Wednesday, June 21, 2017

He Hate Me

"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." John 15:18-19

Do you remember the XFL? If you have no idea what I'm talking about then God spared you the truly awful experience of watching indoor football meets the World Wrestling Federation. It was a concept to have a league that played during the NFL's off-season. It was truly awful, and thankfully only lasted one season. Players could have just about anything put on their jerseys for their name, therefor one man chose "He Hate Me" as his name. He explained that he choose the name because when he would win the other team would hate him. He also stated that if the coach put someone in to play besides him it was because "he hate me". Um, or maybe he was just giving the other guy playing time? Part of him wanted to people to hate him, i.e. the other team after he beat them, and part of him believed people hated him because they didn't chose him.

If the world hates you there is no doubt as to why. It hates you because you reflect Him who lives in you. Jesus is telling His disciples that the world will hate them, and that it's okay because they hate Him too. Earlier in this chapter He tells them that He chose them. In this verse He goes further and explains that they were chose to be out of the world. We aren't hated by the world because we beat them at a game, or because they didn't pick us. Rather we are hated because God picked us.

I hesitate writing this next part, but here it goes anyway. Too many Christians in today's culture want to be loved more than they want to love. They want to be relevant. Isn't there even a Christian magazine called that? They want to be accepted, so they accept everything. They are tolerant. They don't wear the jersey "He Hate Me" but rather the one that states "I'll Accept Everything So The World Will Love Me". And do you know who rejoices as Christians find themselves loved more by the world? Satan. He doesn't want to see Christians as not being of this world, but rather as embracers of everything in this world, no matter how unholy it may be.

God called us to be in the world, but not of it. (John 17:16) We have been told to embrace what is holy, and yes to love others. Not accept sin. Jesus told the woman thrown at His feet to go and sin no ore after He showed her the love of forgiveness. By the Law, she should have been stoned to death, but He showed love to her and spared her, but He also told her to go and sin no more. Somehow I doubt she was ever in another man's bed again. She experienced His love and, hopefully, listened to His words and stop her sinful way.

When God speaks into my life to reveal sin, it hurts. Not because He is being mean, but because I feel awful. I see the sin and how unholy it is and know He could choose to cast me away. But His love is two-fold in that it exposed the sin to me and it forgave me. I can't just get up out of the dirt at His feet and go and continue that sin. I experienced His forgiveness, His love, so how could I possibly.

No I am not God, and I can't offer forgiveness of sin. But I can speak Truth into the lives of those around me who are acting of the world. They may hate me, the verse above tells me that. But they may also hear the Truth and be set free. They may feel the love and forgiveness of God and go and sin no more. We Christians, need to stop trying to live in this world by being of it, but rather live in this world by being of His Kingdom. We will be hated by those who hate Him. But I would rather be hated by them than not belong separated from the world and with Him.
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"But I Chose You"

"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go an bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you." John 15:16

I felt have heart-stinging pain of rejection. I believe everyone has experienced rejection in some form or another, whether it was from a business deal; or in a  friendship; or the rejection of a parent. All of us know what it's like not to be chosen. We weren't picked to play the game at recess. We were mocked for a physical difference that was out of our control. We come from the "wrong" side of the tracks. Our clothes aren't cool enough, or our family isn't good enough. Our skin is too dark or too light. And there are those times when rejection comes and we can't even figure out why.

I am a teacher of  5th graders. This is the year when drama seems to start for many children. I have witnessed students single out and exclude a child for no obvious reason. I have watched children change who they are to try to be included, accepted, chosen by others. How sad that they become someone else in order to be chosen.

What I love about this verse, what sends my heart soaring, is that He chose me! Nothing in this chapter explains my qualifications for being chosen by Jesus. Nowhere does it state that I was good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or come from the good side of town to be chosen by Him. Jesus just says "but I chose you"! He picked me! Not only did He pick me but He appointed me to bear fruit. He picked me to do the most intimate thing, that is to abide in Him. He doesn't say now that I've picked you, you must do X,Y, and Z to remain in Me. No, He says He chose me and appointed me to bear fruit. The fruit that grows because I get to abide in Him.

