Joy in January: Dance for your Life!

Joy in January: Dance for your Life!

Life, glorious life!  How we take life for granted, until...

someone we love dies,

our health or safety is gravely threatened,

we realize our days are waning because of the years...

It is then that we value what we've had all along.

But there's a Life that we never need fear will diminish, be endangered, be lost...

In fact, this Life can grow in our experience even in this time-based, fearful, waning physical life.

What is this Life?

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Joy in January: Greater!

Joy in January: Greater!

Brothers & sisters, are you amazed, as am I?

Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. (Colossians 1:27 NLT)

The Lord Jesus Christ in you! The Lord Jesus Christ in me! What glory right here...right now!

The Sovereign Creator of the Universe lives in each of His children! His life courses through our spiritual veins!  What glory for this life as well as the life to come!

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In Sorrow: Redefining Death ... and Life!

In Sorrow: Redefining Death ... and Life!

A wise person thinks a lot about death,
    while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 NLT

Death! 

The word puts terror in our bones! We know it's coming but we ignore it when we can, and we act like we will live on this earth forever. But then there's the health crisis, the loss of a loved one, the thoughts in the darkness of night, the day-mare or nightmare. And the realization of the truth of where we are all heading (some of us sooner than later) comes sneaking or crashing in. And then we have to face the inevitable or drown it all out with some artificial comfort.

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Conferences, Conventions, or Christ?

Conferences, Conventions, or Christ?

The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. (Daniel 11:32 ESV)

The above verse became familiar to me when I began to lead Precept Upon Precept Bible Studies back in "the day." Kay Arthur would often punctuate her messages with this gem of truth. And yes, it made me want to know my God even more.

And over the course of my life I have benefitted by teachers and trainings, workshops and witness, conferences and conventions. But now I'm slowing down and realizing that it's really all about my Abba Father GOD. It's all about my Lord Jesus CHRIST. It's all about my indwelling HOLY SPIRIT ... my Triune GOD. And I want to know HIM purely and fully, more than ever ... as much as a human on this earth has spiritual capacity to do so. How about you, my friend?

If so, here is a short devotional by a formerly unknown, but now beloved, devotional writer of the past. This may be a good way to begin a new week or to walk a new path. It may also be helpful in decisions to soon be made about registering for upcoming conferences or studies. Is it God's appointed time to meet Him there or is it just frenetic busyness and not wanting to "miss out"?

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Kiss Me...I Might Be Irish

Kiss Me...I Might Be Irish

That was the saying on a balloon I saw at Kroger.  And it was also the sentiment in the elementary school we kids went to in New Jersey.  St Matthew’s was an Irish parish (maybe because the founding pastor was Irish, Fr Duffey), so our sports teams were the “Fighting Irish.”  Anyway, the sentiment was that everyone was Irish on St Patrick’s Day. I remember us Renner girls (mom’s maiden name = Galuszka; so you do the “ethnic” math ) spraying our hair green, putting on our already green uniforms, and heading next door to school.  (Yes, we lived next to the church and school!).  We FELT Irish…even if we were really German & Polish!

Everyone was indeed “Irish” at St Matthews on St Patrick’s Day, except for the few rebellious students and even teachers who wore orange instead of green.

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Treasured Truth in an Ancient Hymn

Treasured Truth in an Ancient Hymn

Oh the glory of little known ancient hymns! What an amazing plunge into the depths of Biblical truth, sound theology, and deep personal experience! 

This is just one reason I have loved joining periodically with brothers and sisters at Believers' Assembly in their Sunday Lord's Supper meeting. Occasionally, we would sing a hymn, totally unknown to me, from a little used song book.

And such a hymn is exactly what I found today in my list of blog drafts, written after one of those meetings, but abandoned for at least a year or so. What a treasure! Why did I neglect to finish it?  Maybe for this very moment in time?

