It's all about LOVE...it always is!

As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. John 15:9

When I had finally come full circle to the harvest at the vineyard, my waking thought became a word from the Lord:  Abide in My love.

I visualized the Lord on His way to Gethsemane with his disciples.  He had just showed His love for them by washing their feet at supper and sharing His last loving instructions and encouragements before He went to the Cross.

Then Jesus and His beloved followers walked together through a vineyard: 

I am the vine...you are the branches....whoever abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing...Just as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you, abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:5, 9-10

I couldn't get away from it...abide in My love! Then I realized,

it's all about love.  It always is!

Deep in every human heart is the desire to love and be loved.  And it is also deep in the heart of God....because GOD IS LOVE!

So a harvest of fruitfulness is all about abiding in HIS LOVE!

WHOSE LOVE?

The Father's love for the Son.

As the Father has loved me... John 15:9a

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. John 5:20a

The Son's love for the Father.

I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. John 14:31

I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10

The Son's love for us.

...so have I loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9b

...when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. John 13:1

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

WHAT KIND OF LOVE?

The kind of love Jesus is talking about is agape...God's love, unconditional and  sacrificial.  It's the kind that esteems another more highly than himself.  It's a love that can express a oneness of will and purpose, because it's not primarily "touchy-feely" but rather a choice of the will.  And it's hard to find on this earth.

It's the love that moved the Father to send the Son to the Cross on our behalf.  It's the love that motivated Jesus to always do as His Father commanded.  It's the love that moved the heart of the Son to sacrifice Himself for us.

And it's this very love in which we are to abide!

HOW DO WE ABIDE IN HIS LOVE?

Jesus gives us the answer:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10

So Jesus calls us to the same obedient life He lived...not by trying hard to live it, but by living with His obedient life.  Let me explain...

Because of the abiding life union of branch in the Vine, the obedient life of the Son of God courses through our spiritual veins.  Will we live from that from that Obedient Life?  That's always the question, isn't it?

WHAT ARE HIS COMMANDS?

They are those written in chapter and verse in the Scriptures...and on our hearts.

They are also the little Holy Spirit nudges that tell us to say a kind word or refrain from saying an unkind word....to pick up the phone and check on a friend...to stop and help someone in need instead of going our merry way.  Because in the context of John 13-17, the new command of the Lord is to love one another as He has loved us.

Or it may mean to stay away from a certain relationship or terminate one because it is ungodly and destructive.

His word may also come saying, "Put aside your own agenda and spend some time with Me, feeding on my Word and abiding in My love."

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?

  • I can experience friendship with God. Jesus said that He has called us friends.  But friendships can't be just one-sided.  That's true in human relationships, and it's true in friendship with the Lord.  Jesus tells us that when we obey Him, we are His friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  John 15:14
  • I can use His name with confidence in prayer to the Father. I can be a "name dropper" in the throne room of heaven :) If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you....whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  John 15:7,16
  • I can be in on family secrets. This is the same perkthe Son has in relationship with the Father! No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.    John 15:15
  • I can bear fruit that remains. What I do and who I am can have eternal results because of my life union with Christ, abiding in His love. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples...I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide... John 15:8,16
  • I can experience exuberant joy :) These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  John 15:11

Abide in His love, O beloved branch!

Because it's all about love...it always is!

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1John 5:3

We love because He first loved us! 1John 4:19

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z5cgajl1Kg&feature=related[/youtube]

Here is a moving presentation of the Gospel of John.  About 8:50 minutes into this segment, you will see John 15.  Rest, enjoy, and abide in His love.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=888_X8G3Yf0&feature=watch_response_rev[/youtube]

Kaden studying
Kaden the student

A project for Bible students:  Go through the epistle of 1 John and notice how the Elder Apostle John, years after writing his gospel, uses the same words and concepts...but with more depth.  Look for love, abide, keep His commandments...any others?

Ah! the Harvest...full-circle at the Vineyard

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit... This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:5,8

Ah! the harvest!  The reason the Vineyard exists!
March 2011

When our daughter and family lived in southern California, I was able to observe grape vineyards in all major stages of growth -- from pruning to blooming with green fruit and leaves and finally to the harvest of ripe fruit followed by early stages of the "dying" process.

All of this to begin again the Cycle of Life!

I love the metaphor of the Vine & the Branches in John 15! It encourages me in my FAITH in the Father, the Vinedresser, Who is doing His work... and in the Vine, His glorious Son and Source of Life. It gives me HOPE for a harvest of Christ-likeness (Gal 5:22-23)...and good works (Eph 2:10) as I allow the Living Christ to live through my human life as a Branch in the Vine. And it inspires LOVE for the Lord of the Vineyard who tenderly cares for me, His branch and fruit-bearer.

This metaphor also reminds me that I'm part of something bigger than myself!

I'm one of many beloved branches, brothers and sisters in Christ, who live with the same Life and produce fruit -- the manifest Life of Christ, the Vine.  We are fruitful because of His Life flowing through our very beings.

In my next post, I'll share some reflections from John 15 on this final stage of growth -- the harvest.   But in the meantime, why not review the process by meditating on John 15:1-17 for yourself.

Here are some questions to get you started:

LIST the "persons" being talked about.  They are named in verses 1, 2, 8, 12, 13, & 15. Find the ACTION words...What does each "person" DO...and with what RESULTS? WHAT does it mean "to ABIDE"?  (Use a dictionary or think of what it might mean it the context) In WHOM/WHAT are we to ABIDE?  WHO/WHAT is to ABIDE in us? What has the Holy Spirit "highlighted" to your heart?  Make note of those verses and thoughts.

