Growing Faith 7 ~ Fruit or Flowers?

“I wish I could be like that person?” I said in frustration one day.  “In what way?” He asked.   On that day my response was, “In patience, Lord. I’d like to wait in line without impatience and enjoy that time talking to others. Instead, I fuss about waiting.” On another day, it would be something else I wish I were.

“I can help with that,” He said cheerfully.

Then I tried to be more patient. I put a smile on my face. I greeted the person behind me but they were as impatient as I. This new me I presented did not last long. I found myself once again in prayer asking to be patient.

“I think you may be looking for the flower instead of the fruit.” He said patiently.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Flowers are colorful, lovely, often fragrant and attract attention. Flowers are the most visible part of a plant. You may be looking at and desiring only the outward expression of inner beauty.” Pointing to a flower, He asked. “Do you see the fruit?”

“No, Lord, I see a magnificent rose!”

“The potential for fruit is there. The flowers come first. The beauty of the flower draws bees to cross pollinate. When the rose withers and falls off, the fruit is right below it. The rose hip is the fruit of the rose.  If you look only at the rose, you will not notice the rose hip underneath.” The conversation continued. “Lord, you say You can help. What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that the kind of fruit you want has to be cultivated during time with me, where no one else can see or hear us. It grows when you come away from the distractions of life and learn of Me in quiet places. When you bring your flowers to Me, I will deposit more of Myself in you, as bees deposit pollen. I know the fruit you were created to bear and I know what is needed to produce it.”

Silent, I let this sink in deep.  The next day I said,  “Lord, I bring you roses today.”

“They are lovely, Child, just like you. It is a good start. Would you bring Me flowers every day? Growing fruit takes much time with Me and I love our times together.”

“Yes, Lord. I will bring you flowers every day.”

Consider This:But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[1] Let’s enjoy the flowers and grow in faith so our fruit is apparent to all. The Lord is near.[2]

[1] Galatians 5:22 NLT [2] Philippians 4:5

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Growing Faith ~ 6. Rooted to Prosper

This is the part in the Growing Faith series to consider the necessity of weeding out intruder plants from the gardens we plant. These are the undesirable plants that grab the nutrition intended for the good seeds. In our house, my husband does the best weeding. He pulls them out from the roots. It takes longer than my surface weeding. Two days later, his sections are still clean while mine need attention again because the roots are still there.

I had a dream one night of a tree I knew to be a banyan. I have been thinking about the banyan (also called a strangler fig) ever since. A strangler fig is an example of an intruder plant, in the natural.

Consider This: The strangler fig tree starts life as a seed on a leaf of a strong healthy tree. With a little water, the seed sends down roots around the trunk of the healthy tree and feeds off it. When the fig tree’s roots are long enough to be rooted in the ground around the healthy tree, it begins to strangle the healthy tree by using up all the available nutrients and the healthy tree begins to die. Eventually, there is only a hole in the center of the fig tree where the healthy host tree used to live. The strangler fig can live for hundreds of years and puts down so many additional roots, I read that one tree can look like a forest from a distance.

The strangler fig is a metaphor, in this series, for how spiritual weeds can take root in us when we are not diligent in seeking to know what is holding us back from prospering spiritually. We may prosper in some areas but not in others. The reasons can be outright sin or not understanding God’s love for us and our identity in Him, anxiety, or anything that hinders our walk with God and clouds the truth.

I have not written in a while because the Holy Spirit has been talking to me about the need to weed my own soul of intruders that keep me from living fully in all He has planned for me. I have learned that intrusion can be areas where I am not in alignment with His word in scripture or where the spiritual weeds have blown in on the winds of life or as in the natural, by birds that drop seeds as they fly by. My responsibility is to be vigilant to ask Christ what weeds I have allowed to flourish in my soul. He has shown me areas that I was not aware of and has come along side me to pull them out from the roots through my repentance and His forgiveness. The result has been a closer walk with Him (even though I thought our relationship was close). I am experiencing more of His power in my life and a restoration of the areas that had withered by my inattention. His life is growing deeper in me.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For He will be like a tree planted by many waters which spreads out it roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will it cease from yielding fruit.”[1]

This verse is a promise and an illustration of a person who is unencumbered by the cares of this world and sins that strangle. Jesus is an expert at removing the roots of all that He has not planted in me. He gave me the Holy Spirit to help me live and prosper. ‘Lord, you are so good to me. Come, remove that which is dead and not prospering because I have allowed something to come between us. Restore me. Amen’

I have known for some time that I was to write about this and have put it off because it is a hard subject to address. But the Holy Spirit has not let me alone and I know He wants to talk to someone else like he did with me. In obedience, I am writing now and hope you ask Him to identify any intruders in your life. I was surprised by some of the areas He has addressed with me. You may be too. May we prosper together.

