Pursuing Goodness

Pursuing Goodness

John 15:4 (MSG)

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

 

Those little stinkers, my children who plunder my oversized handbag, tossing aside anything that comes between them and the goodies in the bottom of my purse. Yes, those little minions of chaos. The very same ones who discarded my journal probably on the pew somewhere and moved on with the pack. Each service we hide fruit snacks so that when the littles come into the sanctuary – we can bless them. We are grandparents in training who also happen to still have a couple in the nest. So when the little ones come asking for gummies, the big kids are on a mission to grant their request. In doing so, my journal was carelessly tossed aside and left behind somewhere in the sanctuary. My journal represents my connection to Christ. I have documented this journey since 2009 compelled to write down nuggets and truths given to me personally in my pursuit of Christ. Tucked in my closet and high on a shelf are volumes of these books archiving the simple truth that God still talks to those who dare to listen. It seems ironic that in the pursuit of goodies, they have discarded such a sweet and tangible treat.

Live in me. What does that mean? Christ lives in us. He comes to us the moment that we identify Him as our Savior and Lord calling on His Name and turning our life into His Hands. Now what? Like tiny seeds planted deep in the ground changing inside the earth, the Word of God invested in us begins to grow and change us. As it does what was once an unfruitful existence begins to abound in the Goodness of God or at least it should. To bear fruit in our life requires a connection to Christ. A bond that if missing is missed. A tie if severed, one grabs for. His Absence should produce longing. I was distraught this morning to find that my journal had been left behind. Not because it is an expensive item or that anything in it is overly personal, but it represents my connection to Jesus outside of church, worship or people. It is part of that time when we sit together and converse. It is what He tells me that surely must be too important to miss. It is the “AH HA” moments when I finally get it thanks to His Spirit. It documents His Love for me and the fact that He really does care about every facet of my life.

My journal was left behind in children’s pursuit of fruit snacks. We all want such blessings in life…they just get a little bigger and more complex with age. There are so many things that we require of the Lord but forget the one thing that is required to have them. We don’t have to do anything to produce fruit in our life. Righteousness is a gift that can never be earned. Grace paid for it in full and now it belongs to you. You can choose to step in and live in it or go at it on your own. I want to bear fruit in my life. I want to live in the harvests of God. If I were planting a garden filled with wonderful vegetables, I would pay attention to those things I loved and desired. Those would be the ones that I would plant and invest time in cultivating. I wouldn’t plant things like bell peppers because I do not really care for them. If we want Jesus, we have to plant the Word of God in our lie. We need the Holy Spirit to take these seeds and cultivate them in our life and make them grow.

Psalm 34:8-10 (MSG)

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him. Worship God if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness. Young lions on the prowl get hungry, but God-seekers are full of God.

If you do not try God, you will never know if He meets your need. Taste and see that the Lord is good. We have developed a taste for the world. Society cannot satiate the deepest longing in our heart but we can see it, feel it, and touch it, so it must be real. But the Word of God says that all things are possible for those who believe. Impossibility vanishes when someone chooses to step into the Realm of Hope with confidence that there has to be more to life than this and chooses to connect with Him.

God is good. Blessed are those who run to Him. Worship God if you want the best. Worship opens doors to all of His Goodness. Think about that for a minute. We go to church because we think God will bless us and maybe that’s true if our heart is in the right place. But if this is true and we do want the Goodness of God found in worship – why wouldn’t we keep worshiping outside of the four walls of the sanctuary. When we are full of God, the Source of Life is alive in us and fills us to capacity even overflowing in abundance. This is not an overnight process just as the farmer waits so must we if we want a harvest of any kind. God calls it “harvest” for a reason. He is not a man and does not lie. He promises good things to those who invest their life in constant cultivation and sowing seeds of righteousness.

