Religion or Relationship?

“It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship.”  I saw this quote on a t-shirt and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  I’m not entirely sure of the intent of the message, but it sounds like rejecting one in favor of the other.

Religion, by definition, is something we all have.  It’s simply our beliefs about how we got here and why we’re here.  Perhaps some dislike the word because they’ve been exposed to people who have given religion a bad name.  Or maybe some equate religion with a list of rules, and they disregard submission and authority in favor of freedom and grace.

Relationship is certainly essential.  We’re to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37) and we’re to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:39).  Those who fail to nurture loving relationships lack the crucial essence of Christianity.  “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

Christianity IS a religion.  The Bible tells us there’s a difference between a religion that’s worthless  and a religion that is pure and genuine (James 1:26,27). The hypocrisy of some may have tainted how some view religion (Matt. 6:1ff), but God says that true religion is acting out our love for Him and His creation.

If it’s the rules of religion that some reject, let’s remember what Jesus said:

  • “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
  • “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).
  • “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

A relationship with Jesus involves following His rules.  It’s almost like someone asking me if I’d rather have my husband’s love or his commitment.  I want both.  His love is key in having a good, happy relationship and his commitment means he will follow through in areas of honesty, protection, and providence.

It’s not religion OR relationship.  It’s both.  A relationship with God means following the pure religion He has outlined for us in His Word.

Prayer for Today:  Help us, Lord, to show others pure religion by our love for You and for them.

 

10 Things I Want My Sons to Have When They Leave Home

Our sons are almost 21, almost 19, and 16 years old.  I want them to be happy and healthy, but more than anything, I want them to have their own genuine relationship with God.  Here are 10 things I pray they will have when they leave home:

I.  HONESTY

God is love, so when I hear that He hates something, it catches my attention.  Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things God hates, and lying is mentioned twice!  Honesty tops my list of Ten Things because of what honesty prevents:

  • Deceiving self.  Self-honesty is crucial to personal Christianity.  How will my sons know if they’re in a right relationship with God if they’re deceiving themselves in their self-evaluation (1 Cor. 11:28)?  The Bibles says, “Test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5).  The very word test implies honesty.
  • Making excuses.  Excuses are cover-ups for short-comings.  They’re what we come up with when we try to remove the blame or responsibility for something.  ”Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure.”  I want my sons to build their houses on the rock.  According to Jesus, that means they will hear His words and DO them, not make excuses for what they’re not doing (Matt. 7:24).
  • Moral Dilemmas.  Dishonesty leads to moral dilemmas in so many areas of life– business relations, taxes, academics, moral ethics.  Dishonesty produces a life of double standards.
  • Distrust.  One lie can destroy years of trust, trust that will take a long time to be restored.  A dishonest person won’t have good relationships with coworkers, with elders, with his wife & children, or with his church family.

II.  PURITY OF HEART

As a mother of three boys, I’ve felt many moments of indignation at all the sexual impurity bombarding us from all sides.  Purity of heart made my list of Ten Things because if my sons don’t have pure hearts:

  • They won’t see God (Matt. 5:8).
  • They will be in a war waging against their soul (1 Pet. 2:11).
  • They will be instruments of unrighteousness (Rom. 6:13).
  • They will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21).

With our sex-saturated society, the idea of raising pure-hearted boys may seem to be an uphill battle against overwhelming odds.  But our young men need to know that God’s promise still holds true:  “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

III.  COMPASSION

My sons will be guilty of hypocrisy if they’re big on keeping the law but lack compassion (Matt. 23:23).  Some do what they’re supposed to do and say what they’re supposed to say, but they’re hard on others.  They speak harshly of the shortcomings of others and act morally superior.  This is a heart problem.

Compassion will motivate my sons to see the good in others, to look for ways to build up and encourage, to see souls as the Savior does (Mark 6:34).

