Thursday, May 26, 2016

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Apart or A Part

Recently, I had a dream that I was in a room with tables of glass containers filled with water.  Each container had a twig or branch in the container.  After waking from this dream, the verse from John 15 came to mind, "For apart from me you can do nothing."

For several days now this has been weighing on my spirit.  Going back to John 15, which in context is Jesus sharing with his disciples, the importance of being connected to him and to some degree one another. So was God speaking to me in this dream? Or have I watched too much HGTV and the use of greenery as decorative items?

The passage in John 15:1-9 reads "'I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.'"  (NLT) This is a very powerful message that Jesus is sharing with his disciples. 

As I have spent several days, meditating on this passage, I think God was showing me something that has happened in the Church.  These containers of individual branches are many believers today.  I often meet people who would say they are Christians, but haven't been connected to a church in years. They may visit a church once every 3 or 4 weeks, but never commit to anything. As a pastor's wife, I've seen people leave a church to search for something that meets their need and spend years looking and never connecting.
These branches may thrive for a season.  Much like evergreen plants can thrive after being cut for a long period of time. Eventually, like everything, it dries up. I think sometimes people think visiting church every now and then keeps them filled up. It's reminds me of a vase of flowers.  When a flower is first cut, it drinks up the water that it needs to keep vibrant. There have been times when I've poured out old water and re-cut the tips of my flowers to try and keep them longer.  But even then, the water becomes stale and smells to high heaven and the flowers die. I think this is what happens to many Christians when they cut themselves from the vine. 

The illusion of being a lone branch in a container of water is that you are thriving. Much like the photo above. It looks green and seems to be just fine.  In just a little while, that lone branch is going to stop taking in the water and wither. The other container will do just the opposite. This vine has roots and has more than one branch connected.  This is a better picture of what Jesus was talking about in John 15.  Where does it say in this passage that not being connected is going to keep one fruitful? It doesn't, it says just the opposite.  I think this goes for those who, like in this picture, look connected by being regular attenders in a church, but don't serve or give themselves to the community God has placed them. In this passage, Jesus says "branches" not branch. To me this means we are to be connected with others. There's a fine line to pruning and cutting off.  When a branch is dead on a vine, it gets cut off and thrown away.  When a healthy branch gets pruned, it's still connected to the vine.  It's just the part of the branch that is beginning to die and needed to be trimmed. Which goes back to why we need each other to keep us spiritually healthy. Others see what we can't.

Instead, it's our responsibility to make sure we connect or get grafted into a church body. Instead of us asking the question, "how can this church serve me?" we should ask "what are my gifts and where can I serve this church?" The photo on the right is a picture of an olive tree in the garden of Gethsemene.  A new vine has been grafted into an old vine trunk.  It's amazing to me how this can be done.  Both the old and new get their strength from one another and can continue to thrive. 

There is an urgency in the world today for Christians to unite. When the Holy Spirit was moving in Acts 3, it was because the Church was united and serving one another.  There are too many "lone branches" out there.  I think that is what God was showing me in my dream with all those containers of branches. I want to encourage you today if you are a "lone branch" there is a body of believers who need you! Stop listening to the voice of the enemy telling you that you are doing just fine not being a part of a church community. The voice that says you can be a Christian and not have to be involved in a church. That is a lie! It's a lie because Jesus said, "For apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) It's time to be "a part" and bear fruit together!

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