Monday, November 30, 2009

The Faith Component by Guest Blogger Kristy J. Downing

Our lives are so filled with activities and obligations; naturally we grow and develop in the directions that pull us the most. We may be an outstanding engineer or minister but have a desire to be a better father or spouse. I want to ask “what in life is pulling you the hardest right now?” Is it work or your career? Is it your family? Is it working out and eating healthily? Is it being sociable? As we grow and develop in the direction of the things that have the heaviest gravitational pull in our lives, let us not forsake the faith component. Ask ourselves what practical routine we can implement in our lives to increase our faith? Like studying Japanese, learning the piano, improving our culinary skills and Rome faith and a strong relationship with God is not built overnight. It comes through communicating with God (or praying), it comes through studying His word (or reading the Bible) and it is evidenced in our actions (or treating humanity in the manner in which we would like to be treated).

This month let’s pick a way in which we can periodically bolster our relationship with God. Regardless of where we are there is room for growth and aspiration towards perfection. See Paul’s teachings in Philippians 3:12-14 (“not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” NKJV). For some it will be attending a church ceremony, for others who do that routinely already it might be studying Ecclesiastes – written by the son of David, believed to be the wisest person to ever walk the face of this earth – or taking 15 minutes in the evening or mornings to read a new Bible verse, and for others it might be volunteering at a local shelter during the holidays, showing God your earnest appreciation for what you DO have instead of asking for something additional.

Many times in life we are faced with obstacles and situations that are apparently larger than us: why do we have to die Lord? What will happen with my marriage or my family? When will I get a new job? Why do I have no friends? … these situations that are by and large out of our control. Yet we dedicate our life energy to worrying about them. Christ teaches us, however, that such worrying is fruitless. Matt 6:25-34. James later teaches that we should couple our faith with works. James 2:18-24. We are advised to rely on faith and do all we can.

I admire the faith and conviction of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego who defied king Nebuchadnezzar who requested that all in his kingdom bow down and worship a golden idol. Daniel 3. They were to be burned alive if they did not oblige. Do you think they were popular at that time or unafraid of the consequences of the empowered? Obviously. They were unwilling, however, to compromise their faith and do something they knew would be unpleasing to God. (“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case [that they were to be placed in a fiery furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”) How many of us are willing to say, even if God does not save me I will stand in faith? Even if I am embarrassed, lose my marriage, my life or my job, I stand in faith? Instead at times the possibility of a disappointing circumstance serves as reason to abandon our faith or self it until more comfortable circumstances present themselves. Even though it is difficult, when opposition arises that is the time in which we should amplify our faith not diminish it.

Recollect the good things that are results of an attitude of faith. Hebrew 11.

Miracles & blessings!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Need a Promotion?

If you’ve ever felt slighted, overlooked, or boxed in, whether it’s on the job, in the church, or in your personal life, you’re not alone. I would venture to say that most of us have at some time or another. I remember having a supervisor once who seemed very unable to do her job well. She always very politely gave me all of her “dirty” work on top of my own responsibilities. This supervisor consistently caved under pressure and blamed others for her own lack of competence. She was more qualified on paper, but I was more equipped in other ways.

Frustrated beyond words, I remember praying that the Lord would strengthen me to deal with her. I also prayed fervently when other co-workers slammed her with unkind words behind her back. Admittedly, every fiber of my being wanted to indulge myself and join in the worthless chatter, but I resisted the temptation.
Instead, I obediently did what she asked without complaining and murmuring, which is monumental for me. I tried to help her in every way that I could, and when she made what I thought to be demeaning comments towards me, quite uncharacteristically, I didn’t retaliate.

God had given me the endurance to go through, but I wondered secretly if anyone recognized that I was the one doing the work. She seemed to be getting the credit for the good work I was doing. I mean, while she was sipping tea from a porcelain cup, adorned with roses and gold plated rims (literally), I was meeting with clients, working computer programs, and crunching the budget.

One day on my break, I went out to my car and cried in frustration, praying that God would give me strength. A very kind lady that I trusted and had confided in told me quite simply that promotion comes from God. That stuck with me, and at the time, I didn’t even know the scripture from Psalm 75:6, 7 which reads, “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”

I realized at that moment that I had to trust God’s sovereignty. It boiled down to my faith. I had to trust Him, even when it came to things that I thought may have been too minor for Him and even when it looked like He wasn’t showing Himself to me the way I wanted Him to.

Over the years, I’ve learned that promotion is exaltation. Exaltation for Christians only comes through service. Remember when Jesus gave the Beatitudes in Matthew 5? The poor in spirit get the kingdom of heaven, and the meek inherit the earth. People who hunger and thirst after righteousness are going to be filled. Those that are merciful will receive mercy. Another says that the pure in heart will see God and the peacemakers are called the children of God. You are elevated when you are humble and in service, which is quite opposite of the world’s definition of success!

We can never earn a promotion by manipulation, retaliation, jealousy, or backbiting. As Christians, we have to know that God is in control, and we must serve. In God’s timing, promotion may come. When it does, we have to remember that we received that promotion and/or exaltation, not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

If we become anxious while we are waiting, we will get tired, frustrated, and miserable. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

We just need to make sure that God has truly called us to the position or promotion that we desire. Our will must line up to His will for us. I’ve seen many people striving for positions that God has clearly never meant for them to have. However, if God has let you know that the promotion is yours, it will happen. Trust Him an keep on serving with a good attitude.

That supervisor I mentioned ended up quitting and I was offered the job. The Lord blessed me with the promotion I had waited for, and He’ll do the same for you.

Be sure to check the Abiding in the Vine Facebook Group page out and leave a comment. (Just type Abiding in the Vine in your search tab on FB.) Let’s get the message boards hopping with discussion from you, and invite friends to join!

Trusting Him With You,

Monday, November 2, 2009

Know Your Enemy!

I don’t believe in giving a lot of unwarranted attention to Satan or the devil, but lately, I’ve noticed he’s been particularly busy. I know no better way to combat Satan’s attacks except by exposing them and using the Word of God, prayer to the Lord, and faith in God. I’ve been attempting this devotion for quite some time and numerous distractions have come to try to prevent me from sharing this with you. So, I pray that through this press to complete this that someone will be encouraged to identify Satan’s tactics and resist his attack.

First, Satan is not a myth; he is real. He was an angel of God that was cast out of heaven for being corrupt and prideful. He is God’s enemy and he is looking for people to attack to strengthen his army for the final conflict. It’s so important for us to know he’s real and to recognize his tactics so that we know how to equip ourselves and how to respond during an attack.

Satan’s tactics can be deceitful and cunning, and he appears relentless in his attacks. In fact, in Job 2:2, Satan tells the Lord that he has been “going to and fro in the earth . . . walking up and down in it.” Of course, after this, the Lord tells Satan of Job’s unwavering character and faith in the midst of his attacks. The Lord also tells Satan that he is attempting to destroy Job without a cause. Job holds fast to his faith in the face of suffering the loss of his family and property.

However, Satan, as my pastor reminded us, is an accuser of the brethren (See Rev. 12:10). Satan tells the Lord that Job is only faithful because his own body was safe. Then, the Lord allows Satan to attack Job’s physical body. Satan came before God to accuse Job, but it’s so important to remember that Satan can only do what God permits.

Satan, whose name means “Accuser” or “Adversary,” strives to destroy our faith in God. Most of us know and accept this, but whether it’s the small things that nag at us or the sickness that seems to linger, suffering can chip away at our faith if we let Satan get a foothold. Anything that shifts your focus away from your faith in God and His Word can be a real enemy, an attack that Satan launches to destroy your faith.

Job suffered losses through the death of loved ones, and he lost everything. He went from being very wealthy to having nothing but his health. Then, after the onslaught of Satan’s attacks, he even lost his health. Maybe Satan’s has launched an attack against you. Maybe the situation you’re in isn’t a consequence of sin and you don’t know what to do. Be prayerful, hold fast to your faith. Satan thought that Job would only be faithful while the Lord prospered him and didn’t think he would hold fast to his faith while suffering. Remember, in the end, Job was blessed with “twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). Be prayerful, and don’t let your faith go. Know that you will be rewarded, and you will be victorious in the end.

Maybe you’ve sinned, and the situation you find yourself in is a direct consequence of the sin. Satan wants you to wallow in the mistake and think it’s too big for God to forgive you. He wants us to feel condemned and unworthy, but the Bible says that our righteousness is as filthy rags before him (Isaiah 64:6). Every one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It’s only through Christ’s death and resurrection that we can be saved. The victory came when he bore the weight of all of our sins on the cross. By shedding His blood, He paid the penalty for our sin.

