Crazy Faith

CC BY-NC-ND, Calcutta Rescue, Flickr 90-year old man with leprosy in Calcutta who regularly visits the clinic to have his wounds dressed. Many leprous look much worse.
CC BY-NC-ND, Calcutta Rescue, Flickr

Faith is never common sense. This is where we sometimes get mixed-up. We can think we’re demonstrating faith for things that, with time and brainpower, we can figure out. You know: God, I trust you for money for…when we know a check is coming and auntie told us to simply call if we ever needed help.

If we can figure it out, it’s probably not faith.

Now before you stand me down, I’m fully aware that faith is necessary to sustain every part of our lives, including our general well-being. Faith is not a “crisis-only” apparatus, although some people view it that way. Our very awareness of God comes through faith and by it we are born anew.

Yet Jesus spends a great deal of time drilling faith lessons into the disciples. I’m talking about faith to trust when situations are beyond all hope. And usually when the teacher keeps talking about a certain thing, it means the subject is important and will be seen again.

A Simple Command

Hebrews 11:1 is the Bible’s hallmark denotation on faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NASB). God thought it really important that we were clear about this. An incident with Jesus in Luke 17 richly explains faith and this great verse.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem from the Galilee region and encountered a band of lepers. This is indeed the story of the ten that were healed with one returning to say thanks, but I only care to deal with the first half of the story. These lepers would have been calling aloud to all passersby; it was required by law due to their contagious disease, which had separated them from society.

But when they knew that Jesus was present, they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” There is no indication that Jesus drew near to these folk or talked in-depth with them, although we cannot know; instead, he gives them a simple command: “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

They would need to present themselves before the priest, as detailed in Leviticus 14, whenever they could prove that their leprosy was cured and to be restored back into society. We are told nothing more of the initial encounter.

The Ease of Faith

Common sense folk have tantrums at moments like this one. They’re like Thomas for whom seeing was believing. What do you mean, “Go show yourselves to the priests?” You’ve gotta do something and make this better! It’s why we want your help. But they miss the point of what they’ve implied.

Admittedly, Jesus’s command is a glaring lesson on faith, and reading it makes things go off inside me—just like this passage: “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water. And He said, ‘Come!’” (*mind explodes*) You see, faith is an invitation into the supernatural that truly matters when situations are dire: God, I trust you for money because I lost my job—and now it’s the local food pantry and possible foreclosure.

Shockingly, what God requires at these times is our full confidence in him and for us to rest and accept the reality of our petitions granted—and what a chore that presents to us and all our striving. But that is the only posture of faith.

And this makes all the difference between two people on the same pew because one is trusting God for mere results while the other is just trusting God. Those who rely on God must “believe that He is”—or acknowledge more than his existence but the deeper aspect of it, that he is good and merciful such that it compels them to draw near to him.

John expresses this clearly: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

Faith is about more than getting God’s stuff; it’s about getting to know God.

What the Lepers Teach

Jesus gives them a command that doesn’t make any common sense, but options don’t matter when you’re desperate (unless you have leprosy and your name is Naaman, remember him?) They probably knew Jesus was a twinge eccentric, and a 60-plus mile hike down to Jerusalem would be putting full trust in him.

But something happened and, from the sense of the text, it wasn’t long after they met Jesus: “And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back…” These ten trusted Jesus so much that his words alone were enough evidence of their cure. It is the same quality of faith the centurion demonstrates (Matt. 8) at which Jesus himself marvels.

We cannot know if any of the lepers bore lingering doubts or if the miracle occurred for them individually as they each decided to truly believe. Certainly they had already tried various unhelpful remedies, so it couldn’t have hurt to do what Jesus commanded, which reminds me of another set of lepers, the four in 2 Kings 7, who also got it right: “Why sit we here until we die?”

And when our situations have walled us in and circumstances are blackest bleak, we too will cry out to Jesus and he’ll offer us a similar challenge. The only question we must then assess will be how well we trust him.

