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Ancient Christian Practices Pt 1

Jessup Think
Jessup Think
Ancient Christian Practices Pt 1

Mark and Rex begin a three part series on ancient Christian practices by discussing how the great disciplines of the Church have played a pivotal role in both of their spiritual lives.


Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host, Mark Moore

and your co host Rex Gurney.

That’s right. And today, it’s just you and I, Rex? Yeah.

It’s the first time in a while.

It’s good. It’s good. We can just have a conversation. Yeah, yeah. And we’re actually doing something a little bit different. We’re doing a three part series, right? It’ll be part one of a three part series on ancient Christian practices, right. And today, we’ll

basically be talking about how these practices have sort of import, you know, impacted our own spiritual life and our own devotional practices and kind of the learning curve that we had to have in order to start incorporating some of this stuff into our lives. And yeah,

yeah. And then with the next couple of episodes, we’re going to then dive into some brackets, right? Yeah. Right, give you some more kind of details of those practices, if you want to try to add them to your own spiritual life as well. Exactly. So we’re going to be looking at the ignition exercises, his prayer of examine

contemplative prayer, look at spiritual retreats, and when and where you can go on them and how accessible they are even Yeah, if we if we’re not cognizant of that right now.

Exactly. Yeah. And, and hopefully, maybe to kind of demystify some of exactly,


exactly, that they can either be held with like, oh, only the spiritual giants.

And and that’s actually really appropriate, because we have one spiritual giant here. And Mark Moore. That’s right, like an expert in these practice sizes. And I’ve had a really steep learning curve. And so maybe some of you will be able to identify with the struggles that I’ve had Mark has to go right. Yeah,

I will play the role of the spiritual giant here, I’ll take it, I’ll be fine. That’s fair, it might actually be the opposite of latency. But in my own kind of faith journey. By the time I was a junior in college, I was just really like, honestly, just tired of being a Christian. I grew up in a wonderful Christian home. And I went to Christian Schools my whole life. So I went to the same private Christian school from preschool till High School and apparently watched some Christian TV

along Yeah.

Yeah, we had some steady stream of Christian television happening in our in our house in rural Indiana. It was the only thing that really came in on and, and with that, you know, and then I went to a Christian College, very similar to William Jessup University, similar size, similar focus. And by the time you know, as I was, you know, 20 years old, I was in Bible classes. I knew the right answers. I could easily affirm that the core doctrines I wasn’t I wasn’t having a crisis of faith in that sense. You weren’t feeling it, but yeah, no, just wasn’t feeling it. And, and I realized it was actually on a cold Midwest afternoon. Oh, wow. There’s

actually a weather component. Yes, story. Oh, my God, it’s always


Music, we could Cue the music right now. Perfect, okay.

And it would have to be like some type of 90s. Some sad, Alanis Morissette are happening in the background. And, and I was in an off marine on an off campus apartment living with some guys and I, I just remember, kind of in the quiet of my room, just just kind of asking myself like, Okay, what am I doing? I call myself a Christian. I have this great Christian heritage. But there’s nothing in my life right now, that makes my life any different. Right? than someone who’s not a Christian, right? There’s, there’s nothing that structures my life around my faith. My faith was always just kind of like an add on. And then you had real life, right? You kind of had spiritual life. And then real life, and, and there wasn’t that many practices. Now we have and we were going to talk about this, you know, you kind of have the classic maybe evangelical

rasa plan right? Time. Exactly. Which is a really interesting phrase, because we aren’t really quiet during that time.

Yeah. It doesn’t necessarily have to be. Exactly. And, you know, I had that And with that, I guess I never and this is I do a lot of youth camps still. And that’s a big question. You know, students have and I had the same question is like, Okay, well, what do I do during that, you know, and, and, you know, you try to read and maybe at a camp, you make that commitment. I’m going to read my Bible right here, right? And you get to Leviticus and

you get off

the mountain and you know, right there you go. And it tails off and, and so I was really I think at that moment in my life looking for some some structure Sure, and also looking for some, some history, right some time tested practices, that that wasn’t just like the the new devotional that everyone is doing. Because those, those ones usually never would hit me. And it was kind of in that that moment that I realized I wanted more out of my spiritual life.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of things that we just sort of weren’t aware of when we were growing right, at least growing up Baptists, I certainly wasn’t.

