“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” John 15:5NIV
My grandparents had seven grandchildren and would often entertain all seven of us for days at a time when the “Texas” cousins came to Alabama for a visit. One method of entertainment was to load us all up in the back of Pa-Pa’s truck and head for the woods to pick wild plums, huckleberries, blackberries, or muscadines. My grandmother would then make jelly. It was delicious on the biscuits she made almost every morning. I can almost taste them now, hot, fluffy biscuits, split in two, with butter melting in a little pool on each piece. Then, the best part of all, a shiny, beautifully colored dollop of homemade jelly nestled right on top. It was a sight worthy of a magazine photo shoot. It did not matter if the jelly was the rich pinky red of plum, the almost blackish purple of blackberry, or the red violet of muscadine, it was all scrumptious and made with love. Much fruit is needed to make a batch of sweet jelly as well as a lot of work, but the result is worth the effort.
Jesus said if we remain in Him and He in us, we will bear much fruit. What kind of fruit? The fruit of a transformed character, making us more like Him. The fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Also, the fruit of evangelism as we share Jesus with others. To bear this fruit we must stay connected to Jesus.
We can learn a lot from the grapevine—not the human chain that passes the “news” from person to person—but a literal grapevine.
Let’s learn the lessons of the grapevine and get out and “bear much fruit”.
Father, thank you for the lessons you show us
in nature. May we seek Jesus, the Light we
need to produce fruit for your kingdom. Thank you
for pruning us when necessary because,
while sometimes painful, the result is more and
better fruit. Thank you for that terrible, beautiful
cross on which Jesus died, making a way for me
to come to You. Lord help me to hear your Word and
understand it that I might yield much
more fruit. And Lord when the thorns of
worry and temptation try to choke the Word in my life,
help me to stand strong and dig out those weeds.
Thank you, Lord, for being the Living Water that has become
a spring welling up in me.
May it overflow to others today and every day.
“Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4 NIV
Gardening is such a relaxing, enjoyable, although labor intensive pastime. With the first hints of spring, we gardeners hurry outdoors to ready the soil and start planting. A vegetable garden gives great satisfaction when, after weeks of hard work, those first tomatoes and squash come off the vine and an hour later, they are enjoyed for dinner. Jesus uses a gardening theme in John 15:1-17 to make His point.
Jesus said in John 15:1 NIV, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” Jesus is the source of life and fruitfulness. He also tells us in verse 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” Jesus is the vine. The branches are believers. When we remain in Christ, we bear not just some fruit, but much fruit. That is the goal of everyone who plants a garden, much fruit. But what is “remaining in Christ” or “abiding” as some versions translate it, and how do we do it? The answer lies in three intertwining characteristics of vines and branches.
The first characteristic is the connection between the branch and the vine. The branch is attached to the vine and the vine is attached to the branch. If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ and accepted Him as your Lord and Savior, you are connected to Him. Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”
The second characteristic is dependence. The branch is dependent upon the vine, but the vine is not dependent upon the branch. Like the life-giving sap that carries water and nutrients from the roots, through the vine to the branches, the life-giving power of Jesus flows into believers giving us not only eternal life but also the transforming power to live each day in victory. Without the vine, the branch is lifeless, useless, and powerless. Without Jesus man is dead in his sin.
Finally, there is continuance. To bear fruit, the branch is continually attached to the vine. If the branch is separated from the vine at any point in the developmental process, there will be no fruit. To remain in Jesus, we persevere. We never stop believing, trusting, and depending upon Him. We are continually united with Him.
How do we remain in Christ? By keeping His words in our hearts and minds so that they are renewing and reviving us daily. We remain in Him by talking with Him in prayer and by seeking His will in everything we do and by being obedient to His commands.
Wherever you are on your spiritual journey you can experience more and more of this connection with Jesus to greater and greater degrees. You can be more like Him, bear more fruit, and grow more in your relationship with Him. Just remain in Him.
Lord Jesus, thank you for salvation
that comes by grace through faith in you. My life is in You and I depend upon Your power
to live in victory every day. Help me
share life-giving words with others today so
that they too, might become connected to
You, the source of everlasting life.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." John 13:34-35 NIV
It's almost Valentine's Day, when our thoughts turn to love. So with that in mind, I began to wonder how many times the word "love" appears in the bible. After all, God is love and the Bible is His Word. The number of times "love" appears varies by translation, but, according to reference.com, the word "love" appears 551 times in the New International Version. That's a lot of love!
In John 13:34-35, Jesus told His disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another." I wonder why He had to command them to love one another. Weren't they already friends? They had been following Jesus for 3 years. Had there been disagreements or bickering? Or was it that as He prepared to die, Jesus knew the difficult road that lay ahead for these men and that their love for each other would be crucial to their mission. These men would carry the gospel to the known world. They would be responsible for propagating the teachings of Jesus to the multitudes. They HAD to love each other; it was crucial.