[1] Jeremiah 17:7-8 NKJV

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Growing Faith 5~When Faith Opens the Door

In this Growing Faith series, we started with Jesus’ parable about when faith is only as big as a mustard seed, we can do amazing things in His Name (Growing Faith 1~The Littleness of Faith). He presents how much more is available when we mature in our faith. The faith seeds we have been focusing on are rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ. No one else has the power to forgive sins, set us on the path that leads to the fulfillment of our purpose and set us apart for eternity with Him.[1]

If you have been following this series, you realize by now that I believe that God shows us His hidden glory in creation and science. Inherent in the creation of the world, He made His invisible wonderful attributes easily perceived, if we will only look for it. He knows we need a visible representation to help us understand the invisible.[2] That is the basis of my approach in this faith seed series: to use natural systems to understand spiritual truths that display God’s nature and help us want to know Him better.

Every natural seed’s design includes a specific root system to protect and nourish the life in the plant. It is the same with spiritual seeds. Faith seeds are the beginning of a strong and vibrant faith. We tend tiny natural seeds and tender root tips with great care so the fruit will eventually be abundant. We promote the root growth so it matures and supports the stem and leaves for vibrant health; repelling disease and predators. As seeds mature, their roots develop so that they are grounded (not easily uprooted or destroyed).

When we intentionally tend our faith seedlings for this same purpose, our spiritual roots go deeper and more robust in Christ. We water and feed the roots of faith in His astonishing love for us by spending time in the Bible absorbing and applying its truths, as well as in heart conversations with Jesus Christ. Our understanding of who He is begins to grow beyond our initial root tip stage and blossoms into something enduring and real. He alone knows the spiritual potential in each of us. He often uses object lessons from life circumstances and relationships that begin with “You have little faith…”

“By constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you and the resting place of His love will become the very source and root of your life.” Ephesians 3:17 TPT

Consider This: ‘But I’ve been a believer for years’, you may be thinking, ‘My faith is strong.’ I am happy to know that. The one thing I have learned about Jesus, is that He never leaves me in the same place for long. His love compels me to go deeper, to give Him greater access to my life and exercise my faith. This is how I strengthen in new areas. I am grateful He has never left me alone. Without His firm and gentle leading I would be in a precarious place, for sure. When He says to me, ‘consider your small faith in this thing you are facing’, I listen.

It is worth revisiting these other ‘little faith’ lessons in Matthew chapters 6 & 7.

  •   6:30 – Faith for provision
  •   8:26 – Faith for protection
  • 14:31 – Faith for taking risks
  •  16:8 – Faith for provision
  • 17:20 – Faith for miracles, in His Name

He wants us to have an increasingly stronger faith, so that when lack, storms, risks, disease, and the impossible come knocking at our doors, we will have the understanding and assurance that He faces it with us. So that more and more we look to Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. It is His face and His promises that all our circumstances see first. We can trust Him.

I have read that faith is the currency of God’s kingdom; that without it nothing happens and with it, anything is possible.[3] If Heaven is going to touch earth, then faith is what will breakthrough to the impossible. By you and me. When our faith in Him opens the door.

We cannot activate the faith of open doors by vain declarations and saying the right words. Our hearts and heaven know the difference. We gain it through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and by trusting in His promises and nature; by walking it out with Him every day.

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7 NLT

Will you talk to God about this today?

  1. What circumstance is at your door today?
  2. Will faith answer the knock?
  3. With which of Jesus’ promises in the Bible will you face it?

 

[1] Acts 4:12 (TPT) [2] Romans 1:20 (TPT) [3] Hebrews 11:6

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Growing Faith: 4~Drinking Living Water

The promise of life in a seed is in the form of the seed embryo inside. The seed coat protects until access to the nutrients from water and soil is available. The seed coat’s design is to weaken after planting to allow the nutrients to act upon the seed embryo to begin the rooting process. Once planted, if the coat stays in place, it will hinder the growth of the plant. No water gets in. No root forms.

Since this is a series about growing faith, I have been thinking of the similarities between seed coats and the protective coverings we put around our hearts as we move through life. No one has immunity. One of the gifts God gives us is the ability of self-protective behaviors that act like seed coats until we no longer need them; until we trust Him with everything. In early childhood, we begin to learn how to adjust our expectations, behaviors, and access of others into our inner most thoughts. Not everyone has our best interests at heart or is safe to trust. Our physical environments may or may not be conducive to optimum growth. We learn to protect ourselves in different ways until we can discern whom to trust, become able to define our own environments, determine what we need to thrive and how to obtain it. Until we know God.

