Striving is not Abiding (Abiding & Intimacy with God Part 2)

  
Striving is not abiding. 

I grew up in church. I sat through hundreds of Sunday school lessons. I don’t recall one that taught me how to abide in Christ. They may have taught it; I may not have been paying attention. The main points were: understand what Jesus did for you, repent, receive the gift of salvation through faith and repentance, be baptized, read your bible, go to church, give, use the gifts of the Spirit for others, love God, love people, share the Gospel. 

Doing things for God is supposed to be the fruit of abiding. If we do not learn to receive from God and abide first, doing things for God results in works of the flesh birthed out of striving. 

Abiding is remaining in God. He is the Vine, we are the branches. I’ve never seen a branch produce anything but death when it’s disconnected and cut off from the vine or tree. It’s life source is the vine or tree. It has no life of its own. 

I have vine plants and one that looks like a mini tree. There are times where branches will break off, vines will break off; they wither and die. 

I’ve heard people say, “You need to be in church services. You need to be connected to other believers lest you wither up and die spiritually.” 

I agree we need to fellowship with other believers. Iron sharpens iron. Two are better than one for many reasons; if one falls in a ditch, the other can pull them out. 

I have also encountered some people who do “the stuff” but are not connected to the Source or seek to be fulfilled by the Church instead of by God. 

God is the Source, not people. He will not allow people to fill the void for Him. He alone fulfills the human heart. He completes mankind, not people. We need community; we need God first and most. Anything we place in God’s place will bring disappointment or eventual destruction. 

The Church is not God, people are not God. God is God. Only He can meet our deepest needs. 

Jesus gave us great wisdom on how to live a fruitful life in John 15:1-11 (Amplified version).

Jesus Is the Vine—Followers Are Branches

“I am the true Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit]. You are already clean because of the word which I have given you [the teachings which I have discussed with you]. 

Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. 

If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown out like a (broken off) branch, and withers and dies; and they gather such branches and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you [that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples.

I have loved you just as the Father has loved Me; remain in My love[and do not doubt My love for you]. If you keep My commandments and obey My teaching, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.

So how do we abide instead of strive? How do we know when we are striving? I will start with question number 2. 

Am I striving?

Striving produces bad stress. “Oh, I have to work hard to bear fruit! I will just try so hard. I can do this! Uggggghhhh…Failure.” 

Let me tell you a little secret, okay it’s not really a secret, we cannot love like God or manifest His character on our own. It’s impossible. Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing!” The definition of nothing is “no thing, nada, zero.” 

When we start trying to make ourselves like Jesus we have slipped into striving. It’s like taking the engine out of your car and trying to start it. “Come on car. You can do this! Oh, if I just had more faith. Maybe I can get out and push the car to it’s destination. I can do this!” It’s futile and funny in an illustration. Or we can say, “God I need You. I can’t do this on my own. I want to rest in what You’ve already done, what You’ve already paid for. I receive what’s done.” God responds, “Awesome! Let’s do this!” 

The engine (God) turns over and off you go. I liken the Holy Spirit to the car’s internal navigation system. Listen to Him; He will get you to where you need to be. 

  • Striving produces bad stress, guilt, shame, condemnation, and burnout. 
  • Abiding produces rest. Abiding flows from a place of rest. Rest is not ceasing all activity, it’s actively relying on God. 

My plants don’t strive to produce leaves or branches. They stay connected to their life source. Our life source is God.
How do we abide instead of strive?

Jesus gave us keys to abiding. 

God reliant:

Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. Meaning He was focused on the Father not Himself. He didn’t walk around saying, “I’m Jesus look at what I can do!” He had a heart attitude of, “What is My Father doing? I will stay in tune with Him.” 

Time alone with the Father: 

Be with God. Jesus regularly retreated from the crowds and the disciples to be alone with the Father. He pursued a heart to heart connection with the Father. He stayed full. His source was intimacy with the Father.

Intimacy with God:

How do we cultivate intimacy with someone? 

There’s first an introduction. The Father draws us to Him and offers an invitation to relationship through His Son, Jesus. 

After the introduction there’s an invitation to be together. We will not know anyone we don’t spend time with and invest time in getting to know. One of my greatest prayers is, “Who are You God? I want to know You for myself.” 

