Category Archives: Intimacy with God

Articles of describing the intimacy of prayer, the intense language of prayer, and how prayer is our personal link to God.

Hugging God

The idea of “hugging God,” may seem a little odd or even irreverent. Yet, God actually commanded Israel to do just that. This is exactly what God tells them to do in Deuteronomy 13:20: “You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.”

You may read this and think, “I don’t see the word hug in this verse.” But it is. The word translated “cling” comes from the Hebrew word dabaq/dä·vak’.” It means: hug, cling, cleave, hold fast, adhere, or joined together. (Note:  “dä·vak’” is the spelling to help us with the pronunciation).

Our God desires an intimate relationship with us, and I believe God meant this word in all the intimacy a hug implies. Dä·vak is a word of connection and of relationship. It denotes a more personal, intimate aspect of that relationship. It implies need, devotion, respect, love and a desire for closeness.

Embracing God
In Jeremiah 13:11 God uses the image of a waistband that is closely fitted and tied around a waist to describe how closely God desired the children of Israel to hold onto Him.

  • “For as the waistband clings (dabaq/ dä·vak’) to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.’” (NASB)

In this passage, we see the term dä·vak’ bringing out the close connection that God desires with His people, as close as a waistband or belt around the waist. God wants us to be so close in relationship with Him that we are like children putting our arms around our Father’s waist and hugging.

When I was a child, I used to hug my dad in this way. I would put my arms around his waist in a clinging hug and stand on his feet. He would begin to walk around the room with me holding on and being carried along.

A Soul Hug
The above memory from my childhood of putting my arms around my dad’s waist and being carried along is a physical picture of a spiritual reality as noted in Psalm 63:7-8.

  • “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings (dä·vak’)  to you; your right hand upholds me.”

This scripture speaks of our soul embracing God and clinging to Him. God is reciprocal in this relationship, as we put our arms around him, He holds on to us as noted in verse 8.

Joined Together
The Modern Hebrew word for glue isdevek which comes from the same root as “dä·vak’ .”
This word highlights the idea of adhering to God, joining to God much like glue causes two things to adhere, stick together or be joined together.

When we believe and are baptized into Christ, we are joined to him. Paul, the apostle expresses this truth in 1 Corinthians 6. Paul is speaking to the disciples about purity. He warns them against being “joined” to a prostitute, and reminds them that such behavior does not sync with the fact that they are joined to Christ, so much so that we are one with Jesus.

  • “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”1 Cor. 6:17 NASB

The New Testament Greek word for join in this passage is “κολλώμενος” from κολλάω
which  literally means I glue;” but is translated to join; to adhere; to cleave, and to keep company with.

So the concept in the word “κολλάω” is very similar to that of the Hebrew term “dä·vak’.” Both terms imply a full embracing of God in a continual relationship.

Like Flesh to Bone
To emphasize the closeness that God desires let’s look at Job 19:20. Job is describing his physical state; he is in terrible condition from his affliction that he barely escaped death.

Job uses a form of the word “dä·vak’ ” when he says: “My skin and flesh cling (da be gah) to my bones; I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.” Job 19:20 BSB

So this verse gives us another description of closeness to God, that we should “adhere/cling/cleave” to God as our flesh clings to our bones and our skin!

The Ultimate Embrace
God’s desire, His will, His intention is for us to live so close in relationship to Him that it is like living a hug. We are to cling to Him as we walk with Him.

Jesus expresses this desire in His prayer. I know this passage is traditionally interpreted as referring to “unity;” which it is, but I believe Jesus is referring to an absolute closeness with God to the point of being “one” with Him. It is being joined in such a way that we, as individuals and as His body, the church) are taken into Him. We might look at it as the ultimate embrace that melds us into him.

 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (ESV)

Thinking about Hugging God
This concept has a deeper and truer significance than is noted at first thought. I give this study to you for meditation. As I studied this word “dä·vak’ ” and looked at God’s desire for me to be “huggingly” close to Him, I began asking myself questions. I will share these with you maybe they will help you in considering your relationship with God.