We don’t have to beat ourselves up with our past mistakes. Even as some of us have to live with the consequences of our sin on earth, we cannot allow Satan to tempt us to believe that God does not forgive us. There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1).

The Word instructs us to “[b]e sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:6). One commentary explains that lions attack those that are sick, young, or straggling behind. In other words, they look for victims who are unwell, alone, or not alert. When we are in the midst of a trial, we must be watchful of Satan. When we are suffering or alone, we can’t allow ourselves to be cut off from other believers, God’s Word, or prayer.

Finally, we must resist Satan at all costs. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” With the power of the Holy Ghost, we can resist Satan and cling to God. God has already defeated Satan, which means that we have already won the victory!

Praying With You,
Abiding in the Vine Facebook Group Page

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don't Wait Until the Battle is Over!

I love gospel music, especially when it helps you to recall God’s Word and promises (I know it all should, but that’s a different topic). Today, I’ve been humming this old song with the words, “Don’t wait until the battle is over; shout now. You know in the end, you’re gonna win.” I love this song because it reminds me of a very powerful story about steps we can take to get victory during a battle.

The actions of Jehoshaphat, a ruler of Judah, gives us important steps to take when we are under attack from the enemy. When Jehoshaphat learns that the children of Moab and Ammon were going to attack, he immediately proclaims a fast in all of Judah. He doesn’t want the people to have any distractions from seeking the Lord in prayer. He reminds God of His promises to the people and says, “neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee” (2 Chronicles 20:12). In times of intense pressure, we need to really separate ourselves from anything that hinders us from the Lord and keep our eyes focused on Him.

When all the people of Judah are gathered together in prayer, Jahaziel, a Levite, prophesies saying, “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (II Chron. 20:15). He goes on to tell them, “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle; set yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you. O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them; for the Lord will be with you” (II Chron. 20:17). Sometimes all we need to do is recognize that the battle is not ours to fight; it’s the Lord’s.

After hearing the word from the Lord, Jehoshaphat and all the people of Judah fell on their faces and worshipped God. Jehoshaphat implores the people to believe God’s word and appoints singers to the Lord “that they should praise and the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth forever” (II Chron. 20: 21).

When the singers begin to sing and praise God, the two enemies turn against each other in utter confusion, killing each other until not one of them was alive. What a testimony of faith and trust in God! Worship and praise can be a weapon that we use to cause the enemy to scatter. When you are backed in a corner and don’t know what to do, praise Him. You’re not necessarily thanking God for the situation, but praising Him because He’s already promised in His Word that we are victorious! Hallelujah!

Sometimes, we can be so heavy burdened with pressure, heartache, and fear that we don’t want to praise Him with our lips. Fight against your feelings and emotions! We need to use our instruments of praise, especially in the midst of the battle if we want to win. We need to praise Him, whether it’s clapping our hands, using our voices, or playing instruments. There’s actually a scripture that tells us to shout with a loud voice. We are instructed to praise Him, knowing and trusting that in the end we will win.
After the Lord gave Jehoshaphat and his people the victory, they found so many riches (jewels, clothes, weapons, and food), that it took them three days to gather it, and the riches were in the midst of the dead bodies. When you praise your way through, you will get your reward and the enemy will be your footstool!

I feel so excited by this message that I could shout—seriously! The bottom line is that any attack on Judah was an attack against God. As believers, an attack against us is an attack against God and He has already won the battle. Whatever that thing is that has got you fearful, bound, depressed, or in dismay, don’t focus on how big and bad situation or problem is. Focus of how big and great God is! Praise Him in advance. I know personally there is deliverance and blessings in your praise.

Don’t forget to drop us a line on the Abiding in the Vine message board or on the blog at If you know someone that may be blessed by the devotions, be sure to tell them to add the group on their Facebook page or on the blog.

Praising Through With You,

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fear of Flying

Several years ago I took a flight that horrified me. I was taken off guard because I had been flying almost of my life and had never been fearful of flying. In the midst of a wind storm, the plain plummeted mercilessly. It would level off for a few moments and then shake and drop again. I prayed silently, and grabbed my husband’s hand as he tried to comfort me. It wasn’t much good because I just didn’t want to die that way. (I’m not scared to die, but there are just certain things that seem a little more frightening than others.) I gasped for air, nearly hyperventilating until I wept as the wheels hit the runway safely, resolved to never fly again.

I’ve often wondered how many of us can circumvent the areas where we are fearful to exercise our faith. What happens when we can’t avoid the areas where we are lacking in faith?

I often think about Peter walking on the water. Jesus said, “Come.” Peter responded in faith and walked out onto the sea. The scripture goes on to say, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord save me” (Matt. 14:30). Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus, sees the ferocity of the wind and begins to sink.

During a storm or in the heat of the battle, we don’t want to be like Peter and lose focus. When we lose our spiritual sight and see only the bleakness of our situation, we will begin to sink. When we are fearful and sinking, Satan has a stronghold in our lives that ultimately can destroy us if we let it.

The good news is that we can rise above fearful situation when we chose to exercise our faith in the Lord. He is there for us and will never let us down. Notice that Peter calls Jesus in his distress, “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

It can be so tempting to put our trust in family members, friends, doctors, pilots, etc. However, maintaining our faith in the midst of adversity is absolutely crucial to our growth and maturity as a believer. When we build up our faith in Him, especially through adverse situations, we can rest in Him (See Hebrews 4-13).

Trusting in our own efforts or anyone else’s can cause us to be in danger of turning away from the faith because our efforts are never sufficient. It also leads to anxiety, disappointment and depression. Only Christ can settle us and give us the peace and rest we all need to make it through stressful situations.

Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Peace that the world gives is fleeting because it’s only when there are no problems or conflict, which is an impossible state to stay in. However, the peace that Jesus gives to His believers is not contingent on whether conflict or problems are absent or present. His peace truly does surpass all understanding.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” We can have God’s perfect peace regardless of the turmoil that might be going on in our lives. He can keep us centered, stable, and steadfast if we keep our focus on him. When he’s not just first in our lives, but the center of our lives, we can rest, knowing that he’s sovereign and got it all in control.

I’ve been on several flights since then. Admittedly, I still have to pray my way through, but I am determined to be totally delivered from the fear. I know that we have the victory over all of Satan’s attacks if we simply exercise our faith and know—we aren’t going to sink or plummet to the ground!

Why not share your testimony about how your faith gave you peace and helped you through an adverse situation? We are overcome by the words of our testimony! Drop us a line on the Abiding in the Vine Group message board or on

Blessings and Peace,

Friday, September 25, 2009

No More Mediocrity!

There’s a virus that appears to be running rampant in the church body. No, it’s not the swine flu or any physical virus, but it is one that can lead to spiritual death. It is quite simply the spirit of mediocrity.

On its face, it seems harmless enough. Maybe you’re a Christian but you haven’t been to church in a while. Maybe you attend service every Sunday but you’re a happy or not-so-happy bench warmer. Maybe you even find yourself serving the Lord in your actions, but somewhere along the way you have lost your passion and zeal for Christ. Sometimes we find ourselves going through the motions, so careful to do what’s right but void of the “right” spirit. I have certainly experienced this last one more than once in my Christian walk. However, God expects more from us. At times, we have to move push, press, and revive ourselves so that we can walk victoriously in what God has called us to do. Only then can we mature in Him and produce the fruit we are instructed to bear.

First, let me say that we all get tired from time to time. We’re human. The only danger is if we stay in this state because it seems that it has potential to move us to mediocrity. The Bible instructs us not to be weary in well-doing and not to faint, indicating that this is a very possible state for believers. We can’t let our tiredness, frustration, or discouragement lead us into mediocrity.

In the third chapter of Revelations, we learn about the church of the Laodiceans. Apparently, Laodicea was a very wealthy city with successful banking, wool manufacturing, and a medical school. The city had a problem with the water supply. At one point, they built an aqueduct to get water to the city from hot springs. However, by the time the water made it to the city, it was lukewarm and unfavorable to drink because of it. Not many people like lukewarm water.

Anyway, the church in the city had become lukewarm, just like the water supply. In other words, they didn’t really stand for Christ. They were possibly indifferent and idle. They were Christian in name but operating in selfishness and obviously had grown apathetic in their love for God.

Christ says to the Laodiceans, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15, 16). Maybe their riches had led them to lives of complacency in Christ. Maybe they felt like they had things under control. The bottom line is that wealth, health, and ease can be deadly deceptions, but Christ will not tolerate indifference towards Him.

The Lord addresses each point of their wealth and “flips the script” as we like to say. He says, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” The Lord tells them to get their spiritual treasures from him. The Laodiceans also were proud of their wool manufacturing and eye salve that came from the medical school, but the Lord tells them to purchase white garments from Him (His righteousness) and to get healing from their eyes from him so that they could see His truth.

