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SECRETS OF FRUIT-BEARING BELIEVERS (GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION: LENT 2015)

JESUS PROMISED:

Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he who bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

(John 15:5)

vineyard

Yet some just can’t seem to find time to be in the Word,

and others, though they are in the Word, are

complaining,

grumpy,

and difficult!

Others are in three Bible studies a week,

but have no time to be in the world with

the lost

the lonely

the poor

the prisoner

or the least of these.

Their grapes are not sweet, but sour!

If this describes us, and if we are honest,

it describes us all in part,

let us discover the secrets of fruit-bearing in the vineyard.

At a recent retreat in Omaha, I had some sharpening conversations with the women at my table that shed light on secrets of bearing fruit. I was speaking on Christ in the Song of Songs, and my conversation with the young and beautiful M. C. helped me see how relevant the Song is to John 15. In the Song, the “bride” keeps being compared to a vineyard. Why? A vineyard represents God’s people, His Bride. In Isaiah 5, God says that despite His love and care, His vineyard yields bad grapes. How disappointing it is for the workers to go in and find such poor fruit!

J. F. Millet  Workers in the Vineyard
J. F. Millet Workers in the Vineyard

In the Song, as the bride grows in her trust and obedience, her vineyard bears good fruit. Like our own Mary E., who is in a battle for her life against cancer, she is open to whatever will most glorify the Lord, even if it is suffering and death. Or our own Joyce, who lives in constant pain and cares for a disabled adult daughter with great needs. Mary and Joyce are bearing sweet fruit and are like the bride in the Song who says:

Awake, north wind,
    and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
    that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
    and taste its choice fruits.

(Song of Songs 4:16 NIV)

While the south wind is a warm gentle wind, representing sweet things in life, the north wind is a cold harsh wind, representing the trials of life. But this bride is open to either, and will give thanks for both, trusting that God is in control. With this attitude, the fragrance of her Lord, with whom she is One, with whom she abides, will spread everywhere! And He will be so pleased with this garden, in sharp contrast to the disappointment he felt with His garden in Isaiah 5.

When I sat down this young woman said she had been taught this passage from a very sexual perspective, but had never been able to understand the north and south wind or why the fragrance would spread everywhere. To me it was an affirmation of what we have lost by seeing the Song so exclusively from an earthly sexual perspective.

Then I began to ponder some of the other references to the vineyard in the Song, in reference to John 15. I remembered this warning:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil our vineyards, for our vineyards are in bloom. (Song of Songs 2:15)

 What are the foxes that spoil are fruit?

That’s what we will consider this week and we’ll also listen to a tremendous free message from Paige Benton Brown (Keller called her the best preacher in America) on how we as women can be fruitful in Kingdom work.

SUNDAY ICEBREAKER

1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

MONDAY-WEDNESDAY BIBLE STUDY

Prepare your heart with this:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHr7Z7ZS3GE

2. Read John 15:1-5

A. Who is the true vine and who is the vinedresser?

B. If there is no fruit, what does the vinedresser do, and if there is some fruit, what does the vinedresser do?

C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? Give Scriptural support.

D. Pruning can also come through the Word. What does Jesus say in John 15:3?

red-fox23. One of the little foxes that we must be alert to can be discovered through Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:24-27. Here are two groups of people. Both hear the Word. But how are they different?

4. What motivations might a person have other than intimacy and transformation for being in the Word that would stifle fruit-bearing?

5. What startling comments does Jesus make in John 15:4-5?

icebergAt the retreat in Omaha, I talked about identifying the sin beneath the sin so that we might be set free.

At our table discussion one of the women was illumined by this. She said, “I like to be busy, and I have trouble getting into the Word. So I guess my busyness is the tip of the iceberg, and it keeps me from being in the Word. So what I need to figure out is what is the sin beneath the busyness. What do you think?”

6. How would you have answered the above question from the woman in Omaha?

red-fox27. Another fox I must beware of is reading my Bible to “feel good about myself as a Christian,” instead of connecting with the Lord. I’ve been struck lately with Jacob’s words to God, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” I think if I could get my heart in that attitude each time I meet with Him, that I would have more consistent good fruit. Thoughts?

 

red-fox28. A blog Bible study is a wonderful opportunity to sharpen one another, but it has dangers too. We may be writing our answers more for the approval and comments of one another than to connect with the Lord. I wanted to jump up an hug Mary-Canada the day she lost her written prayer in cyberspace and said, “I guess it went straight to the Lord.” How can we guard our hearts on this blog study from the little fox of the idol of approval?

9. Challenge Question: Read The Song of Songs 7:11-12 and comment on it in light of our lesson.

THURSDAY-FRIDAY  BEARING FRUIT IN THE KINGDOM

10. Listen to Kingdom Matters from Paige Benton Brown and share your comments/notes.

http://www.podcasts.com/the_gospel_coalition/episode/kingdom_matters_-_paige_benton_brown

Saturday:

11. What is your take-a-way and why?

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207 comments

  1. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
    To hear of his fresh wind blowing again in the hearts of women at Dee’s event-hearing about these conversations always encourages me. Also, Mary and Joyce’s life-oh…They are both exuding his fragrance. A way I see his fragrance is they are always thinking of others while in their darkest places-they are truly giving their lives away not for their credit but for His.  
     
    Also, I need this study for those foxes are in my garden daily and God wants me to catch them for they spoil my vineyard! I was convicted by busyness-too busy to host others in my home which is an issue 9 months out of the year when I work in the school. This reminds me of Genesis when God tells Cain sin is crouching at his door but he must master it. Perhaps Cain’s sin beneath the sin was an idol..maybe approval or control but He didn’t catch the fox and it ruined his garden and while I can be like Cain I don’t want to be!

  2. 1. What are the foxes that spoil the vines? This question has been on my mind recently and it so resonates with me today. It is a question I must ask the Lord because it is becoming clear that either I just don’t know or when I do, I don’t have the power to be victorious over them. I have the sense that what I see is only the tip of the iceberg as in the picture and I am not getting to the root cause.

  3.  1. What stood out to you and why?
    This verse “Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he who bears much fruit”. To abide–the definition says to dwell, to rest, to CONTINUE—interesting that part of the meaning is that I stay with Him. It is an ongoing resting, dwelling, dependence on Him for life. When I walk away from this Source I shrivel for lack of water, life. I do not have the resources on my own to maintain fruit. I know that when I am in the Word, I feel it. I feel fed and nourished, peace. I am thankful that even in the past few months I’ve noticed an increasingly love for it, for I’ve never been great about staying disciplined just to read. But I am seeing that the more I go back to the Word, the more I want to. I sat down in class last week and felt this quick rush of tears come in my eyes as we opened the Bible—it surprised me.  And yet, I see myself too in the one who has sour grapes. I can be impatient, so selfish. And that saddens me. I can easily stay in my bubble of Christian fellowship, but I don’t want to. The more I have stepped out of my comfort zone and ministered to others, the more joy I have felt. And the simple reminder that Jesus’ life was all about listening to the Father and loving others.I do see that in Mary E., in Joyce, and in many here in various ways. My life so quickly becomes all about me–what I’m dealing with, what comforts I seek. Jesus did not see boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. Or if He did, He crossed them! He entered in, mess never scared Him. As He came in a dirty stinky stable, He willingly ventured in to wherever He was called. I do long to live freer that way, to stay close to Him, filled with His juice in my grapes. Bringing Life.
     
    I like this verse from the song by John Michael Talbot, “I am the vine, And My father is the keeper come to Me, let the Spirit bring you life”
     
     
     

    1. Ooo I love how this is worded, Elizabeth:  “I like this verse from the song by John Michael Talbot, “I am the vine, And My father is the keeper come to Me, let the Spirit bring you life”. “
       

  4. 1. What stood out to me and why?
     
    The John Michael Talbot song.  Especially the lyrics, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   Last week I had a chiropractic appointment and had a significant conversation with the doctor.  I told him of a family member who suffers from dark depression and asked if there was any way to address that with chiropractics.   He told me that it was interesting that I had asked, because he had trained with a doctor in psychology who had done research in the area of depression as it relates to chiropractic care.   He said that in patients suffering from deep depression, there is a band across their back at a certain point from shoulder to shoulder and that sometimes it takes the force of a sledge hammer to break it.  He said that that person is  carrying such a heavy load.  (This kind doctor recognizes how the spiritual realm can affect our physical realm.)   I immediately thought of this verse where Jesus tells us, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   Oh, how I long for my family member to know this, and to be released from this painful load. Only the LORD can release us from such heaviness, as many of us here know.
     

  5. What stood out and why?
    Abiding and Song of Songs.  I am way past being able to function in my own strength and am learning that abiding is abiding.  It’s not obedience or abiding one day and then running out on my own when I think a problem is better or solved.  I am so thankful God is in control — yet I wrestle with wanting to “fix” those things or people who prevent me from completing tasks that have been assigned to me.  Yesterday, I thought that if I could figure out who is lying to me I’d know who to trust (and then maybe I could live happily ever after for a couple of weeks?).  I didn’t think about it for awhile — and then I saw the smoking gun — and I was discouraged.  I knew it was bad, just not this bad.

