I savor the traditions and festivities surrounding Christmas, but in quiet early-morning moments, I meditate on the names of Jesus. “These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
In the original Hebrew language, the word translated “wonderful” meant something “out of the ordinary, beyond human explanation.” The Hebrew word for “Counselor” painted a picture of a king giving counsel to his people.
That’s our Jesus! He’s our out-of-the-ordinary, beyond human explanation king who counsels us in the way we should live and the path we should take because He truly cares about us.
No problem we face puzzles or stumps Jesus.
We might feel confused and clueless about a particular issue or relationship, but He knows the best solution and how to achieve the best outcome. He also knows not to rush toward quick fixes but to work according to a timetable that’s never too early or too late.
Our Wonderful Counselor is always accessible, even in the wee hours of the night when worries wake us.
I’ve met with professional counselors several times over the past few years. Doing so always required calling ahead to schedule an appointment. Not so with Jesus.
We can call His name with complete confidence that He’ll respond. He’s never too busy to give us His undivided attention. Call waiting and voice mail aren’t a thing for Him.
Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, has big shoulders.
We can tell Him anything knowing it’s never too big a burden for Him to bear. We can spill our hearts with no fear of Him shaking His head in disbelief. We might feel like a hot mess, but He never sees us as a hopeless cause.
Our Wonderful Counselor never had to take training to earn a counseling degree because He is wisdom personified. (James 1:5)
His listening skills are second to none, He always knows what to say, and He always speaks truth for our good even though we might not want to hear it.
Find a few quiet moments amidst the busyness of this season and ponder Jesus’ name, Wonderful Counselor. Then leave a comment to tell us which aspect of His role as counselor resonates most with you.
May I pray for you?
Wonderful Counselor, we praise You as the out-of-the-ordinary, beyond human explanation king who counsels us, Your children. We are grateful that You’re always ready and willing to listen to us, and You always know how to respond. Help us trust Your wisdom and follow Your counsel knowing You have our best interest in mind. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
You received this email because you subscribed at some time in the past–at one of my speaking events, online, or in a giveaway contest.
Life becomes less stressful when we surrender our desire for control, especially when we’re hoping to achieve a specific outcome. I’ve learned that lesson more than once, but the most memorable happened upon the release of my first book—10 Minute Time Outs for Moms. It was 2005, and I’d been scheduled for my first television interview on “100 Huntley Street.”
There’s a three-hour time difference between British Columbia and Ontario. When I woke up in Burlington that morning, the alarm clock said it was 5:30 AM, but my body said it was 2:30 AM. I rolled out of bed with a pounding heart and a knotted stomach. Between fatigue and the fear of failure, I fell into a pit of serious self-doubt.
You’ve gotta wow the host and woo the audience, so get it together, girl. I thought. Don’t bomb this opportunity or your publisher will lose faith in you, and any hopes of another book contract will go down the drain. You’ve got to get this right or else.
As if on cue, the lyrics to a popular worship song popped into my mind: “Jesus commands my destiny.”
The words helped me refocus. “Give up your desire for control,” they whispered. “Today’s outcome and your future don’t depend solely on you. Do your best, but ultimately Jesus commands your destiny.”
I’d heard this truth before, but never so pointed. In that aha moment, I realized my future as an author or Bible teacher didn’t depend on whether I aced the interview. My responsibility was to be faithful: engage with the host, answer the questions as best I could, and surrender my desire for control to the One ultimately in control.
The realization lifted a huge weight from my shoulders then, and it continues to encourage me eighteen years later. Trying to control my circumstances to achieve a desired outcome stems from pride and leads to stress. But giving up my desire for control and surrendering every detail of my life, both small and large, to the LORD frees me to rest in His care and purposes.
How about you? Are you carrying the weight of trying to control your circumstances to achieve a desired outcome? If so, how’s that working for you?
Daniel 5:23 says that God gives us the breath of life and controls our destiny. Understanding this truth and living from it changes everything. It sets us free from that innate desire to control our circumstances to achieve a desired end, it protects us from the stress that results when we try to control, and it gives us the freedom to rest in God’s care, wisdom, and sovereignty.
