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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Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven (A Children's Carol)

Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven (A Children's Carol)

There's a song that's been going through my mind and heart these Advent days.  I even find myself bursting into a line of lyric here and there. The thoughts I love most in it are truths that have become more and more precious to me as I reflect Advent after Advent -- that our Emmanuel came to earth from heaven, not just to pay for our sins (as crucial as that is), but also to give us His divine eternal LIFE...deity indwelling our humanity.  We can become children of Almighty God!!!

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LIFE Overflowing!

LIFE Overflowing!

Today my dear grandson Carter turned 10. 10! Double digits, a full decade! Oh how time passes too quickly and here we are.

As I've thought of this precious life, I had been been asking the Lord to give me a verse to pass on to Carter from HIM. First I went one way in my thoughts, and then I went another. But nothing felt totally right, totally it. I was trying too hard instead of letting my heart receive it from the Spirit.

Then it came ... and it was totally perfect!

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Celebrating Love, Life, & a Son, 20 Years Cancer-free

Celebrating Love, Life, & a Son, 20 Years Cancer-free

This month is a special month. This month I celebrate my darling son and his amazing, godly life that our sovereign Father God spared 20 years ago ... and not only spared, but brought to abundant fruitfulness inside and out! Can I tell you the story? 

Twenty years ago on February 13, 1998, my beautiful baby boy, Jeremy John Loyd, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  OK, he wasn't a baby at the time...he was 20 years old and a sophomore at Grace College.  But as every one of you moms knows, your baby is always your baby.

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The Stabilizing Focus of a Morning Prayer

The Stabilizing Focus of a Morning Prayer

Oh, life has been full of losses lately...deaths, illnesses, failures. And these during and after times of refreshment with loved ones and beaches and the simplicity of Amish peaceful countryside. 

As a result, I am reflecting, revisiting, and responding in new ways to previous thoughts...some of which have already been shared. Forgive me. But if you would like to listen in, here is my meditation:

Life is a mix, a conglomeration.
There is confusion and clarity, flailing and focus, excruciating pain and exquisite peace.
There is bitterness and sweetness, strength and fragility, "rugged seas" and "smooth sailing."

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Joy & Grief & Love & Life all mixed together: for Shirley

For your Maker is your husband,    the Lord of hosts is his name... Isaiah 54:5

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows    is God in his holy habitation. Psalm 68:5

Don & Shirley
Don & Shirley

My dear friend,

I heard a song as I was walking this morning...and I thought of you!

I remembered a poem from days gone by...and I thought of you!

And I thought of grief and joy and love and life...and I thought of you, my precious sister-friend!

And I remembered your delightful, "crusty," out-spoken husband Don, who is now "exploring the mysteries of Christ."

Most of all, I remembered Jesus who has experienced grief and joy and love and life...all of it, so He knows!

So for you my darling Shirley (and for those you love and who love you and your Don) as you face the loss of your dear husband:

Grief Joy Love Life

And so first the poem:

Life, Paul Dunbar
Life, Paul Dunbar

Life Paul Laurence Dunbar

A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in, A minute to smile and an hour to weep in, A pint of joy to a peck of trouble, And never a laugh but the moans come double; And that is life!

A crust and a corner that love makes precious, With a smile to warm and the tears to refresh us; And joy seems sweeter when cares come after, And a moan is the finest of foils for laughter; And that is life!

And then the song:

God Is Love

All we hold is frail and briefPatched together by beliefThe pattern only partiallyRevealed for us to seeWhat are tears but seeds we sow?In fields unseen such harvest growWhose joys will one day overflowThe measure of our grief

REFRAINIf God is loveThen love we trustIs strong enough to hold our sorrowIf God is loveHe carries us We will not fear what comes tomorrowLove will heal usFor God is love

Then suffering's no enemyAnd poverty, no povertyAnd death our greatest victoryWhen swallowed up in life

REFRAIN

Though sorrow surge at every stepYet goodness is assuredFor none that harms or troubles hereWill speak the final wordLove speaks the final word

REFRAIN

Don & Shirley & Jim D & me
Don & Shirley & Jim D & me

Lenten Meditation: Embrace Forgiveness, Embrace Life!