Also on this topic: Our ConfessionGetting Faith Right, and When the Bottom Falls Out

The Goal of Religious Practice

CC BY-NC, Hezi Ben-Ari, Flickr
CC BY-NC, Hezi Ben-Ari, Flickr

Do not be hastily critical of Christianity as religion. It is the door by which we enter faith. We are to blame, however, should we not walk along far enough and discover relationship, for it is the heart of the house. What do you seek? If religion is what you seek, then religion is all you will get. But if it is Christ whom you desire, then he will surely be found by you—and your religion will lead you to him.

There are the passionate believers who gripe that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship—and then there’s me.

Trust me: I’m not looking for a fight or trying to be right; I just need to add some depth to the discussion. After all, in a purely superficial way, none of us would be Christians if Christianity wasn’t a religion, its earliest defenders having fought to the death for its doctrines and orthodoxy.

So there is more to be said about what is meant by these comments and still more that some of us need to understand about the worth of religious practice.

Religious Practices

My first task here is to pare down the word “religion” to emphasize the practice and ritual aspects of the word, which is broad and encompasses far-ranging elements, like culture, belief systems, and deities; and focusing on religious practice, enjoin it with our faith and beliefs in the Christian God.

Being so mindful then, what any of us will learn about all religions is that they entail personal and corporate rituals that connect adherents to a deeper reality, spirituality, or divinity. What Christians may find surprising is that their disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and the like are very much the same practices found in other religions, although they may be performed differently and toward a different end.

Spiritual disciplines (or practices, habits) are tools of the interior life that usher a person into a deeper and more meaningful experience and interaction with his or her value system or divinity. They achieve this by introducing behaviors that eliminate vice, produce virtue, develop restraint, and refine sensibilities; personal results can be highly transformational. Such ardent practice will achieve its purpose whether one is Christian or Hindu.

Christian Spiritual Habits

Christian spiritual formation uses religious habits to develop a loving fellowship with Jesus Christ. Christians practice a catalog of spiritual habits to achieve this: (more common ones like) study (devotional and academic) to know God through the Bible and theology; meditation to fill the soul with God’s words and thoughts; prayer and fasting; confession; worship; (and less common ones like) hospitality and secrecy.

These are very much aspects of religion and an essential part of Christian faith.

Spiritual habits, however, do not guarantee that the one practicing them is connecting (in this case) to God. We all should seek to be very devout persons, but not all will be because, truthfully, they don’t care to be. We should be more concerned, however, about those who do go through the motions…pray, read their Bibles, church, yet their lives evince little evidence of Christ. Either way, there is always more waiting for us.

The beleaguered Christians I referenced earlier are really insisting against being caught up in a system of rules and legalistic injunctions that would extinguish a vibrant faith rather than enhance it. I understand this. But religion and religious practice, although we can personally make it tedious and false, is not the problem.

Buried Treasure

I find that we skip to the relationship aspect of Christianity so quickly that we largely miss the depth and range of Christian religion, in general, and certainly its practice. Ask most people in our churches today anything about classic Christian spirituality, and you may both stand there embarrassed. People convert to Christ with excitement then predictably grow stale and frustrated because they don’t know what living a Christian life entails.

Many of our churches have altogether missed the point. Our purpose seems to feverishly get people saved, an important thing, but we have often not produced a clear picture of discipleship, which encapsulates everything we do, from conversion to converting.

I believe the spiritual habits rest at the very center of a vibrant relationship with Christ and a wholesome church. Furthermore, I think it is imperative that we do more looking back to our moorings and earliest practices to not only avoid sin, but also to ward off the spiritual frothiness of this generation and the proliferation of Christian pop culture that characterizes very many churches.

Means to an End

Jesus was a Jew and practiced the rituals and habits of Judaism. His denunciation of the Pharisees and religious leaders was not an attack on religion, but their legalism.

Christ is indeed the heart of Christianity, but the way we acquaint him is through conscientious religious practice. It is the corridor leading to where he reposes. Remember, the presence of God was at the heart of the Temple, but there was a (God-ordained) manner in approaching it.

God’s message to us has always been “Be ye holy, as I am holy,” but to answer the question of how we become holy, Jesus says things like, “When you pray…when you fast…”

“Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship.” I think it’s both.

