This teaching is based on Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster. I found this book helpful. These teachings also contains my own thoughts and experiences with the spiritual disciplines. Understand that, although I am using Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth as the basis for these teachings on good spiritual practices, that does not mean that I endorse everything that Richard Foster teaches or is involved in. Everything must be tested against the Scriptures. We must use wisdom and discernment. If we are mature, we can learn how to accept what is good and reject what is bad.
Wiser and older Rabbi Paul wanted his younger disciple Timothy, who was entrusted with significant spiritual responsibilities, to be spiritually prepared to meet those responsibilities, and so he wrote to him: Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. For physical training is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8). The Greek word translated “discipline” means to exercise or to train and from it we get the words “gymnastics” or “gymnasium”.
Even though godliness – being like God – being good and righteous and close to the Lord – is more beneficial than any kind of physical training regimen, most people spend more time exercising their bodies than they do training their souls for godliness! People in the United States spend billions of dollars each year and billions of hours on physical disciplines. They work out at health clubs on machines – running, jumping, lifting, sweating. They can be found swimming, walking, jogging, biking. They are in training to get into shape and stay in shape, so their bodies will look and feel good and function at peak performance.
We need to do the same thing spiritually. We need to get into shape and stay in shape so that we will be godly – so that we will be pleasing to the Lord, and useful to the Lord and have genuinely successful lives. To be godly we need good spiritual disciplines, basic spiritual exercises and practices and habits, consistent spiritual training.
One of the most important of the spiritual practices is The Discipline Of Taking In God’s Word. We take in God’s Word in a variety of ways.
The first way we take in the Word of God is by hearing it taught by a qualified teacher. Rabbi Paul instructed Timothy, who was a spiritual leader of a community: Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching (1 Timothy 4:13). We must develop the practice of regularly attending a congregation where the Word of God is faithfully taught. We make it a practice to meet with our community consistently, on a weekly basis, whether we feel like it or not. We build that spiritual habit into our life, and the life of our children. We make that time a priority. We guard that precious time and don’t allow other things to crowd it out. We don’t make the mistake of not meeting together, which is the very bad habit of some.
When we gather with our community to hear the Word of God being read and taught, we pay careful attention to what is being taught. Hearing the Word of God is not passive listening that goes in one ear and out the other. It is active listening. It means paying attention to the teaching and preaching. We don’t chat with our friends. We don’t conduct other business. We don’t let our minds wander.
When we have heard the Word of God preached and taught, we make efforts not to forget it. We think about the message that day and during the week. We discuss it with other members of the synagogue. If the message is recorded, get a CD and listen to it during the week. We send out our messages by email, so read it again during the week.
Reading God’s Word On Our Own
Another way to take in the Word of God is by reading the Scriptures on our own. No factor is more influential in shaping a person’s moral and social and religious behavior than regular reading of the Bible. If we want to become wise and knowledgeable and more like God, we must discipline ourselves to read the Scriptures every day. Have an organized, systematic way of reading the Bible. Don’t just open it at random to someplace new each day.
Study God’s Word
We not only read, but also learn how to study God’s Word. Rabbi Paul instructed Timothy: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
Principles That Will Help Us To Accurately Interpret The Bible.
We come to this Divinely Inspired Book with the understanding that the Bible (66 books) is an inerrant (no errors), God-inspired, unified whole. Inerrancy applies to the original manuscripts and allows for minor copyist differences. The Bible will not contradict itself. So, if there is an apparent contradiction, it is our lack of information or our lack of understanding that is the problem – not the Bible.
The Holy Spirit will help us to interpret the Bible, so before and while we are studying these Special Writings, we pray that God the Father makes that happen.
Try not to bring to the interpretation of any passage preconceived notions.
Choose a book of the Bible and read it completely through a couple of times, using two different translations. I recommend using the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the New International Version (NIV). By reading a couple of translations, you will have an idea where any issues of translation are, and you will be able to investigate which translation is best.
