Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Abiding Advantage: Elements of God's Best

I’m embarrassed to admit I wasted more than a decade in my walk with Christ. 

During that time, I wasn’t trying to be like Christ, nor was I allowing Christ to reveal Himself in me. I continued to exist as I always had. For the first dozen years of so, it was as if I’d accepted the gift of Christ but never unwrapped the package. I kept the Lord neatly confined, as if I could contain Him on a bookshelf in my bedroom. 

As I attended church, eventually the Lord became a tool I’d take out and use when I felt despair or trouble. Over a longer time period, Jesus opened my eyes for my true need for Him. Not just during the times when I was falling apart, but also in the monotonous moments. Not only when I couldn’t resist temptation, but as I mothered my children, cared for my husband, and served my employer. 

The Lord helped me realize that I needed to lean on Him as I honored my parents and struggled in relationships. He was available for me in every situation and in each moment - not only in the profoundly painful, but in the jubilant joys as well.

Little by little, I began to abide in Christ and my life began to change for the better. 

What does it mean to abide in Christ?

Jesus likened Himself to a vine and His followers as branches. 

He teaches in John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (HCSB)

The Greek word translated “abide” means “to remain.”  

It references one’s position (staying, tarrying with), 

time (to endure, to last), and 

a state or condition (to become like).  

Consider those three phases of the definition.  Abiding is a physical position - next to Christ.  With Him to the point that we allow Him to supply all that we need. It’s a permanent, enduring position that causes us to become more like Him and allow His light to become evident through us. Of course the word picture in the Bible was perfectly chosen. He is the vine and we are the branches. 

When abiding in Christ, we spend time with Him and don’t withdraw. We continue and grow as disciples of Him. Through our investment of time with Jesus, in His Word, Biblical meditation, and prayer, we grow in our relationship with Him and continually live out His example and commands. 

Abiding is a spiritual journey that manifests through physical advantages:  

1) A growing relationship with Christ.   

It’s impossible to develop a relationship with anyone we don’t spend time with or have intentional interaction. If we never see our spouse, the tendency is to withdraw instead of connecting more deeply. When someone neglects spending time with us, the natural course of the friendship is to unravel.  

Conversely, when we share someone’s company, we learn about each other and become emotionally close. The same principle applies to a relationship with Christ. The more time we spend with Him in His Word and in prayer, the closer we’ll feel to Him, and the more intimately we’ll know Him. 

By knowing Christ, we’ll learn His character, and begin to spot His activity in even the small things.  Soon we’ll find that we see Him everywhere - in the magnificent and the miniature. We’ll recognize him in sunsets, songbirds, and the laughter of a child. We’ll begin to realize how He makes us laugh, bring us to tears, and thrills our hearts. We’ll reciprocate the feeling when He calls us friend and rejoice in these gifts!

2)  Fruit and Power of the Holy Spirit. 

When Jesus becomes Lord of our lives and we accept His gift of salvation, "His Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. Literally, the Holy Spirit dwells within the children of God. His power works within us." 1  The Word teaches that the Holy Spirit acts as our Counselor and Teacher (John 14:26) and in many other capacities as outline throughout Scripture.  Galatians 5:21-22 illustrates the fruit of the Holy Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Spiritual gifts manifest in our lives according to 1 Corinthians 12. 

If you’re like me, perhaps you spent years of your Christian walk feeling the absence of such desirable fruit. You longed to receive His counsel and wisdom. When someone asked about your spiritual gifts, like me, you may have answered, “He didn’t give me any.” 

The Holy Spirit has no need to equip us for service and lavish Himself upon us when we’re not drawing from Christ as our lifeline. When our branch is separated from the vine of Christ, we miss out on the tremendous blessings and gifts that the Holy Spirit offers. Once we begin to abide in Christ, we experience His presence, fruit, and gifts, like never before. The power of the Holy Spirit begins to become obvious in our lives through a lifeline of connectedness to Jesus.

3)  A Steadfast, Personal Identity In Christ.  

Do you know who you are in Christ? Do you really know that you’re His, that He loves you, and that no weapon formed against you will prosper?  I admit, I still struggle in this area, but the more I abide in Him, the stronger I become. 

