How to Overcome the Tyranny of Religion to Find God

When I entered into this relationship with God I discovered a peace and joy I’d never experienced before.  At times I could feel God with me in a way that I simply can’t describe.

After college graduation I decided to go to seminary.  I thought, “Surely I’ll grow a lot closer to God by going to seminary.  I’ll study about that relationship full time.  What could be better?”

 

Studying books

 

The first seminary I attended focused primarily on two things.  First, why the Bible couldn’t be trusted and second how social action was paramount.

It left me feeling bewildered and adrift so I left.

The next seminary I attended focused on the Bible and applying it in personal piety.  Sounded great at first but the subtle message became, “Here are the rules.  To the degree you follow them God will bless you.  To the degree you fail He won’t.”

 

I became overwhelmed with the tyranny of trying to please God.

 

Some nights I would wake up in a cold sweat.  I’d slip out of bed while my wife slept quietly and go to a spare bedroom to pray.

I told God,   “I don’t know why I keep failing but I can’t keep this up much longer.”

 

After struggling for months I discovered an answer that would revolutionize my life again.

 

This story of Jesus was one of the keys.

Some religious leaders came to Jesus to condemn him for allowing his disciples to break their religious traditions.  The disciples weren’t following the proper religious technique for washing their hands.  I know, pretty big.  And guys are still the same.

What they really were saying to Jesus was, “See you can’t be the Messiah.  Otherwise your disciples would be like ours and follow all our religions rules.”

Jesus answered, “So why do you disobey God’s word to follow your own teachings?”*

In another place I read, “For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.”**

Over time I understood.

Following religious rules can never give us a relationship with God.  In fact they only show us we can never earn it.

See the only way into that relationship is by asking and believing in the one who offers it.

Then we continue in it in the same way we entered it, by faith.

 

When I discovered that, I found the relationship I’d lost.

 

I found again freedom from my failures.  I realized I’m forgiven from them all and will be of the ones tomorrow.

I rested again in my acceptance into God’s family as his child.

I felt the comfort knowing that I’ll never stop being his child.  No matter what I do or how far I fall I never fall out of the love of my father.

I discovered freedom from manmade religious rules.  Freedom from the tyranny of trying to follow rules that are impossible.

Once again I could sense God’s presence.  I would hear his quiet voice in my heart.  I knew I wasn’t alone.

I felt again that joy and peace deep inside which I’d lost.  I felt free to enjoy life to its fullest.

And I felt love again for those around me.  Not out of obligation trying to gain something but out of a deep profound gratitude for all I’d been given already.

I never went back to the tyranny of religion.  In fact I’ve rebelled against it ever since.  I was set free finally and I never gave it up.

Have you ever discovered this?

 

*Matthew 15: 3

**Galatians 3: 18 (NIV)

Photo Credit: Steve McClanahan; Creative Commons

Quora Post: “What Are the Ten Most Important Things About Personal Finance Someone Without a Finance Background Must Know?

I’m over at Quora today answering this question:

 

“Lehman Brothers filed bankruptcy in October 2008 plunging the world into financial terror.

I was traveling  in Australia at the time.   Sitting in an internet cafe drinking my morning coffee I opened the news on my laptop and read the headlines.  I thought, “Crap.  It’s a nightmare . . . .”

You can read the rest here.

If you enjoy it please upvote it and leave me a comment.

 

4 Keys to Seeing God Work the Miraculous

I suffered with a misdiagnosed sickness that ravaged my body.  My digestive system imploded and I continued to lose weight uncontrollably.  Yeah,I know, that was a problem I wished I had all my life too.  But this was for real and serious.

Friends later told me they thought I was dying.  Honestly, there were days I wondered.

I prayed for God to heal me but I grew worse.

 

Walking Sunrise

 

After a couple of months tracking the symptoms and researching on line I figured it out.  I’d mysteriously and suddenly become lactose intolerant.

I was so extremely lactose intolerant that even a hint of butter on some green beans would wipe out my system.  I was trapped in an ill functioning body and chained to the vicinity of a bathroom.  For an outdoor adventurer I felt like I was living in a suburb of hell.

I prayed, “God why me?  Why won’t you heal me?”

At times I felt God had deserted me.  I’d prayed for and watched others on occasion be healed miraculously.  Yet, when I needed it most God was silent.

 

I struggled to understand and felt frustrated and at times angry with God.

 

I was training in and teaching karate at the time.  One of the other instructors, Ross, noticing my face blended in with my white training gi. He asked me what was going on and I told him.

Meanwhile I continued to lose weight and strength though at a slower pace.  I was learning to somewhat control the symptoms.   Yet, eating out and travel was almost forbidden.

One day Ross sent me an email saying that by coincidence he had come across an ad for a product and regimen for restoring a person’s system from lactose intolerance.  He’d been looking for lactose free recipes for me when he accidentally saw it.

I researched it and then just followed the regimen without buying the overpriced product.  It took about six months to be fully restored.  But today I feel healthier than I had for a long time.

