UNPLUGGED – GOOD OR BAD?

We were camping in Charlottesville, Virginia.  It was a beautiful location, with wooded camp sites and quiet surroundings.  It is quite a distance from the city, but we were camping so that was perfectly alright.

What we did not realize is that our cellular provider offered no coverage in the area of the campground.  The city had good cell coverage, but where we were camping there was virtually none.  We were forced to be “unplugged”. 

Now that is likely a good thing.  We are entirely too used to looking at the cell phone or tablet while spending a nice evening next to each other, but focusing on various news stories, books, card games instead of actually spending time communicating with each other.  Perhaps the unplugged status is good after all.

While being unplugged from electronics is an inconvenience, it is not earth-shattering or of eternal significance.  However, there is nothing inconsequential about being unplugged from God.  The stakes for being unplugged from Him are both horrific and eternal!

The ultimate unplugged condition is that of unrepentant sin.  God is a holy God and He cannot and will not tolerate or look upon sin.  As R. C. Sproul says, sin is cosmic treason against God.  It is against His holy nature and, His justice demands that it be punished, eternally.

As Christians, however, we understand that God’s justice has been satisfied for His children through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus, our Good Shepherd, paid the price for the sin of His sheep by giving up His life.

He offers us life abundant through His grace and mercy if we are plugged into Him. 

Wisteria blooming vine close up
Wisteria vine stem at ground level, providing nourishment for the plant.

The analogy Jesus uses is that He is the vine and we are the branches.  If we abide in the vine, we will bear much fruit, but if we are not in the vine, we will be cast out and burned. See the Gospel of John, Chapter 15.  We need to be plugged in to the vine for the power to produce fruit for Him. Only through Him can we experience a life that is abundant and fruitful.

Wisteria blooms
Wisteria vine along the front yard fence.

Christianity is a relationship between you and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Neither your parents, your pastor, your spouse, indeed no one, can enter a relationship with Christ for you.  You must receive Christ through the call that God makes on your heart.  It is a gift from God, not of works.  Ephesians 2:9.

While each of us has our own unique call into Christianity, once you are a child of God, the life in Christ is not a solitary experience. Our meeting, worship and fellowship together with other believers provides power and strength, accountability and support, so that you can grow in your Christian life and witness. 

Just as our cell phone needs charging from a source outside itself, our Christian life needs power that we do not have on our own.  Our life charger is not a plug or cable, rather our power comes from abiding in the Vine of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Are you unplugged?  Need power?  Go to the Cross and repent.  Receive your nourishment from the Vine and you then will be able to be used for the Glory of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Father, thank You for providing power through Your Word, Your Spirit, Your Son.  Forgive me when I fail to appropriate that power for my life and when I try to life a life in Christ through my own efforts or good works.  Give me the power to yield to You solely so that Your Spirit will shine through me.

I CAN DO IT!

When our grandson was an infant, he was fascinated by light.  He would stare at a lighted lamp, in fact, you could entertain him by turning the lights on and off!  That fascination continued through his toddler age when his goal, multiple times daily, was to push the button or flip the switch to turn on the lights BY HIMSELF.

What parent has not heard the words “I can do it!”  They usually are stated in rather loud tones, often with a toss of the head as they refuse assistance even though there is little time to accomplish the task. 

I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 1      I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 2   I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 3

 After significant effort, often the child can do the task  and there is the feeling of success!

                I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 4      I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 5

Children aren’t the only ones who say this.  Adults utter these words as well, for example, consider these words in the context of following the instructions in the set up guide for some electronic gadget.  “I can do it!” 

But there are some things that I cannot do on my own.  

How often has this scenario unfolded in your life?  We see something that we believe God would have us do and we run into it, arms open (sometimes mouths open as well) but we fail, it is not successful, and we are worn out with the effort.  The problem is that we have not bathed the project in prayer.  We have not asked Him for His guidance.  We have not requested His Holy Spirit to be in control of this project. 

In short, we have not recognized that we CANNOT do it ourselves

Jesus was quite firm in this regard.

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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5 ESV

Did you see that?  How much of eternal consequence can we do on our own?  NOTHING!  To state the obvious, the word “nothing” is the combination of two words – “NO THING”.  We can do “no thing” for Him, no thing of eternal consequence, unless we abide in Him. 

He is the One who gives us the ability; He is the One who provides the power; He is the One who gives direction for His work. 

