In late July I spent time with a friend of mine, (who we will call Joe Smith). ‘Joe’ can only characterized as strangely steady and joyful in all circumstances. He’s not Jesus. He’s not perfect, but he definitely has a unique undivided focus and obsession for the kingdom of God. He has an appetite for God that leaves me feeling inspired and convicted.
I walked away from our time together with a renewed passion to spend more of my life submerged in God’s word. But, as with most things, a lack discipline meant that when the first wave of distraction broke over me, that desire got washed away.
At the start of November, I sent this text to a friend (we’ll call her ‘the best’) at 3 in the morning:
[Check out that response. There’s a reason I call her ‘the best’.]
Later that same day, ‘the best’ and I had lunch. And we had this conversation:
‘THE BEST’: I want to be all in with God
ME: Me too.
‘THE BEST’: I want to do whatever it takes to draw nearer to Him
ME: Me too.
FRIEND: We should ask ‘Joe Smith’ to create for us a spiritual boot camp.
So, we left our lunch and I sent ‘Joe Smith’ this email:
a friend and I really want to experience the sort of joy in the Lord and undivided heart that you have been describing. But we’re having a hard time actually having the discipline to do it.
We both talked at lunch today and decided that we wanted to commit for a month to do anything and everything it takes to get our spiritual life to new depths with Jesus…We would commit to doing anything you prescribed for us.
Now, some will say this sounds like works or legalism. Some will say: we do not ‘strive’ to be closer to God, we trust Him to do that.
But here’s what I know: ‘striving’ to be closer to God and trusting Him are not different. I want to ‘strive’ to be closer to Him because I trust Him. I want to work out my salvation with fear and trembling knowing that it is God who is that force and hunger for more inside of me. I want to throw off all the sin that clings so closely with my eyes fixed on the prize of Christ. I want to seek His kingdom with more intentionality and effort than I seek a better body or physical healthiness or deeper friendships or good community or a spouse.
Discipline is not legalism. Discipline is a fruit of faith. Legalism a fruit of works.
Legalism works hard to earn. Legalism says to Fabs and ‘the best’: “you need to do this spiritual boot camp even if you don’t feel like it to earn good from God.”
Faith works hard because it believes. Discipline says to Fabs and ‘the best’: “do this spiritual boot camp, even if you don’t feel like it, because you know that God has purchased for you great and precious promises and you will find them in His Word. Do it because you believe Him when He says His word is sweeter than honey and His wisdom more precious than gold. Do it because you believe that faith comes from hearing and hearing comes from the word of God. Do it because you believe Him that if you seek Him you will find Him and in His presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
So, here’s what happened:
Summary: I have loved this. It is changing me. I can feel myself being conformed to a new pattern of thinking with a new kind of steadiness and stability and a new passion for holiness and for God.
It is hard. It’s hard for me and I don’t even have kids. I’ll tell you this though: ‘the best’ is a mom, wife, friend, daughter and has a full time job (which means no breaks during nap times) with a 1.5 hour commute. And she is fighting for this time.
When she needs to, she does a modified version without guilt or shame, knowing that she has nothing to prove or earn. One thing I love about ‘the best’ is that her starting place is never: moms can’t do that. Her starting place is: I will do whatever it takes.
I’ll tell you this: God’s Word is powerful. He is worthy. Only one thing is necessary: knowing and loving Him.
I’ve divided it into two sections (1) your 2 hours of time with God (2) the other components.
2 hours/day of time alone with Jesus
This is time to stop, soak, marinate, and meditate with the Lord and not just be getting through 2 hours worth of a checklist. It has five components that I do in that time:
(1) READ THE BIBLE [30 minutes]
I read a chapter or section from each of these four and just underline a verse that I’ll come back to in my writing section.
- chapter from the OT (I’m doing Joshua)
- Proverbs (around 10 verses)
- chapter from the Gospels (I’m doing Luke)
- Then I read a few verses from an epistle.
