Category Archives: Devotional Thoughts

Devotional thoughts about a relationship with God.

No Parking!

Park your mind in a better place!  Don’t keep backing your thoughts into the negative spaces.

My thoughts can undo me, seriously. If my husband is late returning from an appointment I already have created a scenario of him bleeding in a wreck by the side of the road. If my friend rushes by me without stopping to acknowledge me, or if she says something offensive, I have created all manner of accusations in my mind. The problem deepens when I choose to park there. I am more likely to somehow end up thinking bad things about God or myself, or both.

It is true there are difficulties in my life, people say and do things that hurt me. There are character weaknesses and other challenges that seem insurmountable to me. Not to mention past hurts and difficulties that replay in my head and lead me to park overtime in the negative space.

I have found that if I keep thinking I cannot overcome my weaknesses; or, that I am not good enough/smart enough/ strong enough; or why don’t they acknowledge my worth, then I am trapped in the dark spaces. The longer I park there the more difficult it becomes to heal and move out.

Park in the Light
Changing the way I think about myself, others, and life is called repentance. I need to repent of dark, hopeless regurgitation of thoughts that usually are not true and instead fill my mind with truths about God, His love and His power.

Such As . . .
When I question God’s goodness, the truth is God has good intentions towards me.

  • Psalm 86:5 – For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in loving kindness to all who call on you.
  • James 1:17- Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow.

When I feel that God does not care, the truth is He is deeply aware of my hurts.

  • Psalm 56:8 – You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
  • Matthew 11:28-29 -Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

When I think my situation or someone else’s is impossible, I read the truth about God’s love and power.

  • Matthew 19:25- 26 – When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
  • Jeremiah 32:17 – “Ah Lord God! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for you.”

When I think I am not important and don’t matter, the truth is God values me so much that He let Jesus die for me.

  • Romans 5:6-8 – Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people. Finding someone who would die for a godly person is rare. Maybe someone would have the courage to die for a good person. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God’s love for us.
  • 1 Peter 1:18-19 – Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold … but with the precious blood of Christ.

Bank Truth
I do not advocate being a “Polly Anna,” who thinks everything is “ok,” or the proverbial ostrich with his head in the sand, who ignores everything. At times, there may be wrongs we need to set right. But for the most part, I think God wants us to focus on the light because he is in the light. His truth is light. So I need to refuse to park my thoughts in the dark with falsehoods and half-truths.

Search the scriptures and find truths that will help you park your mind in the light. Bank these truths, keep them handy. Use them to lead you out of dark spaces.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
think about such things.” Phil. 4:8

Invisible

A little boy walked to the side of the playground, shoulders slumped and face cast down; feeling unwanted, disregarded, and invisible. You see the kids from his class had just picked teams for a game, and again, he was not chosen.

Feeling invisible or unchosen is not restricted to children’s play yards. A friend of mine, a very intelligent woman with a high ranking position, told me how she at times feels invisible, at work, sometimes at home and even at times in her church community.

She relayed a humorous analogy from her work place.  In a rest room there are three sinks with automated sensors, so as one puts their hands near the sensor the water turns on. One of the sensors is temperamental, sometimes it works and sometimes not. You put your hands there for water; you wait and get nothing. You feel invisible, not even weighty enough to trigger a sensor.

Maybe you feel invisible. You may be within a group, yet are overlooked, not regarded and “unchosen.”

Relocate Your Value Source
When I am feeling overlooked, disregarded and not chosen I withdraw. I respond this way to protect myself, however my response does not help me. The truth is I need to relocate the source of value.  I am looking in the wrong place for my identity, value and approval.

We are social beings, created for relationship and community. That is true, and we do indeed build into one another. However, I am learning that my basic value and identity is not determined by other people’s response to me or approval of me, but rather I need to go to my Creator for value and purpose.

There are truths in God’s word that can lift up our countenance and help us live loved and with a sense of true value. God knows us, sees us and has chosen us.

God Sees
God is the God who sees. Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah, calls God by the name EL Roi which means “the God who sees,” Genesis 16:13.

Hagar has been cast out into the desert with her young son. Alone! Surely she is feeling despair and fear, maybe even invisible. But she was not invisible to God. He was aware of her situation; he saw her and delivered her, so as a result she calls him, El Roi, the God who sees.

God’s character is that he is ever alert to us. We are ever the center of his vision and awareness.

In fact God has intimate knowledge of us. God knows the very number of hairs on my head, Luke 12:7.  God knows every tear you have cried: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Ps. 56:8

God knows when I sit and when I stand. He discerns my thoughts before I think them. He knows a word that is on my tongue before I even speak it.

  • “You know when I sit and when I rise;you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you. Lord, Lord, know it completely.” Psalm 139:4-5

While I do not understand God having such knowledge of me, I feel secure in it.

Visible and Chosen
God sees us and deliberately chooses to draw us near to him.

At times in my life I have felt “unchosen,” and I have been “unchosen.” The most confusing thing is when you are not chosen by those from whom it is natural to expect being chosen.

There are many ways we expect to be chosen or included but are not. There is no need to list them here, I am sure you have experienced a few of these stinging disappointments in your life. The truth is – you are chosen by God.

Being chosen by God is not a consolation prize. It is a truth that grounds us and directs our life. It is from his choosing us that we begin to know our true value.

The word chosen in the scriptures, both Old and New Testament references means: to be selected; to be loved; to be valued; to be delighted in; to be preferred or wanted.

Read some of these passages and let the truth speak to you about how deeply and intentionally God values us. God is telling us we matter to him. He welcomes and desires us. He wants to include us in his presence.