IV.  HUMILITY

If my boys leave home without humility, they leave home without having the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5-8).  Humility had to make my list of Ten Things because without it, my sons will head for destruction and dishonor (Prov. 18:12).  Humility affects their very relationship with God:

  • How close they’ll be to Him (Psa. 138:6,7)
  • Whether or not they’ll be guided & taught by Him (Psa. 25:9)
  • Whether or not they receive His grace (James 4:6)
  • Whether or not they’ll be exalted by Him (2 Pet. 5:6)

V.  SELF-MOTIVATION

Laziness can become a lifestyle.  In my [humble] opinion, there are a few habits that prevent men from really making a difference:

  • Dressing sloppily because they’re too lazy to tidy up
  • Keeping a disorganized office or work space
  • Being late to work or appointments; missing deadlines
  • Needing someone else to prod them along in order to complete assignments or commitments

Self-motivation, on the other hand, promotes:

  • The ability to tackle hard things instead of avoiding them
  • Discipline in areas of time-management, healthy eating, and exercise
  • The internal drive to always do their best
  • The desire to look for ways to serve and be involved, instead of waiting to be asked or waiting for someone else to take care of it
  • The wisdom to know when to ask for help instead of making excuses

VI.  GRATITUDE

Gratitude is the opposite of self-pity.  I don’t want every conversation my sons have to revolve around how hard things are for them.  I don’t want them to be needy for attention and sympathy.  I don’t want them to have a difficult time being happy and content.  They can’t be grateful and feel sorry for themselves at the same time!

Gratitude sees the blessings in life and sees problems as opportunities for growth.  Self-pity thinks, “Woe is me,” while gratitude quietly waits for God to fulfill His purpose in difficult situations.

My sons are going to face difficulties.  They’re going to be treated unfairly.  They’re going to be disillusioned at times.  Their mindset will determine how they handle it.  They can wallow in self-pity and complain about their circumstances, or they can be grateful for what they have, Who provides for them, and where they are going (1 Thess. 5:18; Phil. 4:11).

VII.  RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY

If my sons are allowed to disrespect authority in the home, they will carry that disrespect into the rest of their lives.  God commands His people to show respect for authority:

  • Children to parents (Eph. 6:1,2)
  • Wife to husband (Eph. 5:22-24)
  • Members to elders (Heb. 13:17)
  • Citizens to government (1 Pet. 2:13-17)
  • Servants to master (Eph. 6:5-8)

When rebellious men in the Lord’s church disagree with a decision made by the elders, they’ll say, “I don’t care what they say; I’m going to do it the way I want.”  Obviously these men were never taught to respect authority.  I want my sons to understand the importance of respecting authority even in times when they think those in authority are being unreasonable.  Those in authority who abuse their position will one day answer to God.  My sons need to make sure their own actions glorify God.

VIII.  FRIENDLINESS

Concerning friendliness, someone wrote, “It’s amazing what a warming influence it can have on an otherwise dreary world.”

Whether they’re going off to college, visiting a new congregation, or greeting their future in-laws, I want my sons to be able to initiate warmth and friendliness.  I want them to be quick to smile, greet, and assume the best in others.  I don’t want them to sit back and wait for others to approach them.

IX.  COMMITMENT

A lack of commitment will make my sons give up when their marriage relationship gets rocky.  It will make them neglect evangelism after only a few rejections.

Commitment will keep my sons from giving up or giving in.  It will be what keeps them going back to a job they dislike so they can pay the bills.  It will keep them knocking on doors to set up Bible studies.  It will motivate them to make the right choices and say the right things regardless of how they feel.  It is 1 Corinthians 15:58 lived out on a daily basis.
X.  FAITH
When my sons leave home, I want them to have a real, personal, genuine faith.
  • When my sons hear something different from what they’ve always been taught, where will they turn for answers?  My prayer is that they’ll always turn to God’s Word to define and secure their faith (Rom. 10:17).
  • When my sons feel discouraged, who will they lean on?  My prayer is that they’ll lean on the Lord (1 Pet. 5:7).
  • When they feel like they’re all alone in terms of moral convictions, what will they do?  My prayer is that they’ll have the courage to stand for what’s right even if no one stands with them.

For the faith of my sons to be real and enduring, it must be built on Scripture.  Not on family traditions or feelings.  Not on the level of love we have for them.  Not on our level of good works, or theirs.  For their faith to be living & powerful, it must be rooted in the Word of God (Heb. 4:16).

