A Song of Hope

I’m not really that into music, but lately I’ve been developing an appreciation of how Christian music can enhance my time with God. It might have something to do with acquiring one of those electronic gadgets from a well-known online store. I enjoy asking it to play music for me, as well as give the weather for the day.

That’s how I discovered my new favorite band, Mercy Me. I enjoy a lot of their songs, but one that really moves me is Even If. The main idea is our hope remains in God even if he doesn’t take away our sorrow or our hurt, because we know he is able and that he can.

I first became acquainted with this song when a good friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer. A lot of people were praying for her, but God didn’t heal her. She died trusting in God even though he didn’t answer our prayers the way she and we wanted.

Whenever I hear it, I think of her and how she is with Jesus. And I am encouraged for my own life and the lives of others, that even if God decides to leave our mountains unmovable, all will be well with our souls, because we can trust him, and our hope remains firmly in Jesus.

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Read, Meditate, Pray

Some shy away from meditation because of the mystic connotations, but this spiritual discipline is nothing like what you see in Eastern religious traditions. Understanding the definition will help clean out the clutter: it is simply thinking about who God is and what he has done. It’s always based on the Bible.

When I read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney, I came across this nugget in the chapter on prayer: “Meditation is the missing link between Bible intake and prayer.” He then talks about the significance of combining these three disciplines: “The process works like this: After the input of a passage of Scripture, meditation allows us to take what God has said to us and think deeply on it, digest it, and then speak to God about it in a meaningful way.”

I was struck by the simplicity of this idea. It gave me a different perspective, freedom even, to explore the spiritual disciplines in a new way. Rather than approaching Bible study, meditation and prayer as separate disciplines, as I usually do and as you probably do also, let’s combine them. These first three are usually dependent on silence and solitude, but why not go further and combine all five with worship, praise and celebration? What a profound difference this could make in our quiet time.

How to Declutter for Spiritual Growth

Getting rid of clothes that no longer fit, knickknacks that collect dust, extra sheets and towels, and coffee mugs that seem to reproduce in the dark of my kitchen cupboard, is relatively easy. All I have to do is put them in a bag and set them out for the local charity to pick up. But decluttering the spiritual takes more effort, probably because it’s less visible and harder to measure.

Many writers, preachers and speakers will try to tell you they have a key or some special insight about getting close to God (which is why you need to buy their book). Chasing after every new revelation about how to connect with him is fruitless and tiring. I know, I’ve done a bit of this. I’ve read a lot of devotionals and books that claim to be just what you need and will change your life. They usually don’t.

I’ve found the best path to spiritual transformation is the somewhat old-fashioned but tried and true method of practicing the spiritual disciplines. They’ve been around for centuries and are still the best strategy for growing in grace and knowledge of God. The basics are well known to most of us – Bible study, prayer and meditation.

Meditation is sometimes misunderstood – I suppose because it’s used by so many religions and secular groups and there are many ways to do it, including non-biblical ones. Wrong ideas about spiritual practices such as meditation could be some clutter you need to take out. I don’t have a special key, but I have learned something about it that has helped me, and next week, I will share it with you.

Space and the Spirit

Space, which I mentioned in a previous post, is often thought of as a luxury. Only the wealthy seem to have space to display works of art (or even have them). But space is something we all can attain. In our homes, we make space by getting rid of clutter, which is defined as things that are in the way, not needed or not useful. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been working on eliminating the clutter in my home. The process has made me realize I have too much stuff, and the more I take out, the more I’m determined to stop bringing stuff in as well.

Space is also desirable in our spiritual lives. When I think of making space for God, I picture the same thing I want in my house – no clutter and lots of room for what’s important: just me and Jesus. Space means time to spend with him, exploring and deepening our relationship. It means not getting distracted by going down rabbit holes of questionable theology or chasing side issues that don’t contribute to knowing Jesus and becoming like him. I try to be discerning about the devotionals I read and the way I spend my quiet time. I want my focus to be laser sharp on Jesus, no room for anything else.

Next week: De-cluttering the Spiritual Spaces