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The {\b \i Loving Jesus} Revelation       GP 3077       10/96
By Apollos, on behalf of World Services

© Copyrighted October 1996, The Family, Zurich, Switzerland

       The Essence of the Series: Just a Closer Walk with Thee       4
       The Bride of Christ       5
       Sexually Intimate Words of Love to Jesus       6
         Eroticism in the Bible       8
         Intimacy in Loving Jesus Is a Personal Matter       10
         Eroticism with Jesus Is an Adults Only Affair       11
       There Is Neither Male nor Female in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).       11
       Knowing Jesus Intimately       15
       Mystical Intimacies with the Heavenly Bridegroom       19
       Spiritual Sex while Having Physical Sex       21
       The Self-pleasuring Option       25
       Why Love Jesus Intimately?       27
         To Love Jesus Intimately Is a Personal Choice       31
       All You Need Is Love!       31
       An Invitation: The Spirit and the Bride Say Come! (Revelation 22:17)       33
       Bibliography       35

THE LOVING JESUS REVELATION was published in full in January and February 1996 as a series of articles for the Family's full-time adult membership.[EDITED: "1"] The series embraces what religious scholars term "bridal theology," which places special emphasis on the biblical portrayal of Christ as the Bridegroom, and His Church as His bride.
       When Maria and her husband, Peter, received this revelation, their knowledge and understanding of bridal theology was rudimentary at best. Although Maria's first husband, David Brandt Berg (the Family's founder, 1919-1994), had recognized and touched on the bride/Bridegroom relationship between believers and Jesus, the Loving Jesus revelation broke new ground, showing just how literal and intimate this relationship can be.
       It is worth mentioning that writings of other Christians and theologians on this subject (many of which are quoted throughout the following text) were unknown to Maria and Peter when God gave them the Loving Jesus revelation. Likewise, the author of this paper was wholly unfamilar with such beliefs and experiences as recorded by others. Thus, the corroborating testimonies and teachings discovered when researching this document were a pleasant surprise to all of us.
       To appreciate how revelations of this nature are received, a basic understanding of what the Bible calls the "gifts of the Spirit" is required (1 Corinthians 12:4-10).[EDITED: "2"] [EDITED: "3"]
       Like many other churches and Christian fellowships, Family members believe that God grants the same spiritual gifts to believers today that He gave His people during biblical times. Of the nine gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12, the gift of prophecy is of particular relevance to this article. Although the word prophecy is commonly associated with predictions of the future, the actual biblical meaning is to forthtell or to speak the words of God, which may or may not be about future events. Thus, when someone exercises this gift and receives a prophecy, they are inspired to receive and pass on specific words and messages from the Lord.
       Another aspect of the Family's tenets which the reader should have some knowledge of in order to properly understand the Loving Jesus series, particularly the passages containing amorous language and typology, are those dealing with sexual matters. The Family's official statement regarding sexual policies and beliefs states:

       We believe that sex, when practiced as God ordained, designed and intended, is a pure function, a needful and beautiful wonder of God's creation. We also believe that God designed and created sex not only for human procreation, but for human enjoyment and pleasure as well. ... Despite many people's misperception that sex is virtually synonymous with sin, it is our personal conviction and religious belief that when used as God intended, there is nothing evil or wrong with sex, nudity or the human body (World Services, 1992).

       We are persuaded by both Scripture and recent revelations that:
       1) as members of Christ's Church, we are His bride;
       2) as Jesus' bride, we are to love Him ardently and without reserve; and that
       3) sex is pure and holy.
Therefore, the notion of engaging in a passionate and intimate relationship with our Savior is seen as beautiful and wholesome.
       We will now examine the Loving Jesus series, quoting extensively from it, as well as citing similar beliefs held and proclaimed by numerous men and women of God over the centuries. We will also look at the relationship between sexual orgasm and spiritual ecstasy as reported by numerous psychiatrists, sexologists, sociologists and theologians.[EDITED: "4"]

       The Essence of the Series: "Just a Closer Walk with Thee"
MARIA'S DEEP DESIRE for a greater closeness to Jesus is reflected throughout the Loving Jesus Letters. Her prayer, from the introductory Letter of the series, sets the tone:

              Oh, Jesus, we need You so desperately, each of us! Please help us to draw nigh unto You so that You will draw nigh unto us. We want to be close to You! ... We want You to hold us in Your arms and to give us Your Word-kisses. We need You, Jesus! We love You and we ask You to help us to draw even closer to You! Help us to have a closer walk with You and a more loving relationship. Help us to be ever nearer to You! Amen (ML #3024: par. 112).

       In the second Letter of the series, Maria explains that the Lord wants His Church to not merely be His wife in name only, but to be His lover.

              It should not be surprising that the Lord would call Himself our Lover, as in the Word [EDITED: "Bible"] He calls the Church — us and all those who are joined to Him through salvation — His bride. And, of course, a bride and bridegroom — a husband and wife — should be lovers! (ML #3025: par. 2).
       He wants us to love Him with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength! [EDITED: "5"] — With everything there is within us! If we love Him this way, we won't just think of Him as a friend, but He'll be our lover as well. He wants us to crave Him, His Word, His voice, His love. He wants us to feel a burning desire for Him, a desperate need to be with Him and to communicate with Him (ML #3025: par. 8).

       In the third Letter, Maria makes it clear what the purpose of the series is:

              As He wishes to do with all Christians, the Lord has been trying to bring us into a closer relationship with Him.
       That is what this GN [EDITED: "Good News magazine, the internal Family publication in which the articles appeared"] and the next three GNs are about: How we, His bride, can love the Lord more intimately (ML #3029: par. 1, 5).

       The Bride of Christ
OUTSTANDING CHRISTIANS throughout the ages have written much about the Bible's picture of Jesus as the Bridegroom of the Church, His beloved bride. The authors of Embodied in Love, A New Catholic Guide to Marriage (a work encouraged by the National Council of Catholic Bishops) have rightly asserted that this marital depiction of Christ's connection with His people is the most significant picture of this interrelationship throughout the Bible.

       In our Scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament, the relationship between God and men — between the Lord and Israel, between Christ and His Church — is most often presented in nuptial language, as the relationship of bridegroom to bride. The Scripture uses other images, to be sure — God is our shepherd, our king, our healer. But the nuptial imagery is not on a par with the rest. It is the primary imagery, and it is not purely figurative. Our intimacy with God is truly nuptial.
       Our Scripture, indeed, includes many different metaphors to express God's love for us: He is our shepherd, our king, our Father, vine-keeper, etc. But the marital metaphor is the most frequent one, the central and basic scriptural metaphor (Gallagher et al., 1983: 25-27, 117).

       Religious author Celia Hahn, in her book Sexual Paradox, writes, "[EDITED: "Old Testament"] images of Israel as God's cherished though often faithless wife are echoed in many New Testament references to the church as the bride of Christ" (Hahn, 1991: 189).
       The great love that Jesus, the heavenly Bridegroom, holds for His beloved was a subject of frequent discourse by the famed 19th century English evangelist Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892). In a commentary on the Scripture where God tells His people, "I am married unto you" (Jeremiah 3:14), Spurgeon writes,

       Christ Jesus is joined unto His people in marriage-union. In love He espoused His Church as a chaste virgin. ... On earth He exercises towards her all the affectionate offices of Husband. ... Let the love of a husband be ever so pure and fervent, it is but a faint picture of the flame which burns in the heart of Jesus. Passing all human union is that mystical cleaving unto the Church, for which Christ left His Father, and became one flesh with her (Spurgeon, 1991 edition: 408).

       Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591) recorded numerous ecstatic experiences he had while deep in prayer and meditation. Regarding the joyous state of being joined in spiritual marriage to Jesus, he wrote,

       This spiritual flight ... is called spiritual betrothal with the Word, the Son of God. ... God communicates to the soul great things concerning Himself, beautifying it with greatness and majesty, decking it with gifts and virtues, and clothing it with knowledge and honor of God, just as if it were a bride on the day of her betrothal. And upon this happy day, not only is there an end of the soul's former vehement yearnings and plaints of love, but, being adorned with the good things which I am describing, she enters into an estate of peace and delight and sweetness of love wherein she does naught else but relate and sing the wonders of her Beloved, which she knows and enjoys in Him [EDITED: "Happold, p.333"] (Greeley, 1974: 77-78).

