Month: May 2012

Good Discipline – Practicing God’s Presence

PRACTICING GOD’S PRESENCE: Above All

I open this article with a confession; I love to mow the grass. It’s an odd love I know but the feeling of the mower engine shaking the handle in my hand, the contrast of where I’ve mowed and where I’m going to mow, I love to see it. The feel of finding new bumps in the yard that weren’t there last time I mowed, the smell of the freshly cut grass. To me mowing the lawn is one of the more relaxing things I have the chore of doing when I’m home.

I also find that above the noise of the mower this is the perfect time to apply the final and most important of the 11 disciplines outlined in Godology; Practicing God’s Presence. Why does mowing the grass allow me to practice God’s presence? Because when I go out and mow the lawn I get to do it with God, meaning I get to spend that time with Him.

Everything for the Glory

In 1 Corinthians 10:31 Paul exhorts the Corinthians to “Do all things for the glory of God.” When you look at this discipline and then consider all the others they are all designed to help us discover the mystery of God. So when I say that I can practice this discipline while mowing I’m saying that while I’m doing that I’m doing it for the glory of God. But more importantly I’m thinking or meditating on the things of God.

I get to walk in silence (although lawn mowers are not quiet) and apply Philippians 4:8 and think on what is good, right and pure. I get to be by myself and retreat into God to experience Him and through experiencing Him, know Him.

Christian George writes to us on this discipline; “The Discipline of God’s Presence trumps all other disciplines. It is the ultimate aim of Solitude, Silence, Hospitality, Meditation and all the other disciplines. To incorporae God’s presence in life’s routine’s is the highest goal of the Christian” (153).

Putting it all Together

Based on what George said above we can say with a great deal of certainty that all the disciplines have been building to this one. That is, everything we’ve discussed for the past 7 weeks culminates in this one discipline. Prayer allows us to talk to God, Obedience is our acting on what God tells us, Labyrinth Walking gives us a new outlet to experience the presence of God, meditation helps us focus on the things of God. Solitude removes us from the world and helps us retreat into to God, silence allows us to listen so we know how to obey, Fasting, allows us to give up the things that all too often distract us from God. But all of these come together when we  enter into the presence of a Holy God and really get to know Him.

The tagline for this blog is “Because knowing God’s Heart changes everything” it’s a variation on the tagline from George’s book which is “Because knowing God changes everything.” When we retreat into God, when we practice His presence in everything we do it really does change everything. Mowing the lawn goes from being a task to an expression of love for our savior (and our families) Cleaning the house becomes a chance to dive into the character of God. Once we get to know the greatness of God and discover the mystery of God nothing will ever be the same.

 

When everything’s New

When everything new we find ourselves set apart. By that I mean that applying these disciplines will change us, transform us, help us to mature beyond our wildest dreams. We’ll find that our desires change, our hopes change, our dreams change, our personalities change or become more pronounced.

To share my personal story, as I’ve been writing this series I’ve been checking to make sure that I’m applying these disciplines. As I’ve worked to make sure that I myself am beyond reproach I’m finding that I’m getting to know God better. I’m finding that the old man doesn’t have authority in my life. That as I apply these disciplines my heart has been transformed. God’s presence has really permeated my soul and I now know what it means to have him dwell inside of me.

Everything is new, my relationships, my work experiences, my attitudes, my school, everything around me was a new chance. A Chance to serve, a chance to love, a chance to live, a chance to change, a chance to learn. I found that through Christ I was a much better man than I was before. Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 suddenly came to life “I no longer live but Christ lives within me.”

 –         –          –

This change I’m describing is really cool, I now have a new direction for my life, things are completely different. Now I will say that not everyone will have the same experience, but when you dive into God you will have a similar one. God is great and I pray you get to know that greatness and discover that when you think you’ve gone as deep as you can go you can still go much deeper.

This has been my prayer for you as you’ve read through this series. That you would get to know God more, that you would discover His mystery and then allow Him to change and transform you. God’s presence is huge, He really is greater than the greatest conceivable being. So as you go I pray you meditate and think about these disciplines that you’d also apply them. That you too would experience the change that comes from knowing God, and that His word and His presence would permeate your life and your actions.