  • Do I “hug” God during my times with Him of reading His Word and praying, but release my embrace as I walk through the day? Am I like the picture of the child hugging her/his father around the waist while standing on his feet as we walk, a sort of dance of holding on and supporting?
  • Do I “cling” to God all the time or only during times of trouble and affliction?
  • In times of trouble, affliction and weariness with life, do I cling to God and trust Him? Or do I seek comfort or diversion in entertainment, social media, food, people, or ____________? (Fill in the blank).Or do I lash out at others and God in frustration?
  • Do I see myself as being “joined” to God so much so that I am willing to give up my will for His will, even if it means letting go of a relationship, a career, an addiction, a title or position?
  • If I were to give myself over to this concept, what would “clinging and adhering” to God look like in my life? What would my prayers sound like? How would this change my relationships; my view of difficulties and affliction; my view of other people?
  • What am I joined to; what am I cleaving” to if not God?

Alert forThanksgiving!

ANXIOUS! UNEASE! VIGILANT! ON STANDBY! TRUSTING! ADAPTING!. These are all terms that might express your status as we end week six of sheltering in place.  Perhaps you are a mixture of these or you fluctuate from one state to the next. Some days we may experience a sense of adaptation and making the most of the situation, while other days we may be struggling to think straight.

In week 5 I had some ups and downs as I tried moving forward. I found myself on edge asking my husband questions like, “Well, what did you mean by that?” Or “Why are you doing that?”  I am not sure what I felt, maybe at best I felt a pervasive unease which seemed to have no source. A spirit of restlessness and unease began to slowly and subtly wear away at peace and joy.

As a believer in God, when I am off center, I know I need to take time out and refocus through reading the word of God and prayer. Being still with God not only renews my spirit but it also resets my mind. (Ps. 46:10 – Be still! and know that I am God…)

So I began my time of “stillness” with reading about prayer and communicating to God about this sense of unease or generic discontent that I was feeling. As I read, an interesting pattern emerged, that is: prayer was often mentioned in association with thanksgiving.

The Bond of Thanksgiving and Prayer
Let’s look at a few of these passages.

  • Philippians 4:6
    Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • 1 Timothy 2:1
    First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men
  • Colossians 4:2
    Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
    Rejoice always;pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
  • Ephesians 1:15-16
    For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
  • Psalm 100:4
    Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name.
    (The expression “enter his gates” and “enter his courts” refers to the Israelites coming into the temple which was the central place where they met with God, where they communed with God in songs and in prayer. The expressions “enter His gates and come into His courts” are in a sense, signifying coming into the presence of God. We commune with God through prayer and meditation. According to this verse then, we should always enter our time with God; enter His presence in prayer with thanksgiving.).

The more I read the clearer the bond between prayer and thanksgiving became. I conclude: thanksgiving is an essential element in my relationship with God. It is the defining characteristic demonstrating trust in my Father and dependence on him.

A Key to Entering the Presence of God
In the Old Testament scriptures, we read that giving thanks and praise to God was akin to offering a sacrifice to God. The giving of thanks to God was an integral part of worshiping God, honoring God and being in relationship with God.

  • Psalm 116:17
    I will offer to You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
  • Psalm 107:22
    Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and declare His works with rejoicing.
  • Psalm 54:6
    Freely I will sacrifice to You; I will praise Your name, O LORD, for it is good.

As I read these passages my heart felt lighter. God redirected my mind. I focused on the things of light and goodness in my life. I had been looking at what I couldn’t do; at how I felt restricted; at the difficulty of being still, and perhaps the reality of what God was showing me about myself.

TRANSFORMATIONS of THANKSGIVING
I began deliberately choosing to thank God for everything. That is when I noticed a change, a light-heartedness, a more genuine faith and joy.

When I express thanks to God regularly throughout my day it changes my focus from “me” to God and others.

Thanksgiving and Perspective
Giving thanks to God transforms my perspective. Instead of looking at restrictions, I see abundance and new space.

In Psalm 18:19, David proclaims the blessing of God broadening his view after God delivers him from his enemy.

  • “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. Ps. 18:19.”

