Tag Archives: John 15:5

Plant a garden

 

 

P1020902One of the things that quickly impressed us while in Korea was how well the people make use of the land available to them. Small fields the size of backyards were filled with rice. Vacant lots in the city grew beans, cabbage, peppers, radishes (the size of watermelons), and even corn. Hills along roadways and bike paths were abundant with pumpkins, beans and peppers. Even the inches between a storefront and the street contained pots of peppers or beans. Clearly the relationship the Koreans have with their food is a tight-knit one and their concept of stewardship well understood.

 

Whether you garden at home or at the grocery store, we are all called to cultivate and share our other ‘gardens’. Jesus tells us in John 15 that He is the vine and we are the branches. We are to bear fruit, not in our own power, but simply by remaining in Him. If we remain connected to Him throughout the day, and not leave Him sitting by our devotional spot at home, He promises we will bear much fruit. It is after all, our primary job: remain in Him; bear fruit.

 

Every ‘space’ in our day can be cultivated to bear fruit if it is connected to its life-giving source. That is why it is essential to stay connected to God throughout the day, not just in those brief moments of prayer. The living vine gives life only to branches that remain attached. Everything else is superfluous. Everything not related to bearing fruit gets pruned. We might take great pleasure in the amount of leaves we generate or the expansiveness of our active growing cycles. But all our ambitions and activities, unless they bear fruit, are all cut off and thrown in the fire.

 

How do you remind yourself to stay attached to the vine? You might set “appointments” in your day planner to acknowledge God. You might put up visual signs or notes to draw your attention to your life-giving source. You might use every transition point in your day, when you move from one task to another, to draw near to God. You might train yourself to see others around you as reminders to see God in a new way.

 

However you choose to remind yourself, stay connected. Grow your garden and bear fruit wherever you are today. Use every space available.

 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

 

 

Undeviating

In the activities surrounding Nelson Mandela’s memorial last month numerous comments were made about his ‘undeviating forgiveness.’ In other words, they were saying he kept on track, he didn’t waiver or wander from this legacy theme. I’m guessing Mandela would have been the first to admit he wasn’t perfect at this, but none the less, it was evidently considered to be a characteristic that permeated his life.

As you think about someone specific that you know and respect, which of their characteristics would you regard as undeviating? Have you ever wondered how they maintained such focus and consistency in living their legacy? True, some people are more organized than others. Some are driven out of an adverse situation that propels them on their mission with great determination. Some have seen a vision of their end of life, and in that a certain clarity of mindset has settled upon them. I’ve found that cancer has a way of separating out the meaningless from the essentially meaningful. Becoming more aware of your pending mortality brings with it increased appreciation for what is important to you and more focused about how you want to spend the time you have remaining.

What is your undeviating legacy? Of all the things you do and say, what is it that you want to characterize your undeviating life? Once you know this, you will apply this with greater diligence. But then a strange thing occurs. You find that the harder you pursue this in your own power, the more elusive it becomes. You become more tired, worn down by your efforts, and your accomplishment of the goal is less successful.

This is because we were not designed to go it alone. We were designed to draw close to God so he would draw close to him. By dwelling in his presence we begin to take on his characteristics. Jesus says in John 15, “I am the vine. You are the branches. Remain in me and I will remain in you.” And what happens when the branches remains in the vine? They bear fruit. They don’t have to strain their muscles or exert themselves to the point of exhaustion. Staying connected to the vine allows the branches to be sustained by the vine and to bear its fruit.

Drawing close to God, resting in him, is an increasingly compelling activity. The more you come to enjoy his presence, the more you want to spend time with him. And you soon find that you have a desire to live an undeviating life centered around his will, and bearing his fruit.

“Remain in me and I will remain in you.” John 15:5

The Battle for Your Mind

The other day, I was watching a documentary on my iPad about the holy sites of Israel. I noticed a reflection on the iPad screen so I was also seeing a reflection of myself watching the movie. And my vision, impaired anyway by the chemo effects still, alternated between seeing first my image, then the movie, then my image again. The constant back and forth was distracting, but as you would expect, soon I was able to concentrate on the image of the documentary, tuning out the other reflection most of the time.

Isn’t that how it is with most of our days? There is so much stimulus around us, sights and sounds, an emerging crisis, and other demands on our attention. These medications I take help me to eat for which I am really thankful. But they also wire me so that I have to fight just to remain calm. Every day seems a present a battle for our mind.

Listening to worship music helps me a lot and, when I can concentrate on reading, recalling what God has to say to me through His Word is an immense help. One of my favorite passages in the gospel of John offers the solution: remain in Jesus. We really can’t accomplish anything substantial or truly lasting unless we stay connected to him. Like the vines that nourish the grapes in our backyard, we have to train our mind and heart to stay connected to him.

What are you willingly to do to fight the battle for your heart and mind and to stay connected to your creator throughout your distracting day?

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – Jesus

I Went Against My Religion

Confession is good for the soul. I have resisted this particular temptation for 15-20 years or more. I’ve especially fought hard against it during my three rounds of chemotherapy. I’ve recalled the true promise in 1 Corinthinans 10:13 which says: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

I’ve recited to myself over and over how God designed the body to behave in only a certain way, and violation of this is sure to bring discomfort and pain. But in a moment of weakness. . .

I threw up.

When nurses ask, “Have you thrown up today?” I respond, “No, it’s against my ‘religion.'” When they inquire further I tell them, “God designed the body for food to go in one end and out the other. I just want to honor Him.” This usually results in a chuckle or two. Of course, those who know me realize the funny thing is, I don’t believe much in ‘religion.’

According to wipipedia, “Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.” As a follower of Christ, I believe in the one true loving God who invites us to a personal relationship with Him. When I remain in this relationship, God lets me see the world through His eyes. The fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control) are available to those who remain in Him. As is strength to see suffering as ‘light and momentary,’ perseverence in the midst of struggles, and hope in seemingly hopeless situations.

Remaining in Christ is a decision we make hundreds of times a day. It is decided by what we choose to think about, what we do, how we respond to others, how we view the world around us. I think about the grapes that grow in my backyard. They don’t work and they don’t (as far as I know) develop “an organized collection of belief systems.” They just remain in the vine… and produce good fruit. My experience is that when it comes to the hopelessness of trying to keep a long list of do’s and don’ts, ‘purging’ can be a good thing.

And on an upbeat note, my blood counts are starting to increase and I am generally feeling better than yesterday. My goal is to get off the pain meds and to prove I can swallow real food on Thursday.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5