The good news is that even if we discover that we have settled into a place of complacency, the Lord’s grace can cover us. We have an opportunity today to turn our indifference toward him around. Jesus tells the church, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent” (Rev. 3:19). We must be swift to ask for forgiveness, refuse to go back that way again, and in earnest passion, we should pursue the things of God and the will that He has for our lives.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's Your Final Answer?

Lately, I’ve found myself asking so many questions as many close family members and friends struggle with serious health challenges, heavy financial burdens, and devastating job losses. Out of the many questions, one always rises like cream to the top. I wonder why. Maybe you’ve wondered why you’re facing the giant that towers above you. You may wonder how you’re going to get through the crisis. You may be asking yourself how to respond to others around you are suffering. We have so many questions, but there is a final answer to them found in God’s Word.

Asking the question “Why?” in the midst of suffering seems pretty logical. After all, Job endured the suffering, but what plagued him most was why he suffered. He was given a host of incorrect answers from his friends, but in the end, God didn’t really answer Job’s question. Instead, God reminded Job that it was better to know Him than the answers to his questions.

When we suffer and it is not a direct consequence of sin, we have to rely on and trust in God. He’s sovereign and in control. Our final answer should be to continue to love Him and love one another with compassion.

Love is a word that’s really been watered down by the world and has come to mean much less than what God intended. The depth of God’s love cannot be measured. It’s supernatural and powerful, extending far beyond what we can imagine.

Chapter 13 in I Corinthians beautifully instructs us about love. The second verse says, “And though I have the gift of prophesy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [love], I am nothing.” Paul lets us know that we can know the future, understand deep mysteries, have unending knowledge, and have deep faith, but without the love of God, we are nothing.

Paul goes on to explain that love suffers long. When we love as Christ loves us, we don’t look inward to ourselves, but we look up to God. God’s love causes us to be unselfish, and as a result, we love outward to others. Love automatically shifts our focus to Him instead of our problem.

Having the love of God is like putting gas in an engine. It fuels us, making our gifts and service to Him useful. In addition, God’s love enables us to go through the storms of life without caving under the pressure.

I Corinthians 13:7 explains, “[Love] beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” When we are operating in God’s perfect love, we can bear all things, not just some. We can believe and trust that the Lord is going to keep his promises. Hope is always present, no matter how dismal the situation may seem. Finally, we can endure the pain, discomfort, and suffering, knowing that the Lord is going to supply our every need.

Paul tells us that the greatest of all the spiritual gifts is love. So, what is the final answer to our questions? The final answer has to be that we know that God loves us. “[Love] never faileth: but whether there be prophesies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” (I Cor. 13:8). God’s love never fails in any situation.
When we don’t know how to respond to life’s challenges and difficulties, remember that there is an answer and response that never fails. He loves us, and when we love Him and spread His love, we are equipped to stand strong against Satan’s attacks.

Paul says that “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” We may not have the specific answers to some of the hard questions, but one day we will when we meet Him face to face.

Until then, I pray that the Lord will continue to shower you with His love and that you draw closer to Him, sharing and extending His love to others.

Love to hear from you. Drop me a line . . .

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Compassion--God's Gist

God has truly given me favor because I have been blessed to have a wonderful extension of family and friends. Kristy Joi Downing, our guest blogger for the week, is certainly counted among them.

Kristy specializes in intellectual property law and has a practice in Michigan so be sure to look her up ( However, what's most important is that Kristy is a mighty woman of God who gives us much to reflect upon in for this week's devotion about love and compassion. Be sure to leave a comment and show her some love!


Christ taught “ 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40. In addition, in Matthew 7:12 Jesus taught the Golden Rule: “do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Sometimes it is possible to miss the sight of the forest because we have become too concentrated on the trees. Focusing on our differences can cause us to lose sight of the most compelling premise of our faith – compassion.

One might ask some of the following questions:
1)What if you went into your local Starbucks and they criticized your drink selection, treated you oddly for the way you were dressed and/or belittled you for your ignorance of coffeehouse protocol? How often would you return?

2)What is your reaction to criticism versus your reaction to love and compassion? What then should we expect the reaction of others to be when we criticize versus demonstrating love? Was it love or criticism that encouraged you to accept Christ into your heart?

3)Why is compassion for each other so important? Is there something special about being committed to loving the people around you? 1 Cor 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

4)How is it that this principle can be the foundation and summation of all other laws/commandments? Ask yourself, “Do I treat it as such?” How can we focus on compassion being the primary aspect of our individual ministries?

5)Where we lack love there is fear. But that fear – irrespective of what it regards – is not God-sent. 2 Timothy 1:7.
While the tooth-for-a-tooth mentality yields anxiety, operating in love yields liberty and peace with God. Consider growing this week through love and compassion. Just as we cannot fully repay Christ for his sacrifice, look to share love and compassion with someone who cannot fully repay you.

Kristy Joi Downing

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Part II Stressed on the Job? Don't Give Up!

Have you ever been overlooked for a promotion on the job? Have you ever had a boss that’s jealous of your accomplishments, gifts, and talents? What about a boss that’s out to destroy you, or better yet—kill you? Well, that’s just a bit of the stress that David had to handle doing his job. David handled all of these pressures of difficult job situations and overcame them.

While Saul was still on the throne, Samuel privately anointed a very young David to be king. Although David knew that the Lord had chosen him to be king, he had many tasks that could be considered “beneath” what a king would perform. For example, David, a shepherd known for being “a cunning player on a harp” was beckoned by King Saul to play for him, a job most would not choose if they had already been anointed king. David played under the anointing and “Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him” (I Sam. 16:23). By being obedient and humble, David was blessed.

When Goliath challenged Israel, David stepped up courageously to fight the giant. His boss, Saul, was “greatly afraid” of the giant, yet that did not stop David (I Sam. 17:11). Saul didn’t even have confidence that David could do the job. Saul told him, “Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth” (I Sam. 17:33). David did not let Saul’s negativity sway him from the task. In fact, when Saul “girded his sword upon his armour,” David took them off. David knew that he had to use the tools God had equipped him to use to get the job done. You know the story, with five smooth stones and a sling, David killed Goliath, leaving no doubt, as David says, that “the battle is the Lord’s” (I Sam. 17:47).

When faced with Goliath, others saw a giant, but David’s perspective was different. He saw a mortal man defying God. He looked at his position from God’s point of view and could fight more effectively.

There is so much more that David faced as Saul’s admiration of him turned to jealousy. Saul hunted David down, trying desperately to murder him out of his rage and hatred of him. While Saul’s position had made him proud and arrogant, David’s humility remained apparent, even as a whole nation praised him.

Whether you’re working on a job or in the ministry, it’s important not to let jealousy enter your heart. Jealousy destroys a person on the inside and then spreads like a virus, wanting to kill everything in its path. David didn’t hold malice in his heart toward Saul. He had to wait and go through the process before he could be king. (Although he made many mistakes along the way, he was a man after God’s heart because he quickly confessed and repented of his sins.) Moreover, when he had the opportunity to kill Saul and was being coaxed into doing it, he didn’t compromise his standards to go along with the group. He refused to kill Saul (several times), his family, or descendents.

Most of us would never imagine doing the things that Saul did to someone on the job or in the ministry, but we do have to be careful about not being jealous when others are elevated and we are not. Even if you feel that you are more qualified, deserving or gifted, harboring jealousy towards anyone else is most dangerous for you. Spreading gossip or talking unfavorably about anyone else is wrong. Period.
One way that I’m sure to eliminate potential stress is to watch what I say and avoid negative conversation about anybody or anything. Tension and stress on the job or at church can’t be eased by negative talk or “venting” as we like to say. I don’t know how many times I’ve said I was just venting and there was no positive end. (However, I do think if you can talk to someone in confidence and pray, that can be productive.) We have to pray about difficult people and love them. Instead of being led by our emotions, we have to use the tools that God has given us in His Word and through prayer to defeat the enemy so that we can live the victorious lives that God has for each of us.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stressed on the Job? Don't Give Up!

Most of us don’t have to watch the news to know that many people who have jobs are stressed. With businesses closing and numbers of layoffs, the climate in many workplaces seems to be unstable at best. Employers appear to not only be scrutinizing their budgets, but also their employees, making sure they cut down expenses wherever they can. As a result, so many people are fearful of losing their jobs.

While most of us know that “God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7), it can be difficult when we are tested on our jobs. When our livelihood is at stake, we can panic and become stressed and fearful, missing out on what valuable lessons and growth that the Lord has for us—even during a season of instability on our jobs.

