Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Quiet Times" + Bacon | Post 16

Let's get this straight...
The Lord has not called us to storm the walls or conquer the land. 
*HE* has routed the enemy, beheaded the oppressor, liberated a people too vast to count, and sent *US* in with the good news. 
We're the ones throwing aside the unlocked gates and announcing in German prison-camps that the Allies have landed and won the day." 

[Though I've been a Christian for 20 years, the last three years have been a whirlwind of re-learning about God, His grace, and my faith. Caleb has gone through a similar transformation the last two years I've wanted to start writing and, yes, sharing on the internet some 're-learned lessons.' These things really are the dearest truths to me and I am starting to find myself unable to keep from sharing.]

My church and church-community placed great emphasis on "quiet times" or "times with the Lord" while I was growing up. Quiet-times or devotions were (or, are!) a time of Bible-reading, meditation and memorization, praying, and journaling - or some combination of those things (for some reason 30 minutes seemed to be the ideal minimum time to shoot for, but anytime was better than no time.), essentially a time of meeting alone and quietly with God.  During this time, I was a Christian with genuine repentance and Holy Spirit work in me, but I was a goody-two-shoes, I was an "elder son" not a "younger prodigal son,"and nearly every time I interacted with a group of adults I was praised for various character qualities I possessed. And I lived for that. I knew the lines, I knew how to search my heart, how to ask questions, how to worship "whole-heartedly", how to "be humble," I was an eager "servant" and I knew how to impress anyone. I could also point out the "bad kids" in any crowd. Their immodesty and flirtatiousness and over-all worldliness (eye-liner and jeans that hug your rump, anyone?) gave them away.

So, back to quiet-times. I remember Sunday mornings, bible classes, small group discussions, womens meetings, and youth meeting main points circling around testimony, example, illustration, challenges, specific passages and exhortation to be in the Word of God, daily, alone and preferably in the morning (I remember specific times hearing that it would be prideful to think you needed the newspaper, breakfast, internet, sleep, la-ti-da more than you needed God. Even in elementary school I made a "rule" for myself to not look at the beautiful, colorful Sunday comics until after church so that I could "put God first.") If I could sum up my thinking and interpretation of what I was taught at church all those years, it would be 1) The Gospel (which condensed to five words was "Christ died for my sins.") and 2) to continue in deeper understanding and personal sanctification of The Gospel, you need to be consistently in The Word of God - especially through quiet times. And it's even better if you have a solid plan for Bible-reading, and also a quiet-time basket nearby so you can easily get to everything you need without roaming around gathering it - efficient!

**Disclaimer: I'll be careful enough to add that this might not have been what was being preached, or at least not as "much" as I thought it was. I had - still do - a tendency to get an idea in my head, and hold onto it fiercely. If I heard a message or series or two about personal devotions, and I began to apply it well, I would have looked in any other message or setting for that "point" to be made so I could check it off and be all "Yuuup! Taking care of that! I so good."**

Another quick note: You might not think that what I've described is that bad. Isn't the Bible - the Word of the Living God, sharper than a two-edged sword - one of the greatest gifts He's given to humanity? And isn't it one of the best ways to learn more about Him? Shouldn't we be learning more of Him, and reflecting on His truth daily? Shouldn't we be praying constantly? What is better than starting a day in conversation with your Father - praising Him, asking for Him to do mighty things, humbling yourself before Him? I hear you. And we'll discuss in a moment. Stay with me.

I've had a number of conversations with various friends who have talked about taking a season of not reading the Bible, and how spiritually beneficial to them it's been. After these talks I realized how much I've changed that I'm perfectly comfortable with my friends not "having consistent quiet times" and I feel no need to push them to begin this *practice* as soon as possible. Even looking at my own life I see a very different pattern of "alone time with the Lord" than I did in my teenage years. My teenage years were far more impressive.  I really didn't have this topic on my heart to write about, but then I came across a blog post that triggered my concern with heavy emphasis on quiet times.

Stephen Altrogge, from The Blazing Center*, has recently written a handful of blog posts directed at mothers. For the most part, I loved his call for mothers to chill-out, stop stressing over the small things and to enjoy the crazy ride. But here's what Stephen said that caused me to stiffen:
Your job description is as follows: Love God. This simply means finding some time during the day to meet with the Lord. It doesn’t have to be before all the kids are awake. It doesn’t have to be in the pre-dawn stillness. Your job is to love God. How you make that happen can look a million different ways.
Your job as a mom is to first and foremost, love God with all your heart. Run hard after him. Pursue holiness and godliness. Read the Bible and pray your heart out.

Why do I get a little punchy and red reading something like that? Why do I so disagree with the mindset I held of "the spiritual discipline: quiet time" for most of my life?

To begin, "loving God" or "prioritizing the gospel" is NOT a first-thing-you-do-in-your-day-top-of-the-checklist-activity. It's not something to be done. It's who you are. I find it very misleading to put "love God" as the priority over "loving your husband." Loving God IS loving your husband! Loving God IS loving your children.  And... loving your husband and children is loving God!  Loving God is NOT (necessarily) doing the "God-things" like Bible-time, praying, and attending church meetings.  Phaaaariiiiseeeessss (dun dun dun duuun).

