True Vine: Fruitful

Did you know that an ​​anaconda kills its prey by coiling its muscular body around the creature and squeezing until the prey can no longer breathe?

 

In Isaiah 27, we come across the name Leviathan. Who is Leviathan? It is in fact a different name for Satan. In the chapter, Satan is described to be swiftly moving, coiling, like a writhing serpent that slowly sucks the life out of those who give into his wicked ways.

 

“In that day, sing about the fruitful vineyard. I, the Lord, will watch over it, watering it carefully. Day and night I will watch so no one can harm it.” Isaiah 27:2-3

 

But there is good news. In the same chapter, we also read about the Lord’s promises to sing about the fruitful vineyard, to watch it carefully, and to continue to water over it. 

 

Even in the bleakest of situations, where we feel like issues, or trials are sucking the life out of us, remember to receive His love, His insights, and His favor, just as He promised in Isaiah 27. 

 

 

Household Wells

Jesus called Himself the Living water (read John 7:37-39) because He alone is the life-giving stream. 

 

Think about the aquifer – it has water running underground, trapped between layers of rock. If we drill down into it, we can access the water underneath. When we begin to tap and drill down into our community, like the aquifer, we become household wells, and carriers of God’s good news. It is through us that people can also start accessing the Living Water. A water that refreshes and brings forth peace, joy, and grace to those who draw from it. 

 

So Jesus’ life is a life that is offered to us now. Not just when we die and go to heaven, but His life is readily available to those who choose to tap in and draw near to Him.

 

 

Fruitlessness to Fruitfulness 

 

“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.” John 15:5

 

We don’t hear and use “bearing fruit” a lot in our American culture. This is because we don’t associate it with things like producing or being productive. But as a follower of Jesus, bearing fruit is produced and manifested in our life through our thinking, our behavior, and attitude.

So therefore, what we say or do, we behold. We need to behold the truth that our ultimate destiny is secured in Jesus as well as our day to day security. Our present is all secured in Jesus.

 

So how do we move from fruitlessness into Kingdom fruitfulness? Certainly not on our own.

 

We cannot be fruitful if we do things by ourselves. We all want the good stuff, and Jesus is inviting us to activate His promises in our life. The secret sauce in this passage is the word “remain.” 

 

In the dictionary, the word remain means to stay, to yearn for, or to linger. And in John 15, Jesus uses the word “remain” 11 times, so this word must be important. 

 

Breath Stop

When can you find 10 minutes in your day to take a moment to hear God’s Word? If your answer is you don’t have the time, then that’s a problem. 

 

You may just need to wake up 10 minutes earlier than usual. Or perhaps turning off the television 10 minutes before bedtime. Maybe listening to a worship song or a podcast on your commute?

 

No matter what your answer is. We must take a moment to breathe the life-giving gift of Jesus and His presence in our lives. 

 

This is what “remain” looks like – it’s practical and actionable. 

 

For now, remain is a keyword in our vocabulary, and stopping to breath is a key tool in our tool belt to bear fruit. 

 
 

The Life: Eternal

Think about this: if you see a bird, there’s bird life in it. A cat has a cat's life in it. There’s no fish life in a cat, right? Nor bird life in a shark. 

 

“Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” Genesis 2:7

 

And so here’s what we know is true: human life has God’s life in it. There is Christ-life to those who are called Christian, and believe in Jesus. 

 

Now, what do we think of when we hear the phrase “Jesus is the life-eternal”? Does it mean heaven? Or maybe it means being with Jesus forever once we die? 

 

Certainly heaven exists. We know Jesus is returning and restoring all things in heaven and on earth to its original state (read Genesis 1).

 

Receiving the Eternal Life 

How does someone receive this precious gift? 

 

“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” 1 John 5:12

 

It’s just enough to just believe that Jesus is real. We must follow Him and have Him as a part of our daily life.

 

As we live life on earth, we grow in this eternal life and become more and more aware of it. We also become more exposed to this kind of life by following Jesus, and sharing it with others in our community. 

 

Therefore we need to understand that eternal life has already been provided, and it is not a place, but a state of being. We don’t go to heaven to get eternal life, we go to heaven because we have it – it’s already been given!

 

Wonder and Wander

Have you ever been overwhelmed to the point of defeat and despair? Maybe to a level where you look at circumstances, and realize that there’s no way to overcome and get through it? As humans, we wrestle with our own struggles and get pushed down. We experience loss and grief.

 

Here’s another truth we know: Jesus is life. Jesus lives eternally from beginning to end. And Because He does, and because He lives in us by faith, guess what? We live too. 