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Pressing on ... no Matter the Age

Pressing on ... no Matter the Age

Back when we were in our late thirties, John & I moved our young family from Dallas to Dayton, Ohio because of a job change. At that time we became a part of a fellowship called "Believers' Assembly." In those days, we were among the older folks because the congregation had been formed of college kids who had come to Christ and were spiritually growing under the ministry of young Rennes Bowers. So there was lots of life in that congregation.

I'll never forget the songs in the "blue songbook."** I'm not sure where these songs came from ... whether original to the group or not. But I do remember them being enthusiastically sung to guitar music.

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Christ Himself, the Sum of All Things!

Christianity is a PERSON, not a procedure; the LORD, not a list! Not church attendance, not Christ- like qualities, not good works, not the Christian "to-do list" (which may vary depending on the group and "camp" you are in)...

spiritual disciplines
spiritual disciplines

Not evangelism, not mission trips, not a quality "quiet time," not Scripture memorization or Bible study...

Not spiritual disciplines, not prayer, not fasting, not obedience, not miracle-working faith...

Not ______________________ (you fill in the blank with your favorite supposed "godliness-producing external" activity).

No!

The LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God!

He is God's AMEN and total sum of all things!

During the next week at A Branch in the Vine, we'll be sharing sections of devotionals by Henri Nouwen, Watchman Nee, and others that reveal the Treasure who indwells us by faith in His Stellar Self, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

treasure in earthen vessel
treasure in earthen vessel

...the glory of God..is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NLT

Stay tuned and be ready to reflect on our Lord Jesus, the Father's All in All.  May you begin to see those spiritual activities fall into perspective, and maybe some will even fall away, in light of all HE is...EVERYTHING and anything you will ever need!

For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. Colossians 2:9-10 NLT

May this become your equation for life:

JESUS + nothing = Everything*

*from the title of a book on Colossians by Tullian Tchividjian

Morning Prayers

morning
morning

LordAs I begin this day, and as I continue throughout the day, I invite you to walk around in my body, love with my heart, speak with my lips, and think with my mind. I thank you that you promised to do greater things through me than you did when you were here on earth. John 14:12-14 By faith, I acknowledge your greatness, your power, and your authority in my life, and I invite you to do anything you wish in and through me today. Amen.

(author unknown)

HOLY SPIRIT, LIVING BREATH OF GOD Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend © 2006 Thankyou Music

Holy Spirit, living Breath of God, Breathe new life into my willing soul. Bring the presence of the risen Lord To renew my heart and make me whole. Cause Your Word to come alive in me; Give me faith for what I cannot see; Give me passion for Your purity. Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

Holy Spirit, come abide within; May Your joy be seen in all I do— Love enough to cover ev'ry sin In each thought and deed and attitude, Kindness to the greatest and the least, Gentleness that sows the path of peace. Turn my striving into works of grace. Breath of God, show Christ in all I do.

Holy Spirit, from creation's birth, Giving life to all that God has made, Show your power once again on earth; Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways. Let the fragrance of our prayers arise. Lead us on the road of sacrifice That in unity the face of Christ Will be clear for all the world to see.

celtic cross
celtic cross

St Patrick's Breastplate

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

The Rest of the Gospel: Welcome to the Summer Book Club & the Gates (ch 1)

Welcome to our first ever Summer Book Club here at A Branch in the Vine! Thank you for joining us in the study of The Rest of the Gospel: When the Partial Gospel has Worn You Out, by Dan Stone and David Gregory.

My prayer is that we will all come to experience to a greater depth the truth of the key verse of our study: Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)...that is, our only hope that the glory of God will be manifest in our lives right now on this earth...not just when we get to heaven!

Through His grace and revelation, may each of us be set free from our religious self-effort and Christian "to do lists."  And may we consent to His living His indwelling, abundant, resurrection life in and through us, as us, all to the praise of His glory!

