It's all about LOVE!

It's all about LOVE!

Let all that you do be done in love.  Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But we know it’s often very hard.

In fact, Paul's words in verse 9 nail it on the head, don't they:

...there are many adversaries...

That's right!  Enemies, opposition, struggles!  All against loving...why?

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Joy in January: God vs Fear

Joy in January: God vs Fear

The last in my “Joy in January” series, originally posted in January 2015, is a post written by my youngest “Guest Branch” and my oldest grandchild Kaden. When he wrote it, he was just 8-1/2 y.o. and now he is almost 13 … how can that be? So it’s my delight once again to share this awesome blog. We can all learn from the young ones in the faith, can’t we? By the way, be sure to see Kaden’s “today photo” at the end…yikes!

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children [and grandchildren] are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4 ESV

It is pure JOY for me to introduce my youngest "Guest Branch" to A Branch in the Vine.  My 8-1/2 year old grandson Kaden is today's blogger.

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Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not...Emmanuel Finally & Forever (Part 3)

Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not...Emmanuel Finally & Forever (Part 3)

As the old year is coming to a close and the holiday glitz and cheer have dwindled, what is rushing in?  Anxieties and fears for today and the year yet to come? Then hear these words again from your Creator and Savior:

Fear not, for I am near you!

Fear not, for I am closely associated with you! I've gone through it all too!

And now finally and forever...

Fear not, for I am united with you forever...we are one!

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Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not! Emmanuel, One of Us (Part 2)

Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not! Emmanuel, One of Us (Part 2)

As near as God has always been to His people, when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, pierced through and entered our human history, everything changed.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman... Galatians 4:4

God came closer still... He became one of us and so He took on our fears, the greatest of which is our separation from Himself.  Even though God was nearby, there was separation...until Jesus!

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Post Christmas Comfort: Fear not...Emmanuel Still! (Part 1)

Post Christmas Comfort: Fear not...Emmanuel Still! (Part 1)

Now that gifts are unwrapped, the food at least half-eaten, the many emotions grabbing at us during the season fading, the loneliness getting deeper and the grief, abandonment, "being left out" -- all having left their wounds...and the dread of bills looming in the back of our minds. We feel lost! So enters in...fear!  Yes, fear!

God had set me up one year to think of fear...

from the terror of a grandchild seeing glimpses of a horror movie on Halloween to a blog by a young mom about the fears for herself and her family....

from the anxieties of aging to the arresting truth, read in a book, that fearlessness is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit in a life...

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Post Christmas Comfort: Fear not...Emmanuel Still! (Part 1)

Post Christmas Comfort: Fear not...Emmanuel Still! (Part 1)

Now that gifts are unwrapped, the food at least half-eaten, the many emotions grabbing at us during the season fading, the loneliness getting deeper and the grief, abandonment, "being left out" -- all having left their wounds...and the dread of bills looming in the back of our minds. We feel lost! So enters in...fear!  Yes, fear!

God had set me up this year to think of fear...

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Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not! Emmanuel, One of Us (Part 2)

As near as God has always been to His people, when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, pierced through and entered our human history, everything changed.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman... Galatians 4:4

God came closer still... He became one of us and so He took on our fears, the greatest of which is our separation from Himself.  Even though God was nearby, there was separation...until Jesus!

Why were we separated from God?  Our sin, rebellion, independence...yes, of our first parents, but we confirm that choice time after time with our own. And this one of us Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became closely associated with us as the God-Man who died to pay for that independent way of ours.  But not only that, He lived our life...the life we couldn't live.

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Post Christmas Comfort: Fear Not...Emmanuel Finally & Forever (Part 3)

fear

fear

As the old year is coming to a close and the holiday glitz and cheer have dwindled, what is rushing in?  Anxieties and fears for today and the year yet to come? Then hear these words again from your Creator and Savior:

Fear not, for I am near you!

Fear not, for I am closely associated with you! I've gone through it all too!

And now finally and forever...

Fear not, for I am united with you forever...we are one!

Through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, our Emmanuel, God with Us, we are now in union with God, always and forever.  We are one with HIM!

