Friday, January 4, 2013

'Quiet Times' + Bacon | Follow-Up | Post 17

"...do not set hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, 
who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 



Do good! Be rich in good works! Be generous! Ready to share


And you will store up treasure for yourself. 
And take hold of that which is truly life."
There was, I thought, a very enjoyable response to my last post.  From texts, twitter, conversation and blog comments, I really loved discussing and thinking more about all these ideas and opinions.  This post was actually in the original post, and I took it all out because it was just really (seriously) too long.  But now I'm going to share it as my "follow-up."  I hope - whether you agree or disagree - that it encourages, "sharpens" and excites you to ponder and talk about these sweet things of our sweet God.  

"Being affectionately desirous of you - being crazy about you! loving you just so stinking much! - we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves - our things, and our home, and our time, and our stuff, and our food, and our thoughts, and lives -, because you had become very dear to us - you mattered to us, a lot." 1 Thess 2:8
"Devote yourself to every activity, reflection, or enterprise that expands your vision of God, His grace, His gifts, and His gladness. Abandon every discipline, devotion, or duty that offers the Lord a reason to think well of you or gives you a reason to think better of yourself." (Enjoying Grace Ministries)
It's hard to write and share thoughts that could be misinterpreted.  But I think a better way to say that would be "It's hard to write and share, because thoughts can be misinterpreted."  They often are.  If you tell a story to a group of 100 people, you'll definitely find at least two different take-aways on the story.  Likely more.  I don't think it'd be weird if there were 100 different take-aways.  While some may be offended and outraged, others might be blessed and quickened!  While some might be confused and discouraged, others might be bored and annoyed.  And I think that's okay.  I'm glad we all hear the same things, and then process and analyze and care about them differently.

But since my last post about quiet-times is dealing with the holy, beautiful, fierce-some and dazzling Word of God, I want to make sure I'm as clear as I can be.  


I'm not against God's Word.  

I'm not against spending time in God's Word - hourly, daily, weekly and... life-ly!
I'm not against knowing, going back to, meditating on, learning more of, reading, hearing, saying and loving God's Word.
I'm not against "alone" time with God, reading plans, or structure for God's Word.
I'm not against knowing God better through His Word, and enjoying Him more because of His Word.

Not only am I not against those things, I am eagerly for them.  


I am against activity around God's Word being more important than personal relationship with God.

I am against spiritual disciplines (reading the Word, praying, corporate worship, etc) being something better, holier, more honoring to God, more meaningful/important/crucial to your life than "normal" life activities.
I am against doing spiritual disciplines resulting in pleasure with yourself, or not doing spiritual disciplines resulting in guilt with yourself.
I am against proving, performing, going through the motions, pretending, or as Jesus put it, "white washed tomb"-ing.  
I am against trying to impress, appease, delight or win God.
I am against the separation of "the spiritual" and "the material/earthly/non-spiritual." (For example, I would not believe that a pastor has a better/higher calling because his career is involved in spiritual matters while a mechanic only deals with cars.  I think being a pastor is a high calling, and involves spiritual matters.  And I think being a mechanic is a high calling, and involves spiritual matters.  I think praying is a gift and good, spiritual thing and I think eating, laughing, playing, etc is a gift and good, spiritual thing.)
I am against Pharisee-like obedience, discipline, prioritizing, maintenance and review check-ups.  I am for obedience, discipline and prioritizing.  I am also for feet-kissing, perfume-pouring, and weeping.  
"The Pharisee's held it as their central commitment to please God + to pursue His word + to permanently plant and grow these passions in their children, from generation to generation. You can only imagine their bewilderment when they were bluntly told by Jesus over and over again that their scrupulous theology and tireless activity could actually be what was exiling them from the fellowship and family of the God that they were pursuing." (Generations of Grace)
I coach middle school girls basketball at a Christian school.  We represent a Christian school and the Christian God when we play. Most of the girls are friends outside of basketball.  They go to class together, they see each other on the weekends, the like each other's instagram pictures, they have crushes on the same boys, they like the same pop bands.  They have braces, and are learning how to wear eye-liner and they are wonderful.  We recently had a team discussion.  "Girls, tell me which of these four things is most important.  Number one: to pray before a game.  Number two: to cheer loudly from the bench.  Number three: to sprint and steal the ball.  Number four: to run Detroit the way I've taught you to."  Their hands shot up.  I called on about six or seven of them.  They all said "To pray! Praying!"  Once the whole team was in agreement that, yes, praying was the most important of those four things I asked them "And you're sure that nothing else on that list is as important as praying?"  One lively, sharp girl said "Well, I think praying AND cheering are the same-important.  Because when you're cheering you're encouraging your team and not complaining about not playing and thinking about other people more than yourself." "Wow," I said, "that sounds really important."  They all started chiming in "Yeah, yeah! Praying and encouraging are tied."  Until another sweet soul said "But! If you're sprinting it means you're working really hard and being diligent! And I think that's important."  At this point they caught on.  Someone else added "And if we run Detroit right, it means we were obeying you and paying attention and being respectful and using our minds."

