Minggu, 30 Agustus 2009
By Dudley Hall www.sclm.org
If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:15-17 (ESV)
Jesus is honing in on the new humanity that will carry on his mission after his resurrection. First, he identifies those who are members of this new company. It is those who love him by following the truth as he defines it. To claim to love him without ordering your life around his teaching, is a fallacy. He is not just a lovable person that can be added to our personal pantheon of gods. He is not just one of the historical characters we would invite to our fantasy dinner. He is the Lord of all truth and worthy to be followed exclusively.
Second, he is describing the process that will enable this new race to fulfill its destiny. The Father is sending the Holy Spirit to help. He will move from "with" to "in" this community and will empower it to get the assignment done. Since Jesus operated on earth as a man filled with the Holy Spirit, the corporate body of Christ will need this power also. He is the Spirit of truth. He operates in ultimate reality. He will illumine the minds of those who believe in Jesus with the truth that is in him. Those who are not believers will not see the same way. Their perspective lacks the illumination the Spirit gives. This means that there will be conflict. It also means that those who know the truth become servants to those who don't. It is our privilege and responsibility to give the higher perspective in any conversation in which we find ourselves.
This is heady stuff Jesus is discussing with his disciples. He is talking about a dynamic that is universally majestic. It is on the dramatic scale equal to the original creation. In the Genesis account, God created a race by his word. Now, he is creating another one by his Word. This new humanity is defined neither by ethnicity nor geography. It is defined by Jesus. Those who believe and obey his order are apart of it, and those who don't believe can't see or know the truth he reveals for that community. Just as Adam and Eve were expected to create a culture of divine order in the first creation, this new creation is to spread the culture of his kingdom through the whole world. It is the ultimate privilege to be a part of this project.
We will need all the grace offered in order to get the job done. We must prize the gift of the Holy Spirit and his many expressions. We can't reveal the divine model without supernatural power. We can't love like Jesus loves without the Spirit that empowered him. We can't suffer without him. We can't forgive on our own. But, with him indwelling us individually and corporately, the church can invade every sphere of influence in creation and bring light in place of darkness. We can speak truth in place of error.
Maybe we should spend some time just rejoicing that we have been chosen to be a part of the new humanity and thinking of how we can live appropriately.
Kamis, 27 Agustus 2009
The Lord Will Take Care of This For You
By James Ryle www.truthworks.org
The king said, "Go home, and I'll take care of this for you." (2 Samuel 14:8).
Once your petition has been set before the King, and He has given you His assurance that it will be handled by Him personally, and in your best interest -- well, to linger any longer in earnest angst would be most insulting to His majesty. Yet we do it all the time!
"Lord, when? Lord, why? Lord, how long?"
These, and many other hassling questions too often constitute the bulk of our prayer life. Our hearts flood with dark thoughts which spill from our lips in mournful pleas, as we seek His reply to our unanswerable questions. Our hearts have perhaps been broken by the hammer of relentless disappointments, our minds bewildered by unfulfilled hopes, our eyes blurred by tears that never cease -- and we hasten to the Lord with our woeful complaints.
And He says, "Go home, and I'll take care of this for you."
But we linger in our lamentations, stating our case once again in pitiful details, rehearsing the matter over and over, as though He had not yet heard it. It seems in such moments that we are more in awe of our sorrows than we are of our Savior.
"Go home," the Lord says, "and I'll take care of this for you."
There is a faith, noble and true, that leaves the prayer chamber and enters into the day in utter confidence that the Lord will take care of things in a perfect way -- if we would only let Him do it.
As children bring their broken toys with tears, for us to mend;
I brought my broken dreams to God, because He is my friend.
But then, instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone;
I hung around and tried to help in ways that were my own.
He didn't do at all the things I thought that He should do;
He didn't mend my broken dreams;
He didn't make them new.
In fact He seemed quite nonchalant, as though He didn’t care.
So, I increased with holy zeal my intercessory prayer.
Watching, waiting for His hand to do what I had prayed;
but nothing I could say or do helped Him on His way!
At last I snatched them back and cried, "How can you be so slow?"
"My child," He lovingly replied, "you never did let go!"
Oh, hear the Lord's word to you today --
"Go home," the Lord says, "and I'll take care of this for you."
Selasa, 25 Agustus 2009
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show
By Greg Austin www.gregaustin.org
Summer time in America is historically anticipated as “Revival time.” It’s especially so in the Deep South and among the more fundamentalist brethren among us. Something about hot summer nights, fiery evangelists and altars filled with repentant, weeping souls seems as American as apple pie and baseball.
I remember Neil Diamond singing his new hit song in 1969. The title was, “Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show.” The lyrics caught the prevailing understanding of revival in America:
Hot August night and the leaves hanging down
and the grass on the ground smellin' sweet
Move up the road to the outside of town
and the sound of that good gospel beat
Sits a ragged tent where there ain't no trees
And that gospel group tellin' you and me
It's Love Brother Love say Brother Love's traveling salvation show
Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies and everyone goes
'Cause everyone knows Brother Love's show
Room gets suddenly still and when you'd almost bet
You could hear yourself sweat he walks in
Eyes black as coal and when he lifts his face
Every ear in the place is on him
Startin' soft and slow like a small earthquake
And when he lets go half the valley shakes
It's Love, Brother Love say Brother Loves traveling salvation show
Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies and everyone goes
'Cause everyone knows 'bout Brother Loves show
And I find myself anticipating, longing for, wanting to see and to experience revival during these next “hot August nights.”
Before proceeding, we must ask, “What is revival?” We must settle upon an agreed definition of the word in question in order to embrace or reject the content and condition that might follow true, biblical, godly revival.
Is revival an overwhelming wave of emotion? Does revival in its essence have to do with loud, energetic music, sawdust floors and shouting crowds?
Is revival a renewed appetite for the things of God?
For the reading of His Word?
For sharing our faith with the lost?
For attending church services?
I’ve known people who’ve read the Bible more than many who were no more spiritual than a Green Tree Frog. I’ve watched people labor all night long in prayer whose tongues shredded their neighbors in the daylight. I’ve known businessmen who wouldn’t think of missing a Sunday church service – because the membership of their church formed a great pool for developing their books of business.
I won’t even entertain the suggestion that the people who fill our pews are fundamentally more pious than the guy handing out blankets and prayer to the homeless at Pioneer Square in Seattle or who sweats beneath a blistering, African sun as he ministers the tangible love of God to the orphans and the dispossessed victims of war and AIDS and ignorance and racially based hatred.