Like David, if we focus on thanking God and seeing his blessing we will feel we are in a safe, spacious place.

Thanksgiving and Mood
Focusing on giving thanks to God changes my perspective which results in changing my  mood. The act of thanking and praising God lifts up my spirit and fills me with joy because I am focusing on the wonderful deeds of God.

David expresses this process and truth. Focusing on God and trusting in Him yields joy.

  • “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Ps. 28:7-8

Thanksgiving and Relationships
Another blessing from giving thanks to God is realized in our relationships. When I began choosing to thank God, it was like I had a new way of seeing. I began seeing characteristics of God in my interactions with and thoughts of people.

In Colossians 3:12-13, we are reminded that because of the great salvation worked for us by God, we, out of thanks and awe to God, turn and bless others by deliberately putting on compassion, and forgiveness.

  • “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Col. 3:12-13

Feel It or Not – Give Thanks!
Giving thanks to God is an act of the will. Yes, there are times of great emotional response, an out pouring of thanks to God. Yet remember, “thanksgiving” requires loving God with our mind as well as heart and soul. It means I deliberately think of God and His goodness; His wondrous deeds; and His faithful love. Choose to thank God every day! Thank God for 7 things every day and record the transformations you see in your perspective, mood and relationships.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught,
and overflowing with thankfulness.
Col. 2:6-7

Truths for Troublesome Times -3

God Eyes Us with Value
Deuteronomy 32:10 describes God as keeping Jacob (Israel) as the “apple of His eye.”

  • “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
    He encircled him, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.”

When looking at the context of this expression “apple of His eye”, we see in the previous verse (v. 9 ), the writer is referring to Jacob or the people of Israel.

  • “But the Lord‘s portion is his people, Jacob His allotted heritage.”

So what does this have to do with us today? Putting aside the context and the people to whom this was spoken of in time, it reveals a truth about the heart of God –which remains the same.

The expression in verse 10 is set among words of love and nurturing such as: God’s finding; encircling, protecting, caring, and maybe even wrapping His arms around them.

All these words have to do with care and nurturing. It implies God’s watchful care and does not imply judgment, as in an all seeing eye watching you. It indicates that God values His people and centers His attention on them much like a doting parent.

A Truth to Hold Onto
The expression “apple of His eye” refers to the pupil of the eye, the center of the eye, and implies God keeps us at the center of His focus.

This expression is not just a poetic description, it is a truth about God. He holds us at the center of where He can see us, and focuses on us because He values us. He looks upon us with eyes and a heart to care for us.

This expression indicates a permanent truth about God’s character, so it applies to us today as God’s people. We see this idea presented in 1 Peter 3:12a:

  •  “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are inclined to their prayer…”

There are days when I do not feel especially valued. Sometimes I feel forgotten or overlooked, even hurt. There are times when I feel overlooked by God, especially when I feel alone, or confused, or afflicted.

Maybe you have had those times too? Struggles in life, disappointments in relationships, and weaknesses in our own character can discourage our spirit and blur our thinking about ourselves and God. I know I can get my thoughts and emotions in a tangle of untrue thoughts about myself; about other people, and about God.

Times of crisis in our life cause fear, doubt and inward turning.  Tosay we are in a worldwide crisis, that affects all of us and each one of us. Our lives and security are threatened by a virus. We may wonder, “Where is God? Does God care?”

I believe God cares. God knows and God is working in ways that are not apparent to us at this time.

Truths like the one stated in Deuteronomy 32:10 reveal God’s character and heart towards us. In “down” times we need to recall this truth and let it renew our thinking, untangle our thoughts and encourage our spirit.

We are God’s beloved; we are God’s people (1 Peter 2:9). God has this heightened sense of value towards you and me. He is watching and standing ready to defend  us; to help us; to teach us, and to refine us.

A Prayer
In closing this entry let’s consider this thought: in Psalm 17:8, David prays and asks God to “keep him as the apple of His eye.”

I wonder how our outlook and relationship with God would change if we prayed: “Lord, keep me as the apple of your eye. Open my eyes and help me to see your love, Father God.” Perhaps, also, we could add to it, “Teach me how to treat others as if they were the “apple of Your eye.”