       Sexually Intimate Words of Love to Jesus
       PRIOR TO RECEIVING the Loving Jesus revelation, Maria had been earnestly praying, asking the Lord to show her how she could have a closer connection with Him, and how she could better express her love for Him. She and her husband Peter were surprised by the answer Jesus gave when He answered them in prophecy. The Lord told Maria that He would be pleased if she would express her love for Him in truly intimate terms; the kind of words that lovers use when sharing their deepest emotions and longings with each other. Here are excerpts from this prophecy:

              You must look unto those things that you relate to and that I [EDITED: "Jesus"] have given to you to help you grasp and to understand this love. For just like you love one another, and you say words of endearment and words of desire, and like you cry out words of ecstasy, do so unto Me. Just like you say [EDITED: "to your husband"], "I want you and I need you!" and, "Come in unto me — let us be one! Let us love! Let us lie in each other's arms. Kiss me, caress me, [EDITED: "make love to"] me and love me, fill me to the full!" Like you say, "Hold me!" Like you say, "I love you! I want you! I desire you! Come lie with me! Come fill me!" — So say these words to Me. These are words that you can understand, for they express the desire and the love that is in your heart.
       This love that is in your heart for Me is much greater than words, but the words help you to understand and help you to focus. So use these words with Me, for am I not your Lover? Am I not your Husband? Are you not the bride of Christ? (ML #3029: par. 57-58).

       It seemed clear that the Lord was asking for intimate "love words" because He knew that terms of this nature — erotic terms, if you will — were expressions of love from the heart. After all, most of us reserve such words of passion and desire for moments of intimacy with our "beloved." The Lord added that He chose this illustration of sex and love-making because it would help us grasp the fervor with which He loves us, His bride.

              I could have given any illustration, but I chose one that you could understand, and that would put things in the right perspective so that [EDITED: "you"] could see and understand how I want [EDITED: "you"] to be with Me. ... These things of the flesh are only a mere speck of the love that I have for you! But I give you the touches and the words and the feelings of the flesh and the sensations and the orgasms, the kiss upon kiss, the breast to breast, the being held, so that you will understand how I am with you (ML #3029: par. 59, 62).

       Understandably, hearing from Jesus that He wished for them to communicate with Him in such an amorous manner, asking Him to, in effect, make love to them, was somewhat shocking for Maria and Peter. However, as they accepted it by faith and began using such intimate words in their times of praise, prayer and worship, they found that Jesus truly "drew near to them" (James 4:8) as they drew near to Him in this spiritually eroticized manner. As Maria explained,

       The revelation the Lord has given us ... is definitely radical and bottle-breaking. [EDITED: "6"] It even surprised Peter and me! But as we simply followed what Jesus said, as we tried it by faith, we personally saw the benefits manifested in our lives (ML #3029: par. 7).

       While the concept of using intimate words of a sexual nature in prayer was certainly new to most members of the Family, the historical record shows that numerous saints and Christian mystics of the past communicated with God in such a manner. The authors of Embodied in Love assert:

       The great mystics have always known this fact. They experience something in the higher states of prayer, a passionate, ecstatic intimacy with God that is of a special delight and intensity. All of them, in trying to describe that intimacy, fall back on the language of marital love, of sexual intimacy. They are right to do so, and their language is not just a figure of speech. [EDITED: "What they"] experience in prayer [EDITED: "is"] not just metaphorically but really sexual, really nuptial (Gallagher et al., 1983: 25-27).

       In Sex Is Holy, Rousseau and Gallagher add,

       It is significant that the mystics all use the language of sexual intimacy to express the inexpressible — their experience of God in the higher states of prayer. Passion simply says things that cannot be said in any other way. It enables us to trust the awesome reality of divine Love (Rousseau and Gallagher, 1991: 132-133).

       Maria reasoned that if we can accept that we are Jesus' bride, then why should it seem so odd to speak to Him in passionate or "nuptial" terms.
       If we believe we are truly Jesus' brides, as God's Word says we are, then why can't we say the things that brides say [EDITED: "to their husbands"]? It's no more unusual to say the words of the bride than it is to be the bride! (ML #3029: par. 69).

Eroticism in the Bible
One does not have to dig into manuscripts of Renaissance-era saints to find a precedent for spiritual eroticism, or if you prefer, erotic spirituality. The classic expression of such sentiments is found in the Bible itself, in the Song of Solomon, also known as the Song of Songs, which is a love poem ascribed to ancient Israel's King Solomon. The Song consists largely of an emotionally-charged dialogue between a love-sick maiden and her lover, for whom she yearns.
       A passage or two from the book illustrates the overall eroticism that pervades it:

       I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me. Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages [EDITED: "or henna bushes"]. Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded, if their blossoms have opened, and if the pomegranates are in bloom — there I will give you my love (Song of Solomon 7:10-12; New International Version).

       The previous verses of the same chapter are equally suggestive:

       How beautiful you are and how pleasing, O love, with your delights! Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, "I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit." May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine (Song of Solomon 7:6-9; New International Version).

       Theologians, particularly those who believe that sexuality is something to be repressed, have long struggled with the question, why is such an obviously sensual book included in holy writ? After all, such unabashed and passionate expressions are not the sort of thing that most religionists publicly express, much less include in their sermons and religious writings — yet here's a whole book of it, right in the Holy Bible!
       Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was correct when he wrote from his cell in a Nazi concentration camp,

       Even the Bible could find room for the Song of Songs, and one could hardly have a more passionate and sensual love than is there portrayed. It is a good thing that that book is included in the Bible as a protest against those who believe that Christianity stands for the restraint of passion [EDITED: "as quoted by Phipps, 66, in Bonhoeffer, Letter and Papers from Prison, p. 100"] (Mollenkott, 1992: 103).

       Celia Hahn similarly commented,

       The Song of Songs is a primary biblical text that not only affirms the goodness of human sexuality but also sings of the connection between eros and spirit. The great paradox in this poetry about human passion is that though it never mentions God, it has been seen through the centuries as a song about God's love affair with us. ... The "holy playfulness of lovers" (Original Blessing, Fox, 283) makes a transcendent leap to the mystery of the divine Lover — in a way that defeats all human efforts to analyze, allegorize, conceptualize, moralize, spiritualize, or otherwise seize and destroy it (Hahn, 1991: 191-192).

              The Wycliffe Bible Commentary explains that the Song has always been viewed by Jewish and Christian scholars as a metaphorical picture of "God's love affair" with His people:

       The Jews regarded the Song as expressing the love relationship between God and His chosen people. The Christian Church saw in it reflected love between Christ and the Church. ... The typical view holds that in the Song there is portrayed the great love between Christ and the Church (Harrison and Pfeiffer, 1962).

       Bible expositor Matthew Henry, in his famous Commentary, observes,

       Christ is pleased to borrow these expressions of a passionate lover only to express the tenderness of a compassionate Redeemer, and the delight He takes in His redeemed and in the workings of His own grace in them.

       If Jesus Himself will "borrow the words of a passionate lover" in order to express His love and longing for our intimate fellowship, then why should we not use passionate words to convey our spiritual longings and desires for Him? In Spurgeon's comments on the Song's maiden and her plaintive longing for her lover, "I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick with love" (Song of Solomon 5:8), he writes,

              Such is the language of the believer panting after present fellowship with Jesus, he is sick for his Lord. Gracious souls are never perfectly at ease except they are in a state of nearness to Christ; for when they are away from Him, they lose their peace. The nearer to Him, the nearer to the perfect calm of Heaven; the nearer to Him, the fuller the heart is, not only of peace, but of life, and vigor, and joy, for these all depend on constant intercourse with Jesus (Spurgeon, 1991: 470).

       As Maria and Peter began to implement this Loving Jesus revelation, relating to Jesus as their personal lover, they found that it brought them so many blessings and spiritual benefits that they were persuaded they should share the news of this newfound intimacy with the rest of the Family. Maria wrote,

       I know that this revelation is of the Lord. ... I have seen it bear wonderful fruit in my life and in Peter's life. ... I'm convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord has given us a very special gift in this revelation, by showing us how we can love Him more intimately, and I pray that you will accept it as part of His love for you (ML #3029: par. 11).

Intimacy in Loving Jesus Is a Personal Matter
Although she was convinced that this means of intimately communing with the Lord was a wonderful gift from God's own hand, Maria made it clear that applying this method to one's personal prayer life was an individual and private matter. She acknowledged that the concept could be difficult for some people to be comfortable with, and that no one should feel pressured to accept it.

