I became a believer (aka Christian) at the tender age of 21. For me, this was no small thing. In fact, it was a very huge thing for sure. I remember a friend of mine relating to me that he almost wrecked his car when he saw me tooling down the road with a flashy "Know Jesus?" tag decorating the front bumper of my '92 Chevy truck. Needless to say, the change in my life was radical and nothing less than completely miraculous.
Now you should know that my salvation experience was completely God led. In other words, I did not enjoy the fine luxury of having someone say, "Ken, pray this prayer." Nope! It was just Ken and Jesus sitting on the back pew of my granny's church doing "business" while the other 12 people in the church (all 60 and older) were doing what good Pentecostal folks do down front (if you don't know what that is, I won't tell you!) Why am I sharing this? Well, I think it is important that I make it clear that I had no "mentors" as I began this journey with the Lord other than the Lord Himself.
Over the course of the next couple of years, Jesus and I got to be pretty good friends. We went everywhere together and shared our days in wonderful fellowship. Yes, I was the guy that looked like he was talking to himself driving down the road, but YOU know better….don't you. Honestly, it was amazing.
A few years after meeting Jesus, I met the gal that would one day become my wife. It was at a Grove Level (a local church) single adult's dinner/listen to Ken sing his songs "thingy". The group had asked me to come and share and I was glad to do so. That same night, my future bride who was in attendance invited me to join a mission trip she was going on to an Indian reservation in Arizona. Apparently, they needed a guitar player and she figured I'd do nicely. What I did not know at the time was that this seemingly innocent invitation from "my lovey" was actually all part of a devious scheme to rope herself a hunky guitar playing man (yes I know I will pay for that one!)
Just a few weeks later I found myself in Chinle, Arizona smack in the middle of the Navajo Indian reservation. The camp itself was made up of several tents, a brush arbor type meeting area, and a small building that was used as a kitchen for preparing meals. All of this was located in a grove of trees which provided some wonderful shade (which is very uncommon in that part of the country). The place was really wonderful!
Unfortunately, it was here that I learned something that would drastically impact my relationship with Christ in a very negative way! Let me explain.
Not long after waking up that first morning, we grabbed some breakfast and then received some very unusual instructions (at least to me). We were told that team members should now find a spot somewhere to have our "quiet time".
I thought, "quiet time"? What the heck is a "quiet time"? Now it is at this point I am sure you're thinking, "Ken, don't be dumb dude! You know what a quiet time is!" Sure I do now, but at that time….not a clue!
As a matter of fact, I recall asking someone (possibly my girl) what a "quiet time" was. Unfortunately, this person was gracious enough to explain this great mystery to me. Why did I say "unfortunately"? Well, "unfortunately" this thing we call a "quiet time" really screwed me up! What had up to this time been a great relationship with Jesus quickly turned into a hoop jumping checklist of religious jargon!
You see all of the sudden I actually began to believe that I had been "doing it" all wrong. Here I had been walking and talking, and sharing my life with Jesus throughout every part of my day when actually I was supposed to be setting aside a "special time" for Jesus! I mean after all, these were seasoned Christians who knew their stuff. I had only been a Christian a few short years. They had sat under real pastors and heard real sermons and stuff. Me? I was going to a wee little Pentecostal church with a handful of elderly people who obviously didn't know jack about "real" Christianity. No, I had not "arrived", but I was definitely on my way….YAY!!!!!
I know it is sad to think that I would be sooooooo clueless, but alas it was so. Thus began my practice of limiting my time spent with Jesus to this all so very blessed "quiet time". Actually, it really made sense! After all, He probably didn't have time to fool with me all day long anyway. There were lots of people out there and He was probably a very busy God! The great part was that this was only the beginning for me! Soon I learned many other valuable "aspects" (aka rules) of living a "real" Christian life such as the importance of never missing "church", tithing a strict ten percent (regardless of my ability to pay up), being devoted to Sunday School, and possibly most important of all, attending Tuesday night visitation!
Yes sir, over time I began to understand why we had a "quiet time". Why with all these other fine activities, who actually had any "extra time" to talk with Jesus? Not me! From there, it got even better! I began teaching classes I wasn't qualified to teach, serving on committees I didn't understand or enjoy, and doing everything the pastor guy guilted.…I mean "encouraged" me to participate in. I even enjoyed the all so special "you can drive the church van" privilege!
Oh yes, I was quickly shaping up to be one heck of a religious guy and to think it all started with learning about the treasure of having a "quiet time". Lucky me!
Oh and by the way, it didn't take me too long to figure out why they're called "quiet times". Whoever said, "silence is golden", needs a good slapping!
Look, I know lots of you out there participate in these activities and do so with pure intentions. I too set aside special times with God. Please know that I am only relating how having a wrong focus impacted MY own life.
So, is it wrong to set aside a special time with God? Absolutely not! Again, I do so myself. We all live busy lives and I understand we all are doing the best we can, BUT consider this:
Should we really believe that the God of the universe who created us for fellowship and gave us His precious Spirit is content with being a part of just a portion of our lives? Also, do we honestly use that same approach with the other relationships we hold dear in our lives such as those with our spouses, our children, and our friends?
I think not. I can't imagine my wife would be okay with such an "arrangement". My wife wants to share life with me (at least I think she does) not just a portion of it, all of it. And I have to believe God, is no different!
Jesus came that we might have life, His life. Apart from that life, we just exist. To engage in fellowship with Him partially is to only partially live. I don't know about you, but living life as some kind of spiritual zombie (you know sort of alive, but not really) is not my idea of living!
The bottom line is this: No religious activity in the world can do anything to change you or give you life.
Religious activity only has value if it is an expression of the overflow of God's love and presence in our lives. If it is being utilized to give us a sense of significance or even worse as a cheap substitute for a true relationship with God, it is worthless!
It's really the whole "cart before the horse" scenario". For me, setting my focus on the cart (aka the religious stuff) caused me to lose sight of who was really making this whole deal work and move forward in my life. And as you know, carts were never designed to pull horses. They are fully dependent upon the horse before their true value can be realized. Confused yet? Yes, I suppose I'm being wee bit too metaphorical at this point. Still, I hope you get what I'm really saying here. Doing stuff for and in the name of God can never replace having a relationship with Him. We start with Him, let Him lead, and trust that the "stuff" we "do" is the result of our love for Him and more importantly His for us.
So, go ahead and have your "quiet time" with God, just don't ever lose sight of the fact that He is always with you and wants very much
To be a part
Of every part
Of your life!