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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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You Can Go Home Again

GOING-HOME-FRONT-COVER-cropped

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) wrote a novel that was published posthumously in 1940 titled, You Can’t Go Home Again.” A synopsis from Wikipedia.org about the novel states the following:

The novel tells the story of George Webber, a fledgling author, who writes a book that makes frequent references to his home town of Libya Hill. The book is a national success but the residents of the town, unhappy with what they view as Webber’s distorted depiction of them, send the author menacing letters and death threats.

Wolfe, as in many of his other novels, explores the changing American society of the 1920s/30s, including the stock market crash, the illusion of prosperity, and the unfair passing of time which prevents Webber ever being able to return “home again”. In parallel to Wolfe’s relationship with America, the novel details his disillusionment with Germany during the rise of NazismWolfe scholar Jon Dawson argues that the two themes are connected most firmly by Wolfe’s critique of capitalism and comparison between the rise of capitalist enterprise in the United States in the 1920s and the rise of Fascism in Germany during the same period.

Plot Summary

George Webber has written a successful novel about his family and hometown. When he returns to that town, he is shaken by the force of outrage and hatred that greets him. Family and lifelong friends feel naked and exposed by what they have seen in his books, and their fury drives him from his home.

Outcast, George Webber begins a search for his own identity. It takes him to New York and a hectic social whirl; to Paris with an uninhibited group of expatriates; to Berlin, lying cold and sinister under Hitler’s shadow. The journey comes full circle when Webber returns to America and rediscovers it with love, sorrow, and hope. (Quote source here).

Two weeks ago I returned to my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, and discovered that one can, indeed, go home again after being gone for a long time. My last post, A Love Song,” published on October 9, 2015, was written at my dad’s home in West Des Moines after I drove from Orlando, Florida, to Des Moines (my hometown) in a scant 29 hours with three of those hours spent in a rest stop in southern Illinois to catch some sleep. I returned home to attend the wedding of my youngest nephew and his new bride, which took place this past Saturday on October 17th. The wedding took place at a Lutheran church in Slater, Iowa, and it was quite beautiful, and the newly wedded couple are a handsome match. I was also able to see family and friends I had not seen in years, and some of them I hadn’t seen in well over two decades.

Iowa State Capitol, Des Moines

My last trip to Des Moines was when I was still working in the fall of 2005. My stepmother was still alive at the time, and I usually made annual trips to Oregon each summer at the same time that my dad and stepmother planned their annual trip each summer to see my older brother and his family who lived there. Hence, I made trips to Oregon more often then I did going back to Iowa. However, since the demise of my job in Houston in April 2009, I have not had the financial resources to visit family in Iowa and Oregon since I live in Florida. My older brother did spring for a plan ticket at Christmas 2011 and I was able to spend eleven days in Oregon at that time.

This most recent trip back to Des Moines was sort of a “spur of the moment” decision. I knew I couldn’t afford to buy a plane ticket in order to attend the wedding so I mailed a wedding card with a gift card to Target enclosed two weeks before the wedding. I told my nephew and his soon-to-be bride to spend it on something fun to celebrate their marriage, and to let them know I was sorry that I wasn’t able to attend their wedding. It would have been the first family wedding I missed.

If you are a regular reader to my blog you’ll know that for the past year (since the end of September 2014) I’ve been living in hotels while trying to secure more affordable senior housing only to find waiting lists longer then I ever possibly imagined. All of my attempts during this time to find more affordable housing in its many various forms including responding to ads on the popular online Craigslist both in Houston (when I was there a year ago) and in Orlando have fallen flat so far. I can’t seem to get any serious responses to either my responses to ads that have been placed for furnished apartments or to ads I have placed on Craigslist seeking housing.

Since I have been currently living in a hotel for several months in Orlando since returning from my three-month (14 weeks) venture in Houston at the beginning of 2015, I woke up one morning almost three weeks ago and realized I had no reason to stay in that hotel any longer, and I decided to pack up my possessions I had with me and drive to Iowa to see family again and attend the wedding. All of my family would be attending, including family living in Oregon and California, and it was my chance to see them again in one place and at the same time. And that is exactly what I did.

