27 September, 2011

Usufruct: A lesson from Jefferson on bearing (spiritual) fruit


The term usufruct is so difficult to define, but as I have come to understand it (or at least, as it is in my head), usufruct is the productivity of a parcel of land.
President Jefferson often was found to defend a citizen's use of private property so long as that citizen does not hinder or lessen the usufruct (fruitfulness) of the land. So, the president's belief was that we as 'landowners' have the right to use the land as we desire so long as our use of it does not injure future users/owners of that land. President Jefferson would at times even go further and say that our responsibility as 'landowners' were not only to prevent lessening the fruitfulness of the land (by overgrazing, over-harvesting, striping the land of resources, or toxify-ing the land by dumping or other means), but to actually increase the productivity...fruit bearing, of the land.  

When I first heard the concepts that President Jefferson pressed about usufruct, I immediately processed them in terms of 'spiritual fruit'. And it is these concepts of spiritual usufruct,  and spiritual fruit that I hope to share with you today...along with encouragement to you that you may be highly productive with the opportunities that God has given you.

So first, a definition:
Fruit, is anything being produced or accrued; it is a product, a result, or an effect. Fruit is the return of labor. Fruit serves as the evidence of one's intentions and claims. 

So often when we hear of fruit in a Christian context we think of the 'Fruit of the Spirit' (Gal. 5:22) which refer to specific qualities that are possessed by a believer. Those qualities being: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control. 

It seems so easy to instantly jump to this list of qualities anytime we hear any scripture that speaks of fruit...or the product that we as believers yield. 
For instance:
"You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?"
                                 Matthew 7:16

For us to quickly fast-forward to these 'fruits of the spirit' when we hear of the scriptures is not a bad thing at all, however, to stop there and not progress any further would be amiss. Because as we stated earlier, fruit is anything that is being produced or accrued, anything that is a result of our labor. The labor of Christ in us does not only produce works in our character and within ourself, but also produces effects in those around us. 
The labor of Christ in us also produces disciples! Disciples! The labor that we undergo everyday, the fight that we fight everyday, the race that we run everyday, as a Christian, that laboring, fighting, running, living, has a result of fruit, good fruit! Fruit of the Spirit? YES! Fruit of disciples? YES!

Now that we have made sure that we understand the fruits we produce as Christians, let us apply Jefferson's concept of usufruct to our 'spiritual field'. 
And as such we 'children of God', 'heirs', we have the responsibility to build, plow, fertilize, (DISCIPLE) those around us in a way that not only prevents smaller fruit harvests but actually increases those harvests! Our responsibility as believers and disciples is to build other disciples and increase their harvests.
By not overgrazing, over-harvesting, stripping the land, toxify-ing...
in other words: By love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control. 

In all these things enter in prayer.

Bountiful harvests await!

22 September, 2011


טֹוב לִשְׁמֹעַ גַּעֲרַת חָכָם מֵאִישׁ שֹׁמֵעַ שִׁיר כְּסִילִֽים׃

Stet...at the top.

Life right now is so good,
life right now is wonderful...absolutely amazing! 

I feel like I am back to being the ole' me...things have begun returning to normal. God has brought me out of the dessert and into the 'land of milk and honey'!
My prayer times have been the highlights of these past few weeks.
I have been encouraged by my time with the Lord! These sweet times of prayer have overflown into all aspects of my life, including my conversations. These conversations with old friends (Ben, Lacie, Scott, Josh, Kim, Allen, Cole, Allyson, Clayton, Charrissa), new friends (Tieben, Cash, Nick), and complete strangers (John, and others) have been such a blessing! 
These two things alone make 'my life grand' (cue George Strait), but couple them with the opportunities that God has given me recently to invest or help others, and how much time I have had for running, and for travel, and you see why I am in the clouds.

Now that we have all the house keeping and updating portion of the post out of the way, I can inform you that this is not a post about how great I have been. Rather, it is going to be a quick writing about something I have been reminded of recently. It is going to be about a verse in Ecclesiastes, and how that verse is pertinent always...even when you are 'at the top', or you 'have the whole world on a string'.

"It is better for a man to hear the rebuke
of the wise
than to hear the song of fools."
Ecclesiastes 7:5 ESV

Sometimes, when we climb higher and higher, when we are freed from previous struggles, when we are walking in God's guidance, we feel invincible. We feel untouchable by those previous hindrances and hard times, and it can become easy to walk void of concern of those times returning.

I have been here before...I have found myself within the oasis beyond the dry sandy dunes more than once. And I did not properly guard myself against past temptations, struggles, and sin. I felt fixed and spent my time praising God for the deliverance and gifts (a good thing to always do), BUT, I failed to spend much time asking for continued perseverance and strength. I failed to ask for a continued refinement. I failed to seek a continued change in my heart and life.
In these failures, I lost some of the humility that brought me to the true realization that God changed me, and that it was not me changing myself. With the loss of this understanding, I began to try to fix my oneself again...to only find that I had slipped back into the same places I was before, and now with a gilt, and a shame that pushed me all the further into the dessert.

So, this time. These glorious days of refreshment, have been filled with praise, (oh have they been filled with praise), but equally so they have been filled with prayers for continuation, for strength, for refining fire, for wise rebuke, for a sincere and humble spirit, for a contrite heart.
And how God loves to answer prayers!
He sent me rebuke for a wise source, a strong sister. She shared with me concerns that she has had for sometime. These concerns were concerns that I too have had, but had thought I had been doing well within. Turns out I may not have been doing so well...so in this time of being so high...so strong...so victorious, God has given me a spot that I know I can not fix. He has given me an area that I know only He can change! And how humbling it is that He brings it to me now!

It is so good to find rebuke from wise friends who desire my refinement as a christian man, as apposed to words of flattery from all the world.

                                                                    So, thanks...
                                                                    Thank you for the helping hand,