6 Feb 2016

Rivers of the Spirit: Daily Spiritual Disciplines for Embracing Shalom

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Discipleship, Holy Spirit, Journey, Kingdom Come, Prayer, Reading, Spiritual Disciplines, Worship

RythymA Sabbath Afternoon

What a beautiful shabbat in the Sonoran Desert today. I have gone through my morning routine, did some exercise, rode over to Starbucks for a cup of java and some reading in the sunshine. Came home and cleaned my house that was starting to look like a bachelor pad!! Its been a beautiful relaxing day. Being the sabbath I began to reflect on the Spirit cadence for life that we find in Scripture.  It is a rhythm that helps cultivate God’s shalom even in a vortex of entropy.  Shalom finds ways to season our lives thru the cultivation Spiritual discipline.

Several years ago I coauthored a work with John Mark Hicks, Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding. The middle section of that book focused upon “four means of Grace” … that is four disciplines of the Spirit we can submit to in our lives, to partner with the Spirit of Christ in order to grow in the image of God’s dear Son. Those were Scripture reading; fellowship with the poor; gathering with the saints at the Table in assembly; and prayer. I learned a long time ago that Spiritual disciplines are not historically a featured theme in “brotherhood” venues. Indeed, some folks that gained a reputation for being people of prayer were even ridiculed for it. Robert H. Boll was one such person (but that is another story). People sometimes imagine (vainly) that “Bible doctrine” can be separated from Spiritual discipline but I do not see any Bible doctrine that supports such a dichotomy. So today I offer a “Stoned-Campbell Disciple” daily routine that may be of help to you. None of this is original with me, I have learned from many Spiritual writers and even the example of Barton Stone, Alexander Campbell, David Lipscomb, James A. Harding and even Robert H. Boll.KC

One caveat. These suggestions are not offered as a “hey look at me.” They are offered rather as a way of partnering with God’s Spirit so he can have is way with us. With that said “discipline” is a good thing and provides daily vitamins to keep us healthy … that is the goal of these suggestions.  I find that these are rhythms in my life that I have to consciously cultivate or they do not get done.  I can tell when I have neglected the “River of the Spirit” though.

Rivers of the Holy Spirit

DAILY Prayer. I do not see how a person can possibly hope to be what God desires without prayer. I drag myself out of bed every morning at 5:30. Since the most ancient times the people of God have arisen “before the sun to give thanks to you and pray to you at the dawning of the light” (Wisdom 16.28). Depending upon the time of the year I will sit outside or on the floor to pray the Psalms sequentially every 30 days. Prayer is not simply a laundry list of requests. One writer many centuries ago observed that “man, if left to himself, is never so selfish as when in prayer.” Thus prayer is understood as a time of fellowship with our Creator and Abba in the power of the Spirit. It is a means of grace. Morning prayer is focused on this communion with God by listening for his voice thru his Word in the Psalms. My phone will buzz at noon and in the evening. The “buzz” lets me know that the time for prayer has arrived.   Beginning with prayer sets an orientation to our day toward the Holy One. Like a branch carried along by the current in the river so prayer unleashes the river of the Spirit to carry us along in a certain direction. A direction that manifests itself in a myriad of ways daily. The early church followed this prayer pattern. Combining morning prayer with the Psalms is one of the best things I have ever done for my walk with God.

DAILY Scripture. Scripture is easily combined with prayer as we saw above with the Psalms. However, at Palo Verde I hand out a monthly “lectionary” of daily Bible readings. These readings are not designed to be study per se rather they are an invitation for God’s Spirit to address us thru his powerful Word. Scripture reading at lunch is the communal reading at PV. In the evening I read the Bible sequentially from Genesis to Revelation typically five chapters a day. I learned this practice from James A Harding. Thus the daily habit of purposeful prayer time (morning, noon, evening) and Bible reading has been greatly rewarding and impacted all other Spiritual disciplines.

The inspiration of the Scripture is not simply a way of talking about innerrancy.  Inspiration tells us that Scripture is the very breath of God.  As our own words vocalized are inseparable from our breath so inspiration tells us God’s word impacts us in the same way as breath itself. Thus like prayer the real reason we open up the Bible is to allow God to breath his powerful breath upon us. It pulls us into intimate fellowship or communion with God.  We are not here to master doctrine, we are not here to reload “Gospel Bullets,” we are not here to win an argument. We are here for intimacy so close that we can feel the very breath of God blowing in us.  As Moses Lard once boldly wrote of being distinctly aware of the communion God’s people have with God’s own Spirit,

I am distinctly conscious at this instant of the presence in my mind of a love, joy, and peace, of exquisite sweetness, as I am of the purpose to end the sentence I am now writing; and these are called in the word of God ‘the fruit of the Spirit” (“Spiritual Influence as it Relates to Christians,” Lard’s Quarterly 1 [March 1864], 239)

Inspiration guarantees us that Scripture is powerful and connects us with God. It is a means of grace because it is River of the Spirit. For me I have included the step of beginning morning prayer with the Lord’s Prayer and concluding daily Bible reading with the Jesus Creed (the Shema and love your neighbor). Prayer and Bible reading are placed in the context of seeking first God’s kingdom and living that our faithfully thru loving God and loving neighbor.