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries

Good Discipline – Solitude

SOLITUDE: A Quiet Place 

Let’s face it, this world is a very noisy place. We have cell phones and computers and all kind of distractions that. Work and more work, time for friends, time for family, time for God, time for what is important and what is urgent. We have to have time for everything and everyone, to be everywhere at all times, to constantly be busy. Very rarely though, do we ever make time for the discipline of solitude.

Solitude is probably one of the harder disciplines in today’s world, why do I say this? Because of all the things I listed above and the time constraints they place on us. We barely have time to get a coffee at Starbucks on the way to work let alone get away for a weekend. And if we do go on a retreat or get away we feel like we are busy lazy.

I have a friend who has this mentality. Yes she gets solitude time but normally it is after she has been pushed to the limit is angry and needs to vent. Trying to be all things to all people at all times, she never has time to recharge. My dad on the other hand loves his solitude time, he will sit in his office for hours reading a book or working on a sermon.

 

Why Solitude?

Solitude is a great opportunity for us to recharge our batteries. It gets us out of the crowd and out of the mentality that we have to be doing something at all times and allows us to come into the presence of God. It is in the presence of our savior that we recharge, are rejuvenated and heal.

Christian George says; “Solitude increases our patience and prepares us to engage the world” (pg124). This means that solitude can bring us to a place where we have no choice but to wait on God. This allows God to work and through working in us our patience increases and we are more ready to take on what the world will throw at us.

Solitude is also the perfect time to practice: silence, prayer and meditation.

 

Jesus & Solitude

Jesus practiced solitude all throughout his Ministry. In Mark 1:35-39 we find Jesus leaving the house they were staying at and going off to “a desolate place” to pray (v 35 ESV). The gospel of Luke records eleven different instances where Jesus goes off by himself to pray for something. In Mark 6:31 Jesus tells his disciples to “come away by yourself to a desolate place and rest.” This was right after he sent out the twelve into the cities and surrounding countryside.

In these times of solitude Jesus was recharged and re-energized and I’m sure the Disciples were too after going away by themselves. But Jesus also got something else from His time of solitude. Specifically in Mark 1:35-39 it would seem that in Jesus time of solitude Jesus gets instructions from His father in heaven. When Peter finds Him He says “Let us go to the next town so I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (v. 37 ESV).

 

Solitude & Us

The truth is we need to practice this discipline. It helps us recharge, engage the world, get away from the demands of our busy lives and gives us a chance to spend time with God. Getting away to a quiet or “desolate” place is also extremely healthy for us. It gives us time to think clear of our cell phones and MP3 players. Allows us to take our electronic full cells and hook them up to the ultimate fuel source, the God of the universe.

–         –    –

My favorite time to practice solitude is right in the morning after I wake up. It’s quiet and no one is around to disturb me, I can be still and enter into the presence of God. It allows me to wake up and charge my spiritual batteries after charging my physical ones.

I pray this week that you will go out to a park or a quiet place of your own. Find a space where you can encounter God and enjoy His presence without the distractions of this world. Don’t take your cell phone or your MP3 Player, forget about your planner or the things you have to do. Just slip into a quiet place where it’s just you and God and wait to be amazed.

God Bless You
Jonathan Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries

Check out the Good Discipline Series

Week #1: Good Discipline
Week #2: Good Discipline – 
Prayer
Week #3: Good Discipline – Obedience
Week #4: Good Discipline – Art
Week #5: Good Discipline – Journaling
Week #6: Good Discipline – Silence
Week #7: Good Discipline – Fasting
Week #8: Good Discipline – Vow Making
Week #9: Good Discipline – Labyrinth Walking
Week #10: Good Discipline – Meditation
Week #11: Good Discipline – Solitude
Week #12: Good Discipline – Practicing God’s Presence

Good Discipline – Meditation

MEDITATION: Time to think

 

I love to sit in coffee shops, they are probably the most relaxing places on Earth and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I’ve shared before that after work at Christ’s Body I would often go directly to a coffee shop to sit and pray about what I was experiencing. Coffee on the Point specifically was a good place to just go and sit for awhile without interruption. It was a chance to focus my thoughts on God and allow Him to heal the torrent of emotions that had me under siege all day because of the hardships of the homeless I was working with.

It was in this coffee shop in Denver that I learned to meditate, learned to think about the things above instead of the things below. If I hadn’t had those times I’m sure now that the heartache would have driven me crazy and caused a huge amount of burnout. So this is a discipline I would say is necessary, not that they all aren’t, but this one in particular allows us to get our minds off of things, if only for a moment, and into the mind of Christ.

