Growing Deep in Your Relationship with God

I’ve always been confused by something. Well no actually, I’ve been confused by a lot.

But one thing is why some people seem to enter into a relationship with God but over time they fall away from the vitality of it. And others, no matter what life throws at them, grow stronger and deeper in it.


Wheat Field


I’ve known people who started going to church and got excited about it. They made new friends, enjoyed the services, and found the messages engaging. So they got involved. Joined a small group, taught children’s classes, attended a retreat.

But somehow over time the excitement waned. They started attending sporadically. Found other things to do on Sunday morning. And eventually just moved on. Kind of “been there and done that”.

Add to that the ones who drop away when pressures hit. They don’t see God work they way they prayed. So they conclude, “This just doesn’t work for me.”

Through the years I’ve seen a whole bunch who tried out Christianity and somehow it just didn’t stick.


Yet the real problem I see? They miss the amazing life God offers because they never stayed with it long enough to truly discover it.


Frankly, I don’t have a clear answer for this dilemma. And honestly, I don’t have a clear answer for why with me it did stick. I was a most unlikely candidate.

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3 Reasons I Love Having a Relationship with Jesus

I grew up going to church. I hung out with my buds, went to social events and enjoyed the cute girls. But after high school everyone kind of split so I did too.

I mean church itself seemed like it was aimed mostly at inhibiting fun and inflicting boredom. I couldn’t see the point.


Ocean Light


And fun I had in college. Competing in sports, living in a frat house, driving cool cars and dating cute girls. I mean what’s not to like?

Yet, by the end of my senior year somehow it’d run its course. Sure I still went to frat parties and there were always lots of girls around.


But something was missing.


I felt a restlessness I couldn’t quell. After several failed relationships I felt lonely. All the fun just wasn’t enough anymore. And yikes, the fun was about to end when I graduated and actually had to go to work.
I found myself growing depressed.

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What is the One Thing God Requires for All of His Blessings?

When I first entered into a relationship with God my life changed suddenly and dramatically. I found unimaginable peace and joy that I’d been searching for but could never cinch down.

I started attending a church and at first it was fresh and exciting.

But soon life filled up with all the things I was supposed to do to keep God happy and the blessings flowing.


Photo Credit: Chris Lofqvist

Photo Credit: Chris Lofqvist


Of course I needed to attend worship services but not just on Sunday morning. Come on that’s not enough. Sunday and Wednesday evenings also.

Then I needed to join a Sunday School class. Now that’s what a full time college senior is looking for. More class time.

And of course I needed to start tithing which actually wasn’t that difficult. As a full time student I was making like zero. So giving ten percent wasn’t a stretch.

After graduation I went to seminary to learn more and there the demands ramped up.

One of their favorite verses was a Jesus quote, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.”*

With that the requirements expanded exponentially. They were open ended so there was no end to them.

Eventually I bogged down in all the legalism. I felt like I was drowning. And I slumped into depression.


What started out so beautiful had drifted into a nightmare.


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When Religion Keeps You From a Relationship With God

Our son Drew, who was twelve, headed down for breakfast in an elevator ahead of us from our fifteenth floor room.

A few minutes later when we arrived at the hotel restaurant we couldn’t find him. After hunting around a twinge of panic set in.

We were in Israel on a family trip visiting the Holy Land sites. Not the place you want your child to come up missing.


Photo Credit: Beverly Vealach

Photo Credit: Beverly Vealach


I said to Jennifer, “Where could he possibly be?”

She answered astutely since she’d been with me, “And how would I know?”

So we diligently searched the restaurant and lobby.

As we passed the elevators a door opened and Drew stepped out.

We said, “Where have you been?”

He answered, “Well someone pushed all the buttons on the elevator because it stopped at every floor.” Of course, spoken like a true twelve year old who if given the chance would have done exactly that.

We laughed relieved, “No today is the Sabbath and you got on the Sabbath elevator.”

You see, some rabbi in his infinite wisdom determined after diligent study that pushing buttons on an elevator is work. So the Sabbath elevator stops at every floor so a person can follow their religion and still get around the hotel.