Identify the context. Ask: who, what, when, where, why. Examine the situation surrounding the text including the historical and cultural aspects. A good commentary or study Bible or Bible Encyclopedia will help.
I use the Ryrie Study Bible.
The Internet has some good resources.
I’ve been using the WebBible Encyclopedia www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/dict-c.html
and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia www.searchgodsword.org/enc/isb/
Look up any words that are unfamiliar. Have a good English dictionary. It is also helpful to have a Hebrew or Greek Theological Dictionary, like Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by Harris, Archer and Waltke.
Identify the literary form of the text – prose, poetry, proverb, parable, etc. Use additional guidelines for interpreting the identified literary form.
Identify the normal literal meaning of the text. Always remember the Golden Rule of Interpretation: If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense. Only if the literal sense doesn’t make sense, only then seek a non-literal, figurative sense.
Determine the major divisions of the book. Then the minor division (the chapters, paragraphs, sentences). Follow the reasoning and be able to paraphrase the arguments in your own words.
Determine what the writings meant to the readers/hearers at the time it was written. After you have figured out what the writings meant to the readers/hearers when it was written, then ask: What do the writings mean to me? Is the situation in the “there and then” the same for me in the “here and now”? If the situation is not the same, is there a principle from the “there and then” that can be applied to the “here and now”?
After you have done your own work, read a couple of good commentaries on the book of the Bible that you are studying, and get the author’s thoughts and interpretation about the section of the Word of God that you are studying.
Finally, make sure to ask yourself: How does this apply to my life? Is there a change that I need to make as a result of what I have read? Is there something that I need to do, or something I need to stop doing?
Ways To Study The Bible
Look up cross references, those little notes in many Bibles that tell you to go to a related passage.
Do a study on individual words. Find a key word and look it up in a concordance. Do a study on the life of various individuals. Do a study on various topics, and of course on the individual books of the Bible.
Another good resource on how to interpret the Bible is Jhan Moskowitz’s excellent seminar on how to interpret the Bible. It is on our website at www.shema.com/audio-002.php
Another way to take in the Word of God is by memorizing God’s Word. For thousands of years the sons and daughters of God have found it very beneficial to memorize parts of the Scriptures. I have treasured Your word in my heart that I may not sin against You (Psalm 119:11), King David wrote 3,000 years ago. If you memorize the Word of God, you will find that it is available when you need it most. An important spiritual truth will come to your mind at just the right time to help you in the midst of a spiritual battle. When Messiah was led into the wilderness to be tested by the Adversary, to each test he responded by quoting part of the Word of God. He didn’t have scrolls with him in the wilderness. He had memorized parts of the Bible.
When we memorize part of the Word of God, we can meditate on it any time – day or night, whenever the Spirit of God brings it to our minds, which brings us to another way to take in the Word of God: Meditating On God’s Word. To meditate on God’s Word means to think about it, to ponder it, to contemplate it, examining it from different perspectives. We can become like the writer of Psalm 119:97 who exclaimed: O how I love your Torah – Your Teaching, Your Instruction! It is my meditation all the day. Psalm 1 tells us that if our delight is in the Lord’s teaching, and if we meditate in His Word day and night, constantly thinking about it, contemplating it, turning it over and over in our minds, we will be like a beautiful tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season; we will be spiritually alive and fresh and vibrant and healthy and whatever we do will be successful.
Reading the Word of God so that it passes through our mind as water passes through a pipe is not as beneficial as meditating on it, considering it, pondering it and then applying it to our life. It is better to read a smaller part and meditate on it than read several chapters and not meditate.
The Discipline Of Seeing God In Creation
God reveals Himself through the Written Word – the Word of God. He also reveals much about Himself in another book – the Book of Creation, the World of God. Rabbi Paul observed: God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.