It’s (Not) Over!

CC BY-NC, luckyfish, Flickr
CC BY-NC, luckyfish, Flickr

Being a Christian doesn’t exempt one from trouble. It comes to us all—trouble independent of our involvement, trouble seen and unforeseen, trouble simply unwanted. But we have to deal with it and in a manner that keeps us mindful of the Lord’s sufferings for us. Paul calls such a communion (Ph. 3:10).

Trouble is a product of life. Things and situations go wrong in a complex world for many reasons. Scripture agrees with this but explains that trouble is also used by God to produce quality faith in us. There is probably no better encouraging text on the purpose of trial in the Christian life than Hebrews 12:5-7 (NKJV):

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?


God assures us of the value of handling trouble in a godly way. But let me tell you what really bothers me: when a sincere brother, sister, or preacher prays that a person’s trouble would end or declares that it is indeed over. I promise you that I’m not crazy. No one cares to have trouble, and sometimes I really want mine to go away. But I’ve watched myself grow more irritated and intolerant of those who lack insight about hardship.

Why does it rile me so? Sometimes people don’t have a wholesome biblical perspective on suffering, while others are plainly arrogant. Some people view all trouble as evil and from the Devil, but some things are just the kinks of life. Furthermore, if we can ascertain that trouble is from Satan, we can rightly resist it in Jesus’s name. But we’ll never be able resist trouble God permits in our lives.


I think John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress gets it right: our way is a path to Heaven, and sometimes that path passes through difficult places. Life is not carefree or ideal. So do we fear or just run off the path or turn back when we encounter trouble? The people who see a devil behind every problem don’t discern that God has a plan with their trouble. They never learn how trouble draws them closer to God and enhances their trust in him. They fail to see that God tests the good in us.

Then there are those who make declarations and literally command God, Satan, or the trouble. They may know nothing about a person’s cares, except that in their pious, spiritual estimation they just need to behave or desist. But they don’t have a right to declare a person’s trouble finished and are truly insensitive (sometimes manipulative) and out of order to do so.


When we’re submitted to God, our troubles will be over when God says they’re over and have achieved the purpose for which he designed them. We would do well to embrace the journey and the lessons it brings.

What we may be telling about ourselves is that we’re not resolved to take up our crosses for Jesus. We may be revealing how attached we’ve become to society and sanctify our covetousness at the expense of the trouble God allows to divest us of spiritual impurity. If we’re going to be like Jesus, let’s remember “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matt. 10:24, NKJV).

Getting Faith Right

CC BY-NC, Samuraijohnny, Flickr
CC BY-NC, Samuraijohnny, Flickr

Inspiration is oftentimes gradual, but it is a gratifying moment to fully see it. Moreover, it is sometimes the negation of a subject that best instructs—“A is not ___; A is ___.” The path of discovery, in some cases, is just as great as the discovery.

I have partly learned what faith is by understanding what it is not. I know what Hebrews 11 tells about faith, but reading about faith and living it are two drastically different sides of the same coin. One is theory, the other is praxis. Our reading stands to gain immeasurable depth when we’ve had to live out principles we’ve only read about.

Hebrews 11:6 always baffled me: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” I could never unconvince myself that God exists, but was this all faith required? I sensed that I was merely scratching the surface.

Thank You, Josh Groban

Josh Groban was on my radio one day crooning his very moving song Believe: “You’ll have everything you need if you just believe.” No, I retorted, first mentally then aloud. It couldn’t be true: believe what? The reaction wouldn’t subside, and a lesson on real Christian spirituality came into sharper focus.

The song verse chalked up so much that I have witnessed with some Christians that makes me shudder. Permit me to explain it in the negative. It pains me in my heart to watch Christians who see faith only as a cure to life’s ills or as a last resort in circumstance. Faith is cliché for them. All we can hope to do is pray. God is merely our way out when there is no way. Faith is a name-it-and-claim-it gimmick. Romans 8:28 is a helpful analgesic.

