Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Divided Life? (Maybe Part 1?)

I have been doing some thinking lately on distinctions within the believers life. For many there is the clergy/laity distinction, the sacred/secular distinction, the Sabbath/regular day distinction, etc. From what I have gathered, many (if not all) of these distinctions have been brought to us through the influence of Graeco/Roman thought. Our society has been so influenced by these ancient cultures that sometimes it is hard to distinguish what is Biblical and what is simply a cultural norm. It seems to me that God desires a more holisitic approach to our lives.

One such distinction that I have been considering is the idea of a "prayer time" or "quiet time". It has been instilled in me since I can remember that there is to be a special time each day that you set aside for "spending time with God". To me, daily Bible reading and prayer have been necessary, non-optional parts of my daily routine. But, lately I have been pondering if this is God's plan or simply the Christian "norm". Does God call us to give Him a "tithe" of our time (as many have said), or does God want us to continually walk with Him? The answer is obvious, but, do we really live like this is true?

I have felt for a long time that my prayer life was a time when I was to bring my thanksgivings, shortcomings and requests to God. There has usually been a certain order to my praying from which I am reluctant to veer. I have felt that there were certain things I was supposed to "cover" everyday in prayer (you know, requests for government officials, unbeliever's salvation, etc.). Well, I am finally asking the question "How's it working for you?", and to be honest, I have not enjoyed it very much!

Does God call us to give Him 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 1 hour of our day and then be on our way with the rest of the day's business? Or is prayer to be a continual experience as Paul told the Thessalonian church in 1 Thess. 5:17 "pray without ceasing"(NIV) or "pray all the time"(The Message)? I find it ironic that Paul said in 5:16 to "be joyful always" and then immediately said to "pray without ceasing", for these two experiences were mutually exclusive for me. Let me say honestly, the way I have prayed has not been very joyful! I have (dare I say) actually dreaded my "devotional" time on numerous occasions.

It seems to me that we have tried to separate our lives into "God's time" and "regular stuff time". But, is this really God's will? I personally am coming to the conclusion that God wants to be a part of all of my life. He wants to eat with me (Revelation 3:20), walk with me (2 Corinthians 6:16), and yes, even watch a ballgame with me (no reference for that one!).

I just had lunch with a friend of mine today and he drew an interesting comparison for me. He said that my relationship with God was like my relationship with him. If I always brought an agenda to our times together, our relationship would not go very far. If I felt it necessary to start with compliments of him, then move on to a pre-designated topic of discussion, there would be no time for a true, dynamic friendship to occur. Is this what we do with God many times? Instead of being in-touch all day long, do we reduce our relationship with God to 15 minutes in the morning or 1 hour in the evening of pre-determined prayer lists and "chapter-a-day" Bible reading? Am I throwing out the idea of reading the Bible? No! Am I throwing out the idea of daily-prayer? No! What I am asking for, though, is a re-examination of how we do these things and why we do them. Do we "spend time" with God each day to earn His favor or His blessings? Do we read the Bible each day so that God will smile upon us? If so then maybe we are denying the very finished work of Jesus, and instead seeking to establish our own righteousness (Romans 10:3).

Maybe we need to stop categorizing our lives and stop insisting upon a "daily quiet time", and instead, keep a listening ear to the Spirit all day long. What do you think?

15 comments:

Steve Sensenig said...

Wow, you have a very wise friend! ;) hehe

And you said, and yes, even watch a ballgame with me (no reference for that one!). It may not be completely applicable to football (which I know is your preferred sport to watch), but Genesis 1:1 does say "In the big inning...", or...ummmm...something like that! ;)

OK, on a more serious note: You already know that I agree with you on this, but I wanted to go on the record here as saying so. Your point about "seeking to establish our own righteousness" is the key point in this discussion, in my opinion.

I look forward to more thoughts like this on your blog.

steve :)

christy said...

Rayborn,
I'm in total agreement with you on this subject. We are so conditioned to feel guilty if we do not set aside a specific time to focus on God, when He should be our focus throughout the day in all situations. This is something definitely worth rethinking.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
Christy :)

Raborn Johnson said...

Steve, please don't tell me that you think that God is a baseball fan:(! If you "spent more time with God" you would surely realize that football is His sport of choice :)! (Ha! Just kidding) Anyway, I think that in saying that the real issue is what we believe about righteousness. Do we really believe that Jesus' righteousness has been imputed to us, or do we simply believe that He saved us from hell only to "work it out" for ourselves. The more I dig through my beliefs, the more I am finding that it all comes down to what I believe about the work of Christ. Did Jesus finish the work or do I have to pick up where He left off? I would definitely say that IT IS FINISHED!
Christy, Amen! Believers are so conditioned to "compartmentalize" their lives. Does God want the first 15 minutes of our day, or does He want it all? I think that walking "in Christ" is way more practical than we have believed. Instead of God having all of a small part of our day, why don't we let Him be our companion throughout it all?!

Steve Sensenig said...

Well, ok, I realize that God did "kick" Adam and Eve out of the Garden, but I wasn't sure if that was a reference to soccer or football... ;)

steve :)

ded said...

