Abide in Me…Reflections on 1 John 2

Tessa doesn’t know what life holds around that bend. She is not thinking about the times she failed to obey in the past or fret about what she might face in the future. She lives in the now and she walks forward bravely because she trusts the one who sends her. Be like Tessa.

What does it mean to abide?

Years ago, I had a baseball cap (I love baseball caps). This one had the word Abide stylishly stitched across the brow. I wore it proudly. It also looked great on me. That was, in one word, the sentiment I wanted as my declarative mission statement for life. The snare that was set before me then [and now] is this: What if I’m too easily satisfied with the appearance of one who abides? What if, on closer examination, you would see in my day-to-day life that the desire to abide is easily and repeatedly crowded out by other anxious desires and demands of life? Am I abiding only when life is simple, but not when life is complicated and scary?

“In its fullest meaning, the word abide holds a promise.”

As the apostle John breaks it down in 1 John 2, abiding is linked to obedience to Christ. 1 Jn 2:6 ‘whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked’. In its fullest meaning, the word abide holds a promise.  A promise that in our obedience we are not alone, we are in Christ.  1 Jn 2:24-25  says “…If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise that he made to us – eternal life.”

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. None of us knows how far this reaction to COVID-19 will take us. How many people will be displaced or how many lives will be taken by it. Let me draw a distinction that I draw for myself on a regular basis. It is this: All the things we care about, worry about, pray about and pine about – all of those things live in a place called our ‘circle of concern’. It’s big and it holds all of it. Inside that circle is a much smaller, but much brighter circle. The inner circle is called our ‘circle of influence’. Pray to recognize what is in your circle of influence. I believe you will discover precisely what Jesus is asking you to do today, and in the doing, you will have the phenomenal privilege of abiding in Christ where the peace of Christ will dwell with you.

“Obedience is an active verb that lives in the present.” 

Remember, we cannot obey retroactively.  Likewise, one can only ‘intend’ to obey proactively. Obedience is an active verb that lives in the present. There is no draw available on our promised future obedience. But all of us, every single one of us, can act on what God has placed on our hearts TODAY. Quite surprisingly, it is our obedience in the present-now that will have the greatest impact on all that lives in our circles of concern.

 

Note:  The concept of circle of influence/circle of concern comes from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

 

The Doorway of Brokenness

“She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet. She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entrance of the doors” ~ Proverbs 8:2-3

With a mixture of frustration and shame I’ve arrived at the same doorstep. To get here I’ve traveled many long, hard miles of holding myself together, gritting my teeth, all the while knowing where I was headed, but holding my own just the same. Yes, I confess, I want that deeper knowledge of Christ. Yes, I want to feel His presence in and through my life. Yes! I truly do desire to live for Him, in Him, but as I approach that doorway, the doorway of brokenness, still I try to turn away. Why is it then when we recognize breaking is just what we need that we seek to remain unbroken? Our egos, like stubborn lumps in the batter, seek to insulate themselves as long as possible before giving way to become something far better. In this life two worlds live juxtaposed to one another. This world promises to make us whole, but Jesus promises to make us one in Him. At every turn, there is a description of what it should look like. Where we should be. How happy we are! How full and complete our lives could be. We resist brokenness because brokenness means we are not whole. We cannot imagine or envision what God could be up to as He looks over this human mess and grabs His glue, painstakingly pressing pieces together into what seems a chaotic assortment, until finally what emerges in this mosaic is His image, a reflection of His glory. Perhaps we resist this process because we know we don’t have any glue, we know in and of ourselves we cannot put these pieces back together let alone weave a greater story in it. Or, as foolish as it sounds, we are not so sure we want to give up the authorship of our lives.

Like the wildfires raging in the West this year, tragedy, real tragedy burns through our false sense of worth and the empty promises of wholeness; leaving only what truly matters before our bare eyes. When all is burned away, it is Christ who remains and all whom we love in Him. Friend, if you also are in a season of brokenness, plagued by confusion and disillusion, rejoice! Yes, rejoice!! Disillusionment is a wonderful condition to find yourself in when you consider the alternative. Confusion is the precursor to knowledge, to understanding and wisdom. Conflict clarifies. Wisdom is calling out to us! Enter into the doorway of your brokenness, He has prepared a place for you in Him, and through Him you will receive His fullness as promised in Ephesians 3:19 – to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph 3:19.

The Power of Discouragement

Discouragement

It comes upon all of us.   Recently I was having a conversation with my daughter and I needed to remind her of the fact that, like an ocean wave, these huge negative emotions that threaten to engulf us, are relegated to the laws of nature.  Like that wave, that huge emotion has no choice but to creep back into the ocean from whence it came.  Though this sage advice is not much help when you are in the midst of it, it is curious to note how one day you can be overwhelmed and the next day not, when no hard circumstance has changed, but you’ve changed.  I have experienced that too many times to count.

Many people think that depression and discouragement are weapons of the enemy…and they are, I believe that too.  I also think, though, God allows these experiences to sharpen our focus, to address wrong thinking…it’s as if God wants us to see where our broken thinking leads without actually physically letting us go there.  Perhaps its mercy?  All I know is that no one is immune to it.  We all go through periods of sadness, periods of deep discouragement.  If  God permits this then what can we learn from it?  Yes,  discouragement is a powerful force, but it is only a mighty gust at best, incapable of sustaining itself.  Our thoughts, our thinking, the beliefs we cling to either perpetuate the discouragement or vanquishe it.  This is why our thinking is our most powerful ally and our most effective enemy.  In the midst of it we can feel blown apart, all the work we’ve done seems to add up to nothing.  However, if God purposed this, what could be the purpose?  When we are blown apart perhaps if we are fortunate, it may blow the lid off of something in our hearts, and if we examine our hearts, taking the pain into prayer, trusting in Truth and not in emotions, we may find that all along His intention was to reveal our unacknowledged sin.

Just the other day I received a daily devotional from David Wilkerson Ministries and the topic was the root of fear.  Here it is, it’s not long, but I want you to read it in its entirety and see if you see the correlation to discouragement:

David Wilkerson TodayTUESDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2011THE ROOT OF FEAR

by David Wilkerson
[May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011]

“If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away,
And would not let wickedness dwell in your tents;
Then surely you could lift up your face without spot;
Yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear” (Job 11:14-15).

All fear can be traced
To a spot
Of sin and secret iniquity
Harbored in a man’s heart.
He has the power in his hand
To put it away.
Despising the riches of God’s grace,
His . . . forbearance and longsuffering,
He continues in his evil way,
Allowing in his own life
What he condemns in others,
Becoming a law unto himself.
He seeks to be God’s favored exception
To escape wrath and tribulation.
But God is no respecter of persons,
Judging all alike,
Promising glory, honor and peace
To those who put evil away.
And then he shall lift up his face without spot.
He shall be steadfast
And shall not fear,
For only where sin lies at the door
Is man afraid.

Wow!  Nothing is easy in this, especially if it reveals sin in our heart, but be blessed because revealed sin is the precursor to true repentance.  If  ‘to repent’ means to turn away from, how can we turn away from something we neither see nor believe is at work in us?  Enlightenment comes with a cost.  Through humility (what we bring) and through grace (what God brings) we can experience an exchange rate that is unparalleled anywhere else on the face of the earth.  As the prophet Isaiah tells us in 61:3 he gives us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.