The God who created and loves us is trustworthy, faithful, loving, all-wise, all-powerful, holy, and sovereign. He is God over all gods. He has no equal. When we are in right relationship with Him, we needn’t be afraid or behave as though our future depends on our smarts and skills. We can cease striving and rest because He’s got a plan, and that plan is always good.
So…how can we release our desire for control and learn to rest in God’s control over our circumstances and future?
By daily expressing thanks to Him for caring about every detail concerning us. He sees the tiniest sparrow fall, and we matter more to Him than the birds of the air.
By daily surrendering ourselves to Him for His highest purpose. We might think we have our day and agenda set, but perhaps He has a different idea. Let’s let Him do what He wants knowing His purposes are always higher than ours.
By daily inviting Him to fill us. When His Spirit fills us, He aligns our hearts with God’s heart. He changes us on the inside, and this includes empowering us to yield our desire for control for His control instead.
We can mess things up and put ourselves under undo stress if we insist on clinging to our desire for control especially if we’re set on a specific outcome. Things never go well when we do that. So, let’s do life differently. Let’s do it God’s way and let Him take control to achieve His desired outcome for our lives.
I’m sitting at the table in my boat-home as I write this and realizing that I don’t have to look far to find reasons to be thankful. In a world where millions are experiencing hardship, I have food in my fridge and freezer. The electricity works. A diesel furnace and two space heaters provide warmth. Clean water runs from the tap. I push a button and presto—fresh coffee brews.
Having lived in a third-world country for several years without electricity and indoor plumbing, I have a deep appreciation for life’s basics. I rarely step into a hot shower without whispering, “Thank You.” That said, I know I fail to express my gratitude to God as often as I might.
I recently listened to a Rick Warren podcast during which he spoke about the importance of giving thanks. “God directs us to do so,” he said, quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Then he referred to Deuteronomy 28 and began reading the blessings God promises to those who obey Him.
“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. 2 You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God:
3 Your towns and your fields
will be blessed. 4 Your children and your crops
will be blessed.
The offspring of your herds and flocks
will be blessed. 5 Your fruit baskets and breadboards
will be blessed. 6 Wherever you go and whatever you do,
you will be blessed.
Pastor Rick continued reading, and I listened with interest because honestly, I’ve never really thought about the concept of God blessing us for giving thanks.
I often teach about the physical benefits of expressing gratitude, such as our body releasing serotonin and dopamine, the hormones associated with pleasure and contentment. I teach about the need to follow God’s directive in this regard because He knows how our bodies function best and because, after all, He is God. But the concept of God wanting to bestow a plethora of other blessings on us for giving thanks in all things—not so much. One never stops learning, right?
This new insight inspires me to become even more intentional about growing an attitude of gratitude—especially when I’m tired or feeling stressed.
It’s late and I’m tired as I write this on the eve of American Thanksgiving Day, so it’s the perfect time to put my good intentions into practice. Here are five reasons to be thankful right now:
I have a comfy bed.
God never slumbers or sleeps.
“He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.” (Psalm 121:3-4 NLT)
Jesus prays for me even while I sleep.
“Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34 NLT)
When I wake in the morning, God will still be with me.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” (Psalm 139:17-18 NLT)
I will wake to a fresh, full dose of God’s goodness.
“Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” (Lamentations 3:23 NLT)
Now it’s your turn. What are your reasons to be thankful?
PS: Here’s a quote I’ve found meaningful about thanksgiving. It’s the kind we write on a card and post on the fridge!
“God is in control, and therefore in EVERYTHING I can give thanks – not because of the situation but because of the One who directs and rules over it.” ~ Kay Arthur
Sooner or later we all experience an event in time when life doesn’t make sense. I’ve had a few of those, and I’m sure you can relate.
My husband and I made a three-year commitment to live in Nepal back in the 80s so he could work on a hydro-electric power project there. We were the only English-speakers in our wee village, and our Nepalese language skills were limited at best. Our home was a mud and rock house with a grass thatch roof, no electricity, and no indoor plumbing.