Through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right Hand of the Father, Christ made this union possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The night before He died, our Lord told His close friends:

...it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate [the Holy Spirit] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. John 16:7 NLT

And it is through the indwelling Spirit of God that we are forever united to the Triune God.  So with that in mind then, Jesus could then pray that very night for all of us believers down through the ages,

I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me... I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them. John 17:20-26 NLT

The apostle Paul then later on would expound on this indwelling Spirit of Christ,

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.... For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God...

Abba

Abba

And what is our spirit like, now that we are united to the indwelling Spirit of God?

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory... Romans 8:9-17 NLT

Did you notice?  It's not a fearful spirit that is afraid of God, but recognizes the sovereign Creator of the universe as our Abba...yes Daddy!!! WOW! So then what about all the other fears we have?

...fear of one another:  does she like me? will they leave me out?

...fear of ourselves: am I adequate? will I fail? will I get cancer?

...fear of material creation: will I have enough to pay the bills this month? will I have enough to last through the rest of my life?

But the Lord describes the spirit He has given us:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 AMP

So, of course, we will be afraid in this fearful, fallen world, but we can face our fears with the courage of the indwelling Spirit of Christ...with power for whatever He calls us to, choosing love instead of hate and revenge, and with the stable mind that fixes iteslf on the God of the universe...to whom we are inextricably united.

Why not journal today by listing your most current, more bothersome fears.  Bring them to the Lord, one by one, leaving them in His capable Hands.  Receive what ever words He may say to you about each.  And then rest in the peace that is yours through your indwelling Lord:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NASB


It's all about LOVE...always IS!

I was reading in my devotions the other day...actually looking for something else...when the Holy Spirit arrested me right here:

open door

open door

...a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries... Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men [spiritual adults], be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:9, 13-14 ESV

Let all that you do be done in love.  Sounds so easy, but NOT!

In fact, Paul's words in verse 9 kinda nail it on the head, don't they:

...there are many adversaries...

That's right!  Enemies, opposition, struggles!  All against loving...why?

Because it's all about love.  It always is!

love

love

And the love Paul is talking about is GOD'S LOVE...not our touchy-feely kind that comes and goes.  It 's unconditional, sacrificial, others-oriented.  And that's not only hard, but impossible apart from God Himself.

So what are the adversaries that we typically struggle with?

Try these for a starter:

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, we are totally loved and accepted by our Father God.  So we can pass this God-Love on to others.  We can love with HIS love.

How?  By letting the Living, Loving, Indwelling Christ love through us today.

But, you might say, that's all well and good, but I am not particularly feeling loved myself today.  Maybe the place to start is by letting yourself be loved by the Father.  He's always loving you, searching you out, whether you feel it or not!  Bask in the Father's love...and then don't hold back!   Let it flow out...or as I like to say, let it rip!

Because...

...it's all about love.  It always is!

love, heart, candles

love, heart, candles

Love Will Find A Way Steve Green

Love will find a wayTo follow where you runLove will cover youAnd shield you from the sunThis will all be doneJust to heal you, to heal youLove will lift the veilYou try to hide behindLove will kiss your tearsAnd turn them into wineThis will all be doneTo reveal you, reveal you

REFRAINLove will take your shameLove will lift your headLove will take the blowThat was meant for you instead

Love will take your shameLove will lift your headLove will take the blowThat was meant for you instead

Love will never leaveNo matter what you sayLove will look beyondYour brokenness todayThis will all be doneJust to name you,This will all be doneTo reclaim you, reclaim you

REFRAIN

Love will find a wayTo follow when you run


I'm Sinking...Now What?

going under

going under

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.In God, whose word I praise,In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid... Psalm 56:3-4 NASB

Life is scary!

And as we move further and further into adulthood...and even on into old age, there's more to frighten us and cause us to panic*.

How do we handle these terrors of life -- whether they be greater (like death, disease, crises with loved ones,...) or lesser (like speaking in front of a group, doing something totally new, daily mothering,...)?

By faith!

The righteous will live by faith.  Romans 1:17d

Last week we looked talked about faith as responding to the Lord's gracious COME.  Jesus' zealous disciple Peter gives us a good example of what we present-day disciples go through in our faith-walk.  Look again at this familiar story in your Bible or click here: Matthew 14: 22 - 33.