  • For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot. 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before him covered with his love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to! Ephesians 1:4-5 (TLB)
  • But we must always thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 2 Thess. 2:13
  • But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 (We are God’s beloved and are treasured by God.)
  • Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col. 312
  • Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35,37-39 (NLT)

Believe It
We could fill pages and pages with truths from God’s Word that describe God’s love and valuing of us. However, these truths about God have little power to change our thoughts, feelings and understandings about ourselves if we do not believe them.

I encourage you to read these passages again and insert your name in them, turn the third person pronouns into first person ones. Make these verses personal to you and God, because that is how he intends them.

Let these truths change your thinking about who you are, and your value. The next time you feel invisible – think about these truths.

 *************************************************
“And so we know and rely (depend) on the love God has for us. God is love…”
1 John 4:16a Live in His love!

God Loves Pink Monkeys

There is a legend about a “pink monkey” which describes a behavioral experiment involving a group of monkeys. Supposedly, some behaviorists dyed one monkey pink and returned it to the monkey group. After a brief perusal of the pink monkey, the other monkeys attacked it so viciously that the researchers had to rescue the pink monkey.

This “Pink Monkey” experiment is not true, but rather a social parable about how human beings tend to treat those who are different. More often than not we tend to push off to the side those who are different; those who don’t readily fit into our picture of the norm.

Differences can include physical appearance, intellectual ability, physical ability or disability, personality, emotional states, mental health challenges and the like.  The “pink monkey” in the parable was different. He no longer blended in with the tribe. Therefore, he was suspect, he was isolated and attacked.

The sad part of this “pink monkey” story is that I learned about it through a high school girl. She read about the “Pink Monkey” experiment and likened it to in her peer group  – feeling the attack of disapproval, rejection and indifference. She believes herself to be a “Pink Monkey” rather that a wondrous creation of God reflecting His image.

This may be an extreme conclusion for her to draw, and may not totally reflect the whole reality of her situation, but it is how this young woman feels. I was deeply moved by this girl’s feelings and had to ask myself, “How am I doing at loving and accepting those who are different from the norm or from my expectations and standards?”

God Created “Pink Monkeys*” (*Please note I am in no way saying that man is a monkey, or that people who are different are monkeys. I am using this term to refer to all those who stand out from the norm like the “pink monkey in the story.)

I want to advocate that we see beyond the “pink” to the beauty of God in each person. “Pink Monkeys” are created in the image of God just as is everyone else.

  • “These are the family records of the descendants of Adam. On the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God…” Genesis 5:1
  • “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:17
  • “But now, O Lord, you are our Father;we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

God creates us to reflect Him, His intelligence, creativity, capacity for love, mercy and so on. Each person in some way reflects God. People will look very different; have differing degrees of intellectual ability, different personalities, and contrasting emotional states. The type or amount of these qualities does not change the image of God within that person.

We, as God’s creations, are called to respect and respond to His image in others. I believe that is why “to love one another” is the second priority in God’s commands. By loving one another we demonstrate that we are in God’s image, and we bring out His image in others.

God Champions “Pink Monkeys”
In the scriptures we see that God has a heart for all people and He seems to especially seek out those who are marked as different in some way: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. God has no partiality for those whom man deems as beautiful, whole, charismatic, successful, and so on. Scripture testifies to this.

  • “… who (God) shows no partiality to princes,nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands?” Job 34:19
  • “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality …” Deuteronomy 10:17
  • “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” James 2:1

Let’s look more closely at God’s love for those that man often finds wanting.

The Withered
There was a man in the synagogue who had a withered hand. It was physically distracting to others and useless to him. Performing daily tasks and earning a living with the use of only one hand was indeed challenging, especially in the age and society in which he lived.

Jesus had a heart to help this man by healing him. But the leaders in the synagogue did not care about this man’s life or his feelings. In fact, it seems they used him to trap Jesus by accusing Him of doing work (healing) on the Sabbath.

Jesus was grieved in his heart at their “coldness of heart,” their lack of regard and care that these men had for the condition of the man with the withered hand. Yet, Jesus had compassion on him and healed the man, risking the wrath of the religious leaders. (Read:Mark. 3:1-6)

As I reflect on Jesus’ character in this situation, I ask myself: “What is my heart towards people whose appearance is unusual maybe from burns, an accident, a birth defect, an amputation, skin lesions from a disease, or other physical issues? Am I willing to reach out and touch them, welcome them into my group, befriend them? Serve them? Look past their appearance, disability or behavior and see the person within? Am I willing to put myself in their shoes? Do I give them the value God does, or do I consider them somehow less important, or less valuable?”

The Cast Out
On a busy pathway a man with a dreaded disease approached Jesus. This man had leprosy a disease that in those days marred physical appearance, brought isolation to its victim and fear to others around him/her. The leper was literally “cast out,” forced to keep a designated distance from others,  and to label and identify him/herself as unclean, unacceptable.

Jesus’ response was amazing. He did not turn away from this man, reject him or follow the accepted protocol. Jesus reached out in compassion and touched this man, who had probably not had an affirming touch in a long time.

  • “Then a man with a serious skin disease came to Him … Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. “I am willing,”he told him. “Be made clean.”  Immediately the disease left him, and he was healed.” Mark 1:40-41

As I read this account in the life of Jesus I ask myself who do I hold at a distance and why?

The Out of Control
There are many reasons as to why a person’s emotions, thought processes and or behaviors may be out of control. Jesus reached out to just such a man. In fact this man was so out of control that people had chained him in a graveyard. (Wow, how is that for acceptance and affirmation from your peers)?

This man had self destructive tendencies; he was obviously in turmoil and pain. Everyone feared him and ran away from him, but Jesus reached out to him, drew him in, helped him and had a vision for this man that went beyond the grave yard.