Until you rest in the finality of the cross, you will never experience the reality of the resurrection, which is Christ living in and through you!Unless you rest in the fact that Jesus did it all, you’ll be so busy trying to pay off your debt – atone for your sins – that you’ll never grow and enjoy the personal relationship that Christ has provided for you. Bob George, Growing in Grace

it is finished
it is finished

The total payment has been made.  The slate is wiped clean!

We are lavishly loved and forever forgiven in Him!

So we can quit trying to earn what we already have in Christ. We can live the abundant life the Lord has promised...the resurrected, indwellingChrist living it through us...as us, not as someone we admire or think we should be like.

Let the truth of this song wash over you...live the life the Lord has given you...Him living through you!

 

The Power of the Cross

Oh, to see the dawn of the darkest dayChrist on the road to calvarytried by sinful men, torn and beaten thennailed to a cross of wood

This the pow'r of the crossChrist became sin for ustook the blame, bore the wrath we stand forgiven at the cross

Oh, to see the pain written on your facebearing the awesome weight of sinevery bitter thought, every evil deedcrowning your bloodstained brow

This the pow'r of the crossChrist became sin for ustook the blame, bore the wrathwe stand forgiven at the cross

Now the daylight fleesNow the ground beneathquakes as it maker bows his headcurtain torn intodead are raise to life"finished" the victory cry

This the pow'r of the crossChrist became sin for ustook the blame, bore the wrathwe stand forgiven at the cross

Oh, to see my name written in the woundsfor through your suffering I am freedeath is crushed to deathlife is mine to livewon through your selfless love

This the pow'r of the crossson of God slain for uswhat a love, what a costwe stand forgiven at the cross

Lenten Meditation: Forgiven to Live...and Forgive

Until you rest in the finality of the cross, you will never experience the reality of the resurrection, which is Christ living in and through you!Unless you rest in the fact that Jesus did it all, you’ll be so busy trying to pay off your debt—atone for your sins—that you’ll never grow and enjoy the personal relationship that Christ has provided for you.

Bob George, Growing in Grace

FATHER FORGIVE THEM

FATHER FORGIVE THEM

Embracing our total forgiveness by our Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross for every sin,

one by one,

all of them,

what we have done and will do,

and, not only that, who we are apart from Him...

...is essential for life, that is, the life of God in us!

Yes, the living, resurrected Christ indwellingour spirit made new...

This is basic to forgiving others, because in reality, we can't do it on our own...but the forgiving indwelling Lord can and does, as we live from His life!

So whether we have been blatant sinners in the same category as the prodigal son...

...or subtle, pride-filled sinners a la elder brother,

Jesus has forgiven us!

Embrace that forgiveness today, dear friend, and live!

And forgive...by the indwelling, forgiving Christ! Amen!

I will be their God,    and they shall be my people...for they shall all know me,    from the least of them to the greatest.For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,    and I will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:10-12 ESV

Death works in us...Life in you!

LORD, Is it necessary for someone to die in order for another to live?

You should know!  Remember the Cross?

...for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2

Is the joy that another might live?

Is that why as moms we come to "death's door" to birth life into this world?

And is that just a picture of a deeper spiritual reality?

Is that why we need to admit our failures? own our mistakes?  grieve our inabilities?  release our expectations?

And even "take the blows" when misunderstood? mistaken? misjudged?

But You know all that too!  Remember the trials and beating?

 “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent. Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him... Matthew 26:62-63,67

But it's so hard to die so that another might live!  So hard to chose love over self-protection and self-justification!

And You know that too, don't You?  Remember Gethsemane?  Remember the Father's will?

