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.

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Join To Sing

Everyone loves singing. There’s something about it that liberates our spirits, making us feel as if we’re soaring on the music. What a glorious gift the Lord has given us!

Christians have an even deeper reason to appreciate this gift of singing because we have the privilege of singing praises to our God and King. And those who are blessed with the ability to gather with brothers and sisters in Christ understand the joy of mingling our voices with theirs to form a chorus of worship.

What a joy to know that, in eternity, our voices will join with all the redeemed to praise Jesus! Alleluia, Amen!

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Throwback Thursday: Missing The Reason That I Long For Heaven

Originally published September 6, 2016:

temple

Many evangelicals assume that my eagerness for heaven stems from a desire to escape my disability. I understand their assumption. After all, Cerebral Palsy (especially such a severe case) imposes multiple restrictions on me, and those restrictions often carry a variety of subtexts. So of course one would conclude that the promise of a new body, free of the limitations currently thrust on me, holds a significant appeal for me.

In one sense, it does. But only when I view heaven in terms of how it will benefit me. And as I grow in understanding doctrine, I become increasingly convinced that most professing Christians hold an inverted view of heaven and its purposes.

Somewhere in my past, a friend posited the idea that heaven would be different for each of us, according to our interests, tastes and desires. Using her paradigm, heaven for me would be a giant art  museum filled with works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Monet, Sargent and Rockwell. With cheesecake for meals. Her heaven would be stables of magnificent horses for her to ride and sturdy oak trees for her to climb.

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Remember His Blessings

John and I watch far less news than we used to. You might say the same. It’s more depressing every day, particularly as we watch society’s determined rebellion against God’s Word and the Lord Himself. We feel hopeless, as well as righteously indignant.

We can’t live in denial of the growing lawlessness around us. Neither can we ignore the approaching persecution that will come against those of us who stand on God’s Word. Taking a Pollyanna attitude certainly won’t give the fortitude we’ll need in the coming days.

At the same time, we must resist turning into Debbie Downers. Amid all the negativity swelling around us, the Lord has blessed us with both temporal and eternal blessings, the latter of which not even the most corrupt government can take from us. Without denying the rising evil around us, we must focus on His goodness and remember reasons to praise Him.

Through Jesus, God has given us the precious gift of salvation! How can we refrain from rejoicing when we think of His goodness in covering the sin of all who believe in Him? How can we remain depressed when we contemplate spending eternity in His immediate presence? How can we not glorify Him for the great things He has done?

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More Thoughts About Thinking: It’s Deeper Than Raindrops On Roses And Whiskers On Kittens

Raindrops on a pink rose

Paul gave wonderful guidelines for how the Christians in Philippi should direct their thoughts:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~~Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

As I considered writing this article, I couldn’t help picturing that scene from The Sound of Music when Julie Andrews comforts the children by singing about her favorite things. She teaches them that simply remembering her favorite things keeps her from being overwhelmed by negative circumstances. And, to an extent, her philosophy actually does resemble the principle in Philippians 4:8, doesn’t it?

If we look carefully at Paul’s list of what we need to think about, however, raindrops on roses seem pretty trivial. Should we distill this beautiful verse of Scripture down to a mere slogan for positive thinking that Oprah Winfrey would embrace?

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Frustrations Of A Christian Female Blogger (Probably Not The Frustrations You’d Expect)

Pink flowers

Normally, professing Christian women chafe at the idea of limiting their teaching ministry to other women and small children. They follow the world in insisting that we have a contribution to make to the whole church, and that our female perspective must be heard. As they see it, the Word of God cannot be fully represented without the female voice.

Huh?

Where does Scripture ever say such a bizarre thing? If the Word of God is breathed out by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), why would a female perspective be necessary? Shouldn’t we scratch our heads in bewilderment at the suggestion that men need to hear female voices before they can fully understand what the Bible says?

I can’t help wondering if some men — even Reformed men — have started buying into the idea that female voices need to join the conversation. Logging on to my Twitter Notifications today, I found two tweets by Reformed men, proudly proclaiming that they read The Outspoken TULIP.

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More Than The Doxology

Throughout my early childhood, the Presbyterian church I attended with my parents and sister sang The Doxology every Sunday. I had no idea what it meant, but I sang it obediently, feeling secure with the familiar words and melody. I probably figured that God liked it.

After Jesus saved me, I attended mostly Charismatic churches. Early on, the primary church I belonged to sang contemporary praise songs, with an obligatory hymn each service. Gradually, hymns fell away almost entirely.

On rare occasions, The Doxology would pop up. Singing it brought back warm childhood memories, but I also loved praising God from Whom all blessings flow. I loved praising Him with all creatures here below, as well as with the heavenly host. I loved praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

In our church today we sang The Doxology as the closing verse of a longer hymn. A hymn I’d never heard in its entirety. The verses that precede the familiar words of doxology expand on God’s worthiness to receive praise, as well as the joyful privilege we have of giving Him that praise.

I’ve loved The Doxology my entire life. Today’s discovery that it’s part of a longer hymn surprised and intrigued me. I still love The Doxology, but now I know that there’s so much more where it came from. And I love the whole hymn!

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Don’t Fear Looking At Your Sin

We live in a culture that tells us to love ourselves. Self-esteem is, according to almost everybody, an essential virtue — one that we must teach our children as soon as we possibly can. Even in evangelical circles, people frown upon those who speak too often about our wretchedness.

But can’t self-esteem frequently keep Christians from examining themselves periodically to see if we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)? Can it cause us to think of ourselves more highly than we should (Romans 12:3)?

You and I definitely should ask ourselves these questions when we find ourselves committing the same sin habitually. Children of God at some point start to resemble the Father’s holiness (1 Peter 1:14-21, 1 John 3:4-10). Sadly, many people who claim to be Christians do persist in unrepentant sin, often rationalizing their rebellion and sometimes even believing that God approves of what they do. When we don’t see evidence of genuine repentance in our lives — or at least grief over our sin — we need to ask ourselves if we have really been born again.

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Useless Body, Useless Mind — All For God’s Purposes

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Our pastor livestreams the Wednesday evening Bible Study through our church website and our church Facebook page. At the concluding of each study, he takes questions submitted through emails or Facebook comments.

This week, someone asked how people with severe mental disabilities can be saved. With great compassion, our pastor equated such a situation with that of a child dying in infancy. He cited 2 Samuel 12:14-23 (particularly verse 23) and Deuteronomy 32:4 to substantiate the belief that God will take people with severe intellectual disabilities to heaven.

The brief discussion reminded me of a young man who lived in the nursing home where I spent two years. Cerebral Palsy had not only rendered him a quadriplegic, but it made him blind and non-verbal. As if that wasn’t enough, he Read More »

A Mother’s Satisfaction

Jen's first Easter
My sister’s first Easter

In 1953, she joyfully walked out of her office for the last time. Her fondest dream had come true! At age 37, she finally would carry a baby to term, softening the pain of her three failed pregnancies.

Even though the baby was born with severe disabilities, she rejoiced to be a mom. When a second baby came two-and-a-half years later (this time perfectly healthy), she happily settled into her role of stay-at-home mom. Sure, she served in United Cerebral Palsy and March of Dimes, as well as local women’s groups. She even signed up to lead her older daughter’s Girl Scout troop. But she loved being home with her little girls. It was all she ever wanted!

Late in 1963, she accompanied her husband on a working vacation to San Diego, leaving the girls with they grandmother for the week. It was the first time they had gone anywhere without the kids. After her husband’s conference, they took a day in Tijuana, Mexico — of course, buying Read More »