How Can I Know God Better?

Morning friends,

WOW! I’m so grateful for the level of support you give to one another on this blog and your willingness to go deeper inside, to discover hidden or unknown parts of yourself. I was talking with a friend this week about this whole idea of knowing who you are and growing up to be all that God created you to be. We talked about what it means to be created in God’s image.

As I’ve said before, we all have various “selves” internally. Some are healthy, others are not so healthy. Some parts we know really well – perhaps like our accommodating self, our fearful self, our shamed self, our Christian self, nurturing and caring self. Other parts of our self we do not know very well such as our angry self, our sexual self, our aggressive self, or our strong self.

Based on my conversation with my friend, I want to use a different metaphor to help us understand this concept. When I described this process with my friend I used the terms masculine and feminine. When we think of these two words, we traditionally separate them strictly into male and female, boy and girl. Men are supposed to be masculine and women are supposed to be feminine. Yet the Bible says something different, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them: male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27). God’s image is both masculine and feminine. What does that mean for you and for me?

Take a paper and list all the character qualities that would be traditionally described as masculine and then list those that would be called feminine.

Next, I want you to reflect on Christ’s life and character. What are the qualities you see reflected in him? Were they all masculine ones, even though he had a male body? No. Jesus expressed tenderness, compassion, empathy, and strong emotion, which are typically described as feminine traits. In addition, he was decisive, not easily intimidated, spoke up for himself when necessary, and used his authority and power appropriately when he expelled the money changers out of the temple, (Matthew 21:12) and rebuked Peter (Matthew 16:22,23).

If we are to grow up and reflect God’s image in our human body, we will reflect both masculine and feminine characteristics no matter what “gender” we are. Sadly when church leaders are asked what characteristics reflect a godly Christian woman, most people’s answers reflect solely feminine traits such as gentle, nurturing, compassionate, humble, vulnerable, empathetic, submissive, supportive, wise, quiet, and emotional.

When asked the same question about a godly Christian man, they usually describe more masculine traits such as strong, capable, a leader, initiates things, wise, independent, decisive, and assertive, and they may add one or two of the feminine characteristics such as compassionate and empathetic.

Why is it that the ideal godly woman is not described with any masculine traits yet we all know that a man who has none of the feminine traits of humility, compassion, empathy, and vulnerability doesn’t have a good relationship with his wife or children? Could it be that women also need a few of the more masculine traits such as assertiveness, independence, and being strong and capable in order to reach her fullest potential?

Getting back to the Cinderella story that we talked about last week, there were masculine characters and feminine characters in that story – some mature, some less mature.

My question to you this week is if you are a woman, do you see any masculine characteristics in you? If so, are they expressed in healthy (godly) ways? What about your feminine characteristics? Are they maturing and godly? What steps could you take this week to explore your masculine characteristics, affirm them as part of God’s image in you, and ask God to help you mature in them?

Guys, if any of you are reading this blog, I’d encourage you in the same way. What are some of the feminine parts of you that you are not seeing or avoiding? Vulnerability? Empathy? Submission? If we are to be complete in Christ, we will learn to express both sides (in healthy ways), for that is the wholeness and maturity God wants for us.

This week’s question: I’ve been a Christian for a long time. I believe in the Bible and have asked Jesus to forgive my sins but I want to experience a deeper spiritual life. I don’t really know what it means to practice God’s presence or abide in him. Can you help me learn how to do this?

Answer: I know what you mean. For a long time in my own Christian life I knew the right things to believe and believed them but I didn’t understand what I could do other than read my Bible and pray to experience a closer walk with God. Many of us never receive any training in learning how to experience God’s presence or how to listen for his still small voice. We know we should but actually knowing what to do to make that more likely to happen isn’t taught very often.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this. I am still learning so I will share some of my observations and experiences with you and some ways I have learned to experience God more fully. Perhaps others can comment so that we can collectively learn other ways of how to abide in Christ and he in us.

First we are not going to experience God if we are too busy to hear him or even notice him. God assures his people that he is always present with us (Hebrews 13:5) but we are not often present to him. He says he is in us, all around us, and Paul reminds us that “in him we live and move and have our being (Acts17:28). We are never alone (Luke 17:21) and so the problem isn’t figuring out how to get God to be present to us, but rather how to get us to be aware of God’s Presence that is already with us.

Recently I was struck by the words of Job. He said, “Behold he passes by me and I see him not; he moves on me but I do not perceive him” (Job 9:11). God is in us and with us but we don’t perceive him. In another example, Jacob woke up from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it” (Genesis 28:16).

So how do we learn to be more aware of God? First, slowing down and being still is key to perceiving God’s Presence. He tells us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Our lives are so full of noise that we must be intentional about creating pockets for quiet and stillness. I’d recommend making silence a regular part of your daily prayer. I have discovered that prayer is much more about listening for God than telling him what he already knows. Start with 5 minutes of silence and work up to 20-30 minutes each day. When distracting thoughts start swirling around in your mind, just gently let them go and return to being still.

One way of thinking of this period of silence is being willing, eager and open for God to make himself known. You can’t make yourself “see” him or “perceive” him anymore than you can make a seed take root. But you can make it more likely that a seed will take root if you prepare the soil and water the ground. In the same way, practicing the discipline of stillness and silence, prepares you heart to “notice” the Presence of God more readily. It prepares your heart to be “in tune” with a larger spiritual reality that is always there, but like radio waves or cell phone waves, we can’t “experience” them unless we are tuned in to the right frequency.

A second way to be more present to God is to spend more time in nature. The psalmist declares that, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Paul tells us that we can know God by observing the natural world. (Romans 1:19,20), but instead of honoring him and thanking him we exchanged the truth of God for a lie and became foolish and our hearts were darkened.

