Henry‭ & ‬Richard Blackaby and Claude King

B. Childress
Mar 24 2013

He said to him,‭ “‬Love the Lord your God with all your heart,‭ ‬with all your soul,‭ ‬and with all your mind.‭  ‬This is
the greatest and most important commandment.‭
‬ (Matthew‭ ‬22:37-38‭)


While registering at a national conference in a large city,‭ ‬I gave the woman working at the registration table my name,‭ ‬
and she screamed,‭ “‬It’s you‭!  ‬You saved my life‭!”  ‬Needless to say,‭ ‬I was intrigued.

She told me that when she had been a university student,‭ ‬she had faced a series of devastating events and had
descended into a pit of despair,‭ ‬finally resolving to end the pain.‭  ‬As she was walking across the campus lawn to the
place where she intended to take her life,‭ ‬she heard her name being called.‭  ‬Trying to ignore the voice,‭ ‬she pressed on
at a faster pace,‭ ‬but the person calling her would not be deterred.‭  ‬A friend finally caught up to her and grabbed
her arm.‭  ‬The friend said she was on her way to a new Bible study and that she‭
‬must attend,‭ ‬too.‭   ‬The woman made an
excuse,‭ ‬claiming she had another appointment,‭ ‬but her friend would not take no for an answer and literally dragged her
by the arm all the way to the room where the study was to be held.

The group was studying‭ ‬
Experiencing God.‭  ‬That night,‭ ‬they examined how God pursues each person in order to
have a love relationship with them.‭  ‬Suddenly,‭ ‬this woman felt her heart flooded with the loving presence of God.‭  ‬It
dawned on her that God had been relentlessly pursuing her,‭ ‬even as her world had been crumbling around her.‭  ‬She
gave her life to Christ,‭ ‬and God transformed her and her situation.‭  ‬Cheerfully,‭ ‬she told me how God had used this
biblical material to save her life.‭  ‬Oh,‭ ‬that all people would realize God is,‭ ‬inviting them into a loving,‭ ‬transforming,‭ ‬
forgiving,‭ ‬empowering relationship with Him‭!

God created you for intimate fellowship with Him.‭  ‬A life spent walking closely with the Lord is both exciting
and rewarding.‭  ‬God does not want you to miss out on what He has intended for you from eternity.‭  ‬Sin causes us to
follow our own selfish desires,‭ ‬but in doing so we reject God’s best for our lives.‭  ‬So God takes the initiative to draw us
closer to Himself.

This love relationship,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬is not one-sided.‭  ‬As you accept His love and forgiveness,‭ ‬He wants you to know and
worship Him.‭  ‬Most of all,‭ ‬He wants you to love Him.‭  ‬Jesus said,‭ “‬The one who has My commands and keeps them is the
one who loves Me.‭  ‬And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father.‭  ‬I also will love him and will reveal Myself to
him‭” (‬John‭ ‬14:21‭)‬.


Your love for God and your obedience to His commands go hand in hand.‭  ‬Jesus declared,‭ “‬If you love Me,‭ ‬you will keep
My commandments‭” (‬John‭ ‬14:15‭)‬.‭  ‬When you obey Jesus,‭ ‬you demonstrate that you trust Him.‭  ‬Obedience is
the outward expression of your love for God.‭  

Jesus set an example in His life.‭  ‬He said,‭ “‬I am going away so that the world may know that I love the Father.‭  ‬Just as the
Father commanded Me,‭ ‬so I do‭”‬ (John‭ ‬14:31‭)‬.‭  ‬Jesus demonstrated His love for the Father by obedience.‭  ‬Obeying God
out of love does not merely mean following the letter of the law‭; ‬it also includes obedience to the spirit of God’s

If you have an obedience problem,‭ ‬you have a love problem.‭  ‬Focus your attention on God’s love.‭  ‬Could you stand
before God and describe your relationship to Him by saying,‭ “‬I love You with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind
and all my strength‭”?  ‬Jesus said He would take those who respond to His love into an ever-deepening experience
of love and fellowship with Him.


One of our church members was suffering chronic difficulties in his personal life,‭ ‬in his family,‭ ‬at work,‭ ‬and in the church.‭  ‬
One evening during a church business meeting,‭ ‬he grew so furious at the decisions being made that he angrily declared
he was resigning from all his offices in the church.‭  ‬Then he stormed out of the building in the middle of the meeting.‭  ‬
Later that week,‭ ‬I went to see him and asked,‭ “‬Can you describe your relationship with God by sincerely saying,‭ ‘‬I love
You with all my heart‭’?”

The strangest look came over his face.‭  ‬He said,‭ “‬Nobody has ever asked me that.‭  ‬No,‭ ‬I could not describe my
relationship with God that way.‭  ‬I could say I obey Him,‭ ‬I serve Him,‭ ‬I worship Him,‭ ‬and I fear Him.‭  ‬But I cannot say that I
love Him.‭”

As we talked,‭ ‬I learned that he had never felt that his father loved him.‭  ‬His dad had constantly criticized him.‭  ‬Nothing he
did ever measured up to his father’s impossibly high standards.‭  ‬And,‭ ‬as often happens,‭ ‬he had grown up to view God
just like his earthly father.‭  ‬Even as the man continued to be angry and hurt at the rejection of his earthly father,‭ ‬he also
had anger and confusion in his life because of his estrangement from God.‭  ‬Everything in his life was out of order
because God’s basic purpose for his life was missing.

