Tag: Abide

Keys to Making it for the Long Haul

I couldn’t believe it, and it broke my heart.

For more than 20 years, Susan and I had always received this family’s end-of-year updates, complete with a great picture of husband, wife and kids.  It was always a great general update on these two college friends of mine, who’d married shortly after we all graduated. They shared about how their kids were growing and what they were doing, how the husband’s ministry to destitute and addicted men was super difficult yet so rewarding and how the wife’s work with a nationwide ministry to youth and young adults was right up her alley; a ministry and minister match made in heaven. The update was always brimming with faith, hope and love; exactly what I’d expect from this wonderful family whom I’d always known to have Jesus at the center.

Then we got the heart-breaking update last week. It was immediately apparent that something was amiss when I saw the picture at the bottom of the letter. There was mom and her now adult kids; but dad was missing. In the paragraphs above that incomplete family photo, Mom apologized for having not gotten an update out for the past several years. She went on to say how she’s struggled with exactly how to give an update during a very difficult situation. She shared how she’d continued to have “hope and belief” as they got “much counseling” and made “repeated efforts” for “healing and reconciliation.” Then came the punch-in-the-gut line, “We’re divorced.”

Ever had one of those surreal, this-can’t-be-happening or this-happens-to-other-people-but-not-me or -them moments? I had one of those on July 1, 1992 when I received the call telling me my wife’s 33-year-old brother – husband, father of 3-year-old twins and an 11-month old, attorney and deeply devoted lover and follower of Jesus – had just been shot to death in the Tarrant County Courthouse. Well, last week I had another one of those moments. “What? Are you kidding me?! They are divorced?”

At this moment, I have no idea what happened in this couple’s relationship that led to their divorce, and I don’t have a critical or judgmental thought in my mind or bone in my body toward them, or any divorcees, for that matter. I’m a very firm believer in, “There but for the grace of God, go I,” (John Bradford) and, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). As I said at the start, I’m simply heart broken. Oh, the pain this man, woman, the children, their extended families, close friends and colleagues must have experienced and continue to feel.

Why do I share that tiny snippet of a very difficult and painful story? Because as 2017 wound down and 2018 cranked up recently, it was just one of several big, complex and challenging situations either very near or somewhat near to my life. And all these hard things led me once again, as I’ve done numerous times before, to slow down and ponder questions such as these:

“HOW CAN WE, LOVERS AND FOLLOWERS OF JESUS, NOT CRASH AND BURN IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES, FAMILIES AND FAITH WALKS IN CHRIST?”

“How can we avoid the slippery slopes that lead to falling into sin, pain, addictions and destruction?” “How can we not become a John 24:12, ‘the-love-of-most-will-grow-cold’ statistic?” “How can we make every effort, by the grace and power of God, to stay near to the heart of Jesus and endure to the end?”

There are a hundred, if not a thousand, solid, biblical answers to these kinds of questions. Vincent Carpenter happened to preach on THE key this past Sunday – abiding in Jesus.  But as I prayed through what I’m sharing here, I sensed the Holy Spirit highlight a couple of slippery slopes to avoid and another key to being an endure-to-the-end disciple of Jesus.

HERE THEY ARE:

  • Don’t lust // If you want to get serious about it, use filters and accountability programs on your internet-enabled devices, and don’t channel surf without your wife and/or someone else to whom you can be accountable present with you.
  • Avoid the comparison trap // Scripture says in everything give thanks. That includes giving thanks for how your Heavenly Father cares for and has handmade you AND how He cares for and has handmade others.  The next time you’re tempted in your heart or conversation with someone to compare yourself with someone else, thank God for them – and yourself – and bless them instead. Let’s all adhere to the Antioch Kids Ministry mantra, “Don’t compare and don’t complain!”
  • Live in the living Word of God, and let it live in you every day // It’s irreplaceable and oh so satisfying in the life of an endure-to-the-end disciple! Job says, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food,” (Job 23:12). Jeremiah says, “Your words were found and I ate them,” (Jeremiah 15:16). And Jesus says, “(let) My words abide in you,” (John 15:7).  What if you got to December 31st of this year and you could say, “I spent time in the Word every day this year”? It certainly wouldn’t be anything to brag about. But mixed with some, “now fill me, Holy Spirit!” every day, you’ll be more powerful and victorious than the Alabama Crimson Tide (Yep, 1985 graduate.)

