Thoughts on The Vine

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides (dwells, lives, stays) in Me, and I  in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

 

I have been obsessed with John 15 this year, and it seems that I run across it in other people’s writings at least weekly, if not more often.

My life, at this point, is almost exactly how I wanted it be when I was a child, dreaming up what I’d like my future to look like.

I always struggled with feelings of unworthiness, and for so long felt some kind of twisted guilt that my life was so good as an adult.I had a feeling that I had to earn my blessings somehow- to produce and do.

I’m not saying there haven’t  been troubles and tragedies, we all have those, and I’m aware of that, so those don’t really count. I think people who don’t grow up “rough”, and experience poverty and hardship have a harder time being grateful, honestly. I think our perception is about 98% of our life experience. If not more. So, I can honestly say my life is rich, it’s full, and it’s beautiful.I suspect I have an easier time perceiving that because my childhood was…not this good.

But still, there’s that little bit inside of me that struggles thinking I need to do more, be more, and have more. Contentment is a virtue-a strength- you know. Without it, we have a form of weakness. It’s in our characters. I always feel like I need to pay back some debt. So I have done all manner of community service and ministry-type things over the years. But mostly I’ve learned to bypass and manage my own feelings of inadequacy and stop trying to measure up to my own standards. I do this by practicing my identity as a child of God, and dwelling in Him. Abiding in Jesus, I know He puts desires in me “to will and do good things”. The Bible says so, in Philippians 2:13. The problem arises when opportunities are presented, or manufactured by others or myself, to do “things”. I get tired out, there are so many things to do. It’s a smaller world now that it’s gone digital, and I find there are endless ways to help others, to be busy long distance, or even to find local projects. Just being busy for others isn’t the same as producing fruit though.

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be My disciples.” John 15:7-8

These are truths that are evident in my own life. I know them not just by reading, but 23 years now of living in- abiding, dwelling, resting in- Jesus Christ.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have 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: 9-10

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“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13img_9359

I’ve learned that a family in this culture is rare and more valuable than it used to be, simply because of rarity. I’ve learned that Jesus valued people more than laws and traditions. I’m at the point in my life now, at 49 and getting tired, that I think abiding in Jesus is more than I realized, and better than I had hoped. Just as my relationship with Jesus has become more valuable to me over the years, so has my family. And family in general. As I hear more and more often of divorces and tragedies that take families apart, I am grieved. I value my own relationships more than ever. In fact, I think family is so very important that I believe it’s a significant part of the fruit Jesus is talking about.

That abiding in the Vine, and the rich soil of faith, helps grow healthy families. There are always going to be weeds, droughts, and destructive virus’ and insects, but if we stay connected, the Gardener takes care of those, like a good manager.

I dwell on the babies and children without families in foster care still. I dream of cuddling newborns again. I dwell on the lonely elderly folks whose young family doesn’t appreciate them with visits and talks. I dwell on those who have abandoned their families for selfish reasons and regret it later on, after the damage is done.

But our God is a redeemer. He takes a humble heart and works miracles. I hold out a lot of hope for the things that are wrong in my own family, simply because God sustains my hope with His word. I read it daily, I bathe my mind in it, and I keep it close to me no matter what’s going on.

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:16-17

One thing I have learned, and that’s love is a verb. It’s not a warm feeling. It’s sometimes a discipline and sometimes it requires we give sacrificially, but sometimes we must put up boundaries. Healthy love has action behind it, and motives.

I may feel strongly about those I love, or even those I feel compassion towards, but without acting on those in ways prescribed by wisdom, then they are nothing but noise.  Love doesn’t  enable a bad person. It isn’t agreeing with everyone, and it isn’t telling someone “you are enough” when clearly none of us are apart from Jesus.

Love is a fruit. I think some good fruit looks like taking in a child temporarily or permanently without a family, and bringing them into yours. Fruit is visiting your elderly neighbor and making them part of your family if they are lonely. Fruit is enjoying the gifts God has already given you and being content. Fruit is preferring your spouse to yourself and not having to win every argument.

