Tag Archives: relationship with god


In recent weeks I have been posing this question to my Sunday morning ladies Bible class:  Are you more afraid of being punished by God or of losing your relationship with God?  It is a rhetorical question, very personal in its nature because the answer to it reveals the state of one’s relationship with God.  If my fear of being punished by God is my reason for seeking Him, then I see God more as a judge than any other role He may play in my life.  I can be a faithful follower of Christ and have this view of the God of the universe.  I submit, though, that if this is my primary motivation for following Christ, then my motivation is incomplete, and I am at serious risk of losing my relationship with God and the reward of heaven.

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Hebrews 10:31

I started as a young Christian with this avoidance motivation.  I remember well the ‘fire and brimstone’ preachers I heard as a kid in church.  They were successful in putting the fear of God in me.  I wanted no part of hell or God’s wrath.  This inspiration is still a part of my faith basis. Living with fear as my primary motivation for following Christ became very cumbersome, though.  If all I am doing is avoiding the bad, when life gets hard, my faith falls apart.  If I am already living some really bad scenarios, how much worse can hell be?  I have my own personal hell on earth.  Why should I follow a God who does not protect me from evil and brokenness and heartache here and now?

Looking through history I see a lot of bad stuff happening to Christians.  They were fed to lions and other carnivores, cruelly crucified, beheaded, drawn and quartered (look it up if you don’t know what that is) and burned alive, among many other horrifying methods of torture and execution, for remaining faithful to Jesus, for refusing to renounce His name, for refusing to worship any other god than the one true God.  Even today, in some parts of the world, Christians are tortured, maimed and killed only because they wear the name of Christ.  In modern, civilized society, Christians are demeaned, ridiculed, even caricatured by the loftiest in government.  Being a Christian puts a target on my back, and it is really hard to imagine a hell worse than one Christians already endure among their fellow humans.  Why would I remain loyal to Christ in the face of such discomfort and even horror?  And yet, multitudes of Christians remain faithful, even in the face of wretched torture and death.

” ‘The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet when he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.’ ”  Matthew 13:20, 21

It seems faithfulness requires more than just the fear of God’s punishment to keep me rooted and grounded in Christ.  Faith in Jesus must be deeply rooted in something that endures, that withstands the twists and turns of a broken world.  It must be rooted in a heart that is soft and vulnerable and secure, a heart that knows it is deeply loved.  Love  survives this world into the next.  It is the bridge that spans the divide between the carnal and spiritual.

“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”                 1 Corinthians 13:13

In addition to learning about God’s wrath while growing up in church, I learned about God’s love.  I do not know if it was my child mind or how it was taught to me, but God’s love seemed like a sentiment, a nice feeling I was told was important.  It did not occur to me until later in life that God’s love was something I could sink my teeth into or grab like a life preserver.  So God became my rescuer, the ever present Savior of my soul and my life on earth.  This concept evolved into God being my supreme Bless-er, the One who gives good gifts to His children.  None of these ideas is in error, but they are an incomplete picture of God on their own.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  James 1:17

God indeed is the One who blesses, saves, disciplines and judges.  God does all of these things because He loves me, hook, line and sinker.  Doubtlessly, persistently, relentlessly, passionately.  He desires a positive, healthy, fully functioning relationship with me.  One that is mutual.  A relationship He makes possible.  A relationship He wants me to desire with all of my being.

Matt Hammitt, in his song “Without You”, includes this line:  “I don’t want to love You for a blessing / I just want to know who You are / ‘Cause You could never give me something better / Than Your light in my heart.”  This line convicts me.  Do I want to know God for His blessings?  Or, do I want to know who He is?  Do I value His light in my life more than anything else He gives me?  Do I cherish the light He has put in my heart so much that the idea of being without His light, without Him, is terrifying to me?

” ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.’ ”  John 3:16

The most profound gift ever given is God’s gift of His Son for the redemption of man.  Do I want to know why He would do such a thing?  John tells us it is because of the love He has for each and every one of us.  What kind of love would sacrifice itself to save a worthless and selfish human like me, much less multiple generations of an entire planet of them?