We know there are many scriptures about fear and worry, but does the Bible speak specifically to people who are experiencing stress on their jobs? I’ve discovered that there are so many in the Bible who overcame the stress and fear on their jobs with victory. However, when we take a snapshot into the lives of Nehemiah and David, we see two men of God who can really teach all of how to handle difficulty of our jobs. (This week I’ll discuss Nehemiah and next week, David.)

Nehemiah is one of my favorite people in the Bible because he saw a problem, prayed and took action. He was a relatively common man with great influence and integrity. When he finds out that Jerusalem’s walls and gates, which represented power, protection and beauty, are broken and burned down, Nehemiah is devastated. After his initial tears, he fasts and prays for God’s direction, confessing and repenting for Israel’s sins. His prayer helped to clarify the problem and what Nehemiah was to do to help to resolve it. When we pray, God will also put those difficult decisions into perspective.

Nehemiah then took on the task of organizing and managing the walls being rebuilt, one that seemed impossible. Along the way, he was met with great opposition, threats, and ridicule from those trying to discourage him and his people from the task that God had given him to do. Nevertheless, Nehemiah employed a strategy, one that each of us can model, to frustrate the enemy through prayer, preparation, and hard work.

Nehemiah 4:10-14 is a powerful reminder that accomplishing any task can be tiring. We all get tired, but we have to stay focused on what God’s purpose is for us—even in work situations. Col. 3:23 says, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Nehemiah was an excellent supervisor, reminding the workers of their calling, goal, and God’s purpose in what they were doing.

Before the completion of the wall, a priest even came to give Nehemiah a false warning from God, telling him to hide in the Temple. He tested the message and found that it was a trick from the enemy and refused to be fearful. He courageously kept the project going until it was complete by being a tremendous example of faithfulness to God, the mission, and the people.

One final note: Nehemiah wasn’t a religious leader. He was a layman who God used in a significant way to carry out His will. While you may not feel appreciated or valued on your job, remember that it’s about doing your best job for God. He’s the ultimate overseer and rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Strive to be like Nehemiah, a common man with uncommon integrity, faithfulness, and dedication to God and to get the job done!

How about you? Stressed on the job? Drop me a line. . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Discouraged? Don't Give Up!

Lately, I’ve experienced a series of setbacks, one right after another, including a computer virus that didn’t want to let go. (I’m very thankful to the Lord for blessing me with a brainy husband that is skilled in these types of things.) I’m also so thankful to be able to get back on my computer to the Abiding in the Vine group and continue on the topic “Don’t Give Up!” Anyway, I would love to tell you that as a result of these setbacks, I immediately ran to the Word, fell on my knees in prayer, and received a breakthrough. However, I have to admit that I have had to fight to keep discouragement from getting the best of me.

Discouragement is a crafty and deceptive emotion. When we find ourselves in an unfavorable or downright bad situation, we may initially feel sad or upset about the circumstance. Then, we can often feel sorry for ourselves and have self-pity. Your mind immediately starts churning. Why me? I don’t deserve this. I didn’t do anything to anybody. Nothing ever works out for me. You get the picture. Before we know it, we are plunged into an abyss of doubt, depression, and despair. We become too paralyzed in our discouragement to be the productive, fruit-bearing believers that God has called us to be in the body of Christ.

What I have to share is absolutely nothing new, but just a reminder. When we allow discouragement to set in, we are lacking faith in God. We have made the decision not to trust the Lord, and many times without even being aware of it. The deceptive quality to discouragement is that we think that our future or situation is in the hands of ourselves, others, or fate. As believers, we serve and worship an omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God.

I often think of King Hezekiah and how he was the only faithful king in Judah during over a 100 year history. He became very ill, and the prophet Isaiah told him that he was going to die. Hezekiah’s immediate response was to pray. He had lived a faithful, disciplined life in the Lord, so his natural reaction to the dreadful news was to turn to God in prayer. Hezekiah wept as he told the Lord, “remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight” (2 Kings 20:3).

I’m always struck by the short and simple prayer to God. God not only healed Hezekiah immediately, but also added fifteen years to his life. Hezekiah hadn’t asked, but God also saved his city from the Assyrians. These verses in the 20th chapter of 2 Kings remind me that faith and prayer will move God. He can change any situation, no matter how dismal and dark it may seem.

I Timothy 6:12 reminds us to “Fight the good fight on faith.” To fight the good fight, we must always wear our armor of God. What is the armor of God? In Ephesians 6:11-17, the armor is spelled out for us. The short version is that we need to have the truth and righteousness of God, the preparation of the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God.

When I’ve really felt discouraged, I know that I have taken my focus off of God and on my problem. I haven’t put on all of my armor.

It’s interesting how we’ll take time to prepare ourselves to take tests at school, work, or for a license or degree, but many times when it comes to spirituality, which is the glue that holds our very lives together, giving us meaning and purpose, we don’t prepare ourselves for the tests that will surely come. Preparing ourselves for the tests and trials that life brings will undoubtedly insure that we don’t ever give up.

Have you allowed discouragement to creep in? Have you checked your armor lately? Drop me a line. . .

Monday, June 15, 2009

Isaiah 40:31 Inspirational Blog Tour

Be sure to stop by to experience The Isaiah 40:31 Inspirational Blog Tour with a host of Christian fiction authors. You don't want to miss it everyday this week!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Get Your Head in the Game!

My two sons, who play on the same soccer team, haven’t won one soccer game all season. It’s agony to watch because they have tried so hard to win. Anxiously calling from the sidelines, I shouted at the last game, “It’s okay! Don’t give up! You can do it! Shake it off!” Then, finally, I yell out in frustration, “Get your head in the game!” Okay, so you get the picture.

With sweat rolling down their flushed faces, neither one of the boys made eye contact with me as we left the field. I tried to comfort them, but then came a fury of anger about the unfairness of the situation. After allowing them to vent for a few minutes, I asked them what they could do differently next time to help the team. They seemed to be at a total loss. I then carefully explained to them what I thought each of them could do to help their team to win. They got quiet, and I knew that they were thinking and calculating what each of them could do differently.

There are much bigger battles than a soccer game though. Some of us have health battles, marital issues, financial struggles, job losses, and a host of other situations that make us want to throw in the towel. However, we must never give up.

I Cornithians 9:24 says, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” We must stay in the race and run to win. As Paul says, we are incorruptible, which means that we will not perish. The “race” we are in though in one where we must keep our faith in Christ in spite of the trials and tribulations that come our way.

Paul says to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:78). So, why are we running in the race? Our purpose must be clear. We are running the race to win, to endure until our course is finished. Again, our goal is to keep the faith and received the crown of righteousness.

Regardless of what our struggle or battle is in the natural sense, we must stay focused on the spiritual goal at all times. It will help us to prioritize and keep things in perspective. The natural battle may be huge, but we can overcome. Those that are anchored in Christ are victors. As the Word says, the battle is the Lord’s, and we’ve already won through Him. If we keep the faith, we will receive an eternal heavenly reward.

On our journey, each of us has to deny ourselves of whatever may harm us and discipline ourselves. It’s interesting because the Christian journey really is a life of freedom and discipline. To stay disciplined, we must pray, study the Word, and worship. Our spiritual progress is reliant on these things. We can’t win standing still. Pressing towards the mark calls on us to train and be diligent, doing all we know to do that is right and holy.

I have really been pressed in my spirit about the message of not giving up. It’s a battle that I find myself in so often, and when I look around, I see it all around. People give up when they are stuck in the situation they are in and feel hopeless. Our perspective has to be bigger than the immediate problem or problems. We must have a spiritual eye to sharpen our focus on the bigger picture. We have to remind one another and ourselves that enduring until the end is not an option. We are called to endure, and we will win. We can face trials much more easily when we have the attitude of being a conqueror through Christ.

I’d like to continue the next several devotions on not giving up. There are so many powerful scriptures that speak to this, and I know that when we abide in the true vine, we don’t ever give up.

When the opposing team scored the first goal at my sons’ last game, I heard my son grumble, “Well, we’re gonna lose again.” I already told you what the outcome was. Keeping our head in the game, no matter what the score, is of the utmost importance because we are guaranteed to win.

When did you feel like giving up? How did you overcome those feelings? Do you have a scripture that you have hidden in your heart that helps you overcome feelings of hopelessness? Drop me a line because I’d love to hear from you.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Are You Part of the Problem?