Yeah. And and it was, it was kind of in that moment that I was I was introduced to the spiritual disciplines, okay, introduced to these practices that could could add structure, you know, right. And, and started to and so as we get into one of the big ones for me was was daily, the daily office or daily liturgical prayer,

right. structuring your day.

Yeah. And it helped structure my prayer times as well. And I think so often, and I talked to so many students, you know, they’re like, okay, I come in, I sat down, and I want to do something, but then I’m like, What do I do? You know, and maybe I’ll read a verse, and sometimes the verse hitches, sometimes it doesn’t, right? And, and I think that’s what happens maybe more times than not like you, you start to do something, it doesn’t always feel maybe like what you wanted it to. And then it just that habit kind of tapers off, right. And we’ll at the end here, we want to give some advice on Hey, how can we start? Right? But what was your kind of

Yeah, my pilgrimage, sort of is, is I guess, a little bit different, because I didn’t sort of I mean, I grew up in, I guess, our version of a Christian bubble, but I did not go to Christian Schools. And

we won’t hold that against you how

I think I would do it like I did, it again, actually, really helped when I was going to seminary, because it’s like, you know, when I was there, it’s like, in my Bible classes and stuff is like, I don’t already know all this stuff. So I guess I’ll pay attention and learn something. And there you go. All right,

yeah, you were the one,

the one student 30 that was paying attention, right. But it was really fun. I was at the University of New Mexico, and, you know, a state school and involved in a Christian student organization there. And the director, who I actually did not get along with, personally, it was his sort of strange thing. So for whatever reason, I ended up being elected President of that group, right? My senior year. And so I think he felt the moral obligation to try to, like, you know, have these monthly lunches with me or something. And I remember just sitting across a table at a restaurant, and we’d be there for like, a half an hour, and neither one of us would say a word because we had nothing in common and nothing to talk to each other about. But one thing that he really did emphasize was the concept of spiritual discipline. And I’m really glad that he did. And later on in my life, when I was sort of searching for something that would that would just, you know, help me on my day to day walk with with Christ, I sort of remembered that I don’t remember much about what he said about it, but I remember him just, you know, emphasizing the fact that it was really, really important. And so um, and, you know, the quiet time, of course, was the thing that, right, yeah. And I remember, you know, I mean, I kind of always did it, right. But it’s sort of dutiful. And, and right, you know, rote routine, but I always kind of start my day with it, you know, and I guess we were encouraged to like, go five minutes, or, you know, if you’re really spiritual 15 minutes, yeah. And, you know, it was I’m glad I kept that discipline. But it wasn’t till later in my life, that those spiritual disciplines became not just something you do, as a as a religious duty or something, or, you know, I do it because a good Christian is supposed to do it, but they became something I needed. Like, I really needed that, like I needed oxygen to breathe, and it took years to, to come to that point, right. And I’m really glad that I at least knew where to look when that time came. And so, you know, at this time, not because I’m anything, because I definitely am not an spiritual exemplar in any way. But I guess my quiet time now is about an hour every morning, but it’s like, if I don’t do it, I don’t even know how it can make it through the day. And that definitely was not what things were like, for most of my life. Right? And how are you going to fill up an hour unless you have some of these historical Christian disciplines? Because honestly, exactly. And so that’s really helped that knowledge of that. And of course, I’m a church history guy, right. And so just in my study of church history, I obviously kind of came across these practices. And so that’s what kind of introduced me to them. Just my study of church history. There’s there’s a Rich vein of resources that are just as important today, as they were, you know, hundreds of years ago when when this stuff was new and.

Right. And there has been a shift. I feel like within the evangelical community there

has been

there has hordes, you know, and so probably many of our listeners have I have a familiarity with a lot of the practices, right, that right. And that’s been a really good thing.

