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Archive for July, 2013

The general thinking is that intimacy with another person, be it a spouse or other close friend, is the fruit of emotion, a common nature and a shared set of experiences.

It is typically understood as something that develops apart from a specific strategy of intent. For if such were the case, the thinking goes, many people could have intimacy with certain people whose hearts they have long desired.

We know that human intimacy is not an equation to be manipulated, however.

Just because we want it does not mean it is going to happen.

Spiritual intimacy with God is another matter, though.

If we want it, and we do things in certain ways for certain reasons, we can have it with God.

Guaranteed.

Here’s the reason for my comment above:

And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.” (II Chronicles 28:9-10)

Hmmmm…….

King David’s statement inspired by the Holy Spirit makes clear that intimacy is learned, not just found. It is a fruit of servant-hearted emotions, efforts and thoughts.

If we seek Him, we will find Him.

So how do I seek intimacy with God?

Worship Him with all of my heart.

Serve Him with all of my heart.

Utilize my mind as a computer to plan ways to honor God, serve His people and reject the schemes of Satan.

Understand that the God of my spiritual ancestors is the same God who desires a relationship with me.

Strive to have as good — or better — of a relationship with God as did they.

Take every thought captive so that it might be a servant of the Lord.

As God sees our minds guiding our steps and our hearts guarding our steps, the intimacy we share with Him will grow.

Why? Because of the growing trust we have toward Him and Him toward us.

It is that trust that provides the foundation for intimacy.

The wrap-up? Let’s learn to do the things that build trust and we’ll be learning the things that build intimacy.

With God. And with each other.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Seven words jumped off the page of my devotional Bible this morning while reading at the dinner table.

“Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend.”

My eyes have read over these seven words at least 26 times since I started an annual through-the-Bible-reading regimen in 1987.

But they never caught the significance of these words recorded in I Chronicles 27:33.

Until this morning.

David knew thousands of people.

David had many men whom he trusted to guard his life or his political interests or the wealth of his of kingdom.

Some of the men were likely with him several hours a day.

But he had one man who was known as “the king’s friend.”

Hushai the Arkite had to have been someone very special.

We can suppose that he was like that kid in your school growing up who always encouraged you, always helped you, always defended you, always wisely advised you and always made you glad to see them.

I did a bit of research of the Hebrew word used for “friend” in verse 33. In various forms, the word re-ah appears 183 times in the Old Testament and the prevailing sense of meaning is conveyed by an array of translation options listed in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance that include these words: brother, companion, husband, lover, neighbor, confidant.

We’re not talking about acquaintences here.

We’re not even talking about recurring-contact friendships.

Instead, we’re talking about very close relationships.

We’re talking about emotional intimacy.

The Hebrew masculine noun re-ah is also used in Proverbs 17:17 and gives us another picture of Hushai’s value to David.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”

I’m glad that David had a re-ah friend like Hushai, someone who had set himself apart as particularly loyal, encouraging, helpful, wise and trustworthy. Someone who loved at all times, even in adversity.

Hushai’s intense, intercessory loyalty saved the day for David 2 Samuel 15-17 when a revolt was staged for awhile but then reversed in large part because of Hushai’s risking of his own life for the king.

Perhaps you’re longing for such a friend now.

Someone who will lay it all on the line for you.

Please keep praying that God will send one your way.

While you do that, though, please consider being such a friend to someone you know who needs encouragement, needs help, needs a defender, needs wise advice and wants someone they’re always glad to see.

God doesn’t promise us the perpetual presence of a “best buddy” person in this life. He does, however, call us to be the type of re-ah friend that shares His love and shines His light to those in need of caring friends.

That person you help just might become more open to the greatest Friendship he or she could ever have — a friendship with Jesus.

As always, I love you
Martin

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July 17, 2013

As little kids, we were so glad when we were allowed to come out of the bedrooms to which we had been sent because of misbehavior.

Nobody likes “time out” time away from the good graces of the family.

When Mom or Dad called us to them, explained why it’s important to follow family rules and then gave us a loving hug, life was “all better now.”

