Tag Archives: relationship

Know More

God doesn’t talk out loud to me, probably because I’m so deaf.  But when He has something to tell me, I know what it is.  After retiring from a pastorate, I asked, “What’s next, Lord?”  His answer was abrupt: “It’s time for you to get to know Jesus.”  I’d spent 22 years teaching others about Jesus, but now, God told me to get to know Him.  Humbling, that.  But recently, Randy Alcorn observed that Paul, after serving Christ for 30 years wrote in Philippians 3, he wanted to get “to know Him…” (Bible Study Magazine – September/October 2016).

There’s a big difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Him.   A demon knew all about Jesus called Him, “Jesus, the Son of the Most High God.” But he didn’t know Him (Mark 5:7).  Jesus said not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Why not?  Jesus said, “… I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.”

So, when God “took me to school”  I was  grateful.  I’ve learned there is always more to knowing Jesus.  As Paul came to that realization, he wrote:

Indeed, I count everything [all his former training and credentials] as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…    (Philippians 3:8)


Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  (Philippians 3:12)

For more about how, see the previous two posts, below…

Best Kind of Famous

Here’s a riddle:  if God knows everything, then what does.this mean?

But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.  ( 1 Corinthians 8:3)

Doesn’t God know everyone?  To understand this better, think back to your first day at a new school, where you were a complete stranger.  Or your first day of basic training.  Or eating alone in a restaurant on a business trip.  Remember how you felt?  Now, a voice in the crowd, “Hey! I know you!”. You turn and there is an old friend.  You are known.

Now, before you connected,.you were known but you didn’t know you were known. You did not experience being known. This illustrates the powerful difference one experiences when, through faith in Jesus, she or he begins a relationship of love with God. Instead of being alone in the crowd in this life, now you are known.


When you are in the doghouse, there’s no use pretending.  A busted love relationship brings down everything else.  You may not be sure what went wrong (especially if you are a guy!), but there’s no denying that the tension needs fixing.  Papering over conflict with smiles and nice talk doesn’t work.  Caving in, going along to get along is worse.  Both attempts are temporary at best and lead to sullen, resentment.  But when someone initiates real repair by doing whatever is necessary to truly reconcile the broken relationship, the results can be exhilarating.

It was God Who took the initiative to repair our broken relationship with Him.  Paul described it like this:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him (Jesus – See: Seeing the Invisible),  and through him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. –  (Colossians 1:19-20 – with my comment)

Carefully note that it was God Who took the initiative.  And, He did not give in and say, “Let’s just pretend everything is OK now.”  He did everything necessary to truly repair the break.  The sobering, necessary cost was the blood payment for our sin.

Notice also that His act reconciled “all things” to Himself, not the other way around.  When you reconcile your bank statement, in almost every case it is your figures that must be adjusted to match the bank’s record; you change to reconcile to the bank.  God did not lower Himself to adjust to our sinfulness, but reached down through Jesus to lift us up to Himself.

The end result is peace.  Peace is not pretending to get along, it is the absolute, settled, restoration of the way things between us were always meant to be.  Peace wipes out all tension.  God, through Jesus, made this peace.  He took the initiative and He accomplished it.

You know, because you have been there, when your partner makes the first move to reconcile your relationship, it requires a certain humility to receive that act of love.  But if you are willing, you exchange brittle tension for peace and joy.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ … God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation…We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – excerpts)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


Jesus’ Harshest Criticism

Jesus knew His time was short and spent His final days delivering His most urgent teachings.  You might have thought He would level His cannons at the Romans, the pagan oppressors of God’s people.  But He ignored them.  Jesus also mostly ignored the crooks and swindlers in Jerusalem.  He didn’t pick on the wealthy or those who seemed lost in sin.  No. Jesus spent most of His final time on earth scolding religious people, especially the highest leaders.

He did not mince words.  He called them “blind guides”, “snakes” and “vipers,” “fools” and, more than any other name, the H-word: “hypocrites.   Jesus’ most biting criticism was against religious people who tried to look holy on the outside while, on the inside, they were morally and spiritually decaying and dying.  He compared them to tombs, whitewashed on the outside but full of dead men’s bones.

But why, when the city of Jerusalem was overrun with violent soldiers and scoundrels, liars and low-life’s, did Jesus pick on people who had focused their whole lives on being religious?