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” ...He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Matthew 26:39, 42

Is it so that the healing life of your Risen Self can do its life-giving work in another?

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation... Heb 5:7-9

Now it's my turn, isn't it?  Is that what Paul meant when he said,

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church...to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col 1:22,27

May it ever be so in my life also, O my sacrificial, crucified, risen, obedient Savior...only through Your indwelling LIFE!

 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2Cor4:6-12

You may also like In Pain...Two Things I Know

 

 

 

Your Job Description: you may be surprised!

By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:8

Have you ever started a job with no job description?  I have, and it's pretty confusing.

About 8 years ago, I was looking for a part-time teaching job.  A friend asked if I would like to apply to substitute teach in ESL & GED classes.  I told her that I didn't have a clue about either one of those.  She assured me that it wasn't difficult.  All I had to do was follow the teacher's lesson plans.  So I naively applied.

Well, guess what?  As my application reached the supervisor's desk, the beginning ESL teacher was in a very serious accident.  This was at the end of the first week of class.  By then, beginning ESL students don't know much more English than the day they walked in.  There were no lesson plans and no curriculum, because the teacher was so experienced that she did her own "curriculum".  Needless to say, I was terrified.  But God met me in my need (and that's for another post!).

BUT that first year, I had no job description.  I just took the bull by the horns and prayed and taught and loved it.  And I think the students did too, by God's grace!  (I taught that class for 9 more years!)

However, without a job description, I made many mistakes and often got myself in trouble.  Most of the time, my mistakes were from my ignorance...or from my zeal to "do things right".  As a result, in several instances, I unknowingly went over the head of my supervisor and assumed her role.  Not good!

That's what happens for us believers with living the Christian life.  I don't think we truly understand our "job description."   We try to do in our own strength the things that only God can do.

John 15 is a perfect place to start to understand what it means to be a Christian (the branches) in relation to our Father (the Owner/Gardener) and His Son (the True Vine).

So let's look at WHO does WHAT in a vineyard?

First there's the Gardener or Vinedresser.  His job is to care for the vine and branches by watering, fertilizing, and above all... pruning. Without that almost "violent" pruning, a rich crop cannot come forth.

And after all, the vineyard owner's reputation is at stake!  If someone sees a barren vineyard, no one shames the branches or even the vine, but rather the owner/vinedresser.  That's because whoever does the work gets the credit or the blame!   So it's his job to do whatever is necessary to ensure an abundant crop of grapes.  Even the good, new growth gets cut back so as to bring forth an abundance of fruit.

As we've seen in a previous post, that is what the Father does for us branches.  Sometimes we may feel like we've grown so much and have been "fruitful"...then all of a sudden, the desert! dryness! seeming barrenness!  But the process is not done yet!

Then there's the Vine.  The Vine is the source of life for the branches, which then enables the fruit to come forth.  Without the life of the Vine flowing through healthy branches, nothing fruitful can happen!

Jesus is the Source of life for us His branches.  In another post we saw that Jesus, the I AM, is LIFE itself! In Him was life, and the life is the light of men...I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. John 1:4; 10:10b

And that's why the main job of the branches is to abide or stay connected to the vine.  The branches are the vehicles for the life of the vine to flow through so that fruit will come forth.

Jesus said,  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

So what does it mean to abide in Christ?  It means to live in & from, remain in, sink down deep into, rest in, stay [experientially] connected to HIM!

Here's a feeble, but hopefully helpful, illustration of what I think it means to abide.  I have this wonderful couch in my living room.  It is hard to sit or lie on this couch without falling asleep.  When I come home from a full day of teaching, I look forward to sinking my weary body into that couch.  I'm often able to just put some instrumental music on and surrender to the comfort of my glorious couch. Later, I leave that place refreshed and energized!

However, sometimes I still have things I need to do before supper time.  So I abandon my tired self to my life-giving couch and make my phone calls or read my lessons or do whatever duty or desire dictates.  I still come away refreshed because I'm working from a position of rest.