Different Meditation

Now I know when someone mentions the discipline of meditation everyone’s minds instantly envision a man in a funny looking hat sitting cross-legged on the ground say “ommm” and for the most part this is what popular culture depicts it as. There’s a scene in Annie where the girls come across Pune Jab meditating and they get very afraid.

This isn’t the type of meditation I’m talking about, this is a type of Eastern Meditation meant for those who want to look deep inside themselves. Christian Meditation is different, Christian Meditation can take place everywhere you go, no one has to know that you are doing it, and is highly beneficial to our Christian walks.

Christian George writes; “Meditation moves us to a deep and penetrating presence of God. It charts the inner landscapes of the soul and teaches us to adopt the mind of Christ…Meditation syncs us with the savior in a way the other disciplines do not” (109).

What Do We Meditate on?

But what is it that we meditate on? Paul tells the Philippians at the end of his letter to them “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil 4:8 NIV).

Look at the list, whatever is; true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, anything excellent or praiseworthy. These are the things that we need to meditate on; it is these things, in relationship to God that should fill our minds every day. We should desire and want these things because we are different from the world and what the world often meditates on (sex, drugs, alcohol) are in no way honorable in the context they we tend to think about them.

If we do meditate on these things we’ll find a whole new world opened up to us, suddenly our vision won’t be the same. Our minds also won’t be the same, we’ll find that we can’t get our minds off them. That the things of God really are real, alive, active and penetrating in ways we never could have imagined.

 

Meditating on Scripture

My favorite thing to do is meditate on scripture, especially the psalms. Recently I’ve spent a lot of time thinking on Psalm 25:12 which says “Who is the man who fears the Lord, Him will He instruct in the way he should choose.” The reason I’ve spent so much time meditating on this verse is because of situations in my life where I need more than anything for God to instruct my paths.

This scripture also has a lot to unpack and think about, like what does it mean to fear the Lord? And. How does God instruct us in the way we should go? Through meditating on these two questions God has led me to other passages, such as Isaiah 6:1-7 and Israel’s encounters with God in Exodus 18. So through meditating on this one verse suddenly a whole new idea is opened up to me.

Scripture meditation is extremely beneficial, especially if we want to be like the Psalmist in 119 who says “I have hidden your words in my heart that I might not sin against you” (v. 11). Or follow the example of the writer of Hebrews when he considers the word of God and the name of God to be a place of rest, so that we might not disobey.

To Be Set Apart

I’m coming to find that it is times of mediation that I am finding out what it truly means to be truly set apart for the gospel. That as I’ve thought over scriptures like Ephesians 5:3-6 that I’ve learned to cut out things like course Joking and work towards a humor that is holy. It is through thinking on what is right that I have been really challenged by conversations with a close friend of mine. It is through meditating on what it means to be a man of God that I’ve actually found myself becoming a man of God.

–          –     –

So today I want to challenge you to go off someplace, a park or a coffee shop, and think about the things of God. Take your bible and try to memorize a psalm, then meditate on that psalm one day at a time. Really think about what it means to be a man or woman of God allow Him to speak to you about the things you are thinking on. Enter into His presence and allow Him to make the toughest subjects fun again.

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving

His courts with praise

Give thanks to the Lord

Bless His Name”

Ps 100:4

Week #1: Good Discipline
Week #2: Good Discipline – 
Prayer
Week #3: Good Discipline – Obedience
Week #4: Good Discipline – Art
Week #5: Good Discipline – Journaling
Week #6: Good Discipline – Silence
Week #7: Good Discipline – Fasting
Week #8: Good Discipline – Vow Making
Week #9: Good Discipline – Labyrinth Walking
Week #10: Good Discipline – Meditation
Week #11: Good Discipline – Solitude
Week #12: Good Discipline – Practicing God’s Presence

Good Discipline – Labyrinth Walking

Before you read this please read: The Mountain Stream from the first two months of this blog.

The Labyrinth I walked in Evergreen CO.

Labyrinth Walking: Going in Circles

I remember driving up to Evergreen Colorado that day with a sense of anticipation. The depression I’d woken up with on the third day of my week of Silence had slowly faded and now as we sat on the mountainside, shoes off, walking barefoot through the cool grass I couldn’t believe I was about to walk a Labyrinth. I’d wanted to do this for since I’d finished Christian George’s book but didn’t know where to go to find one. So when Millie announced that we’d be spending part of the 4th of July walking one I was thrilled.

