Have you ever had one of those days? The kind where you have more to do than time to do it all in. You use your time wisely, you get a lot accomplished, but the list doesn’t get shorter. Actually, you wonder if it’s getting tips from the rabbits under the woodpile.
That was me today.
I needed to hit the grocery store and do laundry. I needed to go through all the email messages I have been putting off the last few days. I needed to write a blog post for my daily challenge. I needed to, I needed to, I needed to…
By the time dinner rolled around I was exhausted. Burned out. And I was frustrated that my blog post wasn’t coming together. Everything I wrote stunk! It had no depth, no meaning, no flow—nothing. Which of course started the merry-go-round of insecurity and doubt.
And I started to feel stressed. Anxious. And irritable.
Finally I put my foot down and cried out, “What’s wrong with me? God why am I feeling this way?”
“Hey, Baby, you did show up today! How are you doing? I haven’t talked to you all day.”
Oh. He’s right. I haven’t talked to Him all day, have I? How did that happen?
When I looked back at my day, I realized I didn’t even tell Him good morning. I just got out of bed and started my day and then kept on with my day…running on empty…running on fumes.
I let my pride get the best of me: “Oh, I got this. No problem. It will be easy. Piece of cake.”
Then I read Romans 8:6:
“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
I didn’t ask the Spirit to fill me today, nor did I ask Him to control my mind; which means I let my sinful nature take the lead. And I didn’t even slow down long enough to think about where I was being lead until I was miserable. I allowed a fabulous day to be less than stellar and I allowed my vitality and peace to be stifled and taken away.
Beloved, I share this, because when you spend time daily with God, it’s easy to tell when you don’t. It shows up immediately. I pray I continue to stay sensitive to that, and more diligent about spending quality time in His word during this busy season in my life.
I learned a hard lesson today: When life gets crazy and feels like it’s coming off the rails, that is NOT the time to forget, pass over, or ignore spending time with Jesus. That is the time you need it most.
While overhearing students talking in an aisle at Target, I heard “It.” While waiting for my son’s orchestra concert to start, I heard “It.” While standing in line behind college students, I heard “It.” And while chatting with friends after church, I heard “It.”
Each time I hear “It,” I cringed. I would happily take toothpaste and orange juice over this. Or nails on a blackboard. Or a rock in my shoe.
No, I’m not referring to the Steven King movie. “It” is a line/statement that’s taking over our culture by storm. This line seems so insignificant, not a big deal; but it carries with it a hidden poison that infects the hearts and minds of those who use it as well as those who hear it.
It’s the line:
“I just wasn’t feeling it.”
I hear this line in connection to a responsibility to do something they aren’t particularly thrilled about doing. “It” could be homework, school or work projects, household chores, grocery shopping, or any other task not perceived to be enjoyable or entertaining in comparison to other available options.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about taking time to rest; of getting recharged and refreshed. I wrote a post about the importance of rest a few weeks ago, you can read it here.
What concerns me about this seemingly benign statement is the attitude behind it.
It’s an attitude polluted with selfishness, complacency, pride, arrogance, conceit, and slothfulness. It’s an attitude of disrespect and dishonor toward the one who assigned the task. (Teacher/professor, friend, roommate, parent, spouse, boss, manager, etc.) It’s a presumptuous attitude that infers you no one has the right to assign a task to you—including Jesus.
This attitude is damaging to the speaker as well as the listener because it perpetuates everything above and more. How do I know this? Because when I observe how the listeners non-verbally respond to this statement, there’s always a note of understanding, ‘you have that right,’ and even praise. And the verbal response is usually, “I feel ya.” Roughly translated: I claim that right too.
Another problem with this attitude is, more often than not, it results in shoddy workmanship because the project has been put off until the last minute. I recognize some people work well under pressure, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about when the project is put off because of the “I don’t care” attitude that is attached to the “I just wasn’t feeling it.” statement.
When it comes to homework, it is not done well or with excellence. When it comes to studying for an exam—the information isn’t learned, resulting in a poor grade. When it comes to a job, there’s typically a reprimand from the boss, and a report added to your file. This report will influence your future raises, bonuses, responsibilities, and promotions. And repeating this behavior can result in the loss of your job.
But let’s look at the flip-side of this. What if you are counting on something to be done and done well and in a specific timeframe? And what if the person responsible for completing that task wasn’t “feeling it” and decided not to do it. Of if they did do it, they did it a half-assed manner. Would you be upset?
I would be furious!
But when I hear “I just wasn’t feeling it.” spoken by followers of Jesus Christ, I cringe even more because it goes entirely against what the Bible teaches us about work, responsibility, laziness, and integrity.
Please hear my heart.
God created us in His image. And as followers of Jesus, we have the privilege of reflecting that image in the world we live in—to be salt and light. Right?
