"Nothing here is new except in the sense that it is a discovery which my own heart has made of spiritual realities most delightful and wonderful to me. Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame." (A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Empty God

How does one surprise God?  After all, can One who knows all things and sees all things be surprised?  I’ve often made the statement that, when we confess our sins to God, we will never hear Him respond with, “No!  Not you!  When did you do that?”  He already knows all about it.

But there it was in the Bible.  Jesus, God the Son, was “astonished.”  Surprised.  And not just once, but twice.  Matthew 8 contains the account of a Roman centurion who came to Jesus to ask Him to heal a servant suffering from a terrible sickness.  Jesus offered to go to him immediately, but the centurion said “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Matthew 8:8-9, ESV). 

When Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.”  The Greek word translated marveled is the word, θαυμάζω (thaumazō), which means to “wonder” or “wonder at.”  It has the element of the unexpected or surprise.  It’s a word often translated, “astonished.”  Jesus, God the Son, was astonished!  I don’t know how many times I noticed this verse and wondered how God could be astonished or surprised.  But I never stopped long enough to understand it – until a few days ago, when the Holy Spirit focused my attention right there.

Because it is in this astonishment that the power to live life is to be found.

There was another time when Jesus was astonished: Mark 6:5-6

And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any mighty miracles among them except to place His hands on a few sick people and heal them. And He was amazed at their unbelief.

How can God be amazed, even surprised?

The Holy Spirit led me back to Philippians 2:7, a verse I’ve studied and quoted many times.

5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

The phrase, but made himself of no reputation, could be literally translated, but emptied himself.  The Greek word is κενόω (keno), a word with means “to empty,” “to make empty,” “deprive of force” or “to make void, hollow.”  Jesus emptied himself.  Of what?  His rights as God?  Indeed.  But the word means to make completely empty or hollow.  Note especially that it means deprive of force.  Jesus completely emptied Himself of His power as God[1].  I had never realized this, nor grasped its enormous significance.

Jesus voluntarily emptied Himself of His power as God.  He gave up His power to walk on water.  He surrendered His power to heal the sick and restore sight to the blind.  He emptied Himself of His power to raise the dead.  He relinquished His power to tell the wind and waves to be still.  He forfeited His power to resist temptation![2]

But He still did all those things.  He walked on water, He healed the sick and restored sight to the blind, He raised the dead, the wind and waves were quiet and still at His command, and although He was tempted in all points like we are, He did not sin.  How?

Jesus gave us a profound clue in John 5:30.  He said, "I can do nothing on my own."  The word translated “can” in this verse is the Greek word, δύναμαι (dynamai).  You might recognize this word.  The English word, “dynamite,” is a derivative.  It’s the word for power.   Jesus said, “I have the power to do nothing.”  What?  Jesus had no power?

But don’t miss the next three words: on my own. 

Jesus still did all those miraculous things.  So where did the power to walk on water and raise the dead come from?  Jesus explained that in John 14:10, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

Everything Jesus did and said while in the flesh on earth He did by the authority and by the power of the Father Who was doing His works in and through His Son.  God the Father and God the Son were working together.

Jesus wasn’t only dying for me so that I could experience the forgiveness of my sins and have eternal life; He was living for me to show me how to live that life. As the Apostle Paul stated, “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”  But there was more than reconciliation.  We are “saved by his life,” Paul explained.  Jesus made peace with God for me by His death, but He showed me how to live this new life by how He lived His life.

This is why Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”  This is what Paul understood when he wrote, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).  Paul got it!  He wasn’t living for Christ. Jesus was living in him!

In his book, HearingGod, Dallas Willard profoundly explains the difference between having faith in Jesus and having the faith of Jesus.

Once, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, the disciples’ boat was almost beaten under by the waves while Jesus slept calmly.  His disciples woke him crying, “Lord, save us!  We are perishing!” (Mt. 8:25).  Jesus reproachfully replied, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” (Mt. 8:26).  Now the disciples obviously had great faith in Jesus.  They called upon him, counting on him to save them.  They had great faith in him, but they did not have his great faith in God.  It was because they did not have his faith that he spoke of how little faith they had.

