Experience God’s Love Closer than Your Skin

By Whitney Hopler

You know the Bible says that God is love, and you believe it. You agree with the idea that He loves you personally, too. But do you experience His loving touch in your life every day? Or does He often seem far away?

God wants you to encounter Him right there with you – closer than your skin. Here’s how you can experience the intimate relationship God wants you to enjoy with Him:

Pursue God. God has promised that if you seek Him with all your heart, you’ll find Him. He’s available, knowable, and responsive. Decide to make a relationship with Him your top priority, building everything else in your life around it. Expect to discover God pursuing you as you pursue Him. He understands everything about you and knows where to find you. God wants you to find Him, too, rather than just playing a game of hide and seek. As you reach out to Him, He will reach out to you.

Commit. Don’t settle for just casual contact with God, as if you’re dating Him. Move beyond a casual relationship to a fully committed one. Passionately devote yourself to God. Instead of just believing in Him, live for Him. Do your best to live out your faith in every part of your life, all the time.

Trade religion for relationship. Your faith isn’t defined by the religious activities in which you engage; it’s defined by the quality of your relationship to God. Rather than focusing on the rituals you perform, the programs you attend, or the service you undertake, focus on the reason behind doing all of those things – your love for God. Let go of activities that keep you too busy to invest the time and energy you need to invest in your actual relationship with God. Don’t become so busy that you don’t leave room in your life for God to do something new; expect Him to constantly be doing something fresh in your life. Ask God to help you avoid pride and self-reliance from doing too much while also avoiding guilt from doing too little. Rely on God’s unlimited strength rather than your own limited abilities, and make sure your motivation for any religious activity is to express your love for Him.

Overcome condemnation. If you feel like God is disappointed in you because of what you’ve done, or even because of who you are, the resulting guilt and shame will alienate you from Him because you’ll be insecure about approaching Him. Ask God to heal your soul from whatever is causing your sense of condemnation. Confess your sins, repent of them, and embrace the grace that God freely offers you. Instead of working for God’s love, work from it as a foundation of security. Remember that, although you’ll always be a work in progress, your standing with God and your future are secure, because God is the author and finisher of your faith. He is always willing to meet you where you are and help you grow. Rather than worrying about how perfectly you’re living the Christian life, focus on how often you’re turning to God, and trust that His love will prove more than enough in transforming you into the person He wants you to become.

Stop overdoing it. Although it’s noble to try to live a good, selfless, and productive life, if you’re too driven and busy, you’ll end up actually moving farther away from the life God wants you to lead. Take an honest look at how you’re using the limited time and energy you have. Make whatever changes you need to make to ensure that your activities don’t eat up the time you need to develop and maintain healthy relationships – especially with God.

Deal with your pain. The pain you experience in this fallen world can create bitterness in your soul if you don’t deal with it, and that bitterness can block your intimacy with God. Admit to God that you’re sometimes angry at Him for the bad things He allows to happen, even though you know He doesn’t cause them. Freely express your frustration to Him, knowing that He cares and understands. Then decide to trust Him to do what’s best, no matter what the circumstances look like from your perspective.

Listen for God’s voice. Ask God to help you notice Him speaking to you in everyday life. Pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind and empower you to recognize God when He communicates with you. Turn down the noise in your life that’s keeping you too distracted to hear from God. Expect that, if you give God an open heart and a listening ear, He will speak to you regularly in specific and personally significant ways.

Be grateful. Negative attitudes like self pity are dangerous to your soul, because they hold you back from growing spiritually. But gratitude gives you the freedom you need to move closer to God. Make a daily habit of noticing the many ways God has blessed you, and thanking Him for them. Ask Him to help you stay focused on your blessings no matter what your current circumstances. If you place your trust in God even during tough times, He’ll honor your faith by drawing you closer to Him.

Join God where He’s already at work. Stop trying to make good things happen on your own, and instead notice what God is doing around you and decide to join Him. Each day, surrender your own agenda and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your decisions, so you can accomplish what God wants you to accomplish. Remember that it’s the work God does through you that counts, not the work you do for Him.

Fulfill your purpose. Pay attention to the talents and passions God has given you, and decide to use the limited time you have here on earth to use your talents passionately to fulfill His purpose for your life. Check in with God regularly for guidance. Then act on what He tells you, trusting that He will help you every step of the way.

