Have You Listened Recently to Christians Talking to Christians

Have you spent time recently listening to believers when they are chatting with one another? Or when they are chatting with non-believers? As someone who works with believers and spends time with non-believers I have a few observations to make.

When Christians gather together most of the conversation is about their favourite subject – me, myself, and I. Listen carefully and you will seldom hear a mention of the Lord Jesus or God the Father. Their conversation may sound spiritual but as you listen you will realize that they are talking about themselves – the day they shared the gospel with someone; the time the spent helping someone in need; the praying they have been doing about a particular situation. Sounds spiritual or God-centered but scratch the surface and it is really all about them. Their focus is me, myself, and I.

Of course, they may share prayer requests with each other but even those are mainly about themselves or the concern they have regarding another person or a particular situation they are involved in. Listen carefully and catch the undercurrent and you quickly realize that it is still all about them – the me, myself and I cycle. Even if they are sharing prayer requests regarding others – the wording often brings the focus back on the believer who is sharing. You know, how close they are to the person needing prayer, the relationship they have with the leader, the insider knowledge they are sharing while asking for prayer, how they are feeling about the person or situation. At times, it borders on gossip.

Listening carefully you quickly realize that many believers spend a lot of time talking about their medical conditions. Maybe it is because I am getting older and those around me are also aging but it seems to me that one of the first things believers talk about with each other is what their current medical condition is, what doctor so-and-so has said, the results of the latest tests, and the ton of medicine they are taking. It’s like they are trying to see who is in the worst or best condition as if it was a competition.

When believers are not talking about themselves with others believers they are talking about other people that they know – believers and non-believers. They are not giving insights to aid in a prayer request that has just been mentioned. No, they are simply talking about other people. And, often the ‘other people’ are family members and these family members would be horrified to hear what is being shared if they were there to hear it – which they never are. Again, maybe we could get real and honest and call this what it is – gossip and not interesting. 

And, need I mention, that if the believers attend the same church their conversation is most often about other members or the pastor. And, often show how critical and judgmental they are as people. 

Here is what I feel when I am with them. Some of the thoughts that zip through my brain.

1> Ashamed of how believers are not glorifying God in their conversations or even talking about Him at all. Like He doesn’t exist or, at least, isn’t all that important or interesting

2> Concerned that most of what I am hearing is “the bearing of false witness” or gossip which is a breaking of one of the Ten Commandments. See Exodus 20

3> Amazed at the lack of a real reference to the living God in all that is said – maybe pointing to the lack of a real relationship with God

4> Bored – I mean seriously bored. Do you hear me, bored! Going once, going twice, going three times. I have heard it all before. It is repetitious. It was not that interesting the second time I heard it and even less interesting the 100th time

5> I want to scream, “Get a life and do something important” – which, of course, is more pleasant than saying, “Oh, for goodness sake, shut up”

6> I want to ask them if they are really paying attention to others as they speak – because if they were they would be aware that most have faded and stopped listening soon after they begin talking and long before they stop talking

Something needs to change. Drastic change is required. 

We follow an amazing God who is doing amazing things. Lives are being transformed by the Holy Spirit; people are being delivered and set free; others are finding salvation in the Name of Jesus; and the Kingdom of God is expanding and pushing back spiritual darkness. Churches are making a difference and touching lives. Nations are hearing the Gospel of the Kingdom for the first time. Churches are being planted. Some are being replanted and coming alive once again. Great things are happening.

So, let’s stop talking about me, myself, and I. Let’s get over the issues we are facing and realize everyone has issues and maybe we need to listen more than talk and discover that our issues are really not that big or even that important. Let’s stop the organ recital – my bladder leaks, my liver aches, my heart skips a beat; realizing that everyone has medical issues and pop prescription medicines daily and so your medical condition is really not that unique nor that interesting. 

Let’s talk more about Jesus and how amazing and wonderful He is. Let’s live the truth that “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want.”

Please, and thank you!

Bookaholic

My name is Ralph and I am a bookaholic.

 How do I know that? Because I have rooms full of books? Yes, that is true. I always have a book in my hand? Yes, also true. Because I collect books of all sorts, hardcovers, paperbacks, ebooks? Also true. I enjoy going to book stores and just looking, reading covers, enjoying the atmosphere? Very true. Because I read every time I sit down for a few minutes? Guilty as charged. You see, I read everything in front of me – even cereal boxes and catalogues.I admit it, I am a bookaholic.