Over time, we not only learned how to be better-behaved, but we also learned how much our parents loved us.

To a far greater extent, this is the same dynamic as what happens in our relationships with God.

We stop thinking of what our Father wants and start focusing on what we want and, inevitably, we digress into sin.

Because of love, God sends the Holy Spirit’s voice to convict us of our sin.

If we’re wise, we respond quickly and repent.

If we’re pridefully stubborn, we respond more slowly and suffer more needlessly.

For most Christians, though, repentance does eventually flow when the spiritual math makes it clear that we’re losing more than we’re gaining in so many ways.

That’s when we run to our Abba Father.

That’s when He embraces us and assures us of His love.

That’s when He reminds us that He’s already paid the price for our sin and was just waiting on our choice to receive it through repentance as we have done so many times before.

That’s when restoration’s joy fills our hearts just like the joy of the child hugged by Daddy and reminded he or she is loved by Daddy and then is sent out to play with the other kids.

Here’s a passage from today’s reading in the One-Year Bible that reminds us of the amazing love and grace that flows from the God we serve.

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven,whose sins are put out of sight.

“Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.” (Romans 4:7-8 NLT)

Remember the joy of your restoration from sins past, my friend. Cherish those memories of being in the loving, nurturing, gracious arms of God.

For it is the recollection of how much God loves us that compels us to please Him more and serve ourselves less.

And that will be a very good thing with a lot less drama.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I Chronicles 22 describes how David prepared for the Jerusalem temple’s construction via a massive undertaking of accumulating materials worth many billions of dollars in modern-day terms.

It’s mind-blowing, actually, to consider how much wealth was poured into the construction project.

But for David, it was all pocket change compared to the worth God possessed in his heart.

David wanted his son Solomon to have the same view of God, although the young man had experienced a far less arduous journey to the threshold of leading the world’s greatest nation in that time.

All of David’s wealth and relationships with others in various roles were directed at seeing the temple built by Solomon. David had wanted to lead the enterprise but God had made clear that David’s blood-stained warrior’s hands weren’t going to be involved in building a house of peace.

So how does this story relate to you and to me when it comes to building a successful Christian life?

David’s charge to Solomon helps us to answer that question:

Now, my son, may the Lord be with you and give you success as you follow his directions in building the Temple of the Lord your God. And may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the Law of the Lord your God as you rule over Israel. For you will be successful if you carefully obey the decrees and regulations that the Lord gave to Israel through Moses. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart!” (I Chronicles 22:11-13)

Listen, all of our wealth and relationship influence should be directed at building lives that glorify the Lord our God.

Colossians 3:17 tells us that in whatever we do or say, it should be designed to bring glory to God.

Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness and then what we need will be provided to us.

Romans 5:8 tells us that while we were yet sinners, God showed His love for us by sending Jesus to die on the cross for us.

Wow.

Giving God all of our best is the least we can do for Him.

This truth filled the heart of King David who knew quite well both the sorrow of sin and the freedom of forgiveness.

David knew that all of his efforts would never be enough to earn forgiveness AND he knew that all of his praise would never be enough to match God’s glory.

That’s why David spoke to his son’s heart.

For worship is always about intent, not extent.

Listen, there will always be somebody who can give more richly or sing more beautifully or speak more eloquently.

There will always be one who can give to a greater extent.

But if our intent is to build a life that displays God as the #1 priority in our lives, that will be just as meaningful to God as a multi-billion-dollar temple on an ancient hill far away.

Please follow God’s directions via the Bible in building the temple of a life dedicated to worshiping and serving God. Please obey the Law of the Lord your God as you make everyday decisions at home, work or school. You’ll have success if you’ll carefully obey His Word and don’t lose heart.

God promised.

As always, I love you
Martin

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When it comes to sharing our faith, I believe that we’re far more likely to show our relationship with God than we are to speak of our relationship with God.

Of course, both are important when it comes to being the ambassadors for Christ that we’re called to be (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Through the course of the day, however, unsaved people around us will see examples of our faith much more than they’ll hear invitations to share in our faith.

That’s why it is so important that our walk match our talk.