 Loving God is (also) eating food that thoroughly blesses you, loving God is talking with your friend and genuinely enjoying the conversation, loving God is talking with a friend who annoys you so much but you're willing to engage her because you love her, even though you don't exactly like her. Loving God is getting excited about a sweet deal on those shoes you've been eyeing, loving God is staying in bed all morning with your diapered kids because they just want to be with you a little longer, loving God is calling your husband to tell him about the funny thing that just happened on your walk. Loving God is having a dance-party to Taylor Swift in the car, while little faces glow, smile and bounce along in the backseat, loving God is singing hymns while you're sweeping, loving God is getting excited about making your house a home - however it is that you do that.  Loving God is paying the bills, going grocery shopping, decorating for Christmas, spring-cleaning, going to the pool and not getting very much sleep because your somebody needs you - a lot - in the night. Loving God is not about getting things done, but resting in what He has done. It's about really listening to what someone is saying - if that someone is two years old, or 87 years old. And not just listening, but caring about their words to you. It's about happily letting your schedule get interrupted or your to-do list left unfinished, because your husband forgot ____ and he needs you to run down to his office, with all the children, and bring it to him. It's about eating, laughing, rejoicing, anticipating, sharing, giving, enjoying, praising, receiving and delighting - and doing those things with your husband, children, family and best friends? Even better. And living this way so contagiously and constantly that strangers and unbelievers are like moths to a nightlight? Even even better.

In Christ, and with the right motives for both, the "life-things" like eating and playing and the "God-things" like prayer or corporate worship (or quiet times) are equally pleasing to Him. Why? Because God doesn't want us to become better people. He doesn't ask us to grow, change or sanctify ourselves (or, gracious, to "bear our own fruit"). He doesn't desire for us to work harder at sinning less. He isn't asking us to sacrifice for Him. He wants us to come. Come! He wants to give us every good thing. He simply asks us to receive it and enjoy it. Receive this bacon and eggs this morning as a good thing from God. Receive this boxed mac&cheese as a gift to you, mom, because your children don't care if it's blue box Kraft or homemade. Receive your child sleeping in this morning as a chance to do something you'd enjoy - sleeping in longer yourself, getting a head-start on a project, taking an uninterrupted shower, blow-drying your hair, reading that new book you bought, listening to music alone, praying. Receive it! Receive the gift of your husband! Receive the gift of your children! Receive the gift of your friends! Receive the gift of humor, food, sports and beautiful things! Receive the gift of My written Word! Enjoy it, and remember that I gave it to you because I love you. Receive your salvation - take it! Have it! I want you to know how much I love you, and how final and complete and sure your standing with Me is. You are free from having to worry about your sin and your holiness. Free! I've made you a promise, and I will keep it. Believe that I do only good for you. Believe that I can do it all on My own. Believe that I am able and eager to complete what I have started. Want my gifts. Want the good things I have for you. Want Me.  Delight in any and all things that I give you, and please remember that I wanted you to be delighted by them.  Share Me. Love Me. Enjoy Me.  I quite enjoy and love you.
"Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’" Matthew 9:13
I think the best way to "Love God" or "prioritize the gospel" is by being delighted, grateful and at rest. I disagree that loving God "simply means finding some time during the day to meet with Him." In fact, I think that's a false gospel.

Loving God isn't a "priority" we have. It's our new names, it's our DNA. I had it wrong. I thought that faithfully having quiet-times was loving God. Sadly, in my life and in my heart, it was primarily loving myself. It was my form of "praying publicly in the streets." I did it right, and yet I really didn't enjoy God. I performed for God. And when it came to other people? I required sacrifice, not mercy. I tied burdens on the backs of other people... and was then honored for it. Because it really did look good. It's been like living in an alternate universe to discover that my faithful, obedient, consistent actions do... not... matter. Because my unfaithful, disobedient, unpredictable actions don't matter, either. I'm no longer "in me." I'm in Christ. And His faithful love and obedient perfection counts for something - which means it counts for everything, thank goodness.
"He set His heart upon His people before time began. He spoke His promises, He sent and spent His Son, He resurrects souls through His Spirit, He is unstoppably building His church, His kingdom is an everlasting and extravagant kingdom and WE get the happy role of carrying His purchased, perfect gifts from under the Christmas Tree and placing them in empty hands that will enjoy them." 
Wives, enjoy being a joy to your husband. Moms, enjoy delighting your children. Friends, have fun having fun with friends. It's our happy role, it's how we love God, it's how to "prioritize the gospel."  I made "the Gospel" my God, and "spiritual disciplines" my job.  The way to get more "gospel" was to do my job better.  To do my job better, I needed the gospel.  Now, instead, I'd say: God is my God.  His name is Father, Jesus and Holy.  He is God.  And the way I "get more God" is by grace - by beholding Him, not be "doing" anything.  God + grace.  Not "the gospel" + "quiet times." God and grace.

"We are anxious, not because the task is hard, but because we think the task is ours. When we clear up that nonsense it gets much simpler and happier. My friends, let the celebration begin." D. Shorey

*I enjoy reading Stephen's blog.  I think he's a sharp, good thinker and that he's willing to say bold things and press through babble to find true, good things.  I don't always agree with his posts, but I more and more find myself "amen!"-ing his words.  So don't go bash Blazing Center!  But read it thoughtfully.  Like anything :)

ps. I believe in Bible study and memorization and meditation and journaling and quiet prayer times.  So much.  


