The Fruit Abides

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 05.09.2017” on Spreaker.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4–5).

Abide. That is your word for today. If you wish to live eternally, abide with eternal God, daily. Seems simple enough, right?

What does it mean to abide? If you were to abide at a certain location until a man of a certain description hands you a check for one million dollars, assuming it’s all legal, ethical, and moral, how would your act of abiding look? How would you behave when you got tired? How would you deal with distractions? What would happen when people tried to convince you that you were in the wrong location? How would any other outlier impact your state of abiding…until you received your check? What if that check would pay for a critical surgery for you because insurance will not cover it? What if your family home is in foreclosure? How would that impact your staying power as you abide?

Unlike my contrived example, there is more than temporal stuff at stake here. If we abide in Christ, we will bear fruit. What fruit? I am so glad you asked. When we abide in union with Christ, we begin to bear the fruit of righteousness. Evil thoughts and tendencies no longer dominate those who’ve learned to abide in Christ. Further, our willingness to do so gives permission to Christ to dwell within us! From this constant state of abiding springs the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, and its manifestations, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22–23).

Let me share 11 verses with you that show abiding behavior:
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:1–11).

If you treasure a vital bond with Christ as more precious than even temporal wealth, ask the Lord to help you exercise valiant effort and staying power to receive the reward for the peaceable fruits of righteousness—eternity with God.




Stop! Thief!

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sabbath, January 28, 2017

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 01.28.2017” on Spreaker.

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

“Stop, Thief!”

“He took my faith! He stole my joy! He took my peace! He stole my willingness to see God’s blessings!”

“Stop, Thief!”

The thief has but one purpose—to take what does not belong to him.

I find it intriguing that Jesus would use the destructive elements of thievery to describe Satan. He did not mince words, speak a cryptic parable, or teach an extended spiritual message this time. Jesus went right down the line and called his enemy by his proper title–thief!

The question is: will you allow the devil to continue to take what is not his? Will you continue to allow him to destroy your peace of mind? Will you continue to yield your joy through lack of prayer? Will you continue to allow him to snatch your wisdom through lack of careful Bible study?

Stop, Thief! Will you continue to allow the devil to swipe your connection with God?

In stark contrast to the devil’s thieving ways is the sterling character of God. Jesus gives abundant life!

In stark contrast to the devil’s thieving ways is the sterling character of God. Jesus gives abundant life! All He takes from us when we yield to Him is anything that hinders eternal life. He takes restlessness and gives rest. He takes the fear and gives love. He takes pride and gives humility. He takes death to give eternal life. He takes uncontrollable urges to sin and gives the power of the Holy Spirit. He takes uncertainty and gives hope.

What’s not to love about such a generous Saviour?

Are you willing to surrender your life to God, especially in these last days, to stop a thief? I hope so! The sooner you do, you will be able to help others in the same way, preparing for the day God finally eliminates him and his thieving ways forever.




Where To Find A Moment Of Peace And Hope

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, October 3, 2016

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7, NLT).

Utopia?

What kind of world would we enjoy if we all recognized, appreciated, and fully embraced the love principle? What if we were all patient and kind? What if none of us cherished envy or pride? Can you imagine? What if none of us were irritable or demanding? What if there was justice everywhere? What if equity always won? Utopia? What if truth and love were the overarching principles of all human interactions? Would rape statistics exist? Would mommy suffer in silence as the children try to figure out why daddy’s clinching his fists, and there is so much yelling? Would social workers, Child Protective Services, and other child advocacy groups have such impossible caseloads? Unfortunately far too many of us give up, lose hope, lose faith, and lose endurance.

Aren’t you glad this is not the end of the story? Aren’t you glad that there is indeed hope in desperate times? You have, no doubt encountered people who have overcome evil in the worst of times, although it stalks their every footstep. The difference is that they have learned to surrender their lives to the God of love, and opened their hearts to receive His guidance. He has put joy in their hearts while they go through trials. He has given peace when all around them seems to be falling apart. He has been a shelter in their times of storm. He is a kind and compassionate Friend.

