top of page
  • timbergey

We Can Have a God-Bathed Life Part 2:

Updated: Jun 5

Because God Lives an "Us"-Bathed Life



Welcome to Our God Bathed Life! I want to take just a moment and recommend that you read the introductory blog if you have not done so already. It will give you a good idea of what to expect from this and future blogs.


As stated in that introductory blog, the practices suggested at the end of the blogs are for anyone. You do not need to be a Christian yet to be here





13 “If I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,

My couch will ease my complaint,’

14 Then You frighten me with dreams

And terrify me by visions;

15 So that my soul would choose suffocation,

Death rather than my pains.

16 “I waste away; I will not live forever.

Leave me alone, for my days are but a breath.

17 “What is man that You magnify him,

And that You are concerned about him,

18 That You examine him every morning

And try him every moment?

19 “Will You never turn Your gaze away from me,

Nor let me alone until I swallow my spittle?

20 “Have I sinned? What have I done to You,

O watcher of men?

Why have You set me as Your target,

So that I am a burden to myself?

21 “Why then do You not pardon my transgression

And take away my iniquity?

For now I will lie down in the dust;

And You will seek me, but I will not be.”



"The paradise of God is the human heart" - St Alfonsus Liguori commenting on Job 7:17



37 “Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety.

38 “They shall be My people, and I will be their God;

39 and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them.

40 “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.

41 “I will rejoice over them to do them good and will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul."


***


The idea that I am going to present to you today may be one you have never considered. And the idea is this: how does God experience His relationship with us? I am mainly speaking of us as individuals, but it is also true that God has a relationship with the corporate body of the "Big C" Church collectively (all those who believe in Jesus). In fact, in the Jeremiah passage above, while God is speaking individually to Jeremiah, He is referring to His people Israel. Today His people is the Church, which He refers to as both the bride of Christ and the body of Christ. Since the wedding between the Church and Jesus happens at a future date as described in Revelation 19, perhaps we'll think of the Church as Christ's beloved. And Christ as the Church's beloved. The Biblical book Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, depending on the translation of the Bible you are reading, alludes to this relationship. You might want to pause here for a moment and give it a read. Go ahead. I'll wait.


Yep, there was some steamy stuff in there. And some of those references mean just what you think they do. It is about two lovers after all. But the Church has historically also read that as a metaphor for how Christ and the Church long for relationship with each other, or at least how Christ longs for relationship with the Church, since He is more faithful than we. Many believe that this applies to how Christ feels about the Church, as well as each of us individually. I also hold that opinion. Did you know that God desires you? He wants to be with you all of the time? Maybe just not sexually speaking. Yet that does not mean that He doesn't crave a kind of close intimacy with you; He does.


This, and how God experiences that longing, is what we want to explore today. God's desire for relationship with us, His search for intimacy with us, has to do with the second part of what makes a God-bathed life something we can experience. That second part? Because He lives a life devoted to us, devoted to you, and devoted to me.


By the way, I am slowly reading through the Bible using my NRSV Renovare Life With God Study Bible. It has taken a few years but I am finally in the prophetical books. The prophetical books are the highlight of my reading. They are the payoff for taking my time through the historical and wisdom books. If you want to get a feel for just how badly God longs for closeness with His people, just give Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, or some of the other prophets a read.


One note: God does not clearly elaborate in the Bible about what His experience with us is like, though He does leave glimpses. While it has been a subject of serious interest of mine, and I have paid extra attention in my Bible reading and listening, and have done extra-Biblical reading about it, the ideas that I relate here about how God experiences us are probably fairly described as an educated guess. Though I do believe them.


Below I make the case that God, at least in a way which I clarify, experiences time. I can see one obvious question come up: what about 2 Peter 3:8 where Peter says one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as one day, echoes of Psalm 90:4? In 2 Peter 3, before verse 8 we read of people mocking that the day of judgement had not yet come and it seemed like it has been a while, implying that there may be no day of judgement coming at all. The next verse, 2 Peter 3:9, Peter responds that God is simply trying to save as many as possible, allowing as much time as possible for people to come to Him. So the hastening of the Day of the Lord (the day of judgement) is less important than the attempt to save as many as possible. The verse in Psalm 90 seems to be comparing God's eternal existence to man short life on earth. That's the contextual reason for the statement, what about the statement itself? Is time irrelevant and not experienced by God? Time is an element of God's creation. I really do not know whether time and chronology exist outside of it. Let's say it does not. Since I soon make the argument that God, in His infiniteness, made a way for Him to enter His creation, while also remaining outside of it, I believe that means that, in a way, He experiences time, and in a way, He does not. But we actually do not know.



An "Outline" for This Blog


We'll explore how God lives an "us-bathed" life in a few sections that can be summed up like this:

  1. With All God's Heart - We'll look at God's desire and compassion for His people by looking at a passage in Hosea, and then we'll notice His whole-hearted desire to bless His people in a passage in Jeremiah. This compassion and desire to bless is what motivated God's discipline of Israel.

