Fruit of the Vine

Today I did not need to open up the bible to find the verse.  Instead, while I was driving to work this morning, out of nowhere these words came to me: “I am the vine, you are my branches.”  And the words took hold.  So tonight, I opened the Bible to John:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.   Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

John 15:1-10

I have heard this verse it seems a million times, but today as I was driving to work it started to make more sense.  God has connected us to Him.  We are connected just like a branch is to a vine.  A branch by itself is meaningless.  It is dead with out its source of life (as are we without God).   But when we stay connected, we can grow.  Sometimes we may try to grow too far away from the vine, but as long as we keep our connection to God, he won’t let us go.  If we remain connected, we will bear fruit.  God’s love flows to us, just as the water and nutrients necessary for a branch to bear fruit flows to it.  And just as a gardener sometimes has to prune or cut back a branch in order to allow it to bear better fruit, so too, God sometimes needs to prune us — to cut us back.  He does that with His word, and we can help others by sharing that word — by bearing God’s fruit.  And sometimes, maybe, God has to prune us back a little more sharply.  And sometimes it feels like it cuts deep.  But out of those dark times, if we stay connected, we bloom forward even more beautiful than before and we strengthen our connection to God.

Dear God,

I want my connection to you to grow stronger.  I don’t want to be connected by just a little twig.  I want a wide base — fill me with your love and your word so that I can bear fruit pleasing to you.  I want to remain in you forever.

 

When In Doubt… LOVE

What are my gifts?  What does God call me to do?  Do you ever ask those questions?  It feels like I do more and more.  The Bible tells us that we all have gifts.  God has given us the tools that we need.  We just need to use them.  I think I have been spending too much time trying to figure out what I should be doing instead of just doing what I know I need to do.  Today I was directed by a study group to read Peter:

The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers.  Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without complaining.  As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.  Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:7-11

As  I read this, my eyes fall on this line: “Above all let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sin.”  I may not know exactly what specific thing God is calling me to do — but maybe I am letting myself get lost in the weeds.  Love more.  Isn’t that what He is calling us to do?  And won’t everything else flow from that?  Love more.  Isn’t that the answer?

Love more.  Let your love be intense — for everyone — not just the easy ones, your spouse and kids, mom and dad  — but for everyone.  Love more.  Be hospitable to one another without complaining.  (Not always that easy.)  Love more.  Use your gifts to serve one another.  I may not know what gifts I have.  I may not know the exact plan for these gifts, but I know that God calls us to love.  He calls us to serve one another.   I could go crazy trying to figure out the plan for my life, or I could just love.  And serve.  Love covers a multitude of sins.

Lord,

You have blessed me with so many gifts.  Help me to use them in the way you intended.  Help me to use them to love and serve others.

Pure Love Through Any Storm

What a beautiful  morning!  Storms are expected to be moving in, but…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.  In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed is God!  He is preserving our inheritance in heaven  — our salvation.  It is imperishable, undefiled and unfading.  Bring on the storm — because what is waiting for us will not fade.  It will not fail.  We may suffer through various trials and be tested by fire, but we will rejoice!  Our faith allows us to rejoice.  All that we experience, all that we endure allows us to give all praise, all glory and all honor to Jesus Christ.  He suffered and died for us so that we would know.  So that we would believe.  So that we would have faith.  So that we would know God.  So that our faith — the genuineness  of our faith — would lead us back to God.

Peter goes on to say:

Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.  He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1:17-21

Jesus, through his precious blood, ransomed us from our futile conduct — from our sin.  He suffered and died, just so we would know.  Just so we would have faith and hope in Him.  God’s love is so immense, so pure — it is greater than any love we can experience.  I want to love like Him.

Peter instructs us:

Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart.  You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God, for:

“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, and the flower wilts; but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

1 Peter 1:22-25

Father,

Although I have not seen you, I believe.  I rejoice in you.  I have joy because of you.  I love you.   Help me to love like you.

 

 

Love in Deed

Remember the Whitney Houston song “How will I know”?  Today’s bible passage reminds me of the refrain: how will I know if he really loves me.

Do not be amazed, [then,] brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?  Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:13-18

How do we know that God loves us?  He gave his life for us.  He gave us life.  Look around. The world is a beautiful place.

