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John 15 – Part 3

John 15:9-12 – “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”

Love. It’s something we all want and crave. We want to be loved by those around us. We want to see them smile at us and laugh with us. We want to feel their hand of comfort upon us during hard times, and we want to see them standing at the end of a long race. Love is something that every person no matter race, color or creed desires. Oh, it may look different to different people, but we all need it to thrive. 

Jesus wants us to be IN His love. That doesn’t mean skirting the edges or dipping our toe in it. Nope, He wants us neck deep in it. Remember how when you were a kid that when it was time to get in the pool that you wanted to jump all out in the deep end? That’s what Jesus wants – us jumping into the deep end of His love. 

But what we find when we get there can be somewhat frightening and somewhat exciting. “What could possibly be frightening about the love of Jesus?”, you might ask. Obedience. Being obedient can be frightening at times. It may mean getting out of your comfort zone. It might mean having people not like you. It might mean that someone could make fun of you. Yep, obedience can be scary. BUT jumping into the deep end of love can also be exciting – enter joy. 

Now, here’s the thing about joy – lots of people get it confused with happiness. Joy is not always happiness. Joy is that “peace that passes all understanding”. It’s knowing that God has got this thing and I don’t need to worry about it. All those things that makes obedience frightening, joy makes them tolerable. 

And love covers them all. Love is what fills the deep end. Love is what makes you choose to be obedient. Love is what makes you find joy. Love. You gotta have it. 

We shouldn’t just keep all this wonderfulness to ourself. No, we need to spread it around. Other people need it too! You see, Jesus loves in a very special way – He gave His life for us. We need to love others in the same way. To that person that drives you crazy, love them. To that child that asks a million and one questions, love them. To that spouse that frustrates you to no end, love them. To that person who is smiling all the time because smiling is their favorite, love them. 

Jumping into the deep end of Jesus’ love does have consequences. You might experience a peace that weirds people out. You might find yourself telling the person behind you in the coffee line about Jesus. You might even find yourself at church every time the doors are open. Who knows what will happen! But guess what? It is totally worth the jump. 

Joy in obedience 

Psalm 35:9 – “And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation.” 

My daughter had believed she was saved for quite sometime- that is, until last summer. During VBS, she came to me and told me that she thought she had just prayed the prayer and did not mean it in her heart. We talked about what that meant and before our chat was over, she was a true blue Princess. She truly and completely accepted Jesus as her Savior. 

Sunday night, our church observed the Lord’s Supper. It’s a very somber and reverent time for our little congregation, yet so very sweet. We observe this ordinance twice a year. I’m not sure where we were when we observed it in the fall, but we must not have been there because my daughter said this was her first “real” observance of this ordinance. 

She said, “Mom, I used to smile through it. But tonight, I couldn’t. It just reminded me so much of what Jesus did for me. But now, all I can do is smile because this time I did it for real.”

Joy. Real, honest joy in being obedient. Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever been so overflowing with joy just because you have done what Jesus asked you to do?

It is an amazing feeling. It makes me smile just thinking about it. 

We should experience joy when we are obedient to God. It shouldn’t be burdensome and weary. It should be joyful and energizing and rewarding. 

Matthew 11:30 – “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

How many of us feel like this at the end of the day? We have done all that God has called us to do and what do we do? Complain. Moan. Groan. Whine. 

Some days, His yoke doesn’t feel light. Why is that? I know in my case, it’s a “me” problem. I’m so busy being focused on me and my problems that I forget to see the joy in being obedient. 

So let me encourage you today to choose to see the joy in doing what God has called you to do – whether it be serving on the mission field or serving dinner to the family. Find joy in all you do, especially in your obedience to Him. 

Fill up with Joy

John 15:7-11 – “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of “if…then” statements in the Bible? Now, these in particular don’t have the “then” but it is implied. I think God put these statements in the Bible so that we understand and appreciate that we do have a responsibility. God is not a genie who supplies our ever whim. But rather, He is a loving Father who expects us to be obedient and listen. 