Consider This:  Sometimes we have a hard time letting go of our own protective behaviors. They have been our comfort for so long, we cannot imagine life without them. This is probably true of everyone. Even Christians. We may let our guard down in some areas and deep healing comes. We live with the joys of that comfort for a while and then, in God’s goodness, He makes us aware of another area He wants access to so our faith will deepen. Each time, it may be a struggle to let Him into those areas that we are still protecting by our self-appointed armor. We may not realize it is there until He shows us because it has become a part of who we are; an integral part of what defines us.

Water has a lot to do with its loosening the seed coat before the root can grow. Soaking hard things in water softens them. Water cleanses away impurities and dirt. Medicine mixed with water makes it easy to swallow and absorb. Water carries soluble nutritional elements to feed our body. We need water to live, it is a basic requirement. Without it, we die of thirst. In the Bible, water represents these same life-giving properties. The presence of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and scriptures are all symbolized by water; living water. Continually soaking in the Word, resting in His presence, allowing Him to show us that He is our protector now and wearing His armor instead of our own are all ways of drinking the living water.

How do we know where we are still holding tightly to our seed coats and hindering our spiritual growth? He will show us. We can look at where we have difficulty in relationships, how we react in certain circumstances and why we become anxious or angry at times; blaming others. We can also use humor as an effective barrier. Anything can work.

We can also say no to God when He comes calling. I did it the other day, only I said “Oh no! No. No. No.” I laugh now because I know He is tender toward me and knows when I am not ready. But it effectively alerted me to loosen my guard and trust Him more in that area. Awareness is a beginning. I just need to soak a little more in His presence to loosen my armor and drink of His water. I will exchange my armor for His and my faith roots will deepen. My armor limits spiritual growth. His armor allows for stronger roots to produce more abundant fruit and a richer relationship with Him.

What are the areas of your life where God is asking for greater access to you? How will you respond?

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water…” Isaiah 12:2-3

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Thank you to those who have read my book ‘A Confident Expectation 40 Hope-Full Conversations’.  With billions of books available to choose from, I am humbled that you have chosen to read mine. Many of you have told me how God has spoken to you through it’s pages. I can only exclaim the goodness of God in the land of the living. Blessings. Shirley

Growing Faith: 3~Promises in Hidden Places

Steps for seed sowing: Prepare a place. Drop in the seed. Cover with dirt. Water it. Feed it. Wait. Cultivating seeds requires patience.

The seed just sits there dormant for a while, not doing much except absorbing its new environment; getting settled in. Eventually though, the hard and protective seed coat begins to soften and break down to allow water in. A tiny fragile root reaches down and grabs the earth. This little bit of life not only stabilizes but allows nutrients to reach the seed germ which contains the promise of growth and fruit. As the root grows downward with increasing ability to draw life from the soil, a small shoot pokes out of the top of the seed, pushing upward for the source of warmth, light, oxygen, and moisture. Once it pushes through the soil level, a thin tender stem forms to support the plant and leaves form which bring in oxygen. Roots deepen. The plant grows. Flowers and fruit appear.

Most of this process happens underground hidden from sight. It appears, from above the soil, that nothing much is going on. Yet something very powerful is occurring. I have seen tender plants pushing through hard man-made surfaces, like asphalt and concrete. Once the protective seed coat is gone, the force of life energy in the seed can push with a persistence strong enough to break the resistant matter so it can reach the sun.

Consider This: There are so many parallels in this process with that of developing a strong spiritual life of faith. It is no wonder that Jesus used the analogy of seed sowing in His teaching to describe how faith grows from the seed of the word of God; “faith seeds”.

As a new believer, I soon learned that there is no rushing the faith process. It requires patience and persistence. Proper spiritual nourishment in good balance is critical. Protection, from all that will destroy it, is necessary. Much of the growing process occurs in the hidden places of our hearts.

The seed has great potential (promise) for life given the correct environment. Inside each seed, is a blueprint design for the seed’s purpose. A rose bush grows roses. A cherry tree grows cherries, bean seeds grow beans. Faith seeds (the word of God) grow faith. Faith for the purpose of appropriating an abundant spiritual life in the love of Christ Jesus. It is so we can live in freedom and forgiveness from sin; in relationship and conversation with Him through the Holy Spirit. In faith, we gain a deeper understanding of the ways of Heaven with divine strategy and power for living which enables us to face adversities and joys with wisdom and thanksgiving. Encapsulated in each tiny seed of faith is the life force of all of God’s promise. Its value is immeasurable. We are to cherish and care for it.

