AS A BOY growing up in East Tennessee, I often marveled at my Father’s keen ability to raise grapes. He loved grapes and homemade grape jelly (he still does), and that love was seen in his devotion and care for his vines. He mulched around the vines, he fertilized the vines, he watered the vines, and he protected the vines.
As a result, he produced delicious grapes year after year—but his grapevines ONLY bore grapes. His vines never bore grapes, and tomatoes, and squash, and watermelon, and cucumbers.
When our Lord said, “I am the vine, you are the branches…” (John 15:5a), He was not sanctioning the religious division which is so prevalent in our world today. Had that been the case, Jesus would have needed another comparison than that of the vine and branches because A VINE BEARS ONLY ONE TYPE OF FRUIT. Grapevines only yield grapes, right?
Do a little reflective study back in Genesis and you’ll inevitably stumble across this verse: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth’” (Genesis 1:11). Watch the phrase “according to its kind, whose seed is in itself…” In his commentary, The Genesis Record, Henry Morris observes:
“Implanted in each created organism was a ‘seed,’ programmed to enable the continuing replication of that type of organism. The modern understanding of the extreme complexities of the so-called DNA molecule and the genetic code contained in it has reinforced the Biblical teach of the stability of kinds. Each type of organism has its own unique structure of the DNA and can only specify the reproduction of that same kind.”1/ (Emphasis mine–mb).
In layman’s terms, what Doctor Morris was saying is that stuff only reproduces that same stuff. In essence, George Benson’s grapevines could only yield grapes. Different varieties of grapes? Perhaps. Fruit other than, or in addition to, grapes? No. Remember what Morris said, the “unique structure of the DNA…can only specify the reproduction of the same kind.” To put it another way, “…You will always harvest what you plant” (Galatians 6:7 NLT).
Now stay with me. In Luke 8 Jesus said, “…The seed is the word of God” (v. 11b). Think about it for just a moment. 1) Since a seed only reproduces after its own kind, and since, from a spiritual perspective, 2) the seed is God’s Word, then why do we have so many different religious groups today? You can’t plant one seed and get thousands of different kinds of denominational fruits. It’s genetically impossible. How can we plant the same seed (e.g. the Word) and yet reap a whole plethora of different and often contradictory, religious groups—which wear different names, which engage in widely divergent practices, and which teach opposing views? Grapevines only yield grapes.
Two chapters after He spoke about the vine and the branches Jesus prayed, “I do no pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me…that they all may be one…” (John 17:20, 21a).
One. One seed. One vine. Many branches which reproduce the same fruit. That’s what Jesus taught.
Think about it.
1/ Henry Morris, “The Six Days of Creation,” The Genesis Record, Baker, 63
SHE SHOWED UP on our front door step. Even though she was outside at the time, I could hear her distinctive “meow” throughout the house. We had a cat at the time, but Lucky’s voice has a much lower tone and pitch, so I knew it wasn’t him.
I stepped outside to introduce myself to our new guest. She made a couple of quick circles around my feet and I nearly tripped. She was thin, small, black and white, and had a light pink nose.
I’d studied feline dialect over the past twelve years so I could tell she was hungry. I walked back into the house, stole a cup of Meow Mix from Lucky’s bag, came back outside, and then poured her dinner in a small heap on the concrete. She devoured it as if she hadn’t eaten in days.
She stuck around our house for the next few days. I dutifully fed her—morning and evening, but couldn’t help wonder whom she belonged to. Surely her owners would be concerned as to her whereabouts. She didn’t have a collar, and I feared for her safety in light of our proximity to the highway.
On Friday as I was leaving for the office, I pulled up to the intersection in front of our house and noticed a homemade placard which had been duct-taped to the STOP sign. There was a photo of this very cat, and then the following information:
I instantly knew two things—1) the cat’s name and 2) her owner’s phone number. I picked up my cell and punched in the ten digits. Oddly enough, I got an old country boy several miles away. He seemed aggravated that I had even called and said that he had never owned a cat in his life. I confirmed the phone number with him; it was correct. Apparently, Josephine’s owner has posted the wrong phone number on the sign. I apologized to the man and hung up.
