Glory to God                                                       
Faith, Hope, Love, Jesus
  
John 11:3-6, "So the sisters sent word to Jesus, 'Lord, the one you love is sick.' When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.' Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.   So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days."

John 11:14-15, "Then Jesus told them plainly, 'Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.'"

When I was a young teen my youth group went to the lake and stayed overnight.  In all of my intelligence, I forgot to bring bedding.  To make things worse, we were sleeping outside on the cold hard ground without tents.  I was too embarrassed to admit to my youth pastor what I had done, so I slept at the end of a lineup of my friends and tried tirelessly to stay warm with a blanket covering ¼ of my body.  I was freezing!  I didn't complain (because how could I?) but I did expect someone to help a girl out!  Expectations minus reality equal disappointments. 

That was a minor disappointment in life, but when Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that the one he loved was sick, they fully expected Jesus to come to him quickly.  What is unexpected is that Jesus waited for two more days before He left.  He told his disciples plainly, "This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."

What we need to remember at this point is that life is not about us, it's about God.  We were created by God and for God, so when Jesus explains His reasons to the disciples He tells them it is for His glory.  As Christians who are sold out for Christ, this answer should satisfy us.  But, because of our sinful nature, we have to fight our self centeredness to get there.

Both Martha and Mary said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been there, my brother would not have died," John 11:21, 32.  Although they were both full of faith and confident in who Jesus was and what He could do, they too gave Him credit for only being able to have the ability to prevent Lazarus' death by healing his body.  They longed to have their beloved brother back and didn't understand why Jesus would allow this suffering in their lives all while having faith in Him.  The bible does tell us Jesus waited because He loved them.

Sometimes it is all too easy to wonder why God allows us to suffer in any circumstance.  It can seem so unexpected in our lives and definitely unwelcomed especially since we think we need what we want.  God had a purpose and plan for Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and friends and He has one for you, too…

Then, Jesus yelled to Lazarus from outside the tomb, "Lazarus, come out!" John 11:43.  And, Lazarus did.

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,'" John 11:25.

Jesus is so much more than the healer of our bodies, which is second to the salvation of our souls.  He needed them, and those who were witnesses of Lazarus' resurrection, to know that HE IS THE RESURRECTION!  He needs us to know this, it is our hope.  Our only hope.  He needed us to know that He is more than a bodily healer.

Jesus' timing was impeccable because soon He would be experiencing the cross and being resurrected Himself.  Before He was resurrected He needed to make sure people did not doubt but fully believed that He is who He says He is and He can do what He says He can do.  These events are not by accident but fully orchestrated by God to tell us He has the key to life and it's His Son.  Mary and Martha may have had to wait on Jesus' timing, but the blessing and belief that were to follow was so much more magnificent than if they had got what they wanted.

John 11:45, "Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did, believed in him."

Jesus' purpose for doing the unexpected and waiting until He knew in His spirit that Lazarus had gone to sleep (or died), was so people would believe.  The outcome was that many people put their faith in Christ.  Mary and Martha temporarily got their brother back, too.  In all of this, God was glorified through His Son.  Mission accomplished.

There may be suffering in our lives, but God's ways are higher than our ways.  We need to acknowledge God in every circumstance and intentionally give Him glory!  His plan for us is better than any comfort we could ever desire.  In all of it, it is glory to God.

John 11:26, "And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?"

Faith.  Hope.  Love. 

Jesus.

By Andrea Simmons


John 11:3-6
 "So the sisters sent word to Jesus, 'Lord, the one you love is sick.' When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.' Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.   So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days."

John 11:14-15
"Then Jesus told them plainly, 'Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.'"
Say, What?
The science of certainty is basically doing your homework and following hard trends rather than soft trends.  It's a business term.  Hard trends are almost absolute ways things are going to happen and are very predictable.  For instance, after the iPhone 6 there will be an iPhone 7 and it is certain that people will buy it.  That's a hard trend, a sure deal.

The idea is, if you have a business, you will need to use the latest technology to stay ahead of the game while accurately predicting what will come next to not only survive but to lead.  Paper and pencil is in the past and will cause a business to fall behind and potentially cease to exist.  Following hard trends equates to less risk, too. 

