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June 22, 2013

Text:  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

The Israelites stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai to hear the terms of the Covenant they were making  with God. They heard and saw God’s magnificent power. The mountain smoked and appeared to be afire. There were earthquakes, peals of thunder and flashing lightning. When God spoke it sounded like thunder. Moses read the words of the Law of the Covenant to them and they affirmed their acceptance: “And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.”” Exodus 24:3  God stated His desire for the people: “Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me me and to keep all my commandments…”  Deuteronomy 5:29a

The Lord was diligent to tell them the consequences of obedience to the Law. He set forth the blessings that they would enjoy if obedient and the curses they would suffer if disobedient. Before the ink had dried on the covenant Aaron had built a golden calf to worship. They were moderately faithful to God until Joshua died. They strayed again and again, and were delivered to oppressors until God released them with men called “judges”. Finally God was fully disgusted with their unfaithfulness and sent them into captivity.

Is your  spiritual life anemic? Are you fearful now about attending the worship? Do you pray to God regularly? Have you concluded that God asks too much of you? Are you neglectful about doing your spiritual duty? Has your thirst for Bible study dwindled?  Is there a void where your zeal for God  used to be?  Then you are likely out of touch with God. 

The trouble is not with God. He loves  you and will not forsake you. As He said to Joshua, “I will not leave you or forsake you.”  Joshua 1:5  Thus take time to pray, “Do not forsake me, O Lord! O my God be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!” Psalms 38:21-22  God has already provided reconciliation for us:  “…That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world unto himself…” II Corinthians 5:19a  So, if you are drifting away from God, get busy with the task of reconciling yourself with repentance and renewed obedience.

So how does one repair the breech of his declining relationship with God? Chances are you have already intuited what comes next. The same things we have always heard.

Let me make a brief list of things that have been called “Christian Disciplines”. In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard J. Foster writes about 13 of these. My list has been pared to seven.

First is study the Bible. There are no shortcuts to learning the Bible’s contents. Constantly read the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. Read books about the Bible and how to study it. Be regular and concentrate.

Second, pray. Paul wrote, “pray without ceasing.”  I Thessalonians 5:17  Pray for forgiveness. Pray for strength. Pray for the lost. Pray for your friends and your enemies. Pray for the church, its elders, deacons, preacher, the sick, the bereaved.

Third, fasting. Take a day for contemplation, prayer, and spiritual inquiry.

Fourth, meditation.  What is meditation? Foster says, “Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word.” (Listen.) It can not be learned from a book. You must do it. Carve out say, 15 minutes per day to contemplate the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Choose a verse of scripture to ponder. Concentrate on practical application, etc.

Fifth, worship. Worship with the body of Christ is both an individual and a corporate experience. God is glorified by our praise and we are blessed to be in his presence among the body of his children. Go often and regularly. Participate. Share in his praise. Learn about God and his word.

Sixth, service. This  is the part where you are told about the needs of others and how to minister to them. You will find that service leads to satisfaction.

Seventh, submission. Here is where you learn to empty yourself to God, forget your selfish will, and accept his  total lordship.  Submerge your will in his and enjoy the peace that passes understanding.

The two biggest obstacles we have to overcome in building spiritual disciplines are:

I.   The oppressiveness of the hustle and bustle of the modern world. “Hurry is not of  the Devil; it is the Devil.”   Carl Jung

II. The slavery of our own ingrained habits of sin.  “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the  the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:17

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