Category Archives: Sunday

WITH

John 15:6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  [NRSV]

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Jesus is the appointed, reliable judge of the presence of life or the serious results of lack of it. His intent in that judgment is to encourage life and growth even if it requires some dramatic pruning.

Abiding is the challenge Jesus is asking us to accept in the truth of verse 6.  Abiding with Jesus is the choice that does more than just preserve life as it was.  [Preserve means to keep something in its original form or keep it in good condition].  Abiding – accepting and acting with – Jesus is the choice that will protect [Protect means to keep away from harm or danger] our life in Him.  We are not alone because He is WITH us.

Abide…Then

John 15:4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

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Abide; accept or act in accordance with

It’s important when a word is used four times in the two short sentences of verse 4.  Abide is a familiar word but it’s not commonly used today.  Abide becomes the reality of “word to live by” when you plug the definition into those four places.

Accept or act in accordance with Me as I accept or act in accordance with you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it accept[s] or act[s] in accordance with the vine, neither can you unless you accept or act in accordance with me.

When you accept or act in accordance with the life of Jesus and recognize His life is bearing fruit in you…then your fruit can happen.

Can You Believe?

Truth; John 15:3 You have already been cleansed [or pruned] by the word that I have spoken to you. [NRSV]

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Inspiration: Remember the Apostle Peter?  Remember how he protested when Jesus wanted to wash his feet?  Jesus’s response to Peter sounds just like John 15:3 to me – ”you’ve already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.  

Reality: OK, this is a test!  Get a pencil and paper and write down the first five true things you remember Jesus has spoken personally into your heart.  Write them in the order you remember them without any concern about a timeline.  It doesn’t have to be a complete list and they don’t have to be written as verbatim scripture but they do have to be real to you.  AND THIS IS KEY: don’t go back and edit them in any way as you read them again. [you know it’s me I’m talking to]. The important thing is they ARE written in the order you remember them. 

•Test IS the root word of test meaning “to bear witness.”  Do not confuse this root test with the same word which means examination. It is true that when you take an examination you are a witness for your own knowledge and, unless you cheat, you are showing what you do or don’t know. However, here the word means a solemn telling of the truth of what you know, bearing witness for truth’s sake.
•english-for-students.com/test.html]

You may have already had the experience of writing or giving your testimony.  You know how difficult it is to distill the most important things Jesus has done for you from the many really good things that have happened in your life without turning it into an “I was and now I am” testimony.   I believe the results of your test are listed in the priority of their impact on you specifically.   Can you believe the things you just wrote down are an accurate recounting of Jesus and the Holy Spirit verifying “you have already been cleansed”?   If you can, that belief can make your list the perfect outline that moves what you wrote from that examination kind of “test” to  the root of a new “testimony.”   A testimony that bears witness for truth’s sake to the I AM.  My wish would be that you would use your results and write your own new kind of testimony.

This is my own “unedited” list.  My new testimony is only to show you an example of how effectively it can work.
1.  I have been crucified with Christ.  I have scars but they’re part of the testimony of my healing.
2.  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
3.  Jesus will complete the work he’s begun in me
4.  The greatest of these is love
5.  Lord help my heart, soul, mind an strength

Nobody wants to admit their inability to deal with life or being wounded.  Even healing can leave scars.  I want my scars to be changed from something that needs to be hidden to evidence of blessing.  I want to be like Jesus.  I want Him to be the power that allows me to believe and live as if I have “already been cleansed. ”  I want to view those scars as the revelation of a changed heart not a sign of condemnation.  I want to believe my soul has caught a glimpse of promised immortality, my mind has been challenged by the Word of God and I really do have the strength to live by the words Jesus has spoken into my heart – I AM “the word that I have spoken to you.”

The Purpose of Grapes

John 15:2 He [the Father] removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes [and cleanses] to make it bear more fruit. [NRSV]

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Facts: Artful pruning of a grapevine is what produces better fruit and maintains the optimal health of the branches.  The pruner determines which branches should be allowed to grow and which should be removed. The only shoots that yield grapes are those that grow each spring from one-year-old canes – those that began growing the previous year.  Pruning is vital for the vine because old canes can still produce leaves that make a branch look good but only sap the strength and ability of the newer canes to produce fruit.  It’s all about the fruit. 

