Dave makes me think great things are possible. Getting to hear him speak is a true privilege, especially while sitting beside my friends from church, and extra especially with cheesecake. On Sunday, April 23, 2017, Dave spoke to us about the simple disciplines of the Christian walk. After introducing the disciplines, he expanded on prayer and mediation. As we were running out of time, Dave promised to speak more on the remaining disciplines in upcoming Dessert with Dad events. Thank you, Dave!
Why be disciplined? Why endure the strain of self-control? No person submits needlessly. There must be a reason. For example, I love reclining chairs. My feet up and my head back with a soft blanket—this I crave. But, I truly desire health and strength. So I submit to my desire for health and I do not live in a state of reclining. I get up and walk.
Dave recalled his early twenties, when he was something of a ski bum, reclining. He had no desire strong enough to draw him to discipline. Then, at age 28, Dave sat in a church service and received revelation, which he defined as a point in his life in which something so powerful happened that it became a cornerstone to him—a point that changed everything. Dave likened his experience to being in a dark room and seeing a single spotlight. He was standing in the room in the dark, but then he saw the spotlight, and he wanted it. The simple disciplines of the Christian walk are Dave’s response to the light. They are how Dave steps from observing to participating with his love, his revelation point, the light. In his early Christian walk, these disciplines were how he got to know God and built a relationship. In his times of unparalleled hardship, these disciplines became the roots to which he and his wife Lynn returned. Dave invites us to learn about the simple disciplines of the Christian life, that we may participate in them too.
The four inward disciplines of the Christian walk are as follows:
Meditation: hearing God and obeying
Prayer: dialoging with God
Fasting: putting the body in line with the spirit
Studying: dedicating yourself to being transformed by the Word
These disciplines, Dave reminded us, are easy to do. None are especially strenuous. But, they are also easy not to do. It is more tempting for me to recline than to walk. These simple disciplines become powerful when combined with a desire to know God that is stronger than the temptation to recline. Armed with curiosity and desire, I can see disciplines as tools. They help me focus on what I can do instead of what not to do. By practicing them, I am on the walk. As Dave quoted from Celebration of Disciplines, by Richard Foster, “The path does not produce change, it only places us where the change can occur.” The simple disciplines of the Christian walk place me where God can change me and my ways to be like his. By them, I can move in the dark.
Dave dove further into the disciplines of meditation and prayer. Meditation, he said, is creating silence. “Are you afraid of silence?” he asked the room. Creating silence in our lives (leaving behind presumptions, colluded thoughts, constant connectivity, etc.) leaves us open to hearing from God. Hearing from God gives us an opportunity to obey.
Dave gave an example from a time he was traveling in Europe and came upon a woman who spoke a different language and asked him for money. Dave could not give her what she asked for, but he had been meditating recently upon a word from God: “Give to all who ask.” Dave noticed the woman’s leg was severely injured. He realized that though he could not give to her in the way she had asked, he could give in another way. Dave knelt down and placed his hands on the woman’s leg and prayed for healing. Afterward, the woman walked away, not apparently changed. No outward miracle had happened. Had Dave really given her anything? He had given his obedience to God. He had obeyed a word he heard through the space and silence he had created in himself, the room for God to speak. Dave was grateful for the power of meditation that led him to obedience.
And God is always speaking. Are we in that dialogue? On another occasion, Dave was at a team-building event for his work. They had brought in a hypnotist to relax the group. Upon entering a state of deep relaxation by the methods of the hypnotist, Dave recognized in his thoughts were in tongues! Under the clutter of his daily musings and cares, God was always speaking.
The discipline of prayer is is not a dialogue in which we ask God for a grocery list of wants. Prayer is not manipulating God. “Prayer—secret, fervent, believing prayer—lies at the root of all personal godliness,” Dave shared from William Carey. Secret, fervent, believing prayer enters us in the conversation. Praying now is also important. Like all disciplines of the Christian walk, prayer is both a gift and a tool. As such, prayer is not a luxury to be used whenever we feel especially like doing it. Prayer is needed now, constantly—for ourselves, our spouses, our families, our communities, our churches, our countries, and our world. Praying without ceasing means praying right now.
So God is always speaking, and we are asked to pray without ceasing. How is that possible? “By listening,” added Pastor Dale. We cannot always be speaking to God, but we can always be part of the dialogue (and often more powerfully so) by listening. Prayer and mediation are simple, powerful ways to quiet and humble ourselves and walk with Christ.
The simple disciplines of the Christian walk are part of God’s prevenient grace for us, like the wave that goes ahead of a ship at sea, protecting and sending. They are good and perfect gifts for us, providing focus a path for us to meet our God. May we take joy in coming to God and participating.
During his talk, Dave gave a couple book recommendations. They are listed below.