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 Gift of Pain? {two Non-negotiables}

Tears
Tears

Surely goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life... Psalm 23:8 PAIN!

Bloody! Cutting! Unrelenting! and Soul-numbing...or is it? 

For me, pain has a way of sifting through the non-essentials of life!

And I find my soul awakened abruptly from its numbing slumber to longing, loss, grief, confusion, perspective...

...but most importantly, the presence of GOD.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.   C.S. Lewis

In pain as in joy, I'm learning to hold onto two truths that are my "Unchangeables," my non-negotiables:

GOD IS GOODThe LORD is good...

I AM LOVED...and His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

And it seems the enemy of our souls always assails at those two points with hislies.  It happened in the Garden, and it happens every day in my life and in yours.  We are just dull to recognize it.

But I'm hear to affirm by faith...

God is GOOD!

God's character is often bought into question when we face the "hard things" in life, like sickness, death, broken relationships, financial reversals, and so on.

reflections on Christ - crucifixion
reflections on Christ - crucifixion

When our son and daughter went through serious health problems (cancer and what turned out to be benign tumors) within months of each other, it threw me into incredible pain and confusion: "How could this be happening to my children!?  What kind of toxic waste dump have we been living in!?" 

And I struggled on...for a long time!  Finally, it was Jesus' words to His disciples, the night before He died, that stabilized me:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But why all the suffering?  God's Word tells us that because of the Fall, everything and everyone has been suffering:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:21-23

God's plan hasn't been stymied because of man's fall into rebellion.  God is weaving all things in our lives into His eternal plan in Christ.

tapestry, front & back
tapestry, front & back

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those

God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

As Bible teacher Kay Arthur says,

Everything in our lives is filtered through fingers of Love!

And that brings me to my second "Unchangeable"...

I am LOVED and you are too!

We all are seeking perfect love...loving and being loved in a real and deep way.  This is God-given.  But I get myself into trouble when I expect perfect love from another person, or I try to live up to others' expectations simply so that they will love and accept me.

The realization that I am loved with an everlasting love by the Lover of my Soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, enables me to let others off the hook.  It also frees me to admit and repent of my failures to love...and then forgive myself.

house
house

Maybe this is part of what we each must go through in adulthood in coming to grips with our "parent issues." 

In a perfect world, all of us would have been parented by perfect parents who met all our needs.  But in reality, none of us has...though some of us have had some pretty darn good ones!

But in finally coming to grips with our grief and loss, we can forgive others for not loving us as only God can.

It's at that moment that you and I can fully embrace God's incredible, perfect love for us...and embrace our life, choosing to love with the love with which we have been loved by God.

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Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing,... None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing— nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable —absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:35-39 MSG

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Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1 ESV

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The Rest of the Gospel: The Gift of Misery (Chapter 22)

Chapter 22  The Gift of Misery Key Verse:

...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death... Philippians 3: 10 ESV

Key Question:

How has misery been a gift from God in your life?

Read chapter 22 and answer the following:

1. How does God use misery in our lives? Give an example of how God has used misery in your life.

2. How does Genesis 50:20 apply to our lives? Is there a situation in your life right now in which you need 50:20 vision?

3. What does the story of Moses tell you personally about God’s use of misery?

4. The story of David?

5. The story of Peter?

6. In what ways are you still seeking a fix for your problems, instead of God Himself?

7. How can you look at a past episode in your life differently as a result of this chapter?

8. How can you look at a present episode differently?

9. What does God want you to trust Him for concerning the topic of this chapter?

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: Song of the Week {I live, yet not I...}

Gal 2:20; Col3:3

Gal 2:20; Col3:3

My UNION with Christ...I live, yet not I...Christ with and in and through me.  This song brings me to my knees in humble gratitude for this awesome truth:  I am not separate!  I am not alone, trying to do my best with God's help if I believe hard enough and ask Him correctly.

He and I are ONE!  You are ONE with Him too, O believing child of God!  Hallelujah!

Let's sing out this truth...

CRUCIFIED with CHRIST

As I look back on what I thought was living I'm amazed at the price I chose to pay And to think I ignored what really mattered Cause I thought the sacrifice would be too great But when I finally reached the point of giving in I found the cross was calling even then And even though it took dying to survive I've never felt so much alive.