That's what I think abiding in Christ means.  I do what I do from my position of rest in my Glorious Vine.  I'm secure in Him and He in me.  His resurrection life flows through me, His branch, to bring forth the fruit designed by the Father for my unique life.

What about you?  Are you living the Branch-life?  Do you do what you do from the position of rest in your Glorious Lord Christ? Or are you trying to do what only God can do -- give life and produce fruit?

I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing.  John 15:5

The Rest of the Gospel: Poured Out (Chapter 23)

CHAPTER 23: POURED OUT Key Verse:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:6-7 ESV

Key Question:

How is God's love manifested through us?

Read Chapter 23: Poured Out and answer the following:

1. What is the difference between God’s kind of love and human love?

2. How has God’s love come to us? What does this say about how we will live out His love?

3. In what ways does the flesh deceive us into thinking that fulfilling selfish desires will bring us life? What does God say will bring us life? What is God saying to you concerning this truth now?

4. Why is it vital for us to know that Jesus is our need-meeter?

5. How does seeing ourselves as God’s asset, not His liability, release us to be poured out for others?

6. How has God individually made you as His vessel, to manifest His life to others in ways different from other believers?

7. How do Dan’s comments about operating in your own world affect the way you think about Christ living through you? In what ways have you thought differently before? How did these different views affect your Christian life?

8. As He lives through you, what is Jesus most interested in? What does God have to say to you through this truth now?

9. What does it mean to be expendable for the kingdom? How was Jesus expendable? How does God want you to be expendable?

10. In the sense that Dan uses the word, what does it mean to be an intercessor on someone’s behalf? Is there someone Jesus wants to intercede for through you?

11. Reread the last paragraph of the chapter. Why is it so important that we know we are loved?

The Rest of the Gospel: The Holy But (Chapter 17)

Chapter 17  The Holy But Key Verse:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 ESV

Key Question:

How does the "holy but" cause us to see our circumstances, good and bad?

Read chapter 17 and answer the following:

1. What are some negatives in your life that God wants to use to teach you to exercise faith in a certain area? How does your soul feel about each of these negatives?

2. For each of these negatives, what truth is God asking you to believe?

3. Write out each of these areas as a Holy But sentence (e.g., “I . . ., but God . . .”).

4. How do these Holy Buts “allow Christ to respond to situations through you with His life”?

5. Have you tried to escape the external situation in each of these instances? What has been the result?

6. Think of an example when you operated the Holy But in your life. What was the negative? What was God’s truth? What internal shift did the Holy But produce in you?

7. Rewrite Galatians 2:20, substituting your name in the verse. Read it out loud. Consider posting it someplace and reading it aloud daily.

8. Is there someone you could partner with to speak aloud God’s truth about you? Consider doing it regularly.

The Rest of the Gospel: Job Descriptions in the Father's Vineyard

Some of you have been my faithful readers for the past three and a half years. {Thank you so very much...I am truly humbled!} When I started writing this blog, in keeping with the name of my site, I thought it would be appropriate to explore the parable of the Vine and the branches in John 15.

And since we believers are each a branch in the True Vine, it would be good for us to know Who does what in our Father's vineyard.  Thus the post Job Descriptions, dated April 9, 2011.

Here is a repeat of that post with some minor revisions.  In light of our study in The Rest of the Gospel, let's look at "Who Does What?" (chapter 14) from a slightly different angle.

You may also like to see the entire Vine & branches series (Click here).

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By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:8

Have you ever started a job with no job description?  I have, and it's pretty confusing.

About 8 years ago, I was looking for a part-time teaching job.  A friend asked if I would like to apply to substitute teach in ESL & GED classes.  I told her that I didn't have a clue about either one of those.  She assured me that it wasn't difficult.  All I had to do was follow the teacher's lesson plans.  So I naively applied.

