How to Know God Better

Grantley Morris

Part 3

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(Part 1)

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Among the many valuable insights crammed into the previous pages we saw that it is not just in certain abilities that the Infinite Lord is “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), but this applies equally to his every aspect and even to just how many different sides to him there really are.

Knowing God better and better is our highest calling. It should be the adventure of a life-time; a joyous, never-ending voyage of discovery into the very heart of the most fascinating and delightful person in the entire cosmos. We saw, however, that many of us are held back by a needless fear that if we explore ‘too’ deeply we might stumble upon a somewhat undesirable side to God, or even a character flaw. Most of us are far too respectful of God to dare word it that way, but the fear still lurks within us and, even if unconscious, it will slow our adventure as surely as a hundred pound backpack, unless we have the courage to stare down this enemy.

So we faced this fear head-on and found that the Almighty does indeed have some aspects that would be alarming if they existed alone, but in God they are transformed, and turn out to be not only highly desirable but essential for his perfection, because his every aspect is always beautifully balanced by every other side of him.

The best attempts to describe the exquisite perfection of the infinitely desirable One fall at least as short as a baby’s crayon drawing of her mother. Our Creator and Savior is so beautiful, delightful and inspirational that in every way he soars infinitely beyond any other being. To know him is the greatest joy and privilege anyone can ever have, and the better we know him, the richer our lives will be.

Having gained a tiny glimpse of how thrilling, fulfilling and critically important it is to keep knowing God deeper and deeper, the goal of this, the final section, is to explore what it takes to achieve it. Most of the Scriptures quoted below were not mentioned previously. Just a few were cited earlier in other contexts but the goal now is to bring them together and add to them to see their practical relevance to our quest to knowing God on an ever-increasingly deeper level than we ever have before.

Genuinely Want to Please God

We need the passion of the psalmist who sought to learn more of God, not out of intellectual curiosity nor to pride himself in having uncovered spiritual secrets, but because his love of God drove him to want to please God more:

    Psalm 119:10-11 With my whole heart, I have sought you. Don’t let me wander from your commandments. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

    Psalm 119:33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your statutes. I will keep them to the end.

    Psalm 119:57 The Lord is my portion. I promised to obey your words.

    Psalm 119:73  . . . Give me understanding, that I may learn your commandments.

    Psalm 119:101 I have kept my feet from every evil way, that I might observe your word.

    Psalm 119:106 I have sworn, and have confirmed it, that I will obey your righteous ordinances.

    Psalm 119:112 I have set my heart to perform your statutes forever . . .

    (Emphasis mine.)

In fact, Scripture goes as far as saying:

    1 John 2:3-4 This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. One who says, “I know him,” and doesn’t keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn’t in him.

Disobedience distances us from God and alarmingly dulls our spiritual perception. Scripture affirms this so frequently and powerfully that it is hard to limit the quotes:

    James 4:4  . . . don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

    1 John 2:9, 11 He who says he is in the light and hates his brother, is in the darkness even until now. . . . he who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

    1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears open to their prayer; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

    Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you . . .

    1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who don’t know God; that no one should take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister in this matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. Therefore he who rejects this doesn’t reject man, but God, who has also given his Holy Spirit to you.

Many More Scriptures Confirming that Disobedience Distances Us from God and Alarmingly Dulls our Spiritual Perception

Scripture warns Christians of the danger of being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). In fact, sin deceives and spiritually blinds us so atrociously that Jesus had to warn that many (that’s the word Jesus used) apparent Christians are sure that Jesus is their Lord and they are doing amazing things in his name; having no idea that God utterly rejects them because of their disobedience. The Lord saw them as corrupt but I have no doubt they believed they were righteous and that the blood of Christ purified them of all sin. The extent of their deception is so astonishing that I feel the need to quote it in full lest you think I’m exaggerating:

    Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.’

Imagine being so deceived and knowing the Lord so little as to think God is pleased when he is actually so disgusted with you that he completely disowns you.

The terrifying thing about deception is that, by definition, no-one who is deceived knows he is deceived. It will always seem that someone else is deceived, never us. A deceived person discerns other people’s iniquity but is either completely oblivious to his own sin or he excuses it and is certain that God likewise treats it as trivial.

Yearning to know what God is like is not enough; we must yearn to be like the One we long to know. It is not enough to know with ever-increasing depth how humble, selfless, generous, faithful, dependable, gentle, kind, compassionate, forgiving, good, honest and wise God is; these qualities must shine from our lives with ever-increasing clarity. To be like God is his goal for us (Scriptures) and it should be our goal.

How can God be in our hearts, if our hearts are the opposite of God’s? What is the point of knowing that while we were his enemies, Christ laid down his life for us, if we continue to be so unlike him that we would not lay down our lives for our enemies? How can God be with us if we go our way instead of his? “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6, NIV). In Jesus’ own words, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). We might as well save our breath (Matthew 7:21-23).