One of my favorite things is mornings with God. He’s my first hour or couple hours of the day. We chat. I start the day with Him. I am not saying this is for everyone. Each relationship with God is unique. I’m a morning person. You may not be. You may connect in different ways. 

Inquiry and listening: 

When we are with someone and getting to know them, we ask questions and we listen. I highly recommend asking God questions and setting your ears to listen. Be expectant. Learning to hear God’s voice isn’t complicated. He said, “My sheep know My voice (John 10:27).” 

I encourage journaling or writing down and dating what you sense of from God. Why? We learn over time. I can go back 10-15 years and look at what I felt God was saying and say, “Oh yes, this happened. Yes we prayed this together. Yes! He did this. Yes that was God’s voice.” It builds documented history with God. Some things He spoke 10 years ago are just now coming to pass. 

How do I know it’s God and not me or the evil one or my imagination? 

Quick guide: 

  1. God doesn’t violate scripture nor sin. He won’t tell you to rob a bank or cheat on your spouse.
  2. God is good, holy, pure. If it’s perverted, hateful, immoral, leads to shame-it’s not God.
  3. God is love. This is not our world’s version of love that says everything is permissible. See 1 Corinthians 13 for God’s view of love.
  4. God edifies, redeems, protects, corrects to restore, encourages, empowers. God is not controlling, manipulative, or a bully. If the voice is condemning, pushy, or controlling, it’s not God. Love allows you to choose. 

Every day adventures with God (the invitation):

We invite others into our lives to cultivate intimacy. Invite God into your family, workplace, shopping, paying bills, traveling… 

God I love You. I give You this day. I invite You into every situation, every conversation, every thing I’m doing today. What would You like to say? What would You like to do today? I’m listening God. I love You!” 

It’s great to be invited, right?! Have you ever had a close friend throw a party and they didn’t invite you? Then their response was, “You should’ve known you were invited!” Or have you ever been invited and then the person pretended you weren’t there, that you were invisible? I have. It doesn’t feel awesome to be ignored, especially when people act as if they don’t know you then show up later asking for something. God has feelings sweet friends. We can quench or grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). 

I am not saying you have to get into rituals of doing things to include God in everything or feel condemned. I’m stating we grow to know someone by investing time, being with them, and including them in our lives. 

The more we are with God, the easier it is to abide in Him and what He’s already done. 

Father God thank You for the finished work of the cross. Thank You for all Jesus paid for. Thank You for the invitation into the greatest love story ever written. You are wonderful. How excellent You are. Teach us Your ways. Show us how to abide, rest in You. Help us to receive ALL that Jesus paid for on the cross and through His resurrection. Flood our hearts today with Your love, Your wisdom, Your goodness, Your power. We can do nothing apart from You. Help each one of Your children to cease striving for what’s given in Your Son. In Jesus powerful name, amen! 

Sweet friends, you are loved and prayed for often. 

Love in Christ, 

Erin Lamb 

Releasing What You Carry (Manifesting Sonship Series Part VI)

  
Blessed and worthy of praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ, just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself as His own] before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight,~Ephesians 1:3-4 (Amplified).  

“Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned.”~Jesus. ‭‭John‬ ‭15:4-6‬ ‭(Amplified).‬‬

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,~Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV).

How do we manifest what God is like to the world? How do we walk in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, and continually bear good fruit? How do we release what He’s deposited?

It Starts with Saving Faith

We are saved by faith in Jesus, by grace, as a gift of God through repentance (confessing our sins and changing our mind about sin). If you have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, check out How to Know Jesus

It Continues on with Relationship…

Fruit bearing is a manifestation of connection and relationship. How do we cultivate relationship with God? We can only release what we carry. 

For each person it may look a bit different. I am not suggesting you follow a formula or feel bound. There’s so much holy freedom in Christ. These are simply some things I do. 

