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SMB A Network Group Study Resource

Intimacy with God by Robert Weston
This is a study resource aimed at drawing us closer to God and living and walking in increasing intimacy with Him.

There have been times when I have gone to minister in various places that I have looked over the congregation and thought, “What these people need most is not more head teaching but a deeper encounter with the Risen Lord” For most of us, if the truth be told, there is a “gap” between what we believe in our hearts to be true, and what we experience on a day to day basis. This simple booklet is an attempt to bridge the gap: to develop the life of intimacy within us that will affect all that we are and do.

It is all about opening the pores of our heart to receive His sunlight. It is equally a book about how the Lord can lead us on when we our spiritual life feels dull, or when we feel as though we are getting nowhere and have made a mess of everything.


Intimacy from God’s perspective
Consider whom we are drawing close to (i), (ii)
How are we to live in the light of this?
Drawing Close
Knowing Christ requires a degree of silence and solitude
Learning to live in the awareness of God’s leading (i), (ii)
Living in an eternal framework

  Ponder the implications of these words of Jesus:
The Host of Heaven are at Hand
Catching Inspiration
First appearances matter!
One word from God is worth a hundred bright ideas!
Renewing our Mind (i), (ii), and (iii)
Intimacy always starts with Repentance

Develop accountability
"Swilkering” God’s presence
Asking God questions
Developing sensitivity in our spirits
God loves a good Adventure! (i) and (ii)
Intimacy embraces Risk
Intimacy and tough times

  Beware of Enemy Interference
Intimacy in the Home
Forgiveness clears the blockages
When we are facing satanic opposition
When the going is tough
When we are feeling dull
God gives authority to match our responsibilities
Keep praying!

Worship God with content
Don’t make impossible demands of each other
Turn everything into prayer
A nice surprise!
Cultivate flexibility!
Welcome the surprise call of God
Know the times and the seasons in your life
Restorer of our soul

  Intimacy is precious to the Lord
Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord (Eph 5:10)
Jesus knows us through and through
What will make us more Christ-like?
Getting away with the Lord
Why do people hold back from such intimacy?
The Lord knows what He is doing – so we can yield
Intimacy Develops our Sensitivity and our Gentleness
When the Heavens feel empty
The Lord can turn any situation around
Spirituality without discipline is like a river without banks
Taking Intimacy Wider

Intimacy from God’s perspective

Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover meal with you” (Luke 22:15)

That is a perfect picture of how much it means to Him when, in the midst of a world that is so largely indifferent to Him, we make a warm welcome for Him.

There is nothing more precious to God than when someone is “feeling” after Him. It is not that He has favourites but rather that just as we can give ourselves more, and more easily, to an open and smiling child than we can to a sullen and surly one, so He must find it easier to reach the trusting and the loving.

Lord, all that I am, and all that I have I offer to You.
not even the blessings You have given me,
or the things You have promised,
are as important as being with You.
I refuse You nothing.

Before we go any further, let’s prepare our hearts to meet with Him and to come into His presence.

You, my Lord,
You listen even to my thoughts.
Teach me to listen,
That I may hear You when You speak.
Teach me to rest in You.
Teach me to close my eyes and to rest
in the Love that has supported me all my days.
Teach me Lord, to rest in You.
(Frank Topping)

Consider whom we are drawing close to (i)

The goal of our walk with the Lord is intimacy with Him that communicates itself to others. 99.9% of our lives and more lies ahead of us in eternity. Here are some starter thoughts to ponder:

Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
All I have is Yours, and all You have is mine.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.
Father, I want those you have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
He who is united to the Lord is one with Him in spirit.'
John 17:3
John 17:10
John 17:22
John 17:24
James 4:8
1 Cor 6:17

Consider whom we are drawing close to (ii)

In this section we are going to explore the concept of God’s sovereignty, which is everywhere implicit and often explicit in Scripture.

I am who I am (God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:14, Ponder also, ‘Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD?’ Exodus 4:11, ‘I am the LORD; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.’ Isaiah 45:5-7)

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant. (Heb. 12:22-24)

How are we to live in the light of this?

The most important thing about drawing close to the Lord is to spend time with Him.
Talk with the Lord about your times with Him.
Is there anything He would show you that would help you to be more consistent in your seeking after Him?

Chris Bowater loves to quote the words of the hymn ‘Fill Thou my life O Lord my God in “every” part with praise’. He points out that we can’t divorce any part of our spiritual life from the rest of it. “Every” means “every”: Every part of our life, our marriage, of our finances, of our attitudes, of our interests, our hobbies. Pray into this.

In the very best sense, time with the Lord and in the glory of His presence becomes the air that we breathe. Don’t worry that your experience of God’s presence will vary from day to day, according to your health, mood and circumstances: it is the intention of your heart that matters most. Our task is simply to come to Him, and to make frameworks for seeking Him. How does this work out in your life from day to day?

Drawing Close

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name         (Ps. 100:4)
  What happens if we come first in a spirit of worship?  
  If we put our needs and failings first, we may never get beyond them.  

Knowing Christ requires a degree of silence and solitude

Ponder the following statements.
Discuss what role such silence and solitude have in your life.
How you might like to explore these subjects.

“When the door of the steam bath is continually left open, the heat inside rapidly escapes.” Even so the desire to say many things through the door of speech dissipates the remembrance of God: “Timely silence then is precious, for it is nothing less than the mother of the wisest thoughts.”
(Diadochus, 5th-century Greek bishop).

“Whenever we begin talking about God we are necessarily falsifying Him . . . Silence should at least take the place of the continuous prattle and rambling about God (for) silence is the very nature of theology . . . it is something positive, like love, death and life. It is not a pause between noises, sermons and theological disquisitions, but something without which words lose their meaning.”
(The Orthodox Tradition)

“The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I would reply: Create silence! The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today. And even if it were blazoned forth with all the panoply of noise so that it could be heard in the midst of all the other noise, then it would no longer be the Word of God. Therefore create Silence.”
(Sřren Kierkegaard, 19th century Danish writer)

There is a film called Into Great Silence, shot entirely in a Carthusian monastery. Permission was given to film sixteen years after the initial request was made. Carthusians are clearly fairly deliberate in making their decisions! Here is a film without a voiceover, showing rather than describing the monks’ true inner life. This film creates silence – which is not just the absence of noise, but a profound inner stillness.

Virginia Woolf spoke of the experience of a silent retreat as enabling her “to see to the bottom of the vessel”, acknowledging that this could sometimes be a troubling and even terrifying experience.

In the course of a week on retreat, I always seem to experience at least one day when the Lord takes me to the cleaners, and shows me my wrong motivations concerning all sorts of things and people. True silence it is very far from escapism, because you come face to face with yourself and your own base motives. Silence is no place for cowards.


  Take a phrase, either from the Bible, or along Biblical lines and meditate on it for at least five full minutes. When intrusive thoughts rise up, ignore them. It is good for the soul, for we need to develop inner ears, our inner eyes, our inner heart.
  Study the writings of Richard Foster to understand how to approach such meditation.

Learning to live in the awareness of God’s leading (i)

The Early Quakers believed that unless you hear His voice and discern His will directly yourself, the church could not function properly. Their motto was, ‘Christ has come to teach His people Himself’. (cf John 5:19)

  Have we used our busyness as an excuse for not seeking the Lord more? Deep down we may even be quite glad that our stated desire to spend more time with the Lord is not more often put to the test!
  Do you look on extended time alone with God as a treat to be enjoyed (solitude) or as rather scary prospect (loneliness) and rush to fill the silence with noise?

Many people, even when they go away to be with the Lord, take such a busy cluttered up timetable with them that the emphasis is still more on productivity than on intimacy. But Jesus said to Peter, “Do you love me?” not “are you doing lots of work for Me?” Remember: noise often keeps the “still small voice” at bay!

God is often whispering to us throughout the day,
but unless we have stilled our souls,
and are giving our full attention to our Lord,
who is the Lover of our souls,
we may miss these whispers.

It is a sign of maturity if we can hold silence together. Too many people just say ‘let’s have a moment of silence now – and that is literally all it is! The more confident we are in drawing close to God in such ways, the more we can lead others into this anointing.

