J.I. Packer once said, “Knowing God is a matter of personal involvement–mind, will and feeling. It would not indeed be a fully personal relationship otherwise.”
I’ve wondered at times whether it was possible to have a fully personal and intimate relationship with a God who is, well, invisible. Sometimes I laugh out loud at how odd the whole faith concept is. I mean really, becoming ‘intimate’ with an invisible God?
But in the past five years of getting to know my Creator, I have become so totally convinced of His reality and His desire to be close to His children, that I am willing to sound like a complete kook in order to get this point across, that yes, it is indeed entirely possible to foster an intimacy with God closer than any human relationship.
Stay with me here.
The very word intimacy means “close familiarity or friendship… closeness…the intimacy between a husband and wife.” I may not be married yet, but I do know this: intimacy with another human being comes through spending quality time with the object of your affection. The same is true with God. In fact the Scriptures say, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us…”(James 4:4).
God yearns to spend time with us. What a thought!
Here are some practical tips I’ve learned over the years that have helped me develop greater intimacy with God through spending time with Him each day:
- Pick a Place. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). If Jesus knew the value to retreating to a quiet place to spend time communing with His Father, how much more us? Pick a spot in your home or in nature that feels comfortable and make it your special Secret Place where you and God meet. Brew a hot cup of coffee or tea. Nuzzle in and greet your Father in heaven with a “Good morning Papa, how are you doing today?”
- Pick a Time. Not everyone is a morning person. I am NOT. But I have found there is no better time to spend with God than first thing each morning. It just feels…right. We must quiet our minds and still our souls in order to get into God’s presence. This takes time. You may start with 15 minutes and slowly increase, but I have found I need at least an hour to really have a meaningful quiet time. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God” along with Martin Luther, “Be still and let him mold you.” Be still!
- Pour out Your Heart. We sometimes assume God knows our every thought so why the need to share it with Him right? But Psalm 62:8 says, “Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Intimacy requires constant and consistent communication. He desires nothing more that to listen to us. Whether we are feeling lonely, sad, lost, weary or confused, God is there to hold us in His arms and assure us He is there.
- Practice Listening. God also has a heart He wants to pour out to us. He begins to let us in on intimate secrets that are meant for our very own heart and soul. Psalm 25:14 says, “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” It is in our special Secret Place with God that He unloads His Words, visions, dreams and so much more. It is there that He draws us into the deeper side of His heart and plans.
If we want God to mold, shape, guide and direct us in the way to go in life, then learning the art of being still on a regular basis is a must. Us and Him. Alone. Quiet. Disconnected from the world and connected to His Spirit. Making it a priority to connect with Him each day–through Word, Worship, Prayer, Silence– is the single best thing we can do in our efforts to know God more.
Eventually, being still before Him turns from a nagging discipline to a necessity we crave in the early morning hours each day. Magic meets His Holy magnificence and there’s no turning back.
*What are some tips you have found helpful in growing closer to God? Share in the comment section below!
Prayer is kind of a funny thing isn’t it? I mean, think about it. You are basically uttering your inner most private thoughts to some mysteriously unseen Divine Being. But somehow there is power in this centuries old practice. There is something oddly comforting and consoling to the human soul in believing that there is a God in heaven–in the form of a loving, gentle, safe, secure Father-figure–who is listening to and caring about what we are saying.
Many of us pray in this way, believing there is a God who listens. But how many of us pray, believing that He answers? I am talking specific answers to specific prayers. You pray, He answers kind of deal.
When was the last time you experienced an answered prayer? Seriously, think about it. Was it yesterday? Last month? Last year? Last decade? Never?
When we don’t experience our prayers being answered, it’s not because God doesn’t answer them or that He doesn’t want to. Often times it is because we don’t expect Him to answer our prayers. But David teaches us that praying to God with expectancy is daily act of faith,“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3). Expectation. If we don’t have it, we can miss the answers to our prayers without even knowing it.
Other times we don’t experience answers to our prayers because we are asking with wrong motives (James 4:3). We might come to God in prayer but our hearts are far from Him. We ask for things out of our own selfish wants and needs, which unfortunately hold no value in God’s Kingdom. God does want to meet our needs and our desires, but from a heart that trusts Him and wants to glorify His name.