One day when I was a university student, I called home, distraught over something that at the time seemed monumental. I felt like I couldn’t go on in a new city broke and struggling in my classes. Fully expecting my dad’s compassion, I explained that I was doing all of this for him. Well, needless to say, I was taken by surprise when he said that if I was doing it for him, then maybe I should quit. I cried in anger as I put the phone down. Then, I asked myself some pretty important questions. I had wanted him to blame for the situation I was in, not wanting to accept responsibility for decisions I had made. Sure, he had expectations of me, but I had willingly agreed. This exchange was one of the first times as an adult that I remember doing some serious self-examination and really accepting responsibility for my own actions.

Accountability is a tough topic for many, at least sometimes, and beginning with yours truly. Yet, I have discovered that accepting responsibility for our choices, the consequences and our lives is one very crucial indication of spiritual maturity.
Over the years I’ve seen people who have experienced deep, heartbreaking trials and situations. Some overcome them and many have not. I do have to add that sometimes people have come through situations where they had pain inflicted upon them, no fault of their own. In circumstances like these, it’s remarkable to see how many of these people turn to the Lord and allow Him to transform their lives into something beautiful, truly exchanging beauty for ashes.

However, there are other situations where people make choices, but find every way possible to blame someone else, even God for the consequences of their bad choices. They blame parents, spouses, their children, and God for things that they very well may have been instrumental in bringing into motion.
I am reminded of Gideon questioning God about the problems he and his nation faced. In Judges 6:13, Gideon says, “Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” However, what Gideon didn’t acknowledge was that the people had brought trials upon themselves when they decided to disobey and disregard God.

We have to be so careful to examine ourselves, especially when problems come. We need to really look to ourselves first so that if we have sinned in some way, we can repent and move forward. Many times, we get stuck in the problem, and unfortunately, some may even rebel or backslide because they’re so deep into how others have caused the problem, never seeing or acknowledging their part.
It’s really interesting raising young children because sometimes they don’t want to accept responsibility for their actions. My husband and I often find ourselves sitting them down, explaining to them the importance of being accountable for their part in the situation. We know that having a foundation rooted in being accountable to God first is one that will carry them a long way.

Romans 14:12 says, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” I am reminded that I alone will have to give account for the words I speak, the life I live, the woman, wife, and mother I am. It’s a heavy charge, but we must take responsibility when we are wrong, and we have to remember that we are accountable to God. When we’ve sinned, we should repent and press forward, knowing that we are then forgiven. The consequences may be there to deal with, but what freedom there is when we are able to face our mistakes. It really is so important so that we don’t make the same mistakes again. People who erroneously blame other people for all the wrongs in their life tend to repeat the same mistakes again and again.
On a final note, I feel compelled to address anyone who may have not been responsible for the consequences he or she is dealing with. No matter what has happened to you, trust the Lord to remove the pain, heartache, guilt, and anger. Lay it at Jesus’ feet. He knows and He cares. He doesn’t want you to spend the rest of your life in the shadow of the pain, hurt and anger. Take what’s happened and use what you’ve learned from the experience to glorify God and help somebody else.

So, do you find yourself blaming other people a lot of the time? Can you start looking to yourself first? Drop me a line. . .

Friday, May 1, 2009

How Did You Just Say That?

Lately, things have been so busy, and quite frankly, I've wondered if there's something wrong with my brain since I can't seem to remember to even write things down(lol)! I'm accustomed to committing most things to memory and lately that memory has failed me too many times. Can someone tell me how you forget to put dates in your BlackBerry, forget to check phone messages, or how in the world does someone read the calendar wrong? Well, I'm guilty as charged.

Unfortunately, instead of rising to the scheduling challenges appropriately, I have had times of irritability, frustration, and exhaustion. Heard of that show Snapped? Yesterday my sons were goofing off in the grocery store, and well, never mind. . .

I have realized that compartmentalizing can be so wrong when it comes to spirituality. What do I mean? Let me ask forgiveness for those who may be clueless as to what I'm talking about, but I have an inkling that there may be a few of you who can identify.

I have discovered that while going to church, Bible study, and Sunday school and even doing daily devotions and prayer, I can still sometimes not integrate the spiritual application to my life--especially when the pressure is intense. So, I may say something a little sharp, rationalizing that, "Hey, I'm under a lot of stress!" Bottom line, it's not always what we say, but often, how we say it.

I came across these verses in James 3:13-16. "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness and wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." What struck me here is that our conversation should be good and be a result of our meekness and wisdom that has come from relationship with God.

James 3:17-18 explains, "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."

We can have good intentions, but the pressures of life can get our priorities out of order. We may not even say anything wrong, but the problem may be HOW we say it. We have to submit ourselves fully to the Lord because we know that He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Part of the problem with blowing off steam in a negative way, I've come to realize, is because we get an inflated sense of self and pride. What we want and feel we need becomes more important than anything else. We feel frustrated and overwhelmed and simply let go.

Staying humble and surrendering all things to the Lord will give our lives the balance that we need to handle the stress and chaos of everyday life. Consciously integrating and applying the Word into all areas of our lives, especially stressful areas can really expose if we have wisdom that comes from God. The evidence is clear. We sow peace, righteousness, and as the scripture says, we're "easy to be entreated."

So, maybe it's not what you said, but HOW did you say that? Was it with gentleness and did it provoke a peaceful reaction? Drop me a line. . .

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Are You on the Road to Nowhere?

Late last night while unpacking, I was listening to a show on TBN, and the narrator repeated the line, "the road to nowhere." We've all heard the line, but it was interesting to think about it as the narrator explained, in a spiritual context. I think he said that he quoted someone as saying, "The road to nowhere is a tough road to build."

I couldn't help assessing my own life and the things that I value. How many of those things that I'm spending my time "building" are actually fruitful? How much of what I spend my time doing and thinking about is really on a road to nowhere?

Instantly, I thought of how much time I spend wanting things. Even as I watched the show, I complained to my husband that we needed new bedroom furniture without even thinking about it until now. I'd like to think I'm out of the ordinary, but it seems to be all around. Most people have an insatiable desire for something other than what's really lasting and eternal--guess it's the flesh and human part of us that must be continually put under submission.

So, maybe for you it's not stuff, maybe it's food (another one of my struggles--lol). Maybe it's power, position, or fame. Maybe you have an unquenchable thirst for others' approval. Whatever we crave and yearn for, however, must be examined and the filter we need to use should be the Word of God.

There are just so many scriptures that speak to this but in Matthew 6:19, Jesus says, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also." Down several verses, Jesus continues and says that "Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24). (Mammon here simply means money.)

Now, I'm sooo NOT saying that we should be poor, with no position or power, but I am saying that we need to keep our priorities in check. Whether it's getting money, position, power, prestige, material things, food, drugs, or whatever, even excessively obsessing over your health or looks, it all is fruitless and can lead to a road to nowhere if we're not connected to the true vine of Jesus Christ.

People who are truly connected to the vine of Jesus Christ are so easy to spot. They are secure and happy people. They don't struggle and strive against people because they recognize that the battle we are in is a spiritual one, so they fight spiritual warfare. They rest comfortably in who God made them and what the Lord has blessed them with--they are the best people in the world to be in fellowship with.

I am checking myself, constantly making sure that I'm on a road to fruitfulness and abundance in Christ. One of the worst things any of us can do is to deceive ourselves into thinking we're on a good path only to find we're on a self-righteous journey that lead us to an eternal abyss.

So what road are you on? Drop me a quick line. . .

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Are You Like a Box of Chocolates?

"Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get." Remember that great line from Forrest Gump? Sure, it's corny, but it's true. We really don't know the twists and turns ahead, but we can still savor the sweetness out of even the most adverse situations when we are connected to Him, the true vine.

So, life can be like a box of chocolates, but are we supposed to be like a box of chocolates, always keeping people guessing about our next response? I have nothing against anybody having a little mystery, but I'm talking about MOODINESS! It's this green-eyed monster that sneaks up on me at times and launches nasty attacks (gggrrrrrr!) Ha! Wouldn't this be easier to address if we could say that we just had no control over our moods?

Well, unless there is a medical issue there, moodiness is something that can be controlled when we are under Christ's control. (Christ can regulate ALL issues (medical, etc) but I'm not including that here.) Okay, so what am I speaking of exactly? I'm talking about the moodiness that causes us to say things like, "I woke up on the wrong side of the bed." "I'm not in a good mood." Or, maybe you don't say anything. Maybe you just have a crazy or mean look that tells others not to cross you. Whatever it may be for you, people who have trouble with moodiness know exactly who they are.

This topic certainly wouldn't come up if I hadn't experienced people being moody with me. Okay, okay. . .(deep breath) I can admit it--I can be a moody person at times. We can all come up with excuses for the moodiness. When life isn't meeting our expectations. . . when we don't feel well. . .somebody has treated us unfairly . . .we are tired. . . we received bad news, . . .hormones. . . and I could go on and on and on. The thing is, we can try to come up with excuses for it, but when we are anchored in Christ, there is NO excuse!

