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Remain in My Love

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9)

I feel it happening again – the temptation to take charge and handle the challenge myself. I try to trust God, but it seems to be ‘all up to me’; a familiar lie. The internal pressure is mounting. I’m compelled to think I must uphold and maintain God’s love for me and the infusion of His strength. I feel the vulnerability of moving out from under the wings of His love into independent striving for achievement and approval.

Knowing I need truth, I turn to John 15. Here, Christ repeatedly tells me to abide in him and in his love. But how?

Digging into the word abide, I learn it also means to tarry, to dwell, be present with, to remain. I’m to remain in God’s Love. Jesus tells me that He loves me just as much as His Father loves Him. I want to believe this, but I struggle.

Remain. To remain somewhere means I have to be there to begin with. If I’m told to remain in a house, I have to already be in the house to stay there. I remember I Corinthians 1:30 where Paul says that because of God, I’m in Christ Jesus. He also says that it is by grace I have been saved, through faith; not a matter of my own works.[1]

It is Finished

God put me in Christ Jesus, not my own striving or achieving. When Christ said, “It is finished” on the cross, he finished all work needed to earn God’s pleasure. I don’t have to do a thing to be in his love. By believing, I’m already in the dwelling of Christ’s love. I’m to stay where God has put me.

This is extremely freeing.

Remain in Christ’s love. Don’t move.

Back in John 15, I read I’m like a branch of grapes. Connected to the vine, my source, God grows delicious fruit for others to enjoy. When He produces the fruit and others benefit, He gets the glory and I’m filled with His joy. It’s the only way it can work. A branch detached from the vine can yield nothing.

So, what is my work? After all, Jesus commands me to abide. My work is to stay where God has placed me, in the love of Christ. I’m to rest and yield to His life in me, fighting every lie with the truth of His amazing love.

Lord, I’m guilty of doubting your love, of thinking I have to achieve something for you to be pleased with me. Now I see how absurd this really is. Not only are my independent efforts worth nothing, but they produce the plastic fruits of self-glory.  I’m so sorry. Please keep me ever aware of your great love for me. Teach me how to remain where you have put me, in your surpassing love.  Amen. 

 

[1] Ephesians 2:8-9

Near to the Broken Hearted

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

Whether we know it or not, we all suffer from a broken heart. Knowing this is the first step towards healing. But how we choose to mend it is the key to whether we are comforted and eventually healed or whether our hearts are broken further.

We were designed for God’s nearness. Our hearts were created to be filled with His presence. We had it once, in Eden before the fall. We were fully dependent upon Him and we lived in continually enjoyment of His closeness.  But, in Adam, we wanted to be our own god. We chose to disobey, causing the tabernacle of God to be ripped out of our hearts.

We enter life thirsty and empty, searching for what we once had; God Himself.

In Luke chapter 4, starting with verse 16, we read that Jesus entered the synagogue in His hometown. He picked up the book of Isaiah and reading about Himself, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.”

One of Jesus’ purposes is to heal the broken hearted, to bind up and comfort our crushed and bruised hearts; hearts longing for God; hearts broken by disappointments, betrayals and death.

Paul calls Jesus the God of all comfort, who comfort us in all of our afflictions so that we will be able to comfort others. [1]  But how does He comfort us? He comforts us by being with us. The word comfort literally means to come along side, to be near, to be with.

How does God heal our broken hearts? By being with us. Ours is to be aware of His nearness and to depend upon Him moment by moment. When this happens we receive the oil of gladness. [2] Our hearts begin to heal and we can literally be full of joy in the Lord, no matter what is whirling around us. Jesus heals our broken hearts by being the Lord of our hearts.

God Himself is our Exceeding Great Reward. His nearness is our joy, our strength, our peace, our hope, our courage, our healing.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted

 

Lord, your nearness heals us. I open my heart fully to your presence. Teach me how to be aware of you in the moments of my life and teach me to love you with my whole heart.

[1] 2nd Corinthians 1:4

[2] Isaiah 61:3

 

Fight for Joy

Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.  (2 Corinthians 1:24)

The other day a grey cloud settled  over my heart. It blew in suddenly and lingered for . My wife confirmed that my outward mood matched my inward discouragement. She said it seemed as if someone from the outside had thrown a wet blanket on my heart to try and steal my joy.  As I shuffled around, what she said resonated, but I had nothing inside to fight it.

Frankly, the last thing I wanted to do was read scripture, but I knew I needed truth. I asked God to guide me and  looked at some verses on joy.

As I read, I was struck by how much Paul’s joy seemed to be tied to how others were doing.

He wrote to the Corinthians that he was working for their joy, having confidence that the joy he was experiencing would be their joy. [1]

And to the Philippians, Paul wrote that he’d continue in the fight for their progress and joy in the faith. [2]

Paul was living out Jesus’ example of pouring himself out as a sacrifice for us. Amazingly, by entrusting our own interests to God, we’re free to be about the interests of others, including fighting for their joy. And as we fight for the joy of others, our joy overflows.