Truths for Troublesome Times – 2

When life gets difficult or painful, I can turn aside from God instead of leaning into Him. In trying times I begin to ask, “Where are you God?”  I can even blame God and say, “This is your fault God.”  When things hurt or become confusing, secretly, I may even think, “God does not love me.”

All these thoughts are very far from the truth. Emotions like anger and fear can block our minds to considering truth or lead us into shallow thinking.

We do not have to be academically gifted to understand the truth of God’s love. We only need to think with a grain of faith of what we know about God and we will see His love.

I love Romans 5:10 and 8:32. Think deeply about what these verses are really saying about God and His love for us.

  • “We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life!” NLT
  • “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32 (BSB)

In these passages, I hear God reminding us that He has already given His highest and best. He suffered His Son, Jesus to put on flesh and blood to become the sacrifice that atones for our wrongs, so that we can have a relationship with God. He will provide everything we need within that relationship.

The truth is that God gave His Son, Jesus to die for us. Since He did this we then are assured of the second truth that He will provide for us and be faithful to care for us in all things. It does not mean everything will be easy and comfortable the way we think, but it does mean that He will be with us at all times and provide us with what we need.

Presented in this blog are truths about God’s love and presence in our life. Take these into your heart and let them encourage your faith at all times, but most especially in these insecure times.

God Is Personally Involved in Our Lives
It is true, there are times that I wonder what is happening. I may feel so fearful or discouraged that I wonder, “Where is God?” If I take time to read God’s word I can know He is here with me even when I don’t see evidence of it.

  • 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.
  • Psalm 139:16-You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
  • Psalm 34:17– When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit
  • Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
  • Matthew 10:29-31– Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
  • John 10:3 -To him (Jesus) the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
  • John 10:14, 15 – I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
  • Psalm 139:1-5 – O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up;you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
  • John 17:20-23 – I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Making His Presence Real in Your Life
My view of life is so far from God’s. That may be because my focus can too often be on my “self.” Read these truths about God and his involvement in your life. Consider each one carefully. Meditate on each passage.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the “personal” action(s), attitude(s) or thought(s) of God in each one of these scriptures?
  • Then, ask yourself, how do I see God doing this, being this in my life?
  • Examine your heart, your faith, events/relationships in your life. What are the weak points? Where do you need to pray for strengthening?
  • Pick one of these areas of your faith and write down ways that these truths about God’s heart for you and his presence in your life can strengthen that area.

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Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Ps. 23:4

 

Risk:Living by Faith-2

In the previous “blog study” we looked at David as an example of a person who had faith in God and lived out that faith in his everyday life. At times David took great risks of faith with God. The key is “with God” and from his “relationship” with God.
Keys that characterize David’s faith:

  • David knew God through the scriptures. David discerned God’s character and heart for men as he read the word of God. David believed what he read about God and took that into his heart and mind. David spoke these truths to himself and integrated these truths into his life. It is knowing and believing truths about God that made David able to take risks of faith.
  • David valued and esteemed God. David was in absolute awe of God. David’s heart was set to honor God. Read Psalms 63:1-3 and 27:4 to get a glimpse of David’s genuine heart for God.
  • David had an acute awareness of God’s presence in his life. David was able to discern God helping him, supporting him, training him and protecting him in various situations in his life. David took these things to heart, remembered them and connected them to his present circumstances. These experiences fueled David’s faith.
    An example of this is in 1 Samuel 17:34-37, David tells Saul that God helped him to kill a lion and a bear when they went after the sheep. He connects that experience with facing Goliath and believes God will do the same with Goliath.

Risks – Living Faith
David had a deep relationship with God. He valued God. He esteemed God. He feared God and was devoted to “do life with God.” Because of the strength of David’s heart for God, he lived out of his faith in God and took risks that honored God and helped others.

A Personal Reflection: I have to stop here and think about my life and my relationship with God. Is my relationship with God really a “relationship?” Or am I going through a series of “spiritual activities” that give me a false sense of a relationship with God?  Do I know truths about God’s character? Do I believe those truths and bring them into my daily consciousness and use those truths to uphold me in difficult situations?