Well, guess what?  As my application reached the supervisor's desk, the beginning ESL teacher was in a very serious accident.  This was at the end of the first week of class.  By then, beginning ESL students don't know much more English than the day they walked in.  There were no lesson plans and no curriculum, because the teacher was so experienced that she did her own "curriculum".  Needless to say, I was terrified.  But God met me in my need (and that's for another post!).

BUT that first year, I had no job description.  I just took the bull by the horns and prayed and taught and loved it.  And I think the students did too, by God's grace!  (I'm still teaching that class 8 years later.)

However, without a job description, I made many mistakes and often got myself in trouble.  Most of the time, my mistakes were from my ignorance...or from my zeal to "do things right".  As a result, in several instances, I unknowingly went over the head of my supervisor and assumed her role.  Not good!

That's what happens for us believers with living the Christian life.  I don't think we truly understand our "job description."   We try to do in our own strength the things that only God can do.

John 15 is a perfect place to start to understand what it means to be a Christian (the branches) in relation to our Father (the Owner/Gardener) and His Son (the True Vine).

So let's look at WHO does WHAT in a vineyard?

First there's the Gardener or Vinedresser.  His job is to care for the vine and branches by watering, fertilizing, and above all... pruning. Without that almost "violent" pruning, a rich crop cannot come forth.

And after all, the vineyard owner's reputation is at stake!  If someone sees a barren vineyard, no one shames the branches or even the vine, but rather the owner/vinedresser.  That's because whoever does the work gets the credit or the blame!   So it's his job to do whatever is necessary to ensure an abundant crop of grapes.  Even the good, new growth gets cut back so as to bring forth an abundance of fruit.

As we've seen in a previous post, that is what the Father does for us branches.   Sometimes we may feel like we've grown so much and have been "fruitful"...then all of a sudden, the desert! dryness! seeming barrenness!  But the process is not done yet!

Then there's the Vine.  The Vine is the source of life for the branches, which then enables the fruit to come forth.  Without the life of the Vine flowing through healthy branches, nothing fruitful can happen!

Jesus is the Source of life for us His branches.  In another post we saw that Jesus, the I AM, is LIFE itself! In Him was life, and the life is the light of men...I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. John 1:4; 10:10b

And that's why the main job of the branches is to abide or stay connected to the vine.  The branches are the vehicles for the life of the vine to flow through so that fruit will come forth.

Jesus said,  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

So what does it mean to abide in Christ?  It means to live in & from, remain in, sink down deep into, rest in, stay [experientially] connected to HIM!

Here's a feeble, but hopefully helpful illustration of what I think it means to abide.  I have this wonderful couch in my living room.  It is hard to sit or lie on this couch without falling asleep.  When I come home from a full day of teaching, I look forward to sinking my weary body into that couch.  I'm often able to just put some instrumental music on and surrender to the comfort of my glorious couch. Later, I leave that place refreshed and energized!

However, sometimes I still have things I need to do before supper time.  So I abandon my tired self to my life-giving couch and make my phone calls or read my lessons or do whatever duty or desire dictates.  I still come away refreshed because I'm working from a position of rest.

That's what I think abiding in Christ means.  I do what I do from my position of rest in my Glorious Vine.  I'm secure in Him and He in me.  His resurrection life flows through me, His branch, to bring forth the fruit designed by the Father for my unique life.

What about you?  Are you living the Branch-life?  Do you do what you do from the position of rest in your Glorious Lord Christ? Or are you trying to do what only God can do -- give life and produce fruit?

I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing.  John 15:5

The Rest of the Gospel: Who Does What? (Chapter 14)

Chapter 14  Who Does What? Key Verse:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV

Key Question:

Is Jesus living His life through you, or are you trying to live it with His help?

Read chapter 14 and answer the following:

1. In what ways do you live as if God does a little and you do the rest?

2. On p. 152, Dan quotes Ezekiel 36:26-27. Rewrite those verses in your own words,substituting your name in the process. What is the significance of those verses to you?