Part of abiding in the vine is having faith and being obedient to God's Word. We are not to be tossed to and fro by life's ups and downs. None of us can be effective witnesses for Christ when we're moody. It's so easy to be elated when life is great and to sink to debilitating lows when we're suffering or tragedy strikes.

So, how should Christians respond to life's ups and downs? Through our connection to the vine, Jesus Christ, we can transcend life's circumstances with joy. Jesus says, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11). When things are up, we won't be caught in a deceptive and temporary high. Conversely, we won't sink down to depressing lows if remain connected to the vine. Our lives should be intertwined with His so closely that He can carry us through the storm and stabilize us through both the good times and the bad.

This is getting a little longer than I had wanted but only because it's an issue I struggle with at times. Still, I want to add that surrounding yourself with others who don't feed into the moods can be helpful. Watch your friends and acquaintances and remember that iron sharpens iron.

Let's go to the next level and experience the real and constant joy of abiding in Him. Let's also make sure that people know what to expect from us. They can expect the Lord's loving kindness, tender mercy, and His joy--no matter what the circumstances are.

Have a blessed day!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Have You Died Today?

Thank you for the responses from last week's blog. It's so encouraging to hear from you. It sounds like so many of you are truly abiding in the Vine.

There's nothing like a little dose of illness in our physical bodies to remind us of how fragile we really are. Call me a baby, but almost every single time I get the flu, I wonder inside, "Am I going to make it, Lord?" Well, this past week, I, along with my three children, were stricken with a good old-fashioned case of the flu. The vile bug caused havok on all of us, and my prayers seemed to hit the ceiling, at least for several days anyway. As the fog clears, I am so very thankful for my health and for the health of my children--and yes, the not so gentle reminder that I should be ever so grateful for it each day.

I'm digressing a bit, but I think of all the people in the world suffering in their physical bodies, who can only pray that they'd only have something like the flu to tussle with--they're afflictions sometimes painfully cruel and often terminal. I pray that the Lord will supernaturally touch all those who desperately need the Lord's healing and deliverance.

Anyway, the fragility of our bodies should be a constant reminder to us that we will all physically experience death (unless the Lord returns). In a way, this physical death parallels our spiritual lives. Our flesh must die if we are to glorify the Lord and access eternal life.

In John 12:24, Jesus explains the necessity of his impending death. He says, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." So, unless a grain of wheat is buried, it cannot produce grain. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and to exemplify His power over death. Isn't it incredible that through His death, we all have access to eternal life--just like that one seed produces many grains.

Similarly, when we let go of our selfish desires and self-centered ways (our flesh) and glorify God, we are released from the bondage of sin and death--they have no hold on us. We are free to worship, glorify, and serve the Lord with all of our beings, which is by the way, the reason we are here. Moreover, when we die to self and serve the Lord, we will draw others to Him, producing "much fruit."

We live fruitless lives when we live for ourselves only. All around we can see others consumed with attaining power, finding security, seeking pleasure, and making material wealth. Just like that corn of wheat that falls on the ground, abides alone
and dies, we will have a barren and desolate life without complete and utter reliance on the vine.

So, as awful as sickness is, it can be a reminder to us that we are not in control of our own lives. It doesn't matter how we can sometimes deceive ourselves into thinking that we "call the shots." Whether we're as strong as an ox or faced with the heavy weight of suffering a physical illness, our trust and reliance must be in Him.

So, how about out you? Have you died to self lately? Drop me a line. . .

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"How Self-controlled Are You?" Temperance, a Fruit of the Spirit

Remember when "The Jerry Springer Show" was the talk of the town? Most of us probably hadn't seen much like it. Now, however, whether flipping through channels on television, surfing on the Internet, or taking a shopping trip tn the mall, it's commonplace to hear or see an embarrassing lack of self-control in people sometimes. So many people, say, write, or do what they feel with no regard for the consequences. I can't even count the number of times I've heard, "That's just the way I am." I might as well admit it, I have been guilty of saying this very thing and more than once!

However, our lives should reflect the image of Christ, so how we really should be must be aligned with Him and His Word. Temperance or self-control is the last fruit of the Spirit, one that is not really valued much in society today, but of great value in the kingdom of God.

I often think of Moses and what a great man of God he was. Still, he had a problem with self-control. After 37 years in the wilderness, the Israelites had experienced God's goodness and provision over and over again. Still, they complained and rebelled against their leader, Moses. Without water and food, the Israelites complained that God had surely left them to die. (See Numbers 20)

When Moses and Aaron went to seek God at the door of the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord spoke to Moses, telling him to take his rod before the people and simply to speak to the rock so that water would come forth. We know the story, Moses struck the rock out of anger not only once, but twice. The interesting thing about this is that Moses probably felt justified in his anger. The people's lack of belief apparently frustrated him immeasurably. Still, he was severly punished by God for his disobedience to God's explicit instructions. He was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land for a moment of anger and lack of self-control.

It can be disconcerting for us to think about the consequences for not exercising self-control, but it is a reality. As Christians, we are models for others, and when we give in to our emotions and react in a way that's displeasing to God, even for a moment, we can reap devastating results.

Reading the Word and praying daily is imperative to keep the flesh under submission. I can tell you that my nature is to be highly sensitive and highly emotional, which has it's positive points, but also has tons of negatives. To keep myself centered and grounded, I have to be in relationship with the Lord at all times. I can admit that I don't always succeed, but even in this, I repent and do better, always pressing towards the mark.

We're in a very serious spiritual battle, and Satan wants to deceive us into thinking that there are no consequences for disobedience and the lack of self-control. However, we can't go through life saying and doing whatever we feel. We are called to a higher place. Our direction must come from the living God, and the words we speak and actions we take should be out of obedience to Him and His Word.

Like all of the fruits of the Spirit, temperance is accessible to us as a gift of God's Holy Spirit. We can work to try to control ourselves, but only a supernatural indwelling can equip us with the ability to attain this mighty gift of God.

So, how about you? How's your self-control lately? Drop me a line. . .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are You "Blinging" on the Inside? Meekness, a Fruit of the Spirit

I have to admit it, I love bling. Rhinestones and chunky jewelry make me smile. I have a pretty pink leather suit laden with sequins, and my quest for the perfect shoes brings me sheer joy. I'm what some people call, a "girly girl," in spite of my rather mature age (smile). Yet, there is much more to me than the outward shell.

In Peter's instructions to wives in I Peter 3, he tells us, "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."

There are many interpretations of what I Peter 3:3-4 means, but one thing is crystal clear. Inner beauty is of much greater value than anything we can do to adorn ourselves on the outside. A meek and quiet spirit is worth a "great price." What I want to emphasize is that the scripture says a "meek and quiet spirit." I believe that meekness is nearly synonymous with humility, modesty, and gentleness. Sometimes coming across women with traits like these are quite frankly, like finding a needle in a haystack.

Hope this doesn't offend anyone, but I've been acquainted with a few dry-faced, quiet women in the church who carry a spirit of heaviness that can cover all they come in contact with like a wet blanket. They are just downright mean. With just a look, they can make you tremble (ha!). Okay, you get the picture. . .

The thing is, the transformation has to be from within first. When your spirit is in alignment with the Lord's, you will dress the outside appropriately. Whether you believe that makeup is out for you or not is so NOT the issue. Do whatever the Lord instructs you to do. You won't need to feel your worth based on how much your clothes cost or what designer you wear. You won't need to get plastic surgery to make yourself feel worthy. On the flip side, you won't feel superior to others because you "look holy." When you are meek and humble in spirit, I believe you attempt to see the heart, the goodness, and the value in others.

You can like nice things, but you're never a slave to them. Whether it's clothes, your physique, car, or home, there is balance. You have a life that's in submission to God, and because of that, you don't weigh superficial things above the things that matter most.

We're bombarded with images, especially from the media, that are point blank diametrically opposed to women having meek spirits. Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit that is almost equivalent in the world to being a doormat. However, we know that true meekness isn't being a doormat. When a woman is meek, there's true humility and a graciousness that only comes from being saved. As in all the fruits of the Spirit, this too is possible with relationship with the true and living God, reading the Word, and prayer.

So, ladies, let's make sure that while we're trying to find shoes to go with that suit, that we are "blinging" on the inside and radiating the love of Christ to all that we touch with the femininity, gentleness, and quiet strength that the Lord has given to each of us.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How To Build Your Faith (Faith, a Fruit of the Spirit)

I've meditated on this fruit of the Spirit for a long time. After all, who doesn't know that faith in God is complete and total trust in Him? I would venture to say that we know what it is. However, if you're like me, you may struggle with exercising your faith at times.

