Spirituality of Abiding: His Word Abiding in Us

Abiding: the act of dwelling, companioning, remaining. This is language of lingering in time, space, and place. A spirituality of abiding is what we are after. It’s inherently relational.

The first essential invitation from Jesus is abiding in him.

The Father’s Word to Jesus to Us
In John 15:7, Jesus references a second element of abiding: his word abiding in us.

In John 17:14, he further says this: “I have given them your word.

The Son has taken what he has received from the Father and given it to the Apostles.

The Spirit is also involved in this process of instilling the Word:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak…. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:13-15).”

There is an order of word-giving:

Father to Son.

Saint-Paul-the-Apostle-Hand-Painted-Byzantine-Orthodox-Icon-on-Wood-2-02

Saint Paul Icon depicts him holding a Gospel book because of his significant contribution to the New Testament Canon.

Incarnate Son to Apostles.

Ascended Son to Spirit to Apostles (and us).

The Apostles wrote down what they saw and heard (1 John 1:1-4) that we may have what
they have, fellowship with the Father and the Son. That is why the church holds to the Apostolic teachings.

The Word Today
Many question the veracity of the Bible in our day. This is nothing new. I will not go into a defense of the Scriptures as there are worthy volumes that address that topic. Trusting the Bible is an act of faith in a God who is large enough, creative enough, kind and generous enough to send his Son, send his Spirit, and use frail, human vessel to write and preserve his word. He is a generous Father. He is able. I trust him, he is my Father. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true…(Psalm 18:30).”

How might we heed Jesus instruction to have his word abiding in us?

Word Abiding
The Anglican Catechism entitled “To Be a Christian” has a fascinating statement on this topic:

Question # 224: How should you use the Holy Scriptures in daily life?

I should “hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” that by the sustaining power of God’s Word, I may embrace and hold fast to the hope of everlasting life given to me in Jesus Christ. (Scripture Collect, Book of Common Prayer)
As usual in the Book of Common Prayer, much is packed into a short statement.
First, we note the efficacy of the word – it provides “sustaining power.” The Word impacts us, transforms us, nourishes us, instructs us.
It sustains me in this dark, weary, trial-laced world. I need Word-grace in my life daily, throughout my life.
I’ve yet to meet a mature woman or man who is flourishing in life that has not been sustained for decades by the word of God.
Second, we note the means of Word abiding:
Hear: Sermons, teachings, conversation, soliloquy (speak the gospel to yourself)….
Read: like a letter, leisurely, reflectively….
Mark: Yes, its OK to write in your Bible….
Learn: Study, exegete, dig deep, mine….
IMG_5208
Inwardly digest
: I like this ingestation image. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were given the word to consume and it transformed them from the inside out.  As we receive and eat the Word into our very beings, we become carries of the Word. It infuses us. It seasons us.
Not in a hollow, arrogant preachy-way. Rather in a grace-filled, gratitude-saturated way. But this seasoning is a constant need, to be refreshed daily.
Beyond those succinct guidelines the wisdom in this instruction is to leave it to the individual for application. We are all different in personality, learning style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and we are in different stages of life. (Once I had to seek out peace and quiet from a pile of rambuctious little boys in my home. Now I am seeking to find my reading glasses….) Each of us are in different spaces and places in life.
Here is the point. No word, no abiding. No knowing his Love. No knowing him, no mature season of the soul.
He is not silent. He has spoken.
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A Spirituality of Abiding

Abiding is not a value held in esteem in our current culture of rush to get someplace and get stuff done. “Keep things moving along” is the general sentiment. Relationship does not grow in the currents of rush.

Abiding is one of those words that is used so much in our Christian vernacular that our imaginations glaze over with the mere mention of the word. A fresh inspiration around this imperative could be of help.

monkimage.php_An example.  When I go to a movie, I abide with the entire experience. I am engaged, sometimes even a bit transfixed. Seeing, hearing, wondering, feeling, emoting – I am “all in” so to speak.  This metaphor provides a bit of stimulation to imagining a spirituality of abiding, with the caveat that life is not usually as intense as a movie and we progress over time. Slowly. And that is a grace too. The other option sounds exhausting.

Jesus’ imperative to us is to abide, remain, keep to, stay present, attentive to the subject at hand. God is always the subject in our lives.