Lanore and I talked about what we should do on Saturday. She suggested that I try punching in different combinations of the last four digits of the phone number. I switched the 2 and the 1 and pressed “call.” A lady immediately answered and said, “Hello.” I said, “I’m calling about a cat…” Before I could finish my sentence, she interrupted and announced, “Yes!!! That’s MY cat—that’s Josephine!”
I gave the lady directions to our house and within two minutes she was pulling up in our driveway. I carried Josephine over to the car. Her owner literally ran up to me, snatched Josephine out of my arms, gave me a huge hug, and then began to weep. “I can’t believe it!” she sobbed. “I just knew something bad had happened to her…” Talk about tears of joy!
As it turned out, Josephine’s owner had let her outside late Tuesday evening, but she didn’t return as usual. The old cat had wandered out of the neighborhood, crossed the highway, and then decided to camp out on our porch several blocks away.
This whole occasion got me to thinking. I wonder exactly what happens in heaven when folks repent and are restored to Christ? What kind of party does the spirit world hold when a wayward brother returns to his first love? What’s involved in “joy” when a sinner returns home? Jesus said, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15.10; cf. v. 7).
Think about it.
IT WAS TUESDAY morning, October 17, 1995.
I had just gotten off of the phone with Mom. She started out the conversation with, “I’m not quite sure how to tell you this, but…”
“But” sounded pretty ominous to me, and as it turned it, it was—or so I thought at the moment. Following a recent MRI scan, her surgeon discovered what he described as another “spot” on her brain. I say “another” because scarcely two years earlier, Mom had undergone brain surgery in order to remove a golf-ball size tumor.
I’m happy to announce that now, many years later, she’s doing fine. That spot was just a false alarm. But at that precise moment, when she first called me, I don’t know that either of us could have been described as “fine.”
That episode, and more specifically, that phone call really made an impact on me. It changed everything that day. What was so important at 9:30 was trivial by 9:45. What my Day-Timer deemed important earlier in the day as being urgent, was summarily crossed off that day’s to-do list all together. One phone call put life in perspective.
Sickness has a way of doing that to us, doesn’t it? By that I mean that cancer and tumors and malignancies and the such like have a way of grabbing our attention and reminding us of what really counts.
It is so easy for us to become side-tracked and pursue those things which are clamorous and pressing. Then we get one of those phone calls that begins with, “I don’t quite know how to tell you this…”
The truth of the matter is, those kinds of phone calls come all-too frequently, don’t they (Psalm 39:4,5; Proverbs 27:1; Isaiah 40:6-7; James 4:14)? They shout in our consciousness as to what really deserves our time, energy, and interest.
May I ask a personal question, good reader? What will be the next item on your agenda after you finish reading this message? Is it really important…?
Please don’t fall victim to the tyranny of the urgent. Evaluate how you use your time, look through your schedule, and then pursue the real priorities in your life.
Take care of the most important thing (Luke 10:41,42). Right now. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
SOME OF MY preaching brethren seem, dare I say it, seem “eager” to pick a fight.
Virtually every sermon that emanates from their pulpit is an attempt to expose falsehood, refute error, or uncover a deceptive wolf among the sheep.
Folks in the assembly are taught implicitly, “If you’ll just open your little brain and listen to me, you’ll see what an incredible blunder you have made and then repent…” The preachers may not intend to sound harsh and intellectually superior, but they do. It’s as if they’re saying, “I’m right, your wrong, and I’m tickled.”
It has always been confusing to me how that teaching false doctrine is wrong, and it is (Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2:2), but practicing false doctrine is not only permitted, but endorsed. Brethren, we can’t tell saints in the pew that we ought to be loving and kind (Ephesians 4:31), but then sound anything but loving and kind in our delivery.
Paul said, “But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). The phrase, “in love,” addresses how preachers are to communicate; it has to do with the manner in which they attitudinally deliver the Word. They can’t argue, force, coerce, or browbeat people to cherish, love and obey the Lord.
On another occasion Paul wrote, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil…” (2 Timothy 2:24-26a). Watch it—“must not quarrel…” The Greek word here means to fight. It was used of armed combatants, or those who engaged in hand-to-hand struggle. Gospel preachers aren’t to be argumentative and hostile, but gentle, patient, and humble because they deeply love people and their souls.
Sometimes preachers will say, “We’re going to tell you this because we love you, even though it will hurt.” It is true that truth sometimes hurts. When a Christian is told that he is endorsing fallacious views, it hurts him. When he is told that he is living in a sinful relationship, that hurts him. When he is told that his life is not in harmony with the revealed will of God because he is not serving and using his God-given talents, it hurts him. But what is said from the pulpit ought to prick his conscience because of the content of the message and not because of the contentious, cantankerous spirit of the messenger.
Are preachers to be bold? Yes (2 Corinthians 3:12; 10:1). Are preachers to compromise the truth in order to placate certain hearers? Absolutely not (Galatians 4:16). Are preachers to preach doctrine? A thousand times, yes (Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 1:3)! Are preachers to defend the gospel? They better (Romans 1:16). Should preachers ever expose false doctrine and warn fellow saints about smooth-talking, articulate false prophets in and out of the church who draw souls into perdition? Yes! In fact, they have an obligation to inform and warn (Ezekiel 33:1-7; 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:17). But when people come to the assembly and constantly feel as though they have been emotionally skinned-alive, horse-whipped, or “knocked to the mat,” it probably says more about the how of the messenger than the what of the message.
“HUSBANDS, LIKEWISE, DWELL with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hinders” (1 Pet. 3:17).
Every Christian husband wants to believe that his prayers are heard and accepted. “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth” (Psa. 52:2).
He wants to know that his petitions find their place in the ears and heart of Jehovah. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15).
But Peter reminds us that that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes a husband’s prayers are hindered. “Hindered.” Let that term sink into your cerebrum for a moment. The English word rendered “hindered” in the Greek is ekkopto and is pronounced ek-ko’p-to. It is a verb and is found sixteen times in eleven New Testament verses (cf. Mat. 3:10; 5:30; 7:19; 18:8; Luke 3:9; 13:7, 9; Rom. 11:22, 24; 2 Cor. 11:12). It means “to cut out, to cut off, or to hew down.” Contextually the apostle says that is is possible for a husbands’s prayers to “get the axe.”
What exactly does that imply? Note the following:
1. A husband can AXE his own prayers. There are times when what the head of the household says to God doesn’t make it beyond the plaster ceiling. Oh sure, The Father hears everything a man utters (mat. 12:37), but He chooses not to heed nor answer a husband’s petitions in the affirmative due to sins and failures (Ezek. 14:3; Isa. 59:2; Psm. 66:18; Prov. 21:13; 28:9; Mal. 3:7-10; Mark 11:25; Jas. 1:5-7; 4:3).
2. By contrast, a husband can ADVANCE his own prayers. Watch those words–“Dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel…”
“Understanding” speaks of being sensitive to your wife’s deepest physical and emotional needs. In other words, be thoughtful and respectful. Remember, you are to nourish and cherish her (Eph. 5:25-28). By God’s design, a wife is to be the special object of her husband’s love and care. As a ‘weaker’ vessel she is under his authority and protection. ‘Weaker’ doesn’t mean spiritually or intellectually, but physically and perhaps emotionally… It’s not a negative thing for a woman to be a weaker vessel. In making the man stronger, God designed a wonderful partnership. One way a husband can protect and provide for his wife is to practice chivalry… ‘Giving honor’ is another way of saying, ‘Treat your wife with respect’ while ‘grace of life’ is a reference to marriage. ‘Grace’ simply means a gift, and one of the best gifts life has to offer is marriage. Thus when Peter says to give her respect as a ‘fellow heir of the grace of life,’ his is commanding husbands to respect their wives as equal partners in the marriage… These aren’t casual suggestions. According to Peter, your applying them has a direct bearing on how your prayers are answered.”1
Good brother, are you hacking down your prayers–or are you getting them up to God? “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry” (Psm. 34:15). What’s your relationship with your wife?
Think about it.