      If I abide in the world, if my well-being is determined by my health or the trustworthiness of other people, I will be a yo-yo.  Jesus is a constant; he constantly woos me, loves me, and He is completely trustworthy.  I’m starting to see the consequences of bearing witness to the Truth, to knowing the truth.  I have had tendency to join with people who stand for truth and justice —opponents become frustrated but they can blame a group.  When I confidently rest in the Truth and calmly point out the truth, God grants me the peace, when I am abiding, anyway!  Abiding in Him provides safety, peace, and truth.  The escalation of lies has hurt and confused me (and likely impacted my health).  But after thinking more about abiding in Him and also about light, I wonder a couple of things: 1) if the truth shines light on the lies — and I just didn’t see or feel the impact of many of them before,  2) if lies (not just to me) have increased as sort of a defense to increasing truth.  

    I’m crying as I glance ahead at parts of question 2.  I need those answers.  Last week, I was thinking about the verse Nila mentioned, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Even last week, I think I interpreted that as “my yoke is easier and my burden is lighter [than other yokes and burdens].”  But this doesn’t seem to be a comparison verse.  I want easy and light, but my motives vary.  Sometimes I want easy and light because I want to honor Him and love Him; other times I just want a break from life.  The good news is that even when I want a break from life, He draws me to Himself, I am crying out to Him — and He graciously gives me hope.  Many times I hope in promises made by others (including laws, regulations, people keeping their word), my hopes are dashed.Has anyone read this?   Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ.  It’s one of the books sitting in my Amazon cart & has a strong theological foundation.  I’m not too fond of Christian psych or self-help books, but appreciate ones with a strong, strong Biblical foundation.  Or, maybe I will get back into Psalms.  (aagh.. totally lost track of time)

    1. Renee, I know it’s been such a huge struggle for you to suffer the lack of integrity in those who work with you and that it has taken a heavy toll.  Continuing to pray for peace and the ability to move forward in His truth regardless of what is surrounding you.   In reading several of your posts lately…I have seen His hand over you and how He has refreshed your weary soul.  Praying you feel a lightness (in the LIGHT) this week.  

    2. Renee – The book you asked about, Rejoicing in Lament, is truly excellent.  I ALMOST read it in one sitting during our last snowstorm!  🙂  I cannot recommend the book highly enough.  This book should NOT be on the “self help” shelf!  I never go there(self help – ugh!!)…..but this author is SOLID theologically.  I found myself drawn into prayer – lamenting and rejoicing and praising – even as I was reading.  Good, good stuff.  

      1. Jackie, Thank you!  The description sounded wonderful — and it seemed theologically sound.  But I’ve also seen books that sound good that have been Christian pop-psychology (which kinda drive me nuts cuz if I’m going to read psych-related stuff, I prefer to go straight to the research/researcher).  I appreciate your recommendation!

    3. Renee, as I’m continuing to do this week’s study, when I read John 15:1, where Jesus said “I am the TRUE vine”, then, I thought, there must be “false” vines. As I am re-reading comments after answering the questions, this struck me what you said, “If I abide in the world, if my well-being is determined by my health or the trustworthiness of people, I will be a yo-yo. Jesus is a constant; He constantly woos me, loves me, and He is completely trustworthy.” I think I’ve concluded that false vines = idols; things or people that we are trying to cling-to, get nourishment from, derive our sense of happiness or well-being from. If these false vines produce it for us, then we feel secure, but you are right; it is only temporary.

  6. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?    The whole analogy of Christ’s bride being a vineyard stands out to me.  Like M.C. at the conference, I’ve not fully understood the Song of Songs in the depth of its meaning until I began participating here.  I still have much to learn.  Also, because we live on a little country lane that is surrounded by vineyards.  The original rows of grapes, I can see out my windows as the little upstart vineyard and winery adjacent to us was new when we built our home here.  In the past dozen years or so, our neighbor’s business has been so successful that he has been able to plant small vineyards in three other places along our lane, so I drive past them every day.  And I love to watch the seasons change.  Just last week, there were pruners in the vineyards that encouraged me that Spring was beginning!  The comparisons of a vineyard to our lives are numerous.  And the little foxes too.  There are electric fences around our neighbor’s vines to keep out animals.  But I remember (with joy actually) one early morning several years ago when I awoke to hear crows calling incessantly and discovered that they were alerting each other to the little fox who was grabbing mouthfuls of raspberries right in my own yard.  It was a glorious scenario of the orchestration of God’s hand over the “beasts of the field and the birds of the air.”  While I enjoyed watching that little fox, I did not enjoy the fact that he and/or his comrades ran off with several of our chickens.   How wise is our God to teach us these depths of truth using natural object lessons that help us understand!    And in the introduction, I am especially drawn to the verse about the north and south winds.  Living in Minnesota, I am very familiar with the harsh north wind and it’s penetrating cold.  In contrast, the feel of the sweet south winds in the Spring impulsively brings a smile.  I felt these soft breezes just a few days ago and remarked to a friend how refreshing it was!  What lessons there are here for my life.  All of the above.  All that you have begun to share this week, Dee, has such wise and deep application.  And yes, the ways in which God is glorified during our great struggles.  Mary and Joyce are such good examples of His glory.  

    1. Wanda, So fun to read about the grapevines and other nature around your house (fun to see it, too!).  Not sure what direction the wind was from this morning, but I could have used a coat 😉

      1. It is a bit chilly here too today, Renee but the sun is peeking out and I think the afternoon will be glorious!  

    2. Wanda, you described your surroundings so delightfully – I felt like I was seeing it, too! But oh – the foxes running off with the chickens!

      1. We don’t have chickens anymore.  We were not good ‘chickenkeepers’ and lost all but one to predators.  We gave the last one away.  My neighbor has chickens though and I don’t often see them roaming, but did today.  Made me smile 🙂

    3. That’s neat that you live near a vineyard. I don’t and I have trouble with this analogy! I like wine….but why not a potato field? Or an apple orchard? Why a vineyard? All three grow food; apples are fruit like grapes. Vineyards and orchards can be on rolling hills or flat land. There are different “predators” for each. So why a vineyard? Just because?

      1. Maybe just because it was a common Middle Eastern crop?  Jesus so often spoke of the familiar.  There’s probably more though.  Remember the water to wine lesson?  So much about the wine of the spirit and the wine of His blood.  

        1. I think you’re right Wanda, a common crop for those days; that makes sense to me. Doesn’t wine have tannins in it that are good for you? I read a brief study on how it helps as an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-carcinogenic in rats, specifically in the cells of the colon. So, extrapolating here…..vine/grapes/wine = Jesus is good for you! Of course. And we can be good for others too, as “little” grapes in the vineyard! 

  7. 2. Read John 15:1-5
    A. Who is the true vine Jesus  and who is the vinedresser? the Father
    B. If there is no fruit, what does the vinedresser do, cuts off the branch or takes it away and if there is some fruit, what does the vinedresser do?  prunes it
    I’m not so sure I understand the first part (cutting off), even after reading a few versions.  From Spurgeon

    In some sense, men and women may be in Christ by a mete outward profession; but if they have no evidence of a real union to Christ, if they produce no fruit, they will be taken away, some by death, and others by apostasy; but they will be taken away.
     
    It is a necessary part of vine-dressing to remove the superfluous shoots. Too much wood-making, which does not lead to fruit-bearing, is but a waste of strength. And so in the Church there are those that bear no fruit, and for a while they appear to be fresh and green, and they who are the under-vine-dressers dare not take them away. But the Father does it —sometimes by removing them by death; at other times by permitting them openly to expose their own character, until they are then amenable to the discipline of the Church, and are removed.

    I understand that an outward profession alone is not the same as being in Christ.  Is the meaning of this verse “Every branch that is in Christ — or from outward appearances looks like it is in Him– but does not bear fruit…?”  or “True believers who do not bear fruit will die young or be allowed to stray to the point their ‘true colors’ show (i.e., apostasy)”    ???    I don’t imagine that Spurgeon is referring to losing one’s salvation.  (I see that later that Spurgeon refers to those in the church who don’t truly belong to Christ).

