Monday, October 29, 2012

Love Stories

I have a difficult time learning to be present in the moment.  I have the Martha curse….I’m cannot sit very still because I find that I always looking for something to do.  It is very hard for me to sit and wait; however God is teaching me here.  Here is what I know – you are in trouble when you stop hearing your kids after they ask you the same question 3x!

Well, last week was great.   I didn’t leave the church till 1:30pm.  There were great conversations and interactions and stories with people.  Our family grabbed Subway, sat down; but only to realize that I needed to take my daughter Bryn into emerg.  As it turned out, I could have just sat there and been oblivious to the other people in the room.   This time it was different. 

I noticed a young girl with what looked to be a broken wrist from a soccer match
I noticed a young father struggling with infant daughter…as the baby bottle smashed to the ground and I was able to help out and the 3.5 hours flew by…well, almost. 

So, here we are talking about a new vision…  Our vision for Grace is new, but it’s not new

A time and a place where #love abounds.

Jesus even saw this as a new command…but surely the people had heard about love in the OT.

John 13:34,35   A new commandment that I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you.

What is new about the new commandment?

What is new? I have loved you.

The commandment to love one another is new because we are called to live out the love of Jesus.  The OT didn’t even have this challenge.  Jesus.  The pattern is new. 

It is new because it is live ON the love of Jesus.  The power of love is new.

We can’t do anything of any spiritual significance without abiding in Christ.  “Without me you can do nothing.”

I command you – love each other

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a person under authority.  Your life is guided by commands from Jesus who is my authority?

This is my self identity.

Jesus comes to you with more than just commands, but not less.

Love being loved by my Father!  Abide in His love. 

What in our experience corresponds -   to trust Him to meet all my needs and to be all my treasure

Resist the negative thoughts by faith…trust Him for what He wants to do through you today.

I’m not naturally a loving person, but I’m going to abide in the vine!

Love is the response that listens to the heart of another soul

1.       Love on The Vine

John 15:9-13

9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

There is a key word here that is used in the greek (katameno) that the KJV captures as the word “abide”   I really like this word in particular as it relates to the kind of love we need to experience in order to love one another.

The word abide  can be translated dwell, remain, continue, or stay and we see that in the newer translations.  But what do those mean? We may hear those and think, “I must simply do nothing.” If you told a child, “Don’t move – stay right there!” you would expect the child to simply sit or stand there and do nothing. Stay might be thought of as inactivity.  After all, how do you really abide in Christ and for that matter Christ in you.

However inactivity is not what Jesus had in mind for us.  He wants us to understand what it means to live very closely to Him so that it our movement with Christ becomes very real to us.  Abiding in Christ means I want you to follow me wherever I go.  So in actuality it is activity not inactivity we are called to.

Jesus uses the symbiotic relationship between the vine and its branches SO…

In order for a branch to bear fruit it has to be in harmony with the fruit-bearing agenda of the vine. It has to be participating in the vine’s business of fruit production.

Abiding in Christ is a reference to the close continuum of a relationship with God in Christ.  The word abide calls  us to a place of vigilance so that we don’t allow our union with Him to be interrupted.  So, it is really a sustained conscious communion with God.

“To abide in Christ signifies the constant occupation of the heart with Him—a daily active faith in Him which, so to speak, maintains the dependency of the branch upon the vine, and the circulation of life and fatness of the vine in the branch.”  A W Pink

It is not just a heady concept, it was meant to be the real conscious experience of my union with Christ.  It is also an interaction that was meant to be burdensome; however it is not just automatic.

We are told in Hebrews 4:11 to make every effort to enter that rest

In order for the love producing fruit to be experienced in our life, we really need to practically live out “abiding in Christ”

Most Christians would look quizzically when you talk about remaining in Christ or dwelling in Him for that matter

It is not a religious formality that you can check off like you would in completing a degree in school.  It is not about doing some form of spiritual exercise in order for God to love you.

 You are not loved for what you do.  You are a loved child of God (period)!  However, if you ask a fellow Christian, ‘how is your walk with God?’  99% of the time people will define it by whether they are having a ‘quiet time’

More than anything, we need  to pay attention to what God is doing.  For many of us in our Western culture, we have a linear mindset…meaning if I spend  x amount of time with God, than y will happen.

My question is this, “how do we practically abide?”  My response is find the right atmosphere. 