So how can we be sure we are praying with correct motives?
Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 15:7 give us some helpful hints on how we can pray in a way that will get our prayers answered. He says:
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7)
God promises to answer our prayers. Awesome right? But we cannot overlook the two conditions He sets:
1. We must remain (abide) in Him. Remaining in God means staying connected to Him. We stay connected to God through prayer, but also through spending time with Him reading His word, worshiping, serving and having fellowship with other believers.
2. We must allow His Words to remain (abide) in us. Some of us read God’s Word only to forget it the next day and go on living our independent lives. God desires for us to read His Word and meditate on it until we understand it and let it sink into our hearts. When His Words remain in us they will transform us and the way we think, act, feel and live our lives.
Eventually, our prayers will shift:
- from “Make me successful Lord” to “Make Your light shine ever brighter through my life to bring You glory.”
- from “Bless me with more money” to “Make me rich in the fruits of Your Holy Spirit so I may bless others.”
- from “Give me my dream job” to “Grant me a servant heart so I may complete the work You are calling me to do.”
- from “Make my enemies fail” to “Bless my enemies with understanding of who You are so they may know You and experience Your goodness and grace.”
See the difference? When we remain in God and His Words remain in us, we begin to pray according to His will, not our own. Our heartfelt desires align with His and they become one in the same. How cool is that! The things He wants, we want and the things we want, He wants. It is at this critical and divine juncture that it becomes impossible for our prayers not to get answered.
*Share about how you have experienced specific prayers being answered by leaving a comment!
Family, food, fireworks, fun in the sun… I particularly enjoyed this year’s 4th of July celebration, as it was the first time in a few years that I was actually in the country to celebrate!
In the midst of my hotdog eating and succulent watermelon indulgences, I began to wonder about the lives of our country’s so-called ‘founding fathers.’ What were the conversations that went on around the table as they signed their names to the document on that fateful summer day that would forever change the world?
To quench the thirst of my curiosity, I did a bit of digging around on the internet and discovered some words written by John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail, a day before the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress in 1776:
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more…
Prophetic words indeed eh? Over two hundred years later and Independence Day looks (almost) identical to his prediction:
- Celebrated as a great anniversary festival? Check.
- Solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations? Check, check, check. (My family actually managed to squeeze in all of the above over this past weekend. Yes, even guns. And throw in a hoola-hoop contest!)
- Commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion? If you mean deliverance from work by solemn acts of devotion to hotdogs and cold beverages, then maybe.
All kidding aside, the third point–devotion to God Almighty–hardly characterizes the All-American holiday celebration in most homes. It was so clearly a core value of our founding fathers and the culmination of the signing of the Declaration. Check out the original documents of the universities where the majority of our forefathers studied…
Harvard for example, which churned out a number of our founding fathers–including John Quincy Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, Samuel Adams–had this statement of purpose for incoming students:
“To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ….” and that “Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be able to give an account of his proficiency therein.”
Yale, which produced founding fathers such as Noah Webster, William Samuel Johnson, and Abraham Baldwin, had these requirements for its students:
“Seeing that God is the giver of all wisdom, every student, besides his private and secret prayer, will be present morning and evening for public prayer.”
Princeton produced people like James Madison, Benjamin Rush and John Witherspoon and had this founding statement:
“Cursed is all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”
These faith-based statements played a pivotal role in shaping the hearts, minds and values of our founding fathers and the foundation on which our country was built, and yet our celebrations and commemorations of this country are null and void of any mention of God?
This is not a political rant, but a mere observation. Our country is clearly headed in a certain direction and I just wonder if it was the direction our forefathers had in mind. At the end of the day though, it is not up to our forefathers, as they were mere humans just like us. Rather, it is up to the sovereign will of our Father in Heaven, whether or not we agree with the moral, political, economic and/or spiritual state of this country. All we can do it trust that God knew exactly how America would take shape as a nation and He knows every moment of its future from here on out, for as the Scriptures say:
“From one man, he made all of the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” -Acts 17:26
He has marked out the appointed times in history for each and every nation. He has marked each and every boundary, each and every dividing line and it is all for one, very specific purpose:
“…so they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…” -Acts 17:27
God created different nations so that we would draw closer to Him. How cool is that? No matter how far our country has come, or how far in whichever direction it has gone, may we always keep the big, eternal picture in view, choosing to seek Him and reach out for Him in the midst of a chaotic world that is impossible to fully understand. And may we also seek to honor our founding fathers by recognizing our nation as one grounded and founded by ‘solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.’