Sadly,‭ ‬this man is like many people who have regularly attended church all their lives.‭  ‬They are respected members of
their congregation and serve in leadership positions.‭  ‬But when pressed,‭ ‬they would admit they do not love God.‭  ‬They
serve Him,‭ ‬worship Him,‭ ‬believe in Him,‭ ‬and fear Him,‭ ‬but their relationship with God is not characterized by genuine,‭ ‬
heartfelt love.

God created us for a love relationship with Him.‭  ‬When you are not living your life in the overflow of God’s love for you
and your love for Him,‭ ‬then you cannot live the Christian life as it is intended.‭  ‬If you cannot describe your relationship
with God by saying that you love Him with all your being,‭ ‬then before you do anything else you need to entreat the Holy
Spirit to bring you into that kind of relationship today.

If I were to summarize the entire Old Testament,‭ ‬it would be expressed in this verse:‭ “‬Listen,‭ ‬Israel:‭ ‬The LORD‭ ‬our God,‭ ‬
the LORD is One.‭  ‬Love the LORD your God with all your heart,‭ ‬with all your soul,‭ ‬and with all your strength‭”  
(‬Deuteronomy‭ ‬6:4-5‭)‬.


This heart cry of God is expressed throughout the Old Testament,‭ ‬and the essence of the New Testament is the same.‭  ‬
Quoting from Deuteronomy,‭ ‬Jesus said the greatest commandment in the Old Testament law was:‭ “‬Love the Lord your
God with all your heart,‭ ‬with all your soul,‭ ‬and with all your mind,‭ ‬and with all your strength‭” (‬Mark‭ ‬12:30‭)‬.‭  ‬Everything in
your Christian life,‭ ‬everything about knowing God and experiencing Him,‭ ‬everything about knowing His will depends on
the quality of your love relationship with God.‭  ‬If this relationship is not right,‭ ‬nothing in your life will be in order.‭  ‬Notice
what God says about a love relationship:

    I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death,‭ ‬blessing and
    curse.‭  ‬Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,‭ ‬love the LORD your God,‭ ‬obey Him,‭ ‬and remain
    faithful to Him.‭  ‬For He is your life.‭  (‬Deuteronomy‭ ‬30:19-20‭)

    For God loved the world in this way:‭ ‬He gave His One and Only Son,‭ ‬so that everyone who believes in Him will not
    perish but have eternal life.‭  (‬John‭ ‬3:16‭)

    The one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me.‭  ‬And the one who loves Me will
    be loved by My Father.‭  ‬I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.‭  (‬John‭ ‬14:21‭)

    Who can separate us from the love of Christ‭?  ‬Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or
    danger or sword‭?‬...No,‭ ‬in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us‭…[‬Nothing‭] ‬will
    have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.‭  (‬Romans‭ ‬8:35,‭ ‬37,‭ ‬39‭)

    This is how we have come to know love:‭  ‬He laid down His life for us.‭  ‬We should also lay down our lives for our
    brothers.‭ (‬I John‭ ‬3:16‭)

    God’s love was revealed among us in this way.‭  ‬God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we
    might live through Him.‭  ‬Love consists in this:‭ ‬not that we loved God,‭ ‬but that He loved us and sent His Son to be
    the propitiation for our sins…We love because He first loved us.‭ (‬I John‭ ‬4:9-10,‭ ‬19‭)

Do you realize that the Lord does not just‭ ‬
give you life‭ – ‬He‭ ‬is your life‭?  ‬He does not grant you things and comfort so
you have a‭ “‬good‭” ‬life.‭  ‬He brings you into a relationship with Him so out of that relationship you have everything you
could possibly need.‭  ‬You did not initiate a love relationship with God‭; ‬He initiated a love relationship with you.‭  ‬Long
before you began your life on earth,‭ ‬God demonstrated His love for you on the cross of Christ.

Because God loves you,‭ ‬He wants you to love Him in return.‭  ‬The preceding Scriptures indicate some of the ways you
can express your devotion to Him:‭ ‬you can choose life,‭ ‬listen to His voice,‭ ‬hold fast to Him,‭ ‬believe in His only Son,‭ ‬obey
His commands and teachings,‭ ‬and be willing to lay down your life for your Christian brothers and sisters.

When you love God,‭ ‬He promises to respond with His blessings.‭  ‬You and your children will live under His favor.‭  ‬By
trusting in Jesus,‭ ‬you have eternal life.‭  ‬God’s Spirit will reside within you.‭  ‬He will make you more than a conqueror over
every difficulty you face.‭  ‬Nothing will separate you from God’s love.

What is the foremost thing God wants from you‭?  ‬He wants you to love Him with all your being.‭  ‬Your experiencing God
depends on your love for Him.


At‭ ‬3:00‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬on June‭ ‬13,‭ ‬1983,‭ ‬Karla Fay Tucker and her boyfriend,‭ ‬Danny Garret,‭ ‬both high on drugs,‭ ‬committed a
brutal double homicide while trying to steal a motorcycle.‭  ‬Thirty-five days later they were arrested and ultimately
sentenced to be executed for their heinous crime.‭  ‬In many ways,‭ ‬this tragic event in Tucker’s life was simply the lowest
point in a disturbing life story.‭  ‬She grew up in a home with parents who constantly fought and eventually divorced.‭  ‬She
used drugs for the first time when she was seven.‭  ‬By the time she reached the seventh grade she was using drugs
heavily and dropped out of school.‭  ‬By the age of fourteen,‭ ‬she had followed her mother into prostitution.‭  ‬She married
and divorced and continued her life in a downward spiral until that fateful June night.

