daily devotions: life-giving or performance-based?

I read a great article by Tim Challies called The Quiet Time Performance.  

Here’s the heart of the article where he quotes Jerry Bridges:

Why is it that we tend to think this way? [meaning that God will bless us for good quiet times and punish us for bad] According to Bridges, we’ve come to believe that God’s blessing on our lives is somehow conditional upon our spiritual performance. In other words, if we’ve performed well and done our quiet time as we ought to have done, we have put ourselves in a place where God can bless us. We may not consciously articulate this, but we prove that we believe it when we have a bad day and are certain that on this day we are absolutely unworthy of God’s blessings. This attitude “reveals an all-too-common misconception of the Christian life: the thinking that, although we are saved by grace, we earn or forfeit God’s blessings in our daily lives by our performance.”

Do you think of quiet times this way?   (By quiet times I mean read the Word and pray).  On the days when you miss, are you just waiting for God to be “dishing out bummers”?  I think Challies has hit on some crucial points to help those who do quiet times for performance.  The kind of people who are sharing what they “learned” in quiet times more to show off or make sure everyone knows that they had quiet time than anything else.

If you brag about your quiet time, there may be a problem.

The same people who try to impress man with their devotions are probably also trying to impress God.  

But I’d like to come at it from the other side as well.  Yes, there are people who do quiet times for performance.  And if we end the conversation there, many people will, (now liberated) say, “Aha, I don’t need to do quiet times, God’s blessing on my life is secured by the death of his Son.”  

They’d be right.  Challies says, “Quiet time becomes tyrannical when you understand it as a performance.” 

So perhaps to end the tyranny, we should end the quiet times.

No!  Of course not, and that’s not what Challies is saying.  Here’s some of his concluding remarks:

So what, then, does Scripture command? It commands that the Word of God be constantly upon your heart. You are to pray, to read the Scripture and to meditate upon it, but you are to do so from a joyful desire, and not mere performance-based duty.

To look at devotions as mere duty, done to gain favor is lethal.  But to see them for what they should be, namely, the means by which I survive from day to day, they become a precious grace, not a performance for a blessing.  They are Air. Water.  Food for my soul.  

My pastor says it best in regard to prayer specifically (although I think the same can be said for Bible reading).  In answer to the question, “Is prayer a duty?” he says:

You can call it that. It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater. It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers. It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns. It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food. It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water. It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid. It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin. It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey. It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.

And so, Challies says, quiet time should come from a joyful desire.  I think it should also come from a desperate need.  Desperation is more often my motivation than joy.  I’m needy.  I’m sinful.  Without the Word and prayer I get lost.  

And the more I’m in the Word, the more my need for it increases, not the other way around.  The more I pray, the more I need to pray.  

There’s no amount of time that is the “right” amount of time to do devotions.  Some will gain more for their soul from teaching a child one tiny verse and letting it affect their life and heart than others who spend hours studying.  Some are praying all through their day and others set aside a time to do so.  

The point is to rail against legalism, while preserving the Water that is the Word of God and prayer for thirsty people.

Any thoughts, readers?

Mr. TommyD and 13 things

At the marriage retreat we were given an assignment to make a list of 25 things we appreciate about our spouse.  I thought I share some of my list with you.  I’ll do 13, because his birthday is on the 13th of April.  And you might get bored with 25.  

Mr. TommyD is a great guy, it’d be a terrible thing to keep all his wonderfulness to myself!

Did I mention I like lists?  

1) He extols and praises God in everyday speech with whomever he’s around.  

2) He leads our family in worship and when he worships God, it’s contagious.

3) He takes risks.  Not dumb blind risks, but risks that require trusting God and are for our good.

4) He goes for things.  He started his own business.  He’s good at it.  

5) If I’m exhausted from being up with the baby and he doesn’t have an early meeting, he does breakfast with the kids and lets me sleep.

6) He listens to and values my input.  He actually asks for it and wants to know what I think about things.

7) He regularly examines his own soul.  He doesn’t often accuse me of things or judge me or question my motives.  He looks for the flaws in himself before he approaches me with a problem I have.

8) He is hungry for our kids to see God in a transforming way and for them to fall in love with God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

9) He does most of the bills.  (that one looks small, but boy is it big).

10) He’s a great gift-giver.  He surprised me with the MacBook I’m now typing on, and for Christmas got me gift certificates to a spa (one for me and one for a friend to bring along).

11) He initiates prayer with the kids and me, everyday.

12) He’ll pick up supper when I’m worn out and doesn’t view it a deficiency on my part.  In other words, he’s gracious and understanding about what it’s like to take care of three little ones and the home.

13) He uses my hairdryer to warm up the bed sheets before I get in at night.  

Yep, I know, he’s great.  What does your spouse do that you appreciate?  Have you told them?  They might be pleasantly surprised!

tips on praying for the children in our lives

Who knew that when I became a parent I would be catapulted into a world of desperate prayers?  

Nowadays they range from the urgently practical (Lord, I pray that Eliza would have flushed the toilet and put the seat down, as Elianna heads for the bathroom) to the ridiculously selfish (Lord, please make my children good readers) to the deep inward utterings (Lord, please save their souls, keep them from evil, don’t leave them to their own devices, help them love You!)

I found this list on the desiring God blog and thought those of you with little ones (or big ones) might appreciate it.  Or if you are a friend, uncle, youth worker, grandparent, these could be helpful.  

I can’t think of a better gift to give to children and their parents than to commit to pray for their children in this way.  

That Jesus will call them and no one will hinder them from coming.

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13-15)

That they will respond in faith to Jesus’ faithful, persistent call.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

That they will experience sanctification through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and will increasingly desire to fulfill the greatest commandments.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

That they will not be unequally yoked in intimate relationships, especially marriage.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

That their thoughts will be pure.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

That their hearts will be stirred to give generously to the Lord’s work.

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord. (Exodus 35:29)

That when the time is right, they will GO!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

What do you pray for your kids or the beloved children around you?