There’s a video circulating cyber-space. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It talks about the difference between having a heart-felt relationship with God vs. following rules and traditions. Although I don’t agree with everything presented in the video, I find the basic premise valid. Christianity is more than a club to belong to. It’s more than going to church on Sundays and saying X number of prayers. It’s about total surrender. It’s about authenticity, intimacy. Christ didn’t die so we could put a bumper sticker on our car. He died to remove the barrier–sin–that kept us from fellowship with a holy God. But you can’t be intimate with someone you don’t know.
Intentional Intimacy by Ava Pennington
How intimate is your relationship with God? How intimate do you want it to be?
I’ve always heard that if we want to be close to God, we must be intentional about spending time with Him – have a regular time of prayer, read the Bible, obey His Word, and fellowship with His people.
Is that all there is to it? Is intimacy with God simply a matter of checking off items on a to-do list? That can’t be true, because too many Christians do these things, and still lack intimacy with the Lord.
It may be because all these activities – prayer, Bible-reading, living a moral life – while good, can become rituals. We can go through the motions with our hands, but not our hearts. So while these should be part of our daily lives, we should not stop there.
There is another possible reason for our lack of intimacy with God. Think about how we move people from acquaintances to personal friends. We get to know them by spending time with them. We learn what they say about themselves. We also want to know if there is a disconnect between their words and their actions.
However, when it comes to learning who God is, we often depend on what other people say about Him. We learn from our parents, from religious traditions, even from our culture. But that’s not necessarily who God says He is.
Even if we grew up attending Sunday School every week, we still might have trouble understanding what God has said about Himself. It doesn’t help that the names and attributes of God which brought comfort to countless generations are now often misunderstood in our culture.
For example, what does God mean when He calls Himself Jealous or a Consuming Fire? A famous celebrity talk show host once said she could never trust a god who was jealous. After all, jealousy can be a petty, controlling, and self-centered attribute. And most people would not be eager to pursue intimacy with a God who calls Himself a Consuming Fire!
More familiar names and attributes may still yield misconceptions. The Bible tells us God is love (I John 4:8). But how do we define love? Hearts & flowers? Terms of endearment?
If we want a more personal – a more intimate – relationship with God, it’s not only important to learn what God says about Himself, we must also understand these names and attributes in the context of what God intended, rather than what our culture now dictates.
One characteristic of intimacy is trust. It’s difficult to trust a stranger. But when we are intentional about learning what God says about Himself, and we see that how He relates to us is consistent with what He says, our faith is affirmed. The more we learn about who God is and how He works, the easier it is for us to trust Him.
The foundation of that trust is a complete picture of God. All the names and attributes of God combine to reveal His nature and His glory. We misunderstand who God is – and are therefore not as intimate with Him – when we focus on one name or attribute of God to the exclusion of all others. For example, those who focus only on God’s characteristic of love often end up with an anything-goes god who tolerates sin. Others who focus on God’s holiness to the exclusion of all other characteristics create a fire-and-brimstone god who is unloving, unmerciful, & uncompassionate.
God is love and He is holy. He is merciful and He is just. He is all these things and more. To truly know Him – to be intimate with Him – we must be intentional about learning all that He is – not just one or two characteristics that appeal to who we want Him to be.
Ask God’s Holy Spirit to show you who He is. Then mine treasures from His Word as He reveals His nature and His ways through His names and attributes. The result will be intentional intimacy.
Every name of God revealed in the Bible shows us something about his character and his ways. As the facets of a diamond combine to reflect its brilliance, the names and attributes of God combine to reveal the transcendence of his nature and the glory of his ways. One Year Alone with God offers readers a wonderful opportunity to spend time each day getting to know God more intimately. At the end of a year, they’ll be able to say they know him better than they did a year ago.
This insightful guide to the names of God provides 366 life-changing, personal devotions for new Christians and longtime believers. As readers explore 122 names and attributes of God, they will discover something special about who God is, who they are, and how they relate to others. Includes a Scripture and name index for easy navigation to favorite verses.
Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. She is the author of One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God (Revell), endorsed by well-known author and teacher Kay Arthur. Additionally, Ava is the co-author of Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today? (Standard Publishing).
Ava has also published stories in twenty anthologies, including fifteen books in the inspirational Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Her articles have been published in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, The LOOKOUT, Evangel, Light & Life, and other magazines.
Ava is a passionate speaker and teacher, and delights in challenging audiences with the truth of God’s word in relevant, enjoyable presentations.
For more information, visit www.AvaWrites.com