Category Archives: Religion vs. Relationship

Heart to Heart

that they may be one

There are many reasons why YHVH established Shabbat and the Feasts.  These are His set-apart times for teaching us, preparing us, celebrating with us, and bringing order to His Kingdom.  The end result is that YHVH desires is to be intimate with us individually and corporately.  One of my favorite verses in Scripture is from Deuteronomy 30:19 and the first part of verse 20, in the Complete Jewish Bible translation..

I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving [YHVH] your God, paying attention to what he says and clinging to him – for that is the purpose of your life!

Shabbats are very important to YHVH and, whether or not we know it, they are important to us.  The 23rd chapter of Leviticus designates clearly all the days that are Shabbats, whether weekly or during the Feasts.  Later in Leviticus, YHVH points out the consequences for working during a Shabbat.

For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death (Lev. 31:15).

The consequences for disobedience are harsh and hardly seem an invitation for intimacy, but it is most likely a necessary starting place. In the Exodus account of the Israelites in Egypt, we see a people that are unruly and often wayward. They had been immersed in idolatry and enslaved to cruel taskmasters.   To win their trust, YHVH demonstrated through signs and wonders that He is to be both feared and respected and also that He is able to protect and provide for His people. YHVH was formidable to their enemies, while protecting and providing for the Israelites..

When they were in the wilderness, YHVH gave them new commands and imposed strict consequences for disobedience, so that He would be taken seriously. Despite all the signs and wonders people still complained that He wouldn’t provide for them and tried to return to their idols. There was at least one person who ignored YHVH’s commands concerning Shabbat. YHVH had to follow through with the consequences He had established and the man was put to death (Num 15:30-36).  Were such harsh consequences necessary?

As a former teacher, I quickly learned that at the beginning of a new school year, teachers must be stricter than normal. The more unruly the students the more critical it becomes to establish authority and order. Once the students are settled, a proper atmosphere is established where students can learn and a healthy relationship with the teacher can be fostered.  If teachers are extra strict at the start, the focus can more quickly shift from the rules to learning.

Once each of us comprehends that YHVH is sovereign and is to be obeyed, then we are in a position to learn what He has to teach us. As we progress with our learning and interact more with YHVH, we grow closer to our sovereign King. Over time, we set aside our old ways and take on His ways. We experience His concern for our hearts. Eventually, we are ready to hear what is on His heart.

We make the transition from obeying the “no work” command simply because it is a command to refraining from work because we are eager to spend time with our Teacher.  We value what is important to YHVH.  Sometimes it is necessary to do His work even on ShabbatYeshua demonstrated this when He healed on Shabbat.  He was showing us that the purpose of Shabbat is to be in tune with our Father’s heart. It is not to become fascinated with rules and regulations.

Even as we grow closer to YHVH, we must be mindful that we are dealing with our Creator and our Sovereign. We are not to take His words lightly or take Him for granted. We must maintain a balance between healthy respect and intimacy with YHVH. Otherwise, we will find ourselves slipping from following His heart on Shabbat to following our own concerns. If that happens, our relationship with YHVH will quickly deteriorate as we move away from Him.

Yeshua spent time on Shabbat teaching, being taught, and healing. He was closely aligned with Abba’s heart and could easily transition to whatever His Father desired for Him to do at any given moment. Such intimacy is our Father’s desire for us and the reason He created us.

If we keep in mind the real purpose for our existence, we will remain focused on our Father’s heart and not fall into legalistic traps.  We will reap all the rewards that YHVH intends for us.

Religion vs. Relationship (Part 2)

FriendshipwithGod

 As a teenager, I had my share of rock ‘n roll idols. I loved getting the latest fan magazines to see what treasured facts I could learn about my idol. I bought all the newly-released records and listened to them over and over again. I spent countless hours imagining a make-believe relationship with someone I did not even know personally. It seemed insignificant that the idol certainly did not know and probably would not care that I existed. I shudder to think how much time I wasted on a mere illusion. I never really wanted to meet the actual person, who might not like me at all. That would have destroyed the illusion.

Religion is much the same. We form congregations, activities, committees, and study-groups so that we can learn more about God.

We hone our image of God and create doctrines. Then we fashion rules and regulations to support our doctrines. Many people who faithfully attend and participate in church never get to know God personally.

Religion provides a false sense of security. There is little or no risk involved. Just as I could change my make-believe relationship with an idol to suit my ideas or moods, people cling to religion for the same reason. I had no idea what the real person was like, but it did not matter. I could make the illusion into whatever I desired at the time. Learning facts about God and performing rituals is a far cry from having a relationship with YHVH.

Are we afraid that YHVH will not like us if we relate directly to Him? It is too late to worry about that. He created us, knows us intimately and already loves us. Is YHVH truly different from what we have learned or imagined? I believe that is often the case. Are we afraid that we will not like the real YHVH as much as our imaginary one?

For many years, I settled for religion. When I discovered that a genuine relationship was possible, I hesitated. What if YHVH didn’t like me? It took some time to get up the courage to give my life to Yeshua, but I finally made a timid effort. What happened? I was flooded with more love and acceptance than I could ever have anticipated, despite all my sins and shortcomings. I discovered that Yeshua and His Father far surpass any illusion I could have dreamed up.

Religion keeps us stagnant. Relationship with YHVH changes and renews us. If you have not done so already, I encourage you to go ahead and take the risk. Tell Yeshua and Abba that you would like to know them personally. It will be the best risk you ever take.  If you are still unsure, meditate on Psalm 139.

Religion vs. Relationship (Part 1)

Knock-On-Door

According to Merriam-Webster (m-w.com), religion is defined as:

  • the belief in a god or in a group of gods
  • an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
  • an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

Many of us grew up with religion. We learned about God and we thought this was the same as actually knowing Him. Many people still think so. Does religion really provide what we need? Let us examine the definitions listed above.

Is it enough to believe in God? Even Satan knows that YHVH (God) exists.  You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder (James 2:19 NIV). Therefore, believing in YHVH does not set anyone apart even from Satan.

Participating in an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies and rules used to worship a god is much like being in a fan club. Members of the fan club devote their lives running from concert to concert or movie to movie, sharing newly-discovered facts on Facebook or Twitter, and day-dreaming about what it would be like to be with one’s idol. Obsession with an imaginary relationship distorts reality.

Relationship is defined by Merriam-Webster (m-w.com) as:

  • the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other
  • a romantic or sexual friendship between two people
  • the way in which two or more people or things are connected

Relationship requires that individuals interact with each other. It is better to relate directly to YHVH than to merely acquire facts and opinions about Him. YHVH created us to have a close relationship with Him. He has no use for religion which is a poor substitute for a personal relationship. Yeshua paid a heavy price to restore our broken relationship with His Father.  YHVH desires to be close to us and to love us.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them (John 14:23 NIV).

Our relationship with YHVH is even more intimate than a sexual relationship since YHVH knows our thoughts, motives, and intentions even when we don’t know them ourselves. He knows our deepest needs and desires and responds to them in the most loving way. When we seek YHVH’s face rather than His hand, He will reveal more of Himself to us. We can relate to YHVH on a deeper, more personal level than with any human on earth. Why settle for a dismal substitute when you can have the real thing?