Learning to live in the awareness of God’s leading (ii)

We often find ourselves pulled in many different directions. There are so many different things we could be doing. The social part of us desires the evening off, even whilst another part reminds us of a dozen administrative chores that need attending to. Our soul needs feeding too. All must be integrated within the purposes of God and the time we have available, so that, like a finely balanced pair of scales, we can sense what it is the Lord would have us do; sense, too, when we are running out of anointing for doing something and need to turn our attention elsewhere.

The answer to these competing needs is to try to “find out what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:10). We won’t always get this right, but God honours the fact that we are trying.


I ask you, Lord Jesus, to inspire within me, Your lover,
an affection that is unbounded, a desire that is unrestrained,
and a yearning that throws discretion to the winds.
May reason not hold my love in check, may fear not inhibit my devotion
and may decorum not temper my fervour.
The sweetness of Your love
vastly exceeds the pleasure of any earthly joys.
those who lust after the things of this world
are ignorant of the delight of Your love.
If they have a single taste of Your sweetness,
they too would become Your lovers.


 One of the best ways we develop intimacy with God is by spending time with people who are more in love with Jesus than we ourselves are. For some this may be through big ‘God-chasing- meetings, of the kind that are taking place now in places like Florida and Dudley. Others will meet the Lord most deeply when they are on their own. Paul said, Join with others in following my example. (Phil. 3:17) Think of people you know, who, like Richard, radiate the love of God.

Ask the Lord to develop in you more of this characteristic.

Living in an eternal framework

From everlasting to everlasting You are God (Psalm 90:2)

I the Lord do not change (Malachi 3:6) cf: He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind. (1 Sam. 15:29)

Everything in this life is progressive. We progress from having no understanding of a subject to some understanding of it, to finally becoming experts in it. Perhaps we have a subconscious thought that God too develops and progresses.
Do we take into account that He is the same yesterday, today and forever? Before mankind or even time itself began, He was. And when time and this earth are all wrapped up, He will forever be. (cf 2 Peter 3)

Ponder the implications of these words of Jesus:

‘Before Abraham was born, I am.’ John 8:58

Ponder too how when Moses and Elijah returned on the Mount of Transfiguration they had not aged. They had been with the Lord, and returned without looking one second older – rather as the children in the Narnia stories have adventures that span many centuries of Narnia time, but which only occupy a fraction of a second by our time scale.

God knows what our great great grandparents did.
He knows that what we are doing now will affect generations to come if He tarries:
so let’s sow well now!
Many of the people we lead to the Lord now will in turn lead many others to Him.

Lord, help us to understand more of Your eternal timescale. Your plans originate in a different context from ours, but they mesh and dovetail intricately with our timescale when they need to. Keep us in step with Your plans for our lives.

But about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. (Matt. 22:31-32)

The Host of Heaven are at Hand

God knows what is happening to and around us. He never has to say ‘whoops, that took Me by surprise!’ He thinks on more levels and dimensions than we can comprehend.

How can we learn to think more spiritually?

Ponder the passage in which Elisha told His servant to open his eyes and see the host of heaven and to realize that those who are with us are more than those who are with the opposing forces (2 Kings 6). How should this understanding affect both our awareness of heavenly resources when we face problems and challenges as well as our daily decision-making?

Would you say that you are:

  a) living constantly in the awareness of spiritual kingdom, aware that at any moment the powers of the age to come are able to break through?
  b) Rarely think about it?
  c) Believe it, but suppose that it this is something that is of direct relevance to others rather than to you?

Catching Inspiration

It sometimes happens that we are on the edge of receiving revelation and preparing something really important, but we miss the moment by leaping to answer an e mail, or by setting off to attend to some administrative matter. These things really do need doing, and they are in many ways easier to do because we can get a handle on them – but they may not be God’s best.

Inspiration is so precious that it needs cultivating carefully. Catch and store the drops, like rainwater in a water butt in a drought-ridden land. At any time God can take what He has shared with you and develop it further. Eddison may have been right when he said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, but it’s no use perspiring unless you have received the 1% of inspiration to work with!

When plaguing thoughts intervene, as they are bound to do, for the devil is a Distracter as well as an Accuser, just make a note of the things you need to come back to. That way you do not need to spend the rest of the quiet time worrying that you are going to forget to ring Fred or take the chicken out of the freezer – or (w)ring the chicken!

First appearances matter!

People make their initial decision about how they feel about a church before they hear a sermon, by the welcome they receive and the worship and the general feel of the place. Are we sowing towards that level of welcome? (Marx was turned off by the way the church treated him – and millions upon millions suffered and even died as a result of the dogmas that he devised. That’s how serious it can be when we fail to be a welcoming community). If we come, as it were from the throne room of God, however, we bring His presence with us. In other words, it is not so much that the structure of the church that should define us as that the flow of God’s Spirit should define the way we church together.

One word from God is worth a hundred bright ideas!

While [the church at Antioch] were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)

God wants us to think spiritually. He sends us dreams visions to help us get there; He allows us to have experiences that point to the reality of His eternal spiritual kingdom, and He takes us on many adventures in order to get us to the destination He has in mind for us. Share some of the things you have experienced along these lines.

Where the people saw only piles of rubble, Haggai and Zechariah saw a brand new temple rising from the ruins, and their words galvanized a generation into achieving a remarkable transformation: the temple was rebuilt and the nation’s spiritual life was largely restored.

  One word from You, Lord, is worth a hundred of our own bright ideas! Help us to make the effort to still our hearts, for that is so often when Your perspective on an issue becomes clear.  

Ponder the implications of Acts 13:1-2 – all that would not have happened had the disciples not been in a place to hear God tell them to set Saul apart for his future great apostolic journeys.

Renewing our Mind (i)

You love to speak, Lord, even beyond the need for words.
You listen to our inmost thoughts
and bring us to a place of stillness,
where attentive listening ushers in
the intimate communion that You are longing for.
Enlarge our understanding, Lord.
Never stop speaking.
We need to hear what You are saying –
even if that means saying the same thing over and over again.

Consider the ways in which Western society has all but institutionalised doubt and unbelief. We let our minds crush the Spirit in us, instead of allowing the Spirit to inform our minds.

Heidi Baker prayed a few years ago for a man in a wheelchair in Dudley who was suffering from MS. By the end of a long time of soaking prayer he was not only out of the wheelchair himself but pushing others around. Heidi declared that this was a sign to the paralysed church that has been too much and too long in the fear of man and in sheer unbelief, in which the mind has dominated.

To ponder:

  What effect does worry have on our inner life?

It is like driving with the brakes on; it is the interest we pay on trouble before it happens – but it is such a common feeling that if you feel it is too heavy to insist that worry is a sin, then try turning that sentence round: it’s not a sin not to worry!
To adapt the famous image of the “glass half full, glass half empty”: two people looked out of a prison: one saw walls and the other saw the sky. Which category most nearly describes you?

Renewing our Mind (ii)

When you feel waves of doubt and anxiety sweeping through your soul, try to catch the crest of these waves, and turn it into fervent prayer for God to do the opposite of whatever these negative thoughts are suggesting. In this way, you harness their negative power and turn into breakthrough prayer for the kingdom. One plus God is still a majority. God has done great things in the past, but the goodness of the Lord is always coming towards us (Exod. 33:19) He is brim full of ideas and wisdom, and He is always doing something new!


  The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:6)

Renewing our Mind (iii)

Those who most desire intimacy with God are often extremely sensitive. This is the gift which enables us to tune in both to the Father’s wavelength but also to other people’s hurts and needs. But this can work against us, in that we can easily feel that things are our fault, or that we are cast off forever. We have to get used to handling our sensitivity. Ask the Lord to put filters on, so that we don’t pick up more than we need to: otherwise we pick up Radios 1, 2, 3, 4 and the news in Welsh and can feel overwhelmed by too many stimuli.

We cannot afford to have our spirits taken up by other people’s needs agendas and expectations. It helps enormously if we can work out what the plot is that God has given us, and can stick to it, even if circumstances and location change.

“All this”, David wrote in 1 Chron. 28:19, “I have in writing from the hand of the Lord upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan.”


  What goals has God given you to aim towards?  
  Are you doing enough to make it possible to bring them about?  
  Pray that Your wishes may increasingly be His.  
  Intimacy always starts with Repentance  

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. (2 Cor. 7:10-11)

In terms of encountering God deeply and directly, in my own case I would say there has usually been a lot of repentance needing to happen first. Repentance is first the initial key for release and then for sustaining it.