Then if you care to, take a look again at my meditations in their original form...

May you be blessed, as I have been, to reflect on the Father's work in and through His Son, the True Vine...and also His work in and through us, His branches in His Vine!

I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts and meditations on this rich passage:)  So please leave a comment, if you'd like!

Stripped Bare? Why me?

I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.  Every branch in Me...that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1,2 From what I understand, important to the process of growing grapes is pruning the vine.  Now I am definitely not a gardener!  So if I have ever pruned anything, I've done a very wimpy job of it.

I was shocked a few years ago when we visited a vineyard in Temecula Valley, CA.  John & I had traveled there to help our daughter and son-in-law move into the house they were renting at the time.  I told Beth I'd like to see a real grape vineyard "in person" because of John 15 and my blog.  So off we went!

Now in my mind I was thinking at least green and lush...after all, this was Southern California and tulips and flowering trees were blooming.  But NO!  What I saw was vine after vine with absolutely NOTHING on them.  I could just barely see little stubs attached.  Those were the branches!

Oh my!  Talk about instant spiritual lesson!  Have you ever felt like a little stub of a branch, stripped bare?  Over the course of my sixty-plus years, I have many a time.

One of the times that was most painful was when we first moved to Ohio about 30 years ago.  That was at a time when I didn't really know the unconditional love of my Father-God apart from my performance.  I was trying to earn his love and acceptance by doing all the Christian stuff.  (I was trying to earn what, in reality, I already had).

My health was breaking because of strange reactions to chemicals, molds, foods, and who knows what else.  Since there was little understanding in the traditional medical community at that time, I was deemed a hypochondriac who needed anti-depressants.  It was then that I started into anxiety/panic attacks.  My doctor put me on Xanax.  It helped me sleep, but I still had the reactions and the panic attacks.

This was a huge blow to me as a Christian working for my sanctification.  But the Lord was pruning me, freeing me from my performance addiction and attaching me to Himself alone as my support and deliverance.  Since the only Scriptures that made sense to me during that time were the Psalms, God spoke to me there:

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Psalm 56:3,4

First of all He said to me, "When you are afraid..."  not  "Shame on you for being afraid...".  That was freeing because I lived with such self-condemnation because of the attacks.

Then the Lord said, "Use those first inklings of panic as a signal to turn your attention to Me and trust me."  So those panic attacks started to become a "place of worship" for me.  Previously when I was in the car driving with my two young children in the back seat and I started into an attack, I'd make it worse by freaking out that I was going to kill my kids.  After the Lord gave me my signal, I would instead focus on Him praising and trusting in my Deliverer. ("We become like what we focus on" is a spiritual principle...but that's for another blog).

Little by little, as I turned to the Lord each time the panic started, deliverance came.  My allergies and sensitivities continued to get worse.  Some still continue to this day.  But the panic is gone.  I've come to know and trust my God on a deeper level than ever before.  And  I've come to know His unconditional love, which is a greater treasure than perfect health.

I have met many women who suffer from anxiety/panic attacks.  Why?  Probably for each one there is a unique physical, emotional, or even spiritual reason.  The one thing I know is that God can use it to deepen a woman's dependence and trust in her Father-God.  It can truly be a "Key to the Kingdom."

 

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3

My son [daughter], do not regard lightly the discipline [pruning] of the Lord...for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines [prunes]...All discipline [pruning] for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet...afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:5,6,11

Welcome to the Vineyard

Welcome to the Father’s Vineyard.

I’m a branch in the True Vine…just a branch…but a beloved one.  I’m not THE branch, for there are many…multitudes, in fact, from every tongue and family and tribe and nation.

But I am in THE Vine.  There is only One, you know, in the Father’s Vineyard.  The True Vine is more than enough to supply life to all of us beloved branches.  And fruit?  You should see the baskets full that come when each of us branches really makes its home (“abides”) in Christ, the Father’s glorious Vine! (John 15:1-5)

I didn’t always know and experience the life of belovedness, rest, fruitfulness, and joy that are mine as a branch in the Vine.  For many years as a branch, I grunted and groaned trying to produce fruit of many kinds—developing Christian character, loving the unlovely, teaching the Bible, winning the lost, encouraging other branches, etc etc.  Oh, I drew upon the life of the Vine…at least I thought I did.  But really there was often a mixture of His life and my (fleshly) life in it all.

Then at the end of my desperation (a branch can’t take that kind of barrenness and struggle for long), I heard my Father say to my heart, “I love you even if you never do another thing right again!”  It took me two years to believe that God had really said that to me.  Every time I would start to trust in the Father’s love, the enemy would come in and whisper… ”Did God really say that?  That’s too good to be true!”

Finally one day, I chose to believe that God truly loved me, His branch, despite my level of fruitfulness.  Nothing has been the same since.  And you know what?  I started seeing this very truth all over the Scriptures:

See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called children of God….and such we are! 1 John 3:1

The Father Himself loves you… John 16:27

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

So I say again, “Welcome to the Father’s Vineyard.”

Here you will encounter many & various Scriptures, metaphors, “pictures”, stories, and lessons.  But there will always be the same truth at the bottom of it all:

The Vine, our Lord Christ, is the All-Important One! We the branches are the beloved, cared for, and fruitful ones because of being connected to the Glorious Vine!

May our Father God, the Divine Husbandman (Owner-Gardener), use this series of Vine & branches entries to encourage your life in the Vine.  May you sink down deep into His Life and live from your union with Him day by day.  Then His life in & through you will produce much fruit as He promised.

I am the Vine, you are the branches; He who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5