Most of us feel pretty comfortable with where we are with God as long as life rocks along in ways we enjoy — or in ways that we have grown accustomed to experiencing it. Unfortunately, when life throws us a curve ball — a dramatic decline in health, an unanticipated death, a surprise betrayal by a friend, or an unexpected downturn in our personal economy — we often don't have a strong enough relationship with God to sustain us.

No matter how comfortable we feel we are with God, a genuine relationship with the Almighty goes far beyond a few religious rituals, like making time for him at Christmas and Easter along with the rest of the holly and lily Jesus-seekers, throwing a few prayers each month toward heaven, and a surface knowledge of who God really is. None of that is intended to be disparaging about the ways we seek God. However, we know that a genuine relationship with anyone, much less God, is going to require more than superficial effort.

Hopefully, we are on a journey to God and with God. Deep down, we know that we can't know God by knowing a little — or even a great deal — ABOUT God. In today's video, James compares knowing God to his getting to know the people of Croatia. He spent time learning all that he could about them. Still, until he went to Croatia and spent time experiencing the country and getting to knowing the people, he didn't really know anything except information. Knowing God is about experiencing his presence in our lives, not about receiving the most impressive data dump about him:

If you can't see the video, and you sure don't want to miss it, view it online. For additional ideas to consider and some things to discuss with others, we encourage you to see the Study Guide.

Abraham's story helps us see what a journey to God and with God means. His life's outcome also reminds us that the journey is worth the cost, effort, and challenges. By the end of his life, Abraham was known as a friend of God (2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23). His example teaches us that faith is a life-long journey. That journey should lead us to a deeper, more meaningful, relationship with God and with others. But, what can we learn from Abraham for our travels through life?

  • Be available to God — don't believe our schedule is too full to find faith.
  • Be open to experience God in fresh ways — to encounter him in places and times we don't see as necessarily religious or comfortable.
  • Be hospitable to God and his people — welcoming others in the name of God become ways we welcome the presence of "The Holy" into our lives.
  • Be committed to right living instead of settling for being religious — right living means we are concerned about pleasing God and how we treat others.
  • Be willing to making agenda changes in life — our experiences of God and with God often call us to explore new ideas, new lands, and new people.

Being a person of faith doesn't mean our journey to God will be easy. It wasn't for Abraham, that's for sure. He faced challenges all along the way. He had times of failure as well as great success as the world views success. Along the way, God journeyed with him to bring him to the place that both Abraham and his God wanted him to reach. So please, don't give up on your journey. No matter what life throws in the way, keep seeking God until you arrive at that place where God is not only near, but he is also real! After all, this Almighty, Creator God longs to be our Father and our Friend.

Deep down, we know that we can't know God by knowing a little — or even a great deal — ABOUT God.

Two great resources for helping us on our journey are in our Bibles:

  1. The Psalms:
    The collection of the Psalms in our Bible offers us the language of life we can use to address God. There are psalms of joy and sorrow, rejoicing and lament, peace and tumult, praise and anger, confidence and desperation. Spend time in the Psalms to help broaden your vocabulary to address God, and you will also find that God is much bigger and much more gracious than you have previously known. In doing so, you will also discover that the Almighty longs to draw near in every situation of life, not just those rosy, all is great, days of spiritual strength.
  2. Matthew:
    For 19 centuries, Matthew was the gospel of God's people. When we lost Matthew from our regular reading, we lost a precious gift. Matthew was written to help us know and experience Immanuel — God with us on our journey. Matthew reminds us that we can experience God on our journey through the long story of Scripture that ends in Jesus (Matthew 1:23), radical and loving community (Matthew 18:20), compassionate care of those in need (Matthew 25:40), and in walking beside people until Jesus' will transforms them into authentic disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). {Be sure and read the context of these passages for their full impact!} God wants us to experience him as Immanuel, the God whom we can experience in our journey of faith.