DAILY Praise/Worship. My debt to the “canonical hours” reveals itself here. Over the years, I became aware of a major lacuna in my walk and that was praise. Even spending time in scripture or prayer does not necessarily translate into praise. But Yahweh is “worthy” of praise. If we add to our daily routine the prayer “Lord open my mouth that I may praise you” (Ps 51.15) there is a part of our Spiritual development that begins to fall in place.  “He sets his heart to rise early to seek the Lord who made him, and petition the Most High; he opens his mouth in prayer and asks pardon for his sins.” (Sirach 39.5)

Lord, Open My Lips . . .

The first prayer of “Matins” is a great way to start the day. The first prayer is a petition and reveals a desperate urge to praise the Lord . . . something we all need to cultivate. It also reveals the spiritual truth that with out divine aid we can never worship as he desire . . .

Domine, labia mea aperies . . .

Lord, open my lips
And my mouth will shout out your praise.

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit!
As it was in the beginning, it is now and will be forever.

Alleluia, Praise the Lord.”

The desire to praise is a result of communion with God and the Spiritual person recognizes the need for divine aid to praise. God must open our mouth, that is the humble prayer. In praise I acknowledge that I am not Lord, boss, in charge, or anything of the sort. I am a creature!! We have been “created for [your] glory” (Isa. 43.7). So spending time in praise … nothing but praise … brings us back to an awareness of our very reason for being.  Praise pulls us into communion with the divine because we literally become a “river” as God’s divine Breath (i.e. Spirit) flows through us to generate praise to the Father and to the Son. Thus Paul declares that we “worship in the Spirit of God” (Phil 3.3, NRSV) Both thru prayer (Psalms can help here, cf Pss 145-150, etc) and singing. Sing old songs. Sing new songs. But praise. Daily. At least once a week – this is not just a preacher talking either – Gather with other saints in public worship and celebrate the Eucharist together. Daily praise bears rich Spiritual fruit in our lives.

DAILY fellowship with the Poor/Act of service. David Lipscomb once said “Send bread now, brethren, and afterwards the Bibles and preachers.” I am convinced that we meet Jesus in the poor and “down and outs.” This does not have to be some major thing like spending a couple hours at Casa Maria everyday. Service that we can cultivate into our daily lives can be something that we simply make as part of the “rhythm of God’s Spirit” flowing thru us. Doing a kind deed without fan fair. There are a number of homeless people that live in the area around my house. Talya and I make at least one lunch every day. I carry a lunch bag in my vehicle with me. I never eat it. There are lots of ways to be of daily service to “someone” to be used as God’s instrument of blessing. The possibilities are endless and take almost no time at all. In our case bread for sandwiches is cheap. “Let us realize that every helpless, needy one … is the personification of Christ” (Lipscomb).

DAILY Reading. This reading is not the Bible. The reading can be diverse. Read a novel. Read history. Read a biography. Read a classic work of faith. Read something you might not ordinarily read. Read something on the history of the church, the Bible, etc.  God’s Spirit is a missionary. He is active in our world often completely apart from God’s own people.  Cultivating the Rivers of the Spirit in our lives in the above ways sensitizes us to an awareness of God’s movement in the world. Reading is a powerful way to help us develop a vision – a way of seeing – that is filtered through the river of God.  See my list of the Greatest Books in Christian History (click on link) and pick one to devour.

shabbat shalomIts all about Unleashing God’s Rhythm where we find Shalom

Ok, there we have it.  Five daily Spiritual disciplines to cultivate to partner with God’s Spirit in molding us into disciples of the Lord Jesus. If you are like me then a little structure is good for your life. I do not know what you may need in your life. But I can testify that daily communion with God thru prayer, his word, praise, service and reading has greatly enriched my life. Let me encourage you that these purposeful, planned, concrete, daily rhythms can help us do what Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1.5-11. All together these do not take up much time in reality. Service can be done anytime during the day at any moment. So we are talking maybe a grand total of a little over an hour here. I think our congregations would be enriched as well.


Be blessed.

One Response to “Rivers of the Spirit: Daily Spiritual Disciplines for Embracing Shalom”

  1. Dwight Says:

    Our preacher just gave a lesson on the Lord’s Day titled “Super Sunday” to mark the importance of well Sunday as the Lord’s Day. While this is true it true, it is more often we forget that every day is the Lord’s Day as we the Lord’s- Rom.14:5-8. We live to the Lord, thus every day is to the Lord, even though we may designate certain days to observe as Sunday was. Many saints live for the weekend, but we must live daily for Christ. John recognized the Lord’s Day in Rev.1, but he was also in the Spirit on Sunday. In this respect the Lord’s Day was like the Sabbath. It wasn’t just a day, it was day of remembering God’s deliverance and mercy and love. But we were supposed to practice this daily.

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