Celebration of Discipline book review

Richard Foster

Richard Foster

Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster has sold more than one million copies since its publication in 1978 and remains one of the core books on spiritual growth for Christians. In his book, Foster explores twelve spiritual disciplines which he divides into three categories: inward, outward and cooperate. Foster is not legalistic in practicing the disciplines, but believes that a change of heart should be lived out through actions.

Celebration of Discipline lives up to its reputation as one of the most helpful resources for practicing a Christian life. Foster does an extraordinary job addressing all twelve disciplines (meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance and celebration) with fullness and clarity.

In each chapter Foster validates the use of each discipline with common sense and basic observations, evidence of the discipline being used in Jesus’ life, examples of how it has been practiced throughout the ages, and stories of his personal experiences performing the discipline. Foster also includes practical steps for incorporating the disciplines into our daily lives. His suggestions are specific and progress from beginner to experienced, making them applicable to Christians at any stage in their spiritual walk with God.

Throughout the entire book Foster writes with honesty, sharing both the rewards and difficulties of each discipline. Foster also calls for balance in everything so we never get so fixated on one discipline we neglect the others or so focused on our actions we forget the God they are meant to bring us closer to.

Celebration of Discipline covers a lot of areas and with a call to action in each chapter. For this reason, I would recommend reading only one chapter at a time to take full advantage of its depth. Many would also encourage reading it several times as reminders of how to include the disciplines in daily life. These two suggestions are complementary because each reading of the book can take months or years and chapter can stand alone as an excellent resource.

However, I would offer two warnings. First, although Foster presents steps in a progression, the last step is often far beyond what a Christian is capable of completing without years of practicing the discipline and readers should be careful not to be overwhelmed on the first reading. Second, even with Foster’s reminders not to become legalistic in practicing the disciplines, the temptation will always be close at hand. Fight it every page you read.

Celebration of Discipline lives up to its role as a classic in Christian literature. It is a helpful tool for both new and experienced Christians as they seek to grow in their understanding of God and enrich their life with him.

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Celebration of Discipline book cover.

Other resources that may accompany Celebration of Discipline:

Celebrating the Disciplines: A Journal Workbook

Richard Foster’s Study Guide for Celebration of Discipline

Do you have any suggestions of helpful resources you’ve used to guide you in practicing the spiritual disciplines?

Worship with Wow

“Wow!” My roommate and I stood at the window with our noses pressed to the glass as the thunder roared and the sky lit up with lightning. All we could say was “wow.” The thunder, “Wow!” The lightning, “Wow!” The pouring rain, “Wow!” The power of God, “Wow!”

Sometimes we try to complicate worship. God is so big and so complex that we to try to sum him up in a song or a phrase, but we will never be able to fit him into the framework of our language. We write songs, books, sermons, long conversations all trying to understand God, but the more we learn the more we discover he is too big for us. It is not wrong to endeavor to understand God more, our studies and descriptions can glorify him because it shows we consider him worthy of all our consideration, but it can also glorify him when we step back from it all and just stand jaws dropped in wonder. It is appropriate to follow the examples of the disciples who reacted to Jesus’ miracles in wonder at the understanding that this man could be the very son of God. We don’t have to create a long, wordy explanation of how amazing God is. We are allowed to just say “wow” and be amazed by him.

This has been hard for me to learn. I love words. I love rambling on a page. But there are moments in my life where I am so overwhelmed with God that I am left with no words for worship.

  • Studying the great expanses of the universe in a college astronomy class and spending most of my study time in worship that God was too much for me.
  • Storms that keep you glued to the open window taking in every sight, sound, and smell of God’s revelation of power in nature.
  • Getting to watch my nephews and niece grow up into amazing little people and being so overcome by love for them.
  • Running through the woods on my favorite trail and watching the setting sun glisten on the lake.
  • All the other times when all I’m left with is “wow” and God is glorified in my speechlessness because his greatness caused it.

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7 Strategies for Bible Study

Diligent Bible study is an important element in the Christian life. Proper study of the Bible is often overlooked by Christians today, yet God calls us to engage not only our hearts in devotion to him, but also our minds. With these helpful tools and strategies, Bible study can become much less intimidating.

1. One Sitting Readings

The Bible is first and foremost a work of literature. However, when we read it in small chunks we can often miss a lot of the literary elements that are woven throughout. It seems daunting at first, but a one-sitting reading of a book of the Bible can be very beneficial to see the themes and message more clearly. Desiring God offers an excellent chart of how long each book takes to read straight through.

2. Study the author and audience

The Bible is packed full of eternal truths for all people, however, it was also written by a specific person for a specific audience. Studying the characteristics, motivation, and history of an author and the problems and situations of the audience can aid understanding and adds to any Bible study. Blue Letter Bible has a list of all the authors of the Old and New Testament books to get you started!

3. Cultural context

Just like the the author and audience context, it is important to study a passages cultural context to truly understand it. Every passage is a fusion of eternal truths and cultural applications and one of the biggest challenges in biblical interpretation is figuring out where one ends and the other starts. If we are aware of what the culture was we can become more equipped to make these decisions with wisdom. No matter what book you are studying, The Voice has resources to help you better grasp the cultural contexts of the Bible.

4. Cross referencing

When you are confused about a passage it can sometimes be helpful to see what other passages in the Bible talk about the topic you are studying. A cross reference is a great tool for this. It provides clarity, depth, and consistency for our studies. Open Bible lets you search any Bible verse for cross references.

5. Word studies

Translators do a great job making sure to use the best words in their translations. However, even the best efforts will miss the shades of meaning that are present in the original Hebrew and Greek. Most of us are not going to learn to read the Bible in its original languages, but word studies can help. They will tell you what the word means in its original language which will enrich your understanding of every verse. The Christian Research Institute wrote an article about how to do a word study that might help get you started.

6. Commentaries

Commentaries are extremely useful in giving you a look into all the interpretations of a passage. They are written by people who have studied the Bible diligently doing all the things I have stated above and come to solid conclusions. Reading several different commentaries on a book of a Bible will give you a new perspective and help you decide what the passage means. The Bible Speaks Today is a useful commentary series edited by John Stott.

7. Community

Bible studies, small groups, accountability partners, Bible classes, Sunday School, church families, casual conversations– community is vital to a proper understanding of the Bible. Believers sharing their experiences and ideas openly and lovingly can be a powerful thing as we seek to understand the messages of the Scripture and their application on our lives. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17).

There are so many ways to enhance our study of the Bible! What are some things you do when you are studying a passage?