I love taking road trips so that wasn’t even an issue for me. My eleven-year-old Honda Civic was in need of some maintenance type service (new timing chain, water pump, etc.) and my family in Des Moines knew of an auto mechanic shop where the work could be done at a very reasonable price. In fact, my dad paid for the repairs plus a set of four new tires, too, that I never expected and I couldn’t thank him enough for doing that for me. And it was accomplished at 1/3rd the price I was quoted for the timing chain alone in Orlando in April 2014. In fact, two different shops in Orlando recently told me I needed shocks/struts at a quote of $611 at one place and $800 at another. However, the mechanic in Des Moines said I didn’t need them at all. Needless to say, the road trip to Des Moines ended up being a real gift to me and attending the wedding (my reason for driving to Iowa in the first place) was the “icing on the cake,” so to speak.

Popular logo when I attended ISU

Popular logo when I attended ISU

I was born and grew up in Des Moines and spent the better part of forty years living there before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in June 1992 when I was awarded one of two annual doctoral fellowships at Nova Southeastern University for the 1992-93 academic year. I also spent time living in Ames at two separate times in my 30’s while attending Iowa State University where I received my bachelor’s degree in 1985 and my master’s degree in 1991. The end of the fellowship year lead to a job with Nova in Orlando in July 1993 and the rest, as they say, is history. Due to job opportunities in Florida I never ended up going back to Iowa to live.

However, back to the present time. . . . I left Orlando at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 7th, and arrived in West Des Moines at my dad’s house on Thursday, October 8th, at 8:30 p.m. The long and fast driving trip left me both excited to be back in Des Moines and tired from lack of sleep and being scrunched in my car for all of those hours, so I spent Friday and Saturday resting from the long road trip. On Sunday, October 11th, I took a long drive around all of the places in Des Moines that made it my home for so many years. I drove past the house where we lived when I was very young before my parent’s divorce back in the 60’s, and I drove past the elementary school, middle school (we called it “junior high” back in my days there) and high school where I graduated in 1970. I visited my mother’s grave and my grandmother’s vault inside the building at the same cemetery. I drove out to Johnston (a suburb) and was astounded at the housing development that had built up in that area in the past ten years since I was last there.

Drake University

Drake University

Where some places had changed remarkably, others remained almost exactly as they were 40-45 years ago. The downtown skyline includes some new buildings, and the city has a whole different and very modern feel to it. A part of me wanted to stay a couple of weeks just to have a good, long look around as this was the first time in 23 years since I left Iowa that I had my own car with me (I always flew back to Des Moines previously) so I could do just that–take a good, long look around.

Grand View University

Grand View University

Of course, Drake University is located in Des Moines, and also my alma mater, Grand View College, which was a two-year college when I attended it back in 1977-79 for my associate’s degree, and is now a four-year university with graduate level programs–Grand View University. And it brought a smile to my face when I remembered that Iowa governor Terry Branstad is again the governor after many years in between when he was previously governor (1983-1999) when I lived in Iowa and at the time I left Iowa in 1992.

For two and a half days into that week after my car trip around town on Sunday my car was tied up in the mechanic’s shop and I was house-bound during that time. So I made the best of it and ended up walking to the Walmart less than a mile from the house when I was finally tired of feeling house-bound. The next day family from Oregon and California started arriving and there was a flurry of activities from that point on through the wedding and reception and even a gift-opening get-together this past Sunday at my ex-sister-in-law’s fiancee’s spectacular home with four acres (she is the mother of the groom). It was absolutely wonderful to see everyone again–almost like taking a step back in time yet we all are, obviously, much older now. Still, it is a good looking bunch of older folks, many with grown children. The last time I saw those grown children they were little kids, and now they are grown, married, and with kids of their own, including the youngest little girl who was only a week old.

Iowa State University

Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

At some point during this week I discovered that my best friend, who lives with her husband in Arkansas, was actually in Ames (about 30 miles north of Des Moines) and she had arrived in Ames about the same time I arrived in Des Moines. We met back in 1990 when we were both grad students at Iowa State University. Her father (a professor emeritus at Iowa State) had died a few years ago and her mother is still alive (she’s 96) and living in an assisted living facility in Ames, and she was back visiting her mom. I couldn’t believe my luck in that she was in Iowa at the same time I was and we didn’t even know it or plan it.

Fortunately, we were able to make plans to get together this past Monday and I drove to Ames to see her and to drive around Ames and ISU again after so many years (24 years, in fact, since I graduated with my master’s degree). It was wonderful to actually see her in person again and just like old times. The last time I actually saw her in person was when I lived in Houston when I worked there and she and her husband were living in Fort Worth. They moved to Arkansas when she retired from the school district several years ago. We’ve kept in touch electronically all these years as she lived in Texas for almost as long as I’ve lived in Florida, and now she’s in Arkansas.