Is revival just an emotional experience – is it the shouting of “Brother Love” and an altar experience or does revival bring with it both a mandate and an enablement for change in our innermost beings?
Allow me to give you the Webster rendering of “revival.”
1: an act or instance of reviving : the state of being revived: as a: renewed attention to or interest in something.
Another reference has this: “A restoration to use, acceptance, activity, or vigor after a period of obscurity or quiescence (stillness).”
In each of these definitions, listed in descending order of priority finally comes “A meeting or series of meetings for the purpose of reawakening religious faith.”
Being revived, in my lexicon means “renewed to our attention towards and interest in Jesus,” being “restored to use, activity and vigor for the Kingdom of Heaven.” That’s my definition, my understanding of “revival” and it’s with this kind of definition that I find myself desiring to experience revival.
I want to see revival, not for the giddy, emotional highs or for the sight of spectacular miracles – the blind seeing, the lame leaping, the dead being raised to life again.
Oh, I would love to see those kinds of miracles, but in my lexicon, that’s not revival; it’s just “these signs” that were promised to “follow them that believe.”
I want to see, to experience revival because all around us our nation – our cities and towns, our neighborhoods – our families lay in ruin. I’m not referencing financial woes or the questions of universal health care or the future of General Motors or the local bank. I’m talking about “Spiritual Security.”
I’m talking about a generation of young people who know more about abortion than they know about the origin of the planet on which they live. Our young people know more about the latest Hollywood star and just-released hot music than they know about Heaven’s Daystar and the melodies of God’s Kingdom.
And whether you’ve given consideration to our need – your need and mine – for revival, what America needs this August is neither “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” or a political remedy to society’s ills, because neither emotionalism or economic brilliance can cure the cancer that eats at the soul of America or Great Britain or Germany or Israel or India. Only Jesus, only His grace and mercy, His goodness and His truth can wash away the woes facing you and me and our nation and world.
We need, whether we know it or want it, a true, pure revival from heaven to come upon, in and through our hearts. We need to fundamentally be “restored to use, activity and vigor for the Kingdom of Heaven.”
And I’m praying for revival, and I invite you to join me. Who knows, perhaps, if we pray, if we humble ourselves, if we turn from our wicked ways, Heaven may respond, God may hear, and answer, and visit us with His presence, His holiness, His goodness and His grace.
As I have said time after time at the conclusion of whatever I’ve preached for the past thirty-eight years, “Let’s pray.”
Selasa, 18 Agustus 2009
Everybody Has a Seed to Grow and Sow
By Robert Ricciardelli www.vision2advance.com
Some people walk, some people race
Some people vary in their pace
But God can use what you can give
Within the mystery of His ways
One thing I know
Everybody's got a seed to sow
let your heart of hearts
Take you down the road
Everybody's got a seed to sow "Michael W. Smith"
Every Human being was born with an eternal seed… God’s nature!
Everybody who was born was created in His image. By the grace and mercy of God, He brought us life through Jesus Christ, His Son. Redemption came through Christ, as the now, and eternal life for the worlds eternal seed. Ah, and what a life!
We often get so consumed with redemption and a future heaven, that we miss living His life in the present, on planet earth. We hear a lot of misappropriated teaching on the “Abundant Life” the Father has given us, but the truth is, it is “Abundant Life”, and it is “Abundant Life” now, regardless of the circumstances or where you are on this amazing journey.
When the bible talks about being saved, and whole households being saved, it was not to focus on some future heaven, but it was access to heaven on earth, in the NOW. The seed redeemed now, expecting now, looking for now, can begin the maturation process.
Jesus always pointed to the Father. He taught us to pray to the Father to bring His substance to earth through our very beings. It has always been His original intent for ALL of mankind. His intent has always been to be a loving Father to His creation, and dwell with His people. We all have been derailed one way or another until Father was revealed to us through His Son. We also are all different in where, how, and what we are to sow for His glory, as we sow seeds of His substance on earth as it is in heaven.
Theology and doctrine has been used to define what we have come to know, but has often been the very thing that stops the “sow flow. “ We began to judge each other’s sowing based on our limited knowing. So division happened because of knowledge and not on what we actually were doing. We were designed for love; we were designed to deliver His love to the earth. Simplicity of love becomes evil darkness when we are judging what we think we know rather than judging ourselves on what we actually are doing. And how presumptuous are we in thinking that we can know what the Lord is doing in another’s heart?
Joyce and I are determined to look at all people as part of God’s original design. We point the way to the Father as Jesus did. We point to the Way, the Truth, and the Life through His obedient Son… And then as we seek after Him, we become sons in the image of Christ, FOR GOOD WORKS, AND FOR HIS LOVE.
Consider eliminating thoughts of “us and them”, and look at all of us as part of God’s glorious creation, while needing Him, and needing one another.
Father desires that we love Him, and love others. What adjustments need to be made in our paradigms to live in His Agape paradigms more often as Father pleasers? What steps do we need to make towards being givers rather than takers? We are with you in all of this, and ask ourselves the same questions often. Lord what do we need to do to learn to love you more, and love others as ambassadors for you?
Everybody has a seed to sow, and a seed to grow. Father, by your Spirit, help us to grow, sow, and flow in amazing ways in loving and serving You and others.
Be ready, He is speaking. Listen, He has a more excellent way for all of us, and His Kingdom will surely come, and will be done, through our lives, and to the glory of God.
See Roberts Previous Articles http://vision2advance.blogspot.com
Minggu, 16 Agustus 2009
Numbering Our Days
By James Ryle www.truthworks.org
"So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12, NASB).
I once heard a comedian say, "Life is like a roll of toilet paper -- the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!"
Perhaps you have noticed how the pace of Life has picked up over the past few years; things seem to be moving faster and faster; Time seems to be turning into a blur. It was just yesterday, wasn't it, that the big Y2K scare had people building bunkers and stocking up with beans and bullets? And here we are now -- already pushing to the close of 2009.
With the upgraded pace of Life comes multiple choices of how we will spend our Time -- and our lives. What will we do with what has been given to us? How will we steward our talents, resources, and opportunities. What will be the end of all our labors?
Shortly before his death, George Bernard Shaw was asked a most curious question by an eager young reporter. “Mr. Shaw,” he began, “you have visited with some of the world’s most famous people. You’ve known royalty, renowned authors, great artists, brilliant teachers, and admired dignitaries from every part of the world. You have conversed with scientists and celebrities alike. If you could live your life over and be anybody you’ve ever known – who would you choose to be?”
