Like Paul, I Found Joy Amidst Devastating News

Joy From Philippians

One of the greatest types of joy I have in life is being a husband and a dad. I’ve told my wife from the time that I saw our relationship growing deeper that I guess I was the odd teenager growing up. We did not have much as kids but I also never wanted for anything either. So when I looked at what goals I wanted in my life, it was simple. I wanted to be a good husband and a good dad. That’s it. Simple goal but hard to obtain. Anyone can father a child that is a biological process but to be a dad it takes so much more.

That is a saying I have seen and lived. I come from a household where my dad is not my biological father, but he has been there since I was two. My father was an ephemeral figure in my life as a kid. We would spend a night there randomly and once we went on a vacation to Ocean City, MD. It was not until I was older and had my car that I spent significant time with my biological father. I worked at Burger King, and after we closed, I would drive to downtown Baltimore and hang out at the place he worked at as a cook.

Fast forward to today, I am married to an amazing woman who is my soul mate. She drives me to be a better man, a better husband and the best dad that I can be. She had two children from a previous marriage when we met, and now I find myself in the same position my dad was in when he and my mom got together.

This was unintentional on my part, I had given up hope on finding someone and having a family, but God knew better than that. He knew like he had known before I was formed that being a dad was my dream in life. In that moment where I had in my heart decided that if this next date did not pan out, I was done. I would live as a bachelor and just throw myself into my career and tuck away all notions of romance.

God’s Providence

God desires to show His power through your storm, but is your lack of faith keeping Him from doing so? God brings storms into your life to show His strength and to gain glory from His providence.

Paul Chappell

Before I get into the devastating news I had earlier this year, part of which made me unsure of continuing to write here; I want to talk about what we mean by God’s Providence. Providence is a combination of two Latin words; the first is  “pro” which means “forward” or “On behalf of” and “vide” which is Latin for “to see.”

So when we think of Providence, it should mean “to support, or to supply what is needed.” If it is God’s Providence, then we are proclaiming that God has provided support, sustenance or what it is we need for the season we are experiencing. Sometimes that providence is his non-action because of the learning and growth we get from difficult but not impossible trials.

God’s providence in my life starts with Jesus. He’s given the ultimate sacrifice for my reconciliation with him. That providence began with the fall of man in Genesis and does not end, ever. He supplied Israel time and time again in the Old Testament. He supplied the world with unending grace through the bloodshed of his son. We can lose sight of that Providence in the day to day grind of life, but it has never been more clear to me than it has been lately. I would not have a better understanding of this providence were it not for Ryan Huguley, and the time he was at Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory. I’ll get into that in a moment. This next part is me peeling back the armor, exposing my heart to you in a way I have not done before.

Devastating News

We have two amazing kids and were considering a third because we felt our hearts and family could certainly expand to love more. So we began trying and spent time making sure we were doing things at the right time etc. Adult stuff. After 8 or 9 months I decided to go to a urologist and see if there were any issues. What I was told after examinations and several tests is that I have a condition called necrozoospermia. Necrozoo-what? Yeah, me too. What that meant is that my body manufactures sperm, but they are all dead. Their tails don’t wag, and so they can’t swim.

So what is the rate for complete necrozoospermia? 0.2-0.5% of men have it. An almost infinitesimal chance and I hit the lottery in the worst kind of way. I had thought about this many times as an adult and my desire to have a family, would I be able to? The doubt was from an incident when I was playing Little League Baseball, back before kids wearing a jock strap was a thing. My cousin was mad about something I had done and came up to me and kicked me as hard as he could in the genitals with a pair of baseball cleats on. I was taken to the hospital for that, and my whole region was black and blue for weeks.

Back to now, the doctor told me that incident caused primary testicular failure. I can’t have children without assistance. It would cost roughly $15,000 for even a chance to harvest sperm and egg then perform In Vitro Fertilization. We are nowhere near that well off to be able to afford that so my chances of having a child with my wife are zero. I was devastated. I left the urologist and did the ugly cry in the car before I called my wife to tell her something I did not want to talk about.

Paul’s Joy and Content

I cannot express the gratitude I have for Ryan enough. He was the first pastor in a long time that inspired me. When you meet Ryan, you will find a man full of God’s word, Jesus’s love and the compassion that only the Holy Spirit can provide. It is through his preaching that I know the means of finding joy in dire circumstances.