On Tuesday when the doctor diagnosed all three of my sons with ear infections, my knee-jerk reaction was to become stressed and worried, which of course is an antithesis to having faith in God. We are bombarded nearly everyday with situations where we can either exercise our faith or react in the flesh. So, the question is, how can we make our instant response to a potentially stressful situation, one of faith?

Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." So, we can't see the outcome in the natural, but we must BELIEVE and ACT as if we do. (If you haven't read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews lately, I would encourage you to reacquaint yourself as I have--just a goldmine of faith-filled passages.)

Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." From this verse, it is apparent that the first step in the faith building process is an obvious one: you have to believe that He is. The other part is that you have diligently seek Him. Seek Him daily by reading the Word and praying.

Another key element to building faith is found in Romans 10:17. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Many want to squabble about the importance of attending and being a member of a good local church, but it's in the Word. The second part of Romans 10:14-15 reads, "and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" As painful as it may be to some, building your faith is something that requires obedience in the Word and attending church to hear good, sound doctrine from a preacher. It is crucial.

So, those of you who can get a prayer through, pray that the Lord leads my family to the right church home. We have made a big move recently, and it's been pretty challenging visiting different churches. Nevertheless, my family is encouraged and determined to find the place where the Lord wants us to be.

What about you? Are you searching for a church home? Are you faithful to the one you belong to? Regardless of what the "world" says, it does take ALL THAT to help build our faith so that we can move the mountains in our lives!

Let me hear from you. . .

Friday, February 27, 2009

Are You Good Enough? Goodness, a Fruit of the Spirit

I can't count the number of times I say "Be good" in the course of just one day. With three young boys, there's always some situation prompting me to use those words. In fact, probably most of us can't even remember when we were first introduced to the concept of good and bad. Even though my youngest son is only nine months old, I give my husband the report on whether he's been a good baby or not. It's already started. . .

The older we get, the more we may become entrenched in being good in a different and more complex way. We want to know that we made a good score on a test, performed well in a sport or activity, got a good perfomance appraisal, and even if we did the right thing morally. These often performance-based measures are judged by scores, praise, and pats on the back.

While most of the time there may be nothing wrong with wanting to be good by other people's standards, there is a much different kind of goodness that emanates from relationship with the true and living God. He alone is our yardstick to measure if we are truly good. Likewise, reading and aligning ourselves up the Word is another way that we can measure our sincere goodness. Finally, letting the Holy Spirit be our guide will always lead us in a path destined for what's right, good, and true.

The world's watered down version of goodness is mostly superficial and temporal while God's goodness is abundant, everlasting, and satisfying. Bearing the fruit of goodness always means that you are connected to the true vine of Jesus Christ--you are faithful to God and full of kindness and generosity.

So, are you good enough? Ephesians 5:9 says, "For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord." So, goodness goes beyond the kind acts and words we may say to one another. Simply put, true goodness radiates God's unconditional love, grace and mercy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

There's Room at the Table for You (Gentleness, a Fruit of the Spirit)

Gentleness almost seems like a bad word in times like these. Gentleness is almost synonymous with weakness. Not to beat up the media, but we are constantly bombarded with images and situations that call for us to think of ourselves first. Talk shows are especially bad about telling us that if we don't look out for ourselves, no one else will. We can't love anyone unless we love ourselves, and the beat goes on. . .

Putting on this tough exterior certainly has its perks. When we are determined to get ours, what's "due" to us, we often do come out ahead--at least in a worldly sort of way that is. With the publication of my first novel out, it's truly been a journey rubbing shoulders with other authors. Many are great, but some are unbelievable. Book signings are sometimes not the joyous occasions I had imagined. It's especially grueling when someone doesn't want to share the table or jockeys like they're life depends on it to sell their book to potential book buyers. What's been even more alarming is the fierce competition that is rampant with Christian authors.

Sure, I understand some of the business aspects of book selling. Let's face it, if you don't sell the book, your prospects for having another one published can be grim. Also, there's such a financial investment at stake. Yet, I am deeply disturbed when there is no difference between how the world behaves and Christians behave.

When we are confident that the Lord has given us a gift and we are truly operating in our calling, responding with gentleness and kindness isn't a struggle. We're not phony or competitive; we rest in knowing that there is room for all of us at the table--no matter what we're doing. Gentleness (or kindness) is a fruit of the Spirit that calls us to subdue our flesh. Our personal wants can't be momentarily suspended so that we can consider one another. Gentleness causes us to humbly submit instead of rise up in pride.

I have also found that gentleness is a powerful witnessing tool, especially when a situations could be one where anger and harshness would seem to be just. When I was very young, I remember sneaking into my dad's coin jar and stealing change. Caught red-handed with coins in hand, I cried as he asked me why I wanted the money. As I told him, he listened and kindly gave me the money, explaining that all I had to do was ask. This is imprinted in my memory because I deserved punishment, yet my dad had mercy on me and showered me with gentleness. It was illogical in my young mind, but I did think "Wow, my dad must really love me."

The Lord is merciful and gracious to us just like that. He sent his son, an innocent and perfect sacrifice, to die for us and pardon our sons. Remembering this can make it easier for us as we strive to be more like Him every day.

Finally, Proverbs 15:1 says, "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." When we want to strike out, let's all try a dose of kindness and gentleness.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Longsuffering (Patience), a Fruit of the Spirit

Ahhh, if we could only just fast forward through the uncomfortable times in life. Really, how wonderful would it be if we would never have to wait for blessings like healing, strengthened finances, renewed relationships, new opportunities, etc.? What would our character be like if everything came to us in an instant? It's actually a little scary to me because when you see those children whose parents indulge their every whim, the children inflict emotional pain on all who are near. I mean, being around these type of children requires a serious degree of patience.

On the flip side though, does the Bible really say "longsuffering" is a fruit of the Spirit? Evidence of abiding in the vine is that we bear the fruit of longsuffering. Galatians 5:522 clearly states that it is a fruit of the Spirit. Longsuffering implies that there is a lengthy period of discomfort, pain, suffering, and/or waiting. So then, patience, another word for longsuffering, is a fruit of the Spirit that requires us to endure whatever the obstacle is and to wait until our change comes.

In the physical world, we know that in order for a vine or tree to produce fruit, it takes nurturing, pruning, and patience. In just the right season, if cared for properly, the vine will produce sweet grapes. Similarly, we must go through the trial (the pruning process) and wait for our season to come to maturity, just like grapes on a vine.

James 1:3-4 says, "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." The Lord longs for us to be complete in Him, and this doesn't mean that we won't be touched by problems.

We all have problems and obstacles, but I wonder what would happen if many of us, especially myself, changed our perspective? Instead of complaining about the problem, what if I just recognized the situation as a challenge and an opportunity to mature in Him? Easier said than done, huh?

I've decided to practice daily on the little things that ruffle my feathers. Maybe when my son forgets his homework at school, instead of giving him a piece if my mind, I'll give him my PEACE of mind (lol). When the baby cried every single time I open up my laptop to start working on my story, I'll chuckle. Anyway, through these daily exercises in patience, I'm hoping to build myself up until I'm strong enough to weather those huge trials and situations that do require the patience of Job.

Often, in the midst of waiting and enduring, I had thought God had forgotten about me. Now, as I'm maturing and growing in Him, I've realized that He was right there, maturing me, getting me to the place where I could truly be a vessel for Him.

While we wait, we are busy though. We're still actively seeking His face, meditating on His Word, and glorifying His name. When we remain so busy with these things, waiting patiently is peaceful. We know that He will get us over to the other side.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Peace, a Fruit of the Spirit

Out of all the treasures in life, one I find most desirable is peace. Because I have the inclination to worry about everything, peace is one of those things I find myself striving for on a daily basis.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that if you worry, you're not operating in or exercising faith. Still, like a bad habit, worry grabs a hold of me at times and I'm off and running. Other times, it creeps in subtly when I'm unaware, trying to rob me of my peace and happiness.

Over the years, I've come to realize that peace is obtainable--even for a person that's prone to worry.

I Peter 3:11 says, "Let him eschew evil, and do good days, let him seek peace, and ensue it."

Peace is something that we have to actively pursue; we can't be passive and expect peace. How do we do that though? Well, we have to do the things that believers do. We have to read the Word, surround ourselves with fellow believers, pray without ceasing, fast with purpose, and dedicate ourselves wholly to the Lord.

Our focus must be on Him, not the problem. When I focus on Him only, there is no room for the problem. He is big enough to handle whatever it is. Worry evaporates because I know that God will take care of me.

