“I love You, I love You, I really just love You! Thank You again, Father, for a wonderful day!” I paused a moment, eyes closed, face tilted upwards. “I simply just love You, Lord!” Then I resumed typing.
That was the evening of Day Four of our President’s guidelines to quell the coronavirus, a truly wonderful day. Up at six to feed Barny and have devotions; then shopping for things I might need for two weeks, like allergy and cough medicine; finding Reese’s Easter eggs and Hershey bunnies for the grandsons’ Easter baskets and other little delights to surprise them with when they spent afternoons with me while school was out; then, finding new nuggets in the Word as I worked on a booklet about worry.
I sometimes touch my grandson’s foreheads with mine, make googly eyes, and say, “I love you, I love you, do you know I love you, don’t forget I love you, did you remember I love you. . . etc.”
I am affectionate with my grandsons because I have an intimate relationship with them.
Should we be affectionate with God? The short answer? YES!!! In the Amplified Classic Bible (AMPC), verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 134 tell us:
“Behold, bless (affectionately and gratefully praise) the Lord, all you servants of the Lord [singers] who by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in holiness and to the sanctuary and bless the Lord [affectionately and gratefully praise Him]!”
Notice the parts I underlined. One of many reasons I love the AMPC is that it spells out what people living in Bible days would have understood as implicit, or taken for granted, when they heard a word. Words in both Hebrew and Greek, the languages in which the Bible was originally written, have more shades of meaning than English, like the word snow means more than just one thing to Eskimos.
God’s Word tells us to be affectionate with Him. A searchable, on-line Bible website, like Bible Gateway, shows 23 times in the AMPC when the word affectionately is used to amplify the meaning of “bless the Lord.” Look them up.
Start each day by taking time to be affectionate with God. Notice that most of the findings for the word affectionate in the AMPC are in the psalms, which are so often used for daily devotions. Psalm 145:10 tells us, “All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your loving ones shall bless You [affectionately and gratefully shall Your saints confess and praise You!]”
Think about it. Can you be affectionate with someone if you are in a rush? It just does not work. Your actions say “I love this thing I am rushing off to (work, the kickoff on TV, an errand) more than I love you.” No, with affection, you give the object of your affection your full, focused attention. You cannot even give your dog or cat a really affectionate pat on the head if you zoom by.
Be affectionate with God as you go about your daily life. Another instance where the Bible talks of affectionate love for God is when Mary gave Jesus her very best as she kissed His feet, washed them with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed them with costly perfume.
“… and as she stood behind Him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured perfume on them.” In verse 45, the AMPC says that Jesus told the Pharisee that Mary had, from the moment He came into the room not stopped kissing His feet “tenderly and caressingly.”
Reading the whole story as recorded in Luke 7:36-50, shows us that Jesus obviously approved of the affectionate way Mary demonstrated her love for Him. Today, you and I can likewise show God our affection by giving our best effort, for Him, all day, in whatever we are doing. (“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10a, NIV). We also give Him our best by loving Him with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might (Deuteronomy 6:5).
An awesome reason to be affectionate. Next, notice that, in 1 Corinthians 11:24, during the Lord’s Supper, when Jesus had given thanks, He broke the bread, and said “Take, eat. This is my body which is broken for you. Do this to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance.” And He repeats His request when the wine is taken, in verse 25. “Similarly, when supper was ended, He took the cup also, saying, This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood. Do this as often as you drink [it], to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance.” Every time I take the Lord’s Supper, Jesus wants me to remember Him with affection.
I knew that believers in Jesus observe the Lord’s supper to honor and respect Him by remembering His incomprehensible sacrifice for us. However, until I read this verse in the Amplified as I wrote this blog, I did not know that Jesus specifically asked us to remember Him with affection.
He could have, very appropriately, said to call Him to remembrance with respect and awe and fear. This is certainly part of the way we should approach God and it is the most basic, foundational way to think of God. But He clearly wants us to think of Him with affection, too. If you have deep respect and awe and appreciation for Who God is and what He has done for us, if you know Him well and pursue a close relationship with Him, eventually your love for Him will also include affection.
