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Intimacy with God
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
Intimacy with God. Is that even possible? Who can begin to comprehend the Mastermind of the universe? Who are we to dare to approach the Creator and Sustainer of life with any thought at all of being in a personal relationship with Him?
If God hadn't come to us, we wouldn't have a chance. But I've got good news; God did come to us. He came to you! "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). And He is the One who beseeches you to come to Him. "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). God invites you to have intimacy with Him.
What Does Intimacy with God Look Like?
God uses several earthly relationships to describe His love for us. Jesus called God His "Father" and taught us that we are God's sons and daughters. In Isaiah 49:15 God said His love toward us was more precious than the love a mother has for her nursing baby. Several times throughout Scripture God is called our Master, our Good Shepherd, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.
But in order to describe the intimacy that God longs to have with us, let's look at the marriage relationship. This illustration was given to Paul in the letter he wrote to the Ephesians. I'm not going to reprint the verses here, but you will get more out of this chapter if you will get your Bible and read Ephesians 5:22–33 and underline every reference Paul made to Christ and the church. You will find the words in verses 23, 24, 25–27, 29–30, and especially in 32: "This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church" (italics added).
Most often we hear these verses from Ephesians taught with the emphasis being on wives submitting to their husbands and husbands loving their wives. And while this is a great place to learn how a godly marriage works, when Paul penned these words his emphasis was on the intimacy Christ has with His church.
I happen to be married. In fact, as I am writing this book I am exactly two weeks away from my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Therefore I am thrilled to share with you my living illustration of the mystery of intimacy God longs to share with us.
I met Tom McCoy in October of 1985. We'd just begun our first semester of graduate studies at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. I lived with two students I'd recently met. One of my roommates, Georgia, had a class with Tom where she was immediately drawn in by what I call the "McCoy charisma." A few days before Tom and I actually met, she pointed him out to me when we were sitting at a traffic light where Seminary Drive and McCart Avenue intersect. I couldn't tell if he was a "looker" because the car he drove had tinted windows. But on the fateful Sunday night that followed, Tom and his friend Bert came to see Georgia, at 1009 James Avenue, and Tom saw me instead.
A few days later, I came home from work and bumped into Tom and Georgia coming back from a jog. He later confessed that the only reason he'd booked a jogging date with Georgia was in hopes of seeing me. The next day, when I came home from work Tom just happened to be there to borrow the mower from Jackie (my other roommate). It was on this errand, standing on the back porch of our little rental house, when Tom asked me out.
I said yes.
I am not even going into the dynamics of my relationship with Georgia, but I'll just say that she eventually talked to me again and then took credit for our marriage.
Amidst Georgia's frustration with me, Tom and I had our first date. He took me to the Chinese Kitchen. This was not a classy restaurant, but we were poor and I was a bit smitten by his charm and good looks. So what if I had to balance my plastic red tray and plate of chicken chow mien with a free egg roll washed down with water in a Styrofoam cup?
I can't even remember what that food tasted like, but I do remember the Chinese Kitchen conversation. We munched on our fried rice, and I began with my list of "Questions to Ask on the First Date When Your Date Doesn't Talk."
1. Do you have any brothers or sisters? "Three brothers, no sisters."
2. What sports did you play growing up? "Tennis in college, baseball, football, basketball."
3. When did you start lifeguarding? "When I was fifteen."
4. Why did you come to seminary? "I think God is calling me to be an evangelist. I like to preach."
5. Why did you choose Southwestern? "It's where my best friend came."
6. Tell me about becoming a Christian. "My dad's a pastor, and I thought I was saved when I was seven but didn't understand until I was nineteen and in college."
This charming man who'd mesmerized me at my kitchen table on Sunday night was suddenly unable to do more than fill in the blanks on my questionnaire at the Chinese Kitchen. After trying to stoke him into a conversation, I was grateful that he'd planned to take me to the dollar movie theater where our action hero could take over the conversation.
Oh, those first dates! The only thing worse than our first date was the turmoil that rocked and rolled in between his phone calls.
* What if he doesn't call, what if he does?
* What's he thinking?
* Does he like me?
