Category Archives: Intimacy with God

How to Look Like Jesus without Growing a Beard (2 Corinthians 3:18)

by Pastor Tim Thomas

We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. –2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB)

I don’t know about you, but I want people to look at me and see Jesus. I want them to see me and recognize the very presence of God, not because of who I am, but because of how I’ve been changed by God. This verse has the key to being transformed, and the way to be transformed is very different than most of us have been taught.

This chapter in Second Corinthians began talking about the glory that shone from Moses’s face and how with a better covenant we believers now have a greater glory than Moses had. And in this verse, it seems that the idea is picked up once again, this time suggesting that the way that glory is increased – and the way that we are transformed into the image of Christ – is through beholding the glory of the Lord.

Beholding means to gaze upon something or someone, and this passage talks about gazing upon the glory of the Lord. Recall that when Moses reflected the glory of the Lord, his face glowed. If glory was revealed from Moses’s face, it seems reasonable to think that the glory is revealed from the Lord’s face. This verse seems to be the New Testament version of Psalms 27:8, where we are invited here not just to seek God’s face but to gaze upon God’s face.

This verse seems to say that if we follow a strategy of regularly spending time in God’s presence, gazing upon his face, people will be able to see Christ in us as we are transformed by his glory. The passage talks about the transformation being from glory to glory, which implies a progressive transformation as we pursue his face. That is, the effect is cumulative, and the more times we behold Him, the more we are transformed.

Should we take this idea of gazing upon the face of God literally or metaphorically? I think most people take it metaphorically, but that might have a lot to do with the fact that not many people know how to engage their spiritual senses to interact with God. You “hear” God speak to you in your spirit. You can also “see” God in your spirit. We believers have the Holy Spirit within us, so he can help us develop these abilities. I find it easier to hear in the Spirit than to see in the Spirit, but as I thought about it recently, some of the most significant events in my life came about because I could see in the Spirit as well. If you are open to it, you can experiment with this. Ask God to help you!

P.S. Mark and Patti Virkler write about learning to see spiritually in their book “Dialog with God” if you are interested in learning about this in more detail.

This was first posted on the sister website, devotedheart.org.

Get in the Dance (Ephesians 3:19)

by Pastor Tim Thomas

May you… know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up… to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself]. — Ephesians 3:19 (AMPL)

This is my favorite verse in the Bible. The verse implies that if you get a deeper revelation of how incredibly in love with you that God is, it will open up the door for you to be totally transformed by God. That revelation of love will open up the door for you to have such an awareness of God’s presence with you, and that presence will spill over to touch the lives of others.

While this passage doesn’t address how this will all come about, I would like to suggest how I think it works. Jesus once said that whoever is forgiven little loves little, but whoever is forgiven much loves much (Luke 7). I would like to suggest something similar from this passage: whoever is loved much loves much, and whoever is loved just a little, loves just a little. More truthfully, it is not simply a matter of how much one is loved, but how much one believes he is loved. We don’t have the capacity to love God greatly without first understanding how greatly God loves us. And we can’t respond deeply to God’s love if we only see it abstractly (i.e., God loving humanity, rather than God knowing me and loving me for who I am). But a revelation of God’s specific love for me – well that’s life changing!

A revelation of how much God loves me opens up the pathway for me to draw close to God – for me to come right into God’s very presence. And it is in God’s very presence that we are able to receive an ever-deepening revelation of how much we are loved. This is a positive feedback loop. In God’s presence, I get a revelation of how much He loves me, and once I have an increased level of understanding how much He loves me, I can draw closer to Him, because His love for me overcomes the obstacles that I previously face in drawing close.

Unfortunately, a positive feedback loop can lock us out unless something initiates the loop. That is why we pray for one another – and for ourselves – to get a revelation of God’s love. And why, ultimately, it is God Himself who must act to initiate this feedback loop. But it is up to us to respond to the revelation that God gives, and to keep the positive feedback loop going. It is like an eternal dance where God moves, and we follow.