By Steve Findley, AMI Director of Pastoral Care

 

Reset // Abiding

Today Vincent Carpenter continued our series, Reset, with a message on abiding. Not only does Jesus call us to abide in Him when it comes to big decisions, He wants us to abide in Him in the day in and day out. When we are abiding in Jesus, He makes the impossible possible.

TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF OUR TAKEAWAYS FROM TODAY’S MESSAGE:

  • When I see God working in someone else’s life, I’m inspired because I know He can work in my life.
  • God is calling us to be people who abide.
  • Abiding starts with knowing God in our daily lives.
  • Abiding is the day by day, moment by moment, pursuit of God.
  • When we abide, we:
    • Recognize God’s voice
    • Ask God for direction in our day to day activities
    • Respond to what we sense He is doing
  • God cares for us in the simple things, so I know He also cares for me when it comes to big things.
  • When we respond to God in the middle of our situations, we learn more about what He is like.
  • God wants us to know what He is doing in our daily life.
  • The pruning that happens to us is God’s way of beautifying us and glorifying Himself.
  • In Christ, your mistakes have been taken away and your slate has been made clean.
  • Unclean people can’t abide in Christ because they feel guilty.
  • When we are confident that we have been made clean, we can come to God on a Sunday morning and stay with Him throughout the rest of the week.

By Vincent Carpenter – Teaching and Administrative Pastor / Executive Team

 

 

Abide

Can I just have a little honest moment with you?

I have really been struggling to abide.

Prior to moving to Ann Arbor, I lived in Boston for two and a half years while studying for my doctoral degree in Physical Therapy. For those of you who have not lived in New England or encountered native New Englanders, let me tell you, these people are fiercely passionate about their gardens in the best way possible. I remember multiple patients giving me weekly updates about their tomatoes, their green beans, their lettuce, their peppers and the list goes on. In fact, I distinctly remember one patient telling me that as the gardener, his job was to intimately know his plants, know what would harm them, create an environment that would foster growth, and prune them to prepare for future growth. Each week when I finished treating that patient, there was no doubt in my mind that this man loved his garden.

Fast forward to last weekend, our pastor spoke on John 15 and the concept of abiding. I started getting restless in my seat as he spoke. I became like a small child squirming around, and I suddenly forgot how to discipline myself to sit still for 45 minutes. I was uncomfortable and just wanted to zone out.

ISN’T IT FUNNY HOW THE LORD PUTS THINGS RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSE WHEN WE AREN’T WALKING IN HIS WAY?

That’s what Sunday was for me – a strict realization that I struggle with abiding because I often try to find fulfillment in everything (a job, an event, a reputation, a status, a friendship, an accomplishment, etc.) other than living in a place of abiding with Jesus. I was convicted of finding contentment in my earthly circumstances instead of finding contentment in the presence of Jesus despite my circumstances. I was deeply convicted of being in a place of complacency, where I was okay with not abiding.

I was later processing with the Lord as I was cleaning my house and he sweetly reminded me of my patients who were gardeners in Boston. Earthly gardeners long to spend time in their gardens because they want to see their garden thrive. The gardener knows that a harvest does not happen without a life-giving source and without cutting away the dead parts of the plant to produce more fruit.

JOHN 15 IS ABOUT THE SAME THING.

Our heavenly Father is the master gardener. He longs to spend time with us. He, as the vine, is the only source that fruit can grow from because without the vine, there can be no life.

And by being in a place of complacency, where I was okay with not abiding, it is almost as if I was saying that I am okay cutting myself off from the vine because I don’t think I need the life from the vine to produce fruit.

As I was on my knees a few nights ago repenting of this sour, filthy attitude and nature of my complacency, I asked the Lord to replace this with an unquenchable thirst for the presence of Jesus. To replace my tendency for self-reliance with a total dependence on the presence of Jesus. To fill even the deepest crevices of my heart with a longing to abide, resulting in experiencing the transformative power that only the presence of Jesus brings.

And through it all, the Lord so gently and graciously continues to remind me that His command has not changed — to be faithful in soaking up, sitting in and walking in the presence of Jesus – to abide.

IN RESPONSE

This week, I encourage you to read John 15 and ask the Lord to highlight areas you have excluded His presence or relied more on your independence than the dependence that comes from walking with Him. John 15 explicitly states that apart from Him (the vine), we (the branches) can do nothing. What areas of your life are you operating apart from Jesus and apart from the life-giving presence of the vine?

By Christina – this post is originally from Antioch Ann Arbor. Check out more of their posts here.