“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 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 15:1-4 (NLT)
I don’t grow grapes and don’t know much about how they grow. But, I do know something about tomatoes. Earlier this spring I planted three Brandywine heritage tomato vines. I prune my tomato vines. While small, I prune the vine allowing only three branches to develop. I tie each of the three branches to a stake of its own. As a branch grows it produces branches (suckers) of its own that fork off in a new direction. If allowed to develop, these suckers draw nutrients from the branch resulting in a smaller and less robust branch. The vine becomes all suckers, producing smaller and smaller tomatoes as the season progresses.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This bring great glory to my Father.” John 15:5-8. (NLT)
I prune all of these suckers while they are young and small maintaining the vine to only three branches. I throw the suckers on top of my compost heap where they wither and rot. Pruning the vine in this manner the vine produces an abundance of large delicious tomatoes.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments, and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:9-11 (NLT)
Yesterday, I was pruning my tomato vines. This morning, these verses remind me why I prune. They also remind me that my heart’s desire is to be always present with Jesus. My Heavenly Father has already pruned sin and guilt from me. I am a branch grafted into Jesus, my vine. I must always remember to allow the Holy Spirit to prune away everything that remains within and everything that attempts to sprout from within that may keep me from being constantly in the presence of the love of Jesus. By being in his presence, I receive the nourishment of life from him, abundantly. In so doing, and being, I receive his joy and my joy will overflow. Oh, how I want his joy! With each passing day, remaining in his presence becomes more sustainable. My joy is increasing. Every day is not a happy day. Happiness has its up and downs, its in and outs. Joy is different. Joy is peace on an unhappy day. Joy is a level place during the ups and downs. Joy is always present, neither in nor out.
Don’t you want joy? I know you do. Don’t you want an abundant life? I know you do. Don’t you want to see this abundant life produced in others? I know you do. Jesus loves you, my friend, and so do I. Tell him what you want. He’s listening.
“Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am.” John 12:26 (NLT)
In one of the first Psychology courses I took in college I learned something exists to an infant only within the realm of their five senses. In other words, anything that does not trigger their sense of sight, hearing, taste, touch, or smell doesn’t exist. When an infant cries, mom appears. She exists because I cry. When mom leaves the room she no longer exists. I can make her exist again by crying again.
In my effort to always be in the presence of Jesus, I have come to the sad realization I’m a baby. I ascend to the fact that Jesus exists outside myself but I don’t behave that way. Throughout my life I’ve cried and he appears. I call and he answers. The way I act, he only exists when I want him to. That is so very wrong. If I want to mature in Christ I have to turn that around—I answer when he calls. I exist for him, not him for me. He leads, I follow. I don’t take him to Walmart; He takes me. Jesus doesn’t go to church with me, I go to church with him. Perhaps this requires a level of surrender I haven’t reached, yet.
In my effort to be in the presence of Jesus, am I beckoning him or am I seeking to follow him? When I go to my garden, do I say to Jesus, “Let’s go to the garden.” Or, do I go to the garden when Jesus says, “Let’s go to the garden.” I have to go to the garden to know the needs of the garden. Jesus takes me to the garden when the garden needs something. My struggle has always been between being a “man” and doing all that I can vs. accepting the words of Jesus urging me to trust him as a “child”.
The Lord is My Shepherd
I want to serve Jesus with my whole being. To do that I must be where he is and not him being where I am. Today, I begin.
“He leads me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” Psalm 23:3b (NLT)
It isn’t easy to stay in God’s presence. It’s not easy for me, anyway. My mind drifts and some time may pass before I even notice it. I return my thoughts to him only to I’ve drifted away a short time later. It is getting easier, though. Do I think it possible? Oh yes, I do!
Scripture tells me, over and over, he wants us to be friends. I know he is always with me because scripture also tells me he lives within me. Recently I spent over 18 hours in the back country with a photographer friend of mine. I never forgot he was right there with me. At all times I was aware of his presence. We talked all day long. We laughed together. We drank coffee together. We ate lunch together. I was driving so wherever I went he went along. I never, not once, drove off without him. Sometimes I waited for him, and sometimes he was waiting for me. I welcomed and enjoyed his company. That’s how I want to be with Jesus…everyday, all day.
It isn’t easy, but it is getting easier. The best part? There’s such a peace and joy whenever he’s near.
Since God can oversee even the tiniest minute comings and goings of a universe so vast I cannot comprehend its size or complexity, he surely must be able to manage the simple details of my life. The question is does he want to. Yes, he does! I’m the problem, though. Because he gave me free will to choose, it is my choice to run my daily affairs minute by minute, or let him. I’m choosing to let him. It isn’t easy but I’m working on it. It certainly is better and easier the more I am able to maintain him in my mind throughout the day. Peace and joy are becoming more common every day.