Of Light and Darkness, Love and Hate

Read through the Bible in 2 years: Psalm 12; Proverbs 2:16-22; 1 John 2:7-17

"Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes." - 1 John 2:9-11 ESV

What is love? What is hate? Love is an emotion but it’s also an action. Love is wanting GOOD for someone while HATE wants harm for them.

Reading Psalm 12 and Proverbs 2 along with this passage, I thought of how much lying and adultery are really signs of hate … while honesty and integrity are marks of love. One might say that they love someone while their lips are speaking lies. One might say that they love someone while leading someone astray. But true love desires for the other person’s health, holiness, and well-being.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world." - 1 John 2:15-16 ESV

At its very essence, the love of the world and the things of the world boil down to love of self, love of comfort, safety, and pleasure. My love of the world is nothing like God’s John 3:16 love – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” My love of the world looks a lot more like loving my own pleasure. The truth is that I love me some ME.

And when my eyes are full of loving me, there’s no room left to love my Heavenly Father or my neighbor. To truly love my Heavenly Father, I have to put His glory and His commands over my own fleeting pleasures. To truly love my neighbor, I have to put their well-being over my own, and that takes Holy Spirit power and strength! I can never do that in my own flesh.

Won’t you pray with me?

Heavenly Father,

We want Your glory and majesty to fill the earth. Make us Your vessels. We want to walk in the light as You are in the light. We want to love our neighbor as ourselves. We want to love others as Christ loved us.

But, Father, we can’t do it on our own.

Please forgive us for how far and how often we have gone astray. We have loved the world and the things in the world, instead of loving You and loving our neighbor. We have loved ourselves and hated our brothers.

We repent of our sins. We turn to You, knowing that You are our only hope in life and death. Thank You for the forgiveness and grace available to us through the blood of Christ. Thank You for Your power and guidance available to us through the Holy Spirit.

We need You every hour. We cry out to You and ask for Your help and we know that You hear us.

Thank You! Thank you! Thank you! By the perfect righteousness of Christ we come to You.

Amen

The Lord Sees

Read through the Bible in 2 years: Psalm 11; 1 John 1:4-2:6

"The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man." - Psalm 11:4 ESV
"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." - 1 John 1:5 ESV

Who am I fellowshipping with – light or darkness, Jesus or the devil, Almighty God or the world?

Am I speaking the truth or lies?

Am I deceiving myself or others?

Am I practicing truth or lies?

Let’s ponder these questions, then pray together.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your faithfulness to me. You will never leave me. You will never give up on me.

Lord, you have forgiven me and cleansed me. I am clean. I am forgiven. I am a product of Your grace. I am covered by the blood of Jesus.

Thank You for Your mercy. Christ is just. He has already paid for my sins by His death on the cross. Who am I to try to pay for them myself?

Father, help me to walk by faith and not by sight, to cast all of my cares on You and trust that You care for me, and that You are guiding me. I pray that my fellowship would be with You and with my brothers and sisters in the faith. Please prick my heart when I go astray and bring me back quickly into the safety of Your fold.

In the good and mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

The Life was Made Manifest

Read through the Bible in 2 years: Psalm 10, 1 John 1:1-3

"Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" - Psalm 10:1 ESV
"[The wicked man] says in his heart, 'God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.'” - Psalm 10:11 ESV
"O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more." - Psalm 10:17-18 ESV
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." - 1 John 1:1-3 ESV

Sometimes it can feel like God is hiding. But the truth is that even though we can’t see the invisible God, we can see him and what he has made. And in His great mercy He sent His own Son in the flesh, making the invisible God manifest among man.

It is the foolish and wicked who say in their hearts that there is no God. Let us not be fools, thinking God doesn’t see us or hear us. He does.

Today we can still read the eyewitness testimony of John who did see and hear and touch the risen Lord and be encouraged, and have fellowship with the body of believers – from the psalmist to John to today – and have fellowship with the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You so much for sending Your son, Jesus Christ in the flesh that mankind could see Your glory. Keep us from the pride that tempts us to think that You cannot see us or hear us, that You are hiding, that You are blind and deaf.

Help us to be humble and to seek Your face and to search diligently and faithfully Your Word of Truth.

We pray that we will have a fellowship with the body of believers who are alive today and who have gone before us. We pray that we will have fellowship with Jesus Christ. Help us to live surrendered lives, walking by faith and not by sight.

