Virtual Bible Study
Schedule: Jan 31st 2023
Time: 8:30pm EST
Length: 60 minutes
We reap what we sow. That may be the most sobering statement in the Bible as we tend to take the path of least resistance. Trying to parent, husband and lead from the couch rarely bears fruit. Join us as we dig deep into what good growth looks like in our walk.
Take this and our other devotions on right here on the Uncommen site.
Day1: The Sprout
The beginning always seems overwhelming, a time when everything appears formless and empty (Genesis 1:1–2). How amazing is it to feel the Spirit of God hovering over us when we create? Planting a garden can seem daunting. Will the seeds sprout? What will my harvest be like?
Everything good within you began with a seed (Genesis 1:11-12). A loved one planted a seed upon you. The Spirit of God has placed you on a path of growth. Like plants, we need care and connection to the vine to grow. Watching a garden grow is much like the spiritual seed that grows within you. It can be slow, and God’s timing is not speeding up to match our timing. It requires faith.
Watching the garden grow, I cannot help but reflect upon my spiritual journey and where it all began. My spiritual journey started as a toddler inside my mother’s beauty shop at an early age. At age three, one client, Margaret, gave me a miniature Bible in 1969. I still remember the full-color images that graced the pages. It was a remarkable piece of artwork, and I carried it everywhere. She would read to me when she came each week and explain Jesus to me.
The seed she planted led me to seek more, usually through Vacation Bible School in the summer when I would ride my bike to a local rural church. Margaret taught me a lot, and pastor Doug, who never minded me, and a friend, joined them each summer. I doubt either envisioned me ending up in seminary, leading various ministries, or planting a church. However, I know they planted the seeds and often prayed for my family and I. Margaret even carried a photo of me until her death, often praying over that photo.
Growth is a mysterious experience using hydroponics, just like our spiritual journey. The process of life is a mystery. Even though science can explain it, the miracle of birth is always a miracle and a God thing.
The metamorphosis of the soul is a renewal of the mind. The change is so profound that the caterpillar transcends its previous existence into a unique form with different capacities.
The caterpillar is obedient, understanding that “it is time.” Trusting the process, the caterpillar submits to the urging. We do not differ from the caterpillar or the plants. It is all part of becoming who God created us to be.
You may not know it, but God is working on you. God is revealing these areas, and your wisdom is growing. Read Galatians 3:13-14 and pray over the questions.
Questions and Challenge:
Who is someone in your social circle that seems lost? Could you remind them of who they are?
What aspect of my life or inner being is being touched or spoken to through this Scripture?
My challenge is to reflect on who planted the seed with you. Are you planting seeds unto others? Where are you planting seeds?
Day 2: Germination
Reflecting upon what God is doing within us, let’s look at what He is doing through the garden. It has been one week since I placed the seedlings. Notice the difference in each of the plants. Some progress faster than others, and that is ok. As our brothers and sisters mature at God’s pace, so do the plants. We must show them, love.
It all began when God saw “it was good” as formlessness turned into a structure like a seed filled with beauty. Before meeting Christ, we are all formless. We become a work in progress, just as seeds seek transformation. We become immersed in His Word to seek self-revelation to blossom through change. God’s Word is like the cotyledon, supplying nutrition to the plant embryo. The cotyledon provides everything the seed needs to germinate and grow. It is an opportunity to find peace in God’s will. (Acts 17:26)
Rather than ask God to bless our ways, what if we pursued His courses and let the answers reveal through His guided wisdom? God’s will and our will can meet at the intersection where the cotyledon feeds us to make the best decision. When we make the right decisions, we can rest confidently in following God’s will. (Psalm 139:13) How we read the Bible helps or hinders our pathway to this wisdom.
There is a difference in how we read a newspaper, textbook, or love letter. It would be rare to read a schoolbook or newspaper with great anticipation compared to how you would approach reading a letter from a loved one. However, we can most likely remember exactly where we were when we received an “I love you text” or note. Think of scripture as the loving cotyledon, providing the nutrition we need to thrive.
When we approach scripture more than a love letter or a textbook, we are less analytical, judgmental, and less likely to seek a literal, analytical filter. Our soul longs for more from scripture than just analytics; there is a desire for purpose, understanding, and love—our soul longs for spiritual nutrition. We must read it for a relationship. Like the plant nutrient, we absorb what we are immersed in, good or bad. God gives us all the nutrients we need.
The transformation from the scriptures is not just for our minds. But the heart, soul, body, emotions, and curiosity that grows it is also our will, understanding, and personal relationship with God. We become a tool in God’s control through a listening stance, not our authority. The intimacy opens up more profound truths, reveals our selfish hearts, and prepares us for harvest.
What gets in your way of seeing yourself the way God sees you?
What mistakes, faults, or flaws have you been paying attention to in yourself that distract you from resting in God’s love for you?
Day 3: Growing Roots
The seed has germinated as we enter week three, and growth begins. It is here where our decisions make all the difference. There once was the story of two gardeners who planted gardens on the same day. The subtle difference was how they cared for their gardens. The first gardener tends to it daily, tenderly loving the plants, checking for disease, bugs, and other detrimental to its growth. However, the second gardener simply left the plants to tend to themselves. As the growth cycle progressed, one neighbor had a bountiful harvest of healthy fruits and vegetables. The other ended up with a patch grown over plants, mired in decay with a minimal crop. The difference boiled down to the care of each garden one tended to it. The other ignored it.
