Fruit From a Root

Spring seems far away as the days of March, well, march along with cloudy and dreary days. History and experience tell me that lush, green grass isn’t far away. I know it’s coming. Roots, deep in the ground, will provide proof-of-life as they spring forth and bear leaves, flowers, and eventually fruit over the coming weeks. That’s the goal – to bear fruit. Everything at some point will bear fruit. It may not be easily seen, but seeds will be produced in order to perpetuate the next generation.

Go with me to the Exodus story in the Old Testament. As the Israelites leave Egypt, we bear witness to their journey through nations not their own. They witnessed idols and images of other gods throughout their 40 years in the wilderness. Temptations due to lack of food and the unknown were powerful. We read about the challenges Moses faced in leading God’s people. Frustration and concern were mixed with a deep love for the Lord and desire to see God’s people fruitful and obediently prospering.

As Moses’ life nears the end, he summons Israel in Deuteronomy 29. God’s covenant promises and evidence of faithfulness are recounted as Moses pleads his case with warnings to reciprocate faithfulness to God. Moses warns Israel to keep their hearts towards the LORD their God and worship only him. And with a heart fully postured to God, Moses exclaims, “Be sure there is no root among you bearing poisonous or bitter fruit.”

Moses was aware of what may be rooted deep in the hearts of Israel, and with God’s revelation he knew what fruit would be born in future generations. Loving, worshiping, and abiding in God would bear desirable fruit. Not fruit in the sense of apples and pears, but fruit in the form of love, joy, peace, and patience. Actively removing and guarding themselves from sin, and the seeds of sin, would be necessary to living an obedient life to the Lord. It is necessary still.

Every heart is rooted with something. Whatever root has taken up residence in our heart will bear fruit. Our thoughts, actions, and reactions are evidence. Living in this world, we have all sinned (less Jesus) and passed through temptation. It’s part of being human and living post-fall from Eden. But we do have a choice in how we cultivate the deep roots in our heart. We have a choice to love the Lord and actively remove any root that grows poisonous or bitter fruit. God is love, and choosing to be rooted in Love will bear good, sweet, bountiful fruit.

Eradicating deeply-rooted things is hard work. It’s uncomfortable and messy. But it is honorable and good work. Doing this work a form of actively consecrating ourselves to the Lord. Over and over, the Lord tells us to consecrate ourselves in preparation for wonders. (ex. Joshua 3) As we do the hard work of rooting out what is not from God in our hearts, whether it be bitterness, selfishness, or unforgiveness, I truly believe that we will bless God and he will bless us. Sweet and healthy fruit will be enjoyed by all.

Would you join me in asking God to reveal any sin in our heart? Then actively seek ways and do the hard work of removing whatever might be revealed? Sin becomes a barrier in our relationship to God and others. As we actively root out the poisonous and bitter fruit in our hearts and minds, it allows space for deeper love and closer walk with the Lord and those we love. I’m so grateful for you. Let’s be brave together and do the hard work, and be expectant of good fruit to come.

With gratitude,

Amy

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Our God Who Hears

Our family has a small u-pick berry farm in Central Missouri, blueberries and blackberries. In our quest to continue learning and growing our farm in healthy ways, my husband and I recently went to Blueberry School the end of February. We hated to leave with our son not feeling well, but placed him in the capable hands of grandparents. The last night we were gone, our son’s ear drum ruptured. Don’t worry – he’s on the mend and back to baseball practices and pestering his little sister as usual. But with a ruptured ear drum comes limited hearing.

Last week on the blog we looked into Genesis 16, the story of Hagar and our God who sees. In the midst of what I would consider a bit of chaos, we discover two complimentary facets God’s character. In verse thirteen we witness God as El-roi, God who sees. And in verse eleven God is revealed as a God who not only sees us, but hears our cry to him.

God had promised Sarai and Abram children, as numerous as the stars. After ten years with no children, Sarai and Abram took matters into their own hands. According to the custom of the day, Sarai gave her slave, Hagar, to Abram in order to provide her with a child. Needless to say, once Hagar became pregnant there was a bit of tension between the women. In her heart pain, Hagar flees to the wilderness where she encounters God and his character.

I believe God was so intent on Hagar (and us) knowing that he hears us, he named the son she was carrying, Ishmael, God hears. The name Ishmael comes from the two Hebrew words, shâma and êl. Shâma being to hear intelligently[i]; and êl being our strong and powerful, Almighty God.[ii] Ishmael’s name would be a permanent reminder not only to Ishmael himself, but Sarai, Abram, Hagar, and generations to come.

Our hearing is delicate and human in every sense of the word. In sickness my son’s hearing was temporarily impaired, but God’s hearing is perfect all the time. Despite what we think or believe, God always hears us. He does not have selective hearing or limited in listening to one person at a time. Contrary to what we may think at times, he does not misunderstand when we communicate with him.

