V- Jesus is the vine

“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 , ou can do nothing. John 15:5

About a year and a half ago I determined I wanted to have more fruit in my life. I knew the way to get more fruit was to spend time in the Word of God and praying. So each day I spent the first hour of my day doing just that. I prayed, I read my Bible, and I memorized the book of James.

Throughout that first year, my love for God grew, my faith grew but fruit was an effort. On the inside, I would be frustrated but I would force a smile. I couldn’t figure out how to get my inside heart and mind to match the outside actions.

Feeling stuck I decided to attend a Making Peace weekend. There I realized I had come to the end of myself and my efforts. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make myself good on the inside.

Change – real fruit came when I surrendered control. Instead of trying to do life on my terms with me in charge, I decided to trust Jesus and follow His plans and path for my life. It seemed so counterintuitive to me, having a deeply ingrained philosophy that I can do anything by hard work and determination.

But, I now see that the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control come not by my plans but by me being willing to let God lead. That’s why they are called the fruit of the Spirit and not the fruit of Nancy.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have to work at life. My efforts just look different. Now, instead of gritting my teeth and doing the right thing I snuggle close to Jesus. Instead of reading my Bible being an item I check off my to-do list, it has become my flashlight for life. The words in the Bible are alive as they encourage, convict, strengthen and comfort me. The bubbling lava of anger inside me has been replaced with a well of grace and love.

“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

 

A branch cut off from the tree dies. The source of life doesn’t come from me, but from outside of me. When I was just taping construction paper fruit to my branches I wasn’t fooling anyone. Genuine fruit comes from being connected to a healthy life-giving tree. To live and serve Him effectively we need to be connected to Jesus.

Is attending church, reading your Bible and prayer a duty you check off your to-do list? Are you connected to the vine? What does that mean to you?


Father in Heaven, I want to be connected to you. I trust You even when I don’t understand. I thank you that you see the big picture. When I reflect on who you are, I’m humbled at my silliness to want to do things my way. Of course, your ways are better, for you are God. Thank you for your patience with me. Thank you for the freedom and life you have given me. Hold me close, I don’t want to ever wander from the tree of life but I want to stay connected to you so you will produce fruit in me. In Jesus Name, Amen.

U – God is unchanging

”I the LORD do not change.” Malachi 3:6

As a parent, I have changed my mind many times. Sometimes it is because new information comes to light. Other times I realize I reacted impulsively or harshly. My kids learned at a young age that if they were persistent they could usually wear me down. I would give in because I either lost confidence in my reasoning process or I knew how much it meant to them.

God is Immutable 

I’m glad God isn’t human and He doesn’t lose confidence in His decisions.  He can not change because He is outside time. Change can only happen when you have a fixed point to measure against. I love the way these verses explain the vastness of God.

“YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING, LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH,
AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;
THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN;
AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT,

AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP;
LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED.
BUT YOU ARE THE SAME,
AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.”
Hebrews 1:10-12

No part of God can change

1.  Nature – God is perfect. He doesn’t need anything. He is already the best of the best – He can’t improve. That means His mercy and love don’t change based on my efforts.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever! (1 Chronicles 16:34) 

2. Purposes – God is truth and has the power to accomplish what He says He will.  Which means, when we are surrendered, He does what is best for us, even if we don’t realize it.

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,  the purposes of his heart through all generations.(Psalm 33:11) 

3.  Promises – God is the giver of good gifts.  So, I can trust in God’s promises because He is good all the time and all the time He is good.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Was there a time you changed your mind? How did it work out? Leave a comment below.


God, You are immutable, constant, stable, unchanging and unwavering. I can put my hope in you knowing you are a good God who gives good gifts to His children. Help me to remember when trials come to put my eyes on your unending love and look beyond my circumstances. I trust that what seems bad at the moment can in the long term plan be good. Because you never change you are trustworthy and I hope in you, my Savior and my God. Amen.

T – God is truth

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19

In 7th grade, a classmate loved to tease and annoy me. Unfortunately, we carpooled together, so I was stuck in a van each day with him. He would call me names and make fun of me for being tall. I didn’t realize then how difficult the junior high years can be, or that if I hadn’t gotten so upset he probably would have stopped teasing.

Instead, I devised a clever scheme to make him stop. In my best-forged handwriting, I wrote a letter to me from him. I outlined all the things he didn’t like about me and then signed his name and stuck it in my book bag.

Needless to say, when I showed my teacher,  it didn’t take her and the principal long to figure out who had actually written the letter. As a consequence, I spent the next half of the school day in a small room with nothing but a stack of books and my brown bagged lunch. As a shy student, I was mortified, humiliated, and embarrassed.

I wish I could say that was the end of my lying career. It took me through my high school years and a loss of a friendship before I finally realized the destruction, devastation, and pain lying brings. When I finally got to the end of myself, I ran to truth and have never looked back.

My husband finds my childhood stories hard to believe because by the time he met me truth was a core principle that I stood firmly on. I believe truth is so important, because if you don’t have honesty – you don’t have anything.

God is truth

He is trustworthy – if He were anything but truth I would not be able to depend on the promises in His word.  He keeps His word. My faith is in believing God is who he says he is and he will do what he says he will do.

He doesn’t change – before all time and history into all eternity God is the same. The same God that spoke to Moses in the burning bush, the same God that will come back on a white horse, that God is my God.  I can be confident in who He is.

As a kid, I was baffled at how the teacher knew I’d written the note. Now looking back having been a mom and teacher for many years, I chuckle at my childlike logic. Sometimes it’s easy to recognize when someone isn’t being completely honest.  Other times, we can end up feeling betrayed and hurt when we trusted someone who wasn’t telling us the truth.

