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.

Trusting in God (like your life depends on it)

It was just a few days into the new year that I received the phone call. Unsuspecting, I picked up my phone and answered. From the other end I heard a weak voice say “aunty (blank) has passed this afternoon”. I didn’t know how to respond. She had a severe cancer so I was expecting the news, yet hoping against it somehow. I was unsure of how to feel.

To give some backstory, I moved to the city of Adelaide, Australia back in early 2018. I felt God lead me to move, but before I had made plans for a place to live, I was at a Christmas family gathering just weeks before I needed to move. Out of no where, an aunt of mine approached me and asked what I was doing early next year. She then explained that she and her husband, (my uncle), were going overseas for a month and needed someone to look after the house. The timing was perfect from me needing to move to Adelaide matching when they were leaving.

Wait, what???

Oh yeah… she wanted to PAY ME to stay there too.

Needless to say I promptly accepted the generous offer. I ended up staying on after this lovely couple returned from their trip. Altogether I was there for around 18 months. We got a lot closer and became good friends.

Now all of that was gone. She was gone.

In the midst of this happening, I felt misunderstood by some friends and experienced a breakup.

My emotions were in utter turmoil. Most days became a blur of strong sad emotions. I didn’t know how to handle so much loss at the same time, so I started praying like my life depended on it.

Through prayer, I was drawn into God’s presence in a way I have NEVER experienced before! In this terrible mess of a season in my life, God was with me. He brought deep comfort to me.

I am reminded of Psalm 23 which says

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever. – NLT

Verse 4 stands out to me the most – Even when I walk through the darkest valley … you comfort me.

I know this to be true; when I trusted God and let him be my shepherd, these things followed. It’s all good and well to speak these verses into your life and believe for them, but I really believe that it is when you actively put your trust in God and allow him to lead you that these verses become a part of your life.

I had to trust that God loved me and still had a plan for my life.

I’m going to be honest. It was FRIGGIN’ HARD! (Mind the Christian swear word) Yet God was there the whole time. I had to trust him above my feelings.

To really trust God and let him lead me, I had to put aside every plan I made and give it to him in prayer. I recognized some goals I had in life that probably (definitely) weren’t aligned with God’s.

Sad face.

I had to let go of them. MANNN that was hard. It’s one thing to let go of an idea that just popped into your head, it’s a whole different thing letting go of hopes and dreams that you have poured blood, sweat and tears into.

As I gave each hope, dream, and plan for my future to God, he started showing me his hopes, dreams, and plans for my life. Now that was cool! I found out that God had called me to so many different things I never saw when I was too busy pursuing my own selfish plans! The shock to me was that God’s plans were actually bigger than I dared dream myself!

This part blew my mind. God trusted me more than I trusted myself!

What do I mean? God’s plans for my life are beyond what I consider myself capable of. He puts more faith in me than I put in myself. I do not mean that my human ability is able to do this, but that with God, I can do more than I dared even think possible. It turns out that trusting in God unlocks a whole other world!

I really believe that because I started learning to trust in God, my relationship with him grew more in the last two months than the last two years. I do not say this lightly. One month truly trusting in God saw more growth than a year of being a good Christian guy.

What are your experiences of trusting in God? How did you trust in God? How did God respond to you?

The Deal with Pride

Today I was reading from Jeremiah 50. After reading the chapter, (a prophesy of judgement for the nation of Babylon), I noticed a few things.

Firstly, Babylon had been used by God to bring His judgement to nations that disobeyed Him. Babylon didn’t deserve God’s blessing or attention, yet He chose to use them to fulfill His purpose. By carrying out His work, the nation became very wealthy. (Lots of plunder from sacking many a city)

Secondly, Babylon didn’t acknowledge God and His blessing, but instead put themselves as the reason for success and praised their idols. They were so prideful that they couldn’t see past themselves and their own abilities. They put their full trust in themselves. Further to this, they decided that some man-made idols should be praised and worshipped. (uh-oh… I can take a guess where this is headed)

Thirdly, God didn’t take kindly to their pride. (Surprised? Me neither) God saw their arrogance and commanded a judgement on them that was, (get this), worse than every other judgement the other nations suffered. The worst part? There was no chance for repentance. The judgement on Babylon was to be final, and no one would ever live there again. Never ever is a very long time, so you know God was serious. In fact, God says “desert creatures and hyenas will live there” (v29), meaning God basically made the land haunted. All because some people trusted their own strength rather than the all powerful God of heaven. God doesn’t mess around, and I believe He wanted to make a point about pride and humility for people living after (aka you and me!). Those who call out to God will be saved, while those who trust in themselves will be brought low. James 4:6 says it well:

And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

All throughout the old testament you can read of God bringing judgement on Israel for disobeying Him, yet they always turn and repent. God loves a humble heart, and gives grace when He sees it. Therefore, the lesson for you and I is simply this: Pride is a big no-no. You and I can start practicing more humility. And if you already are? Great! Keep going.

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.

The Bible as an Anchor

I often find myself caught up in being busy, doing things that aren’t important and forgetting what is necessary. After working for 8.5 hours, I want to recharge for a couple of hours before completing chores at home. Time slips away, and soon I have to go to bed to prepare for the next day. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with this. However, it tends to go wrong when I don’t set aside time with God.