  • “As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, He was met by a man with an unclean spirit, who was coming from the tombs. This man had been living in the tombs and could no longer be restrained, even with chains. Though he was often bound with chains and shackles, he had broken the chains and shattered the shackles. Now there was no one with the strength to subdue him. Night and day in the tombs and in the mountains he kept crying out and cutting himself with stones.” Read: Mark 5:1-20

Jesus did not bind this man, which surely He could have done. Jesus did not ignore this man. Jesus looked at this man, took time to hear his story and then helped him. In the end, we see Jesus and the man sitting together talking and then Jesus gives the man a new purpose.

  • “Jesus said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” Mk. 5:19-20

You, Me and “Pink Monkeys”
What does this say to you and me? If you profess faith in Jesus and claim to follow Him, then it says a lot.

We are recipients of the grace and abundant love of God, and are called to love as Jesus loved.  Some questions I am asking myself about my love for others:

  • Do I love others beyond those who include me in a familiar circle?
  • Do I pull in those who for whatever reason are on the fringes?
  • Do I consider and value those who have a different personality type than me?
  • Do I fellowship those who have a physical or a mental challenge?
  • Am I emulating God’s love?
  • Am I teaching my children and others how to see and love other people?

Jesus stopped. Jesus looked deeply. Jesus listened. Jesus acted in compassion and love!
Let us follow His example.

 

 

Nuclear Prayers

“Where is God when I need Him?” This is a question many of us think, but we do not often ask God for fear of sounding disrespectful.

A friend of mine who has had a significantly rough life journey was asking this question. Over the past several years she has been walking closer with God, working on healing from the scars caused by her own negative thinking, words and actions; and from traumas delivered by others.

She has acknowledged negative actions, words and attitudes that she has been responsible for, and has sought professional help in working through the toxic actions and words of others. These are all important steps in the healing process.

She has sought answers not only in counseling but also in truths in God’s word, in prayer and in her relationship with God.  In viewing this from a “Christian” perspective one might say she is a Jesus girl seeking a deeper more genuine walk with God. Yet, she feels her prayers are unanswered and wonders why she does not feel God’s support. Maybe she needs to ask God this very question, “Where are you, Father?”

God Welcomes Laments!
Sometimes praying what we think are standard, acceptable, safe prayers may not be enough. Such “standard” prayers may indicate that we need to get down deeper in trusting God.

Perhaps we need to follow the example of the prophets and psalmists of old and pray risky prayers. Maybe, we need to risk sounding brazen and disrespectful. Sometimes we need to “dump it” on God, lament and moan to God from the depths of our heart. Such prayers may sound scandalous. They may sound disrespectful to God, but in truth such prayers show absolute trust in the love and goodness of God.

Lamenting to God is a true pouring out of your heart, and shows an authentic engagement with God.

The Israelites knew how to lament to God. In fact when the Israelites began moving away from God, breaking their covenant with Him, God literally asks, “Hey, why aren’t you guys trusting me, lamenting to me and asking me where I am?”

Jeremiah 2: 1-8 reveals that God accuses His people of not trusting Him enough to lament. This is apparent in verses 6 and 8.

 5 This is what the Lord says: “What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols   and became worthless themselves. They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord,  who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness,  through a land of deserts and ravines, a land of drought and utter darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’7 I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’

Dumping It!
True faith is childlike and just dumps it out. Lamenting is pouring out our heart to God. It is risking sounding like a spoiled child or an offended wife in order to seek God’s help. Shallow “religious” faith bottles it all up. In a sense, it is hypocritical because we are in our minds saying, “Well, God, you are the sovereign God and it is your fault that these things are happening.”

The prophets and the psalmists in their lamenting reveal a true faith in God, a real dependence on His love, faithfulness and power.

David, a man after God’s heart, often lamented to God. David cried out to God in desperation and in faith. Psalm 142:1-2 carries the tone of a lament.
“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.  I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.”

Laments Recorded by God
Below are examples of prayers of lament found in the scriptures. As you read them you may feel uncomfortable with the raw openness of these prayers, but listen for the faith. What are they really saying?

Blaming God for their Sinful State

  • Why, Lord, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance. Isaiah 63:17

Charging God with Forgetting, Rejecting; Neglecting…

  • Wake up, O Lord! Why are You sleeping? Arise! Do not reject us forever. Why do You hide Your face and forget our misery and oppression? For our soul has sunk to the dust; our bodies cling to the earth. Psalm 44:24-25 (BSB)
  • Do not hide your face from me,do not turn your servant away in anger;you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Psalm 27:9
  • How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?How long will you hide your face from me?How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? Psalm 13:1-2
  • “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again?Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time?Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Psalm 77:7-9

Charging God with Anger and Abandonment

  • Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—  darkness is my closest friend. Psalm 88:14-18

Nuclear Faith
Laments are like nuclear prayers that express radical faith. They are not the tantrums of a child, but rather cries coming from hearts that know God. Laments are the vulnerable, desperate outpouring of our need to God. When we lament we are grieving about our life, we are proclaiming our trust in a God who is faithful; compassionate; involved and powerful.

Laments come out of faith and lead us to greater faith. They remind us who God is and how much we need Him. With humility and out of your deep need for God, begin a journal of your own authentic laments to God.

God, a Personal Friend (2)

Picture this: It is the dark of the night, the sky out in the country is brilliant with stars, myriads of stars, countless, dazzling, bright stars, against the dark backdrop of night (imagine no street lights). As we watch the scene, Abraham stands looking up. He seems to be talking to someone, someone who has his arm around him and seems to be pointing to the stars. The scene seems to present two friends appreciating the night sky and conferring with each other.

