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Random Routines

Don't you love it when God surprises you with some unanticipated blessing?

It is indeed exciting when God shows up and shows out in some unique and unexpected way. He does stuff like that, you know. He can use an earthquake to open jail cells. He can suddenly give lions lockjaw. He can loose chains and miraculously open up prison gates.

(Not sure why all these examples have to do with incarcerated believers. If imprisonment is a prerequisite then I'll happily accept His routine blessings as sufficient).

God works in the middle of routines and schedules as well as He does in unforeseen ways. In fact, sometimes the predictable parts of our faith journey are obviously and directly related to God's unpredictable interventions. After all, Daniel had been praying three times a day long before he was thrown into the lion's den. Paul had preached faithfully in every city leading up to Philippi. Peter had been faithful to share the gospel despite former threats against him.

These men all had habits of walking in fellowship with the God of heaven. And certainly we must believe that God was just as pleased and present in the middle of His servants' spiritual routines as He was in the spectacular demonstrations that punctured their routines.

In our modern churches we can be guilty of overvaluing unusual manifestations of God's blessings. Worse, we can be guilty of interpreting a lack of apparent randomness as an absence of God's presence and blessings. But God can lead a day in advance just as easily as He can in the heat of the moment. He can direct our actions weeks, months, or even years in advance. And those movements aren't necessarily any less impressive than what appears to us to be spur-of-the-moment reactions from the Almighty. In fact, the further in advance God moves us, the more obvious the necessity of His foreknowledge. After all, the Spirit of prophecy is inextricably connected to the identity of divinity.

So from where do our expectations of and affinity for perceived freshness arise? Is it just natural? Is it because we find examples of it in the Scripture? Or perhaps it is a conditioned expectation based upon culture, custom, experience, or even personality?

Admittedly, just like many other things in life, there are ditches on both sides of the road. A person might err in the direction of "always planning ahead" because it feels less risky; safer. Or an individual (or congregation) might go to the other extreme. The excitement that comes with worshiping (or serving) in some unrehearsed manner can feel intoxicating. You see then that either strategy can be used by God or abused by man? Then how do we know what to do?

If we learn anything (related to this dilemma) from the Scripture it is that God is likely to challenge our expectations and push us out of our comfort zones. So if we prefer spontaneity, we shouldn't be amazed when God lays out aspects of His plans for us far in advance. And if we prefer structure and organization, it should be no grand shock if He regularly throws monkey wrenches into our life rhythms.

Ultimately the mode and method of God's movements among and upon us aren't even the point anyway though. What matters is the reality of His sovereign right to rule, and our happy realization and acceptance of that right. Our trust in Him is the key. Whether He is carving commandments in stone or casting us into a sudden trance, we are to trust Him.

Let me not beat around the bush. As a Christian and a preacher, I have encountered this tension in ministry repeatedly. One godly believer challenges me to plan sermons a year in advance. Another encourages me to be spontaneous. Can they both be right? Yes!

One saint appreciates repetition, tradition, and a comfortable order in every worship set. Another wants us to follow every whim and inclination that arises. Can both approaches be valid? Absolutely. The key point is for Christ to be in focus.

The truth is what matters, not the rate at which we arrive at the truth. Either way, we must get there. Sometimes we must sit in a cave and wait on the Lord. Sometimes we must arise, kill, and eat.

So yes, sometimes our spiritual routines might just be random.

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