God’s gifts in my life are many and varied and personal to me.  Do I value the love and thought put into each one?  Do I crave to be close to the heart that spends so much time and thought and energy on me to keep me safe in His arms for eternity?  The best gifts given to me by another human being were from my husband when it was obvious he had spent time and thought to give me something I would value.  I rarely remember the things he gave me, but I will forever remember the effort he put into selecting them.  With those thoughtful gifts, he spoke to my heart, made me feel important and loved.  Am I so intimately joined to God that His thoughtful, careful gifts to me speak love to my heart?  Do I value knowing Him more than I value anything else?

” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.’ ”  Deuteronomy 6:5

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Seeking Favor

I like history.  Historical fiction is my favorite genre to read.  I thoroughly enjoy movies with  historical contexts.  History museums, especially living history museums, fascinate me.  It thrills me to live in a community that was settled before the American Revolution and to see buildings and graveyards enduring from that era.  In the Bible, I see how the history of God’s relationship with His people brings depth and breadth to the story of God’s love for mankind.

I was an above average student in my history classes in high school.  I was a math major in college, but for an elective I took a second history class.  I was determined to get an ‘A’ from one of my favorite professors.  I did not succeed.  Memorizing the dates and treaties was not what mattered to me; it was the story I was most interested in–how the pieces fit together from one era to another; how people in all of their weakness and brokenness occasionally rose above mediocrity to propel human civilization to the next level of achievement.

As a student of God’s word, it intrigues me how the history of man’s relationship with God is so often repeated from one generation to the next.   We keep making the same mistakes, keep following the same false gods even though they change shape and name, keep expecting God to meet us on our terms rather than our meeting Him on His terms, keep trying to rewrite the covenant God Himself authored.  We think we walk with Him, only to find out He is on a different path going in a different direction.

To me, the most compelling biographies from the Bible are of the people who wanted God’s favor.  Abel, whose animal sacrifice was pleasing to God, wanted God’s favor and forgiveness and was murdered for it by his own brother.  Abram listened to a God he had never seen and followed Him to a strange land, away from the family he had always known.  Abram believed this same God when He told Abram at age ninety-nine he would be the father of many nations, even though he and Sarai, who was ninety years old, were childless.  Noah, Joseph, Moses, David, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, John, Peter, Stephen, and Paul and a few others were all imperfect human flesh who pursued God’s favor to the very end of their days on earth.  They persevered in faith in the face of great discouragement and persecution, seeking to please the God they served, to secure His favor.

“I sought Your favor with all my heart…”  Psalm 119:58a

 What makes one of us determined to seek God’s favor in the face of great obstacles and distractions and another of us struggle mightily with the desire to care if God notices us?  I know I have come much too close to not caring.  My life’s circumstances, my losses, my heartaches, my loneliness, my weariness too easily pull me in the direction of indifference to God.   I think back to Israel and their history of waffling between the true God and the false, man-conjured pagan gods.  Did they not care what God thought of them or were they so dissatisfied with the quality of their relationship with Him that they went looking for something more to their liking?  God called Israel a harlot (Hosea 9:1), betrayers of His covenant with them.  They stopped seeking His favor.

I do not want to stop seeking God’s favor, or succumb to the ache my circumstances bring, or drown in my own pity.  When I fail to remember what He provides for me, when I refuse to consider from what He has protected me, I am most vulnerable to losing my desire for His favor.  Whether my circumstances are good or bad, if I fail to keep the memory of His past favor toward me in my daily consciousness,  I lose my appreciation of who He is and what He does.

“When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within, Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You; You have taken hold of my right hand.  With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.  But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.”  Psalm 73:21-28

Who He is:  the Creator of the universe; the author of my salvation; the eternal standard for justice and mercy; the embodiment of perfect love and perfect grace; without equal in any of His abilities; Redeemer of man; Friend, Counselor, Comforter and so much more.

What He does:  He cares about me; He desires my love and devotion; He asks me to choose Him; He uses me, with my permission, to accomplish His will; He provides for my needs and my comforts; He helps me in my weakness; He disciplines me for my good, not His pleasure; He wants to be with me for eternity.

What other God can claim these attributes?  Not the pagan gods Israel prostituted itself to, not the Greek or Roman gods born of the fertile imaginations of spoiled human flesh, not the gods we make of wealth and power and influence and physical ability and attractiveness and self.  No other god ever known to man is as loving, benevolent, generous, caring, compassionate and doggedly persistent in His pursuit of us as the God who made us, the one true God.

“Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name.  For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:4, 5

“His favor is for a lifetime…”  Praise God!

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.