Right.  I don't want my little girls to think that the way to "play like a Christian" is to pray before games, have team talks about God, and only listen to worship songs on the bus rides.  I want them to know that all that we do, we do "Christian."  I don't want them to think "First we do the Bible/God thing, and then we do the basketball thing."  I want them to know that together we do this life thing, and the Bible-thing and basketbal-thingl is all a part of life.  Sure, we may do good things that other "non-Christian teams" don't do - like pray and discuss the Bible together.  But we'll also do things that many other teams will do - we'll shoot baskets, and learn plays, and have starters, and foul, try to win.  But why we do those things is intrinsically different than why they do them.  It's not one or the other.  It's both.  And it's about the "why."  


To be honest, though I pray with my girls every single event I'm with them, I am personally not comfortable praying with them in public.  We don't gather together at the bench before the game, in front of the other team, in front of the fans and parents, in front of the referees and pray.  I don't want to draw attention to us (and God) by doing "spiritual things."  I don't want the girls to ever feel "better" than other teams, or like they are impressing any pastor/parent/person in the crowd who might be watching.  They should be able to communicate the heart of our team, the love we have for our God, and the difference in "why" we do what we do when they play.  Now, does this mean I would never ever pray in public with my team?  If someone is injured? Or if there is a serious moment where we need to get out of "basketball" and be turned sharply to God?  Of course I would.  But public-praying is not a habit of ours.  And to be honest, it's more important to me at this point that the girls run hard, obey well, encourage loudly and actually treat each other kindly than close their eyes and pray.  It's hard to fake exhausted, determined, work ethic.  Or skilled, tried and excellent execution.  Or squealing, loud, shared joy.  It's easy to fake praying.  (And, again, I LOVE prayer.  It's WONDERFUL! Pray more, everyone! Don't hear what I'm not saying.)


And I think the same goes for my life.  I don't want to come before The Father with a tender, listening heart during Bible/God time, and then go off and do my work time.  I want a tender, listening heart wherever I am.  I want to enjoy reading my Bible, and running a basketball practice, and making beautiful pictures, and eating frozen yogurt.  All those things can be done with great gratitude and joy in God, and all of them can be very stingy and hallow.  The way to true growth and joy is through beholding God, knowing Him and enjoying all He is and has.  The Bible + spiritual disciplines are an excellent way to know Him.  There are some other excellent ways to know Him, too.

