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Spiritual Disciplines

December 18

It’s our final Friday before Christmas. We also only have 2 more Fridays left in 2020. I would be lying if I said I wanted 2020 to last any longer, I think we’re all done with 2020. But God isn’t. We have two more weeks left in this year, and they’re kind of important.

First, Christmas is upon us. And that means we have an opportunity to do a couple things.
1. We can refocus our hearts and minds on Jesus. This is especially important for us because right now the forces of consumerism are in full swing during this season trying to turn your attention to wanting or needing more. You don’t need more, you have all that you need in Christ. Don’t trade your heart’s focus on Jesus for anything.
2. We have the opportunity to invite people into our church community and into hearing about Jesus. We have a compound opportunity here: Statistically, people become more “religious” during difficult times, like pandemics. As well, Christmas is a more customary time for people to come to church.

So although this is a difficult time, we still have something we can do.

This week, we are focusing on listening prayer, humility, and hospitality.

Listening Prayer:

“In the midst of communication (prayer), listening prayer is a dedication of time and attention towards allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal God's thoughts to us, instead of just us revealing our thoughts to God.”

This may be the most applicable of the three for right now. A question I ask myself sometimes is, “over this past week how many times have I said a non-customary prayer?” (a customary prayer being something like saying grace before dinner). It’s easy to rattle of something quick especially when you say those prayers often, but lots of prayers don’t correlate to a quality prayer life. How is the quality of your prayer life? Are you asking God to challenge you? Are you allowing Him to lead you? Is there someone who He has laid on your heart that you could prayer for, and maybe even invite to church for Christmas Eve?

Humility:

“The practice of seeing yourself rightly; understanding your worth and identity exactly as God understands it. Not seeing yourself too lowly, nor too highly.”

When I preached on humility this past series I was given the opportunity from God to really practice and live that out afterwards. I probably am not as thankful for that as I could be. We’re all beaten down right now, things aren’t working out in various areas of your life - whether financial, emotionally, physically, whatever it may be - but how we act in the low points reflects our character. Can we have the humility to follow God and obey His commandments even when times are tough and we don’t want to?

Hospitality:

“Using your resources and gifts to create a safe space where someone can experience Jesus through you.”

We may not be able to invite people into our homes right now, but we can invite them into our hearts still. This one may require some creativity, that’s okay. This gift may also require us waiting to practice it until the time is right, that’s okay too.

My prayer for all of us as we head into this new year is that we would refocus on Jesus, and that as we come out of this storm we would build our new normal around His mission, His values, His priorities, and His love.

December 11

This week I want to take an opportunity to focus on Memorization, Fasting, and Encouragement - and even though I chose these disciplines weeks ago, looking at what has happened over the last week I think these are the perfect disciplines to focus on.

COVID restrictions have been extended and are causing us to not be able to celebrate Christmas with our extended family and friends. Combined with the dark and wet weather, we’re in for a rough Christmas season for our spiritual and mental health. But in challenge there is opportunity.

Memorization:

“The practice of learning Scripture so deeply and profoundly that it is written on your mind and heart to the point that you can recite it.”

God’s truth is a breath of fresh air in our souls, and right now in the perfect time to experience that. We need to find rest, assurance, encouragement, peace, hope, and energy and the best place to find those things is in Him, and the best place to connect with and be rooted in Him is in Scripture. Pick a book (I recommend Ephesians for encouragement, 1 Cor or 1 Tim for discipline and instruction, and Psalms for hope and faith.) Don’t try to read everything, go through it and find a section that brings you hope and rest in it. Examine it. Think about it. Rinse and repeat.

Fasting:

“The practice of temporarily abstaining from certain things (most commonly food and/or water) for a certain period of time and praying/petitioning/listening to God in the midst of that uncomfortability to grow closer to Him.”

Some of us are in dire places. Financially, emotionally, spiritually. Whatever the case, God knows and can intervene. Why not ask Him? Maybe it’s not for yourself, but for someone else. Regardless of the reason, dedicate yourself to pray and fasting for that thing - whether for a single meal or an entire day (remember, ease into it, not if you’re sick or have a physical reason not to fast, and pick the right day).

Encouragement:

“The practice of communicating truth-based edification towards someone else, whether affirmation, reassurance, reproach, or strengthening them."

Did we mention that it’s a tough time right now? Chances are if you’re feeling it, so is someone else. Did we mention we can’t see friends and family? Chances are if you’re feeling kinda lonely and isolated, so is someone else. Sometimes we get in a habit of just being friends with and interacting with people who are in front of us. People we see on a regular basis. Take some time to think about who is in your sphere of influence but you haven’t seen in some time. If you haven’t seen them, it’s either because you changed your lifestyle, or they did. If you’re the one who had to change, they’ve lost at least you from their regular routines. If they’re the one who had to change, they may have lost many more. That person could use some encouragement today.

And here’s the best part. Reaching out to someone and giving some love, edifying them and encouraging them, that act doesn’t just fill their cup up - it also encourages you. It also reminds you. Pick someone, pray for them, ask God to speak to you, to help you discern what to speak to that person, and then use whatever method you need to, to safely reach out.

December 4

we have the opportunity to revisit the spiritual disciplines we just covered in our latest message series. I think we are given a particularly special opportunity with the Christmas season because this is a time that not only we, but also most of our culture, have some level of focus on something more than just ourselves. We'll zone in on three of the nine disciplines each week and as you read through them, pray and ask God if this is a discipline He wants you to spend some time on. Of course, if you feel the Spirit leading you in a different direction than the 3 we're focusing on each particular Friday that is totally okay! The important thing is that we take what we have learned and apply it in our life in a meaningful way.

Simplicity:

“Giving up attachments to possessions and habits that complicate your life.”

There is going to be no shortage of complications, stress, scheduling (maybe), food prep, stress, gift wrapping… and did we mention stress? Now is such a beneficial time for us to find ways to simplify in our homes, families, and schedules. What if Christmas wasn’t a headache, but actually a wonderful time?

Is the Spirit leading you to practice simplicity?

Gratitude:

“The practice of being aware of our situation, whether good or bad, and giving thanks to God for every aspect of it.”

During the Christmas season we are so tempted to buy into a consumeristic approach of wanting more. Sometimes, we let ourselves off the hook because we don’t necessarily want more for ourselves, but instead for our loved ones. The greatest gift we could ever receive is not one of consumption, but rather of freedom! When we root ourselves in gratitude and thankfulness we do two really important things:

We communicate to our family and loved ones that there’s something better out there than material possessions

We slowly suck out the poison of consumerism and materialism in our own lives - which in turn helps us feel more content.

Is gratitude a discipline you need to focus on this season?

Bible Study:

“The practice of regularly studying Scripture in an effort to know God and understand Him more fully.”

It’s the beginning of December, now is a perfect time to look into integrating Scripture into your life. Especially if you can select a period of time to intentionally zone in on a part of Scripture that has special application and meaning. There’s no better time than the Christmas season. On a personal note, my life has been hectic: a baby on the way, a business curtailed by COVID, and no shortage of timelines, stress, and woes! But for some reason, the busier and more stressed I get, the more rewarding my time in Scripture becomes. It gives me reprieve, it gives my soul rest. I genuinely enjoy just reading the stories and going through the books.

Maybe it’s time to get back into it. Is Bible Study a discipline God is leading you to this season?

written by Craig Murphy