So let's get started!  Here's the plan if you follow along with us here at A Branch in the Vine:

  • 2-4 chapters a week (I'll let you know which ones)
  • Read the chapters.  I'll post study questions for each of the chapters.  You can just read and think through them or answer any or all of them in a journal or notebook.
  • I'll post some thoughts, quotes, songs, other books/readings etc. as we go along.
  • Then we'll start again the next week...it's that easy.

Please feel free to post your comments, personal applications, questions, insights, etc in the comment section below...they don't have to be profound.  The simple, straight-forward truths are the best!

So here we go!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Chapter 1  The Gates

Key verse:   For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  Matthew 7:14 NASB

Key Question: Where is the life? I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

Read the Preface and the first chapter.  Then answer the following questions:

1.  Have you gone through the first gate -- the gate of salvation?  Do you know you are a child of God and your sins are forgiven? Click here to read my journey through that gate (plus a few others). You can also learn what it means to be saved.

2. What "externals" were life to you before walking through the salvation gate?

3.  What "externals" are life to you now that you are a Christian?  How do you draw life from these externals now?

4.  Have you walked through any other gates since salvation?  How would you describe each of them?  What externals did you shed in the process?  What did you gain by walking through?

5.  What would your life be like if you were an internal person rather than an external person?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Here are more extensive study questions by the authors.  I've enjoyed going through every question and writing out my answers in a notebook.  Most of the answers are right within the text, except for personal application questions.

PREFACE

1. What would you say is Dan Stone’s main purpose in writing this book?

2. Why do most Christian books run the risk of being man-centered? How is that problem avoided?

3. What is the Father’s overarching plan throughout the ages?

4. What does “Christ in you” have to do with this plan?

5. What effect does it have on our lives to know that we exist for God’s glory? This being the case, how might God want your life to change?

6. In what sense was the cross God’s work on His own behalf? What is the result of Christ’s work on the cross?

7. How does God want us to cooperate with Him in that result?

CHAPTER 1: THE GATES

1. What is the difference between being an external person and being an internal person (p. 16)?

2. Why can we not experience all that God has for us as long as we are holding onto externals?

3. What does it mean for us to, in Dan’s words, take off our outer garments and shed an external? What does that look like?

4. Why did Dan's choosing to thank God in everything open the door for God’s work in his life?

5. What was it about Norman Grubb’s message that Dan had never heard before? Why was this different from what he had been previously taught?

6. Tell the group your own story of the “gates.” What externals were you holding onto before you came to Christ? What externals were you still holding onto after you came to Christ? What process has God taken you through to lay down some of those externals?

7. What externals are you still holding onto instead of trusting Christ fully as life?

8. What is it that Christ wants to do through you? What does that mean to you?

Resurrection Dance...Let it Flow!

A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to teach through a difficult passage of Scripture in my weekly ladies Bible study.  I had asked the Lord to give me an easy time during the week while I was studying.  Well, from my limited human perspective, just the opposite happened.  Whatever could go "wrong," did just that! So by the end of the week, I was ready to "go over the edge!"  That's when the precious Spirit of God said to my heart,  "Abandon yourself to the lesson, and just let it flow!"  So I did, and it did, by the grace of God!

A few days later, my daughter posted the following on facebook after her zumba class at the gym:

I'm so stiff. In dance at University of Dayton I remember the instructor saying that true dancing came after learning the steps and just letting it flow. I don't think I've ever been able to do that in dance or life.

What would happen, dear friends, if we would abandon ourselves to the Risen, Indwelling Christ and just let Him flow?  What would our dance be like?  What would our life be like?  If New Covenant living means, "God does it, therefore we do it," then our life could be God dances, so we dance!

May it ever be so, O our glorious Jesus...Dancer Par Excellence!

*Click to view video

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KX2-J6uS-o']

We have often asserted and we affirm it yet again That no fact in History is better attested than the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead It must not be denied by any who are willing to pay the slightest respect to the testimony to their fellow men. That Jesus, who died upon the cross and was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimethia, did literally rise again from the dead.