Truth: Jesus speaks in pictures I can understand.  There is no substitute for new growth and how it contributes to fruit bearing and a healthy life of faith for the believer in Jesus Christ.  I know how easy it is to look pretty good based on what has already happened in your life of faith.  I know what it’s like to resist the pruning of things that were real and good “then” but are old now.  I know the pruned branch looks really bare and exposed until new growth appears.  I know the purpose of pruning is the fruit…and I know the purpose of grapes.

Inspiration: What turns the grape into wine?  It is crushed and then in due time when the process is through, the wine will be new.  You’ll be my wine in this world.  💕Jesus

Doctrine to Comfort

NRSV Matthew 12:29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 

NRSV Mark 9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 

NRSV Luke 9:49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

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After reading several versions of these passages and looking at commentaries written by people at various levels of prestige from St. Augustine to names I didn’t recognize this is my #1 question.  Is Jesus speaking more about people outside the disciple’s experience of faith rather than those in opposition to Jesus?  Is Jesus challenging us to check the balance of our focus on the relationship between doctrine and comfort?

Apparently doctrine is an age-old conflict.  What if Jesus is speaking of people who operate outside the body of faith as we know it but don’t actually oppose Him?  What if Jesus’ emphasis is about “tying up the strong man” with dependence on doctrine, rather than Himself.   Can that be what makes the “strong man’s house” vulnerable to plunder?  What if these three passages reveal the very words of Jesus that lead us from doctrine to comfort?

That makes sense to me when I read the Mark and Luke versions of this passage.  I feel like I can read between the lines of John’s words in Mark.  Sure the man is “casting out demons in your name” but how can what he’s doing possibly be OK “because he was not following us”?  John’s concern for the corporate integrity of their ministry was real.  Jesus matches his assurance to John with the same group-inclusive pronoun, “us.”  “Whoever is not against US is for US.”  

John’s invested his own life and identity in Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus knew the question of integrity was still very personal to John.  John’s own conflict was finding the comfort between doing things the way they “should” be done [doctrine?] and his commitment to the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus words from Luke challenged John to move from doctrine to the exclusive assurance of comfort of a personal pronoun, “you.’  “Whoever is not against YOU is for YOU.”

Hebrews – Grand Finale

I’ve finally reached Chapter 1 of the book of Hebrews.  Honestly this grand finale feels like one of the biggest accomplishments of my years of study.  I began at the end of Hebrews and have ended at the beginning of the book to discover this simple proof for myself; there is no “the end” anywhere in it.  It’s all about beginning.

God’s provision of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are still at work in every chapter even with my own limitations of what I could comprehend from this theologically challenging book.  The weeks of reading with the expectation I would personally discover an ultimate conclusion taught my heart something more than I expected.  That  is surely the gift of the Word of God.

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Chapter 13. ”Outside” is where Christ receives your brokenness and disgrace and makes them his own.  It’s the plan of God that we who are outsiders can go to where “new” begins, the Cross.  

Chapter 1. I’m in God’s Kingdom because of the provision of that righteous scepter, His Son, “the exact imprint of God’s very being,” being the “crutch” that held me up so I could limp into it.

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The ultimate conclusion of the Word of God always leads you to the cross and Christ and the reality there is no “the end” to your beginning.

Crutch

NRSV 1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word…8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.

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Scepter’s not a common word today so that caught my attention.  A scepter is an ornamented staff often used by kings as visual evidence of power but the word also has a practical meaning as something one can lean on for support.

You may have heard a negative description of faith as being a “crutch” as I have.  Your reaction may have been as defensive as mine was so it was back to the dictionary for another definition – crutch: a long stick with a crosspiece at the top, used as a support under the armpit by a lame person.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard your faith referred to as a crutch.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever been confronted by your own need for support.  My heart still has a negative reaction to identifying my faith as a crutch but the reality is my hand is in the air.

My heart and my hand respond today to God’s own words identifying his Scepter: “But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.”  My heart and my hand have responded to His Son.  Jesus is the righteous scepter God provided for the support of His own Kingdom and for each of us to personally lean on.   All you have to do is admit to being lame.  I’m in God’s Kingdom because of the provision of that righteous scepter, His Son, “the exact imprint of God’s very being,” being the “crutch” that held me up so I could limp into it.