Tag Archives: abide

Stay Present my Friends

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you. Psalm  39:7

“What do you think?” a voice interrupts your thoughts.

Suddenly you’re brought back to the present. Your spouse, your child, your friend has been sharing something important, but you were thinking about what was next on your never ending to-do list. You have no idea what they just said.  Busted!

On another occasion you miss a magical moment on your family vacation because you’re dwelling on a regret from your past.

God has given us five sense to bring awareness of His creation around us.  These senses are available now, not yesterday, not tomorrow,  but now.

What are some of your favorites when it comes to your senses?

For me:

Sight:  Sunset or sunrise over water or mountains

Sound:  Water rushing past rocks in a mountain stream

Smell:  Tea olive, gardenias

Touch:  Sea breeze, fall wind in my face, soft sheets

Taste:  Chocolate pie, dark coffee

When we savor now, we’re enjoying  a gift from God. A lady on a plane once told me that’s why now is called the present.

There’s an old movie entitled “Our Town” which drives this point home.

One of the characters named, Emily, dies while giving birth to a child. However, she is permitted by the stage manager to revisit the past and to step back into the morning of her twentieth birthday as an observer.

From her vantage point, she has a profoundly nostalgic appreciation of the transient beauty of life’s little moments. However, she is struck by how the people, including her younger self, don’t have a clue how precious the moments of life really are. She is stunned that nobody savors and fully appreciates “now”. They all seem so disengaged. Later she would say of the living, “They don’t understand.”

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,”[1] Paul

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”[2] Jesus

God doesn’t want us to be imprisoned by the regrets of our past nor fears of our future. He wants us to be present with Him moment by moment.

Jesus tells us in John 15 to “abide” in Him. Other meanings of this word are to “tarry” or “stay present with.” Jesus goes on to say in the same chapter that there is complete joy found in “staying present” in His love and loving others as He has loved us.

Staying present with Jesus is essential to our Spiritual lives and it leads to experiencing and savoring life’s moments. Otherwise, life quickly passes us by.

Challenge:  Take notice of what you see and hear right this moment. Do you smell anything? Perhaps you’re drinking a cup of coffee and feel a gentle breeze upon your face like I’m experiencing as I write.

What tends to call you away from being fully present? Is it a looming duty, a past regret, a worry about the future? Whatever it is robs you of fully embracing the gift of now. Give these things to God and don’t take them back.

The people in our lives are loved and cared for during life’s “nows”. In an instant our present moments become memories. When we savor our times with the people God places in our path there’s a richness which touches our hearts and slows the swirl of life.

But what’s most important is being present with God. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of Jesus and we are never alone. God is in us and around us. We are in Him and He is in us.

Tarry, remain, abide in Jesus. His presence is experienced now.

In your presence is fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11 b

 

[1] Philippians 3:13

[2] Matthew 6:34

Loving Without Expecting Anything in Return

A few years ago, my oldest son Jonathan and I were tending a burn pile down by the barn. As we sat in camping chairs, water hose ready, watching the dried limbs and brush blaze, he had something to tell me that was very hard to hear.

As my eyes followed a black ember dancing upward in the billows of smoke, he said, “Dad, growing up I felt as if you cared more about the relationship than you did about me.” He went on to explain that he knew I loved him, but he could tell I cared a lot about being viewed as a successful Father.

Jonathan’s words pierced my heart. At that time my identity was very closely tied to success in all my roles. I feared failing as a husband, father, provider, brother and friend. This is exactly what he was pointing out to me. My love was not pure. I needed to know I was doing a good job and depended on the response of others for assurance and validation.

My conversation with Jonathan was very hard, but it was exactly what I needed.  I’m so glad he cared enough about our relationship to point out how he was feeling. His honesty helped me understand that I loved with a selfish love, expecting something in return.  I thanked him for his boldness and sincerely apologized. I asked God to heal this part of me which craved affirmation and the approval of others.

God has and is answering my prayer. I’m now much freer to love others with the sacrificial love of Jesus, but I also know He’s not through with me yet. At times, I still find myself expecting certain responses from others as I seek to love them.

My prayer is that I will love others as Christ loves me, not with a faulty human love, but with the love of His Indwelling Holy Spirit.