Why would God reveal new things to us if we are not obeying or putting into practice what he has already revealed to us? For God to keep revealing more would not only be pointless, it would be adding to our guilt.

    Psalm 25:14 The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear him [i.e. who obey him].

    Genesis 18:17-19 The Lord said, “Will I hide from Abraham what I do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him? For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice . . . ”

    Proverbs 3:32 For the perverse is an abomination to the Lord, but his friendship is with the upright.

    John 7:17 If anyone desires to do his will, he will know about the teaching, whether it is from God, or if I am speaking from myself.

    John 14:23  . . . If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him.

    John 17:6 I revealed your name to the people whom you have given me out of the world. . . . They have kept your word.

    (Emphasis mine.)

Does God long for us to hunger and thirst for spiritual power and status? For personal fulfillment? For human love and acclaim? For a ministry? For prosperity? No. God aches for us to “hunger and thirst after righteousness”; (Matthew 5:6) to “seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Miss this and we miss everything “. . . without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14, NIV). Yes, the very righteousness of God is ours through faith in Christ’s sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21) but unless this is being displayed in our daily lives, Christ’s suffering for us was in vain. It is the “pure in heart,” said Jesus, who shall see God (Matthew 5:8).

Keep Reminding Yourself of How Little You Know

Being content with your spiritual understanding is a sure way to stunt your spiritual growth.

“Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find,” pleaded Jesus (Matthew 7:7) but know-it-alls see no need to keep seeking and asking. By letting fizzle their passion to keep seeking more revelation, they abort their journey of discovery, without even realizing it.

    1 Corinthians 8:2 But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know.

    Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

    Proverbs 28:26 One who trusts in himself is a fool . . .

It was to an entire church that the risen Lord declared:

    Revelation 3:17  . . . you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Emphasis mine.)

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” wrote Paul, in the context of knowing God (Romans 1:22).

Ponder this:

    Luke 10:21  . . . Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. . . . ” (NIV)

“God resists [the NIV says “opposes”] the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6). He puts obstacles in the way of those who pride themselves in their intellect or their theological knowledge but rewards those who keep hungering and thirsting for more of him. The hungry will stoop to pick up a morsel. The proud and self-satisfied will walk over it and end up missing out on far more than they ever imagined.

    1 Corinthians 1:18-23 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying, but to us who are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, I will bring the discernment of the discerning to nothing.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the lawyer of this world? Hasn’t God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom didn’t know God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe. For Jews ask for signs, Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Greeks

    1 Corinthians 3:18-21 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone thinks that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He has taken the wise in their craftiness.” And again, “The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that it is worthless.” Therefore let no one boast in men. . . .

Remaining aware of our need to know God better is an important aspect of humility, and humbling ourselves is a prerequisite to knowing God:

    Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. . . .

Ask God Questions

“You do not have because you do not ask,” (James 4:2, various versions) applies not only to prayer but to being more ignorant about God than needed because we have not asked him questions.

One of the biggest issues in our spiritual life is that we keep expecting the Lord to make the next move, when he has already humbly done astonishingly more than enough and he is waiting for us. Likewise, most of us are needlessly waiting for God to take the initiative in revealing things to us, when he is waiting for us to show enough interest and faith to ask him questions.

You know how many questions little children ask. That’s just another reason why we should humble ourselves and become as little children (Matthew 18:3-4). Take this to heart and we might even end up learning as fast as they do.

The disciples not only asked Jesus lots of questions, it was a primary way that they learned about God. Here’s a few examples:

    * Why do you speak to them in parables? (Matthew 13:10)

    *  . . . why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first? (Matthew 17:10)

    * Why weren’t we able to cast it out? (Matthew 17:19)

    * Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? (Matthew 18:1)

    * Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times? (Matthew 18:21)

    * Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age? (Matthew 24:3)

    * It isn’t me, is it, Lord? (Matthew 26:22)

    * Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:2)

    * Lord, who is going to betray you? (John 21:20)

    * Lord, what has happened that you are about to reveal yourself to us, and not to the world? (John 14:22)


Don’t try telling yourself that you don’t have this option because you are not special like the disciples. I have entire webpages devoted to proving that no one is more loved or more special to God than you (see the link Receiving a Deeper Revelation of God’s Astonishing Love for You at the end of this webpage). Likewise, the link The Most Tortured Conscience Can Find Peace is the first of a series of webpages proving that if you confess your sins, the blood of Jesus cleanses you from all sin (1 John 1:9) and when that happens no one in the universe can be more forgiven or more cleansed than you.