People are always looking for the hard trends of the universe for business or otherwise.  A better word would be truths.  We are always seeking to know what direction would be the best to take and what decisions would be best to make and we certainly do not want to make the wrong choice thereby causing unnecessary troubles.  A business has to run on what is true to survive and run well…

Humm…

What if they simply put the science of certainty down for a minute and prayed to God of the universe who is the author of truth and sought out His direction?  Only in Him is there absolute certainty, all else is fallible. 

Businessmen are not the only ones who need God's truth; we all need it to make decisions in our daily lives.  That would reduce a whole lot of 'risk' in our own lives!

James 4:13-17, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."

These verses are about speech and our speaking- what we say.  Does it glorify God by acknowledging Him?  If we state our plans for making a risk free profit and talk to others about it, there is no room for God in that conversation and the bible says it's evil.  There is a caution in there to warn us against assuming success when God is the giver of all good gifts and works good things out for those who love and obey Him. 

Theses verses also give encouragement to spur us on to acknowledging God with our speech by saying, "If God wills…"  All wisdom, power, glory, events, and time belong to God, we should only boast about Him.  If we fail to speak our words acknowledging God it is a sin, a sin of omission.  Speaking like this is a worldly way to speak but the lips of Christians should always bring glory to God.

Who are we anyway?  We cannot control tomorrow and have no idea what in the world can happen to prevent our plans from succeeding.  We are 'a mist' that vanishes.  We need to know our place and acknowledge God's place and know that only if He is willing will our plans succeed.  Yes, make plans, but be fully encouraged and warned that it is only in God we live and move and have our being so let your speech reflect exactly that.

Amen.

by Andrea Simmons

James 4:13-17
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."
Ready for Action
Chuck and I were both sure, right after we got married, that God had something in mind for us that was not what we were currently doing. Five years later, we both still agreed that God had something for us to do. We were (and still are) almost restless with the thought. In the meantime, He has been teaching us to seek Him first. Not to seek the next step, but only Him. This caused us to settle down and be more content with where were currently at. He taught us that we were still living while we wait; we were actively living in s state of preparation. We did not know what we are preparing for, but we are preparing.

One morning when I was having devotions God spoke to me. I learned that living a ready life is key. It’s key to being ready to follow when God commands us to go. I took note that when God called Abram to “go forth from your country…to the land which I will show you” (Genesis 12), Abram went. He didn’t wait. He didn’t take time after his command to prepare for the trip. No! He was already in step with God and already prepared so when God gave the command to go he was ready to obey!

It was the same for Joshua. God told him to rise and cross the Jordan River and take the Israelites to their promised land (Joshua 1). They had prepared for forty years and now they are ready to go! It happened just as God said, too. The Bible is full of Old and New Testament stories of God commanding people to move into action and they do. (Otherwise, God can be very convincing to call you to move, as in the story of Jonah!) Obviously, the best way to live is to already be in step with God and ready to take that step of action.

Here’s the kicker. We do this so we can bring glory to God and He can fulfill His promises to us. When God told Abram to go forth it was to show him the land promised to his people. When God told Moses to go to Egypt and save the Israelites from Pharaoh it was the start to bringing the Israelites to their promised land. When God told Noah to build an ark it was to save them from the flood. When God told Joshua to cross the Jordan ‘now’ it was the fruition of gaining the Promised Land. Every time God commanded action from people, He was about to do a mighty work.

When Peter asked Jesus to call him to come out of the boat and walk on the water to Jesus, Peter knew that if Jesus said come then by His command it would be done. When God says go or come or gives any command, we can be sure that the Master of the universe will make absolutely sure His command will be accomplished.

I want to live ready and prepared for the command to go. I want to be ready for action! I do not want to miss His mighty work! Yes, I want a faithful heart, believing and obedient. I don’t want to go through the struggle of the belly of the big fish like Jonah; we should skip that trouble and just be ready to say,

“YES!”

Are you with me today? I pray that you are.

