Presence of God. Those who have once tasted the glory of God in daily experience can never again live satisfied without the practice of the presence of God. How? How can you be practicing the presence of God in your daily life? Francis Chan says, Practicing His presence helps tremendously. Right now, I picture Him sitting across from me. He is strong, fearless, loving, pure, and humble. He gives life wherever He goes. I need that constant awareness of His presence. I need to always be drawing closer to Him. I need to always ask Him to make me more like Himself.

7 Read Romans 12:1-2. How is worship defined in these verses? Singing is just one form of worship. Prayer is another form of worship. Romans 12:12 says, Be constant in prayer. How can we be constant in prayer? Paul told the Thessalonians to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and he recommended that the Philippians in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God (4:6). Is continual prayer possible? Yes and no. It is, of course, impossible to carry on a running dialogue while we are working or at other times, but the prayer called for here is not so much the articulation of words as the posture of the heart. Continual prayer is God s will for every Christ, no exceptions. We are to have a constant inner dialogue with God. We must always be looking up, even when driving to school or eating lunch or sitting in class or playing games with the family. Worship does not only happen in big groups. Worship and prayer happen in the secret place too, just between you and the Lord. Read Matthew 6:5-6. What are some ways you can worship God beyond Sunday mornings this week? Do! We become whom we behold. And the most beautiful, wonderful One we can behold is Jesus. Becoming like Him depends on being with Him. Stay close to Him. Spend some time thinking about Jesus. Don t rush this. Spread out and spend some time thinking about Jesus. Enjoy this time worshipping and communing with Him. What do you find compelling about Him? What makes Him so beautiful? What characteristics of His are you drawn to? What actions did He perform that grab your attention? Now write these down and make a list. Spend some time thanking Jesus for who he is. This week, make time each day to spend time in prayer and worship, communing with God. Pour out praises to Him and spend time beholding Him. Reading through the Psalms is a great way to usher you into worship. Psalm are great. Also, you could try listening to some worship music in the mornings as you are getting ready or during your devotions time to draw near to God. Spend time seeking God s face!

8 Simplicity. Simplicity is freedom, bringing joy and balance. Simplicity is an inward reality resulting in an outward lifestyle. When we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things. When we are lacking in our relationship with Jesus, we try to fill up on other things, which end up complicating and cluttering our lives. We are all in need of a clutter detox. What is cluttering your life right now? Do you feel like you are living out the discipline of simplicity right now? The Bible says a lot about simplicity. Simplicity is not just about selling all you have and living with little to nothing. Simplicity begins in the heart. Simplicity is the purity of heart to will One thing. Simplicity is creating margin in your life. Margin is the room on the edge of paper. Margin is space in our life for us to breathe. Margin is necessary for our spiritual health. Margin is time to examine our own lives and know our spiritual condition. Margin is slowing down and eliminating unnecessary things from our lives. Why? Why do you think simplicity is a spiritual discipline? We need simplicity because we tend to be constantly in a hurry because of our overloaded schedule. Sometimes our schedules feel overloaded with things that could be cut out. When we lack margin in our lives, we become tired and lonely and joyless. We need margin. Read Psalm 62:10. If riches increase, set not your heart on them. What does it mean to not set your heart on riches? What does this look like in our lives? Read Matthew 6: Where are your treasures stored up? Be honest. We all have some treasure stored up in earthly things if we are being honest. What material possessions does your heart gravitate towards?

9 If 2000 years ago, in a comparatively simple society, Jesus lays such a strong emphasis upon the spiritual dangers of wealth, how much more should we who live in a highly affluent culture take seriously the economic question. Read Matthew 6: What does Jesus say to focus on above all else? The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of his kingdom first and then everything necessary will come in its proper order. How? There are three inner attitudes of simplicity: 1. Receive what we have as a gift from God. 2. Know that it is God s business, and not ours, to care for what we have. 3. Have our goods available to others. Inner attitudes of simplicity will affect how we live: 1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status. 2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. 3. Develop a habit of giving things away. If you find that you are becoming attached to some possession, consider giving it to someone who needs it. 4. Learn to enjoy things without owning them. 5. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation. 6. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God How can you practically live out simplicity this week?

10 Do! What are the unnecessary things in your life that are crowding your time with God and meaningful time with others? What needs to be eliminated? This week, here are some ideas for cutting practicing simplicity: Use some times of fasting to specifically pray for God to detoxify your heart. Fast from a social media or other time- consumer and use that time to intentionally seek the Lord. You could go on a walk and talk with the Lord. Or pray. Or read Scripture. Get up ten minutes earlier and create space for silence before you begin your day. Cut out unnecessary entertainment activities. Explore scaling back some of your commitments by asking, Is it essential? Practice slowing down this week, resting, and contemplating. Slowing down the pace of our lives means eliminating hurrying and limiting the demands and activities in our lives. Then we are more likely to take delight in our lives and make room for God. In the midst of a hurried pace of life, I can cram in too much into my schedule without realizing it. The exercise of margin made me realize how much I try to cram into a day. My mind is constantly running to what is next. Margin made me slow down and appreciate the now. I want to be fully engaged in what God has for me in the present without worrying about the future. Solitude is one of my favorite disciplines because it is crucial for my spiritual health. I need that alone time with the Lord to be refreshed and enjoy his presence by myself. I love being in fellowship with others, but there is something so necessary about having solo time with God. - Macey Rasmussen

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