  • Worship God. Worship is more than singing songs. Worship is a posture of the heart that says, “God You are greater than all things. You are worthy. All that I am is in awe of all You! I give you thanks, praise, adoration, my entire life! It’s all Yours!!
  • Make time with God a priority. I have worship parties with God. It’s just us and sometimes there’s singing, dancing, laughing (lots of laughing), praising, or face down on the floor time. 
  • Study the word with God. God and I have study dates. Normally these are Sunday afternoons in the war room (prayer room). I study with His input. I learn the Bible with God. It’s our time. 
  • Talk to God daily. He loves to be with us. 
  • Listen to God and jot down what you believe He’s saying. I carry a prayer journal with me everywhere with documented prayers, words, impressions, etcetera…I have some that are over 10 years old. Wait 15 years old. I can go back and reference our time together and answered prayers, prophetic words fulfilled, and encouraging words He has spoken. 
  • Ask God for deeper revelations of His love, His Presence, and His care. He loves to answer this prayer.
  • Ask God what His agenda is for the day. Who does He want to bless? If we pay attention He will highlight someone or multiple people each day.
  • Obey God. Some have taught that obedience is legalism. It is not. Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father and I dare anyone to call Him legalistic. Obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22) and a manifestation of our love for God (John 14:15). We are a slave to whoever we obey (Romans 16:6). We are not saved by obedience. We are saved by faith. However to claim Christ and practice lawlessness is not something God celebrates or approves of. See Matthew 7:21-23. God hates what damages us. Sin is damaging.

What if you say, “My tree does not have abundant good fruit! Or I don’t have anything good to offer the world. I am barely making it.”

 
If I go out to an orange tree and it has no good fruit. I don’t curse the tree. I look at the root system. Only a tree planted in good soil, watered, receiving light from the sun will produce good fruit. Only a tree free of disease will produce good fruit. 

If I am not producing the good fruit of God’s likeness, it’s because I’ve disconnected from the Vine (God), forsaken intimacy (watering (Holy Spirit) and His Presence (Light)), forsaken fellowship (community), and chosen to live by my flesh instead of being led by His Spirit. If I’m still not producing good fruit, there are wounds/hurts (disease) in my soul that need healed. The spirit is saved, new at conversion. The soul is being sanctified (changed, cleansed, purified over time with God). 

God can and does heal the wounded soul. I will post more about that later. Our pride and rebellion can also block the flow of the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to confess those things to God and get the flow moving freely again. 

Releasing What You Carry…

Possession proceeds releasing. We can only give what we have first obtained from God. We receive by faith. 

  • We can only release by doing something. 
  • Faith requires activation. 

A couple years ago I was talking to God about wanting to see more sick people healed. He responded, “Go pray for more sick people.” I’ve seen God heal more sick people in the past 12 months than I have in  my entire walk with God. Mainly because when someone is ill, I jump to pray. 

Want more, release more! Find people to encourage, pray for, share the Gospel with, teach, mentor, disciple…pay it forward. 

God is a wise investor. If we use what’s given to bless others, He adds more. So, we stay connected and share what’s given. We love God for who He is, not to gain things from Him. If we spend time with Him, we will overflow with more than enough to share. 

Final Notes: 

There’s no fear in love. If I’m not producing good fruit in an area, I go to the Source (God). I abide in Him. I submit myself to Him and allow God to work in my soul that which is pleasing to Him. I deepen our connection. Good fruit is not produced by striving. It comes only through intimacy with God, abiding. 

Papa God, You are incredible and holy. I ask for all of us to be saturated with Your steadfast love, power, wisdom, and thoughts. Heal any wounds in our soul. Uproot unbelief, fear, pride, rebellion, insecurity. Plant us in good soil. Help us to stay under the waterfall of Your unfailing love. Keep our eyes on You! In Jesus mighty name. Amen. 

You are deeply loved and prayed for often. 

Love in Christ, 

Erin Lamb 

Orange tree photo courtesy of Pinterest. 

Know the Author (God)

  

Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near,~Jeremiah 55:6.

The platform and foundation of my life is intimacy with God. Intimacy with God is so crucial to understanding the Word of God and living an abundant life. 

One of my life verses is John 15:5. Jesus said, “I am the Vine and you are the branches. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one, in perfect communion, unity. If we are to know God, we must abide in Him. 