The words “I can do it” are the death knell for any effort on our part to be productive in the Kingdom of God, especially if you mean that you can do it by yourself.  Paul noted that God could use him when he was weak, because then the power of God is made manifest.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  God may well use us, but it is always at His direction, through His power, and in His providence, and for His glory

More spiritually fundamental is the fact that we cannot even save ourselves from our sin.  The very act of salvation is all God’s work, not ours. Indeed, Scripture is totally clear on this point – no one can do anything to accomplish his/her salvation because we are dead in our sins.  Colossians 2:13-14.  It is foolish to think that a corpse can take any action on its own – it is dead.  So too, we cannot resolve our sin issue on our own because our sin, our intentional disobedience to God’s commands, renders us spiritually dead.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– … For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  

Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9 ESV 

“But God” – words that are music to the Christian’s ears.  But God … made us alive … by grace you have been saved through faith … it is the gift of God.

Beloved, the words “I can do it” simply do not apply to the resolution of our problem with sin.  We cannot save ourselves from our sin and we cannot approach a holy God while we are still in sin.  Absent God’s Grace and Mercy, we are doomed.  “But God”, salvation is all about Faith and Providence. Our salvation is a gift and we cannot do it absent God’s grace.

And, we must be abiding in the Vine before we can do anything of eternal consequence.  

Next time you are about to run off on your own … stop and seek His guidance and His power.  You can do all things as long as you are abiding in the Vine!

Father, thank You for Your great grace and mercy in providing salvation through Jesus Christ, Your Son.  May I give You honor and thanksgiving each day as I live through the power of the Holy Spirit, and may these words be glorifying to You, My God and my Savior.

ADVENTURES IN TILLAMOOK COUNTY

On one of our trips out West, we drove up the Oregon coast and found that there is much to see and do in Tillamook County.  For example, you can take a tour and taste incredibly delicious cheese at the Tillamook Cheese factory. 

Oregon 2009 456 (C)
Tillamook Cheese factory – tour and taste testing of marvelous cheeses awaits.  Be sure you are hungry — enjoy!

A marvelous sampling of their cheeses prompts purchases of the goodies, as well as investigation into the stores at home where we can acquire the cheese without traveling across the country!  In fact, I would love to enjoy God’s creation right now by having some Tillamook cheese! 

A real treat awaits the traveler because the Oregon coastline itself provides beautiful images of the ocean with the waves breaking upon rocky shoreline.

Oregon lighthouse 2009 422
Oregon coastline shows waves pummeling the shore.

Another place to visit in Tillamook County is the Cape Meares State Park which boasts the Cape Meares Lighthouse.  A wide asphalt trail goes from the parking area, through the forest, into the clearing with the lighthouse directly ahead.

USED Oregon 2009 417 Cape Meares Lighthouse Ore
A stroll through the woods, down the paved trail, heads straight to the lighthouse at the coast. 

The lighthouse is 38 feet tall, not exactly stellar height for a lighthouse.  In fact, it is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon.  But, it sits at the coastline on the top of a cliff making its effective height 223 feet above sea level.  So despite its own short stature, when the light was operating, it could be seen for 21 miles.

USED Cape Meares Lighthouse short - not height but placement Oregon 2009 424
The lighthouse exhibits all her 38 feet in stature!

Beside from being an interesting place to visit, what does Tillamook County, Oregon have to do with me?  Or with you?

I think it provides us with an illustration and/or lesson for our life and our Christian walk, especially when we focus on Ephesians 2:8-10.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:10 ESV

The lighthouse was built for a purpose – it was to warn mariners that they were approaching the shoreline and it was dangerous to come too close.  It was to provide navigational assistance, and it saved lives as a result of its light shining far out over the water.  

USED Lighthouse lamp Oregon 2009 419 (C)
Its purpose was to provide light to the mariner in a time when GPS did not exist.

Notably, it did all this while being only 38 feet tall.   Its effective height did not come from itself, rather it came from the terrain on which it was placed – the cliff was high and from that vantage point, the little lighthouse could be seen for 21 miles. 

Paul says that we have been saved through grace by faith alone.  We had nothing to do with securing our salvation from sin; Jesus Christ did that atoning work on the cross for us.  And, we did nothing to deserve the atonement that He provided.  It was a gift of grace – not based on our work, our reputation, our finances, our stature in the community, our anything. 

The reason for this gift is stated in verse 10 – we were created by God in Christ for good works that God had prepared for us to do long before we were born.  

