Last week, I confessed that I had no (correct) idea about what the word “prodigal” meant. That confession was easier than this week’s. 😉
This week, when I first asked myself, “Why do I do the good things I do,” my initial response was, “to get closer to Jesus and to bring others closer to Him as well.”
Maybe my years as a kids pastor had me programmed to quickly raise my hand and give that correct church answer in hopes of winning some candy.
I didn’t get the candy.
Nor did I get the peace in my heart that I had answered the question 100% honestly.
Had I been answering the question, “Why SHOULD a Jesus girl do good things?” I would’ve been absolutely correct. But as I shared in this week’s video, that wasn’t the question.
This week on Facebook, I saw a video of a fun elementary school teacher giving his class a spelling “pop quiz”. The kids didn’t know it ahead of time, but it was a brilliant April Fools’ Day joke in which the teacher made up words and threw in 3 or 4 “silent letters” at the end of many of the words. It was a great joke.
I almost felt like the internet was playing a joke on me when I looked up the word “prodigal” that I heard for the the first time as a kid in church. I was sure that it meant “lost” or “wayward”, because the prodigal son in the Bible was always the lost and wayward son.
John 15:9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. (NLT)
In the last two weeks, we’ve been camping out in John chapter 15 (the REMAIN or ABIDE chapter), and we’ve seen how Jesus instructs us to:
Remain in Him,
Remain in His Word,
and today….(drumroll, please,)
Remain in His Love.
Truly, I thought talking about His love was going to be the easiest and most cheery. That was until I got stuck on the one phrase in verse 9:
“…even as the Father has loved me.”
That’s how Jesus says He will love us.
When I asked the question, “Just HOW did God love Jesus?”, sorry for being a Dory Downer, but my mind immediately went to all the suffering He allowed His Son to endure.
John 15:7-8 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. (NLT)
I find it fascinating that twice in John chapter 15 (verses 4 and 5), Jesus says, “If you remain in Me and I (He – Jesus – remains) in you”, but in verse 7 He says, “If you remain in Me, and MY WORDS remain in you, you can ask anything you want, and it will be granted.”
Why did He switch it from “I” to “My words” remaining in us?
I’ve been a bit under the weather the past almost two weeks, and when you live in Illinois, under the “weather” could mean something different every day. I was bummed to cancel all my music students last week to not share the love with them, but the really bright side was it allowed me all kinds of time to hang out in John chapter 15, and dig deeper than I ever had before.
This week’s post has more of a Bible study format, and I consider it my “thank You note” to God for allowing me to get sick, 🙂 for directing me to this amazing chapter, and for drawing me back into more study of His Word.
I will forever call it the “REMAIN” chapter, as Jesus says the word “remain” 8 times in the first 9 verses. I spent hours each day, and still only got through verses 1-17, which seemed to easily fall into 3 sections:
REMAIN in Him. (John 15:1-6)
REMAIN in His Word. (John 15:7-8)
REMAIN in His love. (John 15:9-17)
I so very much want to get better at all three.
“THROW AWAY YOUR LIFE.” …Shari Tvrdik
This past weekend was quite inspirational to say the least.
On Saturday night, I attended a missions banquet put on by Cup of Cold Water Ministries. There were highlights of missionaries serving around the world, and my dear friend (whose family just returned from eight years of service in Mongolia) spoke about throwing your life away for the sake of the Gospel. She communicated with such assurance that denying ourselves to follow God’s lead is the only way to truly live.
Even if God’s lead takes you and your four kids from rural Happytown U.S.A. to the slums of Mongolia with no indoor plumbing and negative fifty-degree weather.
And I believe her. I listened to her and remembered the “welt belt” of flea bites I wore around my waist for weeks at a time in the winter when I lived in Chile. The only way to ease the pain and swelling was to put ice cubes directly on the bites to numb them, while the air inside our house averaged 40-45 degrees at night. And I still look back on those years in Chile as the best years of my life.
Last week, I shared some practical ideas to improve our “loving like Jesus” skills. One practical idea was to look over the list of the 15 descriptions of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7…
(patient, kind, not jealous, not boastful, not proud, not rude, doesn’t demand it’s own way, not irritable, keeps no record of wrongs, doesn’t rejoice with injustice, rejoices when truth wins out, never gives up, never loses faith, always hopeful, perseveres)
…and then decide which one of the 15 you need the most work on, and ask God to help you grow to love like He does in that area.
Today, I wanted to dial it in on one – the one appropriately placed at the very end of the list – love endures all things.
“Now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34 NLT)
I confess that I don’t love others like Jesus does.
I really want to, but I don’t.
I really want others to experience the love of Jesus and be drawn to Him by my words and actions, but I fall short.
Here are five ways I would tell someone else to get started in loving like Jesus. I’m going to intentionally live out these five this week:
One of my new favorite chapters in the Bible is Matthew chapter 14. From start to finish, it is packed with action, and its three stories force me to take acton when:
I doubt God’s heart,
I doubt God’s fairness,
and I doubt God’s plan.
Jesus and Peter Walk on Water (Matthew 14:22-32)
It’s a story you hear as a child if you grow up in church. It was stormy. The disciples were rocking back and forth in a boat. They look out and think they see a ghost, but it’s Jesus walking on the water. Peter yells, “If it’s really You Lord, tell me to come out to You.”
(Which by the way, I’ve always thought if I were Peter, I would’ve picked something entirely different to ask of Jesus by which to assure me it was really Him. Anyone – or any ghost or any alien – could’ve replied to him, “Sure Peter, come on out!”)
Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s ever been caught up for at least a minute by this one very insignificant thought about Peter in this story. 🙂
But back to the story:
Peter gets out of the boat, and finds that he too can now walk on water. But then he takes his eyes off of Jesus and lets doubt creep in, and he starts sinking fast. Jesus catches him, asks him why he has such little faith, they get in the boat, Jesus calms the storm and all is well.
The moral of the story is twofold: Don’t be afraid to get out of your boat (AKA, comfort zone) and when you get out, don’t take your eyes off of Jesus. Or more simply put – don’t fear, and don’t doubt.
And if we end it there, I would wholeheartedly agree that I need to hear this most important message over and over. I need to let it ring in my heart and mind each and every day.
Don’t fear. Get out of your comfort zone.