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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. John 15:4

Have you ever thought of the passion behind the words of John 15:4? Jesus Christ, Messiah, the son of the living God is asking to remain in you. Some translations say ‘abide in you’. Either way, He isn’t asking to be WITH me. He wants to be in me and wants me to be ‘in Him’.

He isn’t telling me to clean up my act and join him when I’m done, like being part of the vine is dependent on performance or is the result of some supernatural occurrence. Branches aren’t add-ons or the result of some afterthought.

Branches, of course can’t survive without the vine, but a vine without branches? Not very practical. So the two of them, branches and vines, are interdependent. Imagine that. Jesus thinks enough of me that he says we are dependent on one another.

Now, me being dependent on Jesus? No question about that. But the thought of him being dependent on me adds a whole new perspective to the story. I’m not something he’s about to set on a shelf somewhere until further notice.

We are together. He isn’t asking me to join him one day a week. This is the real thing. This abiding envelopes my emotional, intellectual, spiritual and being. We are intertwined, interdependent, in constant interaction; constantly touching one another’s heart.

I’ve heard sermon after sermon on this passage. Each one seemed to carry with it a sense of huge responsibility to perform, to live worthy of the calling. Branches don’t have the option of living worthy of the vine. They just are. For a branch to pull-away from the vine is dangerous for the vine and can cause nearly fatal consequences because it damages the vine. Were a branch able to pull itself away from the vine, it is always fatal.

What amazing love he has for me that he would consider me to be so much a part of him. What an awesome position I have in him that I would be so close to his heart! As the vine, he is passionate about giving me everything I need to not only survive, but flourish. As a branch my goal in life is to produce beautiful fruit for his glory.

PRAYER: Jesus I’ve never thought of the passion behind abiding or being ‘in you’. What amazing love you have for me. Yet on a daily basis I seem to try to live apart from the one source of power and love that will help me cope with the struggles of this journey called life. Thank you for loving me so much. Empower me with your Spirit to bask in the glory of being a part of you. In your name, Amen.

You prepare a feast for me, in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Psalm 23:5 (NLT)

Sometimes we feel completely overwhelmed with life. It seems like all of our enemies are crouching at our door, waiting for an opportune time to attack and conquer us. Enemies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are emotional enemies like worry, fear, our past sins, hidden sins and the fear of being found out or feeling like we are a failure and we will never be successful.

Sometimes those enemies are physical enemies such as illness, debt, abusive relationships or critics. Enemies can be consequences of poor decisions in the past. We know we are forgiven. We know God loves us, but we can’t shake the guilt. We can’t get past the realization of hindered and destroyed dreams. We are so imprisoned by ‘what could have been’ that we are fail to see ‘what could be’.

The Psalmist paints a beautiful picture for those of us hounded by emotional and physical enemies in our lives. In the midst of the battlefield, our Heavenly Father places a great feast and you are the guest of honor! The only way you can eat a feast in the midst of your enemies is if the person putting on the feast is stronger than all the enemies that surround you. It’s as if you are able to eat and celebrate in complete safety while your enemies sit just outside the door rendered completely helpless and unable to attack.

This is no small meal that God has prepared for you. This is a feast! Everything at a feast is for your pleasure and comfort. You have servants to wait on you and bring you what your heart desires. The atmosphere is festive and safe. Although there are problems just outside the door, they have no affect on you.

As guest of honor, the master himself anoints you with oil. Anointing of oil was done in the Psalmists day to honored guests. It was aromatic oil that smelled good and refreshed your soul after a hot dusty day.

During those times when the enemies lurking at your door seem ready to break the walls down; in those quiet moments when fear and worry are relentless in their pursuit of you, remember that even in the mist of trial and turmoil your Heavenly Father has the power and desire to provide for you.

Draw close to God during the fearful times. He is passionate in His desire for you as a passionate lover desires the one he loves. When you rely on Him for protection and wisdom the enemies lurking at the door will have no power over you.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father. I thank you for the picture I have in my mind right now. A picture of a table, a great feast where I sit in the midst of a huge celebration. Although there are enemies at my door I sit in peace and comfort knowing that you will protect me. The fragrant oil of your love relaxes me in your presence. Help me today to live as the guest of honor. No enemy can attack when you are near. I praise you for your love and protection. Amen.

