Beloved in Christ,
This month, the topic that I want to turn to as I continue to seek to describe my hopes and vision for our church is that of the spiritual life. We’ll discuss the spiritual life generally this month and turn more specifically to the practices of prayer and scripture reading in my letters to you in March and April. First, as your pastor, I want to you know that I am personally committed to an ordered spiritual life of prayer and scripture reading. But, this is something I am not only committed to for myself. Over time, I will seek to encourage similar practices in your lives as well. What do I mean by an ordered spiritual life? Essentially what I mean is spiritual practices that are regular and incorporated into the patterns of everyday life. The reality is that each of us have habits and patterns of behavior that we engage in each day, and my desire is that the most central habit and pattern of each of our lives be scripture reading and prayer. My longing is for each of us to be like the blessed man in Psalm 1, whose life is marked by delight in the words of God and has made it his practice to meditate on them regularly – because it is in communion with God that he finds life and blessing and is enabled by the Spirit to bear fruit and bless those around him.
My sense is that the key to understanding the picture of the spiritual life in Psalm 1 and elsewhere in the scriptures is in this little word: “delight.” In my own experience, I have struggled at times over the years to have a balanced and healthy spiritual life. As a young man, I sought to woodenly practice spiritual disciplines because I assumed (mostly sub-consciously) that my actions of devotion were necessary in order to secure God’s pleasure. But without delight, my spiritual habits were lifeless and difficult to sustain, leading to a cycle of failure, guilt and frequent frustration. When I more fully came to understand God’s gracious love for me in my early 20s, and how I could do nothing to earn his favor and pleasure in me as his beloved son but was able only receive his love as a gift, I cast off the perceived burden of a regular spiritual life as though it was something that stood in the way of my relationship with God (and in some ways, in the past, it had functioned as a barrier). I was free! But over time, I realized that without a regular and ordered spiritual life, something was missing in my communion with God. I was running the risk of merely relating to God in theory, discovering him in my own imaginings of who he was, wandering wherever my heart led me and hoping I would stumble on a spiritual experience to sustain me instead of looking to find him where he had always promised to reveal himself: in his word and in communion with him in prayer. And so, gradually, desire and longing drove me back into spiritual practices and disciplines, but this time, instead of guilt, I began to find delight – because I found in those practices opportunities, by the Spirit’s appointment, to experience the presence of the One whom I had always been seeking.
I don’t know where you are in your own spiritual journey in these matters. Perhaps there is something in my history which sounds familiar as you consider your own experience. Perhaps an ordered spiritual life is something that has always come easily to you. In either case, let’s talk about it. Let’s discuss these things together. My door is always open, and my desire for our congregation is that we would be a people whose lives are marked by prayer and meditation on God’s word – corporately as a gathered body on Sunday morning, in smaller groups throughout the week, and day by day in the privacy of our own spiritual lives which are hidden from everyone but God himself. And I know that that these practices do not necessarily come easily or without complication – they are indeed disciplines, and in order for us to grow in them, we need grace and help. But I am convinced that in time, if we offer ourselves to the Lord Jesus and look for him in his word and seek him in prayer, that he will in turn give us himself, and even fill us, by his Spirit, with delight.
Let’s follow him together,