Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney

"Commenting on the difference between the disciplined and the undisciplined way, he wrote, Nothing was ever achieved without discipline; and many an athlete and many a man has been ruined because he abandoned discipline and let himself grow slack. 

Coleridge is the supreme tragedy of indiscipline. Never did so great a mind produce so little. He left Cambridge University to join the army; but he left the army; he returned to Oxford and left without a degree. 

He began a paper called The Watchman which lived for ten numbers and then died. It has been said of him: "He lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done. Coleridge had every poetic gift but one—the gift of sustained and concentrated effort." 

In his head and in his mind he had all kinds of books. But the books were never composed outside Coleridge's mind, because he would not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out. 

No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline." 

from "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life" by Donald S. Whitney

Dualism in the Christian Era, by John D. Beckett

From "Loving Monday," by John D. Beckett

The Greeks couldn't get away from the concept of "dualism"—the idea of higher and lower planes of ideas and activities. 
 
Plato was the clearest on this. He sought to identify unchanging universal truths, placing them in the higher of two distinct realms. 
 
This upper level he called "form," consisting of eternal ideas. The lower level he called "matter." This lower realm was temporal and physical. Plato's primary interest lay in the higher form. He deemed it superior to the temporary and imperfect world of matter. 
 
The rub comes when we see where Plato placed work and occupations. Where, indeed? In the lower realm.
 
Nearly a thousand years later, in the fifth century A.D., Augustine sought to merge Platonic thought into a Christian framework. This approach resulted in a distinction between "contemplative life" and "active life"—the same distinction between higher and lower, but with different names. 
 
The higher of these realms came to be equated with church-related concerns that were considered sacred, such as Bible study, preaching and evangelism. 
 
Other things were secular, common, lacking in nobility. 
 
Where did Augustine place work and occupations? As with Plato before him, in the lower realm. 

Thomas Aquinas, in the thirteenth century, furthered this derogatory notion of work as he perpetuated the dualism of Greek thinking. He also categorized life into two realms, which he called Grace and Nature. Revelation, which gave understanding to theology and church matters, operated in the upper realm of Grace. 

In the lower realm of Nature, man's "natural" intellect stood squarely on its own. Business and occupations, operating in the lower realm, didn't require revelation. 

According to Aquinas, they survived quite well on a diet of human intellect and reasoned judgment. 

Now we bring this dichotomy up to the present. Francis Schaeffer, one of the modern era's greatest thinkers, wrote on the more recent impact of dualistic thinking. In A Christian Manifesto, he speaks of the flawed view of Christianity advanced through the Pietist movement in the seventeenth century. 

Pietism began as a healthy protest against formalism and a too abstract Christianity. But it had a deficient, 'platonic' spirituality. It was platonic in the sense that Pietism made a sharp division between the 'spiritual' and the 'material' world—giving little, or no, importance to the 'material' world. 

The totality of human existence was not afforded a proper place. Christianity and spirituality were shut up to a small, isolated part of life. 

The result of such a view is that the activity of work is removed from the sacred realm and placed squarely in the secular—making it "impossible" to serve God by being a man or woman in business. 

To me, this is a startling revelation! 

Now here's a question for you. Has this view affected you, as it has me? Second-Class? 

I can now see that the perspective of the Greeks, established so many years ago, continues alive and well to the present day, influencing and distorting our perception of work. 

For years, I thought my involvement in business was a second-class endeavor—necessary to put bread on the table, but somehow less noble than more sacred pursuits like being a minister or a missionary. 

The clear impression was that to truly serve God, one must leave business and go into "full-time Christian service." Over the years, I have met countless other business people who feel the same way. 

The reason is clear: Our culture is thoroughly saturated with dualism. In this view, business and most occupations are relegated to the lower, the worldly, the material realm. As such they are perceived to lack dignity, spirituality, intrinsic worth, and the nobility of purpose they deserve. 

Schaeffer, looking back over the legacy of nearly three millennia of Greek thought, proposes this radically different view of true spirituality: It is not only that true spirituality covers all of life, but it covers all parts of the spectrum of life equally. In this sense there is nothing concerning reality that is not spiritual. 

Indeed, there is a dramatically different way to view the world and our work—a view that liberated me to see business as a high calling. But to find this view, I had to look through a different window. 

This text is from "Loving Monday," by John D. Beckett, pages 67-69

Practicing What He Preaches

My pastor Brian Henson, St. Patrick Church in Cedar Park, Texas, sent this out recently and gave me permission to share.

