Re: Remain

Remain.

I’ve done my fair share of planting plants, killing plants, and actually growing plants.

One thing I noticed, that if a part of a plant (a bough, a branch, a stem) becomes separated from the main plant, the separated part will die. Obviously, without the connection to the main plant and its roots, it no longer receives life giving water or nourishment. It can’t survive. It dies.

In the gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus uses the image of a vine to describe our vital relationship with him. He says he is the vine. And we are the branches. And in order to even survive, we must remain a part of him, because he is the (life-giving) living water and the bread (nutrients) of life. If we want to bear fruit (that is, have evidence of his love, joy and peace spilling out of us and into the lives of those around us) we must remain a part of him.

But what does that mean? Remain in him (Jesus) and he remain in us?

John tells us in 1 John 2:24-27 to remain faithful to what we have been taught from the beginning. If we do, we will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And he goes on to tell us that the Spirit teaches us everything we need to know, that what he teaches is true, not a lie. So just as the Spirit has has taught us, we must remain in fellowship with Christ.

Fellowship – associate with, spend time with, be friendly with, be a companion to another.
It brings to mind one of my mom’s favorite songs.

“I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear
Falling on my ear
The song of God discloses
And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am his own
And the joy we share
As we tarry there
None other has ever known”

(C. Austin Miles (1913))

Walking, talking, listening, enjoying time with Jesus, the one who calls us to continue with him.

The writer Luke records for us Paul’s speech in Athens, where he tells the people about the one true God. He quotes one of their own philosophers when he tells them that in this God, in the One who made the world and everything in it, including us, that ‘in him we live and move and have our being.’ He is the One who gives us life and breath.

And when we are separated from God, not connected to the true vine of Jesus, we lose the very thing that gives us abundant life.

It’s easy to see when a part of a plant has become detached. It quickly shows evidence of wilting, drying up and dying.

How might we be wilting, drying up and dying in our day to day life?

We can do a heart check. Are we easily angered? Discouraged? Do we find ourselves talking negatively about situations, or about other people? Have we become selfish, only concerned about what we want and when we want it? Do we lack peace? Joy?

Let’s come to the garden, spend some time with the God who loves us, remain in Jesus, the Son who gives us life, take in a deep breath of the Holy Spirit. Let him fill us with the blessings and riches he has for us. Walk with him. Talk with him. Listen with him.

Remain with him.

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Re: Refocus

Refocus. I had to do that for this blog. I had jotted down verses. Scribbled some thoughts. Explored different ideas.
But this blog just wasn’t coming together.
Then I realized.

I needed to refocus. I was using a wide-angle lens to try to capture something that needed a focal point. I was sweeping across too many subjects, when I needed to zoom in and concentrate on one subject. My lens was fuzzy, out of focus, blurry.

I paused and asked myself.
What is at the heart of the image I want to capture?
Where do I need to refocus my attention?

The answer became clear.
Especially during the Lenten season; a time of preparing  (refocusing) our hearts.
The answer.
Jesus.

He needs to be at the heart of my focus.
My focus needs to be on his heart.

When asked which commandment was the greatest (translate: which ones should we focus on?), Jesus named two.

  1. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Since Jesus is the very image of God, and if we see Jesus, we see God, if we love Jesus, we love God, then putting Jesus at the center of my lens and adjusting my heart and mind to see him clearly, I am focusing on the first important thing.

I need to do the first well, in order to do the second well. When I’m using my heart, soul, mind and strength to love Jesus, I’m going to get a clearer picture of his heart and how he loved. If I know how he loved, then I know how he wants me to love.

My refocus, my attention, will be to zoom in on Jesus, to know his heart, and see how he loves. Then, as my eyes sweep across the landscape, I can take in the wide-angle view of those Jesus loves and see them clearly in order to love them, too.

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Re: Reconsider

Life sometimes gives us a moment to pause. In those spaces we may spend some time reconsidering a decision we made or will make, reconsidering a course of action, or reconsidering a position we’ve  taken.

I find it interesting that in Scripture, there are occasions where God  seems to reconsider a decision he has made.

In Genesis 18, God invites Abraham into a discussion over what he’s going to do – destroy the city of Sodom because of the perverse, rebellious, degenerate behavior of the people. Six times Abraham asks God to reconsider for the sake of the innocent in the city and the Lord is willing to reconsider his decision, if ten innocent people can be found. Unfortunately, only Lot’s small family is spared and the city is destroy. But God was willing to reconsider.

Hundreds of years later, God has brought his people, Abraham’s descendants, out of slavery and is taking them back to the land he promised Abraham. Moses meets with God on a mountain to receive instructions on how the people should live as God’s people. Meanwhile, the people throw a huge party at the base of the mountain and even worship a gold calf they created. God decides to do away with them and build his nation out of Moses. He tells Moses his plan and Moses pleads with God, asking him to reconsider. And God does. Although, the people continue to frustrate God to the point that he lets them wander in a desert for forty years before they actually get to the land he promised.

Again, hundreds of years pass. David is king over God’s people. And, although God calls him a man after his own heart, David makes mistakes. David, against God’s will, decides to count the strength of his forces. Since God’s people were trusting in their own strength and not him, he decides to take them down a couple of notches. He gives David a choice of how that will be accomplished and David chooses to be at God’s mercy. As God’s reckoning is carried out, Jerusalem is about to be destroyed. But at the last minute, God reconsiders his decision and declares “that’s enough.”

God doesn’t always reconsider, however. During David’s reign, David’s wandering eye landed on a beautiful married woman, Bathsheba. When he finds out Bathsheba is pregnant with his child, David arranges for the death of her husband and takes Bathsheba as his wife. Which, of course, does not make God happy. A prophet tells David that the child will die. David begs God to spare the child’s life. God does not and the child dies.

