Archives For Disciplines

in-everything-give-thanks-fall-printable-744x1024Thanksgiving can be a fun and stomach-filling holiday but having a Thankful Heart is a central Christian virtue to be continuously “fed.”

Here are some great quotes to ruminate on – so to speak!

“The worst moment for an atheist is when he has a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.” ~Dante Gabriel Rosetti

“We ought to give thanks for all fortune (circumstances): if it is “good,” because it is good, if “bad” because it works in us patience, humility, and… the hope of our eternal country.”  ~C.S. Lewis

“To believe in Jesus Christ means to become thankful!” ~K. Barth

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~G.K. Chesterton

“The mark of mature spirituality Is Gratitude. The root of ‘thankful’ is ‘thought’” ~Kathleen Norris

“Joy is a heart full and a mind purified by gratitude.” ~Marietta McCarty

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”  ~William Arthur Ward

“Being a Christian doesn’t in any way lesson suffering; but rather enables us to face it, take it, work through it, and eventually to convert it.” ~Terry Waite (Anglican envoy who was held hostage for 4 years in Lebanon)

“The Holy Spirit is in the business of transforming circumstances into character.”

“Glory to God for all things.” ~John Chrysostom, last words

The recent sermon on the “Giving Thanks” disciplne is available here. 

“Giving thanks honors God, builds character and overflows in generosity.”


WillardOn three consecutive Saturdays, the Christ Church community celebrated and mourned at the death of beloved fellow-believers. Just prior to these weeks, author and fellow disciple, Dallas Willard died of cancer. Willard was known for his wonderful work of deepening the Christian Church’s understanding of Spiritual Formation and Discipleship.

In light of our fall series, I am a Disciple! I want to share some quotations from conversations and writings of Dallas Willard worthy of our serious rumination.

Disciples of Jesus are those who are with him, learning to be like him. That is, they are learning to lead their life, their actual existence, as he would lead their life if he were they.    (Renovation of the Heart)

The mature disciple is one who effortlessly does what Jesus would do in his or her place.

Willard taught me that a disciple is a student who sits at the feet of Jesus day in and day out. A disciple is someone who is with Jesus, learning to be like him, so that when we encounter the world around us, we do exactly what Jesus would do if he were in our shoes.

We cannot be Christians without being disciples, and we cannot call ourselves Christians without applying this understanding of life in the Kingdom of God to every aspect of life on earth. (The Great Omission)

When asked, “What is death? “ Dallas responded:
Jesus made a special point of saying those who rely on him and have received the kind of life that flows in him and in God will never stop living.

Willard also challenged us to take the Sermon on the Mount more seriously, especially the parts about seeking first the Kingdom of God.  He called it “The cost of non-discipleship,” referencing Bonhoeffer’s famous “Cost of Discipleship.”  He put it this way:

“If you think it’s hard being a disciple of Christ, you should try living the other way. Living to make a name for yourself or secure your own future is way too expensive. Stop now before you ruin yourself utterly. Jesus was talking in these stories about the cost of non-discipleship, and it’s breathtakingly high.” 

“So then, whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord!”  (Romans 14:8)


Praying with power

July 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness….  (Acts 4:24-29)


The Bible does not leave us to our own ideas about how to pray!

Last Sunday, our “Mind the Gap” series challenged the whole way we look at prayer.  The sermon explored principles from Acts 4 when the early church was facing increased opposition.

They didn’t “pray their anxieties” or ask for protection from tough situations. Instead, they prayed according to the Power of God’s attributes, the Promises of God in His Word, and the Purpose and Mission of God that they were called to join.

I’ve also compiled a list of previous posts on prayer as “continual Communion with the Lord.”

Q: Are you and I learning to follow the words of Paul, “Pray without ceasing!” (1 Thes. 5:17)

housekeeping1I actually enjoy some parts of “keeping” the house. I’ve always shared the tasks whether growing up, or in a house of guys or with my own family. (I have a running joke with a friend of mine who consistently stops by when I’m cleaning or vacuuming, troubled that I’m making him look bad!)

Haven’t you noticed a measure of satisfaction – or even a “smile” from God when the house (or car) is shining, or your office desktop becomes visible, or you just clean up your own mess? There is something about housekeeping chores that “keeps” US grounded and helps push back laziness, apathy, and self-indulgence.

This all became more alive for me as I was reading a chapter in a book on early Christian spiritual life by a local Brown professor, Susan Ashbrook Harvey. (It’s called To Train His Soul in Books: Syriac Asceticism in Early ChristianityHarvey is an Orthodox Christian and scholar in the exploding field of Early Christian Studies. I met with her a few years back, so when I spotted it in the new books section of the URI library, I checked it out. The title of her chapter is Housekeeping: An Ascetic Theme in Late Antiquity. Here are just a few excerpts:

“My purpose is to ask how housekeeping as opposed to housebuilding – contributed (to) … sustained self-maintenance (in the Christian life.)

The Scriptures frequently use household imagery (e.g. 1 Cor. 3 & 6.) The human body is spoken of as the Temple of God – “a holy place in which the Holy Spirit should dwell, and which ought accordingly to be kept clean of defilement and worthy of its purpose.” Jewish writers spoke of adorning and preparing our “house” for God in greater ways than we would for the entertainment of Kings!

