Anyone up for a great summer giveaway? More on that in a minute, but first how would you answer this question: What has God been stirring up inside of you this summer? As you’ve studied the words of Jesus for the past few weeks, how have they resonated within you?
We want to hear from you! Our study for Week 6 comes to us from our Lead Pastor’s wife, Becky Harling. She has written several books, and this week Becky has announced a Summer Giveaway Contest for our Red Letter Summer girls. All the details are listed below, so read on.
Let the words of Jesus continue to move you. Thank you so much for walking along with us this summer…
Welcome to Week Five!
Changes. Just the word can stir up anxiety in our hearts. Walking together to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus began to prepare His disciples for the changes they would be facing in the days to come. He wanted them to have a clear understanding of their position in Christ and the power available to them through the Holy Spirit. The lessons He taught them as they walked are relevant for us today, as well. I know I need to be reminded of my position in Christ and the continual power available to me – don’t you? As we look at what Jesus said, why don’t you imagine you are walking with Him towards the Garden of Gethsemane?
This Week’s Reading: John, Chapters 13-14
WHAT DID JESUS SAY?
1. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Jesus chose an object lesson to show the disciples their position in Christ. It’s much more effective to “show” than “tell,” isn’t it? The disciples were familiar with grapevines; vineyards were common all over Israel. I imagine Jesus pointing to a vineyard as they walked and saying, “Look guys, I’m the vine; you’re the branches.” The disciples were probably thinking, “Cool. So what?” Then Jesus explains, “If you remain in me and allow me to work through, you’ll bear a lot of fruit. But without Me – you can’t do anything!”
What did Jesus mean when He said, “remain”? Remaining in this passage means to live dependent on Christ. Jesus is reassuring the disciples here. It’s as if He says, “Guys don’t sweat it! Just abide and let me do the work through you.” Can’t you hear the sigh of relief? It takes so much pressure off, doesn’t it? When we lean deeply into Jesus, the fruit of good works and Christ-like characteristics grow naturally in our lives. We don’t have to “work harder” to muster up some fruit!
2. “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.” John 15:2
Let’s pause for a moment and return to verse two. Did you catch those words? He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit? Ouch! I can feel you getting tense. Many women read these words and anxiety sets in. You may be thinking, “Oh no. I’m doomed. He’s going to cut me off and I’m going to lose my salvation!” That’s not what Jesus meant. Bruce Wilkinson explains it this way, “Many experts in the Greek feel a more accurate translation of ‘cut off’ would be ‘take up’ or ‘lift up.’” When a branch trailed on the ground and was covered with mud, it grew sickly and useless. So the gardener would lift the branch up and clean it off so that it could become fruitful again. The same principle holds true in our lives. If we fall into sin or just become complacent and unfruitful, the Gardener will lift us up and clean us off so that He can use us once again.
Even the branches that bear fruit must be pruned. Why? Because pruning cuts the branch back to the place where it connects to the vine and enlarges the connection to the vine. The enlarged connection allows more life giving sap to flow through the vine and as a result, the branch becomes more fruitful. Good deal, huh? Pruning never feels great because it cuts away the attitudes or habits that prevent fruitfulness. But, in the end the greater connection to Jesus makes the pruning worth the pain.
3. “But I tell you the truth: it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7
Can you imagine what’s going through the disciples minds at this point? There’s tension and confusion in the air. I imagine some of them are thinking, “What’s He talking about? How could anything be better than having His physical presence with us?” Maybe similar thoughts have run through your mind and you have wondered what it would have been like to have Jesus physically present in your world. Here’s the thing, we have it better now. Think about it. When Jesus walked on earth, He was fully God but also fully man, which meant He chose to live within the boundaries of time and space. His physical presence was with one group at a time. When He sent the Holy Spirit, He sent Him as our 24/7 journey mate! When we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, He sends His Spirit to live in us (John 14:17). Imagine, God living in you, available to you at any moment on any day. Girlfriends, it just doesn’t get any better than that!
4. “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24
Jesus invites His disciples and us to ask Him for what we need in His name and gives us a promise as well. Such a wonderful invitation, ask! Such a wonderful promise, joy!
