Brushing crumbs off the dining room table, I plunk down my portable pile: Bible, journal, devotional book, another Bible, and they all land with a THUD. The pens go skittering across the table, mirroring my scattered thoughts. Then, pushing my mug of tea out of the danger zone, I settle into reading, my favorite of all the spiritual disciplines.
Today, it’s Deuteronomy 15: the Sabbatical Year, generosity to the poor, and God’s decree to Israel concerning firstborn animals. What keeps me coming back, day after day, year after year to the practice of meeting with God over his words?
Is there sustenance there? Even in Deuteronomy 15?
Certainly, the trappings of worship described in Deuteronomy are long gone. However, the truth about God revealed in his instructions is unchanged:
He is a Canceler of Debts.
His heart is for the poor.
And best of all, he invites us into his presence.
Spiritual Disciplines are Relational
If I come to my reading in the morning looking for Ouija board insights on how to go about this particular Tuesday, I might be disappointed in what I receive. However, if I come to scripture with the question, “What does this teach me about God?” I have begun to approach the purpose of a daily exercise in spiritual formation.
Our relational God has ordained that conversation forms the basis of his dealings with humans. He speaks through his inspired Word, and we listen. We pour out the contents of our hearts to him or pray his own words back to him. Prayer and Scripture. Scripture and Prayer. Through the means of grace, relationship grows and flourishes.
Our relational God has ordained that conversation forms the basis of his dealings with humans. Prayer and scripture. Scripture and prayer. Through the #meansofgrace, relationship grows and flourishes.Tweet
Eugene Peterson blurs the distinction between prayer and Bible reading, for, in actual practice, one informs the other. “Prayer detached from Scripture, from listening to God, disconnected from God’s words to us, short circuits the relational language that is prayer.”
Spiritual Disciplines Don’t Earn God’s Favor
The prevailing attitude toward a daily spiritual practice bumps dangerously against a works mentality. We picture a tradeoff: salvation is “God’s part” and my faithful observance of the means of grace is “my part.” We imagine God loving us more on days when we “succeed” in our Bible reading and prayer. We picture varsity level Christians being carried off in flights of spiritual bliss every time they crack the leather cover of their ESV.
The prevailing attitude toward spirituality bumps dangerously against a works mentality. We imagine God loving us more on days when we “succeed” in prayer.Tweet
The rhythm of my faithful practice doesn’t have equal weight to God’s work of grace in my life. God pours out his lavish goodness, and my right response is to delight in holy living. I don’t get MORE of God’s grace or approval or love through obedience.
Spiritual Disciplines Make Room for Grace
Today is a harbinger of the eventual, which means if I have my eye set on being a godly old lady someday in the future, there are character qualities and mindsets that need to be set in bedrock ahead of time so that the accumulated complaints of life will weigh like feathers in the balance against the collected weight of blessings. What better time than this very moment to acknowledge the truth that bedrock does not lay down overnight?
In both of his letters to Timothy, Paul rattled off instructions and laid down guidelines for ministry. Timothy had his hands full there in Ephesus, and that young pastor had a lot of sorting out to do. However, tucked into Paul’s lists of qualifications and exhortations is this:
“Take strength from the grace that is in Christ Jesus . . .”II Timothy 2:1 NEB
Any spiritual practice–prayer, fasting, scripture reading, or meditation–is a tool for setting aside time for devotion to God. They create space for him to work, to speak, and to change our thinking one faithful day at a time. Spiritual disciplines are the way we make room in our lives to be amazed by grace and to delight in the goodness of God.
What is your biggest struggle in maintaining spiritual disciplines?
Which of your habits of holiness bring you the greatest joy?
Share your story in the comments, and scroll down for my review of a new resource that’s made its way into my portable pile in 2022.
Holding you in the Light,
And now, let’s talk books…
On the second Sunday after Epiphany, I opened Fleming Rutledge’s Means of Grace: A Year of Weekly Devotions, clueless about the significance of many of the dates on the liturgical calendar, but, nonetheless, jumping with both feet into the sixty entries that will carry me through this year. Each brief chapter serves as a connection to God’s redemptive story, an invitation to pay attention to the big picture of scripture’s narrative arc.
Under the lens of Rutledge’s sanctified imagination, the personal ads become a “comprehensive index of human longing,” and she leads her readers in a poignant meditation on desire, a condition common to humanity and slaked ultimately only in Christ. The message I am gleaning from these excerpts from her published works is this: In every way, God is intimately tied to our everyday life.
I’ve added Means of Grace to my portable pile for another slower read-through in 2022 and am especially eager to spend concentrated attention on the prayers at the end of each entry, lifted from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Whether you are new to Fleming Rutledge’s work (like me) or have a long history of being blessed by her wordcraft, the collection will enhance your devotional life with glimmers of sacred fire and a weekly challenge to sink deep roots into the means of grace God has provided. He never intended for us to go it alone.
In every way, God is intimately tied to our everyday life. This is the message of #MeansofGrace by @flemingrut. Sink deep roots into what God has provided. He never intended for us to go it alone. Via @eerdmansbooksTweet
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Many thanks to Eerdmans Publishers for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
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