We're finished! Thank you for embarking on this journey with me. I hope over the past month you have watered your seeds, cultivated your soil and are now reaping the benefits of the growth that is taking place in your lie because of it! Here are some takeaways from this month;s series "31 Days of Spiritual Cultivation"
Although pruning is hard, it is necessary for spiritual growth
Pulling out the weeds helps you (and the world) separate the life from the death living within you.
Seeds may look small and plain, but contain within them everything they need to grow the most beautiful plants and flowers
When you cultivate your soil, fruit will always come through
We are commanded to bear fruit and we do that through our actions
What was one thing you learned about yourself or about scripture as a result of this series? Comment below.
Richard Foster, author of the book Celebrating the Disciplines, says this about our practice of spiritual disciplines when it comes to our growth:
"The Disciplines are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us. By themselves the Spiritual disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are God’s means of grace."
Throughout this series, we have talked about all the ways we can grow- from practicing spiritual disciplines, to surrounding ourselves with people within our community to help us along the path to maturity to ridding ourselves of the sin that prevents us from bearing the fruit that impacts others for the Kingdom. This quote from David Foster summarizes the essence of what I hoped to achieve through this series. God places us in the ground, expecting we will transform into the people whom God can call His children so we can, in turn, transform others so they can do the same.
What have you learned through this series? Did God reveal a sin that you need to rid yourself of so you can be the person god wants you to be? Do you need someone who can hold you accountable and walk with you side-by-side through this journey? Do you need to try a new discipline so you can continue to transform your life? Comment below so we can learn from all of you.
May God bless you as you continue on your journey through spiritual cultivation.
“For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”- 1 Corinthians 3:3-6
These are just a few of the people chosen by God to deliver His message. However, many people believe those people are somehow more spiritual than others, that their message has somehow been anointed and no one else’s has. It is no coincidence that within the same paragraph of these verses, Paul speaks about the church on Corinth still needing milk because they were spiritual infants. Paul urges them to become spiritually mature—chewing on meat rather than milk. But how can we do that when we are feasting on the spoon-fed word of spiritual giants rather than studying the word for yourselves?
When I began writing in 2009, I had to study for my subject of the apostle John. I had to research, understand cultural nuances, all so I would be accurate in my assessment. The more I studied something happened:
I fell in love with Scripture. The more I understood the intricacies of what was written, the more I understood it wasn’t just a set of fictional, random stories. Each chapter and verse had a plan and purpose, all leading up to Christ’s return. Although I don’t study as much as I would like (or should) studying the word for myself instead of listening to someone else’s interpretation deepened my relationship with God in a way that nothing else did (or has) since.
Studying the word doesn’t have to be intimidating. www.biblegateway.com is just one of many online resources that includes Bible commentaries under their “study” tab. If you don’t have access to commentaries, this is a free online resource.
Have you ever studied the Bible before? What are some of the things you have learned during your study? What do you need to do to study on a regular basis?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”- Galatians 5:22-23
According to a Gallup poll on www.gallup.com:
“The large majority of Americans -- 77% of the adult population -- identify with a Christian religion, including 52% who are Protestants or some other non-Catholic Christian religion, 23% who are Catholic, and 2% who affiliate with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Another 18% of Americans do not have an explicit religious identity and 5% identify with a non-Christian religion.”
So many people identify as Christians, because they attend a church or because they grew up in the faith. But Paul tells us that we will know Christians by the “fruit” they produce in their lives. Think about the Christians you know:
How many of them show kindness to their enemies?
How many are patient when they are afflicted with a debilitating illness?
How many exude joy when life is handing them a case of lemons?
How many exhibit self-control when their feelings and circumstances dictate otherwise?
Many can demonstrate these fruits when everything is going well. But the true test is when life is spinning out of control.
Where are you in this list of fruits? No Christian is perfect t all of them. But as you peruse the list, which fruits stick out you as ones you possess? Which ones are you still working on?
You’ll never get to a point where you are doing all of these things well on your own. Who do you know that can help prune the parts of your life in such a way to allow those non- existent fruits to begin growing?
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them"- Ephesians 5:11
In Genesis 3, Satan deceives Eve into doubting the truth she believed about not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In the moment she takes a bite of that seemingly sweet, delicious apple, they no longer live in the light. Darkness clouds every action they make in the future. Now, after rejecting their ability to be fully exposed before God, they cover themselves, they hide and they live in secret.
Secrets are the antithesis to the relationship God wants us to live with Him. God wants us to live in the light, having no secrets with God and others. When something is in the dark it is hidden, difficult for others to discover. When we shed light on our actions, especially the sinful ones, we reestablish our connection with God. God knows everything we have done, are doing and will ever do. Why be fake with Him? To have an intimate connection with God, according to this verse, we need to not only expose our deeds before God but also others' deeds.
This is where judgment comes in. In today's society, however, judgment is frowned upon because people have misinterpreted what it actually means. Judgment is stating that something is right or wrong. This type of judgment is important. This is the same of what a judge does-- assesses whether an action is right or wrong against the law. We should judge against another law-- the bible. Condemnation, however, is different. Condemnation is to state someone is a horrible, awful person and their actions can never be redeemed. That is what Satan does-- points an accusatory finger at the believer in disdain, deceiving them into believing what they cannot move beyond what they have done. Condemnation is and will always be covered under the blood of Christ.
