So the Christmas season is upon us! Hopefully by now you have your decorations up and a little shopping done. I, personally, haven’t started Christmas shopping, but mainly because my Christmas list is very small. I don’t have a huge immediate family, and in recent years, my husband and I have committed to doing very small gifts for each other.
I do, however, have the tree and all the other decorations up. I especially love our Christmas tree. We have had the same tree for several years. It is the old kind of tree that requires all the branches be inserted individually, and the lights put on it one string at a time. I know, I know … get into the 21st century Elaine, and get a tree that comes in parts and already has the lights on it.
Every year I say, “Next year we are getting another tree.” But, honestly, ever year I put up our old tree (no small feat) and once it is done, it is amazing how good it looks. Something about sitting in the glow of that tree and looking at all the ornaments on it, each representing some beautiful memory from our life together, I fall in love with it all over again!
Yep, I’m a sap at Christmas! (no pun intended!)
So as I think about Christmas trees, the phrase “trimming the tree” comes to me. While we use that phrase to mean putting decorations on the tree, Jesus talked about “trimming” from a different perspective. In the New Testament, Jesus referred to trimming as pruning, and more often spoke of pruning vine branches versus a tree.
In John 15, Jesus describes Himself as the vine, and his followers as the branches that remain on the vine. However, there was a second type of branch, the kind that “did not bear fruit” (John 15:2). Notice these unfruitful branches were ‘cut away.’ However, the branches that remained and bore fruit were pruned!
At first, it sounds like both branches are being punished, but those who regularly prune shrubs or bushes understand the process of pruning is a good thing. The act of pruning actually makes the branch grow back, and grow back both stronger and more fruitful than before.
The bearing of fruit is important, as it proves our connection to Christ:
This connection is vital. Connection to the vine (Jesus) is connection to life. Jesus tells us clearly that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Was Jesus being arrogant? Absolutely not! To carry out all that Jesus has for us, we must draw off His strength and power. When we do, the fruit of the spirit becomes obvious in our lives.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Gal. 5:22-23 ESV
So, I pray this holiday season that you will endure any spiritual pruning that occurs, and that you bear some awesome spiritual fruit!
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Hard to believe another Thanksgiving has gone by, and the Christmas season is directly in front of us. I hope you had a wonderful day of family, food, and fun! Today, many of you are just coming back from some early (and I mean early!) Black Friday shopping, and others are getting ready to head out the door. I don’t really want to bring you down, but I do want to speak to your heart today!
We get so excited about Thanksgiving, and some of us are even more excited about Black Friday. While I definitely see the positive side of Black Friday (who doesn’t want to shop for 50-80% off!), I also see the other side of it –the side we tend to ignore, at least until the 6 o’clock news comes on, and we hear the stories of people literally being tramped over by the crowds rushing in the store to buy their child the latest and greatest toy. Ironic that we can be so thankful one day for all that we have, and then desperate the next day to buy, buy, buy.
Now, I realize that most folks are actually out there buying gifts for someone else, but the reality is they really love the hunt for bargains, to be able to say I got “this” for “this price.” But the gifts we give at Christmas should be reflective of the person who we are celebrating, shouldn’t it?
Wow, I can’t believe how time has flown!! Where did the last few weeks go? I feel like we haven’t talked in ages!
I wish I could tell you the last several days have been filled with big red hearts and unicorns, but it hasn’t! In fact, it has been some of the toughest days I have had in a while. I have felt the world slowly caving in all around me, and that I was unable to stop it! I have felt isolated and maybe even a little abandoned.
I just wanted to go out my front door and yell to the top of my lungs, “World, are you out there?”
Can you relate?
Well even when the sun doesn’t come up for me and the gray skies hang around way too long, I know this – He still loves me. Even though I have thrown a temper tantrum or two over the last couple of weeks and told Him He is taking way too long on this one – He is still patient with me. And yes, even when my 40-something, hormonal self is just sitting there pouting, though I know what He has promised – He probably is just laughing at me!
