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“A Woman’s Walk with God” by Elizabeth George takes us through a strengthening process that prepares us to be Jesus. The words in the second paragraph are the ones that stuck with me. (Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit) “Preparing for Greater Growth” chapter one, spoke about the care and grooming of an apple tree, comparing it to Galatians 5:22-23 and the well-known fruits of the spirit. Love, joy, compassion and long-suffering are some that are emphasized in the familiar text. We have learned that to express who Jesus is, we must practice these gifts, while always clinging to God’s enabling in us. These fruits, reminds the author, are the evidence of Jesus within us. In any growing process in a garden, fertilizer is applied.
The apple tree was nurtured, fertilized, watered, pruned, trained, sprayed and protected. I compared the references that Jesus makes to pruning away the grape vines that wither and die. He tells us He is the vine and we are the branches. If we abide in Him, He will produce much fruit in us. John 15:4-5.
Then I examined the additional words described by the apple tree’s husbandman.
Nurtured: ‘cultivate’, ‘cherish’, ‘develop’, ‘support’, ‘encourage’ and ‘to take care of”. If we are responsible for producing fruit, we must take care of the relationship we have with the vine. Do we cherish the time we spend with God? Can we strive to develop it further? Have we grown to love God? When getting to know someone, we usually need to hear all about him or her and spend a lot of time with that person. We look at the individual’s background, and study their mannerisms, habits and hobbies. do they they hate spinach, and love cats? Cultivating a relationship with that person means catering to their likes and dislikes, or learning to use their personality traits to our advantage, and to theirs. When we come to know God, we want to cultivate our relationship further.
Fertilized: How do we fertilize the connection with vine and fruit? Two definitions of the word are to ‘nourish’ and to ‘stimulate’. Fertilizer stimulates growth. What will stimulate the growth of our relationship with our Father? In most situations – communication is what binds two people to one another. We fill someone’s ears with news, grief, or joy, and they hear our own. It is no different with God and us. We must daily talk with God and hear His words and His will. Here is what’s needed for a successful relationship.
Watered: This concept is certainly easy enough to understand for the growth of any living thing. Apple trees need water. Definitions are ‘fill with tears’, ‘fill up’ and ‘refresh’, or ‘quench’ meaning to satisfy. Perhaps when we go to God with our concerns and requests, or confessions, we only sprinkle our pleas lightly with words, quickly say amen and good night, and end the list. Is that really a conversation with the most important person in your life? Jesus shows us in several scriptures that he ‘travailed’ with God his Father, that his heart was broken, and that he wept. It isn’t wrong to give God all of your feelings and let him break your heart. Breaking only softens it for further growth. How can we be compassionate for those who are lost or suffering, if we are not sincerely concerned for their future? We can expect to water our pleas with real tears and be the better for it. We become refreshed, and re-filled with the Holy Spirit.
Pruned: This is another concept that is understandable in the life of an apple tree, or for a grape vine. The word prune can mean ‘cut back’, ‘reduce’, ‘shorten’, or, my favorites- ‘tighten up’, or ‘condense’. Wild growth will continue to grow longer, bigger, or greener; but without producing any fruit. We may pound the words of God into our heads until we can recite them perfectly; but without action, our growth means nothing. Sin obstructs fruit from producing. We must prune our actions daily. I like to think of ‘tightening up’ my growth by absorbing God’s word, its meaning and its application. In this way, I will be more obedient to God’s word, and fail less often. The results of the growth of our spirit should be those gifts found in Galatians 5.
Trained: Now there’s a word needing no explanation. Yet defining it make it stronger.
‘Skilled’, ‘qualified’, and ‘educated’ are some of them. When thinking of a tree, it may be trained to grow straighter or in a particular way. An example is Bonsai trees. They are, dwarfed, twisted and turned in such a way as to be artistic. A tree’s training can be thought of as being educated to grow as you wish it to grow. The bible is clear about our training; only by study of the word of God can we expect to be “approved workmen who are not ashamed” (I Tim 2:15) and who can explain all that they have learned. With our careful training, we will become more skilled in resisting temptation, in teaching, in walking God’s way, and in sharing it with others.
