Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Counting the Fruit

Hey y'all. It seems like I come here less and less frequently over the last year. But I have some things on my heart to say today.

So. I ordered a Naptime Diary about a month ago and I've been using it each week. I had gotten a little stale in terms of my Bible reading (or to be more honest, I had stopped reading it each day. Ouch!) and it completely affects my outlook on life. Can I get an amen?! So I checked myself, ordered a new devotional and dug into His word again. Y'all. It has completely changing my negative nancy attitude. Amazing what a little Word can do, right?!

There is a wonderful section to "count the fruit" of what God is doing each week in your life. This exercise has been SO eye-opening to me. Sometimes it feels like there isn't much fruit going on over here, or I'm not making much of any progress on the daily but this counting the fruit list has been so helpful. I wanted to share this excerpt from the devotion-

Is there fruit in your life?
Can you see it?
What do you do if you can't see any at all?

I'm going out on a limb here, sister, but I've got something to say.

I feel like the ability to find the fruit of what God is doing in our lives may be one of the most spiritual and important things we can do all day. And I feel like the women of God that I know, starting with myself, tend to really struggle with this.

I think we come by it honest, right? We want to be humble and we're just so darn close to our own issues, it's hard to see past them. So maybe we're good at being thankful and counting the blessings, but I think it's sometimes a lot harder for us to get bold and honest and say with a clear voice, 

"Here is some fruit. Here is an area where God has grown me."

So while I'm making these bold claims, I want to answer any nagging fears or concerns in your heart and just put a stake in the ground to say: I believe that without a doubt God has grown YOU and God IS growing you. I wish I could sit with you over coffee so we could sort it out together and find the fruit, but I believe whole-heartedly that if you're in Christ, it's there for certain. 

Here's how I know: 
- James 1:17 says that every good and perfect gift is from above. So ANY and ALL of your strengths come from His work in your life.
- Philippians 1:6 says that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. So no matter how busted or broken you feel in any area, He is moving and headed somewhere.
- Philippians 2:13 says that it's God who works in us, both for His will and for His good pleasure. He LOVES growing us, He enjoys it. Which means He isn't looking down on you, frustrated and waiting to get it together.

Not believing that God is growing us isn't lacking faith in ourselves, it's lacking faith in God, our Father. Not looking for the fruit isn't us being humble, it's us lacking the ability to praise Him and thank Him for the work He's done in our lives.

So here are a few quick tips if you need help finding the fruit
1. Ask God. He's a good, big Father. You can talk to Him and He'll talk back. Through His Word, through His people, through His Holy Spirit revealing truth in your heart.
2. Ask people you trust. Tell them exactly what I told you: you're not being prideful or needy, you want to be able to see the fruit and give Him credit and you need their help.
3. Go to your yuckiest backstory. Listen, this one you have to be careful not to tip-toe into shame, but if you have a backstory that involves some gross sin, don't hide it or stuff it. Acknowledge it used to be there and God gets the credit for uprooting it from your life.

My best example: I was a smoker, even a secret smoker, for about 15 years. FIFTEEN YEARS. First as a preteen, then all through my teenage years. After I became a believer I hid it from people, even my husband. I smoked while I was in ministry and I smoked on my wedding day. I was addicted times addicted. (for the record - I don't think the smoking was healthy, but I think the real sin was the hiding and being ruled by addiction)

And then one day, through a lot of prayer and failing and trying again, I experienced healing and quit smoking. And while I could be embarrassed that I struggled with that just six or so years ago, I choose to bring it into the light and say - LOOK, THERE'S SOME FRUIT. THANKS GOD. 

God is growing you.
God is growing you.
Say it with me: God IS growing me.
And I believe it, not because I believe in myself, but because I believe in Him.

Love you so much, my fruitful friends. 

Lately I've been dwelling on Psalms 92:1-2, and it has been speaking to my heart. I wanted to share a few thoughts that are really just encouraging me right now-

"It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your steadfast (lovingkindness) love in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night"

His Steadfast Love
His Faithfulness

And, I did a bit of research on steadfast love, and what it really meant in context, and it is "lovingkindness"- or the Hebrew word "hesed". Hesed can be defined as the following-

In general, one may identify three basic meanings of hesed, and these 3 meanings always interact -- strengthsteadfastness, and love. Any understanding of hesed that fails to suggest all three inevitably loses some of its richness. Love by itself easily becomes sentimentalized or universalized apart from the covenant. Yet strength or steadfastness suggests only the fulfillment of a legal (or similar) obligation. Hesed refers primarily to mutual and reciprocal rights and obligations between the parties of a relationship (especially Jehovah and Israel). But hesed is not only a matter of obligation but is also of generosity. It is not only a matter of loyalty, but also of mercy. Hesed implies personal involvement and commitment in a relationship beyond the rule of law. (Vine, W E: Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. 1996. Nelson) (Bolding added)

Loyal Love 

I have this scripture written on our big chalkboard in the kitchen. Every time I pass through the kitchen and glance at it- I make a point to thank God for something out loud. How amazing is this?! God seeks after ME with unconditional tenderness, kindness and mercy! And it makes me want to dig in deeper, soak up His word a little more so I can continue to be stretched and grow.

I'm counting the fruit of God showing me through His word that He is seeking a relationship with me. I love this (not a new concept) but definitely new to me. It changes my perspective from one of obligation to desire. That's FRUIT!!

I hope you guys are counting the fruit (even this itty bitty fruit) in your own lives too!