As I write this I am on the beach in California. It is hard to not experience God’s Presence amidst such beauty. But our busyness and priority on productivity robs us of actually experiencing beauty, even though it may be all around us. How many times do we fail to notice what is right in our own backyard just because we are too busy getting things done or worrying about the next thing on our list of errands or chores.

Slowing down and intentionally noticing what is already there, helps us be more able to “notice” those God moments as well. (Tweet this)

Lastly, Jesus tells us throughout the gospels, especially in the book of John that abiding in him and in his word is key to experiencing his Presence. Abide means to stay close and connected. It is an experiential knowing, not an intellectual assent.

The Word of God isn’t merely the scriptures; it is Jesus himself (John 1:1-14). How close would you feel to someone if they were always too busy doing other things to spend time with you? How connected would you feel if whatever he or she said you didn’t remember, or didn’t believe or think was important?

Jesus told the religious leaders “my word finds no place in you” (John 8:37). Instead of seeing your time with God as one more thing to “do” in your day, begin to cherish your time with God as if you were a lover in love and see what happens. As you read God’s words to you, ask him what he wants you to pay attention to. When something jumps out at you, take time to ponder it throughout your day. I believe as you do these things, you will become much more aware of God in you and with you.

Friends, what have you done that has helped you deepen your faith in God?

34 Comments

  1. Sandra on February 25, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Thank you for this devotional, dear Leslie! I’ve grown so much sine my husband left over a year ago. I’m now able to spend more time in prayer and God’s Word, and believe that’s the key to sanctification (being one with Jesus). I know before my husband left, I had all of the Holy Spirit, but I was unable to give Him all of me, while trying to deal with my husband’s extreme verbal abuse and jealousy. I’m now able to put Jesus First in my life and heart — Praise Him! I’ve finally filed for divorce and sent the papers to him Certified Mail, but he refused to pick it up, so it’s being returned to me. So now I need to resend it via a Marshal, for proof he’s received it, for the court to set up the date with the Judge. I’ll be so relieved to have closure, as he still threatens to return. God knows all and is in control!

    • Leslie Vernick on February 25, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      So hard to live with constant abuse – Proverbs makes that very clear. Glad you are getting some peace so that you aren’t living in a battle zone all the time.

  2. Aleea on February 25, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    NOW, that is a much more useful metaphor! Day versus night. That is crystal clear. We really do, do damage jamming people into roles.
     
    [. . .God’s image is both masculine and feminine. What does that mean for you and for me?. . .] I think it means we have to develop our capabilities in all the areas to be whole, balanced and healthy. Society doesn’t want that.  They want machine parts that do one function. Who cares what godless people want. We need to be whole people as Christians. When the Holy Spirit tells them to be, men need to be submissive and affectionate and women aggressive and strong.  -And when they are, we have to be wise enough to support others not to condemn, censure, revile and damn them for it. Women calling men sissies and fairies for Jesus and men calling aggressive and strong women, -you know, things they ought not ever say. Why not be able to go deep in any area and then bring that forth as the Holy Spirit leads?
     
    [. . . I’d recommend making silence a regular part of your daily prayer. I have discovered that prayer is much more about listening for God than telling him what he already knows. Start with 5 minutes of silence and work up to 20-30 minutes each day. When distracting thoughts start swirling around in your mind, just gently let them go and return to being still. . . ]  –I see why this so important.  I am so busy praying for myself and others that I am not listening.  I was taught and always thought that reading the Bible was God talking to us and prayer was us talking to God.  I like what you are suggesting; however, because it gives God a chance to really convict me of things. In all that silence, I have to face myself and think. [. . .Experiential knowing over any intellectual assent. . . The Word of God isn’t merely the scriptures; it is Jesus himself. . .] How true, this is eternal life–to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.    
     
    [. . .Slowing down and intentionally noticing what is already there, helps us be more able to “notice” those God moments as well. . .] Excellent.  That is more than plenty of motivation to do it then. 
     
    What have you done that has helped you deepen your faith in God? -Lately? 1) Started listening to worship music -and I don’t like music- but the Lord has impressed on me that it is good to do.  It is actually very uplifting. 2) Gone to sermonaudio.com, downloaded the best of the twentieth century’s greatest authorities on revival Leonard Ravenhill, Paul Washer, etc., etc. MP3ed their sermons on prayer, on being humble, on hell, etc.  Those guys are really powerful. I just cry through a lot of their sermons and testimonies. I like a good cry over the condition of this godless world. Then I get to praying and witnessing. It is God’s business to save people. I just have to be faithful to witness to them! Some people are really cordial about it. They listen and are polite.  If they are in a group, forget it. That is the best way to be mocked. People have to show-off in front of each other. A few truly repent. -Oh, that, as you know is the greatest joy in the world.  You lead a person to the Lord and it seriously deepens your faith. But, in the main, they view me as the weak-minded victim of a religious ruse, or a narrow-minded bigot -who, I will always remind them, is totally in love with the Lord Jesus for redeeming everything in her life!

  3. Leslie Vernick on February 25, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    So glad you found this one more helpful. Sorry to muddle you up before, but going to God is always the best. When David prayed Search me and know me and see if there is any hidden way in me, that is what we need to do to have God show us parts of ourselves we aren’t aware of – good and bad, so that we can become all he wants us to become.

    • Bette on February 25, 2015 at 6:07 pm

      How does being silent s differ from contemplative prayer?