While awaiting her trial,‭ ‬Karla Fay finally met Christ and realized that despite her horrendous deed,‭ ‬immoral lifestyle,‭ ‬and
hardened heart,‭ ‬God still loved her.‭  ‬She began a fourteen-year odyssey on death row at the Mountain View Prison in
Gatesville,‭ ‬Texas.‭  ‬During her time in prison,‭ ‬she began to study her Bible and took the course‭
‬Experiencing God.‭  ‬
Prison officials credited her with saving two inmates from committing suicide and encouraging numerous other people.‭  

Tucker’s case gained national attention,‭ ‬and she was interviewed by Larry King on national television.‭  ‬At the close of
their interview,‭ ‬King said,‭ “‬Finally,‭ ‬you remain up.‭”  ‬Tucker said‭ “‬Yes.‭”  ‬Then King asked,‭ “‬Can you explain that to me a
little more‭?  ‬It can’t just be God.‭”  ‬She smiled and replied,‭ “‬Yes,‭ ‬it can.‭  ‬It’s called the joy of the Lord.‭  ‬When you’ve done
something like I have done and you’ve been forgiven for it and you’re loved‭ – ‬that has a way of so changing you.‭  ‬I have
experienced real love.‭  ‬I know what forgiveness is,‭ ‬even when I’ve done something so horrible.‭  ‬I know this
because Jesus forgave me when I accepted what He did on the cross.‭  ‬When I leave here,‭ ‬I’m going to be with Him.‭”

Ultimately,‭ ‬Tucker’s appeals ran out and she was executed on February‭ ‬3,‭ ‬1998,‭ ‬the first woman to be executed
in Texas in more than a hundred years.‭  ‬To the very end,‭ ‬she remained true to the God who had forgiven her.‭  ‬Her last
words were:‭ “‬I love you all very much.‭  ‬I will see you all when you get there.‭  ‬I will wait for you.‭”

Tucker realized that even when everything else is taken from you,‭ ‬you have all you need when you have Christ.‭  ‬Even
when you are in the darkest,‭ ‬most hopeless situations,‭ ‬the love of God is more than sufficient to give you hope and life.‭  ‬
Fortunately,‭ ‬Tucker saw that the most important thing in life was her relationship with Christ.‭  ‬Even as her executioner
injected lethal drugs into her system,‭ ‬Tucker hummed praise songs to God.‭  ‬Unfortunately,‭ ‬many people spend
their lives and never come to realize the profound truth that God loves them.


Picture in your mind a tall ladder leaning against a wall.‭  ‬Now think about your life as a process of climbing that ladder.‭  ‬
Wouldn’t it be tragic to reach the top and find you had inadvertently placed it against the wrong wall‭?  ‬One life‭ – ‬and you
went the wrong way with it‭!

Your relationship to God is the single most important aspect of your life.‭  ‬If that is not in order,‭ ‬nothing else will be.‭  ‬If you
knew that all you had in your life was a relationship with God,‭ ‬would you be totally satisfied‭?  ‬If everything else were
removed from you,‭ ‬could you be content having nothing but your relationship with God‭?  ‬Many people would say,‭ “‬Well,‭ ‬I
would like to have that relationship,‭ ‬but I would also like to do something.‭”  ‬Or‭ “‬I would want a relationship with God,‭ ‬but I
would also want a spouse and children,‭ ‬a good career,‭ ‬a nice home,‭ ‬and friends.

As good as all of these things are,‭ ‬they cannot provide you what God intends to give you:‭ ‬Himself.‭  ‬If your relationship
with God is at the deepest level He intends,‭ ‬you will find enormous satisfaction and joy in your walk with Him.‭  ‬God alone
can fulfill the deep longing in your soul that we try to satisfy with things,‭ ‬activities,‭ ‬and human relationships.‭  ‬Karla Fay
Tucker,‭ ‬though confined to prison and facing execution,‭ ‬could still experience divine joy and peace because no one
could take away her relationship with God.

Most of us in our culture feel worthless or useless if we are not busy accomplishing something.‭  ‬Scripture indicates that
God is saying,‭ “‬I want you to love me above everything else.‭  ‬When you are in a love relationship with Me,‭ ‬you have
everything you need‭” (‬see Psalm‭ ‬37:4‭; ‬Matthew‭ ‬6:33‭)‬.‭  ‬To be loved by God is the greatest relationship,‭ ‬the highest
achievement,‭ ‬and the noblest position in life.

That does not mean you will never do anything to express your love for Him.‭  ‬God will call you to obey Him and do
whatever He asks.‭  ‬However,‭ ‬you do not need to be doing something to feel fulfilled or to be a person of worth in God’s
eyes.‭  ‬You are completely fulfilled in a relationship with God.


Do you really want to love the Lord your God with all of your heart‭?  ‬He will allow no competitors.‭  ‬He declares:

    No one can be a slave of two masters,‭ ‬since either he will hate one and love the other,‭ ‬or be devoted to one and
    despise the other.‭  ‬You cannot be slaves of God and of money‭ (‬Matthew‭ ‬6:24‭)

    When the LORD your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers Abraham,‭ ‬Isaac,‭ ‬and Jacob that He
    would give you‭ – ‬a land with large and beautiful cities that you did not build,‭ ‬houses full of every good thing that
    you did not fill them with,‭ ‬wells dug that you did not dig,‭ ‬and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant‭ – ‬
    and when you eat and are satisfied,‭ ‬be careful not to forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt,‭ ‬
    out of the place of slavery.‭  ‬Fear the LORD your God,‭ ‬worship Him,‭ ‬and take your oaths in His name.‭  ‬Do
    not follow other gods,‭ ‬the gods of the peoples around you,‭ ‬for the LORD your God,‭ ‬who is among you,‭ ‬is a
    jealous God.‭ (‬Deuteronomy‭ ‬6:10-15‭)