  2. God wants a relationship with the individual also - with you and with me. And He wants to begin that relationship with each person right away. He doesn't want to wait until we try to clean ourselves up.

  3. Jesus takes an active role in pursuing us now - We look at a couple of ways in which He does so.

  4. God seeks relationship with us individually, one person at a time, made possible by being infinite - He doesn't split His attention among billions of people. He is fully devoted to each and every person.

  5. He does it the hard way - Just as there were ways to reconciliation less costly to God than the cross, so too there are less costly ways in His pursuit of us today. But He wants you and me to know how much each of us mean to Him so He removes all doubt. He brings His whole-hearted devotion, His longing for intimacy with each of us, His compassion for us, and His desire for our good, and steps into time to experience it with us. He doesn't shortcut or spare Himself the experience. He lives our lifetime with us. Devoted love welcomes it.

  6. He provides many relational metaphors in part so we can find a way to connect with Him - Human sin and frailty means some metaphors are a hindrance to relationship with Him. As such, there are many ways to consider how we can connect with Him.

  7. Then we wrap it up, consider what God might say, and look at a practice to help ground what we learned today.




Starting Off With a Correction


In the last blog, I mentioned that I was looking forward to this one and that I "couldn't wait" for it. Well, that was over six months ago, and I am still here, so apparently I could wait for it.


So the first thing I want to do is to say I am sorry and I was wrong.


The second thing I want to do is to offer a bit of an explanation, and how that may affect how I blog going forward. First the explanation.


As I mentioned in my last blog, I have a right hip that is a problem. The lack of sleep caused by my right hip pain and severe sleep apnea proved to be more of a problem than I thought it would be. It lead to severe mental fog and most days I was expending all my energy just to stay awake. Around 2 months ago as I write this, by God's grace and mercy, that began to change. I can now spend longer stretches of time in bed with minimal pain, which makes using a CPAP a real possibility now. Even so, I am catching up on rest and my focus is returning. While I praise God for this, I also covet your prayers for this to continue, or perhaps even improve further.


So what does this mean about the blog? Well, I thought about that. There is a lot of time and effort researching and writing, editing, rewriting, etc that goes into these, not to mention recording time for the associated podcast, and I would like to put them into video format, too. Doing this on a bi-weekly basis may be optimistic, especially if I continue to deal with issues of focus and staying awake, plus I need to get a job. However, there are tons of ideas and topics that I keep coming across that I could offer in shorter stand alone teachings.


So going forward look for the blogs from Our God Bathed Life to be a combination of the full blogs like these, as well as smaller ones. If we think of the full blogs as "bathings", perhaps we can think of the smaller ones as "splashes". So these blogs will bathe at times and splash other times.




Back to the Subject at Hand: With All My Heart and With All My Soul


But reading Song of Solomon and seeing that as a metaphor for God's longing for relationship with us may be seen as kind of a stretch without some corroborating evidence. So how do we know that God longs for relationship with us? With me?


There are several ways, and once we see it, it is another one of those things so pervasive on the pages of Scripture that it will be impossible to miss as you read, listen to, and meditate on what the Bible has to say. The first three blogs of Our God Bathed Life dealt with this in one way or another.


Also, Jesus made it clear:

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling."

The Old Testament Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others, mainly tell the stories of the prophets sent by God to call His people back to following His way of justice and mercy and back into relationship with Him. The people rejected, mistreated, and sometimes even killed these prophets that were trying to call the people back to God.


One such prophet, Hosea, made God's longing for His people to come back to Him very clear. "I" in this passage is God Himself speaking:

1 When Israel was a youth I loved him,

And out of Egypt I called My son.

2 The more they called them,

The more they went from them;

They kept sacrificing to the Baals

And burning incense to idols.

[note from Tim Bergey: this verse can be a little confusing with all the pronouns: "The more they called them" refers to the prophets of God calling the people of God back to Him. "The more they went from them" means that the more the prophets called the people back to God, the more the people distanced themselves from God. The next two lines of the poem refer to the people instead choosing false gods over life with God.]

3 Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk,

I took them in My arms;

But they did not know that I healed them.

4 I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love,

And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws;

And I bent down and fed them.

5 They will not return to the land of Egypt;

But Assyria—he will be their king

Because they refused to return to Me.

[note from Tim Bergey: this is referring to their coming exile to Assyria, who will conquer them and carry them away. When God rescued the people Israel from Egypt, at the first sign of trouble they complained to Moses that they wanted to return to Egypt, to the captivity they knew instead of the unknown with God that they did not know, because they did not trust God's motives and capability to provide for them. When faced with imminent exile into the land of Assyria, they once again wanted to flee to Egypt. God, through Jeremiah, asked them to stay in Jerusalem, yet they did not listen and tried to flee.]

6 The sword will whirl against their cities,

And will demolish their gate bars

And consume them because of their counsels.