Beloved, Our God works! We see that in creation and how He sustains, changes, remakes, refines, and rebuilds us individually.
And He gives us work to do. All through Scripture we see His assignments given to Noah, Moses, Joshua, the Judges, the Prophets, David, Solomon, Jesus, His disciples, Paul, and us.
And it started with Adam in the Garden of Eden.
“The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.” (Genesis 2:15, NLT)
And when Eve was formed out of his rib, she joined him in the tasks of tending and watching over the garden. However, one day they weren’t “feeling it, ” and the Serpent got in…
When the attitude of “I’m not feeling it” comes in, we leave the gate wide open for the Serpent to come in. And once he’s in, he wreaks havoc with your life. Grades fall, projects don’t get done (or done well), deadlines get missed, exams get failed, jobs get lost, and dreams die. Baby, “It” doesn’t have to be this way! But it does require a change of attitude and focus.
“If you re faithful in little things, you will be faithful in larger ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealthy, who will trust you with the true rivhes of heaven?” Luke 16:10-11, NLT
In school: That mundane assignment is teaching you how to persevere through the mundane things in life. Believe it or not, the busy-work is building skills and a tenacious foundation for more significant things you can’t even see yet. That pointless project is helping you master the knowledge you’re going to need for more extensive projects later in your education and career. And the grades you’re earning now are the keys that will unlock the doors to the scholarships and grants you want to acquire, to the college you desperately desire to attend, to the program you wish to enroll in, and the career you dream about having.
In a career: That repetitive report could be a primary component in determining the trajectory of the company you work for and your career. That menial task is setting the stage for other, more substantial things to take place. And doing these well, doing them with excellence will help propel you to new positions and more significant opportunities.
“[Students/employees], obey your earthly [teachers/professors/bosses] in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites.” Colossians 3:22-25 NLT
Dear One, I know life can get overwhelming. Tasks can be daunting, and 24 hours doesn’t feel like enough to get it all done. I know at times, it’s more than you can bear. I know because lately, this feels like a constant state for me.
Here are some tips to encourage you to rebuke the attitude of “not feeling it”:
So every time you’re tempted to say,
“I’m just not feeling it” I want you to consider what you’re really communicating. Think about the attitude that’s accompanying this statement and how it affects you and those around you. And think about how you would feel about a friend, parent, teacher, professor, spouse, significant other, co-worker, group project partner, etc. saying that to you about something you are counting on, wanting, or needing.
God has so much in store for you. Don’t miss “It”!
Has God ever stopped you dead in your tracks while reading His Word?
You’re reading along, absorbing, learning, pursuing—and WHAM! The breaks engage, throwing you back in your seat. Black tire marks mar the pavement, and the smell of burnt tires fills your nostrils.
That was me today.
Our pastors just wrapped up a sermon series that’s still resonating in my heart and mind. It was about “Being a Christian when society thinks you’re irrelevant and extreme.” In fact, that’s the subtitle of David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons’ book, Good Faith, which they used to prepare for the series.
Now, if you’ve read any of my other blog posts or my story, you’re aware that one of the most significant burdens on my heart is the Biblical illiteracy sweeping our nation. The epidemic is spreading from my generation on down, getting exponentially worse with each younger generation. So this message series and book were very relevant to my desire to fight against this issue.
So I’ve been asking God to prepare me for this battle. And to teach me how to prepare others as well.
Then while in my quiet time, I came across 1 Peter 3:15-16. The smell of burnt tires is still thick in my sinuses. It had a profound effect on me, so I looked it up in its context (I put these verses in bold for you):
“Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:13-18, NLT)
Beloved, we often think the early church had it easy with thousands of men and women putting their faith in Jesus every day and the gospel spreading like wildfire. However, in the midst of our romanticization of this time, we forget the early believers were routinely imprisoned, beaten, and put to death for their faith. Yet they refused to stay silent.
Here in America, we don’t have those particular threats hanging over our head. Nevertheless, many modern day believers across the globe do. But we do face ridicule, rejection, and being ostracized because of our faith. And it hurts. I know, I’ve felt that hurt more times than I can count. Some of those wounds are still fresh while others are scars.
However, when someone asks, “Why do you love Jesus?” All that pain, hurt, and rejection melts away. This dear person just asked me to talk about my most “favoritest” subject: my Jesus and what He’s done for me. This makes all the turmoil and suffering worth it.
We don’t need to be the obnoxious, in-your-face types; we just need to be gentle and respectful. We need to be honest and sincere. And if you are anything like me, when you talk about what Jesus has done for you, you tap into a unique kind of passion and joy that usually draws your listener like a magnet.
Dear One, reread the passage above.
Is it your responsibility to:
No. It’s not. That’s the responsibility of the Spirit.
What’s your responsibility?
