Friday, October 24, 2008

Confessions of a Spiritual Wannabe

I am subscribed to several online devotionals which seek to minister especially to women. One particular group puts major emphasis on having a daily quiet time. I have a confession to make: I am a devotional failure. Oh, I have tried. I have invested hundreds of dollars in trying to find just the right devotional book. In my desk drawer are numerous prayer notebooks started with the dates carefully noted of when I first made a request. The spirit is willing. I just can’t seem to remain consistent. This week, I think I have discovered why.

I used to think it was because I was NOT a morning person. Anyone who sat with me for two years in early morning Greek class will testify to that one, along with my husband, who IS a morning person and will tell you most definitely I am NOT. And anyone who knows anything about devotions will tell you that the morning is the most appropriate time to spend with the Lord. It will set the tone of your day, and allow you to put priorities in order. For me, devotions in the early morning meant nodding off -- again.

So I tried it in the evening. Snuggling under the covers with my Bible at bedtime sounded like a good plan. The problem with a bedtime devotional was I was physically tired at the end of the day. My mind was tired, too. So as I struggled to stay awake, I found concentration to be at a shameful level. I was definitely not giving the Lord my best.

Spiritual people know if you are going to walk with the Lord, you had better be good at devotions. I was doomed.

This week my twenty-somethings Bible study group discussed Mark 2:23-3:12. Jesus had been walking through the fields with His disciples, and the disciples were picking grain to eat on their way. The Pharisees were indignant, because it was the Sabbath. It was an outright violation of the oral law. And so they confronted Jesus.

First of all, let me assure you, neither Jesus nor His disciples had broken any law in the Torah. They were not working to harvest crops. They were gleaning to eat. The Pharisees in recent centuries had taken the Law in the Pentateuch and written their interpretation of its parameters, known as the Oral Law. There were over 1,000 regulations in place about keeping the Sabbath alone. Picking grain to eat on the Sabbath did violate some of those-- but they were the invention of man, not God-breathed.

Jesus gave the Pharisees a firm response. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” he told them. God had put rules about the Sabbath into place to benefit man. Man would be tempted to work hard, trying to get ahead, for all seven days of the week. You can only operate at that level for a limited time. Life would become all about work and production. God put Sabbath rules into place to insure man would take a day to remove himself from his livelihood. That day was to be set aside to worship the Lord. Reconnect with God. Give man a chance to enter rest, both physically and mentally. It was a foreshadowing picture of the “rest” that God would offer man through belief in His Son-- an eternal rest (Hebrews 4:3-9).

The Sabbath was to benefit man. Yet the Pharisees had taken a gift of refreshment from God and made it into a burden for the people. The Sabbath had become a day where one walked on eggshells for fear of breaking a rule. The Pharisees had turned a simple concept and convoluted it into a system.

My husband says whenever we attempt to add specific rules to a command in Scripture, we end up on a legalistic track. It becomes all about keeping the system, rather than the people whom the system is supposed to be serving.

Back to devotions. We can’t view devotional time with God as a good luck charm, insurance that your day will go well. We also can’t make the effort one more thing to check off on our list to affirm us in our spirituality. The whole idea behind devotions is to spend time in God’s Word and prayer because we love Him, not because it is on a to-do list.

However those two things get accomplished is not important. I do my best praying while walking the dog or driving in my car. I have been a student of God’s word my whole life-- and while the way that I study does not match up to a typical devotional pattern, I am not ashamed of what the Lord has taught me over the years.

We shouldn’t do devotions because it is one more hoop to jump through. We should pray and study because we love Him and we need Him. So while my devotional efforts may not follow the standard expectation or pattern of most Christians, I am content in what the Lord and I have worked out together.


Heather Nicole said...

I love this! You have encouraged me so much! Also, it was a great starting point for my study group today. There is so much emphasis on the cookie cutter type devotional these days, it is easy to forget what it is all about! I love that He is with us in the quiet times AND in the loud busy times. We can call on His Name all the time, at any time! Praise the Lord!

Cathy Turner said...

Julie, you're so right. God is ready and waiting for us to spend time with him out of love. I find the more time I spend feasting with him, the greater my appetite grows! I appreciate your beautiful message!

Anonymous said...

I found this by accident, and needed it so bad! Thank you for sharing your heart, and letting God use you!