Please hear me: Christ spread a message that centered profoundly on his Father and a kingdom proclamation of privileged righteousness. To see him, by his own admission, was to be introduced to his Father and to understand life—God-enriched life—fully offered, the same life enjoyed eternally in the Godhead. Christian faith and holiness that embodies this message is surely not an opiate or a trite superstition that passes for spiritual gravitas.

The Groban song was but a proxy for all those I had occasioned over the years whose roots hadn’t gone this deep to know any better.

I and Thou, O Lord

The unveiling was gloriously simple: there is no magical formula, no incantation. Though faith is the “assurance of things hoped for…the conviction of things not seen,” it is never an easy-button. And before faith is any of the scriptural and theological definitions we know it by, it is FIRST relational and personal. This is what I was not seeing in Hebrews 11:6.

“Anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.” I knew God was there, but I didn’t understand that before all the great possibilities of his power and my obedience was our relationship and that it is the touchstone to everything. He wants me more than anything he desires for me or that I desire from him, and by transformation I should more and more want him above all things. It is a living relationship that marks the division between real faith and mere magic.

“And that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” We don’t “just believe,” apart from spiritual orientation or purpose…believing for belief’s sake. Christian faith is exclusive and incompatible with other ideological patterns of conviction. In our faith endeavors, whether the resolution we seek comes or not, God is who we desire, the very end of all our longing. He is the reward.

How to Handle a Crisis of Faith

CC BY-NC, Ross Merritt Photography, Flickr
CC BY-NC, Ross Merritt Photography, Flickr

Why does God never leave me?—that’s what I wonder sometimes. Yes, I know the answers, but sometimes it’s helpful to let yourself go there. It keeps you humble and concentrating on grace. And why is it that the more the heat has been raised in my life—whether by God’s fire of testing or my playing with sinful fire—or the more distant I once grew toward him, the more consuming were my thoughts of him?

Why did I never turn away when God felt too far to reach?

I may never understand any of it, except to know that when I would have run away, he simply wouldn’t let me go, or I, like Jacob in flight, ran smack into him any way I went.

When I lived in Indianapolis and trekked through a real spiritual wilderness, one day I was driving from my workplace and listening to a Catholic priest in a radio interview. I don’t recall the specific question he was asked, but it was something like how to explain people who question God or grow sullen in difficult times. I perked up. His response still resonates with me.

He stressed that people who wrestle with their faith often do so not to distance themselves from God, but to reach for him. I understood exactly what he meant. Hopefully that includes being angry at God, too. I once viewed anger at God as a terrible thing (who would dare!) until I got angry with him.

What I’ve learned is that anger and stressed faith will happen and is sometimes necessary in our process. The heart that truly loves God, however, does not shake its fist at him but strains to comprehend his will, to see in the dark. What may look like a fight with God to others (and sometimes to us) is but a fit of frustration to know him better. For me, I realized how ingrained faith was in my soul. Quitting God was no option.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is none upon earth I desire besides you. My heart and flesh fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ” Psalms 73:25-26

After going through the ho-hums long enough, we gain insight. We learn to discern God’s designs for something foremost within us rather than any external conditions we need solved, although God works in our affairs, too. We also learn to measure the degree of our frustration. We may have our “moments” and get low on faith and stray and crave sin and smolder, but we do so with our faith mostly intact. We can only imagine what it would be like tackling life without God or the Holy Spirit’s restraint.

I’ve learned to latch onto this faith ride. I once had the notion that I could simply abandon myself to faith, as if setting a dial to make sure I remain in a proper state of heart. But now I realize that I cannot store faith and that God designs our process to deal with our specific inner needs. It is not possible to be passive in our own making. The heat that God brings into our lives is there to make us move! So faith is not a dial I can set but a wheel I must steer on my journey.

Not to be contradictory, I’ve learned to retain just enough indifference for it all not to matter so much. Don’t let that surprise you and if it does, stay on the journey—it’ll make sense soon enough. But take it all in stride. This is letting the top down to enjoy the sun and breeze and taking in the view, allowing God to care about the terrain we must travel.

