Psalm 27:13-14

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

I was able to share this Psalm with two families this past weekend. Both were facing challenging health issues. Both need a ray of hope in the face of the struggles before them. My heart goes out to both families. When I read this psalm, those words above struck me joyfully. These are good words to those who face trials and struggles. They are good reminders also for us who enjoy the goodness of God here and now. This is a gift of God. Give thanks to him!

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
    to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
    it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
    be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
    “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
    Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
    O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
    but the Lord will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    and lead me on a level path
    because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

John 15:9-11

“I have loved you the same way the Father has loved me. So live in my love. 10 If you obey my commandments, you will live in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commandments, and in that way I live in his love. 11 I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be complete. 

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The Johnny Lee song says it well:

I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places
Lookin’ for love in too many faces
Searchin’ their eyes, lookin’ for traces
Of what I’m dreamin’ of
Hopin’ to find a friend and a lover
I’ll bless the day I discover,
Another heart-lookin’ for love.

It might be that we look for joy in all the wrong places as well. We look for it in possessions and find that they not only rust and decay, but too soon lose their magic luster. We may find a bit of joy in personal accomplishments, and success, only to find another hill to climb and that the brass ring is still beyond our grasp.

True and full joy is found in the context of Jesus’ love. It is in the context of his love for God, for us, and for all people. True joy is never only my joy. It is never apart from our love for God and desire for his glory. True joy is patient. It is kind. It keeps no record of wrongs, does not envy or boast. True joy draws from the same well from which God’s love flows.

Joy that is reserved only for those times of personal happiness, success, or wellbeing, is neither full nor free. Joy that finds its expression in the midst of others’ wellbeing and happiness, and in the context of God’s love for us and our love for him, is true joy. That’s the kind of true joy that is full and lasting.

John 15:9-11

[Jesus says,] “I have loved you the same way the Father has loved me. So live in my love. 10 If you obey my commandments, you will live in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commandments, and in that way I live in his love. 11 I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be complete.”

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“When in Rome,” as they say, “do as the Romans do.” Sometimes that is spoken as a sort of acquiescence to a looser morality, or abandonment of sensibilities and inhibitions. There is, however, another manner in which this ought to be understood – especially as it relates to being and remaining in Jesus’ love. For to remain in Jesus’ love is to embrace his love for us. It also means that we embrace his love for the Father. That love is shown in obedience to the Father’s commandments. If we remain in Jesus’ love for us and for the father (for that is the fullness of Jesus’ love), we will embrace the joy of being loved and the joy of obeying God’s commandments.

Sometimes faith can be thought of assenting to a certain corpus of belief: Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is true God and true man. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. Jesus rose from the dead. All these are beautifully summarized in the words of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. Faith, however, goes beyond mere ascent to these truths. Satan and the demons know who Jesus is. They and all flesh – even those who disavow, reject, and deny Christ – will acknowledge the truth of all of those assertions in the end.

The believer, however, acknowledges all these things and more. He or she will acknowledge that Jesus’ ways are good, that his obedience to the Father is the path of life, and that his love for us and his love for the Father are a wellspring of eternal joy. To remain in Jesus’ love is to rejoice in the favor and tender mercy of Jesus toward us. It is also to embrace his love for the Father – and to show all that by lives of faithful obedience. To think of Jesus’ love as a one-way flow of grace and kindness toward us is a flat and too-soon-depleted supply of joy spiritual junket, rather than a wellspring of life flowing to and from hearts made new by Christ’s love and expressing his love to God and neighbor.

John 15:9-11

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

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Some of our friends have chosen to move to a new and different house, but not a different city; they still live in the area, but have chosen to up-scale or down-scale their homes. While I’m sure there were some in Jesus’ day who could make such choices, the idea of such a move would likely have been far from the minds of most of the people with whom Jesus spoke and lived. It likely wasn’t even possible for them. They, however, could and did travel. To stop along the way, and remain in a place for a time would be an invitation they could embrace. So when Jesus says, “Abide in my love,” they would recognize that as an invitation to stop in their life’s journey, and to rest in the embrace of Jesus’ love.

Some people live in a state of confusion, others in a state of panic, or in the rat race, or the endless quest for more money, power, excitement, or fame. Rather than thinking in such terms, or even terms of city, state, community, or career, Jesus invites us to embrace his love for us and rest in that love. Jesus invites us remain in the embrace of his love with a promise of his purpose: that we may be filled with his joy: a full, rich, abiding joy.

I’m certain that when people have moved to new homes, or gotten the corner office, or been able to inhabit a desired community, there is at least some joy for a while. Such joy can quickly fade when the water pipes break, the business pressures mount, or the community experiences decline. Such is not the case of Jesus’ joy. This full and abiding joy awaits us whenever we abide in Jesus’ love.

John 15:9-11

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

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Jesus expresses his love for the disciples as akin to the Father’s love for him. That is some comfort. After all, the Father expressed his love to Jesus in a number of ways.