Fast forward 2000 years. It's still crucial today that followers of Jesus love one another. First of all because we need to set the example for a dark world that is dying it it's sin. Secondly, countless numbers of people have been turned off to the church and ultimately to Jesus because church members didn't love one another. That shouldn't happen, but unfortunately it does. How sad it must make the Lord to see His children hurt each other. The plain and simple truth is that when we don't love each other, we sin. Love is the distinguishing mark of followers of Christ. When we love one another and those around us we show the world not only that we follow Jesus, we show them Jesus and we earn the privilege of introducing them to Him.
How do we love one another, especially those who are hard to love in a very divided society? The answer lies in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. In those few verses we find the essence of love, what it is and what it isn't. Love is patient and kind, it doesn't envy or boast. It is not proud, rude, or self-seeking. It is not easily angered and is forgiving. It doesn't delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Don't be afraid to love one another, even the ones who are hard to love. If you've been hurt, forgive and love anyway. We love because He first loved us (1John 4:19) God has proven His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8). Allow the great love and grace of God to impact and influence your life. When you do, you will find ways to love others. Just give them what you have received. Be the hands and feet of Jesus and love those around you. By doing this they will know that you are His followers. Show them Jesus!
"But now, this is what the Lord says--He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel; "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. when you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the holy One of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:1-3
Many, many years ago when I was about 7 and my sister was about 4, our family was vacationing in Florida. while I could easily walk around in the shallow end of the swimming pool, my sister wasn't tall enough to reach the bottom without having the water over her head, so she had to stay on the steps of the pool. One day as were playing in the pool with Mom and Dad sitting nearby on the pool deck watching us, my sister, who couldn't swim, suddenly stepped off of the step and went under the water, her blue eyes peering up through the water wide with surprise. Immediately our Daddy was there. He reached down and scooped her up out of the water to safety.
Our heavenly Father is a good father. When, not if, we are in deep water, He is there, in the water with us. We need not fear with troubles and trials that come into our lives because He is with us. The GNB paraphrases verse 2 like this; "When you pass through deep waters I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you." Our troubles will not overwhelm us and the hard trials that come will not hurt us. It won't be easy, deep water and going through fire are never easy, but you won't go through it alone. The Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, will be there every second.
Write this verse on the tablet of your heart today so that when the trials and troubles come you won't fear but will trust your heavenly Father to be with you through it all, strengthening you, teaching you, and when necessary scooping you up so your head stays above the water.
"Let brotherly love continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:1-2 HCSB
What is hospitality? Webster defines hospitality as, “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests or hospitable treatment.” Dictionary.com goes further to define it as “the friendly treatment and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”
The writer of Hebrews reminds us to show hospitality, therefore, we should be welcoming, friendly, and generous to our guests, visitors and to strangers. That sounds easy, but is it? I don’t have any problem being hospitable to family and friends that visit our home. I love to entertain them with good food, a comfortable, homey atmosphere, and a warm welcome. But what about the strangers that knock on my door? In today’s societal climate I’m not very welcoming at times. In fact, I’m downright skeptical and standoffish, bordering on rude. But the scripture says “Don’t neglect to show hospitality.” That’s a bit of a dilemma. How do we show hospitality to everyone who lands on our doorstep? We trust God. We treat that person standing at the door with kindness, but we also use our heads and listen carefully for the prompting of the Holy Spirit. We don’t know how the Lord may want to use us to plant seeds for the kingdom.
What about other opportunities to show hospitality? For instance, at church. When a visitor walks through the door of your church what do you do? Welcome them, introduce yourself, tell them you’re glad they’ve come to worship with you, offer to sit with them? Or do you look at them and wonder why they’ve come, wait for someone else to speak to them, or go on about your business, ignoring them?
True story...I was visiting a church in another city one time, pre-covid era. I was alone. At the time when the pastor invited everyone to greet each other, not a single person spoke to me or even acknowledged my presence except one woman with whom I made eye contact and spoke to first. I felt very lonely that morning but reminded myself that I wasn’t there to interact with those people but to interact with and worship the Lord. The sad thing is, those people didn’t know who I was, I could have been desperate for Christian encouragement or I could have been seeking a church home or I could have been there for any one of a multitude of reasons, but no one made an effort to learn why I had come. They were very hospitable with each other but not hospitable at all to me and I left with a poor impression.
Let’s not neglect to show hospitality in our churches, especially to those we don’t know, it’s important.
For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 HCSB
The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Word of God is living and effective (active) and sharper than any double edged sword. As we are learning passages of scripture we are sharpening our sword, figuratively. A double-edged sword is sharp on both edges, it cuts both ways. As you study and learn scripture you will find that it both edifies and convicts. It teaches what to do and what to avoid doing. The Word of God penetrates the heart and will change our attitudes and actions if we will allow it.