The only problem was I couldn’t talk…

The Purpose of Labyrinth Walking

If you read The Mountain Stream then you read all about Labyrinth walking as a prayer ritual. As you are entering the Labyrinth you are entering into God, leaving all the things of the world behind you and just allowing your mind to focus on the God of the universe. When you reach the center you have reached the heart of God, the very center of the almighty creator, what I’m finding to be a very vast yet comforting place. Then as you are leaving you are re-entering the world, this is a perfect time for Vow Making or even reflective prayer, looking back on what you’ve experienced while in the Labyrinth.

It’s important to note that Labyrinth Walking is extremely experienced based. George writes specifically of Protestants; “we practice this discipline not as a means of earning salvation but as a way to experience the God of salvation through new and earthly means” (138). But in that experience we get catch a glimpse of God’s mystery, or hear Him speak to us in a way we’ve never experienced Him before.

George also informs us that walking a Labyrinth is the perfect time to purge everything from your system, as I did on that mountainside last summer. Getting all the things we keep bottled up inside and never confess will help us clear our heads for later times in the day, and process things we might have been feeling earlier in the day, like the depression that marked my morning.

Walking with Others

Labyrinth Walking is a good Discipline to practice alone, but it is also a good one to practice in a group setting as well. One of the conditions we had on that mountainside was that we couldn’t talk for two hours, but we needed to pay attention to what God was doing when we were in the Labyrinth, that our hearts needed to be prepared and our spirits quieted like the Psalmist in 131 before we could go in.

It was interesting walking that Labyrinth with other people, because occasionally God would stop me and tell me to look up and show me where I was in relationship to others. Then He’d say “There are times when you feel close to people and times you feel far away from people, but I am always here with you, I have and I will be.” In the center there were about three of us and God used that to show me that I was part of a body, and through the hug of one of my brothers in the center God showed me I was loved by the body.

If you’ve ever wanted to see God use people to make a point in your life, walk a Labyrinth with a group and a spirit that’s ready and eager to listen, you may be surprised.

My Experience 

It’s important to note that our experiences may be extremely different. As we sat around listening to one another that afternoon there was a common thread to the conversation, and that was that God spoke, but it wasn’t the same for everyone.

I needed to go back through my past (as I outlined in the article I posted at the top of this article). So God could show me that He was there through every painful moment and that He was there in that moment and every present moment coming. It was extremely important for me to know that He would continue to be there long after I left Denver. That He already had my future planned out for me and was going to be there in every future situation.

–     –     –

Labyrinth Walking is a strange discipline that’s for sure, it’s not something we are used to. Like prayer, fasting, obedience and so on. It’s a physical activity that allows us to experience God on a level that we’ve never really experienced Him before. It can also combines prayer, silence and even fasting together and then allows us to move into a place of meditation, it can be done in solitude and through it we can practice God’s presence.

All the Discipline’s working together to benefit us as a body of Believers, transforming us into a healthy and strong body. So go and find a Labyrinth and take about two hours to be silence and then catch a glimpse of the Mystery of God as He speaks to you as you move through the circles of the path. Remember as you walk that there are times when you will feel far from God and times when you will feel near to Him. Then once you are done, reflect on that time, what the Lord said to you and where you need to go from there.

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries

“Oh Israel Hope in the Lord
For with the Lord there is Steadfast Love
And with the Lord there is Plentiful Redemption
And He will redeem Israel
From all his Iniquities”
Psalm 130:7-8 

– Authors Note – If you have ever read George’s book or are reading it you’ll notice that Meditation and Solitude come before Labyrinth Walking. I’ve re-ordered these three because Solitude, Meditation and Practicing God’s Presence fit together so well, and can all be done in a Labyrinth so I felt the need for a different order, hope you don’t mind.