              A gift is not forced on the recipient. Our personal relationship with the Lord, our communion with Him, our means of communicating our love to Him and receiving His love is a personal matter between Him and us, and we have to make any choices involved. So if you have a hard time receiving what the Lord has given in this revelation, please be assured that you are not going to lose your place in the Family, you're not going to be looked down upon.
       The Lord has given me the privilege of passing this [EDITED: "revelation"] on to you, and I pray that you will receive it, because it will help you greatly. But the choice is yours. You may not totally grasp this revelation right away. It may take some time for it to "settle" and for you to get used to it and to understand it ... so don't get discouraged if upon first reading this series you feel rather puzzled or disoriented. ... You can grow into this at your own pace. It's a personal matter between you and the Lord. ... And when you feel ready to step out by faith to try this new way of loving the Lord, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised that it's easier than you expected (ML #3029: par. 12-13).

       This principle of free choice and freedom of worship holds true for all believers. Each of us, as individuals whom God loves and for whom Jesus died, is free to love and worship Him according to our own personal faith and conviction. We know that "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Anyone who honors Him with faith and draws close to Him through prayer will find Him. This is God's promise to all believers.
       The degree of intimacy individuals employ in prayer is a very personal matter, between the individual and the Lord, and something for which neither we nor the Lord would criticize or belittle anyone. Similarly, it is our hope that others will refrain from criticizing Family members for whatever intimate expressions of love each may opt to use in private worship and prayer. We know that whatever love each individual chooses to give to Jesus, He will love him or her for it, and more than repay. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

Eroticism with Jesus Is an "Adults Only" Affair
Due to the sexually explicit nature of parts of the Loving Jesus revelation, Maria stressed throughout the series that using intimate or erotic words of love when speaking to the Lord was a private matter. She also reiterated that it would be highly inappropriate to employ sexually explicit terms in public prayers, particularly in the presence of children.

              Loving Jesus in this intimate way is a private matter. To wisely judge when to say love words to the Lord, you'd have to consider the occasion, the subject of your prayer, those that are praying with you, etc. Different situations call for different words. Just as you and your mate or lover wouldn't say sexy and intimate things in public, or in front of your children, or when you're in the middle of discussing business, etc., neither would you say sexy love words to Jesus in public prayer or in front of your children (ML #3031: par. 58).

              Another reason for not being sexually explicit with the Lord in public meetings and united times of fellowship is because we don't want our children to say these things to the Lord. This is only a matter for those who are of age, not for children (ML #3030: par. 60).

              It's very important that you use great wisdom so as to not stumble the children or expose them to the sexual side of this doctrine, which is only for those who are of age! We do not want our children saying sexually graphic love words to Jesus! (ML #3033: par. 66).

"There Is Neither Male nor Female in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
KNOWING THE SCRIPTURE'S strong denunciation of male homosexuality, a dilemma arises for half the Family's population when the possibility of individually being Christ's intimate bride is considered. Most Christians, conservative or otherwise, have no problem accepting that the whole Church, collectively, is the "bride of Christ." But the concept of personally being Jesus' amorous bride sounds so feminine that it's understandable that one would wonder if perhaps a doctrine such as that embodied in the Loving Jesus revelation is exclusively for women. If not, how can the notion of having spiritual sex with Jesus be countenanced by men, when biblical teaching clearly states that male-with-male sex is aberrant.
       This quandary was addressed at some length within the Loving Jesus series. In brief, Maria assured the men in the Family that despite this revelation about having greater intimacy with Jesus, God would of course continue to look upon them as the men that they are. But in this one aspect of their spiritual relationship with Him, in their personal prayer life, He was asking them to individually play the role of His bride, of a woman in spirit. Maria explained it this way:

              [EDITED: "The Lord"] is telling you men that in your love relationship with Him, you can be a woman in spirit. ... He says clearly [EDITED: "in a prophecy within the series"], "You know that you are not women, but you play a role for Me." ... Of course there's no doubt that you men are very conscious of the fact that you're men, and according to this prophecy, the Lord looks at you as men in the spirit as well.
       But He says that is not enough. Now He is asking you to play the role of being a weak, meek woman, His bride. In this one facet of your spiritual life, your intimate love relationship with Him, He wants you to be as a bride is with her husband, as a lover with her loved one. But in the other facets of your spiritual life, He will continue to see you as men, as He says, as strong soldiers for Him.
       Being a woman in spirit is only in reference to our spiritual lovemaking with Jesus, and of course, that's what is emphasized in these Letters because that's what this "Loving Jesus" revelation is all about! — Making love with Jesus and being His bride!
       In His spiritual relationship with us, His love relationship with us, the Lord doesn't look on these physical bodies, He doesn't discriminate against males or females, favoring one or disregarding the other, but He accepts us all as His bride, His beloved, His chosen woman in whom He delights and longs to love! He looks on our eternal spirits, and loves us all the same, as His bride for whom He bled and died, and now loves and thrills to and wishes to bless beyond measure (ML #3029: par. 110-112, 123).

       When the question was asked, "How can men have this intimate, sexy relationship with Jesus and it not appear to be a male-with-male homosexual relationship?" Maria further explained,

              You men become female in spirit during your times of intimate lovemaking with Jesus. In your lovemaking with Jesus, you are not a man. You are making love to Him as His bride, His spiritual wife. This has nothing to do with a male-to-male relationship. This is not a homosexual relationship. It is a spiritual female — you — making love to a [EDITED: "spiritual"] male, Jesus. He is the Man, the Bridegroom, and you are the woman, His bride, His wife.
       This has nothing to do with homosexuality. There is no male-with-male relationship. You must remember, and you must get firmly fixed in your mind and constantly remind yourself, that your intimate, loving relationship with Jesus is not a male-with-male relationship. There is only a woman (you) with her Husband (Jesus)! — Nothing else! (ML #3033: par. 39, 41).

       Admittedly, it is humbling for the average adult male to picture himself as a woman, a bride, who is seeking only to please her heavenly Husband. But we know from God's Word that humbleness of mind, meekness of spirit and weakness in the areas of self-confidence and self-image are attributes that the Lord desires in His people, "for God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5).
       In prophecy, the Lord said to the men in the Family,

              For I know you are men, stout-hearted men ... but with all this strength and all this power and all this valiantness, you have need of more. You have need of great humility, great meekness and great weakness. So I ask you to ... play the role that I have asked you to play, of the meek and the weak, of the woman, of the bride, of My darling. This humbles you, but it also empowers you. For it is this that will make you strong for the days ahead (ML #3029: par. 95).

       The great Apostle Paul frequently extolled the virtues of gentleness and meekness (which are generally attributed to women), as the following Scripture passage attests:
       We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the Gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, New King James Version).

       Paul also elaborated on the "strength of weakness" for believers when he wrote,
       And He [EDITED: "Jesus"] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in [EDITED: "your"] weakness." Therefore most gladly I [EDITED: "Paul"] will rather boast in my infirmities [EDITED: "weaknesses"], that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, New King James Version).

       The well-known pastor and writer Richard Wurmbrand (author of Tortured for Christ [EDITED: "1967"], who was imprisoned by the former communist regime of Romania for 14 years), expressed the need for Christians — men and women — to adopt "bridal" qualities in their relationship with the Lord. In a book comprised of various insights and revelations he received while in prison, he wrote,

       Male and female Christians both, all who believe, are brides of Christ. ... The direction for all of us must be toward acquiring more female characteristics: gentleness, quietness, submission, passive acceptance of everything the Bridegroom decides.
       A male, at conversion, becomes a bride of Christ, not a bridegroom (Wurmbrand, 1982: 22-23).

       Christian author and evangelist Lambert Dolphin adds,

       "A woman" in Scripture is a picture (type) of the ordinary believer. For example, this figure is used in Romans 7:1-4. [EDITED: "7"] This short illustration from the Apostle Paul shows how "a woman" can be used in a typical sense in the Scripture to represent the ordinary, average believer. ... C.S. Lewis has said that God is so masculine that we are all feminine in relationship to Him (Dolphin, 1995).

       Spurgeon likewise expressed no difficulty in recognizing that all believers, male and female, were individually "brides" of the heavenly Bridegroom:

       We are but poor lovers of our sweet Lord Jesus, not fit to be His servants, much less to be His brides, and yet He hath exalted us to be bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, married to Him by a glorious marriage-covenant. Herein is love! (Spurgeon, 1991: 283).

       Many of the writings of Saint John of the Cross deal exclusively with "bridal theology," that is, the soul's marriage relationship with Christ. The following stanza from one of his poems makes it evident that he recognized that each believer, regardless of his or her gender, is individually a bride of their Redeemer:

       There He gave me His breast;
       There He taught me a sweet and living knowledge;
       And I gave myself to Him,
       Keeping nothing back;
       There I promised to be His bride (Kavanaugh, 1987: 225).

