The True Vine

It’s quite amazing to me how much insight the seemingly insignificant objects and circumstances of our lives have to offer us if we’ll just stop for a moment to look and listen. Like word pictures on a life size screen they patiently wait for us to focus on them to impart to us their message.

Last week I gathered together the remnants of the partitions that I had moved from the ministry center and used them to construct a playhouse for my daughter. It worked out nicely because I also had several bundles of shingles that had been left sitting in the yard by my brother in-law to use for the roof and this was the proper motivator for me to deal with them.

As I was sitting outside admiring my handiwork one evening in the relative coolness that so blessedly replaces the intense midday heat of August,  my attention was drawn to the artificial vines that I had draped across the structure. I was impressed by their realistic appearance as they moved with the occasional light summer breeze.  So beautiful! Unlike the real vegetation in my yard that was starting to wither from the heat, they were unchanged…

I saw these real grapevines growing and so I snapped this shot to use for comparison.

They look as if they’ve been through a hot summer. Most of the leaves have wilted and fallen off allowing a better view of the delicious fruit they’ve given their all to produce.

All of this vine viewing caused me to take a serious look at my own spiritual life.

Is my Christian life just about appearances?

Do I really have a connection to the true vine?

Given the choice,would I rather not “get real” if it meant that I couldn’t remain unchanged and indifferent to my environment?

Am I really so superficial that I’d prefer to be something with practically no value primarily because it required nothing of me other than to go through the motions?

Am I “okay” with never bearing any real fruit because deep down I know what a drag it is being a fake…

John 15:1/5

1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

My recent evangelistic/ministerial efforts fell pretty far short of what my hopes were for them but I feel as though I learned many valuable lessons in the process. I’m still very interested in seeing my vision of a ministry center happen, I think it’s a great idea that could produce a lot of fruit!

Basically the idea is for the church to connect with people by providing assistance with many of the common issues that are causing both the churched and unchurched so many problems today. It’s more than just mentoring, it’s free help with things like exercise classes and health maintainence information, diet and food issues, money stewardship, family skills and counseling, substance abuse and addiction support meetings. All centered around the practical application of biblical principles as the solution to every need!

Why not put it all under one roof and make it convenient and organized so that people could be more easily helped? There would be paid teaching/training positions as well as a lot of volunteer work done by members of  local congregations which would provide their members with great opportunities to  stir up the gifts within them as they serve God and their communities!

According to the statistics I’ve read put out by The Barna Group we’re losing the battle for souls in this nation. If I were to speculate as to why that is I’d have to say that it seems as though the church has gotten a reputation for being about all of the wrong things. We’re hypocrites, child molesters, thieves and con men in peoples eye’s who it seems really only care about one thing and that’s money!

And according to author Anne Rice who recently “quit” Christianity,

we’re primarily known for what we’re against, not what we’re for…

What better way can you think of to let people know what we’re actually “for” ?

This can be accomplished by promoting what it means to live victoriously in a tangible way they can easily relate to.  As the true vine we’re called to love above all things, which can perhaps be defined as being willing to ask,

“How can I help?”

We as the church must attempt to reach everyone that’s “wrestling” with all of the weapons that have been formed against them by the powers and principalities of our enemy. The only way that we can lose is If we continue to do nothing but sit back and wait for the lost to come to us instead of going to them.  Instead we should be open compelled to do whatever it takes to share the good news of salvation and deliverance with everyone who’s life is plagued by the effects of sin!

The Father gave us the resources to build multi-million dollar churches, He left us with His Holy Spirit to help us, and He sent us Jesus who defeated the Devil for us so that none of these weapons can prosper against us unless we allow them!

What will we as the church do with all of that?

I guess that depends on who and what we really are…

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Stitches In Time…

Hello! My name is Jeff Brown and I’m with the Vineyard Ministry fellowship and Outreach Center in Doniphan,Mo. We’ve rented the old Ben Franklin building on Washington St. and we’re in the process of establishing an ongoing ministry there centered around supporting people with drug and alcohol addictions in their efforts to find deliverance by establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ. As God allows we’d also like to expand into other areas including couples counseling and helping people dealing with depression. I’d like to tell you why I feel as though this is a vitally important undertaking, and why I feel as though it’s something that all of us should be concerned with.

Most of us are familiar with the expression “A stitch in time saves nine” It simply means that to deal with things now can prevent a small problem from becoming a big problem later. A stitch in time can save nine, it may even save 900,or even 9000, depending on it’s location the impact of that one stitch can be huge!   My parents were divorced when I was nine, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that my mother confided in me that the problems they had in their marriage were in fact actually very minor. I’m left to wonder what kind of a difference “a stitch in time” might of made to everyone in my family.