It’s not good for others to hear us speak of living for Jesus and then see us acting like we’re living for the Devil.

How can such a meltdown occur?

Proverbs 19:11, included in today’s reading from the One-Year Bible, offers a clue.

“Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” (Proverbs 19:11)

When we’re offended or suffer loss at work, school or church in some way, somebody else usually sees it.

They’ll also see how we respond.

Will they see the nature of Jesus in our response?

Or the pattern of the world?

If Jesus had been a quick-on-the-draw, eye-for-an-eye person, He wouldn’t have had the influence that impressed all who knew Him.

In fact, He was a “turn the other cheek” guy who overlooked wrongs and clearly controlled His temper.

Let’s be sensible when others make senseless choices that offend or harm us in some way.

Let’s be more like Jesus.

That way, others watching us will be more likely to consider doing the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We love to experience moments of great success and celebration.

For most of us, they don’t happen very often but when they do, it’s “Woo-hoo!” time.

What makes such moments even sweeter is when they occur not by accident but by pre-planned intent.

Particularly when somebody more powerful and wiser helps us to prepare and carry out the plan.

We feel special not only because somebody wanted to help us but also that they DID help us to succeed in whatever contest we faced, whether it be the search for a desperately needed job, for harmony in a troubled relationship, for insights to a major academic obstacle or for some difficult health issue.

King David had moments like this and one was included in the One-Year Bible segment for today:

“When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him. But David was told they were coming, so he marched out to meet them. The Philistines arrived and made a raid in the valley of Rephaim. So David asked God, ‘Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?’

“The Lord replied, ‘Yes, go ahead. I will hand them over to you.’”

“So David and his troops went up to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there.

“God did it!” David exclaimed. “He used me to burst through my enemies like a raging flood!” (I Chronicles 14:8-11)

Imagine the joy David was feeling when he shouted “God did it!”

To face a daunting obstacle, to ask for God’s wisdom and help and then to see success come our way is a major-league blessing.

We love “God did it!” moments.

Make sure to not only celebrate them when they happen but also testify about your “Woo-hoo!” victories when talking with other people about your faith.

That way, your faith will appear more to others as a recurring fountain of great blessing rather than just a bunch of behavior-controlling rules.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There are many people in many workplaces who are collecting paychecks today, in part, because of the outstanding performance of one person in the department or out on the sales route.

In a very real sense, the value of that one person’s efforts to serve and impress the company owner(s) prompted them to not discard the department or division or branch operation.

Was it only because of profits generated?

Many times not, I’m sure.

The owner(s)’ affinity for one person benefited many. Perhaps you’re that person at your workplace.

The world needs more intercessors who gain influence with those in authority and it leads to blessing for others.

Listen to this passage from Acts 27 and you’ll see how the Apostle Paul’s caring integrity and life wisdom led to a close relationship with the Roman commander transporting him to Rome for trial, and that relationship served to save the lives of hundreds during a terrible storm.

The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape. But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul, so he didn’t let them carry out their plan.” Acts 27:42-43

You’ll need to read all of Acts 27 to get a clearer picture of the context, but Paul had clearly built a strong bridge of influence with the commanding officer during the many weeks they had been together before the event of vv. 42-43.

The officer had to have heard Paul’s rich wisdom about people, about the ocean, about sailing and certainly about religion.

Who knows how many times Paul and the officer had talked about matters of faith, even if the officer apparently didn’t embrace Christianity?

The officer in charge cared for Paul and that relationship benefited many.

No, you and I won’t influence every company owner, every job supervisor, every coach or every teacher or every parent into becoming Christians.

But we can influence them in ways that leads to a closer relationship with them, one that just might lead to the benefit of many who keep their paychecks or who avoid brutal workouts or extra homework or miserable tension around the house.

Please do the absolute best you can — always — for your employer, your teacher, your coach or your parent. Explain that you appreciate that person and want to give your best because that’s what Christians are to do — serve others.

Plant seeds of faith in wise, humble ways.

The day just might come when the bridge of influence you’ve built will be the bridge of vocational or relational deliverance for others as well.

As always, I love you
Martin

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