Most of my family from out-of-town had left by Tuesday morning, and at that time I decided to head on back to Florida. I thought about paying for a week in a weekly-rate hotel and sticking around Des Moines for another week (since that is what I will be doing once I return to Florida since I haven’t found more affordable housing yet), but I had originally planned to spend a week in Houston after the wedding so I hit the road again heading for Texas. However, by the time I got to the Dallas/Fort Worth area yesterday morning I decided not to go to Houston after all at this time. So, I headed east through Louisiana and into Mississippi when I decided to stop for a couple of days in Biloxi which is where I am right now while I am writing this blog post. The Gulf of Mexico laps at the beachfront across the street from the hotel where I am staying at until Friday morning.

The drive from Des Moines to Biloxi was around 1100 miles, and the rest of the trip back to where I’m headed in Florida is another 650-700 miles which I will start tomorrow once I check out from this hotel. Two weeks ago I drove 1500 miles from Orlando to Des Moines, and by the time this trip ends I will have traveled around 3300 miles by car in just over two weeks. No wonder my body is tired!!! But it’s been good–all good; no, it’s been GREAT, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the alternative of staying in a weekly-rate hotel in Orlando where I have already spent way too much time and money just trying to find more affordable housing. And what I discovered is this . . .

You can go home again . . . 

Yes, you can . . .

And I did . . . .

YouTube Video: “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here
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Photo #6 credit here

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A Love Song

Wedding DayAt the moment I am currently in my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, and at the end of this next week (October 17th) I will be attending the wedding of my youngest nephew. This post is actually going to be a reblog from Provocative Christian Living as it is a blog post about romantic love. I have copied and pasted the reblogged post below and you can also access it at this link:

Love is clearly a major theme in the Bible. From cover to cover it speaks of God’s love for humanity. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is the two-pronged exhortation to love God with all we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But for all the discussion about love in the Bible people rarely if ever think of the Bible promoting romantic love. Psalm 45 is all about romantic love. It affirms and glorifies the relationship between a righteous king and the woman he loves.

Consider these words from near the end of the Psalm:

Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
    forget your people and your father’s house,
    and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.
The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
    the richest of the people.

All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
    with her virgin companions following behind her.
With joy and gladness they are led along
    as they enter the palace of the king.

The Psalmist leaves us with the picture of the young virgin bride, being accompanied by her bridesmaids as she enters the palace of the king and leaves her father’s family behind. The king greatly desires her and her beauty and she is gladly entering his palace. It is a picture of romance and love.

The emphasis of loving God and loving our neighbor is certainly deserving of our devotion. But that should never be to the exclusion of the value God places on the romantic love between a man and a woman. God has created us to be in relationship and to have the deepest and most beautiful of human relationships between a man and woman. Christians are often too quick to pass by the joy and glory of this relationship. If it gets spoken of at all it is usually a very forensic discussion about biblical morality. But this Psalm is a love song, it is not directed to God and the praise of His name, at least not directly. Rather it is in honor of something God has created to exist between a husband and wife that only poetry can begin to describe.

Perhaps our marriages would be stronger if we added a touch of romance and poetry into them. Perhaps if Christ followers were more open to the wonder and beauty of romantic love, there would be a more complete understanding of love. The Greeks had multiple words that we translate as love. They understood that there are numerous facets to love, like the most brilliant of diamonds. Love is full, rich, beautiful, deep, intimate, glorious, and precious. It is the stuff of poem and song. The Bible affirms and even promotes such love and because it does we should embrace it as a gift from God. (Blog post and quote source here.)

I like how The Message Bible states this Psalm (45) and I have included the entire Psalm below:

Psalm 45 The Message (MSG)

A Wedding Song of the Sons of Korah

My heart bursts its banks,
    spilling beauty and goodness.
I pour it out in a poem to the king,
    shaping the river into words:

“You’re the handsomest of men;
    every word from your lips is sheer grace,
    and God has blessed you, blessed you so much.
Strap your sword to your side, warrior!
    Accept praise! Accept due honor!
    Ride majestically! Ride triumphantly!
Ride on the side of truth!
    Ride for the righteous meek!

“Your instructions are glow-in-the-dark;
    you shoot sharp arrows
Into enemy hearts; the king’s
    foes lie down in the dust, beaten.

“Your throne is God’s throne,
    ever and always;
The scepter of your royal rule
    measures right living.
You love the right
    and hate the wrong.
And that is why God, your very own God,
    poured fragrant oil on your head,
Marking you out as king
    from among your dear companions.

