Root – Shoot – Fruit

26 05 2015

My rose bush produced the loveliest pineapples this year. Last year, it bore oranges.

Without much thought, you immediately knew that those statements were false. Why? Because what you plant is what you get.

A rose bush will only produce roses. (Unless you’re a genetic engineer who tinkers with this stuff. ūüôā )

This is also true concerning spiritual matters. The fruit we produce is determined by our root…our source of life.

Going back to the two trees from which Adam and Eve could choose, Life or the Knowledge of Good and Evil, I want to explore the fruit each tree bears.

Let’s begin with Evil:

The fruit on this branch of the Tree of Knowledge is guilt and shame. Our behavior gnaws at our conscience. Fear that we will be discovered develops. Unchecked, the conscience will become seared, and eventually we are no longer aware of shame at our core. It is possible that this will continue to spiral into deeper and darker behavior.

Think: Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, or Saddam Hussein.

Ugh! That’s definitely not us. Let’s move on to Good:

The fruit on the “good” branch of the Tree of Knowledge should be much better. Love, joy, peace, and all that.

Surprise! 

The fruit that is produced by¬†our “good” behavior is this:

Self-satisfaction – “I am so good.”

Condemnation – “What they did was bad. They should behave better.”

Judgment – “What they are doing is evil. They should be punished.”

Comparison – “At least I don’t do ______ (fill in the blank) like those people.

Criticism Рmy group is the only one who has Christianity right. They need to behave like we do.

Vigilance – ever watchful of self and others to determine who is good and who is evil.

Social club mentality – carefully screen every person to determine whether they are “good enough” to be in our club. Avoid obvious sinners, lest they make us look “bad” in the eyes of other Christians.

Self-effort – strive to do the “right” thing, avoid the “evil” thing regarding actions and words.

Religion – a checklist by which we prove ourselves to be “good.” ¬†(Went to church – Check. Spent my obligatory time reading my Bible – Check. Spent 15 minutes in prayer – Check. Did a good deed when I didn’t want to – Check… You get the idea.)

Opinionated – due to endless mental effort, I have the answer to every problem. “You’re doing it wrong. Do it my way and all will be well.” When it comes to doctrine and theology, I will fight to the death for my view. I’ve studied my Bible for years and¬†know the (little ‘t’) truth.

 

Of course, if we failed to meet our criteria of what a “good” Christian does, then we feel “bad” and avoid “eye contact” with God, certain that He is displeased with us, certain that punishment is coming.

You can see that love, joy, peace, etc. are nowhere to be found on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

As I stated in my previous post,

“Evil¬†and¬†good come from the same root. That root is self.”

The end result of eating from this tree is death.

Here’s our dilemma:

Whenever we choose to ‘live’ by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,¬†we are the judge of what is good…and what is evil.

The determining factor is self.

How does it make me feel? How does it affect me?

In this, we become our own god. Our life is small, for we are the center of our universe. Everyone else exists for our own good pleasure…and they must please us, or risk being judged as “bad” and then rejected.

Sadly, most Christians I know (myself included) live this way.

Is it any wonder that the world isn’t beating down our doors to “get” what we have??¬†

John 15 is full of information about what it means to abide in Christ – the Bread of Life (read that: “Fruit from the Tree of Life):

  • Fruitfulness (love, joy, peace, etc.) – Why do we interpret fruit only as “a big ministry” or “lots of converts”…productivity??
  • Consistent answered prayer – because we have intimacy with Him and He tells us what He is doing…thus showing us how to pray.
  • Confidence that we are loved – no need to hide, fearful of punishment.
  • Full of joy – the burden of controlling the world, getting people to behave better, is lifted from our shoulders!
  • Able to hear His voice, and so know what to do/say/understand in any given situation. We ask Him to explain what’s going on, instead of allowing the enemy to fill in the blanks.
  • Filled with the Spirit – ever present to teach, guide, give insight, and flow through us to reach those around us.

‚ÄúHe who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.‚ÄĚ ¬†~ John 7:38

When we are set free from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and partake from the Tree of Life, true transformation begins. We see others in a new¬†light…and love those we previously judged to be unworthy of our good company. ūüėČ

Further, when we can drop all the self-imposed”duties” required to run the world, we enjoy a lightness that cannot be described. All the mental energy consumed when we were absorbed with how to fix everyone around us left us drained. We come to life when we let the mental gyrations go!

