Chosen to do the impossible

From a rocky farm at the tip of the Point o’ Maine, ocean and sky look endless, especially to a Midwesterner who grew up knowing only creeks and ponds. As I stood and tried to imagine the dimensions of the sea, words of the old song about the love of God hummed in my head: “If we could ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made,” we could not even then have enough ink or space to write the depth of God’s love for us.

What does God’s love mean to you? How does God’s love change your life?

Here’s what God’s love means to me:

  • He forgives and forgives and forgives. He doesn’t keep a record of how often I’ve failed Him. He gave up His life for me before I knew Him. While I was still His enemy, He loved me and came to my rescue.
  • He loves me even though I don’t deserve it. What is it in me that makes me beloved by the Lord of the universe? Absolutely nothing. My human nature has proven that, time and again. He loves me only because He has chosen me to be His child and has chosen to love me.
  • He takes action in my life. He works for my good in everything. He leads me along right paths. He sees me through His eyes of mercy and love; He sees me as He intends to make me—full of the glory and image of Christ.

I know no other love like that. Do you? Amazing love. Contemplating the love God shows us fills us with joy, does it not?

Then other words come to mind, too, words from the one I call Lord. These are Jesus’ words:

“This is my commandment: love each other in the same way I have loved you” (John 15:12 NLT).

But here we stumble and balk. Yes, we even make excuses for not obeying this command of the one we say we’ve given our lives to. He asks us to love like God does? How does He expect me, in my selfish humanity, to do that? Father, you know how limited, how human I am; how could I ever love others the way You have loved me?

Yet Christ asks me—no, He commands me—to love like that. He has chosen us, He says, to do this. Chosen by Jesus Christ to do the impossible!

He takes it a step further… He doesn’t just want us to show love to others, He wants us to do it fully, abundantly, in a big, stupendous, astounding way – like a branch so productive that it hangs low with full, luscious, giant fruit.

But we are dried up, puny twigs with nary a green sprout. Without Him, we are nothing. Without Him, we will never be able to keep this one commandment that is so important to Him. Without Him, we cannot even begin to love as He has loved us.

No, we cannot love others as God loves us. And yet Jesus commands us to; and He promises His Spirit will produce that love, if we live in step with Him. His life will be lived out in us. We have been chosen for that!

“I am the vine,” Jesus says. “Remain in me, and you will bear fruit, so much fruit that God will be given much glory.” If we give ourselves to the life of the Spirit, we will see the fruit the Spirit brings. We will do the impossible, and only God will deserve the glory.

Will we believe what His Word promises? Will we live it?

I want to believe-live, Father. So I think again about how You love me, and ask You, Spirit, to teach me how to love others in the same way. I know I can’t do it on my own; only You can produce that kind of love in me.

I want the full, overflowing joy that comes to a life lived as You have commanded; I want my actions to reflect my love and thanks to You.

So don’t give up on me, Lord. (And I know You won’t!)

Filled with Fruit

May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation — the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ — for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
             
Philippians 1:11 (NLT)

The movie A Walk in the Clouds is a romantic drama from the 90s, set in California wine country. It’s the usual boy-meets-girl-and-love-overcomes-obstacles story, but there’s one scene burned (literally) into my memory.

The girl’s family has lovingly tended their vineyard for generations, and the existence of many families depends on the harvest. One night, there’s a fight between two of the main characters, a lantern is knocked over, and in minutes flames race along rows and rows of grapevines, hungry lines of fire running over the hills and valley, devouring the vineyard.

Sometimes I feel as though that’s what happens to my vineyard. I’ve tended the fruits I want to grow, the mercy and kindness and gentleness and patience and forgiveness and love. Then along comes the enemy and shoots flaming arrows into my vines — arrows burning with anger, rage, malice, greed, and idolatry. Fires burn everywhere and threaten to destroy the fruit I’ve worked so hard to bring to harvest. And, sadly, the enemy doesn’t even have to stand outside the walls to aim his arrows … he shoots them from the depths of my own darkness.

Now, the really good news is that this dark picture I feel is not truth! The truth is, this is not my vineyard, it is Christ’s. I no longer live, but He lives in me. He is the one who tends lovingly, bringing the fruit to harvest. All depends on Christ, not me! The enemy will always attempt to burn and destroy, but Christ is greater than the enemy.

In the movie, one vine survives — the one vine originally brought from Mexico that gave birth to every other vine on the hills — and still holds life after the fire. Christ is the life-giving vine; He is the one who brings a harvest of abundant fruit. No matter how long and hard we work, we cannot produce the harvest ourselves. He is the one who plants and tends and grows.

That’s how we live, even in earthly bodies encumbered by old human natures. We trust in Him, who lives in us. We continually seek Him, and He brings power to us when we’re weak and gives us new strength.

All glory and praise to God and God alone!

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Read also: Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6,7,10; Psalm 105:4; Isaiah 40:29-31; John 15:4-5

Remaining IN Truth

My head’s been all tied up lately pondering questions of the ages: What is truth? How can we be certain of truth? How does anyone know truth?

You know, easy little questions like that, with neat and tidy answers! And so I offer a short little post as I think about this …

What does Jesus say about these questions?

He says He is truth. He says that those who believe in Him will know the truth and the truth will set them free.

Those statements are so huge that I believe we will always be learning what He means; for all of our lives, we’ll be growing toward understanding this.

But the one sure thing is that if we want to know truth and the freedom it brings, we must stay so closely connected to Christ that we are, to use His word, in the truth.

Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

Remaining “in” each other. What a connection! The relationship Jesus wants with us goes beyond just “following” Him, even “believing” in Him. I’m not denying those are legitimate words to describe our faith; I am just awed by the depth of relationship Jesus is describing when He uses the word in. We are so deeply connected to Him that the life running through the Vine also sustains and gives life to the branch. One is in the other.

His Spirit, living within us, gives us that life. Jesus promises that the Spirit leads us to truth and gives us freedom. A promise so big that I cannot grasp all it means … and yet, I want to live it!

So my prayer is that the Spirit opens our eyes, just one step, one day at a time, to grow in our understanding of truth. 

There are so many discussions going on in the church today questioning what truth is. Perhaps it’s useless to ask that age-old question before each one of us asks whether we are firmly in the Vine. Does He flow freely through every part of us?

May we keep on growing and understanding.

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Scripture: John 15:4 (NLT)