7 So My people are bent on turning from Me.

Though they call them to the One on high,

None at all exalts Him.

[note from Tim Bergey: Again with the pronouns, though this is a bit clearer when verse 2 is understood. Here "they" refer to the prophets that God keeps sending to warn His people to turn away from their false gods and injustice and sin. The people are becoming like the previous inhabitants of the land which God drove from the land so that His people may take possession.]

8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?

How can I surrender you, O Israel?

How can I make you like Admah?

How can I treat you like Zeboiim?

My heart is turned over within Me,

All My compassions are kindled.

9 I will not execute My fierce anger;

I will not destroy Ephraim again.

For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst,

And I will not come in wrath.

10 They will walk after the LORD,

He will roar like a lion;

Indeed He will roar

And His sons will come trembling from the west.

11 They will come trembling like birds from Egypt

And like doves from the land of Assyria;

And I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD.

[note from Tim Bergey: this is just one of the references of why CS Lewis may have chosen the lion, Aslan, to refer to Jesus in his Chronicles of Narnia series. So the roaring lion here in verse 10 is God. The punishment His people will suffer is for their discipline, not to smite them in a fit of rage; He still has plans to benefit them in the future. Remember, in verse 8 He says His compassions are kindled and it is this motive causing the discipline.]

Notice verses 3 and 4: He is not caring for His people from a distance. Instead He takes them in His arms, perhaps hearkening back to the forming of Adam in Genesis 2:7. He removes the yoke from their jaws and bends down and feeds them. He rescued His people from captivity and mistreatment in Egypt, fed them with manna, and went with them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Further, He gave instructions in the wilderness of how to build a tabernacle where He could meet with Moses, so yet another way to be with His people. So, too, will he rescue His people from exile once the discipline has settled in and they turn their hearts back to God. His ways are the paths of life, all else leads to death.]


Now we have greater context for the aforementioned words of God to Jeremiah about His promise to Israel in exile about what is to come:

“Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. I will rejoice over them to do them good and will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul."


With all My heart and with all My soul.




But Does God Wanting Relationship With Us Also Mean that He Wants Relationship With Me?


I brought this verse up in the first blog, but in a different context. When I first received Jesus Christ as my Savior at the age of 11 at an alter call at my aunt's church in NC, I kind-of understood that Jesus died for me and wanted to save me from hell and wants some kind of relationship with me. During a rededication at the age of 16 at a church winter retreat in PA, I understood that a little better. When I was returning to relationship with God around 20 years of age, and building on that relationship all through my twenties, an idea began to develop in me that Jesus died for the "world", and He went through pains for His people Israel, and for the church, but for an individual, for me, I didn't think so. We all know that "For God so loved the world" and that He doesn't wish for "any to perish" and "whosoever will" with the understanding that there will be lots of whosoevers. But if there was only one? I couldn't square it. It is simply too high a price for the infinite God of the universe to pay in order to have a relationship with just one person, especially with undeserving me.


In Paul's first letter to me (just kidding, in 1 Timothy 1:15) he claimed that he had been the foremost sinner. If you know some of his background, how he persecuted and may have even killed Christians (he was there at Stephen's stoning, note that Paul was named Saul prior to his conversion), it makes sense how he might feel this way. But Paul also made an interesting statement in his letter to the Galatians, in that verse I referenced in the beginning of this section: he said that Jesus died for him:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."

So I checked my Logos Bible study software to see what that last word "me" was in the Greek. Turns out it is "emou". Yeah, since I don't know Greek that didn't help me either. Anyway, in this use it signifies "pronoun, personal, first person, genitive, singular", In other words, "me", not "we". So Paul was right; Jesus did die for him, right?. Well, not exactly.

You see, in Paul's letter to the Romans he makes this statement:

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Romans 5:8 (NASB)

So Paul makes clear that Jesus died for him as well as for us all. So, you ask, why did I just say that Jesus didn't exactly die for Paul? Because Paul said that Jesus died for him while he was yet Saul. Saul persecuted Christians. Saul perhaps even killed Christians. Paul wasn't Paul until after he was converted. Aren't Christians still identified as sinners? I don't believe so, even though Christians do sin, but that is a teaching for another time (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus desires a relationship with you while you are lost in sin, He doesn't wait to want a relationship with you until after you clean yourself up. Which, by the way, for anyone who feels like the proverbial one who will get struck by lightening if you step foot inside a church, this means Jesus wants a relationship with you now, as you are. You will not be "struck by lightening". You will be invited into relationship with Jesus.


So, in short, while Jesus died for "the world", He died for each of us as well as all of us. So if it were only me, or only you, that took His offer of relationship, He would have still gone through it all "just" for you, or "just" for me.




What Is Jesus Role In Pursuit of Relationship With Us Today?


