Engaged: Beautiful Inside

Twenty years ago this fall my husband and I were newly enrolled students at Evangel University. Our spiritual relationship as future husband and wife was on a collision course destined for a class called Essential Christianity and a book by Richard Foster called “Celebration of Discipline“.

While we both had wonderful upbringings in the church, we had very different views on what Christian living was about. At 18 years of age I believed God’s grace to be a powerful force that protected me from all things evil. It was grace that directed my steps and stopped me from making bad decisions. It was grace that kept me safe and secure. It was all about grace and holiness was impossible. At 20 years of age my future husband thought grace was possible but only if holiness was pursued. Holiness was the powerful force in charge protecting him from evil, directing his steps, keeping him safe and securing his eternity.

That first semester away from our former home and upbringing gave us lots of opportunities to test that grace and holiness. Jason had given me a ring for high school graduation with both our initials and a cross between them. We were not officially engaged to be married… but we were. He was trying to convince me that our relationship was holy (even though it wasn’t yet legal) and so grace covered us. And I was telling him that grace covered our mistakes and made us holy. We had our eyes on fixing each other rather than fixed on Jesus for each other as we prepared for marriage. Looking back on that time…God’s Grace is truly amazing!

We were enrolled in a class called Essential Christianity together and that class helped me understand how grace and holiness work together to help us focus on Jesus. I still have the book from that class. Celebration of Discipline made an impact on my understanding of practical discipleship and I highly encourage you to pick up a copy. We are not going to do a book study per say but we will use it as a guide to helping us understand what it means to be betrothed to Jesus Christ – or a better word – engaged to him. In ancient Hebrew culture the bride was promised to a man, or betrothed to be his wife. Then, after paying her “bride price” he left for up to 2 years to build a home for them. She had no way of getting to know him but spent her time waiting for his return and “preparing” herself for marriage – beauty treatments, making a dress, jewelry, ect. Jesus may be preparing a place for us but he wants us to know him. And so he has given us his word and the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us.

Celebration of Discipline is a wonderful book outlining all the practical ways we can put ourselves into the presence of God who loves us and wants us to know him so HE can prepare us for the day his son returns for us.

The “Inward Disciplines” Richard Foster teaches us to practice are: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study.

As a young girl entering college in 1997 I was familiar with prayer and LOVED study! But meditation seemed foreign to my walk with Christ and fasting was not discouraged but it was not encouraged in my Southern Baptist upbringing…. potluck anyone? I discovered that meditation was something I was already doing quite often as a result of studying. And fasting… well fasting took some time for me to appreciate.

Every Wednesday in July we will be looking at how we can engage with Jesus and how he engages with us through inward disciplines. In August we will introduce outward disciplines, and in September we will go over the corporate disciplines. You have LOTS of time to order a copy of Celebration of Discipline or pick one up from the bookstore. I hope you will!

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