Becoming Intimate With Jesus

Being intimate with God is how we get a headstart on heaven.  It is the beginning of so much for the Christian.  Along the way, it is much like the tide, our affections ebb and flow.  Patience then becomes the rule. In many ways, this is a ‘seasonal’ walk. We experience all four seasons.

Here are some simple quotes on the topic of Christian intimacy.  I so want you to be blessed by these.

This is the place the Holy Spirit is taking us as believers. Honestly, I find that life has no meaning without His incredible presence.

Open your hearts to the love God instills… God loves you tenderly. What He gives you is not to be kept under lock and key but to be shared.  — Mother Teresa

Did you never run for shelter in a storm, and find fruit which you expected not? Did you never go to God for safeguard, driven by outward storms, and there find unexpected fruit? –John Owen

I long to be filled with divine knowledge, divine wisdom, divine love, divine holiness, to the utmost extent of my capacity. I want to feel that all the currents of my soul are interfused in one channel deep and wide, and all flowing towards the heart of Christ.
–Griffith John

A man who is intimate with God will never be intimidated by men.
— Leonard Ravenhill

God sometimes shuts the door and shuts us in, that He may speak, perchance through grief or pain, and softly, heart to heart, above the din, may tell some precious thought to us again.
— Anonymous

We should go into His presence as a child goes to his father. We do it with reverence and godly fear, of course, but we should go with a childlike confidence and simplicity.
— Martyn Lloyd-Jones

How do you approach the thirst of Jesus? Only one secret – the closer you come to Jesus, the better you will know His thirst. Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor – He knows your weakness, He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you. — Mother Teresa

Jesus, within you I lose myself, without You, I find myself searching to be lost again. — Anonymous

There come times when I have nothing more to tell God. If I were to continue to pray in words, I would have to repeat what I have already said. At such times it is wonderful to say to God, “May I be in Thy presence, Lord? I have nothing more to say to Thee, but I do love to be in Thy presence.” — O. Hallesby

What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension. To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason. It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians, because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God’s love, a love we don’t even have to earn.
— Madeleine L’Engle

The love I bear Christ is but a faint and feeble spark, but it is an emanation from himself: He kindled it and he keeps it alive; and because it is his work, I trust many waters shall not quench it.
— John Newton

I lay my head upon Thy infinite heart,
I hide beneath the shelter of Thy wing;
Pursued and tempted, helpless, I must cling
To Thee, my Father; bid me not depart,
For sin and death pursue,
And Life is where Thou art!
— Anonymous

Obedience deepens our intimacy with Jesus. If we want to know the Father, we must not only love Him, but also obey Him. Scripture is clear that it is important to know the Father through His Word, and if we want to be a part of what the Father is doing and to be able to see where He is moving then it is clear that we must obey His commands. It is important to be biblically literate, but we must also be biblically obedient!  — John Wimber

There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. — Brother Lawrence

I so hope that just one of these quotes resonate something in your spirit.

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The Pruning Knife

“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”

John 15:2, NLT

In order to become fruitful we must accept the knife. 

It takes a sharp eye and a sharper knife to do the Father’s work of cutting.  He slices to the quick, and all that is not useful falls to the ground.  The vine will produce grapes, and every bit of “grape-energy” will be used productively. Fruitlessness will be cursed, and sterility is condemned.  It takes a decisive heart, as well as a wise hand to prune God’s own vineyard.

Fruitless believers may become fruitful ones.  Understand, the vine dresser does not attack the vine.  He is not malicious or vengeful.  All that He does is for the good of the vine.  He is motivated to produce fruit.  That is what He thinks about; you could say that He is preoccupied with that singular end.

Pruning and fruit are concepts that we vacillate over, some days we understand and other days we blow it off.  After over 30 years, I’ve heard every “John 15 sermon”.  And most of the time I turn down my spiritual hearing aid. That is tragic, and shows my heart has become hardened.

I need to come on board with this particular imagery.  For years I have asked God to “show me His ways”.  I’d like to believe that this understanding of pruning has changed me.  I would like to think that I have attained a clearer view of wisdom.  This pruning business is all well and good.  But being sanctified by the knife is decidedly unattractive and uncomfortable.

You must be pruned; pieces of your life are earmarked to be lopped off.  (I always wonder if the trees that are spray painted are curious over the why and the when they are to be cut?)  In regards to being fruitful we must accept the knife.  If we want to be holy and conform to the image of Christ we will be cut.  There is simply no other way.

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Please Shut the Door, [Prayer]

“When you pray, go into a room alone and shut the door. Pray to your Father in private. He knows what is done in private, and he will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6, CEV

“We are to be shut out from men, and shut in with God.”

Andrew Murray

Prayer is a deep and awesome thing.  And yet in a sense our physical life must have cheeseburgers and spaghetti.  Food powers us, and we are fueled by it’s energy.  Prayer is also necessary to propel us, for it is our spirit’s nourishment.

