How To Change for the Better! Part 2

Some Basic Spiritual Disciplines
When I hear the word discipline I often think, This is going to hurt. Again, a mind-set that often causes us to react because we are into pleasure not pain. Spiritual disciplines in our life are not things that we do legalistically to try and impress God with our sincere goodness. They do not make us righteous. They do not make us special or superspiritual. They just help us change and become. We do them because we love what God has done for us. We open ourselves to God so that through them he may work into us the life-style that he has created us for. Here are a few of the disciplines:

  • I change when I read the Bible devotionally. What does it mean to read devotionally? It simply means to read it like you would normally read a book, but with one great difference. This book will provide you with practical application. You do not have to be concerned with the meaning of words, the culture, or history. You plainly ask the question, How does this passage apply to me? We should not confuse this with Bible Study, where we are trying to understand the meaning of the text. How the Spirit of God may apply any passage of Scripture to your life does not mean that the application is the contextual meaning of that passage. To believe so and to share such as meaning is to do damage to Scripture and, in the final analysis, make God say something that he never intended to say. Read Scripture and be changed!
  • I change when I study the Bible. To study is to give attention to the meaning of words, the culture, and the history of the day. It means that you should stop and look up words that you do not understand. If you don’t know who Baal is, or what a Zealot is, or who Eudoia is, or any word in the passage you have chosen to study, you will never understand the passage you are studying. When you are studying Scripture you are trying to answer the question, What could these words have meant to the first hearer or reader? Whatever they meant to them, they will still mean today to us. In order to study, you need to have tools. If you are going to build anything, it is important to have the necessary ingredients to produce the expected outcome. You would not try to build a house without the tools and lumber necessary. Neither should you try to build an accurate understanding of Scripture without investing in some primary tools. A good Bible dictionary like Revel’s Bible Dictionary or New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, is a good place to begin. Study Scripture and be changed!
  • I change when I pray. When you talk to anyone, you change. You may change your views. You may change your vocabulary. You may change your attitudes and many other characteristics of your life may change during a conversation with another. The process of communication with your parents, your spouse, your children, your boss, all brings change and keeps your relationship growing and on the right track. The same is true when you talk with God. Talking to him often seems strange. It appears like you are talking to yourself. Prayer includes talking and listening. Often we do the first part and then we stop. How would you feel if you were communicating with a significant other in your life and when they finished they just got up and left without giving you a chance to respond? We think that prayer is talk, but if you talk first then you listen, or you listen then you talk. It’s a two-way street. When you pray, you will change. Pray and be changed!
  • I change when I give. Whoops, there’s the “G “word. Yelp!, this is the truth, you say, I do change. I get poorer. Funny what a poor mind-set produces. What actually occurs when you give is that you become more wealthy. Give and it shall be given to you, pressed down and overflowing. This is an interesting point of view that runs counter to what the world teaches us about giving. The world says Take! God says Give! This discipline in your life will cause you to change for the better, as do all the others. God provided a model when he gave Jesus for us. We have lots of things to give. We have time, we have possessions, we have money. God is not interested in how much you give. He is interested in how much it costs you to give. Give and be changed!
  • I change when I fast. We dread this discipline because we are asked to give up something meaningful. Ugh! Our society produces two kinds of fasting that is visible: Fasting to draw attention to a special cause. Fasting to lose weight. The first could be called manipulation while the other could be called vanity. The spiritual discipline of fasting does not focus on what we can get or how we can look better. Its focus is God. John Wesley wrote about fasting in the following way. “Let it be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven” (Sermons on Several Occasions, 1971, 301). When we think fast, we often think doing without food. But if you have a medical problem, if you are pregnant or nursing a baby, doing without food is insane. We could say that fasting is the voluntary denial of a normal function so that you can give the time that would be used doing that function to spend focusing on God. You might fast from the telephone for a day or two. You might fast from people, or from talking so much. Paul tells the Corinthian church that married couples can fast from sexual intimacy for a short period of time in order to pray (1 Cor. 7.4-6). Fast and be changed!
  • I change when I am quiet. The world is full of racket. This very fact makes it difficult to be quiet. We have to work at being quiet. We have to make it a value in life for it to happen. We need to be active in life and we need to be quiet. Solitude does not mean lonely. It is finding the quietness we need to focus on God. Jesus practiced solitude and quietness in order to be alone with God. You can find solitude in the strangest places. In an airplane, in a car (without the radio on), during a walk, to mention a few. These times don’t just happen. They need to be scheduled into our lives. A lot of people don’t like to be alone or quiet. This forces them to focused thinking. Noise keeps us from having to think. We become slaves to noise instead of being freed by quietness. There is a danger in staying apart from others too long. Those of you who like being alone must not isolate yourself from the community. Solitude and quietness are to bring us to a better place to be of service to God, not a place to sit and sulk over our wounds. Be quiet and be changed!

Change can and should be normal as we begin to practice the basic Spiritual disciplines of life.

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