Written by Cathy Schrock - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Illustrated by Deana Harvey
I recently read a short book by Bruce Wilkinson – an easy read — called “Secrets of the Vine.” In this book, he talks about meeting a man who owned and worked a vineyard. This vinedresser explained to the author all about John 15, the portion of Scripture in which Jesus portrays Himself as a grapevine and the church as the branches of that vine. The vinedresser had a long conversation with the author to give him some crucial insights into what Jesus was actually talking about and what His portrayals look like in the real life of the church, the Bride of Christ.
I was fascinated by a particular insight shared by the vinedresser in regard to John 15:2. He explained the passage from a vinedresser’s perspective. The verse reads, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (NASB) Some versions use “cuts off” or “takes away” when referring to the branch that does not bear fruit. This is an unfortunate misreading of the original Greek word airos, which actually means “to lift up.” The vinedresser went on to explain that when he discovers a branch that has fallen or been pulled onto the ground, he does not cut it off; it is too valuable. Instead, he lifts it up off the ground, washes off the dirt or mud, and weaves or ties it back into the vine so it can grow in a healthy environment and bear fruit.
In using the proper translation of the Greek word in that sentence, “lifts up,” we see a true picture of our loving Father, who deems each of His children as worthy of being lifted up, cleaned off, and restored to fellowship in the Body of Christ. Sometimes, we get pulled away from the vine; other times we may jump out of it of our own volition. Either way, we end up lying in the dirt of sin and this world. The Lord comes along and gently washes us clean, lifts us up, and restores us to the place of health and fruitfulness. He is always gracious, gently and lovingly restoring us to our proper position in the Body of Christ, and inviting us to join Him in His work by bearing eternal fruit for His Kingdom. Remember: as long as we are walking with our Lord in obedience to His voice, bearing more fruit is always possible.
READ: John 15:1-17; Hebrews 12:5-11
PRAY: Father, thank you for the gracious way You lift me up out of the muck of this world and set me up in a safe, healthy place where I can still grow and bear fruit for Your Kingdom.
Written by Allison Gardner - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Photographer: Rhonda Logan-Bailey
At a distance I could see it. Its pure, white face popping up through the field of green. As I got closer, I stopped to admire the beauty of the solitary flower that had mustered the strength to bloom there in the middle of the weeds. God’s creation is an amazingly beautiful, complex thing. It is full of the character of God, and, if we are paying attention, it points us right back to our Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalms 19:1 NIV
When I come to the end of myself, being in God’s creation draws me back to Him. Taking a walk down our country road, listening to the cicadas sing their song, and hearing our unruly rooster announce that dawn has arrived, I find a peace like no other. As I go, I am often reminded that Jesus went away into nature. He walked along the sea, climbed a mountain, or went to a garden to pray.
There is a calm that surrounds us as we take in the beauty and complexity of the Lord’s creation. Who could orchestrate such a melody composed of sounds of the wind blowing through the trees, birds singing their praises, children running and laughing, kittens purring, and the buzz of the bee besides the omnipotent, holy God? In the same way, who could paint such a masterpiece filled with the splash of colors as the sun rises and sets, the intricate design on the wings of a beautiful butterfly, or the trail of a star shooting across the midnight sky besides the Creator of the universe?
As the world strives to make the next bigger and better thing, we should step back and step out into nature. It is simple, yet at the same time, complex beyond our finite understanding. At the beginning of time, God walked in the cool of the garden (Genesis 3:8). The Creator enjoyed time spent in His creation. Let’s do the same.
Father, thank you for Your beautiful creation and all the gifts we find within. May we always turn our hearts towards You in worship as we savor the beauty. Amen.
