Training in godliness (do I actually have to work?)

So, now that I got my garden-bragging out, I can return to the real purpose for this blog – honest spiritual sharing.

I feel like I may be the most bi-polar person in relating to God. How I view Him is frequently grounded in emotion, and not in reality!
I am really beginning to understand the purpose of spiritual discipline or disciplines. “Disciplines” are known historically as activities that people do to draw close to God, such as prayer, meditation, scripture memory, and fasting. And “discipline” is the training to become a disciple, a person who acts like Christ. These activities are not the “list of rules” that makes you righteous. But they are ways to draw close to God when you don’t “feel it”.

Prayer
One of my favorite authors, Lauren Winner, of Girl meets God talks about the discipline of praying in her book Mudhouse Sabbath. The context is a discussion of using a Book of Common Prayers or praying the Psalms or scripture. I started reading this chapter thinking, “I would never read someone else’s prayers… they don’t reflect ME!”
But Lauren shared how she uses these tools. She explained that when your heart does not know what to ask God, and when you do not feel like you what to relate to Him, reading Biblical, theologically sound words to God can change YOU! and ensure you are relating to Him in an honoring way.

I need some structure in my relationship with God right now. At the beginning of Lent, I started running 2-3 times a week as a time for prayer. This was great for my body, and offered me a consistent time alone with God away from distractions. Then, May came, we became alot busier with the start of Basilica, it got HOT, and I haven’t run in weeks. Of course, my prayers did not cease, but they shifted to a disorganized, segmented mess, with alot less intercession, and alot less scripture – they have been reduced to mostly giving God an update on where I stand at this point.

Joel referred to John Piper’s statement on prayer in one of his sermons. My summary: we use prayer too often as a request for “room service” to “come fluff our pillows” instead of as a “walky-talky” to “the commander” asking for reinforcements or new orders or status of the battle.
I need to hear from my Commander. I need to take the time to listen.

Study
The thing I am the most thankful for keeping me in contact with God right now is Precepts. In early spring, Kelly and I participated in a Precepts bible study at HFBC on Leviticus. Now we are in the midst of II Kings.

Honestly, although I definitely believe every word in the Bible, every story, every book, was ordained by God to reflect Him, I never really got Leviticus. Actually, too much of my time as a Christian (going on 9 years) has been spent celebrating my freedom from the Law. For, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”, right?

The study of Leviticus, beginning with the sacrifices in chapters 1-7, has reshaped my view of God. I never really understood the character of God enough to appreciate the blood sacrifice of Christ. I never really believed that God required RIGHTEOUSNESS.

This study has awaken a hunger in me to consume the Old Testament. It is amazing to see the choices of the Isrealites, to form an opinion of them, then realize I am doing the same thing they did. Today, as I read Exodus 16, where God begins His daily provision of manna for the Isrealites, several things stood out to me:

  • God responded to their complaining lovingly with food, even though He could have easily pointed back to the parting of the Red Sea and been angry that they so quickly forgot that He saved them with an amazing miracle.
  • God’s provision was precise. It says that they were told to gather a certain amount per member of their house, and those who gathered too little had the right amount as did those who gathered more.

But here is the most convicting part – this miracle was with them THROUGHOUT their time in the wilderness. So, when they built a Golden Calf as an idol, they had just woken up and eaten of the provision of God… then they decided He didn’t deserve their worship, and tried to replace Him.

Man, I feel that. I can’t deny that God is the provider for our family. The economics of our life are unique and amazing. But then I turn to away from God and complain.

Discipline
So, if you have read this far, maybe you are ready for a discussion. Here is my question:

What is right attitude or approach to take toward training as a disciple of Christ?

Here are beginning thoughts for the conversation…

  • I Tim 4:7-8 “Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” – and Joel’s sermon touching on this topic.
  • During my junior high/Disciple Now years, the idea of a “quiet time” was pushed. But for a list-maker like me, it is easy to put this on my list of things to do, check it off, but not actually interact with God. Having a structured list for pursuing God feels like I am trying to make myself righteous through the Law (ie: I did this, I did that, I am so great)
  • But on the opposite extreme, I have been a part of a busy generation of young adults who bask in freedom – freedom to decorate our bodies, freedom to worship at different times of day, freedom to worship through art. We don’t have any certain standard for pursuing God, so it is hard to know how to encourage our sisters/brothers in their pursuit. We don’t assume that they are the bible study type, or the scripture memory type, or that they are the journaling type.
  • So, how do we “train in godliness” without legalism (ie “You must…”) but with accountability and encouragement?
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2 responses to “Training in godliness (do I actually have to work?)

  1. frenchie neauveaux

    this post really captures a lot of the feelings i have about spiritual disciplines. i’ve always seen myself as a not-so-disciplined person so really going through with spiritual disciplines has been a challenge.

    i think there is definitely this tension between being free from the law but also the benefits of the law still being there. i was reading psalm 19 yesterday and how it describes the word of the Lord as perfect and righteous, etc., and how it is a JOY to obey and do the word of the Lord.

    at times i am really confused because i know i cannot do anything to bring myself closer to God and so why should i pray or read or anything like that? and i tend to be one that falls into legalism and making rules.. but i also know that that’s how God speaks to me, through prayer and reading His word even though there are often dry spells or times i feel like i am lost.

    really good post heather!! it’s keeping me thinking!

  2. frenchie neauveaux

    HEY HEY IT’S ALMOST YOUR BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    LOVES!!!!

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