    The part about pruning is encouraging  — Also from Spurgeon:

    What of that? “He purgeth it (pruneth it) that it may bring forth more fruit.” “I cannot understand,” said one to me the other day, “why I am so very sorely afflicted. I have been searching myself to discover what sin can have been the cause of it.” Now, beloved, if that be your question tonight, there may be a sin to be put away, and, if so, God forbid that I should prevent your searching; but remember, on the other hand, affliction is no evidence of sin, but oftentimes of the very contrary, It is the fruit-bearing branch that gets the pruning. You are so good a branch that God would fain have you better. You have such capacities for bearing fruit, that he wants to see those capacities developed. The lapidary does not chase upon the wheel the stone that is not precious, but that which is, and so real affliction is no mark, therefore, of your want of grace, but of your having it. “Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

    1. Renee
      I just got back to reading this comment.  Skimmed earlier since I hadn’t done much study of my own yet.  I find the first Spurgeon quote perplexing too.  I was wondering the same things as I read it.  It is mysterious. I’m thinking of all the young Christians who take a very long time to bear fruit but as you pointed out, also the ones that look from the outside are bearing much fruit, but how do we (the ‘under-vine-dressers’ or just the other believers) know the difference?  Removed by death or apostasy?  Surely not all.  If I were ‘making the call’ I would say that more often I see the loss of people by death, who were in their prime of making huge differences for the kingdom and bearing much fruit.  All of this seems anecdotal to me though.  I wonder.  There must be more (or less) to the meaning.  ??
       
      I agree. The second quote is encouraging!

  8. C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? Give Scriptural support.
    -Rejoice

    Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)
    Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18 ESV)

    Recognize that suffering is part of being His child.

    The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17 ESV)

    Hopefully wait for future glory

    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:18-19 ESV)

    -Be patient in suffering, constant in prayer (the other characteristics below aren’t excluded during suffering)

    Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13 ESV)

    -Persevere, accept suffering, don’t throw away your confidence

    But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (Hebrews 10:32-36 ESV)

    -Don’t depend on our own resources, credentials, etc. — and watch out for those who do (See Phil 3); press into Him, KNOW Him, share in His sufferings. SO MUCH in this passage. Here’s a portion:
     

    But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7-14 ESV)
     

    The pattern of lamenting, crying out to Him and hoping in & praising Him, packs many of the verses above in somewhat of a step-by-step “how to.”
     
     
    Good timing of this question 🙂

    1. This is a very good outline, Renee, of how to respond to suffering…and great Scripture to back it up! I think I need to copy this down!

    2. Renee,   You really nailed this question!!    I would have little to add.    To have answered the question this thoroughly would have required that I did a few hours of research (which I don’t have right now!)    Thank you so much for this post!

      1. Thanks!  It didn’t take very long (cut and paste!!).  I just started with verses I knew (but googled because I didn’t remember references!) — and then saw other verses I knew that were cross-referenced.  Seems like the Holy Spirit kept bringing them into my mind (although I definitely could stand some refreshment with references!!).  I’m sure I would benefit if I started digging for verses I didn’t know.  I was so encouraged because this was a trip down memory lane of seeing God’s faithfulness and encouragement through His Word.

    3. What great verses, Renee. The last one particularly struck me. 
       
      “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things … that I may gain Christ”
       
      When God takes away “good” things/people, it is so that we will press into Him and see Him as better than any good things the world can offer, to focus on Him and nothing else. This is so hard at times, but the truth of it is beginning to teach me to rejoice in spite of loss of cherished things and people.

    4. I am going to copy this for reference too!  You categorized and found such good verses.  I didn’t want to read your reply before I did mine, because I wanted to make myself think it through! 

  9. What stood out to you from the above and why?

     
     

    abiding In Christ
    growing in trust and obedience
    good fruit no matter the circumstances I love the picture of the fox with the ripe grapes. When I worked at the winery the vineyards in September smelled fabulous, on a warm evening the scent would make my mouth water as I drove through the fields of ripe grapes. It is a lovely time of year. I want abide and grow into an abundant heart that speaks life to people, to have a fruitfulness that draws others to the Light, I want to be a good reflector of Gods glory.

    1. Chris, you are becoming more and more beautiful and you so reflect his Glory.

  10. D. Pruning can also come through the Word. What does Jesus say in John 15:3? “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” Interesting that this is past tense. This shows me God’s grace in cleansing, pruning. I can’t prune myself! The verse also speaks to the importance of having God’s word in me.

  11. Hey Dee, Something else that stands out:  I’m (patiently?? 😉 ) waiting for your SoS book to come out!

  12. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
    It was “What are the foxes that spoil are fruit?”  I think my answer at the end of this week may be different than the beginning of the week.  I do want to know about the foxes, how many, where they are lurking.  Interestingly, when I copied the study into word, when it was pasting it seemed there was fox after fox.  They were everywhere, however when the dust settled on the paste, there were not as many of those little foxes as it appeared. It got me wondering that sometimes we don’t see the fox and they do damage, however can we see a fox where there really is not one and react in a way we should not and then still cause damage?  

    1. Mary-Canada, Good question!: “It got me wondering that sometimes we don’t see the fox and they do damage, however can we see a fox where there really is not one and react in a way we should not and then still cause damage?”  

    2. can we see a fox where there really is not one and react in a way we should not and then still cause damage?  

      That’s a very thought provoking question, Mary C.  I think the answer is yes, and I have a vague idea of why floating in my mind.  I’ll save it for another time, but you have really made me think and I hope to understand this better by the end of the week too.

      1. I think the answer is also yes.  My short “why” is that whether if I am reacting to a fox or reacting to what I think is a fox, my thoughts are still about the fox and not necessarily of the one who protects me from the fox.

        1. Mary-C:   I had to read this a couple times, but it makes sense!   I had been thinking of  someone I know who used to be so quick to ‘blame’ Satan for everything that ‘went wrong’ (her perception of what went wrong) in her life.  For example, if she missed a call from her brother, her response was,  ‘Satan must be trying to keep me from talking to him’.  etc.  I finally told her one day, that I think she is  ‘giving Satan too much credit’, meaning that really, we do live in a fallen world where not everything goes ‘right’ but we do need to see that even when things aren’t as planned or desired, God never fails us, so let’s not let Satan win so much.  We should be seeing God’s hand regardless of circumstances.  So, reading what you said makes me see that yes, the fox probably wasn’t there, but she was seeing it and yes, it really was keeping her eyes away from God.   I hope you can follow this.  I haven’t edited or thought it through completely; words are just coming out as I type.

        2. Wanda, I was trying to keep it short,  sorry you had to read it a few times.  I chuckled about your friend.  I agree with you, it sounds like she was giving Satan too much credit.  But yes I was able to follow you and not to worry about the editing.  What I was trying to say that if all I am thinking about or focusing on is whatever the fox is, then my eyes and thoughts are not on God.  If my eyes and thoughts are being distracted from God then I have a problem.

        3. “my thoughts are still about the fox and not necessarily of the one who protects me from the fox.”
          Mary-C, this is good…thought provoking…yes, all about where our focus is directed.

  13. 1.  What stood out from the above and why?  First, that I had never in my life given any real thought the the mention of the North and South winds in SOS!  i need to understand that better, so hopefully I will this week.  Also, there is so much I would like to communicate just by zapping my thoughts into everyone’s minds, rather than trying to articulate it (and not be wordy about it!)  I guess one of the main things would be this:  I see the south wind and smell the beautiful fragrances from the lives of EVERYONE on this blog.  I could not be doing as well as I am (Spiritually) during this time in my life, were it not for God responding to the outpouring of prayers on my behalf, and I want you to know that I KNOW THAT BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT.  You guys are far better to me than I deserve (in a million ways, you will just have to take my word on that.)  What a sweet potpourri of fragrance we, as one Body, are able to offer up when we move in concert with each other and oh how pleasing it must be to the Father’s nose. =)  What parent doesn’t want to see their children loving each other so sweetly?  I think I’ll just leave my response at this for now.

    1. oh Mary–this brought the tears “What parent doesn’t want to see their children loving each other so sweetly?” What a joy it is to both pray forand love you my sister~

    2. Mary….You so beautifully articulated this, I am glad you weren’t able to just ‘zap’ it into my mind!  I want to be able to see it in print and let your words soak in.  I love everything about this post!

    3. Mary, I love what you said, “What parent doesn’t want to see their children loving each other so sweetly?” Thinking about that very thing has helped me at times when I sense the wrong attitude in myself toward another believer. I remind myself that he or she is a loved son or daughter of God, that we are in the same family, and how would He want us to love one another. In my own family, my two sons, who often didn’t get along growing up, with the older many times cruelly picking-on the younger brother; now they are best friends who like to do things together and nothing makes me happier than seeing that.

    4. Your posting also touches me deeply, Mary. Imagining the sweet aroma of the prayers…Thank you for sharing your walk with each of us.
      I, too, had never thought much of the North wind and the South wind. We do experience the effect of these.

    5. Mary E.  I too enjoyed your words.  I have been thinking about the wind for the last couple days, where we have had cold northerly winds.  Where I live, even the cold winds are beneficial.  I was thinking about the wind this morning while I was freezing at the bus stop.  If the weather is below zero for an extended period then that cold wind prevents certain bugs from moving into the area and causing damage in the summer, when the warm winds blow.  So even though there is a cold wind, there is a long term benefit that cannot be immediately felt.  Just my thoughts on the wind. 
      Also loved your reference to the potpourri, just wanted to say that you are part of that fragrance and I am richer for your presence here.

