Tag Archives: growth

Ezekiel 43-45; Psalm 135; John 15

I have to admit, I am not an avid gardener. As much as I love the fruits of my labor at the end of the summer, I just don’t have the green thumb I wish I did. I am not patient nor willing to put a lot of time in it!
The pages of John 15 in my bible are worn from reading and re reading over the years. What has been difficult to understand is the part that even the good, well producing branches are still sometimes pruned and cut by the gardener in order to produce more fruit. Just like with my vegetable garden, the only way to control growth and promote new fruit flowers is to prune. But pruning is a painful process. It can be painful to the gardener and the branches. As a beginner gardener myself, I always have a hard time knowing exactly what to prune, how far back to cut and how frequently. I worry over it and am often way to conservative with my pruning to the point that my fruit growth is stunted. But God is never afraid to do the pruning and he always knows just when to prune and how much.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
How and when this pruning- changing, molding, cleansing is done is completely up to the gardener.  Apart from his pruning and nurturing, growth is stunted, slowed and even stopped. Because I am still learning this process in the garden, often my vegetables are not as fruitful as they could be or even die three quarters of the way through the summer. I recently learned that where I go wrong with the pruning in my vegetable garden is that I am not careful with where I make my cuts. Instead of making small cuts to the branches I make large cuts to the branches and stop the growth altogether. But the Lord always knows exactly where and when to cut.
For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
The process is simple. Not easy but simple. Staying close to the vine is the only way receive life. Jesus is that vine.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
And what happens to those who don’t stay close?
Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.”
Our fruit production is simply to bring glory to the Lord. The mark of a true disciple is by the fruit that they produce but this is not simply a matter of the wills. It requires daily dependence on the Lord and reliance on Christ for strength and life, day in and day out. It requires daily obedience in order to abide and remain in Christ and produce fruit that brings glory to the Father.
When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
I am comforted when I read this passage. I can’t produce fruit on my own and I’m not responsible for the pruning process but only to remain in Christ and obey. Neither are an easy or painless process but remaining attached to the vine assures me complete security and life.
From the archives. Originally published on November 11, 2015.
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Ezekiel 41-42; 2 Peter 1

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:3-11

Since becoming a follower of Christ, I have often thought about what that means, what it ‘should’ look like. Christianity began with me completely believing in and putting my confidence in God my Father, in His Son who came to earth as a man, laid His life down to restore my relationship with Him, and rose again to life on the third day, and in Holy Spirit my helper. It began with faith; faith to trust even though I don’t always have tangible evidence, faith to step out and take a leap into the unknown.

Peter shares that while the foundation of the Christian walk is simple faith, it isn’t the only facet. He shares that, because I partake of the divine nature of God, I am able to develop my simple faith with additional character qualities that will keep me from being unfruitful in my life and help to prevent me from falling:

So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. 2 Peter 1:5-7 MSG

Virtue – as I practice moral excellence, as I make good choices in the day-to-day of life, my life begins to better reflect Christ in me. Determination, integrity, and discretion help me walk a straight path; and even when I stumble, I have a plum line to help me get up and walk again.

Knowledge – as I continue to delve deeper in my relationship with God, His divine nature is reveled to me in greater and greater ways. Each day, as I spend more time with Him, my understanding of Him, my intimacy with Him is increased. Though I will ever be in awe of His goodness, my experiences of who God is gives me a new sense of familiarity. He is my Daddy and no longer a formidable, unapproachable being.

Self-Control – as I train myself in restraint, I become more level-headed and my willpower for self-discipline becomes stronger. I am better able to regulate my actions, my emotions, my fleshly desires and appetites. When I have control over myself, the truth about who I really am in Christ is able to shine above my weaknesses as a human being.

Steadfastness – as I exercise patience, my ability to continue fruitfully throughout my journey, through the ups and downs, despite the fatigue and stress, without complaint or loss of temper, increases. I am better able to bear the trials of life without being derailed from my purposes and goals. I am able to stay hopeful in the waiting.

Godliness – as I endeavor to be more like Jesus, I naturally begin to submit to His will, obeying the wishes of God as I understand them. As I hold tightly to God, as I become more reliant on Him, He enhances my wisdom, my gratitude, and teaches me how to be honoring to Him and to others.