As I read what Paul wrote in Philippians 2 about considering others interest above our own, a spark of joy flicked in my heart. I understood what had killed my joy. Unaware of the shift in my heart, I had taken up the familiar position of focusing on my own desires for ease of circumstances and comfort. My intense concern for me had zapped my joy.

Kill Joy – The fastest way to kill your joy is to focus on you. Joy flows when we begin to work on behalf of others.

Lord, thank you for the barometer you built into  my heart that lets me know when the joyful flow of your presence has been clogged. Thank you that your joy flows when we turn to others. Remind me that you have asked me to deny myself and follow you. You’re who I’ve been searching for all my life. You’re my Joy, my Exceeding Great Reward.

I love you, Jesus.

[1] 2nd Corinthians 1:24 – 2:3

[2] Philippians 1:25

Living Waters or Stagnant Pools

asia-199909_960_720If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his intermost being will flow Rivers of Living Water’. (John 7:37-38)

Whether our lives are rivers of fresh living water or polluted stagnant pools depends on what we drink.

We are thirsty people. From the moment the choice was made in the garden to depend on ourselves rather than God, the tabernacle of God in our hearts was ripped out leaving us thirsty for God’s presence.

In the summer of 2002, I was always thirsty. I’d stand at the water fountain and fill my cup to the brim, then gulp it all down. But when the last drop rolled down my throat, I felt just as thirsty as before. As it turned out, I have diabetes and there was so much sugar in my blood that my system was crying out to be diluted.

Just as I couldn’t quench my thirst that summer, we can’t quench the thirst of our hearts unless we drink Jesus. We can drink in all the success, money, pleasure and comfort the world has to offer, but we will end up thirsting for more. Ask Solomon.

Jesus tells us to come to Him. The word “come” in the Greek also means to accompany Him. He tells us to drink of Him, our Pearl of Great Value, our Exceeding Great Reward. When we drink of His Rivers of Living Water, which He later explains is the Holy Spirit, our lives are refreshing streams of joy. His love flows in, and with His love, we love others. Without the flow of His loving presence, our lives become putrid, stagnant pools.

Lord, I’m sorry for all the times I’ve thirsted after the things of this world in vain attempts for satisfaction and purpose. I know now that you designed me to long for you. Only in you will I have the joy and deep fulfillment you desire me to have.

Amazingly, you long for me too. It brings you great pleasure when I find my joy in you. You are closer than breath. My heart jumps for joy at the mention of your name. I love you, Lord.

“but whoever drinks of the water that i shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”  Jesus

Sorrowful yet always Rejoicing

Mom
Mom

Sorrowful yet always Rejoicing

sorrowful yet always rejoicing, II Corinthians 6:10

I was teaching a two week interim class at the Governor’s School of Science and Mathematics. My mom had been complaining of abdominal pain for a few weeks. We hoped it was her diverticulitis, but when antibiotics didn’t clear it up, the doctors talked about something more serious. They scheduled exploratory surgery the day I was finishing up my class.

I hadn’t heard anything when the class ended, so I headed home along a dark rural road.  Suddenly my car lost all power. Navigating to the narrow shoulder of the road, a massive eighteen wheeler whizzed by shaking the car.

My cell phone rang. It was my wife. Mom had a form of stage 3 ovarian cancer. Hanging up the phone, I felt numb. But then a strange peace welled up deep in my soul. A sense of God’s presence filled me with unusual joy. Not the kind of joy which would cause glad shouting. But it was a firm realization that because God was with me everything was okay.

I learned from this experience that being okay is not a matter of circumstances always working out. Being okay is about us being with God and Him being with us.

A few months later my mother would die. However, the Lord used Isaiah 43 to speak to her heart about being redeemed. She trusted in the Lord Jesus for her salvation before she died.

This brings me unspeakable joy.

No matter what you are going through right this moment, joy is available.

Don’t look for it in your circumstances. This world has troubles.

Joy is found in the presence of God. Behold Him and He will BE your strength and joy.

Lord, thank you that in spite of very difficult circumstance you made me aware of your joyful presence. It is so easy for me to try and find joy in my circumstances and feelings. Thank you that you give me a deep rock solid joy which is unaffected by ANYTHING I face. Please keep me aware that You are my Delight, my Joy, my life. AMEN.

God Shaped Hole in our Hearts

“Delight yourselves in God and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (NASB)

164202_10201560062862030_865156004_nThe God Shaped Hole in our Hearts

Bliase Pascal wrote the following in the 1600s:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” [1] 

Pascal is giving more description to Solomon’s conclusion that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. From this quote men began to describe our inner abyss as a “God shaped void”.

It was God’s great pleasure to create us. [2]  He made us with glory and honor [3] and he values our fellowship.[4] In short, God created us because it delights him to give us the pleasure of his presence.

In the garden, we had what our hearts desire, intimate communion with our Creator. But we weren’t satisfied. We wanted to be like God and were cut off from the tree of life. The place of God was ripped out of our hearts leaving a great eternal chasm.