 

God did heal me.  Oh, not in the way I initially asked, but I think in a much better way.

 

A few charismatic friends said it wasn’t a miraculous healing.

Yet, I disagree.  God gave me a miraculous coincidence that brought health in complete way.

I thought of this as I read a story of Jesus.  He lands on the shore of the Sea of Galilee after sailing across during the night.

As soon as he lands people recognize him and quickly go and tell others.  Those who were sick either walked or were carried to him.

They thought, “If I can even just touch his robe I’ll be healed.”

And it says Jesus healed everyone.

 

As I look back at my own experience and this story I see several keys to experiencing God’s sometimes miraculous healing.

 

First, the people on the shore recognized Jesus.

If we don’t know him how can we expect anything from him?

 

Second, they believed enough to share the news and bring others.

Something affirming happens when we’re confident enough in our faith we can share it to encourage someone else in normal course of our lives.

 

Third, they believed Jesus would heal them.

So did I, though honestly at times I wondered and struggled.

 

Fourth, they didn’t dictate to Jesus how to do it.

They were open to anything.   I would guess people were healed in a variety of ways.

I didn’t care how God healed me just as long as he did.  I left it up to him and tried every alternative.

 

Then they found healing and so did I.

 

Have you ever experienced this?

 

(Matthew 14: 34-36)

Photo Credit:  Teresa Boardman, Creative Commons

How to See in the Dark

All of us have lived through some pretty dark times haven’t we?  Times when it seemed there were just no answers.  Times when we wondered if God was even there and if he was why he wasn’t answering.

Times when we needed an answer yet felt helpless and hopeless.

This story of Jesus and his disciples gives hope and some clues for seeing in our darkest times.

The disciples are sailing in the Sea of Galilee at night and are caught in a ferocious storm.  They’re about to sink when Jesus comes walking on the water to them.

Several miracles occur in rapid order which we talked about last time in depth.  Peter walks on the water, Jesus helps Peter when his faith falters, and the storm finally subsides miraculously.

All things we need at times aren’t they?

So why did they see God’ power in the darkness yet so often we don’t?

We looked at some of these in previous posts but let’s outline them all.

First, Peter asked Jesus for what Jesus offered.  We have the opportunity to look up those promises in the Bible.

Second, Peter responded boldly to the offer from Jesus.  No second guessing.  No hesitating.  Full out expectation.  I wonder what we’d see if we did the same?

Third, Peter faltered and we will too.  But that isn’t the end of the story.  He got back up.

Fourth, the disciples expected Jesus to calm the storm.  He’d once before so they knew he could again.  Our faith often grows in the same way.  Baby steps of faith lead to more.

Fifth, when all of these miracles occurred the disciples acknowledged God’s intervention and thanked him for it.  They couldn’t comprehend it but they accepted it and they would see more.

The same offer is made to us.

(Matthew 14: 32-33)

Finding Light in the Darkness

We all face times when the darkness closes in and it seems there just isn’t any light don’t we?  We stare into a crisis beyond our solving.

It can leave us scared and alone.  Feeling hopeless and desperate.

That’s what I love about this story of Jesus and his disciples.  The disciples are sailing across the Sea of Galilee at night when a fierce storm attacks them.  They’re capsizing when Jesus comes walking on the water to them.

We see multiple miracles occur.

First, Jesus walks on the water.  No one ever had done that before.

Second, Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water.

Third, Peter suddenly freaks out and sinks.  Jesus grabs his hand and Peter’s faith returns.

Fourth, they walk back on the water to the boat together.

Fifth, when Jesus climbs into the boat the storm subsides immediately.

So what does this all mean for us?

First, there’s no problem beyond God’s power.  He created all things he can recreate them as he wants.

Second, Jesus never leaves us alone in the storm.  No matter how ferocious he comes to us.

Third, Jesus offers that we can walk on the water with him.  Sometimes we just need to get out of our comfortable boat to experience it.

Fourth, when our faith wavers, and it will, Jesus understands.  He won’t condemn us but reaches out his hand to get us on our feet again.

Fifth, faith will return.  It ebbs and flows but it’ll come back.

Sixth, then the power returns.

Seventh, the storm will finally subside.  It may not seem like it but it will.

And the only requirement is to look toward God instead of ourselves.  And acknowledge the miracle when it unfolds.

We’ll look more in detail at that next time.

(Matthew 14: 32-33)

Quora Post: “What is the Single Insight Which Most Changed Your Life?”

I’m over at Quora today answering this question.

“A good friend, in the prime of life, suddenly contracted cancer and died.  He’d made a ton of money, retired and lived in the mountains in his dream home.

I thought, “Holy smoke! Where did that . . . .”

You can read the rest here.

Hope you enjoy it.

 

Why Some People Never See God

When I pastored a church I dealt with people going through crises often.  Illnesses that defied medical resolution.  A marriage collapsing.  Addictions which destroyed lives and families.