I was in my early 20s and pregnant with our first child when we moved into the village. My husband walked about thirty minutes to the project office six days a week, and I remained behind. Airmail letters were our only means of communicating with family and friends back then, and those took three weeks to reach their destination. To say I was lonely and blown away by culture shock was an understatement.
But God did a significant change in my thinking over time. He helped me work through culture shock and brought me to the place where I truly wanted to spend the rest of my life there. We even had an interview with a career non-profit organization. One week after that interview, however, the Lord sent us back to North America due to circumstances beyond our control.
Thirty-eight years later, I still don’t understand why God positioned us in Nepal and gave us hearts willing to stay there only to send us back to North America. I could easily question His wisdom or His goodness toward us. Did He really know what He was doing? Did He really care about the hardship we experienced for the first two years? Did He really have our best in mind when He plucked us from the country we’d grown to love and to which we’d committed ourselves to serving?
Rather than question God’s wisdom and goodness when life doesn’t make sense, let’s cling to the truth of His Word.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)
The apostle Paul referred to a mirror knowing his readers could relate. In those days, Corinth was famous for producing mirrors made from polished metals. They were beautiful, but they always produced a somewhat distorted image.
When we feel as though life doesn’t make sense, it’s because we can’t see a clear picture of what God is doing in our lives at this time. Our understanding is distorted, as though we’re looking into a mirror made of polished metal. We can’t get a clear picture because we can’t see everything God sees from His infinite and eternal perspective.
For now, we look at our circumstances and fail to see clearly. But someday—when we reach heaven—we’ll gain a heavenly perspective. Someday our understanding will be made complete when we see Jesus face-to-face.
Now we know spiritual truths only in part. We have a limited knowledge of God’s character. We have a limited understanding of the way He works, why He does the things He does, and why He allows certain things to happen. But someday, Paul says, we will know all these things fully just as we have been fully known.
The phrase “just as we have been fully known” refers to the complete way in which God knows us. Scripture says that He knows the number of hairs on our head, the motives of our heart, the words we speak before they roll off our tongue. He knows when we get up and when we lie down, and where we are at all times. Nothing about us is hidden from Him. He knows us fully.
Someday we’ll know more fully than we know now. We’ll know more about God’s character and more about why He allowed certain circumstances into our lives.
We’ll know how He was there for us even when we felt alone. We’ll know when He directed our steps even though we hadn’t asked for guidance. We’ll know when He protected us from danger we didn’t know was there. We’ll know how He used suffering to refine our faith and make us strong. We’ll know why prayers that we thought went unanswered were actually answered in ways that evidenced God’s goodness in our lives.
The day will come, my friend, when we see Jesus face-to-face and we will fully know. But until then, through every situation in which life doesn’t make sense, let’s trust His heart and rest in His love.
May I pray for you?
“Dear God, thank You for giving us hope for those times when we don’t understand Your ways. When we look at our circumstances and see only a distorted view of what’s happening in our lives, remind us that someday we’ll see you face-to-face and know fully. Until then, teach us to trust Your heart and Your good plans. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
“How can we keep our focus on Jesus when so many legitimate needs cry for our attention?”
A radio host recently asked me that question during an interview in which we discussed the busy pace many people keep and how different phases of life demand more time than others. We talked about some seasons allowing space for us to soak in Scripture daily while others allot only a few minutes to read the Bible. Some seasons grant the freedom to spend large amounts of time in uninterrupted prayer while others make us experts in prayer on-the-run. Some seasons provide time to bask in God’s presence while others leave us breathless and gasping for air.
The question, “How do we keep our focus on Jesus?” has no one-size-fits-all answer because every person’s situation is different, but we can make this work for us no matter what our circumstances look like.
Besides spending time reading God’s Word on a regular basis, here are a few suggestions—in no particular order—that I’ve learned and practiced throughout various seasons of my life. We keep our focus on Jesus when we …
Listen to praise and worship music.
I often listen to the local Christian radio station when I drive, take a walk, work out at the gym, and while I do chores on my boat-home. Any concerns I carry feel lighter when I focus on the lyrics and the truth of who God is. (Psalm 100:4-5)
Take concerns to Him immediately.
