Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Vision with a Task

A vision without a task is but a dream;
a task without a vision is drudgery;
a vision with a task is the hope of the world...

I've used this quote before but it is so apt now, as I make a stab at something new. My vision for the task of reading Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline is to spur one another on to apply the biblical principles and practical truth of this book in everyday life (here is the link to order the book). Of course, this will work best if participation is not limited to my sister and me, and I am just going to trust that some of my regular, non-commenting readers will join us.

But I also want to clarify a couple of points about this vision. It's important to know why we'd want to grow spiritually, why we'd invest time reading this book. We want to live lives more like Christ, but why? There are lots of possibilities: to represent Christ better to the non-believing world, to live with greater personal peace, or to model Christ-likeness for our children. These are reasonable motivations.

One unreasonable motivation is that right living will earn us God's favor. This is a prevalent and insidious line of thinking, but upon examination it doesn't make a lick of sense. For one thing, if it were true then God would not be entirely sovereign; we would exert some control over Him by following a list of rules. But that's absurd, and if you've been alive for a few days you've likely noticed that God's ways are not our ways, and that His thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8). If this is not obvious already, perhaps a quick visit to a nearby hospital will confirm this truth. Also see the book of Job, which is brutal in its demolition of this live-it-right-and-be-blessed mentality. No, it's not about merit. God always deals with us on the basis of grace because He loves us and because we are incapable of earning anything good from a holy, perfect God.

I recently read that while some may try to acquire presents from God, the true aim is to enjoy His Presence. (M. Wayne Brown, Water from Stone).

And that's a great motivation for trying to grow spiritually, isn't it? We can enjoy His Presence. What a gift! May Celebration of Discipline aid us in unwrapping this unfathomable gift, may we lovingly spur one another on in this effort, and may the transformation of our lives be a testimony to those around us. Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is to love God. I 'll be praying that in the weeks to come we will know and love God more deeply, and that we will enjoy His presence more than ever before.

Next week, we'll talk about the inward disciplines. For now, God bless and happy reading.

3 comments:

Anne L.B. said...

Good balance here.

Christianity is about relationship, not religion. While relationship doesn't focus on actions the same way religion does (for approval), a good relationship will be expressed in action.

Great quote!

Laurie said...

Got started on the book and am loving it! I loved the statement that "the doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem" and that "the desperate need isn't for more intelligent people or for gifted people but for DEEP people." How often I'm left feeling something was missing...because we didn't get beyond the superficial stuff...we didn't get DEEP...I didn't get deep.

In the beginning of the meditation chapter he notes that the Adversary of our times "majors in three things: noise, hurry and crowds." How often I've come away from a noisy, crowded place feeling like I've wasted precious time, that I didn't make any REAL connections with anyone. How AWFUL to come away from spending precious time with the Lord of the Universe feeling that I've only touched on the superficial and hadn't made a true connection.

Unfortunately, the word "meditation" has often (for me anyway) conjured up some kind of "new age" type nonsense. I like how he differentiated Eastern meditation from Christian meditation, the Eastern being about emptying the mind while the Christian is about FILLING the mind. Love it.

I took up his challenge to meditate on just one passage or verse, I had a piece of paper in my journal and decided that whatever verse was on it would be the one I would meditate on that day. The verse was Micah 6:8, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." It was particularly special because A.) That "just happened" to be the verse Dane's school had chosen for their verse for the school year (they passed it out to everyone on a little business card) and, B.) Turned out I REALLY needed to practice some mercy that day...and humility.

I'm thankful for the fresh perspective on a desperately needed "slow down" of my mind and lifestyle...I know it's going to take LOTS of practice...but it's all about that first step...right?

Anonymous said...

One of my all time favorite books - thank you for walking through this as a reminder of how important the disciplines are for a truly intimate walk with the Lord.
Nancy