      1. “loved your reference to the potpourri, just wanted to say that you are part of that fragrance and I am richer for your presence here.”
        Agreed…I am truly blessed by ALL of my bible study sisters’ presence…what a lovely “potpourri”…:)

  14. I am away visiting a friend part of this week but hope to follow along. This week looks so good with the connection between John and the vine with Song of Songs. I have missed you all last week but have been having a sweet time of fellowship with my friend.

    1. Diane, I don’t tell you enough how much I love seeing you here and reading your deep insights into God’s word and His ways. I hope you continue to enjoy your visit with your friend. 

    2. I agree with Mary, Diane.  I always gain so much from your insights.  You were missed last week, but I was so glad to hear that you were having a refreshing visit.  You have needed that!  

    3. Thanks for the gracious welcome back, Mary and Wanda. You all on this blog are precious to me though we have never met. My week with my friend has been a sweet spring fragrance, a south wind to my spirit. The March winds are still blowing on the outside physically, but God sends precious times of refreshment through his Holy Spirit. How sweet He is!

  15. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
     
    “Others are in three Bible studies a week, but have no time to be in the world with the lost, the lonely, the poor, the prisoner, or the least of these.
    Their grapes are not sweet, but sour! If this describes us, and if we are honest,it describes us all in part, let us discover the secrets of fruit-bearing in the vineyard.”
     
    Zing,   that got me!    I’m one who has three Bible studies.    This blog is the most demanding of the studies, thankfully.   I am grateful for what each one offers me, but sometimes I meet myself coming and going, and feel like I am not doing things as thoroughly in any of them as I should.    However, what impacted me most in this week’s post was the part about not having time to be in the world with the lost, lonely, poor, prisoner, and the least of these.   It is selfish to keep building oneself up with more and more Bible study, while not getting the serving done as well!!  There are times when I am convicted on these grounds.   I feel the message this week is very relevant for me!   
     

    1. Deanna,    those sentences got me too!  I only have this Bible study, but also have a Christian book reading/discussing time with a friend routinely and spend a lot of time reading in general. Oh and a less formal fellowship group at church.   When I read Dee’s words, I also felt convicted and purposed that today would be the day I would walk over to my neighbor’s home again and see how she’s doing.  I need those prompts as I still try to figure out what I should be ‘doing’ on a regular basis.  

    2. Deanna, I believe that “zing” has been felt by many, myself included!

  16. 1.     What stood out to you from the above and why?
    Like M.C., Song of Songs have been explained to me from a sexual perspective. I never questioned this and also have stayed away from delving into it deeply since I often have felt sex is such a sensitive and private topic. So hearing and learning of it in this blog and that Dee is writing a book about it have made me realized Song of Songs is meant to be an analogy of an intimate relationship with my husband, kinsman-redeemer and lover of my soul-Jesus. I am excited to learn and study SoS as well as its parallel in John 15.
     
    I so love the interpretation of the north and south wind-a confirmation in my heart of how the Lord uses seemingly mundane realities like the wind to express to us His control over forces of nature while enhancing our appreciation of who He is through metaphors/analogy.
     
    I would welcome a south wind many times than I would the north wind. But sooo would like to be a sweet aroma spreading abroad so others may likewise experience the same as they trust in Christ. So I need to abide and be yielded to Christ so I can be fruit-bearing and spread the sweetness of Christ to others.
     
    And speaking of the wind and it being March (springtime and blowy), I saw this quote in our church’s monthly newsletter. Made me appreciate March and the wind especially the north one as it applies to my life: “Botanists say that trees need the powerful March winds to flex their trunks and main branches, so that the sap is drawn up to nourish the budding leaves. Perhaps we need the gales of life (north wind, trials) in the same way, though we dislike enduring them. A blustery period in our fortunes is often a prelude to a new spring of life and health…when we keep steadfast in faith and look to the good in spite of appearances.”

    1. Bing, Love that quote about the trees!

    2. Bing, great quote. Just as the winter is the time for roots of trees to grow down deep, blustery March winds serve a purpose too. Ah how gracious God is to use each trial in our lives for a greater purpose than we can know. Thanks so much for reminding us of this.

    3. Love this quote.  Helps us understand that there are reasons for each season and we need to appreciate the seasons not dred them.

    4. Yes, Bing.  That is a great analogy and nature lesson about the March winds.  And we have really been feeling a shift to the cold and strong winds here today after unseasonably warm March temps over the past week.  All of these good reminders help the lessons to sink in a little deeper!

  17. What are the foxes that spoil our fruit?
    For me right now, it is busyness. That is the tip of the iceberg. Deep down, it is the idol of man’s approval and a religion oriented perspective (I need to be and do good because I must) rather than gospel transformation (I am loved unconditionally by God therefore I obey). Lord, have mercy. Let me dwell in your love and to quit performing for others. Let me BE who I am in you-loved, forgiven, transformed and free.

    1. Yes, Bing, I relate to your answer of the foxes of busyness and the underlying idol of man’s approval and religion’s emphasis on acts vs. the gospel’s transformation.
      Abiding in the vine and and  letting the nourishment of his love produce sweet grapes instead of those sour ones is a beautiful picture.

  18. 2. Read John 15:1-5
    A. Who is the true vine and who is the vinedresser?
     
    Jesus is the vine and the Father is the vinedresser. 
     
    B. If there is no fruit, what does the vinedresser do, and if there is some fruit, what does the vinedresser do?
     
    If there is no fruit He takes it away. If there is fruit He prunes it so it will bear more fruit.
     

  19. 2. Read John 15:1-5
    B. If there is no fruit, what does the vinedresser do, and if there is some fruit, what does the vinedresser do?
    I love this text, yet it makes me shudder too.
    Verse 2 in the Amplified Bible “2 Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.” I have had some hard pruning. If I am honest I have to admit I would dodge the pruning shears if I could. Repeatedly prunes… 🙁
     
    My mind keeps going back to Proverbs 9:10 KJV “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding”
     
     
    I know that my concern to be a believer who bears good fruit should be motivated by love for, devotion to and a desire to see our beyond compare God glorified. But I confess that some of my desire to remain vitally connected to Christ is a desire to avoid the need for excessive pruning, or at least keep a soft heart, so that a little nip will provide the results rather than a hard, down to the ground sort of shearing.

    1. Hi Dee, Good to “see” you.  Praying for you!

  20. 4. What motivations might a person have other than intimacy and transformation for being in the Word that would stifle fruit-bearing?
    Ugh— personal experience here:-to be right or prove a point about something in Scripture
    -stars on a chart (actually kind of glad for this though because verses memorized as a kid sustained me when I couldn’t think/concentrate enough to read)
    -so that God wouldn’t strike me dead!  (yup, in the spirit of the moment with thousands of others, I made a vow to spend at least 5 minutes in the Word every day, after being told the seriousness of vows and that God might strike us dead if we didn’t keep them…Wanda, remember red notebooks? 🙂  )   SO thankful for Grace — have broken that vow.
    -related to the last one:  fear and misconstruing of the Gospel
    -going to church, hearing the Word to participate in a social club (or get votes — have seen this in large churches)
    maybe purely academic reasons?

    Also thinking there may be some additional reasons for spending time in the Word that do not stifle fruit bearing:   desperation, survival, direction NOW       Sometimes my goal or purpose for going to the Word is much more short-sighted than intimacy or transformation:  I don’t know where else to go or what else to do — and feel as if I will crack up if not immersed in the Word.  I NEED Him so badly, and though I may be seeking intimacy, I wouldn’t even label it that much (most?) of the time.

     I’m sure there are a ton of reasons to be in the Word that could stifle fruit-bearing.  On the other hand, the Word of God is powerful enough to transcend wrong reasons — and I am thankful for the Word in my life during times of wrong reasons.  Yup — much better to have God honoring reasons; but I also wouldn’t want to put conditions (right reasons) for being in the Word because God has used even those wrong reasons to plant His word in my heart, and eventually they have led or will lead to sustenance and transformation.Although it is miserable to be on the receiving end of the sledge hammer approach to Scripture, those times have forced me to dig in to see what Scripture does say.

    Head spinning, thinking in circles now 🙂
     

    1. Oh the red notebooks!  (I’m glad I came scrolling through here and found your comment!)  Yes, I remember them.  We had two of them in our household (both K and I) and it wasn’t tooo many years ago, that I so happily trashed the last of that material.    I don’t remember the vow of 5 minutes a day or especially not the possibility of being struck dead….(maybe I was out on a bathroom break? 😉 )  YES….so thankful for GRACE and for a deeper understanding along the way.  Most of what we were taught in those years, I still really appreciate, (at least the stuff in the classroom) but the red notebook guy.  He was out there!    You came up with so many good thoughts about how the word is used in non productive and/or counter-productive ways. I don’t think I would have thought of half of these, but they are all true!  

