Tag Archives: intimacy with God

Love Obeys God

I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord;
therefore, I obey your instructions.
Psalm 119:55, NLT*

You can’t read Psalm 119 without sensing the devotion the psalmist has for God’s instructions. It’s not a dry list of rules that he loves, but the precepts and teaching of how God says he – and we – should live.

Why are these regulations so important? Because they teach us the way of true, abundant life. They keep us from straying away from God or allowing sin or self to distance us from Him.

The Pharisees claimed to love God’s laws too, and the negative examples of their behaviour toward Jesus and the common people may taint our view of this beautiful psalm.

The difference is, they were following their own understanding of the laws, while missing the heart of God. They saw the rules as the goal, not as the way to live with Him.

Today’s verse gives us the key: it’s knowing God’s character and His ways, responding to His love and mercy, that motivates us to obey Him (click to tweet). The more we discover of who He is and of how much we need Him, the more we’ll value the instructions and principles by which He calls us to live.

Whole-hearted obedience is a love response. Not an attempt to earn points or avoid punishment.

Holy and loving God, in wisdom You have set boundaries for us, and in great mercy You have sent Your Son to ransom us from the power of sin and death. You are faithful to forgive when we ask, and to teach us Your ways. The instructions You give are for our good and for Your glory. You alone are worthy of worship and adoration. Please draw us to know You better, and teach us to rely on Your Spirit’s power at work within us.

Loving God will draw us into obedience to Him. Let Kathryn Scott’s song, “Presence,” bless us today.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

To Hear and Obey

…and the whole remnant of God’s people began to obey the message from the Lord their God. When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai, whom the Lord their God had sent, the people feared the Lord.
Haggai 1:12b, NLT*

What was the Lord’s message that the people obeyed?

A remnant of Israel had returned to Jerusalem, but in the busyness of rebuilding the city and their homes, they’d neglected to finish rebuilding the Temple.

God asked, “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4, NLT*) He said that was why the people were working so hard for meagre results. They weren’t honouring Him.

Prophetic messages were often rejected, but not this time. These people listened. They chose to obey.

We can be like them, getting off-track or drifting away from what the Lord would have us do. He may let us wander for a while and miss the best He wants to give us, but isn’t it wonderful that He will call us back?

Let’s be quick to listen and to respond.

Good and merciful God, You know we’re prone to distraction. Please guard and direct us, and make us responsive to Your correction. Give us ears, hearts, and spirits attuned to You, for Your glory and our own wellbeing.

A good song to pray regularly is “Search Me, Know Me,” by Kathryn Scott.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Little Idols

In the book of the prophets it is written,
‘Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings
during those forty years in the wilderness, Israel?’
Acts 7:42b, NLT*

You’d think faith would have been easier for the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings. They ate the manna: daily evidence of God’s care. Their shoes and clothing didn’t wear out. They were led by God’s pillar of fire and cloud. They carried with them the Tabernacle where their Moses, talked to God directly.

Yet Acts 7:43 says they carried their pagan gods and idols with them. They were following God’s leading, but worshipping whatever they chose.

So although God brought them into the Promised Land, it was temporary. Exile was in their future, because they wouldn’t change and devote themselves completely to Him despite all the wonders they saw Him do for them.

What patience to still work with them – with us today – and what love to keep drawing those hearts among the crowd who would truly respond to Him.

These verses call us to search ourselves now, even as believers in Jesus Christ. What are we holding onto that’s dividing our loyalty and diluting our worship? I don’t know anyone who carries around a pocket idol statue and offers sacrifices to it, but what does God see in our hearts that’s crowding on His space?

God sees these things, and they offend Him. But Scripture tells us He longs to draw us nearer, not push us away. He will point out the trouble, if we’ll only ask.

God our Creator and our Saviour, You alone are worthy of our worship and devotion. Open our eyes to those things we’ve allowed to have too much importance in our lives. Forgive us, cleanse and restore us to full fellowship with You, and grow us in the life everlasting.

Matt Redman’s song, “One Name Alone,” makes a good prayer for us.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

God Wants Us Back

The Lord gave [King Nebuchadnezzar] victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god.
Daniel 1:2, NLT*

And so began Israel’s bleak captivity. I’m sure Nebuchadnezzar credited his own god (or himself) for this triumph. After all, it was his army that achieved it.

But did you notice the key words in the verse? “The Lord gave him victory… and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects…”

Not that God had abandoned His chosen people. This was part of His plan to draw them back to Himself after they’d repeatedly rejected Him. The prophets had warned them again and again, but they refused to listen.

I’m sad about how often our own blindness and self-will makes us insist on our way instead of following God’s way. We think we can have both, but we can’t.