    • Aleea on February 25, 2015 at 6:56 pm

      I know Leslie. I know you are right. What you wrote up there is just beautiful. That’s enough material and insights and assignments for the rest of 2015.  I know if I fully humble myself, give Him total access, patiently listen for His voice, God will do the best for me -but I just wonder how painful that best is going to turn out to be. Oh, it’s always so painful and I’m a really slow learner, makes it worse. My goal is God Himself– not joy, not peace, not even blessing, just God! I’m never bothered by any Bible passages I can’t understand. The Scriptures which trouble me are the ones I clearly know the meanings of. God empties us to fill us; casts us down –hard, to lift us up; wounds us to heal us. I like the fill, up and heal part of that.  Big difference between challenged and next level changed. I am always challenged by what you write but I want to be changed at the next level by that challenge. I am afraid of asking God: Are the things I am living for worth Christ dying for? -and then putting one of your recommend blocks of 20 to 30 min. of listening after that question.

  4. Carol Wood on February 25, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    I just lost my husband to lung cancer 5 months ago and have been having a very hard time. I have seen God do so much in my life, but I can’t seem to get past the grief. We had a very bad marriage for a number of years, but God brought a huge change. I have been feeling so distant from God and want to get back to experiencing Him in my life. In the past, the thing that brought me the greatest awareness of God’s presence was obedience to what He indicated I should do, often just taking Him at his written word, even when everything in me screamed, “It’s not fair!” Your comments on setting aside quiet time with Him, because I spend too much time with the radio or TV on!

  5. Robin Baumann on February 25, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I was very desperate to learn and know God intimately because of the destructive relationship I was in for too many years. I learned to get in my car every morning, leave cellphone at home, turn on Worship Music, and drive. I would turn the Worship Music off as I got filled with the sense God was with me, and ministering to me. I had to leave my house, as my husband was very verbally absuive, used to folow me around the house and yell at me for one thing after another. Getting in my car, and looking for God to come was a delight. I certainly intentionally did this, and it was very difficult for me, if I had to miss a morning of my meeting with God. Now that my husband is gone and I no longer leave the house—- I still do. It was ahabit I guess I didn’t want to break. Often I would go sit on a mtntop overlooking a lake, with my journal in my hand. God always was present. And I learned to make this a priority as Jesus took away my pain of living in such an abusive relationship for those 60 minutes or so— and showed me Icould seek for peace and quiet, and find it. He has been my Calm, my Escape, my Comfort.

    • Survivor on February 26, 2015 at 10:30 am

      I love this idea!!! I know what you mean about him following you around and never getting a quiet minute. This is a great solution–one I may need to implement! Thank you for sharing and may you be blessed!!!

  6. Robin on February 25, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    I meant, even when my husband was no longer in my home, I still left every morning.

  7. Survivor on February 26, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Thank you, Leslie! This was so encouraging! The balance you brought to this concept is enlightening and refreshing, to say the least! I have to say…..when I first saw the title, I choked a little and wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. Having lived with abuse, I have developed some of the more masculine traits in recent years. I believed that they made me a better person, but so many criticized these very things and any teaching on becoming a more Godly woman involved laying those things down. I felt that my young children would suffer severely if I were to do that! Thank you for affirming my growth! You are such a blessing and I pray that God rewards you richly!!!!

  8. Susie on February 26, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    I have a question. I am working on building my CORE. Taking baby steps and trying to be honest with myself. So I just made myself look through his wallet and found an ex’s phone number and a separate checking account that I was not aware of! I’m not ready for the confrontation. I want to be wise but I’m freaking out. What should I do today?

    • Ann on March 6, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      I wouldn’t confront him at all. Make copies and them where he will never find them. Now you know to check his wallet more often. Save all your copies if you ever decide to divorce. If you were to confront him he will only double up his efforts to hide things from you. And don’t tell friends or family they may slip and tell him you know about those things.

  9. Aleea on February 27, 2015 at 11:11 am

    . . . .So, I am using the above technique with both prayer and Bible reading to listen more for God and it is wonderful. I pray some of my prayer requests, then do 5 to 10 minutes of silence (listening for God), more prayers, 5 to 10 minutes of silence (listening for God), etc., etc.  I do the same with my Bible reading.  I read say ten verses, do 5 to 10 minutes of silence (listening for God), etc. –Maybe, the rest of you don’t need to do this but I use the timer on my phone during the listening part in case I fall asleep. I just reset it each time (-you get all that silence and peace and sometimes you drift off, even with caffeine.) So for the first ~10 min. when I am still, I hear a thousand voices calling for me to do other things but then I listen more closely and I can hear “God’s voice” softly in my ear. I don’t know how to say it. It is like a songbird in a canyon (-if you have ever been in a canyon) that is how it just echoes in my mind. Mostly Bible verses and sometimes I have a “just reach out and take God’s hand moment,” -so I do. I am not getting too much major direction right now but I sure feel God’s love. Sometimes it is just overwhelming.
     
    I can only invite you to realize how important this is.  It is getting in touch with the affection and love you are missing. Your husband, your friends, your family are just not adequately equipped to give you that kind of love.
     
    Or as said better from Leslie above: Instead of seeing your time with God as one more thing to “do” in your day, begin to cherish your time with God as if you were a lover in love and see what happens. As you read God’s words to you, ask Him what He wants you to pay attention to.
     
    I think the: How Can I Know God Better is better said as: How To Bring Real Healing & Love Into Your Life vs. little scraps of love from others (-And we are not judging them, or ourselves. We are forgiving them and ourselves. They are broken as we are. God will hold them accountable. My job is to really forgive them, so God can forgive me. I just take that bill I think they owe me (-They promised didn’t they?) and I tear it up in my mind because I want God to do that with my bill. More than that, I don’t want to be stuck, waiting for them when I can just reach forgive them and reach out and have God pour love into me.) So, that’s forgiveness but now I need to clean my heart so God’s love can flow into me.
     
