Is Your Church an Orchard or a Briar Patch?

No matter what denomination they belong to, all Christians have the same calling to be conformed into the image of Jesus. We are commissioned to become reflections of His holy character, selflessness and love.

Too often our growth into this wondrous image is hindered by the thorns of carnal religiosity. This religious spirit forms a shield around the inner areas of our natures that God wants to see transformed into the image of His Son. The root of this religious spirit is pride and an unwillingness to surrender self to the workings of the Holy Spirit.

While appearing righteous on the outside, the inner man of these religious spirits remains an uncultivated briar patch of the things that mar the human soul. Bitter complaining, judgmental attitudes, self-righteousness, selfishness, a tendency to look down on others they perceive to be spiritually inferior, backbiting, unforgiving, the list goes on and on.

Many a church has been split apart by these thorns who have forgotten that Jesus died to not only give us eternal life, but to also transform our inner man into someone completely new; a person in whom others can see the reality of Jesus emanating from within.

God wants each one of us to be a fruit bearing tree for Him; a planting that displays the glorious fruit if the divine nature of Christ. Each congregation He assembles should be an orchard bursting with the fruits of the Holy Spirit; the love that manifests itself in kindness, patience, selflessness and humility.

Some of us don’t realize that we are bearing thorns. Other trees have come to this realization and have submitted to the transforming process.

No one can change themselves, it can only be a work of God, yet He cannot work without a submitted will. In order for a church, a people, to become a flourishing orchard instead of a briar patch, a choice must be made.

Those who completely surrender will flourish and be useful in God’s kingdom. The briars, however, will eventually suffer the consequences of their rebellion at the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10, I Corinthians 10:15, II Timothy 2:19,20).

Is your church an orchard full of loving, fruit bearing people, or a briar patch of thorn riddled souls who refuse to surrender their old natures to God’s transforming power? Are you a fruit bearing tree or a bush of thorns? Change can only begin when we are willing to answer those questions honestly.

Copyright 2021 by H.D. Shively

Love is a Rose
Inspired by II Corinthians 13:4-7 and Galatians 5:22,23

Love is a rose with many petals. Before it blooms it is merely a stalk of thorns; The hurtful things of our old natures that wound and repel. It takes a while sometimes, to leave all those thorns behind.

The Holy Sap of God’s love works His wonders and a bud begins to form upon our stems.

When the realization comes of what is most important to our Gardener, the bud will form even faster.

Time and the water of God’s Spirit, His breath upon our willing embryos, causes the bud to surrender its infancy. At last, maturity unfurls in the warmth of the Son.

Now we display the handiwork of our Gardener; petals of patience, love and kindness, joy and peace; meekness and humility, selflessness, purity of thought, faith and Hope, endurance through the storms of this world’s tantrums.

He has made us a stunning flower that draws others to the perfume of our love for God, and the welcoming arms of the Christ who lives in us.

Now the thorns are just a memory of who we used to be in the life we left behind.

Copyright 2021 by H.D. Shively

A Shanty or a Castle?

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will declare it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. - I Corinthians 3:11-13

Christ is the only foundation we can build upon. Some build with wood, hay and stubble. It doesn’t cost very much to build with these materials. They are cheap and easy to find. A work can be constructed without a lot of personal sacrifice in a short amount of time. Some choose to build with gold, silver and precious stones. These materials are costly to acquire. Obedience purchases the precious jewels, servant-hood the silver, sacrifice, the gold.

The holy fire that tries our service can only devour the works that arise in haste without the enduring skills of deep commitment.

Jesus’ sacrifice for us has purchased a foundation of pure gold, refined in the furnace of agony and suffering. Walk worthy of your foundation, my children, for with every footstep you design your walls. With every act of service, or lack of it, you construct your reward.

A shanty or a castle, the choice is yours.

Copyright 2003 by H.D. Shively

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