and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens. . . .
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
Christian Spirituality is how we walk out our faith in Christ Jesus. Covering every aspect of our lives—thoughts, words and deeds—our spirituality includes our daily activities, our attitudes toward work and the way we treat others, as well as our spiritual practices. Above all relational, it encompasses our relationship with God, others and ourselves. Christian spirituality is “the character of our actual, lived relationship with God through the Spirit of Christ, as describing our practice of relationship with Christ.”1
Because people mean a wide variety of things by the popular term “spirituality”—most of which derive from Eastern religions, animism or New Age—I prefer the term Christian Spiritual Formation. “Formation” emphasizes the need for growth. As John Bunyan powerfully describes in his classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, salvation is the starting line of the Christian life, not the place to camp out the remainder of our days. Believers are called to radical transformation, thus Mulholland defines spiritual formation as “(1) a process (2) of being conformed (3) to the image of Christ (4) for the sake of others.”2
Christian spiritual formation includes our spiritual disciplines as we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). They never earn us merit (Eph 2:5-11), but we are called to “train” (1 Tim 4:7) and “make every effort” (2 Pet 1:5) as we mature.3 Much of our deepest growth, however, comes through embracing the painful things in life (James 1:2-4; Rom 5:3-5).4
“Spiritual Theology” is my favorite term for Christian spirituality because our formation as believers can never be separated from our faith. Indeed, the subject of our faith is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—who share perfect love with each other and invite us to participate in their intimate relationship (John 14-17). As we do so, we will be transformed from “glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18) as we are shaped ever more into Christ’s image (Rom 8:29).
1 Evan B. Howard, The Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality (Brazos Press, 2008), 16.
2 M. Robert Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 15.
3 Books on spiritual disciplines abound today, but one of the best is still Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline (Harper & Row, 1988).4 See Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Sacrament of the Present Moment (HarperSanFrancisco, 1989).
Voices from the Past Speak Powerfully in our Day. Christians today are looking for models of deep spiritual formation. They want to know what an authentic life of faith can look like. Many are dissatisfied with the shallowness of most of what surrounds them, and they are open to learn from the rich heritage of the church, extending over the past twenty centuries.
Countless radical believers have run the race before us and serve as a cloud of witnesses surrounding us as we fix our eyes on Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). We must not ignore these spiritual mentors from our Christian heritage—men and women whose wisdom and experience have stood the test of time. Voices from the past can speak powerfully in our day. They serve as companions on the pilgrimage and guides as we traverse dry deserts and endure dark nights of the soul.
Lent is the season of the church year preceding Easter. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent encompasses 40 days leading up to Easter (not including Sundays, because Sundays are celebrations of the Resurrection: they are mini-Easters each week). Established since the fourth century, Christians have used this opportunity to seek God on a deeper level and to prepare their hearts for the celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection. That inner preparation often includes special times of prayer, fasting, repentance and giving to those in need.
Lent is an extended period of time for cultivating a deeper life in our walk with the Lord. We all get sidetracked. Sometimes we get waylaid by sin. Lent is a time for pursuing God, allowing him to examine our hearts, and repenting from anything that draws us away from Jesus. It is a season to refocus ourselves on the Lord.
Lent is part of the church year or liturgical calendar, which walks believers through Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit each year. A wonderful devotional tool, the church calendar helps lay people get involved (liturgy=activity of the laity). As we observe Lent this year, we are joining Christians across many denominations who value this season as a profound opportunity to turn afresh from sin, humble ourselves, and seek God with our whole being as we look forward to the upcoming celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection!
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart.” –Hebrews10:19-22 (TNIV)
God invites us into his presence. As Christians we are often like the believers in the book of Hebrews—we have the way open to the Father, but we fail to come to him.
Lent is a season set aside to draw nearer to God. It is an appointed time to pursue afresh the deeper life. For nearly 2000 years, Christians have dedicated the days leading up to Easter to draw close to the Lord. This is a time to refresh our relationship with him and to refocus our hearts, minds and lives upon God the Father.
In order to refocus our lives, we must intentionally set aside everything else and draw apart with God. In his book, Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen observes, “Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and him alone. . . . If we really believe not only that God exists but also that he is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching, and guiding—we need to set aside a time and space to give him our undivided attention.”
This Lenten season let us come—individually and corporately—to God’s loving, healing, transforming presence.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you welcome me into your presence. I want to draw closer to you over these coming weeks. Please show me what areas of my life need to change and what ways I can set aside special time for seeking you. You have invited me to come - and my response is "yes, I come to you!"