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 

We Teach People What God is Like 

    
…be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma,~Ephesians 5:1-2.

The only way we can imitate Christ is to abide in Him. It starts with relationship. We accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are saved by faith, not works. So none can boast. Once we are saved, we begin this process of sanctification. God is working in us through the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of His Son. 

God loves us as we are. He loves us too much to want to see us stay the same. 

I have met so many people who don’t know God’s love or they are opposed to knowing God. I asked God why? There’s head knowledge, yet for some not heart knowledge. 

BTW…I don’t have this love thing all figured out, it’s a journey. I am learning as I go; learning from Holy Spirit and intimacy with God. 

Tonight I will tackle just one potential answer. 

We (followers of Jesus) are called to demonstrate to the world the character and love of God. We are called to love everyone, not just those who love us, like us, agree with us, go to our church, come from our family, or are in our social circle.

As stated in the word, God’s love (agape) and imitating Jesus comes through abiding (John 15:5). Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. We are called to do what we see the Father doing; we are called to follow and abide in Jesus. 

If we don’t love the world, some may never know the Father’s heart. God works through people. Ordinary people like me and you are called to demonstrate to the world the great love and power of God. 

My earthly father made Jesus, following Jesus, very attractive. It’s one of the things that’s has helped me in my walk with Jesus. God gave me someone who demonstrated what He’s like. He’s not the only example, he’s one. He’s not perfect, yet I’ve learned so much from him. And his birthday is this week so honoring him. 

All I have belongs to God,~W. Lamb (my dad).

If you ever meet my dad, he’ll probably offer you something. I’ve never met a more generous person outside of God. Here are some things he taught me about God by the way he lived and lives his life. 

1. God is good and always worthy of worship (love, adoration, thanks, and praise). 

2. Love strangers, they are people Jesus gave His life for. 

3. Love and care for the poor and widows. 

4. Keep your word. 

5. Love your enemies. 

6. Do good to all because God is good to you. 

7. Share the Gospel. 

8. Live the Gospel. 

9. Put God first. 

10. Live a life of radical generosity.

11. It’s not about titles, money, fame, or clout…it’s about loving well. 

12. Let God refine your character. 

13. Trust God. He does not fail. 

14. Leave situations you can’t solve in the hands of God. 

15. It’s okay to laugh at yourself. 😜

16. Forgive! Forgive!! Forgive!!! No one is worth putting a wedge between you and God. 

17. Pray…be a person of prayer. My dad rises early every day to pray and be with God.

18. Read and study the Bible. Be a person of the Word. 

19. God still performs miracles! He’s a Healer, Deliverer, Restorer. 

20. You can overcome the worst obstacles with God! Nothing is too hard for God. 

I don’t know about you, but I want people to see Jesus in me…Not so I’m glorified or people think well of me, so He’s glorified. Hopefully, I live a life so people have a growing hunger for God and knowing Him intimately. 

You and I have this awesome privilege of showing the world how AWESOME our heavenly Papa is. We are Ambassadors of hope, love, peace, and power. Some won’t know His love or power unless believers engage and choose to demonstrate it for them. May we know God intimately and show others how good He is. 

You are loved and continually prayed for! 

❤️

Erin 

Receiving and Abiding in Love (Intimacy with God Part IX)

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Our greatest strength comes from abiding (remaining) in God.

John 15: 1, 4-17.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

Culture vs. the Kingdom of Heaven

Our culture promotes self. If you want something, you go for it in your own strength. You make it happen. You persist. You press harder or push harder. The central character is us, the created ones. Our culture celebrates the “self-made” person.

The Bible teaches us that we can do nothing apart from God. Nothing means no thing. He is the Source of human life, even for the wicked and unbelieving. We exist because of Him. The central character of God’s story is God. The Kingdom of heaven celebrates the person dependent on God.

It hurts the pride and bruises the ego to realize that God is above all. He is above us. We are not God or demigods, though some teach this. God doesn’t force us to obey Him or comply, He’s still God and there are consequences for our choices. We are never truly independent from His Sovereignty.

If we are in Christ, then it’s good to recall that we are to rely on His strength. Our striving produces stress. Abiding produces abundant fruit. He is the Source of love, peace, joy, hope, faith, goodness, life, patience, meekness, gentleness, and self control. He’s the Vine. If we remain in Him, there’s flourishing life.

Example from Gardening…

I had a plant with vines. I noticed it would grow towards the light. Any parts of the vine that fell off, died. It was disconnected from its life source. The root system of that plant was supplying nutrients. The branches produced no life on their own. If I forgot to water or fertilize the soil, it died.

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We need intimacy (relationship) with God more than anything else. We need the Light (God). We need water (His Spirit). We need fertilizer and food (His Word). When we place other things in front of Him, we suffer. God doesn’t cease loving us, we cease producing fruit.

Fruit is the result of fellowship and intimacy (abiding, remaining). We will always see fruit of our fellowship. If we fellowship with fear, the fruits are worry, anxiety, insecurity, suspicion, unhealthy stress, people pleasing, jealousy…

God knew and knows that we will suffer if He’s not first. We can’t produce Light and His Love without Him. He is Light; He is love.

Our first step in intimacy with God is salvation. The second is abiding. We receive first, then we give.

The highest priority isn’t doing for God, it’s being with God.

So beautiful friends, may we seek Him first. May we meet with Him, talk with Him, listen to Him…

What is God doing? What is He saying? What does His word say? What is God teaching us at this moment?

May we soak in His Presence and allow God to heal, restore, saturate us, and minister to us. God can do more in a moment than we can in a lifetime. He contains solutions to all the world’s problems.

Father, Abba Pai, help us to first receive from You and abide in You as Jesus did. Teach us to rest in Your love and the finished work of the Cross. May we have a deeper revelation of what’s already been paid for in Your Son. May we know heart, mind, and spirit the height, depth, and vast expanse of Your love for us. May we rely on Your strength and Your Spirit. In Jesus powerful name, Amen.

Praying for you! You are deeply loved (John 3:16).

Erin

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