As we are going through our daily activities, we should make an effort to thoughtfully observe and learn about this amazing universe. We live in an unprecedented time of knowledge about the universe. We know more than ever about so much in it – from the smallest sub-atomic particles to the farthest galaxies, to the amazing miniature machines within our cells and the elegant DNA information system within us. Let’s take advantage of this new knowledge.
This universe is a marvel! Look for order, design, wisdom, elegance and beauty throughout nature. Become more aware of the precise mathematical relationships, and the chemical and physical and biological laws that are found throughout creation. Take time to look at the flowers, the trees, the waters, the clouds, the stars, sunrises and sunsets, etc.
There are important lessons to be learned from creation. God can speak to us through the sun, moon and stars. They are for “signs”. Every time you see a rainbow, it is a reminder of the covenant that God made with Noah. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the Earth, and their utterances to the end of the world (Psalm 19:1-4).
Messiah told us to consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? King David wrote: When I consider Your Heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! Job instructed us: Ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the Earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you.
Psalm 29 describes a powerful storm coming from the Mediterranean. It serves as a lesson on spiritual truth – that the written Word of God is likewise powerful.
Listen to this proverb: Four things are small on the Earth, but they are exceedingly wise: The ants are not a strong people, but they prepare their food in the summer; the shephanim (badgers?) are not mighty people, yet they make their houses in the rocks; the locusts have no king, yet all of them go out in ranks; the lizard you may grasp with the hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces.
As we become better observers of the world of God, and understand more about the creation, we will learn more about the greatness, power, wisdom and love of the Creator; and we will have greater appreciation for, and be drawn closer to, and be more in awe of our great God.
The Discipline Of Prayer
Colossians 4:2 says: Devote yourselves to prayer. When you make something a priority, when you are willing to sacrifice for it, when you will give it your time and attention, you know that you are devoted to it. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to pray without ceasing. Here are some ways of doing that:
Discipline yourself to turn your mind and your thoughts throughout the day to talking with God. Talk to the Lord about everything that strikes you powerfully. Talk to Him about things that are interesting to you.
And, don’t just talk to Him about the big things. Talk to Him about the little things as well. There are times when our lives are quite manageable and we sense little need to pray. Too often we only pray when something big happens that we can’t quite handle on our own. Discipline yourself to pray for the little things as well as the big things.
When you set aside a time to pray, start off by confessing your sins. Sins interfere with a relationship to God. Admit your sins, thank God for His grace and mercy to forgive your sins. Thank Him that His mercies are new every day. Ask Him to help you with a fresh start. Ask Him to help you resist sin the next time you are tempted. After confession comes praise. Thank God for all the good things He is constantly doing. Praise Him for the Supreme Being that He is, and for the wonderful things that He has done, is doing now, and will do forever! Finally, after confession and praise comes requests – asking God to meet your needs and the needs of others.
Sometimes we run out of things to spontaneously pray about. Here are some ideas that will help us pray without ceasing.
Pray that what you are reading in the Bible becomes part of your life.
Make a list of things to pray for. The Prayers of our Synagogue is a good place to start. Intercede for yourself and others, our congregation, the Jewish community, the Messianic Jewish movement, the church, leaders and pastors and rabbis and missionaries and evangelists. Pray for suffering believers around the world. Pray for our state, our nation, our government, our world.
Pray using the Psalms. Read part of a Psalm, and then use it to pray for your situation.
Pray using the Lord’s Prayer, pausing after each phrase, making each phrase your own personal prayer. We do this as a congregation, and we have that prayer on our website.
Pray using some of the other prayers that we pray as a congregation, which are on the Shema website.
Pray using other great prayers of the Bible like the following list (this list comes from Dr. Ralph Wilson):
- Abraham’s Prayer for Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33). An example of intercessory prayer which finds its basis in God’s character.
- Moses’ Prayer for Israel in the Wilderness (Exodus 32:9-14). An great example of Moses pleading with God to preserve his own name and character and not destroy Israel.
- Moses’ Prayer for God’s Presence (Exodus 33:9-13).