Week #1: Good Discipline
Week #2: Good Discipline – 
Prayer
Week #3: Good Discipline – Obedience
Week #4: Good Discipline – Art
Week #5: Good Discipline – Journaling
Week #6: Good Discipline – Silence
Week #7: Good Discipline – Fasting
Week #8: Good Discipline – Vow Making
Week #9: Good Discipline – Labyrinth Walking
Week #10: Good Discipline – Meditation
Week #11: Good Discipline – Solitude
Week #12: Good Discipline – Practicing God’s Presence

Good Discipline – Vow Making

Vow Making – More Than a Promise

I love hearing my friends reaction when I tell them what time I generally wake up in the morning. Not that I am boasting in my 5:30am average wake up time, one just has to give an answer when they are asked what time they get up in the morning. The truth is that I never wanted to wake up that early, the combination of hyperactivity and an inability to sleep if the sun was up caused me to get up long before it ever thought about coming up that day. To say that I want to get up that early would be crazy, what I did with that time was even crazier.

Usually I would sneak around the house, at least when I was really young, then later I would wake up and get on the computer and play some sort of video game until I heard mom or dad walking around upstairs. In college I would put my headphones in and try hard to not disturb my roommate. When I returned from Denver though I felt a need to do something very different with that time. so I made a promise to God to spend it with Him in prayer and in study of scripture.

Breaking Vows We’ve Made

Whenever the Israelite’s broke their vows  with God something bad generally happened (read 1 Cor. 10 for a summary). Another example of what happens when we break out vows can be found in the story of Samson (Judge 113-16). God  told Samson’s mother that no razor should come upon Samson’s head and he would deliever Israel from the hands of the Philistines. This is where we get the idea of a Nazarene Vow, because Samson was a Nazarene and so he couldn’t cut his hair.

Now in Samson’s case cutting his hair meant that he would lose all of his strength which he did when Delilah (his wife)  tricked him into giving her the secret to his strength. Samson is a great example of what happens when our vows are broken, whether by us or by those we love. Now we all know that Samson’s hair grows back and he does eventually do what God said he would do and free Israel from the Philistines.

If I don’t get that time that I’ve vowed to set apart for God in the mornings then my day really doesn’t go very well. Unless of course the spirit allows me to sleep in that particular morning because I am in need of rest. Yesterday morning was one such morning where I didn’t get the full hour and fifteen minutes that I vowed to spend in prayer an din the word but I also had a final and a late night the night before so I continued reading in the book of John, wrote in my journal and got my day underway.

Vow Making & Honoring those Vows

On this discipline George writes; “Vow Making is a discipline in response to a holy God. Making a vow and taking an oath are both modern disciplines practiced by Christians of all ages and stages of life. Our promises should be specific and personal.”

The vow I made was specific and personal, and God has honored that vow, making sure that I myself honor my vow. I have several friends who have committed themselves to sexual purity, who have made a specific vow that they are going to save themselves for their husbands and wives. When they are in situations where those vows might be in jeopardy it seems that God steps in and holds them to that vow they made and I believe can even remove us from positions where we may be forced to compromise.

When we honor our vows God honors us, God continues to honor his covenant with us despite our tendacny to disobey, shouldn’t we honor our vows and oath with God.

Making Vows to one Another

I wonder what would happen if we were to make and keep vows to one another. Meaning that Christians in the body of Christ were to go to one another and instead of making vague promises to one another actually vowed to love and support each other. Then we work together to keep those vows and to help keep our weaker brothers and sisters from stumbling as well as working together to help others keep their vows to God.

An example of this would be a dear friend of mine who doesn’t text or like to talk to guys 1 on 1 after a certain time of night. As a man of God I have to honor her decision and help her to uphold that promise she’s made to herself and to God so I have to be conscious of the time if I am talking to her or texting her so that I can honor that.

If we did things like this it would probably make us more conscience to the needs and hurts of the poeple around us because if we vow friendship we are vowing to listen, support, love and serve, all the things that come with a healthy relationship with someone. If I make a vow to serve the 10:31 Life Ministry team I had better serve them to the best of my ability. Figuring out how to do this is tricking and I have to admit I haven’t fully figured it out yet.

–   –   –

So let’s make vows and keep them, practice making them this week, make a vow to spend more time with God through intentional study of scripture. Make a vow to maintain or re initiate a friendship and allow God to work in that situation. Then be faithful to your vows and know that God will be faithful and honor your vows as well.