The End of Ourselves

CC BY-NC, SMNomanBukhari, Flickr
CC BY-NC, SMNomanBukhari, Flickr

“Master, carest thou not that we perish?” This is Mark 4:38 in the King James Version. I love its poetic tone. If it were you or me today, about to be marooned at the bottom of the sea, we’d say, “JESU-US! Get up! We’re about to die here!” Jesus must have been “in the zone” when the disciples shook him awake, fear in their eyes.

Moreover, their inquiry, so rhetorical and profound, is quite revealing of our human limitation. Plight and hardship comes to everyone in some way. When it enters our lives and we’ve reached the limit to what we can handle, we often frantically search for answers using questions that would be reproachful and unthinkable in an ordinarily peaceful state of mind.

“What did I do to deserve this? Am I so evil that…? Do you really love me? If you’re God, then why don’t you just…?” We become sarcastic and harsh, not unlike the Israelites—“You mean to tell me we left our life in Egypt to get out here and waste away?” It’s not just the sinners who talk to God this way; the saints do it, too, when the heat gets too hot, if only in their hearts.

I am not being critical; if it helps, I’ve been one to gripe this way. And I’m certainly not defending God who regularly demonstrates his capability of handling our weakness. I can appreciate the fact of my limited capacity; it’s part of our nature. But there will be times in life where a higher level remedy is needed, and, thankfully, it is available to us. Further, it’s useful to pause and reflect with some sense of self-estimation. I am frail; God is strong. In his wisdom, he permits the storm from time-to-time to help me discover my strength in his or to prove it.

Pain is never easy but always purposeful. When God allows a storm in our lives, he uses it within his plan. We should always be better after storms than before them, but the outcome isn’t the focus here. This is not unlike storms themselves: they (and God) don’t give us time to focus on conclusions lest we miss the lessons God is attempting to teach us. Storms must be endured, for it is in our persistence, not our escape attempts, that God reveals things about us and him. We must trust him that we’ll land safely ashore when it ends.

God uses pain in our lives to make us move and achieve mature responses he’s waiting on. Hardship always forces us in some way: to uproot, to plant, to build, to tear down, to eliminate, to renovate…something. The “fire” puts us in action.

When I was a boy, one summer day my brother and I (with adults) had to cross a newly paved thoroughfare in our town on a very hot, cloudless day. We decided to do it barefooted! (The pavement was so smooth and beautiful, okay!) We assumed that the road wasn’t all that hot, plus we’d be on the other side in seconds. Unfortunately, we got halted in the middle of the road by oncoming traffic for far longer than we expected, and our shoes were inaccessible to us. Drivers got a free hootenanny that day! Our poor feet nearly burned to nubs!

Likewise, the heat in our lives is a grace that jolts us into action to achieve results God desires for us and that we would certainly desire for ourselves.

The storms we go through are tough, but God, addressing our questioning and limited understanding, explains that it’s designed to be that way. Yet we have his promise that the storms will never destroy us. When we have nothing more to latch onto for help, we will learn to cry out for God, which should be instructive. God desires to show us how reaching for him and his spiritual provisions should be our first response in whatever we face, whether times are good or bad.

I imagine that in their moment of fright the disciples were certain that everyone, including Jesus, was going down. Isn’t that like our human frailty, to see God as subject to the terms and conditions that life places on us. And that’s when the Lord makes a demand: “Where’s your faith?” Not that we possess no faith…not to berate or belittle us, but to call out of us, with the same authority he rebuked the wind and sea, the faith lying small within.

When You Wish Upon a Star

Flickr Stars
CC BY-NC, John_H_Moore, Flickr

I still needed to make my birthday wish. It was five days late, but what could it hurt? So I grabbed the white star-shaped, helium-filled balloon and went outside. There I whispered a prayer to the God of all hopes for three things I desired and really needed to see happen for me in the coming year. Having wished upon a star, I released it into the oncoming night and let it fly to God.

It is the irony of that moment that lingers and strangely satisfies me like a finely textured dish: a wish and a prayer, the star and God, hope and faith, chance and certainty, eagerness and waiting, ease and agony.