This is a celebration We’re calling out to every nation to spread the word that Jesus is alive. We’re people of His Kingdom His resurrection is our Freedom For every heart, every tongue and every tribe. Woah, We will dance with the One That shines brighter than the sun Woah, We lift our eyes up and rise up. He will rise up! He’s alive He’s alive inside us We will rise up. We claim the victory, He won on Calvary Celebrate the King of Glory So rise up, People of the Lord rise up. We’re filled with Holy Fire Lifting His name is our desire and this we know His Spirit is in this place. Let nothing stand between us, We carry the love that has redeemed us. He is life abundantly given to us in grace. Woah, We will dance with the One That shines brighter than the sun. Woah, lift our eyes up and rise up. He will rise up! He’s alive He’s alive inside us We will rise up. We claim the victory, He won on Calvary Celebrate the King of Glory So rise up, People of the Lord rise up. Woah, We will dance with the One That shines brighter than the sun. Woah, lift our eyes up and rise up. He will rise up! He’s alive He’s alive inside us We will rise up. We claim the victory, He won on Calvary Celebrate the King of Glory So rise up, People of the Lord rise up. He will rise up ! He’s alive, he’s alive inside us. And we will rise up. We claim the victory, He won on Calvary Celebrate the King of Glory So rise up, People of the Lord rise up. People of the Lord rise up !

This Easter may you put all your eggs in one basket -- all your joys and fears, sadness and tears, in the one and only risen Lord.  Happy Easter! Beth Loyd Filson 2013

It is God’s will that I should cast On Him my care each day; He also bids me not to cast My confidence away.

But oh, I am so foolish That when taken unawares, I cast away my confidence And carry all my cares. T. Baird*

Resurrection Walk...Today!

When I was at the University of Arizona in the late 60's & early 70"s, the "Jesus movement" was in full swing.  A song that we always sang during praise time at our Christian student meetings in those days was "He Lives". This song grabbed me!  The concept of a living Christ who intimately related to me on a daily basis was just beginning to dawn on me.  Look at the words to this glorious song:

mom & me walking
mom & me walking

I serve a risen Saviour He's in the world today; I know that He is living, Whatever men may say; I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him He's always near.

Chorus: He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and He talks with me Along life's narrow way. He lives, He live, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.

In all the world around me I see His loving care, And tho my heart grows weary I never will despair; I know that He is leading Thro' all the stormy blast, The day of His appearing Will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, Lift up your voice and sing Eternal hallelujahs To Jesus Christ the King! The hope of all who seek Him, The help of all who find, None other is so loving, So good and kind.

Brennan Manning has a phrase that I love...living in Present Risenness.  In his precious book The Rabbi's Heartbeat, he says:

We are not cowed into timidity by death and life.  Were we forced to rely on our own shabby resources we would be pitiful people indeed.  But the awareness of Christ's present risenness persuades us that we are buoyed up and carried on by a life greater than our own.

The Christ within who is our hope of glory is not a matter of theological debate or philosophical speculation.  He is not a hobby, a part-time project, a good theme for a book, or a last resort when all human effort fails.  He is our life, the most real fact about us.  He is the power and wisdom of God dwelling within us.

Even though the holiday we call Easter has passed, dear child of God, meditate on this glorious thought:  The Resurrected Christ is alive in your world right now.  The Living Christ lives in you today.  And this same Lord Jesus Christ lives His resurrection life through you as you walk in Present Risenness...every day!

Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col 1:27

...you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory. Col 3:3-4

...to those who are the called,...Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1Cor 1:24

My Redeemer lives!
My Redeemer lives!

Now enjoy this simple, sincere rendition of "HE LIVES"...

