John 15:9 NCV
Having intimacy with God means having a deep connection and relationship with Him. It means we are close to Him. James 4:8 says: ‘Come near to God, and God will come near to you’ (NCV). God doesn’t force this connection with us, it’s up to us to come close to Him. He’s waiting and inviting us to come, but we have to make the decision to repent of our sin and draw close to Him. We have to choose to obey and follow Him. We have to choose to accept God’s love for us, and stay in that love. Jesus said: ‘I loved you as the Father loved me. Now remain in my love.’ In this passage in John 15, Jesus uses the analogy of vines and branches to show how we should be connected to God. He said: ‘I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing’ (v.5 NCV). To be fruitful in life, we need to be connected to God. We need to have an intimate relationship with Him. To truly be friends with someone, we have to be vulnerable and share things. We need regular communication and a desire to spend time with them. And it’s the same with our relationship with God. An intimate relationship with Him requires us to spend time with Him. He wants us to share the good and the bad with Him. There is nothing too big or too small to share with God. But we also need to listen. We need to practice hearing His voice, and ask Him to show us what’s on His heart so that it can be on our hearts too.
Deut 11-13; Matt 12:38-50; Ps 78:17-31; Prov 16:26-30
Romans 15:13 NIV
There are two key relationships we need to spend some time reflecting on. Firstly, our relationship with God. Do we doubt His promises, His call on our lives, our ability to hear from Him, or whether we can do enough to keep Him happy? The Bible says: ‘May the God of hope fill you with…joy and peace as you trust in him.’ When we stop trusting God and start thinking we have got to fix everything ourselves, we lose our joy and peace. Secondly, our relationship with ourselves. One Christian author writes: ‘For years the only relationship I had with myself was one of doubt. I doubted my decisions, my appearance, whether I was saying or doing the right thing…whether I was in any way pleasing God, or anybody else. I knew I wasn’t pleased with myself, so how could God or anybody else be pleased with me? Those years of misery are behind me, because now I know God’s grace covers me like a blanket. I know it’s through Jesus alone that I’m made righteous and acceptable to God.’ When we are ashamed of ourselves, we can end up believing that we are not good enough to be used by God, or even loved by God. But the truth is, we are loved and chosen. He has a plan and purpose for our lives. These things are true, no matter what we are feeling, no matter what other people are telling us, and no matter what our minds are thinking. Until we trust God, and accept ourselves, we are not going to be able to move into the fullness of life that God has for us. So let’s start working through any doubts we have about God, and about ourselves, so that we can live in the joy and peace He offers.
Deut 5-7; Matt 12:15-21; Ps 78:1-8; Prov 16:23-24
Romans 15:13 NIV
First, how is your relationship with God right now? Do you doubt His promises, His call on your life, your ability to hear from Him, His pleasure in you, or whether you can do enough to keep Him happy? If so, this Scripture is custom-designed for you: “May the God of hope fill you with…joy and peace as you trust in him.” Notice, when you stop trusting God and start trusting in your own efforts, you lose your joy and peace. Have you lost yours today? If you want them back, you must get out of doubt and back into faith! Second, how is your relationship with yourself right now? One Christian author writes: “For years the only relationship I had with myself was one of doubt. I doubted my decisions, my appearance, whether I was saying or doing the right thing…whether I was in any way pleasing God, or anybody else. I knew I wasn’t pleased with myself, so how could God or anybody else be pleased with me? Those years of misery are behind me, because now I know God’s grace covers me like a blanket. I know it’s through Jesus alone that I’m made righteous and acceptable to God. What a joy! I was so bound by legalistic religion that I’ll always have to be on guard against it. But now I know how to recognize its symptoms.” Paul writes, “Stand fast then, and do not…submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off]” (Galatians 5:1 AMP). Stop doubting your salvation, or yourself, or God!
Soul food: Deut 5-7; Matt 12:15-21; Ps 78:1-8; Prov 16:23-24
2 Kings 3:8 NIV
The Israelites discovered that for them, the way into the Promised Land was through the wilderness. One Bible teacher refers to it as “God’s killing field.” He says: “In the wilderness experiences of life, the things that cause you to stumble in your walk with God are permitted to die. There He weeds out those who want only a superficial relationship from those who long to know Him intimately. It’s where you learn to stand in faith and to cast all your cares on Him, because there’s nowhere else to turn. It’s where God says, ‘I finally have you where I want you.’ Sometimes He will lead you into the wilderness abruptly. This is especially so when He’s been trying to get your attention and talk to you about a calling He’s placed on your life, and until now you haven’t had time to listen. Suddenly you realize that God is the only One who can get you through the situation you’re in. He permits you to be stripped of pride so you can be clothed with humility; stripped of self-sufficiency so you can be brought to the place of total dependence on Him.” If you’re going through a wilderness experience, don’t think God is punishing you or that He has forsaken you. He’s just allowing some things to die so that other things can be born in you and grow into fruitfulness. Be encouraged; you will come through this! By God’s grace you’ll get to your destination. The truth is, the only way to reach the destination God has planned for you is through the wilderness.
Soul food: 1 Sam 5:1-6:16; Rev 11:15-19
Psalm 107:9 NIV
Psalm 107 is all about remembering and rejoicing in the things God has done for us. It’s divided into sections, each talking about a different group of people who found themselves in challenging circumstances, but saw God come through for them. And each section ends with the words ‘Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love’ (Psalm 107:8; 15; 21 NIV). The first section speaks of people who were wandering in the wilderness, and were hungry and thirsty. This can be interpreted two ways. Firstly, it could be about God providing for our physical needs. When the Israelites were in the desert, they began complaining to Moses that they were better off back in Egypt where they were slaves. They said: ‘There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve’ (Exodus 16:3 NIV). God provided the Israelites with manna to eat, and the way He gave it to them meant that they had to trust in His provision each day (take a look at Exodus 16:4-21). Secondly, it could be showing how God provides for our spiritual needs. When we are spiritually hungry and thirsty, God promises to satisfy us. We are told that ‘he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.’ Other translations include the words ‘longing soul’ which suggests it’s talking about people who are desperate for more of God. God never forces us to have a relationship with Him, but inside each of us is an empty space which only He can fill. We often try and fill it ourselves, but a deep relationship with God is the only way we will ever feel truly satisfied.
Acts 18-19; Matt 10:11-20; Ps 146; Prov 16:4-5