Repentance ‘justifies’ God intervening on our behalf. But repentance must always be accompanied by godly sorrow. Humility is not beating ourselves up, but knowing who we are, who God is, who we are in God, and how far short we fall of that.

  In what ways is repentance different from remorse (which is the counterfeit of repentance) just as timidity is the opposite of faith and courage.  

Develop accountability

Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself,
just as he is pure.
(1 John 3:2-3)

People you share your heart with as well as your projects. Honesty can cure almost anything. Freedom and accountability are built into everything that is of God. (This can be as true of our thought life as of our actions).

It is comforting to remember, as Jesus said of Pilate, that these people would have no power over us unless God has allowed it (see John 19:11). Nothing is too hard for God.

Don’t be surprised if strong emotions come up as you try to grow in intimacy: things that make you cry, and things that make you angry too. There are many imbalances hidden in the labyrinths of our heart that will need bringing to the surface and healing or removing, like worms and viruses on a computer. It takes us a long time to bring our hearts to stillness. Never assume the Lord is not interested in us, or is not working: it is rather the devil who fears what will happen as we grow in the life of intimacy!

A time for hurts to be exposed, bitterness repented of and released, grace to be received. ‘Lord, may my heart be at rest, so that I can act by Your Spirit, rather than being driven by the pressures.

When we become aware of ways in which we have seriously failed the Lord, or are grieving His Spirit, we must be prepared to face it honestly. There is no such thing as secret sin. We do not have a special standing with God that will excuse us from His judgement. ‘His love and grace are always matched by His passion for justice’. He disciplines us more severely because of His love for us. ‘Grace and discipline belong together; spirituality without discipline is like a river without any banks.’

Are you being particularly tempted at the moment? Be honest and open with one another. Honesty can cure almost anything. If we are not fervent as we once were in the life of prayer, we may be suffering from one or more of the following conditions:

  Knock-on effects from relationship breakdowns, that make us hold back, and cause us to expect things to go wrong. The more we get into the habit of blessing one another, the more our generosity releases God’s generosity.  
  Have disappointments blunted your faith? The sense of disappointment can be crippling: ‘I’ve tried it before and it didn't work’. ‘I didn't get very far with it’. A vision that didn’t work out, a person who didn’t attend a meeting . . . such thoughts may strike us in the form of a flashback just as we are about to set out in some act or errand of faith. Don’t crumple as the thought assails you – it is those who persist in doing good that God honours most!  
  It is as well to bear in mind that disappointment leads to a vicious spiral. First it turns into discouragement (that most insidious of all temptations!) and from there it descends into self-pity or bitterness, and eventually to despair or cynicism. It is so much better to cry out to God further up the spiral, long before we reach such depths. This calls for an active response of faith: to cry out for the Lord to turn our disappointments into His appointments.  

It is sometimes worth turning a Scripture upside down to understand how much God wants to encourage us.

‘Now may the God of all discouragement fill you with no joy and peace as you fail to trust in Him, so that you may underflow with hope and hopelessness by the absent power of the Holy Spirit.’ (not Rom 15:13)

‘Now to Him who is not able to do more than, we ask or imagine, due to the lack of power that is at work within us.’ (not Eph. 3:20)

“Swilkering” God’s presence

If God is calling us to spend more time with Himself, we will find ourselves becoming tense and tetchy if we resist this call. Why? Because we are struggling to perpetuate something that no longer fits or to be the type of person God is not asking us to be. What happens if we yield to the call? A deep underlying sense of peace that we are fulfilling what we have been called to do, for all there may be many strains and challenges associated with fulfilling it.

  You ‘catch’ peace from people who have found their peace in Christ. Being with them is like being handed a bouquet of beautiful flowers.  
  Centuries ago a Christian declared, ‘Find your peace in Christ and many others will find their peace around you.’  
  In Shropshire there used to be a phrase to describe milkmaids walking along carrying two buckets on a yoke slung across their shoulders; as the top of the milk frothed over the top it was said to be ‘swilkering’. May each one of us “swilker” the presence of the Lord.  

Asking God questions

“For this, moreover, will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them” (Ezek. 36:27).

It is good to ask God questions. It means we expect Him to be answering them. You don’t ask questions of bare ceilings. When Dom was four he asked a lot of questions. (He still does!) “Where does water go to?” “Where does TV come from?” “Shall we put these flowers outside again so they can grow tall again?” It seemed a shame to have to tell him that once flowers are cut they are already on their way to the dustbin – but let’s enjoy their beauty first.

I love Teresa of Avila’s expression, “The water is for the flowers.” No matter how much you drink, or give away, the river of God won’t run dry. There is no “quota” of answered prayer that we can ever exhaust.

Pray for the Spirit to be our Counsellor: "I will ask the Father, and He
will give you another counsellor to be with you for ever – the Spirit of
Truth. (John 14:16-17)

  The Lord would not tell His people to ’Listen to Him’ were it not possible to do so. When Mother Theresa was asked about prayer, she replied, “I listen!” There is no special formula – it is a matter of love. He doesn’t bid us come just to put a workload on us, although waiting on Him obviously greatly helps to sharpen and define all we do.  
  Keep alert for the particular subjects the Lord wishes to bring to your attention.  
  Sometimes if we are not getting through in prayer, try praying from another angle. If you are not getting through on one tack, try another.  
  If you feel stuck asking the question, “Is such and such Your will?” try “loading” the question in one direction or another. “Lord, so far as I can see the right thing to do here is to . . . is there any reason why I shouldn’t do this? Doing this breaks the logjam, and gets us moving again. So long as our desires or prejudices are not leading us astray, the Lord will not fail to warn us if we are in serious danger of going off course (Isaiah 30:21)  
  The angle of prayer is important too. We may be praying from so far ‘underneath’ a situation that all we are really doing is just vocalizing our unbelief. Come from an attitude of praise.  

One thing have I asked of Jehovah, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. (Ps. 27:4)

Developing sensitivity in our spirits

God wants our spirits to be sensitive to pick up the longings and the burdens that are on “His” heart. To this end, He often uses images, pictures and prophecies to do this. He wants us to be able to recognise His voice and to respond to His leading. We may have to battle through all sorts of static in our soul and chatter in our mind and tune into His wavelength. Again, one touch or word from the Lord can restore souls and revive hope and receive joy and creativity flow again.

God loves a good Adventure! (i)

The people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. (Dan 11:32)

God is a great scriptwriter! Have you noticed that He is better than Shakespeare and the writer of 24 put together? In the TV thriller series 24, the screen often divides into panels as we follow what is going on for four sets of characters at the same time. God works things together for good, however, on an incalculable number of dimensions, often right through to last minute deliverances.

We are so familiar with the outcome of the biblical adventures that we may be in danger of forgetting how finely poised the outcome often was – and just how much faith and courage people needed to act on the improbable words that God had given them. What riches the Church would have missed had Ananias not obeyed the improbable word to visit Saul, who was known only to the church as their most rabid persecutor? (Acts 9:10f)

The Lord calls His people to adventures of faith! If you know anything about the history of the Celtic church, think of Patrick returning to Ireland, the country he had previously known only as a slave, and how the call of God made it possible to bring that nation to Christ. Or Columba setting off to found a missionary monastery in Iona that would bring large parts of Scotland to the Lord. Or Columbanus heading off to evangelise Europe.

The odds stacked against these people must have seemed as impossible as it did for Noah to build his ark, or for Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but they went forward in obedience to what God had shown them – and God did amazing things through them. But that can be a bit like saying ‘One, two, miss-a-few, ninety-nine, a hundred – it overlooks the enormous challenges these servants of the Lord went through in order to get to the place of release.

  Share adventures of faith that you yourselves have experienced, or that mean a lot to you.  

God loves a good Adventure! (ii)

If anyone had told me a few years ago, when I had just written a book about St Cuthbert of Northumbria, that I would move to the most remote and northerly part of the British Isles, (which in turn would lead to working on the most Southerly islands) I would have been most surprised.

Sometimes the Lord tells us what we are to do before we set out; at other times we discover His purposes as we continue on our pilgrimage. The most important thing is to remain open and flexible. At that point, it is so important that we do not try to hang on to anything He is asking us to lay down. As Corrie Ten Boom remarked, “It hurts if He has to prise our fingers open!”

Bless each other as you continue on the path that God has set before you, and opens up new dimensions of Him call. May the Lord enable each one of us to do many ‘exploits’ for Him. Ponder Eph. 2:10 and Acts 17:26-28 in this context.

Intimacy embraces Risk

So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul – men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 15:25-26, cf Rom. 16:4)

There is always a degree of risk involved in following the Lord wholeheartedly. As Brother Andrew put it, “the command is to go to all the nations; there is no automatic guarantee that we will come back again!”

Whenever we witness to people, or reach out to them in some way, (it is great to offer to pray with people, by the way, even those who are not yet Christians) there is always a risk that they will say reject our advances. More often than not, however, they will be grateful – and it gives God the chance to work in power.

  Whenever we see opportunities for the Kingdom we must reach out and take them.  

Drivers in Pakistan hurtle into gaps that we westerners might never even have realised were gaps. In rather the same way, we must turn our spirits to pick up the opportunities the Lord sends our way. We may be inclined to see the risks and dangers only too clearly – but God is looking at the possibilities. He knows that He can provide everything that we need for the journey He is asking us to go on for Him.

  Dare to adventure your opinion. If God has given you creative ideas, or you have seen things that could be done better, don’t just sit on the idea. Tease it out and share it appropriately.  
  If you are in a leadership position, encourage people to take time to work out what it is that God is asking of them – and then to step out in faith. Spot the potential and gifting in people before it is visible to the naked eye. Develop their callings and giftings by providing the opportunities for them to grow.  
  Don’t let fear of getting things wrong, or the memories of past failures stop you from stepping out. You are certain to make mistakes along the way, but if you seek to learn from them, your ministry will continue to take shape and develop. It is those who persevere beyond the inevitable disappointments who emerge into their full calling.  
  Almost all those who are greatly used in healing ministries, once prayed without success for people.  

Intimacy and tough times

Lord, by such things men live;
and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
and let me live.
Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.
(Is. 38:16-17)

Sooner or later all of us find things developing in ways we would dearly have wished that they were not doing. The temptation is just to say ‘God change the circumstances’ – but sometimes the Lord is more interested in using them to change the way we react to situations.

If you are tempted to say, ‘Why is God allowing (me to lose my job, have this relationship difficulty, or whatever it is that you are facing?) ask God not only to bring you safely through the situation but to grow through it. It may be more about you and God than about the other person or the situation.

How else are we to interpret passages such as James 1:2-4?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

‘Heavenly thinking’ helps us not to react primarily by blaming the other person. The Lord is still in control, though we may need to seek Him urgently to set us free from various traps and difficulties. Again and again we will find ourselves inclined to think, ‘this isn’t possible and this isn’t fair.’ But where do such thoughts get us? It is only a small step from here to embracing the serpent’s assessment of the situation. He is the supreme faith quencher and nega-holic!

  The enemy does his homework carefully, bases his temptations on our track record and then attacks remorselessly, seeking to weaken our levels of trust. Jesus is our heavenly Advocate, who defends us, who sets us free to start again, and who works very hard to lead and bless us.  
  The devil is highly skilled at finding ways to accuse us, and making us feel outsiders to grace. Shrug him off! Our destiny is the Lord’s destiny, not Satan’s – therefore we must rid ourselves of all such things as anger, rage, malice, envy and so on.  

There are some problems that we have been hoping will go away for years. It is realistic to suppose that these are not going to change by our own unaided efforts. Share with someone wise how the devil whispers to you. Different things will get beneath your guard. You can lift the shield of faith for each other over those areas where you need reinforcement. In the sense that the other person is not weighed down by the baggage of past failures in that area, ‘the prayers of others can reach the parts our own can not!’ (cf James 5:16)

  I have adapted a well known advertisement to illustrate the fact that The prayer of a righteous man (or woman) is powerful: “The prayers of others can reach the parts our own can not!”  

Important Hint:

  Pray to use your times together with friends to pray more, and to enter together into God’s presence. Every such encounter is an opportunity to draw near to the Lord.  

If we do not have the humility to ask for prayer in those areas where we are struggling, we may never succeed in getting ourselves free by our own efforts. We will just continue to wallow around in the quicksand!

Beware of Enemy Interference

Accusations, suggestions, misrepresentations . . . the Accuser of the Brethren tries all he can to divert our soul and to keep us from the stillness of God’s welcoming presence. Pray that you can recognise when these forces are at work in your life. Send them packing in the name of Jesus, affirming the opposite of whatever it is that they are trying to have you believe. Then your spirit is free to move on and pray wider again, and to receive the words that Jesus speaks to us, which are full of spirit and life. (John 6:22)

The enemy’s propaganda works because of its constant repetition. If Satan were to take part in a Mastermind quiz his specialised subject would be ‘How many ways can you make someone fearful!’ God's might be, ‘How love can set you free’ – from the fear of man and from the snares of the devil.

Again and again we will see God making a way for His purposes to prosper and prevail. That is why it is so important that we do not withdraw from the fray (or from each other either) and write ourselves out of the script.

  Many give up too soon, and so they stop praying. Only we can do the things that God has called us to do. Don’t beat yourselves up because you are not reaching people by the thousand – God has given you neither the anointing nor the calling of a Billy Graham. But He is waiting for us to seek Him, so that our will can increasingly become His will, and His will can be done in and through us. We never know what we will turn into, or what Jesus will do in and through us next.  

Intimacy in the Home

I am an enormous believer in the power of “harnessing” prayer. Gordon MacDonald makes a fascinating point when he claims that one draft horse can pull two tons of weight, but two horses can pull an astonishing twenty four tons. Here we see an exponential growth that seems to me to have direct parallels in the spiritual realm when we pray together.

Sadly, few couples pray together on a regular basis. Why is this? Perhaps because there is no hiding place. We may do a pretty good job of convincing most people much of the time that we are deeply spiritual, but we can’t fool the spiritually discerning, let alone our wives or husbands.

Take to heart too, Peter’s instructions in 1 Peter 3:7:
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner . . . so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Very few people set out to have a bad relationship with their partner, or with anyone else for that matter: rather, many drift into it. Occasionally this comes as the result of some major failing or infidelity, but more frequently it comes through a succession of irritating habits and by apparent areas of incompatibility. I say ‘apparent’ because I believe that we are called to create an atmosphere of compatibility. The first and best way to do this is to respect our partner for their strengths and differences, rather than being frustrated with them for not being clones of ourselves, or as “perfect” as we think they ought to be.

Where we have allowed disrespect to colour our attitude, we specifically exclude any chance of creating a spiritually creative or welcoming environment. Most of us have much to repent of here. As the realisation of these things comes to mind: irritating habits, the subtle demands we make on each other: give each other permission to point out things that we ourselves are almost certainly blind to. Believe them when they tell us!


  As a top priority, find out what your partner’s top needs really are. If you are showering them with lots of comfort when their real need is actually for appreciation or trust, then you may not be meeting their real needs at all. They will be frustrated because you are “missing” them, and you will be frustrated because you feel as though you are giving so much and yet never quite managing to hit the bulls eye.  

Men and women both need affirming, though often in very different ways, as books such as John Gray’s Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus make clear. It is good to take preventative action to strengthen marriages, rather than emergency action because they have been neglected.

  What is your partner’s need?
Humble yourself before each other in order to find out!
Agree to sit down together and work through these thoughts:
what is it that you need:

This is not a distraction. Cultivating strong foundations in our marriages is most important to our effectiveness in ministry. Marriage is under attack and it is right to compensate against the pressures. Intimacy begins at home.

Sanctify your homes. Watch your viewing habits. Can you watch with Jesus? Or is it just a waste of precious time?

Forgiveness clears the blockages

Charles Finney reminds us that God can do anything through us, provided only that we are willing to forgive. To show mercy is to reflect the heart of God, and to set ourselves and others free from many blockages. Practise forgiving people who:

  a) have hurt you badly. When you can think of them without any surge of heart-beat you are well on your way to being healed!  
  b) who simply annoy you.  

Remember, there is only one letter difference between ‘resent’ and ‘repent,’ but all the difference in the world in their outworking.

  Do you find it harder to forgive on-going situations (e.g. in as family) rather than sudden big crises?  
  Go round the circles of your life: your immediate family: your neighbourhood or colleagues at work; the people you know at Church and so on and see if you are holding anything against any of them.  