How thankful I am I don’t have to doubt or question God’s unending, enduring love for me. I can set my feet on solid ground because I believe God is truth. I can rest my mind on the promises in the Bible because God is faithful.


God, Thank you for being truth. Thank you that I can trust you, that I can put my hope in you. You are so beyond humanness my mind is in awe of you.  Even when it’s hard or uncomfortable, you balance truth with love and grace. I pray you would work the same in me.  Give me the courage to speak truth with love and grace.  In Jesus name, Amen.

S- Jesus is my savior

The LORD lives and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation. Ps. 18:46

Scrolling through Facebook, I felt a twinge of embarrassment as I read the comments on a post my newly married friend and her husband wrote back and forth. It started off cute(ish) but then got a bit too ooey-gooey, as if they forgot the rest of the world was watching. She was so excited to be married and she didn’t care if the world knew it.

That’s how I feel about Jesus. I hesitate to write from my heart because I don’t want to come off on the side of ooey-gooey. But, I wonder if you would be willing to indulge me for a minute as I share what Jesus means to me?

My Jesus, my Savior

Once I was in darkness. Chaos and confusion tormented my mind. Doubts, worries, and lies ate away at my soul. I looked for happiness in shopping and food. I kept myself so busy I assured myself I would win His love by being the best of the best at whatever I did. I looked to my husband and children to fulfill the emptiness in my heart. Busier and busier I became. Do you need a Bible study leader? I’m your girl. A teacher – yup, happy to. Another committee to serve on – of course! What is better than one History curriculum to use for homeschool my children – two of course!

My body became more and more tired. I ignored the warning cries and pushed harder. I could earn God’s love if only I did a bit more. My husband begged me to slow down, to rest.  He just wanted me to be happy. I could almost reach happy – almost. But like the dish on the top shelf – the more I reached for it the further back in the cupboard it slipped.

Lipstick in place, I’d step out the front door and the world thought I had it all together. Only those living inside the four walls of my home knew the demons that endlessly tormented me.

Until one day,

Jesus.

He melted my heart of stone and breathed life into my lifeless soul. I’m alive because He lives. My Redeemer lives. I know it can sound syrupy and cotton candy-like but I can’t help it. He made me whole. He healed the broken and hurt parts of my heart.

What I couldn’t do on my own effort, He has done. He changed me. He saved me. From every waking breath, I bless His name.

Do you know Him? Do you know my Jesus? My friend, if you don’t there is nothing more in the world that I want for you. He was the answer to the emptiness I tried to fill with things, people and work. He quiets my mind and fills me with joy so I can love others well -not because I have to, but because I want to.

Please, I beg you, if you don’t know Him – search for Him. Call out to Him. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you.  Like a Chinese finger trap the harder I tried the tighter the chains became. In surrender I found freedom.

Have you found healing and life in Jesus? Is He your Savior? How has He changed you? Leave a comment below.


My prayer comes from the words and an old hymn by Fanny Crosby who was blind all but the first six weeks of her life.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

R – God is a refuge


For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.Ps 62:1-2

 

I have this picture of the keeper standing in the door of the lighthouse with the giant wave surrounding him hanging in my dining room. Apparently, he opened the door thinking the rescue helicopter had arrived. Instead, it was photographer Jean Guichard who began immediately snapping photos. Realizing it was not the rescue team and seeing the wave, the keeper closed the door seconds before the wave engulfed the lighthouse. I love this picture because it visualizes how I have felt many times throughout my life.

As the waves of life crash around me, I am safe in the shelter of Jesus.

Waves look different for each person. For me, the waves in my life are not only what circumstances I may find myself in, but also my response to those circumstances.

Often I can do little to change the circumstances. But, I have found safety in the midst of the storm in Jesus Christ. He is my rock, my refuge, my strong tower. I run to Him and am saved.

In a particularly dark season of my life, I read through the book of Psalms and wrote down every verse that refers to God being my refuge. Through the practice of writing out each verse, the truths began to sink into my soul.

When God is my refuge, circumstances don’t undo me because I am clinging to the rock that is my Savior and my God. He will not let me go, He will not let me slip. I find safety and peace not in the circumstance going away but in letting go and trusting God in the circumstance.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% your reaction to it.” Charles Swindoll.

 

Ways I find helpful to find strength in God

  1. Listen to worship music – it’s hard for my mind to be sour when I turn my focus from my problems to who God is
  2. Read Scripture – I rest my mind on God’s truths, not my emotions.
  3. Journal – writing out my concerns and laying them at the cross helps me to remember I’m letting go and trusting God.
  4. Get busy – once my mind is focused on truth it helps to go for a walk, call a friend or clean the house. Getting my body active helps my brain not loop back over my problems.
    7. Claim God’s truths – when my mind circles back around I remind myself of God’s truths and promises

Because God is my refuge:

I am sustained (Psalms 3:3)
I am heard (4:3)
I am safe (4:8)
I am hidden in the shadow of His wing (17:8)
I am delivered, rescued from many waters, brought forth to broad place and delighted in (18:16-19)
Not shaken (21:7)
On level ground (26:12)

Do you agree with the quote that says, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% your reaction to it”? How have you personally experienced God being your refuge? Leave a comment below.


God, I run to the rock that is higher than I. You are my refuge and strength and ever-present help in trouble. It is good to be near you. I dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide in the shadow of the Almighty. You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. You cover me with your pinions and under your wings I find refuge. You set my feet on solid ground. The LORD you are my strength and my song. You have become my salvation. Amen