Furthermore, many people besides the disciples asked Jesus questions and received invaluable replies. In fact, although it would take a while for an accurate survey, my rough count suggests the Gospels record Jesus being asked more questions by those who were not his disciples than by those who were. For example:

    Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples don’t fast? (Matthew 9:14)

    * Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason? (Matthew 19:3)

    * Why then did Moses command us to give her a certificate of divorce, and divorce her? (Matthew 19:7)

    * Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? (Matthew 19:16)

    * All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack? (Matthew 19:20)

    * Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? (Matthew 22:36)

    * Lord, are they few who are saved? (Luke 13:23)

    * Then who can be saved? (Luke 18:26)

    * How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? (John 3:4)

    * So where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father, Jacob . . . ?” (John 4:11-12)

    * What must we do, that we may work the works of God? (John 6:28)

    * How do you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up?’ Who is this Son of Man? (John 12:34)


Also, don’t try telling yourself that those who asked Jesus questions when he was on earth were more privileged because he was with them in the flesh. Jesus insisted that even those who could physically see and hear him were better off by him leaving and that this would give them greater, not less, access to spiritual truth:

    John 16:7, 12-14, 24  . . . It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don’t go away, the Counselor won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. . . . I have yet many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming. He will glorify me, for he will take from what is mine, and will declare it to you. . . . Until now [and remember that he was about to leave earth], you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.

    John 14:16-18, 26 I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, that he may be with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see him, neither knows him. You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you. . . . But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things . . .

Some people (why is everyone looking at me?) can get very discouraged when they ask God something and are greeted with icy silence. I – er, they – need reminding that just as prayer is not always instantly answered, even though the answer eventually comes for those who persist, so it is with answered questions. Our faith is critically important to God and, as frustrating and counter-intuitive as this truth is, it is divine delays that end up doing the most for developing our faith. Not only do delays to answered prayer stretch and strengthen our faith; having to hold on by raw faith without being given any reason for that delay, also strengthens our faith. When not being given the reasons for a delay has suitably strengthened faith, however, I’ve found over and over that God eventually gives me reasons. (I once heard a sermon titled God is Slow. Boy, ain’t that the truth!)

For example, the Lord showed Daniel something he couldn’t make head or tail of. So he asked God, “What in the world was all that about?” (at least that’s my version). You could have heard the crickets chirping half a mile away. But instead of sulking, Daniel kept on asking for an answer for three weeks of fasting until finally an angel turned up. Then – and only then – was his question answered, plus he was told the reason for the delay (Daniel 10:1-14).

Questions that take us deeper into God’s heart are particularly important, such as:


How do you feel about this situation, Lord?


What breaks your heart? Is there any way I can comfort you?


How can I better be your friend?

Then there are important questions about ourselves, such as:


What would you like me to do differently?


Am I needlessly carrying burdens? How can I be freed from them?


Is there any way I’m emotionally or spiritually crippled? What can I do to be healed and reach my full potential for your glory?

Some people say, ask God a question and the first thing that comes into your mind is from God. That’s certainly been my experience – except that it is usually the millionth thing that pops into my mind. (I admit it: I might have exaggerated. Perhaps it’s way beyond a million thoughts. Call me weird, but I don’t make it a habit to count how many thoughts flit through my mind every year.)

The point is that even though it takes faith and the memory of an elephant to realize it, God eventually gets around to telling me what I need to know. To my frustration, however, it is in his perfect time, not mine, and in the way he chooses, which, to my exasperation, is often an inconvenient moment and comes in mere dribbles rather than an impressive gush, and in thoughts that seem indistinguishable from my own.

Like Elisha telling Naaman to have a bath (2 Kings 5:11), it’s easy to get offended by the way God does things. Doesn’t God care that I want it to be quick and more dramatic so that I feel special? Isn’t he concerned that I already feel too pathetically inferior to ever show my face in the presence of all the spiritual hotshots with their flashy testimonies?

Even if I’m kicking and screaming or sulking the whole way – and I usually am – he prefers to force me to grow in faith in his love, rather than giving me signs and goosebumps that require almost no faith to believe he really cares about me. Even I can believe God has spoken if he announces it with ten thousand angels (I might even settle for a few hundred) in dazzling white nighties in the presence of a million human witnesses (although a commemorative video would be nice, just in case at some time in the future I begin to worry that it was just my imagination).

At the heart of my beef with God is that I keep thinking that spectacular displays cause faith to grow but they merely cause spiritual laziness to grow, and faith to atrophy.

To say, “If God really cared he would have done it this way,” is to abandon faith in God. It is to stop believing in his love, goodness and wisdom. What one is really saying when making such a statement is, “If God loved me as little as I do and were as short-sighted and dull-witted and as intoxicated by my own yearnings as I am, he would have acted differently.”

Silences do not mean God doesn’t care, nor that you have less faith than someone who gets a quicker response. They do, however, (and this will shock you) mean that God is smarter than me.