Shaw answered with hardly a hesitation, “I would choose to be the man George Bernard Shaw could have been – but never was.”
Shaw died one month later – died as a man bound within the limitations of a life that did not reach its full potential that did not achieve its highest purpose.
May you so number you days, even in the midst of this blistering pace, so that you have no regrets as your turn the final corner on this thing called Life. May you exit this world and enter the next with a heart of wisdom and a life well-lived.
Selasa, 11 Agustus 2009
The Law of Life
by Chip Brogden
“For the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the Law of Sin and Death (Romans 8:2).”
Two laws are mentioned in this passage of Scripture: the Law of Life, and the Law of Sin and Death. We who are in Christ Jesus have been delivered from the Law of Sin and Death and are under a new law, which is the Law of Life.
The difference between a theoretical walk with Christ and a practical walk with Christ hinges upon being able to differentiate between the Law of Life and the Law of Death. In the Garden the choice was between the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Law of Death) or the Tree of Life (Law of Life). We must make the same choice today. Christians are much exercised in trying to discern between good and evil, right and wrong, Spirit and flesh. It seems the more we try to figure this out the more frustrated we become. Instead, God would have us come to the Tree of Life. This Life will instruct us in all things, including what is right and what is wrong, yet it is deeper than mere knowledge.
Since it is the Law of Life then we can count upon it to work every time. A law is something which states that a predictable result will occur whenever the same conditions are in place. If it happens once it may be an accident. If it happens two or three times it may be a coincidence. But if it happens a million or a billion times without fail then it is a law. For example, because of the Law of Gravity, if I release a ball into the air then it will fall to the ground. It does not matter how many times I perform this exercise, the result will be the same. It is a law.
Similarly, there is a Law of Sin and Death and there is a Law of Life. In order to live victoriously we do not need ten or twenty principles or keys. All we need to do is cooperate with the Law of Life. It is a sad fact that too many Christians find it easier to cooperate with the Law of Sin and Death than they do the Law of Life. They have no doubt as to the power of the negative law, but they have difficulty believing in the power of the positive law. Hopefully as we discuss these things it will be an encouragement to many who are struggling to overcome sin, self, and satan.
THE LAW OF LIFE MEANS CONTINUING IN CHRIST
“Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood you do not have eternal Life in you [Gate]… Whoever continues to eat My flesh and drink My blood continues to live in union with Me and I in union with him… Whoever keeps on eating Me will live because of Me [Path] (John 6:53, 56, 57b Williams Translation).”
It is amazing to see just how often Christ presents us with a Gate and a Path. I believe by now we all know what the Gate is. My burden is to see disciples brought down the Path, so I see the Path everywhere I look in the Scripture. How does this relate to our study? In this way: the Gate of eternal Life is to receive the Lord as food and drink, but the Path is to continue eating and drinking.
The Lord’s words here are not meant to be interpreted literally, for He says, “The words I speak are Spirit and Life, and the flesh profits nothing.” But let us look at literal food and drink for a moment. The Lord tells us that He is meat indeed, and drink indeed. Just how often do we eat and drink? Unless we are fasting, our eating and drinking occur daily, several times a day in fact. That is why I selected the Williams Translation of these passages, because it gives us the continuing action of the Greek verb - “keeps on eating” and “keeps on drinking”. It is not just a once-and-for-all thing, but a continual thing. It is abiding. It is a Gate and a Path.
Now where have we failed? By thinking of eternal Life in terms of a Gate and not a Path. This accounts for our weakness. Eternal Life is not everlasting existence (everyone has that already); it is Christ living in me and I living in Christ continually. I do not eat a single meal at the beginning of my life which is meant to sustain me for the rest of my life. Not at all! Every day I require food and drink, not only to remain healthy, but to simply maintain my natural life. How can it be any less true of Christ?
The Law of Life says our Life is contingent upon continuing in the Lord Jesus as we received the Lord Jesus (Colossians 2:6). I do not have Life today because I received the Lord in 1979. No! I have Life today because today I received the Lord, eating His flesh and drinking His blood. I have no Life of my own, so I am dependant upon His Life to sustain me daily. Since we must have Life every day, we must eat His flesh and drink His blood everyday. Everything hinges upon this.
THE LAW OF LIFE MEANS CHRIST IS OUR SATISFACTION
“I am the Bread of Life. He that comes to Me will never hunger, and he that believes on Me will never thirst (John 6:35).”
Here we have another principle of how the Law of Life operates. The presence of this Life within the believer will create hunger and thirst for Christ. What is more, this hunger and thirst for Christ cannot be filled or quenched with anything else - including blessings, power, spiritual gifts, or Christian service. It is hard to convince new converts of this, but those of us who have been around a long time should know by now that Christ is what makes a Christian.
Teresa of Avila wrote, “Anyone who fails to go forward, begins to go back, and love, I believe, can never be content to stay for long where it is.” It is a paradox that A.W. Tozer wrote about in “The Pursuit of God”: how can one who has found the Lord continue to hunger and thirst for Him as though He was yet undiscovered?
The answer is two-fold. In the first place, the Lord is much higher, deeper, longer, wider, and larger than we have imagined Him to be. He is so great, in fact, that it will takes additional ages and generations beyond this dimension in order for us to come to the epignosis of Christ. Paul certainly knew the Lord, but near the end of his life he proclaimed his highest aspiration was, “to know Him.”
In the second place, as we have seen already, the Law of Life requires a constant abiding. Having once come to the Lord as Life, now we continually receive Him as our Life. Why are so many dissatisfied? Because they are looking for other things - even good things, spiritual things - to fill a void which only Christ can fill. I am not talking about sinners, I am talking about Christians who look for religious things to fill the void Christ was meant to fill. They are no different than sinners who look for sinful things to fill the same void. This Life accepts no substitutes. It does not perpetuate itself through religious activity, spiritual experiences, hours of prayer, listening to sermons, or long periods of meditation. The Life is perpetuated when we touch the Living Christ directly. And once we know how, we may touch Him immediately and constantly.
So how does Christ satisfy our hunger and thirst? Of course the crowds were looking to have a miracle performed to fill their stomachs. To a certain extent we expect the same sort of miracle. We have no abundance, hence multitudes of Christians flock to churches every week to be fed. We wonder why we live such an up-and-down existence.
