Last week as I was away in not so sunny Florida for Speedweeks, I took the opportunity to share with you a column that one of our Chaplains, Todd Heft, wrote. I hope you enjoy his thoughts, Thank you Todd for your words. Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

During some downtime at a recent race, I noticed the wheel tethers on an asphalt modified. Now wheel tethers aren’t new in racing. Over the last twenty years, they’ve probably done a lot more than we will ever realize. They came to be a big part of American racing in the late 1990s and early 2000s after being adapted from Formula 1 following the death of Ayrton Senna. The design is relatively simple but crucial in making the tire and wheel remain part of the race car rather than a 200lb, 130mph projectile. If a tether breaks, the wheel becomes dangerous. Our own lives are similar in our connection with God. In His word, God has painted many similar pictures using a vine. The theme of a vine and being part of the vine runs throughout the Bible.

Jesus spoke to his disciples regarding the vine in John 15:1-8; ESV;

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

Looking at the context of this passage is important. The Gospel of John was first written in Greek, and the Greek word for prunes also means “cleans.” God cleanses us through the blood of Jesus and shapes us through Him to bring Him glory through our works. When Jesus was talking about the vine, the audience knew that in the spring, the caretaker would prune the vine. In the fall, he cut the branches that didn’t produce fruit. Pruning helps things grow, and growing produces fruit.

What happens to branches that get broken or cut off from the main vine? They die. They stop producing fruit and become useless. Much like when we disconnect from God, our lives don’t have the fulfillment that they should. There will be an emptiness inside us regardless of how much worldly “success” we may accomplish.

John 15 isn’t the only vine reference in the Bible. Psalm 80 has one, and it’s the psalmist pleading with God to restore the vine (that is Israel) to the splendor of its past.

Psalm 80:14 ESV; “Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,”

A few verses later, there is a reference to the coming Christ.

Psalm 80:17-18 ESV; “But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name!”

Looking back at John 15:1, we see Jesus had referred to himself as the “true vine.” Both of these passages recognize that Christ is our connection, and the only way to God.

The Old Testament gives us some examples of what happens when we are disconnected. The prophet Isaiah gives a warning to Israel and its leaders that they are disconnected from God.

Isaiah 5:1-7 ESV; “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!”

Later in chapter 27, Isaiah writes that God will leave a remnant of the vine a shoot that will produce good fruit, which will be “the full fruit of the removal of his sin” in verse 9. This fruit is the true vine: Jesus.

Other Old Testament prophets also used the vine as a symbol. When we look at the continuous repetition of this (or of any repeating theme in the Bible), we need to pay attention. The vine is mentioned in Jeremiah in both chapters 2 and 12. In Micah, in chapter 7. Ezekiel 17 and 19 show first the fruit when connected and then the fire when we are not. Even back in Genesis, Joseph is referred to as a fruitful vine.

Just a few weeks after first noticing tethers, I was at a race when a car impacted the wall, which broke the tethers, and separated the wheel from the car. Fortunately, the wheel coming off didn’t injure anyone, but the officials took a hard look at what caused it to fail. This information will be used to make things better.

We need to look at and examine the fruit we produce in our lives. Is it good? Are we doing things that bring honor to God? If not, we need to look back and see if we are still connected to the true vine. Like the officials, we have to see what went wrong and go back and fix the problem. The wonderful thing is we have a God full of mercy and wants us to return to Him. He wants to prune us and shape us into something that bears good fruit. 

Thank you, Todd, for your inspiring words. What are we connected to? That will go a long way at indicating the fruit we bear. Until next time, remember God loves you and Jesus is Lord over Auto Racing! God Bless. Remember, that your prayerful support and donations helps us continue this ministry. Thank You.