    Therefore do not worry,‭ ‬saying,‭ “‬What will we eat‭? “‬or‭ “‬What will we drink‭?” ‬or‭ “‬What will we wear‭?”  ‬For the
    idolaters eagerly seek all these things,‭ ‬and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.‭  ‬But seek first the
    kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be provided for you‭ (‬Matthew‭ ‬6:31-33‭)

Out of His love for you,‭ ‬He will provide everything you need.‭  ‬But the Lord makes it clear that He wants first place in your


God always takes the initiative in this love relationship.‭   ‬This is the testimony of the entire Bible.‭  ‬He came to Adam and
Eve in the garden of Eden.‭  ‬In love,‭ ‬He fellowshipped with them.‭  ‬He came to Noah,‭ ‬Abraham,‭ ‬Moses,‭ ‬and the prophets.‭  ‬
God took the initiative so each person in the Old Testament would experience Him in a personal fellowship of love.‭  ‬This
is true of the New Testament as well.‭  ‬Jesus chose the disciples to be with Him and to experience His love.‭  ‬He came to
Mary,‭ ‬Martha,‭ ‬and Lazarus.‭  ‬He encountered Paul on the Damascus Road.

Sin has marred us so deeply that we do not seek after God of our own accord.‭  ‬Scripture explains:‭ “‬There is no one
righteous,‭ ‬not even one‭; ‬there is no one who understands,‭ ‬there is no one who seeks God.‭  ‬All have turned away,‭ ‬
together they have become useless‭; ‬there is no one who does good,‭ ‬there is not even one‭” (‬Romans‭ ‬3:10-12‭)‬.‭  ‬If God
did not approach us,‭ ‬we would never find Him:

    No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him…Everyone who has listened to and learned
    from the Father comes to Me…This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the
    Father.‭  (‬John‭ ‬6:44-45,‭ ‬65‭)

    The LORD has appeared to me of old saying:‭ “‬I have loved you with an everlasting love‭; ‬therefore,‭ ‬I have
    continued to extend faithful love to you.‭” (‬Jeremiah‭ ‬31:3‭)

    I led them with human cords,‭ ‬with ropes of kindness.‭  ‬To them I was like one who eases the yoke from their jaws.‭  
    (‬Hosea‭ ‬11:4‭)

God showers everlasting love on your life.‭  ‬Out of His compassion for you,‭ ‬He lovingly drew you to Himself when
you were not His friend but His enemy‭ (‬Ephesians‭ ‬2:1-5‭)‬.‭  ‬To firmly anchor your relationship with God and to know His
will,‭ ‬you must be absolutely convinced of God’s love for you.


Saul,‭ ‬later known as the apostle Paul‭ (‬see Acts‭ ‬9:1-19‭)‬,‭ ‬violently opposed God by persecuting the followers of Jesus.‭  ‬
Then the risen Christ encountered Paul and revealed the Father’s loving purpose for him.‭  ‬This incredible reality is also
true in our lives.‭  ‬Though we may reject God‭ – ‬or even oppose Him‭ – ‬He has chosen us,‭ ‬loved us,‭ ‬and revealed His
eternal purposes for our lives.


Jesus said to His disciples:‭  “‬You did not choose me,‭ ‬but I chose you…you are not of the world,‭ ‬but I have chosen you
out of it.‭” (‬John‭ ‬15:16,‭ ‬19‭)‬.‭  ‬Didn’t Peter elect to follow Jesus‭?  ‬No.‭  ‬Jesus chose Peter.‭  ‬Peter’s decision to follow Jesus
was a response to Jesus‭’ ‬invitation.‭  ‬God took the initiative.

    When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi,‭ ‬He asked His disciples,‭ ‬saying,‭ “‬Who do people say the Son
    of Man is‭?”

    And they said,‭ “‬Some say John the Baptist‭; ‬others,‭ ‬Elijah‭; ‬still others,‭ ‬Jeremiah or one of the Prophets.‭”

    “But you,‭” ‬He asked them,‭ “‬who do you say that I am‭?”  ‬Simon Peter answered,‭ “‬You are the Messiah,‭ ‬the Son of
    the living God‭!”

    And Jesus responded,‭ “‬Simon son of Jonah,‭ ‬you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you,‭ ‬
    but My Father in heaven.‭” (‬Matthew‭ ‬16:13-17‭)

When Peter responded to the Teacher’s question by confessing the truth that Jesus was the Christ,‭ ‬Jesus
recognized the Father’s activity in Peter.‭  ‬But Jesus made it clear that Peter did not figure this out on his own.‭  ‬The
revelation of Jesus‭’ ‬identity had come directly from the Father.

Do you realize that God determined to love you‭?  ‬Apart from that,‭ ‬you never would have become a Christian.‭  ‬He had
something in mind when He called you.‭  ‬He began to work in your life,‭ ‬and as He took the initiative,‭ ‬you began to
experience a love relationship with God.‭  ‬He enlightened your understanding of spiritual matters and drew you to Himself.