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Rev. 22:17)

When we are facing satanic opposition

It is only to be expected that we will not feel close to God when we are under genuine attack. When Satan attacks a church or institution, or even a family, it is rarely by the front door in the first instance. That would normally lead to a tightening of the ranks and to immediate retaliation. He works around the edges, trying to lull us into a false sense of security.

The way most splits occur in churches and movements is that Satan focuses on some weak link somewhere in the system, gains an entry point into someone's thinking and then through gossip, misrepresentation or suspicion drives wedges that do incalculable damage.

  We must do everything possible not to do Satan’s work for him. Yes, we are quite capable of doing it - it's not just other people! Remember Paul's teaching that our real warfare is ‘not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’. (Eph. 6:12)  
  Beware anyone who is always denigrating other people, or setting themselves up, however subtly, as being superior.  
  There is a small handful of people who try to make a niche and a name for themselves in the whole realm of prayer and spiritual warfare as a way of not having to face up to harder challenges at home or elsewhere in their lives. That is not healthy. Satan is always trying to intoxicate people with an attraction to power in any form, and authority in prayer is no exception. It can be a heady matter and we need constant honing and humbling to exercise the power of the Lord safely.  

When the going is tough

Everyone desiring to lead a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
(2 Tim 3:12)

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)

Although the details will obviously vary from person to person, and country to country, we all face the same challenges.

If we understood that better, we would be far less inclined to feel jealous of those who appear to have so much more than we do.

Feeling spiritually dry doesn’t disqualify us

‘Between the promise and its fulfilment falls the shadow,’ TS Eliot warned. It is normal that when God grants a vision or gives birth to a project, there is often an initial rush of excitement, signs and confirmations. At some later point, however, everything goes strangely quiet and we find ourselves in the doldrums. The temptation to conclude that we have got it all wrong and to backtrack is almost overwhelming.

  There are barrier zones to bash through: discouragement zones when it feels as though we have a run of red lights against us.  
  The only thing to do is to trust that God is just the same in the darkness as when you were able to see. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night – but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. (Ps 139:11-12)  
  Don’t make major decisions when you are in the doldrums. So far as possible, don’t go back in the darkness on what you felt was right in the light.  

God gives authority to match our responsibilities

You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your providence watched over my spirit.
(Job 10:12)

Few things put our intimacy with God under such pressure as when we find ourselves in positions of maximum responsibility but are given insufficient authority to do anything about them. God gives us power and responsibility to accompany our anointing, just as he called Adam, to name the birds and animals. Realistically, that does not always happen in the positions we find ourselves in in life. How do you cope then? There is no formula answer. Sometimes it is better to extricate ourselves for the balance and well-being of our soul. At other times, God uses these experiences as part of his learning curve for our life and we must do all we can to learn form these “grace growers.”

Ponder: CS Lewis argues that few things put the enemy to flight more than real genuine joy and enjoyment. There is a time for fun too. Fun need not be a ‘secular’ concept!

Keep praying!

“God’s character, nature and purposes are changeless, His plans are flexible.” (Brother Andrew)

Much of the Lord’s planning depends on our praying. Don’t stop knocking on the door because you are afraid that everything will fade away, leaving you worse off than if you had never started.

This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask Him – we know that we have what we asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)

When Jesus says that prayer is answered, it means that God answers prayer. Not necessarily in quite the way that we had planned or expected, but it will be in keeping with what we have been led to ask. Here is an opportunity to repent of fatalism:

“Repentance is a sincere apology to God for distrusting Him so long, and faith is throwing yourself with confidence on Christ.” (Tozer)

  If you are feeling particularly troubled in your conscience, and blocked in your spirit, use the measure of truth the enemy injects into his lies to help us face up to things about ourselves we would much rather pretend were not there.  
  Ask the Lord’s forgiveness for anything wrong that you have done in a situation – but don’t forget to receive His forgiveness and to trust Him to lead you on again!  
  If you are simply not sure whether what we have done is right or wrong, remember that Jesus is our Heavenly Advocate. We can tell Him that we are not sure where we stand in a given situation, but ask Him to show us clearly if we are wrong. The Holy Spirit is specific whereas the enemy usually prefers to tell an outright lie or to be hopelessly vague in his accusations! It may actually be the case that we are more in the right than we realize – in which case, ask the Lord to bless and increase what He is doing.  

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence, whenever out hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. (1 John 3:19-20)

Worship God with content

Worship is always the best antidote to extreme pressure. Sometimes it may consist of little more than crying out ‘Lord Jesus, have mercy on me!’ It is good to praise with content. Greg Haslam tells the story of a westerner who heard singing inside an African kraal and thought it beautiful. When he asked what it meant, the reply came ’If you boil the water you won’t get dysentery!’

Some choruses are lacking in content and depth – but there is always depth when God brings us through serious crises. ‘It is well with my soul’ Spafford wrote, not in a rose garden but in the middle of the Atlantic on the precise spot where his four daughters were all drowned when their ship struck another vessel.

I have heard it said that Michael Ledner wrote the beautiful song, “You are my hiding place” in a foxhole while shells were flying overhead from the Golan Heights.

As somebody wrote,

“Only You, Lord, can turn MESS into a MESSage
a TEST into a TESTimony
and a TRIal into a TRIumph!”

Don’t make impossible demands of each other

If you look only to each other for the satisfaction of your soul and spirit, you will end up at best disappointed, at worst making impossible demands on each other. If you are flowing together, then the gifts of the one can wonderfully compliment the gifts of another.

Turn everything into prayer

God uses our times of silence to pray through us for other people. Ask the Lord to help you:

  to bear burdens in the spirit and not in the flesh  
  to take up old burdens that you have stopped praying for  
  to be open to new burdens, whether ‘occasional’ ones (such as an item on the news) or ‘regular’ ones, in terms of a disciplined commitment to pray for someone or something.  

Apart from your ‘regular’ times with Him, try to be open to His prompting at other times. An inability to get to sleep, or waking early, may, for example, be His call to you. Resolve to win the battle of the bedclothes – at least, more often than you lose it!

A nice surprise!

Bill Johnson always says, “I always expect God to work in power – and I am constantly amazed and taken by surprise when He does!” That is actually a very healthy balance.

The first definition of a surprise is something that causes us to feel amazement or wonder. Isn’t that how it is when God shows up? No matter how many times we have experienced His presence before, we are amazed that He knows and that He cares. If we become complacent about this, watch out: we may be on course for allowing a foothold that most dangerous of spiritual foes: cynicism.

  Reflect and call to mind occasions when God has surprised you, almost ambushed you in His love.  
  Ponder how you can “surprise” other people. Give them a phone call or a gift that will bless them. Pray for the right words, the right spirit, the right gift to bless them with.  

The second meaning of surprise is to encounter or discover something unexpectedly. How do you handle surprises? Is your first reaction to take two steps backwards, even to assume it is bad news when actually it may be very good news, albeit somewhat in disguise? Such things test the underlying expectations of our heart. Many years ago the Lord gave me the verse, The righteous man will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord’ (Ps. 112:7). Instead of receiving the verse as a blessing, I spent the next few days wondering what bad news was going to come my way!

Even crises (which most of us loathe at the time) may have the seeds of possibility within them. For many years Brother Yun suffered appallingly in China; now he is free to travel the world and to tell people of the greatness of our God. Not everything, of course, works out so ‘neatly.’ Another great Chinese pioneer, Watchmen Nee, spent twenty five years in prison being indoctrinated in Maoist thought. When he was finally released it was only in order to go home to die. On the face of it, it seems like the waste of a good life. Yet all the time he was in prison, his writings were circulating, and preparing the way for the great harvest that is now being reaped amongst the Chinese people.

Cultivate flexibility!

If the way we understand God’s workings is too limited we won’t recognise His coming or spot His nudges because we are too busy insisting on doing things in a certain way. The Pharisees missed out because they couldn’t believe the Messiah would heal on a Sabbath. God doesn’t want us to know too much – but He delights to give little steering touch just to reassure us that it really is Him at work!

In order to follow Christ’s leading, we may often need extreme courage not to go with crowd, and with the largely unwritten rules and expectations that so easily cramp the Spirit’s leading.

