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I wrote an article a few months ago about spiritual disciplines. It has been one of the most read articles on this blog in recent months. This has encouraged me to write some more about them.

First of all, what are spiritual disciplines?

What Spiritual Disciplines Are

Spiritual disciplines are practices like doing Bible study, listening to sermons, and memorizing Scripture. Doing them does not grow us spiritually. Yet, God often uses them to grow us spiritually. He does the growing as we cooperate with him by practicing the spiritual disciplines that he leads us to do.

What Spiritual Disciplines Are Not

When I was a young Christian, I thought that having daily quiet times, going on retreats and doing Bible studies was why I was growing as a Christian. I couldn’t imagine that God would grow me unless I did the heavy lifting by practicing spiritual disciplines.

So, I was somewhat sympathetic towards some people who criticized me last year for teaching “works righteousness” when I advocated practicing spiritual disciplines. Even though my first response was, “How could they think that? Of course growing spiritually is totally a work of God.” But I soon recalled my experience trying to earn spiritual growth by working hard through spiritual disciplines.

I was reminded that we could misuse Bible studies and quiet times to earn favor with God, instead of using them to receive God’s grace of spiritual growth.

God Requires Our Participation To Grow Us

However, I have come to realize that without God working no matter how many Bible studies I do, verses I memorize, or how long I pray, I will not grow. But I won’t grow to maturity if I don’t do these things either. God requires my participation.

It is like a farmer sitting on his hands and refusing to plant seeds and cultivate the land. Can he expect to harvest a crop in the fall? Of course not!

Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, NIV).

So, like the farmer, practicing spiritual disciplines is like planting and watering seeds. They are activities we do through which God performs his miracle of transformation.

Our Participation Includes Spiritual Disciplines

God says, “Pray and I will take away all your fears” (Psalm 34:4, paraphrased). The spiritual discipline is intense prayer.

“Meditate on My word and obey it and I will make you successful” (Joshua 1:8, paraphrased). The spiritual disciplines are meditation and Scripture memory.

“Invite Me to search your heart and change it with your cooperation and I will” (Psalm 139:23-24, paraphrased). The spiritual discipline is contemplative prayer.

“Be silent and I will reveal Myself to you in deeper ways” (Psalm 46:10, paraphrased). The spiritual discipline is silence.

“Follow My example while I was on earth and often spend time with the Father in undistracted devotion” (Mark 1:35, paraphrased). The spiritual discipline is a quiet time.

I know of over 60 spiritual disciplines. We can’t even begin to do them all every day. Or would we want to. Instead, may we ask him to lead us to practice the few that he will use today to make us godlier and to do his works through us (Philippians 2:13).

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I have been through several challenges in the last several months that have left me tired and anxious. But now I feel the storm has passed; like it is the morning after! Who knows if it is true, but apparently it is for now.

But what did God accomplish in all my hospital stays and the fear it produced in me? Why did he cause the storm to happen anyway?

As I pick through the broken pieces of my life after the storm, I am looking for what remains. How did the experience change me and make me a better person?

Am I am still anxious to return to my old ways of feeling safe, important or loved, or will I better accept God’s safety, worth and love as gifts from him? Will I repent or will I stubbornly stay the same? Has God’s discipline accomplished anything in my life?

We often find it hard to understand how such a loving God can be so ruthless in stripping away our old habits of feeling good, such as depending on achievements, health, people’s approval and feeling comfortable. We think that if God loves us, he would make us feel good all the time.

Yet, God is in the storm as much as he is in the sunny days. “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen” (Job 37:13).

He yearns for us to try his splendor out and experience his joy, peace, and love. Storms are often necessary for us to try his splendor out.

Below is a poem that can help us realize why our storms are so important:

When God wants to drill a person

And thrill a person

And skill a person

When God wants to mold a person

To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart

To create so great and bold a person

That all the world should be amazed,

Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects

Whom He royally elects!

How He hammers them and hurts them,

And with Mighty blows converts them

Into trial shapes of clay which

Only God understands;

While their tortured heart is crying

And they lift beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks

When their good He undertakes;

How He uses whom He chooses

And with every purpose fuses them;

By every act induces them

To try His splendor out-

God knows what He is about! [1]


In the storm we can become desperate enough to risk giving up the old and learn to rest in the new.

Recovery from the storm is not easy. Old habits do not die easily. We will yearn to return to the familiar, though the familiar failed us miserably in the storm. God is trying to teach us to walk in his ways, even when the pressure from the storm is not on us.

So, ask God to bring to mind a storm that he has brought you through recently. What was he trying to teach you through that storm? Ask him to help you live in these teachings today.



[1] The Character of a Christian-Design for Discipleship-Book Four, (Colorado Springs: The Navigators, 1973), 48.




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The Search for Peace

I have been recovering for the past couple of months from major heart surgery. As you would expect, not everything is back to normal physically. Unusual things are happening, like my iron is low, and my energy level is not at full strength.

These imperfections often cause me to worry. I allow them to cause me to doubt that I will attain the prognosis of a full recovery.

So, when I noticed this week that a vein in my arm was discolored and was hard and protruding I did the natural thing – I got scared. I went immediately to the doctor to have him take a look at it to remove me from the danger I feared.

What a comfort he was! He said, “Don’t sweat the details. You have made it 99% of the way. The hard part was the 6 bypasses and the two aneurisms. You just need to accept the little aches and pains like what you have now” (it was an irritated vein that was the home of the IV during my hospital stay).

Thus, peace came to me when I refused to sweat the details. If God has gotten me this far, why can’t I expect that he will finish the job of my recovery? “Shall I bring [you] to the point of birth, and not give delivery?” (Isaiah 66:9).

Peace can be defined as the absence of a troubled and fearful inner world (John 14:27).

So, what keeps us from experiencing this peace?

One reason is that we often face our problems and future thinking we are alone- that we have to be our own god. Yet, we know deep within ourselves that we can’t control our circumstances and can’t solve all of our problems.

Even if we are aware that God is with us, we may doubt that he cares. Maybe he will just watch and see how I perform. Maybe “He is not a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Fear results and we lose our peace.

Many of us have a long history with God. He has done much for us in the past and we know it. Yet, we often don’t remember his past faithfulness and thus do not expect his faithfulness in the future. We are like Jesus’ disciples when he rebuked them for not learning from the past. “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:14-21).

Instead of trusting God with providing us his peace, we often choose to search for peace in good circumstances. Yet, circumstances never are good enough to give us peace of mind (John 16:33).

So, how do we change? How do we find the peace that we have been searching after?

One thing we can do is to pray. We can take our fears and troubles to God for his help. God promises that we will never figure out how it works, but we will experience supernatural peace (Philippians 4:6-7) Include thanks in those prayers too, for thanks helps us to grow in dependence on God.

“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single [day] to his life” (Matthew 6:26-27).

Another thing we can do in our search for peace is to get to know our loving God, so that we feel his love. Our fears will never go away until we live in the reality that God loves us so much that he died for us. Only then can we experience a deep peace (1 John 4:18).

So, what can we do today to experience more peace of mind?

May I suggest that we take each problem or thing that is robbing us of our peace to God and ask for his help with it. Then, let us thank him for all the good things that he has put into our lives. Finally, may we thank him for what he will do to help us with our problems.

May God richly bless you with peace today!

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