My heart's desire for the Church is that she would thrive! I pray for pastors and their families on a daily basis for their personal spiritual health, for their physical health, for every need to be met, and for their home to be filled with the joy and peace of the Lord.
By nature I am an observer. I enjoy studying...at the top of my list is my Bible, followed by commentaries, and well written books. I also enjoy studying life. For example, nothing compares with observing the hummingbirds as they visit our feeders to enjoy a breakfast of homemade nectar while I'm sitting on our front porch with a hot cup of coffee in one hand and my Bible in the other. God's creation has an overwhelming affect on me! We have grown quite fond of the Tennessee hills!
In addition, I study and observe mechanical things to see how they work. And...I'll admit it, I study people. I have an interest in seeing what makes them tick, their mannerisms, choice of words, and the affect they have on the people around them...this applies to country folk, small town folk, big city folk and everyone in between.
One thing I desire to express is the fact that I have a great love for the Church! As a result, I prayerfully study her. Not with a critical or negative spirit, but for the purpose found in the opening sentence of this article; it bears repeating, "My heart's desire for the Church is that she would thrive!" The Church is a living body! I am thankful for every local church who enters the presence of the Lord to worship, where the word of God is preached in love and truth, and the saints are equipped for every good work! When the Holy Spirit reigns in the leadership, the congregation, and in daily affairs, souls are saved, lives are transformed, and Jesus is lifted up! To God be all the glory, honor, and praise!
Like any "body", there are areas of weakness. There are struggling churches throughout our country, not specific to any particular denomination. In most cases this happens because we lose our identity. We begin comparing ourselves with the church down the street or across town. Some folks see churches on television and start thinking this is the true picture of success. I have observed three categories that are more evident in what today's church has become her identity is blurred: 1. It becomes a show. 2. It becomes a religious or ritualistic, lifeless gathering. 3. It becomes a civic organization (primarily focused on dinners, events, and business meetings).
In view of these things, my desire is to encourage the church to "encourage the Church" (you may want to read the previous sentence one more time to grab hold of the point I am making). As the Body of Christ, as His Church we are responsible to lift up and encourage one another. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it, or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." (NKJV)
The responsibility to reclaim the Biblical Identity of the Church doesn't rest solely upon pastors, we all are individually responsible as we live a devoted Christian life, diligently seeking Jesus first in all things. Paul gives us great insight in Ephesians 4:14-16 (NKJV), "We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ-from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes the growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
In conclusion, I invite you to come alongside me in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Together let us strive to be a living, prayerful, encouraging member of the Body of Christ more now than ever before!
Be encouraged! Our best days are yet to come as we draw closer to the return of Jesus!
The Word of God is so incredibly sustaining! God’s love and faithfulness is beyond our ability to fully comprehend!
The awe-inspiring message found in John 15 has permeated my heart lately as the Lord continues to build, expand, and solidify Shepherd’s Fortress Ministries. I am seeking the Lord for a greater understanding and a deeper devotion regarding the promise of abiding in the Vine.
We must first establish within our hearts and believe what Jesus said in John 15:1, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” I am convinced with all my heart that Jesus is the true vine! The description of a vinedresser is so very insightful in helping us to understand the constant care our Heavenly Father provides in our lives.
The vinedresser is responsible for pruning, the removal of dead twigs or branches, as well as shaping the vine or tree to promote health and beauty. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2). Pruning is painful, yet if it were neglected, the result would be much worse.
The vinedresser eradicates pests and insects that would come to devour the harvest. Vinedressers have an understanding of what types of pests are attracted to the fruit of the vine. They specialize in the overall care and protection of the vine. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neithercan you unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:3-4). Pests present themselves in our lives in many ways such as sin, our own flesh getting in the way, negative thoughts and words, the flaming arrows of the enemy, and more. The Word of God, His truth, makes us free from all that would attempt to destroy us.
Vinedressers ensure the vine receives plenty of water during the growing season. Insufficient water levels will negatively affect the harvest. It will also affect the growth and maturity of the branches. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:5-6). The Holy Spirit is ever-present. He is our teacher, counselor, and steadfast guide. He nurtures and provides strength as He guides us into all the truth (John 16:13).
Vinedressers gather the harvest and they monitor the vine between harvests to help ensure future harvests. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 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 15:7-10). Part of abiding in the vine is soaking in God’s Word. We tend to allow ourselves to be consumed with the things in our lives that aren’t working out, the pressures, struggles, and our short-comings. When we determine to abide in the vine we will focus on how much God truly loves us which in turn will inspire us to willingly do all that He commands.
I encourage you to stand on these verses of Scripture and receive His Word. These promises apply to churches, ministries, and individuals. Jesus gave us these wonderful promises because He loves us and wants us to live our lives in the realm of His joy! This is possible as we abide in the Vine and fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith! “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:11). The joy of the Lord is our strength!
Thank you all for you love, prayers, and support! We’d love to hear from you!