Monday, January 21, 2008

Ready to Learn (The Simple Life)

"Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying..."

Jesus served in the role of rabbi in his Jewish culture. Rabbi means "great one" or "teacher"; Jesus is most definitely the supreme fulfillment of both of these titles! A rabbi called to himself a handful of disciples or "learners" who would follow him for a season, setting aside other interests or commitments in order to learn from the teacher. For this group of disciples, daily life would become a classroom in which they learned spiritual truths as the rabbi lead and taught them on a continual basis.

A rabbi would sometimes draw a crowd interested in hearing his presentation of truth. When the teacher wanted to address a large crowd, he would find a location where the large number of people could see and hear him well. As a signal that official teaching was about to begin, he would sit down. This was a more formal method of presenting truth than the "live and learn from me" format in which his closest disciples engaged. This is the model we see in "The Sermon on the Mount."

As disciples taught by the Holy Spirit, we experience both teaching environments: the classroom of life and the formal teaching time. As we walk through our daily routines we need to practice the presence of God, listening to the Holy Spirit, having "eyes to see and ears to hear" in every situation so as to glean the truth of God in the classroom of the normal. However, we also need to make an effort to approach Jesus in a formal sense, to seek him out for the purpose of putting aside the mundane duties of life to sit and listen to what the teacher has to say.

When Jesus saw the crowd forming to hear from him, when he became aware that the people were ready to learn, he sat down and began teaching. Today Jesus is looking for those who would seek him out as a rabbi, those who would gather at his feet and give him undivided attention. What can I do to show Christ that I want to learn from him? How can I posture myself so Jesus will "open his mouth" and teach me?

Some type of formal time with Jesus is necessary for the simple life to flourish. What should it look like? This formal teaching time has been referred to in the Christian community as "quiet time." However, this moniker carries connotations of quickie, tip-of-the-hat devotional readings and prayers that don't really posture us well to receive from Christ. Here are some suggestions I offer from my own struggle to develop this discipline in my life:

1) Make a daily appointment.
Like the children of Israel gathering manna every morning, we must gather fresh strength and truth from Christ on a daily basis. We cannot go for days without posturing ourselves to learn from God and expect our spiritual lives to be fresh and growing; we will become rotten and full of worms!

2) Find an environment that you enjoy that is free of distractions.
What is your favorite alone spot? I vacillate between the table in my backyard (during warmer times of the year) and the counter in my kitchen. My recliner does not lend itself well to a learning posture; it's more specifically designed for a sleeping posture!

3) Choose disciplines to practice.
Try different disciplines in different seasons - solitude, fasting, journaling, silence, worship, study, meditation, etc. Find a good book on spiritual disciplines and experiment. Incorporate the practice of a discipline in your time with God. Some disciplines may become regular elements in your time with God (I journal almost continually), while others will gain your attention for a while only to fade off for months and return to the surface at a later date.

4) Pray.
Regardless of which disciplines we are experimenting with, we must pray at all times. Prayer is less of a spiritual discipline and more of a survival tool! We must be in constant dialogue with God. Talk to him! However, don't forget that prayer is as much about using your spiritual ears as it is your mouth!

5) Change it up.
If your time with God becomes uninteresting or less fruitful, try something different. Read from a section of the Bible that you don't frequently go to. Find a new location for your learning time. Try a different time of day. Change your routine; if you normally start with prayer, begin instead with journaling or worship.

Matthew 5:1-2


Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge

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