Last week I told you that my religion is not something I happen to believe. My God is EVERYTHING! I didn’t start out with this deep, meaningful relationship with God that I couldn’t live without. It started off with someone else who was excited about what the Lord was doing in her life and she told me everything that she was discovering about a relationship with the Lord. She would tell me how amazing He is and how He is revealing Himself to her in a new way. She would go on and on, to the point where I would get annoyed with her and told her to stop talking about God.
You may have someone in your life or a series of “coincidences” that keep nudging you in God’s direction and you might be getting annoyed at God or even at that person. I know how you feel. You might be thinking something like this… “I’m doing fine. I don’t really need God. Why would I want to change everything by believing in something and having to have another relationship to work on?”
For me, God was something that I tried to avoid and push to the side. He was someone I didn’t want to deal with or feel like pursuing. What if I reach out to God and He doesn’t respond or want me? Maybe you feel like everything is fine. Why would He help me and what if I don’t like the help He wants to give me? When you start asking questions and seeking God, you are going to have to come face-to-face with exactly the thing you’ve been avoiding. You will have to get up close and personal with yourself.
“I’m doing fine.”
What is fine? The definition of fine is “satisfactory”. It’s good enough. I’m good enough. What happens when you just can’t deal with anymore stress or you can barely keep your head above water? First off, it’s not good enough to be good enough to get into heaven. Secondly, “[God] has come so that [you] may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). You were meant for so much more.
I didn’t know what kind of relationship was on the other side of my questions, but I knew that I couldn’t keep doing life the way I was. I was struggling with darkness, anger, frustrations, and pain in my life that I couldn’t deal with on my own. Therapy helped for a little while, but I needed a relationship with the Lord. I needed Him because He wasn’t putting bandaids on my life or sticking mud in the holes. When I came to the Lord humbly and with no agenda, the Holy Spirit filled my heart and made me a new person. I smiled more, I wasn’t so angry all the time, I stopped picking on other people and gossiping. I looked and acted differently.
You can’t keep patching up your life and hoping the dam doesn’t break.
God has a plan for your life and that is for you to “live abundantly”. He wants to work through you to change the world. First, you have to let Him change you. Can you keep going the way you’ve been going, without giving your life to God, and expect all the pieces to fall into place? Even when everything seems to be okay and you can provide for your family or enjoy what life has to offer, the question is, “Will you be going to heaven?”
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6
You will spend an eternity in Hell if you don’t give your life to Jesus Christ. That’s the truth and that’s why it matters. “You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Psalm 39:5
The choice you make to follow Jesus affects your eternity. He gives us the choice and now you have to take it. God wants to be in relationship with you and He wants to spend eternity with you, but you have to come to Him.
Thankfully, God doesn’t change as we change. Thankfully, God isn’t sensitive and easily swayed. Thankfully, God doesn’t give up on us. Thankfully, God is loving, merciful, and faithful.
God has many attributes (See A.W. Tozer’s book Knowledge of the Holy) and many names (See Tony Evans’ book The Power of God’s Names and Bible.org for the meanings of God’s names). Each name and description is crucial to understanding God. I encourage you to look into His names and His attributes to understand a full picture of God.
So the question is “Who is God?”. We said last week that, “God is who He is, regardless of what we think about Him.” He never changes and He always keeps His promises.
A few of God’s promises… (See The Bible Promise Book, One Thousand Promises from God’s Word)
- “God is our refuge and strength an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3
- “The sinful is thrown down by his wrongdoing, but the man who is right with God has a safe place when he dies.” Proverbs 14:32
- “For the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” Deuteronomy 20:4
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” John 6:47
- “A man cannot please God unless he has faith. Anyone who comes to God must believe that He is. That one must also know that God gives what is promised to the one who keeps on looking for Him.” Hebrews 11:6
- “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
These promises are for those who believe in God and have a relationship with Him. You cannot have access to His promises unless you have the Holy Spirit inside you.
You receive the Holy Spirit when you ask Jesus to come into your heart and when you ask God to forgive you of your sins, realizing that you cannot get to Heaven without Jesus and you cannot be forgiven without His sacrifice on the cross.
If you’ve been wondering and asking yourself, “Where is God and why is He not showing up in my life?” first, you have to ask yourself if you have truly given your life to Christ.
Believing that God exists does not mean that you are a Christian and are saved from an eternity in Hell.
Harsh, I know, but let’s get real. You want all the benefits and want to have all the control too. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t control your life, expect all the pieces to fit perfectly together, and pull in the reserve (God) when you need Him. It’s an every day, fully surrendering, total abandonment of your old self kind-of relationship.