       "Knowing" Jesus Intimately
ONE OF THE MORE SHOCKING aspects of the Loving Jesus revelation is the message that Jesus longs for spiritual intimacy and lovemaking with His bride in the same way that a normal man desires sex with his wife or lover. The Bible tells us that God "created all things, and for [EDITED: "His"] pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11). Nevertheless, to perceive the almighty Creator as "needy" in this manner seemed paradoxical. In prophecy the Lord told Maria and Peter:

              I love to be loved and I love to love. I love to receive love. I love to give love. So few understand My need to be loved, My desire to be loved. So few understand My desire to be wanted, My desire to be called for and told that I am wanted, that I am needed, that I am desired, that I am lovely. In this I find great pleasure and great happiness, and for this purpose created I My children to love Me.
       For I wish to be loved in a new way ... This is a step of faith for you, and a leap of faith for many! ... So come unto Me and be My bride! For I long to be loved as a lonely man who does not seem to be lonely because He has so many friends and so much family, yet He lacks a sweetheart and darling.
       Please come, come to Me and be My darling! Come to Me and be My sweetheart! Come to Me and be My wife, My bride! Come, come, please come and lie in the bed of love with Me. For there you will find great love and great treasure, and there you will find great reward (ML #3029: par. 34, 36-37).

       When reviewing these prophecies, Maria noted,

              You may have wondered why God even needs your love, as He has so much love! Why would the great God of the universe actually need your love in a very personal way? He's God, He's not a human being. But you see, this is where we haven't seen His heart! We haven't realized how much the physical illustration of the man and woman loving each other applies to Him and His relationship to us. That's one of the reasons He made human love, human desire, a human need for love: so we would understand His desire and His need for us! (ML #3029: par. 44).

       Later in the series, Maria adds,

       [EDITED: "Jesus"] is our Lover and our Husband, and we're His bride, so of course it makes sense that we should say such loving things to Him! Peter and I began to understand that the way Jesus loves us as a Lover, a Bridegroom and a Husband, is not just symbolic, but that He actually feels those things that a lover and a bridegroom and a husband feels toward his bride. He needs the satisfaction of feeling His bride's arms around Him and He needs to feel her kisses and He needs to hear her tell Him she loves Him and wants Him (ML #3029: par. 194).

       This corresponds with the passage quoted earlier about the famous Christian mystics:

       "All of them, in trying to describe that intimacy [EDITED: "with God"], fall back on the language of marital love, of sexual intimacy. They are right to do so, and their language is not just a figure of speech. [EDITED: "What they"] experience in prayer [EDITED: "is"] not just metaphorically but really sexual, really nuptial" (Gallagher et al., 1983: 25-27).

       Further insight to Jesus' longing for intimacy with His beloved is found in a later book by Rousseau and Gallagher:

       Jesus is the Bridegroom of the Church. ... [EDITED: "He"] is drawn by an irresistible desire to make us His intimates. His love for us is not a stiff-upper-lipped endurance, but a heartfelt longing to become one flesh with us, to make us members of His own body. Ask any bridegroom how close he would like to be with his bride. That desire is a reflection — a pale reflection, but a real one — of Jesus' love for us (Rousseau and Gallagher, 1991: 13).

       The Belgian mystic John Ruusbroec, in his Spiritual Espousals and Other Works, sheds more light on the "give-and-take" nature of God's love for us. Pastor and professor Jeffrey Imbach, in his commentary on Ruusbroec's work, writes,

       Ruusbroec admirably illustrates the reality of passion in love when he describes God's love for us. He is not afraid to say that God is passionate about us, both in the desire to give and in the craving to receive. It is a long passage but well worth quoting.
       The practice of love is free and is not ashamed of itself. Its nature is both craving and generous, for it constantly wishes both to demand and to offer, to give and to take. On the one hand, God's love is full of craving, for it demands of the soul all that it is and all that it can do. ... On the other hand, God's love is also fathomlessly generous. It reveals and offers to the soul all that it is, and it wishes to give all of this freely to the soul. For its part, the loving soul is now especially gluttonous and full of craving, opening itself in the desire to possess everything which is revealed to it. But since it is a creature, it cannot devour or grasp the immensity of God [EDITED: "John Ruusbroec, The Spiritual Espousals and Other Works (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), p. 245"] (Imbach, 1992: 79-80).

       While such a passionate and "human" perception of God may seem quite foreign to many (particularly those who have adopted a rather stern, sterile or cerebral outlook on things divine), an increasing number of writers have realized that if "God is love" (1 John 4:8) as the Scriptures attest, then why would He not also be a lover?

       Our images of God need rethinking and expansion. Sallie McFague reminds us that while Christian tradition has insisted that God is love, it has largely recoiled from speaking of God as lover, fearing that "the slightest suggestion of passion in God's love is thought to contaminate it" [EDITED: "Sallie McFague, Models of God (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), p. 126"]. If the lover relationship is the most intimate of all human relationships, the most powerful and life-giving, might it not be a central metaphor speaking of some aspects of the God-world relationship? ... When the "lover" metaphor is used, we might once more reclaim a theology that embraces divine and human pleasure (Nelson, 1992: 24).

       On this concept of God as lover, theologian Dody Donnelly puts it succinctly: "God makes love, as all the mystics can testify" (Donnelly, 1984: 76).
       Contemporary Christian writer Joni Eareckson Tada, in her recent best-selling book, Heaven, Your Real Home, describes the joys of spiritual intimacies with the heavenly Bridegroom:

       This intimate spiritual union is a two-way street. ... Earth is one big premarital session for Heaven, and although Jesus wants us to love Him passionately and single-heartedly, He more than matches it with love, pure and fervent.
       It is "Heaven" to know Jesus this way. And I mean that literally. ... Eternal life is knowledge of God [EDITED: "John 17:3"]. When we deepen our relationship with Jesus, we get a head start on our eternal life here on Earth. Heaven is already happening to us.
       The Apostle Paul knew Jesus and knew Jesus. ... There's the bride/bridegroom thing. It's a different kind of knowledge. Paul touches on this deeper knowledge when he yearns, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection" (Philippians 3:10).
       I love those words "to know." Scholars explain that in this passage "to know" implies learning about someone through a deep, personal experience. It's the same sort of intimacy alluded to in the book of Genesis where it says that Adam "knew" his wife, Eve.[EDITED: "8"] Theirs was a deep, personal experience. A level of relationship beyond head knowledge. It is also a physical illustration of the level of spiritual intimacy that God desires with us, something even more deep and personal (Tada, 1995: 145).

       Celia Hahn sheds more light on the biblical usage of the term "to know":

       Sexuality and spirituality are intertwined more subtly in the Bible. The verb to know as a term for sexual intercourse suggests a connection between human knowledge-through-love and God's intimate knowledge of beloved creatures (Hahn, 1991: 189).

       Mystical Intimacies with the Heavenly Bridegroom
TO COME BEFORE the King of kings as His yielded bride, to offer one's all to Him, verbalizing a desire for His kisses, caresses and spiritual lovemaking is not a new phenomenon. Many of the Christian mystics of the past articulated an ardor and passion in their relationship with Jesus that is overtly erotic. Professor Jeffrey D. Imbach concluded that the experiences and expressions recorded by the great mystics were a testimony of fervent love, meant to inspire all of us to seek to "know the love of Christ" (Ephesians 3:19):

       My exploration of the mystical tradition within Christianity has convinced me that the great burden of the mystical writers centers on the mystery of love. They are mystical writers because they have pursued the mystery of love, not because they are esoteric. Mysticism is simply the desire to experience union with all things and with God. ...
       They came to accept that this longing for intimacy ... is a doorway to our destiny of union with our loving Creator. These themes are central to the whole Christian mystical tradition (Imbach, 1992: 24).

       While we do not endorse everything these Christian mystics of the past said and did, their fervor for God is nevertheless impressive. Author Ralph Harper found that the record of the mystic Saint Maria Maddalena dé Pazzi's (1566-1607) relationship with her Savior evoked an array of responses:

       Desire is too weak a word to describe the love for God of some mystics. To read of the Italian mystic Maria Maddalena dé Pazzi's "Loving Madness," is to be shocked, shaken, perhaps convinced:
       She was filled with perpetual fervor. She thought incessantly of God, she spoke incessantly of God, and she wrought for God incessantly. Often it seems as though she had lost her senses and was entirely within God. At times her inner fire was so great that she could not contain it within her breast: it flamed in her face and poured into her actions and words. ... And she said to the sisters that followed her: "You do not know, beloved sisters, that my Jesus is nothing but love, yes, mad with love. You are mad with love, my Jesus!" [EDITED: "H.A. Reinhold, 1944: 286-87"] (as cited in Harper, 1966: 8).