Let’s get in the dance! Let’s ask God to give us a deeper revelation of his love for us, and let’s do our best to draw close to Him. Over time, we will become marinated in His Spirit, taking on His likeness as we continue in this path.

This was first posted on the sister website, devotedheart.org.

I Will Seek Your Face! (Psalms 27:8)

by Pastor Tim Thomas

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” — Psalms 27:8 (ESV)

Something leaps in me when I read how the heart responds! In this passage, the first thing we see is the Psalmist acknowledging that the idea of seeking God’s face originated not with us but with God. God extends the invitation to all, but who will hear the cry of His heart and respond? My observation has been that while many acknowledge God, few take time to wait for His presence and to listen to His voice.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “’Seek and keep on seeking and you will find’” (Matthew 7:7, AMPL), which echoes the word of the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, ESV). God wants to be found, and even guarantees our success, as long as we don’t give up.

I’ve often felt that God wants to be pursued by us, because that is a sign of our genuine love, so he doesn’t always make it easy to sense his presence and hear his voice. And it is not simply a matter of being a genuine sign of our love – there is something in the pursuit of God’s face that stirs our hearts to greater love, as long as we don’t let discouragement come in.

In Psalm 27, however, we see the reply of a willing soul, who responds from the depth of his or her being — from the heart. And from the heart arises the cry, “I am seeking, and will continue to seek until I find.” After such a pledge, the Psalmist struggles with some doubt, but eventually concludes that he will be successful, if he doesn’t give up: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalms 27:13-14, ESV).

Let us join with the Psalmist in his pursuit, not giving up until we have seen the face of God!

This was first posted on the sister website, devotedheart.org.

Let Jesus be Your Valentine

heartValentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the significant love of your life. For some, this is a husband or wife; for others, a boyfriend or girlfriend; and some are without a Valentine for Valentine’s Day. I know I had quite a few years like that. Yet I wasn’t truly without a Valentine, because ever since I came to know Jesus in a personal way, I have considered him to be my First Love!

I’m not here to suggest that you don’t celebrate the significant other that you have in your life on Valentine’s Day, but what I would like to suggest is that you not forget Jesus as your most significant other. In Revelations 2, Jesus is talking to the church in Ephesus, and he tells them that he is upset with them, because they have forsaken their first love, who is Jesus. I have taken that phrase “first love” to mean “highest, most important, preeminent love”. That is, Jesus wants to have the status as the one we love the most. Yet when we are honest with ourselves, a lot of us recognize that the flame that once burned bright in our hearts due to the passion we had for him has now become weak and dim.

Let’s take the occasion of Valentine’s Day to renew our passion for Jesus! Even if we feel we are in love with Jesus, there is always more to be had. I’m not suggesting we beat ourselves up about our failures, or even rev ourselves up so that we get hyped on adrenalin. Rather, what I’m suggesting is that we do the things that make our hearts come alive when we are with our love: we take walks where our focus is on our love; we sing to our love; we speak words of gratitude to our love. And we don’t do this just one day out of the year — we use that one special day, Valentine’s Day, as a way of re-establishing patterns for cultivating love for our Beloved year round.

Let us stir up the passion as Song of Solomon teaches us, recalling that “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine” (Song of Solomon 2:16, 6:3) and even embracing the truth that “I am my Beloved’s and His desire is for me” (Song of Solomon 7:10)! Yes, as hard as some of us may find it to believe, Jesus’ passion for us is great — and no matter how much passion we stir up for him, his passion for us is even greater!

Here’s hoping that you and your Beloved have an unforgettable Valentine’s Day this year!