Learn compassion. Respect freedom. Relish love.




Joy

Shoulders bent, she sat slumped on the couch, drowning in her tears and the turbulent tide of meeting the needs of family, the demands of the job, the unending struggle of going on in the face of chronic pain and staying in a marriage that was more pain than pleasure. And then the chirpingly cheerful voice of the fit, flexible, energetic exercise leader rang out from the television accentuating the rhythm of her movements as she sang out amidst other encouraging things. “Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say rejoice.” Somehow the words then sounded like some shallow slogan, a rah rah cheer or a wishful exhortation to hang in there. Hang in there! Do the best you can!

Is that what this scripture found in Philippians 4:4 amounts to? Is Paul, in these words, beating the bass drum of encouragement, trying to invigorate the energies and boost the spirits of the saints: “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice… .” Was this a kind of sanctified whistling past the graveyard of reality? After all, Paul is increasingly feeble and slow in movement, advanced in years, showing signs of physical weakness, in prison writing during the last years of his life, as he faced impending execution for his stand for Jesus. And yet Paul forcefully exclaims, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”

Since it is difficult to understand this “rejoice always” in the context of the every day, nitty-gritty struggle to survive the living of life, clearly certain points need to be clarified. One is, rejoice is a variant form of the word “joy”. While joy is the Christian virtue, happiness is the virtue of the world. The difference is, happiness is external, circumstantial depending on the things we have or can acquire, things like money, power, fame, a cosmetic make over. All external and when they go happiness goes. Joy is independent of your environment and will persist through any and all circumstances. As Jeanie Burton quips, “Joy has a much longer shelf life than happiness.” While happiness relates to the physical world, joy relates to both the physical world and the spiritual world.

Another clarification is the joy Paul witnesses to and calls us to is joy because of, “Rejoice in the Lord” The secret to joy is not to look at the circumstances of your own life. Rather, look to Christ and what he has done for you and in you and to you. Our joy, our rejoicing, is to be “in the Lord.” To “rejoice in the Lord” is to rejoice that we are the Lord’s. And “in the Lord” we enjoy: peace with God, help in temptation, the assurance of God’s companionship in time of trial. And we also rejoice in the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus.

Joy because of, “rejoice in the Lord,” but also joy in spite of, “rejoice always.”

The word always is emphatic, an active imperative, which in Greek suggests that the action should be continuous. “Rejoice, and keep on rejoicing,” would be an apt paraphrase. But would it be a sensible one when it seems future hopes and dreams have crashed and burned, when catastrophic illness turns everything upside down?

Perhaps your life is filled with tragedy and hardship—and there is plenty to go around. Heaping supplies for those mourning the loss of loved ones, parents agonizing over wayward children. More than enough for those who have gone or are going through the heartache of divorce. For those families with children disabled with physical, emotional, or mental disorders. For those who find themselves struck with a debilitating illness. It’s tough in such situations to feel any joy. In such circumstances does the Lord really expect us to “rejoice in the Lord?” Yes, because “joy in spite of…” always rests on “joy because of… in the Lord.

Now, make no mistake and let me hasten to add that even Paul did not rejoice in the Lord for all circumstances. Rather, we are to rejoice or give thanks in all circumstances. For instance, we don’t rejoice for death or for pain or for divorce or for cancer. But, by the grace of God, it is given us to rejoice in or during or after these difficult and painful circumstances. This does not mean blindness to or denial of the harsh realities of life rather it does mean one does not let the dark realities of life blind him or her to the radiance of joy to be found in the Lord!

Joy like that of the devoted Christian undergoing chemotherapy who was told by a friend, “Under the circumstances, I don’t see how you can be so cheerful.” The patient responded not in pious bravado but in personal conviction. “I’m not under any circumstances. Because of Jesus, I’m on top of the circumstances!”

Joy because of, joy in spite of.