Garden Varieties

Root

“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

The term “infructescence” comes to us from Botany and it refers to a state in which a fruit-bearing tree or plant, is able to bear fruit. It’s the stage following “inflorescence” (the flowering), which in turn follows the “frondescence” (just leaves…). It means that the plant is ready.

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” (John 4:36)

God has called us to bear fruit for Him. As Jesus has introduced that analogy for us, we’d do well to consider just what it means for our life. In the above verse, Jesus is talking to His disciples who were flabbergasted that He’d even deign speak to a woman. But He knew. He talked to her, validated her and dealt with her sin then sent her on her way, full to overflowing. She went back and won over the entire town from where she’d come. She came to the well to fill her waterpot and left with a full heart. One touch from Him will fill you up and in turn create a harvest.

Shoot

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

Jesus must be referring to the prophecy in Isaiah 11. The first verse speaks of a “Branch growing out of [Jesse’s] (David’s father) roots.” It really doesn’t matter what variety of fruit you are called to bear, everything we do when we abide in Jesus out of love and worship is fruit that glorifies God. But it’s the abiding that causes it to happen. He’ll see to it.

Fruit

So what is the “fruit” to which He’s referring? Consider this:

“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:18)

For instance, when we endeavor to live “peacably with all men” (Romans 12:18), God’s fruit can grow and be harvested. This is one of the ways that God “advertises” in this world. Your peace—that which you work hard for through the trial and toil of your life to procure—will be felt and enjoyed by those around you. And when they ask (they probably already know) where it comes from, declare.

Herein is the Father glorified. Because His peace is altogether different than the “garden-variety” offered by the world and its denizens.

It’s Summer. The skies are blue and the weather’s warm and clear. The Greek word for ‘harvest’, by the way, is ‘therismos’. We get the prefix ‘thermo-‘ from the same, referring to ‘warm’. In other words, it’s high time that the body of Christ bore fruit for Him. I’m not saying it isn’t happening the world over, but look at the confidence expressed by the Lord: “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields (!)…” When’s the last time you heard of one person leading their entire town to the Lord? Come to think of it, John chapter four. It’d be so cool to see this happen today!

There’s one fruit I don’t get though. It’s called breadfruit and it’s from a tree in the mulberry family. Apparently it tastes like bread, also potatoes. Very starchy. Whatever. To each their own. As long as your bearing fruit, no matter the variety.

Salut!

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Getting Right Down To It (Higher Highs/Lower Lows Part 2)

“He made darkness His secret place…” (Psalm 18:11)

I can’t pretend to understand the suffering you’re experiencing. And if do it right, I don’t have to. Pretend, that is.

“Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” (1 Peter 4:19) That gets right down to it. Starting way back when, with God as Creator, and then following His vein to where we find ourselves with reference to Him is one ofif not the key journeys of our existence. Many people want to find themselves. But God says He’ll give you to yourself. That’s what He promised Baruch: “thy life will I give unto thee for a prey…” (Jeremiah 45:5)

As an aside, this reminds me of Jesus instructions for fasting: “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:18, emphasis mine)

When God calls us to go through a period of deprivation, depletion, depression, et cetera, there’s a right way and also a wrong way to do it. And please don’t mistake my self-assertion for pride. Jesus is the one who is doing these things through us, but there’s also the sense of “life ownership” that He gives. All that aside, when we find ourselves in a cave with no light, wondering how we got there, it’s best to sit and wait. Waiting on the Lord is the surest sign that we want God’s will to come of the period of suffering, as opposed to just what we can get out of it.

“Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.” (Psalm 104:20-22) God will provide for you, don’t doubt. But there may well be deeper depths that He has for you to go…

Stalactites and stalagmites are conical growths that are found in caves and are formed by the slow, incessant dripping of mineral-rich water. We know this from yesterday. But when they meet and form a pillar, it’s called a speleothem. Asaph spoke along those lines: “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.” (Psalm 75:3, emphasis mine) You don’t get to feel that way without invitation. The depth of suffering that brings so great weight is truly a privilege. I have felt that for my life. Like I’m holding up everything with my two arms and the world is falling apart and crashing around me. The truth is, Jesus was (is) there with me. And this is where the “selah” comes in. It essentially means to “sit and wait”. With your attention of God, that is. And that is the point of suffering, of doing it right. God is in secret. Jesus said it Himself. The deeper you go with Him and the further down in the “dens and caves of the earth” you explore with Jesus holding your hand, the more that God will let you see sides of Him that only Jesus sees.

“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will shew them His covenant.” (Psalm 25:14)

Double Negatives

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17)

You gotta know that the un-Christian Christian is an enigma to the unbeliever. Here you have a human being (just like them) who subscribes to the worldview of, arguably, one of the most moral teachers in human history (some people have a hard time with Luke 14:26)—certainly the most selfless. They take their rules and rubrics from an ancient tome called “The Holy Bible”, something that they had no hand in producing. And they join together with a bunch of other like- (close-) minded individuals at a “church”. And yet, they don’t live it out in their behavior. They don’t put works to their faith. Two strikes and they’re out.

Many people who don’t believe are smart enough to work through the finer points of theology from a mental standpoint. They can wrap their minds around a spiritual realm. They can visualize the concept that “God” would have been the one to set up the clear black-and-white of “good and evil”. But here’s the thing, just knowing it in your head isn’t enough. Same goes for Christians who believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead. From head to heart is essential.

For some, you lost them at “God”. That’s the first strike. But when you have a Christian who is born again and yet not walking in their faith with honest heart and pure motive, that’s the deal breaker. When Jesus says “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) and we don’t fulfill that tautology (in Logic, either this or that) as laid out by Christ, then all bets are off. The time for playing church and playing around is over. Ever since the Enlightenment (and before, in pockets), man has sought to replace a traditional biblical approach to the world within and without with “perfectly rational explanations”. And, it would seem, the one thing Christians could do to allay and alleviate the encroaching tide of unbelief, is the one thing at which they’ve failed miserably. Namely, love. I.e. know Jesus.

Love is the most overused and least understood concept in the world today. It begins (for us) with Jesus: “As I have loved you…” (13:34) This is the grand failure of modern-day Christianity. To fail to see the love of Jesus and to in turn live it out to the rest of the world. A simple statement with a thousand attendant variables. All of which are answered and silenced by His love. He lives to love. Think about it. Then live it out.

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? is is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13)

The idea here is that Christians (the ‘salt’ of this parable) are good for one thing only. To be “witnesses unto [Jesus]” (Acts 1:8). Failing that, we fail the most rudimentary and fundamental particle of our life. We are meant to reflect the character of Christ in all we do and with everyone we interact with. They’re watching. In the backs of their minds, they may think us to be fools. At our very cores, we are sadly deluded (and dilluted) and therefore can only go so far in the realm of human existence and experience. Know this. And love them anyway. Show them by your actions and thoughts that Jesus is real to you. They’ll know. That thought that they hide that says that we’re crazy will acquire a strange bedfellow. They might think we’re crazy and blind, but they’ll also see Jesus all about you. Over time, the conviction of the Holy Spirit will grow and consume them, softening their heart. And like a natural gas leak, the Holy Spirit will enshroud them and upon one spark of belief will ignite and rebirth their spirit. All because you loved them with the love of Jesus.

No pressure. It’s up to us. Fortunately, we have all the power of the Holy Spirit to help us and testify to the truth of our actions.

Figures of Speech: Introduction

And so begins a several-post series on the topic of marriage.

I’ve been meaning to write about it for some time and as I am not married—but know what a good marriage isn’t—I feel that I’m in a good position to interject and interlocute my opinions. I hereby place them on the table. Please, feel free to tell me your opinions. Both on what I write and what you think for your own life. If there’s one topic I’d like to start conversation on, it’s this one.

That’s the angle at which I’m looking at it, by the way. Marriage: a study in long term communication. Verbal, physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. Five Love Languages? Personally, I think there’re more.

