A Unique Thought On The Vine and the Branches (John 15)

One of the passages I’ve heard used a lot when it comes to our relationship with Jesus is John 15. Jesus talks about the fact that He is the Vine, we are the branches and, if we want to bear fruit, we need to remain in Him. We can’t bear fruit by ourselves; we need to stay connected to Him.

I’ve heard that passage referenced in many sermons and talks and I’ve used it a number of times myself. It’s a clear image of how we grow in our relationship with Jesus.

Recently I started reading Beth Guckenberger’s latest book Start With Amen. In one chapter she offers a unique perspective on the opening verses of the chapter.

In verse 2 of John 15, Jesus says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

One view of that verses – and the view that I had – is that if a branch doesn’t bear fruit, the gardener cuts it off. The one that bears fruit he prunes. If the branch is not producing, it will be cut off.

Guckenberger admits doesn’t know much about pruning and tending vines (neither do I). She writes that she had the opportunity to listen to a Bible teacher talk about this passage while they were in an actual vineyard. She retells that a vinedresser, when coming across a branch that is laying on the ground and it’s fruit is drying up, wants to protect the future potential of the vine. So instead of cutting off the branch, the gardener would take a small wooden stake and prop up the vine, with the hope that it would receive sunlight and moisture and learn to grow more fruit.

The Greek word used in this passage is airo. It could be translated as “cut off,” but also as “pick up.” Guckenberger points to other scripture passages that translate the word as “pick up.” The potential take away is that instead of cutting off the branch that is not bearing fruit, the vinedresser picks it up.

That is a pretty cool picture of what Jesus does for us. We don’t always bear fruit. We sometimes go through seasons where maybe we wander away, we lose focus, we are overwhelmed by difficult circumstances (among other things) and we don’t produce fruit. Because Jesus sees the potential in us, because He is able to see into our future, He picks us up, brings us into the light so we can learn to bear fruit again.

I’m sure there are times where a branch needs cut off, but Jesus also demonstrated compassion and care and picked up people who were struggling, hurt and bruised.

What a great reminder that The Vine doesn’t just look for branches to cut off, but invites us to stay connected to Him. He sees the potential fruit in us and picks us up so we can learn to once again bear fruit.

The Value of a Retreat – Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our time at the junior high retreat.  This past weekend we took some of our high school students to the high school retreat that was facilitated by one21 Ministries.

It was a great weekend for many of the same reasons that I mentioned about the value of a retreat.  We were in a different environment listening to some different voices, enjoying some new experiences and creating some new memories.

The theme of the weekend was “my life will say something.”  The encouragement to each student (and adult) was to live in such a way that our lives tell the greater story of the Gospel.  We were reminded of the importance of hearing what God has to say about us and not listen to the voices – and lies – of those around us.

We heard a powerful testimony from a high school senior who just a year ago had her lower lip bitten off by a dog while she attempted to serve someone else.  She spoke of the importance of hearing God’s voice and what He has to say about true beauty.

Beth Guckenberger spoke on Saturday night.  She and her husband live in Mexico where they help care for orphans and operate Back2Back Ministries.  I have read one of her books, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to hear her speak. She shared the story of how she and her husband became involved in orphan care and encouraged us to use our voice to speak into those issues that stir up within us.  She used the phrase “the burr in your saddle” to describe that issue you have to do something about.  She is a gifted communicator.

One of the highlights of the weekend was simply spending time with our students.  I have been in Wilmington long enough to have known much of the group for a number of years.  I have seen many of them come up through the elementary and junior high years to become young men and women.  We laughed, enjoyed the beautiful weather and had a great time.

The weekend was a reminder of how each of us can use our voice, our life, our uniqueness and our passions to speak God’s story to those in our lives.