Asking from a Place of Intimacy (Part 2)

dawn-1868418_1920cropIn Part 1 of Asking from a Place of Intimacy, we saw two bold requests Moses made of God in Exodus 33:12-17, and how God granted those requests. Here, we will see Moses ask for something really outrageous. We read in Exodus 33:18-23,

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Moses asked to see God’s glory! No person had ever asked for that before in part because people getting that close to God expected to die from the experience. Yet Moses was at the place of intimacy with God that he wanted to go deeper than he had gone before, and his request, if granted, would take him to that depth.
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Asking from a Place of Intimacy (Part 1)

pinky-swear-329329_1280We have been taking a close look at the interaction between Moses and God recorded in Exodus 33. The chapter began with God telling Moses that He isn’t going to go with Israel into the Promised Land, because the nation is stubborn and unwilling to walk in faith with God. Then we read about Moses establishing the Tent of Meeting where he regularly meets with God, and how the nation responds with admiration for Moses and reverence for God when he goes to the Tent. In this article, we will focus on the unbelievable requests Moses makes of God, and the more surprising favorable answers God gives him.

You can change God’s mind from a place of intimacy

As we begin with Exodus 33:12-14, we find the first exchange between Moses and God.

Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (NIV)

To understand in context what Moses seems to be asking, we have to refer back to verses 1 to 3 in which God said that he would not go with Israel into the Promised Land, but would send an angel to lead them instead. Moses is now asking God whether He had reconsidered what he said about not going with Israel Himself. Moses reminds God that He had told Moses that Moses had found favor with Him. And Moses asks directly for God to show Moses ways that are pleasing to God, so that Moses can know God better, and can continue to please God.
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Do You Need Your Own Established Place to Meet with God?

“It was Moses’ custom to set up the tent known as the Tent of Meeting far outside the camp. Everyone who wanted to consult with the LORD would go there.” — Exodus 33:7 (NLT)

True confession. I’ve been going through a season in which it has been hard to connect with God, and I can tell you that it’s not God’s fault. I’ve been busy and distracted by many things, and the older, more leisurely ways that I used to use to connect with God aren’t working for me now. I’m not happy with my situation. Far from it! The problem is that I have been stumped as to what to do about it. Just recently, however, as I was talking to God about my struggle, I felt like He suggested that I take a closer look at the life of Moses to see if I might find some ideas that would help me. So as I began looking at an old familiar passage, I found some real gems that I believe will make a difference in my life. Perhaps you also are not satisfied with how your walk with God has been going, so perhaps there are things that might help you, as well.
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Right from the first verse gems of truth started jumping off the page. Exodus 33:7 is meant as an introduction to the passage, and as an introduction, such gems are not expected. But here we see something special that Moses did. He set up a place for people to meet with God. It is referred to as the Tent of Meeting. This tent was meant to be a place where anyone could go, yet many commentators believe that it was only ever used by Moses and his faithful assistant Joshua. How sad if this is true! Yet the fact that Moses established this place with not only himself but others in mind speaks clearly about his heart that everyone be invited to have intimacy with God.

I realize that one hindrance I experienced in connecting with God is noise and distraction. I think God likes it when we are able to focus on him alone, and so the idea of establishing a place where I can focus — my own Tent of Meeting — is a powerful one. If you are wondering how to do this, perhaps there is a room in your home that can be set aside for meeting with God? I know that many of us don’t have a separate space we can use, so maybe it would be possible to repurpose a space that you are already using for something else? Maybe a desk generally used for other purposes might transform nicely into a place of prayer, Bible reading, and journal writing. Even a kitchen table could be transformed. You could help to make it special by placing a candle or cross on it, or changing the lighting in the space, or turning on worship music. You just need to be creative!

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Getting the Bride Ready for Jesus

The Church – the collection of all faithful followers of Jesus – is pledged in marriage to the very Son of God, and one day, perhaps very soon, we will experience the fulfillment of that promise (see Revelation 21). But since it is a promise, is there anything for us to do while we are waiting?
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A normal bride would be busy planning the wedding, to be sure. But in addition to all of the details of sending invitations, choosing colors, and selecting venues, she would be doing her best to make herself beautiful for her husband to be (and all those witnessing her at the wedding). It’s not uncommon for a bride to go on a diet, spend time at the gym, try to find just the right hairstyle, find a person skilled to help her with her makeup, and of course be sure to have the perfect dress, along with shoes and jewelry to complete the look.

