God Desires a Relationship

Something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t figure out what. I stared at my reflection in the mirror. Furrowed my brow. Turned my face to the right and then to the left to look at different angles. Something was off…

Oh! No mascara! I’d been putting on make-up and stopped to eat breakfast with my daughter when she came downstairs dressed and ready for school. I must have stopped before I got to the mascara – the last step in the morning put-on-make-up-routine. I’m in the habit of putting my make-up on in the same order, and I guess since I stopped before I got done, I was thrown off. I didn’t stick to the routine, and it completely messed me up. I didn’t realize I missed a step, but I knew something was wrong when I looked in the mirror.

That’s how routines work. You do certain steps in a prescribed order. You follow a procedure. There’s a formula. Many routines become internationalized to the point that you don’t think about them – you’re on autopilot when you do them. Can you think of some of your daily routines that are like this? The only time you think about the routine is if you mess up somehow, like I did when I forgot my mascara 😉 Then you have to focus on the steps, really think about the procedure, to figure out where you went wrong.

Routines and rituals and procedures and formulas get us through life, don’t they? They’re helpful. They’re effective. They work. They’re safe.

It isn’t bad to have them and to use them…but our relationship with God can’t be like that. If we’re doing rituals or trying to follow a formula to get to know God, we’re going about it the wrong way. Focusing on the wrong thing. A ritual is all about the ritual. The formula is all about the steps. We’re trying to make something happen in a certain way for a desired result. When it comes to our relationship with God, though, our focus has to be on God. Who He is and what He’s done. We shouldn’t try to follow a set protocol to get to know Him. He isn’t interested in something we memorized to say to Him. He’s interested in our hearts. He’s interested in having a relationship with us. Relationships are more important to God than rituals.

Again, I’m not saying rituals are wrong of themselves. We have plenty of them in the Christian church. Tradition has its place – to help us remember. But, if all we focus on is the formula, we’re missing the friendship. If we relay on ritual, we miss out on the relationship – on the genuine, life-changing encounters with our Lord.

And I don’t want to miss that. Do you?

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All I Have To Do Is…

When I stumble, it is because I chose it. When I lose my temper, get angry, become overwhelmed, get upset, I have chosen to do so.

It isn’t what God wants for me or offers me.

He offers me great peace.

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He offers to make my feet sure.

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He wants me to rejoice.

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When I don’t live every second of my life according to this promise of peace, it is because I have chosen to look away from Him.

I have chosen to focus on my desires. My problems. My fears.

Instead, He wants me to focus on Him. He has given me His word so I can read and learn how to live the way He directs. He has made it clear and easy to understand what to do.

When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus answered, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 ESV)

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This is all I have to do.

My heart, soul, mind, and strength are all of me. They make up everything that I am. If all of me is looking at God, I will not stumble. I won’t get angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, or upset.

I have to pray that God keeps me from stumbling. It is my responsibility to read the Word and treasure it in my heart. It is my privilege to meet with God in prayer so He can write His word on my heart.

If I take advantage of the opportunity for a relationship with God that He has promised, I can begin to focus all that I am on the Lord my God, the one who is my Master and who has authority over my life.

I am King Saul

Do you know the story?  The people of Israel wanted a king.  They told the prophet Samuel to go to God on their behalf and ask Him to give them a king so they could be like the other nations around them.

Although it wasn’t God’s plan, He listened to the people and chose for them a tall, handsome young man named Saul who looked the part of a king.  (You can read Saul’s story beginning in 1 Samuel 9 – just as I was doing one morning).

My house was quiet – no one else was awake.  Everything was still.  I was sitting at the table with my Bible, my favorite commentary, my journal, my pen…ready to pray, read, and learn…

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Samuel Anoints Saul – Image Credit: chongsoonkim.blogspot.com

According to 1 Samuel, Saul started out well, like many people do, but then the subheadings in the chapters began to hint at a change.  They read, “Saul’s Foolish Order”, “Saul’s Disobedience”, “Samuel Rebukes Saul.”  And as I continued to read through his story, I became irritated with this man.  What in the world was he thinking?  God chose him to be king over an entire nation, yet he was quickly and effectively screwing it up!

I shook my head, disgusted at King Saul for being foolish enough to disobey God after being so richly blessed, and in that moment, God clearly said to me, “You are Saul.”

– Well, that’ll stop you in your tracks.  –

As I read about Saul’s excuses for his disobedience: “I feared the people and listened to their voice” (1 Samuel 15:24), I was convicted by the many times I allow the world’s opinion of me to be the influencing factor in my decision-making rather than what God has told me to do.

