Lifestyles

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Lifestyles of the spiritually rich.

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Labor

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28

Prayer week is coming to a close. From this point, we go off into the new year and attempt to bear fruit. We try and take this attitude of prayer and make it a daily part of our life. Everything we’ve discussed this week: the seed, soil, source, climate; everything that goes into growth becomes more than ideas. They become functional parts of our 2019 life. These ideas become work. They become labor.

It’s fitting that the final factor of growth is labor. Without labor, there will be no fruit. Without someone to pull the spiritual weeds and prune the dead branches the vine will die. The work of the laborer belongs to the Father in John 15. He is the gardener. That doesn’t leave us without labor. Instead, it means that we are not alone in our struggle. We have a strength unlike any other that flows through us and bears our burdens.

This year as you try to bear fruit in your life. As you plant the seed of truth in the fertile soil of your heart; as you plant yourself by the source that never runs dry and you become an influencer of your climate, remember that you are not alone. You don’t have to labor by your own strength. You have a God who empowers you. Without whom, we would be barren. But by the power of God, the same power that raised Christ from the grave, we persevere, we grow, and we bear fruit.

Climate

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:1-3

I live in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. Here in the midwest, we often brag about how we get to experience all four seasons. Those California folks must suffer every day with their constant sunny, 70-degree weather. 😉 In all seriousness, I really do love experiencing the crisp fall, frigid winter, rainy spring, and hot and humid summer. I embrace that. But that comes with certain expectations. For example, there are trees, plants, fruits, and vegetables that I will never get to see, smell, taste or grow. The reality is the climate of my home makes it impossible for some of those things to grow.

The same is true for our spiritual growth. We can plant the right seeds, in the right soil, and provide all the water and nutrients we can, but if the climate is not right for growth, we will not bear fruit. Our climate is what we surround ourselves with; the mediums that have an impact on our daily life. I’m talking about our friends, family, work, podcasts, music, blogs, television, social media, or movies. Those things influence our thoughts, words, and actions.

Some of those can be changed by merely making a choice not to indulge in them. If the movies/television that you watch cause you to stumble, turn them off. If the music you listen to fills your mind with immoral thoughts, turn it off. If your podcasts or blogs distract you from the place God has you in, choose a different blog that feeds your spirit. If social media causes you to judge others, be envious or your friends, or argue with strangers, do whatever it takes to remove that influence.

This isn’t a commercial for KLove or Christian Movies. If the things you watch, read, or listen to do not influence you negatively then there is no need to change. But before you write it off, take a good hard look, and you might be surprised how much they do impact your life.

Remember, the branch that doesn’t produce fruit gets cut off. There can be no stragglers in the Kingdom. There are no fruitless branches on the vine. So if the climate of your life does not promote growth, change your climate.

Now there are factors that you cannot change. Your friends, family, and workplace are not as easy to cut off. Those are relationships. They are an essential part of being a human. But they can still negatively influence you. So how do we change that climate? Well, we change it by introducing Jesus to that climate. Jesus brings light to the dark places. He takes filth and makes it clean. We become the agent of change. We become the influencer.

During your prayer time today, think about your climate. Does it promote growth? If it doesn’t, maybe 2019 is a year of change.

Source.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

To bear fruit, you first need a seed. That seed then needs to be planted in fertile soil. However,  that alone will not bring you a harvest. Without water, plants do not grow. Without a source of life, trees and vines cannot bear fruit. The same is true for us believers. We need a source that will continue to feed us until we bear fruit. Jeremiah says that source is the Lord. 

Trees draw water up from their roots and use some of the water, combined with sunlight and carbon dioxide to create plant food and oxygen. That’s called photosynthesis. The rest of the water is used in a process called transpiration. Essentially this means the water flows through the tree, ignoring pesky things like gravity, and hydrates its branches and leaves. Finally, the remaining water is released as moisture back into the atmosphere, where it becomes rain and restarts the cycle. Why am I giving you a science lesson? Because it can help us understand what happens when we draw from our source, God. 

The “water” that we draw from God is faith. Jeremiah said the one who trusts in the Lord is like a tree who spreads out its roots to the stream. When we pull that faith from the stream of living water multiple things happen at once.

  • Faith begins to rise in our life despite circumstance that should keep it down — the same way the water defies the laws of gravity during transpiration. 
  • That faith is a refreshment to our soul that brings us peace and confidence during the drought. The same way trees use that water to hydrate their leaves and branches.
  • Photosynthesis takes two essential elements of life (sunlight + water) and poisonous gas (carbon dioxide)  and turns it into food for the plant and oxygen which is used by all life around it. In the same way, when the water of our faith and the light of God’s grace mix with the toxic circumstances of this life, there is a hope that is created that feeds our soul and breathes life into a world that is gasping for air.

Without water there is no photosynthesis, there is no transpiration. Without those things, there will be no fruit. We need living water. That only comes from one source. Where are you drawing your faith from today? Is it in the world, yourself, or the Everlasting Stream?

Soil.

This past spring my wife really wanted sunflowers in our backyard. So I set out to make her vision a reality. I went to the garden center and bought some seeds. I mapped out the garden and determined the best place to put them. There was a spot in my yard where they would get ample sunlight and would have an opportunity to thrive. So I dug up some holes and planted the seeds. I watered and waited; nothing happened. Not one of the seeds turned into a sunflower. What did I do wrong? Well, the one thing that I didn’t take into account was the soil. I planted my seeds in an area of my yard that was too close to a big tree. It was also too close to a patch of ground covering ivy. My seeds never stood a chance. From the beginning, they were in a constant struggle for water and resources. It was a battle they, unfortunately, couldn’t win. 

This happens in our lives too. In order to grow, the seeds that Jesus is planting in our lives need to be planted in good soil. Jesus talked about this in Luke 8 in the Parable of the Sower. He talks about three different types of soil. The first is rocky soil. Jesus says that these are people who hear the word and receive it with joy but fall away when the time of testing comes because they have no root. The second is among the thorns. These are the people who hear the word but are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they never mature. Last is the good soil. These are the people who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

We obviously all want to be the good soil. Our goal is to abide in Jesus, stay attached to the vine,  persevere and bear fruit.  But unfortunately, not all of us have good healthy soil. If we remain the same, the seed that Jesus is planting will either dry up or be choked out. The good news is that we don’t have to remain the same. God desires for all to come to a knowledge of Him. That means that we all can have good soil, with a little work. God wants to work with you to clean up your soil this year. 2019 will be the year that we stop getting distracted by worries and things of this world. Our focus will be on God, our all in all. What are the distractions in your life that are keeping you from producing fruit? If you don’t know then take some time today and ask God to reveal to you what your soil looks like. He will be faithful to respond.

Seeds.

At the center of every fruit is a seed. Go ahead, bust open that apple, banana, or orange you brought for lunch. At its center, there will be a seed. As believers, it’s our job to bear fruit; similar to real fruit, it starts with a seed. You won’t exactly find these seeds in an aisle of your local garden center, so what do we do? Well, Jesus tells us the answer in John 15:3.

“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” – John 15:3

The seed at the center of our fruit is the word of God. Our lives will be barren without the word of God. A couple of quick things to note:

  • First, Jesus is the one who plants the seed. This takes a lot of weight off of our shoulders. To bear fruit worthy of a holy God, we need a seed that is holy. By our own merit, we could never plant that seed. Thankfully, Jesus takes that responsibility for us. He plants a word of life, that can produce fruit that is pleasing to God. His blood is speaking a “better word” in our lives, that purifies us and makes us clean.
  • Second, Jesus has already planted the seed. Which means we’ve already been given what is necessary to produce fruit. We cannot earn it or work for it. Jesus has freely spoken that word in our lives, that we would be made clean.

There are a couple of ways we can apply this as we pursue fruitful lives in 2019. (1) If we want to be actively producing fruit, we must be actively seeking out the word of God. Let’s dig deeper (pardon the pun) in the word this year. Let’s seek Him while he may be found and watch as we reap a harvest in our life that is one hundred fold. (2) In our life, we are meant to bear fruit but we aren’t meant to do it alone. That means that we must help each other. The only way we can do that is by keeping the word of God at the center. The word of God must be at the center of teachings, encouragement, rebukes, and corrections. If we can do that, we will establish ourselves as a church that bears fruit. Then we will experience an outpouring of God’s spirit like never before.