Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Bearing Fruit

Reading: John 15: 1-8

Verse Eight: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples”.

As the branches connected to the vine, we have a relationship with Jesus. This relationship is like most of our other relationships – it has an ebb and flow to it. There are moments when the connection feels rock solid and moments when it feels very distant. Most of the time the relationship is spent somewhere between these two extremes. Verse five reminds us of an important truth: “apart from Me you can do nothing”. Now, Jesus is talking about spiritual things here, the things that really matter in life.

The core of being connected to and in relationship with Jesus is bearing fruit. The acts of sharing His love and serving others are lost when we allow the relationship to become disconnected. When we allow this to happen then we are not making an impact for the kingdom and we are not bringing glory to God. Therefore, we need to make every effort to remain connected to Jesus.

Our society is now an instant gratification culture that tends to focus inward and on our own pleasure. Fortunately, the act of bearing fruit often runs against these two norms. Our faith and the practice thereof make us stand out from the secular culture and draw attention to God. When we are doing the work of sharing our faith and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, we are aiming to bear fruit.

More often than not, the seeds we plant will not bear fruit for a while. Every once in a while we might be blessed to be the one when another finally decides to confess faith in Jesus. More often than not we are just the twentieth or the sixty-third or the seventy-fourth person to plant a small seed of faith in someone’s life. We are most often just one more step towards someone entering a saving relationship with Jesus. Nonetheless, we are a part of another’s faith journey and are therefore part of bringing glory to God.

Our passage today closes with this verse: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples”. Today, may we show ourselves to be His disciples, bearing much fruit. May it be so today. Amen!

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Reading: John 4: 27-38

Verse 35b: I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.

The disciples return just as Jesus finishes His initial conversation with the Samaritan woman.  It is an unusual scene by the norms of the day, but the disciples have seen Jesus engage any and all time after time.  He does not appear to be a man with any barriers.  The woman heads back to town to tell others of her encounter with Jesus and people from town head to the well to meet Jesus.  As the disciples have returned with food, they offer Jesus some.  His response puzzles them: “I have food to eat that you know nothing about”.  Staying on the surface level, they wonder if someone else has brought Jesus some food.  Further explanation is clearly needed.

Jesus then explains that the true ‘food’ that feuls Him is to do the work of God.  Perhaps knowing that the townspeople are heading their way, Jesus says, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest”.  Jesus and the disciples are about to be joined by people who are searching for the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  Jesus has down the seeds, now the harvest is at hand.  He tells them that the hard work is done – He planted faith in the woman who has in turn planted seeds in the people who approach.  The disciples will now “reap what they did not work for”.  Where do we fit in the story?

First, Jesus’ call to look to the fields applies to us.  There are many in our lives ‘ripe’ for the truth and saving grace of Jesus Christ.  It is our role to help people to the well so that they can drink of the ‘living water’ that Jesus offers.  Second, we need to be ready to reap what the Holy Spirit works in someone’s heart once they accept Jesus as Lord.  This “work” is the work of the Spirit.  We can only plant seeds and inspire searching.  God alone makes the seeds grow into faith.  Lastly, we need to be ready to step in and walk alongside that new believer, nurturing and guiding their growth.

As we look at those in our lives, who is searching, who is ripe to meet Jesus Christ?  What can we do today to sow seeds of faith?  How can we be ready to reap and walk with those new to faith?

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Reading: Matthew 3: 5-12

John challenges the Pharisees and Sadducees who come out to see just what is going on in the desert.  He welcomes them with, “You brood of vipers!”. What a welcome!  John goes on to ask, “Who warned you of the coming wrath”?  It is almost to say, ‘who woke you up’?  John is implying that they have been lost or in a daze.

John goes on to tell these religious leaders that they need to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  John is implying that they need to repent first, then to begin producing good fruit.  He warns them about complacency and the status quo, warning them that the axe is at the root of the tree.  I wonder if they realize they are the tree.  John wraps up this exchange by telling of Jesus, the one who is coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

We can read these words from John and smirk as we think about how those pompous religious folks have gotten a good talking to.  Or we can realize that maybe John is talking to us too.  To determine this, we must ask ourselves what fruit we are producing for the kingdom of God.  How are our lives planting seeds and bringing others into God’s presence?

One step beyond, especially true in this season of Advent, is to ask, ‘How are we preparing ourselves for the coming of the Christ child’?  What do you and I each need to repent of to be a worthy home for the babe to dwell in?  May we each step into our own place of solitude today to search our souls for the answers to these questions.  And may we emerge, ready to bear good fruit for God’s kingdom.

