Read: John 15:1-11

I am the vine; you are the branches. (v. 5)

I grow grapes, and when I see a branch withered and brown, I know right away what the problem is—the branch has become separated from the vine. Trying to make things better, the world enacts program after program, holds conference after conference, and schedules summit after summit, but all our schemes for peace and social betterment have yielded precious little fruit. I know what the problem is.

In the church, well-meaning pastoral leaders grow hoarse from sermonizing. They attend meetings upon meetings, churning out plans, proposals, and projects. But the church—in North America, at least—continues to decline in size and influence. I know what the problem is.

In my own life, I have high ideals and I long to achieve them. But somehow they always elude my clutching hands. My Bible study time is frequently crowded out by more pressing, worldly concerns. I neglect my prayers. I entertain thoughts that are envious, angry, vain, or vengeful. I know what the problem is. You know what the problem is.

Jesus couldn’t have been clearer: “I am the vine; you are the branches . . . Apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5). When I began my ministry at my first church, I wrote the words, “Apart from me you can do nothing” on a piece of paper and slid it under the glass on my desktop. Every day I would see those words. It’s time I do that again. —Lou Lotz

As you pray, ask God to show you the ways that you have become disconnected from the vine.