Read: Isaiah 5:1-2, John 15:1-11
Vineyards are a big part of the culture in the Bible. In fact, a common imagery portrays Israel as God’s vineyard and God as the farmer (Isaiah 5:7; see also Psalm 80:1-19). The fruit of the vine as symbol is also true for areas of the world today. The crest of my town of origin has both the vine and Saint Peter’s keys as symbols, attesting to the central place viticulture holds in the town’s identity.
The New Testament also attests to the enduring image of God’s people as a vineyard. But now, everything becomes focused on Jesus. “I am the true vine” says Jesus in the seventh and last ‘great I am sayings’ in John (John 15:1). The fruitlessness of Israel (Isaiah 5:1-2) has now become the fruitfulness of Jesus. As an Israelite Himself, Jesus fulfills and completes the role that Israel as the people of God could not fulfill. Not wonder, then, that Jesus says to His disciples that it’s only when they are rooted in Him that they will bear fruit in abundance (John 15:4-5). To be rooted in Jesus means we abide in Him; we dwell with Him; we are in His presence.
Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling is a rich devotional that invites the reader to dwell in Jesus, from “apart from Him we can do nothing.” But the imagery of Jesus as the fruitful vine and His followers as the branches also invites us into an other, more painful, reality: Jesus pruning. For us to bear much fruit, we need to be pruned (John 15:2-8). The harsh fact is pruning takes places in the winter, when the plant looks dead. So in the dark and cold times when everything also appears fruitless, the pruning knife is applied to the vine so that it seems even less hopeful that any fruit will ever come as a result.
It reminds me of this quote about the light at the end of the tunnel that is being turned off. While we are in the dark and already on the low end of the hope factor, we are being (seemingly mercilessly) trimmed down! But, as a friend recently reminded me, it is the vine that already bears fruit that feels the pain of the pruning, not a dead organism. When we buy ‘tomatoes on the vine’ at the grocery stores, they are not really on the vine, but cut off, and therefore already dead (see John 15:6). In contrast, the pruning is applied to living vines that bear fruit, so that more fruit can be produced.
In the famous parable of the sower (Mark 4), we want to be the good soil that yields fruit in the hundredfold category (Mark 4:20). We don’t realize or particularly like that in order for us to bear more fruit, we need to be pruned. This is the true cost of discipleship Jesus talks about in John 15!
We know that “growth comes from God” (1 Corinthians 3:6); we know that the seed of the Word of God needs good soil and those who “accept it” end up producing fruit. But do we know that in order to bear maximum fruit, we will need to be pruned? So what does pruning look like? Maybe it’s areas of our lives that have born quite a bit of fruit already, yet these very areas of growth seem dormant, or even regressing right now.
The Lord does His pruning of His vineyard in many ways. It may be in our individual lives, the life of our church family or institution. Do we know what season we are going through? Take time this week to do a survey of your ‘vineyard.’
The good news is that this time of dormancy and painful ‘cuts’ will turn into great fruit in the future. The challenge of faith is to wait, just like the ‘sleepy farmer’ who “knows not how” the seed grows (Mark 4:26-29). We take solace in the fact that times of pruning are followed by times of great fruitfulness and “harvest” (Mark 4:29).
Join us for a party to kick off summer and connect with friends and family! That’s what Family Day is all about – connecting. We lead such busy lives, it’s difficult to find time to hang out together, so we’ve created an afternoon dedicated to having fun together. We’ve got an afternoon packed with fun activities. On the menu this year is:
So if you want a day of fun and fellowship, come on out to Family Day!
|Time||Featured Event||Games & Face Painting||Inflatables and Food Trucks|
|4-4:30p||Live music||Open and staffed||Open|
|4:30-5p||Bubble Soccer||Open and staffed||Open|
|5-5:30p||Bubble Soccer||Open and staffed||Open|
|5:30-6p||Live Music||Open and staffed||Open|
|6-6:30p||–||Open for use with parent supervision||Open|
|6:30p||Live Music||Open for use with parent supervision||Open|
Don’t miss this short presentation about their calling and plans to serve with YWAM in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Childcare available. Contact email@example.com to rsvp.
Join us for a night of worship led by our student and adult combined worship teams in the newly restored Bradford Hall worship space.
Wednesday May 22nd
In the world of the Bible, the image of the ‘house of the Father’ conjures up images of blessing, protection, provision and inheritance. Just like in the movie Secondhand Lions, in the end, when the two great-uncles die, the boy they raised receives everything the two eccentric and fabulously wealthy uncles owned: “the kid gets it all” so reads the (very brief) will following their deaths.
So when Jesus begins to ‘read His will’ or ‘farewell speech’ to the disciples (John 14-17) in John 14:1-14, He essentially says, ‘you get it all.’ The “Father’s house” and the “rooms” (John 14:2) are a picture of Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1). Jesus is the One that has prepared the way to get there (an image taken from Isaiah 40 and picked up by John the Baptist in the Gospels, “prepare the way of the Lord”). However, whereas Moses was “a servant in God’s house” (Hebrews 3:1-6), Jesus is faithful as the “Son”. When Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life” (literally, I, I am the way), He is equating Himself with the Great I AM, the LORD, Yahweh in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:12-14; see John 8:58). Yahweh led the Israelites to the Promised Land. Except now the Promised Land is an inheritance in Heaven and Jesus is the One that can lead anyone there. He has paved the way and He is coming back to take His disciples with Him to Heaven (John 14:3).
This is the first dimension of believing: He is the only way, the exclusive access to God, the Father. In a culture that enshrines unconditional inclusivity (actually a false claim; you need to pass a driver’s test to drive! entrance exams are requirements for many schools, etc. etc.), Jesus boldly claims that He alone is the way to Heaven. Thomas, representing all of us, has his doubts about God’s guidance but the death and resurrection of Christ (witnessed by more than 500 people, 1 Corinthians 15:6) represents powerful circumstantial evidence it happened. Jesus forged the way like no other man ever has, or ever will. As the God-Son, He fulfills the ancient dream of every king. He lives forever, not in a pretend form like the mummified kings of Egypt, but seated at the right hand of the Father in His temple/house/palace in Heaven (Ephesians 1:20).
The second dimension of believing is that Jesus and the Father are One. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:10). In fact, Jesus says the Father dwells in me (‘remains’ or ‘abide’ see John 15:4). What this means is the blessings associated with the inheritance of the Father are found in Jesus. Paul in Ephesians says that in Christ, we “have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). So the house of the Father is both a place (God’s house/temple/palace in Heaven) and an inheritance. The locale of the inheritance is in heaven.
The third dimension of believing adds the weighty language of “truly, truly” (literally,’ amen, amen’): “whatever you ask in my Name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). The real challenge of belief in Jesus, therefore, is to actually believe that if we believe in Him, we are the beneficiary of these heavenly blessings, that as we pray in His name and according to His will (rather than listing our requests like a list of wishes and desires to further our own agenda and/or comforts), we receive the full measure of His blessings. If we get that part, then the floodgates of heaven are open to us. The spiritual blessings that the Lord wants to pour out upon us become ours: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
Thoughts for the week:
In what ways do we cultivate unbelief in our lives? The constant test of this life journey in the wilderness provides plenty of opportunity for discouragement: opposition, loss of job, persistent illnesses, disabilities, financial woes, relational setbacks, and, yes, unanswered prayers. There are a lot of ways we can allow unbelief to creep in. To all these Jesus reassures us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” We know the destination. He knows the way because HE HIMSELF is the Way and He has prepared a place and an inheritance for us. We do not need to fear the journey ahead of us.