Living in an agrarian community I have had the blessing of learning about fruits, and vines, cultivating, hard work, soil, and fertilizers first hand. It’s been invaluable for my spiritual growth. I’m thrilled that it’s right outside my doors every day.

I watch the orchard workers prune the trees one season, thin the apples the next, and all of it looks like hard work, patience, and tough on the trees, but the apples they produce are delicious, beautiful, and good for us. They go out all over the world. They dwell in rich, volcanic soil, and they submit to pruning and thinning. Just like us believers. God is the Vinedresser, the Master Gardener, and He takes the time to make us fruitful.

We must root down deep, being nourished in the rich soil of abiding faith, and in this way, connected to the Vine, we will bear much fruit. Genuine and good fruit.

 But if we are shallow and rootless we will also be fruitless.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4

Building Faith in Our Little People

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Golden Princess Sparkle Bible

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All of my children have been supplied with Bibles, and taught to read them. What good is a missionary/parent, who shares faith with the world but leaves their children’s faith- building in the hands of others?

I love Bibles, and all of the choices we have nowadays. It’s exciting to me. I write and highlight, underline, and mark all over mine. I know that someday when I’m gone, my children, grandchildren, and God-willing, great grandchildren will find comfort, hope, and inspiration in my Bibles. I never feel guilty for getting a new one. I know I’ll use it well, and it will be passed down to future generations. A very personal kind of faith sharing. It’s akin to letting someone read your personal journal, don’t you think? I have prayers in there, dates, failures and victories…events, and thoughts, questions, and answers, all documented in those holy pages.

In the meantime, until they are grown up and given their choice of my Bibles from years gone by (and some of my Bibles are already transferred to my grown-up kids), I make sure the little people are given their own age-appropriate Bible to carry to church, and read along with family. Even if they can’t read yet, they like to look at pictures and ask questions, and just be part of the Bible-toting adults and older kiddos.

We build on that.

Thomas Nelson publishers gave me the opportunity to have in my own hands one of their newer kid’s Bibles to review. I chose this one because I knew my grand daughter would love the #1 sparkles, and #2 the gold color. She’s all about those! Since she attends church every week with us, in a church that puts a high priority on Bible reading, this puts her at an advantage for learning to value God’s word and get herself some wisdom in this crazy world.

She will value the Bible for it’s looks right now, but I’m going to examine the contents the publisher saw fit to include and determine it’s value from there. I have taken several shots with my iPhone so you can see the inside too.

ICB Golden Princess Sparkle Bible International Children’s Bible

By Tommy Nelson
Published by Thomas Nelson

As you can see, the cover is a delight to a little princess. It’s eye catching, and a good fit for small hands to carry and handle. I’m impressed with the overall design.

 

The font is large enough so it’s easy to read. Words that are in bold font are either paragraph headings or else words listed in the back in the dictionary.

I enjoyed the artwork. I think it hooks the interest of a child, and gets them interacting with the story. They ask questions and want to know what’s going on.

Please pay NO attention to the overdue nails on my hands. It’s hard for a farm girl to keep it all up. 🙂

In the back are sections listing key verses…

As well as “Where Do I Find it” locator.

I’m happy with this little Bible, and can’t wait to give it to my Grand daughter at church tomorrow. She’s going to be thrilled.

There’s a really nice feature is a section with Bible verses to memorize in the back. I love this feature.

A simple but good dictionary for children is a helpful learning tool. It’s a nice activity just to sit with a little person and explore the words and talk about how they are listed in alphabetical order and then have them look up a word that interests them.

Highlighted verses tell you that it’s a memory verse, also listed in the back.

All-in-all, this sparkly princess Bible is sure to grab and keep the interest of the little princess in your own life. I think I like the princess theme especially well because I love that we are heirs (heiresses) and co-heirs (heiresses) with Christ, and so, being spiritual royalty, that would make us princesses. And thats’s such an important topic to pursue for us as believers. We can’t start early enough knowing and teaching our identity in Christ as believers. This Bible will be an important tool in sharing my faith with a little girl that I love above all others.

 

Book Description

Show your little princess what it means to truly be a daughter of God with the beautiful Golden Rose Princess Bible. This full-text International Children’s Bible® (ICB) is written at a third-grade reading level, so it is the perfect first step for young readers ready to read and explore God’s Word on their own.

The ICB Golden Princess Sparkle Bible is a complete Bible in the easy-to-read ICB translation children can read and understand, and includes many special features to help encourage growth and study. Little girls will love to explore the fully illustrated Bible story pages tucked throughout the text, as well as the many key highlighted verses. This Bible also includes a dictionary and concordance, making it a wonderful tool for study.

The ICB Golden Princess Sparkle Bible comes with a dazzling cover with shimmering design and lots of sparkling glitter, all highlighting the beloved princess theme. You and your little princess will love the thirty-two pages of full color insert that dive deeper into some of the most beloved Bible stories!

Every little girl is a princess in God’s eyes, and this glittery Bible packed with great features is truly fit for royalty!

  • I received a free copy of this Bible from the publisher for an unbiased written review.

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Dangerous Good- It’s About Time!

The Coming Revolution of Men Who Care…

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This book starts our with an Edmund Burke quote, which is apt:

“When bad men combine, the good must

associate; else they will fall, one by one,

an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

Yeah. Heck yeah, and amen. I’m really thrilled to see publishers putting out books for men, urging them to a biblical and masculine way of life. I’m tired of feminine men. Or else macho guys who do more harm than good. This Kenny Luck guy wrote a doozy. It’s a good book, really. It would make a great gift for your sons, sons-in-law, grandsons, husband, etc.

There are 10 chapters after the introduction. Each chapter has a title beginning with Powerful- , like Powerfully Impacted Women, which is what we would like men to be- impactful. Most men have daughters, right? A good daddy can change a corner of the world. Each chapter is themed as well, like the one I mentioned is “Dignity”, and each has a story: the Arsonist and the Firefighters. That’s chapter 5.

The book is a call to action for men, to be powerfully relevant, to do good works, to be brave and fervent, among others. The point is to change your sphere of influence and address some of the social ills. Lots of scripture in here, not just opinion, and I think well-written and clear. It’s not one of those “churchy- be a nice guy” kind of books. It’s real, deep, and so timely.

Listen guys, you are at your best, your sexiest, and strongest, and most deserving of respect, when you are a just and good man. When you can be tender and loving and a rescuer, and uphold your integrity while helping and guiding others to do the same. This book is inspiration and help to do that.

Now, if only more women would take off their ridiculous pink hats and allow men to be who they are meant to be, while being dignified ladies themselves, we could make a fresh start. I’m not giving up on this younger generation yet, I see good things coming from the young married couples. Read your Bibles kids, there’s my advice. And support authors cranking out excellent and encouraging books like this.

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a written, unbiased review. The opinions are my own.

 

 

Publisher’s Description:

It’s time to wake the sleeping giant in our world, in our communities, in our churches, and in our homes.

There’s a revolution brewing, a sleeping giant coming out of a long slumber. For years men have been sitting to the side, minding their own business, nursing their own wounds. But that time is reaching its end. Our wounds must surely be tended to, and our business must surely be minded. We are meant for greater things than these, and the world can no longer indulge our slumber. Justice demands a response to these troubling times. Righteousness demands a champion to counter a climate of moral relativism. God made us men; it’s time to act like it.

Good men are in high demand but low supply. That reality is creating suffering and injustice at every level of society in every community worldwide. Dangerous Good calls on the millennial generation of men who follow Jesus worldwide to confront that by deciding, individually and as a group, to be dangerous with goodness like Jesus. Here is the next revolution of masculinity the world is waiting for.

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