Do not miss that the Tree of Life is all about relationship – with the Lord, and with others.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, on the other hand, mostly destroys relationships – with the Lord (we’re sure we haven’t measured up, and so hide from Him), and also with those who don’t meet our standards.

What I am sharing with you does not originate with me. Consequently, I wish to give credit where credit is due. Since the beginning of April, I have been listening to Bob Hamp’s¬†Foundational Class series. Just five videos – available online at no cost. No signing up, or signing in.

For this “try harder to do better” woman, the message contained within these videos has forever transformed me. (He also wrote a book,¬†Think Differently, Live Differently.)

People are beginning to ask about the changes they see. How cool is that???

Funny, folks¬†didn’t want to know where they could get some of¬†my critical, judgmental, opinionated, argumentative behaviors and attitudes. Seems the world already has enough of those characteristics.

“You shall know them by their fruit.”

By what fruit are you “known?”

***Keep in mind that what I write is “what I did with what I heard” from the Lord through Mr. Hamp’s messages, and not exact quotes from the videos or his book, unless so noted.***





Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

24 07 2014

Have you ever been comforted by the Lord? Have you been released from bondage, had your eyes open to things which you previously could not see? Been cleansed of sin?

Second Corinthians opens with this:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction…”

Why did He do this for us?

“…¬†so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”¬†(vs. 3-4)

Frustration is running high at the moment. I’ve been searching for someone who’s been in my shoes and shown the way out of the mess.

Those who’ve never been through what I’m dealing with are able to provide some relief, but very little experiential help.

Those who¬†have been there, done that, aren’t talking.

When we are in a war and fighting for our lives, we don’t need pat, textbook ideology. We need a veteran who can share what works, what doesn’t…living, breathing proof that there is hope. We can survive this thing!

Life has been difficult, and a lot of damage was done when I was a child. Through the years, the Lord has been faithful to heal many of those wounds.

While being free of the pain was fantastic – able to respond to a current situation instead of react to ‘triggers’ – I discovered that the ugliness is redeemed every time¬†I¬†reach out to others and comfort them with the same comfort I received from the Lord.

As a veteran, I have more to offer than, “I read in a book…”.

“I’ve been in that trench: These are some of the things you need to pay attention to. Here are some areas to avoid.”¬†

There are many people who are hurting and in desperate need of hope – the kind of hope only someone who’s been through it can provide. (Think Job and his “helpful’ friends! He called them ‘miserable comforters.‘)

All that to say this: Whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been, if you see someone in a similar situation, lay down fears of what people might think if they knew and the pride of wanting to appear perfect, and

for the Kingdom’s sake, tell your story

…and offer to help.

This is the body at its finest,  The healing we receive from the Lord is a gift to us. As I read Scripture, though, I notice that gifts from the Lord are never solely for our consumption (with the exception of tongues). They are meant to be spent on others.

Our past does not define us – “If any man is in Christ, he is a¬†new¬†creation. The old is¬†gone;¬†the new is come.”

Jesus bore all our shame on the cross. When the enemy uses my history to beat on me, I point to the cross where Jesus declared, “It is finished,” and thank him for the reminder of how much I need Jesus…what a mess I am without Him.

If you’ve been hiding behind a “perfect” facade, unwilling to let others know the secrets of your past, step out and let His glorious work shine through you to reach others. The word, “hypocrite” comes from the theater, and means “actor.” It is only in the dark where the thing has any power to hurt you¬†anymore. In our mind, it grows and grows like dust bunnies under the bed.

Bring your light out from under the bushel basket and watch the hurting be drawn like bugs to a zapper! As an added bonus, you get to walk in the freedom that Jesus paid so high a price to secure.

The world needs the real you, so

Come out, come out wherever you are!





Pit Crew

17 07 2014

I’m a “mastery” sort of person. Once I’ve done something well, I rarely repeat it, but want to move on to learn something new.

For this reason, I’d be a lousy race car driver! After about 3 or 4 laps, I’d dust off my hands and say, “Okay, got that figured out. What can we do next?” Then drive off the track and on to the next adventure!

Speaking of racers, I think they’d have handled the Wilderness Adventure with Moses better than the Israelites. They don’t mind looking at the same terrain for hours and hours while they drive in circles – and do this year after year! Just sayin’!

Life is a journey for each of us. Trials are kind of like finding oneself making laps around the track while we master how to weave in and out without causing or incurring damage, and how to take the curves without getting slung into the wall.

