The Scary Gardener & Reckless Vine

John 15

April 12

I have a story to tell you. It’s the scariest horror story and, simultaneously, the greatest love story. I’m not talking about ghosts falling in love. No, I’m talking about a garden. 

We’re all little branches in a big, beautiful garden. It’s our job to grow fruit to please the Gardener. 

A day is coming, however, when the Gardener will cut off the fruitless branches—the diseased, dead, good-for-nothing twigs. 

If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned”(John 15:6).

It’s scary to think about the judgment that is coming—about the branches thrown into the fire. The Bible is filled with examples of people meeting God’s wrath, like a flooded Earth, a pillar of salt, a plethora of plagues, and people dropping dead. That day is coming for us, too. This begs the question, are you living in a manner that is consistent with your calling to be holy, to bear good fruit? 

I have good news for you, Little Branch. There is a Vine who is crazy about you. His job is to keep you close, to hem you in, to wrap around you, and cover you in grace. This Vine is Jesus, and he says: 

“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” (John 15:4).  

I took this picture of a vine in my sister’s backyard. Look at the way it twists, turns, and loop-de-loops to seek out and envelop a branch. The love Jesus has for you is the same. It’s reckless and unrelenting. It’s the well that never runs dry, the shepherd that leaves the ninety-nine to rescue the one, and the blood-stained body on the cross. 

The same Jesus who first told us to “Come,” also tells us to “Abide.” To remain. To stay. To obey. 

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (John 15:10a). 

-Mackenzie McClain

Discussion & Reflection Questions: 

  1. As the old hymn says, are you ready for judgment day? Are you bearing good fruit? 
  2. What commands do you struggle to obey? Where in your life do you need a good pruning? 
  3. How has Jesus’ love changed your life?

Bearing Fruit

A few years ago, my friend from church, Terri Tschaenn, gave me a single piece of a cactus that was broken off from her huge cactus plant. I put it in a small pot not knowing what to expect, and I have to say that thing has grown so many shoots and sprouts and whatever new chunks of cactus might be called…..I am now onto a third pot myself and it has been pretty cool to see that thing grow and spread! While I am still learning to be careful with the nasty little prickers, I can tell I am going to have cactus to share! So, if I gave one chunk of cactus to 12 friends, and in a few years they gave one piece to 12 more friends, imagine how fast Terri’s cactus could spread. In fact, she told me that several other people she knows have cacti started from her plant.

As Christians, we are called to remain in the vine and produce fruit. One way we see the evidence of fruit is in disciples. John 15:8  tells us:

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Bearing fruit to God’s glory is not found in the number of likes on a post that happens to have a Bible verse in it, not in the number of people who show up at our “church” event or the people who follow us/like us/or think we are really “nice”. Fruit isn’t measured the way society measures it at all. In fact, probably most numbers society uses for a gauge of success would demonstrate the exact opposite in the sense of bearing fruit that Jesus asks of us.

Jesus had his disciples. Paul had his team. Scripture speaks of a called-out body of people loving one another, teaching, edifying, building up, holding accountable, sharing, confessing sins, forgiving sins. We all have a circle of influence and relationships, and those relationships with followers of Jesus are the ones prioritized above all else in no uncertain terms.

Matthew 12:48-50

New International Version

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

If we are to call ourselves a Christian or follower of Christ, we had better seriously consider those we yoke ourselves with and recognize that our church family is our family. We all benefit from being discipled and from discipling and we have a responsibility to seek those with spiritual maturity and a shared relationship with God to grow alongside as brothers/sisters.

-Jennifer Hall

For those following along with the yearly Bible reading plan, you can read or listen to today’s Bible passages at BibleGateway here – Job 19-20 and 2 Corinthians 11

Growing Out of the World

Yesterday we talked a little bit about the idea of remaining in Jesus/the vine from John 15. Continuing on in that chapter today, we see that we are called to be set apart from the world’s “garden” of goods. We are to belong to Jesus and be called out from the world. And it sounds like we shouldn’t anticipate popularity for this.

John 15: 16-19:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

Verse 19 tells us that that world will love us when we belong to it.  It seems like many days it is easier to be loved by the world than it is to be set apart. If we watch what the world watches, busy ourselves with its entertainment, immerse ourselves in its news and social media, agree with its “wisdom” and ambitions, share its worries, and dedicate our time and energy to pursuits of this world, we can easily find ourselves part of it. With some pretty deep roots. We will be accepted and liked. We won’t offend anyone. We will fit in. Or at least we won’t stand out? We might have some temporary fun. People will smile at us, agree with us, boost our ego, and…..we will belong.  But, we will belong to the world, and there are consequences.

