John 15:1-8 (NLT)
15 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
Recently, we hired a local tree company to prune and cut several trees in our yard that were dead or destroying our dwelling. Along with another homeschool family we watched in amazement as these professionals wielded their chainsaws, bucket lifts,
ropes to cut down 5 towering trees with expert precision.
At the end of the day the sun shone more brightly through the newly opened skyline and the breeze blew more effortlessly through our little plot of city sized land. The sweat also flowed more freely as my big, strong man and our kids chopped firewood to be stored for winter (just so ya know: I did split and stack a few logs!!!).
Prior to John Chapter 15, Jesus had promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to His disciples after shocking them with the news that one of them would betray and another would deny Him. Using imagery, He explained the reasons why trees must be cut and pruned. Jesus declared that those who received His message of salvation would be pruned and purified for eternity. Then He gave a key to the Kingdom of heaven that if used, would be unlocked on earth: remain rootedin Him (receiving love and returning love through obedience) and remain refreshed by His Spirit (life giving power to make disciples). This, He prophesied, would bring the Father great glory!
True disciples have the same promise today.
- believe and confess Jesus as Savior,
- receive the gift of His Spirit,
- remain in relationship with Him, (bible, prayer, obedience…)
- remain refreshed by His Spirit, (confess, repent, forgive…)
- will produce good fruit, (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control)
- others will see good fruit,
- others will taste the goodness of the Lord!
then He (our Father, the gardener) will:
- cut what betrays Him as Savior, (lust of the eyes, flesh & pride of life) and throw it into the fire.
- prune what denies Him as Lord, (time, talent & treasure) so that more fruit will grow from the branches that have been refined through suffering.
Luke 15:1-7 New Living Translation (NLT)
15 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever read a passage of Scripture over and over again and think, in your arrogance, “yeah, I get it?” Until someone says “many people get confused by it [this parable], but….?” And you are instantly offended?
Just me? Ok.
When I re-read the above passage, the Holy Spirit breathed life onto the page and BOOM, revelation invaded my soul. Humbly, I cried out, “Oh….God…I’m so sorry for leaning on my own understanding….thank you for revealing your truth to me.”
I had always assumed the 99 were already saved, and God abandoned them. I was continually irritated when this message was preached in seeker friendly services (what does that mean, anyway? “Seeker friendly”?!). Pastors would declare, “it’s not about YOU, it’s about the one.” Excuse me? What does THAT mean? Am I not loved by God? Am I to be abandoned in the wilderness when He goes after the one?
No. No. No!
The 99 represented the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. They had no relationship with the Shepherd, even though they belonged to Him. The 99 stayed in the wilderness, instead of following the Shepherd.
Here’s the deal: The Shepherd loves all His sheep. He died for all of them. But, He goes after the one. The one He chose before the foundations of the earth. He leaves the 99 who reject him. He pursues the one. He finds the one. And when the lost sheep humbles himself, the Shepherd picks him up, puts him on His shoulders, and carries him home.
I am the one.
I was part of the 99. I stayed in the wilderness for decades. I was raised in the church. I knew about God. I was involved in religious activity. But I did not know the Shepherd. I was lost. I was a notorious sinner.
Now I am found!
The Lord left the 99 to search for me 19 years ago. ME! He chose ME before the foundations of the earth. He pursued ME. He found ME. And when this stubborn sheep humbled myself before the Great Shepherd, He picked me up, put me on His shoulders and carried me home. There was joy in heaven for ME!
I am the one.
(Thank you, @realcoryasbury https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xx0d3R2LoU )
2 Corinthians 12: 1-10
This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. 3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know 4 that I was caught up[b] to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
5 That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. 6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So, to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I’ve had several thorns in my flesh for the past 18 years.
We have four marvelous children, all sinners, but nevertheless all marvelous. As their mother, I’ve endured numerous hardships while attempting to train them in the way that they should go. It began at conception. Literally. Conception. Every single one of our dear blessings from the Lord brought suffering from the second God began forming them in my womb. Nausea, vomiting, dry heaving, back aches, muscle spasms, excessive emotional outbursts…and that was just during pregnancy! I’ll spare you the gory details of childbirth. Thank God for epidurals, because the one I gave birth to “naturally” nearly killed me. I hope to never endure that kind of pain again. Ever.
