Monday, August 18, 2014

Wonderful Fruit

Jesus’ words: “When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples.  This brings great glory to my Father.”  John 15:8

Every morning I go outside first thing to check on my “babies” – our few tomato plants. We have never had much success with growing big healthy tomatoes, either because the weather has not been conducive or the location has not been ideal. But this year has been different. We found another location to plant the seedlings and they took off. The vines are loaded and we are enjoying them to the fullest. What delight to see fruit developing – even more so, eating big ripe tomatoes.

In the same way it gives me so much joy to see spiritual fruit developing in some of my believer friends. Their names have been changed. Every little bit of growth is a big thing to me. How much more to God, the gardener of our souls.

Zahra is developing the fruit of quietly and sacrificially giving her money to those serving the Lord. She doesn’t have an abundance of riches since she is a graduate student so when I witness her giving with no one else knowing it is evident that the Holy Spirit is successfully at work in growing her spiritually fruitful.

When Jamila prays for me there is clear evidence that she has gone beyond being preoccupied with herself. Her prayers actually sound pastoral. Amazing fruit!

Shazia does not run away from sharing her testimony publicly. Courage flows through her. Her Muslim neighbors don’t appreciate her sharing but she refuses to have a silent faith. Developing courage is a beautiful fruit.

Masoma took off a week from work to provide hospitality for guests in her home. It may have been holiday time from her job but not from work at home. The fruit of hospitality is beautiful to the Lord.

A believer couple has been deeply wounded by some Muslims. They had been so helpful and kind and treated badly and yet they forgive. After a season of pulling away they decided to try again to show kindness to them. They have evidenced taking tangible fruitful steps in the ministry of reconciliation and mercy. God must be so pleased.

Halima’s faith is being stretched as she trusts God for the selling of her house. Developing faith is a wonderful fruit which pleases God very much.

Fatima could easily get angry with her domineering husband but she continues to show respect. She is very fruitful.

Haneen has become like a spiritual mother to believers in her people group. She has her own personal needs, nevertheless, she has matured significantly and has become a wise counselor and interceder. Beautiful fruit!

Not all the believers I know evidence spiritual fruit to me but the Gardener is at work in each one. He tends His plants carefully. I am also one of His plants. How I long to be fruitful spiritually bringing glory to His name and being useful in His Kingdom. Bruce Wilkinson’s book, Secrets of the Vine, is so inspirational about becoming fruitful. If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Dear heavenly Father, please help all my believer friends to desire to become spiritually fruitful. Help me to model what it means to be fruitful.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Obedience School

"He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, “My Father!  If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.  Yet I want your will, not mine.”  Matthew 26:39

“You are insubordinate,” the teacher declared to me. I had no idea what that big word meant. She told me to go look it up in the dictionary. Well, I’ll be! I thought.  On another occasion, after hurting a fellow classmate I was told to see the principal. The possibility of being expelled was clearly stated if I didn’t change my ways. Then a friend commented, “Joy, you are not like you used to be.” What are all these people talking about? I wondered. It was confusing being thirteen years old. It came to my attention I had a problem with being submissive to authorities in particular. Inwardly I didn’t care to keep any rule unless it made sense. That was my criteria for following rules and in my opinion most rules didn’t fall in that category. While I was growing up I was determined to get my way. My will ruled. Thus started a painful journey of discovering that by nature I am rebellious and unsubmissive and needed power beyond myself to tame that wild side. Being summoned to see the principal was a wakeup call. I cried out to God to change me.

Another time after being insubordinate my dad had me kneel at the bed and sing “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” I thank God for some tough lessons learned in “Obedience School”.

Every once in a while that spirit of insubordination still rises up within me but praise God a transformation by God has gradually been at work within me. Without intervention help from God I would not be qualified to engage in ministry among Muslims. Becoming qualified is not just about head knowledge or giftings. It just does not work to minister and be insubordinate and unsubmissive at the same time. Much good fruit comes when an unsubmissive fighting spirit is tamed by the Holy Spirit.  When I started saying, “not my will but your will be done,” I entered a new sphere! Then I became more ready to be sent to people who also struggle with submissiveness. We can take people only as far as we have journeyed.

In my ministry among believers(and Muslims) I encounter rebellion, anger, revengeful talk, and agitation. Sometimes the rebellion is about a husband, a landlord, welfare office, or rules and restrictions about living in her adopted new land. I have to remind myself I have been there but God has been mellowing and transforming me. I am much more at rest and peace now that I have learned the value and wisdom of submitting to God and His ways.  There really is sweet fruit that comes from learning to be submissive. It makes us more effective in ministry and more winsome among people. One of the character traits I ask God to develop in believers is growth in becoming teachable, submissive, and obedient to the Lord.  Often that seems better taught by example than with words.

Dear heavenly Father, keep taming my strong will. In Jesus’ name,  Amen.