One reason He gave is that the religious leaders were tying people up with all their do’s and don’ts, keeping people away from God with all the ritual and legalism, when God’s intent is to invite us into a loving, intimate relationship with Him.  He said:

““Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matthew 23:15)

When religious leaders care more about their own authority and controlling people than they do about truly connecting people with God, they are working against God’s purposes.

Another criticism He leveled against them was that they were not living in step with God’s ways.  God does not want us to be prisoners of rules, but champions of grace and love.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23)

Compare those spankings to what Jesus was teaching His followers just before He died:

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:33-34)

Each of us makes a choice about Jesus, deciding whether He is One we will follow or not.  Too often, the only things we’ve heard about Jesus come from religious leaders who are trying to control us.  How about going straight to Jesus’ own words, before you decide?

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


A Closer Walk

It was the religious people who gave Jesus fits.  Jesus showed great compassion to those who were stuck in sin.  Jesus loved the unlovable, not by overlooking their bad stuff but by showing them the path to forgiveness, restoration and freedom.  But the religious people, the self-righteous, legalistic, judgmental people?  Jesus blasted them with harsh criticism.  Because He loved them, too, and they were traveling a far more dangerous road.  When you are in trouble, it is far more dangerous if you either don’t realize it, or pretend that you are not.

After being challenged one day because His disciples were not strictly following the religious ritual of hand washing before eating, Jesus turned on His accusers.  He pointed out how they used religious tradition to thwart the real purposes of God.  (See Matthew 15:1-20).  He said:

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”” (Matthew 15:7-9)

When people try to make themselves righteous, they do so by following religious rules.  The problem with that approach is that, inevitably, they begin to keep score, becoming proud and looking down on others.  When people try to make themselves righteous, they become self-righteous.

Much of the time, religious rules are designed and followed to make a person look good to others.  Instead of expressing genuine love for God, rule-followers say, “Look at me, people; I’m religious, I’m better than you…”  Sometimes when people say things in a way that sounds religious, they do it for the same motive.  But God says, when people “honor Me with their lips, but not their hearts” they are “far from Me.”   Their worship does not cause them to draw close.  No matter how religious it sounds, their worship has no real effect.  It is “in vain,”  which means it is empty.

God’s Word is given to us with the purpose of drawing us into a living and loving relationship with Him.  You don’t form that kind of relationship with anyone by following rules and keeping score.  That, in a nutshell, is the problem with most religion.  It’s why religion doesn’t work.

But relationship does.  You want to draw close to God?  Stop being religious, and get close to Jesus.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


What’s Enough?

There’s a surefire way to get backstage at a concert: know somebody and get a backstage pass. No pass? No backstage. Don’t know anyone? No pass. When I was in the sound business, I routinely saw people plead with the security guard, trying to get backstage. They always had a story. “We were in a band together in high school; I know he wants to see me…” But the stories never worked. The only thing that worked was a pass, given to those who knew someone. I think about those desperate pleas whenever I read these sobering words of Jesus:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:21-23)

It’s not enough to call Jesus Lord. It’s not enough to do miraculous things in Jesus’ Name, or to preach in a bold and prophetic tone of voice. The only thing that is enough Jesus said, is to “do the will of My Father in Heaven.”  Say what? Does Jesus mean only those who always do the will of God?   If not, then what does He mean by,  “…only he who does the will of God?”  Jesus gives a strong hint when He says, “I never knew you.”

The word, know, in Scripture frequently refers to a close, intimate and personal relationship. “Knowing” Jesus is more than knowing Who He is. It is more than wearing a Jesus T-shirt, or publicly claiming to be a Christian.  It has nothing to do with my doing amazing things for Jesus.  Knowing Jesus means entering into a close, personal relationship with the the Son of God. Because of Who He is, such a relationship begins with reverent humility and transparency.  In the words of the hymn, I come to Him “Just as I am, without one plea…”  Knowing Jesus includes a willingness for Jesus to know me.  Nothing about me is off limits in our relationship.

And that relationship, that knowing and being known by Jesus, is God’s will. And that – only that – is enough.

How Do You Know?

Before the leaves start turning, I check to make sure my furnace is going to work.  First, I need to know if the pilot light is still burning.  Because I can’t see it or hear it, I’d need to take the furnace apart to look.  But an easier way is to turn up the thermostat and wait a few minutes.  If warm air comes out of my heating vents, then I know that my pilot light is lit.   I can tell the condition of the pilot light, by the evidence of the warm air.

