William Shakespeare’s Juliet said about Romeo that “a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.” Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables,” however, struggled with that notion, saying, “I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”
As I’ve prayed about what to write in this newsletter, I am led to echo some of the words I shared on the first Sunday of the year. You may remember my unorthodox statement: “I don’t have quiet times; I have passion times. I don’t seek the spiritual disciplines; I seek the spiritual passions.” I haven’t received any flack about that sermon, but, because it’s so crucial for where I believe the Lord wants to take us, I’m going to take some more time to elaborate.
Obviously, I’m dealing with semantics here, but the last thing I’d want to do is argue over the finely-tuned meanings of words. That would bring no glory to God (as Paul warned us in II Timothy 2:14). Please know that, if anyone would like to continue using the 20th century colloquialism “quiet time,” that is fine by me. It’s a beautiful concept, and every true lover of Jesus makes a daily habit of what we have come to know as “quiet times.”
I have found, though, that if I make “passion” my motivation, instead of “discipline,” and if I make “passion” my goal, instead of “quiet,” I find that I am able, in my early morning tiredness, to grasp the true purpose of a daily devotional: the deepening of my love relationship with God, and a deeper, experiential grasp of His foundational teaching: “Jesus said ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
In I Corinthians 13, Paul wrote at length about the necessity of having love as the motivation for all that we do. To be consistent with that truth, we must realize that even prayer, worship and Bible times, unless rooted in love, are “a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal.”
I had my first quiet time 35 years ago. I was just 7 years old, but I was enthralled by the reality that God was communing with me. I didn’t really make it a daily discipline, though, until I was 16. I think discipline is a good place to start out. When you’re a child, you must learn good, healthy habits – whether you like it or not – in tending to both your body and your spirit. As we mature, though, we must move past that elementary motivation of discipline. “When I was a child, I thought like a child and behaved like a child,” Paul continued in I Corinthians 13, “but now that I am grown, I put away childish things.”
Paul’s conclusion for what it means to put away childish things was to stir our hearts to love as the impotice behind everything we do. So we must move from a place of disciplined habit to a place of love as our motivation, a place of longing and celebration of every moment that we spend communing with God. Most evangelicals nowadays know that Paul is using the passionate Greek word, “agape,” which connotes the kind of self-sacrificing passion that we see in the cross, which, of course is often referred to as “the Passion of Christ Jesus.”
The routine of a “passion time” follows the same basic steps as a “quiet time.” Worship, prayer and reading (or listening to) the Word of God are all essential daily practices. But instead of just going through the motions, using discipline to carry me through each step, I use whatever discipline that I have in me at the start of the day to stir my passion for God. I do this by fixing my eyes on Him, recalling His awesome deeds and praising Him for many of the wonderful aspects of His character. I determine that every word that I read in the Bible will stir an even deeper passion for Him. I ask Him to be the one praying through me, verbalizing His heart for the people and situations for which I am interceding. I ask Him to change my perspective, to give me His passion, to help me see with His eyes and hear with His ears.
Once my passion is stirred, you can’t keep me from reading the Word, or praying or worshipping. Then everything within me celebrates the delight of spending time with Him. Making passion the starting point and ending point – the source and goal, of my times with the Lord – aligns my heart with His. It is the greatest tool I know for putting me in a place of Holy Spirit-led peace and joy whatever the day brings. It causes my heart to beat in synch with the Lord’s heart for everyone I meet.
The 19th century hero of the faith, George Mueller, said it this way, “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord… The secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experiential acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself.”
As we start off this new year, I really can’t think of a better gift to impart to you then to encourage you begin every day with stirring your passion for Jesus. Spur yourself on to have “passion times” with him at the start of everyday. That will inevitably lead you to communing vibrantly with Him throughout each day and to hear His voice clearer and clearer every step of the way.
If your love for Christ is most effectively ignited by referring to your daily devotions as a “quiet time,” and the events of that quiet time as “spiritual disciplines,” then go for it! But if you ever find that you are just going through the motions, lacking the pulsating love of Christ in the very beating of your heart, maybe a quiet time by another name would smell a little sweeter: namely, a Passion Time.
Your brother in Christ,