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries
Director/Founder

“For the Lord is Good
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
and His faithfulness to all Generations”
Psalms 100:5 

 

 The Good Discipline Series
Week #1: Good Discipline
Week #2: Good Discipline – 
Prayer
Week #3: Good Discipline – Obedience
Week #4: Good Discipline – Art
Week #5: Good Discipline – Journaling
Week #6: Good Discipline – Silence
Week #7: Good Discipline – Fasting
Week #8: Good Discipline – Vow Making
Week #9: Good Discipline – Labyrinth Walking
Week #10: Good Discipline – Meditation
Week #11: Good Discipline – Solitude
Week #12: Good Discipline – Practicing God’s Presence

Good Discipline – Fasting

FASTING: The Challenge

 

I sat at the table in a state of near panic, what had I just agreed too, could I do it. I had just told my friend Ashley I was going to give up sweets and desserts for Lent. The worst part was that she was doing the same thing and told me she’d hold me accountable to that. No candy, no cookies, no brownies, no ice-cream…how was I going to survive. I’d heard of dad trying this before, did he make it? I wasn’t sure.

So I set out to fast for 40 days and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done…or should say that I tried to do…I didn’t make it and often found myself renewing the fast.

Fasting is Biblical

The truth is that Fasting is hard but it’s also recommended, even proscribed in scripture. In Matthew 6:16-18 we find Jesus speaking on Fasting as part of the sermon on the mount. Jesus starts off by saying how not fast, to not look gloomy and down about the fact that you are fasting, he says “Truly I say to you they have received their reward” (v 17). But instead Jesus instructs that we wash our faces and go about our days like we are not fasting at all. Like Silence, fasting is something often done in secret so that we do not draw attention to ourselves. The israelites fasted on a number of occasions, including times of war, illness and humility. (See Exodus)

Now that doesn’t mean that we can’t let people know that we are fasting, but we should never boast in our fasts. In fact boasting our works is never a good thing to do (see Romans 3&4).  The point is to spend that day focusing on God, instead of what you have given up for your fast.

Christian George on Fasting

George writes to us; “Fasting returns the worship to God we offer to food. In our food saturated culture, I believe it is the single most neglected Discipline. And the most needed to, in my own limited experiences, fasting exposes my strenuous death grip on the things of this world. It’s teaching me to reevaluate my priorities, and how I spend my energy” (62).

George also points out that fasting requires us to lean more on God, in those times when we are ready to give up we really need to allow His strength to carry us through.  Fasting is also a good time to experience God’s love because it allows us to worship Him without other things that may have become idols in our lives. It also allows us to love Him back because it is something that He wants us to practice, notice Jesus starts the passage in Matthew 6 with “When you Fast.”

Fasting Beyond Food. 

Fasting doesn’t have to stop at food, it can be anything that might have become or has the potential to become one. Fasting can be from technology, it can be from listening to music (great time to practice silence). The point is that we should fast something in our lives, there’s nothing wrong with a good Facebook or Twitter fast so long as we spend that time with God. There’s a blessing to be found in turning off the cell phone for awhile and only using it for emergencies, something beautiful can be found in spending two months without Facebook like my friend Jayleene.

–    –    –

Fasting is a tough discipline, I don’t know if we can ever really master it but it is one we need. It allows us to give back what we have taken from God, to surrender out lives and our futures and the things that hold us back from our relationship with Him. To evaluate where we are with Him and how the stuff of this world might affect that relationship we have with Him.

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries
Director/Founder

“Make a Joyful Noise unto the Lord all the Earth
Serve Him with gladness
Come into His Presence with Singing”
Psalms 100:1-2 
 

The Good Discipline Series
Week #1: Good Discipline
Week #2: Good Discipline – 
Prayer
Week #3: Good Discipline – Obedience
Week #4: Good Discipline – Art
Week #5: Good Discipline – Journaling
Week #6: Good Discipline – Silence
Week #7: Good Discipline – Fasting
Week #8: Good Discipline – Vow Making
Week #9: Good Discipline – Labyrinth Walking
Week #10: Good Discipline – Meditation
Week #11: Good Discipline – Solitude
Week #12: Good Discipline – Practicing God’s Presence

Good Discipline – Silence

SILENCE: Reflecting & Listening

 

“Jonathan, I have a discipline I want you to practice…do you know what that is?” My DUS instructor said to me after class one day

I raised my eyes, then looked back at the ground, I knew exactly what it was…

“Silence”

I shared with you in my earlier blog post entitled “Discover of Noise” that I am a loud person. I enjoy noise, I have music on right now as I’m typing this article on Silence. I had spent a lot of time hearing about this discipline, even read about it in George’s book about a month earlier but it was never one I was very good at. That morning Greg challenged me to spend a week in silence, I remember walking back into my apartment and slamming my fist down on the counter, who was he to tell me to spend a week in silence.

