From Knowledge to Relationship

I was at home preparing for a bible study that met on a weekly basis when I realised I didn’t remember anything spoken at church on Sunday. I wanted to pass it off as being busy and having a lot of different things in my life leading to forgetfulness. However, there was a deeper underlying problem. A hint was that this happened regularly, almost every week. Was I not spiritual enough? Did I not care about God’s word? Why was I not focused at church? These kinds of questions floated around in my mind.

Here’s what I didn’t realise: I had more knowledge of God than a relationship with him. A hint of this was how I thought about him – I thought of him as God. I didn’t talk to my Father, Jesus or Holy Spirit. They were a distant God in my mind. If you asked me, I would have told you that of course God was close to me, but in reality he was not. Did I pray throughout the day? Did I talk with the Father? Did I listen carefully? Did I ask him questions? No. I did not.

I knew what God liked and disliked, but not because he was telling me directly. I knew everything I knew because of the Bible or church preaching. The Bible is incredibly powerful, but reading it without a relationship with the Father held back its power. When I read it, I assumed I was always in the right and every promise belonged to me. In the same way, every curse or rebuke was for ‘bad’ people… or something…

How wrong I was!

I was blind to the sin and idols in my heart because I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. Knowledge of him doesn’t give room for him to touch my heart and bring up the things I need to deal with. If only I had talked with him, asking him to reveal sin to be dealt with, I would have saved myself so much pain!

So, when did the change from knowledge to relationship happen? Well, it’s hard to give a date or time because it was more of a journey, but I can say for certain the process accelerated during a recent part of my life. (More details here) When I was at the end of myself I forced, yes, forced myself into prayer like never before. I changed from praying 5 minutes per day (on a good day) to hours each day – I’m talking many hours praying, crying, pleading, crying… Yeah, it wasn’t glamorous 😉

BUT…

Through my prayer times, my Father in heaven showed me many things about my heart and the mess that was inside. He also gently showed me what other people were feeling because of my actions. Wow. That wrecked me. I had no idea of just how much pain I had caused, especially to those closest to me. It still hits me as I write this, months later!

Some things you cannot explain. Other things you can. Only the explainable things are talked about at church, which is understandable to some degree. However, there is so much more to God than you can ever understand through teaching. The ONLY WAY, please read carefully, THE ONLY WAY to truly understand God is to have a close relationship with him.

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but now the only people I can truly relate to in a spiritual setting are those who also have an intimate relationship with the Father. They talk act differently. Things get under their skin that just don’t bother most people. They understand another side of God and his heart, so they will not stand for things that break his heart. Sure, they still mess up plenty! But they’re different.

When was the last time someone, christian or not, told you “you’re different”? Do you stand out, especially to those who don’t know Jesus? If not, it might be time to lock your door and get on your knees for a few hours a day until that changes.

Rethinking my Obedience to God

For the past few weeks I have been reading a book written by Pastor John Bevere, called Killing Kryptonite. The book focuses on a common sin many Christians in Australia deal with; idolatry – which is generally putting anything above God or before God. The deadliest part about this sin is how it goes unnoticed by anyone committing it. The result of this sin is a church and body of Christ without power and authority.

I could talk about many different lessons learned, but one that stood out to me was my attitude when reading the bible. For a couple of years I have been fairly consistent in reading devotions, attending church, and thinking I’m a good Christian, but after reading this book, I realised I had lost humility and always assumed I was doing the right thing.

Let me give an example. Matthew 7 verses 1-3“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?’

When reading this passage, I have always assumed I follow this commandment by Jesus. However, after driving for about 2.7 seconds in Adelaide traffic, I get cut off and immediately feel anger and judgement toward the person. ARGHHH I HATE TRAFFIC! Never mind that I just cut someone off myself! I have been judging people A LOT without realising how much I do it.

I’m especially good at judging people and being a hypocrite on a day I do a double-devotion.

Yup. That’s bad. And very true.

Here’s the thing… I never realised my sin until I started reading the Bible honestly. Instead of assuming I’m already doing it right, I have adopted the attitude of assuming I’m doing it wrong, then examining my actions over the past couple of days/weeks to honestly assess how I am doing.

Okay, that’s a nice lesson Caleb, but what does it have to do with idolatry? Well, after reading this book I realised the biggest idol in my life was…. drum roll..

me.

Now I don’t know who you are or where you’re at or what you’ve done, yada yada yada… But I do know that I thought I was a healthy Christian while frequently sinning. And I ONLY realised I was in trouble when I stopped idolising myself and thinking so highly of myself. If you think you’re pretty well on track with your relationship with God, I suggest you stop right now and have a good, long think about that. No judgement here from me! You may be perfectly in God’s will, …buuuuuuut chances are that if you believe you’re not sinning, you are.