Something like that really did happen to a man named Abraham. It is recorded in Gen.15:4-6.

  • “Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”  He (God) took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”
  • James 2:23 echoes this truth: And the Scripture was fulfilled, that says “And Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness, and he was called a friend of God.”

Now picture this: You seated on your couch with God next to you. Maybe He is holding your hand or has an arm draped around your shoulders, talking to you and you to Him.

Can’t picture it? Let’s see where we get this idea about a very personal God.

 God says, “Come Sit with Me.”
Psalm 25:14 states: “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him and He will make His covenant known to them.”

The word translated secret inherently implies some type of intimacy. Like one friend whispering a confidence to another. The word “secret” is “cowd” in Hebrew. It means “counsel, consultation; familiar converse; intimate conversation.”

Actually this word “cowd” comes from a primitive root that means a couch or a cushion upon which someone reclines, indicating people sitting together leaning in towards each other and conversing.

  • The NIV translates this concept as: “The Lord confides in those who fear Him;
    He makes His covenant known to them.”
  • The ESV translates it as: “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
    and He makes known to them His covenant.”

Both translations catch the intended meaning with the words “confide” and “friendship,” but the primitive root of “cowd” captures the intimacy of this relationship. We need to be careful that our “religion” does not obscure our vision of the relationship that God is longing to have with us.


A Second Look at an Old Friendship
So what does this very personal friendship with God look like? If we take time to look closely, and beyond the way we have always seen the story of Moses and God, we can get a glimpse of it.

We see this relationship throughout the life of Moses. Let’s look at one snapshot of their relationship, such as when Moses was called to work with God to deliver Israel from Egypt. This meeting is recorded in Exodus 3 and 4.

I am used to seeing this meeting of God with Moses at the burning bush, God is depicted as the Sovereign LORD, giving a command to His servant Moses. But, on second look, maybe what we really are seeing is God reaching out to a man (Moses) to bring him into a friendship and partnership with Him.

What signs of friendship do I see?
I see God’s reassurance of His presence with Moses, like he isn’t going it alone; it doesn’t all depend on Moses.

      And God said, “I will be with you…” Ex. 3:12

I see it in God, like a true friend, being transparent and revealing His true identity to Moses.

  • God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.” Ex. 3:14-15

I see it in God, as a good friend, sharing His strength and power with Moses.

  • “Then the Lord said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.” Ex. 4:8-9

In chapter 4, we see Moses, so to speak sitting on the couch” with God, having intimate converse or consult with God. Moses shares his weakness and fears with God, and God provides support for Moses in each thought. There is intimacy; there is encouragement; there is frustration and even anger expressed; but always, God is the friend, the help, the advocate.

Many other instances in the life of Moses reveal this close personal friendship and partnership between God and Moses. We can see it in the life of Hannah, David, Hezekiah, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel and countless others, but the question is do we see this for our life today?

In the End It Is “Religion or Relationship”
So many times in my life I have tripped over my practice of religion and missed the depth and beauty of a real relationship with God. God is all about this relationship. He has set it up from before the creation of the world for us to be close to Him.

Eph. 1:4 – 6 states this truth clearly. Look for the relationship words.

  • “For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presenceIn love He predestined us for adoption as His sons/daughters through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One.”

While God is Almighty, all powerful, and the sovereign Lord, He does extend Himself to us as our intimate friend. Knowing that God has been eternally longing for friendship with me is a thought that draws me to Him. At times it is hard to believe that “God” would actually want to be friends with me because I know who I am, how messed up and sinful I am and can be. But the amazing thing is that God knows that too, and in spite of my messed up self, God still reaches out to me (and you) in love.

About Giants, God and You – Part 2

In Part 1 of “Giants, God and You,” we reflected on two ways God prepares us to meet giants in our life.

We reflected on how being a true worshiper of God prepares us to face giants, and how dependence on God trains our faith to stand before giants in our life.

Prepared by Worship
What or who we worship reveals what is at the center of our life. Everything in our life flows out from that center. If we truly worship God alone then when the giants come we automatically turn to God, rather than relying on our own strength.

  • David was a true “worshiper” of God. He ascribed great value to God. David’s heart continually longed for God. His heart was focused on being close to God. This prepared his soul to trust God when trouble came.

Prepared by Dependence on God
When we believe that God is near and that he answers when we call on Him, we will be prepared to meet the giants in our lives. Every time we depend on God our faith grows stronger and we are more prepared to trust God when the giants show up.

Preparing to meet a giant is not an event of the moment, but it is a process that occurs overtime in our walk with God.

In Part 2, we will look at how God prepares us by:
   – observing the character of God in nature around us;
   – learning truths about God from His Word and
   – learning about God through our experience with Him.

Prepared by Nature
The creation around us reveals truths about the beauty, complexity, consistency, power and faithfulness of God.

The Word of God reveals truths to us about God’s character and intent towards man. The scriptures detail how God interacts with man. We can use these truths to encourage our faith and to guide us through life.

David, as a shepherd, spent much time out among God’s creation. In the Psalms, David talks about what nature taught him about God. He sees that God is sovereign and the Creator and Sustainer of life and order. He sees God’s value for and love for man in that God has given man a special place of value and honor. 

  • The heavens keep telling the wonders of God, and the skies declare what he has done.
    Ps. 19:1 (CEV)
  • Yahweh, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth! You have covered the heavens with Your majesty. Psalm 8:1 (HSB)
  • When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place— what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? Psalm 8:3-4

In nature, David sees God’s power and sovereign control over all. He then puts his trust in God’s power.

