Saturday, August 27, 2005

Transformation at the Timberline of the Himalayas

Wrapping up Celebration of Discipline with the discipline of celebration adds a flavorful twist of wit to our study and underscores the proposition that the aim of the individual and corporate Disciplines, comprehensively, is transformation by God. A transformation rooted in His power and grace as we place ourselves reverently before Him via “the path of disciplined grace” that we’ve studied these past 13 weeks.

“In The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes it clear that grace is free, but it is not cheap. The grace of God is unearned and unearnable, but if we expect to grow in grace, we must pay the price of a consciously chosen course of action…” Thus, closing the trek of our study together with the imagery of a people now standing – backpacks lightened in weight and upheld by the grace and work of God - at the timberline of the Himalayas of the Spirit with Christ our guide ready to lead us onward in our journey of continued spiritual growth is an excellent point of departure at the conclusion our voluntary endeavor.

If we put the outdoor analogy in the context of the natural realm, the contrast of scenery, as we make our way beyond the timberline, can be awe-inspiring – even breathtaking. When we pause – often feeling quite small amidst the grandeur and in awe of the snowy peaks before us – somehow, God confronts our spirit with a natural revelation of Himself and our inner man starts to dance at the recognition that we are not alone. Moreover, we, seeing ourselves as one amongst the created and not as the Creator, begin to garner a glimpse of being a part of a divine handiwork that precedes and succeeds our generation and participation in God’s creation.

We begin to take note that there is a tapestry on the loom of history in which we are linked to those who have come before us and to those who will come after us. This is an awesome thought and, in some ways, our now ending study of Celebration of Discipline can play the part of a reminder that we – the church today- are a part of the all encompassing church begun by God long before our time of existence.

Like saints of old, we can practice and apply the Disciplines towards practical spiritual growth. We, now, like they, then, can see " how meditation heightens our spiritual sensitivity which, in turn, leads us into prayer. Very soon we discover prayer involves fasting as an accompanying means. Informed by these three Disciplines, we can effectively move into study which gives us discernment about ourselves and the world in which we live. Through simplicity we live with others in integrity. Solitude allows us to be genuinely present to people when we are with them. Through submission we live with others without manipulation, and through service we are a blessing to them. Confession frees us from ourselves and releases us to worship. Worship opens the door to guidance. All the Disciplines freely exercised bring forth the doxology of celebration.” Therefore, by God’s grace, we have a part in redeeming others and growing the church towards what is can be today and will be in eternity.

To see the Disciplines in the context of antiquity and the present provides a context for interpreting the process of spiritual growth and reminds me that my bit in the warp and woof of the fabric of God’s making matters. Likewise, “our” part together, as His people, matters, too – and even more so than it can alone. Recognizing this, may we be motivated to pursue Him and take an active and deliberate part in God’s will and plan for His kingdom and for man.

I am happy to hear Richard Foster’s exhortation towards celebration and pray that we may be a winsome and authentic people. For, “it is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores”. “This should not be.” We who know the good news of Jesus should live accordingly. There is therefore now no room for self-righteous boasting, self-importance, arrogance, or a judgmental spirit. We should be a pleasing aroma to God and others. Granted, obedience to Christ will place us at odds with many. We will endure persecution and rejection; however, we need not “ stink to the high heavens” with arrogance as we go about the process of living. If we do, we misrepresent the grace of God and the beckoning of Christ to a full and meaningful life to others. We truly can obey the example and commands of our Lord. We truly can be humble and courageous and a gracious aroma of the living God to a dying world. May we leave the stench making to others and get about (Luke 4) proclaiming good news to the poor, release to the captives, and the recovery of sight to the blind whilst proclaiming the favorable year of our Lord.

Finally, we should not leave the discussion of the Disciplines without squaring off with the fact that all is for naught if we falter and do not obey. Certainly, “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” Yet, “Joy is found in obedience. When the power that is in Jesus reaches into our work and play and redeems them, there will be joy where once there was mourning.” We cannot underscore the importance of obedience to joyful Christian living enough to shrink from saying it over and over again. “To elicit genuine celebration, obedience must work itself into the ordinary fabric of our daily lives. Without that our celebrating carries a hollow sound.” For, “ celebration comes when the common ventures of life are redeemed”. May it be so.

In closing, the Celebration of Discipline study has been a tool of God’s making for transformation. At the outset, I could never have imagined that this study – an on line book study no less- could have fueled such an experience as this effort has proven to be for me- a sojourner who knows his desperate need for God. I began as one who took a skeptical posture towards a popular book – but unread by me- on spiritual disciplines and circled the wagons around my otherwise tender heart towards God whilst casting a cautious and ready stare towards the writer. Nonetheless, I pushed boat from shore mostly motivated by the opportunity to take part in a book study with a handful of believers from Canada, the States, England, Malaysia, China, Korea, Australia, and so on.

Without question, it was the community aspect of the venture that moved me to participate – and I am very glad I did. Thank you guys for an incredible run. The body of Christ is amazing to view in both its scattered and gathered expressions. Thank you for your part within the gracious provision of God to me - a brother in Christ. The wagons are no longer circled and I am a richer man – in the things that matter- for having taken part in the study. I pray it is the same for you.

God bless you all and may we do this again very soon.


Anonymous Paula said...

I have enjoyed reading your insights. Thanks for joining us.


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