- Joshua: A Prayer that Produced a Miracle (Joshua 10:12-15).
- Hannah: A Cry and a Prayer (1 Samuel 1:1-20; 2:1-10).
- David’s Prayer for Pardon and Confession of Sin (Psalms 32 and 51). When we sin against God, how can we pray to restore our fellowship? David’s prayer is a classic prayer of repentance.
- David’s Prayer at the End of Life (1 Chronicles 29:9-20). A short psalm of praise and David’s prayer for his son Solomon to build the temple.
- Solomon: A Prayer for Wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-9).
- Solomon’s Prayer at the Dedication of the First Temple (2 Chronicles 6).
- Hezekiah’s Prayers for the Israel’s Defense (2 Kings 19:15-19) and for Extension of Life (2 Kings 20:1-7).
- Daniel: A Prayer for Understanding (Daniel 2:14-23).
- Daniel’s Prayer on Behalf of His People (Daniel 9:1-19). When Daniel realized the 70 years of exile are ended, he offered a prayer of confession in which he (though personally a righteous man) identified with the sins of his people and asked for God’s mercy.
- Nehemiah’s Prayer for Success (Nehemiah 1:1-2:9). Nehemiah heard about the suffering of the returned exiles. After grieving in fasting and prayer, Nehemiah prayed for success – and committed himself to God’s will for his life.
- The Levites: A prayer of Corporate Confession (Nehemiah 9:1-38).
- Job: Prayers Trusting God for Who He Is (Job 38:1-18; 40:1-5; 42:1-16).
- Habakkuk: Praying with God’s Perspective (Habakkuk 3:1-19)
- Mary: A Prayer of Joy and Obedience (Luke 1:26-56).
- Messiah’s Prayer of Submission at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46). Yeshua asked for the cup (crucifixion) to be bypassed, but then prayed for the Father’s will to be done most of all.
- Messiah Yeshua: A Farewell Prayer (John 17).
- Stephen: A Prayer of a Martyr (Acts 7:54-60).
- Paul: A Prayer for Help (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
- Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesian Community (Ephesians 1:15-23).
- Paul’s Prayer for Comprehension of Messiah’s Love (Ephesians 3:14-21).
- James: A Prayer for Wisdom (James 1:5-8).
- James: Reasons for Unanswered Prayers (James 4:2-3).
- James: Prevailing Prayer (James 5:13-18).
- Revelation: A Prayer of Praise to the Lamb (Revelation 5:9-11).
Try to cultivate special periods of time alone with the Lord. Get alone for five or ten minutes and pray. Yeshua had the clearest channel of communication with God the Father, and yet He often withdrew to secluded places for special times of prayer.
Pray in spite of discouragement. Talking to God is so important, and yet too many pray too little because they have gotten discouraged because they think that God is not answering their prayers. Discipline yourself to pray anyway, believing that it is your understanding of prayer that is deficient, and not God’s faithfulness or ability to answer. You are not praying right. You are not praying according to the will of God. You are not praying for the right things in the right way; or it is not God’s time to answer that prayer. Sometimes we lack the sense of the nearness of God, and this is a discouragement to us. Discipline yourself to pray anyway.
The Discipline Of Worship
It is good to praise the Lord, and sing to Him and thank Him and acknowledge His worthiness (worship comes from “worth-ship”, worthiness). We do this individually and as a community. To worship the Lord as we should we must gather with our community for congregational worship. When we gather with our community worship we want to be alert and fresh. We don’t want to stay out too late the night before. We want to arrive on time so we won’t be late, stressed and upset. We want to try and sing to Him with inner intensity and enthusiasm. We don’t want to be thinking about other things. We don’t want out minds to be wandering.
The worship songs that we learn with our congregation, we continue singing during the week on our own. By disciplining ourselves to worship with our community and on our own, we become the kind of people that Rabbi Paul encouraged us to become, filled with the Spirit of God, close to God, close to one another, speaking to one another using psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah to God, even the Father.
