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!

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!

Mercy in Disguise

heaven-jesus-father-holy-spiritAs a kid I always loved singing the song “When We All Get to Heaven.” Even as a six-year-old I looked forward to the day when Heaven was a present reality. I looked forward to spending eternity with family, friends, and most of all with Jesus. I can still remember the joy that would fill my little heart every time we sang the words, “When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.”

After fifty-one years of experience in living, I have a whole new appreciation for Heaven. I long to be with Jesus, be like Him, and spend eternity worshipping Him with a pure and holy heart. I look forward to all traces of my sinful nature being removed so that I never again have to confess my sin and repent of my rebellion. I long for the day when this incarceration in human flesh will end, and I shall awake in the beautiful, glorious, radiant presence of Almighty God. That will truly be a day of singing and shouting the final victory!

I also look forward to the day when there will be no more suffering. Personally, I do not like to suffer, nor do I like watching others try desperately to make it through trying times. There are many verses in the Bible that are meant to comfort us during the testing of our soul. One such verse is 1 Peter 5.10, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Did you catch that? “After you have suffered for a little while…” That is the key phrase that gives most of us trouble. Our  idea of “a little while” and God’s never seems to match. I think “a little while” means five seconds or less; whereas, God’s idea is usually quite a bit longer. The distance between these two ideas have caused many to turn away from God and venture out in life on their own.

As a Christian, we are to have a different outlook on suffering. Is it easy? No! Nevertheless, we should allow suffering to create in us a greater desire for the day when we finally see Jesus. Not too long ago on my way to church I heard the ending of a song that caught my attention. It is by Laura Story entitled “Blessings.” Here are the closing words, “What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy.  What if trials of this life—The rain, the storms, the hardest nights—Are your mercies in disguise.” What a beautiful view of suffering.

The thirst that suffering creates in our heart is a longing to get to Heaven and spend eternity with Jesus. Suffering in this life should drive our hearts to long for the day when there will be no more difficulty, discomfort, distress, disappointment, discouragement, depression, debt, divorce, disease, or death. Suffering in the life of a Christian should produce a deep longing to leave this place we are visiting and go to our eternal home in Heaven. It is there we will live in the perfect peace of our Savior, our Lord, and our God!

I hope you enjoy “Blessings” by Laura Story.

Seven Things to Pray for Your Children

Prayer (2)I first began to pray for my children in 1980 at the age of sixteen. At first I wasn’t sure what to pray, but over time my prayers became progressively more focused; especially after my son was born. Thirty-two years later I can clearly see the abundant return of all those hours spent on my knees praying for him. I am still praying today that God will continue working in him until he attains “to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4.13).

I would encourage you today to begin praying for your children, even if you are years away from starting a family. Here is a post by Jon Bloom that will assist you in beginning to pray for your children. Please remember, your prayers are most effective when they are an overflow of your lifestyle. The greatest witness to your children is you, so live out your prayers for them to see and follow.

Bloom writes:

So, here are seven helpful, specific things to pray for your children:

1. That Jesus will call them and no one will hinder them from coming.

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13–15)

2. That they will respond in faith to Jesus’s faithful, persistent call.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

3. That they will experience sanctification through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and will increasingly desire to fulfill the greatest commandments.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

4. That they will not be unequally yoked in intimate relationships, especially marriage.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

5. That their thoughts will be pure.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

6. That their hearts will be stirred to give generously to the Lord’s work.

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord. (Exodus 35:29)

7. That when the time is right, they will GO!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)