Our Saturday morning Men’s group has spent the last 12 weeks in a study on Grace, which by the way is a very difficult concept to get into my wee little brain. Anyway we have discovered so much is dependent on our relationship with God. Todd Dugard, the Senior Pastor at Harvest Barrie, Ontario, says it so clearly on this devotional on “Relationship, Not Religion” .
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”
I read a compelling tweet by a pastor in California, which said, “Religion does not provide an opportunity to actually know God, and is therefore cruel, powerless, and boring” (Bill Johnson).
Knowing God—being in a relationship with Him—is what every human being, whether they’re aware of it or not, is longing for and searching after. What most do to achieve that relationship is to establish some sort of religious observance. The options are literally limitless when you consider all the established world religions and faith systems.
And so, they go to places of worship. Perform rituals and sacraments. They make donations, give of their time, and volunteer their talents. They meditate, read, study and memorize holy books and writings: they chant, sing, recite, and sit in silence. They dance, sway, kneel, walk. They make pilgrimages, go on missions, proselytize and teach others about their particular way of getting to “god” or whatever it is they’ve chosen to worship.
They do all this, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “That they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him” (v.27). But it is a vain hope when religion is the means of seeking.
From the beginning, God related to His creation on a personal level. Adam and God walked together in the garden and conversed as one person talks to another.
Throughout Old Testament history, prior to the coming of Christ, God was relating to His people as Father. He gathered them as a family. He loved them, watched over them and provided for them, He listened to them and gave them good gifts. It was never because of what they did (religion) but because of His faithful love for them (relationship). The incarnation of Jesus Christ as a human being was all about God relating to us; literally becoming like us, in order to save us. It was the ultimate expression of His love.
That we have taken His love and the offer of a relationship and encumbered it with religion is our own undoing. By creating a set of rules and practices by which we gain God’s attention, we actually miss out entirely. Religion is our ineffectual way of getting to God, dependent on what we do. Relationship is His way of getting to us, dependent entirely on what He did.
This coming Sunday, May 27, we will be speaking at the 10:30 service at Pine Mountain Gospel in Backus, MN! We are so excited about getting to share with some very long-time friends what God is doing in our lives.
Please pray that we can communicate clearly how God is working and molding us to partner at GECHAAN and that we can verbalize that vision well.
I was reading in Matthew this morning and I read Matthew 6:25-34 in a whole new light.
25 Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying what shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or what shall we wear? 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Since our appointment by Converge, we have finished the Perspectives Class (yeah! No more homework nightly!) We have also wound down the AWANA year, Apples of Gold, and Dan is not doing as many bids for Curbing. I am also quite thankful that my leg is healing nicely! I have had no infection and I believe both wounds will be totally scabbed over in a week. God is Good! We are working on our missionary display for visiting churches, and trying to clean our house.
“Well, Tina”, you might say, “it doesn’t sound as if there is much to worry about, is there?”. I would agree, but here are the things we need to do in the near future.
Clean out 16 years of memories in this house, get rid of (hopefully sell) most of our possessions, pack up what we do want to keep to use when we return in approximately 10-15 years. Sell a stack of cars, snowplow equipment, etc. either sell our house or hire a property manager to rent it out, raise $10,000.00 approximately a month support, help re-design my current job, and train people to do it, facilitate Vacation Bible School in June, CEF event in July, summer Sunday school with very little help and rotating schedules for all. On top of this, I would like to spend time with family and friends while we are still here. All of this can cause a minor panic attack in my seldomly worried little brain!
Well, today God is telling me, “One step at a time”, work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on Me. I have you, right here in the palm of my hand. Do your part, I will do mine. This is such a comfort to me! I just need to be faithful one day at a time, so many people are offering to help in so many ways. I need to take advantage of this, and not try to do everything the way I like, by myself, and enjoy this process! I believe God has more to teach us in the steps we need to take to get to Nigeria!
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:4-9
What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord?
In Philippians, Paul is not saying, “don’t worry, be happy.” He’s talking about a supernatural joy that comes not from circumstances, but from a deep contentment in Christ.
Andy Stanley recently had a message titled “Living in the Land of Er.” So many times we feel that if we could just be rich-er or smart-er or funny-er or ____-er you get the point. These can feel good short-term, but for ourselves, our families, and our marriages, comparison is a game with no winners. We tend to place confidence in our circumstances to bring joy into our lives. The reality is that our circumstances are always changing. Think about that last new car you got, when you got into it the first time with that “new car smell.” The new job, or how about that last raise that you received. None of those things are long-lasting. Circumstances are shifting sand and you can’t stand on them—or find deep joy in them alone.
The starting point is finding joy in the person of Jesus Christ; not success, not people, not money, not status, not drugs and alcohol, not therapy, but in a deep, abiding relationship with the Lord. So the question is “How do I do that?” In Romans 12:2 we read: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Renewing our mind encompass’ all we do: what we read, watch, listen to, where we go… Cultivate a relationship with Jesus through prayer, where you both talk to Him and listen to Him. You know you are having a good relationship with someone when you are actively trying to hear what they have to say. Spend so much time with Him reading His Word and praying that talking to Him becomes natural. Joy will now come, and over time, you will see that no matter what the circumstance, your joy and peace, as long as it is found in Christ first, will remain.
Father, help me this day to walk with you, help me to be quiet and listen to what you have to say to me today. Help me keep my mind on you and to “think about such things.” Amen