When you responded to His invitation,‭ ‬He brought you into a love relationship.‭  ‬But you would never know and
experience that love or enjoy the benefits of that love if God had not taken the initiative.‭  ‬The following Scriptures
describe some of the ways God initiates a love relationship:

    The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants,‭ ‬and you will love Him with all
    your heart and all your soul,‭ ‬so that you will live.‭  (‬Deuteronomy‭ ‬30:6‭)

    All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father.‭  ‬No one knows who the Son is except the Father,‭ ‬and who the
    Father is except the Son,‭ ‬and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.‭  (‬Luke‭ ‬10:22‭)

    You did not choose Me,‭ ‬but I chose you.‭  ‬I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your
    fruit should remain.‭  (‬John‭ ‬15:16‭)

    For it is God who is working in you,‭ ‬enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.‭  (‬Philippians‭ ‬2:13‭)

    Listen‭!  ‬I stand at the door and knock.‭  ‬If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,‭ ‬I will come in to him and
    have dinner with him,‭ ‬and he with Me.‭  (‬Revelation‭ ‬3:20‭)


God did not create you for time‭; ‬He created you for eternity.‭  ‬Your lifetime on earth provides the opportunity for you to
become acquainted with Him and to choose to enter a relationship with Him.‭  ‬Time is a period during which God wants to
develop your character into His likeness.‭  ‬Then eternity will have its fullest dimensions for you.

If you merely live for time,‭ ‬you will miss the ultimate purpose of creation.‭  ‬If you live for time,‭ ‬you will allow your past to
control and limit your life today.‭  ‬Your life as a child of God ought to be shaped by the future‭ (‬what you will
ultimately be‭)‬.‭  ‬God uses your present to mold and shape your future here on earth and throughout eternity.

You may have experienced things in your past that have a strong,‭ ‬limiting influence on your life.‭  ‬These may include
handicaps,‭ ‬a troubled family background,‭ ‬failures,‭ ‬shame,‭ ‬poverty,‭ ‬pride,‭ ‬success,‭ ‬fame,‭ ‬excessive wealth,‭ ‬and so forth.‭  ‬
You may realize you’re being shaped primarily by your past rather than your future.‭  ‬You may also fear that because of
past failures,‭ ‬you have little hope for the future.


At the conclusion of a speaking engagement one evening,‭ ‬a serious-looking man approached me and said he
desperately needed my help.‭  ‬He had served in the army during the Vietnam War.‭  ‬His experiences there‭ (‬as well
as later upon his return‭) ‬had left him emotionally wounded and bitter.‭  ‬Even after seeing various specialists and
receiving extensive counseling,‭ ‬he could not get over what he had experienced during the war.‭  ‬As a result,‭ ‬his marriage
was falling apart.‭  ‬His heart had grown so hardened that he could not bring himself to do what was necessary to
preserve his family.‭  ‬He realized if he did not get help soon,‭ ‬his life would end in disaster.

I opened my Bible and read to him Ezekiel‭ ‬36:26:‭ “‬I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you‭; ‬I will remove
your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.‭”  ‬I told him that no matter how painful and devastating his experiences
had been,‭ ‬God had been pursuing him with love,‭ ‬and He could free him from his hardened,‭ ‬bitter heart.‭  ‬Suddenly,‭ ‬the
man cried out,‭ “‬It’s gone‭! ‬It’s gone‭! ‬My hardened heart is gone‭!”

God set him free.‭  ‬He and I have become good friends,‭ ‬and he continues to experience the joy of the Lord in his life and
in his home.‭  ‬What was impossible for him to do in his own strength and wisdom was more than possible for God.


Paul had to deal with the problem of his past.‭  ‬Here was his approach:

    I once had confidence in the flesh too.‭  ‬If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh,‭ ‬I have
    more:‭ ‬circumcised the eighth day‭; ‬of the nation of Israel,‭ ‬of the tribe of Benjamin,‭ ‬a Hebrew born of Hebrews‭; ‬as to
    the law,‭ ‬a Pharisee‭; ‬as to zeal,‭ ‬persecuting the church‭; ‬as to the righteousness that is in the law,‭ ‬blameless.

    But everything that was a gain to me,‭ ‬I have considered to be a loss because of Christ.‭  ‬More than that,‭ ‬I also
    consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.‭  ‬Because of
    Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth,‭ ‬so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him,‭ ‬not
    having a righteousness of my own from the law,‭ ‬but one that is through faith in Christ‭ – ‬the righteousness from
    God based on faith.‭  ‬My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings,‭ ‬
    being conformed to His death,‭ ‬assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.

    Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature,‭ ‬but I make every effort to take hold of it
    because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.‭  ‬Brothers,‭ ‬I do not consider myself to have taken hold of
    it.‭  ‬But one thing I do:‭ ‬forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead,‭ ‬I pursue as my goal the
    prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.‭  (‬Philippians‭ ‬3:4-14‭)

A faithful Jew from the tribe of Benjamin,‭ ‬Paul was faultless in keeping the laws of the Pharisees.‭  ‬He had a distinguished
education and reputation.‭  ‬He was zealous for God.‭  ‬Yet when Paul met Christ,‭ ‬he came to view his past successes as
rubbish.‭  ‬More than anything else,‭ ‬Paul wanted to know Christ and to become like Him,‭ ‬attaining eternal life.‭  ‬In order to
focus on the future he set aside the past.‭  ‬He pressed toward the goal of a heavenly prize.‭  ‬There was nothing he could
do to reorder his past.‭  ‬But now that he walked with the risen Christ,‭ ‬there were no limits to what God could do in and
through Paul in the future.