To be rooted in the Christian life is very similar in that many of us can give our lives to Christ on the same day, but grow and mature differently or not at all. The first Christian reads the Bible daily. While the second one attends church on Sunday. The first one will become involved in small groups, seek wise counsel, and engage with a mentor. While the second one checks the box for attendance each week and is satisfied with the status quo. As time passes, the second one who checked the box for church attendance looks at the other Christian and wonders how the first transformed. They see them being asked to mentor others, share a joyful personality, or lead small groups. One Christian tended to their soul like the gardeners, while the other one just attended. Transformation requires effort and connectivity to the source and creator of life itself.
It is essential to move the Gospels from head to heart for transformation. (Luke 6:27) Meditate on the scripture for a moment, then ask God to touch you and reveal what it might say to you. Too often, scripture becomes ingrained knowledge or information gathering that develops an over reliance on the method. An intimate relationship develops when we immerse ourselves in the scripture to spark a response from God. Central to our Christian faith is the call to be fruitful. It is essential to be rooted with a solid foundation to bear fruit.
Building a solid foundation and making ourselves open and available to God is essential. Scripture will penetrate to our very depths through practice to create strong roots. Much like the nutrient to the plant roots, our souls need to be rooted. Eventually, scripture reveals what we cannot know on our own because of our natural defense mechanisms. Through openness, we genuinely encounter an intimate relationship with God through scripture. (Luke 6:27)
Challenge and Questions:
Read Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,”
Is there a feeling of discomfort that arises to love your enemies?
Why do I feel the way I do?
Day 4: Rooted to the Vine
A healthy plant root becomes part of a conventional system, absorbing nutrients from its surroundings. Trees exhibit a visible portion, while many plants remain hidden. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1) From the roots of Jesse, generations become fruitful, thus bearing our Savior Jesus Christ. Fruitfulness fulfills our souls.
As the leaves blossom and tender shoots arise, we know the throes of winter are shaking things loose. Like the plants, we shake loose the old ways of life, springing into a new life born again in Christ. It is impressive to watch the plants grow, just like it is also amazing to watch our friends mature in Christ. (John 15:5–10) We glorify God when we become fruitful. Our conduct and our character exemplify the love of Christ.
The Apostle Paul reveals the fruits “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23) Against these things, there is no law. You won’t get in trouble for being kind! Be unique in a day of outrage and offense. Leading a fruitful life as a Christian means we are ambassadors of Jesus, to lead of life worthy of His dying for us. Ultimately, to be excellent means being rooted in and connected to the vine. Jesus expresses He is the vine, and we are his branches. Jesus is our life-giving nutrient.
Plants need the same nutrients we do. When one part of the roots becomes separated from the nutrients, the plants fade, wither, and can do nothing. Sounds familiar? Our spiritual health also withers apart from God’s Word. Tending to our soul and garden requires work and effort. Without solid roots, everything withers. Our souls and plants never really arrive, and everything is fatigued. It is the equivalent of holding a beach ball underwater against crashing waves and rising tides. I know this all too well as I have been through it. Multiple times, as if I didn’t learn from the first experience, I had to do it a second time and a third time for a wake-up. Our withered souls become fatigued.
Soul fatigue becomes the relentless pursuit of hurry and busyness. Our will grows weary, and our souls are fatigued. Even as we speak today, I know we are all experiencing it somehow. All of this becomes the perfect storm as every element comes together and collides. It separates us from God, ourselves, and the ones we love most. Then we are distanced from everyone. We become estranged from what we love most, God’s creation.
Questions and Challenge:
How do you see the vine and branches metaphor working in your relationship with Jesus?
Is your living worth Jesus dying for?
My challenge is to address how you are tending your garden and the condition of your soul.
Day 5: Pruning the Vine
Pruning eliminates dead and dying branches, creating a healthy space for fresh growth. Pruning also deters pests, animal infestation, and healthy growth. Vines and components will not survive independently and cannot be fruitful. Jesus warns us we will wither and be thrown away if we do not remain in him. We know we can do nothing without our Heavenly Father, much like our plants. Without nutrients, our plants can do nothing. Our fruitfulness presents evidence of genuine salvation. Unity in our relationship with Christ is necessary for our vine to remain healthy. We glorify God through the work of Jesus and the fruit-bearing of us as his disciples.
We cannot be “close enough” to find life through Jesus in our walk with Christ. Close enough only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades is a line my grandfather always shared. Much like tending to the garden, complacency separates us from the good life. While our fruit is evidence of salvation, attributed good works are not required. It is vital to remember that putting on an appearance of faith is not the same as a spiritual rebirth. Much like the plants that become separated, the withering will show.
External pruning is essential to internal growth. Internal growth becomes organic through the oscillating life-giving vine. Pruning is a fruit-producing activity in which continuous dependence on the ultimate creator of life is the essential condition of spiritual fruitfulness. Previously, we spoke of the importance of healthy roots. On the surface, plants can appear healthy. However, that condition can change instantly because of the state of the source. If the origins are unhealthy, everything withers. Therefore, it is imperative to reflect and prune our lives as Christians. There is a popular question that asks about the latest life-giving resource. However, more often than not, we must prune the life-sucking source. Pruning cuts the noise without adding more stress.
I do not wish to be cast into a fire as suggested. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 7:19) We will be a fruitful vine for the glory of God with Jesus as the divine branch. Bitterness, deceit, and self-reliance drove by the world’s voice speaking into our lives daily. Social noise creates a fatigued soul. There is hope!
God will prune us in times of trial. Trials force us to look at idols and where our treasure lies. The human nature of our hearts becomes conditioned to see our circumstances as a trial. However, those circumstances often grow out of what flows out of the heart.
Questions and Challenge:
Have you ever noticed complacency creeping into your spiritual life? Work-life or personal life?
How do you check the conditions of your heart?
I challenge you to spend some time reflecting on areas in your life for some pruning.