God is sovereign.  He is in control of our world and all that is in it.  His will, His purpose, will be accomplished and mankind cannot thwart it.  In Concise Theology, J. I. Packer says:

“The assertion of God’s absolute sovereignty in creation, providence, and grace is basic to biblical belief and biblical praise.”  [Sovereignty, God Reigns at page 33.]

One of the best descriptions of God’s sovereignty came from a pagan king after a lesson God provided to him. 

“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;  all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?“”

Daniel 4:34-35 ESV

The little lighthouse had a job to do and it was able to do it because of strength that was not its own – it was based upon the strength of the mountain on which it was built.  We were created by God and saved from our sin by Jesus Christ so that we could do the work that God preordained for us to do all for His glory and His purposes through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5 ESV 

We have no strength in our own self to do anything of eternal, lasting value for God.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit to do God’s work in the world. 

Am I serving His purpose, the good work that God had preordained for me to do?  Am I working for the Lord through my own power and for my own reputation or am I relying on Him and the Holy Spirit to work through me for the glory of God? Am I refusing to shine because I am only of modest stature, or am I willing to shine my brightest for my Lord and let the Holy Spirit magnify the light so that it shines where He wants it to go?

Father, I give You honor and glory for Your sovereign love and mercy, grace and power that was shown by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  I pray that You would give power to these words and that they would accomplish that which You desire, through Christ Jesus I pray. 

THE PIANIST AND YOU

When I was a young girl, my mother signed me up for piano lessons.  I enjoyed playing at the piano, but I had a hard time following the music.  Mother would clap her hands in time with the music and I tried to play the scales, etc. but to no avail!  She would become frustrated and I would become tearful.

Linda practicing piano with Mom watching in mirror
Practicing the piano with my mother watching, as reflected in mirror on the wall.

In my own defense, I didn’t understand fractions, so it was hard to figure out the quarter notes!  But, the reality was that I enjoyed playing the songs by ear.  But, if I could hear the song, I could then play at least the melody … but probably not in the key in which the music was written.  (In fact, this is still the way I play the piano!)   

Years ago I read an Internet article about a little boy and Paderewski, one of the most famous and popular pianists in the world.  Ignacy (sometimes Ignace) Jan Paderewski was born in Poland in 1860 and lived until 1941.  Like my mother, his teachers thought he would never be much of a pianist.  My mother was correct:  Paderewski’s teachers were not!  He persisted and in 1885 he began his musical career exhibiting his skill and personality as he took the world by storm.

History records President Franklin Delano Roosevelt calling him a “Modern Immortal” in 1932 and in 1934, Charles Phillips wrote a book entitled The Story of a Modern Immortal, and included these words in the introduction:

“It is difficult to write of Paderewski without emotion. Statesman, orator, pianist and composer, he is a superlative man, and his genius transcends that of anyone I have ever known. Those of us who love Poland are glad that she can claim him as a son, but let her always remember that Ignace Jan Paderewski belongs to all mankind.” 

See more about this brilliant musician in an article at http://pmc.usc.edu/composer/paderewski.html

While checking to see if the story that I read had occurred or was fiction, I found a 2003 blog entry by Steven P. Wickstrom.  Here is his post which encapsulates the ideas that I wanted to express. 

The story is told of the great classic pianist and composer Ignace Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) who began his piano lessons at the age of six. It is said that when he was 12, he entered the Warsaw Conservatory and six years later at the age of 18, was appointed a professor there. He was a consummate master of the piano and had a brilliant career as a concert pianist, playing to enthusiastic audiences all over Europe and America.  

As the fictional story goes, he was preparing to give a concert one evening when a group of admirers came to the concert hall. One of those was a mother with her young son who was quite reluctantly taking piano lessons. She thought that by bringing him to hear the great Paderewski he would gain a renewed interest in the piano.  

The young mother turned to her friends and was engaging in a conversation while the young boy was getting bored. The little boy left his seat and wandered away. Seeing a door marked “No Admittance” he promptly went right through. He found himself on a stage with a piano in the center. His attention was drawn to the beautiful ebony grand piano with its glistening white ivory keys.  

Suddenly the curtains parted and a spotlight lit the grand piano. The mother returned to her seat only to find that her son was missing. Then to her horror she spotted him on stage sitting on the piano stool reaching for the ivory piano keys. He started playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”  

Paderewski quickly strode up behind the boy on the piano bench, sat down beside him and put his arms around the boy and began playing a counter medley as he whispered in the lad’s ear, “Go ahead, keep playing, you’re doing great. That’s it, keep it up. You’re okay, don’t listen to the noise or the audience. Come on keep going.” The audience was mesmerized as the master played alongside the novice. When they finished, the audience exploded in applause.   