The last few weeks has reminded me why I love Jesus so much, even when I am completely and totally unlovable at times. He is faithful and He is true.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 NIV
This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Consider reading John 11:17-44 prior to reading this post.
So as we move on with our story – Jesus has arrived in Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. It has been 4 days since Lazarus’ death. Take note of the number of days. 4 days leaves nothing to chance, 4 days means finality, 4 days means only He could be the Messiah, because only the Messiah could cause death to retreat in its tracks.
As Jesus nears the city, word gets back to Martha He is coming. Being the assertive sister, she goes to meet Jesus just outside the city.
When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” John 11:20-22*
Martha has faith, but has limited the options it can produce. Even after Jesus tells her Lazarus will live again, she continues to misunderstand the gravity of Jesus’ remarks.
This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Today, consider reading John 11:1-16 prior to reading this post.
As chapter 11 begins, we see that Lazarus is sick and his sisters, Martha and Mary, have sent word to Jesus (verse 3). Surely, their friend, but more importantly their Messiah, would come quickly. However, instead of leaving immediately, Jesus stays where He is, not just for the moment, but for two whole days. His only remark:
But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John 11:4*
Imagine the disciples listening to Jesus calmly state Lazarus’ illness would not end in death. Several things could have been assumed:
1. Jesus did not feel compelled to leave the city He was in due to bigger, more pressing priorities. Sure, Jesus loved Lazarus, but did Lazarus’ family really expect Jesus to just drop everything and come to them? Thousands of people wanted the Messiah’s attention. How could Jesus show such favoritism to one when He was needed by so many?
I remember as a little girl in Sunday School some really terrific Bible stories. I had some great teachers who knew how to make Bible stories just jump off the page. One of the stories told over and over was the raising of Lazarus from the dead. As a kid, it was the coolest magic trick Jesus did. Now that I am older and wiser, I know the story of Lazarus coming back to life was much more than a trick, it was proof of the power of Jesus.
But, who the heck is Lazarus anyway? And doesn’t the names Martha and Mary sound familiar?
Before we get to the ‘good’ part of the story, let’s step back a little and gain some perspective on the characters in this story: Jesus, the disciples, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Most especially, we need to understand the relationship between Jesus and Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
Jesus spent a lot of time by the seashore. On multiple occasions, we find Him there. When He started looking for His disciples, that’s where He began.
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. Matthew 4:18-22
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
John 1: 1-5 NLT
This passage gives an eternal glimpse into the person of Jesus. Have you only thought of Jesus in the day He lived? Historians do –they label Him a human who walked the earth once during His 33 years among us. Believers, although knowledgeable of His existence prior to His appearance on earth as well as hopeful of His reappearance in the near future, should challenge themselves to meditate on this passage in John. These 5 verses, when placed in context with the entire life of Jesus, allow us to fully appreciate the Savior we worship.
This week I just wanted to share with you why I think the Bible is a huge love letter from God. First, nothing is more important to us than something written down. Sure, we love to hear family and friends tell us they love us, but there is just something special about having it ‘in writing.’ Second, the most significant reason for having something written is so we can go back and reread it over and over! In that way, we can relive the feeling we got when we first read it, and enjoy the moment all over again.
God is no different. He loved us enough to put His thoughts in writing, and He hopes that we will go back and read them over and over. So let’s read a little on the subject of love from our heavenly Father’s perspective.
12. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
For those who profess to be Christ followers, I ask: “Are you sheepish?” Oh, I don’t mean shy or embarrassed easily, that would be the total opposite of what Jesus meant. When teaching on who is a true follower and what they will do, Christ used the following example:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” John 10:1-5 NLT (emphasis mine)
So, now that you know Jesus’ definition of a follower, I ask again, “Are you sheepish?”
1. Do you recognize the voice of Jesus?