Welcome the surprise call of God

It is so easy for us to stay within our comfort zones! We say we don’t like the style or substance of something, when what we really mean is that we do not want to have to change our routine. We plead kid’s stuff, and say ‘We’d love to do it but we have to stay for the sake of the family.’ The truth is that we often ‘sacrifice’ so much only to give them things that are of mere passing interest, and we ourselves fail to move on as a result to accomplish things that would have really helped others. We stifle our intimacy and our creativity, never realising that we are teaching our children to stifle theirs.

Point to Ponder

  What tram lines and excuses do you feel you may be stuck within?  
  Pray for the Lord to take you out beyond them!  

Know the times and the seasons in your life

God’s leading is often surprising. It will often take all our concentration and attentiveness to work out what he is saying.

Every problem has many sides. He will solve each one, but not necessarily all at once.

We must often pray and ponder first. Mary pondered the angel’s message for her for many years. To ponder means considering different courses of action. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). He knows what is best for us. But so much remains hidden.

  A mystery is something that is hidden until such time as God gives us understanding concerning it.  
  Where should our love be directed? Do we know what our goals are?  
  Beware red herrings, however. The devil loves to see us ‘almost’ helping people instead of spending time with the people we really can help and be helped by.  

I watched an extraordinary programme once about red crabs on Christmas Island. The whole thing is one of nature’s true wonders. At a certain time of the year, millions of crabs migrate several obstacle-strewn kilometres to the shore.

Crossing roads, passing over gardens making the floor completely red. There the mating happens, in carefully constructed burrows in the sand. At the peak moment of the highest tide of the year, they enter the water at just the right moment and the female strews one hundred thousand egg larvae into the waves. Most will be eaten by the fish inside the reef; or the deep-sea fish outside. But a small percentage will make it back to land some weeks later in the form of tiny crabs about the size of an ant. The baby sprog crabs make it ashore, retracing the steps of their parents into the forest. Then they disappear mysteriously underground, to emerge years later as fully formed crabs. What a miracle!

It is by no means every year that the larvae manage to return to dry land. Many years none do. But this most delicate of cycles continues by God’s rhythms. There are rhythms in our soul likewise; rhythms we only gradually become familiar with through experience and observation, rhythms that are disturbed by our slowness to respond, and by sins and affections that draw us into dead ends; or by illness and other demands that weigh us down. But the call continues and the rhythms resume. All is not lost if, for some reason, we are slow off the mark. He is longing for us to come deeper, to explore more, to open the pores of our heart that have become closed, or which we have never known how to open.

There are people stifling under the load of their loneliness, longing for something exciting to come their way. Their soul becomes wistful, fanciful even. Deprived of opportunities to drink in the Lord’s presence, or any clear sense of His leading, the imaginary life takes over. People effectively spend time just gazing out of windows, like the woman in Elisabeth Goudge’s “The Third Window”, who was always waiting and, watching, hoping for her loved one to appear.

(Just to even matters up, it is important to point out that men have different ways of doing the same thing, burying themselves in their work or hobbies)! Intimacy hopes all things – but it does not descend into embracing illusions.

Neither does it allow false loyalty and allegiances to keep us from stepping out into God’s new leading.

When I first started attending a church in my town fifty kilometres outside Paris, there was little life there, but it was still a wrench to have the courage to leave it to travel an hour and a half’s journey to a church in England. But the first day I went there I led someone to the Lord, and many adventures ensued. If I had stayed where I was out of misplaced loyalty, so much would have been missed.

  I often hear people saying, “Yes, yes, I know I ought to do this that or the other; I know it would be better, but, but, but . . .” It is so easy to find excuses for not doing things – but by letting the ‘but’s’ win it often causes them (and others) to miss out seriously. It is so important to be willing to step outside the boat when Jesus calls.  

Step outside the Boat

‘Without courage, nothing great is ever accomplished for the Kingdom.’

Lord, I know most days that I have only
to play my part and do my chores.
And I will seek and find Your leading
on the well-worn path
of duty’s regular route.

But when more distant shores begin to call,
where duty’s path would never think to go,
Your vision beckons and my spirit stirs,
and I must set my face like flint
If I am ever to step outside the boat.

Though the prospect looms and daunts,
You must have gone ahead
– and if I should fail to step out,
I know this vision will fade and pass away
like the waves beneath my boat.

So from deep within I cry for grace
to make this change of course,
for You alone can stay the waves
and send the favourable wind
that steers me safe to callings new.

I summon up my courage,
embrace the risks entailed
and step outside the boat –
and we, with heaven,
will rejoice that I did not stop short
by staying home on safety’s shore.

Restorer of our soul

As the years go by, it is easier to let our faith ceiling come down, whereas it ought to be going up. If nothing has changed for you within the last few years in your intimacy with God, then something needs to change! Not necessarily because it is bigger but just deeper.

  Are there specific disappointments and traumas that you end setting free from?  
  It is a simple thing to ask and drink. John 7:37  

“If you’re walking in a desert without water, dry and parched of thirst, and it rained, you wouldn’t open an umbrella and let it all pass you by! No, you turn your face upwards and drink in all that heaven has given you”.

“Many have opened an umbrella in the Church – running to shelter with like-minded people who will mutter with them.” (Greg Haslam)

Intimacy is precious to the Lord

As we come towards the end of this course, it is good to conclude where we started. There are things that do not appear to be of much use to men, but which are of great worth in God’s sight. Intimacy with God is right up there in that category.

  Just as Jesus looked upon the widow’s mite and commended it, and likewise the act of love of the woman who poured nard over Him, so He notices things that are done out of love for Him.  
  Lovers always somehow manage to carve great chunks of time out of their busy schedules to spend time with each other. We must do the same with the Lord.  
  ‘God wants worshippers before workers because the work won’t have much heart in it if there isn’t passion and devotion in our lives.’ (Greg Haslam)  

Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord (Eph. 5:10)

The Lord wants us to be at home with Him – to know how to be in the mode that He is in. It is often a question of knowing “when to wrestle and when to nestle.”

I mourn the number of times I get myself so hot under the collar because something isn’t working out as I had hoped it would, only to find out later that the Lord was actually wanting to do something quite different, or saving me from rushing off after something else that was exciting me at the time. May the Lord both lead and restrain us!

  It is by no means always easy to discern what is of God, Satan or machines just not working! Sometimes the answer seems to be all three more or less simultaneously! That begins to make sense when you remember that the same word is used in Scripture for to test try and tempt. The devil tempts, God tests and our faith is being tried.  

Jesus knows us through and through

It is so lovely when someone notices you. Jesus gives us His attention! He is the Comforter in our distress. To comfort means to strengthen – the Hebrew word is chazaq – and it is used over three hundred times in Scripture. He is the counsellor for wisdom – I will help you – He is the Helper.

What will make us more Christ-like?

Firstly prayerfulness: a real determination to take matters to God, and to turn them over to Him.
David Watson was greatly impressed by the example of Corrie Ten Boom because she prayed for everything: from missing keys to international situations.

Secondly, increasing our compassion and our love for people.

Thirdly, by judging aright – which often means not judging at all! A leader has to discern – which involves making judgements. There is no way round that: you invite people to do something, and you cannot but judge how well or otherwise they do; feedback and mentoring will help many to do better in the future, but some are simply not able to function at that level, in which case it may be time to take action and find them something more suited to their skills, resilience and wisdom. But this owes nothing to that kind of judging which effectively makes ourselves out to be either superior or inferior to other people, and that prevents the love of Christ from flowing freely through our hearts.

  It is a great mistake to promote people purely because of their gifting if we can se clearly that their character is not up to speed. A person’s gifting can take them where their character cannot keep them.  

Getting away with the Lord

It is so good to get away from time to time, regularly, to enjoy uninterrupted time with Him.

Sometimes we actually need to physically get up and get away from where we are. If we live in a city we may find it ‘sitting on us’ from time to time – and if we live in the country we may suddenly find ourselves needing more company.

Practise stillness. Just practice it. So often I come to the Lord feeling empty, with no particular desire to pray, and no particular expectation that He is going to say or do anything. But again and again He comes.

At the World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, the Pope held silence with a million young people – not for the seven seconds of silence that only radio audiences can cope with – but for twenty whole minutes. That is just brilliant!

Learn to recognise by experience which places and company stimulate and which hinder your seeking of the Lord.