Will I mess up? Yes! Am I still chosen? Yes! Will I need to have pruning done in my life? Oh, yes! Does that mean I have to work, to strive, to stay in Him? No, I just need to abide. When I enter my house, I can sit down on my couch and just be home. I can enter into any room and just be there. There is nothing I need to do to remain there. I think abiding in Him is the same. We get to come in and be apart of who Jesus is, and we don't have to do anything to be let in or to remain. We couldn't do anything to force our way in, He had to choose us!

No matter who else didn't or doesn't choose you, rest in the assurance and love and peace of knowing that He chose you!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Necessary Fruit Analysis

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." John 15:6

"You will know them by their fruits..." Matthew 7:16 a

Often times the portion of Matthew 7:16 comes to me mind, both directed at me and others. Every once and awhile someone I know professes their faith in God, and yes, I start to analysis their fruit. In Matthew 7, Jesus is warning people to beware of false prophets. It's this chapter that we get the saying, "wolf in sheep's clothing" from, because they exist. So often we are told not to judge; people pull out the "judge not, that you be not judged" verse as their weapon of choice, which is the first verse of this chapter in Matthew. Please read, carefully, the entire chapter to see that you aren't told not to judge at all!

Sorry, I digress! Jesus goes on in Matthew 7 to talk about the fruit, how you can't get bad fruit from a good tree. So I wonder about the fruit that others produce. Is it good? Can I tell if they are really part of the Vine or do I suspect that they are just claiming branch-hood. Then I wonder if the lack of fruit I might see is actually one of those branches in their lives that needs to be pruned. Let's face it, we all have things in our lives, branches. that need pruning.

The verse from John is not about pruning though. It is about branch removal. If we produce no fruit that is evidence that we abide in Him, then we are cut off and thrown into the fire. God gives us many chance, Just check out the lives of those He called faithful and you'll see he gave them many! Yet there comes a point where one's not abiding in Him results in separation from God. Once the branch is burned it doesn't become a branch again. You can be pruned and produce even better fruit, but you can't be cut off and produce any.

 I wonder if there is anything that I do or say that shows fruit from abiding in Him more than not. I am definitely in that "needs-some-pruning" group. I wonder if others see too much bruised fruit in my life. I want people to know me by good fruit. Too often I get caught up in me and produce selfish fruit. That is one negative fruit I am know I produce. Mind you, God has pruned some of it away, I hope more is pruned than not, but I know some is still there. I don't want people to see selfish fruit when they look at me and my life. I want the to see fruit that is evident that I am part of the Vine.

We are part of the they in Matthew 7. We need to look at our own fruit to make sure that what is being produced is evidence of abiding in Him and not evidence of being a sheep in wolf's clothing. This makes me want to abide more deeply. I want to be known by the fruit of God.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fruitful or Fruitless?

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Ever feel like nothing you try works? Like you can barely function? I've been there, and ore than once. I'm sure most people have. Then of course, there are the times, although they seem less frequent, where everything I touch just works better. Being honest, I usually get pretty cocky when the latter happens and blame the former on God. But I have it backwards.

During those times when nothing seems to go right, it may be because I'm doing things in my own power. Trying to grab fruit from other sources, and they are bruised or rotten. It's not God's fault that I'm not producing, because I'm also not abiding. I need to abide in Him to produce the fruit.

When I'm feeling all important and proud of myself, I need to stop! Those mountain top experiences aren't because I'm such a great climber, and besides I'm scared of climbing (not of heights but of falling). I didn't get myself up there, and I can't keep myself producing either. It came from abiding in Him, but look how quickly I made it about me! Not only do I need to abide in Him, but I need to live in gratefulness to Him.

The Bible also makes it clear that there is a time for everything, including a time to reap and a time to sow. Abiding in Christ does not mean there will always be an abundant amount of fruit. Sometimes the fruit must go to seed, bud, and flower before it is fruit again. Just because you feel fruitless doesn't mean you aren't abiding in Christ. There is a difference in abiding and waiting for fruit, and trying to produce fruit in your own power. The key to knowing the difference? Contemplate who you are abiding in, in Christ you'll find peace and in yourself you'll finding striving.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Abiding in the Vine

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me." John 15:4

Do you ever feel dull, bland, um fruitless? I do! There are times when I just have such a blah feeling about myself, a bored feeling. I'm not talking about self-esteem, but rather that I'm producing anything of value. It's almost always a surprise to me when I get in that state, that I'm even like that. Then I start to think, "when was the last time I spent any real time in the Word or in prayer?"

