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Finding your pathways to God

Posted by Peter Thomas
Published 10 Oct 2014, 4:05 p.m.

Gary Thomas has written an inspiring book on the different ways that Christians can draw close to God: Sacred Pathways (Zondervan 2000). Which we find most helpful will often depend on our own personality.He encourages us all:-

  1. Do not look down on other people’s Spiritual Pathways
  2. Pursue your own Spiritual Pathways enthusiastically
  3. Be prepared to seek God on new Spiritual Pathways

He has identified nine main ways in which Christians through the ages have drawn close to God.

Naturalists – meeting God in His Creation
Psalm 19:1-4
Meeting God in His Creation - You feel cut off from God indoors
Jesus told his stories outside (parables of sower, wheat and weeds, seed growing secretly, the vine). The Bible is written to be read outside!
HELPS: God’s greatness, beauty and abundance and variety of creation.
God is the Master-Artist; the Natural world gives peace and rest
DANGERS: idolising nature, individualism
TRY: praying in the garden; buy yourself an indoor water feature

Enthusiasts – loving God in mystery and spiritual experiences
1 Corinthians 14:26-29
Enthusiasts seek God in mystery, dreams, supernatural experiences, prophecy and spiritual gifts. They thrive on excitement, being creative, bold prayer, spiritual risk-taking, expecting great things from God
HELPS: Acts of celebration, lively worship, exercising spiritual gifts.
DANGERS – seeking experiences for experience’s sake, equating “good feelings” with “good worship”, being independent and individualistic
TRY: developing your spiritual gifts – e.g. in Home Groups or especially in One-to-One

Contemplatives – loving God in adoration and intimacy
Psalm 63:1 and Psalm 42:1-2
Contemplatives value “Holding hands with God” and “resting with God”, intimacy with God.
HELPS: Practising the Presence of God, “Breath Prayers”, meditations, stations of the cross
DANGERS – becoming inward-looking, forgetting holy living and Christian service
TRY: a few days of silent Retreat at a Retreat Centre

Activists – loving God through confrontation
Moses, Elijah and Elisha, Habbakuk, Psalms 7, 68, 140, Ezekiel 33
Activists have a passion for righteousness, social justice and prophetic proclamation.
HELPS: Prayer walking, processions, times of intercession and courageous confrontation
DANGERS – Becoming judgmental, preoccupation with activity neglecting personal devotion or holiness
TRY: ask God to show you which issue He wants you to become especially committed to, and work for it wholeheartedly

Traditionalists – loving God through ritual and symbol
Old Testament Worship: Tabernacle, Temple, Priesthood, system of sacrifices,
Valuing history and roots: Rituals, symbols (cross, fish, dove), Rituals brings order;
HELPS: Set prayers and patterns of prayer, fasting, sacrifice, acts of obedience. The Christian calendar, pattern of the church year especially Advent, Lent leading up to Holy Week and Easter
DANGERS: serving God without knowing God, repeating mechanically, deifying rites, Neglecting social obligations, judging others
TRY: buying a prayer book for your own personal prayer times

Intellectuals – loving God with the mind
Approaching God through the mind, understanding and wisdom
HELPS: Bible study: individual and group discussion, study and learning
DANGERS: knowing rather than doing, loving controversy, pride
TRY: Ideas for subjects to study on page 73 of Making Disciples One-to-One

Caregivers – loving God by loving others
Esther 10:3 and Acts 9:36
Compassionate service – living out our relationship with God through relationships with others.
HELPS: Serving Jesus in others, Nursing, visiting (sick, prisoners) supporting friends, disabled, single parents, alcoholics and addicts.
DANGERS: serving ourselves by serving others, neglecting those closest to us, judging others, thinking we are saved by our good works
TRY: asking God to show you somebody in need that you could help this week.

Sensates – loving God with all the senses
Old Testament worship: “High Church” Anglican, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox
Sound, sight, smell, taste, touch. Beauty, music
HELPS: Bread and wine, beautiful architecture, incense, colours, hearing the Bible read out loud, holding objects while praying (nail, cross, rosary) , body posture, pictures.
Worshipping through art, clay etc
DANGERS: worship without conviction, getting carried away by the music, idolising beauty
TRY: spending a day praying in a cathedral or church with stained glass windows

Ascetics – loving God in solitude and simplicity
John the Baptist, Jesus in the Wilderness, Nazirites, self-denial, monks.
Passionate pursuit of God in strictness and stillness and apartness, enduring hardship.
HELPS: solitude and silence, fasting, austerity, living simply, retreats.
DANGERS: overemphasising personal piety – “you don’t become holy by living in a hole!”
Seeking to earn God’s favour by self-denial
TRY: fasting from TV / internet / mobile phone for a week

North Springfield Baptist Church 2014 peter@pbthomas.com

These ideas are explored in much more detail in three sermons under the category of "Spiritual Pathways" at www.pbthomas.com/blog


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