In these few verses, Jesus lays out the perfect plan for my life (and yours, by the way). If we choose to stay in Him (in His Word), then when we ask something, He listens and follows through with whatever we ask, as long as it is in His will. To some, that may sound controlling and domineering and just down right mean. But let’s think about this a moment. As a child, when you went to the grocery store, did your mom promise you a goodie if you would just behave while she was grocery shopping? I can’t tell you how many times I pulled that one out of the hat! Mom says to do what I ask and follow my rules and I will listen to your plea for that piece of candy. God says to do what He asks and follow His rules and He will listen to your pleas. Hmmm…and God calls Himself our Father….see the similarity?

And Jesus gives us the reason for these guidelines – that His joy would be in us and that our joy would be full. If His joy is in us, how could our joy not be full? You see, joy isn’t necessarily happy. Joy is contentment. Joy is a satisfaction in all situations. Joy is knowing that God’s got this and it will all work out according to His will. Joy is releasing your worry and fear and frustrations. 

So today, let me encourage you to to be in His joy. Follow His rules. Listen to His voice and do what He says. Don’t let the Devil cause you undue stress and fear. Just rest in Him and trust that God’s got this. 

Laugh a little

Proverbs 17:22 – “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Friday night, our youth group put on a dinner show – HeeHaw. It was so much fun. All the kids dressed up in a variety of costumes. Even some of the adults got in on the action. I was Minnie Pearl. Man, was it fun! 

There was really nothing spiritual behind it, no real message, except this – Christians can have fun. I think that sometimes, we allow the world to mold our view of what we are supposed to be. This happens in our appearance, our attitude and even our actions. The world thinks that followers of Christ are supposed to be boring and stiff-necked. Well, let me tell you – Friday night in our fellowship hall was anything but boring and stiff-necked. We were laughing, cracking jokes and generally acting the fool. 

God gave us the gift of laughter. He gave us the desire to laugh once in a while. He made our faces to have muscles that will bring our face into a smile. He gave us the ability to laugh at ourself. He gives us the opportunity to enjoy life. We can read about Jesus’s life in the New Testament. And even John records that this wasn’t the entire story. I believe that there were times when Jesus laughed and enjoyed Himself. He had to! Look at the crew He was around. 

My point is this, don’t be a sour puss. Don’t think that being holy is looking like you are a lemon. Righteousness does not require you to be so stuck up that you can’t have a good belly laugh every once in a while. Being a follower of Christ means that you trust Him with it all. And in that trust comes a peace that passes all understanding. And in that peace is joy. And in that joy is laughter. So this week, laugh a little. Enjoy life. Let your heart be merry. Find something to laugh at each and every day. I saw a sign one time that said “He who can laugh at himself will never cease to be amused!” So very true. 

A Piece of Peace

Philippians 4:4-9 – “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

Many people are looking for peace. They are looking for peace in the Middle East. They are looking for peace in their home. They are looking for peace inside themselves. Peace is not elusive. Peace can be found. 

Through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us where and how to find peace – in Jesus. Peace can be found in living for Christ. Let’s look at a few ways to find and know peace in our life:

1. Rejoice, always. Do you always feel like rejoicing? Not me. When traffic is horrible and I’m late for work, I do not feel like rejoicing. But I should. I can choose to look at from this perspective – I get more time to pray and think on God’s word OR I get more time to enjoy the beauty of His creation. It is kind of hard to remember that when you are moving one inch every 10 minutes and you know that you are going to have to stay late because of the ginormous amount of paperwork you need to finish today, but it is possible to change your perspective if you give Him the opportunity to do so. 

2. Let everyone see God’s hand in your life. When you have the opportunity, give a shout out to Jesus. Let those around you know how He is working in your life – good and not so good times. You know, “it was raining yesterday but praise God He reminded me to bring my umbrella.” Little shout outs can make a huge difference. 

3. Pray. Lay it all out for the Lord. He wants to know the good, the bad and the ugly along with the praise, the cheer and the joy. This is like the fast lane to peace – when you give it to Him, your burden is so light you can’t help but embrace peace. 

4. Think on the right things. There is so much in this world that is depressing. It is sometimes hard to find good news. But you have access to THE Good News – the Bible. Choose to remove from your meditation the yuck that is so prevalent in the world today. Choose to think on the things of God which will lead you straight to peace. 