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Beautiful and Useful

Reading: Jeremiah 18: 1-11

When working with clay, the potter molds the clay into what he or she intended it to be.  At times it became marred or flawed or not exactly what the potter had planned.  So the potter reshapes the clay so that it becomes something beautiful and useful.

Imagine if the clay had a mind of its own.  What would happen if the potter was trying to form a serving platter and the clay wanted to be a vase?  As the potter tried to smooth and flatten out the clay, the clay kept rising up.  Soon enough the potter would give up or would allow the clay to become a vase.  But the clay is not becoming what the potter intended.  To the potter the creation will never be as beautiful or useful as it could have been.  Although it may function as a base and hold water, the potter will not see it as beautiful.

Growing up God often shapes us through the hands of parents, teachers, Sunday school leaders, youth group leaders…  We are molded and shaped as young Christians.  Before we move on to becoming mature Christians, we often seek our own way.  Whether in high school or college or young adulthood, we start to see ourselves as the center of all things.  We think we know do much and decide we will be the ones calling the shots.  We are like the clay that wanted to become a vase.  Over the course of a few years or maybe decades, we wander far from God.

Yet the Creator’s love for us never wains.  God continues to bring us back to the purposes that were laid out for our lives before we were born.  God does not give up.  It is a love so great.  In time, the seeds of faith begin to sprout again for most of us.  We come to know God again and we begin to walk in God’s ways again.  We begin to become the beautiful and useful creation we were meant to be.  Life just seems better again because we are in the palm of God’s hands.  For your faithfulness, O God, we say thank you.

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His Love

Reading: Acts 9: 36-43

As human beings one of our greatest non-physical needs is to belong. As social creatures, we need to feel like we are a part of the group and that we matter to others.  In turn we feel a need to have others feel that they  matter to us, that they are important parts of our life.

In today’s reading this is shown as a dear friend, Tabitha, passes away.  She seems to be the glue that held this small community together, so the grief is especially deep.  She not only shared her presence and love with her friends, she also showed it in her actions and in how she gave physical gifts to them as well.  Her friends and the two disciples who are present decide to send for Peter, who is in a nearby town.  The depth of love in this small community is amazing.

The depth of this love has power.  The level of caring is evident.  Peter comes and cares for Tabitha’s friends by restoring their dear friend to life.  By the power of this miracle many outside the group of friends come to believe in the Lord.

We too use the love of Jesus to form bonds of friendship among fellow believers.  Through study and fellowship we can find deep, caring relationships that meet our need to belong and to matter to others.  In turn we care for and love one another in acts of presence and in acts of service and in sharing together the love we find in Jesus.

This same love and actions that emulate His love and example can be brought out into the world.  Just as Tabitha’s resuscitation brought new believers to faith in Christ, our words and acts of service to others can help them to come to know Christ.  Our words and deeds may not be miracles in and of themselves like the miracle in today’s story, but they are the seeds that one day can lead to another coming to know Christ.  It is all about planting seeds and sharing His love.  May we plant well today!

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Inside Out

David has come a long way since Samuel first anointed him.  He is now thirty as the leaders of the tribes of Israel come to him to ask him to be their king.  This boy who was filled with God’s Spirit at his anointing has grown up.  The results of those seeds planted long ago have blossomed and all can see that David is a leader after God’s own heart.  What only God saw inside David all those years ago is now plain for all to see on David’s outside.

David has two main characteristics that are plain to see now.  First, he is still a shepherd.  Now he is caring for the flock of Israel and is protecting their well-being.  He is a mighty warrior and leader but still possesses that shepherd’s heart.  Second, he is bonded to God and this leads the people to be bonded to God as well.  David lives out this covenant relationship and takes the flock along on this journey also.

As Christians we too can be filled with the Spirit.  Once we invite Jesus into our lives and begin to seek to follow His example, the same Spirit that filled David will begin to work in our hearts.  God will plant seeds in us that will grow as continue on our journey of faith.  These seeds will come to bear fruit if we continue to nourish and develop our faith as we seek God with all of our heart as well.

Just as with David, these inward seeds will grow to be manifest in our outside life.  Over time love, compassion, and courage will grow inside of us.  People will come to see what God has seen in us al along.  Over time our lives become a living witness to those all around us.  In turn we help the Spirit to begin planting seeds in other’s lives.  Thanks be to God for our role in His kingdom work!