I shared my heart on this topic in a recent video.  Instead of restating it, I ask that you follow this link. I pray you’ll be blessed. (The video is short - about 4 minutes).

I love the way Sara Young describes this abiding advantage:  “Knowing (Jesus) intimately is like having a private wellspring of joy within you… so that your joy is independent of circumstances.” 2   

I couldn’t agree more.  Intimacy with Him brings a bounty of glorious blessings that reside within us.

An intimate relationship with Christ comes through abiding with Him and results in His blessings lavished upon us. We soon recognize Him as the provider of all of our strength, wisdom, gifts, fruit and so much more. 

Abiding in Christ is an element of God’s best that is ours to experience when we devote our lives to Him.  

Your Turn:

Can you recount a noticeable difference in your life that came when you began to abide in Christ?

What “Abiding Advantages” would you add to my list?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or connecting on Facebook or Twitter. 

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word
Psalm 119:28


1 Cathy McIntosh, Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit (SW Publishing, 2012), 10
2 Sarah Young, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2004) 242

Friday, August 14, 2015

Elements of God's Best

You’ve heard me say it for years now:  

The aim of Strengthened by the Word Ministries is to 
help women recognize and embrace God’s best.

So often, I visit with women who feel “stuck.” We believe there must be more to this life than the daily grind of diaper changing - homework helping - office working - meal preparing - laundry folding - toilet cleaning - life.  In a world where we’re pressured to portray the perfect life yet feel we’re all alone on the ride, there must be something better.

It breaks my heart when our vision narrows until it can’t extend beyond our current season of life. We feel discouraged. Trapped. Unfulfilled. Joyless. 

My response is like an over-exuberant cheerleader as I chant to you, “Let’s embrace God’s best in every moment!”

Sometimes you look at me with weary, bleary eyes. I can see you’re “out of gas.” Not only are you already pulled in too many directions to even consider pursuing more, perhaps you have no comprehension about what I speak. 

You might think, “Cathy, you must be talking to someone else, because if this is what God has for me, I’m about finished with it.”

I’ve been there too. I’ve spent years and years in that very place.

But there is more! There is something better.  

There is joy in every season of life when we invite God in - even into the routine and mundane. God can provide fulfillment in dirty diapers (yes, you read that correctly) and monotonous office work. He can bring encouragement in the eternal purposes found in the tedious things of life. 

I hear you say, “Show me. Because IF that exists, I’d love to embrace it!”

I see your glances of doubt and with my imaginary pompoms waving, I shout to you, “God’s best is right here! It’s for YOU! Embrace it! Embrace it!  Yaaaaaaay, Embrace it!”  Can you picture my cadenced claps and foot stomps? 

My prayer is that over the next weeks - as the idea of God’s best begins to clarify, as you begin to recognize all the Lord offers to those whom He loves (that’s us!), you’ll see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice. (Isaiah 60:5) 

Know that I’m talking about something much deeper than a “prosperity gospel” as I share Elements of God’s Best through my posts.  The elements will look far greater than ease, comfort, and wealth. They’re made of the deep stuff that satisfies the soul. 

I invite you to come: receive filling from God’s abundance and to drink from His refreshing stream.  (Ps 36:8)  I invite you to take a leisurely stroll with me to smell the proverbial roses of God’s best - so that when you walk the path on your own you, too, will recognize all He has for you.  And once you recognize it, I believe you’ll embrace it whole-heartedly. 

But first things first.  In order to embrace God’s best, we must first acknowledge Him as the Lord and leader of our lives. We surrender to Him - not just through belief in Jesus as Lord (even the demons believe that…), but by inviting Him into our lives so that we may heed His counsel and guidance.  I’ve written more about that here  and hope you’ll take the time to examine your heart on this matter. Our salvation is the firm bedrock on which all of our joy is built. Without it, we’re literally unable to recognize and embrace God’s best. It’s not a process we can skip or overlook. 

We’ll soon embark on an exciting journey together, beginning with what I believe is a foundational piece: Pursuing an abiding relationship with Christ.  I’m excited to share my heart with you and hope you’ll meet me here again with my next post! 

Your Turn:

When you consider “God’s best,” what comes to mind?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or joining me on Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28