I believe that Jesus was, as always, putting us above Himself here because He knew thinking of the agony He endured for us could make us sad. I understand that because I would, if he were alive, affectionately kiss and hold my earthly father’s hands, hands roughened by years of operating heavy equipment, covered with sun-bronzed skin and scars. I would gaze with fondness at the tan lines on his forehead and arms, acquired through decades of loving labor for his family. I would do the same for my mother’s soap roughened hands. And so, when I think about what Jesus did for me, I am affectionately grateful, and privileged to come so close to Him.
We are only affectionate with those we know intimately. Synonyms for intimate include private, personal, secret, innermost, cherished, familiar, dear, devoted, and deepest. Help us, Father, to be more intimate with You!
Being affectionate with the Lord did not come naturally at first for me. As a new believer in Jesus, I had an overly formal attitude toward Him. I had the proper reverence and fear (Deuteronomy 13:4, I Chronicles 16:25, Psalm 2:11) but I also had an unhealthy subconscious fear that I was not doing enough, fear that I was not worthy, and fear that God would one day abandon me because of that. Those wounded attitudes were caused by events in the past, obviously the work of the evil one, but God (whose power no foe can withstand, Psalm 91:1, AMPC ) brought those hurts, with the shame and guilt, into the light of His love and forgiveness. Over time, He helped me learn to ask Him into each moment of my day, including the undignified times (like exercising or scrubbing the bathroom) and times when I fail Him (like in traffic or when I lose patience with someone.)
My search for closer closeness with the Lord led me to read the little book “The Practice of the Presence of God”, written in the 17th century by a friar called Brother Lawrence. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It helped me overcome the last remnants of over-formality with God. In this dynamo of a book, Brother Lawrence talks about chatting with the Lord while he worked in the monastery’s kitchen, for example. Brother Lawrence said “. . . during any daily duty, lift your heart to Him (God), because even the least little remembrance will please Him. You don’t have to pray out loud; He’s nearer than you can imagine. . . We can make our hearts personal chapels where we can enter anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them” (page 36).
Slowly, I began talking to God more and more during the day, finding that as I drew near to God, He drew near to me (James 4:8) and that He was with me when I was with Him (2 Chronicles 15:2).
This will work for anyone. It took a long time, with countless failures and trying again. However, continually seeking His moment-by-moment presence as Brother Lawrence suggested has brought deep settled peace and the confidence that my loving Heavenly Father will always, always, always help me run into His presence and regain my peace, no matter what I do or what happens around me.
Fellow seeker, we can be confident He will come closer to us as we try to come closer to Him. He reassures us in I John 5:14-15 that:
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that HE hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him” (NIV).
If there is any doubt in your mind about this, it is a thought arrow of the enemy designed to keep you from your rightful place with God. Lift up the shield of faith and take the sword of truth in hand. Keep pressing on and pressing in until you reach the promised land of delighting yourself in His presence!
God is affectionate with us. Finally, beloved, God says He “. . . cares for us affectionately and cares about us watchfully.” I Peter 5:7 says, “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and He cares about you watchfully.”
This is not the only place in the Bible where God clearly shows His affection and the depth of His love for us. As you pursue your daily personal Bible study, make note of these places and imprint them on your heart, i.e., memorize them! Some of my favorites include particular verses in Psalm 139, Psalm 136, John 3, John 14, Joshua 1, Isaiah 26, 2 Chronicles 14, and Ephesians 3. . . The Bible overflows with God’s love. It is, indeed, God’s love letter to us, as someone once said.
Ponder God’s affection for us. Would a baby in Jesus’ arms have a single worry or concern—ever? What a wonderful thought as we all walk through the challenge of the coronavirus. God Himself is with us. In Genesis 28:15, God told Jacob, and us: “And behold, I am with you and will keep (watch over you with care, take notice of) you where you may go, and I will bring you back to this land: for I will not leave you until I have done all of which I have told you.”
Ask, seek, and knock. If you ask, God will show you how to love Him more affectionately. The Bible tells us so!