       The following vision by Maria Maddalena dé Pazzi, of Christ's intimate and complete union with His beloved, leaves little to the imagination:

       I saw Jesus united with His bride in the closest union, laid His head upon the head of his bride, His eyes on hers, His mouth, His hands, His feet, all His limbs on hers, so that the bride became one with Him and wanted all that the Bridegroom wanted, saw everything that the Bridegroom saw, tasted everything that the Bridegroom tasted.
       And God wants nothing else than that the soul should unite herself to Him in this manner and that He should be entirely united with her. And when the soul leans her head against Jesus' head, she can want nothing save to unite with God, and that God should unite with her (Buber, 1985: 110).
       The 13th century saint, Mechthilde von Magdeburg, similarly described the passion between the Lord and His bride who has yielded her all to Him:
       The more His desire grows, the more tightly He holds her, and the greater is the happiness of the bride. The more fervent the embrace, the sweeter the taste of the kisses. The more lovingly they gaze at each other, the harder it is for them to part. The more He gives her, the more she consumes, however much she has [EDITED: "Mechthilde von Magdeburg (1217-1277), Of the Soul's Presentation at Court, in which God Shows Himself"] (Buber, 1985: 53).

       Georg Feuerstein, whose research and writings have earned him awards from the British Academy, comments further on Mechthilde of Magdeburg's spiritual eroticism in his book Sexuality as Sacrament:

       Mechthilde of Magdeburg, a thirteenth-century German nun, alarmed her superiors by expressing her erotic feelings for Jesus in her diaries. She invited others to rendezvous with Jesus on the "couch of love," where He would cool their passion. She was not alone in her passionate sentiments, but the Church was hardly ready for such an erotic spirituality. Yet this bridal mysticism foreshadowed the rebellion against Church dogma during the Renaissance and the Reformation (Feuerstein and Litt, 1989: 91).

       Ralph Harper does not conceal his wonderment at Mechthilde's poem, "The Power of Longing":

       When we read poems like the following, it is, in all fairness, hard to doubt that there have been sublimated loves for God that were pure and happy; it is stupid not to acknowledge them with awe. St. Mechthilde of Magdeburg's "The Power of Longing" is not a single burst of love from a lonely woman, but a peak in the life of a woman renowned as the soundest German mystic nun of the Middle Ages.
       Ah, Lord, if only once
       It happened on a day
       That to my heart's desire
       I look on You, and lay
       My arms around You lovingly,
       The rapture of Your hold of love
       Would flood my soul with ecstasy ...
       I yearn for You so greatly, Lord.
       And wait for You so faithfully.
       If You will suffer me, O Lord,
       I shall pursue and seek You long, in agony.
       For well I know: You, Lord, must be
       The first to feel a want of me [EDITED: "Reinhold, 1944: 284"] (Harper, 1966: 6-7).

       The spiritual power of utter yieldedness to the power of Jesus' love is similarly conveyed in the following words of Therese Martin, a Carmelite nun who died in 1898 and who was canonized in 1925 "on account of her transcendent devotion to her spiritual Spouse":

       Ah, how sweet is the first kiss of Jesus! Indeed it is a kiss of love. I felt myself beloved by Him, and I said to Him, "I love You, I give myself to You forever." Jesus and I have understood one another for a long time. Our coming together was a fusion of our being. ... My Heaven is no other than that of Love. I have felt that nothing could detach my ardor from the divine being who has ravished me [EDITED: "Calverton, V.F., and Schmalhausen, S.D. (eds.), Sex in Civilization. Allen and Unwin, 1929 (Macaulay, 1929)"] (Taylor, 1970: 298).

       Spiritual Sex while Having Physical Sex
A RATHER UNIQUE message within the Family's Loving Jesus revelation was that believers could engage in spiritual lovemaking with the heavenly Bridegroom while physically making love with an earthly partner. Once again in prophecy, the Lord told Maria and Peter,

       Be not ashamed to even love Me together in this way, because when you are loving one another, you are loving Me. So do not be afraid to say, "I want You, Jesus! Come into me, Jesus! Make me go, Jesus!" For in loving Me in this way, you are proving to one another your love for Me, and we are then altogether one.
       So please whisper to Me these terms of endearment, these words of excitement, that I may love you and fill you, and that I may hold you so close in My arms that we will be one (ML #3029: par. 65-66).

       In her commentary on this concept of spiritual/physical lovemaking, Maria explained:

              He's also showing us how we can love Him even when we're loving each other! When we're loving our mates or our sharing partners [EDITED: "those we sexually share ourselves with"], we can include Him in our lovemaking; and when we tell them sweet things, we can say them to Him also (ML #3029: par. 76).

       After hearing the things the Lord has said about loving Him and saying love words to Him, Peter and I have had frequent lovemaking sessions with each other and the Lord, and they've been just wonderful! We include Jesus in on everything else — why shouldn't we include Him in our lovemaking? Now He's helping us to see that it's a beautiful experience to include Him in our lovemaking as well. It makes it very special to know that we're not only making each other happy, but we're making Him happy too — which is our greatest desire! When we're kissing and caressing, we talk to Jesus, as well as each other, and tell Him that we love Him and that we love His caresses, that we want Him, that we want Him to [EDITED: "make love to"] us. It's very precious and makes us both feel so much closer to Him (ML #3029: par. 192).

       We realize that the concept of engaging in spiritual intercourse with God while simultaneously engaging in the act of physical sex may be unsettling or offensive for some people. A few could even go so far as to suggest that any mixing of sex with religious worship must surely be of the Devil.
       The main point of this revelation is to enhance the believer's personal relationship with Jesus, our Lord and Savior. It is Jesus whom we in the Family have devoted our entire lives to. And in our service to Jesus, we are diametrically opposed to our arch-foe, Satan, and his demons, against whom we are committed to wage a relentless spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:12). We therefore reject entirely any inference that there is something sinister or "demonic" about this Loving Jesus revelation because of its erotic imagery. In our opinion, such an accusation is probably indicative of an unwholesome attitude and unscriptural prejudice against one of God's most wonderful and beautiful creations — sex.
       As was mentioned at the beginning of this paper, an understanding of our general beliefs concerning sex is necessary in order to grasp how the Loving Jesus series is perceived by the Family. In short, consensual, age-appropriate sex is viewed as a perfectly pure function, a needful and beautiful wonder of God's creation, designed not only for procreation, but lovingly given to us by God for our enjoyment and pleasure as well. Therefore, we see nothing blasphemous or sinful about including the Creator of sex as a joyful participant during our times of sexual loving and enjoyment with our mates or lovers.
       In her book Radical Love, theologian Dody H. Donnelly addresses the hesitation some people have about mixing sex with religion:

       Why do some people want to keep the Spirit (God) in the parlor while making love in the bedroom? The best sources seem to suggest that God likes bedrooms, too. In fact — can we possibly emphasize it enough? — God invented the bedroom's activity! So making love can celebrate God's creativity in our own design as human lovers (Donnelly, 1984: 34).

       Commenting on Donnelly's book, Georg Feuerstein adds:

       A good portion of Donnelly's book is dedicated to spelling out just what erotic spirituality means. Here is another passage climaxing in a mystical exuberance that is rare among theologians:
       God not only loves us in and through our sexuality but, of course, delights in our own human lovemaking. That love of beauty, union, and creativity is the sexual drive itself and God's gift. Sexuality is an aspect of our deeply human yearning for fulfillment and meaning, for God. In its total pervasion of our lives, eros is the source of life and fuels all our loves — including our love for God!
       Through our unique personalities we're called to shine back to God the joyful experience of loving and being loved sexually and spiritually (Feuerstein, 1992: 182-183).

       The Catholic authors of Embodied in Love reject the "sex is sinful" myth, arguing that contrary to being an "evil" that keeps us from God, loving sex is a spiritual act that draws us into intimacy with the Trinity:

       We must reject at the outset, if we are to formulate a true spirituality of marriage, any erroneous dualism from Gnosticism or Jansenism that might consider matter, and above all, sex, as evil. God so loved this world and its materiality (Gen.1:18) that his Son became totally enfleshed in matter. God creates men and women as whole persons. ... Human bodies, and physical actions, do not merely express love, for an expression of something is separate from what it expresses. People and their physical acts enact love, act it out.
       Our actions — including sexual intercourse — don't just express, resemble, or symbolize our love. Our bodily actions are not just bodily; they incarnate our minds. Sexual intercourse is love — not just a symbol or expression of it. It is a physical and a psychological entrance into each other. In their ecstasy (literally "standing outside of themselves"), the two persons shatter their boundary limits on body, soul and spirit levels and "pass over" into an incarnate intimacy.
       In no other human action do persons so dramatically give themselves to each other. ... Such ecstatic love resembles the inner life of God, in which three Persons give themselves over to each other in an intimacy that is infinitely perfect. And the symbol is not just a symbol; it is an effective cause, so that intercourse, when it is an enactment of charity, of a loving way of life, not only resembles the divine intimacy, but effectively causes us to be drawn into it. We become God's intimates, too, by the sacramental power of our own intimacy (Gallagher et al., 1983: 11-12, 34).