As with racing, one key component is a good pit crew. Without one, or even with a poor one, we¬†don’t stand a chance in¬†the Indy 500.

We were never intended to do life alone.

We need good people around us, ones who know their stuff – especially when we’re in the fast lane of a trial.

One of the things a pit crew¬†handles is fresh tires. There are little balls of rubber on the track, known as ‘marbles’ which come off the tires due to the high speeds and sharp maneuvers. The tread wears off in no time. Slick tires can be deadly, making the vehicle harder to handle.

In the same way, our ‘crew’ needs to have fresh Scripture to give us, something with teeth in it that will help us get a better grip!

Our crew must be willing to wash the windows of our spirit as well, which allows¬†a clearer view of the stuff we’re dealing with.

They need to be especially good with the gas can, able to re-fuel us with encouragement, which gives us the strength to continue.

The better our ‘pit crew,’ the better our chances of finishing well.

Above all we need the Crew Boss (Jesus) to direct the crew – and us as well. He calls us in for pit stops at just the right time, and directs the right people to the right task in order to keep us in the race. He’s awesome that way! ūüėČ

Without a support team, we may finish the race like Lightning McQueen from¬†Cars.¬†We’ll¬†¬†jump and bounce on our bare rims toward the finish line, with our tongue stuck out, in hopes that the checkered flag will wave for us!

Kachow!

If you haven’t seen the movie,¬†Cars by Pixar,¬†you should. It’s a¬†great object lesson for those of us who think we don’t need anyone! Never get ‘too old’ to watch a good animated movie!





Of Alligators and Such

14 07 2014

When we are up to our necks in alligators, there are a couple of important things we need to know:

Our opinions and judgment calls don’t change anything; and

We will need help to make it to safety!

This has been a season of alligators and valuable lessons.

It began in January, when the Lord warned me of an approaching trial that would be like none I had experienced before. Whew! He wasn’t kidding. He’d never given me a heads-up before. I’m thankful that He chose to do so this time. I doubt things would have gone as well without this info.

At the time, my hubby and I¬†were taking a class at our church on mentoring and discipleship. The instructor, Jim Bailey, gave excellent training. So good, in fact, that the Lord wanted us to really ‘get’ it –¬†to practice what we’d learned.

Application, it seems, was¬†very important. Not only did He give us people to mentor…He asked us to let them stay with us. No “two-hours-per-week” sessions for us, but around the clock “Tami, you need to learn how to do this!” We were given three adults and three small children…then five kids…with two more kids part time!

I can tell you this, for sure: People in crisis are not always easy to live with!

Further, when life is interrupted and we are asked to set aside everything in order to be available, it feels like a free-fall. The only thing within our grasp is the wind rushing past us Рwhich, I discovered, is the Holy Spirit!

At first, the tendency is to kick against the thing – work lays unfinished, our “tidy little life” is no longer ours to run.

After a while, though, it becomes easier to let productivity go – and focus on relationships instead.

I wanted to have opinions about our new residents, to judge their cases, to straighten them out. God sent them to me so I could fix them…right? Wrong!

Shhh! was all the Lord kept saying. Just love them.

This became easier with time, as well, and made possible more peace than I would ever have thought possible. (Ever been around an opinionated person…whose thoughts about you were not complimentary? It’s amazing how quickly we can build walls to protect ourselves. We are unwilling to receive anything that person has to say.)

Oh…my opinions and judgments turned out to be mostly wrong! I would have done a lot of damage had I voiced what I ‘thought’ I knew to be true!

Cowardice loomed large during this time as well.

I didn’t want to do or say anything that might make people not like me.

Yeah, that definitely had to go! At the end of the day, if God was pleased with me then I was content.

I learned the word, “Enough,” and that I had a right to use it for the purpose of maintaining my home as my¬†sanctuary. After all, I didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Boundaries are beautiful!

Joshua 1 is a pep talk between the Lord and Joshua. In the third verse, He tells Josh, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, just as I promised to Moses.”

Read that: “You’re headed into the Promised Land, my child. It’s filled with giants. There will be battles; but every place where you put your foot down and say, ‘Enough,’¬†that territory is yours to claim.”

The other important point is that¬†when we’re surrounded by pressing matters, we dare not try to be the Lone Ranger.

We need the support and encouragement that can only come from other people.

Thankfully, although we’ve only been at our new church since January, I’ve made several good friends, in addition to the dear friend I’ve had for a few years.