Making It Happen

So, chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re still here. Take heart! Trust me, you didn’t miss the Rapture. Wasn’t it supposed to happen yesterday? One of the questions I have is, how could Harold Camping find some numerological thread that has no basis in truth and then calculate it out to mean that the Rapture, and/or Second Coming was supposed to happen yesterday? October twenty-first, two-thousand eleven. I don’t mean to be rude, but at what point in his life did he begin to see numerical coincidences as overarching truths? Does this mean I can start reading and relying on my horoscope? The so-called “Bible Code” might be compelling and hard to assail but non-believers tear it apart and laugh in its face. Besides, Jesus didn’t ask us to believe on that, He commanded us to believe on and in Him. At no point in history has an end-of-the-world prediction come true (obviously). And why is everyone in such hurry to leave? Isn’t love supposed to “bear all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7)? Jesus said that no man (or woman) knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). He also said to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13). No sense in busying ourselves in futile matters of false prediction. The Old Testament imposed harsh judgment on false prophets.

A better time-marker would be Jesus’ declaration that His Gospel would be preached to everyone before His coming (Matthew 24:14). And maybe that’s happened, I don’t know. God bless the translators who are feverishly working to translate the Bible into all of the world’s languages, but consider this: St. Francis said to “preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words”. Brilliant. I can guarantee you that hasn’t happened. When Christians don’t act any better than the spiritually-dead people they used to be, you can understand why people would want us to leave! Unsalty salt is “good for nothing” (Matthew 5:13). Yet another instance of Christians being made to look bad by one of their own.

Keep your head up. Watch. Hearts and minds take time to change and if we’re looking to escape the world at large without attuning our minds to the frequency of Heaven, we’d feel out of place even if we were raptured in an instant. The answer is: what would God have you do right now? And now? And now? Revelation (19:7) says that “His wife has made herself ready”. This is how. Live with God in the moment and that “moment” will be here before we know it.

One more thing! This is my hundredth post. It couldn’t have happened if I wasn’t here to write it. Thank you so much for reading! More to come…

Open to interpretation? Part 5 Body’s in motion and at rest.

Christians, as one, are the Body of Christ. Many people disagree that God the Father has a body, but I believe He does. And Jesus has a physical body (Luke 24:39). But the Holy Spirit does not. I refer to the Holy Spirit with a male pronoun. Where the King James translates Him as “It[self]” in Romans (8:26), I don’t think it was as precise as it could’ve been. He is truly without gender but that doesn’t mean He’s an “It”; He’s a person, like you and I, in that He’s a Spirit. It’s understandable that it might be difficult to wrap your mind around the concept of a bodiless entity without size and shape and with no means of discerning outside of a humble and believing heart. Jesus said the “world does not see Him” (John 14:17). God will help you, but (within reason) there might be some preconceived notions that need tweaking or shelving. I say “within reason” because by the same logic, anything that we invent by imagination could exist. But were not talking philosophy, we’re talking Christianity.

As Christians are the Body of Christ in a figurative sense, then the Holy Spirit is like the blood that flows within and gives life to every member. Jesus, when speaking of the Holy Spirit, said to His disciples that He (the Holy Spirit) was with them, and shall be in them (again, John 14:17). Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, I don’t think it was possible for those who believed in God to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But there are exceptions (Daniel, David). When Jesus said that He would be in them, does this refer to the Holy Spirit’s descent at Pentecost? Sure. But what do you think about this: could it be that we receive a portion of the Holy Spirit upon salvation but that we could always have more? David (Old Testament, I know) said that “his cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5) The river is always flowing. (Revelation 22:1)

An interesting event takes place in Acts, chapter 19. Paul is on his way to Ephesus and he comes upon some believers who, it says, hadn’t even heard of the Holy Spirit. After a question and answer session regarding their original baptism, Paul lays his hands on them and baptizes them in the name of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit that was in Paul comes into them. They immediately began speaking in tongues (verse 6).

This story illustrates that there are different ways of receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. By direct contact with another human. Or directly from God, as in chapter 2.