Living my life away from God is dangerous. I am likely to stay positive and continue to be a “good person”, but lose the power of Christ living within me. As I lose focus on God, I find myself drifting away, like a boat in a river that hasn’t anchored to stay still. When distractions come in, it’s hard to draw the line and say no when they encroach upon the time that should be spent with God. The next thing I know, I’ve missed my morning devotion 4 days in a row…

It’s times like this that I pull the bible back out again and start reading. 2 Timothy 3:16 says ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.’ After reading, peace returns to me and I find myself wondering why I got distracted in the first place. Being close to God is so powerful and amazing, I don’t want to live any other way. Yet, there I go again, isolating myself from God by filling my days with entertainment and social media.

Can you relate to this; filling your day with things that are fun for the moment, but distract you from God in the end? This happens to me far too often, so I have asked two people to keep me accountable to daily devotions. What do you do to keep your focus on God and remain consistent?

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 🙂

Sharing the Faith

I am currently reading through 1 Peter, and I love the following verses from chapter 3. 1 Peter 3:15-17 ‘Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

The way to preach the gospel is not always from a pulpit, but rather by showing others a holy and pure life. This shifts the responsibility of sharing Christianity with unbelievers from the pastor to every Christian. I love that we are all meant to be a part of God’s plan. There is no one too small or insignificant to participate.

We are called to live a life that cannot be mocked or criticized, even by non-Christians. To live this way, I know I need God’s help. I can’t live this life on my own. I think this is God’s intention. No one can live this kind of life on their own, so there must be something or someone helping them. (God) 🙂 I have heard a few testimonies of Christians who came to the faith because they were challenged by Christians who didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs and who were always happy. They were challenged by the way Christians lived, and found God because of it. When my time on earth is over, I want to meet people who were challenged by the life I lived. Do you want to challenge others too?

We know that we are called to live a life that cannot be mocked or criticized, but what are some practical things to do that show this kind of life? 1 Peter 4:7-11 sheds some light on this. ‘The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

By praying earnestly, showing deep love, cheerfully sharing and using our gifts, we are living for God. The lifestyle God wants you and me to live doesn’t sound complicated; The difficulty is living faithfully day after day. If you are already living in this way, keep going! If you aren’t, don’t worry; start now. It’s important to remember that life isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon. Consistency is how we win.

Living with Christ as the Foundation

When reading 1 Peter 2, I came across some verses that talk of Christ as an example. My attention was drawn to verses 4 – 9 which say ‘ You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honour. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honour, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Yes, you who trust him recognize the honour God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

You and I get to live with Christ as the foundation of our faith. His example goes before us to show us how to live. I am so thankful for the privilege of living after Christ came to earth! His example shows us how to live in many different ways. He taught to obey authority and pray for them. His life also taught us that sometimes suffering is necessary to fulfil God’s will. Jesus died for us because His Father in heaven wanted to save all people. The greatest gift in the history of the world came at a great price.

Now that Jesus has come, we are called to live the way He did, devoting our lives to doing good and suffering through persecution. The calling isn’t to find persecution, but to live the way God called without compromising if hardship comes. Although this calling is hard at times, it is far greater to live for God than to live for pleasure, as many people do. The troubles the world faces are many and often have no remedy. I can attest to this because before I lived as a Christian I was living for myself, only seeking pleasure. The problem was that pleasure couldn’t satisfy the desire inside me. It always wanted more. After putting my faith in God and living for Him rather than myself, I stopped pursuing pleasure and started to find purpose again. I actually overcame depression!

If you find yourself going around in circles in life, consider surrendering yourself to God and His will. When you live in His purpose, it fills you and satisfies the desire that seems to never end. In a word, you find contentment. You are content with much or little, rich or poor, free or slave. You are so free in yourself because you now belong to God.

Moving Past Doubts

A little while ago, I was upset with someone. They didn’t treat me the way I wanted to be treated, and I felt hurt. When I was alone in my bedroom feeling sorry for myself, I had a thought to read my journal. I found the document on my MacBook and started reading. My journal is short – only a handful of pages. However, in those few pages I had written thoughts about the same people in my life. The funny part? My anxious thoughts about them a few months ago were the same ones I was experiencing now. I started laughing because I knew what happened after I wrote in the journal. Without saying anything, they had made it all right again. It was all just a misunderstanding on my part.

1 Corinthians 13:7 says ‘Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.‘ This verse affirms the need to never give up and endure through every circumstance. In my mind, I had the right to be upset, but if I had followed the Bible, I would have assumed the best instead and saved myself the pain.

Have you had doubts about someone? Have you been let down by someone you love? Write down your thoughts and feelings in a few sentences every-so-often (once per week is ideal). When you worry later, you may find that reading your past thoughts and feelings show you how to proceed.

I want to give another example. I get very annoyed when I arrange a time to catch up with someone and they cancel last-minute or say they can’t make it without giving me a time that works. I feel like I’m stabbing in the dark simply trying to see them. When this happened to me a few months ago, I was quite upset. A few days ago it happened again with the same person, and the identical feelings came to me. After reading my journal I realized this person was not upset with me or avoiding seeing me. This friend was busy, nothing more.

Big problems become small ones when brought into perspective. I recommend journalling if you sometimes have doubts. It is simple to do and very effective at clearing your mind.

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.