Scripture speaks heavily to the idea of being “called out” or “set apart” from the world. This passage is one of those. We are currently living in a world abounding in evil and deceit. Deceit that runs so deep in so many places that anyone who follows Jesus likely will be hated at times. Looking at Jesus’s example, being watchful for times the world’s ideas contradict that example and his words, and seeking to love and obey are crucial to ensure that we are growing “out” of the world and not “in” it.  I look forward to a day when Jesus reigns and is no longer hated ,when we are in God’s perfect kingdom without sin, and when this world and its problems have passed away!

–Jennifer Hall

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Job 11-12 and 2 Corinthians 7

The Vine and the Branches

John 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  2  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes [a]  so that it will be even more fruitful.  3  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  4  Remain in me as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can
you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  6  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is
thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

One of my favorite things about summer is the chance to have a garden and watch seeds grow from tiny seeds into plants taller than me sometimes. This summer I planted a spaghetti squash seed for the first time. The tiny seed I planted in the spring has now become a huge plant, growing into a vine so big that it keeps spreading into the neighbor’s yard and crowding many of
my other plants. At first I tried to wind it around our fence to keep it climbing there, but that vine continued to spread and really wanted to bear fruit next door too! It has forced me to really watch to see which branches have the flowers turning to fruit and which do not so that I can determine which to remove.


The branches I cut off are tossed away, turning brown and withering very quickly. While I have removed many branches and seen withered plants over the years, this particular squash plant has been so prolific with fruit (which not everyone in my household is thrilled about!) and grown into such a large vine, it has really been a good practical lesson for me regarding this passage.

Fruit doesn’t grow unless it is attached to the vine. But, flowers/branches attached to the vine can grow bigger and bigger producing exponentially more seeds than I started with in April. It is clear from the book of John that is true of us also. It is a nice picture really, but one we should take seriously considering what happens to the branches in verse 6. God is the perfect creator and gardener. He knew we couldn’t bear fruit alone and sent His son, Jesus, to be our mediator and through his sacrifice and forgiveness we are able to have a relationship with God and bear fruit for His glory. To bear fruit we must remain on the vine. If you read further in John 15 you will see some descriptions of what remaining in the vine involves. Keeping the commands of Jesus, laying down our lives for other followers of Jesus, and loving one another as we have
been loved.


But, we aren’t asked to do it alone. We are asked to bear fruit alongside other believers growing in love and obedience to Jesus together. And we aren’t told to do it just so we aren’t cast away and die. In fact, we are appointed to do it “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (v.11)”. God’s master gardener plan is to bring us joy, and that can be found nowhere but in Him.

-Jennifer Hall

Even when the devotions are on other great passages – you can keep on reading through the Bible plan – read or listen to today’s passages at BibleGateway.comJob 9-10 and 2 Corinthians 6.

Me Against the World

John 15

John 15 19

Does it feel like some days everyone hates you?

We’ve all been there; we say or do something different and it blows up in our faces.
Sometimes, this is probably justified. When we say or do something bad, it may be good for the people in our lives to call us out. While there are many things wrong with political movements like #blacklivesmatter or #metoo, their goal is admirable: there ARE times when those in power, like police, need to be held accountable; there are some people who are victims of sexual assault and harassment that are afraid to speak out due to the backlash. While you have not done anything like those called out in these movements, I’m sure you’ve had moments when your friends turned against you when you did something to hurt a mutual friendship, or maybe bullied a kid. And we can see that this is justice, in a way. We feel like (and on some level, know) we deserve it.
But there are days when you say what you believe is truth and it backfires. There are days when you are asked what you believe and everyone around you mocks you and belittles you for it, or tells you that you are on a dangerous path for not agreeing with their view of God. There are days when you do the right and righteous thing, and it seems like people around you think you have done something terrible…
Jesus lets us know this won’t be uncommon. He teaches in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you.” In our day, we can see this is true in a small scale. On some issues, we love people, but hate sinful actions performed. When a man believes that he can’t make a wedding cake for a gay couple, he is sued and taken to court. In many circles, he is considered a bigot. Very recently, another Christian political commentator gave a speech entitled “Men are not women.” That speech created a protest movement, and he was assaulted with liquid that smelled like bleach. While these are hotly charged political issues, both of these men were standing on what they believed were biblical, moral principles, and were hated for their views.
This is because we are not of the world. We don’t go along with the system the world offers. Christ calls us to live in love differently. One could argue that if these men had just lived like Jesus, then they wouldn’t have encountered any problem. Love wins, right? But Jesus points out that he is hated by the system of the world, AND HE WAS PERFECT. Christ lived a life full of grace and truth (John 1). But that did not endear him to the world.
When it seem the world is against you, stop and think:
Did I do something wrong? If so, fix it.
If not, is the world against you and it is not related to the Bible? Maybe it is wise to think about what they are saying.
However, if the world is against you and you are standing on Scripture, then stand strong. Don’t be shocked, because they first hated Jesus. Stand strong, in truth and love, and God will stand with you.
(For a throw back, watch this clip … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_o6QHdIG4I // For some rock, listen to this … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kiwluGZdJQ )
-Jake Ballard
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