Being Passionate about God

These Scriptures describe the heart of those who will keep knowing God with ever-increasing depth:

    Psalm 63:1, 3, 6, 8 God, you are my God. I will earnestly seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for you, in a dry and weary land, where there is no water. . . . Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you. . . . I remember you on my bed, and think about you in the night watches. . . . My soul stays close to you. . . .

    Psalm 27:4 One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after, that I may dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to see the Lord’s beauty, and to inquire in his temple.

    Psalm 84:2 ,10 My soul longs, and even faints for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. . . . For a day in your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

    Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would tear the heavens, that you would come down . . .

    Daniel 9:3 I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and petitions, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

    Acts 5:40-41  . . . They called the apostles in and had them flogged. . . . The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

    Philippians 3:8-15  . . . I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . . that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
    Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way. . . .

    1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Merely reading these Scriptures helps motivate me. Here are some more: Intense Devotion.

For still more motivation, see Christian Insights into Martyrdom and Persecution in the links at the end of this page.

Like the command to love the Lord with every fiber of our being, this is not an invitation to lounge around hoping that one day we will be struck by a desire to try harder; it is up to us to intensify our efforts and make pleasing God and spending time with him top priority.

Using Feelings to Foster our Relationship with God?

I have positioned this here because, without it, the previous point might give some readers the wrong impression by making getting to know God seem a continually painful or dreary process.

Consider a woman who is head-over-heels in love with a man who thinks the world of her (or, of course, the roles could easily be reversed). Love drives her to joyfully sacrifice things to please him and to be with him as much as she can possibly wangle. She observes him intently and praises him often. She treasures everything he does and thanks him profusely. She keeps telling him how much she loves him. By attentively listening to him and questioning him, laughing at his jokes and empathizing with him, she seeks to entice him to share his heart with her. Despite the sacrifices and efforts, however, it is by no means all struggle and strain. On the contrary, a sizable portion of dating is going to nice places and doing fun things together. And so it should be with God.

We all know the Bible speaks of fasting to draw near to God but most of us are less aware of feasting and rejoicing to draw close to him (Scriptures).

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him: says Psalm 100:4. Even when we feel down, thanksgiving forces us to dwell on the positive and lifts our spirits. It cheers us up, and that’s the divinely preferred way to enter God’s presence.

Ponder the implications of this incident:

    Nehemiah 8:9-12  . . . said to all the people, “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Don’t mourn, nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Don’t be grieved; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, “Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be grieved.” All the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

I am not saying we should take this divine principle to such extremes that we live in denial and never get in touch with our sorrow or inner pain. I have an entire Bible-based webpage titled Real Christians Grieve and another against living in denial. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit,” says Psalm 34:18.

Nevertheless, consider how “David danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14). That itself says so much, but the account goes on to say that when his wife saw him “leaping and dancing before the Lord” she despised him for it. “I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” David replied. The Bible’s immediate comment is that his wife “had no children to the day of her death, (2 Samuel 6:21-23, NIV) suggesting that her barrenness was God’s judgment.

If you are so restrained that, even in absolute privacy, you feel that wild dancing and shouting before God are beyond your emotional repertoire, I’m tempted to challenge you as to how much you are willing to do for the One who was humiliated beyond description to redeem you. Instead, I simply suggest that you try moving a tiny bit outside your comfort zone in the direction that Scripture indicates. Even without God, such an emotional release might do you more good than you realize.

Psalm 16:11 affirms that there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forever more,” not merely in things that God gives but simply by being in his presence.

Feelings often give baby Christians a boost. As explained shortly, however, if left unchecked, feelings will actually end up eroding our relationship with God, because we all suffer times when feelings hit us that are at odds with spiritual reality.

Instead of acting like a helpless victim of our feelings, can we turn the tables and somehow use them to deepen our walk with God? Until recently, I had considered it almost impossible, and even undesirable.

A large portion of receiving divine revelation and/or discovering more about God comes from times spent communing with him. In short: the more time we deliberately spend with him, the more likely we are to receive insights into God. Human nature being what it is, the more we enjoy spending time with God, the more we will do it. It will also help combat negative attitudes that could distort our perception of him. So let’s explore ways to increase that enjoyment.

At first thought, trying to increase our enjoyment of times spent with our wonderful Lord might not seem particularly spiritual. It is certainly of practical benefit, nonetheless. More than this, however, it comes close to being synonymous with something the Bible puts on our to-do list: rejoicing and delighting, not merely in his gifts, but in the Lord himself. God, in his Word, not only stresses the importance of this, but indicates it is our responsibility, not his:

    Psalm 32:11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous! Shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart!

    Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!”

    Psalm 37:4  . . . delight yourself in the Lord . . .

    Habakkuk 3:18  . . . I will [a decision] be joyful in the God of my salvation!

