What God Wants from Us the Most

I explained to Dana early on in our friendship that I liked long distance relationships. Yes, I wanted to marry her, but I didn’t really want to live with her. I wanted to marry her, but I didn’t really want to have to talk with her all that much. I wasn’t interested in having to share my stuff or my space or my time.

I think you get my point. What is marriage without relationship? And this is where I want to go with this analogy:

What does it mean to be a Christian, or to be religious, or to believe in God without a RELATIONSHIP with him? It means nothing. Here is the basic principle I want to talk about.

God created us to have a loving relationship with him.

There are vast numbers of passages in Scripture that reveal this to us. The whole Bible, from beginning to end, speaks of relationship to God. From God’s relationship with the Patriarchs, to God’s covenant with Israel and hatred of idolatry, to the sending of his own Son take our punishment and provide forgiveness, to the personal, indwelling presence of God by his Spirit, to the fulfillment of all creation in the marriage supper of the Lamb, uniting Christ and his Bride, the Church.

For now, I will only mention a few specific passages. The most decisive is where Jesus answers this all-important question: “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Of all the things that God has said he wants us to do, which is the most important? Jesus answers by quoting the Shema (Deut 6:4-6), “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.”

Love. Not mere obedience. Not religious activity. Love. Love is relationship.

Here is another decisive verse that answers the question: “What does God want from us?” Heb 11:6 say, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Our basic belief in God is that he desires for us to draw close to him and seek to know him. This is relationship.

This is what makes knowing Christ much more than “religion,” if it can be called religion at all. Jesus made it clear that the religious people of his day had no hope without love for God (they even had the “right” religion). Knowing about Christ, believing in the fact of Christ or the gospel, and going to church OFFER NO HOPE FOR SALVATION! “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19). Faith without works will not save you (James 2:14, 17), and the work of faith begins with drawing near and seeking God (Heb 11:6).

What we believe IS important. Salvation is only in the work of Christ when he satisfied God’s wrath for our sin on the cross. But be sure of this, a person’s faith in Christ’s saving work will result in LOVE.

So, this is the question I leave with you. How is your relationship with God?

Are you close to God? Are you drawing near to him? Are you seeking to know and love him? Have you settled for “religion?” Do you have false hope in your religious service or your mental acceptance of the facts of Christ?

How to Stop Arguing with Your Kids

Kathryn, age 6

Kathryn, age 6

Even after I have (often) promised myself I was going to stop, I still argue with my children. And I don’t mean a calm, reasoned discussion (a possible definition of argument). I mean a heated, frustrating quarrel!

I want to be kind and gentle, but I still find myself becoming irritated and impatient. Here are a few things I am learning about how to be calm, gentle, and loving in my interactions with my children:

1.  Don’t take it personally.

I have noticed that I most often get irritated and upset because my pride has been ruffled. I don’t like being ignored, disregarded, or disrespected. Jesus expects me to be able (and he enables me!) to love those who mistreat me. It is strange to apply that to my children, but it works. I must respond in love to those around me no matter how they treat me. Love is patient and kind.

2.  Get over your plans.

Another reason I get irritated and impatient is that things are not going like I want them to! I have a plan. I have a lot to do. Why can’t everyone just cooperate!

It helps when I get over my plans and get lined up with God’s purpose for me. Second to loving God (which really helps me stay calm), we are to love each other. My overriding agenda is to love the people I encounter, no matter what my plans are. Would the interactions I have with my children looks different if my greatest goal was to love them and help them follow Jesus?

3.  Stop being a people-pleaser.

It bothers me when people are unhappy with me or don’t approve of what I do. I have recently discovered that this applies to my children too (they are people!!). I sometimes fall into the trap of trying to appease them, argue with them, or even compromise in order to make peace. When this doe not work (and it usually doesn’t), I get sucked further into a frustrating argument.

It may be counter intuitive, but I have learned that I can be more loving and gentle when I decide that it doesn’t matter if my children are pleased with me. Since my job is to teach and train them, it is an absolute certainty that they will not be happy with me. I must patiently accept that as part of my job.

What have you learned? Will you share some helpful tips for how to interact with our children in a calm and gentle way?

Do You Believe in Invisible Things? [Podcast #21]

I asked college students in my Politics and Religion class at Appalachian State University, "What is faith?" They invariably answered, "Believing something that cannot be proven." They bought into the world's understanding of "blind faith." Do we have reasons to believe in things we cannot see? Or is it just irrational?

This podcast is part of a teaching on Hebrews 11 and offers a life-changing definition of faith. What does it mean to "live by faith and not by sight?" (2 Cor 5:7). Below you can view the prezi I used. Be sure and go into full screen mode to get the best view.