-------------------------------

Friends,

Last week, I was having lunch with a buddy (I'll call him Bob)--a local businessman I met through a civic activity. Bob grew up around here, but hasn't had a lot of exposure to the church or Christianity. For the first thirty minutes or so of our time together, Bob shared with me some difficulties he has been having at work--mostly related to a couple of bad client interactions, and problems with employees. I responded by listening, and then offering a couple of suggestions. We then discussed some of the business connections I've helped him establish in the community (he's a gifted businessman, but not the best networker). Bob told me how helpful those contacts have been, and as he was considering the comments I had made about his work, I saw a quizzical look come across his face. He slowly began--as though he was searching for the right phrases to string together--one at a time: "So...you're a...pastor...and you...do that...full-time?" "Yes," I responded, but I knew where this was going, so I continued: "The local business community is sort of my niche, and I spend a lot of time helping guys think through their businesses, and praying for them, and talking to them about Jesus, like I'm doing with you now."

That led into a discussion about Christianity and the nature of the gospel. I explained to him the often-made (and remarkably helpful) distinction that, whereas all other belief systems are fundamentally advice (do this, do that, and you can have a good life), the gospel is news (this is what has been done for you by Jesus...trust in him). One is a message of self-improvement, one is a message of rescue. And as we talked, and he shared some of the darker things from his life, I said, "See man! You're perfect for Christianity--it's the only faith for losers like us!"  We both laughed, and I was able to elaborate on the fact that since Christianity is about God's grace, that who we are is no obstacle to his power to rescue us. He shared with me some more of his questions, and after giving brief answers, I offered to carry on the discussion another time (since it was getting late), and offered to get him a couple of books to help him think through our discussion, "If you'll read them," I added. He said he would, so I bought him The Reason for God, by Tim Keller, and Cold-Case Christianity, by J. Warner Wallace. I gave them to him on Friday night, so we'll see where things go from here.  Lord willing, he is doing something in Bob's heart. 


Grace & Peace,
Brian (on behalf of Erika and Joaquin)


-----------------------------

Brian spends a great deal of his time in the workplace, networking, having one-to-one meetings and going to luncheons and other events. I met him at a Chamber luncheon, see him in workplace settings weekly. He's on-the-streets, practicing Christianity.

To that end.......

You Need a Vision, by Tim Hetzner

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

If your vision in life is to become as rich as possible, hoard every penny you make, and indulge your every whim - your vision is not from God. 

But if your vision is to succeed, use your success to bless others, and fulfil the purposes of God in the earth, your vision is from God. When God called Abraham, He promised him three things: 'I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing [to others]' (Genesis 12:2). 

Understand this: every worthy vision comes from God whether or not it's related to so-called 'spiritual' matters, and whether or not the person with the vision realizes the source of their vision. 

The Bible says, 'Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.' We tend to compartmentalize our lives, to view God as having influence and relevance when it comes to 'spiritual' visions, missions, and goals, but little relationship to 'secular' visions, missions, and goals. St Augustine said, 'Let every Christian understand that wherever truth is found, it belongs to his master.' God is the fountain of all truth, and the source of all worthy visions. And since He gave you your vision you must pour yourself into it every day. The psalmist said, 'Let the LORD be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity [success] of His servant' (Psalm 35:27). 

With God as your partner you must expect to succeed - and you will!

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your vision for my life – help me prosper in it for You and others You would want me to serve. In Jesus' Name, Amen

The above devotion was written/compiled from multiple sources by Tim Hetzner, President of Lutheran Church Charities and author of WORD Bible Studies. 

LIVING ABOVE LIFE'S CIRCUMSTANCES, by Neil Anderson

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am
 
Some of us tend to assume that it is God's will if the circumstances are favorable and it isn't God's will if the circumstances are unfavorable. Next to the Bible, I would guess that more Christians are "guided" by this means than any other. Yet of all the possible means of guidance, this is the least authoritative and trustworthy.
 
I had the privilege of pastoring a church that purchased new property and went through a building program. Through most of the process the circumstances didn't seem favorable. Twice I sat with the mayor, who was also a local real estate agent, and asked him if he thought our plans were feasible. He advised us not to make the land trade, and he didn't think the city would allow us to build. He knew the real estate and the political climate better than anyone in the city. But the land swap increased our assets by millions and the city planning commission voted 7-0 in favor of our building plans.
 
You may have to set sail by the tide, but you'd better be guided by the stars or you're going to end up on the wrong shore. Circumstances may have their effect on your plans, but you have a far greater accountability to God. Make sure you follow Him, not the tide of circumstances.
 
I heard a motivational speaker say, "I don't like to recruit Christians because when the going gets tough they quit, concluding that it must not be God's will." Generally speaking, I believe that Christians should live above life's circumstances and not be guided by them.
 
Also be careful about applying too much significance to unusual circumstances or coincidences. "It must be God's will. Why else would that book by lying there!" It could be God's will, but I would never take that kind of a sign on its own merit. I have helped many people in occultic bondage who have made bizarre associations or attached far too much significance to irrelevant events.
 
