Remain

pink rose with words

I’m going to make a confession.  I despise working in the yard.  Gardening, planting, grass, dirt.  All of it.  Can.not.stand.it.at.all.  I know some people love it.  For some, it’s therapeutic and relaxing.  For me it is the worst kind of torture possible.  I’d rather do ANY household job than that one.  Seriously.

So, today, I read John 15 as part of my daily devotions.  Great, vines in a garden.  Not an image I like to deal with.  BUT, as I read, I realize it could be titled “How to achieve Intimacy with God”.  I have read the passage many times before, but this time, I kept my One Word in mind: Intimacy.  Read with me.

John 15:1-17 (NIV)

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

So much in this short passage.  I’m no Bible teacher or theologian, but I’d like to share how this passage relates to intimacy with God for me.

We’ll start with the obvious.  I might not know much about gardening, but I know that when a branch is cut away from the plant, it can’t live for long.  Even when in water and given sunlight.  Why?  It has no roots.  There is nothing to pull the nutrients into the plant to keep it living.  So, it dies.  But, not immediately.  The cut rose still looks beautiful and its petals stay soft for a day or two.  You can’t even tell it’s been cut.  But, slowly, over a few days, it begins to lose its softness and color.  It begins to dry out.  After a few more days, its dead.  Dry, brittle, and its color has faded and turned gray.

So it is with us spiritually.  For a short while, maybe, you can’t tell we aren’t connected in an intimate way with God.  It was true with me.  I could still love and even minister to others.  For a while.  But then, the rough edges of my flesh began to show up.  I wasn’t as patient, or loving, or happy.  I certainly couldn’t minister to someone else.  And soon, there was nothing left.  I was dry, miserable, and empty spiritually.  It didn’t happen overnight.  It happened over time.  When I was walking in intimacy with Christ, His Word was alive and spoke to me.  The few times I tried to read scriptures when I was disconnected, it was dry, boring and felt distant.  What changed?  Not His Word!  Me!

This is why daily time in God’s Word is so critical.  Sunday morning church services are wonderful and God doesn’t want us to forsake that corporate worship time.  But it alone is NOT enough to sustain us spiritually.  Can you feed your body one meal a week?  Your pets?  Obviously not.  Then your spirit needs daily nourishment too.  Our spiritual nourishment comes from reading God’s Word AND spending time with Him.  Sometimes it’s easy to read a few scriptures and check it off my to-do list.  But, intimacy doesn’t come that way.

Verse 5 above says “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” REMAIN.  Not flit in and out.  Remain.  Set up camp.  Maintain open lines of communication at all times.  I have spent times in my life where I remained, and then other times when I’ve flitted in and out.  Let me tell you something.  There is a BIG difference in terms of how my life operated.  When I am remaining, I have more peace, more joy, and see more opportunities to minister.  When I am flitting in and out, I am unsettled, prone to frustration and even anger, and I miss opportunities to minister because my focus is on myself.

This affects me, but also those around me.  It is much harder to maintain a deep relationship with my husband, my son, my friends and family when I do not remain in an intimate relationship with Jesus.  Everything in my life flows out of me remaining in Christ.

So, no gardening on my to-do list today.  Sorry.  I’m sure my yard would appreciate some attention, but it’s not going to happen.  Scripture reading isn’t even on my to-do list.  Nope.  What I do have in my daily plans is TIME with Jesus.  In fact, I’m going to do that right now.

Blessings in Christ.

Pink roses Image courtesy of samuiblue / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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