John 15:1-8; Galatians 5:22-23; James 3:17
At the end of the day, how are the branches on the vine?
traveled many miles with lots of smiles, but
have the branches been online with the Vine?
the nectar flowing from the Vine into the mind
the aim, to be inline with the source, The Divine,
The Word, The Bread of life, The Shepherd, The Living Water
Remarkably, all that HE is, can be all that we are.
Sad to say, the chosen people of a former day
took it upon themselves, their Choice of God to betray
a brood of evildoers, given to corruption (Isa 1:4)
God’s just response, death and destruction (Isa 10:22-23)
End of story? Good news! Out of nowhere came hope and restoration
like a hen seeking to gather her chicks under her wings, yet they refused
The result, devastating desolation (Luke 13:34-35)
It was time for the vine to be redefined—a new vine, the True Vine
ethnicity, heredity, genealogy, geography, no longer the issue
A new day dawning, the Son-rise of all sunrises appearing on the horizon
new connection, re-connection, divine direction
The vineyard, now with potential for verdant branches and abundant fruit
while the lifeless twigs of a former day, cut off, burned to ashes
But branches with advances—budding, blossoming, blooming, fruit-bearing
manifesting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, purity, yes, purity
peace-loving, considerate of others, merciful, impartial, sincere
Ashes or advances—it all depends on being online and inline
the branches attached to the Divine Vine
Life Application Questions
1 John 4:7-21
Our brother John describes multiple disciples ascending spiritual heights: “In this world we are like Jesus” (I John 4:17b). Left to my own wisdom John’s vision completely surpasses my ability. Left to my own wisdom I stumble over even small pebbles. However, accepting God’s call provides a cataract-free vision preparing me to spy-out hidden fissures and sometimes, to walk like Jesus.
Again, for absolute clarity: the high-holy challenge of being like Jesus surpasses my human ability. On some days this challenge is beyond even, my imagination. Perhaps you reply, “Well occasionally I am (meaning you) like Jesus.”
I reply, “Sometimes I am not like Jesus at all.” Sadly, there are more heart problems in my life than any other kind of failure.
If only being like Jesus was a simple collection of behaviors. Scripture explains that being like Jesus begins within. Proverbs teaches: “As a man thinks in his heart so is he” (23:7). Jesus reminds me of my tendency to self-deception. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8).
Being like Jesus is fundamentally more about the interior of life rather than being confined to mere outward behaviors. Outward behaviors toward God and other people are discovered on the high pathway as I walk my faith.
Establishing this high pathway John writes, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:20-21).
Can you identify specific times when you struggle to be like Jesus?
Which practices of spiritual discipline help you maintain your heart?
1 John 3:11-23
How do we play out this thing called the Christian life? Is our life characterized by love for each other? Do we manifest this in our family, and with our Christian brothers and sisters? Is our life like one of these three vignettes?
Vignette #1 Mrs. Angry and her two teens sat down for dinner, waiting for Mr. Angry to come to the table. Enter Mr. Angry. (Capitalized words indicate shouting.)
“I DON’T KNOW WHY YOU ALWAYS ARE YELLING AT THE KIDS! AND YOU NEVER HAVE DINNER FIXED WHEN I WANT TO EAT!! YOU KIDS, I’M SO TIRED OF LISTENING TO YOU ASK FOR THIS AND THAT WHY DON’T YOU …? AND WHY CAN’T YOU …?“ ring, ring
“(Sweetly) Hello, this is the Angry residence, Mr. Angry speaking.”
“Why of course, Pastor, we’re always happy to help, I was just telling my wife how nice it is to be able to serve others at our church. And the kids just love helping too! You can count on us! Good-bye.”
“NOW WHERE WAS I? I’M JUST SO SICK AND TIRED OF HAVING TO WORK OVERTIME To pay for your lousY BILLS!”
Vignette #2 The Women’s Society is holding their monthly meeting to discuss their quarterly project.
“Now ladies, we all know how the Women’s Society has planned this day of share and care for the new family, the “Down-on-their-Lucks” this quarter as our project.”
“Psst Ethel! Did you hear how they lost everything because he’s a gambler and she stepped out on him 15 years ago? Now I don’t mean to gossip but we all know…”
“Now Ladies, who wants to sign up for meals starting tomorrow?”
“Not I! I just heard they are of disreputable character and I don’t think I want to associate…”
“Not I, either, if they don’t have a perfect reputation I’m afraid we’re just casting our pearls…”
“Now ladies, the husband and wife just met with our pastor sharing how God had worked mightily in their changed lives before a tornado destroyed their home.”
“Well, that’s what they told the Pastor but you heard what Ethel was told. I think we really need them to prove themselves before we take meals to them.”