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6
Here it is in a nutshell…
- God isn’t your lucky charm.
- God isn’t your “get out of jail free card”.
- God doesn’t turn His back on you, you turned your back on Him.
- God loves you.
- God wants a relationship with you.
- God will not force you to give your life to Him.
- You matter to God and He gives you the choice to come to Him.
- You have to let it go.
- You have to come to Him humbly and without your own agenda.
- You may be able to go this life without Him, but you won’t go to Heaven on good works.
“If they are saved from the punishment of sin because of God’s loving-favor, it is nothing men have done to earn it. If men had earned it, then His loving-favor would not be a free gift.” (Romans 11:6)
If you know me, you know that I am typically not this direct. The reason for these blogs, for me, was to tell you what my relationship with the Lord means and why it matters. My faith is not based on some scriptures that don’t have any meaning in the present day. My faith is not based off of some God who sits up in Heaven scowling at me because I’M JUST NOT GETTING IT! My faith is not a “religion” I fell into and use as a crutch.
My faith is a daily relationship with a God who shows up. He is there for me. His promises are real. And He is always faithful, even when times are tough. My God is not a “religion” that I just happen to believe. My God is EVERYTHING!
~~Stay tuned next week to hear my testimony and how God has shown up in my life. God means so much more than what the world has been telling you. Don’t believe me? Check back here next week and see how God might be speaking into your heart.~~
Why do we believe?
Tyrant, Unyielding, Fake, Unrealistic… Everyone has a different opinion of who God is to them or what being a Christian means. If you were raised by a stern and strict Father, you most likely see God that way. If you called out to God before in a “Hey God! If you’re there send me a sign” kind of a way and didn’t hear from Him like you thought, you probably don’t think God listens to your prayers. If you are entangled in addiction or think you have some unforgivable sin, you may think that God can’t forgive you or won’t want a relationship with you.
The truth is we create different versions of who we think God to be based off of our experiences, our past, our choices, and our feelings. God, then, becomes who we want Him to be. God becomes this distorted, miss-configured reflection in a broken mirror.
Truth- God is who He is, regardless of what we think about Him.
If I have an interaction with someone that is negative or hear something bad about that person, I formulate an idea of what I think that person is like. Until I get to know them and spend time with them do I actually start to formulate a view of who they really are.
I don’t have faith, talk about God a lot, or make His work my life mission because I need a crutch to lean on or because I fell into “religion”. I believe because I’ve seen Him show up in my life. When I finally stopped making it about me and started truly getting to know Him, I saw Him consistently revealing Himself in my life. You might say, “Well that was a coincidence” or “You convinced yourself that it was God”. I know it to my core. I would die for my faith in Jesus Christ. I have seen Him reveal Himself through people in my life. I’ve seen it through His Word leaping off the page and being exactly what I needed to hear.
Call out to God with a humble, unhindered heart. Ask Him to show you who He really is and then pursue learning about Him and His character through His Word. He will reveal Himself to you and meet you right where you are.
When you started that conversation with them or when you started to realize that your view was skewed, that’s when you had to take everything you knew about them, ball it up and throw it in the trash. Some of us need to take that picture of who we think God is and throw it in the trash. He isn’t your Dad, He isn’t your past, He isn’t your mistakes, He isn’t the “Big Man Upstairs”. He is love.
1 John 4: 7-11
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
~~ Join us next week as Shanan continues her blog series on why we believe~~
~Subscribe to our blog by filling out the form below so you never miss another blog post!~
Today we will discuss the last of the four lifetime gifts that are important to give our children throughout the whole year and not just at Christmas. We’ve discussed the importance of giving them Salvation, Security and Discipline. Today we will talk about giving our children the gift of Discipleship.
Jesus calls each of us to be disciples, or followers and imitators of Christ.
He tells us “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40 (ESV)
As disciples of Christ we are meant to become more and more like Jesus as we grower deeper and surrender more to His commands.
Along with following the example and teachings of Jesus, we must also share these things with others as we help them grow as disciples. This is called discipleship- helping someone grow in their relationship with the Lord.
Matthew 28:19-20 is a very familiar verse when discussing discipleship and sharing the gospel with others.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus told His disciples to go and make more disciples. This does not only apply to strangers or people we meet at church. This also applies to our children! In fact, as parents, our children should be a priority in discipling.
In Deuteronomy 6:5-9, we see that the Israelites were instructed with this same idea. God said to His people through Moses:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This verse suggests this process at home is ongoing, not just at specific and set times, but throughout the days and weeks as you ‘do life’ together. This implies that we must spend time with our children, discussing life and what they are facing and turning it to discussions on how the Lord would have us handle those situations.
