Speaking of campfires, it’s almost as fun to build one as it is to smell one (see last week’s post). Even though most of my fires fail to fully ignite, I still love the challenge of engineering the perfect combination of kindling and logs that will take off burning when I light that match!
We’ve had fun over the past few summers teaching our older two daughters the ins and outs of campfire creation. The most important step, of course, is collecting the firewood – every good fire needs a pile of sticks of varying widths. So, off you go into the woods to collect some branches – but not just any branch will do! In order to be good burning material, the sticks for your fire need to be dead, preferably for a long period of time. A branch taken directly off of a tree will not only potentially harm the tree, but it will not burn!
But how do you know if a branch is “dead enough” to be good fire material? It’s simple – you just bend it. If it easily snaps in two, you’re good. If it’s flexible and doesn’t break, that means it’s not going to burn, but it may make a perfect marshmallow stick!
In John 15, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
When I received Christ into my life at age 16, I understood that I was beginning a relationship with Him. Up to that point, my understanding of God had been defined by church attendance, Bible stories, and my attempts to be a good person. This ‘religion’ stuff seemed easy enough to me – you do good things and you’ll have a good life.
But when I got attached to the vine and began this ‘relationship’, I had no idea what I was in for! As much as I’ve loved having the security of His love and the power of His Spirit in my life, Jesus frustrates me sometimes. This is mostly because I’m a rule-loving, black-and-white-thinking, list-checking kind of girl – and He’s not that kind of God. I’ve often thought about how much easier it would be if He just worked in everyone’s life in the same way! Or even if He just worked in my own life in the same way all the time.
Many of us have a tendency to, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, find something that works and then rigidly assume that it will always produce the same results for us – and everyone else as well. The Pharisees had thousands of rules that they tried to hold God’s people accountable to, and Jesus spent many of His words challenging their dead way of thinking. It’s not that their ways were bad in and of themselves, it’s just that they had completely disconnected from real human life and the flow of a relationship with a living God.
As a follower of Jesus, I know the importance of staying connected to Christ by spending regular time in His Presence and in His Word. But like the Pharisees, I have a hard time being flexible about it. If something is ‘working’ to keep me motivated and growing closer to Him, I think everyone should be doing it, too! After all, everyone should be moved by the same worship songs I have on repeat and there’s no way reading the Bible on your phone could be as powerful as having a paper copy 😉
I also have a hard time letting go when those ‘working’ things don’t seem to be going as (I) planned (oh that snooze button!) or when what I’m doing doesn’t seem to be helping me grow as much as it used to. Or if I feel God leading me to change things up a little during my morning routine and try something new (yikes!). Being rigid, setting ‘rules’, and doing what I know has ‘always worked’ somehow feels safer than following Him into the unknown.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), but He’s also alive yesterday, today, and forever! Even though His nature is absolutely unchanging, He is doing His living work in the midst of constant change in our world, our circumstances, and our hearts.
And since His life is flowing through the vine and into us as branches, that means that staying connected to Him means staying flexible. There are things we don’t bend on – it will always be necessary to spend regular time connecting with and learning about God through His Word. But when we disconnect from the fact that life happens and that our God is a living God, we tend to get rigid and soon after, broken or burnt out.
Religion is a cut and dry ‘you do this and that will happen’. Relationships are fluid, unpredictable, and ever-changing – and a relationship with Jesus isn’t any different! Having His life flowing into you means fruit-bearing is in your future. How, when, and what kind of fruit that is, though, is up to Him. And that means we need to stay in tune with the Holy Spirit and be willing to follow Him wherever and however He leads.
Speaking of being flexible, tomorrow is the last day of school for my girls – summer is officially here! And for the Desilets, summer means two things: family time and SERVE (two weeks of service, adventure, and spiritual growth with our middle and high schoolers in Vermont). We’ve got a whole ton of work to do before July 16th and summer bucket lists to be accomplishing in the midst of it. My “insufficient space” warning messages are popping up all over the place, so something’s gotta go – and this is the only option. I’ll be taking the summer off from writing, but I’ll be back in September and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of words to share with you all!
So whatever your summer looks like, stay connected to the Vine – and be flexible! Maybe you have extra time because your schedule slows down. Take advantage of that and dig deep into God’s Word. Or maybe, like me, your kids are home and that means you have significantly less time. Take this chance to change things up and get more focused in the little time you do have.
Jesus is alive and He’s constantly working to flow His life into us. Life is growth and growth is change – so be flexible and let His life keep you truly alive!