John 15:5-8 (NLT)
“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.”
Growing up I had a very good friend who we will call “Lucy”. Lucy and I were friends in high school even though we did not attend the same school but the same church. Lucy’s mom was a bubbly woman with a very outgoing personality who invited me over to share meals and spend the night with her daughter. Lucy’s dad was a stoic man who never spoke unless responding to a question. He was not mean or hostile towards his family. A good provider, he worked hard to meet his family’s needs and Lucy wanted for nothing. He loved his daughter very much. He would offer a faint smile whenever she walked into a room. When Lucy graduated from high school, she moved out of her childhood home to attend college. The very next day, her mother and father announced they were divorcing. It was final in the limited amount of time allowed by law. Lucy was absolutely devastated. Within weeks of their divorce, her father met a woman completely different from her mother and they began dating. Lucy wanted to hate this woman. She loathed everything about her and criticized everything that she did. As the product of divorced parents and a successful blended family, she asked me to join her to meet with dad and his new girlfriend for dinner. I reluctantly agreed fearing long, awkward moments of silence as Lucy leered and her father remained in his usual stoic state. We met at a local restaurant. Her father and his friend approached us and he threw his arms around me welcoming me then turned to introduce his girlfriend. I was absolutely blown away. Not by the woman standing before me, but by the man her father had become. The transformation was incredible. He was alive. He was engaging. He was…well…the man was happy. Needless to say, I did not help Lucy’s cause. Within a couple months, Lucy’s dad married his friend. Shortly after that, her mom reconnected with her high school sweetheart and they married as well. Both parents were happy and thriving in their new relationships last I heard.
All the years that Lucy’s parents were married they simply coexisted. Coexistence means to exist together at the same time. It means to exist separately, but peaceably even those that are adversarial. The couple remained together for their daughter. It became clear after the marriage ended that Lucy’s mom pretended to be happy for Lucy and built a life the watching world would accept as normal but it was totally dysfunctional in the four walls of the home. Her father was dying on the inside clearly evident by the transformation when the two parted ways. We are called to abide in Christ. But I wonder, if at times we are merely coexisting but calling it a relationship. We are the bride of Christ but are we participating in a relationship or simply living life in the same space. There is danger in the realm of coexistence. Its walls are often painted gray. There is no black or white, good or bad but rather we live accepting compromise. It is a place that we choose for its comfort rather than being compelled by a passionate desire for perfection, we decide to accept the known rather than risking it all on the unknown possibilities that are the Promises of God for our life. We are not called by God to coexist. Compromise and comfort are not necessary. They are something we choose rather the pressure to change and the stress of release. I do not want to get to the end of my life and meet Jesus only to find out we coexisted. I wanted to abide so deeply in the Lord that when I get there it is with great anticipation and longing that we will hold each other so tightly from years of longing for and yearning to be closer.
Matthew 7:17-20 (NLT)
A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
“Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” God has provided everything you and I need to live a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3) By accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we can still produce some fruit by His Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) We are well on our way to prosperity. But if we never challenge ourselves to step out of our human comfort zone and decide to abide (live and dwell in) Jesus Christ. This is the place where providing changes to prospering. It is where surviving turns into thriving. The enemy wants us to think that we are incapable of such things because of who we are, but when we move every branch that makes up our tree of life connecting it to Jesus Christ every impossible suddenly becomes possible for those who believe enough to take that chance. Comfort is conformation. Conforming to this world limits those things provided by the Glory of God because the vessel is too small, too shallow, and too sinful. But when you and I choose to no longer be residents of this world, when we choose the abundance of Heaven over the pittance we can hold in our hands deciding to follow Jesus every single day of our life, things are about to change as we move from a limited life to a limitless forever.
Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT)
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
“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.” Are you passionate in your pursuit of Christ? Can you take Him or leave Him? Can you live without Him? This is a question that I beg you today to ask and really think about. Christianity is not a status symbol. It is not something we do but must be who we are. I am James Thomason’s wife. I love him. I live with him. I want to be with him every day. I hate when we are apart. I talk to him every day. I miss him when he is gone. I desire him. We live in a relationship. We abide together in marriage. I now know the importance of this kind of marriage as our kids have begun to grow up and leave the nest. Please understand that we came home from the church with three kids in the backseat. Within a year, there was another and almost three years later our last child was born. We haven’t been alone for long periods of time since we got married. We have no regrets. But unlike our oldest daughter who married her best friend, they grew up together. They are both 21 but have been friends since they were 8. They are enjoying this time together alone before adding children to the mix. So when we look ahead to the days fast approaching when it will just be the two of us, it is wonderful to KNOW that I am married to my best friend. We have not coexisted but rather built a relationship that is abiding at its best. We are not perfect but such a love covers a multitude of sins. My friend’s parents did not have that kind of relationship. When she left home, there was nothing left in their relationship so they decided to live apart. There will be a day when many people will stand before the Lord ready to join the party in Heaven. They will come to Jesus with all their accomplishments, sacrifices, tithes, and fulfilled responsibilities all I the name of faith. They will come to Jesus thinking that because they walked to an altar, changed a few bad habits, attended church on a somewhat regular basis, threw some change in the offering, and even maybe led a person to Jesus Christ that the Lord will rush to meet them and usher them in. There will be mega preachers who built magnificent auditoriums, flew from state to state or even country to country meeting thousands at the altar who do not make the cut. Why not let them in? There is only one way to enter the Kingdom of God. His Name is Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Do you know Him? Really know Him. Have you spent any time working on your relationship, leaving your comfort zone, giving up compromise, praying, believing, and trusting? Do you desire Jesus? Do you long to be closer enough to do what is necessary to go deeper in the Lord? The demons know who Jesus is. They have accepted that He is Lord. They submit to His Authority. But they do not live, abide or remain in Him. Do you? I am asking myself the very same question today.
John 14:12-14 (NLT)
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”
“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” How is the Power of God working in your life today? When our son was diagnosed with cancer, I thought life was good. Everything seemed to be going along just fine. God was blessing us. He was providing for us. But when everything fell apart that day, I realized that things were not exactly as they should be. My job had taken a much higher priority in my life than it should have. It affected my home life and people life in ways that I did not imagine. When I saw the frailty of my son as he prepared to fight for his life, something rose up in me. I knew the Lord. I trusted God. I didn’t have a doubt that He was going to heal our son. But when I looked at all the pieces of my broken heart, I made a startling discovery. There were some things that had manifested there that I did not notice. To the average person who serves an average god, it would be unnoticeable. But in the moments of revelation given by hours of waiting and watching our son go through treatment, I found my life again. I cannot explain it – you have to experience it to understand. I don’t want an average acquaintance with the Lord but a passionate relationship. One that if the whole world leaves me – Jesus will always be more than enough to keep me satisfied. He is able but I must be willing. Compromise comes easy. Complacency often hides behind the word “rest”. Conviction can be silenced in our confusion. Commitment is not labeled by our routine. If we are not careful and attentive in any relationship, it will falter and fall apart. These things demand our time, we must be willing to give it to end coexistence and experience new life.
Jude 1:24-25 (NLT)
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.