A Man of His Word

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
John 15:4

Through this section of John, Jesus is telling us that if we remain in him, he will remain in us. In this way, we produce much fruit.

Jesus also tells us that just as a branch that is severed from the vine cannot continue to bear fruit, for it withers and dies when it is cut off from what gives it life, so are we severed from the source of abundant life when we no longer abide in Christ. When we are living on our own strength and doing life apart from God, the simple yet profound truth is that we are no longer able to bear fruit.

And what is this fruit?

Galatians 5:22-23 says that the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These things are the direct fruit of abiding in Christ and being connected to the vine.

If your life is lacking these things, if you’re devoid of joy, peace, and self-control, there is no way to experience what he’s talking about outside of taking a step of faith and connecting yourself back to the vine. We’ll never experience the blessing that comes from abiding… until we abide. In this case, he’s waiting on us to make the first step. He says he will remain in us. We will be fruitful. We will bring great glory to the Father. We may ask for anything we want and it will be granted! When? When we remain in him. When we trust him to do what he says he’ll do.

We need to have confidence that Jesus is a man of his word. We need to stop being so suspicious of his motives! When doubt creeps in, we need to fix firmly in front of us a sureness, certainty, and assurance that God is bigger than we are and more than capable to accomplish above and beyond what we can.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Ephesians 3:20

Peace of Mind

It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Psalm 127:2

Rest: Peace of mind or spirit. Freedom from activity or labor.

Food to eat is the most baseline need aside from water. But God doesn’t want us anxiously working for food to eat, working from dawn passed dusk. To his loved ones he gives peace of mind and spirit.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-27: That is why I tell you not to worry about every day life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

So do your work, of course. Work is a necessary and important part of life. Work is even a gift. It gives us responsibility, reward, purpose, opportunities, and builds our character (and hundreds of other benefits). But do so with peace reigning in your heart, knowing that God is with you and will provide for your needs. It’s not all resting on you.

This passage in Psalms 127 also give us freedom from activity and labor and even goes so far to say that working anxiously from early morning to late at night is useless. Ineffectual. Not producing the proper or intended effect. This sings of Gods love and perfect design. We weren’t created for work alone, but also for rest, dependence on Him, laughter, joy, relationships, health, and wholeness.

What does this mean for you today? Maybe it means you go about your work with a song in your heart. Maybe it means you stop at a reasonable hour and trust God for the rest. Maybe it means you trade earthly perfection for eternal significance.

Whatever it is, take it to heart. There’s a lot to be learned here. For God gives rest to his loved ones.

I thought I was bad at praying

I thought I was bad at praying. When Luke and I would take the time to pray together, my mind would go blank. How do I decide on just a few things to pray for? How do I not take it from something seemingly tiny, like my day at work, to something huge, like the salvation of humanity and ultimate world peace?

It wasn’t until our mentors challenged us to pray together every day that I started to learn the truth: it doesn’t matter how we pray or how much we say – what matters is bringing our concerns and requests to the feet of Jesus.

Praying together every day began as a struggle. In the beginning, I didn’t know what to pray. I didn’t feel passionate about anything. I didn’t have a stirring deep in my soul to see something big come to pass. But one of the goals was to pray for each other, so I remembered a few prayers from my high school days and I threw in some scriptures I had recently read. I began to pray over my husband that the Lord would increase his territory, that his steps would be made firm and that the work of his hands would be blessed – both at work and at home. I prayed that he would be looked on in favor by both his bosses and his colleagues. And that was about it. Then Luke would pray and we’d be on our way and off to work.

I prayed that same prayer for a while. It felt right, and based on what I’ve read in the Bible, I knew I was praying things that would be pleasing to God.

Then Luke got a promotion at work. And a raise. And things started to happen. God was indeed blessing the work of his hands throughout the day. Even at home, things were falling into place for him. He would work on something and it would take half the time it normally did. He was able to find answers quickly when he was having trouble. And his joy and satisfaction were rising. It was beautiful!

This has started teaching me an important lesson: God is listening to me. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t felt the power of the Holy Spirit rising up in me each morning – it matters that I’m saying the words and asking. It matters that I am acknowledging the Lord and surrendering my cares to him.

Matthew 6:7-8 says,

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!

I am finding freedom in this passage. Freedom and humility. Matthew 6:30 goes on to say,

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

This is all transforming the way I think about prayer. The other morning I felt the desire to pray, but again felt the weight of it. Where do I even begin? Thinking about how I prayed over Luke, how short and to the point those prayers have been, and yet how God not only heard me, but moved, I allowed it to be simple. I wrote the following in my journal –

Lord, my prayers today are that I would find freedom from stress and perfectionism. That I could surrender all knowledge and control to you. That I would stop trying to figure out the meaning of life, and would instead trust you. That I would see miracles happen in the people around me. That our community and influence would explode. That we would be generous at all times and we would overflow with thankfulness.

I poured out my heart to the Lord, and left it at his feet. And that is the point I want to drive home: You have no power in prayer…God does. The power is in our surrender. The power is knowing that it is God who holds the world. It is God who knows every single hair on our heads. He knows when we rise in the morning and go to bed at night. He knows the people in our circles. He knows our innermost being, down to our deepest desires, down to our tiniest cells.

I was bad at praying because I thought the answers to my prayers rested on my shoulders. I need to keep reminding myself that prayer is my opportunity to place my desires at Jesus’ feet, and to ask him for help.

Prayer can still be hard sometimes. But I am thankful that all I need to do is ask for his help and trust in faith that he’s listening.