We are repeatedly told through Spirit-inspired scriptures to pray, communicate with our God who hears. We can take that as a promise from a Father who listens to his children. Psalm 66:16-20 is a beautiful example of our God who hears, but take a specific look at these specific verses.

“If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would have not listened. However, God has listened; he has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. Blessed be God! He has not turned away my prayer or turned his faithful love from me.” Psalm 66:18-20

It’s tempting to turn from God when we believe our prayers have not been answered in the way we desire or ask. But friend, our call is to not be satisfied with our own desires but to bless him and trust. We are called to pray and communicate, then to trust him. Surrendering to his timing and firmly stand on the promise that our God hears us. Trust that God does all things well and he has not turned from you.

Can I challenge you to read Psalm 66 and bless God with your prayers as you worship him this week? Trust that he hears you, loud and clear.

With Gratitude,

Amy

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[i] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 118). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

 

[ii] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

 

Who Do You See?

Do you ever want to get to the bottom of something? Knowing all the details? While studying the book of Joshua for the Bible study Courageous Faith, I wanted to get to fully explore all there was to Joshua. But as I continued through the study process there was the constant reminder I would never get to the end of God’s Word – it’s alive and active! It’s a text that contains mysteries meant to keep us coming back for more.

As Christ-followers, we are called to continually seek God in order to know Him and reflect his likeness. God’s word is an invitation to see and hear who he is, not just what he does. What he does is perfectly reflected in who he is. Much like our spouse, parents, children, friends, and even ourselves, we are always learning facets of our character. The minute we stop discovering, we put them or ourself into a false box of being fully known and discovered; we put God’s creation in a box. Neither God nor his creations belong in a box.

We are called in a relationship of constant discovery and curiosity, with ourselves, others, and our Creator. When we begin to see and understand, in part, who God is, we can begin to see and understand who we are created to be. We can then begin to walk in a deeper relationship with the Lord, and with others. As image bearers of our Creator, surrendering to God’s refining allows us to more clearly reflect God’s creation.

God reveals characteristics of himself throughout his word. We find God to be El-roi, God who sees, in Genesis 16:1-15. During Hagar’s encounter with the angel of the LORD, she proclaims she has seen the God who sees her. There in the wilderness, Hagar names the nearby well Beer-lahai-roi, which means well of the Living One who sees me. This encounter of being seen changed her perspective.

You are seen. Not one day that goes by where you have not seen by our Creator. You are seen in the wilderness just as clearly as you are seen in the fruit-filled fields. When you feel invisible and unimportant, the truth is – you are seen. When the world seems to be falling apart, your legs knocked out from underneath you – you are seen. You may not understand what’s going on, but you can trust that you are seen. There is not one atom of a detail that sneaks past our Father’s eyes. When you feel as though you are sneaking through life – you are seen. Or perhaps you are sneaking around in the darkness. Guess what – you are seen. We are seen, and known.

What does the knowledge of being seen provide? Our relationship with God can be positively enhanced as we grow and mature in our understanding of El-roi. We are created with a deep desire to be seen and known; it provides a structure for trust and connection. Being seen may lead us to feeling vulnerable at times, but when we understand we are seen by a loving Father it can become a source of comfort.

Freedom occurs when we openly present ourselves to be seen by El-roi. Walking in freedom, we are positioned to reflect more clearly God’s character to others. Seeing others becomes opportunity for ministry. God ministered to Hagar in the wilderness; El-roi ministers to us as well. As Christ followers, we too can minister to others when we learn to be God’s servants-who-see.

Understanding God’s character is vital to fully trust God and walk in deeper faith. He sees our pain and suffering, mourning with those who mourn. El-roi sees our earthly victories, rejoicing with those who rejoice. We can trust we are always seen by El-roi; therefore, always known. Another part of being known, besides being seen, is to be heard. (We’ll explore this revealed character of God next week.) Let’s rest and take comfort in knowing that we are clearly seen by the Creator of the universe.

The following questions are not meant to condemn by any means. I’m asking myself these same questions, desiring to grow deeper in relationship with El-roi. Let’s not take on any condemnation, but rather allow God’s light to shine into any darkness we may have in our hearts and minds. Let’s use the understanding of God being El-roi to be a deep well of life with the Living One.

Is there anything you might be attempting to hide from El-roi?

What would it take for you to bring it into the light before him?

What do you risk by doing so? More importantly, what might you gain?

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Abba, help us to see you clearly and know without the shadow of doubt that you see us. Unveil and give us eyes to see your activity around us. Help us to see ourselves and others as you intend. Help us to cast aside judgement, partiality, pride, and anything else that may be clouding how we see you and others. Speak to our hearts, letting us know how you see us. Refine and clarify our vision so that we would walk more closely with you, serving others and giving you glory. In Jesus name, amen.

With Gratitude,

Amy