  • The Father expressed his love for Jesus, saying out loud, “This is my beloved Son…” (Mark 1:11)
  • The Father showed his love for Jesus by hearing his prayers and displaying his glory through Jesus’ miracles (John 11:41-42)
  • The Father showed his love most dramatically by raising Jesus from the dead, and exalting him above all others (Philippians 2:10-11)

BUT…what about that whole death thing? Is that love? Isaiah says, “It was God’s will to crust him…”

Sometimes we think love is only sweet and happy. Sometimes we believe love has no edge or challenge. Sometimes we believe love requires no sacrifice. But the love of God is an edgy, roaring, and fiery confluence of mercy, kindness, gentleness, and grace. That’s quite a combination – and an oxymoron! But it’s true, and we could say it the other way: God’s love is a gracious, comforting, merciful and kind confluence of harsh reality, strength, truth and focus that urges toward better things.

Having said all that, however, God’s love for Jesus saw him through the most horrific human experience possible. And when it was over, Jesus sat down on the right hand of God and as the lamb who was slain now receives honor, and glory, and might, and power, and dominion, and praise, and worship forever and ever!

What do you make of the fact that Jesus loves us the same way the Father loves him? Is there not a bit of challenge in that fact? Might abiding in that love result in a splendor and glory that is otherwise unimaginable and unattainable? Is that worth thinking about and praying about today?

I received the following from a member of our St. John prayer team. Worthy thoughts and invitation:

I wanted to let you all know you are on my heart this am. I wanted to share a great devotion from Jesus Calling. I know some of you read this daily, some may do a catch up when you can, but the lesson from July 17th really touched me and helped me appreciate even more the time of abiding.

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“Come away with Me for awhile. The world, with its nonstop demands, can be put on hold. Most people put Me on hold, rationalizing that someday they will find time to focus on ME. But the longer people put Me into the background of their lives, the harder it is for them to find Me.
You live among people who glorify busyness; they have made time a tyrant that controls their lives. Even those who know Me as Savior tend to march to the tempo of the world. They have bought into the illusion that more is always better: more meetings, more programs, more activity.
I have called you to follow Me on a solitary path, making time alone with Me your highest priority and deepest Joy. It is a pathway largely unappreciated and often despised. However, you have chosen the better thing, which will never be taken away from you. Moreover, as you walk close to Me, I can bless others through you.”

“The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” Song of Songs 2:13
“But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

May God bless our time of abiding and our fruitfulness!
Debbie

Thanks, Debbie. Good thoughts indeed!

John 15:1-11

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he [lifts up], and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

 

This cluster of grapes is just beginning to form on the branches of the vine. It holds out great potential for fruitfulness.

This cluster of grapes is just beginning to form on the branches of the vine. It holds out great potential for fruitfulness. But if every branch were loaded with clusters this size, the branches would not sufficiently sustain such a harvest. If too much fruit allowed to come to maturity, the harvest will be disappointing.

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins observes that “good is the enemy of great.” If we’re constantly satisfied with “good enough,” we’ll never get to great. Sometimes we have to set aside the good in order to attain that which is great. Sometimes that is letting go of something we like in order to attain something better. Sometimes it is embracing a time of rest so that we may be more productive in the times of future fruitfulness.

Sometimes we also need to be pruned in order that we do not take on too much attempted fruitfulness. If our schedules are filled with one thing after another, one project on top of another, and one meeting after another, we will not be as fruitful in the long-run as we would be if we focused our efforts on the most truly important. If we are constantly being led from one fire to another by the tyranny of the urgent, we will soon burn out ourselves. If, however, we lop off the unessential projects, meetings, and distractions, our margins become wider and there is more opportunity to bear fruit that will last.

We may not like the idea of being pruned. We may associate it with a painful lesson or a stressful experience. In reality, pruning is done to relieve stress. It may be a challenge to allow yourself to be pruned, but that is a self-imposed challenge. Many times pruning can be self-administered by simply looking at your schedule to consider what is truly important and essential to your walk with Jesus, then letting go of those things that are not essential to your life as his follower.

In his book, Secrets of the Vine, Bruce Wilkerson observes that there are four kinds of fruitfulness described by Jesus. Each brings a different response by the vine dresser. They are:

  • No Fruit (v. 2) – He lifts those branches up which are connected to the vine and yet are not bearing fruit.
  • Some Fruit (v.2) – He prunes those branches which are bearing fruit so that they don’t over-burden themselves in excessive growth.
  • More Fruit (v. 2) – That is the subject for tomorrow
  • Much Fruit (v. 5,8) – This we will deal with the day after tomorrow.

Abiding Time is an invitation. Jesus invites his followers to “abide” in him (John 15). This is an invitation to connect deeply with his love, grace, goodness, truth, and calling. This is not a law. This is not an imposition of a rule or commandment that we must keep. Abiding Time is a calling to give attention to God’s word, to be fed on his word and sacraments. Abiding Time is an invitation to draw near to God, to refresh ourselves and receive the nurture of God, leaning into him, his word and promise, in anticipation of a season of fruitfulness.

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