The Problem With Poinsettias
The problem with poinsettias is you have to water them. Kathy was away visiting family and one of my jobs while she was gone was to water the beautiful live potted poinsettias she bought as part of our Christmas decorations. Some may find this hard to believe but–I forgot. It wasn’t until a few days before Kathy’s return that I noticed the poinsettias were looking pretty bleak. Again you may find this hard to believe but this was not the first time I forgot to water plants in Kathy’s absence. Having experience with this problem I used my go to recovery plan: dump copious amounts of water on the plant and hope it recovers before Kathy returns.
Well the plan worked and the poinsettias did recover. However in the process of picking off the dead leaves to make the poinsettias look better, I accidentally severed a branch. It’s the one in the photo at the top of this post. It didn’t fare well after it was separated from the vine. It wasn’t long before it shriveled and died.
In John chapter 15 Jesus says plainly, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
1) Practice His Presence
“…without Me you can do nothing.” And that brings us to our number one means of drawing closer to Christ in 2014: practicing His presence. Hudson Taylor, perhaps the most important missionary to ever serve in China, said he discovered a secret to drawing close to Christ, and that secret is to live life abiding in Him moment by moment. Taylor had already made significant progress in China, but after discovering his secret the fruit of his ministry abounded, and, his joy in his Lord increased to a level never before experienced by him. It overflowed to everyone around him. It was so great, he unconsciously influenced people in his presence, because he was always in Christ’s presence. This abiding moment by moment with Jesus changed his life forever.
Taylor commented on Jesus’ statement, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” Hudson Taylor believed Jesus wasn’t saying we need to take one drink, but rather we need to be drinking, of Him, continually. (John 7:37-39)
So the first way to draw closer to Christ in 2014 is to practice the presence of Jesus. Pray for the privilege of dwelling in Jesus and for Jesus to dwell in you, moment by moment, every moment, of every day. (John 15:4)
Mark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
Ever notice how Jesus often did that? (see also Luke 5:16) So think this through with me. If the Son of the Creator of the universe got away to a quiet private place to pray, how much more do you and I need to do the same? I’m blessed to live in an area that has spectacular hiking, within minutes of my house. The photo to the left is of a trail on the side of an extinct volcano that’s just a five minute drive away. It’s a pretty amazing place but usually the best I can do is to walk a few blocks to a quiet bench on the bike path. Still, the difference it makes in drawing closer is huge. Withdrawing to a lonely place with someone you love and care about is a fantastic way to draw close. And it not only works with humans, it works with Jesus too.
So your goal is to abide in Jesus and for him to abide in you, as Jesus described it in John 15. And John chapter 1 describes Jesus as the living Word of God. So one way to increase your awareness of who Jesus is, is to read God’s Word out loud. Because when you read God’s Word out loud, you’re reading and hearing Jesus. I’ve found that when I’m reading and hearing Jesus, it helps me enormously as I strive to practice His presence.
And one of the main benefits of withdrawing to a lonely place as Jesus did is that you can read God’s word out loud (without people thinking you belong in the bughouse).
The same thing can be said for prayer. Praying out loud makes for a stronger connection to Christ than praying with your thoughts. (And it keeps you awake too) This of course is another benefit of withdrawing to a lonely place. Praying out loud to God opens up an intimacy in communication that can’t be found otherwise. For me, it’s essential.
5) Combine numbers 3 and 4
Relationships are built on conversations, not monologues. Reading God’s words out loud, and then praying to Him out loud whenever you come to a point that inspires a question or comment, is one of the most powerful ways possible to draw closer to Christ. So read God’s words out loud and respond, then read some more, then respond again–have a conversation with your Creator.
Seriously, make a place for Him. Pull out a chair at your dining room table and talk to Him while you eat. Move the half empty bag of chips out of the way to make a place for him on the couch and then pray to Him as though He’s sitting there. Sometimes, especially when I’m outside, I like to pray looking up at the sky. But more and more I like to pray as though he’s sitting next to me at my table, or on my couch, or walking next to me as I walk and pray.
I know some of you will think I’m crazy, but for the rest of you, try it. It can really increase intimacy with Him.
Sometimes it’s good to pray just walking around as we’ve already explored. Sometimes it’s good to pray on your knees, or just sitting. But sometimes laying on the floor with your nose in the carpet is the best way. When I do that I’m reminding myself to surrender everything to Him. When I do that I remind myself to abandon myself to Him. When I do that I remind myself that I’m not my own, I’ve been bought by Him, at a heavy price. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Abide in the Vine
The picture at the top of this post of the separated poinsettia branch is what happens to your soul when you’re separated from Christ. The longer you’re disconnected from him, distracted by worries or the pursuit of money or entertainment or some other diversion, the more you shrivel.
I don’t know about you but I don’t want my soul to shrivel. The next verse after Jesus talks about abiding, he describes the outlook for those who are separated from Christ the vine, and the outlook is grim:
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. -Jesus Christ, John 15:6
No thanks. I want to draw close and abide in Christ the vine.
Please join me in growing closer to Jesus in 2014.
And please share in the comment section: How will you grow closer to Christ in the coming year?
[Man praying image via mrehan - Creative Commons]
Dr. and Mrs. Howard, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, 2013, Kindle Version Amazon Digital Services