Sunday, May 17, 2015

Audio of The Vine and the Branches

The Vine and the Branches

John 15.1-7

Many Christians struggle throughout their lives. They never are victorious. They search for answers. Why can't they come to a place of rest? Is there a spiritual secret?

What stops a believer from moving on and growing in the LORD?
Is there a solution for the struggling believer?
The Day of Pentecost provides the answer.
Luke 24:49 I am going to send you what My Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

Acts 1:4-5, 8 On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

Power= strength power, ability

This enduement with power is through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus spoke in these chapters about the work of  Holy Spirit in the life of His followers. The Comforter/ The Counselor/ The Spirit of Truth to be with you forever.

The Power to obey and to do all the things Jesus began to do and to teach.

1. The secret of spiritual strength

Being a branch. v.5

Being humble.
Humbling ourselves.
A life of humility.
Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 

Confessing our need 
Acts 4:29-31 Now, LORD, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speakYour word with great boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. 

A branch cannot do anything independently of the Vine- in fact if it is separated from the Vine it will shrivel up and die and be good for nothing.

The secret of spiritual strength is to humble ourselves, always realizing our need as branches in the vine.

2. The source of that strength

Abiding in the vine

The Word v.3
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 

2 Timothy 3:16 The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. 


Getting strength from the vine.

The sap.

Christ is the fulfillment of all the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.

Abiding in the Word of God. Praying to the LORD. Continual communication with heaven.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing

3. The pruning of the vine.

clean, pure
purified by fire
in a similitude, like a vine cleansed by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit

clean, the use of which is not forbidden, imparts no uncleanness
free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt
free from every admixture of what is false, sincere genuine
blameless, innocent
unstained with the guilt of anything

We don't want to do this.
It doesn't make sense.
When I have not done it.
It is would be painful to the vine if it could feel.
We can feel it!

4. The fruitfulness of our lives.

It is interesting what suffering begets.

Increase in fruit is a result of pain to the vine.

Wait for the LORD.

It is the design of the Father that we bear much fruit.
This comes from  abiding and submitting to His pruning.

In a time of touch screens and Skype and video conferencing and webinars, gardening brings us back to a hands on mode of work and communication. 

We prepare the soil. Yesterday I took mulched leaves and put them in the bottom of black containers. the containers were a gift from Joe Peckl, who recently passed from this earth. He was an incredible gardener. I learned much from him.

On top of the leaf mulch went dirt and compost. Then I placed the plants in and on top more dirt. This week I will take my grandson to the bay to collect seaweed. The seaweed will be placed on top of each container surrounding the plant. It helps keep moisture in and provides nutrients you cannot get from the ground.

All of this is done by our hands. From choosing the plants to planting them, to caring for them, weeding and picking off the suckers, to picking the fruit there is something so personal about gardening.

Jesus is the True Vine. His Father is the Gardener. We are the branches. Abide in Him.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Words of Hope For A Troubled Heart

John 14.1-3
Just before the walk to the Garden of Gethsemene from the Upper Room (Mark 14.15) with the words of chapter 14.  Chapter 15&16 on the way, ended with these:
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Our souls can become troubled at times. Deep emotions can bring us down to a depth of distress and inward commotion where we can lose all perspective.

Satan perplexes the mind by suggesting doubts.
Doubts about our salvation, God, His Word, even our own personal revelations from heaven.

Anxiety can come take away the calmness of mind and soul.

Our imaginations can conjure up things that strike the spirit with fear and dread. We can imagine the worst scenarios happening in our lives. I think that is one of the reasons David wrote, Psalm 37:25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their children begging bread. 

1. There Are Things That Trouble The Heart.

to agitate, trouble (a thing, by the movement of its parts to and fro)
to  disturb his equanimity, to disquiet, make restless, to stir up
Mark 4.35-41 describes this word trouble fully.

Our failures.
previous verses
Peter denied the LORD, they all fled after promising they would be with Him to the point of death.

Our fears.
Mark 4:40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 
What are your secret fears? They are not hidden from the LORD.

Our lack of faith.
Matthew 17:19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 
Our lack of faith can shock us at times.

Our pain .
Jesus told them He was going away.  He was speaking about His death and ascension.
We miss people we lost.

The unknown future.
Stresses about money and health can consume us. We have today. We do not know what tomorrow may bring but whatever it brings we have Christ and he has us. The things Jesus had just said to them rocked their world to say the least.

They had left everything to follow Him. They thought He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel at this time. They saw themselves as governing officials. Now He is telling them they will all fall away and Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed.  He is telling them He is going to leave them. Troubling words, troubling thoughts

These words are...

2.   An Anchor for the Soul
Believe in God
Believe in Jesus
Remember His Words
Follow Him
Remember that this world is not your permanent home.
We can forget this. The cares of this world can choke it  out, steal our joy, trouble our soul

3. The Comfort of Christ John 16:33 
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Different word for trouble here from 14. 1
a pressing, pressing together, pressure
metaph. oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits

These are things we have to contend with because of our walk with the LORD.
One of the reasons I like The Lord Of The Rings is that it points this out graphically.

There is pressure and straits that we encounter as Christians. Tribulation and affliction come to us as we serve the LORD. This trouble is more outward whereas John 14.1 is inward.

This Mother's Day... we remember growing up how our moms cared for us. We were carefree. We have a Father In Heaven Who see all, knows all and cares for us. Jesus is praying for us that our faith will not fail. The Holy Spirit has come to help us, to guide us, to lead us into all truth, to be with us forever.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sacrifices That Cost Nothing

I Chronicles 21.18-26

The nature of a sacrifice is cost to the person offering it. A true sacrifice is giving  myself or my blessings.

David would not:  offer a sacrifice to the LORD that cost him nothing. The meaning of the sacrifice would be lost if he did. To accept the gift would make the sacrifice for no purpose and  in vain.

David rightly felt the need to personally give to the LORD. He understood that the one offering the sacrifice bears the cost.

This was a sin of pride and ambition which, if the LORD did not humble him, would have resulted in arrogance. This is along the same line as Nebuchadnezzar: 
Daniel 4:29-30 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” 

David's desire to number the troops came as a temptation from Satan, a desire to exalt himself above God.
Daniel 11:36 “The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. 

David sowed to the flesh and now it he is reaping destruction. This is a law of God.  Sow to the Spirit! Resist the devil. Seek first His kingdom1

David repented and now was making amends. He was following the Word of the LORD through Gad. (v.19) He is ready to make sacrifice when another temptation comes. This one he spots. He will bear the cost personally and fully. He is facing his sin head on- no easy way out for David. He confessed his sin frankly and refused to offer anything on the altar that cost him  nothing.

1. Sacrifice by its nature is giving up something to the LORD.

Our  Self Importance

Our Rights
Forgive fully
Love covers a multitude of sins.

Our most treasured possession. Mary anointing Jesus with the Alabaster Jar of pure nard.

Nardostachys jatamansi is a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India. The plant grows to about 1 m in height and has pink, bell-shaped flowers. It is found in the altitude of about 3000–5000 meters. Rhizomes (underground stems) can be crushed and distilled into an intensely aromatic amber-colored essential oil, which is very thick in consistency. Nard oil is used as a perfume, an incense, a sedative, and an herbal medicine said to fight insomnia, birth difficulties, and other minor ailments. The spikenard that Mary poured in Jesus was perfume to last the lifetime of the person who purchased it. Its cost was between $50- 60,000!

There really is no such thing as a sacrifice which costs nothing. By its very nature it means giving up something that is mine. Or better offering to God the things that are His. 

Nothing demonstrates this better than...

2. Jesus sacrificed His Life for us.

Not very far from that threshing floor, was Golgotha, just up the mountain, where Jesus died.

1 Corinthians 5:7 Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 

Ephesians 5:2 Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

Hebrews 9:28 Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. 

1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 

3. We are to present ourselves as living sacrifices.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

The benefit of sacrifice and suffering is knowing with certainty what God's will is. That is highly valued.

My life for yours.
“We must be prepared to lose ourselves, whatever that may entail, that God may be all in all.”~Elisabeth Elliot

This event in David's life shows personal responsibility for personal sin, how when a leader sins many are effected and how we are to come to the LORD.

Since Christ sacrificed Himself for our sins we do not need to make sacrifices for them. In view of God's mercies we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices to Him. This is reasonable.

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.

The consecrated cross I’ll bear
Till death shall set me free;
And then go home my crown to wear,
For there’s a crown for me.

It is amazing what God does with our sacrifices! 
David sinned but he went to God with his sin and its consequences. 
Solomon built the temple on the threshing floor David bought.
This place of reconciliation for David became the place of worship for the nation.
In buying that threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, David was actually purchasing the site on which the temple would be built. His obedience to God, his sacrifice to the LORD became a blessing for the nation and the world.

This was given as a gift to God.

God's Sovereignty. Evil happens but He reigns. He takes the very things Satan  designed to destroy us with and turns the around to work His will out. 

There really is no sacrifice that costs us nothing. That is not a sacrifice at all for us.
But oh how God uses the sacrifices we make for Him. We buy a piece of property. He builds a temple. We give to Him and He multiplies it. A boy offers his lunch to Jesus (2 small fish, 5 barley loaves) and Jesus feeds 5,000 men and their families. 

The servants get the six water jars filled with water and suddenly there are 100's of gallons of the best wine at the wedding feast! All because of Jesus.

The boy, the servants, Mary's perfume... there is always more going on than we realize when Christ is at work in our lives, when we allow Him Lordship.
1 Peter 3:15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts

God blesses the little we give. 
He has ways we have not thought about.
When He works through us, 
It makes us want to dance and shout.

When things seem dark
And we wonder what we will do. 
He works in our behalf, 
He always sees us through.

So trust in Him today
For whatever you need 
With a boy's lunch
Five thousand He did feed.

Sacrificial Giving means:
1. Total surrender and trust in God.
2. Giving that costs
3. Loving God