Table-ology of devotion

Table-ology of devotion

A Scripture study from Caring, part two of seven.

Read part one here.

Devotion: the act of dedicating something to a cause, enterprise or activity.

Acts 2:42 tells us that the early believers “devoted themselves.” They devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread (Scripture), life in community, simplicity, justice, stewardship and celebration. Their table was ordered around daily spiritual disciplines and as a result, they grew as individuals and their fellowship grew—physically and spiritually. Their cause was spiritual growth and transformation from the inside out, their enterprise was building the kingdom of God and their activity was practicing spiritual disciplines.

In the first verse of Jude, Jude exhorts Christians—those who are called, sanctified and preserved—to contend for their faith. In verses 20-21, they are reminded how to contend for their faith: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (NKJV).

Building ourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit means that we are responsible for working out our salvation and tending to our spiritual formation. It means that we cannot wait for spiritual growth to just happen or expect others to make us grow. It’s a process we are always attentive to. It necessitates a sacred rhythm and holy habits for living.

Through building our faith up by practicing holy habits, we keep from stumbling and falling. That’s how we effectively serve others along the way. The Salvation Army’s Doctrine states: “We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.” Jude closes his exhortation with a doxology, saying, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1:24-25).

I’m going to take the liberty of writing the following story in a first-person narrative, so I can tell a story about my son, Cam, to illustrate our need for building lives with holy habits. Cam has cerebral palsy and had experienced many tumbles down the stairwell of one of our homes. My father visited one year for Christmas and gave us the gift of a beautiful railing. He meticulously crafted and installed the railing to keep Cam from falling again. It had a sign on the bottom, which said, “The Cameron Express. Many happy landings.” It served its purpose well. After we moved from the house, one of the officers that followed us removed the railing and crafted it into a cross representing Christ, who keeps us from falling.

He is able to keep us from falling and he is able to present us faultless before his glorious presence. Amid all the pitfalls in this world, including false teachings that are all around us, through the power of his salvation made good on the cross, our Savior is able to keep us from sin and error, making us blameless and sanctified.

As Christians, we struggle with sin and fail. But we can trust that God is faithful and able to keep us in his grip of grace. Only when we daily abide in God’s presence, personally and corporately, will we grasp his mercy, love and grace. And only then will we be able to help others live in this reality.

The early Desert Fathers, a monastic community of mystics living in Egypt around the 3rd century AD created a “Rule of Life” to help build up their faith. Their rules included habits and rhythms that created space for them to partner with Father, Son and Holy Spirit for transformation. The early Church of Acts had their own rule, as we read in Acts 2:42-57. Their rule included disciplines to help shape their lives and hearts into the image of Christ and to keep them from falling.

Ruth Haley Barton, in her book, “Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Transformation,” writes: “A Rule of Life is a way of ordering our lives around the values, practices and relationships that keep us open and available to God for the work of spiritual formation that only God can bring about. Simply put, a rule of life provides structure and space for our growing.”

It keeps us upright, for God’s glory, for our abundance and for the sake of others.

Read today

Read Acts 2:42-47 and the book of Jude

Pray today

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for how you have created each one of us in your image, yet as unique individuals with different strengths and weaknesses. Work with us as we work with you, to find rhythm in our lives that will allow you to have all of us. Illuminate our minds and souls as we seek after you. We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.

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Do Good:

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  • Find recommended resources for understanding and practicing the presence of God through spiritual disciplines in the Table-ology Further Reading book list here.
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Nancy Helms, Major

Major Nancy Helms is the Spiritual Care Director and Territorial Disabilities Ministries Director in The Salvation Army Western Territory.