****  

Even though that story is pure fiction and never happened, there are some lessons that we can learn from it.

A lot of what we do for the Lord in our own strength is a lot like playing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in a concert hall all by ourselves. If we are to accomplish anything worthwhile for Him it is going to have to be with Him. As we play on the piano of life we desperately need His wisdom, strength, and power. All the time that we are playing our tune, the Lord, the Master Pianist, comes along and leans over and whispers in our ear, “Go ahead, keep playing, you’re doing great. That’s it, keep it up. You’re okay, don’t listen to the noise or the audience. Come on keep going.” And in that moment He gives us Himself.   

Step up to the piano of life and play whatever tune you know. God will sit down beside you and turn your music into something beautiful that will bring glory to Him. It is only together with God that beautiful music is created. Don’t worry if you think that you have no talent, it is God’s talent that people will see and hear. Together with God, we can play a concert that will bring many people to the Lord. *

Scripture is very clear – as a Christian, as one who believes in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation, it is my responsibility to live a life according to the Lord’s commands and to glorify God in all that I do.  The problem is that I cannot do that on my own or in my own strength.  So, we receive the strength to do so from Him.  Jesus expressed this concept in this way:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  

John 15:5

Of course, we are able to do things in our own strength.  But, if we want to do that which will count for eternity, we must work in His strength because apart from Him we cannot bear fruit for Him.   

Play the music, sing your song, teach your lesson, give your speech, and help others, all in the power of the Name of the Lord.  Let Him enable you.  Live connected to the Vine and your life will be eternally meaningful because you will bear much fruit.

 

Father, enable me to see when I am working in my own strength, even if it is doing good things for others.  Then, enable me to give control to You and Your Spirit so that the words I say, the actions that I take, all that I do will be under Your direction and with pure motives that You provide.  I praise You that You will be by my side, encouraging and enabling me to serve You profitably.  I praise Your Holy Name.

 

* Steven P. Wickstrom’s 2003 post “The Pianist” is presented here with his permission.

FOUNTAINS, REFLECTIONS AND POWER

We were camping at a beautiful little campground in Crossville, Tennessee, Spring Lake RV Resort. 

spring-lake-campground
Spring Lake RV Resort, a panoramic view of peaceful campground.

Although the fall colors were not yet in their fullest, it was clear that they would be brilliant very soon.  

In the morning, the cool air held the promise of a beautiful day as we sat eating breakfast looking out at the lake.

 

used-spring-lake-breakfast
Eating breakfast outside with a view of the lake before us. God’s creation is magnificent!

In the evening, the air was crisp, requiring a shawl for me, as Bill and I sat on the swing and looked at the stars through the hanging pine branches overhead. 

One of the most relaxing and mesmerizing sights for us was watching the fountain in the center of the lake that began its work about 9 in the morning and continued, nonstop, until dark. 

spring-lake-fountain
Spring Lake fountain showing droplets plummeting to the lake’s surface.

Having worked on a number of water cases during my law practice, I am well aware of the importance of aerating lakes and ponds so that the water does not stagnate and cause all sorts of problems in the environment.  So I understood the reason for the fountain. 

But having knowledge of the characteristics of lakes and ponds and the variations of fountains and aeration systems did not eliminate the mesmerizing magic of watching the water shooting into the air, of seeing the mist going higher than the water itself, and then following the arc of the water spouts as they turned and plummeted to the lake’s surface.

spring-lake-fountain-and-ripples
Fountain and ripples on the lake from the falling water.

In the morning, as the sun rose over the lake, the fountain became even more hypnotizing when its reflection became apparent.

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Fountain spray reflected in the lake.

While thinking about the reflection in the lake, I also thought about how Scripture says we are to reflect the image of Christ to those with whom we come in contact.

We have just completed a 25 week series on the Fruit of the Spirit in this blog.  As I often noted in discussing the fruit that the Holy Spirit wants to grow, nourish and blossom in our hearts, minds and souls, the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s is to transform us into the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  In short, we are to reflect Jesus Christ to those we meet during our day.

Paul says we are not to conform to the world but we are to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, see Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In Romans 8:29, Paul describes the transformation that occurs in the Christian through the Holy Spirit when he says:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The reflection of the fountain in the lake is not the same thing as the fountain itself.  The reflection has no power of its own; it cannot make an impact on the lake because it is just a reflection. 

