I love to see things come together.
Before I left Little Rock on Friday, to head up to the Nomads conference, I jotted down a hodge-podge of verses that have been swirling around in my head and heart over the past 4-6 months. Being at the office, with my notebook and Bible already packed away in my car, there were verses left out (and maybe a few added into the mix). It felt very random, but for whatever reason, it was what I needed to post.
Despite random weather patterns, the conference was encouraging and refreshing as ever. The best part, however, was the last morning. It was cold. Freezing cold. Having slept in four layers of clothing for two nights, without showers, I could no longer stand my warm clothes and had resorted to subsisting in the only clean items I had left: jeans and a t-shirt. I, at least, covered my arms with a thin (and only slightly smelly) hoodie. My warmer shoes were damp and my socks were nasty, so I went with the not-in-the-least-bit-warm-yet-eternally-comfy flip-flop option (which turned out to be a moot decision, as we were encouraged to "sacrifice" by continue the tradition of removing our shoes in the sanctuary, despite the bitter cold).
So there I am, with my friend Cari beside me and the two children I am chaperoning running amok somewhere on the campus, worshipping with my entire being in an effort to stay warm. When we sat down for the last message of our time together, I sat my Bible and opened my notebook in my lap, my leg shaking violently underneath. John Zumwalt offered an always endearing introduction of his wife, Jamie, and I poised my pen in my hand.
Her topic? The Godly Ambition of Fruitfulness.
I prepared myself to hear from the Spirit.
Jamie started out giving an overview of John 15 and the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5.
She reminded us that God created us with the desire to bear fruit and to reproduce disciples.
This reminded me of some verses that connected for me during our 1 Thessalonians study this Spring. The very first chapter talks about how the Thessalonians were impacted by the fruit of the disciples' lives as they lived among them, and of how the people's lives reflected this same fruit. I was reminded at that time of John 15:16: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…. Somehow in the midst of our discussion, we had also tied in Matthew 13, and how seed (that leads to fruit) is sown in people's lives. It just so happens that Matthew 13 is the chapter Jamie chose to focus on.
Looking at the parable of the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, we looked at the various ways our purpose in the Kingdom of God can either fail to develop or can flourish.
The seed that was snatched away (vs. 19) represented lack of understanding.
Jamie talked about the principle of blindness: if we're not submitted to God, we're not going to respond; if God reveals something to us and we do not respond, we bring judgement on ourselves; understanding may not be revealed to a person because their heart is not submitted to God and they are not ready to be held accountable to the expectations.
The seed that fell on rocky soil (vs. 20-21) is the seed that grows with no roots.
Unlike Romans 5:1-3, which reminds us perseverance comes from being anchored in Christ, this is the person who encounters trials and ends up running away or shutting down emotionally. The fruit of the spirit is aborted rather than perseverance being cultivated. In addition to trials, they may also face persecution/disapproval from failure to fulfill other people's desires and expectations for their lives.
The seed among the thorns (vs. 22) has its fruitfulness choked out of it by the concerns of this world.
It remains a plant, but a wimpy plant unable to bear fruit - it's just there. Specifically, these verses speak of worries of life and deceitfulness of wealth. It hearkens back to Matthew 6 and reminds us to let each day's worries be enough for that day. Specifically here, Jamie touched on concerns that face potential missionaries, but since we are all called to lay down our lives for the sake of the Gospel, the worries apply to all of us. It's our desire for security. Our desire to secure our rights. Our desire to control our life. It may be insurance or retirement savings or unfulfilled desires. Of all the desires Jamie highlighted, the one that stood out for me the desire for marriage (and an accompanying discontent with singleness). It is not that the desire is bad, but if it chokes out our fruitfulness while we wait for it to come to fruition, then it a hinderence to our purpose in the Kingdom.
The seed that fell on the good soil (vs. 23) yields a crop.
Obviously, this is the seed we all desire to cultivate. This is the life that hears God's call, understands it, doesn't give in to worries and trials and BEARS FRUIT!
Endurance produces fruit.
We are reminded in Hebrews 6:11-15 not to become lazy. Notice the reference to Abraham's promise that kept cropping up in the verses in my previous post? Fruitfullness. Discipleship. Endurance. Patience. Perseverance. Powerful themes.
Jamie issued the following challenge:
What is the vision/dream God is calling you to? What are the steps to pursue?
- start telling people (accountability)
- get out of debt (or whatever is holding you back)
- apply or get training
- sell stuff/simplify
- work on your character weaknesses (bad fruit)
- take bold steps
You can have as much fruit as you are willing to sacrifice for (John 12:24). Is sowing genrously part of who you are? (2 Corinthians 9:6) Am I content with no fruit?
My notes may be a bit scattered, but sitting there with shivers and a sunburn I was inspired by the words God spoke through his servant Jamie.
I have seen the pattern of God pulling together seemingly random events in my life to move me to new places. Yet, somehow, I sometimes forget to trust that He will continue to do this if I will follow Him to the place He is leading (which reminds me of John's teaching on Saturday night... but I suppose that will have to be another post).
For the long drive home, I needed music that will keep me awake. It is no secret that I am a Superchick fan, so I chose their Beauty from Pain CD among the limited assortment in the mini-van. Guess what? God can even speak through CCM:
she feels lost in her own life
treading water just to keep from slipping under
and she wonders if she's where she's supposed to be
tired of trying to do it right
her dreams are just too far away
to see how steps she's making might be taking her to who she'll be
and suddenly it isn't what it used to be
and after all this time it worked out just fine
and suddenly i am where i'm supposed to be
and after all the tears, i was supposed to be here