The God Who Realigns the Stars

The stars have always kept humans wondering. What were they? Who were they? What power did they possess? They were close enough for marvel but distant enough to perplex. Certainly they were greater than us. Mythologies abounded and still do. Although most of us today don’t give credence to astrology or the power of the stars, we still wish on them, shooting or not, to chance the possibility of favorable outcomes. It’s our human nature.

I find nothing wrong it.

Many approach God, however, in the same frame of mind. If some of us would honestly explain ourselves, we would disclose a faith not unlike the talisman or amulet. We’d describe a magic akin to the shaman and traditionalists that “works” and retards and keeps us in luck. We’d tell of a God who beckons with haste to our every call and never disappoints.

God took Abram out one night and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars…so shall your offspring be” (Gen. 15:5). Being a Mesopotamian, Abram would have at some time in his life relied on the stars for their religious symbolism and premonition. The skies explained everything.

But this was a new context for the stars, offered by the star-maker himself. And it involved the dearest wish of Abram’s heart, a child. This wasn’t just a natural illustration God was making; it was a spiritual one, too. Power was shifting from the stars to this personal One who had already commandeered Abram’s life when he ordered, “Just go until I tell you to stop!” Oddity had become the new normal for Abram.

You see, the things that matter most to us take faith. Faith is co-oped and faith is difficult. I wish I could offer you an easier approach to God, but it wouldn’t be realistic or acceptable. Moreover, life can be tough and we don’t get through it by chancing good results. And so stands God, turning our eyes away from the stars to himself, advising, “Trust me.”

With Him All is Possible

God began a process of conversion in Abram’s life, converting…his wishes to prayers, his hope to faith, his chance to certainty, his eagerness to waiting, his ease to agony. Although it was far from pleasurable, it radically altered the core of his spiritual existence.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised (Rom. 4:18-21).

Abram stopped reaching for…believing in the stars and learned to trust the God who could bring the stars down to him. It was the only way. They were his God-given possession that God always wanted for him, not haphazard good coming his way.

Augustine said, “Faith is to believe in what you do not yet see; the reward for faith is to see what you have believed.” Maybe the reward is even better than what we’ve hoped for; it is to see God himself. Have you ever gotten your desire from the Lord, but it was his reality and love that crashed in on you more than anything?

Perhaps Abram shows us what true piety is all about. It is not simply a life of faith, but a life disciplined enough to believe God until it becomes a natural response. The pious one is he or she with conviction lodged in the bones. It is not about the star but about the one who guides it.

Our Confession

CC BY-NC, arbyreed, Flickr

I believe God: To proclaim this requires trust in a sovereign God who has his purposes with our successes and our failures. Too often our belief is merely our focus on the resolution of problems we require God to solve, when God is attempting to place our focus on him as the priority while we are in our situations.

If in our trials we received all that we asked of God—every quick deliverance and comfort—we might be hard-pressed to differentiate faith in God and magical charm. Obviously, believers are not exempt from life’s tough times; things will not always go our way. But real faith focuses one on God’s character and his purpose and not mere solutions by him. It demands trust in a God who understands our cares better than we do and who possesses the power to use even our trepidation in his plan to make us better people for him.

So when we say that we have faith, we must do so searchingly to ascertain whether we’re truly relying on God or relying on an outcome. Will God come through for us? Indeed he will. Every time? Absolutely. But when how we may need him isn’t apparent or quickly resolved, we must also believe that his help to us is deeper and more extensive than we can presently see. God is providential, thus always at work in the lives of his people bringing about his purposes and for his own glory. Let us also not forget his affection: He is for us.

Our situations have never surprised God and do not hinder his plans. But he wants our confidence resting in his unfailing character regardless of the crisis. Otherwise, our problems become magnified and he is diminished.

On Religion

Flickr cathedral spire
Mike Smail, Flickr

Do not be hastily critical of Christianity as religion. It is the door by which we enter faith. We are to blame, however, should we not walk along far enough and discover relationship, for it is the heart of the house.

What do you seek? If religion is what you seek, then religion is all you will get. But if it is Christ whom you desire, then he will surely be found by you—and your religion will lead you to him. It is not possible to enjoy relationship apart from religion. Godly practice guarantees fellowship and fellowship sanctifies the practice.