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus teaches about worry. These powerful verses always help me when I feel myself getting worried or anxious. Jesus knows what we need, but the key is "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you"
(Matthew 6:33).

Seeking Him first is the priority. I think a lot of times we try to do everything we can do to fix the situation instead of seeking Him first. We should come to Him first and not as a last resort.

This topic touches me in a very personal way because in spite of the times I have given in to worry, when I come to my senses, trust God and pursue peace, He always provides it. He's never failed me, and He is my peace.

There's a Milton Brunson song that I love called, "I Tried Him and I Know Him." I am a testimony because I have tried Him with my problems and worries. I've gotten to know Him, and He's never failed me--and He won't fail you! Trust Him with whatever might be worrying you today. He is your peace!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Joy, a Fruit of the Spirit

Yesterday my husband and I passed by many abandoned businesses, doors shut down probably as a result of the slowing and near collapse of the economy. It caused me to really think about those who have experienced the crushing blow of losing a job and/or business.

Is it really possible to have joy when we are faced with daunting challenges? After all, you don't have to look far to see the cold reality of war, financial hardships, violence, sickness and death. It's as close as the news, your neighbors, and maybe even a quick glance in the mirror. So, are we really expected to count it all joy in the midst of all the pain, loss, and heartache?

John 15:11 says, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

This verse is powerful because we cannot experience true joy aside from abiding in the true vine, Jesus Christ. His joy should reside in us so that our joy can be fulfilled, and joy is a destination only obtainable through God's loving grace and mercy. It's not a feeling or state of being that's based on our circumstances or predicted outcome. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, accessible to those who have received and embraced the gift of faith.

As believers, our union with Christ causes us to bear fruit that is at many times diametrically opposed to how our flesh would respond to a situation. We may feel pain and sorrow, but we have an inexplicable joy because we trust that God is sovereign and in control. We may not understand it all, but we are connected to the One who does.

When we are bearing the fruit of joy, we can see the good in the most adverse circumstances. We can peel back the layers of pain and heartache and recognize God's divine work at hand. We know the problems and pain exist and are real, BUT we are anchored in the rock. No matter what it looks like, He holds us and orchestrates our lives. Nothing is by accident, and for these reasons and others, we can produce joy, an awesome by-product of abiding in the true vine.

Yes, we can--experience joy in the midst of whatever trial comes our way. We won't sink too low when we're down, and on the flip side, we won't get too high and mighty when we're up. We see through different lenses when we are in relationship with him. We are in consistent relationship with the One who clarifies our purpose and gives us joy that cannot be paralleled with any other short term satisfaction the world may offer.

When we love Him, we love one another, and when we love one another, He gives us joy. What could be easier or better than that?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Love, a Fruit of the Spirit

Well, I am pretty inept at technology and have tried numerous times to get in to do another entry, but for whatever reason, I couldn't get to this form (LOL). So, hopefully, this will post. . .

We all know that we should love everybody, and for most of us, we are full of love for family, friends, neighbors, pets and yep, some of us even love our neighbors and just any and everybody. As Christians, we often claim to engage in the love fest, loving all of mankind, but do we really?

Love is a fruit of the spirit, an evidence of a true relationship with Christ and abiding in Him. Without love, I Corinthians 13:1 says, we "become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." We can speak words of love, yet not love. We can even perform what seem to be loving acts and not truly love. So then, what is it that really lets us know that have love as a fruit of the Spirit?

Most Christians can recite those verses in I Corinthians 13. They're on cards, t-shirts, mugs and plaques. Love is patient, kind, and doesn't boast. It isn't proud, rude, or resentful. It certainly, as the Word explains, isn't easily provoked. The true characteristics of love, according to scripture, are many. Love isn't difficult to identify because it rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes, hopes, and endures all things, and never fails. Love is the engine behind us, making our gifts, service, and actions useful for the Master.

After a long and tiring day, I was spent. The baby had been crying all day with teething pains. After housework, cooking, and homework, I was exhausted. My middle son, who's eight, came in the room for the fourth time after he'd been told to go to bed. I had just shut the bedroom door, ready for a break.

"Mom," he said carefully.

"What now?"

"Can you come tuck me in?"

"I thought Dad just read you a devotion."

"He did--sorry, Mom." With slumped shoulders, he walked away defeated.

All I could think of was that he was trying to find reasons not to go to sleep, which was probably the case. However, I went in his bedroom, briskly tucking him in the bed. With little patience and much irritation, I kissed him on the forehead and said goodnight.

After I got ready for bed myself, I felt guilty but at first I didn't even know why. I had done everything I was supposed to do, right? As I meditated on I Corinthians 13, I realized that while I had done the right actions, they weren't done with love, which made them fruitless. My son hadn't truly received what he wanted, which was my comfort and love. Because I hadn't tucked him in lovingly, with patience and kindness, I had lost that moment to demonstrate the love of Christ. This has made me wonder what other opportunities I may have lost getting caught up in myself and the moment, instead of the bigger picture.

Christ wants us to love one another because this, among other things, is what demonstrates His love towards each of us. We must continually examine ourselves, and when we fall short, we must repent, pray, read the Word, and do better. When we love, it's evident in the words we say and the actions we perform, but only if our motives are selfless and pure, directed by God's love.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Abiding in the Vine, Writing to Bear Fruit John 15:2

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. John 1:25

These verses are ones that I've meditated on over the past few years. I love the depth of them, and it really hasn't mattered how many times I've read them. They truly mean something a little more or different to me every single time.

It's interesting because there are two types of pruning or purging here. I grew up in a rural area and I understand that these scriptures illustrate two types of pruning or purging. The first type of pruning is when the branch is cut off and taken away from the vine because of lack of bearing fruit. We remember that Jesus cursed the fig tree because it was not bearing fruit. We will experience separation from Christ when we are not bearing fruit. One writer explains that when we are not bearing fruit we will be "cut off from the divine flow of life."

So, this naturally leads to the question, what does bearing fruit mean? It means that we are drawing others to Christ, but it also has further implications in scripture. Fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23 as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. Each time I go over this list in the Word, I pause and reflect. As much as I might strive to obtain and demonstrate these characteristics, I know that it is only through the Holy Spirit that I can produce these traits, the awesome character traits of Jesus Christ.

The by-products of being under Christ's control are no mystery, yet at times, it can seem easier to fufill our religious duties (attending church, paying tithes, giving to the poor, etc.) than to . We can be connected to the vine and bearing spiritual fruit detach ourselves and perform duties that are not life-giving. However, when we love Him, know Him, seek to please Him, and daily surrender ourselves to Him, the result has to be bearing fruit for Him. We will never fall short in bearing fruit for Him when we are grounded in Him, His love and His truth in the Word.

I want to go further, but the baby is crying. I'll continue on these verses next time. . .

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Abiding in the Vine, Writing to Bear Fruit

I'm a little shaky about the whole blog thing, but here goes. . .

The scripture basis for my Christian fiction novel, The Taste of Good Fruit (Walk Worthy Press/Harrison House), is from John 15, so I think there's no better way to start my blog than from there.

John 15:1 says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman."

A grapevine is a plant that bears many grapes from just one vine. The vine is rooted into the soil and needs nourishment to bring forth grapes. According to this verse, Jesus is the vine, and God is the gardener.

I've always wondered why Jesus says that He is the "true vine." Does this mean that there are other vines we can be connected to? I think so. We can get entangled in things that do not give us life and can even bring forth a slow and debilitating spiritual death.

Many times we don't have a difficult time identifying the "big" things that can destroy us spiritually and even physically. We know that things like stealing, lying, killing, cheating, doing drugs, etc., are wrong, but what about the more subtle evils we become connected to?

I think even those of us who are blessed to have been brought up in the church can be easily deceived because even religion, especially religion, can keep us from being connected to the true vine. It doesn't matter how many church services we attend, and it doesn't matter what position of power we hold in the church or outside of it. We must be real, and we must be pure in heart. He must come first. Remember that everyone that cries "Lord, Lord" will NOT enter into the kingdom of heaven.

It doesn't even matter how much money you have or how many friends love you. We all have to check ourselves.

I have found that an area of weakness for me has been in religion. I love church, and I love to work in the church. Many times I get so wrapped up in the activities in the church that I have to check my motives. I don't get brownie points for doing what I am supposed to do for the Lord--it's my reasonable service. I shouldn't do anything in the church for any other reason than to glorify God and serve Him. The Pharisees and Sadduccees were great at religion, but they weren't abiding in the true vine.

So, are you abiding in the vine? Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? When we are fruitful branches, we are spiritually productive. If we wonder if we really are connected to the true vine, there is a system of checks and balances in the Word of God; the evidence of our connection to the true vine is the fruit we bear.