God never stops sowing seeds of faith into us; when we seek Him. His is the way of a continuing abundant harvest. One of the promises hidden in the faith seed is this:

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” Isaiah 35

The Holy Spirit is leading me with purpose, in this series of cultivating faith, that began with ‘The Littleness of Faith.’ There is the promise of an encouraging and prosperous outcome. Faith in Christ may start small but in its greatest strength, it can move mountains. It can cause us to have amazing victory, no matter what comes our way. I want faith that looks the promise above. Don’t you?

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My book “A Confident Expectation 40 Hopeful Conversations” is available locally at Bender’s Christian Store located at 8550 Sheridan Drive, Williamsville, NY.  It is also available for on line purchase. God is speaking to many people through this engaging book. If you know anyone who needs more hope in their lives, please share this information with them.

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Growing Faith: 2~How Does Your Garden Grow

Awhile back a friend generously gave me some dried heirloom tomato seeds. The growing season was over. I put them in a dark place and forgot where they were when the time came to plant them in the spring. I found them a year later. I was not sure if they would germinate. I gave some to a friend down the road and planted the remainder in my garden. My friend’s seeds sprouted and grew tall. My seeds did not even break ground. At the end of the growing season, I dug up my seeds to find out what happened. I could not find them. I have thought a lot about why my friend’s seeds grew and mine did not. I did some research and learned a few things about my approach versus my friend’s method of planting. I learned that there are several key factors in germinating tomato seeds that determine if they will sprout and grow into healthy fruit bearing plants. I was a careless gardener. I did not learn how to tend those tender seeds or plant them in an environment where they could flourish. I have no tomatoes.

Consider This: My experience reminds me of the teaching story Jesus told, recorded in Mark 4.

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Jesus explained that the story was about the secret of the spiritual kingdom of God. He was deepening the lesson He had begun, from Luke 13, about the seed “a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”[1] Only this time, He was talking specifically about careful planting conditions to ensure growth. How to tend the seeds.

The one who proclaims or sows the word of God (scriptural truths), as Jesus did, is the farmer. The seeds are the people who hear it.

Some people are careless with the Word in various ways. Instead of treating it with great care, they do not consider it for very long. It has no impact on their lives. Others receive the Word with great joy but do not nurture it so roots can grow. The Word is superficially in their lives and when hard times come, they walk away. Still others tend the Word enough to start growing faith but later allow other belief systems to choke out the Word so faith cannot grow strong.

Then there are those who understand the eternal value of the Word and are careful with the tender seeds of faith, welcoming them with joy, taking every opportunity to learn more. These are the people who learn to trust Jesus Christ through all the ups and downs of life. The result is an increasingly rich harvest of healthy spiritual fruit; a strong faith. These are the people others gravitate toward as they start to plant and tend their own seeds of faith.

Because of this parable of Jesus, I know that God cares how we tend our seeds of faith. It is always growing season with God. It is a good time to consider what may be choking the growth of faith in my own life. Have I become careless in even small ways? I want to foster an active faith that grows large. It is my desire to trust Him with everything. How does your garden grow?

[1] Refer to prior post “The Littleness of Faith”

~~Visit my website: www.shirleyagenovese.com to learn about my book “A Confident Expectation 40 Hope-Full Conversations”.~~

 

Where can I locally purchase “A Confident Expectation 40 Hope-Full Conversations”?

Maybe some of you enjoy browsing through books stores like I do and will appreciate knowing where the books are available for local purchase.  Here are a few places I know it is available. If not in the store, they can order from their supplier. It retails for $12.99 at these booksellers.

Bender’s Christian Supply 8550 Sheridan Dr,  Williamsville, NY 14221 (716)-633-5757

Pathway’s Christian Bookstore  6718 Lincoln Ave, Lockport, NY 14094 (716) 433-6049

Also Available at:

Love Joy Church 5423 Genesee St, Lancaster, NY 14086 (716) 751-0400 Sunday morning for $10.

OTHER PURCHASE SOURCES:

Currently, the price is still $9.99 in my Etsy shop through 9/30/19 and there is free shipping through Etsy on orders totaling $35 or more. I can sign before shipping if you request it. The paperback and eBooks are available from on-line book sellers worldwide, including many Christian outlets.  Links are conveniently available on my website: shirleyagenovese.com

LIBRARY SOURCES:

The Clarence and Newstead Public Library branches have purchased a book for their shelves.  A copy will also be available at the Buffalo & Erie County Library located at 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo, NY 14203.

It takes a little while to catalogue a new book. The books will soon be available.

Thank you to all who are reading my book. Feel free to contact me at shirleyagenovese@outlook.com with your comments.