Right now in my study, I have…

2 books that I must read and computerize notes from before May 15th

4 books that I am currently reading (not counting the above 2)

10 books piled behind the desk that are partly read because they were not ‘clicking’

31 books read since the start of the new year

75+ in piles purchased and not read yet…

The shelves are all full in the three rooms that I control … two of the three rooms are large. So, yes, I am a bookaholic. Even the front seat of my car holds books that I am currently reading – because there is often a few minutes before my appointment shows up, or a cancellation could happen (I get excited even typing that comment) … and then I have new found time to read.

Every once in a while I am drawn to a book and just know I am suppose to read that one. Obviously, because there are some books I started and didn’t finish yet, this ‘leading’ is not always a right one. I am currently just starting a book called “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist. I picked it out of the ‘to read’ pile and it caught my eye because the forward to the book was penned by Brene Brown who is one of my all-time favourite authors and whose books have changed my life. So, that is one of my two current new reads for the week beginning Sunday.

A past mentor of mine taught me that “Leaders are readers. And, if you stop reading you will stop leading.” He also taught me how to read a book a week (now two a week)… take the number of chapters in the book and divide them by 7 and then read that number of chapters every day. So if a book has 14 chapters you have 2 chapters a day to read to finish the book in a week. I’m now reading, on average, two a week using the same idea – more when travelling overseas as the fights offer a lot of free time to use in a constructive manner – and there is little that is more constructive than reading. And, it beats watching three or four movies per trip.

So, yes, I am a bookaholic. But, of all the things to be addicted to books rate high on the list. 

Trusting Others

As Christians, if we are going to be vulnerable (see yesterday’s blog) with someone or a group of people then we need to trust them. It may begin with trusting just one person, sharing some personal thoughts or feelings, and then seeing their reaction or response. In other words, starting small and working up to deeper personal things – increasing the amount and level of sharing as you become more comfortable being that vulnerable and real.

Trust can be defined as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” 

Distrust can be defined as “deciding that what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation).

Brene Brown, in her research, has found seven elements that make up trust (Book: “Braving the Wilderness” and first published in her book “Rising Strong”)

She writes: Because getting our head and heart around a concept as big as trust is difficult, and because general conversations on the theme of ‘I don’t trust you’ are rarely productive, I dug into the concept to better understand what we’re really talking about when we say trust.

Seven elements of trust emerged from the data as useful in both trusting others and trusting ourselves. I use the acronym BRAVING for the elements.

My comment … Remember: trusting myself or other people is a vulnerable and courageous process as we work to belong and become full known by someone else.

Her list of seven elements:

Boundaries – You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no.

Reliability – You do what you say you’ll do. This means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpromise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities

Accountability – You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends

Vault – You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential

Integrity – You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them

Nonjudgment – I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.

Generosity – You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others

In life and in relationships it is most important that we trust ourselves. Self-trust needs to be assessed every once in a while to see where your level of self-trust is.

The same checklist with different pronouns…

B – Did I respect my own boundaries? Was I clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay?

R – Was I reliable? Did I do what I said I was going to do?

A – Did I hold myself accountable?

V – Did I respect the vault and share appropriately?

I – Did I act from my integrity?

N – Did I ask for what I needed? Was I nonjudgmental about needing help?

G – Was I generous towards myself?

Trust is a needed ingredient in coming to fully know oneself and be fully known by at least one other person. Use the BRAVING test on occasion to see how you are doing. 

Living With Vulnerability

As a believer I have always been amazed at the masks that Christians wear. The appearance that everything is fine and they are doing great when just the opposite is true. As a leader I have worked hard to live a life that has integrity. That the inside is what is being expressed outside – my inner life is expressed in how I live, relate, and am known. That my walk as a leader and a believer measures up to the talk.

As we grow into adulthood being open and honest about who we really are becomes harder and harder. There are all the expectations that others have of us. There is the apparent need to hide any deficiencies and places in our inner being where we come up short. We have suffered rejection at the hands of people who were our friends. We have been torn apart by criticisms, some justified and others not so, that others have spoken about who we are and how we present that person as we interface with the world around us.

Most of the time we approach life with our guard up not allowing most people to see and know the real us. We are not living our lives openly for others to see. We are not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. This occurs for three basic reasons:

1> We are not comfortable with emotions and we equate vulnerability with weakness

2> Our experiences in life have taught us that vulnerability is actually dangerous

3> We really do not know the real person on the inside because we have lived an unexamined life and thus lived life on the surface and without being real

If the truth were known – being real has allowed others to inflict a great deal of pain and so we no longer see most situations and relationships – including our involvement in church – as a safe place to be ourselves. We enter with our guard up and our real, inner person hidden and protected. The church has not been, or appears not to be, a place that is emotionally and physically safe enough to be vulnerable, open and real.  