  1. I think that you make a really good point. Quiet times can easily become a "checklist" with a certain formula, and that can easily lead to guilt. I have often been subject to the mindset of "well, I have not had time to read my Bible for the past 2 weeks, so I must suck at life, and there is no point in giving it 5 minutes right now." And that is wrong and sinful. God looks at me and sees Jesus, not those little checks on a list.

    I do think that one thing to think about, and perhaps this is something that could be included in how Stephen calls mothers to love God (because he does say that this can be done in a myriad of different ways), is just being intentional in thinking about God. I am a mother and a wife. I LOVE my family. I do revel in God's blessings to me. But I easily find myself enjoying these blessings from God (or just surviving motherhood, some days) without actually thinking about the One who GAVE these people to me. I think that there needs to be a degree of intention and fixing my mind on Him as I love my family. This does not mean I have to take 15 minutes (because 30 is very ambitious with 2 toddlers!) to read a bible verse on parenting and journal about it, but I do think I need to be very intentional in actually saying "thank you" to God for my children. For letting my children SEE me pray (or having them pray with me). By choosing to listen to scripture in my car since memorization is otherwise challenging. Because the more I have found myself too busy living my life with all of these blessings God has given me, the more I find that I have not taken any time to acknowledge God's blessings to me at all. And while I do not think that God feels less loved by me when I am remiss in how intentional my relationship is with him, I miss out on the joy of being more focused on my creator in this crazy life of mothering young children. I am definitely not making a lofty ambition of an idealistic quiet time, BUT I do need to make a point to think on God and HIS presence in every aspect of me, because my mom brain simply does not naturally go there. I am sure that is not a struggle that all Christian moms face, but I would be naive to think that I will just naturally connect the gospel and my family as I go through my day. I need to intentionally "think on these things."

    So sorry for the long comment! I hope this makes sense! I enjoy your writings a lot :-)

  2. Thank you for this post, it reminds me that I need not make myself feel guilty for having to miss church because I'm too exhausted from work, or for missing days in my devotional. I love Him and He loves me and that is what is most important, I must always remember that.

  3. Wow. I feel really relieved. I was never much for quiet times, and I thought there was something wrong with me, or that I was being very ungodly. This encourages me to read the Bible more on MY time, being any part of the day. I also think that ever since CovLife has left SGM, people have gotten more courage to say what they think.

  4. thank you!!! No one says this.

  5. I think there are some verses that put a different light on how God wants us to love Him...

    "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." 1 Peter 1

    "...give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Meditate upon these things; give yourself wholly to them, that your profiting may appear to all.
    Take heed unto yourself and unto the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you shall both save yourself and those who hear you." 1st Timothy 4

    "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2

    “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." John 14

    "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." Acts 17

    Onwards and upwards!

  6. Have you ever read Keep A Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot? I think you'd enjoy it... the underlying advice in everything she writes is "Do the next thing. God has given you good work to do - whether it's cleaning up the fifth milk spill of the morning, or running a corporate office - and you are called to do it joyfully and humbly and leave everything else up to Him." It's amazing.

  7. Standing in the airport bawling my eyes out reading your post. It is the exact encouragement I needed as I come back from Ukraine. Thank you for your words


  8. Hey Kristin!

    Thanks for interacting with my post! And thanks for telling people not to bash my blog. That's always a bonus!

    A couple thoughts. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that loving God cannot simply be boiled down to Bible reading and prayer. I agree whole heartedly. As Romans 12:1 makes clear, all of life is to be worship. There is no divide between the sacred and the spiritual. Whether I eat, or drink, or whatever I do, it's all to be done for the glory of God.

    However, I think scripture is really clear that the depth and strength of our relationship with God is directly connected to our time spent reading God's word and praying. I know that this can sound like a church thing, or Covenant Life thing, or Sovereign Grace thing, but I really think it's a Bible thing.

    John 15:7-11 says, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."

    Our fruitfulness for God and our ability to obey his commandments is contingent upon having the words of Christ in us. We know God's commandments through his Word, and when we obey his commandments we are abiding in Christ. If we don't regularly keep the word of God in front of us and in us, our spiritual growth will suffer.

    Psalm 1:1-3 is another helpful one: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers."

    The person who meditates on God's law day and night is the one who is fruitful for God. The one who neglects God's word is less fruitful for God.

    Now, don't get me wrong, it's way too easy to make Bible reading into a checklist. Bible reading doesn't earn us anything in God's sight. We are freely justified by grace. But we are also called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and spending time in God's word is one way of doing this.

    Does this make sense? I agree with your general point that Bible reading is not the sum and substance of loving God. But I also want to push back a little and emphasize the importance of God's word.

    Please correct me where I've misunderstood me. Thanks!


    1. "Our fruitfulness for God and our ability to obey his commandments is contingent upon having the words of Christ in us. We know God's commandments through his Word, and when we obey his commandments we are abiding in Christ. If we don't regularly keep the word of God in front of us and in us, our spiritual growth will suffer."

      Wait, where's the Holy Spirit in this?

    2. Hey Stephen!

      I think your early sentence summed up my heart concisely yet correctly: "Loving God cannot simply be boiled down to Bible reading and prayer." Aka: it's not simply "finding some time in your day to meet with God." You and I both agree with that (I think!). This post was an elaboration of that thought and truth!

