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Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Most Important Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual Disciplines are habits, practices, and experiences that are designed to develop, grow, and strengthen a believer's spiritual life. They are things that Christians can, and are, expected to do, for their own benefit, as opposed to Spiritual Gifts, which are meant for the uplifting of a group of believers. Although they are for the individual, doing these will make us more like Christ, and lead us to benefit others in many ways. Two Bible passages which are direct commands to engage in self-initiated exercise toward spiritual growth are 1 Timothy 4:7b (Exercise yourself toward godliness ...) and Philippians 2:12b (work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...).

There is no widely agreed-upon list of Spiritual  Disciplines. The chart below uses four sources which do give lists, and compares them. My own list is derived from these, and is below.

Spiritual Disciplines chart (I attempted to line up the same items across the chart, but Blogger and/or your browser may not line them up properly. Sorry.)
Richard J. Foster,
Celebration of Discipline





Dallas Willard, the Spirit of the Disciplines





Study §

Worship §







Adele Ahlberg, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook





Lord’s Supper

Prayer (at fixed time(s))


*Willard calls these “Disciplines of Abstinence” and §these “Disciplines of Engagement.”

These Disciplines are mentioned in all four sources: Fasting, Prayer, and Study.
These are mentioned in three of these sources: Confession, Service, Solitude, Submission. It would seem, then, that at least these seven Disciplines are important, even essential, for the proper Christian life.
I’m guessing that “Solitude” includes Meditation, and would add that Discipline to the “most important” list. Individual Worship can be combined with Meditation and Solitude. Celebration is one form of Worship. 

There are other things that a Christian normally should do, including Celebration, Evangelism/Witnessing and group Worship, which includes the Lord’s Supper, but these don’t strike me as Disciplines. Neither does Discernment.

Journaling can be part of Study and Meditation. Contemplation and Self-Examination are part of Meditation. Celibacy, Detachment and Secrecy are aspects of Solitude. Stewardship is an aspect of Service. Stewardship often leads to Frugality and Simplicity.

Gratitude may not be a Discipline, in the minds of all. Perhaps they see it as part of Meditation. Celebration is  part of Gratitude, too. However, it seems to me, based on the Bible’s emphasis on it, that Gratitude is so important, and should be engaged in almost continuously, that I’m going to add it to my list of the most important Disciplines.

Adoration – praising God for who and what He is as opposed to Gratitude, thanking God for specific things He has done, is not on any of the lists, but, again, it strikes me as so important that it is included in the list below. There are important Biblical prayers that include Adoration, such as Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple (“Yahweh, the God of Israel, there is no God like you …”), the prayer of the Disciples in Acts 4 (“O Lord, you are God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea …”) part of Christ’s High Priestly prayer in John (“17:5 Now, Father, glorify me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world existed….”), Psalm 8:1 (“Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth, who has set your glory above the heavens!”), Psalm 104 (1 Bless Yahweh, my soul. Yahweh, my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty.”). Other passages with adoration are Hebrews 1 (3a His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power …”), the song of the angels at the birth of Christ (Luke 2:14a “Glory to God in the highest …”) and John’s description of the Holy City (Revelation 21:22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. 21:23 The city has no need for the sun, neither of the moon, to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb.”)

None of the sources list “Bible Reading” as a Discipline. Bible Reading is not necessarily the same thing as Bible Study, however, and I would add that to the list of most important Disciplines, which is meant to include all of those mentioned in the table above, in some way:

Adoration, Bible Reading, Bible Study, Confession, Fasting, Gratitude, Meditation, Prayer, Service, Solitude, Submission.

Thanks for reading! Practice the Spiritual Disciplines.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Sunspots 690

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Relevant on what to do when you don't like reading the Bible.

Relevant also tells us that we never marry the right person, in an excerpt from a book by Timothy Keller.

And Relevant has an article on the dangers of trying to please people.

BioLogos has posted quotes from some important Christians who believed that evolution and Christian faith were compatible.

Computing: New Scientist reports on a study of on-line dating behavior: what age persons get most inquiries, and more.

History: Listverse tells us about some ancient (mostly prehistoric) household items, including the first toy car.

Politics: National Public Radio reports that the Trump administration is in the process of taking away regulations that would protect military personnel from predatory lending practices.

Science: I am not making this up. Some scientists have recently been considering what the earth would be like if it was made of blueberries. How would it form, etc.? See here, here, and especially here.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)