Unlike August's attempt, with all the chaos of family vacations, this month's challenge felt like a success. I had purposed to spend more focused time with God, with a particular emphasis on reading Scripture. With the exception of a week spent with my mother-in-law, I was able to meet my goal without fail each day.
In order to make sure this remained a part of my daily routine (a new "just what I do"), I wanted to tie it to a specific time/event. I am, sadly, not one of those people who can drag themselves out of bed before the kids in order to start the day off with some quiet time of reading and prayer. Perhaps in another season of life, when I don't have nursing children to steal some of my sleep at night, but right now I am unable/unwilling to go quite that far. Instead, I found that the time I spent nursing the little one to sleep for his nap was the perfect opportunity to integrate this habit into our daily routine.
What blessing and relief it was to once again be spending time each day reading the Scriptures! The more I read, the more I wanted to read. The words remained in my mind throughout the day as I thought further about what I'd read and what it meant in light of the bigger picture of God's Story and my place in it.
Two passages in particular have remained on my mind over the past weeks, one bringing conviction and the other bringing comfort. I finished Romans early in the month before beginning another read through of the Torah. I must have read Romans 12-14 through a good half dozen times before moving on, and the two above-mentioned passages came from these chapters.
The first passage brought with it a strong sense of personal conviction. From Romans 12:9-21:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly, giving yourselves to humble tasks. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is a beautiful passage and one, I'm sure, I've read countless times before, but this time it stood out to me in a new way. "Outdo one another in showing honor." When do I do that? "Bless those who persecute you." How often do I allow my petty hurts to get in the way of blessing those who have torn apart, twisted, and scorned my words? And so on and so forth throughout the passage. Some of it I do; all of it I could do better.
The next passage filled me with comfort and reassurance, bringing peace where there was once worry and uncertainty. From Romans 14 (emphasis added):
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,
"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God."
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
What comfort! Our differences need not divide us when we are each sincere in our faith. "The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God...whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." I know that I will continue to be judged, but there is comfort nonetheless in knowing that God sees our hearts and honours our sincere faith. That is not cause to become stagnant - our humility should always allow us to come to a new and more full understanding of God and His desires for us - but in the meantime, may our faith be as sincere as our love.
A new month begins tomorrow. I will once again be working to build habit into our routine. This month I will actually be working to reimplement a former habit of ours, reading aloud to the kids from one of the Gospels while they eat their lunch. We all enjoyed this previously but got out of the habit over the course of our busy summer. It's time to make this part of our daily routine once again.
Will you be joining us in October? If so, what challenge have you chosen to take on for the next 30 days?