SHE CHANGED HER NAME TO SCHOOLBUS

My great-granddaughter, Lillie Mae, decided this morning her name was Schoolbus. She is quiet insistent. She is three, so she can get away with changing her name. When I received the text telling me of the name change, I was reading John 15 and decided I would change my name to Branch.

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After all, that is what I am. I am not the vine — that’s Jesus. I am not the sap — that’s the Holy Spirit, not spelled out in John 15, but implied, I think. I am certainly not the vinedresser — that is God the Father. I am the branch that grows or abides, as Jesus says, in the vine.

If I am bearing fruit by the strength and power and nourishment of the Holy Spirit, I will be pruned. That is what happens to branches on physical vines. Or bushes. Or trees. It is an easy allegory to understand, even if you are a city girl. You pinch flowers off your house plants so more buds may grow.

If I am a branch abiding in the vine, living a fruitful branch life, for my sake and the Gospel’s, I will need pruning. Even good things can become too much. Or I can go off the rails and get involved in things that don’t bring God glory. Maybe, Jesus just wants to change my direction.

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Do you feel like 2020 was/is pruning season? I sure do. It hasn’t been a little snip here and a little snip there. It has been lop here and lop there. And from that pruning other fruit has appeared, hence this blog.

If Lillie can be Schoolbus, I most certainly am Branch.

What if we were able to keep our imaginations pure and believing and vibrant as a three year old? That is for another post. I have to rev up my imagination to imagine having an imagination of a sweet, delightful three year old girl.

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For now, I will be Branch.

You are loved.

SHINE IN THE DARKNESS

“In a fallen world, we must be willing to face the fact that however lovingly we preach the gospel, if a man rejects it he will be miserable. It is dark out there.”

― Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There

We are seeing today darkness becoming increasingly darker.


Jesus laid it out:
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (John 3: 19-20)

The light that came into the world is Jesus.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:4-5).

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Remember, dear Sister, when you deal with someone who doesn’t share your faith, the light they think they see is darkness and until they repent and believe it will stay so. Deal with them in mercy; tell them the truth.

Remember, dear Sister, ours is a light that can never be extinguished. Our light is from the eternal Son of God. Live like children of the light.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15).

Remember, dear Sister, only Jesus can dispel the darkness, but he has called us to be a flashlight in the world.

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Shine in the darkness!

Shine on!

You are loved.

LIFE JACKET JOY

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).

Our Pastor this morning gave us his definition of joy. Before he did, he pointed out how hard it was to define joy.

Check out the dictionary. It only causes more questions. Joy is according to Webster, if using as a noun:
a state of happiness or felicity: BLISS or
a source or cause of delight
If a verb: to experience great pleasure or delight: REJOICE

See what I mean? Happiness, felicity, bliss, delight, pleasure, rejoice, how do those words feel?

What does joy feel like?

We know when we feel it, but how to describe it. I might say, “Well, I am happy.” Or, “How blissful I feel.” (Probably not.) But, what does that do for you? How long will it last? Until someone or something takes it away from you? Why can’t we keep it? Why does it have to go away?

Am I the only one having a problem with this?

Nehemiah said the joy of the Lord is my strength. Now, that really confuses me. It’s not my joy, but Jesus’. He experienced joy on the cross, for goodness sake!

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Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).

Why is he so joyful? Because, he wins. He knew what the end result of enduring the cross would be. It would bring glory to his Father, himself, and it would bring my salvation and yours.
So, in Jesus we win! No matter what this crazy broken world throws at us, we win. No matter how Satan tries to detail us, we win. No matter how horrible my sin was, is, and will be, I win!

Our Pastor defined joy as a life jacket for your soul. Knowing Jesus always wins is a life jacket for your soul.

I like this definition. You can have those vague, mushy, feel good words. I’ll take a life jacket any day.

Does your soul need a life jacket today? Go to Jesus.

You are loved

FREE TO DANCE IN THE MUD

I just want to lie down in the mud.

That is what I wrote in my journal the other night. Not a very sanctified thought for a Christian.
My next thought was, “Where did that come from?” That came from bondage.

Jesus said you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. What truth is that?

Jesus said he was the way, the truth, and the life.

Truth is Jesus.

Jesus is truth.

The Gospel is truth.

We are sinners by birth, because of our parents in Eden. They desired to be like God and questioned his goodness. That betrayal plunged us into a sinful, broken world where Adam’s posterity is born sinful and we delight to act out our sinful nature.

In the middle of all that mess, 2000 years ago, God sent his Son into our world as a man, like us, but sinless. He lived a life impossible for us, sinless, and then evil thought it had won and crucified him. While on the cross God the Father laid on his Son the sins of all his people, so that God’s wrath might be absorbed by God the Son.

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When Jesus, on the cross said, “It is finished.” It meant my sins and yours were paid for. And to show God was pleased and atonement was accomplished, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day as had been prophesied.

So, when the Holy Spirit gives us a new heart and a new spirit, he makes us a new creation. We become children of God, adopted into his family. Not based on anything good in us, but based solely on God’s good pleasure.

Now, he calls us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

With all your mind means learning everything you can about him. Jesus is calling us to theology – the study of God.

It seems these days, thinking is hard for us. It is hard to think in a whirlwind of noise and instant gratification. As Christians, Jesus calls us to come away with him to quiet and his word.

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In his word, led by his Spirit, we find true freedom in this life. The freedom to live free from guilt, shame, despair, disgrace, depression, deceit, and on and on; whatever keeps us bound in sin, Jesus came to set us free from all of that.

His only two commands are to love him with our all and to love our neighbor as our self.

He has given us everything we need to do that.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3).

So be free, the Truth has set us free.

Let me end by saying freedom doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want. If knowing the Creator of the universe who is our Rescuer, doesn’t lead to striving to be holy as he is holy, then something is dreadfully wrong. Jesus changes our “want to”. We want to be like the one we love with our all.

Freedom lies in the path of obedience to love.

This is what I remember when I feel like lying down in the mud. I preach the Gospel to myself.
I remind myself that I am free in Christ. Jesus bought my freedom for me.

Free people are happy people. They don’t lie down in the mud. They rejoice.

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So, instead of lying down I do a little jig in the middle of the mud.

Happy heart, happy feet!