Rhythm: Abiding and Bearing Fruit

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): John 15:1 [Jesus said to the disciples:] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. 3 You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. 6 If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.

O (Observation): What is the point of being a disciple? That one produces fruit for God and God’s Kingdom. How does one bear fruit? By being a branch connected to the vine – Jesus. How can one stay connected to the vine (and this bear fruit)? By remaining / abiding in Jesus, the vine!

So we are supposed to bear fruit and stay connected to Jesus.

Seems simple, but can be very hard.

A (Application): Over my studies of discipleship, I’ve come across a great illustration of remaining connected to the vine and also of producing fruit for God’s Kingdom.

First, a disclaimer: only because Christ makes it possible, can we produce fruit for the Kingdom. This devotion leans towards what we can do with salvation, and is not about how we earn salvation!

Second, the key to abiding and bearing fruit is to know that these two elements that seem like opposites belong on either sides of a pendulum swinging back and forth. On one side “Abide.” On the other side: “Bear Fruit.” (Annalternstive is Rest / Work.

An illustration: when I began serving the congregation I’m serving now, I drew the picture included in this devotion (see above). I asked them where the congregation felt they were on this pendulum. They mark the spot towards the work / bearing fruit side. The sentiment was: “we’ve got a pastor, so let’s get moving!”

Then I asked them: “When you make a new friend, or add a family member through marriage or birth, what do you typically do?” They all responded with remarks that belong to more of the abide/rest side of the pendulum swing. They realized that having a new pastor on board would mean that we would want to get to know one another and become one, before we started getting very active toward the bearing fruit side. We needed time to dwell together and be together.

Jesus knew when working with the disciples that they would experience times and seasons when they would need to simply remain in Christ and be one with Christ in order to be strengthened for the times when they would have to go and bear fruit.

This same sentiment holds true for you and me today.

If you are all work and no rest, you will burn out. If you are all rest and no work, you will not produce fruit. Imagine the pendulum swinging back-and-forth causing you to find rhythms of rest and work of abiding and bearing fruit.

How are those rhythms working for you these days? What is your daily rhythm? Your weekly rhythm? Your monthly or annual rhythms?

P (Prayer): Lord, you sustain by inviting us to abide in you. Help us also to bear fruit for you and your kingdom! Amen.

P.s. this concept and image comes from elements taught by 3D Ministries (3DM; https://3dmovements.com/)

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A Brief Word…Time to Abide

Hello good people of “Digging Daily with Pastor Michael”!

Thank you for following. As is my custom from time to time, I will be taking a break from public devotions through this blog. I will be in and out of town over the next several weeks, and I find that my time with this blog is best spent when I am in my normal routine.

So, through June and much of July, I will be posting, but only sporadically. I look forward to my travels with youth trips and vacation time with my family.

Blessings!


Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Numbers 23:25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Don’t curse them or bless them.”

26 But Balaam answered and said to Balak, “Didn’t I say to you, ‘I’ll do whatever the Lord tells me to’?”

27 Balak said to Balaam, “Please come and I’ll take you to another place. Perhaps God will prefer it, so that you could curse him for me from there.”

O (Observation): Balak is King of the people of Moab, a place through which God’s people asked to march, on their way to the Promised Land. Balak said no…he did not give his permission. Moses spoke to God. God said, we are going anyway.

Balak wants to fight God’s people. So, in order to weaken God’s people, Balak sends messengers to Balaam (a sort of priest) to talk with God, in order to send a curse on God’s people. Balaam speaks to God. God says, “I blessed these people. They’re gonna march on.”

Balak’s like “no way.” Balaam’s like “way.”

Twice already, Balaam has blessed God’s people, since God has already blessed them.

Now, we have the text above. For a third time, Balak is seeking to curse God’s people. Nope. Not gonna do it. Not even if Balak sweetens the deal.

A (Application): Ever tried to go against a calling God has placed on your life? To move into a new thing? Ever tried to convince God to choose a different path forward?

We are so tempted to be like Balak…sweeten the pot. Convince God to get on our side.

Only to be disappointed when God doesn’t choose “our” path.

What is God saying to you today? How is God shaping your thoughts and heart today? Who are you in God’s eyes?

With that blessing, now ask yourself: What is God calling me to do? Now that I am reminded that I am God’s…which direction will I head towards now?

Seek wisdom from friends and trusted leaders around you. Share your thoughts and dreams. Seek prayer partners to help you in your discernment this day.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to hear and see our place in your journey. Amen.