Vignette #3. A nicely dressed woman is the object of a conversation.
“Mrs. Putting-on-the-Dog just flashed that new bling. I’m so sick of seeing her fake smile at everyone on Sundays. You know, I heard she takes her old clothes that have hardly been worn - some even still have the tags on them - to the soup kitchen so the homeless ladies have clean clothes. Can you believe that? She can’t possibly be that nice! Why I paid $5 for my best Sunday outfit at Goodwill in 2005 on senior discount day! I just wish she’d quit showing off her bling. It makes me sick!”
“Somebody told me she’s really lonely.”
“Well, she can just take all her bling somewhere else, I’ll never be a friend to her, she’s too hoity-toity for me to even speak to her!”
Response 1 John 3:16. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
Life Application Questions
1 Peter 4:7-11
In the hills of Kentucky, a group of special needs students learned about Jesus. They learned about heaven and its streets of gold. The teacher taught them that Jesus was coming back soon. The children, eagerly, ran to the windows, looking for Jesus, their fingertips and noses pressed to the windowpanes. They had a perspective that we need to adopt for ourselves. Outlook determines outcome and a believer must have a right attitude if he is to live a right life.
“The end of all things is near.” (1 Peter 4:7) Does the way we live our lives reflect this expectancy from 1 Peter? In 1 Peter 4:7-11, Peter gives us some guidelines for the expectant perspective: 1. Be sober (7), 2. Watch and pray (7), 3. Love deeply (8), 4. Use hospitality (9),
5. Minister using your spiritual gifts (10-11). How can we be more sober? Our view of life will be shaped by how we pray. We can love each other deeply, not using others failures as a way to prove how much more spiritual we are, but, instead, loving them deeply and drawing them back into a right relationship with God. We can open our hearts and our homes to others, no matter the size of our wallet or home. We can joyfully serve the body of Christ with our gifts and talents. But all too often, we find ourselves caught up in the clockwork prison of deadlines and schedules. Our days reflect an acute awareness of time and its demands. Do our days also reflect an eternal perspective of Jesus imminent return?
Our outlook determines our outcome. My perspective needs to reflect the joy and truth about Jesus’s soon return, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me…” (Revelation 22:12) My time needs to be used to bring glory to my Heavenly Father. How we love, how we pray, how we use hospitality and spiritual gifts should be a reflection of our eternal perspective.
“And its fingertips and noses
Pressed to the windowpanes
Longing eyes, expectant hearts
For Him to come again
All they know is that they love Him so
And if He said He’d come
He’s coming soon.”
(Fingertips and Noses by New Song)
Are the fingertips and noses of your life pressed up against the windowpanes of perspective, eagerly anticipating Jesus return? Will there be smudge marks on the windows of your life from staring out them, expectantly? Outlook determines outcome.
1 Peter 1:13-25
At my 25th high school reunion, I was awarded a prize for being the person who had changed the least. But I was glad for name tags and pictures of my former classmates so I could recognize them. I recall being disappointed that my "best friend" wasn't there. I realized pretty soon that I didn't have much in common with most of them since my life's journey was so different from theirs.
Have you had a similar reunion experience? What was it like to re-connect with those long-time friends?
Over the years, we have attended some college homecomings, where we've re-connected with friends, many of whom have pursued various ministries. We had attended a small Christian college, so we knew many of them very well, and our reunions were great opportunities for fellowship and sharing.
Our affiliation with the Charis Fellowship has given us annual opportunities to stay in touch with the “family." Given what all of us had experienced during the past (Covid) year, few conferences were quite as sweet as this year’s, as we rehearsed what God had done in our lives and churches. I think we all embraced just a little tighter and longer.
What differences has the “Covid Year” brought about in your life and relationships?
But, perhaps the best times of re-connecting have been the weekly gatherings of our local church body. Whether it's in a worship service, attending an ABF or Life Group, or coming together to pray, we are learning how much we need to stay connected to each other in person.
Have you been able to return to “in person” meetings? If not, what do you feel you are missing now?
Re-connecting hasn't been easy. It's been difficult to balance our concerns for personal safety and wellness and our need to be with the family, while being careful about with protecting others. In his letter to the Galatians the Apostle Paul writes, “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows” (5:13-14, The Message).
In today's reading, Peter reminds his readers “. . .because of your obedience to the truth, you have purified your very souls, and this empowers you to be full of love for your fellow believers. So express this sincere love toward one another passionately and with a pure heart” (1:22, The Passion).
How can we best re-connect with the family to express our love—whether in person or remotely?
As we continue to re-connect with our church family and friends, let’s keep in mind that the world is watching. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35 NLT) Paul emphasizes the importance of this promise: “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law (Romans 13:8). jbd & gmd