  • The heavens were made by the word of the Lord, and all the stars, by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into a heap; He puts the depths into storehouses. Let the whole earth tremble before the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 
  • For He spoke, and it came into being; He commanded, and it came into existence. Psalm 33:6-9 (HCSB)

By observing nature around him, David sees that God has tender compassion and care for all He has created. Therefore David can put his trust in God and know that God will take care of him.

  • The LORD is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made. Psalm 145:9

Prepared by the Word of God
David had a great love and respect for the Word of God. He allowed the scriptures to cement truths about God into his mind and heart so that in the day of trouble David drew upon these truths to give him courage and inner strength.

David found restoration and life in the Word of God. He found joy and wisdom for life in the Word of God. He gained a sense of security from the God he read about in the scriptures.  Psalm 19: 7-10, reveals how David viewed that Word of God and how he valued it.

  • “The instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one’s life; the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise. 
  • The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad; the command of the Lord is radiant, making the eyes light up.
  • The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are reliable
    and altogether righteous. 
  • They are more desirable than gold—than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey, which comes from the honeycomb.”  Psalm 19:7-10

David learned truths about God through observing nature around him and through reading the word of God. Knowing these truths prepared David to stand firm in faith when trouble came into his life.

Prepared by Experience
David experienced God’s help in his life during certain situations, and he experienced God’s answers to prayer. This experience prepared David to meet the giant.

David uses some of these experiences of God’s help and deliverance in his life as David explains to Saul how the Philistine giant will be defeated. David remembers how God helped him deliver the sheep from the bear and the lion, and so he trusts that God will deliver him and all of Israel from the giant and the Philistines.

  • But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 1 Samuel 17:34-36

In addition to actually rescuing sheep from the very jaws of the lion, David had some skills with a sling. It is very probable that David’s experience as a shepherd trained him in using a sling skillfully.

(Side note:Slingers” were an important part of Israel’s army. They could sling a rock at an enemy from 100 yards away at a speed of up to and surpassing 100 miles per hour. They were like crack snipers in the army.  Judges 20:16 reports: “Among all these soldiers there were 700 select left-handers, each of whom could sling a stone at a (single) hair without missing.”)

David knew about these “slingers” in Saul’s army, 1 Chronicles 12:7. He may have even dreamed about becoming one of them.  He had many opportunities to practice “slinging” as he shepherded the sheep. How many times did he use his sling to kill a wolf, a bear, a lion, or other predator?

David attributes his skill to battle the giant to God’s training of his hands and his heart.

  • Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.
  • He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. Psalm 144:1

God Prepares You
God does not leave us alone to face difficulties of life, but in truth He is preparing us all along the way. After reading through Part 2 of this blog, reflect of the ways God has and is preparing you to handle the giants in your life. 

Writing this blog has caused me to ask myself some heart questions. I post them here for your reflection also.

  • What truths from the Word of God encourage my faith in God?
  • What truths have helped me to overcome a giant in my life?
  • Do I have a collection of truths about God from the scriptures that I can go to in time of need?
  • What experiences have I had with God that build into my trust in Him and make me able to engage a giant in my life?
  • What skills has God trained into me that help me stand before giants?
  • What are some of the most outstanding prayers that God has answered in my life that strengthen me and cause you to step toward the line of battle to fight the giant instead of running away?

Help build into someone else’s faith by sharing one of these things with them.

About Giants, God and You – Part 1

When I was a child I never read or heard the Biblical account of David and Goliath. I began reading the Bible in my early 20’s and was in wonder at this story. I was intrigued at the absolute loyalty that a young man, perhaps still in the teens, had towards God. The words that David spoke to the giant, Goliath inspired me.

David stands up for the honor of God. He shows little to no fear only true loyalty to God:

  • David asked the men … “who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” . . .  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 1 Samuel 17:26 and 45

God Prepared David
As I read the account of David’s life (1 Samuel 16 to 1 Kings 2; 1 Chronicles 2-29), and see his heart for God revealed in the Psalms, I have come to realize that God prepared David to meet and overcome the giant, Goliath.

David is known by the people as a man “who the Lord is with.” He is characterized as someone who walks with God. I don’t know how people in those days knew of the faith of a shepherd out in the countryside, but they did! David’s faith impressed and influenced people. People knew of his faith, even before he took a public stand to battle Goliath.

  • “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man, and the Lord is with him.” 1 Samuel 16:18

The Preparation Process
God prepared David to meet the giant Goliath, and that may have been just one step in preparing David to meet the “giant” of the jealousy of King Saul.

God will prepare us in similar ways to face the giants in our life. Giants in our life may take the form of: difficult relationships; financial struggles; physical and mental health issues; various addictions (power, pride, reputation, anxieties, alcohol, or drugs); marital issues; parenting difficulties; character weaknesses, or any seemingly insurmountable problem that harasses us or overwhelms us. Such are the giants in our life.

Preparing to meet a giant is not an event of the moment, but it is a process that occurs overtime in our walk with God. Let’s look at some of the ways God prepared David to meet Goliath.

Worshiping God prepares us to meet our giants. Worship implies priority and value. What or who we worship becomes the center of our life – taking first place whether we realize it or not.

David was a true “worshiper” of God. He ascribed great value to God. David’s heart continually longed for God. His heart was focused on being close to God. David loved God with his whole heart. He freely praised God and expressed his longing to be with God.

Reverence, adoration, esteem, devotion, absolute passion, praise, and treasure, are words that characterize David’s relationship with God. What words describe your relationship with God?

David longed to be in association with God, in God’s presence. He yearned after God, even after his sin, David sought to renew his closeness with God, Psalm 51.

The passages below exemplify David as a faithful worshiper of God.