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 5: 1-5 and 9-10

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Grains of Faith

At times in my faith journey I am like the chaff.  My faith becomes dry, seemingly purposeless.  In those times I too can be blow this way or that.  I feel adrift in these times.  It is easier to be drawn to the things of this world as well.  Yet God always draws me back in.

I want to be like the grain.  We all do.  It is the grain that sheds the chaff so that new life is made possible.  The grain is happy to be and do what God created it for.  Joy is found in fulfilling its purpose.

Some grain is used to nourish others.  It can be used in many ways to accomplish this purpose.  Each of us has a gift or talent to use in some way to nourish our fellow believers.  We are called to use these gifts and talents not for ourselves but to build up the body of Christ.

Other grain is used to yield more grain.  As we plant the Word of God in others, we are sowing seeds of faith.  Each of us has a faith unique story and a voice to use to tell that story.  Each of us has the ability to cast seeds far and wide both with our story and with the witness of how we live our lives.  Our hope is that some takes root and new lives of faith are formed.

God promises to watch over the ways of the righteous.  His promise is to those that love Him and seek to walk in His ways.  It takes sacrifice to give of oneself to help others grow in faith.  It requires the same to sow seeds of faith in others.  God’s love will lead us to do both.  Allow His hand to guide you today.

Scripture reference: Psalm 1: 4-6

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The Gift of Faith

In Psalm 126 the people have returned from exile. For this they praise God joyfully.  But a hard reality also faces them.  No one was there the year before to plant crops and to store up grain.  In the midst of a joyous return they face a food crisis.

The people of Israel have just experienced the miracle of being freed from slavery.  They have seen God’s great power at work in their lives.  So they turn their prayers to the need at hand. They pray for food and a good harvest and are confident that their God will respond with a good harvest.  They have faith in His future blessings.

In our world today, many also have a hunger – a spiritual hunger.  During the time of Advent. as we draw nearer to Christmas, people are more aware of Christ and faith.  We have the food that the lost need.  We can offer them the great news of Jesus Christ – a morsel that always satisfies.  We are called to share what we have.  When we give away our faith, strangely enough it grows in us too.  Bless another today with the gift of faith.

Scripture reference: Psalm 126

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Faithful and True

We are called to spread God’s word and love.  Jesus compared the discipling of others to seeds and yeast.  In Matthew 13 the small mustard seed grows into a large plant that is home to many birds.  The ‘yeast’ that we work into the ‘dough’ spreads out and causes all of the dough to rise to new heights.  As we spread God to those in our worlds, we help them to grow in their faith.  It is neat to watch another grow in their faith.

But sometimes we have to wait.  The seed does not sprout overnight and the yeast takes time to work.  Sometimes it is hard to wait.  Although we can see and feel other ways God’s kingdom is being built, at times we can hone in on one person or one situation in our life.   It then becomes hard to see big picture that God is painting.

We must learn to wait patiently and to continue in our labors.  We are only the labors – God and the Holy Spirit are what cause the seed to sprout.  We know that the Father is faithful and true.  He is our hope and our strength.  In Hebrews 10 we find encouragement: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur on another on toward love and good deeds”.

Scripture reference: Matthew 13: 31-33

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The Master Gardener

Perhaps it was no coincidence that Mary Magdelene mistook Jesus for a gardener.  In many ways Jesus was and is a gardener.

Jesus taught and continues to teach through stories, parables, examples, and healings.  Within each are little seeds that are planted in our hearts and minds.  Each time we read the Bible we glean insights from his words, often times a new insight from a passage we have read before.  One day these seeds will sprout.  In the meantime the gardener works the soil, tending to it so that one day it can nurture good growth.  The gardener continues to turn over our soil with His words, making us into the soil that will produce a crop.

As we grow, He prunes us as well, to shape us into the best disciple we can be.  Sometimes the gardener prunes off parts of us that hinder our growth as disciples, cutting off a little pride here, a little jealousy there, a bit of anger right there…  At other times He prunes to encourage growth in our faith lives.

All the while He is also teaching us how to garden.  Through His example and work in our lives, we come to understand how we can help others on their walk of faith.  We can share the stories from the Bible and from our own walks of faith.  We can tend the soil and encourage growth in those we know.  We can also prune when needed.  But the greatest lesson we learn from Jesus is to garden with love.  It is to produce growth and to encourage that the seeds produce a crop in our garden and in the gardens of those we meet along the way.  Happy gardening!!!