As I have listened to our speakers this semester, each one has remarked on the ways she has seen God speak to her. And in each one, I noticed the speaker had knowledge of scripture in order to recognize it was God who was speaking. As I re-read the book, The Windows of the Soul, I noticed the author, Ken Gire, has extensive knowledge of scripture also. Scripture speaks to us in our everyday circumstances and when that happens, we receive intimate insight from the Lover of our Souls.
You have heard me quote Ravi Zacharias, and I will repeat it again. He said, “If you are in the scripture regularly, God will have a context in which to reach you.” How true. If you are searching for a word from God, look in your Bible. It is in there. He knows what you need to hear.
As you may have guessed, my window of the soul is the Window of Scripture. I have found this to be consistently true from the beginning of my walk with Jesus–my answers are in scripture. Actually, as I ruminated over my life story, I found two instances when scripture uncomfortably hit the mark even before I knew Jesus. I remember the day and circumstance when God spoke to me both times. So I see how very powerful scripture is.
I believe our church holds Scripture in a very high and holy regard, but in our private lives is that often true? In this quote from R.C. Sproul, he is talking about the church, but for our purposes, I want to change the word “church” to “our lives.” I’ll read it that way and you reflect on whether this describes you at all.
“I think the greatest weakness in [our lives] today is that almost no one believes that God invests His power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything and everything but that in which God has placed it – His Word. He alone has the power to change lives for eternity and that power is focused on the Scriptures.”
Do we believe in the power of God to work in our lives? Do we believe God’s power is invested in the Bible? Do our lives demonstrate that? Are we living like we believe it?
Again, not surprisingly, God speaks to me when I am in the garden. Especially when I am weeding. You will remember that weeds appeared after Adam and Eve thought they could be like God. And I feel the pain of our fallen world on a hot July day. Yet it serves to direct my thoughts while I weed, as to my own wrong attitudes. Whose kingdom is it anyway? What wonder awaits the gardener in heaven – no weeds!! That’s a reason to worship!
In Ephesians 2:10 Paul declares “we (you and I) are God’s workmanship” – His masterpiece! Amazing! Here on planet earth, we believers will be so changed by His power that no one will recognize us! Others will look at us, and we will be so winsome that the neighbors will say, “I want to know a God like that! I want what she has!” Husbands will be won over without a word. Children will learn how to respond to Jesus with love and respect and honor. When God holds us up in the heavenlies, even the angels will gasp at what we have become.
Just what exactly does that kind of change look like?
Galations 5:22 gives us one description – the Fruit of the Spirit. Yes, we are back to that weedy garden.
When Paul says “fruit of the spirit”, he is describing a change brought about by the Spirit of God living in us after we are saved. And the “fruit” is not “fruits.” We don’t have some of these fruits; it’s all one fruit. The change that God’s spirit produces is singular, and it is a matter of our heart.
Below I have defined each Greek word for fruit in the context of the verse. I purposely made most of the definitions very simple.
- Love is putting the good of another ahead of our own. It is loving first before waiting to be loved. It is respecting first before being respected.
- Joy is simply gladness of heart because of God’s grace in our lives whether the times are happy or heavy.
- Peace is untroubled well-being because we are free from the distress of our sins. God promises us peace in tumult or tranquility.
- Patience is long-suffering, forbearing even when we have the power to retort or avenge. It is evenness in proceeding to action.
- Kindness is grace that pervades our whole nature, mellowing what was harsh or austere. It describes our disposition and not necessarily our acts of kindness. There are other words for acts of kindness.
Here is an interesting one:
- Goodness enables us to counsel with knowledge, even with rebuke, to bring about good. It is often used with kindness–kindness and goodness. Others may take a rebuke from one with a mellow disposition.
- Faithfulness is simply being sincere and serving with regularity and dependability.
- Gentleness is not outward behavior or our natural disposition only. It is an in-wrought grace of the soul expressed primarily toward God. It is that attitude of spirit by which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist. It is a balance born of strength of character, a condition of the mind and heart.