  • You are my God. Earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You. My body yearns for You in a dry and weary land without water.  Psalm 63:1 BSB
  • One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4
  • I stretch out my hands to You; my soul thirsts for You, as in a parched land. Psalm 143:6
  • Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Psalm 103:1
  • I will fervently thank the Lord with my mouth; I will praise Him in the presence of many. Psalm 109:30
  • Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:11

Dependence on God prepares us to meet our giants. When we believe that God is near and that He answers when we call on Him, we will be prepared to meet the giants in our lives.

David’s prayer life reveals his continual dependence on God. He cries out to God concerning his relationships and all of the circumstances that distress him. He hides in God and uses his faith in God as a shield. He is not too proud to cry out to God.  We see him regularly praying to God and calling out to God in all circumstances.

  • But You, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the LORD, and He answers me from His holy mountain. Psalm 3:3-4
  • This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. Psalm 34:6
  • Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:1-2
  • Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught. Psalm 55:1-2
  • I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. Psalm 142:1-3a

As you read verses in the various Psalms of David, you get a sense of authentic passionate expressions of dependence on God.

David was close to God, believed God was with him, and depended on God. So, when the time came David could stand boldly before the giant.

A Pause to Reflect
Worshiping God and depending on God are two of the avenues through which God prepares us to face the giants in our life. This process that prepares us to face giants is born of a living relationship with God, and has a cyclical effect.

The more we worship and reverence God, the more we experience His power and loving care in our life which leads us to increased trust and dependence on God which leads us to a deeper intention to honor God. These interactions with God form the foundation of being able to face the giants in our life. Part 2 of this article will explore truth and experience as part of the preparation process.

Here are some final questions to help you to reflect on your status as a worshiper of God and one who depends on God:

  • Am I a true worshiper of God, or a “good” church member?
  • What would my daily life look like if I truly worshiped God?
  • Would my friends characterize my relationship with God by the words “yearning and longing for” or “hungering” for God and His righteousness?
  • How do I use my “relationship” with God, or my “practice of religion” to honor myself?
  • How has my worship of God increased my faith?
  • Do I depend on God at all times or only when I am in a situation that I cannot handle?
  • What is a time that I depended on God in prayer and the result lead me to worship God?

Intimacy with God: The God Who Is Near

“Am I a God who is near” declares the Lord, “and not a God far off?  Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 23:23-24

 In Jeremiah 23:23, God is addressing Israel telling them that He is the God who is near and the God who is far away, in other words, He is  everywhere and aware of all we are doing. In context, it is a rhetorical question. God is asking Israel if they know the fact that He is every where. In truth, He is so close that He knows their hearts. They think God is not near them and therefore He does not know what they are doing and thinking. 

What does it mean?
God is the God who is near.  The phrase is “miq-qarob ha elohe” or “Elohei Mikkarov” is translated  “the God who is nearby.”

The word “qarob” is an adjective and means near, and carries shades of meanings such as: nearby, drawing near; allied; approachable; and ready at hand. As we search through various lexicons we see it carries the meaning of God being near us; His presence being with us; and His desire for an intimate relationship with us. It also indicates our ability to draw near to God.

 In other instances it implies a relationship in which there is an affinity between two people, and an intimacy in their knowing one another. 

“Elohei Miq-qarob/Mikkarov” describes a truth about God’s character and the intentions of God towards us. The truth this name emphasizes is that God is always near us ready to draw to Him. He is nearby us, therefore He knows about us and the happenings in our life. The context of this title for God in Jeremiah 23 indicates that God is near and knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts.  Such knowledge is not meant to threaten us but to provide security.

Truths that Confirm God Is Near
The truth that God is near; is present; is approachable, and infact, desires to be close to us is attested to in other passages. These other passages describe in detail characteristics of this nearness.

  •  The nearness of God is akin to the very source of our life, Acts 17:26-28.
    And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Himthough He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being …”
  • The nearness of God is a safe refuge and a help in times of trouble, Psalm 46:1. The word for help in this verse is “ezrah” meaning succor; a suitable help; a strong support.
    God’s intent towards us is to help, to support, to provide for us.
    “God is our refuge and strength an ever present help in the times of trouble.”(BSB)
  •  The nearness of God means God is always with us, Psalm 139: 7-12.  He guides, he leads. He is with us in the dark times. He is with us even when we want to run away from Him or hide from Him.
    “Where can I go from your Spirit?Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
  • In the nearness of God we can see His great wonders, Psalm 75:1. As I move closer to God in vulnerable faith, my eyes are open to see more of Him and His wonders. In the intimacy of my relationship with God He uses His power to help me, and He works wonders within me and my life.
    “We give thanks to You, O God; we give thanks, for Your name is near. The people declare Your wondrous works.”
  • The nearness of God is directly connected to calling on God with a firm or true faith, Psalm 145:18
    “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

 Truth in this verse is defined as firmness in faith, a faithfulness. In order to be close to God, to have that intimate connection, I have to firmly believe that God will answer me when I call on Him. This truth is echoed in James 1:5-6 and Hebrews 11:6.

Do I truly believe that God is near and will help me? Is my faith such that I am open to His helping me even though His answer  may not meet my expectations? In other words do I fully trust the God who is near, who knows my thoughts, feelings and needs? Do I trust Him to do what is right and best for me?
 

Do I want to be near God?
The truth we learn from some of these passages in the Old Testament is that God is near to us. God desires that intimate connection to us and reaches out to us through time and space to bring about the possibility of our being intimately connected to God.

Immanuel, God in the flesh, has come to make intimacy with God a reality. We see this truth throughout the New Testament. Ephesians 2:13 demonstrates how this intimacy with God can happen.