After Jesus' ascension to heaven, it is stated in Mark 16:19 that Jesus is then seated at the right hand of God. Don't panic if your Bible doesn't have Mark 16:19. Some manuscripts of Mark have it, and some do not. Some translations end the book of Mark at verse 8 of chapter 16. That is believed to be where Mark ended his gospel and it is believed that the church felt this ending was incomplete and so added to it verses 9-20. Some translations add a second half to verse 20 and some do not, again depending on the manuscript that the translators were using as the trusted source.


But I do not want to get too deep in the weeds, here. Perhaps we can address all that manuscript and translation stuff at a different time. Suffice it to say for now that the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to protect the message of the Bible through time regardless of which manuscript is preferred for translation purposes. Further, we see in Colossians 3:1 that Jesus is indeed seated at the right hand of God. I preferred the statement in Mark simply because of its chronological nearness: ascended to heaven / sat down at the right hand of God.


"Seated at the right hand of God" is a reference to Jesus' power and authority, which he had laid aside for us when He took human form to be "God with us" and perform his ministry on earth 2000 years ago. It does not mean that He is now kicking back and relaxing while the Holy Spirit does all the work today. All members of the Trinity are always active in God's good creation. They are always pursuing relationship with us. In fact, let's take a look at just a couple of the things that Jesus said about His role with us today.


First, let's take a look at the last phrase of the Great Commandment:

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' ”

Jesus told His disciples that He is always with them. Always. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every year of every decade. Always.


Second, the invitation of abiding:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me."

John 15:4 (NASB)

If you've begun a relationship with Jesus, He has actually taken up residence in you. Did you know that? He is a Gentleman, however. He will not force Himself upon you. That is why the invitation to dwell in Him even though He already dwells in you. Just like most people in relationships, He wants to be wanted.


Third, the gentle reminder, that gentle knock, when we choose to be spending our time apart from Him. This is fueled by His longing to spend intentional time with us. So if Jesus is always with us, and the call to abide with Him is invitational, and if we decide whether to spend intentional time with Him at any given time, what is Jesus doing at those times when we do not heed His call to abide with Him? Jesus answers that very question when He asks John to include a message to the church at Laodicea in the book of Revelation. In other words, this was written to Christians:

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me."

So Jesus is either standing at our door and knocking, the gentle call to spend intentional time with Him, or actively relating with us, decided by whether we choose to abide with Him.



But There Are So Many People. If I Am Otherwise Preoccupied, then Jesus Will Move On and Spend Intentional Time With Someone Else, Right?


No.


Peter Kreeft, a brilliant Catholic philosopher, wrote a book I highly recommend called Three Philosophies of Life (I included a link to it on Amazon in the title of the book). There was a section of that book that captured my imagination and really has ever since. It sent me, nearly obsessively, chasing after trying to understand how God experiences His relationship with me. So much is written about my relationship with God, how we humans experience our relationship with Him, but precious little on what His experience with us is like. We catch glimpses, though, throughout the Bible. The aforementioned section of Hosea is one such passage. I think God wants us to know how He experiences His relationship with us, but I think He wants us to look for it, to chase after it, especially if it results in us chasing more deeply after Him. An allusion is found in the first part of the verse of 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NASB): "For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His..."

Whose heart is His. “I am my beloved’s, And his desire is for me." Song of Solomon 7:10 (NASB)

"Delight yourself in the LORD;

And He will give you the desires of your heart."

Psalm 37:4 (NASB)

[If you are delighting in God, then He is the desire of your heart. He promises Himself to us.]

Song of Solomon chapter 7 continues:

“I am my beloved’s,

And his desire is for me.

Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country,

Let us spend the night in the villages.

Let us rise early and go to the vineyards;

Let us see whether the vine has budded

And its blossoms have opened,

And whether the pomegranates have bloomed.

There I will give you my love."


I include that section of his book here. It isn't long. It is a passage and not a chapter or anything. I can't repeat what he said in my own words and have it retain its beauty and meaning the same way. I'll have more to say about it after the passage:


"Love Is Individual

The object of love is a person, and every person is an individual. No person is a class, a species, or a collection. There is no such thing as the love of humanity because there is no such thing as humanity. If your preachers or teachers have told you that the Bible teaches you to love humanity, they have told you a lie. Not once does the Bible say that; not once does it even mention the word humanity. Jesus always commands us to love God and our neighbor instead.

How comfortable “humanity” is! “Humanity” never shows up at your door at the most inconvenient time. “Humanity” is not quarrelsome, alcoholic, or fanatical. “Humanity” never has the wrong political, religious, and sexual opinions. “Humanity” is never slimy, swarmy, smarmy, smelly, or smutty. “Humanity” is so ideal that one could easily die for it. But to die for your neighbor, to die for Sam Slug or Mehetibel Crotchit—unthinkable. Except for love.

One of the saints said that if you had been the only person God ever created, he would have gone to all the trouble he went to just to save you alone. When he died on the Cross, he did not die for humanity; he died for you. “Behold, I have called you by name”, he says. “I have engraven your name upon my palm.” When he welcomes you into your heavenly mansion, he will not address you as “comrade”. Lovers love to whisper each other’s names because the name stands for the person, the individual.

