Fully Embracing Christ – 18 – Questions for reflection


1. Choose two of the biblical characters in this study whose lives you find most inspiring.

  • What is it about them that impressed you?
  • How can you apply what you learned from their lives?

2. Describe an experience you have had when God’s presence was very real.

Fully Embracing Christ – 17 – Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard: Embracing the Lord in Obedience

We see a similar pattern to that of Bernard’s teaching on the three embraces in what scholar Dallas Willard refers to as a “process” of discipleship. He teaches a process that includes delighting in God (adoration), being freed from enslavement to old anti-kingdom habitual patterns (repentance), and doing what one hears from Jesus (obedience). Willard expands upon the important teaching of the life of obedience to the Lord: Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 17 – Dallas Willard”

Fully Embracing Christ – 16 – Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux: Embracing the Lord in Adoration

Bernard of Clairvaux was a twelfth century Christian leader of the Cistercian movement. The analogy and symbolism of embracing the Lord in three ways: his face in adoration, his feet in repentance, and his hand in obedience, comes from Bernard’s teaching that sought to inspire greater love for God. He saw the great love story between God and his people running prominently throughout Scripture. Bernard wrote:

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 16 – Bernard of Clairvaux”

Fully Embracing Christ – 15 – Syncletica


Following are brief reflections on the lives of three Christian leaders related to fully embracing the Lord. The first is from the fourth century, the second from the twelfth century, and the third is a present day Christian scholar.

Swan and Syncletica: Embracing the Lord in Repentance

The “desert mothers” of the past were often forgotten women, yet they were leaders of Christian spirituality in the early centuries of Christianity. Laura Swan has developed extensive research on these women and provides important insights from their lives related to fully embracing the Lord.

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 15 – Syncletica”

Fully Embracing Christ – 14 – Habakkuk V

Fully Embracing the Lord: Summary of Principles from Habakkuk

“Fully embracing the Lord” is an ongoing practice and experience of adoration, repentance, and obedience as we have observed from many biblical examples.

The prophet Habakkuk demonstrates an embrace of the Lord’s feet in repentance by his readiness to stand before God for correction in the midst of his severe complaints about the wickedness of an oppressive, conquering nation.

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 14 – Habakkuk V”

Fully Embracing Christ – 13 – Habakkuk IV

Embracing the Face of the Lord in Adoration

Hear the longing and passion expressed by two great men who knew their God. “Show me Your glory!” (Moses in Exodus 33:18). “Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide Your face from me…” (King David in Psalm 27:8, 9). These are common responses from those in Scripture who experienced a visitation from the Lord. Embracing the Lord’s feet in repentance and his hand in obedience are woefully insufficient and unsustainable for them—they are not enough—they must “see his glory”, they must “see his face”. They are consumed with a desire to respond intimately and persistently to God’s living, all-encompassing presence.

This desire to behold the beauty of the Lord face-to-face in loving adoration is seen in the prophet Habakkuk as well.

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 13 – Habakkuk IV”

Fully Embracing Christ – 12 – Habakkuk III

Embracing the Lord’s Hand in Faithful Obedience

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? …Why do you tolerate wrong?” (Habakkuk 1:2-3). In response to Habakkuk’s agonized questioning, God tells him that things are going to get worse! The Lord reveals to him that the “feared and dreaded” Babylonians will invade his nation, and that it is God himself who is sending them to punish. “Watch . . . be utterly astonished! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe” (Habakkuk 1:5). This is depressing and disheartening news to the watchful prophet.

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 12 – Habakkuk III”

Fully Embracing Christ – 11 – Habakkuk II

Embracing the Lord’s Feet in Repentance

In the first chapter of Habakkuk, the prophet of Judah is exasperated—even overwhelmed—by the violence, injustice, and treachery surrounding Judah. There appears to be no sign of the presence, restraint, or power of God. It is not hard to imagine many World Vision staff in oppressive rural ADPs voicing similar cries to God from their souls.

Habakkuk voices his desperate plea: “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear . . . and You will not save?” (Habakkuk 2:2). But in the midst of his despair among oppressors, he also expresses his faith when he affirms, “O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment . . . You have marked them for correction” (Habakkuk 1:12). Here is an example of enduring faith in a loving and just God. Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 11 – Habakkuk II”

Fully Embracing Christ – 10 – Habakkuk I


The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:19

The Book of Habakkuk contains numerous illustrations of the three embraces of the Lord in the life and struggles of the prophet Habakkuk. In the following detailed look at Habakkuk’s life of adoration and surrender, the order of the three embraces will be altered: repentance, obedience, and finally adoration. This sequence seems to fit the flow and structure of the book. As noted earlier in a quote by Eugene Peterson, the order and proportion of these three embraces is not important, but rather that they are intertwined and evident in the life of the follower of Christ.