“Your ozone-drenched garments
    are fragrant with mountain breeze.
Chamber music—from the throne room—
    makes you want to dance.
Kings’ daughters are maids in your court,
    the Bride glittering with golden jewelry.

“Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word:
    forget your country, put your home behind you.
Be here—the king is wild for you.
    Since he’s your lord, adore him.
Wedding gifts pour in from Tyre;
    rich guests shower you with presents.”

(Her wedding dress is dazzling,
    lined with gold by the weavers;
All her dresses and robes
    are woven with gold.
She is led to the king,
    followed by her virgin companions.
A procession of joy and laughter!
    a grand entrance to the king’s palace!)

“Set your mind now on sons—
    don’t dote on father and grandfather.
You’ll set your sons up as princes
    all over the earth.
I’ll make you famous for generations;
    you’ll be the talk of the town
    for a long, long time.”

happy-wedding-coupleWhile the bride and bridegroom do not have to literally leave their respective families, they are to be devoted to each other first and foremost, above and beyond the ties of other family members, including their own parents.

The following are the words from a Bob Dylan song titled simply, “Wedding Song” (YouTube Video at this link):

Wedding Songby Bob Dylan

I love you more than ever, more than time and more than love
I love you more than money and more than the stars above
I love you more than madness, more than waves upon the sea
I love you more than life itself, you mean that much to me.

Ever since you walked right in the circle’s been complete
I’ve said goodbye to haunted rooms and faces in the street
In the courtyard of the jester which is hidden from the sun
I love you more than ever and I haven’t yet begun.

You breathed on me and made my life a richer one to live
When I was deep in poverty you taught me how to give
Dried the tears up from my dreams and pulled me from the hole
I love you more than ever and it binds me to this all.

You gave me babies, one, two, three, what is more, you saved my life
Eye for eye and tooth for tooth, your love cuts like a knife
My thoughts of you don’t ever rest, they’d kill me if I lie
But I’d sacrifice the world for you and watch my senses die.

The tune that is yours and mine to play upon this earth
We’ll play it out the best we know, whatever it is worth
What’s lost is lost, we can’t regain what went down in the flood
But happiness to me is you and I love you more than blood.

It’s never been my duty to remake the world at large
Nor is it my intention to sound a battle charge
‘Cause I love you more than all of that with a love that doesn’t bend
And if there is eternity I’d love you there again.

Oh, can’t you see that you were born to stand by my side
And I was born to be with you, you were born to be my bride
You’re the other half of what I am, you’re the missing piece
And I love you more than ever with that love that doesn’t cease.

You turn the tide on me each day and teach my eyes to see
Just being next to you is a natural thing for me
And I could never let you go, no matter what goes on
‘Cause I love you more than ever now that the past is gone.

Lyrics compliments of AZLyrics.com

‘Nough said . . . .

I wish my nephew and his new bride a fun and happy life together. And don’t forget to put each other first above and beyond anyone or anything else. That’s what true love is all about!!!

May you both have many happy years together!!!

YouTube Video: “The Wedding Song” by Kenny G:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

What It Means To Live By Faith

living_by_faith“What if Jesus really meant what He said?” That is the theme and premise behind Red Letter Christians,” an organization whose goal is simple: “To take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount.” (Quote source here.)

If you’ve read the Sermon on the Mount(Matthew 5-7), you’ll see that Jesus addresses some very tough issues. He starts out with The Beatitudes(Matthew 5:1-12)a list of people who are blessed in his sight and that most likely isn’t the same list we might come up with if we were making a list of “blessed people” (see list at this link). After this list, Jesus goes on to address how we are to be Salt and Light in this world and what that means (see Matthew 5:13-20) as well as a host of other topics:

Murder (Matthew 5:21-26)
Adultery (Matthew 5:27-30)
Divorce (Matthew 5:31-32)
Taking Oaths (Matthew 5:33-37)
Eye for Eye (Matthew 5:38-42)
Love for Enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)
Giving to the Needy (Matthew 6:1-4)
Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15)
Fasting (Matthew 6:16-18)
Treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-24)
Do Not Worry (Matthew 6:25-34)
Judging Others (Matthew 7:1-6)
Asking, Seeking, Knocking (Matthew 7:7-12)
The Narrow and Wide Gates (Matthew 7:13-14)
True and False Prophets (Matthew 7:15-20)
True and False Disciples (Matthew 7:21-23)
The Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:24-29)

It’s a lot to remember . . . a lot to live up to . . . and how can we do it all even if we wanted to?