Three fundamental realities beckon our abiding: Jesus, his Word, and one another. Three blogs to imagine a spirituality of abiding.

First, abiding in Jesus.

Union is the relational impact of our life in Christ. We are “oned” with Father, Son and Spirit. Amazing.

As the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son, so the Son is in us and we in the Son (see John 14, 15, and 17). In the Son we are also unified with the Father. In 1 John 4 John says that we are in the Father and the Father is in us. The Spirit is the binding agent in this relational reality we find ourselves in. It is very beautiful. 

Jesus says, do not wander from this holding love of the Trinity. A growing awareness of Jesus’ abiding presence in and with us is the grace to avoid wandering.

What are the dynamics that facilitate one’s staying present to this Triune God? What distracts? I don’t take the newspaper with me to the movie theatre. I show up and am ready to be there with the story line of the movie. Yet, I sure am creative at importing all sorts of distractions, disruptions and wanderings into this abiding life. What are your particular distractions?

unnamed 2How might one respond to Jesus’ abiding presence during the ins and outs of any given day, in any place, at any time?

The implication of an un-abiding life is that our life is not up to anything of substance on our own, “for without me you can do nothing,” he warns. Nothing is not a little bit of something. Its nothing. We don’t “figure out” this abiding way. We are taught by Jesus. How is he teaching you this way?

What has he shown you, that is particular to you, that he uses to expand your capacity to be aware of he in you and you in he?

How might that, whatever that is, be increased or expanded, that he may deepen your abiding? Might I encourage you to give greater swaths of time to that? 

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Grace to Offer Ourselves to Others

A Shepherd’s Reality
When we consider the life of a shepherd in the field with her or his flock, we are aware that they face heat by day, cold by night, rain or snow at either time, bandits, thieves, Unknownpredators, and all sorts of stuff sheep get themselves into – sore hooves, briers, cliffs, illnesses, holes,
snakes….Shepherding is a never-ending demanding job.

Little wonder that God uses the shepherd metaphor to describe how he relates to us – he pours himself out to us, always tending to as the sheep of his pasture. Our Lord is the Shepherd-King!

Jesus suffered for our well-being. So too do shepherds endure hardship in pursuit of the well-being of those for whom they care.

Like Shepherd, like shepherds.

Gospel Orientation
The temptation is to bear down and just press on in this work. But there is no gospel in “try harder.”

unnamed 2The invitation for all of our life in Christ is him living his life in and through us. Paul’s well-known testimony is “not I, but Christ lives his life in me (Galatians 2:20).”

As shepherds, we abide in Christ that he may  live his life through us as we care for others.

This is not merely a utilitarian relationship. It is one born of sacrificial love. Jesus has given his life for and to us in love for his Father and for us. The Father and the Son have sent the Spirit to bind us to themselves and to pour out life and love into us. As shepherds, this is what (who) we offer to others.

So as we press on in the care of others, even at personal cost to ourselves, Jesus will live his life in us and through us. Outwardly, we may experience all sorts of adversities, inwardly God will be renewing us day by day (see 2 Corinthians 4).

This is the Christ-life manifested in the context of our service to others.

Here is how Paul described it, “He (Jesus) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:28-29, emphasis mine).”

Christ powerfully works in Paul. Paul strenuously contends for the maturation of the flocks.

Fear Not Hardship
Fear is one way the enemy causes us to draw back. What if I am rejected? What if I am misunderstood? What if this costs me too much? What if…..?

Jesus knows all these concerns and he continues to pour his life into us. The Gospel orientation in life is that because Jesus is always enough, there is always enough to go around.

Jesus’ all sufficiency is in direct opposition to a scarcity mindset.

So we lean into Jesus and he offers himself to us and through us to others.

Be encouraged. Jesus is with you and in you. The Father sees you and pours his life into yours through the Spirit and the written Word. We are never alone.

How has God been shaping and using you in this area of caring for others?

