I went this past weekend to this mysterious event called Women's Encounter down near Augusta, KS. I wasn't really excited to go because I couldn't really get out of anyone what would happen there. No schedule. No checklist (not even for packing really other than a tip to bring a sweater). No account of "oh you do this first and then this happens...." Nothing.
Have you noticed I like lists? Checklists, to-do lists, honey-do lists, instructions, guidelines, plans. That's me: Miss Type A personality. Which is really weird considering I'm not that great at organizing things (seriously, you should see our closets). Anyway.
I went because Big A came home from a Bible study and said we should sign up. Ok. Done.
However, once things got rolling down at Wheat State Camp, I understood the mystery. It's not mysterious to scare anyone or to keep secrets (there is no Kool-Aid) but because when you are off-guard, sometimes that is when God can really talk to you. You're not looking forward to what is coming next (seriously I didn't even know when lights out would be!). You can't look ahead and things...oh I can't wait for such and such time - because that could be 10 minutes from now or 3 hours.
But getting away from my daily lists of all sorts really allowed me to relax. And once I was relaxed God spoke to me. It has been so long I can't remember the last time I heard His voice (which is silent so not sure if that makes sense lol but I heard Him).
He spoke to me about my legalism (me? with the lists? no way!). I've tried very hard to not be the person I was or do the things I did prior to my commitment to Christ in 2004. In that good effort, I have become a Pharisee. Me.
I've made up rules about prayer, about exercise, about eating, about entertainment, about childrearing, about marriage, about friendship, about evangelism, about everything. I've made these rules that, to me, superseded God's grace for me. I didn't do it for salvation, I've always known that a lifetime commitment to Christ is THE way to heaven, to reconciliation with God. I know that but I also knew that Christians are called to be set apart. I just forgot that there's grace in that. We are still to be IN this world, just not OF this world. And all my legalism, rule-making won't make God pleased with me any more than He ever has been.
Let me let you in on a little secret....shhhh...just kidding, tell the world this:
THERE ARE NO HOLY POINTS!
God is not like me. He does not have checklists of how many times you've read your Bible cover-to-cover. He does not have it marked off how many chapters you have read today or yesterday or will tomorrow. He does not keep track of the verses you have memorized or how often you are at church. He does not keep track of calories or weight (I'm fairly certain "calorie" is not in the Bible although I have not checked). He does not care how many date nights you have with your husband or wife, how many times you've read the Bible cover-to-cover for your children or how many Steve Green songs they can sing from rote. He does not keep track of how many syllables your prayers are or how long you pray or if you use prayer sticks or cards or if it's on your knees, standing, sitting, laying, dancing, jumping. And on and on.
HE WANTS YOUR HEART! Those things are not bad in and of themselves. Nope, they're good actually (although the calories and weight can have physical affects). But I learned through Encounter and Angie Smith's book "Chasing God" (which I'll hopefully sit down to write my review of this week) that MOTIVATION MATTERS.
WHY are you reading your Bible cover-to-cover? WHY are you reading your Bible at all? WHY are you memorizing verses? WHY do you attend church/small group/Encounter/Women of Faith/Sunday School/etc? WHY are you watching your weight or exercising? WHY are you dating your husband or wife? WHY are you reading the Word to your children and singing Steve Green/whoever songs with them? WHY do you pray?
Do you do these things to gain holy points? Do you do these things to meet a standard of your own making or someone else's? Do you do these things to look good? To feel good? To make God smile? Guess what?! HE LOVES YOU ANYWAY!
He wants you do pray, to read His Word, to meet with other believers, to be united with your husband or wife, to have self-control over your eating habits and other areas. He wants you do teach your children about Him and His love! He wants you to hide verses in your heart! He just doesn't care how you do it (well, I'm sure He does care how but there is FREEDOM and GRACE in the HOW). He wants you do these good and noble things because YOU LOVE HIM!
Pray because you love to talk with Him. Read because you want to hear His Word. Meet with others to encourage them and be encouraged. Be intimate and serve your spouse to show a reflection of Christ's love for the church. Share your faith because you love God's people and want what's best for them (NOT to condemn them. In Christ there is no condemnation. Sure changes probably will be made but those are for God to share with them; you share Him). Eat food and exercise because your body is His holy temple. Teach your children (and if you don't have children, others' children) about Him so that they will love Him and find freedom from sin. Memorize verses so that you can shield yourself from the enemy's fiery darts.