Negative stuff happens and our human bent tends to stew over it. Doing so only embeds our focus in the wrong place. Taking worries, fears, and disappointments to Jesus right away ensures our focus stays in the right place—on Him. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Talk to Him continuously throughout the day.
Let’s greet Him when we wake up. Let’s acknowledge His presence as we commute to work, take a walk, and do our daily tasks. Let’s thank Him frequently throughout the day for simple pleasures and for being our constant companion. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Meditate on His teachings.
Memorize a verse from His teachings and post it where you’ll see it often. Pause to ponder key words. Review it as you fall asleep at night. Incorporate it into your prayers.
Utilize resources that lead us into a deeper relationship with Him.
Reading and studying our Bible comes first, but we can also use other resources including faith-based books, podcasts, and YouTube sermons. Add missionary biographies to your reading list. Be discerning, please. There’s a plethora of materials out there, but not all are based in truth.
Say yes to ministry opportunities that force reliance on His strength.
This is one of the best ways, I believe, to experience Jesus in new ways. So go ahead—take the leap. Do something that’s far beyond your own ability. Let’s not let fear stop us from saying yes to a faith-stretching opportunity to serve Jesus.
Life being what it is, legitimate needs will always be present and cry for our attention. Amidst those voices, however, we can keep our focus on Jesus if we put these suggestions into practice. What other suggestions do you have to help us keep our focus on Jesus?
May I pray for you?
“Father, thank You for understanding us and the challenges we face while living on this earth. You know the many legitimate needs we face every day and the tension we feel between meeting those needs while trying to keep our focus on Jesus. Please help us figure this out, Lord. We want and need You above all else. In Jesus name, amen.”
End your day with a brief meditation to focus your thoughts on God’s character and promises through the night. These award-winning devotional books are available wherever Christian books are sold. Ideal for gift giving, too. Buy an autographed copy by ordering from my website. From now through November 30, the price includes gift wrap.
Our nighttime thoughts matter. Perhaps you, like me, have discovered this to be true.
We lie in bed and stress over someone we love and the difficult circumstances they face. We wrestle with thoughts about the rising cost of living. We run mental replays of hurtful conversations. We toss and turn and worry about circumstances both close to home and halfway around the world as the news tells of wars and rumors of wars.
We all know what happens. We wake up feeling more stressed. We’re exhausted, and we haven’t solved a thing.
Entertaining worrisome and fear-filled thoughts in the night makes it impossible to wake with an attitude of hope and anticipation. We’re stuck in a negative mental rut, and we can’t get out.
Because our nighttime thoughts matter, I’ve been practicing a discipline mentioned in Psalm 119:55 – “I reflect at night on who you are, O LORD; therefore, I obey your instructions.”
When I wake at night and catch my thoughts going down a path that leads to the worst possible scenario, I rein them in to reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past, His wisdom, and His sovereignty. I focus on His promises to give wisdom and strength and peace. I meditate on specific names of God and think about how they apply to my current circumstances and concerns.
Our nighttime thoughts matter, so it’s vital to ensure those thoughts are rooted in truth.
The more we meditate on who God is as revealed in Scripture, the more we realize that He is fully trustworthy. We’re better able, then, to obey His instructions such as, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7NLT)
Perhaps your nighttime thoughts wander down the path of worry. Maybe they take you to painful memories or to the fear of the future. Perhaps they lead you to a place of despair. If so, choose to refuse to linger there. Instead, do as the psalmist did—reflect on who God is.
Why not begin by coming up with an attribute for every letter of the alphabet? Here are a few ideas to inspire you.
A – Awesome
B – Beautiful
C – Caring
D – Devoted
E – Excellent
F – Fair
G – Gracious
H – Holy
What other attributes of God can you add using the alphabet letters listed here as well as those I didn’t mention?
May I pray for you?
