Sunday, March 22, 2009

fruit or the vine?

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." - Proverbs 14:12

As Christians, we desire to be fully devoted followers of Christ, to be found pleasing and acceptable in the sight of the Lord. And as a response of sincerely wanting to live the abundant life in Christ that the bible calls us to, we fill our spiritual lives with certain disciplines and activities that are reflective of that which we want to be: fully devoted followers of Christ.

Things like reading our bibles daily, spending time in prayer, going to church, to lifegroup/biblestudy/sunday school are among those things which we associate with an "Evangelical-Bible-Believing-born-again Christian" We may even further be involved as ushers, and childcare workers, volunteering in a variety of service and mission opportunities, even leading people to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior; these are the "do's". Conversely, we also dissociate Christians with certain activites, such as drinking, speeding, cursing, unkindness, hate, and on and on the list of "don'ts" goes.

And so goes the Christian religion: do the activities that are reflective of a believer; bear fruit. Consequently, the underlying point of all the activities (or non activities) is this: if I do the "do's" and refrain from the "don'ts", then I am a fully devoted follower of Christ; a Christian. But is that the point? Is this the message that the bible teaches? Is the fruit the point, or is there more to it?

To be clear, I am not condemning these Christian activities. There is nothing wrong with having bible studies, reading the bible in a year, serving at church, etc. These are wonderful Christian disciplines and activites. However, they are not the point.

One of the essential beliefs of Christianity is that we are saved by grace alone. period. It is impossible to earn our salvation through the doing of works, of "Christian activities." As Christians, we know this; it is hard-wired into our very being. We know that these activities don't save us, but we want to do them, out of a response of what Christ has done for us.

Paul says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:10"

And so we go, ever so passionately striving to be that fully devoted follower of Christ, dying to one's self, taking up our cross, and engaging in fruit activities. But the subtlty of all our activity is that we do fruit-like activities to show that we are fully devoted followers of Christ, instead of seeking and knowing the One that produces fruit in us. Remember what Paul says in Galations 5:22: "but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfullness, gentelness, and self-control. Notice that this fruit is born of the Holy Spirit in us, not of ourselves.

So what's the point? Let's look at what the One we follow said:

"Remain in me, and I will 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. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." - John 15:4-5

What does this mean? It means seek the Lord. Seek to remain in Him. Don't just read the Bible; devour it; meditate on it. Seek His face. Ask him to help you understand what you read. Tell him what you feel when you read His word. Be still; listen. learn what it means to pray without ceasing. Seek to know the Lord Jesus, and to be known by him, for apart from him, we can bear no true fruit.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers!'" Matthew 7:21-

Serving Him does not replace us knowing Him. Activity does not equal life.

Does this resonate with you? Have you found yourself in seasons where the fruit , not the vine, was the goal?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the little things

I've recently become very aware that God is calling me to be faithful in the little things; driving the speed limit, picking up a small piece of trash that I dropped, choosing to be truthful when it is easier and more convenient to be decietful. Yes, these are small things that the world around us justifies everyday, but does that make it right? Does the majority rule, or does God rule?

1 John 1:5-7 says "This is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you. God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie, and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin."

You're either walking in the light or your not - it's that simple. There is no gray area with God. Hot or Cold; light or darkness. you choose. Choose to leave the gray. Choose to be in the light.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Idol Talk

I had the opportunity to go to the men's big12 basketball tournament yesterday, and so I had to act on it. I am a huge fan of college basketball, especially OSU. Kinda is akward at first, remembering how to cheer your guts out for your team after you are out of school. I used to go nuts at home games while in Stillwater, yelling 'til my voice was gone.

As I was sitting there, God decided that He would speak to me about what was going on around me, whether I wanted Him to or not. So, in the middle of a very heated and intense bedlam game, I made some observations: when my team did good, myself and our fans errupted with cheers and excitement; when things went wrong, we release resounding sighs and express our openly display our dissappointment. When we thought that our team was being treated unfairly, we let loose our boo's, disgust, and choicest words; when the other team made a mistake or was penalized, we cheered in the face of our opponents' fans. Pretty typical of every sporting event that I have ever been to, unfortuneatly.

Why do we do this?People love their schools, their teams, their players. Why? Because they are a source of pride to their fans when their team does well, and a source of shame when they dissapoint us. They represent our honor, our prestige, our pride, us. If they do well, we do well. If they do poorly, our pride suffers.