My sons may be in a new environment, but God’s Word will remain the same.  They may be surrounded by new people, but God’s Word will still hold true.  They may be tested in ways they’ve never been tested before, but God’s Word will always carry them through.  IF it’s the foundation of their faith.

Prayer for Today:  Lord, you know my daily prayer is that my sons will always put You first.

*This post can now also be found at A Wise Woman Builds.

Bible-Marking FAQs

Bible-marking is an easy way to prepare yourself to be able to study with others, answer questions, or teach a class or devotional.  If you’re unfamiliar it, check this out or check out the Bible-marking feature at Come Fill Your Cup.

Today’s post will consider some questions I hear most often.  If you think of another that isn’t mentioned, please share it with us!

How do you determine which topics to mark?

LISTEN.  Listen to what your friends, neighbors, family members or co-workers are discussing.  Is there something that confuses them, such as reconciling the existence of pain and suffering with a good God?  Is there something they’re struggling with, such as discouragement or a specific sin?  Also listen to sermons and classes.  When you hear a lesson on grace or prayer, start jotting down the Scripture references for later study.  Neal just preached “Parenting from Proverbs” this past Sunday and I thought, “That’d be a great Bible-marking topic!”

PREPARE.  Many topics will be geared toward your own personal Bible study opportunities.  You’ll want to be prepared to answer questions about salvation, worship, authority, the organization of the Lord’s church, etc.

PRACTICALITY.  You could Bible-mark just about any topic, but not every topic needs to be Bible-marked.  Ask yourself the purpose for marking.  Will it be helpful in teaching others?  Will it be beneficial for your own spiritual growth or encouragement?  Will it be something you could use when called on to give a devotional?  The purpose of Bible-marking is to be prepared for study, sharing, and growth.  If a topic doesn’t fulfill any of those goals, there’s really no need to Bible-mark it.

How do you keep from proof texting?

STUDY.  Proof texting is using Bible verses to try and prove a point without considering the entire context.  Passages pulled out of context can be used to prove just about any opinion or viewpoint and that can be very dangerous.  It’s vitally important that quality time is spent in study to make sure we’re never guilty of misusing Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15).  It’s easy to pull verses out of context.  It takes work to understand the context.  Because we’re accountable for what we teach (James 3:1), we better take the time and trouble to study, study, study.

When more than one topic uses the same passage, how do you know which verse goes with which topic?

COLOR.  The pigma micron pens come in a variety of colors.  Using different colors for each topic will allow you to keep your topics clearly marked.  For example, the topics “Plan of Salvation” and “Sinful Past” share a verse, so at the end of that verse there are two passages listed.  Because those topics have been marked in different colors, I know which verse to go to for the “Plan of Salvation” and which one to go to for “Sinful Past.”  If you ever find that you used the same color in that situation, simply note the topic initials next to the passages you’re supposed to go to next.  For instance, write “Acts 2:38 (PS)” at the end of the verse.

How do you know when to underline, circle, or draw a square around certain words?

STYLE.  It’s all completely personal.  Use your own style to determine what you’d like to mark in each verse.  The point is to draw attention to what needs to be emphasized for the topic you’re studying.  If you’d prefer to circle instead of underline, or use highlighters instead of pens, go for it.  If you don’t like to write notes in your margins, that’s okay.  Everyone has their own style and preferences.  When it comes to marking verses, you get to choose what works best for you.

How long does it take to put together a Bible-marking topic?

HOURS.  But how many depends on the topic itself.  If it’s a deeper subject, naturally it’ll take longer to study.  If it’s a topic you’re more familiar with or one that you’ve recently studied in a class, you can prepare it for Bible-marking in only a couple of hours.  Again, the time is mostly devoted to making sure no passages are misused or taken out of context.

With the exception of making sure all passages are used accurately, there’s really no right or wrong way to Bible-mark.  Everyone has their own learning style, study habits, and personal preferences.  The idea is to just get into the Word and look for ways to easily share it with others.

Prayer for Today:  Thank you for Your Word, Lord.  May we always be ready to share it!