One of the things repeatedly stated in our sermon series was Christians are viewed as judgmental, unloving, and legalistic by nonChristians. They’re repelled by Christians who shove their faith down their throat. Well, things haven’t changed much. It was the same situation for those Peter was writing to. Just be you. Be loving. Be honest and sincere. Let God take care of the rest.
Remember, people love stories. Especially stories of metamorphic change. Which is why Jesus told stories. And, Beloved, this is why we’re encouraged to share ours. We just need to be prepared to do so!
I was a senior in high school with two boys in pursuit
I was interested in both, but which to choose?
Then I discovered I was being played the fool.
The game they played was harsh and cruel.
The winner was who could claim my virginity
My heart didn’t matter nor did my dignity.
I went off like a nuclear bomb, anger pouring from my ears
But the hurt, devastation, and embarrassment I carried for years.
I was a freshman in college out on a date with my crush
I couldn’t believe he liked me too—what luck!
A friend loaned me his car so I could be the one to drive.
Little did I know I would be leaving alone with tears in my eyes.
All through dinner his words were romantic and sweet.
He knew just what to say, to bring a girl to her knees.
But before he could carry me away by his words whispered low
His hand slid up my thigh showing me where he intended to go.
Silently I grabbed my purse and walked away
I told the waitress he would play the bill, that I couldn’t stay.
I put the keys in the ignition and put the car in reverse
Confident my only value to males was in regards to what was up my skirt.
I was…I don’t even know.
It all started as far back as my memories go.
This is the part that almost kept me from posting the truth
This is the part where I have to face the abuse.
This is the most painful, the one with the biggest
This is the one that nearly ruined me, the one that broke my heart
My father did things no father should.
He told me I was worthless, ugly, and fat—No good.
No man would ever want me. He owned me, I was his.
As his daughter, it was my duty to do for him as he wished.
No matter how I fought him, it was never enough
I could never escape the threat of his touch.
But then God…
Took my broken heart, my depression, and my shame.
He cleaned me, healed me, and made me new again.
Took the disposable object I saw in the mirror
And showed me a woman of value, a woman He held her dear.
He told me I was His child, His treasure, the apple of His eye.
That it was for me He suffered and died.
He gave me a ministry, a message, a task
But first I needed to face the truth, to remove the mask.
Beloved, God restored me and made me new. Don’t get me wrong. I still have the scars. But it is those scars I treasure. Not because of the abuse, but because they are healed—no longer open wounds. And God has used those scars to facilitate healing in other that would not have otherwise been possible.
But my Jesus, through His spirit, has made me new. I am not who I was 20 years ago, 15, years ago, or even 5 years ago. And for that I am thankful. I still wrestle with the residual insecurities, but He is helping me through those as well.
Me Too…But by the grace of God…I am healed.
I promised to share two personal stories of when I’ve asked God for something. I promised to share how He blessed me in both circumstances—by either giving me the desire of my heart and by withholding it. And I will. I promise.
However, I’m going to add one more story to this list.
This morning during worship God spoke directly to my heart, eliciting tears of repentance, thanksgiving, and praise. What He convicted me of is so intertwined with this message that I believe it’s why He prevented me from writing it yesterday–He wasn’t done writing it on my heart yet.
When I was a little girl, I had two big dreams tucked into the secret area of my heart. Theses dreams occupied my thoughts and infiltrated my goals for years to come. I kept these dreams hidden for a long time fearing someone might steal them or try to take them away.
A House on The Water
The sound of waves lapping the shore has always mesmerized me. I can feel my body’s inner-most tension slowly untie with each passing moment. The waves lifting the surface of the water as they roll across the lake, are like fingers gently massaging my neck and shoulders. I close my eyes soaking it all in–and a loon calls. Relaxation complete.
From the time I was old enough to appreciate the pleasure of being on the lake, I was old enough to desire the lake life. And shortly after Thad and I were engaged, I let him into that secret place in my heart.
Fast forward several years.
Thad and I started to look for houses on a lake but soon discovered there weren’t many viable options in our price range. Finally, we found one that was large enough for our family, in a great location, and not ancient. However, it was slightly out our range, but it had been on and off the market for a few years, so we put in a lowball offer hoping to get a deal. I was excited! I arranged furniture, divided up the rooms, and organized the kitchen in my mind. I was confident they would accept our offer or at least dicker a little bit. But they didn’t, they told us to take a hike.
I was devastated! How could God not come through? Why didn’t He give me the desire of my heart as He promised? I felt cheated. Ignored. Angry.
Have you ever been there?
“Well, Baby, did you ask? Did you bring me into this decision? Did you seek my will, direction, and blessing?”
Wrecked! I was wholly convicted. I repented of my selfishness and pride. I apologized for not seeking His will and being angry with Him for my stupidity. Seriously, I know better than that! Then I waited for my dream to up in the flames of my self-righteousness.
It didn’t. But the way I prayed for it changed dramatically.