Over the years I’ve met so many people who can quote me verses of the Bible and miss the heart of God. Even some who can defend their prejudice or sexism based on passages of the Bible. People defended slavery with the Bible. People still defend sexism with the Bible or the oppression of women. I began to investigate why so many people had an image of God that did not match up with the whole of scripture or the heart of God. 

We are trained to memorize the Bible instead of allow the Bible to lead us into an encounter with the One who inspired it. 

I grew up in church. We went several times a week. My dad is a pastor and evangelist. My mum was my Sunday school teacher. I heard the Bible over and over and over. I watched my parents live it. Yet it wasn’t until later in life that I truly began to get to know God on an intimate level. What changed? This burning desire grew inside of me to know His voice and know Him on a deeper level. I read in the Bible that God showed up and revealed Himself to His people. He wanted relationship. 

The foundation for growing relationship is communication and it is also built on experience. 

God longs to connect with us. Talking to God is great. Hearing His voice and listening to Jesus pray, that’s life giving. Living life with God instead of Him being a Sunday morning activity is the best. 

I wrote a book. I write Standard Operating Procedures. If you simply read what I write, talk to me about your problems, visit me once a week, and never inquire of me or listen to me, you will not know me. If you only spend time with me in the same setting, you won’t truly know me. The people who have camped in the jungle with me on missions know more about me than those who meet with me for coffee every so often. We forged intimacy through proximity and life experiences, some of them quite challenging. Those who have done missions with me don’t know me like those who have been roommates. I’m not extroverted. I spend lots of time reading and being alone with God. Those who live with me know I’m not a social butterfly. I’ve learned and by the help of the Holy Spirit how to engage with large groups, be outgoing. He’s teaching and helping me continually. Also intimacy (knowing, oneness) with God leads me to want to love and connect with people. 

The Bible is to lead us into an encounter with God, not replace relationship with God. 

His word reveals Him, it does not contain Him,~Kris Vallotton. 

There’s also a level of intimacy that is forged in challenging seasons. Those who attempt to bypass all challenges in life forgo the opportunity to know the power, sustaining power, comfort, healing, and miraculous works of God. During the hardest seasons of my life, a best friendship was forged with God. I learned He’d sing me to sleep when I was crying tears no one saw but me and Him. I learned He’d feed me when I was working three jobs trying to complete two degrees. I learned God would defend me when I suffered under 7 years of persecution (some at work and some through Christians). I learned God was stronger than death as I faced near death experience after another! 7 of those too…if I count right. I learned the sustaining comfort of God when I had to bury my mum. I learned the provision of God as He sent people to send checks in the mail during times of crisis. I learned the love of God (still learning) through all the peaks and valleys we’ve been through together! Don’t bypass the process of getting to know God in every season.

So, for you and I…I pray we seek God and have continual dialogue with Him. One associate joked that all I do is pray (like I’m locked in a closet somewhere all day). Nope. I have continual dialogue with God (that’s prayer). At the grocery, at the park, at work, in the car, working out, playing guitar…all day my heart and spirit is open to His. 

I leave you with these keys that have been deposited along this journey.

1. God wants an intimate (knowing, oneness) relationship, to be the closest person to us. 

2. God speaks. 

3. God will not violate His Word, He will challenge and expand our understanding of His Word. To truly understand His Word, we need to know the Author and be led by the Holy Spirit. 

4. God is love and He is holy. There’s a love movement that forsakes holiness and it’s not of God, nor is it grace. God will never condone sin because He is holy and Jesus died to free us from slavery to sin. 

5. God is good. If what I’m experiencing now isn’t good, I can trust God will work it for eventual good. My definition of good may not match God’s. He never ceases to be good. 

6. Asking God for wisdom is wisdom. 

7. Humility leads to greater understanding. He is God. I am not.

8. God is infinite. He continues to reveal another aspect of who He is. He doesn’t fit or belong in a box. The beauty is getting to know Him over time. He’s an abounding treasure! 

9. God wants to be known by us. More than we want Him, He wants us. 

10. When we seek Him, we find Him. Intimacy with God is worth pursuing. 

Love you dear ones. Lifting you up! Have a blessed week. May it overflow with God encounters and intimacy with God. You are SO deeply loved (John 3:16). 

Love in Christ, 

Erin