    I think cleaning your heart is a way bigger deal than it sounds. Nobody else can give us a clean heart but God. Then God’s love can flow into us. I actually believe that’s the love I am always trying to bring into my life in all kinds of ineffective, dramatic dysfunctional ways. -It is not because people are not important and good but they are just not adequately equipped to bring the kind of healing love only God can bring. Even when my husband is absolutely wonderful, he is just not equipped like Jesus (PURE Love) to heal me. He can’t read my mind or even totally understand his own. He has all of his own wounds and his heart is leaking love too. This is why it is so important to get this kind of love directly from God.
     
    Oh, and the benefit of a clean heart is that it just automatically repels bad men, evil, duplicitous, “Christian” women, dysfunctional “friends” -It does that just naturally. Holy people are very upsetting unless God is drawing you into his arms. –And, again, we are not condemning them, we are OBSERVING and FORGIVING. -I just realized something, at some level, I actually need a divorce from parts of myself too! I have evil and wicked corners.
     
    Lord make us holy! We have to stay close to God because we live in an absolutely unprecedented day that convicts us of nothing. –Just nothing. We are so deep in the culture that evil is no longer evil.  We don’t even see it. Iniquity is infirmity; wickedness is weakness; hard core devilry is now just some deficiency; adultery is a simple, normative mistake; rotten filthy covetousness and idolatry –I address myself here –wanting exactly what godless women and men want, that is “normal” desire, normal ambition, -just business. Paul called it idolatry! God calls all those idols, covetousness.
     
    Leslie is correct about the “cherish your time with God as if you were a lover in love.” The key to holiness is falling in love with Jesus. Holiness is the only path to happiness. True holiness isn’t cold and deadening -it’s warm and inviting. It’s irresistible. Those who think otherwise have never seen it, but only its caricatures.

  10. Amy on February 28, 2015 at 11:55 am

    I absolutely loved this post!

    I can relate to several women above how when you are in an abusive relationship it is so hard to give your time to the Lord because you’re too busy just surviving.

    When my abusive ex of 20 years left me 6 years ago I gave myself wholly to the Lord. I finally had the peace in my life so that I could sit quietly at the Lord’s feet and do nothing by listen for Him. I read through the Psalms, prayed night and day, went on long walks to pray and commune with Him in nature, and finally came to understand what it means to be still and know He is God.

    With all the chaos and turmoil created by the abuser it can be hard to find the time and quiet to feel God’s presence. I too, like one Robin, would have to leave the house when my abuser was still there just to find that quiet and peace to be able to seek the Lord.

    I also found that writing in a journal or blog really helped me to process those things I felt the Lord was speaking to me about. I just recently re-read my journal I kept during my abusive marriage and after my ex left, and it was eye opening to see what my thought process was like while still living with abuse and afterwards.

    • Aleea on February 28, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      “. . . I could sit quietly at the Lord’s feet and do nothing but listen for Him. I read through the Psalms, prayed night and day, went on long walks to pray and commune with Him in nature, and finally came to understand what it means to be still and know He is God.” –Oh my, that sounds like a really, really sweet time, -contentment and confidence for the future simply in knowing God and depending on His promises . . .Excellent! Is there anything you did, or do now, to build your faith that might escape us: fasting? Godly mentors?. . . .I love the “prayed night and day” –no one  is greater than their prayer life. You want a new personality, I’ll tell you this: The only way to get it is to have a serious prayer life. You can’t seriously pray “night and day” and be unclean; have grudges; bitterness.

  11. Lonely wife on March 2, 2015 at 9:27 am

    I have found that going into my bedroom closet, closing the door and just sitting in total darkness is very calming to me, and allows me to just be quiet before God.
    There’s something about opening my eyes to total darkness that just allows me to feel at peace, and to stop my thoughts from rushing all over the place….and I can quiet my mind and just wait on God to speak to me.

    • Aleea on March 3, 2015 at 4:26 am

      Just tried that. It works pretty well. Definitely reduces the volume of random thoughts but I can have “thought dust” still settling even after 20 min.

      I hope that the low number of comments on this post will not cause us to abandon this line of inquiry, challenge and discussion.

      It is just wonderful when we work on our hearts, discovering His majesty, getting really good at hearing His voice, fully experiencing His love. I would think we aren’t even ready to find love until we have applied His love everywhere in the factory of ourselves.

      I am not anyway near where I should be (as you will see below) but I believe if I let Christ fix all the floors of the factory of myself (my inner core), then everything coming out of that factory gets fixed too! –Yay!!! No wonder C.S. Lewis was always saying: If you put 1st things first, you get 2nd and 3rd things too. If you put second or third things first, you don’t get 1st, 2nd or 3rd things. That means knowing God (pure love) via more effective prayer, listening, Bible study, even more listening for God is critical.

      Weak in prayer, weak everywhere.  
       
      On one of my Boston to NY Amtrak trips recently, I saw a young women coming down the isle full of tattoos on her arms, neck, etc. and I totally failed to just make a neutral observation. Instead, I so judged what I saw that I prayed -Lord, I am exhausted, please don’t let her sit next to me (how selfish!). Thank the Lord He doesn’t answer my prayers lots of times (and no wonder). She sat next to me and the tattoos were actually Bible verses. She engaged me. -Oh, we had such a great conversation! She even download two Bibles (non-copyrighted) versions she had on her iPad to mine. The Gospels In Chronological Order and Parallel so I can read the same account in all of them at once. –I have always wanted that! -and The Bible: An American Translation (J. M. Powis Smith and Edgar J. Goodspeed). -Goodspeed, was a genius! 