Judgment exposes actions. Condemnation destroys the actor. In order to grow into maturity, we must not only judge the fruitless deeds of people, but also expose them.
What fruitless deeds do you need to expose to God?
If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
Roots, as we have seen throughout this series, have to be strong because everything that comes from it can be healthy, too. This is an obvious reference to God’s mercy and that salvation is offered to all of us because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross that has made us worthy to be a part of God’s family. But so often we forget where we come from We forget to extend grace to others because we think we are superior to them, snubbing our noses and looking down on those who have ever experienced God’s love yet. But our arrogance makes us just as guilty in the yes of the Lord as those who are unbelievers. Branches are where the fruit ripens and grows. We need to be firmly rooted in Christ for our branches to bear the fruit that not only benefits us but others as well.
One of the ways we remain rooted in Christ is through humility. Arrogance and pride crowd out the fruits of the spirit that want to take root in our hearts. We all once we branches ready to be cut off from God, if not for his mercy and grace extended to us. As we extend mercy and grace to the world, let us never forget where we came from.
To whom do you need to extend grace and mercy?
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last--and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you-" John 15:16
I have often said I think that when we get to heaven, we will not only be greeted by loved ones from our life, but also people on whom we have had a significant impact here on earth. As a writer, I may never know the level of impact i have had on people, since it is impossible for me to know who had read and been touched by my writing. Even more so, I have often wondered if we will find out why God ordained for us to be in different places at different times. For example, why did my new neighbor pass by my home at the exact moment my family and I were out for a walk, allowing us to strike up a conversation. Why did I hold the door for that person on that random Saturday when I went to the store to pick up a few things? Was that all random, or did God appoint me to be at that particular place to act as His mouthpiece for the Gospel?
That's what the apostle John meant here when he talked about bearing fruit that will last. While we may never know the extent of our impact here on earth, the fruit we choose to cultivate in other's lives through discipleship lives on in each person who benefits from that person's actions as a disciple. It is easy to think that our actions don't matter, that that encouraging word we spoke into someone's life or that random act of kindness to that stranger means nothing in the grand scheme of life. But John and I want to encourage you that what you do matters. Your life is not random. Rather, it is an extension of the Kingdom. Everything you do ushers in the Kingdom and you will allow yourself to bear the true fruit that lasts.
What kind of work are you doing to bear fruit that lasts?
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”-John 15:4
Every morning I wake up with good intentions. I get up, exercise, eat a healthy breakfast and begin work. I intend on spending my morning with the Lord in prayer and reading my bible, but sometimes I push that intention to the side, for more pressing matters of the day. Before I know it, the day has slipped by without ever opening that book.
Why is it that I can take care of myself physically and mentally, yet neglect myself spiritually without thinking twice? John tells us that if we remain in God we can bear fruit. But without Him, we can do nothing. Our thoughts, words and actions that will produce anything of value will be because of what I found in his word, renewed my mind and transformed my heart.
I especially love that God chooses to remain in us, too. Our relationship with god is reciprocal. We fellowship with God and He chooses to fellowship with us. Both of us benefit from our relationship. Can you imagine that God receives the benefit of community when we choose to fellowship with Him? Even though we can offer God nothing other than our fellowship, it is of such great value that He created us just for us to commune with the almighty God! He created us with a purpose so we can bring forth His kingdom to His people here on earth.
Knowing all this, isn’t it worth taking a few minutes out of my day to fellowship with God?
"For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?" "Sir," the man replied, "leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down." Luke 13:7-9 NIVGod sees the potential in us even when we (or others) don’t see it in ourselves. But in order to be good soil, it needs to be cultivated. Otherwise, the fig tree that lies within you will not bear its fruit. Here are some things you can do to cultivate your soil:
Dig around it- Digging in the soil means uncovering the weeds and rocks that prevent the seed from healthy growth. What things in your life are preventing you from producing the Christ like character you desire?
Fertilize it- Fertilizer provides soil with nutrients that it needs to grow. For Christians, it means feeding yourself with the word of God and avoiding things contrary to the Word so that fruit can grow.
Keep the roots strong- Trees have roots that allow those nutrients to permeate the tree. You cannot only read the word of God, but you must apply it to your life. Furthermore, you must remain in constant communication with the Gardner. Prayer is essential to keep your roots strong and help you remain connected to the ultimate source of life.
What things can you do to cultivate your soil today?
“Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.” –Luke 13:6-8
According to the IVP New Testament Commentary, the fig tree is a common reference to Israel. The message Jesus is giving here is the same that he gives both to individuals and the nation as a whole: repent or judgment is near. Through this passage, we see Jesus’ incredible mercy and grace to his people. Instead of saying they were done, he allows them another year to commune with him in the hopes they will repent.
Part of the growth process in spiritual cultivation is the willingness to repent. Growing is the goal; but when those weeds of sin appear, they can choke out the seeds, preventing them from growing into life giving plants. Repentance is the tool we use to rid our soul of those sin- centered weeds.
Have you ever repented of the sin in your life? Repentance is a process. It means confessing with your mouth your specific sin and asking forgiveness from God. If confession is not enough to break the chain of addiction in your life, find a friend you trust to whom you can confess your sin. Satan finds his power in allowing you to keep your sins a secret. Confessing them breaks the stronghold of power it has over you.
To whom can you confess your sins so you can practice repentance?
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