However God chooses, if you’re willing and press on in faith, He will see to it that you get all that is rightfully yours, in Him. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

I suppose that the reason I feel so passionately about this is because of a particular corollary. It seems that our church is immured—hemmed in, kept down—by the world’s standard of expression and interaction. When society becomes intolerant of any expression of “religion” and seeks to keep it out of the public square, then we as a country will eventually cease to exist. Alexis de Tocqueville (French statesman and novelist), when he toured the country during the 1800s, praised the open expression of religion in our public square. By the same token, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (a Russian author and Nobel prizewinner), touring the country a hundred years later was booed by his Harvard audience for expressing the same sentiment. The church is seen in many circles as powerless and feckless. Jesus said that we’d receive “power” after we received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). There’s a disconnect somewhere and it’s not God’s fault…

“Brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10). When we sideline and ignore the Holy Spirit, how then, as in Mark’s Gospel (16:20), will He be able to “work with us, confirming the Word with signs and wonders following”? (see also Hebrews 2:4) One of those “signs and wonders” is the gift of tongues and interpretations. Pray about it, wrestle with it. Where can we go from here? How can we, as a church body, return to the simplicity and power of our spiritual forbears in Acts? Acknowledge the Holy Spirit. He’s just as much God as Jesus and the Father.

And “forbid not to speak with tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39)

Open to interpretation? Part 4 A Spiritual Entelechy

The definition of entelechy—pronounced “intelli-key”—is not too far a cry from the definition of its pronunciation. Forgive my wordplay and circular definition here. An entelechy is like an epiphany. An entelechy happens when you begin to see something, for yourself, as more than just someone’s opinion. You see it as necessary, integral. Actual as opposed to optional. Do you see where I’m going with this? For the Believer, it means that God has opened your eyes. Somewhere in the near or distant past, you humbled yourself and as it says in 1 Peter (5:6), God exalted you. “He gives grace—His ability, His sight, His insight—to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

I say all of that to say this: The default state of a Christian should be one of humility and meekness, or teachability. Gratitude and worship, yes. But without humility and meekness, those actions can be hollow and insincere. And if we are truly humble, then God can show us what we don’t know. That’s what my Dad says: “God is always showing us what we don’t know”. Keep this in mind as we move on.

Regarding praying in tongues, the most common comment coming from one who does not consider the gifts of the Spirit is that “it’s not for today”. I hear this from believers. Christians.

I don’t know how that could be. Maybe some elaboration is in order? Tell me when, in the 2000+ year history of Christianity, did this gift cease to be not only given, but needed? Are things any better now than they were in the time of the reformation? What about first century Asia Minor? Are we as effective a cohesive body as they were? (the modern Chinese house-church movement is) When did the gift of tongues, let alone any gift that has made itself scarce in our modern, conservative churches, become obsolete? I have a feeling that this is just someone’s opinion. Wouldn’t the fifty-year moral and social decline in this country be enough to cause us to cry out to God for anything that we could be missing?

I firmly believe that God never dares anyone to do anything. So if you’ve ever felt like you’ve been forced to do something out of pressure or torment or threat, I can assure you that it’s not God. He doesn’t work that way. He’s gentle, oh so gentle. The key to experiencing all that God has and wants to give us is to be willing. “How shall He not with Him (Jesus) also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Are we even willing to be willing? If you’re not sure but you’re open, then God will lead you. Spend time in prayer and worship. Fast if need be and it doesn’t have to be from food. The Holy Spirit will let you know. And if the gift of tongues is for today—and I believe it is—then God will make sure you get it. Just don’t let doubt turn into unbelief. Because unbelief is sin. God can only do so much when someone is an unbelieving believer. Does this make sense?

Another way to define entelechy is to see the Body of Christ become “endued” with this “power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) But didn’t that already happen on Pentecost? It did (Acts 2:2-4). So now it’s up to us to seek it out anew. Did we just misplace it? How do you misplace the Holy Spirit?

I’ll wrap this up tomorrow.