Devotions in the temple
Brad Huebert’s ebook Go with the Flow: A non-religious approach to you daily time with God is an honest, accessible and genuinely helpful book about how to best spend your devotional time. This small volume by an MB church planter could be of great value to Christians who struggle with their personal spiritual development.
I just wish it had a different subtitle.
It has become fashionable to claim that Jesus and religion are two incompatible things. You may have heard some version of the story before: Jesus came not only to show us God’s love and to save us from sin, but to free us forever from that arid, decrepit and pathological dogmatism known as “religion” (whatever that means in the general). Religion is a cancer; Christ is the cure – ergo, let’s all be non-religious!
Of course, the sentiment is true in a certain respect. If “religion” is synonymous with pride, hypocrisy and spiritual apathy, then absolutely, we should do everything to exorcize it from our churches. However, I believe this is simply a lazy conflation of terms. Religious routines can be refreshing and nurturing aspects of our spiritual lives – and, ironically, Go with the flow illustrates precisely why.
The central concept of the book is something Huebert calls the temple flow, a “specific way” of doing daily devotions that is “ordained by God” and “based on the Old Testament temple.”
Huebert contends that in Exodus 25–31, God deliberately structured the Israelite tabernacle (which later became the temple) to create five unique spaces of worship: ascent, the gates, the court of priests, the holy place and the holy of holies.
Then, with reference to the book of Hebrews, Huebert claims that Christ’s death and resurrection has injected this ancient temple flow with “life and power,” enabling us to approach God during our personal devotions by participating in the new versions of these spaces.
“Ascending to the temple” now becomes honestly venting your troubles to God; the holy of holies now looks like basking in the beauty of God’s presence. And so on.
Ultimately, Huebert is so confident in this temple flow, he promises “that if you approach God in God’s way during your quiet time, you’ll experience an intimacy with God you’ve only dreamed of until now.”
I’m not convinced that the temple flow is the “eternal, kingdom of God thing” that Huebert asserts it is. The jump from the temple layout to Huebert’s specific list of 21st-century devotional practices seems too convenient to be the “new and life-giving way” referenced in Hebrews 10:20. The temple flow makes a great guiding metaphor; as anything more, it feels anachronistic and vaguely magical.
That said, it works. As is only appropriate, I practised Huebert’s temple flow in my own devotions for a few days. I immediately noticed that it provided an extremely useful structure for prayer. It forced me to slow down and focus deliberately how I pray. Venting, thanksgiving, confession, listening and prayer requests all correspond with different spaces in the flow and, by following along, I found myself giving appropriate attention to each.
I also found that the temple flow draws heavily on concepts normally associated with the contemplative Christian tradition.
In his instruction of using the Bible in the “holy place,” Huebert almost exactly describes the centuries-old practice of lectio divina, a method of careful spiritual reading that invites God to speak to you through Scripture.
When discussing the “holy of holies,” Huebert is essentially talking about Christian meditation, or theosis, wherein the practitioner works to move beyond earthly distractions to embrace the luminous beauty of God’s presence.
These are both disciplines that I have dabbled with in the past, and Huebert’s temple flow offersan excellent way to bring them into regular devotions.
Huebert’s pastoral spirit is evident in his writing style; informal, relational, clearly-structured and peppered with Scripture, Go with the flow’s 60 pages read quickly and straightforwardly. Huebert attended Bible school in Texas, received a Bachelor of Arts from Providence College, Otterburne, Man., has nearly two decades of pastoral ministry in MB churches under his belt and now works as a church planting apprentice with the C2C Network. A self-proclaimed gamer and movie lover, Huebert maintains a blog (www.bradhuebert.com) where he explores “the sweet spot where geeks and faith unite.”
Overall, I left Go with the flow feeling clear-headed, connected and content – not, however, because I had discovered God’s preferred worship style. Rather, I found it useful because I resonate with the contemplative tradition, and that’s what Huebert has given us: a liturgy for devotion.
That’s what is so ironic about the book’s subtitle: at its core, Go with the flow is about exploring the freedom structure brings to devotional life. It is a book that delineates a specific, repeatable form for your prayer time, so that you can best compartmentalize life’s distractions and commune with the Creator.
In other words, it’s a book about how rejuvenating religion can be. Huebert has discovered the contemplative tradition and translated it for a world obsessed with being “non-religious.” As such, I propose a new title:
Go with the flow: A refreshingly religious approach to your daily time with God.
—Aaron Thiessen is a member of McIvor Avenue MB Church, Winnipeg, and an alumnus of Canadian Mennonite University. He loves reading, playing games of all kinds and discussing what makes something good or bad.