Trust God with your marriage and family. God understands all the joys, sorrows, and risks you’re facing as you strive to be a good spouse and parent. Pray about every family situation, and rely on the strength He’ll give you. Remember that He is right there with you, your spouse, and your children – ready to help with anything you face together. Trust the future of your family and everyone in it to God.

Forgive. Realize that you can’t truly be close to God if you’re at odds with people. Be willing to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration with every broken relationship you have. God expects you to forgive others because He has forgiven you, and you can count on Him to help you through the process.

Pray often. Keep in close contact with God through frequent prayer. Be assured that God accepts every sincere prayer, whether you’re uttering a few brief phrases on the run or pouring your heart out to Him in an extended prayer vigil. But when you pray, don’t just talk to God; be sure to listen to Him, too. Write down important insights He gives you. Obey what He tells you to do. Expect that as you listen more to God and respond more to what He says, it will become easier for you to recognize His voice.

Intercede for others. If you sense God leading you to pray for others, do so in humility. Never presume that you know what’s best for them, but be willing to help them by presenting their needs to God in prayer, trusting that He will answer according to what’s best.

Guard against deception. Discern whether or not messages you hear spiritually are truly from God by: judging the fruit of those messages (they should move you closer to God and more loving toward people, rather than leading to self-aggrandizement, manipulating others, or actions that harm or deceive), staying under spiritual authority and in fellowship (such as by respecting a pastor you trust and being accountable to other mature Christians), making sure the messages are consistent with the Bible as a whole (God-given messages never contradict His Word), remembering that God often confirms His thoughts in more than one way, and learning to recognize counterfeit messages.

Invite God to pour His love through you. Trust God’s love to fill up every empty space inside your soul, overcoming every longing, unmet need, and loss. Welcome His love into your life fully, so that it transforms you and flows through you out into the lives of other people, transforming them as well.

Adapted from Closer Than Your Skin: Unwrapping the Mystery of Intimacy with God, copyright 2008 by Susan D. Hill. Published by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., Colorado Springs, Co., www.randomhouse.com/waterbrook/.

Susan Hill is an award-winning feature writer and a leader of interdenominational women’s groups, where she frequently hears of the common longing for authentic Christian faith. She also serves on the board of the Uganda Orphans Fund, a non-profit Christian relief organization. Susan and her husband, Duncan, have three children and live in Montana.


How to Speak About God When He Hurts Us

By John Piper

The book of Lamentations is the heart-cry of Jeremiah when he and his people were being hurt by God, and by their enemies, and by their own sin. How he speaks of this divine hurting shows us some of the various ways we may speak about God in our own pain. If we affirm them all, then not one of them will be taken amiss.

The Lord directly does the hurting (2:1-4).

“The Lord in his anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud! . . . The Lord has swallowed up without mercy all the habitations of Jacob; . . . He has cut down in fierce anger all the might of Israel; . . . he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, consuming all around. . . . 4 He has killed all who were delightful in our eyes in the tent of the daughter of Zion.”

The enemies have done the hurting and God has exalted their might (2:16-17).

“All your enemies rail against you; they hiss, they gnash their teeth, they cry. . . . The Lord has done what he purposed; . . . he has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes.”

The enemy has done the hurting, as if the Lord were not watching! (1:9-11; 3:49-50).

Her fall is terrible; she has no comforter. ‘O Lord , behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed! . . . Look, O Lord, and see, for I am despised.' . . . My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, until the Lord from heaven looks down and sees.”

The hurting happens as if by God's “forgetting” and “forsaking” them (5:20).

“Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?”

The Lord will repay the enemies who did the hurting on earth (3:64).

“You will repay them, O Lord, according to the work of their hands.”

The Lord will follow his hurting with compassion (3:32).

“Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”

God's hurting us is not “from his heart”—not his deepest delight (3:33).

“He does not willingly [literally “from his heart” millibboi] afflict or grieve the children of men.”

In his hurting the Lord shows mercy every morning (3:22-23).

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

God's decisive mercy is his causing the erring people to repent; he removes the cause of his own wrath (5:21).

“Cause us to return (hasibenu) to yourself, O Lord, and we will return (wunasub)! Renew our days as of old.”

When God is hurting us, wait patiently for the salvation of the Lord (3:26).

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him.”

In and after God's hurting us, he is our only hope and portion (3:24).