Thus in Song of Songs the chorus of nonlovers wonders,


'What is your beloved more than another beloved,

O fairest among women?' (Song 5:9).


And she replies,


'My beloved is all radiant and ruddy,

Distinguished among ten thousand' (Song 5:10).


The same is true of her from his viewpoint:


'There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,

and maidens without number.

My dove, my perfect one, is only one' (Song 6:8–9).


God’s name is the uniquely individual word I (Ex 3:14). God’s image in us is our I. That this private, unique, individual thing can be nevertheless shared is the apparent contradiction of love.

The lover sees the beloved not as one among many but as the center of the universe; not as an ingredient but as a whole; not on the periphery of his mind’s circle but at the center, standing at the same place as himself, his own center, his own uniquely individual I. Love has two I’s; that is why it sees so well.

Why did God create you? He created billions of other people; were they not enough for him? No, they were not. He had to have you. He will not rest until he has you home. Even if you are the one sheep that is lost, he will leave the ninety-nine (or ninety-nine billion) others to seek you wherever you are. He will come into your thickets and your wilderness and your suffering and even, on the Cross, your sin. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). One of the splinters on the Cross that pierced his flesh was yours alone. And one of the gems in his crown will be yours alone. For here is how your divine lover sees you:


'As a lily among brambles

So is my love among maidens' (Song 2:2).


And your response must be just as individual to him:


'As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,

So is my beloved among young men' (Song 2:3).


That is what it means to obey “the first and greatest commandment”, to love the Lord your God with your whole heart. “For the Lord your God is a jealous God.” Love is jealous because love is individual. Love will not share the beloved with another, as if a heart could be divided into parts. That is why God must be infinite: so that he can give his whole heart to each of us without being divided. Only infinity can do that. We can give our whole heart only to one at a time: to one God, because there is only one, and to one spouse. Marriage is earth’s closest image for Heaven because it is all or nothing, forever—a leap of faith."



This last paragraph exploded my view of God's infiniteness. I pictured, and still do, and still believe, that God gave all of Himself to me. All of Himself. Unreservedly. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every year of every decade. To me. Alone. But then replicates that for every other individual person who ever lived. All of Himself to you. Every second. Unreservedly. And yet still has all of Himself left over to do so for everyone else and still has all of Himself left over to run the universe.


Suddenly the idea of something too small to "bother God with" is ridiculous. He is literally doing nothing else. He is devoted to me. He is devoted to you. "I am my beloved's, and His desire is for me." You are your beloved's, and His desire is for you.


Every second.


His heart isn't divided. He wants my heart not to be divided, too. But it often is. But He calls me to something better. How? He sees me and believes the best, hopes the best. He whispers to me that He believes in me. How do I know? Because the passage about love read at many weddings from 1 Corinthians 13 is describing the kind of love that Jesus has for us. It believes all things. It hopes all things. It never fails. When John wrote that we love because He first loved us, he was referring to this love. This love is meant to inspire a reciprocal response in us for Jesus. I don't want my heart to be divided. As I spend time with Him, He works on me to make my heart not divided. He is shaping my heart into something better all the time. I might not believe in me or hope in me to change, but I believe in Him and hope in Him to change me. And He is. He believes in me.


God's jealousy makes sense. We understand his reaction in that passage from Hosea. We understand it when He tells us that He is a jealous God. Little else hurts quite as much as seeing our spouse chase after other lovers. Further, God knows that He Himself is the very best thing for us. When we choose to look for life apart from Him, we are choosing self harm.



Do Not Think that God Spares Himself the Experience of Time


We need not look much further than two verses into the Bible to see that God has actually injected Himself into His creation when we see the Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters of the earth. We can extrapolate that if He exists within His creation, that He also experiences the attribute of time that He created for His creation.


But so that you do not think I am taking too big of a leap:

"Then the LORD said to Moses, 'How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?'

"The LORD said to Moses, 'How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?' "

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling."

(Italics added in the verses above)

"How long" and "how often" mean little without the experience of time and chronology. I don't know that you can break down the infinite God into parts, so I will not say whatever "part", so then in whatever (way?) that God injected Himself into creation, in that same way He experiences time with each of us.


Every second.


Why? In the first few blogs we learned that the cross was about a demonstration of God's love for us. He wanted to leave no doubt. There could have been a less painful way to reconcile us, but not if He wanted to demonstrate His love for us in the strongest possible terms that still honored the agency that He gives us. For similar reasons He does not spare Himself the experience of time in His relationship with us. No shortcuts will do. You and I are too valuable to Him: When we are angry with God He doesn't go away. He still pursues us.

When we are complacent about God He doesn't allow His own heart to wander. He woos us.

When we are doubting He believes in us still, He keeps surrounding us with natural beauty: God's love made manifest visually.

