Does God’s Intimate Friendship Bless Your House? (Part Two)
 By Kim Butts

    "Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me, when my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil" (Job 29:4-6).

Summary of Part One
(April, 2003 issue)

    Our lives today are busy, and can easily get filled up with worldly pursuits and thoughts. It may be time to stop and re-evaluate individual and family priorities. Is our personal relationship with Jesus taking a back seat to our worldly pursuits? Are we dependent upon any person, thing or activity more than upon the Lord? Our Heavenly Father desires to bless our homes with His intimate friendship…and yet, we are missing His blessing by neglecting to nurture our relationship with Him.

    How can we have this experience in our own lives and in the lives of our families? Jesus Christ has given us the answer and a clear direction about what it means to be His friend: "You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other" (John 15:14-17).

    In this passage of Scripture, Jesus shows us what is needed to have an intimate friendship with God:

    We are to do what He commands. In other words – we must be obedient.
   
We are to put into practice what Jesus has made known to us about the Father – in other words; we must be holy as He is holy.
   
We are to go and bear lasting fruit for His Kingdom.
   
We are to pray and intercede in the name of Christ.
   
We are to love each other – the most important of all of His commands.

    As you consider these five areas, seek His face in prayer. These areas are embedded in the perfect will of God for our lives – yet, we need His divine help and guidance to succeed in accomplishing what He asks of us. All five areas are entwined together in the spiritual realm, so that our lives might become increasingly more like Christ. Study, pray and put into practice the Scriptures individually, and together as a family, with your desire being to develop intimate friendship with the Father. (We examined obedience and holiness in Part One. In Part Two, we will begin with how to bear lasting fruit for His Kingdom).

Bearing Fruit

    For God’s intimate friendship to bless our homes, we must always seek to bear fruit for His kingdom! How can we know this is so? In John 15:1-2, Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." The Lord says that unless we stay attached to Him (the vine), we will be unable to bear fruit. God desires for us to stay connected to Him all of the time because He desires intimate friendship with us as much as we desire it of Him.

    What is the fruit that the Lord desires us to bear for Him? "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). As we stay attached to Jesus (our vine) we will develop the fruit of the Spirit, so that we might use it to bring glory to the Father. Begin to pray thoughtfully that He will bring forth fruit in your lives as you seek to bear witness to the Spirit’s fruit. My suggestion is that you study each fruit of the Spirit one at a time, and discuss as a family how you might help one another to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled.

    How does the Lord bless us with His intimate friendship as we bear fruit for Him? Scripture says that we may ask whatever we wish in Jesus’ name and it will be given to us: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name" (John 15:7-8, 16). My understanding of these verses is that whatever we ask for should reflect that we are His disciples, so that in the midst of our answered prayer, the Lord will be glorified and much fruit will be the result. For more help in raising fruitful children, see this past Herald article: From Fruitless to Fruitful – May, 2002.

Prayer and Intercession

    Again, I want to point out the interconnectedness of obeying the Lord’s commands, living holy lives, bearing fruit, prayer and intercession, and loving each other. You have probably been able to see throughout the course of these articles, how the Lord lovingly has woven His desires for His children into and among these areas. Perhaps the greatest expression of God’s intimate friendship with us is prayer. Communicating with our Father is thrilling, and yet should fill us with complete awe that He desires fellowship with us. Prayer has been designed to bring glory to God. The more we know the Lord through prayer, studying the Word and meditating upon it, listening to His voice, and other spiritual disciplines, the more our faith is built up in knowing that He will answer as we ask for the purposes of seeing Him honored and glorified: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:12-14).

    Prayer, praise and giving thanks in the midst of our circumstances is God’s will for us! "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). If these things are God’s will, we should all be seeking to do these things! Teach your children to pray continually…our lives should be filled with the breath of prayer.

    God also wants "…men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing" (1 Timothy 2:8). Determine as a family that you will not come together for the purpose of prayer until all anger and disputing has been resolved and forgiven in your lives. Confession and repentance should always be a precursor to prayer

    The Lord desires that we come together to pray: "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:19-20). Families praying together pleases our Father in Heaven. What a joy it must be for Him when we come together and lift our voices in the name of His Son, Jesus.

    We should pray when we are in trouble, when we are happy, when we are sick, and when we confess sins to one another: "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:13-16). Righteous people are those who honor God and commit themselves to living their lives in every way according to His will. Righteous people are faith-filled and believe in God’s ability to answer prayer: "The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous" (Proverbs 15:29). "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer…" (1 Peter 3:12).

    Families should also be praying for everyone, and especially for those in authority. This pleases the Lord: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

    Jesus gave us some very specific instructions regarding prayer for our enemies: "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:43-45). Teaching children that our enemies are not flesh and blood is so important: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12).

    Most importantly, we must pray believing that the Lord will answer: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does" (James 1:5-8). If we pray faithless prayers merely as a religious exercise, we cannot expect our Father to answer.

    As you and your family experience the wondrous power of the Lord through prayer, you will begin to gain a better understanding of the intimate friendship He wishes to develop with you. May God receive honor and glory as your family seeks to pray what is on His heart for the world.

Loving Others

    In order to fully experience the intimate friendship of the Lord, we must love one another as Christ loves us: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). Loving others is a prerequisite for living a holy life and experiencing intimate friendship with God.

    Our Lord has important instruction to us as we learn to love one another: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:9-14). Let’s look at the vital truths imbedded in these verses:

    Jesus loves us as the Father loves Him – consider what an amazing statement this is! Imagine the incredible love of God the Father for Jesus Christ the Son. Now apply that great love to yourself! This knowledge should thrill us, amaze us and awe us! Teach your children how much they are loved by God!

    If we obey His commands, we will remain in His love just as Jesus remains in the Father’s love for being obedient. Jesus was our perfect example of obedience, and it is our key to remaining in God’s love. Of course, we will all struggle with sin, be repentant, and receive forgiveness; however, the ultimate goal is to be perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). The common question asked today by many Christians, "What would Jesus do (or say)?" will never cease to be relevant for us! Train your children to consistently ask this question!

    Jesus tells us these things so that His joy will be in us and so that our joy will be complete (1 Peter 1:8)! We cannot experience the joyful, victorious Christian life unless we are obedient to remain in His love and to love others. Joy is fleeting unless it is grounded in the love of Christ.

      He commands us to love one another as He loves us, even to the point of laying down our lives.

      If we do what He commands, we will be His friends.

   As we cultivate our spiritual lives and draw near to the Lord in the areas of obedience, holiness, fruitfulness, prayer and intercession, and love, as individuals and as families, then He will draw near to us (James 4:8). Such relationship with our First Love will spark the flames of true revival in our lives so that His intimate friendship will bless our homes!