VIDEO Abide and Grow

And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 1 John 2:28

Gardeners know there are two types of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate. Determinates are tomato bushes that produce fruit for a limited time. Indeterminates are tomato vines that continue to grow and bear fruit for as long as the growing conditions are favorable.

In Jesus’ parable of the vine and branches (John 15:1-8), He talked about grape vines. And modern grapevines don’t bear fruit forever; they have a season of growth which are then harvested. But He introduced an important spiritual concept: abiding, or remaining. As long as we (the branches) abide (remain) in Jesus (the Vine), and His words abide (remain) in us, we will bear much fruit. We will know the Father (the Vinedresser) so well that we can ask for whatever we need and it will be given to us (verse 7). His will becomes our will as we pray and ask.

What does it mean to abide in Jesus? It means to live in close fellowship with Him—in worship, in obedience, in service, in love, and in ministry. In that way, we are always prepared for His Second Coming.

Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn. John Trapp

Destroying the Devil | 1 John 2:28 – 3:10 | Full Sermon | Phoenix Bible Church

Learning from Foolishness

The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. Even as fools walk along the road, they lack sense. Ecclesiastes 10:2–3

A man walked into a convenience store in Wollongong, Australia, put a $20 bill on the counter and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer? Fifteen dollars.

We all act foolishly at times—even if, unlike this thief, we’re trying to do the right thing. The key is how we learn from our foolish behavior. Without correction, our poor choices can become habits, which will negatively shape our character. We’ll become “fools . . . [who] lack sense” (Ecclesiastes 10:3). 

Sometimes it’s hard to admit our foolishness because of the extra work it requires. Perhaps we need to reflect on a particular character flaw, and that’s painful. Or maybe we need to admit that a decision was made hastily and next time we should take more care. Whatever the reason, it never pays to ignore our foolish ways.

Thankfully, God can use our foolishness to discipline and shape us. Discipline isn’t “pleasant at the time,” but its training yields good fruit in the long run (Hebrews 12:11). Let’s accept our Father’s discipline for our foolish behavior and ask Him to make us more like the sons and daughters He intends us to be.

By:  Con Campbell

Reflect & Pray

What’s a recent foolish choice you’ve made? What do you think God wants you to learn from it?

Thank You, Father, for using my foolishness to train me. May I accept Your discipline graciously as You continue to work in me.

The Biggest Mistake

John 3:1-4

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made? Many people may not recognize their greatest error until after death, when their expectation of life in heaven is replaced by the horrible reality that they are denied entrance for rejecting Christ.

Nicodemus was a man who had built his life on knowing and doing the right things. As a Sanhedrin member—one of the highest ranks for a Pharisee—he appeared incredibly righteous from man’s perspective. Surely he was destined for heaven. What a shock it must have been when Jesus said the only way to see the kingdom of God was to be born again. Nicodemus hadn’t done anything to be born physically, and now he was being told there was nothing he could do to be born again, either. And no matter how many good deeds he had done, they could never get him into the kingdom of God.

The false belief that we can earn our way to heaven is still prevalent today. Churches are filled with people who think they are saved by participating in religious activities and living a moral life. But if we believe this lie, we will be greatly disappointed after death. The only way to be saved from eternal disaster is to be born again by believing in Jesus.  

The Watchers

“I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven.” (Daniel 4:13)

It is only in this chapter of Daniel (see also verses 17 and 23) that certain angelic beings called “watchers” are mentioned. Whether the term applies to all God’s holy angels or only to a certain order of angels has not been revealed in Scripture.

However, we do know that at least some of the angels, if not all of them, are intensely occupied with observing events among humans here on Earth. For example, Paul said that he and the other apostles had been made “a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:9).

The word “spectacle” in this verse is actually “theatre” and is so translated the only other time it is used in the New Testament (Acts 19:29, 31). It is sobering, as well as surprising, to realize that Christians—especially Christian leaders—are on a stage, as it were, being carefully watched by an audience that even includes the angels.

Paul also cautioned Christian women to maintain a covering on their heads “because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10). Perhaps the watching angels are also included in the great “cloud of witnesses” who observe us as we “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

But why should these mighty angels, these “holy ones,” these heavenly “watchers,” have such a “desire to look into” these things here on Earth (1 Peter 1:12)? Perhaps they are anxious, like us, to “see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:9-10). HMM

The Hidden Years

Matthew 2:23

MATTHEW covers our Lord’s childhood and youth with one rich sentence (2:23): “And He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”

This prophecy undoubtedly involves a play on the word “netzer” or “rod” of Isaiah. 11:1. It is good to know that our Lord was content to grow up in a humdrum and despised village from whence nothing good was expected (John 1:46). He knew the daily grind of the commonplace and the problems of the common people. No wonder they heard Him gladly.