Some Christians too commonly demonstrate that the notions of “faith in Christ” and “love for Christ” leave Christ outside the personality of the believer.  These exterior notions of Christ’s faith and love will never be strong enough to yield the confident statement, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  They can never provide the unity of the branches with the vine, where the life that is in the branch is literally that which flows to it through the vine and is the very life of the vine to which it is attached (Jn. 15:1-4).

“Our additional life [the second birth],” Dr. Willard concludes, “though it is still our life, is also God’s life in us: his thoughts, his love, all literally imparted to us, shared with us, by his word and Spirit.”  Note his word, “literally.”  Somehow I don’t think I had quite fully grasped this.  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit literally, actually make their home within me and desire to literally express their existence through me.

That’s why Jesus said, ”apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).   That’s exactly what He said about Himself: "I can do nothing on my own."  I can do stuff.  In fact, I’ve done a lot of stuff without Jesus, sometimes claiming to be doing it for Jesus.  And in the end, that’s exactly what it was: nothing. 

On one occasion Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  To His disciples who were “exceedingly astonished” Jesus explained:
“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (John 15:27).

So, those are my choices.  I can live a life doing stuff on my own, using my natural abilities to do things some might even think are spectacular, but which will in the end, amount to nothing.  Or, I can cooperate with God to let Him do those “impossible” things only He can do using me to draw people to Himself and into the same quality of eternal life He has given to me.

Is the life I’m living today Jesus living His life in me?  That’s the issue.  As Dr. Willard also notes, “Once the new life begins to enter our soul, however, we have the responsibility and opportunity of evermore fully focusing our whole being on it and wholly orienting ourselves toward it.  This is our part, and God will not do it for us.”

So, if it is God’s design to live in us and through us like He did in and through Jesus, does that mean we can have the power to walk on water, heal the sick, raise the dead, restore sight to the blind and resist temptation?  If it accomplishes the purposes of God as it did in Jesus’ life, absolutely.  According to Jesus, absolutely yes.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

So why don’t we have that power today?

Because we must begin with the very same purpose and at the very same place Jesus began: empty.

Completely empty.

[1] This does not mean or suggest that Jesus surrendered his deity.  He was still fully God, God in flesh, a subject for another time.
[2] That Jesus forfeited His power to resist temptation is very important to understand.  James (the half-brother of Jesus) wrote, “God cannot be tempted” (James 1:13).  If the one being tempted cannot be tempted, then temptation is not temptation.  But Jesus emptied Himself of His power to resist temptation, which means that He was tempted.  We are told of only three specific temptations, but Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days and nights.  We can be certain that He was indeed tempted in all points and ways like we are, and that these temptations were real.  Jesus successfully resisted them all because the power of God the Father was available to Him, just like it is to us.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Overwhelmed with Joy and Awe

When I was born, my mother began praying that I would be able to play the piano and sing, in part because she had neither of those gifts.  And she wanted them for me.  She persisted in that prayer, especially through what used to be known as my “Junior High” years when I took the majority of my piano lessons.  Okay, I endured the majority of my piano lessons.  I would rather have been outside playing baseball – or at least just outside.

God gave me those gifts entirely in answer to her prayers.  I never invested the time or discipline in developing them as I should have, especially in playing the piano.  But they are now more precious to me than they’ve ever been – because of with Whom I am sharing them these days.

In an earlier post, I mentioned how my daily time of prayer and Bible study has grown to occupy most of most mornings, and sometimes most of some days.  Part of that growth is because the Holy Spirit added a most intimate time of worship to my “routine” – using those gifts for which my Mom prayed.

As my study of the Word of God intensified, I noticed how frequently King David wrote something like, “I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music” (Psalm 101:1), and “I will sing a new song to you, my God” (Psalm 144:9).  Singing to the Lord has become a frequent and treasured part of my days, a time when I sit at our piano and play and sing just to Jesus.  (I still don’t play well, but since He hears my heart, I don’t think He notices.)

One of the hymns I learned from my youth has become my favorite because it so wonderfully captures what God is doing for me and in me, and it has become an essential part of my worship and praise:

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

It is certainly true that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).  The presence of God is so “real” and palpable during these moments of personal worship.  And the intensity of His presence often overwhelms me, both with joy and awe.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.[1]

My praise and worship then moves to other favorites, often including these:

They bound the hands of Jesus
in the garden where He prayed;
They led Him thro' the streets in shame.
They spat upon the Savior so pure and free from sin;
They said, "Crucify Him; He's to blame."