      What a heart for God this girl had –and so smart. I was humbled. She told me that she uses a thick quilt over her head when she prays in her upstairs bedroom, keeps her warm and blocks any noise. These are the questions she always asks herself: Is God really working in my life? Am I growing in holiness? She also said she journaled, at the end of each day, a list of things for which she was thankful to God for. -Finally told me: You would not even be asking me all these questions if Jesus wasn’t drawing you. -Knows God and how to motivate!

  12. Jeanne on March 3, 2015 at 9:24 am

    I’ve really enjoyed this post! Thank you for all the insights. In addition to the above I’ve found a great resource that has helped me with the “times” we are in at keystothebible.net. It’s full of historical, doctrinal and inspirational messages all straight from the bible. Thank you Leslie! What a blessing you are!

  13. janet on March 3, 2015 at 10:45 am

    another way that helps me to be present with god is to have a grateful heart. when I am grateful for every little thing, like the blue sky, the tweeting bird, the cup of coffee the smile from a stranger, an awaited answer, when I notice all the good and the bad, it helps me see god and be present with him. he has really made it this simple, because he wants to so deeply commune with us. god has went through a lot of trouble in pursuing us and making himself available. when I am grateful for the seemingly slightest thing, it helps me commune with god even more. I learned this from ann voskamp, 1000 gifts. just another way to connect with god. keep growing, you are on your way my sister.

    • Amy on March 3, 2015 at 11:52 am

      Janet,
      I can so relate to this!
      When my abusive ex walked out 6 years ago I started doing the 1000 gifts by Ann Voskamp and it really helped me to see all the good and beauty in my life, even when things seemed so bad some days.

      I would find anything and everything I could to be grateful about and it really started changing my outlook on life and drawing me closer to God. It helped me see that He is always there and even in the little things can we give Him thanks!

      I would be grateful for a cup of coffee, a sunny morning walk, the spring time birds chirping outside my window and I remember time going to the mailbox and opening up a $10 rebate check I had completely forgotten about! That totally made my day and I thanked Him over and over for that small measly check, for when you are suddenly on your own and barely making ends meet, well that was a miracle to me that day!

      Good thoughts!

      • Leslie Vernick on March 4, 2015 at 12:19 am

        I too find the discipline of gratitude helps me “switch channels” back to all I can Thanks God for.

  14. Amy on March 3, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Aleea,

    Thanks for your kind words — it was indeed a sweet time of my life despite all I was going through at the time.
    It was that little spring of refreshing water that ran through my desert in those years.

    I did have an elderly couple who mentored to me during that difficult time of my abusive ex walking out. When most other church members just mumbled how sorry they were, this couple took me under their wings and really listened and offered Godly words to me when I needed them.

    You are right — you cannot hold onto grudges, bitterness and hate when you are talking with God day and night.

    He was and is still my stronghold, but I’m grateful these days to be in a healthy marriage with a loving man.

    Redeemed through the Lord!

  15. Aleea on March 3, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Now, that is some real gratitude to God that I am sure is pleasing to Him and definitely inspiring. At times my own light has been rekindled by deep gratitude from another person, even hearing about their thankfulness! The great thing about gratitude is that it is an offering in the sight of God any of us can make but at the same time we are richer for having made it. –And God is not made of stone, I am sure His heart is the most sensitive and tender of all, so no act of gratitude goes unnoticed, no matter how insignificant or small.  -Also, since “all things work together for good to them that love God, who are called according to his purpose” when we really believe that, a thankful heart should be the result. I’m not so sure that: “I really appreciate and thank you for________” is not the equivalent of “I love you.” –We ruin our lives no matter the stage when we take things for granted vs. take things with gratitude.

  16. Valerie on March 3, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    This has been an interesting read. The original question asked how we can practice God’s presence and abide in Him. This piqued my interest because I am becoming increasingly aware of dangerous teaching on the subject that sounds good to our human ears but is not biblical. Since scripture is our authority on how to live we can also look to scripture for what it has to say on how this manifests.

    A good place of reference is 1 John. For instance we are told that we can know we are in God by obeying His word (2:5). Obviously we need to know His word in order to obey it. We know His word by reading His Word. We know how other people interpret God’s Word by listening to other people teaching us, but to know His Word for ourselves we must read it ourselves. If we want to know how to pray, for instance, we need to look to how scripture instructs us to pray. We can’t expect to sit under a tree in the absence of His Word and ask God to teach us how to pray while we are in the quiet. (Not that anyone here is suggesting this but I have heard others being instructed this way.)

    When we have unconfessed sin it puts a barrier between us and Holy God. Therefore to remain in fellowship with God we must also diligently confess and repent of whatever actions or attitudes are not in alignment with God’s character. How can we know what is and isn’t in alignment? Knowing God’s Word.

    We are called to be on alert but also to have peace. I believe these can coexist. We have to keep ourselves from giving the devil a foothold in our lives, and one of the ways this is being played out in our culture is mystical teaching. I heard a local man proclaim once that “God told him to stop reading His Word for a year” based on a “quiet time” he had with God. So is this possible? God will never refute Himself. We can know that anything we hear contrary to God’s Word is not of God. Period. The devil masquerades as an angel of light- people are going to do things and fully believe they are in God’s will because they are so deceived. Again, we MUST know scripture for ourselves so we can recognize any false teaching. The whole Mormon religion began from one man going out in the forest by himself and fully believing he heard from an angel. That said, I have had wonderful experiences with God out in His creation but I guard myself against having this be the basis or most influential component in my relationship with Him. The Word has to be first, second only to prayer. I only trusted in that time I had with Him after I had learned to be with Him and know Him while in His Word.