I think so too.

I think so. And Dallas Willard has a quote that I use a lot in class to the disciplines, yeah. disciplines. And he says this, and it, you know, I caught this after I was already into the disciplines, but I feel like this was so true of my experience. He says there’s much Magical Thinking going on in evangelicalism that if we just hear good teaching long enough, and believe it, it will transform us. And that’s

sort of the rational kind of rationalism that we’ve inherited from some parts of the Protestant Reformation. Right. And getting it from your head to your heart. Yeah, really? Is that really important?

If we just hear and so that focus has been the teaching time on Sunday morning, right. And, and that, and it didn’t always play out into right practices, you know, but it’s like, how do I go from Sunday morning? And what I hear even again, a good sermon, right? A good sermon on maybe patience, right? Or a good sermon on how to control anger. How do I go from that sermon? Right, exactly. Practicing. Right. Right. And and for for Willard, right. That’s where the disciplines come in.

Another, I guess, really influential person in introducing the evangelical world to spiritual disciplines was Richard Foster. I remember when his stuff first came out, celebration of celebration, every chapter pretty much has a link into something that that I mean, this is not something that he just thought up himself. Obviously, I have links in to, to Christian history. And so yeah, this is stuff people have been doing for a long time. Maybe we ought to pay attention to it.

Exactly. And his so celebration of discipline, Richard Foster, first edition came out in 1978.

Yeah, well, there you go. I mean, college heroes born Oh, wow. Oh, my gosh, before I graduated from college, if you guys don’t know this, like, you know, we’re intergenerational.

diverse, that’s what we’re into. And, and but yeah, and that was, and when he was doing research for that, he noted that there was in his research from, he said, from like, 18. I don’t know the exact I have to look it up. But it was like, late 1800s to 1950. There wasn’t one evangelical Protestant book. Well, no,

I did not know that.

Yeah, like in his research that it was just, it was just something that didn’t or wasn’t talked about. So he really, I mean, he really in this movement within the Evangelical Church, yeah, Richard Foster, and then Dallas Willard, along with him, have been those pioneers of bringing it back. And I think we are at a good place. Now.

I think we’re in a better place. 40 years from that release,

right? Again, giving

my age, I actually haven’t thought about this for a while. But I remember the same student organization that was involved with in college, we were going to be like fasting for missions or something we were supposed to, but nobody had any clue as to really what that was all about. And so I just assumed that, you know, I would I like not eat all day once because I was just supposed to, because of course, we’re fasting, right? So I just was not eating. And I remember, oh, gosh, about three o’clock in the afternoon. And I was working all day. And I was just getting hungry and hungry and hungry. And I decided, well, what the heck, I have no idea really why I’m doing this. So I went out and I bought, you know, two hamburgers and Wolf them down. Yeah, I felt guilty for about a half an hour. Yeah. And then figured out that I actually have no concept of still what the spiritual discipline is supposed to be, is really exactly pointed towards, and the purpose and this is pre Richard foster by a couple of years. Right. There you go.

Yeah. Yeah. Now, that book really did start helping people it did, and bridge that gap, too. And you’re not made a couple jokes to each other personally, like bridging that gap between what had been maybe considered part of the Catholic tradition right into the Protestant evangelical tradition?

Well, you know, historically, if any of this stuff in spiritual disciplines is more than like, 500 years old, I mean, I don’t know where else it was supposed to come from. This stuff has been around for a long, long time. And yeah, some of us are just like, you know, discovering it now, which is interesting.

