Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fellowship

Autumn is my favorite season.  The air is crisp and cool, pumpkins dot the fields, and trees ablaze in fiery colors of orange, red, and gold fill the landscape.  Brittle leaves skitter across the road and rain begins to tap-tap-tap at the window.

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving.  Family and friends will gather around the table and enjoy a special meal together.  As bowls and platters are passed around, perhaps we will share what we are thankful for, or recount stories from past Thanksgiving gatherings.  We will look at each person around our table, smile, and be thankful for their presence in our lives and this opportunity to enjoy fellowship.

I have so much to be thankful for, and today my thoughts are focused on fellowship.  It is truly amazing to me that not only can we enjoy fellowship with each other, but with God Himself.  At the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross, the veil in the Tabernacle was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51).  After His resurrection, He encountered Mary in the garden and told her, “Go to My brethren, and say to them ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'” (John 20:17, emphasis mine)

“And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”  (John 20:21-22)

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”  (Romans 8:14-17)

“This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.”  (Ephesians 3:11-12)

“Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16)

As we draw near to each other today for a time of fellowship, let us draw near to Him and remember His provision, grace, and mercy.  Scripture promises that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us, and  for that I am truly thankful.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Abide: Finding Rest, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I compared the concept of oxen yoked together with a more modern day example of being a part of a caravan.  While aspects of the example are fitting, the picture has a critical flaw -- it is stressful to be in a caravan, not restful as Christ promises if we abide.  It occurred to me that the person who is most at rest in a caravan is the passenger in the lead vehicle!  He doesn’t have to worry about keeping everyone together, and since he is with the lead driver who has declared that he knows the way, the passenger can simply sit back and enjoy the trip.  Even the passengers in the follow vehicles feel a measure of stress because they know their driver doesn’t know the way.  As a driver in a caravan, you are with your leader, but if you are a passenger assigned to the first car, you are in the same car as your leader.  In John 15:4, Jesus doesn’t say, “Abide with Me,” He says, “Abide in Me.” (emphasis added).

I’ve been trying to piece together a picture of the rest that comes with abiding in Christ, and it took my son getting his learner’s permit this week to help me connect the dots.  As my son got behind the wheel for the first time, I could tell that his “stress-meter” was peaking in the red zone.  He was excited to have his permit and be granted this new privilege, but as he put his hands on the wheel for the first time, he also realized the huge responsibility involved in driving, coupled with the fact that he had no idea what to do.  He had proven he knew the rules of the road, but he had zero knowledge of how to operate a vehicle.

I sat in the front passenger seat right next to him, and began to explain the dashboard, turn signal, wipers, etc.  I touched and pointed to everything as I explained.  After he turned on the car, I had him pause and think through all of the steps he would need to take before entering traffic.  As we pulled away from the curb, I could sense his rush of excitement, but his knuckles were the whitest I’ve ever seen them!  I kept up a constant stream of instruction mixed with praise and reassurance.  The first stop sign produced a sudden jolt. He nervously apologized, and I chuckled and told him it was just fine, and he was doing great.  His first trip was one mile in length, and involved stopping, turning, and learning how to stay straight in the lane.  We even laughed together when I had to say, “turn, turn, Turn, TURN!!!” and when both of our heads jerked back when he began to proceed after a stop sign.

Sitting next to him in the car reminded me of the Matthew 11:28-29 passage which tells us twice that it is being near Christ that provides rest.  “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me.”  My son is learning how to drive, and that requires me to be near him -- coaching, guiding, instructing, and reassuring.  We are in the car together.  We see, hear, and experience every aspect of the trip together. He has been watching me drive his entire life, and knows that I have the knowledge and experience to teach him this new skill.  He listens to my voice and does everything I say because he trusts me.

On our second outing, I was still very vocal in pointing things out as he drove.  At times, I was quiet for short periods, and noticed that he was talking to himself.  He checked in with me constantly to ask, “Was that ok?” and “Who has the right of way here?”  After one particularly smooth turn, he said, “Hey, that was my best one yet, right?!!?”  I noticed that as we circled our small town, his knuckles began to be ever-so-slightly less white!  The more he drove and got the feel for things, the more he began to relax.  It is my nearness and constant conversation with him, coupled with hands-on experience that is already beginning to bring him rest and the reassurance he needs that he can do this!