Dear LORD, praise your name for how majestic you are! We have a loving God who is in full power and in full control of everything and in that we can rest and be energized! During the times in our lives we feel like we are not contributing to your kingdom help us to remember that these times of waiting are not inactive, but very active. Teach us how to live daily lives that are surrendered and ready to serve! There is nothing more exciting than a walk with you! Praise your holy name, and thank you, LORD.

by Andrea Simmons
Genesis 12:4
"So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran."
Vine & Branches, part 3
Vine and Branches, Part 3

John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
We have discussed verse 1 and the end of verse 2, but what about the beginning of verse 2 where it says, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away,”? Being honest, this one is a little tough for me because I do not like the thought of anyone being under the words, takes away.

This scripture is a warning to us so we can know and be aware that our choices will have consequences. We can look at it from two different perspectives. First, we can know that we certainly don’t want to be the professing Christian who doesn’t bear fruit. This person is pictured as a branch that is dead on the vine and must be removed by God, the vinedresser. Removal from the vine means to take it away and throw it into the fire.

Also, we can look around and see someone one in the church who need spurred on to start bearing fruit. We can encourage, pray, and mentor them to abide in God.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me,” John 15:4. This verse tells us how we come to bear fruit, we abide in Him. This simply means those who believe in Christ should spend their days or their time with Him. We do that by praying to spend time with Him, reading and studying the Bible, and thinking about Him in all that we do. 1 Corinthians 10:30, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it tall for the glory of God.” Everything we do in a day should be wrapped around God. If we abide in Him and He in us then it changes the very fabric of our being and overflows into how we live a day. (Can I also add that abiding in Christ is like a safe shelter? We are protected by Him when we abide in Him.)

A branch that does not bear fruit, or literally, a person that does not bear fruit of the Spirit, is not in truth but living in deception. Just like we looked at Habakkuk 3:17 in the first part of this three part devotional. Kachash is the Greek word for “fail” in this verse is the opposite of Jesus who is truth and will not fail. We are one or the other either living in truth or deception. (“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls.” Habakkuk 3:17.) God is serious about those who love Him and those who don’t; we should take this warning to heart and follow God in His leading us to Him, who is good.

Now that we have a picture of what it looks like to be in the vine and abiding with Christ, we are left with the question of how will we live for God? Will you be more than a professing Christian and step into a deeper relationship with Him, which would be evident to onlookers because you are bearing fruit? Prayerfully consider this especially since we know God is serious about His church and our choices. God is serious about you.

Dear God, thank you for making away for us to know you and live in your salvation. If there is any way in us that is wrong and hindering us from bearing your fruit please reveal it to us and make us right with you. Show us a need that you call us to and equip us to meet that need and more specifically, God, give us a heart for those that do not bear fruit or who are lost. This is important work you have called us to; let us be found bringing you glory in all of it! Help us to be in the vine, Jesus, and be branches that are bearing fruit and pruned to bear more good fruit for you. In your name I pray.

Amen.

by Andrea Simmons

John 15:1-2
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
Vine & Branches, part 2
Vine and Branches, Part 2
 
John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Previously, we learned that God is the vinedresser or the cultivator of the land that grows the vine,
Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. It’s not difficult to understand the spiritual connection. God is the one who created everything, Jesus is the head of the church, and we are the ones who fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) to live and go out telling the world about God’s great love. We do all of this under God’s authority and Jesus' example and it brings Him glory.
 
John 15:2 tells us that the branches which bear fruit are pruned. Now, I do not want to leave anything out about this, but to be honest, this seems a little bit challenging to me because it sounds painful. Applying it to real life, it sounds like going through trials such as in James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
 
Being the spiritual wonder woman that I am, I sometimes wonder if I can’t just attain maturity and grow to completeness without trials. But then, like the first verse commands, I have to consider what the trial may be for and how it can turn into something worthwhile, or something that I’d be able to see the beauty in at some point. 
 
