What's in your bucket?
Someone recently had a picture of a child who had just finished making a sandcastle - holding in his hand an empty bucket. The question was, “What will you put in your bucket now?” There certainly is plenty of work out there for us to do, but how do we choose what’s right? There are huge things we could fill our buckets with, but what is the Lord asking you to do? One of the first tasks the Lord may well be placing in our hands is to take seriously the need to be reconciled with one another and to learn to honour one another. At the end of the age, the Lord is going to be inviting us to a wedding feast - he will welcome us in; but what will be the state of our relationships on that day?
One of the first tasks the Lord may well be placing in our hands is to take seriously the need to be reconciled with one another and to learn to honour one another. At the end of the age, the Lord is going to be inviting us to a wedding feast - he will welcome us in; but what will be the state of our relationships on that day?
In this season of time, the Lord is wanting to gather a people whose first priority and desire is to be face-to-face with him. The last place we want to be is to be in the state of having lost our first love - because God will hold that against us! Personally and corporately, we should be in that place of ‘first love’ - without being distracted and detached from our relationship with the Lord. Only then will our spiritual eyes and ears be opened, our spirits awakened so we can see and experience the presence of his glory as it invades our space. Head knowledge doesn’t get us there - heart knowledge does!
To change the analogy slightly, the New Jerusalem is a Bride coming down to the earth
Revelation 21:1-3 “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”
The unfolding of salvation history is a love story - a romance! What you build through romance will be very different from what you build through duty. Romance speaks of rediscovering our spiritual passion. When the disciples couldn’t cast out the demon in Mark 9, Jesus told them that this kind could only come out through prayer and fasting - it speaks of restoring intimacy in our hearts.
Song of Solomon 1:4 “Draw me after you and let us run together! The king has brought me into his chambers. We will rejoice in you and be glad; We will extol your love more than wine. Rightly do they love you.”
The restoration of intimacy and romance in our relationship with God is vital. Vital for that restoration is opening ourselves up to a move of the Spirit that will create an environment for his renewing power to regenerate us. These moves of the Spirit are evidence of the Father drawing and enticing us with his touch, his gifts and his words.Jesus prayed for us during one of the most grueling moments of his life on earth. In the Garden of Gethsemane he poured out his heart to the Father:
John 17:20-21 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Jesus modelled perfect intimacy with his Father - he even implied that intimacy was the basis of his ministry and his ability to see what the Father was doing:
John 5:19-20 “Truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”
He not only modelled it, he made it possible for us to enter into it ourselves. Intimacy opens a door to knowing and experiencing God at new and rewarding levels. There is a wonder and joy in growing towards intimacy — we can never get enough of Jesus. It’s a never-ending, increasingly rewarding journey.
From the Old Testament to the New, Scripture is about God’s personal agenda for restored fellowship and a rewarding relationship that satisfies the longings of our hearts and glorifies him. A successful journey towards intimacy not only demands that we replace faulty or unbalanced expectations with truthful ones, but that we ask ourselves, What can we expect?
If we read Psalm 23 (David’s ‘Shepherd Psalm’), we can begin to see and answer to that question. We can expect that God has promised to provide for us in our relationship with him. The Bible suggests at least three attainable outcomes of a deepening personal relationship with Him: (1) He will satisfy our souls; (2) He will sustain our lives; and (3) He will secure us even in the face of great danger.
The presence of God brings with it all that God is. He doesn’t leave pieces and parts of himself behind. He blesses us with the fullness of his partnership in our lives. His presence guarantees his protecting power, his sovereign direction, his unequalled wisdom, his tender loving care, and his just involvement in our lives. To be afraid, to permit fear to shadow our souls, is to deny his presence. Yet, embracing by faith the reality of his presence convinces us that he will fully secure us — regardless of what life might throw at us.
We know that intimacy is working when we can say with David, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” When we can honestly say that we really don’t need additional things to be satisfied, sustained, and secured, then we will know that we are a long way down the journey towards connecting intimately with the God who offers all of himself to us. Satisfaction with God is beginning to take hold when we cease being driven and defined by earthly things and begin to long for spiritual realities. When we find complete satisfaction in him, our lives will be marked by an unshakable confidence that lies beneath the surface ups and downs of our daily lives. This is the confidence that only comes when we are connected to the fact that Jesus will be all that he says he is; that he will be there for us, whether we feel it or not; and that he cannot deny either his character or his promises. This sense of intimate sustenance comes to those who by faith connect to a God who will never leave them nor forsake them.
This security that comes with intimacy with God is marked by an undaunted sense of courage. We will say with Paul:
Romans 8:35-39 “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Drawing Close to God
Psalm 1 wonderfully illustrates the importance in our lives of connecting to the Lord through his Word and prayer.
Psalm 1:1-6 "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. 4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction."
Here we read of the satisfying, sustaining, and securing work of God’s Word in our lives. David tells us that when he has delighted in the law of the Lord instead of living in the counsel of the ungodly, his life has been like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bears fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither. Whatever he undertakes prospers. The contrast to the ungodly is clear. In their independence they are like the chaff — the worthless outer sheath of a kernel of wheat that is left to blow away in the wind.
The word for the condition of those who lose themselves in the Lord and his Word is blessed. David begins the psalm by saying, “Blessed is the one.” Blessed because he experiences the satisfaction that comes from a well-ordered life of a Spirit-led person. It is the blessing of lives that have meaning and purpose, that are clean and organised, that are driven by elements that ultimately satisfy. The choice in this psalm is clear. We find our lives being influenced either by the godless world in which we live or by the Lord through his Word that enables us to live an abundant life.
So, we can reflect with David:
Psalm 13:5-6 “I have trusted in Your loving-kindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”