Dear Friends,

Ministry, giving and receiving God’s love, is the fruit of our relationships.
Bruce Wilkinson’s latest book, Secrets of the Vine, tells us
how the Lord desires increasing quantities of fruit in and through our relationship
with Him through Jesus, the true Vine. Our fruit is both Christlike character
(Galatians 5:22-23) and the fruit of good works, “which God prepared beforehand
so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) As Bruce points out from
John 15, there are four levels of fruit: no fruit; fruit; more fruit; and much
fruit. (See John 15:1-6) He also shows us how the Father, the Vinedresser, disciplines
and prunes us so that we will bear (not produce) more and more fruit for God’s
glory. (John 15:8) Wrongly relating to God and to others will hinder and restrict
the flow of God’s life and fruit producing in and through us. Bad relationships
will yield less and less fruit. This is clearly seen in the Great Commandment:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your
soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater
than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

If we are out of sorts with God, it will hinder the flow of His Spirit to others;
if we are out of sorts with others, it hinders our relationship with the Lord.
The vertical relationship with the Lord affects the horizontal relationship
with people and vice versa. When we spend very little time with the Lord through
reading and meditating on His Word, sharing our heart with Him in worship and
thanksgiving, sharing our cares and petitioning Him for help, and interceding
for others, we fail to abide in the Vine and receive His life-giving Spirit
of love and kindness and truth for ourselves and others. If we have bitterness
and unforgiveness or prideful judgment of others it hinders our intimacy with
the Lord. “If some one says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother,
he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot
love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Relational pain that comes from wrongly relating to God and others is like
a toothache in our soul. The richest man on earth, with all the finest “toys”,
expensive home, cars, boats, position and accomplishments, is still unhappy
if key relationships in his life are fractured or broken. Of course, none of
these relationships can be truly good without being in relationship with Jesus
Christ. We can get an “A” in business success and an “F”
in life if we fail in knowing and loving God and through Him find the wisdom
and grace to love and serve others.

When I came to Christ in 1982, many of my relationships were in shambles and
others were shallow and superficial. Since coming to know the Lord He has been
teaching me how to relate to Him and others and the blessing and joy of giving
and receiving love. This began with repenting from unforgiveness in many relationships
and asking for forgiveness in many others. This continues today as God disciplines
and prunes me revealing deeper things such as pride, anger and self-righteousness.
I seem to stay in a cycle of repentance, finding God’s forgiveness and
mercy and cleansing and His Spirit flowing ever more freely through me. Getting
right with God often means first getting right with others. As Paul said, “So
I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” (Acts

I developed a tool (see back) for the men I mentor. This helps us be somewhat
objective about examining our relationships and see where we need correction.
May His Word, His double-edged sword, prune away those things in us that hinder
His fruit from coming forth in our lives.

Yours in Him,

Len and Kristen

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