Likewise, when we speak of “conformed to the image of his Son” we are not talking about physically looking like Jesus.  Nor do we have any power of our own, like the fountain reflection; we can do nothing apart from the source of our power, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

Rather, we are Jesus’ image bearers to our world.  We are to have the same attitudes and spirit of the Lord.  What matters to Him should matter to us.  His response to people should be our response to people.  His sacrificial compassion should be evident in how we treat others, putting their needs ahead of our own at all times. 

But, we cannot do it on our own because we are sinful and God’s way is totally counter-cultural and against the ways of the world.  On our own, we are like the reflection of the fountain – powerless.  We must be transformed before we can do Christ’s work in the world.         

That required transformation comes by the work of the Holy Spirit, so we should cherish the development of the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts because that is evidence that we are growing in our Christian walk.  Then, when we are walking in the Spirit and the Holy Spirit is working on our transformation into the likeness of the Lord, we will be able to impact our world for the glory of God. 

The challenge – don’t be just a powerless mirror reflection of our Lord, one who says words without faith in action; one who does good deeds without telling of Jesus.  Connect to the power of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to transform your heart and mind into the image of our Lord.  Then you will have His power to spread the Good News of the Gospel to those you meet throughout your day. 

 

Father, forgive me when I have failed to reflect your love to others, when I have neglected the needs of those around me, when I have put myself ahead of others on my list of importance!  Transform me from a powerless reflection into the vital image of your Son through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit so that I can be an effective witness of your power, grace, mercy and love.  May I spread your Gospel to others through your leading and your strength.

 

POWER FOR FRUIT BEARING

Earlier this spring, I wrote about a Wisteria vine that follows a fence at the corner of our street.  This year it was full and the vine produced prolifically.

Wisteria blooming vine
Wisteria fine on the fence and growing up and onto the neighboring tree and telephone pole.

The mass of flowers hides the source of the plant’s power – the vine stem itself.

Wisteria blooming vine close up
Wisteria vine stem at ground level, providing nourishment for the plant.

 

The vine is strong, solid, and firmly embedded in the ground.  From its roots, the entire plant derives its strength and nourishment, enabling it to bloom and give its flower for all to enjoy.

 

As Christians, we too are to produce fruit for our Lord.  In order for us to do this, we must be firmly grafted to the Vine.  Jesus used the vine and branches analogy when He said:

 

“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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5

 

The wisteria branches need the vine stem for their strength and nourishment.  Likewise, we have strength for our life in Christ as long as we “abide” in Jesus, when we are attached to our Lord through the Holy Spirit’s power.  When we are depending on the Vine for our strength, direction, words, actions, then we will be able to bear fruit for Him.

 

In his sermon entitled The Secret Of Power In Prayer delivered on the Lord’s Day Morning, January 8, 1888, at The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, Pastor C. H. Spurgeon talked about an individual who exclaimed “I have something to do!” without regard to being in the Vine.

 

“’I have something to do,’ cries one.

Certainly you have, but not apart from Jesus. The branch has to bear fruit. But if the branch imagines that it is going to produce a cluster, or even a grape out of itself alone, it is utterly mistaken. The fruit of the branch must come forth of the stem. Your work for Christ must be Christ’s work in you or else it will be good for nothing.

I pray you, see to this. Your Sunday school teaching, your preaching or whatever you do, must be done in Christ Jesus. Not by your natural talent can you win souls, nor by plans of your own inventing can you save men. Beware of homemade schemes. Do for Jesus what Jesus bids you do. Remember that our work for Christ, as we call it, must be Christ’s work first if it is to be accepted of Him. Abide in Him as to your fruit-bearing. Yes, abide in Him as to your very life.”

[Sermon #2002 Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1 Volume 34 www.spurgeongems.org.]

 

The flowers cannot bloom and grow without the stem’s strength.  If they are cut off from the vine’s stem, they will die in time.  So too, if we work for the Lord in our own strength and power, using “homemade schemes” or using our talents without regard to the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be ineffective because, apart from Jesus, we can do nothing for Him. John 15:5.  We may be good people, and we may even do nice things for others, but there will be no spiritual fruit because only God through the Holy Spirit can produce that fruit.

 

As Spurgeon says it:  our work “must be Christ’s work first if it is to be accepted of Him.  Abide in Him as to your fruit-bearing. Yes, abide in Him as to your very life.”