The texts of the early Church Fathers and Mothers stressed continual discipline often using the household images: “The housekeeping cited in these texts is not the light maintenance work of daily dusting and sweeping, but rather the hard drudgery of a thorough spring cleaning. It represents the periodic effort to take serious stock of one’s condition: to take everthing apart in the cleaning process in order to put it back together again with shining freshness. The ascetic self, engaged in a daily discipline, could yet acquire the buildup of unwanted sentiments or emotions or passions. A thorough, harsh cleaning scrubbed the ascetic back to a fine and proper dwelling for divine habitation. (p.152)

One comment noted in the essay: John Chrysostom (4th cent.) challenges male monks and celibate households to do their own hard work of housekeeping rather than hire women to do it for them!

[NOTE: A somewhat more accessible and similar read is by Kathleen Norris – The Quotidian Mysteries. It’s short and is also included as a chapter in her larger book, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life.

Q – How may God want to use the daily, ‘housekeeping’ activities in  your life to draw attention to the disciplines of discipleship?

STEWARDSHIPImagine a community of people unattached to their stuff? 
Living creatively, responsibly, generously in the world
so that everyone can see the living God who is giver of all good things?

We are called to live joyfully surrendered lives as ‘stewards,’ not ‘owners’ of our time, talents, and resources. The last two sermons from the Mind The Gap Series  last Sunday speak to the broader principles of stewardship. I’m also revising a previous post about the dangers of consumerism and the biblical stewardship of our money and possessions.

Consumerism has been called “The Cult of the Next Thing.”  The essay by Mark Buchanon and is available here. In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus calls us to check our hearts and our eyes as it relates to possessions and Kingdom priorities . If Money is one of the idols – or gods of this world, then Jesus wants us (in the words of Dale Bruner in his commentary on Matthew) to become the real atheists to the secular gods of consumerism, successism, pride in possessions, self-serving, overspending, and indifference to needs…”  

The antidote to terminal consumerism is generosity: both the tithe principle of regular, planned giving and offerings of what we have that come from a heart of compassion in the face of urgent needs.

Randy Alcorn has written extensively on stewardship, especially of our money. As with any author, we may not agree with every emphasis, but Alcorn covers the questions thoroughly and with a heart of Christ-centeredness. His books, The Treasure Principle, and Managing God’s Money are short works and Money, Possessions, and Eternity is his more comprehensive treatment.

Q – How will having a more clear role of ‘Steward’ instead of ‘Owner’ change how you use your time, talents, or resources? 

cairns -sufI preached on  Suffering Well last Sunday.  I later heard that upon hearing my sermon theme, my daughter whispered in my wife’s ear, “Wow, ‘Suffering Well‘ – –  Happy Mother’s Day!”
Suffering is indeed part of the joy of Christian Discipleship. It is, as Luther said, a way we grow – along with the Scriptures and Prayer. One essential for that growth to take place, is saying to the Lord with an open heart:
   “What do you have for me in this (present suffering?)”
   “Help me to see not only the END of my suffering, but the ‘END’ for which this  suffering may be USED in my life.
Simone Weil wrote, “The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering, but a supernatural use for it.” (Gravity and Grace)
Scott Cairns, closes his small and beautiful book, The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain, with this quote and a poignant benediction:
“May our afflictions be few, but may we learn not to squander them.”
Q – Are you and I ready to ask what God has for us in times of trouble and suffering?

You decide to take a two millennium poll of Christians on how to grow in holiness and conformity to Christ. In every century, you would find men and women pointing to the classic practices of prayer and scripture meditation; fasting, and giving to the poor. You would also find words like ‘nepsis’ (Greek for watchfulness), or vigilance, or alertness, or guarding the heart, or sobriety.

By SOBRIETY, they would mean moderation with substances – but more so – self-control in all areas.  “Restraint and moderation which avoids excess in passion (drives), rashness, or confusion.”

Here are some quotes and Scriptures, some of which were included in a recent sermon on “Sober Living.”   

   So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 1 Thes 5:6
   But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 1 Thes. 5:8

  As for you (Timothy), always be sober-minded 2 Tim. 4:5
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13
   The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7
   Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

   “Our holy fathers have renounced all other spiritual work and concentrated wholly on this one doing, that is, on guarding the heart, convinced that, through this practice, they would easily attain every other virtue, whereas without it not a single virtue can be firmly established.”
Symeon, the New Theologian

I certainly don’t model perfect faithfulness, but here are 3 things I hope to keep working on for the duration of my life:

1. A “Rule of Prayer.” Prayer and scripture disciplines are a place of constant reminder. This includes Psalms and other Bible reading and study; the Lord’s Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, and the Lenten prayer of Ephrem the Syrian. (I’ve linked previous posts that give more detail.)

2. No Secrets.  Hebrews 4:13 reminds us that everything is open and laid bare to God’s eyes. Living transparently with my wife (and close colleagues) is vital.

3. Aggressive Health Maintenance. We are whole people. Keeping the body strong and fit will reinforce the focus of the heart, soul, and mind.

Leave a comment.