      1. Renee, Love your long answer about reasons for Bible study!!!’Long and short- many motivations, but God is at work in our hearts in spite of ourselves, isn’t he?
        I do kind of like the stars for memorizing though! My curiosity about the red notebooks, and wondering if I had one too…

        1. I like the stars for memorizing too!  Almost every verse I remember now is because I learned it as a child.  It’s so true that we retain what we learn young!  

        2. Shirley, Red notebooks were from Bill Gothard’s “Basic Youth Conflicts;”  more recently, the conferences had a different name.  Some good stuff, and some… well, I might not recommend the total approach

      2. Tossed mine within the past couple years, too.  Mine was at mom’s house. 
        Maybe you were smart enough not to take the vow.  Anyhow, I had a knack for absorbing guilt; I didn’t think I was growing spiritually unless I was MISERABLE (also known as “convicted”)

        1. Or maybe I took the vow and wasn’t very sincere and forgot! Well, I do remember taking on enough guilt to think of a reason to write to my 3rd grade teacher and ask forgiveness for something.  I have mixed feelings about that now too!  The way you worded this; ‘a knack for absorbing guilt…feeling miserable or convicted or not growing.    I don’t mean to be insensitive, but that kinda makes me giggle.   That IS sorta the culture we grew up in.  But GRACE.  Amazing Grace has found us!

  21. 5. What startling comments does Jesus make in John 15:4-5?
    “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
    As I think about the dead branches — apart from trees — in my yard following winter wind or ice storms, I would be MORE startled if those branches started bearing leaves and fruit 🙂 But yuck, for this person who is “not quite Reformed,” the vine and branches analogy is sorta confusing. These huge dead branches in my yard were alive at one time because being alive is how they became branches. Oh well, not my issue now!

    Just thinking about grapevines and grapes — and how the timing of pruning is crucial. A few grape vines came with the place. I don’t often see grapes, partly because of birds but also because I usually whack off the vines so they don’t take over the place at the wrong time. God’s timing for pruning us is at the right time/stage of growth to produce fruit.

  22. 6. How would you have answered the above question from the woman in Omaha?
    told her to read Idol Lies ?  😉

  23. 2. Read John 15:1-5
    A. Who is the true vine and who is the vinedresser?

     
    Jesus is saying that He is the vine, and we are the branches.  God is the vine dresser.  

    B. If there is no fruit, what does the vinedresser do, and if there is some fruit, what does the vinedresser do?

     
    The vinedresser (God) prunes the branches, first through the Word and then additionally through the experiences He places in our lives — which very well may include suffering.  
     
    C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? Give Scriptural support.
     
    As I said above,  Renee, did such an excellent job of answering this question.   The only thing I might have to add would come from the Sermon on the Mount (which I am memorizing for Lent). 
     
    Matthew 5:4 – “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.”  
    Matthew 5: 10 & 11  – Happy are people whose lives are  harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.   Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me.   Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven.   In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.”  (CEB)
     
    D. Pruning can also come through the Word. What does Jesus say in John 15:3?
     
    We are already “trimmed” by the Word.   I think of the pruning I do of my shrubs.  Some of it could be termed “shaping.”     The word can certainly trim me — particularly when it is telling me to not do something I have a tendency to do.   
     

  24. Wow! My favorite set of verses.  Removes branches in me that bear no fruit:  To me, this is where Christians need to self-assess their walk.  Am I living for His glory?  Am I doing His will?  Am I joyful, helpful, kind, generous, etc.  There are two types of fruit that could be addressed here – fruit of the Spirit (character qualities that should be emerging as we relate to others) and being a spokesperson for the Gospel.  Are others coming to Christ or growing in Christ because of my walk in Christ?  
    I have a crepe myrtle tree that is quite tall, however, it frequently grows extra branches low on the trunk.  (I sometimes think it is trying to be a bush instead of a tree.)  My husband or I have to cut the (suckers) low, extra branches off, or they will suck the life out of the tree.  The nutrients will not get to the branches where the foliage and buds and flowers are located.  It will, over time, stunt the tree.  Believers who whine about God’s pruning are actually circumventing their own growth.  Painful though it sometimes is, we Christians need to wake up to the need to be pruned.  If we determine we are too good to be pruned, then we have slipped over to the type of branch that needs to be thrown away.

    1. Shirley, that’s such a clear explanation of how not accepting the pruners shears (whining) stunts a Christian’s growth.  I love the visual of your myrtle tree.  Isn’t it amazing all the ways God gave us natural visual aids?  Analogies like this make it so much easier to sink in and remember!  

      1. Oops!  So sorry.  I meant to say ‘Sherryl’.  ( I got some of the letters right!)

  25. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why? All the different ways that Dee explained that grapes from the vineyard can be. It is such a balance that does not rely on what we put in the two sides of the scale but in reality what is the central point that makes it balance beautifully.  If I focus on Him and follow Him and let his winds (north or south) blow me then I will be sweet fruit. But if I focus on one side or another of the scale trying to make it right, then the focus has become me and no matter how I try it will tip unfruitfuly to one side or another. Yes, I do see myself described somewhat in those grapes, but I also see His fruit, nothing of me, but Him through me, and that is a Kiss from Him that He walks with me and is in my life, for which I am grateful for and encouraged by.

  26. 2. Read John 15:1-5
    C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? Give Scriptural support.
    –We should rejoice. Romans 5:3-5 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
    –We should rejoice, not be anxious, and make our requests be made known to God with thanksgiving. Philippians 4:4-6 “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
    –We should rejoice, pray, give thanks, and accept God’s will. Even Jesus made His request to avoid suffering, but ultimately accepted God’s will. 1 Thess 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
    –We should not be surprised…and rejoice. 1 Peter 4:12-13 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
    –We should weigh these afflictions against the ultimate weight of glory. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
     
    D. Pruning can also come through the Word. What does Jesus say in John 15:3? The Word He spoke has cleansed us.

  27. C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? Give Scriptural support.      I think we could all write pages on this question…so many here have personal experiences to share.   I’m still going through Keller’s book on Suffering and these thoughts are prompted by the chapter I am now reading.   What is striking to me is how suffering and glorifying God go hand in hand.  Several verses link suffering and glory.    Romans 8:17   Now if we are children, then we are heirs; heirs of Gd and co-heirs with Christ if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  And 1 Peter 4:13 tells us to rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  I have shared  before how I was stopped in my tracks when I was in my early 20’s and in a Bible Study group with people of all ages, when a much older man, shared his thoughts on this truth.  Gordon, (Dr. E),  a University professor, walked painstakingly, with metal braces; the result of having had polio as a child. To me, it looked like everything he did was painful. It seemed that he often had to draw in deep breaths to speak and he had to manipulate his legs with his arms to position them to be seated.  But I don’t know if Gordon ever complained.  What gave me pause, as a young person, was that he said very genuinely, that he thanked God that he had had polio because it allowed him to share in Christ’s suffering.  Though I didn’t understand it then (and don’t totally now), I never forgot those words.  Keller has helped me to see that because of our suffering God ALL of our earthly suffering will be reversed. Because our God took on human suffering, our suffering is in this life only.  So we need to respond to suffering, with the gracious acceptance that Gordon spoke of KNOWING that our suffering is not wasted, has purpose and is temporary.  Certainly not an easy truth to apply, when an illness you suffered as a child leaves you in debilitating circumstances the rest of your life.  Looking at a couple more references of suffering and glory, II Corinthians 4:17 helps clarify:   For our light and momentary trials (though they sure don’t SEEM light or momentary so often) are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  SO WE FIX OUR EYES NOT ON WHAT IS SEEN, BUT ON WHAT IS UNSEEN.  For what is seen is temporal but what is unseen is eternal.  And also, I Peter 1: 6&7 say that…..these (suffering, grief and all kinds of trials) have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.   I think so often of those who suffer graciously in the name of Jesus and for His glory.  Those sufferings surely prove the genuine quality of their faith. And so often, they are the standard bearers that show us the way to Jesus.

    1. Wanda,  Good answer — was sometime in the past year or two that I was thinking about him and googled his obit.  Very humble.  He was the faculty advisor for IVCF… met him when I was a freshman.   If I remember right, he was farming — and polio is what sent him to college/ grad school.  I think of the number of students he reached — I suspect that everyone who was in IVCF during a particular era remembers him. 

      Polio turned out to be incredibly painful years later during mid- to late-adulthood.  Although I knew people who had polio, I was very unaware until I read about post-polio syndrome years later (after I was here and using the info for class).  Polio is such a good example of suffering — and of the fear of suffering.  It hit Minnesota in the early 1950s (I think? or late 1940s).  Several years ago, we met a family who quit going to the lake in Ottertail Co. then because they heard that someone in the area had polio.  The reason I remember it is because that “someone” was my cousin.

      Anyhow, polio (and visualizing the limp) is something that reminds me of Jacob wrestling with God — and I’m not so sure telling God I wouldn’t let go until he gave me a blessing.