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - Reclaim Ministry - Rutland, OH
“September!” Just the sound of it raises expectation of change. Those who write memes on social media have let us know that this is the first of the “ber” months. That is, the last four months of the year end in b-e-r and signify the beginnings of the colder or “brrr” months of winter. When I was young, September meant the start of a new school year, (We usually started the day after Labor Day.) and this was met with both anticipation and dread. For farmers it meant the harvest of corn and soy beans, folks harvesting their gardens and putting away their winter stores. It was time to purchase a supply of coal to burn in the stoves which warmed our homes. Many such preparations would be made, even as it would likely be four or five weeks before the weather changed appreciatively.
Today, school has been in for a couple of weeks. Football season has started and has drawn the attention of its fans. Perhaps there are some yard plants which will need to be prepared to survive the coming cold. Evening and weekend activities will include raking leaves and securing the house for winter. Prices of natural gas and fuel oil will be tops on people’s minds, and the biggest complaints are that commercial interests have already started pushing pumpkin-spice-everything, and dropping hints about Christmas shopping.
The point is that change is coming and we know it. We also know how to prepare for that change, the change to our physical world. But how about change in our spiritual world? Even as many folks fail to assign importance to it, we are primarily spiritual beings. We are made in the image of God who is spirit. Famed 19th Century Jesuit Priest, theologian, philosopher, etc. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a physical experience.” And blessed are those who are fully aware of their spiritual selves.
What is the Biblical proof that this is true? This is a study within itself but here are a few verses which might get you started: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:2) This defines a division between that which is of the world and that which is “that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Also consider these words. “For this reason we also, since the day we first heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” (Col. 1:9) And, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God,…. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one, For who has known the mind of the Lord that we may instruct Him. But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:14a, 15-16) If it was not possible to be spiritually minded, Paul would not have counseled the churches at Rome and Corinth to expect such communion with Christ, and would not have pledged his prayers for the church at Colossae to this same end.
There is much more in scripture calling us to return to the relationship originally established between God and man in Eden, a spiritual communion which is not broken but continues to be available to those who desire it and are willing to separate themselves from the ways of the world to embrace the kingdom of God. Hear these words from the Apostle Peter which are as valid today as when they were written.
“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but chosen by God and precious, You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:1-5)
We were created as spiritual beings for the purpose of knowing God….. Don’t waste it!
Poet and Photographer: Rhonda Logan-Bailey - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
illuminates the path of truth
and reflects fresh direction before us,
as the scars and calluses
of our misconceptions are softened.
He then sentences chaos to be
forever consumed by the darkness.
revelation to dawn and wisdom to flourish,
nourished by His grace that never ends,
perpetuating growth and producing fruit through
every season. Realigning our expectations to
Written and photographed by Kathryn Kircher - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Emptied to Be Filled
Chosen chalice, holy grail,
Earthen vessel, sin abated,
You deign to fill me with Yourself:
Common cup now elevated.
Emptied often by exhaustion,
Bruised by stress, depleted, torn,
Expended, poured out, parched, and arid,
By daily cares dried up and worn.
Frightened by my frail condition,
Tempted to old ways turn back,
But emptiness contains Your promise:
Satisfaction amidst lack.
Emptied to be filled again:
Will I resist this vulnerable state?
Or will I turn to seek Your face,
Let You, my King, this craving slake?
Bounteous table laid before me,
Living waters flood my cup.
Why would I turn from festal fare,
Let broken cisterns fill me up?
That brackish brew will never do
When all of heav’n’s abundance waits.
Choose life, my soul! Let Him supply!
Your emptiness He’ll richly sate.
“. . . that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19b
Song: Christ is Enough - https://youtu.be/V9fTw9MLKAo
Why use a teapot to illustrate this poem? Well, a traditional clay teapot from China or Japan evokes the benefits of allowing Father to fill us with His living water rather than the brackish brew that comes from our broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13). When seasoned by repeated brewing of the same type of tea, these lovely little unglazed teapots begin to take on a rich, smooth patina. They also absorb the oils from the tea over time, which ultimately enhances and enriches the flavor of tea brewed in them. Increasingly, they resemble what has been poured into—and over—them. That sounds like the Lord’s living waters flowing over, through, and in us: beautifying, filling, and transforming us.