Wednesday, August 27, 2014

8th Grade Reflections on John 15

God is moving in and through my 8th graders. Together we read and discussed John 15. The students wrote responses to the passage. They were thoughtful, personal, and beautiful.

  • "Verses 4-8 it talk about how you should remain in the Lord, like He does to you. The definition of remain is: to continue to exist after other similar or related people have ceased to exist. When He said that He will remain in you, He meant forever. God is going to stay with your for the rest of your life and hopefully beyond. All He wants, is for you to do the same. You’re already His, and so is every other living/non living thing on this earth, so why not give it back to Him."
  • "You may have not wanted God, but He wanted you, and He still does. He’s never done with you, and maybe this is just the start of something amazing for you. He wants you specifically to work in a certain area in the world. It may only affect one person, or it could affect millions. Either way, you are a big and important part of map of what God has planned."
  • "God doesn’t call you a servant, but a friend, because He wants your goal to fully know Him, as He fully knows you. He knows your concerns and business and He wants you to make an effort to know His. The Lord tells you everything He can, and it may not be in the most obvious way, but you need to keep your eyes and ears open to be able to understand what He’s saying to you."
  • "The passage shows how God helps us by getting rid of all our sin by pruning us. I think this is cool because it helps us to understand how much God loves us. The other thing that stands out to me is that God calls us his friends. That he sees us as friends makes me very happy inside."
  • "I think it is amazing that God chose me to carry out what he wants."
  • "We talked in class about rose bushes and how they are pruned when parts die. When you prune most plants, the part that was cut blossoms into more fruit than was there before, and then when that spot is  pruned again, it produces even more fruit. Just like how when dead spots in us are pruned, they grow back healthy and blossoming. Although, if rose bushes could feel, the pruning would probably hurt very badly, just like the pruning of our bad spots hurts."
  • "I love how God gives us more freedom if we follow him."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thoughts on Love

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Jesus' words as recorded in John 13:34-35

"I am the True Vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Jesus' words as recorded in John 15:1-2, 9-12

Relationship stands out as the heart of Jesus' teaching on love in John 15. Love starts and exists only in relationship to God himself. Love does not start as an action (although actions will always follow!), but love begins in a relationship with the living God.

I am currently reading the book Bold Love by Dr. Dan Allendar and Dr. Tremper Longman. 

·      “We have come to view love as being nice. Forgiving and forgetting. Yielding to the desires of others. Yet the kind of love modeled by Jesus Christ has nothing to do with manners or unconditional acceptance. Rather, it is shrewd. Disruptive. Courageous. And, as a result, socially unacceptable.” (back cover)

·      “When the question of failure to love is raised, it should be heard as the whisper of a friend, not the accusation of an enemy, because our failures can be the delicious entry into a new comprehension of God’s grace…Dependence on God’s grace requires a broken heart that has given up the demands of pride. (p. 36-37)

·    "There is an inherent battle involved in learning to love. If we are to learn to love, we must begin with an acknowledgement that love is not natural and that love’s failure is not easy to admit. How then does God intervene? The answer is found in an understanding of God’s relentless, intrusive, incarnate involvement and His patient, forbearing forgiveness. The essence of Christianity is God’s tenacious loyalty to redeem His people form the just penalty for sin. (p. 37)

·      "The heart must be restored to its full image in Christ, inch by precious inch and battle after tragic battle. As a new creation, citizens of a new kingdom, we are given the unbelievable opportunity of being ambassadors of reconciliation. (p. 49)

Through challenges, heartbreaks, and grief, God’s Spirit rewrites the script of what it means to love. God prunes us to bear fruit.

Love, God’s love, bold love, is messy. It is not a Valentine or a fuzzy feeling, LOVE is visceral.

"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entablements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken' it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." From The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis

I believe that the time and attention we spend this year on what love does will transform us. Let us enter this year with knees bent, heart open, and hands lifted up in anticipation of what God will do in and through each of us and the lives we touch.