We cannot survive without food. We see pictures of emaciated children in some African country, and they are just  skin and bones.  It is a sick evil.  But there are Christians who are like this spiritually.  They are starving because they are not praying.

Jesus told His followers, to go into a room alone.  Then shut the door.  We must learn that God is in the secret.  If we should meet with Him, we must be as secretive.  “Shut the door,”  what happens in there is not for public display. We must be quite discrete in our times with Him.

When I was at in my first year at Bible school, I heard a guest speaker teach from Matt. 6:6.  I was pumped up by it, praying with the door shut was a new idea for me.  When I got to my dorm room, I went straight for my closet to put this new revelation into action. Kneeling there in the closet, with the door slid shut, I tried to pray.  And after a bit I fell asleep, still on my knees.

About an hour later I woke up with a start.  I had no idea where I was, and in my disorientation I slid open the closet door with a loud bang.  I tried to stand, but my legs couldn’t support me.  I lurched out in the room and fell in a pile.  My roommate was startled to say the least.  He had been in the room studying quietly by himself, when suddenly this ‘wildman’ burst out of the closet and immediately collapsed.  It was hysterical!

So much for my first attempt at praying in secret.

The quest for spiritual growth will have to lead us into the closet.

The injunction to close the door can be understood in a variety of ways.  The act of isolating ourselves is a physical one.  But we must understand we need to shut up all our social entanglements and obligations.  We isolate ourselves so we can be intimate with Him.

We just need to figure out just how we are to do this.  We shouldn’t give up when it doesn’t bring wondrous results.  We are all students in this, we will advance at times, and then retreat.  But every second in the closet can be an intimate blessing to our souls.

“He that loveth little prayeth little; he that loveth much prayeth much.” 

– Augustine

 

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Thirsty For the Real? [Psalm 42]

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This particular Psalm is used by pastors and Christian therapists frequently in their counseling. It powerfully resonates to those afflicted with mental illness and the myriad of issues we all have to deal with. It is God’s word to this generation. It meets us precisely where we are at today.

For me personally, it is a potent antidepressant and reading it encourages me.  I copied this selection from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message.”  I so hope that it releases and refreshes you.  Read it slowly, and let it work inside you. (I use this translation sometimes to get a fresh take on the Word.) Try to read through it slowly, and maybe out loud, for maximum effect. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you.

Psalm 42

A psalm of the sons of Korah

 1-3 A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek;
I want to drink God,
deep draughts of God.
I’m thirsty for God-alive.
I wonder, “Will I ever make it—
arrive and drink in God’s presence?”
I’m on a diet of tears—
tears for breakfast, tears for supper.
All day long
people knock at my door,
Pestering,
“Where is this God of yours?”

 4 These are the things I go over and over,
emptying out the pockets of my life.
I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd,
right out in front,
Leading them all,
eager to arrive and worship,
Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving—
celebrating, all of us, God’s feast!

 5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God.

 6-8 When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
including Mount Mizar.
Chaos calls to chaos,
to the tune of whitewater rapids.
Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
crash and crush me.
Then God promises to love me all day,
sing songs all through the night!
My life is God’s prayer.

 9-10 Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
“Why did you let me down?
Why am I walking around in tears,
harassed by enemies?”
They’re out for the kill, these
tormentors with their obscenities,
Taunting day after day,
“Where is this God of yours?”

 11 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God.

~Selah.

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Can a Mother Forget? [Love]

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Yet Jerusalem says, “The Lord has deserted us;  the Lord has forgotten us.”
Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible,    
 I would not forget you! 16 See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins.”

Isaiah 49:14-16, NLT

Some of us need to be persuaded of God’s love. We are unconvinced. But Isaiah understands. We grasp the theology, but not the meaning. Our own native ideas keep us in disbelief. Perhaps the greatest liability we have as believers is this doubt that God really feels this way about us. But, He does.

Isaiah claims the impossible, yet grounds himself in what is real. The Father loves us and we’re His very own. Even if we don’t seem as holy as we ought to be. In His out reached hands, we discover scars.  This is the price He has purchased us with. We once were blind, and very lost— but now we are His own children.

We are given the impression that He more than ‘loves’ us; He ‘likes’ us. That dear ones, is not a point I’m prepared to support with scripture— it doesn’t exist except in my own thinking. I know that He theologically loves me.

But I also believe God also likes me as well. Surely, there is such a fine line here, between ‘like’ and love. The more I walk with the Lord, and it’s been almost 35 years now, the more I do love/like Him. I have learned to like Him as much as I love Him. And if God doesn’t like me, I think it diminishes His love.

Some of us must be persuaded again and again of God’s love.

Regardless, Isaiah speaks for the Lord with tender things. Among the people they had the mindset that God had somehow forgotten them. They thought that they were ‘the lost ones.’ God uses the analogy of a mother. A nurturing mother. This metaphor is strong and sure. No, God hasn’t forgotten His people. Look at His hands, your name is ‘tattooed’ on them. You’re His, forever.