Friendship is something new to me. In the past, I’ve been ‘relationally challenged!’ We moved so much during my childhood – and then again as an adult – that I never learned how to maintain a friendship. Sad, but true.

Every week I meet with one or two of them just because we enjoy one another’s company! We don’t have an agenda, which is a weird concept to me, but one to which I am growing accustomed.

On particularly heavy days, I can shoot any (or all) of them a text and ask for prayer. Once in a while, I’ve run things past them to get input. Because they are godly women who are after God’s heart, they speak life into my situation and point me in the right direction…back into Abba’s arms. I love them all dearly.

As I suspected, all the “wax on, wax off, paint the fence, and sand the floor'” training (Karate Kid) I received was indeed preparation for a much larger trial…the ‘granddaddy’ of them all. That’s where I am today. Thanks to the lessons learned over the last four months, I am able to deflect blows that would have taken me out last year. Muscle memory was well-developed, thanks to the Lord’s thorough training program!

Today I heard from the Lord that this season is over. What a relief!

Thanks to all of you for your prayer support. Christianity is about community – life together. Your prayers and words of encouragement empowered me to continue on when I had no strength left. Words can’t begin to express my gratitude.

Because of what we’ve been through, God prepared us for the issue at hand. While I am not at liberty to give particulars, just know that these captives are being set free. Although¬†the process is in the early stages, we begin to see a little more light every day. God is so good to us!

In conclusion, when surrounded by alligators remember that our opinion of them doesn’t make them go away…or fix them; and that we’re not going to make it to safety alone!





Who is Watching You?

19 05 2014

Yesterday, I was surprised to discover that Jon Scanlon and his wife Jan were seated behind us at church. The reason for my pleasure is that it afforded an opportunity to thank this man – whom I’d never met personally – for the impact he had on my life.

Years ago he came to our church and performed a dramatic monologue of John the beloved disciple. It was a lengthy skit, flawless in its presentation, complete with props.

In an instant, I was enraptured; captivated by this disciple-come-to-life. He was on the Isle of Patmos, recounting his time with Jesus. It was deeply stirring.

However, what I did not realize at that time was that the impact was to go far beyond the story Jon told that day, for deep in my heart a seed was planted.

As I watched this man speak from memory for a half-hour or more, he taught me.

Oh, not the lesson he had for us in his presentation, but the truth that lengthy memorization of valuable material was possible.

The dream was born to memorize the book of Philippians! Over the next months, I would recite parts of it to anyone who would listen.

Memorization was much easier than I expected. Somehow we’ve believed the lie that to commit Scripture to memory is beyond our scope of capability. However, when I thought about it, I had¬†tons of information memorized – commercial jingles, phone numbers, addresses, etc.

Besides, the Holy Spirit lives within us. With His help, it’s¬†not impossible.

Further, I discovered that it was far easier to memorize an entire chapter than a single verse. With the surrounding verses, each has something else on which it “hangs.” A great benefit is that one has the context for each verse – and they’re less apt to be applied incorrectly.

With Philippians and a handful of Psalms under my belt, I gained confidence. When a “reader’s theater” was announced at church, I auditioned, and got one of the parts. This wasn’t much of a feat – there were four parts, and four who auditioned!

Because of Jon’s performance, I knew memorization was possible, so I got to work. The skit went very well.

As a result of this Christmas Eve reader’s theater, I was asked to present a¬†monologue at the Good Friday service. The material was¬†Max Lucado’s essay, “He Chose the Nails.”

Later, I began to read Scripture during our music worship on Sundays. It was very well received, and most weeks, someone asked for the verses I’d given. What a thrill to know that God was using this gift to minister to others.

A few years later, the local mission asked for volunteers to record audio versions of the books used for the recovery program. Some of their students were unable to read, which hindered their ability to complete their assignments. By this time, I had recording equipment, so I accepted the invitation to read the books.

Memorization continued, and the 91st Psalm was added to the collection. Because of this last choice, I was able to trust the Lord when a dog bit me during a mission trip to Nicaragua. You can read about it here: (Bitten.)

Other books are becoming audio recordings, and my latest idea is that of a short weekly podcast.

Now, don’t miss my point. It isn’t: “Wow, she’s amazing!”

It is this: Every one of these things I can trace back to a skit I saw by a man who was obedient to God’s call.

A man who wondered if what he did ever really mattered!

The gift he imparted to me so long ago bore much fruit…and he had no idea.

So I ask, “Who is watching you? What are you imparting to others?”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Hebrews 12:1