Sprayed: This word stopped me. How can I show a relationship to God’s vine and growth in me, with the word spray? Yet, some definitions for spray are ‘send out’, ‘cover’, ‘dose’, ‘apply’ and ‘shower.’ What is our responsibility for the fruit of the spirit by spraying? You might think of it as the results of your time with God, producing the fruits described in Galatians as ‘sending out’ an expression of who Jesus is. Every time we give kindness to someone, we are ‘dosing’ him or her with the love of Jesus Christ. When we ‘apply’ compassion, we ‘shower’ others with blessings from God.
Protected: When we take care of Apple trees or any plants, we have to protect them from the weather elements, insects, damage and intrusive weeds. Our relationship with God is protected with a lasting love, a love that cannot be taken away, that keeps its promises, that forgives. This is the love of God. His love protects us from the harsh storms of life, from enemies that devour, and from those who intrude with false teachings. Definitions that echo are ‘sheltered’, ‘privileged’, ‘cover’, ‘refuge’, ‘haven’ and ‘sanctuary’. I like the word privileged – not because it describes a life on a velvet cushion, but a life we will share with Jesus as joint heirs in His royal kingdom!
We are privileged to know God the Father through Jesus His son, and be bound for His kingdom. Until that day, we need to tend to the fruits God has given us by: nurturing, fertilizing, watering, pruning, training, spraying, and protecting them.
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law”.
April Boyer (c) Sept. 2012-2017 All Rights Reserved
SCRIPTURE FOR THE JOURNEY
During a devastating health crisis such as cancer your faith may waver. When you get the shocking news, your world is rocked. No matter how strong your faith is and how much you depend on God’s answers and healing, there is always that initial shock and even quiet moments when you feel far from Him. God’s Holy Scripture contains all the answers.
Remember God’s promises to you and His faithfulness during other past crisis or situations. God’s word is that unwavering source of strength and comfort and will set your feet back on solid ground.
In The Beginning Hours Of Your Hurt, Fear, And Anger
He will abide with you
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another helper, that he may abide with you for ever –the spirit of truth” John 14:16-17a
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:10
“…And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Amen. Matthew 28: 21b
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31: 8-9
He will comfort you
“Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.” Psalm 86:17
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4whocomforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.…” II Corinthians 2:3-5
When Your Faith Falters And You Need To Hear His Whisper
He will answer your prayers:
“This is the confidence that we have in Him that if we ask anything according to Your will, You will hear us.”–I John 5: 14
“If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto You.”–John 15:7
He will give you peace:
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”
II Timothy 1:7
As Your Faith Grows Stronger
He will strengthen you:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” II Corinthians 12:9a
He has a plan for you:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
What is your favorite verse? What has made your faith stronger?
Compiled April Boyer @ 2017
WHAT’S THE GOOD IN PRAYER?
Someone on facebook quoted Michael Sherlock “Prayer, in my opinion, is an act of doubt, not an act of faith. For it you truly trusted your God’s plan, surely you wouldn’t have to pray for anything.”
Isn’t he right?
Don’t we pray asking God for this, and for that, and yet something else?
As Christians, we talk about praying and trusting God for the answers.
He already knows the need. He knows the steps that need to be taken in order for the plan to be completed. He knows the outcome. Praying is not to inform God of something. It’s not for God’s benefit.
The pastor in our church outlined our need for prayer, and this church’s need to come together.
He asked the question first: Why pray?
- Pray not for results, but for the connection between ourselves and God.
- Pray and pay attention. “Be still and know God.” Allow God to draw near.
- Pray not to ask for blessing in what you are doing; but to discover what God is doing. “Get in the stream, and in the spirit.”
- Pray because His thoughts become our thoughts, because His ways become our ways.
So if praying is not to get God’s attention, why pray? Praying is for our own growth. It is obedience
to His call. It is for learning God’s ways and thoughts.
Our pastor pointed out some reasons church parishioners don’t pray as they ought.
- They are afraid of the intimacy coming to God will bring.
- They lack authenticity (because they are just going through the motions, trying to follow what is expected of them.
- They do not worship God (or don’t know how).
The lack of worship may be the root of all of these. Worship, holiness, reverence, and righteousness have all become foreign to Americans.
A medical professional I know explained why that may be. He returned from many years on the mission field to American practice. To say that was an adjustment is an understatement.