       In another book, Gallagher and Rousseau elaborate further on the spiritual power of sex:

       Sex is a sacramental power, not just a human action. It is the power to cause God's own life in us, to draw us into the love play of the Trinity. And orgasm, as the high point of sexual love, is also one of love's most powerful divine moments.
       Life is intimacy, love, communion, belonging to each other. Life is not just physical existence. But it also is not just human intimacy, wondrous though that is. Our intimacy brings us close to God, to life in Him, to His life in us. And so, sex is indeed cause for celebration. Sex is celebration (Rousseau and Gallagher, 1991: 44).

       Sexual activity, and orgasm in particular, has long been recognized by scholars as a powerful "trigger" to spiritual ecstasy. Whether one's ecstatic moments draws them closer to God and Jesus and the Trinity no doubt has a great deal to do with their religious beliefs and personal standing with God. But it stands to reason that if a believer is seeking to love and be closer to Jesus during his or her lovemaking with another, that the sex act itself can serve as a conduit or bridge to the spiritual intimacy he or she is seeking.
       Virginia Mollenkott, in her book Sensuous Spirituality, underscores the mystical nature of physical orgasm:

       [EDITED: "In"] the book Love and Will, the best-selling masterpiece by psychologist Rollo May, he argues that at the moment of climax in sexual intercourse, lovers are "carried beyond their personal isolation" so that they "experience themselves as uniting with nature itself." He comments that in all but the most depersonalized sex, "There is an accelerating experience of touch, contact, union to the point where, for a moment, the awareness of separateness is lost, blotted out in a feeling of oneness with nature." He denies that this mystical transcendence is achieved only by ideal lovers, maintaining that "it is an inseparable part of actual experience in the love act" (p. 316). The tremendous acclaim accorded to Love and Will by leading physicians, psychologists, and theologians, indicates how badly we need this sort of reintegrated understanding of sexuality and spirituality (Mollenkott, 1992: 104).

       David Biale, whose studies focus on sexuality as it pertains to Jewish history, in Eros and the Jews adds that some church leaders are recognizing the "spirituality" of sex and orgasm:

       Some contemporary Christian preachers argue that in a good Christian marriage, intercourse becomes a spiritual act that should begin and end with prayer. In the words of one such preacher, a modern Christian must ... "put Jesus Christ right in the center of your sex life." A good Christian marriage is inconceivable without sexual harmony. Orgasm is a form of religious ecstasy to be cultivated, in the words of Marabel Morgan, the author of the Total Woman, "as clean and pure as eating cottage cheese" (Biale, 1992: 211).

       Feuerstein is definite in his assertion that sex is linked to spiritual/mystical interludes for a great many people:

       My investigations — conducted by questionnaire, interview, and a careful study of various cultures — have convinced me that sex can be an important gateway to mystical experiences or encounters with the sacred. Sex has long been considered in this positive way by many religious traditions, even those, like Christianity, that are known for their puritanism (Feuerstein, 1992: 29).

       In an earlier essay, "Sexuality as Sacrament," Feuerstein and co-author M. Litt proclaim the need to recognize sex as the positive spiritual force that it can and should be:

       This is what we have to discover: that sex is more than orgasm produced by genital friction. It is a possible sacrament, a way of experiencing, and living, the erotic Mystery that embraces all of us (Feuerstein [EDITED: "ed."], 1989: 100).

       David Biale notes that Jewish mystics of the past similarly viewed sex as a spiritual force that drew the participants into God's favor and presence:

       According to many modern commentators, the Jewish mystics ... celebrated human sexuality as a requirement for divine harmony, itself portrayed in sexual terms. As opposed to many medieval Christian writers who believed that the Holy Spirit could not be present while human beings were engaged in carnal intercourse, the [EDITED: "mystics"] — and medieval Judaism in general — held the very opposite: intercourse between man and wife brings the Shekhinah, the divine presence, into the conjugal bed (Biale, 1992: 101-102).

The Self-Pleasuring Option
The Loving Jesus revelation offered another means by which a participant can spiritually make love to Jesus while experiencing the ecstasy of physical sex — masturbation. In prophecy the Lord said,
       In the quietness of your chamber when you are alone, you can tell Me you love Me and you can show Me you love Me. For this is a very intimate and special way of loving Me. I do not require this and I do not demand it, for I will even be happy with the words and with your caresses, and with the symbolism of your love unto Me. But if you want a special time with Me, and if you want to feel My loving, you can touch yourself and you can make yourself go, and it will be Me loving you. This is intimate and this is between you and Me alone, as we kiss and caress in our bed of love together (ML #3030: par. 29).
       Maria offered the following commentary on this prophecy:

              The Lord speaks about how you can love Him when you are alone with Him. He says that you can "tell Me you love Me," and in addition, He says "you can show Me you love Me, for this is a very intimate and special way of loving Me." Then He says, "If you want to feel My loving, you can touch yourself and you can make yourself go, and it will be Me loving you." The Lord is talking here about masturbation. He's saying that if you are alone in private and you are telling the Lord of your love for Him and your desire for Him, you can masturbate at the same time, if you wish. He says this is not required, He doesn't demand this, He's happy with your words, yet He says if you want a special time with Him you can do this and you will feel His love (ML #3030: par. 61).

       Maria further explains that masturbation can help one intimately love Jesus, because the desire and passion experienced during the buildup to orgasm make it easier to understand and experience His feelings of love. She brings out how these intense pre-orgasmic feelings parallel the longing for spiritual sex that Jesus wants His bride to feel for Him.

              One of the main reasons He has given us this option of involving masturbation when making love to Him is because when you are masturbating and you near the time of orgasm, the desire you feel at that moment is a picture of how the Lord wants you to desire Him in the Spirit. ... At that point your greatest desire is to reach the marvelous release of the orgasm that you want so desperately, right? Well, that's how the Lord wants us to want Him in the Spirit.
       The Lord said in prophecy, "As you experience that passion and that desire before the moment of orgasm, this is an illustration of how I want you to desire Me, to long to become one with Me."
       He said, "If you can do this, it makes it easier for you to feel and experience My Love, it makes it easier for you to express these words of love, it makes it easier for you to understand how much I want to love you, and how I want you to love Me, because you have there an illustration in the flesh, in the physical, something you can see and something you can feel" (ML #3033: par. 98-99, 101).

       Although the Loving Jesus revelation offers the option of engaging in physical sex, either with a partner or through self-pleasuring, it is emphasized throughout the series that to spiritually make love to Jesus, all that is necessary is saying the "love-words" to Him. The act of physical sex is not necessary. Maria writes,

              The Lord says that He doesn't require any more than the words. Unless the Lord speaks to your heart personally and lays on your heart the burden to do it, you don't have to feel that you must masturbate. All of this is a very private matter, something between you and the Lord. If you want to love Jesus while masturbating or while having sex with your mate or sharing partner, that's up to you (ML #3030: par. 64).

              If you want to have this special intimacy [EDITED: "with Jesus"], if you want to receive these particular blessings, then it is necessary for you to say these love words to Him. Even if you can't say them very wholeheartedly or enthusiastically, even if they feel very awkward and you don't think you really mean them, at least saying them is a start, and as you keep saying them, you'll begin to mean them more and more! He is not saying that it's necessary for you to masturbate. He says you can do this if you would like, and you can feel His love this way, but that it isn't necessary in order to receive the blessings He's promised. For that you just need to say the words of love to Him! (ML #3031: par. 82).