Paul’s compelling desire was to know Christ and become like Him.‭  ‬You,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬can so order your life under God’s direction
that you come to know Him,‭ ‬love Him,‭ ‬and become like Christ.‭  ‬Let your present be molded and shaped by what you are
to become in Christ,‭ ‬not by what sin did to you in the past.‭  ‬You were created for eternity‭!

You can begin right now by orienting your life to the purposes of God.‭  ‬Because His plans go far beyond time and into
eternity,‭ ‬God values eternal things.‭  ‬Make sure you are investing your life,‭ ‬time,‭ ‬and resources into that which is lasting,‭ ‬
not in things that will soon pass away.‭  ‬If you don’t recognize that God created you for eternity,‭ ‬you’ll invest your life
in the wrong things.‭  ‬Jesus said:

    Don’t collect for yourselves treasure on earth,‭ ‬where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.‭  ‬
    For where your treasure is,‭ ‬there your heart will be also…But seek first the kingdom of God and
    His righteousness,‭ ‬and all these things will be provided for you.‭  (‬Matthew‭ ‬6:19-21,‭ ‬33‭)

Only God‭ – ‬who loves you with an unfathomable devotion‭ – ‬knows what is best for you.‭  ‬Only He can guide you to invest
your life in worthwhile ways.‭  ‬This guidance will come as you walk with Him and listen to Him.


Over the years,‭ ‬I’ve had the continual privilege of hearing stories of many,‭ ‬many people who testified to how a love
relationship with Christ had transformed them and their families.‭  ‬I know of a man in Brazil who grew up with a father and
grandfather who were alcoholics.‭  ‬Not surprisingly,‭ ‬he became addicted to alcohol himself and cared only for
drinking with his friends.‭  ‬He completely neglected his wife and children,‭ ‬and because he spent everything he had on
liquor,‭ ‬his wife would labor and save to provide meager meals for the children.‭  ‬They lived in a tiny hut made out of little
more than cardboard.‭  ‬This man’s wife and family feared him,‭ ‬but they did not respect him.

The man’s wife was invited to a Bible study being held in a home near theirs.‭  ‬Desperate for friendship and hope,‭ ‬she
began attending.‭  ‬There she heard about God and His love for her.‭  ‬Earnestly wanting to experience God’s love,‭ ‬she
gave her life to Christ.‭  ‬Her new friends joined in praying daily that her errant husband would come to Christ,‭ ‬but
this man had no interest in God or religion.‭  ‬He steadfastly refused to attend any Bible study or church service.‭  ‬But she
kept praying,‭ ‬and God kept reaching out to him in love.

One day,‭ ‬when the man reached the bottom of his life,‭ ‬He discovered God was there,‭ ‬waiting for him.‭  ‬He became a
Christian and began attending the Bible study with his wife.‭  ‬He gave up drinking.‭  ‬He began to share his new faith with
his friends,‭ ‬and one by one,‭ ‬they,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬came to faith in Christ.‭  ‬He brought so many people with him to the Bible
study that the sponsoring church eventually started a new study group and appointed him as its leader.‭  ‬That group
grew so rapidly,‭ ‬they split his group in two and gave him supervision over both small groups.‭  ‬The man began to care for
his wife and children as a godly man should.

Eventually,‭ ‬the couple saved enough money to purchase a modest brick house in a new neighborhood.‭  ‬Within a year,‭ ‬
he had led all but one of his neighbors to faith in Christ,‭ ‬and they were all attending his church.‭  ‬His church hired him on
the pastoral staff,‭ ‬and today that church has more than twelve thousand people attending every week.‭  ‬The man and his
wife now lead marriage enrichment seminars each year.‭  ‬Their children are wholesome young adults who sing on the
church’s worship team and obviously love and respect their father.

As this man told his story,‭ ‬his face glowed when he spoke of the way God had never given up on him.‭  ‬Even though his
life raced toward destruction,‭ ‬God kept pursuing and reaching out to him.‭  ‬Ever since that glorious day when he entered
into a personal relationship with Christ,‭ ‬he has devoted his life to helping others experience the forgiveness and freedom
that he received.


God created the first man and woman,‭ ‬Adam and Eve,‭ ‬for a love relationship with Himself.‭  ‬After Adam and Eve sinned,‭ ‬
they heard God walking in the garden,‭ ‬but they hid from Him because of their fear and shame.‭  ‬Try to sense the heart of
a loving Father when He asked the piercing question,‭ “‬Where are you‭?” (‬Genesis‭ ‬3:9‭)‬.‭  ‬God knew what had
happened to the love relationship.

When your relationship with God is as it ought to be,‭ ‬you will always be in fellowship with the Father.‭  ‬You will enjoy being
in His presence and having close fellowship with Him.‭  ‬When Adam and Eve were no longer coming to meet with God,‭ ‬
something had gone wrong.


When God sought to meet with His people during the prophet Jeremiah’s day,‭ ‬God declared:‭ “‬I have spoken to you time
and time again but you wouldn’t listen,‭ ‬and I have called to you,‭ ‬but you wouldn’t answer‭” (‬Jeremiah‭ ‬7:13‭)‬.‭  ‬I have always
tried to meet with my Lord each morning.‭  ‬I keep that time alone with God,‭ ‬not‭
‬in order to have a relationship but
because I‭ ‬
do have a relationship.‭  ‬Because of my love for Him,‭ ‬I look forward to meeting with Him.‭  ‬I enjoy spending time
with Him.‭  ‬Time with Him enriches and deepens the relationship He and I already share.

