In HOPE 5.22                                  back to home                        David Timms

Ministry Resource

John Ortberg's writings resonate with the tone of this week's reflections. God is to be experienced in the ordinary, not the spectacular. He is found in the normal, not the paranormal. Ortberg's book God is Closer Than You Think (Zondervan, 2005) is an encouraging and insightful contribution to this discussion.

HOPE Happenings

You may be interested to know that this Fall the University has 781 full-time students and an additional 335 part-time students. Students come from 33 different States and 36 different countries. Across the University, 62% of our students are women and 38% are men. We feel privileged to be helping raise up these Christian servant-leaders for the church and the world.







Hope International University
Fullerton, CA 92831


"There is an intimacy with God, but it's like any other intimacy.... In marriage you don't feel intimate most of the time. Nor with a friend. Intimacy isn't primarily a mystical emotion. It's a way of life, a life of openness, honesty, a certain transparency."  (Eugene Peterson)

Intimacy with God

We often encourage people to have "a personal relationship with God." At churches, camps and cafes we ask each other, "How's your walk with the Lord?" We urge each other to "go deeper" with Him. It's all fair fodder - unless our view of intimacy is looking for some kind of mystical emotionalism.   

Some believers, by virtue of temperament, will be very "chatty" with the Lord. They're "chatty" with everyone. Others, because of personality, will feel deep attachments. They're wired for it. Still others, as a result of their childhood nurture, will more readily become dependent on Christ, "needing Him" every moment of the day.


These experiences are all fine and appropriate. We ought not diminish them for a moment. But it may be helpful to acknowledge the influence of temperament and nurture, and accept that intimacy legitimately takes many different forms. Just as no two healthy marriages are identical, so there is no single template for our relationship with God.


When we insist that intimacy with God should look the same for everyone, we speak from ignorance not insight.


Perhaps this explains why Jesus was (deliberately?) vague about what "intimacy with the Father" looks like. Yes, it obviously involves talking with Him and listening to Him. But how much? Yes, it unquestionably involves the emotions. But which ones and how often?


As Eugene Peterson suggests in the opening quote this week, intimacy is primarily a way of life. Rapture and ecstacy may come from time to time, but we don't live there constantly ... not in friendships with others or God.


The faith of the greatest saints of the past (see Hebrews 11) produced lifestyles of obedience. Noah had a defining couple of ecstatic moments when the voice of the Lord broke through to him, but otherwise he just went about building a boat - as he had been instructed - for decades! Abraham heard God speak a time or two, but seems to have spent the vast majority of his life breeding stock and living with integrity before God. We could talk about Moses in similar ways - decades of steady obedience.


Some believers today might wonder if Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others had an "intimate" walk with God. Of course they did. But the Bible doesn't seem to exalt or encourage the kind of mystical aspirations we secretly harbour. In fact, the Apostle Paul openly opposed the false apostles who foisted such expectations on others (see 2 Corinthians 10-12).


Yes, God spoke clearly at times, but the walk He enjoyed with David or Amos or Nehemiah was, for the most part, the intimacy of simple companionship in the ordinary.


Spiritual formation, Christian spirituality, or intimacy with God may ultimately be, as Peterson titled his 1980 book, "a long obedience in the same direction." This understanding lacks the snappy pizzazz and alluring promise of rapture and ecstacy, but it may just release some folk from the pressure of the well-intentioned among us.





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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board of the institution. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.

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