Friday, April 17, 2020

How to Abide in Christ In a Pandemic

(April 17, 2020 - my front yard - SNOW!)

Jesus told his disciples that, if they abide in him, their lives will bear much fruit. "Abide" can be translated "to dwell."

Imagine Linda and I knock on your door. "We've come for a visit," I say. Presumably, you will let us in and put on the coffee. 

But if we knock on the door, and I say, "We've come to dwell with you," you are wondering if we are homeless.

To visit is a microwave, to abide is a slow cooker.

To abide in Jesus is to connect. Like a branch is attached to a vine. Jesus is the vine; I am the branch.

As I am a branch, the resources of the vine flow into me. I begin to produce the life of the vine. I produce VineLife.

To produce VineLife I must choose to do something. I cannot just sleep in my recliner while half-watching Netflix and expect to do what Jesus did. I must connect!

Here are ways I connect. And remember, when you connect to Jesus the Vine, your life will be fruit-bearing. It just will. You cannot be connected to Jesus and not be fruit-bearing. 

1. I meditate on Scripture. I read Scripture. When I read something that speaks to me, I assume this God, trying to tell me something. This makes me a slow reader! If you could see me reading Scripture you would see moments where I've got my eyes closed, my hand on my chin, and my body is still. 
When God speaks to me through a passage or verse in the Bible, I stop reading, and start meditating. I may write the verse in my journal. I often write it on a 3X5 card, place it in my pocket, and carry it with me.
For example, weeks ago, while reading through part of Proverbs, I came to this.

2. I keep a record of what God is saying to me. This is a spiritual journal. I often take time to re-read what God has been saying to me. I have gone through a lot of journals in the past fifty years! I recently bought a new one, which I like. Here it is.

3. I practice spiritual disciplines. The apostle Paul spoke of exercising in the spiritual gymnasium (going into "strict training"). Paul told me that, if I want to compete in the game of life, I must "exercise unto godliness." 
In 1981 a friend of ours, Dr. John Powell, gave me a copy of Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. John has been one of the most influential persons in my life (Linda's, too!). As I began to read this book, God was speaking to me. I read many books. But only a few have transformed my heart. This was one. My abiding life in Christ took a quantum leap forward! The connection-disciplines in this book became my spiritual DNA.   
The spiritual disciplines themselves don't produce the fruit. They provide the attachment. The Holy Spirit produces the fruit.

4. I pray. I have a praying life. I have done this for so many years Foster's book helped me here, too. He also wrote a beautiful book on prayer. (Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home
In praying I speak to, and I listen to God. I have conversations with God. The discipline of choosing to pray has moved from my head ("I need to pray!") to my heart ("I pray to live!").
An excellent book on listening to God is Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, by Dallas Willard.

In this season of my life I continue to read, slowly, Proverbs. And Psalms. I am also reading Ezekiel, slowly, from the Old Testament. And I am re-reading, slowly, the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

One more suggestion. My book on prayer can be read devotionally. Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

I hope this helps - blessings!