To the glory of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, Amen

It is the Lord

Read through the Bible in 2 years: John 21

"That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!'" - John 21:7a ESV 

I love that John just can’t bring himself to use his own name, but refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This reminds me that my value, like John’s, is found in being loved by Jesus, my Creator, Savior, and Lord who knows all of my shortcomings and sins, yet He still loves me.

"When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea." John 21:7b ESV

I can picture it in my mind. Peter heard, “It is the Lord,” and rather than questioning John, he immediately puts on his outer garment, and jumps into the sea to get to Jesus. He wants to see him first this time!

While everyone else is working on bringing in the boat – dragging a heavy net loaded full of fish – I wonder if John was frustrated, disgusted, or irritated with Peter’s irresponsible, impulsive response… Or did his heart leap with Peter’s, praising God for making Peter so easily excitable? I hope it was the latter. I want to be able to thank God for the variety of personalities and temperaments that He has given to His children.

After thinking about this, it was particularly ironic to me when I read later in the chapter about Peter pointing his finger at John, asking “Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21 ESV)

Did Peter ask this out of love and concern for John or out of jealousy? Pride ? Conceit? I don’t have any idea, but I do know how Jesus responded to Peter’s question, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22)

I want to hear Jesus’s words loud and clear and apply them to my own life. “Kim, beloved daughter, don’t worry about those other people.”

Jesus has a unique purpose for each of our lives. I need to keep my eyes focused on Christ, so I can follow Him well. If my eyes are looking over at my friend’s lane, how can I see clearly to drive in mine?

Let’s pray, sisters!

Heavenly Father,

Please help me not to be jealous, envious, covetous, or disdainful of my fellow servants or the tasks that You’ve given them to do. Help me to remember Ephesians 2:10, that I am Your workmanship and that I have been created on purpose for good works that You have prepared in advance for me to do.

Help me, Lord Jesus, to be about my Father’s business with eagerness and joy, not looking to the left or right, not looking behind, but with my eyes fixed firmly on Christ and the hope that is before me. Make me eager to trust and obey You, to look for You and listen carefully for Your voice.

In the blessed name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

When Not Seeing is Believing

Read through the Bible in 2 years: John 20

"Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” - John 20:24-29 ESV

As an atheist, I refused to believe in anything I couldn’t see with my eyes.

Now I see the many contradictions in my own worldview. Why did I believe my world history teacher when she taught about things that happened hundreds of years ago? Why did I believe my chemistry teacher when he taught about how chemical elements worked?

Now I see the irony in my faith in evolution – how that was as much a leap of faith as faith in Jesus is – but at the time I believed that the images of fossils and ape men I’d seen in my science textbooks and on TV were “scientific proof” of evolution.

Reading John 20, I noticed how John and Peter and Mary and Thomas believed because they saw.

I have such empathy for Thomas when I think about how much he had just been through. He just couldn’t fully trust his friends’ testimonies when they said, “We have seen the Lord.”

Judas, a fellow apostle, had just betrayed Jesus. Jesus, their messiah, had just been publicly beaten and executed on a Roman cross. And now Thomas has to figure out what is next for his life. How can you be a full-time disciple of someone who’s dead? Is this whole “Jesus is risen from the dead” thing real or just a hoax?

So Thomas demands, “Unless I see in his hands, the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Strong words. Strong demands. It’s not enough just to see the mark of the nails on Jesus’s hands. He has to place his own finger in those nail-pierced hands and place his own hand on His spear-pierced side. Merely seeing, apparently, is not believing, either.

Oh, that Jesus then appeared to the disciples again when Thomas was there … And went directly to Thomas and give him what he had requested.

How is it possible? Why didn’t Jesus rebuke him? How can Jesus say, “Put your finger here. See my hands. Place your hand on my side”?

Such grace. Such mercy. Such love.

Will you pray with me?

Jesus, we are not worthy. I am not worthy. Thomas was not worthy. We cry with Thomas, my Lord and my God.

Jesus, You are not only our Messiah and Savior and Lord, but you are God. This is the gift of faith, the precious, priceless gift to those who have not seen and yet believed.

Remembering the words of Hebrews 11:1, that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, We ask that you will open our eyes to have faith to be sure what we hope for and fully convinced of the things that we have not seen, but what we have read in your word. Help us to believe these eyewitness testimonies that have been passed down and preserved for us. Help us to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, that by believing we may have eternal life in his name.