      1. Thanks for that extra information and these thoughts, Renee. Yes! The number of students and people in general that he touched!  I will google his obit too.  Thinking about Gordon brings tears.  To think of him having a whole and perfect body in heaven.  And his smile….oh.  

  28. 3. One of the little foxes that we must be alert to can be discovered through Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:24-27. Here are two groups of people. Both hear the Word. But how are they different?
     
    Both hear the Word, but while some put the Word into practice, the others do not.   Those who put the Word into practice are like the wise who build their house on the solid rock.  However, those who do not put it into practice are like people who build on sand.     Basically Jesus is saying,  “if you are wise, you will listen to my Word and put it into practice in your life.”    
     
    4. What motivations might a person have other than intimacy and transformation for being in the Word that would stifle fruit-bearing?
     
    I’m thinking a person could just study the Word because it is an assignment by a teacher or preacher,  or another motivation might be for the purpose of preparation for debating with other people and sounding “smart.”   
     
    5. What startling comments does Jesus make in John 15:4-5?
     
    We can’t do anything worthwhile apart from Jesus.   Our ability to produce fruit depends upon our abiding in Him, in conversation with Him, in relationship with Him.    

  29. 7. Another fox I must beware of is reading my Bible to “feel good about myself as a Christian,” instead of connecting with the Lord. I’ve been struck lately with Jacob’s words to God, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” I think if I could get my heart in that attitude each time I meet with Him, that I would have more consistent good fruit. Thoughts?Well… I probably haven’t read the Bible very much to feel good about myself as a Christian.  I was more likely to impose a guilt trip on myself from what I read.  But similarly to feeling good about myself as a Christian, I maybe read it to not feel so bad about myself as a Christian.  I would imagine that for awhile it was just one more thing I did to try to feel “good enough.”
    Two thoughts on what Jacob said:  1) reminds me of George Mueller getting his soul happy in the Lord;   2) Opposite of my thought about George Mueller:  I just reread Genesis 32 to refresh myself of the order of events.  Jacob had his hip messed up before he said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”  If getting one’s hip messed up and making that statement are connected, I’m not so sure I’d recommend it; it sounds like asking for trouble.  But if they aren’t connected, it seems like a good idea to be blessed by God. 
     
    🙁    As I am pondering this and answering the question as slowly as I often do, it’s probably a good idea to EXPECT some pain with the blessing.  A.W. Tozer wrote,

    “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”

    And suffering is purifying…   I DON’T KNOW what my thoughts are!

    1. Love the Tozer quote!  My take on this has to do with the attitude of the one being blessed.  If you do not hurt deeply enough you may not recognize the blessing of God.  It is through the hurt that we give up trying to solve the problem ourself and hand it over to God.  Only when that is accomplished can you see the blessing is from God.

      1. Sherryl, Good point about being hurt deeply enough to recognize God’s blessing.  Reminds me of a quote I heard a LONG time ago (and don’t remember exactly) that the amount of joy we are able to experience is related to the depth of pain we have experienced.

  30. Wow.  Just finished Keller’s chapter on ‘The Reasons for Suffering’ in his book, ‘Walking with God through Pain and Suffering’ and I wanted to add these thoughts.  When Saul of Tarsus was blinded by the Light and Jesus asked him, ‘Why do you persecute me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads?” (Acts 2:16),  many think that one of the ‘goads’ that he was resisting was the fact the he had witnessed how Stephen faced his suffering and death not fearful, but radiant…..’with a face like an angel’.  Saul, who was killing Christians at the time, witnessed that incredible display of God’s glory through Stephen’s acceptance of his own suffering and death and the peace with which he died because of knowing the living God.  What a chain reaction was set in place when Stephen submitted to suffering.  When Saul’s life was transformed…..well, the rest is history.    But then, as Keller goes on, he recounts how when Joni Eareckson (Tada) was in rehab with several other young women; all in varying stages of paralysis and suffering, one young Christian girl, had a rare and rapidly progressing form of MS which left her paralyzed and blind.  Though she and her Christian mother prayed together every day and read God’s word, Joni struggled with the fact that she died a quiet death with no acclaim.  ‘Who was seeing her faith?”  “How was God glorified?”, she thought.  But a friend of Joni’s pointed her to Luke 15:10 and Ephesians 3:10 which tell of the spiritual world; the angels and the spiritual beings see what happens in the lives of believers as it is made manifest to them.  Keller adds that in Job, we see the same.  So, Joni concluded that her friend did not die alone and for no good reason and with no one to see her heart.  Her life  and suffering and death really did bring glory to God in untold ways.  Deep sigh.  My heart is overwhelmed with all of this. There is much more to this chapter, but I can’t keep writing.  The Lord is really speaking to my heart at this moment.   

  31. 8. How can we guard our hearts on this blog study from the little fox of the idol of approval?I could pray about it before getting on the blog — and pray that my focus would be on seeking the Lord’s approval.

    A couple other ways which have decreased the power of the idol of approval may not technically be “guarding my heart.”  One is that sometimes when quickly scrolling through posts, I catch a glimpse of something I wrote and am a combination of horrified/amused/ embarrassed that I made no sense whatsoever.  Ain’t gonna be no approval there.  Not sure that I really expect approval very often, though I am happy when I don’t get disapproval.  Sometimes I’m not even comfortable in groups where there is too much approval because it feels either fake or like a “mutual admiration society.”  It’s possible that  being regularly evaluated by people who don’t have the background to know whether I’m competent or not has led me to sometimes be cynical about approval.  Cynicism may not be the best way to guard my heart!

    When my schedule is crazier, I’m also not as tempted by the idol of approval.  I’m here to do the study, post the answers I want to post, and read the comments/responses I happen to see.  If there are a zillion posts, I know I won’t read all of them — which also has helped.  I think that when I am less legalistic about posting and responding to people and am here completely because I want to be here (versus obligated to be in a Bible Study), a side effect is that I’m not as likely to be seeking approval.   I certainly struggle with an approval idol, especially when I get disapproval. 

    For me, I suspect that often even what looks like an approval idol is a control idol: i.e., when someone disapproves, I am losing control over my image or the desire to be right.  Another possibility is that my approval idol is SO HUGE that I am afraid to acknowledge it and completely numb myself.  I see now that I don’t have to be afraid; I can go right back to SoS and know He loves me and know who I am in Christ.  God is so good and so patient with me and shows me my idols in timing and ways that don’t destroy me. And that’s my final answer!

  32. C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? Give Scriptural support.
     
    Well, pruning takes away all the “bad stuff” to give the “good stuff” ample room to grow and for the plant to concentrate on growing and putting it’s efforts into the healthy bits, not wasting energy trying to get the unhealthy parts to grow. This means we too, need the bad parts pruned to focus on the good. 
     
    “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (‭Romans‬ ‭5‬:‭3-5‬ ESV)
     
    “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭2-4‬ NIV)
     
    We we gain these qualities when put to the test. We come out whole in the end. I won’t say it’s easy though…..I am in a situation this past week where the trial is tough enough that it makes me want to give up. I am clinging (barely) to the vine.
     
    D. Pruning can also come through the Word. What does Jesus say in John 15:3?
     
    He says we are clean because of His spoken Word.

  33. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
     
    In Isaiah 5, God says that despite His love and care, His vineyard yields bad grapes. This really struck me, as it doesn’t seem to “add up”. But, then I see myself in some of the portrayals above of those “sour grapes”. I can be in two Bible studies, as I am now, and still be complaining, grumpy, and difficult. And I would add fearful, sad, joy-less, even depressed. Do you know that recently, my daughter said to me, “Mom, you look so sour!” Ugh. I even looked like a “sour grape”. Despite His love and care…and this reminded me of last week’s Keller sermon where he said,
     
    Some of you are sad, full of self-pity, depressed, because you have not, through act of the will, been continually saying to Jesus, “I owe You everything”. Spiritual betrayal is basically ingratitude. If you don’t, every day, by an act of the will, remind yourself of what He’s done for you and what you owe Him, you’re going to have depression, anger, and self-pity. Why are you dying on the vine?
     
    There it is, “dying on the vine”, despite His love and care. And I am seeing that ingratitude plays a huge part in this. In contrast, But this bride is open to either (the north wind or the south wind) and will give thanks for both, trusting that God is in control. With this attitude, the fragrance of her Lord, with whom she is One, with whom she abides, will spread everywhere! And He will be so pleased with this garden, in sharp contrast to the disappointment He felt with His garden in Isaiah 5.
     
     

  34. 3. Matthew 7:24-27… Here are two groups of people. Both hear the Word. But how are they different? One “hears these words of mine and does them” and therefore has a strong foundation for the inevitable storm. One “hears these words of mine but does not do them” has a weak foundation and their house falls “greatly” in the inevitable storm. So often I can just “hunker down’ in a storm and hope for it to pass without getting too wet. But here is a man who is DOING. Both hear and both build, but the wise man builds through obedience and trust (doing the words Jesus spoke) and the other hears and builds without trust, doing it his own way? Or good enough? Are these the Fair Weather Christians? The storm WILL come – neither man escapes it – but I must have listened and obeyed (and I do think there is a huge element of trust in that) before the storm, through? the storm, in order to be firm on that Rock of Jesus.
     