Yeah. Yeah. And for me, like the, the idea of then adding disciplines so so getting and I’m excited for our next episodes, right to really dive in. Because I think you’ll, our listeners will be very intrigued and be like, I wanna I want to try that. And then we’ll just kind of get more specific on where this stuff comes from, involves in more detail and but I think the just in general that idea of having a rhythm or discipline to your life I mean this is in all areas of our lives. But specifically in the spiritual life that in Paul gives us a Paul uses three metaphors that I that I use a lot in the class as well. From his his second letter to Timothy, he uses the metaphor of an athlete, a soldier, and a farmer. And when you really look at all three of those, like you don’t, there’s discipline involved and you don’t accidentally become a good farmer, right? Without discipline. And actually farming is probably the one where least, you know, associated with now and depending on it, but there

are it’s like rhythms to the season. Yes, there’s rhythms to the church here. There’s rhythms to our own spiritual life. And I and

I actually was, you know, kind of had the I called it a privilege of growing up in rural Indiana and my grandpa was a fourth generation farmer had his own little known fact, James Dean was born the same and we have a billboard that says where cool was born. So they say I was born where cool was born. Wow,

wow, wow, that’s better than living in cool.

Much better than living in cool. And, but I was able to watch him, he had his own, you know, his own farm is like, hundreds of bankers, but it still be very small farm. And we’re not talking about

James Dean, we’re talking.

My grandfather, okay. And there was no employer no one telling them when to wake up, no one telling them when to plant things, no one telling them when to service or maintenance, his tractors that were all from the 60s and 50s. And every day, he woke up with a son and he worked in in the winter, when you’re not out farming, he was working on his equipment. And he was and so it was just amazing to see that rhythm and disciplined life. And in the afternoons, he would come in and take a nap on his chair, and then he would go back out and work till sundown. And and it was just it for me then seeing Paul use that metaphor. Now he’s speaking to probably primarily agrarian society, or they’d made shifting into bigger cities. But they would have known Yeah, like it takes work and dedication and intentionality. Right now, for me intentionality was, was, I think, the big word in college that I was like,

and I think that’s a real key to the spiritual disciplines today, in our lives. I mean, it’s not something that for many of us comes really naturally, you really need to train yourself into these rhythms, just like an athlete will train himself right or herself. Yeah, to be successful.

Yeah. And that that’s really what the practice is trying to practice is that training to develop a habit, right, to develop a habit of the heart. And my, one of my kind of spiritual mentors down at Biola. JOHN CO, he’s the head of the spiritual mission Institute. And he often defined spiritual disciplines that way, he defined them as, as a as a practice of the that you can do, right? Which is like you can fast you can set aside time to pray Exactly. You can do those things with with the spirit, right, in cooperation with the Spirit, in order to develop a habit of the heart to be able to do things you can’t do, right. And those

habits can actually carry you on during the times when you you really, really need them. Right. I mean, right? There was a point in my life where, you know, the spiritual practices sort of transformed from just something I did, because, you know, literally, I was a professional Christian I was churches. There you go, right. Yeah. So you have to do these things, to, to a point to where there was a time in my life where I really, you know, just depended on on those disciplines to to get me through the day, actually. And what I found out is those disciplines were there. I knew where to turn, I knew what to do, because I had been doing it so long. But it was sort of a realization to understand what exactly they were for. Right? And right, that I think I needed and they were there.

Yeah, right. That is the key of understanding what they’re for. It’s not just so you check it off the list, right? Yep. I’m a Christian. I had my quiet time, right, moving on with the rest of my life. Right, right. But it is, man. If you develop that habit. Then you get in a scenario that tests your patients. Right, you’ve now you’ve now learned a little bit of how Your body and impulses work and and that may be that first impulse isn’t going to be anger now it’s it’s it’s that has been a again all this is within the power of the Spirit right and in cooperation with the spirit. What is yeah I think I think once we get past the obligation of a disciplined life within the within the spiritual life once you realize now this is the benefit and what it’s actually for exactly. And that’s when it becomes like yeah

is really powerful. Yes. Yeah,

I think it would be actually the one the one thing is I have another quote from Henry now and and then and then I have a three point sermon

where I need to be preached that today I’m on now I know his

appeal to your Baptist background. You will never turn down a sermon.