All the best.

A Lesson From My Relationship

I have resisted writing about my relationship with Katie, my girlfriend, partly because she sometimes reads my posts and I don’t want to embarrass her, but also because the relationship is new and I’m still learning a lot. However, I have learned so much from dating her I can’t pass up an opportunity for content to write here 😉

Being in a relationship is like having a giant magnifying glass looking at my character. Before I met Katie, I thought I was a great Christian guy because I diligently went to church to serve, read my bible, and prayed often. However, when I started going out with her, I quickly started to see gaps in my character that needed immediate attention. The list is too long to cover here, but the first area I observed needing improvement was my relationship with my family. I saw how Katie loved and cared for her family, even though they let her down at times. Seeing this forgiveness and love challenged me. After being hurt by my family, I isolated myself and was living away from them with minimal interaction. I preferred to not talk about them, and when asked, would generally bring up the bad things that happened. I understand that no one has a perfect family, but my attitude toward my family was not right. Seeing how forgiveness brought healing and restored relationships in Katie’s family challenged me to forgive my family too and invite them back into my life. I started organising times to see them and enjoy each other’s company.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says ‘If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

As it turns out, there is a lot more to being a “good Christian guy” then simply going to church and reading the Bible. Without showing love, I had nothing. When I did change my tune, I was amazed at how fast relationships were strengthened and renewed. Have you had difficulty in family relationships? What have you done to restore those relationships? Let me know by commenting below 🙂

The Pursuit of Acceptance, or the Pursuit of God?

Today I have been challenged by the scripture found in Isaiah 53:1-6 ‘Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus spent His time on earth not for Himself, but sinners. He was despised and hated during His ministry. What hit me hard was how the Son of God came to earth and was misunderstood. If God’s own Son wasn’t liked and didn’t care to be liked, why am I so concerned with what other people think of me?

If I am to live for God and not myself, I will need to re-focus myself on Him. It seems so easy to get caught up in what the world defines as success, but to put that aside and look like a fool may be necessary to obey God. How far will you go to pursue God rather than acceptance of other people? This challenges me, because often my motives aren’t right. I love social media because it’s a platform that can be used to get even more acceptance from friends. Does a follower of Christ even need social media? I deleted Instagram because I do not have the self-control to use it in a healthy way. I have kept a Facebook account, but I wonder if I should delete that too. In any case, I will be judging my motives very closely the next few days. I want to be in the pursuit of God, not the pursuit of acceptance from people.

Passion For God

Acts 21:1-4, 7-8 tells the story of Paul travelling through various places and encouraging Christians as he went. Just focusing on the travel, it says ‘After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. We …landed at the harbour of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo. We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week…‘ (Skip verses 5 and 6) ‘The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food.

This story illustrates the passion Paul had for God and the Church. He travelled the world teaching and encouraging believers wherever he went.

The passion Paul had for God and the Church inspires me. However, when it comes to my life, I can so effortlessly get busy with unimportant tasks. I never intend to put God below other things, but it is so easy to find fun and exciting things to fill my day.

Does your life reflect the passion Paul had? Travelling the world is obviously not required to pursue God passionately. Loving God looks different for everyone, but is there an opportunity to bring your passion to a higher level? Do you find yourself ‘too busy’ to spend a meaningful time alone with God each day?

Influencing Those Around You

I was at university, on my way to the library after class. ‘Caleb!’ Someone was calling my name. I looked around to see classmate from last year. He was fast-walking toward me with a friend of his. They asked me to join them in the library, and we ended up talking for hours. Later that week, I saw them again. I wanted to study alone because I get more done, but they saw me and were following me. I couldn’t shake them.

Every day provides an opportunity to have an impact on someone’s life. Are you influencing the people around you? Is the effect you have on others easily seen?

1 Peter 2:12 says ‘Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.‘ Every day you are with people who don’t believe in God, your actions are on display. You can show God to those around you in small, simple ways. Live each day intentionally.

Family

This week God has been talking to me about family. It started when I was talking with a friend about her family. Her family experienced some hardship but didn’t handle it well. As a result, some relationships suffered and today still need attention.

The conversation I had with my friend reminded me of my family. Last year I moved away from family but didn’t make an effort to stay in contact. I wanted to leave them behind as much as possible because of my past (terrible) experiences. However, after some thinking and praying, I believe God wants me to connect with them again.

Have you struggled with your family in the past? Are there relationships you can help mend?

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

God wants every one of us to love each other the way He loves. This includes family.