“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
The Thin Place
We walk this in this thin place of living in this world while knowing our home is in the next. It’s a thin place because it’s far too easy to slide into living and doing according to the world’s philosophies or to lean so far the other way that we cannot relate to those around us.
The key to living in the thin place is abiding. I know this world knocks us around and we wrestle between flesh and spirit. Will we trust God in the midst of trouble or will we accuse him of abandoning us? And if we choose to accuse then we miss an opportunity to grow in our faith. We must remain in him.
Remain in Him
Abiding in Christ is to remain in him when life sparkles and when life darkens. It’s what enables us to walk by faith when we cannot see and to believe when we don’t understand. It’s remaining when leaving tempts us.
In order to remain in him, we must choose endurance, dependence, and obedience.
To choose grit over quit. Endurance isn’t glamorous, but it leads to some pretty spectacular results.
Wait on God for the outcome. Dependence looks a lot like waiting on God for his outcome.
To obey is to trust God at his word. If he says to love, then love and trust him to supply. If he says to forgive, then forgive and trust him to enable.
You are mighty and most worthy of praise. I adore you, Lord, and thank-you for who you are. You are grace and kindness and mercy. Goodness and beauty. Lord, I want to abide in you and remain in you because that is the secret to living this life well for you. This life surprises me with its beauty and its ferociousness, but you are the constant through it all.
Help me to choose you in the face of deep disappointment and to recognize you in the light of great achievement. You are my everything and I worship you. God, I choose grit, dependence, and obedience. Give me the strength to endure. Help me find my strength in dependence on you, and guide me in obedience.
You are God, my rock and my refuge, and I am forever enamored by you. May your face shine upon me and your glory overwhelm me. Let me be caught by your goodness and mercy and may I forever depend on you.
Our identity in Christ covers three basic needs: significance, security, and acceptance. It’s out of these three things that our ability to minister to others without experiencing twisting and turning based on their approval or disapproval flows. But so often, we forget who we are in Christ. We begin to think that the answers to this world’s difficulties rests on our ability to provide answers and service.
But the picture in Psalm 23 of the good shepherd, leading me by still waters, through death’s valley,and near pain’s shadow that I realize that it’s not up to me to carry all the burdens. I am weak and weary. Exhausted from the battle. It’s here, in the presence of my enemies, that I realize that God’s abundance in the midst of mess is for me and for you.
Our Cups Overflow
Further into Psalm 23 we read that He anoints our heads with oil and makes our cups overflow. In ancient Eastern culture, hosts anointed their guests with perfume as a sign of honor. The host would give their guest a cup and then were careful to fill it till it overflowed. This implied that while in the host’s presence the guest would have all the abundance the host could offer.
This is a beautiful picture of what it looks like when we abide in Christ. Our cups overflow as we hold our cup upright to receive from him. But so often, when we see the urgent in our life,we run around, holding our cups in a pouring position. Then, when cups run dry, we dash back to the Father for more filling. But what if we changed the position of our cups? What if we held them always in the upright position? This would allow the overflow of what God is doing in our lives to flow to those around us.
Our agendas would change. No longer would we treat our quiet time as a fill-up station, only pulling up for refuel when we’re empty. No longer would we feel the burden of the world’s cares on our shoulders and be overwhelmed by the great needs around us. Our position would be one of upturned cups, being continually filled and overflowing into the lives around us throughout our day.
Hold Your Cups Upright
This position, of holding our cups upright and realizing the overflow that comes from being together with Christ in every moment, releases us from the burden that service sometimes brings. Instead, we find ourselves able to do more than we ever imagined because our cups are always full.
Carrying our cup upright allows it to overflow into other’s emptier vessels. We discover that our confidence has nothing to do with our strengths. At the same time we learn that our insecurities don’t have to bind us to inaction.
Hold your cup upright and receive this blessing:
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that our of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19 NIV
My perspective in the waiting gets clouded by my impatience. Waiting. I don’t love it. It can make me feel crabby and in the long waits for answers to prayer, it can make me feel hopeless. And hopelessness is a desperate place to be.
But what happens when the things of life drag us down to depths we never dreamed we would reach? What happens when hope seems as distant as the faintest star in the night sky? What happens when we lose our perspective in the waiting?
It’s easy to get stuck in a disbelieving cycle that God can and will come through for us. In fact, I daresay, it’s a tactic the enemy of our souls uses to isolate us even further. It’s in these moments of doubt that we must turn to the only one who can help us. In fact, we can bring our doubts to him and receive grace.
