An Authentic Walk with God

Grapes

Jesus said in John 15

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 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. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”

It’s like these grapes on the vine. They were just basking in the sun, drinking in nourishment from the vine and producing fruit. They weren’t striving like I do sometimes to get a project accomplished. They just rested, and fruit was a natural progression of abiding in the vine.

They’re now separated from the vine. If I don’t eat them first, they’ll shrivel up. They’ll no longer be juicy. I’ll end up throwing them away.

Just as the grape is the result of abiding in the vine, the fruit of the Spirit is the result of us abiding in Jesus. It comes naturally. Our job is to rest in Jesus and allow Him to equip us for the works He has ordained from before the beginning of the world for us to accomplish.

I don’t know about you, but I had a life plan all worked out after high school. That got dashed soon. I got sick, dropped out of college, married, and traipsed all over the world for 22 years, while Keith was in the Air Force. God had a different plan for me. At first I fought His plan. But His plan was much more wonderful and difficult than I could have ever imagined.

God had a plan for a teenager in Nazareth. Completely different than she had imagined. A girl of 14 to 16 years old. A girl who was poor. A virgin. Engaged. A girl who was intimate with the Word of God.

Mary.

In Luke 1, Gabriel visits Mary.

Greetings, favored one.

Whoa! Can you imagine an angel showing up next to you and saying that? What would you think? Well, Mary was afraid.

“Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Luke 1:30-33

“How can this be, since I’m a virgin?”

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you … He will be called the Son of God.”

What would your reaction be? A girl betrothed—that’s as binding as marriage, a contract—pregnant!

Sure young girls dreamed of becoming the mother of the Messiah. It was prophesied in Isaiah 7:14.

But,what would people say? What would Joseph say?

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Mary knew her God and submitted her body, her reputation, her betrothal, and her destiny to God for His plans.

She quickly traveled to the hill country to visit Elizabeth and Zacharias, the parents of John the Baptist. When Elizabeth saw Mary, John leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth with a loud voice said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

Mary’s response?

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” Luke 1:46-55

Praise much like Hannah responded when God promised her a son, Samuel.

This girl knew her Scriptures. She was ready for God to act.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about 3 months. Then she returned to Nazareth.

She must have been showing by then. Can you imagine the snickering that went on?

The penalty for fornication was death by stoning. Joseph thought about quietly divorcing her. You know the story, Gabriel visited Joseph and told him that Mary was going to be the mother of the Son of God. So he did not divorce her.

It came close to the time of Mary giving birth.

Wait! Micah 5:2 tells us that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem—70 miles south of Nazareth.

But God.

God used Herod to send out a decree that all should return to their native cities.

Imagine riding on a donkey just days away from giving birth.

The birth

When Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem, there was no room for them, so they stayed in a stable; it could have been a cave.

Alone with Joseph.

Alone with the cattle and sheep.

Alone, she gave birth to Jesus.

I would be asking God, “God, really? This is the plan for the Messiah? This is your great plan for me?”

Angels announced His birth to shepherds (some think it was the shepherds keeping watch over the temple sheep—the sheep to be sacrificed for sin as Jesus would be sacrificed someday).

The shepherds visited Jesus and his parents that night.

When the days of Mary’s purification—40 days if she gave birth to a son and 80 days if she gave birth to a daughter—they went to the temple to be presented to the Lord. There Simeon took him in his arms and blessed God and prophesied. He then turned to Mary and said,

“Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35

Oh no! More troubles? Hasn’t Mary already had enough?

Then Herod tried to find and kill Jesus, so Joseph swept up Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt. When all was clear, they returned to Nazareth.

The missing

Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews. They went to Jerusalem every year to celebrate Passover. When Jesus was 12, he stayed behind in the temple to talk with the rabbis. The custom was that the women and children would begin the journey before the men. Mary set out for Nazareth with family and friends—she thought Jesus was with Joseph. When the men caught up with the women, Jesus wasn’t with them. They searched among other family members and friends. No Jesus. It took them 3 days to find Jesus. He was in the temple.

“Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You”

“And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?Luke 2:48-49

Where did Jesus get that? Could Mary and Joseph have told him that he was the Son of God? I believe so.

They took him back to Nazareth, and he was a good boy, obeying his parents and growing in wisdom and stature.

And Mary treasured all these things in her heart.

The intimacy

The next time we see Mary, she’s at a wedding in Cana with Jesus and his disciples. Wedding celebrations lasted seven days, and the host was supposed to feed the guests, and of course, wine was a part of the festivities.