In the mighty name of Jesus we pray, Amen

Behold the man … Behold our God

Read through the Bible in 2 years: John 19

“And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.” – John 19:2-3 ESV

When I was growing up, I was such a sarcastic person. I regularly poked fun at others to get laughs and attention for myself at their expense, so reading this passage breaks my heart. I see now the cruelty of these soldiers as they mock Jesus, pressing a crown of thorns on his head, dressing him in a purple robe, saying “Hail, King of the Jews,” while they slap his face.

In verse 4, Pilate says, “Behold the man,” then moments later in verse 14, Pilate says, “Behold your king.”

Yet the chief priests – the Jewish chief priests – say, “We have no king but Caesar,” and my heart again breaks again.

My heart breaks for all those people in our world who have turned their backs on the king who came to save us. My heart breaks for the Jews who missed their Messiah who came for them, His own people. And my heart breaks for all of those Christians who are too busy to behold their king.

But my heart also breaks for Jesus Himself.

Can you imagine how it would feel to come into the world that you yourself had made, to take on human form and be born as a baby, to live among your own chosen people, and speak to that weak after week from more than 2 years, to perform miracle after miracle to really prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you indeed are the long awaited messiah, only to hear your own people say not only “Crucify him,” but “We have no king but Caesar.”

They did not say, “We have no king but Almighty God.” They said, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Who is your king? The reigning president of the United States? The previous president of the United States? Maybe a president of another nation of the world?

Maybe money? Fame? The news media?

Your kids? Your stomach? Your couch? Your bed? Your phone?

What do you live for and serve and obey?

Let’s say together, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. As for me and my house, we will have no king but Jesus.”

Will you pray with me?

Oh, Heavenly Father,

How I long to behold you, to see you face-to-face, to gaze upon Your glory. Hold me close to you. Bind me to you. Let me not wander away out of fear of the disapproval of man. May the fear of God be stronger than the fear of man in my life. Help me to remember that You are for me and if You are for me, what can man do to me?

Keep me from having a biting, sarcastic tongue. May my words be apples of gold in a setting of silver, full of grace and mercy and seasoned with salt.

I pray for the leaders of my nation and the leaders of all the nations of the world. I pray that they will bow the knee before King Jesus, that they will humble themselves before You. Lord, I praise You as Daniel did so many years ago – You are who changes times and seasons; You are who removes kings and sets up kings; You are who gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21 ESV) Make our nation’s leaders like King Nebuchadnezzar who said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”” (Daniel 2:47 ESV)

Let us behold You, seated on Your throne. Let us worship and adore You alone, for nothing compares to You.

In the name of Jesus we pray,

Amen.


Behold our God in Chinese

Behold, Our God!

VERSE 1

Who has held the oceans in His hands

Who has numbered every grain of sand

Kings and nations tremble at His voice

All creation rises to rejoice

是谁曾用手心量海洋?

是谁数算大地的尘埃?

万国万民听主声战栗,

宇宙万物心扬声高唱。

CHORUS

Behold our God seated on His throne

Come let us adore Him

Behold our Kingnothing can compare

Come let us adore Him!

仰望我神,坐在宝座上,

我们来敬拜祂!

仰望我王,无人能相比,

我们来敬拜祂!

VERSE 2

Who has given counsel to the Lord

Who can question any of His Words

Who can teach the One who knows all things

Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds

有谁能作上帝的谋士?

有谁能与我的主商议?

有谁能够教导全能神?

有谁能够测度祂心意?

VERSE 3

Who has felt the nails upon His hands

Bearing all the guilt of sinful man

God eternal humbled to the grave

Jesus, Savior risen now to reign!

是谁的手被钉十架上?

担当我罪,为我受鞭伤?

永恒的主谦卑受死亡;

耶稣救主今复活作王!

TAG

Men: You will reign forever!

祢掌权到永远!

Women: Let Your glory fill the earth!

祢的荣耀满全地!

Not of this World

Read through the Bible in 2 Years: John 18

"When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground." - John 18:6 ESV

Why would these soldiers draw back and fall to the ground with these simple words? Because Jesus truly is the great “I am,” the eternal one, the one whose words have power like no earthly man.

"Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, "You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not."" - John 18:15-17 ESV

This “other disciple” is John. John, the author of the book of John, was known to the high priest and was allowed to enter into the courtyard with Jesus. Then, John bought Peter in. It seems to me that John is willing to identify himself with Jesus, but Peter isn’t. Peter insists even to a mere servant girl that he is not one of Jesus’s disciples.

I have to ask myself, am I more like John – willing to identify myself with Christ even with his enemies … or more like Peter, afraid to stand up for Christ even with a stranger.

Isn’t it awesome to read Jesus say, “I am he,” while Peter says, “I am not.” Indeed, Jesus is the “I am,” while I am certainly an “I am not.”

"So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world."" - John 18:33-36 ESV

This reminded me of John 1:10-12, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Jesus’s own people, the Jews, had rejected him, yet here is Pilate, a Roman, asking Jesus if he is the king of the Jews.

Jesus’s kingdom is not over any specific group of people, and His kingdom is not in the here and now of this earthly world, Rather, Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the eternal King over all, the One who will reign for all eternity over all heaven and earth.

Which reminded me of Revelation 21. Here’s just a few verses — go read the whole chapter for yourself.

"And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day--and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life." - Revelation 21:22-27 ESV

I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to see the Great King face-to-face, where all things will be new, where there will be no more crying or pain, no more war or persecution … forever and ever. Won’t you join me there?

Let’s pray together.

Heavenly Father,

We look forward to the day when Your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We pray for those who haven’t yet bowed their knees to Jesus and ask You to open their eyes to the reality of Christ as King.

We pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who risk their lives and their livelihood to stand with Christ. We pray that You will help us to be bold, to not be ashamed of the gospel for it is the power to save both the Jew and the Gentle.

Thank You for inviting us into Your kingdom. You are the great, everlasting “I am.” And we are the “I am nots.” Help us to remember that. Help us to willingly humble ourselves before Your throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Prayer for a Child at College

Read through the Bible in 2 years: John 17

How amazing it is to hear Jesus pray to His Holy, Righteous Father. Surely if He needed to pray, so do I! To read Jesus praying for His disciples, praying for the Father to protect them, encourages me to pray for those that I disciple, especially my children.

"I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one." - John 17:15 ESV

Today my third-born child begins her second semester of college. I guess that’s why John 17:15 really jumped out at me. She has been homeschooled her whole life. Except for two years at a neighborhood church preschool and the occasional tutorial class, she has grown up under my watchcare. I have done my best to shelter her from the evil one, but I know that whether home or away, we all need the Lord to protect us from the schemes of the evil one.

Ultimately, the safest place any of us can be is in the Father’s will – whether that’s in your mama’s house or on the streets of Memphis, Tennessee or in a community college classroom.

Let’s pray together for our children.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the precious gift that it is to be a mother and the precious gift that this specific child is to me. Thank You for all the ways that I see Jesus in her. Thank You for her meek and gentle spirit which reminds me to be meek and gentle.

I pray that You will be glorified in her today. So many people never crack open a Bible or step foot in a church, so I pray that they will see You in her. Make her a city on a hill that points people to You. Make her an imitator of God as Your beloved child, walking in love as Christ loved her and gave Himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Protect her from the schemes and temptations of the evil one, so that Your light can shine brightly out of her like a million-watt lightbulb. Remind her of the Word that has been poured into her over the years she has spent in my home. Help her to hear your voice whispering – or shouting – in her head, “This is the way; walk in it.” Send Your Holy Spirit to be her counselor and guide, showing her which way to go and which way not to go. Send Your Holy Spirit to be her comforter and advocate, so that she will not give way to fear, but will remember, “I am a child of the Lord of heaven’s armies. What can man do to me?”

When she is tempted to hide her light under a bushel, convict her. Remind her that she belongs to You and that You are her ever-present help in time of need. Help her to call out to You and to trust You when she feels afraid or discouraged or lonesome. Help her to remember that You are always with her, and that You have promised to never leave her or forsake her.

In the good and righteous name of Jesus we pray,

Amen

Sorrow turned to Joy

Read through the Bible in 2 years: John 16

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." - John 16:20-22 ESV

When I look at this picture, which was taken just moments after my youngest son was born, so many memories of that day flood back into my mind. After laboring into the wee hours of the night, I’d gotten my first epidural out of a crazy need for some rest, only to find myself overwhelmed by a intense feeling of panic when I couldn’t take a deep breath or feel my legs.

