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!
You may also be interested in...
We’re fascinated by thinking about the future, and the end toward which history is moving. Every major worldview I’m aware of has some view about how it’s all going to end and what eternity holds. Or at the more popular level, TV shows and movies depict some view of the future as well: for example, just think "zombie apocalypse," "doomsday preppers," and A.I. that becomes self-aware and takes over the planet.
And the way we think about the future has a whole lot to do with how we live our lives in the present. If you believe life is meaningless beyond the eighty or so years we live on earth, that will influence what you do now. If the future is filled with fear and uncertainty, that also will influence how you live this week. Alternatively, if the future holds hope, and if it's moving toward a glorious purpose, that also will shape how you live.
What you believe about "then" impacts your life "now."
All of this reinforces the value of Christian eschatology. ("Eschatology" is the formal theological word for "the study of the end times." It's all about the end - or the goal - toward which history is moving.)
In Matthew 24-25, Jesus teaches at length about this topic, the end toward which history is moving. This is called the "Olivet Discourse," and it's the longest block of teaching from the lips of Jesus on this subject. Along with everything else this passage teaches, here we learn three "big take-away" truths about Christian eschatology that we can't ignore: (1) Jesus is coming back; (2) the timing of His return will be unexpected; and (3) His return in the future means something for our lives today.
To tease out (3) a bit more, we discover that Jesus' return means we stay faithful through crisis. We aren’t swayed by false teaching. We live obedient and alert lives. We trust in and honor the One we will stand before someday when He returns. All of this gives us purpose and direction.
And all of this means we must "live ready." (Check it out especially in Matthew 25:1-13.) The reality of Jesus return calls us to live lives that are ready for His return - prepared for His arrival and ready to accompany Him into a fully-restored eternity.
But what all does it mean to "live ready?" How can we prepare ourselves now to be prepared for His arrival? What does it mean to be ready for Jesus' return?
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. 😀)
What IS the church?
The last two months have seen churches empty on Sundays, and significant shifts to the programs of the local church. We've now seen by experience what many have always known to be true: The church is not the sum total of its programs. Nor is the church simply the building that many visit on Sunday mornings.
But this realization simply invites another great question - the one that starts this post: What, then, IS the church?
This question isn't abstract. The way we answer this question has massive practical implications for how we continue to navigate the ever-changing landscape and move into what everyone is calling "the new normal."
So let's dig into this question and briefly look at three biblical and theological truths about what the church IS. The church is a transformed people living with a God-given purpose who are shaped by 6 key priorities.
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.
If you were talk with most any seasoned teacher, they'd likely nod in agreement that the craft of teaching includes the idea of "taking others somewhere." This could mean helping them grasp new content, see things in a new light, practice new habits, change how they relate to others, and grow in virtue.
To play off this picture that teaching is taking others somewhere, here are a few brief tips I'd recommend to make this "trip" of teaching effective at helping the learner get from point A to point B.
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.
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.