He said that the tribesmen he worked with fell into worship more easily than many Americans did because they placed no-one higher than God, had no pre-conceived notions of what holiness or reverence looked like, and had no distractions cause by money, fame, and prestige. He went on to say that Americanism is the religion of America. We have come to a place where we place our country and patriotism high above, or instead of God. We do worship what America was and is, what it can give us, and the many idols or things that the wealth of the country allows us.
I suggest we come to the throne of God in full worship mode. This is something I need to learn as well.
- If we call God by His holy names, such as Elohim meaning strength or power, Elohay Kedem – God of the Beginning, El Emet – The God Of Truth, are from the Hebrew language- there can be no doubt to the high position of God that deserves worship. But there are other references in the bible that tell the same story: A covert from the tempest, A crown of glory, A diadem of beauty, A father to Israel, A God that hidest thyself, A Governor, and many more.
- Come to God with all of yourself. Leave behind the world’s distractions. Leave behind any judgements of others.
- Come to worship with an image of the throne. Imagine the ‘most High of the most high’, a sovereign and righteous God, a God that is over all kings, princes, rulers and worlds.
- Come to worship with songs on your lips.
If you have other ideas, I am happy to hear them. What are your favorite names for God, or for Jesus? What are your favorite worship songs?
1 Timothy 2:8 – “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
April Boyer @ 2017
WHAT HAVE YOU LOST?
The scripture is full of comments of how we will “lose our lives” in order to find life: in Christ.
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39 NIV. The Living Translation uses the words “clings to”.
In Mere Christianity C.S Lewis said: “The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
Jesus was teaching us to love Him, and leave our old ways behind. Our old ways include sin, selfishness, self-service, and loving something or someone- above all else.
When I went through the fear of cancer and the ensuing treatments, I gave up my old life in favor of recovering. If that meant rest, rest, change of habits, and oh yes, more rest; then I would lose my old life to gain a new one.
Loving Jesus means loving others through service and commitment. We can share the good news of God’s kingdom, and lose our selfish hearts to gain life in Him.
There isn’t enough room in one heart to serve two masters. Matthew 6:24 King James Version (KJV) “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
So if you want to continue in your life as it is with sin controlling you, and you serving the sin; there will be no room for life in Christ. Perhaps your life involves spending all of your time on what you desire, or all of your money on what you wish.
God healed me of the cancer, and I could get on with life. I could choose to go back to my old ways-which meant spending all my time in the ways I wanted. Or I could choose His life. It is one that included serving other breast cancer survivors and warriors by encouraging and supporting them and by telling my story. It means loving my family and friends more and in more tangible ways and sharing Jesus.
Cancer victims often say that when they’ve had to face their mortality, they come back with fuller hearts. They (we) appreciate beauty around them, hear the music more closely, walk in love more often and are more thankful. It is easy to say we gave up our lives, to gain new ones. It is my hope that new life is not only full, but belongs to Christ. He is life.
April Boyer @ 2016
“Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. -C.S. Lewis- Mere Christianity
RESOLVING TO RESOLVE
What am I going to resolve to do this year? Nada. Nothing. No. Uh uh. It’s better if I keep it under my lid. I don’t have to share what I plan to do. Then I won’t have to admit to any failure.
Seriously, this world just needs more kindness.
Jesus directs to love one another. Not just those that are easy to love, but those who are difficult to love as well. I take that to mean that what we do for those we don’t like to love will be difficult too. Jesus never promised us life would be easy. His certainly was not.
I find the easiest way to be kind in my world is to just thank people. Leave little thank you cards wherever you eat, wherever you shop, in the places you are served. The pay back is great too. People respond to your thankfulness and kindness.
Parade magazine available in many newspapers highlights some ways to be kind, and the benefits from your acts. It is not surprising that if you are kind, you are less-stressed and your health is improved.
Why not go out of your way?
Parade list some links as well. You can even print out some free kindness cards, or buy cards to acknowledge someone else who has been kind to you. If you want other ideas, you can check out http://www.shelivesfree.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Acts-of-Kindness-Strips.pdf
I love free print-outs, so I’m going to reveal my resolve to take advantage of these!
April Boyer @ 2016 & 9/10s