In the same way,

 We know that we have come to know him [Jesus] if we obey his commands.  The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  (1 John 2:3-4)

Observe carefully, John does NOT say if you obey, then Jesus will accept you.  It says that you can be sure you “know” Jesus by the evidence of how you tend to obey His commands.  If you are as naturally rebellious as I am, you are probably thinking, “What’s all this about obedience?”  It goes back to what the word “know” means.

A friend of mine met a guy who was also canoeing along the shore of Maine, near where he lives.  No big deal, just two guys who happened on each other and were enjoying the same sport.  That is, until my friend found out he was chatting with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Knowing who he was, changed my friend’s behavior. If the judge had asked him to do something he would have been more naturally inclined to obey, out of respect.  When you “know” that Jesus is God – Almighty God- and that He has told us some things we really ought to do, it will change how you act.  It just will.  That’s part of what it means to “know.”

But “knowing” is also a word that means “having an intimate relationship.”  When you enjoy a rich, fulfilling relationship with someone, and that person wants you to do something, you tend to want to do it, right?  Suppose your favorite uncle, the one who really took an interest in you from way back when you were a kid, wants you to take your shoes off in his house…   See what I mean?

That’s what John means.  If you have any doubt about whether you really have come to know Jesus, you could spend a lot of time analyzing all your thoughts and motives and so on.  Or, you could check to see if you tend to want to do what Jesus told us to do.  Simple.

There’s more to it, but we’ll get to that next time.

Loud and Clear

Maybe someday we will understand how God connects with salmon and butterflies.  From our perspective, His connection with them seems built-in, automatic.  But the connection between God and humans is conditional.  It depends upon our being in the right condition.  You’ve seen the thriller movie scenes in which the guy in the airport tower is frantically calling to the pilot of an airplane but can’t get through?  That’s a conditional communication; the airplane radio must be set on the right channel and be in good working order or the communication doesn’t get through.  

But what is the necessary condition for communication with God?  God has designed our interaction with Him to depend on faith.  Think of all the other conditions He could have chosen.  He could have given us radios that we needed to set on the right channel.  He could have required us to bring burnt offerings.  We could have been required to follow His tweets.  But God chose faith.  Interesting…  Why faith?   The answer begins by considering  what faith is.

The essence of faith is solid belief that exists in the absence of tangible proof.  The Bible says it like this:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

(By the way, the word “hope” in that sentence did not mean wishful thinking, it means a confident expectation.   It’s not like, “I hope it doesn’t rain on Thursday,” but like our “hope” that Summer will follow Spring.)

If you think about it, if what you believe is true, then faith frees you from the cumbersome process of seeking proof.  When you walk in the dark in an unfamiliar place, every step must be tentative until you know you have solid footing.  But when you walk in the dark in your home, walking by faith that your home is unchanged from when you turned out the lights, then your steps are freer and more fluid.  Scientific measurement methods, by contrast,  are necessarily tedious and plodding, designed to help us feel our way in the dark and they work well for that.  But they don’t work well for an activity that is done with spontaneity, like dancing.  Dancing is done by faith.  And so is talking with God.

God designed us to communicate with Him, not on the basis of touch or sight or measurement, but on the basis of faith.  The more I consider His design choice, the better it seems.  Can you imagine how suffocating it would be to a relationship if you had to stop and measure how much you loved each other several times a day?   Do you remember how cool it was when you didn’t need training wheels?  We are meant to swoop and glide when we communicate with God, not wobble along in tentative fear.  

Without faith, we are not in touch with God.  We are left to our own devices and guesses.  Adam and Eve discovered that in the Garden of Eden.  When they stopped trusting in God, they were left wandering in the dark.  When Jesus came, it was to restore our connection with God.

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  John 6:28-29

To believe in Jesus is also to believe God loves us.  Faith is sure of that.  To believe in Jesus is to believe God will forgive us our many sins, that Jesus willingly paid with His life to settle our accounts.  Faith nails that down.  More than that, faith opens up our communication and relationship with God.  Wow!

When I dish out caramel fudge ice cream, my scoop seeks out the mother-lode veins of gooey, rich, stuff that clusters in the middle.  When it comes to faith in the Bible, one of the gooey, rich, mother-lode veins is found in the 11th chapter of Hebrews.  You saw the first verse quoted above.  Most of the rest of that chapter is a Hall of Fame listing of great acts of faith.  But there is something else, too, something surprising and thought provoking.

Stay tuned…