Let’s delve deeper into that last Scripture. To understand the context, you must put yourself in a rural economy where your livelihood – indeed your very survival – depends on what the land produces. The disaster is not just one person’s nightmare where everything imaginable goes wrong, but where no-one can turn to his neighbor for help because the entire nation suffers it. Think, for example, of being trapped in an African famine. With this in mind, let’s read the context:

    Habakkuk 3:17-18 For though the fig tree doesn’t flourish, nor fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive fails, the fields yield no food; the flocks are cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

This is saying that when everything within you wants to go into shock and cave in to fear and feelings of total devastation, muster every ounce of strength to generate positive feelings – even joy – toward God. If this is humanly possible in the worst scenario, how much more should we make it a habit in less extreme situations.

It turns out that having positive feelings when focusing on God is yet another case where most of us think that God should be taking the initiative but he says it’s our responsibility. Let’s break the stalemate.

First, we must understand feelings.

Loving the Lord with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength (Mark 12:30), is more than emotions but, because it involves everything within us, it must include our emotions. And “all of” is almost scary: surely, at the very least it involves, at least occasionally, deliberately turning up emotions to the maximum. How many of us take this seriously? You might feel uncomfortable about this because it is seldom taught but isn’t it what the Bible is saying?

Did you know, for example that the “joyful noise” referred to in Psalm 100:1 (KJV), and often mentioned in divinely ordained worship, refers to an earsplitting shout so extreme that in battle it is intended to instill fear into the enemy (Examples)?

Although we cannot fulfill the greatest of all commands without involving our emotions – and doing so to the max – we must never be enslaved to feelings. We must never let them bully us into believing that if we feel down, or numb, that God has somehow lost his omnipresence and is no longer with us, or that our feelings have turned into a lie his promise never to leave or forsake us. Nor should we let guilt feelings deceive us into thinking the blood of Jesus has lost its power to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

A type of anxiety disorder can feel like an atrociously guilty conscience that never lets up, no matter how divinely forgiven and cleansed we are. Clinical depression can rob us of all positive feelings. Both anxiety and depression can affect our feelings profoundly and yet be entirely medical in origin, such as a vitamin or mineral deficiency, or hormonal, or other factors in our body chemistry. Feelings caused by our body chemistry being out of whack are common and can be devastatingly strong and deceptively convincing, even though they have no connection at all with our spiritual condition.

Additionally, although Satan and his cohorts have no power to affect how God feels about us, they can sorely tempt us and do all they can to deceive. And messing with our feelings is one of their favorite ways of trying to dupe us into doubting God’s love, forgiveness, and so on. They delight in causing our feelings to be out of sync with how God feels about us; causing us, for example, to feel a million miles from God, or subject to divine displeasure, when the Lord actually delights in us.

Since feelings are fickle and subject to medical and/or satanic manipulation, it is critical that we wean ourselves off a dependence on feelings. We must learn to live by raw faith, not feelings.

I have devoted vast amounts of time over twenty or so years, counseling people whose spiritual lives have been ravished by choosing to believe feelings instead of God’s promises. I guess this has led me to view feelings very negatively. Only recently have I begun realizing that we can turn this around and use feelings to positively impact our spiritual lives.

Wouldn’t the devil love to make your spending time in God’s presence unpleasant by causing you to feel stress, fear, shame, guilt, boredom, isolation. or grief whenever you try to draw near to God! Then why not beat him at his own game? Why not go on the offensive by trying to generate warm, loving, comforting, peaceful, joyous feelings whenever you have one-on-one time with God?

Instead of being enslaved by feelings, why not do the opposite by making them our slaves so that instead of being manipulated by chance or anti-God forces, we manipulate them and use them as a tool to deepen our relationship with God?

If knowing God comes primarily from having a deep relationship with him, it’s going to be a hard slog if you find time alone with God as heart-warming as a dental appointment. There are all sorts of reasons for this happening (Examples), but regardless of how high or low your starting point, there’s a way of gradually improving your emotional reaction to times with God.

An unnatural fear of God is far more common than most people realize. Once people become scared of something, no matter how convinced they are that the fear is ridiculous, it can plague them for the rest of their lives, unless they receive deep healing, which is usually a prolonged process. Bible teaching alone will resolve the matter no more than convincing someone petrified of snakes that a particular snake is harmless will make him enjoy handling the snake.

Although for many husbands it seems like too much effort, women typically understand the importance of atmosphere in strengthening a relationship. Things like romantic music, scented candles and a cozy setting can set the mood and generate warm feelings that draw a couple closer to each other. You will soon see that this same principle applies to our relationship with God, and it is even less work than in human relationships because we do not have to change our physical setting and, since our Lord always feels warmly about us reaching out to him, we only have to work on our own feelings, not the other person’s.