Prayer: Lord, I determine to test all guidance by Your Word and not to be swayed away from Your will by circumstances or popular opinion.
My first encounter with author Jordan Raynor this morning via Edward Reed's Facebook post. Click to Pre-Order Raynor's new book Called to Create.

Devotional: C.S. Lewis And The Call To Create

Author: Jordan Raynor

How Lewis Created

“What I owe to [the Inklings] is incalculable. Is there any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” - C. S. Lewis

As we’ve seen modeled in the life of C. S. Lewis, reimagining our work as a calling from God changes our motivations for creating and the products we choose to create. As we’ll see today, following God’s call to create also changes how we create.

The Bible offers a tremendous amount of insight into how we as Christians should work: We should work with excellence, integrity, diligence, and graciousness. But what’s often overlooked is the need to create in community with other believers. For those of us who choose to follow the call to create, we must surround ourselves with fellow Christian creators who can help “renew our minds” (Romans 12:2) with eternal perspective as we create.

Again, C. S. Lewis provides a model for what this looks like. During the 1930s and 1940s, Oxford was home to some of the world’s greatest Christian minds, including Charles Williams, Hugo Dyson, Owen Barfield, and most famously, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and his brother Warnie Lewis. This group of friends, known simply as the Inklings, shared a love of the Lord and literature, each of them following God’s call to create through their writings. But they did not create in isolation. For nearly two decades, the group met on a near-weekly basis to read aloud their latest writings, get feedback from the other members of the group, drink a pint of beer, and help renew each other’s minds with regards to their Christian faith.

Without constant communion with other believers to refresh their eternal perspectives, Tolkien may have never completed The Lord of the Rings and Lewis may have never finished The Chronicles of Narnia. Like these creators before us, we need regular communion with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to renew our minds and refresh the lenses through which we view the world as we create.

If our work is to feel like a vocation—a true calling on our lives—we must be willing to follow the example of C. S. Lewis and reimagine our work as service to God and others. When we do, we will find the lordship of the True Aslan, Jesus Christ, changing our motivations for creating, the products we choose to create, and how we go about creating them, in community with others following the call to create.

Author: Jordan Raynor / Called to Create

A Christian's Happiness

A Christian's Happiness

http://subspla.sh/c7427ad

A Christian's Happiness
Dr. Timothy Keller
View


Danny L. Smith, CMPS
512-773-6528

Two Commissions

God gave us two commissions.

1. Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living."

2. Matthew 28:18-20 “Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Why did I say....


.....Matt Perman's book "What's Best Next" might be the best book on the Theology of Work I've read yet?

Two of many reasons are 

- God wants us to be productive 
- God created us to be creative

And this book helps one think into that agenda.



Maybe the best book, 2nd best, on the Theology of Work yet

This might, might, be the best book on the Theology of Work I've read yet...here's an insert from the What's Best Next blog -
If You Only take 5 Productivity Practices Away from This Book

Learning and especially implementing productivity practices can be hard. It is easy to forget what we learned or forget how to apply it. One remedy is to keep coming back to this book (of course!). But to make this as simple as possible, if you can only take away 5 things from this book, they should be these: 
 
Foundation: Look to God, in Jesus Christ, for your purpose, security, and guidance in all of life.

Purpose: Give your whole self to God (Romans 12:1-2), and then live for the good of others to his glory to show that he is great in the world.

I've read the book twice and will continue to gain nuggets for a long time to come.

Guiding Principle: Love your neighbor as yourself. Treat others the way you want them to treat you. Be proactive in this and even make plans to do good.


Core Strategy: Know what’s most important and put it first.

Core Tactic: Plan your week, every week! Then, as things come up throughout the day, ask “is this what’s best next?” Then, either do that right away or, if you can’t, slot it in to your calendar or action list that you are confident you will refer back to at the right time.


To that end......



A baby's hug

A story from an unknown author -

"We were the only family with children in the restaurant.

I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, 'Hi.' He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter.

And his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.


I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists.

This was Christmas time and we were eating before going next to the mall for Erik to see Santa. Frankly, it was annoying for Erik to be so interested in this man across the room.

'Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,' the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, 'What do we do?'

Erik continued to laugh and answer, 'Hi.' Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The Old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby.

Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, 'Do ya patty Cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo.' Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed.

We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his Repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments. We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot.

The old man sat poised between me and the door.

'Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,' I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's 'pick-me-up' position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes.

His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a Time. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, 'you take care of this baby.' Somehow I managed, 'I will,' from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, 'God bless you, ma'am, you've given me My Holiday gift.' I said nothing more than a muttered thanks.

With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was Crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, 'My God, my God, Forgive me.' I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a tiny Child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not.

I felt it was God asking, 'Are you willing to share your son for a moment?'

When He shared His for all eternity."


Merry Christmas and may we all remember the purpose of this season....

The birth of Jesus, the Savior of those who believe He died for their sins. 

Blessings,