Did you think about the questions from our last study?  Here they are again with some further thoughts for your meditation and reflection.  (I'd love to hear yours if you care to share in the comments below :)  ):

Jesus walking on the water

Jesus walking on the water

1.  Why didn’t Peter just jump out of the boat?  Why did he ask Jesus to command him “Come to Him”? (vs 27-29a)

*WHO HE IS: Peter needed to know that it was really the Lord.  When Jesus identified Himself, He said, "It is I."  Literally this is, "I AM," ego eimi.  Does this sound familiar...how about Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3?  How about Jesus' confrontation with the Pharisees in John 8? We too need to see Him for who He truly is...the GOD-Man, who walks with us on the chaos of our lives, don't we?  It can make all the difference in the world!

*WHAT HE WANTS: Perhaps Peter also wanted to know if it was Jesus' will for him to walk to Him. And isn't that true of us too.  We need to know that it's really the LORD calling us out "onto the waves"...that He's "in it" for us!

*WHAT PETER REALLY NEEDS: In a very real sense, Peter needed Jesus' call, His COME in order to be able to come. Without Jesus' call, none of us could come.  We wouldn't even want to!  Romans 3:10-11; Phil 2:13; John 6:44-45,65

This leads us to...

Truth #1 = God is always prevenient.

Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.

Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. "No man can come to me," said our Lord, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him," and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the out working of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: "Thy right hand upholdeth me." AW Tozer, Pursuit of God

drawing...jesus and disciples

drawing...jesus and disciples

2. What decision did Peter face once he heard Jesus' come?  Do we face the same decision at times? (vs 29)

Peter needed to decide whether to go ahead and get out of the boat or play it safe, didn't he?  He needed to "believe and obey," as we would say in "spiritual talk." And believing and obeying are flip sides of the same coin, so to speak. (John 3:36; Jas 2:18; Heb 4:3-6 NASB)

So the God-Man Jesus also invites us to walk with Him...into new things (open doors, if you will), like the way my the Lord gave me my ESL teaching job 8 years ago.  Or it may be through dark, terrorizing things, like my then 20 year old son's cancer.

And that leads us to...

Truth #2 = With His invitation comes His enablement.

Paul says it well: I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].  Phil 4:13 AMP

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  1Cor 12:9-10 NIV

drawing Jesus & peter

drawing Jesus & peter

3. What ultimately happened to Peter and why?  What did he do in the midst of his dilemma?  How readily do we do the same in the midst of our doubt and fear? (vs 30-31a)

Of course, Peter began to sink.  Why?  Because he turned his focus to the tumultuous waves and wind all around him.  He had taken his eyes off of the stable, all-powerful Lord in front of him. And isn't that what we do also?  We may start out well, fixing our eyes on Jesus.  But then, when we realize "all hell is breaking loose" in &/or around us, we get our eyes off of HIM...and we begin to go down!

That leads us to...

Truth #3 = We become like what / who we focus on.

I love these verses:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. ...the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  2Cor 3:18; 4:6

Then all-too-human (and that's why we love him!) Peter, in his desperation, did what we all must do...he cried out to His Savior!

You wonder what to do when you feel attacked on all sides by seemingly irresistible forces, waves that cover you and want to sweep you off your feet.  sometimes these waves consist of feeling rejected, feeling forgotten, feeling misunderstood.  sometimes they consist of self-pity and self-rejection.  These waves make you feel like a powerless child abandoned by your parents.

What are you to do?  Make the conscious choice to move the attention of your anxious heart away from the waves and direct it to the One who walks on them and says, "It's me.  Don't be afraid!" (Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20).  Keep turning your eyes to him and go on trusting that he will bring peace to your heart.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love

4. What did Peter learn as a result of the storm? (vs 31-33)

That Jesus is the SON of GOD!  That He is all powerful...that He is sovereign over the forces of nature...that He cares...that He challenges...that He responds to our cries...that He walks with us on the chaos of our lives!

So we can know along with Peter...

Truth #4 = Every storm of life is Christ’s invitation to come to Him and see Who He is & how all-sufficient He is in every situation.

Not long after this storm incident, Peter made this wonderful profession.  And we do too, when we walk with the Lord through trials and into new things...

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:68-69

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

Consider the following for prayer and your journal:

1. Are you in circumstances right now where you know if you take your eyes off the Lord for even a split second, you’ll go “under”? Ask the Holy Spirit to fix your eyes firmly on Him who “walks with you on the chaos of your life.”