How to Make a Life Plan Guaranteed to Succeed [Podcast #20]

"You can do anything you set your mind to do." This is often said to young people to encourage them to set their sights high and not to accept self-defeating thoughts. While these are good intentions, unfortunately, this simply is not true.

We can, however, do anything that God wants us to do. We are left, then, with this all important question: Are my life plans from God or are they my own? Am I giving God a list to choose from? Am I making my own decisions and asking God to bless them?

How to Quit Worrying About What People Think About You

Do you ever wonder what people think about you? I think we all do. In fact, I had been under the impression that I did not worry much about what people think about me. I have recently come to the realization that I am more concerned about that than I thought (or care to admit, because then what would you think of me?).

However, I have not been successful at getting everyone to think well of me. And that bugs me! So, what am I going to do about it? I have reflected on this and considered how to think about this in a godly way. I have come to several conclusions.

  • We will inevitably be misunderstood and misjudged (1 Cor 4:3).

I have been a student of communication for quite some time. And as I gain experience, I have come to the conclusion that it is amazing that any of us successfully communicate at all. I often leave a conversation thinking that it was successful only to find out later that we did not really understand one another at all!

So, I must expect miscommunication. Along with that, I will be misjudged. I should not be surprised about this. I should not get worked up or worry about it.

  • We all have weaknesses and make mistakes, so we can be prepared to admit we are wrong and accept correction (Prov 19:20; James 5:16).

We would like for people to think we have it all together. Most of us are not anxious for people to see our weaknesses and faults. It is quite a relief to let go of this unrealistic existence. How tiring! We can just go ahead and get comfortable with our limitations and failures.

Accepting the reality of my imperfection puts me in a position to admit it when I am wrong and receive correction from others. My goal is not to look good, but to live right in the power of Christ.

  • When we follow Christ, we can expect the world not to like us (John 15:18-20).

If you want everyone to like you and you have decided to follow Christ, then you are in a predicament. When we follow Christ, must choose to fear God and not man.

  • Ultimately, the only thing that really matters is what God thinks about us (1 Cor 4:3-4).

What if we were as concerned about what God thinks about us as we are about what others think about us?

What does God think about us? What a joy to be accepted in perfect love by our Father because of our faith in Christ! And as an accepted son, my goal is to please the Father.

The only way to have peace and respond in a godly manner to difficult relational situations is to walk in intimacy with Christ, confident in his love, obedient to his leading, and empowered by him to speak the truth in love.

We can let go of being concerned about what others think about us and fix our eyes on our Lord who loves us! Not that we care, but the happy result of living a life of love, truth, and humility is being well thought of by others!

Teaching an "I Love Problems" Mindset

"Mindsets toward learning
could matter more
than anything else we teach."

I recently read an article by Salman Khan, "The Learning Myth: Why I'll Never Tell My Son He's Smart." As we kick off our Fall semester of school, I found the simple ideas he present to be encouraging and challenging.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones. . . .

What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail. . . .

The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re malleable.
— Salman Khan
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
— James 1:2-4 ESV

While this article is worth sharing for its simple application to teaching our children, I also see a deeper spiritual parallel.

The idea of growth through trial is not new, of course (James 1:2-4).

Just as Khan has encouraged us, are teaching our children a mindset that embraces difficulties as an opportunity to grow in faith and maturity?

Now, let's bring it all the way home:

Are we exemplifying faith to our children
as respond to our problems in front of them?

Change Your Marriage in One Weekend?

If you could change your marriage in ONE weekend, would you do it? God can do it if you will seek him and apply these biblical principles for your life. In addition to great food and time alone together, we will be discussing how to have a PEACE and PURPOSE in your marriage.

The following topics will be explored:

  • What is God’s purpose for marriage?
  • Why are there so many broken marriages?
  • What are the roles of husbands and wives?
  • What do I do if my spouse is doing something wrong?
  • How do we have a peaceful, productive conversation?
  • How do we build a fulfilling marriage?

Here is a description of the accommodations at Cherokee Cove in Mountain City, TN:

"The lodging will be in the newly built Evergreen Village. These cozy log cabins are privately situated amidst wooded and long range views.  Each uniquely decorated cabin has it’s own front porch and is equipped with a queen sized bed with fine linens; a full bath with lush towels; coffee maker and coffee, cream, sugar and tea bags; and a welcome basket.  Meals include “welcome snacks” and dinner on Friday, Saturday breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Sunday brunch.  Hot and cold beverages are available from 7 am until 10 pm daily.

Total cost is $250 per couple. The menu will include fresh, locally grown produce, organic, home baked breads, wild caught fish, and beef and/or pork and chicken.  All meals are prepared fresh daily and that are “catered” to the needs of the guests, so feel free to inform us of any food allergies and special requests.