Friday, June 10, 2011

Dying Off the Vine

The rebuilding has begun. Shattered lives slowly being put together. Towns being reconstructed. Homes being restored. But nightmares of April’s horrific tornadoes smashing through Alabama, northern Georgia and southeastern Tennessee linger. As do similar memories in Joplin, Missouri and other ravaged communities.

The most massive tornadoes bypassed our part of the Tennessee Valley, but the devastation of smaller twisters remains:

Roots of trees, once buried deep, pointing helplessly toward the sky. Trunks of tall trees that stood proudly for years now chain-sawed into sections, good for nothing more than to be split for fireplaces next winter. Tree limbs that had extended gracefully, now broken and splintered, their chlorophyll-deprived leaves fading to dulled brown.

Those severed limbs are perhaps least important, yet their rapidly deteriorating beauty teaches a vital lesson, practical and stern: Branches depend totally upon their source of life – the tree trunk or the vine. Detached, they die. No leaves. No fruit. Just decay.

Jesus used the vine as a metaphor for how essential it is to remain attached to Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The tornado-wrenched branches throughout our area bring imagery to this truth.

Do you ever wonder – with so many people professing to be “Christians” or “born again” – why we see so little evidence of Christ’s reality and presence in our society? I think it’s because we’re trying to be branches separate from the Vine.

“Pull yourself by your own bootstraps” has been America’s mantra. “God helps those that help themselves,” people declare, as if it’s written in the Bible. It’s not. “God is my co-pilot.” According to the Scriptures, God doesn’t want to be “co”-anything.

To the contrary, the apostle Paul wrote, “I can do everything through him (Jesus Christ) who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). With Christ we can do anything God calls us to do; without Christ we can’t do anything of consequence. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me…I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last,” Jesus said (John 15:4,16).

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to bear fruit. And not the kind that spoils.

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