This week’s Scripture passage
“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22.
Positioning myself to wait in hope means that I need to recognize that God is my help and that he is working in ways that I cannot see, but I need to trust him. He is your helper. You can trust in him.
Then I need to hide in him–he is my shield. He is your shield. When we hide in him, we go where he wants us to go, and we stay protected from the tactics of the enemy.
One key component to this kind of waiting–the kind that knows hope–is found in rejoicing. We can rejoice because of who God is. He is kind, merciful, full of grace, loving, good, just, faithful. Think about his goodness towards you, remember his faithfulness, rejoice that he rescues you.
This week’s prayer
“Lord Jesus, King of kings, and Lord of lords, we glorify your name. You are most worthy of praise and there is no one like you. Our hearts bear burdens that steal our hope and we need you. We need you to be our hope. As we wait in you let your unfailing love fall upon us. Wrap us in your love like a comforting blanket on a cold and windy day.
You are our help and shield. You are with us, you guide us, and you defend us. May we rest in you, trusting and believing that you are working behind the scenes in ways that we cannot see. If we cannot see your hand at work, help us to trust your heart. You are for us and you never leave us nor forsake us.
What are you gripping? Do you ever feel like if you let go, you’ll fall into a chasm of hopelessness? There’s a time to fight and hang on for dear life and then there’s a time to release.
And sometimes the release is the best battle strategy we could ever choose. Sometimes the release is what fighting looks like and releasing is when we find our strength.
It’s one of the paradoxes of following Christ. It’s a both/and. It’s both facing the battle and releasing. You can stand firm on your battlefield and still choose to release. But what do we release?
We release our thanksgiving, our praise, our remembrance of who God is and what he has done. That’s how we battle.
We release our control and perceived outcome on how God should move in our situation. That’s how we know peace and hope.
The following scripture passage is taken from 2 Chronicles 20. The verses I share here are only a small part of the greater story and I hope you’ll open your Bible and read the full chapter. First, they stood, and then they released.
Stand and Release
“After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” 2 Chronicles 20:21-22
Enemies take different forms. They can be people, but they can take shape through our insecurities, our doubts, and even our thoughts. But God. He transforms, he renews, he holds us close, and he never fails.
Let’s release today. Release what? Both praise, worship, thanksgiving and our fears about the future, or our grip on the outcome of our current circumstances.
We come to you unknowing how you will work things out, but we stand firm in our faith that you love, that you are our refuge, that through you we are strong. And as we stand, we release our praise for your goodness and kindness. That you are great and mighty and oh so gracious. Oh Lord, you are with us, right here, right now. You are in our past, and already in our tomorrows, and we are grateful.
God, we release our angst over our lives and our kids’ lives and the circumstances that we have no control over, but seem to be controlling us. We surrender them to you and we trust you. We know that as we trust, we cannot be shaken, we cannot fail, because you are our rock and refuge. You help, you provide, and you guide.
Lord, as we release we ask that you would move on our behalf and that you would enable us to trust you even when we cannot see you. Holy One, you are mighty and good and filled with inexpressible love for us and we receive you. We believe you and we receive your love.
Let us go into our todays with confidence and face our tomorrows with trust because you are with us.
I love you, Lord and praise you with all that I am. I look to you. You are my everything, In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I pray that this week is a week of release. That you will be set free in ways you never dreamed.
I wrote an article on what it means to have a gentle and quiet spirit. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here.
May Lord bless you as the sun rises and sets and may you know the light of his face as he looks at you,
Many of the Psalms reference imagery that gives us an ability to express our hearts and to know comfort. Such as: The Lord is my rock and fortress who reaches down and draws me out of deep waters. Or: he makes my feet like the feet of a deer and enables me to stand on the heights.
One of most comforting imagery in the Psalms is related to sight. Time and again, the Psalms remind us that we’re not hidden from God’s sight. He sees and he cares for us, but at times it feels as though God plays hide and seek, and we’re left blind folded as we stumble for our next step.
Do you ever feel as though you can’t see? It’s as though confusion and darkness swirl around you and each time you think your vision is about to clear, another gust of wind blows through your life. It’s wearying and demoralizing. So we cry out to him and he answers, but do we hear him?
It’s like a little one who hit her head, and whose loud cries drown her mother’s voice. Her pain consumes her reality and she cannot receive comfort because she cannot hear it. We can be like that little one too. We can be so immersed in our pain that we cannot hear God’s whisper so we determine that he’s not there at all. But today’s Psalm reminds us of the truth that he does hear and he is with us.