* Do I like him?
* And the most difficult of all: If he does call—and I do want him to—if he does like me and I like him, and he actually asks me out on another date, what should I wear?
Remember the apprehension, the fear, the uncertainty? "Keep a rein on those emotions. You don't want them to be trampled. Be careful; guard your heart!"
Today I am once again surfing the waves of young romantic relationships. My children are 16, 18, and 19. One is married; the other two are still dating. Here are some phrases I hear often: "I'm never taking your advice again!" "I like him SO much, Mommy!" And the next day—"I hate him! Boys are so stupid!" Or "Oh Mama, you are so smart—it worked!" (Maybe that comment was one I made up in the fog that happens just before dawn between sleep and wishful thinking.)
I am so glad I'm out of the dating game. Marriage is tough but dating is brutal!
But, as Tom and I spent more time together, the attraction grew and trust gradually developed. On another Sunday afternoon, he looked into my eyes and made a verbal confession of his love. After that there was a promise, a few gifts, and finally the ring.
The rest is history.
Oh God, Please ...
If you are reading this book with a group of people, consider sharing your responses to the following statements and questions. If you are reading this book on your own, jot your answers down in your prayer journal.
1. If you are married, reflect on the early days of your dating relationship. Share how you met your spouse and what thoughts and feelings you had during the early days of your acquaintance.
2. Describe the difference between falling in love with another and being committed to love another.
3. How is your relationship with God like your relationship with your spouse? How is it different?
4. If you are single, how is your relationship with God like the relationship you have with a dear friend? How is it different?
Pray:Lord, I want to know You more. I want to get beyond the "first date" kind of relationship and grow toward intimacy. Thank You for teaching me to pray. AmenCHAPTER 2
Intimacy Develops Over Time
"May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Today Tom is my best friend and my intimate companion. We've made children together; we've grown a church together; we've built a patio, closed in a garage, put up a play set, bought a boat, and tiled a bathroom floor (well, from the patio forward he did those things mostly himself, but I supported him every step of the way). We've even made a mess of things together.
We talk; we go places together; we laugh; we cry. We might even simply touch our fingers to the other's as we walk to the graveside of a thirty-one-year-old man who has just lost his battle with lung cancer, and without exchanging anymore than a gentle touch we've said much.
Not long ago Tom and I spread a blanket in the woods on the side of a mountain in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and I penned these words. I started talking to him, and he asked, "Are you working on something?" I responded that yes, in fact, I was. He said, "Well, get to working." And even with that we were experiencing intimacy, communication, and all that goes with being one with each other.
Be Still and Know
Let's go back to 1985. When Tom and I were together, we hardly ever experienced intimacy. What we had was time—and confusion and awkward silence and all kinds of other things—but it could hardly be called intimacy.
Why was it so difficult to establish that intimacy early on? Because neither one of us was sure how the other person was feeling. We both harbored fears of rejection. And neither of us really knew the other one very well. I didn't have a clue that he withdrew when he was confused or tired. He had no idea that my mind was always running thoughts through it in warp speed. I didn't know that he saw most things black and white while I was seeing everything in living color (and with lots of those colors blended)!
We didn't experience intimacy because we didn't know each other very well. As we became acquainted, we grew to understand each other; we were better able to communicate.
God desires intimacy with you, and prayer is the way you develop this intimacy. When you pray, do you experience intimacy with God? Or, are your prayers like my Chinese Kitchen experience?
Uh, it's me here, Lord! Thou hast made a glorious day this day, and I hope Thou hast enjoyed it as much as I hath.
Why is it we think we have to speak in the King James Version to be heard by God?! Do you talk to God and run out of things to say?
Uh-oh, I know, I'll use the alphabet to think of all the reasons I love You today!
A—awesome—You are awesome, yeah.
B—beautiful—all that You do is beautiful....
And you go along pretty good until you get to K. Krafty.
No, that's a C unless you're talking about salad dressing.
C again unless you're talking Kool-Aid.... Do you wonder why God doesn't talk to you?