*Challenge Question: What is your favorite way to celebrate July 4th? How can we better carry on our forefathers’ legacy of devotion to God?
HAPPY 4TH of July to my American friends both near and far! I hope you are enjoying this day with friends, family, fun and fireworks. May God bless you and the USA on this patriotic summer holiday and beyond!
I’m sticking to the normal ‘Did You Know’ devotional post today and will be blogging about red, white and blue on Wednesday…stay tuned!
DID YOU KNOW? God Wants You to Soar
Read: Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 23:1-3
“Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Do you ever feel so tired, you don’t know if you can make it through another day? Do you ever feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? Do you ever long for the days when you were a kid and never seemed to tire?
If so, welcome to planet earth. Tiredness is a part of life. It is a sign of our humanity. But we need to learn to discern when to let God and others carry some of the load. Sometimes we need to have the courage to say, “I am feeling weak today Lord, will you carry me through this day?” When we turn to our Lord during times of feeling tired or weary, He says He will renew our strength. It’s a promise!
Next time you feel so exhausted you could literally collapse, close your eyes and imagine God swooping you off the ground and soaring on His wings of grace, like an eagle. See yourself flying through the air, light as a feather and free as a bird. He is taking you higher and higher into His heavenly realm to renew your strength and to reshape your perspective from this birds-eye view. When He sets you back down, you will run and not grow weary. You will walk and not grow faint!
Dear Lord, thank you that you are there to give me Your strength when I am weary and weak. Lord, sometimes I feel so tired from all that life demands of me. Help me to turn to You, allowing you to carry me on Your wings like an eagle. Take me to a high place so I can breathe some fresh new air. Amen.
*Take-away Treasure: Evaluate your exhaustion level. Are you doing too much or are you just needing some rest and renewal? Let it be a week of soaring on His wings as He turns your weakness into strength.
As we went around and shared our prayer requests in my weekly Bible Study group I realized something: each and every one of us was waiting on something. A husband’s job offer…a baby to be born…a financial break-through…a house to be sold…a relationship to start…healing to come…and the list goes on.
What are you waiting for?
Whether we like it or not, waiting is a major part of the Christian journey and it always has been. When we look to the Bible, it seems almost every major figure was forced to wait long periods of time before God brought to pass His promises in their lives:
- Abraham? Waiting time: 20+ years before his wife Sarah gave birth to their first child.
- Joseph? Waiting time: 13 years before assuming the leadership of Egypt.
- Moses? Waiting time: 40 years tending sheep before God called him to deliver His people.
- David? Waiting time: 14 years before the throne of Israel was given to him.
- Jesus? Waiting time: 30 years until his ministry began.
Sheesh! I don’t know about you, but this sure puts some perspective on waiting. And it reminds us that we can’t get so caught up in the thing we are waiting for that we allow it to rob us of our joy and miss out on what God is doing right in front of our noses.
I want to share an excerpt from an email my pastor in Singapore sent me as an encouragement for my waiting soul and I hope it can be for yours too:
“I remember a period of my life when I felt frustrated for a prolonged period of time. Though I was in love with Jesus and actively serving in church, I kept feeling like I was not living in God’s perfect will yet, that I was not hearing Him like I should, not experiencing Him more like I wished… Then one day God told me, ‘Enjoy the moment, treasure each encounter, savor the whole journey. You don’t have to get there to be happy, but happily get there!’ So capture every moment and ENJOY the journey that is working out for His glory and purpose!”
We don’t have to get there to be happy. We happily get there by realizing that our joy IS Jesus with us here and now and not the destination or a desired outcome in the future. So whatever you are waiting for my friend, trust God IS faithful and will bring it to pass in His perfect timing. In the meantime, choose to live happily in the moment and savor the journey with Him each day!
*Leave a comment and join the conversation: What are some ways you have learned to endure seasons of waiting? What does capturing every moment mean to you?