DSG | Discipleship Study Guide | Vineyard Boise

Spiritual Disciplines

Dew of Hermon | Psalm 133

disciplines logo_3FRIDAY        

The Dew of Hermon                                                                                       Reflection 35 of 35

Reflect
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.  Psalm 133 ESV

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“In the Christian community, thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ…Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so to the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases. Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Relate
How often do you find yourself being thankful for your church, your small group, your friends? How often do you find yourself complaining about them and wishing they were different? How can we find healthy rhythms of gratitude in our relationships with others?

Respond
Pray
Lord, thank you for those you among whom you have planted me in this life. Give me the grace to bloom right here, right now – and keep me far from bitter roots of discontent and resentment.

Practice
If you don’t have a small group to connect with, try finding one. If you do, don’t miss your next meeting. And when you go, take a moment to really see each face in that circle and be thankful for it.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Spur Each Other On | Hebrews 10:19-25

disciplines logo_3THURSDAY
Reflection 34 of 35

Reflect
So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:19-25  MSG

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“When one is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure. And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation….Yet a Christian community does not consist solely of preachers of the Word. We can go monstrously wrong here if we overlook a number of other things. The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Relate
What do you find more challenging in community life: speaking up when you have something to say, or keeping quiet even when you feel like you have to say something? Why?

Respond
Pray
Lord, work the counsel of James deep into my bones: “Let every soul be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Give me ears to hear and a heart that senses when to speak and when to be silent when I’m with others.

Practice
If you seldom say anything when you’re with others, try speaking up. If you are always the one talking, surprise everyone (and yourself) and listen instead. See what happens.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Large and Integrated Life | 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

disciplines logo_3WEDNESDAY
Reflection 33 of 35

Reflect
You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.  1 Corinthians 12:12-13 MSG

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“In a Christian community everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain. Only when even the smallest link is securely interlocked is the chain unbreakable. A community, which allows unemployed members to exist within it, will perish because of them. It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that he may know in hours of doubt that he, too, is not useless and unusable. Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship. Not self-justification, which means the use of domination and force, but justification by grace, and therefore service, should govern the Christian community. Once a man has experienced the mercy of God in his life he will henceforth aspire only to serve. The proud throne of the judge no longer lures him; he wants to be down below with the lowly and the needy, because that is where God found him…Because the Christian can no longer fancy that he is wise he will also have no high opinion of his own schemes and plans. He will know that it is good for his own will to be broken in the encounter with his neighbor.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Relate
How connected do you feel in the body of Christ, both on the larger scale of the church and on the more intimate level of small group life? What can enhance and deepen this connection?

Respond
Pray
Lord, the enemy of my soul seeks to “kill, steal, and destroy” and to isolate. Break me out of unhealthy patterns of isolation. Liberate me into vibrant, functioning connections in the body of Christ.

Practice
Try volunteering in a ministry in the local church that will connect you with some new faces. See what happens.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Life Together | Acts 2:41-47

disciplines logo_3TUESDAY
Reflection 32 of 35

Reflect
That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.  Acts 2:41-47  MSG

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“Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all of its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community, which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial…. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Relate
What is your dream for Christian community (or just community in general)? How does that dream compare with the reality you have experienced? How does it compare with what we read in Acts 2? How do Bonhoeffer’s thoughts challenge you when it comes to your dream of community?

Respond
Pray
Lord, remind me today that where “two or three are gathered in your name,” you are there. Help me not to get caught up in the shortcomings and flaws of community, nor to be content with them; give me eyes to see you there and to embrace, to receive each in community as you have placed them there.

Practice
At the next church service you attend, practice being aware of the people around you. Pray for divine eyes to see as God sees. Look for opportunities where he would have you connect.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Connect | Mark 3:13-19

disciplines logo_3MONDAY
Reflection 31 of 35

Reflect
He climbed a mountain and invited those he wanted with him. They climbed together. He settled on twelve, and designated them apostles. The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out to proclaim the Word and give them authority to banish demons. These are the Twelve:

Simon (Jesus later named him Peter, meaning “Rock”),
James, son of Zebedee, John, brother of James (Jesus nicknamed the Zebedee brothers Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder”),
Andrew,
Philip,
Bartholomew,
Matthew,
Thomas,
James, son of Alphaeus,
Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite,
and Judas Iscariot – who betrayed him.  Mark 3:13-19  MSG

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“Only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only he that is alone can live in the fellowship. Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship. It is not as though the one preceded the other; both begin at the same time, namely, with the call of Jesus Christ. Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair. Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together   

Life Together is a classic, brief, 122 page exploration and discussion written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and published as Gemeinsames Leben in 1938. It’s a book that flowed from his experience of Christian community when he shared a common life in emergency built houses with 25 vicars. There is little dreamy idealism to be found in its pages of Utopian Christian fellowship and what it should look like. It’s a exploration of the reality of it, its rhythms, its ebbs and its flows. The call to Christian community, to embrace the practice of connection and fellowship, ultimately emanates from the life practice of Jesus himself. Jesus knew how to stay out in solitary places; he also deliberately chose twelve men in whose company he literally spent his life. First and foremost he chose these men to be with him; secondarily he chose them so he could later send them out into the wide world of kingdom work. In our final week of reflections on the spiritual disciplines as we focus on the spiritual practice of community, I’m going to step back and allow Scripture and the words of Bonhoeffer in Life Together to speak to us, to lead us into healthy paths and practices of connecting with each other in dynamic, life-giving, face-to-face encounters. 