“Heavenly Father, thank You for showing us how to flourish. When we wake at night and find our thoughts going to unhelpful places and thinking untrue thoughts, please help us rein them in and bring them under Your control. Remind us of Your truths and help us fix our minds on everything that is good and honorable and right. Thank You for giving us the Holy Spirit to help us. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
I’ve spent the past two weeks with my youngest daughter’s family, lending a hand with her three little ones. We’ve read umpteen dozen stories, baked pumpkin cookies, made play dough creations, enjoyed tea parties, and gone to the park. We’ve shared hugs and kisses and bedtime dances before I tuck them in at night and whisper prayers for God’s blessing over their lives now and in the years to come.
Considering all that’s happening around the world these days, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for my grandbabies. Perhaps you wonder the same for those you love.
We can’t control the world’s state of affairs, but we can control where we place our thoughts and where we let them linger. When the what-ifs creep in—and they will—let’s refuse to let them take root. Let’s not allow them to create havoc in our hearts. We experience hope amidst life’s uncertainties when we place our thoughts on the truth and live from the courage it brings.
Here are five truths that offer hope in the face of life’s uncertainties:
Truth #1 – God never changes.
“I am the LORD, and I do not change,” He declares in Malachi 3:6. While every day’s. news brings more uncertainty, God’s rock-sure stability and promises remain the same. He is still the Most High God, and nothing thwarts His purposes.
Truth #2 – God is always ready to help.
Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” He invites us to call on Him day or night. He’s never too busy to hear our cries.
Truth #3 – God is good.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in him,” says Psalm 34:8. In the midst of life’s uncertainties, God’s goodness comforts and carries us. It surrounds us like a shield, fills us with strength, and make us overcomers.
Truth #4 – God gives peace.
Jesus said , ”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) God sent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to earth to demonstrate His infinite love for us. The more we seek to know Him and keep our focus on His face, the more peace we will experience.
Truth #5 – God prays for us.
God indwells those who love Him through the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. One of the Holy Spirit’s roles is to pray for them. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26) I find huge hope in knowing that Spirit prays on my behalf when I haven’t a clue how to pray into a specific situation. He’s doing the same for you.
My friend, we never know what a day might bring, but we know that God still sits on the throne. He still reigns, and He will ultimately win over evil.
Let’s focus our thoughts on the truth, and we will experience hope in the midst of life’s uncertainties.
May I pray for you?
“Father God, thank You for Your promises that speak peace and hope over us. Help us keep our thoughts on Your unchanging truth. Amidst the world’s chaos and uncertainties, You and Your Word remain the same. We know we can count on You, and we are grateful. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
This song bears good reminders of our reasons for hope amidst life’s uncertainties.
My heart had felt so heavy over so many concerns for so long. As I read my Bible and journaled that morning, I sensed the Lord nudge me to set aside my reading to kneel in His presence with no agenda other than to hear His voice. I’ve walked with Him long enough to know that obedience is the only option when He speaks so definitively.
I waited in worship for a few minutes, and then I heard the Spirit say, “Exhale.”
I inhaled slow and deep, and exhaled. Then I heard a more specific directive: “Exhale your worries about your daughter’s health.”
Deep inhale. Exhale.
“Exhale your worries about meeting your book deadline.”
Deep inhale. Exhale.
“Exhale your worries for your son-in-law, daughter, and grandbabies while he works far from home.”
Deep inhale. Exhale.
One concern after another came to mind without my doing a mental search for them. I wasn’t even aware that I’d picked up worry-weight until it began falling away. With every exhale, I felt lighter and freer.
I left my little private space that morning with a renewed appreciation for Jesus’ invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
It’s easy for us to pick up worry-weight that God never intends for us to carry, and sometimes we do it without realizing. We feel disheartened but don’t know why. We might begin to feel as though prayer doesn’t do any good anyway, so why bother? We might start to think that God doesn’t really care about what’s happening in the world at large or in our personal world. He’s left us alone to figure out how to deal with the difficult stuff.
My friend, take a moment to thank Jesus for His invitation to give rest to the weary and burdened. Accept that invitation. Come into His presence quietly and with no agenda. Wait in worship, and listen for His voice.
