Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor
I am a creature of habit.
I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, a Seinfeldian mixture of three different types of cereal (ask me for the details—it’ll change your morning!) I even put the cereal layers in the bowl in the same order every time.
On the days i shave, i start in the exact same spot on my face, straight down from my left sideburn, and have ever since i started shaving. (I tried to start on the other side once, and it just felt weird.) When i find a pair of shoes i like, sometimes i order a second pair, to transition to when the originals wear out. (Manufacturers discontinue things or alter them from time to time, and, as you may have gathered, i hate change!)
I keep a detailed calendar on my computer, which syncs with my laptop, watch, and phone (thanks, Apple!) and the alerts simultaneously dinging all over the place tell me where i need to be and what i need to be doing, and i really do adhere to it pretty closely. Not like Groundhog Day close, but i do have certain things that i do on certain days of the week, enough that a Monday holiday throws things into a complete mess.
How about you? Are you a free spirit with your time or do you have a set clock that you run on?
What about Sundays? Have you become so routine in your spiritual journey that everything sometimes becomes ‘going through the motions,’ showing up at church most weeks because you feel like you’re supposed to, not out of any real need to connect with God or with your fellow believers?
I did that for years. I’d ‘faithfully’ show up on Sunday mornings, regardless of what my Saturday night looked like, thinking that God was somehow pleased because i made an appearance again that week, rarely paying heed to the fact that my heart was far from Him.
Truth is, my ‘offering’ was not acceptable to God.
Early in Genesis, we see the offerings laid before God by Cain and Abel: “In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” (Genesis 4:3-5)
That sounds harsh, but Hebrews 11:4 explains that Abel brought his offering ‘by faith’ and Cain did not. Cain did not offer his sacrifice according to God’s instructions, so God rejected his sacrifice and worship, since it was not “by faith.”
Later in the Old Testament (Amos 5:21-24), God tells the people that their very acts of praising Him are unacceptable, because their hearts are not where they should be.
“I hate, I despise your feasts,
I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Makes you think about checking your heart before walking in the doors on a Sunday morning, doesn’t it?
Some routines are good: you could have a Bible study that you do every morning at the same time, or set aside a few minutes every day for a ‘quiet time’ with the Lord. But far too often, our set times become simply checking off a box so we can tell the folks in our Journey Group that ‘yes we did a quiet time,’ and don’t really connect with God the way we should. We become content with the action and don’t find real contentment in spending time with our Creator.
In Matthew 13:44, Jesus tells us “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
I like to picture the field as some place the guy walked through on a regular basis, maybe on his way to work. He trudges along through the same routine, day after day, and then finally stumbles upon a great treasure that has been there all along…he just never noticed it. So, finally realizing its value and importance, he sells all his possessions, so the field, and the great treasure will be his.
Now, i know the point of the parable is that there is infinite, unmeasurable value in the Kingdom of God. It’s something we should totally sell out for, and be willing to give our lives for it.
But what if the story can be stretched a little to also be used to paint a picture of us, diligently, obediently, but Pharisaically attending church? There we are, week after week, without really noticing the value of it for years, until one day, hopefully, we see it for the great treasure it is.
Look—as believers, our eyes have been opened to the greatest ‘capital T’ Truth there is in this world, and most of the time we behave like being a Christ-follower is just part of normal, everyday life. It’s so easy for us, here in America, to ‘walk through the field,’ as i did in my twenties, and not let the fact that there is great treasure right in front of us change the way we live, the way we deal with the world, except maybe when a crisis happens.
So, again, how about you? Are you plodding along in your routine or on a search mission for something God has for you? Do you see the treasure we’ve been given and want to share it with others? Have you opened your eyes to the prize that is set before us, and see this time on earth for what it is—mere moments in the timeline of eternity? Are you just checking things off your list or are you living out the Gospel as Christ has called us to do?
There’s really nothing wrong with having routines…just don’t put your time with God in the same category as breakfast and shaving.