First I handed my desire over to Jesus. I laid it all out at His feet, holding nothing back. Then I said, “It’s all Yours. I give it to you with trembling hand, knowing you could take it away. But if this dream is not in Your will for me, if it doesn’t magnify You or bring You glory; take it and replace it with what does. Your will be done, not mine.”
A few years later He led us to our current home. He led us to a complete fixer-upper. He led us to a house far from perfect but with great potential. He led us to a house that would teach us more of who He is and refine our marriage and family. He led us to a house we can share with others and use for His glory. It hasn’t been a smooth ride, but I can say it’s been worth it. Not just to have a home on a lake, but to have more of Him revealed that otherwise, I might not have been able to see.To Him be the glory.
There’s nothing like being on the back of a horse. Of moving as one unit with one mind. Of feeling all that power harnessed by a bond of shared trust and respect. When I ride, I feel free. Vibrant. Joyfilled.
I was introduced to horses by family friends as a child. And the first time I looked into those big brown eyes and kissed that velvety nose, I knew I was in a forever kind of love. Growing up, I was not able to get a horse, but shortly after Thad and I were married, I had the opportunity to lease one. Peron was a beautiful, temperamental, sassy, chestnut, Arabian. He was perfect.
Over the next year, Peron’s owners watched our bond grow and offered to sell him to me for a song. Of course, I jumped at the offer! I raced home, talked to Thad, and wrote the check intending to make the transaction on Monday.
But then Saturday afternoon I was feeling off–again. I had been feeling sick for a few weeks now, and as I ticked off the possibilities, I realized I could be pregnant. So Sunday I sat with an EPT in one hand and a check in the other debating what to do with Peron. Thad said we could make it work, but I knew God was telling me to let Peron go. And I did.
There are no words to tell you how deeply I grieved. However, I refused to let my dream die. I promised myself I would have a horse when I turned 40.
Then the summer after my 40th birthday we went to Montana for a family vacation. While there, I had the opportunity to ride a mountain horse for a few days. Lawerance was feisty, slightly naughty, and sweet all at the same time. He was beautifully balanced, needed few ques, responded well to my seat, and only required the slightest leg pressure to change direction. I didn’t need to use my reigns at all. He was also smooth and surefooted, which made riding through the rugged terrain a pure delight.
About halfway through the ride, I discovered if I talked to someone else, he would start acting a little naughty but when I gave him my full attention, he was compliant and well behaved. So I waved his mama forward and asked if this was normal behavior for him. She was in the process of asking for clarification when he started being naughty again. I held up my finger, reminded him of my seat, and talked only to him. He simmered down and put his halo back in place. His mama was aghast, mouth wide open. She had never seen him behave that way in her 12 years of owning him. Before she fell back, she said she was going to check-in in a little bit. When she did she concluded; You have a jealous boy there. I can’t lie, her comment pleased me.
The following day, both of our convictions were confirmed when he started to whinny as he saw me coming up the hill. As soon as he heard my voice, he started being so obnoxious His poor mama went to hitch him to the other side of the trailer. However, he was determined to come to me, so she handed me his lead and said, “I guess he’d rather be with you.” Oh, the pleasure that flooded my heart!
When I got back to Minnesota, the desire to recapture that connection was fierce. I started looking at rescue sites and horses for sale with an even greater fervor.
Then I felt the Spirit stirring in my heart. “Baby, we’ve been here before. Let’s not recycle that situation.”
“Oops. True.” So I started praying earnestly. About WHICH horse I should get, WHAT breed, and if it should be a rescue or not.
You know that look you get when you miss someone’s point? I swear I got that look from the Spirit.
Ah, nuts! I confessed my selfishness–again and then prayed as I did for our house.
However, this time, He removed the desire for my heart instead of granting it. He was so sweet and tender; I didn’t even realize its passing. Later, Jesus helped me recognize that His calling on my life does not work well with a horse. In light of my other responsibilities, I wouldn’t have time for one. And any joy in getting one would be replaced by stress. Granted, when I’m given a chance to ride, I take it. However, I’m at peace with this and thankful for Jesus guiding my heart.
As I walk in obedience to God’s call to write and speak, I’m trying to discern where exactly He’s leading me. Daily I ask Him to open doors, pave my path, and light the way. I beg Him to anoint my words and refine my writing. I beg Him to give me His wisdom and show me how to communicate it best. However, I’ve repeatedly neglected to ask for any of this in His Name.
And this morning while I wholeheartedly I sang out, “What a wonderful Name it is, What a powerful Name it is, Jesus Christ, my King!” God whispered to my heart, “Why aren’t you using it?”
In the secret place of my heart, the same one that hid my childhood desires, the same one He has been filling with His desires for me, we had a dialogue:
Tearfully, I asked for it all in His name. Everything He has hidden in that secret place. I’m not sure what’s next. But I know I’m asking in His Name for His will to be done. I’m asking in His name that my calling will be accomplished. I’m asking in His name for courage and confidence. I’m asking, In His Name.