Brotherly Affection – as I get into the habit of being kind to the people around me, I put into practice God’s call for me to love my enemies and to love my neighbors as myself. My compassion and generosity grow, and I am better able to empathize with others in the midst of their personal trials.

Love – as brotherly affection becomes more and more routine, my love increases. Agape love is enkindled by Holy Spirit; it is a love which embraces the truth and demonstrated the nature of God through me. It is a pure, unconditional love that flows with His grace and mercy.

Each one of these qualities adds to my faith, makes it well-rounded, and strengthens me as a believer. As I practice and build on each element, my character continues to grow as I rely on Christ within me.

Yesappa, Thank You for being my Daddy whom I can put my full confidence in. I know that you will never leave me nor forsake me, and that you are the source for all of the growth in my life. Help me always look to You as I walk my path; help me continue to fortify the qualities that demonstrate Your work in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Song of Songs 4-5; 2 Corinthians 13

Grabbing a few thoughts.

11 Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11, NLT

Be joyful.

Finding joy and enjoyment in tasks, others, this day. When things happen beyond my control–um, that’s a large category!–help me to hold onto what is true, righteous, pure. And if I can’t do that, I will take the simplest of pleasures–that cup of coffee this morning at 2 a.m., fall-like temperatures and a reason to wear a favorite cardigan, a song in my heart. I don’t want a day to go by where I’m not joyful over something. I have lost so much time to lesser things.

Grow to maturity.

Time spent in God’s Word. Letting (mentors, teachers, godly friends, circumstance) influence and shape me. Being open and humble to correction–to the point of change.

Encourage each other.

Look joyfully towards others and their talents–God-given gifts. Remembering the salve of encouragement at my lowest times–a friend on the phone when the moving van arrived; Reggie picking weeds with me in an overgrown garden; an enemy’s accusation buffeted by reminders of who I am in Christ.

Live in harmony and peace.

When conflict arises, asking myself what is it I stand to lose that threatens me to a reaction. What is it I ultimately want to gain for myself, for another, and for the both of us? How will my actions and thoughts achieve those means? Are these actions and thoughts God honoring? Will I regret them afterwards? Not always easy in the moment.

Paul wants these things for his brothers and sisters because he knows the danger of attitude, immaturity, discouragement, and disunity and discord. These are cancers that destroy from the inside–the very heart. First in one heart, and then infecting and affecting those around us.

Lord, help me to guard my heart.

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalm 47, 48, 49; Acts 26

Clap your hands, all peoples!

Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,

a great king over all the earth.

He subdued peoples under us,

and nations under our feet.

He chose our heritage for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah

God has gone up with a shout,

the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises!

Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

For God is the King of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm!

God reigns over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne.

The princes of the peoples gather

as the people of the God of Abraham.

For the shields of the earth belong to God;

he is highly exalted! Psalm 47

 

I have been to many churches in my journey as a missionary, to share the gospel and also to share testimonies of the things that God has done and is currently doing in the churches in our area of South India.

One of the things that always strikes me when I visit a church is the many different styles of worship. Some worship in different languages, praise in the native tongue of the worshippers. Some worship in a very traditional way, singing hymns written centuries ago. Some sing the various Maranatha-type choruses that were popular in the 80’s and 90’s. And, some worship with modern songs with the style of prophetic worship. Some churches stand, some clap and lift their hands to the heavens, some play tambourines or shofars, some dance, some wave flags, and some paint pictures.

Despite the style of worship, one thing remains the same…each person, each church is lifting their voices to praise the One True God, offering a part of themselves to the body of Christ, just like David did. Together we are all joined together in gratitude for all He has done – from creating us, to choosing us, to sending His Son to be a sacrifice on our behalf, to each specific thing He does every day for every one of His children.

I truly love corporate worship; it’s a chance to come together with other brothers and sisters in Christ and remember together God’s goodness and His faithfulness. There is something amazing that happens in my spirit when I hear many voices lifted in songs of praise and see figures worshipping through creative movement. It can usher me into His presence in such a way that it almost feels like I took an escalator into heaven. It has the potential to ready my heart for His healing touch, speaking into the places that feel dry and reminding me that He is always there.