To the mortification of the host, the wine ran out. Mary came to Jesus and told him. He responded that his time was not yet. She turned to the servants and told them to do whatever he told them. How did she know that he would create wine?

Could it be that she knew her Son so intimately, that she knew what He would do?

Jesus’ first recorded miracle.

The release

His ministry took him away from Mary. I’m sure she heard of His miracles and teachings.

He traveled throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Jerusalem with nowhere to lay His head. (Luke 9:58)

I know it was painful to hear of the disdain of those who talked about Jesus being born of fornication, as the Pharisees brought it up to Jesus.

At one point, Jesus returned to Nazareth, and Mary and his brothers went to take him home because they thought he had lost his senses.

This was no easy life that God had blessed Mary with.

The agony

We see Mary standing at the foot of the cross with John. The other disciples had disappeared.

Can you imagine your son beaten beyond recognition as a man?

This man was her son. This man was her Messiah!

God! What has happened?

Jesus is the promised Savior of Israel!

He’s been beaten, cut open with the whips, and now He’s hanging on the cross.

His legs are getting tired as He pushes up to take a breath.

God! Do something!

“Woman, behold your son ,,, Behold your mother.” John 19:26-27

What is he saying?

Come down from that cross!

Cry with Mary as they take Jesus down from the cross.

Dead.

The promised Messiah … dead.

The hopelessness

Pieta - 1 (1)

Michelangelo had an idea what Mary must have felt like when he created the Pieta.

From a mother’s eyes, I see a woman who had experienced everything miraculous about this Son, her Savior, her Lord … from His birth to the temple, from water to wine, from feeding the 5,000 to walking on water, from raising the dead to touching the lepers, restoring sight to the blind and song to the deaf. This was the Messiah—the One who was going to save Israel.

All her hope, all her love, all her dreams, all her treasures.

Beaten beyond recognition. Dead.

Can you imagine her prayers?

I know what mine would have been.

God, I went through all of the snickering, giving birth in a MANGER with the animals—ALONE. We fled to Egypt, I worried about Jesus losing His senses, I wondered why the Sanhedrin challenged Jesus, I agonized during the scourging. Now THIS! Where’s the hope You promised?

It’s dashed.

Torn to pieces.

You’ve pierced my heart!

Agony. Grief. Questions.

That’s what I remember when I stand before the Pieta. Pieta means “pity.” Every time I stand before the Pieta, I cry, sometimes sobbing. One day I heard another woman sobbing behind me. I pulled her to the front and told her “He did this for you and for me.” We cried together while people snapped their photos and walked on.

The restoration

Three days after they laid Jesus in the tomb, Mary’s hope was restored. Her Lord had risen.

In heaven, I imagine Michelangelo’s marble statue showing Mary’s joy at seeing her risen Savior.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, we see Mary in the Upper Room praying and fellowshipping with Jesus’ followers.

The walk

This woman walked with God authentically. She had studied the Scriptures and trusted God with all that seemed contrary to the world’s wisdom.

God called her to a hard life, but a life that made an eternal difference.

Maybe you’re going through struggles today. You’re sick. You have financial troubles. You have marital problems. You have family challenges.

Like Mary, you may be wondering what God is doing. You may even be mad at God.

Every person God calls, He calls to depend upon Him. Like the grapes, we need to abide in Him, abide in His Word, and let Him lead us by the right hand, just as Mary let God lead her by her right hand.

You are a child of God, a joint heir with Jesus. You are God’s beloved, and He has plans for you. Plans that are good. Plans that will complete you, so that you are free to recognize that in Jesus, you live, and move, and have your being. In Jesus, you walk in delight of His creation, His kingdom, His people, and His temple which is your body. In Him, you have power, and you have freedom. Sometimes, it’s hard; it’s always an adventure filled with the joy set before you.

It’s Christ in you … the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

My prayer

Father of Hope, Thank You for Mary’s very real and precious walk with You. Thank You for Jesus’ walk. We have much to learn. Lead us by the right hand as the Holy Spirit teaches us from Your Word and directs us through the walk You have prepared for us to walk. Help us to surrender our minds, our strength, our bodies, and our spirits to You. We love You, Lord and praise Your Name. Jesus, You gave all, so that we could live in unity with You. In You, we live and move and have our being. Make us sensitive to Your presence in us. In Your precious Name we pray. Amen.

To learn more, download a month’s study guide on the Authentic Christian Woman’s Walk.

