For instance, I once read an article by B. H. Shaddock that said water gets heavier as it gets colder. Scientists would assure us that this is a fixed law, eternally unalterable, if they had not seen ice. Heavy ice would settle to the bottom. Lakes and rivers would freeze solid. Icebergs below the surface would endanger shipping. Animals could not cross streams in winter.
This morning when I set my heart to pray I was overwhelmed with all the things in my world that needed prayer. Some things I had been praying for so long, I groaned at doing it again. Some things seemed so huge and impossible, I groaned at the inconceivability of an answer. Some things so desperate, I groaned in helplessness.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).
But, I was before the Throne of Grace. I was where prayers, no matter how long they have been prayed, no matter how huge and desperate are answered. Overwhelmed, but aware of where I was, I laid it all down at the Throne and asked for God’s will to be done. In humbleness and helplessness is where glory intersects human need.
In the midst of writing this post, I got word that a specific prayer from yesterday was answered yesterday. So, when I am overwhelmed, it is good to go before the Throne of Grace, where help, grace, and hope are found, and in humbleness and helplessness remember how God has answer prayer upon prayer and if all I can get out is Your will be done Jesus, that is enough.
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:2-5)
This is the year of pruning.
Snip, snip, snip.
But why Lord, wasn’t this good stuff?
To bear more fruit.
Okay, but when I think I am bearing more fruit, you snip.
God keeps sniping until he gets the branch just the way He wants it.
God reveals between Genesis 12 and 23 an amazing relationship. Abraham and Sarah are heroic figures in the Bible and as all Bible heroes God shows their faithfulness amidst their flaws and brokenness.
Sarah is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:11 and she is held up to us as an example in 1 Peter 3:6. But, Sarah had some rough bumps in her life. Her faith was tried, tested, and stretched numerous times. She is known for some bad decisions and like Eve the consequences of her decisions were disastrous.
But one thing she understood was that Isaac was the child of promise. When Abraham told her about the Covenant God made with him that he would be the father of many nations, I’m sure she was overwhelmed, but when he quoted what God said about her in Genesis 17:15-16, it must have seemed unbelievable.
“Abram? Why are you calling me that? Have you forgotten my name?”
“No, no!” Abraham laughed out loud. “But, you have a new name, Sarah, and so do I!”
“What are you talking about?” She looked suspiciously at him. “Have you been talking to God again?”
“Yes,” he shouted. “Yes, I have and he changed my name to Abraham. I will be the father of a multitude. And he changed your name to Sarah. Listen, this is what he said:
“As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her” (Genesis 17:15-16).
“It was you all along Sarah! You will bear a son to me and from him will come nations and kings!”
Sarah slowly sank to a cushion. “Abram, oh, I mean Abraham, can it be? How can it be? I am 99. I have always been barren and now I am way past giving birth time. God of Abraham, how can it be?”
“Well, Sarah, that is what I thought. God, can you see how old we are? So, I suggested Ishmael. Don’t look at me like that. Anyway, God said no. He said Sarah will bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac.”
“Isaac? Yes, if a son is born to me, I will certainly laugh, Abraham. I will laugh and cry and laugh some more! And all will rejoice with me because it will be a huge miracle!”
Sarah, for the first time, is included in the promise. She is the one to bear the son from whom nations and kings will come. There would be no doubt that Isaac was a special child, a child born not by the will of man, but of the will of God.
According to Hebrew 11:11, Sarah considered God faithful who had promised. If God had promised, he would do it.
The greatest promise God made was Jesus Christ his Son. In him, all of the promises in the old Testament are “Yes, and Amen!”
Do we believe God when all looks bleak and impossible? Do we think impossible answers were only for times past? God doesn’t work that way anymore?
Look to Jesus and pray for faith and more faith and more faith. Hebrews 11 says it was by faith that Sarah received power to conceive. Sarah may have made a lot of bad decisions along the way, (haven’t we all?), but through it all Sarah’s faith grew along with Abraham’s.
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.
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.
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.