I think that the hardest part of being a mom is that it has become a very rare occurrence for me to be able to fully participate in times of worship, either by myself or corporately. It seems as if when a song begins, that is precisely the moment when one of my little ones needs a drink, a snack, a diaper change, a referee… At this point in my motherhood journey, I haven’t yet figured out how to balance kids versus entering into worship. I haven’t yet figured out how to draw my children into the ‘adult’ worship effectively.

As a start, I am teaching them children’s songs, the ones I grew up on, like “Jesus Loves Me”, “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, and “This is the Day”. They also both really enjoy waving flags and making a joyful noise on toy instruments, but right now I realize that it is more about the fun than the praise. I hope as they grow their heart for worship grows too as they begin to feel God’s presence in the worship.

I know that this is a season, a time of learning for all of us, a chance to practice gratitude for God in many different ways. I know that each of us, over time, will move into new seasons of worship, and I look forward to the time when we can come together as a family to exult His name and honor our King.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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2 Samuel 7; 2 Corinthians 1; Ezekiel 15; Psalms 56, 57

Willingness to endure the hard times, as much as enjoy the good times.

When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it. 2 Corinthians 1:6-7, The Message. (emphasis mine)

I listened to a message on grief by Rick Warren. He said if you’re only living in the party, you’re only living half a life. That in grief, that’s where we grow. (And if you’re not grieving your losses, you’re stuck in that spot until you do.)

We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, The Message.

In my lowest moments (persecution, exclusion, depression, the waiting), after realizing I had done all that I could do–and all to no avail–I was at a place where I learned surrender. Over the course of three years, I would get lots of practice in learning to differentiate between the things over which I had control, and those that I did not. I learned how to lean on the Lord, and that I could trust him. I learned to pray, and to ask for prayer.

As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened.

Thank you, Jesus.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 8, 1 Timothy 5, Daniel 12, Psalm 119:49-72

Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand. Daniel 12:10

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8

Teach me knowledge and good judgment for believing your commands. Psalm 119:66

God used family problems this week  to refine and purify my actions.  Initially I fixated on my sister’s culpability. After all she did curse at me. Certainly I was above reproach. (Ha!) Then the Scriptures opened my eyes to how my own behavior contributed to the situation.

In constantly trying to rescue her from her problems we as a family had robbed her of the ability to cope on her own. In turn I had denied myself the opportunity of receiving assistance from her.

The best One to judge everything is the One who is in control. Had we inquired of God  first perhaps things would not be so out of control now. Yet I praise Him for showing me that there are better ways to handle challenges than the way we have always done.

Father, You put me in frustrating situations time after time to help me grow. Thank you for teaching me how to respond to others to create more healthy balanced relationships. Thank you for your mercies new every morning.

yicareggie

 

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Mark 4-5

The thorny ground represents those who hear and accept the Good News, but all too quickly the message is crowded our by the cares of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for nice things, so no crop is produced. Mark 4:18

Observation

Faith usually grows slowly from a mustard seed into a huge tree. The disciples needed Jesus to explain the parables.  They were amazed when he calmed the storm.  The townspeople didn’t understand how a demon possessed man could suddenly be in his right mind. The crowd at Jairus’ house laughed when Jesus suggested the little girl was not dead.   The woman Jesus healed from the bleeding disorder was one of only a few who understood the power of God immediately.

Application

The power of God is puzzling and unnerving to most people. The gift of faith  leads to understanding and acceptance of the power of God in Jesus Christ. The disciples had the physical presence of Jesus to mature spiritually. Beware of those things in life that could lead to an anorexic soul. Let’s plant ourselves deep into the Scriptures, prayer and the support of the Body of Christ to keep our faith vital.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the gift of faith. Get me out of the thorns and into productive soil where my faith can grow and be used to bear much fruit for your kingdom. Forgive me for those times I chose to hide in the shade of the thorns. You are an awesome God who had a plan for me from the beginning of time. Thank you for your forgiveness and love. In Jesus Name I pray

yicareggie

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