Flashback Friday: Intimacy With God May Be Less Complicated Than You Think

Originally posted December 20, 2019;

Pensive Woman02

As my girlfriends and I approached our 30th birthdays, panic and despair set in. We watched other women in the church take wedding vows while we spent lonely Saturday nights without dates. We joked sardonically that we differed from trash because trash gets taken out once a week. (The men in the church failed to appreciate our humor.)

One friend met regularly with me for a while to talk and pray about coping with our singleness. She began encouraging me to develop intimacy with the Lord, explaining only that she sometimes fantasized about Him. I don’t know if those fantasies were romantic — and I don’t think I want to know. At the time, however, I desperately wanted Him to remove the pain and loneliness I felt.

My friend’s exhortations to cultivate intimacy with God left me with the impression that such intimacy came through mystical experiences. I assumed that I would feel His presence in a way that would obliterate my desire for a husband. Obviously, my motives for wanting intimacy with Him were entirely selfish.

Yet the Lord does call Christians to a type of intimacy with Him that has nothing to do with our romantic desires. Even better,  we don’t have to search for spiritual experiences in order to enjoy this intimacy. All we have to do is open a Bible.

In His last discourse with His disciples before His arrest, Jesus talked to them about the intimacy He would have with those who love Him.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. ~~John 14:18-24 (ESV)

Notice the relationship between loving the Lord and knowing His Word. He establishes that relationship because knowing Scripture reveals Who He is.

As we read the Bible systematically and in context, we learn Who God is, how He acts and what He thinks. We see what He loves, what He hates and why he tolerates what He hates. We see His power in creation and His righteousness in judging. We see His wrath toward sin, His compassion toward the repentant and His unwavering commitment to His standards.

We see His humility in becoming a Man Who would die a criminal’s death in order to save those who believe in Him. And we see the powerful promise of His resurrection. We see His plan to return to earth, and then His ultimate plan to create new heavens and a new earth where His Bride will worship Him eternally.

He discloses all those things and more through His Word because He loves us enough to reveal Himself to us. The Bible allows us to have incredible intimacy with God — an intimacy so much more powerful than my friend’s fantasies.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Flashback Friday: Not Afraid To Fear The Lord

Originally published May 19, 2017.

Serious Little Boy01

Evangelicals in the past 50 or so years have carefully minimized (or avoided altogether) the subject of fearing God. When, in the course of a group Bible Study, they inadvertently encounter verses about fearing God, they cough out a few sentences about simply revering Him before rapidly moving on to more manageable verses.

Fearing God isn’t politically correct anymore, even among Bible-believing Christians. We much prefer dwelling on the Lord’s goodness, compassion and love. That way, we keep Him much more approachable, even when we persist in our pet sins. Even more to the point, we make Him more attractive (we think) to non-Christians when we evangelize them. Talking about fearing Him, we reason, makes Him less marketable.

Scripture, however, never seems all that concerned with the Lord’s marketability, nor with keeping us comfortable even in our disobedience. Even the beloved book of Psalms, which often consoles false converts with poetic assurances of God’s love and mercy, insists that we need to fear Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! ~~Psalm 111:10 (ESV)

Does fearing God mean feeling literally afraid of Him? Well, yeah. Sometimes such fear is highly appropriate, actually. Such fear acknowledges His authority to establish His standards of how Christians ought to behave, and to discipline us when we violate His standards.

In considering the fear of the Lord, we must clarify that genuinely saved Christians can fear Him without doubting His love for us. Hebrews 12:6 explains that, as our heavenly Father, He disciplines the ones He loves. I realize that postmodern parenting, influenced by psychological models, often consider it unhealthy for children to fear parents, but God graciously allowed me to grow up in a time when I both knew the security of my mom’s love and feared her discipline.

I was a willful child (and, to my shame, I’m still very willful). In school, I had no problem defying a certain teacher. If he chose to punish my disobedience, I was perfectly fine with that. But I always begged him not to tell my mom. He always did, once even going to her workplace! And, although she really wasn’t as harsh with me as he was, I feared her discipline far more than I feared his.

Fearing God helps me obey Him more consistently. I know He won’t revoke my salvation because of my sin, but I also know that facing Him in judgment and accounting for ways I squandered opportunities to serve Him will be painful. I fear dishonoring Him, even as I rejoice in knowing that I will spend eternity with Him.

Fearing God gives me discernment to live in a manner that pleases Him. It teaches me holiness. Maybe fearing Him isn’t fashionable in the 21st Century, and maybe psychologists would disapprove of my fear of Him, but the Bible recommends this holy fear. It calls it the beginning of wisdom.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

A Living Illustration

John is grIaciously typing this blog post as I dictate to him from bed. Because I cannot type this entry myself, I will not include Scripture quotes or references — doing so would be difficult to teach John. Please don’t interpret this absence of Scripture as an abandonment of God’s Word.

Many nights I lay in bed half praying and half thinking. As someone who struggles with insomnia, I spend many hours in this lovely state of vacillation — and usually it pleases me. Throughout the years, my thoughts have covered a wide variety of topics ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, and often the ridiculous wins out.,

In recent weeks, my nighttime meditations have been a little sublime as I pray for the man sleeping next to me. Usually I begin by thanking the Lord that I am married at all. That gratitude morphs into a time of reflecting on the kind of husband that John is, provoking even greater gratitude.