When we seek life in other things that only He can give, His compassion stirs up His jealousy for us and He sets out to bring us back to the paths of life.

When we turn to Him and invite Him in, He experiences the joy and excitement of time with His beloved.


As a quick aside, so far I have been speaking in terms of God and those who are Christian. For those who are not Christian, those who have never placed their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior, the same holds true. Christ doesn't dwell in the unbeliever, so His access is further limited; nevertheless He has given all of Himself to the unbeliever, too. He experiences all of that time apart. The longing is never sated until the unbeliever turns to Jesus in faith. If they never do, the longing is never sated. Jesus has experienced innumerable lifetimes of only longing, of unrequited love. Why? Because true and dedicated love would do nothing else.



A Note to Those Hurt by Marriage


I have referred to the Song of Solomon a few times. There are some people in my life that have been hurt by their spouses or fiancees and are no longer married. This pain can linger for many and remain raw for quite a long time. So for some of you, the metaphor of God as a fiance or spouse can be mixed with pain. Take heart, though, as God is a perfect and faithful one.


Similarly, God's perhaps most chosen human relationship metaphor for His relationship with us is "Father". Many have had imperfect fathers (well, all of us I suppose had "imperfect" fathers, that's part of being human). So this, too, can be a metaphor to overcome for some and not one that is particularly helpful until you can see God as your perfect Father.


This doesn't surprise God. And it is okay.


Perhaps, then, this is why God gave us so many other ways to consider Him. So many ways that He is trying to tell us about how He feels about us. How He loves us and the kind of role He wants to have in our lives. In addition to Father and Lover, He compares His relationship with us to Brother, Friend, High Priest (spiritual authority and caretaker), Good Shepherd (physical leader and caretaker), His own body, as well as an allusion to Maternal/Nurturer :


  • Sibling:

"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;"

Romans 8:29 (italics added)


I don't know about you, but I have a brother. We get along fantastically and rarely fight about anything... and I live with him! But I know that not everyone gets along with their siblings. The Bible even implies that my relationship with my brother is unusual. Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loves at all times,

And a brother is born for adversity."

(NASB)


So...


  • Friend:

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15 (NASB)


"A friend loves at all times" Not all friends, though, and not always. But as a general rule the arc of friendship is one of a consistent love. Of course some have been hurt by the betrayal of their friends.


  • High priest / spiritual leader or spiritual caretaker in one's life:

Jesus is our spiritual authority, our spiritual caretaker in our lives. He is for us. He encourages that we unreservedly come to Him. We may come to His "throne" (an image of His power and authority) with "boldness":

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."


The Gospel of Luke records an event when people were bringing their children to see Jesus. The disciples saw this and tried to prevent it. It was a different culture where women and children did not have the kind of value and respect we are used to today. In some cultures, they still do not. So it is not hard to imagine. However, even so, Jesus tells His disciples to let them come, then He adds a statement that may have turned some heads:

"And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them.

But Jesus called for them, saying, 'Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.' "

Whoever does not receive the kingdom as a child will not enter it at all. Children must rely on their parents to provide for all of their needs, and generally have the confidence in them to do so unless there is something wrong. We are to approach Jesus with confidence.


  • Shepherd (physical leader and caretaker):

While the image of Father is meant as somewhat all encompassing care, including physically leading and providing, the image of Shepherd is also provided. Sheep aren't the smartest of animals, nor can they take care of themselves. Like, at all. They need a shepherd to care for them. We do, too. Jesus calls Himself our "Good Shepherd".

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."

John 10:11 (NASB)

In Psalm 23 David describes what it is like to have God as his Shepherd:

"The LORD is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul;

He guides me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You have anointed my head with oil;

My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

(NASB)

It is a life of peaceful confidence in the leading and provision of God.


  • His own body:

Jesus moves into our body, too, once we become a follower of Jesus. Simultaneously His Spirit makes us a member of the body of Christ, what Jesus calls His church. It doesn't get much more intimate than sharing a body.


"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? ..."


"For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."


  • An allusion to God having maternal traits also:

One of the biggest concerns I heard voiced about the movie (and book) "The Shack" was that in it, for a time, God the Father was presented as a woman to one particular character in the movie. The Holy Spirit was consistently presented as a woman. We are not calling God our "Mother" nor are we calling God a woman. Throughout the Bible God refers to Himself in male terms, and when He chose to become human for a time, it was as a human male.

However, the word for the Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2, rûaḥ, pronounced ruah or ruach, is a feminine noun in Hebrew. (I don't know Hebrew, either, but I heard William Paul Young point this out so I looked it up). And in creation there is an interesting statement:

"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

God created mankind in His image... male and female He created them. In her book "Being God's Image", Carmen Joy Imes claims that temples of old were constructed and then an idol, an image of the god for whom the temple was built, would be placed in the temple as a representation for that god. But for God, the creation account was about God constructing His temple, the earth, and then placing His image bearers, mankind, in it. So if male and female are image bearers of God, it is reasonable to exegete that God has maternal traits, as well. So we can think of God as our parent who possesses both paternal and maternal qualities. It is fair to think of God as your nurturer, too.


