Strengthening The Faith inside of you
Faith is a significant force in your Harbor Home, but in order for it to be able to sustain you, it must be developed and grown privately. It is in the secret places of your own heart that the work of developing faith is done. Even though faith can not be authentically lived in a private manner, for it does no good locked inside you, the fine work of developing faith is done alone.
In a faith community, we publicly declare and celebrate the faith we have developed privately. There are many ancient and time honored disciplines that Christians have practiced that brought them to a deep and abiding faith in God and these practices will do the same for you. Some of the greatest Christian teachers across the millennia wrote down some guides that, when followed, lead to a faith in God that will undergird your Harbor Home.
The following methods were prescribed by John Wesley, (1703-1791). He was a great reformation minister in the Anglican Church (Church Of England) and the founder, along with his brother Charles, of the Methodist Movement. The largest modern denomination that emerged from that movement is the United Methodist Church. Read carefully these prescribed disciplines. How many are you already practicing?
Meditation-Listening to God. Meditation differs from prayer in that it is an act of listening. Prayer can easily slip into a list of requests similar to a wish list to Santa Claus. Meditation is hearing what the Lord of Heaven and earth has to say to you. He wants to speak into your life and He wants you to take the time to listen. In order to grasp this, you must accept that God has a plan for you that is part of His overall plan for the universe. Y ou must also accept that He will make His will known to you if you will take the time to meditate on Him. If you’ve never just been still and quiet while listening for God, try setting a timer on your watch or phone for five minutes. Sit in a quiet place alone and repeat softly a one word prayer. Something like “peace” or “love” or, my favorite, “shalom”. If your thoughts drift to the laundry, meal planning, co workers, gossip, or other distractions, set the timer again. Do this until you can meditate for five minutes. Then increase the time. Do not be fooled: the enemy will try to interrupt this process. Satan does not want you to draw near to God. He wants you to be tied in knots and feeling unsure of your value to God. Never forget God’s love for you.
Prayer- pouring your heart out to God. God knows the secrets of our hearts. The Psalmist makes this very clear: “would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?” Psalm 44:21 NIV. Since this is true, prayer should be an act of pure honesty with yourself and with God. You are scared? Angry? Intimidated? Arrogant? Frustrated? Bitter? Discouraged? Elated? Hopeful? Confused? God knows all this. Go ahead and speak this to Him in prayer. There is no need for fancy religious words or over the top spiritual language. God speaks your language. He hears the heart, not the words. Pour your soul into your prayer and do not stop praying until you are satisfied that you have told it all and have held nothing back. Tell God your deepest fears, your greatest desire, your gravest disappointment. Ask Him to come and replace these overwrought emotions with His perfect peace. This is a peace that surpasses our understanding.
Lectio Divina- (This is a Latin phrase that translates to “divine reading”) This often takes the form of reading the works of Christians who have a strong relationship with God and the gift of teaching His ways through writing. These books are often focused on someone telling about their faith journey or a Bible study about certain aspects of God’s divine nature. You don’t have to read great scholarly works to be engaging in lectio divina, although they can be really interesting, and challenge your faith to move beyond a casual one. The act of reading about God will draw Him near. Words of faith give encouragement to your heart and mind and help you to see God in new ways. As time passes, you will be able to see how much your faith has grown through the act of lectio divina.
Reading scripture- The Holy Bible has no substitute, and there is no substitute for reading these holy words and planting them in your heart. The words of scripture tell us about the God who is the same yesterday, today, and always and who is all love. God loves you. But how will you know this if you don’t read and digest for yourself His own word? To paraphrase the great American author Mark Twain, If you don’t read your Bible you are no better off than those who can not read the Bible. There are literally hundreds of Bible reading plans available for free in print and on the internet. Choose one that seems to suit your habits and attention span. If you can sit and read for an hour or two a day, then, by all means, jump into a one year Bible reading plan. There were a few years when I was in my late twenties to early thirties when I devoted that much time to scripture reading and read the Bible through in a year a few times. Now, I spend less time reading and more time meditating on what I read. Ask the Lord how He wants you to approach His word. Use only a plan that brings you joy and fulfillment. If you dread your bible reading time and it feels like a chore, switch to something else but continue to read the Bible.
Live Simply- Gandhi famously said that we should all “live simply so that others may simply live". I’ve meditated on this seemingly straightforward quote many times and every time I think I’ve wrapped my heart and mind around it, the true depth of it slips away. But the real truth is that great faith leaders of the world’s major religions (Gandhi was Hindu, The Dalai Lama is Buddhist, John Wesley a Christian) all encourage people to live a simple life: food, shelter, love of family and neighbor, using less while giving more. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. It doesn’t seem practical for most of us to move to India and spin our own thread to make our own cloth for our clothes. It is even less practical to move to a monastery in Tibet since these are male only places. Even living the spartan lifestyle that John Wesley and other eighteenth and nineteenth century Christian leaders did seems out of place in the 21st century. Living simply could mean arranging your life and expectations so that you have more time between scheduled obligations. Allow for margin space in your home. Consider how many activities you and the others in your Harbor Home really need. Carefully choose a limited number of these to avoid the frantic pace of going from swim lessons to karate to music to scouts to book club to service club to church committees to cooking class and then home again to do the laundry, get showers and start it all again. Harbor Homes are joyful places free from constant chaos and frenetic pacing. Some seasonal chaos, (read Christmas) is harder to avoid, but you are in charge of general scheduling. Be purposefully simple. Choose quality over quantity. Slow down and simplify a little. Own fewer clothes, wait longer between new cars, stay out of the shopping emporiums that insist that we need more than we really do. Keep it simple.
There are a lot more items on John Wesley’s list of personal practices for holiness including fasting, self denial and practicing silence regularly. This shorter list should get you started if you just need a nudge. Even if you are doing many of these things, a loving reminder of what we can do to draw closer to the God that loves us is never a bad idea. Consider taking on one or more of these practices for the benefit of your own faith and those around you.. Blessings on your Harbor Home.