How can the church make Herself beautiful? I think that Isaiah 62 gives us some ideas. In an extended metaphor, the prophet is speaking from God’s perspective about Jerusalem. But what is Jerusalem in this metaphor? We see in Revelation 21 that the new Jerusalem represents the Church. And in Isaiah 62, especially verses 4 and 5, we see Jerusalem being promised as a bride to God. We can therefore use this passage in Isaiah to help us understand what the Lord wants to happen leading up to the great wedding.
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You’re Not Weird, You’re Rare: Embrace It and Value It

by Pastor Tim Thomas

I spent a large part of my life trying to be someone else, because I didn’t particularly like who I was. But I’ve come to realize that I was looking at myself through lenses that could only provide a distorted picture. Once God healed me from a deep-seated issue of rejection , I was able to more readily take in the truth that God had been speaking to me all along: that he loved me as I was, with all my seeming imperfections and weaknesses; that he made me as I am intentionally, and that it was meant not only for my good, but for the good of others; and that he wanted me to embrace who he created me to be, so that his purpose in this creation could be revealed in light rather than hidden in the shadows.
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I would say to anyone reading this, that if you don’t feel loved, special, and with purpose for your life, you either need healing at some deep places in your life; or truth spoken to you and then embraced to replace what you are now believing; or both.

For me, healing came through the ministry of some friends one evening as they prayed with me. It was a God-appointed time. What changed me was a vision that God gave me of him carrying me in his arms when I was a baby at an orphanage before I was adopted. He spoke to my heart something that I didn’t even know I needed to hear – that he never abandoned me, but was always with me, watching over me, caring for me. That picture set me free from believing I was rejected and deserving rejection. I was healed on the inside, and I started believing my worth. And once I was healed, I was more readily able to receive God’s love and the love of others.

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Communion is Like a Magnificent Diamond Engagement Ring from Jesus

There are a number of places in the Bible that suggest that the Church is the Bride of Christ. Consider Revelations 19:7-8 “‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people)” (ESV). This suggests that God’s people, the Church, represent “her” in the passage, and their righteous acts, “the fine linen”, is their bridal gown.

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As I was pondering during my run before church the nature of the relationship between a believer and Christ, I was challenged by how when people are moving towards marriage, they pursue each other. They treat their relationship as important and they devote their heart, their affection, their time, and their focus to the other person. No woman wants to marry a disinterested suitor! No man wants to marry a woman who treats him as insignificant.

Yet I wonder how Jesus feels about it when we fail to pursue him — when he only gets the leftovers from our time and affections. Does he still feel valued and loved by us? Would he still want to marry us? Is he still our First Love — our love above all other loves? I pose these questions not to cause us to worry about our salvation, but to cause us to take stock of our lives, and perhaps lead us to make changes that will allow us to pursue him as a person who is preparing for one’s own wedding and life together forever.

God’s affection for us is constant, so we don’t have to worry that his love for us fluctuates as much as our love for him sometimes seems to. He is Faithful and True! He loves us with an everlasting love. He calls us dearly loved!

As we think about coming to the communion table, we realize how much he has pursued us. Communion is like an expensive and magnificent diamond engagement ring. He didn’t want to offer us something of little cost. It cost Jesus all he had. He paid for it with his very life. And yet he gave his life freely, because that is the kind of love he loves each of us with. As we partake of his body and blood, we receive his beautiful gift to us — a pledge of his love for eternity as our Bridegroom. And as we receive this pledge — this magnificent diamond engagement ring — we once again say “yes” to his love, and refresh our own passion for him.

Dear Lord, help us cast aside all of the insignificant things from our lives — the baubles and distractions, that we might respond to your pursuit with the attention and passion you deserve. Help us love you with our whole beings, as you love us! Amen.

I didn’t have notes for the communion meditation from Harvest Church in Hampstead today, so this was the best I could do, since a number of people mentioned how it touched them.