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The first oasis we will bring you to is the subject of God's passion for you. This first bit of information is more like a bucket of water. It is foundational for making it through the Desert of Testing. Think of it as the water the camel stores to help him through the long dry spells in the desert. This first draw of water is the subject of God's love for you. We have talked continually of the need for you to love the Father, but does He really care about you? Yes, powerfully so! He does not allow your idols to save you, and He is waiting patiently to save you with His power when you finally call on Him. Next, He woos and courts you to be in His presence to be alone with Him in the desert. It is actually romantic.

Logically, it makes sense that He loves us. He has made us and loves us—just as we love our own cooking better than someone else's, or that the child "we made" is better than other children. In the same way, our maker is crazy about us. After all, He picked out everything: personality, hair color, handwriting style, eye color, birth date, environmental setting, and so on. He knows the food we like and has been trying to show us His love, and He has been patiently waiting for us to return it. We just need to open our eyes.

I could list a hundred scriptures that tell us that He loves us—but I know we want something we can feel and touch in order to know that He loves us. We want some concrete evidence.

The images that God uses to illustrate His emotion for us covers the spectrum. He uses father, mother, Jesus as our brother, and the Holy Spirit as a counselor. He talks about gathering us all in like a mother hen puts her wings around her little chicks. He is the very gentle, loving, patient Shepherd of the dependent sheep. He is the generous Father that gives the prodigal son all of his inheritance with no strings attached and waits longingly for him daily. He cares.

All of these are loving images. But the most moving is the passionate lover image of jealousy. Exodus 34:14 says, "Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God."

So God is jealous for your attention and love. Did you know God loves you personally and individually and wants a covenant relationship with you? A covenant relationship is like a marriage. The word covenant means an arrangement made by one party that the other party could accept or reject but could not alter. He wants to marry you—or put another way, wants to marry your heart and soul. Jesus refers to the church as His bride. Take a look at an allegory in which Jerusalem (God's beloved) is represented first as a baby and then as a lover:

" 'On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.

" 'Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, "Live!" I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare.

" 'Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.

" 'I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD.' " (Ezekiel 16:4-14) This scripture leaves no doubt that God adores you and His church and wants an intimate relationship with you. It is like a husband and wife relationship. Christ is the bridegroom of the church, and He gave His own life for His bride. There is more imagery. We have heard that God loved us so much that He gave His only Son to die on the cross. We have heard it so often that it conjures up very little emotion anymore. But if we have lost a child or know someone who has, or if we have personally experienced a kidnapping or watched our child in the emergency room or hospital bed, then it brings it home a little bit more. Losing a child is by far the most devastating of all crises—to lose one in whom you have invested your heart and soul and mind and strength. The idea of God sacrificing His own child for us to be able to have a love relationship with Him is just incredible!

Just as the parent loves the child more than the child loves the parent—God loves you more than you love Him. He loved first. Look at this passage from 1 John 4:7-10: "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." We love ourselves—but we love our children even more. How many times have we sat by the bedside of our sick child and asked God to take out that sickness or infirmity and put it in our own body? We would rather die than see our child die. God could have shown His love by giving His own body—but a greater love is giving the life of His child to get to us. There is no greater way to symbolize how deeply He wants to draw us to Him.