Sunday, April 27, 2008

Abound & Abide

Winter’s tenacity was reflected in yet another windy two day blow that powdered the Northland. Nevertheless, clear skies and sunshine greeted us Sunday morning and an abundance of warm hearted worshippers gathered this morning for fellowship and to hear God’s word.

The service began with announcements, which included a reminder that next week a group from Teen Challenge will be here to minister to us through song and testimonies of God’s active grace.
Today’s Scripture readings:
Acts 17:22-31
John 14:15-21

Keith MacDonald of the Gideons shared stories with us about the valuable work that his organization is doing. Founded in 1899 in Jaynesville, Wisconsin, the Gideons now share Bibles in 80 languages and is active in 165 countries. Many stories could be shared of the power of God’s written word to meet a lost soul at a point of need. At the end of the service more than $300 was given for the printing of Bibles and ongoing work.

Pastor Shannon began with the Apostle Paul’s exhortation at the end of I Corinthians 15, “Therefore be steadfast and immovable, always abounding…” The word abounding conveys a sense of overflow, energy, excess, excellence. Give it everything you’ve got.

God has made us in His image, and in part that means we have work to do. There is much in the Bible affirming the value of developing our skills, and using them with all of our energy. “Whatever your hand finds to do,” Paul wrote in another place, “do it with all your might.”

More of Paul’s heart was revealed in these additional passages. “I poured myself out like a drink offering,” and “I fought the good fight; I’ve run the race.”

At the end of our lives, when we meet God face to face, we’ll want to be able to say, “I’ve done the work you gave me to do.”

There is, however, a second attitude we need to adopt. Abide. “Abide in Me,” Jesus said. “No branch can bear fruit unless it remains abides in the vine.” Abide means to remain or linger, to dwell. Abiding means to live always connected with Him. Abiding produces an ongoing relationship.

Pastor Shannon bared his heart this morning. “I want to experience life deeply, but not in a frenzied, insane pace. I want a mind more formed by Scripture than by TV. And I want to lie beside still waters.”

He went on to say that he is made of two parts. One that desires to abound, to let it all out. The other wants to abide, to learn to be still and content. There is often a tension between the two. “I’m committed to this. Speak well, lead well. This is my one shot. We only live once. I want a life with no regrets. And I want my relationship to God to drive me to run harder. This is my race.”

After sharing his circumstances – trying to balance the needs of family, church, community – he asked the question, “When can I expect this tension to end?” In point of fact, it never ends until we die.

Jesus spent 40 days in the desert deeply abiding in the Father before beginning his ministry of abundant pouring out. During those ministry years He was often found in prayer early in the morning. Abiding is the key to abounding.

Life is a rhythm of abiding and abounding, though today, with our busy lives, it may be more challenging than ever.

Pastor Shannon asked a second important question we should all ask ourselves. “Who is responsible for me getting this right?” The answer: I am.

Yes, you are responsible for your life, your choices, your work. The problem begins when we become “excuse factories.”

At this point he shared a Ken Davis story about trying to get his daughter to go to bed. The story showed how early in life this tendency to make excuses can develop. Many people spend their whole lives making excuses, as if their life problems are someone else’s responsibility.

Some day God will ask us, “Did you abound in the work I gave you and did you abide in My love?” It is vital for us to become attuned to how much we’re abounding and abiding. In fact, I must become the world’s leading expert at assessing the level of abounding and abiding in my life.

There is a ton of research on destructive hurry. We live with a sense that there is never enough time. No matter how fast I run I’m always behind, always playing catch up. Even though you’re running harder and harder, something is slipping through your fingers and that something is your life.

Richard Swenson writes that we are so addicted to speed that even our language reflects this constant preoccupation. Our language is marked by phrases like time crunch, fast food, rush hour, frequent flyer, mass transit. We send packages by Federal Express, use long distance called Sprint, pay our bills with Quicken, schedule appointments with a day runner, diet with Slim Fast, and swim in trucks made by Speedo.

The pastor ended his message with a construct to help us visualize the paradigm we operate in. Picture a grid with four quadrants. The upper half is high energy, the lower half low energy. The left half is positive, and the right half is negative.

The upper left quadrant would be characterized by positive high energy activities, such as creativity, passion and productivity. The lower left quadrant is characterized by reflection, solitude, resting in God. These are all positives, and a healthy life is a rhythmic cycle of movement between these two quadrants.

The upper right quadrant is high energy but negative. In this section we see fear, anxiety. The lower right quadrant would be low energy negatives such as depression, sadness, grief.

Life is short. We need to take time to abide if we are to abound.

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