Then I stopped and I prayed “God is you want me to do this then let me know and I’ll do it”…I didn’t like God’s answer. I decided to obey though, knowing deep down that this would be good for me, how good I didn’t know, but somehow it would be good. I made it through the first two days, but on the third I woke up extremely depressed. Now I know I couldn’t talk, so I couldn’t tell anyone, this was God’s preparation for that time in the Labyrinth that I’ve described so many times.

Silence serves two main purposes within the Christian Walk; Reflecting and Listening. These two purposes help us move closer to God and allow Him to work out the things in our lives that we are not letting Him work out as well as knowing who God is and what His will for us is in our lives.

 

Reflecting on a Holy God

Christian George writes; “The discipline of silence is a natural reaction of God’s holiness. When we get a glimpse of who God is we find that His voice is deeper than out own. His words are worth listening too” (Godology, 62).This is certainly true, Isaiah gets to see God’s holiness and glory on full display in 6:1-7 and the only thing he can say is “Woe is me, for I am lost, I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell amongst a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the Lord of Hosts” (v. 5 ESV).

Silence is humbling, as is God’s Holiness. I don’t think any of us would react differently to what Isaiah is describing if we were in the same situation. Another example would be driving through a thunderstorm, I find that the scarier the storm the quieter I tend to get, storms show us God’s power. So a few weeks ago as we were driving home from Formal I watched the sky in silence, occasionally offering something to the conversation, watching for one of the many Tornado’s we’d heard about.

In those times of silence we really get to reflect and think about God’s Holiness. It gives us a chance to think about God’s awesome power, even looking back to see God’s power in our lives. I love to sit and think back on that Labyrinth experience, think about how I encountered God on that mountain and how it has forever impacted and changed my life. I also think back to my salvation, on a cold concrete floor in Cleveland Ohio and how God has been working since then. In these times of Silence I get to really know God and His works, but I also get to listen.

 

Listening to a Holy God

Listening is really hard, especially if we need to listen to instruction or to directions, listening to God is even tougher at times because He isn’t physically manifesting Himself before us. As much as I wish we could, we don’t get that Isaiah like moment where we get to stand before the most Holy God and hear Him audibly talk to us.

Instead we have to come to a place where we have quieted our spirits, to a place where like the psalmist we can wait on the Lord (see Ps 130-131). In a world that is constantly screaming at us this kind of quieting our spirits can be even harder. We have to shut off the music, turn off the laptops, get away from our cell phones and forsake our social lives for a little while and really get away.

There’s a reason Jesus told the disciples “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6 ESV). Silence requires us to go away for a while, Jesus does this multiple times, most often coming back with some where new for His Disciples to go.

 

Coupling Silence and Prayer:

Silence and prayer are two Disciplines I believe should go together, when we pray we should be seeking, but seeking comes to fruition when we are quiet after that time. It’s so easy to pray and then get right back to our lives, but if we pray and listen than we have a better understanding of our mission and of God’s direction for our lives.

 

Why is Silence so Hard?

Christian George gives us a bit of wisdom in seeking to answer this question. He tells us; “we react to it violently sometimes, our own silence is an X-Ray machine and we don’t like what we are – Loneliness, emptiness, insecurity. We fill up the hollow moments with noise. We blast the radio, blast the TV, Phone our friends. Why? To avoid the deafening roar within.” (Godology)

We won’t but George is absolutely right on this point, Silence forces us to deal with the things that we hold back. They come to the surface and we don’t want to encounter them, like Isaiah’s sinfulness was exposed in comparison to the glory of God so are sinfulness and strongholds are brought to the surface in those times. The kneejerk reaction of course is to run as fast we can the other way; the challenge is to of course not to.

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So this is what it comes to, to sit in silence before God, reflecting and listening. This is a challenging and frightening discipline, but as I discovered at the end of my week of silence it is extremely rewarding as it allows God to draw close to us and us to draw close to Him. Once those things it exposes are worked through we will find ourselves in a much better place, a quieter place.

 

God Bless You

Jonathan Faulkner

10:31 Life Ministries