What does God want from us?- our hearts not our rituals

Jesus had a conversation with a woman who was as far from a relationship with God as one can get. She had been married several times and was living with a man without being married at the time Jesus talked with her. It is interesting that Jesus even talked with her because she was a woman who lived a sinful life. She was a perfect example of why Jesus came. He came for all of us who are apart from God. As they talked she asked Jesus a religious question. She asked where people should worship. Jesus replied not with where but with how. He told her that “God is spirit and those who worship must worship Him in spirit and truth”.

There are many places in the bible where it says that God does not want our sacrifices but wants us to show mercy. In the times before Jesus came and in the time He was here, the Jewish religion had a sacrificial system of worship. The problem was that their hearts were not in the right place. They were performing outward actions of religious ritual, but their hearts were not right with God and others. One passage in the bible catches my eye. It says that pure religion is to help the widows and the orphans.

What does God want from us? He wants our hearts to be right with Him and our relationships to be right with others. He does not want empty ritual. He wants is to give Him our hearts and our love. He wants us to show love to others.

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What does God want for us? To be Our Father

Life can be confusing at times and different voices express all sorts of ideas. It can be confusing to try to understand who God is and what does He want for us. I find comfort in what is recorded in the Bible. It gives me peace in the midst of a world that sometimes seems crazy. The bible records some encouraging words spoken by Jesus.

When he taught his followers about prayer and fasting He told them to not do so for recognition from others. He taught them to begin prayer with “Father” when He gave them an example of prayer that began with “Our Father”. He also said something significant when He said, “your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask”. God knows what is going on in our lives. He knows before we do what we will need.

God does not want us to live in fear. The bible says that He has not given a spirit of fear but a spirit of adoption so that we can be called children of God. It also says that when we receive the Spirit of adoption we cry out Abba Father.

What does God want for us? He wants to be our Father in relationship with us, not to abuse us, but rather to lavish upon us His love. He spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for……, plans to prosper you… to give you a future and a hope. That is why He sent Jesus, so that through Him we could be restored to relationship with God as our Father.

God cares about even what we think of as little things

This morning I took a friend to the University of Nebraska to take care of some final details before she begins classes next week. When we got there, I found a parking spot right in front of the building where we needed to go. I told her Jesus helped us. She did not think a parking place was very important. I shared with her something Jesus said, “even the hairs on your head are numbered”

God cares about us so much that He pays attention to even the little details that we do not think are important. He knows the number of hairs we have on our head. If He cares enough to keep track of how many hairs we have on our head, how much more will He care about other details in our lives such as bringing friends into our lives, helping us make progress toward our goals, even helping us the find a parking place.

As we go through the busy day today let’s take a moment to ask God for His help. Let’s remember that He is there with us even in the little things. Let’s also remember to thank Him for those little things.

God’s Gentle Call

When someone important enters a room, there is usually some of sort of recognition. When the President of the U.S. enters a room the song Hail to the Chief is played and those who are present stand out of respect if not for the person than at least for the office. When politicians visit a place, they usually arrange for some sort of press coverage to ensure it gets some sort of media attention. It seems to be human nature to want to call attention to things we do or events we will go to.

In contrast Jesus invited people to come to Him. He said, “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest….. for I am gentle and humble of heart” God spoke to the great prophet Elijah in a still small voice. When God calls us, He does so in gentleness. He speaks to us in a still small voice even though He has all power.

I have had some recent conversations with people who have just begun their relationships with God. It was interesting for me to hear their life stories. I could easily see that God had been working in their lives to lead them to the point where they were. God led them gently to Himself. God is always wooing people to Himself. He calls us in gentleness. He places people in our lives to get our attention. I like the saying that a coincidence is when God does something but stays anonymous. Listen to His gentle call because it is calling you to the one who loves you so much that He died for you. Jesus loves you more than you can possibly understand. He has all power, but He works gently to woo us to Hismelf.

GPS not needed on our Journey

As we go on our journey there will be times that we may feel uncertain regarding which way to go. There will be choices and difficult decisions along the way. At times it may not seem clear which way to go. I often share with my friends in my Sunday class that we do not need GPS or Google Maps to know they way.

During my first trip to Romania I was confused about how to get to my host home. My Romania friends gave directions in a way that Americans do not usually think. They would say two stops and then get on number # bus and go 3 stops. Their were many times that I would get on the bus not sure of where I was going and every time there would be someone on the bus I had met in the English camp or from the church. They would help me to know where I was going. I finally told my translator Mihai that the directions people were giving me were confusing and the numerous different buses were confusing. He drew me a map of the area around my host home and I had no more problems. That was in 1997 before there was GPS and Google Maps.

In our spiritual journey we will have times that we feel confused as if we are in a foreign country in need of directions. Our guide Jesus will not only give us directions. He will do more because He Himself is the Way. Jesus said of Himself. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. no one comes to the father but through me.” Jesus is the way and when it comes to our final step of the journey in this life, which is when we die, Jesus will be the on who picks us up and takes us to heaven. GPS and Google Maps cannot give us the directions there, but who needs them when our guide Jesus not only knows the way, but is Himself the way.