If you have ever, even if only briefly, felt God’s presence in a positive way, or felt nice feelings when communing with God, there’s a good chance that if you try hard enough you can recall the feelings. I find that little things like playing the same music or putting my body in the position it was in when I had the experience helps intensify the memory. Once I recall the feelings, even if only faintly, I can, as it were, put them on a repeat loop in my mind and, while I’m reliving those feelings, spend new time with God.

If you have had no such experiences to recall, there is no need to feel disadvantaged. I will mention later how for many of us sunlight and being immersed in a beautiful, natural setting can lift our spirits and cause us to feel closer to God. Often we cannot go to a mountain, but we can bring the mountain to us. When we cannot physically go to a beautiful place, we can still go there in our imagination. We all imagine things. When we do, isn’t it the safest, most fulfilling way to take God with us? Not only can you picture things, you can recall bird calls, the sound of ocean waves, smells, the feel of the warm sun on your body, and so on. If you prefer you can even use the Internet to find appropriate sounds and videos or stills of appropriate scenes that do not have distracting human commentary. And when positive feelings begin to rise, combine them with drawing close to God.

Another obvious way of generating peaceful feelings with communing with God is to physically relax your body and mind, such as soaking in a bath. (No, God doesn’t blush in the presence of the body he made.)

Such things honor God because they are deliberate attempts to associate positive feelings with focusing on God. Not only does this help us fulfill the biblical directive to rejoice and delight in God, negative feelings toward God will cause us to instinctively shrink from him, whereas doing all we can to feel warmly toward him will open us up more to what he has to say.

As relationships develop, there is a tendency for some of the excitement to fade and to begin to take each other for granted. This is not something to resign oneself to, but something to be fought. Allowed to go its natural course, a delightful garden will slowly deteriorate. That’s not a signal for despair. It simply means your garden needs more of your attention. It is time to make a greater effort, such as weeding, watering and rejuvenating the soil. So it is with our relationship with God.

Resting in God

Besides containing some valuable insights in its own right, the previous section was meant to correct any false impression I may have given in the section before that, suggesting that knowing God better is all effort. I worry, however, that I’ve still ended up again making it seem like hard work. Yes, some effort is involved but it is by no means all effort. This section is my third attempt to bring some needed balance.

It is not some spiritual truth that drives my tendency to overemphasize effort; it is because an abnormality deep within me keeps me from taking it easy. Perhaps I should explain my shortcomings, lest I end up unintentionally infecting you with my warped view of life.

I don’t have ADHD but I’m plagued with a mild but undiagnosed peculiarity – probably an anxiety disorder plus some other issues – that greatly hinder my ability to be still. I become uneasy if I feel I’m ‘wasting’ thirty seconds by not doing something ‘highly productive’. Even my vacations have to be full-on. People sometimes use the expression Type A Personality to describe people literally prone to heart attacks because they are so driven and intense. I think that’s me, but you had better add steroids just to be sure. I can’t even tidy my room because it feels like wasting time.

I’m so over the top that when I used to date, I detested ever going to a movie. I loved someone who considered this romantic but to me it was a scandalous waste. I was happy to multi-task – that seemed even more productive – but I wanted every date to include non-stop intellectual exchanges to ensure I maximized the opportunity to get to know her better (even though we already had long phone calls every day).

I believe a key to the balance we should have is found in what Jesus said about abiding in the vine (John 15:1-7). A branch becomes fruitful not by effort but through life, nutrients, and everything the branch needs flowing into it, simply by remaining connected to the vine. The mere fact that Jesus said, “Abide in me” (KJV) implies we can choose whether or not we will do it. In one sense, faithful Christians are always spiritually connected to Christ but Scripture indicates we have a degree of control over just how much and how often we allow the Spirit of God to flow into us. “. . . be filled with the Spirit” says Ephesians 5:18, indicating it is something we must allow. “ . . keep on being filled” (International Standard Version) and “ever be filled” (Amplified Bible, classic edition) are two other renderings.

My temptation is to turn this into yet another works program but I’m coming to believe that much of it is as simple as being still before God and letting his Spirit and life flow into me. Having found being still before God ridiculously hard, I have finally stumbled upon something that helps me actually do this. I think of Jesus’ beloved disciple leaning on Jesus’ chest during the Last Supper (John 21:20). Like me in the distant past, you might think that’s a favored position you cannot access but I have many webpages demolishing the insidious fallacy that thinks some Christians must miss out. (See the link Receiving a Deeper Revelation of God’s Astonishing Love for You at the end of this page.)

I’ve begun picturing myself resting contentedly on Jesus’ chest; believing that even without any verbal exchange or fireworks, something of spiritual significance is transpiring. At such times, I’m not praying or pondering spiritual things but letting it all go and doing nothing but imagining letting my weary head, with its usually frenzied mind, rest on Jesus’ chest and believing that this simple act of deliberately drawing close to him allows a priceless spiritual transference. I am not, of course, referring to physical healing, but I see it as similar to Jesus’ life pouring into the woman with the issue of blood through her simply taking the time to touch the edge of his clothing.