Some people have misconceptions about counseling or psychology and when they hear either term concerns arise as to their real value or even if they’re something the church should be involved with at all. This is a valid concern because some of what secular psychology has to offer is in contradiction to basic Christian beliefs.  It’s important that we  understand where the two part ways and stick to what Gods word teaches.

As an example, a few years later when I was twelve I was caught selling drugs at my Jr. High school. One of the results of that was my being referred to a psychologist for counseling, I met a wonderful man who I know cared a great deal about me and who I’m sure would’ve done anything to help me. I’m not saying he didn’t help me at all, perhaps he may of kept me from careening off of some precipice but despite seeing him continuously for several years I continued to us drugs. He simply didn’t know how to reach me, and despite all of his endeavors to rebuild my shattered self esteem I believe they failed because I simply wasn’t buying the idea of my being worth loving. His therapy fell short because it’s success hinged on my acceptance of something my worldly perceptions showed me to be false. Would it have made a difference if he had shown me in Gods word that it was because of His great love for me that God had sent His son to die for all of the things I hated so much about myself ? I can only speculate as to the different effect it might of had if he would’ve told me that God had a wonderful plan for my life and that He  wanted to have a personal relationship with me.  If, instead of trying to convince me to love myself despite the mess I was, he would’ve helped me to see how much I was already loved, and encouraged me to allow Jesus into my heart what a difference it might’ve made!

When I’m counseling a young couple with marital problems I think about my own parents and what I wish someone might have told them about the far reaching ramifications of what they’re contemplating.

When I talk to a young man struggling with his identity who has chosen to hide who he really is behind drugs I can tell him about where that took me and help him to understand that there’s a much better choice available to him.

All of my years of people watching have taught me something important and that is, “Where people are concerned, things are seldom what they seem”. Peoples outward behaviors seldom reflect their true feeling’s or tell the real story of what’s happening on the inside. And while that may sound complicated it’s really as simple as understanding that every one of us is just trying to be loved! And because we may never have experienced what that truly means I think that I can say without any qualification that it is without a doubt the most confusing aspect of life and that it’s the primary cause of all of mans problems. Following a trail of lies left by our enemy we’re drawn into a myriad of dead end streets strewn with broken glass and other garbage that we’re willing to ignore if we believe that in doing so it might bring us this elusive prize. We seek it out in substances like drugs and alcohol, dysfunctional human relationships, of course material possessions, all of which have the habit of leaving us empty and unfulfilled, some of which leave us dead.

I want people to know that God loves them!

As I see it, there are only two kinds of people. Those who have been greatly blessed by the presence of mentoring relationships in their lives and those who have greatly suffered as a result of not having them. If you’re in the first category, It honors the memory of that person who helped you to “pay it forward”and be that person in another s life.  If you’re the latter, it’s a sacred thing to reach out to people in an effort to keep someone else from making the same bad choices you did and perhaps from suffering the same consequences.

What has God done for you? What barriers did He have to patiently wait for your consent to remove from your life even while it caused Him so much pain to watch as you needlessly suffered?

The story of God and man is a story of love and of redemption; it’s a story of a creator and His rebellious creation and the extraordinary lengths that He’s willing to go to reach them.  In Gods word He goes into detail as to the lengths He’s willing to go to in showing us His love.

John 3:16-17

16For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

I purposely included the 17th verse, because it breaks down any excuses I could possibly have to not be doing something to reach out to a world in bondage to ignorance, pain, and evil, with the love, redemption, and deliverance of Christ! When we choose to see ourselves and others as God see’s us, with compassion, it’s then that we can begin to understand the life changing power of Gods love and it’s there that we can be “convinced” as the reality of what Paul stated in his epistle to the Romans.

Romans 8:38-39

38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I’ve said all of this in an attempt to explain to you why I’m doing what I’m doing but most importantly, I’m saying it out of my own personal gratitude for what’s been done for me! Many people considered me a lost cause; they saw me as a no good drug addict and told me I’d never amount to much. But praise God it was a loving savior who spoke truth into my life and made me see the lies of the enemy and all of the weapons which were formed against me, It was Jesus who reached out a hand to me and showed me my own self as He saw me, Who lifted me up out of the broken glass and garbage I was in and gave me hope and faith that because of His love for me those weapons would not continue to prosper against me, that I was somebody very special in Christ, because of His love for me!

What, if anything, could I ever do in return to show my gratitude or to show how much I love the Lord?

Matthew 25:35-40

35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

If we as the church are to have the impact on this world that God has called us to we’re going to have to make some stitches where people are injured and bind up some wounds to heal the brokenhearted. We must do it now while we still have the opportunity,  in time for it to make a difference. I’m asking you to join us in this undertaking, that it might become an overtaking victory for the sake of Gods kingdom and in the name of Jesus The Christ!

Luke 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised

Matthew 16:19

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Ezekiel 34:16

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.