3. Reread the middle paragraph of p. 153. What does it mean for how you live that nothing has its point of origin with you?

4. Are you still trying to live a life that you were never meant to live (p. 155)? What does that look like in your life?

5. What does it take to move you from self-striving to Jesus living the life through you?

6. How is our willingness for God to live His life through us expressed? What role does reckoning play in this? What is something God wants you to start counting on each moment?

7. Review the quotes at the top of page 162. Ask God what some areas are where He wants to live through you. What must you trust Him for in each case to see that happen?

You may also like Job Descriptions

The Rest of the Gospel: The Rule of Grace (chapter 13)

Chapter 13  The Rule of Grace Key Verse:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2: 8-10 ESV

Key Question:

Do you live under works (the law) or by grace through faith?

Read chapter 13 and answer the following:

1. Why is it that life can be as difficult after we come to Christ as before we come to Christ? How do we make it more difficult? Give examples from your own life.

2. Why does it sound logical that we should bring the Law along with us in the Christian life? What is the end result of that?

3. When Paul spoke of the Law, what Law was he talking about? How do we know?

4. Why does religion assert that law and grace flow together? Why did Paul say they were mortal enemies?

5. What laws—Mosaic, denominational, or personal—are you still inclined to try to keep through your own strength?

6. Why is a law-based program designed for futility, frustration and failure? How does God use that program in a positive way in our lives? Tell about this process in your life.

7. What does it mean to live by Christ, or the Spirit, instead of the Law?

8. Why do we never escape from the temptation to slip back under the Law? How do we respond to that temptation?

9. What was the main point the young man on page 147 was making? What was the essence of what Dan was trying to tell him?

10. For what can we thank God regarding His use of the Law in our lives?

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!

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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?

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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 Zoe...LIFE!

Easter Lilies
Easter Lilies

Easter isn't Easter unless it's Easter to YOU!

So declared a radiopreacher early in Holy Week.  At first I said, "YES!"

Then I thought about it a while and said, "Not really...Easter is Easter whether I get it or not!"  Now I'm rethinking the statement.

What is Easter anyway?  I remember in my confirmation catechism class learning that...

Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox.

That explains when, but WHAT is Easter?

Easter is the day we celebrate when...

Jesus rose from the grave...

conquering sin and death on the Cross on our behalf...

so that we could walk in newness of life.

EasterEggHunt-300x214
EasterEggHunt-300x214

And that's the point, isn't it?  Easter isn't about chocolate bunnies, chicks, coloring and hunting eggs, new clothes, Easter lilies and other spring flowers, and freshness.  These are

all simply pictures...metaphors, if you will, of the real deal.

And the real deal is ZOELIFE!  Jesus Himself said,

I came that they may have life[zoe, in Greek] and have it abundantly. John 10:10

How does zoe happen for you and me?

The eternal life of God is imparted as a gift to all who believe in His Son, the God-Man Jesus Christ.  He is the One who paid the penalty for our sins, so that...

when Jesus died, my sinful self died with Him; when He was buried, I was buried with Him; when He rose from the dead, I rose with Him...a new creation in Christ.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Col 3:1-4

So Easter is Easter to me because the indwelling, resurrected Christ is my ZOE!  Is He yours, dear friend?

Even as believers, though, if we are perfectly honest, we must admit that we don't always live from His indwelling, resurrected LIFE, do we?

Rather we often live as if our abilities and cleverness, our relationships (including our favorite social media), our jobs, our pet activities, and our possessions are the source of LIFE.  But of course, when looked at that way, they aren't life at all, but rather false gods and dead works.

So back again to the statement:

Easter isn't Easter unless it's Easter to YOU!

May Easter BE Easter as we refocus on our glorious, Risen Lord who indwells all who believe.

