As I sit down to write this weekend preview devotional, I am immediately aware of a particular problem I wrestle with: I don’t like learning curves. There is little “joy of discovery” for me with new things like technological devises, for example. I just want to use them, but I hate the time it takes to figure out how to get to that point.
After 19 winters in Maryland of heating with a coal stove, last week I bought and had a brand new wood stove installed. Reading the directions (the three most annoying words in the English language), I saw where I had to “break in” the stove by first building three small fires, each one progressively hotter, and then letting it cool completely back to room temperature. But tonight, we are on the maiden burn – going for it with a full load of wood. So if any of this writing does not make sense or seem to hang together, it is probably because I had to get up and make some sort of adjustment.
Lots of people don’t like reading directions and owners’ manuals. We’d rather just try it on our own and experiment our way into gaining a successful knowledge as to how something works. Call us the Nike generation: “Just do it.”
A great many Christian people try to live the Christian life in a very similar fashion – just do it … don’t bore me with the details. We have a wonderful owner’s manual called The Bible. It has everything we need. Beyond that, we can talk 24/7 with the inventor/creator of the program of life through a communication channel called prayer.
But who wants to spend time doing that?
This week in our “Momentum” series we will be talking about busting Myth #2: Praying and reading the Bible are habits for nuns and spiritual mystics.
We live in a wonderful time of unlimited resources. One of my Antietam Battlefield buddies John Michael Priest writes in the forward of his book “Antietam: The Soldiers’ Battle” that …
“… the Civil War was the first conflict fought by armies that contained large numbers who could read and write … nor is it a coincidence that the Civil War was the first to produce monuments in public squares and on the battlefields to the common soldier and his regiment.”
Prior to this time the masses of the people where more often illiterate, and in their churches and faith communities they were dependent upon the educated clergy to read, study, and share the truths of the Scriptures. A role of art such as is seen in cathedrals, and even in the caves of East Asia – as in Cappadocia, where people worshipped in literal holes in the ground – was that paintings and sculpture were educational tools to depict biblical messages.
Hopefully Chris and Tim and I bring to you, through our messages, a level of more advanced expertise, observation and interpretation than is readily obvious, but none of you need to be entirely dependent upon us. On printed pages and at the touch of a few fingers, all the resources of the world are available to all of you. And God is as present and available in prayer to you as he was to Peter, Paul, David, Abraham or any of the great figures of Scripture.
Though you are not dependent upon us, you still are very dependent – that is, upon God and His Word. It is as necessary for a successful spiritual life as is oxygen and breathing, along with the nourishment of food and water.
Consider this well-known passage from John 15 (to be followed by a deep, deep analysis) …
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
I would love to take you through this with a deep word-by-word exegesis from the Greek text. But proving that is not really necessary to get the big idea, let me just ask this: “How successful can you be in life without reading the manual and being personally connected to the creator?”
Or again, “How far can you go by just doing it without knowledge and connection?”
“Apart from me you can do nothing.” As we would say in New Jersey when in a snarky communicative mood (which was most of the time), “So just what part of the word ‘nothing’ don’t you understand?”
There is no way around it; to live a successful Christian life, you need the Scriptures and you need prayer.