Peace is a beautiful thing. It can come and go because we fail. We don’t hold onto it like we should. We think we can handle things and then puff! There goes peace. Peace comes from a constant relying upon God to handle things. The world is too dark and too ugly to allow true peace to be prevalent on its own. We need the True Light to show us true peace. 

So let me encourage you today, Princess, to seek out a piece of peace. All of these things together will bring you peace. But also, one little slice will bring peace as well. Choose one or choose them all. Try one out and experience a piece of peace like you have never seen. God is ready and waiting to shower His peace upon you.

The Warning

Matthew 25:13 – “ Watch thereforefor ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”

We are finishing up a long hard winter for some people. So much snow and ice and severely cold weather. Yuck! Yet, we have a pretty amazing weather prediction system. The meteorologist can predict weather fairly accurately. They don’t always get it right, but they are pretty close most of the time. 

We hear that a storm is coming, like a snow storm or a hurricane, and what do we do? We go out and stock up on water, can goods, and bread. We make sure that the batteries are working in our flashlights and that we have blankets if we need them. We make sure that we have extra cash, extra medicine and that Fido has extra food. We take every precaution that we can think of. We call our friends and family to make sure that they are prepared. 

But when it comes to our spiritual life, are we so prepared? When people hear that a storm will be passing through their area, they prepare for that short event and the quickly passing consequences. But do we warn others of the eternal consequences of the upcoming storm caused by sin? A day is coming when Jesus will return and the day of repentance will be over. You will warn your friend of the upcoming tornado but would you warn them of the consequences of sin by rejecting Jesus as their Savior? 

I am guilty. I let social pressures get to me. I don’t want people not to like me because I ask them about their eternal future. I like to be liked. But guess what? That won’t show people how to get to heaven. I try very hard to allow God to work through my life and I try very hard to acknowledge Him in all things. And that is good. But what I really need to do is say to people “hey, do you know Jesus?” Yet, those words are elusive to my vocabulary. I fail. 

But there is hope. Today is a new day with new opportunities. I need to be more brave. I need to be more concerned about a person’s spiritual wellbeing than my own popularity. 

That’s my challenge for you today, Princess. Be brave. You would share a weather warning. Make sure you care enough to give out the warning that God has left for us in the Bible – Jesus will return. Are you ready?

A little cup of water

Psalm 100:1-5 – “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

Yesterday, my daughter and I were at the coffee shop. There were several people in there but one in particular caught our eye. She was about a year old with this big round face and chunky little thighs. She had four teeth and was being quite vocal. She wasn’t crying but rather babbling and just being happy.

As we waited for our drinks, the lady who was with this little bundle got her drink and asked for a little cup of water. The barista handed her this super tiny little cup full of nothing but plain, pure water. When the lady brought it over to the little girl, her eyes lit up. She was so excited. The lady began to give her the water out of the cup and oh my goodness….the child was elated! She was squealing with delight. She laughed. She smiled at everyone. Her little arms were going everywhere and her little feet were pumping. She was happy all over – because of a cup of water.

When was the last time you were that joyful over a cup of water?

When was the last time you were that joyful about anything? Let alone anything simple.

We get excited over big things. Things like an upcoming vacation or a nice gift or a good grade achieved on a hard test. But rarely, if ever, do we get excited about a cup of water. Why is that? Why are we so mature that we don’t show our enthusiasm? Why are we not serving with gladness?

We have so much to be joyful about. We have so many blessings to be thankful for. We should be ridiculously glad. It is easy to let our day to day life seem mundane and boring.
We were having some fun the other day at work. A coworker of mine is trying to stop drinking soda. She had had a really challenging morning after a great day the day before and she was ready to head to the comfort of her cola. We had such fun laughing and talking about releasing her from the hold of the devil that he had through her soda. Great fun and laughter yet spiritual truths were being discussed.

Princess, I want to encourage you to live gladly. Take joy in the little things. Choose to be happy. Life is too short for ordinary and mundane. Now, I’m not encouraging you to go crazy over a cup of water but maybe be thankful you have clean water that is refreshing and healthy. And I pray that in amongst your day, you laugh and be joyful. God has given us so much that we should let everyone know where our joy comes from – Jesus.