Yet, when that baby boy was delivered, all 8 pounds 15 ounces of him, I was even more overwhelmed by a feeling of ecstasy and joy, unexplainable to anyone who has never delivered a baby.

All the pain and exhaustion was worth it, the very instant that little boy drew his first breath and let out his first cry.

Just as friends try to prepare a new mom for the pain of labor and delivery, Jesus was trying to prepare His disciples for the great sorrow they would experience at His upcoming death and departure. An important part of that preparation that many experienced moms forget to share, is the immense JOY that you will experience after the pain is over.

Friends, listen to me, someday it will be worth it! Soon and very soon we are going to see the king! And there will be no more crying there. In this world we will indeed have tribulation, but we can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.

We don’t need to try to take shortcuts to avoid the pain, hiding our lights under bushels so no one can see them, drowning our sorrows in Facebook and food. Instead, we can rejoice today because we know with certainty that these labor pains are only temporary and that they will all be worth it when we see our Savior face to face.

Will you please join me in prayer?

Heavenly Father,

You are our hope in life and death. Help us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Help us to fix our minds on things that are above. Help us to number our hours and days, knowing that these times are in fact short and these trials are indeed light, in comparison to the eternal weight of glory that is to come.

We pray for those who are in the depths of sorrow today, who are at the peak of the incredible pain of labor, who can’t seem to make out that light at the end of this valley of despair. Father, please, be their comfort and help them to see Your everlasting arms carrying them and Your loving hand guiding them through this dark valley. Use us to encourage them. Help us to grieve with those who grieve just as deeply as we rejoice with those who rejoice.

We pray for those who are without hope today because they are without Christ. We pray that You will open their eyes and soften their hearts to the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ who bore their punishment by His death on the cross. May today be their day of salvation, that many will rejoice with the angels over one lost sinner who repents!

In the holy name of Jesus we pray. Amen

Proving to be His Disciples

Read through the Bible in 2 years: Psalm 10; Proverbs 2:1-15; John 15:1-17

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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 15:4-5 
"By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples." - John 15:8

Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit my mom’s green thumb and I’ve managed to kill every plant I’ve ever had unless they were planted outside and survived independent of any regular care. So, I was so happy when I received not one, but TWO, fake plants to put in the greenhouse window in my lovely sunroom.

But those plants won’t bear any fruit. They might look pretty and green, but they’ll never bear so much as a flower – not to mention bearing apples or strawberries. They’re really not good for anything other than looking nice. Remember, they’re fake plants.

According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, a disciple is someone who is not only a pupil but also an adherent and imitator of their teacher. Fake followers of Christ might look nice and green on the outside, but they aren’t following Christ’s commands. They’re not loving one another with the sacrificial love that Christ modeled for us. And they’re not bearing MUCH fruit, as true disciples, true followers of Jesus, will.

Do you see yourself in that last paragraph? If so, there’s hope for you. Attach yourself to the vine which is Jesus Christ, abide in Him and allow His words to abide in You. Ask the Lord to forgive you and to prune away whatever is holding you back. Repent of your sins, turning away from the world and turning toward the Lord in faith, and the life-giving sap of the Holy Spirit will fill your veins. Then, fruit will start popping out of you, maybe just a little at first – a little peace, a little patience, a little kindness … And as you cling to Him, He will bear MORE fruit in you, the fruit of good works done as you listen to the Master Gardener who died that you may have life.

Let’s pray together.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your amazing grace that prunes away whatever is hindering us that we can be Your disciples and bear much fruit. Sometimes pruning hurts, and it seems like it would be easier to just be a fake plant, looking nice and green, but not bearing great bushels full of fruit.

We want to be disciples of Christ, living and loving like He lived and loved. Jesus obeyed you, His Heavenly Father, and we need to obey you, too. Give us the wisdom and strength to reject passivity and comfort, and instead to put out the necessary effort to send out tendrils that hold tightly to You that we may grow higher and fuller.

Help us to remember that we can do no good thing apart from You, that we need to abide in the vine of Jesus Christ. Help us to turn to You day after day, so that Your Word will abide in us and we can abide in You.

We love You, Father. You are a good gardener, taking good care of Your garden, giving us rain and sun and snow and clouds in due season. Help us to trust You more.

In the good and mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.