He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels,
But He died alone, (alone), for you and me.[2]

I was the sheep that was lost . . . .

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
  In the shelter of the flock,
But one was out on the hills away,
  Far off in the cold and dark;
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
  Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
  Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”

But none of the ransomed ever knew
  How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night which the Lord passed through
  Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the bleak desert He heard its cry—
All bleeding and helpless, and ready to die.[3]


Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way

Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the one who lives within you
Will be strong in you today[4]


Why should I feel discouraged and why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion, a constant Friend is He,
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I'm happy;
I sing because I'm free;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Let not your heart be troubled; these tender words I hear;
And resting on his goodness I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I sing because I'm happy;
I sing because I'm free;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.[5]

This poignant song by Graham Kendrick may capture my heart’s desire as much as any . . .

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You're my all, you're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart's desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You're my all, you're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord[6]

And my “concert” often “rests” exactly where my heart should . . . .

Rest, the Lord is near
Refuse to fear, enjoy His love
Trust, His mighty power
Fills every hour, of all your days

There is no need
For needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever
Doubt, His perfect Word
Still reassures, in any trial

Rest, the Lord is there
Lift up your prayer
For He is strong
Trust, He’ll bring release
And perfect peace, will calm your mind[7]

Mom thinks her prayers were answered.

[1] In the Garden; Lyrics and music by C. Austin Miles.
[2] Ten Thousand Angels, Lyrics and music by Ray Overholt.
[3] The Ninety and Nine; Lyrics by Elizabeth Cecilia Clephanie; Music by Ira David Sankey.
[4] Be Strong and Take Courage; Lyrics and music by Basil Chiasson.
[5] His Eye Is On the Sparrow; Lyrics by Mrs. L. D. Martin; Music by Charles H. Gabriel.
[6] Knowing You, Lyrics and Music by Graham Kendrick  © 1993 Make Way Music
[7] Rest; Lyrics and music by Phil McHugh and Greg Nelson; © 1985 River Oaks Music

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mere Human Beings Can Talk with God

In my last entry in this journal I mentioned, “As my journey has continued, I’ve discovered that a conversational relationship is not God’s ‘end game’ for me.  It’s not His ultimate goal.  It is a wonderful, glorious, sublime result of what He has in mind, but there is something much more.”

My journal entries have been, up until this one, historical, recounting how God has been forming the life of Jesus in me over the last fifteen months.  This entry is contemporary, recording an experience of today.

As part of my daily study and prayer time with God, I recently began re-reading Dallas Willard’s book, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God.  I highlighted several paragraphs in chapter 2, Guidelines for Hearing from God, noting the ones the Holy Spirit especially used to teach me and move me further into the conversational relationship with God I so much desire.  Here are a few of them . . . .
“God could have created a world of robots, instead of free people who love him and understand his participation in the kingdom and their work.  But then there would be no conversations.  There would simply be direction and conformity.  That picture robs people of initiative and freedom that goes into true friendship with God – cooperative creativity.”
“When you surrender initiative, you make prayer meaningless.” 
Dr. Willard and the Holy Spirit really had my attention.  I’ve been praying that my will will become a perfect reflection of God’s will, and that, just like Jesus, I could daily do what I see the Father doing and say what I hear the Father saying.  Was I surrendering initiative – and making prayer meaningless?  I read on . . . .
“Prayer is an honest exchange between people who are doing things together.  God and I work together, and I need to invoke his power in that activity.  Joint activity is a key to understanding how conversation flows.
“In such conversations we also talk about other things besides what God wants done today.  We talk about what is happening, what is interesting or what is sad.  Most conversation between God and humans is to help us understand things.”
Now this is starting to make more sense to me.  The Holy Spirit had been teaching me that God desires something much more than a conversational relationship with Him, as awesome as that is.   More than only communication (conversation), God wants communion (intimacy).  And even more than communion, God’s plan is union (merger).  Kathryn and I experience a wonderful marriage.  We enjoy our communication and we treasure our communion.  But we also have a merger, most clearly demonstrated by the fact that we each often intuitively know what the other is thinking without any verbal or visible expression.
“….above all, hold on to the fact that learning how to hear God is to be sought only as a part of a certain kind of life, a life of loving fellowship with the King and his other subjects within the kingdom of the heavens.  We must never forget that God’s speaking to us is intended to develop into an intelligent, freely cooperative relationship between mature people who love each other with the richness of genuine agape love.  We must therefore make it our primary goal not just to hear the voice of God, but to be mature people in a loving relationship with him.  Only in this way will we hear him rightly.  This is our first general guideline.”
Dr. Willard offers three guidelines for hearing from God:

Guideline One:  Love God with All Our Being
“Love is designed to be our primary way of ‘being with’ others.
“In this union of souls – in the conscious delight and rest in one another that is the highest and most exalted relationship possible between two persons – it is not right for one person to always tell the other what to do.  And so it is in our union with God, a person both loving and beloved.  He does not delight in having to always explain what his will is; he enjoys it when we understand and act upon his will.  Our highest calling and opportunity in life is to love with all our being.
“Only our communion with God provides the appropriate context for communications between us and Him.”
Guideline Two: Mere Humans Can Talk with God

In my last journal entry I wrote, “as I daily immersed myself in the Word of God, the Holy Spirit began to teach me to understand that Moses and David, including Abraham, Elijah, Elisha, Paul, Peter and many others we have considered to be ‘heroes of the Bible’ were never intended by God to be anomalies of faith.  We are told about these everyday men and women because God intends them to be examples of the norm for those who pursue an intimate walk with Him. To be less is to be subnormal.”

Dr. Willard affirmed and explained that more fully . . . .
“The humanity of Moses, David and Elijah, of Paul, Peter and Jesus Christ himself – of all that wonderful company of riotously human women and men whose experience is recorded in the Bible and in the history of the church – teaches us a vital lesson.  Our mere humanity will not by itself prevent us from knowing and interacting with God just as they did.
“Conversely, if we are really to understand the Bible record, we must enter into our study of it on the assumption that the experiences recorded there are basically of the same type as ours would have been if we had been there.
“Failure to read the Bible in this realistic manner accounts for two common problems in Christian groups that hold the Bible central to their faith.  The first problem is that it becomes simply a book of doctrine, of abstract truth about God, which one can search endlessly without encountering God himself or hearing his voice.
The other problem is that we simply stop reading the Bible altogether when we do not understand the experience of biblical characters in terms of how we experience life events.
“If we are to hear God’s voice ourselves and on an individual basis, we must, above all else, observe how his word came to those people described in the Scriptures.  How did they experience God’s communication?  What was it like for them to hear God?  We must prayerfully but boldly use our God-given imaginations as we read the stories of people who encountered God.  We must ask ourselves what it would be like if we were Moses standing by the bush (Ex. 3:2), little Samuel lying in his darkened room (1 Sam. 3:3-7), Elisha under inspiration from the minstrel (2 Kings 3:13), Ananias receiving his vision about Paul (Acts 9:11) or Peter on his rooftop (Acts 10:10).  We must pray for the faith and for the experiences that would enable us to believe that such things could happen to us.  Only then will we be able to recognize, accept and dwell in them when they come.”
The Strength of True Meekness
“In seeking and receiving God’s word to us, we must also see and receive the grace of humility.
“Moses was one of the most humble, least presumptuous human beings who ever walked the earth.  And Moses also may be the all-time record holder for lengthy conversation with God.  If there were such a category in the Guinness World Records books, Moses would certainly head the list.  Certainly a connection existed between his meekness and his close working and talking relationship with God.  Psalm 25:9 says of God, ‘He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.’”
Here’s the best definition of humility I’ve ever seen:
“God will gladly give humility to us if, trusting and waiting on him to act, we refrain from pretending we are what we know we are not, from presuming a favorable position for ourselves and from pushing or trying to override the will of others.  (This is a fail-safe recipe for humility.  Try it for one month.  Money-back guarantee if it doesn’t work!)”
So, to be humble:
1. Don’t pretend.
2. Don’t presume (that you should be treated any particular way).
3. Don’t push.

It works!

Guideline Three: Hearing God Doesn’t Make Us Righteous
“When God speaks to us, it does not prove that we are righteous or even right.  It does not prove that we have correctly understood what he said. 
“We must never lose sight of the fact that God’s purposes are not to support us or make us look and feel secure in our roles or to make sure that we are right. 
“Indeed, being right is one of the hardest burdens human beings have to bear, and few succeed in bearing up under it gracefully.  There is a little placard I have seen that reads, ‘Lord, when we are wrong, make us willing to change, and when we are right, make us easy to live with!’ A very wise prayer.”