The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It is being yourself in the situations and relationships that you encounter on a daily basis. It is speaking your opinion on a matter regardless of what others might think or say. It is dressing the way you want to regardless of the norms for your family, your church, your community. It is expressing the real you regardless of the opposition or the blowback that you might receive. 

Vulnerability means risking criticism and rejection. It means being prepared to lose friends and the acceptance of others who will not like what they see and hear. It may mean standing alone not only for what you believe but, more importantly, who you are and how you are expressing the real you.

Vulnerability is not weakness; it is actually a measure of courage. It is being willing to show up and be real – to be seen and heard when we can’t control the outcome. If you are looking for safety then you will not risk being real and thus vulnerable. 

If you have spent your life trying to fit in and be who others expect you to be or what you think others expect of you even if they don’t – then you will have trouble being vulnerable. Why? Because you don’t even know who you really are. You have become who everyone else wants you to be instead of who God created you to be. Thus you will never be real and thus vulnerable because you don’t know the real you on the inside. You are not fully aware of who you really are. An ancient philosopher once said, “An unexamined life if not worth living.” Many people, even Christians, hide from themselves fearful of what they might find if they look inside and are honest with themselves.

When you are first discovering who you really are and making changes on the outside to express what you are discovering about yourself on the inside, it is hard to be real and vulnerable. Why? Simply because it is so new and so raw. But, as you become more aware of who you are and secure in that reality then you must let your guard down, take your various masks off, stop pretending, and just be real. You have to live life openly and in a way that you are vulnerable.  

Every human being wants to know themselves fully and to be fully known by others, at least one other. Non-judgmental acceptance of who you really are is a gift you can only receive when you leave your safe place and risk being your true self with others. Vulnerability is hard, it can be dangerous, it may hurt, but it is essential to living a life of integrity and being fulfilled as a person and a believer.

Belonging or Fitting In

In a recent survey of young teens they were asked what the difference was between belonging and just fitting in. The answers:

  • Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be, and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere you want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.
  • Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
  • If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.

The same survey revealed the heartache of not belonging. Why? Because it is natural and normal to want to belong and not just fit in. There is an inner need to belong. Many of the students felt that even at home they did not belong. When asked what they meant, the following responses:

  • Not living up to your parent’s’ expectations
  • Not being as cool or popular as your parents want you to be
  • Not being good at the same things your parents were good at
  • Your parents being embarrassed because you don’t have enough friends or you’re not an athlete or a cheerleader
  • Your parents not liking who you are and what you like to do
  • When your parents don’t pay attention to your life

This same issue of not belonging can be present in a marriage between spouses. And, of course, it can be an issue in the local church. 

People join a local church because they want to belong. However, often the church has an unspoken, or even spoken, set of rules and expectations. You have to believe certain things, dress a certain way, live a certain way, and do certain things. This means that to be a member of that church you must change and “fit in.” You can no longer be yourself but now must follow the crowd if you hope to remain a part of that local church. 

Of course, there are things to believe and certain lifestyles that should change. But, lasting change starts on the inside and people need to feel that they are in a safe place so that they can embrace the needed changes. The safe place is found by belonging and not by some outside pressure to fit in. Once they sense that they belong and are accepted for who they are – then the changes can begin from the inside out and with the help of God and others. 

But when a person simply adopts the external rules and expectations and “fits in”  they simply put on their plastic Christian face and behave like everyone else – never really belonging on a heart level and truly never becoming all that God would have them become. 

To truly “be yourself” and express yourself in your own unique way you need to know who you are deep inside and be very secure in who you are. You need to know that you belong to Him. You need to have a firm grasp on God’s unconditional love and acceptance – especially when others are not loving you or accepting you for who you are. You need to have confidence in your personhood and personality and be bold in expressing the real you regardless of what others may think or say. 

This may leave you standing alone at times but you will stand with integrity knowing who you are and that is a great feeling.  

God Is Asking Us to Grow Up

Every believer who follows Jesus and ever leader who leads people in today’s church must be growing, And changes come rapidly when we are growing.  To grow into the fullness of who God has called us to be and thus what He is calling us to do – ‘being’ always precedes ‘doing’ –  we need to be aware where we are at right now. This would include knowing ourselves really well knowing both our strengths and weaknesses. God builds on our strengths and uses our weaknesses. Remember, often when we are weak, His strength is best seen by others.