      Throughout your comment I think you make some bold statements, that aren't supported by the scriptures you use (The Psalm 1 verse, for example, talks about the prosperity of delighting in and meditating on God's Word, and it's effect on our life. It does NOT however say "The one who neglects God's Word is less fruitful for God." The verse just simply does not say that. You either added or assumed that bold statement.

      And a side note: we see in the New Testament that the men who spent the most time in the Word of God, who meditated the most, who nearly did spend day and night in the Law were not only "unfruitful" and "like trees by streams of water" but were the constant source of Jesus' rebuke and dry, empty tombs. That's why I'd have to disagree with your other statement: "I think scripture is really clear that the depth and strength of our relationship with God is directly connected to our time spent reading God's word and praying." If that's true, then the Pharisees should have had THE strongest relationships with God. But they, in fact, had no relationship with Him and ultimately were the instigators in His death.)

      But, mostly, I want to comment on or "push back" on your closing sentence! "I agree with your general point that Bible reading is not the sum and substance of loving God. But I also want to push back a little and emphasize the importance of God's word." Is there maybe faulty logic in this?

      I understand the weight of what I posted. And how it could misheard or misread (or even miswritten). I wrote about a spiritual discipline that has been held up as THE single greatest factor in my church/life for gauging our and others "depth and strength of our relationship with God," and I'm saying "NO. This practice is NOT 'the best,' 'the only,' 'the greatest,' 'the first,' gauge for your relationship with God. God and His Spirit in you is what determines the depth and strength of your relationship with Him. There is NOTHING you or I contribute to our justification OR our sanctification. 'Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens... shall come to an end together, declares the LORD.' Isaiah 66:17. 'Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you *completely*, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

      I'm not saying "Let go and let God! Woo-ee! Free and easy down the road I go!" If I have a "responsibility," if I have a "part to play" in my growth and relationship with God, it would be this: beholding Him, enjoying Him, delighting in Him, resting in Him. And you may think "Yes! And the best way to do that is to read scripture and pray!" No. The Pharisee's read scripture and prayed more than I ever ever will. And they did not behold or enjoy God. The elder son obeyed the rules/The Law, and he did NOT delight in his father, or his father's joy. And, like Hannah said a few comments down, beholding God may happen through fall leaves or bedtime stories with siblings. The Holy Spirit will work in us, draw us, grow us, change us through ANY means. And, like you said, and I agree with "spending time in God's word is one way of doing this." One way. A way. A great way! Maybe. If the motives are right. But only one way.

    3. I don't know that I feel "sure" enough about this statement to argue it, BUT if I had to revise your words from what I know of God, I think I'd say this: "I think scripture is really clear that the depth and strength of our relationship with God is directly connected to how we love others." I think "love" is the gauge. It'd have to be something that the Pharisee's didn't do. It'd have to be something that the Holy Spirit *does* do. I know there are many "good" people in this world who aren't Christians who love other people... give away money, donate their time, take in the helpless (oftentimes better than Christians do!) so I don't to really spend some time considering before I argued for this (lifelong story, I think haha)? But John 13:34 does say "A NEW command I give you: Love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

      Growing up (yes, in CLC and SGM) it really, really seemed to be "By this everyone will know you are my disciple, if you have consistent quiet times with Me."

      BUT. (I'M SUCH A RAMBLER!!!!) ALL this to say! Back to the faulty logic I was accusing you of! (haha) ALL my thoughts on the spiritual disciplines/quiet times/etc in NO WAY minimizes the importance of God's Word. It is because of God's Word that I'm even "arguing" (debating? sharing? conversing? I'm finding this friendly and good! I hope you are too!). The Word of God is fearsome and beautiful and alive. When I write these things I can't help but imagine standing in The Throne Room for the first time, watching the creatures and all their wings and eyes declaring "Holy, Holy, Holy!" to our three-in-one God. The things that God chose to have written down, to tell His story with real language and real words... it's a SERIOUS matter. It's VERY important. I hold it in HIGH regard!

      Even if John 15 is talking about "the Word" meaning The Bible, not Jesus... I think it's cool that His Words DO abide in me! Even when I'm not reading or "actively" thinking about them! Scripture is so... crazy, almost magical... because it is LIVING. If I go a week or a month or a year without reading scripture, the words of Jesus do not "die" in me... they are still alive! And the Holy Spirit is still alive in me! He doesn't go away or fade and weaken if I'm not "daily feeding" Him. I AM on the vine! I'm good! I can rest here! The Gardener will take care of the pruning, and He will do His job so I will be more fruitful. But it's okay... I can delight and rest on this vine. And the portion of John 15 you mentioned, in context, is so beautiful because just in chapter 13 has he announced the new commandment: love others!

      Thoughts? I hope we didn't scare you away! I'm very grateful/impressed that you even took the time to comment and engage. You certainly did not have to - I respect that so much and will continue to read your blog :)

    4. Really impressed with your understanding of law vs. grace. We do not balance law and grace, we choose grace over law, the new covenant completely replaces the old and there is no good fruit to be had from obeying any commands of the old, only dead works. Look to 1 John to find out the commands of the new covenant (and to put the verse Stephen quoted from John into proper context): love one another and believe in the one he sent. In other words, new covenant obedience is faith in Christ and his obedience. End of story. Any attempt at any other kind of 'obedience' on our part is unbelief.