Christ is Life. Where is your life? Is it in a church? Is it in a ministry? Is it in a series of mountaintop experiences? Is it in a system of worship or prayer or spiritual exercises? It is possible to have all this as something apart from Christ. How do I know it is possible? Because I have sought all those things for myself and discovered that it is possible to have those things and not have Christ. That is not to say that they do not leave a good feeling or make one think he is spiritual - but Christ is not in my feelings and He is not in my emotion.
Those who hunger and thirst after Righteousness - Christ - will be filled. Thus, the one who is filled is never hungry or thirsty. So on the one hand I want to know the Lord and my desire for Him increases day by day; but it is not the desperate search of a hungry or thirsty man who is fainting and wasting away. I am full of Him because He fills me. There is my “Life, and Life more abundantly.” My Life is not in what He gives me, but in Who He is.
The ones who do not know this are the ones who have to run all over the world looking for a spiritual experience, the next move of God, or a more powerful “anointing”. They are the ones who simply MUST be inside a church building once or twice a week, and if they miss one service they immediately become depressed or backslidden. How is this possible? Because they have been taught that Life is church attendance, or power, or anointing, or feeling God move upon them in a tangible way. But if this were so then they would not need to be constantly filled and refilled.
On reading what has been written thus far I am sure some people are turning in their Bibles to Ephesians 5:18, where Paul writes, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess - but be filled with the Spirit.” They will correctly point out that the Greek tense here is “be being filled”, in other words, be continuously filled. Does this not justify a pursuit of spiritual experiences and additional fillings, they will ask? Not at all; rather, it underscores what we have been saying all along. If we abide in Christ and come to Him then we will be continually filled with His Spirit. We will be satisfied, and will not have to seek out some kind of experience that tickles our flesh.
As a drug addict is never satisfied, so a religious addict is never satisfied. The drug addict and the religious addict must always search for a bigger and better “high”. Without this high they are irritable and bad-tempered. Deny them their “fix” and they will become intolerable. Suggest that they have a problem and they will begin to view YOU as the problem. Some say they are really hungry and thirsty for God, so they are going to go here or there because they want “fresh fire” or “greater anointing” or whatever. What they are really hungry and thirsty for is a fix, a spiritual experience, a feeling of power, a manifestation, the feeling of a gentle breeze blowing on them, someone to wave their hand over them and give them a “new word” and so on. Where is Christ in this kind of an atmosphere? In this orgy of sensation He is nowhere to be found.
We must stop looking for a Jesus “out there” and look for the Christ who is within us. If we would just once come to Christ in simplicity we would immediately meet Him. It would be better for us to lock ourselves alone into a room and just sit there quietly before the Lord for one hour than to travel back and forth to all these meetings, looking for something loud, powerful, and demonstrative. It is the Spirit which gives Life; the flesh profits nothing. I have one question: are you satisfied after all those experiences? If you are, then why do you have to keep running around for more of the same? Do you abide in Christ as Life, or not? And if you are not satisfied, can you not see why?
So what are we saying? Simply this: the Law of Life says that the presence of Christ within the believer results in spiritual satisfaction. If we have Him then we will never hunger or thirst again, because He is Infinite Supply. Anything less than spiritual satisfaction indicates that there is a problem. I am not saying that one should be content with their progress and present knowledge of Christ so that they stop growing; but I am saying that no matter what stage of progress you may be at presently, Christ should be your satisfaction. We must differentiate between seeking Christ and seeking some feeling in our emotion in the name of an “outpouring” or “move” of God. May I emphatically state that God already poured out everything He has when He gave His Son to us to be our Life! If we are still waiting for God to “move” then I have to believe we do not fully appreciate that God’s greatest move was revealing His Son in us. How can we keep looking for anything else when we have everything in Him already?
THE LAW OF LIFE MEANS THE WAY TO GOD IS OPEN
So how do we touch Him directly? “He who comes to Me.” Can it really be this easy? A better question is, why should it be difficult? I can come to Him whether I am driving down the street, walking down the sidewalk, or sitting in my chair. I can come to Him whether it is Sunday morning or Tuesday night or Friday afternoon. I can come to Him in a large group, or with two or three, or all by myself. I can come to Him in the desert, in the garden, in the church building, or in the prison camp. I am prevented from doing many things due to circumstance, location, state of mind, or resources. But one thing I cannot be prevented from doing is coming to the Lord.
Must I stand, or bow down, or lay on my face? Am I supposed to whisper, shout, or say nothing at all? Should I sing, or pray, or recite the Scriptures, or be still? What difference does it make? None at all, so long as I come to the Lord. He does not tell us what to do, what to say, or what to expect. He just says, “Come to Me, and you will not be hungry or thirsty.” Religion would like to teach us a method and a formula for everything, but Christ is no religion. There are no ceremonies, rituals, rites of initiation or barriers to entry as in the Old Testament. Nor do we have to spend hours and days praying, fasting, or meditating. This is a New Way, and this Way is open. All we have to do is present ourselves to Christ.
Many of us are still prone to asking a lot of questions about how to have this kind of relationship with Christ. But if we will trust in the Life, then the Life will lead us. By comparison, I am not concerned with the Law of Gravity. I do not worry about floating away into space, and I do not have to keep reminding myself to walk according to the Law of Gravity. I just go along as usual and never give it a thought, confident that gravity will keep me where I am supposed to be. Even if I do not know there is such a thing as gravity I am nevertheless held firmly to the earth. If we would have that same faith in the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus then all our questions would be answered. This Law of Life will operate whether we understand it or know about it (of course, we do want to know how it operates so we can cooperate with it, but it works in spite of our ignorance).
The branch who abides in the Vine does not have to know how it abides. So long as it abides, it shares in the Life of the Vine. It does not have to ask how it works, and it does not have to be concerned with producing the fruit. It does nothing but abide, and the Life of the Vine keeps it. The Vine and the Branches is a reality; it is not a parable. Jesus did not say, “The Kingdom of God is like the Vine and the Branches.” That would have been a parable. Instead, Jesus says, “I am the Vine, and you are the Branches.” This is no simile or metaphor, it is reality. What does it mean? That we are one, and we share in a common Life. Everything happens according to the Law of Life in Christ. But since it is easy to become philosophical and ethereal concerning this, let us quickly bring it down to a practical application and discover how we may cooperate with it.
THE LAW OF LIFE MEANS “NOT I, BUT CHRIST”
“I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20a).”
You may be interested in knowing how the Lord taught me to live according to the Law of Life. I learned from the Scriptures that Christ lived in me, and I had no life of my own. I understood that Christianity is not about trying to be like Jesus, but is about Jesus Himself living in me and through me. This is what is called the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. So then I realized that it is not about me at all, my weakness, or my feelings one way or the other. All that mattered was Christ in me, doing what I cannot do in myself.