 

So we need to fully grasp that our worth and our eternal life has already been provided to each and everyone of us. It is never the circumstance that makes the person. Rather, it is the Person that creates the new environment and He is real – and His name is JESUS.

 

Let us therefore, face the fact that eternal life is provided by that Person and He has given us that life today and now! 

 

Posture

The posture is not serving or trying to overcome the weight of the world by trying to prove ourselves. The posture is to come humbly before our Lord, with an open heart, kneel before Him, and to trust Him.

 

Because Jesus conquered death, He alone has this eternal life to give. And He’s longing to impart it to every person on this planet. 

 

So we walk in the power of that eternal life right now, not just waiting for a place one day. Circumstances will not defeat us. Our sin will not conquer us and it is NOT the end of our story.

 

Christ’s story is our story. His victory is our victory. 

 

Let God’s promises in His Word resonate. 

 

Continue to march on trusting Jesus, thanking Him, and praying that our households would be a place where eternal life is experienced and can be shared within our community. 

 
 

The Life: Choice

“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” John 15:16

 

We make thousands and thousands of choices daily.

 

According to studies, it is estimated that on average, we make about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day from the moment we wake up, to the clothing we wear, to the food we eat, up until the moment we lie our head back in bed.

 

Each of these decisions, of course, carries certain results and consequences that are both good and bad for us, or even perhaps for the people around us.

 

But here’s the good news! The choices we make do not affect God’s choice of us and this promise stands the test of time. Even if we think our choice is unforgivable, He chooses to love us relentlessly, deliberately, day after day, after day. 

 

The Choice Above All Choices

 

“‘Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy.’” Isaiah 65:17-18

 

In Isaiah 65, even though the chapter is as brutal as it seems for God to put His judgement to the rebellious people, He still promised a better day for His children. A promise of eternal life in the newly created heavens and earth. A place of happiness for His people and assurance that we will rejoice and will hear no more weeping.

 

So all of our choices are not equal, but God chooses to redeem us, to restore and to revive us, by sending His Son to ensure a place with Him, is the choice above all choices. 

 

The Spirit

The last choice God made is to send the Spirit who is the third person in the Holy Trinity. He sent the Spirit to guide and help us make the right choices so we don’t have to do it on our own. 

 

As we experience being born again, God has given the Spirit in our baptism to direct us not to make it out of our own choices. By us following His direction, we will flourish and not waste away.

 

So get this, the choices we make with the Spirit’s influence and guidance do not get us to heaven, nor does it earn our way to heaven or eternal life to God – Jesus already took care of that! 

 

The guidance comes to help us have an abundant life now and to help others know that it’s available to them so they can flourish and experience the blessings and favor that comes from Jesus.

 

The Choice Between Life or Death 

God isn’t social-distancing Himself from us – He is here! He is always and will always be available. His presence is as near as our life group, it’s as near as our phone or maybe our computer, to share Him to our peers, and for us to encourage the people close to us. 

 

That’s why we need to take note of the choices we have along the way. Take a moment to step back and recognize that we always have a choice and those choices will lead to one thing or another. It is up to us on how we make the most of it.

 

God chose you and He keeps on choosing you.

 

But the question is, will you choose Him too? 

 

Mom, Author, Leader: How Becky Enright's Spiritual Gifts Enrich Our Community

One of our values at the Church is Step+. Guided by Jesus, we take simple steps that God uses to change the world. We love seeing that value lived out in those who worship with us! This week, we introduce you to Becky Enright, a new member who is using her spiritual gifts to follow God’s calling in amazing ways! (Interview conducted by Kirsten Adshead.)

So you join the Church in January 2020 ... and then the pandemic hits.

Becky (laughs): It definitely backtracked our goals and hopes for creating relationships. But I do feel connected to the Church, which is why Chad and I were so excited to continue coming. We were brand new faces, and people at church took the time to reach out and say ‘hi’. 

In the middle of the summer, I reached out to Amy Meyer and I just said, “I need (a way to interact with other women). What do you guys have?’ I had conversations with God, too, about ‘I need connection, and I am at the breaking point where I will lead it if I need to lead it.’

 

How are you using your spiritual gifts in this new role?

Becky: I love developing content. So to sit down and develop a devotion or just a plan for conversation is always fun for me. And then facilitating has always been a joy, just kind of letting people share and talk and enjoy.

