grapes 1 (vine and fruit)

Called to Connect

It was late Thursday evening. Jesus and the disciples were making their way to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, knowing that His crucifixion was at hand. Passing by the temple, they saw a huge golden grapevine carved over the entrance. Jesus offered words of commission and comfort to His disciples…

“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 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. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”  —John 15:1-8 (NASB)

So how does one abide in Christ? Jesus gives us two approaches in John 15:7. First, He says, “My words abide in you.” For Christ followers today, this is done by reading, studying, meditating, and memorizing God’s Word. Second, He tells us, “Ask what you will.” This reference is to communication with God, which is best done through the disciplines of prayer, journaling, fasting, and solitude and silence.

Beginning with simply reading God’s Word and talking with Him in prayer, these spiritual practices form the foundation of abiding in Christ. By developing habits in the deeper disciplines, we remain connected to Christ and therefore find ourselves connected to the vine where we are in a position to bear much fruit.

Here are five practical and simple suggestions for the journey:

  1. Read the Bible daily by downloading and following the JourneyOn Today Bible Reading Strategy.
  2. Spend some time in prayer following a prayer guide.
  3. Memorize Scripture by copying a memory verse onto an index card or sticky note and place it on your desk at work, the dashboard of your car, or on your bathroom mirror.
  4. Start a new journal recording things you are learning, feeling, and doing on your journey to be like Jesus.
  5. Ask someone to be your spiritual friend. Meet them for coffee or lunch to talk about ways they stay connected to Jesus and what do they see Him doing in their lives.

15 Titles of Jesus in Scripture

When we meet people for the first time, we often ask common get-to-know-you questions such as…What do you do? Where did you go to school? Where are you from? Are you married? Do you have children? Basically we are asking them to tell us about their titles. Titles don’t just tell us what a person does; they also give us insight into who a person is. In order to get to know Jesus so that we become more like Him, we need to know and understand His titles. Block out some dedicated time this week to get to know Jesus by reflecting on the titles He is given in Scripture.

1. God With Us (Immanuel)

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” —Matthew 1:23 (NASB)

2. Messiah

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. —Mathew 1:1 (NASB)

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John and followed Him. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” (which means “Anointed One”), and he brought Simon to Jesus.  —John 1:40-42a (HCSB)

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). When He comes, He will explain everything to us.”  —John 4:25 (HCSB)

3. Christ

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” —Matthew 16:16 (HCSB)

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. —1 John 5:1 (NASB)

4. Way, Truth and Life

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” —John 14:6 (HCSB)

5. Savior

…looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus… —Titus 2:13 (NASB)

For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. —Luke 2:11 (NASB)

6. Only Begotten Son 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. —John 3:16 (NASB)

7. Lord (and Teacher)

You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. —John 13:13 (NASB)

8. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6 (HCSB)

9. Mediator

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. —1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NASB)

10. Light of the World

Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” —John 8:12 (HCSB)

11. I Am

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.” —John 8:58 (HCSB)

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” —Exodus 3:14a (NASB)

12. Good Shepherd (and Door)

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” —John 10:9-11 (HCSB)  

13. Faithful

Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. —1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NASB)

14. Bread of Life

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” —John 6:35 (NASB)

15. Alpha and Omega

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” —Revelation 1:8 (NASB)

Jesus Letterpress

To Be Like Jesus

The words of this old hymn rang loudly in many ways this week as we launched a new sermon and study series on the life of Christ. Children and adults singing Jesus Messiah, pastors and teachers proclaiming the many facets of Jesus, and servants ministering to others in Jesus’ name all demonstrated what it means to be a Christ follower.

The Bible reminds us in Galatians 4:19, Romans 8:28-30, and 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we are to be formed, conformed, and transformed into the image of Christ—that the personality and deeds of Jesus should naturally flow out of us where we life, work, and play. Simply put, we are to say the things Jesus would say, do the things that Jesus would do, and act the way Jesus would act.

So how does one get to know Jesus? If our goal is to be like Him what methods and tools are available to us today? Here are ten suggestions.

1. Read and Study God’s Word. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to His creation. Start by reading the gospels of Mark and John followed by Matthew, Luke, and Acts.

2. Spend time with God in prayer. Slow down and have a conversation with Jesus. Prayer is simply talking with God. Be still, tell God what is on your heart, and listen for His answer.

3. Participate in a worship service. Sing, pray, give, and follow along in the Bible. Keep your focus on Jesus. Look and listen to God as He speaks to you through various elements of worship.

4. Talk with others about Jesus. Engage in a conversation about Jesus. Ask others how they came to know Jesus and what He is teaching them. Remember: talking to others may include sharing your faith with someone who does not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

5. Serve Others. Do the things Jesus did. Help someone in need, visit the sick, play with children, offer hope to the hopeless. It is often easy to see the face of Jesus in the people we serve.

6. Read a book about Jesus. Read a book about the life, words, and work of Jesus.

7. Participate in a group study on Jesus. Join a LIFE Group, Connect Group, Focus Study, or just grab some friends and/or co-workers and participate in a study of Jesus.

8. View works of art illustrating Jesus. Visit an art museum or view works of art online. Don’t rush through the paintings and sculptures. Spend time learning from the artist as they share their view of Christ.

9. Listen to worship music. Listen to songs about Jesus from various artists and genres. Perhaps you can find Him in the beauty of an orchestra or the simple sound of child singing Jesus Loves Me.

10. Take a walk and observe creation. The rocks and hills praise God. If you look and listen, you can see and hear nature praise our Savior.

Father Son Shave

Imitators of Christ

Walking by a dark restaurant in a nearby town I noticed a sign in the window, “Out of Business because we didn’t know what business we were in.” Pausing for a moment I wondered, how could they not know what business they were in? There was a sign above the door that clearly stated this was a restaurant. There were tables, chairs, menus, and a kitchen just on the other side of the window. Pondering a moment longer, I speculated that when this business began they knew what business they were in, but somewhere along the way they had lost their excitement, intentionality, and perhaps their love for serving others delicious meals. Walking away, I thought of all of the other businesses that are now closed; then I thought about churches and Christ-followers that have they lost sight of the business they are in.

God’s Word tells us in Galatians 4:19, Romans 8:28-30, and 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we are to be formed, conformed, and transformed into the image of Christ. That the personality and deeds of Jesus should naturally flow out of us where we live, work, and play. That the destination of our journey and the business we are in is movement toward Christ-centered lives. Simply put, we are to do and say the things Jesus would do and say. We are to become “imitators of Christ”.

Remember, the journey is the destination, and our destination is to be more like Jesus every day.