I don't know about anybody else, but there are too many times when I just go through the motions of reading the Bible. There are times when my prayers are nothing more than a "thank you for the day" and "I would like....". Then there are also those times when I have to stop and think about when was the last time I even read my Bible or prayed sincerely. Honestly, these times come far too often.

Yet, the fruitless feelings that I experience are unpleasant, they are good because they remind me that I need to abide in Him. They draw my back to the Word and back into prayer. This happened recently, and as I opened my Bible I found myself staring down at the words of John 15. Honestly, I  haven't been able to move on to chapter 16 yet. I keep rereading the words of John 15, especially this section about the branches and the vine. God is trying to speak something into me through this chapter, something deeper than the obviousness of the words.

Let God draw you to His Word, to a particular section. Let Him speak something deep inside of you based and abide in Him there. He has different words for each of us, and words for us in different seasons of our lives. Abide in Him and find out what Word He is developing in you, what Word He is revealing to you, what Word He is equipping you through. Be the branch that abides in Him.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Branch Pruning

"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." John 15:2

When I am going through a tough time in my life, I feel those shears. You know the ones that are cutting you deeply, and you wonder if you'll make it through. Things that matter to me are removed. It feels like everything I love or hold dear is being removed from me life. I've called out to God on more than one occasion in pain and anger asking why He is hurting me like this. Sometimes satan has even whispered in my ear that God is cutting me off.

The truth is that He is pruning me. If you've ever pruned a plant you know that sometimes you have to cut off some growth that is old and weak and sometimes you have to cut off something that appears to be healthy. I have azaleas and   one year my largest azalea did not blossom. There were hundreds, maybe even a thousand buds looking like they were ready to bloom at anytime, but they never did. The other azaleas bloomed, although honestly not as well as the year before, but this one's buds went from bright pink to brown and died. I was honestly, very upset. I couldn't understand what had happened! So I started to research.

As I read about azaleas, I learned about pruning them. I had yet to prune these magnificent bushes, and had no idea how to go about it. It turns out that y large azalea bush was in desperate need of some pruning! I read about what to cut, which turned out to be old steams as well as those that had just finished flowering. I went out with my pruning tools and started to chop away at the bush. When I finished, I moved on to the others and trimmed them as well. Then I had to wait.

The following Spring I would know if my pruning would pay off or not. Sure enough hundreds of buds appeared on the big azalea. Soon the glorious bright pink blossoms burst forth all over the bush. As my other azaleas budded and bloomed the same thing happened, red, white, and light pink blooms filled up the bushes. The pruning had worked.

When God prunes us, it hurts! It feels like He takes the good with the bad as He chops and tosses away. It feels like we are left small and lacking. What we don't see is that we are shaped better, without these off shoots or dead branches. Then after a time of healing we start to notice that we have new things budding in our lives. We get excited as we watch those buds open and display a beautiful bloom. Many times we are so caught up in the newness, we forget that there ever was a tie of pruning, a time of removal of something that we were used to or something that appeared good. We may forget, but God remembers how He shaped us, and sees that it is good.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dry Ground

"For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever." Joshua 4:23-23.

These verses struck me as I read them this morning. As they walked through the Jordan they had to see the waters piled up, ready to overflow the banks again, and be at least somewhat afraid. Only Joshua and Caleb crossed over the Red Sea and had seen this miracle before. I wonder if they focused mostly on the water around them or the length of land between the two shores. I can put myself in this situation, and I know that I would be terrified that the water would crash back down on me. Did they even notice the dry ground?

I think about my own life and all that God does in the midst of waters that want to surge around me, or I spend time looking at how far away something I want is from me. I don't spend that much time noticing that as I walk through, my feet don't get stuck and I don't stumble. I don't notice that He has made the path dry for me.

I wonder if the bigger miracle was the dry ground, that was easy for those thousands of Israelites to walk over on, rather than the stopped up waves of the river. I know I tend to focus on the "big" miracle, like the stopped water, but walking on ground that should be muddy and isn't is pretty big too.

Lord, help me to notice and appreciate the dry ground that You have made my feet to walk on.