“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order than man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.” Psalm 10:17-18
In this Psalm, we see that we will be afflicted, we will need defending, we will feel alone and oppressed. These are the realities of a broken life. Sometimes we’ll be bombarded by all four of them, and other times we’ll experience a reprieve. Life consists of deep valleys, dry desserts, lush meadows, and high mountaintops.
We have this life race to consider and this abundant life that Jesus promises happens in the middle of the journey. Abundance doesn’t equate to physical prosperity, but an abundance of heart and joy and love and peace and fruit of the spirit. That’s our abundance. And we can have it now.
But. When life feels sparse and cheap, it’s easy to forget that God is still with us. And this Psalm reminds us that he hears our cries, and he encourages us by listening to us and defending us, which means that we might need to hush and be still, resting in him.
A Prayer for Your Heart
Holy Lord, we bless you for your unwavering commitment to us despite our fears, losses, and disappointments. Life is hard. And good. Give us grace to navigate it with peace and acknowledgement of you through it all. Sometimes it seems as though you are hiding and we cannot find you no matter how hard we seek you. Lord, forgive us for doubting your presence and power and lead is into your nearness. Let the truth that you hear our cry settle deep within our heart and may we look to you for encouragement when all we feel is discouraged. You hear our cry and not just hear us, but you listen to us. You are our listening ear and our constancy in our rather inconsistent life. Let us grow in you, rest in you, and depend on you more and more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The lyric’s significance rushed over me. The words reverberated in my head and grew wildly in my heart as I realized the power within them.
“If I have you, I have everything. But without you, I have nothing. If I have you, I have everything, but without you, I have nothing.”
And right there, face pressed into the shag of the bedside rug, I laid it all down. Jesus, my everything, even if I have nothing. The nothing represented by loss, sorrow, and void. Dreams that seemed like dust swept away. Hopes that bore no fruit.
But to still have Jesus is joy. As the power of those words rushed over me, I thought of our series on joy and saw how the lyrics supported the idea that joy isn’t a fluctuating emotion, but joy is completed in Jesus.
Jesus Completes Our Joy
Prior to knowing Christ, we’re captives to sin. But when we receive Christ, he ransoms us from captivity. “The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 51:11
Jesus paid our ransom and gave us new life so that we might return to God. Our heads are crowned with everlasting joy, and as we allow salvation’s gladness to overwhelm us, our sorrow and sighing abate.
But as we learn to live this new life, we discover that renewing our mind is a process, and we struggle against sinful behavior because of the battle between the flesh and the spirit that rages inside our heart.
And we, like David in Psalm 51, can cry out for a clean heart and we can pray, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12
Jesus completes our joy when he rescues us from a life of eternal separation from the Lord. He took this captive–bound by her sin–and set her free. He can do the same for you.
The Old Testament Israelites show us that outward rules and regulations don’t change the heart. Jesus makes a way for hearts to unite with the Father’s. God is joyous. He delights in you and me. He looks upon us with joy, but he’s holy, righteous, and just too.
And so Jesus made a way that enabled God to write his heart on our hearts, to complete the joy he has about us in us through Jesus. We don’t have to live our lives separate from God, thinking that salvation comes through what we do.
Salvation is God’s free gift through belief in his son. He asks us to believe.
Will you believe?
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9
Joy is like the fireworks painting the night on the fourth of July. You anticipate it, but you don’t know exactly when it will happen. You hear the explosion, the sky lights up, and sparkles with the designs of the creator.
Salvation’s joy is like that firework display that elicits ooo’s and aah’s and smiles that stretch a mile wide.
We’re saved from captivity, ransomed for freedom and joy overflows.
We believe and then we’re invited to abide. John 15:10-11 states, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandantst and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Abiding takes place as we surrender, submit, and obey the Lord.
Imagine a tank of water and standing beside it is someone holding a bolt in one hand and a piece of wood in the other and drops them both into the tank.
The bolt sinks. The wood floats.
But if the bolt is attached to the wood, the nature of the wood transfers to the bolt and the bolt floats.
If we attempt to live this Christian life in our own strength and understanding, we’re like the bolt and we sink. But if we abide in Christ and take on his nature, we float.
Jesus completes God’s joy because he ransomed and saved us.
Our joy is complete when we believe and abide in him.