How will others know that we love them? Words are not enough.  We must love in deed and truth. God shows us His love.  Do we show others ours?

We doubt God’s love, despite everything He does for us.  Yet we sometimes expect others to accept our words.

Lord, thank you for showing me your love. Help me to to share your love with others. Help me to love in deed.

 

 

Love is all you need

Love.  A simple 4 letter word.  But it is the answer to everything.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

John 14:15-23

Love.   My heart swells when I read this passage.  My Father will give me an Advocate who will be with me always.  Jesus will not leave me.  He will come to me. I will live. I will be loved.   Jesus will reveal himself to me.  And God will make his dwelling with me.

What more could I ask?

All He asks from us is to love Him.  And if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  Love God first.  Keeping the commandments will naturally follow.

God loves us.  He wants us to love Him.  That is our purpose.  To love.  To love God and to love each other.  Love.

I love you, Lord!  I am working on loving others (some are easier than others).  I need your help.  Help me to know true love. Help me to show true love.

Seek, Fear, Love

The Bible is filled with reminders that if we seek the Lord He will be found.

The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he destroys.

Psalm 145:18-20

The Lord asks us to seek Him, fear Him and love Him.  The seeking and loving I get – the fearing, I struggle with.

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him. We have all heard this. I certainly want Him to be near.  And yet I don’t seek Him as much as I should.  We should  reach out more.  He should be our first  speed dial.  He should be tagged in all our posts.  Knowing, as we do,  that when we seek Him He is near, why aren’t we constantly and honestly seeking Him?

I have never liked the Bible verses that suggest we must fear the Lord.  I suppose I want the warm, gentle God. The post 80’s Father, where corporal punishment is discouraged – so surely smiting must be out of the question.  I am not sure that God wants us to fear Him, at least I want to believe that He doesn’t. So why is the Bible filled with fear?   I think the fearing is necessary.  I think we need to fear to recognize how much we need God.  Without fear, we think we can do anything. We think we are invincible.  We think we don’t need God. And then where would we be?  God saves us.  He saves us from ourselves.

Ultimately, God is love.  And He wants us to love Him.  This is a hard juxtaposition – fear and love.  God wants us to come to Him in love.  Not out of obligation.  As a parent, we don’t want just the obligatory hug and I love you from our children. We want the warm hug and meaningful expression of love.  We want our kids to want to be with us.  But we will sometimes take what we can get, hoping that as they mature, they will come back. So does God.

I wish I could show Him how much I love Him.  But my love is immature compared to His.

Lord,

Teach me to love. I want to be with you.  I don’t want to fear you, but I fear being without you.  I want to honor and respect you.  You are almighty.  You can destroy or buildup. I am nothing but what you have created. I am nothing without you.  I owe everything to you.  Help me to grow through your love, your grace and your mercy.

Conquer Evil With Good

Another day marked by tragic events. I was led to today’s verse by the radio this morning.  Do not let evil overcome you, the radio announcer said, but overcome evil by good.   Tonight I flipped the Bible to Romans and read the entire section:

Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute [you],
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;
do not be wise in your own estimation.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil;
be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.
Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”
Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

This seems to say it all. If only it were easy to do.  Let love be sincere.  Love is not always easy.  Sometimes we just pay it lip service.  But God’s love is always sincere.  God’s love for us is true even when we do wrong  – even when we hurt Him.  Can we show the same love to others?

Weep with those who who weep (our thoughts certainly go out to those who are suffering). But do not  repay evil with evil.  Live at peace with all.  That is hard.   Even harder is this: bless and do not  curse those who persecute you!

Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit.  It is easy to to rejoice in God when the sun is shining.  We cannot grow slack in zeal when dark clouds surround us.  Even more must we be fervent. Even more must we ignite God’s fire.

Rejoice in hope — no matter the struggle, our hope in the the Lord, in His salvation, is empowering.

Endure in affliction — GOD will see us through!

Persevere in prayer — all we need to do is Pray!

Serve the Lord!

If we do these things, if we persevere in prayer and try to do these things, we will not be conquered.  We will not be conquered by evil. We will conquer evil with good.