The roads of history are flanked with hopeless souls who have lost their way trying to fill the God shaped hole in their hearts. They have made idols out of and become addicted to what God created, instead of God himself.

“Folly is joy to him who lacks sense,” Proverbs 15:21a

But God has made a way back to Him, though it cost Him His very life.

Lord, you are who I’ve been looking for all my life, though often my actions say otherwise. In self-effort and self-gratification, I have placed myself ahead of you in my heart. But you want my whole heart.   Amazingly, you actually want fellowship with me. Thank you for providing a way to rescue me from being lost and separated from you through the death of your Son. Teach me to pursue you above all else. I love you, Lord.

[1] Pensées, Blaise Pascal (Published in 1670 after his death)

[2] Genesis 1:31

[3] Psalm 8:5

[4] John 15:14-15

 

 

Under Construction: A Dwelling Place for Christ

10407876_10205268823978740_56971566099135395_n (1)I read  I Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” (NKJV)

I sense the Lord has much to say about this verse, so I slow down and dig deeper.

I ask: what is the therefore there for? In other words, what should I bring forward from what has just been written to help understand this verse?

Conclusion:  In the verses before, Paul  sets our sights on the returning of Jesus, the ending of what is old and the beginning  of all things new. This brings a  sense of urgency  to the verse at hand.


Digging Deeper

Using the Strongs App on my phone  ( I highly recommend it if you enjoy digging for hidden treasure), I dig into the words comfort and edify.

Comfort – translated from the Greek word par-ak-al-eh’-o.

Jesus used the same word when he called the Holy Spirit the Comforter. The word literally means to call near or call beside.

The thought comes to me:  If I’m going to call someone beside me, I better have something to offer.

For me to be a comforter, I must be being comforted. I must be being aware of and depending upon the true Comforter,  who is calling me beside Him,  joining in what He is doing.  How dare I ever try and comfort someone else without yielding to the Indwelling  Holy Spirit. Without Christ, I can do nothing. [1]

2 Corinthians 1:3-4  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Conclusion: I can’t comfort others unless I’m allowing myself to be comforted by the Holy Spirit.


Edify – translated from the Greek word oy-kod-om-eh’-o, it  literally means to build a  house or a dwelling.

As Christians, we have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit and have become dwelling places of Christ by His Spirit. [2]

We are all under construction

What remains is for Christ to be formed in us [3], for us to be made complete in Christ. [4]

For Christ to be formed in us, for us to be made complete in Christ,  we are to: (Summarized from Galatians 2:20)

  • fully embrace our spiritual death
  • always recognize our Indwelling Comforter
  • fully depend on Christ to love others through us

Paul calls Christ in us, the hope of glory. He states his aim to be to present every man complete in Christ, striving according to Christ’s power working mightily in him. [5]

Conclusion: Edifying another is aiming at  building a dwelling for Christ in that person’s life, regardless of the condition of their spiritual journey. Edifying another is yielding to the Indwelling Christ in you to join God in the construction process of another person’s life.


In Summary

Concluding all conclusions: In light of the certainty of a sudden change from this world to the next, keep in mind that comforting and edifying another must start with us.  If we are to call someone near to us; to labor with Christ in the construction process of a another person’s life, we need to be being comforted by the Holy Spirit and be depending upon the indwelling Holy Spirit for our every word and deed, yielding to Christ to love through us.

 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.  I Peter 4:11

[1] John 15:5

[2] Ephesians 1:13, I Corinthians 6:19

[3] Galatians 4:19

[4]  Colossians 1:28

[5]  Colossians 1:27-29

 

Joy is not an Option

10407876_10205268823978740_56971566099135395_n (1)

Lately, I’ve heard a great deal about joy. And why not? We all need it. Scripture is packed full of verses on joy and its many derivatives. We were designed to have joy, our hearts pine for it. Without it we walk around with a deep chasm, searching aimlessly for purpose and fulfillment.

King Solomon tried all manner of worldly delights to satisfy his emptiness.[1] Denying himself nothing he saw around him, he concluded that it was all “vanity and striving after the wind.”  Ecclesiastes 2:11b (NASB)

Trying everything, but failing to find joy, Solomon was left hopeless and despondent. “I hated life, for the work which has been done under the sun was grievous to me, because everything is futility and striving after wind.”  Ecclesiastes 2:17 (NASB)

He would later conclude, that God has set eternity in the hearts of men.[2] Solomon had the means to try all the world has to offer to try and satisfy his deep need for joy. None of it worked. In fact, at the end of his search, he hated life because he recognized the utter futility of trying to fill the eternal hole in our hearts with anything around us.

Lord, help us not to fall into Solomon’s trap. The glitter of riches, fame, success and pleasure can keep us in a boundless pursuit of fool’s gold. If we could carry this quest to the ends that Solomon did, we too would find it a vain pursuit, a chasing after the wind. Lord, may we seek you, the pearl of great value, worthy of our all.[3] 

 

[1] Ecclesiastes 2:1-10

[2] Ecclesiastes 3:11

[3] Matthew 13:46