Luke goes more into detail and gives us one rich incident from these hidden years in chapter 2:40-52. This account begins and ends with verses which form a beautiful frame for the picture: “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Thus His complete development, physical, mental, spiritual and social, is declared.

Many questions arise concerning these silent years. Thirty years of simple living, next to nature and amidst humanity, and busy at work with time to read and pray—it is a life this feverish age does not know. It shows its flavor in the many references to sparrows, lilies, the sower, the fields; it is colored with the atmosphere of the field, the fisherman’s boat and net, the sea, the shop, the soil. If we had planned the life of the Son of God we would have put Him through universities, made Him a world traveler, put Him into society, into places of earthly position and power. Never would we have selected thirty years at Nazareth as the ideal course! Truly His ways are not ours!

The solitary incident in the temple reveals that He knew who His real Father was and what His own work was. Mary tells Him: “Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” He replies: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” He knew His true Father and His primary obligation. That they understood not what He spoke shows that He referred to His lifework as Messiah and Savior, and not merely to worship, which they would have understood.

But immediately follows what appeals more to me than His wisdom in the temple. You and I might have grown vain over our success in the temple, but the Son of God is willing to go back to the shop at Nazareth for many more years of its daily grind. To me He is even greater turning back toward Nazareth than in the temple.

Notice, too, how the Holy Spirit guards against any inference that He repudiated parental authority by what He said about His Father’s business, for “He was subject unto them.” No boy prodigy would have turned from such glory as Jerusalem to the grind at Nazareth. The hidden years at Nazareth carry rich lessons for us. If we would truly be of the sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5), we would do well to get into our lives more of the simplicity, the patience, the willingness to tread the common path, the quiet waiting of the Nazarene.

Heaven or Hell

And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off.—Luke 16:23

The final state of those who die without availing themselves of God’s freely offered forgiveness is eternal banishment from God’s presence. The Bible calls this hell. “There is no heaven with a little hell in it,” said George MacDonald, meaning that the God who is passionately for righteousness and implacably against sin must ensure that the two are finally separated.

However, hell is always something that people choose for themselves. It is a state for which men and women opt. Before hell is experienced as eternal, it is always experienced as something temporary in the sense that, as men and women retreat from the light God shines into their hearts to lead them to Himself, they experience in a small way what they will experience in full when they are banished into “outer darkness” (Mt 25:30). Dorothy Sayers described hell as “the enjoyment of one’s own way forever.” God says to those who die unrepentant: “You preferred your own way to mine; you shall have it—forever.” In the last analysis, all that God does in consigning people to hell is to allow them to face the full consequences of the choice they have made. God is resolute in punishing sin, and hell is the final consequence of this.

I know most of my readers are Christians, but I know also some are not. Those of you reading these lines who have never surrendered your lives to Christ, I urge you to surrender your hearts to Him today. Christ has died to save you from hell. Pray this prayer with me now.


Father God, I come to You now through Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I repent of my sin, ask Your forgiveness, and receive You into my life as Savior and Lord. Thank You, dear Lord. Amen.

Further Study

Mt 5:27-30; 18:7-9; 25:34-43

How did Jesus illustrate the importance of avoiding hell?

How can we be sure of avoiding hell?

The Message of Hope

1 John 3:14

In one of the most sensitive moments of my life, I learned the glory and strength of Easter. My mother, a brave little Salvation Army warrior, went to be with the Lord early in April of 1946. I was still in the United States Navy, looking forward to discharge and returning to my calling as a Salvation Army officer.

A well-meaning comrade said to me, “Andrew, it must be very sad for you that your mother would have been promoted to Glory right at Easter time, just before your own return to service as an officer.” Then it was that I knew the reality of all the theology I had been taught about the meaning of Easter.

Her promotion to Glory helped me understand and unlock for myself the mystery, marvel, strength and compassion of the Savior’s willingness to die for me and to live again so that I could always understand the rich meaning of the resurrected Christ. I knew then, as I know now, that death does not conquer the Christian, but that through Christ, the Christian conquers death.

I knew then, as I know now, that we who love the Savior are born again, never to die, but to live eternally.

The glorious, practical message of Easter is not only that Christ Jesus came into the world and lived a perfect life and gave us precept and example, not only that the Master was willing to share His very life so that our sins might be forgiven, but an even greater message, that the Savior rose again. And because He rose, we, too, can live—not simply live out the days of our years, but live eternally with Him. Our souls, our spirits, will never die. This eternal message of Easter was implanted that day in my heart.

I wept as I bowed my head at that funeral service, but not as those without hope. I wept with joy that the lady I had called mother would always live and live forever by the tender mercies of a loving, heavenly Father who taught us this lesson by the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son for all mankind.

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus Christ rose! Jesus Christ lives! Because He lives, we too shall live, eternally! Hallelujah!

Andrew S. Miller, The War Cry