This concept grates my mind that keeps thinking in terms of learning through an intellectual exchange or at least through experience, rather than solely through a spiritual connection. Nevertheless, I think there is something to it. If nothing else, it is an act of faith that Jesus, not my efforts, is the source of revelation. And such faith pleases God.

Be Brutally Honest With God

“Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts,” prays David when confessing his failures (Psalm 51:6). “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind,” says another psalm (Psalm 26:2, NIV).

God’s longing for us to be completely open to him goes far beyond the confession of sin. “Deep calls to deep,” says an anointed psalm that is so honest that it goes on to ask God, “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 42:7, 9). Many – perhaps most – of us, however, are scared even to get in touch with our deepest feelings and darkest secrets. Not only does bowing to this fear do us enormous psychological harm, it seals parts of us off from God.

It is hypocritical to expect God to open up and share his secrets with us if we have certain things we do not open up to him about. If Scripture says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you,” (James 4:8), how can we expect God to get close enough to us to whisper his secrets and share his feelings, if we have areas of our lives around which we erect ‘Keep Out’ signs and want God to keep his distance?

We could, for example, be resentful toward God about something and think it too disrespectful to God to let him know how we feel (even though he already knows). We might be too ashamed to admit our real feelings even to ourselves. But rather than showing God the respect he deserves, muzzling ourselves actually dishonors God by considering him too fragile or uppity to cope with the truth about some of our biggest issues. Clamming up damages us and our relationship with God. Moreover, it keeps the matter unresolved; perpetuating the impasse.

It is vital that God be your best friend; the One with whom you share all your trivia, as well as all your hopes and dreams and yearnings, but also the One with whom you share your every secret, fear, worry, doubt, frustration, and pain. Nevertheless, as you follow the lead of the divinely inspired psalmists who held nothing back as they detailed all their complaints and anger and fears, try to end it with praise and thanksgiving, just as they did. Not only is the book of Psalms a mixture of laments and praise, even individual psalms that writhe with anguish and frustration, are typically adorned with praise and thanksgiving (Examples). In the words of the New Testament, “. . . in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6) and “. . .  let the peace of God rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful. . . . Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God . . .” (Colossians 3:15, 17).

There are several reasons why our complaints and the outpouring of our anguish should be mingled with praise and thanksgiving. These include building our faith, giving us hope, and helping us focus on the One who can save us, rather than on the problem. Another important reason, however, has been explored in the previous section about using feelings to foster our relationship with God. The more often we keep ourselves feeling down when talking with God, the more our mind begins unconsciously associating spending time with God, not with warmth and love, joy and peace, but with feeling down. The divine solution is not to limit outpourings to God but in combining them with praise and thanks because doing so lifts our spirits. Even without the positive, however, merely getting things off our chest can bring a degree of relief and peace, which in turn has a positive effect on our feelings toward God. And all of this is even without the obvious benefits of God actually answering our prayers!

Keeping a Record of Nonsense

I’m no chatterbox. If it were up to me to keep a conversation going, embarrassing silences are likely to end up haunting me. So times I spend alone with God frequently frustrate me because I can’t keep the words bubbling and, to my annoyance, I don’t hear God prattling on, covering the silence and keeping me focused on him. Okay, I should humiliate myself and admit the naked truth: those silences don’t just annoy; they often make me feel inferior and abandoned by God. I keep hearing everyone else saying, “God told me . . .” and all I get is stony silence.

Anyhow, the upshot is that, despite any valiant attempts on my part, without God keeping up his side of the conversation, my mind drifts to meaningless things, which makes it seem a waste of time.

I’ve found that simply praying out loud or even in a whisper can help keep me on track more than I would have expected.

Switching on Christian music and using it not as background noise but to focus on the words, can keep my mind on God, especially if I make the words my prayers and the outpouring of my heart.

Turning Bible reading into a two-way conversation is another valuable help. Let God speak to you by what you read and/or use it to stimulate prayers and questions.

There’s another significant way of focusing on God and/or hearing from him, however, and it’s what this section is all about. I’ve been reluctant to name it because people who could greatly benefit from this approach might see the name usually given to it and dismiss it as not being for them before grasping the significance.

Let me start by an apparent digression: telling you how I write webpages.

It is rare for even short paragraphs to form in my head. Usually, as little as half a sentence comes to me and if I don’t jot it down almost immediately, it will be lost forever. Tiny thoughts relevant to my webpages typically sneak in at times when recording them is the last thing I want to do. It might be when I am driving or (especially common) when I’m snuggled in bed, more asleep than awake and far too tired to switch on the light and start scribbling. But God is too important for me to let laziness win.