Good question . . . .

It’s done by faith in the One who made those statements in the first place. And it’s not even about trying to remember all the rules. It’s about being connected to the Creator of the Universe in a relationship that, first and foremost, requires faith. Either we believe, or we don’t; and it all boils down to that basic premise.

So what is the definition of faith? GotQuestions.org answers that question with the following statement (quote source here):

The Bible contains a clear definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Simply put, the biblical definition of faith is “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove.”

This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair.

Understanding these two aspects of faith is crucial. Many people believe certain facts about Jesus Christ. Many people will intellectually agree with the facts the Bible declares about Jesus. But knowing those facts to be true is not what the Bible means by “faith.” The biblical definition of faith requires intellectual assent to the facts and trust in the facts.

Believing that Jesus is God incarnate who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and was resurrected is not enough. Even the demons believe in God and in those facts (cf. James 2:19). We must personally and fully rely on the death of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must “sit in the chair” of the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided. This is saving faith. The faith God requires of us for salvation is belief in what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what He accomplished and fully trusting in Jesus for that salvation (Acts 16:31). Biblical faith is always accompanied by repentance of sin (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15).

The biblical definition of faith does not apply only to salvation. It is equally applicable to the rest of the Christian life. We are to believe what the Bible says, and we are to obey it. We are to believe the promises of God, and we are to live accordingly. We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word, and we are to allow ourselves to be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).

Why is this definition of faith so important? Why must trust accompany agreeing with facts? Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith, we cannot be saved (John 3:16). Without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be (John 10:10). (Quote source here.)

Rel_vs_Rel2.001Apart from Jesus Christ, it is impossible to live the Christian life. We might be able to put on a good outward appearance to others and even fool ourselves, but apart from a living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ, it can’t be done. It is our faith in Jesus Christ and God that fuels everything we think, say, and do; and it is that very faith that makes it possible to be transformed and to live as he would have us to live.

There is a distinctive difference between living up to a religion and having a relationship with Jesus Christ. GotQuestions.org give us that difference between a religion and a relationship in the following statement (quote source here):

Religion is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” In that respect, Christianity can be classified as a religion. However, practically speaking, Christianity has a key difference that separates it from other belief systems that are considered religions. That difference is relationship.

Most religion, theistic or otherwise, is man-centered. Any relationship with God is based on man’s works. A theistic religion, such as Judaism or Islam, holds to the belief in a supreme God or gods; while non-theistic religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, focus on metaphysical thought patterns and spiritual “energies.” But most religions are similar in that they are built upon the concept that man can reach a higher power or state of being through his own efforts. In most religions, man is the aggressor and the deity is the beneficiary of man’s efforts, sacrifices, or good deeds. Paradise, nirvana, or some higher state of being is man’s reward for his strict adherence to whatever tenets that religion prescribes.

In that regard, Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship that God has established with His children. In Christianity, God is the aggressor and man is the beneficiary (Romans 8:3). The Bible states clearly that there is nothing man can do to make himself right with God (Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Romans 3:23; 6:23). According to Christianity, God did for us what we cannot do for ourselves (Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Our sin separates us from His presence, and sin must be punished (Romans 6:23; Matthew 10:28; 23:33). But, because God loves us, He took our punishment upon Himself. All we must do is accept God’s gift of salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Grace is God’s blessing on the undeserving.

The grace-based relationship between God and man is the foundation of Christianity and the antithesis of religion. Established religion was one of the staunchest opponents of Jesus during His earthly ministry. When God gave His Law to the Israelites, His desire was that they “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37). “Love” speaks of relationship. Obedience to all the other commands had to stem from a love for God. We are able to love Him “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). However, by Jesus’ time, the Jewish leaders had made a religion out of God’s desire to live in a love relationship with them (1 Timothy 1:8; Romans 7:12). Over the years, they had perverted God’s Law into a works-based religion that alienated people from Him (Matthew 23:13–15; Luke 11:42). Then they added many of their own rules to make it even more cumbersome (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:9). They prided themselves on their ability to keep the Law—at least outwardly—and lorded their authority over the common people who could never keep such strenuous rules. The Pharisees, as adept as they were at rule-keeping, failed to recognize God Himself when He was standing right in front of them (John 8:19). They had chosen religion over relationship.