Read More »

The Person Christmas Celebrates — Hymn 2

It’s no accident that my articles on this blog tend to emphasize God’s holiness. Unlike generations before us, present-day Christians care little about fearing the Lord, preferring to see Him as a Butler, a Buddy or (worst of all) a romantic/sexual Partner. Such casual attitudes towards the Creator and Sustainer of the universe very much require a counterbalance. I have no problem helping to provide that counterbalance.

Ah, but I must guard against being unbalanced in the opposite direction!

Providentially, I spent most of last week working through Psalm 103, in which David lists the Lord’s tender qualities. This psalm brings out His beautiful sympathy towards those who fear Him, illustrated by His commitment to completely separate our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west.” Out holy God is also our compassionate Father. Jesus is our sympathetic Friend.

Our sympathetic Friend should be celebrated this Christmas. As we remember Him coming into the world as a Man Who understands our frailties, we rejoice that He is our dearest Friend.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Throwback Thursday: The Shocking Gospel Message

Originally posted September 11, 2018.

The Gospel and Love

The Gospel, in and of itself, isn’t about our responsibility to love other people.

Does that statement shock you? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Traditionally, the Christian culture equates doing good to others and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves with genuine Christianity. And without argument, Jesus and His apostles taught that the command to love others is second only to the command to love God.

Read More »

Regaining A Sense Of Wonder About God’s Love

Photo of the Public Garden in Boston

Back in the 1980s, I wrote and directed with the Drama Ministry at the church I attended. One year, three of us collaborated on a musical depicting Christ’s earthly ministry. I didn’t write the Last Supper scene, but the person who did write it included a hauntingly beautiful song entitled “How Can He Love Me?” The actor portraying John (the beloved disciple) sang it to expresses his amazement that Jesus loved him.

I don’t think many Christians wonder how the Lord could love them. The idea that God loves us is pretty much a given, even among people who don’t profess to be Christians. And in evangelical circles, we find it a little too easy to take His love for granted.

I know I do. Hopefully you’re honest enough to admit that you struggle with the temptation to have a lackadaisical attitude towards His love.

Why have we lost our sense of awe that God would love us? In pondering that question, I’ve come up with a two-pronged answer. Put simply, we’ve lost an understanding of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

Read More »

The Four Spiritual Laws Say That God Created You To Have A Personal Relationship With Him — Is That True?

If you’ve been an evangelical Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of an evangelism tool called “The Four Spiritual Laws” John and I were even in a church that used this tool in its New Members Class (our present church does not use it, thankfully).

I want to write a few posts over the next few weeks going over these Spiritual Laws. While they do present the Gospel on a surface level that can be beneficial in witnessing to people, they fall short of offering a robust picture of our need for salvation and the Lord’s sufficiency in effecting that salvation. I commend the writers who developed these Spiritual Laws for their zeal in reaching out to the lost, but I believe we must hold their tract up to Scripture to determine its faithfulness to sound doctrine.

Read More »

If You’re Not Amazed, You Ought To Be

Would you say that many Christians lose their sense of wonder that God saved them? Would you say that sometimes you lose your sense of wonder that He saved you? I have, from time to time.

Yet as we study Scripture, it’s hard to miss His amazing love for sinful, writing creatures like us. How incredible that Jesus would bear the Father’s wrath for us, taking our sin and giving us His righteousness! Nothing in us could ever merit such love, grace and mercy.

To His praise, He faithfully reminds us that He indeed has bestowed this incomprehensible love, grace and mercy on those of us who believe. He fills the pages of Scripture with innumerable examples of His love despite our persistent rebellion against Him. And when we see how undeserving we are of His love, we can’t help but be completely and utterly astounded.

How can it be that God the Son should die for me? I ought to be amazed more often!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Not A Tweet Any Professing Christian Should Endorse

I had never heard of Kristen Howerton before. I have no idea whether she professes to be a Christian or not. If she doesn’t, I can shrug off her recent tweet. Non-Christians can be expected to say the sort of things she said.

If she does profess to know Christ, however, her recent tweet troubles me, as it should trouble any Christian. Beth Moore’s evident endorsement of that tweet also troubles me. Read the tweet for yourself:

The problem with a professing Christian as visible as Beth Moore has little to do with the question of systemic racism. I really don’t want to address that question in this blog, primarily because such a discussion would distract from the purpose of this ministry. But I definitely want to explain why the sentiments Howerton expressed (and Beth Moore endorsed) conflict with the Gospel.

Read More »

What COVID-19 And George Floyd’s Murder Demand

Praise the Lord for the sensible Christians out there who encourage us to use these troubled times as opportunities to present the Gospel! Too often, we get so embroiled in controversies that we lose sight of our main responsibility to tell the world about Christ. Thankfully, a number of people ranging from John MacArthur to my own pastor have emphasized the vital necessity of evangelism as we face both COVID-19 and the fallout from the murder of George Floyd.

Read More »