SPRING – A TIME FOR GROWING IN BEAUTY!

Much has already been said about spring, and it has been said by authors ever so much more erudite than this writer. Suffice it to say, spring is a beautiful time of year when the apparent death of winter gives way to new life. How fitting that Easter is, usually, in the spring of the year!

 

My focus here is not Spring in the broad sense of the word, it is one type of flower that I see as I turn the corner to leave our subdivision … Wisteria.

 

Wisteria blooms
Wisteria vine along the front yard fence.

 

I am definitely not a gardener. So, I don’t have any intrinsic knowledge about this beautiful plant, other than I love seeing it in full bloom along the fence line. I have lived in the same house for almost 30 years and have enjoyed these flowers each year. The vine uses any available support, here it is the fence, but it is also now climbing a neighboring tree and the telephone pole!

 

Wisteria blooming vine
Wisteria fine on the fence and growing up and onto the neighboring tree and telephone pole.

 

The wisteria vine makes my wandering mind turn to our Lord’s statement in the Gospel of John about the Vine and the branches.

 

Jesus was talking to His disciples, that is not only the original followers of Christ but us as Christians 2000 later, and He said:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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.”

John 15:1, 4-5.

 

Read that again – Jesus does not say that when we abide in Christ we might be fruitful! He says that when we abide in Him and when He abides with us, we WILL bear MUCH fruit. The distinction between unfruitful and fruit-bearing is made clear in the next phrase: “for apart from me you can do nothing!”

 

With Him, we can do all that He commands – we are fruitful. Without Him, we can do — nothing. Not even a little!

 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was preaching on the fruit of the Spirit, specifically on joy, and he said:

Precious as the fruit is, do not put the fruit where the root should be. Please do remember that joy is not the root of grace in the soul, it is the fruit and must not be put out of its proper position.

 

While the fruit is important, and we are called to bear much fruit for our Lord, the fruit is not the source of power or of encouragement or of strength for the Christian journey. We must look to the Vine as the root of “grace in [our] soul”.

 

In England we saw this building with wisteria climbing up the front of it, the blooms simply beautiful as they decorated the façade of the building.

Wisteria house in England
Wisteria on a building in England.

 

We are the branches. We are the ones who overcome the obstacles, even if they seem insurmountable, and cover them with love and the fragrant blossoms of the fruit of the Spirit. We are the ones who grow and twist around the people we encounter as we wrap our arms around them and reach out in love with the life-giving words of Jesus Christ. We are the ones who bear fruit for our Lord.

 

Be careful though — John 15 verses 2 and 6 contain a warning:

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. … If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

 

Just as with the wisteria vine, for those branches that do not bear fruit, the Vinedresser comes with His shears and cuts them off. In his Commentary on the Bible, Spurgeon says this about John 15:2:

If there be any, who are only nominally in Christ, and who therefore bear no fruit, their doom is to be taken away; for, in order to final perseverance and eternal safety, there must be fruit-bearing.

 

As for John 15:6, Spurgeon further notes:

That is all that can be done with fruitless vine-branches. You cannot make anything of them.   … It is useless if it is fruitless; and so it is with us, if we do not bear fruit unto God, we are of no service to him whatsoever.

 

This is a sobering thought. It is one thing to say that we are to bear fruit for Jesus, but quite another to recognize that if we refuse to do so, the Father will remove us, as one does an unproductive stick.

 

I must heed the warning when He is asking me to do something that is too big, that is outside my comfort zone, or that I simply don’t want to do. Rather than refuse, or drag my heels, I have to rely on Jesus’ promise that he is the Vine and that my power, my strength, my nourishment comes from Him. Then I can carry out His command in love, allowing His Spirit to control my words and actions so that His purpose will control.

 

Father, when I see the wisteria vine, I see beauty even through the twisting and turning of the vine’s branches.  I pray that when my Lord sees me, He sees a branch that is growing through His strength and in His power as I read and rest in His Word and then obey His commands.  Holy Spirit, enable me to do the tasks assigned for me in the strength of your power. May all my actions, thoughts and words be to the glory of my sovereign God.

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT SIZE WAS THAT !?!?

Flowers in downtown Anchorage, Alaska
Flowers in downtown Anchorage, Alaska

Spring has given way to Summer, and the flowers are blooming, grass is growing, pollen is aggravating everyone with allergies, and the winter clothes in the closet must be switched to lighter‐weight summer duds. I dread moving the warm clothes to the guest room bedroom closet and moving the cooler clothes into the bedroom closet for use!

Flowers at Hotel Alyeska, Alaska
Flowers at Hotel Alyeska, Alaska

Please don’t misunderstand ‐‐ I like the clothes I have. I don’t dread the clothes per se. I dread looking at last season’s clothing and wondering if there is any possibility that I will be able to get into them this summer!

But the sad truth is that the older I have gotten, the wider I have become. (Wish that word could be “wiser” instead of “wider”!)  In short, many of the clothes from earlier years just do not fit.

Scale
Scale

When sorting through the closet, some of the clothes are put in the pile to take to the rescue shelter. Others are about the right size so I expect that I can wear them this year. But then there is the third pile — the “keep” pile even though I recognize that they no longer fit (and likely will never fit again). Why are they “keepers”? Because if I am going through a difficult time, they are my “comfort” clothes whether or not they look good on me at the time.

While gaining weight is not a good thing for me physically, the task of switching the clothes in my closet made me wonder about my “fit” spiritually?

  • Am I still the same spiritual size I was last year?
  • Am I still struggling with the same issues, the same sins, the same negative attitudes that I had last year or have I grown?
  • Is the work of the Holy Spirit evident?
  • Am I using the gifts that He has provided more fully today than last year?
  • Am I walking closer to Him, depending and trusting in His providence rather than my own planning?
  • Am I studying His Word and learning of His wisdom and guidance for me in my life?
  • Can others tell that my faith is deeper and my love for the Lord is stronger?
  • Have I grown more into the likeness of my Savior this past year?

Just as we grow in our physical bodies, growing is mandatory in the spiritual realm. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul states:

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

So, what size was that? As I focus on decreasing my physical size, my prayer is that I will be able to concentrate on increasing my spiritual size!  Scripture promises that I have a Helper in this effort – the Holy Spirit is on hand to guide, prompt and enable me to grow spiritually.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 1 Chronicles 16:34.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; Lamentations 3:22

Praise the Lord oh my soul!