intimacy with God in a brutal world

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91:1-4

If you read Psalm 91 in its entirety, you can’t avoid the reality it’s describing: a brutal world. There’s no two ways of getting around it.

But even in the midst of that God not only wants to protect us, but be intimately close to us. God will take care of us, and help us flourish, even through the worst this life can bring.

But we have to hold on to this promise, and act on it. In spite of ourselves, sometimes God will break through in love. But this needs to be an ongoing daily practice, so that we experience more and more God’s protection and intimacy in a brutal world. In and through Jesus.

to know Christ is to make him known

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…

Philippians 3:10

There has probably been no one who had a greater passion for people coming to Christ than the Apostle Paul. At least he’s the model for that given to us in scripture. But as we can see from the book of Philippians, his passion and indeed his life was Christ.

I wonder if instead of concentrating on bringing people to Christ, if we would just concentrate on Christ himself, than others would receive far more benefit from us. They might actually somehow see Christ at least at work in our lives, and might catch a glimpse of his beauty.

Yes, it’s the gospel which is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe, and we dare not minimize that. But in pointing others to Christ, it is not only the message, but the medium. In other words, we need to be something of what we’re trying to share.

I think if we just settled into knowing Christ instead of trying to make him known, then he would much more likely be found by those around us. Not that we shouldn’t be intentional in trying to make him known. But if knowing Christ was our main goal and the natural part of our lives, then others would much more likely be drawn to him by what they see in us.

We may have been rather more or less far removed from this thought. In Christ’s appeal to the church at Laodicea, it is obvious that this congregation certainly was. He speaks some pretty stern words, along with this invitation:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Revelation 3:20

The promise here is one of companionship and intimacy. A huge part of the disciples three years with Jesus was simply being with him. And after Pentecost, Christ by the Spirit is with us forever. But communion as in friendship does not automatically follow from that. Like any other relationship, it needs to be made a priority, and cultivated.

To simply know Christ. What we need, and what others need from us. In and through him.

in Jesus we are invited to intimacy and enthronement with him

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire,so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Revelation 3:14-22

We may live in a Laodicean kind of age, not at all related to any dispensational scheme, but with something of the kind of Christianity we see in the Laodicean church of old. They were well off and satisfied with their lives, even as they named the name of Christ. But Jesus told them that there was something vitally missing. It wasn’t necessarily that they lacked a personal relationship with Jesus altogether, though it does seem weak at best. They are told that they are loved by God, and therefore being disciplined, at least that is intimated.

About a personal relationship with Jesus. I know that is bashed in some quarters of the church, but even if it might be overemphasized by some, while other matters of importance which are also central to the faith are largely ignored, it still, I say, is important. We have to keep reading scripture to really see if that’s the case, but I think a fair reading of the Final, New Testament will amply bring that out.

Yes, Jesus is on the outside knocking, so to speak. He wants a close fellowship, or communion with us. That is among other things which is at the heart of the faith, and in a way, we might say, at the heartbeat of it all.

And the idea that we’re not in a battle, and that it should all go easy if we’re in the Spirit is simply not a matter of fact either in reality, or in the pages of the Bible, including the New Testament. We are, and to realize that, we can say, is half the battle. Of course being “in the Spirit” will help us deal with the hard places, but it is no less a battle, of course spiritual in nature.

And what we’re promised if we’re victorious in and through Jesus is shocking and mind boggling. We are told that we’ll end up sitting with Jesus on his throne, even as Jesus after his victory sat with his Father on his throne. I can just imagine millions upon millions upon millions getting to take their turn seated with Jesus on his throne, and in the Spirit somehow always seated with Jesus on his throne. It’s interesting that even now we are seated with the ascended Christ, who is at the right hand of God, enthroned with the Father; that we are seated with him positionally, and perhaps by the Spirit there (Ephesians 1-2).

And so a close intimacy in knowing Jesus seems tied to being victorious in him in this life, so that in the end we are honored with him in and through him. As long as we’re in this present life, both are of vital importance.

