Dr. Albert Day, founder of the Disciplined Order of Christ, suggested that persons like us take an interest in, and perhaps join the Disciplined Order of Christ “to seek for ourselves the highest New Testament standard of Christian experience and life,” and to promote that experience and standard among others.  By doing this, we desire “to seek first the Kingdom of God, not in our lives merely, but in the life of the world” (Discipline and Discovery (Appendix, revised edition, 1961, p. 150-51).
            I believe he was right.  At least that was a major part of my motivation when I joined the Order over 40 years ago.  I wanted then, and I still want, “the highest New Testament standard of Christian experience and life,” for me and for others.  That is the standard required by our Lord Jesus, and nothing less will do. 
            Of course some people challenge the idea that we are required to live up to the highest New Testament standard.  But that challenge fails, if one takes the Scriptures and the Lordship of Jesus seriously.  Jesus, near the end of his earthly ministry stood in the Temple and exclaimed, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind … And … you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39).  And he proclaimed early in his ministry from a mountaintop, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).
            There is nothing new or unusual in the standards of the DOC.  They simply are the classic standards of Christian living that have been promoted by dedicated Christians through the ages.  Therefore these emphases are important to our spiritual development, whether we have been on the way for many years, or we are just beginning.  Thus we are launching this series, “DOC: Back to Basics.”  We want to call those of you who are part of the Order to remember the basics of Christian living, and we want those of you who are searching for a deeper walk with God in Christ to understand that the DOC is a fellowship in which you not only can find your way, but also one in which you will be loved and nurtured. 
            The Order recommends seven classic disciplines: Private Prayer (including daily reading of the Bible and spiritual classics), Personal Commitment (including eight virtues laid out in Dr. Day’s 1947 book, Discipline and Discovery, which became the “Handbook” of the Order), Small Group Fellowship, Active Church Participation, Witness and Service, Stewardship, and Ecumenical Fellowship.  Since the eight virtues that Dr. Day emphasized in Disciple and Discovery are at the heart of the DOC commitment, I am going to begin with them.  They are: obedience, simplicity, humility, frugality, generosity, truthfulness, purity, and charity (the King James Bible word for love).  We will explore those virtues together in the weeks and months ahead. 
            The title of this first essay, “The Cause of Our Lifestyle,” comes from my conviction that there good are reasons for it.  Thus the thrust of this essay is why we strive for the highest New Testament lifestyle.  Dr. Day laid out these reasons rather well.  The first is obvious.  It is our great need for it.  When we honestly examine our lives, we soon note that we frequently fail to be all that Christ wants us to be, and to do all he wants us to do. 
            And there are reasons for our failures.  Two pop into my mind immediately.  One is the pressure of daily difficulties.  Sometimes it seems that problems keep piling up to the point of totally exhausting us: health problems, job problems, financial problems, car problems, house problems, problems with the children.  We begin to feel like we cannot stand to face even one more problem.  Indeed sometimes we begin to feel like Chippy the parakeet. 
            Have you heard about Chippy the parakeet?  Max Lucado tells about Chippy in his book, In the Eye of the Storm (p. 11f.).  This is the Moore revised version of that story. 
            For some time Chippy led a rather typical pet parakeet’s life.  Indeed it probably was better than most.  For starters he had, and still has for that matter, one of those really large, fancy cages, with at least three perches in it, including one that swings back and forth.  And Chippy’s master provided lots of food and water, extra absorbent papers on the cage bottom, and everything else that a captive parakeet might want. 
            If pet parakeets can feel blessed by God, I am sure that Chippy would have said that he felt blessed, though I have no idea what the images in his little parakeet mind would be.  But then it happened.  One day Chippy’s owner was cleaning the cage, using a relatively efficient method, a vacuum cleaner, with no attachment on the end of the hose.  She had just begun the cleaning job, when the phone rang.  She reached back to pick up the phone, and “sssloopp!”  She looked at end of hose with surprise, and then exclaimed, “Chippy!”