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. Psalm 27:10 (NLT)

There lies in the heart of each of us a desire to be loved and to be wanted. That inner confidence that we know we are needed and that if we were gone, someone would miss us. The peace of knowing someone cares and that when everyone else turns their back on us, there is at least one person we can turn to for a heartfelt hug, a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear.

For many of people that’s what family is for. Family is that one foundation, that one cornerstone that throughout history has proven itself to be the most consistent, reliable and faithful place to find love, acceptance and understanding.

Friends move or find other interests. Marriages, some of which have lasted almost half a century, end in divorce and send children of any age reeling and seeking answers. Illnesses, emotional distress, financial ruin, greed all take their toll. But family is always supposed to be there for us.

In David’s Psalm of praise (Psalm 27) he recounts the many ways that God can be trusted and praised. Friends can fail us. We have adversaries that seek our demise. Brothers can turn on you and tell you how embarrassed they are to have you as a sibling. Sometimes even parents can turn their backs on you when you don’t meet up to their own lofty expectations.

But God is there. Have you ever been in a crowd of people you know and still feel lonely? Have you ever reached out for someone to talk to and found everyone too busy to really listen? Have you ever made a decision that was so repulsive that even your family excludes you from their circle?

Know this. Your Heavenly Father hears your cries in the night even when it seems your prayers don’t go past the ceiling. During those lonely times He feels the same knot in your stomach. His heart sinks when He sees how you are treated. No one. Not friends, family, your lover, no one understands like Jesus. He is your friend in the midst of the darkest hour.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. There are times in my life when I’m so full of loneliness and despair that I’m not sure I can go on. No one seems to understand me or listen to me or care if I’m even around. There are times I confess I don’t even think you care. Help me this day to know that you love me with all the scars, with all the bruises, with all the issues that pull me down. I love you. Help me to feel your love. Amen.

No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39 (NLT)

What can separate us from God’s love? The Bible tells us that nothing can separate us from His love. The only thing that stands in the way of a love relationship with God is our sin. Sin separates us from God’s love because God can’t look at sin, not because He doesn’t love us. All of us, no matter who we are or what we believe are God’s creation. He made ALL men (mankind) in His image for the express purpose of having a passionate, fulfilling love relationship with us.

Jesus came to earth to give us a living example of God’s love. He died to pay the penalty for our sin. He rose so that even death would have no power over us. Today He is seated at the right hand of His father pleading our case and reminding the Father that He died for us. He works in us though the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us, protect us and assure us of His love.

What can separate us from His love? If we believe that God is the creator of all things then He is also in control of all things created. He created all we see (the earth, universe, life) and the unseen (the spirit world, fear, doubt, etc.). Therefore He will not allow anything He has created to keep us from His love.

What can separate us from His love? Can our past? Can debt? Can illness? Can political agendas that are anti-God? Can present frustrations and disappointments? NO! The enemy uses these things to try to veil God’s love; to make us question His love, His existence and His forgiveness.

The enemy says, “He can’t forgive you this time. You’ve gone too far. You are nothing but a hypocrite.” The enemy says, “If God is a God of love why is there illness and disaster? If your God is alive and loving this would never happen”

But our Father in heaven has always warned us that in this world we will see adversity. We’ll see hatred and disaster and struggle. He’s told us we’ll struggle with sin and with those intent on destroying us. He’s even warned us that we will be unfaithful at times. But even these things will not separate us from God’s love.

Our attitudes towards God may affect our ability to sense His love for us but they will never affect how much He loves us!

What can separate us from God’s love? Nothing. Nothing you can see. Nothing that is hidden. Not the past, not the future. God loves you and He sent His own Son as proof. Your value comes because of God’s love for you and not because of anything  you can do to earn it.

PRAYER: Holy Father. I thank you today for the reminder that there is nothing that separates me from you. I get scared sometimes. I get frustrated with my own feelings of inadequacy to follow you the way I want. I’m angry sometimes at the evil and injustice around me. Even during these times I ask that you would help me to live in constant awareness of your undying, eternal and unending love for me. In the name of my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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