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 10 – Habakkuk I”

Fully Embracing Christ – 9 – Mary


“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:38

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Mary’s life was forever changed by this encounter with God’s angel messenger. As a poor, young village girl living under oppressive Roman rule, this greeting would have seemed as out of place to Mary as Gideon being address “valiant warrior!”(Judges 6:12). Mary stands before the angel of the Lord and acknowledges God’s greatness and glory. In Mary’s Song (Luke 1:46-55) can be seen her adoration of the Lord as she symbolically embraces his face.

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 9 – Mary”

Fully Embracing Christ – 8 – Paul


He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?”

Acts 9:4,5

On his way to persecute and incarcerate the believers in Damascas, Saul of Tarsus has a dramatic encounter with the living Christ. “…suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’”

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 8 – Paul”

Fully Embracing Christ – 7 – Deborah


Oh my soul, march on in strength!

Judges 5:21

In Judges 4 and 5, we read of the prophetess Deborah. She led Israel for several decades as judge during a chaotic time in Israel’s history after the death of Joshua. It was said of her that “the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:5).

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 7 – Deborah”

Fully Embracing Christ – 6 – Gideon


Ah, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!

Judges 6:22

In a life-changing encounter, the angel of the Lord suddenly appears to Gideon saying, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). At the time, we find Gideon hiding in a winepress to thresh his wheat so the Midianites will not see him.   Although being called “mighty warrior” is a clue to his future, it perplexes Gideon in his present situation. He addresses the angel as Lord and expresses his belief that God has abandoned Israel to the oppression of the Midian people. Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 6 – Gideon”

Fully Embracing Christ – 5 – Joshua


“Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Joshua 5:15

In Exodus 24:13 Joshua is simply described as Moses’ “assistant”. However, Joshua’s future responsibilities would be enormous after the death of Moses. It would be to Joshua that God would speak, and through him that God would lead his people to the promised land. Joshua learned to linger before the face of God as a young man by following Moses’ example. This is illustrated in Exodus 33:11: “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face . . . [and] his servant, Joshua . . . did not depart from the tabernacle.” Joshua, too, was learning to embrace the face of the Lord in adoration.

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 5 – Joshua”

Fully Embracing Christ – 4 – Jacob


Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.

Genesis 32: 28

Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, learned to fully embrace the Lord’s face, feet, and hand. Of special note is the manner in which Jacob learned to embrace the face of the Lord. In Genesis 32:22-32 we see Jacob wrestling with God, not willing to let go of him, until there was assurance of his blessing. Jacob was adamant; and despite having a hip pulled out of joint in the process, said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me!” (Genesis 32:26).

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 4 – Jacob”

Fully Embracing Christ – 3 – Moses


The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.
Exodus 33:11

Moses was a man who fully embraced the Lord, and it is worth studying his dramatic visitation of the Lord on Mt. Horeb to capture insights on the three embraces more clearly.

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 3 – Moses”

Fully Embracing Christ – 2 – Abraham


I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.

Genesis 17:1

In Genesis 12:1-3, 13:14-18, 15:1-10, and 17:1-22, we witness at least four visitations of the Lord to Abraham. During these encounters Abraham models a similar pattern of learning to embrace the Lord. These passages illustrate his adoration before a holy God; his repentance and humble bowing before God; and then his obedience that encompasses his daily walk, as well as his dramatic calling to relocate and become the father of a great nation. We see Abraham symbolically embracing the Lord’s face, feet, and hands at various times and places. Biblical scholar Eugene Peterson, explains that the three “elements” (embraces) are normative for followers of Christ, “but [they occur] in various orders and proportions.”[1]

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 2 – Abraham”

Fully Embracing Christ – 1 – Introduction


I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Jesus (John 16:33)

Trouble. Setbacks. Injustice. How do we relate to God in circumstances that threaten to overwhelm us?

Scripture contains numerous examples of people who had encounters with God during stressful times of trial and suffering in their personal lives as well as in their nation. These biblical examples reveal a common pattern of response to his “visitations”: adoration, repentance, and obedience.

Continue reading “Fully Embracing Christ – 1 – Introduction”

George Marhad – On Fully Embracing Christ. Biblical and Historical Examples

George Marhad, who works for many years for World Vision US is one of my dearest colleagues in our organisation.

Like myself, he is a former Navigator and we share a common passion for discipleship and spiritual formation. He also has a special interest in Romania, since his grand parents emigrated from Romania at the end of the 19th century.

Continue reading “George Marhad – On Fully Embracing Christ. Biblical and Historical Examples”

%d bloggers like this: