Twelve Months of Spiritual Fruit Maturing
by Dr. Catherine Braswell

"Jesus calls Christians the branches. Telling us that if we do not stay connected with Him (the vine) we can do nothing."

Christian counselor Braswell has constructed a manual of study for Christians, designed for month-by-month contemplation and practice. The relevant biblical scripture, delivered by Jesus both to his devout followers and those who were still rejecting him, concerns the metaphor of the "true vine." From the true vine spring the many branches (followers). Each branch must produce fruit to be treated as a healthy vine or else be "taken away," as happens with fruit trees that fail to flourish. To be treated by the Lord as productive, a Christian must show devotion through good thoughts and generous deeds directed toward others. And as with all fruitful vines, there will be the necessity for occasional pruning to stimulate even more production. But as the author points out, such pruning, though painful, results in greater yields. A Christian may be in self-denial, rebellion, or worldliness and bearing no fruit but must strive to surrender to God's will and, walking by faith, be available to do God's work.

Braswell has expanded this imagery to provide concepts and advice for study in monthly increments divided into five-day segments. Each segment offers biblical passages relevant to the overarching process, exploring the fruits of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. God's love is deep and unchanging. His joy is our inspiration and is always available, and prayer brings inner peace. With longsuffering comes the understanding that Christians will often be tested, and "giving up is not an option." Fruits of faith encourage others. Gentleness is needed since so many, the author believes, have yielded to discouragement and anger. Goodness is a gift that reveals God's glory. The fruit of meekness shows acceptance of God's will, and temperance (control of habits and actions) shows that the fruits are truly maturing.

Braswell has a doctorate in ministry and is the founder of the Hand of God School of Biblical Studies. She brings to her spiritual work her experience as a nurse in many capacities and settings. This book combines her strong convictions and extensive knowledge of scripture with relevant passages from the Bible underpinning her vision for the maturation of spiritual fruits, a process she believes to be possible and accessible to all believers. Each chapter of her highly organized manual is appended by a lined page for notes. The narrative is structured with bullet points and numbered sections that give the reader the sense that it is meant as a serious textbook. The division of the subject matter into five-day increments provides a firm framework for learning and remembering. The author has observed that some Christians have problems maturing, so her engaging metaphor of fruit and vine is designed to help them understand that process more clearly. It is evident throughout this wide-reaching guide that Braswell has herself engaged in diligent study to lay the groundwork for others. Her book is ideal for home or group study among those who want to dig deeper, and yield more and better fruit, in the realm of spirituality.

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