  9. Hey, Stephen: I think your assumptions about this (especially the passage in John) come from a (perhaps?) understanding of the Bible as: Bible = God's Word, but when John talks about it, he's talking about Jesus himself. Jesus =/= the Bible, so how do we get that this verse is about reading your Bible? I'm still asking hard questions about this (not trying to sound like a know-it-all), but this simplistic analysis is really problematic for me because the Bible as we know it and read it as 21st century protestant evangelicals is not really ever addressed in the Bible as we have it with a command to read it like we've been accustomed to (20 min meditation + writing on reflections, etc.).

    I'm not finished with it yet, but I've started to find some fragments of solid discussion of this in N.T. Wright's book "Scripture and the Authority of God," where he talks about the evangelical tendency to misappropriate verses about "the Word" or spending time with God/Jesus to be equivalent to reading the Bible. I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this!

    1. Hey Mattie,

      I would disagree that Jesus is talking about himself, simply from the fact that he says, "My words". When Jesus left the disciples, their fruitfulness would be the result of them obeying Jesus' words. Over and over Jesus spoke about himself personally, like when he said, "I am the bread of life", "I am the living water", etc. Here Jesus says that his disciples fruitfulness would come from obedience to his words, which means obeying Jesus himself.

      Even if you discount this passage, you have to deal with all of Psalm 119, which talks over and over again about delighting in God's law. Then you have to deal with 1 Tim 3:16 which talks about God's word being useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, etc. I think scripture is clear that when we neglect the words of God our spiritual life suffers.

    2. Isn't the historic church interpretation of this more charity, piety, fasting, praying, and not so much obsessing over the text itself? I know there was the major, major issue of the availability of books, but living like Jesus has pretty much always been a sign of regeneration ("know us by our love").

      I'm not discarding passages at all. I just suspect that this is more about following in the spirit of Jesus's life and less about time spent reading the Bible. God's ways of working are almost always bigger and more grand than I anticipate, and if it's just about reading the Bible, that seems kind of silly and small. And besides, then the historic church up until Gutenberg was probably just filled with people who weren't as spiritually mature as we are now, huh? ;)

      Psalm 119 is gloriously beautiful, but there's a context to it! It's a poem, it's a hymn, it's for the Jews without a Messiah incarnate, it's for those waiting for the fulfillment of the Law. Now the Law is fulfilled. What then?

    3. Also, let's remember that we have this post-enlightenment obsession with having everything be rational and quantified. That didn't really exist back then in the same way (though the Greeks were onto it!), and we shouldn't try to quantify time spent with God in such a prescriptive way. That isolates people who can't follow through in the ways we prescribe, and that is so strongly contrary to the message of the gospel as Jesus, mighty and dear and close to all who call on him.

    4. Hey Mattie!

      It feels like you draw a false distinction between reading God's word and obeying God's word. They always go hand in hand. Of course we're supposed to be doers of the word, and not just hearers only. I'm not advocating reading the Bible simply for reading the Bible. That's being a Pharisee.

      I'm advocating reading and meditating on God's word for the purpose of obedience to God and love for God. We are supposed to follow the spirit of Jesus' life, but that can only be done by knowing the words spoken by Jesus and the apostles. That's the reason that the early church was devoted to the apostles teaching. Every significant redemptive event in scripture was accompanied by a flurry of divinely inspired writing to help us understand the event and live out the implications of that event. We can't appropriately understand and apply the wonderful effects of Christ's life, death, and resurrection, without the words written by the apostles.

      And without sounding arrogant, the church prior to the widespread distribution of the Bible was terribly ignorant of God's word. That's why the Catholic church was engaged in so many awful practices, and why it was such an incredible thing that guys like Tyndale and Luther put the word of God into modern language.

      Make sense?

    5. Hm, not sure that I am. I do think that obeying the Word is not equivalent to reading the Bible (John, "the Word" = Jesus; us, "the Word" = the Bible. Why did we shift?), but I think that obeying the Word can be obeying Jesus/walking in his ways. And a primary way of knowing how that looks, and the essential starting point for recognizing and understanding this way of life, is by reading the Bible and reading about Jesus and the story of which he's part and the fulfillment and breath.

      And I heartily concur with your second paragraph!

      BUT. But. I was raised in SGM to believe an unbalanced teaching that a sign of the validity of your faith was in how much time you were committing to reading the Bible. Not how good I was at loving the girl in my class with an eating disorder. Not how I appreciated my body as a temple of the Spirit and a beautiful thing made holy by the taking on of flesh by the eternal other, Jesus. Not how I was doing with really trying to love and care for my younger siblings without demanding an unreasonable standard of perfection. Not how I understood the beauty and mystery of communion, baptism, and the incarnation to radically change how I saw myself and others. But: "how much time did you spend in the Word [reading the Bible] this week?" "Yeah, me too. I failed at my plan to read for 20 min a day. I only read it once. I'm such a wretch. God's so kind to love me even though I'm a total failure at loving him!"

      But what if, in that same week, I was struck silent by a fall tree in color? Spent time helping my widowed grandmother rake her yard? Read stories to my little sister? Wrote a fantastic essay about a beautiful poem I read and how it made me love God more? Was extra-nice to my husband when he came home late and tired and grouchy? Back when I was in SGM, I would have believed that I was still a failure, because I only read my Bible once that week.

      But now, I believe that I would have been meeting with God all week long and delighting Him, even if I wasn't "in the Word" as much as my care group leader suggested or my accountability partner expected. And I would have been living and obeying the Word in a holistic, embodied way that can't possibly be JUST contained in a standard of faithfulness tied to obligatory time in the Bible.

  10. * "misunderstanding of the Bible as..."

  11. Stephen, this line is confusing to me. "The person who meditates on God's law day and night is the one who is fruitful for God. The one who neglects God's word is less fruitful for God." how do people who do not have access to the Bible become fruitful? If you say that people who meditate on God's law day and night are fruitful for God, isn't that missing those who are fruitful for Him without having that daily mediation? Where does GRACE fit into that, or the FREEDOM that Jesus gave us when He rose from the dead. He came to fulfill the law, and he did. My understanding of Christ's sacrifice is that the law is no longer in effect. I'm also still working through all of this, but I would love to hear how grace fits into this.

    1. Hey Chryssie!

      You're definitely right that we have freedom in Christ. We are no longer under the law. In other words, we don't have to obey the OT law to earn our salvation. Jesus did that for us. However, we still have some responsibility in our spiritual growth. God's grace is free, but it comes through certain channels. The Bible and prayers are two primary channels through which we receive the grace of God. I receive grace when I pray and ask God for patience. I receive grace when I read God's word and it corrects me. The grace is free - it comes through prayer and scripture.

      I think this is evident both from scripture and from experience. When I hear of missionaries going to towns where the Christians have no Bibles, they talk of the extreme spiritual immaturity of the people. Does this mean that they're not saved. No, of course not. But their spiritual lives have suffered because they don't have God's word.

      Does this make sense?

    2. But what about people like St. Therese of Lisieux, or Julian of Norwich, or other saints with such profound spiritual depth and maturity, and intellectual and cultural poverty? I'm sensing a bit of a historical exceptionalism complex (which is so easy for us American evangelicals).

    3. I'm not familiar with them, although I would be curious about what spiritual depth and maturity looked like. So often what passed for spirituality in the medieval ages was a weird brand of mysticism.

    4. At the very least, check out St. Therese: (for a nice intro). Provoking, and not just mysticism.

    5. Okay, this just seems really legalistic and acts justified. If I will not be able to get close to God or to be more "fruitful" in my Christian life unless I am daily in the bible, then I'm not interested in sticking to the prescription. growing closer to God and growing in maturity can happen without daily mediation. I am uncomfortable with how it seems like I would have to follow a very strict and prescribed set of actions if I want to grow closer to God. That does not seem like grace to me. Our faith is about God, not about us. The bible is about Jesus and not about what we do. God is so much bigger and His ways are so much above ours, I believe that He can use anything to bring us closer to Him.

    6. I'm not trying to be defensive, but it just seems like God is being put into a box. I could be wrong, and I probably am. I am personally very jumpy about anything that seems to be confining God's grace and His power to a box.

  12. I found this a fascinating read. Thank you.

    A couple questions:

    Mattie / Kristen, if the Holy Spirit reminds us of everything Jesus has said, don't we need to be familiar with what Scripture teaches that he said? Sure, we could have dreams or visions and God does sometimes reveal himself to people that way - esp those who don't have easy access to Scripture. But that's probably not the usual way we get to know God and his ways with humankind.

    We need God's word to know God rightly. It is his precious self-revelation. We can't follow Jesus without knowing Jesus and we can't know Jesus without studying his self-revelation in Scripture. Scripture indicates that something of God's self-revelation exists in nature and humanity, but that is only enough to leave us without excuse, knowing there is a Creator to whom we owe our existence. We need special revelation to even unlock the depth of meaning in general revelation. I can honestly say that I love Scripture. Some texts and truths revealed in texts have been so alive to me that they have carried me through my most difficult seasons.

    Stephen, what bothers me about some of your comments is you seem to lay out a very logical progression - in many ways the very progression that has stumbled the author of this post (and me). It sounds like you are saying that bible reading --> greater spiritual maturity --> sanctification / good fruit --> pleasing God. But is that really so? If you come to Scripture the wrong way, might not the fruit of regular bible reading actually be bad? You can read your bible regularly - even memorize it - and be an arrogant fool... and hate your neighbor, even... It's quite possible. Isn't it? James even talks about this.

    Maybe someday, I'll have quiet times again. But I don't think that's how God is calling me to relate to him right now. I got odd looks in my SGM church when I responded to the myriad questions about "hows your quiet time going?" and sometimes mild reproof from a friend or CGL (but not from my then pastor who seemed to understand).

    It used to be that I would judge my own (and others) maturity based on their bible reading frequency and quantity. But now, if you ask me what my quiet time is like, I'll tell you I don't have one - at least not what you probably mean by it. I do subscribe to a daily email with portions of the Scripture sent to me via an app on my cell phone. I open it every once in a while and read a bit. But mostly, I listen. Listen for a concept to stand out to me in a sermon or conversation with a friend or worship song and then meditate on the Scriptures I already know that speak to that concept. Sometimes I will look those passages up, sometimes not. Sometimes the Lord keeps me meditating on one passage, or one concept for weeks at a time, bringing it to mind over and over again, when I'm quiet and alone. The Holy Spirit is teaching me to listen to the living Word and knowing what Scripture says isn't about how much I've read but about being transformed as I behold him. (2 Cor 3:18, and yes, that's one of those passages that has changed me).

