Happy 4th of July weekend to you!
Recently in Bible study we covered the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus in the Book of John. We would love to have you join us on Monday nights for study. We also hope to have it available online soon as well.
Let’s take a look at John 15:1-5
“I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. 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. 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 neither can you unless you abide in Me. 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.”
Throughout my time in school I have been fascinated with American history. In elementary school I remember hearing repeatedly the encouragement that one day I could have a piece of the American dream, that we lived in the land of opportunity, and that many from every tribe and nation around the world wanted to come here and have the same privileges of any American citizen. It was not only well-known throughout our classrooms and communities, but around the world that if you wanted life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the United States of America is where you wanted to put down roots. I listened intently as teachers talked about the battles and wars our young country had endured, what generations had done well, and where failure had wounded people groups….failures that continue to heat up today. I wanted to know more… what fueled these battles, who were they who took a stand, and what made them tenacious? What was meant by a “better life” in our great nation? So I studied beyond educational requirements. I asked questions and dug deeper. It was a time when you might have had to wait in line at the library to access the card catalog system. I remember pulling those small drawers out looking for a reference that would lead me to a book that would tell me more about what happened. Who were those leaders and how did they handle the crisis of the day? I would then peruse between the tall bookshelves, open those old books, and read the accounts. My imagination soared and I wanted to know more.
As a campfire girl, my mom and other leaders would take us on a variety of outings where we served others. We often would show up at a nursing home to visit with the elderly. I quickly began to realize that if I would listen to what they were saying, wisdom was flowing from them that brought those books even more to life. And now I had the personal testimony of those who had traveled the road a little further than I. As I got older, I was able to travel some with my grandparents driving across the country. We would stop at historical markers, visiting forts and battle grounds. Houses of presidents and museums dedicated to the life and work of those who had lived the road before me. Those books came alive once again as I stood where they had once stood. I could envision the smell of gunpowder, see the flash bangs, hear the boots and hooves of the horses as they advanced. The ringing of church bells, worn out dirt roads, and railroad tracks. Steam engines that carried passengers from one place to another. To this day, I would rather drive across the country, stop in small towns, and meet the “regular” folks who have stories of generations to tell.
When I received my first Bible, I was drawn to the lives of those who had walked in faithfulness and obedience to God. I pictured Noah and the animals, wanted to know more about Pharaoh, Moses, and the Red Sea parting, the adventures of David and Elijah, and how Esther took a stand to do what was right, though it might have required her life. I saw that they made their share of mistakes too. Yet, the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 reveals that though some didn’t always do it right, following after God was their life, their priority. I wanted that kind of adventure.
That kind of adventure meant turning my life over to Jesus. It meant that I would need to develop a relationship with Him that was personal and intimate. The more I read my bible, the more I wanted to know. I began to see the connection between our American heritage tied to the Word of God. Historical markers that quoted Bible verses.
This country represents every tribe and tongue. As we celebrate our independence this weekend, at the center of our foundation as a nation is a biblical heritage. Did our ancestors always get it right? No. But they never stopped fighting, nor were they easily giving up territory that had been claimed as part of these United States. I cannot help but think of what God said to Joshua when He said, “Every place that your foot touches belongs to you…” If we give up that territory to the enemy, we have to fight that much harder to get it back. To put it another way, what we allow today, is what we have to deal with tomorrow.
Let’s take a look at this clip from National Treasure where Nicholas Cage is determining to steal the Declaration of Independence in order to preserve the national treasure.
Each one of us has ties to the foundation of this great nation. Generation after generation has either done well with the legacy they have been given or they have failed. Though a new generation may rename a past event to make it sound better or appease their conscience, a spade is still a spade. Precious blood was shed, and lives were forever changed. You hear me say it often but do the research and remain teachable. Week after week I see donated books that are old and worn from many years of use. To those who those books have been passed down to, they tell me that they have no interest in reading old stuff that’s outdated. Aren’t you grateful that God and His Word aren’t old and outdated?
Our education system in recent years has seemed to move from educating our future generations to conditioning them. Today, they know more about social justice, bullying, equality, tolerance, and diversity. They gather their information from the news and social media websites. As a case manager, I have spent time in classrooms week after week working with students where teachers bring up CNN having the students watch and journal about current events as part of their history and government classes; in elementary classrooms students are taking an hour each day to learn techniques on how to stay calm using yoga and other foreign practices, and in all grades they are being taught how to be tolerant and accepting of those around them. School psychologists and therapists have sessions with students who are struggling with their identity encouraging them to “explore” and “act on their feelings” regardless of what those feelings are. Teachers have to be trained in de-escalation, active shooter, physical restraining, etc. Jeff Foxworthy said it best when he said, “I remember a time when kids brought frogs to school, not guns.” We are facing new, more difficult challenges and we are struggling to be and remain prepared.
Kids are being raised in single-parent homes, often missing the father. Parents work too much or too little, and they don’t find their way to church like they used to. There was a time when even non-believers, non-church goers still had respect for those who desired to participate in weekly church activities and town sports leagues honored Wednesday nights so that families could be at church. Respect for a relationship that they may not have understood but saw the importance of. We need parents getting back to making their relationship with Jesus the number priority in their lives and in their homes. We must abide in Him.
Unity… acceptance… tolerance…diversity… sounds good to those who feel they have been wronged and misunderstood. But they are operating outside of the Word of God. God and His Word are the standard in which we live and die by. If we do not know the Word of God, we are open to the attacks of the enemy. The devil will use strong-willed, rebellious people for his agenda, destroying them in the process. They build an organization around an event, around an injustice, stirring up the emotionally charged multitude. How much time and research have you done looking at these organizations blasting their agendas? I would encourage you to take a look. One of the first things you’ll notice is that they aren’t all-inclusive, unified, or diverse. We must do better. And we do that by staying connected to the Vine, not the internet. Thomas Jefferson said, “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” Sound familiar? What are you spending time reading every day? Social media blasts? News channel tickers? The Word of God? Not only are we to read the Word of God, we are to study and apply it to our lives. Recently I was asked by a young person if much of my wisdom comes from the Bible…my answer? YES! A veteran of the war with Mexico, General “Stonewall” Jackson wrote to his wife and said, “People who are anxious to bring on war don’t know what they are bargaining for; they don’t see all the horrors that must accompany such an event.” When the prospect of a War between the States became a reality, the Civil War, the average age of a young soldier was twenty-two. To an aspiring young man who was bored with “life on the farm”, the romanticism and exhilaration of battle was an allurement that soon tried the faith and physical stamina of all who crossed the war’s threshold. I had to remind myself this past week of my allegiance. I can say without hesitation that I am proud to be an American. I am grateful for the privilege of growing up in this nation. I am grateful that my ancestors came here to start a new life and left us a legacy that afforded us opportunity. I am proud that my ancestors fought to free slaves and to make life better for all of us.
When I heard about a small group ready to destroy Mount Rushmore I became furious. I’m already angry that so many monuments and statues have been destroyed. Tearing down and destroying history does not solve the deep-rooted problem. Forgetting and trying to erase history shows that we are bound to repeat it. And let us state the obvious, trouble always comes back around. But we won't recognize it as trouble if we are dabbling in it and are not abiding in Him. Take ownership to your relationship with the LORD Jesus. The enemy is continuing to prowl around like a roaring lion looking for whom he can devour according to 1 Peter 5:8.
Let’s take a look at this clip from Remember the Titans.
We must remember. We must do better where we and our ancestors have failed. What legacy has been left to you? What legacy are you leaving? Is God pruning you right now? Are you flourishing as a follower of Jesus Christ? What are the criteria for being a successful Christian? Church programs and activities? Those are not enough nor are they a replacement for developing and abiding in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Is God able to use you in every situation that you enter? I believe that if you are abiding, you are available to His leading, as He is your first priority.
He tells us that we are to abide in Him. What does it mean to abide? It means being settled, being at peace, and in relationship with Jesus. Have you taken ownership to your relationship? It isn’t about reading your Bible and quoting it at people. It is reading and studying your Bible, applying what you learn to your life. It is loving God and loving other people in the good, bad, and ugly moments of life. It means realizing that we cannot do anything apart from Him. Kingdom worth and value. We must not forget that others are waiting on the other side of our obedience to God. Is God able to use you in every situation that you enter? Are you a horrible warning or a beautiful example of the Lord Jesus? Are others drawn to Him because of the life you live as His follower?
I am grateful for the Christian legacy that has been left for me. When my grandpa told me before he died that he had no regrets other than wanting more time on earth to tell people about Jesus and the goodness of God, I knew that this was the legacy not only being left to me, but also one that I wanted to leave for those coming up behind me. God places people in our lives every day that He wants us to reach. Do you see them? Do you hear them? We are here for such a time as this and as Esther said, “If I perish, I perish.” Do the will of God! Someone was bold and courageous with you; will you not do the same?
Take a look at this clip from Priscilla Shirer (start at 3:28; end 8:10)
I am one; and being one is enough. I am available for God to use in the lives of others. How about you? God will multiply what we give Him. What have you offered Him lately…loaves, fishes, oil? Will you be the one in a crowd who says “No”; the one who says not on my watch will I allow that to happen. The one who says I will be the Bible that someone else is reading by my words and actions. The one who will look and find ways to bless others. The one who says, “Not today, satan!” The one who will pray for our country and leaders. The one who will listen and learn from past and current mistakes and work to do better. The one who will boldly and courageously say, “You need Jesus. He needs to be Lord of your life and this is how that happens.” I am, just as you are, many things. But who am I first? There’s that question again… convicted of being a Christian? Is there enough evidence to support that you are a follower of Jesus Christ? This week take time to think about Who you belong to. We are here on purpose, on assignment. 1 Peter 2:9 says that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood. We are holy, set apart for His kingdom business, and that business, that command has not changed. Go ye forth and make disciples according to Matthew 28:18-20.
So…my allegiance is to the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. My home is in heaven. I am passing through to complete the mission God has given me. How about you? To the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God, the Creator of the universe who is coming soon! America and the rest of the world will one day fade away, but as a citizen of heaven, I am even more proud and honored. I will keep telling people about Jesus. Though I care about how tumultuous and chaotic these times are, my focus is that others come to know Jesus and live for Him. When we do this, we change the world around us. An American patriot, yes. A fan of old-time comic book superheroes, yes. An author, sports enthusiastic, book lover, daughter, sister, aunt, mentor…the list continues. But I want my legacy to be known that I am first and foremost a woman of God. That means I am abiding in Him, realize that I can do nothing without Him, and that He is my first priority in everything. That I, like Jesus, am going about doing the will of the Father. God asks the question, "Whom shall I send?" The cost is high when we say “YES, send me, Lord!” But it is worth it. Abide in Him. This is your time, my friends. Don’t let one more day slip by. Serve Him diligently, faithfully, and obediently. Don’t quit and don’t give up. Trust His timing and always be ready. Let’s have Miss Clara pray us out.