Logos translated Word in this passage is the same word used in John 1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Here the writer is referring to Jesus as the Word. Now replace “the Word of God” with “Jesus” in Hebrews 4:12. For Jesus is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. He is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. That gives a different perspective, doesn’t it?
I'm trusting that as the Word goes into my head and my heart and your head and heart, Jesus is filling those empty dark spaces, digging out the sinful attitudes, thoughts, and ideas and replacing them with His love, grace, compassion and mercy. I’m trusting the Lord will bring passages we are learning to the surface from the depths of our hearts and minds when it is needed. In a world filled with lies and half truths, when we wonder if anyone can be trusted, we CAN trust God, the Author and Creator of all truth. His Word is absolute truth and is trustworthy.
Sharpen your sword this week!
Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” I’ve always heard that whenever you see a therefore you should look to see what it’s there for. So let’s look at the verses leading up to verse 11.
First a little background info. The city of Thessalonica was a bustling seaport city of about 200,000 people. The largest city in Macedonia and the capital of its province. Paul had left Thessalonica abruptly after a rather brief stay and was writing to the church to encourage them. There were recent converts from paganism who were left with little support in the midst of persecution. Paul writes to encourage these new converts in their trials, to give instruction concerning godly living, to urge some not to neglect daily work, and to give assurance concerning the future of believers who die before Christ returns.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10
Paul encourages the Thessalonians not to dwell on what others are doing or the trials and difficulties they face in their society, but to focus on Jesus. He writes in v8-10; “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.
V11 THEREFORE, encourage one another and build each other up, as you are already doing.”
We face trials and difficulties today, too. Don’t give up. Be encouraged by God’s Word and encourage one another and build each other up. Every word or act of encouragement we add to another’s life is a little brick to build her up. Let’s keep building and change our culture.
“You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” Psalm 30: 11-12
Sackcloth, not a word we use in today’s culture, but we see it frequently in scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments. What is sackcloth? Just what it sounds like, cloth to make sacks. My imagination takes me to rough burlap bags. So did the people of biblical times wear burlap bags? Not exactly. According to Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible by Packer and Tenney, sackcloth was dark in color with a coarse texture and made from goat’s hair. In times of extreme sorrow, the Israelites wore this rough material next to their skin. Sackcloth was a symbol of mourning and was also a sign of repentance.
Let that sink in, an outward sign of repentance, of turning away from sin and toward God, of being sorry for sin. The sorrowful Israelite would tear his clothing then clothe himself in sackcloth, place ashes on his head and then sit in the ashes. Total sorrow. Mourning of sin.
When we acknowledge our sin and realize how it grieves our heavenly Father there should be mourning. It should be like putting on spiritual sackcloth. The memory of that sin feeling rough, prickly, painful. Shame and guilt troubling the sorrowful soul. But when we cry out to God for forgiveness, He graciously forgives. The atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus makes it possible for Him to turn our wailing into dancing. He removes the spiritual sackcloth and clothes us with joy.
Jesus died for your sin and mine. Accept Him as your Lord and Savior and receive His gift of eternal life.
“ ‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend you heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.” Joel 2:12-14
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3
Since 2010 I have been teaching step-by-step painting classes for people who have no experience with painting. All you do is grab a friend, make a reservation, and show up. At the end of the two- hour class you go home with your own masterpiece. You don’t have to bring any supplies, everything you need to create your painting is furnished. Some students come in a bit apprehensive because they’ve never done anything like this before. They’ve never painted a picture, but they’ve always wanted to try. Perhaps they have never tried because of the daunting task of collecting all the supplies that they would need. Being equipped with everything you need is somewhat empowering, both in a painting class and in life.
Unfortunately, I don’t always feel so empowered, in fact, I often struggle to believe I have what it takes to be the woman God has called me to be. Much of the time I feel as if I’m missing a lot of the tools needed to build that godly life He wants me to live. Tools like patience (that’s a biggie), perseverance, self-discipline (sometimes nonexistent), wisdom, boldness, and the list goes on. I have good intentions, but… I sometimes feel overwhelmed. Do you?
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”2 Peter 1:3
He has made available to us all that we need spiritually through our knowledge of Him by His glory and goodness. Glory expresses the excellence of His being—His attributes and essence. Goodness, on the other hand, is His excellence expressed in His deeds—virtue in action. God gives us everything we need because God gives us Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote almost the same thing to the church at Philippi.
“My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
According to Colossians 2:10, those who follow Christ are complete in Him. You have the Holy Spirit of God living in you and that’s enough even when we feel like we’re not enough.
So, when you lack wisdom, ask Him for it; when you’re running on empty, rest in Him and allow Him to strengthen you; when you need patience, joy, love, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, allow the Holy Spirit to grow that fruit in your life. It won’t happen overnight. It takes time for fruit to take shape and grow, but grow it will, and since those God calls, He also enables, you are fully supplied to be all He has called you to be. And so am I, so let’s get to it!
Susan Sims Meyer
Thoughts and paintings from my personal quiet time and Bible study