God seemed to leave little room for misinterpretation when it comes to how He feels about you, and about me. Whether you consider them all, or if taking your pick will help you imagine how deeply God loves you: fiance, spouse, parent. sibling, friend, spiritual leader and caretaker, physical leader and caretaker, His own body, He wants you to know that He loves you and is there for you, He desires intimate relationship with you, and He carries your best in mind. Always.



Concluding Our Teaching


So, stitching it all together, it looks like this:


Our God loves you deeply, loves me deeply, and loves each and every person deeply. As such, He longs for relational intimacy with each and every one of us. He points this out over and over and over in the Bible, a letter He wrote to us to share His heart with us. Contrary to popular belief, He is not interested in waiting for a future, better, more cleaned up version of you to begin a relationship. He is clear that while we were in our sinful state He paved the way to restored relationship. He wants you now, as you are. He is the Master Renovator of our hearts and souls, so the renovation is best left in His hands. When we place our trust in Him, He moves in. When we engage with Him, when we open the door to spending time with Him, He does His work on us to change us for the better. Even if we do not believe in us, He does. We need only believe in Him and spend time with Him.


By the way, if you don't know what it means to spend time with Him, don't worry. He will lead you into how this is done for you. But we have several suggested ways to experiment spending time with Him that you will find at OurGodBathedLife.com, under the tab "Practicing With".


To pave the way for the best possible relationship that we can have with Him, and as a continuing demonstration of His love and dedication to us, He entered creation and found a way to give His whole heart and individual presence to each and every person who ever lived, including you and me. He lives every moment with each of us and feels every moment with each of us. He doesn't skip ahead. He doesn't spare Himself the pain of our neglect, anger, disbelief, or apathy. But He is also fully present and delights in it when we invite Him in to be with us at any given time.


You may wonder if God feels lonely when we intentionally turn our minds away from Him or ignore Him, or when He spends all His time with someone that doesn't believe in Him. I don't think so. He is still a three Person God that we know as the Trinity. And it is a perfect unity of peace and love within the perichoresis of God (a term we covered in a previous blog). Even so, when He finds Himself standing at our door and knocking, or when with someone who doesn't believe, there is a sense of loss, a sense that something is missing. If we are engaged in sin, it is harmful to us. At those times He is sad for us, angry at whatever is deceiving us because the paths of sin lead to a kind of death; and He is jealous because He knows that being with Him, following Him, are the paths that bring us life.


We are finite and He knows how hard it is to keep Him in mind at all times. So doing the best we can counts. It is about the general heart attitude. Inviting Him in at the beginning of the day, coming to Him in times of prayer as we can during the day, carving out chunks of time to be intentionally with Him, loving people by serving them or being with them because we love God, practicing the art of being with Him and those He loves in the various ways we can, etc; it all counts. Though we should seek to turn our minds to Him as we go about our days, inviting Him into whatever activities we are doing. With a right attitude toward Him, we aren't neglecting Him when our thoughts are elsewhere.


I know nothing of St Alfonsus Liguori outside of this quote. Perhaps someday I will read more. But perhaps we can now better see what he may have had in mind when he said "The paradise of God is the human heart".


If you are reading this and have yet to respond to His gentle invitation to relationship with Him, you can invite Him in. Simply speak to Him. He'll hear you. He is right there: "Dear Jesus, I give You my life. I place my hope and trust in You. Thank You for dying in my place so that I can have new life together with You. Amen."


If you aren't there yet, when you are ready for relationship with Jesus, He'll be there. Always.



What Caused Me to Seek to Know How God Experiences His Relationship With Me?


Once I read Peter Kreeft's Three Philosophies of Life, specifically the passage I posted above, it sent my mind contemplating on the ramifications of what I read. "Then God is always with me. Always. Because He wants to be." I began to think more about the ramifications for God that He wants a real, relational, relationship with me. I remembered how He used language like "how long" and "how often" to describe His own experience to Moses, Jesus' disciples, and others. "God experiences that relationship over time. He is with me always. Even to the end of the age. He lives my life with me! Oh man, how does He experience it? Do I bring Him joy? I want to bring Him joy. I want His experience of me to be a source of joy for Him, and an ever-increasing source of joy". I don't think I am unique in this but in meaningful relationships in my life, I wonder how others experience me. I want, for their sake, and for mine, for it to be a good experience. God wants for me to lead an abundant and joyful life, so as it depends on me I want the same for Him.



What God Might Say


In this section, we imagine what God might say if He were to speak for Himself to us on the subject. Here is what that might sound like:


There is a line in the Gospel of Matthew that carries deep significance but is often missed. When My Son yielded His spirit to Me on the cross when He died, I tore the veil of the temple from top to bottom.


