This weekend we were led in teaching by our children's ministry team, [e]kids! This past month they have been focusing on the Fruit of the Spirit. Not an easy topic, but a most necessary one.
When we talk about the fruit of a decision, the fruit of a policy, the fruit of a life, it is fairly easy to objectively observe and comment on what that fruit has been.
The fruit of a well raised child tends to be well invested parents, guardians, family and/or relatives.
The fruit of a high functioning company tends to be found in structures with well communicated values and goals.
The Fruit of the Spirit tends, however, to be incredibly confusing to most of us.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
How? Why? and most importantly WHEN?!
When will someone who wants it, become patient, have joy, experience self-control.
How does it happen? Why does it occur, and why does it not?
The end of verse 23 says that there is no law against these things. Public opinion would most likely sway in the direction of being Pro-Fruit of the Spirit, even if public opinion doesn't even agree in the existence of the Spirit.
We all like these things. We like them in ourselves, we like them in others, and we really like being on the receiving end of this kind of fruit.
But "how?" and "when?" will we see them, experience them, have them in a person?
Preceding the much quoted verses of the fruit, before we get to the feel goods of hoped behavior change in verses 22-23, at the base of the fruit of the Spirit conversation is verse 16. Simple. Profound. Troubling.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.
So when will we ever see it?
When we ever let God lead!
Paul dedicated this entire chunk of his letter to the church to help them understand the war that is waged, a war between our nature, and the nature of God.
We, by nature, want what is ugly (check out verses 19-21 for a light smattering of horror).
God, by nature, wants what is best and beautiful.
So how will I see more of the best and the beautiful in me?
By stopping trying to be me!
By stopping trying to be in control of me!
By stopping trying to guide me.
By letting the Holy Spirit guide my life.
It might seem weird, but God's not actually about you feeling lost and alone in this life, he is in fact all about you being cared for, guided, and moved toward the very best.
So we get to ask him what that is, where that is, when that is.
God, what do you want me to do?
God, where do you want me to submit to you?
God, when will be the right time to make the change?
The Fruit of the Spirit comes when we let him lead.
Joy, that we would know our God and know he loves us.
Peace, that we would know God is in control of it all.
Patience, that we would know we don't need to fix everything....right now! (not even our children ;)).
Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, that we would treat others more like Jesus deems it right for them to be treated.
Self-Control, that we would know we don't belong to ourselves, that we have good reason to seek to be different.
And Love, love, luv, looooooovvvvveeeee, that we might Love God and Love People like we are meant to.
So Fruit of the Spirit, it's not an optional add on to our following Jesus, it's at the core, and at the base of it all, is a decision, our decision, our willingness and obedience to let God do the leading.
That is a path I want to be on. What about you?
written by Matty Towse
Seek, Pray, Trust
There are times in life when the stress is overwhelming. Jobs, kids, family, friends, finances...the list is pretty much endless. Lucky for us...God is bigger than all of those things, even when they all come at one time.
Imagine, if you will, turning 40, having most of your thyroid removed due to a precancerous condition, your marriage of 14 years being finalized in divorce, your best friend from highschool losing her first child to a freak accident, your grandfather dying, the vehicle on your engine leaving you stranded in a forgein country while you are there for said funeral, losing your job because you are gone longer than planned (due to the vehicle), and then being told you have a very aggressive stage III cancer.
Pretty stressful, right? Now imagine having all of that happen within six months. One thing after another, after another. There are times in life when that is how life seems. Like you are drowning in trauma and negativity.
In the middle of the stressful moment when people start sharing Bible verses such as: So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:34 NLT I’m not going to lie, throat-punch-thursday comes to mind. How dare they tell me not to worry. These are big things to deal with. They don’t really know what I’m dealing with.
It turns out that they don’t have to know, they don’t have to understand. The person who needs true understanding is actually me. Being aware of God in those moments takes practice and intentionality.
I have to remember that God is first and even though my sinful nature leads me to be angry in the situation, or fearful; those are not the feelings God wants. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 NLT
Easier said than done. I posted that verse on social media recently and my friend reminded me, “KEEP READING SISTER, ”For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:3-4 NLT
Ugh, I hate it when people are right, and am so grateful that I am surrounded by people who remind me to look further, dig deeper.
When I had cancer, I faced my mortality seriously for the first time. A newly divorced mom, my children were 19, 9, and 6. There was no guarantee the doctors could free me of the cancer. Talk about fearing the future.
While in prayer one day, God spoke to me and told me that even if I died, He was still good. Maybe part of my children’s story meant losing their mom at a young age. Who was I to try to change God’s plan for my children, and their children, and their children?
It was then that the internal dialogue changed. I had to teach my children to lean on God in good times and in bad times. I had to be the example that even when life seems all wrong, God will use this as well.
When we are surrounded by others who are not followers of Jesus, how we deal with stress, how we accept the trials we face for better or worse can mean the difference of them leaning toward or running from His love.
People will continue to question how you see opportunity for great joy in the midst of the chaos and turmoil. If you continue to practice trusting God to use every situation for the good of His kingdom, it starts to feel natural.
Not that you will never feel stress, you will start to feel it less, and for shorter amounts of time because your go-to will be using every trial as an opportunity to grow closer to Him.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
written by Debbie Wappula