There are three questions we could be asking ourselves…

1> What Are My Strengths?

Growth and maturity come to us as we build upon our current strengths. Knowing our strengths is really important as we need to then focus on them and improve these ‘strength areas’ even more. 

In the past, we were told to work on the areas where we are weak to improve them and make them into strengths. This is really not helpful as it takes a long time, a good deal of effort, and a lot of work. Seldom are we successful. And, because these are naturally weak areas we find ourselves trying to strengthen things that really are not who we are or the way we are wired. This is why they are “weaknesses.” You may go from weak to a little better than weak … meanwhile not taking the time to grow in the areas where we are already strong – fine-tuning our skills and abilities – thus working more effectively and efficiently.  Bringing your weaknesses up to par is no longer considered a good investment of your time. It is better to work with a team and bring people on to the team whose strengths are your weaknesses. 

So, know what your strengths are, continue to develop them, and bring others around you who are strong in the areas where you are not. 

2> What Are Your Opportunities 

I believe everyone has opportunities. I do, and I am convinced you do as well. The opportunities you receive may not be as big as you want. They may not be the kind that you want. But they are opportunities. What should you do with them? Apply your strengths to them and make the most of them. 

The meeting of your strengths with an opportunity is where you get the chance to continue to grow, mature and develop your skills and calling further. Make the most of it. Even if it is not the perfect opportunity – and trust me, it won’t be, because there is no such thing – you can begin to grow and mature. Once you place your heart in the opportunities that present themselves then other, better, opportunities will present themselves.

3> Am I Taking Steps Every Day?

When you seize an opportunity and apply your strengths to it, you still have work to do. If you can’t answer “yes” to the question of whether you’re taking steps every day, you won’t grow and will again stagnate and not move forward into your destiny. Each day you need to spend time with the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, you need to develop your prayer life taking it deeper so it becomes more powerful and meaningful, you need to read a substantial amount every week – I aim for two books a week and always manage at least one. You need to journal your thoughts and keep in touch with your heart and soul. 

Growth and maturity don’t just happen. You need to take risks, step out in faith, and continue to develop the person you are to become the person God destines you to become. 

Thomas Edgley said, “Change or die.” I agree! The nineteenth-century preacher, Phillips Brooks, the author of the famous hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” wrote: “Sad will be the day for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger, which he knows that he was meant and made to do.”

Man-made Waves of God

Recently friends of mine from a number of countries traveled to Russia to attend a conference with some fairly powerful speakers. If I were to name them you would probably know two or three of them. The others would be well known to Russian speaking Christians. Many of my friends posted pictures of themselves with the speakers … you know, the constant flow of selfies. What did we ever do before selfies?

Several posted videos of the worship and the speakers on Facebook. I didn’t listen to the speakers as I am a reader and not a listener. And, I have read their books and so have heard their message. And, I am busy working to apply God’s Word in my life and that is more important. But, I was struck by the worship videos. Great worship leaders and teams backing them. Good music. Great songs (I know enough Russian to be able to sing along to some of them). But, what struck me was how many people were not engaged in the worship. 

The people were standing there as the worship was going on and they were texting, talking on their phones, speaking to one another, looking around, taking selfies, taking videos, just standing there motionless. So, so many of them were not engaged in the worship – including those taking the videos. They were not standing in awe of Him who called us to Himself and loves us with an unconditional and never ending love. I wept.

But then you read the write-ups and the summaries and almost every one of them talks about God moving, the Holy Spirit’s presence being powerfully there, revival is about to happen or is happening, and that there is a new wave of the Spirit… 

I wonder how much of what they sensed and felt was God. I am not judging anyone. I was not there to experience what they saw, heard, and felt. But, I believe that at times we have ‘man-made’ waves of God. It is emotion and not the Holy Spirit. It is ‘feel good’ that pats us on the back and lets us know things are good and God is pleased even if they aren’t and He isn’t. We are not feeling challenged. We are not being stretched spiritually. We are not being encouraged to love the one beside us back at the home church. We are not being trained in witnessing and evangelism so we can win the lost and fulfill the Great Commission. 

Yes, it can be exciting and a powerful experience. I would hope that people are touched and encouraged. But, a lot of what we claim to be the Holy Spirit is often, at least in my 46 years of experience as a Bible teacher and conference attender, simply emotion. And, that many of our “waves” and “revivals” are not in the least a serious move of God. They are, at the worst, emotions let loose and, at best, a desire for true revival to come upon the world. We are settling for man-made waves of God and not a true life-changing move of the Spirit of the living God. 