Risking Life – Come from Personal Connection
In 1 Samuel 17, we read of the encounter between David and Philistine giant, Goliath.

1 Samuel 17: 10, Goliath brazenly, with no fear, states that he “defies” the armies of Israel. It seems he postured and railed thus for 40 days (v.16).  David’s heart picked up on the fact that this man was railing against God, as well as His people. David personally felt the insult and disrespect of Goliath for God and God’s people.

  • A Personal Reflection: I have to ask myself: Do I personally connect with God, am I insulted on behalf of God by the “railing” of the world against God and truth? Or is my faith more just in my head, but not my heart?

Goliath defied God and Israel. In this context the word “defy” means: to hold in contempt, to scorn, to belittle, to denigrate, to shame and to blaspheme.

David was insulted on behalf of God. He took a stand and asked, “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway that he should be allowed to defy the armies of the living God,” 1 Sam. 17:26

To David, Goliath was not a giant, but a man without faith or fear of God. David steps forward in faith, without armor or supporting troops. Looking at David in that moment, he is mismatched, vulnerable, outnumbered, alone, and exposed.

Fighting Words – Faith Words
David knows God. He has truths embedded in his heart that he learned from the scriptures and from his experience with God. David spoke these truths about God to himself, to all the people watching from a distance, and to Goliath as he stepped forward to encounter him.

“…I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” (1 Sam. 17:45-47)

David was not alone, God was with him. David’s armor and shield was God. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we see so many references in David’s psalms to God as his Shield, his Champion, his Rock, his Strong Tower, and so on.

A Relatable Faith
I read this account of the faith of David and I am in awe. I am enamored and star struck by David’s faith.

Then I think: I can’t relate to this. David is a super spiritual hero in the scriptures. I cannot have this faith. I have struggles and serious flaws in my character. I have made many mistakes in my life.

As I read further in the life of David, I see he was not a perfect man. He did not do everything right. God described him as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), yet David was flawed; he sinned. One might say that David made a royal mess of things. He lusted. He committed adultery (2 Sam. 11:2-5). He arranged for the death of a man who was loyal to him, and then tried to cover up both the adultery and the murder (2 Sam. 11:6-17).

David’s track record with parenting his children was not the best. His son Amnon forced himself on his sister (2 Sam. 13:1-15).  His other son Absalom killed Amnon. (2 Sam. 13:20-32).  Absalom then rose up in insurrection against King David his father and attempted to take the throne. (2 Sam. 15:1-14).

God Sees Something I Don’t
Even many years after the truth of David’s life is known, God continued to describe David in the scriptures as a “man after God’s heart,” Acts 13:22.

  • After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22

While I am impressed with the stand David took for God with Goliath, I am honestly more drawn to the type of intimate relationship that David had with God. This relationship was born of God’s love for David as well as David’s love for God. It is a mutual relationship.

As I read further in 1 and 2 Samuel and the Psalms, I see that I can have a relationship with God like David had. It is a matter of the heart, not of perfect performance. I don’t have to be perfect, just faithful.

I can, like David, make my heart’s home in God and let my life flow from that. The Message version states this in an impressive way.

  • “God, the one and only—I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I hope for comes from him,  so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet,    breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I’m set for life. My help and glory are in God  —granite-strength and safe-harbor-God—so trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.” Psalm 62:5-8

Jesus – Makes It Reality
Jesus, the ultimate hero in the story of God has made it possible for me and you to have a deep personal relationship with God. In fact, such an intimate relationship has always been God’s heart and will for us and Him.

“In Christ, he chose us before the world was made. In his love he chose us to be his holy people—people without blame before him.  And before the world was made, God decided to make us his own children (relationship) through Jesus Christ. That was what he wanted and what pleased him.” Ephesians 1:4-5 (NCV)

Risk – Another Word for Faith

Within the spiritual community that I am a part of we have been talking about God’s dream that is that everyone would have a deep personal relationship with God. That this is God’s desire; it is his will, his design.

