When methodologies become the focus, they no longer serve as tools. They can become a distraction when not mastered. At worse they become a false diety claiming our time and devotion as we spiral continuously, never reaching our destination.
Throughout scripture we observe God teaching and disciplining in different ways to different people. He reveals Himself through a burning bush, wet/dry fleece, visions, handwriting on the wall, fellow believers, a donkey, circumstances (the whale-swallowing remains a personal favorite!), teachers, the Word itself, angelic beings, manna from the sky, miraculous healings, military victories, and more. Rarely repeating Himself, God grows the people and territory as He expands knowledge of Himself and His ways.
Universal prescriptions cannot be discerned. Furthermore, the Lord drew these biblical saints to Himself. Some sought Him. Most fled from Him. But all encountered Him. And, that too is our goal … while also spreading the Kingdom to the ends of the earth.
Practices of Faith
I appreciate and have read much about spiritual disciplines and principles of the faith. Prayer, Bible study, sharing your faith, tithing, confession, etc. Sadly, though, I have witnessed believers mature in the principles but mere babes in the fruit of the Spirit. Deceit, jealously, and slander surfaced when disagreement emerged. What happened?? Methodologies and disciplines and principles offer no assurance of growth in faith.
I also love inductive Bible Study,word studies, cross-referencing, the Westminster Catechism, retreat weekends …. and many other tools created to help in the journey of knowing God. But ugly human tendencies to categorize, evaluate, and rank emerge. A feeling of… “I have to do more” seeps into my mind. I even evaluate my own faith by the perceived spirituality of others.
Hence, the danger I sense in moving forward in this series on contemplation.
Goal of Contemplation
The purpose of the series is to inspire our wholehearted embracing of God. The focus is on the Lord … not embracing the embracing part. Along with Scripture, I have drawn from Augustine’s writing (philosopher and Christian theologian, 354-430 A.D.) to define this embrace of praise and joy. The psalmists have much to say about enjoying God…
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
Never will the methods be more than a means. A monastic life rich with vespers, stone-lined labyrinths, and centering prayer is not the goal nor does it enlarge God’s kingdom.
Means to the Contemplation of God
With this word of caution, I choose to continue this research and exploration of contemplation. In the upcoming articles, I share thoughts on developing a passionate prayer life, ways to discipline and exercise the mind, and the role of purity of heart and soul … all for the purpose of glorifying God with our humble lives.
May we each grow in our passion for God, hunger for righteousness, and brokenness for those who do not yet know the Lord.
Will you continue with me?
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