by Ross Carey
I remember I used to get news/prayer letters from missionaries and I anxiously read to see how they were holding up in a different culture, how their ministries were going and to learn about the different people they were helping. But then to my dismay, sometimes the whole letter was a devotional and I thought, “I already had my devotions today; I want to know about you!”
As I recall our news/prayer letters, they are totally the opposite: never a devotional, but always about people/students telling the changes they have been experiencing. Then this month Kay and I read in Our Daily Bread for July 17th during our bedtime devotions that “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people”. So I thought, “Hey, we always discuss people and their events. Maybe I should reach up and discuss an idea in this letter.”
I have found in polling my students that their daily devotions average around 3 or 4 days per week—not so daily. Many do not have devotions at all. (Mind you, these are seminary students who will likely tell their followers to have a daily quiet time.) So part of my classes are aimed to have them practice the spiritual discipline of a regular quiet time with Jesus.
So here´s the idea I want to discuss which I discovered in 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (NIV). Usually I have heard this verse used to emphasize the faithfulness of God. That is correct. Then I noticed that the verse also tells us we were called to have fellowship with Jesus. Does this sound like an option to you? I like the Spanish which says we were called to “have communion” with Jesus. Is this just about joining his ranks? Just called to go to heaven? No, he wants to have intimate fellowship with us as well. Imagine! If that´s the case, what would this look like? When will this happen? For example, have you had fellowship with Christ today? This week?
To have fellowship or communion with somebody requires we put in the time with him or her. Relationships require some time. And God wants a love relationship with us. But a personal fellowship time seems hard to carry out. Some of us are not very disciplined. Maybe it´s because we think of it as a discipline as I mentioned above. Discipline goes against the current. We do not naturally want it. We want to govern ourselves and be independent—even of our Creator.
Others know that God wants this communion with us and so when it doesn´t happen, they feel guilty. They think they are not pleasing God. So it becomes a type of works and they see themselves falling short. God´s attitude toward you is not based on what you do or don´t do. The Bible tells us that if you are in Christ, he looks at you as righteous. You are not going to please him by putting in time with him. He is already pleased with you since you are in Christ. He accepts you. If you are having a quiet time to gain points with him, you are wasting your time.
God calls our relationship with him “fellowship”. Sure doesn´t sound much like discipline. So here´s a suggestion: When you do take some time apart with the Lord, here´s the motivation. Think of the devotional time as drawing near to him, putting yourself in the place where God can bless you, where you can open up to him, where you can let him speak to you through the Scripture and other means. Come and visit us at the Outreach table in the church lobby the Sundays (8/18, 8/25, 9/1).