Uh yeah, I think that’s pretty important to God.


Jesus encountered similar religious condemnation.


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Finding God When You’re Burned Out on Religion

I’ve stopped going to church regularly, again. Oh, I go on Easter and Christmas. Just enough to drive the regulars crazy.


Photo Credit: Theodore C

Photo Credit: Theodore C


A few years ago we attended a church that catastrophically imploded. Having been a pastor I was so incensed I just couldn’t go back.

Fast forward four years and we tentatively stuck our toes into the shallow end again.

We attended a popular church semi-regularly. It’s the hip go-to church in our community. Their worship was well done and the preachers were good.

On a few occasions I’d winch as they seemed to drift off into legalism or minimize God’s miracle working power. But for the most part I could pass over that.

Then one Sunday the pastor spoke on the promise of how God will work all things together for good in our lives.

I thought, “Great. Here’s something we can fully agree on.”

Then they showed a video interview of a young woman in her early forties. She told how she continually prayed to get married yet God never answered. And how she was so disappointed and couldn’t understand why.

Then she said, “But God was using it for good. He was preparing me for something much worse. Because now I have cancer.”

Then the pastor explained how she’d passed away a couple of weeks earlier.

Frankly, it took all of my will power and glancing over at my wife to not stand up and scream, “Noooooooo! That’s heresy!”


We never went back.


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Is it Time to Stop Struggling and Start Enjoying the Amazing Life?

Jennifer and I were both raised as dog people yet have five and a half cats. Yes, five that are ours and PJ is a stray that still isn’t sure.


Photo Credit: freeparking

Photo Credit: freeparking


See we live in the country so strays pass through regularly. Most are young so aren’t completely feral but aren’t all that sure about someone else being in charge.

I mean they’re country cats. They’re free to roam, eat what they want, sleep when and with whom they want. Life is good. They don’t need some master telling them what to do. I mean why in the world would they want that?

Of course there is the little problem of the pit bulls next door. And then the coyotes looking for a tasty kitty dinner.

Also mice get scarce in the winter.


And when it rains, ugh. It would sure be nice to have a warm bed.


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How to Discover a Real Relationship with the Real God

I think a lot of organized religion is really a mess. Now in case you’re wanting to shoot think about it.

Surveys show most people in the U.S. believe in God and a majority attend services at least occasionally.

Yet, our society is pretty screwy.


Photo Credit: Neil Moralle

Photo Credit: Neil Moralle


Facebook, I’ve heard, now has over 50 gender selections to choose from for your profile. Yikes, and I always thought there were only two. Talk about being behind the times.

Then look at the divorce rate, crime rate, number of children raised by single parents and it’s not a stretch to say something’s seriously whacked out.


Yet, I look at so much organized religion and in my most theological words say, “What are they thinking?”


I mean we have what we could label “Mr. Potato Head” theology.

Do you remember the children’s game?  The one you play with a raw potato.  Yes, I know I am seriously dating myself here.  Anyway, as you play the game you pick out the parts you want your potato head to look like.  A nose here, ears there, eyes over here.  You create him into your masterpiece.

Well too many people apply that same process to their view of God.  Add on the parts you like.  Forget the parts you don’t.  Only problem is it doesn’t do much for your confidence when you need it most because you created God to look like you want not like he truly is.

Or we have “Super-Size Me” theology.

Americans love super-size anything.  Triple burgers, jumbo fries, 64 oz. Mega Gulp soft drinks, mammoth SUV’s.  You know the bigger the better.

So we drag that over into church.  Concert perfect productions. Jumbo screens. Slick videos. Model pastor couple. Short entertaining messages.  Move the crowd in.  Move the crowd out.

Yet when we leave often we feel somehow empty don’t we?

Now I’m not saying you can’t find a relationship with God or some elements of truth through those churches. Frankly though, I’m surprised often by the places God pops up.


But I also see way too often people enter into that relationship with God but grow stale quickly.


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