Often people asked for prayer.  Sometimes the one destroying their life would ask.  Frankly, I never quite understood that.

So we’d pray and expect God to answer.  And he did sometimes in miraculous ways.  Answers that simply couldn’t be explained any other way.

Yet, occasionally I heard responses like, “Wow, that was lucky.”  Or, “Huh, the doctor must have misdiagnosed my illness.”  Or “Well, I’m just not sure about it all.”

Occasionally, I watched people relapse after truly receiving a miraculous gift.  Sometimes because they suddenly weren’t the center of attention.  They actually needed to become productive now.

Sometimes, people really didn’t want to be well.  They preferred their addiction thank you very much.  Oh, they talked about wanting to be well but deep inside they liked their life style.

But when they walked away from the miracle or excused it away they never saw it again.  See I think God rarely gives repeat performances.

Yet, the final state left them worse off.  Because now not only did they still struggle with the same problem but they lost hope of God giving them another miracle.

See I believe God does offer to us answers to our deepest problems.  And sometimes those answers come in miraculous ways because frankly that’s the only option.

I’ve seen and experienced enough to know.  Sometimes they’re big in your face miracles.  Sometimes the quiet every day kind.

And when we acknowledge them we give ourselves hope of seeing more.

When we’re thankful for them we open ourselves up to more of God’s power.

When we share the good of God’s blessings they will flow fuller in our lives.

What a Messy Miracle Looks Like

Have you ever prayed for God to give you a miracle?  You or someone you love face an impossible situation so you pray and you pray.

Yet, it seems like your prayers are powerless.  Or an answer comes but it’s not the one you were asking for.  And you wonder, “Is this really all there is?”

Last post we looked at a story of Peter asking Jesus for a miracle.  We looked at steps to see a miracle.  Peter did pretty well overall even though he failed miserably in the middle.

But let’s look at what a real miracle actually looks like by viewing a few snapshots of this story.  Surprisingly, they’re often pretty messy.

First, Peter who was quaking with fear suddenly became bold.  Frankly, I’ve experienced this on more than one occasion.  Inner confidence takes over where fear had reigned.

Second, Peter walks on the water.  A real miracle occurred.  But notice the storm hasn’t ended yet. So often when the miracle occurs the storm still rages challenging our new found faith.

Third, Peter suddenly realizes the storm is still blowing and focuses on that.  Then he starts to sink.  In the midst of the miracle we can have set backs.  We can have times we think, “This just isn’t working” and we want to give up.

Fourth, Peter cries out for Jesus to save him.  Jesus lifts him back onto the water.  It doesn’t say he carried him to the boat.  I think when Jesus touched Peter’s hand another miracle occurred.  Often this happens in our own setbacks.

Fifth, Jesus keeps encouraging Peter like he does us when we look for it.

In my experience miracles are rarely straight forward.  They’re almost always convoluted and sometimes confusing.

Yet they are real today and we can see them.

 

(Matthew 14: 29-31)

5 Steps to Seeing the Miraculous

Let’s be honest, we all could use a miracle sometimes.  You may be facing a crisis right now that you just can’t get a handle on.

No matter what you try it’s not enough.  You’ve been going after this for a long time and tried everything you know.  And now you’re left still facing the emptiness and wondering, “Where’s God?”

A story of Jesus and Peter give us some steps and encouragement in seeing the miraculous.

The disciples are caught in a storm and about to drown on the Sea of Galilee.  Suddenly out of the darkness Jesus comes walking on the water.

Peter yells to Jesus, “Lord tell me to come to you.”

Jesus responds, “Come.”

So Peter scrambles over the side of the boat and starts walking on the water.  Suddenly he looks around, realizes what he’s doing and has second thoughts.

As he starts to sink he cries out, “Jesus save me.”

And he does.

A few key takeaways.

First, Peter asked Jesus for his invitation.  He didn’t tell Jesus what to do.  So, for us, first look in the Bible for God’s promise that solves your problem.

Second, when Jesus said “come” Peter focused only on that promise not on the impossibility of the challenge.

Third, Peter acted boldly on the offer Jesus made.

Fourth, Peter suddenly focused on the impossibility and lost sight of Jesus.  Then he started to sink.  Frankly, this will probably happen to us as well.  It’s part of the challenge.

Fifth, Peter gathered back up his faith and prayed boldly all over again.  He just wouldn’t give up and neither should we.

What I love about this story is that Peter faltered.  He even failed.   Yet, he was the one who climbed out of the boat and walked on the water.

 

(Matthew 14: 29-31)

Quora Post: “What is the single most effective piece of financial advice you’ve ever received?”

I’m over on Quora today answering this question:

“I laid awake during the night in a cold sweat staring at the dark ceiling.  I calculated the  weeks before we went bankrupt in a business I owned.  Our children were very young  and I trembled wondering how I would take care of them.

Years later I remember my father’s advice often. . . .”

You can read the rest here.

Hope you enjoy it.  If so I always appreciate upvotes and comments.