I don’t have an hour a day to regularly read the Bible (not to mention all the other books that people tell me are sooooo amazing). Am I a bad Christian?
Honestly, I feel like one.
Add to this the group of people in my church who appear to have it all together and don’t seem to ever struggle with their personal Bible study and now and the feeling goes from bad to crushing.
Now tack on the guilt that gets packed on by the endless flow of online media that’s always available to show me all the super-Christians who are doing more/better than I am doing and now I’ve sunken so low I feel like the worst Christian in America.
Pile, on top of it all, the broken promises regularly made to God and to myself to do better tomorrow or the next week… now I’ve sunken to the level of worst person to follow Christ since Judas.
GUILT & LOST JOY
All this guilt, all this pressure, all these feelings of inadequacy… they make me feel like a failure and they remove the joy I should have in the Lord.
While I pretend that I’m fine and can sometimes convince myself that it’s not that big of a deal, I know that something is missing in my life.
Now… as I sit in my office, surrounded by Bibles and other books about the Bible, and as I end my day of pastoral/church work I wonder, “If this is difficult for me I can only imagine this is difficult in different ways for other people in my church family. Why don’t we talk about it more? Why don’t we encourage and help each other with this on a regular basis? Why do I keep trying, and failing, alone?”
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER
Life is going to get in the way.
Family is going to require my time and attention.
My to do list will always have something, if not multiple things, on it.
This isn’t going to get easier over time.
God has to know this… so what am I supposed to do? The answer… draw near to God!
DRAWING NEAR TO GOD
I grew up in church… and from the time I was little I was trained to have a quiet time. So I’ve always had this idea of “this is what it’s supposed to look like, this is how it’s supposed to work, this is how it’s supposed to feel and work itself out.” But I struggle! I struggle because I’m weak and because I’m easily distracted. I struggle because so often… my personal devotions seemed just very, very fruitless. Why is it so hard and why can’t I just get it right?
So I wrestled with that, decided to fast and pray over it… and day 1 of fasting you always just feel crazy for even trying it. By day 3 your just crying and dreaming about potato chips… but around day 5 I got some clarity… and I completely stopped considering what has historically been told to me as right and wrong when it comes to a devotional life and a relational life with Jesus Christ and started asking myself, “What actually stirs my affections for Jesus Christ? What, when I’m doing it, when I’m around it, when I’m in it, when I’m a part of it, what stirs my heart, what stirs my mind in it’s affections towards Jesus? And what (when I’m doing it, reading it or a part of it) makes me want to know, be faithful to and walk deeply with Jesus Christ?”
The more I thought, the more I realized that, oftentimes… I need to seek to engage with God in really strange ways that rejuvenate my passion, my love, my affection for Him. I need to work on drawing near to God. So… I started a list. A strange list.
A FEW EXAMPLES
One of the things on my list is, I feel a deep longing and connection to God when I walk the cemetery. Now that might sound… strange (told you)… but I’m young man and I feel immortal. I do. I don’t think, “I need to live today to its fullest, because it might be my last.” That thought rarely, if ever really penetrates my soul. It just doesn’t. I’m young, I’m in somewhat of shape, my mind’s sharp. I just don’t go, “I could die on the way home tonight.” It’s a rare thought to come across my head.
So, I’ll walk a cemetery from time to time… and you know what you find in a cemetery… people of all ages who have passed on.
There’s something about recognizing I’m mortal and can be taken from this life at any time that just fills me with gratitude for the life that was given to me, and creates in me a deep desire to know Christ deeply and to live life to its fullest.
So, on a regular basis, it’s not once a week or once a month, but a couple of times a year, I take my journal and usually Jonathan Edwards’ resolution statements, and I head to the cemetery.
Another thing that gets me is, there’s something about really early mornings and really dark coffee. There’s something about it still being dark outside and about the cool wood of our porch on the bottom of my feet and a hot cup of coffee that makes me aware of the presence and reality of God.
Ever since that realization, I have tried to live life not by “follow this pattern and don’t mess up” but by “am I doing things that stir my affections for Jesus?”
MAKING YOUR OWN LIST
Now… my list shouldn’t be your list. It’s not perfect, it just works for me. It works better for me, it is more fruitful for me, than the checklist Christianity that, for years, had me running hot or cold with my relationship with Jesus.
You need your own list – not a checklist… just a list… a cheat sheet… a resource for those moments when the daily disciplines are running cold.
To make that list, might I suggest you begin by first answering the following question: “What robs of your affections? What robs your heart from really wanting to know and walk with and experience the fullness of Christ?”
Figure that out and then… you have to cut that stuff out.
For me, once again I don’t expect your list to look like mine, but for me vegging out, turning off my mind and watching TV for extended periods of time completely robs me of the ability to think critically. It just does.
Following sports too closely will do the same thing to me. All of a sudden, I’ll care. Why should we care? I mean honestly, in the eternal scope of things, why should we care? It’s a ball. We’re not eleven. Why should we care? And so for me, I can’t start following it, because it will start meaning something and it shouldn’t mean anything. It’s a game people.
After you’ve done some of that, all the sudden you have time. Begin the process of finding those things that draw you near to the Lord. Ask the Lord to reveal these things to you (nothing would give Him greater joy in you)… approach God honestly and with a sincere heart… it’s going to look different for everyone.
God made you a specific way. He wants that… He want you the way He made you.