You see, when I created Adam and Eve, My dream for humanity is that they would thrive. They would rule with Me in the care of what I created. They would multiply. Since I made them in My image they would love and care for each other. They would spend their days with each other and with Me. In Me they would find life and everything that they needed for living in this beautiful world. I am the very best Thing in the universe, and of course I want those I love to have the very best thing. I want to give them more of Me.


We all know the story: Adam and Eve chose to seek life in something other than Me. They sought to control their own outcomes apart from Me. Of course it went badly. The intimacy I had hoped for, the ever developing character allowing Me to pour more of Myself into them, was broken and stained. It wasn't a surprise so I had a plan. A very long plan. But for thousands of years I mainly had to exist outside of My people. I wanted more. I was meant to live in spiritual union with them, sharing My life with them.


During these thousands of years, I could be worshiped, prayed to, sought, and even found, and Me and My image bearers could even have a connection mental and emotional, but My Spirit could not unite with theirs in the way it was meant to be. There was something missing for them, and there was definitely something missing for Me.


Then My Son went to earth. I told them what to name Him, you know: Immanuel, meaning "God with us". And We were. My Son spent 33 years with My image bearers. You heard the story.


When My Son died on the cross, I enthusiastically ripped that temple veil from top to bottom. For so many generations that veil, which represented the separation of My presence from among My people, had Me hidden away, unapproachable in many ways. It was an arm held straight out in front of Me saying "you can get this close but no closer". Up until then it had to be. Even though I was in their midst, their spirits still had no way to be united with mine. They didn't contain the life found in Me. They were dead in sin and I was alive in righteousness. Getting too close to Me would kill them. I had to keep a kind of distance I never wanted to, so as not to hurt them.


But that all changed when My Son died. Now the path was laid for Me to be closer to My people. I ripped that veil signaling I would never again have to keep an arm's length from My people. And I wanted them to know it. That veil was several inches thick, 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide. The rabbis liked to say that it took 300 of them to manipulate it. To leave no doubt, I tore it from the top, from 60 feet up.


"God with us" can now be one step closer to the vision I had for us: "God in us". I get to be closer to My image bearers and I will not waste a second of it. I will be with them, every second, and I will never leave them. To those who accept My invitation, I will come and dwell (and delight!) within them. They will grow to know Me more, and I will help to shape their hearts into the kind of hearts they truly want, each person, one at a time.


The Infinite cannot explain to the finite mind the depth of love I have for you, the furious longing for closeness with you. I truly love you and desire you more than you can ever know. And I mean the now version of you. Not just some future version of who you can become, some better version of you. I will love and desire you just as much then, but I love and desire you no less now.



[Footnotes for sources of information about the Temple Veil:

[1] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), 145–146.

[1] Michael Green, The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 300.]



Practicing With

 

In this section we engage in a practice that we do with God, and hopefully with God together with those He loves. As mentioned on the introductory post, hopefully you get to invite others to experience Our God Bathed Life with you. It might look different for you, but one way you might do that is to get together with a couple of people each week for a meal. Over that meal you get to know each other better and discuss what stood out to you in the blog post, what questions you might have, and especially what your experience of the practice has been. Let's look at this practice:


Prayer.


Prayer is a vast term that includes many different practices. Think of it as communication with God, though you don't even need words to pray. Romans 8:26 tells us (NASB):

"In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;"


Various kinds of prayer include

  • Petition - asking God for what we want

  • Intercession - praying requests on behalf of other people

  • Worship and praise / adoration - ascribing to God good things about God - this is to remind us of God's good nature

  • Confession - telling God things that we have done that we know are not what He desires for us

  • Presence - simply opening our hearts to God and intentionally seeking to connect with Him with no particular agenda in mind

  • Listening - opening our ears to Him and asking Him to speak to us if He wants to

  • Thanksgiving - when we thank God for good things in our lives

  • And more - like I said, a vast term encompassing many practices.


Typically we speak with God using our own words, but sometimes we need help. We can find help in the Psalms, or in books like a Book of Common Prayer, or in any number of books on prayer. One I have read and thoroughly enjoyed is Larry Crabb's "PAPA Prayer". It is just one way to pray relationally with God. It is also okay to seek help in prayer by having someone pray with you. Your pastor or small group leader can be excellent people to pray with.


There is no right or wrong formula on how to pray, though there are some formulas offered by others to help when we do not know what or how to pray. One such formula is ACTS. It stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Again, formulas are not right or wrong; they only exist to help us know what to pray. (Supplication is making requests to God.)


Finally, you can visit OurGodBathedLife.com/prayer for more curated thoughts about prayer.


*******


Be sure to visit OurGodBathedLife.com for curated voices that are sure to help you better live into your own corner of Our God Bathed Life. See you next time! We may have a couple of splashes as I work through the next episode, but the next two I intend to be:

First: Is God a poor judge of talent?

Second: Is obedience important if relationship is at the core of what God wants with us?


Until next time!

20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page