  • “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

We are encouraged to draw near to God through Jesus, Hebrews 10:21-22 and James 4:8

  • “… and since we have a great priest over the house of God,let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:21-22
  • “Come near to God, and God will come near to you. You are sinners. So clean sin out of your lives. You are trying to follow God and the world at the same time. Make your thinking pure.” James 4:8 (ICB)

It challenges me to realize that the God who creates and sustains all life; the God who: divided the Red Sea; walked on water; gave sight to the blind; healed the leper, and raised the dead, wants to be close to me. The question is do I want to be close to God? Am I willing to seek His face, to seek His presence in my life every day?

Prayer Response: Pray that God will teach you how to be close to Him; how to go deeper and have an intimate relationship with Him.

Intimacy with God: The Lord of Hosts and You

Intimacy with God involves knowing Him deeply and personally. Such intimacy begins in knowing about the character and nature of God in his Word, in creation and in our life experience with God.

Reading the scriptures will help us grow in knowing God, understanding his character and interactions with man. How we take those truths into our heart and use them in our daily interactions with God helps us to develop intimacy with God.

I have found in my studies that the names God gives himself are an important way God reveals himself to us.

Names Make Intimate Connections
In John 10:3, we read that Jesus knows his sheep by name.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

Jesus knows the sheep, so he calls each one by a name. They listen and follow him. There is a trusting relationship between them. A little further on in verse 10, Jesus explains the deeper nature of this relationship with his sheep. It is akin to Jesus’ relationship with the Father. They are so close and intimate that they are one (John 10:30).

Jesus has plans for us to get even closer to Him. In John 17:21-23, Jesus prays that we will be one with each other and one in him, as he and the Father are one.

I love the fact that Jesus does not treat me in a generic way, or just as part of a group, but he knows me by name.  Jesus calls each of us by name, not only that but he has made plans to draw us closer to Him. These truths bring a sense of intimacy into the relationship.

If God knows our names and we feel a sense of closeness, we can grow even more in our intimacy with God by knowing His names. In sharing his names with us God is opening up knowledge of himself to us. In reality, God is inviting us into intimacy with him.

In revealing his names, God is revealing deep truths about his nature and character, and who he is in relation to us. We respond to God’s intimate overture to us by believing the truths he reveals about his self, and then we use those truths as we meet the circumstances in our live. In a sense, we live out the character of God in our lives.

The LORD of Hosts
One of the names God reveals to us is, LORD Sabaoth translated LORD of hosts,
“You show steadfast love to thousands … O great and mighty God, whose name is the
Lord of hosts
…”
Jeremiah 32:18

The wordtsaba” is translated several ways. It means army, or host (as in a large organized army). It refers to the angelic armies of God. It is a war term and is often used in association with various battles and struggles. The prophets use this name of God often in their writings.

A clear reference to spiritual/physical warfare and the LORD of hosts is found in Isaiah 13:4b-5.
“The Lord of hosts (tsaba) is mustering a host/army (tsaba) for battle. They come from a distant land, from the end of the heavens, the Lord and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.”

It is used to indicate God’s supreme and unlimited power, authority and judgment. (On occasion it is used to refer to the actual physical heavenly bodies of the sun, moon and stars).

Here are a few of the passages using the word “tsaba.” (The name LORD Sabaoth is used 261 in the Old Testament).

  •  “When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army (tsaba) of the Lord. Now I have come.” Joshua 5:13-14
  • “Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host (tsaba) of heaven standing on his right and on his left…”
    2 Chronicles 18:18
  • “Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts (tsaba)!” Psalm 148:2
  • “Our Redeemer—the LORD of hosts (tsaba) is his name— is the Holy One of Israel.”    Isaiah 47:4

Intimacy in Real Life – A Shepherd Boy and the LORD of Hosts
David knew God’s name – LORD Sabaoth. This name revealed to David that God is almighty and sovereign over all. Armed with this knowledge about God, David was confident that God was with him as he approached Goliath.

David refers to God as the Lord of Hosts as he faces off with Goliath. As David moves towards Goliath He says that he is coming to Goliath in the name of the Lord of hosts.

“Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” 1 Samuel 17:45

Goliath could not see any “hosts” of God, so he laughed at and scorned David. All he saw was an army hiding in fear, but David knew who God is, David knew God’s name –LORD/Yahweh Sabaoth.

David believes that God truly has an army of angels. David calls upon LORD Sabaoth, and claims His power to help him in the battle.

David incorporated the truth he learned in intimate times with God and from his past experience with God, therefore, he was able to depend on God’s all mighty power as he stepped up to face Goliath. This is an example of how intimate knowledge of God became a part of real life. As a result of fighting Goliath with God, David grew in faith and intimacy with God.

A Woman in Conflict and the Lord of Hosts
As I read about the word “tsaba” in scriptures I came across the story of Hannah. The scriptures describe Hannah as a woman sorely troubled.

In 1 Samuel 1:1-20,  we read of this struggle within Hannah’s heart and in her relationship with Peninnah, the other wife of Hannah’s husband.  Hannah was grieved because she was barren; and she was grieved, even vexed, by the taunting of Peninnah (Elkanah’s other wife) who had children.

  • “And her (Hannah’s) rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.  So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her.” 1 Samuel 1:6-7

In her struggles regarding both barrenness and the taunts of this other woman, we read that Hannah prays to God.  In her prayers, Hannah does not address God as Merciful Father, or Compassionate God as one might think, but rather because of her struggles she uses the war reference to God. Hannah addresses God as “LORD Sabaoth” in her prayer.

“After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life…”1 Sam.1:7-11

This is amazing. Hannah knew God’s name “LORD of hosts.” She understood the meaning and believed the truth of it. From this knowledge and belief Hannah intimately pours out her heart about her conflict, her battle, to the LORD of Hosts.