Just a thought and observation. 

Hear My Heart

I was reading some familiar passages in the Bible the other day (1 John 5:13-15). Passages I have preached on many times and in many places. There are, after all, an abundance of messages in those three verses and so much to learn from them.

As I was reading, thinking, marking them up with my colour-coding system, in a new translation God spoke to me and said “Hear My heart.” Of course, my answer was quick and as might be expected: “I am hearing Your heart as I am reading Your Word so that I would.” And again, He spoke very clearly to me and said, “Hear My heart.”

It was then that I realized what I was doing… I was reading God’s Word and interpreting it through my experiences, my desires, my current situation. 

In seminary this was called “eisegesis.” Eisegesis is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. 

So, it involves 1) imagination: what idea do I want to present? 2) exploration: what Scripture passage seems to fit with my idea? and 3) application: what does my idea mean? Notice that, in eisegesis, there is no examination of the words of the text or their relationship to each other, no cross-referencing with related passages, and no real desire to understand the actual meaning. Scripture serves only as a prop to my own ideas. 

We are ‘proof-texting’ our beliefs and resulting lifestyle. Not the way to really hear God’s heart and what He is saying to us. 

Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis.

Exegesis is the critical explanation or interpretation of a Bible passage. Synonyms for the word would include: interpretation · explanation · exposition · explication · elucidation · clarification.

The process of exegesis involves 1) observation: what does the passage say? 2) interpretation: what does the passage mean? 3) correlation: how does the passage relate to the rest of the Bible? and 4) application: how should this passage affect my life?

To hear God’s heart through reading and studying His Word we need to be in “exegesis” mode and not “eisegesis” mode. We need to approach God’s Word objectively allowing it to speak to us. We should not approach God’s Word subjectively, trying to make it support what we think, what we want, what we need, what we believe. 

Let the Word speak for itself – in the context it is written (the chapter, the book, the testament, the Bible). Let the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Word, show you what it means in its context and then help you to apply it to your own situation and circumstance. Then you will truly hear God’s heart for you for that day.

So, we are to read listening for God’s heart. Not reading to back up what we believe in our heart. 

When you look at the Church today – you will realize that most of what we do in our churches is not biblical. We have read the Bible and interpreted it according to our hearts, our thoughts, our traditions, our culture. We have looked at Scriptures and used them to proof text what we are comfortable with or familiar with. This is eisegesis! We need to read the Bible and see what God says about His Church. Read it and let Him speak. This would be examining Scriptures exegetically. This is how we hear God accurately and often. 

I knew this, of course. But, I had slipped back into reading it to hear my mind and heart and not to hear His mind and heart. So, I repented and made the decision to be more careful with my time in His Word.

How about you?

We Must Decrease

I had a medical check-up a few days ago. I have one every three months where we review how I am doing physically and chat with both a registered nurse and then my doctor about my life-style, exercise routine, eating habits, and if there are any issues that we, as a team, need to deal with. It is a thorough review of my physical health and my lifestyle. And, as I recently celebrated my 72nd birthday it is good to stay in touch with how I am doing, making adjustments as I age. It was interesting to note that over the past few years I have shrunk almost three inches in height.

The evening of the most most recent health review I was reading the Gospel according to John (my favourite) in a new version (The Passion Translation) and came across John the Baptist’s comment: “So it is necessary for Him to increase, and for me to be diminished.” (John 3:30). I took note of the verse in light of the fact that I had just come to realize that I was “diminishing” and was a few inches shorter than in my earlier days.

That led me to study the verse a little more during my time with Him that night. Of course, I recognized that my becoming slowly physically shorter was not what this verse was referring to. It was simply the way the Holy Spirit got my attention so I would look a little deeper into John the Baptist’s comment and its context.

The first thing I found was that a more literal translation of the verse would be: “He is destined to become greater, and I must be pruned.” This, of course, let me to look into the whole process of pruning… it has been years since I first studied it (40+ years to be honest).

When you prune a tree or a vine you are literally cutting off parts of the plant that are still bearing fruit. However, you cut them back so that the plant can produce more fruit of a higher quality. You obviously remove the dead branches on a regular basis so new shoots can come up in their place. But, pruning is looking at the overall plant, tree, or vine and removing some of the lesser producing branches so that the remaining branches can produce more and richer fruit. 

John 15:2 “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

The Passion Translation: “He (The Father) cares for the branches connected to me (Jesus) by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches and pruning every fruitful branch to yield a greater harvest.

