I Am the Vine…

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. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 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.If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15.1-11 NASB).

God is glorified when we produce fruit consistently like Jesus exhibited while He walked among us. Abiding in the Father allowed Jesus to produce God-glorifying fruit. If we are to do the same, we must abide in Christ.

What does it mean to “abide in Christ?” Jesus gave us a beautiful word picture in John 15.5, “I am the vine, you are the branches…” Branches that produce fruit abide in, or are connected to the vine or the tree. Have you ever seen a branch on the ground after a big storm? The morning after the storm the leaves are still green, but they won’t stay that way for long. The nutrients needed from the tree have been cut off and the branch is now on its own. In truth, the branch is already dead, and within a few days its decay will become obvious to the naked eye.

When we try to live our lives without abiding in or being connected to Christ, this is what happens to us. We may look okay on the outside, but we have lost the vital connection which allows the Spirit of Christ to work through us to transform us into His image. We may be able to fool people of our condition by following moral expectations; however, before long the spiritual decay within will become obvious to everyone. Eventually we will look spiritually just like a branch torn from the tree—dry, withered, and dead.

Abiding in Christ is dependence on Christ. It is depending on Him for our direction, provision, protection, and transformation. It is a life-giving relationship in which we live and move and have our being in Christ. When we abide in Him we produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23). This fruit is not given to us for our enjoyment. It is given for us to share with those who are in need. It is given that the recipients might see our good works, turn to God, be forgiven, and then they too can abide in Christ.

Sometimes, when we get to focusing on the storms of life, we forget to spend the necessary time abiding in Christ. Eventually become weak, weary, and wonder why we are feeling so overwhelmed. If we take time to reconnect with the Vine we will be rejuvenated and restored to a fruitful God-glorifying life. “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” (John 15.5).

More Than I Ever Imagined

Prayer (2)I was blessed to grow up in a home with two parents who’s love for each other was a beautiful picture of Biblical love. Because of their love, I couldn’t wait to have a family of my own, so in 1980 at the age of sixteen I started praying for my wife. At first, my prayers were as shallow as most boys my age, you know, I wanted her to be pretty, have blonde hair, blue eyes, and be head over heals in love with me. As the years began to add up and I was still single, my prayers began to change. Oh, I still prayed for everything as before but I added that she needed to love Jesus, have a wonderful testimony, want to be on mission for the Lord, and once again be crazy about me.

I would love to say I patiently waited for the woman who perfectly matched up to my prayers, unfortunately my fear of being alone was greater than my trust in God’s timing, so I was in and out of a lot of relationships. In spite of my impatience, God was faithful and continued to prepare the perfect wife for me. I had to wait thirteen years to finally meet her, but it was well worth the previous heart-break, loneliness, sadness, and seemingly unanswered prayers.

Because we were both college students and poorer than a church mouse, img_0018our first date was at Subway where I could only afford a soft-drink and a couple of chocolate chip cookies. We spent several hours talking about our life’s journey and how we became Christians. As she shared about her life before and after meeting Jesus I was stunned at how she was listing off all that I had prayed for over the last thirteen years. She had already been on two mission trips, one to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and the other to Trinidad and Tobago. It was quite clear that night just how in love she was with Jesus.  It was so clear I convinced her to marry me six months later.

Over the last twenty-three years of marriage, she has taught me so much about God’s love.  Shirley loves me unconditionally in spite of all my idiosyncrasies (a nice way of saying I have a lot of hang ups). I don’t have to perform, serve, or love her in any special way to earn or keep her love. She just loves me unconditionally. And yet, without a doubt I am the second man in her life, the first being Jesus, which is exactly what I was praying for all the way back in 1980. You see, it is her love relationship with Jesus that taught her how to love me.

So, today on our twenty-third wedding anniversary I am especially thankful toFebruary 2015 Almighty God for the way He answered the prayer of a sixteen year old boy by giving me so much more than I ever asked for in a wife. She is truly more than I ever imagined or deserved!

I love you Shirley!

It’s Just a Wedding Ring!

This Saturday Shirley and I will celebrate twenty-three years of marriage. I remember back in 2004 when we were celebrating our ten-year anniversary. Over the previous few months she had been trying to convince me that I needed to buy her a ten-year wedding ring to mark this special occasion. My reply had been consistently the same during the six months leading up to our anniversary, “I gave you a ring when we were married so I don’t think you need another one.” I know that may seem mean to some of you, but that ring had special meaning to me. As the months went on, I kept up my resolve to not buy her a ring, well, at least in front of her. Secretly, I had been putting money away so that I could get her the anniversary present she wanted. Shirley had no idea what was coming that special night.