2. What is your focus as you go through your day? Do your emotions follow along the same line as your focus? Do you believe it’s true that “we become like what we focus on”? Pray about your need in this area.

3. Is the Lord asking you to take a step out of the comfort-zone of your life into a new thing? Can you trust that with His call (“invitation”) comes His enablement? Pray…”Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

*Click to read about how the Lord delivered me from panic attacks.

Coming Soon: After Father's Day...the rest of the story:  The Mystery of PRAYER...Inviting Jesus into my "Boat"

C-C-C-C-Courage...and So Much More

In this world, you will have trouble,But take courage, I have overcome the world!John 16:33

Who doesn't love the classic movie The Wizard of Oz?  And of all the characters, the Cowardly Lion is a favorite!  Why is that, I wonder?  Could it be that we see ourselves in him -- while putting on a brave front to face life, we find that, in reality, we are scared little "kitties" inside?

I especially love the lion's "courage monologue":

COWARDLY LION:  Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?

DOROTHY, SCARECROW, TINMAN: Courage!

COWARDLY LION: You can say that again!

Can you identify? I can...

And that's how I felt with teaching and speaking in a front of people.  I was inwardly terrified!  I felt a lot of shame about this, because I wanted to trust God completely.  (I've since found out, though, that speaking in public is one of the top fears among women -- go figure!)  Anyway, this fear was debilitating...often to the point of physical illness.

This was especially true when it came to a big meeting connected to my job with a local Christian school.  I used to be a home school coordinator, and in those early days, I had a very large group of families to help.  At the end of the summer each year, we would meet as a group with all our families -- new and returning.  At that time, we would tell them about ourselves, encourage them, and explain how the program ran.

Well, I dreaded it!  Not because they were a hostile group...in fact the opposite was true!  And they loved me to boot!

DCS homeschool moms 2009
DCS homeschool moms 2009

So in my mind, this fear was totally illogical and unfounded!  I talked to myself and the Lord about it...but to no avail.  It would ruin my whole summer every year!  UNTIL...

One summer, I was agonizing as usual over the big home school meeting. In the midst of my agony, I thought to myself, "I need courage!"  So I proceeded to beg, plead, pray for courage.  I tried to do my best "courage self-talk".  All to no avail!  I was still a wreck!

In the meantime, that summer I happened to be teaching the little book of Colossians...for the 2nd time (I'm a slow learner!).  As I was preparing to teach the second chapter, the Holy Spirit highlighted two verses to my mind and heart:

For in Him [Christ] the whole fulness of deity [God] dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him... Colossians 2:9-10 ESV

All of a sudden the realization came crashing through:  Jesus wasn't a wimp! Remember how He stood up to the Pharisees -- not exactly a friendly audience!  Courage is part of the fulness of God in Christ.   And the courageous God Christ lives within me.  He will live His courageous life through me as I trust Him! That's what being filled in Him means.  No more begging, pleading, self-talk, Christian mental mind games!  No more shame & despair!

So I decided to trust the Courageous Christ.  And guess what?  He WAS courageous through me so that I could relax and be my charming :) self--to the glory of God!  And it broke the bondage for me in those situations...now I have normal levels of nervousness.  And I know that every situation is a new opportunity to trust the full Christ within to be who He is in and through me.

So do you need courage today?  The Courageous Christ will be courageous through you as you trust Him. Do you need love today?  The Loving Christ will love through you as you trust Him. Do you need to forgive today?  The Forgiving Christ will forgive through you as you trust Him. Do you need patience today?  The Patient Christ will be patient through you as you trust Him. Do you need _______ today?  (You fill in the blank)  The _________ Christ will be ________ through you as you trust Him.

If you are a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the full Christ lives within you.  He is full through you as you trust Him!  It's the devil's lie to get us to think of ourselves as separate from our Lord.  He's not up there, and we're down here, praying He throws down a little courage (or whatever) if we pray correctly!  NO!  We are one with Him...united in a way that nothing in heaven or earth can separate!

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

So, dear sisters & brothers, look at whatever you are facing today as your opportunity to experience Him in His fulness!  Praise His Holy Name!

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. 2Peter 1:3 ESV

...that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. Eph 3:19b ESV