    4. What motivations might a person have other than intimacy and transformation for being in the Word that would stifle fruit-bearing? The biggest one I can think of is religion. “See?! Look, God! I’m doing it right! And now you owe me.” This was, subconsciously, my approach during my younger years (with the exception of a few windows when the Word was exciting and was opened to me by the Holy Spirit). In which case the Word becomes a means for attempted manipulation. (ugly) Before Song of Songs I can’t really remember a time when I would joyfully get out of bed to commune with the Lord in His Word, but during Song of Songs He started a mighty work in me and I can relate to Elizabeth in that I, too, have an increasing love for it – the more I read the more I want to read.

  35. 2. Read John 15:1-5 
    A. Who is the true vine and who is the vinedresser? 
    Jesus is the true vine and God is the vinedresser.
    B. If there is no fruit, what does the vinedresser do, and if there is some fruit, what does the vinedresser do? 
    If there is no fruit he takes the branch away from the vine and if there is some fruit he prunes it. 
    C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? Give Scriptural support. 
    The life of David came to mind. He gives great examples of how to respond to suffering if it is from sin in our life or if it is something we didn’t cause-the sin of another, or just living in a fallen world. David responded by pressing into God with lament, crying out to Him, remembering Him-who He is and how much He loves him. Psalm 69 is a beautiful example of pressing into God when he was being unjustly sought by his enemies and then Psalm 51 is an example of pressing into God in repentance after his eyes were opened to his sin.
    D. Pruning can also come through the Word. What does Jesus say in John 15:3? 
    That we are already clean because of the Word He has spoken to us. His Word pierces the heart..Hebrews 4:!2: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
    When I get into the word He convicts me while bathing me in His Grace at the same time. It is hard to explain but even though He convicts me about attitudes and motives he brings to the surface, while in the Word my heart leaps because He is the Word-my Bible is Him breathing into my soul every time..even if I don’t come away smiling but troubled because He has just corrected me..I am thrilled because He loves me and I am grateful for His grace. I am troubled because sometimes my sin nature doesn’t want to let go and I hate that yet want to hold onto it at the same time. yuk..His Grace and faithful love for me helps me turn to Him and let Him prune. This is ALWAYS so hard for me to put into words because it is all Him doing the work and I can’t describe how beautiful and mysterious that process is with the Holy Spirit. So I am just grateful and humbled.

     

    1. D.-Do over-tried to edit but messed it up…In a nutshell..when I am in His word and He quickens me…it is Him-I am in HIs presence and those times with Him thrill me. It is because of Him dying for me-raising from the dead and putting HIs Holy Spirit in me that I can even experience His presence in His Word-that I get that thrill inside. So His Word is Him pursuing me daily-holding me in his arms.

  36. C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? With the understanding that God is sovereign and then with honesty about our emotions.
    Job, and David,  were both raw and honest about the pain and confusion they felt, they felt as if God had abandoned them and they cried out to him, Christ truly was abandoned for our sakes and cried out. It isn’t wrong to talk to God about how awful we feel. How much we want things that are beyond our comprehension to make sense to us.
    Sin has brought death and decay and every bitter thing into our world.  God knows and feels this much more keenly than we do, we have a high priest who emphasizes with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15)
    If we keep turning out mind and heart towards God instead of inward or away from him, he really does, after a time, provide the hope that allows us to see past the now, the trial will show the false things we put our hope in for what they really are.
    Give Scriptural support.
    I could go on and on here. There is too much in Job to list but chapter 23 especially.

     Psalm 6:2-3  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; but You, O Lord–how long?
     
    Psalm 40
    “11 & 12 Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; 
    may your love and your truth always protect me. 
    For troubles without number surround me; 
    my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. 
    They are more than the hairs of my head, 
    and my heart fails within me.”
     
    Psalm 69
    “1Save me, O God, 
    for the waters have come up to my neck. 
    2I sink in the miry depths, 
    where there is no foothold. 
    I have come into the deep waters; 
    the floods engulf me. 
    3I am worn out calling for help; 
    my throat is parched. 
    My eyes fail, 
    looking for my God. 

    All of Psalm 88

    Psalm 77:7-9  Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?

    Psalm 83:1  O God, do not remain quiet; do not be silent and, O God, do not be still.

    Psalm 22 1″My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.” 
     
     Matthew 27 46″About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’”.
     
    Matthew 7 ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened
     
    Daniel 10
    12 Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.
     
    Isaiah 30  
    18Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
        therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
    For the Lord is a God of justice.
        Blessed are all who wait for him!
    19 People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. 20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ 22 Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, ‘Away with you!’

    1. So many good verses and thoughts here, Chris.  Daniel 10:12  really grabbed my attention and I went back to read that chapter.  So amazing is the Lord’s presence and that he told Daniel that he came in response to his prayers.  So encouraging.

  37. 6. How would you have answered the above question from the woman in Omaha?
     
    I would have told her that, if she felt that way enough to ask the question, there is a good probability that she had located her problem (little foxes).    If the busyness is promoted as a way to block out the possibility of getting into the Word, or if the busyness is allowed to take over, rearranging her priorities, then that is definitely a problem — perhaps more than the tip of the iceberg!    

    7. Another fox I must beware of is reading my Bible to “feel good about myself as a Christian,” instead of connecting with the Lord. I’ve been struck lately with Jacob’s words to God, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” I think if I could get my heart in that attitude each time I meet with Him, that I would have more consistent good fruit. Thoughts?
     
    I have mixed feelings about that statement as an attitude-fixer.   “I will not let go of  you until you bless me.”    I think a purer attitude would be “I will not let go of you no matter what happens, whether it be blessing or otherwise.”    I would probably whisper on the end of that, “but please bless me, O Lord!”   
     
     
    8. A blog Bible study is a wonderful opportunity to sharpen one another, but it has dangers too. We may be writing our answers more for the approval and comments of one another than to connect with the Lord. I wanted to jump up an hug Mary-Canada the day she lost her written prayer in cyberspace and said, “I guess it went straight to the Lord.” How can we guard our hearts on this blog study from the little fox of the idol of approval?
     
    I agree that this is a genuine concern, or should be.    I know there are some days when I post that I then turn again to the Lord and say,  “I hope that met with your approval — am I saying and doing the right things in your sight?”     Sometimes the answer I feel is “yes” and sometimes the answer comes back “No.”   I think it is important that we keep asking that question.   Perhaps the question needs to be asked before we hit the submit button, however!   

  38. I am reminded of I Peter 1:13-15 when I read Matthew regarding those who hear God’s words and build a strong foundation as opposed to those who hear and reject the appropriate action:  Therefore prepare you minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus christ will bring you when he is revealed….Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct;….
    The key is hearing and choosing to act in accordance with God’s will.  Hearing without the appropriate action simply means you have rejected God, considered your own ideas or someone else’s ideas to be more significant, an idol.
    The sin beneath the busyness – I see two, and there are probably more.  One sin is using your busyness as an excuse for impeding your relationship with Christ.  The other is failing to nurture the relationship with Christ thereby stunting your own growth.  The first sin, to me, simply shows that works may be more important because you can see tangible results.  Like a checklist, I accomplished this many items for Him today.  The second requires a willingness to be confronted with your own shortcomings, a willingness to take criticism and discipline.  In both cases, growth is impeded and therefore maturity in Christ is blocked.
    Regarding Jacob’s wrestling with God:  Think how one normally relates to another individual.  The closer and more intimate the relationship, the more willing you are to be honest with each other, the more willing you are to negotiate with each other, and to wrangle with each other to be understood.  If we invested as much in our relationship with Christ as we do with our spouse or our children, we would be demonstrating in our lives the encounter Jacob had with God.  The key has to do with the attitude we bring into our the relationship with Christ.  
     

  39. C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? Give Scriptural support.
    LOVED this exercise! There are so many more, but I tried to keep it condensed! 
    Know that He will not waste our pain:
    “ Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
     
     “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5; 
     
    Remember we are partakers in His suffering:
    “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoiceinsofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Pet. 4:12-13
     
    Know that it is NOT punishment for sin:
    “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
     
    “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” psalm 103:10-2
     
    Do not fear:
    “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,  and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-2
     
    Remember He is Greater:
    “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
     
    Remember what we have ahead:
    “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”-Rev. 21:3
     
    “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”- Rom. 8:18
     
    Believe He is not absent:
    “for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”- Heb.13:5
     

    1. And I love your work here, Elizabeth!  Such good points.  The responses to suffering you presented are so well said and supported.  Everyone’s answers seem to vary somewhat but each brings out different aspects that are so helpful.  This question has produced a wealth of encouragement this week!