  13. EMSoliDeoGloria - yes! I agree! I am not taking a stance of "do not read Scripture" or "it doesn't matter if you read scripture or not." I AM taking the stance of "Your relationship with God is not based on how disciplined you are with scripture reading." I, too, wholeheartedly LOVE God's Word. With all sincerity, I *love" The Bible more than I ever, ever did when I was "a Pharisee." I did used to read it more... but now I love it more. It means more to me. It's dearer to me. And I would have no problem - at all - if I or anyone else wanted to spend 30 or 60 or 200 minutes a day reading and studying and enjoying the pages of Scripture. I think it'd be great.

    It's just not THE gauge for our spiritual walk. "Loving" and "knowing" God is so much more than "just" reading the Bible/praying. I couldn't say "Wow, that person who reads her Bible for 200 minutes a day has a stronger, deeper relationship with God than I do." Maybe she does! Maybe she doesn't. You can't tell simply from the quantity/consistency of her reading. But you can tell by her life. Like Hannah said, "I was raised in SGM to believe an unbalanced teaching that a sign of the validity of your faith was in how much time you were committing to reading the Bible. Not how good I was at loving the girl in my class with an eating disorder... etc." Quizzing and "holding accountable" for "time in the Word" can be very misleading and unhelpful. And, in my experience, it did not foster pleasure and joy in God, it fostered pleasure and joy in myself or guilt and fear in myself.

    Anyways! Thanks for jumping in! I hope you "come by" more often :) So good to hear from you.

  14. Hey ya'll,

    I'll try to sum up my thoughts based on all that has been said above. First of all, Bible reading is not the sole gauge for our walk with the Lord. I agree with everything that has been said on that point. But, it should be one of several gauges. As a pastor, I regularly see people who have made a complete disaster of their life because of sinful choices. When I ask them if they have been spending any time at all with the Lord, the answer is usually "no". In an effort to silence their conscience, they have put away the word of God.

    Other gauges of our walk with God should be the things mentioned above: are we serving, are we loving, we showing mercy, are we being generous?

    God's word is essential to our spiritual health. Just because we read God's word doesn't guarantee that we will be spiritually healthy. It's not an if > than equation. But, to neglect God's word is a detriment to our spiritual health. God speaks, convicts, challenges, encourages, and refreshes us through his word. To take a break from reading God's word is like taking a break frrom eating. It's not about rules, it's about life!

    Jesus was clearly steeped in God's word, and would often take time to separate himself from others for the purpose of prayer. The great revivals of the past have always been accompanied by an increased love for God's word and application of God's word. The Reformation was built upon a recovery of the word of God.

    Now, have our churches been overly legalistic about a "quiet time", or whatever you want to call it? Sure. Just as we've been overly legalistic about dating, worship forms, parenting, and a bazillion other things. But our temptation is always to swing the pendulum too far the other way.

    Okay, that's about it. Thanks for letting me be a part of the conversation!


    1. Stephen, Kristen,

      I think there is a balance that must be struck here. Reading over this entry, and all the comments, it's plain that there is danger in both extremes: Pharisees with no love or Christians with no guide. Both are equally detrimental to your walk with Jesus.

      There is no debate or even discussion over the fact that the Bible should be read regularly. Look up these verses from the Old and New Testaments: John 8:31-32 (from above), Joshua 1:8, Acts 20:32, Matthew 4:4, John 6:63 (the words recorded in scripture), John 14:23-24, Hebrews 4:12 and Romans 15:4.

      And Timothy, ah, Timothy! You can't read these words and come away untouched! "Scripture is inspired by God... Useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing [He] wants us to do." -2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT

      In the same way, I think someone said it above, you can make quiet time an idol. You can make study an idol. You can become the pharisee, so concerned with the laws, that on the sabbath God created for your rest, you can't even pick up a piece of fruit to eat it (Matthew 12:2).

      Reading over your post, Kristen, I can see your beautiful heart and desire to simply bask in the radiance of the Gospel- your desire to pursue the the great grace given to you through Jesus Christ. Reading over your comments, Stephen, I can see your passion for the Gospel and your desire for people to know the truth of who Christ is and what that means for their daily lives. So find that balance! It's dangerous to leave scripture for extended amounts of time, and equally dangerous to sacrifice a relationship with the living God for your effort in reaching Him.

      I really appreciate the respectful dialog you all have been having. It's good to see brothers and sisters talking earnestly and openly about the Bible and living life together.


  15. Kristen,

    You babble so much, I doubt you sit still long enough to read what the Bible even says. You read from perverted versions, and spew out false information to all who are reading this. You really are clueless about Christianity. You may have a sweet heart, but it is not about YOU and your odd opinion. It is about HIS WORD and LAW!!! YES LAW!!!!! No, I am not a legalist. I am old fashioned and fundamental in my beliefs and I know the BIBLE! I mean, you said Caleb has transformed in the last 2 years................... it is because he hearkened unto your voice. I am not calling you a Jezebel. I think you ought to be a bit more quiet though, for his sake. He has lost his first love(the truth), and hearkened unto you!!! NOt the Lord! Read the REAL Bible(King James) from cover to cover, then write a long post. You really are ignorant on Bible/doctrine.