       {\b \i Why }Love Jesus Intimately?
IN THE LOVING JESUS REVELATION the Lord gave a number of incentives to encourage us, His bride, to love Him intimately. We will now examine some of the benefits and blessings to be derived from loving Jesus in this manner.
       First of all, He told us that loving Him in this intimate way meets His need for love. Since we believe our primary purpose in life is to love and serve Him who gave His life for us, knowing that we are making Him happy makes us happy. Plus we know that whatever we give to Him, He will always more than repay. In prophecy the Lord said,

              Oh My children, so do I love your love for Me, and so do I pour forth My love upon you. For you bring unto Me great pleasure when you stop and take time to love Me, to kiss Me, to caress Me, to praise Me, when you call unto Me, when I hear the words of love that you speak unto Me, and when we love together; for it is as the pleasure of when two become one. As it brings you great pleasure to be one with another, so it brings Me pleasure to be one with you.
       I need your love and your loving. For though I am King of all the universe, of all things, and even beyond, I cannot have your love unless you give it to Me, for I have made it this way. ... In this I have limited Myself, for I do not make My children love Me; they have choice. I have the desire that they would love Me, and I long for it, that they would love Me. Thus I find great pleasure in those that love Me, for it fills My need to be loved (ML #3030: par. 95-96).

       Another major reason we are willing to love Jesus this way is because we believe it will help us to develop a much closer walk with Him. Maria testified that as she and Peter embarked on loving the Lord in this eroticized manner, by speaking intimate words of love to Him, after some initial adjustments, they found that it greatly enhanced their personal relationship with Him.

       For the past year, Peter and I have been coming before the Lord in prayer and loving Him in the way He has revealed, and we have found it very rewarding indeed. It's brought about a real change in our attitude about spending time with the Lord, and has made it easier and more fulfilling. It has made us feel much closer to Jesus, much more intimate, more connected.
       At first it may seem a little awkward to say these things to the Lord. ... Even though we know we love Jesus so dearly, it was a little awkward for us at first, learning to love Him in this new way. But as we kept doing it because we knew it pleased Him, and as we kept saying those words to Him, we began to see Him differently than we ever had before. We began to realize He really is our Lover! ... We tell Him that we love His kisses, we love His Words. We tell Him that we want Him in us and we want His seeds. We tell Him that we want to make Him happy by kissing Him and by loving Him in whatever way makes Him happy.
       This made us feel so close to Him and so much more in love with Him. His great love and desire for us has deepened our love and desire for Him (ML #3029: par. 5, 196, 199, 195).

       Some fellow Christians may contend that although it is good and well to "feel" close to the Lord, Scripture tells us that the Christian life is one in which we "walk by faith, not by sight" or feelings (2 Corinthians 5:7). We agree. However, we are also in agreement with the sentiments that Spurgeon expressed about the manifestations of the Lord's love which He allows us to sensibly feel and experience. In his comments on an intimate verse from the Song of Solomon, "Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth" (Song of Solomon 1:2), Spurgeon wrote:

       By kisses, we suppose to be intended those varied manifestations of affection by which the believer is made to enjoy the love of Jesus. ... The kiss of daily, present communion, is that which we pant after to be repeated day after day, till it is changed into the kiss of reception, which removes the soul from earth, and the kiss of consummation which fills it with the joy of Heaven. Faith is our walk, but fellowship sensibly felt is our rest. Faith is the road, but communion with Jesus is the well from which the pilgrim drinks (Spurgeon, 1991: 184).

       In addition to enhancing her relationship with Jesus, Maria writes of another sideline benefit that she and Peter have received from loving Jesus together this way; it has heightened their sexual relationship:

              We greatly enjoy these precious times together with the Lord as we feel it draws us very close to Him. There is something very special about it. It took us awhile to get used to saying love words out loud to each other and the Lord, but as we went ahead by faith, it became much easier, to where now it is very natural and pleasurable. It has even enhanced our sexual relationship, as saying erotic words to either the Lord or to each other can make the sexual activity even more exciting (ML #3030: par. 4).

       Another benefit we believe we receive from partaking of the Loving Jesus revelation is that the resultant closeness to Jesus will help give us the strength to victoriously pull through the troublous days of the Endtime, which we believe are now before us. (According to numerous Scriptures and fulfilled "signs of the times," we believe the world is now entering the "last days," the darkest period of mankind's history, which precedes the second coming of Christ.) In prophecy the Lord encouraged us,

              As the days get darker and the times more difficult, loving Me and being in love with Me and being close to Me and being intimate with Me will help you through, and things will look brighter. As you love Me and look to Me and face Me and face My light and face My seeds and call for Me, all else will fade; you will have great ecstasy with Me, and we will be one (ML #3030: par. 31).

       Maria commented on this prophecy:

       The Lord is asking us to show our love for Him by saying words of love to Him so He can give us the seeds of strength and love and anointing that we're going to need for the tough times ahead (ML #3030: par. 53).

       Just as any husband wishes to show his appreciation to a wife who loves him ardently and unreservedly, we believe the Lord similarly responds to those who love Him ardently. When we humble ourselves before Him, unreservedly loving Him in this intimate manner, we believe He bestows many extra blessings and rewards upon us. In prophecy He said,

              Does not the husband love to pour forth gifts of love, tokens of love and appreciation for the love that his loving wife gives unto him? ... So come, My bride! Come, My loves! Come, I call, come! Come to My bed, come to My arms, come to My kisses, to My lips! We shall revel in great joy and great passion, and you shall receive great love, great strength and great gifts! For you will be married unto a King and you will be a queen unto Me, and I will bestow upon you far above all that you could ask or think! (ML #3029: par. 37, 39).

       In another prophecy, the Lord again promised great blessings to those who will love Him this way:

              Oh, the great joy that they shall have for loving Me! Oh, the great blessings and rewards that they shall have for loving Me! ... As they yield to My request for their love, so will I yield to their requests, and so will I answer their prayers, their needs and their desires in an even greater way. ...I will bless them in great abundance for their love for Me, the King who has everything, but who seeks to be loved! (ML #3030: par. 101-102).

       The following excerpt from Maria concisely answers the title question of this section, "Why Love Jesus Intimately?":

       When the Lord says He wants you to say these love words to Him, maybe you still have the question, "Why is this necessary?" Clearly it's not necessary in order to gain His love! — You already have that, and He's not going to take it away. They're not necessary to be a dedicated, fruitful Christian.
       It's only necessary if you want to participate in this revelation and receive the blessings that He has promised to those who do, the promises of having an even closer relationship with Him and receiving extra strength for the battles ahead. It's the way we get to experience the wonderful privilege of knowing Jesus in a deeper, more intimate way! (ML #3031: par. 81).

To "Love Jesus" Intimately Is a
{\b \i Personal}
As has already been brought out, to engage in a spiritually erotic relationship with Jesus by speaking "love words" to Him, either while alone in prayer or when having physical sex, is strictly a personal decision. We believe the benefits and promises of blessing for those who love the Lord intimately apply to anyone – whether they are part of our fellowship or not. Jesus said, "According to your faith be it unto you" (Matthew 9:29).

       What you do is up to you and dependent on how you personally feel led of the Lord. No one's pushing you. No one is expecting you to "perform" or to do anything that you don't want to do. So this is not a question of works. This new intimate relationship with the Lord is a gift of His grace.
       Jesus said: "This is a gift of love, it is a gift of happiness. It is a gift intended to make your lives brighter, more joyous, to make your burdens lighter in the love relationship that we will share and the contact that we will have and the intimacy that we will discover."
       The Lord wouldn't have given this complete revelation if He didn't want us to apply it in our lives. ... However, He is not demanding it, He's not forcing it. He wants you to choose how much you want to participate. ... The choice is completely yours.
       It's up to you to prayerfully consider the choice the Lord is presenting to you, and the wonderful promises He has given for those who will humble themselves to love Him and others in this way (ML #3033: par. 122-123, 143-144).

       All You Need Is {\b \i Love!}
THE BIBLICAL TEACHING that "God is love" (1 John 4:8) is a cornerstone of Family beliefs and practices. From our earliest beginnings, the need for each individual member to develop and grow in his or her personal love relationship with God has always been the major emphasis of personal worship. As Jesus said, to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength is the first and great commandment. The second, which He said was "like unto" the first, is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). This we strive to do in our interactions with one another, as well as in our offering of the Gospel of God's love to what we perceive as a needy and love-starved world.
       Our founder David Berg highlighted the paramount place of love in our beliefs when he declared that love was not merely an important part of our religion, but that love is our religion.

       We believe in love! Love for God and others, for "God is love!" (1 John 4:8). That's our religion — Love! (ML #607: par. 1).