The LORD of Hosts and You
Knowing God as “LORD Sabaoth or Lord of hosts” gives me confidence and security.
I can call upon my Father who is Yahweh/LORD of the angel armies, and feel secure as I battle against sin and darkness in my life. With this knowledge of God born of intimacy I lean on LORD Sabaoth in conflicts with others. As He helps me conquer fearsome and intimidating circumstances, or darkness in my life, I grow deeper in my closeness with God.

The truths that are revealed by God in His Word to me are truths that cause me to have a deeper connection to Him, a deeper intimacy with Him as I engage in life.

Intimacy with God is not an ethereal experience, or a continuous run of warm fuzzy feelings. It involves knowing truths about God, believing them, and living out your daily life.

Intimacy with God is a truth: it is a feeling; but also it is an action we take as we depend on God. David did this as he approached Goliath in the name of LORD Sabaoth. Hannah did this as she cried out to LORD Sabaoth for help in her struggle.

What about you and LORD Sabaoth? What will He do in your life?

Intimate Names

Names are meaningful and special. Names can be very visionary, in that they seem to characterize a specific quality or goal of an individual’s life. For example, I know a couple who named their daughter Mercy, and she grew up to become a most compassionate nurse and caregiver.

God has a thing for names!
In scripture God uses His name(s) to convey meaning and to help us understand Him.  Knowing the names of God provides a deeper knowledge of Him, an intimate connection. In John 10:3, 14, Jesus clarifies His deep personal relationship with His sheep (followers) through His use of their names.

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. … I know my sheep and my sheep know me—“John 10:3, 14

Names establish connection. Knowing God by name brings about trust in His character and thus a deeper intimacy with God. The names used of God and by God for Himself, reveal His character and ways of interacting with and on behalf of us. The more we know God, the deeper our intimacy with Him will become. In Psalm 9:10, the Psalmist declares that knowing God’s name(s) leads to trust in God.

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
 for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

In Psalm 91:14, we see a similar connection with one of God’s names. We see this connection that the believer holds fast to God because he knows God’s name, and God responds protection and deliverance,

“Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My name. Ps. 91:14 (ESV)

God’s nature and character is represented in His names and titles. Some of these names include: Champion, Refuge, Savior, Deliverer, Rock, Fortress, High Tower, King of Glory, the Most High God, God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, and so on.

Addressing God Intimately
The language used in the Psalms provides a window into the intimacy that can exist between God and man.  What are some of the ways psalmists addressed and referred to God?

God, the One Enthroned on High
In Psalm 113:5-8, we see God’s name expanded to indicate His superlatively high, majestic position above man.

“Who is like the LORD our God, the One enthroned on high? He humbles Himself to behold the heavens and the earth. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the dump
to seat them with nobles, with the princes of His people.”

We get a deeper understanding of God when we understand His position as “the One enthroned on high,” meaning God is Sovereign Lord overall. This God who is Sovereign and Most High God bends humbly towards us who are poor and lowly. He bends down and brings us up.

Psalm 18:35 provides a clear and accurate picture of this when the psalmist says:

  • “You have given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand upholds me, and Your humility exalts me.” HCSB
  • “Then You give me the shield of Your salvation. Your right hand sustains me, and You stoop down to lift me up.” Ps. 18:35 EHV

God did this for you and me.  I am a sinner and of lowly heritage, but I have been lifted up out of my sin and brought near to God, through the sacrifice of Jesus, and He has made me a priest unto Him and a member of His royal family.

  • “…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ Ephesians 2:12-13 
  • “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9.

God, the One Enthroned on High gives us a place in His presence, an identity and a purpose!

God, the Righteous Judge
In Psalm 7 and Psalm 50, God is referred to as the Righteous God, the Righteous Judge and the God of Justice.

  • “Put an end to the evil of the wicked, but establish the righteous, O Righteous God who searches hearts and minds…. God is a righteous judge and a God who feels indignation each day.” Psalm 7:9, 11  BSB
  • “And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice.” Psalm 50:6

No Warm Fuzzies
The terms judge and justice do not make me feel all warm and fuzzy, in fact I feel insecure at the mention of such terms. Yet, if I understand the truth in the name of God as theRighteous Judge,” I can have a deeper feeling of trust and appreciation for God.

Justice and Security?
The reason for this trust and thanksgiving is Jesus.  God worked out His righteous judgement in Jesus. Romans 8:4 states that God met the just requirement of His law in Jesus. I broke God’s law, many times through my sin. In the court of God, I am guilty and deserve the consequence of that guilt which is death, separation from God.

Yet God arranged for the penalty due me to be paid in Jesus through Him being the sin offering for me. God arranged payment of the penalty through the shedding of Jesus’ blood. Jesus then offered his blood as the atonement for my sins which canceled the debt and the penalty standing against me.

“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man, as an offering for sin. He thus condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous standard of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4 BSB (See Romans 3:25-26)

God fulfilled requirement of His law in the sacrifice of His Son. Justice  has been served, but not to me, but rather to the Son of God for me. So, I can come before the Righteous Judge with confidence and love because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

  • “When you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our trespasses, having canceled the debt ascribed to us in the decrees that stood against us. He took it away, nailing it to the cross!”  Col. 2:13-14 
  • “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Cor. 5:21

Know God’s Names to Develop Intimacy
I (we) can develop a greater sense of intimacy with God when we know the names and titles by which God is called. These names open up my mind to understand who God is and what He has done for me, while at the same time helping me see who I am before God. When I see myself in deep need of God, Who He is, and what He has done for me, then I am more real with Him and move deeper into Him.

As you read and study the Bible, look for God’s names. What do they tell you about Who He is and how He interacts with you?