  • “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Eph. 1:4-5 NLT
  • “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:2-3

Partners in God’s Dream
We have been reflecting on how God has invited us into being a part of his dream and working with him to complete this. The term “risk” came up, as in thinking about what risks can we take in order to be fellow workers with God to advance his dream by sharing God’s invitation to a relationship with him through Jesus.

Risk can be an intimidating term to some people, because in some way it means that we are doing something that has an element of stretching our limits. Risk involves going above what we normally would do, and it has the potential to result in a negative consequence of some type.

Risk involves vulnerability and possible exposure, or a pushing beyond our comfort zone. It involves a certain factor of the unknown. There is not a specific guaranteed structure or outcome. Sounds like faith to me.  

Risk – Another Word for Faith
As I pondered the term risk I thought, God has been talking about risks since day 1 of creation. When we assert faith, we do not physically see the outcome or sometimes even the process. The scriptures in Hebrews 11: 1 say that; “Faith if the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen.”  Therefore, faith involves risk.

Faith and Risk are inherent in many scriptures, such as: Romans 8:28 and Psalms 46:1-3.

  • “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

We may not see “the good” at the time, but we trust – we take the risk to believe that God is moving and working on our behalf.

Psalm 46:1-3 implies a risk to trust God in the midst of trouble, doubt, and when it seems our world is coming apart. These verses are a poetic and symbolic rendering of God’s unchanging heart and faithful character.

  • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”Ps. 46:1-3

Risk Takers- Faith Walkers
If you are still unconvinced that you can become a risk taker read Hebrews 11 and become inspired by ordinary men and women who took risks of faith and deepened their knowledge and experience with God.

  • “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead…” Heb. 11:32-35

Relationship – Heart- Risk
Faith and risks flow from a deep relationship with God that is characterized by:

  • knowing and believing truths about God,
  • valuing God, and
  • cultivating a heart that cannot live without God.

King David, a risk taker, was described by the Spirit of God in the scriptures as being just such a man. The Spirit says David was a man after the heart of God. We read this characterization in Acts 13:22  

  • “And when He (God) had removed him (Saul), He raised up David to be their king, of whom He testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after My heart, who will do all My will.” Acts 13: 22

David was known to have a relationship with God even before he became famous for his mighty deed of slaying the giant.

  • “One of the servants answered, “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

I have to stop here and reflect: What am I known for: my education; my titles; my appearance; my various skills and talents or even for my vices? Or, am I known for loving God and my fellow man; for walking humbly with God and man?  What are you known for?

Develop a Heart for God
Having a heart for God involves: seeking to know God personally; trusting in God and developing righteous character as you do what pleases God.

The words of David in the Psalms he wrote, reveal his heart for God.

David valued God and actively sought after knowing God and relating to God.

  • One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple…My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Ps. 27 4, 8

David sought to know and to do God’s will:

  • Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” Psalm 86:11
  • “Show me your ways, Lord,teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5

It is through developing this knowledge of God and heart for Him that David could take risks for God.

It is the same for us. We can only live out our relationship with God, rise to challenges and difficulties, and do His will, if we are seeking daily to know Him and to do His will.

More to Come
This study has caused me to think more deeply about cultivating my heart for God and relationship with God. My faith is only as strong as the truths I know about God and choose to believe.  

In the next blog we will look closer at the various risks that David took to do great things that honored God, helped other people and caused David to grow in faith and love for God.

A New Look at an Old Truth for a New Year- 2

“I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or  riches or fame, and I choose it above all things on Earth or in Heaven.” A. W. Tozer

When talking about the will of God we generally don’t hear such a forthright proclamation of love for the will of God. When we think of the will of God, we may think of the commands of God and begin to feel all those “I am not enough,” and “I can’t do that,” or “It’s too hard” kinds of feelings and thoughts.  

As I begin this new year, I am hoping that my study of God’s will and gaining greater understanding of how it fits into my relationship with God will help me to “love” and “treasure” the will of God much like Tozer or the psalmist who said:  

“ I delight to do your will, O God, your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8

God’s Will = Intimacy with God
When I read passages about God’s will, I see how intertwined His will is in a relationship with us. Jesus addressed this.