A Wide Door Awaits

S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 16:5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia—for I intend to pass through Macedonia— 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way, wherever I go. 7 I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

O (Observation): Paul trusts the Spirit to guide him.   He has a clear purpose: share the Good News.   But the strategy and the implementation of that strategy are guided almost completely by the Holy Spirit.   

Paul is listing out his travel plans to his brothers and sisters in Christ in Corinth.  He points out that a “wide door for effective work” has opened up for him in Ephesus.  The Spirit is opening the pathway for him to walk along.  He serves the purpose he has been given, and he does this most effectively when he follows the grace poured out for him by the Spirit.  

A (Application):  While we do the “hands and feet” Kingdom work, the Spirit is also constantly at work, preparing folks’ hearts and minds to receive the Good News.   No speech or tactic is in and of itself the factor that causes people to believe.  Rather, the Spirit guides this process.  The Spirit prepares people’s hearts and minds. 

The Spirit lays out a pathway for us, a roadway lined with vision and grace…and the Spirit has all the time in the world.   So the Spirit will wait for us.   

This pathway is a gift from God.   The pathway may lead where our hearts are already going; or where our minds are going; or where both heart and mind are headed.   And sometimes we get off that path.  Sometimes we are WAY off that path.   Or maybe we only recently took a wrong turn.  

This pathway is where our spiritual gifts lie in wait, ready to be used for the good of the Kingdom.  We need only to take the abiding time necessary to discern what gifts we are to use, when to use them, how to use them, where to use them.   

In all of this, the Spirit is busy guiding us and giving us hope that – no matter the circumstances – a wide door for effective work awaits us.  

P (Prayer):  Spirit, guide us.  Grace us all the way back to the path.  Amen.  

A Thankful Attitude 


S (Scripture): Luke 19:9 Then [Jesus] began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, leased it to tenant farmers, and went on a journey for a long time. 10 When harvest time came, he sent a slave to the tenants so that they would give him his portion of the crop. However, the tenants beat his slave and sent him away empty-handed. 11 So he sent another slave. They beat this one too, treated him outrageously, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 So he sent still a third. They even wounded this one, and threw him out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What should I do? I will send my one dear son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir; let’s kill him so the inheritance will be ours!’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “May this never happen!” 17 But Jesus looked straight at them and said, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.” 19 Then the experts in the law and the chief priests wanted to arrest him that very hour, because they realized he had told this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

O (Observation):  Jesus is giving a judgment against Israel in this Parable of the Tenants, while also leaving grace for those normally seen outside of salvation.  

Jesus makes the tenants out to be Israel, and their actions show that they have been unfaithful to the Lord. How so?  They bear no fruit!  They send the servant of the landowner away empty-handed!  

Jesus being sent to Israel is like the son of the landowner being sent to collect the fruit from the harvest from the tenants tending the land.   But we see what happens here: the son is killed!  

Now comes judgment, but also hope!  Judgment comes to Israel for their failure to recognize and honor God’s son.   Hope comes, also, to the Gentiles.  

Luke 19: 15b What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.

The listeners all stood convicted and hoped the judgment would not befall them.  But the religious leaders present were less convicted and more angered…

Luke 19:19  the chief priests wanted to arrest him that very hour, because they realized he had told this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

A (Application):  I often wonder if I am missing the point of what God is up to in my life.  I wonder if I’ve made the right call, moved the right direction, etc.  How can I even tell?

Today’s parable has a way helping me to gauge if I am being faithful.   The question is: Am I bearing fruit?   Am I helping someone else?  Am I engaging in the vocation God has called me into?  Am I taking care of what God has given to me?

Now, I will not ALWAYS bear fruit in the sense of accomplishing a task or helping to bring about a tangible result of working on something.   We all need time to ABIDE / rest.   But, in terms of sharing in the faith, we can ask ourselves, “Am I bearing fruit at all?”

My wife and I take the faith we’ve been given, and we pass it on to our children.  We do this with the help of others, which is why being a part of a faith community is so important.  We go on retreat and we also send our children on retreat.  

Humility, though, will remind us of the times when we don’t do this; when we model poor or unfaithful behavior.  Humility will also remind us that we often leave whole groups of people out of our understanding of those who are saved.   In these moments, I’m reminded that God has and does invite others along on the faith journey, too.  

P (Prayer): Lord, thank you for all you’ve given to us and for all the times you stretch my understanding of salvation.  Amen.