Uh, Lord, it's me again. I'm doing good. We've talked like this every day this week, and I feel really good about it. So where did we leave off yesterday? Oh, I remember. Monday's the missionaries. Did that. Tuesdays are for turkeys—all the people I don't like too much. Thank goodness we got through that. And today's Wednesday—so it's time to talk to you about the Weally Wonderful people. Great, Lord, bless my husband. I know he was on the list yesterday, but today he's being weally wonderful. And bless my children; they are so wonderful. Go ahead and bless my friends Kathleen, Jeanie, Joann, Edna, Margaret, Inez, ...
Then you pause and look at the clock, wondering how much time until you've reached ten minutes.
Hmmm, three more minutes. Hmmm ...
And you spend the rest of your time in prayer considering whether you have a friend for every letter of the alphabet. Ten minutes are up, and you say,
In Jesus' name, amen. Check! Prayed on Wednesday.
Do any of these prayer times resemble your own? Perhaps, like me when Tom and I first started dating, you struggle with God's interest in you. What if He doesn't care?
Lord, who am I that You want to listen to me? I yelled at my children yesterday, ate chocolate when I swore I wouldn't do that anymore, turned the TV on and couldn't turn it off—Oprah was doing a special on support bras!
Lord, we're all out of money, and it's only the fifth day of the month. We don't get paid for three more weeks, and we blew it—it's all our fault; I know we just have to own this. You've got much better things to concern Yourself with, like supporting the missionaries who live in Zambia and give away all their extra bread to feed poor orphans.
What if God won't answer? What if He's not there?
In Romans 5:6–8 Paul reminds us that God has already made the first declaration of His love: "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Therefore you can approach the adventure of intimacy with God without fear of rejection. Unlike dating, when you enter into a personal relationship with God, you enter the relationship already knowing how He feels about you.
God loves you and desires intimacy with you.
Oh God, Please ...
If you are reading this book with a group of people, consider sharing your responses to the following questions. If you are reading this book on your own, jot your answers down in your prayer journal.
1. Think about the person you consider your most intimate companion. How did your first impressions change as you got to know him/her better?
2. Prayer involves getting to know God better. How can you get to know God better this week?
3. Read Ephesians 5:22–33 and Romans 5:6–8. How do these passages of Scripture impact your prayer life?
Pray:Lord, thank You for declaring Your love for me. It's a bit overwhelming to consider that You choose to love me, but I am grateful. I want to know You more. I want to learn what it means to genuinely understand You. Please teach me to pray. AmenCHAPTER 3
Jesus Prayed for Oneness
"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me...."
God loves you and desires intimacy with you. Let these words soak in your mind. Say them aloud. "God loves me and desires intimacy with me."
This truth is woven throughout Scripture, from the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis to the "Amen" at the end of Revelation. But God's desire for intimacy with us is best described in John 17, where we get to eavesdrop on Jesus' prayer life.
Most of the prayers that Jesus prayed are not recorded in the Gospels because Jesus often went off by Himself to communicate with His Father. But in one particularly intimate moment, Jesus' disciples were invited to listen as He poured His heart out to God.
John 17, more than any other chapter of the Bible, describes the deep desire that God has for an intimate, personal relationship with us. And because prayer is the avenue for that intimacy to develop, I want to invite you to walk with me through a verse-by-verse discussion. Open your Bible to John 17 as you read this chapter.
If you go back a few chapters to John 13, you will discover where Jesus was when He spoke these words. He and His disciples were lounging together after the evening meal (which happened to be the last time they would observe the Passover together). Jesus made Peter (and most likely the other disciples) uncomfortable by washing their feet, and He'd dismissed His traitor, Judas Iscariot.
Once Judas was gone, Jesus began to share His heart with His disciples. He wanted to prepare them for His approaching death. They'd walked with him for three years and understood many things, but their faith was about to be shaken to the core. Jesus knew that everything He'd told them about the kingdom of God and the victory that was theirs as new citizens of this kingdom was about to be challenged.
So He spoke. He uttered some of the greatest words in all of Scripture.
Excerpted from Oh God, Please Teach Me to Pray by Leighann McCoy. Copyright © 2012 Leighann McCoy. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
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Posted March 24, 2013