Right? We’ve talked over the past few weeks about the challenges of returning to the matrix, the life many people call “the real world.” It’s important to remember the learning from the Outpost and cling to the truth when the fog shrouds the path.
Immediately after Neo takes the red pill, he wakes up in a hostile world. His body is unprepared for the challenges before him. It takes time for his mind to grasp his new reality.
How would you perform if the Panthers pulled you from the stands in the 4th quarter to lead the team to a victory?
What outcome awaits you if the flight attendants pushed you into the pilot’s seat to take his place to land the plane?
What happens if you jumped out of a plane over France in World War II with nothing but your parachute—no boots, no rifle, no map?
As well as we try to prepare you for life after the Outpost, there’s always more. More to learn, more to discover. And also more to fight.
We’re adding a new segment this week, titled “Battle Plans.” I recently started reading The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare. When I opened the box from Amazon, discouragement settled in as I lifted the heavy tome. Sixty-four chapters. Five hundred thirty-eight pages. As I sighed and wondered how I would get through it, I heard a voice. “Did you think spiritual warfare would be easy?”
Each week, I’ll write up my Cliff Notes version of the chapter, and provide a verse for meditation and memorization. Understanding the truth of the battle will equip you when the enemy arrives. So you can have your weapons loaded and ready, and your battle buddies ready to stand beside you.
The struggle is real……Are you ready?
Knowing the Path
Discipline should be a four-letter word.
For many of us, the word is accompanied with flashbacks to spankings and switches. As a parent, it’s one of my least favorite duties (right behind diaper changing). I’m cringing even now thinking of times when I had to be on the giving or receiving end of discipline.
This attitude is problematic when we discuss the spiritual disciplines. If the d-word leaves such a bad taste, why would I want to do it? It sounds awful.
Is it sleeping on a bed of nails?
Whipping myself if I ate an extra helping of dessert?
Living like a monk?
Actually plucking out the offensive body part?
No thanks. I’ll just Netflix and chill tonight.
Those visions of discipline thwart us from discovering the true meaning and power of these practices. Think of discipline another way.
Going to F3 at zero-dark-thirty to get in shape.
An Olympian training to win the golf medal.
The farmer cultivating his field every day.
A mountain climber planning his route to summit his next peak.
Staying late at work to get the job done.
Below is listed Bible verses for further study on the topic of spiritual disciplines, but I hope it’s obvious that if we want to be prepared to walk the path, it will take a little bit more than just showing up. We’ve got strengthen our hearts and train for battle.
You wouldn’t race Usain Bolt without training.
You wouldn’t fight ISIS without knowing how your weapon works.
Spiritual disciplines are not legalistic formulas for us to use. “Just follow these six easy steps for knowing God more.” Instead of trying to walk in our own power and determination, we pursue deeper intimacy and relationship with God.
Compare the process of spiritual disciplines to how a farmer tends his fields with this analogy from Richard Foster:
“A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain. This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines—they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. The Disciplines are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where He can work within us and transform us. By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done... (They are) the means by which we place ourselves where He can bless us.”
The spiritual disciplines cultivate our hearts and make us receptive to allow the power of God to change us. Grow us. Make us more like Him.
I want to offer a warning as we begin this study. The spiritual disciplines are a way for us to know God more. If you turn them into a system of laws, your path will turn into a way of death where you only find pride and fear. Compare it to your relationship with your wife—would she rather you empty the dishwasher as an outpouring of your love for her, or with a sigh and burdened spirit because that’s what you are supposed to do?
As we dive into this topic for the next few weeks, let us find the joy and freedom resulting from a deeper relationship and intimacy with our Father.
For further study: Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline) and Dallas Willard (The Spirit of the Disciplines) wrote these books on the how, what, and why of the spiritual disciplines and their place in our lives. I will be ruthlessly stealing from those books to guide our study for the next few weeks. If this topic interests you, I encourage you to read these books, as well as a recent series on the Art of Manliness website (http://www.artofmanliness.com/2017/09/04/introduction-spiritual-disciplines/).
The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare begins with a story the author experienced within his family. I experienced a similar story in Uganda, and wrote it in my journal (names have been changed for privacy). I was sitting by a fire pit at the safari lodge, enjoying a last night cigar with my wife and Tom, a physician who joined us on that trip. We were relaxed, sharing stories and laughing when a sudden noise behind us brought everything to a complete stop.
Ruth, our guide for the trip, was standing on the patio behind us, making a noise I can only describe as “zombie-like.” Her eyes were rolled back in her head, and tears streamed down her face as she shuffled toward us. We raced to her side, holding her hands, asking her what was wrong. She could no nothing more than shake her head as we guided her to the seats we recently vacated. This was not normal.
I was overwhelmed with the belief a spiritual enemy was at work and placed my left hand on her right shoulder and my right hand over her heart as I prayed. “This is a daughter of the King, bought with His blood. You have no space here. You have no authority here. I send you to the judgment seat by the power, authority and name of Jesus!”
After several minutes of continued prayer, Ruth gagged and I jumped back to avoid the vomit I thought was coming. Instead, her body went limp, and I checked her pulse, worried she had died. I breathed a sigh of relief as I felt her pulse, and watched her chest rise and fall as she breathed.
She regained consciousness over the next few minutes, and began telling us what happened. She had been lying in bed and had a dream where something terrible had happened to her husband. She awoke terrified, her heart racing. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t speak. The only thing she could do was shuffle out to find us.
Worldviews clash when discussing spiritual warfare. In our scientific, logic-based world, the supernatural realm is dismissed. Things don’t always make sense. But the Bible describes a world with an active spiritual realm, and a battle goes on for your heart.
“Demons flow were abuse flows.” Abuse, sex slaves, and human trafficking are increasing in their abundance. Yet, in many Western churches, demonic activity is minimized or dismissed. People know something is wrong, but they can’t figure out why because the reason doesn’t fit their way of looking at the world.
We will continue to walk through this book as a manual to understand the battle we face. Spiritual warfare brings us complex questions with no simple answers (like I said, sixty-four chapters, over 500 pages). I hope that you will find some answers as we study this crucial topic.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:7
Walking the Path
What thoughts come to mind from the term “spiritual discipline?”
What spiritual disciplines have you used in the past? What was the experience like?
Read the verses listed (1 Cor 9:24-27, Phi 3:12-14, 1 Tim 4:7-8, Heb 5:14, Rom 12:2). What stands out to you as you read them?
What was your response to Paul's story in "Battle Plans?"
What connections did you make between the two sections (spiritual disciplines and spiritual warfare)?
Memorize 2 Timothy 1:7 this week: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.”