Yeah. Let’s see some fish belly down on the teeth.

right we got if we had a puppet in here,

up all up be a thumping, right? That’s

right, I would. Before we get to that Henry now in, in in one of his books is actually a posthumous book that was that was published, called here now. He was he talking about a time. And this would have been like in the probably the mid 80s. He was in Calcutta working with Mother Teresa. And he had got a chance to go there for an extended period of time, and to learn from Mother Teresa. And he asked her, you know, he was gonna ask her like, Hey, what’s the key to the spiritual life? What’s the key? And? And her answer is, is is really amazing and simple. Her answer was spend one hour a day, adoring your Lord, and never do anything which you know, is wrong.

And that kept her going for decades and decades and decades, because it fascinating after she died, they found, you know, letters that she had written to her spiritual advisors in just about the, you know, years long, dry times in her life, but you would have never known it behind industry. And I know it was this the spiritual practices that kept her going even when she didn’t feel it. Yeah. And, you know, the rest, as they say, is history. Right? It really is. And it was interesting, you know, now in for me as one of those spiritual giants I look to, especially for the disciplines as well. And he just remembered as you know, as as a young pastor, hearing that. And at first he wanted, like, more like he was like, oh, and then as he thought about a hit just resume, you know, I

just like, yeah, if I really set aside an hour, it’s obviously going to spill into all of my life, right? It’s going to be a part, right?

You don’t do it for this reason. But it actually is true that the longer you spend in what some people would think is unproductive time, like at the beginning of the day doing your your spiritual disciplines, right. Actually, the more productive you are, yeah. Right. The rest of the day. It’s it’s totally true. There’s there’s almost, there’s a direct relationship there. It’s not why you do

it. Right. It’s true. But yeah, it It definitely organizes your day and sets up your day. And there are, there are Yeah, there are practical benefits. Exactly. But I think we can highlight that, again, it’s not why are you doing, but they are and they’re even health benefits that come. That’s true, that come from mental and physical high. Right. And I think that it’s important to note those.

So Mark, I know that you know, we are going to be talking sort of historically and more in detail with sales practices in the next couple of podcasts. But I’m interested in in what practices you practice now that have been helpful. Just, you know, that,

yeah, well, the the, and then I can share mine be the dedicated time and actually, I kind of I’ve been trying to space it out. But time in the morning at least 30 minutes. That is a mix of kind of spiritual reading, and contemplative prayer. So prayer, and we’re going to we’re going to spend an episode talking about because contemplative prayer can kind of sound like Whoa, what’s going on? Right? I

know, especially if it’s like you say contemplation or meditation growing up Baptists, I was like, yeah, so what Buddhists do as well, we don’t do that. We don’t do that. And,

and really, it’s it’s this extended time where you’re focusing, you might focus in on a phrase, you might focus in on a verse,

you might like to Divina,

you might, you might focus on one of one of the ancient prayers like the Jesus prayer, and you might focus on that, and allow it to in what’s interesting is in the midst of that, and Whoa, I don’t want to get into any details, because we’ll get there but that your mind is going to go a million different places.

You know,

that’s part of it. I mean, it’s part of it is recognizing, Whoa, look at all of this stuff in my brain, right? And I’ve always

struggled with that actually. It’s continued Because I have, you know, I have a monkey mind, I’m always leaping to the next tree for the next banana. And you know, taking my half eaten banana and tossing it always been that way. And and I remember, a pastor I had years ago was really into contemplative prayer, right. And so he was always trying to get us to do it. And he was offering these little helpful hints as to, you know, how to be able to sit in silence so that you can actually hear the voice of God because we have to sort of silence these other voices to be frank, we can God speak, it’s so true. It’s the exact opposite of, I guess, some Eastern meditation practices, which is to basically, you know, you get a void or you’re empty or empty yourself, this is to empty yourself, but so that you’re you can be filled with God’s word as a very different thing. very dumb, but I remember he was giving us all these little helpful hints, like, you know, imagine you’re on the bank of a river. And every time that, you know, this thought comes in, you know, just place it in the boat and let it just go down the river. And and I’ve tried that, and it’s worked for maybe 30 seconds, right? Yeah. And I’m jumping in the boat. And yeah, and going down the river. But I’m interested to see how Yeah, have you been able to do this? Because I, I’ve been a failure, I contemplative prayer, at least in that way.