So, agreed we are. In a dynamic relationship with One who completes the work He has started, we need to trust and move along with Him. Moving outside of Him is pointless, even if what we are doing is "good Christian stuff" (read...establishing our own righteousness). Let's see....Paul says in Acts, "...in Him we live and move and have our being". We are describing here a concept of living in the moment with a living God versus living in prescribed traditions and asking God to bless us there. I'm in for living in the I Am.

Raborn Johnson said...

I'm with you, David! I want to live "in the moment with a living God versus living in prescribed traditions and asking God to bless us there"! I think part of the reason people tend to live in prescribed traditions is because they are measureable; you can check your spiritual duties off of your list and then go about the rest of your day knowing that you've either "pleased God" or at least "got Him off your back". "Spirituality" becomes a substitute for a real relationship with God. Jesus seemed to alude to this in a conversation that He had with the Pharisees. He said in John 5:39-40

"You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (NIV)

The Pharisees knew the written Word inside and out, yet failed to recognize the living Word standing before them! They seemed so caught up in trying to "keep God happy" that they resented Jesus for being happy in God!

christy said...

I think we are all in agreement here with walking each moment "in Christ". I guess my next question is, "How do we help others see the importance of this reality?" So many people close to us are living in a structured pattern that they believe is essential for the christian life, but yet it keeps them in bondage. I have a strong desire for others to experience the freedom of walking with God in all things.
Anyone else have similar thoughts?
Christy :)

Raborn Johnson said...

Christy, I share your desire to see others enjoy their walk with God and be free from the restraints of man-made religion. Maybe one way that we can help others experience these realities is by our own enjoying of them. The best advertisement for freedom that God has is His children. Romans 2:4 says that "it is the goodness of God" that leads people to repentance. Maybe as other believers (and unbelievers) see us enjoying our freedom in Christ, experiencing the fruit of the Spirit and walking in the Kingdom (which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit), they will be more apt to abandon rituals that they already know are not bringing them the life in Christ that they desire. What does everyone else think?

Steve Sensenig said...

Well, I think you are correct, Raborn. I know that personally, the problem that I always feel with that approach, though, is that it takes time. I want everybody to take the red pill NOW! ;)

But, I know that you are correct. It reminds me of the words of Jesus when He said that we should "let [our] lights shine before men" (this seems to be something that requires time for them to see the consistency of that light and recognize it as such) "that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (the ultimate result will be that they will glorify God, not us)

steve :)

christy said...

I would say that this is when others can see the fruit of the spirit in us. Especially the one about patience :)
I do understand what you are saying though, about others witnessing the freedom simply by being around others who are experiencing that freedom. It does make sense.....and it does take time. It also takes a willingness to build relationships with others, which is a key element of being the body of Christ, right?

On a side note.....I like your new avatar. Steve and I were trying to figure out the words in the left hand corner. We figured out the words "Christ in You" but are unsure of the words that come before that.
It doesn't have anything to do with the Panthers, does it? :)

Christy :)

Kenneth & Mary said...

Raborn:
We really like your new picture. It is really neat the way you have made it. Keep up the good work!
We love you.
Mom & Dad

Raborn Johnson said...

Steve, I too wish that everyone would just take the red pill! I think that part of our job is to make the "red pill" attractive. It sure does seem dangerous when you are in the middle of traditional Christianity, though. People are so afraid of the "slippery slope", that they avoid questioning and searching almost altogether.
Christy, I think that you hit on a key with the word "relationship". Religion seems to avoid relationships with God and with people, and instead pursues rules, regulations and structures that give them a false sense of security. One of the things that has helped me to make the transition from bondage to freedom though, is friends like you guys! It is always refreshing to find relationships that are not built on an agenda or on conditions. I think that maybe this is one of the things that has kept unbelievers from coming to Christ; they see that many believers have an agenda to "win" them to the Lord, instead of taking a true interest in them as a person. Many times, this is also true of believers relationships with other believers. I think that as we decide to be genuine in our relationships with people (which means that we bring no agenda to the table) and take an interest in them simply because of WHO they are, people will be drawn to the Jesus that they see inside of us and instead of us trying to force the "red pill" down their throats, they will willingly embrace God's freedom!!!
About the picture: I just wrote a bunch of different phrases around my head which are descriptive of my thoughts and what I want to experience via this blog. See if you can find the following phrases:
Glory=Christ in you, what do you think?, the Kingdom within, follow the white rabbit, keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. Some of the other ones are easier to read.
Mom & Dad-Thanks for the encouragement!

Gordon Cloud said...

These are good thoughts. If we confine our personal worship to a box, it soon becomes ritualistic and stale.

On the other hand, if we "hunger and thirst for righteousness" we will seek after God all day long.

I know that I am that way with real food. I only eat one meal a day, it just lasts the whole day!

Raborn Johnson said...

Good word Gordon! I can definitely testify to the fact that by following ritualistic traditions my relationship with God had grown stale. It is so much more life-giving to walk with God all day long instead of confining our relationship with Him to a box. And about your meal...you know the Word does say that if you have a merry heart you will have a "continual feast". Sounds like you are being "Scriptural" to me!:)

ded said...

I liked the old picture.