The Discipline Of Fasting
Fasting is a voluntary abstinence from food or water. Believers are expected to fast. Yeshua told us when the groom was taken from us, then we, the bride, are to fast. Yeshua said: “when you fast” – instructing us what to do and what not to do when we fast, not if we fast. From my recollection, the early Messianic Jews fasted regularly – once a week.
Fasting can help accomplish various good things:
Fasting can help humble us. It reminds us that we are weak creatures, totally dependent on the great Creator.
Fasting can help with repentance and returning to God. Fasting, along with confessing our sins, can help us make sincere changes in our behavior. In Joel 2:12, the Lord says to Israel: Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. The people of Nineveh listened to the prophet Jonah, and they fasted and repented, and God relented from giving the promised judgment.
Fasting can help us overcome temptation. Yeshua fasted 40 days and nights before He was tested by the Adversary. In the spiritual strength of that long fast He prepared Himself to overcome a direct onslaught from Satan himself. There might be times when we know a trial or a testing or a period of temptation is coming. It is good to fast beforehand.
Fasting can strengthen our prayers. There is something about fasting that sharpens the edge of our intercession and gives extra fervor to our prayers. If you feel a special burden for a person, group, place or situation, you might want to fast and pray for it.
We fast for God’s guidance. Before Paul and Barnabas were sent off on their first missionary journey, they and the congregation fasted and prayed (Acts 13:3).
Fasting is done to seek God’s help or protection. Ezra called a fast when he led a group of exiles back to Jerusalem. He fasted for protection. Queen Esther fasted before she went in before the king, because her life was in danger.
Fasting can be done simply to express love for God – that He is more important to us than our daily bread. Channa the prophetess never left the Temple, but worshiped day and night, fasting and praying. Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure in God Himself. It tells the Lord that you love God more than food, that seeking Him is more important to you than eating.
There are different kinds of fasts. An absolute fast is the abstention from all food and drink, like the one Ezra did (Ezra 10:6). Fasting can involve abstaining from food, but not water. A partial fast is a limitation to the diet but not abstention from all food. The Bible describes a supernatural fast. Moses up on Mount Sinai fasted for 40 days without any food or water. There are private fasts, and congregational fasts. There are national fasts. There is a regular yearly fast, Yom Kippur, when every Jewish person is expected to fast.
The Disciplines Of Silence And Solitude
Just as there are times when we abstain from food, we also may benefit by abstaining from conversation and interaction with other human beings. The Lord calls us to family, to friendship, to fellowship with our brothers and sisters, to community, and yet there are times when we benefit by times of silence and solitude. It is good for us to get alone with God. He want us to get alone with Him.
When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:5-6).
Yeshua said to His disciples, come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6:31). The Son of God wanted to be alone with His disciples in a quiet place.
Some of the greatest men of God, like Moses and Paul, were transformed by years of virtual isolation. Messiah Yeshua often was found by Himself, going off to a solitary place, praying and communing with God.
Western culture has conditioned us to be comfortable with noise and crowds, not silence and solitude. Most people do not enjoy solitude. We are not used to it. We don’t like being alone with our own thoughts. But in solitude we can often hear the voice of God better. Solitude and silence can help us come to grips with the reality of God: be still and know that I am God. When we are quiet, our minds naturally start thinking about important issues, things that we’ve done wrong that we need to rectify, things that we need to do. Silence and solitude can help us confront the realities of our sin, of death and of judgment – ideas that are frequently drowned out by all the distraction in the world. Maybe that’s why so many people don’t want to be still. When they are quiet and their minds drift to these important considerations, they feel alone, insignificant, mortal, temporary, far from God, guilty, scared, small, vulnerable and confused. And so they avoid silence. They fill their lives with the noise of people and relationships, entertainments and pleasures, drugs and alcohol – to avoid the frightening silence.
