“For You alone – my soul waits – hushed.”  “Open my eyes and ears and heart to Your Voice today, God.” “What do you want to talk to me about, today, Papa?” Today’s Scripture is John 15:5-8

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains (abides) in Me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain (abide) in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain (abide) in Me, and My words remain (abide) in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”

There are so many parts of this verse that could be discussed. My eyes are only seeing one phrase.  Sadly, it is the condemnation part.

“If anyone does not remain (abide) in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

My default mode is to read this and be fearful that I am like a branch that is going to be thrown into the fire because of “how bad I have been.”

This summer God brought me through a very tough time of discipline and “rebuke” where He wanted me to seek forgiveness from several people that I had wronged.  I had to confess to some very ugly parts of me that I am not proud of at all.  I have struggled for several months with the shame I had caused my Heavenly Father.  I repeatedly go to Him and tell Him I am sorry over and over again.  I do not feel deserving of His forgiveness.  I feel that He can't possibly love me the same any more.  I feel like I deserv to have Him withhold His love from me.  “How could you stand me, Lord, when I have behaved so badly?”

During the Sermon on Sunday, I remember feeling so overwhelmed with relief to learn that when Jesus rebuked Peter saying, “Little-faith, why did you doubt?” that “rebuke” does not equal “rejection.”  Jesus still loved Peter, even though Peter doubted Him.  Later, Peter would deny Jesus three times – yet Jesus still loved him.

I keep thinking about Peter – how he walked on the water - then doubted -then sank - then cried out to Jesus - who immediately grabbed Peter’s hand and pulled him up saying, “Little-faith, why did you doubt?”

And then, I remember that the story did not end with Jesus rejecting Peter or “cutting off the branch and throwing him into the fire.”  He rebuked Him, but did not reject him.

And now at 10:30 p.m. on February 6th as I write this blog – I think I am finally “getting it!”  Jesus was “rebuking” me this summer – He was disciplining me – but He was NOT rejecting me or withholding His love for me!  That is a HUGE difference!  He was “pruning” some of my branches that were not bearing fruit – but He was not cutting me off from Him and throwing me into the fire!

Finally, the word “remain” or “abide” suggests continuous, or repeated action.  That brings much Hope to me, also.  This summer and the "messing up" it represents is not a continuous repeated action of  "not abiding!" It was a time of discipline or "rebuke."

Our life as disciples of Jesus is a journey in which we are continuously abiding in Him and constantly being stretched.   He is constantly teaching us, admonishing us, forgiving us, and loving us.  Is that perhaps what  “remaining” in Him involves?  Making mistakes or “Messing up” is so different than “not abiding” in Him.  We will continue to doubt – and to sink – and to cry out to the Lord.  And He will continue to have Mercy and Grace and Forgiveness and pull us out of the water.  This is what “abiding” looks like to me.

I know there is so much more in this passage that could have been discussed.  But this is how God “talked” to me tonight.  I think this is what He wanted me to hear.

How about you?