"There is nothing better for a person than that you... eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do! Let your garments be always white! Let not oil be lacking on your head!  Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life... because that is your portion in life!"  "The Lord is my portion and my cup."
"My childhood was indisputably marked with predictable (even if abnormal) 'devotional' activities. Warm prayers that sent us off to school, lingering meals with missionaries or friends or neighbors, non-formulaic prayers of gratitude that opened most meals, hymn-sings that spontaneously erupted on the majority of car-rides of a half hour or more, and such things were a 'predictable' part of life - so predictable that they weren't programmed. They were life.There was no 'time of day' when we would reference Scripture, engage prayer, sing songs, or dialogue through our Christian world-view - because...well...there were no times of day when these were odd or out of place.This is not a critique of thoughtful devotional methods that faithful believers engage to build truth and faith into their  lives. My heart aches to share what can be the heart of family faith, not to declare what shouldn't be or must be the habits of family worship or personal devotions.At it's root this is not a discussion about family or personal devotions or worship. It's a discussion about devotion and worship. Above all we are asking what honors our Lord and magnifies our joy in Him (which is what honors Him).Linger with Him because He's amazing. Do nothing to pay the Lord what you owe or make Him happy with you. Pure absurdity. Live everyday because the Lord immeasurably loves you and loudly sings over you with joy." 
(Enjoying Grace Ministries)
I was shocked when I heard this passage unwrapped for the very first time this past March.  You know how rigidly strict and intense the Old Testament law is?  How it was common for fellows to be struck dead when breaking the law?  How there was law after law, rule after rule, seemingly random requirement after seemingly random requirement?  When God gave instruction about tithe, He did so very thoroughly.  And do you know what He said to do if the place to leave your tithe was too far away and you couldn't get it there?  Think about it for a minute.  Do you know what the Old Testament law instructed people who were too far away to "give their money to God" were told to do?  Give their first-fruits to the poor?  Sacrifice it in a fire or altar?  Give it away to someone else? Keep it in a storehouse until you can get it to the Tithe Dropoff?  Trade the offering for money and then bring the money in later?
"And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household!" Dt. 14:24-26
How beautiful.  Take My money, and go pick out whatever you want.  And gather your loved ones around and feast and rejoice.  We would typically consider money we tithe money we give to do God's work.  It allows our churches to practically do the things God gives them to do.  Doesn't that tell so much about the heart of God? That His work is to do us good, for our joy.  To give us gifts and treasures and feasts. 
"Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads [pokes that propel you to action], and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. But, my son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh." Ecc 12:12
If the carefully chosen words of delight become more of a study guide for the test you're cramming for, they will lose it's savor.  The wise words should poke, urge and stimulate to action in our life.  We shouldn't just read "there is nothing better for you than to enjoy your meal and be merry with your wine," we should go enjoy our meal and be merry with our wine!  We should realize that the finals have been canceled and summer-break has begun!  It's time to celebrate!  

"... he seemed more united to God in his outward employments and activities, than even when he left them for devotion in private retirement.  His set times of prayer were not different from other times... because his greatest busyness did not divert him from God; for his only business was to love and delight himself in God, *wherever* he might find himself.

He noted that many did not advance in the Christian progress, because they were stuck in penances, and particular exercises. He saw that our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works.  It was lamentable to see how many people mistook the means for the end, addicting themselves to certain works, which they performed very imperfectly!

No, no, the most excellent method he had found of going to God, was that of doing our common life.  It was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times; that we should savor and enjoy God's presence more in prayer and than in any sort of business? Woe!

After prayer and devotion,  he still continued with God, praising, enjoying and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy.

We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed... which will naturally produce its habit in us, to the delight of God, and - yes! - to our exceedingly great delight as well." Brother Lawrence


The end.  For now ;)

5 comments:

  1. Well said!
    Our faith needs to be a way of living. Not just something we have to do each day before we live our lives. It needs to be lived out all day every day no matter where we are or what we are doing.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    Many blessings!
    ♥Michelle

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  2. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31. That's our family verse. And i agree whole heartedly with what you're saying. You gotta live it. xx | natalia

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  3. Satan has deceived the whole world until the woman of Rev 12 delivers the true word of God Rev 12:5. She is not a church, she is not Israel, and she is not Mary. She is the prophet like unto Moses and Elijah Matt 17:3, Acts 3:21-23, Luke 1:17 delivering the true word John 1:1 from the wilderness Rev 12:6 to prepare a people for the Lord’s return. God our Father will not put any child of his into a hell fire no matter what their sins. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer7:31, Jer 19:5. Turn your heart to the children of God. A gift is now delivered to the whole world as a witness Matt 24:14. http://minigoodtale.blogspot.com. A righteous judge gathers ALL evidence before making a judgment. If you are called to know the true word- Prove all things.

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  4. Thank you for the way you are so open with your thoughts and for sharing them Kristen! God has been teaching me SO much recently and really challenging me to develop my own convictions and I love your simple perspective on life and on loving God truly and honestly. I very much agree with both of your recent posts and it's so encouraging and uplifting to me when I read them (and they also challenge me!) Thank you! :)

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  5. You make me think. And I love you.

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