Are you connected?

We look for it on Facebook.  On Instagram.  We join groups and clubs hoping we’ll find it. We pray that we’ll have it with a spouse one day.  Sometimes we experience it, but it can hide away quickly.  We are tempted to sell ourselves out to have it for a moment.  Some of us have had it, but we’ve ruined it.  Others of us are grasping for it, only to watch it slip through our fingers.

Connection.

We all want to feel connected.  To something or someone.  To our communities and neighborhoods.  To people.  We want to be understood completely, known fully, and loved unconditionally.  Our hearts long for real, meaningful connection.

But, we don’t need to search for it.  We don’t need to sell ourselves out to find it.  We can stop looking.  Because we have it in Jesus.

In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and you are the branches.”  We are connected to Jesus.  And, Jesus understands us completely, knows us fully, and loves us unconditionally.  The connection we have with Jesus is the one we’ve been waiting for.

You see, when you’re connected to Jesus, you are connected to the very source of life.  He grounds you, uplifts you, and feeds you.  Jesus’ life flows through your veins.  The death He died and the life He lives is yours.  You are connected to Him.

Our connections in life are often crucial to our identities.  When we’re in Jr. High we start defining ourselves by our groups of friends.  We’re either connected to the nerds, the band geeks, the “cool” kids, the jocks, or the rebels.  These connections start to form who we are.  When we grow up, not much changes.

When we start looking for a job we learn that it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters.  Good luck getting a job without the right connections.  Eventually we define ourselves by our connections to our families:  “I’m Billy’s mom” or “I’m Katie’s wife” or “I’m Bob’s son”.  When we want to impress a crowd we name drop the brief connections and encounters we’ve had with celebrities or athletes.

But, the only connection that matters – the one that makes us who we are to our core – is our connection with Jesus.  He is our vine.  We are His branches.  Through baptism we are clothed with Him, united with Him, and the connection begins.  Through His Word and Supper the connection is strengthened.  In our prayers and our acts of love the connection is lived out.

“Remain in me” Jesus tells us over and over in John 15.  “Stay connected,” He’s saying.  There’s no mystery to how that’s done.  Remaining in Jesus isn’t a problem we need to solve.  Just stay where God put you:  Remember your baptism, spend time in His Word, and feast on His Supper.  And when you do, God will work His fruit.  You will bloom where you are planted.

You are connected.  Connected to Jesus.

 

To read more, you can check out my book “Growing Up:  In, With, and Under Jesus” on Amazon.

Celebrating Our Dependence

Independence.

When we’re 15 we dream of it.  When we’re 16 we get a taste of it as we’re handed a license with our name.  When we’re 18 we celebrate it.  When we’re 21 we drink to it.  And then we spend the next 6 or 7 decades doing whatever we can to keep it.

We value it greatly, hold onto it dearly, and fight for it fiercely.  The thought of losing it terrifies us.  It’s who we are and defines our value to the world.

But, the truth is that we are only independent like a toddler is independent.  We can cry and scream out, “I’m a big girl!” or “I can do it by myself!” or “I don’t need any help!” but I think that sometimes that our Heavenly Father just laughs and shakes His head at us.  He knows how much we need Him and how much He does for us even when we don’t.

In John 10:11-18 we are reminded that Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep.  God could have described His people as graceful swans or strong, roaring lions.  But, we are sheep, and we need our shepherd.  Without Him we get lost and wander in our “independence”.  Without Jesus we are in danger of being attacked.

But, we don’t have to live without Him.  Actually, we are never living without Him.  Whether we realize it or not, He is always there.  We are totally dependent on Him whether we see it at any given moment or whether we’re living in denial.

And so, we have two options.  We can continue to live in the dream world of our independence, or we can rest easy in our dependable Good Shepherd.  We can keep on doing our own thing, going our own way, and making our own decisions – or we can listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd and follow His voice wherever He leads us.  We can live in denial, or we can trust that Jesus is caring for us, providing for us, and protecting us every second of the day.

We would all like to think of ourselves as independent:  That we can solve our own problems, handle our own issues, and take care of ourselves.  Most of us have had that illusion shattered.  When you’re in the hospital rooms with doctors and nurses invading your most personal spaces and your kids are making decisions for you – the illusion is gone.  You are not independent.  When you look at your finances and all you see is red – you need help.  When your husband says he’s leaving or your kids won’t return your phone calls – you need someone you can depend on.

And, of course, there is one problem – the biggest problem – that none of us can solve independently:  our sin.  It’s consequences are too much for us.  It’s weight crushes us.  It’s price is way more than we can afford.

So praise God that we can depend on Him for that.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep.  He valued you and your salvation even more than His own life.  And if we can depend on Jesus to take care of our sin – what can’t we depend on Him for?

Maybe independence isn’t all that it’s made up to be.

 

You can check out my book “Growing Up:  In, With, and Under Jesus” here on Amazon.

Growing Up Is Hard To Do

Growing up is never much fun.  There are always growing pains.  Pimples.  Awkward moments.  Doubts.  Growing up doesn’t come naturally.

But, that’s why we have parents, grandparents, teachers, older siblings, friends, and mentors to help us.  These more mature role models show us the way.  Sometimes they teach us with words and explain what a more mature life looks like.  Other times we just absorb it as we watch them and notice their behaviors.  We need these people.  Of course, we rarely realize that at the time.  In the moment we think we’re fine all by ourselves, thank you very much.  But, we all need to grow up, and it’s a process that, while we fight it, we need to go through.

Christians are called to grow up in their faith too.  We all need to mature.  None of us are born into the faith as fully formed Christians, in fact we all have a lifetime of growing up to do.  And there will be growing pains!  There will be awkward moments, doubts, spiritual pimples, and lots of questions.  Spiritual maturity doesn’t always come naturally.  We need mature Christian models.  We need parents, grandparents, teachers, friends, and older siblings in the faith to show us the way.

If we take our faith in Jesus seriously, it’s a process that we are engaged in.  Yes, much of it will just  “happen” along the way.  We will be formed as our parents read us Bible stories as children.  The plodding hymns we sing in worship as our minds wander shape us even if we don’t recognize it.  Our recited prayers teach us things even after we’ve spoken them 1,000x over.

Yes, much of our growing up is happening to us.  God is working in us in ways we can’t explain.  But, we are also called to more.  We are called to engage and wrestle with the living God.  He wants us to listen to Him as He speaks to us in His Word.  He wants us to pray and call out to Him in response.  He wants us to be an active part in His family, the Church.  He wants us to regularly worship so that we can receive His gifts of grace and love surrounded by our brothers and sisters.  He wants us to live holy lives and stop our sinning as we reflect His love to the world.  He wants us to open our mouths and share the Gospel message with those who haven’t yet experienced His life-altering love.

He wants us to see Jesus.  And that’s what growing up is all about.  The older and wiser we get, the more we see just how much we need our Savior.  The more we pray, the more we hear God’s Word, the more we sit and engage with our family of faith, the more we worship, the more we share, and the more we open our mouths to proclaim His cross – the more we will see just how much God has for us in His Son.

We are called to grow up.  But, we will never grow out of Jesus.  His love is too big for that.

 

You can check out my new book:  “Growing Up In, With, and Under Jesus” on Amazon.com to read more.