What I learned today was this: If you know your calling, are sensing God’s calling, or are trying to determine it—pray it comes to pass in His Name. It’s WONDERFUL. It’s BEAUTIFUL. And it’s POWERFUL!
When we remain in Jesus, and His word abides in us—when we ask for something in His Name, we are not plugging a vending machine. We are asking the Giver of All Good Things for His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Today was one of those days that didn’t got the way I planned. Ever have one of those? I should be used to this by now. I should. But I’m not.
Some days I wake up with my day all planned out. Then circumstances come up and take me in a completely different direction. Other days, I have everything aligned, scheduled, and laid out. Then God shuts down my plans to either open my heart and eyes to the people around me or to make me aware of a change in direction.
Today He needed me to slow down. To drink in the blessings He has given me. To just love and allow myself to be loved. Sometimes I am really good at the loving part I forget to accept the love offered to me. So today He opened my heart to appreciate the world and people around me. My day was full of precious friends, family, football, and my girls.
I didn’t get all the things crossed of my to do list. I didn’t get my panned #write31days post for today finished. I didn’t rotate all the laundry. And you know, I’m okay with that. Becasue today I let myself slow down. I accepted God’s simple blessings and allowed them to fill me up. Today I was blessed beyond words—my day was full is so many ways.
One of those ways was answering questions about my writing journey—particularly during the time I was wrestling with God. When He was calling me to do this, and I was telling Him He had the wrong girl. My girls wanted to know more about why I wrestled and how I knew when I was transitioning to surrender and obedience. I shared the poem with them. I wrote it at this point. It was more of a prayer, a plea—and an answer God spoke to my heart. As several of them are in this stage they encouraged me to share it as my post today.
So this is for you My precious Girls*! Remember, God’s got your back. Trust Him with your future.
Love, Mama Bear
* My Girls are my small group girls in our church youth group.
Where would you have me go?
What would you have me do?
I know you have a purpose for my life–
Lord, all I want is to honor you.
I feel like my map
is a blank, empty page
And I don’t have a compass
to help point the way.
Where do you want me to go?
Jesus, I want to follow your lead
I have no clue where I am going
so I am here on my knees.
You have been my shelter,
my fortress, my shield
But now you want me to move–
Jesus, it is only to you I yield.
Where do you want me to go?
What are you calling me to do?
My feet are willing and able
But I honestly don’t have a clue.
“Come!” you call out,
as you extend your arms open wide
“Trust me, Child, just start moving
I will be your guide.
“You don’t need to know where you’re going
just know that I’m in the lead.
“You have no need to despair
I will satisfy all your needs.
“Your faith will be made stronger
and your light will shine!
“All who see you will know
that you are mine!
“I will bless you and change you
into the likeness of me;
“Even if some things remain unknown
on this side of eternity.”
But I don’t have the resources
“I will supply all your needs.”
I don’t have the finances for them
“Ask me, I will supply all your needs.”
I don’t have the understanding or wisdom
“I do, I will supply all your needs.”
I don’t have the right degree
“Neither did I, I will supply all your needs.”
I don’t have the time
“I will supply your need.”
I am afraid–
“Take my hand and let me lead.”
“Child, my purpose will come to be pass
whether you participate or not
Either stay where you are or move–
but make the excuses stop!
“When you completely surrender
and move in obedience to me
I will bless you beyond
what you can fathom or dream
“I will use you to bless others
and glorify My Name;
I will use you to change lives
and yours, Child, will also never be the same.”
Jesus, I trust you
my confidence is in you alone
You are my shelter, my guide;
my Savior–my only hope.
Take my life, I surrender it to you,
it is yours to use as you desire.
Lord, I just have one request,
fill me with courage and your consuming fire.
In Part 1 I asked you two questions. Do you remember what they were?
Wait for it…
What do you think it means to abide in Christ? And how does that affect how we ask for anything we want?
I would love to know what your responses were.
Today I want to focus on this word ‘abide’ and Jesus’s command to “Abide/remain in me.”
This portion of God’s Word is so dear to me because it’s the first piece that became Vibrantly Relevant in my life—forever changing the way I approach The Bible. Don’t get me wrong, I had long been a student of Scripture. I loved it, devoured it, studied it, and taught it. But while I sat in my Propagation class on a warm September day, these verses became alive!
Allow me to explain. In 2010 I went back to school to earn a BS in Horticulture. My original purpose was to feed my inner plant nerd, but God had so much more in mind when He led me back into the classroom as a non-traditional student. My Prop class was one of my first classes in the program, and it was the gateway to a deeper understanding of God’s Word I never knew possible. Portions I had read, loved, and appreciated now were alive, vibrant, tangible…and my faith exploded.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:1-11 NLT (Emphasis mine)
Jesus was the master of word pictures. He skillfully used the known to explain the unknown. In this case, He used pruning and grafting to illustrate what abiding in Him looks like. I can’t wait to dig into those themes with you in Part 3.
