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Monday Morning - Discipline and Rewards

We moved our way through the third chapter of Philippians yesterday, which includes Paul's famous statements about pressing on towards the prize that awaits him in Christ Jesus. It gave us the chance to consider where our own focus has been of late and to remember that as Christians we are called onward towards a "sure and certain hope," a heavenly prize that far outweighs anything we could win, achieve, or secure in this life.

We have this hope always set before us, but we are also now entering that time of year where we are encouraged and called to begin the journey towards our new life in Jesus Christ in earnest. It is the season we call Lent: this forty day journey that leads us up to Holy Week.

For most of us, Lent is equated with some type of new commitment. We give up chocolate, or - if you prefer - we commit ourselves to do something positive in a new way. We make some gesture to show our devotion to God.

In recent years, though, some of these disciplines have lost their spiritual focus. Lent, it seems, has become another chance for us to recommit to those resolutions that we made on New Year's Day and stopped doing on January 5th.

The true practice of having a Lenten discipline, though, goes much deeper than mere physical motivations. It goes deeper even than just devoting ourselves to God. The practice actually comes out of a long history of Christians who realized that just as there is value in athletes training their bodies physically for the demands and rigors of the race before them, so there is value (even more so) in giving ourselves over to God's grace by practicing spiritual disciplines.

Richard J. Foster, in his classic work Celebration of Discipline, has helped many Christians today rediscover these disciplines. All of us practice some of these things already, so don't let the word discipline scare you off.

There are four inward disciplines:
  1. Meditation
  2. Prayer
  3. Fasting
  4. Study
There are four outward disciplines:
  1. Simplicity
  2. Solitude
  3. Submission
  4. Service
And there are four corporate disciplines:
  1. Confession
  2. Worship
  3. Guidance
  4. Celebration
If you have shown up for worship at all this year, you have practiced at least four or five of those disciplines already. Sure, there are some that may seem intimidating to you (fasting) or impossible (silence ... hello, those of you with young children).

Which of those disciplines above are you drawn to?

Which ones do you feel less comfortable with?

Now, I will say this as well. In my experience, my formation as a disciple of Jesus Christ is a messy process, full of fits and starts, of one step forward and four backwards, of fear and trembling and new-found joy as I discover over and over again God's grace freeing me from my past, the Spirit at work within me even when I don't know it, and God's providence guiding me forward onto the plans He has for me.

As we prepare to enter into the season of Lent, I invite you to consider becoming more intentional about practicing some of these spiritual disciplines. Beginning next Wednesday, I will be initiating a mid-week service of prayer and worship. It can be a great opportunity for you to go deeper in your faith and to try something new.

Maybe, in addition to giving something up this year for Lent, you could try something new.

Press on, brothers and sisters. And to help you remember the goal that is set before you, you can click on the link below to listen to the Jars of Clay version of "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand."

I am bound for the promised land,

Wes

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