Just as the Jewish leaders made a religion out of a relationship with God, many people do the same with Christianity. Entire denominations have followed the way of the Pharisees in creating rules not found in Scripture. Some who profess to follow Christ are actually following man-made religion in the name of Jesus. While claiming to believe Scripture, they are often plagued with fear and doubt that they may not be good enough to earn salvation or that God will not accept them if they don’t perform to a certain standard. This is religion masquerading as Christianity, and it is one of Satan’s favorite tricks. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:1–7 when He rebuked the Pharisees. Instead of pointing people to heaven, these religious leaders were keeping people out of the kingdom of God.

Holiness and obedience to Scripture are important, but they are evidences of a transformed heart, not a means to attain it. God desires that we be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). He wants us to grow in grace and knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18). But we do these things because we are His children and want to be like Him, not in order to earn His love.

Christianity is not about signing up for a religion. Christianity is about being born into the family of God (John 3:3). It is a relationship. Just as an adopted child has no power to create an adoption, we have no power to join the family of God by our own efforts. We can only accept His invitation to know Him as Father through adoption (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15). When we join His family through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside our hearts (1 Corinthians 6:19; Luke 11:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22). He then empowers us to live like children of the King. He does not ask us to try to attain holiness by our own strength, as religion does. He asks that our old self be crucified with Him so that His power can live through us (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6). God wants us to know Him, to draw near to Him, to pray to Him, and love Him above everything. That is not religion; that is a relationship. (Quote source here.)

We know that our faith must be based in a relationship with Jesus Christ, and that it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live the Christian life. Now we need to have a clear definition of what that Christian life looks like. In answer to that question, GotQuestions.org makes the following statement (quote source here).

The Christian life is supposed to be a life lived by faith. It is by faith that we enter into the Christian life, and it is by faith that we live it out. When we begin the Christian life by coming to Christ for forgiveness of sin, we understand that what we seek cannot be obtained by any other means than by faith. We cannot work our way to heaven, because nothing we could ever do would be sufficient. Those who believe they can attain eternal life by keeping rules and regulations—a list of do’s and don’ts—deny what the Bible clearly teaches. “But that no one is justified by the Law in the sight of God is clear, for, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Galatians 3:11). The Pharisees of Jesus’ day rejected Christ because He told them this very truth, that all their righteous deeds were worthless and that only faith in their Messiah would save them.

In Romans 1, Paul says that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power that saves us, the gospel being the good news that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. When we enter into the Christian life by faith in this good news, we see our faith grow as we come to know more and more about the God who saved us. The gospel of Christ actually reveals God to us as we live to grow closer to Him each day. Romans 1:17 says, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” So part of the Christian life is diligent reading and study of the Word, accompanied by prayer for understanding and wisdom and for a closer, more intimate relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.

The Christian life is also supposed to be one of death to self in order to live a life by faith. Paul told the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Being crucified with Christ means that our old nature has been nailed to the cross and has been replaced by a new nature which is Christ’s (2 Corinthians 5:17). He who loved us and died for us now lives in us, and the life we live is by faith in Him. It means sacrificing our own desires, ambitions, and glories and replacing them with those of Christ. We can only do this by His power through the faith that He gives us by His grace. Part of the Christian life is praying to that end.

The Christian life is also supposed to persevere to the end. Hebrews 10:38-39 addresses this issue by quoting from the Old Testament prophet Habukkuk: “Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” God is not pleased with one who “draws back” from Him after making a commitment, but those who live by faith will never draw back, because they are kept by the Holy Spirit who assures us that we will continue with Christ until the end (Ephesians 1:13-14). The writer of Hebrews goes on to verify this truth in verse 39: “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” The true believer is one who believes to the end.

So the Christian life is one lived by faith in the God who saved us, empowers us, seals us for heaven, and by whose power we are kept forever. The day-to-day life of faith is one that grows and strengthens as we seek God in His Word and through prayer and as we unite with other Christians whose goal of Christlikeness is similar to our own. (Quote source here.)

Living by faith is based in love . . . . Love for the One who first loved us and gave Himself up for us (see Ephesians 5:1-2). And love is the strongest bond there is in this life (see I Corinthians 13). Everything good springs from it.

The Bible is filled with stories of faith (See Hebrews 11 for many examples from the Old Testament). And in the New Testament you can find 486 verses that give clear examples of faith and belief (as well as doubt and unbelief) at this link at The Mechanics of Faith: Faith-Hope-Prayer.” I hope you find encouragement in those verses. And remember what the prophet Habakkuk stated in Habakkuk 2:4. . . .

The just . . .

Shall live . . .

By their faith . . . .

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