A little background: This analogy was shared with all those following Him shortly before His death. He knew He had two kinds of followers:
Not much has changed has it?
Jesus is aware this second group follows Him for the entertainment value. They pursue Him for His miracles, free lunches, and to fulfill their other selfish ambitions. And yet He loves them deeply. This is why He tells us this analogy; to give us another opportunity to repent of our unbelief and choose to put out fullest and deepest faith in Him.
But He also uses this analogy to encourage those of us who have put our faith in Him—to remain there in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. He encourages us to endure even when things get difficult, when circumstances are less than desirable, and when we are persecuted like He was (Mt. 5:10-12; 2 Tim 3:12).
Jesus calls Himself the vine, talks about bearing fruit, pruning, and staying connected to Him. And nestled in these profound statements, we have today’s focus verse:
“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (Vs 7, emphasis mine).
Beloved remaining/abiding in Jesus means we choose to be connected to Him. Yes, it’s our choice. He extends the invitation to connect, but we have to choose to link up. And when we do, His life force flows into us, sustaining us, and giving us what we need to thrive. His ways become our ways and His thoughts our thoughts.
So when we abide in Jesus and ask for something there are several assumptions made:
1. We are asking for something in His Name (John 14:13-14; 16:23-24),
2. Our faith is genuine and true
3. Jesus’s Words abide in us
Beloved, every verse I looked up that mentions God giving us the desires of our heart (Ps 37:4) in both the Old Testament and New, each promise start with our devotion to God first: following Him, delighting in Him, obeying Him, etc.
When we abide in Christ, our wants, needs, and desires align with His. Yes, there are going to be times we want something that doesn’t directly affect our purpose, but HOW we ask for it changes when we’re permanently united with our Savior. Because our focus is not on our selfish desire, but on Him. And when that happens, God is no longer seen as the vending machine in the sky, there to serve our purposes. We are here to serve Him BECAUSE of the sacrifice of His Son and because He loved us first. So abide in Him, Precious One, and then tell Him what you desire.
Your stomach is demanding food but there aren’t many options around so you walk up to a vending machine, dollar bill in hand. After pursuing the options you make your selection and insert the bill. The machine sucks in it and then spits it out. So you drag it across the corner of the machine a few times hoping to smooth it out, and try again. PETUY! Out it comes. You try putting it in upside-down, backwards, anything. But over and over again the machine rejects your money.
In your frustration you dig for some change—amazed you could come up with enough. You slam the coins into the slot, daring the machine to reject those too. When the display illuminates the proper amount, you punch in your selection with more force than necessary. At a snail’s pace the machine groans to life and slowly drops your selection into the receptacle area. Impatiently you snatch your food and turn to storm away.
As you start walking, a friend comes in and asks to borrow a dollar. You tell him your challenges with the only one you have, but offer it to him anyway. You watch as he inserts the money—silently anticipating his failure. The machine sucks it in—and the display illuminates! He makes his selection and it pops into the receptacle a second later. He grabs his food, shrugs, and says thanks as he walks past smiling and snacking.
What are you feeling right now? Are you laughing at the situation, happy for your friend, and go on your way? Or are you wishing you got what he got? Or are you filled with Disbelief? Anger? Shock? Jealousy? Annoyance?
Are you thinking or saying unholy words at the vending machine or your friend’s back? Are you wondering why it rejected the dollar in your hand, but in your friend’s hand, it was acceptable?
Are you asking: Why didn’t the machine give me what I wanted when I wanted it with the way I wanted to get it? Why did it make me go through the extra effort to get what I wanted? Is bitterness starting to invade you heart and mind?
Beloved, the sad truth is, we often treat God like He’s a vending machine. Somehow we get it in our mind that His sole purpose is to give us what we want, when we want it, and how we want it.
I’ve talked with several heartbroken and disillusioned people over the years who were angry at God because He didn’t deliver what they thought He should. What they thought He promised. Through tears, they paraphrase verses like John 15:7: Ask and you shall receive! “Cheyenne, I did ask. I did. I prayed earnestly over and over again; I went to church; I even read my Bible! And nothing. I got nothing! Yet everyone around me is getting what I want! I don’t understand.”
Oh how this hurts my heart. I can almost hear the coins dropping, can’t you? I prayed—plink; I went to church—plink; I read my Bible—plink. Now to make the selection and wait for it to drop. Please understand, I’m not making fun, nor am I trivializing their pain. The truth is, I’ve been in their shoes.