CHORUS:

For I am crucified with Christ and yet I live Not I but Christ that lives within me His Cross will never ask for more than I can give For its not my strength but His There's no greater sacrifice For I am crucified with Christ and yet I live

As I hear the Savior call for daily dying I will bow beneath the weight of Calvary Let my hands surrender to His piercing purpose That holds me to the cross but sets me free I will glory in the power of the cross The things I thought were gain I count as loss And with His suffering I identify And by His resurrection power I am alive

And I will offer all I have So that His cross is not in vain For I found to live is Christ And to die is truly gain


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?

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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: The Single Eye (Chapter 12)

Chapter 12  The Single Eye Key Verses:

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 ESV

Key Question:

What does it mean to "see with a single eye?"

Read chapter 12 and answer the following:

1. What does it mean for us to see through a situation to God? If God has designed us to see a situation first in the natural realm, how do we cooperate with God in seeing through to His realm in the situation?

2. If God is truly sovereign and we are one with Him, what does that say about how we can look at all we encounter in life?

3. What is a past example of a situation in your life that looked bad in the natural realm but that you see in retrospect how God was working good in and through it?

4. What is a present example of a situation in your life that looks bad in the natural realm? How is God calling you to have a single eye in this situation?

5. Reread the next to last paragraph on page 134. What is the significance to you of the point Dan is making about how we receive things?

6. Is there a situation or situations in your life that you have not been willing to thank God in the midst of? What is it? Are you willing to thank Him now? What are you thanking Him for?

7. How has God used past hurts in your life to prepare you to identify with others who are hurting? Are there are circumstances in your life right now that He may be using that way? What are they?

I live...yet not I, CHRIST!

U of A
U of A

About nine years ago, our son-in-law was stationed in Tucson, Arizona [home of our Alma Mater, the U of A, "Go Wildcats!"  But I digress...].  When the school year for my ESOL class had ended in June, I flew to Tucson for an extended visit. Beth and Nate were both working during the daytime, so I had some lovely, restful, sun-filled (and "Son-filled") time alone by the pool.  At that time, I was reading some of Brennan Manning's books.

signature of Jesus
signature of Jesus

One day I was reading The Signature of Jesus as I soaked up the Arizona sun by the pool.  I was somewhat annoyed to see that a man lying on a lounge nearby was straining to see what I was reading.   He struck up a conversation, and I found out that he was a chemist from Oregon.  Then the question came,  "What are you reading?  What's it about?"

When I told him about the book, he replied,  "You must be a devout Christian."

I replied, somewhat ashamed at my original annoyance, "Jesus is my Life!  I can't imagine living life without Him.  There's a Settled Presence no matter what I go through."

My Lord Jesus Christ IS my Life.  It wasn't always so.  Religious ritual, ministry, being a good wife and mother, health and physical fitness, and such have more often than not, taken top billing.  But as I get closer to the end of life on this earth, I realize more and more that all of that is not important compared to the excellency of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and being found in HIM who is my Life Philippians 3:7-11

As the Apostle Paul declared,

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.   Galatians 2:20 ESV

Gal 2:20
Gal 2:20

What about you, dear friend?  Is He your Life?  Or are lesser things competing and winning out?  Surrender to Him by faith today...choose HIM!

Lately, I can't stop listening to this song...and singing it at the top of my lungs!  Would you like to join me and give Him praise?

Crucified with ChristAs I look back on what I thought was livingI'm amazed at the price I choose to payAnd to think I ignored what really matteredCause I thought the sacrifice would be too greatBut when I finally reached the point of giving inI found the cross was calling even thenAnd even though it took dying to surviveI've never felt so much alive. CHORUS: For I am crucified with Christ and yet I liveNot I but Christ that lives within meHis Cross will never ask for more than I can giveFor it's not my strength but HisThere's no greater sacrificeFor I am crucified with Christ and yet I live

As I hear the Savior call for daily dyingI will bow beneath the weight of CalvaryLet my hands surrender to His piercing purposeThat holds be to the cross but sets me freeI will glory in the power of the crossThe things I thought were gain I count as lossAnd with His suffering I identifyAnd by His resurrection power I am alive

BRIDGE:And I will offer all I haveSo that His cross is not in vainFor I found to live is ChristAnd to die is truly gain

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