As I was taking a shower one morning the Spirit began to repeat to me over and over again, “Trust in My Life! Trust in My Life!” I thought that was too easy to do, Christianity must be more difficult than this. But this soft Voice was persistent. It was not a command, but a challenge. Finally I agreed to trust in His Life, and I went about my business.
It was not long before the first test came. I did not like to wash dishes, but the first thing my wife asked me to do that morning was wash the dishes. Oh no! Immediately I clenched my jaws together and felt my blood pressure rise. You must understand that I used to have a temper which once caused me to slam a car door so hard that I broke the glass out of it. So my natural response to this dirty kitchen was to explode and say that I was too busy and besides, it is not my job anyway! That was my first thought.
But at that exact moment I recalled what the Spirit had been telling me: “Trust in My Life!” So I went to the Lord, not outwardly, but inwardly, and said, “I cannot clean this stupid kitchen! I have better things to do. I hate this dirty job. Nevertheless, I trust in Your Life to do in me and through me what I am unable and unwilling to do myself.” Neither my feelings nor my emotions went away, but I obediently began washing the dishes, and waited to see what, if anything, would happen.
I cannot say when exactly it happened, but at some point I became conscious of the Law of Life taking over and washing those dishes. What was at first a repulsive thing soon became a joyous occasion, and I began to smile. I realized that it was not I, but Christ, Who was doing this chore. It was almost as if I was observing myself doing it, marveling at how well it was going, but at the same time, incredulous that it was so easy! It was like riding a bicycle for the first time, when you finally “get it”, and you wonder why it took you so long to figure it out.
The dishes were soon done and the kitchen was cleaned, but the lesson learned that day stayed with me forever. It convinced me that Jesus Christ lives. I know that Jesus lives because Jesus washed those dishes! That was more proof to me than a thousand sermons. I could not do what I just did. Or to be more correct, I could do it if I forced myself to, but I could not do it with such joy and peace! It was not so much the outward thing that was done as it was the spirit and manner in which it was performed. My Christian life changed from “What Would Jesus Do?” to “Watch What Jesus Does!”
Now you may think that is a silly example, but we must begin with baby steps. There is no need to go out and put yourself through a major test. If you cannot pass the smallest of tests, what makes you think the larger tests will be any easier? It is not the size of a thing that matters, it is learning the lesson of the Law of Life. The Lord was not trying to teach me about doing housework, but was teaching me how to cooperate with His Life.
The Law of Gravity brings objects to the ground. It does not matter to Gravity how large or small the object is. It works the same with acorns as it does with airplanes. Likewise, I know today that it does not matter if I am called upon to wash dishes, mow the lawn, write an article, preach a message, cast out a demon, love my neighbor, forgive my enemy, or lay down my life. It makes no difference to the Life. It is not I, but Christ, who does these things. The principle is the same, and the Life cannot fail. If I give up my life, if I give up my self-effort, then He begins to do what I cannot do. This is Christianity.
The Law of Life means that I do not try to be or do anything in my own strength. Instead, the Life leads me, the Life instructs me, and the Life gives me the words and the actions. I am not a Christian because I believe in the Bible, follow the teachings of Jesus, and live a good life. I am a Christian because Christ is my Life. Since Christ is my Life, I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in me. I do nothing to achieve this, it just is. Because He lives, I live. In Him I live; in Him I move; in Him I have my being (Acts 17:28a).
Again, let us make this practical. Does a fish become a fish by swimming under the water, or does it swim under the water because it is a fish? Does it say to itself, “I am a fish, therefore, I must learn to act like a fish. I must remember to breathe through my gills and move my body back and forth.” Absolutely not. Or what about a bird? Does a bird become a bird once it learns to fly through the air? Or does it fly through the air because it is a bird? Which is it? Of course, the bird is a bird, and therefore it flies. It does not have to be instructed per se, but when it is pushed out of the nest it flaps its wings. It is its nature to do so. So doing does not create being, doing flows out of being.
Now the Law of Life in Christ does not try to make us into something we are not. The very presence of the Life in us demonstrates that Christ already indwells us. We are not trying to be like Christ, and we are not trying to live like a Christian. Since we ARE in Him, we WALK in Him. Our works come from what we are, not what we are trying to be. We do not receive His Life so that we can work very hard to be like Jesus. That is like the fish having to remind itself that since it is a fish therefore it must swim. Or, like a bird having to keep telling itself through positive confession that it must remember to fly. Yet Christians keep reminding themselves, “Now that I am a Christian, I must remember to read the Bible, pray, and live a holy life. I must not forget to love my neighbor and smile no matter what happens.” Can you see the problem here? With this mentality we cannot cooperate with the Life, because we would be depending on our life instead of His.
This is why we cannot look for a method, formula, or technique to try and teach people spirituality. It is like taking a bird and putting it in a school to teach it to fly. Just let the bird go and it will fly all by itself! Why do we not take a fish and give it a technique for swimming? You know very well that when you drop the fish into the water it will just swim away of its own accord. But we try to teach Christians three keys to spiritual growth, or four principles of Christian living, or seven ways to overcome, or a ten-step process to this thing or that thing. What we should be doing is letting these people loose and allowing them to discover how wonderful this Life in them is, how the Christ Who indwells them will teach them everything.
THE LAW OF LIFE MEANS “ABIDE IN ME, AND YOU WILL PRODUCE MUCH FRUIT”
“I am the Vine, and you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, will produce much fruit: for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).”
It is amazing the number of Christians who believe it is up to them to produce fruit. This teaching is, to them, like trying to force a square peg through a round hole. They become obsessed with making something happen, thinking it is all up to their effort, their willpower, their determination, to grow up into Christ. To suggest that they cease from their labor is to make light of all their hard work up until now, and this offends them! They begin in the Spirit, but look to the flesh (self-effort) to complete the work. That is not the Christ-Life! The fruit will come of its own accord, provided we abide in Him.
But look at the last part of the verse: “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” It is similar to John 5:15, which says, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do: for whatever the Father does, the Son does.” And John 14:10: “I speak nothing of Myself. It is the Father that dwells in Me, and He does the works.” As the Son can do nothing apart from the Father Who dwells within Him, so we can do nothing apart from the Son who dwells within us. The question is not whether or not we will work out our salvation, but under whose power will we work it out? Is it our willpower, or is it Christ? Is it our effort, or is it the Law of Life?
