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Sabbath Reflection #6: Spiritual Disciplines

In 1980 theologian Richard Foster wrote Celebration of Discipline, a book that explores spiritual disciplines. Based on the notion that ‘deep calls to deep’ (Psalm 42:7), Foster’s text invites us to respond to the call for deeper, fuller living. He outlines the following four inward disciplines as a pathway to such living.

Of all the disciplines, Foster states that prayer is central. Many see prayer as primarily asking things of God, but this is secondary to the main function of prayer which is to keep us in constant communion with God. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us, and He always meets us where we are at and moves us into deeper things.

Try this: Go through the gospels and highlight or write out all the references to Jesus praying or speaking about prayer. What do you observe? What can you learn from Jesus and apply to your own practice of prayer?

Biblical fasting involves abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. There are other things from which we can abstain for the sake of intense spiritual activity such the media, technology, advertising, television or consumer culture. Is it important, however, that we undertake the practice of fasting in a way that is initiated and ordained by God, and has His purposes foremost. A side-benefit of fasting is that it can reveal the things that control us and help us rebalance life. Is God calling you to fast from something so that you might spend more intimate time with Him?

Study involves asking questions and being analytical about the things that are around us – both verbal (eg. books, lectures, the media) and nonverbal (eg. nature, events, actions). Studying helps us to understand the reality around us as we observe and reflect upon what we have witnessed. It then enables our minds to move in a certain direction, perhaps to become free of fears and anxieties or to discover truth and freedom. Foster outlines four key steps in studying: repetition, concentration, comprehension and reflection. Which of these four do you think is the most important in bringing about personal transformation?

While study is analytical, meditation is devotional. Foster describes Christian meditation as a recreating silence that provides the emotional and spiritual space to hear God’s voice and obey His word. Contrary to Eastern forms of meditation that encourage the emptying of the mind, Christian mediation encourages the filling of the mind with Christ.

Try this: Find a time and a place that is free of distractions. Close your eyes and place your palms down as a symbol of all the things of which you need to let go. Name these things if it helps. After a while, perhaps when you feel a sense of release, turn your palms up as a symbol of being ready to receive from God. Do not ask for anything during this time, just let the Lord speak into your heart.

Foster also outlines some outward and corporate disciplines as well, but I encourage those of you who are interested to obtain a copy of his book for yourselves. In the pages not only can you read about these disciplines, but Foster also offers a study guide that includes daily scripture readings, questions and suggestions for further reading.

– Kirrily

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Additional Note
What We Believe

We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God and inerrant in the original writings. We believe that there is one God, eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.

We believe that the lost and sinful man must be saved, and that man’s only hope of redemption is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We believe in and practice the holy ordinance of water baptism, which signifies the believer’s death, burial, and resurrection into new life with Christ Jesus, and the regular celebration of Holy Communion as commanded by our Lord.

We believe in the present ministry and baptism of the Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a Godly life. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the unsaved; those that are saved into the resurrection of life and those that are unsaved into the resurrection of damnation.

We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our History

In recognition of the tremendous growth forecast for the Plenty Valley, Bishop Stephen Hale set up a Taskforce in 2007 to investigate the possibility of establishing a new Anglican community in the area. With representation from local churches and Ivanhoe Grammar School, this Taskforce developed a plan that included the need for a point person to further the work. In response to this, two years ago St John’s Diamond Creek took a great step of faith by employing a staff member to not only serve its own congregation but to focus on establishing a new parish for Mernda. Craig spent his first year getting to know the area, building relationships and discerning what God was already up to in His mission of reaching residents and retailers with His love. Throughout the following year a core team began to form around a vision that arose again and again through prayer, of a red gum taking root in the heart of Mernda and growing while the roots reached out to every corner of the community. This vision of being organic church integrally connected to local community found a means of expression through the “Sheffield Model”, which was first developed by St Thomas’s in Sheffield (UK) nearly 15 years ago.

With a focus on “missional communities” the Sheffield model emphasises the need for Christians to meet with people in their own world rather than expecting them to enter ours. After spending time with the staff of St Thomas’s, Craig and the team began work on adapting the model for our own local context and subsequently launched two playgroups in the second half of 2010. A missional community has also begun forming around crafts and the creative arts which runs a stall at the Laurimar market to raise money for various causes. Three preview services were also held as God continued to draw people into the Plentylife community.

We now launch with a much clearer vision of who God wants us to be, a five-strong leadership team with responsibilities for missional communities, youth, families, and administration, and leadership for three missional communities focused on families, crafts and the creative arts and the outdoor life. And it’s true that we wouldn’t be at this point today if it wasn’t for the generous support of the Diocese, St Johns and other supporting churches! So now together we look forward to what else God might have in store for us according to His grace.