What an amazing, loving God and Shepherd we have. Instead of immediately giving us over to the things we’re so quick to chase, He continues to call us back to Himself. The more we resist, the more painful the process may become. I’d rather be quick to hear when I get off-track.

God of love and righteousness, grant us hearts that are quick to hear and to respond to Your leading – hearts that love being in close relationship with You and that don’t want to let anything come between us. Help us to love You more than we love those things that would lead us away. Thank You that when we turn back to You, You forgive, restore, and embrace us.

If we’ve drifted, when we finally turn around, as Todd Agnew sings, God is “Always There”.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Ignoring the Gift

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.
2 Corinthians 6:1, NLT*

The gift Paul’s speaking of is a new life in Christ, reconciled to God and freed from the penalty of sin and death. (2 Corinthians 5:18) In the same verse Paul asks the Corinthian believers to reach out and be agents of reconciliation, bringing others to know this gift of life.

I’m sure that’s what he means by begging them not to ignore the gift. He wants them to fully live – to demonstrate this gift, vibrantly, contagiously, so others will want in, too. The gift is for everyone who’ll receive it.

There’s another aspect of ignoring the gift, though: literally ignoring it. Not letting it change us at all. We’ve escaped a Christ-less eternity, but here and now, life goes on with no appreciable difference.

I believed in God from childhood, gradually moving from a superstitious type of faith into the real thing as I learned more about Him. I knew the dos and don’ts and tried to obey, because that’s what He expected.

But it wasn’t until university that a Bible study weekend showed me Jesus doesn’t just want to be our Saviour, He wants to be our Lord. Not distant, issuing rules, but personal. Close. He wants our obedience, but also our loyalty. Our hearts.

He wants our hearts more than He wants our outward obedience.

How can Jesus have our hearts if we don’t spend time with Him? In quiet, in prayer, reading His Word and even studying it.

Without His having our hearts, of course we won’t change. Others won’t see His goodness. We won’t see it, either.

What if we took a few minutes, just 5 or 10, every day? Even twice a day? A little break for quiet with the Lord, to spend time in His presence. To reorient ourselves under His Lordship. To know Him more.

Father God, You’ve done all that needed doing to rescue and redeem us. You invite everyone to come, to be forgiven and made new. Forgive us for the times we ignore Your gift. Draw us back to Yourself. Forgive those who’ve ignored it long enough that they don’t even think of you now. Like the Roman soldiers, they don’t know what they’ve done. In Your mercy, draw their hearts back to Yourself. Remind them of the gift, and help them to embrace it.

I don’t know if this song was intended to be about a romance, but to me it’s always sounded like a lament/invitation from the Lord. Here’s Cliff Richard with “Discovering.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Renewing or Regressing?

For you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?
1 Corinthians 3:3, NLT*

Is it any wonder Christians often find ourselves “living like people of the world”?

We live among people who give no allegiance to God. Some are our family, friends, co-workers. Others produce most of the current entertainment and music. And we still have the seeds of our former sin nature lurking within.

If we’re not actively pursuing intimacy with God, it’s easy to fall back into (or remain in) thought and behaviour patterns that are much less than He desires of us.

Paul says that, in this state, we’re not ready for deeper teaching. We need spiritual “baby food” until we develop.

We’re a bit past New Year’s now, when so many people take stock and consider how they’d like to make changes in their lives. We’re probably at the point where a lot of those resolutions have started crumbling.

Maybe that’s where the Corinthians were, when Paul wrote this letter. They’d made a good start, but they’d kind of stalled. They weren’t thinking God’s way but their natural way. It was sabotaging their growth.

The Bible calls us to renew our minds (Romans 12:2). We have so far to grow in the faith, and so much to leave behind, that this needs to be an ongoing, daily practice. We don’t dare settle for a half-grown Christian life, or we’ll miss so much of what God has for us.

God our Good Father, grow us as Your children, into an intimate relationship with You. Teach us Your ways, develop our trust in You, and bring us into the abundant life Jesus promised. Let others see through us the difference You want to make in each one.

Todd Agnew‘s song, “Romans 12,” is a call to a life of worship.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Peace With God

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
Romans 5:1, NLT*

No wonder one of Jesus’ names is Prince of Peace. What a gift!

Peace with God means:

  • We don’t have to be afraid of God seeing us or discovering what we’ve done wrong. We’ve been forgiven and can be forgiven again when we mess up.
  • We can come to Him confidently with our needs and concerns… and mostly just come to be with Him.
  • We can thrive and grow because we’re no longer cut off from God.
  • Now we know that God loves us.
  • Now the Holy Spirit lives in us, and will “fill our hearts with His love.” (Romans 5:5, NLT)
  • We have a better perspective on the present: our circumstances are opportunities for growth. (Romans 5:2)
  • We have confident hope of eternal life.