Music only:

*This was posted at Easter 2011 as Walking in Present Risenness

Morning Prayers with St Patrick's Breastplate

Lord,

sunrise
sunrise

As I begin this day, and as I continue throughout the day, I invite you to walk around in my body, love with my heart, speak with my lips, and think with my mind. I thank you that you promised to do greater things through me than you did when you were here on earth. John 14:12-14 By faith, I acknowledge your greatness, your power, and your authority in my life, and I invite you to do anything you wish in and through me today. Amen. (Bill Bright)

HOLY SPIRIT, LIVING BREATH OF GOD Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend © 2006 Thankyou Music

Holy Spirit, living Breath of God, Breathe new life into my willing soul. Bring the presence of the risen Lord To renew my heart and make me whole. Cause Your Word to come alive in me; Give me faith for what I cannot see; Give me passion for Your purity. Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

Holy Spirit, come abide within; May Your joy be seen in all I do— Love enough to cover ev'ry sin In each thought and deed and attitude, Kindness to the greatest and the least, Gentleness that sows the path of peace. Turn my striving into works of grace. Breath of God, show Christ in all I do.

Holy Spirit, from creation's birth, Giving life to all that God has made, Show your power once again on earth; Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways. Let the fragrance of our prayers arise. Lead us on the road of sacrifice That in unity the face of Christ Will be clear for all the world to see.

celtic cross
celtic cross

St Patrick's Breastplate

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

Findings in the Files: Himself

images-5

images-5

Several years back I discovered a wonderful little poem quoted in a book I was reading. I tried to find out the background of this poem on-line.  Wow, did I hit the "jackpot" when I came across the sermon connected to this little treasure! So enjoy this little finding in my file, and then click on the link to read the entire sermon.  May Christ be praised!

  HIMSELF By: A. B. Simpson

Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord; Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word. Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own; Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

Once 'twas painful trying, Now 'tis perfect trust; Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost. Once 'twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast; Once 'twas constant drifting, Now my anchor's cast.

Once 'twas busy planning, Now 'tis trustful prayer; Once 'twas anxious caring, Now He has the care. Once 'twas what I wanted Now what Jesus says; Once 'twas constant asking, Now 'tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be; Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me. Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One; Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He's mine; Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine. Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail; And my hopes are anchored Safe within the vail.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 A.B. Simpson's sermon Himself.

in_christ_alone

in_christ_alone

Resurrection Walk...

When I was at the University of Arizona in the late 60's & early 70"s, the "Jesus movement" was in full swing.  A song that we always sang during praise time at our Christian student meetings in those days was "He Lives". This song grabbed me!  The concept of a living Christ who intimately related to me on a daily basis was just beginning to dawn on me.  Look at the words to this glorious song:

mom & me walking
mom & me walking

I serve a risen Saviour He's in the world today; I know that He is living, Whatever men may say; I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him He's always near.

Chorus: He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and He talks with me Along life's narrow way. He lives, He live, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.

In all the world around me I see His loving care, And tho my heart grows weary I never will despair; I know that He is leading Thro' all the stormy blast, The day of His appearing Will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, Lift up your voice and sing Eternal hallelujahs To Jesus Christ the King! The hope of all who seek Him, The help of all who find, None other is so loving, So good and kind.

Brennan Manning has a phrase that I love...living in Present Risenness.  In his precious book The Rabbi's Heartbeat, he says:

We are not cowed into timidity by death and life.  Were we forced to rely on our own shabby resources we would be pitiful people indeed.  But the awareness of Christ's present risenness persuades us that we are buoyed up and carried on by a life greater than our own.

The Christ within who is our hope of glory is not a matter of theological debate or philosophical speculation.  He is not a hobby, a part-time project, a good theme for a book, or a last resort when all human effort fails.  He is our life, the most real fact about us.  He is the power and wisdom of God dwelling within us.

Even though the holiday we call Easter has passed, dear child of God, meditate on this glorious thought:  The Resurrected Christ is alive in your world right now.  The Living Christ lives in you today.  And this same Lord Jesus Christ lives His resurrection life through you as you walk in Present Risenness...every day!

Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col 1:27

...you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory. Col 3:3-4

...to those who are the called,...Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1Cor 124

Now enjoy this simple, sincere rendition of "HE LIVES"...

*This was posted last Easter as Walking in Present Risenness