Three:
Your Journey with God

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What Does God Mean to You?

What comes to mind when you think of God? Is He an ominous Being who seems far removed from real life? God may seem far away to you, but He really isn’t. In fact, He's closer than you may think. King David once said:

Psalm 139:7-10: Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.

Even if we drift far away from God, He will never be far away from us.

God is omnipresent. This means that He is always present everywhere and continuously and simultaneously present throughout the whole of creation.

Microsoft Encarta Dictionary 2005

Acts 17:24-28: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their reappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.

The thought of God and His power and omnipotence can be a bit daunting to human comprehension, but if you want to know what God is like, just look at Jesus. Jesus was His representative who came to earth to connect with us and to show us how we could find our way to God, His Father.

John 14:7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.

You have been given an awesome opportunity to connect with both God and Jesus in your own personal way.

A Personal Friendship with God Through Jesus

Imagine what it would be like to have a friend who you could tell anything to without worrying that he would think you’re weird. Imagine having a friend who knows everything about you—all the good and the bad—but loves you anyway; a friend who encourages you during the rough times; a friend who helps you attain your personal goals and dreams; a friend who cares about you so much that your long-term happiness is more important to him than your temporary state of being; a friend whose advice you can always trust, because you know that he has your best interests in mind.—This is the kind of friend that you can find in Jesus, and through Him you can develop a warm and close friendship with God.

But as with the best and most long-lasting friendships, it requires effort on our part.

Salvation has set this friendship in motion, but that’s only the beginning. Jesus wants us to experience a fulfilling and happy life, and He knows that the only way for that to happen is if we have a close connection with Him.

What It Means to Worship God

Have you ever been fascinated by a particular movie or a TV series to the point that you couldn’t get the plot or characters out of your mind? If we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, then God will become as present in our thoughts as that movie or that TV series. As we fill our lives with love and worship of God, we will become increasingly fascinated by an awareness of His presence in our lives and His mysterious ways.

Here are some definitions of the word worship inMicrosoft's Encarta Dictionary:

  • to treat somebody or something as divine and show respect by engaging in acts of prayer and devotion

  • to love, admire, or respect somebody or something greatly

God wants our love and worship of Him to come from our heart. He doesn’t want us to feel like we need to reach some high level of expectation or attain to someone else’s high spiritual standards. He wants each one of us to connect with Him in a way that works for us and that is meaningful to us personally.

We need to know how to express our love for God in the ways that will make Him happy. Because once we realize how much God has done for us and how much we need Jesus, as well as how much He wants to have a close and personal relationship with us, the next step is to understand how He wants us to show Him our love.

Here are some of the ways that we can express our love to God:

1) By loving and obeying His Word

God’s Word outlines principles for living a joy-filled life. When we obey God’s Word, it brings Him pleasure, and He promises an abundance of goodies and amazing benefits to those who follow closely.

Jesus said that if we love Him, we would keep His commandments, and that we are His friends if we do whatever He asks of us. It’s a high honor to be one of His friends, because as His friends, we have a connection to the most powerful Source in this whole world.

John 15:7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

2) By communing with Him in prayer

Having a good friendship with someone takes effort on our part. If you had a good friend, you wouldn’t ignore him, would you? On top of doing fun things together, you would probably also spend time talking together about the events of your day or week, sharing your secrets, laughing at each other’s funny stories, or discussing matters that interest the two of you. Friendships can be shared in silence, but friendships are also strengthened by a good measure of communication.

Jesus wants to have this type of communication with us. Not only does He want us to communicate with Him by telling Him about our problems and requesting His help, but He is also interested in hearing how our day went, what our interests are, what makes us happy, what’s important to us, etc. This communication with Jesus is done through prayer.

Jeremiah 29:13 NIV You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jesus also said that whatever we ask the Father for in His name, He will give it to us. God exalted Jesus and gave Him a name above every name, that at this name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth. This is a lot of authority, and it means that if we want something done, we should claim that power through the name of Jesus.

3) By listening to His voice

Jesus also enjoys talking to us, and He has a lot to tell us. As His friend, we should make sure the conversation goes both ways by letting Jesus do His share of the talking as well.

The Protocols of Prayer
The protocols of prayer are as simple as a two-way conversation. Just like chatting on the phone or text messaging online. You can't see the people you are conversing with, but your message gets through to them through the phone lines or airwaves, and their responses are carried back to you the same way.