Empty tomb
Empty tomb

Prayer: May every day be Easter, O Lord, because of Your abundant, indwelling, resurrection ZOE...thank you for the precious gift of Your glorious self.  Amen!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Verse 1 How can it be, the One who died, Has borne our sin through sacrifice To conquer every sting of death? Sing, sing hallelujah. For joy awakes as dawning light When Christ’s disciples lift their eyes. Alive He stands, their Friend and King; Christ, Christ He is risen. Chorus Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! Oh, sing hallelujah. Join the chorus, sing with the redeemed; Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Verse 2 Where doubt and darkness once had been, They saw Him and their hearts believed. But blessed are those who have not seen, Yet, sing hallelujah. Once bound by fear now bold in faith, They preached the truth and power of grace. And pouring out their lives they gained Life, life everlasting. Verse 3 The power that raised Him from the grave Now works in us to powerfully save. He frees our hearts to live His grace; Go tell of His goodness. Bridge He’s alive, He’s alive! Heaven’s gates are opened wide. He’s alive, He’s alive! Now in heaven glorified. Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Ed Cash; © 2012 Gettymusic and Alletrop Music (BMI) (adm. by MusicServices.org)

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bible student
bible student

Bible Students:

Meditate on this marvelous passage.  Enter in...and give thanks:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11

*first posted Easter 2012

Life to Life...Celebrating Love, Life, & and a Little Boy all Grown Up

Today I'm celebrating "Life to Life" and a precious little boy, all grown up...all by the grace of our sovereign Father God!

Fifteen years ago today, February 13, 1998 (Friday the 13th for those of you who may be superstitious), my beautiful baby boy Jeremy John Loyd was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  OK, he wasn't a baby at the time...he was 20 years old and a sophomore at Grace College.  But as every one of you moms knows, your baby is always your baby.

This was the same son I prayed for, gave birth to, sang hymns to while nursing, taught Scriptures and stories, cried over, laughed with, read to, taught and eventually launched into young adult life.  How could this be happening?!

To say the diagnosis was a shock is an understatement.  It was an incredible shaking...but also a perfect, but painful, opportunity to be "carried by Arms much bigger than our own."  We saw our son, on the brink of adulthood, walk through the trial of his life with grace, courage, and the strength of an Almighty Savior in the midst of his fear.

And oh the prayers that were answered!

  • and of course, many more...thank you to all who prayed!

So today I'm remembering and celebrating LIFE...Jeremy's beautiful, precious, God-honoring LIFE!

For those of you who know our son, you are incredibly blessed!  You know him as a loving, caring, humble, gifted, talented man who is faithful to his God, his wife, his sons, his family, and his friends and colleagues.  Can you imagine life without him?  I can't!

And so my treasured gift of a son, my Jeremy John Loyd,

Today I celebrate your life...and God's incredible mercy! And how I thank God for preserving your life cancer-free these 15 years in addition to your 20! May He give you many more for His honor and glory and for the joy and delight of all who know you!

With love and prayers as long as there's breath,

Your grateful Mom

I love you up to the moon And I love you big as the sky I love to watch you when you sleep I love to hold you when you cry

One day when you're older And taller than me I'll say I watched you grow Like a beautiful tree

I love you up to the moon And I love you big as the sky You'll always be my little man I love you the best that a mama can

And one day if you rise up And call me blessed I'll say it was a joy To give you my best

'Cause I love you up to the moon I love you big as the sky I love you up to the moon I love you up to the moon

The Rest of the Gospel: Around the table of the KING

communion
communion

How appropriate is Communion, the Eucharist (thanks - grace - joy all rolled into one celebration) at the end of this week. We have pondered the blood-side of the Cross...Christ died for us, for  our sins, so we could have forgiveness

and

we have pondered the body-side of the Cross...we died united with Christ, in Him, so that we could have life...HIS life!

So we read...

...on the night before He died,

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:14-20

and after the resurrection on the road to Emmaus...