The story doesn’t quite end there. Because Bathsheba later gives birth to another son, Solomon, who later succeeds David as king and is known as the wisest king there’s ever been (he has a whole book of wisdom he received from God).

A couple of hundred years later, God sends the prophet, Jonah, to Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrians, a cruel, pagan, enemy of Israel. God tells Jonah to go to the people and tell them he’s seen their evil and plans to do something about it. Jonah does not want to go and even runs the other direction. Why? Because he has a feeling that if the people stop doing evil and turn to God, God might reconsider destroying them. And they are Israel’s enemy. In the end, God of course convinces Jonah to go. Jonah goes. He tells the people God will destroy the city. The king and his officials, along with the people, stop their evil, mourn, and cry out to God, hoping he will change his mind. And God reconsiders. He does not destroy the people, which makes Jonah a little upset. Jonah pouts because God has shown compassion and mercy, just like he expected. God chastises Jonah, asking him why he shouldn’t show compassion.

And in God’s greatest act of compassion, he does not reconsider a plan he has set into motion long before time began.

A thousand years pass and God’s promised Savior, Jesus, arrives on the scene. He shows up in the most unexpected way, lives an unexpected life and calls the most unexpected disciples. His disciples believe Jesus to be the promised Messiah, and as such, they expect him to overthrow the cruel and oppressive Roman rule in their country (the land God promised them). But Jesus takes the most unexpected path. His message stirs up the religious leaders of his people to the point they fear he will draw the attention and anger of the Romans. The high priests declares, “…it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” Jesus knows God’s will and that he will indeed be the one who dies on behalf of all mankind.  As the religious leaders plot to have him arrested and killed, Jesus finds refuge in a garden near the city. There he prays. And there he cries out to God, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me…”

God, because of his compassion and mercy, does not reconsider.

Jesus continues to pray, “still, let not my will but yours be done.”

Jesus is crucified, dies and is buried.

But the story doesn’t quite end there. Jesus defeats death. His resurrection ushers in God’s intended plan. Just as death came to us through one man, Adam, resurrection and life come through another man, Jesus.

God, in his compassion and mercy, reconsidered our destruction and had a plan to free us from death. Jesus did not reconsider his position with God, but instead followed God’s plan to rescue us.

And that gives me reason to take a moment and pause.

(Caveat. I know some will argue that in each instance God, in his omniscience, was planning to do what he did all along. And some will offer the verse that says God does not change his mind. But I offer that scriptures indicate that God invites us into these conversations, invites us to wrestle with him, and invites us to consider.)

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Re: Reclaim

I typed in “I want to reclaim” into google, just to see what came up. Some of the “helpful” hints that ended the sentence for me were “my life,” “my body,” “my time,” “my purpose,” “my identity,” and “my business.” In browsing the various links that come up when googling “reclaim,” I learned we can reclaim land, cities, power, positions, and titles. We can even reclaim our country, our religion or our heritage. And, of course, reclaiming wood and furniture is a popular pastime/business.

But when I think about my faith and God, what does reclaim mean?

To claim back; to take back; to call back, to purchase back, to make right

My faith tradition teaches that God (as told in Genesis) created the heavens and the earth and he filled the earth with life. Plant life. Sea life. Animal life. And human life. Then God declared it all good.

But.

There’s always a but.

But the enemy snuck in. And the enemy brought everything that’s opposite of Re. He brought the “d” words (which would be a whole other study).

Division. Disobedience. Discord. Disorder. Death.

In Matthew 13, Jesus compared it to a field that the farmer had sown with good seed.
But an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat.

The enemy has come in and claimed the land and with the seed representing people, he has infiltrated God’s people as well.

 

Jesus also tells us the enemy, the thief, comes to steal, kill and destroy.

However, there’s another but.

But God.

But God reclaims that which the enemy has stolen. Which is us. He has made us right, purchased us back, called us out.

Romans 3:21-22 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him… We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

Ephesians 1:7 He (God) is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

1 Peter 2:9 But… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

God has made you right with him, he has purchased you back from the enemy, he has called you out of the enemy’s territory of darkness.  He has reclaimed you and declared it good.

 

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Re: Receive

I shared at the beginning of the year that I had planned to explore a different Re word each week. However, life has a way of interrupting plans and the Spirit continues to emphasize over and over in my life, Proverbs 16:9 “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

And, as he often does when I’m writing or teaching on a topic, the Lord gives me a life lesson.

Receive was the next word on the list. During the last few weeks, when I thought I would be giving, I’ve instead had opportunities to receive.

In January, my dad passed away rather quickly (although not unexpectedly, as his liver cancer had returned). His sudden turn for the worse had me scrambling to purchase a plane ticket and then scrambling to either rearrange my schedule or find others to cover commitments I had made.

Receive. Instead of giving, I received. I received the help of numerous amazing women who stepped up to teach, lead, and facilitate classes and events. I received help from neighbors who watched over our home while we were gone. I received help from family and friends who picked me up from the airport, provided meals for me and my sister, and sent words of sympathy, encouragement and prayer. I received, along with my sister, legal advice and assistance in navigating the necessary paperwork and financial settlements. And I definitely received the comfort of others who lived out 2 Corinthians 1:4 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

Receive. Sometimes it’s hard to do. Especially when we have hearts to give. Or feel like we’ve already received more than enough. But when we open our arms wide, we are in position to receive out of the Lord’s abundance. As John 1:16 says, “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.”

Fling open your arms. Ask. Seek. Knock.

Receive.

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