What breaks my heart is these precious people missed it, as did I. We missed what it really means to follow Jesus and what faith is all about. Some of us simply missed the whole verse: We either grasped onto the part that satisfied our desire and ignored the rest or we had never learned the whole verse in the first place. For me, it was a combination of both.
Here is John 15:7 in its entirety:
“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (NLT, Emphasis mine)
Beloved, before we ask for anything, we first must remain in Christ! But what does that mean?
‘Remain’ is translated from the Greek word used ‘menō,’ but I believe a better translation is the word ‘abide.’ Abide has a more powerful meaning because it conjures up the ideas of permanence, remaining in a fixed state, continuing, staying put, and enduring. In a culture that’s constantly shifting and moving about, there’s not much that endures anymore, is there? Yet, we as humans crave permanence. We yearn for something that endures.
With that in mind, read John 15:7 in its original context.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:1-11 NLT
What do you think it means to abide in Christ? And how does that affect how we ask for anything we want?
Tomorrow, in Part 2, I will provide some answers those questions as I show you how to abide in Christ. Then in part 3, I will talk about the necessity of pruning and the beauty of grafting in relation to our faith as I share when this portion of Scripture became Vibrantly Relevant to me and changed my life forever. Finally in part 4, I will share how this Scripture influenced how I asked for a few things from God—some He gave, other He didn’t—in hopes to encourage you as you ask for things you want in accordance with His will, no matter what the answer is.
If I haven’t told you lately, I love that you’re here!
Fog hovers over the surface of the lake;
spreading its arms, quieting its wake.
A hush comes over the forest that is not the norm.
The world is subdued–waiting for the storm.
No loons call out, bidding goodbye to the day.
The choruses of crickets and frogs are silent–instead, they pray.
Beneath the heaviness of the fog the lake doesn’t even reach for shore;
For now, it is submissive and vigilant–waiting for the rain to pour.
The night is oppressive, the dark absolute–
Thick clouds shroud the stars and cover the moon.
The beat of my heart is the only sound I hear.
It echoes off the trees and the earth, increasing my fear.
Even the wind has stilled–biding its time, holding its breath.
And the animals hunker down to escape death.
The silence is eerie, but the calm is strangely charged.
Whatever it is, I sense it too–this storm is going to be large.
Far off in the distance, on the other side of the lake,
Thunder begins to rumble causing the earth to shake.
I feel the roar deep within my chest.
In the crowns of trees, birds cling to their nests.
Lightening slices through the night, bright as the noonday sun
signaling to all around–the storm has begun.
Giant raindrops gather and begin to assault the ground
Driven by an angry wind–pound, pound, pound.
The lake is now free, having thrown off the fog’s heavy weight
The waves build and breathe, demonstrating their strength.
Whitecaps fill the expanse as waves explode on the shore
Clawing, reaching, taking — ravenous for more.
The wind races unfettered–exuberant and wild
It howls and screams like an unruly child.
Gleefully it tears off limbs, throwing them to the ground
But it is the uprooting of lofty trees that make it truly proud.
The rain is relentless, saturating everything in sight
Riding the velocity of the wind, it bears its teeth ready to bite.
Its tenacious hands bind me in an unbreakable hold;
their icy chill sinks deep, introducing me to a new and debilitating cold.
There is no place to run, no shelter to be had.
As the storm rages around me, I wonder if I had been damned.
I am cut, bruised, and battered–desperate for an escape
I am cold, broken, and alone–reeling from the pain.
O Lord, I am afraid, help me endure to the end.
Give me the strength to stand; and these wounds, please mend.
I have no idea how long this storm will rage
But, Lord, I trust you and seek your face.
The wind and the waves are threatening all that is secure
Tearing up all that is good and just–all that is pure.
Lord, I am having a hard time finding which way is up
But when I look, I see You–please come and fill my cup.
Lord, You promised Your grace is sufficient for me!
Please walk on the water and clam this raging sea!
Lord Jesus, I believe You, I believe that You can.
Oh precious Savior, speak the Word, speak it now, Son of Man!
Ever been there? Me too. I wrote this a few years ago when I thought my world was falling apart. It felt like I was going to lose everything I held dear. It took all I had to cling to my Savior, and even then I felt like my grip was slipping. But you know what? His grip on me didn’t falter, weaken, or slip. He held me fast—and guided me through.
When that storm passed, I realized everything was still here–my world didn’t blow away. However, there was some damage that needed to be cleaned up.
Or was it damage?
Beloved, there are times we’re in a storm, and seems like limbs are mercilessly ripped from their trees and thrown to the ground. And stately trees are knocked over like wooden toy blocks. It’s scary and disconcerting–
BUT maybe it’s for your benefit.
Sometimes branches need to fall because they’re deadwood. And their very presence invites insects and diseases that will threaten the vitality of the whole tree. Dear One, those branches must come down! And sometimes the only way to shake them loose is a storm.