“‘The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'”


How To Win The War Over Worry

By Adrian Rogers
Love Worth Finding

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass. And He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. (Psalm 37:1-7)

Years ago there was a song entitled, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” It had a catchy tune, but do you know the problem with this phrase? It’s missing a “how to” in between “Don’t worry” and “Be happy.”

It’s like telling an alcoholic, “Don’t drink. Be sober.” Or a person trying to lose weight – “Don’t overeat. Get healthy.” There’s a missing link. And it’s the “How does a person stop worrying and be happy?” Let me share with you four ways you can win the war over worry:

Trust In The Lord
God wants to prove Himself to you. Let me ask you, “How do you know that the Lord is the joy of your life?” You don’t know, until He takes away your automobile or your health or your home or your family. When you say, “Jesus is all I need” make sure you can prove it. You’ll never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.

Do Good
One of the signs that you’re not trusting God is that you drop out of your usual activities. They get down. You say, “I lost my job!” Well, what are you doing about it? “Well, I’m just sitting around the house!” Well, quit it! Get out there and do something because you’re trusting God to provide!

Delight Yourself In The Lord
Do you want to have a life of joy? Then, put your faith in something, or should I say Someone, who cannot be touched – the Lord! God isn’t finished with you until you find your greatest joy in Him alone. Now take the sentence very slowly – God is going to keep giving you this test until you pass it. He doesn’t flunk anybody out. And so, if you don’t pass this time, He’ll just run you through again.

Commit Your Way To The Lord
“Commit” literally means “to roll.” It means to roll your burden on the Lord. Whatever that burden is, you are to give it to God. His shoulders are broad enough. Matthew 11:30 says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Is someone critical of you today? Give it to Jesus. Has someone hurt you? Give it to Jesus. Are you unsure about your future? Give it to Jesus.

Rest In The Lord
This word “rest” means “to be silent.” We want our answers yesterday. And God is saying, “Hush! Rest in Me!” Friend, God isn’t interested in time. He’s interested in timing. He’s never in a hurry. And He’s never late. Waiting on the Lord is like waiting for the sun to rise. You can’t hurry it. And you can’t stop it.

Trust. Do Good. Delight. Commit. Rest. What is the key to all of this? Jesus. When He is your focus, you can win the war over worry.


The Struggle Within

By Mother M. Angelica

Man is capable of heroic sacrifice and he accomplishes these feats of endurance best when he wants to do them with all his heart. Sacrifices that are imposed against his Will, rob him of the spirit so necessary to do great things. A mother thinks nothing of caring for a sick child day and night. A stranger would feel it a great sacrifice. He would not manifest those tender acts of thoughtfulness that make nursing so Christlike.

Love moves the Will in whatever direction love takes. If our love is self-oriented, our actions will be geared toward self-satisfaction only. Unless our Will is directed toward a higher good, we shall not reach our potential. No matter what great things we accomplish in the world it will be as nothing if our motive for good and great works is selfish.

St. Paul reminded us of this when he said that if we gave everything we possessed to the poor without love it would be nothing. It is disheartening to realize it is possible to deprive ourselves of our most prized possessions and it is as nothing before God. Certainly our Will is determined and strong when we accomplish good works. How then could it be nothing in the Eyes of God? (I Cor. 13:3)

The struggle within does not lie in the strength of our Will but in the prime mover of that Will. What is our motive for doing what we do?

Jesus told us that if we do good works to be seen by men we have received our reward. (Matt. 6:1-2) What were Jesus and Paul telling us when they pulled the rug from under our complacent attitudes?

They were both saying the same thing and we need to see why it is possible to be kind and generous and not be doing the Will of God. Certainly kindness and generosity are fruits of the Spirit, but they can also be natural fruits-fruits of our own desire for praise and glory.

The guiding force of all our actions should be to please God, manifest our love for Him and aid our neighbor.

Whatever self-gratification there may be in our works it is secondary—a fringe benefit enjoyed but not sought after. The determining factor is the love of God, not personal glory. This is difficult to attain and only His grace can make us rise above ourselves and seek only Him.

When our Will is directed to the honor and glory of God above our own, we have peace of mind. The constant friction between our Will and God's leads to most of the unhappiness in our lives. We can understand this better if we draw a verbal picture of ourselves alienated from His Will.