    God reveals Himself to us through His word. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (through His word). Our culture today is very noisy…music, tv, talking, texting….it is good to get away from distractions so we can better hear God. But we have to be very careful in how we go about this or we will be opening ourselves up to demonic deception. If we don’t base God’s presence on His word we will leave ourselves vulnerable to assign God to any voice that comes into our head that sounds good. Our mind is the place where the devil pursues us because it is the basis for all of our actions and attitudes. If he can infect our mind he affects the whole person.

    Loving God and abiding in God is not a feeling, its an action. Scripture tells us He makes Himself known to those who earnestly seek Him and His ways (through His Word). Ultimately our relationship with God is not for our fulfillment but for His glory. Surely God does fill us with His Spirit but our relationship should be based on who God is and not what we get from Him. I have been very convicted on that principle lately.

    • Leslie Vernick on March 4, 2015 at 12:18 am

      Valerie, I wouldn’t disagree with any of your points but there are many Christians who do read their Bible every day and still don’t experience the presence or reality of God’s love. Paul prays for us in Ephesians 3 that we would KNOW the love of God, which surpasses knowledge. I believe that is a worthy goal in our spiritual journey. Of course anything that contradicts God’s word is suspect, but I believe that God makes himself known through his word, as well as in nature (Romans 1) and by quieting our heart and mind enough to really pay attention to his word in a different way where his truth is not just informational, but transformational.

  17. Leslie Vernick on March 4, 2015 at 12:20 am

    Thanks for sharing that. It was so good to be reminded that we can judge a person before we really stop to listen to her or his heart.

  18. Valerie on March 4, 2015 at 10:08 am

    For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

    This verse tells us that we can know in the existence of God based on looking around us and realizing that something indeed divine has created what we are seeing- we distinguish His creation from what our own hands create (which we can’t do without God either). In this way people are without excuse because we can look around and realize there is indeed a God, yet we can only know of God through nature, not about Him.

    I fully agree (and have experienced myself) that a person can read their bible and not experience the presence of God. Yet I assert that this is the result of not truly seeking God, which is why this reading is only informational and not transformational. When we apply it we are transformed. Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” This is a promise of God so we can know that it is true.

    We are to take every thought captive to Christ. (2 Cor 10:5) Scripture does not call us to passivity. In context “being still” from Psalm 46 is better translated “cease striving” (NASB). It refers to resting in God and not questioning His sovereignty- being still in peace, not in thought. It goes on to say He will be exalted in the nations and the earth. The whole passage refers to recognizing God’s sovereignty and Holiness. When we attempt to open ourselves to the spiritual realm through trying to know God apart from His Word we put ourselves in a position to be deceived by the dark forces who desire to infiltrate our thoughts. Without a solid understanding of God’s Word and His precepts we will be prone to “every wind of teaching”. Ephesians 4:14-15 “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…”

    We must guard ourselves against mixing any other religion along with the sufficiency of God’s Word. Paul addresses this throughout Ephesians. Ephesus was the city of great paganism including the worship of Artemis. Paul was exhorting them to know fully that God was supreme and not attempt to mix any form of paganism into Christianity, which was the danger there as well. He also wanted the Gentiles to understand that they were partakers in Christ- he wanted them to know the love of Christ that allowed them to be adopted as children along with the Jews.

    The Jesus Calling book was one that I had read also. I am now ashamed I spread that book around while I was caught up in it. I was drawn into the “love, experience, rest” that it spoke of- namely the “feel good” gospel. I became convicted after making that a part of my daily devotions for a time. I was convicted that this was a false gospel and not leading people to the truth. I now believe that is a dangerous book. I picked it up at a vulnerable time in my life when my abusive marriage left me starving. The more time I spent in God’s Word, the more uncomfortable I was with what that book was teaching until I no longer desired to open it. It fed my selfish desire to have my relationship with God be about ME and feeling good about God but it doesn’t speak of God’s holiness, judgment and justice and therefore not an accurate portrayal of God. It doesn’t promote growing up in Christ but rather promotes feelings. It promotes “experiencing” God but that command is not given in scripture. We are to know Him, fear Him, trust Him, obey Him, love Him…but we are not explicitly taught to experience Him. God is not here for our benefit, rather we are created to be God’s servants and to make disciples.

    Like Leslie stated, anything that contradicts God’s Word is suspect. We live in a time when we must “test everything” against scripture. We have to know that what we believe is backed by scripture and not our feelings. Ironically my abusive marriage has actually taught me a lot about testing against scripture and not living by my feelings. God has indeed worked good through what my husband intended for evil and I praise Him for it!! All glory and honor is His!

    • Aleea on March 4, 2015 at 11:10 pm

      Valerie,
      Those are two solid posts, very clear, excellent points.
       
      –SURE, there are definitely denials of solid Christian theology in that Jesus Calling book. I think we all agree on that. No one I know is advocating that book. It is good that God lead you to not recommend it anymore. Yay!
       
      Moreover, I would be shocked if any of us here is trying to know God apart from His word. We all know better than that, I hope. I also think you underestimate how much time we spend in the scriptures and how much of them we have committed to memory. I believe sometimes it is important to focus where you are not as strong (say prayer, listening for God). Some of us would do well with less text study and way more on our face seeking God. 
       