With the epistle: this is a shorter amount intentionally for deeper study and reflection. ‘Joe Smith’ does 10-20 verses, and I do 1-2 verses, so…we’re different. I’m slow. (I’m doing this with 1 Peter.)
(2) WRITING COMPONENT [15 minutes]
I journal through what I read in the epistle and how it applies. Then I write a paragraph on each of the other chapters I read, summarizing what I read and which sentence I underlined and why it stood out to me. Then I prayerfully consider any common themes.
*This has been one of my FAVORITE things. I usually just read one book at a time, so reading a wide cross section this way and still getting to go deep has been incredibly strengthening to my faith. I mean the bible really is one story. For real.
(3) INTERSESSION [25 minutes]
Using all the scripture that is fresh in my mind, I start praying for people. I have a core group of people I pray for every day (community and family), and then each day I rotate each day on the other things I pray through usually:
- a different list of people (eg. my coworkers one day, my friends from film festival another day, college friends another day).
- a different cause that I know God cares about (eg. sex trafficking, adoption, foster care, different people groups).
- then, if I still have time, I’ll open the news and pray for causes or situations I see going on in the world.
**This has ALSO been awesome. Mostly because it is so hard for me. I’ll pray for everything I can think of, feel like I’ve been praying for two hours, and it will have been 8 minutes. Il ove the challenge of the clock, forcing me to wait on God for inspiration and seek Him through prayer even more.
(4) MEMORIZATION [5 minutes]
I’m memorizing Romans right now. Here’s a good method from Desiring God:
- Day 1: read verse 1 ten times and then recite ten times.
- Day 2: recite verse 1 ten times. Read verse 2 ten times and then recite ten times.
- Day 3: recite verse 1 five times. Recite verse 2 ten times. Read verse 3 ten times and then recite 10 times.
- Day 4: recite verse 1 one time. Recite verse 2 five times. Recite verse 3 10 times. Read verse 4 ten times and then recite 10 times.
- Day 5: Recite verse two one time. Recite verse 3 five times. Recite verse 4 ten times. Read verse 5 ten times and then recite ten times.
- Day 6: etc, etc.
(5) READING A BOOK [20 minutes]
I read a chapter from the Insanity of obedience (which I’m enjoying) and then I read one chapter from Operation World (giving me an overview of the spiritual climate of a country). Been loving that.
(6) MISC [remainder time]
Usually one or more of the above areas run long. I’ve been specifically adding in prayer time for repentance and thankfulness, forcing myself to set another alarm and really think about these areas and ask for help from the Spirit identifying them. Other things could be: worship through song, solitude, and listening.
Other things to do…
Physical: 4-5 hours/week of exercise. As Piper says, “God made muscles to be worked and the brain to produce endorphins. There is a strong connection between our physical and spiritual well beings….”
I’ve also found that my ability to persevere when I am uncomfortable in a work out, is directly correlated to my ability to endure in bible reading or study when it gets hard. Eek.
Personal: (at least) 1 hour/day of fun, preferably 2. Whether a good book, time with friends, favorite tv show, etc. whatever is a big fill for you! For me – I have to admit, this has been hard to prioritize so I have often been counting my time with Jesus as this.
Full Sabbath Day: Wise, God-given pattern. Would love to hear from some mom’s out there what their sabbath looks like!
Lunch Fast: Twice during the month, take your half hour/hour for lunch to fast and intercede for something specific.
Community component: (1) getting together with friend/s for one or two days of your intercession time each week. (2) sharing the Gospel together. As Joe Smith says: “all this time with Jesus is going to create a need for an overflow outlet 🙂.”
Declaring: I am not great at sharing the Gospel, so I have been challening myself to really seek to do this once a week. EEK! I added this component myself but I feel strongly that both Jesus and ‘Joe Smith’ will approve.
Accountability: Every day you don’t get in your 2 hours time with Christ, your hour of personal time, a scheduled workout, or Sabbath, take a few minutes to review your day and see what else got priority? Was there time wasted in the day? ‘the best’ and I do this via text.