For instance, if Jesus had not endured the pain of the cross, we would not have a beautiful Savior. Not always does pruning have to be so painful, though. Pruning is taking away from our character those things that hinder us in our bearing fruit. As in my devotional Out of the Box I learned to not put myself or God in a box, God opened me up to dream of ways I could serve Him, thereby bearing more fruit after the box I put myself and God in was pruned away.
 
After the pruning, being fruitful is a blessing to us in this verse. It is caused from the abounding love and care the vinedresser, God. He is in every detail of our lives and aware of what we need and how we need it. After He works on us and in our lives and we bear fruit with our good character (i.e. we have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, Galatians 5:22-23) God is glorified. It’s a win-win!
 
The vinedresser or cultivator of the land is pleased when the vine bears fruit. So, what is the fruit that we, as people, produce? The main fruit of having a godly character, or our purpose, according to these verses, is to continue to grow branches, or bring people to Jesus so the Holy Spirit can transform lives and they will be given them blessings, too.
 
I could just go on and on about this, but let’s wrap it up. It is clear that God is telling us that we are a part of Him and we are to be like Him and be a part of His work. We are to stay close to Him and abide in Him, be of good character, and be a walking living witness for Him. An out flow of this kind of life is other’s falling in love with their LORD and Savior and allowing the Holy Spirit to work out God’s plan of salvation in them. All of this fruit bearing brings glory to God. No matter where you go in a day or who crosses your path, your purpose is spelled out for you. For starters, it’s about daily Christian living. So, let’s go out there and live a day well!
 
Dear, LORD, thank you for all of your provisions and being involved in the cultivation of growing and caring for us! Let your will be done in our lives and be glorified. And, thank you for giving us an identity and purpose that we can love. Praise your holy name, amen.
 
End of part 2…
by Andrea Simmons

John 15:1-2
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
 
Vine & Branches, part 1
John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
 
Bearing Fruit, Part 1
 
My Greek friend from college, Koula, said the grapes in Greece were this big, and she made a large circle with one hand. She said you would eat them like a plum. In my world, I knew two kinds of grapes you got at the store and those were red and green seedless grapes and there you have it! (I always wondered, if we only produced seedless grapes how we could continue to have crops of grapes? Hum, who knows?) However, there are over twelve thousand varieties of grapes! I recently learned that grapes flourish in all kinds of soil, even poor soil, making them a good fit for areas that can’t grow much of anything else. Jesus was very familiar with grapes because they were grown fairly heavily where he dwelled.
 
John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” When He spoke these words in John 15:2 about vines and fruit, He was making a strong cultural and spiritual connection. Just as the vine grew and spread wide, we are to grow the church, not singlehandedly, but as all being a part of the vine grown by God.
 
Verse one tells us so many things! First is describes the hierarchy of God being first and foremost in the position of vinedresser or cultivator of the land, which is paralleled to real life because He’s number one! Second, it describes Jesus as being the ‘true vine’ and second only next to God. Third, it shows us the church, as the branch of the vine that that the vinedresser planted. Herein lies one of our identities in Christ, we are a branch. Then the verse goes on to tell us why we are a branch; we are to bear fruit, which gives us a purpose. (Don’t you just love having an identity and a purpose?) In all of this, there is a connection between God, Jesus, and the church being secured together for the same purpose and we are all in community with each other to accomplish the same goal.
 
Let’s take a look at Habakkuk 3:17, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls.” Kachash is the Greek word for “fail” in this verse and indicates a branch that bears no fruit or has a deceptive nature. This is unlike Jesus, who we can trust. He is the true vine as verse 1 states as opposed to being deceptive.
 
Before we can know who we are in Christ Jesus, we need to believe the foundational truths of who He is. Once we believe God is who He says He is then we can be sure and secure in our identity in Him. No matter our station in life we can know who we are and why we are. It is not such a hard thing to find out about ourselves when we believe in the one True Vine!
Dear God, you are great and full of love! Respond to those who seek you and make it very clear who you are and who we are in you. It is only then that we can begin to bear fruit, bring you glory, and know ourselves. Praise your holy name!
 
Amen.
 
God bless.
 
By Andrea Simmons
 
End of part one…
John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”