The night before he was crucified, Jesus, using the imagery of vineyards, told his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he *prunes*, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
This passage haunts me to a degree.
I do want to obey Christ, but I reminded that all believers will, at varied times in ones’ life, be “pruned.”
The word “prune” here literally means ” to cleanse.” It’s the “cutting away of dead wood which is the removal of hindrances that drain spiritual life from a believer.” And God’s “pruning”, albeit necessary to our spiritual health, sometimes hurts.
I have two Crepe Myrtles in my front yard. Every Spring I have to prune both the trunks and the branches, removing those twigs that would hinder & drain nutrients the trees need to bloom properly. Some of those twigs are located at the base of the trunk. I call them “bottom feeders.”
Are there “bottom feeders” (habits, unforgiveness, anger, pride, relationship etc.) in your life hindering you from loving Christ? Satan would love to drain every last drop of our commitment to Christ, leaving us always short of spiritual health.
Soli Deo Gloria, nick
The “Our Father, which art in heaven,…” prayer was certainly said by Jesus, but as a “model prayer” for the eager-to-learn-how-to-pray disciples.
However, the disciple, John, records for us a wonderful gift. For his entire 17th chapter comprises an actual prayer Jesus prayed as he was readying himself for his crucifixion: “Father,” Jesus prayed, “the time has come….” (17:1)
Praying for himself, the disciples, and the world, Jesus pours his heart out to his Father. The disciples had no earthly idea what was about to take place. But, in his prayer, Jesus reminds us what our “true north” must be when life caves in around us (which is what was about to happen to Jesus’ closest followers.)
Jesus prays, “I have given them Your word…Your word is truth.” (17:14, 17)
Some 10 centuries removed from when the psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (119:105), Jesus reminds us that nothing has changed – God does not change. Our “true north” was – and is – His mighty Word.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” (Col. 3:16)
Only hours remained until Jesus would endure a level of stress so severe he sweat blood, be forced to endure an illegal kangaroo-court, falsely accused (and convicted) of crimes he did not commit, beaten within an inch of his life, executed by crucifixion, taking upon Himself the sins of the entire world, thereby incurring the very wrath of God upon sin.
It was Jesus who inspired, encouraged, motivated, loved, and stood strong for His closest friends. The disciple, John, records those powerful moments when Jesus comforted His disciples by telling them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me… Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you…I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Bottom Line: Then, and now, Jesus is whispers, “Lean on Me. I’ve got this.” :))
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick
Next to my profession of faith in Christ, no decision has so changed my life than when I forgave my dad.
My younger sisters and I grew up in an extremely violent alcoholic home. We saw and experienced things I’d prefer not to share here.
When sober, my dad was amazing. But, when he was drunk he became a monster. And he was drunk a lot.
Over time – especially into my adult years – i developed a seething hatred for my dad for what he had done to my mom, and to my sisters and myself. That part of my life – those memories – had drifted into the shadow.
But, in 1997 – after my youngest sister overdosed on heroin – I unraveled. I was 34 years old. Having been forced to get counseling (I thought counseling was for wimps), I quickly discovered what hate for my dad had done to my life. Eventually, in a moment I can remember as though it was yesterday,…. I forgave my dad. Completely.
I learned that forgiveness wasn’t about changing my dad – it was about changing me.
A little over a year later, on 11/22/98, I had the joy of sharing this with my dad. The photo here is significant not only because of the grace and forgiveness it represents – but for the fact that this was the first time my dad had ever seen my children.
It was an awesome day.
My dad died of alcoholism two years later, 11/10/2000. He was 57.
One day, because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, I’ll see my dad and son again – completely whole. No more alcoholism. No more depression.
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick
Sadly, we Southern Baptists (not all, but I estimate the majority) have a poor and deficient understanding of the Holy Spirit.
In the upper room, on the night before he was crucified, Jesus told his disciples,
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me…
The Helper. The Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit.
Those who have professed their faith in Christ are very temples of the Holy Spirit.
We’re instructed to be filled by and controlled with the Holy Spirit.
He guides us. He speaks to us.
It would behoove all believers to investigate more deeply what God says in his Word about the Holy Spirit.
Get to know him.
Francis Chan; from his book, Forgotten God:
“There is a big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate…
If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes one of my main strategies would be to get church-goers to ignore the Holy Spirit…
But when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural. The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice.”
“Love hurts” sang the rock band, Nazareth, in 1975. But, the only alternative to never being heart-broken is to never allow oneself to love. So goes the saying, “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”
C.S. Lewis comments:
“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping [your heart] intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” (from “The Four Loves”)
In 1st century Palestine people were asking the same question people are asking today: “Who IS this guy??”
In his gospel, John records, “While some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading people astray.” (7:12) Later, in 8:25, the Jews ask Jesus incredulously, “Who ARE you??” Again, in 8:48-53: “The Jews answered [Jesus and said], “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?…Who do you think you are??”
In their book, Putting Jesus in His Place, Robert Bowman & J. Ed. Komoszewski write, “Interpretations of Jesus are fraught with bias. He’s a powerful figure people want on their sides – and they’re willing to re-create him in their image to enlist his support….Frankly, it’s hard to escape the feeling that our culture has taken Jesus’ question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’, and changed it to ‘Who do you want me to be?”
Not sure who Jesus is? For one, he is a gentleman; he will not impose himself on you, but allows every human being to decide for themselves who he is.
Read Mark’s & John’s biographies (gospels) of Jesus in an easy-to-read translation. Try either the New Living Translation or the New English Translation. Both are solid. Then, check out Philip Yancey’s award-winning, The Jesus I Never Knew, Lee Strobel’s, The Case for the Real Jesus, or Josh & Sean McDowell’s short classic, More than a Carpenter. What you will find is a man so real, yet so fascinating, only God could have thought him up.
Set aside others’ opinions. Honestly investigate Christ’s claims, and see if you don’t begin to hear the Lion of Judah roar.
For Narnia, Nick