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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Bearing Fruit

Last week I wrote a post on the quote from Arthur Weasley on “The Truth Will Out” and how we are to live in to what we repeatedly do, the whole idea of “perfect practice makes perfect.” But how do we know we are moving towards something, how do we truly know we are getting better? Jesus often speaks in parables and many of his parables are agricultural in nature. Jesus also speaks about bearing fruit and the fruits of the spirit.

Bearing fruit comes in many ways, and we may not always be able to see exactly what we are moving towards. Some species of fruit trees take years to produce fruit, some plants only take months, while others literally produce fruit in weeks. All of this diversity in how fruit is produced is something that has always confused me, why are thing not consistent across all of the different plants. Why do some fruit grow on trees, others on bushes, while still others in single small plants.

The older I get the more I see this diversity as an admonition to see the similarities between the plant and human world. Some people catch incredible fire and zeal incredibly quickly, while others take the slow, steady, and silent approach to their faith. And indeed doing quietly is an admirable quality for a person to possess. But when we begin to bear the fruits of the spirit, or to produce yet other fruit in our faith, how do we know?

Maybe we often place to heavy an emphasis on measurable increase, but I think we have to know things in that deepest place within our hearts. Our hearts are the true measure of our faith, and the more we live in to our faith the more we will share our heart with others. This can be an incredibly difficult thing to do, and so many people move from sharing faith to pushing people in ways that are not truly nurturing.

When we begin to bear fruit one of the best affirmations we can receive is for those who are around us the most to notice the difference.  Do not think that this process will necessarily be easy though, believe me when I say this may be a painful process.  Just like growing up is sometimes painful, pushing ourselves towards something new will always be hard.  Especially if there is the memory of what came before still present.  We often have to overcome previous versions, or at least the memories of our previous versions, before we can truly move to something new.

I think we often underestimate how difficult it is for us as fallen human beings to truly live in the way Christ calls us to. This process of fake it until we make it holds true for bearing fruit. Just like orchards of trees that are not producing fruit bud, flower, and then grow, just like the orchards that do produce fruit. We must do our best to go through the budding, flowering, and growing process with grace and smile to face our next challenge.

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The Truth Will Out

I am an unabashed Harry Potter fan, and this phrase come from the fifth book when Harry is going down to the courtrooms to face charges of underaged wizardry. The line is spoken by Arthur Weasley as he escorts Harry down to the courtrooms, and before Dumbledore comes to save the day.

I was talking with my Tuesday morning Bible study group about Matthew 14:18 this morning,”But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.” This comes after the Pharisees accuse Jesus and his disciples of not following the elaborate hand washing rituals that they followed.  And this is part of Jesus response to the Pharisees. The implication is that yes they wash their hands elaborately, but the inner parts, their hearts, were truly the dirtiest part of their lives.

When I read this passage during my devotional time the other morning it got to me thinking about the fight we often have to fight against ourselves to put a Christ-like face out there. A lot of times the Christian life feels like “fake it til’ we make it.” And that is exactly the way is most of the time, we are trying to truly follow Jesus until we truly do follow him. But we always have those “truth will out” moments, those moments that our weak spots and tender spots still remain.

I see this in my own life when something happens and my initial reaction has nothing to do with the love of Christ, but everything to do with the way culture has conditioned me to react. When a neighbor says something that upsets me I do not mount a gracious response, but instead a heated or angry one. I know that we all fall, I count myself as chief of sinners as Paul wrote, but we have to try and mount a truly Christian response.

One of my professors in college David Zerkel had a quote in his office, “Practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect.” He called my attention to that quote many times throughout my time studying music under him. I can now freely admit now that my practice was not always perfect, nor was there always enough of it. We will have those truth will out moments, but the true test of our faith is what we do after we have fallen.

Do we just take ourselves out of the game, or do we dust ourselves off and try again the next time? I think perfect practice is how we react when we fail to truly live to our convictions. Living into our convictions in this world is extremely tough, especially when those convictions are counter to the world around us. But I really think that if we eventually practice truly following Christ, then as we, to cop a Wesleyan term, move towards perfection in our response to the world. And eventually the truth will out that we are truly seeking after God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and body.

 

Reaping What We Frequently Sow

Yesterday I had a Bible Study with several of my youth looking at the parable of the sower in the gospel of Matthew. If you are unfamiliar it’s the story where some seed fell on shallow ground, some on the path, some was choked by thorns, and the rest was sown (planted) in good soil. That seed planted in the good soil yielded either one-hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.

We’ve also been studying “Almost Christian” by Kenda Creasy Dean, and it has had me doing a great bit of thinking about the church, and in particular my teaching in the church I am in.  One of the conclusions that the National Study of Youth and Religion makes (and this is what Dean is writing about) is that many churches are not practicing consequential faith, but instead a watered down Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. We can discuss MTD at a later time, but needless to say it does not line up with truly following Jesus Christ.

What I see when I look at the ministry of Jesus is a preponderance of agricultural references, and therefore a reason to look at our fruitfulness in the terms of reaping and sowing. While Dean works a great deal with the conclusions of the NYSR, and there is major cause for distress about the direction of our mainstream churches, I see hope in the parable of the sower.

When we look at the parable the seed that fell on good soil produced many times more than what was sown, and I think we have much good soil in our churches. The thing we have a problem with is not actually drawing people in, but in forming them into people that lead lives of consequential faith. Now there is no magic bullet to change our church cultures, but there is a glimmer of hope.

If the church has indeed formed people into the mold that the church has created. If we truly hold onto the idea that people can be transformed by the love of Christ, then we must hope for a tide change. And God proved long ago that he can change the tides, so the idea of we’ve always done it that way is one that those in leadership have to fight tooth and nail against.

I find myself hopeful that the youth I teach and are hoping to form will eventually help change the tide of the church. How do I make sure to be the lead portion of the wave and not hanging in the back making sure that I don’t get trampled. I hope that when our tide changes that we will all be moving towards that greater thing that God is longing to do with and through us.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

A Measure of Judgment

Let me preface this post by saying that my heart cries out for Caylee Anthony, her suffering makes me want to sit down and cry.  However, I am writing about the response that I see, and what our response as Christ’s followers should.

I woke up this morning and turned on my television. This is an unusual occurrence for me, but after I saw what was on I sat down and ate my cereal on the couch. What was on? It was the Today show, and what were they talking about? The Casey Anthony trial, and gauging reactions from people all over the place, even a former member of her defense team.

Yesterday all I saw, in my daily life as a social media addict, was reaction to the verdict, and at times the crying out for Casey Anthony’s demise. I had a single friend on facebook who called for Christian’s to act in a graceful way towards Casey Anthony.

When I sat down in my office for my quiet time this morning I read this, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Matthew 7:1-2. I myself as a follower of Christ know that I have been forgiven for all of the sins I have ever committed.

When I read this it really hit me at the gut level in seeing the response that I have seen to this verdict, I had to wonder at how many of those people would qualify themselves as Christian. I am not questions their faith or faithfulness, merely how well their responses are integrated with their faith.

My view of the human condition is that I am a fallen creature, that I sin and fall short of the glory of God, but I am forgiven. My status as being forgiven is to guide everything that I do, and especially to my interactions with other people. As a follower of Christ we have to extend grace to others, because if we do not we are not truly following in the way we should.

Seeing the acrimony, anger, and hate that I have seen poured out makes me wonder at how well we are integrating and communicating our faith to the world around us. I know that the ones who yell loudest often get heard, but we as Christians can mount a quiet, strong and graceful response to the world around us.