When he was at Harvest, he went through a series titled, ‘Everyday Joy – A Study of Philippians’ you can find it here on Vimeo, Everyday Joy Series. It was and has been my retreat when things look stormy, or I am suddenly in the midst of something that challenges my faith. To suddenly discover that I could not have children was both of those. The whole, testing and waiting and eventually finding out. It was hard to come to terms with it.

Consider Paul’s situation as he writes to the church in Philippi, he has spent almost four years in prison (Philippians 1:12-18). Why? Because he was preaching the truth and following Jesus. Yet, in that time he rejoices and proclaims that even if he is sentenced to death, he will rejoice (Philippians 2:17-18). Why? Because Paul learned to be content with his condition, whatever it may be (Philippians 4:11)

Coming to Terms

I know that I have been given grace beyond measure and certainly something I do not deserve. I try to teach that to my children that humanity is the cause of Christs’ death. If I am given this grace and freedom in Jesus, why am I focusing on not being able to father a child biologically? Am I not an adopted child of God? Yes, yes I am. I did not know that I could never have children, but God knew. That is where his providence comes in and becomes completely humbling.

Is it sad I cannot have children biologically without assistance? Absolutely. Did I feel less a man? Yes, I did. The information I received did not cause me joy it was the exact opposite, but when I take a step back from my immediate emotions, I see something that even as I write this brings water to my eyes.

God knew.

He knew that my life goals were not money or cars or women or drugs. He knew that I would become a man some day and I would want children and provided that in the most spectacular way possible. When I took that view, I became at peace.

It is things like this that leave no doubt that God exists. The cost to have another kid is extraordinary, and there are so many children that need homes. I hope that I can continue to provide a haven, a home that follows Jesus for my children and maybe…just maybe a third that God will put in the path that Bethany and I walk in this life.

This has easily been the most difficult thing I have written to date, but I hope that you can find how God’s providence is present in your life. It is easy to get caught up in the negative emotions that Satan wants us to embrace. That does not mean that you are in a sandpit of despair. God is there, just grab on to him and those trials become contentment because through it all you have Jesus and the salvation he provides.

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A Month (or More) in Prayer Journaling

I’ve posted about this on my personal Facebook as well as the Just Hold Fast page and it was something that had been on my mind and heart. I don’t pray enough, or didn’t. I don’t know the barometer of what is ‘enough’ because the Bible tells us to never cease praying (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). What I do know is it lingered there, in the back of my mind and I had not considered how to fight it with tools like journaling. I do all the expected praying, I talk to God when I first wake up, at meals, during bed times and if someone asks me to, I pray for them. I do not understand the practice of telling someone you will pray for them and then not doing it. You’re basically lying, even if well meaning and you forget because life has gotten you distracted.

We know prayer is a powerful thing that God wants us to do. How often do we forget to? Journaling can help and God saw that specific need in my life. Like the good Father he is, he provided a way for me to get what I needed to deepen my relationship with him and I want to share that with you.

Consider this, where do you think that distraction has come from? The enemy. He doesn’t want you to pray for anyone. In fact, he will throw up all kinds of roadblocks to prevent you from doing so. I’m guilty of being distracted, that is the reason why I am writing this and the purpose is to give you an idea of what consciously focusing on praying has done for me and my relationship with God. TL;DR, it’s way better than it was!

How it all Started

I’m going to blame this one on Tara over at Story of My Heart for giving me the thing I didn’t know I needed. Lots of folks have heard or seen the movie War Room which shows just how transformational prayer can be. The movie depicts the Jordan family who from the outside have this wonderful marriage but the reality is that at home their marriage is in shambles, it is a war zone. All seems lost and yet, God provides the wife with help from an older and wiser woman who leads the wife to the power of constant prayer and journaling it to show the good it can do. Things change, the family becomes closer and it is all because of God and the practice of talking to him.

I tell you all of this to say Tara gave me a copy of ‘The Battle Plan‘ which is a small book that goes along with the movies concept. The book itself is pretty diminutive in size but what it represents is something so much greater. I am late to the game with this book and the concept itself is not new. What the movie has done is re-envision the prayer journaling is and communicate its purpose. It has been re-envisioned in such a way that it helps Christians who are struggling to keep that prayerful connection.

For me, it has worked. What does around 3 months in prayer look like? It will be different for everyone, I’ve prayed daily and logged prayer requests that have both been asked for and simply me finding out about some event that someone would need prayer about. I was not perfect in this endeavor because I would often forget my journal after a week of work and I would try to rememeber who and what I prayed for so that on Monday I could fill it out. So what does that look like?

