Raising Oaks of Righteousness: Ten Public Disciplines to Consider in the New Year

victoria-palacios-dfo06_DqxpA-unsplashAt the beginning of the year, we should be considering habits and practices that will build our most holy faith (Jude 21) for the next 365 days. Such disciplines begin with personal habits that enable us to commune with God. And books on practicing spiritual disciplines typically have about a dozen habits to consider.

For instance, Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life lists ten: (1) Bible intake (in two parts), (2) prayer, (3) worship, (4) evangelism, (5) serving, (6) stewardship, (7) fasting, (8) silence and solitude, (9) journaling, and (10) learning. Whitney also has another book on corporate disciplines. Similarly, but more mystically, Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline enumerates twelve disciplines under three orientations: inward disciplines include (1) meditation, (2) prayer, (3) fasting, and (4) study; outward disciplines involve (5) simplicity, (6) solitude, (7) submission, and (8) service; and corporate disciplines consist of (9) confession, (10) worship, (11) guidance, and (12) celebration.

Because Scripture does not publish an authorized list of disciplines, an exhaustive list cannot be produced. Even a cursory reading these two lists invites comment on the best way to think about practicing the habits Jesus commanded. Is worship only corporate? How is solitude outward? Does solitude have to be silent? Whitney and Foster discuss these questions in their books with different emphases based on their different theological and ecclesial backgrounds. (As a Reformed Baptist it’s not surprising that I find Whitney’s book, full of Puritan Spirituality, the better book).

But what makes both of these books the same is their challenge to individuals to grow in personal godliness. Indeed, both books highlight the personal model of Jesus, a man who  undeniably practiced the spiritual disciplines and taught his followers to do the same. In short, personal spiritual disciplines are part and parcel of faith in the Lord.

That said, personal disciplines are not private disciplines. As Foster rightly identify, there is an outward and corporate aspect to the Christian’s spiritual life. Understanding this interpersonal dynamic, Donald Whitney wrote a companion volume, Spiritual Disciplines within the Church to correct the hyper-individualism  fostered by an unbalanced concern for personal, spiritual disciplines.

A Third Horizon in Spiritual Formation

Still, I wonder if there is something more that ought to be stressed in the spiritual formation of a believer? Is it possible that those who attend regularly to Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, and even fasting may be incomplete in their spiritual development? In addition to personal disciplines and church practices, could it be that there is a third horizon that must be developed in order for a disciple to walk worthy of the gospel?

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Listen, Read, Study, and Repeat: Bible Intake for the New Year

andrik-langfield-1-YQiOijio8-unsplashIn his must-read book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney offers two chapters on Bible Intake. In the first of those two chapters he lists (1) hearing, (2) reading, and (3) studying as three key ways to imbibing, ingesting, and embracing God’s Word. With those disciplines in mind, let me offer a few verses to support them and then apply them to the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan (or any other plan).

Listen to the Word

Maybe it seems like reading the Bible should begin with the discipline of reading. But this read-first mentality only shows how literate our society is. To be sure, literacy is nothing but a blessing, and Christian missionaries have always brought schools with them to help converts read the Bible. But still, such literacy may actually obscure what Scripture says about hearing God’s Word. Additionally, it tends to forget that countless (most?) Christians have heard, not read, God’s Word. And actually, it is hearing that Scripture most frequently commends and commands. Consider a few verses.

First, Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing and hearing from the word of Christ. Second, Jesus declares in Luke 11:28, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Third, Revelation 1:3 describes the blessing of the book in terms of reading God’s Word “aloud,” not just reading it in the quiet of our dens. Certainly, there is blessing in reading the Bible in our prayer closets, but God’s Word is given to be read aloud with the people of God. And this means it is meant to be heard. Continue reading