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What ARE the disciplines?

January 4, 2011

I have to confess something … until June 2001, I had never heard of “spiritual disciplines.”   I’m the wife, daughter, sister, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of pastors.  I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday of most of my life.  I attended a private Christian college.  I’d even taught Bible studies.  But until  June 2001, when my dad gave me Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’d not heard one word about spiritual disciplines.

I also have to confess that it took me awhile to read the book.  With countless references to people I’d never heard of like Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, and Francois Fenelon, I honestly felt very stupid and even a little lacking.

But, one night, I began reading … really reading … and the second line of the first chapter says,

The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living and into the depths. (1)

I was hooked!  As the wife of a pastor and mother of a toddler, I needed to move to the depths … I was longing for it.  I read and underlined and re-read.  In fact, since that first reading the fall of 2001, I have read Celebration of Discipline at least once every year.

And what I found wasn’t trivial legalism or frustrating check lists.  I didn’t experience condemnation or guilt as I read.  Instead, I found centuries-old wisdom and examples of lives well lived for the cause of Christ.  As I poured over the pages and dug into the Word of God, I experienced freedom and peace and longing for more than I had experienced previously in my spiritual walk.

The disciplines are simply tools. Foster states, “The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear” (2).  As we pursue the depths of the disciple life, we find the disciplines as guides to those practices mentioned in Scripture such as fasting, prayer, worship and celebration.   Over the next few weeks we will explore the Inward Disciplines (meditation, prayer, fasting, and study), the Outward Disciplines (simplicity, submission, solitude, and service) and the Corporate Disciplines (confession, worship, guidance, and celebration).

As you join us for this month of Digging the Disciplines, we hope you will find this study challenging and inspiring.  Some of the disciplines will be familiar and some may not.  Some may be practices you have already learned and some may be challenges for you to pursue.  Regardless, our deepest longing is that as we dig into these ideas, we will all be drawn back to the Idea-Giver … the One who calls us His disciples and lovingly disciplines us and draws us near.

Will you join us?

18 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2011 7:00 am

    Count me in! Let’s get started. I’m excited about 2011.

    Thanks for all the Scripture Dig team does to encourage others.

  2. Lisa V. permalink
    January 4, 2011 8:05 am

    I’m so eager to follow Scripture Dig as you explore the spiritual disciplines. I’ve had that Foster book on my To Read list for over a year just waiting for the right time. Your study into this I know will spur me on to dig into the book very soon.

  3. Leigh permalink
    January 4, 2011 8:46 am

    I have started Foster’s book before, but I’d love to get into it and really pull it apart! I’m with you!

  4. January 4, 2011 9:07 am

    I have that book and have started with it but laid it down for some reason or another. I need to find it and read it again as we go through these here. Thank you for this timely reminder!

  5. January 4, 2011 9:48 am

    I’ve practiced the Spiritual Disciplines for years (on and off) without knowing what they were. I even took a course in college called “Spiritual Formation” in which we studied the Spiritual Disciplines. But it wasn’t until this past spring when I took two classes simultaneously for my MA that I truly understood what the Spiritual Disciplines are and why they are so important for our growth in grace.

    If I was going to recommend a book on the Spiritual Disciplines, I would highly recommend Dallas Willard’s “The Spirit of the Disciplines” {link to book on Amazon: }. I found this book much easier to read and digest than the Foster book mentioned above (though that is another good book on the Disciplines).

    I am very excited about your study of the Disciplines this month!

    • January 4, 2011 10:40 am

      I like the the Willard book also. He is one of my favorite authors.

    • January 4, 2011 11:06 am

      Another great read is “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” by Donald Whitney.

      • Robin permalink
        January 4, 2011 11:57 am

        Dr. Whitney’s was the one I read. I look forward to reading Willard’s and Foster’s.

  6. January 4, 2011 12:39 pm

    This line really strikes me: “Foster states, ‘The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.'” Selfishness and fear truly are stifling. And focusing on God and willingly being trained by Him are so freeing!

    I’m looking forward to great discipline this month! (And now I have three more book recommendations!)

  7. January 4, 2011 2:17 pm

    Looking forward to joining in and learning. Thanks

  8. January 4, 2011 8:00 pm

    It’s funny, surface living is really so very tiring. It is only when we dive into the deep that we find refreshment for our souls!

    Looks like another great month at The Dig!

  9. January 5, 2011 12:58 pm

    I’m so happy I pumped into your site. Looking forward to being part of this and learning about the Spiritual Disciplines.

  10. January 5, 2011 5:39 pm

    Thank you, Im really looking forward to this series, when I saw the word disciplines I had no idea what they were either !
    Thank you for the blessing of scripture dig!


  1. What ARE the disciplines?

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