What are the places that are conducive to you hearing the Lord? What people? Search them out. It’s often the country walks for me – I hear the Lord far more often there than in church – or rather I tend to get directive steering touches from the Lord in church what to do next rather than intimate conversation. If you ever get to the end of the day and discover it’s been one great rush and you haven’t really touched base with the Lord, then do it before you go to sleep. Try and tune in to Him in the morning too before the big rush starts. The waking moments can be precious too.

St. John of the Cross said,
“You owe it to your heart to give it this peace and stillness, since your heart is a place where the Spirit is pleased to dwell”.

God has designed us to be close to Him.

  Sanctify your house.  
  Pray in it. Pray with the people in it.  
  Bring people to the place of prayer. From His presence, you can pray the prayers that break through, rather than just praying about a situation.  

Why do people hold back from such intimacy?

Why do you think? Here are a few suggestions.

  Most obviously through fear. But this may not the heart stopping heart pounding variety but something far more subtle. A fear of not appearing to be a good person or a dutiful member of the Church, for example.  
  “Good people don’t rock the boat,” we hear. Oh yes they do. Jesus quite realistically declared that He had come to bring division rather than just peace and harmony (Luke 12:49).  
  The kindest man the world has ever known was also the most radical. So too must we be.  

The Lord knows what He is doing

There is another reason why people hold back. We are afraid of letting other people steer our ship. We are so used to rowing somewhere we find it hard to trust ourselves to the current. This implies a lack of understanding of the deliberateness of God. There is nothing random or arbitrary in the ways God leads us. He is careful about what He allows to come our way, and thoughtful about what He is doing.

God is not insecure. He knows that what He sets in motion, He can bring to completion. God knew on day one that He met with Moses in the burning bush, that He could help Moses succeed against all the odds. He knew that David could outsmart Saul in the desert. He knew that eleven restocked to twelve unlettered men could overturn the world.

The Lord does not send people out on wild goose chases. He doesn’t lead us astray. He isn’t insecure about his ability to get us to where He has promised.

‘Submit to God, and you will have peace; then things will go well for you. Listen to his instructions, and store them in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored – so clean up your life. If you give up your lust for money and throw your precious gold into the river, the Almighty Himself will be your treasure. He will be your precious silver!

Then you will take delight in the Almighty and look up to God. You will pray to Him, and He will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows to Him.’ (Job 22:21-27)

Remember: God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? (Num. 23:19)

Don’t hold back when the Spirit stirs within you and calls you towards more time apart. Some may not understand this desire; and you yourself may not be sure that it is worthwhile as the precious hours tick away and you have little to show for your time apart. Don’t measure such times out by worldly standards.

Imagine how crazy it would be if I said that it was in athletic training, and can now run a mile in four . . . kilograms! This would be to use the wrong set of measuring yards. You are coming to your Heavenly Father; and opening your soul to the sounds and leadings of eternity. That is of immense value in itself. You may also come to see in how many other areas of life you may be applying those faulty measuring sticks. Perfectionism is such a faulty standard.

Some of the steps we take seem small and mundane but are actually extremely significant. The means by which we bring our souls to peace are so many.

  Go for a walk just to be with the Lord.  
  Make a tryst with the Lord. Have places which You love to go to just to be with Him. This may be an inner or an outer place.  
  Make sure it is a place where you will not be forever interrupted.  
  Read books that touch your spirit rather than just instruct you.  
  Watch films that entertain and relax you rather than always keeping you on edge; they too can play their part in recharging our batteries.  
  Even a few minutes in a park, or by a stream, or climbing a hill or watching the clouds can do wonders to refocus our soul on something wider than ourselves.  
  Being in the presence, or on the phone, with someone who means a great deal to you, and bringing God right in on the conversation.  
  Doing things with your hands: whittling, shelling, painting – whatever and wherever your bent lies.  
  Listen to music that inspires, enables and envisions you.  
  Admire a tree (or climb it!) Cuddle a baby, watch the sun set and the moonlight play on the ground around you  
  God tells stories: parables, accounts from the past, we hear “testimonies” all the time as rich and famous people swagger their way through life – but have you ever thought that you too are living a soap? Our lives, even the most mundane of us, are real life adventures that contain all the stuff that make for the high drama episodes we watch on television.  
  Ok, so how about telling God a story? Tell Him how you are feeling, and what’s going on. You may want to write it down, because writing has a wonderful way of clarifying matters and purifying us mind and spirit. Don’t prejudge the outcome – there are parts of the story that have yet to be written. The scriptwriter is still at work.  

Just tell Him the details, and the longings you feel that accompany those details and see where you go from there. Tell Him how you are really feeling –not the ‘holy’ language you perhaps feel you ought to use for such an occasion!

“Farther on and farther” is the cry in CS Lewis’s The Last Battle. However much we have known of God’s presence and power, there is always more to experience. Perhaps it will be that way, even in Heaven itself. The Lord wants us to perceive the glory, even if only in fleeting moments. These occasional moments do so much to direct and inspire our lives. Come beside Him; His face is peace.

Every time we hear any news, even think any thoughts, get into the habit of turning it into prayer. There are elements in what we hear and what we share that are prayer-worthy. This is a wonderful discipline to get into. There is no quota of prayer we can ever exhaust.

  Share some aspect of your story with someone this week. Be as honest as you like.  
  Come back again later if need be and add something more: “And what I didn’t mention was . . . ”  

Finally, a rather solemn warning: If we do not take time out, our soul deteriorates. So too does our health. This is not an optional extra.

If you are falling prey to the assumption that everything will fall apart if you don’t keep going at the pace you are doing, be warned: you may be further advanced on the burnout trail than you realise. You may need to stop for a while, lest you have to stop later for a much longer period of time. Leave a margin. Come back beside the Father’s presence! You will regain your poise and spiritual focus.

If we do not make the time out that our souls are craving, we are in danger of lashing out and taking it by force. I have seen men overturning and shipwrecking their marriages altogether because they felt their partners had not allowed them the modicum of freedom within it that they needed to enjoy time out. I have seen people break down when a few gentler course adjustments along the lines suggested by John Gray might have prevented the overstrain.

I see so many trapped by the spirit of household perfectionism. We are so far from being able to approach this ideal state ourselves that I am perhaps particularly sensitive to it. I see people making their lives a misery to perform for a modicum of approval to avoid a deluge of disapproval, but which in real terms achieves nothing but angst. God is not into nit-picking. It is more important to keep the soul tidy. Short odds in relationships, deep trust and love in our walk with the Lord.

Intimacy Develops our Sensitivity and our Gentleness

What would the Lord say to you about sensitivity and gentleness in our personal relationships and in our services?

  I believe we need to become more sensitive to His voice and to His gentleness, and then we will find that we are becoming more gentle to each other as well.  
  Gentleness is not a weak quality; rather it is like a strong horse that has been broken in. Gentleness can change our meetings out of all recognition. It keeps us from coming in our own combativeness, and helps us to make room for each another.  
  Don't come with an elitist determination to teach everybody what you think you already know: that is to be a sheep in wolf's clothing!  

In worship, let your words be few: God is in heaven. Let the music flow. Most people interrupt too much. Let the healing love of the Lord flow freely.

When the Heavens feel empty

Every person who has ever sought to go deeper with the Lord has experienced times, sometimes prolonged ones, when they become more aware of God’s absence than His presence.

A key concept to sustain us at such times is this verse from Isaiah 50:10:

‘Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, and who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and rely on His God.’

We are called to trust His character at times when we cannot feel His presence. He won’t let us down. As the following verse makes clear, the most important thing is not to light our own fires at this point and to put our trust in them.

CS Lewis says that prayers prayed during times of aridity are of particular worth in God’s sight. Or as Screwtape puts it, “Our cause is never in greater danger than when a human being looks around on a world from which all trace of its creator appears to have vanished; hurts; shrugs and still resolves to trust.” Our calling is still to be available to the Lord, even though it feels now as though there is no benefit for us in doing this. May the Lord give you courage to persevere through the gray days: the sunshine will return!

If you would like to explore this concept in more detail:

  on the website: www.ruachministries.org/intimacyandeternity/darknightofthesoul.htm  
  and http://www.ruachministries.org/intimacyandeternity/thewildernesschapter7.htm  
  See also Robert’s Book ‘Veil of Tears.’ Write to robert@ruachministries.org for a copy  

The Lord can turn any situation around

An atheist angrily threw the Bible of a Russian pastor out of train window during the days of Soviet intimidation. One night, the pastor heard a knocking on his door. It was not the dreaded KGB, but some folks who wanted to be baptised.