WHAT IS JESUS SAYING TO US?
1. Be assured of your position in Christ. Once you’ve trusted Jesus as your Savioryou are positioned firmly in Christ – the most secure place on earth. Take a few quiet moments to yourself. Close your eyes and imagine you are held securely in the arms of God. What do His arms feels like around you? Can you hear the rhythm of His heart beat?
2. Let go of self–doubt and engage the power of the Holy Spirit. So many of us struggle with self-doubt. Questions like, “Am I a good wife?”, “Am I a good mother?”, or “Can God use me?” fill our minds. Girlfriends, God has no doubts about you! He chose you in Him before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 1:4-6). He has given you everything you need to be who He designed you to be through the person of the Holy Spirit. Change your self-talk from “I can’t” to “I can” through the power of the Holy Spirit. When self-doubt starts and Satan, the enemy of your soul, starts with His “blah, blah, blah” creating doubts in your mind – clobber him with praise to God.
3. Live fully present to Jesus. Make it your goal to talk with Jesus throughout the day. He invites us to ask Him anything in His name – so go ahead, give it a try. Ask Him about the concerns on your heart. Take a walk with Him, talk with Him, and share with Him the concerns on your heart. Try wearing a bracelet today. Every time you look at that bracelet or feel it on your wrist, remind yourself the indwelling Christ is present with you. At the end of the day journal your thoughts about living present to Jesus. What did you experience?
Try this, spend 10 minutes today praising Jesus that He left you His Holy Spirit. Here are just a few reasons to praise God for the indwelling Spirit:
- He comforts us (Acts 9:31)
- He counsels us when we don’t know what to do (John 14:16)
- He leads us into all truth (John 16:8)
- He empowers us (Romans 15:13)
- He helps us become more like Jesus (Romans 15:16)
- He helps us pray when we don’t’ know how (Romans 8:26)
- He strengthens us when we feel weak (Ephesians 3:16)
- He gives us wisdom ( Ephesians 1:17)
- He brings reassurance (Romans 8:16)
It is helpful for me to listen to music when I spend time praising God. Try listening to For Your Splendor by Christy Nockles and allow it to prompt your praise. You can download it on your iPod or just listen on YouTube. You might pray something like this:
Lord Jesus, thank you for leaving your Holy Spirit. I praise you that your Spirit comforts me when life is hard and that He counsels me when I don’t know what to do. Thank you that your Spirit brings me reassurance and that He continually empowers me to do the things that you call me to do. I praise you that when I feel inadequate He is more than able. Thank you that I don’t have to fear any change you might bring in my life because your Spirit is my 24/7 journey mate.
 Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of the Vine (Sisters, OR,: Multnomah, 2001),33
Summer Giveaway Contest, with Becky Harling
We want to hear how God has used this study in your life this summer! Our Red Letter Summer has women participating from not only Denver, Colorado, but from around the nation and the world. Doesn’t it encourage your heart to know you are studying with hundreds of women from across the globe this summer? Isn’t it great to know that you’re not alone in your questions, your joys, your sorrows?
Take a few minutes this week and write a comment about how God’s word is impacting you through this study. All comments entered between now and July 24 will automatically be entered into our Summer Giveaway Contest. We will then randomly select three women, and those three will be sent a free copy of Becky’s book, Finding Calm in Life’s Chaos, a wonderful book that takes an in-depth look at Jesus’ “I am” statements, and applies them to real life. It’s a perfect book to go along with our summer in the Gospel of John.
So sit down, take a moment and tell us your thoughts! We’d love to hear from you!
I am Becky, the beloved daughter of God. I am married to Steve Harling, who is the Lead Pastor at Foothills Community Church. Steve and I have four adult kids and four grandkids. The grandbabies are amazing! I speak at conferences and women’s retreats and have authored three books: Finding Calm In Life’s Chaos, Rewriting Your Emotional Script and Freedom From Performing. My fourth book, The 30 Day Praise Challenge will be released in 2013. I passionate about sharing Jesus and awakening hope in women. I love hiking and going out to dinner with my hubby, hanging out with my kids, shopping for and playing with my grandkids, travelling around the world, and drinking Starbucks!