Prayer Journaling
Prayer Journaling

Why Journaling Matters

The whole purpose of journaling is not to give you ammo to feel like you are praying more than others, it is not there to make you boastful. I would argue instead that it does more important things like reminding you how powerful prayer can be. James 4:2 tells us that, “You do not have because you do not ask.” and when we turn away from Gods’ invitation to communicate with him directly we neglect the fact that this whole spinning ball and all that it entails exists because He simply spoke it in to being.

Journaling serves other purposes as well. When you journal and you see how God responds to your constant prayer it humbles you to see how much of an impact your work for His good will be in peoples lives. Journaling serves as a reminder to pray until it becomes a habit and then it keeps you on track.

Even with all of that I think that journaling about your prayer and connection to God does something infinitely more important, it dispels doubt. Christians and non-Christians alike doubt God. I struggle with that in times of high stress when I see no way out on my own and that is the key thing for me. I know that intuitively it is just doubt that is strangling me but my desire to operate on my own, outside of the influence of God. Journaling has helped center me and remove that issue from my life. It had tempered my need to control and allowed me to prayerfully serve others, regardless of their knowledge that someone out there, even a stranger, prayed for them.

Conclusion

I did not write this to boast or brag about my relationship with God. Instead I want to encourage you, with all of my heart, to pray more. Let me pray for you. Regardless of the circumstance and our desired outcome, God has a plan and when we embrace that, commune with him and serve others great things will happen. It is not something you do in the hopes of gaining ground with God because that is not how it works. We do not act and follow Jesus with the hope of Heaven as a reward. We follow his simple invitation to live as he has so that we live the way God intended us to. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus there is no Christianity. Jesus prayed constantly to God and he is perfect. We, flawed humans need a little help and I believe journaling is one of the most effective ways that we can continue to pray and keep a strong relationship with God.

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Men to Know: Barak

Barak

Sometimes I find it helpful to reiterate why Men to Know focuses on uncommon men. We get so lost in the men we commonly associate with the Bible. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and the Apostles. The exception to that of course is Jesus Christ because his life was without blemish where other men have failed. He is an uncommon man in every good sense of the word. Not to diminish that I have to ask what about Barak? Barak who? No, I do not mean our current President Barack Obama but Barak from the Old Testament. Barak appears in the Book of Judges because, well, he was a judge. God put him there for us to learn from him, a man of faith.

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Election, Pride, and God’s Directions

Election

Whew! That was an election of elections. I would be a terrible liar if I said I showed love during the last 18 months that the election cycle ran. Let me be blunt here, I was in no way acting like a Christian either. I don’t like the outcome of the election, I don’t like what has happened in our society and I’m ashamed of that, of my own actions. Terribly so. I thought people were stupid for their views; I sat gobsmacked listening to things that just didn’t align with what I thought was the right choice. In short, I was prideful.

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Men to Know: Manasseh

King Manasseh

“I am not good enough.” – everyone at some time.

King Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-18 and 2 Chronicles 33:1-20) is probably the most reviled if not the most wicked king that Judah ever had in the history of the tribe. This was a man who intentionally did undid all of his father’s (Hezekiah) work in removing idolatry in Judah. He rebuilt tore down altars and he created an Asherah as Ahab had done. He went beyond just that he began building altars to idols within the temple of the Lord. The place that God told David and Solomon would be where his name resided forever. Manasseh did some terrible things that even now my heart tightens at the thought of this but he sacrificed his own son by burning him.

I mean, can you draw the line any clearer that you hate God?

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Men to Know: Joash

Joash

Charisma is a dangerous thing, not only for the person who exudes it but also for the individual who soaks up that energy. I wonder, how many men live their religion vicariously through someone else. It’s easy to do; I’m guilty of it. We get wrapped up in the charisma of someone we see as a model of Christianity. The Bible addresses this in the life of Joash (Jehoash) of Judah, and I feel that it is a firm reminder that there is but one place our faith should fall, and that is with God. Not through another man but for Him directly otherwise we fall off the path God clearly sets for us.

The life of Joash is briefly but clearly laid out for us in 2 Chronicles 24: 1-27 (Parallel can be found in 2 Kings 12:1-21) but I want to focus on a few important verses that highlight my point. Context is super important and knowing the situation around what I am talking about is important. It holds me accountable for understanding the Bible and what God is telling us through the Bible. Too often the Bible has been quoted out of context and used in a way God never intended.