It might be a minute or even hours after making the effort to put that little bit on paper that another word or so comes, which I must also force myself to record rather than trust my abysmal memory. Rarely does the new addition perfectly dovetail with what I had previously scrawled. I eventually end up with a chaotic jigsaw that I have to keep shuffling around and modifying until the pieces meld together and become readable.

If you are blessed with a more functional brain, throw a party, but my mind is an ocean of slippery fish darting all over the place, with most of them quickly vanishing forever into the depths. Journaling allows me to nail down elusive thoughts before they flash from sight, never to be seen again. It enables me to prayerfully examine them later. What makes this so important is that some of those thoughts might, after careful inspection, prove to be from heaven itself.

In my early years I used to worry that God could not be in my writing for it to be such an effort for me. I thought I was being spiritual by wanting to be God’s dictating machine, but God’s heart was aching not for a machine but for a partner. (For some beautiful insights into this, see Creativity: Exquisite Partnership with the Divine in the links at the end of this webpage.)

I might not find writing easy but there is Someone rather special to me who didn’t find being crucified for me particularly easy either. Instead of my laborious efforts proving that God is not in them, they are my precious opportunity to give a love offering as a sign of my devotion and eternal appreciation of the One who means everything to me.

Much of the book of Daniel is basically about weird things coming to his mind – or sometimes to a king’s mind – that Daniel had later to prayerfully re-examine in order to eventually figure out what in the world it was all about.

We see this pattern over and over in the Bible – that divinely inspired account of God revealing himself to numerous people over many centuries. Consider Jesus’ sayings. At first hearing, much of what he said seems so weird it would have been easy to dismiss it as being unintelligible and to simply forget it. For those, however, who in the following days or even years, questioned Jesus about it and/or kept prayerfully reassessing what had been said, the significance eventually dawned.

In fact, all of Scripture is like this. It is why the Bible emphasizes meditating on God’s Word. The Lord expects us to keep chewing it over and over and over in our mind in order to gain deeper and deeper insight into what God is getting at and unravel the personal implications for us.

So it is typical of how God communicates that what he says initially seems unintelligible and/or easy to gloss over. Often it is not God’s intention for us to immediately see the full significance of what he says. That means that when he reveals something, we usually need to keep returning to it over and over, prayerfully puzzling over it before we eventually grasp all the implications.

This being so, it is of obvious value to have an accurate record of what was originally said. The advantage of immediately jotting down whatever comes to mind is that if you have made a full account, no matter how rough it is, you have a permanent record of your most accurate recollection of what transpired. If you were to wait until you were certain it were really from God – let alone waiting until you know just how significant it is – that very delay could allow some of the details to fade.

Don’t try telling yourself that if something were truly of God you would not forget it. God rewards faithfulness, not laziness. Once something is faithfully recorded, you have reserved the option of returning to it later to prayerfully ascertain whether it was of God or just a random event. Otherwise, it could be lost forever. If it is insulting to God and testing his patience for him to have to repeat himself because we deliberately disobeyed the first time, it is likewise insulting to make him repeat himself because we disregarded what he said earlier.

When God gives us something, our spiritual perception is rarely sharp enough to instantly appreciate its true worth. Even if we cannot currently understand its full value, however, we should at least have the sense to realize that the mere fact that if it turns out to be a gift from God, it must be of immense worth. This means that, even before we are sure something is from God, if there is the slightest possibility that it could be of God, it is dishonoring to him not to carefully preserve it until we are sure of its origin.

Being disciplined enough to set aside regular times for recording thoughts about God – or perhaps from him – is obviously commendable. We also, however, need to honor God by being open to thoughts that come at the most inconvenient times, when recording them might require even more discipline. Since things of divine significance are rarely heralded by an angelic fanfare, they could well seem hardly worth recording. They could easily seem to be your own ramblings and be only a fragment anyhow. Nevertheless, they could turn out to be more of God than is initially apparent and, by being faithful with a little, you could be given much. In other words, what starts by scribbling down just a few words might end up growing into something that in essence, if not in length, is quite significant.

Making your jottings private is important. For maximum effectiveness, a spiritual journal should be the intimate, embarrassingly personal, ungrammatical gushing of your soul, unhindered by the thought that someone might stumble upon them. Strive to relieve yourself of inhibitions. Don’t hinder your intimacy with God by trying to make your ramblings polished or sophisticated or highly spiritual or insightful. Judge them later if you must but not now. Whether they just dribble or gush, don’t wait until they make sense. Let them be foolish. Let them confuse you, perplex you, frustrate you. You can examine them later to see where they ended up and how much of God they were but as it is foolish to keep pulling carrots out of the ground to see if they are growing, neither should we sabotage the journaling process by inspecting our scrawls before they have grown.


For the final part this webpage, please see How to Know God Better: Part 4.


Links referred to above, appear the end of this series of webpages. To go to them immediately, CLICK HERE.

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