Abiding Fruit – Part 2

As God’s Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ, we abide in His abundant love forever. We keep His commandments and love our friends, relatives, associates and neighbors with the love of the Lord (Matthew 22:37-39; John 15:10).

The Vine existed long before the branches ever grew, and He sacrificially shares His love and life with us (1 John 4:19). We choose to fully commit to our relationship with the Vine (John 15:16).

Separated from the Vine, we can do nothing (John 15:5). We display the fruit of the flesh, which is envy, strife, hatred, self-centeredness, criticism, worry, depression, pride, bitterness, complaining, quitting, backbiting, loving our self more than others, loving money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to our parents, ungrateful, unholy, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; inventing ways of doing evil; disobeying our parents; and as adults, we put work and fun ahead of God (2 Timothy 3:2; Romans 1:30).

Abiding in the Vine gradually renews our heart and replaces these negative issues with the fruit of God’s Spirit, which we bear through our obedience to Him. This is the evidence of our union with the Vine (John 15:13).

We rest in His grace and renew our strength as we wait on Him (Isaiah 40:31). His Spirit directs us each moment of the day (John 16:13). We increase God’s Kingdom by our obedience to Him and His Word (Mark 4:26).

God’s fruit in our life is proof of our faith in God (James 2:14-26). We abide in Him, but He also abides in us, completing the sanctifying work of holiness, which He started in us at salvation (Philippians 1:6, 2:12-13).

Prayer:
Father God, let us never break our connection with Your Vine. The life we receive through Your presence in our spirit is not paralleled by anything this world has to offer.

Help us to exhibit affection for others, an exuberance about life, serenity through the storms, determination and patience, a compassionate heart, and kindness that pervades our entire being (Galatians 5:22-23).

We trust that You have this world in Your control and have a perfect timetable for its culmination and the renewal of all things. Remind us to live humbly in service to You and others, and continually guide us by Your Spirit.

Thought for the Day:
Our God, who called us, is faithful to us and will fulfill us and care for us until we abide with Him in eternity. – 1 Thessalonians 5:24

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That Feeling of Intimacy

So many people tell me that they no longer feel God’s intense presence like they once did, and they want that feeling back. They say that God left them alone in the wilderness, and they cannot find His presence. This is impossible. God lives within us (Colossians 1:27). There is no way that He would ever leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

If we do not feel His presence it is for one of two reasons. Maybe we sinned and grieved the Holy Spirit. When this happens, God turns His back because He cannot look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13). The other reason is that He is enjoying some companionable silence with us; and in our insecurity, we fail to realize that He is still and always will be right here within us.

God is constantly near us. He sees us no matter where we are or what we are doing (Psalm 139:8). He fills the heavens and earth, and this includes the lives of those who put their trust in Him (Jeremiah 23:23-24). The first step in restoring our intimacy is to allow God’s Spirit to search our heart (Psalm 139:23-24). He will point out to us any idol or sin, which is blocking the connection between Him and us.

The second step is to relax and enjoy God’s companionable silence. We do not need goose bumps, constant revelation from His Word or His still, small voice within us in order to believe that He is with us. We have His promise that He is there, and that is all we really need. Rather than seeking a feeling, just spend time praising God, because our connection with Him can never be lost.

Prayer:
Father God, You inhabit the praises of Your people (Psalm 22:3). There is no quicker way to connect to Your presence in us than to praise You with an obedient heart full of gratitude and trust. Remind us that once we are free from unconfessed sin, empty of all known idols and trusting in Your goodness, we will bask in the waterfall of Your love, which You pour over those who rest in Your will.

Thought for the Day:
Never allow Satan to convince you that this perceived “dry spell” means that God is withholding His presence from you; confess known sin and then enjoy His companionable silence by sitting still and knowing that He is Your God now and forever. – Psalm 46:10

God’s Presence in Trials

God’s goal, through His Spirit, is to sever our connection to the vine of the flesh, the world and the devil, and to graft us into the Vine of Christ. He does this through the process of salvation. Then God’s Spirit continues to convict us of our sins, as well as to give us the desire and the power to relinquish it (Philippians 2:12-13).

Our Savior dwells within us, and cannot associate with fleshly pursuits. He provides trials to insure that no flesh glories in His presence, but that He receives all of the glory due to His name (Psalm 29:2). God never uses trials for punishment, but He will use them to discipline us for our protection. God only withdraws His presence from us when we sin.

God also allows failure in our ministry or personal life to humble us into realizing that we do not live life according to our will, but according to His will. God may even allow our body to fail in some area, as a testimony that prayer is the only reason we are still living. In fact, God may chose not to heal us on earth, but to take us Home with Him in Heaven.