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I Actually Believe It

As I began my pursuit of a 24/7 conversational relationship with God, one of the most remarkable changes I noticed God making in me (I think Kathryn saw other changes before I did) was that I actually began to genuinely believe that I could have a real 24/7 conversational relationship with God.

Over the years of my life I’ve encountered a distressing “ability” to exempt myself from the promises of God.  I have never doubted the Word or promises of God – at least so I thought.  But in the moments of my greatest distress, I could read the promises of God and believe they were absolutely true for everyone – except me.  I could find some reason for exempting or disqualifying myself from the goodness and faithfulness of God – all the while never doubting that God is good and faithful.  Of course, this was the enemy stealing away the promises and power of God in my life.  I’ve talked to others who’ve told me of the same experience.  If you’re one of those who, like me, can – or may I say could – exempt myself from the power of God in my life, then I have this word for you:  we both can have a 24/7 conversational relationship with God.  I now actually believe it.  (Will you?)

God produced that confidence in me in two ways.  First, I realized that the desire to have such a non-stop intimate relationship with Him was a gift from Him.  This desire is so immense, so powerful and so consuming, it could have come from no one else.  This desire is from Him, and only He can satisfy it.

In his small but extraordinary book, The School of Obedience, Andrew Murray has written, “There can be no strong faith without strong desire.  Desire is the great motive power in the universe.  It was God’s desire to save us that moved Him to send His Son.  It is desire that moves men to study and work and suffer.  It is the desire alone for salvation that brings a sinner to Christ.  It is the desire for God and the closest possible fellowship with Him, that desire to be just what He would have us be and to have as much of His will as possible, that will make the promised land attractive to us.  It is this which will make us forsake everything to get our full share in the obedience of Christ.”[1]

Second, (as I wrote in an earlier entry) as I daily immersed myself in the Word of God, the Holy Spirit began to teach me to understand “that Moses and David, including Abraham, Elijah, Elisha, Paul, Peter and many others we have considered to be ‘heroes of the Bible’ were never intended by God to be anomalies of faith.  We are told about these everyday men and women because God intends them to be examples of the norm for those who pursue an intimate walk with Him. To be less is to be subnormal.”

The Bible’s great “faith chapter” (Hebrews 11) recounts the complete trust some of these men and women had in God:
  • “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
  • “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.”
  • “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”
  • “. . . . for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. . . .” 
You don’t agree that these stories and many others are intended by God to be the norm for us, not the abnormal?  Consider the first two verses of the next chapter (Hebrews 12):
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses [examples], let us lay aside every weight [just like they did], and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 
[And, just like they did], Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, paraphrase).
What these men and women did was the norm, not the abnormal, because what they did was actually what God did. And He hasn’t changed. They are examples of what God can and will do in those who will trust Him like they did. And what God can and will do in me. And you. The grace (God’s enabling power) that was available to them is available to me. And to all of us in whom Jesus lives today. Living in complete trust, reliance and obedience to God is when the supernatural becomes the normal. (By “normal” I mean “typical,” but not “ordinary” or “common.”) These men and women of the Bible are examples of life lived in cooperation with God.  This is the life Jesus saved us to live.  I want to live there. I am determined to live there.

If I look closely at the lives of these men and women who were “looking unto Jesus,” there is one whom I really want to be like today: Samuel.  He had a conversational relationship with God like I want.  Watch this conversation recorded in I Samuel 16:
1And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill your horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.
And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the Lord said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord.
And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee.
And Samuel did that which the Lord spoke, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Come thou peaceably?
And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.
And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.
But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the Lord chosen this.
Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the Lord chosen this.
10 Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The Lord hath not chosen these.
11 And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remains yet the youngest, and, behold, he keeps the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.
12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.
That was a normal conversational relationship with God.
As my journey has continued, I’ve discovered that a conversational relationship is not God’s “end game” for me.  It’s not His ultimate goal.  It is a wonderful, glorious, sublime result of what He has in mind, but there is something much more.

[1] Andrew Murray, The School of Obedience, p. 83.