       Love equals life, he went on to say, for without it, we have nothing. He then heralded love as the ultimate answer to mankind's pressing problems:

       Love is everything, for without love there is nothing! — No friends, no families, no fathers or mothers or children or sex or health or happiness or God or Heaven — there could be none of these without Love! And none of these is possible without God, for He is Love!
       This is the solution to all of the problems of today as well as to the problems of the past: love! — True love, the love of God and the love of fellowman! — This spirit of God's divine love which helps us all to fulfill His Great Commandment to love one another! This is still God's solution, even in such a complex and confused and highly complicated society as that of the world today! (ML #607: par. 2-3).

       So the essence of the Loving Jesus series — that Family members need to foster a progressively closer love relationship with God, which will help them to have more inspiration and strength to share His love with others — is actually nothing new. The Family's devotion to Jesus, our mission of reaching the world with His love, our determination to raise our children in loving, nurturing environments, are all unchanged. As Maria states:

              This is not a complete change of direction. In fact, it isn't a change of direction at all. It's just going a step further in the same direction we have already been going. This is an extra step to draw us closer to Him so we can go even further with Him (ML #3030: par. 53).

       To develop a closer and more ardent relationship with the God of love Himself through intimately loving His Son Jesus is seen by Family members as a goal well worth pursuing. After all, we agree with what David Berg taught us, that "love is everything, and without love there is nothing!" (ML #607: par. 2).
       Jeffrey Imbach expressed similar sentiments,

       Love is not simply the benevolent act of God in providing a nice place to live or that rescues us from the bad world. Love is the heartbeat of the universe.
       Love is the very soul of life, of all springing up, of all mating and union and of all fruition. The universe is not made with mechanical necessity. Economic efficiency is not the bottom line. It is conceived and born and suffused with passionate desire.
       Life, burgeoning and blooming, the promise of birth and the tenacity of weeds growing between the cracks in the sidewalks are all manifestations of passionate love. To be alive, to choose to open up to life, is to participate in the love that flows in the veins of our existence.
       This desire that surrounds us and inflames us is the presence of God who loves the world into being and sustains it with that same passion of love (Imbach, 1992: 52).

       Looking again to the Christian mystics of the past, we find that love was everything to them as well. Saint Julian of Norwich (who died about 1443), in her Revelations of Divine Love, beautifully expressed how being close to Jesus is to be enveloped in love itself:

       I saw that He is to us everything which is good and comforting for our help. He is our clothing, who wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for love, which is so tender that He may never leave us [EDITED: "St. Julian, The Revelations of Divine Love, chap. 5"] (as cited in Imbach, 1992: 51).

       The pre-Renaissance mystic, Symeon the New Theologian, joyously proclaims the love he finds in the embrace of the heavenly Bridegroom:

       He Himself is present and shines in my poor heart, clothes me in immortal splendor and shines through all my limbs, embraces me wholly, kisses me wholly, and gives Himself entirely to me, unworthy as I am; and I take my fill of His love and beauty and am filled with the rapture and sweetness of the Godhead [EDITED: "Symeon the New Theologian (ca. 970-1040), Love Songs to God"] (as cited in Buber, 1985: 38, 39).

       Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), declared:

       Love is a great thing, but there are degrees of love. The bride stands at the high point ... Love is the very being of the bride. She is full of it, and the Bridegroom is satisfied with it. He asks nothing else. That is why He is the Bridegroom and she is the bride (Evans, 1987: 273).

       An Invitation: "The Spirit and the Bride Say 'Come!'"(Revelation 22:17).
THIS DISCOURSE on the intimate and personal dimension of God's wonderful love would be sadly lacking if we did not extend Jesus' invitation to any readers who have not yet received Him into their heart. In prayer to His Father, Jesus said, "And this is life eternal: that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3). To personally know God and His Son Jesus is to know Heaven, it is to know life, it is to know and enjoy the boundless love of God that we have touched on in this paper.
       Jesus beckons, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest unto your soul" (Matthew 11:28-30). If you will simply come to Him in prayer, humbly confessing your need for Him and His love, and asking Him to come into your life, He will. Right now. He promises, "Behold, I stand at the door [EDITED: "of your heart"] and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him, and will dine [EDITED: "fellowship"] with him and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20).
       To know Jesus is to love Jesus, for "He is altogether lovely" (Song of Solomon 5:16). Once you "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalms 34:8), you will "know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge!" (Ephesians 3:19). He loves you, and longs to give you your heart's desire as you give your heart to Him! Please receive Him today! God bless you.

       [EDITED: "1"] Due to the sexually explicit nature of portions of the Loving Jesus revelation, it was not intended to be read by children. As this document quotes extensively from the original Loving Jesus articles, we likewise do not recommend that children read it.
       [EDITED: "2"] 1 Corinthians 12:4-11: "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues."
       [EDITED: "3"] Unless indicated otherwise, all Scripture quotations throughout this paper are from the King James version of the Bible.
       [EDITED: "4"] The inclusion of relevant quotations from an array of religious and secular authors throughout this paper in no way indicates an endorsement by the Family of their writings or beliefs in toto. Also, in such excerpts, editorial license has been taken in italicizing certain words for emphasis' sake.
       [EDITED: "5"] This, the New Testament says, is God's most important commandment to man: "Jesus said unto him, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment'" (Matthew 22:37-38).
       [EDITED: "6"] The term "bottle-breaking" is derived from Jesus' parallel about what happens when God's "new wine" or radical truths are poured into "old bottles" or old wineskins: "No man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved" (Luke 5:37-38).
       [EDITED: "7"] Romans 7:1-4 says, "Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
       [EDITED: "8"] "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord" (Genesis 4:1). The Living Bible renders this verse to read, "Then Adam had sexual intercourse with Eve his wife. [DELETED]"

Family publications:
       Berg, David. "Our Declaration of Love," ML #607, Sept. 1977.
       David, Maria. "Loving Jesus! — Part 1," ML #3024, July 1995.
       __. "Loving Jesus! — Part 2," ML #3025, July 1995.
       __. "Loving Jesus! — Part 3," ML #3029, Dec. 1995.
       __. "Loving Jesus! — Part 4," ML #3030, Dec. 1995.
       __. "Loving Jesus! — Part 5," ML #3031, Dec. 1995.
       __. "Loving Jesus! — Part 7," ML #3033, Dec. 1995.
       World Services. "Attitudes, Conduct, Current Beliefs and Teachings Regarding Sex — A Family Position and Policy Statement," 1992.

       Other Book and Articles:
       Biale, David. Eros and the Jews. New York: Basic Books, A Division of Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 1992.
       Buber, Martin. Ecstatic Confession. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.
       Dolphin, Lambert T. "Keys to the Song of Solomon," essay on World Wide Web: http://www.best.com/~dolphin/ssong.shtml, revised September 29, 1995.
       Donnelly, D.H. Radical Love: An Approach to Sexual Spirituality. Minneapolis, Minn.: Winston Press, 1984.
       Evans, G.R., trans. Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1987.
       Feuerstein, Georg, ed. {\i Enlightened Sexuality — Essays on Body-Positive Spirituality.} Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1989.
       __. Sacred Sexuality: Living the Vision of the Erotic Spirit. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee Books, 1992.
       Gallagher, Charles A., and George A. Maloney, Mary F. Rousseau and Paul F. Wilczak. Embodied in Love. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co., 1983.
       Greeley, Andrew W. {\i Ecstasy — A Way of Knowing}. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974.
       Hahn, Celia Allison. Sexual Paradox. New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1991.
       Happold, F.C. Adventure in Search of a Creed. London, UK: Faber and Faber, 1955.
       Harper, Ralph. Human Love, Existential and Mystical. Maryland: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1966.
       Harrison, E.F., and Charles F. Pfeiffer. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1962.
       Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1973.
       Imbach, Jeffrey D. The Recovery of Love. New York: The Crossroads Publishing Co., 1992.
       Kavanaugh, Kieran, O.C.D. Saint John of the Cross. New York: Paulist Press, 1987.
       May, Rollo. Love and Will. New York: Norton, 1969.
       Mollenkott, Virginia Ramey. Sensuous Spirituality. New York: Crossroad, 1992.
       Nelson, James B. Body Theology. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1992.
       Reinhold, H.A., ed. The Soul Afire. New York: Pantheon, 1944.
       Rousseau, Mary, and Charles Gallagher. Sex Is Holy. Rockport, MA: Element Inc., 1991.
       Spurgeon, Charles. Morning and Evening: A Book of Daily Devotions. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrikson Publishers, 1991.
       Tada, Joni Eareckson. Heaven, Your Real Home. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.
       Taylor, G. Rattray. Sex in History. New York: The Vanguard Press, 1970.
       Wurmbrand, Richard. 100 Prison Meditations. London, UK: Bridge Publishing, 1982.
       __. Tortured for Christ. London, UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1967.

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