 

I pray that this rendition of the hymn “Abide with Me,” played by Eric Wyse on Reflections – 60 Songs of Devotion, will focus your mind and heart on our Lord and His grace that has been given to you through His Spirit.

 

 

Father, forgive me when I have run ahead and done things for You when You did not tell me to do so.  Forgive me when I have relied on my own strength, talent or power to “work for You”.  May I rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance and for strength as I live my live for Your honor and glory alone.

 

SPRING – A TIME FOR GROWING IN BEAUTY!

Much has already been said about spring, and it has been said by authors ever so much more erudite than this writer. Suffice it to say, spring is a beautiful time of year when the apparent death of winter gives way to new life. How fitting that Easter is, usually, in the spring of the year!

 

My focus here is not Spring in the broad sense of the word, it is one type of flower that I see as I turn the corner to leave our subdivision … Wisteria.

 

Wisteria blooms
Wisteria vine along the front yard fence.

 

I am definitely not a gardener. So, I don’t have any intrinsic knowledge about this beautiful plant, other than I love seeing it in full bloom along the fence line. I have lived in the same house for almost 30 years and have enjoyed these flowers each year. The vine uses any available support, here it is the fence, but it is also now climbing a neighboring tree and the telephone pole!

 

Wisteria blooming vine
Wisteria fine on the fence and growing up and onto the neighboring tree and telephone pole.

 

The wisteria vine makes my wandering mind turn to our Lord’s statement in the Gospel of John about the Vine and the branches.

 

Jesus was talking to His disciples, that is not only the original followers of Christ but us as Christians 2000 later, and He said:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1, 4-5.

 

Read that again – Jesus does not say that when we abide in Christ we might be fruitful! He says that when we abide in Him and when He abides with us, we WILL bear MUCH fruit. The distinction between unfruitful and fruit-bearing is made clear in the next phrase: “for apart from me you can do nothing!”

 

With Him, we can do all that He commands – we are fruitful. Without Him, we can do — nothing. Not even a little!

 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was preaching on the fruit of the Spirit, specifically on joy, and he said:

Precious as the fruit is, do not put the fruit where the root should be. Please do remember that joy is not the root of grace in the soul, it is the fruit and must not be put out of its proper position.

 

While the fruit is important, and we are called to bear much fruit for our Lord, the fruit is not the source of power or of encouragement or of strength for the Christian journey. We must look to the Vine as the root of “grace in [our] soul”.

 

In England we saw this building with wisteria climbing up the front of it, the blooms simply beautiful as they decorated the façade of the building.

Wisteria house in England
Wisteria on a building in England.

 

We are the branches. We are the ones who overcome the obstacles, even if they seem insurmountable, and cover them with love and the fragrant blossoms of the fruit of the Spirit. We are the ones who grow and twist around the people we encounter as we wrap our arms around them and reach out in love with the life-giving words of Jesus Christ. We are the ones who bear fruit for our Lord.

 

Be careful though — John 15 verses 2 and 6 contain a warning:

“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. … If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

 

Just as with the wisteria vine, for those branches that do not bear fruit, the Vinedresser comes with His shears and cuts them off. In his Commentary on the Bible, Spurgeon says this about John 15:2:

If there be any, who are only nominally in Christ, and who therefore bear no fruit, their doom is to be taken away; for, in order to final perseverance and eternal safety, there must be fruit-bearing.

 

As for John 15:6, Spurgeon further notes:

That is all that can be done with fruitless vine-branches. You cannot make anything of them.   … It is useless if it is fruitless; and so it is with us, if we do not bear fruit unto God, we are of no service to him whatsoever.

 

This is a sobering thought. It is one thing to say that we are to bear fruit for Jesus, but quite another to recognize that if we refuse to do so, the Father will remove us, as one does an unproductive stick.

 

I must heed the warning when He is asking me to do something that is too big, that is outside my comfort zone, or that I simply don’t want to do. Rather than refuse, or drag my heels, I have to rely on Jesus’ promise that he is the Vine and that my power, my strength, my nourishment comes from Him. Then I can carry out His command in love, allowing His Spirit to control my words and actions so that His purpose will control.

 

Father, when I see the wisteria vine, I see beauty even through the twisting and turning of the vine’s branches.  I pray that when my Lord sees me, He sees a branch that is growing through His strength and in His power as I read and rest in His Word and then obey His commands.  Holy Spirit, enable me to do the tasks assigned for me in the strength of your power. May all my actions, thoughts and words be to the glory of my sovereign God.