What concerns does God bring to mind? One by one, inhale deeply and then exhale. Give them to Jesus and leave feeling lighter and free.
No doubt your reasons for angst will return to mind and try to take up residence again in a few hours or days. When they do, refuse to pick them up. Exhale, and thank Jesus for the rest He gives and the relief He brings when He carries the burden on your behalf.
May I pray for you?
“God, the state of both global affairs and tough stuff happening within our personal world could make us sick with worry apart from Your presence. When worry wells up within us, please remind us to cast our cares on You because You care for us. Redirect our thoughts to focus on Your wisdom, sovereignty, strength, and goodness, and grant us peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
The news headlines tell us that we’re living in unbelievably chaotic days. My books provide biblical hope and encouragement when our minds feel like they’re on overload. They’re available wherever Christian books are sold and on my website.
If you’re struggling with anxious thoughts right now, you are not alone. It feels like our world is screaming for help. The pandemic is barely over, and now earthquakes, floods, fires, and wars are taking their toll on the human race.
My heart breaks over the news from the Middle East this week. No one has a clue on how far the conflict will spread or what the eventual outcome will be. I have an airline ticket to fly to Egypt on November 5th for our mission agency’s staff conference, but who knows what will transpire by then?
In the midst of global uncertainty, it’s easy to let anxious thoughts take control of our minds.
The what-ifs can send our thoughts racing a thousand different directions, and none of them lead to a helpful, healthy place. Now’s the time to reel in our anxious thoughts and refocus them on the truth of God’s Word. Here’s a great verse on which to meditate.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your comfort delights my soul. (Psalm 94:19 NASB)
In the original language, the word translated “anxious” implies “perplexing” and “various.” It paints the picture of a tree with branches growing here and there and twisting together in places. It suggests thoughts that are distracting, vain, useless, confusing, secretive, and even polluted.
Would you agree that this sounds like a fair representation of the thoughts that race through our minds? Certainly we have thoughts that are good and pure and true, but we all wrestle with the other kinds too. Allowing them to run rampant only breeds more of the same. That’s what the psalmist meant when he said his anxious thoughts multiplied within him.
The end result of anxious thoughts allowed to run wild is – are your ready?—stinkin’ thinkin.’
Rampant, anxious thoughts are toxic. They shape our beliefs, influence our behaviors, and determine our destiny. They steal our joy, turn us into angry or fearful or downcast people, keep us awake at night, cause us to lose our appetite or gorge on comfort food, and ultimately make us sick. That’s why we have to bring them into captivity and align them with God’s truth.
The psalmist recognized the importance of dealing with his various and perplexing thoughts. Rather than allow them to continue distracting him and dividing his mind, he turned to God. “Your comfort delights my soul,” he wrote.
The word “comfort” in this context refers to God’s promises. So, the writer had learned how to lasso his anxious thoughts and bring them to focus on God’s promises. He replaced the many vain, useless, and confusing thoughts with those he knew to be true and right.
The writer also trained his anxious thoughts to focus on the truth of God’s character. Psalm 119:76 says,“Now let your unfailing love comfort me, just as you promised me, your servant.” He reigned his racing thoughts in to focus on God’s attributes—in this case, His unfailing love.
Camping his thoughts on God’s promises and character brought delight to the writer’s soul.
That word “delight” means to stroke or to soothe. It’s the same word used in Isaiah 66:11 which refers to an infant drinking at its mother’s breast. A hungry baby cries louder and grows more anxious until his mother puts him to her breast. This satisfies the infant and soothes him, often into a peaceful sleep.
Watching the Middle East unravel can easily cause anxious thoughts to multiply within us. Let’s not give fear free reign.
Instead, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us control our thoughts by focusing on God’s promises to be faithful, to care for us, to never forsake us, and to return someday as conquering King. Let’s also focus on His promises to be faithful, good, sovereign, and victorious.
May I pray for you?
