Chapel message: God won’t leave you out on a limb
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
“If you have your Bibles, turn there. If not, pay attention. If you can’t read, I can – we’re set.”
Megan Fate Marshman of Hume Lake Christian Camps in Hume, Calif., says a lot of things like that. She is witty. She is quick. Her engaging and enlightening Chapel talk Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena was filled with one-liners, quick asides, long and passionate declarations, dramatic pauses for effect … even a huge branch from a tree.
Her focus was John 15:1-10, in which Jesus delivers his famous “I am the vine; you are the branches” message to the apostles. Marshman went through it carefully, verse by verse, sometimes word by word, to make sure her mostly student audience connected to its meaning.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
“What is pruning? Pruning is that cutting back. And maybe for you, pruning is present in your life. It’s this cutting back of things you thought were beautiful or good.”
“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.”
“Don’t do this life on your own, Grand Canyon student.”
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”
“Student, you’re really loved as you are, right there. Not a future version of you. Not once you start really getting into your future relationship with Him. Friends, He just loves you, and if you would just receive that, it would change you because you could stop looking for love from everywhere else.”
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.”
“God calls us to obedience!”
It is natural for human beings to want to be in control, Marshman added, but we should leave that to God: “It’s not an issue of controlling, it’s more an issue of source. You can rebel against someone who’s trying to control you, but if you rebel against your source you lose yourself.”
She had the perfect example of how people seek control from an early age: her 4-year-old son, who tries to keep his toys away from his younger brother with an emphatic “Mine!”
“Friends, we can laugh at my little 4-year-old guy, but the truth is, we don’t really grow out of it, do we?” Marshman said. “What are you grabbing, pulling in and saying, ‘It’s mine’? Is it your future? If it is, I just want to say, no, you’re not crazy, and it’s no wonder you’re so anxious. …
“Trying to control everyone and everything – friends, it’s exhausting, which is why it’s really good news that Jesus starts out by saying, ‘No.’ What He’s saying is that God is looking to the 4-year-old in all of us and saying, ‘No, no, no. It’s not yours. Your future’s not yours. Your future spouse – not yours. He’s not yours. She’s not yours. You’re not even yours.”
That’s when Marshman picked up the broken-off, dead tree branch and plopped it on her shoulder to demonstrate her point. “When you’re connected … life. When you’re not connected, you look like this,” she said.
But too often, she emphasized, we seek those connections elsewhere, even as we believe we are putting God in first place.
“Did you know future spouses make crummy gods? Who are you trying to connect to? Is it your grades? Is it your accomplishments? Is it your future job titles? Is it this future you’ve dreamed up? Where are you connected to the source of life? …
“I think one of the greatest counterfeits to bearing fruit is pretense. See, I think we can get really good at the lingo, the Christian lingo, and acting right, doing good things while experiencing no real power and bearing no eternal fruit. … Did you know that it’s impossible to be self-focused and God-centered at the same time?”
Don’t depend on the faith of other people, she urged the students. Make it your own. And don’t be dissuaded by your inevitable failures.
Marshman started her talk by announcing, “Life is not something God wants from you, it’s something He wants for you.” And she wove throughout a story about two elderly people who have volunteered with her serving a youth group at her church the last three years. Her descriptions of Norm, the retired Coca-Cola truck driver turned determined evangelist, were particularly hilarious.
Her very serious takeaway:
“You can live this life of purpose, student, and not just later, but you can live it right now,” she said. “But I’ve got to ask, and I’ve got to ask as kindly as I believe Jesus Himself would ask: Where have you been abiding? Where do you go when you find yourself all alone? If you turn on Netflix, you’re not crazy. If you jump to your phone at stoplights, not crazy.
“I’m just here to tell you there’s a true source that’s inviting you back and saying, ‘Come and find life in Me.’ I know those other things feel like life for a moment, but they make you a slave to them.”
● Chapel replay.
● Next Monday’s speaker: Brian Kruckenberg, New City Church
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].