Still trying to enjoy a very exciting game, I suddenly was evauluating myself, trying to determine why i was so ticked off that the ref made a horrible call against my team, and why I was soo stinkin happy when they responded with a huge answer bucket. I'll let you ponder these questions for yourself, to try to determine why you do what you do, and ask God if He approves - that is between you and him. But for me, I discovered that I was responding to the game in this way because the team on the floor and the name on their jersey represented my pride, and was nothing short of an idol.

My conviction during a Thursday night baskeball game was not about being a fan of a team or a sport. It was an awareness that there are idols in my life, things that are taking God's place as the number 1 ranking in my life. It is a warning sign to me when my mood and emotions are affected by the outcome of a game - win or loose - or any other event or happening in my life. It is an indicator of what is apparently more important to me. Am I more excited about Jesus changing someone's life or my team winning? Do I get more dissapointed and bothered when a loved one is far from God, or that my team looses?

"Awe come on! lighten up man! It's sports! It's just a game! Besides, everybody knows that idols are made of gold and wood, from the bible stories, not basketball teams or schools - don't be so legalistic!" Sound like what you are thinking? Maybe your right. But if God convicted you of this, would you listen? Or would you justify why it is no big deal, that you're not as big of a fanatic as the other guy?

After dealing with the awareness of this sobering insight, I thought that was the end of God's pruning, at least for one night. Then he smacked me in the face with the next blow. My idols are not confined to athletic events. I have some at work, too. You see, I get really pumped up when I seal a deal on a contract that I was trying to land, or when I'm able to solve some glaring problem on a project. Why? Because it makes me look good to my boss, my peers, and upper management. I want to win, I want to do well, I want to succeed because I worship myself.

It's no wonder that God forbids idolatry, for to worship anything else other than the one true God, is truely a counterfit that leaves us with absolutely nothing in the end. It's the counterfiets that deceive us. They are true-ish beliefs that the world has sold us on. And we bite on that bait, almost every time, often without even knowing it. Proverbs 14:12 says: "there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."

What counterfits, what idols, what lies have you bought into (in the past or currently)? What are the warning signs that you use to identify if something is an idol in your life?
Too important of an issue for us to not answer these kinds of questions. What say you?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bible Study Tool - Blue Letter Bible

A friend of mine referred me to an online Bible study tool - thought I'd share it with you. The site is It is a pretty sophisitated little site, with cross references, maps, timelines, and many other references. It also has a bible reading plan, daily devotionals, and commentaries. I also found a link that specifically deals with sayings that are supposedly in the Bible, but are not actually in the scripture - very interesting!

I have't spent a whole lot of time on it, but I can say that I am very impressed with what I've seen so far. Any time I come across something I thing that is beneficial, I want to put it out there for everyone to know about.

As with anything that I recommend, I want you to let me know if you find something objectionable - i can't catch it all, but want to know if I have inadvertently supported something that is contrary to what the Bible teaches. Check it out and let me know what you think - good, bad, or indifferent.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Throughout the Old Testament, there are stories of individuals who would construct a monument of some kind to memorialize an event or covenant that they wanted to remember. Other times, God would cause his people to write down what he said, or have certain feasts throughout the years so that they would not forget what he had told them or what God had done for them. And what about taking communion - "do this in rememberance of Me."

God knows that we have a tendancy to forget. Forgetting small things is a small thing. Forgetting what God has done for us, and what He has revealed to us is a big thing. Sweat the big stuff.

The other day, I had a moment where I was doubting God - doubting that He was there, that this Christian life I'm living was real. I had suddenly found myself disoriented in my faith, unsure of where I was. I needed to find something constant, something familiar, to help me remember where I was and where I was going. Like a neon sign, there it was, flashing at me, "remember."

It was just a simple reminder, where God had revealed Himself to me in such a way that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that He was real - so real that I thought God himself was literally sitting next to me. (I'll post about this event another time). God had burned that event forever in my memory, creating a spiritual monument, a faith milestone, so that I wouldn't forget what He had shown me.

The panic subsided; the feeling of confusion and doubt had vanished. I remembered who my God is. He was there all along, waiting for me to remember.

What events can you fall back to where God showed up, where He was faithful, where you really understood something about Him, where He proved to you that He was real?

What are the monuments that God has provided in your life? What monument is He constructing right now?