Category Archives: Spiritual Formation

He lifts you up – John 15:2

Someone in my congregation recently asked this question about John 15.

So I have been pondering this since Sunday.   Here’s the verse.

The Vine and the Branches ] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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.

It’s from John 15.  I always took bearing fruit to be leading others to Christ.  On Sunday Pastor Tim (and I’m hoping I heard this right) talked about bearing the fruit of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

I always thought I was not fruitful because I have not lead anyone to Christ and would therefore be cut off, which would be a bad and probably painful thing. 

So what exactly does it mean to bear fruit?  

Here was my reply: Great question!  I remember my very first Bible paper was on this passage.  I was so nervous about interpreting it right and got very confused. First of all, bearing fruit refers to both reproduction (i.e. our witness, fruits bear seed), and identity (i.e. what the spirit produces in us.)  So it is both-and. Secondly, there is a interpretation issue in this verse.  (I learned this one from Doug Greenwold of Preserving Bible Times.)  This doesn’t happen very often where most English translations miss it, but this is one of those cases.  When it says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.” the word rendered “cuts off” is actually the word “AIRO” (sounds like “eye – row”).  It would be much better translated, “lifts up.”  ESV and NASB get it closer with “takes away” but that is still not the point.  In Ancient Near Eastern Vine growing, the vines grew on the ground (without a trellis). To help it grow and bear fruit, a gardener would lift the vine or branch and put it on a rock where the cool evening air can help it breathe–then it can bear fruit! So the sense of this passage is: He lifts up every branch in me that bears no fruit (so that it will bear fruit again), while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. Wow!  that is awesome!  If you are a branch in Jesus, and you’re under performing, he doesn’t cut you off, he lifts you up.  He only takes out a knife to prune you and make your fruit be more focused. I hope that helps. Pastor Tim

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Filed under Bible and Theology, Spiritual Formation

Preaching on Sunday

Hi everyone,

I was just noticing that I haven’t posted to the blog in a while.  Time sure flies.  If any of you are interested I’ll be preaching at Cornerstone Church in Brighton, MI tomorrow 9:00, 10:30 and 12:00.  The text is Acts 26, and the title is “Sanctified by Faith.”

Acts 26:12-18 12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.  13 About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions.  14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied.  16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.  17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them  18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (NIV)

This will be a sermon about the doctrine of sanctification:

  1. Sanctified by faith
  2. Sanctified by the Spirit
  3. Sanctified in our whole person
  4. Sanctified is not a free ride

Come hear about high school reunions, filling balloons, killing wasps, growing 700 lb. pumpkins, and most of all Jesus!

Tim

I’ll try and post the audio later.

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Filed under about God, Spiritual Formation

Lent

Has anyone asked you what you’re giving up for Lent?  You know we as evangelicals don’t tend to do much about that.  Perhaps you’ve already given up something.  If so, that’s great.

If you’ve not given up anything for lent, may I invite you to join me in giving up prayerlessness?  You know it’s way too easy to be prayerless.  Maybe it’s because we aren’t dependent enough.  Maybe it’s because we don’t realize that we have the privilege of spiritual adoption entreating us to talk to our heavenly Father with the promise of his undivided attention.

Whatever it is that keeps us from him, the best antidote is to get alone with God and pray.  Nothing puts us in the right frame of mind for prayer, than prayer itself.

When life is busy the need only increases to spend time waiting at his throne and pouring out our hearts to him.  Whatever you’re doing this season between now and Easter, I pray that you will find time to enter his presence and seek his face.

8 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  9 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.  10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.  11 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.  12 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.  1 Chronicles 16:8-12

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Generational Discipleship

At the church where I’m an Associate Pastor I’m leading a team of staff members who are seeking to answer the question, “How can we as church leaders help encourage and equip parents in their role as the primary faith influencers of their children?”

It’s not an easy question to answer, but we’re committed to realigning our thinking for the sake of faithfulness to God and victory in our generation.  Our mission, by the grace of God, is to connect generations to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  We want to promote healthy family life, equip parents to disciple their children, adopt those without a spiritual support system and connect generations within our church.

In this entry, I’d like to share our Values.  I’d love to hear back from you!  Please write some comments about what you read below.

Values for Generational Discipleship

  • God has created the family to bring him glory

– God’s word gives guidance for healthy family life

– All families experience brokenness and sin, but are redeemed by Jesus as they look to him in faith.

– We give each other grace as we all strive to follow God

  • God calls parents to disciple their children

– Healthy families put God first in their lives

– Healthy families make space for discipleship

– Effective leadership in the home begins with personal growth in God

  • The church and family are partners in spiritual formation

– The church should train, involve and equip parents throughout its programming

– The church is responsible minister to those who lack a strong spiritual support system

– Healthy families in turn strengthen churches

  • The whole church is involved in Generational Discipleship

– Varied generations need one another and together engage in discipleship

– Church Leadership practices and proclaims generational discipleship

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Filed under Family Ministry, Generational Discipleship, Parenting, Spiritual Formation

10 Questions

These ten questions are from Dr. Don Whitney.  I hope that you enjoy reflecting on them.  You can find more from him at www.biblicalspirituality.org

Ten Questions to ask at the start of a new year

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

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Take a break

You know in our speedy culture, rest is under-rated.  This past week, I’ve spent three days up north with my wife, Sarah.

Besides the fact that we like to be with each other, it has provided a much needed break from work and family life.  How refreshing.

When’s the last time you took a break?  It’s like drinking cool water on a hot day.  Something deep inside tells you that you needed the break.  And once you take a drink you can’t imagine how you were doing life without it.

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Filed under Spiritual Formation