Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quiet Time Series, The First Hurdle: Discipline vs. Legalism

I have believed a lot of lies without realizing it.

I have believed them, and lived them out, because they are subtly wrapped in some truth.

The first hurdle to have a productive "quiet time"(a time set aside for placing my full attention on the LORD) was, for me, wrestling out in my mind, heart, and spirit the difference between being disciplined, and being legalistic.

Even when I would plan to meet with God at a certain hour, inevitably that is when my child would wake up.

Or, I would receive a phone call or text message or email that seemed so urgent that I MUST respond at the earliest possible moment. I would then be up so late or so emotionally drained or so unmotivated that I just didn't force myself to take time for Him.

As I crashed hard into sleep I would be thinking: "the LORD understands that I have small children, and these events were beyond my control. I know He wants me to be available to these people in my life. I know He also wants me to rest, I have to sleep sometime, and the baby will be up soon..."

I was truly torn about what to do. If I didn't give myself grace for these current life situations... wasn't I being legalistic? God doesn't want that for me either. He doesn't want me to feel "forced" to spend time with Him when I am beyond exhausted.

The cycle of my days would continue, and habits are hard to change.

Sometimes, I would have several days in a row of meeting with Him... then somehow I would look back and realize it had been about two weeks of not fully stopping, or even slowing, to try to hear His voice.

I came across a few verses that still ring loud and clear in my mind when I am tempted to let my time with Him slide for a million "legitimate" reasons.

"Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

The words strict training were such a blessing from God to my confused heart. He communicated to me that I would continue to feel, and live out, that I was "running aimlessly" and "beating the air" and would even myself be "disqualified for the prize" if I did not put myself under strict training in regards to my time with Him.

Being consistent in my time with Him even when I didn't feel like it, or have the energy, was not being legalistic... it was for my benefit, to build stronger spiritual muscles through strict training/being disciplined to get a crown that will last forever

There is an end to this race in life. And I don't know when that is. 

But I hope to run for a long time, and to run well, and how can I do that without strict training? 

Then the LORD said this:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and set down at the right hand of the throne of God. "
Hebrew 12:1-2

I had never really considered myself as being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. When I was in track in high school and running a race... I gave it my all. Not that I didn't try hard during practice. But in a race, I realized that I had one chance to do my very best, and I cared very much that those watching would be able to see that effort.

And I realized: I don't view each day that way. One chance. One race. One day never to be relived.

And my specific, personal, individually tailored race has. been. marked out by Him who knows what He has created me to do. 

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
~Psalm 139:16

When I did accept that truth, for the first time I really wanted to throw off everything that hinders... not because those things were a "sin", in fact, they are specifically listed separate from sins in the verse, but because the "good" can become opposed to the "best". 

One specific example of this is that I realized that if my quiet time got derailed in the morning by a child waking up I would go to the computer to check emails etc. before having my time with God. I ended up changing my password to log onto my computer to "GOD FIRST" so that I would have to intentionally choose to put off my time with Him further for the sake of... emails? Checking facebook? "Down time"?

Like Martha, there are always, endless, preparations that have to be made... but the LORD clearly says that listening to Him is the only thing that is needed. That will be choosing what is better, and it will not be taken away from us.

If I don't listen, I can not hear. And faith comes by hearing the Word of God.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
~Hebrews 11:6

God continually reminds me the real reason He is calling me to Himself.

He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

With Himself. 

He will confide in you. He will make His covenant known to you

Because He loves you. 

That is the heart of the covenant. That is the heart of what our needs are every. single. day. 

We need to known, to remember, to be told, to hear, to believe that we are loved. 

You are. 

I am.

So.... once I jumped the hurdle that it was not legalistic to put myself under strict training and become consistent in my time with Him, but that it was a necessary discipline to do the only thing that was needed, that would not be taken away, and to have faith to be able to please God and to be able to hear that He loves me... I began to work out the "how" and "when" and "what" of my quiet times.

More on that next Saturday.

Much love sweet friends,

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