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Schedules. Lists. Watch the clock, and stay on task.
It’s how I grew up. I love, let me say it again, I love checking an item off a list when I’ve accomplished it. What a sense of well, accomplishment.
In the past, I set times in my day to pray, read Scripture, and memorize the words God gave. Another feeling of success came when I finished and could retain an entire chapter. Then I could recall those verses whenever I needed. Made sense to me.
You see, I am a rule follower.
David said he hides God’s word inside. (Psalm 119:11). Check. Jesus spent time with His Father (Matthew 14:23). Check. God said fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). Check.
But when I couldn’t spend a specific time with God, I felt guilty. If a verse simply would not stick in my foggy brain, the sense of failure took over. If a program at church happened at a time I couldn’t get there, shame grew as I wondered who I’d have to explain my absence to.
Something was wrong.
You see, I failed to see the part where David said “I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (ESV) He didn’t say I memorized Your word so I could check it off my list. He wrote this in a moment of conviction and desire to go deeper with God. He asked God to help him live by His word.
I missed the desire piece.
Jesus loved being with His Father and didn’t commune with God to achieve a feeling of accomplishment.
I missed the relationship aspect.
God talked about the importance of being with other believers for encouragement sake and to help each other.
I missed the point of kinship with the family of God.
In I Thessalonians 5, Paul wrote a series of important details to help us keep focused on God. One of them is “pray without ceasing” (ESV). As a rule follower, the verse produced an overwhelming feeling in me because I can’t possibly be on my knees every moment of the day.
As a reformed rule follower, I understand it’s about my awareness touching the consistent, unfailing, constant presence of God. It’s about an attitude of linking with the Spirit throughout the day.
It’s about a relationship not a rule.
The relationship began when I accepted the gift of forgiveness and grace paid for by the blood Jesus poured out on the cross. He made the way for me to come to the Father on a personal basis. Christ did the same for you.
The Father wants an ongoing connection with each of us who acknowledge who He is and what He did for us. The devil wants you and me to worry about doing things. He tries to bring guilt and shame to us in different ways.
But God wants us focusing on His love for us. It makes a difference in why we might pursue an ongoing relationship with Him.
I now want to spend early time with my Father before anyone else is awake and ahead of anything else. The focus changed when I gave up my schedule, my priorities, and my clock. I still make a list, but I ask the Spirit to help me create it and then to put in order what He wants done during the day. This way, I stay aware of Him and the plans He has.
The pressure is off.
Now, as I focus on connection with Christ, instead of rules, when I sit down with His word, it is anticipatory. While I kneel in prayer or sit with my journal open, my heart is expectant. When I go to spend time with other believers, I am filled with excitement and love to see what the Lord has in mind.
Today, I pray you don’t miss the relationship God wants with you. Ask Him how to become more aware of His presence continually and let the guilt and shame return to where they are supposed to be. Under the blood.
If you have questions about how to take the first step into a relationship with God, please leave me a message on my contact page and I will contact you.
If you are curious about learning how to deepen your bond with God, I would love to engage in conversation with you about that. Please, leave your name on my contact page and I will get back to you.
Photo Credits: Unsplash: first picture-Glenn Carstens, second picture-Ben White