25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”   Luke 24:25-32

And so we eat and drink and give thanks...join us with your cup of juice and piece of bread:

Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn)

cross & hands
cross & hands

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away, Slain for us - and we remember The promise made that all who come in faith Find forgiveness at the cross. So we share in this bread of life, And we drink of His sacrifice As a sign of our bonds of peace Around the table of the King.

The body of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Torn for you - eat and remember The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life Paid the price to make us one. So we share in this bread of life, And we drink of His sacrifice As a sign of our bonds of love Around the table of the King.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin, Shed for you - drink and remember He drained death's cup that all may enter in To receive the life of God. So we share in this bread of life, And we drink of His sacrifice As a sign of our bonds of grace Around the table of the King.

And so with thankfulness and faith we rise To respond, - and to remember Our call to follow in the steps of Christ As His body here on earth. As we share in His suffering We proclaim Christ will come again! And we’ll join in the feast of heaven Around the table of the King


Resurrection Zoe!

Esaster lily and cross
Esaster lily and cross

Easter isn't Easter unless it's Easter to YOU!

So declared a radiopreacher early in Holy Week.  At first I said, "YES!"

Then I thought about it a while and said, "Not really...Easter is Easter whether I get it or not!"  Now I'm rethinking the statement.

What is Easter anyway?  I remember in my confirmation catechism class learning that...

Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox.

That explains when, but WHAT is Easter?

Easter is the day we celebrate when...

Jesus rose from the grave...

conquering sin and death on the Cross on our behalf...

so that we could walk in newness of life.

EasterEggHunt
EasterEggHunt

And that's the point, isn't it?  Easter isn't about chocolate bunnies, chicks, coloring and hunting eggs, new clothes, Easter lilies and other spring flowers, and freshness.  These are all simply pictures...metaphors, if you will, of the real deal.

And the real deal is ZOELIFE!  Jesus Himself said,

I came that they may have life[zoe, in Greek] and have it abundantly. John 10:10

How does zoe happen for you and me?

The eternal life of God is imparted as a gift to all who believe in His Son, the God-Man Jesus Christ.  He is the One who paid the penalty for our sins, so that...

when Jesus died, my sinful self died with Him; when He was buried, I was buried with Him; when He rose from the dead, I rose with Him...a new creation in Christ.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Col 3:1-4

So Easter is Easter to me because the indwelling, resurrected Christ is my ZOE!  Is He yours, dear friend?

Even as believers, though, if we are perfectly honest, we must admit that we don't always live from His indwelling, resurrected LIFE, do we?

Rather we often live as if our abilities and cleverness, our relationships (including our favorite social media), our jobs, our pet activities, and our possessions are the source of LIFE.  But of course, when looked at that way, they aren't life at all, but rather false gods and dead works.

So back again to the statement:

Easter isn't Easter unless it's Easter to YOU!

May Easter BE Easter as we refocus on our glorious, Risen Lord who indwells all who believe.

Prayer: May every day be Easter, O Lord, because of Your abundant, indwelling, resurrection ZOE...thank you for the precious gift of Your glorious self.  Amen!

KNOWING YOU

EMPTY TOMB
EMPTY TOMB

All I once held dear Built my life upon all this world reveres And wars to own All I once thought gain I have counted loss Spent and worthless now Compared to this

Chorus: Knowing You, Jesus Knowing You There is no greater thing You're my all You're the best You're my joy, my righteousness And I love You lord

Now my heart's desire Is to know You more To be found in You And known as Yours To possess by faith What I could not earn All-surpassing gift Of righteousness

Oh, to know the power Of your risen life And to know You in Your sufferings To become like You In Your death, my Lord So with You to live and never die

The written lyrics are in English and hmong (a Chinese dialect); the song is sung in English.

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

bible student
bible student

Bible Students:

Meditate on this marvelous passage.  Enter in...and give thanks:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11