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Archive for the month “March, 2015”

God Loves Good Wine (Jon Bloom)

The following was taken from Desiringgod.org because it ties in so well with our current sermon series, “Contending For Joy.” 
God Loves Good Wine

God likes using wines and vines in his miracles and parables.

I thought of that a number of years ago when I read the following in an article:

Great wines come from low-yielding vineyards planted in marginal climates on the poorest soils. Though hard on the vines, these tough conditions are good for the wine, because the vines that are stressed must work harder to produce fruit, which leads to fewer but more concentrated and flavorful grapes.

By contrast, the vines used for bulk wines have it easy. They are planted in the fertile soils in ideal climates of regions such as California’s Central Valley. Such regions are great for producing tons of grapes to fill up the bulk fermentation tanks, but not at all great for producing the complex, intense flavors needed to make great wine, because the vines are not stressed and the yields are way too high.

I think this paradox in nature — stressed vines produce good wines — is also a parable for how God produces rich, complex, intense faith in his children. Because when it comes to faith, God loves good wine.

All you have to do is read Hebrews 11 to see that the great wine of faith often “comes from. . . vineyards planted in marginal climates on the poorest soils.” AndJames 1:2 tells us plainly that “tough conditions (“various trials”) are good for the wine” of faith. Because faith-vines “must work harder to produce fruit” leading to “more concentrated and flavorful” wines.

Now, as a faith-vine striving to grow in a hard place, you might be tempted to wish you were a bulk wine vine basking in the spiritual equivalent of California’s Central Valley. Oh for that rich soil, bright sunshine, warm ocean air. Sigh. But here you are, stuck on some coldish, semi-arid hillside where the struggle is frequent and sometimes severe.

Yes, it’s hard. But it’s not a mistake. It’s not a punishment. It’s not mean. It’s simply that tough conditions produce the best faith. Your Vinedresser (John 15:1) has planted you in a unique vineyard with uniquely stressful conditions because he intends for you to produce a uniquely fine, flavorful faith-wine. And he will tend to your every real need (Philippians 4:19).

If you need some perspective today, review Hebrews 11 and the great faith-vine heroes of history. Remember what their vineyards were like and the rich faith-wines that resulted. And then remember Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and the joy set before every vine that endures in faith.

When God makes wine, he makes really good wine (John 2:7–10). And when it comes to your faith, he knows that really good wine is made in the vineyard.

Loving Those Who Are “Stuck” (Chris Francis)

stuck
One of our Big 7 Prayers for 2015 is:
 
5. That God would give us love for those whose sins offend us….and also the boldness to have awkward conversations to help each other grow.
Paul speaks to both parts of this prayer in Galatians 6. 
 
Galatians 6:1
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
 
This “caught” is not about someone caught in the act of doing something naughty; it’s more the idea of being caught, like an animal in a trap,  in a habitual sinful behavior or habitual sinful mindset. It has the idea of fallen, rather than a deliberate & planned sin. 
 
If someone is stuck in something that is damaging to them, an area of  their life that they are not trusting God with, that they can’t get out of, Paul says something must be done. What is it that must be done? 
 
He says “you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” You who live by the Spirit — you who have been praying for that person, who are lead by the Holy Spirit, who are humble and compassionate. You must restore that person gently. They are not to be ignored. They are not to be excused. They are not to be enabled. They are not to be destroyed. They are not to be pushed away. They must be restored gently. 
 
How to do this requires patience and compassion and wisdom. Hence, it requires “you who are spiritual.” In our flesh, we tend to either react too harshly or turn a blind eye to sin. We need the leading and guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to restore our brothers and sisters who are caught in a sin.
 
But then Paul urges a warning – “watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” What is he talking about? I think he is talking about the temptation towards pride and self-righteousness. Because that is our tendency, isn’t it? To look down on those “caught in the sin.” To see them as our projects. To gossip about them. To be angry with them. To give up on them. To deem them not worth the effort. 
 
But we must remember that without Christ, we are all stuck in our sins in every way, with no way out. If Jesus decided not to get involved, we would all be stuck on death row, waiting to pay for the penalty of our sins. If Jesus decided not to suffer for us, we would all be stuck in slavery to sin. If Jesus decided not to conquer death on our behalf, we would all be stuck in this dying world that is full of the presence of sin. 
 
But Jesus did get involved. He did suffer for us. And he did conquer the grave. And so it should change everything about how we deal with others who are stuck.  

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