- Jesus finds every lost sheep (5/28/23)
- Hockey Jesus: Taking our penalty (5/21/23)
- The Rest of the Story: Easter came from Eostre (4/16/23)
- Fasting, prayer are not blackmail (2/26/23)
- Giving up for Lent, or just giving up entirely? (2/19/23)
- Repeat, repeat and repeat again (2/5/23)
- What can we be thankful for this weekend? (11/27/22)
Thoughts on how to grow in the new year
At the end of 2019, I wrote an article for January 2020 about having the proverbial 20/20 vision of physically and spiritually strength. But since 2020 many things have happened in our nation and around the world.
In 2020, COVID-19 came to the forefront — and even with scientific evidence, many people denied it and it caused division in our nation and around the world. Also in America people were divided more strongly on red and blue political lines.
But as the Prophet Isaiah reminds us in 57:10, “You were weary with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless,” you found new life for your strength and so you were not faint.”
Yes, the past three years have been hard and tiring. But each New Year brings us to the opportunity dream anew and to have visions of a better world and a better life.
What are some simple key steps that we can do to grow spiritually in 2023?
Most of the keys I find in my life are simple and easy.
Having a spiritual life is a very enjoyable and peaceful method of lifestyle. But due to so many distractions in our daily life, we tend to deviate from the path and fall back into worldly doings.
To keep up growing in the spiritual path one has to follow certain procedures. Without these, one can never grow spiritually. These include finding a spiritual teacher, spiritual companion or a mentor. Or simply a good friend.
These help guide you path of study and reflection. They can be a sounding board for the struggles that you might be having on your journey of faith. They can give your direction and insight and possible avenues to change that will allow you to grow.
One must attend spiritual gatherings. Most of us would call it attending church or prayer meetings on a regular basis. Some church have Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night prayer meetings.
I grew up in a church tradition that had Thursday night Vespers. Vespers is simply a service of evening prayer.
Spiritual gatherings are those where similar-minded (when I was in Baptist seminary, they used the term like-minded) people gather and share together in singing songs of faith and studies of the Bible and topics of interest.
Attending spiritual gatherings helps you to become more spiritual. In doing so confidence and belief in spirituality increase.
We also learn from other experiences and also acquire new friends who can guide us better.The scriptures say that were two or three are gather God’s spirit is there. “And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”
One must also practice methods that enhance spiritual life. One cannot be good at a sports, wood work or gardening unless one practices.
As with all things there will be times of great success and times of great failure. It is good to try to follow the spiritual methods of doing routine work. This helps us to keep in touch with spirituality in everyday life.
We can try to pray before eating. Pray before going to bed and also in the morning etc.
In the Jewish tradition many pray the shema daily. It goes like this: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Prayers can be as simply as “Lord I thank you for the blessings of this day” or lengthy with specific petitions.
But we should not be like the Pharisee pointed out by Jesus for his narcissistic prayer. “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’” (Luke 19:10)
Over time, prayer will enhance your association with God and give you wisdom.
One can also take time to read good spiritual books. One good book to start with is your favorite translation of the Holy Scriptures. There are many good translations and I’m sure one can find one that speak to them.
As the saying goes, “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks” so I still prefer a hard cover book to read so I can write notes in the margin. But today with the advent of computers and tablets there are electronic or digital versions of almost all published books.
Spiritual reading involves reading books on various subjects pertaining to spirituality. Books of spiritual writings add a great value to knowledge when read. Also, they can be used in our free time to move on the path. Nowadays with smart phones and tablets one can subscribe to spiritual weekly or monthly related to spirituality and devotion. There are many publications especially focusing on spiritual life.
It is also essential to keep up good health. I have a friend who says that to keep good health one should practice yoga, meditation, and have a proper diet.
Good health is very important to move on the difficult path of spirituality. One must attempt to get 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night. But as I grow older I find my nights are interrupted with trips to the bathroom more difficult,
My son believes in spiritual fasting on a regular basis to improve his health and spirituality. Fasting is one of the oldest and most prevalent spiritual practices in the Bible. Jesus expected his followers to do so and said that God rewards fasting.
Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. Moses fasted before he received the Commandments. Other servants of God also fasted before they proclaimed God’s word. The first Christians fasted during decision making times.
One must only try this spiritual discipline if your health allows it at this time. (Acts 13:2-3)
We must also have a company of spiritual people. There is an old but true saying, “You are known by the company you keep.”
In Butler County and the surrounding area, there are people who tend to be on the same path as us. so being in touch with them would help us overcome any problems and move on the path smoothly.
One can involve themselves in social service in the community to help grow spiritually. As the Book of James says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Sometimes those who profess to be Christians do one thing, but their lives and priorities indicate otherwise. Jesus put it this way: “By their fruits you will know them.”
Thus, doing something to help others enhances our spiritual interest as we become happier due to selfless service.
There is a saying — “Service to humankind is service to God.”
May you use these simple suggestions to grow in your spirituality as you journey down the path of faith in 2023.
Rev. Frank Chlastak began work as senior minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Poplar Bluff in 2015. He is a graduate of Northeast Louisiana University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and has served congregations of the Christian Church in Louisiana, Arkansas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Missouri.
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