Don't despair! Scripture and the history of Christian tradition reveal a remarkable diversity of personal devotion. We were discussing this in our leaders’ meeting the other day. How do you shape a worship service in which all people can feel they touched God? I mentioned the book, Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path to God, by Gary Thomas, which is available in Christian bookstores or through his Web site at www.garythomas.com. It was very helpful to me in understanding how and where I met with God.
I have summarised the nine spiritual pathways for you to consider as you seek to love God according to the way He's designed you. They will be split over the next few days so you can meditate on them rather than be overwhelmed.
In Psalm 19:1, David extols nature's ability to awaken our cold hearts to God's warm presence: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork" (NKJV). The apostle Paul spoke of a similar reality in Romans 1:20a when he wrote, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." Both writers testify to the reality experienced by naturalists — being outdoors does something to awaken our hearts to God.
Most of God's appearances in Scripture occurred outside: Hagar in the desert, Jacob beside a river, and Moses on a mountain. In fact, the very picture of heaven on earth was the Garden of Eden — not a cathedral! Not a Starbucks. And certainly not a shopping mall! Adam and Eve enjoyed a close walk with God in a garden. Of course, others met God inside, in the holy of holies, but naturalists find more spiritual stimulation in a natural setting rather than in a cleverly crafted human one.
If you find that you can't sit still at your desk without falling asleep, or that you're bored by trying to comb through devotional books while lying on your bed, consider getting outside and using nature to help you see and experience God's glory.
The best avenues for some believers to commune with God are the five senses: taste, touch, hearing, seeing, and even smelling. Just as naturalists are spiritually awakened while walking through a forest, so sensates become spiritually attuned when their senses are brought into play. Your most powerful spiritual aids might be majestic music, symbolic architecture, outstanding art, or the sensory experience of communion.
The books of Ezekiel and Revelation reveal a God who comes in a very sense-oriented way: There are loud sounds, flashing lights, even sweet tastes. God designed our bodies, so it shouldn't surprise us that he made them in such a way that what we experience through our bodies can awaken our hearts to His presence.
For you traditionalists, religion isn't a dirty word — it's an outgrowth of your relationship with God. You're designed to appreciate the role of ritual, which builds on the power of reinforced behaviour. There is something profound for you in worshipping God according to set patterns — your own, or history's. You may organize your life around scheduled times of prayer, and may even choose to carefully observe the Christian calendar, aligning yourself with centuries of faith. According to Acts, both Peter and John had set times for prayer. And Paul followed the custom of praying by the riverside on the Sabbath.
In addition to establishing rituals, you may choose to make good use of Christian symbols. We tend to quickly forget even convicting insights and soul-searing truth, but carefully chosen symbols help to remind us of those truths we want to live by. Types of symbols are limited only by your imagination. Some singles wear a purity ring; others wear a cross necklace. More sophisticated forms of symbolism include people decorating with colours that coincide with the Christian calendar: White is used on Easter and Christmas as a colour of joy; purple is used for Lent, Holy Week and Advent; black symbolizes Good Friday.
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