“In math, if you divide an infinite number by any number, no matter how large, you still have an infinite quotient. So Jesus’ love, being infinite, even though it is divided up for every person on earth, is still infinitely poured out on each one of us!” 

Charles Spurgeon

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Food Bank Epiphanies

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The last two months I’ve been the recipient of some reasonably heavy lessons of understanding. I was just standing in line at the food pantry. I’m learning more here than in my Biblical Doctrine class my first year at Bible college. Amazing! But again, maybe not.

My 10 Commandments of the Food Pantry

  1. Jesus has a special connection to the poor among us.
  2. The needs are tremendous as many lack food. (This may be a new concept for some.)
  3. The Church has the mandate and potential to meet these needs.
  4. What the government does is often just confusing the real issues.
  5. The stigma in receiving food seems to be temporary.
  6. Understanding and wisdom are more important than the box of food.
  7. People will stand in line for a long time to help their families.
  8. Most people are nicer than they used to be by going to the food bank.
  9. Some people’s abundance should be given away.
  10. You can never have too many boxes to use to carry stuff (and avoid the milk.)

What is worked inside is far more than what we get standing in line. Many things can happen once humility and need does its work inside. There is a powerful comradeship that can develop. Strangers become friendly when they are in line. There is a kind of a mutual understanding that proceeds out of poverty, and takes root, and spreads.

I honestly believe the distribution of food is only the secondary benefit. I really think the spiritual work is the new found work done in people’s hearts. There should be a dignity that saturates this work.

The Church Leader’s Ten Quotes on Giving

  1. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.   Amy Carmichael
  2. I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.  C.S. Lewis
  3. The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.   Corrie Ten Boom
  4. Get all you can, save all you can and give all you can.   John Wesley
  5. Christian giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not by self-congratulation.   John Stott
  6. God doesn’t look at just what we give. He also looks at what we keep.   Randy Alcorn
  7. Our giving is but a reflex of God’s giving.  Sam Storms
  8. God made all of His creation to give. He made the sun, the moon, the stars, the clouds, the earth, the plants to give. He also designed His supreme creation, man, to give. But fallen man is the most reluctant giver in all of God’s creation.   John MacArthur
  9. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.   C.S. Lewis
  10. I will place no value on anything I have or may possess except in relation to the kingdom of Christ.   David Livingstone

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God’s Hamburgers

 

 “So the people left the town and went to see Jesus.

 31 Meanwhile, his followers were begging him, “Teacher, eat something.”

 32 But Jesus answered, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

 33 So the followers asked themselves, “Did somebody already bring him food?”

 34 Jesus said, “My food is to do what the One who sent me wants me to do and to finish his work.  

John 4:30-34, NCV  

  

 Jesus was amazingly attractive to people.  With an almost magnetic pull, they were drawn to Him.  He connected to each one in a powerful and intimate way.  In our time, and in our way,  Jesus continues to have this incredible appeal.  People are quite attracted to Jesus, and continue to be. They deeply respect and esteem Him. They maybe turned off by the Church, or by doctrine, but they are amazed by Jesus.
  
As disciples, there was a general consensus that Jesus had become a little too popular–to the extent that He wasn’t taking care of Himself.  The thought was that He need sustenance–calories, they hadn’t seen Him eating.  They were concerned that Jesus was “spreading” Himself far too thin.  But this concern was not valid.  Jesus tells of His “food” that the Father was giving Him.  Nourishment was something that Jesus didn’t have to worry about.  The Father took responsibility for Jesus’ hunger.  And Jesus trusted His Father implicitly.
 
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Often our physical needs become our central issues, taking a consistent center-stage.  We start to make eating to an fairly elevated importance. We aren’t just eating, we become gourmets. We will follow Jesus, but only if we can bring our refrigerators.  It may seem subtle, and unimportant, but our stomach can be diverting.  Our appetites subtly encroach on God’s claim on our lives.  The story of Esau in the book of Genesis is a warning for us today–he traded his birthright for a bowl of savory stew.

Whenever Jesus comments deeply, He will clarify much.  He is not worried about His physical needs, that it the Father’s concern.  Instead we see Jesus focusing, with almost pinpoint precision on the Father’s will.  Such focus seems fanatical, way too zealous for us.  It seems that we have exalted culinary excellence, and have been gastronomically led to a place where are palates and stomach’s start to rule.
 
“My food is to do His work.”  Jesus had a focus, that took Him into a way of life we admire, but don’t ever attain.  We certainly will never diminish or minimize Jesus.  But I think we do this when we just gloss over verses like this, and try to ‘side-step’ the obvious meaning with an interpretation that removes the stinger.  We must arrive at this point.  It’s the place were our physical hunger for “good food” is replaced by a strong appetite to do the will and direction of our Heavenly Father.
 
What do you intend to do now?  Will you trust Him to meet your physical needs?  Will the active pursuit of God’s will nourish you completely? You need to figure that out for yourself.  All I can do is to lay this before you so you can make a decision.