They had an amazing story to tell. They been converted as a result of one man, a builder, who found a Bible by the rail side, and had read it and been converted by it!

Yield back the hard things that have happened to you to, the things that really were the last thing you would have expected or planned. Lord, You said, “Let nothing be wasted,” after You fed the 5000. (John 6:12). You can somehow find ways to turn this situation around for good. Thank You!

For further meditation

The more time we spend in stillness with the Lord, the more easy we will find it to integrate our love for the Lord with the rush and bustle of everyday life. Someone who discovered how to do this was Jeremy Taylor, in the seventeenth century. He had been King Charles 1st’s chaplain, and, as such, loved the luxury of court life. Following Cromwell’s victory, he had to escape to Wales, where he became the domestic chaplain of a small country house. His extravagant tastes gradually gave way to a deep mystical awareness of God's presence in every event, no matter how small and insignificant. Here a few of the prayers he has left us.

i) The Divine Presence

Almighty God, infinite and eternal, You are in the consciences of all men. Teach me to walk always in Your presence, to fear Your majesty, to reverence Your wisdom, that I may never dare to commit any indecency in the eye of my Lord and my Judge; that I, expressing the belief of Your presence here, may feel the effects of it in eternal glory.

ii) For Families

Bless Your servant (my wife, husband or friend) with health of body and of spirit. Let Your hand of blessing be on his or her head, night and day; support him or her in all necessities; strengthen them in all temptations, comfort them in all their sorrows, and let them be Your servant in all chances. Make both of us to dwell with You for ever in Your favour, in the light of Your countenance, and in Your glory.

Bless my children with healthy bodies, with good understandings, with the graces and gifts of your Spirit, with sweet dispositions and holy habits; and sanctify them throughout in their bodies, and souls, and spirits, and keep them free of all blame at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Jeremy Taylor)

‘Help me to make my house a home, full of joy and security, a home to which others will be eager to come, a centre of love and understanding. Help me to make time for the most important things, and not to become so over-tired that I forget that You have honoured me with this far-reaching and rewarding task.

Bless our free times together and all our fun. Bless our plans as we look ahead; our relationship with friends in the community, and in the church here and in the wide world.’ (Rita Snowden)

iii) For Friends

Be pleased, O Lord, to remember my friends, all that have prayed for me, and all that have done me good. Do good to them, and return all their kindness double into their own laps, rewarding them with blessings, and sanctifying them with Your graces, and bringing them to glory.

iv) For Contentment

Almighty God, Father and Lord of all the creatures, by secret and undiscernible ways bringing good out of evil: give me wisdom from above; teach me to be content in all changes of person and condition, to be temperate in prosperity, and in adversity to be meek, patient and resigned; and to look through the cloud, in the meantime doing my duty with an unwearied diligence, and an undisturbed resolution. . . Take from me all affection to sin or vanity; let me affections soar upwards to the element of love.

A prayer for those who are feeling anxious

‘I lift up my heart, O God, for all who are in the prey of anxious fears, who cannot get their minds off themselves, and for whom every demand made on them fills them with foreboding, and with the feeling that they cannot cope with all that is required of them.

Give them the comfort of knowing that this feeling is illness, not cowardice; that millions have felt as they feel, that there is a way through this dark valley, and light at the end of it.

Lead them to those who can help them, and understand them, and show them the pathway to health and happiness.

Comfort and sustain them by the loving presence of the Saviour who knows and understands all our woe and fear, and given them enough courage to face each day, and rest their minds in the thought that You will see them through’. (Leslie Weatherhead)

Spirituality without discipline is like a river without banks

I want to draw a comparison here with writing. If you wait until you feel like writing, in all probability you will never write much. We have to be able to do it more or less to order.

We need to be in the presence of the Lord to break through. It says in 2 Chron. 9:23 that ‘All the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.’ The simple fact is that people will seek us out if we are getting closer to the Lord. Other people may go a long way out of their way to avoid us. We operate with so little light in this country, that when someone really does dwell in the presence of the Lord it stands out as being unusual.

At a time when I was going through the mill, I remember entering a church in the Lake District. Before the vicar said a word, I could see that he was man of God. It brought so much reassurance and showed so much of Christ. I want to propose that example in a sense as a model: that who God is should be infectious through us.

  You can pretend that you have got mumps but if you are suffering from measles what are people going to catch?  
  Every time you meet someone is a chance to influence that person for good and for God!  

Taking intimacy wider

“If it stays inside the church it dies inside the church.” (Bill Johnson.)

I mentioned at the start of this guide that it is not more information that many of us really need so much as grace and courage to use what we have been given. The Lord is in us as a river – not as landlocked lake. There has to be an outlet and an overflow! The present move of the Spirit that is sweeping the world is empowering people not just to have a good time, but to receive God’s impartation for the specific tasks and callings He has in mind for us to do. Healings on the street really are happening. Some of us may well be called to this. Others are called to share the gospel more effectively with their profession. Of the increase of His government there will be no end!

May the Lord set us free from self-consciousness to be effective in this realm. It is said of John Wimber that although he ministered to thousands, He was really only interested in an audience of one: the Lord Jesus Himself.

How can we stay fresh and encouraged in the face of the many challenges that come our way? The answer Bill Johnson proposes is to feed our spirits on what God is doing rather than worrying about what He has yet to do. To put that a slightly different way: if you can't figure out what He is doing in any given situation, remember what He has already done. So much of our thinking (and our worldview) is based on what God hasn’t done rather than on what He has done.
Bill Johnson continues,(1) “Jesus didn’t come just to show what God can do: He came to show us what one man who is right with God can do. Our proneness to unbelief is an insult to the Lord who is perfectly faithful. It is all too easy for any of us to end our legacy of grace by feeding our souls with stories of things that do not work out well. We’ve all got such stories. Even when things don’t work out as we had hoped, we have to keep walking. My questions do not have the right to undermine the power of the authority that is of God. Often there is nothing else for it but to give up our right to understand. We hold God to a ransom, demanding an explanation. Doing this makes us ineffective, and reduces the faith and resolve we used to have.

It is not that God is afraid of our questions, or opposed to us developing our intellect, bye He does not want to breed carnal Christians, in which the mind is in charge. When follower, it becomes the canvas on which God paints His picture. The kingdom does not come just in word but in power – Nicodemus said, “we know that you are a teacher come from God because no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him (John 3:2)

“Blessed is He who is not offended in me,” Jesus said, “and who who does not fall away on account of Me.” (Luke 7:23)

Many do take offence – and feeding themselves on what has not happened merely makes it harder for them to yield to God and to experience His peace and comfort. Even the painful things we go through can make our hearts stronger and not harder. God is so good at giving back to us for the losses we experience on the way. By having to struggle against some situations that appear unmoving we develop a strength which enables us to handles lesser problems that others would be tempted to regard as impossibly large!

Because we are called to carry the presence of God to the people around us, who are often desperate to see God as He really is, we can’t afford to be too introspective. As the Spirit stirs in us, share what God gives. We never know how powerful this can be. Many times I have witnessed (very poorly as I have often thought) and the person has said that they were quite unable to forget what I have said, and have subsequently given their lives to the Lord.

The impartation God gives us enables us to speak out and to reach out. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:14. It does not just say that we reflect the light: it says that we are light. He expects His lights to shine! It is not that He is dependent on us, but very often He won’t work unless we are prepared to act.

Intimacy is all about partnership. He expects us to do the things that He did and to minister in His name according to the power that is at work in us, empowering them to become all that God would have them be.

Sometimes we will be called to work very hard. At other times, our task will primarily be to wait – and to entwine ourselves in the Lord during this waiting process. The important thing is to be in step with the Lord’s timing for our lives, and to act on the word of the Lord when the right time comes. It is easy to live in the past or in the abstract. To keep in step with the Spirit, however, empowers us to live the present to the full in such a way that it releases God’s purposes and shapes the future.

The material in this booklet is (copyright 2008) to Robert Weston.
All material may be freely used outside of this booklet if duly attributed.

Explore Intimacy with God in more details on this web site: www.ruachministries.org and follow the links to Intimacy and Eternity.

(1) From notes taken at a New Wine Leaders Conference, Harrogate, May 2008
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