Abundance in the Authentic Christian Walk

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Ein Geddi in Israel

Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
“Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.
“Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
According to the faithful mercies shown to David. Isaiah 55:1-3

Every week, Keith and I go to the grocery store and spend hard-earned money on food. We eat a meal, and a few hours later, we’re hungry again. The next week, we repeat the trip to the store.

We fill our tanks with gas.  We purchase clothes that represent our professions. We put on the lifestyle that our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers expect of us.

We show our happy lives on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Some of us even blog about it.

Does anyone post a photo on Facebook that shows our sinful nature? What about our unhappy times? I tend to post things that demonstrate that I have it all together.

Seems empty.

What if God provided all that we need to be satisfied, or as our Italian landlord once said, “Molto content”?

God has provided more than satisfaction. He has provided a promise to wipe away all our sins. The promise includes living with Him forever. The promise includes an abundant life now. The promise includes satisfaction.

This promise is a free gift, but there is a cost: you must step out in authenticity.

5 Steps to Authentic Satisfaction

  1. Come. God beckons us to come to Him in our hunger and thirst. We can only come to the Father through Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.’ John 14:6
  2. Buy. We have nothing to offer Him except our broken lives. He takes those lives and nourishes them with Living Water and the Bread of Life, Jesus. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” Revelation 22:17
  3. Listen. We are commanded to listen attentively to Him, to listen with the intention of acting and obeying HimThen a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’” Luke 9:35
  4. Eat. As we read God’s Word and abide in Jesus, we are nourished by the Bread of Life and the Living Water. Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” John 6:35
  5. Delight. When I take pleasure in the things of God, He will give me the desires of my heart. This verse can also be read that God gives me the desires that conform to His will. Either way, I delight in that! Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

3 Steps to Authentic Restoration

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.

Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon. 
Isaiah 55:6-7

In our hunger, we seek satisfaction; we come; we seek God; we call upon Him; we buy with our brokenness, and we listen. He tells us our next steps:

  1. Forsake your way. Remember that you are a new creation in Jesus, turn from the inauthentic life, and do the things you did when you were a new Christian. Did you fellowship with other believers, study the Bible, and pray? Do it again. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” Revelation 2:5
  2. Forsake your thoughts. Take your thoughts captive. Meditate on the Bread of Life and His words. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8
  3. Return. Return to Jesus. He has paid the price of your sins, my sins, and the world’s sins. In Him, we can rest. “Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.Psalm 116:7

Abundant spiritual provision and abundant pardon.

That is the way of a satisfied life, an all-together life. 

That is the way of the authentic Christian life. 

My prayer:

Father, You have provided all that we need or could ever want. You have given us the desires of our hearts. You know us better than we know ourselves. Search our ways and our thoughts, renew our minds and transform our ways to Your ways, our thoughts to be more like Your thoughts. We hunger and thirst for the Bread of Life, the Living Water. We long for more awareness of Jesus living in us and the freedom that this knowledge brings us. You have dealt bountifully with us. We come to You. Lead us by the right hand in an authentic walk with You and with our brothers and sisters. Amen

Please share the steps you are taking to ensure your walk with Jesus is authentic.

 

God Knows You & Wrapped You in Eternity

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O LORD, you have searched me and known me! Psalm 139:1

 

O LORD, you have examined me and understand me deeply.

You know my highs and my lows.

You see my rest and my works.

My rest is in You.

My works are Your works, prepared from before the foundations of the world.

You knew that You would empower me to climb the Great Wall six months after You healed me.

You know my thoughts and my words before I know them.

The Holy Spirit prays for me when words escape me.

You protect me and lead me.

You protected my body in the car crash.

I don’t know myself, but You know me. My thoughts are not Your thoughts.

I don’t understand why I do what I don’t want to do, but You know.

You are with me in my failure and in my success; in my despair and in my joy.

When I get my eyes off You, You lead me back to Your joy.

You wrapped me in eternity.

Before I was born, You formed the works that You equipped me to accomplish.

For You created me and declared Your creation very good.

Before the foundation of the world, You formed experiences to shape me into the woman You prepared me to be.

Before the foundation of the world, You knew me and gave Your own dear Son as my Redeemer.

Lord, the earth is in birth pangs, but You are in control.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

As I pray the Scriptures, I learn about God, and I learn about myself. God is the Lord and is on His throne. As the world swirls around us, please take time to think about how God has worked in your life and acknowledge that before Him.

My prayer:

Father, You are our Creator, our Guide, our Protector, our King. Examine us and teach what we need to know and lead us in Your way. We love You, Lord and praise You for knowing us so intimately and still loving us. Like David, such knowledge and love is too high for us. We praise You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Please share what God is doing in your life with readers in the comment section.