Friday, October 16, 2015

Staying connected to the vine

My five year old walks into the room sometimes and calls my name, when I happen to be standing right in front of him. It goes something like this... "Mom. Mom. MOM. Mooooommmmm!" My reply starts gently, "Yes, buddy?" but when he doesn't hear me (most likely because he's not listening) after the fourth or fifth call, my gentle response usually turns into "WHAT!? I'm standing RIGHT HERE!" Can you relate? The immaturity of our kids sometimes keeps them from seeing that what they need is actually right in front of them. They petition, they whine, they beg for something when all they really need to do is reach out and grab it for themselves.

I think we do this with God sometimes. We tell our friends, "I could really use some peace today." We  vent on our spouse about how much we're lacking patience. Or maybe we tell a co-worker at the water cooler how we wish we had more wisdom when it comes to a certain situation. There's nothing inherently wrong about these statements but the irony is that God is also standing right in front of us saying, "I'm right here! I have what you need! I AM what you need!"

I've been reading and studying the book of John over the last few months and I love it because it is FULL of "I am" statements. These I am statements are being made by Jesus.

i AM the bread of life.
i AM the light of the world.
i AM the door.
i AM the good shepherd.
i AM the resurrection and the life.
i AM the way, the truth, and the life.
i AM the true vine.

Notice that Jesus doesn't say, "I could probably muster up some peace for you if you clean yourself up, do all the right things, and get your act together." He simply says I AM PEACE. Everything we need resides in Him. In the person and presence of Jesus.

Do you need some life in your bones? He is life. Do you need salvation? Just walk through His door. Do you need answers? He is the answer. Do you feel lost? He is the way. Do you want to be known? He already knows you.

The best fruit we can desire is the fruit of HIS spirit. Love, joy, peace. patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We could scream at the top of our lungs all day long for more patience, more love, or more self-control but if we don't abide in the one who IS the fruit, who IS the vine then we will remain dry and empty vessels.

"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

I learned from a commentary by Dr. Thomas Constable that the "I am" statement Jesus makes about being the vine is the very last "I am" statement He makes in the gospels. Perhaps He saved the best for last? I love this statement about the vine... 

"The father "dresses" the vine as a farmer cultivates his vineyard. No vine will produce fruit unless someone competent cares for it."

One of the things I struggle with in marriage is allowing my husband to lead and protect me. I was raised my a single mom who worked hard and my older brother and I spent a lot of time before school, after school, and in the summertime taking care of ourselves until our mom got home from work. This in some cases forced us to grow up faster than some of our peers but it also instilled in us a strong sense of independence. Still to this day, my strong sense of independence can be an asset but it can also be a liability. I often feel like (and act like) I don't need my husband to protect me. Because I can take care of myself. When I say this out loud he reminds me about the nights when he's away and I watch Law & Order SVU before bed and then can't sleep because I'm terrified a murderer is going to break into my house. I struggle with allowing him to lead me because, well, I've lead myself practically my whole life and I don't really need any help. Do you see the flaw in this kind of thinking?

"The father "dresses" the vine as a farmer culitvates his vineyard. No vine will produce fruit unless someone competent cares for it." 

How healthy can my relationship with my husband be if I do not allow him to care for me? This is his God-given responsibility. Even more so... How can we produce spiritual fruit in our lives if we do not allow GOD to care for us. And how can he care for us, if we do not stay connected to him? Crops cannot grow if they are not first cared for and tended, the same goes for humans.

Can you picture the alternative to connectedness to the vine? No love, no joy, no peace, no patience, no kindness, no gentleness, no goodness, no faithfulness, no self-control. Either you've been there yourself or you know someone who's life looks like this. And it's not a pretty sight.

When we live disconnected from the vine (unintentionally or not), we end up forfeiting the care of the Father. 

So how do we stay connected to the vine? Here are some ideas...

We dig into His word. We study it, we learn it, we put it deep into out hearts. My friend Jessi says "The bible is not about us, it's about God. The more we know the bible, the more we know God. And the more we know God the more we know ourselves." I love that.

We spend time with Him. In His presence. In prayer. And listening.

We stay connected to His people. There is great power in community, isn't there? We are not meant to live disconnected from God and we are not meant to live disconnected from each other. I believe when we share stories with other people of how God is working in our life and they do the same, it strengthens our faith as well as theirs.

Friends, He is I AM and He is EVERYTHING we need.

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