Only Jesus Remains– 45.Christmas Growth

by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro copyright 2020

Oct 22 to Jan 6 reflections from an upcoming book for tending hurting hearts at Christmas

I long to be an already finished work for You, my Lord and my God. I am not. Initially I seem to resist each next stage of growth. I cringe sometimes before it. I do not want to grow anymore because it usually entails more refining fire, more pruning and stripping away of pieces of myself—those coverings with which I have become quite comfortable even though they are not Your best for me. Because I think they enable me to cope. And I think I am thriving.

But these are like the inadequate sewn-together fig-leaf clothes Adam and Eve made for themselves, where You longed to give them something better. What I have made to try to protect my heart does not work. I need and want Your covering. You promise to give it to me. In part, during this rough Christmas.

In order for most plants to grow well—to flourish and bear abundant fruit—they must be pruned. John 15 talks about You, the Gardener going about this pruning work. Not because I am in trouble with You, but because You want to make me more fruitful. This so I can represent You more and better in the job of ambassador while still in this world.  

 I want to be done and sprawled before You. Paying homage. Already pleasing. But I will never be completely complete this side of heaven.  Thank You for loving me infinitely as I am. Sometimes I forget this. I don’t want to suffer through more growth! Yet here I am.  The faulty, sometimes hidden, unfinished remaining aspects of me aren’t a big deal, right? Shucks. I know better.  Of course, they are. These do not inhibit Your love or pleasure in me. But they do keep me from greater closeness to You which is purest pleasure! From more of Your joy, peace, functioning and healing.  From more delight-filled, fulfilling of Your purpose for me—that good, satisfying Kingdom of God work from here to eternity. These gifts waiting!

            When I imagine Your pruning it is not attractive. It is not something for which I yearn.  Here I am, present and alive and feeling like I am doing fine. Well enough. Now You come and begin to cut off living parts. Just whacking off these pieces which had been fully attached. Be still my heart! It does not seem possible that the pruning process is supposed to feel good. It will be painful. It includes loss.  A cutting off, separating and destroying in the fire of aspects which were fully part of me. Now just gone. Wiped away. For the greater, long-term good. Yes. For my eventual benefit. Definitely. But must this pruning be? Am I not already producing Your kingdom fruit? 

Surely. And You, Master Gardener because You love me already infinitely as I am, prune those You love. Those who are bearing Your fruit already, so that they can produce yet more. You prune me. It is in love, because of love and for love that You prune. Ongoing. Not for just a moment. And it hurts. So often, You using aspects of life which are not from heaven but from hell to be the pruning shears. When something undesired and often awful is happening.  

With very new phase of pruning and growth which You allow, I do feel better once on the other side of it.  After that phase of pruning is complete. There has never been a point where I wanted to return to how I was before. To defer once again to those lesser coping mechanisms. Sigh. Thus, Lord, prune me. Again. In this pruning an exquisite awareness of Your everlasting loving-kindness, which is also my blessed hope. It hurts. Lord, I submit! Thank You.

1 I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.

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.

You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you].

Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.

I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.

If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned.

If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.

When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified, and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine.

John 15:1-8

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.

And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of [c]character (approved faith and [d]tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] [e]joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

SONG Recommended: – NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS Christmas Worship album

ONLY JESUS REMAINS PODCASTS

CHRISTMAS GROWTH PODCAST

If you are just joining in these reflections, read the Introduction here to learn what these are all about.

for mini-devotions subscribe or connect on Facebook at Spiritual Armor and Ammo

Author: Elizabeth Fulgaro

I am a God-seeker--a Jesus-worshipper--a Holy Spirit follower. I create songs, devotions, prayers, books and Bible studies to give words with which to get to know God more. For you. Its for one-on-One encounter unto transformed, transcendent living. This is not my vocation. I am not professional. I am a real, ordinary person just looking to do what God put me here to do. (You have a unique purpose too.) So I am called to the work. It is not my income source, but my gift to those who find it blessing. Eagles Nest Foundation sponsors all projects for you. The result: pure, clean spiritual nutrition to feed that deep insatiable spiritual hunger which eventually overtakes each of us and galvanizes you to the life God has for you. This life is purposeful. Exceptional. You--yes, you--are called to something greater and more satisfying in His service. So it is hoped you'll try this spiritually dense nutrition and find it to be a personal blessing. However, the goodness of God-following doesn't stop there. He uses those who seek Him to be His love and care (justice, mercy, advocate, kindness) very tangibly in the lives of those around you. Not by your power but by His. His ideas. God ideas. Not just good ideas. To be part of changing the world, if you will let Him. You learn to just follow where He leads. That if you listen, He will teach you to hear His voice and then when you obey His inner promptings you will become His incredible hands and feet in this hard world. These materials will help! They will help you aim your life towards God in a way you never look back. You will not be the same. He will become the River in your desert spaces and you will become a conduit of this same River of refreshing, replenishing Water of Life to others. Find a prayer. Pick a blog post. Read a book. Be led deeper into the Bible. Select a song which resonates and use it and use it again to go close and ever closer to the God who longs to draw you near. Oh, and don't be tempted to think I'm a crazy over-spiritualized loony...My background is financial planning and counseling. Almost 40 years of it. To choose to believe in God is not to leave practicality and reason behind, but to learn that there is that which goes beyond it and includes it, unto true life fulfillment beyond all your dreams for the one who keeps seeking Him. I am a third generation Californian. I am a person to whom family means everything. The only priority higher is God. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada are my home. It is here the 1849-1856 Gold Rush is still glorified. Easy money? Actually only for the few. Even though I was raised in the Church, it took me ten years of doubting God even existed to realize that without Him, no matter how much of this life's "stuff" is accumulated, I actually have nothing. To come to know that all those who chased after gold are dead and all those who still chase stuff will be dead. That's when I became a God-seeker. Looking for that more. And Eureka! (This is California's state slogan and means I found it.) I found God...or rather, I discovered He was there and had been there waiting for me to look for Him the whole time. May you discover more of Him for you, greater flourishing life and greater flourishing for all in the world as well. God bless you! ~Elizabeth

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