       “. . . We are to know Him, fear Him, trust Him, obey Him, love Him…but we are not explicitly taught to experience Him. God is not here for our benefit, rather we are created to be God’s servants and to make disciples. . . . “  –That is correct and I think everyone would agree with that too. We are created for God’s pleasure and rejoice in being his servants and want to make as many disciples as possible. –But what you are saying is confusing to me, (-but I am easy to confuse) are you saying “know” is not equal to experience? You can know Him but not experience Him? I guess I just don’t understand that.
       
      To me, the most import thing is not whether or not you think you know Jesus, but whether or not Jesus knows you, right? I would claim to know Christ, but it does me no good unless Christ knows me. Example: I can’t get into the White House just because I say I know the President. —But if I go to the gate and the President says he knows me (and he knows me because I have “experience” dealing with him), then it’s a different story, I’m getting in.
       
      Also, truth is the truth no matter where it is found, right? All truth is God’s truth. Notice how in Acts 17:28 a section of pagan philosophy goes right into the Word of God and at that point becomes the Word of God because it is the Truth. “For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own philosophers have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” That’s from Arstus of Tarsus the Athenian altar where we find the exact words. Now, it is in the Bible because all Truth is God’s Truth. I would say most of us are guarding ourselves against mixing any other religion along with the sufficiency of God’s Word. At least I hope so.
       
      We can’t trust our own thoughts. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
       
      We can’t even trust the feeling in our hearts that we’re saved, right? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
       
      The true test is not what we think or feel. The true test is: What does the Word of God tell us (-so you are completely correct there) –And what it tells us is that Christians are those who bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. So we look at the way we walk, talk and the passions of our hearts.
       
      Moreover, we know we have been saved because our life is in a process of being changed. Our style of life ought to be one of walking on God’s path, and when we step off the path, as we all do, God definitely (-oh, does He ever) comes for us and puts us back on the path. One of the greatest evidences of being truly saved is that God is disciplining us.
       
      You know, I don’t even ask people if they’re saved anymore; After talking with them for a while, I say, as kindly as I can: “Does Christ live inside you?” You can just imagine the answers I get. Way worse than even what is in the Jesus Calling book. ——And what about these people that don’t know if they are born again? –I just don’t understand that. If you were going up a hill carrying a fifty-pound weight and a man ran up behind you and lifted it off your back, would you know it? I think the issue is that we try and get people “saved” who don’t even believe they are lost. They don’t see their sins. They don’t believe they will pay for them in hell because, I think, really they don’t believe the Bible, expect maybe stuff they like. If you are cherry picking wouldn’t that kind of dishonesty get to you?
       
      For me, as the years pass, I see more of God but also more of myself, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. I learn to rest more and more in the perfect work of Christ. I have no confidence in what I can do (zero), which is idolatry anyway, and am resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, period. I also am trying to avoid deep theological questions, they can be a serious snare (At least for me). “Justifiable” soteriology questions be damned! Jesus calls your name and then you just take His hand, period. I started seriously praying and God made me just heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church, grieved at the toleration of sin and ABUSE in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church, grieved that the prayer of the Church no longer pulls down the strongholds of Satan.
       
      So, what is the most effective thing you have done that has helped you deepen your faith in God (or God has done for you and you now realize it)?
       
      –Oh, and you say “. . . in context “being still” from Psalm 46 is better translated “cease striving” –Well, “Cease striving” is R.K. Harrison’s variant translation. The consensus (John Dewitt, George Lamsa, Charles Thomson, Helen Spurrell) best translation: “Pause a while and know that I am God” –that’s all I think we are trying to do when we are listening for God.
       
      May God Richly Bless You!

  19. Leslie Vernick on March 5, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Pause a while – I like that. Thanks Aleea. I think busyness keeps us from savoring the Bible and the Word who was made flesh. Did you ever wonder how people got close to God before the Bible was available to them to read? Before the printing press? Before it was translated into their language? Before the general population was allowed to read it? Having the Bible in our hands is a rather recent phenomena since the printing press. So are we saying that all those before the Bible was printed for us to have access to did not or could not get close to God?

    • Aleea on March 5, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      Leslie, I’ll try to answer that but first I want to sincerely thank you for letting me post my posts to your site.  It is so, so helpful to me.
       
      “Did you ever wonder how people got close to God before the Bible was available to them to read?. . and . . . So are we saying that all those before the Bible was printed for us to have access to did not or could not get close to God?”*****

      Honestly, I did not think through that at that level and no I have not ever really wondered (not really) how people got close to God before the Bible was available to them. I assume God used visions and dreams as ways to communicate to people. In fact, (as you know) you see those as especially prevalent in Genesis (Genesis 20:3-7; 31:11-13). Moreover, Prophets often communicated through spoken words to people, for example Jonah. Angels too are also often recorded in the Bible as ministering spirits who communicated God’s messages to individuals and groups. So visions, dreams, prophets, angels, etc. 
       
      I assume people praised God for the beauty and complexity of the universe which always pointed to Him as designer. They could see the exquisite design of the human body, animals, flowers, each detail pointed toward an ultimate Designer who designed with purpose, care, and wisdom. I further assume they just cried out to God for help too. –Even if sometimes they just “spoke to the sky.” (Psalms 86:7; Matthew 7:7-8) 
       
      More than this, beyond that design argument for getting close to God is a moral argument for knowing/ getting close to God. -For me, one example of this is my conscience, I know right from wrong. I think (–In fact, I know that) universally there is a sense of right and wrong among all people. Not every person agrees on everything but the bigger the issue, the bigger the agreement, every person is designed with a sense of morality. This sense of morality points toward a maker of morality—the Lord God. I would be convicted of my sin even without a Bible.
       
      So, I assume they got close to God by repenting of the wrong they had done, making their requests and praising Him for what they saw.
       