Solitude builds faith and courage. From solitude comes strength. Silence reminds us that there is God, and there is our self, and that the multitudes are not necessary – only God is; God alone.
Through silence we can worship God. One of the best ways to draw near to the Lord is to be silent. Our words will always fall short of expressing His greatness. He is far beyond all the blessings, praises and songs that we can ever utter. To simply come before Him in adoring silence is a wonderful way of expressing our worship. The prophet Habakkuk said: The Lord is in His holy Temple. Let all the Earth be silent before Him. In Psalm 62 King David expresses this idea when he prayed: My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. David did not have to speak or say anything, only wait silently with trust and confidence in a spirit of worship.
Silence can be helpful to learn control of the tongue. Learning how to control what we say is critical to godliness. Ya’akov (James), the brother of Yeshua, tells us that the religion of the person who can’t control his tongue is worthless. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless (James 1:26). James also tells us that if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well (James 3:2).
Solomon tells us: He who restrains his words has knowledge … even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent (Proverbs 17:27-28). Practicing the discipline of silence makes it easier to control all of ourselves. Learning how to be silent, and not to speak unless necessary can have a life-wide impact.
Locate special places for having periods of silence and solitude. Find a place without any T.V. or radio or internet. Turn off your cellphone or smartphone Bring your Bible and a good book, and pray and seek and wait on God. Taking a walk and praying, admiring the Lord’s beautiful handiwork, can provide this kind of solitude. Engaging in a hobby that does not require too much use of the mind, like gardening, can provide this kind of solitude and silence. Going to a place with a special view, like mountains or forests, deserts or oceans, or the stars at night, has a way of helping us make contact with the Creator in a special way.
The Discipline Of Serving
Serve the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100). Even the mighty and glorious Son of God came with the intent to serve: He said: The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.
Yeshua said to His followers: You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Develop the discipline of serving the Lord within our community.
Too many are expecting their life with God to be an exciting adventure, when the reality is that more often than not the Lord has a series of tasks for us to do that aren’t exciting. Serving the Lord rarely involves glamorous public ministries. Serving the Lord usually mean setting up and cleaning up for an Oneg, providing transportation, visiting the sick, teaching Shabbat school, helping with mailings. But, these things are essential for the well-being of the community.
Make serving the Lord a priority. Most spiritual leaders will tell you that 20 percent of the congregation do 80 percent of the work. How can any child of God sit on the sidelines and watch others do the work of serving the Lord and His people? And yet it is the same people time after time who serve, and it is the same people who don’t. If you are too busy to serve the Lord, then you are too busy.
Serve the Lord, and don’t serve only when it is convenient. Be dedicated to serve the Lord, whether it is convenient or inconvenient. If you are not serving in some way, especially in the community, doing something, helping in some way, you will never grow much spiritually.
The Discipline Of Giving
Giving is a duty. Giving is part of worship. Giving should be disciplined. It should be planned and systematic, not just a spur of the moment thing based on an appeal by some ministry or charity.
We are to give systematically. Rabbi Paul was very concerned about the poor Messianic Jewish believers in Jerusalem who were persecuted and impoverished, and so he would raise funds from the Messianic Congregations that were prospering financially, to help the poor Jewish believers. Writing to the congregation in Corinth, he instructed them: Now concerning the collection for the saints (poor Messianic Jews in Jerusalem), as I directed the congregations of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). That’s systematic giving.
Not only should we be giving generously to our congregation, but also to other good ministries that are reliable and advancing the Kingdom of Messiah.
Know who you are giving to; make sure they are reputable. Make sure they are doing what is good.
And, we should be giving tzadakah (charity) to individuals whom the Lord brings across our path, as well.
I recommend that you try to give ten percent of your income. Plan in into your budget, and honor the Lord with the first of your wealth.