Are we making a case for idle passivity? By no means. We are not suggesting that Christians cease all effort, only that Christians cease all SELF-effort. The Law of Life is more powerful and active than anything generated or maintained by self-effort. With self-effort I am always at the mercy of how I feel. If I feel spiritual then I can pray for hours at a time. But if I do not feel spiritual then I cannot even pray five minutes. This is why so many believers live their lives like a roller-coaster. They do not live according to principle, according to the Law of Life. Thinking it is up to them to become Christlike, they turn an easy yoke and a light burden into a difficult yoke and a heavy burden - difficult and heavy for themselves, and for those who must live and work around them.
The one who rests in Christ will produce more fruit than the one who strives with self-effort. This is demonstrated in Scripture and in the real-life experience of countless saints. Paul proclaimed, “I labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” There is no question that Paul worked, labored, and toiled. But the difference with Paul is he knew that he was laboring according to Christ working in him. Was Paul lazy? By contrast, he was more fruitful than ever. The end result is his statement, “I labored more abundantly than them all,” quickly qualified with, “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (I Corinthians 15:10).” The “I can do all things” must always be followed with “through Christ who strengthens me.” If we trust in the Life we will be anything but passive.
THE LAW OF LIFE MEANS CHRIST WILL TEACH US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW
“The anointing which you received from Him remains in you. And no need are you constantly having that anyone be constantly teaching you. But even as His anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true and is not a lie, and even as He taught you, be constantly abiding in Him (I John 2:27, Wuest Expanded Translation).”
I hope every Christian will one day learn that they are already anointed, and that their Anointing is a Person named Jesus Christ. Then they will see that they do not have to travel to Brother So-And-So’s meeting to get the “anointing”. They will not seek out a prophet to give them a “word”. They will learn to live according to the Law of Life, and this Life will teach them everything they need to know. That will be a wonderful day, and thankfully, more and more believers are coming to the knowledge of this truth.
Now the Scripture says that we do not need any man to teach us, for the Anointing (Christ) Who indwells us will teach us all things. More than anything else I consider myself a teacher, so I pondered this for a long time. What use is there for me to teach anything? For that matter, why do we need teachers at all? Would it not be better for each of us to be taught of God directly, without the interference of a human teacher? Then I received insight into this Scripture. It cannot be telling us that we do not need teachers, for it was God who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to His Church, to encourage, edify, and establish all of us deeper into Christ. Can the Holy Spirit in John contradict the Holy Spirit in Paul? By no means. What then? John was the sole survivor of the first twelve apostles, and now he is very old. Naturally he is concerned with the welfare of the Church after his death. So God comforts John, and then John comforts us, with this truth: even if we do not have access to the apostle, or prophet, or evangelist, or pastor and teacher, we are still instructed inwardly. The Church that Jesus is building is not dependant upon the great men or women of God. We are grateful to the ministry gifts when we have them, but we are not dependent upon them for our Life. The Life is greater than the ministers through which it may be ministered.
Some feel they just cannot get along without consulting someone who is perceived to be a spiritual authority so they can ask them what they should do. Such dependence upon man can become a snare - both for the ones seeking advice and for the ones giving advice. At times we should seek out the advice of others, but the point is that the Life will instruct us individually, and when the Life within us responds, then we “need no man to teach us”. The Life will also “amen” what others tell us, or it will voice its disagreement with what we are told. We can trust the Life completely, whereas we dare not put confidence in man, no matter how good and spiritual the counsel may be.
The problem with us is that we do not have the patience to listen for this inward instruction. We too quickly put our confidence in flesh and blood. It is easier and speedier to have someone tell us, “Yes, you should do this” or “No, you should not do that.” The question is not should or should not; the question is, how is the Life instructing you? If we do not know what the Life is telling us, then we should be still and be quiet until we DO know. But all too often we know well enough what we are to do, and we are looking for a way out of it; or we are trying to get confirmation from this thing or that thing before we will obey. This is why we have a hard time hearing to begin with. How many times does God have to repeat Himself? How many times does He have to confirm something before we will obey? It sounds spiritual and humble to question and wait, but if the Life has already instructed us then any delay on our part is really disobedience.
THE LAW OF LIFE MEANS “HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE”
“Let that which you have heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you have heard from the beginning abides in you, you will also continue in the Son and in the Father; and this is the promise He has promised us: eternal Life (I John 2:24,25).”
There is still much of Him to learn and to experience. There is much growing which must take place. The Path is a process. We are hardly ever as far along as we imagine ourselves to be. But we have not been talking about spiritual maturity, but spiritual satisfaction. If, in abiding continually in the Lord, He becomes our food and our drink, then we will grow. Growth is not the result of time, it is the natural result of Christ increasing and us decreasing. The Law of Life says that Christ must increase. Now we can do nothing to speed up this process, but we can certainly hinder or quench it.
According to Paul, it is the Law of Sin and Death that keeps me doing the evil that I do not want to do, and prevents me from doing the good I want to do. Ironically, this sounds like the normal experience of the majority of believers, and they call it the Christian life! It is not! How is that any different than any other person in the world? From observing Christians for years I now realize that most have an unwavering assurance and complete confidence in the Law of Sin and Death. They think it is normal to struggle against sin and work their way towards being Christ-like. Talk to them about holiness and they are full of excuses why it cannot be achieved (again, seeing holiness as a goal they must attain to instead of a Person they must abide in). The bottom line is this: they have more faith in the Law of Sin and Death than they do the Law of Life. The sort of life you lead is evidence to which Law you have the most faith in.
Greater is He that is within me! The question is not “what” will deliver me, but “who” will deliver me from this cycle of trying and failing? “I thank God [it is done] through Jesus Christ (Romans 7:25).” I have the Man! I do not need anything else. I simply abide in Him, and the Law of Life takes over where I leave off. Before, I could not do the good that I longed to do, but what was impossible before is now easy with the Law of Life. Before, I could not keep myself from doing the very thing I hated, but with the Law of Life I am kept from doing the things I hate. The Law of Life stands over against the Law of Sin and Death, and if we will have at least as much faith in Life as we do in Death, we will soon walk as we should.
Thank God! The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the Law of Sin and Death. HAS MADE ME FREE. With the Law of Life I do not have to struggle. To struggle is to strive, and striving is the Law of Sin and Death. The Law of Life is “not I, but Christ.” I cannot overcome, nevertheless, the One Who Overcomes lives within me; therefore I am an overcomer. It is not about me, and it is all about Him. It is all of grace!