Context

Joash is the son of King Ahaziah of the Northern Kingdom. Israel was split into two kingdoms at this time. His father was murdered and Joash’s aunt Jehoshebamanaged to hide him away at the Temple. There he was raised by his aunt and her husband, the priest, Jehoiada. At the age of seven Jehoiada revealed that Joash still lived and managed to place the boy on the throne. Jehoiada loved God and did his best to raise Joash to love God as well but what he did not realize is that Joash followed him and not God (2 Kings 12:2).

Joash After Jehoiada

After Jehoiada died, who would be there for Joash to lean on? While he was a boy when he became king he had been stewarded by a man far wiser than he. He had not learned to be self-sufficient in making decisions and more importantly, he did not know how to shepherd his faith. He began listening to the advice of the princes of Judah who convinced him to abandon the temple that he had spent so much time and energy to assure it was built. God sent prophets to turn Joash and the Kingdom back on the right path, and they were ignored. The son of Jehoiada whose name was Zechariah was filled with the Spirit, and he rebuked the people for their wickedness. Joash commanded the stoning of the son of Jehoiada who was every bit a father to him. He had forgotten how good he was treated (2 Chronicles 24:22).

Isn’t that how we are? So willing to accept the love and kindness, God showers us with, and yet we killed His Son. It’s not like God just let Joash fall into sin without trying to help him. He sent a multitude of prophets all telling Joash to turn back and ultimately Joash’s’ heart became so calloused he commanded the killing of someone God had sent to him.

Faith in anyone other than God is no faith at all.

Faith is the complete trust and confidence in someone or something. That means that someone or something must be perfect in every way otherwise doubt creeps in and then as soon as you feel that doubt you have lost faith. What Joash did was view Jehoiada as his source of faith instead of the vicar that he was. There is nothing wrong with telling someone that you have faith that they can accomplish a goal. You should as a point to encourage them and pray with them.

Our faith is a personal commitment to God and only God. We can love and be a fan of someone especially a person of God who inspires us. When we begin usurping that commitment then we have wandered. It’s especially worrisome when you have a non-believer such as Joash was and follows what a man says as faith instead of putting himself in a position of faith and believes he is saved. It’s dangerous.

Make sure your faith is on firm ground men. Your family looks to you for leadership in all aspects of life. Secondhand faith is a poison we should watch for in ourselves and others we love.

Serve The Lord

Serve The Lord

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. – Ephesians 4:1

Being a prisoner for the Lord. It’s a powerful idea. It’s also terrifying. We like to control things, it’s easily one of the things I personally struggle with. I am getting better at it but at one time it was almost impossible for me to just lift my hands and say, “Yep, God, You take this, I know you have the control.” I thought I needed to do it all, I needed to set my destiny. Paul on the other hand is the epitome of what a prisoner for the Lord meant. His words can be taken as a double entendre because at the time he wrote this epistle he was a prisoner of Rome because of serving Christ and on the other hand when you accept Jesus’ Lordship you accept Him as master. You serve under His will.

Serving others is a life worthy of the calling we receive. For some of us that is missionary work. Others it is front-line ministry. Yet again it may be the friendly face at the doors of the church welcoming regular attendees and then newcomers. It doesn’t matter what path God sets on your heart, what matters is that you are serving Him by being willing to serve others. Jesus specifically told us that the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve others (Mark 10:45) and He went farther than just serving in the sense of washing feet or getting food. The last half of that verse shows how He served humanity, His life ransomed for many. That’s you, that’s me. I’m not saying run out and serve someone by finding death through risking your life for them although in the heat of the moment is a different thing altogether.

Serve Like Christ

Jesus who gave up all of the powers of Godhood humbled himself to wash the feet of the disciples, to sit with sinners and to die for all of us. He calls us to serve others, that’s it. That is why our burden is so much lighter than the one He had to carry. He died for all of us, not just one person but everyone.

To serve like Jesus did is to show love and compassion for others. Help the widow with carrying groceries or the Veteran that is homeless. Those times when you’re interacting with them one on one is a chance to share your testimony with them by acting in kindness. That one gesture may be what God uses to pull their brokenness to Him and begin piecing things together for their salvation. What if a week later that Veteran comes up and asks why you were so kind and you tell them because Jesus; then you get them to come to church once, no pressure. They keep coming and then they accept Christ as Savior and Lord.

You just did the work Christ commissioned us to do and all you did was be kind. You didn’t go to some far flung land and become a missionary. Missionary work is not for everyone, it’s a heroic effort in all the good ways to me. But being kind doesn’t take heroic effort normally. It takes more to be unkind than to follow the directions Christ gave us.