            Action was immediate!  She disconnected that dirt bag as quickly as possible.  Then she frantically unzipped it, jerked out the inner paper bag, and tore it open.  There he was, still alive, but stunned.  He was covered head to tail with dirt and grime, including birdcage dirt.
            “O Chippy!”  The owner’s indecision lasted only seconds.  Taking the dirty bird in her hands, she charged into the bathroom, turned on the water in the sink, and plunged Chippy under the faucet to clean him up.  And sure enough she got him clean.
            But suddenly she realized that she had a new problem.  Chippy was clean, but he was laying there soaked and shivering.  Poor bird!  Could pneumonia be far away?  So like any compassionate bird owner, she grabbed her hair dryer and blasted him with hot air.
            A few days later, someone who knew about Chippy’s mishap inquired about how well he was recovering.  “Well,” the owner replied, “Chippy doesn’t sing much anymore–he just sits and stares.”
            Many of us can identify with Chippy at one time or another.  Sometimes things happen to us, one right after another, that simply knock the props right out from under us.  It has happened to all of us.  And sometimes those problems mount up so much that they begin to interfere with our relationship to God.  We may get angry with God.  We may become confused, and wonder if
God still is in control of the universe.  And sometimes we just get numb.  Like Chippy we sit and stare, unable to pray or do anything else constructive.  So the pressures of daily life can cause us to fail in our relationship to God. 
            A second reason for our failure is our tendency to be undisciplined.  Denominational affiliation has little to do with it.  As Dr. Day reminds us, Christians generally, and Protestant Christians particularly, tend to lack self-discipline (D&D, p. 7).  If we made a list of areas in which people lack discipline, it would not take long for us to recognize some of our own areas of weakness.
            For example, some folks have difficulty controlling their basic appetites such as those for food and sex.  Others cannot manage their time, money, or devotional exercises.  Some people struggle with emotions and find it hard to manage fantasies, fears, anger, and guilt.  Still others lack self-esteem; and many do not love others as we ought to love.  And all of us in one way or another struggle with the use of power.
            Dr. Day identifies three special areas of need, though he certainly realized that they are only representative.  The three areas are self, things and people.  When we are in the grip of these three enemies, we cannot be what God wants us to be, or do what God wants us to do.
            First is the self.  There is a selfish self that lurks within us all and measures everything–issues, causes, other people, even God–by their effects on the self.  Thus I may tend to concern myself with my hopes, my plans, my benefits, and my security, even my salvation (D&D, p. 19)! 
            Now one of the ways that our selfish self dominates us is through overemphasis on possessions.  Therefore things become a second problem area (D&D, p. 19f.).  I would like to be able to say that little needs to be said about this, because everyone is aware of the tyranny of things.  But I can’t say that, because I know it isn’t true.  I see many Christians bound by the things they possess, or the things they want to possess; and unfortunately, they often don’t even realize it. 
            Our culture is so things oriented that we often are blind to the drive within us for a home, cars, and clothes (with the right labels of course) that are far beyond our actual needs.  And this problem does not end with a lust for objects.  We often are guilty of desiring authority and power as well. 
            The third problem area, which also springs from the first, that dominating selfish self that we all have, is tyranny of people.  Who among us has not on occasion allowed what other people think, or what they might think, to play a more significant role in our decision making than what God thinks!  Some Christians are so bound by the opinions of other people, they cannot be God’s person in the Church, let alone in the world (D&D, p. 20).  Thus we see the tyranny of the self, things, and people. 
            To summarize this discussion of the cause of our New Testament lifestyle, we have seen, first of all, our great need of it.  We often fail in our relationship to God, because of the pressures of daily life; and like Chippy the parakeet, we get depressed and sit and stare.  Secondly, we often lack discipline.  We find ourselves so much in the grip of self, things and other people that we drift away from God, and again our relationship to him suffers.  Obviously, if we are to fulfill God’s dream for our lives, that tyranny must be broken.  And of course the key is to break free from that dominating self that plagues us (D&D, p. 21).