I have heard people say,‭ “‬I really struggle trying to make that time alone with God.‭”  ‬If that is a problem for you,‭ ‬let me
suggest something.‭  ‬Don’t merely discipline yourself to read your Bible and to pray as if it is a life sentence you must
carry out.‭  ‬Instead,‭ ‬approach your times with God as an opportunity to get to better know someone who loves you
with an infinite love.‭  ‬Simply making yourself read a chapter of the Bible each day and then reciting a prayer will not lead
you into a deeper walk with God.

Make it the priority in your life and devotional times to love Him with all your heart.‭  ‬That will solve most of the problem
with your quiet time.‭  ‬Read in Scripture of God’s vast love for you.‭  ‬Recall what He has done to demonstrate His love.‭  ‬
Share your heart,‭ ‬your concerns,‭ ‬and your burdens with Him in prayer.‭  ‬Remain silent before Him,‭ ‬and allow Him
to share His love with you.‭  ‬The better you know God,‭ ‬the more you will love Him.‭  ‬The more you love Him,‭ ‬the easier it
will be for you to spend time with Him.‭  ‬It is never a chore to spend time with someone you love,‭ ‬although it can be
tedious to spend time with a stranger‭!

Suppose you were engaged to a person you loved and intended to marry.‭  ‬What would be your primary reason for
spending time with him or her‭?  ‬Is it because you want to find out about his likes and dislikes or family background‭?  ‬Is it
because you want to ascertain her knowledge and education‭?  ‬When two people love each other,‭ ‬they naturally are
interested in finding out about each other.‭  ‬That is not,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬the primary reason why they spend time together.‭  ‬It is
because they love each other and feel refreshed every time they are together.

Similarly,‭ ‬you will learn much about God,‭ ‬His Word,‭ ‬His purposes,‭ ‬and His ways when you spend time with Him.‭  ‬But
learning about Him is not why you should want to have time with Him.‭  ‬You should desire fellowship with Him because of
what you already know about Him,‭ ‬and as you interact with Him,‭ ‬you will learn even more about Him that will inevitably
deepen your devotion.‭  ‬Everything we do with and for God should stem from our love relationship with Him.


The relationship God desires with you will be dynamic and personal.‭  ‬Some ask,‭ “‬Can a person actually have a real,‭ ‬
personal,‭ ‬and practical relationship with God‭?”  ‬They view God as someone who is distant and serenely unconcerned
about their day-to-day living.‭  ‬But this is not the God presented in the Scriptures‭!  ‬From Genesis to Revelation,‭ ‬we see
God relating to people in personal,‭ ‬intimate,‭ ‬practical ways.‭  ‬Pick up your bible,‭ ‬and read the stories described below.‭ ‬
Watch to see how each person’s relationship with the Lord was extremely intimate and practical.

Adam and Eve.‭  ‬God had intimate fellowship with Adam and Eve,‭ ‬walking in the garden with them.‭  ‬When they sinned,‭ ‬
God came after them to restore the love relationship.‭  ‬He met their practical need by providing clothing to cover their
nakedness‭ (‬see Genesis‭ ‬3:20-21‭)‬.

Hagar.‭  ‬Hagar had been used,‭ ‬mistreated,‭ ‬and abused by Sarai.‭  ‬Finally,‭ ‬she fled for her life.‭  ‬When she reached the
end of her own resources and had nowhere else to turn,‭ ‬she heard from God.‭  ‬In her relationship with God,‭ ‬she learned
that He saw her,‭ ‬knew her needs,‭ ‬and would lovingly provide for her‭ (‬see Genesis‭ ‬16:1-13‭)‬.

Solomon.‭  ‬Solomon’s father,‭ ‬David,‭ ‬had sought the Lord with his whole heart,‭ ‬so Solomon had a heritage of faith and
obedience to follow.‭  ‬When he had the opportunity to ask and receive anything he wanted from God,‭ ‬Solomon
demonstrated his love for God’s people by asking for a discerning heart.‭  ‬God not only granted his request,‭ ‬He gave him
wealth and fame as well.‭  ‬Solomon found his relationship with God to be immensely practical‭ (‬see I Kings‭ ‬3:5-13‭)‬.

The Twelve Disciples.‭  ‬The disciples had a real,‭ ‬personal,‭ ‬and practical relationship with Jesus,‭ ‬the Son of God.‭  ‬What a
pleasure it must have been to walk so closely with Jesus‭!  ‬When Jesus gave the disciples a difficult assignment,‭ ‬He didn’t
send them out to meet the challenges in their limited strength.‭  ‬He gave them authority they had never known before to
overcome whatever they faced‭ (‬see Mark‭ ‬6:7-13‭)‬.

Peter in prison awaiting execution... ‬In some places of the world,‭ ‬obedience to the Lord results in imprisonment
and even execution.‭  ‬This was Peter’s experience‭ (‬see Acts‭ ‬12:1-17‭)‬.‭  ‬In answer to prayer,‭ ‬the Lord miraculously
delivered him from captivity and imminent death.‭  ‬His deliverance was so dramatic that Peter first assumed it was a
dream.‭  ‬When Peter went to tell fellow Christians his good news,‭ ‬they thought he was an angel.‭  ‬Soon they all
discovered that the miracle was real.‭  ‬God’s practical intervention saved Peter’s life.