What would the person you were communicating with think if you rattled off what you wanted to say on the phone and then hung up without waiting for a reply? Or if you asked him a question and then signed out before he could answer? Or if you asked his opinion on something and then turned off your cell phone without giving him a chance to respond? If you made this a habit, the person would probably stop trying to communicate with you.

Now, imagine how Jesus must feel every time you talk to Him and then end the conversation without giving Him a chance to participate. According to Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary, the word conversation is defined as "the speaking together of two or more persons; informal exchange of ideas, information, etc."

Speaking together. Exchange of ideas. Obviously, it's a give-and-take scene. I ask a question; you answer. You ask a question; I answer. I contradict your answer; you contend for it. We finally come to some conclusion. That's one of the ways it works.

So why does it seem strange to carry on a normal conversation with Jesus? He's listening—all the time. And He's just waiting for you to let Him in on the exchange of ideas. You might have a question, and He just might have the perfect answer. But you've got to stay online and wait for that answer.

Does Jesus speak? Audibly? The answer to this question might be self-discovered. And while you're taking the time to experience it for yourself, you'll find that, as with conversations on the phone, text messaging, or the Internet, chatting with Jesus can become very addicting.

Adapted from “Chatting With God,” Reflection #101

4) By having faith in Him

God loves it when we put our faith in Him. The more we trust Him, the more He can take care of those things that are really important to us.

He wants us to put our full weight on Him and not be afraid to ask Him to keep us safe when we need protection, to supply for us when we are lacking something, and to bring answers to us when we are filled with questions. Trust is synonymous with having faith; the Bible tells us that without faith it’s impossible to please God. So if you want God to be happy with you, have faith in Him and trust Him with everything!

Listen: Cliff Hanging

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Cliff Hanging
Some scientists and botanists were exploring remote regions of the Alps in search of new species of flowers. One day they noticed through binoculars a flower of such rarity and beauty that its value to science was incalculable. But it lay deep in a ravine with cliffs on both sides. To get the flower, someone had to be lowered over the cliff on a rope.

A curious young boy was watching nearby, and the scientists told him they would pay him well if he would agree to be lowered over the cliff to retrieve the flower below.

The boy took one long look down the steep, dizzy depths and said, “I’ll be back in a minute.” A short time later he returned, followed by a gray-haired man. Approaching the botanist, the boy said, “I’ll go over that cliff and get that flower for you if this man holds the rope. He’s my dad.”

His whole confidence was based in the fact that his father was trustworthy.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to place our entire trust in Him and is pleased to show His faithfulness. We can trust Him to hold us even when it seems we are on the very edge!

Author unknown

When we have faith in God, we also know that if anything goes wrong, there is a reason and a purpose for it. We can fall back on the promise He gave to us in Romans 8:28 that all things work together for good. He wants us to trust Him both when things go well and when things suck.

Listen: Prison to Praise

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Prison to Praise excerpt
One morning I got into my car to go to work. It wouldn't start. In the army there is no excuse for being late to work. I said: "Okay, Lord, here I am. You must want me to learn something, so I thank You that this car won't start."

After a while someone came along and helped me get it started.

The next morning the same thing happened. "Thank You, Lord, I know You have some wonderful reason for having me sit here, so I'm going to be filled with joy, and praise You." Again I was able to get it started.

Later that day I took the car to the post garage. I told the manager my problem. He said: "I'm sorry, Chaplain, but the man who works on that kind of car has had a heart attack and is in the hospital. I hate to tell you this, but you'll have to take it to a civilian place." He had a pained expression on his face as he said it. "Chaplain, they know our mechanic is sick, and they'll really sock it to you. They've been doing that to everyone I've sent there."

As I drove toward the "civilian" garage, a voice tried to whisper to me: "Isn't it terrible that those civilians would take advantage of us army people?"

I told that thought to go back to where it came from, and continued thanking the Lord that He had worked out this whole incident for my personal benefit. I said: "Lord, I know You are in this and I praise You for it."

I pulled in to the garage, and the manager came over with a writing pad in his hand. With a glint in his eye, he said, "Can I help you, Sir?"

I explained my problem to him, and he went through a list of things that "might be wrong."

"We can't repair that part here, so we'll have to send it to another shop. This, however, may not be the problem, so we may have to do something else. It could be several different things, but we'll keep looking till we find the trouble."

