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Hungry for Spirituality
Americans are on a search for spiritual reality. Local bookstores are overstocked with books, magazines, tapes, and other materials relating to New Age phenomena, mind-control techniques, self-realization strategies, Eastern mysticism, and other varieties of spiritual exploration. 'Seven steps to eternal bliss' and 'nine key insights into personal fulfillment' books promise to give one the secrets to inner peace, spiritual development, and relational success. But while the demand for spiritual food is an established fact, these materials will not satisfy the hunger.
This past year, nearly every major magazine has featured an article on God, prayer, angels, the search for the sacred, New Age phenomena, what people want out of church, and so on. Television talk show personality Oprah Winfrey recently featured a series 'Does prayer work?' She sat in rapt attention during one session as Indian physician Deepak Chopra discoursed on Ayurvedic medicine, the spiritual life, life extension through meditation and exercise, and the elimination of toxic emotions. Overnight, sales of his book skyrocketed and within months passed the one million mark.
The search for spirituality has even made it to prime-time television. One show features two angels given assignments from God to either bring truth to someone's life or to show them they are on the wrong path, and, during a recent episode of the Emmy Award--winning series Picket Fences, disillusioned baby-boomer parents lack the confidence to teach their children about spiritual matters as their kids ask, 'Is there a God?' and 'How can I talk to him?'
In the midst of this search for spirituality, where is the Christian church and how is it doing? By and large the church has become conformed to the surrounding culture and no longer gives evidence in the life of its members to the teaching, lifestyle, ministry, and passion of Jesus. Our churches are filled with cultural Christians driven by materialistic values who are defining success in the world's terms. We have been seduced by media images of beauty, achievement, and power. Christians are no exceptions to the general tendency to seek instant gratification for different needs, including spiritual ones. We therefore have tended to seek shortcuts to achieving spiritual growth and have been left with a veneer of superficial spirituality.
Fortunately, more and more Christians, in recent years, seem to be dissatisfied with surface spirituality and are hungering for the depths of true Christian spirituality. More and more Christians are eager for a deep relationship to God that leads to a transformed lifestyle and spiritually empowered ministry.
We believe the deepest longing of the human heart can be met only through relationship to God---conformity of our hearts and minds to the life and character of Jesus Christ. This journey into true spirituality requires the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. We connect with the presence and power of the Spirit through the disciplines of the Spirit. As we intentionally engage in the spiritual disciplines, we put ourselves in places and situations where the Holy Spirit can do his transforming work. No one drifts casually into vital spirituality.
It is not our control and practice of the disciplines that makes a difference, but our yielding to the power and influence of the Holy Spirit through the practice of the disciplines that gives him space to speak to us and guide us, to fill us and empower us, to turn us around and transform us. We need to be yielding to the Spirit through the disciplines of solitude (solitude and silence, listening and guidance, prayer and intercession, study and meditation), the disciplines of surrender (repentance and confession, yielding and submission, fasting, and worship), and the disciplines of service (fellowship, simplicity, service, witness), in order to receive from the Holy Spirit the power to do what we cannot do on our own: love our enemies, live without unnecessary worry, and give generously of our resources. We have written this book to focus on the Holy Spirit's role in our journey toward true spirituality. We want to help Christians draw near to God in deeper love and intimacy, to know their identity in God through personal submission and surrender, and to be drawn into partnership with God in reaching a broken and lost world.
We are writing especially to those of you who are spiritually hungry and want a more vital Christian experience and practice in your lives. We want to reach, touch, and motivate you to pursue the true spiritual adventure of growing into the likeness of Jesus under the power of the Holy Spirit. Let's begin.