Consider the following verses:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,  gets up from supper, and lays aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.  Then He pours water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. John 13:3-5

Right before Jesus performs a service, done normally only by slaves, John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives us a peak into Jesus’ mind:

Jesus knew who He was and where He came from.  Jesus is the Son of God. His Father sent Him forth, giving all things into His hands so that He could rescue us and restore us to right relationship with God. Jesus didn’t need anything from those He came to rescue. He was completely filled with His Father’s love.

If we were sent to an ant colony to rescue the queen from an anteater, to return when the job was done, would we really care what the ants thought of us while we were there? No, we could care less how the ants felt, we were visiting from another place.

As believers, our citizenship is in heaven. Like Jesus, our true home is not this world. We are free to love others as Christ has loved us, needing nothing in return.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Philippians 3:20

Because this world is what we see, it’s easy for us to operate on its terms, looking to society to tell us how we’re doing. But consider the following amazing fact, spoken by Jesus concerning you and me.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; Remain in My love. John 15:9

Jesus loves us just as much as God the Father loves Him. Let this soak in before you read on.

Ours is to remain in this great love, a love we did nothing to deserve to begin with. Remaining in the love of Jesus allows us to love freely as He did.

If we remain saturated in the love of Christ, untethered from the need for human validation and approval, we love freely, expecting nothing in return.

But how do we remain in His love? Read the following verses carefully for the answer.

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. John 15:10-12

We remain in His love, by loving others as He has loved us. His love flowing through us, completes our Joy. Our life becomes a continual rhythm of receiving His love and giving it away. Free to love because He loves us..

  • Jesus loves us as much as God loves Him
  • We can do nothing apart from Jesus, including loving others

Challenge: Think about a time recently when a person didn’t respond to your love as you would have desired; a time when your feelings were hurt or when you found yourself fishing for a response.

Ask the Lord to wash away your expectations and hurt in His great love. Ask him to open the eyes of your heart that you might get a glimpse of how much God loves you. His love is wider and deeper and longer and higher than your mind can understand. But His can speak to our hearts and reveal His ocean of love.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19

Don’t Postpone Joy

Martha had enough. Her sister Mary did it again, left her to do all the work while she just sat there. Martha was distracted by all the preparations. And though the very source of Joy was with her, she was focused on what she had to do.

Sound familiar?

“But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

But how can life really be about one thing? Without Martha, no food would have been served.

On a slow morning, sitting on a dock facing the intracoastal waterway in Wilmington, NC, I’m once again pondering how to be a Mary without neglecting my responsibilities.

The mid-morning sun warms the steady breeze as it massages my face. I look across the gray blue waterway and see white caps ushering the tide to my right. The rhythmic waves lap upon the shore only interrupted by the rubbing of the floating docks along the pile driven wooden poles, the squawking of sea birds and the distant sound of a dog’s bark.

I have sought my own answers to this quandary for years, but this morning it all seems clear. No profound answers are given, only His strong hand outstretched; inviting me to give Him my concerns, so I can be with Him. Together, He will show me how to live a Mary life in a Martha world.

My cares are safely sealed, waiting for His commands to be revealed.

Two light yellow butterflies dart across the rolling tide. Above the water flow, there is a lime green strip of land below a line of emerald trees, couching white, multi-storied buildings in the distance. Above the tree line, a cloudless sky rises in deeper shades of pastel blue towards the heavens.

Wow! This is joy, this trusting, this resting, this enjoying His presence. Is this abiding? Is this what Jesus means when He tells me to remain in His love?

So, what now? I could regret millions of distracted moments in my past when I labored without a thought of His nearness.

But I won’t.

I will go forth with a deeper understanding of what Jesus means when he tells me not to worry, but to seek His business, His Kingdom, His supremacy in my life.

All that other stuff, the things I seem to focus on, what I’ll eat and what I’ll wear and what I’ll drink – He’s got that. He and I  have more important things to do, like enjoying this moment together.

And by the way, when I am doing that (Enjoying moments of life with Him) I will naturally love the people I meet along the way. When, like Mary, I’m in tune with my Lord’s nearness, when I’m yielding to His Indwelling Spirit, His love flows through me to others. My number one concern now is to love others as He has loved me. This  starts with resting in His love.

Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

“Love is the overflow of joy in God that gladly meets the needs of others.” John Piper

In His Presence is fullness of Joy (Psalm 16:11)

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