Not every person you help is going to want to hear your testimony and it’s likely the majority won’t. The example I gave just illustrates how God can use you and it takes no effort on your part aside from showing someone how kind you are. It would be great if it always worked that way but dispel thoughts of grandeur and settle in reality that you do it for the potential of glorifying God.

Final Thoughts

The best way to serve the Lord is to do what he has commanded of us. As a prisoner of Christ we should be eager to reach out and share our experiences as we have went from our lowest lows to the highest highs that only God can provide. It takes more thought and energy to be cruel than it does to simply react and help someone. Jesus helped the world knowing that His reward would be that humanity would slay Him. You know what helping others does for us? We serve the Lord in that capacity and have the chance to glorify Him. If we are doing it for any other reason aside from a genuine desire to help someone then we aren’t following the commandments of our Master. He delights in our joy of Him.

Serve selflessly because Jesus gave it all. He deserves nothing less than all of what we can give Him.

Give Me Strength

Give Me Strength

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. – 2 Corinthians 4:7

Paul was a passionate man for Christ. His epistles to churches are some of the most studied letters that make up books of the Bible. He is the author of at least 13 books (Scholars question authenticity of Hebrews often) and his second letter to the church at Corinth to me is where we see Paul’s humanity laid bare. God gave Paul immeasurable strength to pursue the ministry Jesus had laid at his feet on the road to Damascus. Through his imprisonment and until his death he still witnessed and never lost the light that he received from Christ. He epitomized the short prayer of supplication we often ask, “God, Give me strength.”

The Treasure and the Jar

The treasure Paul talks about in this chapter of his letter refers to the light Christ puts within us when we are redeemed by His blood. It is the ministry we are charged with. We are taught about this very important lesson as children with “This Little Light of Mine.” Our treasure is the Holy Spirit and we the redeemed are the jar. It is fitting because the jars that Paul would be referring to are the clay pots that were used by the common person. Many of the rich would use metals or wood for their vessels but the clay jars of commoners were frail like we as humans are. We are God’s vessels who carry the light of Christ in us. Those jars of clay were fragile and easily broken like we often are. It is why the potter who created them can repair them so that the precious treasures in them can be shared and not lost.

God, Give Me Strength

That’s the amazing thing isn’t it? We may face terrible circumstances and even death depending on the season we are in but God gives strength to endure those trials. I do think it is important to point that out. Endure and not fix. Endure but not escape. It sounds cold but it isn’t because it gives us testimony. It gives a Christian the ability to say what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. The explanation Paul gives us is about a thorn placed in the flesh and that it was agonizing. He begged 3 times for the Lord to take it from him and God’s response was perfect, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s revelation in that is to boast about his weakness because if the Lord tells you that His grace is sufficient for you in your weakness then your faith in Him will carry you through the darkest of valleys. Admit your weakness and cry out to give me strength Lord and the Father will help.

Final Thoughts

God provides us everything we need. Love, Redemption, Grace, Comfort, Strength etc. He tempers it because can you imagine if we knew that as soon as we asked God for strength it happened, every time. We would become prideful or arrogant. Instead God does not give us strength to become free of our weakness but the strength to endure it and to continue walking with Him despite our frail nature. We are the vessel that Christ has chosen to extend His grace to. We are frail like a Palestinian clay jar but God’s strength given to us allows us to be repaired from the cracks and chips we have so that we can contain that treasure so that we can show it to the world and pour it in to other vessels like us. Jesus is an amazing artist and the potter of man, there is none greater and I know that if I call out, “God give me strength.” I have assurance that He will give me the strength to endure the season.

God’s Plan of Restoration

God's Restoration

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

We start this devotional with the great commission. What has happened is that Jesus has died, taken humanities sin with Him in to death and then in His resurrection has conquered death. He then spent forty days (Acts 1:3-5) with them preparing the disciples for His departure. It is in this time that Jesus laid down his plans and revealed to the disciples God’s plan of restoration for all people. It is where the separation of Jews and Gentiles is wiped away by the words of God’s Son. Salvation was intended for all peoples since God’s plan began with Adam and Eve and we have all sprung forth from them.