"How long will it take?"

With a smile he said, "I'm sorry, Sir, but I have no idea. It just depends."

I could imagine the cash register pounding away.

"How much will it cost?"

"I'm sorry, Sir, I have no idea what it may cost."

Our post garage was right. They were ready to get everything out of me that they could. "Thank You, Lord, You had a good reason for this."

I agreed to bring the car back the next morning to leave it there until they could find and fix whatever might be wrong.

I then managed with much difficulty to get the car started. I put it in gear and began to move forward. Just then the manager quickly stepped up and grasped my arm. "Wait a minute! I've just thought of what may be your trouble. Turn off the engine!"

With that he opened the hood and began to poke around with a screwdriver. In a few minutes he said: "Now try it and see how it works."

I stepped on the starter and the engine purred away like it was new.

"Wonderful! How much do I owe you?"

"Not a thing, Sir, glad to do it."

Then the Lord again spoke to my heart: "My son, what I wanted you to know was that your life is in the palm of My hand and you can trust Me for all things. As you continue to thank Me in all circumstances you will see how perfectly I work out every detail of your life."

Merlin Carothers, from Prison to Praise

5) By loving others

A cool thing about having a friendship with Jesus is that it gives you more confidence in your friendships with others. Your heart has more to give to others. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus shares with us a practical example of how showing love to others and doing kind deeds for others is the same as doing them to Him.

Matthew 25:35-40 'For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?
'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

What are some of the outstanding qualities of Jesus that come to mind when you think of His time on earth? Do you think of the love and compassion He showed, or the humility He had—being willing to make Himself of no reputation? Or maybe you think of how forgiving He was. God loves to see us emulate the nature of Jesus. That’s one way that we show our love to Him. And a great byproduct of doing this is that we usually find our lives filled with a whole lot more personal happiness too, because when we are trying to make life better for those around us, almost magically our lives end up becoming better.

Listen: Lunch with God

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Lunch with God
There once was a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with cookies and a six-pack of root beer, and he started his journey.

When he had gone a few blocks from home, he met an old man. He was sitting in the park near the water, just staring at some birds.

The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer, when he noticed that the old man looked hungry, so he offered him a cookie.

The old man gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. His smile was so incredible that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer.

Once again, he smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.

As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was, and he got up to leave. But before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, and ran back to the old man, and gave him a hug. The old man gave him his biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked her son: “What did you do today that made you so happy?”

The child replied: “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? He’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and asked, “Dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?”

He replied: “I ate cookies in the park with God.” But before his son responded, he added, “You know, He’s much younger than I expected.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring—all of which have the potential to make someone’s day a very special one, or even turn someone’s life around.

Activated, Vol. 3, Issue 8, August 2002

6) By caring more about pleasing Him than pleasing your friends

When we really care about someone, we care more about pleasing them than looking good ourselves. That could mean saying or doing something that doesn’t look so cool or isn’t so popular with our other friends or acquaintances.

Say your friends are making fun of someone who seems to be a loner, a geek, or just simply not part of your crowd. You can either sit back and let this happen or you can stand up for him and tell your friends to leave him alone. Your friends may not listen to you or they may even add you to their “so not cool” list. But if Jesus is that special to you, then you would try to do what He’d think is cool, no matter what your other friends might think about you.

Granted, it’s not easy at all to do that, but when you think about how far Jesus would go for us, it makes you want to be brave and courageous for Him too and to treat others the way you know Jesus would treat them.

Jesus loves it when we are willing to do something that may even appear strange to others, just because we know it’s what He wants us to do or because by doing so, we are able to get closer to Him.

7) By showing gratitude

Think about someone who is very important to you—your dad or mom, your brother or sister, one of your best friends, etc. What if you found out that they were in serious danger—a life-threatening kind of danger—and there was a chance that they would die? Then you found out that someone came along and rescued them. How would you thank the person who saved the life of someone who is that important to you? How would you feel toward that person? Understanding how you may feel about such a person might help you understand how you should feel about God.

God sent Jesus to save your life (and the lives of those whom you love and care about). He allowed Jesus to suffer and die a cruel death in order to do it. When we show gratitude to God, we are remembering not only this great sacrifice for us, but we’re remembering everything He does for us every single day to make our lives better.