A particularly painful thorn came in the midst of post-partum depression, a job change and moving to a new town with our three little girls.
Ours was a typical story of diagnosis. I knew something was different about our daughter, but I was ignored, talked down to, and treated like a child by several doctors. Finally, when she began stimming in the midst of a well child visit, our PA who was fresh outta med school recommended that she be evaluated. No. Really?! Several years, tears and tests later the label was given. I was relieved to finally have concrete evidence from the “experts” so that I could understand how she was made and how to help her be everything God destined her to be!
Another painful thorn came in the midst of a major transition for our family. My husband began traveling with his job, we changed churches, and I was home-managing, home-schooling and ministering through our non-profit, alone. Alone with Jesus, our 3 girls and our son. I’ll admit, I felt ill equipped to parent a boy when he was born. I grew up with an older sister. My dad was a boy- once, and so was my husband, but I had no relational experience with little boys. After the terrible toddler years, our little boy developed into a young man with a very strong will. Destined to be a leader, he struggled to submit to authority. Continually frustrated with his assertiveness, excessive talking, loud noises and non-stop activity, I frequently found myself frustrated, yelling, crying and occasionally stomping through the house in attempts to mold, shape, or pound him into submission.
It didn’t work.
In the middle of 4th grade we hit a wall. A brick wall reinforced with rebar. It was nearly impossible to complete chores or school without a meltdown from both of us. I cried out to the Lord. I cried out to friends and family for advice. Then I sought permission from my husband to begin testing him academically and behaviorally. I knew that something was different. It was hidden below the surface of his actions, but I needed to humble myself and ask for help.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and an Auditory Processing issue.
I was relieved to finally have concrete evidence from the “experts” so that I could understand how he was made and how to help him be everything God destined him to be!
Since the diagnosis late last year, we’ve implemented a few new things into his schedule, but I still have much to learn in order to teach our son. As I continue to seek knowledge for my head, my heart will continue to seek the Lord for wisdom. I’ll need more grace. Much more. And I’ll need discernment to know how to accept the way he’s made and not make excuses for his behavior when its rooted in rebellion.
I’m grateful for the thorns in my life, BIG and small. They’ve inflicted pain and infected me with hardship, but all of them, ALL- of – them have been for my good and for God’s glory. I’m thankful for our “normal” kids (whatever “normal” means!), and our daughter with Autism and our son with ADHD. I consider it pure joy that we’ve faced these trails together with the One who made them so wonderfully complex.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
Our daughter delivered the following speech to fellow homeschoolers at a Gavel Club meeting last week. We received such encouraging feedback that I asked her permission to post her words here:
“Autism isn’t something you should be afraid of because there are lots of people with it all over the world. Today, one out of every one hundred and fifty people are affected by autism. The only reason I know about this is because I have autism. Autism doesn’t make your life miserable, but it is a challenge to overcome. I have had autism all my life and today I am going to tell you a little about how autism works.
ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder. First of all, what is autism? “Autism is a life-long disability that prevents individual from properly understanding what they see, hear and sense.” What are the characteristics of autism? “Language is slow and the use of words is without attachment to the normal meaning. Those who are able to use language effectively may still use unusual metaphors or speak in a formal and monotone voice.”
Typically, people with autism are concrete thinkers. That means we take everything you say in a literal manner. For example, when my mom used to say “your killing me,” I thought I was actually killing her with what I was doing. In the movie about the life of Temple Grandin, when someone was talking to her about animal husbandry, she saw in her brain two cows getting married.