It means even more than that… feel free to add your observations in the comments below.

Holy and righteous God, we could never make peace with You ourselves. We could never make ourselves right in Your eyes. We thank and praise You for giving us faith to believe in You and to receive the gift of salvation that Jesus bought for us. Help us to mature in our faith and to live for Your glory.

Let MercyMe‘s song, “God With Us,” be our prayer today.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Keep Listening

So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.
Luke 8:18, NLT*

Jesus’ warning here is why we need to read the Bible – daily – and to ask God to open our ears and teach us. It’s why we need to spend time with other Christians, not just socializing but also sharing what we’ve seen God do and what we’re learning.

It’s what I’m afraid of for so many people who know God but don’t spend any time with Him. I don’t want to venture into the debate over whether a person can lose his/her salvation. Different denominations have different understandings on that one. But we can definitely lose our closeness with God, lose the ability to hear Him and to please Him. Lose the chance to lay up treasure in Heaven through loving service on earth.

Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be hard. Pick an understandable translation, and begin your reading time with a prayer that God will teach you. He loves to answer that kind of prayer! A physical copy of the Bible isn’t a must. Sites like Biblegateway.com offer various devotions that can come directly to your email.

Prayer isn’t hard either. It’s being quiet with God, listening as well as speaking. It’s spending time with Him – with a willing spirit, ready to adore and obey. It’s relationship time, just like with our loved ones. I have some other posts on prayer here.

We dare not risk losing what we have just because we haven’t taken time or have been too busy for God. Oddly enough, a few minutes with Him at the beginning of the day can make the rest of it fall into place better than expected. After all, He is our Shepherd and does give us strength and wisdom when we ask.

God our loving Father, our strong and caring Shepherd, what a privilege to be in relationship with You. Forgive us for the times we allow ourselves to drift away, and please restore us to intimacy with You. Help us to be intentional in spending time with You, and to listen and obey.

Here’s an unusual song that matches our verse: “Lost the Plot,” by the Newsboys. I like the extra Scripture verses included in the video among the lyrics.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Come Clean. Quick.

When you are guilty, immediately confess the sin that you’ve committed.
Leviticus 5:5, MSG*

We’re human. For all the good things that means, it also means we’re not perfect. Despite our best intentions, sometimes we mess up. We don’t live up to the righteous living God intends for us.

The early chapters of Leviticus are all about sacrifices to atone for the people’s sin, and God spends a lot of time—and detail—explaining to the people what not to do. Some of it should be pretty obvious, but there you have it.

What interests me about chapters 4 and 5 is that they deal with what happens when someone unintentionally sins. They’ve done something wrong with no malice aforethought.

We do that too. And sometimes we do the premeditated wrongs.

In either case, the remedy is clear: immediately confess it to God. He knows anyway. It’s already put a rift between us. If it’s an ongoing situation, ask for His wisdom in how to get back on target. And remember that He’s faithful to His promises. He will forgive us, clean us up, and restore us.

Immediately. Things won’t get better—won’t go away—if we stall. We’ll just make ourselves increasingly miserable as we widen the gulf between our spirits and the God who wants to hold us close.

God who saves us, Your forgiveness and grace are more than we can comprehend, and they’re beyond our capacity to earn. Thank You for extending mercy again and again. Please grow us to maturity in our faith, into righteousness and holiness, so we can please You. Please forgive us when we fail, and help us cry out to You quickly for restoration.

I love this confession song from Todd Agnew, how it reminds us that despite it all, God loves us: “The One You Want.”

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Will We Wait?

When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?”
Exodus 32:1, MSG*

Moses has gone up on Mount Sinai in personal conversation with God. The same God who so dramatically brought the people out of their slavery in Egypt. The same God whose thunder and lightning from the mountain made them plead for Him to talk only to Moses—not to address them directly.

On the mountain (chapters 25-31), God has been revealing to Moses how the people are to live, how they can remain in His holy presence.

Below the mountain, the people make this ridiculous request to Aaron—and he goes along with them.

It makes me sad. They’re so close to intimacy with God and they throw it away, unknowing.

Are we any different?

As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. He can be quiet, though, and it’s easy to forget He’s there.

We may not go looking for other gods, but don’t we chase other answers to our problems, other advice, when maybe if we waited for God’s timing and His communication we’d be far better off?

He is our Good Shepherd, after all.

Holy and mighty God, You keep reaching out to draw us to Yourself, and we get distracted and pursue everything but You. Thank You for Your grace that forgives, and that keeps calling us. Make us people after Your own heart, quiet and able to wait for Your voice. Let us truly live with You and not just go through the motions.

This is new-to-me music from Hillsong: Eagle’s Wings.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson