In John 15, Jesus draws on vivid imagery to describe the life He offers, and the life His followers find in Him. John 15:5 perhaps sums it up most clearly: "I am the vine; you are the branches. I you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing."
The take-away is clear. As His followers, we need to stay connected to Jesus. He's our life, and only through Him we bear fruit.
As I've been meditating on this verse, however, I wonder if too often I can approach Jesus more as a gas pump than a vine. But what does that mean? And why is it dangerous?
Who is the Holy Spirit? He's been called "the forgotten God" and "the shy member of the Trinity." My guess is, even many Christians would acknowledge they don't know a lot about the Holy Spirit.
And then there are some truths about the Spirit's work that we won't know and can't quantify - at one level, there will always remain some mystery surrounding the Spirit's activity. Even Jesus seems to teach this in a passage like John 3:8: "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You heard the sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
None of this, though, should keep us from pressing into Scripture and discovering what we can about the Holy Spirit.
Joshua 1:8 is a clinic on how to approach God's Word well.
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
The take-aways are clear.
God's Word should be on our lips.
We speak it. This doesn’t mean that we follow every sentence with a verse reference; it means we are so full of the truth in this Book that it naturally influences and spills out in what we say!
God's Word should be in our hearts.
We meditate on it. We reflect on it and sit in the truths we encounter in the Bible. The story of the Bible forms us. The best picture I have for biblical meditation is marinading meat - think "chicken" or "steak". When meat soaks in a marinade and that’s done well, that marinade will permeate the meat so that when you take a bite, you can’t taste the meat without getting a hint of the marinade. That’s what mediating on the Bible means: God’s Word has so permeated our hearts - we’ve soaked in it so deeply - that every part of us has the taste of God and His Word.
God's Word transforms our actions.
We apply it. As much of a fan as I am for knowing the Bible, we never want to JUST know the Bible. This Book isn’t just about information; it's about transformation.
When you put all this together, here’s what this means: We need to fight for the priority of God’s Word in our daily lives.
There’s so much pressure to keep up with the latest news cycle and there are so many distractions with media and entertainment and busyness. My concern is we’re getting so consumed by these things that we’re neglecting the priority of God’s Word and the story it invites us into.
Keep spending time in this book! Slowly, repeatedly, day by day over the course of weeks and months and years. This is God’s Word to us - that’s how valuable it is, and how much we need it!
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What does it look like to grow in knowing, loving, and obeying the message of the Bible? Here are three tips I try and live by myself, and three tips I’d recommend to anyone wanting to engage the Bible well. (For those of you that can appreciate some alliteration, watch out for the R’s. 😀)
To get us started today, let me take you back to Middle School science class. One of the great discoveries in the history of science was learning that the sun is at the center of the solar system. Before the 16th century, the prevailing view was that the earth was at the center of everything, and the sun and all other planets revolved around the earth. But then a Polish genius named Nicolaus Copernicus took another look at things. He noticed that there were some big issues with the math behind the dominant view. Things didn’t add up.
So Copernicus went to work and proposed a different model - where the sun didn’t orbit the earth, but the earth orbited the sun. Suddenly everything fell into place. This discovery set the table for future astronomers to refine Copernicus’s work and help us better understand the wonder of the created universe.
And the “aha moment” in the science was fixing the right thing at the center. Without that right thing in the center, everything else was a little out of whack. But with the right object at the center, everything else fell into place.
I recently preached on Ephesians 2:1-10 at Brookside Church - a passage which I would say "pound for pound" is the best ten-verse spotlight on God's amazing grace that we find in the New Testament.
Here's a quick outline of the passage at a glance:
Brookside Church is getting ready to launch a 4-week series on the Psalms. (Can't wait!) We'll be preaching through individual psalms each week. (We did this in the summer of 2018 as well. Click here to see what we preached on then - Psalm 23; Psalm 16; Psalm 121; Psalm 84.)
In case you want to dig a little deeper or just familiarize yourself with the Psalms, below I've listed three resources that you can dig into on your own, with your friends, or as a family.
If you ever check out either the Library or the footer of this site, where we highlight the top 5 posts of the previous month, you'll have seen that "Character Counts | The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)" has been on this "Top 5" streak for a while (a long while!). And it's understandable why.
Character matters. When it's lacking, its absence reminds us that it matters. When character shines, its presence shows us that it makes a difference.
If you've not checked out the post, you can do so here.
So as a nod to the popularity of this post, I'm officially going to "retire the jersey." I'll leave the post just as it is on the site and will include it in the "retired jersey" category of this site's "Library" page. However, moving forward I'll no longer include it in numbers 1-5 of each month's top posts (even though it continues to rank highly among the website "hits" for individual posts), thus allowing room for other posts.
Interested in other posts that have gotten a lot of traffic on this site recently? Click here to check 'em out!
Interested in seeing all of the "retired jersey" posts up to this point? Here they are:
Not too long ago I ran across a 10 min video that Justin Taylor posted on The Gospel Coalition, capturing how a tribe in Indonesia responded when they received copies of the New Testament in their own language. Because I wanted to keep this video easily accessible for myself, and because of how this video reinforces the value of biblical literacy (something the Brookside Institute is all about), I wanted to post it here as well.
In John 5:39 Jesus teaches that the Scriptures testify about Him. Isaiah 55:10-11 tells us that God's Word accomplishes His purposes as it goes out. Since that's the case, we should celebrate and support every example of God's Word being made accessible to more and more people.
As the Kimyal Tribe continues to engage God's Word, may it point them more and more to the greatness of Jesus, and may God accomplish mighty things through His Word among them!
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Temptation can take us to a place we never wanted to go. Talk with anyone who’s responded poorly to temptation and they’ll agree with this. (This is every one of us who are reading this, by the way.) We’ve seen the hurt on the face of someone we’ve sinned against. We’ve felt the shame of personal defeat and regret, when we’ve given into the same sin again and again. What looks so good when we’re on the front end of temptation can be so destructive if we give in to it.
In light of all this, the perspective James gives us on sin is so important. Here's what James 1:13-15 says:
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