John 15:5-8 (MSG)

 I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

 

Our attachment and connection to Jesus Christ should be “intimate and organic”. I like that. It is a personal connection. This allows us to draw from the source of life itself. It must be intimate. One-on-one, face-to-face without anyone else between us. Organic means that it is raw and real. This organic connection is not manmade. It is a spiritual drawing so deep that human eyes cannot perceive it that begins a process that can only be attributed to the Lord just a seed growing into a plant. We don’t really know how it happens just that when the seed comes in contact with soil, water and sunlight – it knows what to do from the inside out. Christ lives in us. When we immerse ourselves in the Word of God, converse with the Spirit of God, and plant ourselves in a firm foundation of faith with confidence enough to wait something happens from the inside out of us that is organic. We have eternity in our hearts that is trying to make its way out. On the Vine that is Jesus, where is your connection today? How long can you go on holding your breath and hoping to survive until your next encounter with God?

Our daughter loves to challenge herself in the pool. She will swim around “thinking” about it so I know it is coming but it still stops my heart each time. Holding the side of the pool, she will steady herself as she stares at the other side which is 32 feet away. Without warning, she plunges under the water and tries to swim to the other side under water holding her breath. I can tell when she begins to struggle. It stops me from breathing each time. She is expending energy but not oxygenating her blood. Why must she test herself like this? I have no clue. But I also don’t understand why most Christians leave the House of God with the Lord still in it. Locking the doors, getting back to life, and wondering where He is or why He isn’t doing anything? We have everything we need in Jesus to have a productive and satisfying life – we must only stay connected to the Source of Life each and every day rather than pushing ourselves to make it from worship service to prayer service along the way.

Galatians 5:22-24 (MSG)

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

Each Sunday I hide treats away for all the little children to come and find. But my children, who live with me have access to the whole box along with countless other goodies tucked away in the pantry. This is life with God. We can visit church and have an encounter or experience with God or we can choose to live in Him as He lives in us with access to everything we need, want and desire in life. Satisfaction is reserved for those who abide, remain or live in Jesus. Why not take God home with you? Why not let Him ride to work with you? Why not let Him spend Friday or Saturday night with you rather than getting all cleaned up and coming to church? I’ll tell you why. Those who do not live in Jesus do not believe in His Unconditional Love and Overpowering Grace that accepts us and comes to live in us just as we are. Legalism is over. We never did measure up to the Law even when we tried. God wants to give us gifts because He loves us. He blesses us from the outside hoping we will invite Him inside every aspect of our life. All that is required to see fruit spring up into a mighty harvest is to live in the Lord. That’s it. None of those self-imposed mandates but to openly confess Jesus as Savior and Lord stepping into His Love until the connection is so strong that if you are separated – He is missed.

Philippians 3:7-9 (MSG)

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.

 

Are you connected to Christ today? Really connected. The type of connection that causes tension when stretched. Do you miss the Lord if you don’t talk to Him? Do you feel compelled to worship Him every day not just some days? My journal may be locked in the church. Although I write in it every day, it is only representative of what is going on in my heart, mind and soul as I dig deeper and deeper into the Presence of God. I don’t want any distance between me and the One who loves me most. We do not give the Lord a place in our life but rather it is knowing and understanding that He IS our life that we begin to change. Growth is mastered in surrendering all of our life to Christ as a seed yielded to good ground. We will mature and prosper in this place of full submission. Every day given to God by way of Jesus accepting who He is and what He is doing as the very best for my life. Submitting our whole life to Christ is not a sacrifice but total acceptance of God’s Plan including every blessing and bit of goodness that He has hidden away for benefit. Personally, I have not regretted a single “sacrifice” for Christ. It just means giving up less for so much more. It means loading up the Lord and taking Him everywhere we go and allowing Him to be present in everything we do knowing, trusting and believing that He is Good! Just as all those little people rush into church looking for goodies that they know I have brought, what if we approached God with the same childlike faith? Throwing away every worthless thing looking for the prize of our high calling in Christ.  What if we dug deeper and deeper into His Presence embracing Him tightly, letting go of the past, forgetting all the worthless goals and aspirations of self and calling out for more of Him than ever and refusing to let go until He blessed us with more of Him? What would happen? I don’t know why don’t we try it and find out!

Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

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