Picture this: Joe is your friend, and you know he likes boats. So you decide to build him a model of a ship that you know he likes. You secretly spend your off days and your spare time preparing this model for several months, and on his birthday, you give it to him. Joe takes it, looks at it, and says “thanks,” but then he puts it aside and goes on to something else. Not the nicest “thank you” ever, is it? You might think that you wasted your time. Well, God prepares so many things for us throughout our lifetime on earth. He looks into our hearts and He knows what’s important to us. When He answers our prayers for something that we’ve been praying for, it’s easy to remember to thank Him at the moment, but we sometimes forget all the care and preparation that went into that gift.

And what about the many everyday ways that He shows us His love and care? It’s easy to take for granted just how much there is to worship and praise God for.

Here are some verses that help us to see how much God values our praise.

Psalm 100:4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Hebrews 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

What It Means to Have a
Fear of God

To have a fear of God means showing Him reverence and respect. It also means pleasing God and making choices in your life that you know He will approve of.

You may have someone in your life who you admire very much—an older sibling, a friend, a girlfriend/boyfriend, a teacher, or a mentor. When you are around this person, you may find yourself wanting to act in a way that you know will make them happy, or say the things that you know they will approve of. This is how it should be with God.

This would mean that you don’t lie, because you know that even if no one else finds out, God knows. You don’t cheat on a test, because even if the teacher never found out and you got a good score on your test as a result, you know God wouldn’t be happy with you. You don’t take something that isn’t yours when no one is watching, because you know that God is watching. If you fear God, you will live your life with integrity.

Integrity: Possession of firm principles. The quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles.

Microsoft Encarta Dictionary 2005

Having a fear of God is not about being punished if you do something bad; it’s about accepting that you were created by a magnificent Being who also gave you principles that He expects you to live by, and if you don’t, there are often consequences.

A good illustration of this is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in the Bible. The story is simple: Christians in the very beginnings of the church in Jerusalem sold their property and gave the money from the sale to the apostles. Ananias and his wife Sapphira became Christians and decided to do the same. They sold a property and brought the money to the apostles, except that they weren’t honest about it.

They decided that they would keep a portion of the money and lie about it. They would say that they had given everything, when they actually hadn’t.

Now, do you think God would have been upset with them if they had decided to give a portion of their money to the apostles and to keep the rest? Probably not. God appreciates whatever we are willing to give to Him. But instead they were dishonest and tried to cheat God, which was an obvious sign that they didn’t fear God.

Why they decided to lie isn’t clear. Maybe they thought that they would be more respected by not only the apostles but also the other Christians if they said they were giving all the money. When Ananias brought the money, Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? … What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

They thought they were only lying to the apostles, but it turns out they were lying to God. What happened next? They died—just like that.

This example of a consequence is very extreme, and it’s not likely that God will make you keel over and die over one lie, but God used this story as an example to all Christians. The Bible says that a great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about this event.

But we don’t fear God only because there are consequences. There are many benefits to having a fear of God, and if we are wise Christians, it would be in our best interests to take note. Some of these benefits are:

Psalm 111:10 NIV The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Proverbs 1:7 NIV The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 10:27 NIV The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. Proverbs 14:26 NIV He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. Proverbs 22:4 NIV Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.

Do you see how giving the Lord the respect and reverence He deserves, and doing the things that please Him, can make your life as a Christian much better?

Drawing Closer to Jesus

Jesus wants us to draw closer to Him. We can from time to time feel distant from Him. This is why He sometimes allows us to go through difficult times in life, so that we remember our need for Him. But we don’t need to go through difficulties in order to be or feel close to Him. We can be close to Him at any time and all the time.

Our relationship and friendship with Jesus is a journey, not a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Your friendship with Him can be just like any of your other friendships—sometimes you feel close to your friends and sometimes you don’t, or sometimes your friendships are rocky and at other times they go well. But just because your friendship with Jesus may not always be perfect, it doesn’t mean that you should give up or stop striving to grow closer to Him.

Here’s a song by the Christian rock band, Leeland, which helps us to remember that in our relationship with Jesus, no matter what happens, He will always be there for us.

Jesus doesn’t give up on you! He will always love you, and if you wander off, He will always wait for you to return to Him, even if you have ignored Him or forgotten about Him. But He also knows that the more you draw close to Him, the more access you will have to His peace in the midst of any trouble you find yourself in or any confusing times you go through, and the more joy and meaning you’ll find in life too.