I feel like another spiritual gift that I have is just hope. It’s ok to still be sad and frustrated and angry, but I’m always trying to move into that next phase of, ‘Well, what does God have planned? Be full of hope. It’s going to be OK.”

 

So you were a new mom in a new church, starting a Moms group … and then you wrote a book!

Becky (laughs): I did! I wrote two! Honestly, I love to be busy.

“The Lighthouse” is about a lighthouse being built and then learning what it’s supposed to be, which is to share the light for all the ships to pass by.  … So learning that everybody has their own jobs to do, and you have (the gifts you need) to take care of that, and it’s good.”

“Hao the Leaf” is about this leaf on this birch tree, who has lots of fun going through all the seasons, spring and then summer and then the changing of fall and then finally the sleep of winter. And how the leaf is both nervous and kind of excited for that jump off of Mother Birch’s branches. But in the end he does it, and it’s good and it’s safe, and you gotta trust that your mama knows what she’s talking about.

 

What gives you the ability to follow through on your ideas?

Becky: It definitely comes from God. He pushes it and puts it on my heart for long periods of time, to where I actually do it. And then just having people in my corner, mostly my husband, and people like my sisters and other close friends. God set up a way that I can be encouraged by other people, and He knows that I need that. And that’s why He is my Heavenly Father, why Jesus is my best friend.

 

Do you ever doubt yourself?

Becky (laughs): “All the time! Every day. This morning, it’s the first in-person Mom to Mom, and I was just like, ‘I should just call in sick. They don’t need me, my voice is not important.’ All of those silly lies that are not true, but still cloud judgment.

I’ve learned to pray more often when those doubts come through. And then sometimes a Bible verse will come in or a song will come in, and I’m able to hear past the lie and just say, ‘God, help. I need you right now.”

In using her God-given spiritual gifts, Becky is spreading His love and the Good News of Jesus to others. We all have unique gifts! What gifts has God given you, and where do you see a need that you are specifically able to meet? Don’t push those nudges aside. This week, take one small step toward recognizing your spiritual gifts and using them for God’s purpose.

 

The Life Defender

Do you remember a time in your life when you felt excluded, or perhaps left out? What did that feel like?

 

So get this, how about being on the outside looking in because you deserved it? How did that feel? 

 

As a child, we’d often have moments where we battled not only with our inner self but also pretty much everyone around us because we think we are better off without their help. What does this mean? Think of a time where you’ve been sent to your room while having dinner because of what you said or did to your mom or dad?

 

How did that feel? Angry? Regretful? Sad?

 

“When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear. And they said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!’”Exodus 20:18-19

 

It is important to understand that in this context, the people of Israel had just been rescued and delivered out of Egypt in a miraculous way. On their journey into the wilderness, God protected and defended the Israelites by providing water from the rock for them to drink, and raining down manna for them to eat.

 

And in order for God to continue to defend and protect His people, as a new community, He gave them standards and instructions to live by. God did this because He wants His people to belong, not to be excluded, not to be left out, not to be on the outside looking in, which is caused by sins. 

 

 

Our Sin Leaves Us Excluded

Here’s the truth: our sinful actions and conditions, or even the lack of actions, lead us to the outside looking in because it is not what God has designed us to be.

 

We know our God is holy, therefore He cannot just look the other way. Because of the sins that we committed, He needed mankind to be punished. 

 

So there’s no wonder why the Israelites were trembling with fear at the foot of the mountain. 


The Truth

Here’s THE Truth: Jesus, the holy Son of God is our defender. He is the one who made sure that we were not excluded. He is the one who came and took our place to make the payment for the things that we have done that keeps us on the outside looking in. 

 

Ultimately, Jesus is the presenter and the mediator of the new covenant. He endured the just and right punishment of God for the sins mankind committed. And in the same breath, Jesus took our place.

 

His death and resurrection became a proclamation of grace and love. That’s why when God looks at us, He sees Jesus. And He affirms and welcomes us into belonging, no longer excluded, no longer looking on the outside looking in. 

 

Jesus is the one who unlocked the door and says, “I love you. You belong.” He bridged the gap to let us out of our room and let us sit back at the dinner table. 

 

 

God Longs to Defend Every Life  

As the body of Christ, we have to become Jesus’ community of defenders – a community that’s always ready to lend a hand for the broken, unseen, and unheard. Our mission is to help them realize that they are loved, and that they don’t have to be excluded despite how ugly they think their pasts are. 

 

That may be easier said than done. But just as Jesus displayed the ultimate declaration of love on the cross, we too could embody His love and bring His light just by being there for those who need us most.