  40. D. Pruning can also come through the Word. What does Jesus say in John 15:3?     Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”    The meaning of this wasn’t really clicking for me until I looked at some cross references.  “Sanctify them by the truth.  Your word is truth.” John 17:17  and  Ephesians 5:25,26:  “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  cleansing her by the washing with water and through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle of any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”      I hadn’t really thought of the word as washing us, but the picture in Ephesians shows that.  We are cleansed from the penalty of sin by being washed in His blood; since Jesus’ work of redemption on the cross is our only salvation.  But we are washed daily, by becoming sanctified, purified, holy through the reading and following of His word.  I see both the written word and the Living Word; the Word that became flesh, Jesus, here.  

  41. what stood out to me the most was the comment about some people knowing the Bible really well but not living any of it out. The Bible is an instruction manual, not a text book! no one sits and reads an instruction manual and then puts it down and does nothing. I am a campus minister and many of my students love to study the Bible and show others how smart they  are and then are horrible to one another….it drives my CRAZY!!!! The Bible is not a text book, it is not for us to read simply for knowledge, its for us to read to get our marching orders.
    I also love how God loves us better then any lover ever will. The amazing passion that is expressed in SOS makes me want to “get up and open the door in the middle of the night” and not let HIM go away because im to comfortable to be bothered. 

    1. I agree.  I saw it when I was a campus minister and I still see it in churches we’ve pastored.

  42. 3. One of the little foxes that we must be alert to can be discovered through Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:24-27. Here are two groups of people. Both hear the Word. But how are they different?   
     
    hearing + not practicing = foolishness & a crumbling foundation
    hearing+ putting into practice = wisdom and a sure foundation
    Growing in our faith means that we learn by doing what the word says.   We are to practice a costly grace that requires us to take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow him.    Looking at a couple of similar passages, in Luke 11:27 a woman calls after Jesus and says ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”  and Jesus turns her praise completely upside down and says in verse 28, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”. That is a profound declaration!     James 1:22-25 also has an interesting description of this truth.  If you hear but don’t obey God’s word, you’re like someone who goes to look at themselves in the mirror but walks away, already forgetting what they just saw.  But the one who reads and obeys; looks into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting it—he will be blessed in what he does.    This gives me pause.  I so often think of God’s commands as obligatory and heavy.  James says they are perfect and bring freedom!  Why wouldn’t I want to obey them?  I guess, because like the person who sees himself in the mirror and walks away, forgetting their image, I’d often rather not face the ugliness of sin that the law has shown me.  Yet freedom and blessing await if I hear and obey.

  43. 4. What motivations might a person have other than intimacy and transformation for being in the Word that would stifle fruit-bearing?    Interesting question, because a couple years ago, one of my loved ones said he was reading the New Testament but cautioned me to ‘not get excited’ because he was only studying it so he could see how Jesus was a good organizer and social leader, meaning he wasn’t reading it for the whole of the message.  But of course, I was encouraged, because I believe so deeply that God’s Word is living and powerful.  I know it can be read without totally pure motives or to try to prove something to someone, but so many times, we hear the testimonies of well known and just ordinary Christians who set out to prove it wrong and it penetrated their very souls and they came to faith.    
     
    I also know that I shouldn’t read it just for the sake of saying I read a few chapters today or to check them off my list.  However, this is the first time ever, I’ve used a checklist (the chronological reading guide) and it is really keeping me on track to check them off every couple of days.  If this was all I was doing, it would stifle fruit bearing I suspect, but I am also engaged in this study and with other reading.  The ‘checklist style reading’ has been very helpful for me to get the big sweeping picture of scripture.  
    5. What startling comments does Jesus make in John 15:4-5?   Hmmm.  I think it is startling that Jesus says ‘Remain in me and I will remain in you”    It sounds like it is an act of our own will.  Is the converse true that if we don’t remain in Him, He will not remain in us?  This seems like a discussion about the pros and cons of the eternal security debate that I don’t necessarily want to get into, as Chris didn’t really want to debate Calvinism or free will in last week’s study!   I don’t know if this is the startling comment, the question was looking for, but it stood out to me.  

  44. 6. How would you have answered the above question from the woman in Omaha?   Ask her to think about what in her life, if taken away would leave her utterly destroyed.  From what loss could she not recover?  If whatever that is: (whether material things, career, family, relationships, talents, skills, hobbies) consistently takes her away from spending time with God, that is probably a good chunk of the iceberg underneath.  
     
     

  45. A. Who is the true vine and who is the vinedresser?
    The true vine is Jesus and the vinedresser is the Father. 
     
    B. If there is no fruit, what does the vinedresser do, and if there is some fruit, what does the vinedresser do?
    If there is no fruit then the branch is removed, if there is fruit the branch is pruned back so that it will bear more fruit.  Either way the branch is pruned, it is either pruned right back to the vine or it is partially pruned back to help it grow more.
     
    C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? Give Scriptural support.
    I think that suffering is to be expected if we are a Christian.  Jesus said we must follow in his footsteps.  He suffered and so we will suffer as well.  We may not all suffer to the same degree and he has a purpose for the suffering he does permit, although I confess I do not understand the reason for most of it.  I would most certainly prefer not to suffer, but I have come to realize through the various forms and times of suffering that I have grown in ways that I could not have foreseen.  When I ask to get closer to the Lord, I suspect it will involve some sort of suffering (in my mind).  It could be that because of my nature that I try to fix it myself that I suffer more than giving it directly to Jesus.  He sees his loving hand and although I know it is a loving hand, it sometimes feels like a whap upside the head.
     
    D. Pruning can also come through the Word. What does Jesus say in John 15:3?
     
    Already we are clean because of the word that Jesus spoke into our lives.  I was trying to figure out how this relates to pruning.  Then it occurred that the cleaning process that Jesus uses helps to prune us from the world. It can be a quick process or it can be a slow process.  In my life, it is more of a slow process as I am stubborn and slow to hear  what Jesus is trying to speak to me.

  46. I’m tempted to  wall-paper my house with the Bible verses on how to respond to suffering 🙂

  47. 5. What startling comments does Jesus make in John 15:4-5?
     
    “…for apart from me you can do nothing.” (‭John‬ ‭15‬:‭5‬ ESV)
     
    6. How would you have answered the above question from the woman in Omaha?
     
    Maybe she is avoiding something? Or, she might be feeding her approval idol by making sure she is “looking good?” 
     
    7. Another fox I must beware of is reading my Bible to “feel good about myself as a Christian,” instead of connecting with the Lord. I’ve been struck lately with Jacob’s words to God, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” I think if I could get my heart in that attitude each time I meet with Him, that I would have more consistent good fruit. Thoughts?
     
    I am also having trouble getting into reading each day. I committed to read the whole Bible this year, and I feel like I’m just rushing through to get it done. A young friend said to me yesterday sometimes it’s better just to linger on one verse for a long time then to just read for reading sake. I agree with that but I don’t want to give up my goal of reading the whole Bible either. 
     
     

  48. 5. What startling comments does Jesus make in John 15:4-5? Jesus say that if you abide in Him and He in You then you will bear fruit for apart from Him we can do nothing. Which tells me two things – when I abide in Him, it is reciprocal, even if I do not “feel” it. Two I can do nothing truly fruitful without my heart truly changed by Jesus.
     
    6. How would you have answered the above question from the woman in Omaha? I think I would have tried to ask her questions about why the quiet was too much for her. Does she feel worthless if not doing something? I see a bit of the old me in her. Always wanting to be busy so my heart and mind would be distracted from the choas in my heart, past hurts, and God’s loving voice that felt like condemnation if not processed through knowledge that He loves (and likes) me. Kind of like when you are having a bad day and are fine till someone who really does love you asks “how are you” or “who are you” and you crumble… Perhaps she is just trying to keep it together in order to not enter into something too heavy and painful to process. Does she believe that God loves her? Can she see Him wooing her at all through circumstances, both past and present? So perhaps the sin beneath the sin is comfort to not deal with God’s conviction during quiet, or have to wrestle with heart issues painful… or perhaps it is control, because to surrender all to Jesus and allow His healing work is giving up all control and that can be really scary till you learn that He loves you and is gentle… (tons of Narnia parallels going through my head right now!)  =) Perhaps she just doesn’t know who she is and still defines herself by what she does/is doing rather than allowing a painful past/present help shape her into the child God has in mind, on purpose.

  49. 3. One of the little foxes that we must be alert to can be discovered through Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:24-27. Here are two groups of people. Both hear the Word. But how are they different?
    I may be going way off base here but this passage hit me anew this time. 🙂
     
    One group hears the word and does it, the other group hears the word and doesn’t do it.
    The Group that hears the word and does it is trusting in Jesus..He is their rock. The group that hears the word and doesn’t do it are trusting in their idols. Their idols are their rocks.
     
    When the trials of life come-when the north wind blows the ones who have hid in Jesus will be strengthened and will not be destroyed or fall apart as a matter of fact they will grow closer to Him. The ones who have trusted in their idols will be as one without hope-completely shred to pieces when hard trials come.