Same with trees. Sometimes good ones fall, but more often than not, it’s those that are harboring a disease or have been damaged by insects. Their removal is unbelievably beneficial to the remaining trees for two main reasons:
In both cases, the “damage” wasn’t really damage at all.
Storms can be for our benefit. God uses them to grow our faith. But He also uses them to remove anything not honoring to Him so we can flourish, become more vital in our calling; and, most importantly, so we can follow Him better.
Two little girls
Sat together in the same row,
Because there was no one with the last name
Beginning with M, N, or O
Two little girls
Became the best of friends;
Vowing to be by each other’s side
Until the very end.
Two little girls
Holding hands on the swing;
While they walk, skip, and sing.
Two little girls
Giggling into the night;
Trying to defeat sleep
And welcome the morning’s light.
Two little girls
Walk into church on a Wednesday night;
Laughing and whispering secrets,
Hands held tight.
One little girl races to her friend’s house
Another day’s adventure awaits!
But as she approaches the door
Something doesn’t feel the same.
The door is locked
The windows are dark…
But not as dark as the dread
Eclipsing her heart.
One little girl peers through the glass
The room is empty, nothing remained–
But her tear-stained reflection
Looking back at her through the pane.
I grew in the quiet small town of Cloquet, Minnesota; about 30 miles southwest of Duluth. It’s one of those towns where it’s small enough to recognize everyone but big enough you don’t know all of their names.
When I was in first grade, I sat behind a little girl I hadn’t met. Because of our proximity to each other we were often paired up for projects. She quickly became my “very bestest friend.”
As little girls will do, we shared secrets, giggles, stories, and sleepovers. She joined me at our church’s kids’ club on Wednesday nights, and her name was always first on my birthday invitation list. I loved her, and she loved me. The bond we shared was real and true, and we vowed to be friends forever.
Then the summer before third grade, I went on vacation with my family. I didn’t want to go because I couldn’t take my friend with me. I was confident two weeks of separation was going to be torture! I didn’t want to forget anything I saw and did while I was gone, so I wrote her notes every day. (You know, the kind written on paper with a pencil, the kind we got in trouble for passing in class.) No matter how much I enjoyed what I was doing, I couldn’t wait to get home and have fun with my friend for the rest of the summer.
When I got home, I raced to her house as soon as I could to deliver her notes and pick up where we left off. I was also excited because my mom allowed me to get her a small gift in one of the little towns we drove through. My eight-year-old hands did a poor job wrapping the box, but I didn’t care, I knew she would love what was inside.
Once I arrived, I dumped my bike by the tree in the front yard, as usual; but when I looked at her house, something didn’t feel right. There are no words to express the emotions that tumbled through me at that moment, but something felt off. For the first time, I was afraid to go to the door.
When I knocked, no one answered. The windows were dark, and the door was locked—all I could think was, no one locks their door in this town. But I couldn’t deny the house was locked. And after I looked in the windows, I realized the house was empty–she was gone. While I was on vacation, she moved away. I had no idea why or where. All I knew was she was gone.
It felt like someone had gutted me. I was devastated. I tore up her notes as I sobbed. In my hurt and anger, I smashed the hand blown horse I bought her before I ran home, leaving my bike behind.
Fast forward 32 years. I was scrolling through Facebook and saw her name! I couldn’t believe it! My friend had an unusual name, like me. But hers is one I never expected to see ever again. And here it was on the screen before me, beckoning so many memories that had long been dormant.
My friend’s name was connected to several of my friends from church. How odd. But after a few clicks, I realized she was friends with many of my friends! And she goes to my church! Could it be her?
Then I clicked on her photos. She looked like my friend…Could this be Her? Do I dare hope? Could this be my friend? If it is, would she even remember me? I hesitated to contact her. I was afraid she wouldn’t recognize me. So I asked Jesus to show me what to do.
Then tragedy struck. Her son, who was the same age as my oldest son, was killed in a horrible car accident. I still desired to confirm it was her, and now I desperately wanted to reach out and offer comfort, but God told me to wait.
I was crushed. But I obeyed and chose to love her through prayer until the time was right.
And I waited—not well, but I waited.
A year later, while scrolling Facebook, God said, “Now is a good time.” I only hesitated long enough to pray and sent her a message.
Recognizes a name.
Facebook is a funny thing—
Could She be the same?
Memoires of two little girls
Flood her mind—
Is it possible? Will she remember me?
Lord, give me a sign!
Jesus guide my words
Help me know what to say!
Her heart hoping beyond measure
Typed a few words
Praying she found a long lost treasure.
Sent a reply
Yes, this is me, of course, I remember you
“Best friends ‘til the day we die!”
Talked late into the night
Catching up and filling in each other
On their crazy, busy lives.
Reunited at last.
Will it be the same?
Did the affection last?
Laughed and giggled all day
And discovered the love they shared as children
Had not changed!