Instead of moving into the next chapter on the shared meal, I thought it might be a good time for DESSERT: to REVIEW the notion and nature of the Christian practices, and give you some discussion questions to think and pray through.
Christians are in training, actively practicing particular behaviors that lead to a mature faith and Christlike attitude. Training takes intention-we need to plan it into our hours and days. It takes submission, obedience, and sacrifice. More than anything else, our training takes time. When our life is already too crowded with a full schedule, we must learn to discern where and how our time is being misspent-as individuals and as a family. We don’t “make time” for the disciplines and practices; only God makes time. Instead, we shift our attitude and priorities. We whittle down here, plan better there. But mostly, we give our time to the Lord and ask him to help us use our waking hours in ways that honor him.
We have seen how our individual attention to the spiritual disciplines and our shared participation in the Christian practices forms us in our faith into the holy living to which we are called. They strengthen us to live in a world that is not our final home, to share Christ’s gospel with joy, and to serve God and neighbor out of a delighted obedience. This is a humbling yet energizing way to live one’s life in sacrifice, thanksgiving, and hope. Not a life that is all about “me” but one that is focused intentionally on the believing community of “we”.
The early Church that formed out of persecution and dispersal in the first century was marked by the things believers had and did in common. In our hyper-individualized society, it is difficult for us to comprehend the necessity and power of such communal or shared practices. Those historic Christian practices formed the essence of our shared practices today, particularly those of worship, prayer, and Holy Communion. Still, other practices, like that of the shared meal among believers, are no longer a regular part of our life in common.
- The thesis of this chapter is that growing in your Christian faith requires sustained practice. List here some individual spiritual disciplines you do now to grow in your faith. What do you like about each one? What makes it hard to do them consistently? What discipline do you NOT do now that you would like to incorporate into your daily walk? Why?
- Discuss the nature of the spiritual disciplines and the Christian practices. How are they alike? How are they different?
- Life often goes too fast, and we begin to feel as if we are running aimlessly on a treadmill going nowhere. How can attention to the disciplines and practices give you a new sense of purpose and direction and peace?
- If your life is simply too crazy-busy, take some moments to ask why. List here those things that take up most of your day/week. Is there anything you and/or your family consistently do that could be put aside? Done differently? Ask yourself what you do, then ask yourself what you want, and consider how these answers differ.
- Have you ever given much thought to the shared Christian practices? Why is it important that you and your children are present in corporate activities like worship, prayer, Holy Communion, testimony, and confession-forgiveness-reconciliation? What does it mean if you are routinely absent from these practices (either mentally or in your physical presence)?
- The next chapter will discuss the notion and nature of the shared meal as a distinctly Christian practice. Jot down your week’s typical meal patterns/schedule and with whom they are shared.
Please share your thoughts-it helps me as I continue to write the back chapters of this book to get a sense of what you think, what you do vs. what you wish for. Thanks! You can click on SHARE to send to friends, and write in the Leave a Comment box below.
~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.
(featured image credit: High Tea in China. K.Richardson. 2016)