Here is the mystery and joy of abiding.  We have all heard the metaphor of letting Jesus “take the wheel” of our lives.  We want and need Him to be in the driver’s seat, taking us where He wants us to go.  But He also wants us to learn from Him!  He has tasks for us to accomplish with His help and guidance, and this is when He lets us take a turn behind the wheel.  Our lives are marked with sudden stops and jerky, tentative starts.  Sometimes we need to make a turn, but don’t know what that feels like or how to make it happen.  He is right next to us gently saying, “turn, turn, Turn, TURN,” I imagine with a smile on His face and gentle reassurance in His voice.

I just love this picture of abiding.  As my son’s teacher, I know he can do it.  From my son’s perspective, he knows he can trust me.  So it is with the Lord as my teacher, and me as the student driver.  The mystery of abiding is allowing Jesus to be the driver of my life, but understanding that He wants me to learn from Him as I accomplish the plans He has for me.  The best way to learn is to be near Him, constantly talking with Him and checking in for encouragement and direction.  He is in my car (life) with me, and will guide and direct my path, every step of the way.  He knows the way, and I just need to listen and obey.  He is gentle and humble in heart, and I know that He loves me…

…and that brings me…

…rest.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Abide: Finding Rest, Part 1

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:28-29)

One aspect of abiding in Christ is learning to rest in Him and on His promises.  We live in a fast-paced society with incessant demands for our time and attention.  It is oh-so-easy to get distracted by technology and over-booked schedules, and sometimes our quiet time with the Lord begins to suffer. The “tyranny of the urgent” rears its ugly head, and suddenly we realize that it has been days (weeks?) since we have spent time in His word.  We wonder why we are exhausted and feel distant from God.  He has been there the whole time, but we were not abiding.

Notice in these two verses, that the Lord mentions twice that we need to be near Him to find rest.  

Come to Meand I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Meand you shall find rest for your souls.

I’m a city girl.  I’m not exactly well-versed in yokes and oxen.  I was paying attention during the American Pioneer unit in fourth grade, though, and know that a yoke is used to keep two oxen together as a team to help a farmer plow his field.  Those two animals are linked together at the neck, and become one unit that must work in unison.

If we take His yoke upon us, it means that we are agreeing to submit to His will and direction for our lives.  If we are yoked with Christ, we are by the very design of a yoke (metaphorically speaking), near Him.  Walking right next to Him, day by day, we begin to hear and recognize His voice a little better.  The longer we walk with Him, the closer we become, and the more we learn -- both about who He is, and His will for our lives.  When we yield to His will and direction for our lives, He gives us the ability and joy to do it, and thus we find rest and security in Him.

Since I’m not very familiar with yokes, I tried to think of a modern example that I can relate to, and came up with caravans.  We have probably all been a part of a caravan at some point.  A group of people in multiple cars needs to get to a specific destination, but not everyone knows the way.  A person who does know the way volunteers to be the leader, and we all agree to follow the leader.  As a driver in a caravan, your whole focus is to stay as close to the leader as you can…change lanes when he does, turn when he turns, and stop when he stops. You know that if you lose sight of your leader, you will be lost in unfamiliar territory and things will begin to unravel quickly.

I liked this example of the caravan, because of the picture it creates in explaining the need for a leader, the importance of staying close, and following and submitting to direction.  This picture begins to fall apart though, because while it is true that you will be lost if you lose sight of your leader, being a part of a caravan is stressful!  Lights turn red, cars cut in front of you, and while you do what you can to stay close, you are also bound by the law to obey all traffic rules.  Running a red light just to stay with your leader is not an acceptable option!  Knowing that you could suddenly find yourself lost and without direction is stressful, not restful.

Abiding is about resting!  I have been mulling this over in my mind for a couple of weeks, and trying to come up with a better example, and then…

…my son got his learner’s permit on Monday…

…and suddenly it clicked.

(Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of Finding Rest!)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Come, Follow, Abide


Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  
(Matthew 11:28)

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”  (Matthew 16:24)

Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”  (John 15:4)

Come

There is a clear progression laid out for every person.  At some point in life, we encounter Jesus.  In learning who He is and why He came, we must face and consider the sinful nature of our heart and make a decision.  Jesus bids us to come to Him.  By His work at the cross, He will exchange our yoke of sin for a robe of righteousness.

Follow

If we choose to accept His free gift of salvation, He commands us to follow Him.  It isn't enough to accept the gift and walk away unchanged.  By accepting His sacrifice, we acknowledge our sinfulness and through true repentance, seek to walk in a manner worthy of His calling.  Sin should become distasteful to us, and our old fleshly habits should begin to fall away as we walk in newness of life. While we are forgiven, we still battle our sin nature on a daily basis.  We may struggle with pride, selfishness, or anger (for example), but if we are truly seeking Him, and allow Him to work in our hearts and minds, He will refine us.  When Jesus bids us to come to Him, not only should we come the first time, but we should continually come to Him.  He is our high priest who can sympathize with our weakness because He too was tempted in all things, yet remained without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He understands our struggle and offers strength and rest for our weary souls.

Abide

Following Christ should progress into abiding in Him.  As we allow Him to change us from the inside out, we begin to experience His love and power in our lives, which deepens our love for Him, which solidifies our resolve to continue walking in His ways.  Abiding in Him involves obedience (following Him) and resting on His promises.  The act of abiding strengthens and deepens our faith. John 15 says that if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit.  Spiritual fruit is outward evidence of our relationship with Christ.  The more we abide, the more abundant the fruit, which should be noticed by others, and perhaps encourage them to consider and answer His call upon their lives.

What a beautiful cycle!

Monday, March 2, 2015

One by One

1395.  A carload full of their friends

1396.  Listening to them chatter and be goofy

1397.  When my son taught me how to do a trigonometry problem just for fun...

1398.  ...and I successfully did one on my own!

1399.  Springtime weather in February

1400.  Grandparents' Day at the school

1401.  Singing patriotic songs with people who have served our country

1402.  Listening to my dad speak about his service during the war

1403.  Seeing his medals and uniform patches for the first time

1404.  That the class showed respect and asked good questions

1405.  A memorial service that beautifully honored a dear friend

1406.  The life and friendship of M.N.

1407.  The poignant reminder that life is fragile...

1408.  ...and every second is a special gift

1409.  The aroma of fresh baked banana bread

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

One Word: Abide

Each year in the fall, I pray and ask the Lord if He has a word for me to dwell on in the upcoming year.  I have been doing this for the past four years, and have been so encouraged and blessed in digging deeper, and learning the lessons that He has for me.  Since beginning this yearly exercise, my words have been “Courage,“ “Cultivate,“ and “Trust.“  

My word for 2015 is “Abide.”  I first began to hone in on this year’s word while listening to a series of sermons by John MacArthur on John 15.  Suddenly, it started popping up in sermons, on the front of bulletins, and in conversations with friends!  Jesus tells us in John 15 to abide in Him.  What does that really mean (deeper than the “Sunday School“ answer)?  How do I abide in Him?  These are the sorts of questions that I am seeking answers to this year in my personal study.  

Periodically throughout the year, I hope to share my findings here in this place.  Won’t you join me, and learn with me, how to abide in Him?

Monday, February 23, 2015

One by One

1380.  New home office furniture...

1381.  ...including a comfy chair I've had my eye on for years

1382.  Ferry ride to Catalina Island

1383.  Watching dolphins and seals play in the water

1384.  His expert driving skills in avoiding an accident

1385.  Another successful Whisperings All-Star Event

1386.  Conquering something technological on my own with no help!

1387.  Brisk walks in the fog

1388.  Her sweet Valentine's Day song that she made up for me

1389.  His written words of love

1390.  That she opens up to me when her heart is hurting

1391.  Glorious sunsets on the beach

1392.  A great group of kids on the yearbook committee

1393.  Surprising my kids with homemade cookies

1394.  Finding the perfect piece of fabric to complete a project