I know. And it is, yeah, it can be in what’s great. And one thing that I think that we’ll we’ll find out through this series is that there’s so many yeses, so it’s not, I think, sometimes you can listen, to even listen to this and be like, Oh, I need to do that practice. And it’s like, you find one

more God uses to impact your life and right doesn’t

there’s so many. And that’s, that’s kind of one of my, my advices for people who are starting to, like, explore the variety, right? Like, if if you and that’s the one thing that I think that has been the problem within the evangelical community is we just have quiet time. Right? And if quiet time doesn’t, doesn’t hit you. That’s all we got.

Except for gotta hear another sermon.

Yeah, exactly. That’s right. And so man, exploring those practices, I would say, fasting has been another one that I’ve been trying to try to weave into my life and try to understand what what does this mean spiritually? What, what is this right type of practice?

Right, I think I’m understanding a little bit better. I actually try to practice fast on Wednesdays. Yeah. I’m not really successful at it that much. It just happens to be that that’s the day everybody’s like brain round donuts or Yeah. Or lunch or something here is, like, no free face. Like I know, I’m fasting. Yeah, that just sounds so spiritually arrogant. You can’t say, the spiritual character. Right. Right. Yeah. Right. But um, what

are some practices? Well, I

actually the practice of retreat. Now, it’s not something I do every day. But this is something we can talk about more, you know, maybe in the next episodes, but for the past, gosh, 15 years, maybe even longer than that. Most of my Christmas presents for my wife has been, you know, making the arrangements for me to go on a spiritual retreat for a week or so. Right. It’s great. And maybe she’s trying to get me out of the house. Maybe there’s that but but still, it’s a it’s an act. It’s an act of love. I know that. But you know, and for us Protestants, that can be sort of an issue. Do I just, you know, go to a I don’t know, a cheap motel somewhere by a beach. And is that what I’m supposed to do? or whatever, because we just don’t alone with God, we right. We don’t have those spaces. But, you know, Catholics do. Right. And a lot of folks don’t understand that. You don’t have to be a Catholic to go to a Catholic monastery, right and spend a week in their guest house. Yeah, don’t have to be sort of open to everybody. Right. And most of them feel that it’s a ministry of the of the monastery the retreat house. So um, I actually started going to a a Trappist monastery called Holy Cross Abbey, it was right on the banks of the Shenandoah River. This is when we were living in Virginia. And, you know, I know it’s just sounds so like cliche or Baptist to say this, but I got some of the best praying I’ve ever done in my life there. It just, you know, and I’ve carried out the practice here in California, because there’s a number of places that are actually close to where we are right now. Yeah, that you can do this. I was actually one of them three weeks ago.

That’s great. Yeah. Yeah, that is such a good practice. And and there’s something too about those spaces, right, that are dedicated and sacred. They’re set apart. And in some sense, I know holy, because they’re set apart is what the that’s what the word mean. And it does it. It changes your experience and the way you and that, and I was actually just reading during this Lenten season, I was reading a small snippet from Desmond Tutu. And he noted he tried to do a weekend retreat every month, once a month, and then a week every year,

and that was one of his rhythms. And speaking of Lenten season, there are some, you know, advantages to following the church calendar actually, that aren’t just congregational Personal. Right. Right. And you know, the New Year doesn’t start in January the first it starts the first Sunday of Advent. And so if you just sort of get into an avid discipline, or a Lenten discipline, and I think both of us are trying to do that now that it’s not just giving up something it’s it’s, it’s it’s taking on cycling on. Right, exactly. And that at least is a time of year where, you know, you’re least reminded of the importance of these disciplines and practices.

Well, hey, I’m I mean, if anything, this conversation has got me excited for the next couple episodes. Right. So we’ll start digging deeper and dad’s right, definitely be sure to tune back in, we’re going to be looking at some ignition practices right in the next episode, and I think that that you’ll be intrigued enough to try them.

I’m actually going through the Spiritual Exercises right now. And so maybe Tune in next time to find out what those are and how I’ve really been impacted by it.

Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.

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