It begins with repentance and that is a major player in our journey.  Repentance means that a change of mind is taking place in me that results in a change of behavior.

For me the right atmosphere of abiding begins with prayer on my knees.  It will also include a time of reading Scripture and ‘two way journalling’ where I write down what I sense God speaking to me about and also time for me to listen ask a very simple question, “LORD, what is it that you want me to know today.

Archbishop William Temple once said, “Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” In other words, the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention.

If I’m honest, it is very easy for my thoughts to go to sports updates or checking my banking statements.

Don’t expect abiding to just happen like an app that you can download in just a minute or less.

Discover what it means for us to draw near to God and to enter into the holies of holy.

I’ve had people tell me in those times God has challenged them to very different things and this is where the love flows -

·         Some have felt led to take off their shoes and socks off and imagine themselves walking on holy ground
·         Some have used a empty chair to remind them that Abba Father is in the room
·         Some have spoken of the simple words that they have heard….love your wife…love your kids.
·         OR strong impressions…Bless this person with x amount of dollars
·         I will never forget a simple act of love that had a profound effect on me.  It was during the time that I was a student and attending a local church in London, ON.  Following the service, the pastor shook my hand, typical, yes, but then he took a moment to squeeze my shoulder.  In that moment I felt cared for.

The real treasure for us is the realization that life that emanates from His presence in us and through us.

As I shared…  Abide can be translated dwell, remain, continue,  and the end result is that there should be visible signs of the expression of that love.    Abiding isn’t just for our alone time with God, it is going to be seen by others!
When you get to see that fruit in another person’s life, it is very powerful.

 Love on the vine is made visible by its fruit!  The fruit of the expression of our lives will come in real tangible acts of love for one another

·         A family found a significant amount of money while on vacation this summer and knew right away that it wasn’t for them and they were able to bless Pastor James last Sunday in their home and actually matched themselves what they found.
·         I was also at Nathan and Julie’s home the other day and so blessed to see a home transformed because love paints

However before you get to see the fruit there are two more things that you need to see happening with this word abide in the previous chapter.

Abide speaks of our relationship with the Holy Spirit

In order to show this kind of love, you need to understand that abide is “being filled with the Spirit.”  “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth,  John 14:16,17  KJV Abide is the language of relationship, the language of interaction

To the extent that your heart and mind are yielded to the Spirit of God, you can trust your own thoughts in that place of abiding.

Abiding in truth is not just, moral principles and application. Does the Bible have them? Absolutely. But our hearts are not changed by the commands of the Law. Our hearts are changed when they overflow with love for the Savior. As we experience the grace of what God has done for us in Christ, our hearts are free to worship and obey.

Our ability to obey has to be grounded in the truth of the gospel and in the power of the Holy Spirit who enables us to obey in love.

Abide also speaks of a “reveal” 

John 14:21, Jesus says the same thing, but He uses the word manifest. To abide in Christ is to have Christ manifested to you on an ongoing basis.

20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Love in The Dining Room

We had a powerful time with Pastor James in our home on Monday night as we had opportunity to pray over him and his wife.

Kerry’s love story 

Kerry this spring related her own story to us as a staff team.  We had the opportunity to visit with her and she was at the point where physically she felt like she could do nothin but lie on her couch as she battles with cancer.

She discovered in Jesus act of washing the disciples’ feet for it to be an act of pure love.
Jesus was at the point where there was nothing that he could physically do for his disciples.  He knew that the time of His death was coming and this is what He could do.

Kerry spoke with us about how through the process of coming to grips with cancer in her life that God first asked her to trust Chris with Him as an act of faith in literally being  willing to lay down her life.  She then spoke of how God asked her to trust Him with her children and be willing to place them in His hands.

As you commit to abiding in Christ, I want you to complete one or more of the following exercises.

1.      Write a love letter to Jesus.  Begin with the following words.  Jesus, I love you because…     

2.      Ask the following question and listen for His still small voice.  Jesus, what do you want me to know about your love today?  (This is a step harder than exercise one as you need to trust the Spirit to give you a word or a Scripture or possibly even more as you sense a spontaneous flow or impression being revealed to you.
3.       Share with someone else what stood out most to you about Kerry’s love story.
4.       Set a coffee date with someone today and commit to sharing a “love story” with them of a time when you knew God’s love for you.

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