We do not need to live in fear and desperation; but simply to live in intimate fellowship with our Jesus, who abides within us. We get lost in His presence and affection. He fills us with His Spirit and thrills our soul with His blessings. There is no relationship on earth equal to this, because He knows us from the inside out.

We do not name and claim the victory, but we cooperate, as Christ in us works out our deliverance and sanctification (Psalm 18:6). Even our negative circumstances, when they are in the will of God for us, work out for our good (Romans 8:28). God will use trials to draw us back to Himself and to prove His love for us (2 Chronicles 15:4).

Prayer:
Father God, the Rock of Ages is our foundation, which no person or demon can ever shake. You allow us to be tested beyond our strength; often pressed out of the area of our expertise and abilities; but not beyond Yours. You do this so that we will learn not to trust in our self. Give us Your grace, as You use trials to prove us. Remind us to take You at Your Word and to believe in Your promise of ultimate victory.

Thought for the Day:
God purifies our life through fire, proves our faith as genuine when we go through various trials and suffering, and He will present our faith at the return of Christ to the earth. – 1 Peter 1:7

Trials are not Punitive

Some people think that if someone is going through a prolonged illness, time out of work, heart-wrenching grief or a trial of some sort, that God is trying to teach them something; and that once they learn it, they will be freed from the trial. Those in the trial beat themselves up by thinking they need to pray more, read their Bible more or make some attempt to appease God’s wrath.

This causes people to doubt their connection to the Lord and gives them hours of unrest and soul searching. Trials are not only times of correction and repentance, but also of renewal and sweet fellowship with our Father God. God is jealous and enjoys having us all to Himself. We find our self lost in the presence of God. We surrender all control to Him.

During times of trial, we have an abundance of time to spend with God. When we think back on those days of horrid illness, stress or persecution, we smile; not because we are masochists and love pain, but because our normal schedule is totally interrupted and we have free time. We are isolated from the world and able to spend that sweet time of oneness with the Lord.

Often, the Lord will give us a “holiday” through a trial, during which we can spend focused time worshipping the Beloved of our soul. During trials, do not trust in your own efforts or expect generosity from family, church and friends. Instead, wait with your whole soul – your mind, will and emotions – and put complete hope in the Lord and His Word.

Prayer:
Father God, You hear our voice in the morning, as we lay our requests before you and wait expectantly on You (Psalm 5:3). You love to spend all of Your time with each one of us. The next time we are without work, isolated by sickness or find our self alone through the death of a loved one or the devastation of divorce, we will take this time to spend entirely with You. When we do, we always find our self irrevocably changed in spirit, soul and body.

Thought for the Day:
We walk in the ways of the Lord and wait for Him, because His name and fame are the desires of our heart. – Isaiah 26:8

Living in the Center of God’s Will

Creation is a constant confirmation of the existence of God (Romans 1:20). Nature never toils or spins, but is provided for by God’s constant vigil over it. God cares even more for humanity than for the environment (Matthew 6:25-34; Psalm 19:1-3). We are united with God as a branch on the Vine, a separate entity, but useless alone. We would perish without our relationship to the Vine. In our connection, we live as one with Him, in the same way that nature dwells in harmony with God (Psalm 65:9-13).

God loves us so much that He died to take for us the punishment of our sins. He desires an intimate relationship with all of those who will worship Him in Spirit and without hypocrisy (John 4:24). Even when we are counted worthy to suffer as Jesus did (Acts 5:41), we can look to Him. In every circumstance, He has a higher purpose in it for us and for His Kingdom. As we live in the center of God’s will with the exhibition of our contentment and commitment, we bring Him joy.

With our focus on God, we live in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). This means that we no longer concern our self with life in this carnal world; but instead, we focus on eternal matters each day of our life. What is God’s purpose in where we live, work, shop, attend church and function in this life? We hear from the mind of God each moment of the day and look for His intention in every opportunity, roadblock and trial we experience.

We no longer have any desires apart from those God gives us. We find no terror in adversity, no joy in sin and no concern over decisions made by those who rule over us. We trust only in God’s will in all things, because He is in ultimate control (Ezekiel 38:4; Romans 13:1). As we walk in God’s will, we rest from worry and stress, because we have assurance that God knew it would occur before He created the world (Ephesians 1:4; Romans 8:29). This allows us to walk in His power (2 Peter 1:3).

Prayer:
Father God, You never command us to make our own light shine, but simply instruct us to allow Your light in us to shine in such a way that everyone will see Christ in us and glorify You (Matthew 5:16). We live in Your light in this world; and sometimes, we never even need to say a Word. Of course, the ultimate rebuke in these verses is not to hide our light under the bushel basket of human effort and worldly gain, but always to walk in Your ways, by Your Spirit’s direction and energy.

Thought for the Day:
Nothing is ever too hard for Christ within us. – Jeremiah 32:17, 27