May the Lord bring us into the fullness of His Life, and may we trust the sufficiency of the Indwelling Christ to perform the good work He has begun in us. Amen.
Minggu, 09 Agustus 2009
8 Warning Signs of Toxic Faith
By Lee Grady www.themordecaiproject.com
Legalistic religion is dangerous. Here's how you can detect and avoid the poison of a religious spirit.
After Elisha watched Elijah ascend into heaven, the prophet went to the city of Jericho and performed his first miracle. The men of that city faced an environmental crisis: Their water was toxic, most likely because of the sulphur and other chemicals that had rained down upon nearby Sodom and Gomorrah years earlier. This poison had made the land barren (see 2 Kings 2:19-22) and it was probably affecting people and animals as well as plant life.
So Elisha performed a bold, prophetic act. He threw salt in the water and proclaimed: "Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer'" (v. 21, NASB). His proclamation brought immediate cleansing.
"Jesus Himself referred to these toxins as 'the leaven of the Pharisees'” (Luke 12:1, NASB). He told us that the Pharisees’ brand of religion, which looked good on the outside, was deadly—and contagious."
This obscure story in the Old Testament offers us a picture of the gospel's power. The message of Jesus Christ heals us. The Holy Spirit brings life where death has reigned. He neutralizes the poisons that cause spiritual barrenness. He balances the pH level so that spiritual growth and vitality is possible.
All of us would like to enjoy a healthy spiritual life. But the sad truth is that many of us are barren because of hazardous additives. We have believed a different gospel—one laced with legalism, performance-based religion and salvation by works—when Christ alone is our only source of life.
Jesus Himself referred to these toxins as "the leaven of the Pharisees" (Luke 12:1, NASB). He told us that the Pharisees' brand of religion, which looked good on the outside, was deadly—and contagious.
Have you been infected? You can take your own pH test by examining these eight characteristics of a religious spirit.
1. A religious spirit views God as a cold, harsh, distant taskmaster rather than an approachable, loving Father. When we base our relationship with God on our ability to perform spiritual duties, we deny the power of grace. God does not love us because we pray, read our Bibles, attend church or witness, yet millions of Christians think God is mad if they don't perform these and other duties perfectly. As a result they struggle to find true intimacy with Jesus.
2. A religious spirit places emphasis on doing outward things to show others that God accepts him. We deceive ourselves into believing that we can win God's approval through a religious dress code, certain spiritual disciplines, particular music styles or even doctrinal positions.
3. A religious spirit develops traditions and formulas to accomplish spiritual goals. We trust in our liturgies, denominational policies or man-made programs to obtain results that only God alone can give.
4. A religious spirit becomes joyless, cynical and hypercritical. This can turn a home or a church completely sour. Then, whenever genuine joy and love are expressed, this becomes a threat to those who have lost the simplicity of true faith.
5. A religious spirit becomes prideful and isolated, thinking that his righteousness is special and that he cannot associate with other believers who have different standards. Churches that allow these attitudes become elitist and dangerously vulnerable to deception or cult-like practices.
6. A religious spirit develops a harsh, judgmental attitude toward sinners, yet those who ingest this poison typically struggle with sinful habits that they cannot admit to anyone else. Religious people rarely interact with nonbelievers because they don't want their own superior morals to be tainted by them.
7. A religious spirit rejects progressive revelation and refuses to embrace change. This is why many churches become irrelevant to society. They become so focused on what God did 50 years ago that they become stuck in a time warp and cannot move forward when the Holy Spirit begins to open new understanding. When religious groups refuse to shift with God's new directives, they become "old wineskins" and God must find more flexible vessels that are willing to implement change.
8. A religious spirit persecutes those who disagree with his self-righteous views and becomes angry whenever the message of grace threatens to undermine his religiosity. An angry religious person will use gossip and slander to assassinate other peoples' character and may even use violence to prove his point. Jesus, in fact, warned His disciples: "There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he's doing God a favor" (John 16:2, The Message).
If the poison of religion has contaminated your walk with God, ask Him to pour a fresh understanding of His grace into your barren spirit—and then expect His new life to flow through you.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady.
Senin, 03 Agustus 2009
Defense Mechanisms: Why & How We Block Intimacy
By Junior deSouza www.juniordesouza.com
Intimacy can be incredibly elusive! Though we all desire and need it, oftentimes we ourselves are the very reason it escapes us. May the Lord illumine our eyes to see and move beyond our defense mechanisms into fulfilling, lifelong intimacy with our loved ones.
Authentic Connection- What is intimacy?
Intimacy is the meaningful and fulfilling connection between two or more authentic selves. Vulnerability and trust are assumed, since the authentic self is essentially and perpetually vulnerable, needing assurance of safety for expression. Intimacy is when the real Me meets the real You in a moment of trusting, soulical intercourse.
Just as intimacy can happen between people, it can also happen with God. In our relationship with Him, we enjoy intimacy when our truest self is presented regularly in His presence--the good, the bad, and everything in between. When the deepest Me approaches Him, the deepest Him can reciprocate and sweep over me (Ps 42:7); I become one with His heart and soul, beyond His deeds, gifts, and Lordship.
Emotional Fears - Why do we block intimacy?
Intimacy blocking is when a person employs certain behaviors to fend off potential intruders to their heart and soul. These behaviors are commonly referred to as defense mechanisms, or simply defenses. We'll get to them in a sec. In general, we block intimacy for four reasons.
Fear of buried pain Those with unresolved, buried emotional pain are terrorized at the thought of ever reliving that pain. The greater the trauma, the greater the buried pain, the greater the fear of that pain. Consequently, they block persons, interactions, or scenarios whereby that pain might be triggered and relived.
Fear of judgment Who likes to be judged, criticized, or picked apart? No one. Some personality types and maturity levels can absorb or deflect it better than others, but nonetheless it is not desirable or good (Mt 7:1-5). Some block intimacy when they anticipate judgmentalism.
Fear of ridicule Affirmation is a basic need. Unfortunately, many grew up in families where validation was scarce and shame was abundant. These wounded souls tend to shut down if they sniff out potential shame, canceling all meaningful self-expressions. Who wants to let their true self out, only to be laughed at, belittled, or ridiculed? Saul hid himself at his kingly proclamation for this reason (1Sam 10:21,22), which ended up happening anyway just as he feared (v27).
Fear of rejection Just as we need appropriate doses of affirmation, so also we need a social niche in a group or community, or acceptance. Some block intimacy for fear that their self-expressions would cause them to be disenfranchised, or rejected, by the very group they seek identification with.