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New Bible Study Resource

Crossway has just come out with a new format of what they call Scripture Journal Bibles. They have (or soon will) release each book of the Bible individually.  On the left is well spaced Scripture text, on the right is a page for study notes, teaching notes, etc.
So for example, here is a screen-shot of the Book of John:
Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 6.31.18 AM
If you have some particular books that have been core to your faith journey, these little Scripture journals can be an ideal way to really dig into the text with plenty of room to write out your notes and add to them over the years.
As an application, I was thinking that in one of my organization’s in-house trainings we study the Gospel of John closely. This would be a great format to give to each attendee to record notes for future reference.  These are nice walk-away resources or gifts for retreats and training events.
You may think of similar ideas for your study, retreats, teaching, etc
This is only done in ESV by Crossway – fans of ESV will like this, others maybe not so much….And they are not cheap if one were to buy each book of the Bible. John costs $5.95. Longer books, like Psalms, will be more expensive.  I plan to just get a few of select Scripture books I want to study deeply next year.
They are available on Amazon.
Keep making time to dig into the Word my friends.
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Deserts Can Bloom

Isaiah 35

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy….FullSizeRender

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
    grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

 

Desert Darkness Like I had Never Known
2008 was as dark a time as I’ve ever experienced. I was dealing with a mystery illness no doctor could identify let alone remedy. Even after many hours of sleep, I was so staggeringly fatigued – I had to go down the stairs on my rear one step at a time. I’d awake at 2 in the morning in a full blown panic attack – an experience I’d never known
before. To add further darkness to the desert experience, God seemed to have just left me there. No matter how I pleaded, he was silent. He felt distant. It was as if he just up and left….

Alone.Version 2

Afraid.

Undone.

I was in a barren landscape; no identifiable landmarks; lost. I felt cast aside.

I had no idea how I found myself there. I was just going about life and ministry and then the darkness descended. I had apparently lost my health. Emotionally I was unglued. The future was uncertain. It’s unsettling when medical specialist after medical specialist simply says, “I can’t help you” with a sympathetic yet helpless shrug.

It’s been 10 years plus since then.  I have regained some of my capacities but no where near what I had before the unnamed Asian virus wreaked its havoc in me. I still live with all the symptoms. Some days are not pleasant.  The panic attacks are all but gone. God has graciously helped me to see he was there all along and was doing a deep and beautiful work in me.

Like most suffering, the process really stinks but the fruit can be beautiful.

My Desert Has Blossomed
Two years ago I sat down to write what God had taught me along the way. You can find in  the book titled The Uninvited Companion. That is what I named my new physical reality, “the uninvited companion.”

The cards and letters I have received, the stories I have been told, of those who have read the book had stopped me speechless.

How can God use one person’s desert to be a glass of water for others?

Only God can make a desert blossom. A desert is a desert. Yet when a desert blooms, wow, what beauty. My physical reality still feels like a desert, yet God displays beauty in and around me constantly. This is not self-generated, it is graced.

Yours?
What desert(s) exist in your life?

Divorce. Singleness. Cancer. Betrayal. Poverty. Loneliness. Doubt. Anxiety. Childlessness.

Along our pilgrimages we all find ourselves in desert places. These are places we do not see coming nor choose to go to. Suddenly we find ourselves there. Sometimes its our own fault, sometimes another’s, sometimes pain in a fallen world strikes us.

Regardless of the cause, our deserts do not outstrip God’s redemptive competency. God defines our deserts, our deserts do not define God.

IMG_3102He has made parts of my desert blossom. He will do the same in yours. It may be soon. It may be later in life. It will certainly in eternity. He is able. He loves each of us. He is a Father who sees and knows and is present (even if he does not grace us
with sensing his presence).

What is the name of your desert?

How has God brought beauty into your past deserts?

He will do it again. He is loving and he is powerful.

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Update: TUC Celebration

Thank you to all who helped celebrate The Uninvited Companion’s one year celebration. During 1-5 January, 1783 free kindle editions were download! That is quite the response.

If you find this book helpful, please pass it on as a resource for an applied theology of suffering or as a personal companion to someone who finds themselves in a season of personal adversity.

Thanks!

SES

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2018 Reads List

Here is an annual reads list I share. I trust you will find something to stimulate your on-going learning.

Please, please send me titles you have read of late that you found worth the time.

Thanks!

Keep growing in Christ!

SES

2018 reads list scott e shaum

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Free: The Uninvited Companion

The Uninvited Companion has been so well received – the stories I have heard! I am grateful to how God has used it.

To celebrate it’s one year on the market, the Kindle Edition is free through January 5.

Please pass this onto your contacts.

Thanks and Happy New Year

SES

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