    1. Anyone who believe they should follow any part of old covenant law is a legalist. Legalist mean one who fallows the law, studies the law, etc. God does not want a mixture of old and new covenant, that's why there were so many laws against mixing things together, such as intermarriage, fabrics... it was a picture of what he knew man would try to do to destroy the power of the cross by adding law to grace and calling it balance. That is a mongrel false religion and there is no excuse for it. Your disrepect for women is a very ugly 'fruit' by the way, one that speaks for itself and is rooted in the pit of hell.

    2. Anonymous,
      WOW! Where is the love God has called you to have for your sister in Christ? Check out the gospels. The first greatest commandment Jesus us is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself. See Matt22:34-40 and Mark12:28-31. I think especially appicablbe for you Anonymous would be "On these two commandments depend all the law and the Prophets" Matt22:40. Its fine to disagree on the practices and have debates. However it does not glorify your Father to be hateful to one of His children.
      Nor do i think it is even remotely ok for you to be commenting on Caleb. I think if you ask him he would disagree with you about losing his first love.

      Jen Weber

  16. Hi, Kristen
    First, you do not babble. Ignore anonymous haters/trolls.
    Second, this is a beautiful and insightful post. I know the pressure to perform at CLC, to measure our holiness in minutes and checklists, and to judge others and ourselves.
    And lastly, I poked around your blog a bit to make sure which Kristen you are and saw your beautiful wedding pictures. I babysat you when I was a young bride and in the same care group with your folks. My little family came to your family's house in Hadley Farms for a different care group. I'm so sorry about your mom--and so proud of all the ways you're learning and growing, the woman you've become. God Bless You!

  17. This is a beautiful posting! I love the way you encourage others to know Jesus. And I am so happy that you know Him, too.


  18. Stephen, you wrote the following in your last comment:

    "Now, have our churches been overly legalistic about a 'quiet time,' or whatever you want to call it? Sure. Just as we've been overly legalistic about dating, worship forms, parenting, and a bazillion other things. But our temptation is always to swing the pendulum too far the other way. "

    I'm not sure you understand just how offensive this remark is to me and might be to some of the other readers here, and how effectively it epitomizes the heart problems of SGM leadership, so let me break it down for you:

    1. Not only do you freely admit that SGM has been legalistic in its teachings, but that it has been OVERLY legalistic, as if it wasn't bad enough to act like the Pharisees, but that SGM has taken it to a level that even the Pharisees might think was too much. Given how Jesus addressed the Pharisees on this issue, how might you think Jesus would address SGM if he arrived at Louisville HQ in person?

    2. You respond to the question of legalistic zealotry in SGM's teaching (and by implication, its culture) with the response, "Sure." Do you truly understand the heartache caused by this teaching, the broken relationships, the twisting of the Truth that has occurred that you admit to, and yet you respond not with sorrow but with a glib remark?

    3. You JUSTIFY the legalism with the remark, "But our temptation is always to swing the pendulum too far the other way." In other words, Yes, SGM has taught and practiced wrongly--we have taught legalism rather than grace. But because it would be WORSE for us to abuse our freedom and become licentious, it's better for us to err on the side of caution and prescribe all these different rules and practices--however distant our application is from the actual content of the Scriptures--as mandatory for being pleasing to God.

    How DARE you say such a thing! If faith in Christ is what justifies us and enables us to come before the father, if in Jesus we are new creations no longer enslaved to sin, how is it possible that addressing Christians as being essentially just like the World could be a good thing to do?! We are born totally depraved, but WE ARE BORN AGAIN IN CHRIST!

    Be wary of what you support and are loyal to in the coming days, Stephen.

  19. This entry was SO good and encouraging for me. I went from the Fairfax Church to the Ashburn church and now I am at Redeemer in Arlington and... the legalism got less and less as time went on and I went to different churches, but the "quiet time" thing has always been a constant...Not *necessarily* in a legalistic way in each place, but... it's always assumed that if you are not having a daily QT then you're not walking well with The Lord and that just isn't true for me. IT CAN BE, but it isn't a given.

    Thank you. :)

  20. "But our temptation is always to swing the pendulum too far the other way. "

    I've grown up in SGM my entire life, Stephen, and that line is exactly what is usually said when anyone brings up any disagreement. To echo and affirm Nerio Jove, you are JUSTIFYING the leadership's legalism. It is the old cliff analogy, don't bother questioning our fences, we are trying to keep you from getting anywhere near the cliff of unbelief or sin. And yet doesn't the Bible command us to test every spirit, every teacher every teaching? The freedom I have felt in God to put aside legalism after leaving SGM has been unparalleled. I tell you, I have read more of the Bible now that I don't have a "quiet time" than I ever did during the days where "accountablity groups" asked every time we met how our devotions were going.

    I echo other believers who have stated here, Stephen, how can you say you are trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit in believer's hearts if you continue to uphold legalistic practices that treat church members like children? You jumped into this discussion with the assumption that you had to make sure that anyone who decided to conduct their personal walk with God differently than yourself was automatically going to be in danger of "swinging the pendulum too far". Does it occur to you that believers are as scared of falling into unbelief as you are of them falling? Have a little respect for the dear people who care so much about thier walk with God that they are willing to risk stepping out from the umbrella and deciding things for themselves, despite constant warnings that they will automatically go too far.