What does our Jesus our Guide on our Journey want for us?

Whenever I am under the leadership of another person one of the questions I have is- What does this person want for me? Other questions I have are; what is this person’s vision, what are this person’s goals, what does this person want for others besides me. If we need to rely one someone, we want to know what their motivation is and how will it affect us. When I travel abroad, I am keenly aware of the importance of being able to trust translators, friends from that culture etc.

As I journey in this life, I am mindful of who it is that is on the journey with me. I am thankful that the One who is our Creator, Savior, and God has already stated what He wants for all of us. Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full”. Wow!! Stop and think about that for a moment. Jesus our guide on the journey wants us to experience the fullest life possible. Some mistake that to mean we will all be millionaires, but that is not what Jesus was speaking in reference to. Full life means relationship with God. It means eternal life with God that will never end. It means having God in our lives now. It also means a life full of friendships, meaning, purpose, and realization of why we are here.

Jesus is the guide who has our best interest in His heart and mind. He has already proven that. He proved it when He died on the cross for our sins even though He had no obligation to do so. He wants to forgive us and come into our lives. We need to trust Him and as Him to do so, and then He becomes our guide on our journeys.

Light in the Dark places on Our Journey

As we travel on our journey in this life we will at times come to dark times of loneliness, despair, failure, and times when we fall into sin. Those times have been called dark nights of the soul by some people who have gone on to be considered great people of faith in the history of the church.

It reminds me of how we feel when we walk down a dark street or drive through a dark area. We can feel fearful or doubtful. It also calls to mind the times when it seems like it will be gray and cloudy forever and our mood is affected. When we walk down a dark street or drive through a dark area and finally come to an area that is well lit we feel relieved. When it has been gray and cloudy for several days and we finally have a sunny day our mood brightens.

So it is on our journey in this life. We at times feel as if we are walking in the dark or feel we are under a cloudy time. Jesus said of Himself, ” I am the light of the world”. The bible says of Jesus that He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. Imagine walking down that dark path and a friend joins you who has a huge light that illuminates the whole area or a friend who on a cloudy day takes you to the sunlight. Jesus is such a friend. He shows up but not with a light because He IS the light. We only need to trust in Him and ask Him to forgive and come into our lives to invite Him to share our journey.

Jesus our guide is with us when our journey gets rough in this life

Yesterday I wrote about the saying a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and how the journey is eternal life and relationship with God and how Jesus is our guide on the journey. The bible talks about how we are like aliens in this life. We belong to heaven when we believe in Jesus, so our lives here are as strangers since we belong to heaven. When we believe in Jesus we belong in heaven and to God, but we are still here for now and in this life we will still have problems.

Jesus said, “In the world you will have many troubles, but cheer up I have overcome the world:. While we are in this life, we will face the same struggles anyone faces. The difference is that our guide Jesus is with us and He has overcome all. When I was sick and it looked like I would die, it was a low time in my life. At times I was alone in my struggle to survive because friends had forsaken me. He guided me to a new church, but I could not make it every week and did not know many people there. I thought I was there to pray for them on my way to dying. There were times in prayer that His presence filled my room and it felt like I was in His presence for hours when it was actually only minutes. The night I thought I was going to die I prayed. My prayer went like this, “Dear Jesus if tonight you want to take me home that is okay, but more people need to hear about you and more people need help”. When I finished praying, I felt His hand touch my shoulder and was filled with peace. The next day the doctor figured out what was wrong, gave me a prescription, and the result was that I survived.

Jesus has been with me in every difficult time. All of the low places in life, all of dark times, all of the seemingly hopeless times, He has been with me. He has been with me in all of the good times as well and there have been many of those. he has raised me up to a place in life that I do not deserve.

If you are having a rough time in your journey, look to Jesus. He wants to help and be with you. He proved that when He died for us on the cross and defeated death through His resurrection. If He loved us so much He would die for us, He loves us so much to be with us and help us in our rough times.

Our guide on the journey- A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with One Step

I have been thinking about a proverb I have heard from my friends from Asia. When I say it, my Chinese friends say it is from China, my Korean friends say it is from Korea, my Japnaese friends say it is from Japan. The proverb or saying goes like this:

 “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

The spiritual journey is an eternal journey because it is a relationship with God who is eternal. We can spend all eternity in relationship with God and still not know Him completely. We can know what He shows us, but we who are finite cannot fully understand God who is eternal. That is why God in His love has given us a guide for the journey that will stay with us forever. Jesus is the guide. If we will receive Him, He will guide us and stay with us forever. He said that himself when He said, “I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

How comforting it is to have a guide when we travel to a new place we do not know. I always appreciate the translators I have when I travel. They help me to know where to go, to undertsand the culture etc. Jesus wants to be our guide in our eternal journey with God. He will help us to know where to go and the culture etc. The question is will we let Him guide us?