In Matthew 7:21-25 – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you.

In that little word “knew” we see a world of relationship, a deep knowing, trusting, believing, interacting with and doing what pleases our Lord. In this kind of relationship with God, doing His will is embedded in that love. I believe that is why in Psalm 40:8, the psalmist can say, “Your law is in my heart.”

When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, He strongly reminds them, and us, that it is more than trying to live up to a standard in isolation from relationship with God and others.

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” Luke 11:42

What is missing in what these men were doing? Justice, which I believe, is associated with doing right in relationship to their fellow man, and love for God. 

That is what happens when I think the “will of God is equivalent solely to keeping the law of God.” It then becomes a focus on performance and self. That is when I get scattered, running about, doing this and that resulting in my feeling “not enough,” “not making the grade,” “judged,” and eventually a dissatisfied feeling leading to trying to prove myself to prove myself to God and others.  Ever been there?

The Bottom Line
In the previous blog study, we saw that the will of God is his desire, intent, and design to draw us into a relationship with Him, through that relationship He gives us the ability to be with Him, to stand in His presence, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. Clearly and undeniably encapsulated in Ephesians 1:4-5.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined (pre-planned) us for adoption as His sons 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 …” Eph. 1:4-5 (BSB)

The bottom line of God’s will is His love and desire to draw us close to Him. Everything about His will is directed towards that end. Within that interactive relationship God’s will encompasses Him delighting in and actively loving us, and us responding by pleasing Him.

Relationship Words
If we look closely in the scriptures at various words that are associated with the will of God. In these words we see God’s good intent and His love for us.

Desire:
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hos, 6:6 (ESV)

God’s will is founded in the word “desire,” not “demand.” What is it that He desires? Love and knowing God.

Esteem:
Isaiah 66:6 uses a different word to show that those who live in a close loving relationship with God are “esteemed” by God.

“Has not My hand made all these things? And so they came into being,” declares the LORD. “This is the one I will esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at My word.” Is. 66:2 (BSB)

The word esteem indicates God’s will is meshed with His valuing us. He is pleased with and highly values a person who is humble/contrite in his/her relationship with God and one who respects God’s word.

Desirable:
“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more desirable to the LORD than sacrifice.” Prov. 21:2-3 (BSB)

The emphasis is on what God desires is about heart and relationship, not necessarily performance. Righteousness involves our thoughts and actions in relationship to God, but also to others. Again, the will of God is relational, involving both God and man..

Delights –Pleasure – Pleased – Devoted:
“He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legpower of the man. The LORD is pleased with those who fear Him, who hope in His loving devotion.” Psalm 147:10-11 (BSB)

These words are associated with the will of God in relationship with us. The “will of God” expresses God’s devotion to us. What an awesome truth- the almighty, sovereign and loving God is devoted to you and me. That gives me a clear perspective on the will of God in my life and moves me to respond with devotion to God and to delight to do His will.

Reflections on the Will of God
Throughout this study of the will of God, I am asking myself some questions. I will share them with you and perhaps they will help you in your walk with God.

  • Do I know what the will of God is? Have I taken time to know him so that I know what pleases Him?
  • Am I doing many good things because they are what everyone else is doing, and or because they seem to be expected of me? Or, am I doing these things as an intentional loving response to God in my relationship with Him?
  • Do I esteem, treasure, delight in God in response to how He esteems, treasures and delights in me?

When I feel stressed by performance, or other’s opinions, judgments and expectations, I meditate on Ephesians 1:4-5 and remember God’s will is to draw me close to Him and that He is transforming me into His image.

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The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear Him.
Psalm 25:14

A New Look at an Old Truth in a New Year

Do you ever wonder if you are attuned to God and His will; if you really understand what God’s will is, and if you are following it?  I do, even though I have been a disciple of Jesus for many years and have read the Bible through several times.  I feel led to seriously re-consider, study anew the idea of “God’s will” and “doing God’s will,” if doing is even the accurate expression.  