Relate
Do you find yourself more frequently drawn to be around other people or to be alone? Why? What are some of the benefits you have experienced from being with others in community?

Respond
Pray
Lord, work into me healthy rhythms of being by myself and being with others. Keep me from the pitfalls and perils of each. Show me how to be alone and away from the constant noise of company and show me how (and where and when!) to step out of my solitude into companionship with others.

Practice
Look for an opportunity to take a leisurely walk with a friend this week with the simple agenda of enjoying each other and your time together.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Fast Day | Isaiah 58:6-9

disciplines logo_3FRIDAY
Reflection 30 of 35

Reflect
This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’   Isaiah 58:6-9 MSG

ReceiveLEAVE_practices
Not only is there a performance trap when it comes to the spiritual disciplines, there’s a huge me trap. There is a huge danger of any spiritual practice drifting into malignant ruts of self-righteous self-absorption. And so our Israelite ancestors  fasted right on schedule – looking for the divine reward points to be credited to them as they continued stepping on their neighbors (who were no doubt interfering with their fasting). But fasting that doesn’t issue in compassion is a waste of body and spirit. You might as well eat the cheeseburger. Solitude that doesn’t lead us into being more compassionately present with others is only to exquisitely miss the whole point in a self-indulgent exercise. We should have stayed in the “prayer bunker” just a little longer. Silence that doesn’t produce more sensitive, healing communication would be better off permanent. Isaiah’s cry in the midst of our spiritual disciplines is a much needed, ongoing reminder that none of these practices is about me. Humility, generosity, kindness – these are all well beyond our reach; unlike our natural tendencies to self-absorption and self-promotion. Going without a meal, seeking solitude in an out of the way place, putting away the iPod, these are all within our reach. But the why is crucial. It really isn’t about me. It’s about me getting to a place where I can be reminded of who He is, of who I am in him, and thus who you are as I encounter you. And then maybe, just maybe, I can experience that encounter with you and with life more from an inner context of divine grace rather than the meanness that comes more naturally to us all.

Relate
How is God challenging you through this week’s reflections to leave? How will you respond to his call?

Respond
Pray
Lord, show me how to keep a true, healthy fast in my life! Deliver me from ruts of self-righteousness and self-absorption. Deliver me from my own meanness of spirit. Enlarge my heart even as I leave food and company to more deeply enter into your company and into the company of your graces.

Practice
Perhaps a more ambitious step. Try forgoing eating out for a week. Take the money you would have spent and give it to someone in need.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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My Soul Is Bereft | Psalm 35:11-14

disciplines logo_3THURSDAY
Reflection 29 of 35

Reflect

Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.
But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning.  Psalm 35:11-14 ESV

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Scot McKnight observes that fasting is one of prayer’s companions. In this psalm, David tells of his response to opponents’ illness and misfortune. He didn’t gloat. He got busy praying for them, joining the prayer with fasting. Too often for us prayer is but a mental activity divorced from the body except to the extent that our lips are involved uttering words. Biblically speaking, prayer was typically a whole body experience. John Goldingay in writing about this psalm observes that David’s sadness was not fully bloomed until the body – in this case, fasting – was involved: “The psalm assumes that merely to feel sadness is not enough; because we are physical creatures and not just minds and spirits, it would be odd not to express sorrow in abstaining from food and then afflicting one’s spirit and one’s self.” Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Just how we might be transformed in how we internally and externally relate to those who are less than affable towards us (aka our enemies) if we, rather than grinding our teeth and venting our spleen on Facebook about them, fasted over them instead. We often comment on how utterly beyond our reach it is to “love your enemies.” Yes, totally beyond reach. Leaving the table for them, leaving off a meal to pray for them? Very much within our reach. And the unexpected windows of grace and generosity that could open up from within us towards them… The unanticipated vistas of grace and divine generosity it could open up to us…

Relate
What do you think about this notion of fasting over those on your “less than favorite people” list? Who has been “under your skin” recently that you can fast over sometime this week?

Respond
Pray
Lord, cool the embers of suppressed anger in my heart as I feed my enemy when he is hungry and fast for my enemy when she is suffering. Yes, lead me into those rhythms of your divine mercies. Through Jesus.

Practice
You probably knew this one was coming. But here it is. Identify someone who has wronged / annoyed / hurt you. Now skip a meal for them and devote that time to being with the Lord for them. Try it. (And this is crucial: don’t tell them. It just wouldn’t come out right.)

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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