- Self-control is sober-mindedness. We are able to put limits on our own freedom for the benefit of another. Self-control comes from the Greek root word “thinking” as in being able to control one’s thought or inner attitude of mind as well as the passion of the heart.
I don’t know about you, but this fruit is impossible for me to produce in my own strength. I might say to you that I am thrilled to have God plant and ripen this fruit in me, but I’ve heard about pruning. Most fruit requires some pruning to produce a better crop. The Bible talks about pruning. Sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? A snip here and a snip there. Tidy things up a bit.
And yet, pruning involves sharp clean shears. Pruning involves an intimate knowledge of the plant or tree or vine being pruned. Pruning takes a practiced eye–the knowledge of a master gardener who has the good of the plant at heart.
I have a grape arbor. Bill built it for me in 1999, so it is old enough that the branches from the vines grow all over it now reaching across the top and down the sides. The arbor has 4 metal poles with wire stretched across the top and down two sides. He also fashioned a heavy wooden bench so we can sit under the vine canopy to rest in the summer with a glass of lemonade. It hovers over the lane to the vegetable patch and has cutting gardens on either side of it.
When I prune each year, I must know what I am doing or there will be no fruit. I take my directions out there every March with my clippers and ladder. And each spring, I find myself resisting lopping off perfectly healthy and strong 8 foot branches.
I steel myself to the task and cut all but 8 branches on each vine (about ¾ of the branches). Four of them I cut back to two buds maybe the length of 4 inches. On the other four, I leave 6-8 buds maybe 2 feet long. Now I have 4 branches, 2 inches long, and 4 branches, 2 feet long, I worry I might shock the vine and kill it cutting so much off, but that has never happened. Pruning isn’t easy. The branches have woven in and out of the arbor and their tendrils around the wires are holding fast.
This puts me in sober mind of myself. I spread my branches far and wide. I make my plans. I love activity. I love planning, making lists. Sometimes I procrastinate. Other times I rush ahead. Sometimes I lose my patience. Sometimes I worry. Sometimes I judge. Sometimes I complain. Sometimes I talk too much. Sometimes I am critical. Sometimes I plan too much. Not necessarily in that order.
And when God begins to prepare me, to correct me, to teach me, to prune me, I hold onto my plans and the way I am (because in my mind, I’m pretty sure I am usually correct). I hold on tighter than ever. My tendrils are tenacious, and I have lots of them. They curve tightly around this habit or that treasured plan or inclination to selfish sin. “No! not that one, God. It was growing so well. It looks so good and feels so strong.” Besides, all the branches are healthy. They don’t look harmful. They look good, but the master vine dresser knows what I need.
Left to myself, I would grow rampantly, crawling over not only the arbor but the cutting gardens on either side, smothering and shading everything else. I might even invade the trees close by. I would produce no fruit at all since all of my energy would be spent growing the branches. And though the branches might look luxurious and people might admire them, they would become a nuisance and a hindrance–even a stumbling block.
Ladies, I am brought up short every March. Just last week again I was startled at how much pruning is required to produce grapes. But summer comes on and all the new branches are fuller than ever and heavy with grape clusters that we turn into jelly and sparkling grape juice.
It is the same with me. As long as I let the Spirit of the vine dresser do His work, I will produce fruit. It may smart for a while. It may feel uncomfortable, but God has never been wrong in His plan for me. I can endure the pruning when I trust in Him, and I can trust Him when I know His character.
He is not like me. He has always been and forever will be. I can trust a God like that. He loved me before I loved Him. He is the only One who is able to forgive my sin and restore me. He is dependable, and I can trust a God like that. He will never change His mind about me. He knows everything about me, and He still wants me to know Him. I can trust a God like that. I can experience His presence in every circumstance of my life. He has all power and ability. He is in control of everything, and I can trust a God like that.