“Heavenly Father, You know the uncertainty the world faces today. You also know our tendency to let anxious thoughts rule our minds. Please help us to stay focused on Your truth. May Your comforts delight our soul as we meditate on Your promises and Your character. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
What does it mean to abide in the vine? Let’s explore what Jesus said about it—“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4 ESV)
My family once moved into a house with a yard that came complete with grapevines. I’m not an avid gardener, so I had to learn how to care for these plants if we hoped to gather a harvest. My new hands-on experience helped me better understand what it means to abide in the Vine.
In the physical realm, sap flows from the grapevine to the branches. The healthier the connection between the two, the more potential there is for fruit to be produced. But if the branch is somehow severed from the vine, sap cannot flow and grapes will not grow. The connection between the vine and the branches determines the harvest.
In the spiritual realm, Jesus is the Vine and those who believe in Him for salvation are the branches. The stronger and healthier the connection between the Vine and the branches, the more spiritual fruit will be produced.
Commentators differ in their thoughts about what the “fruit” mentioned might be. Some say it refers to new converts to the Christian faith. That’s to say, then, that the Holy Spirit flowing through the lives of believers draws others to a place of trusting Christ for salvation.
Other commentators say it refers to the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Perhaps it’s a bit of both: When we abide in the Vine, that is, when our relationship with the Lord is healthy and unrestricted, the Holy Spirit flows in our lives as physical sap flows from the vine to the branches. He then produces character qualities in us that create curiosity in those watching us. If they don’t already know Jesus, they want to know what makes us different. They’re open to hearing stories of what God has done in our lives and the difference knowing Him makes. As a result of our example, they might choose to follow Jesus too, and God’s family grows.
The Greek word for “abide” implies “to dwell” or “to stay.” It infers a continuous act, not a state of being that’s on-again, off-again. So—our relationship with Jesus is to be constant and ongoing. And it’s a two-way thing. We abide in Him, and He abides in us. He fulfills His role by placing the continuous presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His followers to teach, counsel, guide, comfort, and conform us to Christ’s image. We fulfill our role by choosing to stay close to Him.
Based on Jesus’ teachings, here are three things we can do to abide in the Vine:
Become Familiar with God’s Word
John 15:7 says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” We read and study and meditate on Scripture so we can learn to understand God’s thoughts and values, and to gain wisdom regarding the way He wants us to live day to day.
Obey God’s Word
Simply reading or knowing or even being able to teach God’s Word isn’t enough. We need to obey His words, for obedience proves our love for Him. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (JOhn 15:10) So—as Jesus obeyed His Father, so we are to obey Him.
Follow Jesus’ Example
“By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:5-6). Abiding in Christ means we seek to model His grace and patience and kindness. We speak up boldly when truth is at stake. We say no to temptation and flee from it rather than flirt with it. We defend those who cannot defend themselves, and we love others even when it costs us something.
That sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? And it is. Apart from the Holy Spirit’s continuous presence and work in our lives, there’s no way we can hope to achieve it. As John 15:4 says, the branch cannot bear fruit apart from the vine. Only when we abide in the Vine can we produce an abundant harvest.
Did you notice that two of the verses I just quoted contain promises?
Here’s the first: When we abide in Christ and His words abide in us, then we can ask whatever we wish and He will bring it to pass. Isn’t that amazing? Remaining close to Him and filling our minds with His word aligns our hearts with His. When our desires match His, then we pray according to His will which guarantees we will receive what we ask for.
John 15:10 contains the second promise: Keeping Christ’s commandments ensures we abide in His love. This doesn’t mean we earn His favor through good works. It means that we demonstrate our love for Him by doing what He says. We love Him, and He loves us. As a result, we grow in intimacy with Him. Our relationship deepens and sweetens and grows stronger and more delightful.
God’s plan is for His children to lead fruitful lives. We do that when we consistently abide in the Vine. Let’s do our part to keep our connection with Him strong, and let’s enjoy the harvest He brings.
May I pray for you?
“Father, thank You for teaching us how to live fruitful lives. Help us be faithful to abide in You through studying Your Word, obeying it, and following Jesus’ example. As the branches, we want our connection with You, the Vine, to be healthy and strong so our lives will bear much fruit that will last thoughout eternity. In Jesus’ name, amen.”