I remember we were sitting in the restaurant talking about how wonderful the past ten years had been together. We made it through college; we were serving God at a wonderful church; we had a nice house; two dependable cars; we were healthy, happy, and deeply in love with each other. To make things even better, Shirley was pregnant. Doctors had told us just a few years before we wouldn’t be able to have children and yet here we sat on our ten-year anniversary just months away from our first child’s birth. Life was great!

After dinner we continued to talk about all the wonderful things we had experienced together, and I slid the box with the ring across the table and told Shirley how much I loved her.  She immediately started crying, put the ring on, jumped up from the table, and started hugging and kissing me right there in front of everyone! She was overjoyed.

For her the ring was a symbol of my love for her. She didn’t love the ring but was grateful for what the ring stood for—my unconditional love and commitment to her. The rest of the week she was showing off her new ring. She never said to people, “I am so in love with this ring” or “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with this ring” or even “This ring has made me the happiest person in the world.” Instead, she was saying things like, “I am so in love with Bob and look forward to spending the rest of my life with Him. Being married to him has made me the happiest person in the world.” She understood the ring was a token of my love. It is a constant reminder that regardless of what comes our way I will always be by her side until death do us part.

I share this story because it taught me a wonderful truth about God and heaven. I often hear people talk about how great it will be to go to heaven. They talk about its beauty and splendor and about how there will be no more pain, suffering, sickness, separation, or sorrow. They eagerly anticipate seeing their loved ones once again. They go on and on talking about heaven when the truth is it is just the wedding ring!

Heaven is going to be great not because of the streets of gold, the pearly gates, or getting to spend forever with our loved ones. Heaven will be unbelievably satisfying because we will be in the presence of God forever. We will be able to behold our Savior. We will be holy and righteous before Him. We will spend eternity with our one true love. Heaven will be great because we get God!

Heaven, like my wife’s anniversary ring, is simply an expression of God’s love for us. We won’t fall in love with heaven, we won’t develop a relationship with heaven, nor will we worship and glorify heaven. We will love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We will develop an ever-deepening relationship with our Lord. And we will worship and glorify Him without end!

I am thankful that Jesus is preparing such a special place for me to spend eternity; however, I am overwhelmed at the promise of spending eternity with the one who gave everything so that I will get eternity with Him!

Push Against the Rock

Once upon a time, there was a man who was sleeping at night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared. The Lord told the man He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might.

Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain. Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture placing thoughts into the man’s mind such as: “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it.” Thus giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure.

These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man even more. “Why kill myself over this?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And that he planned to do until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.

“Lord,” he said, “I have laboured long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?” To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My child, when long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push.

And now you come to me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewed and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition, you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. This you have done. I, my child, will now move the rock.”

Source unknown

The Fruitful Life

whyI like to be effective in everything I do. I want to know that my efforts are influencing or helping others to be their very best. It always brings me great joy when I can look back and see that I was able to pour into someone and help them.

As believers we should find that same joy in living a fruitful Christian life. In 2 Peter 1.5-8 the great Apostles says:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter tells us to live a life growing or increasing in moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. When this is happening, we will be living a fruitful life in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Living in “true knowledge” means living in the facts of how Jesus says we should live.

One of our best witnesses, as believers in Christ, is to live a fruitful life. A life that has been changed from the inside out always gets people’s attention. Eventually they will ask why the major change in your life, which leads to an opportunity to tell them about God’s love as demonstrated through the sacrifice of Jesus.

So, make an effort to live out who you really are in Jesus. Someone full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. And just wait, someone is going to notice and ask you “WHY?” Then the overwhelming joy of a fruitful life will guide you as you tell YOUR story of how you met Jesus and are now living for Him!

A Memorial of Love

Love Is the Cross-powerpointI have always wanted to go to Washington, DC and see the many memorials honoring different people or events throughout the history of the United States. Personally, I would like to see the Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and the WWII Memorials. These memorials and museums offer a glimpse back in time. They may not be able to take you back to the events, but they can help give you a better understanding of history.

In all of creation there is no greater memorial of God’s love than the cross. Whenever we are struggling we can always look to the cross and be reminded of God’s unconditional love for all those who are His children. The cross is our hope, confidence, and peace that we have passed from death unto life. At the cross all our sins have been judged and now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

At the cross we see God’s love as His wrath for our sin is poured out upon Jesus. Why? Because Jesus not only died for us, but he also died because of us! He took upon Himself the punishment for our sin. Now, when we believe in His finished work upon the cross and commit our lives to Him, we will have forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven.

Regardless of the struggles, pains, or uncertainties we face in this life we need simply look to the cross to be reminded of God’s surpassing love. The cross moves our perspective from the temporal to the eternal, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the painful to the peaceful!

As we move into this Memorial Day weekend, let’s be sure to remember LOVE IS THE CROSS!