Another challenge is communication. People with autism hate to stand in front of a crowd, and for this occasion, giving a speech. None like making eye contact, especially for a long period of time, which for me is two seconds. No one knows why this is difficult for the autistic person, but it is. People with Autism also have a hard time making friendships. They aren’t outgoing or are social people. They usually stand off the side and might not say anything or do anything. For many of them, autistic people are very lonely and friendless in teen years and childhood. They enjoy spending time by themselves. I usually feel it easier to be by myself because it is easier to talk to myself and I don’t have to worry if nobody understands me. If you kept up with how often I would socialize, it is very rare, especially in a single day. After school I would spend hours outside enjoying myself.
One huge advantage to having autism is either hardly feeling any pain or feeling it tremendously. I hardly take pain seriously. When I get hurt I usually find a way to bring me happiness. For example, a year ago I was stung by a yellow jacked and sure it hurt a little, but the fun part of all this was that the jacket’s butt was still attached to my arm. People with autism also don’t have very much compassion upon others who would get hurt. Autistic people do take pain differently but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. We do care but sometimes we all need to just man up.
Another easy way to find out someone with autism is that they don’t like physical touch unless if they ask for it. None of them like cuddling and some don’t even like hugging. For a while, I remember not wanting to hug anybody other than family. One word I use to describe my space is “my bubble.” Lots of times I needed my bubble and sometimes I would be ok to get out of it.
Memory is a huge challenge for the majority of autistic people. About 60% to 70% of all autistic people have trouble with memory. Most of them can remember words, but not huge sentences that have three of more different ideas or commands. One example is when your mom tells you to wash and shred the lettuce, peel and cut the carrots, dice the tomatoes and set the plates out for lunch. We cannot think that much. For us autistic people, we can only have a couple of thoughts in our brain at once. If you tried to pack all those things in at once, we won’t remember all of it.
I remember my whole life being ashamed of having autism. Every time I looked in a mirror I was so ashamed of what God had done to me. I remember saying to myself “I am not a masterpiece.” One day, that all changed. I was outside talking to God and out of nowhere I feel like Paul by being stunned by a bright light. In the midst of the light I head a voice saying, “Malorie, I love you. I didn’t give you autism to make you feel ashamed or not to have friends. I made for you a purpose, on purpose. You are unique and special.” After that, I didn’t feel a bit of shame. I believe God wanted me to make this speech and I’m glad he revealed to me the joy of autism a year ago. I am happy and no longer sad when I hear the word autism. Autism isn’t something that makes a person weird or crazy. We are different, and different is good.”
25 At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. 26 Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!
While sitting at Holden Beach, NC with some ladies from a ONE Flesh Small Group this weekend, I savored the sound of the crashing waves, the coolness of the wind blowing on my face and the softness of the sand enveloping my feet.
Not content to just sit at the beach, however, I finally got up and followed one of my friends, who was strolling along the waters edge, searching for unique seashells that had made their way to the coastline.
On the final day of our stay, I followed another friend who wanted to go swimming, into the cool Atlantic water. Afraid to completely immerse myself in the ocean because of an emerging head cold, I chose to stay in the shallows so that I could keep my head and shoulders above the water. But, as I continued to watch my friend catch wave after wave and float all the way to the shoreline I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out on something….
There was no fear in her, no worry, no anxiousness of being overcome by the waves. She acted so childlike; overflowing with joy….peace….fullness of life.
As I was relaying these beach adventures to my husband last night, he wisely replied, “kind of symbolic of our relationship with God, huh?”
Some of us are so wise and clever:
-content to sit on the beach and just look at God.
-content to walk along the shoreline with His Son to get our feet wet from time to time…. when we want something.
-content to jump into the waves for a swim, but quickly high tail it back to the beach when a massive wave of His Spirit threatens to overcome us.
And some of us are so childlike in our pursuit of God:
-wanting to soak in Our Father’s love
-wanting to be consumed by the presence of His Spirit
-wanting to become more and more like His Son.
Fortunately, there’s hope for us who are wise and clever! God promises to reveal His truth to us….IF we turn from our sins, become like a little child, and obey Him.
2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
“All God’s revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience. You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. Immediately you obey, a flash of light comes. Let God’s truth work in you by soaking in it, not by worrying into it….God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already. Beware of becoming “wise and prudent.’” –Oswald Chambers