The Discipline Of Evangelism
Sharing the Good News about God and the Messiah is a spiritual discipline. In the book of Matthew, the last recorded words of the Lord to His followers was a command to be engaged in world evangelism: Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. Messiah Yeshua commanded each one of us to be witnesses to His reality. Each one of us is to be part of this great commission.
We must set our minds to consistently engage in evangelism. Make a decision that you will share the truth in all kinds of situations and circumstances, whether you feel like it or not. Be ready “in season and out of season” to share your faith.
Don’t wait for witnessing opportunities to occur, for someone else to open up the conversation in a spiritual direction – take the initiative and make witnessing opportunities happen!
Prepare yourself to be able to give a decent answer for the hope that you have. Know why you believe and how to explain your faith intelligently to those who ask. Talk to those who are knowledgeable about evangelism. Learn from them.
Know why Yeshua is the Messiah (Messianic Prophecies, Evidences for His Resurrection, His Impact on the World). Learn how to direct people to read the Bible for themselves so that they can start interacting with the Word of God. Bring them to a good community of Believers.
Other Aids That May Help Us Get Closer To God
Eating Or Drinking: Eating or drinking a special food or drink that you like can help you get closer to God. For example, Isaac wanted to bless Esau. To help him get in the Spirit, he told Esau to hunt game for him and prepare a savory dish that he loved to eat, so that his soul could draw near God and bless his son. I love a hot, steaming cup of coffee or tea. It gives me a warm, comforting feeling inside, and when I see the steam rising, it reminds me that my life is like a vapor, and I will soon see God face to face, enter into His presence and encounter His eternal reality. I find that some great Chinese or Indian food, an occasional glass of wine or a cigar, may help me contemplate the good Creator of all things, be more grateful to Him and feel closer to Him.
Special Clothing: The Jewish people use a tallit (prayer shawl) and t’fillin (phylacteries) as aids to worship, reminding us about God and His Word, helping us get closer to God. When I put on my tallit, I think about wrapping myself with robes of righteousness provided by the Messiah. When I wrap the t’fillin on my hand, I think about the Lord’s promise to the Jewish people found in Hosea 2:19-20: I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in love and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness – and that the Lord wants a warm, loving, close personal relationship with me that is based on His Word.
Fire: Others have noted that watching candles or a fire can help them in their worship. Perhaps this goes back to the seven-branched golden menorah that gave light in the Temple. Maybe it goes back to the altar, where the sacrifices were burned and ascended upwards to Heaven. Fire may remind them that they are to be on fire for the Lord; that their lives are to be like a living sacrifice; or since fire purifies, therefore they need to be more pure; or the Lake of Fire awaits those who ignore God.
Water: Some of my best times of worship involve water – in the form of a hot bath or a delicious warm shower; watching and listening to the rain, observing steam and fog and clouds in the air; seeing a beautiful snowfall cover the world with a blanketing, pure, beautiful, silent whiteness; observing the crystalline beauty that covers nature that follows an ice-storm; or sitting by a lake, stream or ocean.
As I contemplate water, I feel calmer, and I think about the Creator of this truly amazing substance (shema.com/articles/articles-015.php) and how my life is like a vapor, and as deep calls to deep, my soul is drawn toward God.
Music: Music is special. There is something about music that reaches us deeply, and moves us. Many testify that listening to good music aids them in their worship and getting into the Spirit and getting closer to God. During a war, King Yehoshaphat asked the prophet Elisha for help (2 Kings 3). Elisha told the king to bring him a musician. When the musician played, the hand of the Lord came upon him and he was able to hear the word of the Lord. Listen to good, inspiring, uplifting music. Learn good worship songs. Sing to the Lord with your community, and from time to time during the rest of the week.
Beautiful Places: Places that have beautiful or panoramic views (high places, mountains, deserts, forests, meadows) reveal the greatness and the artistry of the Creator, and can draw our souls closer to God.
These Spiritual Disciplines are very important and bring benefit now and into eternity. So, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. For physical training is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. May the Lord enable us to build these good habits and practices into our lives!