Part of discipleship is learning the Word, and how to study the Word so that we know what God says – or at least how to find out what God says about different parts of life- so that we can know truth and identify lies. In todays culture, this is becoming more and more important, and much more difficult. We have so much ‘knowledge’ available at our fingertips (literally) on hundreds of websites with blogs, study tools, etc. The problem is we must know how to check this wealth of information against what the Word says so we can differentiate between truth and lies.
One important fact we cannot overlook is this: We cannot give others what we do not have.
When we apply this fact to discipling our children, we see that we must be constantly and consistently seeking the Lord, studying His Word, and growing in faith and obedience if we want to also teach these things to our children.
The old saying ‘Do what I say, not as I do’ is not a good rule to live by. We must live and teach by example. And the example we should be asking our children to follow is the same example we should be following: The example of Christ. Studying His life through scripture is the only way to know for sure how we are to live.
This is what we must do for our own walk, and what we must teach our children to do in their walk as well!
Giving our children the Gift of Discipleship will not only be a joy as we spend time together, but will be a blessing as we watch them grow closer to the Lord and become more and more like Jesus!
We recently adopted a rescue puppy at our house. Training her to obey commands is a daunting task and sometimes it just seems easier to give in and give up, rather than to stand our ground- resisting the urge to give in to those pouty puppy dog eyes!
The struggle to cave is real!
But anyone who has ever gone through the puppy stage knows that it only lasts a season, and if you can endure and remain tenacious, the results will be beneficial to both puppy, and puppy parent, in the long run.
This is also true for us as human parents. The temptation is to do what is easy, both emotionally and physically. We often know we have limited time with a child and therefore are tempted to spend what time we do have ‘just having fun’ instead of stepping into the sometimes-exhausting process of laying out boundaries and following up with discipline when lines are crossed.
Rather than looking at discipline as a burden we bear as parents, we must choose to see it as a gift we can give our children- no matter how many times we have to ‘open’ that gift with them. One thing to help shift focus in that area is to answer the question ‘Why is it important to discipline my child?’
Some important reasons to discipline our children are: to help them to learn right from wrong, and to help them learn how to make good choices- both of which help to keep them safe as they learn to navigate life. But an even more pressing reason to discipline our children is to teach obedience. And why do we care if they obey us, especially if it may cause us to lose some favor, even if temporarily, in their eyes?
We must teach our children to obey their parents (and elders and authority figures for that matter) so that when they are older they will be willing and able to obey the Lord.
This is one of the most important gifts we can give to our children: the knowledge, understanding and practice of obedience. If we do not make this a priority we are essentially setting them up for failure.
A couple of key “do’s and don’ts” on discipline are:
- Be sure they know what is acceptable and unacceptable- set rules and boundaries. We can’t ask children to obey rules they don’t know exist.
- Clearly explain consequences of disobedience.
- Carry out consequences/punishment when they willingly disobey- too many times today children see no consequence to disobedience and therefore no reason to obey.
- Don’t back track on consequences- this leads to idle threats, when we ‘threaten’ a punishment or consequence and then don’t follow through.
- Don’t bail them out. Allowing children to deal with ‘natural consequences’, even to irresponsible actions, will teach them to obey and think through situations.
- Don’t excuse disobedience. Making excuses for why a child is disobeying encourages further disobedience as they expect to not be held accountable for their actions or choices.
When the Lord asked the Israelites to obey Him, He did not allow excuses to delay discipline. When the Lord asks us to act in obedience He does not want us to give Him a list of excuses as to why we cannot, or do not want to obey Him. He wants us to obey Him for no other reason than that we love Him and trust Him, and respond in obedience. When we teach our children to obey the instructions of parents, people in authority positions throughout their lives, or those who enforce laws, we are teaching them the principles necessary to obey the Lord.
Here are just a few verses of scripture that speak to us about disciplining out children. God believes it is important enough to include in His Word and therefore we should take the directive seriously.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
I wanted to share a couple of good resources regarding discipline and obedience:
Shepherding Your Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp – learn more here: http://www.shepherdingtheheart.org/shepherding-a-childs-heart/
Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp – learn more here: https://www.paultripp.com/products/age-bk
Here is a great series from Focus on the Family about discipline. There are different parts that address different topics about discipline so be sure to check them all out.
~~Getting to the heart of issues will help understand why children don’t want to obey. Next week we will discuss one more gift that is invaluable to give your children for a lifetime.~~
Thank you Christina for supporting us and speaking at our iB4C retreat!