October 4, 2004 —
am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much
fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NKJV)
years ago this verse drew me. I memorized it, bought a wall hanging with the
verse embroidered on it, and displayed it in my bedroom. I wanted desperately to
“abide” in Jesus, but didn’t know how.
read multiple versions of John 15:5. The New International Version told me to
“remain” in Christ. The Living Bible said, “Take care that you live in me,
and let me live in you.”
I asked God to show me how to abide in Him, I embarked on a journey with no end.
I continue to discover new depth to abiding in Christ and to pray that I will
truly learn to live in Him.
in my journey a speaker helped me understand a little better. He said abiding in
Christ meant to be “centered” or “grounded” in Jesus. He said Christ was
thought a lot about what it means to let Christ be my foundation. It meant
everything in my life pointed back to Him. I needed to build my life around my
relationship with Him, living with Him each day, never compartmentalizing Him.
wasn’t just God for church or Someone to take off the shelf when I needed
help. My life had to revolve around my faith. If Christ were to be my foundation
He couldn’t be a bedtime prayer or grace before meals. He had to be my all.
meant trusting Him and inviting Him into all of my life.
I grasped the idea that to abide in Jesus meant to keep my focus on Him, to
spend time with Him, and to let Him be my foundation. I understood my efforts
were worth nothing if I wasn’t being nourished and directed by Jesus.
intellectual understanding stops short of real living. And God, being God,
allowed me to experience things in life beyond my control so I could begin to
live the concept.
Father is so gentle with us. Abiding 101 came in the form of a new job. It was a
good place to get my feet wet. As Director of Children’s Ministries for a
growing church, I constantly dealt with situations that I couldn’t fix by
sheer hard work, one of the biggest being staffing the children’s department.
soon found I couldn’t get enough volunteers by talking to people, doing
presentations, or team building. I learned I had to lean completely on the Lord
to supply our needs. I believed that He loved those kids more than I did and
decided that my main recruiting strategy would be prayer. I determined not to
wring my hands over the empty spots on the team and just leaned harder into
Jesus when the gaping holes cried out for filling.
less than two years our little church more than doubled and God had staffed two
services of full children’s programming. I survived the stress of that
part-time job because God taught me to abide in Him, to spend time with Him, to
lean on Him for my needs.
101 began a trip through the School of Deepened Understanding that intensified
with each new class. I’m still traveling through this particular university,
and I understand that I won’t get my diploma until I cross from this world to
the next. I want to continue this course of study, because it is where I get to
know my Best Friend.
invite you to peek over my shoulder for the next few devotionals as I explore
what I’ve learned and what I want to learn. But don’t just watch. Join in! I
know it can be scary, because so often living more fully in Christ means living
less in a world we control. But I promise it’s worth it.
you’re already enrolled in the Academy of Abiding, tell the Lord you’re
willing to go deeper. If you’ve never asked Him to teach you how to abide in
Him, take the plunge and enroll today!
prayer tonight is from an old hymn by C. P. Jones: “Deeper, deeper in the
love of Jesus daily let me go! Higher, higher in the school of wisdom, more of
grace to know. Oh deeper yet I pray and higher every day and wiser blessed Lord
in thy precious Holy Word.”
October 11, 2004 —
deeper, tho it cost hard trials, deeper let me go! Rooted in the holy love of
Jesus, Let me fruitful grow.” (Verse 3 of C. P. Jones’s hymn, Deeper,
have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” John
pain seared, a burning fire that made my heart race with an irregular beat. My
stomach, tense with hurt, cried out for relief. I wished it were just a virus so
I could throw up and ease the pain, but emotional pain wasn’t so easily dealt
couldn’t seem to stop the thoughts zooming through my mind. The scriptures
that could hold them in check seemed to race after them with red lights blaring,
like tiny police cars unable to catch up to the thieves stealing my peace.
shoved back the covers and headed for my recliner. Usually time in prayer with
journal and pen in hand helped me process my hurts. Only, the words wouldn’t
come this time. I slipped back to my husband’s bedside hoping he’d wake up
and hold me again, pray for me. But he didn’t and I couldn’t bring myself to
interrupt his rest after all he’d given me that day.
flopped back in the recliner. “Lord! I need you. Help!” But I didn’t hear
His voice. No answer came.
did it? An overwhelming desire to go outside filled me. I wanted to lie in the
hammock and look at the stars. I questioned myself. It was after midnight and
cold that time of year. The pull persisted and wrapped in my fluffy robe I
grabbed the throw off the recliner and a pillow and padded into the night air.
I swayed gently, cocooned in the hammock, I became part of something bigger than
myself. The wind rose and whooshed through the tree next to me and the stars
twinkled in the sky
took a while, but eventually my heart rate returned to normal and the pain in my
stomach eased. The thoughts quit roaming and let me be. Still, no words came, no
amazing prayers, no working through the issue. Just quiet.
then they began, the soft melodies of worship, slipping from my mouth,
responding to the creator of stars and night wind. I sang to Him as the tree,
dark shadows of leaves and limb above me, danced in the breeze.
didn’t understand that night that I’d just experienced another class at the
University of Abiding. I just knew that though I couldn’t process the pain of
the situation or the questions of what I’d done wrong or right, focusing on
Him comforted me. In my worship I surrendered myself to His deity and remained
in the truth that He cared.
John 15 talks about abiding in Christ it includes a verse that tells me that God
loves me just as He does Christ and I am to remain in His love. Funny I’d
never made the connection until that experience. Part of abiding means to remain
in His love.
loves me. When I fail. When I succeed. When others accuse or attack. When I
question the things I do or the person I am.
loves me. Learning to abide in Christ is to simply let nothing convince me
otherwise. To trust He is still God when life stinks. To know He is near and is
big enough for all I face.
help me to remain in your love as life knocks me to the ground like a massive
ocean wave, tossing and tumbling me about. Help me embrace your love when I am
too tired to fight the onslaught of pain. Help me to drink of you, Jesus, my
Vine, getting my nourishment from this one truth: You love me.”
October 18, 2004 —
branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” John 15:4b
you find yourself grunting and groaning, trying to bear fruit, you’re trying
to reproduce on your own. Fruit can’t make itself grow. It only grows because
it is connected to the nourishment of the vine.”*
truth of the speaker’s words blared through my mind as if from a bullhorn.
years ago my mind would have gone a completely different direction at the
admonition. I would have beat myself up for not working harder to stay attached
to the vine. I would have assumed my grunting and groaning meant I wasn’t
trying hard enough to be close to Jesus. I should pray, read my Bible, and
evangelize more—then the Christian life wouldn’t be so hard.
was even a time that I thought bearing fruit meant a tally list of how many
people had come to Jesus because of me, how many church committees I’d served
on, and how many jobs I’d done well for God.
(Somehow I had missed the verses that tell me the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
was all BEFORE.
I understood grace. Before I grasped God’s commitment to me.
don’t have to work to stay hooked up to the vine. My Lord, the vine, is
holding onto me. I try to hold onto God, but He’s so big I can’t! He holds
me in his own special way, not with iron tongs that snap me into a straight
jacket of obedient, fruitful living.
God showers me with His love, putting His own nature within me, and then walks
with me through the daily struggles of my life. The Lord puts within me the
desire to talk to Him, get to know Him, and be like Him. He tells me to rest my
head upon His shoulder for He is gentle.
assures me that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30 NIV), or
as it is stated in The Message, Jesus says: “Keep company with me and
you'll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I become a grunting, groaning piece of fruit it is often because I’ve taken
upon myself the job of the Holy Spirit. I’m working really hard to bear fruit.
Usually, that means I focus upon my failures and try to remake myself so I can
be righteous. The only problem is the more I focus on my faults the more I seem
to live them! Life becomes a burden and I feel beaten down by the yoke of
isn’t the Lord’s plan. He wants me to walk in the freedom of His grace. I
did nothing to earn my salvation and I can do nothing to sustain it. He is the
one that takes this faulty vessel and refashions it in His image. And how does
He do that? By teaching me to lean hard on Him. As I abide in Him, I get to know
Him. As I focus on Who He is, I become like Him.
while back we went through a season of great financial difficulty. I wanted to
trust God to provide for our family, but found it much easier to take my credit
card to the grocery store than to sit home and pray for food.
began to live in a continuous cycle of failure, guilt, and confession. I’d
want to have more self-control in my spending, but the more I focused on my
inability to trust God’s provision, the more I desperate I felt to buy the
things we needed. Over a period of a few months I finally told the Lord, “I
just can’t do this. All I know to do is to fling myself upon your mercy, not
because I deserve it, but because mercy is part of your character.”
I felt the full impact of a sin I couldn’t control, I discovered the truth
that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:21-23). I
learned to abide in that grace instead of walking in my guilty failures,
accepting His mercy in my inadequacies. Gradually, peace replaced my desperation
and God revealed His heart to me as He refined the fruits of mercy and
forgiveness in my life.
“Father, I don’t ever want to work at bearing fruit
again. I want to rest in you and let you produce the righteousness you promise.
Please give me the beautiful, luscious fruits I see in you. Keep me aware of my
thirst for you so I can daily drink of your nourishment.”
October 25, 2004 —
. . . every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more
fruit.” John 15:2 (NASB)
deeper! Blessed Holy Spirit, Take me deeper still, Till my life is wholly lost
in Jesus, and His perfect will.” Verse 3, Deeper, Deeper by C.P. Jones
you ever been pruned? I have. Did you like it? Me, neither!
least at first.
been through relational pruning, financial pruning, church pruning, and work
pruning. In many of those situations I elevated something or someone over Him. I
looked to these things or people for happiness, security, and self-esteem.
It’s not that I meant to. In fact, I didn’t even know I had until it was
were some relationships where I tried so hard to please the person that I missed
God’s will for my life, elevating people’s plans for me over His. I thought
finances could make me feel secure, but when they were gone I found security
came only from Jesus. Without realizing it I allowed church ties to dictate my
doctrine and I missed some of the most beautiful truths in Scripture.
I allow my self-esteem to be tied to certain relationships, accomplishments, or
things in my life, I can’t live in a stable, peaceful place. The only place
that is truly secure and safe is in the shadow of my Lord’s wings. Only by
being firmly connected to the Vine can I find the courage to become all God
wants me to be.
course, I’m not saying that every loss is pruning. But, looking back on my
life, many losses were. The process of pruning only cuts away what is
unnecessary or what impedes healthy growth. Pruning never means being cut from
don’t like being pruned. Yet, even as He saws away, beginning the pruning
process, He holds tightly to me. I don’t walk through the experience alone
because His love always remains. The Good Gardener wraps my wound and binds me
to the Vine. After a while the loss hurts a little less because the nourishment
from the Vine is flowing more strongly through me.
cutting helped me focus more passionately on my Savior. I felt more distinctly
my desperate need for His nourishment and I drank in big gulps instead of my
usual little sips.
Lord prunes only the fruitful branches. Sometimes it feels like pruning means
the Lord is mad at me or doesn’t like what I am. It’s really the opposite.
He prunes because He likes the fruit He sees and wants more! He prunes me so I
can become a peaceful, secure, strong person, rooted in Him. He wants me to know
Him best of all and to be set free to taste the sweet depth of His love.
the pruning I become more fruitful. My life becomes more focused on my Lord. Joy
buds. Peace grows and blossoms. Perseverance blooms. And then I feel that solid
foundation of abiding underneath.
feels like the arms of Jesus.
“Lord, sometimes I fight your pruning. I only see the
hurt and not the plan you have for my good. I complain, whine, and cry.
Sometimes I even doubt your love for me. I tell myself you don’t care. But all
the while you bind my wounds and pour your nourishing love into what remains of
me. Thank you that I never go through this process without your love. Give me
the ability to submit to your shears and trust that You know best. I give you
permission to prune away. Just hold me REAL tight. Okay?”
November 1, 2004 —
Deeper every day in Jesus, Till all conflict past, Finds me conqu’ror and in
His own image perfected at last.” Verse 4, Deeper, Deeper by C.P. Jones
an on-going situation in my life that is very painful. I pray often that the
Lord will fix it or show me a better way to handle it. So far, it hasn’t
changed. I just hold onto my Father’s hand and walk through it.
this situation strikes hard and fast. It jumps out at me from behind the door
where it always lurks. It pounds my heart with flawless precision and attacks my
mind with questions and fears.
times it is a quiet, ever present ache. The pain always lives in my heart,
hauntingly sad. I learn to walk with it and accept it. When I fight it only
hurts more, so I accept the empty hole and turn my gaze toward more pleasant
this is the most important lesson I’ve learned so far in the University of
Abiding. There are things in this life that hurt. Sometimes they even hurt for a
long time. They attack my most tender places and mock my trust in God. But no
matter how much they taunt me, they cannot change one fact.
hanging from the Vine. I am never alone. I am always hooked up to Jesus’
nourishing love. My God waters me, feeds me, prunes me, and enjoys me. God
chooses to be in this earthy garden with me when all common sense says He should
just hang out in heaven’s garden where it is perfect and safe.
He wants to walk through life with me. He wants to stay connected.
can’t always find hope in the circumstances I face. But, Hope is there when I
abide. He never goes away. He never disconnects. He never decides the road is
too long or that I was just a bad apple anyway.
“Father, thank you that I can rest in you, abiding in
your love, no matter how difficult life becomes. Thank you that I am not without
hope because I am never without you. Let my life be to your glory as you produce
within me the fruit of abiding.”
For Previous Devotional
Click on the Following Titles:
Jesus, Our Lover
Heart At Rest
AM, Part 1
AM, Part 2
Boxes, Part I
Boxes, Part II
Boxes, Part III
Extravagance, Part I
Extravagance, Part II
Extravagance, Part III