The concept of the “will of God” is often used in a generic way, in that all good activities are lumped together and referred to as doing the “will of God.” Most people would think that my choice of knowing and doing the will of God is a rather basic focus. After all, a friend of mine said, “You have been a disciple of Jesus for many years; surely you know and are doing the will of God.”

As believers in God, we tend to automatically assume we are doing the will of God. We attend and participate in church services; we do good works; we live a relatively “clean” life style, so we think we are doing the will of God, but are we? Or, are we doing someone’s idea of “God’s will,” or our own version of “God’s will.” So at the start of this New Year I want to take a new look at God’s will and my connection to His will.

What is the “will” of God?
Simply put someone might say, “That’s easy the will of God are the commands of God; and almost immediately another pipes up and says, ”Uh, oh, be careful you don’t get legalistic.” Putting my fears of legalism aside I want to look at this idea of doing the will of God as embodied within my relationship with God, not the keeping of a code or fulfilling certain expectations so that I feel good about myself, or sense of spiritual security, which may be false.
What does it mean to live out the will of God in my life?

The word for “will” in the Greek New Testament is thelema, or a form thereof, and refers to: will, desire, intention, design, or plan.

We see this word spoken by Jesus in the prayer he taught his disciples: “Your (God’s) kingdom come, Your will (thelema) be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10

Again, Jesus refers to “doing the will of God” as recorded in Mt. 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will (thelema) of my Father who is in heaven.”

The Will of God and Relationship
I am thinking the “will” of God has more to do with His intention, His desire, His design, or His plan to draw us close into a relationship with Him and to transform us more and more into His image. Clearly this has been God’s plan for me all along. Let’s take a close look at Ephesians 1:3-6 while defining and emphasizing some words.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will (thelematos). to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One..” (BSB)

 Here are the things that stand out in this passage about the will of God:

  • “chose” – God made a deliberate “willful choice” to draw us into a relationship with Him through Jesus
  • “in His presence” – The expression in His presence signifies a close personal relationship. God’s intention, his will/his design was to bring us into an intimate relationship with him
  • “predestined” – This meaning of this word is more closely associated with the understanding of “pre-planning.”  God planned in advance to send His Son Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sins (our self-willed-ness) so that we could be personally connected to Him.
  • “the good pleasure of His will” – God’s will, His intention, His design, His plan to initiate this and bring this about through Jesus was His pleasure. Pleasure has several meanings among those meanings is delight, good favor, beneficence towards man. God’s will to draw us close to Him was not done with a heavy heart or out of some kind of divine obligation. It was God’s pleasure to design, to plan in advance for us to be in an intimate relationship with Him.

When the angels announced the birth of Jesus they were revealing this truth about God’s good will, His good plan for us. The NKJV translates “God’s pleasure” as “His good will or good intent” to man.
          “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14

There are many passages of scripture from Genesis to Revelations that reveal this same aspect of God’s will, His good intention, His design to gather us into Him.

Facets of the Divine Will
The will of God is like a large sparkling diamond. It has many facets. Like a diamond, each facet shines in a different way as you hold it up to the light. Once we see the whole of the diamond, we can then begin to examine the facets and get a better understanding of its beauty and value.

So it is with the will of God. The more I understand about the facets of the divine will, the more I can appreciate the will of God and the more likely I am to be in sync with God’s will.

Some words that need to be considered as facets of the will of God include:  surrender, submission, Lordship, exchanging yokes, denying self; abiding in God; refuging in God; knowing the eternal God and rejoicing in His presence. I am sure after a little thought you will see more facets to the will of God.

Some of the facets mentioned above may bring back a tinge of fear or maybe even a sense of burden or insecurity, but when I consider the will of God as His choosing to design a plan for me to come into a forever friendship with Him  through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, I can give up all fear and lean into Him.

Reflection for a New Year
I would ask you to reread Ephesians 1:3-6 and re-consider your ideas about the will of God in your life.

Do you know what the will of God is? How does doing the will of God fit in with having a personal relationship with God? How can you grow in sync with God’s will? What will that look like in your life?

I intend to continue my quest for comprehending and taking in the will of God in my life this year. I invite you to join me.

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“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

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.