      So that would give us knowledge of God, conviction of sin and plenty of good things to praise God for even if we didn’t have Bibles. If we have knowledge of God, conviction/ repentance of sin and are praising God for our lives and all the of good things in them (including you and your BLOG) we are closer to God even if we have no Bibles.
       
       
      *****Helen Keller. She, as everyone knows, was blind and deaf from birth. Her teacher, Sullivan, comes along and eventually Helen has a breakthrough. Understanding and communication are now available to her through sign language. Sullivan while communicating with Helen spells the word GOD in sign language. Helen stops her and says through signing “What is that?” Sullivan explains GOD refers to the One who created us and everything in the world, etc. Helen responds by saying, “Oh, that is his name? I always knew He was there but didn’t know what to call Him.”

  20. Elizabeth on March 5, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Thank you, Leslie for this topic and all your sharing, my sisters. My heart resonates with all you are saying. I am finding that I must be intentional and deliberate to make time to be quiet in God’s presence. Just being still and keeping my thoughts on Christ, His character and or a passage of Scripture. This is an area I want to grow in now more than ever. Growing in gratitude is part of this for me and especially when life gets hard, accusations and condemnations come flying. I have found that in those moments when I turn in faith to Christ, surrendering my temptations to lash back and being grateful for His presence I have a peace that transcends the fears and anger I am tempted to give into. God is working in my heart and drawing me to Him in quietness alone with Him and in the midst of crisis. I am so thankful to Him and all of you who are part of this journey with me and me with you. We are not alone!

  21. Valerie on March 9, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Aleea, I didn’t mean to imply that anyone here was trying to mix religions or proposing to know God apart from scripture. I wanted to make these points because I know from my own experience and the other abuse survivors I have spoken with that the situation of abuse leaves a person vulnerable. When we have gone through the confusion and chaos of abuse it is difficult to know what is true anymore and who we can trust. Given that, my concern is for people who might stumble across this blog and then go to other blogs where the kinds of things I spoke of are actually what they DO believe and promote. I just felt it might be beneficial to express a few thoughts that I didn’t feel had already been expressly stated. I wasn’t trying to accuse anyone if that’s how it came across. My heart is just bent toward protecting vulnerable minds…something I wish someone had done for me. The response of my church and friends left me very vulnerable to questioning what a biblical church was. If I wasn’t grounded in the word it might have made me vulnerable to unsound doctrine (cleverly disguised).

    You said, “To me, the most import thing is not whether or not you think you know Jesus, but whether or not Jesus knows you, right?” I am troubled with that statement unless you are referring to people knowing OF Jesus rather than knowing Jesus (difference of fan or follower). God needs to be the focus of our relationship with Him. Scripture tells us Jesus doesn’t know us unless we know Him. The only way we can please Him is to do His will and live by His precepts…therefore we must know Him as the very basis for our relationship with Him. “He will say away from me, I never knew you.” Indeed, there will be many who claim to know Him but are not known by Christ. Perhaps you were intending the same conclusion.

    • Aleea on March 13, 2015 at 12:11 pm

      Valerie,
       
      If your heart has a bent toward protecting vulnerable minds as you say above, I need to hire you to go everywhere with me, please!!! [smiling]  I recently cancelled a number of subscriptions: Journal of the Society of Biblical Exegesis, etc. -I’m sick of all that confusion and I can get so swayed by it. Honestly, it is a deficiency. Is it a defense mechanism???; people pleasing???; ego??? —Anyway, I want a heart full of Christ NOT a head full of Process Theology.
       
      -And, yes, I was referring to people knowing OF Jesus rather than knowing Jesus. We were intending the same conclusion! To me, we need to ensure we have the Holy Spirit witnessing to our spirit that we are born again. This is no small matter: 1st “Examining ourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5) and 2nd letting the Holy Spirit lead us. That is the safe course (“O” of Leslie’s CORE).  Listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and leave the navigation to the One who knows the way. –So, I (we) should always pray for more desire and for greater faith. Asking God to take us much deeper into His love and seeking God with all our heart. Always continuing in a passion and hunger for Him and His presence. Allowing Him to transform us and holding nothing back, –that is the key. Being willing to obey Him no matter what the cost (I know all about COST, unfortunately) –but, obviously, never allowing anyone to abuse us verbally, physically, emotionally, et. al.  Allowing Him to take and give things and people into/ out of our lives according to His timing and wisdom. Seeking Him far above everything else. Asking Him for godly mentors and godly believers to sharpen us. You get the picture, right? [smiling]   —Anyway, much love to you Valerie and I send you a huge HUG! –You are a very clear thinker and writer by the way. I could never do that but I can sure notice it when I see it. —So, again, even if this sounds ridiculous to you, some of us DO have too much “Bible”, too much scripture “knowledge” for our own good. We need to experience God more because at the end of the day, people’s lives being completely transformed and their character and nature being radically changed is the evidence for Christianity being true. . . . . .People like you and Leslie, etc. are demonstrable evidence of Christianity’s truth. In spite of what we do or do not have of manuscript evidence, archeological evidence, et. al. —You are a living epistle, (2 Corinthians 3:2). . . .You listened to God’s voice when he called your name (–because He regenerated your heart), you listened and you’ll never be the same (John 3:8). . . . Some people, well, they really CAN’T see the light of day! They really DO need somebody to show them the way and if they will truly humble themselves, God uses the weak things of the world, the things that are not (1 Corinthians 1:27) to shame the “wise,” as well as, to show them the way. –No matter how much scripture “knowledge” they have (Romans 10:15)! So, if your heart has a bent toward protecting vulnerable minds, as you say above, I would say that is a wonderful blessing.

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