From the Wiersbe Study Bible …Of itself, a branch is weak and useless. It is good for either bearing or burning, but not for building (see Ezekiel 15). The branch cannot produce its own life; it must draw that life from the vine. It is our communion with Christ through the Spirit that makes possible the bearing of the fruit. The sooner we as believers discover that we are but branches, the better we will relate to the Lord, for we will know our own weakness and confess our need for His strength.

Our heavenly Father is never nearer to us then when He is pruning us. Sometimes He cuts away the dead wood that might cause trouble, but often He cuts off the living tissue that is robbing us of spiritual vigour. Pruning does not simply mean spiritual surgery that removes what is bad. It can also mean cutting away the good and the better so that we might enjoy the best. Yes, pruning hurts, but it also helps. We may not enjoy it, but we need it. (Emphasis mine)

Of course we all agree that we must decrease so that He can increase. He is to receive all the praise, thanks, and glory for all that is accomplished in and through us because it is all about Him and not about us. But, we are a little less excited about the prospects of being pruned … shaped in such a way that we can bear more and better fruit for Him. The end result is great but the process of pruning can be painful, difficult, and even disturbing and unsettling at times. 

In my life currently I am very aware that He is removing a number of activities, ways of doing things, things that I do and do well, and even some relationships … things and people that are robbing me of spiritual vigour. These are, as the study Bible notes state, not necessarily bad things. Often Jesus is removing good things and things that touch lives and benefit others. He does this so that we might be changed and thus “enjoy the best.” He prunes so that we can bear better fruit and more fruit. John 15 mentions this when it refers to “fruit,” “more fruit,” and “eternal fruit.”

So, like me, maybe you are undergoing some changes and feeling a little disoriented and even frustrated. Maybe you are experiencing a hunger for something new and different. It could be that you like what you are doing as you live for Him and can do it well but you are bored with it all. These are all good feelings as they are indicating a “grace shift” as God takes away things and ways that are not bearing as much fruit as before, and prunes so that you can bear new fruit, more fruit, eternal fruit. 

So, welcome the season and embrace what the Holy Spirit is doing. It is resurrection life flowing through you – you are the branch and He is the vine – that bears the fruit. So, let Him remove and change things so that His life can flow more freely and bear more and better fruit in and through your life. 

Transformation Not Information

So many believers come to Church every week and take notes as the leader or pastor teaches God’s Word. The preacher starts to share and people take out their pens and their journals and take notes. This warms the heart of the preacher because it is easier to teach when people are hungry and receptive. 

However, we need to consider the reason for listening to someone teach the Word of God. It seems to me that many people are simply collecting information and becoming well informed regarding what the Bible says. They know the Bible stories, they understand the teachings of Jesus, they are aware of the basic tenets of the Paul’s letters to the early churches that he planted. But, is that really enough?

I believe that the Bible is meant to help change us from the inside outward. I believe that the Bible and God’s Words contained in it are meant for more than information, they are meant to bring about transformation. But, for change to happen people need to take action. Believers need to apply the Word they are hearing to their daily lives – their actions, their attitude, their words. Taking notes is good but it is really just the start. True and lasting changes in one’s life begin on the inside as we hear and heed God’s Word and begin to apply it to our lives every day.

For real change to happen, we must go from knowing to doing. It is at this point that transformation begins. Transformation is always difficult, yet the results are so beautiful. Difficult because we don’t like to change. And, because it takes courage, consistency, and determination. But, when we apply God’s Word and begin to change then we are not only faithful we become fruitful. 

It is difficult because saying is always easier than doing. As the old saying goes, “talk is cheap.” Action and change costs. Action brings transformation and thus, although difficult at times, it is really necessary and in the end very beautiful.

Everything worthwhile in life is uphill – all the way. Transformation requires us to walk uphill. Every day. All the way. Most people are unwilling to commit to that. Instead of climbing, they would rather be…

  • Talking – “Let’s discuss uphill climbing”
  • Thinking – “Let’s contemplate uphill climbing”
  • Planning – “Let’s strategize about uphill climbing”
  • Surveying – “Let’s ask others what they think about uphill climbing”
  • Studying – “Let’s examine what uphill climbing looks like”
  • Resting – “Let’s conserve energy before we start climbing”

Transformation is a result of serious application, not information and more education. That’s why Gandhi said, “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

Christians are called to live transformational lives. That takes courage. The courage to let go of the familiar and set off on a better way. The courage and determination to start. Today would be a good day to do just that.