Defense Mechanisms - How do we block intimacy?
Defense mechanisms are behaviors people employ to fend off potential intruders to their heart and soul. All of us, at one time or another, for one reason or another, have used these barriers. However, as God continues to heal us emotionally, free us from the fear of man, and purify our overall personality, defenses should become less and less important. Keep in mind also, these defenses are, at times, erected subconsciously; we might not realize when or how much we depend on them until a moment of clarification dawns on us. May this be our moment.
Marketing accomplishments Some divert attention away from their heart and soul by marketing their accomplishments. In other words, they continually spotlight their successes, victories, and achievements in their conversations and interactions with others. This is a form of "putting your best foot forward". In a job interview that might be okay, but not so with loved ones or the Lord who need us to be deeper and broader than our successes. The needy and naïve are often impressed by such self-promotion; the stable are bothered by it and spurn it as bragging; the emotionally whole and spiritually discerning perceive the defense mechanism for what it is.
Playing to strengths Some play to personal strengths, such as talent, beauty, heritage, wealth, and so on. This is slightly different from accomplishment-marketing in that playing to strengths spotlights what one has, while the former spotlights what one has done. This is also a form of "putting your best foot forward". Again, this might be okay in a job interview, but not for intimate relationships that require a comprehensive self-presentation.
Anger How well does this work? Very. Occasional rage, a violent explosion here and there, an aggressive tone, a seething irritability, a tense face, quick movements...who wants to mess with that? Anger is certainly among the most successful defense mechanisms. It begins to crumble though, when one comes along unmoved and unbothered by such childish temper tantrums.
Staying busy Martha avoided intimacy with Jesus by staying busy (Lk 10:38-42). Extreme busyness, being always on the go, and hyperactivity are defensive schemes to keep meaningful connections at bay. Who can be close--truly close--to a person who won't slow down enough to bond? This is true of both our relationship with people and the Lord (Ps 46:10).
Intellectual garble At times, the head can be the enemy of the heart. Some, especially the intelligent, barricade themselves from intimacy by being a "talking head". They use intellectual garble, rhetoric, and diversions to avoid raw emotional vulnerability and bonding.
"Parenting" Parents do not share full intimacy with their kids. The mental and social gap created by the age difference is simply too great. Similarly, adults who play the "Parent" role with other adults also maintain such a distance. Those who arbitrarily and continuously seek to parent, pastor, and patronize those around them do so as a defense mechanism. Their conscious and subconscious logic goes something like this: If I'm your parent I don't have to relate with you heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul...because I'm your parent remember? The Parent game is simply another intimacy blocker.
Superspiritualism A tricky defense found often among Christians is superspiritualism. Christians hide their real person behind excessive Christianese, Scripture quotations, dramatic spiritual stories, "God told me" lines, and so on. These annoying brethren occasionally need to be interrupted in the midst of their performances and asked, "Hello, is the real person in there somewhere?" I'm not at all doubting the validity of their relationship with God or their experiences, only the validity of their spiritual maturity, emotional wholeness, and relational fulfillment.
Hyperindependence Independence is good and necessary, but hyperindependence is a hiding place from intimacy. Isolation, seclusion, extreme privacy, and lonerism are protective reactions, so also the extrovert who advertises an I-need-no-one persona.
Codependence Codependence is not intimacy, it is survival. It's not a meaningful connection, it's a desperate lifeline. It's one person sucking life out of another, or two people sucking life out of each other, but not two people floating in the buoyancy of genuine vulnerability and trust.
Precious Lord and Father, we identify our fearful defenses, we repent of them and ask your forgiveness, and we ask for more grace to practice better, biblical ways of responding to our emotional needs and crises. In Jesus name, Amen.
Defenses vs Boundaries - Guarding Our Hearts
Proverbs 4:23 tells us, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Solomon is not urging us to be defensive or nonintimate, but to have wise personal boundaries that others cannot trespass. The opposite of defensive is permissive. Swinging to a permissive extreme makes us vulnerable to the wrong people, at the wrong time, in the wrong way. Psalm 48:12,13 tell us the city of God had watchtowers, ramparts, and citadels. John 2:24,25 tell us Jesus Himself had boundaries. How much more we? Not only do boundaries guard individuals from the harmful, they also guard relationships. When intimacy begins to blossom, such boundaries will protect the vineyard in bloom from intrusive foxes (SS 2:15).
We establish boundaries through selectivity in four areas: talk, time, touch, and tangibles. We are to be selective with our talk, the type of personal information we share with others (Ps 141:3, Pr 13:3, 18:6,7). We are to be selective with our time, carefully predetermining and administrating the time we spend with certain persons and in certain places (Ps 101, Pr 12:26, 22:5). We are to be selective with our touch, monitoring with whom, when, and how we experience physical contact with others (1Sam 20:41, SS 2:7, 1Th 4:3-6, 1Ti 5:2). We are to be selective with our tangibles, screening who, when, and how our belongings are shared with others (Ezr 8:21, Job 5:24, Pr 12:27 NIV).
God desires that we enjoy lifelong intimacy with others. This is done by understanding intimacy as four "right" connections.
Connecting with the right people There is a type of person that is ideal for intimacy (Ps 101). We should all seek to be that person, and we should all pray for these persons to be sent or cultivated for us. This type of person is, for the most part, nondefensive; they are willing and wanting to emerge from their fortress to share their soul with someone. This type of person understands boundaries; they are willing to maintain limits around their talk, time, touch, and tangibles so that any blossoming intimacy would be safeguarded. Most of all, this person is intimate with their First Love (Rev 2:4); intimacy with Jesus is the foundation and schooling for all human relationships (Mt 7:24-27).
Connecting for the right reasons Intimacy is the equal giving and receiving of authentic selves, giving being the beginning and the basis (Ro 12:10, 1Co 13:5, Php 2:3,4). Those who approach relationships to receive first do not have an intimacy mentality. Connecting for the right reasons means giving first, receiving last. Relationships implode or explode when one or both persons put receiving first.
Connecting at the right times Intimacy is an opportunist--it can be heightened and microwaved at certain times. Victories, crises, and change are golden opportunities to connect profoundly (1Sam 20, Ro 12:15). More energy, thought, and prayer should be exerted in these times. Connect at the right times.
Connecting in the right ways People have different love deficits, based on past experiences. People have different love preferences, based on their personality and calling. Sensitivity and observation will reveal these. Connecting in the right ways means customizing love so that deficits are healed and preferences are satisfied (Eph 4:29, Php 2:4).