Today, Dave Bartlett had one of the best sermons I've heard since attending Orchard. During this season of Lent, he talked about the days leading up to Jesus' death: the palm branches in the streets, the celebration of the last supper, and the betrayal of His closest friends. I can't imagine how He must have felt in these moments. How, He, knowing of his ultimate destination, death on a cross, yet, still, found joy in those moments of despair; serving Judas bread and wine as His guest of honor, and washing the feet of the men that would turn against him that very night.
As he washed their feet, he taught:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
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.
Here are the four lessons I learned from this chapter of the Bible.
1. Be connected to Christ: This is essential. Beginning and ending each day with God is just the beginning; it's about making Him the center of my life throughout the busy, schedule-packed days. Knowing how He wants me to live my life each day, whether teaching at school, out with friends, or with family. This one is about prayer, but moreso, about awareness. Be consciously aware of the Holy Spirit every minute, every day of my life.
2. Love God and others: This one seems so easy; however, when you look into it, it's a lot deeper than loving the people in our life that are easy to love. Jesus spoke these words as He looked into the faces of the people who would turn against Him, His family of friends. Pastor Dave said something that really stuck with me yesterday. He said in our lives, we must love the people the most when they deserve it the least. Although important, this one is more than a hug, a kiss, or an 'I love you.' It's a prayer for a student who struggles in class, a phone call to a friend I've lost touch with, or giving up on gossiping and taking up complimenting.
3. Bear Fruit: Peace, Love, Hope, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self Control. I need to work on finding peace. Trusting God and knowing when to give him control over my life. I admit it. I can be a little bit of a control freak. I need God to help me unpack my life in a way that honors Him. Bear fruit. Be an example.
4. Experience JOY: Wow. This one is big. Yesterday, as Dave preached, he looked into the congregation of more than 500 people and looked into the faces of two different families. He said I know there are people in this room suffering. A family who buried a father and husband yesterday, and a family fighting through unemployment. He said in these times of trial, we must find joy. The joy that Jesus found the night before he would be nailed to a cross. The joy that sometimes seems so far from our lives. It's so easy to go through this life dwelling on the bad because let's face it, there is a lot of 'bad.' I want to be the kind of person that people look at say, 'where does she get that joy?' Blessings exist everywhere, but at times, they hide under pain, and loss, and sadness.
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.