Dear Lord,

Take care of those who are suffering tonight.  Wrap them in your loving embrace.  May they rejoice in hope.  And please bless those who have caused the suffering.  I pray that they come to know you.  Wrap them in your loving grace.

 

 

Whole Heart

Today I did not randomly open the Bible — instead the Bible verse (actually verses) was thrust upon me on the radio this morning.  I heard an interview with Brandon Heath where he talked about the reason for his song Whole Heart.  He talked about the Bible telling us to seek God with our whole heart, trust God with our whole heart and love God with our whole heart.  He spoke of 3 bible verses.  I was driving so I could not write them down, but these are the ones I found tonight:

Seek God With Your Whole Heart:

Yet when you seek the LORD, your God, from there, you shall indeed find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul.  In your distress, when all these things shall have come upon you, you shall finally return to the LORD, your God, and listen to his voice.  Since the LORD, your God, is a merciful God, he will not abandon or destroy you, nor forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them.

Deuteronomy 4:29-31

When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.  When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me—oracle of the LORD—and I will change your lot.

Jeremiah 29: 12-14

Until I heard the radio interview this morning, I never thought about whether I am seeking God with my whole heart.  Instead, I am afraid most times I go about it half heartedly.  If I am not busy with something else, if it’s not too difficult, if it’s Sunday morning or there is a religious event that can do the work for me.  I am not sure I am doing it with my whole heart, with my whole being.

Trust God With Your Whole Heart

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

This is probably my hardest of the three.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  My mind overpowers my heart and tries to rely on its own intelligence.  I find it hard to let go.  I think more often than not I reach for God, but with one hand I still hold on to the edge of the pool.  Trust with all your heart.  I need to make my other hand let go.  I need to trust that God will keep me afloat.  He has never given me any reason to doubt.

Love God With Your Whole Heart

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.  Take to heart these words which I command you today.  Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up.  Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.  Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”  He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

Luke 10:25-28

Love God with all your heart, all your being, all your strength and all your mind.   I love the instructions in Deuteronomy:  Take to heart these words which I command you today.  Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up.  Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.  Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.

There is no one more deserving of our love than God — this one shouldn’t be hard, but sometimes I know I still put myself first.  Sometimes I still put false idols, electronics, tv shows, candy crush, football games and even chicken wings first.  I do not want to do that, but as I think about it now, I allow this to happen because I am not approaching God with my whole heart.  Too often I am approaching Him with only my Sunday heart — just 1/7 of my heart.

The Bible tells us:

  1.  Seek God with all of your heart — and you will find Him, He will return you to Him and He will change your lot.
  2. Trust God with all your heart and he will make straight your paths.
  3. Love God with all your heart and you shall live.

Wow!  As it was this morning when I heard these three together, my mind is blown.  My heart is stretching.  The instructions are simple.  Following them is hard, unless we do it with our whole heart, so there isn’t room for distraction.  If we only do it half heartedly — we leave room in our heart and in our being to be led astray.  We need to fill it up with God.

I am up for the challenge.  I am ready to let go of the pool’s edge.  Let go with me!

Lord, help us!

 

God’s Love

I don’t believe there is a better place for the bible to open than to these words:

I love you, says the LORD

Malachi 1:2

Plain words.  Easy to understand.  And yet, easy for us to forget.  But even when we forget, God calls us back.

Since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them.

Return to me, that I may return to you, says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 3:7

I love you Lord!  Your love is undeniable, unwavering, all encompassing. Your love is faithful, even when we are not.  Thank you!  I want to know your love so deeply.  I want to know how to love like you do.

 

A good night kiss from God (Sweet Dreams)

I am ready for bed.  The alarm clock went off way too early this morning.  It has been a long Monday.  Time to open the Bible and then quickly go to bed.  But first God gave me this goodnight kiss and hug:

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.  When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.  For I, the LORD, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as ransom for you, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.  Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you and nations in exchange for your life.

Fear not, for I am with you; from the east I will bring back your offspring, from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north: Give them up! and to the south: Do not hold them! Bring back my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth: All who are called by my name I created for my glory; I formed them, made them.

Isaiah 43:1-7

Thank you God!  I love you too!  Good night!