Branch Out

Isaiah 5:1 (ESV)

Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.

God compared the House of Israel and the people of Judah unto a vineyard. Needless to say, as the prophet Isaiah presented it, the vineyard was unfruitful. God expected good grapes, but only wild grapes grew. The wild grapes Isaiah referred to werevitas orientalis, as compared to vitas vinefera, the true vine. Wild grapes were of little value, black in color, “dry,” tiny and extremely acidic, a vine common to the Mediterranean region. ( Disappointed, God allowed the vineyard to be grazed over (5:5, devoured). We receive a hopeful message by Jesus in Matthew 21:33-44, when the vineyard was leased to other tenants (Christians). It is by this parable that we know that Jesus opened the gate to the vineyard for us. It has been said we were grafted onto the vine through Christ. I’m reminded of a childhood experience, grafting. Long ago a family friend grafted camellias. The Virginia Camellia Society taught me grafting camelias speeds up the time to get a bloom, from 6-8 years to just a few years. Grafting speeds up the process. Through Christ we are immediately grafted onto the Lord’s vine, able to fruit as God intended. Are you a branch on the Lord’s vine? By your faith, you are a branch. Let us continue to branch out. 

 “The church is God’s vineyard.”Heinrich Bullinger, 16thcentury Swiss reformer

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Eyes on Me

Hebrews 11:26 (ESV)

“He (Moses) considered abuse suffered for the Messiah to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward.”

Moses was a man of faith. By faith Moses left Egypt. I like the way Scripture presents his faith, “Moses persevered as though he saw him who is invisible.” (v. 11:27b) It can be said, Moses lived as though he saw the reward of his faith. Moses believed he would get his reward. I wonder about my faith. Do I live as though I see the reward of my faith? Someone watching me may know the answer; perhaps you will tell me some day. It seems to me that if I can simply keep my eyes on God my faith will follow. I think of God and hear the elementary school teacher, “One, two, three! Eyes on me!” With my eyes on God, it may be then that my faith will lead me toward my reward. Will your faith be rewarded, too? I do believe our faith will be rewarded.      

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” Saint Augustine

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See To It

Colossians 2:8 (ESV)

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.”

We can easily be held captive. Consider this, even our past can hold us captive. Jesus list some of the most powerful captors of our lives: philosophers, deceivers, traditionalists, and persuaders. Martin Luther wrote, “My conscience is captive to the word of God.” This being the case, even Christ is a captor. We so often let ourselves be captive to others who are merely captive to another. We can only wonder who is captive to who. This is why Christ is the best captor. We come to our fullness in him. All other captors rule over us and drain us. Have you been taken captive? Most likely you have been taken captive. The hope is that you have been taken captive by the word of God through Christ. How will you know? When you are no longer captive to the past. When your past life is gone, a new life has begun. A new full life captive only to Christ.

“Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits you.” Sarah Ban Breathnach (Bon Brannock), author (Simply Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy), philanthropist, and public speaker

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Starve Your Distractions

Luke 10:41-42 (ESV)

But the Lord answered [Martha], “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

“You’ll never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks,” said Winston Churchill. In my words, you’ll never get to where you want to go if you are easily distracted by distractions. Martha was easily distracted by distractions. Martha was the one who invited Jesus into her house (life) but proceeded to ignore him as she went about doing housework. She seems to have been working on everything that came to her mind. I think we Christians can do just that. We can get so distracted working on the Youth program, Sunday school classes, worship performances, and cleaning up buildings & grounds of the church, not to mention our own home and workplaces, we forget to stop and listen to the Word of God.  We are so busy we forget to take care of our need for Jesus Christ. Jesus reminded Martha there is only one thing important and worthy of our undivided attention. One thing that cannot be taken away. One thing only given by God through Christ. That one thing is our salvation. Are you distracted? It happens. Just know distractions can deny you and me the best thing ever offered, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

“Starve your distractions, feed your focus.”Daniel Goleman, Science journalist and author of, Emotional Intelligence

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A with Love Life

Colossians 1:10 (ESV)

Paul wrote, “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

“A life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit,” wrote Khalil Gibran. A benefit to living in a rural community is that the visible fruits (and vegetables) of our local “trees,” gardens and farms, are showing up at the roadside stands throughout the county. Our land is bearing fruit. Of course, our lands only bear fruit certain times of the year. For example, our blackberries are fruiting in June and July; the rest of the year no fruit. Might we be the same? Might we only fruit at certain times of our year? Paul wanted to encourage Christians to bear fruit all year. The fruit of the Christian life may not be found in a pint or bushel basket at a roadside farm stand but such fruit can be just as sweet. The fruit of the Christian life can be seen as a result of good works in the name of Christ.  Of course, good deeds abound. There is a lot of good works going on in the world, but, as Paul is trying to promote, the good works of Christians bear a particular fruit, love. Are you bearing Christian fruit? You’ll know when your life is with love.

“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”Mother Teresa

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Ghosting God

Luke 10:16 (ESV)

Jesus said to [the seventy-two he sent out], “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him [‘the one,’ NRSV] who sent me.”