John in exile on the island of Patmos.‭  ‬John was spending the Lord’s Day in communion with God‭ (‬see Revelation‭ ‬1:9-
20‭)‬.‭  ‬During this time of fellowship in the Spirit,‭ ‬the risen Christ came to John to‭ “‬show His slaves what must quickly take
place‭” (‬Revelation‭ ‬1:1‭)‬.‭  ‬This message has been both a challenge and encouragement to Christians from John’s day to

Do you sense,‭ ‬as you read Scripture,‭ ‬that people came to experience God in real and personal ways‭?  ‬Did you notice
how practical their relationships with God were‭?  ‬Both the Old and New Testaments are brimming with examples of God’s
personal involvement in the lives of men and women from all walks of life.‭  ‬And God has not changed‭!  ‬You,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬can
experience a real,‭ ‬personal,‭ ‬and practical relationship with the Father as you respond to God’s working in your life.


In the summer of‭ ‬1992,‭ ‬I asked Claude King to work with me on a new course entitled Fresh encounter:‭ ‬God’s
Pattern for Revival and Spiritual Awakening
.‭  ‬As we began to work on the message God was giving concerning revival,‭ ‬
we developed a sense of urgency that we needed to complete the work as quickly as possible.‭  ‬Claude already carried a
heavy load as an editor,‭ ‬and he did not see how he could possibly work on the revival material and still fulfill his normal
job requirements.

Two years before,‭ ‬God had spoken to him through His Word that a time would come when he would need to release his
life and schedule completely to God.‭  ‬Claude began to pray and ask God if this was the time he needed to leave his job
and walk by faith.‭  ‬He reviewed how God had led him to that point,‭ ‬and he sought the counsel of godly friends.‭  ‬By Labor
Day weekend,‭ ‬Claude felt convinced that he should resign from his job and devote himself to completing the
new project.‭  ‬With no source of income in sight,‭ ‬Claude’s family joined him in this adventure with God.

After Claude announced his resignation and began wrapping up his job assignments,‭ ‬he received a call from a group of
people who had formed a nonprofit group in Texas.‭  ‬They had been involved in renewal efforts for churches.‭  ‬Each
of the directors of this ministry had studied the course‭ ‬
Experiencing God‭ ‬and had witnessed the renewal God was
bringing to His people through that material.‭  ‬They said,‭ “‬We heard about your decision to leave your job to write‭ ‬
.‭  ‬We have prayed and believe God wants us to support you financially.‭”

They hired Claude to be their executive director and to serve as a catalyst for spiritual renewal.‭  ‬They agreed to provide
him a full-time salary and said,‭ “‬We will take care of raising the finances.‭  ‬You do whatever God tells you to do.‭”  ‬This
allowed Claude to work full-time on‭ ‬
Fresh Encounter.‭  ‬When the Lord asked Claude to take a step of faith,‭ ‬Claude
obeyed.‭  ‬God responded immediately to take care of Claude’s needs.

The whole process of developing the revival materials called‭ ‬
Fresh Encounter would normally have been placed on a
five-year planning cycle by our publisher.‭  ‬But God gave Claude and me a sense of urgency,‭ ‬and as a result,‭ ‬we
produced the materials in only eight months.

Claude clearly heard God speaking to him.‭  ‬But what God asked him to do seemed impractical‭!  ‬How does someone with
a family to support and a mortgage to pay quit a job in mid-career to work on a project with no known source of income‭?  ‬
Apart from God,‭ ‬doing such a thing would be foolish and irresponsible.‭  ‬But when you do something like that as a result
of your love relationship with God,‭ ‬nothing could be more practical‭!  ‬I could tell you story after story of people
who trusted God for the most pragmatic aspects of their lives and how God met every need,‭ ‬right on time.


Love must be expressed in tangible ways.‭  ‬A person cannot love without another‭ “‬someone‭” ‬to love.‭  ‬A love relationship
with God takes place between two persons.‭  ‬A relationship with God is personal and interactive.‭  ‬God is a person who
wants to fill your life with His presence.

If you can’t remember a time when your relationship with God was real,‭ ‬personal,‭ ‬and practical,‭ ‬you need to evaluate
your walk with Him.‭  ‬Go before the Lord in prayer,‭ ‬and ask Him to reveal the true nature of your relationship.‭  ‬Ask Him to
bring you into genuine intimacy with Him.‭  ‬If you realize you have never entered a saving relationship with God,‭ ‬return to
the introduction for help in settling that most important issue now.

Some people say to me,‭ “‬Henry,‭ ‬what you are suggesting about doing God’s will is not sensible today.‭”  ‬I disagree.‭  ‬God
is extremely practical.‭  ‬He was that way in biblical times and He is the same today.‭  ‬When He provided manna,‭ ‬quail,‭ ‬and
water for the children of Israel,‭ ‬He was being practical.‭  ‬When Jesus fed five thousand hungry people,‭ ‬He was being
practical.‭  ‬The God revealed in biblical times is real,‭ ‬personal,‭ ‬and practical.‭  ‬I trust God to relate to me in that
same way,‭ ‬too.

The daily presence of God should be the most practical aspect of a believer’s life.‭  ‬His plan for the advance of His
kingdom on earth includes working in real and tangible ways through relationships with His people.

Knowing and experiencing God through a real and personal relationship was exceedingly practical for people in
Scripture,‭ ‬and I believe you’ll find such a walk with God highly effective in your life as well.‭  ‬God can make a dramatic
difference in your relationships,‭ ‬your home,‭ ‬your church,‭ ‬and your workplace.‭  ‬His involvement in your life should be
visible and evident to you and to those around you,‭ ‬like it was in the lives of countless others revealed in the Scriptures.


EXPERIENCING GOD,‭ ‬by Henry‭ & ‬Richard Blackaby and Claude King,‭ ‬Copyright‭ ‬2008,‭ ‬B&H Publishing Group.