"The Smile that Destroyed my Religion!"

"The Smile that Destroyed my Religion!"

Much of my life I lived under the "frown of God," or so I thought. I wasn't a bad kid; in fact, I was quite religious and moral. But I wasn't perfect for sure. (For one thing, I was a terrible big sister, mean and self-centered toward my siblings.) But I knew God required perfection, so I was always working my way down a spiritual "to do list" of some kind (depending on the Christian group I was with. They each had their own, you know).

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The Smile that Destroyed my Religion!

The Smile that Destroyed my Religion!

Much of my life I lived under the "frown of God," or so I thought. I wasn't a bad kid; in fact, I was quite religious and moral. But I wasn't perfect for sure. (For one thing, I was a terrible big sister, mean and self-centered toward my siblings.) But I knew God required perfection, so I was always working my way down a spiritual "to do list" of some kind (depending on the Christian group I was with. They each had their own, you know).

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Findings in the File: Memoirs from days gone by

Findings in the File: Memoirs from days gone by

A few years ago, I did a series I called "Findings in the File." As I was making an attempt to clean out files (which still hasn't totally happened), I found treasure after treasure buried there. And  just the other day, I had another "finding in a file"... ok, notebook, hidden in one of those infamous files. It was such fun to find. 

Since I'm working on sharing my spiritual journey with a new Bible study group soon to begin, it was a delightful "trip into yesteryear" when I found this -- a "life story and favorite things." It was a presentation done with a small group of precious friends back in 2007, who shared their memoirs also. And then we celebrated each other's lives. What joy!

And so now I thought maybe I would just share my "outline"found in that notebook, in that file...just for fun of it and to encourage you to think about your own life with the "mind of Christ" and gratitude for the treasure that is YOU!

But first, something that came at the end of my outline, but I don't want you to miss if you have just a few minutes to read -- truths still most precious to me. I hope they encourage you too.

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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: 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).

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

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?

Summer Book Club...starting soon!

Are you tired of working hard doing the Christian "to do/don't do" lists (which vary depending on the group you are with)? Are you ready to give up trying in your own strength to get the "abundant life" Jesus promised? John 10:10

Great!  Then you are ready to read along with us the potentially life-changing truths contained in...

The Rest of the Gospel: When the Partial Gospel Has Worn You Out, by Dan Stone and David Gregory.

Here's a short description of the book:

Having God's forgiveness is wonderful. Spending eternity with God is great. But for now, where is the abundant life Jesus promised? Why is the Christian life such a struggle? Because getting forgiven is only half of the gospel! The rest of the gospel is not us striving on our own to be good Christians, but Christ in us, living His life through us as we rest in him..

So get your book (available in paperback and on kindle) and start reading. Soon I'll begin posting study questions, key verses, thoughts, songs, prayers, who knows what else.  And as always, please feel free to jump in with your thoughts, questions, verses, etc in the comment section.

Still not sure you want to read with us? Then take a look --

 

 

For excerpts from our book, click on the title below or the icon on the left:

The Rest of the Gospel, by Dan Stone

Discover as never before that Zoe life (eternal and abundant) is yours right NOW...in Christ alone!

 

So get your book, subscribe to this blog (on the right), and get ready for our discussion here on line later this week.

If you live in the Dayton, Ohio area and would like to join a live discussion group, contact me for details.

Birthday Blog -- All of Grace!

Testimony of a Recovering Legalist: Yes, that's me...and it's all about one word...GRACE, God's miraculous and matchless GRACE.

A Branch, First Communion-01
A Branch, First Communion-01

So on this my birthday, I want to praise the Name of the HOLY ONE...for saving every day and sanctifying every day...this needy, but Christ-filled daughter of His!

This is my song! Every line has been my life...and I praise Him that...

He who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

Grace and Nothing More!

A Branch - Convent
A Branch - Convent

I thought while on this voyage long My strength God would increase And at some point along the way My struggling would cease I fought with boldness, wind and wave And yet the skirmish lost Exhausted, all provision gone The channel still uncrossed As lifeless I in stillness drift Just strength enough to pray It's only then I feel the surge That speeds me on my way

By His own hand and faithfulness He steers me toward a distant shore And the wind that billows in the sail Is grace and nothing more Yes, it's grace and nothing more

Me & my Branch pruned
Me & my Branch pruned

I seek the bloom of holiness He leads me deep within Reveals the hardness of my heart Unearths my hidden sin My barren soul groans in despair In brokenness I cry Oh, God, I find no hope in me A smile His sweet reply For where the tears of brokenness Have soaked the fallow ground The tender shoots of holiness Now spring up all around

blooming but not ripe
blooming but not ripe

Strength in my weakness Joy through the pain Hope when I'm helpless Loss my greatest gain

By His own hand and faithfulness He steers me toward a distant shore And the wind that billows in the sail Is grace and nothing more Yes, it's grace and nothing more

CHRIST IN ME, the hope of glory! Colossians 1:27 June 16, 1947

COMING SOON: Fall Book Club

Coming later in September...a study in a truly life-changing book:  The Rest of the Gospel: When the Partial Gospel Has Worn You Out, by Dan Stone and David Gregory.

Having God's forgiveness is wonderful. Spending eternity with God is great. But for now, where is the abundant life Jesus promised? Why is the Christian life such a struggle? Because getting forgiven is only half of the gospel! The rest of the gospel is not us striving on our own to be good Christians, but Christ in us, living His life through us as we rest in him.

Get your book, subscribe to this blog, and get ready for our "discussion" here on line in a few weeks.

If you live in the Dayton, Ohio area and would like to join a live discussion group, contact me for details.

Testimony of a Recovering Legalist...

A Branch, First Communion-01
A Branch, First Communion-01

Yes, that's me...and it's all about one word...GRACE, God's miraculous and matchless GRACE. So on this my 65th birthday, I want to praise the Name of the HOLY ONE...for saving every day and sanctifying every day... this needy, but Christ-filled daughter of His!

This is my song! Every line has been my life...and I praise Him that...

He who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

Grace and Nothing More!

A Branch - Convent
A Branch - Convent

I thought while on this voyage long My strength God would increase And at some point along the way My struggling would cease I fought with boldness, wind and wave And yet the skirmish lost Exhausted, all provision gone The channel still uncrossed As lifeless I in stillness drift Just strength enough to pray It's only then I feel the surge That speeds me on my way

By His own hand and faithfulness He steers me toward a distant shore And the wind that billows in the sail Is grace and nothing more Yes, it's grace and nothing more

Me & my Branch pruned
Me & my Branch pruned

I seek the bloom of holiness He leads me deep within Reveals the hardness of my heart Unearths my hidden sin My barren soul groans in despair In brokenness I cry Oh, God, I find no hope in me A smile His sweet reply For where the tears of brokenness Have soaked the fallow ground The tender shoots of holiness Now spring up all around

blooming but not ripe
blooming but not ripe

Strength in my weakness Joy through the pain Hope when I'm helpless Loss my greatest gain

By His own hand and faithfulness He steers me toward a distant shore And the wind that billows in the sail Is grace and nothing more Yes, it's grace and nothing more