During his reign as king over Israel, Saul showed himself to be disobedient, prideful, arrogant, greedy…but I can’t turn my nose up at him without being confronted with myself.  I have been and am all these things.

In the story of King Saul, God wanted his obedience.  The story is the same for me.  It’s the same for you.

My behavior…our behavior as followers of Christ is our worship of God.  It is how we show ourselves to be His children.  We are to follow Him in genuine obedience.  This is to worship Him.

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This means we obey Him completely, not in part.

This means we obey Him immediately, not when or if we feel like it.

Look, I’m talking to myself here.  It is my lesson to learn, but maybe it’s yours, too.

 

 

 

Life is NOT What You Make of It

Life isn’t what you make of it although that’s what the world wants you to believe. Life is what you allow God to make of it! You have to give your life over to Him and let Him do with it what He wills.

Sure, you can make something of your life apart from God. That’s entirely possible. But that’s too much work. Work in the wrong direction. Work for the wrong reason. Work for no eternal benefit…

I am more content with the last 8 or so years of my life than I was with the first 32. Although the first 32 seemed alright, there wasn’t much walking with God going on then…so it had little eternal value. I did very little to further God’s kingdom. I did little to bring glory to His name. I was making my own life rather than giving it to Him to make.

But that’s what He asks for – a life surrendered and handed to Him.

I’ve done that in the last 8 years. Surrendered my life. Handed it over to Him. He is making my life what He wants it to be.

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About the time I started listening to God’s voice for the first time in my life…

What DOES He want it to be?

I’m not sure yet – although I am confident that He will use it for His glory.

He’s mostly been pruning so far. There’s been a lot of dead limbs, excess leaves, and unripened fruit to get rid of first.

All that extra stuff came from 32 years of trying to make my own life what I wanted it to be.

So, there’s been a lot of work. It’s been painful. There’s been some sacrifice. Some things have had to go. Other things had to change. Priorities had to shift.

He’s not done, so I’m still here, letting Him make my life what He wants it to be.

I’m Sorry

I’m sorry if you’ve been hurt by people and now you’re mad at the church or at God.

I’m sorry that someone who said she was a Christian was unkind to you because of what you wore to church or because you smoked or had tattoos or because of your past or who your parents were or who you married.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that a Christian did something to you and now you don’t like Christians.

Unfortunately, we’re just flawed people trying to share the perfect message of God’s Good News.  Trying to pass it on to others like He told us to. We’re gonna screw up. It’s gonna go wrong and get messy.

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But the other morning while I was studying Matthew Chapter 9, God gave me a message. First it was for me, and then I had to share it with you!

God desires compassion more than ritual (Matthew 9:13).

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This is how He wants His people to treat others.

But it goes both ways, in a sense.  Our ability to show compassion grows from a strong relationship with Him because God is compassionate.  We don’t know how to love others unless we have learned to love Him. We won’t know how to love Him unless we’ve built a relationship with Him in prayer and in reading His Word.

God wants a relationship with us rather than for us to be religious.  God wants us to have relationships with other people rather than being religious in front of them.  The latter will definitely drive them away from us and will probably drive them away from God. The former should draw them to us and, in turn, to God.

I imagine that’s what happened to you, and I’m sorry that you experienced someone who was more about religion than a relationship.

The MacArthur Study Bible commentary on Matthew 9:13 explains that religious people focus on “the outward, ritual, and ceremonial aspects of God’s law” but ignore the parts that were meant to show us how to live the way God would have us to live and the parts of the law that focus on our hearts.  When we focus on the ritual and ignore relationships, we become “harsh, judgemental, and self-righteously scornful of others.”

Does that remind you of an experience you’ve had with someone else?

Does it remind you of you?

When I read this commentary, I cried.  I knew this was me. God let me see how I am perceived through someone else’s eyes when I forget the compassion of God and only focus on the commands of God.

It is a blessing for our compassionate God to let us see ourselves through the eyes of others – even, or maybe especially, if what we see isn’t pretty.

So, I’m sorry if you’ve been hurt by people and now you’re mad at God.

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But, consider this: people screw up, even if they had good intentions at the beginning. Rather than turn your back on God because of the way someone represented Him to you, why not go find out about Him for yourself?

Talk to Him.

Ask Him to show you the truth about Himself and how He wants you to live.

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Read about Him in the Bible – start in the Gospels.  I’m reading Matthew right now, and like I said, 9:13 is what inspired this post.

Ask Him to send a Christian into your life who isn’t religious – someone who truly knows Him and is living for Him.

He’ll hear you.  He’ll answer you, and it’ll be beyond anything you could have imagined.