…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8


Dallas Willard on an ongoing, growing life of prayer

Prayer simply dies from efforts to pray about “good things” that honestly do not matter to us. The way to get to meaningful prayer for those good things is to start by praying for what we are truly interested in. The circle of our interests will inevitably grow in the largeness of God’s love.

What prayer as asking presupposes is simply a personal—that is, an experientially interactive—relationship between us and God, just as with a request of child to parent or friend to friend. It assumes that our natural concerns will be naturally expressed, and that God will hear our prayers for ourselves as well as for others. Once again, this is clear from the biblical practice of prayer. It is seen at its best in that greatest of all prayer books, Psalms.

Accordingly, I believe the most adequate description of prayer is simply, “Talking to God about what we are doing together.” That immediately focuses the activity where we are but at the same time drives the egotism out of it. Requests will naturally be made in the course of this conversational walk. Prayer is a matter of explicitly sharing with God my concerns about what he too is concerned about in my life. And of course he is concerned about my concerns and, in particular, that my concerns should coincide with his. This is our walk together. Out of it I pray.

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life  God, 242-243.

on the run

Scripture tells us to resist the devil, then he will flee from us. Then to draw near to God and God will draw near to us. Have you ever noticed that when you are attacked by the devil you run scared? Meaning you operate through life with fear, easily alarmed, like the end which is not a good one has caught up with you? Or that something or other has, so that you can’t be at rest, only apprehensive?

These are all signs of the devil’s work. We don’t know whether we’re coming or going, nor what we should do. There is lack of focus (obsession is not focus; in fact it is contrary to the focus I’m thinking of here), and a sense of condemnation and dread dog our steps. All telltale signs that something is not right.

First of all prayer and the word, the word and prayer. Next the community of God in Jesus. Trusted friends with whom we can share our struggle. And then we accept God’s answer through all of that, and rest in it. And we keep resting in it, because we can be sure that down the road, even months and years later, the devil will try to dig it out and throw it in our faces again. What God said once is not nullified later.

Resisting the devil involves standing on the word of God, scripture, as well as being led by the Spirit. And it is done within community, not on our own. Yes, we do it individually, but as those who are helped by the prayers and counsel of other trusted friends in Jesus. Resisting involves standing our ground in Jesus. Not being moved except by God’s will made known to us in the clear, compelling, sweet even if deeply convicting voice of our Lord by the Spirit.

As we learn to resist the devil, we find him packing and on the run. And then we draw near to God who promises to then draw near to us. Not a part of life I like. But essential to our life in Jesus in this world.


In this day of sound bytes, diatribes and talk radio it seems like real conversation has become a lost art. Or at least rare, to be all the more appreciated wherever it is found.

Yesterday I was having a conversation with my sister, in part on conversations. She was noting how in our family we always tended toward monologues, often interrupting each other to get a point across. She mentioned how often this not only rude, but a matter of pride. And we talked a bit about the importance of really listening, and letting the other get the last word, as well as seeking to avoid monologues and talking too long when we are speaking.

I suppose there are few things I enjoy more than a good conversation. Where real discussion is taking place perhaps over matters in which the conversation partners disagree. Where neither has to hold their ground or take it to get their point across, but each has their turn. And where genuine understanding of the other’s viewpoint is taken seriously, even if serious disagreement remains.

This shows respect for each other. And also a willingness to learn from someone who differs. Even if in the end neither side has moved at all, at least one can understand better where the other is coming from.

I think Jesus at table fellowship with all kinds of people in his day, would certainly want to have conversation. We at least see hints of this in various encounters he had in which he often would ask questions and tell a story. Instead of shutting down exchanges, his style would seem to promote conversation. But the kind of conversation which would lead to a faith in God, committed to a walk with God which would include the word of God and prayer. Again a kind of conversation which in part can and should include intimate exchanges, as well as exchanges about all manner of things.

Let us thank God for the gift of conversation. May we be learning it well in engaging in it in a listening way with others, and with God.