Our Responsibility for Restoration

We do have a duty as Christians in the restoration of humanity. Our Testimony helps fulfill that duty as we are obeying the Great Commission. Every time that we allow our distaste for anyone not Christian to take over it sends the message that Christ is not for them. It sends the message that Christians are an elite group unwilling to listen to a broken heart. And that is not what we are, it si not who we are. We are just as broken as they are, our iniquity is just different. When a man of the faith wanders and it wrecks his family because of his sin it sends a terrible message. Compounding that by ostracizing that man propagates that elitist image. Men, reach out to him and offer the strength of faith through Christ for this brother that has went to the wayside.

Our duty for restoration is not limited to Christians but to the lost as well. At Harvest Bible Chapel Hickory we are taking a class in Christology and Adam Ashoff walked us through a part of Ezekiel that makes that very very clear (Ezekiel 33:1-9) this comes from the Old Testament (OT) and then we have Christ in the New Testament (NT) giving the Great Commission that reiterates the total inclusion of every person in God’s plan. It is really amazing to see how the OT and NT were so well laid by God. We as the Watchmen are duty-filled to tell the people and the lost.

It may be hard to do that given whatever the sin may be. I admit I would have a hard time reaching out to someone who had hurt a child or raped a woman. Those things are my weakness in being forgiving but I pray that God gives em the strength to be like His Son if I am ever faced with those realities. Ultimately our responsibility for restoration lies in our testimony of who God is, what God can do, why Jesus died for us and how we can find redemption in that shed blood so that our salvation is secure.

Final Thoughts

God has given us an invitation to be part of His plan. His work of restoration for humanity has not ended and will not end until the Rapture. If the Father’s work, the one who has given everything to redeem us, does not end with Christ’s resurrection then why should our work end with our salvation? Our salvation is our resurrection, our life beginning and we know this because Ephesians 2 explains it with perfect clarity that we have been dead spiritually. Our story ends when we are with the Lord and are in eternity with him. That is the true plan of God’s restoration of humanity.

Daily Devotional – Remain in the Vine

Fruit of the Vine

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. – John 15:4

When I first started doing this I had talked about the farmer and the ways it relates to the types of people we encounter in our lives.While I haven’t been the stony or the thorny seed I certainly have been the man tossing seeds upon the wayside where I was not bearing fruit at all. I knew the Lord but I was apart from Him. This verse in John is exactly something I needed back then and sometimes even now. We all wander a little or a lot, doesn’t matter the distance because God tells us that He will meet us wherever we are. I was unplugged, separated, away from God for a decade almost. I was off of the vine.

Life off of the Vine

Have you ever plucked a grape from a vine and let it sit there? It doesn’t instantly turn rotten and it doesn’t wither and dry up right away either. That is how life is when we are away from God. At first anyways, because we have that prior nourishment to sustain us just like the grape did. What happens eventually? The grape begins to rot and ultimately dies because it is not being renewed. That is exactly how I was, exactly how it is for any one away from God. It doesn’t mean you have become an unbeliever. On the contrary, I grew up going to church a lot and while I did not follow what God wanted me to, I knew God existed and never denied it. How long can the fruit survive away from the vine? It doesn’t matter, eternity is still longer.

Plugging In

This is where the church comes in because we need to help one another. Can you put a grape back on the vine and it will thrive again? No, once you pull the grape off a tear in the skin happens and it begins losing all of it’s nourishment. That is the good news, you my friends, are not grapes. God is a master gardener with His vine. He can plug that hole and fill that fruit with nourishment. The church is there to help lead the wandering fruit back to the vine so that they do not wither and die.  This is why we speak life to the lost and even to ourselves because it is a chaste reminder that we can still fall off the vine if we are negligent and allow the enemy to pull at us.

Final Thoughts

I’d like to go back to the grape for a minute and just explain why staying on the vine is important to me. See, when you hold a grape up you see light pass through it. When you break the skin it is sweet and juicy. It is refreshing! That’s how we should live our lives as Christians. We should have a skin so thin that the sweet good news of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is ready to burst forth and refresh the dying fruit so that God can mend them and bring them back in to the vine. You want to be a seedless grape ultimately because who wants a bitter seed while enjoying the richness of God? The best grapes are seedless because then they are full of the nourishment from the vine. Do we really want the lost spitting out a bitter pit because they recognized that we have some harbored doubt in our hearts?

I know that all sounds very highfalutin but it is the truth. We are called to invigorate others and bring them to Christ. That is what I am trying to do here because I know my talents in this season are in writing and in technical knowledge to run a website. Who knows where God is going to take me but I can assure you I’m going to cling to the vine for all it’s worth. Cling to it for life. God is life.

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