“The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.”[1]It is indifference that brings about what today’s psychologist call, “Ghosting.” “It is having someone you believe cares about you … disappear from contact without any explanation at all.” Consider this, in today’s dating culture nearly 50% of men and women have experienced “ghosting.” An almost equal number of “indifferent” acquaintances have done the “ghosting.” I have a feeling that God has an opinion on this behavior. No, not particularly toward those dating, but about those ghosting God. Any of us on any given day may ghost God. What does that look like? Ghosting is often done by those avoiding emotional discomfort. Getting close to, near to God can be filled with emotional discomfort: shame, guilt, remorse, disappointment. But, unlike in dating, we cannot “ghost” God, no matter how hard we may try. The reason being, it is by God’s will that we are aware of God. Therefore, when we think we are ghosting God, we are only fooling ourselves. Have you ghosted God? Perhaps, but the good news is God will not ghost you.   

“You are free to reject God. Make sure that you’re really rejecting God, not some caricature of God the church has shown you.” Philip Yancey

[1]Vilhauer, Jennice, Psychology Today, Nov. 27, 2015, “This Is Why Ghosting Hurts So Much”

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Get Ready

Luke 9:62 (ESV)

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

If I were to invite you to follow me to a special place, how might you respond? Would you smile and decline? Before responding would ask for a destination? Before accepting would you insist to know a departure time? Would you walk away seeing no need for such a place? I have a feeling many of us would respond in such ways. Very few will accept such an invitation with no questions asked. Jesus’ followers were just like us. In today’s passage Jesus is responding to our resistance to accept his invitation to follow him into the kingdom of God. I attribute our reluctance to our eye being on the rearview mirror as we travel this life’s journey. Jesus is calling us to look out the windshield toward our future with Christ in the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus is saying that to be “fit for,” or to be ready for what Christ offers we must give up this life and look to the offering of the life with Christ. In other words, while clinging to this life we cannot gain that life, like in the kingdom of God. Life lived in peace as only God can provide. Are you fit (ready) for the kingdom of God? You will know you are ready if God’s peace, which exceeds all understanding, is growing within you. A peace that comes when we stop looking in the rearview mirror and look straight ahead up the path set by Christ. Look toward the peace of the kingdom of God. We are made ready when we let go the matters of this life. You have been invited by Christ. Get ready.

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn about the emptiness of everything else.” Charles Spurgeon

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Shine the Light

Luke 8:35 (ESV)

Then people went out and to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.

It has been said, “Time heals all wounds.” The man meeting Jesus in the country of the Gerasenes had been sick “for a long time.” To me when Luke writes that the demoniac had been sick for a long time, any hope that time would heal these wounds was long past. Out of desperation the community chained him outside the village where he could no longer harm anyone but himself. Most of us may not be able to relate to the Gerasene’s condition, but there are some of us who are at wits end as doctors are confounded to find a healing as time races by. Those who have met this frustrating situation have come to know, “Time does not heal all wounds.” But this does not mean one cannot be healed. And by the passage it does not mean we can will God to heal anyone. Notice that the man did not ask to be healed by Jesus. Jesus healed him anyway. And that is our hope. Will God heal you? Perhaps. I hope so. Your healing may come from a source least expected. Thankfully, we cannot will a healing or prevent it. It is up to our loving God. Our wounds can be God’s opportunity to shine the Light in us. 

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Rumi, 13thcentury Persian poet

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You Belong to Me

John 16:15 (ESV)

All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Recently 4 Oklahoma boys (between 14 and 17 years of age) charged into a burning home to rescue a 90-year-old neighbor.[1]They saved her life. I’ve got a feeling the father of those boys at some time warned them about rushing into a burning building, as in, “Don’t! Call for help.” But they did. Imagine their father’s response. Now imagine God’s response. In a way, God sent his only Son rushing into a burning world to save each one of us. Utter disregard for Jesus’ own safety.  The reason being, we are God’s children through Christ. There is no risk too great, no price too high to save any one of us. It does not appear the Oklahoma boys knew the occupant of the burning house, but they still rushed in to save her. God knows you. Imagine the effort by God to save you. I can almost hear God saying to you, “You belong to me.”

“We are all children of God.” Alice Ann Bailey, early 20thcentury English writer, religious themes 


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In the Love

John 14:9 (ESV)

Jesus said to [Philip], “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?      

Philip wanted to see God the Father, so he asked Jesus. Jesus had the answer, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” The Father was right in front of Philip in the presence of Jesus. The disconnect came in that Philip did not (yet) believe Jesus to be the Son of God. Philip was not alone; at that time no one did. Something so simple to say can be so hard to accept. Jesus was the Son of God. You might say that was good for Philip and the disciples to see Jesus, but what about us? We can see the Father, too. A probable place to see the Father is in the actions of Christians. Any of us may offer a glimpse of the Father. It is hoped that God the Father can be seen through the church and each of us as Christians. Have you seen God? I believe every time you receive Christian love you have been presented an opportunity to see the Father, to see God in the love.

“Why does God manifest His presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian experience? … The difference lies not with God but with us.” A.W. Tozier, The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine

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